#. 12. Dec. 15, 2001
By Bill Weinberg
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. US Bombing Casualties Equal WTC Victims
2. Secret US Casualties?
3. More Acknowledged US Casualties--And a Near Miss
4. US Pressure Behind Bonn Accords
5. Orwellian Lies of the Bonn Accords
6. US Embroiled in Northern Alliance Faction Fight
7. Kandahar Faction Fight Simmers
8. Taliban POWs Face Cattle Cars and Desert Camps
9. US Bombs Critical Surviving Forest
10. Has Bin Laden Escaped?
11. Arab Skeptics: Video, Schmideo
12. Al-Qaeda Pledges Long, Bitter Resistance
13. Starvation Watch: Is Uzbek Border Really Open?
14. Last Two Jews in Kabul Kvetch at Chanukah Service
15. Media Have Field Day Using Taliban Dupe for Hippie-Bashing
THE MIDDLE EAST
1. Congress to OK Massive Air Attacks on Iraq?
2. Israel Bombs Quakers
THE WAR AT HOME
1. France to US: Don't Execute Our National!
2. JDL Busted in Terror Plot
3. Hundreds of Detainees Face Kafkaesque Nightmare
4. US Silent on Evidence in Raids of Muslim Charities
GLIMMERS OF HOPE
1. UK Anti-Terror Law Stalled
WHO IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?
1. Bush & Bin Laden: All in the Family
2. Osama's Friends Have Friends in High Places
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. US BOMBING CASUALTIES EQUAL WTC VICITMS
Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire has released a report, "Civilian Victims of United States' Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting," based on daily rigorous monitoring of the world media. "More than 3,700 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan directly from US bombs since Oct. 7," Professor Herold said on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! national alternative news radio show Dec. 10.
For each day since Oct. 7, when the bombing began, the report lists the number of casualties, location, type of weapon used, and source(s) of information. One typical example:
"On October 11, two US jets bombed the mountain village of Karam, comprised of 60 mud houses, during dinner and evening prayer time, killing 100-160 people. Sources: DAWN, (English language Pakistani daily newspaper), the Guardian of London, the Independent, International Herald Tribune, the Scotsman, the Observer, and the BBC News."
Ironically, the latest estimate of casualties in the World Trade Center attack is at about the same number, the earlier widely-reported figure of 5,000 having been downgraded by New York city authorities (see WW3 REPORT #11). Prof. Herold's report is on-line.
2. SECRET US CASUALTIES?
Investigating numerous reports of US casualties the Pentagon won't confirm, Andrei Sukhozhilov (pseudonym) of London's Institute for War and Peace Reporting slipped into an Uzbek air base used by the US military and saw choppers arriving with wounded US troops. "They lifted out five wounded men on stretchers and loaded them into waiting vehicles," he writes. An Uzbek orderly at the base told Sukhozhilov he witnessed the arrival of four or five US helicopters carrying wounded GIs every day between Nov. 25 and Dec. 2. Each day, the orderly said, between 10 and 15 casualties arrived at the base. One Uzbek soldier told him he had helped US servicemen load 20 body bags onto US transport planes, although he couldn't confirm they were dead US soldiers. The Pentagon's official US casualty toll is 7 dead and 42 wounded. (Reported by James Ridgeway in the Dec. 18 Village Voice)
3. MORE ACKNOWLEDGED US CASUALTIES--AND A NEAR MISS
Two Green Berets were wounded in combat at Tora Bora, AP reported Dec. 14, while a B-1 bomber bound for a mission over Afghanistan from its base at Diego Garcia developed engine trouble and ditched into the Indian Ocean, the New York Times reported Dec. 13. The crew used emergency ejection seats and survived, with some bruises.
4. US PRESSURE BEHIND BONN ACCORDS
"The Bonn conference was only for show. The decisions had been made before," Pashtun delegate Haji Attaullah told the New York Times Dec. 15. Wrote the Times: "Members of a group representing the former king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, voted overwhelmingly to choose Abdul Sattar Sirat as head of the new government, Mr. Attaullah said. Mr. Karzai, who has close ties to the king, received no votes. But all the delegates understood that the Americans wanted Mr. Karzai, he said. So on Dec. 5, they finally chose him."
US favorite Karzai "had served as a funnel for covert American aid to the anti-Soviet mujahedeen in the 1980's. In recent years, he had also visited the United States many times, speaking at conferences and in Congressional hearings..." In his Oct. mission into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Karzai was backed up with a detachment of Green Berets, his fighters said. "From the first day until today, the Americans have been with us," said Neyaz Muhammad, 45, a Karzai commander.
The Green Berets were troops of the Army's Fifth Special Forces Group, based at Ft Campbell, KY. "Over the next few weeks, they would help Mr. Karzai build a fighting force and organize and equip it, according to some Green Berets who, after being wounded by the errant bomb, were taken to a United States military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where they spoke to reporters."
Karzai, as a former Taliban sympathizer, also proves useful in the US search for so-called Taliban moderates. On Dec. 5 Karzai reportedly met four senior Taliban officials to discuss "a deal by which the Taliban, in return for amnesty, would cede power to Mullah Naqibullah, a Pashtun warlord from Kandahar who had friendly relations with the Taliban."
5. ORWELLIAN LIES OF THE BONN ACCORDS
The preamble to the Bonn accords smacks of doublethink and historical revisionism from almost the first line. The accords read: "Reaffirming the independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan..."--as if the US hadn't imposed its will on the conference, and wasn't bombing Afghanistan as the talks were underway.
The preamble continues: "Acknowledging the right of the people of Afghanistan to freely determine their own political future in accordance with the principles of Islam, democracy, pluralism and social justice..."--as if a state religion were not wholly incompatible with pluralism.
And: "Expressing their appreciation to the Afghan mujahidin who, over the years, have...played a major role in the struggle against terrorism and oppression..."--as if Osama, al-Qaeda and the warlords oppressing Afghanistan (Taliban and Northern Alliance alike) did not all emerge from the Mujahedeen.
The text of the accords (officially the "Agreement on provisional arrangements in Afghanistan pending the re-establishment of permanent government institutions") was written in English, and this is to remain the definitive version. The accords note: "Official texts shall be provided in Dari and Pashto, and such other languages as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General may designate." The text can be seen on the web page of the German Foreign Office .
6. US EMBROILED IN NORTHERN ALLIANCE FACTION FIGHT?
The US is trying to get Northern Alliance commanders to accept the Karzai interim government. But they can't even seem to get along with each other--and US firepower is getting drawn into their internecine squabbles. Sayed Jaffar, former governor of Baghlan province and leader of the Ismaili religious minority, is fighting local Tajik warlords, and Northern Alliance Gen. Atiqullah Baryalai says Jaffar is backed by US air power. Gen. Baryalai said 20 of his troops were killed or wounded and one armored vehicle destroyed in a recent US air strike. "The Americans bombed us. It was a very bad mistake. I called them and asked them to stop, and they said they were sorry but they kept bombing." Gen. Khalil Anderabi, Northern Alliance commander in Pul-i-Khumri, alleged Jaffar tricked the US by calling in strikes on the Tajik forces under the pretext they were Taliban troops. But Rear Adm. Craig Quigley of US Central Command said: "The only place we've bombed since the fall of Kandahar has been the Tora Bora area." If US forces were involved in the northern ethnic warfare, it wouldn't the first time. Two weeks ago, when Kunduz fell, US planes attacked Northern Alliance troops at a fort in the city, killing several and destroying several trucks. Tajik troops blamed a rival warlord, who they said called in the air strikes because he was pissed his forces hadn't reached the for first. (New York Times, Dec. 13)
7. KANDAHAR FACTION FIGHT SIMMERS
The stand-off between rival anti-Taliban commanders in Kandahar has been resolved, Afghanistan's new interim leader Hamid Karzai told AFP Dec. 9. The Pashtun monarchist chieftain said he had brokered a power-sharing agreement between Mullah Naqibullah, to whom the Taliban surrendered the southern city, and Gul Agha, a former governor of the region (also a veteran dog racer and drug lord, Newsday reported Dec. 10).
The talks took place at the former residence of the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, according to the AFP, which summed up the nature of the conflict: "Agha, furious that he was not involved in the surrender deal with the Taliban, accused Naqibullah of being too close to the fundamentalist militia. Naqibullah, a former army commander in Kandahar, had handed over his weapons and men to the Taliban in 1994 without a shot, giving them control of the city."
8. TALIBAN POWS FACE CATTLE CARS AND DESERT CAMPS
At least 43 Taliban prisoners died after surrendering to the Northern Alliance, asphyxiated in shipping containers used to transport them to fortress prisons in northern Afghanistan (New York Times, Dec. 11). US Marines are now building detainment camps for Taliban and al-Qaeda POWs in the desert of southern Afghanistan (New York Times, Dec. 15). Amnesty International continues to call for adherence to international norms in the treatment of Taliban/al-Qaeda POWs, as well as to demand an investigation into the death of 500 detainees at Kala-i-Janghi fortress near Mazar-i-Sharif (press release, Dec. 11, Amnesty Inernational).
9. US BOMBS CRITICAL SURVIVING FOREST
With Osama and his last al-Qaeda fighters now believed to be holed up in the Tora Bora caves in the White Mountains south of Jalalabad, US B-52s are bombing a terrain described by Reuters on Dec. 9 as "mountain forests." The US is intentionally targeting the forest, believing bin Laden may have fled cave complex for the woodlands. Of course, by eluding the US for so long, bin Laden has taken on a more mythic quality than ever among some locals: "Adding to the manhunt mystery, local Afghans spoke of seeing a tall man in white robes--a fitting description for bin Laden--galloping across the hills on his steed."
Almost completely-deforested Afghanistan only has a few remaining stretches of forest in the remote upper reaches of the White Mountains and Hindu Kush. The forest now being bombarded protects vital watersheds of the Kabul River. An overview of Afghanistan's devastated bio-regions can be found at the web site of Bird Life Middle East.
This ecological damage compounds that already committed by the Taliban. The Afghan Women's Mission (afghan womensmission.org) reports that in the Shamali Valley, "the Taliban conducted a 'scorched earth' policy as they retreated, poisoning wells, exploding irrigation ditches, and destroying orchards."
Meanwhile, three anti-Taliban fighters were killed by US bombs in the White Mountains, Newsday reported Dec. 10. "We're very angry," said Haji Mohammed Zaman, military commander of the Eastern Shura tribal army. But he quickly added, "every war has its mistakes."
10. HAS BIN LADEN ESCAPED?
The perennially breathless Israel-based DEBKA web site purports that bin Laden and his family and entourage have already slipped through remote mountain passes into Pakistan, and thence to the Arabian Sea, where they escaped by boat to safe harbor in a third country--where he is preparing "his biggest world strike." The report if chock full of the usual scary quotes from unnamed "intelligence officials" about imminent attacks on US, British and Israeli cities with weapons of mass destruction. The New York Post also quoted anonymous Pentagon sources Dec. 10 claiming that Osama had escaped by mule train to Pakistan, and that Navy SEALs are tracking five boats at sea suspected of having him on board.
11. ARAB SKEPTICS: VIDEO, SCHMIDEO
Skepticism abounds in the Arab world about the video of Osama bin laden and his pals chuckling over a job well done in the 9-11 attacks. While the Bush administration and US media treat the tape as a "smoking gun," Qatar's al-Jazeera global TV network has aired claims by "experts" that the tape is doctored, the Washington Post reported Dec. 14. The administration is already anticipating that bin Laden's defense team will call the video into question if he is ever brought to justice. Wrote the New York Times Dec. 15: "Defense lawyers would probably argue that the tape should not be admitted into evidence because it was not clear how the government obtained it. Such an attack on admissibility could compel testimony from the Central Intelligence Agency to disclose how the tape got from a parlor in Afghanistan to television."
12. AL-QAEDA PLEDGES LONG, BITTER RESISTANCE
Osama bin Laden's heir apparent Ayman al-Zawahiri is quoted by a London-based Arabic magazine saying al-Qaeda will fight on and plans suicide attacks against US forces. Al-Zawahiri recently lost his wife and three of his children in a US air raid. "The real war has now started and we are now waging attack-and-retreat operations. It will be a long one. We will exact a high toll on the Americans and suicide attacks will be one of our effective methods," al-Majallah magazine quoted him. Al-Zawahiri is the founder of Egypt's al-Jihad, blamed for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. The skilled surgeon served a three-year jail term on a weapons charge in connection with Sadat's killing. The US State Department named al-Zawahiri as mastermind behind the 1997 killing of 57 foreign tourists in Egypt. He was sentenced to death in absentia two years later by an Egyptian court. (CTVNews.com, Dec. 13)
Taliban loyalties remain firm in some Pashtun areas. Wrote the New York Times Dec. 12: "Northern Alliance commanders say they dare not send their troops into such areas, for fear of discovering that the Taliban may not be defeated after all. In this sense, a war against the Taliban that Washington proclaims is over does not seem over at all on the ground."
13. STARVATION WATCH: IS UZBEK BORDER REALLY OPEN?
Food is beginning to reach internal refugees and remote draught-stricken mountain communities--but not nearly fast enough, and millions are still at risk of starvation. The biggest obstacles are now lawlessness and the bureaucratic bottleneck at the northern border with Uzbekistan. Aid for northern Afghanistan piled up for weeks in Uzbekistan warehouses while the Friendship Bridge, crossing over the Amu Darya River into Afghanistan, remained closed. "Refugees Are Dying as Aid Goes Unused," read a New York Times headline Dec. 6.
On the 9th, the paper reported that Uzbek President Islam Karimov finally agreed to open the bridge. On the 11th, the paper said a ribbon across the bridge was cut amid much fanfare, and a train loaded with 9,000 tons of food and material aid crossed into the Afghan customs yard. But the locomotive immediately returned, leaving the freight cars behind. The aid is now gathering dust on the south side of the river instead of the north. The account quoted US AID chief Andrew Natsios saying 1.5 million are already starving in Afghanistan, and that his agency is "racing against time" to get food to stricken communities.
UN officials say some 10,000 refugees have arrived back in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban, but this is just a tenth of those who have fled since the bombing began, and a much smaller fraction of the total number of refugees--now facing winter in dangerously over-stretched camps both within Afghanistan and in Pakistan and Iran. UN authorities don't expect repatriation from the camps unless peace is established and lasts to spring. (New York Times, Dec. 9)
In the impoverished northern provinces, relief agency vehicles first confiscated by Taliban troops when the agencies abandoned their offices after 9-11 are now in the hands of Northern Alliance fighters--who are refusing to return them, slowing aid distribution and mine clearance efforts (New York Times, Dec, 15).
14. LAST TWO JEWS IN KABUL KVETCH AT CHANUKAH SERVICE
In a microcosm of the atomized warfare which is tearing Afghanistan apart, AP reported Dec. 10 that Kabul's last two Jews were bitterly and irreconcilably opposed as they lit candles for Chanukah at opposite ends of the city's dilapidated synagogue. Sole remaining members of a once-vibrant Jewish community, Ishak Levin and Zebulon Simantov, "estranged by a long feud, were together only long enough to argue briefly about whether Sunday indeed marked the first night of the holiday. One grudgingly accepted the other's word. Then they parted, to go about their solitary commemorations."
Writes the AP: "The origins of their feud are murky, but both Levin and Simantov were jailed by the Taliban authorities after reporting each other for alleged offenses. They accused one another of wrongdoing ranging from running a brothel to misappropriating religious objects. Each denies the other's claims. The escalating animosity may have cost the synagogue its most sacred treasure--its Torah scroll. Simantov accused Levin of wanting to sell it; Levin said Simantov asked the Taliban to take it for safekeeping."
The two have little else to remember their tradition by. In the late 19th century, some 40,000 Jews lived in Afghanistan. By mid-20th century, about 5,000 remained, but most emigrated after Israel's creation in 1948. The 1979 Soviet invasion drove out nearly all the rest, but Levin--the synagogue's shamash, or caretaker--stayed on. Kabul's Jewish cemetery was wrecked, like so much else, by rocketing during the civil war. Both men have relatives in Israel, but both say they intend to live out their lives in Kabul--steadfast in their refusal to seek one another's company. "I hope that other Jews might come back, now that Afghanistan is free," offered chipper Simantov. "I am alone with myself, and will be until I die," said the kvetchier Levin.
15. MEDIA HAVE A FIELD DAY USING TALIBAN DUPE FOR HIPPIE-BASHING
Poor John Walker, so recently a pawn of the Taliban, has now become a pawn of the media. Newspaper after newspaper has used the pathetic case of hippie spiritual seeker-turned-Taliban cannon fodder as a referendum on what is popularly known as "the '60s." On Dec. 11, the New York Times was the latest to juxtapose Walker against CIA agent Johnny Spann who interrogated the confused young man at Kala-i-Janghi fortress just before the prisoners there revolted and beat Spann to death. Spann is portrayed as a clean-cut, gung-ho super-patriot, a straight-shooting high school football star from small-town Alabama who knew from age 16 that he wanted to join the Marines and then be a CIA agent. Walker, in contrast, is a product of "affluent Marin County, frequently caricatured as a haven for politically correct Californians who drive Porsches and who raise children made muddle-headed through too much freedom." The Times does not fail to inform us that Walker's mom is a Buddhist and that he was named for Beatle Lennon. While Walker drifted from religion to religion, Spann joined a CIA "paramilitary unit" and "got his chance to make the world a safer place" when he was assigned to Afghanistan after the 9-11 attacks.
The less subtle tabloids (e.g. New York Post, Dec, 7) simply juxtapose "hero" Spann against "rat" Walker. At the Kala-i-Janghi interrogation, Spann's "hero" CIA sidekick (known only as "Dave") apparently threatened to kill Walker when he refused to talk, saying "if he wants to die, he's going to die here," according to an Dec. 7 MSNBC transcript.
THE MIDDLE EAST
1. CONGRESS TO OK AIR ATTACKS ON IRAQ?
Several members of Congress have written a letter urging President Bush to make Iraq the next target in the war on terrorism, and the House International Relations Committee is drafting a resolution to authorize massive air attacks on Iraq, aimed at overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The resolution will stipulate that any refusal by Iraq to grant access to UN inspectors to any site in the country will be considered an "act of aggression against the United States." Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) is circulating a letter opposing any attacks on Iraq, citing massive loss of life and lack of evidence connecting Iraq to 9-11. ( www.peace-action.org)
2. ISRAEL BOMBS QUAKERS
Among numerous sites hit by Israeli air raids in Ramallah, West Bank, over the night of Dec. 12 was the Quaker-run Friends School, an elementary school for local Palestinian children. Because the attack occurred at night, no one was injured. The headmaster lives on campus but was evacuated. Shelling and missiles from Israeli Apache helicopters bombarded Ramallah throughout the night, destroying radio and television transmitters and parts of the Palestinain Authority headquarters. Also that night: missile attacks from F-16 fighters nearly demolished Gaza's civilian airport and the Authority's Gaza headquarters, severely damaging civilian buildings in Gaza City. (Atlanta Friends' Meeting press release, Dec. 13)
The attacks came the night after Palestinian gunmen ambushed a civilian Israeli bus near the Jewish settlement of Immanuel in the West Bank, killing 10 and wounding 30. Newsday reported Dec. 13 the ambush included forces loyal to Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat: "The al-Aqsa Brigades, affiliated with Arafat's Fatah movement, issued a statement saying their members carried out the ambush in coordination with Hamas." Israeli retaliatory raids continued for the rest of the week, claiming the lives of some 10 Palestinian civilians--including two children on Dec. 15 (BBC World Service, Dec. 15).
THE WAR AT HOME
1. FRANCE TO US: DON'T EXECUTE OUR NATIONAL!
Weighing whether to convene the new military tribunals for the first time, the Bush administration finally decided to try Moroccan French national Zacarias Moussaoui on 9-11 conspiracy charges in a civilian court--but in a yet-unnamed jurisdiction with a strong record of imposing the death penalty (New York Times, Dec. 12). French officials immediately warned Washington that Paris would vigorously oppose any attempt to execute Moussaoui (Toronto Globe and Mail, Dec. 12). France, like all EU members, has abolished the death penalty.
2. JDL BUSTED IN TERROR PLOT
Federal agents in Los Angeles arrested Jewish Defense League leader Irving David Rubin and his sidekick Earl Leslie Krugel in a plot to set off pipe bombs at the local King Fahd Mosque, the LA area's most prominent mosque, funded by the Saudi royal family. An informant secretly taped conversations in which Rubin and Krugel said they want to give the Muslim community a "wake-up call" by attacking one of their "filthy mosques," and if someone got killed "c'est la vie." They said they wanted to "hunt down" Palestinians to prove the JDL is "still alive in a militant way." They apparently also considered a similar attack on the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). A raid on Krugel's home turned up explosive powder, fuses, pipes, etc. The JDL is also suspected in the 1985 killing of Alex Odeh, West Coast director of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee in a bomb explosion at his Santa Ana office. (New York Times, Dec. 12)
Up to 60 Israelis have been arrested under the PATRIOT Act or detained on immigration charges in the wake of 9-11, and some are believed to be espionage agents. They are not suspected of involvement in the attacks, but may not have shared intelligence with US officials. (Fox News, Dec. 12)
3. HUNDREDS OF DETAINEES FACE KAFKAESQUE NIGHTMARE
The Justice Dept is asking federal courts to approve use of secret evidence to detain or deport immigrants--despite the fact that Bush condemned the practice on the campaign trail last year, saying "Arab-Americans are racially profiled." (New York Times, Dec. 9)
The New York Times also revealed Dec. 7 that the INS has imposed a rule without public comment ordering immigration courts coast-to-coast to conduct hearings in secret in scores of specified cases. Officials are forbidden even to confirm that these cases exist. All records of the proceedings are rubber-stamped: "Do not disclose contents of this record."
The future of hundreds of post-9-11 detainees seems uncertain. Some may join the ranks of stateless detainees suspended in a bureaucratic netherworld. On Dec. 10 the New York Times ran a photo of Mohammed Nofal, a Palestinian from Jordan who was not a citizen of that country, held in Florida county jails for the last four-and-a-half years after being picked up on immigration charges. He is awaiting extradition--but no country wants him. He was pictured with his wrists and ankles chained.
4. US SILENT ON EVIDENCE IN RAIDS OF MUSLIM CHARITIES
GLIMMERS OF HOPE
The FBI raided the offices of two Muslim charities, the Global Relief Foundation and the Benevolent International Foundation, both of Illinois--but would not say which terrorist groups they are believed linked to. Global Relief also had its assets frozen. Last week the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development also had its assets frozen, accused of links to Hamas. (New York Times, Dec, 15)
1. UK ANTI-TERROR LAW STALLED
British Prime MInister Tony Blair has appealed to both sides of the House of Commons for renewed support of the Anti-Terror, Crime and Security Bill, which suffered an unprecedented 10 defeats in votes in the House of Lords. Eliminated were provisions calling for detainment of immigrants without trial and a requirement on mobile phone and Internet companies to keep seven years of records on customers' profiles. A five-year sunset clause on the bill was also added. But the government is refusing to budge on a measure that would criminalize "inciting religious hatred." (UK Guardian, Dec. 12)
The haggling over the bill came just as US Attorney General John Ashcroft landed in London to begin a European tour. Reported David Ben-Aryeah of Global Vision News Network (www.gvnewsnet.com): "The visit is seen as a less than subtle attempt to get various European governments to overturn their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits the use of the death penalty." (Dec. 13)
WHO IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?
1. BUSH & BIN LADEN: ALL IN THE FAMILY
On Sept. 24, President Bush called a Rose Garden press conference to announce a crackdown on terrorist financial networks and those who support them. "US banks that have assets of these groups or individuals must freeze their accounts," Bush declared. "And US citizens or businesses are prohibited from doing business with them." But Bush's own businesses were once tied to financial figures now linked to bin Laden, Wayne Madsen reports in the Oct. 19 In These Times.
In 1979, Bush's first business, Arbusto Energy, obtained financing from family friend James Bath, who gave Bush $50,000 for a 5% stake in Arbusto. Bath was then sole US business representative for Salem bin Laden--brother (among 17) of Osama bin Laden. Writes Madsen: "It has long been suspected, but never proven, that the Arbusto money came directly from Salem bin Laden. In a statement issued shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House vehemently denied the connection, insisting that Bath invested his own money, not Salem bin Laden's...
"In conflicting statements, Bush at first denied ever knowing Bath, then acknowledged his stake in Arbusto and that he was aware Bath represented Saudi interests. In fact, Bath has extensive ties, both to the bin Laden family and major players in the scandal-ridden Bank of Commerce & Credit International (BCCI) who have gone on to fund Osama bin Laden."
The Pakistan-based BCCI started out as the laundromat for Mujahedeen heroin profits and was soon bloated with dollars from Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos, the Medellin Cartel and just about every terrorist group on the planet. Before imploding under the weight of multiple labyrinthine financial schemes, BCCI ripped off depositors of $10 billion, in what former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau called the "largest bank fraud in world financial history."
Salem bin Laden died in 1988, but "powerful Saudi Arabian banker and BCCI principal Khalid bin Mahfouz inherited his interests in Houston. Bath ran a business for bin Mahfouz in Houston and joined a partnership with bin Mahfouz and Gaith Pharaon, BCCI's frontman in Houston's Main Bank."
Bush remained in the loop: "After several incarnations, Arbusto emerged in 1986 as Harken Energy Corporation. When Harken ran into trouble a year later, Saudi Sheik Abdullah Taha Bakhsh purchased a 17.6% stake in the company. Bakhsh was a business partner with Pharaon in Saudi Arabia; his banker there just happened to be bin Mahfouz."
Madsen links bin Mahfouz to Osama's terrorist operations: "According to USA Today, bin Mahfouz and other Saudis attempted to transfer $3 million to various bin Laden front operations in Saudi Arabia in 1999. ABC News reported the same year that Saudi officials stopped bin Mahfouz from contributing money directly to bin Laden. (Bin Mahfouz's sister is also a wife of Osama bin Laden, a fact that former CIA Director James Woolsey revealed in 1998 Senate testimony.)"
Madsen concludes: "The ties between bin Laden and the White House may be much closer than [Bush] is willing to acknowledge."
2. OSAMA'S FRIENDS HAVE FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
A powerful DC law firm with close ties to the White House has earned hefty fees representing suspect Saudi billionaires--as well as the Texas-based Islamic charity fingered last week as a terrorist front. Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld has represented three wealthy Saudis--Khalid bin Mahfouz, Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi and Salah Idris--who "have been scrutinized by US authorities for possible involvement in financing Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network," reported the Boston Herald Dec. 11. The firm currently represents purported Hamas front Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in a federal lawsuit filed by the parents of a man allegedly murdered by Hamas operatives.
Akin, Gump maintains an affiliate office in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, and is a registered foreign agent for the kingdom. It was paid $77,328 in lobbying fees by the Saudis during the first six months of 2000, according to public records.
Akin, Gump also represented bin Mahfouz when he was indicted in the BCCI scandal in the early 1990s. In 1999, the Saudis placed bin Mahfouz under house arrest, claiming that the National Commercial Bank he controlled funneled millions to charities serving as fronts for Osama's terrorist operations.
Two of bin Mahfouz's pals were also represented by Akin, Gump. Al-Amoudi went to the firm when his Capitol Trust Bank was investigated for terrorist links by US authorities. When the US froze the asstes of Idris--a banking protege of bin Mahfouz and the owner of the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant destroyed by US missiles in August 1998--Akin, Gump filed suit to get the assets unfrozen. The federal government released the money rather than go to court.
Reports the Herald: "Partners at Akin, Gump include one of President Bush's closest Texas friends, James C. Langdon, and George R. Salem, a Bush fund-raiser who chaired his 2000 campaign's outreach to Arab-Americans. Another longtime partner is Barnett A. 'Sandy' Kress, the former Dallas School Board president who Bush appointed in January to work for the White House as an 'unpaid consultant' on education reform." Salem led the legal team that worked for Idris.
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