#. 16. Jan.. 12, 2002
By Bill Weinberg
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. US in Central Asia for the Long Haul
2. Bombing Continues; Puppet Regime Approves
3. Starvation in Hindu Kush
4. More US Casualties
5. War Captives Face Brutal Conditions
6. Pentagon Censors Photographs
7. Pornographer Challenges Pentagon Censorship
8. US Arms Warring Criminal Factions
9. Afghanistan: An Adventure in Tourism
10. US-Iran Tensions Escalate
11. India "Ready for [Nuclear?] War"
THE MIDDLE EAST
1. US Weighs in on Red Sea Incident
2. Terrorism by Bulldozer
3. ...Indonesia? Yemen?
THE WAR AT HOME
1. New Rights Coalition Protests Terror Sweep
2. Class Apartheid at the Airport
3. Pentagon to Eat Social Security
4. Bush to US: Consume More Oil
NEW YORK CITY
1. Dissent at EPA on WTC Toxic Threat
2. Medical Monitoring for Clean-Up Workers
3. WTC Insurers Use Fuzzy Math
4. More Racist Attacks on Staten Island
5. Good News in Jackson Heights
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. US Protects Cuban Terrorist
2. US Protects Haitian Terrorist
3. US Supports Guatemalan Terrorists
4. US Aids Colombian Terrorists
5. NATO Protects Albanian Terrorists
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. US IN CENTRAL ASIA FOR THE LONG HAUL
"Behind a veil of secret agreements," wrote William Arkin in the Los Angeles Times Jan. 6, "the United States is creating a ring of new and expanded military bases that encircle Afghanistan and enhance the armed forces' ability to strike targets throughout much of the Muslim world." Since Sept. 11, military "tent cities" have sprung up at 13 locations in 9 countries in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans. Over 60,000 US troops are now at these "forward bases." Their presence raises the specter of baiting local terrorist forces. "I swear to God that America will not live in peace before all the army of infidels depart the land of the prophet Muhammad," Osama bin Laden said in his first video statement after Sept. 11.
The most recent military presence is in Kyrgyzstan, where US troops began building a new air base just as the bombing wound down in Afghanistan. Pakistan's Jang newspaper reported Jan 5 that the US hopes to launch air-strikes from the Kyrgyz base--which authorities in Uzbekistan had not permitted. The new base will be less than 200 miles from China's border and from oil fields in Uzbekistan. Zalmay Khalilzad, Bush's new special envoy to Afghanistan, had advocated establishing a permanent US air base in Central Asia while he was at the RAND think-tank in 2000. He is currently visiting the region.
A chart in the Jan. 9 New York Times delineated the region's major new US bases:
*Manas International Airport, Kyrgyzstan: Over 200 US and Allied troops, about to be dramatically increased.
*Khanabad Air Base, Uzbekistan: 1,000 troops from the 10th Mountain Division, as well as several hundred Special Operations troops.
*Mazar-i-Sharif Airport, Afghanistan: 200 troops from the 10th Mountain Division.
*Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan: 400 troops from 10th Mountain Division, as well as British and US commandos.
*Kabul, Afghanistan: 150 Army troops and Marines.
*Kandahar Airport, Afghanistan: 1,000 Marines, now being phased out by Army 101st Airborne Division troops as the Marines are sent on missions into countryside.
*Jacobabad, Dalbandin and Pasni air bases in Pakistan: Army and Air Force Special Operations teams, and 101st Airborne troops providing security.
There are also 5 US aircraft carriers and warships in the Arabian Sea.
Vice President Dick Cheney told the Washington Post Oct. 21 that the US was committed to years of military commitment in the region: "You can't predict a straight line to victory. It is different than the Gulf War was, in the sense that it may never end. At least, not in our lifetime."
2. BOMBING CONTINUES; PUPPET REGIME APPROVES
US planes are bombing Jalalabad, Paktia, Khost and Nangarhar districts in eastern Afghanistan, all abandoned by the Taliban and al-Qaeda and mostly in the hands of the US-supported Eastern Shura tribal alliance. The forces of Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf's Ittehad-i-Islami, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami and Northern Alliance President Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiat-i-Islami also hold areas in these districts--organizations which have received varying degrees of US support, and are at least tolerating the continued bombardment for the moment. (Asia Times, Jan 8)
The Bush administration's new Afghanistan envoy, Zalmay Khalizad, said that bombing must continue until all al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are eliminated, despite the risk of more civilian casualties. Khalizad, briefing reporters after two days of consultations with Afghanistan's interim regime, said the new authorities in Kabul have offered "total and complete support" for the US stand. This comes despite protests from their own people. Tribal elders from Paktia province have complained to interim prime minister Hamid Karzai about a US air-strike on Qalaye Niazi village Dec. 29, (see WW3 REPORT #15). A UN inquiry reported 52 people were killed in the attack, including 10 women and 25 children. Staff at a hospital in nearby Gardez told reporters the dead surpassed 100. (Washington Post, Jan. 8)
As the bombs continued to fall, a US Senate delegation visited Kabul to meet with interim prime minister Karzai, who was photographed shaking hands and sharing a smile with Sen. Jospeh Lieberman (Newsday, Jan. 8).
3. STARVATION IN HINDU KUSH
AP reported Jan. 8 that the Hazara village of Bonavash, high in the Hindu Kush range, "is slowly starving.... [P]eople on this remote mountain have resorted to eating bread made from grass and trace amounts of barley flour. Babies whose mothers' milk has dried up are fed grass porridge. The toothless elderly crush grass into almost a powder. Many have died. Nearly everyone has diarrhea or a hacking cough." Said one villager: "We are waiting to die. If food does not come...we will eat it [grass] until we die." Bonavash is the most accessible village in the remote Abdullah Gan region, where some 10,000 live. Residents in more distant villages are even worse off, aid workers say. Thousands of bags of wheat flour are at Zari, 4 hours away by donkey along mountain trails, but it is being held up there by logistical problems and red tape. Another obstacle is ongoing warfare and lawlessness. World Food Program rep Abby Spring said: "With different warlords controlling different roads, there are some areas where we just can't go."
These increasingly inescapable reports contradict the picture portrayed by aid organizations two weeks ago of the danger of famine having passed (see WW3 REPORT #15). Few commentators are asking how much of this suffering could have been averted if the US had acceded to demands by Oxfam and others that the bombing halt long enough for food to be delivered--or what pressures Washington brought to bear to get the WFP to paint proverbial rosy scenarios when the aid finally did begin to flow into Afghanistan.
4. MORE US CASUALTIES
A US KC-130 Hercules military plane carrying seven Marines slammed into a mountain in southwestern Pakistan Jan. 9 while making a landing approach to a desert airport at Shamsi, presumably killing all on board. Pentagon officials said there was no evidence the plane was shot down, and the cause of the crash was unknown. (AP, Jan. 10)
The next day saw a military air accident closer to home, as a New Jersey Air National Guard F-16 crashed near the Garden State Parkway, one of the state's major arteries, scattering debris across the highway. The pilot ejected from the plane; there were no serious injuries. (AP, Jan. 10)
5. WAR CAPTIVES FACE BRUTAL CONDITIONS
The harsh Shibarghan prison near Mazar-i-Sharif, run by the forces of Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostoum, is bursting with captured Taliban fighters and accused collaborators. Red Cross officials registering prisoners there raised concerns of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. One prisoner has died, and dozens have dysentery. The prison, built for 800, now holds 3,500. (New York Times, Jan. 5)
6. PENTAGON CENSORS PHOTOGRAPHS
Pentagon officials have ordered news organizations not to transmit images of masked and chained prisoners in Afghanistan. Pentagon rep Rear Adm. Craig Quigley ironically said the decision was made because of Red Cross concerns that the images would violate international laws on the treatment of prisoners. "The Geneva Convention prohibits humiliating, debasing photos," he said. "We need to be cautious in case there is a legal action somewhere downstream." But officials at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva said the organization had not contacted the Pentagon about photographs taken in Afghanistan. "We have not raised this as an issue," said the ICRC's Vincent Lasser.
Photographers and camera crews from CNN, CBS, and Army Times and other organizations were allowed to take pictures of the 20 prisoners in Kandahar as they boarded a C-17 cargo plane for the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But the journalists had to agree not to transmit the images until military officials gave them permission. Shortly after the plane left the airport, they were told not to send the images. Army Times photographer Rob Curtis said the Pentagon was breaking an agreement made with journalists early in the conflict. "We signed papers that said we would not publish photos that endangered a military operation. There are no military implications for these photos, only political [implications]. This has never come up before." (AP, Jan. 10)
7. PORNOGRAPHER CHALLENGES PENTAGON CENSORSHIP
Hustler publisher Larry Flynt wants his magazine to cover the war in Afghanistan--"or perhaps uncover it," neither Flynt nor Reuters could resist adding. "Who knows, maybe we'll give them the girls of Afghanistan," joked the pornography mogul in a Jan. 4 interview with Reuters before going to court to challenge the Pentagon ban on reporters accompanying US troops to the front lines. Flynt filed the suit with the US District Court in Washington in Nov. after the Pentagon turned down his request to let Hustler writers go along on US combat missions in Afghanistan, saying it was too dangerous. While conceding Hustler might not be the first place people go for news on the war, Flynt argues that real issues of press freedom are at stake. Past US wars were just as dangerous as Afghanistan, yet reporters were allowed to document the fighting, he said. "If Roosevelt had treated the press the way Bush had, we wouldn't have the History Channel today," he said of Franklin D. Roosevelt, US president during World War II. "When you turn on the television and you see pictures of journalists in major cities reporting on the war, the average American thinks that these people are covering the war. They are miles away, and in some cases hundreds of miles away. A member of the mainstream media should have filed this lawsuit instead of me."
8. US ARMS WARRING CRIMINAL FACTIONS
The New York Times reported Jan. 10 that top-ranking Taliban officials have surrendered to the "governor of Kandahar Province" and been allowed to drop out of sight. The officials include former justice minister Mullah Nooruddin Turabi and former local security chief Abdul Haq. The unnamed "governor" is presumably Pashtun warlord Gul Agha Shirzai, whose forces hold Kandahar. The New York Times reported Jan. 6 how Agha's personal army was beefed up by US Special Forces troops and airdrops of crates full of AK-47 rifles from US military planes. Now that he has proved a less than reliable proxy, his name discretely drops out of the Times accounts. Newsday reported Jan. 9 that US Green Berets (Special Forces) are searching for Taliban/al-Qaeda fugitives in Agha's Kandahar domain. AP reported Jan. 11 that "unknown fighters" attacked US forces at a Kandahar airfield as the first planeload of al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners left the base for Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba, sparking a 40-minute gun-battle--the first on the base since the 3,000 Marines dug in a month ago. There were no casualties reported.
A booming black market economy has also re-emerged under the US-backed warlords. In the traditional smuggling hub of Jalalabad, now controlled by the Eastern Shura, local markets are bursting with everything from foreign passports to bricks of hashish to the skulls of snow leopards and other endangered species, the Times reported Jan. 6. Profits presumably end up in the pockets of Shura warlords.
9. AFGHANISTAN: AN ADVENTURE IN TOURISM
But the interim regime has appointed a tourism minister who hopes that the rampant chaos, corruption and starvation will merely titillate Western tastes for the exotic. Minister Abdul Rahman told ABC.com Jan. 7 that Afghanistan is now open to tourism for the first time in 23 years. He said "many people will be curious to see it firsthand, especially since it's been on television so much lately."
10. US-IRAN TENSIONS ESCALATE
Now that the Taliban is overthrown, the tactical US-Iran alliance is broken in no uncertain terms. US "intelligence officials" leaked to the New York Times Jan. 10 that they believe Iran is sheltering "small numbers" of al-Qaeda fugitives. One "senior military official" accused Iran of trying "to stir up mischief" in Afghanistan. In the next day's Times, President Bush responded with a barely veiled military threat to the allegations of Iranian intrigues against the Karzai regime: "If they in any way, shape or form try to destabilize the government, the coalition will deal with them, in diplomatic ways initially."
11. INDIA "READY FOR [NUCLEAR?] WAR"
India's army commander Gen. Sunderajan Padmanabhan said India was "fully ready" for war, and issued a blunt warning to Pakistan. "Should any nuclear weapons be used against Indian forces...the perpetrator of that particular outrage shall be punished, and so severely that their continuation thereafter in any form of fray will be doubtful." Padmanabhan said India was preparing raids on terrorist bases in Pakistani territory, and reiterated India's position that it would not use nuclear weapons first. "A nuclear exchange on the subcontinent would be disastrous for the whole region," he conceded to reporters. Hours later, India's Defense Minister George Fernandes insisted "we are pursuing the diplomatic efforts in the belief that they will yield results." But he said that if attacked with nuclear weapons, India "will retaliate in kind, as any other nuclear country would." Pakistan has arrested some 300 militants since the Dec. 13 attack on India's parliament building which sparked the crisis, but India says militants continue to operate. On Jan. 11, the Indian army said it killed eight Pakistani soldiers and destroyed 18 bunkers across the cease-fire line dividing the disputed province of Kashmir--a claim denied by Pakistan. Also on the 11th, up to 70 Indian trucks carrying ammunition were destroyed by a series of explosions triggered by electric sparks on one vehicle in Rajasthan, near the Pakistan border. Witnesses said two civilians were killed by exploding shells. There was no immediate word on military casualties. (AP, Jan. 11)
India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, briefly met in Nepal this week, but failed to resolve anything. India boasted it had shot down an un-manned Pakistani drone spy-plane in Indian airspace over Kashmir; Pakistan denied this, countering that its own forces had shot down an Indian un-manned spy-plane. Both sides continued to exchange mortar and artillery fire across the border. (Newsday, Jan. 7)
THE MIDDLE EAST
1. US WEIGHS IN ON RED SEA INCIDENT
After initial hesitancy, the White House is backing Israel's claims that 50 tons of weapons seized by Israeli forces from a boat in the Red Sea last week were supplied by Iran and bound for Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's forces. Said President Bush in response to Israel's claim: "Mr. Arafat must renounce terror..." Secretary of State Colin Powell did hedge his bets a little: "We haven't seen anything that links it directly to chairman Arafat." Palestinian Authority cabinet minister Saeb Erekat retorted: "We are guilty [in US eyes] until proven innocent. I don't know what this compelling evidence is." (Newsday, Jan. 11)
2. TERRORISM BY BULLDOZER
The New York-based Palestine Right to Return Coalition, known as Al-Awda, called Israel's Jan. 10 demolition of 70 Palestinian homes at the Rafah refugee camp in occupied Gaza a "grave violation" of international law. According to the governor of Rafah, Majid al-Ajha, 124 families and a total of 700 individuals have been made homeless by the bulldozing, which Al-Awda says contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Al-Awda also cited a Nov. 20 Amnesty International report declaring that the demolition of Palestinian homes constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture.
The demolitions were retaliation for the killing of 4 Israeli soldiers by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip Jan. 9. The militants, who were themselves killed in the Jan. 9 attack, were said to come from the refugee camp. But there was no indication that the destroyed homes were connected to the attacks. Contradicting initial Israeli claims that the homes were uninhabited, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees provided tents for the residents left homeless in the demolition. Since the latest Palestinian uprising began in Oct. 2000, Israeli forces have destroyed scores of homes and large swaths of agricultural land, eliciting strong protests from human rights groups. The new bulldozings even drew a rebuke from the US State Department. (New York Times, Jan. 11)
The 4 Israeli soldiers were the first killed since Arafat called for a halt to attacks on Dec. 16. At least 20 Palestinians have been killed in this same period. Ironically, the slain gunmen on both sides in this recent incident were neither ethnic Jews nor Palestinians, but Bedouins--descendants of Arabic-speaking nomads from the Negev Desert. (New York Times, Jan. 10)
Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported Jan. 7 that a US military strike in Somalia "could be just days away." The comments, attributed to unnamed Pentagon and State Department officials, "follow a steady stream of intelligence...that has led the United States to believe that crack al-Qaeda terrorist troops are successfully regrouping at bases around the capital, Mogadishu." One source said: "We are talking about short, sharp strikes and raids on very specific targets rather than any protracted bombing campaigns." The report said US naval ships are now steaming some 1,200 Marines into position off the coast of Somalia.
At a Jan. 11 East African summit in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, the leaders of Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda and Djibouti--members of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development, or IGAD--issued a joint statement calling on Somalia's transitional government "and all other parties [in the country] to commit themselves to combat terrorism in all its forms." Until 1966, Bin Laden was based in Sudan, which has now pledged to cooperate with Washington's war on terrorism. Ethiopia has a stake in the conflict, as al-Itihad al-Islamiya, the militant Somali group accused by Washington of links with al-Qaeda, has been fighting for unification of Ogaden, Ethiopia's Somali region, with Somalia proper. Somalia's self-declared transition government headed by President Abdiqasim Salat Hassan also attended the Khartoum meeting--but it actually controls very little of the country, and is not recognized by the US. (AP, Jan. 11)
The UK Guardian reported Dec. 20 that "Americans in dark glasses," who said they were from the US embassy in Nairobi, were flown into Baidoa, Somalia, for secret talks with the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA), one of the country's feuding tribal militias. Met at the local airfield by RRA gunmen, the men brushed off a reporter's question and were whisked away in "three battered pick-up trucks loaded with youthful gunmen." The article strongly implied the men were CIA officers seeking to groom the RRA as a US proxy force.
2. THE PHILIPPINES?
US Special Forces troops are in the Philippines--and at least 100 more will follow--as Washington bolsters the archipelago nation's campaign against Islamic radicals allegedly linked to the al-Qaeda network. About two dozen US Special Forces are doing logistical and security planning for the larger force that could arrive within a week, an anonymous Pentagon official said. The Special Forces troops were approved in a Nov. agreement between Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and US President Bush, expanding efforts dating back to 1993 to help the Philippine forces fight Islamic separatists in southern Mindanao province. The US troops are to train and advise forces in "counter-terrorism" tactics to use against the extremist Abu Sayyaf group, which is holding US missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham and Filipino nurse Deborah Yap hostage on Mindanao's Basilan island. Since the Nov. agreement, the US has also provided the Philippine government with a C-130 transport plane, 8 Huey helicopters and 30,000 rifles. The agreement specifies $100 million in US military and law enforcement aid. Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, the Philippines' military chief of staff, said the US military advisers will be allowed to join front-line Filipino troops. His statement was the first by a senior Philippine military official that US forces would be allowed in battle areas. Top Pentagon officials imply that similar actions may be going on quietly elsewhere around the planet. Overt and covert military operations are "going on in a great many places" to "do away with...pockets of terrorism," Gen. Tommy Franks, US commander in Afghanistan, said last month. (AP, Jan. 11)
3. ...INDONESIA, YEMEN?
A Jan. 8 front-page New York Times story, "US SEES BATTLES IN LAWLESS AREAS AFTER AFGHAN WAR," featured an interview with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who said intervention is being considered in Somalia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Yemen. Implying that plans to take on the Saddam Hussein dictatorship in Iraq were on hold, Wolfowitz stressed the need to restore law and order in regions where government control has broken down and terrorists have been allowed to establish bases.
"The administration has identified al-Itihaad, a militant religious group based in Somalia, as a terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda," the report read. "The United States has also shut down Somalia's major money-transfer company and stepped up reconnaissance flights off its coast. 'Obviously Somalia comes up as a possible candidate for al-Qaeda people to flee to precisely because the government is weak or nonexistent,' Mr. Wolfowitz said... The Central Intelligence Agency, he added, is 'looking for exactly those sorts of people' that the United States can use as proxy forces, as it did with anti-Taliban groups in Afghanistan...
"In the Philippines, he said the government was eager to quell a rebellion by hundreds of Muslim militants from the Abu Sayyaf group who have been linked to al-Qaeda and have been battling government forces on Basilan Island in the southern part of the country...
"In Indonesia, Islamic militants have fought with Christians on Sulawesi Island and in Maluku Province, areas where the government 'is extremely weak,' Mr. Wolfowitz said... He also said the United States was prepared to provide assistance, though the Pentagon was under restrictions about conducting certain joint exercises with the Indonesian military, which has been accused of human rights abuses. Those restrictions, Mr. Wolf said, 'really need to be reviewed in the light of Sept. 11.'"
Wolfowitz also cited Yemen as having "very significant back regions" which provide "a case of an ungoverned piece of a country" where al-Qaeda cells are likely established, and insinuated US troops might become involved there as well.
THE WAR AT HOME
1. NEW RIGHTS COALITION PROTESTS TERROR SWEEP
The American Civil Liberties Union, Arab American Institute and Black Leadership Forum have joined in a new coalition demanding the US government release information on the 500 remaining detainees held on immigration charges, and halt FBI questioning and harassment of Middle Easterners. The campaign will kick off with a Martin Luther King Day rally in Washington DC. (Newsday, Jan. 9)
Vice President Dick Cheney, however, has warned that the new domestic footing is practically permanent. On Oct. 18 he told the 56th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at New York's Waldorf-Astoria: "Americans reasonably wonder, 'How long will it last?' The answer is that many of these changes we've made are permanent, at least in the lifetime of most of us. Vigilance against the new threat is not just a temporary precaution, it's a responsibility we all share." ( www.reason.com)
2. CLASS APARTHEID AT THE AIRPORT
Velvet ropes separating the VIPs from the commoners have arrived at the airport security gate. Concerned that egalitarian pile-ups at crowded checkpoints have prompted many fliers to stay at home since Sept. 11, the nation's airlines are setting up special-access security lanes for their most elite customers--those who fly first-class or who belong to high-level frequent-flier programs. Northwest, United, American and Delta airlines have all installed the special lanes to put elite passengers in shorter lines. Only Continental has not done so, opting instead for additional checkpoints "for all of our customers," a company rep said. Industry watchers say airlines are establishing what they call "the list"--a database of elite travelers who have applied for and received (for a fee) a "smart card" ID for expedited airport security processing. (AP, Jan. 6)
3. PENTAGON TO EAT SOCIAL SECURITY FUNDS
Even as Congress projects a budget deficit next year, the Pentagon is demanding an increase of over $20 billion in its 2003 budget to procure more missiles, fighters and warships for the war on terrorism. Congress has already approved 14.5 billion in emergency Pentagon funds since Sept. 11. (New York Times, Jan. 7) The Pentagon's money will likely come from Social Security. Bush promised during the 2000 presidential campaign to avoid tapping Social Security except in case of war, recession or a national emergency. "Lucky me. I hit the trifecta," Bush budget director Mitch Daniels said the president told him shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. (Miami Herald, Nov. 29)
4. BUSH TO US: CONSUME MORE OIL
The Bush administration is abandoning a $1.5 billion 8-year government-subsidized project to develop high-mileage vehicles, instead throwing its support behind a new Energy Department plan to develop hydrogen fuel cells to power the cars of the future. Critics say the new program lets Washington and Detroit focus on vague long-term aims while avoiding any commitment to short-term improvements in the cars of the present. (New York Times, Jan. 9)
The administration has also announced changes in Clean Air Act regulations, allowing power plants to upgrade and increase output without installing stricter pollution controls. The change would end several pending lawsuits by state governments accusing power plants of making major renovations but classifying them as routine maintenance to avoid new pollution controls. New York and other Northeast states, who accuse dirty Midwest plants of fouling their air, pledged to challenge the changes in the courts. Said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer: "The federal government is now on the verge of a wholesale weakening of the Clean Air Act. It is unprecedented." (Newsday, Jan. 9)
NEW YORK CITY
1. DISSENT AT EPA OVER WTC TOXIC THREAT
Environmental Protection Agency brass are sharply at odds with the agency's official ombudsman Robert Martin, who wants an investigation into charges the agency concealed evidence of dangerous contamination at the World Trade Center disaster site. At issue are assurances from EPA chief Christie Whitman and other agency officials that environmental conditions at the site were safe--even as agency tests showed dangerous warning signs. "The evidence I have seen demonstrates that there is and was a substantial health risk that EPA had documented in its testing," said Hugh Kaufman, the chief investigator for the ombudsman's office, which ordered the investigation. "There's enough evidence to demonstrate that Mrs. Whitman's statement to the brave rescue workers and the people who live there was false." An EPA spokesperson shot back that Whitman didn't say the area was without risk. "That's a mischaracterization of what was ever said," said agency rep Bonnie Bellow. She said Whitman advised rescue workers to wear respirators, and local homes and businesses to hire contractors to remove dust. The dispute centers on the late Oct. release of data from earlier EPA samples that showed elevated levels of dioxins, PCBs, lead and chromium. The results were released following a Freedom of Information request by the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project. But Bellow insisted the results were going to be released then regardless of the group's request. "The idea that we were simply refusing to release data is untrue," Bellow said. Kaufman said the investigation would re-examine the EPA-measured levels of asbestos and benzine, a petroleum byproduct that can cause leukemia after long-term exposure. Whitman is seeking to eliminate the ombudsman position entirely, folding the job into the EPA inspector general's office. "This would be the death of any independent oversight of the EPA," said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan), who opposes the move. (New York Daily News, Jan. 12)
2. MEDICAL MONITORING FOR CLEAN-UP WORKERS
The World Trade Center Mobile Medical Monitoring Unit will begin operation near City Hall Park on Jan. 14, 2002. A joint project of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College, the Latin American Workers' Project and the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH), the unit will provide medical examinations for building clean-up workers in the vicinity of the collapsed WTC towers. Testing will focus on respiratory problems and other targeted health problems, as well as general physical exams. Clean-up workers are particularly vulnerable to hazards arising from contact with toxic substances in the debris and dust from the disaster. Says NYCOSH Director Joel Shufro: "Many day laborers are Spanish-speaking immigrants with little health and safety training. The medical unit goes straight to the problem area, offering the basic medical and educational resources the clean-up crews need." The unit will be open on weekdays from 8 AM to 8 PM through Feb. 1. It will also provide free half-mask respirators with HEPA filters. (NYCOSH press release, Jan. 9)
3. WTC INSURERS USE FUZZY MATH
Lawyers for the World Trade Center's largest insurers, Swiss Re, argued in federal court that both towers would have collapsed even if just one hijacked plane had hit. Larry Silverstein, who held a 99-year lease on WTC, is seeking double damages of $7 billion; insurers say it was just one attack, not two, and will cough up only $3.55 billion. (Newsday, Jan. 10)
4. MORE RACIST ATTACKS ON STATEN ISLAND
The day after a dozen supportive residents of Staten Island's Concord neighborhood rallied outside the gutted delicatessen owned by Pakistani immigrant Hamim Syed, vandals struck a pizzeria also owned by Syed, hurling bricks through the windows. "This makes me feel terrified, terrorized," said Syed, president of the Pak-American Civic Association of Staten Island. "Horrified is the right word. I have done nothing to anyone to deserve this." The deli was destroyed in an arson blaze Dec. 22. (Staten Island Advance, Jan. 7) Worker's Struggle Against Anti-Muslim Terror on Staten Island, the group which held the rally in support of Syed, has called for a Martin Luther King Day afternoon protest at Staten Island's Borough Hall. (Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade, WBAI, Jan. 8)
5. GOOD NEWS IN JACKSON HEIGHTS
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
Newsday reports little sign of strife along the main drag of the Indian and Pakistani immigrant communities in Jackson Heights, Queens--even as their homelands prepare for war. "Evidence of Indian shopkeepers marketing to Pakistanis, and vice versa, lines storefronts along 74th Street. At Sahil Sari Palace, the 'Eid Mobarek' sign still hangs in the window of the sari and fabric store owned by Hindus, offering greetings to Muslims who observe Eid ul-Fitr. The holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting." Storekeeper Sunil Chugh told the newspaper: "We're not Muslim, but it brings people in. On Eid, I gave my friend a hug three times, I didn't see a difference. When there's Diwali, they gave me sweets." Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. Some suggested the post-9-11 xenophobic atmosphere has even brought the two groups together. "After Sept. 11, we shared in the racial discrimination," said Ali Mizara, president of Americans of Pakistani Heritage. (Newsday, Jan. 7)
1. US PROTECTS CUBAN TERRORIST
Pontificated columnist William Safire in the Dec. 31 New York Times: "[W]henever a government offers safe haven to terrorists, it ceases to be sovereign. As an accessory to murder, it loses legitimacy and its national borders are no longer inviolate. The deliberate harboring of terrorists is a casus belli, an invitation to invasion... [A]ny government that harbors terrorists loses its legitimacy and will suffer the same fate as the murderers it shelters."
Writing in precisely the same left-side column of the op-ed page on Dec. 26, Nicholas Kristof noted some uncomfortable contradictions of the War on Terrorism: "The United States still provides refuge to Orlando Bosch, a Cuban who has been accused of blowing up an airliner, killing 73 people, including 6 members of the Cuban fencing team. (Mr. Bosch, whose place in this country is a tribute to the lobbying power of anti-Castro Cubans in Florida, has denied involvement while defending the bombing of the plane as a 'legitimate act of war.')"
Actually, Bosch was not just "accused" of blowing up the Cubana Airlines jet in 1976, but formally charged in Venezuela. Bosch's terrorist ring also planted bombs at foreign embassies in Caracas and Buenos Aires and diplomatic and tourist offices in New York and Los Angeles to punish nations that did business with Cuba. Arrested in 1968 for firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter in Miami harbor, he was freed after four years "with help from powerful Florida politicians." (See Jonathan Marshell, et al, The Iran Contra Connection: Secret Teams and Covert Operations in the Reagan Era, South End Press, 1987, p. 128-35)
2. US PROTECTS HAITIAN TERRORIST
"Should Haiti Declare a 'War on Terrorism' against the US?" asks Steve Pitteli in the on-line magazine Hopedance this month. He notes how on Dec. 27, 1993, Emmanuel "Toto" Constant and his FRAPH (Revolutionary Front for the Advancement & Progress of Haiti) began firing on the shantytown of Cite Soleil, torching several hundred homes and forcing fleeing residents back into their burning homes at gunpoint. During Constant's three-year reign of terror as death-squad boss of the military dictatorship, his FRAPH butchered several thousand Haitian civilians. Fleeing Haiti when the dictatorship fell in 1994, Constant is now living in a nice, two-story home in the quiet Laurelton neighborhood of Queens, New York. Constant escaped an uninspired "search" by US troops in Haiti and slipped into the US on a tourist visa. He was eventually detained and placed in INS custody for over a year. In 1995, the Haitian government requested Constant's extradition on murder, torture and arson charges. But the US refused extradition, instead giving Constant a green card to live and work freely in the US. Constant revealed on "60 Minutes" in Dec. 1995 that he was on the CIA payroll throughout Haiti's military rule (1991-1994). He then sued the US government and threatened to reveal other CIA misdeeds in Haiti unless he was released. He was. ( www.hopedance.org)
3. US SUPPORTS GUATEMALAN TERRORISTS
A Dec. 28 New York Times editorial warned of the potential for abuses in the US-led international War on Terrorism: "Unscrupulous governments and militaries are invoking the threat to tar their opponents or create draconian new laws. One example is Guatemala. The greatest potential terrorist threat in Guatemala today comes from military and retired military officials. These men have long been behind a policy of intimidation and even murder of activists for human rights and Mayan Indians. Yet in the wake of Sept. 11, this group has acquired enhanced powers. In November, at the urging of the United States, Guatemala established a new anti-terror commission, which will be led by a retired military officer. The commissioner will direct a new inter-agency security committee dominated by military men. President Alfonso Portillo also recently switched Defense Minister Eduardo Arevalo Lacs, a retired general, to the post of interior minister. Mr. Arevalo Lacs has denounced human rights groups as bent on the country's destabilization."
4. US AIDS COLOMBIAN TERRORISTS
On Dec. 19, the US House of Representatives voted 357-6 to approve a long-stalled $15.3 billion foreign aid package for 2002 that includes $625 million for President Bush's "Andean Regional Initiative"--successor to the Clinton administration's "Plan Colombia." The administration had requested $713 million for the Andean Initiative. The compromise measure places a series of human rights conditions on the over $300 million slated for Colombia, where the US is overseeing a military campaign against leftist rebels accused of involvement in the drug trade. The funds are to be released gradually, with 40% to be held up pending a State Department report certifying that the Colombian armed forces are suspending any troops found to be violating human rights, and turning them over to civilian courts for trial. The Colombian military is accused by human rights observers of actively collaborating with the ultra-right paramilitary groups which have been committing massacres, assassinations and kidnappings throughout the country. The national para network, United Colombian Self-Defense (AUC), was recently placed on the State Department "terrorist list" (see WW3 REPORT #9). Much funding has already been distributed to the Colombian armed forces--and, presumably, to the AUC. In Nov. 2000, the Clinton administration invoked a "waiver" for "national security" reasons, bypassing similar human rights conditions on the release of his $1.3 billion package. (Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 23, )
5. NATO PROTECTS ALBANIAN TERRORISTS
On June 27, 2001, President Bush signed an Executive Order freezing all US-based assets of several individuals found to be supporting "extremist violence in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." Near the top of the list is Ali Ahmeti, leader of Macedonia's National Liberation Army (NLA), the ethnic Albanian guerilla group. The presidential order does not actually use the word "terrorist," but treats Ahmeti as such. In May 2001, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson called the NLA "a bunch of murderous thugs whose objective is to destroy a democratic Macedonia." However, there are obvious reasons for Bush's reluctance to use the "T" word. In Aug. 2001, under heavy pressure from the US and NATO, Macedonia's President Boris Trajkovski signed a peace deal with the NLA, granting amnesty to the insurgents. In return, the NLA is to turn over weapons to NATO troops. But there is no deadline for disarmament, and the NLA is allowed to keep some weapons. As President Trajkovski griped to journalist Timothy Garton Ash: "I signed an agreement with the Secretary-General [of NATO] and the Secretary-General's representative signed an agreement with the terrorists." (Timothy Garton Ash in the New York Review of Books, Nov. 29)
SUPPORT WORLD WAR 3 REPORT!!!
Subscribe to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT
PUBLISHED EVERY MONDAY TILL PEACE
Reprinting permissible with attribution.
Subscriptions free but donations needed!!!
Send generous checks to:
44 Fifth Ave. #172
Brooklyn NY 11217
EXIT POLL: Would you support French air-strikes on the US to demand the extradition of Henry Kissinger? (Answer the question!)
Send feedback to:
To reply, remove NOSPAM from e-mail address
Send site-related feedback to:
To reply, remove NOSPAM from e-mail address