#. 18. Jan.. 26, 2002
By Bill Weinberg
SPECIAL ISSUE: DID HAMID KARZAI WORK FOR UNOCAL?
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. More US Casualties Bring Total to 19 Dead
2. Afghan Donors Meet in Tokyo
3. Warlords, Bombardment Devastate Ecology
4. Warlords Ready to Take On Peacekeepers; Refugees Are Cannon Fodder
5. Northern Alliance Fractures; Militias Plunder Aid Shipments
6. Hekmatyar Challenges Gul Agha in Kandahar
7. Kandahar, Herat Warlords Feud: US-Iran Proxy War?
8. Green Berets Mix It Up in Kandahar
9. No Peace in Paktia
10. Kabul Still Militarized and Dangerous
11. CIA Gets New War Powers
12. US Expanding War to Ex-Soviet States?
13. New York Post Calls for Torture
14. UK Detainees Face "Barbaric" Conditions
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. Was Karzai a Unocal Consultant?
1. India Tests Nuclear-Capable Missile
2. Calcutta Attack Targets US
3. Southeast Asia "Terror Web" Busted
4. Indonesian Troops Kill Aceh Separatist Leader
THE MIDDLE EAST
1. Israeli Troops Call for Non-Cooperation
2. Ghosts of Sabra-Shatila Massacre Haunt Lebanon
3. US Drops Mandatory Purdah for Servicewomen in Arabia
1. Protests in Sarajevo as Bosnia Deports Terror Suspects
2. Bulgarian, Romanian Troops to Afghanistan
THE WAR AT HOME
1. Biggest Pentagon Budget Since the Reagan Era
2. "Patriotism Defense" in Slaying of Afghan-American
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. MORE US CASUALTIES BRING TOTAL TO 19 DEAD
A US helicopter crashed in Afghanistan's mountains in on Jan. 20, killing two Marines and injuring the other five on board. The CH-53E Super Stallion crashed about 40 miles south of Bagram airfield outside the capital, Kabul. Military officials said it was flying to resupply US forces, and there was no initial indication of hostile fire. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the cause of the crash appeared to be mechanical failure. The survivors were evacuated back to Bagram and a undisclosed site for treatment. Officials said their injuries were not life-threatening. (AP, Jan. 20)
AP lists 19 deaths of US personnel in the Afghanistan campaign so far:
Jan. 20: The two Marines killed in the CH-53E crash.
Jan. 9: Seven Marines killed in when their tanker plane crashed in Pakistan.
Jan. 4: Army Sgt. Nathan Ross Chapman, 31, shot in vicinity of Khost, near the Pakistan border. He was the first US troop killed by enemy fire.
Dec. 5: Three Green Berets killed in Kandahar when a US bomb missed its target.
Nov. 29: Pvt. Giovany Maria, 19, of New York City, died of gunshot in Uzbekistan, where some 1,000 members of the Army's 10th Mountain Division are stationed. Officials say his death was not the result of enemy action and is being investigated.
Nov. 25: CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann killed in Mazar-i-Sharif prison uprising.
Nov. 7: Sailor Bryant L. Davis fell overboard from a US carrier in the Arabian Sea.
Oct. 19: Two Army Rangers killed in when their helicopter crashed in Pakistan.
Oct. 10: Air Force Master Sgt. Evander Earl Andrews killed in a heavy-equipment accident in Arabia. His was the first death in the campaign. (AP, Jan. 20)
2. AFGHAN DONORS MEET IN TOKYO
Two days of haggling in a Tokyo hotel produced an international pledge to provide over $4.5 billion in money and other aid to rebuild Afghanistan. More than $1.8 billion is earmarked for use this year. The need for funding over the next five fears is put as high as $10 billion, Asia Times reported Jan. 22. Japan, host for the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan, has pledged $500 million. India has offered tied aid--that is, funds linked to purchasing goods or services from India. Afghan officials are said to be unhappy with such arrangements.
But the top priority is putting an actual administration in place in Afghanistan. There can be no reconstruction if there is no government to direct it. Salaries need to be paid, and the interim regime has to consolidate control over Afghanistan's national territory. Under the agreement reached in Dec. in Bonn, the Afghan Interim Administration, headed by Hamid Karzai, is a caretaker government. Transfer of power to a permanent government is anticipated in about two-and-a-half years.
Security at the conference was tight, with some 3,000 police mobilized. Non-governmental organizations and the media complained of lack of access to officials.
3. WARLORDS, BOMBARDMENT DEVASTATE ECOLOGY
Throughout Afghanistan, forests are shrinking and desert is spreading after a generation of war, three years of drought and 4 months of US bombardment. Nesar Ahmad Kohestani, one of Afghanistan's few environmentalists, paints a grim picture. Warlords in the once-lush southeast are cutting down the country's famous cedar trees--some 700 years old--and selling the wood to Pakistan. "More than 20 big trucks are heading to Pakistan each day carting the timber," he said. Forest, which 10 years ago covered 2.3% of the country, now covers only about 1%. Warlords are also plundering endangered species. Falcons, eagles and peacocks fetch $12,000 each in Arab countries. Snow-leopards, whose furs fetch $2,000 on the black market, have been hunted to extermination in Afghanistan. Tigers, foxes, jackals, hyenas, zebras, yaks, gazelles and rare long-haired sheep are nearly gone. Birds have been scared off by the fighting and bombardment. Migratory Siberian cranes, flamingos and pelicans now use alternative routes through Iran between Siberia and Pakistan. "Studies have revealed an 85% drop in the number of birds overflying Afghanistan in the past few years," said Kohestani, a lecturer at Kabul University and director of the Environmental Conservation Centre for Afghanistan. But the most pressing problem for human survival is desertification. About 75% of the country is mountainous, and of the remainder only some 10% is arable, down from 13% 10 years ago. Kohestani believes it is possible to reverse the damage--if the new interim government acts fast. "History shows that Afghanistan was very forested. It used to be a very green place." The country has "a high capacity for rehabilitation and reforestation." Despite the drought, Kohestani believes local water resources could irrigate enough land to feed double the current population of 26 million, if used properly. "70% of our water flows out of the country," he said. "If we can manage our resources properly, we can recover." (Daily Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg, Jan. 24)
4. WARLORDS READY TO TAKE ON PEACEKEEPERS; REFUGEES ARE CANNON FODDER
Warlords in several Afghan cities have begun arming refugee camps since the arrival of international peacekeepers in Kabul, international aid agencies report. Their goal is to maintain their local fiefdoms and protect profits from drug smuggling, say officials in Kabul. Arming refugees is a time-tested warlord tactic for quickly raising private armies. The gift of a rifle and a few pounds of grain is often enough to ensure loyalty from landless and desperate peasants. The camps surrounding Afghanistan's cities house people driven from their homes by warfare. The UN estimates there could be up to 1.5 million such people in Afghanistan.
The most obvious effort is the army being built by Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, the interim regime's deputy defense minister, in his northern stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif. The Sakhi camp outside Mazar, one of 25 camps surrounding the city, is contested by competing militias, and beset by a wave of violent attacks and rapes. Haneef Ata of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a refugee aid group, says the trouble began when Dostum began arming ethnic Uzbeks in the camp. Rival warlords then began arming the camp's Tajiks and Hazaras. Dostum's local rivals are Hazara warlord Commander Mohaqaqand and Tajik warlord Commander Uftad Ata, who supports ex-President Burhanuddin Rabbani's faction.
The pattern is rapidly spreading throughout the country. US Special Forces, with the cooperation of Kandahar warlord/governor Gul Agha, confiscated some 2,000 weapons from militias in southern Helmand province Jan. 23. The Bonn agreement contains no provision for deployment of peacekeepers beyond 4,500 troops in Kabul, so projection of federal power has to be negotiated with local warlords. Some 20 local administrations in Afghanistan bicker over land and the right to tax commerce. Even Agha, one of the more cooperative warlords, released seven senior Taliban ministers in early Jan.--in defiance of a request from the interim government and the US. In Mazar, Dostum still prints his own money despite government protests. Gen. Ghulam Nassery, Afghan minister in charge of peacekeeping, said that unless the camps are disarmed, another relapse into civil war looms. "I am ashamed to say, we need men who are not Afghans. We need the blue helmets--we need more than a hundred thousand of them." (Washington Times, Jan. 24)
5. . NORTHERN ALLIANCE FRACTURES; MILITIAS PLUNDER AID SHIPMENTS
The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported Jan. 22 that the forces of Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum and Tajik fighters loyal to ex-President Burhanuddin Rabbani have been fighting in northern Kunduz province for two days. About 11 men were killed and over a dozen injured, the report said. Khaled Mansour, a UN World Food Program spokesperson, said armed Uzbeks had looted 40 tons of food aid from a warehouse at Qaisar in Faryab province after severely beating the staff and smashing vehicles. (London Times, Jan. 22) Pakistan's Jang newspaper reports the fighting took place in Qale Zaal district, 60 km outside Kunduz, between one commander loyal to interim Defense Minister Mohammad Fahim, and another loyal to Deputy Defence Minister Dostum. One Dostum official pledged the situation is under control: "There haven't been big problems... It was a local and tribal issue for control of the area and has no party links. Dostum and Fahim sent delegations to settle the issue and the skirmishes have ended now." (Jang, Pakistan, Jan. 22)
6. HEKMATYAR CHALLENGES GUL AGHA IN KANDAHAR
Forces loyal to Kandahar interim governor Gul Agha Sherzai and Hizb-i-Islami chief Gulbadeen Hekmatyar have taken positions against each other near Kandahar city. The stand-off began following the refusal of local Hizb-i-Islami commanders to comply with Gul Agha's order for tribal groups in the region to disarm. "We are not ready to hand over our weapons to the armed men of Gul Agha," said Hizb-i-Islami commander Mullah Abdul Razaq. (Dawn, Pakistan, Jan. 24)
7. KANDAHAR, HERAT WARLORDS FEUD: US-IRAN PROXY WAR?
Pakistan's Frontier Post reports that US troops are being airlifted to Herat province. Kandahar warlord Gul Agha is mobilizing his own 20,000-strong force to attack Herat, under the control of rival warlord Ismail Khan. The US Marines and paratroopers are presumably backing up Agha's Pashtun forces, while Khan's Tajik militias are reportedly being armed by Iran. Just a few days ago, US jets reportedly destroyed a Herat-bound Iranian convoy suspected of carrying military equipment for Ismail Khan. (Frontier Post, Jan. 25) A spokesperson for the Kandahar government told Reuters that Ismail Khan and Iran were backing Hekmatyar's guerillas in Helmand province, which is within Gul Agha's domain but borders the area controlled by Khan from Herat. (Reuters, Jan. 22) US Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said Washington believes Iran is providing arms to factions in western Afghanistan, and sending members of its Revolutionary Guards to back them up. He said he had made these concerns clear to Khan during a visit to Herat earlier this month. (MSNBC, Jan. 22) The Wall Street Journal reports that a small US military team in Herat is waiting to raid several suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban sites near that city--including several where chemical and biological experiments are believed to have occurred--but has been immobilized by Khan's refusal to guarantee the team's safety outside the city. One US official said the team is "under virtual house arrest." While Khan publicly declares his support for the interim regime, he resists Karzai's call for disarmament, and is bitterly opposed to allowing any peacekeeping force into western Afghanistan. (WSJ, Jan. 21)
8. GREEN BERETS MIX IT UP IN KANDAHAR
US Special Forces troops supported by AC-130 gunships fought a battle with Taliban hold-outs around 60 miles north of Kandahar city Jan. 24, according to the Pentagon. 15 Taliban fighters were killed and 27 captured in a pre-dawn raid on the Taliban positions. The Pentagon would provide no further details. "We still have an eye on the targets there, and there is a potential for further action," Gen. Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. told reporters. (NYT, Jan. 25)
9. NO PEACE IN PAKTIA
US Special Forces face a dangerous situation in Khost, near the Pakistan border. In return for help hunting down al-Qaeda hold-outs, the Central Intelligence Agency is providing money and supplies to local Pashtun tribes--but those not receiving support harass US forces and prevent them from entering some areas. Officials now believe an attack on a US convoy earlier this month near Khost was carried out by forces loyal to Pasha Khan Zadran, in retaliation for being snubbed by the CIA. Zadran hopes to be named governor of Paktia province, but the US is supporting another Pashtun leader. Green Beret Sgt. Nathan Chapman was killed by small-arms fire in the ambush, the first US combat casualty in Afghanistan. A CIA officer also was wounded. Interim prime minister Karzai has still not named a governor in Paktia. The US has moved a contingent of Marines into the Khost area to provide added protection for Special Forces troops. (WSJ, Jan. 21)
10. KABUL STILL MILITARIZED AND DANGEROUS
Kabul, the only semi-stable place in Afghanistan, is bristling with more than 30 checkpoints erected by British-led peacekeepers and local forces in recent days. "You can't move without crossing a checkpoint," one US official said. One night last week, a small explosive device was set off outside the US Embassy. When Marines ventured out to investigate, they found a large anti-personnel land mine. The explosion was apparently meant to draw the Marines out of the compound so they would trip the land mine, US officials said. The Marines spotted the land mine and no one was hurt in the incident. UN officials also report a wave of murders in Kabul--apparently revenge killings or executions linked to power struggles by local militias. (WSJ, Jan. 21) German troops in the peacekeeping force have also been warned about possible attacks on their base, the German Defense Ministry said. New German troops arrived this week, bringing their strength to 292. (AP, Jan. 20)
11. CIA GETS NEW WAR POWERS
The Central Intelligence Agency--once criticized for its roles in Vietnam and Central America--is taking a lead in the Afghanistan campaign, running covert paramilitary teams, shooting Hellfire missiles from airborne drones, and acting as the Bush administration's political and financial broker in warlord-controlled regions. "We are doing things I never believed we would do--and I mean killing people," said one US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. CIA agents also have been trading favors and distributing blocks of cash in Pakistani and US currency to local warlords. With up to 200 operatives there at any given time, Afghanistan represents the CIA's largest on-ground presence since Vietnam.
In one case, cited to "a US intelligence official," a CIA RQ-1 Predator plane transmitting real-time images of an al-Qaeda target to Central Command in Tampa and Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, went ahead and destroyed the target with Hellfire missiles while military officials were still debating what to do. Central Command reacted angrily, charging the with CIA violating the chain of command.
The CIA's Afghanistan operations are overseen by the agency's Counter-terrorism Center, now run by Cofer Black, a veteran officer who served in Sudan. The CT Center has its own 900-strong paramilitary force which draws from the Defense Department's special operations units. The CIA received $1.6 billion from the $40 billion post-9-11 special appropriation passed by Congress, and much of the money will be used to expand the CT Center. CIA Director George Tenet will testify on the operations before Senate Intelligence Committee hearings next month. While most of the hearing will be open to the public, some questions will be asked in a closed session. (John Donnelly in the Boston Globe, Jan. 20)
12. US EXPANDING WAR TO EX-SOVIET STATES?
Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, told Uzbekistan's government Jan. 24 that his troops were also targeting Islamic militants opposed to the Uzbek regime. A day after Washington criticized a forthcoming referendum that should further tighten President Islam Karimov's grip on power, Gen. Franks thanked his Uzbek hosts for opening bases to US forces. He told reporters that while the Taliban were now "largely destroyed," US forces would target the Taliban-allied Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which Karimov has accused of guerrilla attacks aimed at assassinating him.
On his visit to the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Franks said the US was also willing to aid the other former Soviet republics in Central Asia to root out Islamic extremists. "This cooperative arrangement provides opportunities for us to work with all the military forces in the region [and] to provide assistance where it is requested," said Franks. Arriving later in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, Franks was asked if Washington was competing with Moscow in Central Asia. "There is no competition," he said. "Russia is a very strong nation and also a good friend in the coalition." But Gen. Franks said the US and its allies would open "locations" across Central Asia. (Jang, Pakistan, Jan. 25)
13. NEW YORK POST CALLS FOR TORTURE
"TORTURING THE TRUTH," read the New York Post front-page banner Jan. 22, "Let's not forget the real victims." Columnist Steve Dunleavy could not contain his rage at Amnesty International and other human rights groups which have criticized conditions at Camp X-Ray, the Guantanamo Bay detainment center for Afghanistan war captives. AP photos taken at the camp showed detainees being forced to kneel gagged, blindfolded, ear-plugged and shackled at the ankle and wrist. Especially targeted for ridicule was Helen Bamber of Care for Victims of Torture, for protesting the policy of sensory deprivation. Dunleavy had two answers to these "bleeding-heart critics." First, he asked if Bamber "remembers how the Taliban treated its prisoners...?" Then he quoted New York firefighter Chuck Downey complaining how his mother has been having nightmares since the 9-11 attacks. The implicit assumption is that the US has a moral duty to be as ruthless, inhuman and sadistic as its enemies. He ends the missive with a non-ironic "God Bless America."
14. UK DETAINEES FACE "BARBARIC" CONDITIONS
Terror suspects in the United Kingdom are being held in conditions that even medical experts from Britain's Home Office condemn as barbaric. Lawyers who have visited them say the detainees are being held in "concrete coffins." The UK Observer reported Jan. 20 that opposition politicians are calling for an immediate investigation into conditions in Belmarsh high-security prison in south-east London. Seven Islamist suspects have been held without charge there since their arrest last month. The Belmarsh detainees are locked up 22 hours a day and never see daylight. They were given just five days to appeal against their internment, while in a Catch-22, they were denied access to lawyers. They were initially held incommunicado. Even now, they are unable to speak to their families in Arabic without the presence of an approved translator who visits once a week.
The claims come as police and the internal intelligence agency MI5 are planning new arrests. Complaints filed with the Home Secretary have received no response. This week Amnesty International will meet lawyers representing men detained under the new anti-terrorist legislation. Gareth Peirce, who represents several detainees, told The Observer: "These men have been buried alive in concrete coffins and have been told the legislation provides for their detention for life without trial." One government source told The Observer: "If MI5 believes people are a threat to national security, we will have them arrested. We asked the Home Secretary for these new anti-terrorist powers. Now we have them, we are going to use them."
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. WAS KARZAI A UNOCAL CONSULTANT?
France's Le Monde newspaper wrote in a Dec. 5 profile of Hamid Karzai that the Afghan interim president "has a wide knowledge of the western world. After studying law in Kabul and India, he completed his training in the United States where he was for a time a consultant for the American oil company Unocal, when it was studying the construction of a pipeline in Afghanistan."
This claim was reiterated in the Jan. edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, where Pierre Abramovici wrote that "during the negotiations over the Afghan oil pipeline, Karzai had been a consultant for Unocal."
The claim also surfaced in the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, which reported Dec. 15: "Karzai found no contradiction between his ties with the Americans and his support for the Taliban movement as of 1994, when the Americans had--secretly and through the Pakistanis--supported the Taliban's assumption of power... At the time, Karzai worked as a consultant for the huge US oil group Unocal, which had supported the Taliban movement and sought to construct a pipeline to transport oil and gas from the Islamic republics of Central Asia to Pakistan via Afghanistan." (BBC Monitoring Service, Dec. 15)
The Le Monde article was jumped upon by numerous media outlets--particularly lefty e-newsletters--who cited it as truth, without raising questions about the article's un-named source, or bothering to get a quote from Unocal (e.g., Tom Turnipseed in Counterpunch, Jan. 10; Ted Rall, < www.rall.com>, Jan 15). But when WW3 REPORT reached Unocal Manager for International Communication Teresa Covington at the company's Houston headquarters on Jan. 25, and asked if Hamid Karzai had ever worked for the firm, she replied: "No he did not. Neither as an employee or a consultant. We sent Le Monde a note asking them to correct that."
This raises numerous questions. Why has Le Monde not run a correction? Was Karzai's work laundered through sub-contractors? And, if so, why is Unocal trying to hide it? Why hasn't it been more widely reported?
The most probing account appeared by Wayne Madsen on the web page of Canada's Centre for Research on Globalisation Jan. 23. Wrote Madsen: "According to Afghan, Iranian, and Turkish government sources, Hamid Karzai, the interim Prime Minister of Afghanistan, was a top adviser to the...UNOCAL Corporation which was negotiating with the Taliban to construct a Central Asia Gas (CentGas) pipeline from Turkmenistan through western Afghanistan to Pakistan." Madsen also claims Karzai "maintained close relations with CIA Director William Casey, Vice President George Bush, and their Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) interlocutors" during the Mujahedeen war. "Later, Karzai and a number of his brothers moved to the United States under the auspices of the CIA. Karzai continued to serve the agency's interests, as well as those of the Bush Family and their oil friends in negotiating the CentGas deal, according to Middle East and South Asian sources."
Madsen maintains that "Karzai's ties with UNOCAL and the Bush administration are the main reason why the CIA pushed him for Afghan leader over rival Abdul Haq, the assassinated former mujaheddin leader from Jalalabad, and the leadership of the Northern Alliance, seen by Langley as being too close to the Russians and Iranians." He also sees a possible CIA conspiracy to eliminate Haq to clear the way for Karzai: "Former Reagan National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, who worked with Haq, vainly attempted to get the CIA to help rescue Haq. The agency claimed it sent a remotely-piloted armed drone to attack the Taliban but its actions were too little and too late. Some observers in Pakistan claim the CIA tipped off the ISI about Haq's journey and the Pakistanis, in turn, informed the Taliban. McFarlane, who runs a K Street oil consulting firm, did not comment on further questions about the circumstances leading to the death of Haq."
Madsen, like Le Monde, fails to share his sources. WW3 REPORT will continue to monitor this story, and urges all subscribers to report back with any leads.
1. INDIA TESTS NUCLEAR-CAPABLE MISSILE
India tested a new 400-mile-range nuclear-capable missile off its east coast Jan. 25. The new Agni missile would augment the force of 90-mile-range Prithvi missiles now being mobilized to the border with Pakistan as the two nuclear-capable nations prepare for war. There are now more than 500,000 Indian and 300,000 Pakistani troops massed on opposing sides of the border. (NYT, Jan. 26)
2. CALCUTTA ATTACK TARGETS US
In the first strike against a US institution in India, motorcycle-borne gunmen attacked the US Information Center in Calcutta early in the morning on Jan. 22. Four security personnel were killed and 17 others were injured, including some passers-by. India's Tehelka.com provides details. Draped in shawls, the four gunmen approached on two motorcycles and fired indiscriminately with AK-47s at the gates of the heavily guarded building, known as American Center. The security personnel were all Indian police or private guards. The US Embassy said that no US citizen was injured in the attack. No one was in the building, which is located barely 500 meters from the US Consulate. Police said all the gunmen escaped, and that the incident appeared to be a terrorist attack. The attack came as US Ambassador-at-Large Francis X Taylor, President George Bush's coordinator for counter-terrorism, and FBI Director Robert Muller were in Delhi to hold talks with the Indian officials. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, but security agencies believe it was carried out by Harkat-ul Jehad-e-Islami, which has a considerable presence in the eastern region and neighboring Bangladesh.
3. SOUTHEAST ASIA "TERROR WEB" BUSTED
13 alleged al-Qaeda agents were arrested in Singapore last week, plus another two dozen in Malaysia and at least one in the Philippines. CIA and FBI agents are now working with local law enforcement officials throughout the region, warning of a large and relatively unknown terrorist network in Southeast Asia. (Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 23) Singapore demanded Indonesian authorities arrest Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Baasyir, accusing him of leading the Jemaah Islamiah group which was reportedly planning attacks on the US embassy in Singapore. Indonesian police only detained Baasyir for questioning. He took the opportunity to call Osama bin Laden "a true Islamic warrior." In a statement after his detainment, he wrote: "I am not a member of al-Qaeda, but I really respect the struggle of Osama bin Laden, who has bravely represented the world's Muslims in their fight against the arrogant United States of America and their allies." (NYT Jan. 25)
4. INDONESIAN TROOPS KILL ACEH SEPARATIST LEADER
THE MIDDLE EAST
Indonesia troops shot to death Tengku Abdullah Syafei, commander of the separatist Aceh Liberation Movement (GAM) in a raid on his jungle headquarters, the government announced. 1,500 people were killed in Aceh last year, and pro-government forces have been accused of grave human rights abuses in putting down the GAM insurgency. The GAM controls large areas of Aceh's territory, which contains much of Indonesia's oil and natural gas reserves. ExxonMobil, which runs oil fields in Aceh, closed operations last year because of unrest in the region, and only recently resumed. The Aceh movement is not Islamist in orientation, but would doubtless be targeted by resumed US military aid to Indonesia, which Bush is now considering in the name of the "War on Terrorism." (NYT , Jan. 24)
1. ISRAELI TROOPS CALL FOR NON-COOPERATION
On Jan. 25, the Israeli daily Haaretz ran a paid statement signed by 53 members of the armed forces calling for troops to refuse orders for repression in the Occupied Territories. The ad read:
"We, combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), raised on the values of Zionism, sacrifice, and giving to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, who have always served on the front line and were the first to fulfill every mission, regardless of how difficult, in order to defend and strengthen the State of Israel;
We, combat officers and soldiers...who have performed reserve duty throughout the territories and have been issued orders and instructions that have nothing to do with the security of our country, orders whose sole purpose was to perpetuate domination over the Palestinian people;
We, who have personally witnessed the terrible bloodshed on both sides of the conflict... Who know that the territories are not Israel, and that ultimately the settlements will be evacuated;
We hereby declare that we will not go on fighting a war for the peace of the settlements. We will not go on fighting beyond the 'green line' for the purposes of domination, expulsion, starvation, and humiliation of an entire people.
We hereby declare that we shall continue to serve the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves the defense of the State of Israel. The mission of occupation and repression does not serve this goal--and we refuse to participate in it."
Following the statement was a list by name, rank and unit of 53 IDF soldiers. The ad was funded by the signatories themselves. The following contact information was listed: Tel. (03) 765-1002, < www.seruv.org.il>.
2. GHOSTS OF SABRA-SHATILA MASSACRE HAUNT LEBANON
Elie Hobeika, the Lebanese Christian warlord held responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, was killed Jan. 24 in a car bombing near his home in Beirut. Three bodyguards were also killed. Hobeika's Israel-backed Lebanese Forces militia carried out the mass murder under the eye of an Israeli military post just outside the camps, which floodlit the scene and did not interfere. The militia--associated with Lebanon's far-right Phalange party--launched the two-day killing spree in Sept. 1982 after Phalange leader and president-elect Bashir Gemayel was assassinated in a bombing blamed on Palestinian militants. In 1983, an Israeli commission of inquiry found that then-defense minister Ariel Sharon was complicit with and indirectly responsible for the killings. Sharon was forced to step down, but was elected Israel's prime minister in 2001. Sharon is currently facing crimes against humanity charges in a Belgian lawsuit brought by a group of Palestinians who survived the massacre. In a statement, Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud claimed Hobeika was killed to keep him from testifying against Sharon. Belgian Senator Josy Dubie of the environmentalist Ecolo party said he'd met Hobeika this week in Beirut and that Hobeika claimed that he was working with the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad at time of the massacre. "It seems clear to me: somebody did not want him to make those revelations," Dubie told Belgium's RTBF TV. Of Sabra and Chatilla, Hobeika once said: "I was carrying out orders." (AP, Jan. 24)
3. US DROPS MANDATORY PURDAH FOR SERVICEWOMEN IN ARABIA
The US quietly lifted an order dating to the 1990 build-up for the Persian Gulf War requiring servicewomen in Saudi Arabia to wear long head-scarves and black robes known as abbayas when off base. The Pentagon directive said wearing the abbaya is still "strongly encouraged." The change follows a lawsuit brought by Lt. Col. Martha McSally challenging the abbaya requirement as a violation of her First Amendment religious freedom rights (seeWW3REPORT #11). Col. McSally is also challenging regulations requiring servicewomen to be accompanied by men and to ride in the back seats of cars when off base. (NYT, Jan. 25)
1. PROTESTS IN SARAJEVO AS BOSNIA DEPORTS TERROR SUSPECTS
On Jan. 18, Bosnian authorities handed over six Algerian nationals to the US Embassy--despite the fact that the previous day, Bosnia's Supreme Court had ordered their release. The six had been detained in Oct. 2001 on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities. The court ruled that there is not enough evidence to justify holding them. Radio Free Europe Newsline reported that the handover was delayed by an all-night standoff outside the jail between police and some 300 relatives and supporters of the men. At about 5 AM, police used batons to disperse the protesters. The US embassy in Sarajevo said in a statement that the men "posed a credible security threat to US personnel and facilities and demonstrated involvement in international terrorism." Speaking on condition of anonymity, a high-ranking US official in Europe told Radio Free Europe Newsline that the men will be taken to the detention facility at Guantanamo Naval Station, in Cuba.
2. BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN
THE WAR AT HOME
Bulgaria's Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov told journalists that up to 40 Bulgarian troops will join the British-led International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan. RFE Newsline reported Jan. 18 that the troops will be deployed by mid-February. Bulgaria and Romania are the only two ex-communist countries to contribute troops to the 5,000-strong UN-mandated force, known as ISAF. During the bombardment of Afghanistan, the US Air Force established a refueling mission in Bulgaria, according to the Dec. 28 RFE Newsline. The operation was carried out by six KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft based in the Black Sea port of Burgas, and ostensibly only involved humanitarian aid flights. Some 150 US military personnel were based there to maintain the operation, which is now coming to an end as air operations in Afghanistan begin to wind down.
1. BIGGEST PENTAGON BUDGET SINCE THE REAGAN ERA
Bush announced he will seek $48 billion in additional military spending next year--the biggest request since the Reagan build-up, and over twice what the Pentagon itself was seeking (see WW# REPORT #16). He is also seeking an extra $25 billion for domestic anti-terrorist programs. The administration forecasts a $106 billion deficit in the $2 trillion budget. (NYT, Jan. 24)
2. "PATRIOTISM DEFENSE" IN SLAYING OF AFGHAN-AMERICAN
The lawyer for a Queens, NY, film producer charged with fatally stabbing and dismembering an Afghan-American film-maker said his client was motivated in part by patriotism. Nathan Powell, 38, was indicted on second-degree murder and evidence tampering charges in the Oct. 4 slaying of Jawed Wassel, 42. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Nassau County Court. Powell, the primary investor in Wassel's most recent film, is accused of killing the film-maker and dismembering the body with a hacksaw, putting his head in the refrigerator of his home. Police said the men disagreed on dividing earnings from the film, FireDancer, and the killing took place in a dispute just before the film's opening. Powell's lawyer, Thomas F. Liotti, told the judge that his client was angered when Wassel blamed the US for the 9-11 attacks. Liotti also said Powell suffered from post-traumatic stress following the attacks, and claimed that Wassel lifted a machete during their argument. Nassau County Assistant DA Fred Klein called the defense an "insult" to the families of those who died in the terrorist attacks. (AP, Jan. 24)
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