#. 3. Oct. 13, 2001
By Bill Weinberg
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. Civilian Casualties Mount
2. Red Cross Protests Cluster Bombs
3. Pentagon Eyes Nuclear Option
4. Northern Alliance Implicated in Atrocities
5. Rare Killer Virus Hits Refugee Camps
6. Uzbekistan Militarized
7. Bin Laden Loves "Sesame Street"
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. Chevron's War?
2. Cheney-Bin Laden Family Connection
3. Pentagon Seeking "War Without Limit"
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. CIVILIAN CASUALTIES MOUNT
It has been widely reported that US warplanes mistakenly bombed the offices of a land mine removal organization near Kabul Oct. 9, killing four guards. The reports drew protest from the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan, whose spokesperson Stephanie Bunker said: "People must distinguish between combatants and innocent people who are not." (Washington Post, Oct. 9)
Many more civilian casualties doubtless go unreported in the Western press. The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported Oct. 8 that at least 20 people were killed in Kabul during the previous night's bombing raids.
On Oct. 13, the New York Times cited press sources in Pakistan that the village of Karam, just across the Afghanistan border, had been mysteriously "thoroughly destroyed" by US bombers, with a death toll "likely to exceed 200." Residents were not expecting their home to be attacked, as there were no military targets there. "We were eating our late meal when the planes came, dropping bombs," one villager told a Pakistani stringer for the Times.
Some international aid organizations criticized US air-drops of food and medical supplies over Afghanistan, charging that the aid is not reaching the civilian population and only serves propaganda purposes. "It's an act of marketing, aimed more at public opinion than saving lives," Thomas Gonnet, head of Afghanistan operations for the French group Action Against Hunger, told AFP (New York Times, Oct. 9).
2. RED CROSS PROTESTS CLUSTER BOMBS
The UK Guardian reported Oct. 12 that US B-52s over Afghanistan are dropping cluster bombs--which scatter about 150 small "bomblets" over a large area. Use of cluster bombs has been condemned by the humanitarian agencies. The Red Cross last year called for a ban on the weapon. In a report to the UN, the agency said some 30,000 unexploded bomblets remained in Kosovo after the conflict there ended. They are estimated to have caused up to 150 casualties, including the death of two Gurkha soldiers. The bomblets, or "sub-munitions," contain higher explosive than landmines and their brightly-colored casings make them attractive to children. A UK Defence Ministry report estimated that 60% of the 531 cluster bombs dropped by the RAF during the Kosovo conflict missed their intended target or remain unaccounted for.
3. PENTAGON EYES NUCLEAR OPTION
The US Defense Department has recommended to President Bush the use of tactical nuclear weapons as a military option in the Afghanistan war, sources told the Japan Times. The paper reported Sept. 20: "Military analysts said the president is unlikely to opt for the use of nuclear weapons because doing so would generate a backlash from the international community and could even trigger revenge from the enemy involving weapons of mass destruction. However, the Pentagon's suggestion shows the determination of US officials to retaliate for the first massive terrorist attacks on the US mainland, the analysts said."
The Japan Times cited "diplomatic sources" as saying "the Pentagon recommended using tactical nuclear weapons shortly after it became known that the terrorist attacks caused an unprecedented number of civilian casualties... Tactical nuclear weapons have been developed to attack very specific targets. The military analysts said Pentagon officials are apparently thinking of using weapons that can reach and destroy terrorists hiding in an underground shelter, limiting damage to surrounding areas." After the 1986 US air raid on Libya failed to kill Col. Mommar Qadaffi and the 1998 US cruise missile attack on Afghanistan failed to kill Osama Bin Laden, the Pentagon began considering use of tactical nuclear weapons in such contingencies.
The report also cited the Sept. 16 broadcast of ABC TV's "This Week" program, in which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to rule out the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Rumsfeld avoided answering a question on whether the nuclear option was under consideration, while a Pentagon official similarly replied, "We will not discuss operational and intelligence matters." Concluded the report: "The US has indicated that it does not rule out the use of nuclear weapons if a country attacks the US, its allies, or its forces with chemical or biological weapons."
4. NORTHERN ALLIANCE IMPLICATED IN ATROCITIES
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the Northern Alliance, the anti-Taliban rebels now being groomed as a proxy force by the US and UK, has been implicated in numerous atrocities, including the burning of houses, widespread looting and summary executions--sometimes carried out in front of the victims' families. The Northern Alliance is actually a loose network of ethnic-based militias, and the atrocities are usually carried out against rival ethnic groups, particularly the majority Pashtuns who make up the Taliban's base of support. The Taliban, in turn, has carried out similar atrocities against Tajiks and other ethnic minorities.
Among the atrocities delineated by HRW is one which carries an echo of Serb attacks on Sarajevo in Bosnia war. In Sept. 1998, Northern Alliance forces under Ahmad Shah Massoud fired several volleys of rockets at the northern part of Kabul, with one hitting a crowded market. Estimates of the number killed ranged from 25 to 180. In Jan. 1997, Northern Alliance planes dropped cluster bombs on residential areas of Kabul, killing several civilians in what HRW calls an "indiscriminate air raid."
Protests HRW: "To date, not a single Afghan commander has been held accountable for violations of international humanitarian law." The organization also notes that the Northern Alliance has not "indicated any willingness to bring to justice any of its commanders with a record of human rights abuse." (HRW Backgrounder: Military Assistance to the Afghan Opposition, October 2001)
5. RARE KILLER VIRUS HITS REFUGEE CAMPS
As anthrax hysteria hits the US, Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan are suffering the world's largest recorded outbreak ever of a rare, deadly Ebola-like virus which causes profuse bleeding from every orifice. At least 75 people have caught the disease so far and eight have died. An isolation ward screened off by barbed wire has been set up in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Evidence suggests the outbreak of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever emanates from within Afghanistan, raising fears of an epidemic if millions of refugees flee across the frontier into Pakistan (UK Telegraph, Oct. 4). The fever first appeared among Soviet soldiers in the Crimea in 1944, and an identical virus was discovered in central Africa in 1955 (New York Times, Oct. 5).
6. UZBEKISTAN MILITARIZED
In an Oct. 5 Washington Post op-ed, Tom Malinowski and Acacia Shields of Human Rights Watch warned that the post-Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, now a staging ground for the US/UK war on Afghanistan, has been using its own "anti-terrorist" campaign as a pretext to crack down on dissidents: "President Bush first hinted at Central Asia's role in his Sept. 20 address to Congress, when he named the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan as an ally of Osama Bin Laden. The IMU, based in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, poses a genuine armed threat to Uzbekistan and its neighbors. But since 1997, the Uzbek government has used the threat to justify a total crackdown on 'independent' Muslims--those who pray at home, study the Koran in small groups, belong to peaceful Islamic organizations not registered with the state or disseminate literature not approved by the state. The government has sentenced thousands of these Muslims to jail terms as long as 20 years without connecting them to the IMU or to any violent acts."
President Islam Karimov has agreed to open Uzbekistan air bases to US forces. But Uzbekistan's embroilment in America's war worries leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the alliance of post-Soviet republics. RFE Newsline reports Lt. Gen. Boris Mylnikov, head of the CIS Antiterrorist Center, said the strikes in Afghanistan threaten to broaden the zone of conflict beyond the borders of that country. He warned the attacks could lead to increased refugee flows into Central Asia, make some CIS states "targets for revenge," and lead to increased activity by Islamic extremist groups, including the IMU--some of whose members he said are currently in Afghanistan. Media reports that Taliban forces are gathering on the Afghanistan's border with Uzbekistan were dismissed as "not serious" by Uzbekistan's Ambassador to Russia Shokasym Shoislamov--but he added that Uzbekistan "is fortifying its borders." (RFE Newsline, Oct. 11, 12)
7. BIN LADEN LOVES "SESAME STREET"?
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
The Internet news agency Ananova reported Oct. 1 that Islamic protesters in Pakistan and elsewhere are using posters showing the face of Osama Bin Laden alongside Bert, the "Sesame Street" puppet. It is believed an image of Bin Laden with Bert was inadvertently downloaded from a spoof website and used on posters printed up for anti-US rallies across the Middle East and Asia. Press photographs of protests clearly show posters of Osama with a small image of Bert by his right shoulder. The AP told Ananova the photos are not doctored. The image of Bert and Bin Laden first appeared in the cult parody website "Bert is Evil." An executive for "Sesame Street" said: "We're outraged that our characters would be used in this unfortunate and distasteful manner. The people responsible for this should be ashamed."
1. CHEVRON'S WAR?
The spread of Islamic fundamentalist insurgency north from Afghanistan threatens the rich oil resources of the Caspian Basin, which multinational corporations hope to massively exploit in the 21st century. The key contract was signed between Kazakhstan and Chevron in 1994, granting the company a stake in all oil development there (RFE Newsline, Sept. 3, 1999). Chevron has increased its stake since then by buying out more of Kazakhstan's shares, and now holds a 50% share (ibid, May 22, 2000). Chevron has also formed a partnership with Shell and Mobil to build a pipeline connecting the Kazakhstan oilfields to Baku, Azerbaijan, and then via Turkey to Western markets (Dec. 10, 1998). The Chevron-led partnership is competing with the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, a Russia-Kazakhstan-Oman joint venture which is developing a pipeline route through Russia (March 12, 1996).
Vice President Dick Cheney helped broker the Chevron-Kazakhstan deal when he sat on the Kazakhstan Oil Advisory Board in the mid-'90s (Amarillo Globe-News, June 13, 1998). Chevron also has one former corporate board member in the Bush Administration--National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, whose financial disclosure statement indicates she held at least $250,000 in Chevron stock and had income of more than $555,000 last year (Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 3, 2001; Dec. 18, 2000). Chevron even has a Bahamas-registered tanker named the Condoleezza Rice.
2. CHENEY-BIN LADEN FAMILY CONNECTION
Vice President Dick Cheney is a former CEO of Halliburton, a top global energy services contractor with extensive investments in the oil-rich Caspian Sea region. One Halliburton holding, Bredaro-Shaw, is a joint venture with the Bin Laden Group--the family business of the terrorist mastermind's father. Bredaro-Shaw and its predecessor Bredaro-Price have worked on pipelines in Iran, Libya and Alaska (www.saudi-binladin-group.com).
Bredaro-Price was partially acquired by Dresser Industries in 1993. In 1996, Dresser merged with Shaw Industries Ltd. of Canada and the holding became Bredaro-Shaw. Dresser was subsequently acquired by Halliburton, which now owns 50% of Bredaro-Shaw ( http://www.al.com/news/mobile/Nov2000/15-a419189a.html).
Dresser provided George HW Bush, the current president's father, with his first job in the oil industry in the early 1950s (www.famoustexans.com/georgebush.htm). In 1953, the elder Bush left Dresser to form Zapata Petroleum with partner Hugh Liedtke. Zapata later became Pennzoil, which is still controlled by Liedtke and now owns 9% of top Caspian Basin investor Chevron (Pennzoil reference at Handbook of Texas.)
3. PENTAGON SEEKING "WAR WITHOUT LIMIT"?
The UK Observer reported Sept. 30 that two detailed proposals for "warfare without limit" have been presented to President Bush by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The proposals were drawn up by his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz--a right-wing intellectual who rose through State Department and Pentagon ranks under Ronald Reagan to become one of the chief architects of the 1991 Gulf War.
The report says the plans "argue for open-ended war without constraint either of time or geography and potentially engulfing the entire Middle East and Central Asia." The plans involve overt and "visible" military action by the 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne divisions in Afghanistan. These would act as "cover" for units under the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command, which would operate elsewhere. These include Army Rangers, Delta Force and other elite forces. The Afghanistan covert ops would be followed by similar campaigns in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon as well as post-Soviet republics. Asked whether the Palestinian Hamas in the Occupied Territories would be too controversial a target, one source said: "Never say never."
The Observer also claims the proposals "have opened up an abyss in the Bush administration, since they run counter to plans carefully laid by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has had the upper hand against the Pentagon for the first three weeks since the disaster, but is starting to lose his commanding position within the Oval Office." Concludes the report: "The final arbiter between the Pentagon and Powell camps is likely to be Vice-President Dick Cheney. Cheney is traditionally an enemy of Powell's and a close ally of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, but has been said to be moving closer to the Secretary of State's views over the road to war. The Observer's sources, however, indicate the reverse--that Cheney will remain with his friends and support an expansion of the war beyond Afghanistan."
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