1. 12 DEAD IN IDF ACTIONS
On Aug. 4, a Palestinian truck driver was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) for violating the curfew in Hebron. (Washington Post, Aug. 5) On August 6, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) killed two alleged members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Bridage at Jaba'a near Jenin. Ali Ajouri, 23, is said to have plotted the July 17 attack in Tel Aviv that killed 5. Ajouri's family home was demolished, and some of his relatives were arrested. Legal proceedings to deport his brother and sister to Gaza are underway. The sister is alleged to have sewn suicide bombers' belts. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 7)
According Palestinian security officials and residents, on Aug. 7 between 15 and 30 IDF tanks and armored personnel carriers were involved in an operation in the Jebalya refugee camp north of Gaza City. The armor stayed about a half-mile from the camp, fired shells and machine guns at houses, as IDF troops stormed several homes. It is not known if any arrests were made. Two buses were brought along, indicating the IDF was intending to make arrests. (AP, Aug. 6)
Israeli forces killed six on Aug. 7, including five wanted militants. One of those killed was Hamas activist Hussam Hamdan, 28, shot by a sniper in Khan Younis. Four men were killed by an undercover Border Police unit in Tul Karm. The men, activists in Fatah's military wing, were killed in a firefight during an attempted arrest. A fifth militant was seriously injured. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 8) The gun battle lasted six hours, and involved AH64 Apache helicopter gunships. Palestinian security sources say two innocent bystanders were killed. The IDF says the two "died in the field" while attempting to escape. News services claim local al-Aksa leader Ziad Daas, 27, was killed by a sniper while on the roof of his house. But local journalists and Palestinian witnesses said they saw Daas being led away in handcuffs by Israeli troops, and his body later found with a bullet wound to his head. (Washington Post, Aug. 7)
One Palestinian teenager was killed Aug. 8 and four others wounded as Israeli soldiers fired on a crowd of demonstrators throwing stones. The incident occurred in Beit Lahiya in Gaza, during an operation to hunt for militants. (London Times, Aug. 9)
On Aug. 12, the IDF shot dead al-Aqsa activist Ghasal Israhat at al-Yamoun near Jenin. IDF officials said Israhat was shot trying to escape from his home down a drainpipe. An intial investigation revealed soldiers told Israhat to stop. Then they fired warning shots in the air, and near his legs. When that failed to stop him, they shot him dead. According to his family, soldiers burst into their home during the night and detained Israhat. "They took Ghasal behind the house ... and after a few minutes weheard shots, and then a jeep came and the soldiers came in and told me: we have killed Ghasal," Israhat's father, Muhammed, said. After the troops left, Israhat's family found his bullet-ridden body behind their house. (Ha'artez, Aug. 12) (David Bloom)
2. PALESTINIAN REVENGE ATTACKS
One Israeli was killed and two were injured in an attack by Palestinian militants on the Jewish settlement of Mechora in the northern Jordan Valley August 11. The assailant was killed by IDF soldiers stationed at the settlement. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 12) The military wing of Fatah took responsibility. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 11) A small bomb attached to a tanker truck in Rishon Letzion near Tel Aviv went off Aug. 7 injuring one, but only slightly damaging the tanker . (Ha'aretz, Aug. 8) One IDF soldier was wounded when a bomb exploded outside an IDF outpost near Jenin. Following the explosion, Palestinians opened fire on soldiers manning the outpost. (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 12) (David Bloom)
3. MILITANT SUMMIT IN GAZA REJECTS CEASE-FIRE PLAN
A unity meeting in Gaza City of 11 Palestinian factions could not agree on a proposal for a partial cease-fire which would end attacks within the 1967 borders of Israel, confining them to the occupied territories. "We stress the legitimacy of our resistance against the aggression and the occupation, and the Israeli settlements," a joint statement read. The plan was rejected by Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). (Ha'aretz, August 12) (David Bloom)
4. ARAB WOMAN CHARGED WITH FAILING TO WARN OF ATTACK
After going to the police with her story, a 27-year old Israeli Arab woman, Yassra Bakhri of Ba'ana village in the Galilee, was charged with failing to warn of the Aug. 5 bus attack that killed nine at the Meron Junction. Bakhri said she was seated next to the bomber on the bus. When the bomber heard her speak to a friend in Arabic, he told her twice, "Get off the bus,"adding "something bad is going to happen." Bakrhi got off the bus, taking her friend, Samia Assadi, 20. The two continued on their way by taxi. When Bakrhi told her friend of the warning, Assadi replied, "You let yourself be frightened by anyone who talks nonsense. Had I known what it was about I wouldn't have got off the bus." A little while later, the bus exploded. Bakhri was charged with failing to warn of the attack, which could carry a two-year sentence. Bakhri denied the charges. "It was not in my hands," Bakhri said at her home, crying. "My friend was on the bus and was killed. If I had known I could save lives, I would have done so." At her court hearing, Bakhri said: "All my friends were on the bus... I was so frightened that I didn't know how to act. I was shaking." Assadi said her friend did not realize the man was a suicide bomber. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 8, 12)
Bakhri was studying social work at Safed College, and was taking to bus to class. On August 11, The newly appointed rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliahu, said Safed College should stop admitting Arabs. He said Arab students "are a foreign body that endangers the residents of Safed physically and morally." Hebron Treblisi, the school president, says he will expel Bakhri. He wants anyone attending the college to take state loyalty oaths. (Itim, Aug. 12) (David Bloom)
5.ISRAEL PURSUES COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT
Since implementing its policy of housing demolitions for families of terrorists several weeks ago, Israel has demolished 17 homes in the occupied territories. Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told a meeting of the Israeli cabinet the demolitions are having a visible deterrent effect, citing cases in which militants reportedly decided not to carry out their attacks, lest their parents' homes be demolished. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 12) On Aug. 6, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected a petition by human rights groups that would have required the IDF to give prior notice to families whose homes are slated for demolition--a measure that would have enabled them to pursue legal recourse. According to the Palestinian human rights organization al-Haq, there are currently 107 demolition orders against homes of families of suicide bombers. The group also claims there are hundreds of homes of suspected terrorists that the army will probably demolish . (Ha'aretz, Aug. 7) On Aug. 12, an Israeli court approved the first three expulsions of family members of accused militants: Intisar and Kifah Ajouri, sister and brother of Ali Ajouri, who is alleged to have given explosive belts to suicide bombers; and Abdel Nasser Asidi, brother of a Hamas militant suspected of killing several Israelis. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 12) (David Bloom)
6. IDF OFFICER: "NO HUNGER IN THE TERRITORIES"
Major General Amos Gilad, coordinator of Israeli government activities in the occupied territories, expressed skepticism about a report by US AID claiming rising levels of malnutrition among Palestinian children. The report says 22.5% of Palestinian children in the occupied territories are suffering from chronic or acute malnutrition. "I say there is no hunger in the territories," Gilad told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Aug. 6. "Hunger is when there is a lack of basic commodities. Hunger is when people have swollen bellies and fall over dead. There is no hunger now." Gilad also had harsh words for the Palestinian Authority, which he finds "extremely corrupt," with its leaders "driving fancy cars, hiring maids from Sri Lanka, and not bringing up its children to become suicide bombers." (see WW3 REPORT #45) "Sometimes," he added, "I think we care about the Palestinians more than Yasser Arafat and his gang." (Ha'aretz, Aug. 7; Aug. 12) (David Bloom)
7. RUMMY: "SO-CALLED OCCUPIED TERRITORY"
In a question-and-answer session at the Pentagon, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to call on Israel to withdraw from what he called the "so-called occupied territories." "My feelings about the so-called occupied territories are that there was a war," Rumsfeld told AP. "Israel urged neighboring countries not to get involved in it once it started. They all jumped in and they lost a lot of real estate to Israel because Israel prevailed in the conflict." Israel, Rumsfeld said, has repeatedly offered to withdraw, but "at no point has it been agreed upon by the other side." Rumsfeld also said "it's hard to know" whether or not Israel should give up its settlements on the West Bank. (Albawaba.com, Aug. 6) Palestinian Authority Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo referred to Rumsfeld as "a representative of the extreme right- wing of Likud." The US government distanced itself from Rumsfeld's remarks. US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer said "Secretary Rumsfeld made clear in what was a town meeting for Defense Department employees that he was speaking personally." How does Kurtzer refer to the West Bank and Gaza Strip? "I use the language of the president of the United States. And he talked in his speech about the territories that were occupied in 1967." (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 8) (David Bloom)
8. IDF PAYS RENT TO SETTLERS
Settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are making $1.9 million/per year to house the troops sent to protect them. In the past few months, a spate of Palestinian attacks on settlements has led IDF Central Command to place as many soldiers in the territories as it can into settlement housing. Most of the buildings rented are mobile homes that have never been occupied by settlers. So far, said the sources, not a single settlement has decided to waive the rent. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 8) (David Bloom)
10. BEATINGS AT ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S CHECKPOINT
Israeli Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein was on duty at a checkpoint last week when three Palestinians were detained and beaten bloody. Rubinstein manned the Kalandia checkpoint north of Jerusalem as part of five days of reserve duty. While he was serving, three Palestinians were detained on suspicion of throwing stones at soldiers. Rubinstein said he did not see them beaten, and that he ordered their handcuffs removed and they be given water. As a result of a dispute as to who was responsible for the three, they were held at the checkpoint for many hours. "I can only say that during the period when I saw them, they didn't complain about beatings and they didn't talk like people who had been beaten," Rubinstein told Army Radio Aug. 11. But when the three were brought before the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, Judge Michal Agmon noticed they were bleeding and bruised. "The back of one of them was still bleeding, and there is no explanation of what happened to them from 11 AM until 7 PM., when they were brought to the police station," he wrote. Rubinstein volunteered to serve as part of a program to send older reservists into duty to serve as a moderating influence on young conscripts. (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 12) (David Bloom)
11. FOUR REFUSENIKS SENTENCED
Four reservists from the same battalion were sentenced to 28 days in jail Aug. 6 for refusing to serve in the occupied territories. The four include the deputy commander of an armored corps, reserve Major Rami Kaplan, one of the original signatories of the "Courage to Refuse" letter, and three staff sergeants, Uri Fein, Shaham Remah and Maor Parsai. According to the conscientious objectors' group Yesh Gvul ("There's a Limit!"), 110 refuseniks have served time since January 2002. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 7) (See WW3 REPORT #28)(David Bloom)
12. "EXTREME-LEFT ACTIVISTS" VANDALIZE IAF CARS
Protesters armed with spray paint have been vandalizing cars belonging to members of the Israeli Air Force. Some of the vehicles have been defaced several times; one had "War criminal" written on it. The IDF suspects "extreme left-wing activists" are responsible. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 8) (David Bloom)
13. ARAB-JEWISH PEACE MARCH VIOLENTLY SUPPRESSED
Dozens of IDF troops and Israeli Border Police attacked a group of 700 Israeli Arab and Jewish activists attempting to enter Bethlehem from Jerusalem Aug. 10. The activists, from the joint Arab/Jewish organization Ta'ayush, were to meet up with a group of Palestinians for a joint demonstration against the occupation outside the Church of the Nativity. The Israeli protesters made their way in a bus convoy from Jerusalem. When they attempted to enter the settler by-pass tunnel towards the Bethlehem area, their way was blocked by Israeli security forces. When the activists attempted to continue on foot, they were attacked by water cannons, mounted police and foot soldiers who beat and kicked them back. Some of the demonstrators were severely hurt, including one who was taken away by ambulance. Some were trampled by two mounted police who charged the crowd. The assault lasted 20 minutes, until most of the demonstrators sat down and began chanting slogans, encouraging the soldiers to refuse to serve. The demonstrators attempted to make their way by another route, and found their way barred by soldiers again at the Gilo roadblock. They remained there for forty minutes, singing protest songs, and broadcast live speeches by the Palestinian demonstrators in Bethlehem calling for solidarity between Arabs and Jews. The Israeli protesters' own messages from Gilo were broadcast via cell-phone-to-megaphone by their Palestinian comrades in Bethlehem. The Israelis were told: "Waiting for you here in Bethlehem are hundreds of Palestinians, some of whom have had their homes destroyed and their relatives killed. And yet all of us have gathered to express our appreciation for your efforts to reach us, and our desire to end the bloodshed and reach a peaceful agreement between our two nations." The demonstrators then returned home peacefully. (Indymedia Israel, Aug. 10; Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, Aug. 11) (David Bloom)
14. "TALIBAN JEW" TO BE DEPORTED
Adam Shapiro, a Brooklyn native dubbed the "Taliban Jew" by the New York Post for his support of Palestinian rights, is to be deported from Israel. Eight other international peace activists are to be deported with him. According to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the activists were arrested at a demonstration in the village of Huwwara in the West Bank. The demonstration included unarmed Palestinian civilians of all ages, with children carrying signs reading "Occupation is the worst kind of terror." The demonstrators were beaten, shot at, gassed, and arrested by Israeli soldiers. The ISM joined the protest hoping to lessen the odds the IDF would attack the demonstrators. The movement says the attack was an "attempt by the Israeli government...to silence all witnesses and protests to their illegal policies. The foreign civilians that are slated for deportation are being deported for speaking out--exercising freedom of speech in a country that considers itself 'democratic'." (ISM, Aug. 7) (David Bloom)
15. RIGHT-WINGER KLEINER REPLAYS SHARON'S TEMPLE MOUNT VISIT
Almost two years ago, Ariel Sharon, now Israeli Prime Minister, visited the Temple Mount, site of al-Aksa Mosque, touching off violence that led to the current Intifada. The mount was subsequently declared off-limits to non-Muslims, due to concerns over violence. On Aug. 8, MK Michael Kliener (Herut) visited the Mount with several hundred Jewish demonstrators. "The Temple Mount, the holiest site for Judaism, has been decreed Judenrein," Kleiner said. "This racial discrimination must stop." Demonstrators rallied outside the Temple Mount compound with signs reading "Free the Temple Mount," and wore t-shirts reading, "The Temple Mount is for the Jews, Mecca is for the Arabs." Two dozen Peace Now supporters held a counter-demonstration, holding signs saying "Sharon and Kleiner, a twin disaster." A large cordon of police separated the two groups, and Arab passers-by watched. One of the Peace Now demonstrators shouted "You are asking for more spilled blood." (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9) The Temple Mount, known to the Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, was the site of Solomon's temple, destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC, and now of the al-Aksa Mosque, third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. (David Bloom)
16. KLEINER: "BOMB PALESTINIANS"
MK Michael Kleiner suggested a new deterrent against Palestinian attacks: bomb densely populated Palestinian areas from the air. Speaking before a meeting of the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee attended by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Kleiner said that Palestinians are not "innocent," and offered as proof the fact that about 100,000 attended the funeral of Hamas military chief Salah Shehadeh, who was assassinated by Israeli forces July 22, along with 14 civilians. Meretz MK Ran Cohen said there was no difference between Kleiner's suggestion and Palestinian terrorist attacks. (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 12) (David Bloom)
17. PALESTINIANS MEET POWELL, TENET, URGE PULLOUT
Secretary of State Colin Powell met with a Palestinian Authority delegation in Washington led by cabinet minister Saeb Erekat, who urged the US to pressure Israel to pull out of the occupied territories and told US AID officials assistance is desperately needed. "One third of the Palestinian people live on handouts," he said. A meeting was also scheduled with CIA Director George Tenet on re-establishing security ties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. "We're anxious to get some specific action started, especially with respect to security," said Powell. (Newsday, Aug. 9) The New York Times account of his visit notes that "CIA teams have been in Israel helping to train and reorganize Palestinian security forces in the hope that they could gradually resume control over areas that Israel has occupied." (NYT Aug. 9)
ELSEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
1. YEMEN GETS "NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY"
Following a decree by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen is establishing a National Security Agency to combat terrorism and cooperate more closely with Western intelligence agencies. The move comes after months of joint efforts with the US to boost security in Yemen, where tribes in the country's remote interior are believed to be harboring al-Qaeda militants. The Yemeni government recently said it was holding 85 suspects accused of links to al-Qaeda and other militant groups. A team of US Special Forces troops was recently dispatched to Yemen to train its new counter-terrorist unit, and a US team is also reported to be installing a surveillance system at the country's sea and air ports. (BBC, Aug. 7) (See also: " More US Troops to Yemen," WW3 REPORT #30):
2. 400 ARRESTED IN MOROCCO SWEEPS
Officials said Moroccan authorities have arrested some 400 suspected Islamic militants, including some trained by al-Qaeda and in Afghanistan. The major targets of the sweeps are the al-Sirat al-Mustaqdim and al-Takfir Wal-Hijra organizations. Authorities say two groups target all those who do not adhere to their strict interpretation of Islamic law. Authorities say the militants enter Moroccan nightclubs dressed as secular Muslims and identify their targets, and have abducted up to 150 secular Muslims and sentenced them to death. But only eight have been identified as having been executed by the two groups. The London-based al-Hayat daily reported Aug. 5 that Moroccan authorities have obtained confessions from detainees that they were responsible for killing eight people and staging 115 attacks. Al Takfir leader Yusef Fikri, in Moroccan detention, threatens that his group will increase attacks against the regime and its supporters. Al-Takfir is also demanding release of the group's spiritual leader, bin Dawood, Moroccan newspapers report. (Middle East Newsline, Aug. 5)
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. AL-QAEDA REGROUPING IN PAKISTAN FOR AFGHAN ATTACK
According to Afghan government spies, al-Qaeda is now operating out of two new bases in Pakistan, and is attempting to acquire surface-to-air missiles from China. Afghan military chiefs in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar told the Christian Science Monitor the militant group intends to use the missiles against US air power. "Al Qaeda has regrouped, together with the Taliban, Kashmiri militants, and other radical Islamic parties, and they are just waiting for the command to start operations," says Brig. Rahmatullah Rawand, chief of military intelligence for the Afghan Ministry of Defense in Kunar Province. "Right now they are trying to find anti-aircraft missiles that are capable of hitting America's B-52 bombers. When they find those, they will bring them here." Lt. Col Roger King, spokesman for the US military at Bagram Air Base near Kabul confirmed this assessment. "Some parts of the intelligence reports and the locations you've described are similar to what we are hearing ourselves, and other parts are different," King said. Afghan intelligence sources in Kunar say China itself may be involved in helping al-Qaeda, either by providing missiles, or turning a blind eye to Uighur Islamic militants crossing from China's Xinjiang province into Pakistan to join al-Qaeda. "That area, even though it is in Pakistan, is basically under the government of China," says Afghan Brigadier Rawand. "There is a possibility that the Chinese are also involved in this, and they may give al-Qaeda the missiles." Al-Qaeda reportedly has acquired a new name, al-Fateh, or Islamic victory. It is said to maintain a base in the village of Shah Salim, about 30 miles west of the Pakistani city Chitral, near the border with Afghanistan's Kunar province. Ayman Zawahiri, number two man in al-Qaeda, is thought to be directing the group's operations from there. Another base is near the Chinese border, in the Pakistani village of Murkushi. Afghan intelligence sources say al-Qaeda is planning to attack eastern Afghanistan from these bases. (CSM, Aug. 9) (See also: "Fear in China Redux," WW3 REPORT #44) (David Bloom)
2. THREE DAYS OF ATTACKS MAY SIGNAL NEW OFFENSIVE
Three days of successive attacks on US forces in eastern Afghanistan ending Aug. 8 may signal a new al-Qaeda offensive, says US military spokesman Lt. Col. Roger King. "When you think of an offensive, you think of movements of large bodies of troops," King told reporters at Bagram air base, north of Kabul. "We've had repeated small contacts. Maybe this is the closest thing to an offensive that they can mount right now." The latest attack took place near Lwara, in Paktika Province about 90 miles south of Kabul. A US soldier was wounded in the chest by a sniper. Four Afghans were killed by US Special Forces in eastern Afghanistan Aug. 6. King said it is unlikely al-Qaeda can mount a full-scale offensive, but added "the war is not over." (NYT, Aug. 8) (David Bloom)
3. 13 AL-QAEDA BIGS KILLED IN FIREFIGHT
Thirteen "high-ranking" and "dangerous" members of al-Qaeda were reportedly killed in a battle with Afghan government forces Aug. 7. Eleven were shot dead by Afghan troops, and two blew themselves up with hand grenades. The 13, Pakistanis and one Tajik national, had escaped from an Afghan prison. It is unclear how they escaped or acquired weapons. They took hostages in a village south of Kabul. The hostages escaped unharmed. (CNN, Aug. 8) (David Bloom)
4. JALALA-BLAST KILLS 11
Afghan officials are divided over whether an explosion in Jalalabad that killed 11 was the work or terrorists or an accident. The blast destroyed a construction agency Aug. 9, damaging buildings as far as half a kilometer away. 80% of a nearby village was said to be destroyed. (BBC, Aug.9; AP, Aug. 11) UN Spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva listed the death toll at 11, with 90 injured. Nangarhar military commader Hazrat Ali said the explosion, at the Afghan Construction and Logistical Unit, was originally intended to blow up the nearby Darunta hydroelectric dam. Ali was warned by military intelligence to expect an attack on the dam, so he beefed up security. He believes the bombers chose to attack the company's warehouse when they found the dam too heavily guarded. But some Afghan officials, including Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, say the blast may have been an accident caused by explosives stored at the site for use in road building. Police raids in the surrounding area have yielded weapons and explosives. One construction worker with a possible link to al-Qaeda is in custody. (AP, Aug. 11) (David Bloom)
5. RED CROSS CONFIRMS SECRET DETENTIONS AT BAGRAM
Prisoners seized in Pakistan are being held in secret detention at Bagram air base, where some are then shipped off to the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba. "They broke our main gate and came into the house without any respect," said the wife of Abdul Qadir, a Palestinian living in Peshawar, Pakistan. She said that three US FBI agents and 25 Pakistani agents came and took her husband at night. "They broke our main gate and came into the house without any respect," Abdul Qadir's wife told the human rights director at the Pakistani Ministry of Law and Justice in Islamabad. "They blindfolded my husband and tied his hands behind his back. They searched the house--they took our computer, mobile phone and even our land-line phone. They took video and audio cassettes. They took all our important documents--our passports and other certificates--and they took our money, too." The US will not discuss the issue of detainees, but the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirms that Qadir--ICRC number AB7 001486-01--was interviewed in Bagram on June 29. "I don't know why all this happened to us because we are Muslims and Arabs," Abdul Qadir's wife says. "I want to know about my husband. We will leave Pakistan if the government wants us to leave. We will do anything the government wants but in a human and civilized manner."
The wife of Manhal al-Hariri, a school director working for the Saudi Red Crescent Society, complains that he was seized in a similar manner on the same night. "I have the right to ask where my husband is and to know where they have taken him," his wife said. She has written to the Pakistani authorities. An Algerian doctor, Bositta Fathi, was also seized that night by US and Pakistani forces, according to his wife. "I don't have any support and I am not able to go anywhere without my husband." There are increasing rumors prisoners are beaten in interrogation--by Afghans, in the presence of CIA agents. But the US will not even confirm they have the prisoners. (New Zealand Herald, Aug. 9) (David Bloom)
6. ZAEFF AT GITMO?
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan and once a familiar face on CNN, is being held prisoner in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba--known in military jargon as "Gitmo." Zaeff's family say they received a letter from him given to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who were allowed to visit him at Guantanamo. Zaeff became the face of the Taliban last fall when he gave daily news conferences from his residence in Islamabad. He was arrested and handed over to the US in January. (Frontier Post, Aug. 6) The US will not confirm Zaeff's presence in Cuba, since it is against policy to discuss detainees. (David Bloom)
7. HUNDREDS PROTEST IN KABUL, DEMAND MINISTER'S REMOVAL
Hundreds of Afghan demonstrators in Kabul demanded removal of Information and Culture Minister Sayed Raheen Makhdoom. Among his supposed offenses was removing a picture of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the former Northern Alliance military chief assassinated Sept. 9 by al-Qaeda operatives, and around whom a personality cult has arisen. "We condemn him for removing the picture of Amir Sahib Masood from his office...he is a traitor," said one demonstrator. Another said, "Death to Raheen...he is part of the conspiracy of foreign espionage." A burqa-clad woman said Makhdoom was a "servant of America," and others called him a "drunkard" and a "despotic, corrupt person." Makhdoom, who had been living in the US, replaced Northern Alliance stalwart Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, who was given the position of running Kabul radio and TV instead. But Makhdoom fired Mansoor last month. Mansoor banned images of women singing and dancing from Kabul TV, replacing them with videos of Massoud. Fifty-three officials from the ministry who protested Mansoors removal have allegedly been victims of a purge since then. Makhdoom denied removing Massoud's picture and described the demonstration as an exercise in democracy. "It is their right," he said. "It is organized by two or three people who have been sacked as part of the administrative reforms. I have not removed Amir Sahib's picture at all. I had him in my bedroom in America and have it now in office too." (Reuters, Aug. 11) For more on the Cult of Massoud, see WW3 REPORT #32
8. TALIBAN THREATENS FBI COLLABORATORS
Letters signed by the "Taliban Islamic government" threatening to kill anyone cooperating with US authorities were left at 20 homes in a border region of Pakistan where authorities are hunting for al-Qaeda suspects. The letters, handwritten in Pashto, were left at homes in Wana village in Pakistan's tribal region, near where 10 Pakistani troops were killed in a firefight when they tried to arrest al-Qaeda suspects last month. The letters claim the Taliban has a list of 120 locals who are cooperating with the FBI, and pledged that each will be killed. The note concluded, "With the grace of God, there will be an Islamic government in Afghanistan very soon." (NYT, Aug. 9)
9. "GROUND ZERO" PHOTO EXHIBIT OPENS IN KABUL
Afghanistan's National Gallery in Kabul currently features the exhibition "After September 11: Images from Ground Zero," by New York photographer Joel Meyerowitz. The Museum of the City of New York and Meyerowitz selected 27 photos from his collection and sent them to Kabul with sponsorship from the US State Department. A museum pamphlet, available in Dari, says "As we remember the victims and the heroes of Sept. 11, we also recall the suffering of the Afghan people at the hands of terrorism." (AP, July 28)
THE NEW GREAT GAME
1. RUSSIA SIGNS DEAL FOR TRANS-AFGHAN PIPELINE
The oil industry trade journal Valve World reported Aug. 9 that Russian energy companies have agreed to help rebuild Afghanistan's devastated oil and gas industries. The state-owned company Rosneft, gas enterprise Itera and Afghanistan's Ministry of Mining and Industry have signed a protocol under which Russian specialists are to deliver a feasibility study on the prospects for energy sector reconstruction. As authorized representative of the Russian government, Rosneft may bid for oil leases and other development projects in Afghanistan, said a company press release. Writes Valve World: "A flurry of possible energy projects have invaded the country ever since US-led forces ousted the Taliban government. The most prominent of these projects is a plan for a US$2 billion gas pipeline, which was originally proposed by Unocal in the 1990s but later abandoned due to fierce fighting between the Taliban and the opposition Northern Alliance. The pipeline would stretch 1400km from the Daulatabad reservoirs [in Turkmenistan] to Multan in Pakistan."
2. RUSSIA LEADS CASPIAN SEA WAR MANEUVERS
The Russian Navy is leading military exercises in the Caspian Sea with Azerbaijani warships and Kazakh aircraft. Iran has sent observers to the maneuvers, which began in early August. Turkmenistan declined to participate. (RFE Newsline, Aug. 7)
3. MEGALOMANIA ESCALATES IN TURKMENISTAN
Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov, who has named cities, airports and other landmarks after himself, has unveiled a new honor to his leadership--the month of January will henceforth bear his name. Niyazov, known as "Turkmenbashi," or Leader of the Turkmen (usually rendered "Turkmenbashi the Great"), proposed that January be renamed Turkmenbashi at a meeting of the People's Council, the country's highest consultative body. Other months are to be given names such as "The Flag," "Independence" and "Rukhnama," the title of a spiritual guide penned by Niyazov and published last year. Names of national heroes and poets will also be used. April will be called "Mother" in an apparent reference to Niyazov's own mother, who died when he was a child. Statues of her have appeared across the country, in recent years, although they are far outnumbered by monuments to the leader himself.
Niyazov rejected a proposal enthusiastically endorsed by the 3,000 People's Council delegates to make him president for life. He noted that in 1999 the council already abolished all constitutional limitations on his presidential term, offering him the presidency for life if he wants it. Niyazov said last year that he will step down in 2010, but the People's Council--broadcast live on state television, which carries a golden silhouette of Niyazov at all times--firmly rejected this, with delegate after delegate insisting Niyazov stay in power until he dies. In his address to the council, Niyazov affirmed that Turkmenistan "is on the right path" and that "everything in our country is calm and bright." (Reuters, Aug. 8; RFE Newsline, Aug. 9)
4. MILITANTS RESIST KYRGYZ CRACKDOWN
Police in a village in Kyrgyzstan's southern Djalalabad Oblast opened fire when they were attacked while trying to arrest a man suspected of belonging to the banned Islamist organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir. One villager was wounded. Deputy Interior Minister Kalmurat Sadiyev told journalists that 35 Hizb-ut-Tahrir sympathizers have been arrested in Kyrgyzstan since the beginning of the year. (RFE Newsline, Aug. 7)
5. RADICAL CHIC IN TAJIKISTAN
T-shirts featuring the image of Osama bin Laden are on sale in the bazaar in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, for $10. Said Abdullo Nuri, chairman of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party condemned the shirts as sacrilegious, saying Osama has discredited Islam, the Russian news agency TASS noted. (RFE Newsline, Aug. 7)
6. UZBEK PRISONERS DIE IN CUSTODY
The bodies of two Uzbek men jailed for alleged membership in Uzbekistan's banned Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir were handed over to relatives for burial Aug. 6. Both were reportedly subjected to beatings for continuing their religious observance in detention. One of the men, Muzafar Avazov, suffered a fractured skull. Avazov was sentenced two years ago to a 20-year term, and Khusnuddin Olimov to 15 years. (RFE Newsline, Aug. 7)
1. CHRISTIAN SCHOOL ATTACKED IN PAKISTAN, 10 DEAD
Unknown Muslim militants, described as a "splinter group" by Pakistani authorities, are held responsible for an Aug. 9 attack that killed ten Pakistanis and injured 23 at a Christian hospital and missionary school. Four nurses were among the dead. The attackers are thought to be a splinter group from two organizations banned by Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf in January, Army of Muhammad and the Movement of Holy Warriors. Three of the attackers subsequently blew themselves up with a hand grenade. Further attacks on Christians are feared. (NYT, Aug. 12)
2. HINDU PILGRIMS ATTACKED IN KASHMIR, NINE DEAD
A pre-dawn raid on a Himalayan camp of Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir left nine dead and nearly 30 wounded. The gunfire attack came despite thousands of Indian army troops mobilized to protect some 100,000 pilgrims on the month-long procession to Amarnath Cave, purported birthplace of Shiva, where a natural ice stalagmite is regarded as a symbol of the god's phallus. A previously unknown group calling itself al-Mansoor took responsibility for the attack. Indian officials say it is a new name for Lashkar-i-Taiba, Army of the Pure, recently banned in Pakistan. (NYT, Aug. 7)
In New Delhi, ID Swamy, junior home minister, said he suspected "Pakistan's involvement since its policy was to disturb peace in Kashmir. There will be attempts to disturb elections [this fall] Kashmir," he said. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning that attack, saying it "rejects with contempt" Swamy's remarks. (Newsday, Aug. 7)
3. BLAIR UNDER FIRE FOR "SNEAKING" MILITARY CHOPPERS TO NEPAL
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is accused of "sneaking" through parliament a decision to give the Royal Nepalese Army two Russian-built Mi-17 military helicopters under an aid program normally used to bring peace to war-torn countries. The military expenditure was hidden in a bill submitted 48 hours before parliament went into recess and was slipped through under the "global conflict prevention pool."
The decision reportedly caused tension in Blair's cabinet. The deal apparently had the support of foreign secretary Jack Straw, defense secretary Geoff Hoon, and treasury secretary Paul Boateng. Clare Short, the international development secretary, is said to have opposed it--which led to Blair's move to push it through via subterfuge.
Labour Party MP Tony Worthington said, "Sneaking this proposal through parliament and using a fund which normally concentrates on restoring civil society in areas of conflict, such as spending money on training journalists, is not correct. This is not meant to be spent on military equipment."
The decision was widely hailed by the UK Foreign Office in Kathmandu and New Delhi as part of the War on Terror, claiming it will only be used to carry Nepalese troops on "humanitarian" missions. Nepal's military has come under severe criticism for human rights abuses in its ongoing war against a Maoist guerilla insurgency. (UK Guardian, Aug. 5)
1. EXPLOSIONS ROCK BOGOTA AS HARDLINER TAKES OFFICE; 14 DEAD
Mortar shells exploded in Colombia's capital Bogota Aug. 8, the day the new president Alvaro Uribe Velez was sworn in, leaving 14 dead and 40 wounded and damaging the presidential palace. The attack came despite an all-out security effort, with Bogota's airspace shut down and a US P3 plane staffed with US Customs Service and Colombian air force personnel patrolling the skies. Small bombs also went off throughout the city that day, injuring six and blowing out windows. Army troops responded by sealing off the Cartucho neighborhood, where the government has been tearing down shanties in an urban renewal program and resentment is running high. Uribe did not mention the attacks in his inaugural address, but did say: "The world must understand that this conflict needs unconventional, transparent and imaginative solutions." (NYT, Newsday, Aug. 8)
The Harvard-and-Oxford-trained Uribe, whose father was assassinated by leftist rebels, was elected on a hardline platform of escalating the war against Colombia's guerillas. He claims he aims to be a "democrat with authority" rather than an authoritarian. (Newsday, Aug. 9)
2. U.S. EXPANDS PENTAGON MISSION IN COLOMBIA
Just as the hardline President Alvaro Uribe Velez takes power in Colombia, the White House has authorized his government to use nearly $1.7 billion in US military aid directly against the guerillas. The policy change is a little-noted provision of a $28.9 billion supplemental anti-terrorism package stating that military aid already provided to Colombia "shall be available" against "activities by organizations designated as terrorist organizations" by the State Department. Those organizations are identified as the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the United Colombian Self-Defense (AUC) paramilitary network, financed by large landowners to fight the other two groups. All three groups draw much of their funding from the drug trade, and US military aid was previously restricted to drug enforcement. Said US Drug Czar John Walters: "There has been a mistake in trying to identify those who are in drugs and those who are not." The aid includes 53 helicopters, including 14 high-tech Blackhawks. Another 19 Huey helicopters are scheduled to arrive later this year. The new guidelines also mean Colombia will be able to use a 3,000-man elite brigade trained by US Special Forces advisers directly against the guerillas. US troops are still ostensibly barred from actually fighting, but the new package includes $6 million for an oil pipeline protection program--with a special Colombian army unit to be trained by the US advisors for the mission. (See WW3 REPORT #43): (NYT, Aug. 10)
3. URIBE DECLARES "STATE OF COMMOTION"
Colombia's new President Alvaro Uribe declared a "state of internal commotion" Aug. 12, authorizing the government to take special measures amid a wave of guerilla attacks that has killed dozens since his inauguration. The decree, which falls short of a "state of siege," was made after Uribe called an emergency Cabinet meeting late Aug. 11. The declaration invokes a provision in the constitution allowing the government to take emergency powers when there is a threat to "institutional stability, state security or citizen well-being." The decree can be applied for 90 days, then reactivated for two more periods of 90 days, the second of which must be authorized by Congress. Steps will be taken immediately to increase the size of the army and police force, said Defense Minister Martha Lucia Ramirez. About 10,000 more police officers will be hired, and two army brigades of 3,000 soldiers each will be added, she said. These plans will be financed by a new emergency tax, said Finance Minister Roberto Junguito. (AP, Aug. 12)
4. URIBE LAUNCHES "MILLION-MAN" INFORMER NETWORK
Alvaro Uribe used his first working day as president of Colombia initiating his campaign promise to launch a vast network of informers. On a visit to the northeastern department of Cesar, Uribe set up the first group of informers--600 unarmed volunteers who will work alongside the police and army to root out guerilla collaborators. "We call on all Colombians to cooperate with the armed forces with the aim of defeating the violent minority," said Uribe, speaking in the city of Valledupar. But human rights groups are concerned that the plan for a "million-man militia" will only drag more civilians into the civil war, and that the proposed informer groups risk evolving into new paramilitary groups. (BBC, Aug. 9)
5. COLOMBIA GETS "NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY"
One of the expected first tasks of Colombia's new President Alvaro Uribe is to name a national security adviser to oversee the nation's US-funded war against leftist guerillas. A group of some 20 Republican lawmakers met with Uribe in a closed-door session in Washington prior to a July congressional vote on an omnibus spending bill that included new funding for Colombia in addition to the more than $1.7 billion already approved over the past three years. At the meeting, Republican Reps. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the House International Relations Committee; Benjamin A. Gilman of New York; Dan Burton of Indiana; Bob Barr of Georgia; and others reportedly endorsed retired Colombian National Police Director-General Rosso Jose Serrano for the national security adviser post. Gen. Serrano served as Colombian national police director from 1994 to 2000, and received accolades from the Clinton administration, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FBI . (Washington Times, Aug. 6)
6. EPA MUST APPROVE COLOMBIA SPRAY PROGRAM
Under a provision of a $15.4 January spending measure for government operations, the US-backed aerial spraying of glyphosate herbicide in Colombia against drug crops must meet the same safety standards that apply to herbicides sprayed within the United States. The provision requires the US Environmental Protection Agency to certify that the spraying "does not pose unreasonable risks or adverse effects to humans or the environment." The mixture used in Colombia carris handling instructions corresponding to the EPA's Class 1 toxicity rating, while Roundup and other glyphosate products used in the US fall into the more benign Class 2 or 3. And critics point out that there is no way to ensure that it is being applied according to EPA standards. "Its not the same as what you're finding on the shelf at the Home Depot," said Anna Cederstav, staff scientist at the Earthjustice environmental law firm. The Bush administration has refused to divulge the exact ingredients of the mix, or how it is prepared, saying they must protect corporate trade secrets. The EPA has been studying the matter, but missed a July deadline to present their conclusions to the State Department, which is preparing a report for Congress. Last year, four Colombian governors traveled to the US to ask for a halt to the spraying. Putumayo governor Ivan Gerardo Guerrero said the fumigation "doesn't really take into account the human being. All it cares about are satellite pictures."
The provision was sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who warned that "we are making decisions that can directly affect the health of thousands of people there. The American public and our own health agencies would not allow use of a toxic chemical like this on this kind of scale." Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL) denounced the provision as "one more roadblock that the bleeding hearts tried to throw in front of our program." Mica said the mixture used in Colombia is no more toxic "than what most people use in their backyards." (NYT, July 11)
The spray program has been the focus of widespread protest in Colombia, and is being challenged in the US courts by peasants in Ecuador who claim it is affecting their land across the border. (See WW3 REPORT #42)
7. CLASHES ROCK CARACAS
A gun battle erupted in Caracas Aug. 8 between supporters of President Hugo Chavez and police, wounding 15. The gunfire came hours after the Supreme Court voted to postpone a decision on whether four senior military officers should face trial for their role in the abortive April coup d'etat that briefly ousted Chavez. Five of the wounded were police, and the rest were civilians. One witness said police opened fire on protesters. Authorities said police were attacked with bottles, firebombs and gunfire. (Newsday, Aug. 9) A week earlier, Caracas was shaken by street clashes as protests grew over the Supreme Court's inaction. On July 2, gunmen with rifles opened fire on a police armored vehicle in the poor district of January 23, a stronghold of Chavez support. The vehicle's armor was pierced and one police officer wounded in the leg. Hundreds of Chavez supporters hurled rocks and bottles at police near Miraflores, the presidential palace, and police responded with tear gas. President Chavez later blamed the violence on anarchists. (NYT, Aug. 3)
8. U.S. EXCULPATES SELF IN VENEZUELA COUP
US State Department inspector general Clark Kent Ervin released preliminary findings of an investigation into the department's role in the abortive April coup in Venezuela. The report predictably clears US officials of any wrongdoing. "The department and the embassy urged the Chavez government to conduct itself in a democratic fashion," the report found, adding that they urged the opposition "to act within the limits of the Constitution of Venezuela." Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) requested the probe following allegations of State Department complicity in the coup attempt. "I requested this report because questions surrounding this matter continued to be raised, and I believe a full and accurate accounting of administration actions would help put them to rest." (NYT, July 30)
9. PERU'S MONTESINOS GETS 9 YEARS
Vladimiro Montesinos, Peru's US-trained former anti-terrorist chief, was sentenced to 9 years and four months for crimes he committed as head the National Intelligence Service (SIN) under now-exiled President Alberto Fujimori. During Montesinos' reign, the SIN was responsible for hundreds of murders and "disappearances" in Peru, as well as for illegally keeping tabs on thousands of Peruvian civilians. The conviction on charges of "usurpation of office"--illegally seizing control of the SIN--could be but the first for the disgraced 57-year-old Montesinos, a former CIA asset who oversaw Peru's "anti-terrorist" effort against the Shining Path guerillas in the 1990s. There are an additional 60 charges pending against him, ranging from corruption to drug dealing to murder. Montesinos argued in his defense that extraordinary powers were needed for the anti-terrorist effort. The authoritarian Fujimori regime began to unravel in September 2000, when a leaked videotape showed Montesinos bribing a congressman to switch to the government party. Fujimori, who months earlier won a third consecutive term, fled to his parents' native Japan, where he resigned in November 2000. Montesinos also fled, eluding authorities for eight months until he was captured in Venezuela in June 2001. (AP, July 1) (Peter Gorman)
10. PERU UNYIELDING ON BERENSON CONVICTION
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is said to be preparing a strongly-worded finding that the conviction of Lori Berenson, a US citizen from New York City serving 20 years for aiding leftist rebels in Peru, is tainted by the country's sweeping anti-terrorist laws. One lawyer who has seen the finding says it calls the very definition of terrorism under Peruvian "a violation of human rights." Berenson, 32, was convicted of collaborating with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) in 1996 by a special anti-terrorist military tribunal made up of hooded judges. She was convicted again in a civilian retrial last year. The finding, to be released shortly, is said to recommend that all the evidence from both trials be scrapped. Peru's Justice Minister Fernando Olivera ruled out any possibility that Berenson would be pardoned or freed early. Peru pledged to challenge the finding before the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, an OAS body which Peru pulled out of in 1999 after it ordered the retrial of four Chileans convicted of MRTA collaboration. (Reuters, July 18)
11. CORPORATE SHILL WEASELS WAY INTO BOLIVIAN PRESIDENCY
Bolivia's congress ended a presidential tie Aug. 4, choosing US-educated millionaire Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to lead the impoverished South American nation as it faces growing popular unrest. Sanchez, a mining executive who was president from 1993 to 1997, won a congressional vote over Evo Morales, a radical Indian leader of Bolivia's coca growers who built his power base by opposing US-mandated coca eradication campaigns. Sanchez was assured his victory in the congressional vote by securing an alliance with rival former president Jaime Paz Zamora. Sanchez spent most of his youth in the US and speaks Spanish with a gringo accent that is often the brunt of jokes among Bolivians. (AP, Aug. 5) He is also accused of allowing the Enron corporation to illegally gain control over Bolivia's natural gas pipeline system in a deal being investigated by the Bolivian congress. (See WW3 REPORT #44)
12. AMAZON SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM SWITCHED ON
On July 26, the US-financed $1.4 billion Amazon Surveillance System--a satellite-coordinated network of 19 radar stations, 5 airborne early-warning jets and and 3 remote-sensing aircraft--officially went into operation, scanning 1.9 million square miles of Brazil's Amazon rainforest--an area larger than half the continental United States. The system includes three ground command stations--in Belem, Manaus and Porto Velho--and can track an image of an individual human being anywhere in the Brazilian Amazon. The system was financed largely through a loan from the US Export-Import Bank, and the contract went to Raytheon after intense lobbying of Brazil's government by US. Ostensibly aimed to halt smugglers and illegal loggers, the system has come under criticism from Brazilian nationalists, who fear that it will be used to deliver information on the Amazon's natural resources to the US government and multinational corporations. (NYT, July 27)
13. DEFECTOR: IRAN BEHIND ARGENTINA TERROR ATTACK
The government of Iran was behind the July 18, 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, according to the 100-page transcript of a secret deposition of a high-level Iranian defector by Argentine authorities obtained by the New York Times. The car-bombing of the Jewish Mutual Aid Association left 85 dead and was the worst terror attack ever on Argentine soil. The defected spy, who gave his name as Abdolghassem Mesbahi, also claimed that Iranian agents bribed then-President Carlos Menem to cover up their government's involvement. According to the transcript, "$10 million was deposited into a numbered account that Menem had indicated" from a personal Swiss account controlled by Iran's then-President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Mesbahi met with Argentine investigators in Germany in 1998 and in Mexico in 2000, and is currently believed to be under the protection of the German government. Nilda Garre, who led Argentina's anti-terrorism agency in 2000-1, said "Not only has there been no support for getting to the bottom of this case, you can say that some government organs have actively sabotaged the investigation. State intelligence and the federal police are clearly involved, but there is also evidence pointing to the involvement of agencies ranging from Immigration to the Foreign Ministry." After years of delays, trials are to start this year of some 20 suspects in the case, but none are charged with organizing or carrying out the attack--only with crimes connected to theft of the van that was used and alteration of its identifying documents. Many point to similarities between the Jewish center attack and the 1992 car bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 28. In both cases, police providing security outside the building mysteriously disappeared just before the explosion. (NYT, July 22)
14. BUSH GETS FAST-TRACK AUTHORITY
On Aug. 6, President Bush signed a bill giving him authority to negotiate trade deals with foreign countries without interference from Congress. "Fast track" authority was first given the presidency in 1974 and was instrumental in getting NAFTA passed in 1993, but lapsed the following year. Congress did not re-enact it for President Clinton. "Five presidents before me had this advantage," said Bush at the signing ceremony. "But since the authority lapsed in 1994, other nations and regions have pursued trade agreements while America's trade policy was stuck in park." The new "fast track" authority is effective through 2007. Under "fast track," Congress can reject but not alter trade deals negotiated by the president. "Starting now, America is back at the bargaining table in full force," said Bush. First on the agenda is the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which would extend NAFTA to South America, beginning with Chile. (NYT, Aug. 7)
1. NUCLEAR SABRE-RATTLING OVER IRAQ
The Bush administration, seeking to build support for a new military campaign against Iraq, warned that Saddam Hussein could obtain nuclear weapons. "History has called us into action," President Bush said. Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking in California, said Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. "Left to his own devices, it's the judgment of many of us that in the not too distant future he will acquire nuclear weapons," said Cheney. "And a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein is not a pleasant prospect for anyone in the region or for anyone in the world, for that matter." Iraq denies it has active nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs but has not allowed United Nations weapons inspectors into the country since 1998. (Fox News, Aug. 8)
Meanwhile, the Pentagon secured funds from Congress last week to develop "mini-nukes"--low-yield nuclear weapons designed to destroy underground bunkers. Analysts say the plan to build a new generation of nuclear weapons is behind the White House moves to withdraw from the Comprehensive Test-ban Treaty--which was signed by President Clinton but never ratified by Congress. US nuclear scientists last week also secured an agreement whereby tests of new warheads could start within a year of any request, rather than the existing mandatory three-year notice. The Energy Department has been instructed to drill new boreholes at the nuclear test site in the Nevada desert.
A strong advocate of small, precision-guided low-yield nuclear weapons is Stephen Younger, a former director of the Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory and now head of the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency, responsible for "counter-proliferation" programs. "Nuclear weapons pack an incredible destructive force into a small, deliverable package," Younger enthused last year in a paper entitled "Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century." (See also WW3 REPORT #45)
A report published last year by the National Institute for Public Policy declared that "nuclear weapons can...be used in counter-force attacks that are intended to neutralize enemy military capabilities". The authors of the report include Stephen Cambone, now a senior Pentagon policy-making official; Stephen Hadley, George Bush's deputy national security adviser; Robert Joseph, a member of the national security council, and William Schneider, a top Bush defense adviser.
"The old doctrine was that nuclear weapons were far too big and nasty to use, and now they've moved towards developing nuclear weapons they can actually use," says William Peden of Greenpeace. (UK Guardian, Aug. 6)
Non-nuclear "bunker-buster" bombs--the most powerful conventional explosives in existence--have already been used on targets in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is pushing for a new generation of nuclear "bunker busters." (See WW3 REPORT 24)
A new attack on Iraq is also expected to see the first use of high-power microwave weapons to damage electronic components and scramble computer memories. They are designed for use on cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft. Unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) and high-power microwave (HPM) weapons provide a way to attack the toughest targets in any foe's arsenal, said Gen. John Jumper, US Air Force chief of staff. "If you combine directed energy with the UCAVs of the type we have today, you have a combination that uses stealth to go into [heavily defended territory and HPM to] tell the SA-10 [Russian-made surface-to-air missile] that it's a Maytag washer on the rinse cycle rather than a missile about to shoot somebody down," Jumper said. (Aviation Week & Space Technology, Aug. 6)
2. "DOOMSDAY CLOCK" TWO MINUTES CLOSER TO MIDNIGHT
Earlier this year, growing concern about the security of nuclear weapons materials stockpiled around the world and a lack of US support for several global disarmament pacts prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move the minute hand of the "Doomsday Clock" forward two minutes to seven minutes to midnight--the same position as when the clock made its debut in 1947. The move marks the third time the hand has been advanced since the end of the Cold War in 1991. The hand was last moved in June 1998, from 14 minutes to nine minutes to midnight. The clock has been reset 16 times previously in its 55-year history. "Despite a campaign promise to re-think nuclear policy, the Bush administration has taken no significant steps to alter nuclear targeting policies or reduce the alert status of US nuclear forces," said George A. Lopez, chair of the Bulletin's Board of Directors. "Meanwhile, domestic weapons laboratories continue working to refine existing warheads and design new weapons, with an emphasis on the ability to destroy deeply buried targets." (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists press release, Feb. 27)
3. COURTS UPHOLD FEDERAL POWER IN DIXIE N-WASTE SHOWDOWN
The 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA, rejected a request by South Carolina to stop the federal government from shipping plutonium into the state. Gov. Jim Hodges issued an order in June halting US Energy Department shipments into the state citing the danger of accident or terrorist attack, but the order was struck down by the courts. The Energy Department is moving six tons of plutonium from the decommissioned weapons plant at Rocky Flats, CO, to the complex at Savannah River, SC, where it plans to covert the weapons waste into commercial reactor fuel. Gov. Hodges pledges to appeal to the Supreme Court. (NYT, Aug. 7) (See: WW3 REPORT #38):
4. ENVIROS GO TO COURT TO STOP NAVY SONAR
A coalition of environmental groups led by the Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit in federal court in San Francisco to block the Navy from using its new ultra-powerful sonar system, saying the intense sub-aquatic racket will harm whales and dolphins. The Navy says it needs the turgidly-named Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active Sonar to detect new stealth submarines supposedly being used by unnamed enemies. Also named in the suit is the National Marine Fisheries Services, which gave the Navy a five-year exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act. (AP, Aug. 8) (See: WW3 REPORT #45)
A National Marine Fisheries study found a possible Navy sonar link to the March 2000 incident in the Bahamas, where 16 whales of four species beached, killing seven. The whales were found to have inner ear damage, and the Navy admitted to sonar transmissions in the area. Scientists also pointed to a 1996 incident in which 12 beaked whales beached in the Ionian Sea during NATO anti-submarine exercises. (AP, June 14, 2000) The Navy conceded in a report the following year that an experimental sonar was the likely culprit in the Bahamas incident, (Environmental News Network, Dec. 21, 2001)
While the Navy denies the new sonar is being used yet, speculation abounds that it was behind the recent incident in which 55 pilot whales washed up on Cape Cod, and nine died. Darlene Ketten of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, who examined the whales in the Bahamas incident and is now studying the carcasses from Cape Cod, calls the possibility "extremely unlikely." (Time, Aug. 12)
5. SPACE GEEKS TO PLAY "ASTEROID BILLIARDS"
The European Space Agency (ESA) is funding feasibility studies on a space mission to knock a potential rogue asteroid off course. The Spanish company Deimos-Space is designing the mission, and hopes to convince ESA to approve a full-scale test on a real asteroid. The company's plan, dubbed Operation Don Quixote, calls for launching a pair of probe spacecraft called Hidalgo and Sancho at a far-off asteroid. The first would hit the asteroid at extremely high speed, deflecting it slightly from its orbit. The next would observe the asteroid and make measurements of what happened to it after impact--data to be used for the next strike in a game of "asteroid billiards." "We believe that the outcome of this mission would be good science," said Deimos-Space's Jose-Antonio Gonzalez. (BBC, Aug. 9) (See also: WW3 REPORT #45)
THE WAR AT HOME
1. PARANOIA IN THE SKIES
Four New Jersey men who say they were removed from a jetliner and strip-searched by three females because of their Arabic names are seeking unspecified damages from American Airlines in federal court in Newark. (ABC News, Aug. 2)
A "GI Joe" A doll caused a security alert at Los Angeles International Airport because its two-inch plastic gun was considered a dangerous weapon. Judy Powell, 55, of England, bought the toy in Las Vegas as a gift for a young relative, and packed it in her hand luggage. Airport security refused to let Powell on board the plane with the replica rifle. Powell had to put the doll--minus the rifle--in her suitcase so it could go in the aircraft's hold. Powell said: "I was really angry to start with because of the absurdity of the situation. "But then I saw the funny side of it and thought this was simple lunacy." An airport spokesperson said: "We have instructions to confiscate anything that looks like a weapon or a replica. If GI Joe was carrying a replica then it had to be taken from him." (BBC, Aug. 5)
2. WHITE HOUSE: DRUG USERS AID TERRORISTS
The White House is stepping up its attempt to link the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (the "Drug Czar") is running ads telling US citizens that by buying drugs they may be financing terrorists--"whether you're shooting heroin, snorting cocaine, taking Ecstasy or sharing a joint in your friend's back yard". President Bush has declared: "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terror in America."
The number in jail or prison for drug offenses in the US--about 500,000--is greater than the entire prison population of western Europe. Of these, 320,000 are serving over a year. Nearly 20% of those jailed for federal drug offenses are serving time for marijuana. "We have denounced China as a Gulag state, but we have incarcerated many more," said Sanho Tree, director of the drug policy project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. "They want to hitch an increasingly unpopular drug war to a very popular war on terror." He said it would be just as accurate, he said, to blame "soccer moms who drive SUVs" for supporting al-Qaeda because of the petrol they use. (UK Guardian, Aug. 8)
3. CAMP X-RAY EXPANDS
Bulldozers broke ground on construction of a new wing of the military prison camp for Afghanistan war captives at Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba. 204 new cells are to be built by Oct. 1, bringing the number of cells at the compound to 816. "We're almost up to full capacity," said Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus, commander of the detention center. (NYT, Aug. 9)
4. HAMDI'S DAD PLEADS FOR SON'S RIGHTS
The Saudi father of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a US-born accused Taliban fighter being held in a US jail as an enemy combatant, appealed to members of Congress in an Aug. 8 letter to assure that his son be afforded his constitutional rights. In a letter sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and others, Esam Hamdi said his 21-year-old son had travelled to Afghanistan for humanitarian work. The letter was sent from the elder Hamdi's home in Saudi Arabia via the Arab American Institute. Hamdi said his son was born while he was working for Exxon Chemical n Baton Rouge, LA. (Reuters, Aug. 9)
US District Judge Robert Doumar in Norfolk, VA, suspended all proceedings in the case against Hamdi when the Justice Department failed to meet an Aug. 6 deadline for handing over documents justifying the government's labeling the defendant as an "enemy combatant," a classification which denies him both the constitutional rights afforded indicted criminals and the protections afforded prisoners of war under international law. Hamdi is being held in the brig at Norfolk Naval Station. (NYT, Aug. 8) (See also: "Hamdi Incommunicado, WW3 REPORT #43)
5. McKINNEY DONORS PROBED FOR TERROR TIES
Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the Georgia Democrat who has come under criticism for her relentless questioning of what Bush knew about 9-11, has accepted contributions to her re-election campaign from several people who have come under federal investigation for suspected links to Middle Eastern terrorists, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Aug. 2. According to a review of federal campaign disclosure records, McKinney donors include:
*Abdurahman Alamoudi, leader of a Muslim organization, who during a 2000 rally outside the White House expressed support for the Palestinian group Hamas and the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah.
*Abdelhaleem Ashqar, a Howard University professor who was jailed in 1998 on contempt charges for refusing to testify before a grand jury on alleged Hamas money-laundering operations in the US.
*Five businessmen whose homes or offices were searched in March during an FBI operation against foundations accused of financial links to terrorism. (See WW3 REPORT #26)
McKinney campaign coordinator Wendell Muhamad charged that donors have been unfairly targeted by the FBI. "They're doing stuff like they did in the '60s to Dr. [Martin Luther] King," said Muhamad. "These are American citizens learning to use their money like the very small population which sways a lot of opinion with their money--the Jewish community. That's the American way."
1. SENATE APPROVES $355 BILLION DEFENSE BILL
Giving President Bush the money he sought for the biggest US military expansion since the Reagan area, the Democratic-led Senate Aug. 1 easily passed a $355.4 billion bill to fund the Pentagon next year. The spending bill, up $35 billion from current levels, was passed 95-3 with little debate, keeping a pledge by Senate leaders to clear the defense budget bill before Congress breaks for August recess. The Republican-led House of Representatives approved its version of the bill in June. Differences must now be worked out in joint committee . (Reuters, Aug. 1)
2. PENTAGON SEEKS OK FOR FOREIGN KILL MISSIONS
A new Pentagon counter-terrorism plan calls for making arrangements with foreign governments to allow US commandos on their soil to attack terrorist cells. The conservative Washington Times reported Aug. 5: "Two senior US officials with knowledge about the planning say Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wants such procedures in place so special operations forces can act on intelligence in hours, not days or weeks." The paper claims that last month Rumsfeld ordered his top special operations officer, Gen. Charles R. Holland, "to devise a new, more aggressive war plan to capture or kill al-Qaeda terrorists around the world. Officials said the plan will rely heavily on the military's most elite counter-terrorism units: Army Delta Force and Navy SEALs... The plan shifts more war planning responsibility to Gen. Holland's shop, US Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida." Officials reportedly told the Washington Times that "Mr. Rumsfeld was impatient at the pace at which al Qaeda members were being captured or killed, especially in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, and wants a new plan of action." Rumsfeld spokesperson Victoria Clarke told reporters: "Without going into any details, we're always looking for ways to be more adaptive, to be more flexible, to be faster, to be more lethal, to go after what is a very unconventional enemy. And so a lot of people, including General Holland and Secretary Rumsfeld, the senior civilian and military leadership, will continue to try to produce exactly those sorts of plans."
3. LA ROUCHE AGENT BEHIND "TARGET SAUDIS" PLAN?
In a front-page Aug. 6 story, "Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies: Ultimatum Urged To Pentagon Board," the Washington Post described a 24-slide presentation given by Rand Corp. analyst Laurent Murawiec on July 10 to the Defense Policy Board. The controversial presentation urged that the Pentagon "target" Saudi oil resources and financial assets. One "talking point" in the presentation described Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East. (See WW3 REPORT #45)
Jack Shafer, writing in the on-line Slate magazine the following day, reported on the results of his research into Murawiec's background. In addition to his more recent contributions to such neo-con journals as National Interest, his Jan. 23, 1985 analysis piece in the Financial Times describes Murawiec as "the European Economics Editor of the New York-based Executive Intelligence Review weekly magazine." Executive Intelligence Review is a publication of the crypto-fascist cult led by Lyndon LaRouche. An article by LaRouche that appeared last year in Executive Intelligence Review calls Murawiec "a real-life 'Beetlebaum' of the legendary mythical horse-race, and a hand-me-down political carcass, currently in the possession of institutions of a peculiar odor." In 1997, LaRouche's wife Helga Zupp LaRouche wrote in Executive Intelligence Review that Murawiec "was once part of our organization and is now on the side of organized crime." The LaRouche organization propagates the conspiracy theory that the word is secretly controlled by a vast criminal network led by Queen Elizabeth. According to Newsday, Murawiec was invited to brief the Defense Policy Board by the board's chairman Richard N. Perle, a high-ranking Reagan-era Pentagon official who is now vigorously advocating an invasion of Iraq. (See WW3 REPORT #45)
4. TIME MAGAZINE: BUSH SAT ON PLAN TO "BREAK UP" AL-QAEDA
An Aug. 12 Time magazine cover story by Michael Elliot reveals that "Nine months before 9-11 the US had a bold plan to attack al-Qaeda. It wasn't carried out until the towers fell." The report details January 2001 briefings that Clinton White House terrorism czar Richard Clarke gave the incoming Bush team, including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. The briefings concerned plans Clarke had developed as chair of the interagency Counter-Terrorism Security Group (CSG) after the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen for what Time calls "an aggressive plan to take the fight to al-Qaeda." He had presented the plan to Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger on Dec. 20, but the Clinton administration decided to wait rather than get into a war just before the presidential transition. Slide 14 of Clarke's presentation to Rice was entitled "Response to al-Qaeda: Roll Back," detailing operations for the "breakup" of al-Qaeda cells worldwide, the freezing of its assets and seizing of charities that funnel funds to its financial networks. It also called for US military aid to Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Yemen and other countries where al-Qaeda was thought to have a foothold. Rice kept Clarke on as counter-terror chief, and in February he gave Vice President Dick Cheney the same presentation. But the Bush administration did not act until after 9-11. Said one former Clinton official: "It was clear that this was not the same priority to them as it was to us."
5. MOUSSAOUI CASE OPENS WINDOW ON 9-11 CHRONOLOGY
The trial of accused 9-11 conspirator Zazarias Moussaoui will open a window onto the still-murky chronology of the devastating events on Sept. 11, as jurors get to review video and audio footage of the WTC disaster--as well as United Fl. 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. In addition to Fl. 93 cockpit recordings, jurors will hear recordings from the cockpit of a private executive jet that tracked the doomed Fl. 93 over Pennsylvania, according to written proposals to be approved by US Judge Leonie Brinkema. An official for NetJets, a company that sells shares in private business aircraft, confirmed that the plane tracking Fl. 93 belonged to the company. The official, who asked not to be named, said the company was asked not to comment on the Sept. 11 flight. The official would not say who made the request. (AP, Aug. 9)
The confirmation that Fl. 93 was being tracked may clear up claims by numerous witnesses in Pennsylvania of a second aircraft on the scene of the crash. See "The Flight 93 Mystery," WW3 REPORT #23)
6. 9-11 WIDOWS CALL FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION
A group of women who lost their husbands in the World Trade Center disaster are calling for an independent commission to investigate the 9-11 attacks--an idea President Bush has consistently rejected. Last week, senior White House officials met with three widows spearheading a lobbying campaign. "They said they have a lot of thinking to do," said Kristen Breitweiser, one of the widows who attended the meeting. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who accompanied the women to the meeting with Jay Lefkowitz, chief of the president's domestic policy council, said he's "much more hopeful" that a commission will be appointed. (USA Today, Aug. 2)
7. ENRON AND HALLIBURTON HELPED BUSH STEAL ELECTION
The anti-corporate watchdog site Daily Enron notes the role of the now-bankrupt energy giant in the contested 2000 presidential elections. According to papers filed with the IRS on July 15, nearly $14 million poured into the Bush/Cheney Florida recount effort--four times the amount raised by the Gore/Lieberman camp. The Bush campaign took in $13.8 million, most in large contributions. Listed among those large contributors were Enron and Halliburton. While the Gore/Lieberman campaign filed its IRS disclosures of their Florida recount expenditures months ago, the Bush's recount fund filed the required forms at the very last moment allowed by law. July 15 was the final day of an IRS amnesty program for groups that hadn't already complied with the law. "They obviously begrudgingly disclosed, and did it way after the fact," said Larry Noble, director of the Center for Responsive Politics.
The filings show that as soon as a recount was announced, the Bush campaign dispatched over 100 lawyers to Florida and Texas, booking hundreds of plane tickets, rental cars and hotel rooms. Among the expenditures listed was a payment of $13,000 to Enron Corp. and $2,400 to Halliburton Co. for the use of their corporate jets and other unspecified services. "Eighteen months after the election, we find that the [Bush] administration literally flew into office on the Enron corporate jet," said Jennifer Palmieri, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. "The administration's close ties with unscrupulous corporations like Enron and Halliburton prevent it from showing real leadership on corporate reform." Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay and his wife also donated $5,000 apiece, according to the filings.
8. JEB MIRED IN NIGERIA SLEAZE
The Daily Enron also notes a recent report in the St. Petersburg Times on financial sleaze involving presidential brother and Florida governor Jeb Bush. In 1989, while Jeb was defaulting on a $4.5 million loan from a failed Florida S&L, he was also partners with a fellow whose company is now under investigation for misappropriating federal loan funds to Nigeria. Details became public thanks to a whistleblower and a federal lawsuit. The suit claims the company, MWI Corp., a water pump manufacturer based in Deerfield Beach, FL, improperly used more than one-third of a $74.3 million US loan to pay bribes and kickbacks to Nigerian government officials. Jeb Bush's business partner in the deal was prominent Florida Republican contributor J. David Eller. Court filings allege that Eller flew suitcases of cash to offshore tax havens to hide assets from the deal. Jeb Bush was paid $648,250 by Bush-El, a company he and Eller formed in 1988 to market MWI's pumps. Eller and his company have contributed more than $129,000 to the Republican Party since 1989, according to the watchdog group Common Cause.
The suit made headlines in Florida in July when Eller moved to have all the court records sealed from public view. Jeb Bush, who is not named in the suit, continues to claim he had nothing to do with the Nigerian deals now in question. But court records show that twice while his father was in the White House, Jeb Bush visited Nigeria on behalf of MWI. The Nigerians were so impressed with the fact that the son of a sitting US president was associated with MWI that Jeb was welcomed by a parade of 1,300 horses, and tens of thousands of people lined the road to welcome him. The St. Petersburg Times also obtained a MWI marketing video, filmed around the time of Jeb's 1989 visit, in which Eller brags that his company has "support at the highest levels of our own government." The video, made for the Nigerian market, featured pictures of Eller with then-President George Bush. "In fact George Bush's son will be coming to Nigeria with us for the inauguration of our factory," Eller says on the tape.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank eventually approved $74.3 million in loans to Nigeria expressly to purchase MWI's pumps. Now federal prosecutors say that $28 million of those loans was improperly used to grease Nigerian officials and MWI insiders.
9. ATTENTION JIM HIGHTOWER: MOUSSAOUI HAS YOUR WORD!
In the February issue of his Hightower Lowdown newsletter, Texas populist Jim Hightower announced "A Lowdown Word Contest." Wrote Hightower: "When attempting to describe the corporate looters who are using Sept. 11 as a smokescreen and our flag as a cloak for hiding their perfidy, I lack the language to do them justice. 'Greedy' is just too tame. 'Naked opportunists' doesn't have the bite they deserve. 'Kleptocrats'--those who rule by thievery--comes close, but still not enough pepper. We need your linguistic creativity to come up with the right word, phrase, acronym, or sobriquet to characterize these...well, what are they? Feel free to coin new words. Put your entry on a postcard and send it to The Hightower Lowdown, POB 20511, NY NY 10009 or zap it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org." The winner is promised a free one-year subscription to the Lowdown.
WW3 REPORT proposes that the word has been coined by 9-11 defendant Zacarias Moussaoui, who in his colorful invective against his court-appointed attorneys (who he believes are collaborating with the government against him) calls one, Frank Dunham, a "megalopig." (See WW3 REPORT #43)
We admit that Moussaoui's strange pejorative may be a malapropism deriving from his fuzzy grasp of English. We also acknowledge that Moussaoui is clearly an extreme religious fanatic. (Does he grasp the irony when he accuses attorney Gerald Zerkin of being a "Jewish zealot"?) But his neologism is startlingly evocative--implying not only pigishness, but a pathological self-obsessed ruthlessness that borders on the maniacal.
In his lead story, "Looting the Treasury Under Cover of the Flag," Hightower cited everything from defense contractors like Boeing, which won a 10-year $20 billion-per-year deal to lease the Pentagon commercial 767 jets to refuel war planes, to biotech corporations like Monsanto, which is lobbying for a provision limiting industry liability for bio-engineered products in the new bio-terrorism bill, to drug companies like Eli Lilly, which is using high-level meetings with White House staff on terrorism preparedness to push for legislation barring generic knock-offs of their products, to brewers like Anheuser-Bush, who are lobbying for repeal of the excise tax on beer as part of the post-9-11 recovery package. WW3 REPORT would go beyond the private sector to add Pentagon nuclear hawks, FBI/CIA Big Brother wanabees, Justice Department and "Homelands Defense" freedom-haters, Capitol Hill interventionist cowboy careerists, and foreign despots and ethnic cleansers--who all use the War on Terrorism to cynically further their anti-social ambitions.
We hope Moussaoui enjoys his subscription to the Lowdown, and that the Justice Department freedom-hating megalopigs will let it into his cell.
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