#7 Nov. 10, 2001
By Bill Weinberg
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. 7.5 Million Lives In The Balance
2. US Troops: On The Ground, In Trouble?
3. CIA Aids Northern Alliance
4. New York Times: Not So Smart After All
NEW YORK CITY
1. Ground Zero: "Toxic Zone"
2. Riot At Ground Zero
3. Fed Report: "Hazardous" Work Conditions At Ground Zero
4. Clean-Up Exploits Immigrant Labor
5. The Battle For Union Square
6. How Many Died In WTC?
7. Secret CIA Station Destroyed At WTC
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
8. Jihad-Nazi Lovefest
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. 7.5 MILLION LIVES IN THE BALANCE
Aid organizations continued to issue urgent calls for a halt in the US bombing of Afghanistan so food and supplies can be delivered before winter, warning that millions of lives are at risk. They again protested that the US ration drops are only complicating matters.
Facing harsh criticism, the Pentagon plans to change the yellow packaging on the food drops which have caused confusion with yellow-cased cluster bombs, Newsday reported Nov. 2. "It is unfortunate that the cluster bombs, the unexploded ones, are the same color as the food packets," said Gen. Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, the change could take a while, because 2 million rations were already produced in the yellow packages. Half of these have already been dropped. Oxfam protests again that the Pentagon should leave aid to the aid agencies. "It just points up the confusion created when we mix military and humanitarian approaches," said Oxfam America president Ray Offenheiser.
The White House is responding to charges that food drops cannot substitute for ground distribution. The New York Times reported Nov. 3 that the Bush administration announced $8.2 million in emergency aid for Afghanistan, boasting 30,000 tons of US-donated wheat ready to be trucked in from Uzbekistan (presumably by the UN World Food Program). The article didn't say that the non-governmental aid groups responsible for distributing the food in Afghanistan question how much of it will actually reach the hungry if the war continues to interfere with delivery. At a Nov. 4 press briefing, Gen. Myers insisted the bombing would not stop for the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan (Chicago Tribune, Nov. 5).
Reads the Oxfam America website (www.oxfamamerica.org): "With each passing day that international relief agencies are unable to send truckloads of food into Afghanistan, the food crisis for millions of Afghan men, women, and children gets closer to becoming an unimaginable humanitarian disaster. Even prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, Afghanistan faced disastrous humanitarian conditions. It is the poorest country in Asia, and one quarter of the population is at risk of starvation. The 2001 harvest has been about 50% that of a normal year (much lower in some regions), in the third year of the most severe drought in living memory. The country has endured 22 years of civil war and United Nations sanctions and is isolated within the international community... According to the United Nations, up to 5 million Afghan people are facing severe food shortages and possible starvation."
That estimate has now risen by 2.5 million. Oxfam America spokesperson Adrienne Smith told WW3 REPORT: "7.5 million people are at risk of hunger and malnutrition this winter. 50,000 tons of food are needed per month through the winter, but the bombing, combined with interference from Taliban, is hindering distribution. We had a system in place that was working for three years prior to Sept. 11. Then the Taliban insisted all international staff leave the country, and the World Food Program stopped their shipments. They have since resumed, but have never reached previous levels. 600,000 people in Afghanistan are already living on the edge of survival, eating inappropriate foods such as grass and seeds. We need to get more food in, and fast. We need to have unilateral guarantees from all warring parties, which includes guarantees from the Taliban and a pause in the bombing."
2. US TROOPS: ON THE GROUND, IN TROUBLE?
Reports are mounting of US personnel on covert missions in Afghanistan meeting with serious trouble. On Nov. 6, the New York Times reported the US says it is investigating Taliban claims that one John Bolton of California, purporting to be an aid worker but actually a spy, had been captured after crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan and had died in Taliban custody. On Nov. 4, Newsday reported that the US admits a Pentagon helicopter on a special mission crashed in Afghanistan, injuring four crewmembers, and was subsequently destroyed by US fighter jets to keep it from falling into Taliban hands. On Oct. 30, AP reported Taliban claims to have captured several Americans--claims denied by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
3. CIA AIDS NORTHERN ALLIANCE
On Nov. 5, the New York Times quoted a Northern Alliance commander saying a "small team of American military personnel" had arrived in Alliance-held territory. The team "inspected a new airstrip and would be carrying out covert activities," the paper reported, but said the source "declined to elaborate." That same day, the paper reported that US personnel rescued an Army Special Operations soldier who had fallen ill "while assisting front-line rebel troops opposed to the Taliban." The rescue mission was apparently not military, so the Times concluded it was probably CIA. Read the report: "The CIA has been assisting rebel militias in northern Afghanistan for several weeks." The helicopter reported crashed the previous day was likely part of an unsuccessful mission to rescue the soldier.
A Nov. 7 report in the New York Times boasting of Northern Alliance advances on the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif said: "The increasing involvement of American Special Operations forces on the ground in Afghanistan comes as the United States military has started supplying small arms, including AK-47 automatic rifles, as well as rocket-propelled grenades that are effective against armor, to the Northern Alliance."
In the 1997-8 campaign for Mazar-i-Sharif, in which the Taliban wrested the city from the Northern Alliance, both sides committed atrocities--the Taliban massacring ethnic Tajik and Hazara residents, and the Northern Alliance massacring Pashtun residents and Taliban war captives (as related in chapters 4 and 5 of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil & Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, Yale 2000). It remains to be seen if the new struggle for the city will precipitate new waves of ethnic cleansing.
The Taliban also claims the US is dropping arms to Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun warlord attempting to open a southern front against the regime, Newsday reported Nov. 4. On Nov. 7, the New York Times said US Special Ops forces "spirited" Karzai out of Afghanistan for "consultations" in Pakistan, then "ferried" him back in. The AP also cited reports Oct. 30 that US personnel were with Pashtun opposition leader Abdul Haq when he was captured and executed by the Taliban the previous week.
4. NEW YORK TIMES: NOT SO SMART AFTER ALL
NEW YORK CITY
New York Times instant expert Richard Bernstein produced a reading list on Afghanistan Nov. 8 which described the province of Kafiristan in Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King as "fictional." One of the most remote parts of Afghanistan, high in the Hindu Kush mountains, Kafiristan is today usually known as Nuristan, and its proud Dari-speaking tribes were the first to revolt after the Communist coup of 1978. It was called Kafiristan (from the Arabic kafir, infidel) because it was not converted to Islam until the 1890s. It is today bisected by the Afghan-Pakistan border, and on the Pakistani side the pre-Islamic Indo-European nature religion is still alive--as is the name Kafiristan. The Afghan side of the region is now beset by tribal warfare, with rival factions manipulated by the Taliban or Northern Alliance. But Fullbright linguist and anthropologist Richard Strand writes on his website that most Nuristanis are "aloof" from the conflict between the regime and the rebels. One tribal leader told him, "We're sick of both of them." The region's isolation has kept it from further embroilment in the war, and its residents might be comforted that newsmen in New York think it doesn't exist.
1. GROUND ZERO: "TOXIC ZONE"
The New York Environmental Law & Justice Project filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the results of EPA tests on air, dust and water samples from Ground Zero, the vast crater of rubble where the World Trade Center stood. The samples, taken between Sept. 16 and Oct. 16, cast a dubious light on official downplaying of the health risks to workers and local residents.
The tests found dust with up to 5% asbestos. Dust above 1% must be treated as asbestos under federal regs, mandating use of respirators and other protective gear. A photo on the front page of the Oct. 22 New York Times showed workers at Ground Zero without respirators, or with them hanging uselessly around their necks.
Sulfur dioxide gas in the air on several days was "unhealthy for sensitive groups," "unhealthy" or "very unhealthy" (0.6 parts per million), and once even reached "hazardous" (0.9 ppm). Under EPA's own guidelines, this level should have triggered warnings for asthmatics and people with heart conditions to stay indoors. There was no warning to downtown residents.
Benzene and other toxic organic chemicals give the smoke its distinctive odor. Benzene was found in amounts up to 40 times over the occupational limit of 1 ppm several days. These standards are set for healthy adults working an 8-hour day--not for children and the elderly breathing the air throughout the day. Benzene is linked to leukemia and bone marrow damage.
Carbon monoxide was found at 19 ppm, well above the National Ambient Air Quality Standard. Levels of dioxin in run-off discharged into the Hudson River from local sewers were five times higher than any previously recorded in New York harbor. The EPA didn't test for fiberglass, but dust samples tested by NYELJP ranged from 10 to 57% fiberglass--a substance believed to be cancerous. (NYELJP press release, Oct. 23, available at . (NYELJP press release, Oct. 23)
Juan Gonzalez reported on the toxic levels in a front-page Daily News exclusive Oct. 26 under the banner "TOXIC ZONE." The EPA's Mary Mears told him: "Yes, they are high. But you get a little distance from the plume and they go dramatically down." When questioned, though, Mears conceded that shifting winds sometimes blow the plume directly at workers at the site.
The Daily News reported Nov. 1 that parents from several lower Manhattan schools are fighting to have a barge stocked with WTC debris removed from Pier 25 on the Hudson River--just behind Stuyvesant High School. Officials say the area is safe, but parents complain trucks spew toxic dust into the air when they drop their loads on the barge. Parents threatened to keep their kids home from school. "We want the barge moved," said Angela Fremont-Appel of the IS 89 PTA. Said George Olsen of PS 234's PTA: "We don't want to draw a line in the sand about the barge. But until we know that it's safe, we're not going back." Frank McCarton of the city Office of Emergency Management said it was unlikely the barge would be removed.
Newsday reported Nov. 9 on City Council testimony indicating that health risks to clean-up workers and local residents are far greater that what the EPA says. Dr. Stephen Levin, medical director of the Mt. Sinai Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, told the Council's Environmental Protection Committee that dozens of people developed illnesses from living or working in the area. Problems include onset asthma, facial pain, upper respiratory dysfunction, chronic laryngitis, chest pain and wheezing as well as psychological stress.
2. RIOT AT GROUND ZERO
Angry New York City firefighters fought with police at the WTC site Nov. 2 while protesting the city's decision to cut back the number of their comrades searching for remains at Ground Zero. 11 firefighters and one retired captain were arrested, and five police suffered minor injuries. The confrontation erupted when over 1,000 marchers organized by the fire unions were blocked from entering Ground Zero for a silent prayer, and pushed against police barricades. Arrested firefighters were taken to Harlem's 28th precinct out of fear that protests could continue if they were held downtown. Firefighters also helped at least one colleague escape arrest, pulling away a protester who ran off with one wrist cuffed. Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, representing FDNY lieutenants and captains, blamed high-ranking police for the riot. "A few police brass provoked what happened," he told Newsday Nov. 4. "It was a peaceful march for a just cause."
On Nov. 6, Newsday reported that two leaders of the firefighters unions turned themselves in to face criminal trespass charges in the riot. Thomas Manley, sergeant-at-arms of the United Firefighters Association, said workers at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where the escavated wreckage is taken for sorting, are finding body parts in the debris. "That is not acceptable to anyone, whether its a civilian or a firefighter." Manley said the same police videos used to identify firefighters for prosecution also shows high-ranking officers provoked the melee. "If you look at the unedited tape, they were spraying mace and pushing firefighters." Nine of the 15 now held were arrested based on the claims of officers of sergeant rank or above, court records show. "This is just the definitive evidence of what we said in the beginning, and we'll say it again: This was set off by the white shirts," UFOA's Mary Steadman said, referring to police commanders.
City medical technicians, who lost 2 in the disaster, also attended the protest. "We're not asking for any more than the ability to honor our fallen heroes," Pat Bahnken, president of the Uniformed Emergency Medical Services union told the rally. 6 ambulance workers from private hospitals and volunteer companies were also lost.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani insisted the Ground Zero cut-back was a safety measure. 250 firefighters are missing in the disaster, out of a total of 340 lost (New York 1, Nov. 2). On Nov. 7, Giuliani blinked and increased the number of firefighters from 24 to 50. Before the cut-backs, there had been 64 (New York Times, Nov. 8). In the first two weeks, there were thousands at the site, as the Fire Department issued an "all-hands" call. Firefighters from Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and even Tijuana organized volunteer brigades for New York. Currently, New York firefighters have no contract with the City, which refuses to meet salary demands (WW3 REPORT sources).
Giuliani's concession was not enough to buy peace. Newsday reported Nov. 8 that the fire unions cancelled a huge memorial service for the FDNY martyrs, citing the "callous" attitude of the current administration, which is to change when Mayor-elect Mike Bloomberg takes over at year's end. International Association of Firefighters president Harold Schaitberger said a service will be held later, "with a new city leadership that will be more sensitive to the emotions of all of those whose loved ones and colleagues are still entombed at the World Trade Center."
3. FED REPORT: "HAZARDOUS" WORK CONDITIONS AT GROUND ZERO
Hundreds of injuries to workers combing through the Ground Zero rubble might have been prevented had the city been faster to require proper training and equipment at what is still an "extremely hazardous" work site, says a new federal report.
"There is no excuse for what I saw," industrial engineer John Moran told Newsday Oct. 25. Moran investigated working conditions at Ground Zero Sept. 22 to 27 as a consultant to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. "[T]here was no evidence of any safety or health program or plan. It's the worst site I've ever seen... Very few of the workers were wearing even the most basic protective equipment." Moran said observers from the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) identified 1,002 hazardous "incidents" at the site from Sept. 21 to Oct. 14, ranging from failures to wear hard hats and respirators to falls and dangerously rigged cranes. 995 injuries--ranging from blisters and nausea to fractures and severe burns--were recorded at the site from Sept. 14 to 25. "That's the worst injury and illness rate from a site I've ever seen," said Moran, who has inspected over 250 construction and toxic waste sites.
On Nov. 8, Newsday reported the New York state Department of Labor has opened an investigation into the operation at Fresh Kills landfill, where hundreds of NYPD detectives are sifting through the WTC rubble. State spokesperson Betsy McCormack said "proper health and safety precautions are not being taken." That same day, the New York Times reported OSHA has recorded 34 broken bones, 441 lacerations, over 1,000 eye injuries and hundreds of burns, sprains and smashed fingers at Ground Zero to date. From Sept. 21 to Oct. 7, OSHA observed an average of 43 hazards on the site each day. Workers clock 12-hour shifts, often 7 days a week.
4. CLEAN-UP EXPLOITS IMMIGRANT LABOR
The New York state attorney general's office is investigating complaints that day laborers hired to clear debris from buildings surrounding Ground Zero have not been paid--sometimes for up to two weeks of work. Day laborers are frequently illegal immigrants who are promised payment in cash. They have no formal employment contracts, and they know their employer only through a crew leader who hires them on a street corner. Officials with the cleaning company in one case, Milro Services of Freeport, NY, told the New York Times Oct. 19 they are not responsible for hiring and paying the laborers because they hired a subcontractor to do that.
Wrote the Times: "By 8 AM each morning, the day laborers line up, 100 deep, on the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street for a day's work. Escorted past barricades by police officers, they clear shards of glass, wipe soot off desks and sweep floors covered with ash and debris. They are promised $60 for an 8-hour shift, $90 if they work 12 hours, and the buildings they clean include the offices of several city and federal agencies. But in interviews at the hiring site this week, several laborers, including some men and women freshly unemployed from shops and delis near the trade center, said they had not seen a dime for their work-some for a week, some for two."
One woman, Cecilia Linares, said she had worked for seven days straight. When she asked about pay, the woman who hired her--known only as "Lumi"--told her, "Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow." Then one morning, she didn't show up.
The complaints first surfaced when an organizer with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health went to the hiring line to talk to workers about safety precautions. He heard an earful about how they were not being paid and alerted the attorney general's office.
Milro Services identified the subcontractor as Lumi Morel, and weaseled out of taking any responsibility. "I don't like that this is happening, if it is happening," Milro VP Tom Milici told the Times, but added, "that's out of my hands." Morel, reached by the Times, said she had been delayed in paying some 80 workers due to paperwork, and planned to pay them "by today." The Times has not done a follow-up story.
Luna Yasui of the National Employment Law Project told WW3 REPORT the problem is much bigger than one firm. Many workers are getting stiffed, and there is "no safety training, no safety equipment." Building owners and managers routinely avoid responsibility through a "chain of subcontracted work," and the Project is considering litigation. "As the anti-immigrant backlash gets bigger, the immigrant workforce gets more vulnerable. And it's an immigrant workforce that's cleaning up lower Manhattan, assuring that residents in Battery Park City get to go back to their apartments."
5. THE BATTLE FOR UNION SQUARE
After the 9-11 attacks, thousands of New Yorkers spontaneously gathered each day at Union Square Park--just above 14th street, northern border of the frozen zone--to grieve, talk, sing, cry and debate. A "Wall of Hope" was erected, with home-made notices about missing kin--and, later, memorials to the presumed dead. Writes Justin Lipson of the NYC Independent Media Center: "Countless memorials, vigils, peace protests and teach-ins overflowed the park's southern edge as non-downtowner residents were barred from traveling below 14th street." But on Sept. 26, the Parks Department began returning the park to "normal," discouraging public gatherings and cleaning up artwork and offerings--despite repeated protests. The Union Square Alliance (USA) has come together to demand the park continue to serve as a citizen forum. Says USA's Martin Blake: "It was a beautiful place in Manhattan to be. I showed up again and it was gone." USA has collected hundreds of signatures on a petition urging Parks Commissioner Henry Stern and Mayor Giuliani to keep the square as a place to mourn, reflect and discuss the tragedy, as well as to keep the memorabilia up--which the city is removing for supposed "archival purposes." WEP workers--part of the city's mandatory make-work program for welfare recipients--are sent in each morning to unenthusiastically sweep up the personal memorials left each evening. Scaffolding was briefly erected for workers to scrub the park's George Washington statue, which had been hung with flags, poems and graffiti--mostly chalked (rather than painted) and on a pro-peace theme. "In what could be seen as a bow to the city's tension, Giuliani is relying on janitors instead of cops to stop dissent." (www.nyc.indymedia.org)
6. HOW MANY DIED IN WTC?
On Oct. 25, the New York Times contested Mayor Giuliani's estimate of 4,900 dead in the WTC attack, listing its own count at 2,950. The official total is derived from 4,400 missing person reports filed at the City's Family Assistance Center, plus 478 "confirmed deaths." The City's fluctuating tally ballooned to 6,453 in the weeks after the attacks, then dropped--raising the suspicions of the press. But the Times' list is based on companies' reports of missing employees--overlooking tourists, shoppers, commuters who failed to clear subway stations below the complex, employees of small companies and undocumented workers.
7. SECRET CIA STATION DESTROYED AT WTC
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
The New York Times reported Nov. 4 that a clandestine CIA station in the 47-story 7 WTC was destroyed when the building imploded after the Twin Towers collapse. Staff were all evacuated, and have sent a special team back onto the site to recover secret documents. The office was behind the "false front" of another federal agency "which intelligence officials requested that The Times not identify." The station was used to "spy on and recruit" foreign diplomats and debrief business executives returning from travelling overseas.
1. JIHAD-NAZI LOVEFEST
The Simon Wiesenthal Center ( www.wiesenthal.org), a Los Angeles-based watchdog on anti-Semitism, reports growing flirtation between the radical right and Islamic fundamentalists--and boasts it was instrumental in halting a planned "summit" between the two tendencies in Lebanon. The California-based Institute for Historical Review--the USA's foremost publisher of Holocaust denial literature and an arm of the Nazi-nostalgist Liberty Lobby--planned the "Conference on Revisionism & Zionism" in Beirut, March 2001. Headlining guest was Swiss pseudo-scholar Jurgen Graf. Facing 15 months in prison in Switzerland for Holocaust denial, Graf recently reported on his web site that he has received "refuge" in Iran, which he praised as "a culture and a God fearing people...that resolutely opposes the expansion of Satan's empire of evil." Also invited was William Pierce of the West Virginia-based National Alliance, publishers of The Turner Diaries, the book which inspired Timothy McVeigh. Among the local hosts were Iran-backed fundamentalist faction Hezbollah. Lebanon's government barred the meeting due to the intervention of the Swiss government and pressure from the Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center told WW3 REPORT that Pierce was recently interviewed by state radio in Iran. He pointed out that an essay on the 9-11 attacks y KKK Imperial Wizard-turned-Louisiana state legislator David Duke appears on the website of Pakistan-based fundamentalist group Tanzeem-i-Islami (www.tanzeem.org). Rabbi Cooper also said the website of the US group Aryan Action recently cheered on Afghanistan's Taliban, but took the endorsement down after the Center exposed it. "When American boys may die there, they thought they'd better disguise their message."
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