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ISSUE: #. 83. April 28, 2003







By Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom, Special Correspondent

1. Karbala Pilgrimage Shows Shi'ite Power
2. Dissension in Occupation Government
3. Unrest on the Ground
4. Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss--Literally!
5. Who Controls Iraq's Oil Ministry?
6. Ex-Shell Exec Carroll to Oversee Oil
7. Occupied Iraq Sends Rep to Vienna OPEC Meet
8. Chalabi Oil Scion: Iraq May Quit OPEC
9. Israel Seeking to Re-Open Iraq Pipeline?
10. Oil Struggle Behind WMD Spin-Doctoring
11. Civilian Casualties: Still Mounting
12. War Good for Lockheed
13. Marsh Arabs to Reverse Saddam's Hydro-Genocide?
14. U.S. Disarming Kurdish Peshmergas?
15. Baath Bigwigs Busted--But Where's Saddam?
16. Whither Abu Abbas?
17. BBC Director Bashes U.S. War Coverage
18. Medill J-School Club Panel: "Embedding" vs. Objectivity?

1. Conscientious Objector Stephen Funk Needs Support

1. Palestinian Power Shifts From Arafat to Abbas
2. IDF Invades Gaza Refugee Camp; Another Suicide Attack
3. Israel Turns to "Terror Tourism"
4. Raiders of The Lost Ark: Secret Wars for the Temple Mount

1. Human Rights Watch: "Climate of Fear" Rules Afghanistan
2. U.S. Troops Killed; Afghan Violence Again Escalates
3. U.S. Holds Kids at Gitmo

1. North Korea: We've Got Nukes! (Or is it a Translation Goof?)
2. U.S. to Bomb North Korean Nuke Plant?
3. Nuclear "Bunker-Buster" on Track
4. U.S. to Resume Nuclear Weapons Production?

1. Russia Seeks Investment for Murmansk Pipeline
2. Russia's Soyuz Spacecraft Becomes Political Pawn
3. Enron's India Project in Deep Trouble

1. Ashcroft: Indefinite Detainment of Illegal Immigrants
2. Farouk Abdel-Muhti: One Year in Detainment


The fall of Saddam Hussein just two weeks before one of Shia Islam's most sacred rites provided Iraq's Shi'ites the opportunity to demonstrate both jubilation and defiance. Hundreds of thousands traveled on foot to the sacred city of Karbala for ceremonies which had been long suppressed by Saddam's regime.

The ceremonies marked the end of the Ashura holy period, beginning on Muharram 10 in the Islamic calendar, which fell in mid-March, still under Saddam's rule. The closing festival, Arabaein, falls on Safar 20--forty days later, April 26. Ashura proper, Muharram 10, marks the day on which Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, was killed at the hands of the Umayyad Caliphate in the 680 CE Battle of Karbala. Arabaein, Safar 20, marks the day that Hussein's family, taken captive by the Caliphate, were released and returned to where his body lay, and he ascended to Heaven. The spot is where Karbala's gold-domed mosque now stands. Hussein was the second in the line of Shia's Twelve Imams, or successors to Mohammed, and the Battle of Karbala was critical in the split between Sunni and Shia Islam. Ashura is also associated with the safe landing of Noah's arc.


The annual Ashura pilgrimage was periodically banned by Iraq's ruling Sunni minority since the 1930s. Clashes erupted when the Baath Party regime arrested thousannds of pilgrims en route to Karbala in 1977, leaving hundreds dead. Repression of Shia rites escalated again when Saddam Hussein seized control of the Baathist regime and invaded Iran, where a radical Shia-led regime had just taken power. Under Saddam, more defiant pilgrims were gunned down on the road to Karbala. The city was the center of the 1991 Shi'ite uprising, which was brutally put down by Saddam.


Karbala came under bombardment during the US air campaign last month, raising concerns that the mosque would be damaged. Karbala's populace mobilized to seal off the area around the mosque, to protect it from both soldiers and looters. (See WW3 REPORT #80) In March, just before the regime's fall, 100 pilgrims were arrested on the outskirts of Karbala, as they tried to commemorate Hussein's death, residents told the New York Times (April 22).

Early in the week, the pilgrims began converging on Karbala from throughout Iraq's center and south, beating themselves with chains to atone for their sins, often to the point of drawing blood. The pilgrimage was called and organized by a Karbala center of Shi'ite learning, the Hawza al-Ilmiya--which has been dispatching volunteers throughout Iraq's Shi'ite communities to guard banks, get power plants back on line and set up checkpoints. (AP, April 24)

Sheikh Mohammed Thamer, an aid to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, made clear that his people do not view their liberation as complete: "Our celebration will be perfect only when the American occupier is gone and the Iraqi people are able to rule themselves by the principles of Islam." (NYT, April 22)

Many pilgrims carried portraits of two Shi'ite clerics martyred by Saddam: Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr Sadr, killed in 1980, and Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Sadr, killed in 1999. Bakr Sadr was founder of the Daawa Party, outlawed by Saddam, and a colleague of Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, who was exiled in Karbala in the 1970s. One popular chant was "Yes, yes for Islam--No America, no Saddam." (NYT, April 23)

Retired Gen. Jay Garner, head of the US occupation's civil apparatus, said: "I think the bulk of the Shia, the majority of the Shia, are very glad they are where they are right now. Two weeks ago they wouldn't have been able to demonstrate." But Washington is clearly concerned about Iranian influence in the Shi'ite resurgence. Said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer: "We have concerns about this matter, about Iranian agents in Iraq. We've made our points clear to the Iranians." (AP, April 24)

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the Iran-based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), remains in Tehran. But his brother Abdel Aziz al-Hakim--who commands the group's armed wing, the Badr Brigades--has reportedly now returned to Iraq. Abdel Aziz al-Hakim told al-Jazeera TV the Badr Brigades have been ordered not to attack US forces--for now. (AP, April 24)

From Tehran, Ayatollah al-Hakim called on the pilgrims "to oppose a US-led interim administration and defend Iraq's independence." The Badr Brigades maintain a visible presence in the towns of Baquba and Kut near the Iranian border, and are believed to have 10,000 men under arms. Hamid al-Bayati, SCIRI representative in London, demanded a timely departure of US troops: "If they are talking about democracy, they should leave the Iraqi people to organize themselves." (NYT, April 23) A fatwa issued by Kadhem al-Husseini al-Haeri, an Iraqi-born cleric based in the Iranian holy city of Qum, calls on Iraq's Shi'ite mullahs "to seize the first possible opportunity to fill the power vacuum in the administration of Iraqi cities." (NYT, April 26)

Shi'ite militias continue to control Saddam City (now re-named Sadr City), Baghdad's Shi'ite ghetto which holds some 2 million people--nearly half the capital's population and about 8 percent of all Iraqis. (Newsday, April 21) (Shi'ites collectively make up 60% of Iraq's 24 million people) Graffiti announcing the return of the long-banned Shia Islamist Daawa Party has appeared on walls across Baghdad. (Financial Times, April 21) See also WW3 REPORT #82 top]

On April 20, US Marines pulled out of Baghdad, replaced by Army troops, in a sign that military commanders see the city as largely under control. (NYT, April 21) The following day, occupation leader Jay Garner arrived in the city, pledging to rapidly restore electricity and other services. (NYT, April 22) His Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance has moved from Kuwait City to Baghdad. (NYT, April 23) Central Command's regional headquarters remains in Qatar, but it may relocate to Iraq once Garner's occupation government is in place. (BBC, April 27)

There is growing dissension between the US occupation and its Iraqi surrogates. On April 23, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, commander of ground forces in Iraq, issued a proclamation to Iraq's political leaders, saying: "The coalition alone retains absolute authority within Iraq." He warned that anyone challenging occupation authorities would be subject to arrest. The warning seemed aimed at Mohammed Mohsen Zubaidi, who returned from exile to become de facto mayor of Baghdad after Saddam's fall. He had reportedly angered occupation authorities by seeking to appoint a police chief, ignoring the police official installed by the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. (NYT, April 24) On April 27, Zubaidi was detained by US forces for usurping power. (BBC, April 27)

Zubaidi is a follower of Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmad Chalabi, who has set up shop in a Baghdad club and is seeking to install himself in power--reportedly with Pentagon support. Chalabi has some 700 fighters under his command, who were flown to southern Iraq's Tallil air base by the US military as Saddam's regime was toppling. Chalabi's paramilitary force, the Free Iraqi Freedom Fighters, were armed by the US military, and a Special Forces unit was assigned to supervise them. Pentagon attorneys argued they could be armed without Congressional approval because they were not agents of a foreign government but a fighting force attached to the US military. (NYT, April 24)

The same day that Zubaidi was removed from power in Baghdad, Iraqi opposition leaders--including Kurds, Shi'ites, monarchists and communists--met in Madrid, where they agreed in principle to a federal "democracy" in Iraq and a trial for Saddam Hussein. Said BBC on the Madrid meeting: "Mohammed Mohammed Ali, a Shia Muslim from the leadership council of the self-proclaimed Iraqi National Congress, says it will not be a Western-style liberal democracy. And there are major points of contention, like the role of the United States. Iraqi Kurds are more comfortable with a longer-term US presence, guaranteeing stability in the country. Communists want the US out as soon as possible. All agree that there needs to be a provisional Iraqi government urgently."

There are certainly signs of a long-term US presence in Iraq. Creative Associates International, a private company based in Washington DC, has won a contract from US AID to remake Iraq's school system and purge it of pro-Saddam propaganda. AID says the new program will use "politically neutral course content." (New Zealand Herald, April 23)

See also WW3 REPORT #82

For more on Chalabi, see WW3 REPORT #81 [top]

Even where US troops were recently greeted as liberators, things are now turning ugly. Reuters correspondent Kieran Murray, travelling with US troops since the start of the war, "has seen more and more of the encounters ending with some children, usually the older ones in their early teens, hurling stones at the soldiers." Said Captain James McGahey, a commander of the 101st Airborne Division: "It's frustrating. They're like little gnats that you can't get away." McGahey said almost every patrol he sends out in the northern city of Mosul gets stoned. (Reuters, April 26)

US troops sparked a human rights row April 25 when four alleged Iraqi thieves were chased naked through a Baghdad park. The humiliated prisoners had the words "Ali Baba, Haram''--Thief, Unclean--scrawled in Arabic on their chests. The spectacle was captured by a photographer for Norway's Dagbladet newspaper, which quoted a US officer as saying the deterrent was effective. Commander Eric Canaday, of 10th Engineer Corps, was quoted saying: "I think our job is to keep people out of the park to prevent theft of weapons. We have started doing several things and I don't think this is too much.'' Lt Canaday added: "We have talked with the Iraqi inhabitants. Some of them gave us the idea so we took the clothes and burned them before we pushed them out with thief written on their chest. It was quite successful.''

Amnesty International in London criticized the degrading treatment and pledged to raise the matter with the UN. Said Amnesty's director Kate Allen: "If these pictures are accurate, this is an appalling way to treat prisoners. Such degrading treatment is a clear violation of the responsibilities of the occupying powers." (UK Mirror, April 26)

In a case of art imitating life, four US soldiers are themselves under investigation in the theft of up to $900,000 from some $600 million in cash found in Saddam's palaces--a scenario echoing the 1999 George Clooney film "Three Kings," in which a team of US soldiers in the aftermath of Desert Storm attempt to make off with looted Kuwaiti gold. (NYT, April 25)

Scattered armed resistance still persists, especially in Baghdad. Four US troops were reported seriously wounded in a Baghdad ambush by unknown gunmen April 27. (BBC, April 27) [top]

Within two weeks of the collapse of Saddam's regime, thousands of members of his long-ruling Ba'ath Party were already resuming their roles. Wrote the UK Guardian April 21: "Two thousand policemen--all cardholding party members--have put on the olive green, or the gray-and-white uniforms of traffic wardens, and returned to the streets of Baghdad at America's invitation. Dozens of minders from the information ministry, who spied on foreign journalists for the security agencies, have returned to the Palestine Hotel where most reporters stay, offering their services as translators to unwitting new arrivals. Seasoned bureaucrats at the oil ministry--including the brother of General Amer Saadi, the chemical weapons expert now in American custody--have been offered their jobs back by the US military."

Added Wamidh Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University who broke with the Baath Party in 1961, and is trying to organize a new political grouping: "The coming bureaucracy will be overwhelmed by Ba'athists. They had loyalty to Saddam Hussein, and now they have loyalty to foreign invaders."

See also WW3 REPORT #14 [top]

Employees are reappearing for work at Iraq's Oil Ministry, which largely escaped the destruction suffered by most other public buildings in Baghdad, and is one of the few to be guarded by US soldiers. Wrote the Financial Times April 21: "Ringed by US tanks and guarded by US soldiers with a very exclusive admission list, Iraq's oil ministry, in charge of the world's second largest petroleum reserves, yesterday appeared secluded from the disorder that reigns in the rest of Baghdad. One question nevertheless provoked a great deal of confusion: who is in charge? The former minister is barred from entering, as are his deputies. A man in a green suit, standing outside the barbed wire, introduced himself as Fellah al-Khawaja and said he represented the Co-ordinating Committee for the Oil Ministry, which few of the employees had heard of. It draws its authority from a self-declared local government led by Mohamed Mohsen al-Zubaidi, a recently returned exile who says he is now the effective mayor of Baghdad. According to Faris Nouri, a ministry section chief, the committee has issued a list of who should be allowed into the ministry by US troops guarding the building. Yesterday it was announced that Mr Zubaidi's deputy, former general Jawdat al-Obeidi, would lead Iraq's delegation to the next meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. But when asked who was giving the orders at the ministry, most employees pointed to a portly man standing in the lobby, who looked to be in his 50s but declined to give his name."

See also WW3 REPORT #82 [top]

The US has formally appointed Philip J Carroll, ex-head of Shell Oil, to run Iraq's oil industry. "The US Government is setting up Iraq's oil industry to run much like an American corporation, with a chief executive and management team vetted by US officials who would answer to a multinational board of advisers," the Wall Street Journal Europe reported. Carroll--former chief executive of Shell Oil, US unit of the Dutch-British giant Royal Dutch/Shell--is to head the new advisory board. He is also to name an Iraqi vice-chairman, expected to be Fadil Othman, an oil executive from the pre-Saddam era. Newly appointed executives will answer to the advisory board which in turn is to answer to Jay Garner. Carroll will also represent Iraq at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). (London Times, April 25)

See also WW3 REPORT #80:

The US Army Corps of Engineers is working with Iraqi technicians to get the oilfields functioning again--first to supply Iraq's still-inoperative power plants. But an effort to restart pumping at southern Iraq's Rumaila field resulted in a pipeline rupture and massive oil spill. (NYT, April 26) [top]

Former Iraqi general Jawdat al-Obeidi, who claims to be deputy governor of post-war Baghdad, announced April 20 that he would head an Iraqi delegation to OPEC's emergency meeting in Vienna--along with senior oil officials from the Saddam Hussein regime. Obeidi, who spent years in exile from Saddam's regime, told Reuters he was nominated to go to Vienna by Baghdad's self-declared governor Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi. Obeidi said he would be accompanied by four Iraqi oil experts--Thamir Abbas Ghadhban, director general of planning in the oil ministry, Mazin Juma'h, Rafid Abdul Halim Jasim and Shamakhi Faraj. Juma'h had briefly served as Saddam's senior deputy minister of oil. Jasim was executive director of Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO), and Faraj was the country's national representative to OPEC's Economic Commission Board under Saddam. A question remained as to which route they would take to Vienna--Jordanian and Syrian authorities have banned Iraqis from entering their territory. Before the war, Iraq was exporting an average two million barrels of oil per day. (Reuters, April 20)

See also WW3 REPORT #82 [top]

Fadhil Chalabi--a former Iraqi oil minister now a key adviser to the US government--says Iraq may have to leave OPEC so it can pump out extra oil to pay for the country's reconstruction. The extra oil needed would be more than twice Iraq's pre-sanctions OPEC quota and almost triple the present output of some 7 million barrels a day, said Chalabi--who reportedly rejected a US invitation to become interim head of Iraq's oil sector. Chalabi, who served on the US State Department's "Future of Iraq Oil and Energy Working Group," says the Iraqi industry must be privatized to attract foreign investment.

Output of 7 million barrels a day is thought to be achievable in around six years. But such high production could threaten a slump in global prices and strain Iraq's relations with OPEC. Chalabi said his preference would be for Iraq to remain in OPEC. But he added: "Iraq must maximize revenue from its oil. I would choose maximizing the revenue through oil, with or without OPEC. If it is within OPEC it would be better, but it may not be possible."

Chalabi--cousin of Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon's choice to lead Iraq--said he would serve the Iraqi oil industry if a democratically elected government was in place. He said that selling off Iraq's oil assets was inevitable. "Iraq is going to need a lot of money in the next five years, up to $300 billion. Privatization or partial privatization is the way to secure this investment." (UK Observer, April 27)

At the Vienna meet, OPEC members agreed to cut output by 2 million barrels a day, or seven percent, in a bid to raise global prices. OPEC leaders insisted that with no legitimate government in Baghdad, Iraq is not considered an OPEC member at this time. "We will accommodate Iraq at the right time," said OPEC president Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah. (AP, April 25)

See also WW3 REPORT #82 [top]

Washington and Tel Aviv are reportedly discussing plans to re-build an old oil pipeline that ran from the Iraqi city of Mosul to the Israeli port of Haifa. The pipeline was closed with Israeli independence in 1948. Re-opening it was first discussed by the Israel's National Infrastructure Minister Joseph Paritzky, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz. The paper quotes Paritzky as saying that the pipeline would cut Israel's energy bill by over 25%. Israel is now largely dependent on expensive imports from Russia. US intelligence sources reportedly confirmed to the UK Observer that the project has been discussed.

James Akins, a veteran US diplomat to the region and a leading Arabist, told the Observer: "There would be a fee for transit rights through Jordan, just as there would be fees for Israel from those using what would be the Haifa terminal. After all, this is a new world order now. This is what things look like particularly if we wipe out Syria. It just goes to show that it is all about oil, for the United States and its ally."

Akins was ambassador to Saudi Arabia before he was fired after conflicts with then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who he depicts as mastermind of the plan. In 1975, Kissinger signed a Memorandum of Understanding whereby the US would guarantee Israel's oil reserves in the event of crisis. The memorandum has been quietly renewed every five years, with special legislation mandating that the US must stock a strategic oil reserve for Israel even if it entails domestic shortages. In 2002, the program cost US taxpayers $3 billion. This bill would be slashed by a new pipeline, which would have the added advantage of giving the US reliable access to Gulf oil from a source other than Saudi Arabia.

Kissinger was also architect of a US plan from the 1980s to run an oil pipeline from Iraq to Aqaba, Jordan, opposite the Israeli port of Eilat. The pipeline was promoted by now-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and was to be built by the Bechtel corporation, which the Bush administration has now awarded a multi-billion dollar contract for the reconstruction of Iraq. (UK Observer, April 20)

The plan is also supported by Prince Raad bin Zeid, a pretender to the Iraqi throne in Amman, Jordan. See WW3 REPORT #82

For more on the 1980's Saddam-Rumsfeld lovefest, see WW3 REPORT #66 [top]

The US search for evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has big implications not only for the official justification for the war, but also for control over Iraq's oil. With no internationally-recognized government, it is unclear who has the right to sell Iraq's oil, and economic sanctions remain in place. The US is demanding that sanctions be lifted, but France is demanding that UN inspectors be sent back in first. (BBC, April 25)

On April 20, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that UN inspectors could not be sent back to Iraq and suggested NATO instead might take a key role in Iraq's disarmament. Asked whether he believed arms inspectors were needed in Iraq, Grossman said: "We don't exclude it. On a visit to NATO, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz suggested involving it [NATO] in Iraq's disarmament." He also said that UN sanctions on Iraq must be lifted. "The situation in Iraq has completely changed.... The inspectors' mandate is still in force but they cannot be sent back en bloc to Iraq," Grossman was quoted as saying. (Reuters, April 20)

A front-page story in the April 21 New York Times, "Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, An Iraqi Scientist is Said to Assert," smacked to many of desperation on the part of Washington to find WMD evidence in Iraq--and raised questions about the Times' subservience to the Pentagon. The story began: "A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said." But "embedded" reporter Judith Miller--who described her news as "the most important discovery to date in the hunt for illegal weapons"--provided no independent confirmation for any of the claims.

In her story, Miller disclosed that she had agreed to several conditions imposed by the Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha (MET Alpha), the unit in charge of finding WMD evidence. "Under the terms of her accreditation to report on the activities of MET Alpha, this reporter was not permitted to interview the scientist or visit his home," Miller wrote. "Nor was she permitted to write about the discovery of the scientist for three days, and the copy was then submitted for a check by military officials."

Miller admitted that her report was necessarily vague due to Pentagon restraints: "Those officials asked that details of what chemicals were uncovered be deleted. They said they feared that such information could jeopardize the scientist's safety by identifying the part of the weapons program where he worked."

New York Observer reporter Sridhar Pappu said that the Times' decision to accept military censorship has caused an internal uproar at the paper. "One source inside the Times called it a 'wacky-assed piece,' adding that there were 'real questions about it and why it was on page 1.'"

( Jack Shafer for, April 23)

See also WW3 REPORTS #s 81 & 80 [top]

Baghdad hospital workers say at least 12 were killed by explosions at an ammunition dump in a civilian area on the southern edge of the city April 26. A US officer said "hostile forces" fired flares into the depot, igniting the blasts in the Zafaranyah neighborhood, which demolished at least four houses More victims are said to be buried under rubble. Unconfirmed reports speak of 40 killed. Locals accuse US troops of storing weapons in a residential area. But a statement from the US Central Command said "the location of the ammunition cache near a civilian population is another example of the former regime's disregard for the safety of Iraqi citizens." BBC reports that the cause of the explosions and precise number of casualties are hard to establish because US forces have closed off the area.

US troops were stoned by a crowd when they first reached the site and began taking evacuating victims and then local residents. Hundreds shook their fists at US troops as they were evacuated. In one truck, people chanted, "America's no better than Saddam." (BBC, April 26)

One US soldier was reported wounded in a firefight with the attackers at the dump, which contained small arms, munitions, howitzer rounds and Frog 7 missiles, according to Lt. Col. Jack Kammerer, the local zone commander. Eyewitnesses said some 100 US soldiers operating the camp fled the explosions--some in their underpants and others barefoot according. (CSM, April 26)

The web site Iraq Body Count continues to monitor world press reports to arrive at a daily update of the total Iraqi civilian dead. Each incident is listed separately, noting the location, number dead, weaponry used and media source. At press time, the minimum estimate stands at 2,050 and the maximum at 2,514.

See also WW3 REPORT #82 [top]

Lockheed Martin, producers of the F-16 and F-22 fighter jets used extensively in the Iraq campaign, has announced a jump in first-quarter profits and raised its forecast for the coming year. The company saw profits rise to $250 million in the first three months of 2003 from $224 million a year earlier. Sales at the company's aeronautics division more than doubled. The company said it expected profits for 2003 as a whole to be about 5% higher than analysts had been forecasting, while group sales would be 8-12% up on 2002. The smaller Raytheon, dogged by problems in its aircraft business, announced a jump in sales at the unit which manufactures the Tomahawk cruise missile, also used in Iraq. Raytheon said sales at its missile systems division increased by 18% in the first three months of the year to $860 million. Total sales increased to $4.2 billion from $3.9 billion. (UK Guardian, April 23)

Historical Irony Dept.: In 1988, when Saddam gassed the Kurdish city of Halabja, instantly killing 5,000 civilians, the US-Iraq Business Forum--including Lockheed, Exxon, Mobil, Westinghouse and Xerox--advocated against economic sanctions. A bill to impose sanctions never made it out of Congress. (See "The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq," by Kenneth R. Timmerman, Houghton Mifflin 1991)

( [top]

Among the groups seeking redress in the new order are southern Iraq's Ma'adan people--the Marsh Arabs--whose 5,000-year-old way of life was nearly exterminated by Saddam's regime. Qassim Alwan, sheikh of al-Maarada tribe, was tortured by the Baathists for opposing his people's forcible relocation to a remote desert location to make way for the Majnoon oil fields in the 1980s. "They promised us electricity and water and schools but to this day we have nothing. These children cannot read or write," he said, indicating group of barefoot boys at the settlement. The Majnoon marshlands were also drained to build defensive earthworks in the Iran-Iraq war. "It took about two years. The water just stopped flowing in. Then the soldiers came and we were told to leave." After the 1991 Shi'ite uprising, drainage efforts and forced relocations in the region escalated. Of the nearly 9,000 sq. km of marshlands, Saddam's regime drained all but ten percent, leaving desolation. The population of the marshes, put at 200,000 in 1991, is now only 40,000--only some half of them Ma'adan. The speaker of the Iraqi parliament was quoted as saying of the Ma'adan: "America wiped the Red Indians off the face of the earth and nobody raised an eyebrow."

Now the Ma'adan want to restore their homeland. Emma Nicholson, a British member of the European parliament working on behalf of the Ma'adan, said: "We believe that up to half the marshes can be restored." Ahmed Haidari, a Basra dentist who translated Wilfred Thesiger's book "The Marsh Arabs" into Arabic, was less optimistic: "I think it is impossible. The water flow in the Tigris and Euphrates is no more than 25 percent of what it was before.," Some 36 dams today control the two rivers--in Syria and Turkey as well as Iraq. But unconfirmed reports from British military officers and Shi'ite militants in Basra say some Ma'adan are taking the law into their own hands and have started destroying some of the levees that hold back the waters. (James Drummond for the Financial Times, April 21)

See also WW3 REPORT #82 [top]

US troops backed by helicopter gunships have apparently begun disarming the peshmerga (militia) of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Mosul. US forces reportedly took over three peshmerga roadblocks in the city April 27. The peshmerga troops at first refused at first to yield, but finally backed down. Reuters reported that in one incident, dozens of peshmerga troops were seen running towards a roadblock to reinforce their comrades, but turned away when a Kiowa attack helicopter swooped down over them and hundreds of US troops approached. In negotiations with KDP officers, both sides apparently agreed to a deal under which some 20 weapons were seized from peshmerga vehicles trying to flee the area.

Fazil Miran, a high-ranking KDP official and a minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government, tried to set up a civil administration in Mosul with the help of other factions and tribes in the city, but the US refused to recognize it. Wrote the Kurdish news agency "Kurds are skeptical of US intentions, in particular after the retired US general Jay Garner responsible for administering post-war Iraq, denounced Federalism as a viable option, something that has been the aspiration of the Kurdistan Regional Government for the last 13 years." (, April 27)

But reported that on a visit to Iraqi Kurdistan just days earlier, Garner was "warmly welcomed" in talks with KDP leader Massoud Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani. Garner told the Kurdish leaders that their experience in the region will be a model for the whole of Iraq. Talabani told Garner that he should feel Kurdistan was his "home," adding: "When you retire, come back to Kurdistan...and we'll prepare a beautiful house for you." A group of Sulemani University students welcomed Garner with flowers. Garner told the crowd, "You are a great people; you will have a great future... What you have done here in the last 12 years is a wonderful start in self-government and what you have done can serve as a model for the rest of Iraq." (, April 22)

Satellite Kurdistan TV said April 26 that PUK leader Talabani had called for rebuilding the Iraqi national army in a meeting with US Gen. Bruce Moore, now supervising the Kurdish zone, and three top Iraqi army officers. Talabani reportedly called for unity among Iraq's Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. (, April 26)

These mixed signals point to divisions among Kurds as to whether a federal Iraq with local autonomy for the Kurdish region is possible, or if aspirations for an independent Kurdistan should be revived--raising grave questions about the fate of other ethnic groups in Iraq's north., reported that Turkmen militias in Kirkuk killed fifteen Kurds celebrating the downfall of the Saddam Husein regime April 11. Turkmen also reportedly looted Kurdish homes and shops after peshmerga forces withdrew from the city at US behest.

On April 26, gunfire again erupted in Kirkuk at a Turkmen political office where aid was being distributed, leaving one Arab and one Turkmen wounded. That same day, the US military announced that Turkish Special Forces troops were intercepted smuggling weapons into northern Iraq hidden in an aid caravan. The weapons were believed destined for Turkmen militias. (NYT, Apri, 27) (See also WW3 REPORT #73)

Meanwhile, Kurdish exiles around the world are calling on the KDP and PUK to seek independence from Iraq. Several Kurds from Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria gathered April 20 in Seoul's Dongnimmun Park to rally for creation of an independent Kurdish state. Numbering 30 million, Kurds represent the world's largest ethnic group without their own sovereign state, exile leaders said. More than 1,000 Kurds live in South Korea. Most came in the 1990s, fleeing persecution and hardship in their homelands, and most are in the country illegally. (Chosun Ilbo, Seoul, April 20)

See also WW3 REPORT #82 [top]

The top leaders from Saddam's regime--each represented by a card in the deck handed out to Special Forces troops--are starting to fall into US hands. Tariq Aziz, deputy prime minister and the Eight of Spades, was taken into custody April 26 (AP, April 26). Queen of Spades Mohammed Hamza al-Zubaydi, known as the "Shi'ite Thug" for his role in suppressing the 1991 Shi'ite uprising, was nabbed April 21 (AP, April 21). Gen. Hassam Mohammed Amin, Saddam's liaison to the UN weapons inspectors, was taken by US troops April 27 (BBC, April 27).

But the Ace of Spades--Saddam himself--remains at large. The disappearance of the deposed tyrant continues to raise speculation about a "safqa" or secret deal, in which Saddam and a chosen few were granted exile in exchange for turning over Baghdad to the US. Writes WW3 REPORT reader Bert Golding: "I do have this touch of suspicion and paranoia. I can't avoid the thought that the CIA set up the escape of top Iraqis to a remote site--who knows where?--to speed the Iraqi collapse and smooth the way for our triumphant troops!"

See also WW3 REPORT #82 [top]

Infamous Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas is in US custody following a raid at his Baghdad home. He reportedly sought refuge in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen, but was turned down by each. Abu Abbas has acknowledged masterminding in the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, in which elderly Jewish-American tourist Leon Klinghoffer was shot in the head and dumped overboard in his wheelchair. Abu Abbas leads a faction of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), one of numerous ultra-radical offshoots of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He has today apologized for the Achille Lauro affair, calling it "a mistake," and even supported the Oslo Accords, urging both sides to leave the past behind. He has traveled to and from the Occupied Territories with the consent of the Israeli government since the Accords. His fate is now unclear. The Achille Lauro was an Italian ship, and an Italian court has convicted him in absentia of murder. But Klinghoffer was a US citizen, and his family wants him tried in the US. The Palestinian Authority notes that under the Oslo Accords no member of the PLO--the umbrella group of which the PLF is a part--can be tried or sentenced for acts of violence committed before September 1993. The official US response is that Oslo is only binding on Israel and the Palestinian Authority leadership. Opines Marc Sirois for Palestine Chronicle: "That may be true from a technical point of view, but the United States is rightly regarded as a guarantor of the agreement and needs nothing less than yet another indication that it is only interested in enforcing those clauses that favor Israel... No one should coddle terrorists, but the issue is larger than that: No one should continue to fuel a feud that has claimed far too many lives already. Or, if it has to be this way, then surely fairness demands that Abu Abbas be joined in his cell by the likes of Sharon and his ilk." (Palestine Chronicle, April 18)

In a 1993 interview with WW3 REPORT editor Bill Weinberg, former Israeli spy Ari Ben-Menashe (author of "Profits of War: Inside the Secret US-Israeli Arms Network," Sheridan Square Press 1992) said that the Achille Lauro attack was actually an Israeli "black propaganda" operation financed by the Mossad-Military Intelligence Joint Committee, a secret Israeli team established in the 1980s to smuggle arms to Iran. Ben-Menashe, then with Military Intelligence, worked in the Joint Committee with Mossad director of operations Rafi Eitan, who he names as architect of the scheme. Ben-Menashe maintains that the attempted bombing of a 1986 El Al jet in London--which led to the UK breaking off relations with Syria--was also secretly masterminded by the Eitan. Said Ben-Menashe: "These were Rafi Eitan operations. He was on the Committee and we worked together for a long time. It is difficult to say how far up in the Israeli government it was authorized--perhaps by [1980s prime ministers Yitzhak] Shamir or [Menachim] Begin. I believe the details were not known by the politicians. It was all carried out through connections. In the Achille Lauro affair, we used a Sicilian family in Catania with connections to both sides. I knew them from my arms-smuggling work, and they also had various business links with Palestinian extremists, mostly selling guns. It's a very murky world." (High Times, March 1993)

For more on Abu Abbas, see WW3 REPORT #66

For more on Ari Ben-Menashe and his claims, see WW3 REPORT #63 [top]

Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, attacked US TV and radio networks for their war coverage in an April 23 interview. In his first public comments since the war, Dyke said the US had "no news operation strong enough or brave enough to stand up against" the White House and Pentagon. "Personally, I was shocked while in the United States by how unquestioning the broadcast news media was during this war." Dyke said that since the 9-11 attacks, many US networks have "wrapped themselves in the American flag and swapped impartiality for patriotism." Dyke attacked Fox News and CNN for "gung-ho" coverage.

In contrast, the BBC was an "800-pound gorilla" that was capable of standing up to pressure from the British government. "I think compared to the United States we see impartiality as giving a range of views, including those critical of our own government's position. I think in the United States, particularly since 11 September, that would be seen as unpatriotic." Dyke said that on a recent visit to the US, he was "amazed by how many people just came up to me and said they were following the war on the BBC because they no longer trusted the American electronic news media."

Dyke also warned against US companies being allowed greater ownership of British media. "We must ensure that we don't become Americanized," he said. Dyke reserved some of his strongest criticisms for Clear Channel, largest operator of radio stations in the US. Clear Channel is likely to benefit from government plans to open up ownership of commercial radio in the UK. Said Dyke: "We were genuinely shocked when we discovered that the largest radio group in the US was using its airwaves to organize pro-war rallies. We are even more shocked to discover that the same group wants to become a big player in radio in the UK." (UK Independent, April 24) [top]

A panel discussion on media coverage of the Iraq war--focusing on how the new practice of "embedding" journalists with combat units has affected reporting--was held April 21 at the New York Historical Society, organized by the local alumni club of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Comparing reporters' experiences in Vietnam to those in the current war, Richard Pyle, AP's Saigon bureau chief from 1970 to 1973, said back then "embedding was something you might do when you got home and hooked up with a friend." Joining Pyle on the 10-person panel were representatives from a range of news organizations, from the Wall Street Journal to Reuters to al-Jazeera, as well as the Pentagon's media outreach office.

T. Sean Herbert, head of the CBS News analyst's desk, said embeds "couldn't help but lose their objectivity" when they lived with troops and relied on them for survival. "Embeds [and troops] became a band of brothers," he said, and the close bonds between reporters and soldiers led to "giddy and excited" reporting. "I don't believe that the people really got balanced coverage," he said.

Edith Lederer, another veteran AP reporter and currently its chief UN correspondent, said that ability to move through the war zone in Vietnam allowed "the kind of freedom that hasn't existed in any conflict since." Nonetheless, Lederer said that the practice of embedding reporters, which dominated coverage of the current war, was better than the "military censorship" that reporters faced during the 1991 Gulf War. [Although there has been military censorship this time around as well.]

Lora Western, foreign news editor of the Wall Street Journal, said that reporting from "embeds" should have been better balanced with coverage from "unilateral" journalists in Iraq. But many "unilaterals"--including Journal reporters--were stuck in Kuwait and northern Iraq and couldn't get close to the action.

The last word belonged to Bill Weinberg, a self-described "left-wing blogger" and editor of the on-line weekly WW3 REPORT, who dismissed the entire notion of objectivity in reporting. "There's no such thing as objectivity in anything in the human realm," he said. Instead, Weinberg preferred that media be honest. "All media is descending to the level of propaganda," he said. "If they're going to be doing this they should at least be clear about their biases." (Rafe Bartholomew for Editor & Publisher Online, April 22) [top]


US Marine Corps Reservist Stephen Funk, 20, who turned himself in to military authorities at the San Jose Reserve Unit April 1, insists his unauthorized absence was an act of conscience. "I refuse to kill," says Funk. "It is scary to confront the military, because the military teaches you to submit to orders even when you object. I may not be a hero, but I know that it takes courage to disobey. I know that it demands courage to say 'no' in the face of coercion." Funk, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in February, became increasingly uneasy while training in the use of weapons--especially how to kill with a bayonet.

Funk's attorney Stephen Collier says Funk failed to report when his San Jose-based Marine reserve unit was called to active duty in mid-February. When Funk went back to the barracks April 1, accompanied by peace activists and his mother, he had his conscientious objection papers in his hands. Until authorities decide his punishment, Funk will be allowed to go home at the end of each day, provided he returns each morning to the Marine Corps reserve center in San Jose. He faces imprisonment of up to two years for unauthorized absence.

According to the US-based GI Rights Hotline, there are many GIs with concerns about the war. Calls have doubled since 2002, with 3,582 calls reported in January, and 3,118 in February 2003.

Readers can support Stephen by sending letters and money for his legal defense.

The Stephen Funk Legal Defense Fund PO Box 111 1230 Market St San Francisco, CA 94102


See also WW3 REPORT #82 [top]


In a last minute deal forged with the help of Egypt's intelligence services chief Omar Suleiman, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat agreed, to hand over some of his power to a newly-created position of prime minister and a cabinet. The new prime minister is to be Mahmoud Abbas, number two man in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen. The passing of power to a prime minister had been a key demand of Israel and the US prior to the initiation of peace talks under the "road map" drawn up by the "quartet" consisting of the US, UN, EU and Russia. For Arafat, the occasion marks the further erosion of his power, which began with the Palestinian legislature's refusal to approve his choice of cabinet members nearly a year ago, and the refusal by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and US President George Bush to deal with him directly.

Abu Mazen has been outspoken in his opposition to the militarization of the Intifada. His appointment of Gaza security chief Mohammed Dahlan as the head of preventative security in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip makes Hamas militants fear Mazen's intention is to disarm them. Mazen's cabinet also includes Nabil Amr, also known to oppose the use of force in the Intifada. The Israeli and US governments are trying to appear disinterested in the process, so as not to harm Mazen's credibility with his own people. (Combined sources)

Not all Palestinians are encouraged by Abu Mazen's new position. Ali Abunimah, writing for the Electronic Intifada, called Mazen and Dahlan as "The men who are selling Palestine." Abunimah repeats allegations of corruption against both men. Abu Mazen built himself a $1.5 million villa in the squalor of Gaza, and Dahlan has been accused of using his security forces to control the petroleum business in Gaza--as well as for repression and torture. Abunimah concludes that Mazen and Dahlan will be more likely to give in to Israeli and US demands at the expense of the Palestinian people. (EI, April 23) (David Bloom) [top]

On April 20, five Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed when the Israeli Defense Forces launched their biggest incursion into the Gaza Strip's Rafah refugee camp since the beginning of the Intifada, now in its 30th month. (FT, April 21) On April 24, one Ukrainian security guard was killed when a Palestinian militant blew himself up in the train station at Kfar Sava, Israel. The al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) jointly claimed responsibility. (Haaretz, April 24) [top]

With Israel's tourist industry experiencing a massive downturn as a result of the current Intifada, some enterprising Israelis are trying to make the best of a poor situation. The Shiloh Tour package will charge $5,500 to 22 young Americans and Canadians, some Jewish, to experience a week on the front lines in Israel's "War on Terror," including five days living in an illegal Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. "They'll get full value for their money," said Yehezkel Klein, head of tourism for the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. "From the moment they cross the 'Green Line' [separating Israel proper from the West Bank] and find themselves in hostile territory they will feel in real danger of their lives. They'll sweat from fear. We'll bring them as close as possible to the friction points with the Palestinians. We, of course, will provide them with maximum protection so that no one will be hurt."

The tourists will stay at an army bunker, eat military food, and receive weapons training by veterans of elite Israeli commando units. There will be night patrols along the fence of an Israeli settlement. "A night patrol with the knowledge that there is a chance of imminent battle is an experience they will never forget," the promoters promise. On the last day of the tour, participants will experience a "terrorist attack" by instructors firing blanks. (Washington Times, March 8)

Another tour, "The Ultimate Lawyer's Mission to Israel," is offered by Shurat Hadin, or Israel Law Center. Participants are promised to learn all about the "fascinating legal challenges involved in effectively conducting the war on terror." The tour is advertised in last week's Ha'aretz.

Among highlights in a nine-day tour the promoters call "a judicial, military, humanitarian, historical, religious, and political reality check," the tourists will be briefed by senior past and present commanders of the Shin Bet Security service and Mossad. There will be an "exhibition by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) undercover soldiers who carry out targeted assassinations of Palestinian terrorists and deep penetration raids in Arab territory." Participants will observe the "trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court." Discussion will be held with Palestinian collaborators, described as "Israel's Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence." The lawyer-tourists are also promised tours of "front line military positions, the border check-points and intelligence bases." Five-star accommodation is included, as are "water activities on Lake Kinneret," which presumably means water skiing. (David Bloom) [top]

New research in Israel sheds light on the hidden struggle for control of the contested East Jerusalem hill known to Jews as the Temple Mount--now site of the Dome of the Rock or al-Aksa Mosque, Islam's third holiest--and believed to be the ancient site of King Solomon's temple. A new book by Hila Volberstein on the late Yehuda Meir Getz, Israel's Rabbi of the Western Wall, reveals that he secretly acted on his plans to dig under the foundations of the Dome of the Rock in order to find the site where the artifacts of Solomon's temple were concealed--including the Ark of the Covenant. Getz and workers from the Religious Affairs Ministry cleared the excavation secretly during work officially aimed at uncovering the full length of the Western Wall.

A violent confrontation broke out in the tunnel in 1981, when it was discovered by members of the Waqf--the Muslim trust which has administered al-Aksa Mosque since Israeli forces took the Temple Mount in 1967. Yeshiva students led by Getz rushed to block the tunnel entrance to Waqf personnel. Prime Minister Menachem Begin subsequently ordered that the opening be resealed, and the affair was officially covered up. But Muslims saw the incident as a challenge to their control of the site.

Volberstein's book claims that Getz had a high-level partner in his plan to tunnel from the Western Wall eastward under the Temple Mount--Rafi Eitan, Mossad anti-terrorism chief to three prime ministers (Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres), who later gained fame as the man who recruited US Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard as a spy for Israel.

"As the excavation of the tunnels progressed," says Eitan in the book, "I met with Rabbi Getz almost daily. Together with him, I studied the structure of the Holy Temple and its dimensions. We drew conclusions as to the location of the Holy Temple and the Holy of Holies [interior of the Tabernacle of Moses, and resting place of the Ark of the Covenant]... But we waited for the right time to make the opening. We told no one about it because we preferred to keep the secret to ourselves, so that if--heaven forfend--it were discovered, the responsibility would not fall on the government or its leaders. That is why Begin, who knew about the excavations along the Western Wall, did not know about our plans to make the opening to the east."

Getz is described as among the first to settle in the Jewish Quarter after East Jerusalem was seized in the 1967 Six-Day War. Of his 11 children, most live in the occupied West Bank ("Judea and Samaria"). One son was killed in Samaria in the 1980s when his car was hit by a truck driven by an Arab. Another son was killed in the battle for the Old City in the Six-Day War.

Volberstein reveals extensive excerpts from Getz's diaries, just a small fraction of which had been made public before. Getz apparently believed that recovering the Temple artifacts would be a watershed for Jewish redemption--and a catalyst for the coming of the Messiah. He persisted in the project even after Lubavitcher Hasidic leader Rabbi Menachem Schneerson urged him to stop, warning that anyone who found the artifacts was placing his life in danger. 13th-century Spanish rabbi Nachmanides wrote that the Ark would be discovered "during the construction of the Temple or in future wars before the coming of the Messiah king."

( Nadav Shragai for Haaretz, April 27) [top]


Warlords still terrorize Afghanistan's civil population 18 months after US forces toppled the Taliban regime, Human Rights Watch protested April 22. "The international community has allowed warlords and local military commanders to take control of much of the country," HRW rep Loubna Freih told the UN Human Rights Commission, now ending its annual six-week session in Geneva. Kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, armed robbery, extortion and beatings at the hands of warlord armies remain widespread in much of Afghanistan. In other parts Freih said warlords maintain law and order "by creating a climate of fear, not unlike under the Taliban..." Political opponents, journalists and ordinary Afghans "are attacked and intimidated into silence," she said. Soldiers and police--despite being officially retrained by the US and brought under Kabul's command--"regularly abduct and rape women, girls and boys," Freih said.

Even the opening of schools and colleges for women--a widely hailed fruit of the Taliban's overthrow--is under threat. "Religious fundamentalism is on the rise, with new restrictions on freedom of expression and movement of women and girls. Gains in education are now at risk as many parents, afraid of attacks by troops and other gunmen, keep their daughters out of school," Freih said.

Human rights groups are calling for creation of a UN inquiry commission of into past rights abuses in Afghanistan. Freih said creation of such a commission is "crucial in establishing the rule of law." Without it, efforts to break a "cycle of impunity and the stranglehold of gunmen are unlikely to succeed," she said. But sources close to the Human Rights Commission say the US is opposed to any new resolution on Afghanistan this year. (Reuters, April 22)

See also WW3 REPORT #79 [top]

Two US troops were killed in a clash with some 20 gunmen near the Shkin base in Afghanistan's Paktika province April 25--just days ahead of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's scheduled arrival in Kabul, where he is to assure President Hamid Karzai that Washington remains committed to his country despite engagements in Iraq and elsewhere. (Reuters, April 27) On April 23, two Afghan government troops were killed in a battle with suspected Taliban guerillas in Zabul province. On April 21, two other Afghan troops were killed in a clash in neighboring Oruzgan province. Local authorities said three Taliban fighters were also killed. (NYT, April 25) Renewed violence in Afghanistan has indefinitely halted the transition to "Phase Four" of the US-led military campaign, in which the emphasis would switch from combat to reconstruction. Karzai accuses Pakistan of harboring fugitive Taliban leaders, and has demanded that they be turned over. (NYT, April 26)

Authorities seized four anti-aircraft missiles April 25 in a house in Nangarhar province, where suspected Islamic militants also killed three Afghan soldiers with a land mine days earlier. The missiles were discovered in a house in Dera Said Mian, 15 miles southeast of Jalalabad, said Afghan Gen. Said Agha Saqib. He said the raid was conducted on a tip-off, but no arrests were made. He said the missiles were US-made, but there were also reports they may have been Russian-made SAM-7 heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles. Authorities in Nangarhar also arrested 24 in the search for suspected militants who blew up a vehicle carrying Afghan troops from Jalalabad to Tora Bora, the mountain region heavily bombed by US forces in December 2001. Gen. Haji Musa, head of the 9th Afghan Army Brigade, said Taliban/al-Qaida remnant forces were behind the attack, but did not say whether those detained had any links with either group. (AP, April 25)

See also WW3 REPORT #81 [top]

The US military admitted it is holding juveniles at its high-security prison for war captives from Afghanistan at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, known as Camp X-Ray. The commander of the joint task force at Guantanamo, Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller, said more than one individual under the age of 16 is at the detention center. Miller revealed little about their numbers, ages, nationality or welfare, saying only that the US is holding "juvenile enemy combatants" at the center, and that they are being interrogated. About 660 prisoners are in the camp. ( Australian Broadcasting Company, April 22)

See also WW3 REPORT #66 [top]


On April 24, wire services across the world reported that during high-level US-North Korea talks in Beijing, North Korean delegate Li Gun told US assistant secretary of state James Kelly that his government already has nuclear weapons and is prepared to test or use them. Bush told NBC News that night that North Korea was "back to the old blackmail game," and pledged the US would not be intimidated. "This will give us an opportunity to say to the North Koreans and the world we're not going to be threatened." Although he did not say what actions would be taken, the New York Times speculated the following day that the US would go to the "Plan B" favored by administration hardliners--actually toppling the North Korean regime, preferably through stringent economic sanctions.

But the quote was never directly attributed to Li Gun--only to unnamed "senior officials" said to be present at the meeting. Previous sensational announcements attributed to the North Korean regime have been thrown into question by translation problems. The Financial Times reported April 21 that a North Korean delegate in Beijing "appeared to say" his government had started reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium. But the report added the following caveat: "Linguistics experts in Seoul said the original Korean statement implied that North Korea was on the brink of reprocessing but had not yet started."

Similar ambiguities still surround North Korea's alleged admission to Kelly last October that it had developed nuclear weapons. Although this claim was splashed in headlines across the world, it was later vigorously denied by the North Korean regime. See WW3 REPORT #68

The Pentagon has drawn up plans to bomb a North Korea nuclear plant if it reprocesses spent nuclear fuel rods, according to an April 22 report in The Australian newspaper. Citing "well-informed Canberra sources close to US thinking," The Australian's foreign editor Greg Sheridan said the US has drawn up a blueprint to bomb Yongbyon if the plant moved forward with reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods to make nuclear weapons. (Reuters, April 22)

See also WW3 REPORT #82 [top]

The Pentagon has acknowledged that the Bush administration intends to produce--not just research--a thermonuclear "bunker-buster" bomb to destroy hardened or deeply buried targets. The weapon, known as the "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator," would be thousands of times more powerful than the conventional "bunker busters" dropped on Baghdad in efforts to kill Saddam Hussein. Federal officials have announced a preliminary design contest between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration says preliminary work will be completed in 2005 or 2006. The design contest is expected to cost about $15 million per year. The winning lab will then shift to an engineering phase, a move that would require further congressional approval and funding.

Fred Celec, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear matters, said that if a hydrogen bomb can be determined more effective than conventional bunker-busters, "it will ultimately get fielded." But many observers say renewed interest in battlefield nuclear weapons comes primarily from civilian Pentagon officials such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Paul Wolfowitz, not uniformed generals and admirals. "I've talked to the military extensively, and I don't know anybody in the military who thinks they need a nuclear weapon to accomplish this," said US Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), whose district includes Livermore Labs. "If you can find somebody in a uniform in the Defense Department who can talk about a new need" for nuclear bunker busters "without laughing, I'll buy him a cup of coffee," added Robert Peurifoy, retired vice president of Sandia National Laboratory. Celec disagreed, saying nuclear bunker-busters "are being pushed by the Pentagon, and that is both military and civilian."

The US arsenal already contains a nuclear bunker buster--known as the B61-11--but Celec said "It will not survive rock." Celec wouldn't discuss potential targets for the new weapon, but seven countries--China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria--were reportedly mentioned in the classified Nuclear Posture Review, a 2001 Pentagon document outlining Bush administration policy. (Knight Ridder, April 24)

See also WW3 REPORT #s 72 & 41 [top]

The US has restarted production of plutonium parts for nuclear bombs at its Los Alamos National Laboratory for the first time in 14 years, the LA Times revealed April 23. The story, "After 'Decline,' US Again Capable of Making Nuclear Arms," called the move "an important symbolic and operational milestone in rebuilding the nation's nuclear weapons complex." Scientists at the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have started producing the plutonium "pits" that are at the core of nuclear weaponry. (Conventional explosives encase a hollow plutonium sphere, or pit, and trigger a chain reaction when detonated.) The Times quoted unnamed Energy Department officials as denying that they are actually producing new warheads--only ensuring the reliability of exiting ones.

But some independent nuclear scientists disputed this claim. Moscow Times reached Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear scientist who runs the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research in Tacoma, WA. Makhijani said: "There is absolutely no need in my opinion to do this. On the contrary, it is very dangerous." Makhijani added that the move may also violate the Nonproliferation Treaty that the US, Russia and other nuclear nations signed in 2000, in which they pledged to undertake an "irreversible reduction" of their nuclear arsenals. Under Article 2 of the treaty, signatories are forbidden from manufacturing or otherwise acquiring nuclear weapons. "I don't know whether it will re-ignite the arms race, but it is certainly in line with the U.S. strategy of continuing to use nuclear weapons as a central part of its military strategy," Makhijani said. (Moscow Times, April 24) [top]


Desperate to establish new pipeline routes as an alternative to the US-led trans-Caucasus route which would deliver Caspian Basin oil to international markets via Turkey, the Russian government has agreed for the first time to break the state monopoly on pipeline development and bring in foreign investment. At issue is a new pipeline linking Russian oil fields to the Arctic port of Murmansk, which officials hope will boost exports to the US. Said Energy Minister Igor Yusufov: "The government has for the first time made public its position that the state is not trying to fully own new pipelines, but it reserves the right to monitor and regulate that transport infrastructure." At present, all oil export infrastructure is controlled by the state pipeline monopoly Transneft. Russian private and semi-private firms Lukoil, Yukos, Sibneft and TNK want to ship 2 million barrels a day through Murmansk by 2007. Private investment is also being considered for two competing pipeline projects in Russia's far east. One, backed by Yukos, would go through China; the other, backed by Transneft, would terminate at Nakhodka on Russia's Pacific Coast, for export to Japan. (Financial Times, April 21)

See also WW3 REPORT #s 74, 33 & 13 & 47 [top]

When Donald Pettit touches down at in Kazakhstan this week after more than five months on the International Space Station, he'll be one of the first US astronauts to return to Earth in Russia's spacecraft, the Soyuz. (KATU-2 News, Portland, OR, April 24) The US has been dependent on the Soyuz craft to carry astronauts to the station since the Space Shuttle fleet was grounded after February's disaster. But Russia may ban US astronauts from Soyuz flights in protest of Washington's refusal to help pay for upkeep and expansion of the fleet. (BBC, April 25)

The Soyuz fleet has been subject to its own snafus--and possible sabotage by Chechen terrorists. See WW3 REPORT #57

Although it was forgotten in coverage of February's Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, there were early concerns that the flight was being targeted by terrorists because it included an Israeli astronaut. See WW3 REPORT #34

See also WW3 REPORT #72 [top]

Indian financiers of Enron's long-stalled Dabhol natural gas plant, 200 miles from Bombay, are in arbitration with foreign banks who fear the plant will never be completed. The banks want to call in their chips, and are demanding sale of the plant. The Anglo-French investment bank NM Rothschild has been called in to broker the sale. Enron won fast-track approval in the early 1990s for construction of the controversial project. Phase one, a $1 billion plant fueled by expensive naphtha, came on line in 1999. Phase two, a $1.9 billion plant fueled by the cheaper liquefied natural gas, was nearly complete when the payments crisis halted construction in 2001. (Financial Times, April 21)

See also WW3 REPORT #19 [top]


In a 19-page opinion issued April 17 and made public April 23, Attorney General John Ashcroft said undocumented immigrants can be held indefinitely without bond if their cases raise national security concerns. Ashcroft wrote that the attorney general has "broad discretion" in deciding "whether to release an alien on bond," reaffirming his authority despite the recent transfer of immigration enforcement to the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Department.

The opinion came in the case of asylum-seeker David Joseph, who arrived on a boat with some 200 other Haitians Oct. 29 at Miami's Biscayne Bay, climbing onto a busy causeway in a scene aired live on TV. On Nov. 6, an immigration judge ordered Joseph freed on $2,500 bond. On March 13 the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld that ruling, asserting that broad national interests are not appropriate considerations for a bond determination, "[a]bsent contrary direction from the Attorney General." Undersecretary for border and transportation security Asa Hutchinson--in charge of immigration matters under Homeland Security--then referred the BIA's decision to Ashcroft for review.

Ashcroft claimed that releasing the Haitians could trigger a wave of immigration by sea, threatening national security by overtaxing the Coast Guard, Border Patrol and other agencies now focused on preventing terror attacks. Ashcroft also said the government has detected an increase in Pakistanis and Palestinians "using Haiti as a staging point for attempted migration to the United States." That claim baffled the State Department's Consular Service. "We all are scratching our heads," said spokesperson Stuart Patt. "We are asking each other, 'Where did they get that?'"

Ashcroft also argued that the Haitians who arrived Oct. 29 must be detained because "the government's capacity to promptly undertake an exhaustive factual investigation concerning the individual status of hundreds of undocumented aliens is...strained to the limit." But the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR) is skeptical of the government's claims that it "cannot handle screening 200 Haitian men, women and children" when it "is at this very moment conducting security checks on many other non-citizens." In a statement criticizing the opinion, LCHR notes that Ashcroft does not address the cost and the diversion of funds involved in detaining the Haitians "at substantial government expense for months or years."

Cheryl Little, director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), said Ashcroft's "precedent-setting decision...could adversely affect persons of all nationalities granted bonds, not just Haitians." (AP, April 24; Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, April 24; LCHR statement, April 25; Miami Herald, April 25)

The opinion is online.

The US Attorney's Office in Miami has started criminally charging Haitian asylum seekers entering the country with false documents--a move advocates say violates the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. Miami US public defender Kathleen Williams said her office saw dozens of asylum seekers facing criminal charges in the past two months--all Haitians, as far as she was aware. (Sun-Sentinel, April 16)

(From Immigration News Briefs, April 25) [top]

New York City Palestinian activist Farouk Abdel-Muhti has now been held without charge by US immigration authorities for a full year--since April 26, 2002. He is currently imprisoned in the county jail in York, PA, a five-hour drive from his family and legal team. He wrote the following statement for a rally at the New York Federal Building marking the anniversary of his detention:

"I am writing this risallah [message] to all of you valiant and unselfish people from the bottom of my heart. I am inside this iron box 24 hours a day, with only 45 minutes to clean the cell and make phone calls. When I go to the clinic, it is with my hands and feet shackled, with two Task Force guards escorting me. Guards search my cell most days of the week, saying they are looking for weapons. I answered to one of them: 'My weapon is my mind.'

"From the time the US military forces violated the sovereignty of Iraq and massacred the Iraqi people, I have been subjected to psychological warfare, not by individuals but systematically. On the 10th of April for the first time I was taken to the INS office [in the prison]. One officer there told me: 'You are not in our list of INS detainees in York County Prison.' Which means that I was desaparecido [disappeared]...

"Today we discover the lies of the government, how it uses 'Homeland Security' with the purpose of intimidating the community in general and passing off this imperialist conspiracy in front of our eyes... The unity of all of us--leftists, human rights groups and other sectors of society that oppose injustice, racism and war--is important... Our valiant and unselfish attitude brings us together; language, culture, color, religion are not going to divide us, because all these sectors together are like stars lighting the dark sky, lighting together to save the country, to save the world... We don't need weapons of mass destruction; our duty is to build a campaign against a terror directed at humanity and the earth...

"I have been in solitary confinement in this box, #15, for 59 days as of today, April 25; and I have been in prison for one year. For sure [this is] a message from George W. Bush and John Ashcroft to the growing movement for peace and justice...

"I raise my voice to all of you. [Standing] shoulder to shoulder, [we will] not let them intimidate us. Justice for all! Throw Bush from the White House! The struggle continues! Until the victory! Al nasr lina! Victory is ours! La victoria es nuestra!"

Farouk Abdel-Muhti, York County Prison, April 25, 2003

For more on Farouk's case, see WW3 REPORT #74 [top]


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