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ISSUE: 94, January 2004










by Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom, Wynde Priddy, and Subuhi Jiwani, Special Correspondents

1. Who Really Captured Saddam?
2. Where is Saddam--and is it Really Him?
3. Did U.S. Rat Out 1993 Anti-Saddam Coup?
4. Saddam-9-11 Link--at Last?
5. Saddam Officials Being Hunted Down by CIA Death Squads?
6. Resistance Continues--Despite Saddam's Capture
7. What Really Happened in Samarra?
8. Israel Connection to Iraq Occupation
9. Palestinian Fighter Killed in Iraq
10. Halliburton War-Profiteering Scandal Hits Headlines
11. Corporate Colonization of Iraq: Illegal?
12. Chaos Stalls Transition to Home Rule
13. Most Powerful Shi'ite Faction Rejects Occupation
14. Anti-Kurd Protest Turns Violent in Kirkuk
15. Latin American Coalition Troops Under Fire
16. Sickest Spam Ever!

1. Israeli Anarchist Shot by IDF Sniper
2. Israeli Soldier Admits Deadly Shoot of British Activist
3. Israel to Double Golan Settlements
4. Israeli Incitement: Settler Children With Guns
5. Israel Paves Road to Illegal Kahane Outpost
6. Egypt's Foreign Minister Pelted With Shoes at Al-Aksa
7. IDF Encounters Animal Control Problems

1. Will Iran Earthquake Disaster Open Regime?
2. First Muslim Woman Nobel Laureate Blasts U.S.
3. Saudis Arrest 4,000 Along Yemen Border
4. Al-Qaeda Link in Persian Gulf Hashish Haul?

1. Women Excluded at Loya Jirga
2. U.S. Raids Kill More Children
3. Hekmatyar Releases New Jihad CD

1. Bhutan Moves Against Indian Separatists

1. New Years Eve Terror Blast in Aceh

1. U.S. Oil Companies Plan Return to Libya
2. Step Towards Peace in Sudan
3. Rights Group Protests Burundi Immunity
4. UN Cuts Food Aid to Zimbabwe
5. Angolan Youth Beaten to Death Over Rap Song
6. Pan-African Parliament Forseen

1. Colombian Rural Communities Break with Justice System
2. Colombian Death Squad Massacres 13
3. Medellin: "Disarmed" Death Squads Still Kill?
4. Labor, Indigenous Leaders Assassinated
5. Uribe's "Anti-Terror" Law Passes
6. Colombia Purges Para Protectors
7. Chopper Crew Charged in Arauca Atrocity
8. Colombia Praises Israeli Terror War
9. Ecuador: Amazon Oil Development Faces "Waterloo"
10. Peru: Oil Company to Pull Out of Amazon?
11. Peruvian Peasants: Limones Si, Minas No!
12. Peru Land-Titling Program to Combat Coca, Guerillas
13. Bolivia: Cocalero Leaders Arrested
14. Islamic Terror Attacks Foiled In Bolivia?
15. Argentina: Bomb Blast at Uprising Commemoration
16. Brazil: Killings of Landless on the Rise

1. Acteal: Six Years Later
2. Border Violence in Chiapas
3. Students Disappear in Chiapas
4. Zapatista Prisoner Released in Queretaro
5. Oaxaca Indians Reject Vote on Puebla-Panama Plan
6. First Victim in Dirty War Probe
7. U.N. Report on Mexico Rights Abuses
8. Mexico Takes U.S. to Hague

1. Guatemala's President Elect Pledges to Try Ex-Dictator
2. El Salvador: Students, Workers Protest CAFTA
3. CAFTA in Trouble?
4. Honduras: Rights Activists Attacked
5. Students Clash With Police in Nicaragua
6. Panama: Police Block March Protesting U.S. Invasion

1. Israeli-Palestinian Antarctic Expedition for Peace
2. Raytheon Blacklists Anti-War Staff at Antarctic Station

1. Congress Passes "Mini-Nuke" Appropriations
2. Iraq War = Space War
3. Russia Deploys New Strategic Missiles
4. Nuclear Fears Over Pakistan Unrest

1. Palestinian Detainee Transfered After Beating
2. New Report Confirms MDC Abuses
3. Neo-Nazis Behind Holocaust Museum Fire?
4. Gen. Franks Forsees End of American Democracy

1. Prince of Darkness Perle and the Boeing Connection
2. Iraq Debt Pointman Baker: Bush Dynasty Oligarch
3. Dean Denies Recognition to Vermont's Abenaki Indians

1. Appellate Courts Buck Bush


According to a Dec. 21 report in Britain's Sunday Express, Saddam Hussein fell into the hands of US troops only after he was taken prisoner by Kurdish militia fighters, drugged and left for the US. Saddam was apprehended by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) after being betrayed to the group by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, reported the UK Sunday Express, quoting an anonymous senior British military intelligence officer. The report said the full story of events leading up to the ousted dictator's Dec. 13 capture near his hometown of Tikrit "exposes the version peddled by American spin doctors as incomplete." A former Iraqi intelligence officer, also speaking anonymously, told the paper that Saddam was held by the PUK until the local militia leader negotiated a deal with US occupation forces granting the Kurdish group a greater share of power in Iraq's new order. An anonymous Western intelligence source in the Middle East told the Express: "Saddam was not captured as a result of any American or British intelligence. We knew that someone would eventually take their revenge, it was just a matter of time."

A Dec. 20 account in Australia's newspaper The Age notes that US forces took Saddam into custody about 8.30 PM local time on the 13th, but sat on the news until 3 PM the next day. Early the following day, a Kurdish-language wire service reported explicitly: "Saddam Hussein was captured by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. A special intelligence unit led by Qusrat Rasul Ali, a high-ranking member of the PUK, found Saddam Hussein in the city of Tikrit, his birthplace. Qusrat's team was accompanied by a group of US soldiers. Details of the capture will emerge but the global Kurdish party is about to begin."

As reports of the arrest built, Western media in Baghdad relied almost exclusively on accounts from US military and intelligence sources--beginnng with the words of US occupation administrator Paul Bremer: "Ladies and gentlemen, we got 'im."

A report from the PUK's northern stronghold, Suliymaniah, claimed a vital intelligence breakthrough after a telephone conversation between Qusrat Rasul Ali and Saddam's second wife, Samira, which had prompted the Kurds to move militia units to where Saddam was hiding. The report, from the Egyptian MENA news agency, as monitored by the BBC, said the US had insisted that it be a US arrest, citing fears that such a coup for the Kurds could provoke an Arab-Kurd civil war.

A Kurdish member of the Iraq Governing Council, Mahmud Othman, also suggested a critical role for Kurds in the arrest. He said on Dec. 14: "Before 4 AM [over 12 hours ahead of the US announcement] today, Qusrat Rasul Ali called me to inform me that his men, with the Americans, had managed to capture Saddam Hussein."

( AFP, Dec. 20; The Age, Dec. 22) [top]

Mainstream press accounts in the US have portrayed the capture of Saddam as a coup against the guerillas harassing US occupation forces. Among the documents found in Saddam's briefcase when he was captured was a list of names of Iraqis who have been working with the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority--and feeding information to the anti-occupation resistance, an unnamed US official told ABC News Dec. 18. "We were badly infiltrated," said the official, but said finding the list of names is a "gold mine."

The Scotsman reported Dec. 18 that US interrogators have been showing Saddam video recordings of mass graves, torture and executions in a bid to break his spirit--but that he remained poker-faced. The paper acknowledged that Saddam's whereabouts are unknown, and quoted a member of Iraq's Governing Council who denied rumors that he was being held in Qatar. Council member Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told the Scotsman: "There is no proof or confirmed information on this. Saddam is still in Iraq... God willing, he will be tried in Iraq, in public by an Iraqi court."

Meanwhile, the foreign press reports that many Iraqis are skeptical that the US is really holding the ousted dictator. "It's not him," Baghdad resident Jassim Abu Ahmed was quoted in a Dec. 18 report in the Toronto Globe and Mail. He reacted disgustedly to TV footage of the caputre: "Everybody knows it's not him. Why do they keep showing this?"

Wrote the Globe and Mail: "And after watching television news reports during the war that talked of Iraqi military victories--even as US troops were entering Baghdad--many now believe they're still being fed lies. A fuel tanker that exploded in Baghdad Wednesday, killing 10, was first reported as another suicide bombing--then downgraded by US military officials to a mere accident, further adding to the disbelief surrounding Mr. Hussein's arrest."

Some even see Council member Mowaffaq al-Rubaie's televised statement that Saddam is "still in greater Baghdad" as a part of the cover-up. Al-Rubaie is said to be among the few who have seen the ex-dictator since his arrest.

Others find it strange that Saddam's hair is black in the capture video footage, but his beard is white. "Everyone knows that Saddam dyes his hair, but after eight months hiding in a hole, it's still black?" one Baghdad taxi driver told the Globe and Mail. "Tell me how this is possible. When they captured [former information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf] after a few weeks, his hair was already white."

The paper reported the widespread theory that the ex-dictator's two sons (officially killed in a July raid) are also alive, and that the whole family has struck a deal with US President George Bush to live abroad in secret exile. "It is someone wearing a Saddam mask," 25-year-old tire repairman Waleed Ibrahim told the AP in Fallujah. "It is a trick to help President Bush get re-elected."

Occupation authorities have already launched a propaganda campaign against the rumors. The Globe and Mail reported that US armored vehicles rolled down Fallujah 's main street, blaring from a loudspeaker in Arabic: "The coalition forces have arrested Saddam Hussein. Reports that it is a Saddam double are false. The old regime will never come back. This is the end of the Baath Party." [top]

The daughter of a prominent Iraqi opposition leader who was assassinated in Beirut by Saddam Hussein's secret service in 1994 says she plans to sue the ousted dictator before international courts--but charges that the US was a virtual accomplice in her father's murder. Nora al Tamimi, daughter of slain Iraqi dissident Taleb al Suhail al Tamimi, said from Beirut in a Dec. 20 interview that her father had planned a coup d'etat to overthrow Saddam in 1993, operating from Beirut and Amman.

"Zero hour was set for a certain June day in 1993 to stage the coup when Saddam would have been sponsoring an official event in Baghdad," Nora told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. "But the Americans, who did not want the coup to succeed possibly because they were certain my father would not go along with their polices, tipped off Saddam about the impending putsch by my father and gave the names of his top aides. All of them died in Saddam's torture chambers."

Sheik Taleb Al Tamimi, who led a million-member central Iraqi tribe, the Bani Tamim, was shot dead April 12, 1994 at his apartment in Beirut--an assassination officially blamed by the Lebanese authorities on four Iraqi diplomats, who were detained and then released on immunity grounds. Saddam severed diplomatic ties with Beirut in response to the detention of the four.

Nora said her sister Saffia, 38, a human rights activist, has returned to Iraq to make arrangements to recover the family's bank accounts and property, confiscated by the Baath regime in 1968, when her father fled the country. She said the family would return to Iraq soon with the remains of her father for reburial. (Al-Bawaba, Dec. 20) [top]

Iraq's US-backed coalition government claims it has uncovered proof that Mohammed Atta, purported mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist. Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before the attacks, are contained in a top-secret memo allegedly written to Saddam Hussein by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, former head of the Iraqi intelligence service. The handwritten memo, a copy of which was obtained by the UK Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work program" Atta underwent at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad. In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy."

The second part of the memo, headed "Niger Shipment," contains a report about an unspecified shipment--believed to be uranium--that it says was transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria. Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, but Dr. Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, insisted it was genuine. (UK Telegraph, Dec. 14)

However, the New York Times reported Dec. 13 that Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, the former Iraqi intelligence officer in US custody since July, denied under questioning that he met with Mohamed Atta in Prague, as has long been suspected.

The allegations about the Niger uranium shipment, which made their way into Bush's January 2003 state of the union address, are at the center of a growing Washington scandal. Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from a criminal investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity, with Chicago US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald taking the case. The operative, Valerie Plame, was exposed by conservative columnist Robert Novak days after her husband, ex-Ambassador Joseph Wilson, published a New York Times op-ed piece casting doubt on the Niger allegation, based on his own fact-finding trip to Africa. Exposing a CIA operative can be a felony. (NYT, Dec. 31)

For more on Saddam's links to Abu Nidal, see WW3 REPORT #s:

66, 48 [top]

The UK Independent's Robert Fisk reported from Baghdad Dec. 28 that former Saddam officials are being hunted down and killed throughout Iraq. In the Shia city of Najaf, 42 ex-members of the Baath Party have been killed since the fall of Saddam, many in drive-by motorcycle hits, and not a single arrest has followed. In UK-occupied Basra, nearly 50 Baathists have been found with their hands bound behind their backs and a single bullet hole in the neck--again, with no arrests. Hussam Thafer, a doctor at the Baghdad city mortuary, told Fisk that every day he receives "five or six" bodies of people who worked for the old regime. Many of the killings are believed to be personal revenge, or the work of Shiite organizations. But some evidence points elsewhere.

Major-Gen. Khalaf al-Alousi, a former director of the secret police in Baghdad, was assassinated in December in Yarmouk. His wife, Um Ali, described how two men in black hoods were waiting for them at the family's house in that town. "I shouted and begged them not to do it, for the sake of his daughters," she said. The gunmen fired 17 bullets into their victim. The guard at the house, Wisam Eidan, had earlier found the men in the yard, according to Fisk. He was quoted as saying: "One of them showed me an ID written in English with his picture, and he told me, 'don't argue with the CIA and keep your mouth shut.'" Nonetheless, al-Alousi's family actually suspects Iranian agents were behind the hit, Fisk writes.

In a Dec. 17 story for the Independent, Fisk reported on the appearance of hooded and masked gunmen, apparently working with the US, on road checkpoints north of Baghdad. They wear militia uniforms and claim they are part of the new US-backed Iraqi Civil Defence Corps, but have neither badges nor unit markings. The same hooded men are also now appearing on the streets of Baghdad, Fisk says. [top]

US officials boasted that attacks were down in Tikrit following Saddam's capture. The Washington Post reports that a committee of Sunni spiritual leaders from central Iraq has come together to urge Iraq's Sunnis to abandon the insurgency. (WP, Dec. 29) Meanwhile, hundreds of people have been rounded up by US forces in Sunni-dominated central Iraq in operations with names like "Iron Grip" and "Rifles Fury." Many were detained on information allegedly obtained from documents found with Saddam. The LA Times reports that children are even being taught to resist the occupiers in the region's schools. (LAT, Dec. 31)

Samarra, the scene of a conested Nov. 30 incident in which some 46 were killed (see related story, below), continues to be the scene of unrest and resistance. 11 Iraqis were killed in anti-US protests in Samarra Dec. 15, with some confusion as to whether they were unarmed protesters or armed insugrents as the US claimed. Another five were killed in anti-US protests in Fallujah, with the same confusion, according to a report by Robert Fisk. (UK Indpendent, Dec. 17)

US occupation administrator Paul Bremer himself said he narrowly escaped a guerilla ambush on a convoy he was riding in near Baghdad Dec. 19. US military commander in Iraq John Abizaid said he was calling for increasing troop stregnth in the country in the wake of the attack. (Reuters, Dec. 19)

Guerrillas sent over a dozen rockets and mortar rounds slamming into Baghdad on Christmas Day, hitting hotels, the Turkish and Iranian embassies, and the vicinity of the US-led occupation authority. Mortar fire also hit the US military camp at Baquba, wounding eight soldiers. (Reuters, Dec. 25)

During Christmas week, 10 US soldiers were killed in incidents across Iraq. On Dec. 27, three massive, near-simultaneous bomb blasts at coalition bases and the governor's office injured over 170 in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. Six coalition soldiers--four Bulgarians and two Thais--as well as six Iraqi police, and an Iraqi bystander were killed. That same day, a roadside explosion killed a US soldier and two Iraqi children in Baghdad. (CSM, Dec. 29) A probable suicide bomb exploded in a crowded Baghdad restaurant New Years Eve, killing at least four. (Reuters, Dec. 31)

The UK Independent reported Dec. 7 how local resentment is growing over the barbed-wire that separates ordinary Baghdad residents from the "Green Zone," the four square-mile fortified enclave that houses several thousand diplomats, consultants, contractors and foreign troops. The Zone, in the heart of Baghdad, includes Saddam Hussein's presidential palace, now occupied by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The UK Guardian noted Dec. 30 that twice as many US soldiers have been killed or wounded in action in the past four months as in the previous four. Between September 1 and Dec. 29, 215 were killed, compared with 65 in the four months from May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major operations. Figures on the Pentagon website for US personnel wounded are also telling: 1,380 in the past four months, compared with 574 in the four months to September 1.

The Washington Post reported Dec. 29 that thousands of US troops who were due to return to civilian life in the weeks to come are now unexpecteldy forbidden to leave military service under the Army's new "stop-loss" orders, intended to curtail troop shortages.

Morale is also less than ideal among the US troops. The Pentagon has acknowledged 14 suicides among the 120,000 troops in Iraq since Baghdad fell April 9. (NYT, Dec. 26) As of Dec. 29, 476 US troops are reported to have died in Iraq since the start of the war. (NYT, Dec. 29) Over 2,300 have been wounded. (NYT, Dec. 30)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

The facts are still contested concerning a Nov. 30 firefight in the Shiite holy city of Samarra which reportedly left 46 guerillas dead. The New York-based trade journal Editor & Publisher noted in an on-line report Dec. 2 that numerous newspapers were forced to backpedal after front-page accounts of the high death toll.

Neither the New York Times, New York Post, Boston Globe, Washington Post, USA Today or Knight Ridder included any civilian witnesses or Iraqi hospital accounts in their initial reports on the incident. Many reported the death tally and battlefield account without noting this was "according to military officials." The Times topped its front page with the headline: "46 Iraqis Die in Fierce Fight Between Rebels and GIs." But by Dec. 2, nearly every major paper was forced to report that the death toll--and much of the original account of the "battle"--was in dispute. The New York Times said that "while American commanders said the Iraqi body count had come from precise reports filed immediately after a close-range battle, hospital officials said Monday that they could account for, at most, eight dead, with most of those probably civilians." The Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times published similar follow-ups reporting the disputed death count and claims of indiscriminate firing on civilians. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted an emergency room worker at Samarra General Hospital: "All the people in town today are asking for revenge. They want to kill the Americans like they killed our civilians. Give me a gun, and I will also fight."

Editor & Publisher noted similar backpedaling following reports on the Nov. 23 deaths of two US soldiers in Iraq, which stated that the victims' throats were cut. Several newspapers based their coverage on an initial AP report emphasizing the reported brutality in the incident. US military officials later said there was no evidence that the bodies had been mutilated, and a Coalition spokesman blamed the AP for spreading the disputed report. AP issued a statement to Editor & Publisher saying a correction had been sent to subscribers later on Nov. 23 calling the initial reports mistaken, but not all the news organizations had used it.

Vietnam war hero and military affairs columnist Col. David Hackworth (ret.), who has described US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as "an arrogant asshole" for his conduct of the Iraq campaign, also raised questions about contradictory press reports of the Samarra incident on his websites, and Hackworth reported that he received an e-mail from a 4th Infantry Division "combat leader" involved in the Samarra incident which disputed the official US account: "Hack, most of the casualties were civilians, not insurgents or criminals as being reported... We are probably turning many Iraqi against us and I am afraid instead of climbing out of the hole, we are digging ourselves in deeper."

Hackworth told the UK Independent Dec. 5: "I have known this soldier for eight years, since he first came into the US Army and I have watched him develop and have full confidence in the validity of his report." He also warned that the Pentagon has a history of inflating body counts for propaganda purposes. "It's the nature of the beast," he said. "You try and paint the greatest face on it. It happens in every war... in Vietnam it became an art form."

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

The New York Times reported Dec. 7 that US forces are demolishing buildings believed to be used by insurgents, and even cutting off entire villages behind barbed wire. Wrote the Times: "In Abu Hishma, encased in a razor-wire fence after repeated attacks on American troops, Iraqi civilians line up to go in and out, filing through an American-guarded checkpoint, each carrying an identification card printed in English only." The Times noted that such methods are redolent of Israeli tactics in the Occupied Territories.

A Dec. 11 Reuters report shed more light on the actual Israeli role in shaping US tactics in Iraq. The commander of the Israel Defense Forces' elite Golani Brigade briefed US Marines in mid-June, and the Israelis have supplied the US military with aerial surveillance equipment, decoy drones and D-9 armored bulldozers, according to "sources close to the Israeli government." Anonymous congressional aides and analysts told Reuters US-Israeli military contacts have expanded from intelligence sharing to direct consultations. Brig. Gen. Michael Vane, a senior officer in the US Army's Doctrine and Training Command, said in a July letter to Army magazine that US officers had gone to Israel to discuss urban combat and intelligence.

A senior official in the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently met with Israeli Defense Ministry Director General Amos Yaron and toured several high-tech Israeli defense firms. US Navy F-15E Strike Eagles and AV-8B Harrier jets are equipped with Israeli-made "pods" that provide real-time images of the battlefield in Iraq. Reuters also cited a report in The New Yorker magazine (by Seymour Hersh, Dec. 15) that Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working with their US counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, NC.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Reuters "that they were not personally aware of any consultations between the US and Israeli militaries aimed at adopting Israeli tactics for counter-insurgency in Iraq." Neither the White House nor the Israeli Embassy will openly talk about Israel's Iraq role. Israel was left off the White House's list of coalition partners, and was officially denied eligibility for post-war reconstruction contracts--along with France, Russia and Germany. The White House justified denying eligibility to these countries as a national security concern, but said they would be eligible to work as subcontractors. A senior congressional aide admitted that acknowledging Israel's role would be like "pouring gas on the fire."

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz Dec. 4 claimed a key Israeli role in the strategic justifications for the war drive, citing a new report by an Israeli intelligence think-tank. Demands in the US and UK for investigations into the apparently fudged intelligence on Saddam's supposed weapons of mass destruction "forgets there was a third senior partner to the assessment [that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deliver them]--and that third partner was Israel," according to the report from Israel's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, written by Brig. Gen. (res.) Shlomo Brum, former deputy commander of the Israeli Defense Forces Planning Branch. "Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by US and British intelligence about Iraq's non-conventional capabilities... [and] the failures in the war in Iraq point to inherent failures and weaknesses of Israeli intelligence and decision makers. Similar failures could take place in the future if the issue is not fully researched, and the proper conclusions reached."

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

A Palestinian who went to Iraq to fight the US occupation forces was killed in action, his father told the AP. Hassan Jamal Suleiman, 18, was the second Palestinian guerrilla from Lebanon's refugee camps to die in combat in Iraq. The first was Ibrahim Khalil, who was killed shortly after the US-led coalition invaded Iraq in March. Suleiman's father, Jamal, has received condolences from various Palestinian factions at the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon. He refused to say how his son was killed, but Palestinian officials in Ein el-Hilweh said Suleiman died in a Dec. 11 suicide attack against a US military base west of Baghdad. His body will not return to Lebanon because it was apparently blown to pieces in the attack. Suleiman belonged to the militant Palestinian group, Ansar Allah, or Partisans of God. (AP, Dec. 21) [top]

Halliburton, the engineering giant formerly run by US Vice President Dick Cheney, is at the center of a growing controversy surrounding its lucrative contracts in Iraq--especially on rebuilding the oil sector. The firm has been given $1 billion worth of work in Iraq by the US government without having to bid, thanks to repeated delays in opening the key oil-reconstruction contract to competition. (UK Observer, Dec. 7)

A Pentagon audit of Halliburton found the company may have overbilled the US by over $120 million on the Iraq contracts. Pentagon officials said Halliburton's Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) unit, which has denied wrongdoing, may have been overcharged by a Kuwaiti sub-contractor by $61 million for fuel brought into Iraq under the oil-reconstruction deal signed in March with the US Army Corps of Engineers. One official said KBR may have been paying the Kuwaiti company up to $2.20 per gallon for unleaded gasoline, compared with $1.18 in other contracts. (Reuters, Dec. 12) The Pentagon also repeatedly warned KBR that the food it served to US troops in Iraq was "dirty," and sanitary conditions in its mess kitchens it was poor. (AFP, Dec. 13) Halliburton announced Dec. 16 that several of its subsidiaries, including KBR, had filed for bankruptcy protection pending resolution to the company's asbestos liabilities. The company deined that charges of favoritism in the Iraq contracts had affected performance. (FT, Dec. 17) A Pentagon report also found "horrible" work in Bechtel's school repairs in Iraq: dangerous debris left in playground areas, sloppy paint jobs and broken toilets. (NYT, Dec. 16)

With the new year, the Pentagon announced its Defense Energy Support Center was taking direct control over rebuilding Iraq's oil sector, and would take bids on new contracts. The Pentagon denied the move to yank the Halliburton contract was related to the allegations against KBR, and said KBR personnel would remain on the job until a new contractor was found. (Reuters, Jan. 1)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

The questions raised by the Halliburton scandal go deeper than mere war profiteering. Naomi Klein, in a Nov. 7 opinion piece in the UK Guardian, writes that the free hand being given US corporations in Iraq is illegal under the international laws of war:

"Any movement serious about Iraqi self-determination must call not only for an end to Iraq's military occupation, but to its economic colonization as well. That means reversing the shock therapy reforms that US occupation chief Paul Bremer has fraudulently passed off as 'reconstruction,' and canceling all privatization contracts that are flowing from these reforms... Bremer's reforms were illegal to begin with. They clearly violate the international convention governing the behavior of occupying forces, the Hague regulations of 1907 (the companion to the 1949 Geneva conventions, both ratified by the US), as well as the US army's own code of war."

The Hague regulations state that an occupying power must respect "unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country." Iraq's constitution outlaws the privatization of key state assets, and bars foreigners from owning Iraqi firms. On September 19, Bremer enacted Order 39, which mandated that 200 Iraqi state companies would be privatized; decreed that foreign firms can retain 100% ownership of Iraqi banks, mines and factories; and allowed these firms to move 100% of their profits out of Iraq. The Economist called the new rules a "capitalist dream."

The Hague convention states that occupying powers "shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile state, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct." Even the US army's Law of Land Warfare states that "the occupant does not have the right of sale or unqualified use of [non-military] property." And t he UN resolution passed in May recognizing the US-led occupation of Iraq specifically required the occupying powers to "comply fully with their obligations under international law including in particular the Geneva conventions of 1949 and the Hague regulations of 1907." Juliet Blanch, global head of international arbitration for the international law firm Norton Rose, says that because Bremer's reforms contravene Iraq's constitution, they are "in breach of international law and are likely not enforceable." Blanch argues that the CPA "has no authority or ability to sign those [privatization] contracts", and that a sovereign Iraqi government would have "quite a serious argument for renationalization without paying compensation."

Concludes Klein: "So far, most of the controversy surrounding Iraq's reconstruction has focused on the waste and corruption in the awarding of contracts. This badly misses the scope of the violation: even if the sell-off of Iraq were conducted with full transparency and open bidding, it would still be illegal for the simple reason that Iraq is not America's to sell.... It's not too late to cancel the contracts and ditch the deals."

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

The Washington Post reported Dec. 27 that the US is backing away from plans to radically overhaul Iraq's economy, as well as demands that a new constitution be drawn up before the US pulls out. The Post cited the threat of unrest and Bush's desire to bring most troops home by summer. "The Americans are coming to understand that they cannot change everything they want to change in Iraq," said Adel Abdel-Mehdi, a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite party that is cooperating with the occupation. "They need to let the Iraqi people decide the big issues." Reuters reported Dec. 5 that continued petrol and power shortages are eroding confidence in the occupation authorities. The UK Guardian reported Dec. 12 that nearly half the newly recruited Iraqi army has quit in a dispute over poor pay. At least 300 troops from the 700-strong 1st Battalion of the New Iraqi Army walked out less than two months after completing training. The old army was dissolved by Paul Bremer's order in May, raising protests from the 400,000 soldiers put out of work. The troops were encouraged to apply for the new army, although senior officers were banned. Training was conducted by a private US military contractor, Vinnell Corp. So far only the first battalion has completed the eight-week training course and is now working alongside the US Army's 4th Infantry Division, responsible for the troubled Tikrit area north of Baghdad. [top]

The US has managed to woo significant Shi'ite factions into Iraq's Governing Council, but the group considered to have the most power among Shi'ites on the ground refuses to cooperate--while officially holding back from armed resistance for now, it militantly opposes the occupation. The Sadr Movement was built by Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, assassinated by Saddam's agents in 1999. Himself a cousin of Shi'ite dissident Muhammed Baqir al-Sadr, executed in 1980, Muhammad Sadiq was repeatedly imprisoned by the regime, and took a hard line against both Saddam and the US. After his death, his son Muqtada al-Sadr assumed leadership of the movement. Sadr movement leaders and militia filled the power vacuum after the fall of Saddam in the Baghdad Shi'ite district known as Saddam City-- since renamed Sadr City. The Sadr Movement still has effective control of the district, and areas of strong support in other Shi'ite enclaves.

The Sadr Movement's ultra-conservative cultural line reflects that of the ruling ayatollahs in Iran, but the movement also has an Iraqi nationalist streak that sets it against pro-Iran factions. Chief among these is the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), whose leader Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim was killed in a car bomb attack on the Shrine of Ali in Najaf on August 29, 2003. SCIRI's 10,000-strong Badr militia battled Sadr militias for control of East Baghdad after the fall of Saddam, according to some press reports. Internecine Shi'ite fighting reportedly took place under cover of resisitng Ba'athists and jihadis. SCIRI agreed to join the Governing Council after Jay Gardner was replaced by Paul Bremer as civilian leader of the occupation.

More firmly in the US camp are the followers of Abdel Majid al-Khoei, who was beaten to death by a mob in Najaf April 10, apparently having just received $13 million from the CIA. The incident was sparked by a contest between Sadr and al-Khoei followers for control of Shrine of Ali--and a stockpile of arms abandoned there by Saddam's Fedayeen militia. Karbala has also seen strife over access to the shrine of Imam Hussein between Sadr adherents and followers of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani--who comes closest to beng official leader of Iraq's Shi'ites, but who is rejected by the Sadr Movement for being too soft on both the US and Iran.

On April 18, the Sadr Movement lead the 20,000-strong Baghdad protest against the occupation, with a coordinated simultaneous protest in Karbala--just a day before the historic Shi'ite pilgrimage to Karbala, which had been banned for 20 years by Saddam. The Sadr Movement was also allegedly involved in July riots against US Marine patrols in Karbala, which left one dead and nine wounded when Marines reportedly responded to gunfire from the crowd. Writes one scholar: "It seems clear that the future of Iraq is intimately wrought up with the fortunes of the Sadr Movement." ("The United States and Shi'ite Religious Factions in Post-Ba'thist Iraq" by Prof. Juan Cole, University of Michigan, in the Autumn 2003 Middle East Journal)

The president of Iraq's Governing Council for the month of December under the rotating system was Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who strongly objects to a key part of a US plan to give sovereignty to Iraqis by July 1. Al-Hakim demands that a transitional legislature set to be formed by the end of May should be directly elected by popular vote rather than selected from regional caucuses. "The assembly will be elected by the Iraqi people. This is what we are trying to achieve and that's what, God willing, will happen," said al-Hakim, wearing the black turban signifying his claim of descent from the Prophet Mohammad. (Newsday, Dec. 4) Abdel Aziz al-Hakim is former commander of the Badr Brigades, and surviving brother of the late SCIRI leader Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim.

(See WW3 REPORT #83)

A woman was killed and up to seven people wounded when SCIRI's Baghdad office was devastated in a bomb attack Dec. 19. SCIRI officials blamed the attack on Saddam-loyalist guerillas (Reuters, Dec. 19)

Shi'ite clergy are taking a growing role in leadership of post-Saddam Iraq, and much of their rhetoric attempts to balance demands for an "Islamic state" with a committment to some kind of pluralism. "In my view, an Islamic state can be set up in Iraq, but it will be an Islamic state of the Iraqi variety," said Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Taqi al-Modaresi, a senior cleric from Karbala. "It will be an Islamic state that's open toward other civilizations." (AP, Dec. 4)

Thousands marched through Najaf Dec. 28 to mourn the 1999 death of Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, founder of the Sadr Movement. His son and current movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr reportedly stayed away for security reasons. (Knight-Ridder, Dec. 28) Hundreds also marched in Baghdad Dec. 9 to protest the death of Shi'ite leader Sheikh Abdul Razzak al-Lami, who ran a mosque in Sadr City and was crushed under a US tank in an apparent traffic accident. Local Shi'ite leaders said they would demand the soldier responsible be put on tral. (Middle East On-Line, Dec. 9)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Three were killed and dozens wounded when Kurdish gunmen opened fire on a demonstration by Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk Dec. 31. Some 2,000 Turkmen and Sunni Arabs were protesting a push by the city's Kurdish majority to incorporate the oil-rich center into an autonomous Kurdish province. Protesters reportedly chanted " Kirkuk is an Iraqi city," "No to federalism," and "We want the Kurds to leave Kirkuk." One of the wounded, Ali Hussein Mohammed, 19, said from his hospital bed that Kurdish militia troops opened fire on protesters after they shouted: "There is no God but Allah. Kurdistan is the enemy of Allah." Kirkuk is officially ruled by a council representing all of the city's communities, with a Kurdish mayor and Arab deputy. But Kurdish militias appear to have a presence in the city. Local police colonel Salem Taleb Tahar told AFP: "These demonstrators seem to have provoked armed men from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK], whose office is beside the government offices, and who did not hesitate to open fire." PUK official Jalal Jawhar said: "After the demonstration a group of demonstrators marched on our party office. Clashes broke out between them and peshmerga who opened fire, firing in the air and in the direction of the protesters." Representatives of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, backing the Turkmen Shiites, were also reprotedly present at the rally, which US forces monitored briefly before withdrawing.

A week earlier, thousands of Kurds took to the streets of Kirkuk to lay claim to the city for the Kurdish autonomous zone. Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani are pushing the Governing Council to embrace their vision of a federalist state before the scheduled March 1 approval of a Basic Law to govern Iraq during the transition period through 2005. Draft legislation they have submitted would grant Kurds near-total autonomy in the three northern provinces of Arbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah, as well as Tamim province around Kirkuk, and parts of Nineveh and Diyala provinces. (AFP, Dec. 31)

See also WW3 REPORT #92 [top]

Early on Dec. 10, presumed Iraqi resistance forces used mortars to attack a Salvadoran camp at the Baker base in al-Najaf in central Iraq. There were no injuries among the 360 Salvadoran soldiers at the camp, who have been based there since last August. The base is also shared with troops from Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Spain, part of the Plus Ultra Battalion headed by the Spanish military. It was the second such attack in a week; on Dec. 3 mortar fire hit the Honduran camp at the base, causing damages but no injuries. Honduran president Ricardo Maduro said "the Honduran armed forces are acquiring an invaluable and irreplaceable experience." (Combined wire sources)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 14, 7

US Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega said Dec. 10 that the Dominican troops would stay in Iraq until August--a claim that contradicted Dominican assertions that troops would be home by February. Noriega's statement could cause problems for President Hipolito Mejia, who is already suffering in opinion polls as he tries for re-election in May. (AP, Dec. 12)

See also WW3 REPORT #92 [top]

Received, verbatim:

"The Private Videos of UDAY HUSSEIN! The Girls! The Parties! The Beatings! America's Hottest Selling Video!!!!!!!"

( [top]


On Dec. 26, an Israeli Defense Forces soldier shot and wounded a 22-year old Israeli kibbutznik at a non-violent protest against the "apartheid wall" in the occupied West Bank. Gil Na'amati, recently demobilized from the Israeli army, participated in the protest with Palestinian activists, foreign volunteers, and an Israeli group called "Anarchists Against the Wall." A US national with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) was slightly injured by shrapnel.

The incident occurred at Mas'ha, where Palestinian farmers cannot reach their own lands because Israel's security barrier is being constructed there, some four kilometers from the Green Line. Approximately 50 Israelis, 20 internationals and 200 Palestinians took part in the action, which included approaching, shaking, and attempting to cut open a locked gate in the fence. Four soldiers from the elite Golani Brigade, stationed nearby, were on the other side. The protestors chanted slogans and held up signs in Hebrew, so they would be identified as Israeli to the soldiers. "Who we were was clear," said Israeli activist Yonathan Pollack. Nevertheless, a sniper with the Golani unit took aim at Na'amati, who was wearing a mask, and shot him three times in the legs. Na'amati, bleeding profusely, reached an Israeli hospital after delays caused by the soldiers. No crowd control measures such as tear gas or less lethal rubber bullets were used. "This gives the public an indication of what is happening during other shootings," said Knesset member (MK) Zehava Galon of the liberal Meretz party. "When it is a Palestinian it is permissible to shoot to kill and there are hardly any investigations. When you do not investigate, it establishes a norm, and this is what occurs." Na'amti's father said that what his son had just witnessed during his service in the occupied West Bank "gave him a bad feeling," and led his protesting of Israeli policy.

Right-wing Likud MK Uzi Landau, a minister-without-portofolio in the Israeli government, who intially vociferously opposed the fence's construction, said "the fence's purpose is to save the lives of Israeli citizens and whoever harms it is paving the way for suicide bombers to harm us." Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon questioned the army's judgment in the incident, as did others, but an informal poll on the Jerusalem Post website showed 80% of respondents blaming the protestors for getting themselves shot. Settler news organ Arutz-7's Arab-affairs commentator Haggai Huberman opined:

"The shooting was totally justified. In fact, the soldiers would have been derelict in their duties had they not fired--because the partition fence is designed, first and foremost, to prevent the infiltration of PA Arabs into Israeli territory. The protestors tried to destroy the fence and break in to Israeli territory... Even the PA news agency noted clearly that the 'activists arrived equipped with tools to break down the gate and allow free entry for the residents of the village of Mas'ha to their lands.' Breaking down the fence endangers Israeli citizens."

The gates at Mas'ha were supposed to be open three times a day for 30 minutes at a time to allow farmers into their fields, but according to the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS), international and Israeli activists who have been there to monitor the gates said they had not been opened for the previous two weeks.

The following day, 300 protestors showed up at the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. The activists blocked the road, chanting "We won't kill nor be killed for the settlements," and held up signs reading, "First, they shot the Palestinians, and we were silent.."

When the soldier who shot Na'amati found out he had shot an Israeli protestor, he reportedly told investigators, "I am sorry, I never thought I was shooting at Jews, I would never shoot a Jew."

Israel's largest daily, the mainstream Yedioth Ahronoth, said the soldiers' behavior was symptomatic of the "bestiality which the continuing occupation and war situation...has created within the army and the Israeli consciousness as a whole.... Let's not kid ourselves...if a Palestinian [had been shot], it probably would not have got even one line in the newspaper." the editorial added. (David Bloom)

(IWPS, Dec. 26; Gush Shalom, Dec. 27; Arutz Sheva, Dec. 27; Ha'aretz, Dec. 30; al-Jazeera, Dec. 30)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

A Bedouin volunteer with the Israeli army admits he killed British activist Tom Hurndall last April 12. Hurndall was shot while wearing an orange vest in Rafah (identifying him as a non-combatant), trying to escort children under fire by Israeli soldiers out of harm's way.

"At first, the soldier claimed he returned fire at a person armed with a gun, but after an intensive investigation by the Military Police in Southern Command, the soldier admitted to firing near the civilian who was unarmed as a deterrent measure," the Israeli army said in a statement. Initially, the army tried to claim Hurndall was armed with a gun.

Said the Hurndall family through relative Carl Hurndall: "We are delighted that the Military Police inquiry found it necessary to question the legitimacy of the statement provided by the person who shot Tom, and that this has eventually led to his confession that his initial statement was false, and that he had indeed shot at an unarmed person." ISM co-founder Huwaida Arraf added: "It is a little bit relieving," she said. "I hope it leads to more investigations." (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31)

Hurndall, 22, a photographer, is lying in a vegetative state in a London hospital, and steps will be taken to remove him from life support. ( ) (David Bloom)

See WW3 REPORT #85 [top]

Two months after Syrian president Bashar Assad called for renewed peace talks with Israel, the Israeli government announced it planned to bolster illegal Jewish settlement construction on the Golan Heights, taken from Syria in the 1967 war. The plan would add 900 families at a cost of $90 million to existing settlements. This would double in size the present settler population, according the Jerusalem Post. Israeli Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz told Israeli radio and TV that the announcement was a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad that "the Golan is an inseparable part of the state of Israel, and we have no intention to give up our hold." Katz's spokesman, Benni Ramm, was blunter. "The message for the terrorist, Assad," Ramm said, was there was a cost for "his harboring terrorists."

On Oct. 5, Israel bombed what it claimed was a training camp for Palestinian militants in Syria, in retaliation for the Oct. 4 bombing of the Maxim restaurant in Haifa that killed 21. The US did not condemn the airstrike on Syria, but has expressed its concern of the proposed settlement construction. (NYT, Dec. 31; Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31) (David Bloom) [top]

On the occasion of the announced phase-out of the legendary Israeli-made Uzi submachine gun in favor of a more sophisticated weapon, the AP made an unusual choice for an accompanying photo. Pictured is an unidentified Israeli child as he "watches his brother try out an Israeli-made Uzi submachine gun during an Israeli army weapons show held at the West Bank settlement of Kedumim on the occasion of Israel's 49th Independence Day." The two young kippa-wearing boys reminded WW3 REPORT of the frequent shots of gun-toting Palestinian kids, displayed in the world press as evidence that Palestinians are indoctrinated at an early age.

For more Israeli-style incitement. (AP, Dec. 17) (David Bloom) [top]

The goverment of Israel is paying one million dollars to pave a road leading to a seminary dedicated to the late far-right extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement was banned by the Knesset as racist. The seminary, a "wooden structure covered with stone," is built at the Tapuach West Outpost, an example of what Israel likes to refer to as an "illegal" outpost. Under international law, any outpost, settlement, and even the "neighborhood" of Gilo in occupied East Jerusalem is illegal. According to the International Committe of the Red Cross, building permanent structures in occupied territory is considered a war crime.

A Kach spokesman said that "at a time when Sharon talks about the expulsion of the Jews from their homes, we continue and grow stronger. Sharon, Mofaz and [Vice Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert can talk to the media, but we will do the talking on the ground."

Posters for a dedication ceremony for the seminary seen in Jerusalem were signed by "Merkaz Harayon Hayehudi" [the Center for the Jewish Ideal], a Kachite front group that is on the US State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

David Haivri, a settler interviewed by Israel's Channel Two next to the new building, dismissed the government's stated intention of removing all the "unauthorized" outposts. "We are the law here," he said . (Ha'aretz, Jan. 2) (David Bloom) [top]

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher came to Israel on Dec. 22 and visited Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but did not travel to see the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, widely seen as a snub. Maher found himself pelted with shoes by worshippers at the al-Aksa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem when he attempted to enter the premises for prayers. Israeli security guards had to assist Maher's own guards to get him to safety. The attack was blamed on members of the Tahrir (Liberation) Party, described as a small militant faction. However, Danny Rubinstein in Ha'aretz claims that others in the mosque also took part in the attack, and that it reflected Palestinian popular feelings of having been abandoned by the Arab world. (Ha'aretz, Dec. 29; Reuters, Dec. 22)

Apologies abounded from the Palestine Authority and in the Arab press, except for London-Based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which opined:

"Perhaps the shoes which Palestinians hurled yesterday will be a warning, and enter history as a response by Arabs to the daily disasters and setbacks of their people... Therefore, our thanks to the shoes and thanks to their owners. The shoes...were a lesson to all Arab leaders and their representatives, who have been heedless of the Arab masses, their demands and sentiments. They only listen to the US administration and its offensive demands to normalize relations with the Jewish state, work for its interests and cover its terrorist policies."

( Al-Quds Al-Arabi,London, Dec. 23)

Arafat sent representatives including the PLO's Foreign Minister, Farouk Kaddoumi, to Egypt to mend fences, but some are clearly not mollified. Egyptian journalist Ibrahim Saada wrote in an editorial of an influential Egyptian paper, Akhbar Elyom, in remarks addressed to Arafat:

"Your excellency, the sole spokesman of the Palestinian people, we are fed up with your repetition that any Palestinian act against Egypt, or any Palestinian act--verbal or physical--against an Egyptian official, should be blamed on a trivial, small and banned group."

Saada also claimed that when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981, "his excellency the Palestinian president was the first among those who rejoiced, clapped and danced." (AP, Dec. 27) (David Bloom) [top]

In Hebron, Israeli soldiers are encountering problems with enormous rats, who have found fertile breeding ground in the masses of uncarted rubbish piling up in the streets. The soldiers have taken to calling them "crats," because of their similarity to stray cats. "Crats" have entered the barracks of the occupying forces and bitten one soldier on the ear, and another on the lip.

"In the past few weeks the rats have been more frightening then the terrorists," an unidentified soldier quoted by Maariv declared. To deal with the problem, the army has laid pesticides and traps, and is trying to arrange garbage collection with the Palestine Authority. Hebron Mayor Mustafa Natche says garbage can pile up for days in the Israeli-occupied sector of Hebron before municipal officials are given permission to remove it. "This is, of course, affecting the health of Israelis and Palestinians living in the area," Natche said. (AP, Jan. 1)

On Jan. 1, the newspaper Ma'ariv reported an Israeli army dog, an Alsatian named Bo, was shot dead after turning on a soldier during an "operation" in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. The dog suddenly attacked a soldier during a clash with Palestinians in the casbah, and at first was shot in the leg by a soldier. When Bo charged a second time, another soldier shot him dead. ( AFP, Jan. 1) (David Bloom) [top]


The US has eased sanctions against Iran to allow humanitarian aid in the wake of the devastating earthquake at the ancient city of Bam, which has left some 30,000 dead. Secretary of State Colin Powell was quoted as saying recent moves by Tehran raised the possibility of resuming official dialogue with the Islamic republic. The US severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980. (VOA, Jan 1) The US has now established a field hospital at Bam, hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough. (UK Guardian, Jan. 3)

Firefighters from Los Angeles--which has the largest population of Iranians of any city outside Tehran--have assembled a rescue team for Bam. Such expressions of international solidarity are likely to make hardliners nervous, in both Iran and the US. The "axis of evil" rhetoric has been toned down in the wake of a recent anti-proliferation deal in which UN inspectors will be allowed to make unannounced visits to Iran's nuclear facilities. The US establishment is split into moderate and hardline factions, with Powell working hard to achieve detente with Tehran while neo-conservatives favor military action against Iran. Powell's quiet diplomacy may now be undermined by new contacts developed between the Pentagon and Iranian exile Manucher Ghorbanifar, middleman in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages fiasco in the 1980s. Ghorbanifar reportedly gave his Pentagon contacts leads on Saddam's alleged smuggling of enriched uranium into Iran. (UK Independent, Dec. 28)

See also WW3 REPORT #90 [top]

On Dec. 10, Iranian dissident attorney Shirin Ebadi became the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and sent a strong anti-war message to the West. Ebadi, an attorney recognized for her work for the rights of women and children in Iran, said in her acceptance speech: "In the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of Sept. 11 and the war on international terrorism as a pretext... Regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms...have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism."

Wearing no headscarf for the ceremony, Ebadi said prisoners at the US Guantanamo Bay military jail were held "without the benefit of the rights stipulated under the international Geneva conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

Ebadi, Iran's first female judge before the 1979 Islamic revolution forced her to step down, also had criticism for her own government, urging Tehran to accept that reform is inevitable. "In fact, it is not so easy to rule over a people who are aware of their rights, using traditional, patriarchal and paternalistic methods," she said. (Reuters, Dec. 10) [top]

Saudi Arabia arrested over 4,000 and seized large quantities of weapons and drugs along the border with Yemen Dec. 28. The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said border police had netted dynamite and ammunition as well as hashish and wine with the 4,047 alleged infiltrators. Both Yemen and Saudi Arabia are combating Islamic militants believed to be linked to al-Qaeda. At least 50 have been killed in suicide car bombings in Saudi Arabia since May. (Reuters, Dec. 28)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

81, 67 [top]

On Dec. 14, the US Navy announced the seizure of of two tons of hashish from a boat detained in the Persian Gulf. "An initial investigation uncovered clear ties between the smuggling operation and al-Qaeda," the Navy said in a statement. Three men were detained. (NYT, Dec. 20) [top]


A woman delegate to Afghanistan's landmark constitutional council (the Joya Jirga) issued a harsh indictment of powerful armed faction leaders at the gathering Dec. 17, calling them "criminals." Malalai Joya from the western Farah province--one of abut 100 female delegates to the 500-member council--told the assemblage: "Why have you again selected as committee chairmen those criminals who have brought these disasters for the Afghan people? In my opinion they should be taken to the world court." Her comments, halted only after her microphone was cut off, sparked outrage among the hard-liners and their supporters, who denounced her as a communist and demanded she be removed from the session amid shouts of "God is Great!"

The Joya Jirga was mostly characterized by jockeying between warlords and patriarchs. Supporters of former president (and Northern Alliance leader) Burhanuddin Rabbani accused the government of trying to force them to accept a presidential system which they say would put too much power in the hands of US-backed President Hamid Karzai. (AP, Xinhuanet, Dec. 17)

On Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) issued a statement on the situation in the country, reading in part:

"Two years have elapsed since the US and its allies attacked Afghanistan under the slogan of 'defending human rights,' punishing their servants of yesterday and toppling their medieval-minded regime. But still we cannot trace any sign of stability, peace and security in the country. Instead, after the Taliban's demolition, their fascist brothers were installed into power for the second time; and these religious-fascist Jihadis act in a more bloody and heinous way than their Taliban brethren, violating human and women's rights, fanning religious and ethnic differences, looting, raping, and abusing our people in such a way as to even surpass the Taliban...

"As RAWA has said time and time again, the approval of the constitution and elections will be irrevocably tainted by the interference of the criminal armed people of the Northern Alliance--the most treacherous and aggressive threat to democracy. Unless the plague of fundamentalism is wiped out of our country, no law, elections, etc. could play any positive role in improving the economic and political situation. The constitution can only be truly democratic when it is based on secularism... Unless the filthy gangs of Rabbani, Fahim, Khalili, Dostum, Sayyaf, Khalis, Ismail, Atta, etc. are wiped off the political scene of Afghanistan, any talk of freeing and legalizing Afghanistan will be just for deceiving our people and the world community...

"The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan asks all freedom-loving forces and people to decisively endeavor and work by whatever means and ways possible to topple the fundamentalists in order to establish and secure democracy and human rights." [top]

US forces in Afghanistan admitted bombing a house near the city of Ghazni, in which at least 10 were killed, including nine children. Afghan sources say that the US had intelligence that Taliban guerillas were preparing an attack from the house. US embassy officials in Kabul confirmed the bombing, but told BBC the incident was still being investigated. Three weeks earlier in Ghazni, a UN worker was shot dead in broad daylight in the market. Just days later, the US military revealed that six children were killed in a raid on suspected militants in the eastern province of Paktia last week. (BBC, Dec. 6, 10) [top]

In a newly released CD video, renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar urged the Afghan people to rise in a jihad to drive "the occupying infidel forces" out of the country. The disc, containing a 22-minute speech by Hekmatyar, appeared authentic and recent, mentioning President Bush's November visit to Iraq and political unrest in Georgia, the former Soviet republic. US and Afghan officals say Hekmatyar has allied with remnants of the ousted Taliban regime in attacks on US forces. "The resistance has reached a stage where it is not possible to be crushed," said the renegade former Afghan prime minister. (AP, Dec. 10)

See also WW3 REPORT #74 [top]


The royal army of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan seized a camp near its border with India believed to house the headquarters of Indian separatist guerillas Dec. 16. In its first-ever modern military operation, some 6,000 troops of Bhutan's royal army swept through dense forests to push out the guerillas. Indian security officials say three groups--the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland and the Kamtapur Liberation Organization--use Bhutan as a base for attacks into the northeastern Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. Thousands of Indian troops sealed the border with Bhutan in coordination with Bhutanese forces. (AP, Reuters, Dec. 16)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

93, 92, 91 [top]


A bomb exploded at a crowded outdoor New Year's Eve concert in Indonesia's Aceh province, killing 10--including three children--and wounding 45. The device was apparently hidden under the stage where a pop band was playing to hundreds on a soccer field. It was the bloodiest bombing in Aceh since the government abandoned a six-month truce and launched a military offensive against separatist rebels in May. Authorities accused the rebels of the bombing. The charge was denied by the Free Aceh Movement guerrillas, who have been fighting since 1976 for independence for the oil- rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra island. The guerillas have no history of targeting civilians or leaving bombs in public places.

Shortly after the blast, President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared that the offensive was bringing peace to Aceh. In apparent reference to the Free Aceh Movement, Megawati said: "Even if it is painful, we had to take harsh measures and we have successfully curtailed the movement, which is trying to separate from Indonesia."

In December, Human Rights Watch accused Indonesian troops in Aceh of widespread abuses, including executions, torture and arbitrary arrests. The group said the province should be opened immediately to independent monitors. ( AP, Jan. 1) [top]


European companies, including Total of France, ENI of Italy and OMV of Austria, have dominated international oil exploration in Libya since 1986, when US sanctions went into effect there. US companies--including ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil, Hess Oil and Occidental Petroleum--had operated in Libya for years before the sanctions, and are now considering a return.

The possibility of lifting the sanctions was raised after Libya's leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, admitted his regime had tried to develop nuclear and other unconventional weapons. Qaddafi promised to dismantle these programs and submit to international inspections--laying out a welcome mat for the re-entry of US companies into Libyan oil fields. The capitulation will also allow for the unfreezing of assets held by these companies, which have been off limits since 1986.

Libya's oil production peaked about 30 years ago, at over 3 million barrels a day, when investments by Occidental helped strengthen the nation's infrastructure and bolster its status within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Since then, US sanctions have limited the oil industry's growth.

Representatives of US companies already have permission from Washington to negotiate with Libya for renewal of their oil leases. Libya remains a desirable stronghold for US oil interests, with proven reserves of over 29 billion barrels. (International Herald Tribune, Dec. 24)

(Wynde Pridy)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Tentative steps towards peace are reported from war-ravaged Sudan, where President Omar el-Bashir appears to have made a meaningful concession after decades of fruitless negotiations with separatist guerillas. Reports indicate that his regime plans to share oil revenue on a 50-50 basis with the rebels fighting for secession of the mineral-rich south. European nations pledge reconstruction aid for southern Sudan once a cease-fire is reached. (, December 23)

(Wynde Priddy)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Human Rights Watch criticizes a new peace agreement giving Tutsi-dominated army troops and Hutu guerillas temporary immunity from prosecution for atrocities committed against civilians in Burundi's 10-year civil war. Over 200,000 have been killed in the conflict, mostly civilians who are targeted by both sides soley for their ethnicity. The main rebel group, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) reached a peace agreement with the transitional government in November. But fighting continues between the army and a rival rebel group, the National Liberation Forces (FNL). (AP, Dec. 21)

Human Rights Watch report

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

A shortfall of international aid has forced the World Food Program to reduce the food ration for 2.6 million malnourished people in Zimbabwe, with staples like cooking oil predicted to run out completely in early January. Spokespersons for the organization said the shortages could soon extend to other countries in southern Africa, where drought and insufficient donations threaten to worsen hunger problems before the next harvest. "Unfortunately January, February and March are the key hungry months before the harvest," Richard Lee, the program's Johannesburg information officer, said in an interview. "Zimbabwe's situation is by far the worst."

The UN program is trying to feed 6.5 million hungry people in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Lesotho and Swaziland, but says it had been able to help only 2.6 million of the four million needy people in Zimbabwe. Large-scale agriculture in Zimbabwe has all but collapsed since President Robert Mugabe began seizing commercial farms from their white owners in 2000--while Mugabe blames droughts, not his policies, for this failure. Experts worry that overall donations to southern African relief will fall off because of reluctance by potential donors to be seen as supporting Mugabe's government. (International Herald Tribune, Dec. 24)

(Wynde Priddy)

See WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Arsenio Sebastiao, AKA Cherokee, was a car washer outside Angola's capital, Luanda. As he waited for clients, he entertained himself by singing a rap song with highly political lyrics by the Angolan rapper MCK. On Nov. 22, a group of four presidential guards heard the song and manhandled Cherokee to the ground, kicking and punching him all over the body. As people tried to stop the beating, one of the guards called in reinforcements. A few minutes later, 45 presidential guards jumped out of a military truck. According to local press accounts, the troops bound Cherokee's hands and held is head under water until he drowned.

The MCK song includes the lyric: "Who speaks the truth ends up in a coffin/ what sort of democracy is this? We have freed ourselves from 500 years of a steel whip but we do not use our brains/ after colonialism ended they gave us almost a half a century of misrule." The words were draped over the coffin at Cherokee's funeral. In a radio interview rapper MCK, 26, whose songs are censored by state radio and TV, said: "The tragedy will mark my career forever. I am almost without words. It could only happen in a country like Angola." (Rafael Marques for the Open Society Institute, Dec. 12) [top]

March 2004 is likely to welcome a new Pan-African Parliament which will function as a legislative body of the African Union (AU). Alpha Kounare of Mali, current chairman of the AU, says the Pan-African Parliament is a "very important institution which will play a crucial role in bringing solutions to the various conflicts still taking place in the continent." The Organization of African Unity, founded in 1963, was officially re-organized as the African Union at a July 2002 conference in Durban, South Africa. (, December 22)

(Wynde Priddy) [top]


Several campesino and indigenous communities across Colombia have announced their "total rupture" with the official justice system, declaring they consider it illegitimate because of the continuing impunity of the paramilitary forces. Among the organizations that announced their withdrawal from the official justice system are the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, the Campesino Association of Arauca, the Campesino Association of the Cimitarra Valley, the Indigenous Campesino Association of Norte de Cauca, the Communitarian Council of the Rio Naya, the Process of Black Communities and the U'wa indigenous community. Together they have formed a new alliance, the Network of Communities in Rupture and Resistance (RECORRE). (ANNCOL, Dec. 4) [top]

On Dec. 4, a commission of the Colombian attorney general's office headed to the village of Llorente, in Barbacoas municipality, Narino department, to verify reports that right-wing paramilitaries used chainsaws to massacre 13 campesinos from two families in the community of Santa Helena. The regional defender of the people (ombudsperson) in Narino, Carlos Maya, confirmed the recent killing of 13 people in a ruralzone of Llorente. The date of the massacre was not clear.

Sandra Valentina Topar, regional director of the Technical Investigations Corps (CTI), a unit of the Colombian attorney general's office, reported that the dismembered bodies of an unidentified man and woman had been found in Santa Helena. Army Commander Gen. Martin Orlando Carreno Sandoval said only two people were killed in Llorente, and that the killings were carried out by members of the rightist paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). "Troops from the Cabal battalion are now at the location and have control of the site," said Carreno. (El Colombiano, Medellin, Dec. 5)

The Campesino Association of the Cimitarra Valley (ACVC) has accused Carreno, formerly commander of the Army's Second Division, of direct responsibility for paramilitary attacks in the Cimitarra Valley, between Antioquia and Santander departments. (ACVC statement, May 21) Carreno is a graduate of the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), having taken a "Joint Operations" course while an army major in 1984, and a "Command and General Staff" course while a lieutenant colonel in 1990. (SOA Watch list of graduates)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 7 [top]

Days after the much-touted "demobilization" of paramilitary units in Medellin, the rightist gunmen appeared to be back in action. Early on Nov. 29, armed men opened fire at a dance party in the city's Antonio Narino neighborhood. Three young men and two 17-year old female high school students were killed; three other people were wounded. The neighborhood is located in the city's Comuna 13 zone, where military forces mounted massive operations in May and October of last year to "take back" the area from irregular armed groups, particularly leftist militias. Since then, Comuna 13 had been controlled by the Cacique Nutibara Bloc (BCN) of the AUC, which officially "demobilized" on Nov. 25. Neighborhood residents say not all the BCN members demobilized; Giovanny Marin, the BCN's political chief and "peace negotiator," denied the accusation, insisting BCN members were not responsible for the killings. "If someone is using the name of the Cacique Nutibara Bloc to damage the process, that's not our responsibility," said Marin. (El Colombiano, Medellin, Nov. 30, Dec. 3; El Tiempo, Bogota, Dec. 2)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 7

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

On Dec. 3, presumed paramilitaries shot to death Jose de Jesus Rojas Castaneda in the Colombian oil city of Barrancabermeja. Rojas was murdered in front of his wife, who was in her ninth month of pregnancy. Rojas taught at the Technical Business Institute and was a member of the Union Association of Municipal Teachers (ASEM). He was the brother of Jacqueline Rojas Castaneda, a leader of the Popular Women's Organization (OFP), and was the brother-in-law of Juan Carlos Galvis, president of the Unitary Workers Federation (CUT) in Barrancabermeja and a leader of the National Union of Food Industry Workers (SINALTRAINAL). (CUT, Barrancabermeja, Dec. 4; Vanguardia Liberal, Bucaramanga, Dec. 6)

On Nov. 23, two men on a motorcycle shot to death Embera indigenous leader Apolinar Domico in the center of Apartado, in the Uraba region of Antioquia department. The Indigenous Organization of Antioquia (OIA) reported the murder on Dec. 4. Domico was the local governor of the indigenous community of Sabaleta, Mutata municipality. He was also a teacher and health promoter among the indigenous communities of Mutata, and was active in an effort to build indigenous leadership throughout Uraba. The leadership project is sponsored by the OIA with support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (El Colombiano, Medellin, Dec. 5)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 7 [top]

On Dec. 11, Colombia's Senate voted 67 to 28 to approve a new "anti-terrorism" statute promoted by President Alvaro Uribe Velez. The statute would alter four articles of the Constitution, granting the military the power to intercept communications, make searches and arrests without a warrant; increasing the military budget and troop stregnth; allowing creation of civilian spy networks to provide information to authorities; and requiring residents of "war zones" to inform authorities of any change of address. Before the statute can take effect, Congress must first pass regulations for it--expected to be introduced in May 2004--and it must be approved by the Constitutional Court. (AP, Reuters, Dec. 11)

Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe assured senators that under the new statute, police and military forces will be required to contact a judge within 36 hours after carrying out arrests, searches or wiretaps. But opposition organizations in Colombia and international groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say that's not good enough. "Who is keeping count of the time?" asked Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of HRW's Americas division. "Those who are detained with no witnesses, no judicial order and no clear accounting of the hours are in real risk to be disappeared." The new statute "will have disastrous impact on human rights by further contributing to the military's campaign to intimidate and discredit human rights defenders and social organizations," Amnesty International said in a Dec. 11 statement. "This is an atrocious bill against human rights," said Senator Jaime Dussan of the leftist Democratic Pole party, whose members voted against the statute. (Miami Herald, Dec. 12; AP, Dec. 11)

The Colombia office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement on Dec. 12 condemning the statute, saying it violates Colombia's treaty obligations on human rights and would open "the road to arbitrariness." By passing the constitutional changes, the Colombian Congress had ignored "the express recommendations" made by the UN office in its last report on Colombia, according to the statement. (El Colombiano, Medellin; EFE, Dec. 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 14 [top]

On Dec. 16, the Colombian prosecutor general's office ordered the dismissal of three Navy officers and two noncommissioned officers for failing to prevent a 2001 massacre of 27 civilians in the rural village of Chengue, in Ovejas municipality, Sucre department. On Jan. 17, 2001, heavily armed paramilitaries entered Chengue and forced residents into the town square; the paramilitaries killed 25 people in the square and abducted two others whose bodies were found later. The dismissed officers are Rear Adm. Rodrigo Alfonso Quinones Cardenas, who headed the Navy's First Infantry Brigade at the time of the massacre; Commander Oscar Eduardo Saavedra Calixto, who led the Number 5 Riflemen's Battalion based in nearby Corozal; and Lt. Commander Camilo Martinez Moreno, second-in-command of the battalion. The noncommissioned officers are Rafael Euclides Bossa Mendoza and Ruben Dario Rojas Bolivar, members of the same battalion. The Public Ministry also barred the officers from holding public office or attending military social functions for a period of five years.

According to the prosecutor general's office, Quinones and Saavedra "did not issue the necessary command orders to neutralize or counteract the situation of serious risk in which the population of Chengue found itself," despite police warnings about the danger. A day after the massacre, the prosecutor general's office said, Martinez refused to accompany a commission attempting to track down the paramilitaries who carried out the massacre. Bossa and Rojas are accused of providing the paramilitaries with the weapons used in the killings; Rojas was also found to have been recruiting deserters from leftist rebel groups into local paramilitary groups. Because of irregularities in a witness statement, Rojas was cleared of criminal responsibility in an earlier trial. (El Pais, Cali; El Tiempo, Bogota, Dec. 17)

Quinones has also been linked to a February 2000 massacre in which paramilitaries murdered some 60 people in and around El Salado, another village in Ovejas municipality. In addition, Quinones is considered responsible for a paramilitary assassination squad which killed at least 57 unionists, human rights workers and community leaders in the city of Barrancabermeja, Santander department, between January 1992 and February 1993, while he headed Navy intelligence there. Quinones reportedly resigned from the armed forces on Nov. 26, 2002, under pressure from the US government after being accused of involvement in drug trafficking. (See Weekly News Update on the Americas #s 640, 670)

Saavedra is a graduate of the US Army School of the Americas (SOA) in Fort Benning, Georgia, having taken a "Psychological Operations" course there while still a captain in 1989. (SOA Graduates List)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 21 [top]

In a Dec. 19 statement, the Colombian attorney general's office announced it had charged the crew of a military helicopter with involuntary manslaughter for killing at least 17 civilians--including seven children--in an aerial bomb attack on the village of Santo Domingo, Tame municipality, Arauca department, on Dec. 13, 1998. Capt. Cesar Romero Pradilla, 1st Lt. Johan Jimenez Valencia and technician Hector Mario Hernandez Acosta will be tried in civilian court for the bombing, which also wounded 25 people. The attorney general's office said it appeared the helicopter crew, officially pursuing guerillas, did not realize there were civilians in the area.

Pressure over delays in prosecuting the case prompted the US to suspend military aid in January 2003 to the air force unit involved in the attack. Gen. Hector Velasco retired on Aug. 25 as commander of the air force amid complaints he stalled probes into the bombing. (See Weekly News Updates #s 678, 708).

Three US civilian contractors accused of pinpointing the targets during the battle left Colombia before investigators could serve subpoenas and get their testimony. The three worked for AirScan International Inc. of Rockledge, FL, which provided aircraft services to Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum and Colombia's state oil company, Ecopetrol, which both produce oil in Arauca department. (AP, El Tiempo, Dec. 21)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 21

See also WW3 REPORT #84 [top]

Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barko told Israel's Army Radio Dec. 31 that her country can learn a lot from Israel on dealing with terrorism. She called upon Israelis to continue visiting Colombia, in spite of the recent tourist abduction affair. On Dec. 23, four Israeli hikers and a Briton kidnapped by Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) were released 101 days after being taken captive. The ELN said it kidnapped the backpackers to protest paramilitary and army rights abuses in the Sierra Nevada. (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31)

See also WW3 REPORT #s: 92, 42 [top]

International energy companies are moving into the Amazon to exploit some of the world's last untouched oil and natural gas reserves--and indigenous peoples are increasingly fighting to keep them out. Latin America already provides more oil to the US than the Middle East does. Plans for new oil and gas fields are speeding ahead, pushed by companies from as far as China and including Occidental Petroleum of California, Repsol-YPF of Spain, EnCana of Canada and Petrobras of Brazil. But oil workers and contractors in the Amazon have been kidnapped, equipment has been vandalized, and governments are sending military troops in to protect operations. "Let the military come in, because we will defend to the last," Medardo Santi, a leader of Kichwa (Quichua) Indians in the Ecuadorian Amazon told the New York Times. "As long as we live here, we will defend our rights."

Ecuador's 4.6 billion barrels of proven reserves are among the largest in Latin America, and oil already makes up nearly half its exports. With the recent completion of a $1.3 billion, 300-mile pipeline by a foreign consortium, the government pledges to double production to 850,000 barrels a day. Ecuador's Amazon could yield up to 26 billion barrels in oil reserves, enough to rival Mexico and Nigeria, according to a 1999 study by the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

But the development thrust is slowed by local resistance. "When we did our seismic testing, we suffered kidnappings, fires and robberies," said Ricardo Nicolás, local manager of Cia. General de Combustibles, an Argentine company that holds the contract to develop fields north of Pumpuentsa, in Ecuador's Amazon. "It's been seven years and we haven't been able to get started; seven years and $10 million." The government of President Lucio Gutierrez assured it was prepared to provide military protection so oil companies could complete the seismic tests. "The petroleum does not belong to them," Carlos Arboleda, Ecuador's minister of energy and mines, said of the indigenous groups. "The oil belongs to the state."

A decisive battle could be the one for Ecuador's Pastaza province, where indigenous inhabitants and their environmentalist allies are determined to head off any exploration by making a stand at two blocks, almost a million acres in all, that have already been mapped for drilling. The northern one, Block 23, is to be developed by the Argentine company, while the southern Block 24, is operated by Burlington Resources of Houston. "We believe 23 and 24 can be a kind of Waterloo for the oil industry in the Amazon," said Kenny Bruno of EarthRights International, a US-based group.

Three local tribes--the Kichwa, Achuar and Shuar--have taken their case before government officials in Quito, the Organization of American States in Washington and shareholder meetings in Houston. The Kichwa people of Sarayaku, the main town in Block 23, are among the most sophisticated. They operate a budding ecotourism business, and their Web site, provides updates of their struggle. "They've accused us of being terrorists and now they say we are being manipulated by nongovernmental organizations," said Patricia Gualinga, a local Kichwa leader. "They also say it is one community that is resisting. It is not. It is an entire people."

In Ecuador's northern Amazon region around Lago Agrio, a Texaco subsidiary left widespread pollution, dumping waste into waterways and leaving behind hundreds of unlined pits brimming with toxic wastewater, according to a lawsuit filed in New York. ChevronTexaco (Texaco merged with Chevron in 2001) denies causing the pollution, but the case (remanded to the Ecuadorian courts) recently went to trial in Lago Agrio. "People in the south have a historic perspective of the oil industry: what happened in the north," said Patricio Pazminio, a lawyer with the Center for Economic and Social Rights, a Quito group working with the Indians. "So when the companies talk of extending activities into the south, people worry."

Oil company representatives like Herb Vickers, a US national who has worked in Ecuador for seven years, insist that development can be low-impact. Vickers said that when he oversaw development of Block 10, to the north of Sarayaku, for ARCO, the company employed the most modern technology to protect the forest. Using helicopters to bring in equipment, a pipeline was laid without having to construct a road. Drilling in Block 10 is conducted from a single six-acre tract with 12 wells, instead of rigs spread across a broad area. Special drill bits are steered to dispersed underground reserves. Waste brought up with the oil is treated and reinjected into the ground. "We believe, very strongly, that exploration and production can be done in an environmentally friendly manner," Vickers said.

The Times reports that some indigenous communities have been won over to the development agenda. In Canelos, a Kichwa community on the Rio Bobonaza, on the edge of Block 23, villagers said they welcomed the oil companies because they would bring improvements. "We want to change, we want to develop," said commuinity leader Edwin Illanes. "Here, there's no water. There is no light. We have no paved road. Nothing."

But across a swath of forest in Sarayaku, the main Kichwa town, people were "virtually united in their opposition," the Times reported. Dozens of villagers gathered in a communal meeting hall next to the soccer field to condemn any plan for oil exploration. (Juan Forero for the New York Times, Dec. 10)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

64, 62, 42 [top]

Houston-based Burlington Resources is awaiting formal approval from Peru's energy and mines ministry to withdraw from Block 64, an 800,000-hectare section of land in the Amazon department of Loreto where indigenous Achuar communities are fighting oil exploration. Company spokesperson James Bartlett said Burlington reached an agreement earlier this year to withdraw and hand over its 25% share to Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum, which operates the block. "We no longer have any interest in the block at all," Bartlett said. "We still have interests in Peru and we're interested in additional exploratory opportunities there." Occidental will continue exploration in Block 64 and will work towards a compromise with the indigenous community, Reuters reported.

Burlington and Occidental won a contract with Peru's government in 1999 to explore Block 64. Achuar representatives are lobbying Peru's congress to annul the concession. They say lead and mercury deposits left from past oil drilling have leaked into ground water supplies and are killing their tribal elders. The Achuar warn they are prepared to fight and die if necessary to stop the oil companies, according to Reuters. (Business News Americas, Dec. 5; La Republica, Lima, Dec. 7)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 7 [top]

In Tambogrande, Peru, there are few paved streets, and few residents have potable tap water or electricity. Many live on less than $2 a day. Most earn their living from the land. This lush northern region produces 40% of the country's mangos and limes. But Canada's Manhattan Minerals wants to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build a gold mine in Tambogrande. Mining is one of Peru's biggest industries, accounting for around half the country's annual $8 billion in exports. But mining has caused irreversible damage to some local communities, sparking local opposition. Americo Villafuerte, Peru head of Manhattan Minerals, insists the project will give Tambogrande a better life: "Our company has a concrete proposal for development in Tambogrande. It's a proposal with three concrete social and economic aspects that will resolve many of the problems affecting thousands of children and adults in Tambogrande." Yet over 90% of Tambogrande's voters rejected the mine in an informal referendum in 2002. Says Tambogrande Mayor Francisco Ojeda: "Mines aren't an alternative to solving the problems of illiteracy, malnutrition, poverty in communities, because here in Peru we have had too many examples of that kind of thing. Mining has only left a legacy of poverty in Peru."

Manhattan Minerals wants to dig beneath unpaved streets that house hundreds of residents. The company says it will build modern homes for those who lose their old ones and supply the town with services now only available to 15% of the population. But many residents say they do not want to leave their homes. Altemira Hidalgo has lived her whole life on one of the streets Manhattan wants to pull up. "We were born here," she says. "We grew up here. Our children and our homes were formed here...our ancestors were also here. We want these men to go. We don't want mining. We want agriculture."

The majority of people in Tambogrande are proud despite their poverty. Says local fruit grower Jose Berru: "Here on my farm we produce mangos, avocados, we have sheep. I have everything I need and if the mine comes it will destroy everything." (BBC, Dec. 3)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Peru's antinarcotics police claim to have destroyed nearly 700 clandestine cocaine-producing laboratories in 2003, as well as seizing 7.4 tons of cocaine. In a program overseen by US AID, the Peruvian government is encouraging coca growers to switch to legal crops such as palm-oil trees, and providing peasants with legal title to lands. Says Hernando de Soto, author of "The Other Path," the 1986 blueprint on formalizing the economy: "Property changes the rules of the game. It gives farmers something tangible they can use as collateral. It is a bargaining chip they never had before." AID has earmarked $1.3 million to title 4,300 plots of land, most averaging about 30 acres, in a project carried out by Peru's Special Land Titling Program (PETT). Says PETT director Omar Valderrama: "We have found a successful formula to combat the drug economy that will allow us to transform this region and begin to create new levels of prosperity." He claims the new crops can be competitive with coca. An acre of coca can produce 400 to 500 lbs. per year at $1 a pound. Palm oil currently sells at around $475 a ton and each acre can produce half a ton per year. Overall, US AID has slated $120 million for programs to get Peruvian farmers out of the coca market.

But critics point out that oil palms take several years to develop, with farmers requiring assistance in the meantime. The government has much riding on the program. Peru's Shining Path guerrillas established a foothold in most of the country's coca regions in the 1980s, offering growers protection from government eradication teams. While the group has been on the decline for a decade, the remaining guerrillas are active principally in coca-growing regions. (CSM, Dec. 26) [top]

Early Dec. 11, Bolivian police and military troops arrested eight campesino coca growers (cocaleros) in a massive operation involving dozens of searches in the Chapare region of Cochabamba department. Four of those arrested are local activists from the Movement to Socialism (MAS) and two are local cocalero union leaders. Prosecutors in La Paz charged the eight with terrorism, armed uprising and criminal association. Another 23 cocaleros are being sought on the same charges.

Rene Arzabe, one of the prosecutors who led the arrest operations, announced at a press conference that the eight detainees are linked to the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia. Arzabe said the eight were caught with a rifle, an explosive device, bomb-making materials and ELN pamphlets. Arzabe and fellow prosecutor Silvia Blacutt said the suspects had been under investigation since last April, when Bolivian police arrested Colombian campesino activist Jose Francisco Cortes Aguilar and Bolivian cocalero leaders Claudio Ramirez Cuevas and Carmelo Penaranda Rosas in the Bolivian city of El Alto, just outside La Paz. Arzabe said the latest detainees are linked to Cortes, Ramirez and Penaranda, who remain imprisoned in La Paz, accused of terrorism and involvement in the ELN.

The eight arrested on Dec. 11 are also accused of involvement in the recent killings of government troops carrying out coca eradication in the Chapare. Three police agents and one soldier, all members of the Joint Task Forces (FTC) in charge of coca eradication operations in the Chapare, have been killed over the past two months, either by homemade landmines known as "cazabobos" (fool-hunters) or in sniper ambushes.

Cocalero leader and MAS congressman Evo Morales criticized the arrests, calling the raids "the work of the [US] embassy," part of a Washington strategy to impose "a dictatorship" in Bolivia. The raids coincided with a visit to Bolivia by Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, US Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs. (AP, Reuters, AFP, Dec. 12, 13; La Razon, La Paz, Dec. 12; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Dec. 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 14

See also WW3 REPORT #91 [top]

On Dec. 4, Bolivian police arrested nine Bangladeshi men at Viru Viru airport in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz in response to a warning from Marc Bertrand, the French police attache in Bolivia, that Bangladeshi citizens were planning to hijack planes in South America and crash them into US targets. The nine Bangladeshis were arrested while trying to board an Aerolineas Argentinas plane bound for France via Buenos Aires. At least seven other Bangladeshi nationals were briefly detained for questioning, and their immigration documents were checked.

Bolivia's minister of government Alfonso Ferrufino Balderrama announced Dec. 5 that the nine accused in connection to the hijacking plot were released that day for lack of evidence. According to Ferrufino, Bertrand's warning--based on an alert from the France International Terrorism Center (CITF)--"was very brief and has a character of great uncertainty." The nine will remain under supervision and are barred from leaving Bolivia while an investigation proceeds. They all had been working in Bolivia under contract for over a year, and their temporary residency papers were found to be in order. France issued its alert about the nine after they applied for visas at the French Embassy in Bolivia. The French government apparently granted the visas, then revoked them. The nine Bangladeshis gave a press conference following their release on Dec. 5. They denied any links to terrorism, and said they will remain in Santa Cruz until their case is resolved. (El Diario, La Paz, Dec. 5, 6; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Dec. 5, 6; La Republica, Lima, Dec. 6)

A week before the arrests, the Argentine government ordered tighter security near the US, Spanish, British and Italian embassies in Buenos Aires after receiving foreign intelligence warnings of possible terrorist threats. (Miami Herald, Dec. 6)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 7 [top]

Up to 50,000 people took part in three consecutive demonstrations at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec. 20 to mark the second anniversary of an uprising which forced President Fernando de la Rua out of office on Dec. 20, 2001. In addition, relatives of more than 20 people who were killed during the 2001 uprising led a march through the capital, stopping at the spots where the victims died. The march was supported by more than 60 neighborhood assemblies and by a number of organizations of unemployed workers, known as piqueteros (picketers). Police kept a close watch over the day's protests but did not use force.

The first demonstration of the day was organized by the Movement of Neighborhoods Standing Up (Barrios de Pie) and groups linked to the Anibal Veron Unemployed Workers Movement (MTD) which have taken a critical but supportive stance toward the government of current president Nestor Kirchner. Participants blasted the government's accord with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but focused most of their protest against international financial institutions and the "genocidal military."

The second rally was led by the Classist and Combative Current (CCC), which has recently distanced itself from Kirchner after having maintained a dialogue with his administration. The third and largest demonstration was organized by the more radical piquetero sectors which are extremely critical of Kirchner's government. These sectors were represented by the National Piquetero Bloc--led by the Polo Obrero (Workers Pole)--and the Independent Movement of Retirees and Unemployed. During this last demonstration, an explosion in a garbage can wounded at least 25 people. The cause of the explosion was not clear, protesters blamed the government, calling the incident a "provocation." They immediately called a march to the Plaza de Mayo for Dec. 21 to demand that the explosion be fully investigated. (Clarin, Buenos Aire, Dec. 21) [top]

Killings of Indians and peasants involved in Brazil's land rights movements are on the rise despite hopes that the new center-left government of Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva would improve the situation, a rights group finds. The Social Network for Human Rights and Justice cited figures from the Pastoral Land Commission, saying 61 peasants had been killed in the first 11 months of 2003, up from 43 in 2002 and 29 in 2001. The group also said the Indigenous Missionary Council, linked to the Catholic church, reported a 10-year high of 22 killings of Indians in the first 10 months of 2003, after just seven slayings in 2002. Lula, who took office at the beginning of 2003, pledged in November to "die defending agrarian reform," promising to resettle 400,000 poor families in a land distribution program. (Reuters, Dec. 4) [top]


Survivors of the Dec. 22, 1997 massacre at the Chiapas mountain hamlet of Acteal said on the anniversary of the attack that authorities have failed to pursue those who organized and carried it out. "We have spent 2,190 days waiting for justice, but we still haven't received a complete response," said Roberto Perez Santis, spokesperson for the survivors. Paramilitaries with close ties to the government attacked a prayer meeting of Catholic Tzotzil Maya activists who sympathized with the armed Zapatista rebels but embraced non-violence and pacifism. The assailants killed 45, including children as young as 2 months old.

Although there have been several arrests in the case, Perez said authorities have still not carried out arrest warrants against the real masterminds. He also criticized authorities for refusing to question then-governor of Chiapas state, Julio Cesar Ruiz, and then-Mexican Interior Secretary Emilio Chuayffet, currently congressional leader for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, now in opposition). "The current leaders don't want to recognize their responsibility," Perez said during a ceremony commemorating the massacre. He said community members live in fear because the attackers are still at large. (AP, Dec. 22)

Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of the local diocese of San Cristobal presided over the commemoration and performed mass, attended by hundreds at the small hamlet. That same day in Tuxtla, the state capital, hundreds of relatives of the 74 Tzotzils arrested in the case held a protest demanding the government re-open the investigation, insisting their loved ones were framed. (La Jornada, Dec. 23)

Evangelical Protestant leaders from throughout Mexico also joined to issue a statement demanding the government re-open the investigation, also asserting that those arrested in the case--overwhelmingly Protestant Tzotzil converts-- are innocent. (La Jornada, Dec. 3)

For the second year in a row, the US State Department report on worldwide religious freedom has noted persecution of Protestants in Mexico, and especially Chiapas. The report cites at least five religious killings in Mexico over the past year, and claims that up to 130 Protestant children are denied access to the public schools by traditional political bosses in rural Chiapas communities. (Milenio, Dec. 24) Catholic and Protestant leaders recently convened a conference on "Pluralism and Religious Tolerance" in San Cristobal at the behest of Chiapas state authorities in an effort to address the situation. (Notimex, Dec. 12)

(See WW3 REPORT #60)

Chenalho municipality, of which Acteal is an unincorporated hamlet, continues to be the scene of tension and violence between Zapatista sympathizers and their enemies. On Dec. 3, three local members of the Zapatista base community of Polho, just down the road from Acteal, were ambushed as they tended thier coffee fields near the hamlet by a group of masked men who sprayed them with AR-15 fire. The three hit the ground and escaped injury. (La Jornada, Dec. 4)

NOTE: Red Mask, the group which carried out the Acteal massacre, is apparently led by Presbyterian converts. (Masiosare, Jan. 4, 1998)

See WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

An armed gang attacked a ranch in Chiapas Dec. 1, killing eight and wounding five. The attack happened at the JR ranch near the village of Rosario Izapa, near Tapachula. Police said attackers seized the ranch house after dark, and opened fire with automatic weapons and shotguns. The dead included six men, a woman and a 12-year-old child. Hundreds of army and police troops are said to be hunting for the attackers. Authorities said the motive remained unclear, though the region has seen a wave of violence apparently related to gangs fighting over the smuggling of people and drugs across the neraby Guatemalan border. With the new shootings, 74 have been killed along the Guatemalan border this year. (The Australina, Dec. 2) [top]

Families are petitioning the authorities following the disappearance of five agronomy students at the Autonmous University of Chiapas Nov. 30. The students had recently led strikes in protest of poor maintainance of the agronomy facilities in the coastal town of Huehuetan. (Orbe, Dec. 5)

See WW3 REPORT #92 [top]

One of two accused Zapatista collaborators being held in the state of Queretaro, Sergio Jeronimo Sanchez Saez, was freed by state authorities Dec. 22. This leaves just four Zapatista prisoners held nationwide whose release is demanded by the rebels as a peace condition. Sanchez was arrested in 1998 after painting slogans on a wall. (Milenio, Dec. 23)

See also WW3 REPORT #59 [top]

The Coordinator in Defense of Territory and Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec has issued a statement denouncing the non-binding referendum planned by the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CNDPI) for the Indians of Oaxaca state, saying the vote ammounts to a "tacit acceptance" that the Zapatista peace plan on indigenous rights will not be fulfilled. The group also denounced the vote as propaganda for the Puebla-Panama Plan mega-development project. Although the government denies that development projects planned for Oaxaca are part of the PPP, one question in the referendum asks: "Would you be in favor of projects for your community if they were financed by the Puebla-Panama Plan?" (La Jornada, Dec. 17)

See WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

With the slaying of a witness in Guerrero state, the Mexican federal probe into human rights abuses of the 1970s has claimed its first victim. On Nov. 26 Mexican special prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo Prieto asked a judge for an arrest warrant for the first time in a two-year old probe into the military's "dirty war" against suspected leftists. The target of the warrant was Isidro Galeana Abarca, former police chief in the southern state of Guerrero, a stronghold of guerrilla movements and the scene of many of the 532 disappearances reported by the government's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). At press time, Galeana remains at large--yet the man who named him as carrying out "disappearances" has himself been killed.

The federal Special Prosecutor's Office for Social and Political Movements of the Past (FEMOSPP), which Carrillo heads, is seeking Galeana in connection with the 1974 kidnapping of schoolteacher and alleged guerrilla Jacob Najera Hernandez, and he is also suspected in several other disappearances. The Supreme Court has made it possible to prosecute such cases, ruling Nov. 5 that the statute of limitations did not apply to kidnappings where no body had been discovered.

The same day the warrant was issued, the body of campesino Horacio Zacarias Barrientos Peralta was found near Acapulco, shot eight times. Barrientos reportedly fingered guerrilla operatives in the 1970s after being tortured by the military. He stepped forward recently to help the FEMOSPP investigation and had become "one of the main witnesses to the repression that occurred in Guerrero," according to a FEMOSPP press release.

Other potential witnesses say they are terrified by Barrientos' murder, which FEMOSPP called the reappearance of "the deadly authoritarian tail of the dinosaur." "Dinosaur" is a word Mexicans frequently apply to politicians of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which controlled the government from 1929 to 2000. As of Nov. 29 Guerrero state prosecutor Jesus Ramirez Guerrero had failed even to start an investigation.

FEMOSPP itself came in for sharp criticism on Nov. 29 from Eduardo Lopez Betancourt, who was Guerrero state prosecutor briefly in the 1970s under Gov. Ruben Figueroa Figueroa. Lopez Betancourt told a reporter that FEMOSPP is a "farce" which only goes after the "little ones" and not the "big ones," like former Mexican presidents Luis Echeverria Alvarez (1970-1976) and Jose Lopez Portillo (1976-1982). Lopez Betancourt said he could "assure you that the planes left the Acapulco military zone with dead bodies and living people precisely to be thrown into the open sea... [I]t was public... I can say that...any person who in that time had a government position, however modest it might be, was aware of the bloody activity of this perverse character Ruben Figueroa."

In addition to Galeana, Carrillo has charged two former heads of the defunct Federal Security Directorate, Miguel Nazar Haro and Luis de la Barreda Moreno, in the 1975 disappearance in Monterrey of Jesus Piedra Ibarra, son of human rights activist Rosario Ibarra de Piedra. (La Jornada, Nov. 30; Miami Herald, Dec. 4; Latinamerica Press, Dec. 7)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 7

Mexico's Attorney General Rafael Macedo announced Dec. 10 that arrest orders had been issued for Haro and De la Barreda, but the two remain at large. (Proceso, Dec. 10) Government documents turned over to the investigators reveal that the orders to liquidate collaborators with the 1970s guerilla movement came directly from then-Defense Secretary Hermenegildo Cuenca Diaz, and were part of a secret program dubbed "Operation Spiderweb." (La Jornada, Dec. 21)

See WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Mexico should stop using soldiers to fight crime, improve its investigation of political killings, and change its constitution to guarantee protection of human rights, a top UN human rights official says in a new report. Requested by President Vicente Fox, the 224-page analysis was compiled over several months by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' Mexican envoy, Anders Kompas, working with 12 human rights organizations to "design and implement a state human rights policy" for the country. (AP, Dec. 8) [top]

Mexico has asked the World Court at The Hague to order the US to retry 52 Mexicans on death row, asserting they were not told of their right to consular help after being arrested. Mexico accuses US authorities of breaching the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to tell the Mexicans--subsequently sentenced to death in 10 US states--of their right to assistance from their national representatives. Mexico went to the International Court of Justice because all other legal and diplomatic efforts to solve the issue had been exhausted, an official said. Over the last several years 55 Mexicans who did received consular assistance avoided the death penalty in the US, Mexico's legal team said. In February, the World Court ordered the US to stay executions of three Mexicans deemed in imminent danger and reserved the right to intervene in dozens more cases.

A total of 71 prisoners were executed in the US last year, bringing to 820 the total number of prisoners put to death since the resumption of capital punishment in 1977. The death penalty has not been applied in Mexico for at least four decades. (Reuters, Dec. 15) [top]


Conservative candidate Oscar Berger won Guatemala's presidential run-off Dec. 28, defeating leftist challenger Alvaro Colom. But both candidates agreed that former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt should be put on trial for abuses committed in the bloody counter-insurgency of the early 1980s. (NYT, Dec. 30) Indigenous Maya organizations are gathering evidence to bring genocide charges against Rios Montt

See WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

On Dec. 10 a group of students and workers from the University of El Salvador began an occupation of the school's campus in San Salvador to protest the final round of negotiations taking place in the US over the creation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The following day, some 800 campesinos and workers protested CAFTA with a march through San Salvador and an all-night vigil. On Dec. 12, some 2,000 campesinos and workers from around El Salvador marched in the capital to protest CAFTA. Police shock troops set up barricades and blocked participants in the "march for life, dignity and sovereignty" from reaching the presidential building, where they sought to present their demands to President Francisco Flores. "What we want is for the agricultural sector to be reactivated," explained Marco Galvez of the October 12 Movement of Popular Resistance, which organized the march. "The [free trade agreement] with the US is not the solution to our problems." That same day, police managed to arrest 19 of the university protesters after they apparently left the campus to block a major intersection. Police used pepper spray and rubber bullets to break up the roadblock by about 50 students from the Roque Dalton University Front. (La Prensa Grafica, San Salvador, Dec. 11; La Jornada, Mexico, Dec. 12; wire reports)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 14 [top]

After several delays, on Dec. 17 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the US finally concluded negotiations in Washington on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The Bush administration says it will seek congressional approval for CAFTA in 2004. The conclusion of talks was overshadowed by the pullout of Costa Rica on Dec. 16. Costa Rica, generally a strong supporter of US-backed "free trade" policies in Latin America, continued to resist US efforts to open up its telecommunications and insurance sectors to foreign companies. Costa Rican trade minister Alberto Trejos told reporters that there were also differences over tariffs on textiles and agricultural products. Trejos said Costa Rica hoped to resume negotiations next month. The US plans to add the Dominican Republic to CAFTA next year, and Costa Rica might join at the same time, according to an unnamed US official.

Regina Vargo, the lead US negotiator on the deal, admitted that the Bush administration also expected trouble getting the deal through Congress. 2004 is an election year, and trade deals have been unpopular ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994. Vargo said the bill might pass by just one vote. (Financial Times, Dec. 17, 19; NYT, Dec. 17)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 21

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

On Dec. 20, three men armed with revolvers forced their way into the home of Andres Pavon, president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH), in Tegucigalpa. Pavon was not home at the time; his wife Ritzy Xiomara Almendarez, an attorney who handles legal matters for CODEH's central office, was there with their eight-year old son and three friends of the family. The assailants threatened those present and forced them to lie face down on the floor. They then broke down doors and searched through the bookshelves before taking some of the couple's personal documents, along with the house keys and about $1,500 in cash and household electronics. The whole operation took about seven minutes.

CODEH is asking supporters to contact Ramon Custodio Lopez of the National Human Rights Commission (fax: +504-221-0536, e-mail: and Minister of Security Oscar Alvarez (fax: +504-220-4352, e-mail: to ask for a full and thorough investigation of the Dec. 20 break-in at the home of Pavon and Almendarez, and to ask that the government appoint a special commission to look into a wave of recent threats against human rights and social activists in Honduras. (CODEH, Dec. 23)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 14

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Nicaraguan university students and police clashed on Dec. 9 and Dec. 11 in Managua as the students protested the allocation for higher education in a 2004 budget approved by the National Assembly Dec. 9. A truck was set on fire and three people were injured in the Dec. 9 incident. The Dec. 11 confrontation left more than 20 people injured and three arrested, as students fired homemade mortars at police. The 1987 Constitution requires that 6% of the budget go to higher education, and student leaders accuse tghe government opf fuding the figures to indicate that current allocation meets this requirement. (La Prensa, Nicaragua, Dec. 10, 12)

Meanwhile, on Dec. 7 a Nicaraguan judge found former president Arnoldo Aleman Lacayo (1997-2002) guilty of money laundering, fraud and other charges and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Due to health concerns, Aleman was allowed to begin his term under house arrest. During the sentencing, a small group of Aleman supporters from the rightwing Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC) attempted to break into the courtroom. They were dispersed by anti-riot police, but one police captain was hit by a rock thrown by the protesters. The Washington Post notes that "while Aleman was president, the United States publicly supported him, and even turned a blind eye to the many reports of corruption. That has now changed, and many top State Department officials have supported the case against him." (WP, Dec 8; La Prensa, Dec. 8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 14

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

On Dec. 20 riot agents from Panama's National Police blocked Avenida Balboa in Panama City and used pepper gas to prevent marchers from reaching the US embassy to protest the 14th anniversary of the US invasion of Panama. No arrests were reported. The march was led by families of those killed in the Dec. 20, 1989 invasion, who planned to protest in front of the embassy, then rally at 5 de Mayo Plaza. Father Conrado Sanjur of the People's Committee for Human Rights in Panama (COPODEHUPA) said it was the first time in 13 years of the annual protest that participants had been denied the right to march, in violation of Panama's constitution. (El Siglo, Panama, Dec. 21) Elizabeth Ayola, president of the Association of the Fallen of December 20, accused the governments which have run Panama since the invasion of being complicit in blocking victims' families from winning justice, and in making sure the true number of victims is not known. (La Prensa, Panama, Dec. 21)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 21 [top]


A joint Israeli-Palestinian polar expedition--dubbed Breaking the Ice--left Chile for Antarctica New Years Day in an effort to demonstrate that the two peoples can work together. The group of four Jews and four Arabs plans to climb an unexplored mountain in a 35-day team-building exercise. Two of the Israelis are former members of an elite commando unit and one of the Palestinians served 10 years in prison for attacking Israeli troops. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has endorsed the expedition, and Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman donated a painting for the main sail of the team's motor yacht. (BBC, Jan. 1) [top]

One year ago, WW3 REPORT noted moves to censure anti-war activities by staff and technicians at the US McMurdo Station on Ross Island in Antarctica. The station, run by the defense contractor Raytheon for the National Science Foundation, hosted a local affiliate of the international anti-war group Not In Our Name--until management cracked down this year, with key organizers being blacklisted from further employment at the base. Among those terminated--officially, not rehired for the 2003-04 season--was senior computer technician Robbie Liben. There is now a web site documenting the purge of anti-war dissent at McMurdo,

In a "dear colleague" letter issued after Liben's termination, AntarcticStorm writes:

"During the 2002-03 Antarctic season several disturbing policy changes were put into effect in the US Antarctic Program [USAP] by Raytheon Polar Services Company [RPSC]. Many of you know of the new policy of mandatory background checks for RPSC employees. These background checks have an unlimited scope and unlimited time frame. The Company reserves the right to conduct these investigations even after the employee no longer works for it. Due to the outcry against the policy, many of you may have thought that Raytheon did not impose it, but, indeed, it did. Raytheon management threatened that employees who organize 'protest demonstrations' (there were several peace gatherings last season), or attempt to organize a union would be fired. When the legality of this was questioned, management stated Raytheon has teams of lawyers and that that reasons would be found that have nothing to do with 'protest.'

"In June, 2002 Raytheon pressed the NSF to change the privacy policy on USAP computer systems and networks. Prior to that all users, including grantees and support staff, had implicit privacy rights. The policy change mandated a login screen that informs users that anything they do on a USAP network and anything they transmit via e-mail can be read by the NSF. The new policy effectively eliminates all of your electronic rights to privacy...

"Raytheon informed Robbie Liben, a network administrator and computer technician, that he will not be allowed to work in Antarctica because of the controversies. How many others will be forced out?"

See also WW3 REPORT #70 [top]


President Bush signed a $401 billion defense authorization bill Nov. 24 saying, "America's military is standing between our country and grave danger." Tucked away within the bill is $15 million for continued research into new H-bombs, including low-yield, so-called "mini-nukes." The bill lifts a decade-old ban on research into low-yield nuclear weapons. Japanese officials expressed concern about the plan saying it could have a "negative impact on nuclear nonproliferation." (Democracy Now!, Nov. 26)

See also WW3 REPORT #83 [top]

According to Peter Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the US victory in Iraq proves that military capability in space "must remain ahead of our adversaries' capabilities, and our doctrine and capabilities must keep pace to meet that challenge." Teets, a former Lockheed Martin executive, concluded: "I think the recent military conflict has shown us, without a doubt, how important the use of space is to national security and military operations," Under a new agreement, NASA, the NRO, US Strategic Command and the Air Force Space Command are to fully mesh all research and development efforts. One example of this new emphasis on technology sharing is Project Prometheus, a multi- billion dollar program to create a nuclear-powered rocket--a critical step towards the nuclear-powered space-based weapons envisioned by the Pentagon since the 1980s "Star Wars" program. Another example is the $4.8 billion development program to develop a "military space plane" to replace NASA's aging Shuttle fleet--this time with the Air Force playing a larger role, and explicit aim being to attack and destroy potential future enemy satellites. A prototype is expected by 2005 with deployment envisioned around 2014. NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe claims everything NASA does from now on will be "dual use"--meaning it will serve both military and civilian purposes. Bush is calling for deployment of six National Missile Defense (NMD) missile interceptors in Alaska, and four in California, by September 30, 2004. Ten more are due in Fort Greely, Alaska, by 2005. The $500 million silo construction project is headed by Boeing and Bechtel. Tests of the new interceptor missiles, led by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and costing over $100 million a shot have thus far been unsuccessful. The Bush administration has promised Boeing a $45 million bonus if it could carry out a successful test, and announced that future testing will be done in secrecy. Russia and China are renewing their call for a global ban on space-based weapons. On July 31, 2003 the two powers delivered their plea at a Geneva session of the UN Conference on Disarmament.

(Bruce K. Gagnon of Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, for CounterPunch, August 2003)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

65, 43 [top]

Russia has deployed a new line of state-of-the-art inter-continental nuclear missiles after a two-year break in the program due to budget problems. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov inaugurated the new Topol-M missiles at the Tatishchevo base in the central Saratov region, describing them as a "21st-Century weapon" unrivaled across the globe. "This is the most advanced state-of-the-art missile in the world," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in televised remarks. "Only such weapons can ensure and guarantee our sovereignty and security and make any attempts to put military pressure on Russia absolutely senseless." The first 10 Topol-M missiles went on line in December 1998 and two more sets followed over the next two years. The latest deployment marks the fourth batch. The new missiles have so far been deployed in silos. The mobile version, mounted on a heavy off-road vehicle, is set to go on line in 2004, Strategic Missile Forces chief Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said. The daily Izvestia boasted that the Topol-M lifts off faster than its predecessors and has special maneuvering capabilities to evade interception. It is capable of lifting off even after a nuclear explosion close to its silo, the newspaper said. (AP, Dec. 22) [top]

Following two recent attempts on the life of Pakistan's ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the White House is concerned over the country's nuclear weapons capability should his regime be ousted by radicals. Said Gaurav Kampani of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies: "It's very unsettling what these assassination attempts imply, that the inner circle for Musharraf has been breached. If security for the president, for the head of the Pakistani Army, cannot be guaranteed, what guarantee is there that nuclear assets and missiles and so forth are safe?" (NYT, Dec. 30)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

37, 15 [top]


On Dec. 5, US immigration authorities transferred Palestinian activist Farouk Abdel-Muhti from Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, NJ, to Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny, NJ. Abdel-Muhti was taken from Bergen together with several Latin American detainees in the early morning, and the group spent the day being processed and photographed at the Newark offices of Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) before being transferred to Hudson. Immigration officials failed to notify Abdel-Muhti's attorneys of his transfer or of any change in his status. As a stateless Palestinian, Abdel-Muhti has no country willing to accept him. In November 2002, Abdel-Muhti filed a habeas corpus petition demanding that the US government release him, based on the Supreme Court's June 2001 Zadvydas v. Davis decision mandating the release of detainees whose deportation orders cannot be carried out within a reasonable period of time--generally six months. On Nov. 25, in an answer to the government's latest response to the suit, attorneys Shane Kadidal and Jeffrey Fogel of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged federal judge Yvette Kane of the Middle Pennsylvania district to order Abdel-Muhti's immediate release.

The latest move comes as Abdel-Muhti is recovering from a Nov. 19 attack in which Bergen County guards hit him, pushed him to the ground, verbally abused him and confiscated his medication, correspondence and reading materials. Abdel-Muhti was preparing about the incident when he was transferred out of Bergen County Jail.

Abdel-Muhti's transfer came two days after several Palestinian detainees were shipped out on a deportation flight from the US, headed for the West Bank and Gaza, via Jordan and Egypt, respectively. Officials apparently sought to keep the latest flight secret; a similar flight on August 19 of this year sparked press attention and public controversy, leading BICE deportation chief David Venturella to defend the agency's actions on the Pacifica Radio program "Democracy Now!"

The move also came after more than 75 people marched to the Newark federal building Nov. 29, to demand Abdel-Muhti's release. Supporters believe Abdel-Muhti has been singled out by the US government for his activism in defense of human rights and Palestinian liberation.

Abdel-Muhti, who has lived in the New York City area for over 25 years, is 56 years old and suffers from high blood pressure, arthritis and a hernia. Hudson County Correctional Center is the sixth detention facility where Abdel-Muhti has been held since his arrest on April 26, 2002.

Supporters can contact David Venturella, Assistant Deputy Director of Detention and Removal at the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) to politely call for Abdel-Muhti's release on habeas corpus grounds. Phone: 202-514-8663 or 202-305-2734; fax: 202-353-9435; e-mail: with copies to

Farouk's address at Hudson is:

Farouk Abdel-Muhti, JN 146160
Unit B-100 West
Hudson County Correctional Center
30 North Hackensack Avenue
Kearny, NJ 07032

For further information: Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti, PO Box 20587, Tompkins Square Station, New York, NY 10009 Tel: 212-674-9499; e-mail:; web:

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

A report released Dec. 18 by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine has confirmed that as many as 20 federal correctional officers routinely abused Muslim, Arab and South Asian men detained on immigration violations at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn following the 9-11 attacks. The report found that "some officers slammed and bounced detainees against the wall, twisted their arms and hands in painful ways, stepped on their leg restraint chains and punished them by keeping them restrained for long periods of time." The report recommends that 10 guards still working at the jail be disciplined and that another two undergo counseling. The new employers of four guards who no longer work at MDC should be notified of the government's findings, said the report.

The new report follows one issued June 2 by Fine's Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which found detainees at MDC faced "excessively restrictive and unduly harsh" conditions and "a pattern of physical and verbal abuse" meriting further investigation. That pattern of abuse has now been confirmed by more than 300 videotapes which were recorded by the jail from October 2001 to February 2002--videotapes which MDC officials previously claimed had been destroyed, despite a US Bureau of Prisons policy requiring such material to be kept for two years.

One focus of the new report was a US flag T-shirt bearing the slogan "These colors don't run," which hung for months on a wall in a prisoner receiving area. Four corrections employees told investigators the T-shirt had bloodstains on it; while no employee would say where the blood came from, the report says there is "some evidence" it resulted from detainees being slammed into the wall. Videotapes showed MDC officials pressing detainees' faces up to the T-shirt. Videotapes and testimony from some MDC officials also confirmed detainees' complaints of being slammed into walls. Detainees said they were slammed into walls much more frequently before video cameras were brought into the facility in October 2001. (WP, NYT, Dec. 18, 19; OIG Report December 2003)

From Immigration News Briefs, Dec. 19

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

89, 39 [top]

A man linked by an informant to a fire that destroyed a Terre Haute museum founded by a Holocaust survivor faces federal firearms charges, court records indicate. Joseph Stockett, 57, appeared in US District Court in Indianapolis on a charge of firearms possession by a convicted felon, but told reporters he had "nothing to do with" the Nov. 18 fire at the CANDLES Museum. The informant who fingered Stockett said he expressed anti-Jewish views and was trying to recruit people into a neo-Nazi organization, according to the affidavit. Court records show that Stockett was convicted in the arson of a Planned Parenthood office in Eugene, OR, and sentenced to five years in prison.

The CANDLES Museum was founded by Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor in 1995. The fire caused the roof to collapse and destroyed much of the displays inside. Terre Haute police said they "haven't ruled anyone out" in the case. (AP, Nov. 25) [top]

Gen. Tommy Franks, former commander of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, told Cigar Aficionado magazine's December edition that if terrorists used a weapon of mass destruction against the US, it could mean the end of constitutional democracy in the country. Franks said that "the worst thing that could happen" is if terrorists use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon. In that case, Franks said, "...the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy." (NewsMax, Nov. 20) [top]


Pentagon adviser Richard Perle came under fire once again--this time for failing to disclose financial ties to Boeing, even while championing its bid for a controversial $20 billion-plus defense contract. Perle co-wrote a guest column in the Wall Street Journal newspaper in the summer praising the plan to lease 100 modified refueling planes, a year after Boeing committed to invest up to $20 million in Trireme Partners, a New York venture capital fund in which Perle is a principal. Boeing said it had briefed Perle on the tanker deal in his capacity as a resident fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute. At the institute's annual dinner in February 2003, President Bush, said it was home to "some of the finest minds in our nation ... at work on some of the greatest challenges to our nation." (Reuters, Dec. 6)

See also WW3 REPORT #85 [top]

James Baker III, who served as Secretary of State under President Bush's father, has been dispatched to Iraq's foreign creditors--who mostly opposed the war--to try to negotiate debt forgiveness for the newly "liberated" nation. He was likely chosen as a credible figure because he was among a group of figures from the first Bush administration who dissented from the new war drive in a New York Times op-ed piece. (See WW3 REPORT #49

Baker has lifelong connections to the Bush dynasty. His law firm Baker & Botts served as legal counsel for Bush I's oil company Zapata Petroleum--and became the de facto legal arm of Pennzoil, as Zapata was renamed after Bush I's partner Hugh Liedtke took over the company. (See "Geroge Bush: The Super-Spy Drug-Smuggling President" by Bill Weinberg, Shadow Books, 1992)


More recently, Baker has served as a consultant for Enron, before the energy giant went bankrupt in 2002. (See WW3 REPORT # 19)

He is also a board member of the elite defense industry investment concern Carlyle Group, on whose behalf he has visted the bin Laden family's headquarters in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. (See WW3 REPORT #s 21, , and 53)

Prominent muckraker Greg Palast implies a Baker role in the 2000 electoral debacle that brought Bush to power. In a recent column Palast claims he heard from "colleagues with BBC television" that Baker told a group of "big wigs" during his recent trip to Russia: "I fixed the election in Florida for George Bush." (Guerilla News, Dec. 8)

See also WW3 REPORT #3 [top]

When former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential frontfrunner Howard Dean told a South Carolina crowd he wants to be "the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," most saw it as an attempt to shake his lefty-hippie New England image. But for some Vermonters, the white supremacist imagery cuts too close to home. Dean, who stepped down as governor after nearly 12 years to pursue the presidential campaign last January, led a Montpelier administration that refused to acknowledge the existence of Vermont's Abenaki Indians.

Three years ago, when a housing development broke ground on land containing tribal remians, the Abenaki launched road blockades outside the village of Swanton, their tribal seat. After months of local tension, the Abenaki and their white neighbors brokered a deal giving the tribe a voice in local development projects. But the Dean administration refused to approve the deal. The official reason was that state recognition of the Abenaki could lead to federal recognition--and the opening of gambling casinos in Vermont. But the Abeanki say they have no interest in casinos, and charge that Dean really fears what the Burlington Free Press called a "hornet's nest" of Indian land claims across the state.

At a 2001 town meeting with Abenaki and local land-owners, Dean's Housing & Community Affairs Commissioner Greg Brown explicitly stated that the Dean administration rejected the locally-brokered protocol because it legitimized the Abenaki Tribal Council--laying groundwork for federal recognition. "The administration is not opposed to the draft policy, except that it mentions the Abenaki Tribal Council," Brown said, according to the local St. Albans Messenger.

"The governor says he doesn't want to give us state recognition because he's afraid of gambling," Abenaki Chief April Rushlow said of Dean in a 2001 interview. "He's afraid of land claims." Rushlow claims all of Vermont except Bennington County is Abenaki--as are parts of New Hampshire, Maine and Quebec.

The Abenaki were one of the most powerful tribes in New England, and secured their northern lands through a successful guerilla insurgency against the British in the 1675 King Phillip's War, holding out after tribes to the south had surrendered. Swindled out of much of their land by the Green Mountain Boys after the Revolution, they disappeared from the history books. In the 1930s, the Abenaki were targeted for sterilization by a University of Vermont eugenics program, and were nearly extreminated. The Abenaki have only started to openly identify again in the last generation.

Chief Rushlow asserts that settlement of land claims would only mean monetary restitution and control over remains--not actual return of the lands. She pledged to fight Dean to the end: "I'll go where ever I have to go. If I have to take this to federal court, US Supreme Court, the United Nations, the World Court--I'm going."

(Bill Weinberg, Special for WW3 REPORT)

See Also: "Unquiet Earth in Abenaki Country," by Bill Weinberg, Native Americas, Spring/Summer 2002-- Volume 19 Number 1 & 2

Some Abenaki Links: [top]


The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled Dec. 18 that President Bush lacks the authority to indefinitely detain a US citizen as an "enemy combatant." Hours later, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the imprisonment of some 660 non-citizens at Guantanamo Bay without access to legal counsel is unconstitutional and against international law. (NYT, Dec. 19)

See WW3 REPORT #93 [top]


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