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ISSUE: #. 97. April 2004







"Have to take the News in minute doses--almost homeopathic--because of my immune level. Just to see an image is to be complicit with it. But not to see it is no guarantee of karma-free innocence either."

--Peter Lamborn Wilson


by Bill Weinberg
with Sarah Fergusen, Keith Snow, Wynde Priddy and Raven Healing, Special Correspondents

Photographs by Andrew Epstein

1. Fallujah: Dialectic of Desecration
2. Shi'ite Uprising Against Occupation
3. Shia-Sunni Alliance Against Occupation
4. Shi'ite Militia "Cleanses" Gypsy Village
5. Shi'ite Ritual Under Fire
6. Protests Mark First Year of Occupation
7. Constitution Approved--For Now
8. US in for Long Haul
9. US Farms Out Policing to Mercenaries
10. US Intimidates Journalists in Iraq
11. Missing WMD: Not Funny
12. Oil Giants Pull Out of Iraq Talks
13. Turkish Propaganda: Kurds Pawns of Jews
14. Violence in Syrian Kurdistan; US Imposes Sanctions
15. Conscientious Objector Funk Free
16. Nicaraguan Conscientious Objector Turns Self In
17. GIs Face Radioactive Contamination

1. Sheikh Yassin Proposed 30-Year Truce
2. EU: Israeli Assassinations "Acts of Terror"
3. UN Suspends Aid to Gaza Strip
4. US Cops Get Israeli Expertise
5. Tel Aviv "Asymmetrical Warfare" Confab
6. Israeli Nuke Technicians in Class Action Suit
7. Israel Refuses to Return Enriched Uranium

1. Morocco Joins U.S. Free Trade Pact
2. Libya to Welcome Back Jews?

1. Amnesty International: No Rule of Law in Provinces
2. Human Rights Watch: U.S. Forces Abuse Prisoners
3. Karzai Plays Opium Card for Reconstruction Funds
4. Pakistan Tribal Leaders Protest Military Incursions
5. Pakistan Pass on Proliferation: "Quid Pro Quo"?

1. Terror and Intrigue in Uzbekistan
2. Rummy Does Central Asia
3. Sabre-Rattling Over Caspian Basin
4. Russia Protests NATO Expansion

1. Leader of Mountain Jews Assassinated
2. Ingush Leader Escapes Assassination

1. Terror and Regime Change in Madrid
2. Ansar al-Islam Behind Madrid Terror?
3. Spanish Muslims Fear Backlash
4. Muslims or White Racists Behind Anti-Semitic Surge?

1. Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo--Again
2. Karadzic Evades Arrest--Again
3. Israeli P.R. Man Backs Romanian Fascist

1. Bush Wants $2.4 Billion More for Colombia War
2. AUC Ups Ante in Disarmament Talks: No Extradition
3. FARC Wants U.N. Mediation in Hostage Talks
4. Human Rights Watch: Colombian A.G. Covers for Paras
5. Brutal Police-Army Sweeps in Medellin
6. Popular Leader Slain in Cucuta
7. Massacre and Detainments in Arauca
8. War in Putumayo Oil Fields
9. Uribe "Liquidates" State Mining Company
10. Para Union-Busting at Coca-Cola Plants
11. Glyphosate Spraying Approved for National Parks
12. Colombians Protest Iraq War
13. Venezuela Pulls Out of SOA
14. Chavez Directs Petro-Profits to Poor
15. Plan Colombia Threatens Galapagos
16. Argentine Neo-Nazi Party Denied Accreditation
17. Colombia War Zone Shots Now On-Line

1. Chiapas Gov. Denies Zapatista "Reactivation"
2. Oaxaca Gov. Escapes Assassination

1. Guatemala: Ex-Dictator Under House Arrest
2. Instant Karma for Guatemalan War Criminal
2. Hondurans Protest Iraq War
3. CAFTA Grows Amid Protests
4. Salvadoran Leftist Defeated; Tel Aviv Relieved

1. Bill Safire: Not So Smart After All
2. Newsday Flunks Geography

1. FBI Whistle-Blower in 9-11 Bombshell
2. 9-11 Commission Chief: Iraq War Serves Israel
3. Baker Defends Saudis in 9-11 Suit
4. Al-Qaeda Threatens "Winds Of Death"?
5. Paranoid Republicans Dis Terror War Allies

1. Freedom Coming for Farouk Abdel-Muhti?
Judge Presses Government at Habeas Corpus Hearing
2. ACLU Sues Over No-Fly List
3. Education Secretary: Teachers are Terrorists
4. Jewish School Torched in Montreal
5. Muslim Businesses Torched in San Antonio
6. Is There a Draft in Your Future?

1. Ground Zero Workers Face Lingering Illness
2. Angry Residents Confront New 9-11 Health Panel
3. Lower Manhattan Apartments to be Re-Tested
4. Duane Reade Losses Libel Suit Over 9-11 Memorial
5. Washington Wonk: Don't Rebuild It!
6. NYPD Spies on Boston Activists

1. Cyber-Smart Alecks Hack Bush Web Site


The March 31 slaying of four US contract workers in the central Sunni town of Fallujah marked a turning point in the occupation of Iraq. The attack was not carried out by armed guerillas, but by local residents, who chanted "Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans," and cheered after halting and burning two four-wheel-drive civilian vehicles. Others chanted, "We sacrifice our blood and souls for Islam." Two mutilated and burned bodies of the victims were hung from a bridge across the Euphrates. (ATF, March 31)

The US responded by sending in more Marines in a push to finally pacify the town, long a center of anti-occupation resistance. This, of course, only escalated the uprising. On April 5, US Apache helicopters were reported to be attacking civilian neighborhoods in Fallujah. (FSRN, April 6) On April 7, US forces in Fallujah were reported to be bombing a mosque where fighters had taken refuge. Fighting briefly halted April 9 to evacuate civilians--then resumed, with the town tunred into a free-fire zone. Military-age men were not allowed to leave. Civilian refugees are still streaming out of Fallujah. Local hospital officials now report 280 dead, with many hastily buried in the town's soccer field as residents were barred by the military seige from reaching the cemetery. US Marine commanders, in turn, deny that civilians have been killed. Two members of General Council have stepped down in protest of the US military action. (BBC, AP, April 9)

The US military admitted that a Cobra helicopter fighter fired a Hellfire missile and a laser-guided precision bomb into Fallujah's Abdulaziz Al-Samarai mosque in April 7, killing up to 40 people inside. In Cairo, the Islamic Research Center of Al-Azhar--the world's largest Sunni authority--condemned the air attacks on the mosque as "terrorist ." (Islam Online, April 9)

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

The tentative support that the US has had from Iraq's Shi'ites, who were bitterly persecuted by Saddam Hussein, is rapidly being lost as US moves against radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have sparked an uprising by his militia, the Mahdi Army--and brought a counterinsurgency war to Iraq's Shi'ite strongholds.

The crisis began March 28, when the Coalition Provisional Authority ordered closed the weekly newspaper of al-Sadr's movement, al-Hawza, for inciting violence against occupation forces. The recent arrest of an al-Sadr deputy, Mustafa al-Yacoubi, further inflamed tensions. On April 4, two al-Sadr followers were killed after throwing themselves in front of US tanks in a demonstration in central Baghdad. An uprising quickly spread through Sadr City, Baghdad's vast Shiite "slum" named for Moqtada's cleric father who was killed by the Saddam regime in 1999. Seven US troops were killed in a battle for Sadr City, but al-Sadr's militia was left in control of all five of Sadr City's police stations

Thousands-strong protests also swept through the Shi'ite towns of Najaf, Karbala and Kufa April 4. In Najaf, coalition troops under Spanish command exchaned fire with Moqtada supporters. At least 19 protesters and four coalition troops--including a Salvadoran--were reported killed. At least 14 protesters and two occupation troops, including an American, were reported killed in Kufa. On April 7, al-Sadr fighters drove Ukrainian troops out of Kut.

A warrant has now been issued for al-Sadr's arrest in the killing of a rival Shi'ite cleric, Abdel Majid al-Khoei, who was beaten to death by a mob in Najaf last April--and was said to be on the CIA payroll. The rebellion is rapidly spreading, with Najaf, Kufa and Kut all in the hands of al-Sadr forces as of April 9. A group calling itself the "Mujahedeen Squadrons" has also taken several foreign aid workers, journalists and missionaries hostage--including three Japanese, two Palestinian Israelis and a Canadian. A group of South Koreans were released after paying their captives $30,000. (Combined sources: AP, UPI, WP)

US occupation administrator Paul Bremer said al-Sadr "is attempting to establish his authority in place of the legitimate authority. We will not tolerate this." Countered al-Sadr in a communique: "I call upon the American people to stand beside their bretheren, the Iraqi people, who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army. Otherwise, Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers." (Newsday, April 6, 8)

Al-Sadr's movement has always refused to cooperate with the Coalition Provisional Authority or Governing Council, but is said to have more power on the ground than other Shi'ite factions which are working with the occupation forces. See WW3 REPORT #94

Al-Sadr's militias have been assuming police powers in Shi'ite enclaves throughout Iraq since the fall of Saddam. See WW3 REPORT #95 [top]

UPI reported April 6 that the Sadr movement headquaters in Baghdad, where hundreds of al-Sadr militia and US troops are facing off, was visted by three Sunni clerics with a letter for the leaders of the Mahdi Army. Among the delegation was Sheikh Hudor al-Abari of Anbar Province, which contains the Sunni towns of Fallujah and Ramadi--both now the scene of fierce fighting between US Marines and the Army of Mohammed, a Sunni umbrella organization. Abari carried a letter from Sheikh Harrath Selman al-Tey, leader Iraq's largest Sunni tribe. He told UPI: "The letter [to Moqtada Sadr] declares that we are the Army of Mohammed and all of Ramadi and Fallujah [offer] our army and people and souls and hearts and weapons under your command. There is no more Shiite and Sunni, only Muslims and now we will fight each other no more and together fight the same enemy."

The Washington Post reported that April 5 residents of Adhamiya, a largely Sunni section of northern Baghdad, marched with followers of Moqtada Sadr in a joint protest against the occupation. [top]

The village of Qawliya (also rendered Kawlia), a stronghold of Iraq's Roma ("Gypsy") minority, has been left a ghost town following a March 12 raid by Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, with houses burned and abandoned. The village was said to have been targetted because it included a "red light district" and was said to be a den of corruption, following the usual prejudices against the Roma--despite the fact that the Roma inhabitants of Qawliya were Shiites themselves.

Sayid Yahya Shubari, the local commander of the Mahdi Army in nearby Diwaniya, said the raid was launched in response to reports that pimps had kidnapped a 12-year-old girl. Even official authorities seemed unconcerned with the raid. "You know this village, it's a Gypsy village," said Brig. Hamid Abed Zeid, the deputy police commander in Diwaniyah. "You know what goes on there--illegal activities, drugs, crime, looting. You know these activities are against Islamic injunctions." Added a local resident to a reporter from the Financial Times: "People would come from all over the south, and even Baghdad to dance with the gypsy girls. Women were leaving their husbands to work there. They are cleansing the town." (FT, April 2; WP, April 3) [top]

Following the deadly March 2 bomb blasts in Karbala during the Shi'ite pilgrimage of Ashura, calls are mounting for Shi'ites to give up a controversial ritual in which they cut themselves and draw blood. Shia faithful had congregated by the thousands at the Karbala shrines to participate in the period of ritual mourning that marks the memory of the seventh-century Imam Hussein. The practice had been banned for 30 years by the Ba'ath regime. Now that it has re-emerged, many clerics are urging followers to give blood instead--while others insist the centuries-old ritual should be retained as an important part of traditional Shia. Writes Emad al-Sharei from Karbala for the Instute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR):

"Psychology student Haidar Ahmed al-Musawi, 25, travelled to Karbala and took part in the mourning rituals, whipping his back with a flail and pounding his chest with his hand. He was planning to join in what for many is the climax of the festival--'tatbir', where participants slash their heads with a short sword. Then he recalled the words of his marja, or spiritual guide--who had said people should donate blood to hospitals rather than spill it in mourning. Taking this advice, 'I felt that I was doing a service to people who need blood,' said Musawi. 'The recompense [from God] will be the same as if I had participated in the tatbir, because I am helping people.'"

This sentiment has been echoed by many Shi'ite clerics since the Ashura massacre. "We advise all Shia to donate blood instead of performing tatbir," said Hassan Ali al-Musawi, from the al-Murtada media foundation which answers to Iraq's senior Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. But ultra-traditionalist Shi'ites say the pressure for change come from Iran, where the scholarly establishment considers tatbir an anachronism which tarnishes the public image of Shia. (IWPR, March 4)

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

Up to 3,000 Sunni and Shiite Muslims held a joint protest in Baghdad March 19 demanding an end to "American occupation" of their country on the eve of the first anniversary of the US-led invasion. "No to Saddam. No to the Americans. Yes to Islam," worshippers chanted before leaving the Kazimiya mosque, Baghdad's holiest Shiite shrine and home to the mausoleum of Imam Mussa al-Kazem. During the service, imam Saeed Hazim al-Araji accused the US of "violating Iraq." He declared, "We are all time-bombs at the service of the Hawza," the Shiite religious authority--but also urged worshippers to join ranks "with our Sunni brothers" in peaceful protest protest against the occupation.

Shiite worshippers marched from the mosque across the Tigris River to join Sunni protesters gathered outside one of their mosques. There they merged, holding signs in Arabic and English denouncing "American terrorism." One sign said "Human rights have disappeared." Said Sunni cleric Jawad al-Khalissi: "Before the war, Iraq had no links whatsoever to international terrorism. Occupation brought international terrorism to our land." (Middle East Online, March 19) [top]

On March 8 the Governing Council approved a draft constitution that would instate a high degree of decentralization, with the Kurdish north to remain an autonomous zone and Iraq divided into 18 "governorates" which are permitted to unite in similar autonmous regions. The constitution barely sruvived a two-day walk-out by Shi'ites on the 25-member Council in protest of veto power granted to the minority Kurdish and Sunni minorities over making the constitution permanent. Final approval of the constitution can be blocked by two-thirds of the voters in any three of the governorates in a vote scheduled for next year. It also makes Kurdish a national language. (Newsday, March 9)

The signing took place against a backdrop of ongoing terror in Baghdad. On March 7, missiles slammed into the al-Rasheed Hotel near the edge of the Green Zone, the complex housing the occupation authorities. On March 17, a car bomb blew up at the Mount Lebanon Hotal, leaving several dead. (Newsday, March 8, 18) [top]

Despite official talk of a June pull-out, the US is preparing for a long stay in Iraq. US engineers are building 14 "enduring bases" in Iraq for thousands of troops expected to remain in the country for at least two years. (Chicago Tribune, March 23)

There are now 135,000 US troops in Iraq, with another 40,000 slated to be sent in following the new unrest. (FSRN, April 6) 25,000 who were scheduled to come home will now be sent back into battle. (NYT, April 8) The US military death toll in the Iraq as of April 5 stood at 607. Of those, 417 died as a result of hostile action and 190 of non-hostile causes. The British military has reported 58 deaths; Italy, 17; Spain, eight; Bulgaria, five; Ukraine, three; Thailand, two, and Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia and Poland one each. (Newsday, April 6)

The Pentagon says it does not keep track of Iraqi civilian casualties. But the web site Iraq Body Count continues to monitor world press reports to arrive at a daily update of the total Iraqi civilian dead from war-related causes since the US campaign began last March. At press time, the minimum estimate stands at 8,865 and the maximum at 10,715.

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

The work of policing Iraq is increasingly being farmed out to mercenaries. The Washington Post reported April 6 that an attack by Shi'ite militia fighters on the US government's headquarters in Najaf was repulsed by the private forces of Blackwater Security Consulting, which sent in its own helicopters to resupply its troops with ammo and ferry out a wounded Marine.

The three US personnel killed in Fallujah March 31 were also Blackwater employees. Journalist Barry Yeoman wrote in an April 2 New York Times op-ed that Blackwater operates a 5,200-acre training ground in North Carolina's Great Dismal Swamp, where its staff of veteran Green Berets are now training former Chilean commandos for service in Iraq.

Robert Fisk reported for The Independent March 29: "An army of thousands of mercenaries has appeared in Iraq's major cities, many of them former British and American soldiers hired by the occupying Anglo-American authorities and by dozens of companies who fear for the lives of their employees. Many of the armed Britons are former SAS soldiers and heavily armed South Africans are also working for the occupation... There are serious doubts even within the occupying power about America's choice to send Chilean mercenaries, many trained during General Pinochet's vicious dictatorship, to guard Baghdad airport."

See also WW3 REPORT #81 [top]

The International Federation of Journalists issued a statement accusingd US authorities in Iraq of attempting to "control and intimidate" the media following the March 6 detention of several Korean Broadcasting System journalists by the US forces in Baghdad for four hours on suspicion of carrying explosives. The journalists were all handcuffed and held in custody based on "internal regulations," despite the fact that the Korean embassy had confirmed their identifications and had called for their immediate release. "Such actions are absolutely unacceptable," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is very difficult not to interpret this as a direct attempt to intimidate the media." The IFJ is supporting its affiliate, the Journalists Association of Korea, which is calling on the US military in Iraq and the US administration to apologise and to make public "internal regulations" on the basis of which the US military authorities detained the journalists.

This incident comes as the right of all journalists to enter Iraq without special accreditation by the US authorities has been restricted. At the beginning of March, US forces announced that all journalists currently in Iraq or arriving must register with occupation forces and obtain a press card. (IJF, March 15)

On March 29, the US agreed to meet with the failies of an Iraqi journalist and cameraman for Al-Arabiya satellite TV who were shot by US troops as their car approached a roadblock. The US admits the troops were responsible for the deaths, but insists they did not act inappropriately. The US is generally offering $5,000 payments to the survivors of civilian dead. (NYT, March 30)

See also WW3 REPORT #95 [top]

President George Bush sparked a political row by joking about his own fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. At the 60th annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association, Bush narrated a slide show poking fun at himself and other administration figures. One pictured Bush looking under a piece of furniture in the Oval Office, to which the president remarked: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere." Bush's election challenger Sen. John Kerry called the routine "stunningly cavalier." (BBC, March 26)

Meanwhile, David Kay, the former chief US weapons inspector in Iraq, warned that the United States is in "grave danger" of destroying its credibility at home and abroad if it does not own up to its mistakes in Iraq. "The cost of our mistakes . . . with regard to the explanation of why we went to war in Iraq are far greater than Iraq itself," Kay said in a speech at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "We are in grave danger of having destroyed our credibility internationally and domestically with regard to warning about future events. The answer is to admit you were wrong, and what I find most disturbing around the can never admit you're wrong." (Reuters, March 23)

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

The British government and some of the world's largest oil companies pulled out of a conference hosted by the Iraqi Oil Ministry in Basra on how to revive exploitation of the country's vast reserves. A spokesman for BP said: "We are not going because of the security situation." UK Trade & Investment, a part of the Department of Trade & Industry charged with promoting British business interests overseas, also cited security concerns in deciding not to attend. Shell said it hadn't yet decided whether to attend. ExxonMobil refused to comment, but is also said to have decided to pull out. Only TotalFinaElf and ChevronTexaco confirmed their attendance. The conference, to be held April 18-19, was originally scheduled for March but postponed because of security issues. News that so many companies have pulled out is a blow to the Iraqi Governing Counci, desperate to attract Western oil companies. The Council fears that once the current round of US-funded reconstruction work is complete it will have little money to continue improving infrastructure. Top of its agenda is providing running water and sanitation facilities. (UK Independent, April 4)

See also WW3 REPORT #91 [top]

Unlikely conspiracy theories are emerging in the increasingly contentious struggle between Kurds and Turkomans (or Turkmen) for the shape of northern Iraq. According to a report in Kuwait's ash-Sharq newspaper, "Turkoman sources in northern Iraq report that in accordance with the US-Zionist goal of subjugating the Arab Region to their control, there is a plan to settle thousands of Jewish families in northern Iraq." Echoing claims frequently heard in Turkey, the Turkoman sources report that "'Israel' has imposed its presence in the area by taking control of a 200-square-kilometer piece of territory that begins at the Syrian-Iraqi border and extends to the east as far as the border of Iran, passing through Talafar and Mosul. The sources add that the aim of the land purchases is to settle more than 150,000 Jews in the area that coincides with the borders of the 'Kurdish state' desired by Kurdish chauvinist parties." ("Israel" and "Kurdish state" were put in quotes presumably to deny their legitimacy.) The report also cited "alleged purchases by Zionist interests of oil fields from Kurds in northern Iraq." (Al-'Arab al-Yawm, Amman, Jordan, Feb. 19)

See also WW3 REPORT #96: 96.html#iraq4

Meanwhile, Iraq's Governing Council is debating whether to allow the return of tens of thousands of Jews who fled the country since 1948. The issue came up in the context of a general law allowing exiles to reclaim their citizenship and property. In the draft legislation, an explicit exception was made for Jews. "My feeling is, as long as the Palestinian problem exists, as long as there is a state of war, then we should not allow the Jews to return," said Council member Muhammad Bahaddin Saladin. "The minister of defense in Israel is an Iraqi Jew. Should we let him return?" Baghdad's Jews numbered 120,000 in 1948, but began leaving in large numbers following the creation of Israel that year, encouraged by periodic waves of anti-Jewish violence. Under a 1950 law, all Iraqi Jews who emigrated to Israel had to renounce their citizenship. In 1969, following the coup that brought the Baath Party to power, twelve men, including seven Jews, were hanged from lamp-posts in Baghdad's Liberation Square on treason charges. Saddam Hussein, then a senior Baath Party member, reportedly toured the scene. Up to 400,000 Iraqi Jews and their descendants now live in Israel, with 40,000 more in the US, UK and Australia. (NYT, Feb. 28)

See also WW3 REPORT #85 [top]

The US is about to impose harsh sanctions on Syria under the Syria Accountability Act, passed by Congress in November and signed into law by President Bush. The law requires the president to report to Congress on how to implement the sanctions. (JTA, March 16)

The sanctions come just as ethnic violence is breaking out in Syria's north. Over the weekend of March 14, Syrian security forces killed up to 94 and injured hundreds during clashes with Kurdish protester, sparking armed retaliation. Kurdish insurgents were said to have taken over most of the Syrian administration buildings in the town of Qamishli. The violence started during a soccer game in the city, and quickly spread throughout the country's Kurdish region. Kurdish sources also claim their forces killed nine Syrian officers. In the nearby city Amuda, Kurdish insurgents reportedly killed a judge and four soldiers. According to the reports, Syrian security forces at the soccer game fired at the crowd, killing about 30, after clashes between the fans of rival teams. One Syrian government source told the Israeli daily Haaretz: "The issue is being turned from a soccer match riot into an issue with a political dimension" by some Kurdish politicians--an apparent referince to demands by some 200,000 Syrian Kurds who are not recognized as citizens. Haaretz reported that a team of US intelligence officers has been secretly sent in to "calm the situation." (Haaretz, March 14, 15)

About 5,000 Kurds marched in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil on March 17 in solidarity with the Syrian Kurds. (Reuters, March 17)

For more on the Syrian Kurds, see WW3 REPORT #58

For more on US interventionist plans for Syria, see WW3 REPORT #79 [top]

Released from a North Carolina military prison after serving six months for "unauthorized absence" from his Marine reserve unit based in San Jose, Stephen Funk returned home to San Francisco as a hero to anti-war activists. Funk was feted March 14 at a "welcome home" fund-raiser in Oakland to benefit the anti-war group Not In Our Name and his legal defense . (San Francisco Chronicle, March 14)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

92, 83 [top]

On March. 15, Florida Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia turned himself in to military authorities at Hanscom Air Force Base west of Boston, MA, and announced at a public press conference that he was seeking conscientious objector status. Mejia is a citizen of Nicaragua and the son of renowned Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Carlos Mejia Godoy, who authored numerous compositions in support of the Sandinista revolution. Sgt. Mejia came to the US with his mother while a teenager, and joined the Army at age 19. Three years later he began a five-year stint with the National Guard. He was about to graduate from the University of Miami when his unit was called to Iraq in April 2003. He became increasingly disillusioned with the war while serving as a squad leader in Iraq. (NYT, March 16)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 21)

Mejia told Dan Rather of CBS: "When you look at the war and you look at the reasons that took us to war and you don't find that any of the things that we were told that we're going to war for turned out to be true. When you don't find there are weapons of mass destruction and when you don't find that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and you see that you're not helping the people and the people don't want you there and, to me, there's no military contract and no military duty that's going to justify being a part of that war."

Like nearly 40,000 other soldiers who have spent time fighting in Iraq, Mejia is a legal resident alien. When asked if he still hopes to become a citizen, Mejia responded, "Yes, I do."

Since the US invaded Iraq last year, hundreds of soldiers have broken the law and abandoned their units on the battlefield. (CBS, March 29) [top]

Four soldiers from a New York Army National Guard company serving in Iraq are contaminated with radiation likely caused by dust from depleted uranium shells fired by US troops, a NY Daily News investigation by reporter Juan Gonzalez found. They are among several members of the same company, the 442nd Military Police, who say they have been battling persistent physical ailments that began last summer in the Iraqi town of Samawah. "I got sick instantly in June," said Staff Sgt. Ray Ramos, a Brooklyn housing cop. "My health kept going downhill with daily headaches, constant numbness in my hands and rashes on my stomach." A nuclear medicine expert who examined and tested nine soldiers from the company says that four "almost certainly" inhaled radioactive dust from exploded US shells manufactured with depleted uranium. Laboratory tests conducted at the request of The News revealed traces of two man-made forms of uranium in urine samples from four of the soldiers. Uranium oxide dust, which lodges in the lungs once inhaled and is not very soluble, can emit radiation to the body for years. (NY Daily News, April 1)

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]


Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza City March 22 to mourn the death of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the wheelchair-bound 66-year-old leader of Hamas who was killed in an Israeli missile attack earlier that day. Helicopter-launched missiles targetted Yassin and seven others leaving a Gaza mosque. The strike wounded 16, including two of Yassin's sons, hospital sources said. Israeli authorities defended the assassination as a legtimate move against terrorism. Said a statement from the Israeli Defense Forces: "Yassin, responsible for numerous murderous terror attacks, resulting in the deaths of many civilians, both Israeli and foreign, was killed in the attack." (CNN, March 22)

But two days after the attack, former Mossad director Ephraim HaLevy told Israel's Channel 1 TV "Politika" program that in 1997 Sheikh Yassin had offered a "30-year hudna [truce] ceasefire." HaLevy asserted that the offer was not discussed in Israeli government circles. When asked what he thought of the assassination, he replied, "Justice was done." But HaLevy admitted that it was he who arranged Yassin's release from an Israeli prison during the Netanyahu administration following the botched assassination attempt against Hamas "politburo leader" Khaled Meshal. HaLevy negotiated the deal with Jordan's King Hussein in order to "save the peace treaty with Jordan" and obtain the release of Mossad agents seized in the failed mission into Jordan. While admitting he was assigned out of the country during the ceasefire proposal, HaLevy insisted he knew with certainty that the offer was made. (, March 24) [top]

Following the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, the European Parliament issued an article comparing injuries to Palestinians by Israeli military action to "acts of terror," and called for a suspension of the Israel-EU Association Agreement if Israel persists in its policy of assassinations. The agreement, launched in June 2000, elevates Israel's political and diplomatic status in its finance and trade dealings with the EU. The new Article 41 states that the European Parliament "reiterates its condemnations of all terrorist acts against civilian populations committed by both sides." Article 43 calls on the Palestinians "not to respond to this most recent provocation in order to stop the spiral of violence and terrorism." (Haartez, April 2) [top]

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) announced following the Sheikh Yassin assassination that it has stopped distributing emergency food aid to some 600,000 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip. UNRWA said in a statement that the suspension comes in response to restrictions introduced by Israel on the sole commercial crossing into Gaza. "Under normal circumstances, UNRWA delivers some 250 tons of food aid per day in Gaza alone as part of a wider program of emergency assistance to refugees, initiated shortly after the outbreak of strife in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September 2000," the statement said. Almost two out of three households in Gaza live below the poverty line and more than half its workforce is unemployed. UNRWA urged Israel to loosen its restrictions in Gaza. (UNRWA press release, April 2) [top]

Under a program sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), 14 senior US police chiefs, sheriffs and state police commanders travelled to Israel in January for five days of intensive study in counter-terrorism techniques. Modeled after JINSA's recent Flag & General Officers Trip for US military personnel, the Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) was "designed to establish cooperation between American and Israeli law enforcement personnel and to give the American law enforcement community access to the hard lessons learned by the Israelis in the interdiction of and response to all forms of terrorism." (JINSA press release, Feb. 9)

For more on JINSA see WW3 REPORT #65 [top]

Dozens of foreign military attaches and defense industry executives attended a Tel Aviv exhibition showing off Israeli expertise in "asymmetric warfare," hearing lectures about low-intensity conflict and examining the same surveillance equipment that tracked assassinated Hamas leader Sheik Yassin. Some 45 military manufacturers hawked their gear at glitzy stands. In attendance were representatives from 35 countries including China, South Africa, Chile and Switzerland--as well as attaches from European nations who declined to be identified because their governments had just criticized Israel for the Yassin assassination. "We are currently establishing a special units forces and we would like to implement the doctrines based on the experience of the Israeli army forces," said Lt. Col. Miroslav Hurska, a Slovak officer who said his country had troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Our ministry of defense director for procurement asked me to bring as much information as possible from the exhibition." (Jewish Week, NYC, March 29) [top]

Employees of Israel's Dimona nuclear research station in the Negev Desert who developed radiation-linked illnesses are suing the Israeli government for negligence. Israel's daily Yediot Achronot reported that 17 former and current Dimona technicians had petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the government to pay them full medical compensation for illnesses they said were caused by radiation exposure. The secrecy around Dimona--where Israel's nuclear weapons are said to have been developed--means such lawsuits move slowly. According to Yediot, 20 similar cases filed in recent years are still in litigation. (JTA, 3/22)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

58 14 [top]

Citing an internal US Energy Department report, the daily Haartez reports that Israeli is refusing to return enriched uranium it received from the US years ago for the refueling of the nuclear research facility at Nahal Sorek. According to the report, the US has been working since 1996 to return uranium that was given to friendly countries under the Atoms for Peace program. The collection of the nuclear fuel was meant to prevent its being used for weapons construction. The Energy Department has so far been able to collect just 2.6 tons, while 15 tons of enriched uranium is still being held by former members of the program.

Israel is included in a list of 12 countries that the report says "are not expected to take part in the program," and which together hold roughly half of the uranium that has yet to be collected. Other countries on the list include Iran, Pakistan, South Africa, France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The Nahal Sorek nuclear reactor was bought from the US in 1960. In 1978 the US Congress passed a law forbidding providing nuclear fuel to countries which have nuclear facilities that are not internationally monitored. Though the Nahal Sorek reactor is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the ultra-secret facility ar Dimona is not.

The Israeli Atomic Energy Commission said in response to the Energy Department report: "We are following all of the American initiatives to prevent the proliferation [of nuclear weapons], which have gained momentum since September 11, 2001. We have read the mentioned report, which is not an new initiative." (Haartez, March 7) [top]


The US has announced an agreement with Morocco that it says will be a model for the proposed U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA). The agreement removes most barriers to US imports and gives Washington trade privileges that have largely been rejected by other developing nations interested in deals with the US. White House trade representative Robert B. Zoellick and Moroccan Minister-delegate of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Taib Fassi-Fihri made the joint announcement in Washington. "This agreement cuts tariffs and opens markets for American workers, farmers, investors and consumers," said Zoellick. "It's a ground-breaking FTA that not only slashes tariffs, but sets a new high standard for the protection of intellectual property rights [and] opens markets for services."

Zoellick boasted the US-Morocco agreement will be an integral part of President Bush's strategy to create a free trade area in the Middle East by 2013. "Our agreement with Morocco is not just a single announcement, but a vital step in creating a mosaic of US free agreements [sic] across the Middle East and North Africa," Zoellick said. (IPS, March 3) [top]

Saif al-Islam, son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, said his country would be prepared to compensate Jews who had lost their property in Libya, and welcomed Libyan Jews to return and receive Libyan citizenship.

"In the future, we will open the file of compensation for Jews who lost their property and money," Saif al-Islam Ghaddafi said in an interview with al-Jazeera TV. "These people are Libyans, and therefore they will be compensated. We should call on the 30,000 Jews of Libyan origin who are living in Israel to return to Libya as citizens. This is their land and the land of their ancestors. That way, they will leave the country they took away from the Palestinians."

Ghaddafi's son said (in somewhat garbled terms) that his country no longer views Israel as an enemy. "Until recently, Israel was an enemy," he said. "But things have changed, and the Palestinians, whom we supported with weapons, are saying that they don't want these weapons. In addition, neither Jordan nor Egypt wants a confrontation [with Israel]. We are not negotiating with Israel because it's not occupying our land; it's not a country with which we are in conflict, and we have no problems with it."

However, he stressed that Libya has no intention of recognizing Israel in the near future. (Jerusalem Post, March 25) [top]


As Afghan leaders and international donors to the reconstruction effort in the war-torn country met in Berlin, Amnesty International issued a letter warning that while the rule of law has been established in the capital, warlords still reign unchecked throughout most of the country. "We have seen some positive steps emerging, such as the building of a professional police force, training of the judiciary, police and lawyers, legal reform and physical rehabilitation of prisons and courts in Kabul," said the statement. "However, it is extremely worrying that progress is being limited to the capital while human rights remain far from realized for Afghans living in other provinces." The group urged the international community to take action on issues of security, violence against women and prison conditions. These were among the areas in which the organization recorded some of the gravest human rights violations during its last visit to the country in February 2004. "Violations of the rights of women and girls, including physical abuse, underage marriage, exchange of girls to settle feuds were widely reported to Amnesty International during the recent visit." The statement concluded: "It is particularly worrying that the Afghan government has not addressed these issues in any substantial way so far and thus is failing to implement its international commitments at the national level." (Amnesty International press release, March 26)

Amnesty said it welcomed the joint Afghan and international agency report "Securing Afghanistan's Future: Accomplishments and the Strategic Path" which outlines a $28 billion proposal for future investment. But Amnesty is concerned that this document pays inadequate attention to protection of women, reform of the criminal justice system and establishment of effective accountability mechanisms for the investigation and prosecution of past and present human rights violations. (Reuters, March 22)

Days before the opening of the Berlin conference, eavy fighting broke out in Herat, with up to 100 killed in battles between rival factions. The fighting began after Mirwais Sadiq--the central government's civil aviation minister and son of provincial governor Ismael Khan--was killed. (LAT, March 22) Two weeks later, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Uzbek warlord of northern Mazar-i-Sharif seized neighboring Faryab province. Beseiged Faryab governor Anayatullah Anayat appealed to Karzai for reinforcements. (Reuters, April 7)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

92, 86 [top]

US forces in Afghanistan have arbitrarily detained civilians, used excessive force during arrests of non-combatants, and mistreated detainees, Human Rights Watch says in a new report, concluding that the US-administered system of arrest and detention in Afghanistan functions outside of the rule of law. The US maintains separate detention facilities at Bagram, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Asadabad military bases. "The United States is setting a terrible example in Afghanistan on detention practices," said Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. "Civilians are being held in a legal black hole--with no tribunals, no legal counsel, no family visits and no basic legal protections."

The 59-page report, "Enduring Freedom: Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan," is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan over the past year. It calls on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to urge the US to bring the detention system into compliance with international law, and to order Afghan commanders to stop or attempt to prevent abuses during military operations. (HRW press release, March 8) [top]

The US announced an additional $1 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan following the donor's summit in Berlin, on top of the $1.2 billion the Bush administration pledged earlier. Karzai told a Berlin news conference that the US has built 300 schools and 378 clinics in Afghanistan this year. "And please take a message from me back to the United States of extreme gratitude," Karzai told Secretary of State Colin Powell at the joint news conference. International donors have pledged a total of $4.4 billion for the financial year 2004-05 to help rebuild the Afghan economy. Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani said the donor nations also agreed to commit $8.2 billion for next three years. At a Tokyo conference in 2002, donors pledged $4.5 billion for five years. Afghans are seeking $27.5 billion over seven years to rebuild the country. (UPI, March 31)

Karzai shrewdly played up the opium angle in his bid for reconstruction money, warning that illegal drugs still generate over half of the country's national income, and stating: "The fight against drugs is actually the fight for Afghanistan." Much of the foreign aid is slated for eradication and crop replacement efforts, with some 400 Afghan farmers now experimenting with saffron, the world's most expensive spice. He also boasted that Afghan troops had recently raided and destroyed 28 heroin labs. (CSM, April 1)

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

A new offensive against Islamic militants taking refuge in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan was blasted by local tribal leaders as a stunt aimed at "appeasing America." Amid growing anger at mounting civilian casualties, tribal elders in Wana called a jirga--tribal council--to demand a ceasefire from Pakistan government troops. At least 13 civilians have been killed in fierce fighting around the town in South Waziristan province. Pakistan authorities initially said they believed al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri might be trapped in the hills above Wana, but later backtracked from this position. The Pakistan military announced that it had arrested up to 100 "foreign militants"--but al-Zawahiri was not among them.

Maulan Khalil-ur-Rehman, a tribal leader and member of parliament, expressed the bitterness felt by the tribes. "These 'foreign fighters' living in Wana were heroes of Islam when they were fighting the Soviets, but now we are told by [President Pervez] Musharraf and America they are terrorists," he said at a demonstration in Peshawar. Crowds of demonstrators across Waziristan demanded that local politicians expel the troops from the area March 23.

Although described as "foreign," many of those arrested--including Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks --have lived in the region for years, marrying into local communities and speaking the local Pathan (Pashtun) language. (UK Telegraph, March 23)

At least 30 members of the Pakistani security forces have been killed in the operations, including eight troops who were taken hostage. Some twelve more paramilitary troops are being held as hostages. The civilian death toll is said to stand at around 12. (NYT, March 27) [top]

Seymour Hersh's latest piece in The New Yorker (March 8) offers an explanation for the leniency Pakistan's ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf has received from the US following revelations that his top nuclear technician Abdul Qadeer Khan was black-marketeering atomic materials to rogue states: it was a pay-off for the introduction of US troops into northwest Pakistan to hunt down al-Qaeda fugitives. One anonymous "former senior intelligence official" told Hersh: "It's a quid pro quo: we're going to get our troops inside Pakistan in return for not forcing Musharraf to deal with Khan."

Hersh's sources say the Penmtagon's elite multi-service Task Force 121 is about to be transferred from Iraq to Pakistan. But this could only spark a backlash from Pakistan regime hardliners. Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, who headed the ISI intelligence service during the Afghan war in the 1980s, told Hersh the introduction of US troops into Pakistan would mean "a rupture in the relationship." And any moves by hardliners against Musharraf would have grave implications fir nuclear security. Former UN weapons inspector Robert Gallucci--who calls Khan the "Johnny Appleseed" of nuclear proliferation--told Hersh: "The most dangerous country for the United States now is Pakistan... We haven't been this vulnerable since the British burned Washington in 1814."

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]


A series of suicide bombings and shoot-outs in Uzbekistan, a key regional US ally in the War on Terrorism and staging ground for the 2001 Afghanistan campaign, began March 28 and left up to 40 dead, with attacks and explosions reported in both the capital, Tashkent, and the second city, Bukhara. Authorities were quick to blame the outlawed Islamic organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir, said to be linked to the al-Qaeda network, claiming the country had been targetted by international forces for its stance against terrorism. But Bess Brown, writing for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline April 2, describes the harsh atmosphere in Uzbekistan:

"Tashkent schools have been closed until 5 April, and local media reported on 31 March that hundreds of Tashkent residents were heading for the countryside to wait out the violence. Independent journalist Elmira Hasanova of the Free Speech Committee noted in an article published on the committee's website that, as usual, the government's strict control of the Uzbek media resulted in the inhabitants of Tashkent learning of the events from Russian television and foreign radio stations. Uzbek authorities took maximum advantage of the events to make a case for harsh repression aimed at anyone they chose to designate an Islamic extremist... According to Human Rights Watch, at least 11 former religious prisoners were detained soon after the 29 March explosions, and the organization warned that the Uzbek government appears to be using the attacks in Tashkent and Bukhara as a pretext for rounding up peaceful Muslim dissidents. While few arrests have been reported officially, independent observers claim that there have been hundreds throughout the country."

She also warned that Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov "might seek to use the attacks in Tashkent as a justification to push for international designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organization... It should be noted that the explosions and armed attacks being attributed to terrorists have occurred at a time when international pressure on Uzbekistan concerning its human rights shortcomings--particularly its failure to put an end to the physical abuse of detainees and convicts--has been intensifying. Attacks on law enforcement bodies in Uzbekistan could serve to distract international attention from the charges made against them by local and international human rights activists.... [T]he question of who stands to benefit from terrorist incidents in Tashkent remains to be asked. Should the official Uzbek assessment that the events of 28-31 March were perpetrated by adherents of Hizb ut-Tahrir with foreign assistance be taken at face value?" (RFE/RL Newsline, April 2)

Uzbekistan Free Speech Committee

See also WW3 REPORT #43 [top]

Following trips to Iraq and Kuwait, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in late February as part of a three-day trip to Central Asia, holding talks with the countries' leaders on prospects for expansion of military relations. In his third visit to Uzbekistan in the past two years, Rumsfeld stressed that US-Uzbek military relations are "growing stronger every month," and thanked President Islam Karimov for supporting the military operations in Afghanistan. "We have benefited greatly in our efforts in the global war on terror and in Afghanistan from the wonderful cooperation we've received from the government of Uzbekistan," he said.

Alex Vatanka, editor-in-chief of the London-based military affairs journal Jane's Sentinel: Russia and the CIS, says Rumsfeld's visit underlines the importance of the role of Central Asia--and particularly Uzbekistan--to Pentagon strategies for the coming century. "Uzbekistan--I'm sure, at this stage--is being examined in this context," he told RFE/RL Newsline's Antoine Blua. "The US is very likely to reconsider how its troops oversees are distributed. One of the logical deductions one can make is that there will be a shift away from Western Europe to areas where there are more risks for instability. And obviously Central Asia being close to the Middle East [and] to Afghanistan, and in itself being a fairly unstable place, would make a suitable place to act as a new base for American military personnel."

In a Feb. 21 AP interview, Uzbek Foreign Minister Sadyk Safaev left open the possibility of a long-term U.S. presence in the country. Rumsfeld's claim that Washington does not intend to establish permanent bases in the region are less than unequivocal. "We have no plans to put permanent bases in this part of the world," Rumsfeld said. "We have been discussing with various friends and allies the issue of--I guess you would call them operating sites that would not be permanent as a base would be permanent, but would be a place where the United States and coalition countries could periodically and intermittently have access and support."

Uzbekistan is the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid among the Central Asian nations--receiving $86 million in 2003. Kazakhstan received the most U.S. assistance last year at $92 million. This spring, the U.S. administration will have to decide whether to certify Uzbekistan for broader assistance programs. All direct assistance will be suspended if Uzbekistan is decertified due to lack of political and economic reforms.

>From Uzbekistan, Rumsfeld continued to oil-rich Kazakhstan, where he praised the country as a model for successful disarmament. "Had Iraq followed the Kazakhstan model after 17 UN resolutions and disarmed the way Kazakhstan did, there would not have been a war," he said. When Kazakhstan seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991, it had one of the world's largest nuclear arsenals, which it unilaterally surrendered by 1995.

Kazakhstan has maintained greater distance from Washington than has Uzbekistan. But its has offered the US-led coalition in Afghanistan the use of a Kazakh airport for emergency landings and refueling. Kazakhstan also deployed about 30 peacekeeping troops to Iraq in August to help with demining and restoring water supplies. "Kazakhstan is an important country in the global War on Terror and has been wonderfully helpful in Iraq, and I came here to personally say 'thank you' and express our appreciation," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld asked Kazakh officials to become more actively involved in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, saying Washington is committed to ensuring the security of Kazakhstan's portion of the oil-rich Caspian Sea. "We talked about the U.S. support for Kazakhstan's sovereignty and independence, and our important military-to-military relationship," Rumsfeld said. The US is to spend $5 million this year on weapons and training to help Kazakhstan build up its navy. Kazakhstan decided last year to set up its own navy and will receive its first battleships in coming months. AP quoted the Kazakh Defense Ministry saying the two countries signed a five-year cooperation plan last September that envisages the delivery of helicopters, military cargo aircraft, and ships for Kazakhstan's Caspian Sea forces. Under the plan, the US will also reportedly supply equipment for Kazakh troops and provide anti-terrorism training. (REFE/RL Newsline, Feb. 26)

See also WW3 REPORT #13 [top]

The US should not interfere in talks on delineating the oil-rich Caspian Sea, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny said in an interview March 23. The legal status of the inland sea--believed to contain the world's third largest reserves of oil and gas--was formerly governed by treaties between the USSR and Iran. Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, the five nations that border the sea--Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan--have repeatedly failed to reach a new agreement. "The countries of the Caspian region should settle the problems by themselves, in a family way, so to speak, without attracting mediators," Kalyuzhny, a presidential envoy on the Caspian basin, said in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, adding that "the external factor will only cause problems."

Obviously referring to Donald Rumsfeld's recent visit to Central Asia, Kalyuzhny said: "One should understand the essence: U.S. interest toward the Caspian region has to do only with oil. Imagine if Russia said it had interests in the area of the Great Lakes and even appointed a special envoy there--how would the White House react to that?" (AP, March 24)

The tough words came just as a western consortium signed on to a $29 billion development of Kazakhstan's offshore Kashagan oil filed in the Caspian. The consortium, led by Italy's ENI, includes ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, Total of France and Inpex of Japan. The field is called the largest oil discovery since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay over 30 years ago. (NYT, Feb. 26)

See also WW3 REPORT #46 [top]

Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia all formally joined NATO in a Washington ceremony March 29, bringing the total number of the treaty organization's members to 26. Two days later, Russia's Duma passed a resolution calling upon NATO to "genuinely take into account [Russia's] concern over the alliance's expansion" and to take "specific steps to strengthen international security and arms control in Europe." The Duma rejected more harshly worded amendments submitted by Communist Party and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. The resolution says that if NATO fails to respond, the legislature will recommend that the government revise Russia's defense policies, "including reevaluating the expediency of the Russian Federation's continuing participation in international conventional-arms-control treaties and a review of the structure of Russia's armed forces toward increasing their potential for nuclear deterrence." The statement calls on the Russian Security Council to consider deploying additional forces to regions bordering NATO members. It protested the continued failure of some NATO members to ratify the amended Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, and recalls previous statements by NATO officials indicating that the alliance would refrain from deploying forces on the territory of new member states. (RFE/RL Newsline, March 31) [top]


Zaur Gilalov, head of the World Congress of Mountain Jews, was assassinated in Moscow March 5, shot down in broad daylight by two unidentified gunmen near his office. He was shot while exiting a tailor shop where he had just ordered attire for his upcoming wedding. Police specualted that Gilalov, 29, may have been victim of a contract murder related to his business operations or a clan feud. Jewish leaders denied anti-Semitism was the motive, but could offer no other explanation. "I don't believe this had anything to do with his religion," Pinchas Goldschmidt, Moscow's chief rabbi and a friend of the slain Jewish leader, told JTA. "But we don't have a clue as to the motives of this crime." Dmitriy Zagranichniy, managing director of the World Congress of Mountain Jews, agreed. "No one knows why, who," he said. "He hardly had any enemies at all."

Gilalov and his younger brother Akif were founders of the Zar Group, a company that develops retail malls in the Russian capital. Seven years ago, their father was shot to death in Moscow, in a case that remains unsolved.

Leaders of the Mountain Jew community of the Caucasus were among the hundreds who attended the funeral for Gilalov at the Jewish section of Moscow's Vostryakovskoe Cemetery. Like many members of this ethnic group, Gilalov was a native of Azerbaijan, and many flew from the former Soviet republic for the funeral. Gilalov was responsible for the construction of two synagogues serving Caucasus Jews--one in Moscow and one in the Israeli town of Tirat Carmel, near Haifa. Last year, he helped to set up the World Congress of Mountain Jews, an umbrella organization representing an estimated 250,000 Jews living in Russia, Azerbaijan, Israel and North America. (JTA, March 7) [top]

President Murat Zyazikov of the Russian Federation republic of Ingushetiya narrowly escaped an assassination attempt April 6. An automobile containing up to 60 kilograms of explosives pulled up next to Zyazikov's armored limousine and exploded less than a meter away. Zyazikov escaped with minor injuries, but four security guards and two bystanders were seriously injured. Zyazikov, a former official of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), is a staunch supporter of President Vladimir Putin. He was elected president of Ingushetia in 2002 with massive Kremlin support--aimed at averting election of a candidate supported by former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, known for his ties to Chechen rebel President Aslan Maskhadov. Aushev had frequently called for negotiations to resolve the Chechen crisis.

That same day, there were two explosions in neighboring Daghestan--one outside a police station and another on a residential street. Both Ingushetiya and Daghestan have been thought to harbor Chechen guerillas in recent years. (RFE/RL Newsline, April 7)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

96, 93 [top]


The March 11 terrorist attack on Madrid's central rail station, which left 200 dead and over 1,500 wounded, almost certainly resulted in the fall of Spain's ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) in elections just four days later. The PP lost 35 seats and its absolute majority--which opinion polls before the terror attacks had not anticipated. Writes Diana Cariboni in a March 15 commentary for Inter-Press Service: "Although voters punished the PP's candidate for prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, the main blow went to [incumbent PP Prime Minister Jose Maria] Aznar, who will be remembered for his unconditional support for Bush in the US-led invasion of Iraq despite the mass protests held throughout Spain prior to and during the war." Ten Spanish troops and two Spanish journalists have been killed in Iraq, and a survey carried out by Spain's Center for Sociological Research (CIS) just before the March 2003 invasion found 83% of respondents opposed to the war.

Spain's prime minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of the center-left Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), confirmed his intention to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. ''The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster,'' he said.

Many voters were furious at how Aznar's handled the investigation of the attacks. Writes Cariboni: "The impression was that the government was attempting to capitalize on the attacks electorally. For more than 48 hours--a crucial period in which many Spaniards were making their final decision on who to vote for on Sunday--the government stated categorically that the terrorist Basque separatist group ETA was responsible for the explosions, despite growing signs pointing to Islamic terrorist involvement... But it was clear that firm evidence of involvement by fundamentalist Islamic groups, in reprisal for Spain's participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, would have devastating consequences for the PP in the national elections." All of the country's newspapers carried headlines after the attacks with variations of ''Massacre by ETA,'' while the state-run TV station used the banner ''ETA attack'' from the very start.

Throughout Spain, some 12 million people poured into the streets the day after the attacks, despite cold and heavy rain. The government supported the mass protests against terrorism--but attempted to sideline expressions of anti-war sentiment in favor of the official anti-ETA position. ''Spanish television was broadcasting footage of the demonstrations in Madrid, lingering on images of signs that read 'An Entire Nation and Only One Flag', but never showing the placards reading 'No to War, Yes to Peace','' according to an on-line article by Spanish journalist Lucia Etxebarria.

The chorus of conservative pundits across the Atlantic immediately took up the cry that Spain had "capitulated to terrorism" by voting out the PP--and panicked about the implications for the upcoming US elections. In an almost unbelievably mean-spirited commentary for Jewish World Review, "The Reign in Spain Falls Mainly on the Lame," Ann Coulter wrote:

"Instead of vowing to fight the people who killed their fellow citizens, the Spanish decided to vote with al-Qaida on the war. A murdering terrorist organization said, 'Jump!' and an entire country answered, 'How high?' One Spaniard who decided to switch his vote in reaction to the bombings told the [New York] Times: 'Maybe the Socialists will get our troops out of Iraq and al-Qaeda will forget about Spain so we will be less frightened.' That's the fighting spirit! If the violent Basque separatist group only killed more people, Spain would surely give them what they want, too.

"After his stunning upset victory, Socialist Party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero vowed to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq if the United States does not turn over Iraq to the United Nations. He also vowed that all of Spain's remaining trains will run on time. Zapatero said the war with Iraq had 'only caused violence' and 'there were no reasons for it.' One reason for the war, which would seem to be a sufficient reason for a more manly country, is that the people who just slaughtered 200 Spaniards didn't like it. But, like the Democrats, the Spanish hate George Bush more than they hate the terrorists... So don't think of the Spanish election as a setback for freedom--think of it as a preview of life under President John Kerry!

"...With the Spanish election, we are witnessing a capitulation to savagery that makes full-scale war inevitable. The Democratic candidate wants to represent Godless Europeans. The Republican candidate wants to represent Americans..." (JWR, March 18)

A more reasoned response came from Hans Blix, the former UN chief weapons inspector for Iraq, who told a crowd of 1,200 at New York University the day after the Spanish election that he did not share the Bush administrations' view that the war had made the world a safer place. "Sorry to say it doesn't look that way," he said. "If the aim was to send a signal to terrorists that we are determined to take you on, that has not succeeded. In Iraq, it has bred a lot of terrorism and a lot of hatred to the Western world." (NYT, March 16) [top]

On April 4, a police officer and three men suspected in the Madrid attacks were killed in an explosion in Leganes, a suburb of the Spanish capital--apparently set off by the suspects as police closed in on their apartment. Eleven police were also hurt in the blast, some seriously. Some 20 local families were put up in a hotel because they could not return to their damaged apartments. By then, fifteen had been arrested in connection with the attacks--mostly North African immigrants. (BBC, April 4)

Moroccan authorities, cooperating in the investigation, claimed Ansar al-Islam, a supposedly al-Qaeda-linked goup with a base of support in northern Iraq, could be behind the Madrid attacks. They also claimed a link to last year's deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Casablanca. (UK Sun, April 8)

The ETA theory decisively collapsed on March 14, when Spanish media broadcast a videotape made by Abu Dujan al-Afghani, claiming to be Europe spokesman for al-Qaeda. "We declare our responsibility for what happened in Madrid," the statement said. "It is a response to your collaboration with the criminal Bush and his allies... [T]here will be more, if God wills it." (Newsaday, March 15)

The New York Post made much of an apparent "9-11 link" (front-page banner) to the Madrid attacks. One of the arrested Moroccans, Jamal Zougam, is described in his indictment of Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas (alias Abu Dahdah), who was arrested twith seven others two months after 9-11 on orders of Judge Baltasar Garzon on charges of being "directly involved with the preparation and carrying-out of the attacks perpetrated by the suicide pilots on Sept. 11." Abu Dahdah was said to have met with 9-11 ringleader Mohammed Atta. (NYP, March 15)

US secretary of state Richard Armitage confirmed that Aznar's government had fudged the Islamic link to the attacks in the prelude to the elections, telling reporters the Spanish government had "mishandled" the matter and "didn't get what information did exist out to the4 public." (NYT, March 18)

For more on Ansar al-Islam, see WW3 REPORT #95

For more on the Casablanca attacks, see WW3 REPORT #87

For more on Aznar's legacy, see WW3 REPORT #s:

88, 43 [top]

Islamic leaders in Spain were quick to denounce the Madrid attacks, pointing out that at least eight Muslims were among the 200 killed and over 40 among the hundreds of injured. But there are already reports of Muslims facing abuse on the street, Arab businesses having windows broken and rumors of protests planned outside Madrid's central mosque. Mohamad Saleh, secretary of Madrid's Cultural Islamic Center and mosque, said, "We felt for the victims, the same as everyone, this sort of desperate terrorism affects all areas. But people shouldn't punish a religion or country because of who commits a crime. If a Christian kills, are all Christians blamed? Are the Basques blamed if ETA attack?" A banner reading "No to terrorism; Solidarity and condolences to the victims and their families" hangs under the arch of the center's entrance. There are about 500,000 Muslims in Madrid and on Fridays between 1,500 and 2,000 faithful pray at the mosque. (BBC, March 16) [top]

A new report by the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) finds that attacks on Jews have increased in several European Union states, and official statements accompanying release of the report said the main perpetrators are young white males--contrasting the controversial findings of a Berlin study last year that young Arabs and Muslims were predominantly to blame. "There has been an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in five EU countries," the EUMC said, citing France, Belgium, the Netherlands, UK and Germany. "Although it is not easy to generalize, the largest group of perpetrators...appears to be young, disaffected white Europeans."

Jewish organizations accused the EU's European Commission of anti-Semitism after the EUMC, an independent EU agency, initially refused to release the Berlin study. Predictably, the new claims are once again being slammed by Jewish leaders. The European Jewish Congress asserted that contrary to official pronouncements on the new report, the actual facts that it documents show the majority of attacks were committed by "young Muslims of North African origin." Asked the secretary-general of the congress, Serge Cwajgenbaum: "How can we effectively fight anti-Semitism when we refuse to identify the true perpetrators?" (JTA, Haaretz, March 31)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

80, 31 [top]


Nearly 1,000 Serbs fled their homes and sought the protection of international peacekeepers after a wave of Albanian attacks on Serb homes, villages and churches swept through NATO-occupied Kosovo in mid-March. Seven NATO member states quickly sent 2,000 reinforcements to back up the 18,000-strong force in Kosovo, which is officially part of Serbia but effectively a UN-NATO protectorate. At least 31 were reported killed in Kosovo's worst outbreak of violence since 1999, when the province was occupied by NATO troops following massive "ethnic cleansing" of Albanians by Serb paramilitaries and NATO aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia.

The violence began March 18 in the divided town of Mitrovica, where French NATO troops evacuated Serb residents to Red Cross shelters and raided Albanian apartment blocks, killing one Albanian sniper. A Serbian Orthodox monastery was set ablaze near Srbica, and four elderly nuns were evacuated from another Serb monastery when it came under attack in Diesa. In Pristina, peacekeepers used tear gas to protect a Serbian church. In Lipljan, Albanian protesters hurled fire bombs at Finnish and Czech UN troops.

A Human Rights Watch report demanded immediate action to protect Serb civilians, and also noted that Albania's Roma ("Gypsy") and Ashkali (Muslim Roma) were being targetted by Albanian mobs and fighters. The violence also spread to Bosnia, where the Serbian Orthodox church in Bugojno was set ablaze.

Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia's prime minister, called the violence a "pogrom." Boris Tadic, defense minister of Serbia-Montenegro (successor state to Yugoslavia), warned it would abandon its hands-off approach to Kosovo if NATO troops failed to protect Serbs. The Russian parliament unanimously passed a resolution saying the Serbian-Montenegrin military should be allowed to help defend the Kosovo Serbs.

Kosovo's Albanian leaders officially denounced the violence. Hashim Thaqi, leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and former chief of the Kosovo Liberation Army, appealed for calm after a meeting with NATO commander for South-East Europe Gregory Johnson. Kosovo provisional President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi also issued a joint statement against the attacks. "There is no excuse for violence and it must immediately stop, the statement said. "Those taking part in the violence are betraying all people in Kosovo." US Admiral Johnson said the violence "almost amounts to ethnic cleansing" and warned that it smacked of "why we came here in the first place."

In Belgrade, Serbia's capital, thousands took to the streets to demand protection of Kosovo's Serbs, and the city's 17th-century Bajrakli mosque was torched and looted by an angry mob. Police cordoned off the Albanian consulate to protect it from angry protesters who shouted "We won't let go of Kosovo" and "Kill the Shiptars" (shiptar=local slur for Albanians). Police also kept hundreds of protesters away from the US consulate. Attacks on mosques were also reported from the Serbian towns of Nis and Novi Sad.

The violence was said to have been sparked by the drowning of two Kosovo Albanian boys who had been chased into the Ibar River by Serbs. But even UN and NATO commanders said the violence appeared by to be pre-orchestrated. Veton Surroi, noted Albanian journalist of the Pristina daily Koha Ditore, also said the new wave of violence had been intentionally orchestrated. "The aim is to intimidate the Serb population and expel them from central Kosovo by destroying their homes and churches," he said.

(Combined wire services, IWPR, HRW. The website of Belgrade's Radio B92 maintains an ongoing archive of news clips on the crisis)

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

Some 2,000 Bosnian Serbs protested against a failed NATO raid to arrest war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic in his old stronghold of Pale. A Serb priest and his son were injured in the operation by about 40 troops from the US, UK and other nations. The troops used explosives to break into the priest's home, shattering windows and leaving a hole at the main entrance. It was the third time in three months that NATO launched an operation in Pale in its hunt for Karadzic. (BBC, April 1)

Meanwhile, The Hague tribunal on former Yugoslavia sentenced ex-Yugoslav navy commander Miodrag Jokic to seven years' imprisonment for the shelling of the mediaeval Croatian city of Dubrovnik in 1991. On the other side of the scale, UN prosecutor at The Hague Carla del Ponte issued an indictment for three former Bosnian Muslim officials--ex-Bosnian presidency member Ejup Ganic, the wartime Bosnian army commander Rasim Delic, and former general Sakib Mahmuljin. Del Ponte refuses to drop genocide charges against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, while charging the Belgrade regime with failing to cooperate in turning over evidence. She also charged Belgrade with sheltering Karadzic's wanted ex-military commander, Ratko Mladic. (AP, UK Guardian, March 18) [top]

The Jewish Anti-Defamation League announced it was appalled that Israeli public relations consultant Eyal Arad is running the Romania presidential bid of Vadim Tudor, a known anti-Semite of the rightist Greater Romania party. "Through his party's newspaper and in public statements, Mr. Tudor has a long and entrenched history of anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories," the ADL charged. The Center for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism in Romania joined the ADL's announcement and expressed "its deep regret caused by the manner in which Arad Communications, the Israeli Public Relations firm owned by Eyal Arad, treated the civil responsibilities involved in this case."

Arad was asked last year to serve as a consultant to Tudor, who is seeking to shake off the label of anti-Semitism. Tudor's offer made headlines in the Romanian press, which stressed the fact that Arad had advised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on his 2000 campaign. (Haartez, March 13) [top]


George Bush is asking Congress to appropriate over 2.4 billion dollars to finance the war in Colombia. Under his proposal Colombia would continue to receive the third largest allocation of US funds to a foreign nation following Israel and Egypt. $453 million is slated for aerial fumigation of illicit crops. (ANNCOL, March 9)

Plan Colombia, the program under which the aid is administered, is set to expire in 2005 unless Congress renews it. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, in Washington to push for renewal of the plan, spoke with reporters after meeting with President Bush at the White House March 23. "Last year, kidnappings fell by 27 percent and continue to decline this year. Homicides fell by 22 percent and are also declining this year," he boasted. He also warned: "The snake is still alive. But the snake cannot be allowed to survive. The plan must continue. If we do not press on until we kill the snake, it will bite us even more viciously in the future." (VOA, March 23)

On March 5, Uribe, met with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at a Coral Gables business forum. He pledged that lawless armed groups are being dismantled, that stability for foreign investors is around the corner--and that bilateral talks can ensue on his country joining the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, March 5)

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

Colombia's rightist paramilitary bosses formally asked the US to join negotiations to disarm their fighters, in an apparent attempt to tackle extradition requests complicating talks. The 13,000-member United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) requested a "direct and permanent channel" of communication with Washington. The AUC comunique, signed by warlord Salvatore Mancuso on behalf of senior command, also called for representatives of the US State and Justice departments to be directly involved in talks.

Washington added Mancuso and AUC political boss Carlos Castano to its list of international drug "kingpins" earlier this year. The two men are wanted by US courts for smuggling 17 tons of cocaine to the United States and Europe.

US Ambassador to Colombia William Wood reiterated his support for Colombia's negotiations with the AUC, while insisting the extradition requests were non-negotiable. Washington has already given $2 million to help fund the paramilitary demobilization. (Reuters, March 23)

In a March 5 interview with El Colombiano newspaper, Mancuso criticized a government demand that AUC fighters withdraw to "concentration zones" for eventual disarmament. "This [relocation] could exacerbate attacks on the population by the guerrillas," said Mancuso. Chief government peace negotiator Luis Carlos Restrepo, in turns, warned that talks could collapse within weeks unless the paras put their men where authorities could keep an eye on them.

Mancuso also reiterated his demands that there be no extradition of AUC figures. "The Colombian government should guarantee our return to civil society with the same rights as any citizen without dangling the risk of extradition over our heads," Mancuso said. (Reuters, March 5)

In a setback for the AUC, paramilitary commander Edgar Fernando Blanco Puerta ("Commandante Emilio") was extradited from Costa Rica in February to face charges in an alleged $25 million cocaine-for-guns deal, following a year-long DEA-FBI probe dubbed "Operation White Terror." Another AUC commander, Elkin Alberto Arroyave Ruiz ("Commandante Napo") awaits sentencing in Texas after pleading guilty in November. He was also extradited from Costa Rica. (Houston Chronicle, Feb. 18)

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

In an interview with the French news agency AFP at an undisclosed location in the Colombian Andes, Raul Reyes, a top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), said his organization was willing to release captured former Green Party presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and other prisoners in return for imprisoned FARC fighters.

Reyes rejected a French exile offer to freed rebels, saying "France is a free country while we need [the fighters] to free our country." FARC is holding some 47 officers of Colombia’s armed forces, and three US personnel were captured by rebel troops who shot down their State Department-owned spy plane last year. The rebels have also captured 20 high-profile Colombian politicians, including Betancourt, who has dual Colombian-French citizenship. Talks with the Colombian government are now stalled, as President Uribe insists any exchange must also include wealthy businessmen, who are held by the guerrillas for failing to pay taxes for their activities in rebel-held territory, and that the released rebels pledge never again to take up arms. The FARC "continues to count on the UN and its special envoy for Colombia, James Lemoyne, to break the impasse," Reyes said.

In his interview, Reyes, 53, also said FARC founder and top commander Manuel Marulanda "was in good health," countering recent rumors in the Colombian press that he is suffering terminal cancer. (AFP, March 12)

Then-President Andres Pastrana broke off the peace dialogue with the FARC on Feb. 20, 2002, after a guerilla unit kidnapped Senator Jorge Eduardo Gechem Turbay. Pastrana gave the FARC 24 hours to vacate the territory they had been given as a haven. No decision was made regarding persons the FARC was holding hostage. The Colombia Support Network, based in madison, WI, is supporting a "Humanitarian Agreement" calling for release of all prisoners held by either side. The agreement is supported by Jo Gonsalves, the mother of Marc Gonsalves, one of the Americans being held by the FARC. (CSN, Feb 20)

See also WW3 REPORT #79 [top]

Colombia's Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio announced that he will not file charges against Gen. Rito Alejo del Rio, who had been under investigation for links to paramilitaries while he commanded the 17th Brigade, located in northern Colombia, between 1995 and 1997. "The first thing that Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio did upon assuming office in 2001 was fire the prosecutors who had gathered enough evidence to arrest Del Rio for these serious crimes," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. "That purge of prosecutors was only the beginning of a marked trend in the Attorney General's office of hampering or derailing cases that implicate top military and paramilitary leaders." (HRW press release, March 15)

For more on Gen. Rito Alejo del Rio, see WW3 REPORT #s:

65, 59 [top]

In a joint operation code-named Marsella, Colombian army and National Police troops swept through the conflicted Medellin district Comuna 3, arresting some 40 on charges of collaborating with local guerilla militias. The local Seeds of Liberty Human Rights Collective reported that many of those arrested were subject to torture, threats and other cruel and degrading treatment. (ANNCOL, April 1)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

Rights observers say paramilitaries are operating openly in the city of Cucuta, in Norte de Santander department, adjacent to Colombia's main oil-producing region. On April 1, Carlos Bernal, leader of the Social and Political Front regional opposition coalition, was slain along with his bodyguard by gunmen who lay in wait for him as he returned to his home. He had previously been the peace advisor to the governor of Norte de Santander and to the mayor of Cucuta. There have been no arrests in the case, and the local Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights say he was killed by a paramilitary group that operates with the acquiescence of the Colombian army. Bernal was a prominent member of Colombia's Communist Party. Rights observers have documented 3,500 killings of members of the Communist Party and the allied Patriotic Union since the 1980s. (ANNCOL, April 5)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

90, 91 [top]

Communique from the Association of Peasant Land Users of Arauca Department (Asociacion Departamental del Usarios Campesinos de Arauca) states that in incidents on Feb. 26, March 10 and March 13, a total of 20 campesinos and one schoolteacher were slain in the Arauca department municipalities of Arauca, Cravo Norte and Puerto Rondon. Contesting media presentations that the civilians had been killed in fighting between guerilla and paramilitary forces, the communique asserted that Colombian army troops were involved in the incidents. The communique also protested that local rights observers had been blocked from the region, a key oil-production zone, making the total death count uncertain. (ANNCOL, March 22)

Luz Perly Cordoba, president of the Campesino Association of Arauca (ACA), was detained in Bogota on Feb. 18 on suspicion of links to guerrilla activities. Since her arrest, her attorney Rodolfo Rios Lozano has been receiving death threats. A recent telephone threat accused him of being a "FARC terrorist dog, lawyer who defends narcoterrorists" (Perro terrorista de las FARC, abogado defensor de narcoterroristas). Amnesty International writes that Cordobda "was apparently detained on the basis of evidence from informers, not serious and impartial judicial investigations." (AI press release, March 14)

Cordobda, also secretary general of the Unitary National Agrarian Sindical Federation (FENSUAGRO), a campesino union linked to the national labor federation CUT, issued the following statement from detainment: "In reponse to the accusation that we are rebels, we must say that we are rebels--we are rebels because we do not accept the abuses that the government forces commit in the Colombian countryside, we are rebels because we cry out, we struggle and we organize our communities to reject the policies that the state wants to impose on us such as the FTAA, Plan Colombia... We are rebels because we are struggling for a radical and integral agrarian reform that will put in the hands of the campesinos those lands which are today in the lands of the latifundistas [plantation-owners]..." (ANNCOL, March 21)

On March 31, Denmark awarded its 2004 Peace Prize to Cordoba, who remains in custody in Bogota. A FENSUAGRO received the award on her behalf at the Copenhagen municipal palace. (ANNCOL, March 31)


See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

On March 18-20, FARC guerrillas attacked government forces in the oilfields of Orito in the southern department of Putumayo, killing 15 soldiers. 30 troops from the government's "Plan Energetico" Army Battalion, created to protect oil infrastructure in Putumayo, were wounded in the fighting. Two guerillas were also reported killed. Six workers from the state oil company Ecopetrol are also said to have disappeared aftere they came under machine-gun fire from Colombian Air Force planes. The Canadian company Petrobank has suspended exploratory activities in Putumayo in response to the violence. (ANNCOL, March 25, 28)

See also WW3 REPORT #95 [top]

Through a Jan. 28 decree, President Uribe officially began the "liquidation" of the Colombian state mining company Minercol, a move which will likely throw thousands of employees out of work over the next two years as the company is disbanded. Francisco Ramirez, president of SINTRAMINERCOL, the state mine workers union, says he is threatened with death since he began speaking out against the liquidation decree. He contests Uribe's claim that Minercol is an inefficient drain on the national budget. SINTRAMINERCOL also warns that paramilitary activity is growing in Colombia's mining regions, such as Norte de Santander and the Serrania de San Lucas in Bolivar department. (SINTRAMINERCOL press release, Feb. 2) [top]

Paramilitaries have also issued threats against leaders of the SINALTRAINAL union at the city's Coca-Cola bottling plants, and the young son of one union leader was reportedly attacked in the street. On March 9, the management of the plants in Cucuta and Cartagena trapped workers in the buildings to pressure them to renounce their employment contracts in exchange for a small cash payment. (ANNCOL, March 9) From March 15 to April 3, 30 SINALTRAINALworkers went on hunger strike in various Colombian cities to protest the targetting of union leaders for firing and death threats. The strike was called off when Coca-Cola agreed to purchase a newspaper ad discouraging paramilitaries from threatening unionists and plant managers agreed to re-hire fired union leaders. (ANNCOL, April 3)

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

In February, the Colombian National Police reported that aerial fumigation with glyphosate had begun in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in the north of the country, and Chiribiquete, in the southeast--both officially protected areas and national parks. These regions form part of the 49 protected areas that cover a combined total of 10 million hectares, or nearly 10 percent of Colombian territory. The National Police cited Resolution 0013 recently issued by Colombia's National Anti- Narcotics Commission, which approved glyphosate spraying in National Parks. Colombia's protected areas are among the most high-biodiversity on earth.

Senator Jorge Robledo of the leftist Independent Labour Movement called Environment Minister Sandra Suarez to appear before a congressional commission on to report on the government's position on the glyphosate issue. "The gravity of a decision of this kind does not escape any Colombian or any democrat who is concerned about the environment," he said.

Amidst this controversy, the Alvaro Uribe government announced in February that it asked the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) to conduct "an independent and impartial evaluation" of the environmental and health impacts of the glyphosate spraying. The government estimates there are 10,000 to 15,000 hectares planted with coca bush in the country's nature parks, part of the total of more than 100,000 hectares of this illicit crop nationwide. (IPS, March 27)

The US State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, which oversees the spraying program with the Colombian government, noted in a December 2003 press release that all operations must be in "strict compliance" with the environmental protection standards established by Resolution 0013, issued June 27, 2003.

But the text of Resolution 0013 actually refers to the spraying itself as an environmental protection measure, finding: "That the Program for Eradicating Crops with the Herbicide Glyphosate...should be considered as the mitigation plan exercised by the state in the face of negative environmental impacts caused by illicit crop growers.."

The web site, in quoting the resolution, parenthetically added the sarcastic commentary that "Two wrongs make it right."

The December State Department press release found that spraying was the "least dangerous" form of coca eradication--but was obviously referring to those doing the eradication, not the environment or local inhabitants:

"The elimination of illicit crops in Colombia is justified because it hinders the negative impact related to the production and trafficking of narcotics and to the harm of deteriorating the environment. It also enables introducing new plant species aimed at extracting psychoactive substances. There are several available eradication methods (manual, mechanical, burning, biological, and chemical). However, taking into consideration the location of the illicit crop fields, the characteristics of the landscape, the opposition of the farmers who cultivate plants for illegal purposes, and the presence of outlawed armed groups, the most efficient and least dangerous strategy is aerial spraying with herbicides."

See also WW3 REPORT #91 [top]

Nearly 10,000 people marched to the US embassy in Bogota March 18 to demand an end to the US occupation of Iraq. Another demonstration took place that day in Barranquilla, Atlantico department. Members of the United Workers Union Workers (USO), which represents workers at the state-run oil company Ecopetrol, staged a 24-hour strike the same day. (Colombia Indymedia, March 21)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 21) [top]

The Venezuelan government announced Feb. 26 that it will cease all training of soldiers at the US Army's School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), the controversial military training school for Latin American soldiers, based in Fort Benning, GA.

The announcement was made by Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel in an address to the Venezuelan National Assembly. In an earlier meeting with a delegation of U.S. human rights activists, Rangel stated that the SOA is a training school for dictators, torturers and terrorists. During a visit of religious leaders from the United States in Venezuela in January, President Hugo Chavez also spoke out against the SOA, saying: "This school deformed the minds of many Latin American soldiers, who from there went on to become dictators." (El Nacional, Jan. 19)

The SOA graduates Efrain Vasquez Velasco, ex-army commander, and Gen. Ramirez Poveda, were key players in the coup attempt against Chavez in April 2002. Another SOA graduate, Lt. German Rudolfo Varela, who is currently in INS detention in Miami, is wanted in Venezuela for his involvement in embassy bombings in Caracas in February 2003.

Over its 58 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, sniper skills, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Colombia, with over 10,000 troops trained at the school, is the SOA's largest customer. Colombia currently has the worst human rights record in Latin America. (SOA Watch press release, March 8)

Fore more on the SOA, see WW3 REPORT #95

For more on the attempted Venezuelan coup, see WW3 REPORT #30 [top]

President Hugo Chavez has turned Venezuela' state oil company PDVSA into a vehicle for his social development plans, building homes, potable water systems and infrastructure and funding health and literacy programs for the country's poor--estimated at 70% of the population. Said PDVSA president Ali Rodriguez: "PDVSA used to function as a transnational company only interested in maximizing oil sales. Now, PDVSA is working with other state institutions to reduce Venezuela's exceedingly high rate of poverty." (NYT, March 11)

See also WW3 REPORT #72 [top]

Ecuador's Congress has passed a resolution rejecting a request by the country's Air Force to assume control of the Galapagos Island of Baltra. The Ecuadorian military is said to want the island for missions related to US air policing of the Andean region from a major base at Manta on Ecuador's coast. The Galapagos are a world-renowned protected area where Charles Darwin first conceived his theory of natural selection. (ANNCOL, April 3) [top]

Argentina's electoral prosecutor Jorge Alvarez Berlanda has recommended denial of the accreditation petition from the New Triumph Party (PNT). Launched in the early 1990s by Alejandro Biondini, the PNT promoted the swastika, used the Nazi salute and celebrated Hitler's birthday. Its web site links to Nazi and Holocaust-denial sites. Biondini himself makes comrades call him "Fuhrer." After a PNT party leader died under mysterious circumstances, party officials said the leader was a victim of a Jewish "ritual crime." The party has been seeking accreditation for years, which would allow them to run candidates and receive free TV time. While some experts say the party is small, other say it maintains links to the army and the nationalist wing of the Peronist party. (JTA, March 29)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Photographer Andrew Epstein travelled with WW3 REPORT Editor Bill Weinberg in the Colombian war zones of Arauca, Barrancabermeja and the Cimitarra Valley last summer. Braving threats from paramilitary assassins, Epstein and Weinberg visited labor, human rights and indigenous leaders and heard their stories about life under siege. Some of the photos from their trips are now on-line.

See also Bill Weinberg's one-the-scene reports:

State of Siege in Arauca

Barrancabermeja: Paramilitary Terror and the Struggle for Colombia's Oil

Cimitarra Valley: Between DynCorp and the AUC [top]


Zapatista rebels have launched a "reactivation," building a dozen new training camps in the southern Chiapas state and nearly tripling the number of recruits, the newspaper Reforma asserted, citing an unpublished report by Mexican security agencies. The allegations were "categorically" denied by Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar. (Reforma, March 22, 23)

The allegations came just after the Zapatistas have re-organized their local autonomous government in Chiapas, dismantling roadblocks and generally withdrawing the presence of armed troops from their support zones. See WW3 REPORT #95 [top]

Uunidentified gunmen ambushed the governor of southern Oaxaca state March 18, riddling his car with bullets and wounding two bodyguards. ''This doesn't affect just Oaxaca, this affects Mexico,'' said Gov. Jose Murat, who was only slightly injuried. ''It's archaic, primitive,'' said Murat, suggesting that the attack was the work of political rivals, rural strongmen or organized crime. (AP, March 22)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]


On March 8, Guatemalan judge Victor Hugo Herrera opened a criminal case against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and ordered him held under house arrest. The move came as Rios Montt testified in court, facing accusations of responsibility for violent protests which brought the death of a journalist last July 24. The protesters were bused into the capital from the countryside to support Rios Montt after the Supreme Court of Justice issued an injuction blocking his presidential candidacy. The journalist died on July 24 of a heart attack after being pursued by mobs of hooded Rios Montt supporters. Rios Montt was finally allowed to run in the Nov. 9 elections, but came in third with less than 18% of the vote. On Jan. 14 he lost his immunity from prosecution as a member of Congress when President Oscar Berger was inaugurated and the new Congress was sworn in. The attorney general's office is also investigating Rios Montt for the crime of genocide, the result of his "scorched earth" policies while ruling Guatemala as dictator in 1982-83. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, March 10)

The US embassy in Guatemala City confirmed March 11 that it had revoked the visa of ex-president Alfonso Portillo--who won the presidency for Rios Montt's party in 1999 after the ex-general was barred from running. Portillo and two other former high officials officials are on trial in a corruption scandal involving bank accounts in Panama. Portillo left Guatemala on Feb. 18 for Mexico. (Guatemala Hoy, March 11)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 14)

See also WW3 REPORT #95 [top]

Guatemala's notorious former defense minister Hector Alejandro Gramajo Morales died on March 12 after being attacked by "africanized" bees at his farm in Santo Tomas, Sacatepequez department. (Guatemala Hoy, March 13)

Gramajo was a graduate of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts; at his graduation ceremony there on June 6, 1991, human rights activists served him with court papers for a multi-million dollar federal civil suit. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sued Gramajo under the Alien Tort Claims Act on behalf of nine Guatemalans for acts of torture, abduction and murder under his "pacification" program in 1982, when he was Army chief of staff. Describing the "pacification" program years later, Gramajo siad: "You needn't kill everyone to complete the job... We instituted Civil Affairs, which provides development for 70% of the population while we kill 30%."

A week after Gramajo graduated from Harvard, CCR brought a second suit against him on behalf of US nun Dianna Ortiz, who was abducted and tortured by the Guatemalan military in November 1989. Gramajo lost both suits by default in November1991, because he failed to respond to the court's requests for basic information. Six weeks later, in late December 1991, Gramajo was honored as a guest speaker at a graduation ceremony at the School of the Americas (SOA) in Fort Benning, GA. (SOA Watch website)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 14) [top]

Hundreds of Hondurans protested against the US occupation of Iraq on March 20 and demanded the return of the 280 Honduran troops stationed in Iraq. The Honduran government said the troops will be withdrawn on June 30, when their mission is set to end. The Honduran troops--along with hundreds more from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic--are under the command of Spain's Plus Ultra brigade, which new Spanish president Jose Rodriguez Zapatero said he will withdraw from Iraq on June 30. (EFE, La Jornada, March 21; Tiempo, Honduras, March 16)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 21)

For more on the popular struggle in Honduras, see WW3 REPORT #96

For more on the Plus Ultra Brigade, see WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

On March 15 the Dominican Republic concluded negotiations with the US on a pact that would include the Caribbean country in a Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have already signed on to CAFTA. But CAFTA may have a difficult time winning approval in the US Congress as public concern grows that "free trade" pacts may be costing US workers millions of jobs. (NYT, March 16)

Central American labor and social organizations protested their governments' support of CAFTA by blocking the international border at four Salvadoran towns on March 18--Chinamas, El Poy, El Amatillo and Guasaule. Participants were El Salvador's Popular Social Bloc, Guatemala's National Council of Popular Organizations, Honduras' Sole Union Confederation and Nicaragua's Sandinista Workers Confederation. (Colombia Indymedia, March 19) March 21

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 21)

See also WW3 REPORT #95 [top]

Fears that El Salvador would immediately move its embassy in Israel to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem were allayed following the defeat of a former leftist rebel in the March 21 presidential race--which pitted two candidates of Palestinian heritage but divided by a vast ideological gulf. Former guerrilla leader Schafik Handal and his FMLN party were defeated by Antonio "Tony" Saca of the right-wing ARENA.

Soviet-educated Handal, the son of Palestinian immigrants, had pledged to move the country's embassy out of Jerusalem. Rival Saca, the grandson of Palestinian immigrants, skillfully avoided taking a stance on the issue. Israel wants the international community to consider half-occupied Jerusalem its capital, but only El Salvador and Costa Rica have their embassies there. Tel Aviv remains the true seat of administration.

In Costa Rica, meanwhile, former president and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias announced last week that he will run in the 2006 presidential race. Arias, Costa Rica's most beloved public figure and widely considered a shoo-in, has said he would move the embassy to Tel Aviv. (JTA, March 23) [top]


Bill Safire, second most arrogant columnist at the self-described "newspaper of record" (after Tom Friedman), was considerably off the ball in his bellicose April 7 piece warning the insurgents in Iraq: "No more Mr. Nice Guy." Safire writes that Shi'ite resistance leader Moqtada al-Sadr is "under Iran's influence." This is dead wrong. Readers of Prof. Juan Cole's piece on the Sadr movement in the Autumn 2003 Middle East Journal (referenced in WW3 REPORT #94) will know that al-Sadr represents an Arab nationalist wing of radical Shia, and opposes the pro-Iran factions--which, in fact, have seats on the Governing Council.

Even if the New York Times considers Safire to be above fact-checking, one hopes they don't think he's above proof-reading. But the piece also ended with an embarrassing typo: "This is the crisis; we'll come though it." (Presumably he meant "through it.")

NOTE: This is not the first time WW3 REPORT has caught Safire in a factual error. See #61

Long Island Newsday, which has won 17 Pulitzers and has a reputation as a "thinking-man's tabloid," recently switched to a new zeitgeist-friendly format--full of flashy graphics, charts and color photos. Since the change, WW3 REPORT has caught more and more embarrassing errors in Newsday's pages. Most recently, the map in an April 1 centerfold spread on OPEC mis-locates industry giant Nigeria as its landlocked northern neighbor Niger, which is not even a major oil producer. WW3 REPORT is willing to concede the possibility that it was just an April Fool's joke. [top]


With the US transfixed by the testimony of former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke before the official commission investigating 9-11, more revelations are coming to the fore. According to an April 2 report in the UK Independent, Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator with top security clearance, says she has provided information to the 9-11 commission proving that senior officials knew of al-Qaeida's plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened. She called the claim by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that there was no such information "an outrageous lie." She told The Independent: "I gave [the commission] details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily." Edmonds, 33, is a Turkish-American who speaks Azerbaijani, Farsi, Turkish and English.

In Rice's own testimony April 8, she said that there had been plenty of warnings--but none specific enough to act on: "Let me read you some of the actual chatter that we picked up that spring and summer: 'Unbelievable news in coming weeks.' 'Big event...there will be a very, very, very, very big uproar.' 'There will be attacks in the near future.' Troubling, yes. But they don't tell us when; they don't tell us where."

Finally, the outcome of the hearings may be chilling for freedom-lovers. The New York Times reported April 6 that the commission's final report is likely to call for "creation of a domestic counterintelligence agency separate from the FBI." [top]

Philip Zelikow, executive director of the the 9-11 commission, said in 2002 that a US war on Iraq would serve Israeli interests, IPS reports. Zelikow made his statements about "the unstated threat" during his tenure on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB). "Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat [is] and actually has been since 1990--it's the threat against Israel," Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia on Sep. 10, 2002, speaking on a panel of foreign policy experts assessing the impact of 9-11. "And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don't care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell." (IPS, March 29)

Writes a WW3 REPORT fellow traveler: "How convenient: the Bush administration is under attack because of its war on Iraq, and it blames the war on the Jews! And its own mole on the 9-11 Commission, who should not be there because he is one of the suspicious persons that the Commission should be INVESTIGATING, makes the charges. This smells like disinformation to me, and a very dangerous version. 'The Passion of Christ' meets The Passion of Bush!"

See also WW3 REPORT #95 [top]

Crusading attorney Ronald L. Motley has launched a suit on behalf of 9-11 survivors against key figures in the Saudi regime--including several royal family members--charging them with complicity in the attacks. The Houston law firm Baker Botts--co-owned by longtime Bush family friend James Baker--is representing the Saudi defense minister in the case. Bush recently sent Baker around the world on a mission to seek debt forgiveness for Iraq. (NYT Magazine, March 14)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

A letter to the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi from the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, purporting to be a cell of al-Qaeda, said a big attack on the US is in the final stages of preparation. "We bring the good news to Muslims of the world that the expected 'Winds of Black Death' strike against America is now in its final stage...90 percent [ready] and God willing near." (Reuters, March 11) [top]

A Republican voter survey used to raise political money identifies Thailand and the Philippines as countries that "harbor and aid terrorists"--drawing an angry response from officials of the two nations. A question on the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Ask America 2004 Nationwide Policy Survey" reads: "Should America broaden the war on terrorism into other countries that harbor and aid terrorists such as Thailand, Syria, Somalia, the Philippines, etc.?" Accompanying the survey was a four-page letter signed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, askings for a donation to help "keep the Republican Party in control of the U.S. House." A 2002 State Department report cited both Thailand and the Philippines for working closely with the US in the War on Terrorism. (AP, March 26) [top]



Attorneys for detained Palestinian immigrant Farouk Abdel-Muhti were optimistic after federal judge Yvette Kane heard oral arguments on his habeas corpus petition in Harrisburg, PA, March 30. US immigration authorities have held Abdel-Muhti for nearly two years on the basis of a 1995 deportation order.

Abdel-Muhti's lead attorney, Shayana Kadidal of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), insisted that the issue was simple. Abdel-Muhti is stateless, cannot be deported, and therefore must be released. The Supreme Court's June 2001 decision in Zadvydas v. Davis set a six-month limit on the time the government could hold immigrants in administrative detention pending deportation.

After sharply questioning Assistant US Attorney Daryl Bloom, representing the government, Judge Kane said she would issue a decision "shortly." CCR legal director Jeffrey Fogel, who was also present, said the decision could come as early as 10 days from the hearing date.

Dressed in a prison jumpsuit, Abdel-Muhti appeared relaxed and confident during the hour-long proceeding. At the conclusion, he exchanged victory signs with the more than 15 friends and supporters who attended the hearing--most after having made a four-hour trip from the New York area. Before his arrest in April 2002 Abdel-Muhti was a well-known political activist in New York, where he has lived for over 30 years. He was arrested just one month after he began working regularly with New York's WBAI Radio to arrange live interviews with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Kadidal dismissed as irrelevant a last-minute effort by the government to show that an agreement negotiated with Israel earlier in March would facilitate Abdel-Muhti's deportation. For the March 30 hearing the government filed a declaration from Acting Chief for Removals Support and Coordination Lisa Hoechst of the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about a new procedure the US and Israeli governments negotiated in March for Palestinians to be repatriated through Israel.

Following a pattern of using last-minute surprises in Abdel-Muhti's case, the government filed the new material at 12:53 PM--37 minutes before the hearing began.

"Mr. Abdel-Muhti's information will be submitted to the Israeli government in the very near future," Hoechst wrote in the declaration, dated March 30. "It is anticipated that the implementation of this new process will bring about the likelihood of ICE removing Mr. Abdel-Muhti in the reasonably foreseeable future."

Asked by Judge Kane how soon the US expected to be able to deport Abdel-Muhti through the new agreement, Bloom replied: "I anticipate the situation would be evolving," noting that some countries can take years to accept deportees. The judge remarked that under the Zadvydas decision the longer the detainee is held, the greater the government's obligation to show that the deportation is "imminent." A year or two earlier, she said, the claim of deportation in the "reasonably foreseeable future" might have "been "acceptable to this court, or pass[ed] constitutional muster." But Bloom said the US is "at the whim" of the government of Israel, which will work at its own speed.

Kadidal noted that the Hoechst declaration only concerns Palestinians who were on Israel's "population registry for the Palestinian Territories." As his legal team has shown repeatedly, Abdel-Muhti left the West Bank in 1960 and is not on the Israeli registry, which began when Israel occupied the territories in 1967. Abdel-Muhti has been unable to obtain travel papers from the Palestinian Authority because it is barred from admitting nationals who are not on the registry.

According to Abdel-Muhti's supporters, the only new information at the hearing was Bloom's admission that the government does not consider the activist a danger to the community. Despite the government's attempts in its filings to depict Abdel-Muhti as a violent criminal, in his final remarks Bloom said Abdel-Muhti's prolonged imprisonment is not based on any claim that he is dangerous.

After the hearing, Abdel-Muhti's supporters asked why if he was not a danger the activist was held in solitary confinement for 253 days while he was being housed in the county prison in nearby York, PA, from March through October last year.

They also questioned the government's motives in moving Abdel-Muhti twice during the week before the hearing. Abdel-Muhti has been held in the Hudson County Correction Center in Kearny, NJ, since December 2003. On March 23, he was moved without warning to the federal detention center in Philadelphia--the day before he was scheduled to meet with Kadidal to discuss the hearing. Kadidal then planned to meet with his client on March 29 in Philadelphia; Abdel-Muhti was moved to the Dauphin County jail in Harrisburg that day before Kadidal could see him.

Kadidal and Fogel finally had a meeting with Abdel-Muhti in the federal courthouse in Harrisburg at noon on March 30, shortly before the hearing--and two hours later than the meeting time they had scheduled with federal marshals.

David Wilson, a member of the Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti, noted that April 26 will be the second anniversary of Abdel-Muhti's arrest. "We plan to mark the date with an action," he said. "Hopefully it will be a celebration and not another protest."

(Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti, March 31, 2004)

Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti
PO Box 20587, Tompkins Square Station, New York, NY 10009
Phone: 212-674-9499 E-mail:

See also WW3 REPORT #96 [top]

A federal government list to keep suspected terrorists off commercial airline flights has subjected "hundreds, if not thousands" of innocent travellers to repeated interrogations, detentions and stigmatization, according to a new federal lawsuit filed in Seattle by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Defendants include the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration as well as the appointees in charge of those agencies, Tom Ridge and David Stone, respectively. The TSA compiles the list with data supplied by the FBI, CIA and the government's terrorist screening center.

One plaintiff is Michelle Green, an Air Force master sergeant stationed at Alaska's Eielson Air Force Base, who says she has been stopped at airports three times this year--and doesn;t know why. "Last time I traveled, I traveled with my 2-year-old and my 3-year-old, and they actually did a search that time," Green said. "So the security guard had to watch my child--my 2-year-old--and he started to run off, and I started to go after him and they were like, 'Ma'am, please freeze!' You know, and so that was very scary for me." Said plaintiff David Fathi, an ACLU attorney of Iranian heritage: "If the government is going to put your name on a list and call you a security risk, the government should have to tell you why. Assuming that it's because of my name, I think that that's wrong." (CNN, April 6)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

53, 33 [top]

Education Secretary Rod Paige called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization" Feb. 23. Paige later issued a press release saying that statement, made during a conversation with governors, "was an inappropriate choice of words" but reiterated his criticism of the NEA and its Washington lobbyists. An administration official said the secretary was "clearly joking" but he should not have used the "terrorist" label in taking issue with the NEA. (CNN, Feb. 23) [top]

A Passover-eve firebombing of a Montreal Jewish school destroyed books and damaged a library computer system. A letter left at the scene said the attack was in retaliation for Israel's assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin: "Our goal was only to sound the alarm without causing deaths...but this is just a beginning. If your crimes continue in the Middle East, our attacks will continue." (Haaretz, April 6)

See also WW3 REPORT #s: 94, 63 [top]

San Antonio police are investigating three recent arsons at Muslim-owned or run businesses in the city as possible hate crimes. Said Police Chief Albert Ortiz: "All three of these businesses were owned or primarily run by a member of the Muslim community, and that should send up a red flag. I don't think you need much more than that." Ortiz spoke at a "community solidarity" news conference to raise awareness of the recent arsons. About 100 people of various ethic backgrounds attended. (UPI, April 8) [top]

The Selective Service System is drawing up plans for a "special skills draft" which would target young men with expertise in computer skills and foreign languages. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he has no plans to ask Congress to bring back the draft, which ended in 1973. Legislation to reinstitute the draft, introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), has minimal support with only 13 House lawmakers signing on as co- sponsors. A corresponding bill in the Senate introduced by Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) has no co-sponsors. (SF Chronicle, March 13)

James Fallows argues in a March story in The Atlantic Monthly, "The Hollow Army," that a new draft is all but inevitable:

"The United States spends more on armed forces than do all other countries combined... But our military has become vulnerable in a way that is obvious to everyone associated with it yet rarely acknowledged by politicians... Everything has been operating on an emergency basis for more than two years... The situation was serious before the invasion of Iraq; now it is acute...

"When the first President Bush launched the Gulf War against Iraq, two million Americans were on active military duty. When the second President Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, the active-duty 'end strength,' or head count, was only 1.4 million....

"'Unanticipated U.S. ground force requirements in postwar Iraq,' a report for the Army War College noted late last year, 'have stressed the U.S. Army to the breaking point,' with more than a third of the Army's total 'end strength' committed in and around Iraq. 'Operation Iraqi Freedom and its aftermath argue strongly,' the report said, 'for an across-the-board reassessment'--that is, for an increase of U.S. force levels...

"Just before Thanksgiving, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that another 15,000 Reserve and Guard members would be called up this spring for as much as a year's service in Iraq, in addition to some 43,000 already mobilized. This year nearly 40 percent of the U.S. presence in Iraq will be from the Guard and the Reserves...

"An overworked military can function very well for a while, as ours has--but not indefinitely if it relies on volunteers. 'We are in serious danger of breaking the human-capital equation of the Army' Thomas White, a retired general and a former Secretary of the Army, told me last year. 'Once you break it, it takes a long time to put it back together. It took us over twenty years after Vietnam.'"

See also WW3 REPORT #s;

67, 43, 17 [top]


Hundreds of Ground Zero workers have lingering illnesses, but the government isn't paying for their care, said a leading doctor at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center, backed up by two federal lawmakers. Of 700 workers in a treatment program at Mount Sinai, three-quarters still suffer from upper-respiratory problems brought on by work at the World Trade Center site, said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of the hospital's Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. More than 40% suffer post-traumatic stress, he added. "The rates of symptoms we're seeing do not seem to be decreasing much," Herbert told reporters. "The health problems we're seeing are serious and persistent." The federal government would pay for their treatment under legislation introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) and Christopher Shays (R-CT.). "The lack of federal coordination, delays in funding, and total absence of aid for treatment shows a shameful neglect of 9/11 health issues in Washington," said Maloney. "We hope to change that with this legislation." (NY Daily News, March 29)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

91, 85 [top]

A new federal expert panel charged with studying 9-11-related health problems heard from angry Lower Manhattan residents and workers at its first meeting in New York March 31. A dozen speakers from the audience of 70 at the old US Customs House near Battery Park urged the panel to press the EPA for more thorough sampling and cleanups of downtown apartments and offices. Some on the 17-member panel assembled by the EPA were clearly concerned as a string of workers and residents spoke of persistent rashes and respiratory problems. "The comments that were made were very compelling and disturbing," said David Newman, a panel member who is an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. "I urge my fellow panel members to take them into account." Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) had pushed for the formation of the n ew body, known as the World Trade Center Expert Technical Review Panel. Last August, the EPA's own inspector general released a report that was critical of the agency for issuing premature, unfounded reassurances that the air in Lower Manhattan was safe to breathe shortly after the attacks. (Newark Star-Ledger, April 1)

See also WW3 REPORT #50 [top]

The new federal panel on 9-11's health impacts in Lower Manhattan has released the outlines of a plan to retest 250 to 1,000 of the 4,167 apartments that were tested and cleaned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 and 2003. Those efforts have been widely criticized by local residents and public officials, who claimed they were flawed, inadequate and deliberately misleading. One resident, Kelly E. Colangelo, testified before the panel that the EPA-contracted work crew sent to clean her apartment in the Battery Park City housing complex did not follow accepted practices--failing to check the air-conditioner for contamination or run a fan to simulate normal living conditions while air samples were taken.

Kathy Callahan, the EPA's deputy regional administrator of Region 2, which includes New York, defended the cleanup, saying the initial testing of the cleaned apartments was done to "bolster the confidence that the cleaning was effective."

The federal program to clean up Lower Manhattan's indoor air began in May 2002, with the voluntary enrollment period running through the end of that year. Although there are over 30,000 apartments in Lower Manhattan, just slightly more than 4,000 residents signed up for the program. The panel gave no estimate of how much the retesting would cost, or how long it would take. Panel chair Paul Gilman said that he had hoped to have results by June, but there could be delays if the EPA had trouble hiring contractors. (NYT, April 1)

See also WW3 REPORT #85

An archive of articles and documents concerning 9/11-related occupational and environmental safety and health is maintained by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) [top]

A New York State Supreme Court justice dismissed a libel suit against artist Patrick Clark and the Rockaway neighborhood newspaper The Wave, brought after the paper ran a paid ad by Clark harshly critical of the chain store's plans to build a billboard overlooking a 9-11 memorial Clark had designed for the Queens community. (NYT, March 15) [top]

Daniel Benjamin, a fellow at DC's elite Center for Strategic and International Studies, weighed in against hubristic plans to build the world's tallest skyscraper at the WTC site in a March 23 New York Times op-ed, "The 1,776-Foot-Tall Target." Stated Benjamin: "By building the Freedom Tower we invite terrorists to strike again." He especially noted the following historical irony: "The total amount of energy released ny the two 767's that struck the Twin Towers equaled that of a tactical nuclear weapon--almost a quarter of a kiloton. In 2006, two years before Freedom Tower is scheduled to open, a new generation of aircraft, led by the Airbus A380, will begin entering service in the world's airlines. The A380 will carry almost 82,000 gallons of fuel, more than three times as much as a 767. One hardly needs to do the math."

See also WW3 REPORT #s;

88, 50 [top]

NYPD detectives apparently travelled to Boston to infiltrate a meeting of the activist Black Tea Society, which is planning for protests at the upcoming Republican Convention in New York City. The affair was uncovered when Massachusetts state police, who had their own infiltrators at the meeting, noted a car with New York plates parked outside, followed it and stopped it for speeding on Massachusetts Turnpike. It tunred out to be the NYC police detectives. (Newsday, April 9)

See WW3 REPORT #s:

96, 73 [top]


The Bush-Cheney presidential campaign disabled features of a tool on its website that pranksters were using to mock the Republican ticket. The tool originally let users generate a full-size campaign poster in PDF format, customized with a short slogan of their choice. But Bush critics began using the site to place their own smart-alecky political messages above a Bush-Cheney '04 logo. Ana Marie Cox, editor of the Washington political gossip blog Wonkette, turned the tool into a weapon of mass satire when she devoted several posts to the inner workings of the device she dubbed the "Sloganator." At Cox's request, close to 200 Wonkette readers sent in slogans which they had slipped through the system. Among them: "Run for your lives," "They sure smell like old people," and "A boot stomping on a human face forever"--a line from George Orwell's 1984. Cox also published lists of words the tool was programmed to reject--including not only the usual four-letter words and sexual lingo, but it also "stupid," "evil," "terrorists" and "Iraq." (Wired News, March 13) [top]



1. Did the Spaniards capitulate to terrorism by voting out Aznar's party?

2. Was Zaur Gilalov, assassinated leader of Caucasus Mountain Jews, a tool of the International Zionist Conspiracy who had it coming?

3. Moqtada al-Sadr: heroic freedom fighter or bloody clerical fascist?

4. Slobodan Milosevic: anti-imperialist national savior or genocidal war criminal?

5. Rios Montt: anti-communist national savior or genocidal war criminal?

6. Do you think these Exit Polls are a joke, or do we really want to know what you think?

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