Watching the Shadows
President Bush has tapped Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to take over as head of the World Bank. Bush told a news conference March 15 that Wolfowitz, now Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's top deputy, is "a compassionate, decent man who will do a fine job at the World Bank. That's why I put him up." (AP, March 16)
The administration of California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has followed the Bush White House in producing "video press releases" neatly disguised as actual news items for distribution to TV news stations—Bush to promote the Iraq war, Arnold to promote his anti-union policies. Critics call the tactic "covert propaganda" and compare it to the methods of totalitarian regimes. (UK Independent, March 14)
In another gesture of perverse irony, the Bush administration has appointed John Bolton, a longtime anti-UN ideologue, as ambassador to the UN (replacing John Danforth, who is stepping down).
The unclassified 21-page summary of a 400-page secret Pentagon report prepared by Vice-Admiral Albert Church confirms that at least six detainees have died in more than 70 proven cases of abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq, and reveals that the U.S. military was holding an estimated 50,000 detainees in shadowy circumstances as of last September. However, the report exonerates Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Pentagon brass of ordering or turning a blind eye to torture.
The Pentagon is funding development of a Pulsed Energy Projectile (PEP), a laser that generates a burst of expanding plasma when it hits something solid, like a human being, inducing excruciating pain from up to a mile away. The program came to light thanks to a Freedom of Information Act inquiry by the Sunshine Project. The Pentagon is calling it a "non-lethal" weapon for use again rioters. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon.
The ACLU and Human Rights First filed suit in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's home state of Illinois on behalf of eight men who suffered psychological and physicial injuries while detained by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility" because he "personally signed off" on policies guiding prisoner treatment, said ACLU director Anthony Romero. Also named are Col. Thomas Pappas, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski and Lt.
On Feb. 28, a federal judge in South Carolina ruled that the U.S. must charge or release accused "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla within 45 days. The Justice Department vows it will appeal. Padilla, a US citizen, has been held without traditional legal rights as an "enemy combatant" since June 2002. (Bloomberg, March 1)
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced yesterday that his country will not participate in the missile defense system that the US hopes to build for North America. "This is our airspace, we're a sovereign nation and you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission," Martin said.