Wednesday, May 25, 2005

In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths

New York Times
May 20, 2005

Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

To read the full text, see New York Times

U.S. leads global attack on human rights -Amnesty

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON, May 25 (Reuters) - Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, human rights are in retreat worldwide and the United States bears most responsibility, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe the picture is bleak. Governments are increasingly rolling back the rule of law, taking their cue from the U.S.-led war on terror, it said.
"The USA as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide," Secretary General Irene Khan said in the foreword to Amnesty International's 2005 annual report.

To read the full text, see

A Commencement Address to Heed:
Against Discouragement

By Howard Zinn
May 15, 2005

Blog editor's note: Prof. Zinn is a voice that I've always listened to with great care. This recent commencement address is a historical perspective worth considering, one that I've tried always to keep in mind ever since encountering Zinn's thinking many years ago.

[In 1963, historian Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College, where he was chair of the History Department, because of his civil rights activities. This year, he was invited back to give the commencement address. Here is the text of that speech, given on May 15, 2005.]

I am deeply honored to be invited back to Spelman after forty-two years. I would like to thank the faculty and trustees who voted to invite me, and especially your president, Dr. Beverly Tatum. And it is a special privilege to be here with Diahann Carroll and Virginia Davis Floyd.

But this is your day -- the students graduating today. It's a happy day for you and your families. I know you have your own hopes for the future, so it may be a little presumptuous for me to tell you what hopes I have for you, but they are exactly the same ones that I have for my grandchildren.

My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our nation is at war -- still another war, war after war -- and our government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the lives of tens of thousands of human beings. There is poverty in this country, and homelessness, and people without health care, and crowded classrooms, but our government, which has trillions of dollars to spend, is spending its wealth on war. There are a billion people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who need clean water and medicine to deal with malaria and tuberculosis and AIDS, but our government, which has thousands of nuclear weapons, is experimenting with even more deadly nuclear weapons. Yes, it is easy to be discouraged by all that.

But let me tell you why, in spite of what I have just described, you must not be discouraged.

To read the full text, see

Monday, May 23, 2005

Prewar Findings Worried Analysts

By Walter Pincus

Washington Post
May 22, 2005; A26

Blog editor's note: What is most interesting--and most frustrating--about Pincus' report is that it took the Post so long (some two-plus years) to come to the conclusion that a good many observers had reached well before the war began. It is not as if this perspective has only recently emerged. Better late than never, I suppose.

On Jan. 24, 2003, four days before President Bush delivered his State of the Union address presenting the case for war against Iraq, the National Security Council staff put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or programs.

The person receiving the request, Robert Walpole, then the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, would later tell investigators that "the NSC believed the nuclear case was weak," according to a 500-page report released last year by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

It has been clear since the September report of the Iraq Survey Group -- a CIA-sponsored weapons search in Iraq -- that the United States would not find the weapons of mass destruction cited by Bush as the rationale for going to war against Iraq. But as the Walpole episode suggests, it appears that even before the war many senior intelligence officials in the government had doubts about the case being trumpeted in public by the president and his senior advisers.

To read the full text, see Washington Post

An Ally From Hell
CIA's close relationship with Sudan's government enables genocide there to continue

Nat Hentoff
May 20th, 2005

In Um Seifa, a dusty village in Sudan's western region of Darfur, a crowd of white-robed children stood outside their newly reopened school. . . . 'The government never gave us education, development, health [services or] equality,' said the headmaster. . . . So the people of Um Seifa built their own school. A week after your correspondent visited it, it was burned to the ground, and eight children murdered [by Sudanese army forces and the Arab Janjaweed] —The Economist, April 2, 2005
During George W. Bush's campaign to spread the spirit—and eventually the letter—of freedom and democracy to other lands, he has made some nightmarish allies. Torture of prisoners, homegrown or supplied by the CIA, has been endemic in Jordan, Yemen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Uzbekistan. In the latter's prisons, the specialty of the house is boiling prisoners, including political prisoners, to death.

But now—thanks to a carefully documented report by Ken Silverstein in the April 29 Los Angeles Times, which has had far too little follow-up by the media—it is clear that the CIA, with the blessings of the Bush administration, is closely connected to the horrifying government of Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, the head perpetrator of the ongoing genocide in Darfur: over 400,000 black Africans dead, with some 500 more dying every day, and more than two million, many in peril of starvation, turned into refugees as their homes and villages are destroyed.

The lead to the L.A. Times story by Ken Silverstein, datelined Khartoum: "The Bush administration has forged a close intelligence partnership with the Islamic regime that once welcomed Osama bin Laden. . . . The Sudanese government . . . has been providing access to terrorism suspects and sharing intelligence data with the United States."

To read the full text, see Village Voice

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What drives support for this torturer
Oil and gas ensure that the US backs the Uzbek dictator to the hilt

Craig Murray
May 16, 2005
The Guardian

Blog editor's note: Those convinced American foreign policy is driven merely by concerns for democracy might do well to consider this disturbing analysis of the violent situation in Uzbekistan. Craig Murray was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004

The bodies of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters in Uzbekistan are scarcely cold, and already the White House is looking for ways to dismiss them. The White House spokesman Scott McClellan said those shot dead in the city of Andijan included "Islamic terrorists" offering armed resistance. They should, McClellan insists, seek democratic government "through peaceful means, not through violence".
But how? This is not Georgia, Ukraine or even Kyrgyzstan. There, the opposition parties could fight elections. The results were fixed, but the opportunity to propagate their message brought change. In Uzbek elections on December 26, the opposition was not allowed to take part at all.

To read the full text, see The Guardian

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Iranian Nuclear Issue in a Global Context

By Dilip Hiro
May 13, 2005

With the Iranians threatening to resume some nuclear activities in the near future, their European Union (EU) interlocutors are threatening to break off their six-month long negotiations to resolve the nuclear issue diplomatically. They have called an emergency meeting of the 35 member Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna at which they are likely to join the United States in recommending that the Iranian situation be referred to the United Nations Security Council.

But they are unlikely to get their way. The Europeans -- represented in the negotiations by the troika of Britain, France, and Germany -- claim that before the latest round of talks, starting in mid-November, Tehran promised to freeze "all uranium enrichment-related activities." What the Iranians have, in fact, done is not to start the actual enrichment of uranium hexafluoride (UF6 gas), but to convert uranium yellow cake into a precursor for UF6. According to a non-European diplomat in Vienna, the non-aligned governors of the IAEA Board will accept the Iranian argument that this is uranium-conversion work and not uranium-enrichment work.

To read the full text, see

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Egyptian Pluralism is a Sham
The conditions for presidential candidature eliminate the opposition

By Claude Guibal
11 May 2005

Blog editor's note: President Bush's mantra that "freedom is on the march" took a hit yesterday, at least in Egypt.

The opposition sensed it. The long-awaited political reform in Egypt was reduced yesterday by a cosmetic sleight of hand when the Parliament adopted a constitutional amendment specifying the conditions for candidature in the September presidential elections. Unacceptable clauses that ensure Head of State Hosni Mubarak reelection from his armchair. Banners have already begun to appear all across Cairo. "Yes, Mubarak," "Thanks, Mubarak." Hung from building facades, they don't even attract a glance from passersby exasperated by the infernal traffic jams due to daily police barricades in the center city, where only yesterday partisans and opponents of the regime demonstrated on the steps of the press union. "More demonstrations?" wonders a taxi driver. "But they think that will change something?" He says he probably won't vote in the presidential elections. "But I know who will win," he adds, bitterly disenchanted.

Only two months ago, though, Mubarak's surprise announcement declaring his intention to offer Egypt its first presidential election with several candidates had awakened the country from its torpor. A hope immediately squelched by the details of conditions for candidature which have provoked opposition rage. Approved yesterday by the People's Assembly at the end of a stormy session, they are supposed to be ratified in a referendum scheduled for the end of May. The text, rejected by the three opposition parties, makes it so that only candidates from the legal parliamentary opposition may present themselves. Since the National Democratic Party (NDP) in power holds close to 90% of the seats, the result is already a foregone conclusion.

In theory, independents may run. But they have to gather 250 signatures from elected officials, including 65 from parliamentary deputies. Implacable arithmetic: the opposition only holds 55 seats; consequently the NDP will win by a knockout. Only one or two insignificant or aged candidates, like the head of (left-leaning) Tagammu, Khaled Mohieddine, 82 years old, will be able to compete against Mubarak, even if the latter has yet to confirm his candidacy.

To read the full text, see

They Lied to Us

By Molly Ivins
May 11, 2005

Meanwhile, back in Iraq. I was going to leave out of this column everything about how we got into Iraq, or whether it was wise, and or whether the infamous "they" knowingly lied to us. (Although I did plan to point out I would be nobly refraining from poking at that pus-riddled question.)

Since I believe one of our greatest strengths as Americans is shrewd practicality, I thought it was time we moved past the now unhelpful, "How did we get into his mess?" to the more utilitarian, "What the hell do we do now?"

However, I cannot let this astounding Downing Street memo go unmentioned.

On May 1, the Sunday Times of London printed a secret memo that went to the defense secretary, foreign secretary, attorney general and other high officials. It is the minutes of their meeting on Iraq with Tony Blair. The memo was written by Matthew Rycroft, a Downing Street foreign policy aide. It has been confirmed as legitimate and is dated July 23, 2002. I suppose the correct cliché is "smoking gun."

To read the full text, see AlterNet

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Apocalypse Soon

By Robert S. McNamara
Foreign Policy
May/June 2005

Blog editor's note: Robert McNamara, of course, was Sec. of Defense for JFK during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and can be assumed to know something about nuclear weapons and foreign policy. According to Foreign Policy, "Today, he believes the United States must no longer rely on nuclear weapons as a foreign-policy tool. To do so is immoral, illegal, and dreadfully dangerous."

It is time—well past time, in my view—for the United States to cease its Cold War-style reliance on nuclear weapons as a foreign-policy tool. At the risk of appearing simplistic and provocative, I would characterize current U.S. nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous. The risk of an accidental or inadvertent nuclear launch is unacceptably high. Far from reducing these risks, the Bush administration has signaled that it is committed to keeping the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a mainstay of its military power—a commitment that is simultaneously eroding the international norms that have limited the spread of nuclear weapons and fissile materials for 50 years. Much of the current U.S. nuclear policy has been in place since before I was secretary of defense, and it has only grown more dangerous and diplomatically destructive in the intervening years.

Today, the United States has deployed approximately 4,500 strategic, offensive nuclear warheads. Russia has roughly 3,800. The strategic forces of Britain, France, and China are considerably smaller, with 200–400 nuclear weapons in each state’s arsenal. The new nuclear states of Pakistan and India have fewer than 100 weapons each. North Korea now claims to have developed nuclear weapons, and U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that Pyongyang has enough fissile material for 2–8 bombs.

How destructive are these weapons? The average U.S. warhead has a destructive power 20 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. Of the 8,000 active or operational U.S. warheads, 2,000 are on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched on 15 minutes’ warning. How are these weapons to be used? The United States has never endorsed the policy of “no first use,” not during my seven years as secretary or since. We have been and remain prepared to initiate the use of nuclear weapons—by the decision of one person, the president—against either a nuclear or nonnuclear enemy whenever we believe it is in our interest to do so. For decades, U.S. nuclear forces have been sufficiently strong to absorb a first strike and then inflict “unacceptable” damage on an opponent. This has been and (so long as we face a nuclear-armed, potential adversary) must continue to be the foundation of our nuclear deterrent.

To read the full text, see

Friday, May 06, 2005

British memo indicates Bush made intelligence fit Iraq policy

By Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott
Knight Ridder Newspapers
May 5, 2005

Blog editor's note: If this memo proves to be authentic--and the Blair government has yet to repudiate it--it offers the clearest evidence yet that the Bush Administration misled the American public in what one observer has characterized as "impeachable" ways. The disquieting thing about the memo, which surfaced last weekend, is that the news media so far have given it scant attention.

WASHINGTON - A highly classified British memo, leaked in the midst of Britain's just-concluded election campaign, indicates that President Bush decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by summer 2002 and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.

The document, which summarizes a July 23, 2002, meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair with his top security advisers, reports on a visit to Washington by the head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence service.

The visit took place while the Bush administration was still declaring to the American public that no decision had been made to go to war.

To read the full text, see Knight-Ridder