Thursday, June 26, 2008

Washington’s new alibi for a criminal war: the “surge has worked”

Washington’s new alibi for a criminal war: the “surge has worked”

By Bill Van Auken

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A growing consensus has emerged within the US political establishment, extending to both major parties and the predominant sections of the mass media that the so-called “surge”—the Bush administration’s euphemism for military escalation—has “worked.”

Supporters of this thesis point to figures supplied by the Pentagon showing a decline in death—tollsamong both US troops and Iraqi civilians alike - compared to the horrific totals recorded at the beginning of last year, before the arrival of the additional 40,000 US troops.

According to figures compiled by Iraqi security forces, 532 Iraqis were killed last month either by US occupation troops, Iraqi government forces, insurgent attacks or sectarian violence. Nineteen US soldiers and Marines lost their lives in Iraq in May. Both represent roughly a quarter the number killed in January 2007

While a significant reduction compared to the appalling 1,920 Iraqi civilians reported killed in January of last year, this official toll undoubtedly represents a gross underestimation of the real number of deaths, many of which go unreported. Even on its face—at nearly 18 a day—it represents a terrible loss of life and the continuation of a simmering insurgency.

Moreover, nearly three times as many US troops were killed in April as in May while the Iraqi death toll numbered in the thousands, as fighting raged in Basra and the slums of Baghdad’s Sadr City. There is no evidence that the underlying social and political tensions, much less the strength of the US-backed Iraqi regime, have been transformed over the space of a month.

Indeed, the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of the US Congress issued a report this week stressing the narrow character of the surge’s supposed success and insisting that a new strategy is needed.

The GAO reported that the number of armed attacks in Iraq had declined from about 180 a day in June 2007 to about 50 per day in February 2008. It attributed the decline to the pouring in of the additional US combat troops as well as the Pentagon’s arming and paying Sunni militia forces like the Sons of Iraq, and the ceasefire maintained by the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr.

Clearly, these are hardly firm foundations for the success claimed by the surge’s proponents. The additional combat troops are to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of next month. The Sunni militias’ alliance of convenience with the US occupation forces is based upon their fear of and hostility toward the US-backed Shia-dominated central government, while, as the fighting this spring demonstrated, the Mahdi Army truce can collapse at any time.

“The security environment remains volatile and dangerous,” the report concludes. It paints a picture of an Iraqi regime that is wholly dysfunctional. Barely 10 percent of Iraqi security forces are capable of operating independently of US occupation troops, the GAO points out, while the government has failed to spend more than 24 percent of the funds allocated for the country’s reconstruction because of “violence and sectarian strife, shortage of skilled labor, and weak procurement and budgeting systems.”

As a result, despite nearly $5 billion in US investment in the country’s electricity sector, it is capable of meeting barely half the country’s demand for power, with electricity available in Baghdad barely eight hours a day.

Other essential social indices are just as bad. According to the GAO, due to the continuing breakdown of basic infrastructure as well as the mass displacement of the Iraqi population by armed violence, “only one in three Iraqi children under the age of 5 has access to safe drinking water, and only 17 percent of Iraq’s sewage is treated before being discharged into the country’s rivers and waterways,” creating the conditions for deadly epidemics.

There are, as well, signs that the May lull in casualties has come to an end in June. A series of violent incidents took place this week, two of them at meetings of local councils formed by the occupation to assist in controlling hostile areas.

On Monday, a Sunni council member in a town southeast of Baghdad, described as someone the US forces “used to love,” opened fire on American troops after a weekly meeting, killing two and wounding three, as well as an interpreter, before being killed himself.

At a council meeting in Baghdad’s Sadr City the next day, a bomb went off, killing 10 people, including two US soldiers and two US civilian government employees. Just hours later, three American soldiers and an interpreter were killed by a roadside bomb in the northern province of Nineveh.

Spinning a “new narrative” on Iraq

None of this dissuades the surge’s proponents, who are fully engaged in the spinning of a “new narrative” about Iraq, based on the thesis that the “surge has worked.” How or why the US war began, they insist, is irrelevant, the only question is to build on this purported success.

The campaign of the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential candidate Senator John McCain rests heavily on this contention, with McCain claiming credit for backing the surge. Together with the bulk of the media, the Republicans have shamed their Democratic rivals into embracing this theory.

Thus, Obama recently declared “how encouraged” he was by “the reductions in violence in Iraq” and vowed that “an Obama administration will make sure that we continue with the progress that’s been made in Iraq, that we won’t act precipitously.”

While he postured in the Democratic primaries as an antiwar candidate, vowing to withdraw US troops from Iraq, Obama’s platform has always envisioned a substantial US force remaining in the country for “counter-terrorism” operations and to protect US interests. A more concrete insight into the thinking of the Democratic establishment came in the form of a paper drafted in April by Obama’s key adviser on Iraq, Colin Kahl, professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

Entitled “Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement,” Kahl proposal calls for negotiations with the Iraqi government to allow Washington “to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000-80,000 forces) by the end of 2010.”

So much for illusions that the election of Obama in November will spell an end to the five-year-old war and occupation.

Meanwhile, from the media there is a steady drumbeat from the editorial pages of the major dailies as well as from the broadcast pundits along the same lines.

This one-sided debate over the merits of the surge unfolds in the context of a virtual blackout of news about the ongoing struggle in Iraq. While on the whole never too penetrating, reporting by the media has all but disappeared.

According to a recent survey published by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, major news outlets are devoting less than 1 percent of their coverage to events in the occupied country. During the second week of this month, in which the deaths of 153 Iraqis and seven US troops were recorded, the media gave the Iraq war less than half the coverage it devoted to the tomato salmonella scare.

Under these conditions, Thomas Friedman, the foreign affairs columnist of the New York Times, a leading media propagandist for the war in 2002-2003, now writes that “debating the merits of the war” is pointless, and that, based on the surge’s supposed gains, the real question is: “can something decent still be salvaged there at an acceptable cost—something that can still serve our interests, do right by Iraqis and maybe put in place the seeds of an open society that will pay long-term benefits?”

Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, one of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for American militarism in the Middle East, wrote a column demanding that McCain to “make the election about Iraq,” while insisting that “everything is changed,” and “we are winning on every front.”

Finally, David Brooks, one of the right-wing editorial columnists of the New York Times published a column Tuesday entitled “The Bush Paradox,” attempting to utilize the surge to salvage the reputation of a man who is arguably the most unpopular occupant of the White House in US history.

Iraq and the “personal traits” of Bush

“One thing is clear,” writes Brooks. “Every personal trait that led Bush to make a hash of the first years of the war led him to make a successful decision when it came to this crucial call.”

Among the traits Brooks attributes to Bush are “stubbornness, that unwillingness to accept defeat on his watch,” without which, he says, “he never would have bucked the opposition to the surge.”

He describes the US president as “outrageously self-confident,” a quality that supposedly allowed him to “overrule” generals who opposed the escalation.

Brooks criticizes Bush as being “secretive” and having listened “too much to Dick Cheney,” but quickly adds: “the uncomfortable fact is that Cheney played an essential role in promoting the surge. Many of the people who are dubbed bad guys actually got this one right.”

As this column makes clear, this entire cynical exercise in propagandizing about the success of the surge is aimed at exonerating US officials guilty of war crimes, while accustoming the American population to the prospect of an indefinite occupation of Iraq.

But what precisely is the “success” that they are all talking about, how was it achieved and what purpose is it to serve? These questions are glided over with fatuous phrases such as Friedman’s talk about “sowing seeds of an open society.”

What has been sown is death and destruction on a massive scale. in Iraq Washington has carried out the greatest crimes against humanity of the new century.

The secret to the supposed success of the surge is plain to see. If you kill over million people, wound and maim perhaps three times that many, turn five million more into exiles or refugees in their own land, round up tens of thousands of the young men who have survived this slaughter and imprison them without charges in detention camps, it is possible to achieve a temporary suppression of popular resistance.

The “personal traits” of George W. Bush that equipped him to preside over such a venture are gross ignorance, sadism, an unflinching commitment to the interests of the financial aristocracy into which he was born, and an absolute contempt for the suffering of working people. He is, in short, a mental cipher and a moral cripple.

No doubt from Berlin in 1939 the Nazi “surge” into Poland also seemed a great success, achieved by similar methods, and there were many who attributed this to the “personal traits,” including the stubbornness and self-confidence, of Germany’s F├╝hrer.

For the millions upon millions of people in the US and around the world who have opposed the US intervention in Iraq from the outset, the issue was not whether mass killing and the systematic destruction of a society would “work,” but rather opposition to a criminal war of aggression.

That such arguments have an impact upon the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate only underscores the bipartisan political consensus in Washington over the central aim of this war: US hegemony over the Persian Gulf and control over Iraq’s oil reserves.

Now, with the report that the Iraqi regime has signed no-bid contracts with the big oil conglomerates—the very same US and British firms kicked out of the country 36 years ago when Baghdad nationalized its oil industry—the purpose of all this killing comes clearly into focus and, along with it, the source of the official consensus that “the surge is working.”

This conventional wisdom is not shared, however, by the masses of people in either Iraq or the US itself. Recent polls in Iraq show three quarters of the population wanting US troops out of their country and barely one quarter expressing the belief that they have improved security. In the US, poll after poll has shown two thirds of the people opposing the war and supporting the withdrawal of American occupation forces.

In the end, neither the surge nor the war as a whole have laid the foundations for stability in Iraq. The destruction of a society and the killing, maiming or violent displacement of fully a third of its population can create only continuous turmoil and ultimately a resurgence of mass resistance.

Meanwhile, in the US itself, the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on this war have contributed to the onset of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, creating the conditions for an eruption of mass social struggles.

Court Rewards Exxon for Valdez Oil Spill

Court Rewards Exxon for
Valdez Oil Spill

by Greg Palast

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Twenty years after Exxon Valdez slimed over one thousand miles of Alaskan beaches, the company has yet to pay the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by the jury. And now they won't have to. The Supreme Court today cut Exxon's liability by 90% to half a billion. It's so cheap, it's like a permit to spill.

Exxon knew this would happen. Right after the spill, I was brought to Alaska by the Natives whose Prince William Sound islands, livelihoods, and their food source was contaminated by Exxon crude. My assignment: to investigate oil company frauds that led to to the disaster. There were plenty.

But before we brought charges, the Natives hoped to settle with the oil company, to receive just enough compensation to buy some boats and rebuild their island villages to withstand what would be a decade of trying to survive in a polluted ecological death zone.

In San Diego, I met with Exxon's US production chief, Otto Harrison, who said, "Admit it; the oil spill's the best thing to happen" to the Natives.

His company offered the Natives pennies on the dollar. The oil men added a cruel threat: take it or leave it and wait twenty years to get even the pennies. Exxon is immortal - but Natives die.

And they did. A third of the Native fishermen and seal hunters I worked with are dead. Now their families will collect one tenth of their award, two decades too late.

In today's ruling, Supreme Court Justice David Souter wrote that Exxon's recklessness was ''profitless'' - so the company shouldn't have to pay punitive damages. Profitless, Mr. Souter? Exxon and its oil shipping partners saved billions - BILLIONS - by operating for sixteen years without the oil spill safety equipment they promised, in writing, under oath and by contract.

The official story is, "Drunken Skipper Hits Reef." But don't believe it, Mr. Souter. Alaska's Native lands and coastline were destroyed by a systematic fraud motivated by profit-crazed penny-pinching.

Here's the unreported story, the one you won't get tonight on the Petroleum Broadcast System:

It begins in 1969 when big shots from Humble Oil and ARCO (now known as Exxon and British Petroleum) met with the Chugach Natives, owners of the most valuable parcel of land on the planet: Valdez Port, the only conceivable terminus for a pipeline that would handle a trillion dollars in crude oil.

These Alaskan natives ultimately agreed to sell the Exxon consortium this astronomically valuable patch of land -- for a single dollar.

The Natives refused cash. Rather, in 1969, they asked only that the oil companies promise to protect their Prince William Sound fishing and seal hunting grounds from oil.

In 1971, Exxon and partners agreed to place the Natives' specific list of safeguards into federal law. These commitments to safety reassured enough Congressmen for the oil group to win, by one vote, the right to ship oil from Valdez.

The oil companies repeated their promises under oath to the US Congress.

The spill disaster was the result of Exxon and partners breaking every one of those promises - cynically, systematically, disastrously, in the fifteen years leading up to the spill.

Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate would never have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his Raycas radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker's radar was left broken and disasbled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was just too expensive to fix and operate.

For the Chugach, this discovery was poignantly ironic. On their list of safety demands in return for Valdez was "state-of-the-art" on-ship radar.

We discovered more, but because of the labyrinthine ways of litigation, little became public, especially about the reckless acts of the industry consortium, Alyeska, which controls the Alaska Pipeline.

  • Several smaller oil spills before the Exxon Valdez could have warned of a system breakdown. But a former Senior Lab Technician with Alyeska, Erlene Blake, told our investigators that management routinely ordered her to toss out test samples of water evidencing spilled oil. She was ordered to refill the test tubes with a bucket of clean sea water called, "The Miracle Barrel."
  • In a secret meeting in April 1988, Alyeska Vice-President T.L. Polasek confidentially warned the oil group executives that, because Alyeska had never purchased promised safety equipment, it was simply "not possible" to contain an oil spill past the Valdez Narrows -- exactly where the Exxon Valdez ran aground 10 months later.
  • The Natives demanded (and law requires) that the shippers maintain round- the-clock oil spill response teams. Alyeska hired the Natives, especiallly qualified by their generations-old knowledge of the Sound, for this emergency work. They trained to drop from helicopters into the water with special equipment to contain an oil slick at a moments notice. But in 1979, quietly, Alyeska fired them all. To deflect inquisitive state inspectors, the oil consortium created sham teams, listing names of oil terminal workers who had not the foggiest idea how to use spill equipment which, in any event, was missing, broken or existed only on paper.

In 1989, when the oil poured from the tanker, there was no Native response team, only chaos.

Today, twenty years after the oil washed over the Chugach beaches, you can kick over a rock and it will smell like an old gas station.

The cover story of the Drunken Captain serves the oil industry well. It falsely presents America's greatest environmental disaster as a tale of human frailty, a one-time accident. But broken radar, missing equipment, phantom spill teams, faked tests -- the profit-driven disregard of the law -- made the spill an inevitability, not an accident.

Yet Big Oil tells us, as they plead to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, as Senator John McCain calls for drilling off the shores of the Lower 48, it can't happen again.

They promise.

U.S. Holds 27,000 ‘Ghost Prisoners’ Around Globe

U.S. Holds 27,000 ‘Ghost Prisoners’ Around Globe

Ghost Prisoners Will Haunt George W. Bush Legacy

By Mike Finch

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An estimated 27,000 “ghost prisoners” are currently being held in secret prisons around the world, including ships that have been re-fitted as prison hulks, according to recent reports.


“When you look at Guantanamo Bay, 270 [prisoners], roughly . . . [are] in Guantanamo, but according to the most recent official figures, the United States is currently holding 27,000 secret prisoners around the world,” Clive Stafford Smith said to DemocracyNow! in a May 19 interview. “99 percent of these folk are not in Guantanamo Bay.”

Smith is a lawyer for 30 of the Guantanamo prisoners, and author of Eight O’clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice in Guantanamo Bay. He spoke before Congress on May 20 regarding the prisoners, and works for the UK charity known as Reprieve.

Several known prisons exist in Morocco, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and Iraq. Popular thought was that the prisons in Iraq were for Iraqi war prisoners, but Smith asserted that prisoners are being brought in from other nations so that “annoying people like you—I mean the media—and also annoying people like me—lawyers— away from the prisoners so they can’t get any sort of legal rights,” Smith said.

The Bush administration said they have not tortured suspected terrorists, but rather used “alternative” interrogation methods that are “tough but legal,” a 2006 CNN report said. Smith described one such alternative method: “All they have on him is evidence that they extracted from him after taking him to Morocco and torture[ing] him with a razor blade to his genitals.”

Smith said that his organization identified 32 prison ships, though the U.S. and Britain deny that ships converted into prisons are used in the Indian Ocean to hold people.

“We’ve got pictures of them in Lisbon Harbor,” Smith said, “And this is a huge concern, because the world focus is on Guantanamo Bay, which actually is a diversionary tactic in the whole war on terror or whatever you would like to call it.”

Bagram prison in Afghanistan, a prison that made the news in 2002 when two detainees were killed from wounds inflicted during torture, holds an estimated 680 prisoners.

May 17 the U.S. announced plans to build a 40-acre prison extension to the Bagram facility that will hold up to 1,100 prisoners. The bill for the new prison is estimated at $60 million.

Canadian ISPs Plan Net Censorship

Canadian ISPs Plan Net Censorship

Concerns grow that Canada's plan will wipeout alt news sites and spread to U.S.

By Mike Finch

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A net-neutrality activist group has uncovered plans for the demise of the free Internet by 2010 in Canada. By 2012, the group says, the trend will be global.

Bell Canada and TELUS, Canada's two largest Internet service providers (ISPs), will begin charging per-site fees on most Internet sites, reports anonymous sources within TELUS.

"It's beyond censorship, it is killing the biggest ecosystem of free expression and freedom of speech that has ever existed," I Power spokesperson Reese Leysen said. I Power was the first group to report on the possible changes.

Bell Canada has not returned calls or emails.

The plans made by the large telecom businesses would change the Internet into a cable-like system, where customers sign up for specific web sites, and must pay to see each individual site beyond a certain point. Subscription browsing would be limited, extra fees would be applied to access out-of-network sites. Many sites would be blocked altogether.

"We had inside sources from bigger companies who gave us the information on how exclusivity deals are being made at this moment between ISPs and big content providers (like TV production studios and major video game publishers) to decide which web sites will be in the 'standard package' offered to their customers, leaving all the rest of the Internet unreachable unless you pay extra subscription fees per every 'non-standard' site you visit," Leysen said. "We knew the source to be 100% reliable, but we also knew the story would be highly controversial if we released the information. We did it because we knew that we'd get more official confirmations once we'd come forward with it. And indeed that is what happened. Dylan Pattyn, who is writing the soon-to-be published article for Time Magazine, received confirmation from sources within Bell Canada and TELUS after we released the information."

The plans would in effect be economic censorship, with only the top 100 to 200 sites making the cut in the initial subscription package. Such plans would likely favor major news outlets and suppress smaller news outlets, as the major news outlets would be free (with subscription), and alternative news outlets, like AFP, would incur a fee for every visit.

"The Internet will become a playground for billion-dollar content providers just like television is," said Leysen. "It won't be possible for a few teenagers in their parents' basement to start a small site like E-bay that then grows out to be the next big thing anymore. Right now the Internet belongs to those with the greatest ideas. In the future, it'll belong to those with the biggest budgets."

With plans in Canada uncovered, I Power thinks that companies in the United States and other nations are also planning similar actions.

"By 2012 ISPs all over the globe will reduce Internet access to a TV-like subscription model, only offering access to a small standard amount of commercial sites and require extra fees for every other site you visit. These 'other' sites would then lose all their exposure and eventually shut down, resulting in what could be seen as the end of the Internet," Leysen said.

Such a subscription plan could possibly restrict free speech far beyond even the current restrictions set by the governments of communist China. Not only would browsing be limited, but privacy would be invaded, as every web site viewed would likely be recorded on a bill in a manner similar to a phone bill.

Why would the ISPs institute such a plan? One word: money.

"This new subscription model is commercially far more beneficial to them than how it is now," Leysen said. "If Fox wants to launch a new television show online, they'll have to pay big money to all major ISPs to ensure that their new show will be offered and pushed in the 'standard package' of sites/services/channels that people will get through their Internet access. Plus ISPs will also gain extra revenue out of people trying to access the rest of the Internet, as they'll pay extra subscription fees for every web site they visit."

But it's not just the big ISPs that stand to gain.

"Marketing and big budget 'content-pushing' just doesn't seem to work on the Internet, and this is something that several industries want fixed. ISPs know this and will benefit greatly by fixing this for the marketing and entertainment industry," Leysen said.

The ISPs are said to be confident they can institute such plans through deceptive marketing and fear tactics.

"The Internet will be more and more marketed as a place full of child pornography and other horrible illegal activity in order to get people on their [the ISP's] side once they start restricting it and make it 'safer,'" Leysen said. "Unless we really make a stand for this and make sure that mainstream media thoroughly covers the issue, the whole thing will be eased in with proper marketing to make sure that most mainstream customers won't make a big deal out of it. They will only realize what was lost long after it's gone."

For more information about this story see http://ipower.ning.com

For more information about Internet freedom: savetheinternet.com

Time for a Grand Inquest into Bush's High Crimes

State-Sponsored Terror: British and American Black Ops in Iraq

State-Sponsored Terror: British and American Black Ops in Iraq

By Andrew G. Marshall

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In January of 2002, the Washington Post ran a story detailing a CIA plan put forward to President Bush shortly after 9/11 by CIA Director George Tenet titled, "Worldwide Attack Matrix," which was "outlining a clandestine anti-terror campaign in 80 countries around the world. What he was ready to propose represented a striking and risky departure for U.S. policy and would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history." The plan entailed CIA and Special Forces "covert operations across the globe," and at "the heart of the proposal was a recommendation that the president give the CIA what Tenet labeled "exceptional authorities" to attack and destroy al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the rest of the world." Tenet cited the need for such authority "to allow the agency to operate without restraint -- and he wanted encouragement from the president to take risks." Among the many authorities recommended was the use of "deadly force."

Further, "Another proposal was that the CIA increase liaison work with key foreign intelligence services," as "Using such intelligence services as surrogates could triple or quadruple the CIA's effectiveness." The Worldwide Attack Matrix "described covert operations in 80 countries that were either underway or that he was now recommending. The actions ranged from routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks," as well as "In some countries, CIA teams would break into facilities to obtain information."[1]

P2OG: "Commit terror, to incite terror… in order to react to terror"

In 2002, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board (DSB) conducted a "Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism," portions of which were leaked to the Federation of American Scientists. According to the document, the "War on Terror" constitutes a "committed, resourceful and globally dispersed adversary with strategic reach," which will require the US to engage in a "long, at times violent, and borderless war." As the Asia Times described it, this document lays out a blueprint for the US to "fight fire with fire." Many of the "proposals appear to push the military into territory that traditionally has been the domain of the CIA, raising questions about whether such missions would be subject to the same legal restraints imposed on CIA activities." According to the Chairman of the DSB, "The CIA executes the plans but they use Department of Defense assets."

Specifically, the plan "recommends the creation of a super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization it dubs the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG), to bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence and cover and deception. For example, the Pentagon and CIA would work together to increase human intelligence (HUMINT) forward/operational presence and to deploy new clandestine technical capabilities." The purpose of P2OG would be in "‘stimulating reactions’ among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction, meaning it would prod terrorist cells into action, thus exposing them to ‘quick-response’ attacks by US forces."[2] In other words, commit terror to incite terror, in order to react to terror.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2002 that, "The Defense Department is building up an elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities. New organizations are being created. The missions of existing units are being revised," and quoted then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as saying, "Prevention and preemption are ... the only defense against terrorism."[3] Chris Floyd bluntly described P2OG in CounterPunch, saying, "the United States government is planning to use "cover and deception" and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. Let's say it again: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the other members of the unelected regime in Washington plan to deliberately foment the murder of innocent people--your family, your friends, your lovers, you--in order to further their geopolitical ambitions."[4]

"The Troubles" with Iraq

On February 5, 2007, the Telegraph reported that, "Deep inside the heart of the "Green Zone" [in Iraq], the heavily fortified administrative compound in Baghdad, lies one of the most carefully guarded secrets of the war in Iraq. It is a cell from a small and anonymous British Army unit that goes by the deliberately meaningless name of the Joint Support Group (JSG)." The members of the JSG "are trained to turn hardened terrorists into coalition spies using methods developed on the mean streets of Ulster during the Troubles, when the Army managed to infiltrate the IRA at almost every level. Since war broke out in Iraq in 2003, they have been responsible for running dozens of Iraqi double agents." They have been "[w]orking alongside the Special Air Service [SAS] and the American Delta Force as part of the Baghdad-based counter-terrorist unit known as Task Force Black."

It was reported that, "During the Troubles [in Northern Ireland], the JSG operated under the cover name of the Force Research Unit (FRU), which between the early 1980s and the late 1990s managed to penetrate the very heart of the IRA. By targeting and then "turning" members of the paramilitary organisation with a variety of "inducements" ranging from blackmail to bribes, the FRU operators developed agents at virtually every command level within the IRA." Further, "The unit was renamed following the Stevens Inquiry into allegations of collusion between the security forces and protestant paramilitary groups, and, until relatively recently continued to work exclusively in Northern Ireland."[5]

Considering that this group had been renamed after revelations of collusion with terrorists, perhaps it is important to take a look at what exactly this "collusion" consisted of. The Stevens Inquiry’s report "contains devastating confirmation that intelligence officers of the British police and the military actively helped Protestant guerillas to identify and kill Catholic activists in Northern Ireland during the 1980s." It was, "a state policy sanctioned at the highest level." The Inquiry, "highlighted collusion, the willful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder," and acknowledged "that innocent people had died because of the collusion." These particular "charges relate to activities of a British Army intelligence outfit known as the Force Research Unit (FRU) and former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) police officers."[6]

In 2002, the Sunday Herald reported on the allegations made by a former British intelligence agent, Kevin Fulton, who stated that, "he was told by his military handlers that his collusion with paramilitaries was sanctioned by Margaret Thatcher herself." Fulton worked for the Force Research Unit (FRU), and had infiltrated the IRA, always while on the pay roll of the military. Fulton tells of how in 1992, he told his FRU and MI5 intelligence handlers that his IRA superior was planning to launch a mortar attack on the police, yet his handlers did nothing and the attack went forward, killing a policewoman. Fulton stated, "I broke the law seven days a week and my handlers knew that. They knew that I was making bombs and giving them to other members of the IRA and they did nothing about it. If everything I touched turned to shit then I would have been dead. The idea was that the only way to beat the enemy was to penetrate the enemy and be the enemy."[7]

In 1998, Northern Ireland experienced its "worst single terrorist atrocity," as described by the BBC, in which a car bomb went off, killing 29 people and injuring 300.[8] According to a Sunday Herald piece in 2001, "Security forces didn't intercept the Real IRA's Omagh bombing team because one of the terrorists was a British double-agent whose cover would have been blown as an informer if the operation was uncovered." Kevin Fulton had even "phoned a warning to his RUC handlers 48 hours before the Omagh bombing that the Real IRA was planning an attack and gave details of one of the bombing team and his car registration." Further, "The man thought to be the agent is a senior member of the [IRA] organization."[9]

In 2002, it was revealed that, "one of the most feared men inside the Provisional IRA," John Joe Magee, head of the IRA’s "internal security unit," commonly known as the IRA’s "torturer- in-chief," was actually "one of the UK's most elite soldiers," who "was trained as a member of Britain's special forces." The Sunday Herald stated that, "Magee led the IRA's internal security unit for more than a decade up to the mid-90s - most of those he investigated were usually executed," and that, "Magee's unit was tasked to hunt down, interrogate and execute suspected British agents within the IRA."[10]

In 2006, the Guardian reported that, "two British agents were central to the bombings of three army border installations in 1990." The claims included tactics known as the ‘human bomb’, which "involved forcing civilians to drive vehicles laden with explosives into army checkpoints." This tactic "was the brainchild of British intelligence."[11]

In 2006, it was also revealed that, "A former British Army mole in the IRA has claimed that MI5 arranged a weapons-buying trip to America in which he obtained detonators, later used by terrorists to murder soldiers and police officers," and "British intelligence co-operated with the FBI to ensure his trip to New York in the 1990s went ahead without incident so that his cover would not be blown." Further, "the technology he obtained has been used in Northern Ireland and copied by terrorists in Iraq in roadside bombs that have killed British troops."[12]

Considering all these revelations of British collusion with IRA terrorists and complicity in terrorist acts in Northern Ireland through the FRU, what evidence is there that these same tactics are not being deployed in Iraq under the renamed Joint Support Group (JSG)? The recruits to the JSG in Iraq are trained extensively and those "who eventually pass the course can expect to be posted to Baghdad, Basra and Afghanistan."[13]

P2OG in Action

In September of 2003, months after the initial invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Iraq’s most sacred Shiite mosque was blown up, killing between 80 and 120 people, including a popular Shiite cleric, and the event was blamed by Iraqis on the American forces.[14]

On April 20, 2004, American journalist in Iraq, Dahr Jamail, reported in the New Standard that, "The word on the street in Baghdad is that the cessation of suicide car bombings is proof that the CIA was behind them." Jamail interviewed a doctor who stated that, "The U.S. induces aggression. If you don't attack me, I will never attack you. The U.S. is stimulating the aggression of the Iraqi people!" This description goes very much in line with the aims outlined in the Pentagon’s P2OG document about "inciting terror," or "preempting terror attacks."[15]

Weeks after the initial incident involving the British SAS soldiers in Basra, in October of 2005, it was reported that Americans were "captured in the act of setting off a car bomb in Baghdad," as, "A number of Iraqis apprehended two Americans disguised in Arab dress as they tried to blow up a booby-trapped car in the middle of a residential area in western Baghdad on Tuesday. … Residents of western Baghdad's al-Ghazaliyah district [said] the people had apprehended the Americans as they left their Caprice car near a residential neighborhood in al-Ghazaliyah on Tuesday afternoon. Local people found they looked suspicious so they detained the men before they could get away. That was when they discovered that they were Americans and called the … police." However, "the Iraq police arrived at approximately the same time as allied military forces - and the two men were removed from Iraq custody and whisked away before any questioning could take place."[16]

It was reported that in May of 2005, an Iraqi man was arrested after witnessing a car bombing that took place in front of his home, as it was said he shot an Iraqi National Guardsman. However, "People from the area claim that the man was taken away not because he shot anyone, but because he knew too much about the bomb. Rumor has it that he saw an American patrol passing through the area and pausing at the bomb site minutes before the explosion. Soon after they drove away, the bomb went off and chaos ensued. He ran out of his house screaming to the neighbors and bystanders that the Americans had either planted the bomb or seen the bomb and done nothing about it. He was promptly taken away."

Further, another story was reported in the same month that took place in Baghdad when an Iraqi driver had his license and car confiscated at a checkpoint, after which he was instructed "to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport for interrogation and in order to retrieve his license." After being questioned for a short while, he was told to drive his car to an Iraqi police station, where his license had been forwarded, and that he should go quickly. "The driver did leave in a hurry, but was soon alarmed with a feeling that his car was driving as if carrying a heavy load, and he also became suspicious of a low flying helicopter that kept hovering overhead, as if trailing him. He stopped the car and inspected it carefully. He found nearly 100 kilograms of explosives hidden in the back seat and along the two back doors. The only feasible explanation for this incident is that the car was indeed booby trapped by the Americans and intended for the al-Khadimiya Shiite district of Baghdad. The helicopter was monitoring his movement and witnessing the anticipated ‘hideous attack by foreign elements."[17]

On October 4, 2005, it was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald that, "The FBI's counterterrorism unit has launched a broad investigation of US-based theft rings after discovering some vehicles used in deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen in the United States, according to senior US Government officials." Further, "The inquiry began after coalition troops raided a Falluja bomb factory last November and found a Texas-registered four-wheel-drive being prepared for a bombing mission. Investigators said there were several other cases where vehicles evidently stolen in the US wound up in Syria or other Middle Eastern countries and ultimately in the hands of Iraqi insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq."[18]

In 2006, the Al-Askariya mosque in the city of Samarra was bombed and destroyed. It was built in 944, was over 1,000 years old, and was one of the most important Shi’ite mosques in the world. The great golden dome that covered it, which was built in 1904, was destroyed in the 2006 bombing, which was set off by men dressed as Iraqi Special Forces.[19] Former 27-year CIA analyst who gave several presidents their daily CIA briefings, Ray McGovern, stated that he "does not rule out Western involvement in this week's Askariya mosque bombing." He was quoted as saying, "The main question is Qui Bono? Who benefits from this kind of thing? You don't have to be very conspiratorial or even paranoid to suggest that there are a whole bunch of likely suspects out there and not only the Sunnis. You know, the British officers were arrested, dressed up in Arab garb, riding around in a car, so this stuff goes on."[20]

Death Squads for "Freedom"

In January of 2005, Newsweek reported on a Pentagon program termed the "Salvador Option" being discussed to be deployed in Iraq. This strategy "dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers." Updating the strategy to Iraq, "one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions."[21]

The Times reported that, "the Pentagon is considering forming hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against left-wing guerrillas in Central America 20 years ago. Under the so-called ‘El Salvador option’, Iraqi and American forces would be sent to kill or kidnap insurgency leaders." It further stated, "Hit squads would be controversial and would probably be kept secret," as "The experience of the so-called "death squads" in Central America remains raw for many even now and helped to sully the image of the United States in the region." Further, "John Negroponte, the US Ambassador in Baghdad, had a front-row seat at the time as Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85."[22]

By June of 2005, mass executions were taking place in Iraq in the six months since January, and, "What is particularly striking is that many of those killings have taken place since the Police Commandos became operationally active and often correspond with areas where they have been deployed."[23]

In May of 2007, an Iraqi who formerly collaborated with US forces in Iraq for two and a half years stated that, "I was a soldier in the Iraqi army in the war of 1991 and during the withdrawal from Kuwait I decided to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia along with dozens of others like me. That was how began the process whereby I was recruited into the American forces, for there were US military committees that chose a number of Iraqis who were willing to volunteer to join them and be transported to America. I was one of those." He spoke out about how after the 2003 invasion, he was returned to Iraq to "carry out specific tasks assigned him by the US agencies." Among those tasks, he was put "in charge of a group of a unit that carried out assassinations in the streets of Baghdad."

He was quoted as saying, "Our task was to carry out assassinations of individuals. The US occupation army would supply us with their names, pictures, and maps of their daily movements to and from their place of residence and we were supposed to kill the Shi'i, for example, in the al-A'zamiyah, and kill the Sunni in the of 'Madinat as-Sadr’, and so on." Further, "Anyone in the unit who made a mistake was killed. Three members of my team were killed by US occupation forces after they failed to assassinate Sunni political figures in Baghdad." He revealed that this "dirty jobs" unit of Iraqis, Americans and other foreigners, "doesn’t only carry out assassinations, but some of them specialize in planting bombs and car bombs in neighborhoods and markets."

He elaborated in saying that "operations of planting car bombs and blowing up explosives in markets are carried out in various ways, the best-known and most famous among the US troops is placing a bomb inside cars as they are being searched at checkpoints. Another way is to put bombs in the cars during interrogations. After the desired person is summoned to one of the US bases, a bomb is place in his car and he is asked to drive to a police station or a market for some purpose and there his car blows up."[24]

Divide and Conquer?

Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, wrote in October of 2006, that, "The evidence that the US directly contributed to the creation of the current civil war in Iraq by its own secretive security strategy is compelling. Historically of course this is nothing new - divide and rule is a strategy for colonial powers that has stood the test of time. Indeed, it was used in the previous British occupation of Iraq around 85 years ago. However, maybe in the current scenario the US just over did it a bit, creating an unstoppable momentum that, while stalling the insurgency, has actually led to new problems of control and sustainability for Washington and London."[25]

Andrew G. Marshall contributed to breaking the Climate Change consensus in a celebrated 2006 article entitled Global Warming A Convenient Lie, in which he challenged the findings underlying Al Gore's documentary. According to Marshall, 'as soon as people start to state that “the debate is over”, beware, because the fundamental basis of all sciences is that debate is never over'. Andrew Marshall has also written on the militarization of Central Africa, national security issues and the process of integration of North America. He is also a contributor to GeopoliticalMonitor.com
He is currently a researcher at the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) in Montreal and is studying political science and history at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia.


NOTES

[1] Bob Woodward and Dan Balz, At Camp David, Advise and Dissent. The Washington Post: January 31, 2002: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/18/AR2006071800702.html

[2] David Isenberg, ‘P2OG’ Allows the Pentagon to Fight Dirty. Asia Times Online: November 5, 2002: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/DK05Ak02.html

[3] William M. Arkin, The Secret War. The Los Angeles Times: October 27, 2002: http://web.archive.org/web/20021031092436/http://www.latimes.com/la-op-arkin27oct27001451,0,7355676.story

[4] Chris Floyd, Into the Dark: The Pentagon Plan to Provoke Terrorist Attacks. Counter Punch: November 1, 2002: http://www.counterpunch.org/floyd1101.html

[5] Sean Rayment, Top Secret Army Cell Breaks Terrorists. The Telegraph: February 5, 2007: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1541542/Top-secret-army-cell-breaks-terrorists.html

[6] Michael S. Rose, Britain's "Dirty War" with the IRA. Catholic World News: July 2003: http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=23828

[7] Home Affairs, The army asked me to make bombs for the IRA, told me I had the Prime Minister’s Blessing. The Sunday Herald: June 23, 2002: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20020623/ai_n12576952/pg_2

[8] BBC, UK: Northern Ireland Bravery awards for bomb helpers. BBC News: November 17, 1999: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/524462.stm

[9] Neil Mackay, British double-agent was in Real IRA's Omagh bomb team. The Sunday Herald: August 19, 2001: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20010819/ai_n13961517

[10] Neil Mackay, IRA torturer was in the Royal Marines; Top republican terrorist. The Sunday Herald: December 15, 2002: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20021215/ai_n12579493

[11] Henry McDonald, UK agents 'did have role in IRA bomb atrocities'. The Guardian: September 10, 2006: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/sep/10/uk.northernireland1

[12] Enda Leahy, MI5 'helped IRA buy bomb parts in US'. Sunday Times: March 19, 2006: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article742783.ece

[13] Sean Rayment, Top Secret Army Cell Breaks Terrorists. The Telegraph: February 5, 2007: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1541542/Top-secret-army-cell-breaks-terrorists.html

[14] AP, U.S. Blamed For Mosque Attack. CBS News: September 2, 2003: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/09/02/iraq/main571279.shtml

[15] Dahr Jamail, Dahr Jamail Blog From Baghdad. The New Standard: April 20, 2004: http://www.countercurrents.org/iraq-jamail200404.htm

[16] FMNN, UNITED STATES CAUGHT IN IRAQ CAR-BOMBING. Free Market News Network: October 14, 2005: http://www.freemarketnews.com/WorldNews.asp?nid=1326

[17] Michael Keefer, Were British Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra? Global Research: September 25, 2005: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=KEE20050925&articleId=994

[18] Bryan Bender, Cars stolen in US used in suicide attacks. The Sydney Morning Herald: October 4, 2005: http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/cars-stolen-in-us-used-in-suicide-attacks/2005/10/03/1128191658703.html

[19] Sam Knight, Bombing of Shia shrine sparks wave of retaliation. The Times Online: February 22, 2006: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article733559.ece

[20] Prison Planet, Former CIA Analyst: Western Intelligence May Be Behind Mosque Bombing. Prison Planet: February 26, 2006: http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/february2006/260206mosquebombing.htm

[21] Michael Hirsh and John Barry, "The Salvador Option". Newsweek: January 14, 2005: http://www.pagecache.info/pagecache/page13480/cached.html

[22] Roland Watson, El Salvador-style 'death squads' to be deployed by US against Iraq militants. The Times Online: January 10, 2005: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article410491.ece

[23] Max Fuller, For Iraq, "The Salvador Option" Becomes Reality. Global Research: June 2, 2005: http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/FUL506A.html

[24] AMSII, Ordered Assassinations, Sectarian Bomb Attacks Targeting Iraqi Civilians. Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq: May 12, 2007: http://heyetnet.org/en/content/view/490/27

[25] Craig Murray, Civil War in Iraq: The Salvador Option and US/UK Policy. CraigMurray.org: October 18, 2006: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2006/10/civil_war_in_ir.html

$2 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan questioned

$2 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan questioned

Overall, the U.S. has paid more than $5 billion to reimburse the country for counter-terrorism expenses, a GAO report says.

By Greg Miller

Go To Original

The United States has paid more than $5 billion to reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism expenses that have often been exaggerated, if not fabricated, according to a government audit released Tuesday that blasts the Pentagon for poor management of the program.

The report concluded that the Pentagon could not properly account for as much as $2 billion in payments to Pakistan over a three-year period from 2004 to 2007.

Auditors uncovered an array of questionable costs, including $45 million for roads and bunkers that may never have been built; $200 million for the operation of air defense systems even though Al Qaeda has no known aircraft; and overcharges for meals and vehicles used by Pakistani troops.

Overall, the report by the Government Accountability Office concluded that the Defense Department had routinely covered costs without verifying that they "were valid, actually incurred, or correctly calculated."

The Pentagon has paid about $5.6 billion to Pakistan in counter-terrorism reimbursement funds in the nearly seven years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, by far the largest sum paid as part of the program to a counter-terrorism ally.

The audit acknowledges that the Pentagon has recently taken steps to improve its scrutiny of the expense reports submitted by Pakistan.

"Up until that point in time we would say that there was not sufficient oversight," said Charles Michael Johnson Jr., director of counter-terrorism issues at the GAO and the principal author of the report. Even now, Johnson said, "we still point out concerns and areas where we think there should be further enhancements" of the Pentagon's oversight of the program.

In particular, Johnson pointed to the Pentagon's practice of reimbursing Pakistan without taking into account favorable fluctuations in the exchange rate. The document is the latest in a series of studies to criticize the Bush administration's management of the Coalition Support Funds program, which was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and has doled out billions of dollars to 27 nations.

The report was greeted with outrage on Capitol Hill, where it was the focus of a hearing Tuesday by the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs.

"The more I learn about Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan, the more I am troubled," said Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), chairman of the subcommittee. Tierney questioned whether the program should be discontinued or overhauled, saying it has "failed to beat back the Taliban threat to our troops in Afghanistan or the threat of Al Qaeda."

The report provided the most detailed account to date of questionable reimbursements made to Pakistan.

The Defense Department paid Islamabad $200 million for radar expenses from January 2004 to February 2007, for example, even though U.S. military officials in Pakistan urged the Pentagon to reject the charges because "terrorists in the FATA did not have air attack capability."

The FATA is the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan, where Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are believed to be based.

The Pentagon also reimbursed Pakistan $45 million for road and bunker construction. But the accompanying documentation "did not provide sufficient support that all the claimed costs were based on actual activity or expenses," the GAO report noted.

The Pentagon has subsequently declined to cover similar charges until Pakistan provides the coordinates of the roads and bunkers it claims to have built.

So far, "Pakistan has not provided this additional information," the report said.

The GAO also documented apparent overcharges for meals and vehicle maintenance. During one period, the Defense Department was paying the Pakistani navy more than $3.7 million per year in repair and maintenance charges on "a fleet of fewer than 20 passenger vehicles" that was never used in combat. The charges amounted to more than $19,000 per month for each vehicle.

Pakistan sometimes seemed to be double-dipping, submitting separate charges for "vehicle damage" and "cost of vehicles repaired" without explaining the difference between the two categories.

In response to such criticism, the Pentagon has given U.S. military officials in Pakistan a larger role in scrutinizing that country's counter- terrorism expenses, and has begun rejecting more requests.

Bobby Wilkes, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Central Asia, acknowledged breakdowns in oversight but defended the program, saying that Pakistan could not afford to deploy and maintain 100,000 troops and paramilitary forces in the tribal areas without the reimbursements it receives from the United States.

The support funds are "critical to our eventual success in Afghanistan and the war on terror," Wilkes said.