Monday, February 27, 2006

"Epidemiology of Mad War"

I have been scouring around for weeks looking for updated--and scientific--reports about civilian casualties in no avail. What I was hoping to find was evidence of some effort to redo the only epidemiological study of its kind, the 2004 Lancet study by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Remember how much effort went into smearing that study? At the time, the authors concluded that at least 100 000 civilians had died since the invasion, above & beyond what would be expected at pre-war death rates.

Well, sadly I don't have an update per se. The following is a piece that was sent from my wonderful mother-in-law. It tracks the background of the lead-researcher in the Johns Hopkins study and his feelings about what's happened to Iraqi civilians since his study was published: Epidemiology of Mad War. Here are some excerpts:

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
The team’s findings contradicted central elements of the narrative of the war that politicians and journalists were presenting to the world. After excluding the results from Anbar province as a possible statistical anomaly, they estimated that at least 100,000 IRAQI CIVILIANS had died in the previous eighteen months as a direct result of the invasion and occupation of their country. They also found that violence had become the leading cause of death among CIVILIANS in IRAQ during that period, accounting for about half the excess deaths. However, their most significant finding was that the majority of violent deaths were caused by occupation forces using “helicopter gunships, rockets or other forms of aerial weaponry”, and that almost half of the civilian dead in these attacks were children, with a median age of eight.
[...] More than a year later, we do not have a more precise picture. Instead of releasing their own records of civilian casualties or facilitating further research, the American and British governments launched a concerted campaign to discredit and marginalize the Lancet study. Today the continuing aerial assault on IRAQ is still a dark secret to most Americans, and the media still present the same general picture of the war, focusing on secondary sources of violence.
Les Roberts has been puzzled and disturbed by this response to his work, which stands in sharp contrast to the way the same governments responded to his study in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As he says, “TONY BLAIR and Colin Powell quoted those results time and time again without any question as to the precision or validity”.
Roberts had conducted a follow-up study in the Congo that raised the fatality estimate to 3 million, and TONY BLAIR cited that figure in his address to the 2001 Labor Party Conference. However, in December 2004, Blair dismissed the epidemiological team’s work in IRAQ, claiming that, “Figures from the Iraqi Ministry of Health, which are a survey from the hospitals there, are in our view the most accurate survey there is”.
This statement by BLAIR is particularly interesting because the Iraqi Health Ministry reports whose accuracy he praised have in fact confirmed the Johns Hopkins team’s conclusion that aerial attacks by occupation forces are the leading cause of violent CIVILIAN DEATHS in IRAQ. Nancy Youssuf covered one such report in the Miami Herald on September 25th 2004 under the headline “U.S. Attacks, Not Insurgents, Blamed for Most Iraqi Deaths”.
[...] Official and media criticism of his work has focused on the size of his sample, 988 homes in 33 clusters distributed throughout the country, but other epidemiologists reject the notion that this is controversial.
Michael O’Toole, the director of the Center for International Health in Australia, says: “That’s a classical sample size. I just don’t see any evidence of significant exaggeration… If anything, the deaths may have been higher because what they are unable to do is survey families where everyone has died.”
The Lancet report remains the only epidemiological survey of excess deaths in IRAQ from all causes - violence, heart attacks, strokes, infectious diseases, even car accidents. But the official campaign to discourage the media and the public from taking the Lancet report seriously was disturbingly effective. Even opponents of the war now cite much lower figures for civilian deaths and innocently attribute the bulk of them to acts of resistance.
[...] Beyond the phony controversy regarding the methodology of the Lancet report, there is one genuine issue that does cast doubt on its estimate of about 100,000 excess deaths by September 2004. This is the decision to exclude the cluster in Fallujah from its computations due to the much higher number of deaths that were reported there (even though the survey was completed before the widely reported assault on the city in November 2004). Roberts wrote in a letter to the Independent, “Please understand how extremely conservative we were: we did a survey estimating that ~285,000 people have died due to the first 18 months of invasion and occupation and we reported it as at least ~100,000”.
The dilemma he faced was this: in the 33 clusters surveyed, 18 reported no violent deaths, 14 other clusters reported a total of 21 violent deaths, and the Fallujah cluster alone reported 52 violent deaths. This last number is conservative in itself, because, as the report stated, “23 households of 52 visited were either temporarily or permanently abandoned. Neighbors interviewed described widespread death in most of the abandoned homes but could not give adequate details for inclusion in the survey”.
[...] No new breakdown of the proportion of civilians killed by occupation forces has been published since the Health Ministry report last January, but the air war has definitely intensified during the last few months of 2005. The occupation air forces have acknowledged conducting about 270 air strikes in November and December, compared with 200 altogether in the eight months between January and August.
Thanks to Roberts and Burnham, their international team and the editorial board of the Lancet, we have a more realistic and very different picture of the violence taking place in IRAQ than that presented in the media. By now, allowing for a further eighteen months of the air war and other deaths since the completion of the survey, we have to estimate that somewhere between 200,000 and 700,000 people have died as a direct result of the war. The occupation forces have killed anywhere from 70,000 to 500,000 of them, including 30,000 to 275,000 children below the age of fifteen.

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

What ever happened to John Walker Lindh?

Wow...this is a must read. I had nearly forgotten about that young American guy who was ostensibly "fighting for the enemy" in Afghanistan, in late 2001. He was recently sentenced to 20 yrs. In the end, he was convicted for violating economic sanctions by supporting the Taliban. In otherwords, he was not convicted for terrorism. Here are some fascinating excerpts from a speech Lindh's father gave last month:
In 1991, when John was 10 years old, we moved from the D.C. area to the Bay Area. At age 12, John saw the movie "Malcolm X" by Spike Lee and became deeply interested in Islam. [...]
When he was 16, John formally converted to Islam at a mosque in Mill Valley in Marin County where we live. [...] By the time he was 17, John was ready to embark on a course of studies overseas and he went to Yemen to study Arabic.
[...] It is November of 2000 when John goes to Pakistan with my blessing. In late April of 2001, John wrote to me and his mother to say that he wanted to go up to the mountains of Pakistan to get away from the heat. That made sense. John never tolerated the heat in Washington, D.C. What he didn't tell us, what we didn't learn until later was that John was going over the mountains, into Afghanistan, intent on volunteering for military service in the army of Afghanistan.
[...] When he did go into Afghanistan, John received infantry training at a government-run military training camp. But the training camp was funded by Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden really had two operations going on. One was to finance the Afghan army operations -- these training camps for infantry. But he also, as we all know now, had a terrorist organization under way, a highly secretive terrorist organization that we call al Qaeda.
Twice in the course of his training there, John actually saw Osama bin Laden and met him on one occasion. He came away from those encounters very skeptical about bin Laden because John recognized instantly that bin Laden was not an authentic Islamic scholar based on what John himself knows. In the course of John's subsequent criminal cases, attorneys hired a professor named Rohan Gunaratna. He is the world's leading authority on al Qaeda and author of the book "Inside al Qaeda."
Gunaratna has been employed by the U.N., but also by the government of the United States as an expert in al Qaeda, and he interviewed John extensively. After all these interviews, he made this following conclusion: "Those who, like Mr. Lindh, merely fought the Northern Alliance, cannot be deemed terrorists. Their motivation was to serve and to protect suffering Muslims in Afghanistan, not to kill civilians."

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
[ 9/11...] In the period in late 2001, Taliban forces in Northern Afghanistan were overrun by the Northern Alliance forces after an aerial bombing by the United States. The American strategy was to use Northern Alliance troops as a proxy rather than commit American troops to the ground. This may have been a sound military strategy; however, it appears that the American generals who planned this invasion made no provision for the handling of the prisoners of war.
What happened as a consequence was the murder of thousands of Taliban prisoners by the Northern Alliance during the period of November and December of 2001, the same time when John's case comes to our attention. These war crimes have been documented by Physicians for Human Rights and in the mainstream media here in the United States, including a cover story in Newsweek magazine.
Let us return now to the story of John. In early September, before the 11th, John arrived at the frontline in Tahar. The two armies there -- the Taliban army and the Northern Alliance army, were locked in an old-fashioned stalemate. John arrived, he was issued the standard rifle and two hand grenades and performed sentry duty there at the front. He never fired his weapons. After the American bombing campaign began in October, the line broke. Again, no American troops are here in Tahar, it's all Northern Alliance troops, but the American bombing happens.
The frontline breaks, the Taliban soldiers retreat to the capital of Tahar -- Kunduz. It's a confused retreat. Many of them are killed. If they're captured by the Northern Alliance, they're killed. There's a chilling series of pictures in the New York Times of a prisoner as he's taken, castrated and then killed. This is what John faced. He was very desperate and near dead by the time he got to Kunduz.
Then there's a deal made by General Dostum [notorious Northern Alliance warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum] for safe passage of these prisoners from Kunduz to a city in the west called Herat, near the border of Iran. John is one of the 400 that are part of this deal with Dostum. They make this deal, and a large amount of money is given to Dostum in return for the safe passage. The only condition Dostum imposes is that the soldiers must give up their weapons before he'll allow them to pass through. So they give up the weapons and then immediately Dostum breaks the deal. He diverts the prisoners from their path into his fortress -- a place called Kuala Jungi. It's an old 15th- or 16th-century walled fortress near Mazari Sharif. And there all hell broke loose.
The next morning, John was brought out along with these other prisoners, with their hands tied behind their backs for interrogation. There are no American troops present here, but there are two American CIA agents, and they're doing the interrogation of the prisoners as they're brought out of the basement. Their arms are tied behind their backs at the elbow, and they are being very brutally abused by Dostum's troops. All of them are afraid that they are going to be killed by Gen. Dostum given his reputation.
John is struck in the back of the head with a rifle butt by one of the Northern Alliance troops as he's brought out of the basement just moments before some video was taken of John being interrogated by the two U.S. agents. They threatened John with death. John remained silent (Lindh believed the two agents were working for Dostum.) His only goal was to get to Herat so that he could get back to Pakistan.
Moments after this video is shot, the last of the remaining 400 or 500 prisoners, as they're brought out of the basement, jumped Dostum's guards, seized their weapons, and a melee broke out. Dostum's troops panic and begin to shoot down all the prisoners in the yard, most of them, like John with their hands and arms tied behind their backs. Dozens and dozens of these Taliban prisoners are killed on the spot. John gets up and starts to run. He is shot immediately in the thigh.
He lay on the ground there for 12 hours, pretending to be dead while the carnage continued around him. That night, some of the survivors managed to get back down into the basement of the building where they had been taken when they first were brought to the fortress. They went in among the dead and found the wounded and brought them down into the basement. John was one of them.
In the days that followed, there was a deliberate effort by Dostum, supported by the United States Special Forces, to simply exterminate all of the Taliban prisoners in the fortress. By the end of that week, most of them were dead. John and a group of them were still holed up. They were unarmed, they were wounded, and they were in the basement of the fortress. They dropped hand grenades down, they poured burning oil down. At one point, they attempted to drop a 1,000-pound bomb on the building, but it was misdirected and actually killed some of Dostum's troops, so they stopped with the bombing, but they continued to try to exterminate these prisoners.
There was a British journalist there named Luke Harding, and he wrote at the time that "Dostum's Northern Alliance and his British and American allies had only one plan: to kill all those in the compound." On Friday, the 30th of November, after six days, they flooded the basement with water from an irrigation stream and that killed many of the remaining soldiers down there in the basement. As Luke Harding wrote, "For those who had died, it had been a cold, terrifying, and squalid extinction." Harding wrote, "We had expected slaughter, but I was unprepared for its hellish scale."
John was discovered among the 86 survivors of this massacre in the basement of the building, and he instantly became an international sensation. He was quickly dubbed the "American Taliban" in Newsweek magazine which initially broke the story.
[...] John had the AK-47 bullet in his thigh and numerous shrapnel wounds. He was very near death when he arrived at Sheberghen. [...] Upon his capture, John was quickly transferred from Dostum's custody to the custody of the U.S. military. I would have thought at that point that John was in safe hands, and John himself thought the same thing because he said so in a brief letter that he dictated to the Red Cross who visited him that first day. But an order, emanating directly from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, instructed the U.S. military to "take the gloves off" in the questioning of John Lindh.
[...] John's bullet wound was left festering and untreated; he was blindfolded and bound hand and foot with tight plastic strips that caused severe pain. He was stripped naked and duct-taped and, in this condition, blindfolded, bound naked to a stretcher and then left in the cold in an unheated metal shipping container on the desert floor in Afghanistan.
Oh. One more thing: "John had never even heard of al Qaeda." Go! Go now and read the rest.

Read on, MacDuff!

The Empire stops & reflects?

Maybe. At least that's what Eugene Jurecki's new film "Why we Fight" suggests. Jurecki was on The Current (part II), last week and told Anna Maria Tremonti that Americans are digging deep these days, trying to come to terms with why they're in Iraq and--much more broadly--why America "fights" at all. Sure, on first pass they almost always respond: "We fight for freedom." When pressed a bit harder, the answers came much less automatically and forced John & Jane Q. Public to confront some of the uneasy (horrifying? terrifying?) truths about the meaning of war.

I haven't seen the film yet. I notice it's already playing in T.O. (Canada Square, Carlton), so hopefully it will gain broader distribution soon. Judging from his interview with Amy Goodman, and from the trailer, the film begins with the "radical" words of Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address:
My fellow Americans, this evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen. We have been compelled to create a permanent armament industry of vast proportions. Three-and-a-half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. The total influence, economic, political, even spiritual, is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development, yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
Aside from his interviews with American citizens, Jurecki also 'infiltrated' some military tradeshows and found the hawkers of bombers, busters, etc. were only too happy to tell him how great they're doing these days. For more sound-clips and interviews, please check out:

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Taste it again for the first time: warmed over Ollie North

...or "It pays to improve your Word Power." Yes, I learned a new word, these past few days. "Graymail" (greymail here in Canada), is defined as:
the practice of discouraging a prosecution from proceeding by contending a defendant may need to disclose sensitive information as part of a full defense. Such an approach can force the government to choose between dropping prosecution or allowing information to be disclosed at a trial.
Ok, Ms. Hope&Onions...use it in a sentence!
Fitzgerald accuses Libby of derailing trail by 'graymail' Feb 18, 2006
A federal prosecutor has said I. Lewis Libby Jr., former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is trying to sabotage the criminal case against him by insisting he be given sensitive government documents for his defense.
In a court filing on Thursday night, the prosecutor said requests by Libby's lawyers for documents, including the daily intelligence briefs given to the president for nearly a year, were "a transparent effort at 'graymail."'
The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, said the requests for a large amount of sensitive information beyond what they had been given was unjustified. Fitzgerald told the federal judge hearing the case that defendants like Libby have an incentive to derail trials by asking for documents that the government might not want discussed openly.

So basically the Libby crew is attempting to stall...and stall...and then stall some more. I should hasten to add that the original story about Libby's tactics was actually deep-inside another blockbuster, waaaaay back on Feb 9th: "Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information" by Murray Waas, National Journal. Waas has been the man on this Libby/Plame beat...check this shit out:
Libby's legal strategy in asserting that Cheney and other Bush administration officials authorized activities related to the underlying allegations of criminal conduct leveled against him, without approving of or encouraging him to engage in the specific misconduct, is reminiscent of the defense strategy used by Oliver North, who was a National Security Council official in the Reagan administration.
North, a Marine lieutenant colonel assigned to the National Security Council, implemented the Reagan administration's efforts to covertly send arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages held in the Middle East, and to covertly fund and provide military assistance to the Nicaraguan Contras at a time when federal law prohibited such activities. Later, it was discovered that North and other Reagan administration officials had diverted funds they had received from the Iranian arms sales to covertly fund the Contras.
If Libby's defense adopts strategies used by North, it might be in part because the strategies largely worked for North and in part because Libby's defense team has quietly retained John D. Cline, who was a defense attorney for North. Cline, a San-Francisco partner at the Jones Day law firm, has specialized in the use of classified information in defending clients charged with wrongdoing in national security cases.
Yes, folks, that's the Oliver North. Oliver frigging North! Woulda, shoulda, but-didn't go-to-jail Oliver North, who now poisons the phosphors of Teevee screens with his Fox show, "War Stories with Oliver North" (I shit you not). Let's recap: Libby has secured the legal assistance of Oliver North's lawyer! (repeat that to yourself five times and then stick a sharp pencil in your eye to dull the pain). Murray Waas continues:
[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
Among his detractors, Cline is what is known as a "graymail" specialist-an attorney who, critics say, purposely makes onerous demands on the federal government to disclose classified information in the course of defending his clients, in an effort to force the government to dismiss the charges. [...] In the Libby case, Cline has frustrated prosecutors by demanding, as part of pretrial discovery, more than 10 months of the President's Daily Brief, or PDBs, the president's morning intelligence briefing.
Here's the part that gives me hope: Fitzgerald is my secret boyfriend and therefore he would never let these assclowns get away with this bullshit. Back to the Times piece:
Fitzgerald called the request "breathtaking" and noted that the daily brief was "an extraordinarily sensitive document." He said the disclosure of part of the Aug. 6, 2001, daily brief to the 9/11 commission was the sole instance of a daily brief's being publicly disclosed.
Waas elaborates:
In a January 31 court filing, attorneys for Libby argued: "Mr. Libby will show that, in the constant rush of more pressing matters, any errors he made in FBI interviews or grand jury testimony, months after the conversations, were the result of confusion, mistake, faulty memory, rather than a willful intent to deceive."
I like to call this "the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer defense." I'm just a simple caveman. Your "laws" and "courts" frighten and confuse me.
Do not be fooled, my friends. This Libby crew is following a well-worn path. Waas concludes his piece with a history-lesson viz North's experience:
"It was a backdoor way of shutting us down," said one former Iran-Contra prosecutor, who spoke only on the condition that his name not be used, because his current position as a private attorney requires frequent dealings with attorneys who were on the other side of the North case at the time. "It was a cover-up by means of an administrative action, and it was an effective cover-up at that."
[...] The claims by North that his activities had been broadly authorized by higher-ups, including even the president, also worked to his advantage when he was sentenced. Despite the fact that North had been convicted of three felonies and that Iran-Contra prosecutors argued before sentencing that letting North off with "only a slap on the wrist … would send exactly the wrong message … [only] 15 years after Watergate," he was sentenced to only probation, a fine, and community service.
Sidebar: isn't it infuriating to see all these Iran-Contries slither back into positions of power?! Ok, so North's gig on Fox isn't all that powerful. But John Poindexter? After his conviction was overturned, he worked on/off for defense contractors; in 2002, Bush appointed him to the big-brothery "Information Awareness Operations" Pentagon unit. Elliot Abrams? Pardoned by HW Bush, then worked with Richard Perle & neocon PNAC through most of the 90s. Since 2002, Abrams has been the senior director of the National Security Council's Office for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations (blech!! that guy?!). Most interestingly, Abrams joined forces with fellow Iran-Contrie Otto Reich to facilitate the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez. Last but not least: John Negroponte. Yup. You know who that is...from denying death-squads to serving as UN point-man on WMD in Iraq, Negroponte's done it all. You've all come a long way, babies!

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, February 20, 2006

"The CIA's dustbin": US funding prisons in Morocco

I missed this one--but I don't think it even cracked the "teevee" news all week: "Revealed: the terror prison US is helping build in Morocco" [The Sunday Times, February 12, 2006, Tom Walker Rabat and Sarah Baxter]
THE United States is helping Morocco to build a new interrogation and detention facility for Al-Qaeda suspects near its capital, Rabat, according to western intelligence sources.
The sources confirmed last week that building was under way at Ain Aouda, above a wooded gorge south of Rabat’s diplomatic district. Locals said they had often seen American vehicles with diplomatic plates in the area.
The construction of the new compound, run by the Direction de la Securité du Territoire (DST), the Moroccan secret police, adds to a substantial body of evidence that Morocco is one of America’s principal partners in the secret “rendition” programme in which the CIA flies prisoners to third countries for interrogation.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups critical of the policy have compiled dossiers detailing the detention and apparent torture of radical Islamists at the DST’s current headquarters, at Temara, near Rabat.
A recent inquiry into rendition by the Council of Europe, led by Dick Marty, the Swiss MP, highlighted a pattern of flights between Washington, Guantanamo Bay and Rabat’s military airport at Sale.
French intelligence and diplomatic sources said the most recent such flight was in the first week in December, when four suspects were seen being led blindfolded and handcuffed from a Boeing 737 at Sale and transferred into a fleet of American vehicles.
[...] While much of the media is said to have been infiltrated by the DST, a few publications that dare to question official policy have accused the government of allowing Morocco to become “the CIA’s dustbin”.
[...] The presence of minders made asking questions around Ain Aouda almost impossible, but at a restaurant adjoining a newly built mosque nearby, elderly men supping mint tea while they watched the African Nations Cup were clearly angry about the project.
“We’ve seen nothing but Americans for five months,” complained one wizened figure before being told by his friends to be quiet.
[...] Temara itself already has a fearsome reputation among former inmates. Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian-born Briton later sent to Guantanamo Bay, told Amnesty International that interrogators there cut his chest and penis when he refused to answer questions.
Mohammed said he was held at Temara for 18 months before being flown to another “black prison” in Afghanistan in January 2004, and then on to Guantanamo Bay.
It is not clear how many suspects are being questioned in Morocco. The French intelligence source said the four brought to the country in December were all believed to be “high profile” but gave no further details.
This is the slow creep underground, folks. How is this not bigger news?! I can just hear the collective eye-roll over at Canwest, CNN, NBC etc. "Yeah, yeah, we're torturing terrorists again, blah, blah, blah...yada, yada, yada." Speaking for myself--who tries to make an active effort to keep up with the news--I probably wouldn't have even heard of this if I hadn't been alerted by one of Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now" headlines.

Moroccans want no part of this entanglement with Rumsfeld's "long war": Demonstrators were on-hand to protest Rumsfeld's presence there, last week. From The Morocco Times:
The protest, which was organized by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), brought together Moroccan intellectuals and lawyers. The demonstrators held slogans denouncing Rumsfeld's visit, the US led-war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Morocco's security and military cooperation with the United States.
The banners read: "No to a war criminal's visit to Morocco", "No to Morocco's integration in America's security and military imperialism", "Guantanamo: a crime against humanity" and "Down with American imperialism." They also chanted slogans denouncing "the presence of secret detention camps across the world" as well as "the State's terror practised by the US."
"We (AMDH) have organised this sit-in to protest against Donald's Rumsfield's visit to Morocco because we can't tolerate the integration of the Kingdom of Morocco into the security and military plans of the USA", said Abdelhamid amine, the AMDH president.

Read on, MacDuff!

Lessons from Peru: Law-enforcement, not "War"

I can't wait to see this movie: "State of Fear" documents the long, painful experience endured by Peruvians during the 90s at the hands of both terrorists (Shining Path) and their own government's crackdown/response:
“State of Fear” takes place in Peru, yet serves as a cautionary tale for a world engaged in a "global war on terror". It dramatizes the human and societal costs a democracy faces when it embarks on a “war” against terror, a “war” potentially without end, all too easily exploited by unscrupulous leaders seeking personal political gain.
[...] Terrorist attacks by the Shining Path guerrillas provoked a military occupation of the countryside. Military Justice replaced Civil authority, widespread abuses by the Peruvian Army went unpunished, and the terrorism continued to spread. Eventually nearly 70,000 civilians died at the hands of the Shining Path and the Peruvian military.
Old-fashioned police intelligence finally subdued the terrorist threat but Peruvian leaders continued to use the fear of terrorism to gut the democracy, making Peru a virtual dictatorship where a vast web of corruption replaced the rule of law.
In 2000 this autocratic regime collapsed beneath the weight of its own corruption, and the new democratic government established a Truth Commission that opened a door to the past, throwing light on the relentless violence that had engulfed this Andean nation for twenty years.
The main "Peruvian leader" in question here is Alberto Fujimori. He ultimately fled his country for Japan in 2000, amidst 21 charges of corruption, kidnapping political enemies, murder and human rights abuses (see also "The Fall of Fujimori," which I saw on Newsworld last month, for some unbelievable footage of his tumultuous reign---including a one-time challenge for the presidency by his own wife and a botched sting-operation by his "notorious spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos").

By all accounts the man is quite delusional and even attempted to return to Peru as president. He left Japan for Chile, last November, and announced his intentions to run again...just as he was arrested by Chilean authorities. Peru has officially banned him from running until 2011. More importantly, Peru wants Fujimori extradited to face the above-mentioned charges. A Chilean judge is currently wading through 12 boxes of evidence against Fujimori, and will rule on the extradition request shortly.

I hope Pamela Yates' "State of Fear" makes it to Canada soon. It's both important and timely and we need to have a serious national debate about dealing with terrorism before abdicating any more of our rights (e.g. Section 38, our own l'il Gitmo, whatever the Harper/Day braintrust has in mind...oy!). To that point, I want to leave you with some important questions raised by Peru's struggle with (what I'd like to call) the War-on-Terrorism... that-we-Never-Heard-About. (okay, maybe I should speak for myself... I never heard about it until last year). From "The Passionate Eye" blurb:
The Fall of Fujimori also raises important questions about fighting terrorism:
*How far should any nation go to combat terror?
*When battling a violent and elusive enemy, do the ends ever justify the means?

*At what point does the "war on terror" cease being a legitimate battle against violent criminals, and instead become a vehicle to keep leaders in power?

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Abu Ghraib...the movie?!

aka "I'm with Busey."

Well, kind of. The movie's called "Valley of the Wolves--Iraq" and stars Gary Busey. The Turkish-made movie has drawn large crowds in Turkey and is due to open Europe-wide. It is based on events in Iraq:
In one scene, an American doctor, played by actor Gary Busey, is furious because troops keep killing Iraqi prisoners before they reach the Abu Ghraib prison. The doctor's problem? If the Iraqis are dead, he can't harvest their organs to send to Israel.
[...] The movie is standard Hollywood action-adventure fare, but with the villains wearing the Stars and Stripes. The heroes are dapper and kind; the Americans are slovenly, sadistic and stupid. An American who questioned why a smiling comrade is spraying a metal container full of Iraqi prisoners with bullets is quickly killed.

Some of the incidents in the film draw on actual events, though they're portrayed in such a way as to impose the worst of motives on the Americans: American soldiers guffaw as they set dogs on prisoners at Abu Ghraib, lie in wait so they can target wedding guests when they celebrate with gunfire and open fire on a mosque just as the call to prayer is sounded.
Aaaaaaaand scene. But wait! The Turks like Americans, right? Ummm...
Yusuf Kanli, the editor in chief of the Turkish Daily News, said the film is grounded in a real event known as the "bag incident," which cemented the movie's popularity in Turkey.
"Abu Ghraib is a deep wound, but it's war, and war is never clean," Kanli said. "But what happened in July 2003 can never be forgotten by any Turk."

In that incident, U.S. troops arrested 11 Turkish special-forces officers in northern Iraq and walked them from their headquarters with bags over their heads. It was considered a bitter betrayal by a trusted ally. Turkish newspapers dubbed it the "Rambo Crisis." Recent opinion polls rank it as the most humiliating moment in Turkish history.
After this scene, the film portrays the suicide of one of the Turkish officers. Just before committing suicide, the officer writes a letter to Polat Alemdar, a fictional Turkish secret agent from a popular television series who's a cross between James Bond and Rambo, and asks him to "restore Turkey's honor."
The remainder of the film is about Alemdar's efforts to do so by confronting U.S. evil in Iraq.
[...] Still, as an older man leaving the film told the British Broadcasting Corp. in Istanbul on Monday, "If I see an American when I get out of here, I feel like taking a hood and putting it over their head."
I don't know about you, but this is the first I've heard of "the bag incident." Kind of important, wouldn't you say?
Here's what some other film-goers told the BBC upon emerging from the theatre:
"Everything we've been hearing on the news about Iraq is in this film," one woman says as she emerges from the auditorium.
"We condemn this war and will continue to condemn it. But I don't see America as our fundamental enemy," she adds.
"I'm really upset after this, really upset," an older man says, as rushes away.
The script-writer Bahadir Ozdener had this to say to the BBC:
"Our film's a sort of political action"..."Maybe 60 or 70% of what happens on screen is factually true. Turkey and America are allies, but Turkey wants to say something to its friend. We want to say the bitter truth. We want to say that this is wrong."
Here's the movie's official website. Cue Busey-swiftboat.....nnnnnnnow.

Read on, MacDuff!

*New* Abu Ghraib photos on Australian TV

Australia's SBS will be airing several of the remaining Abu Ghraib photos tonight (tomorrow, our time). The Sydney Morning Herald will also publish the photos. Thanks to 'whatingtoderail' over at for the tip. Here's the SBS blurb: Abu Ghraib- New Horrors Revealed
Tonight SBS DATELINE presents a world exclusive – the release of new photographs from Abu Ghraib in Iraq showing new horrific abuses committed there. These images have never been previously shown to the public.

Taken at the same time as the notorious photographs from Abu Ghraib, which were leaked in 2004, these images reveal further widespread abuse including new incidents of homicide, torture and sexual humiliation. The extent of the abuse shown in the photos suggests that the torture and abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib in 2004 is much worse than is currently understood.

These photographs are currently the subject of a legal battle in the United States where the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been granted access to the photographs under Freedom of Information provisions, however the US government is currently appealing the decision.

When the original Abu Ghraib photographs were leaked to the press, members of Congress were given a private viewing of photographs including the images which appear in this DATELINE program. They were shocked by what these extra images revealed of the full horror of the abuses taking place at Abu Ghraib.

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Section 38: "justice" in the dark

The Toronto Star is suing to gain access to court proceedings--for a man detained under Section 38 of the 2001 "anti-terrorism" bill. Under Section 38, even the man's lawyer is kept in the dark about the evidence against his client. No bail, no fair hearing, no justice.

"Secret court hearing raises alarm: Location or date can't be disclosed
Man suing Ottawa for jailing in Egypt" Feb. 13, 2006. 04:55 AM, MICHELLE SHEPHARD
Somewhere in a Canadian courtroom, sometime soon, a secret hearing will take place to discuss an Egyptian Canadian suspected of making surveillance videos of Toronto's subway system and the CN Tower.

Civil libertarians have labelled the hearing Canada's Star Chamber proceedings, since its location or date cannot be disclosed, and the public is barred from attending.

It's known as a "Section 38 application," under Canada's Evidence Act. The legislation has existed for more than two decades as a means for the government to safeguard sensitive evidence, but amendments resulting from the omnibus 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act now shroud the process in secrecy.

Even the fact the Toronto Star has learned that a Section 38 hearing is taking place is unusual, since the law forbids public acknowledgement of the proceedings themselves unless the attorney general consents. Amendments to the law also changed the definitions of what information can be protected and gave the attorney general the power to trump a federal court ruling.

The upcoming Section 38 application involves a civil lawsuit launched by Kassim Mohamed, a 39-year-old former Toronto school bus driver who was at the centre of an extensive 2004 terrorism investigation. Never charged, he is alleging Canadian security services shared his personal information with Egyptian authorities, and is thereby responsible for his two-week detainment and alleged harsh treatment in Cairo.

Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman, who is representing Mohamed, has been given some of the government's disclosure in the civil case, but was recently notified of their intention for a Section 38 application to stop the public release of additional information. Waldman was forbidden by law from disclosing the fact the hearing was taking place until he received the consent of the government and a letter from the federal court allowing him to do so.

[...] It's not known how many times Section 38 applications have been filed.

Critics of the legislation say protections existed before the post-9/11 changes moved the Section 38 hearings behind closed doors. Even Canada's chief justice of the federal court questioned the changes in a 2004 ruling under the headline: "Too much secrecy???"

Justice Allan Lutfy wrote that the secretive nature of the hearings themselves could lead to "unintended, even absurd, consequences," and asked whether they "unnecessarily fetter the open court principle." Lutfy noted the importance of the public's access to court proceedings. "Section 38," he wrote, "is the antithesis to this fundamental principle."

The Star plans to challenge the Section 38 application in an attempt to attend the upcoming hearing involving Mohamed. While it's not known what evidence the government seeks to protect, the details of Mohamed's case could be significant. His allegations are similar to those contained in three other lawsuits concerning information-sharing between foreign governments. One of those suits was launched by Ottawa engineer Maher Arar, who was tortured while detained in Syria for a year without charges after being on the periphery of a Canadian terrorism investigation.

[...] According to court documents, the probe began after two women witnessed Mohamed covertly videotaping the subway tracks at Toronto's busy Yonge-Bloor subway station. It was just a month after the Madrid train bombings and police were on high alert for transit attacks.

As police continued their probe, which included surveillance, rooting through garbage, interviewing Mohamed and his friends and colleagues, Mohamed left Toronto to visit his wife and children in Egypt. Although not charged by Egyptian security forces, he was detained for two weeks and claims he was treated harshly and questioned concerning information he alleges came from Canada.

[...] The new law also lowers the threshold for what information can be protected. For instance, the old law allowed the government to argue against disclosing evidence that "would" be "injurious" to international relations, national defence or national security. Now the section sets the bar at "potentially injurious" evidence that "could" harm security or relations.

A Senate committee reviewing the anti-terrorism legislation is expected to include recommendations about Section 38 as part of their final review.

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dick Cheney shoots fellow hunter; friend "stable" and ok

Dick Cheney was quail hunting yesterday and "missed," shooting his 78 y/o lawyer friend (some dude named Whittington). The friend is recovering in a Corpus Christi hospital.

Who the hell gave Cheney a gun?!

And why were they hunting this man?

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Government policy (as read by children)

Jeebus: is this what we have in store for us in Harper-land? From the NY Times:

A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA By ANDREW C. REVKIN
George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.
Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.
[...] Mr. Deutsch, 24, was offered a job as a writer and editor in NASA's public affairs office in Washington last year after working on President Bush's re-election campaign and inaugural committee, according to his résumé. No one has disputed those parts of the document.
According to his résumé, Mr. Deutsch received a "Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Class of 2003."
Yesterday, officials at Texas A&M said that was not the case.
[...] A copy of Mr. Deutsch's résumé was provided to The Times by someone working in NASA headquarters who, along with many other NASA employees, said Mr. Deutsch played a small but significant role in an intensifying effort at the agency to exert political control over the flow of information to the public.
Such complaints came to the fore starting in late January, when James E. Hansen, the climate scientist, and several midlevel public affairs officers told The Times that political appointees, including Mr. Deutsch, were pressing to limit Dr. Hansen's speaking and interviews on the threats posed by global warming.
The Guardian fills us in on the l'il Deutchbag's problem with the Big Bang:
In an email last October Mr Deutsch wrote: "The theory that the universe was created by a 'big bang' is just that - a theory. It is not proven fact; it is opinion. Yes, the scientific community by and large may share this opinion, but that doesn't make it correct ... It is not Nasa's place, nor should it be, to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator - the other half of the argument."

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Who's "unstable"? Nigeria & oil

As always, Gwynne Dyer identifies the underbelly for us: Bush's addiction to oil
Last year, less than one-fifth of that imported oil came from the Middle East, so achieving Bush's stated goal would only bring the share of imported oil in U.S. consumption back to the level of 2001.
And much of it would still come from "unstable parts of the world."
The three largest sources of American oil imports are Canada, Venezuela and Nigeria.
Canada is stable but Venezuela is definitely not, mainly because the U.S. keeps trying to destabilize it.
[...] Since mid-December two major pipelines have been blown up in the Niger Delta, home to all Nigeria's oil. Nine people were killed in an attack on the Italian oil company Agip.
Four foreigners were kidnapped from an offshore rig (and later released, presumably on payment of a large ransom).
And at least 17 people died in a motorboat raid on a Shell flow station in the swamps around Warri.
MEND [Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta] is the latest expression of the seething dissatisfaction of the region's 20 million people with the fact that all that oil has brought them so little prosperity.
All Nigeria's 129 million people have a legitimate grievance, for most of the $350 billion the country has earned from oil exports in the past fifty years has been stolen by a narrow politico-military elite, but only the people of the Delta live amidst the pollution the oil causes and only they can take direct action.
This is not a new problem. For more on the trouble in the Nigerian Delta, see last week's Knight Ridder article "Unrest in Nigeria's Delta region could fuel rise in oil prices" e.g.:
Even in the territory of the Ogoni tribe, which Shell personnel abandoned in 1993 in the face of nonviolent opposition from villagers, little has improved since the company left. Its pipelines still run through Ogoniland, and occasional ruptures lead to oil spills.
In the Ogoni fishing village of Goi, about 50 miles east of Port Harcourt, a spill from a Shell-owned pipeline in September 2004 flowed into the lake and decimated the fish. The spilled crude subsequently caught fire, burning down nearly all the village's mango trees.
There's been no attempt to clean up the spill. Murky brown crude still sits atop the lake, where naked children like to swim.
"They are used to it," said Joseph Gini, 45, a sinewy fisherman.
"We are still suffering," he said. "The people you call politicians are stooges. They make empty promises, and then they take money from oil and carry it away."
Spilled oil can run into creeks, spoiling drinking water. And farmers say that heavy construction has compacted the once-soft dirt, making it hard to grow even hardy crops such as cassava, a regional staple.
Oil companies continue to flare, or burn off, huge quantities of natural gas, which comes up in drilling for crude oil but is less valuable. Plumes of black smoke fill the sky across the Delta, causing air pollution and acid rain.
Last but most importantly: do yourself a favour and checkout Amy Goodman & Jeremy Scahill's piece on the Nigerian Delta "Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship"

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Wow, I've been kinda impressed by Newsweek's Isikoff & Hosenball lately. Check out their last few 'scoops':
This last one was my personal favourite. Check this out:
The demonstrators wore papier-mache masks and handed out free peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to Halliburton employees as they left work. The idea, according to organizer Scott Parkin, was to call attention to allegations that the company was overcharging on a food contract for troops in Iraq. "It was tongue-in-street political theater," Parkin says.
But that's not how the Pentagon saw it. To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is "force protection"—tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON—short for Threat and Local Observation Notice—that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents." The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's "terrorism threat warning process," according to an internal Pentagon memo.
Isikoff is now a regular guest on The Rachel Maddow Show (my favourite radio show!).

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Get rid of security certificates

This is the logical extension of those horrible security certificates (i.e. detained without charge, no bail, no access to the 'evidence' against you):

"High-security centre to house terror suspects"

Is "Guantanamo lite" anything like "torture lite"?

This is terrible.

Read on, MacDuff!

Friends like these

The evolving narrative of yesterday's near-tragic shooting of Canadians in the Green Zone bears a strong resemblance to another "accident": remember Giuliana Sgrena?
On Monday [April 25, 2005], a US Army official reported that a military investigation has cleared the soldiers who shot dead Nicola Calipari on March 4 after US troops opened fire on the car that was also carrying Giuliana Sgrena - the Italian journalist who had just been freed from captivity. Sgrena has publicly rejected the U.S. claims that the shooting was justified. The leaking of that report sparked outrage in Italy.
The Italian officials on the US-led commission are reportedly refusing to endorse the U.S. Army's findings. Italy maintains that that car carrying Calipari and Sgrena had been driving slowly, received no warning and that Italy had advised U.S. authorities of their mission to evacuate Sgrena from Iraq.
[...] AMY GOODMAN: Giuliana, the US military says your car was going very fast.
GIULIANA SGRENA: That’s not true, because we were slow, and we were slowing down, because we have to turn. And before there was some water, so it’s not true that the car was going fast.
AMY GOODMAN: They say the soldiers used hand and arm signals, flashed white lights and fired warning shots to get the driver to stop.
GIULIANA SGRENA: No, they didn’t. No, no. No light, no air fire, nothing at all. They were beside the road. They were not on the street. They were away ten meters, and they didn’t give us any sign that they were there, so we didn’t saw them before they started to shoot.
AMY GOODMAN: Did they shoot from the front or from the back?
GIULIANA SGRENA: No, on the back, not on the front. They shot on the back, because Calipari was on the back on the right and he was shot dead immediately, and I was injured on my shoulder, but I was shot by the back. So I am a proof that they were shooting on the back and not in front of the car. We can see by my injured where I was shot.
Fast-forward to today:
The U.S. military released a statement after the shooting saying the Canadians' vehicle failed to stop after they were warned with hand signals and a round of warning shots in front of the vehicle. [...] Yesterday, a different version of events emerged.
"Let's just say we don't confirm the American version. I'll give you a hint. The Americans just did a rotation of their military personnel inside the Green Zone. We can draw all of our conclusions from there," a Canadian diplomatic source familiar with the incident told the Toronto Star.
Cameron told CTV News that the Canadian convoy was keeping a good distance and that no one in her vehicle saw any hand signals from the Americans to indicate they were too close. She also said the three shots fired were not a warning and that one of the bullets went right through the windshield and narrowly missed a passenger.
"How many warning shots go across a vehicle into the passenger compartment?" Cameron asked yesterday.

Read on, MacDuff!