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Thursday
May222008

Where Are Those Iranian Weapons in Iraq?

The US military command in Iraq continues to talk about an alleged pipeline of Iranian weapons to Iraqi Shiites opposing the US occupation, implying that they have become dependent on Iran for indirect-fire weapons and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

But US officials have failed thus far to provide evidence that would support that claim, and a long-delayed US military report on Iranian arms is unlikely to offer any data on what proportion of the weapons in the hands of Shiite fighters are from Iran and what proportion comes from purchases on the open market.

When Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner was asked that question at a briefing May 8, he did not answer it directly. Instead Bergner reverted to a standard US military line that these groups "could not do what they're doing without the support of foreign support [sic]." Then he defined "foreign support" to include training and funding as well as weapons, implicitly conceding that he did not have much of a case based on weapons alone.

Bergner's refusal to address that question reflects a fundamental problem with the US claims about Iranian weapons in Iraq: if there are indeed any Iranian rockets and mortars, and RPGs in the Mahdi Army's arsenal of stand-off weapons, they represent an insignificant part of it.

Reports by the US command in Iraq over the past 15 months cited only a handful of Iranian weapons out of hundreds counted in caches found in Shiite areas. Nearly 700 mortars and rockets were reported by specific caliber size, along with a handful of RPGs, in nearly two dozen caches.

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Thursday
May222008

Report: U.S. Soldiers Did 'Dirty Work' for Chinese Interrogators

U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo Bay allegedly softened up detainees at the request of Chinese intelligence officials who had come to the island facility to interrogate the men -- or they allowed the Chinese to dole out the treatment themselves, according to claims in a new government report.

Buried in a Department of Justice report released Tuesday are new allegations about a 2002 arrangement between the United States and China, which allowed Chinese intelligence to visit Guantanamo and interrogate Chinese Uighurs held there.

According to the report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, an FBI agent reported a detainee belonging to China's ethnic Uighur minority and a Uighur translator told him Uighur detainees were kept awake for long periods, deprived of food and forced to endure cold for hours on end, just prior to questioning by Chinese interrogators.

Susan Manning, a lawyer who represents several Uighurs still held at Guantanamo, said Tuesday the allegations are all too familiar.

U.S. personnel "are engaging in abusive tactics on behalf of the Chinese," she said Tuesday. When Uighur detainees refused to talk to Chinese interrogators in 2002, U.S. military personnel put them in solitary confinement as punishment, she said.

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Wednesday
May212008

9-11 Ripple Effect


If you haven't seen 9/11 Ripple Effect yet, you need to watch it now! Take 87 minutes and study every inch of this movie! Or better yet, buy it and share it with everyone you know!

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Wednesday
May212008

Recruiters Accused of Skirting Law

Two new studies into the problem of child soldiers turn their ire on the United States, charging that the Pentagon is so hungry for enlistments that it is allowing officials to violate U.S. and international laws prohibiting the recruitment of minors for military service.

The surveys say recruiters are putting undue pressure on underage boys and girls, sometimes misrepresenting the terms of military service, inflating compensation, or falsifying applicants' health or criminal records to avoid their rejection.

In addition, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union say in separate reports that the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act gives unprecedented access to the records of high school juniors and seniors, allowing recruiters to contact them directly without parental consent.

"Public schools serve as prime recruiting grounds for the military, and the U.S. military's generally accepted procedures for recruitment of high school students plainly violate" internationally negotiated norms, according to the ACLU's "Soldiers of Misfortune" report released last week.

U.S. law permits recruiting at 17 and front-line deployment at 18. A key international treaty sets the same standards.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, in an e-mailed reply to questions from The Washington Times, defended the practice of recruiting at schools.

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Wednesday
May212008

Glenn Greenwald: Growing Responsibility for the Bush Torture Regime

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com

Recent ACLU-compelled disclosures of previously concealed DOJ documents reveal many of the details of what has been long known: that the highest levels of the Bush administration secretly implemented an illegal torture regime. But while those torture programs began in secret, we have gradually learned more and more about them. The more time that goes by and the more we learn — particularly if we do nothing meaningful to stop it — the more the responsibility for these policies shifts from the administration to all of us collectively.

While there is much rhetorical protest over these torture programs in the halls of Congress and in our elite media institutions, there has been little real action in response. Indeed, it has long been known that we are torturing, holding detainees in secret prisons beyond the reach of law and civilization, sending detainees to the worst human rights abusers to be tortured, and subjecting them ourselves to all sorts of treatment which both our own laws and the treaties to which we are a party plainly prohibit. None of this is new.

But our elite political institutions have decided, collectively, to do nothing about that. Quite the contrary, with regard to many of the revelations of abuse, our elected representatives — with some noble exceptions — have chosen to remain largely in the dark about what was done. When forced by court rulings or media revelations to act at all, they have endorsed and legalized this behavior — not investigated, outlawed or punished it.

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Wednesday
May212008

Big Brother’ database for phones and e-mails

A massive government database holding details of every phone call, e-mail and time spent on the internet by the public is being planned as part of the fight against crime and terrorism. Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecoms companies would hand over the records to the Home Office under plans put forward by officials.

The information would be held for at least 12 months and the police and security services would be able to access it if given permission from the courts.

The proposal will raise further alarm about a “Big Brother” society, as it follows plans for vast databases for the ID cards scheme and NHS patients. There will also be concern about the ability of the Government to manage a system holding billions of records. About 57 billion text messages were sent in Britain last year, while an estimated 3 billion e-mails are sent every day.

Home Office officials have discussed the option of the national database with telecommunications companies and ISPs as part of preparations for a data communications Bill to be in November’s Queen’s Speech. But the plan has not been sent to ministers yet.

Industry sources gave warning that a single database would be at greater risk of attack and abuse.

Jonathan Bamford, the assistant Information Commissioner, said: “This would give us serious concerns and may well be a step too far. We are not aware of any justification for the State to hold every UK citizen’s phone and internet records. We have real doubts that such a measure can be justified, or is proportionate or desirable."

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Wednesday
May212008

Bush's Endless Hypocrisy on Terror

By Robert Parry

Is a government guilty of terrorism if it harbors known terrorists? What should one say about a country that permits open fund-raising on behalf of a terrorist implicated in the mass killing of civilians?

What about a government that secretly arms a guerrilla army that wantonly kills and abuses civilians while seeking to overthrow an elected government?

If your answer to those questions is to recite George W. Bush’s dictum that a government that harbors or helps terrorists should be punished just like the terrorists, then you must turn your wrath on the U.S. government and the Bush family -- guilty on all the above points.

But the U.S. political/media system continues to view the world through a cracked lens that focuses outrage on “enemy” regimes while refracting away a comparable fury from similar actions by U.S. officials.

So, while President Bush ponders whether to add Venezuela to the terrorist list – because of a captured Colombian guerrilla computer that appears to implicate Hugo Chavez’s government in weapons smuggling – Bush would broach no criticism of Ronald Reagan who armed Nicaraguan contra guerrillas in the 1980s.

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Wednesday
May212008

An expanding military budget taxpayers can't afford

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." -President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953.

By Senator Bernie Sanders

During the next few weeks Congress will consider hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, yet this legislation will receive relatively little review and scrutiny. Spending by Pentagon officials continues to grow at an incredible rate and it is time for Congress to determine whether this level of funding makes sense.

President Eisenhower, the five-star Army general who was the military commander of the European theater during World War II, laid out stark choices that he and the country faced during his first year in the White House. Fast-forward 48 years to the last year of George W. Bush's presidency, and it is remarkable how prescient Eisenhower was.

Today, Bush's military budget is $515 billion, more than half of all discretionary spending. This is in addition to the $200 billion a year being spent on the war in Iraq, and another $16 billion spent on nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, as military spending explodes, the middle class in America is shrinking, poverty is increasing and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider. While we now spend $94 billion more on defense than three years ago, poverty and hunger are increasing, 47 million Americans lack health insurance, and an entire generation of young people wonders how to afford college.

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Wednesday
May212008

Iraq Vets Testify to War Atrocities

By Liliana Segura / AlterNet

"I was ordered multiple times by commissioned officers and noncommissioned officers to shoot unarmed civilians if their presence made me feel uncomfortable," Sgt. Jason Lemieux told a panel of lawmakers last Thursday in a packed public hearing on Capitol Hill. "These orders were given with the understanding that my immediate chain of command would protect our subordinates from legal repercussions." Lemieux, a former Marine who was part of the invading force that entered Baghdad in March 2003, came to Washington, D.C., with Iraq Veterans Against the War, weeks after the fifth anniversary of President George Bush's declaration of "Mission Accomplished" to tell Congress enough is enough.

Invited by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., the veterans spoke firmly and eloquently before members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, telling stories that were just "the tip of the iceberg," as Lemieux put it, but which nevertheless offered a frightening range of accounts: violent house raids, the killings of innocent people, "drop weapons" used to make dead civilians look like insurgents, racism in the ranks, and their own process of dehumanization as they became inured to the humanity of those who they were supposedly sent to "liberate."

The morning was infused with a sense of urgency. "Every day that the occupation continues, more men, women and children will be killed, maimed, or forced to flee their country as refugees," said Kelly Dougherty, executive director of IVAW, in introductory remarks. "More veterans will return home with lifelong scars, emotional and physical, with little support to help them readjust.

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Wednesday
May212008

FBI agents created a "war-crimes file" to document accusations against U.S.

By ERIC LICHTBLAU and SCOTT SHANE / NY Times

In 2002, concerned about the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, FBI agents created a "war-crimes file" to document accusations against U.S. military personnel, a Justice Department report disclosed Tuesday.

The Justice Department inspector general's report, which took four years to complete, provides the fullest account to date of dissent and confusion over the interrogation tactics used by the military and the CIA.

In one of several previously undisclosed episodes, the report found that U.S. military interrogators appeared to have collaborated with visiting Chinese officials at Guantánamo Bay to disrupt the sleep of Chinese Muslims held there, waking them up every 15 minutes the night before their interviews by the Chinese.

The report describes what one official called "trench warfare" between the FBI and the military over the methods used on detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report says officials at senior levels in the FBI, the Justice Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council were made aware of the agents' complaints, but little appears to have been done as a result. The National Security Council, which includes President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, was chaired at the time by Condoleezza Rice, then the national-security adviser.

The report quotes objections from FBI officials who grew increasingly concerned about the reports of practices such as intimidating inmates with snarling dogs, parading them in the nude before female soldiers or "short-shackling" them to the floor for many hours in extreme heat or cold.

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Wednesday
May212008

Former U.S. Detainee Testifies of Torture

By DESMOND BUTLER / AP

In testimony by satellite link from Germany to a House of Representatives' panel, Murat Kurnaz recounted his five-year detention, alleging a wide range of torture and abuse.

Lawmakers at the hearing on Guantanamo abuses held by a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee called for further investigation into Kurnaz's case.

He said that in 2002 in Afghanistan, U.S. interrogators subjected him to beatings, electrical shocks and, on one occasion, a technique he said was referred to as "water treatment." He said his head was held under water in a bucket while he was punched in the stomach, forcing him to inhale. On another occasion, he was hung by his arms for five days, he said.

"The pain from this treatment was beyond belief," he said. "I know that others have died from this treatment."

Kurnaz claims he was also subject to repeated beatings at Guantanamo, as well as forced medication and sexual and religious abuse.

"I told my story over and over," he said. "My name over and over."

Asked about Kurnaz's testimony, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack repeated official U.S. denials of torture by American interrogators. "I can't put it any more plainly than the president of the United States has put it, and he says the United States does not torture," McCormack said.

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Tuesday
May202008

GAO: U.S. lacks plan for al-Qaeda, Pakistan militants

A congressional watchdog group and several senators declared Tuesday that nearly seven years after the 9/11 attacks, there appears to be no winning plan to defeat al-Qaeda and other extremists in tribal areas of Pakistan.

"I am troubled by where we find ourselves," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as he chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that took two hours of testimony from Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

Kerry assured Negroponte he was not playing "gotcha," with the Bush administration. He conceded "there is no easy solution."

But he said, "We don't have a comprehensive plan."

Simultaneously, the Government Accountability Office, Congress' independent watchdog group, issued a report that declared: "The United States has not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe havens in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas."

The report said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has found al-Qaeda is using the territory to put into place the last elements necessary to launch another attack against the U.S.

And yet, the GAO said, despite $10 billion in U.S. assistance, "as of last month there was not a formally approved comprehensive plan, and support from the recently elected Pakistani government was uncertain."

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Tuesday
May202008

9/11 - We Know That You're Out There




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