Friday, October 30, 2009

Defending the Palestinian Cause on Jon Stewart's Daily Show

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 1
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(Do watch the second part too)

The interview showed the human and rational face of the Palestinian resistance not widely known to the general American viewers. It moved beyond the usual morality tale of 'poor Israelis facing genocidal-minded Arabs/Muslims' . It must have impressed upon the viewers that Palestinians, like Israelis, may also have legit concerns and need to be heard too.

My concern with that interview and with many others out there chanting 'peace, peace, non-violence, non-violence' is that sometimes they are used to de-legitimize militant resistance (as 'irrational' and 'unjustifiably violent'). It takes attention away from the whole history of Israeli atrocities by focusing too much on - and even blaming at times - the victims for responding with violence in defense. (Same goes for the case of Lebanon.) The 'peace, peace' slogans at times neglect the fact that the international community has failed to deliver any positive results in the last sixty years. So far the only thing that has been directly effective against the Israeli expansionism is militant resistance.

That said I don't think Anna believes that militant resistance is wrong in principle. I was in one of her presentations last year where she emphasized the role of historical atrocities which led Palestinians to adopt violent tactics. From what I understand, she would not want to de-legitimize the militant resistance, although she might believe that non-violence is preferable and more effective. (I don't know the position and politics of Mustafa Barghouti.)

I think the resistance in Palestine as well as Lebanon would also prefer non-violence over violence. The difference really is on the question of 'efficacy' of violent vs. non-violent tactics. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was largely non-violent. Even scholars of non-violent movements acknowledge that fact.

The distinction between principle and tactic is important here. We would be arguing on a very different level if some peace activist believes in non-violence as a principle - that militant resistance is always wrong. (Even Gandhi made exceptions to that principle!)

But if it is a matter of tactic with non-violence as the preferred method, then the implication is that if legit resistance-s choose militant tactics in Palestine or Lebanon, their actions should not be looked down upon by peace activists. Also since it is a matter of tactic (not principle), tomorrow the resistance-s may very well decide to become non-violent, if they feel that time has changed and the international community is more responsive to non-violent tactics and can actually do something to address their grievances.

Back to the interview. Given the imposed limitations in the mainstream media over this issue, I think the interview was a step forward in pushing the limits of the debate. Though it would have been nicer if the two had somehow questioned the framework in which the debate was framed. Joseph Levine's excellent article in Boston Review comes to mind: The debate needs to be re-framed from that of ‘Israeli security vs. terrorism’ to ‘Israeli occupation vs. Palestinian resistance’. That is critical.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Afghan President's Brother - Drug Lord and CIA Agent

Informed people in Afghanistan and abroad already knew about this fact. The question is why now. Why the turn in media against Karzai in recent months, from portraying him as a good ally in the 'War on Terror' to a bad puppet? Is it time to dump him? Has Washington found a replacement already? Zalmay Khalilzad or Abdullah Abdullah? Eric Margolis provides some insights here: Two Puppets Are No Better Than One.

Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll

By Dexter Filkins, et. al., NYTimes, October 28, 2009

KABUL, AfghanistanAhmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.

The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raise significant questions about America’s war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.

The ties to Mr. Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration. The critics say the ties complicate America’s increasingly tense relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.’s practices also suggest that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban.

More broadly, some American officials argue that the reliance on Ahmed Wali Karzai, the most powerful figure in a large area of southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgency is strongest, undermines the American push to develop an effective central government that can maintain law and order and eventually allow the United States to withdraw.

“If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Wali Karzai said in an interview that he cooperated with American civilian and military officials, but did not engage in the drug trade and did not receive payments from the C.I.A.

The relationship between Mr. Karzai and the C.I.A. is wide ranging, several American officials said. He helps the C.I.A. operate a paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, that is used for raids against suspected insurgents and terrorists. On at least one occasion, the strike force has been accused of mounting an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government, the officials said.

Mr. Karzai is also paid for allowing the C.I.A. and American Special Operations troops to rent a large compound outside the city — the former home of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s founder. The same compound is also the base of the Kandahar Strike Force. “He’s our landlord,” a senior American official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Karzai also helps the C.I.A. communicate with and sometimes meet with Afghans loyal to the Taliban. Mr. Karzai’s role as a go-between between the Americans and the Taliban is now regarded as valuable by those who support working with Mr. Karzai, as the Obama administration is placing a greater focus on encouraging Taliban leaders to change sides.

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment for this article.

“No intelligence organization worth the name would ever entertain these kind of allegations,” said Paul Gimigliano, the spokesman.

Some American officials said that the allegations of Mr. Karzai’s role in the drug trade were not conclusive.

“There’s no proof of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s involvement in drug trafficking, certainly nothing that would stand up in court,” said one American official familiar with the intelligence. “And you can’t ignore what the Afghan government has done for American counterterrorism efforts.”

At the start of the Afghan war, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, American officials paid warlords with questionable backgrounds to help topple the Taliban and maintain order with relatively few American troops committed to fight in the country. But as the Taliban has become resurgent and the war has intensified, Americans have increasingly viewed a strong and credible central government as crucial to turning back the Taliban’s advances.

Now, with more American lives on the line, the relationship with Mr. Karzai is setting off anger and frustration among American military officers and other officials in the Obama administration. They say that Mr. Karzai’s suspected role in the drug trade, as well as what they describe as the mafialike way that he lords over southern Afghanistan, makes him a malevolent force.

These military and political officials say the evidence, though largely circumstantial, suggests strongly that Mr. Karzai has enriched himself by helping the illegal trade in poppy and opium to flourish. The assessment of these military and senior officials in the Obama administration dovetails with that of senior officials in the Bush administration.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money are flowing through the southern region, and nothing happens in southern Afghanistan without the regional leadership knowing about it,” a senior American military officer in Kabul said. Like most of the officials in this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the information.

“If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” the American officer said of Mr. Karzai. “Our assumption is that he’s benefiting from the drug trade.”

American officials say that Afghanistan’s opium trade, the largest in the world, directly threatens the stability of the Afghan state, by providing a large percentage of the money the Taliban needs for its operations, and also by corrupting Afghan public officials to help the trade flourish.

The Obama administration has repeatedly vowed to crack down on the drug lords who are believed to permeate the highest levels of President Karzai’s administration. They have pressed him to move his brother out of southern Afghanistan, but he has so far refused to do so.

Other Western officials pointed to evidence that Ahmed Wali Karzai orchestrated the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of phony ballots for his brother’s re-election effort in August. He is also believed to have been responsible for setting up dozens of so-called ghost polling stations — existing only on paper — that were used to manufacture tens of thousands of phony ballots.

“The only way to clean up Chicago is to get rid of Capone,” General Flynn said.

In the interview in which he denied a role in the drug trade or taking money from the C.I.A., Ahmed Wali Karzai said he received regular payments from his brother, the president, for “expenses,” but said he did not know where the money came from. He has, among other things, introduced Americans to insurgents considering changing sides. And he has given the Americans intelligence, he said. But he said he was not compensated for that assistance.

“I don’t know anyone under the name of the C.I.A.,” Mr. Karzai said. “I have never received any money from any organization. I help, definitely. I help other Americans wherever I can. This is my duty as an Afghan.”

Mr. Karzai acknowledged that the C.I.A. and Special Operations troops stayed at Mullah Omar’s old compound. And he acknowledged that the Kandahar Strike Force was based there. But he said he had no involvement with them.

A former C.I.A. officer with experience in Afghanistan said the agency relied heavily on Ahmed Wali Karzai, and often based covert operatives at compounds he owned. Any connections Mr. Karzai might have had to the drug trade mattered little to C.I.A. officers focused on counterterrorism missions, the officer said.

“Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade,” he said. “If you are looking for Mother Teresa, she doesn’t live in Afghanistan.”

The debate over Ahmed Wali Karzai, which began when President Obama took office in January, intensified in June, when the C.I.A.’s local paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, shot and killed Kandahar’s provincial police chief, Matiullah Qati, in a still-unexplained shootout at the office of a local prosecutor.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Qati’s death remain shrouded in mystery. It is unclear, for instance, if any agency operatives were present — but officials say the firefight broke out when Mr. Qati tried to block the strike force from freeing the brother of a task force member who was being held in custody.

“Matiullah was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mr. Karzai said in the interview.

Counternarcotics officials have repeatedly expressed frustration over the unwillingness of senior policy makers in Washington to take action against Mr. Karzai — or even begin a serious investigation of the allegations against him. In fact, they say that while other Afghans accused of drug involvement are investigated and singled out for raids or even rendition to the United States, Mr. Karzai has seemed immune from similar scrutiny.

For years, first the Bush administration and then the Obama administration have said that the Taliban benefits from the drug trade, and the United States military has recently expanded its target list to include drug traffickers with ties to the insurgency. The military has generated a list of 50 top drug traffickers tied to the Taliban who can now be killed or captured.

Senior Afghan investigators say they know plenty about Mr. Karzai’s involvement in the drug business. In an interview in Kabul this year, a top former Afghan Interior Ministry official familiar with Afghan counternarcotics operations said that a major source of Mr. Karzai’s influence over the drug trade was his control over key bridges crossing the Helmand River on the route between the opium growing regions of Helmand Province and Kandahar.

The former Interior Ministry official said that Mr. Karzai was able to charge huge fees to drug traffickers to allow their drug-laden trucks to cross the bridges.

But the former officials said it was impossible for Afghan counternarcotics officials to investigate Mr. Karzai. “This government has become a factory for the production of Talibs because of corruption and injustice,” the former official said.

Some American counternarcotics officials have said they believe that Mr. Karzai has expanded his influence over the drug trade, thanks in part to American efforts to single out other drug lords.

In debriefing notes from Drug Enforcement Administration interviews in 2006 of Afghan informants obtained by The New York Times, one key informant said that Ahmed Wali Karzai had benefited from the American operation that lured Hajji Bashir Noorzai, a major Afghan drug lord during the time that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, to New York in 2005. Mr. Noorzai was convicted on drug and conspiracy charges in New York in 2008, and was sentenced to life in prison this year.

Habibullah Jan, a local military commander and later a member of Parliament from Kandahar, told the D.E.A. in 2006 that Mr. Karzai had teamed with Haji Juma Khan to take over a portion of the Noorzai drug business after Mr. Noorzai’s arrest.

Dexter Filkins reported from Kabul, and Mark Mazzetti and James Risen from Washington. Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What lies ahead for Pakistan?

See a related post here on the larger US strategic interests. On President Zardari's role in this game and Army's response, see a previous post here On bombs/terrorism and politics surrounding Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, see here

Pakistan Feels The American Raj
Eric Margolis, InformationClearingHouse, Oct 21, 2009


"The current Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, advanced with President Barack Obama's blessing, is ham-handed dollar diplomacy at its worst. Pakistan, bankrupted by corruption, feudal landlords, and the previous Musharraf military regime, is being offered US $7.5 billion over five years - but with outrageous strings attached.

Washington denies any strings are involved. But few in South Asia believe the cash-strapped US is handing over $7.5 billion for the sake of pure altruism or concern for Pakistan's social welfare.

The US wants to build a mammoth new embassy for 1,000 personnel in Islamabad, the second largest after its Baghdad fortress-embassy. New personnel are needed, claims Washington, to monitor the $7.5 billion in aid. So US mercenaries (aka `contractors') are being brought in to protect US interests and personnel. New US bases may also be in the cards. Most of this new aid will go right into the pockets of the pro-western ruling establishment, about 1% of the population.

Washington is also reportedly demanding some form of indirect veto power over promotions in Pakistan's armed forces and intelligence agency, ISI. This crude attempt to exert more US influence over Pakistan's 617,000-man military has enraged the armed forces and set off alarm bells.

It's all part of Washington's `Afpak' strategy to clamp tighter control over restive Pakistan and make use of its armed forces and spies in Afghanistan. Seizing control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, the key to its national defense against a much more powerful India, is the other key US objective. Many Pakistanis believe the US is bent on tearing apart Pakistan in order to seize its nuclear arsenal."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Washington's "Af-Pak" plans meet resistance

Below is a very informative report with insightful hints about probable Washington plans for Pakistan. Is Pakistan going to be the base for CentCom or AfricCon like operations for this region to keep Russia, China, and Iran in check? What conditions would enable such a possibility? How is this going to affect the internal political dynamics of the country? See a related post here . On President Zardari's role in this game and Army's response, see a previous post here

U.S. Push to Expand in Pakistan Meets Resistance

By Jane Perlez, NY Times, October 6, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Steps by the United States to vastly expand its aid to Pakistan, as well as the footprint of its embassy and private security contractors here, are aggravating an already volatile anti-American mood as Washington pushes for greater action by the government against the Taliban.

An aid package of $1.5 billion a year for the next five years passed by Congress last week asks Pakistan to cease supporting terrorist groups on its soil and to ensure that the military does not interfere with civilian politics. President Asif Ali Zardari, whose association with the United States has added to his unpopularity, agreed to the stipulations in the aid package.

But many here, especially in the powerful army, object to the conditions as interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, and they are interpreting the larger American footprint in more sinister ways.

American officials say the embassy and its security presence must expand in order to monitor how the new money is spent. They also have real security concerns, which were underscored Monday when a suicide bomber, dressed in the uniform of a Pakistani security force, killed five people at a United Nations office in the heart of Islamabad, the capital.

The United States Embassy has publicized plans for a vast new building in Islamabad for about 1,000 people, with security for some diplomats provided through a Washington-based private contracting company, DynCorp.

The embassy setup, with American demands for importing more armored vehicles, is a significant expansion over the last 15 years. It comes at a time of intense discussion in Washington over whether to widen American operations and aid to Pakistan — a base for Al Qaeda — as an alternative to deeper American involvement in Afghanistan with the addition of more forces.

The fierce opposition here is revealing deep strains in the alliance. Even at its current levels, the American presence was fueling a sense of occupation among Pakistani politicians and security officials, said several Pakistani officials, who did not want to be named for fear of antagonizing the United States. The United States was now seen as behaving in Pakistan much as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, they said.

In particular, the Pakistani military and the intelligence agencies are concerned that DynCorp is being used by Washington to develop a parallel network of security and intelligence personnel within Pakistan, officials and politicians close to the army said.

The concerns are serious enough that last month a local company hired by DynCorp to provide Pakistani men to be trained as security guards for American diplomats was raided by the Islamabad police. The owner of the company, the Inter-Risk Security Company, Capt. Syed Ali Ja Zaidi, was later arrested.

The action against Inter-Risk, apparently intended to cripple the DynCorp program, was taken on orders from the senior levels of the Pakistani government, said an official familiar with the raid, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

The entire workings of DynCorp within Pakistan are now under review by the Pakistani government, said a senior government official directly involved with the Americans, who spoke candidly on condition of anonymity.

The tensions are erupting as the United States is pressing Pakistan to take on not only those Taliban groups that have threatened the government, but also the Taliban leadership that uses Pakistan as a base to organize and conduct their insurgency against American forces in Afghanistan.

In a public statement, the American ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, suggested last week that Pakistan should eliminate the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, a onetime ally of the Pakistanis who Washington says is now based in Baluchistan, a province on the Afghanistan border. If Pakistan did not get rid of Mullah Omar, the United States would, she suggested.

Reinforcing the ambassador, the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, said Sunday that the United States regarded tackling Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan as “the next step” in the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in an unusually stern reaction last week, said that missile attacks by American drones in Baluchistan, as implied by the Americans, “would not be allowed.”

The Pakistanis also complain that they are not being sufficiently consulted over the pending White House decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The head of Pakistan’s chief spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, met with senior officials at the Central Intelligence Agency last week in Washington, where he argued against sending more troops to Afghanistan, a Pakistani official familiar with the visit said.

The Pakistani Army, riding high after its campaign to wrench back control of the Swat Valley from the Taliban, remains nervous about Washington’s intentions and the push against the new aid is reflective of that anxiety, Pakistani officials said.

Though the Zardari government is trumpeting the new aid as a triumph, officials say the language in the legislation ignores long-held prerogatives about Pakistani sovereignty, making the $1.5 billion a tough sell.

“Now everyone has a handle they can use to rip into the Zardari government,” said a senior Pakistani official involved in the American-Pakistani dialogue but who declined to be named because he did not want to inflame the discussion.

The expanding American security presence has become another club. DynCorp has attracted particular scrutiny after the Pakistani news media reported that Blackwater, the contractor that has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, was also in Pakistan.

Recently, there have been a series of complaints by Islamabad residents who said they had been “roughed up” by hefty, plainclothes American men bearing weapons, presumably from DynCorp, one of the senior Pakistani officials involved with the Americans said.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office had sent two formal diplomatic complaints in the past few weeks to the American Embassy about such episodes, the official said.

The embassy had received complaints, and confirmed two instances, an embassy official said, but the embassy denied receiving any formal protests from the Foreign Office. It also declined to comment about the presence of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, in Pakistan.

American officials have said that Blackwater employees worked at a remote base in Shamsi, in Baluchistan, where they loaded missiles and bombs onto drones used to strike Taliban and Qaeda militants.

The operation of the drones at Shamsi had been shifted by the Americans to Afghanistan this year, a senior Pakistani military official said.

Several Blackwater employees also worked in the North-West Frontier Province supervising the construction of a training center for Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, a Pakistani official from the region said.

There was considerable unease about the American diplomatic presence in Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, one of the senior government officials said. Politicians were asking why the United States needed a consulate in Peshawar, which borders the tribal areas, when that office did not issue visas, he said.

Another question, he said, was why did the consulate plan to buy the biggest, and most modern building in the city, the Pearl Continental hotel — which was bombed in a terrorist attack this year — as its new headquarters.

As Parliament prepared to discuss the American aid package Wednesday, the tone of the debate was expected to be scathing. On a television talk show, Senator Tariq Aziz, a member of the opposition party, called the legislation “the charter for new colonization.”

“People think this government has sold us to the Americans again for their own selfish interests,” said Jahangir Tareen, a former cabinet minister and a member of Parliament, in an interview. “Some people think the United States is out to get Pakistan, to defang Pakistan, to destroy the army as it exists so it can’t fight India and to break down the ISI’s ability to influence events in India and Afghanistan. Everyone is saying about the Americans, ‘Told you so.’ ”

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saddam's Iraq - Lest people forget...

This is a very famous footage from July 16 1979. The man speaking was Secretary of the Baath Party who was forced to name Iraqi officials who supposedly were part of a Syrian plot against Iraq. The men being led out were never seen again. The men remaining were spared that day. Later some of the spared officials were forced to personally execute their colleagues who were not so lucky. On that day Iraq went from being a garden variety middle-east dictatorship to a totalitarian police state and added flying colors on CIA's achievement book which supported Bakr-Saddam coup in the first place, then supported Saddam extensively during the Iran-Iraq war and armed him with chemical and biological weapons. The Secretary of Baath also met an unfavorable fate. The person who tries to raise hand and speak in the middle of the clip was Saddam's old friend. He was not allowed to talk and led out. This video was sent all over Iraq to induce terror in people's hearts.

The biological weapons given to Saddam by the Western powers to fight the resilient Iranians were also used on the Kurds of the North. During the late stages of the Iran–Iraq War Saddam's proconsul Ali Hassan - aka Chemical Ali - is said to have used Mustard Gas, Sarin, Tabun, and VX against Kurdish targets. The first such attacks occurred as early as April 1987 and continued into 1988 culminating in the notorious attack on Halabja in which over 5000 people were killed. With Kurdish resistance continuing Ali Hassan decided to break the back of the rebellion by eradicating the civilian population of the Kurdish regions. His forces embarked on a systematic campaign of mass killings property destruction and forced population displacement in which thousands of Kurdish villages were razed and their inhabitants either killed or deported to the south of Iraq. For more on chemical and biological weapon sale to Saddam by the West, see

It is well documented that Saddam-Bakr coup was supported by CIA. PBS Frontline's documentary "Survival of Saddam" (air date 2000) for one acknowledges that fact (some good footage in that documentary, otherwise a propaganda crap, manufacturing consent for war on Iraq). A Times piece published on December 30, 2006 states: "The coup that brought the Ba'ath Party, of which Saddam was a member, to power in 1963, was supported by the United States, openly welcomed by the White House and possibly even engineered by the CIA."

Saddam was encouraged to attack Iran, supplied with satellite information about Iranian military movements, and given conventional as well as chemical and biological weapons by America, France, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Must-Watch: Behind Saddam's Attack on Kuwait and Suppression of Shias in 1991

As also argued by Michael Klare in a recent Media Education Foundation (MEF) documentary, "Blood and Oil", the US intentionally adopted a "containment" policy, instead of overthrowing Saddam after the Gulf War, to use that as a pretext for US military presence in that region. After the Iranian Revolution and against the Soviet threat, the Carter Doctrine in 1980 made it explicit that the US would expand its military presence in the region to protect the oil interests. The Reagan Administration launched CentCom in 1983 with the same mandate. What also helped the US during the Gulf War was the fear of the status quo regimes of the region - Saudia, Jordan, Egypt - that if Saddam was toppled, there was no other possibility but that Shias would come to power.

The same Times Online piece states: "That the regime survived was down not to the US commander of the liberation of Kuwait, General Norman Schwartzkopf, who allowed Saddam's forces to continue flying helicopters throughout the country and let two powerful units of the Republican Guard, trapped in Basra, to return to Baghdad. Saddam's fear sharpened his revenge. Iraqi opposition leaders say up to 300,000 people were tortured and executed in the repression that followed. The experience of March 1991 left a legacy of bitter suspicion. The Americans, having liberated Kuwait, were now widely perceived in Iraq to have come to Saddam's rescue." ("Saddam Hussein - obituary", Times Online, December 30, 2006)

A decade later the NeoCons invade Iraq with the plan to appoint puppets Ahmad Chalabi and his likes as leaders - a tactic used 80 years ago by the British who installed King Faisal I - but their plot was effectively foiled by Ayatollah Sistani's call for direct elections in 2005 (See Newsweek's "What Sistani Wants", Feb 14, 2005).

Friday, October 2, 2009

How did Saddam get Chemical and Biological Weapons?

How Did Iraq Get Its Weapons? We Sold Them
by Neil Mackay and Felicity Arbuthnot, Sunday Herald, September 8, 2002

THE US and Britain sold Saddam Hussein the technology and materials Iraq needed to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

Reports by the US Senate's committee on banking, housing and urban affairs -- which oversees American exports policy -- reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene.

Classified US Defense Department documents also seen by the Sunday Herald show that Britain sold Iraq the drug pralidoxine, an antidote to nerve gas, in March 1992, after the end of the Gulf war. Pralidoxine can be reverse engineered to create nerve gas.

The Senate committee's reports on 'US Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq', undertaken in 1992 in the wake of the Gulf war, give the date and destination of all US exports. The reports show, for example, that on May 2, 1986, two batches of bacillus anthracis -- the micro-organism that causes anthrax -- were shipped to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education, along with two batches of the bacterium clostridium botulinum, the agent that causes deadly botulism poisoning.

One batch each of salmonella and E coli were shipped to the Iraqi State Company for Drug Industries on August 31, 1987. Other shipments went from the US to the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission on July 11, 1988; the Department of Biology at the University of Basrah in November 1989; the Department of Microbiology at Baghdad University in June 1985; the Ministry of Health in April 1985 and Officers' City, a military complex in Baghdad, in March and April 1986.

The shipments to Iraq went on even after Saddam Hussein ordered the gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja, in which at least 5000 men, women and children died. The atrocity, which shocked the world, took place in March 1988, but a month later the components and materials of weapons of mass destruction were continuing to arrive in Baghdad from the US.

The Senate report also makes clear that: 'The United States provided the government of Iraq with 'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-system programs.'

This assistance, according to the report, included 'chemical warfare-agent precursors, chemical warfare-agent production facility plans and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment, biological warfare-related materials, missile fabrication equipment and missile system guidance equipment'.

Donald Riegle, then chairman of the committee, said: 'UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs.'

Riegle added that, between January 1985 and August 1990, the 'executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record'.

It is thought the information contained in the Senate committee reports is likely to make up much of the 'evidence of proof' that Bush and Blair will reveal in the coming days to justify the US and Britain going to war with Iraq. It is unlikely, however, that the two leaders will admit it was the Western powers that armed Saddam with these weapons of mass destruction.

However, Bush and Blair will also have to prove that Saddam still has chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities. This looks like a difficult case to clinch in view of the fact that Scott Ritter, the UN's former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, says the United Nations destroyed most of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and doubts that Saddam could have rebuilt his stocks by now.

According to Ritter, between 90% and 95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were des troyed by the UN. He believes the remainder were probably used or destroyed during 'the ravages of the Gulf War'.

Ritter has described himself as a 'card-carrying Republican' who voted for George W Bush. Nevertheless, he has called the president a 'liar' over his claims that Saddam Hussein is a threat to America.

Ritter has also alleged that the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons emits certain gases, which would have been detected by satellite. 'We have seen none of this,' he insists. 'If Iraq was producing weapons today, we would have definitive proof.'

He also dismisses claims that Iraq may have a nuclear weapons capacity or be on the verge of attaining one, saying that gamma-particle atomic radiation from the radioactive materials in the warheads would also have been detected by western surveillance.

The UN's former co-ordinator in Iraq and former UN under-secretary general, Count Hans von Sponeck, has also told the Sunday Herald that he believes the West is lying about Iraq's weapons program.

Von Sponeck visited the Al-Dora and Faluja factories near Baghdad in 1999 after they were 'comprehensively trashed' on the orders of UN inspectors, on the grounds that they were suspected of being chemical weapons plants. He returned to the site late in July this year, with a German TV crew, and said both plants were still wrecked.

'We filmed the evidence of the dishonesty of the claims that they were producing chemical and biological weapons,' von Sponeck has told the Sunday Herald. 'They are indeed in the same destroyed state which we witnessed in 1999. There was no trace of any resumed activity at all.'

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Phil Wilayto - Opposing War Against Iran

Key Facts to Keep in Mind While Opposing War against Iran
by Phil Wilayto, Monthly Review, September 30, 2009

"After an unfortunate year-long ebb, the anti-war movement in the U.S. is again beginning to show signs of life. This October there will be many local and regional protests against the U.S-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most will also address the expanding war in Pakistan and the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

While some of these protests also will demand no war against Iran, there seems to be less enthusiasm for addressing this issue. The barrage of media attacks, charges, and misinformation has taken its toll. The controversy around the Iranian presidential elections and their aftermath have also played a role. Taken together, these factors have to a certain extent disarmed the anti-war movement, even as the possibility of a new war grows ever more serious."

For full text:

Also, below see a previous article by the same author on the controversy over the Iranian election and its implications for the anti-war movement in the US. The focus in this piece is largely on the political-economic aspects. Power and ideological factors that play vital role in the Iranian politics are not sufficiently considered. Further, the legitimacy of waging "humanitarian wars" against sovereign states is not questioned thoroughly. The article is still a must-read for all concerned.

How Should We React to the Events in Iran? - Phil Wilayto