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"The power of accurate observation is called cynicism
by those who have not got it." - G. B. Shaw

Annan Questions Legality of Iraq War and Elections
Sept. 16, 2004

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan questioned on Wednesday whether Iraq could hold elections in January if violence persisted and said the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was illegal because it violated the U.N. Charter.

Annan, in an interview with the BBC, said the 15-member Security Council should have approved the invasion of Iraq in mid-March 2003.

Questioned repeatedly whether he considered the war illegal, Annan said, "Yes, if you wish. I have indicated it was not in conformity with the U.N. Charter from our point of view, from the chapter point of view, it was illegal."

"I hope we don't see another Iraq-type operation for a long time ... without U.N. approval and much broader support from the international community," Annan added.

Iraq Resistance Attacks More Sophisticated
Sept. 16, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The scale and sophistication of militant attacks in Iraq are steadily increasing, with coordinated strikes and complicated ambushes that increasingly hit their targets, officials and analysts said Wednesday.

The spike in bloodshed - more than 200 dead in four days - has stifled American hopes that the transfer of sovereignty and the prospect of a democratic vote in four months could take the steam out of the uprising and pave the way for a reduction in U.S. troops.

Instead, there are signs the Americans and their Iraqi allies are facing an enemy more determined than ever. Insurgents have learned from past mistakes and shifted strategy, cooperating more closely with each other and devising new ways to put their relatively simple arsenal to treacherous use.

"More thought is going into the execution of the attacks," said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings of Task Force Olympia, which is trying to bring stability to a swath of northeastern Iraq.

Militants now follow up roadside bomb attacks with a deluge of rocket-propelled grenades instead of fleeing, or fire off mortar rounds to lure soldiers out of their base and into freshly laid mine fields, military commanders say.

In a July attack in Samarra, for example, militants detonated a car bomb and then hammered a military headquarters with a mortar barrage as troops fled the building. Five American soldiers died.

At least 47 people were killed in a car bombing in Baghdad on Tuesday targeting would-be police recruits, the deadliest single strike in the capital in six months.

"The enemy has been able to construct IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) that are more complex, include more rounds in the form of a "daisy chain," and tend to have a higher lethality," said Maj. Neal O'Brien of the Army's 1st Infantry Division.

O'Brien also said that an increase in the use of car bombs in the last two months coincided with an influx of foreign fighters with the bomb-making know-how in July.

"They graduated to more coordinated attacks," he said.

On Sunday, militants in Baghdad struck the U.S.-guarded Green Zone - the seat of the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy - with their biggest mortar and rocket barrage to date, many of them showing signs of careful aim.

Hours later, guerrillas used a car bomb to disable a U.S. patrol on a main Baghdad thoroughfare before detonating a second car bomb that wrecked a Bradley fighting vehicle sent to assist the patrol. They then opened fire on the wounded crewmen as they fled the vehicle.

"The set of attacks that occurred over the weekend were definitely more simultaneous than in the past," said Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, spokesman for coalition forces in Baghdad.

Analysts say the plethora of armed groups behind the insurgency are increasingly working together.

"The situation is getting worse day after day and the American are still in the streets," said Kawakib Butris, 40, a supermarket worker in Baghdad. "This government didn't ensure the simplest things to us like security, electricity and other services."

In response to the growing violence, the Bush administration announced plans this week to divert about $3.5 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds for security and the training of Iraqi forces.

Iraqis, a mostly conservative people, have been deeply angered by some of the practices of the U.S. military, like raiding homes and detaining women, and their failure to restore security more than a year after Saddam Hussein was ousted. While viewing the Americans as infidels or crusaders who want to destroy Islam, many have been won over by what they see as the piety and devotion of Islamic-oriented insurgents.

"I was very optimistic when the Americans entered Iraq ... but then I was so shocked by their practices that I even joined Fallujah residents in their war against them," said Haqi Esmaiel Ibrahim, 25, an accountant at a Baghdad stationery store. "Because of the bad security situation and kidnap cases, I had to make my two sisters quit school and stay at home."

U.S. troops ended their siege of the northwest city of Tal Afar on Tuesday, saying they had cleared it of militants after 12 days of fighting killed dozens of people. The siege ended soon after neighboring Turkey said it would stop cooperating with U.S. forces in Iraq if ethnic Turks continued to be harmed in the crackdown.

On Wednesday, militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at U.S. and Iraqi soldiers guarding a council building in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad. The assault came just days after the Americans negotiated a deal with local leaders to enter the city without risk of attack.

BBC Video: U.S. Gunship Kills Iraqi Civilians And Journalist

Witnesses: Apache fired on crowd

09/12/04 -- Most of the young Iraqi men and boys mingling around the burning wreckage of a US armoured car in Baghdad were unfazed by the clattering of an American helicopter gunship overhead. Moments later they were under fire.

Some had pointed to the Apache helicopter. Others jogged slowly from the burning Bradley fighting vehicle, which the US military said had been set ablaze by a bomb. None expected it would shoot at them. 

Standing next to him, Fuad's colleague and friend Mazin Tumaizi, a producer for Dubai-based al-Arabiya, was killed as he prepared to give a stand-up piece to camera. 

"I looked at the sky and saw a helicopter at very low altitude", Fouad said. "Just moments later I saw a flash of light from the Apache. Then a strong explosion", he said. 

Unarmed civilans 

The first explosion sent Fuad crashing to the ground. 

"Mazen's blood was on my camera and face," Fuad said. Tumaizi screamed to Fuad for help: "Saif, Saif! I'm going to die. I'm going to die." 

A second blast hit some 15 seconds later, lodging shrapnel in Fuad's leg and waist as he was trying to pull Tumaizi from danger. Fouad's camera, its lens stained with blood, filmed the chaos. 

Iraqis had gathered around the wreckage of the US vehicle

The US military said the Bradley's crew of four were slightly wounded by the bomb and had been evacuated from the scene. 

"Air support destroyed the Bradley fighting vehicle to prevent looting and harm to the Iraqi people," the US military said in a statement. 

Reuters footage showed the crowd to be made up of unarmed boys and men, two of whom were standing on top of the Bradley.

Some had been celebrating the destruction of the armoured car.

Others were discussing what had happened and quietly watching the Bradley burn, sending thick black smoke into the sky. Then the attack began.

Video Copyright: BBC

PHOTO: Women from 'Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq' call on US troops to leave Iraq, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Saturday Sept. 4, 2004. They also demanded that the fundamentalist separatist organisations working out of Iraq should stop their disruptive activities and leave Iraq. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Clashes Kill Civilians in Iraq, U.S. Copter Shot Down
Sept. 4, 2004

MOSUL, Iraq (AFP) - U.S. forces backed by warplanes battled insurgents in northern Iraq on Saturday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 52 others, the U.S. military and Iraqi doctors said.

During the fighting near the northern city of Mosul, a U.S. military helicopter made a forced landing and its two crew members were wounded, the U.S. military said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, explosions and machinegun fire could be heard in Tallafar, a town west of Mosul, 390 km (242 miles) north of Baghdad. Doctors said nine civilians were killed, and many of the wounded were women and children.

U.S. helicopters flew overhead and columns of smoke rose skyward.

"Civilians are being brought in into the hospital. We expect the number of casualties to increase," one doctor said.

The U.S. military death toll in Iraq is approaching 1,000, with the danger faced by American troops undiminished in the two months since the formation of an interim government.

Iraq Oil Pipelines Sabotaged
Sept. 4, 2004

BASRA, Iraq (AFP) - Saboteurs set ablaze oil pipelines in both northern and southern Iraq, threatening to further cripple the country's ailing economy and send world prices back upwards.

The attack on a pipeline near the southern port city of Basra came less than two days after the country's key revenue earner was dealt a serious blow by another act of sabotage in the north which halted all exports of Kirkuk crude.

Saboteurs also blew up a secondary pipeline serving the northern oil centre of Kirkuk on Saturday afternoon, a security official said.

In Basra, oil officials scrambled to contain the blaze and salvage the flow of exports. "The sabotage damaged two parallel pipelines. The first pumps oil to the Harithah electrical plant and the second from the town of Nahr Omar to the Zubeir oil fields," South Oil Company chief executive officer Jabar Ali al-Luaibi told AFP.

"Exports will be affected but it's not immediately possible to quantify the losses," he added.

PHOTO: Children in the Sadr City district of Baghdad, Iraq, hold weapons and a poster of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during a demonstration in support of al-Sadr and against the U.S. military in Iraq. (Ap Photo/Hussein Malla)

Iraqi Soccer Players to Bush:
"Find another way to advertise yourself."

Sports Illustrated August 19, 2004

Here are some quotes from members of the Iraqi Olympic soccer team:

"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign. He can find another way to advertise himself."

"How will [Bush] meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes."

"My problems are not with the American people. They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?"

"We don't wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go away."

"I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists? Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq."

According to the story, the Bush campaign has been contacted about the Iraqi soccer player's statements, and has yet to respond.

Najaf assault turns allies against US
August 17, 2004

Cleric at first welcomed the US but now sees it as an enemy.

Former US ally and president of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, has lost faith in the US-led occupation.

When the US wanted a Shia cleric to strengthen the credibility of the IGC, it turned to Bahr al-Ulum, whose family had lost many members for opposing Saddam Hussein.

But watching his hometown of Najaf come under US bombardment to crush Muqtada al-Sadr and his supporters, Bahr al-Ulum has lost faith in US intentions towards Iraq, and says millions of moderates like him, who welcomed last year's invasion, now regard Washington as an enemy.

"The Americans have turned the holy city into a ghost town. They are now seen as full of hatred against Najaf and the Shia. Nothing I know of will change this," the former president of the now defunct council said on Friday.

"I do not understand why America craves crisis. A peaceful solution to the confrontation with Muqtada could have been reached. We were hoping that Prime Minister Iyad Allawi would lead the way, but he sided with oppression."

Bahr al-Ulum has been one of the most outspoken critics of violence fuelled by al-Sadr and his supporters, who have challenged the authority of elder clerics such as Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Bahr al-Ulum himself.

Clerics criticised

The established clerical class has come under mounting criticism from ordinary Shia for remaining silent over the US offensive, especially al-Sistani, who expressed sorrow at the events in Najaf, but did not condemn the US offensive.

Al-Sistani travelled to London as US forces launched their offensive on Najaf last week, to seek treatment for a heart condition. His aides say the problem is not life-threatening.

Al-Sadr's supporters see Iranian-born and Iranian passport holder al-Sistani as a foreign cleric who staffed the Najaf seminaries with his followers at the expense of Iraqi nationalist clerics.

Plight of the poor

Like his father, al-Sadr made the theme of dispossession a basis for his political platform and raised the plight of the poor, saying living conditions have not improved since the US toppled Saddam.

Although the young al-Sadr lacked political maturity, dealing with him through force only bolstered his support especially among the poor and unemployed, Bahr al-Ulum said.

"The government has lost the support of the Middle Euphrates region and the south, even if it manages to calm down these areas temporarily using brute force," he said, referring to clashes in central and southern Iraq.

He said al-Sadr should have been given a political voice in government to avert violent confrontation. "There is no wisdom to what the Americans and Allawi are doing," he said.

"The consequences are unthinkable."

US loses big in Najaf
August 17, 2004

Resistance in the holy city has proven that the US won't allow democracy in Iraq

By Kamil Mahdi
Tuesday, Aug 17, 2004,Page 9

The US military offensive against Najaf is a dangerous and ill-judged escalation, revealing the violent reality of an occupation that has undergone only cosmetic change since the supposed handover of power to an "interim Iraqi administration" in June. For more than a week, an aggressive foreign power has addressed an essentially domestic political question by means of tanks, helicopter gunships and F16s.

There had been a ceasefire in place between the US forces and their main opponents around Najaf, and mediation efforts had been effective in containing tension. The current violence in the vicinity of one of Islam's most sacred sites appears to be a result of the failure of this mediation to co-opt Moqtada al-Sadr and his movement into a national conference, which the US had hoped would bestow a stamp of approval on the interim government.

The offensive is not -- as claimed by the US-appointed interim government and by the US military -- an action against outlaws, nor is it an attempt to establish security and the rule of law. There is a great deal of random violence in occupied Iraq. Some of this violence is of a purely criminal character, and some is of a terrorist nature with more or less vague political objectives. Many of the perpetrators are so shadowy as to invite a widespread belief that outside powers are directly involved in fomenting chaos.

In the absence of a process of reconciliation and a genuine accounting for past suffering and political crimes, there is also violence associated with score-settling by political groups. Not least, of course, is the military violence of the 200,000 foreign forces and armed mercenaries, and of the diverse groups resisting their presence in the country. All these forms of violence are escalating, leading to a chaotic and catastrophic outcome.

The way to deal with this situation is not to pour gas on the fire, but to look for an imaginative and honest political way out.

Regime Bankrupt

Having been appointed by the occupation authority under a corrupted UN oversight process, Ayad Allawi's interim government lacks any legitimacy whatsoever. Its success could only be measured through its ability to address the needs of the Iraqi people, foremost among which is security. The offensive against Najaf is the most crude and inept action possible, and it follows a long line of such actions by the occupation forces and their political leadership.

Some Iraqis hoped that the so-called transfer of power would permit a lessening of tension and a quick withdrawal of foreign forces from the cities, to be followed by greater cooperation between police and the population in tackling random violence. It had been hoped that the police would become more effective in protecting doctors and other professionals from targeted kidnapping and murder, and that homes, places of worship and other public places would become more secure, and that efforts would be redoubled to address the abysmal failure to rebuild the infrastructure.

Instead, there is now a greater effort at involving the police and other new Iraqi armed forces in waging the US war-by-proxy against the occupation's political opponents.

The collapse of law and order has little to do with Sadr. His is one of a number of forces with armed militia operating in the country. Its control of poor slum areas and inner cities resulted from the chaos that was brought about by the occupation; it was not itself the cause of the chaos. The physical destruction of state power, the interference in civil society institutions and the violence of the illegitimate occupation were responsible for the emergence of new centers of power and authority that now must be integrated into the political process.

In particular, the Sadr movement has a wide appeal among young, poor, marginalized and traditionally educated sections of the urban population, and it is irresponsible to ignore or antagonize such a wide section of Iraqi society. These are people who should be allowed to enter the political process through their chosen vehicle. They have a legitimate critique of the present flawed process, which is designed to serve the political objectives of the US administration and its few Iraqi allies. But instead the US occupation is trying to destroy or marginalize those movements, while also reinforcing existing inequities through media censorship and by heightening tension with neighboring Iran.

Kill Them All?

After Najaf, where are US troops going? Are they going to encircle Thawra (Sadr City), the Baghdad suburb? Are they going to attack every poor suburb of every city from Kirkuk to Basra? And bomb every town where there have been large demonstrations in opposition to the attack on Najaf?

This offensive has already dealt a severe blow to the interim government. It has shown that it is unable to rein in the US presence and can only fall in line with the occupiers' military imperatives. It has shown that the US has no intention of permitting a genuine Iraqi political dialogue or the development of an inclusive democratic process.

The action in Najaf is also deeply symbolic, and not only for Shiites. Najaf is a holy site for all Muslims and has particular historical significance for Iraqis. It is the seat of traditional learning and a repository of Iraqi communal and national culture, but it was also the focus of the 1920 uprising against British colonial rule that had set Iraq on the path to independence.

Najaf has been a lively center of commerce, industry and political activity ever since. Nothing cut the last links between Saddam Hussein and Iraqi society more than his persecution of Najaf. Trying to solve Najaf's problems by Yankee fire is a mark of abysmal failure.

Some liberals who opposed the war subsequently adopted an argument that the US and Britain now have a responsibility to stay in Iraq and to see to it that the country arrives at democracy and stability. This argument is based on the presumption that, left alone, Iraq would fall into internecine conflict which only the US and Britain, being such civilized and civilizing nations, could address.

This was always a convenient myth, but the repeated military offensives against Iraqi cities must now make it clear that chaos and internecine conflict is with us already, and it is being expanded and prolonged by foreign military forces.

It is time to set an early date for a complete withdrawal of foreign forces and then to ask what can and should be done to help Iraq.

Iraqi Kamil Mahdi is a lecturer in Middle East economics at the University of Exeter in England.

Sadr Calls on Iraqi Govt to Quit
August 13, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - Radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Friday urged Iraq's "dictatorial" interim government to resign and said he and his militia would remain in the holy city of Najaf until death or victory, his spokesman said.

The spokesman quoted Sadr as telling supporters at Imam Ali Mosque: "I advise the dictatorial, agent government to resign ... the whole Iraqi people demands the resignation of the government ... they replaced Saddam with a government worse than him."

"I will not leave this holy city," the spokesman quoted Sadr as telling supporters who chanted "No, no to America." "We will remain here defending the holy shrines till victory or martyrdom."

Thousands go to Najaf to Support Sadr
August 13, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) - Thousands of Iraqis descended on Najaf after Moqtada Sadr urged his Shiite militia to fight on, while US and Iraqi forces closed in on his stronghold and a British journalist was abducted in the south.

Showered with sweets and water, they embraced members of Sadr's Mehdi Army who have battled US-led forces for nine days in this beseiged pilgrimage city and shouted their support for the cleric and his fighters.

PHOTO: Thousands of Iraqi Shi'ites arrive after marching from other cities to Najaf, in a show of support for the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on August 13, 2004. Photo by Ali Abu Shish/Reuters

"All of us are soldiers of Moqtada Sadr. With our blood and our soul, we serve you Ali" chanted demonstrators.

Militiamen refused 5,000 dinar notes being handed out by one man, waving him off. "We are mujahedeen," or holy fighters, they said, as he desperately tried to shove the money in their pockets.

In Baghdad, a Sadr spokesman urged thousands more to march the 160 kilometres (100 miles) to Najaf, as another 1,000 began a similar walk from the holy city of Karbala.

"As we gather here, outside the headquarters of the agent of the occupation who have brought nothing but death and destruction to this country, we order you to march to Najaf on foot," Sayed Hazem al-Araji told worshippers gathered outside the Green Zone, which houses the US embassy and some government offices.

In Karbala, Sadr representative Sheikh Abdulrazaq al-Nadawi told the faithful: "We're going to Najaf to break the seige on our brothers".

Mass protests were also held in Tallafar in the north and Kut al-Hayy in the south to denounce the caretaker government, while in Basra another Sadr aide pressed Iraqi police and national guardsmen to join the Mehdi Army.

In the Sunni Muslim bastion of Fallujah, thousands of people called for holy war.

Protests Erupt in Five Iraqi Cities Over Najaf
August 13, 2004

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Protests against the U.S.-led military campaign in the sacred Shi'ite Muslim city of Najaf broke out in five Iraqi cities on Friday, with some demonstrators calling for interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to step down.

In one of the biggest protests, enraged Iraqis in the southern town of Diwaniya swarmed over the local office of Allawis' political party, ripping down signs and throwing rocks.

Najaf officials quit in protest
August 13, 2004

BAGHDAD - (AFP) - Several Iraqi officials working within the interim government have resigned in protest of the US-led assault on Najaf and Kut.

Sixteen of Najaf's 30-member provincial council resigned in protest at the US-led assault on the Najaf as fighting between the al-Mahdi Army loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr and US occupation forces entered its eighth day.

"We have decided to resign due to what has befallen Najaf and all of Iraq from the hasty US invasion and bombardment of Najaf," the council said in a statement to the press.

The council's resignations came several hours after the deputy governor of Najaf resigned in protest against the US offensive on the city.

"I resign from my post denouncing all the US terrorist operations that they are doing against this holy city," Jawdat Kadam Najim al-Kuraishi, deputy governor of Najaf, said on Thursday morning.

On Thursday evening, the director of tribal affairs at the Iraqi Interior ministry announced his resignation through Aljazeera and said he could no longer work with the interim government in good faith given the "carnage and barbaric aggression of the US-led forces in Najaf".

"I am a part of this nation, I am a part of these people. My fellow tribesmen are now fighting in Najaf and Sadr city," said Major-General Marid Abd al-Hasan.

Basra threat

Meanwhile, Basra's deputy governor for administrative affairs, Hajj Salam Awdeh al-Maliky, warned that he may openly join al-Sadr's fight if his offer to send 1000 Iraqi police, special security and national guardsmen to Najaf is refused by the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Some national guardsmen in Basra had even said they would not hesitate to join al-Sadr's militia if al-Maliky's offer was rejected.

Al-Maliky had warned that Basra would turn into a battlefield if US occupation forces stormed the inner sanctum of Najaf.

"Basra will become another Najaf," he said.

Anti-U.S. Protests Erupt Across Iraq
August 12, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. marines backed by aircraft and tanks launched a major offensive to crush a Shi'ite militia rebellion in the holy Iraqi city of Najaf on Thursday, igniting mass street protests in at least two other cities.

As news of the offensive filtered in, thousands of Shi'ites took to the streets in Basra and a Baghdad district to protest.

"Long live Sadr, America and Allawi are infidels," thousands of protesters in Basra chanted.

A similar protest took place in Baghdad's Shi'ite neighborhood of Kadhimiyah.

"Allawi is the enemy of God," they chanted.

The demonstrations follow big protests in the streets of Nassiriya and several other cities on Wednesday.

PM admits graves claim 'untrue' --Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Blair that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered. The claims by Blair in November and December of last year, were given widespread credence, quoted by MPs and widely published, including in the introduction to a US government pamphlet on Iraq's mass graves.

US media kills story that Iraqi PM executed 6 prisoners
July 21, 2004

WASHINGTON: The US media has surprisingly failed to pick up the shocking disclosure by Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s leading newspaper, that the Irqai Prime Minister Iyad Allawi personally executed six suspected insurgents in a Baghdad police station.

The story by award-winning Australian journalist Paul McGeough said that the prisoners were handcuffed and blindfolded, lined up against a courtyard wall and shot by the Iraqi PM. Dr Allawi is alleged to have told those around him that he wanted to send a clear message to the police on how to deal with insurgents. Two people allege they witnessed the killings and there are also claims the Iraqi interior minister and four American men were present.

An Australian television channel interviewed the reporter who is in Iraq telling him that the Allawi family had denied the story. He replied, “Well it’s a very contentious issue. What you have is two very solid eyewitness accounts. Each witness is not aware that the other spoke.”

The Australian journalist said, “Well, I’ll take you through what the two witnesses said to give you the full chronology as I understand it. There was a surprise visit at about 10:30am to the police centre. The PM talked to policemen and then toured the complex. They came to a courtyard where six, sorry seven prisoners were lined up against a wall. They were blindfolded, they were described to me as an Iraqi colloquialism for the fundamentalist foreign fighters who came to Baghdad. They have that classic look that you see with many of the Osama Bin Laden associates of the scraggly beard and the very short hair and they were a sort of ... took place in front of them as they were up against this wall was an exchange between the interior minister and Dr Allawi, saying that he felt like killing them on the spot.

The interior minister expressed the wish that he would like to kill all these men on the spot. The PM is said to have responded that they deserved worse than death. At that point, he is said to have pulled a gun and proceeded to aim at and shoot all seven. Six of them died, the seventh, according to one witness, was wounded in the chest. On the incident date, the correspondent said, “It happened on or around the weekend of June 19/20 — three weeks after Dr Allawi was named PM and one week before the handover.”

Film Shows US Soldiers Raping Iraqi Boys
July 17, 2004

CHARLES ARTHUR, INDEPENDENT - Young male prisoners were filmed being sodomized by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to the journalist who first revealed the abuses there. Seymour Hersh, who reported on the torture of the prisoners in New Yorker magazine in May, told an audience in San Francisco that "it's worse." But he added that he would reveal the extent of the abuses: "I'm not done reporting on all this," he told a meeting of the American Civil Liberties Union.

He said: "The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war." He accused the US administration, and all but accused President George Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney of complicity in covering up what he called "war crimes". Entire article

Muslim cleric threatens holy war on US troops
July 16, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - A car bomb exploded near a US convoy in Baghdad wounding six people, including an American soldier, as a senior Sunni cleric threatened a holy war against US forces in Iraq unless they leave.

At Friday prayers in the western city of Ramadi, Sheikh Akram Ubayed Furaih, a senior Sunni cleric, called on worshippers to launch a holy war, saying: "I ask US President (George W.) Bush to withdraw from Iraq or else Ramadi will become a graveyard for US soldiers."

"I call upon my brothers the Shiites and on all other religious groups to embark on a Jihad (holy war) against the US military to force them out of Iraq," said the cleric, who spent three months in a prison after being arrested by the US military, and whose home was also raided last week.

Iraq Insurgency Larger Than Thought
July 9, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Contrary to U.S. government claims, the insurgency in Iraq is led by well-armed Sunnis angry about losing power, not foreign fighters, and is far larger than previously thought, American military officials say.

The officials told The Associated Press the guerrillas can call on loyalists to boost their forces to as high as 20,000 and have enough popular support among nationalist Iraqis angered by the presence of U.S. troops that they cannot be militarily defeated.

That number is far larger than the 5,000 guerrillas previously thought to be at the insurgency's core.

Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the figure of 5,000 insurgents "was never more than a wag and is now clearly ridiculous."

"Part-timers are difficult to count, but almost all insurgent movements depend on cadres that are part-time and that can blend back into the population," he said.

U.S. military analysts disagree over the size of the insurgency, with estimates running as high as 20,000 fighters when part-timers are added.

Ahmed Hashim, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, said the higher numbers squared with his findings in a study of the insurgency completed in Iraq.

Most of the insurgents are fighting for a bigger role in a secular society, not a Taliban-like Islamic state, the military official said. Almost all the guerrillas are Iraqis, even those launching some of the devastating car bombings normally blamed on foreigners — usually al-Zarqawi.

Many in the U.S. intelligence community have been making similar points, but have encountered political opposition from the Bush administration, a State Department official in Washington said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

Civilian analysts generally agreed, saying U.S. and Iraqi officials have long overemphasized the roles of foreign fighters and Muslim extremists.

Such positions support the Bush administration's view that the insurgency is linked to the war on terror. A closer examination paints most insurgents as secular Iraqis angry at the presence of U.S. and other foreign troops.

"Too much U.S. analysis is fixated on terms like 'jihadist,' just as it almost mindlessly tries to tie everything to (Osama) bin Laden," Cordesman said. "Every public opinion poll in Iraq ... supports the nationalist character of what is happening."

Many guerrillas are motivated by Islam in the same way religion motivates American soldiers, who also tend to pray more when they're at war, the U.S. military official said.

He said he met Tuesday with four tribal sheiks from Ramadi who "made very clear" that they had no desire for an Islamic state, even though mosques are used as insurgent sanctuaries and funding centers.

"'We're not a bunch of Talibans,'" he paraphrased the sheiks as saying.

UK Govt's WMD 45-Minute Claim 'Not Supported'- FT
July 8, 2004

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government's claim Saddam Hussein could unleash chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes was inadequately supported by intelligence, the Financial Times said on Thursday an inquiry will conclude.

Citing people familiar with Lord Butler's report into intelligence which Prime Minister Tony Blair cited to justify war against Iraq, the newspaper said the intelligence to substantiate the claim was of insufficient qualify and intelligence gathered on Iraq was inadequate.

The FT added that Butler's report, to be published on July 14, also criticizes the credibility of the source of the 45-minute claim and the way the information was assessed.

Blair took Britain to war last year -- against the majority of public opinion -- on the basis of a now notorious dossier, released in September 2002, claiming Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam could have some weapons ready for use in 45 minutes.

No such banned weapons have been found in Iraq and the 45-minute claim has been discredited.

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Al Alawi is the person through whom the controversial claim was channeled that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could be operational in 45 minutes

Why Iyad Al Alawi?
The New York Times, July 6, 2004

Why did the U.S. choose Iyad Al Alawi as the Prime minister of the Iraqi interim government? A question that is surely raised in everybody's mind.

Isn't it odd that a nation with the world's second-largest oil reserves like Iraq should also have mile-long queues at gas stations? Isn't it strange that the Americans, who made such a big deal of Saddam Hussein's treatment of prisoners, torture their own Iraqi captives in Abu Ghraib?

So, it was entirely appropriate that discussion over the appointment of Iraq's new interim government was laced with its own special irony: The two men at the top of the list announced, Iyad Al Alawi and Ghazi Al-Yawer, were just last month ranked bottom of a list of potential leaders — by their own countrymen.

A poll conducted in May by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS) asked Iraqis to rank 17 prominent religious and political leaders. Iyad Allawi, Prime Minister of the interim government that will take over administrative power from the Coalition Provisional Authority on June 30, finished in sixteenth place. Behind him, dead last, came Ghazi al-Yawer, who is named president of the interim government.

The most popular leader in Iraq, according to the ICRSS survey, was the country's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Also high up: Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a leader of the Shiite Da'wah party named as one of two vice-presidents in the new administration, and Adnan Pachachi, the Sunni elder statesman and preferred presidential candidate of the U.S. who was offered the post but turned it down in the face of objections from some the Iraqi Governing Council.

What's more, the results of the ICRSS May survey suggest that the new president and prime minister had both been slipping in Iraqis' estimation — in a similar poll conducted last September, Alawi had ranked Number 10 out of 25, and al-Yawer Number 18.

Iyad Alawi is the secretary general of the Iraqi National Accord, an exile group that has received funds from the Central Intelligence Agency. His ties with the CIA, and his relation with the U.S. could become an issue in a country where public opinion has grown almost universally hostile to the Americans.

Al Alawi, 59 years old, who was trained as a neurologist, is a Shia Muslim who was a member of Saddam Hussein's Baath party in Iraq and in Britain, where he was a student leader with links to Iraqi intelligence. Later on he moved into opposition to the Iraqi leader and reportedly established a connection with the British security services. His change of allegiance led to Al Alawi being targeted by Iraqi intelligence. In 1978 their agents armed with knives and axes wounded him when they attacked him as he lay asleep in bed in his house in Kingston-upon-Thames.

Al Alawi became a businessman with contacts in Saudi Arabia. He was charming, intelligent and talented in impressing Western intelligence agencies. After the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraq National Accord (INA) party, which he helped to establish, became one of the building blocks for the Iraqi opposition in exile. The organization attracted former Iraqi army officers and Baath party officials, particularly Sunni Arabs, fleeing Iraq.

In the mid-1990s the INA claimed to have extensive contacts in the Iraqi officer corps. Iyad Al Alawi started moving from the orbit of MI6 to the CIA. He persuaded his new masters that he was in a position to organize a military coup in Baghdad.

With American, British and Saudi support, Al Alawi succeeded in opening a headquarters and a radio station in Jordan in 1996, declaring it was "a historic moment for the Iraqi opposition". After a failed coup attempt that year there were mass arrests in Baghdad. Abdul-Karim al-Kabariti, the Jordanian prime minister of the day, said that INA's networks were "all penetrated by the Iraqi security services".

Al Alawi and the INA returned to Iraq after the fall of Saddam and set up offices in Baghdad and in old Baath party offices throughout Iraq.

There were few signs that they had any popular support. During an uprising in the town of Baiji, north of Baghdad, last year, crowds immediately set fire to the INA office.

The announcement of Iyad Al Alawi's selection came as a surprise to a lot of members of the United Nations.

"When we first heard the news, we thought that the Iraqi Governing Council had hijacked the process," said a senior United Nations official, referring to the American-picked body that voted to recommend Dr. Alawi.

The choice of Iyad Alawi, closely linked to the CIA and formerly to MI6, as the Prime Minister of Iraq from 30 June will make it difficult for the U.S. and Britain to persuade the rest of the world that he is capable of leading an independent government. He is the person through whom the controversial claim was channeled that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could be operational in 45 minutes.

Thus Iraqis have a poor opinion of Alawi. Sadoun al-Dulame, executive director of the ICRSS, pointed to one reason: "Every newspaper that has reported about his appointment has mentioned his CIA connection." Although Alawi has sniped at the U.S.-led occupation in recent months, it's his ties to Langley that seem to have registered with Iraqis. (His organization, the Iraqi National Accord, is funded by the CIA.) "He's a CIA man, like [Ahmed] Chalabi," said Raed Abu Hassan, a Baghdad University political science post-grad. "In this country, CIA connections are political poison." It doesn't help that the Shiite Alawi is also a former Baathist, and a returning exile.

"The selection of Alawi means that the very first step towards June 30 is a misstep," said Sheikh Mohammed Basher al-Faidi, spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, the most powerful grouping of Sunni clergy. "And when the first step is wrong, then the journey is bound to be a difficult one."

Tainted by his CIA association, Alawi may find it hard to reach out to groups such as al-Faidi's that have a substantial following among Iraqis. "We can offer him advice if he asks for it," says al-Faidi. "But we can't put our hands in his hands. Iraqi people would regard us as traitors if we did."

Like many Iraqis, al-Faidi blames the Americans — and especially CPA boss Paul Bremer — for Alawi's appointment. "After weeks and weeks of talking with all sorts of Iraqis, he goes and picks somebody from the GC?" he said. "What was the point of this long, complicated exercise, all those long consultations? Asked whether Alawi's CIA ties would make him an unpopular choice in Iraqi eyes, he said: "That's one of the things Brahimi has to answer for."

Linking all the above together, it seems that after turning to the United Nations to shore up its failing effort to fashion a new government in Baghdad, the U.S.'s final resort was to appoint Iyad Al Alawi as a prime minister, a man seen more as an American candidate than one of the United Nations or the Iraqis themselves.

Few Detainees in Iraq Are Foreign Fighters
July 7, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Only 90 of the more than 5,700 people in custody in Iraq as security risks are foreign fighters, defense officials said on Tuesday, a figure that suggests the Bush administration may have overstated the role of outside militants in the deadly insurgency.

The officials, who asked not to be identified, said the U.S. military command handling security detention facilities in Iraq confirmed a report in USA Today that fewer than 2 percent of those in custody were foreigners.

The small percentage indicates the war in Iraq may not have attracted very many Islamic militants from other countries.

Iraqi: U.S. Soldiers Laughed at Drowning
July 7, 2004

SAMARRA, Iraq (AP) - The 19-year-old Iraqi's swimming skills were no match for the Tigris. "Marwan, save me!" Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun screamed to his cousin, himself struggling to stay afloat. The teenager drowned; his cousin made it to shore. "I could hear them laughing," Marwan Fadel Hassoun said, recalling how U.S. soldiers pushed the young men into the river. "They were behaving like they were watching a comedy on stage."

The U.S. military said last week that three soldiers, now back in their base at Fort Carson, Colo., have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Jan. 3 drowning of an Iraqi detainee. A fourth soldier faces charges of pushing a second man, who survived, into the same river.

The military identified the victims only as Mr. Fadel and Mr. Fadhil. The four soldiers face between 5 1/2 years and 26 1/2 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

With every such death, Iraqis point to what they see as the heavy-handedness of the U.S. military. The resentment is deeper when the victims are relatives, friends or neighbors.

Zaidoun Hassoun was to have finished high school this year. Three weeks before his death, he got engaged to a cousin, and he hoped to start a family in Samarra, a trade and agriculture center whose name means "pleasant to those who see it."

For Marwan Hassoun, a bearded and burly 23-year-old who attends a teachers' college, the death robbed him of a companion and a childhood friend. Zaidoun's voice pleading for help still echoes in his ears.

"Every time I see an American soldier, a Humvee or a tank I become agitated. Many emotions rush into my mind: confusion, fear and rage. I am constantly thinking of how I could have helped Zaidoun. I feel so much guilt, but prayers and reading the Quran keep me going," he said.

Audience Gasps As Judge Likens Election of Bush to Rise of Mussolini 2nd Circuit's Calabresi Also Compares Bush's Rise to That of Hitler --A prominent federal judge has told a conference of liberal lawyers that Dictator Bush’s rise to power was similar to the accession of dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler. "In a way that occurred before but is rare in the United States… somebody came to power as a result of the illegitimate acts of a legitimate institution that had the right to put somebody in power. That is what the Supreme Court did in Bush versus Gore. It put somebody in power," said Guido Calabresi, a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits in Manhattan. "The reason I emphasize that is because that is exactly what happened when Mussolini was put in by the king of Italy," Judge Calabresi continued, as the allusion drew audible gasps from some in the luncheon crowd Saturday at the annual convention of the American Constitution Society. [a must read]

Nobel Winners Back Kerry, Say Bush Ignores Science
June 21, 2004

DENVER (Reuters) - Democrat John Kerry picked up the endorsement on Monday of 48 Nobel Prize-winning scientists who attacked President Bush for "compromising our future" by shortchanging scientific research.

"The Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare," the 48 scientists, who have won Nobels in chemistry, physics and medicine dating back to 1967, said in an open letter released by the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign.

The scientists, who included 2003 chemistry winners Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon, accused the Bush administration of undermining America's future by reducing funding for science and turning away scientific talent with restrictive immigration policies.

"John Kerry will change all this," they said. "John Kerry will restore science to its appropriate place in government."

"You can fool some of the people all of the time and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."
- President Bush at the Gridiron Dinner, Washington, DC March 31, 2001 - more Bushisms

Not all conservatives are stupid, but most stupid people are conservative.

Was Bush buddy José María Aznar aware or involved? Bomb squad link in Spanish blasts The man accused of supplying the dynamite used in the al-Qaeda train bombings in Madrid was in possession of the private telephone number of the head of Spain’s Civil Guard bomb squad, it emerged yesterday. Emilio Suárez Trashorras, who is alleged to have supplied 200kg of dynamite used in the bombs, had obtained the number of Juan Jesús Sánchez Manzano, the head of Tedax. The revelation has raised fresh concerns in Madrid about links between those held responsible for the March bombings, which killed 190 people, and Spain’s security services, and shortcomings in the police investigation. Señor Suárez Trashorras and two other men implicated in the bombings have already been identified as police informers.

New Abuse Charges Classified sections of the military's prisoner abuse report detail sexual assaults on women detainees --Unreleased, classified parts of the report on prison abuse from Major General Anthony Taguba, which were read to TIME, contain indications of mistreatment of female prisoners... A class action filed in California on behalf of former detainees raises the specter of brutal physical abuse. One plaintiff, identified only as Neisef, claims that after he was taken from his home on the outskirts of Baghdad last November and sent to Abu Ghraib, Americans made him disrobe and attached electrical wires to his genitals. He claims he was shocked three times. Although a vein in his penis ruptured and he had blood in his urine, he says, he was refused medical attention."

'US running secret prisons' The United States is holding suspects in the war on terrorism in more than two dozen detention centres around the world, at least half of which operate in total secrecy, a human rights group charged on Thursday.

Officer Disputes Iraq Airstrike Target
June 20, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP)- A senior officer of the U.S.-backed Fallujah Brigade on Sunday disputed U.S. claims that an American airstrike had hit a safehouse of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network.

The Health Ministry said at least 16 people were killed in the attack Saturday; witnesses put the number of dead at least 20, including women and children.

Col. Mohammed Awad said members of the Fallujah Brigade had investigated the site and "affirmed to us that the inhabitants of the houses were ordinary families including women, children and elders."

"There was no sign that foreigners have lived in the house," Awad said.

Iraqis Deny Zarqawi Men Used House Hit in U.S. Raid
June 20, 2004

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - An Islamist militant group targeted by a U.S. air strike that killed 22 people in Falluja does not operate in the rebellious Sunni Muslim town, Iraqi security officers said Sunday.

The U.S. military said Saturday's raid was aimed at a safe house used by militants led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian described by the Americans as al Qaeda's leader in Iraq.

The air strike, which flattened a house, shattered a lull in Falluja since last month's truce ended bloody battles between U.S. Marines and insurgents. It also fueled tensions ahead of the formal end of Iraq's U.S.-led occupation on June 30.

The U.S. military had allowed an Iraqi force, known as the Falluja Brigade, led by former Iraqi army officers, to take over security in town west of Baghdad.

Brigadier Nouri Aboud, a member of the Falluja Brigade, told Reuters there was no evidence the destroyed house had been used by anyone except the large Iraqi family that lived there.

"We inspected the damage, we looked through the bodies of the women and children and elderly. This was a family," he said.

"There is no sign of foreigners having lived in the house. Zarqawi and his men have no presence in Falluja."

Iraq War Eroded U.S. Security, Former Diplomats Say
June 16, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush led the United States into an ill-planned Iraq war that has weakened U.S. security, retired diplomats and military officers said on Wednesday in a direct challenge to one of Bush's main arguments for re-election.

"We all believe that current administration policies have failed in the primary responsibilities of preserving national security and providing world leadership," said a statement signed by the 27 retired officials. "We need a change."

The rare criticism by career officials came from a group that included members of both major political parties, a former CIA director, two former ambassadors to the Soviet Union and a retired chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In attacking Bush's national security record, they challenged a key Bush argument for his re-election against Democrat Sen. John Kerry, that the Iraq war has made America safer and that Bush is an effective wartime president.

"Our security has been weakened," the group said.

The former officials, some of whom said they had voted for Bush in 2000, said the Republican president manipulated intelligence on Iraq to lead the United States into an "ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain."

Bush has maintained an "overbearing" approach to foreign policy that relied excessively on military power, spurned the concerns of traditional U.S. allies and disdained the United Nations, the group said.

"It justified the invasion of Iraq by manipulation of uncertain intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, and by a cynical campaign to persuade the public that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda and the attacks of September 11," it said. "The evidence did not support this argument."

"Never in the two and a quarter centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated among the nations, so broadly feared and distrusted," it added.

The group, which included retired admiral Stansfield Turner who headed the Central Intelligence Agency under President Jimmy Carter, did not explicitly back Kerry in the Nov. 2 U.S. presidential election.

But several members made clear that they believed the Massachusetts Democrat would do a better job than the Republican incumbent.

Retired Gen. Tony McPeak, a former chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, said the Pentagon had only about half the troops in Iraq that were needed.

"Because of the Pollyannaish assumptions that were made by the administration in going in there that bouquets would be thrown at us and so forth, we were totally unprepared for the post-combat occupation," said McPeak, who said he supported Bush in 2000 but was now advising Kerry.

Members also condemned Bush's Middle East policies and said claims Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction -- which have not been found -- had eroded U.S. credibility.

Probe rules out Iraq-9/11 links
June 16, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Investigators have found no evidence Iraq aided al Qaeda attempts to strike the United States, a commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said on Wednesday in a report that undermines Bush administration arguments for war.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney this week reiterated pre-war arguments that an Iraqi connection to al Qaeda, which is blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks, represented an unacceptable threat.

However, the U.S. government-established commission said in a staff report, "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

"There is no convincing evidence that any government financially supported al Qaeda before 9/11 -- other than limited support provided by the Taliban after bin Laden first arrived in Afghanistan," it added.

Counterterrorism officials from the FBI and CIA testifying at Wednesday's hearing said they agreed with the staff report's conclusion.

"The administration misled America," Sen. John Kerry said. "I believe that the 9/11 report, the early evidence, is that ... we didn't have the types of terrorist links that this administration was asserting. I think that's a very, very serious finding."

The report stood in contrast to comments this week by Vice President Dick Cheney, who said that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam had "long-established ties" to al Qaeda.

PHOTO: An Iraqi boy holds a grenade launcher as he marches with a group of Shiite muslim supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr holding an anti-USA military demonstration in the Sadr City district of Baghdad, Tuesday June 15, 2004. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Poll of Iraqis Reveals Anger Toward U.S.
June 15, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) - A poll of Iraqis commissioned by the U.S.-governing authority has provided the Bush administration a stark picture of anti-American sentiment — more than half of Iraqis believe they would be safer if U.S. troops simply left.

The poll, commissioned by the Coalition Provisional Authority last month but not released to the American public, also found radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is surging in popularity, 92 percent of Iraqis consider the United States an occupying force and more than half believe all Americans behave like those portrayed in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse photos.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of a multimedia presentation about the poll that was shown to U.S. officials involved in developing Iraq policy. Several officials said in interviews the results reinforced feelings that the transfer of power and security responsibilities to the Iraqis can't come too soon.

"If you are sitting here as part of the coalition, it (the poll) is pretty grim," said Donald Hamilton, a career foreign service officer who is working for Ambassador Paul Bremer's interim government and helps oversee the CPA's polling of Iraqis.

The poll, conducted by Iraqis in face-to-face interviews in six cities with people representative of the country's various factions, conflict with the generally upbeat assessments the administration continues to give Americans. Just last week, President Bush predicted future generations of Iraqis "will come to America and say, thank goodness America stood the line and was strong and did not falter in the face of the violence of a few."

The current generation seems eager for Americans to leave, the poll found.

The coalition's confidence rating in May stood at 11 percent, down from 47 percent in November, while coalition forces had just 10 percent support. Nearly half of Iraqis said they felt unsafe in their neighborhoods.

And 55 percent of Iraqis reported to the pollsters they would feel safer if U.S. troops immediately left, nearly double the 28 percent who felt that way in January. Forty-one percent said Americans should leave immediately, and 45 percent said they preferred for U.S. forces to leave as soon as a permanent Iraqi govermnment is installed.

Frustration over security was made worse this spring by revelations of sexual and physical abuse of Iraqis by U.S. guards at the Abu Ghraib prison.

The poll, taken in mid-May shortly after the controversy began, found 71 percent of Iraqis said they were surprised by the humiliating photos and tales of abuse at the hands of Americans, but 54 percent said they believed all Americans behave like the guards.

Anger at Americans was evident in other aspects of the poll, including a rapid rise in popularity for al-Sadr, the Muslim cleric who has been leading insurgents fighting U.S.-led coalition forces.

The poll reported that 81 percent of Iraqis said they had an improved opinion of al-Sadr in May from three months earlier, and 64 percent said the acts of his insurgents had made Iraq more unified.

The most recent independent polling by Gallup found more than half of Iraqis want U.S. and British troops to leave the country within the next few months.

An Oxford International poll taken in February for ABC News and several networks from other countries found a higher level of optimism than more recent polling taken after months of bombings and other violence. Still, only a quarter of those polled by Oxford said they had confidence in coalition forces to meet their needs, far behind Iraqi religious leaders, police, and soldiers.

911 visibility project

As the so-called 9/11 Commission continues its investigation of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the U.S., a new book bringing together many of the previously published alternative theories (some of which we've linked to at Indymedia) and unanswered questions on 9/11 is stirring up controversy. "The New Pearl Harbor : Disturbing questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11" by David Griffin, a reputable scholar, lays out some striking and credible information indicating U.S. government complicity in the attacks.

From a skeptical vantage-point, but also taking to heart the classic idea that those who benefit from a crime ought to at least be investigated, Griffin, an eminent philosopher and theologian, brings together an account of the national tragedy that is far more logical than the one we've been asked to believe. Gathering stories from the mainstream press, reports from other countries, the work of other researchers, and the contradictory words of members of the Bush administration themselves, Griffin presents a case that leaves very little doubt that the attacks of 9/11 need to be further investigated.

Sadly, ever since the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 many progressives and progressive media outlets in the U.S. have bought into the fear of being labeled crazy "conspiracy theorists" and have either avoided the issue of a potential government conspiracy or worse, condemned those who have dared to raise the issue. Such fears are, of course, prayed on by rightwing operatives in the media and elsewhere seeking to bolster the faltering Bush regime, its disastrous occupation of Iraq, and its quest for empire.

December 13, 2001: The Bush Administration released a so-called "authentic" videotape of Osama bin Laden confessing to being responsible for the 911 attacks. The video, which was supposedly shot on November 9, 2001, had one minor flaw: THEY USED THE FAKE OSAMA!

The video of "Osama" taking credit for 9/11 is a fake! The real Osama is on the right.

Osama's face is wider at the eye level.
Osama has a much taller and narrower nose.
Osama is less "well-nourished." - Fake Osama video
--"' The tape's release is central to informing people in the outside world who don't believe bin Laden was involved in the September 11 attacks,' said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. 'I don't know how they can be in denial after they see this tape.'"

--" The Bush administration hopes the tape will convince skeptics, particularly in the Muslim and Arab worlds, of bin Laden's complicity in the attacks."

Pope John Paul II Said to be Concerned Bush is the Anti-Christ: Journalists Close to the Vatican

Wayne Madsen writes, "Bush's blood lust, his repeated commitment to Christian beliefs, and his constant references to 'evil doers,' in the eyes of many devout Catholic leaders, bear all the hallmarks of the one warned about in the Book of Revelations - the anti-Christ. People close to the Pope claim that amid these concerns, the Pontiff wishes he was younger and in better health to confront the possibility that Bush may represent the person prophesized in Revelations... According to journalists close to the Vatican, the Pope and his closest advisers are also concerned that the ultimate acts of evil - the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon - were known in advance by senior Bush administration officials. By permitting the attacks to take their course, there is a perception within the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy that a coup d'etat was implemented, one that gave Bush and his leadership near-dictatorial powers to carry out their agenda......Whether Bush represents a dangerous right-wing ideologue who couples his political fanaticism with a neo-Christian blood cult (as I believe) or he is either the anti-Christ or heralds one, the Pope should know he has fought the good battle and has gained the respect and admiration of many non-Catholics around the world." - Entire article

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth.

The Vatican visited this page after I posted the article above, I took this screenshot:

Handsome devils, aren't they?
Unholy Alliance
The Unholy Alliance - Christian Zionists are Hellbent for Armageddon

Iraq War Was about Israel - Bush Insider

Torture and massacres by the U.S. are nothing new. It has been going on ever since 1637, when the Puritans massacred a Pequot Indian village. Genocide against the American Indians continued until there was no more desirable land left to steal from them. American soldiers tortured, raped, murdered and mutilated countless Vietnamese villagers. Read it and weep.

Army Probing Assaults, Thefts by U.S. Troops in Iraq
May 31, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Army is investigating reports of assaults against Iraqi civilians and thefts of their money and jewelry by U.S. troops during patrols, raids and house searches, defense officials said on Monday.

The probe by the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, suggests that a major scandal over abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans goes beyond detention centers into the homes and streets of the troubled country.

"There are a number of criminal investigations by the Army into allegations of assault, theft and other issues that extend beyond the investigations into activities at detention facilities," Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Whitman and other defense officials, who asked not to be identified, confirmed a report in The New York Times on Monday that the investigations of misconduct by troops had spread beyond detention centers such as the infamous Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Some U.S. soldiers have been charged with physically and sexually abusing prisoners at the prison and investigators are also looking at other centers in Iraq and Afghanistan in a scandal that has inflamed the Arab world and undermined U.S. efforts in Iraq ahead of the June 30 handover to an interim Iraqi government.

Iraqis have accused U.S. troops of stealing money and other property during what they said were aggressive and even destructive American raids on homes.

"It's a huge problem. Almost everyone has something to say about gold, money and other valuables going missing and they don't believe they'll ever get them back," Adel Alami, a lawyer with Iraq's Human Rights Organization told Reuters recently in Baghdad.

Iraqis Distrust New Leaders, analysts say
May 31, 2004

Many believe U.S. will be too powerful in the post-handover government

BAGHDAD -- When Iraq is given its long-awaited sovereignty on June 30, it is increasingly clear that very little will change on the ground.

The U.S.-led military coalition will remain in effective control of the country. Its troop strength will remain the same. And now it appears that Iraq's new government will be just a slightly reshuffled version of the unpopular U.S.-appointed council that currently heads the government.

Analysts say the post-handover government will be as unknown and unpopular as the current Governing Council, which is widely seen as a U.S. puppet.

"The Iraqi people want to see new faces," said Sadoun al-Dulame, head of the Iraqi Centre for Research and Strategic Studies. "They thought the new government would be different. But instead the new government is being nominated by the Governing Council. What about the United Nations? This is what Iraqis are asking." -Entire Globe and Mail article

Lori Haigh, a North Beach district gallery owner, bears a painful reminder of the nation's unresolved anguish over the incidents at Abu Ghraib - a black eye delivered by an unknown assailant who apparently objected to the painting that depicts US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners, San Francisco, Calif., May 29, 2004. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Gallery Owner Attacked for Iraq Abuse Art
Artists Beware in Bush's America!

May 29, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A San Francisco gallery owner bears a painful reminder of the nation's unresolved anguish over the incidents at the Abu Ghraib prison — a black eye delivered by an unknown assailant who apparently objected to a painting that depicts U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners.

The assault outside the Capobianco gallery in the city's North Beach district Thursday night was the worst in a string of verbal and physical attacks directed at Lori Haigh since the artwork was installed at her gallery on May 16.

San Francisco police are investigating and have stepped up patrols around the gallery. But Haigh decided to close the gallery indefinitely, citing concern for the safety of her two children, ages 14 and 4, who often accompanied her to work.

Guy Colwell's painting, titled "Abuse," depicts three U.S. soldiers leering at a group of naked men in hoods with wires connected to their bodies. The one in the foreground has a blood-spattered American flag patch on his uniform. In the background, a soldier in sunglasses guards a blindfolded woman.

Two days after the painting went up in a front window, someone threw eggs and dumped trash on the doorstep. Haigh said she did not think to connect it to the events at Baghdad's notorious prison until people started leaving nasty messages and threats on her business answering machine.

"I think you need to get your gallery out of this neighborhood before you get hurt," one caller said.

She removed the painting from the window, but the gallery's troubles received news coverage and the criticism continued. The answering machine recorded new calls from people accusing her of being a coward for moving the artwork.

Last weekend, Haigh said a man walked into the gallery, pretended to scrutinize the painting for a moment, then marched up to her desk and spat in her face.

On Thursday, someone knocked on the door of the gallery, then punched Haigh in the face when she stepped outside.

"This isn't art-politics central here at all," Haigh said. "I'm not here to make a stand. I never set out to be a crusader or a political activist."

Haigh has received some expressions of support since closing the gallery. Her favorite: an e-mail whose writer said, "I'm sure that a few and dangerous minds don't understand that they have only mimicked the same perversity this painting had expressed."

Ex-US Football Star 'Friendly Fire' Victim
May 29, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cpl. Patrick Tillman, killed in Afghanistan last month after spurning a $3.6 million football contract to join the special forces, was probably shot by his own comrades in the confusion of battle, the military said on Saturday.

Previous military statements had suggested Tillman, perhaps the best-known U.S. casualty of the Iraq and Afghan campaigns, had been killed by enemy fire.

China Expands Military Buildup - Pentagon
May 28, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China expanded its aggressive military buildup last year with more sophisticated missiles, satellite-disrupting lasers and underground facilities, all aimed at winning a possible conflict with Taiwan and exerting power, according to a Pentagon report.

The report, an annual assessment of China's capabilities submitted to the U.S. Congress, reflects the Pentagon's profound concern over Beijing's far-reaching military transformation and the possibility China may one day become America's main adversary.'s a CNN article from last year:

China readies for future U.S. fight

By CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam
Tuesday, March 25, 2003

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- The Iraqi war has convinced the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership that some form of confrontation with the U.S. could come earlier than expected. - CNN article

An Iraqi man sits against a mural based on the scandal of prisoners abuse in the prison of Abu Ghraib in a Shi'ite suburb of Baghdad, May 27, 2004. U.S. Soldiers are to clean up graffiti and paint over anti-Coalition messages. Photo by Ali Jasim/Reuters

Iraqi Shi'ites Bitter at Sistani's Silence
May 27, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - Sahel Nasseri weeps next to masonry smashed by a mortar blast at a gateway to the Imam Ali shrine, Iraq's holy of holies for Shi'ite Muslims.

But his wrath is not directed at the United States, who many radical Shi'ites say is waging a crusade against their faith, but toward the top Iraqi cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

"This tears me apart as every Shi'ite should rise up. Where is our Marjayeh?" said the 34-year-old seminarian, using the name to describe Sistani's supreme religious authority. "Why is it silent? Is this not their religion and Imam Ali's tomb?"

"Resistance, resistance. The people of Najaf are with you. Moqtada all the people are with you. You are our only leader," supporters of al Sadr chant.

As coffins of Shi'ites killed fighting the Americans are carried around the shrine before burial, angry men ask what has prevented Sistani from calling for holy war against U.S. forces.

"What is making Sistani wait before giving us a fatwa on Jihad?" asked Haider Zubaidi, 26, a Sistani follower.

"Our hopes were on Sistani but he has not done anything. I am afraid he may not have the qualifications to lead Iraq at this stage," said Hassan Sharmani, 39, a policeman.

Sadr supporters say Sistani's reluctance to back him has split Shi'ites and encouraged U.S. soldiers to mount attacks close to shrines.

"If he had given us the orders to fight the Americans, and the clerics had united, the Americans would not have dared violate our holy sanctuaries," Sharmani said.

Unlike Sadr, who comes from a respected Arab clerical dynasty, Iranian-born Sistani could never support the national aspirations of Iraqis, his critics say.

"If Iraq burns they don't care," said Sadeq Fatalawi, 26. "The Pope was outraged by the Abu Ghraib prison scandal but our Marjayeh did not issue one statement, not even a symbolic one."

A U.S. Army synopsis of deaths and mistreatment involving prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan shows a pattern of abuse involving more military units than previously known, The New York Times reported on May 26, 2004. The summary, dated May 5, was prepared by the Criminal Investigation Command at the request of Army officials, according to the newspaper. A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib prison is pictured this undated photo. Photo by The New Yorker/Reuters

Amnesty International slams 'bankrupt' vision of US
May 26, 2004

LONDON (AFP) - The United States has proved "bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle" in its fight against terrorism and invasion of Iraq, Amnesty International charged.

In its 2004 report on the state of human rights around the globe, the London-based group cited grave violations in dozens of other nations.

But it targeted in particular the "war on terror" initiated by US President George W. Bush in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001 for sanctioning human rights abuses in the name of freedom.

The unilateral nature of the conflict to unseat Saddam Hussein in Iraq had additionally "virtually paralyzed" the United Nations' role in guaranteeing human rights on a global level, the Amnesty report said.

The 339-page document, detailing the human rights situation in 157 nations and territories, reserved the most column inches for the United States, with almost as many critical words also meted out to Russia and China.

Other perennial violators were also highlighted such as North Korea, Cuba, and the central Asian state of Turkmenistan where Amnesty summarized the situation simply as "appalling".

"The global security agenda promulgated by the US administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle," wrote Amnesty's secretary general Irene Khan in the report's introduction.

"Sacrificing human rights in the name of security at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses have neither increased security nor ensured liberty."

The notion of fighting a campaign against terrorism so as to support human rights, while simultaneously trampling on them to achieve this, was no more than "double speak", she said.

"The United States has lost its moral high ground and its ability to lead on peace and human rights elsewhere," Khan added at a press conference in London to launch the annual report.

Iraqis Find No Comfort in Bush Speech
May 25, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - President Bush's speech outlining his plan to hand over power to Iraqis and ease their troubles won few people over in Baghdad, where weary residents are bitter after more than a year of chaos.

Iraqis expressed little faith in American promises after months of occupation which many said had delivered only violence, a lack of basic services and a scandal over the inhumane treatment of prisoners by the U.S. military.

"He lies. We don't believe anything Bush says. The Americans have not done a thing for Iraqis. And now he promises to hand over power to Iraqis in a democracy after handpicking the people in the Governing Council," Haidar Majeed, a trader, said on Tuesday.

Bush delivered a televised speech Monday outlining plans for the transfer of power to a caretaker Iraqi government in just five weeks, on June 30.

He sought to persuade both Americans and Iraqis he had a workable strategy for improving tough conditions in the country, but many Iraqis didn't bother tuning in.

"I wasn't interested in Bush's speech. America has been all talk and no action. I will regain an interest in politics when I see developments on the ground taking place," said Jabbar Luay, 25, a former soldier eating pistachios in the blistering heat.

Iraqis at a typical coffee shop were concerned with more practical problems they also blame on the Americans as Baghdad enters another scorching summer under U.S.-led occupation.


"The Americans can move a tank to Iraq in two days yet they can't even give us more than two hours of electricity a day for the air conditioning," said Fallah Hassan, sipping bitter Arabic coffee with fellow unemployed Iraqis.

Bush said he had high hopes for "the rise of a free and self-governing Iraq" to give Iraqis a sense of hope, tackle terrorism and give momentum to reformers across the region.

But Iraqis complain they have not tasted any democracy more than a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"We have never seen a member of the Governing Council in the streets talking to the Iraqi people, or checking on the unemployed and other problems," said Hamid Hassan, a plumber.

Iraqi policemen and security forces, who have lost hundreds of comrades to bombings by insurgents, are skeptical that American troops will leave security in their hands.

"Bush is a scorpion. He is a liar. He is sneaky, making all kinds of promises when he just wants to control Iraq," said policeman Ayman Haidar.

"I was tortured and they dislocated my shoulder under Saddam. Now the Americans say they want to help the police take over security. I don't believe them. They will never leave."

U.S. Soldiers Steal During House Raids
May 25, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Besides the prisoner-abuse scandal, there is another, more pervasive problem Iraqis say they suffer daily at the hands of U.S. troops -- theft of money and other property during aggressive American raids.

Over the past 14 months of occupation, U.S. forces have carried out literally thousands of raids on homes across the country, routinely seizing money, jewelry and other property from Iraqis suspected of "anti-coalition activities."

Items are generally confiscated on suspicion they could be used to finance attacks against U.S.-led forces, and the U.S. military says it has had some success in cutting off funding for insurgents via the policy.

But Iraqis say the raids often target the wrong people, are carried out in an aggressive, even destructive manner and complain that lifetime savings, precious jewelry and family heirlooms are regularly stolen in the process.

Adel Alami, a lawyer with Iraq's Human Rights Organization, says the majority of the cases his group deals with involve Iraqis seeking compensation for lost property and cash.

"It's a huge problem, almost everyone has something to say about gold, money and other valuables going missing and they don't believe they'll ever get them back," he told Reuters.

Last year, Wajiha Daoud, an 80-year-old widow, had her house in a middle-class neighborhood of old Baghdad raided by U.S. troops who said they had "high-level intelligence" that the home was a safe house for Saddam Hussein loyalists.

During the raid, which lasted around 30 minutes, the woman and her family, who live across the street, were kept outside.

"When we went back in, the house was half-destroyed," said her son Musadaq Younis, an English-speaking computer technician.

"All the furniture was slashed with knives, tables and chairs were broken and the windows smashed. They didn't need to break down the front door -- I told them I had the key."


But that was not the worst. When Younis' sister arrived she immediately rushed upstairs to a small cabinet and found it empty -- $5,000 in cash, gold and other jewelry, including her wedding ring, were missing. "She went white," said Younis.

Being comfortably well-off and employed, the impact of the loss on the family was not too great, but for hundreds, if not thousands of other Iraqi families, raids on their homes can prove devastating, socially and financially.

"Confiscation and theft during raids is rampant," said Stewart Vriesinga, a coordinator for Christian Peacemaker Teams, a non-profit group that documents abuses in Iraq.

"We sure don't know how much money has been taken from (Iraqis)...but it's enough to have serious socio-economic consequences," he told Reuters.

'I will always hate you people'
May 24, 2004

Baghdad Family's fury at mystery death

The Guardian The first Mohammed Munim al-Izmerly's family knew of his death was when his battered corpse turned up at Baghdad's morgue. Attached to the zipped-up black US body bag was a laconic note.

The US military claimed in the note that Dr Izmerly, a distinguished chemistry professor arrested after US tanks encircled his villa, had died of "brainstem compression".

Dr Izmerly's sudden death after 10 months in American custody left his family stunned, not least because three weeks earlier they had visited him in the US prison at Baghdad airport. His 23-year-old daughter, Rana, recalled that he had seemed in "good health".

The family commissioned an independent Iraqi autopsy. Its conclusion was unambiguous: Dr Izmerly had died because of a "sudden hit to the back of his head", Faik Amin Baker, the director of Baghdad hospital's forensic department, certified.

The cause of death was blunt trauma. It was uncertain exactly how he died, but someone had hit him from behind, possibly with a bar or a pistol, Dr Baker confirmed yesterday.

"He died from a massive blow to the head. We don't disagree with the coalition's report, but it doesn't explain how he got his injuries in the first place," he told the Guardian.

The apparent murder of a "high-value" detainee, held as part of the search for weapons of mass destruction, is another blow for the Bush administration, still reeling from the Abu Ghraib jail abuse scandal.

Dr Izmerly was on the coalition's original "200 list" of suspects from Saddam Hussein's regime, and his death happened just two weeks after the US military began its own secret inquiry into the prison west of Baghdad. Last Friday the Pentagon admitted it was now investigating eight more suspected murders.

Several prisoners have been found to have died before or during interrogation. They include Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a former commander of Iraq's air defences, who died last November during interrogation at Qaim.

The original US autopsy said he had died of a heart attack. It now appears he was suffocated during interrogation when a CIA officer put him in a sleeping bag and sat on him.

Last night the family of Dr Izmerly were in little doubt he had been murdered in US custody. The reasons for his death were covered up, they believe.

"This was not natural," Rana told the Guardian yesterday, in the first interview given by the family since his death. "The evidence is clear. It suggests the Americans killed him and then tried to hide what they had done. I will hate Americans and British people for the rest of my life. You are democrats. You said you were coming to bring democracy, and yet you kill my father. By accepting your governments, you accept what they do here in Iraq.

"You offer no proof that he did something wrong, you refuse him a lawyer and then you kill him. Why?"

© Steve Bell 2004

Iraqi woman Haleema Shihab, 32, lies with a fractured leg and arm in the hospital in Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday May 23, 2004. Haleema was asleep with her husband and children Wednesday May 19, in a house after a wedding party, when U.S. helicopters fired on the party in the remote desert near the border with Syria, killing more than 40 people. Haleema ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two other boys close behind, when a shell exploded next to her, killing her two sons. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

AP: Video Shows Iraq Wedding Celebration;
U.S. Says : "There was no evidence of a wedding..."

May 23, 2004

RAMADI, Iraq (AP) - The bride arrives in a white pickup truck and is quickly ushered into a house by a group of women. Outside, men recline on brightly colored silk pillows, relaxing on the carpeted floor of a large goat-hair tent as boys dance to tribal songs.

The videotape obtained Sunday by Associated Press Television News captures a wedding party that survivors say was later attacked by U.S. planes early Wednesday, killing up to 45 people. The dead included the cameraman, Yasser Shawkat Abdullah, hired to record the festivities, which ended Tuesday night before the planes struck.

The U.S. military says it is investigating the attack, which took place in the village of Mogr el-Deeb about five miles from the Syrian border, but that all evidence so far indicates the target was a safehouse for foreign fighters.

"There was no evidence of a wedding: no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Saturday. "There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too."

But video that APTN shot a day after the attack shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans and brightly colored beddings used for celebrations, scattered around the bombed out tent.

The wedding videotape shows a dozen white pickup trucks speeding through the desert escorting the bridal car - decorated with colorful ribbons. The bride wears a Western-style white bridal dress and veil. The camera captures her stepping out of the car but does not show a close-up.

An AP reporter and photographer, who interviewed more than a dozen survivors a day after the bombing, were able to identify many of them on the wedding party video - which runs for several hours.

APTN also traveled to Mogr el-Deeb, 250 miles west of Ramadi, the day after the attack to film what the survivors said was the wedding site. A devastated building and remnants of the tent, pots and pans could be seen, along with bits of what appeared to be the remnants of ordnance, one of which bore the marking "ATU-35," similar to those on U.S. bombs.

A water tanker truck can be seen in both the video shot by APTN and the wedding tape obtained from a cousin of the groom.

The singing and dancing seems to go on forever at the all-male tent set up in the garden of the host, Rikad Nayef, for the wedding of his son, Azhad, and the bride Rutbah Sabah. The men later move to the porch when darkness falls, apparently taking advantage of the cool night weather. Children, mainly boys, sit on their fathers' laps; men smoke an Arab water pipe, finger worry beads and chat with one another. It looks like a typical, gender-segregated tribal desert wedding.

As expected, women are out of sight - but according to survivors, they danced to the music of Hussein al-Ali, a popular Baghdad wedding singer hired for the festivities. Al-Ali was buried in Baghdad on Thursday.

Prominently displayed on the videotape was a stocky man with close-cropped hair playing an electric organ. Another tape, filmed a day later in Ramadi and obtained by APTN, showed the musician lying dead in a burial shroud - his face clearly visible and wearing the same tan shirt as he wore when he performed.

As the musicians played, young men milled about, most dressed in traditional white robes. Young men swayed in tribal dances to the monotonous tones of traditional Arabic music. Two children - a boy and a girl - held hands, dancing and smiling. Women are rarely filmed at such occasions, and they appear only in distant glimpses.

An AP reporter obtained names of at least 10 children who relatives said had died. Bodies of five of them were filmed by APTN when the survivors took them to Ramadi for burial Wednesday. Iraqi officials said at least 13 children were killed.

General Zinni on Iraq: 'Stay the course? The course is headed over Niagara Falls' Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, former chief of U.S. Central Command, accused senior Pentagon officials of failure in executing the Iraq war and told CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday they should resign. General Zinni is one of the most respected and outspoken military leaders of the past two decades... But Zinni broke ranks with the Bush regime over the war in Iraq, and now, in his harshest criticism yet, he says senior officials at the Pentagon are guilty of dereliction of duty -- and that the time has come for heads to roll. "There has been poor strategic thinking in this," says Zinni. "There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground. And to think that we are going to 'stay the course,' the course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it's been a failure... Regardless of whose responsibility [it is] should be evident to everybody that they've screwed up, and whose heads are rolling on this?" - From Citizens for Legitimate Government

Israeli Cabinet Minister Compares Israeli Action to Nazis'
May 23, 2004

JERUSALEM (AP) - An Israeli Cabinet minister on Sunday said the army's demolition of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip reminded him of actions the Nazis took against his family during World War II and called for a halt to the policy of destroying homes.

The remarks by Justice Minister Yosef Lapid, a Holocaust survivor, sparked an uproar at the weekly Cabinet meeting, officials at the meeting said.

The ministers were discussing Israel's demolition of homes in the Rafah refugee camp. Dozens of homes have been destroyed or damaged during an ongoing offensive along the Gaza-Egypt border.

Lapid was quoted by officials at the meeting as saying a picture of an old Palestinian woman on the rubble of her home reminded him "of my grandmother in the Holocaust."

The Marine's tale: 'We killed 30 civilians in six weeks. I felt we were committing genocide'
May 23, 2004

The Indepdenent, UK During 12 years in the US Marines, including three years putting new recruits through boot camp, Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey hardly questioned his role. But what he saw in Iraq changed that.

"In a month and a half my platoon and I killed more than 30 civilians," Mr Massey said. He saw bodies being desecrated and robbed, and wounded civilians being dumped by the roadside without medical treatment. After he told his commanding officer that he felt "we were committing genocide", he was called a "wimp".

Mr Massey, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and depression, left the Marines in November. Back home in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, he says the cause of the uprising in Iraq is that "we killed a lot of innocent people". - MORE

'Spray and slay': are American troops out of control in Iraq?

Fresh allegations of American abuse of prisoners continue to appal the world. But now 'The Independent on Sunday' has uncovered proof of US troops deliberately and indiscriminately shooting civilians. Here we examine new evidence that suggests the lawlessness in the American military was never confined to the prison camps and torture rooms but extended to the streets and homes of Iraq

By Raymond Whitaker in London and Justin Huggler in Baghdad

23 May 2004

Amid the welter of ugly pictures from Iraq last week were images worse than those of the humiliation and torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison. These show chunks of flesh and hanks of women's hair scattered across a scene of devastation. Among the few recognisable objects are musical instruments.

This is the scene of an incident that has divided Iraqis from their occupiers like few others. It has highlighted an issue more significant, yet far less discussed, than mistreatment in prisons: the degree to which indiscriminate use of American firepower has made enemies of the Iraqi population. According to independent estimates - none are available from the coalition - about 11,500 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the start of the war in March last year.

The footage of flesh, hair and musical instruments was filmed by a video crew that reached the location of what local people say was a wedding party attacked without warning by the Americans, killing women and children. The instruments belonged to the band of Hussein Ali, one of Iraq's most famous wedding singers, whose relatives buried him in Baghdad last week.

Despite this evidence - and earlier pictures filmed by al-Arabiya television, showing two dead babies wrapped side by side in a blanket, and a headless child lying next to the body of his or her mother - American commanders continue to insist that their strike, on a remote village in the desert close to the Syrian border, was against foreign fighters crossing into Iraq.

"These were more than two dozen military-age males," scoffed Maj-Gen James Mattis, commander of the US 1st Marine Division. "Let's not be naive." What about the video footage? Maj-Gen Mattis said he had not seen it, but added: "Bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologise for the conduct of my men." Although an investigation has been promised, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, said in Washington: "We feel at this point very confident that this was a legitimate target, probably foreign fighters."

Not only that: the Americans are now also dropping hints that the "foreign fighters" could be linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an Islamist militant leader and ally of Osama bin Laden who is in Iraq, and who is accused of personally beheading the American hostage Nick Berg. Although such a connection was "still to be determined", said General Myers, it was "not out of the question".

More telling, however, was the reaction of the occupation authorities to the damaging video footage. US officials demanded al-Arabiya give them the name of the cameraman who shot the pictures. Al-Arabiya refused.

As the Abu Ghraib scandal has proved, shocking images can lead to investigations not only in Iraq but in Afghan-istan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, and cause trouble not only for the military but for the CIA and the White House as well. Until they saw the pictures, Americans were unaware of what was happening to Iraqis in custody; they remain ignorant of the reasons for the mounting toll of civilian deaths, both during and since the invasion last year, despite the evidence of those few Americans who have witnessed them, such as Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, reported opposite.

Ever since the occupation began, there have been regular stories of American soldiers who were attacked by insurgents on the streets of Iraqi cities and reacted by spraying the entire area with wild, indiscriminate gunfire, killing and maiming innocent Iraqi bystanders. Other accounts, however, are even more sinister.

Before he was jailed for a year last week for failing to return from leave, another soldier who served in Iraq, Sergeant Camilo Mejia, said a friend of his, a sniper, had shot a child about 10 years old who was carrying an automatic weapon. "He realised it was a kid," said Sergeant Mejia. "The kid tried to get up. He shot him again." The child died.

Few images exist of such incidents, not least because journalists seeking to record them have ended up dead themselves. Thanks to the persistence of one or two news organisations that have lost employees in Iraq, these deaths are among the few to have been independently investigated. After an award-winning cameraman, Mazen Dana, became the second Reuters employee to be killed, the agency hired a security company and carried out an exhaustive inquiry which found few differences of fact with the military investigation, but which differed radically on the conclusions.

The soldier who shot Mr Dana claimed he had made "sudden movements" which made him think the cameraman was about to fire a rocket-propelled grenade, that he was blinded by the sun at the time, and that he could not distinguish at a distance of 75 metres between an RPG and a television camera.

Despite pages of evidence proving the sun was not in the position claimed, and photographs demonstrating the visible difference at 75 metres between a camera and a large weapon, the US military is sticking to its finding that the journalist's death was "justified based on the information available ... at the time".

If an organisation with the international clout of Reuters cannot get the Pentagon to admit an error might have been made, the survivors of last week's slaughtered wedding party have even less chance that their version of events will prevail. But the incident illustrates several of the concerns expressed about the operations undertaken by US forces in Iraq, including their ignorance of Iraqi culture, their isolation from local people and their over-dependence on firepower.

"How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border to hold a wedding?" demanded Maj-Gen Mattis.

The answer is plenty, if you come from a clan of livestock herders and that is where you have lived all your life. The clan straddles the Syrian border; even distant relatives would be expected to turn up from there, as well as the far corners of Iraq.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the US military spokesman in Iraq, said US forces found guns, Syrian passports and a satellite phone at the scene of the fighting. None of that was surprising, either: even in the cities, every house has a weapon. In a village 75 miles from the nearest town they are even more necessary, both to protect against bandits and to shield flocks from wild animals. With no telephone lines and no mobile coverage, it is not unusual for such places to have a satellite phone as well.

Anti-Bush Film Wins Top Award Award at Cannes
May 22, 2004

CANNES, France (Reuters) - U.S. director Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," a savage indictment of President Bush's handling of Iraq and the war on terror, won the top award at the Cannes film festival Saturday.

"I have this great hope that things are going to change," said Moore after tearing into Bush with his emotion-charged documentary in the run-up to November's presidential election.

The Oscar-winning director, overwhelmed by the standing ovation given to his Palme d'Or best film award, said: "I want to make sure if I do nothing else for this year that those who have died in Iraq have not died in vain."

Military Lawyer Asserts: Top U.S. Officer Knew of Prison Abuse A military lawyer for a soldier charged in the Abu Ghraib abuse case testified that a captain at the Baghdad prison said the highest-ranking U.S. military officer in Iraq was present during some "interrogations and/or allegations of the prisoner abuse," according to a recording of a military hearing obtained by The Washington Post. The lawyer said he was told that Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and other senior military officers were aware of what was taking place on Tier 1A of Abu Ghraib. The lawyer, Capt. Robert Shuck, also said a sergeant at the prison was prepared to testify that intelligence officers told him the abuse of detainees on the cellblock was "the right thing to do"... "Are you saying that Captain Reese is going to testify that General Sanchez was there and saw this going on?" asked Capt. John McCabe, the military prosecutor. "That's what he told me," Shuck said. "I am an officer of the court, sir, and I would not lie. I have got two children at home. I'm not going to risk my career - From Citizens For Legitimate Government."

US general linked to Abu Ghraib abuse
May 22, 2004

Leaked memo reveals control of prison passed to military intelligence to 'manipulate detainees'

The Guardian - Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, head of coalition forces in Iraq, issued an order last October giving military intelligence control over almost every aspect of prison conditions at Abu Ghraib with the explicit aim of manipulating the detainees' "emotions and weaknesses", it was reported yesterday.

The October 12 memorandum, reported in the Washington Post, is a potential "smoking gun" linking prisoner abuse to the US high command. It represents hard evidence that the maltreatment was not simply the fault of rogue military police guards.

The memorandum came to light as more details emerged of the extent of detainee abuse. Formal statements by inmates published yesterday describe horrific treatment at the hands of guards, including the rape of a teenage Iraqi boy by an army translator. - entire article

In one photo, a soldier is seen cocking his fist as he holds a hooded detainee in a headlock amid a pile of several detainees. Later, he is seen kneeling atop the same pile, flexing his muscles, a broad smile on his face, posing.

Videos Amplify Picture of Violence
May 21, 2004

By Josh White, Christian Davenport and Scott Higham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 21, 2004; Page A01

The video begins with three soldiers huddled around a naked detainee, his thin frame backed against a wall. With a snap of his wrist, one of the soldiers slaps the man across his left cheek so hard that the prisoner's knees buckle. Another detainee, handcuffed and on his back, is dragged across the prison floor.

In a collection of hundreds of so-far-unreleased photographs and short digital videos obtained by The Washington Post, U.S. soldiers are shown physically and emotionally abusing detainees last fall in the Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad.

The new pictures and videos go beyond the photos previously released to the public in several ways, amplifying the overt violence against detainees and displaying a variety of abusive techniques previously unseen. They show a group of apparently cavalier soldiers assaulting prisoners, forcing detainees to masturbate, and standing over a naked prisoner while holding a shotgun. Some of the videos echo scenes in previously released still photographs -- such as the stacking of naked detainees -- but the video images render the incidents more vividly.

Some prisoners at Iraq were ridden like animals, fondled by female soldiers, forced to curse their religion and required to retrieve their food from toilets, according to a published report Friday.

In one video clip, five hooded and naked detainees stand against the wall in the darkness, each masturbating, with two other hooded detainees crouched at their feet. Another shows a prisoner handcuffed to the outside of a cell door. He repeatedly slams his head into the green metal, leaving streaks of blood before he ultimately collapses at the feet of a cameraman.

Another soldier is seen in a photo brandishing a black baton as a naked prisoner -- cuffed at the ankles and smeared with a brown substance -- stands at the center of the prison hallway and holds his arms spread to either side.

Detainees recoil from unmuzzled dogs in at least four photos.

The photos continue, showing an array of abuse in what appear to be different rooms, cells, showers and hallways of Abu Ghraib.

Hooded and cloaked men are handcuffed to hallway rails. A prisoner in flexible handcuffs is made to use a banana to simulate anal sex. Two naked male detainees are handcuffed to each other. A naked detainee hangs upside down from a top bunk. Another naked detainee grimaces, his face pressed against the ground, a soldier bending his arm behind his back. Blood covers the detainee's left knee, and another soldier grabs his right leg.

In one photo, a detainee is stripped to his underwear, in a hood. He is standing, crouched, on top of two boxes of MRE military meals, his arms cuffed around his left knee, his right ankle chained to a cell door.

Another detainee appears to be the victim of a cruel joke: A photo shows the man's deformed left hand emerging from an orange jumpsuit, the words "The Claw" written in English on his left breast pocket. A crude drawing of the man's hand appears on the back of his jumpsuit in another photo, with "The Claw" scrawled across his shoulder blades in black ink.

The situation inside the prison became so chaotic that U.S. soldiers turned their cameras on themselves, filming scenes of consensual sex.

Al-Sheik said he was arrested on Oct. 7, and brought to Abu Ghraib, where he was put in a tent for one night. The next day, he was transferred to the "hard site," the two-story building that held about 200 prisoners and contained Tiers 1A and 1B.

He said a bag was put over his head and he was made to strip. He said American soldiers started to taunt him.

"Do you pray to Allah?" one asked. "I said yes. They said, 'Fuck you. And Fuck him.' One of them said, 'You are not getting out of here health[y], you are getting out of here handicapped. And he said to me, 'Are you married?' I said, 'Yes.' They said, 'If your wife saw you like this, she will be disappointed.' One of them said, 'But if I saw her now she would not be disappointed now because I would rape her.' "

He said the soldiers told him that if he cooperated with interrogators they would release him in time for Ramadan. He said he did, but still was not released. He said one soldier continued to abuse him by striking his broken leg and ordered him to curse Islam. "Because they started to hit my broken leg, I curse my religion," he said. "They ordered me to thank Jesus I'm alive."

The detainee said the soldiers handcuffed him to a bed.

"Do you believe in anything?" he said the soldier asked. "I said to him, 'I believe in Allah.' So he said, "But I believe in torture and I will torture you.' " - MORE PHOTOS

U.S. soldiers forced female detainees at Abu Ghraib to serve male prisoners meals after the men had been stripped bare and beaten, according to new accounts of psychological abuse described by those freed from the notorious prison.

One man, who identified himself only as Ghazwan, was among 454 detainees released Friday from the American-run prison at the center of an abuse scandal. He was held with his father and brother for nine months and said he spent six in "heavy quarantine."

"They were psychologically torturing us, especially in the heavy quarantines. They were abusing us inside these quarantines by beating us and forcing us to take off all our clothes. They were forcing detained women to distribute food to us while we were naked," said Ghazwan.

Public nakedness, especially in the presence of women, is considered especially degrading in sexually conservative Arab societies.

Other prisoners released Friday said their treatment improved after pictures of naked prisoners being sexually humiliated came to light.

Abdul Salam Hussain Jassim, 18, said U.S. authorities detained him for three months. He said he was rounded up with others after an explosion in a Baqouba street.

"Don't even talk about torture. They destroyed me," Jassim said of his detention. He said a family of five brothers and sisters was detained in the same block and that one of the men was beaten so badly he died two days later.

The other prisoner, Ghazwan, told the same story.

"Three brothers and sisters were detained together and brought to the prison, the two sisters are still in the quarantine and one of the three brothers was killed while the troops were torturing him," he said. "They took him to the quarantine and brought him dying to his brother's (Ali Alizzi) cell and threatened him that if he will not talk or confess, he would face the same fate."

The prisoner died in his brother's arms, he said.

Another former prisoner released on Friday, Maher Saeed, said he was tied to a car and dragged through the sand for several hundred yards.

U.S. Military shrugs off attack on wedding party A US Marines general says he has no need to apologise for an attack in the remote Iraqi desert that killed about 40 people, who witnesses say included women and children celebrating a wedding. Asked about witness testimony and footage from Dubai-based Al Arabiya television that showed weeping relatives lowering bodies, one of a child, into graves, he said: "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologise for the conduct of my men."

In this frame from TV Iraqis search for dead bodies among the rubble of a destroyed house after U.S. helicopters fired on what survivors say was a wedding party in the remote desert area near Mogr el-Deeb, 600 km west of Baghdad, 20 km away from the Syrian border, Thursday, May 20, 2004. The attack late Wednesday killed more than 40 people, most of them women and children. (AP Photo/APTN)

Iraq Desert Bombing Video Shows Carnage
May 21, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Fragments of musical instruments, tufts of women's hair, and a large blood stain are among the scenes in Associated Press Television News film of a destroyed house that survivors say U.S. planes bombed during a wedding party.

It is the first known footage from the site of Wednesday's attack, which killed up to 45 people, mostly women and children from the Bou Fahad tribe in Mogr el-Deeb, a desert village on the Syrian border.

The U.S. military has said the target was a suspected safehouse for foreign fighters from Syria and denied Friday that children were killed in the airstrikes.

But an Associated Press reporter in the Ramadi area, at least 275 miles east of Mogr el-Deeb, was able to identify at least 10 of the bodies as those of children.

At the Bou Fahad cemetery outside Ramadi, where the tribe is based, each of the 28 fresh graves contain one to three corpses, mostly of mothers and their young children.

Relatives said they include those of 2-year-old Kholood and 1-year-old Anoud, daughters of Amal Rikad, who was killed; of 2-year-old Raad and 1-year-old Ra'ed - whose headless body was found near his house - sons of Fatima Madhi, who was killed; of Saad, 10, Faisal, 7, Anoud, 6, Fasila, 5, Kholood, 4, and Inad, 3 - children of Mohammed and Morifa Rikad, who were killed.

There also are photo images of dead children, but it was not possible to determine if those victims were already accounted for by relatives.

Bou Fahad tribesmen denied that any foreign fighters were among them. They consider the desolate border area part of their territory and follow their goats, sheep and cattle there to graze. In the springtime they leave spacious homes in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and roam the desert.

The first bomb hit the huge goat-hair tent - where male guests were said to be sleeping - at about 2:45 a.m. Wednesday. The barrage didn't stop until sunrise, witnesses said. Women and children were in an adjacent one-story house and the men went to their nearby homes, they said.

After the first missile, Hamdan Khalaf ran in panic and hid in a grassy area.

"In the morning, we went back to the hill and saw people torn apart, attacked by the plane," Khalaf, who was not wounded, told APTN.

"We pulled them out of here," another man told APTN, standing on a pile of stones as he picked up a stained green cloth that looked like part of a young man's shirt. A severed arm lay in the rubble. "We took them to hospital - straight to the fridge," the unidentified man said.

An angry voice in the background of the tape denounced President Bush. "This is his terrorism," the voice said.

The body of what survivors said was the wedding's cameraman was pulled out of the debris Thursday.

The footage also showed women in colorful clothes sifting through the wreckage and carrying away blankets and other goods. Pieces of rockets and bullet casings were strewn across the sandy plain, as were pots and pans and a satellite dish. Partly charred pickup trucks and a water tanker stood in the desert.

The attack left few survivors. About a dozen wounded were taken to the town of Qaem, about 140 miles northwest of Ramadi and 130 miles north of Mogr el-Deeb.

'US soldiers started to shoot us, one by one'
May 21, 2004

Survivors describe wedding massacre as generals refuse to apologise

Rory McCarthy in Ramadi
Friday May 21, 2004
The Guardian

The wedding feast was finished and the women had just led the young bride and groom away to their marriage tent for the night when Haleema Shihab heard the first sounds of the fighter jets screeching through the sky above.

It was 10.30pm in the remote village of Mukaradeeb by the Syrian border and the guests hurried back to their homes as the party ended. As sister-in-law of the groom, Mrs Shihab, 30, was to sleep with her husband and children in the house of the wedding party, the Rakat family villa. She was one of the few in the house who survived the night.

"The bombing started at 3am," she said yesterday from her bed in the emergency ward at Ramadi general hospital, 60 miles west of Baghdad. "We went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one," she said. She ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two young boys, Ali and Hamza, close behind. As she crossed the fields a shell exploded close to her, fracturing her legs and knocking her to the ground.

She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two boys lay dead. "I left them because they were dead," she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by a shell.

"I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me."

Mrs Shibab's description, backed by other witnesses, of an attack on a sleeping village is at odds with the American claim that they came under fire while targeting a suspected foreign fighter safe house.

She described how in the hours before dawn she watched as American troops destroyed the Rakat villa and the house next door, reducing the buildings to rubble.

Another relative carried Mrs Shihab and her surviving child to hospital. There she was told her husband Mohammed, the eldest of the Rakat sons, had also died.

As Mrs Shihab spoke she gestured with hands still daubed red-brown with the henna the women had used to decorate themselves for the wedding. Alongside her in the ward yesterday were three badly injured girls from the Rakat family: Khalood Mohammed, aged just a year and struggling for breath, Moaza Rakat, 12, and Iqbal Rakat, 15, whose right foot doctors had already amputated.

By the time the sun rose on Wednesday over the Rakat family house, the raid had claimed 42 lives, according to Hamdi Noor al-Alusi, manager of the al-Qaim general hospital, the nearest to the village.

Among the dead were 27 members of the extended Rakat family, their wedding guests and even the band of musicians hired to play at the ceremony, among them Hussein al-Ali from Ramadi, one of the most popular singers in western Iraq. Dr Alusi said 11 of the dead were women and 14 were children. "I want

to know why the Americans targeted this small village," he said by telephone. "These people are my patients. I know each one of them. What has caused this disaster?"

Despite the compelling testimony of Mrs Shihab, Dr Alusi and other wedding guests, the US military, faced with apparent evidence of yet another scandal in Iraq, offered an inexplicably different account of the operation.

The military admitted there had been a raid on the village at 3am on Wednesday but said it had targeted a "suspected foreign fighter safe house". - MORE

New Details of Prison Abuse Emerge
May 21, 2004

Abu Ghraib Detainees' Statements Describe Sexual Humiliation And Savage Beatings
By Scott Higham and Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 21, 2004; Page A01

Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.

The fresh allegations of prison abuse are contained in statements taken from 13 detainees shortly after a soldier reported the incidents to military investigators in mid-January. The detainees said they were savagely beaten and repeatedly humiliated sexually by American soldiers working on the night shift at Tier 1A in Abu Ghraib during the holy month of Ramadan, according to copies of the statements obtained by The Washington Post.

The statements provide the most detailed picture yet of what took place on the cellblock. Some of the detainees described being abused as punishment or discipline after they were caught fighting or with a prohibited item. Some said they were pressed to denounce Islam or were force-fed pork and liquor. Many provided graphic details of how they were sexually humiliated and assaulted, threatened with rape, and forced to masturbate in front of female soldiers.

"They forced us to walk like dogs on our hands and knees," said Hiadar Sabar Abed Miktub al-Aboodi, detainee No. 13077. "And we had to bark like a dog, and if we didn't do that they started hitting us hard on our face and chest with no mercy. After that, they took us to our cells, took the mattresses out and dropped water on the floor and they made us sleep on our stomachs on the floor with the bags on our head and they took pictures of everything."

The prisoners also provided accounts of how some of the now-famous photographs were staged, including the pyramid of hooded, naked prisoners. Eight of the detainees identified by name one particular soldier at the center of the abuse investigation, Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., a member of the 372nd Military Police Company from Cresaptown, Md. Five others described abuse at the hands of a solider who matches Graner's description.

"They said we will make you wish to die and it will not happen," said Ameen Saeed Al-Sheik, detainee No. 151362. "They stripped me naked. One of them told me he would rape me. He drew a picture of a woman to my back and makes me stand in shameful position holding my buttocks." - MORE

The religious warrior of Abu Ghraib
May 20, 2004

An evangelical US general played a pivotal role in Iraqi prison scandal

The Guardian - Saving General Boykin seemed like a strange sideshow last October. After it was revealed that the deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence had been regularly appearing at evangelical revivals preaching that the US was in a holy war as a "Christian nation" battling "Satan", the furore was quickly calmed.

Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, explained that Boykin was exercising his rights as a citizen: "We're a free people." President Bush declared that Boykin "doesn't reflect my point of view or the point of view of this administration". Bush's commission on public diplomacy had reported that in nine Muslim countries, just 12% believed that "Americans respect Arab/Islamic values". The Pentagon announced that its inspector general would investigate Boykin, though he has yet to report.

Boykin was not removed or transferred. At that moment, he was at the heart of a secret operation to "Gitmoize" (Guantánamo is known in the US as Gitmo) the Abu Ghraib prison. He had flown to Guantánamo, where he met Major General Geoffrey Miller, in charge of Camp X-Ray. Boykin ordered Miller to fly to Iraq and extend X-Ray methods to the prison system there, on Rumsfeld's orders.

Boykin was recommended to his position by his record in the elite Delta forces: he was a commander in the failed effort to rescue US hostages in Iran, had tracked drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia, had advised the gas attack on barricaded cultists at Waco, Texas, and had lost 18 men in Somalia trying to capture a warlord in the notorious Black Hawk Down fiasco of 1993.

Boykin told an evangelical gathering last year how this fostered his spiritual crisis. "There is no God," he said. "If there was a God, he would have been here to protect my soldiers." But he was thunderstruck by the insight that his battle with the warlord was between good and evil, between the true God and the false one. "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

Just before Boykin was put in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden and then inserted into Iraqi prison reform, he was a circuit rider for the religious right. He allied himself with a small group called the Faith Force Multiplier that advocates applying military principles to evangelism. Its manifesto - Warrior Message - summons "warriors in this spiritual war for souls of this nation and the world ... " - Read more

PHOTO: Mashaal Nayef, front, gestures as he explains how they buried the rest of their family at a cemetery outside Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, May 20, 2004. More than 40 people, most of them women and children where killed Wednesday, when a U.S. helicopter fired on a wedding party in the remote desert near the border with Syria. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Iraqis Say U.S. Attacked Wedding Party
May 20, 2004

RAMADI, Iraq (AP) - As survivors tell it, the wedding party was in full swing. The band was playing tribal music and the guests had just finished eating dinner when, at about 9 p.m., they heard the roar of U.S. warplanes. Fearing trouble, the revelers ended the festivities and went to bed.

About six hours later, the first bomb struck the tent.

"Mothers died with their children in their arms," said Madhi Nawaf, who survived the attack Wednesday in Mogr el-Deeb on the Syrian border. Up to 45 people died - mostly women and children from the Bou Fahad tribe.

"One of them was my daughter," Nawaf told The Associated Press. "I found her a few steps from the house, her 2-year-old son Raad in her arms. Her 1-year-old son, Raed, was lying nearby, missing his head."

In Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, coalition deputy chief of operations, said Thursday the U.S. military would investigate after Iraqi officials reported the survivors' story.

Members of the Bou Fahad tribe say they consider the border area part of their territory and follow their goats, sheep and cattle there to graze. They leave spacious homes in Ramadi and roam the desert, as far as 250 miles to the west, in the springtime.

The survivors insist the Americans were wrong to target them.

"They're lying," Nawaf said. "They have to show us evidence that we fired a shot or were hiding foreign fighters. Where are the foreign fighters then? Why kill and dismember innocent children?"

Nawaf and more than a dozen men from the Bou Fahad tribe transported the dead to Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, which includes Morg el-Deeb. Twenty-eight graves were dug in the tribe's cemetery outside Ramadi, each containing one to three bodies. A wake was held Thursday at a home in Ramadi.

Nawaf's brother, Taleb, lost his wife, Amal, and two daughters, 2-year-old Anoud and 1-year-old Kholood. His wife's body was found clutching the two children, survivors said.

All the men interviewed insisted there were no foreign fighters in Morg el-Deeb, a desolate area popular with smugglers. The U.S. military suspects militants cross the area from Syria to fight the Americans, and it is under constant surveillance by American forces.

"We would know if any outsider comes to our area," said Hamed Abdul-Razaq, another survivor.

Sheik Dahan Haraj, the tribe's chief who was also at the wedding, said that if the Americans suspected terrorists, "why not seal off the area and make sure they were indeed foreign fighters?"

Survivors said they became fearful when they heard aircraft overhead about 9 p.m. Tuesday. Then came military vehicles, which stopped about two miles away from the village and switched off their headlights. The planes were still overhead at 11 p.m.

"We began to expect some kind of catastrophe," Nawaf said.

They decided to end the celebration, and the bride and groom, Azhar Rikad and Rutba Sabah, went into their tent.

About 25 male guests who came from Ramadi for the wedding and five band members from Baghdad stayed in the main tent. All the women went to bed in an adjacent one-story stone house. Many men, including Nawaf, drifted away to their nearby homes.

The first bomb struck the main tent at about 2:45 a.m., the survivors said. Among those who died was Hussein al-Ali, a prominent wedding singer from Baghdad. The second bomb struck the stone house, killing everyone inside.

"They didn't even spare one child, one elderly," said the 54-year-old Nawaf.

Survivors said shells rained down until nearly sunrise.

Two helicopters landed and about 40 soldiers searched the house where the women had stayed and a second, vacant house. Soon after, the two houses were blown up.

"They asked us no questions," said Adel Awdeh.

Some of the men tried to approach the Americans but were driven back by gunshots, the survivors said. The troops took money and jewelry the dead women had brought for the party, survivors said.

At the cemetery outside Ramadi, Taleb Nawaf pointed to a fresh grave with a headstone marked "Amal Rikab and Kholood."

"This is my daughter," he said.

Mourners displayed photographs of six children and their parents, Mohammed and Morifa Rikad, saying all had died in the bombing.

The U.S. occupation has never been popular in Anbar, a Sunni Muslim province which includes Fallujah, Khaldiyah and other centers of resistance.

"For each one in those graves, we will get 10 Americans," Ahmed Saleh warned.

PHOTO: Iraqis mourn over those killed during a wedding party in this image from television, in Ramadi, Iraq, Wednesday, May 19, 2004, following an alleged missile attack by U.S. Armed Forces. (AP Photo/APTN)

Associated Press Television News footage from the area near the Syrian border showed a truck containing bloodied bodies, many wrapped in blankets, piled one atop the other. Several were children, one of whom was decapitated. The body of a girl who appeared to be less than 5 years of age lay in a white sheet, her legs riddled with wounds and her dress soaked in blood.

Al-Messa, an Egyptian daily close to the government, declared "a new American massacre against the Iraqis" and quoted unnamed news agencies as saying 60 people, "mostly children and women," were killed.

Al-Wafd, an opposition daily in Egypt, said 42 Iraqis were killed "in a savage American attack on a wedding."

In Lebanon, As-Safir newspaper's front-page headline read: "The (U.S.) occupation turns an Iraqi wedding party into a funeral: 45 martyrs, including children and women."

All Lebanese papers drew parallels between the helicopter strike in Iraq and violence Wednesday in the Gaza Strip, with one, An-Nahar, lamenting in banner headline: "a long bloody day from Gaza to Iraq."

Musicians Among Dead at Iraqi Wedding
May 20, 2004

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi wedding singer and his musician brother were among dozens killed by U.S. aircraft in an attack on a wedding party, Iraqis said as the two men were buried on Thursday.

The U.S. military says it attacked "a suspected foreign fighter safe house" near the Syrian border in the early hours of Wednesday, killing about 40 people, but denies killing civilians.

A cousin of Hussein al-Ali, a well-known singer from Baghdad, and of his musician brother Mohaned told Reuters they had been killed while sleeping after the wedding, at which they had performed.

"America is the enemy of God," mourners chanted as they carried the two men's coffins in their funeral procession in the capital. Some fired guns into the air and others hoisted the Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi flag above their heads.

The brothers' bodies had first been brought from the site of the incident near Qaim to the regional capital Ramadi, in the desert 110 km (70 miles) west of Baghdad.

At Ramadi, a man named Sabri Mukhlis said he had driven the bodies of eight people killed and had seen 35 other corpses at the site of what he said was a U.S. air strike.

"They hit them after the wedding party," he said. Sohan Ibrahim, the musicians' cousin, also said in Ramadi that they had been killed in a U.S. strike after the wedding party. "They were sleeping," she said.

PHOTO: A picture released by ABC News May 19, 2004 shows a woman identified as Specialist Sabrina Harman posing over the body of detainee Manadel a-Jamadi in Abu Ghraib prison. According to testimony from Spc. Jason Kenner, obtained by ABC News, the man was brought to the prison by US Navy Seals in good health. Kenner said he saw extensive bruising on the detainee's body when he was brought out of the showers, dead. Kenner says the body was packed in ice during a 'battle' between CIA and military interrogators over who should dispose of the body. The Justice Departmentopened an investigation into this death and four others today following a referral from the CIA. The photo was taken by Sgt. Charles Fredrick who in e-mails to his family has asked why the people responsible for the prisoner's death were not being prosecuted in the same manner that he is. (ABC News via Reuters)

Pentagon Finds More Prison Abuse Photos
May 19, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Another disc with 24 photographs depicting "apparent abusive acts by U.S. forces" has surfaced in the investigation of mistreatment of Iraqi detainees at a U.S.-run prison near Baghdad, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

Thirteen of the photographs appeared to be images already seen in the international media, but 11 have not been identified in previous investigations, according to a Pentagon letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Two photos not previously seen in the media of U.S. soldiers posing with the body of a detainee at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were shown on U.S. television on Wednesday evening.

In separate photos shown on ABC News, Spc. Sabrina Harmon and Spc. Charles Graner are seen smiling and giving a "thumbs-up" sign over the body of a man identified by ABC as Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi who died in U.S. custody at the prison.

ABC reported on its Web site that the photos were taken by Sgt. Charles Frederick, who in e-mails to his family questioned why those responsible for the prisoner's death were not being prosecuted in the same manner that he is.

PHOTO: Hundreds of supporters of cleric Moqtada Sadr demonstrate outside the office and residence of Iraq's most respected Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the holy city of Najaf.(AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

Al Sadr gains surge in popularity
May 19, 2004

Baghdad - Financial Times - An Iraqi poll to be released next week shows a surge in the popularity of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical young Shia cleric fighting coalition forces, and suggests nearly nine out of 10 Iraqis see US troops as occupiers and not liberators or peacekeepers.

The poll was conducted by the one-year-old Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, which is considered reliable enough for the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority to have submitted questions to be included in the study.

Conducted before the Abu Ghraib prisoners' scandal, it also suggests a severe erosion of American credibility even before Iraqis were confronted with images of torture at the hands of US soldiers.

Saadoun Duleimi, head of the centre, said more than half of a representative sample - comprising 1,600 Shia, Sunni Arabs and Kurds polled in all Iraq's main regions - wanted coalition troops to leave Iraq. This compares with about 20 per cent in an October survey. Some 88 per cent of respondents said they now regarded coalition forces in Iraq as occupiers.

"Iraqis always contrast American actions with American promises and there's now a wide gap in credibility," said Mr Duleimi, who belongs to one of the country's big Sunni tribes. "In this climate, fighting has given Moqtada credibility because he's the only Iraqi man who stood up against the occupation forces."

The US authorities in Baghdad face an uphill battle to persuade Iraqis that the transfer of sovereignty on June 30 will mark the end of the US occupation. The removal of US troops was cited in the poll as a more urgent issue than the country's formal status.

Respondents saw Mr Sadr as Iraq's second most influential figure after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most senior Shia cleric. Some 32 per cent of respondents said they strongly supported Mr Sadr and another 36 per cent somewhat supported him.

PHOTO: Iraqi men walk to a funeral procession in the cemetery in Ramadi, Iraq, May 19, 2004. Al Arabiya television said at least 41 civilians were killed in a U.S. air raid on an Iraqi village celebrating a wedding near the Syrian border. The Dubai-based network, quoting eyewitnesses in the town of al-Qaim, said the frontier village of Makr al-Deeb was attacked before dawn. (Al Arabiya Television via Reuters)

Iraqi Wedding Party Hit by U.S.; Over 40 Killed
May 19, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A U.S. helicopter fired on a wedding party early Wednesday in western Iraq, killing more than 40 people, Iraqi officials said.

Lt. Col Ziyad al-Jbouri, deputy police chief of the city of Ramadi, said between 42 and 45 people died in the attack, which took place about 2:45 a.m. in a remote desert area near the border with Syria and Jordan. He said those killed included 15 children and 10 women.

Dr. Salah al-Ani, who works at a hospital in Ramadi, put the death toll at 45.

Associated Press Television News obtained videotape showing a truck containing bodies of those allegedly killed.

About a dozen bodies, one without a head, could be clearly seen. but it appeared that bodies were piled on top of each other and a clear count was not possible.

Pan-Arab satellite television Al-Arabiya and a farmer who said he witnessed the attack said US helicopters targeted the wedding celebration in the village of Makreddin in the Qaim region near the Syrian border.

"US planes dropped more than 100 bombs on us," an unidentified man who said he was from the village said on al-Arabiya.

"They hit two homes where the wedding was being held and then they levelled the whole village. No bullets were fired by us, nothing was happening," he added.

The Dubai-based network also showed those who survived digging graves for the numerous men, women and children that died in the raid.

A local police official told AP news agency between 42 and 45 people had died as a result of the US attack.

The US has said it has no knowledge of the alleged attack but says US forces did conduct a raid on a house in the border area.

Michael Moores' FAHRENHEIT 9-11 gets longest standing ovation in history of Cannes
May 18, 2004

20 minute standing ovation for FAHRENHEIT 9-11, yelling, screaming, cheering... 'This is the longest standing ovation in the history of the festival! Unbelievable!' declared Cannes stalwart Thierry Fremaux. Moore, raising fist, unable to speak over crowd, vows to fight... Controversial scene in film shows wounded American GI in Iraq talking about how Democrats must win election... Movie shows video of U.S. soldiers laughing as they place hoods over Iraqi detainees, with one of them grabbing a prisoner's genitals through a blanket... more about FAHRENHEIT 9-11

More Iraq Hawk Myths Bite the Dust

May 18, 2004

by Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He is also the author or editor of 15 books on international affairs.

A new, extensive survey of Iraqi public opinion conducted by Gallup and other groups discredits numerous cherished beliefs that hawks have held about Iraq. For months, the Bush administration and its supporters have argued that there is a silent majority of Iraqis who regard coalition forces as liberators, want those forces to stay for a prolonged period, oppose insurgent attacks on coalition troops, and are enthusiastic about creating a Western-style democracy for their country. The poll results contradict every one of those assumptions.

Take the question of whether Iraqis regard U.S. and allied forces as liberators or occupiers. Only 19 percent of respondents consider them liberators. The results are even more dismal when sentiment in the Kurdish region is excluded. Ninety-seven percent of Kurds view those forces as liberators. In the Sunni and Shiite regions that sentiment is 10 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

The belief that U.S. troops are occupiers rather than liberators has grown steadily, but it is not a new phenomenon. When asked how they had viewed coalition troops at the time of the invasion, 43 percent indicated that they had seen them as occupiers-the same percentage that regarded them as liberators. That result debunks the myth that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis welcomed the invasion. Even at the earliest stage of the mission, Iraqi opinion was sharply divided about the desirability of the U.S.-led intervention.

The poll results also belie the notion that a majority of Iraqis want U.S. and British troops to stay on for an extended period. Instead, 57 percent want those troops to leave "immediately." Again, the contrast between the opinion of Kurds and Arabs is striking. Only 3 percent of Kurds want the forces to depart immediately. In the Shiite areas, the sentiment is 61 percent and in the Sunni areas it is 65 percent. (And in Baghdad it is a stunning 75 percent).

Even more discouraging, support for armed attacks on coalition forces is not confined to a tiny minority of extremists as the Bush administration has insisted. Twenty-two percent of respondents stated that attacks were justified "sometimes," and another 29 percent endorsed attacks without any qualification.

Nor is there any indication of a vast reservoir of support for democracy. Only 40 percent advocate the creation of a multiparty parliamentary democracy for Iraq. The rest advocate systems ranging from the traditional "Islamic concept of mutual consultation," to a conservative Islamic kingdom like Saudi Arabia, to an Islamic theocracy like Iran. Once again, strong support for democracy in the Kurdish north contrasts with anemic support in the Sunni and Shiite regions (31 percent and 27 percent respectively.)

Finally, overall attitudes toward the United States and the Coalition Provisional Authority are extremely negative. Only 27 percent have a favorable opinion of the CPA, and just 23 percent have a favorable opinion of the United States.

It is evident that U.S. policy in Iraq has been based on faulty assumptions about Iraqi attitudes. There is no silent majority of pro-American Iraqis. Instead, most Iraqis regard the U.S.-led mission as an occupation, not a liberation, and they want that occupation to end immediately. A majority of Iraqis endorse attacks on coalition forces, at least under some circumstances, and they do not want a Western-style democracy for their country.

Worst of all, the trend in opinion is ominous. There has been a marked upsurge of opposition to the Iraq mission since a similar poll was taken in mid-March by ABC News and other organizations. Time is not on Washington's side. To the extent that we ever had a welcome in Iraq, we have overstayed that welcome. The first step in developing a new policy -- and a badly needed exit strategy -- is to abandon all of the myths that supporters of the Iraq mission have cherished for so long.

INTERVIEW:Former FBI Translator Sibel Edmonds Calls Current 9/11 Investigation Inadequate
by Jim Hogue

"If they were to do real investigations we would see several significant high level criminal prosecutions in this country. And that is something that they are not going to let out. And, believe me; they will do everything to cover this up." -Sibel Edmonds, former FBI translator

INTRODUCTION: Sibel Edmonds and Behrooz Sarshar, beginning in December of 2001, began filing reports to their superiors at the FBI. These reports could lead to the collapse of a corrupt power structure that has a stranglehold on the very institutions that are obligated to control it. We cannot excuse these institutions, for while they fiddle, they pass death sentences on their own troops, and on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

JH: Are you allowed to say that it's the Saudis?

SE: I cannot name any country. And I would emphasize that it's plural. I understand the Saudis have been named because fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. However, the names of people from other countries, and semi-legit organizations from other countries, to this day, have not been made public.

JH: And the information that you have been gagged on has to do with that specifically.

SE: Correct. And specifically with that and their ties to people here in this country today.

JH: I understand why you can't say anything about this, but there are several books out about the Bush ties to the Saudis and the bin Ladens in particular. And in David Griffin's book, The New Pearl Harbor, there is a very good synopsis of the ISI, which is the Pakistani intelligence service. He shows the direct connections between the CIA, the ISI, and Mohamed Atta. He makes a very convincing case that the Pakistani ISI had been helping to plan 9/11 for a long time.

I don't imagine that you are allowed to say much about that.

SE: You are correct. But I can tell you that the issue, on one side, boils down to money--a lot of money. And it boils down to people and their connections with this money, and that's the portion that, even with this book, has not been mentioned to this day. Because then it starts touching some people in high places.

Member of US military intelligence alleges cover-up
May 18, 2004

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A member of US military intelligence said that the army tried to cover up the extent of detainee abuse in Iraq, a US television network reported.

Sergeant Samuel Provance told ABC television that dozens of soldiers had been involved in the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

"There's definitely a cover-up," Provance said in an interview with the World News Tonight programme released in advance of the broadcast. "People are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet."

Provance, 30, was part of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at Abu Ghraib last September.

ABC said the soldier, who is now in Germany, gave the interview despite orders from his commanders not to.

"What I was surprised at was the silence," Provance was quoted as saying. "The collective silence by so many people that had to be involved, that had to have seen something or heard something."

Provance ran the military intelligence computer network at the prison.

"Anything (the MPs) were to do legally or otherwise, they were to take those commands from the interrogators," Provance said.

Provance said the sexual humiliation began as a technique ordered by military intelligence.

"One interrogator told me about how commonly the detainees were stripped naked, and in some occasions, wearing women's underwear," Provance said.

"If it's your job to strip people naked, yell at them, scream at them, humiliate them, it's not going to be too hard to move from that to another level."

Provance told how US soldiers struck prisoners around the neck and inmates were knocked out.

"Then (the soldier) would go to the next detainee, who would be very fearful and voicing their fear, and the MP would calm him down and say: 'We're not going to do that. It's okay. Everything's fine,' and then do the exact same thing to him."

Provance also described how two drunken interrogators took a female Iraqi prisoner from her cell in the middle of the night and stripped her to the waist. The men were restrained by another MP.

The role of US military intelligence in the abuse is being investigated by Major General George Fay, the army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

Provance said that when Fay interviewed him, he seemed interested only in the military police, not the interrogators, and seemed to discourage him from testifying.

Provance said Fay threatened to take action against him for failing to report what he saw sooner.

"I feel like I'm being punished for being honest," Provance said.

"You know, it was almost as if I actually felt if all my statements were shredded and I said, like most everybody else, 'I didn't hear anything, I didn't see anything. I don't know what you're talking about,' then my life would be just fine right now."

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