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New anti-spying strategy adopted

Pam Benson
March 29, 2005

Plan seeks more coordinated response to espionage

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration has adopted a new strategy to protect the United States from international spying.

The new strategy is intended to counter spying that threatens national security, including efforts to ferret out sensitive technology and mislead U.S. intelligence agencies.

Key to the new plan is changing what is referred to as a "fragmented and too tactically oriented" counterintelligence community into a "more coordinated, community-wide effort" to prevent penetrations of the United States, according to a report released Tuesday.

In announcing the plan, National Counterintelligence Executive Michelle Van Cleave wrote in a prepared statement that there will be a "renewed intelligence focus on hostile services and intelligence capabilities, including those of terrorist groups and proactive efforts to defeat them."

The report outlines the threat posed by intelligence activities that seek to, among other things, collect and compromise national security secrets and acquire critical technologies that could enhance their military capabilities or provide economic advantage.

"This requires looking beyond customary targets, such as known intelligence officers, to a larger population of foreign visitors and others whose activities suggest they might be involved in intelligence collection activities against the United States," the report states.

As an example, the report cites enemy intelligence operations that helped terrorists target Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also indicates 90 countries have targeted sensitive U.S. technologies, although it does not identify those countries.

And it noted that U.S. intelligence is "increasingly challenged" by other countries' efforts to present a false picture to American spy agencies, "which increases our uncertainty about their capabilities and intentions."

"While there is no guarantee that our intelligence collection efforts and our analysis are always accurate, we must establish rigorous procedures to help ensure the integrity of the intelligence that reaches decision-makers," the report states.

Comment: By way of doing our part to help the US government in this most serious of tasks, we present the following case histories of espionage carried out by a foreign nation that led to dire consequences for the American people:

9/11 and the Israeli Spies

A group of 140 Israeli spies were arrested prior to September 11, 2001, in the US as part of a widespread investigation into a suspected espionage ring run by Israel inside the US.

US Government documents refer to the spy ring as an "organised intelligence-gathering operation" designed to "penetrate government facilities". Most of those arrested had served in the Israeli armed forces – but military service is compulsory in Israel and a number also had an intelligence background. Many were posing as art students.

These spies were spread out across the US, usually living close to suspected Arab terrorist cells. One group were living just a few blocks away from chief Hijacker Mohammed Atta in Hollywood, Florida. According to intelligence sources within the US, a number of the terrorist cells that they had been watching changed their activities and routines immediately after having cover taps put on their communications by intelligence agents.

Two Israeli companies Amdocs and Comverse InfoSys, (now called Verint), manage just about every aspect of the US telephone system.

Amdocs is responsible for billing and records for almost all phone calls in the US. Cameron states: Amdocs has contracts with the 25 biggest phone companies in America, and more worldwide. The White House and other secure government phone lines are protected, but it is virtually impossible to make a call on normal phones without generating an Amdocs record of it.

In recent years, the FBI and other government agencies have investigated Amdocs more than once. The firm has repeatedly and adamantly denied any security breaches or wrongdoing. But sources tell Fox News that in 1999, the super secret National Security Agency, headquartered in northern Maryland, issued what's called a Top Secret sensitive compartmentalized information report, TS/SCI, warning that records of calls in the United States were getting into foreign hands in Israel, in particular.

Investigators don't believe calls are being listened to, but the data about who is calling whom and when is plenty valuable in itself. An internal Amdocs memo to senior company executives suggests just how Amdocs generated call records could be used. "Widespread data mining techniques and algorithms.... combining both the properties of the customer (e.g., credit rating) and properties of the specific ‘behavior….’" Specific behavior, such as who the customers are calling.

Note the comment that "the White House and other secure government phone lines are protected." Well, it just so happens that Comverse InfoSys provides the wiretapping equipment and software for US law enforcement agencies.

Every time you make a call, it passes through the nation's elaborate network of switchers and routers run by the phone companies. Custom computers and software, made by companies like Comverse, are tied into that network to intercept, record and store the wiretapped calls, and at the same time transmit them to investigators.

The manufacturers have continuing access to the computers so they can service them and keep them free of glitches. This process was authorized by the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA. Senior government officials have now told Fox News that while CALEA made wiretapping easier, it has led to a system that is seriously vulnerable to compromise, and may have undermined the whole wiretapping system.

Indeed, Fox News has learned that Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller were both warned Oct. 18 in a hand-delivered letter from 15 local, state and federal law enforcement officials, who complained that "law enforcement's current electronic surveillance capabilities are less effective today than they were at the time CALEA was enacted."

Comverse insists the equipment it installs is secure. But the complaint about this system is that the wiretap computer programs made by Comverse have, in effect, a back door through which wiretaps themselves can be intercepted by unauthorized parties.

Adding to the suspicions is the fact that in Israel, Comverse works closely with the Israeli government, and under special programs, gets reimbursed for up to 50 percent of its research and development costs by the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade. But investigators within the DEA, INS and FBI have all told Fox News that to pursue or even suggest Israeli spying through Comverse is considered career suicide.

So we have a group of at least 140 Mossad agents and/or their accomplices running around the US with apparent impunity prior to 9-11 conducting a "spying" operation that is designed to "penetrate government facilities". You have two Israeli companies that control the entire US telephone and telephone wiretapping technology that are suspected of passing sensitive information to Israel. You have US intelligence agencies realising that, on a number of occasions, terrorist suspects that they had sought to wiretap and survey immediately changed their telecommunications processes and acting much differently as soon as the, supposedly secret, wiretaps went into place.

But it doesn’t end there.

On the morning of September 11th and just as the WTC towers were crumbling the 5 Israelis were caught doing the "happy dance" as they videotaped the Twin Towers fall. They were spotted by a woman who called the police who contacted the FBI. The 5 were apprehended in a moving company van, which contained $4700 in cash, box cutters and recently taken photographs, one image showing a hand flicking a lighter in front of the destroyed buildings as if mocking the event. The driver of the van later told the arresting officers:

"We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem."

Did this most interesting comment give the world a tantalising glimpse into the REAL reason for and, at the same time, reveal the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks??

The 5 were detained for two months during which time at least two were identified as active Mossad agents. They were subjected to polygraph tests which one of them resisted for 10 weeks before failing. Now ask yourself: What questions might have been asked of this person during the test? We will probably never know, but we can speculate that he was probably asked direct questions about his involvement in the WTC attacks, and he, as a Mossad agent working for the state of Israel, lied.

On their return to Israel, the 5 appeared on an Israeli television show where they made the following telling remark:

"The fact of the matter is we are coming from a country that experiences terror daily. Our purpose was to document the event."

Which begs the question: How can you document an event unless you know beforehand that it is going to happen?

Add to this the fact that an Israeli firm was in charge of the security and passenger screening at Logan airport where both WTC planes took off and that an Israeli instant messaging company, Odigo, received a warning about the WTC attacks 2 hours before the first plane hit the WTC which originated in Israel and you all the evidence you need to open up a full-scale public investigation into the influence and activities of the state of Israel on American political life.

In laying out the details of the new anti-spying procedures National Counterintelligence Executive Michelle Van Cleave tells us:

U.S. intelligence is "increasingly challenged" by other countries' efforts to present a false picture to American spy agencies, "which increases our uncertainty about their capabilities and intentions."

"While there is no guarantee that our intelligence collection efforts and our analysis are always accurate, we must establish rigorous procedures to help ensure the integrity of the intelligence that reaches decision-makers," the report states.

While we might suspect that Van Cleave is referring to Iran when she talks of "presenting false pictures", the fiasco over Iraq's non-existent WMDs and the fact that they really are non-existent, and the IAEA's report that Iran has no WMDs, should make it clear enough that Van Cleave is subtly hinting that the real danger is from a third party that is attempting to convince US intelligence agencies of a threat when no such threat exists.

Of course, to solve the problem will take more than simply exposing the fact that Israel is the main cheerleader (and motivation) for a US invasion of the Middle East. The problem goes much deeper than that. The fact is that Israel's agents are, and have been for many years, deeply entrenched in all major areas of the American political establishment and hold a majority stake in the US mainstream media. With those two key positions under their control, Israeli propagandists are able to exert significant influence, not only on US foreign policy, but also on the beliefs of the average American. Of course, given that there are 70 million in the US who are eagerly waiting to be "raptured" up to heaven before Armageddon gets under way, we cannot forget the close ties that exist between American Christian Fundamentalists and right-wing Israeli "Zionists".

As we have mentioned before, the relationship is based on the understanding shared by both groups of a need for the destruction of Middle Eastern Arab states. For the Christian Fundamentalist, such a conflagration is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy - "Armageddon" - and the reward for the "true believers" is eternity with Jesus in heaven. For the "Zionist", such a conflagration is needed for much more practical reason - the wiping out of the bothersome Arabs and the establishment of a "greater Israel" on Arab land.

Getting back to Van Cleave's subtle hint. On several occasions Israeli intelligence has sought to deceive US intelligence into believing something that was not true. In his book, By Way of Deception, Victor Ostrovsky details one of these operations:

A Trojan was a special communication device that could be planted by naval commandos deep inside enemy territory. The device would act as a relay station for misleading transmissions made by the disinformation unit in the Mossad, called LAP (Psychological warfare, or, as it's known in the West, disinformation), and intended to be received by American and British listening stations. Originating from an IDF navy ship out at sea, the prerecorded digital transmissions could be picked up only by the Trojan. The device would then rebroadcast the transmission on another frequency, one used for official business in the enemy country, at which point the transmission would finally be picked up by American ears in Britain.

The listeners would have no doubt they had intercepted a genuine communication, hence the name Trojan, reminiscent of the mythical Trojan horse. Further, the content of the messages, once deciphered, would confirm information from other intelligence sources, namely the Mossad. The only catch was that the Trojan itself would have to be located as close as possible to the normal origin of such transmissions, because of the sophisticated methods of triangulation the Americans and others would use to verify the source.

In the particular operation, two elite units in the military had been made responsible for the delivery of the Trojan device to the proper location. One was the Matkal (Top military reconnaissance unit of the Israeli army) reconnaissance unit and the other was Flotilla 13, the naval commandos. [...]

The van parked at the back of an apartment building on Al Jamhuriyh Street in Tripoli, less than three blocks away from the Bab al Azizia barracks that were known to house Qadhafi's headquarters and residence. By then, the men in the van had changed into civilian clothing. Two stayed with the van as lookouts and the other two helped the Mossad combatant take the cylinder to the top floor of the five-story building. The cylinder was wrapped in a carpet.
In the apartment, the top section of the cylinder was opened and a small dishlike antenna was unfolded and placed in front of the window facing north. The unit was activated, and the Trojan horse was in place.

The Mossad combatant had rented the apartment for six months and had paid the rent in advance. There was no reason for anyone except the combatant to enter the apartment. However, if someone should decide to do so, the Trojan would self-destruct, taking with it most of the upper part of the building. The three men headed back to the van and to their rendezvous with their friends on the beach.
After dropping the commandos at the beach, the combatant headed back for the city, where he would monitor the Trojan unit for the next few weeks. The commandos wasted no time and headed out to sea. They didn't want to be caught in Libyan waters at daybreak. They reached the birds and headed at full speed to a prearranged pickup coordinate, where they met with the missile boats that had brought them in.

By the end of March, the Americans were already intercepting messages broadcast by the Trojan, which was only activated during heavy communication traffic hours. Using the Trojan, the Mossad tried to make it appear that a long series of terrorist orders were being transmitted to various Libyan embassies around the world (or, as they were called by the Libyans, Peoples' Bureaus). As the Mossad had hoped, the transmissions were deciphered by the Americans and construed as ample proof that the Libyans were active sponsors of terrorism. What's more, the Americans pointed out, Mossad reports confirmed it.

The French and the Spanish, though, were not buying into the new stream of information. To them, it seemed suspicious that suddenly, out of the blue, the Libyans, who'd been extremely careful in the past, would start advertising their future actions. They also found it suspicious that in several instances Mossad reports were worded similarly

As complicated as it might seem, the tactic is rather elementary and would be recognisable to any high school student who has witnessed the situation where a student falsely informs the classroom bully that someone (a chosen enemy) had cast aspersions on his intellectual abilities - "Hey mungo, I heard Johnny calling you a dumbass" - upon which the classroom bully obliges and "takes out" the chosen enemy.

As regards the above comments by Ostrovsky on Israel's false communications, we might reasonably ask why the Spanish and French were able to quickly see through the Israeli deception when the Americans were not. The answer of course is that American intelligence was probably well aware that the communications were false and reported their suspicions. What most were probably unaware of was the fact that every US administration since WWII (and probably before it) have been riddled with not only pro-Israel activists, but with Israeli nationals and that, as such, there was, and remains to this day, a distinct bias among certain members of the US government in the interpretation of intelligence information.

One need only look at the events surrounding Saddam's missing WMDs where Rumsfeld and the Neocons "cherry picked" intelligence that provided the best support to their overriding need to invade and occupy Iraq, at any cost.

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US plans for plague, flu and nuclear bomb attack

From Roland Watson in Washington
March 16 2005

A NUCLEAR bomb in a big city, plague released into an airport washroom and food stocks laced with anthrax are three of fifteen doomsday scenarios inadvertently published by American security chiefs yesterday.

The extraordinary list of nightmare disasters, most triggered by terrorists, is being used by the Department of Homeland Security to concentrate its resources in the areas of most likely attack.

The list, released mistakenly on to a website in Hawaii, shows where security officials believe the United States to be most vulnerable. It also includes a detailed breakdown of the expected casualties and economic costs that such attacks — and some natural disasters — would exact.

One of the most deadly of the 15 scenarios is a flu pandemic, which begins in southern China and spreads within months to four leading American cities, claiming the lives of 87,000 and putting 300,000 in hospital, the plans estimate.

A ten-kilotonne nuclear bomb driven by van into a big city before being detonated would be the most expensive, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, according to the planners. Casualties from such an explosion “could vary widely”, they say.

The Homeland Security Department, set up in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, provoked widespread criticism because of the way it distributed money in its first years. It allocated cash state by state, so that small towns in the middle of Wyoming were equipped with brand new equipment for hazardous materials units, while target cities such as New York and Washington received no extra cash.

Michael Chertoff, the new Homeland Security Secretary, has promised to overhaul the process. The nightmare scenarios are part of a plan to ensure that cash for emergency planning is allocated according to likely need.

The list of scenarios concentrates heavily on chemical and biological attacks. It envisages terrorists spraying anthrax with aerosols from a van as they drive through three cities. They would be able to hit another two shortly afterwards before authorities were able to grasp what was happening.

Such an attack would leave 13,000 dead and cost billions of dollars, according to National Planning Scenarios, the document. By contrast, terrorists using a small aircraft to spray chemical blister agent over a packed college football stadium would leave 150 dead and 70,000 taken to hospital, costing $500 million (£261 million).

The release of pneumonic plague into an airport washroom, a sports arena and a train station in a big city, spreading rapidly, would leave 2,500 dead and 7,000 injured and cost millions of dollars.

If terrorists released sarin gas into the ventilation systems of three large office buildings, it would kill 6,000 and cost $300 million. Several scenarios envisage terrorists using explosives to trigger wider disasters. Blowing up a storage tank of chlorine gas and releasing a large quantity downwind would leave 17,500 dead, 10,000 severely injured and 100,000 taken to hospital.

Clark Ervin, a former Homeland Security inspector-general, denied that the list helped terrorists by revealing the nation’s vulnerabilities. “The terrorists know what their objectives are. They know what the vulnerabilities are,” he said. The report was likely to deter attacks in these areas because it showed that the US was on its guard, he said. “And if attacks occur it’s likely to minimise the damage.”

Comment: In reading the above, we cannot help but recall the fact that on several occasions prior to 9/11 the US government had been planning for a scenario where terrorists would hijack commercial aircraft and fly them into buildings in the US. There is also the claim that, in 1976, the U.S. Army devised a plan commissioned by Congress to bring down the WTC using commercial airliners and box cutters as weapons. Not forgetting the war games that were being conducted on the morning of September 11th 2001 which involved simulated hijackings of commerical airplanes.

How many coincidences have to occur before people start to smell a rat?

We are told that the above "doomsday scenarios" were "mistakenly" released to the public via website in Hawaii. Given the US government's love for terrorising its people with the threat of terrorism, we have to wonder if this is another coincidence too far.

Of course, nothing instills fear in the public better than their beloved leaders and holders of inside information telling them that they are going to die in any number of horrible ways. Yet the reality of the situation, vis a vis biological or chemical attacks by terrorists, is somewhat different than that "mistakenly" presented by the Office of Homeland Insecurity...

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Analysis: The Threat Of Bioterrorism
By Roman Kupchinsky

Biological weapons (BW) have been called the poor man's atomic bomb. Experts readily concur. Biological agents, they say, are easy to obtain, are compact, and extremely deadly. They are "hundreds to thousands of times" more deadly than chemical agents, according to a 1993 report by the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress. The report -- "Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction" -- called biological agents the "true weapons of mass destruction with a potential for lethal mayhem that can exceed that of nuclear weapons."

Despite these frightful assertions, the question of the practicality of biological terrorism remains a valid one -- are biological agents a realistic weapon for terrorists? What are the chances for a group of terrorists to obtain or manufacture biological agents, successfully store them and find the means to effectively disseminate them?

Fortunately, numerous studies have shown that serious doubts exist about the effectiveness of biological weapons, which explains their rare appearance on the battlefield.

A report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), "Biological Weapons Proliferation," prepared in June 2000 (, notes that while the 30 microbes that "directly or indirectly afflict humans" and have been considered likely Biological Warfare agents, are easy and cheap to produce, it is much more difficult to develop BW munitions that have a predictable effect. Furthermore, these pathogens and toxins are "susceptible to such environmental stresses as heat, oxidation and desiccation, to be effective they must maintain their potency during weapon storage, delivery and dissemination."

A March 2003 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) -- "Terrorist Motivations for Chemical and Biological Weapons Use: Placing the Threat in Context" -- found that terrorist groups face numerous problems with acquiring BW materials, maintaining them, transforming them into weapons, and disseminating them.

Dissemination of a biological agent is best done by dispersing a low-altitude aerosol cloud. For such purposes, weapons designers have designed spray-tanks, cluster bombs, and bomblet dispensers, but in turn are faced with the problem of storage. Even if refrigerated, most of the organisms have a limited lifetime.

Use of a bomb to disseminate the agent is unacceptable since an explosive charge is likely to kill the organisms.

Aum Shinrikyo

Many BW experts have singled out the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack in the Tokyo metro which killed 12 people and injured up to 6,000, as an example of the technical difficulties involved in carrying out a successful attack.

Aum Shinrikyo is cited in the CRS report as a "good example of a group that had unusually favorable circumstances for producing chemical and biological weapons, including money, facilities, time and expertise, yet they were unable to do so effectively." The Aum Shinrikyo attack was more of a warning to other groups intent on a copycat attack of the difficulties involved then as an example of what to do.

In discussing this attack, a report by the Henry Stimson Center in Washington in October 2000 -- "Ataxia: The Chemical and Biological Terrorism Threat and the US Response" -- found that Aum Shinrikyo scientists "located the agent formulas readily, but no chemistry book gave them detailed instructions about how to work with these exceedingly volatile materials."

Doomsday Visions

A widespread fear is that terrorists will poison a community's water supply. Reservoirs are poorly guarded and a number of BW agents are stable in water. However, the enormous amounts of agent needed to be mixed into the water supply to effectively achieve a terrorist's goal makes this impractical.

The "Ataxia" report states, "Chemicals commonly used to purify water, such as gaseous chlorine and sodium hypochlorite, kill the microbes that cause glanders, plague, Q fever, epidemic typhus, encephalomyelitis, viral hemorrhagic fevers, smallpox, typhoid, and cholera, the most lethal water-borne agent. On its way to the spigot, some of the agent would also bind, nonspecifically, to the pipes."

Another popular scenario is that of a terrorist cell brewing biological agents in their bathtubs or garages. And while such attempts are possible, it is difficult to link them to a mass casualty attack. The "Ataxia" report notes that about a liter of nerve agent contains roughly a million lethal doses, "but in practice, over a ton of nerve agent would be needed to kill ten thousand people outdoors." It would take a terrorist roughly two years to make enough sarin in a basement-sized operation to kill five hundred and another eighteen years to produce the ton of gas required to kill ten thousand."

The conclusion reached in 1997 by the U.S. Defense Department confirms what many nongovernment experts believe. "Conventional terrorism was far more prevalent, far more harmful, and far more deadly than chemical or biological terrorism. Therefore, if the past is any predictor of the future, terrorist incidents involving chemical and biological substances will continue to be small in scale and far less harmful than conventional terrorist attacks." (U.S. Secretary of Defense, "Proliferation: Threat and Response," (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Defense, 1997).

The Dangerous Future

Terrorism is meant to terrorize and the perceived threat of a biological attack is often more frightening then the probability of such weapons being used. This, however, does not absolve law-enforcement organizations such as Interpol and intelligence services from maintaining a vigilant stance and enforcing nonproliferation agreements, as the Lyon conference intends to underscore.

Presently there are a number of countries suspected of maintaining an active biological warfare program. The CSIS report mentions Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, and Israel, among others. The concern is that these states will develop and stockpile agents and that new, genetically engineered agents might be more effective and difficult to detect.

The fear of such biological agents falling into the hands of terrorists willing to use them is bound to increase the popular notion of BW as a "super threat." Reliable research however, shows that while this is not an easy and viable option at present, it is theoretically capable of causing enormous damage.

As to the future use of BW weapons by terrorists, the December 2004 report "Mapping the Global Future" prepared by the U.S. National Intelligence Council contains a warning.

"As biotechnology information becomes more widely available, the number of people who can potentially misuse such information and wreak widespread loss of life will increase," the report said. "An attacker would appear to have an easier job -- because of the large array of possibilities available -- than the defender, who must prepare against them all."

Comment: So calm down folks, the chances of any "terrorist organisation" launching a successful biological or chemical attack on the US is slim. Such organisations, if they even exist, simply do not have access to the kind of resources needed to launch a major Bio attack. In fact, the vast majority of stocks of biological and chemical warfare agents are held by major governments around the world, the US government possessing large quantities in various locations around the US. So in the event that a bio attack DOES occur on the US, the chances are that, just like the anthrax scare of October 2001, the origin of the agent used will likely be some US military laboratory.

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Homeland Security tries passport spin

The Inquirer
Nick Farrell
30 March 2005

Well that makes us feel better

WE HAVE written a few stories lately about how the US government was using insecure ID tags on the new breed of passports. Using this system, we said, customs people and spies will be able to read your passport in a crowded room without you knowing it.

According to Wired, Homeland Security says we have got the whole thing all wrong. The US government will not use radio-frequency identification tags in the passports it issues to millions of Americans in the coming years.

Instead, the government will use "contactless chips" or “contactless integrated circuits” in fact anything other than Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tags. How could we have got it so wrong? Well the difference between contactless chips and the RFID we thought they were using is… um nothing really. In fact it is a different word for the same thing.

Homeland Security is aware that there is a bit of a privacy debate raging over RFID tags and wants to pretend they are something they are not.

This is a little tricky because computer scientists, data-encryption experts, journalists and even the makers of the contactless chips themselves agree that the Homeland Security Department is using RFID technology.

The Homeland Security Department say they worry that the public will confuse the RFID tags in ID documents with those used by retailers, such as Wal-Mart, to track consumer goods.

In the Wired article, the American Civil Liberties Union accuses Homeland Security of engaging in doublespeak, to dupe Americans into accepting RFID tags on their passports.

They hit out at the "frightening, Orwellian use of the language". The only difference between the Passport contactless chips and the shop RFID tags is that Homeland Security tags have faster processors and more storage capacity. It is just as insecure. We still recommend wrapping your passport in tin foil

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American War Crimes

Journalists tell of US Falluja killings

Sunday 20 March 2005, 4:04 Makka Time, 1:04 GMT

All is quiet in Falluja, or at least that is how it seems, given that the mainstream media has largely forgotten about the Iraqi city. But independent journalists are risking life and limb to bring out a very different story.

The picture they are painting is of US soldiers killing whole families, including children, attacks on hospitals and doctors, the use of napalm-like weapons and sections of the city destroyed.

One of the few reporters who has reached Falluja is American Dahr Jamail of the Inter Press Service. He interviewed a doctor who had filmed the testimony of a 16-year-old girl.

"She stayed for three days with the bodies of her family who were killed in their home. When the soldiers entered she was in her home with her father, mother, 12 year-old brother and two sisters.

She watched the soldiers enter and shoot her mother and father directly, without saying anything. They beat her two sisters, then shot them in the head. After this her brother was enraged and ran at the soldiers while shouting at them, so they shot him dead," Jamail relates.

Disturbing reports

Another report comes from an aid convoy headed up by Dr Salem Ismael. He was in Falluja last month. As well as delivering aid he photographed the dead, including children, and interviewed remaining residents.

Again his story does not tally with the indifference shown by the main media networks.

"The accounts I heard ... will live with me forever. You may think you know what happened in Falluja, but the truth is worse than you could possibly have imagined," he says.

He relates the story of Hudda Fawzi Salam Issawi from the Julan district of Falluja: "Five of us, including a 55-year-old neighbour, were trapped together in our house in Falluja when the siege began. On 9 November American marines came to our house.

'My father and the neighbour went to the door to meet them. We were not fighters. We thought we had nothing to fear. I ran into the kitchen to put on my veil, since men were going to enter our house and it would be wrong for them to see me with my hair uncovered.

"This saved my life. As my father and neighbour approached the door, the Americans opened fire on them. They died instantly.

"Me and my 13-year-old brother hid in the kitchen behind the fridge. The soldiers came into the house and caught my older sister. They beat her. Then they shot her. But they did not see me. Soon they left, but not before they had destroyed our furniture and stolen the money from my father's pocket."

Targeting media

Journalist and writer Naomi Klein has also come under attack for insisting that US forces are eliminating those who dare to count casualties.

No less than the US ambassador to the UK David Johnson wrote a letter to British newspaper The Guardian that published Klein's work, demanding evidence, which she then provided.

The first piece of evidence Klein sent to Johnson was that the hospital in Falluja was raided to stop any reporting of casualties, a tactic that was later repeated in Mosul.

"The first major operation by US marines and Iraqi soldiers was to storm Falluja general hospital, arresting doctors and placing the facility under military control.

"The New York Times reported that 'the hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumours about heavy casualties', noting that 'this time around, the American military intends to fight its own information war, countering or squelching what has been one of the insurgents' most potent weapons'.

The Los Angeles Times quoted a doctor as saying that the soldiers 'stole the mobile phones' at the hospital - preventing doctors from communicating with the outside world."

As Dahr Jamail reports from his online diary "doctors are now technically forbidden to talk to the media or allow them to take photos in Iraqi hospitals unless granted permission from the Ministry of Health and its US-adviser".

Napalm-like weapons

Allied to this are various reports of the US using napalm and napalm-like weaponry in Falluja.

Jamail recounts: "Last November, another Falluja refugee from the Julan area, Abu Sabah, told me: 'They (US military) used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them.'

"He explained that pieces of these bombs exploded into large fires that burned peoples' skin even when water was dumped on their bodies, which is the effect of phosphorous weapons, as well as napalm."

The reports of the use of napalm in civilian areas are widespread, as are many other frightening allegations.

The attacks on the hospitals and medical facilities in Falluja are also in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions.

But as Richard Perle, a senior adviser to US President George Bush said at the start of the Iraq war: "The greatest triumph of the Iraq war is the destruction of the evil of international law."

Comment: The US will do its best to deny the truth of their war crimes in Fallujah. Italian reporter Guiliana Sgrena was doing a report on this subject when she was kidnapped. Given the story she tells of having been on a private road, restricted to members of the occupation, and not the famous highway leading to the airport, it makes the attack by the US tank on her car even more suspicious.

Lest any American think these sources are suspicious because they are from "foreign" sources, US soldiers are reporting the same types of actions.

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"I can't go back to Iraq"

American "deserters" seek refugee status

by Benjamin Witte
March 28, 2005

HALIFAX--US Army Specialist Darrell Anderson hated his seven months in Iraq. He hated the people he was fighting against, hated the people he was fighting for. There was hate between soldiers. And hatred against the Iraqi people. Anderson hated facing death every day. Knowing people who died made him hate even more.[...]

In all likelihood, Anderson did kill people. That, after all, is what the US Army trained him for. In Najaf, he and his fellow soldiers in the 1st Armored Division fired hundreds of rounds. Of course people died. But that was combat at a distance. It was impersonal. Anderson didn't see his enemies fall. Najaf isn't what keeps him up at night.

What haunts the young American instead are a pair of incidents in which he came very close to killing innocent Iraqi civilians. Anderson says he is haunted in recurring nightmares by a series of "what-ifs". What if I'd pulled the trigger that day? What if I'd followed procedure and fired? Those are the questions he focuses on now, as he looks back on the recent chain of events and decisions that led him to flee the US Army and join a handful of other American war resisters in Canada.

"That's why I can't go back to Iraq," says Anderson. "You can't have a normal life after killing innocent people."[...]

Frankly, gaining refugee status is a long shot. In fact, the Immigration and Refugee Board to which Anderson is applying has just recently ruled against granting such recognition to a "deserter" named Jeremy Hinzman, another of House's clients. Hinzman, who's been in Canada since 2003, was the first U.S. citizen ever to apply for refugee status in Canada.[...]

In addition to Hinzman and Anderson, House is also representing former U.S. soldiers Brandon Hughey, 19, David Sanders, 20 and Clifford Cornell, 24.

In order to prove their refugee status, says University of Toronto Law Professor Audrey Macklin, Anderson and the others need to show a "well founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a certain group." The key, she says, is to distinguish between persecution and prosecution. Desertion, according to the US military, is a crime, punishable by imprisonment. That's prosecution, and it's not Canada's job to protect foreign nationals from criminal prosecution in their home countries. However, if a foreigner can successfully argue that his or her liberty is being threatened for actions or opinions protected under Canada's list of Charter rights - political opinion is one example - that, says Macklin, might be deemed persecution and thus justify the granting of refugee status.

"Their legal case is plausible. It's not far-fetched," says the University of Toronto law professor. "Other deserters have won refugee status, just not from the United States."

Therein lies one of the problems House and his US clients are facing. "We don't tend to think of the United States as a refugee producing country," says Macklin. "It makes it so that the burden [of proof] is heavier." Another problem is that unlike the so-called "draft dodgers" of the Vietnam years, all five of these current refuge seekers voluntarily enlisted with the US military. That raises an obvious question, namely, if they really object to the war on political or humanitarian grounds, why did they volunteer as soldiers?[...]

These criticisms aside, neither Audrey Macklin nor Jeffrey House see the enlistment argument as an insurmountable legal obstacle. These men believe in serving and defending their country. They don't object to war, per se, just to what they've come to recognize as an unjust war, Macklin explains. That's exactly what House attempted to demonstrate during Jeremy Hinzman's Dec. 6-8 hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board. To present evidence of US-authored injustices in Iraq, House called former US Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmey Massey to the witness stand. Massey, 31, recently discharged following a 12-year career in the Marines, recounted how during one 48-hour period early in the war, soldiers in his platoon killed over 30 unarmed Iraqi civilians.

"I was never clear on who was the enemy and who was not," Massey testified before the Board.

"How would that lack of clarity affect your ability to comply with the Geneva Conventions?" House asked the former staff sergeant.

"It hindered our ability tremendously," Massey replied. "When you don't know who the enemy is, what are you doing there? What's the purpose of being there? When Marines go into battle they are designed, Marines are trained and designed for one thing, and that is to meet the enemy on the battlefield and destroy you. That is their mission. That is their purpose in life. If you have no enemy or you don't know who the enemy is, what are you doing there?"

Most of the civilian deaths Massey witnessed took place at a military checkpoint. Three times soldiers opened fire on cars that failed to stop in the checkpoint's "red zone." In each case, soldiers hits the cars with approximately 500 bullets. They killed all three drivers, plus one passenger, said Massey. After searching the wreckages, he went on to say, soldiers uncovered no evidence that any of the people in the vehicles were armed.

Darrell Anderson's recollections from Baghdad are similar. At one point, he and a group of soldiers were stationed in front of a roadblock near an Iraqi police station. For several hours they sustained enemy fire. Several soldiers had died. Then, for a while, it was calm. Suddenly a car drove toward Anderson's position. It had broken what soldiers call a "safety perimeter." Also the car was emmitting sparks, probably from bad brakes. Protocol in that situation is to shoot first and ask questions later, which is what Anderson's fellow soldiers were yelling for him to do.

"It's ok, it's ok, it's a family," he yelled back.

Anderson held his fire. He had assumed the driver was confused, that he was trying to flee the city. He guessed right. Before the car sped away Anderson could make out two children sitting in the back seat. A boy and a girl, he thinks.

"Why didn't you shoot?" some of the other soldiers asked him. "Next time you shoot," they ordered.

"They got their procedures," says Anderson. "Even if it is a family, you're supposed to open fire, cause they broke the safety perimeter."

Anderson has another combat memory he can't shake. A hot, Baghdad morning. There had been reports of people with RPG's [Rocket Propelled Grenades], he recalls. "They sent us out to confirm this, which basically means they were out there waiting for us." To investigate the reports, Anderson and about four or five other soldiers boarded a Howitzer tank. Several guys, including one of his best friends, were leaning out of the tank's portholes, guns in hand. Anderson and the rest of team sat inside, across from each other, eyes closed, "just calmly getting ready for what's about to happen."

The attack came suddenly. The deafening rally of machine gun fire drowned out all other sounds. "The next thing I know," Anderson recalls, "my buddy's falling, and he falls on to of me, 'cause I'm sitting down, and he's bloody, and he's spitting up blood thinking he's going to die. He's asking us if he's going to die."

Anderson looked around. Everyone was scared. No one wanted to take his friend's vacated spot atop the vehicle. So Anderson took it upon himself, moved into the porthole position. "I go up there, and I'm thinking, 'right, we're under attack. Shoot somebody!'"

Anderson lifted his gun, aimed, pulled the trigger. Nothing. He'd forgotten to switch the safety to off.

"I turn it to fire, I point again, and it's a little kid, 14 years old. He's running for his life scared," says Anderson. "Just like me and my fellow soldiers."

Again, if he'd followed procedure, he would have shot. In a firefight situation, procedure and training dictate that if you're shot at, you fire at anyone around. They're not innocent anymore, Anderson was told. If they're standing there when someone's done this crime against you, they're guilty.

"I joined the Army to serve my country," says Anderson. "I joined knowing there's a fact that we could fight wars. But the war in Iraq is an illegal war. There's no reason for these kids to be over there doing this, and thousands of innocent Iraqis are being killed.

"I started thinking about the insurgency they're fighting. And I remember seeing their faces and I remember being in combat against them. These were just regular people, there were elderly men, young men. And then I remember looking around Baghdad and seeing the blown up buildings, the people on crutches, the dismembered people, and thinking that these are just their family members. If someone blew up your house and killed a couple of your family, you're going to pick up a weapon and you're going to fight a war for it."

"So there's no way I could go back. It's my human right to choose not to kill innocent people," he says. "And there's no way I could go die for money and oil, rich people's investments. That's when I decided I couldn't go back."[...]

"There's a criminal war going on in Iraq and thousands of people are dying. Anyone who doesn't want to be a part of that is a hero to me."

And so on Jan. 5, two days before he was set to report for duty in Germany - en route to a second tour of duty of Iraq - Anderson, accompanied by friends and family, left Knoxville, Kentucky in a rented car. Twelve hours later, after driving through the night and a blizzard, they reached the US/Canadian border at Niagara Falls.

"We just showed them I.D.'s and they let us go," he recalls. "We drove across Niagara Falls. We rolled the window down. It was a beautiful sight. Just a breath of fresh air - my freedom basically. For now, I was safe." For now. [...]

Going into Hinzman's Dec. hearing, Jeffrey House had originally planned to build his case on the "illegality" of the Iraq war. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler himself, House claims, once signed a petition of international lawyers, arguing that the war is illegal. Nevertheless, it's been government policy not to follow UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's lead and publicly classify the war as illegal. During the Hinzman hearing, government counsel urged presiding Immigration and Refugee Board member Brian Goodman not to accept the war's legality as a relevant issue in the case. Goodman obliged, much to House's dismay.

"For me it's hard to say a soldier should go to jail for refusing to participate in an illegal war," says House. "But if I can't even prove the illegality of the war, it's harder to make the argument."[...]

Comment: The crimes in Fallujah should serve as evidence of the criminal nature of the US occupation of Iraq. No American should be forced to go and fight an illegal war. Unfortunately the law and justice are two different things, as anyone who has had an experience with the law can tell you.

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US captain guilty of Iraq killing

BBC News
Thursday, 31 March, 2005

A military court has found a US army captain guilty of killing a wounded Iraqi man in central Iraq last year.

Capt Rogelio Maynulet, 30, said he shot the man, who had been wounded in a clash with US soldiers, in order to end his suffering.

The court based in Wiesbaden, Germany, found Maynulet guilty of assault with intent to commit manslaughter.

The panel will later discuss a sentence for the charge, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Maynulet 'played God'

The prosecution had pressed for a conviction on the more serious charge of assault with intent to commit murder, which can carry a 20-year jail sentence.

Karim Hassan, 36, was killed on 21 May last year near the central Iraqi town of Kufa.

US troops fired at a vehicle they thought was carrying militants linked to the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

The hearing was told that the car's passenger was killed immediately, while the driver was badly injured.

Lt Colin Cremin testified that Maynulet and others in his unit had described the incident to him, saying the driver "had half his brain hanging out, there was nothing more that could be done for him".

In closing remarks on Thursday, the prosecution had said Maynulet had "played God" when he shot the man.

"This combat-trained life saver prescribed two bullets. He didn't call his superiors for guidance, didn't consult with his medic," Maj John Rothwell said.

Maynulet currently remains with the Wiesbaden unit but he was suspended from command on 25 May last year.

Comment: Over and above the fact that, since Bush, Cheney et al gave the orders to invade Iraq, they should be next in the dock, how does walking up another human being and shooting him in the head equate with a verdict of "assault with intent to commit manslaughter"?? Excuse us for not being well versed in the intricacies of the workings of the military justice system, but wouldn't MURDER be a more exact definition?

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Sleepwalking to disaster in Iran
By Scott Ritter
Wednesday 30 March 2005, 3:19 Makka Time, 0:19 GMT

Late last year, in the aftermath of the 2004 Presidential election, I was contacted by someone close to the Bush administration about the situation in Iraq.

There was a growing concern inside the Bush administration, this source said, about the direction the occupation was going.

The Bush administration was keen on achieving some semblance of stability in Iraq before June 2005, I was told.

When I asked why that date, the source dropped the bombshell: because that was when the Pentagon was told to be prepared to launch a massive aerial attack against Iran, Iraq's neighbour to the east, in order to destroy the Iranian nuclear programme.

Why June 2005?, I asked. 'The Israelis are concerned that if the Iranians get their nuclear enrichment programme up and running, then there will be no way to stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon. June 2005 is seen as the decisive date.'

To be clear, the source did not say that President Bush had approved plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, as has been widely reported.

The President had reviewed plans being prepared by the Pentagon to have the military capability in place by June 2005 for such an attack, if the President ordered.

But when Secretary of State Condi Rice told America's European allies in February 2005, in response to press reports about a pending June 2005 American attack against Iran, she said that 'the question [of a military strike] is simply not on the agenda at this point -- we have diplomatic means to do this.'

President Bush himself followed up on Rice's statement by stating that 'This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous.' He quickly added, 'Having said that, all options are on the table.'

There is always the unspoken 'twist': what if the United States does not fully support European diplomatic initiatives, has no interest in letting IAEA inspections work In short, both the President and the Secretary of State were being honest, and disingenuous, at the same time.

Truth to be told, there is no American military strike on the agenda; that is, until June 2005.

It was curious that no one in the American media took it upon themselves to confront the President or his Secretary of State about the June 2005 date, or for that matter the October 2004 review by the President of military plans to attack Iran in June 2005.

The American media today is sleepwalking towards an American war with Iran with all of the incompetence and lack of integrity that it displayed during a similar path trodden during the buildup to our current war with Iraq.

On the surface, there is nothing extraordinary about the news that the President of the United States would order the Pentagon to be prepared to launch military strikes on Iran in June 2005 .

That Iran has been a target of the Bush administration's ideologues is no secret: the President himself placed Iran in the 'axis of evil' back in 2002, and has said that the world would be a better place with the current Iranian government relegated to the trash bin of history.

The Bush administration has also expressed its concern about Iran's nuclear programmes - concerns shared by Israel and the European Union, although to different degrees.

In September 2004, Iran rejected the International Atomic Energy Agency's call for closing down its nuclear fuel production programme (which many in the United States and Israel believe to be linked to a covert nuclear weapons programme).

Iran then test fired a ballistic missile with sufficient range to hit targets in Israel as well as US military installations in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

The Iranian response triggered a serious re-examination of policy by both Israel and the United States.

The Israeli policy review was driven in part by the Iranian actions, and in part by Israel's own intelligence assessment regarding the Iranian nuclear programme, made in August 2004 .

This assessment held that Iran was 'less than a year' away from completing its uranium enrichment programme. If Iran was allowed to reach this benchmark, the assessment went on to say, then it had reached the 'point of no return' for a nuclear weapons programme. The date set for this 'point of no return' was June 2005.

Israel's Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz, declared that 'under no circumstances would Israel be able to tolerate nuclear weapons in Iranian possession'.

Since October 2003 Israel had a plan in place for a pre-emptive strike against Iran's major nuclear facilities, including the nuclear reactor facility in Busher (scheduled to become active in 2005).

These plans were constantly being updated, something that did not escape the attention of the Bush White House.

The Israeli policy toward Iran, when it comes to stopping the Iranian nuclear programme, has always been for the US to lead the way.

'The way to stop Iran', a senior Israeli official has said, 'is by the leadership of the US, supported by European countries and taking this issue to the UN, and using the diplomatic channel with sanctions as a tool and a very deep inspection regime and full transparency.'

It seems that Tel Aviv and Washington, DC aren't too far removed on their Iranian policy objectives, except that there is always the unspoken 'twist': what if the United States does not fully support European diplomatic initiatives, has no interest in letting IAEA inspections work, and envisions UN sanctions as a permanent means of containment until regime change is accomplished in Tehran, as opposed to a tool designed to compel Iran to cooperate on eliminating its nuclear programme?

Because the fact is, despite recent warm remarks by President Bush and Condi Rice, the US does not fully embrace the EU's Iran diplomacy, viewing it as a programme 'doomed to fail'.

The IAEA has come out with an official report, after extensive inspections of declared Iranian nuclear facilities in November 2004, that says there is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme; the Bush administration responded by trying to oust the IAEA's lead inspector, Mohammed al-Baradei.

And the Bush administration's push for UN sanctions shows every intention of making such sanctions deep, painful and long-lasting.

Curiously, the date for the Bush administration's move to call for UN sanctions against Iran is June 2005.

According to a US position paper circulated in Vienna at the end of last month, the US will give the EU-Iran discussions until June 2005 to resolve the Iranian standoff.

'Ultimately only the full cessation and dismantling of Iran's fissile material production efforts can give us any confidence that Iran has abandoned its nuclear weapons ambitions,' the US draft position paper said.

Iran has called such thinking 'hallucinations' on the part of the Bush administration.

Economic sanctions and military attacks are not one and the same. Unless, of course, the architect of America's Iran policy never intends to give sanctions a chance.

Enter John Bolton, who, as the former US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security for the Bush administration, is responsible for drafting the current US policy towards Iran.

In February 2004, Bolton threw down the gauntlet by stating that Iran had a 'secret nuclear weapons programme' that was unknown to the IAEA. 'There is no doubt that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons production programme', Bolton said, without providing any source to back up his assertions.

This is the same John Bolton who had in the past accused Cuba of having an offensive biological weapons programme, a claim even Bush administration hardliners had to distance themselves from.

John Bolton is the Bush official who declared the European Union's engagement with Iran 'doomed to fail'. He is the Bush administration official who led the charge to remove Muhammad al-Baradai from the IAEA.

And he is the one who, in drafting the US strategy to get the UN Security Council to impose economic sanctions against Iran, asked the Pentagon to be prepared to launch 'robust' military attacks against Iran should the UN fail to agree on sanctions.

Bolton understands better than most the slim chances any US-brokered sanctions regime against Iran has in getting through the Security Council.

The main obstacle is Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council who not only possesses a veto, but also is Iran's main supporter (and supplier) when it comes to its nuclear power programme.

Since October 2003 Israel had a plan in place for a pre-emptive strike against Iran's major nuclear facilities John Bolton has made a career out of alienating the Russians. Bolton was one of the key figures who helped negotiate a May 2002 arms reduction treaty signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

This treaty was designed to reduce the nuclear arsenals of both America and Russia by two thirds over a 10 year period.

But that treaty - to Russia's immense displeasure - now appears to have been made mute thanks to a Bolton-inspired legal loophole that the Bush administration had built into the treaty language.

John Bolton knows Russia will not go along with UN sanctions against Iran, which makes the military planning being conducted by the Pentagon all the more relevant.

John Bolton's nomination as the next US Ambassador to the United Nations is as curious as it is worrying. This is the man who, before a panel discussion sponsored by the World Federalist Association in 1994, said 'There is no such thing as the United Nations.'

For the United States to submit to the will of the Security Council, Bolton wrote in a 1999 Weekly Standard article, would mean that 'its discretion in using force to advance its national interests is likely to be inhibited in the future.'

But John Bolton doesn't let treaty obligations, such as those incurred by the United States when it signed and ratified the UN Charter, get in the way. 'Treaties are law only for US domestic purposes', he wrote in a 17 November 1997 Wall Street Journal Op Ed. 'In their international operation, treaties are simply political obligations.'

John Bolton believes that Iran should be isolated by United Nations sanctions and, if Iran will not back down from its nuclear programme, confronted with the threat of military action.

And as the Bush administration has noted in the past, particularly in the case of Iraq, such threat must be real and meaningful, and backed by the will and determination to use it.

And the Bush administration's push for UN sanctions shows every intention of making such sanctions deep, painful and long-lasting. John Bolton and others in the Bush administration contend that, despite the lack of proof, Iran's nuclear intentions are obvious.

In response, the IAEA's Muhammad al-Baradai has pointed out the lack of a 'smoking gun' which would prove Iran's involvement in a nuclear weapons programme. 'We are not God', he said. 'We cannot read intentions.'

But, based upon history, precedent, and personalities, the intent of the United States regarding Iran is crystal clear: the Bush administration intends to bomb Iran.

Whether this attack takes place in June 2005, when the Pentagon has been instructed to be ready, or at a later date, once all other preparations have been made, is really the only question that remains to be answered.

That, and whether the journalists who populate the mainstream American media will continue to sleepwalk on their way to facilitating yet another disaster in the Middle East.

Scott Ritter former UN Chief Weapons inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998 author of 'Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of America's Intelligence Conspiracy', published by I.B.

Comment: It is clear that the Bush gang are not making idle threats. On one level, they serve to implement Israeli policy. It is not the United States that is threatened by Iran's missiles, it is Israel. Israel is the sole nuclear power in the Middle East, a fact that worries its neighbors. Wouldn't you be seeking to arm yourself with nuclear weapons if you knew you principal advesary would not hesitate to use them against you? That is the nature of politics in our world, as unpleasant as it is. Israel has already attacked a nuclear plant in Saddam's Iraq. It acts with impunity because it is backed by the force of the United States.

But the problems in the Middle East are preparatory events, and the main actors probably do not even realise that they themselves are being used to set up the events we discussed yesterday, events of an esoteric character dealing with the future of the planet. Of course, such ideas are not to be discussed in polite society. The idea that our world is a large cattle pen for beings we neither see nor hear is too outlandish to be taken seriously by most people in the West. Their reason prevents them from even considering the possibility.

Which is nice for the keepers. You'd almost think it was planned that way.

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What Will Be the Sharon Legacy?
by Am Johal; March 29, 2005
ZNet | Israel/Palestine

As Israeli Arabs mark Land Day this week, Ariel Sharon's government announced what everybody already knew since last summer. The Israeli government is going to expand the Maaleh Adumim settlement bloc in the West Bank by 3,500 housing units. With other development measures in place, it will effectively separate the West Bank and leave any open corridor under Israeli control as well as redraw the boundaries of Jerusalem. Other policies such as the construction of the Separation Wall will continue unabated.

Despite positive policy developments since the recent Palestinian elections and the death of Yasser Arafat, this recent announcement brought back the reality of the old days and the original playbook of the Israeli right: act unilaterally, expand the settlements, make a land grab and blame the Palestinians for everything.

As right wing factions in the Knesset sought to build support for a referendum on the Gaza withdrawal last week, Sharon and his coalition government backed by Labor soundly defeated the motion. There was Sharon again in his new persona as a man of the middle.

"We can't expect to receive explicit American agreements to build freely in the Settlements," he told his Cabinet colleagues. "The Americans always expressed criticism about construction in the settlements, and they have done so now, too."

As Sharon prepares to meet President Bush next month, his government is continuing to change the facts on the ground. Under the cover of the Gaza withdrawal, the plan for continued settlement expansion is moving ahead.

Sharon plans to proceed with expansion while the Bush Administration will not go beyond a few public statements expressing concerns with the policy. The Roadmap to Peace, in this environment, has no standing in the Middle East as a legitimate vehicle for peace or a final agreement. As it stands now, it is a public relations exercise designed to fill a diplomatic vacuum.

Despite UN resolutions, pronouncements made during the Roadmap to Peace process and other public statements, the plan to redraw Jerusalem and build into the West Bank has had no serious opposition. Sharon's unilateralism has won the day while he has been showered with the praise of a moderate.

Many Israeli commentators such as Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and Tanya Reinhart have asked the question, "Is the left dead in Israel?" As the settlers protesting the Gaza withdrawal bring 100,000 to Jerusalem, the groups opposing settlement expansion have yet to build a public consensus or win over the street.

In this failure of leadership on the Israeli left, a movement which has barely lifted a finger since the Camp David Accords, has been the further negation and marginalization of even the most basic Palestinian demands, backed by international law, UN resolutions and the International Court of Justice.

The narrative has rarely shifted. "There can be no peace until the Palestinians deal with their own terrorists." Incitement still exists on both sides of the border, but one is still the aggressor and the other, the occupied. Today, on the Israeli side just as with the Bush Administration, unilateralism is rewarded as an example of true leadership.

In supporting the expansion of Maaleh Adumim, Sharon is imposing a new geographic and demographic reality on Jerusalem. In addition to other policies such as the Separation Wall and evictions in the City of David/Silwan neighbourhood, it is fair to say that there is a policy of ethnic transfer occurring today all under the watchful eye of the EU, the UN and the United States.

The Greater Jerusalem Plan includes an area exceeding 10 percent of the West Bank and will ensure that there will be no contiguity between the southern and northern areas of the West Bank.

The peace process certainly has not been kind to the Palestinians. The number of settlers has increased from 105,000 in 1992 to 236,000 at present in the West Bank. Last year alone, 4,000 housing units were constructed during the US led the Roadmap to Peace.

Since September 2000, when Ariel Sharon made his visit to the Temple Mount igniting the Second Intifada, more than 3,200 Palestinians have been killed and 1,000 Israelis. Most of these killed were unarmed civilians. In the process, over 4,000 homes have been demolished and the main features of the Occupation continue - movement restrictions, choking of the Palestinian economy, administrative detention, collective punishment, denial of basic services and building of the Separation Wall has led to John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur to Palestine calling the situation similar to Apartheid.

In a report last year, Dugard noted that settlement expansion together with the construction of the Separation Wall, "suggests that territorial expansion remains an essential feature of the Israel's policies and practises in the [occupied Palestinian Territories]."

If the narrative in the mainstream media will simply be that Sharon, the father of the settlement movement, is now the one leading his nation to peace by implementing the Gaza withdrawal, it will be a story which does not recognize his direct role in expanding settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank - a policy which will prolong any hope for a final status agreement. A peace process without a human rights agenda will be meaningless.

Comment: With the media controlled by people supportive of Israeli's genocide of the Palestinians, you can be certain that this information will not make its way to the public at large. It is amazing to see Sharon being portrayed as the peacemaker, as having mellowed, as no longer representing the extreme right in Israel. For those who know the facts, it is clear tht he is still the same criminal who stood by in Lebanon and watched as the Phalangists murdered Palestinians at his encouragement in the camps of Sabra and Shatila.

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E-1: The end of a viable Palestinian state
Jeff Halper, The Electronic Intifada, 31 March 2005
The fatal flaw in most analyses of the Israel-Palestine conflict is the assumption that if the Palestinians can just get a state of their own, then all will be fine. A state on all the Occupied Territories (UN Resolution 242), on most of the Occupied Territories (Oslo and the Road Map to the Geneva Initiative), on even half the Occupied Territories (Sharon's notion) - it doesn't matter. Once there's a Palestinian state the conflict is over and we can all move on to the next item on the agenda.

Wrong. A Palestinian state can just as easily be a prison as a legitimate state that addresses the national aspirations of its people. The crucial issue is viability. Israel is a small country, but it is three times larger than the Palestinian areas. The entire Occupied Areas - the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza - make up only 22% of Israel/Palestine. That means that even if all of the territories Israel conquered in 1967 were relinquished, it would still comprise a full 78% of the country.

Would the Palestinian areas constitute a viable state? Barely. Just the size of the American state of Delaware (but with three times the population before refugees return), it would at least have a coherent territory, borders with Israel, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, a capital in Jerusalem, a port on the Mediterranean, an airport in Gaza, a viable economy (based on Holy Land tourism, agriculture and hi-tech) and access to the water of the Jordan River.

An accepted member of the international community enjoying trade with its neighbors - and enjoying as well the support of a far-flung, highly educated and affluent diaspora - a small Palestinian state would have a shot at viability.

This is what Israel seeks to prevent. Ever since becoming the head of the Ministerial Committee on Settlements in the Begin government back in 1977, Ariel Sharon has been completely up-front about his intention of securing the entire Land of Israel for the Jewish people. “Security” has nothing to do with Israel's expansionist policies.

Successive Israeli governments did not establish 200 settlements because of security. Nor did they build a massive infrastructure of Israeli-only highways that link the settlement blocs irreversibly into Israel for security reasons. Nor can the route of the Separation Barrier, nor the policy of expropriating Palestinian land and systematically demolishing Palestinian homes be explained by “security.” They all derive from one central goal: to claim the entire country for Israel. Period.

Still, Israel cannot “digest” the 3.6 million Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. Giving them citizenship would nullify Israel as a Jewish state; not giving them citizenship yet keeping them forever under occupation would constitute outright apartheid.

What to do? The answer is clear: establish a tiny Palestinian state of, say, five or six cantons (Sharon's term) on 40-70% of the Occupied Territories, completely surrounded and controlled by Israel. Such a Palestinian state would cover only 10-15% of the entire country and would have no meaningful sovereignty and viability: no coherent territory, no freedom of movement, no control of borders, no capital in Jerusalem, no economic viability, no control of water, no control of airspace or communications, no military - not even the right as a sovereign state to enter into alliances without Israeli permission.

And since the Palestinians will never agree to this, Israel must “create facts on the ground” that prejudice negotiations even before they begin. Last week's announcement that Israel is constructing 3500 housing units in E-1, a corridor connecting Jerusalem to the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, seals the fate of the Palestinian state.

As a key element of an Israeli “Greater Jerusalem,” the E-1 plan removes any viability from a Palestinian state. It cuts the West Bank in half, allowing Israel to control Palestinian movement from one part of their country to another, while isolating East Jerusalem from the rest of Palestinian territory. Since 40% of the Palestinian economy revolves around Jerusalem and its tourist-based economy, the E-1 plan effectively cuts the economic heart out of any Palestinian state, rendering it nothing more than a set of non-viable Indian reservations.

If there is any silver lining in the E-1 plan, it is that it has highlighted American complicity in Israel's settlement expansion. The Bush Administration, while calling the E-1 plan “unhelpful,” nevertheless formally recognized the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement bloc, together with E-1, in last year's agreement between Bush and Sharon - a fundamental American policy change that was ratified almost unanimously by Congress. This puts the US in the very uncomfortable position of undermining its own Road Map initiative, which stems from the “Bush vision” of an Israeli-Palestinian peace. It also neutralizes completely America's role as an honest broker, and pits it against the other three members of the Road Map Quartet - Europe, the UN and Russia - who deplore the change in American policy.

Most tragically, American support for Sharon's settlement project destroys forever the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, dooming the peoples of Israel-Palestine to perpetual conflict. How this squares with American interests in a stable Middle East is anybody's guess.

Comment: We have serious doubts that highlighting yet again US complicity in the crimes of Israel will change anything. That complicity has been apparent for years. Before it may have been somewhat hidden while with Bush it is flagrant and completely in the open. But so what? What is the rest of the world doing? What is the Arab world doing?

What hope is there for the Palestinians trapped in their occupied cage?

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Settlers get unexpected boost

By Ynetnews

TEL AVIV - Human rights group B’tselem , known as an outspoken critic of Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza, says the disengagement plan could potentially undermine the rights of settlers.

‘Israel must protect settlers’ lives’

The settlement enterprise is not a result of private initiative, but rather, stems from massive government intervention, the reports says.

“As a result, Israel faces heavy legal and moral responsibility in ensuring the human rights of settlers are being protected,” it says.

Since the beginning of the intifada, settlers have been a regular target for Palestinian attacks, the report says, and adds that the terror strikes constitute a blatant violation of the right to life and are defined as a war crime under humanitarian law.

“The Israeli government must adopt all legal means at its disposal to prevent harm to settlers,” the report says.

Comment: The above is a good example of the essential uselessnes of 'humanitarian' organisations. While those involved in such groups may be geuinely well-intentioned, the fact that the humanitarian abuse around the world has steadily increased over the decades suggests that utlimately they are impotent and beholden to those people who profit from the suffering of others. In the case of B’tselem; they citicise Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza while at the same time defending the alleged rights of illegal settlers whose occupation of Palestinian land is a major contributing factor to the abuse of Palestinian rights. We can only conclude that B'tselem are more concerned with the continuance of the circumstances that gives rise to the need for a human rights organisation than with removing the human rights abuses.

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Israeli army to use new unmanned planes: report 2005-03-31 20:08:37

GAZA, March 31 (Xinhuanet) -- Israeli army will soon use a new typeof pilotless planes to watch the activities of Palestinian militants, Israel Radio reported Thursday.

The new planes will be used in battling against Palestinian military groups as well as arms smuggling from Egypt to the Gaza Strip, said the report citing Israeli army sources.

"Israeli soldiers could carry the planes on their backs and operate them in the field," the sources said, adding that the soldiers would be trained on using them.

According to the radio, Israeli army received Wednesday evening several of these planes which are distinguished by their lightness.The new plane can be operated by a remote control and its low sound couldn't be heard 10 meters away.

The new planes are produced by an Israeli military producing company, said the report.

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Israel is among the holocaust deniers

By Yossi Sarid

April 24 will mark the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and the Armenian government is holding an international conference in the capital of Yerevan, dedicated to the memory of the more than a million Armenians murdered by the Turks. I was also invited, and I decided to attend. This month will also see the Hebrew publication of Prof. Yair Auron's eye-opening and stomach churning book, "Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide," Maba Publishing, which has already been highly praised overseas in its English-language edition.
As opposed to many other nations, Israel has never recognized the murder of the Armenian people, and in effect lent a hand to the deniers of that genocide. Our official reactions moved in the vague, illusory realm between denial to evasion, from "it's not clear there really was genocide" to "it's an issue for the historians," as Shimon Peres once put it so outrageously and stupidly.

There are two main motives for the Israeli position. The first is the importance of the relationship with Turkey, which for some reason continues to deny any responsibility for the genocide, and uses heavy pressure worldwide to prevent the historical responsibility for the genocide to be laid at its door. The pressure does work, and not only Israel, but other countries as well do the arithmetic of profits and loss. The other motive is that recognition of another nation's murder would seem to erode the uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust.

Five years ago, on the 85th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, I was invited as education minister to the Armenian church in the Old City of Jerusalem. This is what I said at the time:

"I am here, with you, as a human being, as a Jew, as an Israeli, and as the minister of education in Israel. For many years, too many, you were alone on this, your memorial day. I am aware of the special significance of my presence here. Today, for the first time, you are less alone."

I recalled the Jewish American ambassador to Turkey at the time of the slaughter, Henry Morgenthau, who called the massacre of the Armenians "the greatest crime of modern history." That good man had no idea what would yet happen in the 20th century - who could have anticipated the Jewish Holocaust? And I recalled Franz Werfel's "The 40 Days of Musa Dagh," which came out in Germany in the spring of 1933 and shocked millions of people and eventually, me, too, as a youth.

Summing up, I said, "We Jews, the main victims of murderous hatred, must be doubly sensitive and identify with other victims. Those who stand aside, turn away, cast a blind eye, make their calculations of gains and losses, and are silent, always help the murderers and never those who are being murdered. In our new history curriculum I want to see a central chapter on genocide, and within it, an open reference to the Armenian genocide. That is our duty to you and to ourselves."

The Armenian community in Israel and the world took note of that statement with satisfaction. Turkey complained vociferously, demanding an explanation from the Israeli government. And "my government," of all governments, first stammered and then denied responsibility, and explained that I spoke for myself. And not a remnant survives in the new curriculum of the Livnat era.

Now it can be said. They were right. All the stammerers and deniers. I really did not consult with anyone else and did not ask for permission. What must be asked when the answer is known in advance, and it is based on the wrong assumption that there is a contradiction between a moral position and a political one? Just how beastly must we be as humans, or as Haaretz wrote then in its editorial, "The teaching of genocides must be at the top of the priorities of the values of the Jewish people, the victim of the Holocaust, and no diplomacy of interests can be allowed to stand in that way"?

The Israeli Foreign Ministry, and not only it, is always afraid of its own shadow and thus it casts a dark shadow over us all as accomplices to the "silence of the world." The Dalai Lama, leader of the exiled Tibetans, has visited here twice, and twice I was warned by "officials" not to meet with him. It would mean a crisis in relations with China, the exact same thing they say about Turkey. I rebuffed those warnings in both cases. I have always believed that moral policies pay off in the long run, while rotten policies end up losing.

And all this I will repeat in the capital of Armenia, only in my name, of course.

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Is America the SS Titanic?

Douglas Herman
March 28 2005
Strike the Root

History's Enduring Morality Tale

In 1912 the steamship Titanic was an enormous floating palace with many levels of society enclosed in a single vessel. The upper levels of the ship housed the wealthy and powerful. Below the richly furnished staterooms of the elite, the corresponding levels of society descended to the very bottom of the ship, where the lowest classes lived and worked.

"At her launching in May 1911, the British press hailed the White Star Line’s 46,000-ton superliner Titanic as ‘the Wonder Ship,’ the most stupendous, the most luxurious, the safest ship afloat," wrote Sir James Bisset.

Despite the media rapture that heralded the Titanic as the most marvelous ship afloat, several of her crew deserted. "The rumor had started several days before the Titanic left Southampton ," said then second mate Bisset. "Newspapers for months had been printing articles extolling her wonderful qualities, but on the morning when she was due to leave Southampton , twenty two men who had signed on in her crew were missing."

Despite the media rapture that presently heralds America as the sole remaining superpower, an unsinkable republic and an unassailable democracy, the country appears to be cruising as comfortably into unsafe waters laced with icebergs. The warnings have been forthcoming for a long time now. Similar to the enduring morality tale of the Titanic, where "not one, but many errors brought her to disaster," little hints of disaster indicating a larger tragedy to come have been sent—and ignored—by friendly ships of state all around.

Aboard the SS Titanic on her maiden voyage a helmsman firmly took the wheel. Behind him stood two powerful figures, the ship’s Captain, Edward John Smith, and Bruce Ismay, the Chairman of the White Star Line. Behind them stood the prestige and power of the owner of the White Star Line, Ismay's father. "There is testimony that Ismay urged the captain to maintain maximum speed," said Bisset, one of the first men on the rescue scene after the sinking. Thus the helmsman aboard the Titanic actually wielded little power, exercised little judgment, aside from spinning the wheel. Those who stood behind him in the shadows set the course and determined the speed (and were wholly responsible for the ship). A New Atlantic Speed Record for her maiden voyage became an enviable goal. All that was required was an increase in power, and thus, speed for the entire voyage.

Aboard the SS America, nearly a hundred years later, the helmsman stands at the wheel, looking self-important, nominally in charge. Although the hands of the helmsman certainly grasp the wheel, the course and speed of SS America have been set by others. In the shadows, the power elite plot the new course, having increased power and speed, irregardless of the safety of the vessel. To the privileged class striding the upper decks of the most powerful vessel afloat, there is little cause for alarm, however. After all, capable men control this enormous ship of state and so the leisure class promenade proudly past the stout lifeboats of their diversified investment portfolios, and calmly tell themselves the vessel is unsinkable.

Ice warnings arrived throughout the entire voyage, 21 warnings altogether, including seven that Sunday. The Titanic continued steaming at top speed towards the pack ice—growlers and bergs--drifting down from Greenland . The two radiomen aboard the Titanic, Harold McBride and Jack Phillips, passed the warnings to the officers on the bridge throughout the day, but were mostly kept busy sending stock market messages from the wealthy businessmen on board and relaying stock quotes from New York

Aboard the SS Carpathia, steaming east towards the Titanic, Captain Rostron remarked about the great ship on her maiden voyage. “She must be a wonderful ship, but all their newspaper bragging seems a kind of blasphemy, claiming that she’s ‘unsinkable’ and all that kind of thing.” The Carpathia would be the first ship on the scene after the disaster. Ironically, Captain Smith of the Titanic had remarked, on an earlier occasion, "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that."

On Sunday evening aboard the Titanic, the upper classes continued to dine in opulent splendor before retiring. In the lower levels of the ship, particularly steerage, the common folk passed the time, reassured by the throb of the powerful engines and the stoutness of the steel hull, the swishing of seawater against the steel plates almost reassuring. The prospect of a bright new future, a new American century, appeared almost within their reach.

Unknown to anyone aboard the Titanic, whether passenger or crew, a critical design flaw had been built into the construction of the vessel. Inexplicably, Titanic's bulkheads and watertight compartments, did not reach all the way to the top of the overhead ceiling. Should the ship ever be flooded suddenly, her pumps might not keep the seawater from topping the bulkheads. The “unsinkable” Titanic would then quickly sink.

Aboard the SS America, the bulkheads and watertight doors likewise did not go all the way to the top. An intentional yet critical design flaw, ignored by passengers and crew alike, revealed that, in an emergency, nothing stood behind the US dollar but mere paper, empty promises, and the weight of massive debt. Still the ship of state sped onward, into uncharted waters incurring mountainous debt while the helmsman swung the wheel according to the dictates of the rich and powerful men behind him. Despite ample and repeated warnings of hazards ahead, from writers and radiomen with foresight, another foolhardy speed record beckoned those in control. Called the Project for New American Century, all that was required was an irrational increase in power and speed to achieve their goal. That and considerable luck.

AT 11 PM, the Titanic steamed west at her maximum speed of 22.5 knots, her radioman still sending and receiving stock market directives. A message arrived from the steamship Californian, ten miles to the northwest, that she was stopped for the night by ice blocking her way. Aboard the Titanic, the harried radioman, Jack Phillips, cut him short with the terse reply in code, “Shut up old man I’m busy.”

The SS Titanic, the largest ship afloat, where “not one but many errors brought her to disaster,” was only minutes away from her doom. Aboard the opulent luxury liner, however, neither the passengers nor the crew realized their immediate danger. Indeed, most slept soundly even when the Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 PM and had to be aroused thirty minutes later. By then, at 12:15 AM, the frantic radioman Phillips tapped out his first distress signal—CQD--to be followed ten minutes later by this desperate message to the reply of the Carpathia: "CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD SOS. Come at once. We have struck a berg…" The score of ice warning repeatedly ignored by those who set the speed and course aboard the Titanic had finally caught up to the "unsinkable" liner.

"The fact that the Titanic had struck a berg in calm weather on a clear night meant one of three things," observed second mate, James Bisset of the Carpathia: "insufficient lookout; responses too slow from her bridge; or that the big vessel at her full speed had not quickly enough answered her helm to avoid collision."Full view picture of an iceberg

Within two hours the largest ship afloat would be foundering, her engine rooms flooded, her radios failing. Untrained crewmen struggled to launch lifeboats and board hundreds of stunned, reluctant or disbelieving passengers. If the ship was so unsinkable, they wondered, why were they being forced into lifeboats? Many wealthy passengers—and almost all of those in steerage—would drown when the ship sank; there simply were not enough lifeboats. By 1:45 AM, when Phillips tapped his last message, "Come as quickly as possible. Engine room filling up to the boilers," the last lifeboat pulled away from the sinking ship.

Bruce Ismay, however, would survive the sinking of the Titanic. "According to evidence," remarked Bisset, "he had jumped into a boat that was being lowered." Like many of those now in command of this ship of state, the SS America, the Ismays of the world always survive. Indeed they thrive, even prosper, whether in disaster or success. Whether Neocon, Bilderberger, Wall Street insider or architect of the New World Order, they’re the first ones into the lifeboats with a money belt firmly around their waist.

When the collision of the SS America occurs, with a mountainous iceberg of foreign debt amid an ice pack of foolhardy foreign adventures, the ablest survivors will be those least clinging to the notion that the vessel is unsinkable. Indeed, many of the foremost survivors will resemble the 22 crewmen who abandoned the Titanic before she sailed, aware that those who command our beautiful vessel are woefully incompetent or criminally insane.

Postscript: Then as now, New York newspapers were pretty unreliable for accuracy: "ALL Saved From Titanic After Collision," blared the New York Evening Sun, of April 15, 1912. The Carpathia arrived at 4 AM, Monday, April 15, almost two hours after the Titanic had sunk. "The increasing daylight revealed dozens of icebergs within our horizon," observed Bisset. "Among them were four or five big bergs, towering up to two hundred feet above water level. One of these was the one that the Titanic had struck." The Carpathia’s crew spent the morning rescuing 703 survivors and hoisted 13 lifeboats aboard. Neither the Titanic’s captain or her first officer were among the survivors. Captain Smith, aware of the enormity of his error in judgment, had gone down with his ship. One final irony: sometime this spring the vessel USS America will be sunk, somewhere in the Atlantic.

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Ousted Kyrgyz president blames outside forces 2005-03-31 20:01:18

LONDON, March 31 (Xinhuanet) -- Ousted Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev Thursday blamed outside forces, including the US ambassador to Bishkek, for involvement in driving him out of power.

"At home, it was the radical opposition but there was interest from abroad, too," Akayev said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) here.

"A week before these events I saw a letter on the Internet signed by the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan. It contained a detailed plan for the revolution," said Akayev.

"I didn't surrender office and right now I am the only legitimate head of state," he claimed.

Akayev fled to Russia last week after disputed parliamentary elections on Feb. 27 and March 13 triggered widespread protests across the Central Asian country. Opposition supporters stormed the main government buildings in capital Bishkek and forced Akayevto flee.

Also on Thursday, a rift in the leadership of post-coup Kyrgyzstan widened over the return home of Akayev, amid warnings of fresh violence in the Central Asian state.

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Carlyle Closes Record Capital-Raising
Tue Mar 29, 2005 07:40 AM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - The Carlyle Group has completed the world's largest corporate buyout capital-raising at $10 billion to finance mega-sized deals on both sides of the Atlantic, the private equity firm said on Tuesday.

Carlyle's latest capital-raising was through two funds. The U.S.-focused Carlyle Partners IV got $7.85 billion of commitments, and European fund Carlyle Europe Partners II received $2.2 billion of commitments. [...]

Carlyle invests in buyouts, venture capital, real estate and leveraged finance in the U.S., Europe and Asia in industries ranging from aerospace and transport to energy, telecommunications and healthcare.

Comment: What, no mention of the thriving war industries business? Or is it included in the inocuous title of "aerospace"?

Carlyle Partners III, the group's previous U.S.-focused fund which launched in 2000 at $3.9 billion, returned over 127 percent of capital to investors and still holds a large portfolio of investments, a spokeswoman for the group said.

Carlyle said last month it had returned $5.3 billion to investors in 2004, compared with $2.3 billion in 2003. The firm also raised $7.8 billion last year, up from $2 billion a year ago, and invested $2.7 billion, up $100 million on 2003.

Comment: For a slightly different take on the Carlyle Group and exactly where they invest to make such healthy profits, take a look at this documentary.

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Japanese vice education minister wants sex slave history erased from textbooks 2005-03-31 20:03:32

TOKYO, March 31 (Xinhuanet) -- A senior Japanese government official said Thursday a word related to Japan's sex slavery practices in World War II should be removed from middle school history textbooks.

His remarks came as the Japanese government is censoring a very controversial textbook which is alleged to glorify Japan's atrocities in that war, and are expected to incur heavy criticisms from neighboring nations.

"Considering the children's growth and development stage, it is not appropriate to include the word 'comfort women' in junior high school textbooks," senior vice education minister Hakubun Shimomura told a House of Councilors committee, Kyodo News reported.

The word "comfort women" refers to women whom the Japanese troops enslaved sexually in the war in the Asian nations.

"Comfort women existed at that time, that I do not deny," Shimomura said. "(But) words describing forced labor (taken from occupied territories) and comfort women for the military were not used at that time. It is inappropriate to use in textbooks such terms that have not been used."

Japan's right-wing activists are desperately seeking government's sanction of the latest history book which justifies Japan invasion.

Japan's view on that history has been the major stumbling blockfor developing friendship with neighboring countries. [...]

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Japanese court rejects Chinese war victims' compensation suit 2005-03-31 19:55:48
TOKYO, March 31 (Xinhuanet) -- The Tokyo High Court on Thursday rejected compensation suits from a group of Chinese women who were raped by Japanese soldiers in the World War II.

In the ruling, the court admitted the fact that they were raped by Japanese soldiers, but rejected the demand for compensation on the ground that the government was not supposed to be responsible to compensate for state actions according to the old constitution at that time. [...]

Lawsuits brought up by Chinese for sufferings during the Japanese invasion for government compensations and apologies have routinely been rejected by Japanese courts.

Comment: Do we see some similarities between the behaviour of the Japanese and the behaviour of the Bush Reich?

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Chip reads mind of paralysed man
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Thursday March 31, 2005
The Guardian

A severely paralysed man has become the first person to be fitted with a brain implant that allows him to control everyday objects by thought alone.

Matthew Nagle, 25, was left paralysed from the neck down after a vicious knife attack in 2001. He uses a wheelchair and is unable to breathe without a respirator, and doctors say he has no chance of regaining the use of his limbs.

But following an operation at New England Sinai Hospital in Massachusetts, Mr Nagle has become the first patient in a controversial trial of brain implants which could help disabled people to be more independent by tapping into their brain waves.

During the three-hour operation, electrodes were attached to the surface of Mr Nagle's brain. They were positioned just above the sensory motor cortex, where the neural signals for controlling arm and hand movement are produced. Surgeons completed the operation by fitting a metal socket to Mr Nagle's head so he could be hooked up to a computer.

The scientists, lead by Professor John Donoghue, a world expert in neurotechnology at Brown University in Rhode Island, used a computer to decipher the brain waves picked up by the implant. In early trials, Mr Nagle learned to move a cursor around a computer screen simply by imagining moving his arm.

By using software linked to devices around the room, Mr Nagle has since been able to think his TV on and off, change channel and alter the volume. "Eventually, we want him to be able to use it to control the lights, his phone and other devices," said Prof Donoghue.

In the most recent tests, performed earlier this year, Mr Nagle was able to use thought to open and close an artificial prosthetic hand and move a robotic arm to grab sweets from one person's hand and drop them in another. He has also sharpened his skills at computer games by playing the old arcade game Pong.

Prof Donoghue hopes the implant, called BrainGate, will ultimately allow paraplegics to regain the use of their limbs. "If we can find a way to hook this up to his own muscles, he could open and close his own hands and move his own arms," he said. "We're very encouraged by Matthew, but we're cautious. It's just one person. There's further to go, but we're absolutely on the way."

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Space Daily
31 March 2005

Late last year, solar physicists declared that solar minimum is coming. It certainly is. Monthly-averaged sunspot numbers have reached their lowest levels since 1997:

If this trend holds, solar minimum should arrive in 2006 followed by a rapid ascent back to solar maximum in 2010. It is widely believed that sunspots vanish and solar flares stop--completely--during solar minimum. Not so. Occasional big sunspots will unleash flares and spark auroras in 2006, just not so often as in recent years.

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Why Google scares Jacques Chirac
Hugh Schofield

French President Jacques Chirac has vowed to launch a new "counter-offensive" against American cultural domination, enlisting the support of the British, German and Spanish governments in a multi-million euro bid to put the whole of European literature online.

The president was reacting this month to news that the American search-engine provider Google is to offer access to some 15 million books and documents currently housed in five of the most prestigious libraries in the English-speaking world.

The realisation that the "Anglo-Saxons" were on the verge of a major breakthrough towards the dream of a universal library seriously rattled the cultural establishment in Paris, raising again the fear that French language and ideas will one day be reduced to a quaint regional peculiarity.

Chirac has met with Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and National Library president Jean-Noel Jeanneney and asked them "to analyse the conditions under which the collections of the great libraries in France and Europe could be put more widely and more rapidly on the Internet". [...]

It was Jeanneney who alerted Chirac to the new challenge. In an article in the French daily Le Monde, France's chief librarian conceded that the Google-Print project, with its 4.5 billion pages of text, will be a boon to researchers and a long-awaited chance for poor nations to get access to global learning.

But he went on: "The real issue is elsewhere. And it is immense. It is confirmation of the risk of a crushing American domination in the definition of how future generations conceive the world.

"The libraries that are taking part in this enterprise are of course themselves generously open to the civilisations and works of other countries .... but still, their criteria for selection will be profoundly marked by the Anglo-Saxon outlook," he said.

Jeanneney drew as an example the 1989 celebrations to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the French revolution - which he himself was personally in charge of. It would have been "deleterious and detestable" for the image of France if the only texts popularly consulted around the world for an interpretation of the revolution were English-language ones, he said.

"It would have meant The Scarlet Pimpernel triumphing over Ninety-three (Victor Hugo's eulogistic account of the revolution); valiant British aristocrats triumphant over bloody Jacobins; the guillotine concealing the rights of man and the shining ideas of the Convention," he said.

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Earthquake occurs in Manado of Indonesia
People's Daily

An earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale rocked Indonesia's eastern city Manado late Wednesday, Meteorology and Geophysics Office spokesman Rahmat said on Thursday.

Rahmat said the epicenter of the earthquake was in the Banda Sea, some 188 km southeast of Manado in North Sulawesi province, at a depth of 100 km. It was believed the tremor was not related to Monday's disastrous earthquake which rocked the western coast of Sumatra island.

Wednesday's tremor also caused widespread panic among the local residents, many of them were seen to scramble out of their homes for safe places, according to the official news agency Antara. However, there has been no reports of damage or casualty.

More than 400 people have been killed and hundreds others remained missing after a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 8.7 rocked the Indonesian islands of Nias and Simeulue late Monday.

Meanwhile, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.5 rocked the city of Malang in East Java province at the night of March 15.

There have been a series of earthquakes in the country in the past months including the powerful one that jolted Aceh on Dec 26, last year which caused tsunami waves killing some 230,000 people in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces.

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Controversial gospel to be translated

From correspondents in Geneva
March 30, 2005

ABOUT 2000 years after the Gospel according to Judas sowed discord among early Christians, a Swiss foundation says it is translating for the first time the controversial text named after the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus Christ.

The 62-page papyrus manuscript of the text was uncovered in Egypt during the 1950s or 1960s, but its owners did not fully comprehend its significance until recently, according to the Maecenas Foundation in Basel.

The manuscript written in the ancient dialect of Egypt's Coptic Christian community will be translated into English, French and German in about a year, the foundation specialising in antique culture said today.

"We have just received the results of carbon dating: the text is older than we thought and dates back to a period between the beginning of the third and fourth centuries," foundation director Mario Jean Roberty said.

The existence of a Gospel of Judas, which was originally written in Greek, was outlined by a bishop, Saint Irenee, when he denounced the text as heretical during the second century.

"It's the only clear source that allows us to know that such a Gospel did exist," Mr Roberty explained.

The foundation declined to say what account Judas is said to give in his alleged gospel.

According to Christian tradition, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver by helping the Romans to find him before he was crucified.

"We do not want to reveal the exceptional side of what we have," Mr Roberty said.

The author of the text is unknown.

"No-one can clearly state that Judas wrote it himself," Mr Roberty said, while pointing out that the other gospels were probably not written by their supposed authors either.

The four recognised gospels of the New Testament describe the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and are said to record his teachings from the eyes of four of his disciples, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The Roman Catholic Church limited the recognised gospels to the four in 325 AD, under the guidance of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine.

Thirty other texts - some of which have been uncovered - were sidelined because "they were difficult to reconcile with what Constantine wanted as a political doctrine", according to Mr Roberty.

The foundation's director said the Judas Iscariot text called into question some of the political principles of Christian doctrine.

Comment: Just to get an idea of how ridiculous the beliefs of fundamentalist Christians are, consider the fact that a major part of their belief that world war III must begin in order that Jesus can return to save them, is based on the selectively interpreted words within just FOUR out of 34 texts that allegedly related the teaching of Jesus. Not only that, but the four that were approved by the Church at the time were selected because they best supported a POLITICAL doctrine.

Given the fact that for the past 20 years the Catholic Church has been in serious decline and considering the rise of an extremist element within the Christian faith, we are rather curious to see what further manipulation the powers that be have in store for humanity in the revelations of the "Gospel of Judas".

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