#. 11. Dec. 8, 2001
By Bill Weinberg
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. Peace Deal Shaky; Osama and Omar Still on the Loose
2. Afghan Women Get a Voice in Bonn--Barely
3. Regional Powers Groom Proxy Forces
4. First US Combat Deaths
5. Marines Chase Camels
6. US Still Bombing Defenseless Villages; Pentagon Denies Facts
7. Kandahar Refugees Have Nowhere to Go
8. Rebels Cut Off Noses...
9. ...But Powell Says No US Peacekeepers
10. Mazar Destabilized; France into the Breach
11. US Backs Drug Lord--Again!
12. The Politics of Starvation
13. NY Post: Pro-Taliban Hippie "Rat"; Bungling CIA Mole "Hero"
14. Pentagon Appeases Saudi Fundamentalists
15. Is Bush's War Illegal?
NEW YORK CITY
1. Bush to City: Drop Dead!
2. Ground Zero Toxic Threat Update
3. Toxic Mess Fuels Landlord-Tenant Disputes
4. WTC Death Toll Still Shrinking
5. Where Are the Missing Homeless?
6. Terror Blitz Big Bux for Bechtel
7. Community Garden for Ground Zero?
THE WAR AT HOME
1. Dissent Over Military Tribunals
2. Is Terror Sweep "Fishing Expedition"?
3. 548 Anonymous Detainees Still Languish
4. Detainee on Hunger Strike
5. Propagandists Make Hay
GLIMMERS OF HOPE
1. Portland Says No to FBI Witch-Hunt
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. Did Osama Profit from 9-11 Inside-Trading Scam?
2. Was Pakistani Intelligence in on 9-11?
3. Taliban's Unlikely US Liaison
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. PEACE DEAL SHAKY; OSAMA AND OMAR STILL ON THE LOOSE
Official optimism reigned in the US press as Afghan tribal armies backed up by Green Berets and Marines took Kandahar, the remaining Taliban stronghold in the south, and penetrated the Tora Bora cave complex in the east, thought to be sheltering the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Taliban troops began surrendering Kandahar Dec. 7 (with some reports of looting by US-allied forces), and by that evening Tora Bora was mostly overrun. But there was no sign of either Taliban leader Mullah Omar or al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden--despite a $25 million price on Osama's head. But the Pashtun armies that took Kandahar were already shooting it out for control of the city by nightfall--notwithstanding the peace deal cut by Afghan factions that week in Bonn, Germany. Many of the city's Taliban defenders were also allowed to flee with their weapons--raising the specter of a Taliban guerilla opposition. The US launched airstrikes on Taliban troops as they fled the city (New York Times, Dec. 8).
On the 4th, Afghan tribal and political leaders meeting in Bonn finalized a pact on a new government. Hamid Karzai (See WW 3 REPORT #7).
a relative of former king Zahir Shah, is to serve as interim prime minister for six months while a Loya Jirga--great council--can be convened on a more permanent government (New York Times, Dec. 5). The king is to have "symbolic role" in the interim regime (AFP, Dec. 5).
Karzai was described by the New York Times Dec. 6 as "former Taliban supporter" who is "now Washington's best hope." Appointed Taliban ambassador to UN in '96, Karzai refused--allegedly due to concerns over the regime's extremism. That day's Newsday reported that Karzai's father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, served two terms as speaker of the Afghan assembly during the reign of Zahir Shah, only to flee to Pakistan with the Soviet invasion in 1979, and was assassinated in Quetta in 1999, purportedly by a Taliban hit squad. Newsday cited the younger Karzai's "fluid command of colloquial English" as winning the hearts of US diplomats.
But Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara leaders from the north see Karzai's regime as a re-consolidation of Pashtun power over Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance will have 17 ministers in the interim government, out of a total of 30. But Northern Alliance President Burhanuddin Rabbani is "left with virtually nothing under the accord" and "may try to derail the pact." He has remained silent since the talks ended. (New York Times, Dec. 6)
Others have not remained silent. Hazara leader Mohammed Karim Khalili of the Hizb-i-Wahdat tribal army, which had one delegate in Bonn, complained that the talks were weighted towards Pashtuns: "It seems unfair that a single family"--that of Sayed Ahmed Gailani, an aristocratic Zahir Shah loyalist--"has three delegates at the talks, while an entire people has only one." (Newsday, Dec. 4)
Uzbek warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose forces hold Mazar-i-Sharrif, has announced he will boycott the interim government, griping that his faction was not fairly represented in Bonn. "We announce our boycott of this government and will not go to Kabul until there is a proper government in place." Dostum said he wanted his Junbish-i-Milli faction to be given the foreign ministry in the new government. Instead, it received mining, agriculture and industry. "This is a humiliation for us." He said he would deny officials of the new government access to the north, where Afghanistan's oil and gas resources are located. (CNN.com, Dec. 6)
Some Pashtun leaders also complained they didn't get a big enough pie slice. Sayed Ahmad Gailani of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan told a news conference in Islamabad: "Injustices have been committed in the distribution of ministries." (CNN.com, Dec. 6)
2. WOMEN GET A VOICE IN BONN--BARELY
Participation of women in the Bonn conference became a contentious issue, and placed the White House in a bind. The Taliban's vicious oppression of women made for war propaganda that was too good to pass up, so President Bush publicly embraced the cause of Afghan women, and First Lady Laura Bush made them the subject of a special radio address (Newsday, Dec. 4). However, this placed the administration in the uncomfortable position of having to pressure the reactionary patriarchs at Bonn to at least make an appearance of a role for women at the talks.
The New York Times reported Nov. 30 that at least three delegates to the talks were women. Two were in the delegation of exiled king Zahir Shah: Sima Wali of the Montreal-based Sisterhood is Global NGO and Rona Mansuri, daughter of Zahir's 1960s ambassador to Germany. A third woman, Amena Safi Afzali, was in the Northern Alliance delegation, and Fatima Gailani (wife of Pashtun leader Sayed Hamed Gailani) served as an advisor to the co-called Peshawar Group of Pashtun exiles based in Pakistan. Wali reportedly succeeded in persuading both Zahir Shah and Northern Alliance President Burhanuddin Rabbani to sign statements "supporting the right of women to a full role in Afghanistan's future."
On Dec. 1, Mehmooda, a representative of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) responded by e-mail to WW 3 REPORT's queries on RAWA's efforts to place a delegate at the talks: "A representative of RAWA was invited in the Bonn meeting but was refused to be allowed in. However, thanks to our supporters who worked very hard writing e-mails and letters to the concerned authorities, now the RAWA representative is taking part in the meeting." Participation of the RAWA representative, who also was part of the king's delegation, had previously been blocked by pressure from the Northern Alliance.
The king's faction actually appears to be the most modern-thinking, and the accord calls for temporarily reverting to the 1964 constitution he promulgated, which instated legal gender equality for the first time (AFP, Dec. 5). But the UK Guardian reported Nov. 27 that there were over 30 delegates at the conference--so despite these tentative gains, this is still not a particularly representative balance.
3. REGIONAL POWERS GROOM PROXY FORCES
International intrigues around the Afghan power grab reveal rifts within the anti-terror alliance. The US pressured to weigh the talks in favor of the Pashtuns in order to appease Pakistan, the most important US ally in the region and traditional benefactor of Afghanistan's Pashtun factions. The Northern Alliance initially said it would push south of Kabul into Taliban-controlled territory, but backed off at US insistence because (as a New York Times headline put it Nov. 29) the "Move Is Likely to Anger Pakistan." Instead, a hastily-organized alliance of Pashtun tribal armies known as the Eastern Shura aided the US in attacks on Tora Bora. Other Pashtun armies led the siege of Kandahar (Newsday, Dec. 5). Meanwhile, Rabbani's elite presidential guard are being trained in Turkey, which hopes to groom the Turkic peoples of northern Afghanistan as proxies (New York Times, Nov. 28).
4. FIRST US COMBAT DEATHS
The siege of Kandahar also saw the first US combat deaths of the
conflict--predictably, from friendly fire. Three US Special Forces troops
and five Pashtun fighters were killed when a bomb dropped from a US B-52
went awry. 20 US troops were wounded. Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai
was also reported slightly wounded in the incident. (New York Times, Dec.
6) The satellite-guided "smart bomb" proved not to be too smart (Newsday,
5. MARINES CHASE CAMELS
In the prelude to the siege, 500 US Marines took over an airfield near Kandahar, part of 2,200-troop expeditionary unit backing up the tribal armies (Newsday, Nov. 27). On Dec. 5, Reuters wrote: "US Marine trucks armed with anti-tank weapons tore into the desert from a Marine base in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday to chase down an "unidentified vehicle" which turned out to be--a camel. When news of the alert first came through, the Marines on the defensive line around the perimeter put on flak jackets and helmets and realigned their mortars... The tension in the air subsided when the word came through. 'How come you can't tell a vehicle from a camel?' asked one Marine in a company control center, a hole in the sand. 'One has wheels, the other has legs,' another Marine threw in. 'I can't believe we're chasing damn camels around the desert,' said another. Some of the Marines on the line reported that a camel poked its nose into their fighting hole the previous night and Marine spokesman Captain Stuart Upton said shots had been fired to scare it away from the airstrip. It was not clear if the camel that sparked the morning alert was the same."
6. US STILL BOMBING DEFENSELESS VILLAGES; PENTAGON DENIES FACTS
Buried deep in US papers--but winning more prominent coverage abroad--were more reports of US airstrikes hitting defenseless villages, leaving scores dead. Wrote Newsday Dec. 4: "US warplanes continued to strike areas around Tora Bora yesterday, with some bombs dropped close enough to Jalalabad to shatter windows and shake walls. Provincial authorities and other witnesses said that, for the fifth time since Friday night, planes blasted the Pachir-Agam district, several miles from Tora Bora, killing 11 people and wounding 30 others in the village of Landa Kheil. Thirteen people, who said they were residents of Landa Kheil, were admitted to Jalalabad's public hospital late Sunday. They said the first bomb to strike the village razed their house. A woman and six of her children, including a 6-month-old boy, moaned and cried as they lay in bloody bandages, their faces scorched and ripped. 'They don't know yet that their father was killed by the bombs,' said the children's uncle, Niaz Mohammed." At least 88 civilians were killed and over 100 injured in US airstrikes around Tora Bora, according to authorities of US-allied Eastern Shura.
The UK Independent reported Dec. 4 from another village near Tora Bora: "Provincial officials brought reporters to see what they said was the destruction done by US bombs at Kama Ado. One resident, Kamal Huddin, said 155 of the 300 residents were killed... Many of the homes here are just deep conical craters in the earth. The rest are cracked open, split like crushed cardboard boxes." But "[i]n Washington, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem told reporters he had seen no evidence to support reports of US bombs striking civilian villages in the area."
The New York Times account played up the official US denials Dec. 2: "Witnesses and local officials said today that American bombers flying over Tora Bora, the cave complex where Osama bin Laden may be hiding, struck three nearby villages, killing dozens of civilians. But a high- ranking Pentagon official said the bombers had attacked sites 20 miles away and had only hit their targets." However, the account also quoted Eastern Shura rep Hajji Zaman: "We've talked to the authorities" in the US. "We told them, your bombing is not to the mark. There are civilians there. Stop bombing that area." The account also quoted refugees from the area hospitalized in Jalalabad, who said they lost many family members in the raids. "I think more than 200 people were killed," one said.
On Nov. 30, a Newsday correspondent in Gudara village near the cave complex reported an interview with traditional village leader Jamal: "Air raids during the third, fifth and eighth days of Ramadan--Nov. 19, 21 and 24--injured 17 people, killed 60 animals and polluted the village's lone water supply, Jamal said. The raids also burned many of the village's trees, which the leader called 'our only source of shelter from the cold winds.'" Said Jamal: "It's a fact that there is no bin Ladena and there are no Arabs in our village... We are very unhappy and we are very angry. All the civilized countries are talking about human rights but they didn't ask us about ours. They just dropped the bombs."
The bombing around Tora Bora continues as ground forces engage the cave complex's defenders. Chillingly, families may be inhabiting the complex along with al-Qaeda fighters: "Witnesses report spotting children venturing out of the caves between bombings," Newsday reported Dec. 8.
7. KANDAHAR REFUGEES HAVE NOWHERE TO GO
Thousands of refugees fled Kandahar as the city came under heavy bombardment in the days before it fell (Newsday, Dec. 5). "In the last 24 hours, five minutes haven't gone by without us hearing bombing and the roaring of [US] planes," one Kandahar refugee told the Sacramento Bee Dec. 1 at a camp in Pakistan. "People think it's just like doomsday. They're in a terrible situation." Pakistan has again sealed its borders in an effort to staunch the tide of refugees (Newsday, Nov. 27).
8. REBELS CUT OFF NOSES...
Grisly reprisals by Taliban rebels have already begun. The UK Independent reported Dec. 5 that armed men stopped a bus outside Kabul and hacked off the ears and noses of six men on board as punishment for shaving off their beards. The gunmen flagged the bus down and searched it at Tangi Abrishum on the road to Jalalabad--the site where four journalists were ambushed and killed on Nov. 19. The attackers ordered all men who had shaved their beards to get off the bus, then mutilated the six, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said.
9. ...BUT POWELL SAYS NO US PEACEKEEPERS
Stretches of road between cities have become lawless and dangerous in Afghanistan. AIP said several vehicles were looted this week in Tangi Abrishum, and quoted drivers who had seen seven bodies in the area. Aid agencies trying to transport supplies to starving Afghans are hindered by bandits on the roads. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the US was unlikely to contribute troops to keep the roads safe: "The preference is to see if we can get a level of stability in the country so that the indigenous forces that are there--the Northern Alliance, the southern tribes--will provide the kind of zone security and get rid of bandits on the roads." If that failed, there would be pressure to bring in outside forces, he said. "But by no stretch of the imagination can you consider a large enough force that people are going to contribute to try to secure all of Afghanistan so that every road is safe. This is not a little place like Bosnia or Kosovo. We're talking Texas, and that would take an awful lot of troops, so that isn't going to happen." The UK, Germany and France have offered troops to police Afghanistan. 90 elite unit troops from Turkey, the only Muslim-majority country in NATO, are ready to go. (UK Independent, Dec. 5)
10. MAZAR DESTABILIZED; FRANCE INTO THE BREACH
Factional fighting has prompted the United Nations to pull its international staff out of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a UN spokesman told Reuters Dec. 3. "We have observations of sporadic fighting and shooting in the city, we don't have any information on who is fighting whom," UN spokesperson Khaled Mansour told a news conference. "We have heard about factional fighting." Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum captured Mazar-i-Sharif on Nov. 9, the first in a series of Northern Alliance victories which led to a rout of the Taliban from most of the country. The apparent outbreak of fighting between Northern Alliance factions in Mazar-i-Sharif is the latest sign of long-held tensions within the grouping of warlords simmering over. "The area around the city is very unstable," Mansour said, adding that around three million civilians were dependent on aid provided by foreign agencies in the north of Afghanistan. An advance party of 40 French soldiers arrived at Mazar-i-Sharif airport via Uzbekistan last Sunday "to secure it for aid deliveries."
11. US BACKS DRUG LORD--AGAIN!
Asia Times reported Dec. 4 how the US and Pakistan are tilting towards southern Pashtun warlords to undercut the increasingly Moscow-cozy Northern Alliance--and are banking on one Pashtun strongman with a particularly unsavory past as the best bet to unite the southern tribal factions. Convicted Pakistani drug baron Ayub Afridi is seen as "the only person capable of gathering the Pashtun commanders and tribal chiefs together to...agree on one leadership."
"Without fanfare, Afridi was freed from prison in Karachi last Thursday after serving just a few weeks of a seven-year sentence for the export of 6.5 tons of hashish, seized at Antwerp, Belgium, in the 1980s. (He had been in custody for over two years). He had also been fined 5 million rupees (US$82,000). No reasons were given for Afridi's release, or under which legislation he was allowed to return to his home town in Khyber Agency in North Western Frontier Province."
Asia Times claims Afridi was the key kingpin in the gigantic dope-for-guns operation that funded the Mujahedeen resistance in the 1980s: "All of the major Afghan warlords, except for the Northern Alliance's Ahmed Shah Masoud, who had his own opium fiefdom in northern Afghanistan, were a part of Afridi's coalition of drug traders in the CIA-sponsored holy war against the Soviets. Sources say that Afridi's constituencies in eastern and southern Afghan provinces have been revived following the withdrawal of the Taliban, and with them the drugs trade. Commanders such as Haji Abdul Qadeer, Haji Mohammed Zaman and Hazrat Ali are once again ruling the roost in these areas. These commanders used to be the biggest heroin and opium mafia in Afghanistan's Pashtun belt."
The report alleges Afridi remained a US asset even after the Mujahedeen war ended. "Afridi, Pakistan's most wanted drug baron, returned to Pakistan on August 25, 1999, after serving a three-and-a-half year sentence in a US prison and paying a $50,000 fine. His imprisonment is said to have been a face-saving gesture. From his refuge inside Afghanistan, and with an Afghan passport, Afridi voluntarily traveled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where he 'negotiated' with American authorities and from where he boarded a cargo flight to the US in December 1995 to hand himself over as a drug baron."
Afridi hoped to return to an opulent lifestyle in Pakistan's militarized northwest frontier. "Afridi owns a palace straight out of fairy-tale books, reminiscent of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, in Landi Kotal, part of the Khyber tribal agency not far from the Afghan border. The palace was built on about 15 acres at a cost of more than $2 million about 15 years ago. The sumptuous and many rooms are stocked with precious European goods, and each room is named after a Western fashion brand, such as Armani and Lagerfeld." Instead, the Pakistani government double-crossed him by arresting him upon his return--and convicting him again for the same crime.
Afridi's troubles began when 17 tons of hash were discovered by Pakistani authorities in a Baluchistan warehouse in 1983. Three years later, an arrested smuggler in Belgium fingered him as his supplier. At that time he was under the protection of the authorities in the virtually autonomous tribal agency, which in theory he was not allowed to leave.
The military coup against then-premier Benazir Bhutto on August 6, 1990, leading to the installation of Nawaz Sharif as Pakistan's strongman, allowed Afridi to become one of eight deputies elected to parliament from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and to consequently benefit from parliamentary immunity. He won under the ticket of Nawaz Sharif's Islamic Democratic Alliance. However, his candidacy in the following elections was rejected and he was forced to go into hiding, dividing his time between the Pakistan tribal areas, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates. He was approached by US authorities, who allegedly promised him a lenient sentence in recognition of the "services" he had provided during the Afghan war.
12. THE POLITICS OF STARVATION
Food and other aid is pouring into the coffers of UN and humanitarian agencies who are racing to head off mass starvation in Afghanistan before winter makes aid distribution impossible. But only a fraction of that aid is reaching the people who need it. Reported the BBC Dec. 4: "Babies and infants stranded in northern Afghanistan are dying as temperatures in the war-ravaged country continue to plummet, the UK charity Save the Children has warned. An estimated 150,000 people are living in flimsy tents in a refugee camp near Mazar-i-Sharif, where snows have arrived and temperatures drop below freezing every night. Mazar-i-Sharif, close to the Uzbek border, is a key distribution point for aid agencies trying to deliver food and clothing to the rest of the north and down to the central highlands, where people will soon be totally cut off by the snow. But aid agencies say their work here is being severely hampered by the refusal of the Uzbek government to re-open the Friendship Bridge which leads across the Amur Darya River into Afghanistan for security reasons."
As the New York Times put it Dec. 6: "Uzbekistan has been supportive of the antiterrorism war, providing an important military base. But its authoritarian president, Islam Karimov, is disinclined to open the border, fearing that even with the Taliban pushed to the south, Islamic fundamentalism and refugees will creep across."
13. NY POST: PRO-TALIBAN HIPPIE "RAT"; BUNGLING CIA MOLE "HERO"
An amusing Dec. 7 New York Post story related how CIA agent Johnny Spann grilled US-born Taliban fighter John Walker just before the Kala-i-Janghi fortress where the prisoners were being held exploded into rebellion. Walker, 20, a gullible hippie who wound up in the Taliban army after journeying to the East to seek spiritual discovery, actually found enough backbone not to respond with as much as a syllable to Spann's repeated questions. The story was predictably headlined "HERO vs RAT"--despite the fact that Spann's keystone kop antics (condescending attempt at "native" garb, trigger-happy response to being jumped by a captive) likely sparked the conflagration in which he lost his life (See WW 3 REPORT #10).
A sniveling Dec. 5 report in National Review relates how Walker's parents in California continued to subsidize his Islamic studies in Yemen and Pakistan even after it became clear that he was under the sway of fundamentalist extremism. Surprisingly, Walker isn't alone. CBS News reported Dec 4: "US and allied Afghan forces are holding three former Taliban fighters who claim to be American citizens."
These strange cases raise the question of whether Walker and his fellow ex-pat Taliban cannon fodder will be tried before civilian courts (on what charges?) or military tribunals (ostensibly closed to US citizens) or simply returned to their families (providing more fodder for the NY Post and National Review to grouse about how America coddles hippie terrorists). US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Los Angeles Times Dec. 5: "We found a person who says he's an American, with an AK-47, in a prison with a bunch of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. And you can be certain he will have all the rights he is due. We are looking at the various options at the present time."
14. PENTAGON APPEASES SAUDI FUNDAMENTALISTS
The first woman to ever fly a US combat mission is suing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to challenge a policy that mandates Islamic dress and customs for US military women based in Saudi Arabia when they travel off-base. According to the lawsuit filed by Lt. Col. Martha McSally, women can be court-martialed if they leave Prince Sultan Air Base without a male chaperone, are not covered from head-to-toe with a dark "abayah" robe, or if they sit in the front seat of a vehicle. "In Saudi Arabia she can pilot a plane but not drive a car," said her lawyer, Thomas Neuberger.
In the lawsuit McSally said the Pentagon regulations violate her First Amendment right to practice her Christian faith freely and to not have a religion imposed on her. After Desert Storm, McSally flew 100 hours of combat missions in an A-10 Warthog jet to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. (Reuters, Dec. 5)
15. IS BUSH'S WAR ILLEGAL?
University of Illinois College of Law Francis A. Boyle argues in an Internet-distributed essay that Bush's Afghanistan adventure violates international law. The very day after the terror attacks, the Bush administration went to the UN Security Council "to get a resolution authorizing the use of military force, and they failed."
"Indeed, the Sept. 12 resolution, instead of calling this an armed attack by one state against another state, calls it a terrorist attack," Boyle writes, emphasizing "there is a magnitude of difference between an armed attack by one state against another state (an act of war) and a terrorist attack. Terrorists are dealt with as criminals. They are not treated like nation states." Boyle believes the Bush administration tried get a resolution "along the lines of what Bush Sr. got in the run up to the Gulf War in late November of 1990"--and failed to do so.
But the administration and allied media pundits have been acting as if they did. In the Sept. 13 New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that "World War III" had begun, and that the new enemy was terrorism. On Sept. 14, Congress voted almost unanimously to grant Bush the power to "use all and necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks"--without actually declaring war. The measure set no date for conclusion of operations. Bombing began on Oct. 7, and has not ended yet.
The measure may also violate the spirit--if not the letter--of US law. Ironically, media commentators widely cited the 1973 War Powers Act as justifying the Congressional action. The Act, passed in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, states that Congress must act within 60 days of the initiation of military action to either halt it or approve it. The Act was passed with the intent of limiting presidential war-making powers, but is now being used to expand them. (MSNBC, Oct12)
Writes Graham Brough in the Nov. 30 UK Mirror: "The war in Afghanistan will be extended to at least three other countries in the New Year as the US-led coalition launches 'stiletto attacks' on terror cells. Sources in Washington and London say preparations are under way for a second round of sharp, precise and deadly strikes on terrorist targets. Camps linked to Osama bin Laden in Yemen, Sudan and Somalia will be hit as soon as the Afghan campaign winds down..." (We can overlook the annoying British habit of placing "the" before the names of former protectorates as if they weren't quite independent)
In Yemen, Arab veterans of Afghanistan's wars ("Afghan Arabs") have been allowed to settle in tribal-ruled areas in the north. "Several camps there are believed to nurture radical Islam and to be sympathetic to bin Laden's al-Qaeda group. British Muslims were arrested there after attending an alleged terrorist training camp. In the south of the country, in the mountains near Aden, the camps of the Aden Islamic Army are believed to host large numbers of al-Qaeda men. The death of 17 sailors in the attack on the USS Cole in Aden last year means Yemen is seen as a deadly home for terrorists. Osama's father and one of his three wives came from Yemen and his in-laws still live there. The Yemen has been a fertile hunting ground for new recruits to al-Qaeda. Many of the foreign fighters in Afghanistan are thought to be from the country. President Ali Abdulah Saleh visits Washington this week and is expected to promise help and detail hundreds of Afghan Arabs expelled since Sept. 11."
Intelligence staff in Sudan's capital Khartoum are co-operating with the CIA in the anti-terror campaign, the Mirror writes. The Sudan regime already claims to have expelled 3,000 al-Qaeda supporters since September 11. "Officials in Washington have responded with enthusiasm to the Khartoum overtures despite misgivings over Sudan's own brutal scorched-earth policy against rebels in its far south." The main US focus in Sudan will be on Hassan al-Turabi--an uncle of one of bin Laden's wives. "Presently under house arrest, the charismatic ex-parliamentary speaker is still an important underground figure linked to terror groups. After giving bin Laden sanctuary in the Sudan between 1991 and 1996, al-Turabi became a rallying point for al-Qaeda supporters."
Sudan has also been accused by the US of developing a germ warfare program, and is believed to harbor terror training camps closely linked to al-Qaeda. However, "Washington intelligence sources say any military action in Sudan would be against individuals identified by the government."
Somalia still strikes dread in many Pentagon hearts after the bloody 1993 ambush in Mogadishu which saw 18 US soldiers killed and mutilated. States the Mirror report: "The country has descended even further into a murderous chaos in which terrorists and criminals thrive amid civil war. Possible targets include the al-Itihaad group linked to bin Laden's deputy Mohammad Atef, killed last week by a US missile in Afghanistan. Atef may have trained the fighters who killed the US commandos in Somalia, and his supporters are active there."
Adds the UK Telegraph Dec. 2: "Britain has been asked by America to help prepare military strikes against Somalia in the next phase of the global campaign against Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network... A team of senior British military officers who visited US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, last week was asked to prepare the strategy for attacks on sites in Somalia. They have returned to London to discuss the plan with MoD ministers. The request was made as it emerged that Saddam Hussein is funding a number of terrorist training camps in Somalia used by a militant Islamic group with close ties to al-Qaeda. According to Iraqi dissident groups based in London, Saddam has agreed to provide funding, training and equipment to the Somali Islamic group al-Itihaad al-Islamiya... Mr Bush placed al-Itihaad on his list of outlawed terrorist groups after the Sept. 11 incident. Bin Laden's network is known to have several training camps in southern Somalia and it has been rumored that he would seek sanctuary in Somalia if forced to flee Afghanistan. Western intelligence agencies have said that members of al-Itihaad have been trained at al-Qaeda camps and are suspected of involvement in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Pentagon officials have confirmed that American naval ships have been stationed just off the Somali coast to prevent bin Laden from trying to enter by sea."
Then there's Iraq itself. Sates the Mirror: "An extra 2,000 US troops have been moved into Kuwait on Iraq's southern border for war games called Operation Desert Spring. Five thousand soldiers were already in the area, and Washington has admitted to putting on a show of force as it masses troops near Iraq's border with Kuwait. Last week Iraqi deputy Premier Tariq Aziz warned his people the US could be planning fresh cruise missile strikes. He claimed the Pentagon had plans to strike 300 targets on Iraqi soil. Four years ago some 2,000 Iraqis moved into Saddam's palaces as human shields at a time when a heavy military strike by the US and Britain was widely expected. And last week too hundreds of citizens, including women and children, went to Saddam's homes to act as human shields."
The UK Observer reported Dec. 2 that the Bush administration intends to topple Saddam Hussein by exporting the Afghanistan model to Iraq: "America intends to depose Saddam Hussein by giving armed support to Iraqi opposition forces across the country, The Observer has learnt. President George W. Bush has ordered the CIA and his senior military commanders to draw up detailed plans for a military operation that could begin within months... It envisages a combined operation with US bombers targeting key military installations while US forces assist opposition groups in the North and South of the country in a stage-managed uprising. One version of the plan would have US forces fighting on the ground. Despite US suspicions of Iraqi involvement in the 11 Sept. attacks, the trigger for any attack, sources say, would be the anticipated refusal of Iraq to resubmit to inspections for weapons of mass destruction under the United Nations sanctions imposed after the Gulf war. According to the sources, the planning is being undertaken under the auspices of a the US Central Command at McDill air force base in Tampa, Florida, commanded by Gen. Tommy Franks, who is leading the war against Afghanistan. Another key player is understood to be former CIA director James Woolsey. Sources say Woolsey was sent to London by the hawkish Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, soon after 11 Sept. to ask Iraqi opposition groups if they would participate in an uprising if there was US military support."
The New York Times reported Nov. 27: "President Bush warned Saddam Hussein today that if he did not admit United Nations inspectors to determine if Iraq is developing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, he would face consequences. Mr. Bush declined for now to say what those might be. 'He'll find out,' Mr. Bush said."
Capitol Hill's loudest voice for bombing Iraq is Al Gore's old running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT), who argues the US must be "unflinching in our determination" to "target Iraq as part of the war against terrorism." (James Ridgeway in the Village Voice, Nov. 21-7) However, all the British papers are quick to emphasize that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is opposed.
A wave of suicide attacks left 25 dead in Israel over last weekend, prompting the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to respond with military strikes on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. An emergency Israeli cabinet meeting in the prelude to the airstrikes issued a statement calling the Palestinian Authority a "terror-supporting entity," and PA leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah political organization and elite paramilitary Force 17 "terrorist groups" (Newsday, Dec. 4). Accusing Arafat of a "war of terror," Sharon ordered airstrikes on PA targets, wiping out Arafat's personal helicopters and killing two (New York Times, Dec. 4). The Dec. 4 New York Daily News front-page headline on the retaliation read "PAYBACK"--despite the fact that nobody has claimed that Arafat or the PA were responsible for the suicide attacks.
Arafat actually complied with Israeli demands for a crackdown on the Hamas organization and arrested the group's spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin for complicity in the suicide attacks (New York Times, Dec. 6). The predictable result was more clashes between Hamas supporters and PA police, in which one Hamas supporter was killed (UK Guardian, Dec. 6). Ironically, the suicide attacks were themselves retaliation for the Nov. 23 assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud--who was serving a twelve-year term in a PA prison for terrorist activity until he escaped when a May 18 Israeli air-raid hit the Nablus prison in a bungled attempt to kill him! (New York Times, May 20; see Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting Dec. 6 press release)
In a tilt to Israel, the US froze the assets of US-based charities said to be Hamas fronts--and condemned the suicide attacks without the usual admonition to Sharon to refrain from military incursions into PA-controlled areas (New York Times, Dec. 4). Sharon has been calling for the US to recognize his campaign against the Palestinians as a part of Bush's global anti-terror campaign. Meeting with Bush in Washington on the same weekend as the suicide attacks, Sharon told New York Times columnist William Safire Dec. 3: "You in America are in a war against terror. We in Israel are in a war against terror. It's he same war." Again conflating the PA with Hamas, he also stated: "It all comes down to this: Israel or Arafat."
The US continues to give Israel more aid than to any other nation on earth, but had recently been pressuring Israel to grant an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza--the only means of undercutting support for Hamas. These areas are currently a patchwork of Israeli-occupied and semi-autonomous PA-controlled zones.
In an implicit endorsement of Israeli aggression, US Defense Secretary said in response to the suicide attacks: "The only way to defend against terrorists is to go after the terrorists." Ali Abunimah of the Arab American Action Network wrote in a New York Times op-ed Dec. 5 that the new stance almost guarantees war: "Certainly no serious person believes that Mr. Arafat and his lieutenants, nominally controlling a few divided scraps of land in the West Bank and Gaza, can through coercion, arrests and torture do what Israel with all its might has failed to do: bring about an unconditional end to all resistance against the occupation or attacks on Israeli civilians... All too aware of his assigned role, Mr. Arafat has declared a state of emergency. This amounts to little in practice since all the means of repression and arbitrary rule at the disposal of the Palestinian Authority are already in full use while none of the means that could actually improve the lives of Palestinians are granted to it by Israel."
Fifteen were killed in shoot-outs in India's strife-torn Kashmir region the last weekend of November, authorities said. Among a number of scattered incidents, two police, one trooper of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police and a civilian were killed Nov. 27 when guerillas attacked a security patrol near Jawahar Tunnel. The tunnel links the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley to the north with the Hindu-dominated southern part of Jammu and Kashmir state, where Islamic separatists have been waging a 12-year-old rebellion against India's rule (Newsday, Nov. 26).
The New York Times reported Dec. 6 that high-level US officials visited New Delhi and announced agreements for joint military maneuvers with India. The joint statement from the meeting called on both countries to work together "to counter threats such as the spread of weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism, narcotics trafficking and piracy." The new coziness with Delhi, however, could get Washington in trouble with its longtime ally Pakistan--which backs the Kashmir separatists.
NEW YORK CITY
1. BUSH TO CITY: DROP DEAD!
New York City has been hit badly by economic fallout from the 9-11 attacks, which have exacerbated the recent downturn. City agencies are scrambling to make 15% cuts needed to close this year's $1 billion budget shortfall (New York Times, Nov. 23). The city's 1,000 soup kitchens and emergency food pantries are stretched beyond capacity, with some serving twice as many people as this time last year (Bob Herbert in the Nov. 22 New York Times). President Bush promised $20 billion for the city in the aftermath of the attacks. But when the House Appropriations Committee anti-terrorism package was finalized, it included just $9 billion for the city. This was upped to $11 in last-minute negotiations. (New York Times Nov. 21)
The war in Afghanistan is said to be costing $1.2 billion per month, and Gordon Adams of George Washington University states that if it lasts for a year, "incremental costs" could mount to $20 billion (Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 30). Western governments (principally the US) have also pledged $10 billion in development aid for Afghanistan (New York Times, Nov. 21). The airline bailout package signed by Bush provides the industry with $5 billion in direct federal aid and $10 billion in loan guarantees (CNN.com, Sept. 23).
2. GROUND ZERO TOXIC THREAT UPDATE
Public hearings convened by New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Lower Manhattan heard testimony from residents living near Ground Zero, who complained of official insensitivity to the health problems they have been expericing since 9-11. In the aftermath of the hearings, the city Health Department pledged to begin air samples of local residential communities for first time. But residents are calling for a new independent agency to monitor the environmental impact of the terror attacks. City Council member Kathryn Freed, also of Lower Manhattan, herself experienced respiratory problems. "Too many people who have never had respiratory problems in their life are coming down with full-blown asthma," she said. (Newsday, Nov. 27)
Excavation work at Ground Zero was stopped briefly Dec. 5 when a 55-gallon drum was accidentally punctured by a back-hoe. Work resumed after hazardous-material investigators determined it was just cleaning fluid (AP, Dec. 5). Underscoring the potential hazards of the worksite to both workers and local residents, investigators determined that the 47-story 7 World Trade Center may have collapsed along with the two towers due to 6,000 gallons of emergency diesel fuel stored in tanks below building. Investigators from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute hypothesize the fuel ignited and caused extremely high-temperature fires like those in the adjacent towers. (New York Times, Nov. 29) 7 World Trade Center housed both the mayor's controversial emergency command bunker and a secret CIA station (see WW 3 REPORT #7).
Two-and-a-half months into the excavation effort, the NYC Fire Dept., federal Labor Dept. and OSHA finally agreed on a uniform set of safety rules for the site. A Ground Zero Elected Officials Task Force has also been established, including US Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields, and Silver. (Newsday, Nov. 20)
3. TOXIC MESS FUELS LANDLORD-TENANT DISPUTES
Lower Manhattan has seen numerous rent strikes and threatened evictions since 9-11 as tenants organize to demand clean-ups, air-quality monitoring and rent reductions to offset hardships. The first case to go to Housing Court concerns 32 Pearl St., where tenants have been withholding rent for two months. (New York Times, Nov. 23)
4. WTC DEATH TOLL STILL SHRINKING
The official WTC death count is now down from 5,000 (and even 6,000) to below 3,900, while the toll maintained by media outlets has reached no higher than 2,950. But the New York Times pointed out Nov. 21 that White House and Pentagon officials continue to use the 5,000 figure in press briefings on the war. Secretary of State Colin Powell told an audience in Louisville, KY, two days earlier: "It is 69 days since Sept. 11th, when cold-blooded terrorists turned civilian airliners into flying bombs and used them to kill 5,000 innocent people. That's four or five times the number of people who are assembled here today."
5. WHERE ARE THE MISSING HOMELESS?
New York City's United Homeless Organization (UHO) cites 50 homeless people who have been missing since 9-11, the Village Voice reported Dec. 4. The WTC complex, a transportation hub with a network of below-street-level semi-public malls, was a gathering point for the city's homeless. Project Renewal, which had an outreach program in the WTC complex, doubts the number is that high. But Timothy Augustus, one homeless man who frequented the complex, told reporter Andrew Friedman he has been combing shelters for friends he says disappeared in the disaster. "There are 20 to 25 people I haven't seen since. Every day I go around asking about all my friends." The UHO is posting info about the missing homeless on its web page (www.unitedhomeslessorganization.com).
6. TERROR BLITZ BIG BUX FOR BECHTEL
Writes Tom Robbins in the Dec. 4 Village Voice: "In keeping with his new role as America's Mayor, Rudy Giuliani is moving to award the city's biggest-ever emergency contract to one of America's most politically connected corporations. With barely a word of explanation and brushing aside four local firms that have been doing the cleanup since immediately after the attacks, Giuliani has moved to appoint the giant San Francisco-based Bechtel Group, Inc. to take over the lucrative job of cleaning up the World Trade Center site. Since the federal cleanup funds are being allocated by a Republican administration, Washington insiders see the award as a favor to a firm long close to the GOP... Bechtel is a dream ally for someone like Giuliani with potential national political aspirations."
Bechtel "was the fifth largest political contributor during last year's presidential race and poured an additional $449,000 in soft money into political coffers, two-thirds of it to Republicans. Bechtel had $14.3 billion in revenues last year, making it the nation's top-ranked contractor... Worldwide, the firm has 50,000 employees, with 1100 projects ongoing in 66 countries. It is building express trains in South Korea, a gas treatment plant in Abu Dhabi, a power plant in Egypt, compressor stations in Algeria, and a telecommunications network in Germany. At home, Bechtel's past projects range from the construction of the Hoover Dam and the San Francisco Bay Bridge to nuclear power plants. Abroad, it helped build the Channel Tunnel, the Trans-Arabian pipeline, and Saudi Arabia's industrial city Jubail. The firm built Kuwait's oil fields, and in 1991, at the close of the Gulf War, it was hired to put out the oil fires."
Past top Bechtel executives include Reagan-era Secretary of State George Schultz (still a director of the firm) and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, as well as JFK's CIA chief John McCone. Appropriately, the firm has long been mired in the volatile politics of the Middle East. "When the company wanted to do business with Iran in the late 1970s, it hired another ex-CIA chief, Richard Helms, as a consultant. During that same period US officials found Bechtel's ties to its Middle Eastern clients alarmingly close. In 1976, the Justice Department accused Bechtel of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by taking part in the Arab League's boycott of Israel. Officials charged that Bechtel and several subsidiaries had refused since 1971 to award subcontracts on its Middle Eastern projects to American companies that had landed on the League's boycott list as a result of doing business with Israel. Bechtel was the only company charged by the government with participating in the boycott. Without admitting any wrongdoing, Bechtel settled the matter a year later by signing a consent decree pledging not to participate in the boycott. The company later tried to overturn the agreement, arguing that the boycott was beyond the law's scope. A federal judge denied that motion." In 1986, The New Republic reported on a 1983 Bechtel memo that listed Israel, along with the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, Cuba, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, as a nation where the company would refrain from doing business for
reasons of "political sensitivity and unstable conditions."
Robbins smells federal pressure on Giuliani to undercut local firms and oversight: "Bechtel's takeover of the World Trade Center site cleanup would yield an estimated $27.5 million in fees. So far, cleanup of the site has been evenly divided among four contractors-Bovis Lend Lease, Tully Construction, Amec Construction Management, and Turner Construction. The work has been overseen by some 60 city engineers in the Department of Design and Construction. Bechtel's own engineers are expected to supplant the city workers if the firm is hired. After word of the pending award leaked out earlier this month, local firms and labor unions protested, pointing out that work was moving along swiftly at the site where 1.2 million tons of debris from the fallen towers are being removed."
7. COMMUNITY GARDEN FOR GROUND ZERO?
With competing visions for the future of the WTC site battling it out in New York City's media, one Internet commentator has proposed a real grassroots alternative. Calling plans to rebuild giant skyscrapers on the site "callous and hubristic," the New York Psychogeographical Association (email@example.com) sees "only one viable option: turn the site into a huge community garden that would be open to the public 24 hours a day and year-round. All kinds of flowers, fruits and vegetables would be cultivated. The produce could be divided among the gardeners, sold to pay for expenses and/or donated to soup kitchens."
The Psychogeographical Association proposes: "There's only one person for the job of Head Gardener, and that's Adam Purple, the creator and principle cultivator of The Garden of Eden. Located in Manhattan's Lower East Side, Eden was begun on abandoned city-owned lots in 1973 and continued to grow and expand (in concentric circles) as the neighborhood deteriorated further. In 1985-86, the garden was seized and bulldozed. With typical cynicism, the City built a retirement home [actually a housing project] in its place. Unlike every other community garden ever cultivated in New York City, Eden was circular in shape. At its center was a large Yin-and-Yang symbol. According to Adam, the City of New York had to destroy Eden eventually, and not because it needed the land on which the garden was growing (it didn't), but because the energy emanating from its vortex was disturbing Manhattan's entire grid system."
Contacted on the Lower East Side by WW 3 REPORT, Adam Purple, who has recently become homeless, responded, "I'll work for free--a dollar a year to be head gardener. I don't need $100,000 a year to do what I did on Eldridge Street." However, he was skeptical that authorities would go for it, given the implicit threat posed by his trademark circular design. "The grid system brooks no competition. It's maximum profit for the petrol industry--stop, start, stop, start." Adam Purple can be contacted through his website.
THE WAR AT HOME
1. DISSENT OVER MILITARY TRIBUNALS
Criticism is mounting against President Bush's Nov. 13 order calling for suspected terrorists to be tried before special military tribunals where prosecutors can use secret evidence, eavesdrop on attorney-client conversations hold the trial in a venue of the Pentagon's choosing--even a military base in a foreign country. The order also calls for two-thirds majority conviction for the death penalty instead of the usual unanimous jury, denies outside judicial review, and bars the public from using the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to evidence or proceedings. The American Civil Liberties Union details the provisions on their website.
One of the measure's most vociferous critics is arch-conservative New York Times columnist (and veteran Nixon speech-writer) William Safire, who blasts plans for "Soviet-style secret military trials" with "no presumption of innocence; no independent juries; no right to choice of counsel; no appeal to civilian judges..." But he thinks the plans may ultimately prove politically untenable and counter-productive. "At the State Department, word is coming in from Spain, Germany and Britain--where scores of al-Qaeda suspects have been arrested--that the UN human rights treaty pioneered by Elanor Roosevelt prohibits the turning over of their prisoners to military tribunals that ignore such rights." He adds parenthetically: "Those zealots who cited FDR's saboteur precedent forgot about Elanor." (New York Times, Dec, 6)
This is a reference to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's use of military tribunals to try a gang of Nazi saboteurs who landed on Long Island by U-boat in 1942. The Supreme Court upheld Roosevelt's order, citing special wartime powers invoked by Congress' declaration of war. "Now President Bush, with no such declaration, is using that Roosevelt mistake as precedent for his own dismaying departure from due process," Safire wrote. He also contradicts the administration's claim that the tribunal proceedings are in accord with Unform Code of Military Justice. "The UCMJ demands a public trial, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, an accused's voice in the selection of juries ad right to choose counsel, unanimity in death sentencing and above all appellate review by civilians confirmed by the Senate. Not one of those fundamental rights can be found in Bush's military order setting up kangaroo courts for people he designates before 'trial' to be terrorist." (New York Times, Nov. 26)
The first tribunal could be created for Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, a presumed al-Qaeda member captured by the Northern Alliance and the son of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the "Blind Sheik" convicted in 1995 in a purported plot to blow up New York landmarks and now held in a top-security federal prison. The younger Abdel-Rahman was allegedly running a "terrorist training camp" near Jalalabad (Newsday, Dec. 2).
Another likely first is Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, who was arrested in Minneapolis Aug. 17 on immigration charges after he sought lessons from a flight school on how to fly Boeings, but expressed no interest in learning how to take off or land. Moussaoui is being held in a federal prison in New York. (New York Times, Nov. 22)
2. IS TERROR SWEEP "FISHING EXPEDITION"?
Federal authorities see an al-Qaeda link in only a "handful" of the 1,200 who have been detained since Sept. 11. 104 have been charged with federal crimes ranging from credit card fraud to child pornography--but only around 10 have been linked to terrorism. The New York Times asked Nov. 29 if the post-9-11 sweep is "A targeted law enforcement effort or a fishing expedition?"
3. 548 ANONYMOUS DETAINEES STILL LANGUISH
While many detainees who have not been charged have now been freed, Attorney General John Ashcroft still refuses to release the names of 548 held on immigration charges--mostly minor offenses such as overstaying a visa, for which they would have long since been freed under normal circumstances. While most of these detainees are from Islamic countries, there are a few surprises--such as 9 Israelis and one Mexican. A new Justice Department policy allows the government to hold foreigners even after they have been ordered freed for lack of evidence by a federal immigration judge (New York Times, Nov. 28). The ACLU has brought suit to force the Justice Department to release names of the detainees (New York Times, Dec. 6), and Egypt's foreign minister has protested to US Secretary of State Colin Powell that Egypt's government has not been given the names of the several dozen Egyptian citizens being detained, or what charges they are being held on (New York Times, Nov. 30). "Dozens" of Israeli Jews were initially detained before the US began deporting them in November (New York Times, Nov. 21).
4. DETAINEE ON HUNGER STRIKE
Malek Mohamed Seif, a French citizen from Djibouti, is among those charged as a result of the anti-terror sweep--but his crime is providing false information to the Social Security and Federal Aviation administrations about his name, ancestry and birthplace. Officials admit his case is unrelated to the 9-11 attacks. Seif says he was targeted because of his ethnicity and for attending the same mosque in Tempe, AZ, as Hani Hanjour (presumed hijacker in the Pentagon attack) and Lofti Raissi (suspected of overseeing the pilot training of some of the 9-11 hijackers). Seif was in Marseilles on Sept. 11, and was released after being questioned for several days by French authorities. Informed that FBI agents in Arizona wanted to interview him, Seif agreed and purchased a round-trip ticket to Phoenix. He was arrested when he stepped off the plane. He has been on hunger strike to protest his treatment for nearly six weeks, limiting his intake to water. He has lost 25 pounds, and was recently moved from Maricopa County prison to an infirmary. (New York Times, Dec. 6)
5. PROPAGANDISTS MAKE HAY
America's most evil think-tank, the Washington Legal Foundation--vigorous opponents of public environmental oversight and the Bill of Rights--is exploiting the terrorism crisis to advance its agenda of radical deregulation. On Nov. 26, WLF's Daniel J. Popeo, writing in his usual "op-ad" slot in the bottom-right corner of the New York Times op-ed page, invoked the war on terrorism to give corporations a blank check to store and dump toxic materials free from the prying eyes of the public: "[O]ver the FBI's opposition, so-called 'right-to-know' activists convinced the EPA to post on its website the location of all hazardous chemicals and explosive materials at company facilities across America. This road map for terrorists is still available at open-to-the-public government reading rooms." Of course this info is available not only to terrorists, but to citizens who might wish to know if toxic chemicals are being stored in the communities where they live and work.
Unfortunately, Popeo is not correct that this information is all freely available. As reported in WW 3 REPORT #6, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently removed from the public reading room at its DC headquarters a 119-page report on the vulnerabilities of nuclear reactors.
GLIMMERS OF HOPE
1. PORTLAND SAYS NO TO FBI WITCH-HUNT
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
Police in Portland, OR, have refused a US Justice Department request for help in interviewing Middle Eastern immigrants as part of its sweeping terrorism investigation, saying it would violate state law. When the US Attorney's Office in Portland asked city police for cooperation, the request was denied because Oregon law says no one can be questioned by police unless they are suspected of being involved in a crime. Acting police chief Andrew Kirkland said "the law does not allow us to go out and arbitrarily interview people whose only offense is immigration or citizenship, and it doesn't give them authority to arbitrarily gather information on them." (AP, Nov. 21)
1. DID OSAMA PROFIT FROM 9-11 INSIDE-TRADING SCAM?
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sept, 29 that a group of investors have yet to collect more than $2.5 million in profits they made trading options in the stock of United Airlines before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, "according to a source familiar with the trades and market data." The uncollected money raises suspicions that the investors--whose identities and nationalities have not been made public--had advance knowledge of the strikes. "Usually, if someone has a windfall like that, you take the money and run," said the anonymous source. "Whoever did this thought the exchange would not be closed for four days. This smells real bad."
Securities regulators and law-enforcement agents throughout the US and Europe are investigating unusual patterns in the purchase of "put options" before the terror attacks. There was an unusually large jump in purchases of put options on the stocks of UAL Corp. and AMR Corp. (parent companies of United and American airlines, respectively) in the three business days before 9-11. In a put option, buyers gamble that a share price will drop below an agreed sale price by a given date. Financial professionals told The Chronicle an estimated $5 million to $10 million could have been made on the trades. Four United and American aircraft crashed in the attacks.
Meanwhile, the Interdisciplinary Center--a counter-terrorism think-tank headed by former Israeli intelligence officials----has issued a report on Osama bin Laden's finances ("Black Tuesday: The World's Largest Insider Trading Scam?") saying insiders profited by nearly $16 million. The money was made on Sept. 6, 7 and 10 in transactions involving United, American, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. and Merrill Lynch & Co., the center said. Morgan Stanley occupied 22 floors of the World Trade Center; Merrill Lynch's headquarters offices are nearby.
2. WAS PAKISTANI INTELLIGENCE IN ON 9-11?
University of Ottawa economics professor Michel Chossudovsky writes on the website globalresearch.ca: "Two days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, a delegation led by the head of Pakistan's military intelligence agency (ISI) Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad, was in Washington for high-level talks at the State Department [footnoted to UK Guardian, Sept. 15]. Most US media conveyed the impression that Islamabad had put together a delegation at Washington's behest, and that the invitation to the meeting had been transmitted to the Pakistan government 'after' the tragic events of September 11. But this is not what happened!"
Lt. Gen. Ahmad "was in the US when the attacks occurred." [Reuters, Sept. 13] According to the New York Times, "he happened to be here on a regular visit of consultations." Ahmad met with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on the 12th and 13th [New York Times, Sept. 13].
On October 7th, Ahmad was sacked from his position as head of the ISI in what was described as a routine "reshuffling." Chossudovsky reiterates a Times of India report on Oct. 12 that Ahmad's resignation was sparked by "evidence" procured by India's intelligence services linking him to the 9-11 attacks. The paper claimed "US authorities sought his removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed Atta" on Gen Ahmad's orders. (See WORLD WAR 3 REPORT #6)
Pointing to Armitage's involvement with CIA aid to the Mujahedeen in the 1980s, Chossudovsky says the meeting raises issues of "complicity" between the 9-11 terrorists and elements of the Bush administration.
3. TALIBAN'S UNLIKELY US LIAISON
Laili Helms, 38, an Afghan-American whose grandfathers were both ministers under king Zahir Shah, long served as the Taliban's unofficial liaison to the West, publicly defending their policies and (she claims) privately urging them to steer a more moderate course. In early Nov. she flew to Peshawar, Pakistan, for three weeks as a consultant to ABC News, helping them contact Taliban reps. The day before eight imprisoned US aid workers (charged with spreading Christianity) were freed by the Taliban, she reached Zalmay Khalizad, the Afghan-American on the National Security Council, and suggested the US view the release as a sign of "good will" by the Taliban. Ms. Helms is not popular with the neighbors now, living "under siege" in her suburban home in Bergen County, NJ, receiving threats and hate mail and removed as coach of her son's soccer team. But Laili is probably more concerned with maintaining her high-level Washington contacts, which she first established through a family connection. She is married to a nephew of former CIA chief Richard Helms. (New York Times, Nov. 27)
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