ISSUE:#. 21. Feb. 17, 2002Bill Weinberg, Editor
SPECIAL REPORT ON THE CARLYLE GROUP: THE "NEXT ENRON"?
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. Resentment Over Errant Missiles
2. US Troops Charged with Brutality
3. Still No Peace in Paktia
4. Ethnic Cleansing in Dostum's Domain
5. Refugees Flee Warlord Violence
6. Mass Graves Unearthed in Bamiyan
7. Iran Shuts Down Hekmatyar
8. More Weird Psy-Op Airdrops
9. Musharraf Does Washington
10. Pakistan Regime Linked to Reporter Abduction
11. Who Killed Abdul Rahman?
12. Native Seeds to be Repatriated for Afghan Agriculture?
THE NEW GREAT GAME
1. Russia-China-India: The Real Anti-US "Axis"?
2. Iran Tilts to Russia
3. Kazakhstan Woos India on Pipeline
4. Turkmenistan and Karzai in Pipeline Talks
1. Torture in the Philippines
2. Thousands Protest Australia Refugee Policy
1. Just About Everywhere...
NEW YORK CITY
1. Ground Zero Toxic Threat Update
2. WTC Toxic Threat--in India!
3. Giuliani Clings to Control of Twin Towers Fund
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. The Carlyle Group: Incestuous Web of DC Power-Brokers
2. The Carlyle Group's Bin Laden Connection
3. Fun Facts About Carlyle Group
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. RESENTMENT OVER ERRANT MISSILES
Last week, unnamed US officials claimed a CIA Hellfire missile probably hit "senior al-Qaeda figures" in Ghazni province-but local villagers and senior officials in Afghanistan's interim government said the victims were local Afghans salvaging scrap metal. Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem contended that evidence including credit card applications and airline schedules found at the site point to al-Qaeda, adding that US forces also collected DNA from the site for further analysis. The strike was apparently part of a clean-up operation against Taliban/al-Qaeda hold-outs in the region. In nearby Khost, a base of 200 US troops appears to be expanding by the week. Afghans report that US special forces commanders have asked at least five local warlords to provide 400 "young and fit" fighters to form a new "anti-al-Qaeda" fighting force. (Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 13) [top]
2. US TROOPS CHARGED WITH BRUTALITY
After killing 21 Afghans-at least some of them loyal to the US-backed interim government-US forces beat and kicked some of the dead men's colleagues, who were held prisoner for 16 days before being released with an apology, according to several of those held. The 27 men, captured during a Jan. 24 night raid, where US troops apparently targeted friendly forces in a remote village in Oruzgan province, told reporters they were brutalized by the US troops--with two saying they blacked out and two others claiming they suffered broken ribs. The beatings stopped, they said, when the US forces realized they had captured and killed friendly troops, not Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters. Last week, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that US troops might have killed Afghan allies in the operation. (See WW3 REPORT #20) A military spokesman conceded that the detainees did not belong to the Taliban or al-Qaeda. (LA Times, Feb. 11) [top]
3. STILL NO PEACE IN PAKTIA
Afghan warlord Pasha Khan Zadran vowed to launch an attack on the eastern city of Gardez to oust the newly appointed governor of Paktia province, reported Afghan Islamic Press. "We are regrouping our forces and we will very soon attack Gardez," Khan's brother Wazer Khan Zadran told the Pakistan-based news service. Taj Mohammad Wardak was appointed governor on Feb. 14, in another change of decision by the interim regime over the fractious province. (See WW3 REPORT #20) The 80-year-old Wardak had been governor of northeastern Badakhshan province under former king Zahir Shah, who was ousted in 1973. The royalist appears to be a compromise between rival local warlords loyal to the Eastern Shura and Northern Alliance. Khan's son Gellani Khan Zadran told AFP some 6,000 to 7,000 fighters were ready for the battle. "We have brought in machine guns and rockets and heavy weaponry" on the outskirts of Gardez, he said. "We are just awaiting the order from Pasha Khan and then we'll be fighting." (AFP, Feb. 16)[top]
4. ETHNIC CLEANSING IN DOSTUM'S DOMAIN
Uzbek warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum's army, the Junbish-i-Meli, has been terrorizing thousands of civilians in the northern province of Balkh since the fall of the Taliban in Nov., local residents and aid workers report. Last week, 50 people died in northern Balkh and Sar-i-Pul provinces in clashes between Junbish and the forces of Dostum's rival, Tajik warlord Ustad Atta Mohammed-who just recently broke with Dostum, and was once his "right-hand man." Government mediators attempted to persuade the two warlords to take their militiamen off the streets. But dozens of armed fighters continue to loiter by day and loot, rape and extort by night. Dostum's forces are also said to be targeting local Pashtun civilians. "A lot of houses have been looted and a lot of women have been raped, but people are afraid to talk because they have been threatened," said Amir Jan, leader of the Pashtun community in Balkh province. "They are afraid for their lives." The danger of reprisals makes it difficult to assess the number of victims. Dostum's soldiers enjoy the protection of their powerful leader, while the unpaid and outgunned local police force is unable to arrest those who commit crimes, conceded Amir Hamza, police chief of Balkh, a town 12 miles west of the provincial capital, Mazar-i-Sharif. "Junbish commanders protect their soldiers from prosecution," Hamza said. "We cannot do anything." Dostum is the interim regime's deputy defense minister. (San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 15) [top]
5. REFUGEES FLEE WARLORD VIOLENCE
The confused violence in Paktia, Patika, Kandahar, Balkh and other provinces has sent a new wave of refugees fleeing across the border into Pakistan. Officials from the UN High Commission for Refugees reported over 10,000 crossing at the border town of Chaman this week. Some 30,000 people have already been registered at new UNHCR camps in the Chaman region since Jan. 1. The new refugees come as the UNHCR is attempting to assist 1.2 million Afghans to return home from Pakistan and Iran. Some 143,000 Afghans have returned home in the last six weeks, the UNHCR said, but the repatriation program is now stalled by the problematic "security situation" in Afghanistan. (Frontier Post, Feb 16)[top]
6. MASS GRAVES UNEARTHED IN BAMIYAN
Local authorities in Bamiyan, remote stronghold of the Hazara people in the central Hindu Kush mountains, have unearthed over 100 mass graves since Nov. The bodies are typically found with hands bound behind the back, and a bullet hole in each forehead. Bamiyan Gov. Muhammad Karim Khalili said 20,000 Hazaras are believed to have died under the Taliban, which persecuted the Shiite Hazaras as religious heretics. But Hazaras still face a precarious situation. Hazara warlords resisted Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani when he was president in the mid-1990s. Hazara militias later joined the fractious Northern Alliance against the Taliban, but also battled the NA's Tajik and Uzbek militias-who now control northern Afghanistan. (Frontier Post, Feb. 16)[top]
7. IRAN SHUTS DOWN HEKMATYAR
Iran's government closed down the offices of exiled Afghan warlord Gulbaddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami organization, in an apparent attempt to reassure Kabul and Washington on its intentions in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar had vowed to resist the interim regime and US military. Tehran has still refrained from actually expelling Hekmatyar. (Jang new service, Pakistan, Feb. 11) Iran's ruling conservatives and dissident moderates have closed ranks in response to the recent US threats, and Iranian leaders warned Washington that it would regret attacking Iran following President Bush's "axis of evil" speech. (SeeWW3REPORT# 19; story this issue)[top]
8. MORE WEIRD PSY-OP AIR-DROPS
US aircraft over southern Afghanistan are scattering $100 bills tucked into envelopes bearing a picture of Bush, witnesses report. Some of the envelopes were carried by wind over the Pakistan border town of Chaman, sending people scrambling for the cash. "C-130 planes dropped white-colored paper envelopes with a photo of President Bush and two bills of $100 each," said Abdul Hadi, a resident of Chaman on the border with southern Afghanistan. "People pushed and fought with each other to get their hands on the envelopes." (Reuters, Feb. 14)[top]
9. MUSHARRAF DOES WASHINGTON
Two weeks after interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington DC, Pakistan's ruling Gen. Pervez Musharraf arrived for meetings with Bush on the eve of Valentine's Day. On WorkingForChange.com, commentator Laura Flanders noted: "As he headed to the White House, National Public Radio's Morning Edition reported that 'the President of Pakistan is considered to be the US top ally in the war against terror.' On the BBC news report the same day the wording was different. There, Musharraf was 'Pakistan's military leader.' Musharraf, people have had reason to forget, came to power in a military coup in 1999. He leads by force."
Flanders noted Musharraf's draconian 1997 Anti-Terror Act, which Human Rights Watch accuses him of using "to suppress political opponents and to stifle legitimate dissent." In March 2000, Musharraf banned political meetings in "all public places, strikes and processions." Thousands have been arrested under the ban. The revised post-9-11 Act, which took effect Jan. 31, provides for new joint military-civilian courts for "terrorist" offences. "Nonetheless stateside, the Pakistani General is being cast as a wannabe democrat," Flanders writes. "He's said that conditions permitting, he will hold parliamentary elections in October this year."
In a New York Times Feb. 13 op-ed, Husain Haqqani, an advisor to two Pakistani prime ministers, declared: "While he can expect praise in public, General Musharraf can expect a sterner message in private: the United States wants him to terminate all links between Pakistan's security establishment and Islamic extremist groups." But he noted, "The criminal underworld and radical religious groups have long been used by Pakistan in its covert war with India." Commented Flanders: "That's akin to asking the CIA to terminate all links with spies."
But Flanders writes, "All of that was forgotten at the White House meeting with the press. There, Bush welcomed Musharraf to the White House and thanked him for his support. 'His nation is a key partner in the global coalition against terror,' said Bush. He praised Musharraf for aggressively going after 'Islamic militants' in his own country. 'Together our nations will continue to cooperate against terror and trafficking in drugs,' Bush said." (WW3 REPORT asks if it is any more legitimate to call George W. Bush "President," given the 2000 electoral irregularities)[top]
10. PAKISTAN REGIME LINKED TO REPORTER ABDUCTION
On WorkingForChange.com, Laura Flanders also looked at the case of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, kidnapped in Pakistan Jan. 23 (See WW3 REPORT #20). "Despite White House praise for Pakistan's efforts to find Pearl, Pearl remains unfound. Only three suspects have been charged--none of them the kidnappers themselves--and the arrest of one Islamic Sheikh by Pakistani authorities the day before the Musharraf-Bush visit, while convenient, left observers in the region full of doubt. For months, Pakistani officials have claimed that the arrested suspect, Ahmed Omar Sheikh, had been impossible to find. He 'disappeared' into Afghanistan, they said. Officials in India, who wanted the Sheikh apprehended on other charges connected with the conflict in Kashmir, say he never disappeared--he has been crisscrossing the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Indian intelligence agents claim to have spotted him in Islamabad last year. The not too subtle charge coming from Pakistan's enemy, India, is that feet are dragging in the Pearl investigation because of ties linking likely suspects to the [Musharraf] government." Among the kidnappers' demands is release of 28 F-16 fighter jets which Islamabad paid for in the 1980s, but have been held up due to Pakistan's continuing effort to develop nuclear weapons. Flanders says this demand leads many to speculate "that serving and retired officers of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment might themselves be involved."[top]
11. WHO KILLED ABDUL RAHMAN?
The Feb. 14 beating death of Afghanistan's civil aviation minister Abdul Rahman at Kabul's airport has raised tensions between competing factions of the interim regime. The Interior Ministry initially said a group of pilgrims waiting to travel from Kabul to Mecca were responsible for the fatal beating, angered by being unable to get a flight out. But interim leader Hamid Karzai said the next day that the killing of the minister was a conspiracy, and "had nothing to do with the hajjis" (pilgrims). Rahman had once been top political adviser to the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, Tajik warlord and military commander of the Northern Alliance. But Rahman broke with Massoud during the anti-Taliban war and switched his allegiance to the so-called Rome Group--an alliance of Afghan expatriates who support the return of exiled king Zahir Shah. Both the interim Interior and Defense ministries are controlled by members of the Shura-i-Nazar, Masoud's political organization, mostly made up of Tajiks from the north. Rahman was also Tajik, but most of his fellow monarchists are Pashtuns from the south, like the exiled king himself. Interim leader Hamid Karzai, who is related to the exiled king, has appointed a 5-member commission to investigate what happened at Kabul airport--and why security officers from the Interior Ministry who were supposed to protect Rahman failed to prevent his death. (RFE, Feb. 15)
"He was killed by people who planned it," Karzai told the New York Times. "Some of these people were working for the Afghan security services. We'll put them behind bars, we'll try them and you'll see that we'll take them to whatever justice asks for." Saudi Arabia has been asked to arrest two suspects, who are currently believed to be in that country-Afghan intelligence chief Gen. Abdullah Jan Tawhidi and top defense official Gen. Qalandar Beg. Both are supporters of the Jamiat-i-Islami organization of Northern Alliance political leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, which was closely allied with Masoud's Shura-i-Nazar. (NYT, Feb. 16) [top]
12. NATIVE SEEDS TO BE REPATRIATED FOR AFGHAN AGRICULTURE?
Millions of hungry Afghans now dependent on foreign food aid from could be self-sufficient within 5 years as a result of a new international effort, the Future Harvest Consortium to Rebuild Agriculture in Afghanistan. The consortium of research institutes, relief organizations and aid agencies will undertake a multi-million dollar effort, announced members at a meeting in Aleppo, Syria. "Agriculture in Afghanistan is going to need a lot of help," says Dr. Adel El-Beltagy, director of the Aleppo-based International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), lead organization in the consortium. International experts recently met in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to initiate the consortium. In addition to ICARDA, members include the UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), the US Agency for International Development (AID), CARE, the Mexico-based International Maize & Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and the Canada-based International Development Research Center. Future Harvest, the partner that gives the group its name, is a nonprofit linked to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which funds 16 food and genetic research centers around the world.
Once a fertile, productive land, Afghanistan has suffered a generation of war and three years of the region's worst drought in 40 years. Land is dry and damaged, and critical seed stocks are depleted. Future Harvest will provide farmers with seeds for the upcoming growing seasons, and vaccines to prevent livestock disease. 3,500 metric tons of seed will be offered in the spring, and another 10,000 in the fall.
In 1992, Afghanistan's national agricultural gene-bank, designed to safely store seeds and plant samples, was destroyed in the civil war, and there were fears that the country's agricultural heritage had been lost. But gene-banks at ICARDA, CIMMYT, and other "Future Harvest Centers" hold many plant samples collected by researchers in Afghanistan in the 1970s-all of which "will be available for repatriation to Afghanistan." Said El- Beltagy: "Right now the seed situation in Afghanistan is critical. We believe the majority of the country's seed was lost when farmers planted the 2001 crop. When the rains failed for a third year in a row, it put an end to their ability to stay on the land." In addition to reintroducing indigenous wheat, maize, barley, chickpea and lentil strains, the consortium will also introduce genetically "improved" varieties. (Environment News Service, Feb. 14) [top]
THE NEW GREAT GAME
1. RUSSIA-CHINA-INDIA: THE REAL ANTI-US "AXIS"?
Leading Russian experts say Moscow should respond to the US War on Terrorism by forging closer ties with India and China, reported The Hindu, "India's National Newspaper, " Feb 4. "George W. Bush's State of the Union address left no doubt that the American War on Terrorism is aimed more at winning global supremacy than rooting out terrorism," said Mikhail Delyagin, head of the Russian Institute of Globalization Studies. Russia should look for new allies, and "Mr. Bush himself showed us where to look for them by listing Russia together with India and China in his address," Delyagin said. "Mr. Bush called them American allies in the war on terrorism, but the real reason he singled out India and China is that they are major powers which follow an independent foreign policy and do not kow-tow to America. Strength is the only thing the US feels respect for." Said Gen. Leonid Ivashov, former head of the Defense Ministry's Foreign Relations Directorate, now head of the Academy of Political Studies: "The Americans are doing in that region the same thing they did in the Balkans, where they created a controlled hotbed of conflict by rearing Albanian separatists. Such conflicts give the US new leverage in dealing with other countries." Russia, China, and India have no interest in seeing the region of Central Asia destabilized, Ivashov said. "Shared geopolitical interests dictate the need for closer interaction among the three nations." [TOP]
2. IRAN TILTS TO RUSSIA
President Bush's State of the Union address, which lumped Iran, Iraq and North Korea together in an "axis of evil," has "had the effect of uniting the Iranian nation behind a common cause: to rid the region of the American presence." A "senior Iranian diplomatic source" told Asia Times Online Feb. 13 that Iran will play a Russian card to force the US to reduce its military buildup in the region. The source elaborated: "At present, Iran is in contact with Russia. Both countries have differences, but at the same time both countries understand their collective interests and agree that no external element should have a share of interest in the region. In coming days...Russia and Iran will address regional issues together and use their influence in Afghanistan, through close coordination with the Afghan leadership, so that the US role in Afghanistan will be reduced to a level where it will not be a threat to any neighboring country." [TOP]
3. KAZAKHSTAN WOOS INDIA ON PIPELINE
Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev's trip to India this week prompted renewed reports of a deal for a pipeline through Afghanistan. Nazarbaev led a 43-person delegation on a five-day mission, holding meetings with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, President KR Narayanan, and other officials in a series of cities. The Times of India reported that the two countries signed a protocol to facilitate closer cooperation. The accord covered trade, economic, scientific, industrial, and cultural fields. In a joint commission chaired by their respective energy ministers, Kazakhstan invited India's state-owned oil and gas company ONGC Videsh and the Gas Authority of India Ltd to invest in Kazakh petroleum fields, the Press Trust of India said. Kazakhstan also invited India to invest in a wide variety of its businesses, from agriculture to information technology and defense. One Kazakhstan TV report transcribed by the BBC said, "Today, Kazakhstan officially agreed to lay an oil pipeline from our country to the shore of the Indian Ocean." Another local TV report stated: "Other regional countries have already responded to the start of the implementation of this project." It cited a letter from Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai, seeking "a share in a Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India oil pipeline." Radio Free Europe, noting that such reports were not heard outside Kazakhstan, speculated they might be result of "wishful thinking." (RFE, Feb. 15) [TOP]
4. TURKMENISTAN AND KARZAI IN PIPELINE TALKS
Turkmenistan's president Saparmurat Niyazov is close to agreeing on terms for exporting gas and electricity to Afghanistan, the official Turkmen government daily reported. Niyazov, who met the Afghan interim government's water & energy minister Mohammat Shaker Kargar, offered "to share Turkmenistan's energy riches with the friendly Afghan people," the official Neutralny Turkmenistan wrote. Turkmenistan, which possesses the world's fifth largest gas reserves, produced more than 50 billion cubic meters of gas last year. The paper quoted Kargar as saying the planned power supplies would "fully satisfy the needs of war-torn Afghanistan's northern and north-western provinces." Kargar also stressed the importance of routing a planned 1,600-kilometre Turkmenistan-Pakistan natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan, the paper said. The two-billion-dollar gas project was due to have started by 1998 but was disrupted by Afghanistan's civil war. (Jang newspapers, Feb. 14) Pakistani officials are also hopeful that the return of peace in Afghanistan will revive the pipeline project, reports Pakistan's Jang newspaper. Jang reports that Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed an agreement with the Unocal corporation and Delta Oil Co. of Saudi Arabia in July 1997. Under the agreement, Unocal would form a consortium for the construction of the pipeline. The Unocal-led consortium, Centgas, lined up Japanese and Korean investment before Unocal withdrew citing the difficulties in Afghanistan. (Jang newspapers, Feb. 10) [TOP]
1. TORTURE IN THE PHILIPPINES
Elnie Angulo, a 25-year-old peasant, was walking along a jungle path when he was attacked by three terrorists on the Philippine island of Basilan, the "second front in America's war on terrorism." When his body was found, it had seven broken ribs, three broken vertebrae, slice marks on both hands and his neck-and his tongue and genitals severed. Writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times: "This kind of terrorism against civilians is the reason President Bush is sending 660 troops to help destroy the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group here on Basilan. But there's one problem: the men who tortured Mr. Angulo to death were not in Abu Sayyaf. They were Philippine troops, our new partners in the war on terrorism." Kristof thinks, "The White House surely did not realize what was going on in the jungle here, and it may be that even the Philippine government in Manila is unaware of the murders." He also says that the target, the Abu Sayyaf group, "is even more brutal." But his interviews with local residents and officials "leave no doubt that the anti-terror operation that the United States is enthusiastically backing here in Basilan is itself based in part on terror. Local people whisper about the white ambulance used by the provincial government. Each time it stops at a house at night, they say, someone from that house will turn up shot to death in the morning. It is a death squad, operated by the authorities, using defectors from Abu Sayyaf to identify suspects and then execute them." Aside from the death squads, the Philippine marines are also "out of control" on Basilan. "It was the marines who, by their own account, captured and interrogated Mr. Angulo on Sept. 24. The marines claim he was an Abu Sayyaf member who resisted arrest and was then shot, but the post-mortem shows no signs of bullet wounds. Those who knew Mr. Angulo say he was a peasant living at home with no ties to Abu Sayyaf; he was walking to the market to buy burlap sacks when he ran into the marines. Moreover, an independent witness whom I won't identify for fear that he would be promptly killed says he saw the three marines arrest Mr. Angulo, tie him up and begin beating him." (NYT, Feb. 12)
Jonathan Miller and Rob Lemkin reported a similar case in The UK Observer Feb. 3. Syed Kaing Mabbul was a Basilan coconut farmer whose misfortune was to have the same name as a commander of the Abu Sayyaf. Syed's mother, Azirah Mabhul told the reporters he had been betrayed to the army by seven fellow Muslims who had split a bounty of a million pesos (about £14,000). "They picked up my son at 8 AM," she said. "They brought him to Malagutay Brigade Camp, blindfolded him, beat him, stripped him, then hung him upside down for eight hours. They inserted ground-up chilli paste into his rectum to force him to confess to belonging to Abu Sayyaf." Azirah said that when she finally located her son, he still couldn't sit down. About 150 US troops, the advance party of a force of about 650, are already in the southern Philippines for a six-month military exercise. Their task is to train Filipino soldiers to fight Abu Sayyaf and to rescue kidnapped missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, KS, who have been in captivity for eight months. [TOP]
2. THOUSANDS PROTEST AUSTRALIA REFUGEE POLICY
2,5000 gathered outside the parliament building in Canberra to protest Australia's policy of mandatory detention of refugees. The protest, led by community, church and labor groups, was timed for the first meeting of Parliament since Prime Minister John Howard was re-elected in Nov. promising a crackdown on illegal immigration. There are currently 2,200 refugees, including many from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, in 5 detention camps while their asylum cases are considered-which could take years. Another 1,500 "boat people" have been arrested at sea by Australian forces and are being held in detention camps in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific island nation of Nauru. (NYT, Feb. 13) [TOP]
1. JUST ABOUT EVERWHERE...
In a report to Congress last week, CIA Director George Tenet identified terrorist groups in Lebanon, Turkey and Colombia that have no ties to al-Qaeda yet could be future US targets because they display anti-US sentiments. Tent's statements apparently broaden the Bush administration's definition of international terrorist groups to include organizations that have not actually acted against US facilities, personnel or interests. One threat named was the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), which has not attacked US targets but which Tenet said "poses a serious threat to US interests in Latin America because it associates us with the government it is fighting against." Also named was the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C) of Turkey, which Tenet said "has publicly criticized the United States and our operation in Afghanistan." Tenet also named Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Hamas, which have all focused their attacks on Israel. (San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 10) [TOP]
1. GROUND ZERO TOXIC THREAT UPDATE
Health officials now say that most city residents affected by toxins from the World Trade Center disaster-excepting unprotected workers at Ground Zero-are not likely to suffer permanent damage from any single pollutant. But that assurance comes with a disturbing caveat: scientists know next to nothing about potential combined effects of the unprecedented mix of hazardous substances at the disaster site-including cancer-causing agents such as benzene, PCBs and asbestos.
Two days after the attacks, an EPA press release called initial test results "reassuring," citing "no asbestos or very low levels," and saying other compounds "were not detectable or not of concern." On Sept. 18, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman issued a statement reassuring "the people of New York and Washington DC, that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink." The EPA also cautioned site workers to wear respirators and told tenants to be careful in cleaning up Trade Center dust. But Whitman's general assurances resonated loudest with many-including firefighters, who then disregarded warnings that they use respirators at Ground Zero.
The EPA didn't release data to support its conclusions until late Oct., under pressure from the New York Environmental Law & Justice Project. The data showed that benzene-a carcinogen found in emissions from burning oil products-had been detected at levels 58 times above federal workplace standards. Hearing that, many felt misled by the earlier assurances. "There were plenty of opportunities for them to say, 'Hey, look, we just don't know,'" said Battery Park City resident Joshua Rockoff. Firefighter union officials accuse the EPA of overstating safety to appear in control. "I think that was the message they were attempting to send out, and I think we have a problem now because of that message," said Tom Butler, a spokesman for the Uniformed Firefighters Association. Many firefighters are preparing litigation against the city government for failing to provide adequate protection at the site. (See WW3 REPORT #13)
The greatest cause for concern is asbestos, which became part of the super-fine dust that pervaded apartments and offices. Parents at several lower Manhattan schools hired consultants and lawyers, who pushed the Board of Education to expand environmental tests. Tests in Nov. outside Stuyvesant High School, which is nearly adjacent to Ground Zero, found asbestos well above federal standards.
In leaked memos, an EPA chemist criticized the agency for applying less stringent standards to the WTC area than to asbestos problems elsewhere. "The cleanup around Ground Zero was uncoordinated and haphazard," said Dave Newman, industrial hygienist for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health.
Dr. Muthiah Sukumaran, a pulmonary specialist and intensive care director at NYU Downtown Hospital, said he has seen 100 "WTC cough" patients at his Tribeca office, many with no history of respiratory problems. He blames the condition on irritants in the dust cloud. "Every single person with lung problems got worse," Sukumaran said. "Fortunately, all the people undergoing treatment are improving." And what about pregnant women, older people and those with weakened immune systems? "That's where there is a gap in our knowledge, really," said Dr. Frederica Perera, who heads a study of pregnant women who were in the area with the Columbia University Center for Children's Environmental Health .
But the city's new Mayor Mike Bloomberg is less than sensitive to citizen concerns. "Every test that has been done says the air quality was in acceptable limits," he said. "I think some people are just never going to want to believe that."
Finally, if the most optimistic assurances about air quality are correct, this raises the question of what happened to the toxins-and whether they are still on site, posing a further hazard to recovery workers. "If all these chemicals...didn't go up in the air, they had to go down," said Joel Kupferman, director of the New York Environmental Law & Justice Project. "We believe that they're sitting there in pools of water below surface." (Daily News, Feb. 10) [TOP]
2. WTC TOXIC THREAT--N INDIA!
At least 30,000 tons of scrap from the WTC wreckage has been exported to Sabari Exim Ltd of Chennai, India. Concerns over the potential contamination of the steel scrap has alarmed local trade unions and environmental groups, who say that uninformed workers may be exposed to harmful toxins while handling the metal. Greenpeace India is calling for an immediate investigation into whether the shipments are contaminated with asbestos, PCBs, dioxins, mercury, lead or other heavy metals. "We admit that the steel scrap may not at all be contaminated. But it is better to be safe than sorry, and the burden of proving that the scrap is safe is on the US exporter and government," said Manu Gopalan of Greenpeace India. The group also protests that authorities have not been forthcoming with information about how much of the WTC scrap has actually reached India's shores. The first consignment of the scrap arrived in early Jan. onboard a Maltese vessel. Two other ships have subsequently arrived with a cargo of "scrap." While the latter two are suspected of carrying WTC scrap, no confirmation has yet been possible. (Greenpeace India press release, Feb. 4) [TOP]
3. GIULIANI CLINGS TO CONTROL OF TWIN TOWERS FUND
Calling it "painful" to hear criticism of his Twin Towers Fund, former mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he had made a "solemn commitment" to donors that he would remain in charge of the fund. He pledged to extract the $100 million from City Hall and place it in a fund he controls. Two firefighter unions lambasted Giuliani's application for the funds and his plans to hire 11 staff members who will be paid salaries and benefits of up to $1.44 million. Cpt. Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, wrote state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to demand that the money remain under City Hall control. Gorman told reporters the money should be distributed to the families of deceased uniformed workers, not used to create what he called a "perpetual payroll" for Giuliani's pals. (Newsday, Feb. 13) Giuliani's own girlfriend, Judith Nathan, has been appointed to a seat on the Twin Towers Fund board. (See WW3 REPORT #19) Giuliani made his comments just before leaving for Europe, where he met with more donors, and received an honorary Knight of the British Empire from Queen Elizebeth. (NYT, Feb. 14) Giuliani's mayoral administration saw unprecedented citizens protests in response to a wave of police brutality, torture and homicides. [TOP]
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. THE CARLYLE GROUP: INCESTUOUS WEB OF DC POWER-BROKERS
The Bush administration, already on the defensive over its connections with the collapsed energy giant Enron, faces scrutiny over a massive defense contract which aided an investment firm with Bush family links. Last Sept., the Army signed a $665 million contract to develop the Crusader Advanced Field Artillery System, a $12 billion program overseen by United Defense Industries (UDI). Bush's new defense appropriations bill includes $487 million for the program. This has helped boost the stock value of Carlyle Group, a well-connected DC-based investment group, which controls UDI. Carlyle recently sold $225 million of shares in UDI, but retains a 54% stake worth $560 million. Questions are being asked on Capitol Hill because of Carlyle's close links to the Bush administration-and because a Pentagon advisory panel recommended canceling the Crusader.
Carlyle, founded in 1987 by David Rubenstein, a lawyer who worked in the Carter administration, boasts $12.5 billion in investments. Its chairman is Frank Carlucci, who was Defense Secretary in the Reagan administration and is a close friend of current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld-the two were on the same wrestling team at Princeton University. The chairman of Carlyle Europe is former UK prime minister John Major. An adviser to Carlyle in Asia is George HW Bush, former president and father of the current president. And George W. Bush himself was, for five years, on the board of Caterair, a Carlyle-backed airline services business.
"It's the first time the President of the United States' father is on the payroll of one of the largest US defense contractors," protests Charles Lewis, director of the Center for Public Policy, a top critic of the administration's about-turn on the Crusader contract. The program was first proposed four years ago, but was rejected in Dec. 1997 by the Pentagon-appointed National Defense Panel as being inappropriate for modern warfare-a view reiterated last April despite UDI shrinking the program from $23 billion to $12 billion. Carlyle bought UDI for $850 million in 1997, and denies that any of its personnel improperly used their influence.
But the Crusader questions come at a time when the administration is under fire for its links to Enron. In an ironic twist, it has emerged that when Enron was trying to raise money to stay afloat, it turned to Carlyle Group for help. Carlyle wisely rejected the request. (UK Independent, Jan. 13[TOP]
2. THE CARLYLE GROUP'S BIN LADEN CONNECTION
As the US boosts military spending in its quest to stop Osama bin Laden's terrorist activities, there may be one unexpected beneficiary: Mr. bin Laden's family. The Arabian clan--which says it has broken all ties to Osama--is an investor in a fund established by Carlyle Group, the Washington merchant bank specializing in buyouts of defense and aerospace companies. In recent years, former US President George HW Bush, ex-Secretary of State James Baker and ex-Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci have journeyed to the bin Laden family's headquarters in Jiddah. The elder. Bush makes speeches on behalf of Carlyle Group and is senior adviser to its Asian Partners fund, while Baker is its senior counselor. Carlucci is the group's chairman.
Osama is one of over 50 children of Mohammed bin Laden, who built the family's $5 billion business, Binladin Group, largely with contracts from the Saudi regme. Osama worked briefly in the business and is believed to have inherited up to $50 million in cash and stock, although a family spokesperson insists he doesn't have access to the shares. The spokesperson also says Osama can't own assets in the kingdom because his Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1994. Binladin Group, now headed by Osama's half-brother Bakr bin Laden, epitomizes the US-Saudi alliance that the accused terrorist rails against. After the 1996 truck-bombing in Dhahran that killed 19 US servicemen, Binladin Group built new military barracks and airfields for US troops. "If there were ever any company closely connected to the US and its presence in Saudi Arabia, it's the Saudi Binladin Group," said Charles Freeman, president of the Middle East Policy Council, a DC think-tank that receives tens of thousands of dollars annually from the bin Laden family. "They're the establishment that Osama's trying to overthrow." But the FBI has reportedly issued subpoenas to banks used by the bin Laden family seeking records of family dealings. A family spokesman said he had no knowledge of the subpoenas but that the family has nothing to hide.
According to a Carlyle executive, the bin Laden family committed $2 million through a London investment arm in Carlyle Partners II Fund, which has purchased several aerospace companies. But a financier with ties to the bin Ladens claims the family's overall investment with Carlyle is considerably larger, calling the $2 million just an initial contribution. The Carlyle executive added that he would think twice before accepting new bin Laden investments. "The situation has changed now," he said. "I don't want to spend my life talking to reporters." (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 29) [TOP]
3. FUN FACTS ABOUT CARLYLE GROUP
Carlyle is described by the Industry Standard as "the world's largest private equity firm," with over $12 billion under management. Yet, opines the Baltimore Sun, "chances are readers haven't ever heard of The Carlyle Group. Isn't that a little odd, considering it is run by a veritable who's who of former Republican political leaders. Former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci is Carlyle's chairman and managing director (who, by the way, was college roommate of the current Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld). And that partners in this mammoth venture include former US Secretary of State James A. Baker III, George Soros, Fred Malek (George HW Bush's campaign manager, forced to resign when it was revealed he was Nixon's 'Jew counter'), and-presumably-George HW Bush?" (Baltimore Sun, Oct. 3)
The offices of the Carlyle Group are on Washington's Pennsylvania Ave., midway between the White House and the Capitol building. In September 2000, Carlyle hired speakers including Colin Powell and AOL Time Warner chair Steve Case to address an extravagant party at Washington's Monarch Hotel. (The UK Guardian, Oct. 3) )
Then there is the persistent Internet rumor (reported as "gossip" in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Dec. 30) that Carlyle is a major investor in BioPort, makers of the anthrax vaccine and a top defense contractor specializing in genetic technology, whose top shareholder is retired Admiral William J. Crowe, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Reagan and "Poppy" Bush administrations. (See WW3 REPORT #15)[TOP]
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