Thursday, May 13, 2004


Legal – Human rights

The Age of Comparative Atrocity
American shame; Islamist snuff movies
It's a tough call whether Abu Musab al-Zarqawi-the Jordanian "militant" who is reportedly responsible for the videotaped butchery of Nicholas Berg-is more stupid than he is brutal, or whether he is a bigger monster than he is a fool. Zarqawi's own nauseating videotape makes the case for his indescribable brutality. The argument that he is Islamism's biggest lunatic yet-no small claim-is similarly straightforward: He has inaugurated an otherwise inconceivable display of comparative atrocity that could deliver his enemy from its own demoralization.

After all, Americans have been sufficiently shamed, dishonored, and demoralized by the repulsive images of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib that even many prominent war supporters have been reconsidering the effort.
Dispirited analysts at the conservative National Review Online have been looking for an exit from the occupation; blogger Andrew Sullivan has asked himself if, knowing in advance how the occupation would proceed, he would have supported the war to begin with. New York Times columnist David Brooks has concluded that the United States misconceived the effect of its own power, and has pronounced the occupation an intellectual failure, even if it ultimately succeeds in establishing a liberal Iraq.

What does Zarqawi do? In "retaliation" for the Abu Ghraib imagery, he stages a singularly nauseating "execution" of a private American citizen who has been wandering around Iraq. The probable effect is to offer many Americans an exit from their own moral horror.

Mind you, Zarqawi's ghouls in this video don't merely "behead" Berg, as most accounts indicate. "Beheading" suggests a quick severing and a quick death. What Zarqawi and his friends do is butcher Berg-there's no other word for it. They don't use a sword or an axe; they use a knife. You can hear Nicholas Berg screaming as Zarqawi's gang hacks at his neck and then pulls at his head until it comes off his body. They then hold his bleeding head in front of the camera. The tape is appalling not only for its utter bloodthirstiness, but also for the total absence of simple human empathy.
Elemental empathy-for example, an unwillingness to rip a victim’s heads from his body-is a primary measure of civilization. (The shame Americans felt at the Abu Ghraib an image is, after all, rooted in such empathy.) Even in the dehumanizing context of warfare, which strains the empathy of all its participants, this is savagery.

But if this is a moment of comparative atrocity, the issue becomes whether the Zarqawi horror is capable of having any effect on the Abu Ghraib images.
The probable answer is that while the murder tape obviously doesn't make pictures of prisoner abuse any less disgusting or shameful, it does offer many of those who feel disgust and shame a different context in which to perceive those images.

The Abu Ghraib pictures reveal American soldiers humiliating their prisoners in a sadistic manner (in some images, the Americans are actually smirking). It's a painful sight because it is cruel on its own terms (we don't even know if the terrorized individual prisoners are actually guilty of anything), and because we regard such sadism as unworthy of our image of ourselves.

Indeed, the pictures are sufficiently difficult that American newspaper editors are increasingly unsure how to play the images that continue to appear. Perhaps sensing a rise of "shame fatigue," some editors have been moving newer images to inside pages. As Washington Post editor Leonard Downie, Jr. put it, "[W] e decided we had published so many shocking photos that it was fine to publish inside rather than on the front page."

By contrast, Zarqawi intentionally tapes and distributes his bloody atrocity; the literal slaughter of an innocent is offered as an example of his righteousness. "Unworthiness" simply never enters the calculation; that it is inhuman is its point. Shameless brutality of this degree has the power to transform the shame of Zarqawi's enemies (those who seek such transformation). Zarqawi has reminded his enemies that, unlike him, they are capable of shame.

One rarely encounters an enemy willing to dehumanize himself this way. It's not unknown: Genghis Khan, sweeping out of Mongolia in the 13th century, sent out an advance phalanx of rumormongers to spread tales of massacre and cruelty, in order to encourage the cities in his path to surrender the more quickly. But that strategy was based on the Mongols' strength, and the relative weakness of the cities that various waves of Mongol armies were intent on sacking, (Baghdad was ultimately among them).

That's hardly the situation in which Zarqawi and his allies find themselves. If the U.S. has a military weakness, it's the one that Vietnam's Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap identified: Wars can be won on the American home front. But you try to win such a war by demoralizing the populace, not by demonstrating your own butchery. Revealing yourself as a butcher only encourages your enemies to find you and kill you.

That's the whole point of atrocity images and stories, both true and false, from Trajan's Column in Rome to the notorious false stories spread during World War I to the phony anti-Iraq baby-incubator testimony of the first Gulf War: to dehumanize the foe. That's the business of the Pan-Arab press: delegitimizing the American effort in Iraq by portraying it in terms of atrocity. In the case of an Al Jazeera, it has been to display civilian corpses; in the case of some Pan-Arab newspapers, it has been to augment genuine pictures of prisoner abuse with stills from pornographic films, and to claim that such stills are also from Abu Ghraib.

That sort of thing is recognizable propaganda in a classic mode. Zarqawi's righteous snuff movie is something different: an act of lunacy, a gift to his enemies, and, one hopes, an unwitting suicide note.
Source; Reason; May 2004
Write; by Charles Paul Freund is a Reason senior editor.

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Media – Iraq affair

Some Arab papers ignore Berg slaying
Beirut, Lebanon - Arab media reacted cautiously Wednesday to the videotaped beheading of an American civilian by Islamic militants in Iraq, with some newspapers conspicuously playing it down or even ignoring it.

The biggest pan-Arab satellite television channels broadcast an edited version of the gruesome video, not showing the actual killing of Nick Berg, 26, of West Chester, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb. The businessman was abducted in April.

In one of the most explicit displays, Kuwait's Al-Siyassah daily ran a photo of a masked militant holding up Berg's severed head.

The video of the execution was released on the Internet too late for some Middle East newspaper columnists to react to it. The killing, attributed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group, appalled many Arabs.

Some opinion-makers condemned the killing.

"This shows how base and vile those who wear the robe of Islam have become," said Abdullah Sahar, a Kuwait University political scientist.

Some said it surpassed the American military's abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, which has been the top story for the past 10 days in the Middle East.

"We were winning international sympathy because of what happened at Abu Ghraib, but they come and waste it all," said Abdullah Sahar, a Kuwait University political scientist, said of the Islamic militants responsible.

In the video, the masked militants said they were taking revenge on Berg because of the abuses at the Baghdad prison.

Mustafa Bakri, editor of Al-Osboa weekly newspaper in Egypt, said Berg's death will only hurt efforts to expose American offenses against Iraqis.

"Such revenge is rejected," Bakri said of the execution. "The American administration will make use of such crimes just to cover their real crimes against Iraqis."

Bakri spoke as he took part in a Cairo demonstration by about 50 Egyptian journalists and lawyers against American human rights abuses in Iraq.

Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, the big two satellite networks, aired carefully edited versions of the video. In Al-Arabiya's edit, a militant is seen drawing a knife and jerking Berg's body to one side. The rest is not shown.

"The news story itself is strong enough," said Jihad Ballout, spokesman for Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. "To show the actual beheading is out of the realm of decency."

Lebanon's private Al Hayat-LBC station led its bulletins Wednesday with the video. Its news presenter said: "We apologize to our viewers for not showing the entire tape because of the ugliness of the scene."

Kuwait state television broadcast the news of the execution late Tuesday but not the video.

Iraqi newspapers reported nothing about the killing, although it may have broken to late for them.

Egypt's leading daily, Al-Ahram, ignored the beheading Wednesday. Two other major pro-government newspapers ran news agency reports on their inside pages, without photos.

An Al-Ahram editor, Ahmed Reda, said the news came too late Tuesday night for the paper to confirm the video's authenticity with the U.S. government.

Newspapers in Syria, where the government controls the press tightly, did not report it at all.

A professor of journalism at the American University in Cairo, Hussein Amin, said the handling of the story by Egypt's pro-government papers was political and appropriate.

"I think that the government does not want to show this on the front page as a main item because it shows a very poor - poor is not the proper word; disgusting maybe is the better word - example of revenge," Amin said.
"There is also the threat that it could be happening to other Americans. If they put it on the front page, (it could be seen as) they are favoring this kind of action."

Jordanian newspapers, state television and radio reported Berg's killing, but without commentary.

Most Lebanese newspapers, such as the left-wing As-Safir, published the report and a photograph of Berg sitting in front of the militants. As-Safir ran the headline: "Al-Zarqawi slaughters an American to avenge Iraqi prisoners."

In many Arab newspapers, the beheading received less display than the news of America's imposing sanctions on Syria and the killing of six Israeli soldiers in Gaza City.
Source; AP, May 2004
Write; by Zeina Karan

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GeoPolitica – Afghanistan affairs

Karzai calls for war on drug trade as illicit poppy-growing spreads
Karezeq, Afghanistan - The bulb of the little pink flower reaches deep into Afghan society, sowing problems with the country's allies, financing gunmen and even bringing addiction to ordinary Afghans.

In Afghanistan, opium is everywhere. The United Nations says the burgeoning poppy crop produced three-quarters of the world's illicit opium last year, worth $3.2 billion Cdn and accounting for half Afghanistan's gross domestic product. Output was 20 times more than in 2001, the last year of rule by the strict Taliban regime.

Returning from a recent conference with donor countries, President Hamid Karzai called on Afghans to wage a "jihad," or holy war, on the drug trade.

It was a politically risky move. Poppy farming supports thousands of families and is a major source of income for many powerful warlords.

On a recent day, a counter-narcotics team in Kandahar province fanned out across farms, flanked by a dozen bodyguards armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.

In the town of Karezeq, farmers confronted the team at the edge of fields pink with blooming poppies.

An elderly farmer begged for an officer to "be a good Muslim" and leave his crops alone. The response was quick: "It's the opium that you grow that's un-Islamic."

Eventually, they compromised: One-third of the plants would be uprooted. The farmers glumly watched as tractors tore up the earth.

Karzai's government says the goal is not to destroy farmers' livelihoods, but to encourage planting legal crops. While wheat and corn are nowhere near as profitable, at least the farmers know those crops will get to market, officials say.

The vast majority of the poppy crop is exported to meet the demand for drugs in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, but some stay at home, feeding a growing addiction problem.

In the slums of western Kabul, devastated by three decades of war, opium addicts gather in bullet-pocked ruins, sheltering in basement rooms littered with used needles and burned matches. They heat opium powder into a liquid and inhale the vapour.

Counsellors from the Najat drug rehabilitation centre scour Kabul for addicts, offering first-aid and encouragement. Female doctors meet at the homes of women addicts, and dozens of burqua-clad addicts come for checkups.

Each week, dozens of addicts hope desperately for one of the few beds Najat offers for in-house rehabilitation.

Once accepted, they spend weeks in cramped rooms, relearning responsibility and personal hygiene, receiving medical attention and counselling, and trying to get clean.

Feradoon, 42, can barely dream of kicking his habit. He meets every day with other addicts in the ruins of an old Kabul cinema.
They have no one else to turn to. In a culture where family is everything, these men are shunned by their relatives.
"No one can stop using this drug when he is alone," Feradoon says.
Source; AP, May 2004
Write; by David Guttenfelder

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GeoPolitica – Venezuela affairs

Venezuelan law enforcement agencies raid US Embassy warehouse; makes more arrests
Venezuelan authorities have raided a US Embassy warehouse in Caracas and made more arrests just a day after President Hugo Chavez Frias revealed another opposition-led conspiracy to overthrow his democratically elected government.
Quoted by wire services, US Embassy spokeswoman Victoria Alvarado says the embassy had used the warehouse to store furniture, and denied any US involvement in efforts to oust Chavez.

- Venezuelan security services had arrested scores of Colombian right-wing paramilitary fighters, Sunday, thwarting a plot to launch another coup d'etat tomorrow, Wednesday.

A US-backed coup d'etat in April 2002 saw the imposition of Dictator for a Day Pedro Carmona Estanga who immediately dissolved the National Congress, the judiciary and the Constitution in one fell swoop, instigating a shoot-to-kill hunt for Chavez loyalists.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher trotted out the same old platitudes, rejecting Chavez Frias' charges that the United States is also behind the latest conspiracy.
Source; Vheadline.com, May 2004
Write; by David Coleman

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GeoEconomical -Argentina

A new government oil company is born in Argentina
The Argentine government announced this Tuesday the creation of a government energy agency to ensure the supply of gas and electricity at accessible prices for the domestic market. Argentina is currently undergoing a serious energy crisis with domestic shortages and reduced overseas sales with diplomatic consequences in the region.Minister Julio De Vido

"The government decided the creation of Argentina Energy S.A., Enarsa, with the purpose of participating in the hydrocarbons and energy markets through the rational exploitation of resources", said Planning Minister Julio De Vido during a press conference in Government House in Buenos Aires.

The objective of Enarsa is to ensure the availability of gas and electricity at prices compatible with the economic level of the country and "rebuild reserves, production levels, gas supplies together with infrastructure needs in the transport of gas and electricity", added Mr. De Vido.

Enarsa will be made up of 53% non-transferable shares belonging to the government, 12% to the Argentine provinces and 35% will be offered to the private sector.
Enarsa that is expected to associate with private companies to explore and exploit different fuels is the first government company in the local hydrocarbons market since the Argentine government privatized YPF and Gas del Estado in the nineties.
Several private companies have anticipated they will work closely with the Argentine government in the energy emergency.

Brazilian Petrobras promised to double the transport capacity of its gas pipeline that extends 3,300 kilometres from Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego to Buenos Aires, which means an additional 2,8 million cubic meters in 2005 and another eight million cubic meters in 2006.

Repsol-YPF also is committed to increase gas production by 9,5 million cubic meters.

Argentina has abundant reserves of natural gas but the lack of investments during several years and a booming economy have caused a bottle neck with shortages both for the domestic industrial market and overseas, mainly Chile.

"If we have an energy crisis in Argentina today, unfortunately it's because corporations have not been investing particularly since 1998", said President Nestor Kirchner.
The Kirchner administration also decided to increase taxes and retentions on hydrocarbon and fuel exports in an attempt to discourage overseas sales and ensure domestic supply.
Source; Mercosur, May 2004

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Africa – Nigeria affairs

Mobs raze Christian-run businesses in Nigeria
Kano - Muslim mobs looted and burned at least five Christian-run businesses in the northern Nigerian city of Kano on Tuesday, after a rally called to protest a sectarian massacre.
A reporter at the scene said that gangs of young men torched and looted Christian properties on Gyadi-Gyadi Court Road in a mainly Muslim area of the city, triggering explosions in a cooking gas store.
Police jeeps were racing around the area, with heavily armed officers sporadically firing warning shots, but security forces appeared to be holding back to avoid triggering a full-scale confrontation with the mob.
Most businesses, including the main Christian market in the minority community's ghetto, Sabon Gari, had been closed before Tuesday's mass rally called in protest at last week's attack on the Muslim town of Yelwa.
There was no sign of any casualties in the violence.
On Sunday last week a heavily armed gang of militants from the Christian Tarok ethnic group stormed the mainly Muslim rural town of Yelwa, in the Shendam local government area of central Nigeria's Plateau state, and killed between 200 and 300 people, according to government figures.
At Tuesday's protest, Islamic leaders demanded that President Olusegun Obasanjo put an end to the Plateau state crisis within seven days "or bear the blame of whatever happens".
Source; AFP, May 2004

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GeoPolitical – Iraq affairs

The Curse of Pan-Arabia
Consider a tale of three cities: In Fallujah, there are the beginnings of wisdom, recognition, after the bravado that the insurgents cannot win in the face of a great military power. In Najaf, the clerical establishment and the shopkeepers have called on the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr to quit their city, and to "pursue another way." It is in Washington where the lines are breaking, and where the faith in the gains that coalition soldiers have secured in Iraq at such a terrible price appears to have cracked. We have been doing Iraq by improvisation; we are now "dumping stock," just as our fortunes in that hard land may be taking a turn for the better. We pledged to give Iraqis a chance at a new political life. We now appear to be consigning them yet again to the same Arab malignancies that drove us to Iraq in the first place.

We have stumbled in Abu Ghraib. But the logic of Abu Ghraib isn't the logic of the Iraq war. We should be able to know the Arab world as it is. We should see through the motives of those in Cairo and Amman and Ramallah and Jeddah, now outraged by Abu Ghraib, who looked away from the terrors of Iraq under the Baathists. Our account is with the Iraqi people: It is their country we liberated, and it is their trust that a few depraved men and women, on the margins of a noble military expedition, have violated. We ought to give the Iraqis the best thing we can do now, reeling as we are under the impact of Abu Ghraib - give them the example of our courts and the transparency of our public life. What we should not be doing is to seek absolution in other Arab lands.

Take this scene from last week, which smacks of the confusion - and panic - of our policies in the aftermath of a cruel April: President Bush apologizing to King Abdullah II of Jordan for the scandal at Abu Ghraib.
Peculiar, that apology - owed to Iraq's people, yet forwarded to Jordan. We are still held captive by Pan-Arab politics. We struck into Iraq to free that country from the curse of the Arabism that played havoc with its politics from its very inception as a nation-state. We had thought, or implied, or let Iraqis think, that a new political order would emerge, that the Pan-Arab vocation that had been Iraq's poison would be no more.
The Arabs had let down Iraq, averted their gaze from the mass graves and the terrors inflicted on Kurdistan and the south, and on the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala and their seminarians and scholars. Jordan in particular had shown no great sensitivity toward Iraq's suffering. This was a dark spot in the record of a Hashemite dynasty otherwise known for its prudence and mercy. It was a concession that the Hashemite court gave to Jordan's "street," to the Palestinians in refugee camps and to the swanky districts of Amman alike. Jordan in the 1980s was the one country where Saddam Hussein was a mythic hero: the crowd identified itself with his Pan-Arab dreams, and thrilled to his cruelty and historical revisionism.
This is why the late king, Hussein, broke with his American ties - as well as with his fellow Arab monarchs - after the invasion of Kuwait. His son did better in this war; he noted the price that Jordan paid in the intervening decade. He took America's side, and let the crowd know that a price would be paid for riding with Saddam. But no apology was owed to him for Abu Ghraib. He was no more due an apology for what took place than were the rulers in Kathmandu.

But this was of a piece with our broader retreat of late. We have dispatched the way of Iraqis an envoy of the U.N., Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian of Pan-Arab orientation, with past service in the League of Arab States. It stood to reason (American reason, uninformed as to the terrible complications of Arab life) that Mr. Brahimi, "an Arab," would better understand Iraq's ways than Paul Bremer. But nothing in Mr. Brahimi's curriculum vitae gives him the tools, or the sympathy, to understand the life of Iraq's Shiite seminaries; nothing he did in his years of service in the Arab league exhibited concern for the cruelties visited on the Kurds in the 1980s. Mr. Brahimi hails from the very same political class that has wrecked the Arab world. He has partaken of the ways of that class: populism, anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, and a preference for the centralized state.
He came from the apex of the Algerian system of power that turned that country into a charnel house, inflicted on it a long-running war between the secular powers-that-be and the Islamists, and a tradition of hostility by the Arab power-holders toward the country's Berbers. No messenger more inappropriate could have been found if the aim was to introduce Iraqis to the ways of pluralism.

Mr. Brahimi owes us no loyalty. His prescription of a "technocratic government" for Iraq - which the Bush administration embraced only, to retreat from, by latest accounts - is a cunning assault on the independent political life of Iraq. The Algerian seeks to return Iraq to the Pan-Arab councils of power. His entire policy seeks nothing less than a rout of the gains, which the Kurds and the Shiites have secured after the fall of the Tikriti-Baathist edifice. The Shiites have seen through his scheme. A history of disinheritance has given them the knowledge they need to recognize those who bear them ill will. American power may not be obligated - and should not be - to deliver the Shiites a new dominion in Iraq. But we can't once more consign them to the mercy of their enemies in the Arab world. At any rate, it is too late in the hour for such a policy, for the genie is out of the bottle and the Shiites will fight back. Gone is their old timidity and quietism. Their rejection of Mr. Brahimi's diplomacy is now laid out for everyone to see.

For his part, Mr. Brahimi knew that the Americans were eager to dump, and he rightly bet on the innocence (other, less charitable terms could be used) of those in the Bush administration now calling the shots on Iraq. They were unburdened by any deep knowledge of the country, and Mr. Brahimi offered the false promise of pacifying Iraq in the run-up to our presidential elections.
His technocracy is, in truth, but a cover for the restoration of the old edifice of power. Fallujah gave him running room; its fight for a lost, unjust dominion, was his diplomatic tool. His prescription, he let it be known, would calm the tempest in that sullen place. The Marines were fighting to bring that town to order. The Marines were not Mr. Brahimi's people: Their fight, and their sacrifices, he dismissed as a "collective punishment" of a civilian population. Mr. Brahimi should know a thing or two about collective punishment. His native Algeria has provided enough lessons in what really constitutes the indiscriminate punishment of populations that come in the way of military power.

In the scales of military power, the Arabs have not been brilliant in modern times. But there is cunning aplenty in their world, and an unerring eye for the follies of great foreign powers. The Arabs can read through President Bush's stepping back from his support for Ariel Sharon's plan for withdrawal from Gaza. There are amends to be made for Abu Ghraib, and those are owed the people of Iraq. Yet here we are paying the Palestinians with Iraqi coin. The Palestinians will not be grateful for our concessions; and they are to be forgiven the only conclusion they will draw. Those concessions have already been taken as the compromises of an America now in the throes of self-flagellation.

We can't have this peculiar mix of imperial reach, coupled with such obtuseness. It is odd, and defective in the extreme, that President Bush chose the official daily of the Egyptian regime, Al-Ahram, for yet another interview, another expression of contrition over Abu Ghraib. In the anti-Americanism of Egypt (of Al-Ahram itself), the protestations of our virtue are of no value. In our uncertainty, we now walk into the selective rage of the Egyptians, a popular hostility tethered to the policies of a regime eager to see us fail in Iraq - a regime afraid that the Iraqis may yet steal a march on Egypt into modernity. Cairo has no standing in Iraq.
Why not take representatives of a budding Iraqi publication into the sanctuary of the Oval Office and offer a statement of contrition by our leader?
Our goals in Iraq are being diluted by the day. There has been naivete on our part, to be sure, and no small measure of hubris. We haven't always read Iraq right, but if we abdicate the burden and the responsibility - and the possibilities - that came with this war, our entire effort will come to grief. In Najaf on May 7, in a Friday sermon made from the shrine of Imam Ali - Shiism's most revered pulpit - Sheikh Sadr-al-din Qabanji, a respected cleric with ties to Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called on the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr to quit the city. "Listen to the advice of the ulema," he said, using the term for the recognized men of religion. "Come, let us together find another way, and go back to your homes and provinces." The defense of Najaf, he said, belonged to its people, and the bands of young "Sadrists" were told to return to the slums of Baghdad. We haven't stilled Iraq's furies, and our gains there have been made with heartbreaking losses.

But in the midst of our anguish over Abu Ghraib, and in our eagerness to placate an Arab world that has managed to convince us of its rage over the scandal, we should stay true to what took us into Iraq, and to the gains that may yet be salvaged.
Source; Wall Street Journal, May 2004
Write; by Mr. Fouad Ajami, of Johns Hopkins, is the author of "The Dream Palace of the Arabs" (Vintage, 1999).

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GeoSecurity – Syria

The Road for Damascus
More of a sideshow in the US war on terrorism; Syria hasn't been invaded like neighboring Iraq. Or warned with threats as North Korea or Iran - although it was almost listed in President Bush's "axis of evil" speech.

But finally this week, the hard-line secular regime in Damascus is due for some punishment from an administration long divided over whether Syria deserves more carrot than stick in dealing with its terrorist offenses.

Congress pushed Mr. Bush to act by approving a measure last November calling for sanctions on Syria if it didn't shape up. The move was driven as much by political pressure to help Israel as to protect the US.

But it's clear American patience with Syria's young leader, Bashar al-Assad, has run thin because of his tactical feints in helping the US with post-invasion Iraq, promoting of various terror groups, and toying with weapons of mass destruction. A Washington eager to reform the Middle East can't wait while Mr. Assad plays old games of conspiracy and half-steps, despite having 130,000 US troops next door in Iraq.

The latest Syrian game is to claim that it too is threatened by militant Islamists after a bombing in its capital on April 27. But Bush isn't buying it, and in imposing sanctions this week, he's decided Syria fits the category of being a nation against the US because Syria isn't doing enough to be with it in fighting terror.

He's expected to bar sales of dual-use items that could have military applications, and will likely to restrict US oil investments in Syria as well as Syrian planes flying to or over the US - for starters.

The Western-educated Assad may want to help the US, but he's surrounded by old generals who thrive off the business they've long enjoyed in Lebanon by having 20,000 troops occupy that country. (Syria also allows Iran to use Syrian soil to support the anti-Israel Hizbollah fighters in Lebanon.)

The worst offense is Syria's unwillingness to prevent foreign fighters from entering Iraq across a 400-mile border. It may be calculating that the US is on the run in Iraq and will soon exit. Bush has every reason to send Syria a stern signal of US resolve.
Source; CSMonitor.com, May 2004

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004


GeoPolitica - Security

Terror manual names Australians
Australians have been named in an al-Qaeda manual as the primary targets for terrorists in Indonesia.em>

The manual, targeting the Cities, specifies which foreign nationals to target in Muslim countries such as Americans in Saudi Arabia, French in Algiers and Australians in Indonesia.

Terrorism expert Clive Williams said the document was significant as it named, for the first time, Australians rather than Westerners in general as the number one target in Indonesia. Mr Williams also said it appeared Australia was increasingly named in al-Qaeda documents as a result of involvement in the war in Iraq.

"The rhetoric and the emphasis has been more on Australians certainly since we got involved in Iraq," said Mr Williams, director of terrorism studies at Australian National University.

Anti-terrorism agencies monitor large volumes of al-Qaeda material published on the internet.

The 11-page manual by an al-Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al-Mokrin, ranks Australia fourth on an overall list of "human targets" behind Americans, British and Spanish and ahead of Canadians and Italians.

The manual also lists groups of people according to their importance as targets. Businessmen, bankers and economists are first, then diplomats, politicians and scholars, thirdly scientists, and experts and then soldiers. Tourists are ranked last.

Mr Williams said the manual was not a fatwa or directive to kill Australians but rather a "white paper" that terrorists could consider when planning attacks.

"Australia has been mentioned at least half a dozen times by al-Qaeda as a potential target overseas but this is the first time I've seen a reference to Australians in Indonesia, that they should be the target of choice," Mr Williams said.

"The danger of that, of course, is that Indonesians who are sympathetic to al-Qaeda might therefore think about Australians as being the primary target in Indonesia, which is not what we have been up till now."

Manager of security analysis at Sydney-based Intelligent Risks, Ian Shaw, said the manual was a concern considering terrorists in Indonesia were still capable of another Marriott-style attack.

A bomb blast at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta last year killed 12 people.

The manual gives instructions about establishing a terrorist cell and communicating with its members without being detected.

"The primary targets should be Jews and Christians who have important status in the Islamic countries," the manual, obtained by The Australian, says.
"The purpose is not to allow them to settle in the lands of the Moslems. Our advice is to start with unprotected soft targets and the individuals from countries that support the local renegades."
Source; The Australian, May 2004
Write; by Trudy Harris

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Security – Iraq affairs

Security woes undermine best-laid plans
Instability slows work of Americans trying to improve life for Iraqis

In a briskly air-conditioned room somewhere in the depths of Camp Victory near the Baghdad International Airport, Col. Michael Formica is repeating himself.

"It's all about low hanging fruit," said Formica, gesturing toward his PowerPoint presentation. "Low hanging fruit."

The commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division is referring to easily achieved tasks that will enlist the support of Iraqis who have come to doubt the Americans' ability to rebuild a peaceful, self-functioning country.

In laying out a summary of a plan to clean up the 21 neighborhoods for which his unit is responsible, Formica rattles through a list of short-term tasks that will create "instant employment, instant beautification, and instant change in perception."

The projects include rebuilding a market, renovating a youth center, and refurbishing facilities at a local veterinary college.

Buried amongst the maps and bullet points are colorful slides.

One of them suggests a future still unimaginable for most Iraqis in a neighborhood that now will forever now be associated with the worst of American behavior in Iraq.

The slide shows Abu Ghraib, the neighborhood that houses the notorious prison that has become the focus of the growing abuse scandal that has severly damaged the military's credibility in Iraq.

In this case, the neighborhood - a rough, low-income part of Baghdad teeming with men formerly employed by the Iraqi military industry – is reincarnated as a picturesque suburb with lush green gardens and neat rows of brick houses.

When the presentation is finished, a small, stout Iraqi speaks. In halting English, Dr. Majid Nassir of the Baghdad Veterinary College thanks Formica and his men. But then he adds, "Before anything, we must work on security."

Security concerns trump all It's a familiar refrain, one which has plagued the 1st Cavalry Division since it formally assumed control from the 1st Armored Division over Baghdad a little over a month ago.

It was a tough welcome. The fighting in April - which resulted in scores of American deaths and hundreds of Iraqi casualties - was the worst since the war. Not only did the violence halt rebuilding efforts, it reinforced the growing Iraqi perception that the coalition has yet to accomplish anything.

"The biggest problem is that the coalition's been here over a year, and nothing's changed," said Col. Kendall Cox, commander of the Engineer Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division.

"So we've set out this low hanging fruit strategy. Find something you can reach up and grab and fix and show the Iraqi people."

A clean sweep?
The strategy is bound up in "Operation Iron Broom," a key part of the unit's mission "to defeat anti-coalition forces in order to create the infrastructure and economic conditions for the transfer to legitimate Iraqi governance" on June 30.

The $10 million operation was launched in Baghdad in March and encourages local participation in the reconstruction effort.

Some of these projects, modest in size and scope, show initial promise. A new walled market area just opened in Abu Dasher, a district with some of the lowest literacy and employment rates in Baghdad. The new space provides enough room for 150 to 200 stalls and boasts small details such as running clean water to improve sanitary conditions.

"This is the ideal thing we need to do. It's built by Iraqis for Iraqis," said Cox. "We're not doing this. We're providing the means and the money for Iraqis to do this."

As the colonel leaves the market, an elderly Iraqi man who has been guarding the market space approaches him. The man wants a gun to better protect the new facility. But Cox shook his head. "Right now, we cannot give weapons."

A new soccer field opened with fanfare recently. Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, local officials sat under a marqee, passages from the Quran were read out, and two teams kicked off on the new pitch.

But surrounding the field was a seven-foot high fence topped with barbed wire; on opening day, dozens of young Iraqi boys clung to the wire peering through at the U.S. troops standing guard.

Case study:
Kerkh sewage treatments plant other projects better illustrate the challenges of rebuilding basic services in a dangerous environment. The Kerkh Sewage Treatment Plant is one of three designed to protect the Tigris River from raw sewage produced by the city's 5.2 million residents.

But a lack of maintenance, a shortage of spare parts, and extensive looting during the war have rendered the southern Baghdad plant ineffective in processing the wastage generated by two million people.

Since last year, Bechtel, through a contract with USAID, has been responsible for overhauling the plant. But two months ago, when violence flared across Baghdad, two plant workers were killed when their car hit a roadside bomb.

Both Bechtel and local employees immediately stopped going to work until the 1-8 Battalion of the 1st Cavalry showed up to secure the plant premises.
Source; NBC News, May 2004
Write; by Adrienne Mong

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Human rights – Afghanistan

U.S. changes rules for Afghan prisoners
Afghanistan - The U.S. military has cut the amount of time prisoners spend at holding facilities on bases in Afghanistan while authorities investigate allegations of abuse, including two deaths, the top general in the country.

The change in prison procedure comes during a widening scandal into prisoner abuse in Iraq.

Lt. Gen. David Barno said the military had looked into "challenges and problems" at holding facilities in Afghanistan. He didn't say what the allegations were, or if any of them had proved true.

"One of the things we've done recently is to reduce the amount of time we're allowing local (American) commanders to have people in their temporary facilities before they come to Bagram," the main U.S. base north of Kabul, Barno said. Barno was responding to a question about reported complaints by former detainees of abuse during the past year at bases including Gardez in eastern Afghanistan and Kandahar, in the south.

He said all complaints were investigated and "appropriate action" taken as a result.

"I am aware of a number of the allegations out there. We have run a series of investigations on some of the challenges and problems that have been brought up with some of the remote holding facilities," he said.

The military opened a formal investigation into the deaths of two Afghans at Bagram's closely guarded jail in December 2002, but says it has had trouble-gathering evidence and has yet to release results.

Autopsies found that both men died of blunt force injuries.

A third Afghan died last June at a holding facility in eastern Kunar province. A U.S. intelligence official said last week the CIA inspector general is investigating that death because it involved an independent contractor working for the agency.

Barno said "a number of very significant changes" were made at Bagram as a result of those deaths, but the military refuses to give details of its prison regime.

"I'm very confident in our procedures there," he said.

The military insists it is treating its prisoners in Afghanistan humanely, saying Bagram receives regular visits from officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"I'm very confident in our procedures there," Barno said.
But human rights groups point to lingering allegations of torture from former prisoners held at a network of secretive American jails across Afghanistan.

The U.S. military views Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners as "unlawful combatants," and has held hundreds captured in the 2001 war for more than two years without formal charge or access to lawyers.

It conducted a major review of its Bagram jail again in March, but it is unclear if that review was prompted by the investigation of abuse of prisoners in Iraq.

The military in Afghanistan has refused to comment on findings in an internal Army report that prison guards in Iraq and Afghanistan were told to "soften up" prisoners so they would be more cooperative in interrogations.
Source: The Associated Press, May 11, 2004

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GeoPolitics - Defense

Iran Warns Israel of Retaliation
Iran's top nuclear negotiator warned Israel on Tuesday that his country would retaliate if the Jewish state were to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

Israel and the United States suspect Iran is secretly building nuclear weapons under cover of a nuclear energy program. In the past, Israel has said it would not allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb.

In 1981, Israeli fighter-bombers destroyed a nuclear reactor that was under construction outside Baghdad because it feared Iraq would acquire a nuclear weapon.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said last month Iran was a threat to Israel, ``maybe the main existential threat.''

In an interview with state television, Iran's chief negotiator on nuclear affairs, Hasan Rowhani, warned that an Israeli attack would have severe consequences.

``Israel knows our hands are well equipped,'' Rowhani said. ``If such an incident happens, it will meet a resolute response from our side.''

Rowhani did not explain what he meant by saying Iran was ``well equipped,'' but Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said in December that Iran would strike back with long-range missiles if Israel were to attack its nuclear facilities.

Shamkhani said Iran's Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of about 810 miles, would be one of the weapons used. Israel is about 600 miles west of Iran.

Suspicion of Israel and its agents is pervasive in Iran. On Saturday, Iran's armed forces closed the new Imam Khomeini International Airport on its first day of scheduled flights. Citing security concerns, the armed forces spoke of possible links between Israel and a Turkish company that has a contract to operate the airport. The Turkish company rejected the allegation.

Turkey has military links with Israel.

Iran is building its first nuclear reactor, which is expected to come on stream next year. It has been criticized by the International Atomic Energy Agency for failing to disclose certain aspects of its nuclear program. Iran has promised to cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors and insists its program is for peaceful purposes.
Source; AP; May 2004

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Business – Corporate affairs

Chiquita paid alleged terror groups
Banana producer says Colombian unit made protection payments to groups U.S. regards as terrorists.

The U.S. government is investigating Chiquita Brands International Inc. for making "protection" payments to certain Colombian groups, which the U.S. says, are terrorist organizations, the company said Monday.

The announcement came on the same day the Cincinnati-based distributor of bananas and other fresh fruits reported first-quarter net income falling to $20 million, or 46 cents per share, from $25 million, or 62 cents, a year ago.

Chiquita Chief Executive Fernando Aguirre said in a conference call with analysts that the company is taking the investigation "very seriously, but believe it's manageable."

"I want to stress that this issue only involves our Colombia subsidiary," Aguirre said.

The Department of Justice recently indicated it will be evaluating the role and conduct of the company and some of its officers into a matter involving Chiquita's banana subsidiary in Colombia, Chiquita said.

In April 2003, the company's management and audit committee voluntarily disclosed to the Justice Department that its subsidiary had been forced to make "protection" payments, according to Chiquita.

The payments went to certain groups in Colombia that have been designated as foreign terrorist organizations under U.S. law, the company said.

Chiquita said the groups made threats against the company's workers and that it made the payments only to protect its employees.

Chiquita disclosed the matter to the Justice Department when the company learned that supporting such a federally labeled terrorist organization is a criminal act under a U.S. statute, the company said.

It is an open secret in Colombia that companies are occasionally forced to buy off illegal armed groups fighting in the country's four-decade-old war, but Chiquita's admission appeared unprecedented.

Chiquita ships bananas from plants in northern Colombia in areas with a heavy presence of the outlawed far-right United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which is responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in recent Colombian history.

Known by its Spanish initials AUC, it has killed thousands of people, mainly peasants, for suspected links to Marxist rebels over the past few years. It also traffics cocaine, according to U.S. officials.

Human rights groups say the AUC worked closely with the army in a push against rebels in the Uraba banana-growing region in the 1990s. The government says any soldiers caught cooperating with the AUC will be prosecuted.

The AUC, now negotiating peace with the government, has targeted unions, which it often accuses of being guerrilla fronts.

A Colombian union is currently trying to sue Coca Cola (KO: Research, Estimates) for the murder of a worker by paramilitaries at a bottling plant in 1996. The soft-drink company says it had nothing to do with the incident.

Banana prices this year fell sharply from the year-earlier period, when flooding in Costa Rica and Panama limited supply.

Net sales for the quarter rose to $793 million from $471 million a year earlier. Atlanta AG, a German fresh produce distributor acquired at the end of March 2003, accounted for $283 million of the increase, Chiquita said.

The remainder resulted from favorable European exchange rates and increased sales of other fresh produce, the company said.

The company said it is cooperating with the Justice Department investigation.

Shares of Chiquita (CQB: Research, Estimates) fell 21 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $17.10 on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange before the company’s late-day announcement.
Source; Reuters, May 2004

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Security – Secret services

Secret world of U.S. interrogation
Long history of tactics in overseas prisons is coming to light

In Afghanistan, the CIA's secret U.S. interrogation center in Kabul is known as "The Pit," named for its despairing conditions. In Iraq, the most important prisoners are kept in a huge hangar near the runway at Baghdad International Airport, say U.S. government officials,
counterterrorism experts and others. In Qatar, U.S. forces have been ferrying some Iraqi prisoners to a remote jail on the gigantic U.S. air base in the desert.

The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where a unit of U.S. soldiers abused prisoners, is just the largest and suddenly most notorious in a worldwide constellation of detention centers -- many of them secret and all off-limits to public scrutiny - that the U.S. military and CIA have operated in the name of counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

These prisons and jails are sometimes as small as shipping containers and as large as the sprawling Guantanamo Bay complex in Cuba. They are part of an elaborate CIA and military infrastructure whose purpose is to hold suspected terrorists or insurgents for interrogation and safe-keeping while avoiding U.S. or international court systems, where proceedings and evidence against the accused would be aired in public.
Some are even held by foreign governments at the informal request of the United States.

"The number of people who have been detained in the Arab world for the sake of America is much more than in Guantanamo Bay. Really, thousands," said Najeeb Nuaimi, a former justice minister of Qatar who is representing the families of dozens of prisoners.

The largely hidden array includes three systems that only rarely overlap: the Pentagon-run network of prisons, jails and holding facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere; small and secret CIA-run facilities where top al Qaeda and other figures are kept; and interrogation rooms of foreign intelligence services – some with documented records of torture - to which the U.S. government delivers or "renders" mid- or low-level terrorism suspects for questioning.

All told, more than 9,000 people are held by U.S. authorities overseas, according to Pentagon figures and estimates by intelligence experts, the vast majority under military control. The detainees have no conventional legal rights: no access to a lawyer; no chance for an impartial hearing; and at least in the case of prisoners held in cellblock 1A at Abu Ghraib, no apparent guarantee of humane treatment accorded prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions or civilians in U.S. jails.

Although some of those held by the military in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo have had visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross, some of the CIA's detainees have, in effect, disappeared, according to interviews with former and current national security officials and to the Army's report of abuses at Abu Ghraib.

The CIA's "ghost detainees," as they were called by members of the 800th MP Brigade, were routinely held by the soldier-guards at Abu Ghraib "without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention," the report says. These phantom captives were "moved around within the facility to hide them" from Red Cross teams, a tactic that was "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law."

CIA employees are under investigation by the Justice Department and the CIA inspector general's office in connection with the death of three captives in the past six months, two who died while under interrogation in Iraq, and a third who was being questioned by a CIA contract interrogator in Afghanistan. A CIA spokesman said the hiding of detainees was inappropriate. He declined to comment further.

None of the arrangements that permit U.S. personnel to kidnap,transport, interrogate and hold foreigners are ad hoc or unauthorized, including the so-called renditions. "People tend to regard it as an extra-judicial kidnapping; it's not," former CIA officer Peter Probst said. "There is a long history of this. It has been done for decades. It's absolutely legal."

In fact, every aspect of this new universe - including maintenance of covert airlines to fly prisoners from place to place, interrogation rules and the legal justification for holding foreigners without due process afforded most U.S. citizens - has been developed by military or CIA lawyers, vetted by Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and, depending on the particular issue, approved by White House General Counsel's Office or the president himself.

In some cases, such as determining whether a U.S. citizen should be designated an enemy combatant who can be held without charges, the president makes the final decision, said Alberto R. Gonzales, counsel to the president, in a Feb. 24 speech to the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security.

Critics of this kind of detention and treatment, Gonzales said, "assumed that there was little or no analysis - legal or otherwise - behind the decision to detain a particular person as enemy combatant."

On the contrary, the administration has applied the law of war, he said. "Under these rules, captured enemy combatants, whether soldiers or saboteurs, may be detained for the duration of hostilities."

Because most of the directives and guidelines on these issues are classified, former and current military and intelligence officials who described them to The Washington Post would do so only on the condition that they not be named.

Along with other CIA and military efforts to disrupt terrorist plots and break up al Qaeda's financial networks, administration officials argue that the interrogations are a key component of their global counterterrorism strategy and counterinsurgency operations in Iraq. As the CIA's deputy director, John McLaughlin, recently told the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks: "The country, with all its capabilities, is now much more orchestrated into an offensive mix that is relentless."

Military jails and prisons
Abu Ghraib prison - where photographs were taken that have enraged the Arab world and rocked U.S. political and military leadership - held 6,000 to 7,000 detainees at the time of the documented abuse.
Today, it and other sites in Iraq hold more than 8,000 prisoners, U.S. and coalition officials said. They range from those believed to have played key roles in the insurgency to some who are held on suspicion of petty crimes.

Until the current scandal cast some hazy light, little has been publicly known about the Iraqi detention sites, their locations and who was being held there. That has been a source of continuing frustration for international monitoring groups such as New York-based Human Rights Watch, which has repeatedly sought to visit the facilities. Even the military's investigative report on abuses at Abu Ghraib remains classified, despite having become public through leaks.

Far better known has been the Defense Department's facility at Guantanamo Bay. The open-air camps there house about 600 detainees, flown in from around the world over the past two years. Secrecy there remains tight, with detainees and most of the facilities off-limits to visitors.

The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether detainees held there, whom the Pentagon has declared "enemy combatants" in the war against terrorism, should have access to U.S. courts.

Last week, the U.S. military acknowledged that two Guantanamo Bay guards had been disciplined in connection with use of excessive force against detainees. And U.S. defense officials confirmed the existence of a list of approved interrogation techniques, dating to April 2003, that included reversing sleep patterns, exposing prisoners to hot and cold, and "sensory assault," including use of bright lights and loud music.

The treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan has received less public attention.

The U.S. military holds 300 or so people at Bagram, north of the capital of Kabul, and in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Asadabad. Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 700 people had been released from those sites, most of them held a few weeks or less. Special Forces units also have holding centers at their firebases, including at Gardez and Khost.

In December 2002, two Afghans died in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. The U.S. military classified both as homicides. Another Afghan died in June 2003 at a detention site near Asadabad.

"Afghans detained at Bagram airbase in 2002 have described being held in detention for weeks, continuously shackled, intentionally kept awake for extended periods of time, and forced to kneel or stand in painful positions for extended periods," according to a report in March by Human Rights Watch. "Some say they were kicked and beaten when arrested, or later as part of efforts to keep them awake. Some say they were doused with freezing water in the winter."

CIA detention
Before the U.S. military was imprisoning and interrogating people in Afghanistan and Iraq, the CIA was scooping up suspected al Qaeda leaders in such far-off places as Pakistan, Yemen and Sudan. Today, the CIA probably holds two to three dozen captives around the world, according to knowledgeable current and former officials. Among them are al Qaeda leaders Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh in Pakistan and Abu Zubaida. The CIA is also in charge of interrogating Saddam Hussein, who is believed to be in Baghdad.

The location of CIA interrogation centers is so sensitive that even the four leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees, who are briefed on all covert operations, do not know them, congressional sources said. These members are given periodic reports about the captives, but several members said they do not receive information about conditions under which prisoners are held, and members have not insisted on this information. The CIA has told Congress that it does not engage in torture as a tactic of interrogation.

"There's a black hole on certain information such as location, condition under which they are held," said one congressional official who asked not to be named. "They are told it's too sensitive."

In Afghanistan, the CIA used to conduct some interrogations in a cluster of metal shipping containers on Bagram air base protected by three layers of concertina wire. It is unclear whether that center is still open, but the CIA's main interrogation center now appears to be in Kabul, at a location nicknamed "The Pit" by agency and Special Forces operators.

"Prisoner abuse is nothing new," said one military officer who has been working closely with CIA interrogators in Afghanistan. A dozen former and current national security officials interviewed by The Washington Post in 2002, including several who had witnessed interrogations, defended the use of stressful interrogation tactics and the use of violence against detainees as just and necessary.

The CIA general counsel's office developed a new set of interrogation rules of engagement in after the Sept. 11 attacks. It was vetted by the Justice Department and approved by the National Security Council's general counsel, according to U.S. intelligence officials and other U.S. officials familiar with the process. "There are very specific guidelines that are thoroughly vetted," said one U.S. official who helps oversee the process. "Everyone is on board. It's legal."

The rules call for field operators to seek approval from Washington to use "enhanced measures," methods that could cause temporary physical or mental pain.

U.S. intelligence officials say the CIA, contrary to the glamorized view from movies and novels, had no real interrogation specialists on hand to deal with the number of valuable suspects it captured after Sept. 11. The agency relied on analysts, psychologists and profilers.
"Two and a half years later," one CIA veteran said, "we have put together a very professional, controlled, deliberate and legally rationalized approach to dealing with the Abu Zubaidas of the world."

U.S. intelligence officials say their strongest suit is not harsh interrogation techniques, but time and patience.

Much larger than the group of prisoners held by the CIA are those who have been captured and transported around the world by the CIA and other agencies of the U.S. government for interrogation by foreign intelligence services. This transnational transfer of people is a key tactic in U.S. counterterrorism operations on five continents, one that often raises the ire of foreign publics when individual cases come to light.

For example, on Jan. 17, 2000, a few hours before Bosnia's Human Rights Chamber was to order the release of five Algerians and a Yemeni for lack of evidence, Bosnian police handed them over to U.S. authorities who flew them to Guantanamo Bay.

The Bosnian government, faced with public outcry, said it would compensate the families of the men, who were suspected of having made threats to the U.S. and British embassies in Bosnia.

The same month, in Indonesia, Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, suspected of helping Richard C. Reid, the Briton charged with trying to detonate explosives in his shoe on an American Airlines flight, was detained by Indonesian intelligence agents based on information the CIA provided them. On Jan. 11, without a court hearing or a lawyer, he was hustled aboard an unmarked U.S.-registered Gulfstream V jet parked at a military airport in Jakarta and flown to Egypt.

It was no coincidence Madni ended up in Egypt. Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are well-known destinations for suspected terrorists.

"A lot of people they [the U.S.] are taking to Jordan, third-country nationals," a senior Saudi official said. "They can do anything they want with them, and the U.S. can say, 'We don't have them.' "

In the past year, an unusual country joined that list of destinations: Syria.

Last year U.S. immigration authorities, with the approval of then-Acting Attorney General Larry Thompson, authorized the expedited removal of Maher Arar to Syria, a country the U.S. government has long condemned as a chronic human-rights abuser. Maher, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained at JFK International Airport in New York as he was transferring to the final leg of his flight home to Canada.

U.S. authorities say Arar has links to al Qaeda. Not wanting to return him to Canada for fear he would not be adequately followed, immigration officials took him, in chains and shackles, to a New Jersey airfield, where he was "placed on a small private jet, and flown to Washington D.C.," according to a lawsuit filed recently against the U.S. government. He was flown to Jordan, interrogated and beaten by Jordanian authorities who then turned him over to Syria, according to the lawsuit.

Arar said that for the 10 months he was in prison, he was beaten, tortured and kept in a shallow grave. After much pressure from the Canadian government and human rights activists, he was freed and has returned to Canada.

CIA Director George J. Tenet, testifying earlier this year before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, said the agency participated in more than 70 renditions in the years before the attacks. In 1999 and 2000 alone, congressional testimony shows, the CIA and FBI participated in two dozen renditions.

Christopher Kojm, a former State Department intelligence official and a staff member of the commission, explained the rendition procedure at a recent hearing: "If a terrorist suspect is outside of the United States, the CIA helps to catch and send him to the United States or a third country," he testified. "Though the FBI is often part of the process, the CIA is usually the main player, building and defining the relationships with the foreign government intelligence agencies and internal security services."

The Saudis currently are detaining and interrogating about 800 terrorism suspects, said a senior Saudi official. Their fate is largely controlled by Saudi-based joint intelligence task forces, whose members include officers from the CIA, FBI and other U.S. law-enforcement agencies.

The Saudi official said his country does not participate in renditions and today holds no more than one or two people at the request of the United States. Yet much can hinge on terminology.

In some interrogations, for example, specialists from the United States and Saudi Arabia develop questions and an interrogation strategy before questioning begins, according to one person knowledgeable about the process. During interrogation, U.S. task force members watch through a two-way mirror, he said.

"Technically, the questioning is done by a Saudi citizen. But, for all practical purposes, it is done live," he said. The United States and Saudis "are not 'cooperating' anymore; we're doing it together."

He said the CIA sometimes prefers Saudi interrogation sites and other places in the Arab world because their interrogators speak a detainee's language and can exploit his religion and customs.

"As hard as it is to believe, you can't physically abuse prisoners in Saudi Arabia," the Saudi official said. "You can't beat them; you can't electrocute them."

Instead, he said, the Saudis bring radical imams to the sessions to build a rapport with detainees, who are later passed on to more moderate imams. Working in tandem with relatives of the detainees, the clerics try to convince the subjects over days or weeks that terrorism violates tenets of the Koran and could bar them from heaven.

"According to our guys, almost all of them turn," the Saudi official, said. "It's like deprogramming them. There is absolutely no need to put them through stress. It's more of a therapy."

The Saudis don't want or need to be directed by American intelligence specialists, who have difficulty understanding Arab culture and tribal relations, he said. "We know where they grew up," he said of the detainees. "We know their families. We know the furniture in their home."

Research editor Margot Williams contributed to this report.
Write; by Dana Priest and Joe Stephens, May 2004

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Business – Economic affairs

Deny, Deny, Deny, $2.65 Billion
Citigroup's agreement to pay $2.65 billion to settle, in part, lawsuits about its role in the buildup of WorldCom, now MCI, was accompanied by the inevitable statement that paying the money will allow the bank to "put this unfortunate chapter behind us." But the settlement doesn't really do that - other WorldCom litigation is still pending - and it shouldn't, as the deal is part of Wall Street's reckoning of recent wrongs, which is ongoing.

The size of the payout is staggering not because it is the second-largest class action settlement in history, but because it dwarfs the $1.4 billion settlement agreed to by Citigroup's (nyse: C) Salomon unit and the rest of Wall Street last year.

That settlement, which concerned conflicts of interest by stock analysts, now seems like a down payment. Wall Street still faces analyst-related litigation and lawsuits about the spinning and laddering of IPO shares.
These actions fester despite some of the cases against Henry Blodget and Merrill Lynch (nyse: MER) being dismissed and despite Credit Suisse Group's (nyse: CSR) settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission concerning IPO allocations. Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase (nyse: JPM) and other big banks have settled some Enron-related cases, but more are outstanding.

Citigroup has been denying wrongdoing in relation to WorldCom for a while now, and it admitted no wrongdoing yesterday. It denied that its star telecom analyst Jack Grubman was conflicted by his relationship with former WorldCom Chief Executive Bernard Ebbers and his closeness to WorldCom. Citigroup denied it could have known about accounting fraud at WorldCom despite its close relationship with the company. It denied that its then-CEO Sandy Weill did anything wrong when he lobbied Grubman to change one of his ratings on AT&T (nyse: T). It denied that it did anything wrong when it doled out shares of other companies' IPOs to WorldCom executives.

Yesterday, Citigroup's current CEO Charles Prince took the opportunity of the bank agreeing to pay the $2.65 billion to praise Weill for his leadership in reforming Citigroup. But if Weill is to be so praised, shouldn't he have first been denounced for presiding over the structures that led to the conflicts of interest and the litigation in the first place?

That's not how it works, of course. This type of incentive system mirrors that in corporate America in general. Weill is a prime example. In 2000 alone, he cashed in stock options worth $196.2 million on top of a bonus of $18.4 million. Of course, as is often said, those stock options would not have been worth so much had the value of Citigroup shares not increased.

But soon after, the price of the bank's shares started to fall (along with the market in general). Weill was not called on to pay anything back. Unlike Grubman, he was never fined nor censured.

Now the system is, in a way, working in reverse. Citigroup will pay out far more than it ever earned directly from investment banking fees from WorldCom. What once looked like a world of big rewards and no risk is now all risk and no reward. Not for those who were involved, but for those who own Citigroup shares today.
Source; Forbes, May 2004

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Friday, May 07, 2004


Security – U.S.A.

Even With Hindsight Liberals Can't See Straight
Over in the alternative universe of the 9/11 commission hearings watched only by me, Richard Ben-Veniste recently proposed an amazing new standard for investigating Arabs in this country. In the middle of haranguing Condoleezza Rice, Ben-Veniste demanded to know why the suspected 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, had not been more aggressively investigated, despite the fact that - I quote - he had "no explanation for the funds in his bank account, and no explanation for why he was in the United States."

So let me get this straight: Airport security can't acknowledge that a person is an Arab, but they should be allowed to audit his bank records? (Come to think of it, "Can't Explain His Bank Account or Why He's Here" is also a pretty good description of John Kerry.)

Can we use that as a standard going forward? The government prohibits airlines from searching more than two Arabs per flight, so it would be terrific if liberals would let us examine their bank accounts. If Democratic Party shills like Ben-Veniste - who himself looks like someone who ought to be searched at airports - are going to make ludicrous, macho statements like that in order to win applause from weeping widows in the peanut gallery, can't we hold them to that policy when it matters?

Ben-Veniste thinks the key to stopping the 9/11 attack was for the FBI to have drawn the obvious conclusions from an Arab in flight school. If only the FBI had searched Moussaoui's computer, they would have found a flight-simulator computer program, information about the Boeing 747, and extensive files on crop dusters. From this, apparently, Ben-Veniste imagines the FBI would have drawn the obvious conclusion that on Sept. 11, 19 Muslims were going to hijack airplanes out of Logan, Newark and Dulles airports and fly them into buildings.

A somewhat more direct chain of causation traces its way back to the aviation-security commission chaired by Vice President Al Gore in 1997. If that commission had done its job, you wouldn't have to wait for one of my columns to find out that there was a commission on airline safety years before the 9/11 attacks. Isn't it curious that Democrats aren't bragging about Gore inventing air safety? The reason Al Gore hasn't added "anti-terrorism" to the list of things he invented is that Gore's commission concluded that passenger profiling must ignore ethnicity and nationality. Or as Gore himself might have put it, "I took the initiative in making it easier for Muslims to use airplanes to slaughter innocent American citizens."

The Gore commission on air safety decided that profiling should be based on "reasonable predictors of risk, not stereotypes or generalizations." Amazingly, all those "reasonable predictors of risk" failed to stop a single Muslim terrorist on 9/11. One wonders whether a profiling system that included ethnicity and nationality would have been more helpful in stopping 19 Muslim men, 15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia, all speaking Arabic to one another, from boarding planes on Sept. 11.

Recently - i.e., about the time Ben-Veniste was shocked that the FBI hadn't uncovered the 9/11 plot based on the fact that Moussaoui had overstayed his visa - Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer were clamoring for the release of Ansar Mahmood, a 26-year-old Pakistani immigrant detained in October 2001 after he was observed taking photographs at a water treatment plant in upstate New York. Mahmood later pleaded guilty to committing a felony by giving financial aid to illegal immigrants from Pakistan. Schumer says Mahmood should be permitted to stay in the U.S. because he "was cleared of terrorist links," and he has already served his time for "a non-violent felony." Hillary simply calls Mahmood's detention "disturbing."

Where is Ben-Veniste when we need him? What happened to the "We Don't Know Why He's Here or His Sources of Money" standard for harassing Muslim immigrants? In contrast to Mahmood, Zacarias Moussaoui had committed no felonies; his only apparent offense was to have overstayed his visa. But Ben-Veniste is appalled that the FBI didn't beat Moussaoui for information.

The French had linked Moussaoui to al-Qaida - based largely on the information that he took frequent trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mahmood's home country. When FBI agents in Minneapolis requested a warrant to search Moussaoui's computer, FBI headquarters wrote back, "We don't know he's a terrorist" - i.e., the argument Schumer is making for Mahmood's release right now.

Liberals always claim to know exactly what to do as soon as it's too late. After Muslims attack with airplanes, they want to investigate flight schools. After Muslims attack with shoe-bombs, they want to investigate shoes. After a Muslim introduces E. coli into New York's water supply, liberals will be enraged that Muslim immigrants taking pictures of New York water treatment plants weren't investigated more aggressively - as soon as they are done blaming Bush for not stopping the attack amid their caterwauling about the detention of Muslim immigrants. Liberals are the only known species whose powers of reasoning are not improved by the benefit of hindsight. Not only are they always fighting the last war, in most cases they're surrendering.
Write; by Ann Coulter, May 2004

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Economy - Energy

Oil Nears $40 on Gasoline, Security Fears
World oil prices set fresh 13-year highs on Thursday, within a whisker of $40 a barrel for U.S. crude, stoked by worries about summer gasoline shortages in the United States. Fears of possible sabotage attacks on oil facilities in the Middle East also helped to keep prices strong. U.S. light crude hit a high of $39.97 a barrel, before easing to trade 27 cents lower at $39.30 a barrel, while London Brent fell 21 cents to $36.51, down from a high of $37.20, which was the highest level since October 1990. U.S. gasoline futures also eased slightly after hitting another record level of $1.3290 a gallon.

Despite the profit-taking dip, analysts predicted $40-a-barrel oil was still imminent.

"I think we're going to have a four in front of the oil price very soon. It's certainly pretty ugly for the oil consumers of the world," said David Thurtell, commodities strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney. Middle East supply security concerns, low U.S. gasoline stocks and rampant demand growth in China have driven U.S. crude prices toward the record $41.15 hit in October 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait in the crisis that led to the Gulf War.

"Terrorism fears are causing a permanent risk premium to be built into the market," said independent energy consultant Geoff Pyne.

Traders worry that weekend shootings at a Saudi Arabian petrochemicals plant and attempts a week earlier to bomb Iraq's key Basra oil export terminal might be precursors to a bigger attack on vital oil facilities in the Middle East, which pumps about one-third of global daily crude output.

Tetsu Emori, chief commodities strategist at Mitsui Bussan Futures in Tokyo, forecast that crude was likely to push up to $43-$45 a barrel by mid-year. "Last year we hit $39.99 before the war, which was largely psychological. Now we need to look at the fundamentals and they are very strong," Emori said. Prices spiked close to $40 during intraday trading in February 2003 as U.S.-led forces prepared to attack Iraq.

Summer U.S. gasoline consumption is at the cutting edge of rising consumption. U.S. refineries are struggling to meet demand that in the past four weeks rose 3.4 percent versus the same period last year to 9.1 million barrels a day, suppressing stocks of the motor fuel well below the five-year seasonal average.

The United States, with less than five percent of the world's population, accounts for some 45 percent of the world's gasoline consumption of just over 20 million barrels daily, U.S. government figures show. While U.S. motorists are paying a record $1.84 a gallon, retail prices are only a third of average western European levels and have had no impact on demand.
Source; Reuters, May 2004
Write; by Barbara Lewis

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Media – Corporate

Michael Moore Lied About Disney Ban
Michael Moore made a big stink earlier this week when he accused Disney of pulling the plug on his latest film, “Fahrenheit 911”. He decried Disney’s decision not to distribute the film as politically motivate censorship.
However, Moore was crying wolf. He admitted in a CNN interview that he knew a year ago that Disney would not distribute the film, according to a report from independent.co.uk.

Moore told CNN, "Almost a year ago, after we'd started making the film, the chairman of Disney, Michael Eisner, told my agent he was upset Miramax had made the film and he will not distribute it."

The lightning rod film producer claims that he had a contract with Disney for distribution, but according to independent.co.uk, a source close to Miramax (the subsidiary involved in the film) said that the deal was for financing, not for distribution.

Moore’s admission prompts the question, why all the outrage now? Easy answer? Publicity baby! The film is set to premier at the Cannes Film Festival later this month. The politically charged film can easily generate controversy and press on it’s own. It is reportedly an attack film against the Bush administration that questions the President’s handling of the War on Terror and the events surrounding the 9/11 attacks. According to some news outlets, the film even attempts to link the Bush family with the family of Osama Bin Laden, in pure Michael Moore style.

This publicity stunt may backfire. If Moore will take a year old event and use it to drum up publicity, it might lead to questions regarding the credibility of some of the issues covered in his film and the spin Moore puts on them.
Source; CNN, May 2004

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Politic - U.S.A. national affairs

'Tired' Powell might not be around for second term
Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, has sent the clearest signal yet that, weary and frustrated, he does not intend to be around for a second George W. Bush term if the President wins re-election in November.
In classic Powell style, he does not deliver the message in person. Instead, confidants, notably his deputy Richard Armitage and his chief of staff Larry Wilkerson, have made his feelings plain in a lengthy article in the magazine GQ, clearly with the Secretary of State's blessing.
…Mr. Wilkerson tells GQ that in his opinion, Gen. Powell is "tired. Mentally and physically. And if the President were to ask him to stay on, he might for a transitional period but I don't think he'd want to do another four years."
Gen Powell's sole on-the-record comment to GQ on his intentions is a bald "I never speculate on that". But the article will fuel uncertainty about the Cabinet's shape in a second Bush administration. Changes are likely at the Pentagon. The most widely mentioned possible successors at the State Department include Condoleezza Rice, Mr Bush's national security adviser, and Paul Bremer, the outgoing head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.
The Powell who emerges from the interview is similar to the figure in journalist Bob Woodward's recent insider account of the run-up to the Iraq War (of which he sxeerms to have been a prime, but as usual unquoted, source). He comes across as a pragmatic secretary of state exhausted by constant battles with the neo-conservative hawks at the Pentagon and in the vice-President's office, in which, over Iraq at least, he is generally on the losing end.
Equally plain is the Secretary of State's disdain for the so-called "chickenhawks," in Mr Wilkerson's words, "people who have never been in the face of battle, who are making cavalier decisions about sending men and women out to die."
The chief of staff mentions by name Richard Perle, the former close adviser to the Pentagon, and Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense. "I call them utopians.. I don't care whether utopians are Vladimir Lenin in a sealed train or Paul Wolfowitz. You're never going to bring utopia and you're going to hurt a lot of people in the process of trying to do it."Gen. Powell also appears to be haunted by the moment that is the nadir of his tenure, his presentation to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003, offering "proof" of Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. It's a source of great distress to the Secretary; Mr. Armitage told GQ.Mr Wilkerson evokes the atmosphere in the CIA meeting room in the days before the UN speech, when Gen. Powell and his aides worked around the clock to try and make a credible WMD case against Iraq, scouring the evidence for material that would save the Secretary of
State from humiliation.
Harlan Ullman of the National War College, and friend and mentor of Gen Powell, confirms another open secret in Washington, of the Secretary's glacial relations with Dick Cheney, the vice-President. "I can tell you firsthand that there is a tremendous barrier between Cheney and Powell," Mr Ullman told the magazine.
Assuming he does leave, Gen. Powell's future is unclear. At 67, he is in the closing stages of his career. There have been suggestions he might become the next President of the World Bank, a post traditionally held by an American. This assumes that John Wolfensohn, a Clinton era appointee, steps down later this year after eight years.
But Gen. Powell might not be inclined to take a job that carries little clout with the current Republican administration, prone to see the Bank as an emanation of the ever suspect United Nations.
Write; By Rupert Cornwell in Washington. May 2004

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Human rights – Romania

The Romanian government fails to acknowledge the human tragedy unfolding in psychiatric hospitals
Amnesty International welcomes the statement of the Spokesperson of the Romanian Government published on the government's Internet site on 4 May 2004, in reply to the Romania: Memorandum to the government concerning inpatient psychiatric treatment (AI Index EUR 39/003/2004) published on the same day. At the same time the organization regrets that the government has failed to take this opportunity to fully acknowledge the crisis in mental health care services, one of the most tragic human rights issues facing Romania today. Amnesty International also regrets the government's failure to engage in a constructive dialogue with the organization and the Romanian civil society, as a first step to remedying the situation.

In the last 15 years, successive Romanian governments failed to recognize the gravity of the situation in mental health care services and to introduce the required comprehensive and effective reforms. Without recognizing the true dimensions and all aspects of the problem it is impossible to expect that a tragic situation which concerns thousands of human beings held in psychiatric institutions in deplorable conditions is addressed urgently and appropriately and in line with all of Romania's obligations under international human rights treaties. The government is not simply in violation of international and domestic law. In light of the human suffering, which takes place in these institutions, recognized by most Romanians who are well informed about this situation, the morality of a position that denies reality is highly questionable.

Amnesty International would also like to reply to specific points raised in the government's press release. The reply notes that currently Romania is unable to provide mental health services which are like those available in the West. Nevertheless, the Romanian authorities, according to the statement, have taken required measures to ensure the respect of basic rights and elemental needs of people who had been subjected to in-patient psychiatric treatment.

In light of numerous violations documented in our memorandum, based primarily on information collected in the field by Amnesty International's delegate, the organization would appreciate to receive specific information regarding the above-mentioned government measures. We would particularly like to receive information on existing standards regarding living conditions, diet, heating and hygiene, which are in force for institutions under the control of the Ministry of Health; as well as information about institutional methods to ensure that such standards are complied with in all facilities providing inpatient services.

It is also alleged that not all of the information presented in Amnesty International's memorandum is true, giving as an example the fact that representatives of the Ministry of Health and public prosecutors periodically visit medical facilities, including those where patients are subjected to involuntary psychiatric treatment.

No statement to the contrary was made in Amnesty International's memorandum. In fact, the memorandum did not specifically reflect on the government's obligation to supervise psychiatric hospitals. This is an opportunity then to put on record Amnesty International's observation regarding this issue: the organization's field research established that the government's supervision of the psychiatric hospitals is insufficient and in breach of international standards (1). For example, in a number of instances, hospital directors were unable to produce for Amnesty International's delegate copies of reports of any recent inspection visits. Presumably, such documents would arise following an inspection by the Ministry's representatives, and would contain their observations, any recommendations made and advice on terms and methods of their implementation.

Furthermore, Amnesty International is concerned to note in the Government's statement that the inspections, so far, have not brought to light any irregularities with regard to the placement of people for involuntary psychiatric treatment and that a list of patients' rights is prominently posted in the visited facilities. Such lists were not observed in locked words visited by Amnesty International's delegate where interviewed patients had been subjected to treatment without being given the opportunity to effectively challenge this decision as provided in the Mental Health Act (2). Moreover, Amnesty International is aware of the public prosecutor's duty to periodically visit hospitals, which care for people who are deemed criminally irresponsible under the provisions of the Penal Code. In that respect it is interesting to note that a senior prosecutor who participated in a debate concerning conditions in psychiatric hospitals organized in Bucharest in late March 2004 by the Group for Social Dialogue, reportedly stated that the living conditions in Poiana Mare were considerably worse than in any prison and that placement for involuntary treatment in this hospital amounts to "being sentenced to death".

The government's statement also challenges Amnesty International's observation that the Mental Health Act is not being implemented because the government had failed to adopt regulations for its implementation.

Almost all of the directors of the hospitals visited and medical and legal specialists who had been consulted in Romania by Amnesty International's delegate, including a member of the team of experts who participated in the drafting of the law, stated unequivocally that the Act is not directly applicable. An exception, as stated in Amnesty International's memorandum, was only noted in a hospital in Bihor County but this effort, although well intentioned, did not appear to provide all the required legal safeguards to the patients concerned. Amnesty International would welcome to receive detailed information about the direct implementation of the law and specific instances in which decisions have been challenged before judicial bodies, noting that any such practice may only be sporadic and inconsistently applied. The very fact that this is not a practice that is systematically ensured throughout the country indicates its arbitrary nature and is in violation of international law.

With regard to the so-called "social cases" - people who had been placed in psychiatric hospitals on non-medical grounds, including those who had formerly been cared for in children's institutions - the government's statement claims that such cases are not numerous and result from the situation which prevailed in the country before the changes in 1989.

Amnesty International would like to receive more information from the Romanian government regarding the basis for this assessment of the situation. On 5 May 2004, a day following the publication of the Government's statement, the State Secretary in the Ministry of Health, according to a report published the same day by BBC-Romanian Service, could not provide journalists at a press conference with any figures concerning the number of people who are held in psychiatric hospitals on non-medical grounds. However, he gave an example of the psychiatric hospital in Jebel where 60 residents, out of a total of 414, were "social cases". In one of the hospitals visited by Amnesty International's representative, according to the director, 40-50 residents, none of whom need psychiatric treatment, out of a total of 450 in this institution, had been transferred there from a near-by orphanage. In the medical-social centre of the Nucet Psychiatric hospital which has about 95 residents, most of whom had previously been in orphanages, in February 2004, when Amnesty International's delegate visited the hospital, the latest resident from an orphanage had arrived on 1 December 2003.

Amnesty International is concerned to note that the Government considers its description of the situation in "Socola" Psychiatric University Hospital in Iasi as erroneous. In support of this claim it is noted that "the management of this hospital had confirmed that Amnesty International's experts did not visit this facility in May 2003". Furthermore, the government stated that the registry of received funds by the hospital in the indicated period showed that the hospital was not in a difficult situation and that its activities were carried out in normal conditions.

In the organization's memorandum there is a clear designation of institutions visited by its representative as well as the date of the visits. Amnesty International has made no claim to have visited the hospital in Iasi and had described its situation based on a report in a national daily newspaper. This information, to our best knowledge, had not been refuted at the time by the hospital or other authorities involved (4). In fact the same article quoted Dr Stefan Georgescu, Chief of Iasi Directorate for Public Health, who reportedly stated: "Because of the debts that exist in the system "Socola" hospital has problems in obtaining supplies. Psychiatry is seriously underfunded. For example, Intensive Care Therapy is allocated several million lei per day while for a bed in psychiatry we receive only 300.000 lei. We cannot manage on such modest sums."(5)

The government statement further notes that the budget of the Ministry of Health provides not only for conventional therapies but also for other appropriate therapies.

Amnesty International has noted the inadequacy of some forms of therapy, such as pharmacotherapy, and the absence of a wide range of other therapies in practically all of the institutions visited. We would be interested to receive specific information regarding the volume of such funds and its precise allocation to psychiatric hospitals in 2003. The organization is concerned that the Government is failing to acknowledge what every psychiatrist who had been interviewed by Amnesty International's delegate had stated: that allocated resources even for pharmacotherapy were grossly insufficient and that they feared further cuts. Some doctors were forced to resort to collecting donations from the staff in order to purchase the required medication, while others relied on gifts and aid from their foreign colleagues.

Similarly, Amnesty International's findings do not correspond with the government's observations regarding methods of restraint and seclusion or that patients are provided with all the information in appropriate circumstances to be able to exercise their right to free and informed consent.

Finally, with regard to the cases described in the memorandum, concerning patients who died following an assault by another patient, Amnesty International concurred with the observations of competent authorities, which issued statements at the time that understaffing was a major contributing factor to the reported tragic events.

Amnesty International welcomes the government's statement that it will thoroughly investigate the violations of human rights described in the organization's memorandum. We also welcome a statement of 5 May 2004 by the Ministry of Health as a positive first step to improve the situation in psychiatric facilities for which it is responsible. At the same time, Amnesty International would like to reiterate its appeal to the Romanian government to fully implement all the recommendations made in the organization's memorandum.
(1) See Principle 22 of the UN Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care which states that: "States shall ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in force to promote compliance with the present principles, for the inspection of mental health facilities, for the submission, investigation and resolution of complaints and for the institution of appropriate disciplinary or judicial proceedings for professional misconduct or violation of the rights of a patient".
(2) A list of patients' rights was observed in an open pavilion in Gataia hospital.
(3) See Ziua: "Psihiatrii condamna statul pentru drama de la Poiana Mare" 4("Psychiatrists condemn the state for the drama in Poiana Mare") 1 April 2004.
(4) See Evenimentul zilei: "Jale in spitale" (Misery in hospitals), 12 May 2003.
(5) "Din cauza datoriilor care exista in sistem, la Spitalul Socola s-au inregistrat unele necazuri in aprovizionare. In psihiatrie, exista o puternica subfinantare. De exemplu, daca pentru Terapie Intensiva se aloca si citeva milioane de lei pe zi, pentru un pat la psihiatrie se dau doar 300.000 de lei. Sumele sint la un nivel de modestie cit sa ne descurcam", a declarat seful Directiei de Sanatate Publica Iasi, Dr. Stefan Georgescu.
Source; International Secretariat of Amnesty International, May 2004

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GeoPolitica – Iraq

Washington's Delicate Balancing Act: Negotiating Between Iraq's Sunni and Shi'a Arabs
Since the start of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Washington has carefully attempted to balance between the interests of the country's Sunni and Shi'a Arab communities. The two communities, while both Iraqi, have diverging interests on a number of issues due to the history of their religious differences. For a variety of reasons, Washington decided that its interests would be best served by tipping the balance of power between these two groups in favor of Shi'a interests.

- Washington's Motivations Behind Supporting Iraqi Shi'a

Shi'a Arabs are the majority cultural group in Iraq, composing about 60 percent of the population. Since the Shi'a are a majority, their support is absolutely critical in order to keep a general level of stability in the country.

Furthermore, before the start of the invasion, Washington policymakers believed the Shi'a population to be an easy group to win the "hearts and minds" of. The Shi'a community was harshly repressed under Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist government and were occasionally the recipients of brutal crackdowns due to their open resistance to Baghdad's rule, as was seen in the wake up Operation Desert Storm in 1991 when Iraqi troops loyal to Saddam forcefully quelled a Shi'a uprising that began due to the power vacuum created after the retreat of the Iraqi military from Kuwait, and also due to the first Bush administration's call for them to rise up.

Additionally, there was also the effort by Washington policymakers to marginalize Iraq's Sunni Arab population since they were the traditional power base behind the Ba'ath Party. Often the recipients of special favors by Saddam's government in Baghdad, Iraq's Sunni Arab population was more privileged than the country's other major cultural groups, such as Sunni Kurds and Shi'a Arabs. For these reasons, the Bush administration decided that its best course of action would be to push this population off to the sidelines and deal with the victims of the Ba'ath Party's brutality since it would be likely that they would be more open to supporting the U.S. and therefore more beholden to U.S. interests.

Therefore, shortly after the invasion, it is likely that the guerrilla movement in Iraq was exactly as Washington claimed: disenfranchised Sunni Arab militants who were taking up arms against U.S.-led forces. Yet as the occupation continued on, and Washington was unable to achieve relative stability in the country, it became clear that it was not only Sunni Arabs that were taking up arms against U.S.-led forces. This development was evident by the various tapes sent to Arab news networks, such as al-Jazeera, by Iraqi insurgents; in the videos, various militants expressed their hatred for Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in addition to their hatred for the U.S.-led coalition.

As the occupation proceeded, and the level of stability in Iraq did not improve, the insurgency became more and more diversified, as attacks were launched against U.S.-led troops, Kurds in the north, Sunni Arabs, and Shi'a Arabs. During this time, various groups in Iraq were taking advantage of the power vacuum created after the fall of Saddam to weaken the power base of their enemies or ideological opponents -- indeed, not only is it possible that Sunni and Shi'a Arabs were killing each other, but, as the U.S. alleges, Shi'a leaders may have been assassinating other Shi'a leaders.

- Fallout with the Shi'a

This state of affairs continued for months, with the Shi'a community largely remaining docile in the hopes that true democracy in Iraq would be achieved, thus guaranteeing their ascension as the majority powerbrokers in any new government. Washington, worried over the possibility of too much Shi'a control, began to backtrack slightly on its promise of national elections, and attempted to work certain balancing constraints into the interim constitution. These constraints attempted to equalize the power between Sunni Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shi'a Arabs.

Angered by the change in U.S. policy, Shi'a leaders began to become more outspoken toward the U.S.-led coalition, with both more radical leaders, such as Moqtada al-Sadr, and more moderate leaders, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, speaking with a unified voice over their disapproval of Washington's plans.

This increasing anger caused the Shi'a community to move away from outspoken support of U.S. policies, and also paved the way for more radical Shi'a leaders such as al-Sadr to increase the size of their following. Al-Sadr, whose power rests upon his Mehdi Army, a private militia containing thousands of fighters, heightened his rhetoric against the U.S.-led coalition to the point that Washington policymakers decided to punish him, closing down his al-Hawza newspaper and arresting one of his top deputies on a murder charge.

Al-Sadr's rebellion, which may have initially been supported by a small minority of Shi'a, had a unifying effect upon the Shi'a community, as Washington's open confrontation with Mehdi fighters put Iraqis in the position of either supporting one side or the other. As in all cases of occupation, the local population generally always supports those that share their culture and history over foreign occupiers, no matter either side's ultimate intentions. Indeed, this was partly the reason why other more moderate Shi'a leaders, such as al-Sistani, have been careful to criticize al-Sadr and have, in effect, offered him safe haven in Najaf.

- More Balance Needed

After witnessing the explosive power of the Shi'a community, Washington policymakers came to the understanding that they would not be able to revive Iraq through the support of Shi'a Arabs and Kurds alone; Iraq's Sunni Arab population would have to be better incorporated into the government. Faced with an insurgency encompassing both Shi'a and Sunni Arabs, Washington has now attempted to remove some of the grievances behind the insurgency.

Also, because Iraq's Sunni Arab population was favored by Saddam, they were often the most educated and skilled Iraqis, a reality that has hurt Washington since it has excluded these pertinent individuals from government and societal affairs. Recognizing their mistake, Washington has now reversed its de-Ba'athification policy and is actively reincorporating former Sunni Arabs, who worked with the Ba'ath Party, into positions of influence.

The threat of Shi'a rebellion also forced Washington to draft a better solution to the continuing problem of Sunni militants. While before the Shi'a rebellion Washington had enough troop power to spar with these militants, faced with an insurgency encompassing two of Iraq's three main cultural groups, Washington quickly discovered that it did not have the troop force to fight so many different enemies at once. Now, in an effort to alleviate this danger, Washington has recruited former Ba'athist generals and placed them in positions of military power. By giving many former soldiers their jobs back, Washington hopes to eliminate much of the fodder that is impelling Sunni militants to attack U.S.-led troops.

Of course, this balancing act is difficult to maintain. As Washington helps Sunni Arabs achieve their interests, it risks upsetting Iraqi Shi'a, thus throwing off the balance once again. For this balancing act to be successful, Washington has to be very attuned to the concerns of all groups involved in Iraqi affairs and be able to rapidly shift its strategy in light of new political shifts and developments. Failure to do so will mean that inevitably Washington will be unable to sustain its balancing act; should this occur, a debilitating situation on the ground will likely erupt.
Source; Power and Interest News Report, May 2004
Write; by Erich Marquardt

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