One year ago today....The Parable of Samarra

The Parable of Samarra

By: John Chuckman - 12/10/03

Front-page stories announced the greatest battle since the end of combat in Iraq with fifty-four insurgents killed and not an American soldier lost. We were given breathtaking details about two separate, coordinated attacks,
the firing of rocket-propelled grenades at American vehicles, and the fact that many of the attackers wore Fedayeen militia uniforms associated with Saddam Hussein. Early reports even claimed eleven insurgents were captured.

In addition to headlines, we had sources like CNN pouring on the infotainment-interviews and instant wisdom. I noticed on the Internet that the redoubtable Wolf Blitzer exchanged schoolboy fantasies with a CIA dropout in search of his
fifteen minutes. Never mind whether the attack happened, America learned that it would represent new tactics by insurgents, massing large forces against an armored American column. Oh, that does sound ominous and impressive.

Gradually, enough bits of information, including a story that it was actually an attempted heist of new Iraqi banknotes being delivered, raised serious questions over the battle. The idea of a heist made a little more sense than insurgents in uniform since Iraq under U.S. occupation is a country full of angry, unemployed people with streets too dangerous to
walk at night.

There were so many doubts, the kinds of clues and irregularities that make a good detective avoid accepting first appearances. Not a single American killed by two large forces firing at them? And you had to wonder what desperate
man would come close enough to a 60-ton Abrams tank to be seen firing a rocket-grenade capable of nothing more than scratching its paint? And how about those guys, before and after the attack, running around occupied
Iraq in uniform? Where were the captives?

On the same day the Washington Post and other major American publications featured the dazzlingly fuzzy tale, a few sources like al Jazeera quoted the local hospital as having received the bodies of eight civilians, including a woman and a child, plus sixty more wounded by American fire. American tanks and other armored vehicles, said witnesses,
had sprayed heavy fire recklessly over an urban area, including a pharmaceutical plant where at least one worker was killed.

We now have enough information to be sure there was no battle. Yes, there was plenty of shooting and destruction, but not a single dead insurgent has been produced by American authorities who worked tirelessly to get pictures of the blood-soaked corpses of Saddam Hussein's sons quickly beamed around the world. Not a single militia uniform has been produced, nor any of the dozens of weapons necessarily left behind by dead insurgents dragged away by comrades.

The reports of residents, reports from the hospital, and the blunt, published observations of at least one American soldier tell us there was only a big shoot-up by Americans, blasting away at anything that moved, shattering buildings and the people huddled inside and leaving the street littered with tank-crushed cars. Who knows, perhaps a landmine or gunshot somewhere triggered it all, and trigger-happy soldiers, angry about being in what they regard as a hellhole, let loose enough firepower to level a city block.

It could be that American authorities actually believe there was a battle, with the dead and wounded having been dragged away by survivors. There is an irresistible tendency for people to create acceptable fantasies around the work they do, even when that work is killing.

I think it unlikely a retraction is coming. With a number of senior military men quoted by name that first day on non-existent details, a retraction would be impossibly embarrassing. Has there been any retraction of the fantasy about nuclear and other deadly weapons that sent American armies hurtling into Iraq? Bush just stopped talking about weapons and started talking about democracy. Good stuff, democracy, and it's hard to argue even with tongue-twisted platitudes praising its merits.

America's press will soon forget the Battle of Samarra, as it soon forgets everything from which most of the easily-squeezed juice has been consumed. I very much doubt Iraqis will forget it, certainly not the relatives, friends, and neighbors of those killed and mutilated by fear-crazed Americans rolling through their streets with terrible weapons at the ready.

Perhaps the New York Times will do some digging, following its usual practice of joining the mob in its first bloody howls, and only later, when ardor has cooled, doing an investigation that keeps the paper technically accurate for the record. It's a way of enjoying the best of both worlds, although generally the conclusions of its follow-up investigations are left ambiguous enough not to embarrass the establishment the paper serves.

The war's main goal - smashing Iraq and resurrecting it as a liberal democratic state - is also a fantasy, although one on a vastly greater scale. There is no historical authority whatever to support even the plausibility of this idea.

I recently heard an American academic pontificating on the subject as though it were something one could study and be expert in, but it is not. Much like the numerous American experts in terror who make substantial livings giving scare-lectures to corporate leaders on expense accounts or Pentagon working lunches, this man is an expert in a subject at which it is virtually impossible to be expert.

Terrorism is not a science, it is an opportunistic approach to hurting a militarily superior enemy, although it is clearly possible to put a lot of cumbersome words around the topic. The pseudo-science of smashing closed societies and rebuilding them as democracies is loaded with the same kind of coined, self-serving words that fill ephemeral, anecdotal books on psychology, management, and healthy living. The subjects are close kin to the junk science that clogs the arteries of America's courts.

In the isolated, paranoid, and money-drenched atmosphere of Washington, junk science is serious stuff. Bush, in making his foolish decision to invade Iraq, may be seen ultimately as the victim of well-paid quacks.

Perhaps the only cases in history with superficial resemblance to what is intended for Iraq are those of Germany and Japan after World War II, but, in truth, there are almost no parallels here.

Germany and Japan had suffered war with millions of casualties. In the massive, late bombing of Japan, before America resorted to atomic weapons, there were no primary or secondary targets left standing. What has been
inflicted on Iraq is nothing quite so terrible. Japan or Germany was as close as you can get to being a tabula rasa.

The successful conversions of Germany and Japan to liberal democracy occurred in the extraordinary context of the Cold War. The people of Germany and Japan were faced with the stark choice of joining one camp or the other.
The correct choice, despite many qualms about America, was pretty clear with Stalin's terrifying face glowering over the Soviet Union. Today, the United States is not viewed by the world as the alternative to a tyrannical, frightening Soviet Union; it is viewed as an arrogant, privileged land that does pretty much as it pleases.

The case is even stronger than that because America today is so intimately associated with Israel. Even though Arab states are resigned to Israel's existence, they can hardly be expected to embrace occupation and constant abuse. Moreover, parallels in the circumstances of occupied Palestinians to those of occupied Iraqis are unpleasantly close and appear to grow more so each day.

Germany and Japan were both advanced countries, undoubtedly on the cusp of developing their own democratic institutions, Germany having already gained some experience between the world wars. Police states simply do
not survive over the long term in advanced countries. Democracy comes precisely out of the overwhelming force of middle-class interests that flood an advanced economy.

It is almost universally true that poorly-developed countries are not democracies. There are few enough institutions of any kind in such countries, and certainly none to sustain democracy. There is no balance of interests where there is a small privileged group and a great mass of poverty and ignorance. Purchased courts, purchased police, and laws written to favor the powerful are the rule. This kind of imbalance is felt even in the United States. In a poor country, its influence is decisive. Where such countries are officially designated as democracies, we typically find rigged elections.

Germany and Japan were both old nations with strong identities. Iraq is an artificial construct of British imperialism dating only to the last century. It is composed of groups having little in common, having been held together only by the brute force of a dictator. Each of these groups is also subject to many external influences, a reflection of the arbitrary
and recently-set boundaries in the region.

There is also difficulty with the notion that you can have popular democracy in a place like contemporary Iraq and yet have a country friendly to American interests, especially as those interests are reflected in the activities of an uncompromising, combative, nuclear-armed Israel. Bush has achieved nothing in pushing Israel towards peace, so why expect favorable decisions from an Islamic population voting freely?

In other places in the Middle East, like Egypt, America supports a combination of winked-at authoritarian government and substantial bribe-paying. Why does America support this if there are realistic alternatives? That was the situation that existed in Iraq until the Gulf War. The populace of Egypt, so far as we can understand in the absence of genuine measures of public opinion, is not one that would freely elect a government friendly to a number of American interests. The same is almost certainly true of Iraq.

Is the U.S. likely to leave behind in Iraq either a highly unstable government, one whose quick collapse would bring civil war between the major groups, or a democratically-elected government, stable but hostile to American interests? These and so many other questions only show how little Bush thought before he reached for a gun.

We are unlikely to learn the truth from officials about the Battle of Samarra, and so it is with the entire reckless adventure of invading Iraq. American troops are going to be in Iraq for a long time, and there is no reason to expect they are going to make any more friends for America than the boys doing the shooting in Samarra.

John Chuckman is a contributing writer for Liberal Slant.
He is also a columnist at

One Year ago Today

US, Israel prepare mass killings in Iraq

By Bill Vann
10 December 2003

The Bush administration is about to launch a campaign of wholesale killings in Iraq with the assistance of the Israeli military, according to both US and Israeli sources quoted in several recent news reports.

Frustrated over the growing popular resistance to the US military occupation and determined to reduce US casualties in Iraq before next November’s election, the administration has authorized a policy that could well resemble the infamous “Operation Phoenix” assassination program run by the CIA during the Vietnam War. That operation claimed the lives of as many as 41,000 Vietnamese over a four-year period beginning in 1968.

In preparation for the new counterinsurgency campaign, the US military has brought urban warfare specialists from the Israeli Defenses Force (IDF) to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the headquarters of the US Special Forces. They are training assassination teams in methods that the IDF has used to suppress Palestinian resistance to the Israel occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“This is basically an assassination program.... This is a hunter-killer team,” a former senior intelligence official told the British Guardian newspaper. He warned that Washington’s reliance on Israeli assistance in launching the operation would only intensify anger over the US occupation throughout the Middle East.

“It is bonkers, insane,” the former official said. “Here we are—we’re already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we’ve just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams.”

The Guardian also cited intelligence sources in Washington as reporting that Israeli military “consultants” have been sent to Iraq to advise US forces there on counterinsurgency operations.

According to the British newspaper, the new operation also includes the deployment of killer squads inside Syria to hunt down suspected resistance fighters from other Arab countries before they cross the border into Iraq.

Meanwhile, an article by Seymour Hersh, the veteran US investigative reporter, appeared in this week’s New Yorker magazine also warning of a “major escalation of the Special Forces covert war in Iraq” and providing additional confirmation of Israel’s role in training those who will carry out the assassination program.

According to Hersh, a new Special Forces group—Task Force 121—has been formed, drawing upon Army Delta Force troops, Navy SEALs and CIA paramilitaries. “Its highest priority is the neutralization of the Baathist insurgents, by capture or assassination,” he reports.

Hersh continues: “According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq. Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers—again, in secret—when full-field operations begin.”

US and Israeli officials have refused to comment on the record about this collaboration on the Iraqi counterinsurgency campaign. “No one wants to talk about this; it’s incendiary,” an Israeli official told Hersh. “Both governments have decided at the highest level that it is in their interest to keep a low profile on US-Israeli cooperation” on the assassination program.

The new revelations concerning the Israeli role in preparing US troops to drown the Iraqi resistance in blood follow reports from Iraq indicating that the US military has already introduced tactics pioneered by the IDF in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In recent weeks there have been repeated incidents in which US forces have demolished homes believed to belong to members of the Iraqi resistance. In addition, relatives of suspected resistance leaders have been taken hostage, and, in at least one instance, an entire village has been surrounded by razor wire, with its residents forced to enter and leave through a checkpoint manned by US soldiers.

All of these are tactics that have been employed by the Israeli occupation forces during their crackdowns in the West Bank and Gaza.

A substantiation of the Israeli role in supplying tactics for the US counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq came last July in a letter to Army magazine from a senior Pentagon planning officer.

Brig. Gen. Michael Vane, US Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Doctrine, Concepts and Strategies, confirmed that US military officers had been sent to Israel to consult on urban combat and intelligence methods with the IDF.

The general wrote: “Although there is much work to be done, it is inaccurate to characterize our thinking and doctrine on urban warfare as anachronistic. Experience continues to teach us many lessons, and we continue to evaluate and incorporate them appropriately into our concepts, doctrine and training.”

Vane continued: “For example, we recently traveled to Israel to glean lessons learned from their counterterrorist operations in urban areas.”

The US-Israeli cooperation on Iraq is not new. Before the invasion last March, US forces were sent to Israel to train for urban warfare at an IDF mockup of a Palestinian town in the Negev desert. US officers also reportedly reviewed Israeli tactics in the brutal assault on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin the previous year.

There is an unmistakable irony in Washington’s turn to the Israeli “experts” on repression. Within the last month, four former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency that directs so-called anti-terrorist operations, as well as the current chief of staff of the Israeli military have all warned that the iron-fisted repression employed in the occupied territories by the right-wing Zionist regime of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is preparing a social and military catastrophe.

So-called “targeted assassinations” that almost invariably claim the lives of large numbers of bystanders and collective punishment—including the mass destruction of homes and the use of roadblocks and curfews—have only increased the Palestinians’ hatred of the occupation and led to mass support for acts of resistance.

There is no reason to believe that the deployment of Israeli-trained US military death squads in Iraq combined with the other illegal means of repression already in use by the occupation authorities will not generate a similar increase in support for the resistance among broad layers of the Iraqi population. Far from extricating American troops from the quagmire created by Bush’s policy, the resort to these murderous tactics will only deepen the conflict in Iraq.

Many of the leading figures in the Bush administration, who planned the Iraq war and continue to direct the occupation, have the closest political connections to the right-wing Likud government in Israel and are politically blind to the bankruptcy of Sharon’s strategy of repression.

Meanwhile, playing the central role in organizing the new counterinsurgency campaign is Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin. The general, a Special Forces veteran, became embroiled in controversy earlier this year for publicly portraying the war in Iraq as a struggle between Christianity and Islam. He also proclaimed that he answered only to God for his actions as a commander of a “Christian army.” In remarks to Christian evangelical audiences, Boykin expressed the view that God had placed Bush in the White House, despite the fact that “the majority of the American people did not vote for him.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brushed aside the widespread demands for Boykin’s dismissal when reports of the inflammatory remarks were published in October. It is now clear that Rumsfeld insisted that the general remain at his post because of his key involvement in planning the escalation of repression in Iraq.

Hersh points out an additional motive behind the turn to greater reliance on Special Forces troops in Iraq. Under the Pentagon’s rules of engagement, the operations of Special Forces units remain secret, including their deployment overseas. Therefore, the addition of such troops to the US occupation force in Iraq will not be publicly disclosed. Under conditions in which, for political reasons, the administration has vowed to reduce the number of US troops deployed in Iraq, it can covertly add substantial forces, while hiding the buildup from the American people.

The Special Forces have undergone an immense expansion under the Bush administration. Hersh notes that the Pentagon’s budget provides $6.5 billion for their operations and that the total number of such troops, both active and reserve, has risen to 47,000.

Copyright 1998-2003
World Socialist Web Site
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dao worthwhile

Chinese characters for "worthwhile"

deep forest hide small building of fresh beginnings

Inside me, it was quiet all day:
I waited until midnight for a sound.
Outside me, it was noisy all day:
I waited all night for silence.
Tao’s power is sound.
Tao’s potential is silence.

It is said that even if one hears Tao before the day is over, then that day has been worthwhile. Even if one hears about Tao before one’s life is over, then one’s life has been worthwhile.

But sometimes it takes a long tome to hear abut Tao. There are some days when Tao does not manifest itself right away. It seems that the more you want to love, the more hatred tempts you. The more you want to be pure, the more negativity pursues you. The more you want serenity, the more chaos assaults you. The ordinary have common problems. Those who pursue Tao struggle against titanic forces. What can you do but accept it and persevere? If you fret about it, then you have not only spent the day away from Tao, but you have ruined that day with emotional turmoil too.

Sometimes Tao does not appear until the very end of the day. Maybe it’s just that you are more relaxed and have put aside all your cares. Maybe Tao is capricious. It is hard to say. When Tao does come, it is as if you are just now hearing a true sound. When it does come, such a feeling of serenity overcomes you that it quiets all the noise of the day.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

Chinese characters for XInaya hospital
XiNaYa Salitorium
by Fu Bao Shi
the truth is spoken, the world awaits, all eyes on Canada

**Suggested reading of daoist texts ancient poetry and contemporary Chinese literature is available at the site.
receive a full HTML copy of the daily meditation sent directly to your inbox, please send a note with the words "subscribe tao" in the subject line to duckdaotsu to unsubscribe or take a vacation, contact me with specifics at the same address!


`Every war is a war on women'

`Every war is a war on women'


Today -- International Human Rights Day -- presents an opportunity to stand up for women's human rights. Just prior to the U.N. designation of this day in 1990, we Nicaraguans were engaged in a violent civil war in which rape was used as a weapon against women.

Despite the courage and determination of so many women, the use of rape as a weapon of war is escalating all over the world. A recent UNIFEM (the U.N. women's fund) report on the progress of the world's women says that ``violence against women during conflict has reached epidemic proportions, yet little is being done to prevent this violence or to support and protect women. Women's bodies have become a battleground over which opposing forces struggle.''

Today, 80 percent of the civilian casualties of war are women; 80 percent of the world's refugees are women and children. And while we may long for the luxury of believing that the systematic rapes in Bosnia and Rwanda were inhuman events, outside the range of everyday experience, such crimes growing in numbers in countries such as Cambodia, Uganda, the Congo, Colombia and Sudan.

The first step toward stopping violence against women is to know the truth about it. The abuses experienced by women in conflict zones are possible because women are still permissible targets of rape, assault and domestic violence at all times. Given the deadly threat to hundreds of thousands of women, how can we redress the violence that structures, and ends, the lives of so many women?

Many women's groups in Latin America and elsewhere are providing direct services to women in conflict zones. At the same time, they are working hard to make human-rights abuses against women visible to their governments and the world.

Colombia's civil war has claimed more than 40,000 lives in the past decade. Two million people have been forced from their homes, the majority of them women and children. La Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas [the Network of Women Displaced] provides human-rights training and humanitarian assistance. With financial assistance from the Global Fund for Women in the United States, La Liga offers workshops about sexual and reproductive rights for girls who have been displaced by the war. Crucially, the organization is documenting human-rights violations, including rape, against women and girls.

Women feel the effects of war as profoundly as men do, or more. War destroys environments, rips apart families, spreads disease, and creates poverty and starvation. Women are left to fend for themselves and their children in extremely fragile situations. They are raped and forced into sexual slavery, and they contract HIV.

As an indigenous woman living in one of the poorest countries on the Americas, I have seen how devastating war has been on women in my communities. Indigenous women often lose everything: their land, families, communities and cultural base. Major media outlets ought to recognize the importance of the issue by renewing and strengthening their commitment to investigate and report on violence against women during wartime and in all its forms. Every war is a war on women. Women are on the frontlines, and we must be on the front pages.

Myrna Cunningham is president of Casa Museo, an educational center for indigenous and Afro-descent communities in Nicaragua.

Why decisions made by the Bush White House are dumber than the people who work there.

Against Deliberation

By Timothy Noah
Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

In the Dec. 10 Washington Post, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen report that President Bush will craft domestic policy during his second term in much the same way that he crafted foreign policy during his first term: by creating "a small, loyal and trustworthy team to press for broad changes largely dictated by the White House."

This approach proved disastrous in planning for the Iraq war. That's widely understood. But there hasn't been much discussion of why it proved disastrous. Instinctively, we all sense that it's bad to allow an insular group of like-minded people to make important policy decisions. Those decisions, we assume, will end up reflecting shared preconceptions more than they reflect reality. What is not commonly understood is that such group decisions actually exaggerate and worsen those shared preconceptions. James Surowiecki discusses this phenomenon, called "group polarization," in his delightful book, The Wisdom of Crowds.

The overarching theme of Surowiecki's book is that people are much smarter collectively than they are individually. He makes an exception, though, for small groups of people who share the same opinions. These tend to be stupider than their constituent members, because when like-minded people get together they drive each other to embrace more mindlessly extremist views. Studies have shown, for instance, that if you put a bunch of pessimists together in a room they will become more pessimistic after talking to one another, and that juries whose members are inclined to give plaintiffs large awards usually give even larger awards after they've deliberated.

The cause of "group polarization," according to Surowiecki, is that

People are constantly comparing themselves to everyone else with an eye toward maintaining their relative position within the group. In other words, if you start out in the middle of the group and you believe the group has moved, as it were, to the right, you're inclined to shift your position to the right as well, so that relative to everyone else you're standing still. Of course, by moving to the right you're moving the group to the right, making social comparison something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. What's assumed to be real eventually becomes real.

I would suggest that if you toss into this mix a strong social imperative to demonstrate loyalty to the group, the polarization will likely be even worse. This is how we ended up with an Iraq policy that is much stupider than Paul Wolfowitz, or Don Rumsfeld, or Dick Cheney (none of whom is stupid at all). And it's how we're going to end up with domestic policies that are stupider than Karl Rove, Andy Card, and budget director Josh Bolton.

Timothy Noah writes "Chatterbox" for Slate.

Our Debt to Bill Moyers

A few days after the commercial television networks' laudatory "news" reports on George W. Bush's nomination of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to serve as Secretary of State, PBS's Bill Moyers countered with something rarely seen on broadcast television these days: serious journalism.

Moyers devoted a substantial portion of NOW, the public broadcasting program he has hosted for the past three years, to an analysis of Rice's failure to take seriously warnings about terrorist threats before the September 11 attacks as well as her misguided response to those attacks, her role in the campaign for war on Iraq and her scheming to avoid cooperating with the 9/11 Commission. The devastating report brought to mind Edward R. Murrow's See It Now dissection of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Unfortunately, PBS in 2004 can't influence public opinion the way CBS did in 1954. Moyers recognized that fact when he launched NOW in January 2002; the former spokesman for Lyndon Johnson, senior correspondent for CBS, groundbreaking public television producer and winner of ten Peabody Awards and more than thirty Emmy Awards understood that the best he could do in these difficult times was to barter a bit of his prestige for the chance to erect an outpost of quality reporting in the increasingly corporatized broadcast television wilderness. Week after week, NOW has offered consistently bold and revealing examinations of issues ranging from the threat to environmental protections posed by international trade agreements, to the damage done to basic liberties by the Patriot Act, to the abuses of politics by special interests. Moyers, who is 70 and wants to turn his attention to writing, has every reason to be proud as he prepares for his last broadcast on December 17. At a time when TV networks--including PBS--were bowing to commercial and ideological pressures that were antithetical to journalism, Moyers created a program that many viewers recognized as the only reason to turn on the TV in the Bush era.

NOW will carry on with the able crew that Moyers assembled. And whether or not the program thrives without Moyers, the legacy he created will remain. James Madison said, "A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both" and warned that "a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives." In a time of farce and tragedy, Bill Moyers did his best to arm the people with the power knowledge gives and to affirm that there's still a place for TV journalism that nurtures citizenship and democracy.

54 journalists killed in 2004

Fifty-four journalists were killed this year, making 2004 the deadliest year for the media in a decade, a watchdog group said Friday.

Iraq is the most dangerous place for journalists to work, with 23 killed this year, up from 13 last year, said the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Most of those who died there were Iraqi reporters killed by insurgents, and many of them died while working for the American media, said Executive Director Ann Cooper.

"What we've seen this year is the deliberate targeting of Iraqis who work with Westerners, and that includes Iraqis working with the Western media," she said.

At least 22 journalists were kidnapped in Iraq, the group said. Of those, Enzo Baldoni, an Italian freelance journalist, was killed.

The only American killed this year was Paul Klebnikov, 41, the editor of Forbes Russia who was gunned down in Moscow in July. Klebnikov was an investigative reporter who published a number of books and articles examining Russia's wealthiest people.

After Iraq, the most dangerous country to report from was the Philippines, where eight journalists were killed this year.

"It's often a provincial journalist working for radio, riding a motorcycle to or from work, and gunmen come down and shoot them on the streets," Cooper said.

At least 48 journalists have been killed there since the Philippines became a democracy in 1986, the group said.

"It's gotten to the point where people understand they can get away with murdering a journalist in the Philippines," Cooper said. "Nobody's ever been brought to justice."

The count includes only journalists killed as a direct result of their work. Reporters who died in accidents or from illness while on assignment were not counted, and neither were people who work with the media, such as drivers, translators and others.

The deadliest year since the group began compiling statistics 12 years ago was 1994, when 66 journalists were killed, mostly covering conflicts in Algeria, Rwanda and Bosnia.

contact Reporters without Borders by clicking on the RSF logo in the margin of this blog-------------->>

Falluja Atrocities Expose True Face of U.S. War

Images of a U.S. marine killing an unarmed wounded prisoner during the recent battle for Falluja resulted in widespread shock, leading the Pentagon to withdraw the soldier from battle and launch an investigation. However, the issue--similar to Abu Ghraib--has served as a smokescreen, diverting attention from much larger atrocities and the very nature of war.

No doubt many U.S. soldiers took care in Falluja--as elsewhere in Iraq--to respect international humanitarian law and avoid injuring civilians. But as throughout the U.S. invasion and the ongoing conflict, war crimes and civilian casualties were frequent and often systematic, rather than rare and exceptional.

In breach of the Geneva Conventions, for example, U.S. troops refused to allow males of "military-age" (16 to 55)--defining them all as potential enemy combatants--to flee Falluja. Given the heavy American bombardment of the city, one wonders how many of these men are among the estimated 1,200 to 1,600 categorized by U.S. authorities as dead insurgents.

American military commanders first stated there was no evidence of civilian casualties in Falluja. Now, the Pentagon has accepted responsibility and offered compensation for the death of a family of seven, including a three-month-old baby. Yet it still only admits to having killed a few.

Press accounts, however, described Fallujas streets as littered with corpses. One high-level International Committee of the Red Cross official in Iraq estimated in mid-November that there were "at least 800 civilians" among the dead. More recently, the Iraqi Red Crescent estimated that more than 6,000 people may have died in the battle.

Eyewitness and survivor reports make clear that U.S. forces were responsible--often deliberately--for most of the victims.

At least five fatalities were patients at a Falluja clinic bombed by U.S. forces--despite promising that they would spare the facility. A clinic doctor stated that American snipers killed many civilians, the youngest a four-year-old boy. An Associated Press photographer described U.S. helicopters shooting people trying to ford a river to safety. Among those slain was a family of five.

Similar to the free-fire zones of Vietnam, U.S. forces in Falluja had instructions that they could shoot anyone under the assumption that those left in the city were hostile. As a teacher who witnessed two civilians shot and killed by American troops told the Independent of London, "The only way to stay alive was to stay inside and hope your house did not get hit by a shell."

Given such rules of engagement and what war does to those who wage it, it would be foolhardy to see the execution of the wounded prisoner as an isolated occurrence. Indeed, some of the fellow marines of the soldier who pulled the trigger openly support his actions: "I would have shot the insurgent too. Two shots to the head," stated one. "You can't trust these people."

Such callousness combined with deadly firepower have led to an Iraqi death toll of horrific proportions. An October article in Britain's most respected medical journal, The Lancet, estimated 100,000 Iraqis had died due to war-related violence, mostly from aerial bombings. Over two-thirds of the fatalities have been women, children or elderly--non-combatants, in other words.

The Geneva Conventions require occupying militaries to protect civilians from violence and prohibit the use of disproportionate and indiscriminate force. As the death toll in Falluja and throughout Iraq shows, the Pentagon has failed to comply. When such transgressions are isolated, they are war crimes. When they are systematic, they constitute crimes against humanity.

From Vietnam to Nicaragua to Washington's ongoing efforts to undermine the International Criminal Court, American political and military leaders have long insulated themselves from accountability for their illegal behavior overseas. The resulting culture of impunity permitted the Bush administration to launch its illegal invasion of Iraq and has allowed the Pentagon to commit atrocities with little fear of punishment.

Failure to combat official crimes has exacted high costs--at home and especially abroad--and will continue to do so barring far-reaching change. Because Congress is unwilling to hold accountable high-level officials for war-related crimes, it is the American public's political and moral responsibility to reign in Washington. By acting upon this responsibility, a mobilized citizenry can help end the Iraq debacle and lessen the likelihood that U.S. soldiers are even in a position to commit future atrocities.

Joseph Nevins is an assistant professor of geography at Vassar College. Cornell University Press will release his latest book, A Not-So-Distant Horror: Mass Violence in East Timor, in early 2005.

Torture and the Flag

Torture and the flag--Alberto Gonzales' and GW Bush's American values.

Reject The Secretary Of Torture

President Bush has appointed Alberto Gonzales to replace John Aschroft to the head of the Department of Justice as Attorney General. Gonzales has served as the White House Counsel, where he wrote a series of infamous memos that were used to justify the administration's policies of detention and torture in the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft war on terror. The most telling of the memos referred to the Geneva Convention's prohibitions against torture to be "quaint" and "obsolete."

Gonzales helped set policies that led to torture and gross human rights abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, at Guantanamo, and in Afghanistan. These policies make America and Americans less safe.

For his extensive work in the area of the rationalization of torture by the executive branch, we have come to calling him the Secretary of Torture.

Gonzales' blatant disregard for the rule of law and contempt for the Constitution demand that he be rejected for the position of Attorney General.

Write your newspaper, call your senator and demonstrate against Alberto Gonzales. If your Senator is a Democrat, ask her or him to filibuster the Gonzales nomination.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will likely not hold hearings on Gonzales' nomination until early next year, but it's not too early to urge them to ask tough questions and vote to reject Gonzales.

Following is the current make-up of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Changes are expected next year with the convening of the next Congress. Arlen Specter is expected to be the new chair of the committee.

Republican Judiciary Committee members:

Orrin Hatch, UT, Chair
Charles Grassley, IA
Arlen Specter, PA
Jon Kyl, AZ
Mike DeWine, OH
Jeff Sessions, AL
Lindsey Graham, SC
Larry Craig, ID
Saxby Chambliss, GA
John Cornyn, TX

Democratic Judiciary Committee members:

Patrick J. Leahy, VT, Ranking Member
Edward M. Kennedy, MA
Joseph R. Biden, Jr., DE
Herbert H. Kohl, WI
Dianne Feinstein, CA
Russ Feingold, WI
Charles E. Schumer, NY
Richard J. Durbin, IL
John R. Edwards, NC

Contact your Senator via the Congressional switchboard: 202.224.3121 or via email, which you can do via

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper opposing the Gonzales nomination using our super-easy letter writing template.

This fight to preserve the rule of law is vital and can be won. Many Republican and Democratic Senators are uncomfortable with Gonzales easy rejection of our system of laws. However, we must start now to ensure that this architect of the Bush torture system is not made the head law enforcement officer in our country.

Take action today!

Scott Lynch
Communications Director


Thousands of police, firefighters and military personnel yesterday escorted
the casket of New York City firefighter and Army reservist Christian
Engeldrum to St. Benedict's church in the Bronx. Engeldrum, 39, who
responded to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, was killed in action
Nov. 29 in Iraq. He is the first New York City employee to die in the Iraq war.


Tale of Two Brothers: Voting Fraud in the USA

Once upon a time there were two brothers: Bob and Todd Urosevich. In the 1980's, with the financial backing of the right-wing extremist Christian billionaire Howard Ahmanson, Bob and Todd founded a company called American Information Systems (AIS) that built voting machines. They were also certified to count votes. It is interesting to note that back then there was no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the U.S. voting machine industry. Even more interesting is the fact that this is still true today. Not even the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has a complete list of all the companies that count votes in U.S. elections.

Voting Fraud in the USA

Did you know....
  • 80% of all votes in America are counted by o­nly two companies: Diebold and ES&S.
  • There is no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the U.S. voting machine industry.
  • The vice-president of Diebold and the president of ES&S are brothers.
  • The chairman and CEO of Diebold is a major Bush campaign organizer and donor who wrote in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
  • 35% of ES&S is owned by Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who became Senator based o­n votes counted by ES&S machines.
  • Diebold's new touch screen voting machines have no paper trail of any votes. In other words, there is no way to verify that the data coming out of the machine is the same as what was legitimately put in by voters.
  • Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines, all of which log each transaction and can generate a paper trail.
  • Diebold is based in Ohio and supplies almost all the voting machines there.
  • None of the international election observers were allowed in the polls in Ohio.
  • 30% of all U.S. votes are carried out o­n unverifiable touch screen voting machines.
  • Bush's Help America Vote Act of 2002 has as its goal to replace all machines with the new electronic touch screen systems.
  • Republican Senator Chuck Hagel owns 35% of ES&S and was caught lying about it
  • ES&S is the largest voting machine manufacturer in the U.S. and counts almost 60% of all U.S. votes.
  • Exit polls for the 2004 elections were accurate within 1% or less in areas where ballot machines were used.
  • Major exit poll data discrepancies were noted in counties where touch screen machines were used, especially in Ohio and Florida.

Need details?

Voting in the USA: A Tale of Two Brothers

You've heard of the song The Day the Music Died? Well, today is the Day Democracy Died. Actually, that day probably came about 4 years ago, the first time Bush stole the election. Or even earlier, as I will reveal.... Once upon a time there were two brothers: Bob and Todd Urosevich. In the 1980's, with the financial backing of the right-wing extremist Christian billionaire Howard Ahmanson, Bob and Todd founded a company called American Information Systems (AIS) that built voting machines. They were also certified to count votes.

It is interesting to note that back then there was no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the U.S. voting machine industry. Even more interesting is the fact that this is still true today. Not even the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has a complete list of all the companies that count votes in U.S. elections.

But let us get back to our story....

In 1992 a conservative Nebraskan fellow called Chuck Hagel became chairman of AIS as well as chairman of the McCarthy Group, a private investment bank. This all happened shortly after he stopped working for Bush Sr.'s administration as Head of the Private Sector Council.

In 1995 Hagel resigned from AIS and a year later ran for Senate, with the founder of the McCarthy Group as his campaign manager.

In 1996 Chuck Hagel became the first Republican to ever win a Nebraska senatorial campaign in 24 years, carrying virtually every demographic group, including African American precincts that had never voted Republican. The o­nly company certified to count votes in Nebraska at the time was AIS.

But getting back to our two brothers Urosevich....

In 1997 Bob and Todd decide to buy the Dallas-based Business Records Corp. (BRC) and merge it with AIS. BRC was partially owned by Cronus Industries, a company with connections to the oil- and mineral-rich Hunt brothers of Texas.

The company created from this merger was Electronic Systems Software (ES&S). Today ES&S is the largest voting machine company in the United States and Todd Urosevich is its vice-president.

In 2003 the Senate Ethics Committee forced Chuck Hagel to reveal the fact that he had $1 million to $5 million in investment in the McCarthy Group, a fact he'd previously neglected to mention. The McCarthy Group also happens to be a major owner of ES&S.

But let's get back to the two brothers, shall we? What happened to Bob?

Well, Bob Urosevich became president of Diebold, the corporation that makes the 45,000 touch-screen voting machines used in Ohio and other states. In 2002 Diebold purchased Global Election Systems, a company that itself bought a company called AccuVote back in 1991.

Besides voting machines, Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket-dispensing machines, all of which come with an auditable paper trail. (Can you imagine trying to sell Home Depot a checkout scanning system that has no paper trail?) But none of Diebold's electronic voting machines are equipped with vote-verification systems. In other words, you cannot audit these machines.

Diebold is now the third largest voting machine company in America. Together, Diebold and ES&S count 80% of all votes in the United States.

Almost 30% of all votes are o­n non-auditable touch screen voting machines and computerized ballot scanners will count another 57.6% of the votes, including absentee ballots.

But wait, there more....

The Chairman and CEO of Diebold, "Wally" O' Dell, is a major Bush campaign donor, having helped raise over a quarter million for Bush's 2004 campaign. In an August 2003 fundraising letter to some 100 wealthy friends, Diebold's chairman and CEO wrote,

"I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

Most of Ohio uses Diebold voting machines.

Well, maybe he chose the wrong words. Perhaps the ethics of these voting companies are beyond reproach. Let us see.

During the 2000 presidential elections, Diebold made 16,000 presidential votes "vanish" in o­ne Florida county.

Back in 2002 Diebold supplied the state of Georgia with brand new electronic voting machines. That was when incumbent Democratic Governor Ray Barnes was defeated and the Republicans won for the first time in 134 years. The poll results showed an amazing 12-point shift that took place in the last 48 hours.

Diebold was subsequently sued for applying a last-minute code patch to the machines that was never reviewed. In another strange turn of events, that code was also deleted right after the election and the suit fell through.

Earlier this year California sued Diebold for fraud and decertified its voting machines.

But what about the other 20% of the votes? Who counts them?

America's second largest voting corporation is Sequoia Voting Systems. This company is owned by the British company De La Rue, who also owns 20% of the British National Lottery. In 1995 the SEC filed suit against Sequoia for inflating revenue and pre-tax profits.

In 1999 charges were filed by the Justice Department against Sequoia in a massive corruption case that sent top Louisiana state officials to jail for bribery, most of it funneled through the Mob. Sequoia's executives were given immunity in exchange for testimony against state officials.

And in fourth place we have Science Applications International Corporation Fourth (SAIC). This secretive defense contractor became involved in counting American votes through Admiral Bill Owens, former military aide to Dick Cheney.

Despite a history of fraud charges and security lapses in its electronic systems, SAIC is now o­ne of the largest Pentagon and CIA contractors.

Then there are some bit players.

Last year, two of Diebold's top executives, Howard Van Pelt and Larry Ensminger, moved over to Advanced Voting Solutions, which is the new name of the scandal-ridden voting company Shoup Voting Solutions. In 1971 Shoup Voting Machine Co. had been indicted for bribing politicians in Florida. In 1979 Ransom Shoup was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice during an FBI inquiry into a Philadelphia election. Shoup got a mere three-year suspended sentence.

In the meantime, Philadelphia bought new voting machines from a new voting machine company, Danaher-Guardian. But this company o­nly sells voting machines formerly known as the "Shouptronic.

But wait, there's more....

After the 2000 election, Cal Tech and MIT conducted a study to find that between 1.5 million and 2 million votes were not counted because of confusing paper ballots or faulty equipment. That's when Bush decided to pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

One of the main goals of the HAVA is the "Replacement of punch card and lever voting machines.” With what? Electronic touch screen voting machines, the o­nes that cannot be audited

.How do you feel about your vote now?

If you still think everything was played fair and square, check out these strange Florida election numbers, reported by Buck Mulligan:

Nader 97,421
Other 40,193
20 04

Which means 1,392,639 new voters (99% precincts counted, no provisionals or absentees).So there are 1.39 million new voters in Florida and 77,197 fewer third-party votes but Kerry loses by 376,923 votes? Which would mean he lost a huge majority of them or he lost a huge majority of regular voters, and by much than Gore lost.

The exit polls showed that Kerry had way more Hispanic and Cuban supporters than Gore. Also most exit polls in Florida had Kerry leading, but in the end Kerry lost by a whopping 5%?

Some other suspicious Florida voting statistics are shown here.And then there's accounts of possible fraud in Ohio that the press, including the Washington Post, is looking into.

This was reported by the valiant folks at AMERICABlog. There's even a lovely photo of a Cincinnati poll manager putting used ballots o­n his Bush/Cheney-stickered truck.Exit polls discrepancies in Ohio are discussed by Greg Palast at length.

Other exit poll oddities in this last election are discussed at the Blue Lemur here and here.

And, by the way, did you know that the international election observers were forbidden access to the Ohio polls?

I thought that was interesting as well.

And last, but not least, no discussion about voting machine fraud would be complete without mentioning the extraordinary work of Bev Harris, a 52-year-old grandmother who decided to do a little research after the 2000 Florida voting machines fiasco.

Bev Harris is responsible for exposing the horrifying vulnerabilities of voting machines to the public and continues to fight for vote verifiability at

I hope this has made you think.

You mustn't always take what you see at face value.

If not common sense, then the lessons of history show us that power tends to stay with the powerful and that the rich tend to stay rich. Bearing this in mind, the United States was founded by a group of powerful, rich white men. If they had sincerely desired equality for all U.S. citizens then or in the future, they would have simply set a cap o­n the assets any o­ne entity could own.

And with that, I bid you good night and until next time!

Angry Girl

If you have time, check out this short film about the 2000 Election:

More Resources

Lynn Investigates...Voting and Politics

The Sale of Electoral Politics

US Election fraud scandal looms?

E-Voting Tests Get Failing Grade

Citizens for Legitimate Government

Think Again. Why the Silence?

Vote Fraud!

Source: Nightweed

Related links
More about Corruption
News by outsidethebox

Most read story in Corruption:
A Tale of Two Brothers: Voting Fraud in the USA

Did delay in treatment contribute to the death of a Turkish asylum seeker?

Did delay in treatment contribute to the death of a Turkish asylum seeker?

By Gilly Mundy & Harmit Athwal

The family of Elmas Ozmico, a Turkish asylum seeker, believe that earlier medical intervention might have saved her life. This is one of the questions the family desperately want answered at the inquest into her death.

On 8 July 2003, a Turkish woman, 40-year-old Elmas Ozmico with her two children aged eight and nine and her 19-year-old nephew, arrived in Dover in the back of a lorry. On arrival, they claimed asylum and were detained by the Immigration Service. At this point her nephew is believed to have asked for a doctor as his aunt, Elmas, was not well. She had apparently developed medical problems on the journey and was experiencing difficulty in walking. The family have since alleged that repeated requests that she be allowed to see a doctor were ignored. Some hours later, the family were all moved to the Port of Dover detention centre where they spent the evening.

The following day, at 9.40am they were taken back to the Immigration Service at Dover, where it was identified, that Elmas was suffering from medical problems. But she was not taken to hospital until she collapsed at 5.20pm, while in the custody of Migrant Helpline - some nineteen hours after arriving and first asking for help. After a series of operations, Elmas died three days later from septicaemia.

The inquest, which was due to start on 1 October 2004, into her death has been delayed indefinitely as the coroner has been unable to find suitable court space to hold it.

There is also some confusion as to who was responsible for Elmas Ozmico's treatment. There will be seven interested parties represented at the inquest when it finally resumes, including the family who will be represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group, the Immigration Service, Migrant Helpline and the hospital trust.

INQUEST told IRR News that they are extremely concerned about the effect of the indefinite delay in holding the inquest on Elmas Ozmico's family. 'A key requirement of the Human Rights Act is that a death in custody investigation must be held promptly and in public.' They also have further concerns surrounding the care of vulnerable asylum seekers arriving in the UK, particularly those requiring immediate medical care and attention.

The IRR is currently researching the deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants who have died either in the UK or attempting to reach the UK, if you have any information please email: IRR.ORG

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors. © Institute of Race Relations 2004



December 10, 2004


A TV reporter was sentenced yesterday to six months of home confinement for refusing to say who leaked him an FBI videotape of a politician taking a bribe.

Jim Taricani, 55, was found guilty last month of criminal contempt for defying U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres' order to identify his source and could have gotten up to six months in prison.

The judge went along with the punishment recommended by prosecutors, saying the only reason he did not send Taricani to prison was the reporter's precarious health: Taricani had a heart transplant in 1996 and takes medication daily to prevent organ rejection.

Taricani is one of several journalists nationwide who have become locked in First Amendment battles with the government over confidential sources. Among them are reporters for Time and The New York Times who have been threatened with jail as part of an investigation into the disclosure of an undercover CIA officer's identity.

Less than a week after Taricani was convicted, Providence defense attorney Joseph Bevilacqua Jr. came forward and admitted he was the one who leaked the tape. But under the law, that did not get the reporter off the hook.

In sentencing Taricani, the judge said the WJAR reporter had no First Amendment right to protect a source who broke the law by providing him with information. He disputed arguments that punishing Taricani's behavior was an assault on the First Amendment.

Taricani told the judge he acted in accordance with his principles, and understood he had to accept punishment. "Your honor, I want you to know that I do not consider myself above the law," he said.

The FBI tape of a mayoral aide taking a $1,000 payoff was part of a corruption investigation that ultimately sent former Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci and other city officials to federal prison.

Taricani broke no law by airing the footage, but attorneys, investigators and defendants were under court order not to release any tapes connected to the investigation, and a special prosecutor had been appointed to find out who leaked it.

Dogmatic intelligence

A veteran CIA operative sues the agency
for firing him after he refused orders
to falsify his reports on Iraq's WMD.

By Suzanne Goldenberg

Dec. 10, 2004 | A senior CIA analyst who was once decorated for his work on weapons proliferation in the Middle East has accused the spy agency of ruining his career as punishment for his refusal to adhere to official prewar "dogma" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In a lawsuit filed in a U.S. district court, the unnamed agent, described as a 22-year veteran of the agency's counterproliferation department, accuses his former supervisors of demanding that he alter his intelligence reporting to conform to the views of CIA management in the run-up to the war on Iraq.

The action marks the first time the CIA, which proclaimed that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, has been publicly accused by one of its employees of exerting pressure to produce reports that would help the Bush administration make its case to go to war on Saddam. However, one former CIA employee said the process described by the analyst -- pressure and retaliation -- was a familiar bureaucratic response to agents who did not conform.

The agent's refusal to tailor his reports had, he claims, a disastrous effect on a career that had previously been marked by regular promotions and a CIA medal for the operative's recruitment of moles who penetrated a nuclear weapons program in another Middle Eastern country. "The complaint alleges that there was a prewar dogma at the CIA concerning weapons of mass destruction, and my client's reports were contrary to the dogma," said Roy Krieger, who represents the agent. "My client was told to conform to the dogma. He refused and retribution followed."

The CIA Thursday night rejected the charge. "The notion that CIA managers order officers to falsify reports is flat wrong," said spokeswoman Anya Guilsher. "Our mission is to call it like we see it."

The agent's complaint has been heavily blacked out by the CIA, and it makes no mention of the word "Iraq." However, the timing of the operative's run-in with his superiors and other details strongly suggest he ran afoul of agency management for his reports on Saddam Hussein's alleged arsenal during the run-up to the war. But the agent's work was not restricted to Iraq. The first instance of pressure occurred in 2000, when he says he tried to pass on intelligence culled from one of his many "human assets" in the field.

Court papers describe how the "plaintiff was subsequently advised by CIA management that his report did not support the earlier assessment ... and instructed that if he did not alter his report to support this assessment, it would not be received well by the intelligence community."

A year later, the agent obtained intelligence from a "highly respected human asset," which he tried to pass on to his superiors, the complaint says. "Plaintiff was later instructed that he should prepare no written report of the matter" and received assurances that the CIA chief would personally brief the president. However, "upon information and belief, plaintiff avers that no such briefing ever occurred, and therefore the president was misled by the withholding of vital intelligence."

The complaint goes on to describe further instances in 2001 and 2002 in which the operative's attempts to report "actionable" intelligence were thwarted by CIA superiors. He was also warned to break off contact with the highly regarded source. "Plaintiff was subsequently approached by a senior desk officer who insisted that plaintiff falsify his reporting of this matter," the complaint reads.

Some months later, the CIA operative was accused of having had sex with one of his female informants. In September 2003, the operative was suspended. He was later accused of stealing funds meant to pay informants, and he was sacked this year.

The CIA has had a torrid two years. Its former director, George Tenet, was quoted as telling President Bush that finding WMD in Iraq was a "slam-dunk"; and the agency has been pilloried for the way it dealt with intelligence prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And under its new chief, Porter Goss, there have been persistent rumblings of mismanagement as a series of senior figures have announced their intention to quit.

A guardsman's question taps dad's memory

Lyndon Wilson remembers stacking sandbags in unarmored
military vehicles three decades ago to better protect against
enemy gunfire or land mines. His son bluntly asked Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this week why some troops now
are using scrap metal to fashion "hillbilly armor" for their trucks.

Lyndon K. Wilson left for Vietnam on Nov. 19, 1968. His son, Spc. Thomas J. Wilson, left to help fight the war in Iraq on Nov. 19, 2004. That coincidence of the calendar is not the only similarity in their military service, the father says.

Lyndon Wilson remembers stacking sandbags in unarmored military vehicles three decades ago to better protect against enemy gunfire or land mines. His son bluntly asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this week why some troops now are using scrap metal to fashion "hillbilly armor" for their trucks.

"It's like he's going right down the same trail I went down," Lyndon Wilson, 58, said by telephone yesterday from his home in Ringgold, Ga. The elder Wilson, who was wounded by shrapnel in Vietnam, added, "I hope [the similarities] kind of stop there."

The fallout from Specialist Wilson's uncommonly frank question to the defense secretary persisted yesterday, with Rumsfeld saying concerns about vehicle safety were being reviewed and addressed. At the White House, President Bush also sought to reassure military families that "we're doing everything we possibly can to protect your loved ones in a mission which is vital and important."

"If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country, I'd want to ask the secretary of defense the same question - and that is, are we getting the best we can get us?" Bush said.

Specialist Wilson, a 31-year-old father of two, touched off the military's scramble on the question of vehicle safety Wednesday when Rumsfeld opened the floor to questions during a "town hall" style meeting with about 2,300 soldiers at Camp Buehring in northern Kuwait.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Wilson asked, his question greeted by shouts of agreement and applause from other soldiers.

After pausing and asking Wilson to repeat the question, Rumsfeld responded that the military was sending more armored vehicles into Iraq as quickly as possible. He added: "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have."

Reporter claims credit

The exchange appeared to be an impromptu airing of a concern shared by many soldiers. But a reporter with the Chattanooga, Tenn., newspaper, the Times Free Press, claimed credit for fashioning the question in an e-mail published yesterday on a journalism Web site.

Edward Lee Pitts, who is embedded with Wilson's Tennessee National Guard unit, said in the e-mail that he worked on questions in advance of the meeting with two soldiers from the unit because reporters would not have a chance to question Rumsfeld. Pitts did not mention the arrangement in an article published in yesterday's Times Free Press about the soldier's questioning of Rumsfeld.

"While waiting for the VIP, I went and found the Sgt. in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd," Pitts said in an e-mail sent to colleagues at his newspaper.

Pitts also wrote: "I have been trying to get this story out for weeks - as soon as I found out I would be on an un-armored truck - and my paper published two stories on it. ... I believe lives are at stake with so many soldiers going across the border riding with scrap metal as protection. It may be to late for the unit I am with, but hopefully not for those who come after."

A Pentagon spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, said in a statement yesterday that the town hall meeting was intended for soldiers, not reporters, to ask questions.

"It would be unfortunate to discover that anyone might have interfered with that opportunity, whatever the intention," Di Rita said. "The secretary provides ample opportunity for interaction with the press."

Editors at the Times Free Press referred questions to Executive Editor Tom Griscom, who did not return a phone call yesterday seeking comment. Pitts, who is traveling with the 278th Regimental Combat Team of the Tennessee Army National Guard, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Griscom praised the reporter's work yesterday. But he said the newspaper would publish a note to readers today explaining that the reporter had collaborated with soldiers to have the issue raised.

'We ... speak our mind'

Pitts' role raised questions about the spontaneity of the Rumsfeld session in Kuwait, but from his farm in northwest Georgia, Lyndon Wilson said he wasn't surprised that his son asked the question.

"Well, me and his mom both, we're not ones to hold our tongues," Lyndon Wilson said. "We usually speak our mind pretty good. And we taught our kids to be the same way."

Thomas "Jerry" Wilson grew up in Ringgold, Ga., the younger of two sons. Lyndon Wilson said his son is an avid outdoorsman who liked to hunt growing up and would explore underground caves.

After graduating from Lakeview High School in nearby Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., Thomas Wilson enlisted in the Air Force in 1994. He served about four years, including a stint in Haiti, his father said. Prompted in part by the Sept. 11 attacks, Thomas Wilson re-enlisted in 2003 with the Army National Guard in Tennessee, where he was living in Nashville and working for Comcast Cable.

Lyndon Wilson said his son has enormous respect for his superiors in the military, but the senior Wilson said he was disappointed by Rumsfeld's initial response to his son's question.

"My response was, you don't go to war with what you have - you build your army, and then you go to war," Lyndon Wilson said.

Meeting with officials

Rumsfeld told reporters yesterday that military officials would meet with Specialist Wilson, who is at the start of what is expected to be a yearlong tour in Iraq, to learn more about his concerns.

"I don't know what the facts are, but somebody is certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know," Rumsfeld said. "That's a good thing. So I guess it is a very constructive exchange."

In his e-mail to colleagues, reporter Pitts described the events as "one of my best days as a journalist."

By Gail Gibson Sun National Staff December 10, 2004 Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun

Measure Expands Police Powers

Intelligence Bill Includes Disputed Anti-Terror Moves

The intelligence package that Congress approved this week includes a series of little-noticed measures that would broaden the government's power to conduct terrorism investigations, including provisions to loosen standards for FBI surveillance warrants and allow the Justice Department to more easily detain suspects without bail.

Other law-enforcement-related measures in the bill -- expected to be signed by President Bush next week -- include an expansion of the criteria that constitute "material support" to terrorist groups and the ability to share U.S. grand jury information with foreign governments in urgent terrorism cases.

These and other changes designed to strengthen federal counterterrorism programs have long been sought by the Bush administration and the Justice Department but have languished in Congress, in part because of opposition from civil liberties advocates.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo characterized the measures as "common-sense reforms aimed at preventing terrorist attacks."

"We are very pleased that the Congress agreed with us that despite having passed the Patriot Act right after 9/11, we still had work to do," Corallo said, referring to the anti-terrorism legislation approved in October 2001. "We have to constantly look at the laws and look at our vulnerabilities and make sure we are doing everything we can within the law to protect the American people."

But civil liberties advocates and some Democrats said the measures would do little to protect the public while further eroding constitutional protections for innocent people caught up in investigations.

Critics also say the proposed changes were overshadowed by the debate over other aspects of the bill, which puts in place many intelligence agency reforms proposed by the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Some Democrats say they reluctantly approved the package because they favored the broader intelligence changes.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) said that while he voted for the bill because of its intelligence reforms, he opposed much of the expansion of law enforcement power. Most of it was not part of the Sept. 11 panel's recommendations.

"I am troubled by some provisions that were added in conference that have nothing to do with reforming our intelligence network," Feingold said. He later added: "This Justice Department has a record of abusing its detention powers post-9/11 and of making terrorism allegations that turn out to have no merit."

Charlie Mitchell, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the law enforcement measures are "most troubling in terms of the trend they represent." He added: "They keep pushing and pushing without any attempt to review what they've done."

Congressional aides said most of the law enforcement measures were included as part of the original House proposal for intelligence reform, which also called for wide-ranging changes in border and immigration policies. Although some of the most controversial provisions were removed in House-Senate negotiations, several remained in the bill.

Some of the changes were originally part of a legislative draft drawn up by Justice prosecutors in 2002 as a proposed expansion of the USA Patriot Act, administration and congressional officials said. The draft, leaked to the media and dubbed "Patriot II" by critics, was never introduced as a bill in its entirety. But portions were introduced as stand-alone legislation.

As with parts of the original Patriot Act, some of the new powers would expire at the end of 2005 or 2006 unless Congress renewed them.

One key change is a provision in the new intelligence package that targets "lone wolf" terrorists not linked with established terrorist groups such as al Qaeda. In language similar to earlier Senate legislation, the bill would allow the FBI to obtain secret surveillance and search warrants of individuals without having to show a connection between the target of the warrant and a foreign government or terrorist group.

The provision is aimed squarely at avoiding the quandary FBI investigators faced in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, when government lawyers haggled over whether they could link Zacarias Moussaoui to a terrorist group and legally search his belongings. Moussaoui has since been charged in connection with the attacks.

Officials said other parts of the bill are direct responses to setbacks in the courts, where prosecutors have lost cases because of disputes over previous legislative language. For example, the legislation tightens the definitions of material support to terrorists in response to California federal court rulings that found the statute underlying such cases to be unconstitutionally vague.

Other provisions in the bill include:
• Suspects in major terrorism crimes automatically would be denied bail unless they show they are not a danger or a flight risk. Advocates say the provision is modeled on similar rules for certain drug crimes, but Mitchell said it would increase the possibility of indefinite detention in alleged terrorism cases.

• Penalties would be increased for such crimes as harboring illegal immigrants, perpetrating a terrorist hoax, and possessing smallpox, anti-aircraft missile systems and radiological "dirty" bombs. The measure also is more explicit than current statutes in making it illegal to attend military-style training camps run by terrorist groups.

• Federal prosecutors would be allowed to share secret information obtained by grand juries with states or foreign governments to protect against terrorist attacks. German authorities, among others, have complained about difficulties obtaining information from the FBI and other U.S. agencies about foreign terrorist suspects.

Research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.
By Dan Eggen Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, December 10, 2004; Page A01
© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Supreme Court to hear International Death Penalty Case

Decision Expected by July, 2005

The Supreme Court agreed today to decide whether the federal courts must give a hearing to a Mexican death-row inmate in Texas who says the state violated international law by trying him for murder without first notifying Mexican diplomats who might have helped him.

The case, which has attracted worldwide attention, is seen as a test of the willingness of the judicial branch of the U.S. government to accept an international institution's authority at a time when the executive branch under President Bush is taking criticism from many quarters abroad for operating unilaterally in world affairs.

The fact that it arises in the context of the death penalty, for which the United States in general and Texas in particular are under fire in Europe and Latin America, adds to its potential international impact.

The case marks the Supreme Court's first opportunity to respond to a March 31 decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, which ruled that the United States had violated the Vienna Convention on consular relations in the case of the Texas inmate, Jose Ernesto Medellin, and 48 other Mexican nationals on death row.

The application of the Vienna Convention to criminal cases is no small issue in the United States, where the population includes millions of noncitizens. Including the Mexicans directly involved in the ICJ ruling, there are 118 foreign nationals on death row in the United States, from 32 countries.

The court received friend-of-the court briefs from the European Union, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela and Mexico, all urging it to hear the case. Also supporting Medellin's appeal was a group of former U.S. diplomats, including former Iran hostage L. Bruce Laingen, who argued that U.S. citizens abroad will "suffer in kind" if their own courts do not enforce consular access.

In its March ruling, the ICJ did not attempt to overturn the men's death sentences. It said only that the treaty -- which the United States has ratified and pledged to enforce in cases involving citizens of other ratifying countries, including Mexico -- gives Medellin and the other Mexicans an individual right to claim in a federal court that their cases might have turned out differently if they had had consular access. U.S. rules that require them to raise such claims in state court first do not apply, the ICJ ruled.

The Bush administration had argued against this interpretation, but the vote in the ICJ was 14-1, with a U.S. judge joining the majority.

The ICJ ruling brought to a head a long-simmering conflict between that court and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which generally favors limiting the avenues by which death-row inmates may challenge their sentences on constitutional and other legal grounds.

Just six years ago, the Supreme Court said that a treaty-based right of consular access could not trump the requirement in U.S. law that inmates seeking to overturn their sentences must raise their constitutional and legal claims in state court first -- or forfeit the right to bring them up later in federal court.

In that case, Breard v. Greene, the court refused to stay the pending execution of a Paraguayan convicted of murder and rape in Virginia. Its unsigned opinion said that, even if the Paraguayan, Angel Francisco Breard, were permitted to raise his claim in federal court, he could not show that the violation of his right to see a consul would have made a difference. He had insisted on going to trial against the advice of his U.S. attorneys, who urged him to plead guilty in return for a life sentence.

The vote was 6 to 3, with liberal justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer dissenting.

The court acted in Breard even though Paraguay had taken the case to the ICJ, and the ICJ had called on Virginia not to execute Breard until it had finished considering the matter.

But now it faces a direct and clear judgment by the ICJ.

The case accepted for review today is Medellin v. Dretke, No. 04-5928. Oral argument will take place in March. A decision is expected by July.

By Charles Lane Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, December 10, 2004; 1:18 PM © 2004 The Washington Post