We Have Nothing to Fear But Bush Himself

Suppose you are the party responsible for invading a country under totally false pretenses. Suppose you had totally unrealistic expectations about the consequences of your gratuitous aggression.

What do you do when, instead of being greeted with flowers, you find your army is tied down by insurgents and you have no face-saving way to get out of the morass? If you are the moronic Bush administration, you blame someone else.

Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Cheney and Bush blame Syria and Iran for the troubles that they brought upon themselves. The Iraqi insurgency, say the Five Morons, is the fault of Syria and Iran.

Here is Rumsfeld excusing himself for his dismal failures in Iraq: "Partly it’s [the insurgency] a function of what the Syrians and the Iranians are doing."

You see, the facts that the US invaded Iraq on false pretenses, killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis, shot down women and children in the streets, blew up Iraqis’ homes, hospitals and mosques, cut Iraqis off from vital services such as water and electricity, destroyed the institutions of civil society, left half the population without means of livelihood, filled up prisons with people picked up off the streets and then tortured and humiliated them for fun and games are not facts that explain why there is an insurgency. These facts are just descriptions of collateral damage associated with America "bringing democracy to Iraq."

The insurgency, according to the Five Morons, is because Syria and Iran won’t close their borders, thus letting in "terrorists" who are responsible for the insurgency. Some might think that this accusation is an example of the pot calling the kettle black coming as it does from the US, a country that has not only proven itself incapable of closing its own borders but also has demonstrated no respect whatsoever for the borders of other countries.

The Bush administration, which already held the world record as the most deluded government in history, has now taken denial to unprecedented highs by blaming Syria and Iran for its "Iraqi problem." Why didn’t Americans realize that it is dangerous to put a buffoon in charge of the US government who hasn’t a clue about the world around him, what he is doing or the consequences of his actions?

Why is Secretary of State Rice trying to set Iran up for UN sanctions – which the US can manipulate to justify invading another Muslim country – when the US has proven to the world that it cannot occupy Baghdad, much less Iraq?

Are Iran and Syria going to quake in their boots after witnessing the success of a few thousand insurgents in tying down 8 US divisions? The bulk of the US force in Iraq is engaged in protecting its own bases and supply lines. It was all the generals could do to scrape up 10,000 Marines for their pointless assault on Fallujah.

What is the point of the Bush administration’s bellicosity when it has been conclusively demonstrated that the US has insufficient troops to successfully occupy Iraq, much less Syria and Iran? The American people should be scared to death that they have put in power such deluded people.

Are Americans going to fall for the same set of WMD lies a second time? Are Americans going to deliver up their sons, and perhaps daughters as well, to be drafted and sent to the Middle East to be killed and maimed for no American cause?

The US Treasury is empty. The once "almighty" dollar is tottering. The US military is stretched to the breaking point. Former allies look askance at America. Hatred of America has reached an all time high.

The Bush administration must bring its policies in line with its means before it leads our country into greater disaster. The Bush administration and its deluded sycophants must stop poking fun at "reality-based" experts and listen to a reality-based message.

There is no possibility of the US imposing its will on the Muslim world. By its behavior the Bush administration is confirming Osama bin Laden’s propaganda and breeding more terrorists.

It does not serve America for Bush to impose Ariel Sharon’s agenda on the Middle East. Bush’s insane policy is producing rising anger that endangers Israel and America’s puppet governments in Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan along with the Saudi regime. Ironically, this is recognized by Egypt’s Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah, who was unable to refrain from pointing out that Bush has managed to create a Shi’ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon.

What, King Abdullah wonders, will be the next unintended consequence of the moronic administration that the American people in their superior wisdom and virtue have seen fit to empower in Washington. "If our aim is to win against terrorism, we can’t afford more instability in the area," warned the king prior to the ill-fated US invasion of Iraq. "It’s the potential Armageddon of Iraq that worries all of us."

It should worry Americans, too.

by Paul Craig Roberts
February 12, 2005
Dr. Roberts is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Copyright © 2005 Creators Syndicate


A National ID Bill Masquerading as Immigration Reform

Before the US House of Representatives, February 9, 2005

Mr. Speaker:

I rise in strong opposition to HR 418, the REAL ID Act. This bill purports to make us safer from terrorists who may sneak into the United States, and from other illegal immigrants. While I agree that these issues are of vital importance, this bill will do very little to make us more secure. It will not address our real vulnerabilities. It will, however, make us much less free. In reality, this bill is a Trojan horse. It pretends to offer desperately needed border control in order to stampede Americans into sacrificing what is uniquely American: our constitutionally protected liberty.

What is wrong with this bill?

The REAL ID Act establishes a national ID card by mandating that states include certain minimum identification standards on driver’s licenses. It contains no limits on the government’s power to impose additional standards. Indeed, it gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally add requirements as he sees fit.

Supporters claim it is not a national ID because it is voluntary. However, any state that opts out will automatically make non-persons out of its citizens. The citizens of that state will be unable to have any dealings with the federal government because their ID will not be accepted. They will not be able to fly or to take a train. In essence, in the eyes of the federal government they will cease to exist. It is absurd to call this voluntary.

Republican Party talking points on this bill, which claim that this is not a national ID card, nevertheless endorse the idea that “the federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification such as driver’s licenses.” So they admit that they want a national ID but at the same time pretend that this is not a national ID.

This bill establishes a massive, centrally-coordinated database of highly personal information about American citizens: at a minimum their name, date of birth, place of residence, Social Security number, and physical and possibly other characteristics. What is even more disturbing is that, by mandating that states participate in the “Drivers License Agreement,” this bill creates a massive database of sensitive information on American citizens that will be shared with Canada and Mexico!

This bill could have a chilling effect on the exercise of our constitutionally guaranteed rights. It re-defines "terrorism" in broad new terms that could well include members of firearms rights and anti-abortion groups, or other such groups as determined by whoever is in power at the time. There are no prohibitions against including such information in the database as information about a person’s exercise of First Amendment rights or about a person’s appearance on a registry of firearms owners.

This legislation gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to expand required information on driver’s licenses, potentially including such biometric information as retina scans, finger prints, DNA information, and even Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) radio tracking technology. Including such technology as RFID would mean that the federal government, as well as the governments of Canada and Mexico, would know where Americans are at all times of the day and night.

There are no limits on what happens to the database of sensitive information on Americans once it leaves the United States for Canada and Mexico – or perhaps other countries. Who is to stop a corrupt foreign government official from selling or giving this information to human traffickers or even terrorists? Will this uncertainty make us feel safer?

What will all of this mean for us? When this new program is implemented, every time we are required to show our driver’s license we will, in fact, be showing a national identification card. We will be handing over a card that includes our personal and likely biometric information, information which is connected to a national and international database.

H.R. 418 does nothing to solve the growing threat to national security posed by people who are already in the U.S. illegally. Instead, H.R. 418 states what we already know: that certain people here illegally are "deportable." But it does nothing to mandate deportation.

Although Congress funded an additional 2,000 border guards last year, the administration has announced that it will only ask for an additional 210 guards. Why are we not pursuing these avenues as a way of safeguarding our country? Why are we punishing Americans by taking away their freedoms instead of making life more difficult for those who would enter our country illegally?

H.R. 418 does what legislation restricting firearm ownership does. It punishes law-abiding citizens. Criminals will ignore it. H.R. 418 offers us a false sense of greater security at the cost of taking a gigantic step toward making America a police state.

I urge my colleagues to vote “NO” on the REAL ID Act of 2005.

February 12, 2005
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.
Watch Ron Paul deliver this speech to the House of Representatives on video.(click link)


Same Mistake

The Bush administration is making the same mistakes with Iran that it made with Iraq. It makes allegations unsupported by facts, refuses to negotiate and threatens sanctions or military action, neither of which is feasible.

In short, it has no rational Iran policy.

The Bush administration seems to be under the impression that the Iranians are pursuing the development of a nuclear weapon. Sound familiar? The Iranians deny it. The administration says, in effect, that they are lying. If the administration has any proof, let's see it. It was so all-fired certain that Iraq was not only pursuing nuclear weapons but had stockpiles of other weapons, all of which has been proven untrue. That was a mistake that has cost us 1,400 lives and 10,000 wounded. Make that mistake with Iran, and you'll see a heck of a lot more body bags coming back to the United States.

Our silly secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, says that the Iranians must live up to their international obligations. Again, a familiar propaganda note. The Bush people claimed Iraq was not complying with U.N. resolutions, but in fact it had. The trouble is that, so far as we can tell, the Iranians are also complying. They signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the Bush administration's pet country, Israel, has refused to sign. The Iranians are cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency and are allowing inspections, which Israel does not. They have a right under the treaty to enrich uranium, but are negotiating with the European Union to forgo that right.

The United States refuses to participate in those negotiations and several times has tried to get the IAEA to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, where it hopes sanctions will be applied. The IAEA has rightfully refused to do so. Even if it did so, China or Russia would certainly veto any resolution mandating sanctions.

Ms. Rice coyly said recently that a military attack against Iran is not on the Bush agenda "at this point." That's a nothing statement, because it does not rule out a military attack.

Are the Iranians pursuing a nuclear weapon? I don't know. They say they are not. But they are more or less surrounded by nuclear powers – the United States, Israel, India and Pakistan. Their reasoning for pursuing nuclear plants is feasible. They know their main export, oil, will run out one day, so by using nuclear to produce internal power, they can extend the life of their most profitable export. They are certainly wise to disperse their facilities, given the fact that the Israelis bombed Iraq's only nuclear reactor in the 1980s.

But let's assume Iran does develop a nuclear weapon. I don't care. I've lived most of my life 30 minutes from total destruction by tens of thousands of the Soviet Union's nuclear warheads. The Bush administration's claim that nuclear deterrence, which worked against a superpower, will not work against a smaller and poorer country is bunk. Israel alone has enough nuclear warheads to pulverize Iran.

Oh, the administration says the Iranians will hand over a nuclear weapon to a terrorist organization. Well, where is any evidence of that? The evidence does show that once countries develop nuclear weapons, they keep pretty tight control over them.

But more to the point, if we don't want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, why not negotiate? Why keep threatening the Iranians? It doesn't make any sense. If I were an Iranian, I would assume that President Bush intends eventually to attack the country. That would be stupid, but if you look at the stupidity of the Iraqi mess, you can't rule it out. Never believe that Bush won't do something just because it's dumb.

Iraq, with just over 20 million people, a flat terrain and a dilapidated military, has given us quite a bit of trouble. Try Iran, which has nearly 70 million people, a mountainous terrain and a much more effective military. You Bush lovers should write your man and advise him to let that sleeping dog lie.

February 12, 2005
Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969–71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


At Fort Bragg, another violent suicide of Afghanistan War veteran

Another Special Forces soldier who served in Afghanistan shot himself to death at Fort Bragg last week after wounding his ex-wife and her boyfriend, according to police and military officials. The soldier was in a unit prescribed a controversial malaria drug that has been linked to several other violent incidents ending in soldier suicides.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said a study that was begun a year ago to see whether the drug, called Lariam, had led to suicides or other problems is still in the preliminary stages. There has been no change in the military's use of the drug, the Pentagon added.

Spc. Richard T. Corcoran, 34, shot himself Feb. 3 at his ex-wife's home near the North Carolina base. He first shot her boyfriend several times, then shot her in the arm. Both survived.

Corcoran served in Afghanistan from September 2002 to March 2003 with the Seventh Special Forces Group in an area where soldiers were routinely prescribed Lariam, according to Major Robert Gowan, a spokesman for the Army Special Operations Command based at Fort Bragg. Gowan said he did not know whether Corcoran actually had taken the drug. Corcoran was in language training at Fort Bragg when he died and was "still training to become a fully qualified Special Forces soldier," the command said in a press release.

In the summer of 2002 three Special Forces soldiers who had served in Afghanistan and took Lariam killed their wives, and subsequently themselves, after returning to Fort Bragg. The Army investigated, ruling out the drug as a common factor in those deaths and instead blaming marital problems. An investigation by United Press International found that all three had exhibited behavior consistent with acknowledged side effects of the drug and that there was no apparent history of violence in the marriages.

UPI uncovered three more suicides by Special Forces soldiers who took the drug.

Since 2003 the Food and Drug Administration has required that anyone prescribed Lariam be given a medication guide that says, "Lariam can rarely cause serious mental problems in some patients. ... There have been reports that in some patients these side effects continue after Lariam is stopped. Some patients taking Lariam think about killing themselves. It is not known whether Lariam was responsible for these suicides."

A spike in suicides by soldiers in Iraq in 2003 led to an Army investigation. The Army largely stopped prescribing Lariam in Iraq last year, citing a lack of malaria risk. The number of suicides there subsequently fell by at least half -- from 24 in 2003 to nine in 2004, with three deaths still under investigation.

Corcoran, the latest Fort Bragg suicide, was charged in 1989 in an incident in Glen Ridge, N.J., in which several football players were accused of raping a mentally retarded girl. The charges against Corcoran were dropped the day before the trial, and he won $200,000 in a federal civil-rights lawsuit claiming malicious prosecution.

A veterans' advocate said the suicide needs to be investigated in light of the earlier deaths involving Special Forces soldiers, the military's most elite and highly trained.

"The indicator now is the psychological battery of tests he would have gone through to be a Special Forces soldier," said Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center and a former Army Ranger.

"I don't think anybody can immediately say if Lariam is connected. However, you can't be in Special Forces and be a crazy person."

Last February Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told Congress he was ordering a study of anti-malaria drugs to see if they were linked to serious health problems in soldiers. The study was a response to concerns that Lariam, widely prescribed to troops in the war on terrorism, was triggering mental illness and suicides.

A year later, a "preliminary prescriptive study" is being conducted that was recommended as a first step by the Armed Forces Epidemiology Board.

"The preliminary study is nearly complete," Pentagon spokesman Jim Turner said in a statement to UPI. "Once completed, it will be briefed to the DoD (Department of Defense) Health Affairs leadership, and then followed by the AFEB-recommended, retrospective cohort study to be conducted by military and civilian scientists, which may take 12-18 months, and then offered for peer-reviewed publication."

Acceptance by a peer-reviewed medical journal, followed by publication, typically takes months and is not guaranteed.

Turner said that study will "help determine if there is any scientifically based cause-effect relationships between mefloquine (Lariam) and medical conditions experienced by service members."

In the meantime, Turner said, the department policy on malaria prevention is unchanged.

"In the case of malaria protection and treatment, DoD healthcare providers follow a policy of using FDA-approved drugs and Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recommendations for the use of mefloquine (Lariam), doxycycline and Malarone as medications effective in preventing infection with chloroquine-resistant Falciparum malaria; there is no change in the Department's use of these drugs," Turner said.

UPI found that in widespread instances soldiers were not receiving the mandatory written warning about Lariam side effects, and prescriptions were not being recorded in their medical records as required by law.

"It is probably a daunting task to figure out if Lariam is a factor in suicides and other issues that veterans are facing when the Department of Defense did not follow the public law," said Robinson of the Gulf War veterans group. "That could be the reason why it might take some time."

He also criticized the study's retrospective approach going back a number of years as "three-card monte" -- a swindling game in which cards are hidden.

"It's a scientific trick to skew the data that we're really looking for," Robinson said. "We're looking for what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Please send comments to
( '? note: hmmmm When Is Suicide Not Viiolent? ( '? end
Dan Olmsted UPI, Washington Times
Posted 2005-02-12 00:41:00.0


Jury convicts Iraq War veteran of murder in South Dakota

A federal court jury in Pierre on Friday convicted James Gregg, an Iraq war veteran from Harrold, of second-degree murder in the July 4 shooting death of an American Indian man from Crow Creek reservation.

Gregg, 23, was accused of shooting James Fallis, 26, five times.

The jury rejected the prosecution's argument that the slaying was premeditated, so Gregg was not convicted of first-degree murder.

Second-degree murder is a killing without premeditation, as in a sudden quarrel or fight.

The penalty for a second-degree murder conviction is any number of years in prison up to life behind bars. The jury also convicted Gregg of using a firearm while committing a felony.

Gregg had testified that his combat experience in Iraq made him contemplate suicide during and after his 11 months of wartime duty with the Army National Guard.

People on both sides of the courtroom cried after the verdict was read. Gregg's mother wept and was consoled by her husband, who helped her out of the courtroom.

On the Fallis side of the room, someone quietly said "yes" as the conviction was announced.

Gregg's bond was revoked, and he was turned over to the U.S. Marshal's Service, despite his lawyer's request that he be allowed out on bond.

Jerrod Fallis, the victim's twin brother, hugged people on the way out of the courtroom. "I'm glad he got what he deserves," Fallis said.

The defense lawyer, Tim Rensch, said after the verdict that he did not want to comment.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mikal Hanson, was not available for comment.

Hanson told jurors that Gregg sought revenge because Fallis and his cousin beat up Gregg after they were told Gregg spun his tires and kicked up rocks on Fallis' car.

Gregg testified that he shot Fallis because he believed Fallis was running for a gun in his trunk. He said he didn't know that Fallis was one of the people who hit him and didn't remember kicking up rocks.

But he said he wanted to apologize so Fallis didn't retaliate against him or his family.

The families live about eight miles apart.

In his closing arguments, Rensch said Fallis had a reputation for violence and Gregg was afraid of what Fallis might do.

Gregg already had the gun in his pickup and pulled it out of the case when Fallis threatened to get a gun, he said.

"If he pulled up and had that pistol ready to go and decided he was going to kill James Fallis, he would have shot him right in the chest. If there were a bunch of bullet holes in the chest, we could be looking at first-degree murder," Rensch said.

"They're in the back and the side."

Carson Walker, Rapid City Journal (South Dakota)
Posted 2005-02-12 12:53:00.0


The Iranian Suicide Bombers vs. The American Crusaders

Everybody's asking me what'll happen if we attack Iran. To get a quick preview, just do what this guy in my eighth-grade class did: put a firecracker in your mouth, hold it between your front teeth, and light the fuse.

"It's just like the homecoming game!" Bush settles in to enjoy the upcoming slaughter.

Your friends won't believe you'll go through with it. So when it blows up in your face, you'll expect them to be impressed. And you'll be surprised, just like this guy in junior high was surprised, when all you get is a perforated eardrum and a reputation as the biggest dumbass in the school.

Right now, Bush is standing there with a lit match and a big firecracker labeled "Iran" in his mouth. Except it's more like an M-80 or a whole stick of dynamite than a firecracker. Nobody believes he'll be dumb enough to light it, to actually attack Iran. Even the Iranians don't believe it; Khameini, their head Mullah, said last week "America is in no position to invade Iran."

He's right about that. Even the US Army brass admits we're "overstretched." We don't even have enough troops to control Iraq; a war with Iran would mean calling up every National Guard unit we have. Even then, it would take years to get them combat-ready.

And this time the Brits won't come with us. They've been making that clear, on the quiet. If we go in, it'll be as a coalition of one.

So Khameini's right; we can't attack Iran. But that doesn't mean we won't. Khameini was making the same mistake everybody's been making: assuming Bush and his cronies have a lick of sense.

The best way of guessing what Bush will do is asking, what's the worst thing he could do to America? Whatever it is, that's what he'll do. I think he's been possessed by bin Laden, because everything he's done has been exactly what Al Quaeda hoped for. Right now, bin Laden is praying to Allah that we'll be stupid enough to attack Iran. That would be the cherry on his halal sundae, the one thing that could actually finish us off as a Superpower.

In my "Quagmire Bowl" article I said the Iraq war probably wouldn't be fatal. It's definitely hurt us, but it won't mean the downfall of America. Well, if we invade Iran, that bet is off. All bets are off. People don't realize how fast a Superpower can fall. It only takes one invasion too many.

Napoleon was unstoppable before he invaded Russia. So was Hitler. Now France and Germany are "Old Europe."

Invading the wrong country can age you faster than driving a Long Beach bus on the night shift. Invading Iran helped end the win-streak of the best, biggest Empire of all, the Romans. It was in 260 AD, when emperor Valerius headed east to deal with the Persians who were kickin' up a fuss on the eastern border of the Empire. This Valerian would've risen high in Dubya's administration, because he was a real hard charger, a go-getter...and dumb as a half brick. He charged right into Iraq -- they called it Mesopotamia back then -- even though his troops were dying of plague all around him. The Persians sat back, watched Roman troops keeling over, and had a good laugh, eating pistachios in the shade while Valerian tried to figure out what to do.

Naturally, he decided it was time for bold action. That's the only trick these go-getters know. It reminds me of what one of MacArthur's aides said about him: "When it paid to be aggressive, he was aggressive. And when it didn't pay to be aggressive...he was aggressive."

Valerian figured a little proactive salesmanship would settle things, so he demanded a meeting with the Persian emperor, Sapor--who couldn't believe his luck. Sapor ordered the slaves to cook a big banquet, bring out the best silverware -- and had his troops hide in the banquet hall till he gave the signal. Valerian stomped in, Sapor snapped his fingers and Valerian ended up a live trophy, dragged around in chains through every city in the Persian empire till his purple robes were shreds.

There's a moral to this story: Persians are tricky, clever people. They've always had that reputation. You don't want people like that for enemies. Unfortunately, Bush won't be leading the charge the way Valerian did, so we probably won't get to see him dragged through Tehran in chains. But we'll see worse things: casualty lists that will make Iraq look like a beach volleyball game, American armies losing conventional battles, and after a few years, a humiliating exit.

Iran is scarier than Iraq in every way you can name. First of all, it's physically way bigger, three times the size of Iraq. The population is 65 million, nearly three times as many as Iraq. The Iranians are young, too. Their birthrate is way down now, around 2 kids per woman, but back in the Khomeini years it was one of the highest in the world. So right now, the Iranian population has a demographic profile that's a military planner's dream: not too many little kids to take care of, but a huge pool of fighting-age men -- about 18 million.

"Go War!" Bush the Yale cheerleader

And it won't be just young, fit men fighting us. Thanks to the invention of the suicide car bomb, guerrilla commanders will have someplace to send 70 year old volunteers: down to the garage to pick up a Plymouth packed full of fertilizer bomb. You don't have to be young to put the pedal to the metal.

The insurgents' DMV test will be real simple: "OK, Grandpa, can you make out the silhouette of a Bradley or Humvee, and aim your car at it?" Do that and you pass. They hand you the keys, and you get a quick, painless martyr's exit. Everybody will want to get in on the fun: Grandpa, Grandma, even the cripples, with specially adapted pedals so they can chin-pilot their car bombs into our patrols.

The suicide car bomb is a good example of why I don't worship hardware like most war fans do. These cars are actually no-tech guided surface-to-surface cruise missiles--and damn effective. We've found that out the hard way. All it takes is a driver who's willing to die for the pleasure of killing the enemy. Put him (or her) in an old jalopy stuffed with fertilizer and detonators and you've got a highly accurate, fire-and-forget missile.

They're especially deadly in urban warfare, because they're perfectly camouflaged till they actually blow up. And all for the price of a used car and a few bags of Miracle Gro.

Our cruise missiles are real showpieces, ultra hi-tech. They can be launched from subs, surface ships, planes and ground launchers. They can guide themselves over hundreds of miles, they cost millions apiece (usually hundreds of times as much as the huts or sheds we aim them at)--but they're useless to us in Iraq, whereas the suicide car-bomb cruise missiles are hurting us every single day.

It's the software inside people's heads that wins wars nowadays. You hardware freaks are going to have to face that fact one of these days. And it's this brain-software that we're hopeless at programming. Iraq has proved pretty clearly we don't have a clue how to use the Middle-Eastern brain OS. In fact, we've actually done the impossible: reprogrammed the miserable, cowardly Iraqis into fierce warriors.

Remember Gulf War I? Remember those pitiful fags crawling up to our soldiers to surrender on their hands and knees, sobbing like babies? Two years of occupation by Bush's morons has turned those cowards into fearless kamikazes in Oldsmobiles.

So just imagine what the Iranians, the original Islamic suicide squads, will do when we invade. There'll be traffic jams, ten-mile backups, outside every US base, thousands of car bombers honking and changing lanes trying to get to the front of the line and make that final commute to Paradise. It'll be like the San Diego freeway on a Monday morning, except the fenderbenders will be a little more serious.

The Iranians, unlike the Iraqis, have always been willing to die for their country. In the Iran-Iraq War (1980-89) thousands of Iranians volunteered to charge across Iraqi minefields, knowing they were going to die. It scared the Hell out of the Iraqis. They threw everything at those crazy Persian suicide charges, even poison gas. And the Iranians just kept coming. If you want a more complete account of that war, read my column, "The War Nobody Watched" in eXile #178. The short version is simple: Iranians are brave, determined people. Don't mess with them.

Of course all the NeoCon crazies are peddling the old story that "once we invade, the people will rally to the cause of freedom."

Yeah. Just like they did in Iraq. If we couldn't get people on our side after deposing a monster like Saddam, what chance do you think we have of winning hearts and minds in Iran? The kids in Iran are pissed off at the way the old Mullahs won't let 'em rock and roll, but the idea that they'll support an American invasion because they're bored is totally insane. It's like imagining that the kids in Footloose would've backed a Soviet invasion of Nebraska because John Lithgow wouldn't let them hold school dances.

The argument between Mullahs and kids in Iran is a classic family fight. And you know what happens when some intruder crashes in on the middle of one of those: the whole family unites in about a millisecond and tears him apart.

The Iranians already hate us. They have since 1953, when the CIA staged a coup to get rid of a popular Lefty Prime Minister, Mossadeq. Way back in the 70s, when most of the world still kinda liked us, crowds in Tehran chanted "Marg bar Amrika," "Death to America."

We're also getting told we'll be able to exploit the ethnic divisions inside Iran. The fact is, Iran's ethnic problems are nowhere near as bad as Iraq's. More than half of the population is ethnically Persian. The next-biggest group is the Azerbaijani, about a quarter of the population. They squabble with the Iranian majority from time to time, but they're fellow Shi'ites, they intermarry all the time- there's no real hatred between them. There are a few Arabs in Western Iran, maybe 3% of the population. But if you're thinking we could bring them over to our side, forget it. Saddam already tried that during the Iran-Iraq War and got nowhere. And if they're not going to rebel for a fellow Arab who lives next door, you better believe they won't rise up to help us Christian Crusaders.

That leaves us with the Kurds, who are about 10% of the Iranian population. There are all kinds of factions in Kurdistan, all of them armed and ready to kill each other, so we might be able to sign up a few of the really crazy gangs to work with us. But they would have zero chance of controlling a country as big, fierce and clever as Iran.

Face it: we have no friends left in Iran. Thanks to Bush, we have no friends left anywhere in the Muslim world, except a few sleazes like Allawi -- and he'd be torn to pieces if he showed himself in the street without Delta Force bodyguards.

If we attack Iran, that'll make three Muslim countries invaded in three years. We may as well dress our soldiers in white tunics with red crosses on them, like they did in the Middle Ages.

We'd be fighting on three fronts: the conventional war against the Iranian armed forces, guerrilla war in the territories we'd conquered, and worldwide terror attacks by every group that sympathizes with Iran.

The third front, international terror attacks, would be the scariest of all. Because unlike Iraq, Iran actually does have terrorist connections. Very good ones, with some very scary people. Iran is the only country where Shia Islam is the state religion, so Shiites all over think of Iran the way old-time Catholics used to think of Rome. Attacking Iran would drive them insanely angry, not that it takes much to get Shiites in a crazy, suicidal mood.

Would America Do A Thing Like That?

"The possibility of a U.S. attack against Iran is very low. We think America is not in a position to take a lunatic action of attacking Iran,"

Iran President Mohammed Khatami said. January 19, 2005.

"The Americans aren't coming. They wouldn't do a thing like that."

Manuel Noriega, on the eve of the US invasion of Panama, 1989. (Quoted in Commanders by Bob Woodward, page 158).

I've written before about how Shiites see the world ("Shi'ite! Holy Shi'ite!" eXile #197). They love martyrdom, and don't care whether they win or lose as long as they take a few of the enemy with them. So you can't "shock and awe" them with superior firepower, or discourage them by inflicting a lot of casualties. They're the perfect suicide bombers -- in fact, it was the Shi'ites in Lebanon who perfected the suicide car bomb. The first time it happened, a 16-year-old girl drove a car full of explosives into an Israeli APC. The Israelis were shaken; in 25 years of fighting the Arabs, nobody else had done that to them.

Eventually, the Shi'ite Hizbollah guerrillas in Southern Lebanon drove the Israelis out. They were just more willing to take casualties than the Israelis were, even if the exchange was 20 or 30 dead guerrillas for every Israeli killed.

And guess which guerrilla group is closest to Iran? That's right, Lebanese Hizbollah. Iran is tight with all the Shi'ite militias in Lebanon, in the Bekaa Valley and Beirut as well as the South.

We'll also be pissing off the Iraqi Shi'ites, 60% of the Iraqi population. Right now they're cooperating with us -- not because they like us, but because we're helping them use their majority to take over Iraq.

It's a laugh, the way Bush's people say the Shi'ite enthusiasm for voting proves that "democracy is taking hold" in Iraq. All it proves is that Shi'ites can count. They've got 60% of the vote sewed up, and we're riding shotgun for them, absorbing all the violence the Sunnis can dish out, while the Shia go out and grab power by the ballot box. But if we attack Iran, they'll turn on us like Sadr's boys did in April 2004, and cities like Karbala, Najaf and Basra will be on the front page every day. It'll be a Shi'ite tsunami, with terrorism in places you'd never expect. Lots of excitable Iranian expats are going to wire up their Mercs with HE. They'll be the richest, best-groomed suicide bombers in history -- Armani suits instead of death shrouds, and Ferraris instead of old clunkers. It'll put terrorism in a whole new income bracket.

Meanwhile, what'll happen in the big battle between us and the Iranian forces? Iran's conventional forces are the LEAST scary part of the problem. They're in bad shape: lots of men (400,000, with another 120,000 in the Revolutionary Guards) but starved for materiel. Most of their old stock was destroyed in the war against Iraq, and we've been discouraging suppliers from sending replacements. Russia, China and North Korea have been Iran's suppliers lately--a big switch from the 70s, when the Shah preferred to buy his weapons systems from the US and UK.

They claim to have 1500 tanks, but the bulk of their MBTs are old and rusty. Since 1989, all they've acquired was 500-odd T-72s, with about that many BMP-2 APCs. That's not much armor for such a big force, and the T-72 hasn't exactly covered itself in glory in the two Gulf wars.

Their air force, which used to be the second-best in the Mideast (after Israel, obviously) is in even sorrier shape, with a couple squadrons flying MiG-29s and Su-24 CAS fighter/bombers. The rest is rusting hulks left over from the Shah's buying sprees.

One cool bit of trivia: the Iranian AF used to be the only one outside the US to fly the F-14. Most were grounded when we embargoed Iran, and a few were lost in the Iraq War, but I haven't been able to find out what happened to the rest. Anybody know?

Other items they've been buying should be worrying us much more. For instance, they've invested heavily in Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles, which have been fitted on ten new, fast coastal-attack ships. In a column of mine a couple of years ago ("U Sank My Carrier" eXile #156), I talked about the very scary outcome of a Persian Gulf war game, when USMC General Paul van Ripen, who was playing the part of Iranian commander, managed to sink half our Persian Gulf task force, including a carrier, with simultaneous attacks by small planes and fast attack craft.

Their missile forces are another worry -- not for what they could do to our troops but for the havoc they could start up if the Iranians, under attack, lost their cool and started targeting countries supporting the US. Once again, nobody's really sure exactly what missiles Iran has, or what quantities they've got. They definitely do have plenty of our old friend the Scud -- maybe 250 Scud B (range 285-330 miles depending on warhead; accuracy zero) and another 350 Scud C (range 500-700 miles).

As we found out in two Gulf wars, Scuds are all hype -- unless you have the guts to fit them with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads. Saddam never did. (Though he did fire chemical shells against the Iranians and the Kurds.) The Iranians just might. They've got the chemical weapons: mustard gas, cyanide, and the scariest of all, VX, a very potent, hard-to-clean-up nerve gas.

One of the big arguments right now is whether the Iranians can actually field their Shahab-3, a newer better missile designed by North Korea and also supplied to Pakistan (where it's called the Ghauri II). As usual, the warmongers are claiming Iran has 'em and plans to use 'em on us. Cooler heads say that's unlikely; so far there have only been a few failed test flights, with the Shahab-3 blown up mid-flight (which is usually a sign the test failed).

After we all got suckered into believing Saddam could gas London with 45 minutes warmup, I'm not buying the scare stories till I see some proof. We know the Iranians have Scuds; we know they have chemical warheads. That's more than enough to worry about. Because these people aren't cowards like Saddam; I can see them being real sore losers if the US invades and defeats their army. The kind of sore losers who press every Doomsday button they can.

Of course, nobody is claiming the US is going to launch an all-out invasion of Iran. The rumors coming out of the Pentagon say it'll be a mix of air strikes and quick, small special ops raids on nuclear sites and key military installations. The idea is to destroy as much of the military infrastructure as we can, and crush their nuclear program before it can produce working nukes.

The biggest, scariest nuclear site is Bushehr, on the Persian Gulf. It worried the Iraqis so much they bombed it before the two reactors were brought online. The Iranians learned a hard lesson from that raid, and started dispersing the nuke program all over the country. They're working on 15 sites, which they say are going to be used for "peaceful purposes." I love the way nuclear scientists talk about "peace." That was Stalin's favorite word, and the nuclear-science types mean it about as much as he did.

Of course the Iranians want nukes. They're surrounded by traditional enemies, they know the US is itching to attack, and they consider themselves Allah's representatives on earth. If you were in that situation, wouldn't you be going all-out to get some nukes?

The experts all say there's no way Iran could have any nuclear weapons yet. Maybe they're right; even experts have to be right once in a while. So the question is how much time it will take them to develop nukes. Estimates go from a year to six years. The trouble with these estimates is that they're always bent to help somebody's agenda. For instance, the Israelis are the ones saying Iran may go nuke in a year or less. That's because they want us to panic, so we'll do the dirty work of blasting Iran's nuke sites for them.

The six-year estimates are coming out of Europe, because they're such wimps they'll say anything to avoid trouble. Truth is, I have no idea how close the Iranians are to a working nuke, and I don't believe anybody else does either. If the CIA was any good, we'd have a clue, but those poor bastards couldn't infiltrate a public library, let alone an Iranian nuclear plant.

If we do go in with quick commando raids and air strikes, we might get away with it. The Iranians would definitely try to retaliate by proxy, getting Hizbollah and the Iraqi Shi'ites to attack Americans anywhere they go. But we could handle that. The real worry is that these lightning raids are never as simple and quick as they're supposed to be. Remember the all-day firefight in Somalia, where we lost 18 Rangers? That was supposed to be a lightning raid: chopper in, grab Aidid, get out before the locals could react. A few hours later, the whole US force in Somalia was engaged against the whole population of Mogadishu.

Remember the lightning raid by Delta and the Rangers on Mullah Omar's house? That didn't exactly come off according to plan either. Once a raid goes bad, soldiers want to go in to rescue their buddies. Then they're trapped, and more guys go in to rescue them. And without ever meaning to, you've got a conventional battle going on deep in the enemy's homeland. And once that happens, the situation is out of control.

If the Iranian army and revolutionary guards play it smart, they'll harass and retreat, trading land for time the way the Russians did in WW II. In the territory we did control, we'd have a massive insurgency. With the Iraqi Shia all fired up, we'd have garrisons pinned down all over Iraq, and all through whatever chunk of Iran we occupied. And no real guarantee we wiped out all the nuclear sites, because our intelligence is so lousy we might never have heard of the most secret labs (which may well be underground in the Iranian desert).

And we're actually thinking about doing this. Incredible. It's like a man with a pit bull chomping on his leg purposely opening the door to a kennel where there are a dozen rottweilers ready to tear him apart.

In fact, it's such a stupid idea, and it'd be such a total disaster for America, that Bush probably will do it. Anybody else starting to wonder if he and Cheney are actually Al Quaeda moles?

By Gary Brecher ( war_nerd at )


More evidence of US government’s torture by proxy

Over the past year, mounting evidence has surfaced on Washington’s systematic use of torture against prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq. Another aspect of this policy is the transfer of prisoners by the CIA and other US government agencies to countries where they will be subject to torture. Known as “extraordinary rendition,” the practice is complemented by the CIA’s own highly secret detention facilities around the world, which are operated outside of any legal framework.

In an article in the February 14 issue of The New Yorker, “Outsourcing Torture,” journalist Jane Mayer documents the increased use of rendition since 2001. Mayer notes that while before September 11 rendition was carried out on a limited basis, over the past four years it has come “to include a wide and ill-defined population the Administration terms ‘illegal enemy combatants.’” One estimate is that 150 people have been rendered since 2001.

Both the international Convention Against Torture (CAT), ratified by the US in 1994, and domestic US law passed subsequent to that treaty prohibit the transfer of prisoners to countries where there is “substantial grounds for believing” they will be tortured. However, in 1995 President Clinton signed a presidential directive authorizing the CIA to render prisoners, and the agency has used the “substantial grounds” clause as a loophole to ignore legal constraints.

The CIA’s use of torture—both directly and by proxy—is an open secret. The New York Times reported in May 2004 that after the attacks of September 2001, the Justice Department and the CIA established a set of rules for the treatment of CIA prisoners. Included in the list of acceptable methods was “water boarding,” a notorious technique used by interrogators in which a prisoner’s head is repeatedly submerged in water to convince him that he will drown if he does not speak.

The Washington Post reported in December 2004 that the agency was using a particular Gulfstream 5 turbojet, with authorization to land in US military bases worldwide, for transporting prisoners to different countries.

The Bush administration’s February 7, 2002, policy memorandum announcing that Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners would not be granted POW status under the Geneva Conventions states that the “United States Armed Forces” must treat prisoners humanely only “to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity.” It says nothing about the CIA. In his confirmation hearings before the Senate, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stated that the CIA is not prohibited from using cruel and inhumane methods, so long as it is done outside of the US.

The White House and its congressional allies have blocked legislation in the Senate that would ban the CIA from torturing foreign prisoners. [See “White House blocked Senate ban on torture”]. An effort in the House to specifically outlaw rendition has also failed.

It was the CIA that made the request that ended in the now infamous “torture memo,” signed by then Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, which defined torture so narrowly as to allow the widest range of methods. Bybee signed another as yet unreleased memo dated March 13, 2002, entitled “Re: The President’s Power as Commander in Chief to Transfer Captured Terrorists to the Control and Custody of Foreign Nations.” Judging from the contents of the memos written around the same time, there can be little doubt that this memo argued that the president as commander in chief has the authority to override international law and order renditions to countries that practice torture as part of the “war on terror.”

One of the most favored countries for the CIA’s rendition program has been Egypt, a close US ally whose intelligence agency is notorious for its brutal treatment of prisoners. Mayer quotes Michael Scheuer, a former CIA counter-terrorism expert and author of the recent book, Imperial Hubris, as noting that some of the early Al Qaeda suspects that the CIA was interested in interrogating were also Egyptian and had been involved in the assassination of the Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat. “‘It served American purposes to get these people arrested,” Scheuer noted, “and Egyptian purposes to get these people back, where they could be interrogated.”

Mayer writes, “The partnership between the American and the Egyptian intelligence services was extraordinarily close: the Americans could give the Egyptian interrogators questions they wanted put to detainees in the morning, Scherer said, and get answers by the evening.”

Other countries to which prisoners have been sent include Syria, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and other dictatorships known for practicing torture.

One of the early cases of rendering was the 1998 arrest in Albania of Shawki Salama Attiya, a suspected member of Al Qaeda, and four others, all of whom were sent to Egypt. According to Mayer, “Attiya later alleged that he suffered electrical shocks to his genitals, was hung from his limbs, and was kept in a cell in filthy water up to his knees.” Similar techniques would later be revealed in the photographs taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In her article, Mayer interviewed Dan Coleman, a former FBI agent who worked with the CIA on terrorism-related cases. He said that, while the policy of rendition was bad before September 11, “afterward, it really went out of control.” Torture “has become bureaucratized.”

“Coleman,” writes Mayer, “said that since September 11 the CIA ‘has seemed to think it’s operating under different rules, that it has extralegal abilities outside the US.’ Agents, he said, have ‘told me that they have their own enormous office of general counsel that rarely tells them no. Whatever they do is all right. It all takes place overseas.’”

The CIA has been encouraged by the administration to regard its actions as above the law. In addition to the Bybee memo on torture, administration lawyers have sought to undermine any legal protection for prisoners held by the United States, including the Geneva Conventions. Alongside Mayer’s article, The New Yorker posted on its web site previously unreleased memos that document the contempt held by Justice Department and White House lawyers for international and domestic legal constraints.

One of the lawyers closely involved in the administration’s attack on legal constraints was John Yoo, the former deputy assistant attorney general. In an interview with Mayer, Yoo revealed the thinking of the administration and the CIA. “Why is it so hard for people to understand that there is a category of behavior [terrorism] not covered in the legal system?” Yoo asked. He stated that Congress does not have the power to “tie the President’s hand in regard to torture as an interrogation technique.... It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.”

In recent months, several cases of rendition have come to light, in part because the US has been forced to release some individuals who obviously had no connection with terrorist activities.

One case detailed by Mayer sheds light on one of the main purposes of the rendition program. Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, a suspected bin Laden associate who had been running a training camp in Afghanistan, was captured a few moths after September 11.

Citing an interview with former FBI official Jack Cloonan, Mayer reports that the CIA then rendered Libi to Egypt. “He was seen boarding a plane in Afghanistan, restrained by handcuffs and ankle cuffs, his mouth covered by duct tape.... After Libi was taken to Egypt, the FBI lost track of him.”

The information obtained by the CIA from Egyptian authorities was critical, not because it helped in the supposed “war on terrorism,” but because it helped the US in its manufactured case for war against Iraq. In his speech before the UN in February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the “evidence” that the US had regarding the supposed existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties between the Hussein regime and Al Qaeda.

“In his speech,” writes Mayer, “Powell did not refer to Libi by name, but he announced to the world that ‘a senior terrorist operative’ who ‘was responsible for one of Al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan’ had told US authorities that Saddam Hussein had offered to train two Al Qaeda operatives in the use of ‘chemical or biological weapons.’”

According to a Newsweek report from last summer, the source for Powell’s comments was Libi, even though Libi was in no position to know anything about supposed ties between Al Qaeda and Hussein, and he later recanted. Mayer quotes the response of Coleman to the revelations: “Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links [between Iraq and Al Qaeda], but there weren’t any. The reason they got bad information is that they beat it out of him.”

Another case is that of Mhaled el-Masri, a German citizen born in Lebanon. According to a January 14 article in the British Guardian newspaper, Masri was seized while in Macedonia in January 2004. He was “held incommunicado for weeks [by Macedonian police] without charge, then beaten, stripped, shackled and blindfolded and flown to a jail in Afghanistan, run by Afghans but controlled by Americans.”

Canadian citizen Maher Arar faced a similar situation. Arar, who had no ties to any terrorist organization, was captured in New York in September 2002 and sent to Syria, where he was tortured.

Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was recently released from Guantanamo Bay, where he was held without charges for nearly three years. Habib was arrested in Pakistan in October 2001, just before the beginning of the US war against Afghanistan. In Pakistan, he was beaten by US interrogators, before being sent to Egypt, where he was held and tortured for six months.

By Joseph Kay 12 February 2005
Copyright 1998-2004
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved


Village Without Casualties

The story of Kashmir, told through the rare -- perhaps unique -- village that has somehow escaped the mayhem.


Former President Bill Clinton called Kashmir the ‘most dangerous place in the world' just days before his South Asia visit in March 2000. As a disputed territory, it locked nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan into a bitter hostility that has so far resulted in three wars and pushed South Asia to the brink of a nuclear disaster when the mobilized armies of the two countries seemed on the verge of a fourth war in December 2001.

At present, there is a thaw in relations between India and Pakistan, but Kashmir remains a difficult and dangerous valley up in the Himalayas and control over its territory a possible nuclear flash point. The Kashmir conflict itself is as old as the independence of the Indian subcontinent from British rule. In 1947, British India was partitioned into two countries, resulting in disastrous communal riots between Hindus and Muslims, and the migration of millions of Hindus and Muslims across the new borders.

Partition had been planned on the basis of the religions of the people of the 562 princely states of a United India. In the case of Kashmir, however, this criterion was overlooked. Although it was a Muslim-majority state, it went not to Muslim Pakistan but to India, thus giving birth to the conflict that has dominated the relations of the two countries ever since. Kashmir's autocratic ruler or maharaja was a Hindu, but wanted the state to be independent from either country. Pakistan sent in an army of Pashtun tribal irregulars from its Northwest Frontier province along with its regular troops to seize control of Kashmir soon after the British left, prompting India to send in its troops as well. This lead to the war that finally resulted in Kashmir's uneasy division between the two newly created states.

While India and Pakistan were involved in hostilities in Kashmir, the people of this Himalayan region only aspired to be left alone as an independent state -- a demand unacceptable to either country. The discontent within the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, fuelled by New Delhi's policies (especially its rigging of local elections), led to an armed uprising in 1990, which was supported by Pakistan. Since then more than 80,000 Kashmiris -- though the official government figures are "only" 35,000 -- have been consumed in this war between Kashmiri insurgents and the Indian army, while this scenic valley has been turned into a bloody battlefield.

As a newspaper reporter based in Kashmir since 1993, I have witnessed this mayhem on a daily basis. Over these 12-years, my entire body of reporting has focused on bomb blasts, the damage caused by improvised explosive devices, shoot-outs, crackdowns, search operations by the Indian security forces, ambushes and raids by separatist militants, violent deaths and tense funerals. Now, at a time when almost every village in Kashmir has a ‘martyrs graveyard' and its own set of stories of residents who met violent deaths, the readers of my paper, the Indian Express, are quite literally bored by these daily doses of despair.

I wondered how it might be possible to break through this net of desensitization, and whether I could tell the story of Kashmir through a village which had somehow escaped this mayhem, a single place where death still arrived only due to natural causes. During the search for this oasis of peace, I surprised myself as well. Even though, as a reporter for a daily newspaper, I had been a constant witness to events in Kashmir, I had no idea how difficult a task it would prove to be to find such a village.

"Exhausted by tales of bloodshed, I began the quest for this elusive island of peace -- for, simply put, a happy story -- six months ago. I started with the central district of Budgam, thinking it might be comparatively less conflict-ridden. I traveled for days from one village to the next without success. Then, I went to the main bus station in Srinagar, Kashmir's capital, and began questioning dozens of villagers from faraway places. Still, I couldn't find my dream village.

"So I approached Kashmir divisional commissioner Khursheed Ahmad Ganai, the highest civilian officer here, for help. Ganai promised to check with his deputy commissioners in different districts. A few weeks later, he got back to me with a list of six villages he believed might be casualty-free in Pulwama and Pampore. Excited by the news, I rushed to check them out. As it happened, one of the villages, Jazeera Mah Sitara, existed only in the revenue records, while all the other villages had had their share of violent deaths that simply never made it into the government records. Finally, I heard of Gundbal from a friend."

Village without Casualties

There are no wreaths on the graves, no embellished epitaphs eulogizing the dead. The burial ground looks strangely old-fashioned, with wild grass and thorny bushes swallowing the neglected mounds. The stone walls are crumbling, and children play cricket in a corner. Gundbal has no martyrs, no bullet-ridden bodies of young men lying under its earth. Death in this little village has always come from natural causes.

Today, an icy wind shuffles the bare willows that circle the village. In the east, the snowy crests of the towering Harmukh range float like drifts of clouds. We set out early on our journey from Srinagar, 60 kilometers from here. This was to be our last attempt at finding a village where a body bag has never arrived. Although we had cross-checked several times about Gundbal, we still weren't sure.

As we take a right turn from Bandipore town to climb the slope up the final few kilometers to Gundbal, I brace myself for another disappointment. The road cuts through a huge Border Security Force (BSF) camp, where every yard is manned by a soldier in battle gear. Bandipore has one of the highest concentrations of both troops and militants. Four army battalions, a BSF sector headquarters, and several federal and state police companies are deployed in the jurisdiction of a single police station, while the number of militants hiding in its mountains is estimated at more than a thousand. Here, the idea of a village untouched by the turmoil seems bizarre.

The road narrows to a dirt track that pierces through unsown paddy fields. Villagers in traditional phirans [traditional loose gowns] walk past our cab, staring curiously. Gundbal, I am later told, has no transport, and people walk three kilometers to reach the nearest bus stop. A car comes down the dirt track only in extreme cases like a medical emergency.

We cross the culvert on the little stream, and enter a village of beautiful tin-roofed concrete houses. As we crawl towards the village center, a group of children shadows our car. Windows swing open as women look out to see the visitors.

The top floor of Munawar Parvana's two-storeyed brick house is under construction. ‘‘When this village was destroyed by the floods in 1992, we had to redo every house,'' says the 55-year-old as he leads us inside. ‘‘But God has saved us in all these years. We haven't had any violent deaths." We sit on the floor and lean back into the pillows as Parvana's 16-year-old son Farhad offers a pile of handmade blankets to keep us warm.

Gundbal lies on the banks of the Arin nallah, a stream responsible for the community's lack of development as well as for its unique good luck. In 1992, the water rose, devastating the village where 105 artisan families -- mostly Kangri weavers, clay potters, folk singers and carpet weavers -- lead a basic life. The houses were rebuilt, but the floods snapped Gundbal's link with its volatile neighbors.

Today, a visit to the village is a lonely walk through the paddy fields. The flat terrain makes it impractical for militants to use it as a hideout. The security forces rarely patrol because they have nothing to look for. This village has no militants.

Parvana, who works at the horticulture department in Bandipore, writes Sufi poetry. He has written several volumes, but doesn't have the resources to print them. So he compiled his handwritten books and circulated photocopies to friends and acquaintances. ‘‘Our village has no more than 20 people who hold government jobs. The highest ranking official is an assistant sub inspector of police,'' he says.

The only sign of government presence is the primary school. The last time the state commissioned any work here was in 1972 when the road was built. The tehsildar came once in 1992 to inspect the flood damages. The village has never seen a deputy commissioner or any other officer. It has no clean drinking water, and the nearest health centre is five kilometers away.

So how did this village remain untouched? ‘‘Only by the grace of God,'' says Parvana. ‘‘Otherwise who could prevent it?''

Outside, unfamiliar songs emanate from a neighboring house. It's a carpet-weaving workshop. A dozen young people work in colorful symphony as one man belts out their weaving game plan in Kashmiri.

‘‘I rarely step out of the village,'' says Ghulam Mohammad Zargar, 35, who has set up a loom in his attic. A polythene cocoon inside the room keeps out the cold. ‘‘We are busy and this is our only world,'' he says.

When violence erupted in 1990, Zargar was 21 and his profile was perfect for the militant movement. But like dozens of others in the village, he kept away. ‘‘I was busy weaving carpets,'' he says, his face lit by a huge grin. ‘‘Didn't anybody tell you that this is a village of cowards? Perhaps we were too scared to become militants, or too apprehensive that our families would starve if we left,'' he says. Zargar earns Rs 5,000 to 6,000 a month and says he is content with life. ‘‘I look after my old parents and I am married with children. Thank God, we have a good life,'' he says. ‘‘There is enough food to eat. What more do you need?''

His mother, Shaha, 60, thinks they owe the calm to the blessings of Sufi saints that have kept both the militants and the army at bay.

Gundbal's only close shave with turmoil was an encounter on its borders, but, once again, luck favored its inhabitants. ‘‘Several years ago, an army patrol was ambushed on the outskirts of the village. There was gunfire and we squeezed into the corners of our houses,'' recalls Muzzafar Ahmad Lone, 35, a teacher at New Green Valley, a private school. ‘‘There was a crackdown operation in the morning. But nobody was picked up. The army knew there are no militants in this village.''

The village has remained peaceful, but that hasn't ever stopped the fear and tension from seeping through its invisible protective wall. ‘‘Peace has been here all these years, but there isn't any peace of mind,'' Lone says as he recollects the killing of a policeman, his young son and nephew in a neighboring hamlet last year. "It was evening. I saw two burkha-clad people walking near the stream towards Madar Chuck (on the outskirts of Gundbal). Five minutes later, I heard gunfire. The veiled women were actually militants." Lone's relatives are scattered across the nearby villages. "The bad news keeps on coming. We have escaped physical harm, but pain and anguish have not spared us,'' he says.

A group of children play in one corner of the graveyard and by the edge of the stream. Eight-year-old Amir Ahmad, a second grade student, wants to be a doctor. Shahnawaz Hussain Khan is 12 and he wants to become a pilot. How? ‘‘I will study,'' he says as he clutches his cricket bat. In a village where there is no road transport, flying seems to be a popular dream among children. "I would like to fly in the sky,'' says five-year-old Amir Ahmad Bhat. "It must be exciting."

Of course the children know of the grim reality that encircles the village, but none of them wants to be a militant or join the army. Sixteen-year-old Ahsan-ul-Haq is the only youngster who aims to be a police officer, but that's because his father is a cop.

Whether it's divine intervention or a mere stroke of luck, Gundbal remains an outpost of hope. Unlike other parts of Kashmir, sons here still lead the funerals of their fathers and not the other way around. The laughter of children follows us as we bid goodbye to the village. We leave with the hope that Gundbal's happy story survives, and this first visit by journalists does not come as a bad omen.

Muzamil Jaleel is the Chief of Bureau, Kashmir, for The Indian Express and contributes as well to the British Guardian.

© 2005 Muzamil Jaleel

What Is an Anarchist Who Has Been Mugged?

The old quip was that a neoconservative was a liberal who had been mugged. Well, let me tell you about my night on Monday...

I was walking home from the underground station at about 10:30, on my usual route through a small park right across the street from the station. (Cutting through the park is quite commmon for commuters, and it saves me about 15 minutes.) Two "yoots" were standing about 20 yards inside the park. I had just passed them, when one of them said, "What are you looking at?"

(An aside: Just what is it with these ghetto kids and being "looked at"? I mean, it's certainly not a "black thing" -- my two housemates from Ghana never freaked out when I looked at them, nor did any of my reggae bandmates over a decade, nor have I ever met any black professional who got the heebie-jeebies when glanced at. And the white kids who grow up in the projects -- that's council flats, Brits -- seem to have the same desire that others avert their gaze as the black kids do.)

Well, I just hate the idea that all decent people need to move through life cowering from thugs, so I turned around and said, "Well, I was looking at you guys. But that's only because you're standing in the sidewalk, and I didn't want to run into you."

"Well, don't look at anyone when you go through this park."

"Look guys, I look at the tree there and that fence too -- it's not to dis them, but so I don't walk right into them."

Now, I can imagine that, after a minute or so of this, these chaps were thinking, "We're going to have to kick this white boy's ass or he's never going to shut up." But, in fact, I said good night, and turned to walk away, and it seemed they were going to let me go. But then I made what, in retrospect, I see was a terrible mistake. My cell phone buzzed, and I took it out of my pocket to answer it.

Two thoughts must have crossed my friends' minds (such as they are) at that moment:
1) we can steal his cell phone; and
2) he might be calling the police.

The next thing I knew, I felt a tremendous blow to the side of my head. One of them had kicked me there! I fell over onto the grass, and both of them began kicking me as I lay there. I struggled to my feet, and was kicked in the head again.

Here, I must note some admiration for these yoots athleticism. It's not easy to kick someone in the head who is 5'10" and is standing. I imagine the British school system must have given them lots of training in football (soccer), to "keep them out of trouble."

Luckily for me, another train had just come into the station. No doubt worried that others would be passing through the park soon, the lads demanded my money, scooped up my cell phone, and took off running.

Within a minute, a commuter on his cell phone -- to the police it turned out -- came up and asked me if I was OK. Another person helped me to find my glasses. The first fellow led me back to the station and asked for a first aid kit.

A little while later, two cops arrived and interviewed me. They were quite pleasant and sympathetic, and I believe that they really would have liked to catch my assailants, but they held out little hope that they could do so. They called an ambulance, which brought me to the local hospital. As I sat in the waiting room, my landlord and his girlfriend -- who had been told of the attack by the police -- showed up at my side. God bless them! I was checked out by a nurse, who told me I could wait a few hours to see a doctor. I asked if there was anything life-threatening about my injuries. She said "No," and I said, "Then I think I'll go home." And so I did.

So, what is an anarchist after he's been mugged?

Still an anarchist, it seems. Other then sending around two pleasant blokes to chat with me for a bit, the state did nothing to either prevent or redress the attack. And, by severely restricting the right of British citizens to defend themselves, the UK government has doubtlessly given people like my park friends a great deal more confidence that they can pull off such assaults without, say, being shot in the head.


C.I.A. Interrogator's Defense to Cite Bush at Brutality Trial

A contract interrogator for the Central Intelligence Agency, charged with beating an Afghan prisoner who died the next day, is basing his defense in part on statements by President Bush and other officials that called for tough action to prevent terrorist attacks and protect American lives.

Documents unsealed this week in federal court in Raleigh, N.C., show that the interrogator, David A. Passaro, 38, may cite top officials' written legal justifications for harsh interrogation techniques and a Congressional resolution passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon calling on the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force" to thwart further terrorism.

Mr. Passaro's lawyers contend in court filings that in passing the legislation under which their client is charged, Congress "cannot have contemplated" the use of the law to "provide grounds for criminal prosecution of a battlefield interrogation of a suspected terrorist linked to constant rocket attacks."

Thomas P. McNamara, Mr. Passaro's lead defense lawyer, has officially notified the government that he will pursue a "public authority defense." Such a defense involves a claim that the defendant believed, even if incorrectly, that he was acting with the authority and approval of the government.

Mr. Passaro, a former Army Special Forces soldier from North Carolina was hired by the C.I.A. in 2003 to capture fighters from the Taliban and Al Qaeda and question them at a base at Asadabad, in northeast Afghanistan.

He was charged in June with four counts of assault, accused of using his hands and feet and a large flashlight to beat a prisoner named Abdul Wali over two days. Mr. Wali, who had turned himself in to the American military after learning he was under suspicion of firing rockets at the base, died in his cell on June 21, 2003. Mr. Passaro is not charged in his death.

In court papers, Mr. Passaro's lawyers say the interrogation was considered urgent because Mr. Wali might have had information that could protect the American military from further rocket attacks.

On a Web site set up by friends and relatives to raise money for his defense,, Mr. Passaro says: "The allegations against me are false! The Army had control of the prisoner, who apparently died of a heart attack."

Mr. Passaro, who is free on bond but subject to a nighttime curfew, faces up to 40 years in prison. His trial is scheduled to begin May 1.

In court papers filed in December, Mr. McNamara, a federal public defender, objected to the use of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 in prosecuting his client. Among its provisions was an expansion of the government's power to prosecute crimes committed at United States facilities overseas.

"To subject Mr. Passaro to prosecution for actions taken in battle and in furtherance of this wartime mission under a criminal statute not intended for battlefield application violates the United State Constitution, contravenes Congressional intent, and turns the Patriot Act on its head," Mr. McNamara wrote.

Mr. McNamara declined to comment on the case.

The prosecutor, James A. Candelmo, an assistant United States attorney, said his written response to Mr. Passaro's public authority defense has been sealed by the court.

I. Michael Greenberger, a former Justice Department counterterrorism official who now teaches at the University of Maryland law school, said Mr. Passaro's claim to have been acting under governmental authority was unlikely to result in the charges' dismissal before trial. But it may provide some leverage to Mr. Passaro if he tries to negotiate a plea agreement, he said.

"He's saying to the government, 'If you put me on trial, I'll drag in a lot of your questionable past statements,' " Mr. Greenberger said. "It could make the trial very embarrassing for the government."

While some military police officers charged with abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have tried a similar tactic, which so far has proved unsuccessful, their cases are being handled in courts-martial. Mr. Passaro will face a civilian jury, which may find his arguments more appealing, Mr. Greenberger said.

Copyright 2005 NYT


Okrent Charges Extra! With "Distortion"

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and activism

Okrent Charges Extra! With "Distortion"

February 11, 2005

Daniel Okrent, public editor of the New York Times, today sent a letter to
Extra! editor Jim Naureckas in response to Extra!'s story, "The Emperor's
New Hump: The New York Times Killed a Story That Could Have Changed the
Election-- Because It Could Have Changed the Election," by Dave Lindorff.

The story, about the Times' spiking a story about Bush wearing a device
under his suit during the presidential debates, appeared in Extra!'s
January/February 2005 issue, and can be read online at . The article includes a sidebar
presenting Okrent's take on the controversy.

Okrent's letter follows, along with a response from Lindorff:

* * *

Dear Mr. Naureckas,

Having been directed to it by many of your readers, I have read Dave
Lindorff's article about the Times' spiking of the John Schwartz/Andrew
Revkin article on the apparent bulge beneath President Bush's suit during
the first presidential debate.

I consequently retrieved the original version of the story Mr. Lindorff
mentions in his Extra! article, as it was submitted to the paper's top
editors. At no point does it come anywhere near to "exposing how George W.
Bush had worn an electronic cueing device in his ear and probably cheated
during the presidential debates," as Mr. Lindorff claims it did. The
article established that Robert Nelson said there was something underneath
the president's suit, but very specifically noted that Nelson himself
acknowledged that the bulge could have been, as the authors wrote, "any
number of things, including a back brace."

It is not unreasonable to argue that the Times should have run the
article. It is a distortion of the truth to say that it "exposed"
anything, and an outright falsehood to say that it indicated Mr. Bush
"probably cheated during the presidential debates."

I do hope you will promptly publish this letter on the FAIR website, as I
will be doing on my own. I believe any other course of action would be
decidedly unFAIR.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Okrent
Public Editor

N.B. Any opinions expressed here, unless otherwise attributed, are solely
my own.

* * *

Lindorff responds:

I requested, repeatedly, from the New York Times and the reporters
involved in writing it, a copy of the killed story, but was told that this
was a "major no-no" at the newspaper of record.

It is a little awkward having to argue with someone who claims to be
looking at something which he and his publisher won't let me look at too.

That said, I did go to sources whom the Times reporters had gone to in
their reporting work, including spyware experts, who said they had told
the Times in no uncertain terms they were quite confident of what the
device was.

As for Nelson, I spoke with him at length, and while it is true that he
never said what the device was, he was pretty certain, given the wire
going up over the shoulder, that it was an electronic device.

The more important point, however, is that whether it was a cueing device,
an atrial defibrillator or a back brace, the public had and continues to
have a right to know what it was. Any one of these things would indicate a
profound disability on the part of the president-- either intellectual,
medical or skeletal.

Equally important, and a point that Okrent conveniently ignores, is the
fact that Nelson's photos prove without a scintilla of doubt-- as reporter
Andy Revkin courageously observes in his initial published comment to
Okrent-- that the president, the White House and the Bush/Cheney campaign
lied, blatantly and repeatedly, regarding the object under the president's
back, which they alternately described as "Internet conspiracies," "grassy
knoll" thinking, a wrinkle in the jacket or a wrinkle in the underlying

I found it interesting that Okrent chose to use the words "distortion" and
"falsehood" to describe my charges. As he put it: "It is a distortion of
the truth to say that [the killed story] 'exposed' anything, and an
outright falsehood to say that it indicated Mr. Bush 'probably cheated
during the presidential debates.'"

In fact, the article and accompanying photos (which Okrent fails to
mention) did very clearly "expose" the president's lie, and given the
strong likelihood that the device seen on his back was part of a cueing
device, it is hardly a falsehood to say that the article indicated that he
"probably" cheated in the debates.

Apparently it is easy for Okrent and the Times to accuse critics of being
liars, but not a president running for re-election.

One would think and hope that a publication like the Times would consider
such behavior by the president--particularly as the strong likelihood is
that it was a cueing device and an effort to cheat in the debates--to be a
fit subject for a pre-election story, if the object of the paper is to
inform the electorate about matters of pressing concern.

In any event, surely the paper should have gone after this story
seriously--or just published what its reporters had written--after the
election was over.

It has not done this. In fact, it went ahead and published a mocking and
light-hearted "reporter's notebook" item by one of its Washington
correspondents after the election, making a joke out of the work its two
science reporters had done, and out of Mr. Okrent's "investigation."

Dave Lindorff

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