U.S. "condolence payments" translate Iraqis' losses to cash

BAQUBAH, Iraq — Every other Wednesday and Thursday, the bereft and the aggrieved form a long line on the dusty roadway outside the fortified U.S. military compound in Baqubah.

Iraqi men and women, and occasionally children, wait in blinding sunshine or dreary rainfall to present damage claims to the U.S. military. Their cases range from the tragic to the mundane:

A widow says her husband was killed during an American combat operation. A father reports his young son lost an arm in American gunfire. A farmer's cows were killed, a house was damaged, a car was wrecked, windows were broken.

A determined complainant with enough perseverance might wait several hours to be searched and then escorted inside the barbed wire and blast walls to speak to a military legal officer. In more than half the cases nationwide, legal officers say, a cash payment is made — up to $2,500 for a death, $1,500 for an injury and $500 for property damage.

Under the informal "condolence payments" program launched in mid-2003, the U.S. military does not claim to compensate Iraqis for their losses. It does not admit guilt or acknowledge liability or negligence. It is merely saying, in effect, "We sympathize with your loss," as one judge advocate general officer put it.

Military legal officers say a condolence payment is a gesture that expresses sympathy in concrete terms.

"The program is designed not to make up for anything but to acknowledge that there has been a tragedy or some sort of damage," said Capt. Emily Schiffer, chief of administrative law for the Army's 1st Cavalry Division. "It's an expression of sympathy and condolence to a family. Obviously, it's the right thing to do to kind of bridge the gap between the two parties."

By its very nature, the program is arbitrary and uneven. Many Iraqis are not aware of it, and not all have the means to reach a U.S. claims processing area or to gather the necessary evidence. The burden of proof is on Iraqis, the final decision is made by a U.S. commander, and there is no appeal.

Suffering by civilians has been a sensitive and volatile issue for the United States in its operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon has refused to collect data on civilian casualties, even as some human-rights groups estimate the combined number of dead and injured in the two countries to be in the low tens of thousands.

Hundreds of Iraqi civilians have been killed or wounded at military checkpoints or while sharing the road with military convoys. In many cases, civilians are shot after failing to heed shouts and warning shots required by military rules of engagement. In some cases, civilians panicked and sped up at the sound of the shots.

Anti-U.S. resentment runs high among many Iraqis, especially in Sunni Muslim areas where the insurgency has its strongest support. Hafiz Abdullah, 40, complained of "hysterical" American reaction to cars and pedestrians in Muqdadiya, an insurgent stronghold.

"Their treatment is very bad toward us, and it doesn't seem like those soldiers are from a civilized country," he said.

But Ibrahim Makoter, 43, who said his car flipped over and was badly damaged when it was hit by a U.S. armored vehicle in Baghdad in August, said he was gratified by the U.S. response. He said a U.S. military policeman righted the car, apologized and told him where to file a claim. A month after filing, he was paid in cash.

"This is something we aren't used to seeing," Makoter said.

The condolence payments reach only a fraction of families who have suffered since the U.S. military invaded Iraq in March 2003. But for all its shortcomings, the program seems to pay tribute to the tribal tradition of "blood money" for loss of life or property.

"It's intended as a public-relations tool — sort of a no-hard-feelings type of payment," said Maj. John Moore, a U.S. Army legal officer in charge of processing claims at Forward Operating Base Warhorse outside Baqubah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad. "It's not designed to make them whole again, only to alleviate their hardships."

The program is so informal and decentralized that total payout figures are difficult to obtain. An Army spokesman said about $2.2 million was paid from mid-2003 to mid-2004, but he said he could not find current figures — or the number of claims filed or approved. An officer with the Army comptroller's office in Baghdad said about $450,000 had been paid in greater Baghdad since June.

The program was not initiated by the military, which is wary of setting any precedent that might be perceived as acknowledging responsibility for civilian deaths. The payments began as a response to legislation introduced in April 2003 by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; it was passed as part of a $2.5 billion humanitarian aid package for Iraq.

The legislation specifies that the payments are neither compensation nor reparations.

Not all disbursements are made for losses arising from U.S. actions. Schiffer said a payment was made to the widow of an Iraqi worker at a U.S. base who was killed by insurgents. And in Muqdadiya in north-central Iraq, Lt. Col. Roger Cloutier said he intended to pay the widow of an assassinated Iraqi army sergeant major.

The payments are approved by local commanders after review by legal officers. Dhia Mohammed, a 24-year-old college student, arrived at Camp Warhorse on Feb. 16 to complain that his 1993 Hyundai sedan had been damaged by a U.S. Humvee on Christmas Day.

Mohammed provided an impressive level of detailed evidence — more than most claimants, Moore said, and more than in even some death claims. Mohammed had an Iraqi police report with sketches. He had six color photos of the dented bumper and smashed rear window. And a damage estimate from a local mechanic for $893 — with copies in Arabic and baroque English lettering.

The investigations do not approach the rigor of a damages claim in U.S. courts, said Moore, who was a criminal defense lawyer before joining the military.

"These are wartime conditions," he said. "We can't go down to Abdullah's garage to make sure his damage estimate isn't wildly inflated."

In the case of Dhia Mohammed's wrecked Hyundai, Moore said a payment would probably be approved, if the incident was verified.

"But he won't be getting his $893," Moore said. "I'd say $200 to $300 is more like it."

By David Zucchino Los Angeles Times

U.N. Covers Up Payments to Journalists -

Accuracy In Media Report:
U.N. Covers Up Payments to Journalists
March B

March 11, 2005
In the past, U.N. agencies have also
sponsored "traveling seminars"
for journalists so they write
positive stories about U.N. projects.

When conservative commentator Armstrong Williams was exposed for taking money from the Bush administration, his credibility was cast into doubt and news organizations expressed regrets for having had him on the air to comment on public policy issues. Williams was tainted by a conflict of interest that should have been revealed to the viewing audience. He was said to be a channel for Bush administration propaganda.

What about U.N. propaganda? It turns out that another Williams, Ian Williams of The Nation magazine, has been on the United Nations payroll, writing articles for the world body and even coaching U.N. officials on how to deal with the press. His financial connection to the U.N. hasn't been entirely concealed (some general information about the relationship is available on his personal website), but it has not been publicly disclosed in connection with his media appearances over the years. The amount of money he has received from the world body is still being closely guarded.

As the U.N. correspondent for The Nation magazine, Williams has commented on U.N. affairs on ABC, CBC, CNN, BBC, ITN, CNBC, MSNBC and Fox News. But Williams is not alone in accepting U.N. payments. Accuracy in Media has learned that the U.N. has been paying journalists here and abroad to spread the U.N. message to an American and international audience.

Williams, a prominent member and past president of the U.N. Correspondents Association (UNCA), advertises himself as someone who "has been on both sides of the camera." His website states that, "For the last five years, he has played a significant role in training UNDP Resident Representatives and UN reps in media handling, both at HQ [headquarters] and overseas, with a particular emphasis on coaching for interview techniques. The UN's training section also called upon him to help with training senior officials at HQ." UNDP is the U.N. Development Program, a major U.N. agency.

He is also "a frequent lecturer on the UN and the media at various venues," including the Columbia School of Journalism and the United Nations University.

Williams strongly insists that his financial relationship with the U.N. does not compromise his role as an independent and objective news professional. But U.N. correspondents contacted by AIM disagreed, with one saying, "How can you objectively cover an organization while you're taking money from that organization?"

No Comment

Stephane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, insisted that "The United Nations does not pay journalists, openly or surreptitiously, to write pro-UN articles or to appear on news programs to defend the organization."

However, he said that the U.N. has been paying journalists under some circumstances to go on the U.N.'s World Chronicle television program and to write "public information material," articles, books and pamphlets for the U.N. and its agencies. Dujarric asked Susan Markham of the U.N.'s Department of Public Information for further "guidance" before responding to AIM's requests for the names of all the journalists taking money from the U.N. and the amounts.

As for Williams, Dujarric stated that "he is an independent journalist who has written articles for some UN publications. It is up to him to provide the relevant details, should he so choose." During an appearance on the O'Reilly Factor, Williams would only talk about receiving $150 for appearing on U.N. television and $1,000 for writing a U.N. pamphlet. "The U.N. can't write, so they ask people to write for them," Williams said, in defending himself.

When we pressed him for information, Dujarric flatly refused to identify the names of journalists who have received financial payments from the U.N. or the amounts they have received.

Who Is Ian Williams?

Williams, a British-born socialist activist based in New York since 1989, does not hide his far-left politics. He is the author of the anti-Bush book, The Deserter: Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans and His Past. In a column posted by The Nation last December, headlined, "The Right's Assault on Kofi Annan," Williams insisted that the U.N. Secretary-General was coming under fire in the oil-for-food scandal because he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Williams also declared, "Charges of corruption against UN official Benon Sevan are suspect at best, given that they come via Ahmad Chalabi, who was also the source of the discredited information about Iraq's illusory weapons, as well as the assurances that Iraqis would greet U.S. and British forces as liberators."

U.N. Scandal

On February 7, however, Annan suspended Sevan, the former head of the oil-for-food program, after an inquiry found that he had repeatedly solicited allocations of oil under the program and had "created a grave and continuing conflict of interest."

Last May 3, then-UNCA President Tony Jenkins, a reporter for Expresso of Portugal, gave a speech on World Press Freedom Day that attacked the American people as being uninformed on world affairs and manipulated by the Bush administration on Iraq.

He criticized the U.S. media, saying, "Why is the coverage of the Middle East so uneven? And so narrow? What is everyone afraid of? You find a broader debate about the policies of the Sharon government in Israel than you do here. It's as if all of American Jewry, in its multifaceted glory, had been hijacked by the Likud." Urging U.N. action against Israel, Jenkins said, "Why are so few in the American media explaining that this policy of unilaterally annexing parts of the occupied territories won't work? That we don't live by 19th century rules anymore. That you can't go marching into someone else's land, wipe out all the Indians, build a wall around it and say 'this is mine,' with impunity. That, it was precisely to stop such actions that the United Nations was founded…"

Jenkins is one of several U.N. correspondents who have appeared on the U.N.'s World Chronicle television program.

Taking Care Of Business

While Williams won't discuss the total amount of money he has received, he does not hide the general fact that he has been paid by the U.N. His personal website discloses that "He has produced several booklets for UN agencies, including one on Portugal and aid to Africa, another on ASEAN, and on the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea and in the past year edited the 2001 UNCTAD report and helped draft the press-kit for the 2002 Arab Human Development Report for UNDP." UNCTAD is the U.N. conference on Trade and Development. The Law of the Sea Treaty is currently before the U.S. Senate.

The World Chronicle U.N. television program, which features interviews with U.N. officials, "is available free of charge to authorized broadcasters who agree to give credit to the United Nations each time a program is aired," its website says. "Guests are interviewed by a panel of journalists from international news organizations accredited to the United Nations," it adds. Guests have included Kofi Annan, Ted Turner and Dan Rather.

In the past, U.N. agencies have also sponsored "traveling seminars" for journalists so they write positive stories about U.N. projects. One such trip, said to feature "journalists representing 35 media organizations," was put on by the UNDP.

When AIM asked Ian Williams for details about his U.N. compensation, he responded, in part: "I am happy to share the details of my other income with you if you will provide in return a complete list of donors to your various organizations and employers, with their names, addresses and affiliations, and your considered opinion on whether they would continue to finance you if you suddenly took a more objective and less hostile attitude to the United Nations." But Williams is the one getting money from an international governmental institution that he is supposed to cover objectively.

AIM also asked James Wurst and Tony Jenkins about financial contributions to UNCA from Ted Turner's U.N. Foundation and the Open Society Institute of George Soros. Wurst is the current UNCA president. Turner, a member of the boards of Time Warner and the United Nations Association, has contributed tens of millions of dollars to pro-U.N. causes and the U.N. itself.

Because of these inquiries to current and former UNCA officials, a message distributed by a left-wing website and signed by Williams, Wurst and Jenkins declared that there was underway a "Far-right attack on U.N. correspondents." The message declared, "Several members of the UN Correspondents Association have recently been approached by Cliff Kincaid, veteran UN basher to suggest that their work has been tainted by pro-UN money. His most recent investigative coup, emblazoned across the intellectual deserts of the Far-Right blogs was that an author was corrupted because of accepting money from the UN Foundation and the Better World Foundation to write a book. He is unlikely to win a Pulitzer for it, however, since his source is the author's acknowledgements in the front of the book, published a year ago!"

The reference is to the book, An Insider's Guide to the U.N., by Linda Fasulo, who covers the U.N. for NBC News, MSNBC and National Public Radio. The book is pro-U.N. to the point of ignoring Annan's documented role in the failure to prevent the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Big Book Advance

While Fasulo's book had acknowledged general financial support from the U.N. Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, she did not disclose any amounts and refused to do so when asked. AIM was told of payments totaling $26,000 to Fasulo from the U.N. Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund back in 2001 (the book was published in 2004). NBC has defended her financial arrangement but insists that she is just a "free-lance" correspondent. That is not how she was identified in the book or in the past by NBC News or MSNBC.

AIM was told that Fasulo had been given $15,000 from the U.N. Foundation, with the other $11,000 coming from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, channeled through the Philadelphia World Affairs Council. However, the U.N. Foundation's income-tax return for that year shows $15,000 going for something called "The UN handbook" and the grant recipient was listed only as "various." This is apparently the Fasulo book because an official of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund said their money was funneled to Fasulo for a book by that same name.

Fasulo's pro-U.N. bias, so evident in the lavish praise of Annan in her book, was also demonstrated in a March 16, 2004, story posted on the MSNBC website. She reported that Annan "is widely recognized as a man of principle and long-term thinking." Her source for this statement was an anonymous U.N. official.

Wurst, who works for the Ted Turner-funded U.N. Wire and Global Security Newswire, did not provide any more details about Turner or Soros grants to UNCA. However, UNCA documents on the group's website indicate that the two groups have provided at least $20,000 to underwrite the awarding of journalism prizes for covering the U.N. Wurst, Jenkins and Williams say the money doesn't have any influence. "We owe allegiance to no one and nothing but good, hard, critical but fact-based reporting," they said. "We are a proud, feisty and independent association of journalists." But one journalist who submitted articles for consideration for a prize from UNCA said they were rejected because they were considered too critical of the U.N. He was told they should be "more positive" about the U.N.'s efforts to fix problems.

While UNCA presents "Excellence in Journalism Awards" to leading journalists, it also bestows UNCA "Citizen of the World" prizes to U.N. officials and Hollywood celebrities. Winners in the latter category have included movie stars Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman, and U.N. officials Hans Blix and Lakhdar Brahimi.

One U.N. correspondent said there is a purpose to the UNCA prizes. The agenda is "let's promote people who can make us look good," he said.

"If a big name newspaper has done anything remotely connected with the U.N., that's going to win because it looks good to be giving prizes to big names," he added. He cited an award given in 2003 to Robin Wright for "overall coverage of events at the U.N." Wright, then with the Los Angeles Times, is now with the Washington Post.

The same year, a "Special Lifetime Achievement Award" was given by UNCA to Barbara Crossette, the former New York Times U.N. bureau chief who went to work for Turner's U.N. Wire. The U.N. Foundation reports paying over $12,000 for a "Barbara Crossette Dinner" at the Harvard Club in 2002. In a recent dispatch, Crossette spewed venom at the Bush administration and its supporters. "Four years of ideologically driven, unrealistic, and outdated social policies have turned American foreign aid into a vehicle for the most intractable, irrational, and uninformed elements of the conservative right," she declared.

In 1995, Ted Turner himself received an UNCA award for CNN's coverage of the U.N. Four years later, CNN's U.N. bureau won a prize.

Immigration Scandal

On top of these scandals, Accuracy in Media also revealed that UNCA may have violated U.S. immigration law by hiring an office manager who subsequently resigned under fire. The individual, Anora Mahmudova, who is not a U.S. citizen but describes herself as a Muslim from Asia, is the wife of prominent UNCA member and past UNCA president Ian Williams. She collected more than $15,000 from UNCA before questions were raised about her immigration status and she abruptly resigned. Like her husband, Anora Mahmudova has written for U.N. publications. They have both been active in the organization of "Socialist Scholars."

The Ian Williams household was the single biggest item of spending by UNCA last year, if you calculate UNCA payments to his wife. But in the rush to get her on the UNCA payroll and benefit the Williams family, UNCA ignored the fact that she was on a special journalist visa that did not permit her to work for the organization.

UNCA's president, Jim Wurst, refused to comment for the record about the controversy. But apparent violations of U.S. immigration law are not a trivial matter and deserve serious scrutiny by the appropriate U.S. authorities.

The U.N. and its reporters are not above U.S. law.


The good news is that CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan has resigned after claiming that U.S. military forces deliberately killed journalists in Iraq. The bad news is that Jordan and CNN don't admit the damage he has done.

CNN reported that he resigned because the controversy over his remarks "threatened to tarnish the network he helped build." Jordan said that he decided to resign in an effort to prevent CNN from being "unfairly tarnished" by the controversy over "conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq." With this strange formulation, Jordan was trying to blame others for the controversy.

This was the network that employed "Baghdad Pete" Arnett during the first Gulf War. Later, Jordan would say that CNN covered up for Saddam Hussein so CNN could maintain a Baghdad news bureau and protect the lives of its employees there.

Then came the latest controversy over Jordan's charge that U.S. military forces deliberately killed journalists in Iraq. Backing away from this charge didn't mitigate the damage he caused. He defamed U.S. fighting men and women in Iraq and gave aid and comfort to the enemy. The only way to truly show that he was sorry was to back away from the charge and issue a direct public apology to our military.

If he had done that, calls for his resignation, highlighted by conservative bloggers, might have lost some of their steam. But he failed to issue a forthright apology. Instead, he said that "I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise." The reference to "thought or believed" is an attempt to blame others for what he said. This is the kind of apology that comes when the person who made the offensive remarks is not truly contrite. Jordan also said that "While my CNN colleagues and my friends in the U.S. military know me well enough to know I have never stated, believed, or suspected that U.S. military forces intended to kill people they knew to be journalists, my comments on this subject in a World Economic Forum panel discussion were not as clear as they should have been."

While Jordan was backing down from reckless assertions that the U.S. military has deliberately killed journalists in Iraq, several people who heard the remarks, made at the World Economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, confirm that he did make the incendiary comments. Those people included liberal Democrats Senator Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank.

Jordan, however, would only concede that his remarks at the January 27 event were "not as clear as they should have been." The Davos group refused to release a transcript or video of what Jordan actually said, giving him the opportunity to create confusion and blame others for the controversy. Whatever happened to the right to know? Soon, major media organizations are staging a "Sunshine Week" to demand information from the government. Where were the media demands for sunshine on Eason's comments?

Incredibly, CNN News Group President Jim Walton said in reaction to the resignation that, under Jordan's leadership, CNN "literally circled the globe with bureaus," and he cited Baghdad as an example. How can he say that with a straight face?

What You Can Do

Send or cards and letters to NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, Bob Wright of NBC and his wife Suzanne, and Stephane Dujarric of the U.N.

Iraq allies accused of failing to investigate civilian deaths


Iraq allies accused of failing to investigate civilian deaths

Experts in public health from six countries, including the UK, today castigate the British and American governments for failing to investigate the deaths of civilians caught up in the conflict in Iraq.

Twenty-four experts from the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, Spain and Italy say the attitude of the governments is "wholly irresponsible". They say the UK government's reliance on "extremely limited data" from the Iraqi ministry of health is "unacceptable" because it is likely to seriously underestimate the casualties.

Their hard-hitting statement, published online by the British Medical Journal, comes nearly five months after the Lancet published a household survey of civilian deaths in Iraq which estimated that about 100,000 civilians had died - most of them women and children.

The study caused controversy and was dismissed by the British government as unreliable, partly because the authors admitted that, under the difficult circumstances, it could not be precise.

The experts lambast the government for criticising the data without conducting inquiries of its own. "The obvious answer to removing uncertainties that remain is to commission a larger study with full official support and assistance, but scientific independence," they say.

"Counting casualties can help to save lives both now and in the future by helping us to understand the burden of death, and residual burden of injury, disease and trauma across the entire population," the experts say. "We have waited too long for this information."

The Iraqi ministry of health data is not complete. Among the reasons for this are that only violence-related deaths reported through the health system are counted and deaths in the first 12 months of the conflict are not included.

Among the 10 experts from the UK who have signed the statement are Klim McPherson, visiting professor of public health epidemiology at Oxford University, David Hunter, chair of the UK Public Health Association, and Sian Griffiths, immediate past-president of the faculty of public health at the Royal College of Physicians.

There are seven eminent physicians from the US, three from Australia, two from Spain and one each from Canada and Italy.

"Monitoring casualties is a humanitarian imperative," they say. "Understanding the causes of death is a core public health responsibility, nationally and internationally. Yet neither the public, nor we as public health professionals, are able to obtain validated, reliable information about the extent of mortality and morbidity since the invasion of Iraq."

In a commentary in the BMJ, Professor McPherson says that public access to reliable figures is important. "The policy being assessed - the allied invasion of Iraq - was justified largely on grounds of democratic supremacy. Voters in the countries that initiated the war and others - not least in Iraq itself - are denied a reliable evaluation of a key indicator of the success of that policy. This is unacceptable."

Understanding the burden of death, disease, injury and trauma aids the proper planning of war and health and will help governments assess the humanitarian implications of conflict, he says.

"The plain fact is that an estimate of 100,000 excess deaths attributable to the invasion of Iraq is alarming. That is already half the death toll of Hiroshima. Apart from the practical arguments, the principled ones stand and will always stand. Have we not learnt any lessons from the history of sweeping alarming numbers of deaths under the carpet? This is not something about which there can be any political discretion 60 years after Auschwitz."

The Foreign Office said yesterday it believed the figures from the Iraqi ministry of health were the most reliable because they were based on head counts not extrapolation.

By Sarah Boseley Mar 12, 2005, 12:09,2763,1435181,00.html.

Russia: Deserter day festival in Moscow 20th - 23rd of February 2004

Russia: Deserter day festival in Moscow 20th - 23rd of February 2004

Festival was organised by Moscow group of Autonomous Action, Food Not Bombs and Indyvideo. Main demands of the festival were "no to war in Chechnya!" and "No to new limitations of deferment and exemption from military service!"

<>Farewell to arms!

Deserter day festival in Moscow 20th - 23rd of February 2004

Festival was organised by Moscow group of Autonomous Action, Food Not Bombsand Indyvideo. Main demands of the festival were "no to war in Chechnya!" and "No to new limitations of defermentand exemption from military service!"

So, the festival got organised. Half of the program went upside down, whatever I saw around was something like moves of the Makhnovist headquarters during the civilwar - through storms, chekist agents and random bands of whites. Clubs, cafes, gallerias, a map of Moscow on the table, electric trains, telephones... somewhere Bashkirianshaving a meeting against police terror, communists - for USSR, liberals - for somethingor against something, Putin running somewhere with flowers... for Chechenyans and Ingushetians - 61st anniversary of the deportations.

Not to forget Rainbow Keepers, people from Association of Anarchist Movements, Federation of Revolutionary Anarchists, "unaligned anarchists" of course, human rights activists, musicians, artists, guests from other countries. 8 planned days wascut short to be 4 - 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd of February.

Festival was launched with discussion on theme "anarchist and other alternatives toarmy and conscription". Anarchist answer to Chamberlains in liquidation of the state, and a regular army with it. A liberal with an orange scarf made a rhetorical question "to whom shirt belongs - to producer, bourgeoisie or to buyer?". In anarchism, question makes no sense: when people are armed, there will no be bourgeoisieand there will be enough shirts for everybody. That will be a society of generaldistribution of shirts. Soldiers back home! Let generals dig trenches!

Two anti-war punk hardcore concerts were organised - 20th of February (Echo is Your Love from Helsinki, Svinokop from Saint-Petersburg, Potom budet pozdno from Saint-Petersburg, 777 Bakunina from Moscow, Crowd Control from Saint-Petersburg and In Reflection from Moscow), and 21st of February with support from Anti-war club in R-club (Echo is Your Love, Svinokop, Potom budet pozdno, Argument 5.45 from Moscow and Loa Loa from Moscow). Groups began their concerts with speeches against war hysteria, fascism and nationalism. Audience answered, diving and slamming the anti-militarist way. Anti-war bannersand pictures of destroyed Grozniy were hanged to the walls. Anarchist, anti-war and anti-fascistliterature and music was distributed. In the streets, boneheads were running, anti-fascistsafter them... Moscow nights as usual. Concert of 24th of February was screwd up, and in 27th of February Gulyay-Pole fell under strikes of chekists.

Main action was a non-legalised march against war in Chechnya and against new limitations of deferment and exemption from military service. It went according to all rules of the genre, in the day of official celebrations (of day of Defender of the Fatherland) in the centre of Moscow, and was finished with spectacular arrests. 1 PM at old arbat, next to McDonald's, participators of "Food not Bombs" brought vegetarian food and began distributing it to everyone in a need (among whom many anarchists, who were hanging in the Arbat trying to look as random passers by). Police appeared and attempted to stop the event, but nobody paid attention sincethere should not be anything political in distribution of food. Police called support forces, which raised their fighting spirits, after which people were forced to split into small groupsand disperse to small streets nearby. Unfortunately coppers did not dispersed, but continued their evil ways in the streets, harrassing any odd phenomena in the streets, such as people walking with rolled banners, punks visiting McD toilets and journalists.

2 PM groups reunited not far from crossing of New Arbat and Sadovaya ringroad, they rised anarchists flag and unrolled banners "Death to state and capitalism", "Army is a school of slavery", "No to war in Chechnya", "No to abolition of of deferment and exemption from military service" and marched by New Arbattowards centre. Demonstrators scanned "Soldiers back home, Putin to Chechnya!", "War against war!", "No to police state", "No to abolition of deferment!". When march turned to Gogol boulevard and passed by Army headquarters, people shouted "We wish a quick meeting with Hattab to all HQ!" (Hattab was influential Chechen resistance leader, ambushed by his own few years ago). There was enough chaos - more than half of the poles did not fit the flags, part of the people was lostbefore the conspirative start, some came late - all in all it was some 65 people. On the way, passers by were given free tabloid "deserter", made by Moscow anarchists.

On the middle way march was granted a police escort. Once a while they demanded demonstration to disperse, but not with too much effort - apparently they hopedthat it will leave to territory of the next station, liberating them from obligation of making decisions on their own, which gives an opportunity to have some booze to celebratethe state holiday. One of the coppers shouted to his radio "They have no leaders!I repeat - they have no leaders!". That was the most happiest line of the festival, butit is unlikely that its author could fully understand the whole meaning. This anonymousArbat copper announced, that it was a model of non-hierarchical anarchistsociety passing by him, belief to which is alone a heresy for him.

Demonstration passed by consulate of Turkmenistan, scanning "Down with Turkmenbashi", and soon hit the Old Arbat. Around 2:30 PM police tried to stop march by force, but they did not had nightsticks and thus they had only pretty limited success at first. So they decided to fight with symbols, grabbing people with flags and transparents. In the middleof the Old Arbat, march was first splitted to two parts, and eventually both had to disperse. 7 participators, one journalist, group of Ren-TV, big banner, flag and one drum were arrested. All of these were took to Arbat police station. Banner, flag and drum were separated from the rest, whom police tried to scare. Since threats did not had much effect, police had it on the presidential way, and they began flushing people down from the toilet. Cops attempted to wash head of one of the anarchists in the toilet, butsince he was not up for a shower, they had to mangle his face instead.

Presence of journalists limited chances to further experiments. Support group of some 20 people was staying at the police station, and eventually around half past 6 everyone was released. Again everybody gathered, video screening which wasinterfed by FSB the day before was finally done, people almost did not booze...

There were also a number of other events, for example lecture on anarchist movement in USA as a part of the weekly anarchist lecture series "Bespartshkola", support for already mentioned picket of victims of OMON mop-up operation in city of Blagoveschensk of Bashkiria, a discussion on non-violent means of protests after a lecture of a guest from War Resisters International, many forms of unformal chatting... much of the program was cancelled, but general mood after event is only positive.

And although Gulyay-Pole lasted only 4 days, free anarchist territory was there for at least a while. We will ride again! Farewell to army! Peaceful sky for you, Caucasus!

(edited from account of Akbar, written for Avtonom #24)

Post Scriptum: Indeed, everybody were surprised for amount of interest that both FSB and nazis gave to festival. Attempts to stop the event by latter group were expecially sorry. Almost all events of the festival, beginning from the
Food Not Bombs of Sunday 20th, were visited by mobs of boneheads, but not once they could bring more than 20 people. For sure self-defence was not too succesfull either. Good opportunities were wasted, only 4 unimportant nazis were beaten during the events and their communication networks confiscated. But it is important to note that although Moscow nazi movement is still strong, they are having their worst crisis ever. They totally lack coordination and may not stop us even if they really try. From now on, streets will be ours!

<>Saturday, March 12 2005 @ 04:21 AM PST Contributed by: A

Targeting Giuliana

Targeting Giuliana

The top U.S. general in Iraq, Army gen. George Casey, has stated that the US had no indication that Italian officials gave advance notice of the route of the vehicle in which Giuliana Sgrena and slain officer Nicola Calipari were riding. As a former Air Force intelligence officer, I would argue that this statement is absolutely ludicrous. Based upon intelligence collection capabilities of even 28 years ago, it is reasonable to assume that the US intercepted all phone communication between Italian agents in Iraq and Rome, monitored such traffic in real time and knew precisely where Sgrena’s vehicle was at all times, without advanced notice being provided by Italian officials.

During the early 1970s, it was my job to monitor intelligence collected on the Korean peninsula. It was my responsibility to report serious anomalies to the White House by means of a secure phone.

At that time, satellite photographic collection capability was in its infancy; however, the joke, often told at briefings, was that while “we can identify a golf ball anywhere on planet earth, we cannot tell you the brand.” In addition to satellite photography, I would assume, as in Korea, that there would be numerous other sources of photography from “manned” and “unmanned” aircraft that are regularly positioned over key areas, such as the airport in Baghdad, which are capable of providing real time imagery of vehicle traffic.

Work was also being conducted to monitor voice conversation, in real time, by detecting the vibrations that the human voice creates in window panes in a particular room or more easily, in an automobile. But most important, the US, by 1974, had the capability to intercept any and all ground to air phone conversations. It is inconceivable to me that the US would not be monitoring all conversations between Italian agents and Rome, particularly cell phone conversations in a hostile environment where cell phone communications are used to trigger explosives. Are we to believe that in an area near the airport, an area that is intensely hostile according to the US, that they would not be monitoring cell phone signals? Even if such conversations were electronically “scrambled,” the position of such signals would be of enormous intelligence value.

One can only assume that the intelligence capability of the US during the past 28 years has improved significantly. Thus, the wrong questions are being asked. It is reasonable to assume that 1) satellite and aircraft intelligence (photographic and electronic) intelligence was being collected in real time and 2) that my contemporary counterpart in Iraq was monitoring this intelligence and vehicular traffic (and possibly the conversations within such vehicles) within a radius of several kilometers around the airport if not the entire city. Anomalies would be reported immediately to those in command. The question, then, becomes what communication occurred between those in command and those who fired upon Sgrena’s vehicle.

I also believe that a clear motivation for preventing Sgrena from telling her story is quite evident. Let us recall that the first target in the second attack upon the city of Fallujah was al-Fallujah General Hospital. Why? It was the reporting of enormous civilian casualties from this hospital that compelled the US to halt its attack. In other words, the control of information from Fallujah as to consequences of the US assault, particularly with regard to civilians, became a critical element in the military operation.

Now, in a report by Iraq’s health ministry we are learning that the US used mustard, nerve gas and napalm – in the manner of Saddam – against the civilian population of Fallujah. Sgrena, herself, has provided photographic evidence of the use of cluster bombs and the wounding of children there. I have searched in vain to find these reports in any major corporate media. The American population, for the most part, is ignorant of what its military is doing in their name and must remain so in order for the US to wage its war against the Iraqi people.

Information, based upon intelligence or the reporting of brave journalists, may be the most important weapon in the war in Iraq. From this point of view, the vehicle in which Nicola and Giuliana were riding wasn’t simply a vehicle carrying a hostage to freedom. It is quite reasonable to assume, given the immorality of war and of this war in particular, that it was considered a military target.

by Anon.; March 11, 2005 Znet

My truth (La mia verità)

My truth (La mia verità)

By Giuliana Sgrena
Translated by Eva Milan, ZabrinskyPoint

March 6, 2005 (from Il Manifesto)—I am still in the darkness. Last Friday was the most dramatic day of my life since I was abducted.

I had just spoken with my abductors, who for days kept telling me I would be released. So I was living in wait. They said things that I would understand only later. They talked of transfer related problems. I had learned to understand which way the wind blew from the attitude of my two "sentinels," the two fellows who watched over me every day—especially one of them, who attended to my requests, was incredibly bold. In the attempt to understand what was going on, I provocatively asked him if he was happy because I would go away or because I would stay. I was surprised and happy when, for the first time, he told me, "I only know you will go, but I don't know when."

To confirm that something new was happening, at one point they both came in the room to reassure me and joke: "Congratulations," they said, "you are leaving for Rome." To Rome, that's what they were saying.

I had a weird feeling, because that word immediately evoked liberation but also projected a void inside myself. I realized it was the most difficult moment of my abduction and that if all I had lived yet was certain, now an abyss of heavy uncertainties was widening. I changed my clothes.

They came back: "We'll escort you, but don't give signals of your presence, otherwise the Americans might intervene." That was not what wanted to hear. It was the happiest and also the most dangerous moment. If we ran into someone, meaning American troops, there would be an exchange of fire, and my captors were ready and they would have responded. I had to have my eyes covered. I was already getting used to a temporary blindness.

About what happened outside, I only knew that in Baghdad it had rained. The car ran safely in a muddy area. There was the driver and the same old abductors. I soon heard something I didn't want to hear. A helicopter flying low over the area we had stopped in. "Don't worry, now they will come look for you . . . within ten minutes they will come." They had spoken Arabic all the time, some French and much broken English. Now they spoke in this way, too.

Then they got out of the car. I stayed in that condition of immobility and blindness. My eyes were stuffed with cotton, and covered by sunglasses. I was motionless. I thought . . . what do I do? Should I start counting the passing seconds to another condition, the one of freedom? I had just started counting when I heard a friendly voice: "Giuliana, Giuliana, this is Nicola, don't worry, I've talked to Gabriele Polo, don't worry, you're free."

He took my cotton blindfold and sunglasses off. I felt relieved, not for what was going on, which I didn't understand, but for Nicola's words. He kept talking nonstop, he was uncontainable, a flood of friendly words and jokes. I finally found comfort, almost physically, a warm comfort I had long since forgotten.

The car proceeded on its way, through an underpass full of puddles, almost skidding to avoid them. We engaged in incredible laughter. It was relieving. Skidding along a road full of water in Baghdad and maybe have a bad car crash after all I had experienced would not be really explainable. Nicola Calipari sat by my side. The driver had notified the embassy and Italy twice that we were heading to the airport, which I knew was controlled by the American troops. It was less than one kilometre, they told me . . . when. . . . I remember only fire. At that point a rain of fire and bullets came at us, forever silencing the happy voices from a few minutes earlier.

The driver started shouting we were Italians, "We are Italians! We are Italians . . ." Nicola Calipari dove on top of me to protect me and immediately, and I mean immediately, I felt his last breath as he died on me. I must have felt physical pain, I didn't know why. But I had a sudden thought: I recalled my abductors' words. They said they were deeply committed to releasing me, but that I had to be careful because "the Americans don't want you to return." Back then, as soon as they had said that, I had judged their words to be meaningless and ideological. In that moment such words risked to take the taste of the most bitter truth away. I can't tell the rest yet.

This was the most dramatic moment. But the month I spent as a kidnap victim has probably changed my life forever. One month alone with myself, prisoner of my deepest belief. Each hour was a pitiless test of my work. Sometimes they kidded me. They even asked me why I would leave and asked me to stay. I pointed out that I had personal relationships. They led me to think to such priorities that too often we put aside.

"Ask for your husband's help," they told me. And I did so in the first video, the one I think you all have watched. My life has changed. Same as Ra'ad Ali Abdulaziz's, the Iraqi engineer from "Un Ponte per" who was abducted with Simona & Simona. "My life is no longer the same," he told me. I didn't understand. Now I know what he meant. Because I have experienced the hardness of the truth, I realize the difficulty of communicating it, and the weakness of trying to.

In the first days of my abduction I didn't shed a single tear. I was simply mad. I told them directly: "How can you abduct me, if I am against the war?" And they started a fierce debate. "Yes, because you want to speak to the people, we would never abduct a reporter who stays shut in the hotel. And then the fact you say you're against the war could be a cover up." I would reply, almost provoking them: "It's easy to abduct a weak woman like me, why don't you do it to the American officers?" I insisted that they couldn't ask the Italian government to withdraw its troops; that they had to address the Italian people who were and are against the war, not Italian government.

It was a month of ups and downs, moments of hope and moments of deep depression. Like when the first Sunday after my abduction, in the Baghdad house where I was prisoner and where there was a satellite television dish, they let me see the EuroNews. I saw my poster on the Rome city hall building. I was relieved. Soon after, however, a claim from the Jihad announced I would be executed if Italy didn't withdraw its troops. I was frightened. But they reassured me that it wasn't them, that people should have mistrusted those proclamations, that they were a "provocation." I often asked the one who seemed more approachable and who looked more like a soldier: "Tell me the truth, you will kill me". Nonetheless, many times, we talked. "Come see a movie on TV," they told me, while a Wahhabi woman, covered from head to foot, hung around the house taking care of me.

The abductors seemed a very religious group, constantly praying the Koran verses. But on Friday, at the time of my release, the one who seemed the most religious and who used to wake up at 5 o'clock every morning to pray, "congratulated" me and incredibly shook my hand—it is not a usual behaviour for an Islamic fundamentalist—adding "If you behave, you'll leave soon." That was followed by a rather humorous episode. One of my two guards came to me astonished because the TV showed my photographs displayed in European towns and also on Totti. Yes, Totti (the Rome football team player, T.N.). The guard said he said he was a Rome team fan and he was amazed that his favourite player had taken to field with "Free Giuliana" on his T-shirt.

I now live with no more certainties. I find myself deeply weak. I failed in my belief. I had always claimed there was need to go tell about that dirty war. And I had to decide whether to stay in the hotel or going out and chance being abducted because of my work. "We don't want anyone any more," the abductors told me. But I wanted to tell about the bloodbath in Falluja through the refugees' tales. And that morning the refugees and some of their "leaders" didn't listen to me. I had in front of me the evidence of what the Iraqi society has become with the war and they threw their truth in my face: "We don't want anyone. Why don't you stay home? What such interview can be useful for?". The worst collateral damage, the war killing communication, was falling on me. On me, who had risked it all, challenging the Italian government that didn't want reporters gong to Iraq, and the Americans who don't want our work that gives witness to what that country has really turned into with the war, despite what they call elections.

Now I wonder. Is their refusal a failure?

Italian president presses Bush on need for fast, thorough probe

Ex-hostage questioned again

11 March 2005

ROME - Italy’s president has pressed US President George W. Bush for transparency and speed in the joint probe of how US troops killed an Italian intelligence agent who had just won a hostage’s freedom in Baghdad, his office said.

Meanwhile, Italian prosecutors conducting their own investigation on Thursday questioned former Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena again in the Rome military hospital where she is recovering from a shoulder wound sustained in the March 4 shooting.

Official versions of the shooting from Rome and Washington, two long-standing allies, have differed on crucial points in the slaying of intelligence agent Nicola Calipari.

US army soldiers at a checkpoint near Baghdad airport opened fire at the car in which Sgrena, Calipari and another military secret services official were traveling, less than an hour after the journalist was released by her captors.

Hailed as a hero in Italy, Calipari died from a single shot in the head as he threw himself on top of Sgrena to save her life.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi sent a letter to Bush on Wednesday pressing Bush on the need for “transparency and rapidity” in an US-Italian probe of the shooting while expressing appreciation for the American leader’s “sincerity of the words of solidarity” over the tragedy.

Ciampi’s letter, which his office released Thursday, carried Wednesday’s date and referred to a letter Bush had sent the Italian earlier in the week.

Ciampi told Bush he was taking note of “your assurances that the United States will launch an exhaustive joint probe between our two countries so that the facts of this tragedy are clarified in a thorough manner.”

“The need for transparency and rapidity, which you yourself have expressed in an authoritative and sensitive way, is profoundly felt by the Italian people,” wrote Ciampi.

The Italian defense minister said Defense Minister Antonio Martino received assurances in a telephone call Thursday evening from his US counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, that the investigation would remove “any shade of doubt and pinpoint any responsibility.”

Italy’s top officials have ruled out an ambush, but the Italian version of what led to the shooting, based in part on testimony by the surviving agent, clashes in at least three points with the account furnished by US military authorities.

In Baghdad, the US Embassy said that the troops who killed Calipari were part of extra security to protect US Ambassador John Negroponte. It was not known if Negroponte had passed through the checkpoint before the shooting.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi has said that Calipari had informed the proper authorities that he was heading to the airport with the freed hostage.

Rome Prosecutor Erminio Carmelo Amelio told Italian state TV Wednesday night that prosecutors were still waiting for US authorities to return the satellite phones Calipari had used during his mission to win Sgrena’s freedom. At least one cell phone had been returned, he said.

Sgrena has said phone calls were made en route to the airport.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini has said there were discrepancies on key details, with the Italians insisting the car was traveling slowly and hadn’t been warned to stop.

The US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, which controls Baghdad, has said the vehicle was speeding and refused to stop despite hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and warning shots.

Italy sent some 3,000 troops to Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein despite strong anti-war sentiment at home.

Berlusconi has urged Italians, especially journalists, not to go to Iraq, but the Italian branch of press watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said that it should be up to journalists to decide.

Right to report

Of course the soldiers are jumpy. Of course they sometimes open fire unnecessarily. And people certainly ought to ask what went wrong when the innocent get killed...
My head is spinning. Someone wrote me an e-mail the other day asking if I'd rather be stripped and humiliated a la Abu Ghraib or stay fully clothed and have my thumbs cut off a la Saddam Hussein.

To which my reply is, of course, neither, thank you.

I hope the question was rhetorical. It was in the context of a furious response to my recent column about journalists being killed by soldiers. I think the point was that by focusing on the abuse by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib, as many Iraqis do and the media is accused of doing to excess, the soldiers are being compared to the man they deposed. I don't really think that's the point. I think the point is that most Iraqis believed they could count on America not to abuse detainees and they have been disappointed, and that is a news story. The US military, and the Bush Administration, apparently agree, since they have put a number of soldiers on trial for their bad behaviour.

It is interesting to note while we are on this subject that one third of Americans believe that it is never justified to torture terrorist suspects to get important information. Fifteen per cent think it is often justified and 28 per cent think it is rarely justified, according to a poll in August by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, I know how they feel, remembering the all-consuming fear I experienced after the September 11 attacks. I imagine I would beat the hell out of someone if I knew for a fact that they had information about an imminent attack that was going to kill people I loved. The trials do not suggest that's what happened here, however. They suggest that a number of people thought they were above the law and acted accordingly.

The reader appears to belong in the 15 per cent category, as he or she suggested that the photographs of the Iraqis being trussed up, forced naked into pyramids with other men while a female soldier brandished a whip nearby or otherwise abused Iraqis at Abu Ghraib looked like an advertisement for Dominatrixes R Us. "Did you ever stop and think that there are thousands of British men who pay good money to have the same (and worse) done to them?"

I suspect that being thrown in jail, stripped and forced to simulate sex acts - or even beaten - against one's will would be a bit much even for the most ardent masochist.

(If said reader would be happier reading an account of the elections, we have covered that story, and my colleague Gerard Baker wrote an excellent column on the subject.)

I couldn't help but notice the parallel when American soldiers fired on an Italian journalist and her liberators the other day. Of course the soldiers are jumpy. Of course they regard every approaching car as a potential killer. Of course they sometimes open fire unnecessarily. And people certainly ought to ask what went wrong when the innocent get killed.

One correspondent suggested that journalists were endangering soldiers with their reporting and slowing the path to freedom in Iraq. I guess it comes down to whether you believe the media has a right to report on events in Iraq at all.

Another, from Illinois, pointed out that I had failed to mention that Eason Jordan had courted controversy in the past by admitting that CNN had not reported the full atrocities of Saddam Hussein in an attempt to protect its employees in Baghdad. This was rather beside the point of my column, but I guess I could have gone down that road. However, if I had, I would have been wrong not to mention that when Western media flee or are ordered out of a dictatorship, it can lead to terrible consequences for the poor sods they leave behind. Not that that justifies failing to report atrocities. But worth mentioning.

For the record, I have immense respect for the Iraqis who went out and voted in droves. But I would defend their right not to be shot at by jumpy soldiers as they go about their business, just as I defend the right of journalists to ask questions about how the rules of engagement affect them in a war zone.

That would seem to be in keeping with the US goal of building a democracy where the rule of law - and, perhaps, even a free media - is paramount. Wouldn't it?

By Elaine Monaghan, Times Online special correspondent

Fugitive Nazi cult leader arrested

A former Nazi who founded a secretive German colony in South America where opponents of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship were tortured has been arrested after more than a decade on the run.

Detectives in Argentina captured Paul Schäfer, an 84-year-old German, on Thursday on the outskirts of the capital, Buenos Aires. Schäfer has been wanted in Chile in connection with child abuse charges since 1996, when he disappeared. Last year a Chilean court convicted him in his absence of child abuse, together with 26 other cult members.

Smiling and handcuffed, he refused to comment as police officers took him to a cell in a wheelchair.

Schäfer, one of South America's most enigmatic fugitives, was the leader of a notorious German cult in southern Chile known as Colonia Dignidad.

A former corporal and medic in the German army during the second world war, he moved to Chile in the early 1960s. He established a self-sufficient colony in the mountains near the city of Parral, 218 miles south of Santiago. Surrounded by barbed wire and electric fences, and largely populated by Germans, the cult remained cut off from the rest of Chile.

In 1996, a number of former residents testified that Schäfer had systematically abused the colony's young children, some of whom were taken from their parents at birth. Others alleged that cult members had been mistreated and forced to stay in the colony against their will. Chilean officials also believe the colony was used as a centre for torture between 1973 and 1990, during the Pinochet era, with former Gestapo and Nazi officers giving torture lessons.

Investigators say that political prisoners, including the former leftwing leader Alvaro Vallejos Villagran, arrested by Pinochet's agents in May 1974, vanished after being sent to Colonia Dignidad.

Police also want to question Schäfer about the mysterious disappearance in 1985 of Boris Weisfeiler, an American Jewish maths professor, who was last seen there.

Yesterday Germany's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, took the unusual step of welcoming Schäfer's arrest. "It's good news. His arrest will allow a comprehensive investigation into all the criminal activities in the former Colonia Dignidad to be carried out," Mr Fischer said.

Schäfer and the colony had enjoyed Pinochet's protection right until the end of his dictatorship in 1990.

Chile's deputy interior minister, Jorge Correa, said he wanted Argentina to expel Schäfer to Chile rather than begin an extradition process that could take months.

About 300 people, most of them Germans, still live in the colony. Yesterday a spokesman for the group, Michael Muller, said he was pleased by the arrest. He added: "Our colony has reorganised itself as an open free colony, fully integrated into Chilean society."

Luke Harding in Berlin Saturday March 12, 2005 Guardian
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

BBC says sorry to Israel

BBC says sorry to Israel

The BBC has bowed to an Israeli demand for a written apology from its deputy bureau chief in Jerusalem, Simon Wilson, who was barred from the country for failing to submit for censorship an interview with the nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu.

Mr Wilson was allowed to return to Israel on Thursday after signing a letter to the government acknowledging that he defied the law by ignoring demands from the security service and military censors to view tapes of an interview with Mr Vanunu after he was released from 19 years in prison last year.

The climbdown has angered some BBC journalists, who say it will compromise their work in Israel.

The agreement was to have remained confidential, but the BBC unintentionally posted details on its website before removing them a few hours later.

Officials of Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, demanded a letter of apology and a promise not to re-offend when the authorities refused to extend Mr Wilson's work permit at the end of last year and barred him from re-entering Israel. At the time, the BBC said it could not meet such a demand.

The BBC website said Mr Wilson had now acknowledged to the Israeli government that he was in the wrong.

"He confirms that after the Vanunu interview he was contacted by the censors and was asked to give them the tapes. He did not do so. He regrets the difficulties this caused," the BBC statement said.

"He undertakes to obey the regulations in future and understands that any further violation will result in his visa being revoked."

Mr Wilson was not available for comment.

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem Saturday March 12, 2005 © Guardian

Assad wins street victory but not the war

Assad wins street victory but not the war

As Syria's leader faces renewed pressure to withdraw from Lebanon, even allies admit he will have to acquiesce

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president who took over on the death of his father, Hafez, five years ago, is known as the Young Leader. He is also seen as the Weak Leader, an image reinforced by last month's events and the impending loss of Lebanon.

He has faced intense US-led pressure to end Syria's 29-year-old occupation of Lebanon since the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, on February 14. He regained some ground this week, orchestrating huge shows of support on the streets of Beirut and Damascus.

But his success is unlikely to last. He will come under renewed pressure today when he meets the UN envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, who will demand full withdrawal from Lebanon, in Damascus.

Syrian officials admitted this week that Mr Assad would have to acquiesce. He is not strong enough militarily, economically or politically to be able to resist.

"This is a dictatorship without a dictator," a Damascus-based Western diplomat said. Ammar Abdulhamid, a human rights activist, agreed: "It's a mafia. The capo di tutti capi has died but Michael Corleone [the tough son in the Godfather] is missing and Fredo [the weak son] is in charge."

The second corps of the Syrian army, with 14,000 troops in Lebanon, began pulling its troops from the hills of Beirut and other cities to positions in Lebanon's eastern Beka'a Valley this week. According to a Syrian official, 4,000 of these soldiers will be back in Syria by the end of the month while 10,000 will remain in the valley.

The issue between Syria and the US, backed by most of the UN security council, is over the next phase. The US wants all Syrian troops out of Lebanon before Lebanese elections in May. Mr Assad promised to withdraw, but he failed to set a timetable.

Buthaina Shaaban, the Syrian minister for expatriate affairs, said Mr Assad's message had been clear and that confusion over Syrian intentions was muddled by poor translation.

"The army will be in the Beka'a Valley by the end of March and ... could be back [in Syria] by the end of April."

Walid Mouallem, the Syrian vice-minister for foreign affairs, said a decision on the retreat from the valley would be a military one, not a political one, to be made later this month. He stressed that Syria's eventual intention was to leave.

Another point of contention is whether the Syrian government withdraws thousands of intelligence officers in Lebanon, a point reinforced yesterday by the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, after meeting the Lebanese opposition.

Mr Moallem predicted that when Syria did withdraw, the US would present Syria with more demands. "I imagine that the American pressure on Syria will not end, because every time you fulfil a demand, they bring you another three. It is an open-ended list. What next? We want you to change the colour of your eyes?"

Washington says it will keep up the pressure, not because it is seeking regime change, but to "change the regime's attitude". It will not push Syria to disband the Lebanese-based militia Hizbullah, but will demand that the country stop offering a haven to militant Palestinian leaders, end its chemical weapons programme, liberalise its institutions and - the end game - agree to a peace deal with Israel.

Mr Assad is to hold a Ba'ath party congress this summer and Ms Shaaban predicted there would be "a big jump" that would introduce sweeping reforms.

But there is much scepticism about whether he will deliver, and whether he is ready to tackle the networks of corruption that effectively run Syria and will fight to protect their interests.

Although the number of political prisoners has dropped from several thousand to between 250 and 500 over the past five years, there is little press freedom and political opponents are still being jailed.

Abdulhamid, who has avoided prison so far, said: "It [the regime] is going to come crashing down. They are wishful dreamers if they think they can carry on. They are relics. They have lost their survival skills."

Ewen MacAskill in Damascus Saturday March 12, 2005 Guardian
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005.

Why MoveOn didn't move on bankruptcy

The passage of the bankruptcy bill by the Senate on Thursday was a dark hour for the Democratic Party. No fewer than 18 Democrats voted for the legislation, which vocal opponent Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts called "a nightmare for the poorest of the poor and the weakest of the weak." Given the bill's consequences for middle-class families, women and elderly folks forced to declare bankruptcy because of insurmountable credit card debt, often due to job loss or big medical bills, we wondered why grassroots bellwether didn't ask its members to act on the issue. Or even mention it on its Web site, for that matter.

According to Eli Pariser, MoveOn's executive director, it was because they didn't think it would have made a real impact. "Because of the solid Republican support for the bill, terrible though the bill is, it wasn't something that we could make a difference by weighing in on," Pariser told War Room by phone on Friday. He said that MoveOn's members had chosen to focus on two other "critical fights that we can win" -- namely Bush judicial nominations, and the battle over Social Security.

Back in June 2003 MoveOn turned its attention to the FCC media ownership vote, a fairly obscure issue at the time, generating thousands of phone calls and emails to Capitol Hill, and raising national awareness of the issue. Pariser did acknowledge the possibility that a visible effort on the bankruptcy issue this month by MoveOn could have "changed the calculation" of Democrats who voted for the bill in the Senate. But he reiterated that when faced with the choice of diverting resources from other key, winnable issues to one "which was doomed to fail," MoveOn would choose to be "pragmatic."

Pariser maintained that the group has not narrowed its focus since the presidential election: "We've always been a multi-issue organization and we always will be." But he says that members have indicated that they've been overwhelmed when asked to "track 16 different issues at once, so we've done our best to respect our members' attention and inboxes.".

Don't like Guantanamo? How about Saudi Arabia?

Don't like Guantanamo? How about Saudi Arabia?

The Bush administration thought it had found a way to beat the system -- the system, in this case, being the justice system of the United States. By shipping detainees in the war on terrorism to Guantanamo Bay, the administration thought it had placed those detainees and, by extension, itself in a legal never-never land beyond the reach of U.S. courts.

It hasn't worked out that way. In June, the Supreme Court, on a 6-3 vote, rejected the administration's claim that detainees had no rights to challenge their treatment in U.S. courts. And in January, U.S. District Court Joyce Hens Green held that foreign nationals detained at Guantanamo have a constitutional right to due process that is being denied them by the military tribunal system the Pentagon has established. That decision is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals, where the administration will argue that granting due process rights to detainees will interfere with military decision-making.

As the administration comes to terms with the fact that it hasn't gamed the system quite as well as it thought it had, Pentagon planners are working hard to come up with another way to keep detainees -- and the stories they might tell about the conditions of their confinement -- out of U.S. courts. According to today's New York Times, the Pentagon is asking the State Department to help it ship hundreds of Guantanamo detainees to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan.

It's like rendition, only on a massive scale. "Our top choice would be to win the war on terrorism and declare an end to it and repatriate everybody," a senior Defense Department official told the Times. "The next best solution would be to work with the home governments of the detainees in order to get them to take the necessary steps to mitigate the threat these individuals pose."

The bigger concern is -- or ought to be -- the treatment to which these detainees would be exposed if they are shipped out of Guantanamo. While the Pentagon says it would take steps to ensure that detainees are treated humanely, the State Department acknowledges that torture is common in prisons in Saudi Arabia and in some of the other countries where the United States has sent detainees through earlier renditions. A senior Defense Department official told the Times that the difficulty in getting "effective and credible assurances" that detainees would be treated humanely after being transferred has been "a cause of some delay in releasing or transferring some detainees we have at Guantanamo."

Defining terrorism

Alluding to the actions of the U.S. and Britain in Iraq, Kofi Annan attacks the erosion of human rights in the war on terror.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched a fierce attack on Britain and the United States Thursday for weakening human rights in the name of the war on terror. "We cannot compromise on core values," he said in Madrid on the first anniversary of the train bombings that killed 191 people in the Spanish capital. "Human rights and the rule of law must always be respected."

Addressing a three-day conference that included about 20 heads of state and government as well as terrorism experts, lawyers and journalists, Annan laid out five elements in what he called a "principled, comprehensive strategy" to fight terrorism. He proposed a U.N. special envoy to monitor whether governments' counterterrorism measures conformed to international human rights law. "Compromising human rights cannot serve the struggle against terrorism," he said. "On the contrary, it facilitates the achievement of the terrorists' objectives by provoking tension, hatred and mistrust of governments among precisely those parts of the population where he is most likely to find recruits."

Although he did not mention Britain's detention of suspects without trial, the use of torture or the practices of sexual humiliation and other abuses uncovered at U.S.-run prisons for foreigners, Western governments' treatment of terrorist suspects was unmistakably one of Annan's targets.

Human rights law already made ample provision for strong counterterrorist action, "even in the most exceptional circumstances," he said. Annan appealed to the world's political, religious and civic leaders to state unequivocally that "terrorism is unacceptable under any circumstances and in any culture." Rounding out the argument that oppressed people had a right to resist occupation, he said this could not include the right to deliberately kill or maim civilians.

He said the root cause of terrorism was the belief by certain groups that such tactics were effective and had the support of people in whose name they were used. "Our job is to show they are wrong," he said.

Spain's Socialist Party prime minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, speaking at the closing session, called for an international fund to give poorer countries financial help to fight terrorism. He also recommended that a second international fund be set up to compensate victims of attacks.

Since 2001 the U.N. has been under pressure to do a better job of coordinating and leading the fight against terrorism. Instead of the 12 treaties that now cover the issue, the secretary-general called for a single convention to outlaw terrorism in all its forms. Victims of terrorism should be compensated using the assets seized from terrorists, he said.

The secretary-general set out what he called the five D's: dissuading disaffected groups from terrorism, denying terrorists the means to carry out their attacks, deterring states from supporting terrorists, developing states' capacity to prevent terrorism, and defending human rights. Calling for a universally accepted definition of terrorism, he endorsed the wording contained in the recent report from the U.N. High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which he asked to develop broader thinking on the threats to security other than war. The panel defined terrorism as any action intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or noncombatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do, or abstain from, any act.

Annan drew an alarming picture of potential catastrophe in the fields of nuclear and biological terrorism. There would soon be "tens of thousands of laboratories around the world capable of producing designer bugs with awesome, lethal potential," he said. Health systems in poor countries equipped to deal with infectious disease barely exist. Governments must do more to secure and eliminate hazardous material and set up effective export controls, Annan said. Stronger measures are also needed to uncover and stop money laundering by terrorists. Travel and financial sanctions against groups such as al-Qaida are vital.

Nuclear terrorism is still often treated as science fiction, he said. "I wish it were. But unfortunately we live in a world of excess hazardous materials and abundant technological know-how, in which some terrorists clearly state their intention to inflict catastrophic casualties."

By Jonathan Steele March 11, 2005