Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Violent Radi- WHAT?????

The house passed a terrorism bill with wording so vague that you may need to be concerned. Kucinich is one of the six sane members of house.

Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terror Bill Passes House

October 23, 2007 (WASHINGTON) - Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Chair of the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment announced passage of H.R. 1955, the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007."

The bill creates a National Commission to examine the causes of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism and propose recommendations and legislative strategies for mitigating these threats. It also establishes a Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Radicalization and Home Grown Terrorism that will study the social, criminal, political, psychological and economic roots of the problem to provide further suggestions for action to address these dangers.

Chairman Thompson issued the following statement regarding the legislation:

"This vital legislation puts our nation on the path to addressing an emerging threat-homegrown terrorism. We simply don't know how many 'would-be terrorists' are living right next door. Now we will have the ability to analyze our and other nations' experience with this critical issue, propose and adopt recommendations for a safer America, and also protect civil rights and liberties of U.S. Citizens."

Chair Harman added the following:

"The threat of a 'Made in the USA' suicide bomber has never been greater," said Harman. "This bill, though not a silver bullet, will help develop a better understanding of the root causes of homegrown terrorism, and the steps we can take to stop it. We must intervene before a person crosses the line separating radical views from violent behavior, create an environment that discourages disillusionment and alienation, and instill in young people a sense of belonging and faith in the future."

Here is the wording of the bill

HR 1955 EH

1st Session

H. R. 1955


To prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007'.


    (a) In General- Title VIII of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 361 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new subtitle:

`Subtitle J--Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism


    `For purposes of this subtitle:
      `(1) COMMISSION- The term `Commission' means the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism established under section 899C.
      `(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION- The term `violent radicalization' means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.
      `(3) HOMEGROWN TERRORISM- The term `homegrown terrorism' means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
      `(4) IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE- The term `ideologically based violence' means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious, or social beliefs.


    `The Congress finds the following:
      `(1) The development and implementation of methods and processes that can be utilized to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States is critical to combating domestic terrorism.
      `(2) The promotion of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence exists in the United States and poses a threat to homeland security.
      `(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.
      `(4) While the United States must continue its vigilant efforts to combat international terrorism, it must also strengthen efforts to combat the threat posed by homegrown terrorists based and operating within the United States.
      `(5) Understanding the motivational factors that lead to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence is a vital step toward eradicating these threats in the United States.
      `(6) Preventing the potential rise of self radicalized, unaffiliated terrorists domestically cannot be easily accomplished solely through traditional Federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts, and can benefit from the incorporation of State and local efforts.
      `(7) Individuals prone to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence span all races, ethnicities, and religious beliefs, and individuals should not be targeted based solely on race, ethnicity, or religion.
      `(8) Any measure taken to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism in the United States should not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.
      `(9) Certain governments, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia have significant experience with homegrown terrorism and the United States can benefit from lessons learned by those nations.


    `(a) Establishment- There is established within the legislative branch of the Government the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism.
    `(b) Purpose- The purposes of the Commission are the following:
      `(1) Examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States, including United States connections to non-United States persons and networks, violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in prison, individual or `lone wolf' violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence, and other faces of the phenomena of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence that the Commission considers important.
      `(2) Build upon and bring together the work of other entities and avoid unnecessary duplication, by reviewing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of--
        `(A) the Center of Excellence established or designated under section 899D, and other academic work, as appropriate;
        `(B) Federal, State, local, or tribal studies of, reviews of, and experiences with violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence; and
        `(C) foreign government studies of, reviews of, and experiences with violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence.
    `(c) Composition of Commission- The Commission shall be composed of 10 members appointed for the life of the Commission, of whom--
      `(1) one member shall be appointed by the President from among officers or employees of the executive branch and private citizens of the United States;
      `(2) one member shall be appointed by the Secretary;
      `(3) one member shall be appointed by the majority leader of the Senate;
      `(4) one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the Senate;
      `(5) one member shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
      `(6) one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives;
      `(7) one member shall be appointed by the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives;
      `(8) one member shall be appointed by the ranking minority member of the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives;
      `(9) one member shall be appointed by the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate; and
      `(10) one member shall be appointed by the ranking minority member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate.
    `(d) Chair and Vice Chair- The Commission shall elect a Chair and a Vice Chair from among its members.
    `(e) Qualifications- Individuals shall be selected for appointment to the Commission solely on the basis of their professional qualifications, achievements, public stature, experience, and expertise in relevant fields, including, but not limited to, behavioral science, constitutional law, corrections, counterterrorism, cultural anthropology, education, information technology, intelligence, juvenile justice, local law enforcement, organized crime, Islam and other world religions, sociology, or terrorism.
    `(f) Deadline for Appointment- All members of the Commission shall be appointed no later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this subtitle.
    `(g) Quorum and Meetings- The Commission shall meet and begin the operations of the Commission not later than 30 days after the date on which all members have been appointed or, if such meeting cannot be mutually agreed upon, on a date designated by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Each subsequent meeting shall occur upon the call of the Chair or a majority of its members. A majority of the members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum, but a lesser number may hold meetings.
    `(h) Authority of Individuals to Act for Commission- Any member of the Commission may, if authorized by the Commission, take any action that the Commission is authorized to take under this Act.
    `(i) Powers of Commission- The powers of the Commission shall be as follows:
      `(1) IN GENERAL-
        `(A) HEARINGS AND EVIDENCE- The Commission or, on the authority of the Commission, any subcommittee or member thereof, may, for the purpose of carrying out this section, hold hearings and sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, receive such evidence, and administer such oaths as the Commission considers advisable to carry out its duties.
        `(B) CONTRACTING- The Commission may, to such extent and in such amounts as are provided in appropriation Acts, enter into contracts to enable the Commission to discharge its duties under this section.
        `(A) IN GENERAL- The Commission may request directly from any executive department, bureau, agency, board, commission, office, independent establishment, or instrumentality of the Government, information, suggestions, estimates, and statistics for the purposes of this section. The head of each such department, bureau, agency, board, commission, office, independent establishment, or instrumentality shall, to the extent practicable and authorized by law, furnish such information, suggestions, estimates, and statistics directly to the Commission, upon request made by the Chair of the Commission, by the chair of any subcommittee created by a majority of the Commission, or by any member designated by a majority of the Commission.
        `(B) RECEIPT, HANDLING, STORAGE, AND DISSEMINATION- The Committee and its staff shall receive, handle, store, and disseminate information in a manner consistent with the operative statutes, regulations, and Executive orders that govern the handling, storage, and dissemination of such information at the department, bureau, agency, board, commission, office, independent establishment, or instrumentality that responds to the request.
    `(j) Assistance From Federal Agencies-
      `(1) GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION- The Administrator of General Services shall provide to the Commission on a reimbursable basis administrative support and other services for the performance of the Commission's functions.
      `(2) OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES- In addition to the assistance required under paragraph (1), departments and agencies of the United States may provide to the Commission such services, funds, facilities, and staff as they may determine advisable and as may be authorized by law.
    `(k) Postal Services- The Commission may use the United States mails in the same manner and under the same conditions as departments and agencies of the United States.
    `(l) Nonapplicability of Federal Advisory Committee Act- The Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) shall not apply to the Commission.
    `(m) Public Meetings-
      `(1) IN GENERAL- The Commission shall hold public hearings and meetings to the extent appropriate.
      `(2) PROTECTION OF INFORMATION- Any public hearings of the Commission shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the protection of information provided to or developed for or by the Commission as required by any applicable statute, regulation, or Executive order including subsection (i)(2)(B).
    `(n) Staff of Commission-
      `(1) APPOINTMENT AND COMPENSATION- The Chair of the Commission, in consultation with the Vice Chair and in accordance with rules adopted by the Commission, may appoint and fix the compensation of a staff director and such other personnel as may be necessary to enable the Commission to carry out its functions, without regard to the provisions of title 5, United States Code, governing appointments in the competitive service, and without regard to the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of such title relating to classification and General Schedule pay rates, except that no rate of pay fixed under this subsection may exceed the maximum rate of pay for GS-15 under the General Schedule.
      `(2) STAFF EXPERTISE- Individuals shall be selected for appointment as staff of the Commission on the basis of their expertise in one or more of the fields referred to in subsection (e).
        `(A) IN GENERAL- The executive director and any employees of the Commission shall be employees under section 2105 of title 5, United States Code, for purposes of chapters 63, 81, 83, 84, 85, 87, 89, and 90 of that title.
        `(B) MEMBERS OF COMMISSION- Subparagraph (A) shall not be construed to apply to members of the Commission.
      `(4) DETAILEES- Any Federal Government employee may be detailed to the Commission without reimbursement from the Commission, and during such detail shall retain the rights, status, and privileges of his or her regular employment without interruption.
      `(5) CONSULTANT SERVICES- The Commission may procure the services of experts and consultants in accordance with section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, but at rates not to exceed the daily rate paid a person occupying a position at level IV of the Executive Schedule under section 5315 of title 5, United States Code.
      `(6) EMPHASIS ON SECURITY CLEARANCES- The Commission shall make it a priority to hire as employees and retain as contractors and detailees individuals otherwise authorized by this section who have active security clearances.
    `(o) Commission Personnel Matters-
      `(1) COMPENSATION OF MEMBERS- Each member of the Commission who is not an employee of the government shall be compensated at a rate not to exceed the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay in effect for a position at level IV of the Executive Schedule under section 5315 of title 5, United States Code, for each day during which that member is engaged in the actual performance of the duties of the Commission.
      `(2) TRAVEL EXPENSES- While away from their homes or regular places of business in the performance of services for the Commission, members of the Commission shall be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, at rates authorized for employees of agencies under subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code, while away from their homes or regular places of business in the performance of services for the Commission.
      `(3) TRAVEL ON ARMED FORCES CONVEYANCES- Members and personnel of the Commission may travel on aircraft, vehicles, or other conveyances of the Armed Forces of the United States when such travel is necessary in the performance of a duty of the Commission, unless the cost of commercial transportation is less expensive.
      `(4) TREATMENT OF SERVICE FOR PURPOSES OF RETIREMENT BENEFITS- A member of the Commission who is an annuitant otherwise covered by section 8344 or 8468 of title 5, United States Code, by reason of membership on the Commission shall not be subject to the provisions of such section with respect to membership on the Commission.
      `(5) VACANCIES- A vacancy on the Commission shall not affect its powers and shall be filled in the manner in which the original appointment was made. The appointment of the replacement member shall be made not later than 60 days after the date on which the vacancy occurs.
    `(p) Security Clearances- The heads of appropriate departments and agencies of the executive branch shall cooperate with the Commission to expeditiously provide Commission members and staff with appropriate security clearances to the extent possible under applicable procedures and requirements.
    `(q) Reports-
      `(1) FINAL REPORT- Not later than 18 months after the date on which the Commission first meets, the Commission shall submit to the President and Congress a final report of its findings and conclusions, legislative recommendations for immediate and long-term countermeasures to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence, and measures that can be taken to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence from developing and spreading within the United States, and any final recommendations for any additional grant programs to support these purposes. The report may also be accompanied by a classified annex.
      `(2) INTERIM REPORTS- The Commission shall submit to the President and Congress--
        `(A) by not later than 6 months after the date on which the Commission first meets, a first interim report on--
          `(i) its findings and conclusions and legislative recommendations for the purposes described in paragraph (1); and
          `(ii) its recommendations on the feasibility of a grant program established and administered by the Secretary for the purpose of preventing, disrupting, and mitigating the effects of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence and, if such a program is feasible, recommendations on how grant funds should be used and administered; and
        `(B) by not later than 6 months after the date on which the Commission submits the interim report under subparagraph (A), a second interim report on such matters.
      `(3) INDIVIDUAL OR DISSENTING VIEWS- Each member of the Commission may include in each report under this subsection the individual additional or dissenting views of the member.
      `(4) PUBLIC AVAILABILITY- The Commission shall release a public version of each report required under this subsection.
    `(r) Availability of Funding- Amounts made available to the Commission to carry out this section shall remain available until the earlier of the expenditure of the amounts or the termination of the Commission.
    `(s) Termination of Commission- The Commission shall terminate 30 days after the date on which the Commission submits its final report.


    `(a) Establishment- The Secretary of Homeland Security shall establish or designate a university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States (hereinafter referred to as `Center') following the merit-review processes and procedures and other limitations that have been previously established for selecting and supporting University Programs Centers of Excellence. The Center shall assist Federal, State, local and tribal homeland security officials through training, education, and research in preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States. In carrying out this section, the Secretary may choose to either create a new Center designed exclusively for the purpose stated herein or identify and expand an existing Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence so that a working group is exclusively designated within the existing Center of Excellence to achieve the purpose set forth in subsection (b).
    `(b) Purpose- It shall be the purpose of the Center to study the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States and methods that can be utilized by Federal, State, local, and tribal homeland security officials to mitigate violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.
    `(c) Activities- In carrying out this section, the Center shall--
      `(1) contribute to the establishment of training, written materials, information, analytical assistance and professional resources to aid in combating violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism;
      `(2) utilize theories, methods and data from the social and behavioral sciences to better understand the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological aspects of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism;
      `(3) conduct research on the motivational factors that lead to violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism; and
      `(4) coordinate with other academic institutions studying the effects of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism where appropriate.


    `(a) International Effort- The Secretary shall, in cooperation with the Department of State, the Attorney General, and other Federal Government entities, as appropriate, conduct a survey of methodologies implemented by foreign nations to prevent violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in their respective nations.
    `(b) Implementation- To the extent that methodologies are permissible under the Constitution, the Secretary shall use the results of the survey as an aid in developing, in consultation with the Attorney General, a national policy in the United States on addressing radicalization and homegrown terrorism.
    `(c) Reports to Congress- The Secretary shall submit a report to Congress that provides--
      `(1) a brief description of the foreign partners participating in the survey; and
      `(2) a description of lessons learned from the results of the survey and recommendations implemented through this international outreach.


    `(a) In General- The Department of Homeland Security's efforts to prevent ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism as described herein shall not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.
    `(b) Commitment to Racial Neutrality- The Secretary shall ensure that the activities and operations of the entities created by this subtitle are in compliance with the Department of Homeland Security's commitment to racial neutrality.
    `(c) Auditing Mechanism- The Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer of the Department of Homeland Security shall develop and implement an auditing mechanism to ensure that compliance with this subtitle does not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of any racial, ethnic, or religious group, and shall include the results of audits under such mechanism in its annual report to Congress required under section 705.'.
    (b) Clerical Amendment- The table of contents in section 1(b) of such Act is amended by inserting at the end of the items relating to title VIII the following:

`Subtitle J--Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism

      `Sec. 899A. Definitions.
      `Sec. 899B. Findings.
      `Sec. 899C. National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Ideologically Based Violence.
      `Sec. 899D. Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States.
      `Sec. 899E. Preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism through international cooperative efforts.
      `Sec. 899F. Protecting civil rights and civil liberties while preventing ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism.'.

Passed the House of Representatives October 23, 2007.



1st Session

H. R. 1955


To prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes.


What do you think?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Blackwater Let Off the Hook

Blackwater apparently can do whatever the hell it wants to. Just wait 'til they are sent into a neighborhood near you.

Immunity Deal Hampers Blackwater Inquiry

By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.

The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government.

"Once you give immunity, you can't take it away," said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

State Department officials declined to confirm or deny that immunity had been granted. One official — who refused to be quoted by name_ said: "If, in fact, such a decision was made, it was done without any input or authorization from any senior State Department official in Washington."

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd and FBI spokesman Rich Kolko declined comment.

FBI agents were returning to Washington late Monday from Baghdad, where they have been trying to collect evidence in the Sept. 16 embassy convoy shooting without using statements from Blackwater employees who were given immunity.

Three senior law enforcement officials said all the Blackwater bodyguards involved — both in the vehicle convoy and in at least two helicopters above — were given the legal protections as investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security sought to find out what happened. The bureau is an arm of the State Department.

The investigative misstep comes in the wake of already-strained relations between the United States and Iraq, which is demanding the right to launch its own prosecution of the Blackwater bodyguards.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell declined comment about the U.S. investigation. Based in Moyock, N.C., Blackwater USA is the largest private security firm protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.

The company has said its Sept. 16 convoy was under attack before it opened fire in west Baghdad's Nisoor Square, killing 17 Iraqis. A follow-up investigation by the Iraqi government, however, concluded that Blackwater's men were unprovoked. No witnesses have been found to contradict that finding.

An initial incident report by U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq, also indicated "no enemy activity involved" in the Sept. 16 incident. The report says Blackwater guards were traveling against the flow of traffic through a traffic circle when they "engaged five civilian vehicles with small arms fire" at a distance of 50 meters.

The FBI took over the case early this month, officials said, after prosecutors in the Justice Department's criminal division realized it could not bring charges against Blackwater guards based on their statements to the Diplomatic Security investigators.

Officials said the Blackwater bodyguards spoke only after receiving so-called "Garrity" protections, requiring that their statements only be used internally — and not for criminal prosecutions.

At that point, the Justice Department shifted the investigation to prosecutors in its national security division, sealing the guards' statements and attempting to build a case based on other evidence from a crime scene that was then already two weeks old.

The FBI has re-interviewed some of the Blackwater employees, and one official said Monday that at least several of them have refused to answer questions, citing their constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. Any statements that the guards give to the FBI could be used to bring criminal charges.

A second official, however, said that not all the guards have cited their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — leaving open the possibility for future charges. The official declined to elaborate.

Prosecutors will have to prove that any evidence they use in bringing charges against Blackwater employees was uncovered without using the guards' statements to State Department investigators. They "have to show we got the information independently," one official said.

Garrity protections generally are given to police or other public law enforcement officers, and were extended to the Blackwater guards because they were working on behalf of the U.S. government, one official said. Experts said it's rare for them to be given to all or even most witnesses — particularly before a suspect is identified.

"You have to be careful," said Michael Horowitz, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan and senior Justice Department official. "You have to understand early on who your serious subjects are in the investigation, and avoid giving these people the protections."

It's not clear why the Diplomatic Security investigators agreed to give immunity to the bodyguards, or who authorized doing so.

Bureau of Diplomatic Security chief Richard Griffin last week announced his resignation, effective Thursday. Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said his departure was directly related to his oversight of Blackwater contractors.

Tyrrell, the Blackwater spokeswoman, said the company was alerted Oct. 2 that FBI would be taking over the investigation from the State Department. She declined further comment.

On Oct. 3, State Department Sean McCormack said the FBI had been called in to assist Diplomatic Security investigators. A day later, he said the FBI had taken over the probe.

"We, internally and in talking with the FBI, had been thinking about the idea of the FBI leading the investigation for a number of different reasons," McCormack told reporters during an Oct. 4 briefing.

Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a series of measures to boost government oversight of the private guards who protect American diplomats in Iraq. They include increased monitoring and explicit rules on when and how they can use deadly force.

Blackwater's contract with the State Department expires in May and there are questions whether it will remain as the primary contractor for diplomatic bodyguards. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said his Cabinet is drafting legislation that would force the State Department to replace Blackwater with another security company.

Congress also is expected to investigate the shootings, but a House watchdog committee said it has so far held off based on a Justice Department request that lawmakers wait until the FBI concludes its inquiry.

Street Theater - Is it the new face of dissent?

I ran across this great video of street theater in Madison, WI. I only hope we can do something as good in Asheville.

Feeling a Need to Dissent

As hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets this past weekend in various coordinated protests across the country, a small handful gathered in downtown Asheville, including Death himself.

Coming up in a few weeks is the protest at the gates of Fort Benning, GA with the School of the Americas Watch. I wish I knew how to make a giant puppet. Check out this video from last years events.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Afgani Nightmares and Dreams

If you want news about Afghanistan, do not look to the mainstream media. I have not heard a thing about it since we invaded Iraq. Like everything is fine there. It's not. Poor families growing poppies just to have food and shelter, young boy slaves forced to dance and sexually abused after, bombings almost on a daily basis still.
The Dancing Boys of the North

Wealthy strongmen recruit adolescent boys for entertainment and sex, with the local authorities powerless to stop the practice.

By Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi in Mazar-e-Sharif (ARR No. 268, 10-Oct-07)
“Some men enjoy playing with dogs, some with women. I enjoy playing with boys,” said Allah Daad, a one-time mujahedin commander in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz.

He is one of a growing number of men involved in what is known as “bacha baazi”— literally, “boy-play” — a time-honoured tradition, deplored by human rights activists and clerics, that is seeing a revival in the relatively secure north of Afghanistan.

The boys are kept by powerful older men, made to dance at special parties, and often sexually abused afterwards. Known as “bacha bereesh” - literally, “beardless boys”, they are under 18, with 14 the preferred age.

“When I was young, I had a bacha bereesh who was the best in the region,” recalled Allah Daad, 44. “He danced like a flying pigeon.... Nobody could take his place afterwards. I kept him for three years, then left him when he matured.”

Allah Daad has kept many boys over the years, and says he enjoys his “hobby”. “I am married, but I prefer boys to women,” he said. “You can’t take women with you to parties in this region, and you can’t make them dance. These boys are our [mark of] prestige.”

Large halls known as “qush-khana” provide the venues for bacha baazi parties where the boys’ “owners” or “kaatah” invite their friends to watch them dancing. Late in the night, when the dancing is over, the boys are often shared with close friends, for sexual abuse.

Allah Daad explained how the boys are enticed into the arrangement. “First we select boys in the village and later on we try to trick them into coming with us,” he said. “Some of them stay with us for money; they get a monthly allowance, and in return we can have them any time we want. They don’t stay with us all the time - they can do their own jobs and then just come to parties with us.”

If a boy refuses to become a bacha bereesh, he said, there is little a man can do to make him. “We can’t force them,” he insisted. “Only the very powerful can have boys with them all the time.”

The owner will take his boy to wedding parties to show him off to other men.

“When the party starts, the boys are dressed in special clothes, called ‘jaaman’,” continued Allah Daad. “Then Mazari dancing bells are tied to their feet and they dance in time to the music.”

Several different types of dances are popular, he explained, each with its own beat. If the boy refuses to dance or performs badly, his master beats him with a long stick.

“We have to do that,” said Allah Daad. “We spend money on these boys, so they have to dance.”

Allah Dad’s current bacha, who is 16, refused to be interviewed.

Another owner forced his 14-year-old boy to speak, although he would not give his name.

“I was dancing last night,” he said, looking exhausted. “I have been doing this for the past year. I have no choice - I’m poor. My father is dead, and this is the only source of income for me and my family. I try to dance well, especially at huge parties. The men throw money at me, and then I gather it up. Sometimes they take me to the market and buy me nice clothes.”

The tradition of older men maintaining adolescent boys is by no means restricted to the north of Afghanistan, but the custom is in abeyance in the south, where the Taleban and their strict moral code act as a deterrent.

In the north, no such curbs exist, and bacha baazi has seen a massive resurgence in the past few years.

“Bacha baazi has increased tremendously lately and is still on the rise,” said Baz Gul, a resident of Kunduz. “In the past, people were ashamed of it, and tried to hide it. Now nobody is shy about it, and they participate openly in these parties.”

He explained that there were several reasons why the practice had become more common, one of which was the growing influence of local strongmen, who regard bacha baazi as status symbols.

These militia commanders are supposed to have demobilised their forces and handed over their weapons, but as IWPR has reported, many still rule the roost on the ground and retain the power to intimidate the local population.

Baz Gul said poverty was another reason why boys could find themselves ensnared, while the government had failed to do much about the problem and its police force enjoyed little public confidence.

“It used to be that only a few people had boys. Now everyone owns one and the authorities don’t care about it at all,” he said. “It’s got to the point where almost no party takes place without dancing boys. It’s seen as a disgrace if you don’t have dancing boys at your wedding. This has led to a rise in immoral behaviour among boys, and if nothing is done about it, this trend will continue.”

For some, a bacha bereesh is a status symbol.

“I am not really rich, but I am just as good as the wealthy,” said Nasruddin, known as Nasro Bay, who lives in Baghlan province. “I want as many bacha bereesh as possible, so that when I go to parties I am no worse than anybody else.”

Nasro Bay insisted that the dancing boy tradition was a good one.

“It’s a good thing,” he said. “We have our own culture. In foreign countries, the women dance. We have our own dances which don’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Militia commanders and other men of substance buy and sell good-looking boys, using the bacha baazi parties as marketplaces.

“Commanders and wealthy men arrange parties in order to select a bacha bereesh,” said Nek Mohammad, a resident of Baghlan’s Andarab district who frequently attends dance parties, although he does not own a bacha bereesh himself. “Many of the men make their boys dance at these parties, and other men choose one and pay for him. By the end of the party, the boy has acquired a new owner.”

He said substantial amounts of money changes hands in these transactions.

Like Nasro Bay, Nek Mohammad sees public ostentation as part of the bacha baazi tradition.

“Commanders often take their boys to a market and buy them beautiful clothes, as a challenge to other commanders. Sometimes they even give them cars. That gives them a very big reputation,” he said.

Religious scholars condemn the custom, which they count as one of the most sinful acts possible.

“Making boys dance and sexually abusing them is strictly prohibited by Islam,” said Mawlawi Ghulam Rabbani, a religious leader in Takhar province. “Those who engage in it should be punished. They should be thrown off a mountain and stoned to death.”

Local officials admit the practice is prevalent but are at a loss as to how to combat it.

“Yes, bacha baazi is practiced a great deal, especially in the Khost-o-Fering and Andarab districts,” said Hafizullah Khaliqyar, head of the prosecutor’s office for Baghlan province. “Boys are forced to dance, they are sexually abused, and they are even bought and sold. Fights take place over these bacha bereesh. It’s increasing day by day, and it’s catastrophic.”

Khaliqyar said there was little that prosecutors could do. “The police and district heads won’t cooperate with us,” he complained. “They don’t send us their files, so we can’t take action.”

He said the paramilitary commanders involved were so powerful that no one – not even the police – would raise a hand against them.

“Regional commanders engage in this practice and support it,” he said. “They have money, power and weapons, and neither the district heads nor the local population dares to tell us about this.”

However, Khaliqyar said he is committed to fighting the practice and had had some successes.

“We treat this matter very seriously. It’s against the law, and the perpetrators should be punished,” he said.

Police in Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan, recently raided a bacha-baazi hall and arrested 30 men. “Their case is currently with the Supreme Court. We have sent several men to prison on these types of charges,” said Khaliqyar.

In Takhar province, the head of the local security agencies, General Sayed Ahmad Saame, also complained about lack of cooperation from the public.

“We have closed every bacha baazi centre we have found,” he said. “We have forwarded seven cases to the prosecutor’s office so far this year.”

But there is only so much the police can do. “This practice has such a long history in this province that local people treat it as a respected custom, and won’t cooperate with us. This is a serious obstacle to our work,” said Saame.

General Asadullah Amarkhail, the security chief in Kunduz, agreed that public cooperation was needed if the practice was to be curbed, although to date 27 people had been arrested in his province.

Mohammad Zaher Zafari, head of the northern branch of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, bemoaned the government’s inability to take action.

“Unfortunately I have to say that this type of dancing, sexual abuse and even the sale of boys has been going on for years,” he said. “It is a despicable culture. The boys involved are usually poor, underage or orphans, and they are forced into it by their economic circumstances.

“It’s shocking from both a humanitarian and a legal point of view. The boys who do this have a very dark future ahead of them – they will always be ashamed and they grow into frustrated human beings, and, pose a threat to community. The government has taken no action on this issue, and child abuse is still being practiced.”

Khaliqyar took a similar view of the damage done to the bacha bereesh, saying it destroys their identity.

“If the United Nations and the government don’t take this issue as seriously as they do child-trafficking and drug-smuggling, and punish the offenders, it’s going to be almost impossible to prevent it,” he said.

Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi is an IWPR staff reporter in Mazar-e-Sharif.


Afghan Strongman’s Reign of Fear

Panicked residents of Faryab province say a local warlord is exacting tribute and abusing civilians while the government does nothing to stop him.

By Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi in Faryab (ARR No. 269, 18-Oct-07)

Shahabudin fled when life became intolerable for him in his native district of Pashtun Kot, in the northern Afghan province of Faryab. He claims that a former militia commander has taken over Pashtun Kot and is ruling virtually unchallenged.

Some commentators say the situation here exemplifies a wider pattern of lawlessness where paramilitary strongmen are effectively sidelining local administrations in parts of northern Afghanistan, at a time when attention is focused on the war against the Taleban in the south.

“Abdul Rahman Shamal reigns in [Pashtun Kot], and he roams the district on his horses just like a king. He is accompanied by armed men on horseback. Anyone who sees him coming tries to hide,” said Shahabudin. “He treats people like slaves, and no one can do a thing without his permission.

“When we marry off our daughters, we have to go to the commander, offer him 5,000 afghani [100 US dollars] and ask his permission. Otherwise the marriage will not be possible.”

Shamal was formerly, at least, a militia commander within Junbesh-e-Milli-ye-Islami (National Islamic Movement), the military faction led by Uzbek strongman General Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Dostum is a controversial figure, but he has been at least partially co-opted into government, serving as chief of staff to the commander-in-chief of Afghanistan’s armed forces. However, some of his former lieutenants are using the power vacuum in the north to exert their authority. Despite concerted drives in recent years to dismantle the numerous irregular forces across Afghanistan, such men still retain significant private militias.

In Faryab, at least, the continuing existence of illegal armed groups is no secret. In August 2006, Shamal’s forces clashed with those of another commander, Khalifa Saleh, who was aligned with a major rival of Dostum. Some 300 armed men took part in the fight, which left 14 people dead. (See IWPR’s story on this, “Afghan Interior Ministry Takes on Armed Factions”, ARR No.228, 1-Sep-06.)

Shahabudin alleged that men are forcibly levied from local families to join Shamal’s paramilitaries.

“Anyone who refuses to send his son to the commander’s militia is beaten or even killed,” he said.

He added that the militia commander extorts money to buy horses and provide food for his men. Once again, resistance is punished by imprisonment or torture.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Shamal, and both government security forces and their international allies claim to be searching for him.

But while local people seem to know exactly where Shamal and his men are operating, the commander has not been detained.

“We have conducted three operations against this commander,” said General Khalilullah Ziaee, chief of police in Faryab province.

“But the terrain favours him. He hides in the mountains, and when we approach, he sees us coming three hours before we can get to him, and he makes an easy escape. Later on, when we are gone, he comes back.”

Ziaee said that police were determined to capture the commander, but lacked the resources to do so.

“We want to save people from his evil-doing,” he said. “But he runs away when we attack him, and we don’t have the horses to chase him with.”

In the end, Shahabudin had to make his own choice. “Life became unbearable. Death and dishonour followed us. So we had to flee,” he said.

Mullah Yar Bay is another Pashtun Kot resident who fled to escape the commander’s rule, which he said involved arbitrary detention, torture and murder.

“Commander Shamal has private prisons and he arrests those who do not obey him,” he said. “Many of those who have defied him have either disappeared or been imprisoned. Our lives and everything we own belong to this commander.”

Local residents chafing under the yoke are angry that the authorities are unable – perhaps even unwilling – to find the commander.

“The government doesn’t want to catch Shamal,” said a man who still lives in Pashtun Kot. “They come into his area and leave without doing anything. I am sure that if the government does fight him, it will not win.”

This interviewee believed the authorities were allowing Shamal a free hand in Pashtun Kot to keep him from branching out into other parts of the province.

“The government makes promises, but they are just deceiving people. I’ve decided to go and live somewhere else, because as long as Shamal is alive, no one can do anything in Pashtun Kot,” he said.

Sattar Barez, Faryab’s deputy governor, acknowledged that the presence of Shamal was a problem, but insisted the authorities were taking steps to deal with it.

“It is totally wrong to say that the government is silent,” he said. “[Shamal] is a criminal who tortures and beats people. His crimes are known to everyone. We have plans to deal with him soon.”

IWPR was unable to contact Shamal, but spoke to Junbesh, the party with which he was formerly connected and allegedly still is.

Junbesh officials say their party has made the transition from armed faction to legitimate political party, and deny links with commanders such as Shamal.

Deputy party leader Kinja Kargar told IWPR that the party was fully compliant with Afghan laws, which ban political groups from maintaining links with armed groups.

“Junbesh is a powerful public party that has dissolved all of its military branches under DIAG and DDR,” he said, referring to two government-sponsored programmes, Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups and its predecessor, the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration scheme.

Critics say both programmes, which were backed by the United Nations and which cost tens of millions of dollars, were less than successful.

But Kargar was adamant that the Junbesh organisation no longer embraces armed groups.

“Anyone in possession of weaponry does not belong to Junbesh,” he said.

Faryab’s police chief told IWPR that political parties often issue such disclaimers. “[Shamal] belongs to a party that is known to everyone,” said Ziaee. “The party denies the relationship so as to avoid legal problems.”

Human rights groups are worried about the situation, saying they have brought their concerns to the authorities’ attention but little action has been taken.

“This issue is of great concern, but unfortunately we have no powers of enforcement,” he said Zaidullah Paiwand, the head of the Faryab branch of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. “We see here that commanders torture people, rob them and beat them. We have received many complaints against this commander [Shamal]. We have submitted all our reports to the law enforcement agencies, but unfortunately nothing significant has happened.”

Paiwand could not confirm the existence of private prisons, but said, “I think that every inch of the area he [Shamal] has occupied is a prison for the local people, because he can do anything he wants.”

Worryingly, some analysts see the Pashtun Kot situation as part of a much broader trend. They argue that the militia commanders who were dominant in the early to mid-Nineties are once again emerging as a powerful force in the north, taking advantage of the weakness of central government.

“The government and human rights organisations have claimed that the situation is improving, but in reality the commanders are gradually gaining the upper hand, and the government can’t do anything about it,” said Mohammad Nabi Aseer, a journalist and analyst in northern Afghanistan.

“The government is unable to combat the Taleban, and it is afraid that if it alienates the [northern] commanders, they might turn into an even more powerful enemy.”

Aseer said disarmament programmes had not worked, and that most of the factions-turned-parties retained a paramilitary wing, a factor that encouraged central government to do nothing.

“In reality, leaders of political parties obtain power in government via these military wings,” he said. “Taking action against local commanders would entail taking action against their leaders in Kabul. [President Hamed] Karzai’s government does not have the power to do this. Commander Shamal is a good example.”

Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi is an IWPR staff reporter in Mazar-e-Sharif.

On vacation in Afghanistan

But it sure is beautiful country...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Gore and Carter 2008

I have a dream ticket for you...Al Gore and Jimmy Carter...huh? What do you think? Two (possible) Nobel Peace Prize winners running together on a Green Party ticket. I can dream anyway...
Here is an article from the AP about Jimmy Carter:
Jimmy Carter:US Tortures Prisoners

WASHINGTON - The U.S. tortures prisoners in violation of international law, former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday, adding that President Bush makes up his own definition of torture.

“Our country for the first time in my life time has abandoned the basic principle of human rights,” Carter said on CNN. “We’ve said that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, and we’ve said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an accusation of a crime.”

Bush, responding to an Oct. 4 report by The New York Times on secret Justice Department memorandums supporting the use of “harsh interrogation techniques,” defended the techniques Friday by proclaiming: “This government does not torture people.”

Carter said the interrogation methods cited by the Times, including “head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures,” constitute torture “if you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored - certainly in the last 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated.

“But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don’t violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don’t violate them,” Carter said.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on BBC, Carter ripped Vice President Dick Cheney as “a militant who avoided any service of his own in the military.”

Carter went on to say Cheney has been “a disaster for our country. I think he’s been overly persuasive on President George Bush.”

Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell declined to speak to Carter’s allegations.

“We’re not going to engage in this kind of rhetoric,” she said.

In the CNN interview, the Democratic former president disparaged the field of Republican presidential candidates.

“They all seem to be outdoing each other in who wants to go to war first with Iran, who wants to keep Guantanamo open longer and expand its capacity - things of that kind,” Carter said.

He said he also disagreed with positions taken by Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who have declined to promise to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq over the following four years if elected president next year.

© 2007 The Associated Press

Jimmy Carter BBC Interview

Wolf Blitzer interview with Jimmy Carter

The spot where Jimmy Carter says he knows we torture.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

If Bush Told You to Jump Off a Cliff, Would You Do That Too?

Since 9/11 the propaganda machine has been running overtime. I can't even count how many times 9/11 has been invoked by our presidential candidates. It is because of that, that we are in Iraq, right? Oh wait, there was no connection from 9/11 to Iraq. Whatever the lie will be this week is yet to be told. I found an interesting article on AlterNet about the propaganda machine:

The Maga-Lie Called the "War on Terror": A Masterpiece of Propaganda

By Richard W. Behan, AlterNet. Posted September 27, 2007

The fraudulence of the "War on Terror" is clearly revealed by looking at the pattern of actions that preceded and followed its launch.

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie ... The truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the state." --Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany, 1933-1945

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the administration of George W. Bush has told and repeated a lie that is "big enough" to confirm Joseph Goebbels' testimony. It is a mega-lie, and the American people have come to believe it. It is the "War on Terror."

The Bush administration endlessly recites its mantra of deceit:

The War on Terror was launched in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is intended to enhance our national security at home and to spread democracy in the Middle East.
This is the struggle of our lifetime; we are defending our way of life from an enemy intent on destroying our freedoms. We must fight the enemy in the Middle East, or we will fight him in our cities.

This is classic propaganda. In Goebbels' terms, it is the "state" speaking its lie, but the political, economic, and military consequences of the Bush administration lie are coming into view, and they are all catastrophic. If truth is the enemy of both the lie and George Bush's "state," then the American people need to know the truth.

The military incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq were not done in retaliation for 9/11. The Bush administration had them clearly in mind upon taking office, and they were set in motion as early as Feb. 3, 2001. That was seven months prior to the attacks on the Trade Towers and the Pentagon, and the objectives of the wars had nothing to do with terrorism.

This is beyond dispute. The mainstream press has ignored the story, but the administration's congenital belligerence is fully documented in book-length treatments and in the limitless information pool of the internet. (See my earlier work, for example.)

Invading a sovereign nation unprovoked, however, directly violates the charter of the United Nations. It is an international crime. Before the Bush administration could attack either Afghanistan or Iraq, it would need a politically and diplomatically credible reason for doing so.

The terrorist violence of Sept. 11, 2001, provided a spectacular opportunity. In the cacophony of outrage and confusion, the administration could conceal its intentions, disguise the true nature of its premeditated wars, and launch them. The opportunity was exploited in a heartbeat.

Within hours of the attacks, President Bush declared the United States "… would take the fight directly to the terrorists," and "… he announced to the world the United States would make no distinction between the terrorists and the states that harbor them." Thus the "War on Terror" was born.

The fraudulence of the "War on Terror," however, is clearly revealed in the pattern of subsequent facts:

  • In Afghanistan the state was overthrown instead of apprehending the terrorist. Offers by the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden were ignored, and he remains at large to this day.
  • In Iraq, when the United States invaded, there were no al Qaeda terrorists at all.
  • Both states have been supplied with puppet governments, and both are dotted with permanent U.S. military bases in strategic proximity to their hydrocarbon assets.
  • The U.S. embassy nearing completion in Baghdad is comprised of 21 multistory buildings on 104 acres of land. It will house 5,500 diplomats, staff and families. It is ten times larger than any other U.S. embassy in the world, but we have yet to be told why.
  • A 2006 National Intelligence Estimate shows the war in Iraq has exacerbated, not diminished, the threat of terrorism since 9/11. If the "War on Terror" is not a deception, it is a disastrously counterproductive failure.
  • Today two American and two British oil companies are poised to claim immense profits from 81 percent of Iraq's undeveloped crude oil reserves. They cannot proceed, however, until the Iraqi Parliament enacts a statute known as the "hydrocarbon framework law."
  • The features of postwar oil policy so heavily favoring the oil companies were crafted by the Bush administration State Department in 2002, a year before the invasion.
  • Drafting of the law itself was begun during Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority, with the invited participation of a number of major oil companies. The law was written in English and translated into Arabic only when it was due for Iraqi approval.
  • President Bush made passage of the hydrocarbon law a mandatory "benchmark" when he announced the troop surge in January of 2007.

When it took office, the Bush administration brushed aside warnings about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Their anxiety to attack both Afghanistan and Iraq was based on other factors.


The Iraqi war was conceived in 1992, during the first Bush administration, in a 46-page document entitled Draft Defense Planning Guidance.

The document advocated the concept of preemptive war to assure the military and diplomatic dominance of the world by the United States. It asserted the need for "… access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil." It warned of "… proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." And it spoke of "… threats to U.S. citizens from terrorism." It was the template for today's war in Iraq.

The Draft Defense Planning Guidance was signed by the secretary of defense, Richard Cheney. It was prepared by three top staffers: Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Zalmay Khalilzad-all of whom would fill high-level positions in the administration of George W. Bush, nine years in the future.

In proposing global dominance and preemptive war, it was a radical departure from the traditional U.S. policy of multilateral realism, and it was an early statement of the emerging ideology of "neoconservatism."

The document was too extreme. President George H.W. Bush publicly denounced it and immediately retracted it. Many in his administration referred to its authors as "the crazies."

But the ideology survived. Five years later William Kristol and Robert Kagan created a neoconservative organization to advocate preemptive war and U.S. global dominion to achieve, in their words, a "benevolent global hegemony." It was called the Project for the New American Century, quickly abbreviated as PNAC. Among the founding members were Richard Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Zalmay Khalilzad, Donald Rumsfeld and Jeb Bush.

In a letter to President Clinton on Jan. 26, 1998, the Project for the New American Century once more urged the military overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime.

President Clinton ignored the letter, apparently viewing this iteration of the proposal as no less crazy than the original.

As the presidential campaign of 2000 drew to a close, the PNAC produced yet another proposal for U.S. world dominion, preemptive war and the invasion of Iraq. It was a document called "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources For a New Century" (PDF).

Weeks later, in January of 2001, 29 members of the Project for the New American Century joined the administration of George W. Bush. Their ideology of world dominion and preemptive war would dominate the Bush administration's foreign and defense policies.

Within 10 days of his inauguration, President Bush convened his National Security Council. The PNAC people triumphed when the invasion of Iraq was placed at the top of the agenda for Mideast foreign policy. Reconciling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long the top priority, was dropped from consideration.

The neoconservative dream of invading Iraq was a tragic anachronism, an ideological fantasy of retrograde imperialism. A related and far more pragmatic reason for the invasion, however, would surface soon.

No administration in memory had been more closely aligned with the oil industry. President Bush and Vice President Cheney were intimately tied to it, and so was National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. So were eight cabinet secretaries and 32 other high-level appointees.

By early February, Vice President Cheney's "Energy Task Force" was at work. Federal agency people were joined by executives and lobbyists from the Enron, Exxon-Mobil, Conoco-Phillips, Shell and BP America corporations.

Soon the task force was poring over detailed maps of the Iraqi oil fields, pipelines, tanker terminals, refineries and the undeveloped oil exploration blocks. It studied two pages of "foreign suitors for Iraqi oil field contracts" -- foreign companies negotiating with Saddam Hussein's regime, none of which was a major American or British oil company.

The intent to invade Iraq and the keen interest in Iraqi oil would soon converge in a top secret memo of Feb. 3, 2001, from a "high level National Security Council official." The memo: "… directed the NSC staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the 'melding' of two seemingly unrelated areas of policy: 'the review of operational policies toward rogue states' such as Iraq and 'actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.'"

As early as Feb. 3, 2001, the Bush administration was committed to invading Iraq, with the oil fields clearly in mind.

The terrorist attacks on Washington and New York were still seven months in the future.


The issue in Afghanistan was the strategically valuable location for a pipeline to connect the immense oil and gas resources of the Caspian Basin to the richest markets. Whoever built the pipeline would control the Basin, and in the 1990s the contest to build it was spirited.

American interests in the region were promoted by an organization called the Foreign Oil Companies Group. Among its most active members were Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state but now an advisor to the Unocal Corp.; Alexander Haig, another former secretary of state but now a lobbyist for Turkmenistan; and Richard Cheney, a former secretary of defense, but now the CEO of the Halliburton Corp.

Late in 1996, however, the Bridas Corp. of Argentina finally signed contracts with the Taliban and with Gen. Dostum of the Northern Alliance to build the pipeline.

One American company in particular, Unocal, found that intolerable and fought back vigorously, hiring a number of consultants in addition to Kissinger: Hamid Karzai, Richard Armitage, and Zalmay Khalilzad. (Armitage and Khalilzad would join the George W. Bush administration in 2001.)

Unocal wooed Taliban officials at its headquarters in Texas and in Washington, D.C., seeking to have the Bridas contract voided, but the Taliban refused. Finally, in February of 1998, John J. Maresca, a Unocal vice president, asked in a congressional hearing to have the Taliban replaced by a more stable regime.

The Clinton administration, having recently refused the PNAC request to invade Iraq, was not any more interested in a military overthrow of the Taliban. President Clinton did, however, shoot a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan, after the al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa. And he issued an executive order forbidding further trade transactions with the Taliban.

Maresca was thus twice disappointed: The Taliban would not be replaced very soon, and Unocal would have to cease its pleadings with the regime.

Unocal's prospects rocketed when George W. Bush entered the White House, and the Project for the New American Century ideology of global dominance took hold.

The Bush administration itself took up active negotiations with the Taliban in January of 2001, seeking secure access to the Caspian Basin for American companies. The Enron Corp. also was eyeing a pipeline to feed its proposed power plant in India.) The administration offered a package of foreign aid as an inducement, and the parties met in Washington, Berlin and Islamabad. The Bridas contract might still be voided.

But the Taliban would not yield.

Anticipating this in the spring of 2001, the State Department had sought and gained the concurrence of India and Pakistan to take military action if necessary. The PNAC people were not timid about using force.

At the final meeting with the Taliban, on Aug. 2, 2001, State Department negotiator Christine Rocca, clarified the options: "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs." With the futility of negotiations apparent, "President Bush promptly informed Pakistan and India the U.S. would launch a military mission into Afghanistan before the end of October."

This was five weeks before the events of 9/11.

Sept. 11, 2001

A tectonic groundswell of skepticism, doubt and suspicion has emerged about the Bush administration's official explanation of 9/11. Some claim the administration orchestrated the attacks. Others see complicity. Still others find criminal negligence. The cases they make are neither extreme nor trivial.

Whatever the truth about 9/11, the Bush administration now had a fortuitous, spectacular opportunity to proceed with its premeditated attacks.

The administration would have to play its hand skillfully, however.

Other nations have suffered criminal acts of terrorism, but there is no precedent for conflating the terrorists with the states that harbor them, declaring a "war" and seeking with military force to overthrow a sovereign government. Victimized nations have always relied successfully on international law enforcement and police action to bring terrorists to justice.

But the Bush administration needed more than this. War plans were in the files. They needed to justify invasions. Only by targeting the "harboring states," as well as the terrorists, did they stand a chance of doing so.

The administration played its hand brilliantly. It compared the terrorist attacks immediately to Pearl Harbor, and in the smoke and rage of 9/11 the comparison was superficially attractive. But Pearl Harbor was the violent expression of hostile intent by a formidably armed nation, and it introduced four years of full-scale land, sea and airborne combat. 9/11 was al Qaeda's violent expression of hostility: 19 fanatics armed with box cutters. Yes, extraordinary destruction and loss of life, but the physical security of our entire nation was simply not at stake.

Though the comparison was specious, the "War on Terror" was born, and it has proven to be an exquisite smokescreen. But labeling the preplanned invasions as a "War on Terror" was the mega-lie, dwarfing all the untruths that followed. The mega-lie would be the centerpiece of a masterful propaganda blitz that continues to this day.

The wars

On Oct. 7, 2001, the carpet of bombs is unleashed over Afghanistan.

Soon, with the Taliban overthrown, the Bush administration installed Hamid Karzai as head of an interim government. Karzai had been a Unocal consultant.

The first ambassador to Karzai's government was John J. Maresca, a vice president of Unocal.

The next ambassador to Afghanistan was Zalmay Khalilzad, another Unocal consultant.

Four months after the carpet of bombs, President Karzai and President Musharraf of Pakistan signed an agreement for a new pipeline. The Bridas contract was moot. The way was open for Unocal.

In February of 2003 an oil industry trade journal reported the Bush administration was ready to finance the pipeline across Afghanistan and to protect it with a permanent military presence. Osama bin Laden remained at large.

The mega-lie, the fabricated "War on Terror" was an easy sell in the Afghanistan adventure. The shock of 9/11 was immense, Osama bin Laden was operating from Afghanistan and the "state," the Taliban, was at least sympathetic to his organization. And the signature secrecy of the Bush Administration had kept from public view its eight months of negotiating with the Taliban. The first premeditated war was largely unopposed.

Selling the Iraq invasion to the American people and to the Congress would be far more difficult.

With the Trade Towers and the Pentagon still smoldering, President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ordered their staffs to find Saddam Hussein's complicity in the attacks. Of course they could not, so there would need to be a sustained and persuasive selling job -- a professionally orchestrated campaign of propaganda.

Soon after 9/11, fear-mongering propagandizing became the modus operandi of the Bush Administration. It began in earnest with the president's "axis of evil" State of the Union address in 2002, full of terrorism and fear. "The United States of America," the president said, "will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

No regime anywhere was in fact threatening anyone with anything, but Bush appointed a 10-person "White House Iraq Group" in August of 2002. Chaired by Karl Rove, its members were trusted partisans and communications experts skilled in perception management. Their role was explicitly to market the need to invade Iraq. The group operated in strict secrecy, sifting intelligence, writing position papers and speeches, creating "talking points," planning strategy and timing, and feeding information to the media. This was the nerve center, where the campaign of propaganda was orchestrated and promulgated.

The group chose to trumpet nearly exclusively the most frightening threat-nuclear weapons. Rice soon introduced the litany of the smoking gun and the mushroom cloud, Cheney said hundreds of thousands of Americans might die, and Bush claimed Saddam was "six months away from developing a weapon."

In the 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush uttered the infamous "sixteen words": "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." This was typical of White House Iraq Group work: The CIA knew and had said the information was bogus.

The propaganda campaign was ultimately successful, not least because of the axiomatic trust American people extend to their presidents: Nobody could have anticipated the range, intensity and magnitude of the expertly crafted deception. And the campaign was aided by a compliant mainstream press that swallowed and regurgitated the talking points.

The Congress was persuaded sufficiently to authorize the use of military force. The American people were persuaded sufficiently to accept the war and to send Mr. Bush to the White House for a second term. But no other war in the country's history had to be so consciously and comprehensively sold.

Much of the deception, distortion and lies was eventually exposed. The link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, the weapons of mass destruction, the aluminum tubes, the mobile laboratories, the yellowcake from Niger: none of it true. Only the mega-lie, the "War on Terror," survives.

On Feb. 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the Security Council, waving the vial of simulated anthrax and claiming "there is no doubt in my mind" Saddam Hussein was working to produce nuclear weapons.

But the Security Council, not so easily propagandized, refused to authorize American force.

On March 14, 2003, President Bush met in the Azores with Prime Ministers Blair of the United Kingdom and Aznar of Spain. They abandoned the effort for U.N. authorization, claimed the right to proceed without it and a week later launched the war.

Four years of violence. Nearly 4,000 young Americans dead. Seven times that many maimed. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead. Millions fleeing as refugees, their economy and infrastructure in ruins. A raging civil war. Half a trillion dollars and counting.

Stopping the madness

And for what? Neither face of the war has come remotely close to success. The "War on Terrorism" has not suppressed terrorism but has encouraged it instead. The premeditated war -- for ideological dreams of world dominion and the pragmatic capture of hydrocarbon assets -- is a colossus of failure.

The Afghan pipeline is a dead issue. As the warlords and the poppy growers in Afghanistan thrive, and as the Taliban regroups and regains dominance, the country tilts ominously into chaos once more.

The Iraqi hydrocarbon law -- the clever disguise for capturing the oil fields -- is fatally wounded, its true purpose becoming more widely known. Organized resistance is growing quickly, both in Iraq and in the United States. And the factions who need to agree on the law are otherwise engaged in killing each other.

The Iraqi war has not resulted, either, in the global dominance sought by the Project for the New American Century people, but in global repugnance for what their pathetic ideology has wrought.

Clearly the involvement of the U.S. military in the Mideast must cease. Pouring more lives and dollars into the quagmire may keep alive the warped dreams of the Bush administration, but those dreams are illegitimate, indeed criminal.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney reject any alteration in their course. They ask instead for more time, more money and even -- in threatening Iran -- for more targets.

There is no apparent way to the stop madness, to end the hemorrhaging of blood and treasure, but to impeach these men and, if found guilty, to remove them from office.

The integrity of the Constitution and the rule of law are at stake as well, but the Congress continues its indifference to impeachment, effectively condoning the administration's behavior. Should this continue, thinking Americans will discard the last crumbs of respect for the incumbent legislature -- polling shows there's not much left -- and punish its members, Republican and Democrat alike, in next year's election.

Impeachment will expose the fraudulence of the "War on Terror" and liberate us from the pall of fear the Bush administration has deliberately cast upon the country. Both political parties will be free to speak the truth: Terrorism is real and a cause for concern, but it is not a reason for abject fear.

We need only compare the hazard of al Qaeda to the threat posed by the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. On the one hand is a wretched group of sad fanatics -- perhaps 50,000 in all -- clever enough to commandeer airliners with box cutters. On the other was a nation of 140 million people, a powerful economy, a standing army of hundreds of divisions, a formidable navy and air force and thousands of nuclear tipped intercontinental missiles pre-aimed at American targets.

We were a vigilant but poised and confident people then, not a nation commanded to cower in fear. We can and must regain that strength and self-assurance.

Ending the nightmare will take far less courage than the Bush people exhibited in beginning it. Taking a nation to war on distortion, deception and lies is enormously risky in many respects: in lives and in treasure, certainly, but also in a nation's prestige abroad and in the trust and support of its people. The Bush administration risked all this and more, and it has lost.

We risk far less by embracing the truth and acting on it. Our nation cherishes honesty: the fraudulence must end. But Bush and Cheney have shown themselves incapable of honesty, and we also cherish justice. They must be impeached.

This propaganda machine is most effective if a major tragedy happens like 9/11. Naomei Klein has written a terrific book called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Alfonso Cuarón, director of "Children of Men", made a short film about it. If you have not seen it, here it is:

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hello, NSA, You Really Listen

We no longer have any rights to privacy. The Democrats have stood buy and let our civil liberties continue to erode. They are expected to allow the NSA's warrantless wiretapping to continue and broaden their powers. This is in today's New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 — Two months after insisting that they would roll back broad eavesdropping powers won by the Bush administration, Democrats in Congress appear ready to make concessions that could extend some crucial powers given to the National Security Agency.

Administration officials say they are confident they will win approval of the broadened authority that they secured temporarily in August as Congress rushed toward recess. Some Democratic officials concede that they may not come up with enough votes to stop approval.

As the debate over the eavesdropping powers of the National Security Agency begins anew this week, the emerging measures reflect the reality confronting the Democrats.

Although willing to oppose the White House on the Iraq war, they remain nervous that they will be called soft on terrorism if they insist on strict curbs on gathering intelligence.

A Democratic bill to be proposed on Tuesday in the House would maintain for several years the type of broad, blanket authority for N.S.A. eavesdropping that the administration secured in August for six months.

In an acknowledgment of concerns over civil liberties, the bill would require a more active role by the special foreign intelligence court that oversees the interception of foreign-based communications by the security agency.

A competing proposal in the Senate, still being drafted, may be even closer in line with the administration plan, with the possibility of including retroactive immunity for telecommunications utilities that participated in the once-secret program to eavesdrop without court warrants.

No one is willing to predict with certainty how the question will play out. Some Congressional officials and others monitoring the debate said the final result might not be much different from the result in August, despite the Democrats’ insistence that they would not let stand the extension of the powers.

“Many members continue to fear that if they don’t support whatever the president asks for, they’ll be perceived as soft on terrorism,” said William Banks, a professor who specializes in terrorism and national security law at Syracuse University and who has written extensively on federal wiretapping laws.

The August bill, known as the Protect America Act, was approved in the final hours before Congress went on its summer recess after heated warnings from the administration that legal loopholes in wiretapping coverage had left the country vulnerable to another terrorist attack. The measure significantly reduced the role of the foreign intelligence court and broadened the security agency’s ability to listen to foreign-based communications without court warrants.

“We want the statute made permanent,” a spokesman for the Justice Department, Dean Boyd, said Monday. “We view this as a healthy debate. We also view it as an opportunity to inform Congress and the public that we can use these authorities responsibly. We’re going to go forward and look at any proposals that come forth. But we’ll look at them very carefully to make sure they don’t have any consequences that hamper our abilities to protect the country.”

House Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the bill in August and said the administration had been forced them into a corner.

As Congress takes up the new bills, a senior Democratic aide said, House leaders are working hard to ensure that the administration does not succeed in pushing through a bill that would make permanent all the powers it secured in August.

“That’s what we’re trying to avoid,” the aide said. “We have that concern too.”

The bill to be proposed on Tuesday by the Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees would impose more controls over the powers of security agency, including quarterly audits by the Justice Department inspector general. The measure would also give the foreign intelligence court a role in approving, in advance, “basket” or “umbrella” warrants for bundles of overseas communications, a Congressional official said.

“We are giving the N.S.A. what it legitimately needs for national security but with far more limitations and protections than are in the Protect America Act,” said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California.

Perhaps most important in the eyes of Democratic supporters, the House bill would not give retroactive immunity to the telecommunications utilities that participated in the eavesdropping. That has been a top priority of the administration. The temporary measure gave the utilities immunity for future acts, but not past deeds.

Private groups are trying to prove in federal court that the utilities violated the law by participating in the program.

A former senior Justice Department lawyer, Jack Goldsmith, seemed to bolster their case last week when he told Congress that the program was a “legal mess” and strongly suggested that it was illegal.

The House bill would also require the administration to disclose details of the program. Democrats say they plan to push the administration to turn over internal documents laying out the legal rationale for the program, something the administration has refused to do.

In the Senate, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, is working with his Republican counterpart, Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, a main proponent of the August plan, to come up with a compromise.

Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for Mr. Rockefeller, said that retroactive immunity for the utilities was “under discussion” but that no final proposal had been developed.

The immunity issue may prove to be the crucial sticking point between whatever proposals the House and Senate ultimately pass. Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who was among the harshest critics of the temporary bill, said in an interview he would vigorously oppose any effort to grant retroactive legal protection to telecommunications utilities.

“There is heavy pressure on the immunity, and we should not cave an inch on that,” Mr. Nadler said.

Mr. Nadler said that he was worried the Senate would give too much ground to the administration in its proposal, but that he was satisfied with the bill to be proposed on Tuesday in the House.

“It is not perfect, but it is a good bill,” he said. “It makes huge improvements in the current law. In some respects it is better than the old FISA law,” a reference to the foreign intelligence court.

Civil liberties advocates and others who met House officials on Monday on the proposed bill agreed that it was an improvement over the August plan but were less charitable in their overall assessment.

‘This still authorizes the interception of Americans’ international communications without a warrant in far too many instances, and without adequate civil liberties protections,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, who was in the group that met House officials.

Caroline Frederickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she was troubled by the Democrats’ acceptance of broad, blanket warrants for the security agency rather than the individualized warrants traditionally required by the intelligence court.

“The Democratic leadership, philosophically, is with us,” Ms. Frederickson said. “But we need to help them realize the political case, which is that Democrats will not be in danger if they don’t reauthorize this Protect America Act. They’re nervous.

“There’s a ‘keep the majority’ mentality, which is understandable,” she said, “But we think they’re putting themselves in more danger by not standing on principle.”

I stumped for the Democratic party last fall in hopes of change. Where is the change? It is politics as usual in DC. There is a definite need for term limits in Congress. With Bush's expansion of who is deemed an enemy to include any person they feel is hampering the war effort, does that mean that people, like us, that stand up against the war are under surveillance? Here is a message for them:
Bit my left tit, NSA!