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US military in torture scandal - Use of private contractors in Iraqi jail interrogations highlighted by inquiry into abuse of prisoners
(Julian Borger, The Guardian, April 30, 2004)
Graphic photographs showing the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners in a US-run prison outside Baghdad emerged yesterday from a military inquiry which has left six soldiers facing a possible court martial and a general under investigation.
The scandal has also brought to light the growing and largely unregulated role of private contractors in the interrogation of detainees. [See related blog below] According to lawyers for some of the soldiers, they claimed to be acting in part under the instruction of mercenary interrogators hired by the Pentagon. US military investigators discovered the photographs, which include images of a hooded prisoner with wires fixed to his body, and nude inmates piled in a human pyramid. The pictures, which were obtained by an American TV network (and probably will never see the light of day), also show a dog attacking a prisoner and other inmates being forced to simulate sex with each other. It is thought the abuses took place in November and December last year. The pictures from Abu Ghraib prison have shocked the US army. (Really??) Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt (BAGHDAD MARK), deputy director of operations for the US military in Iraq, expressed his embarrassment and regret for what had happened. He told the CBS current affairs programme 60 Minutes II: "If we can't hold ourselves up as an example of how to treat people with dignity and respect, we can't ask that other nations do that to our soldiers." (Can we hear a drum roll??) ...the investigation began in January when an American soldier reported the abuse and turned over evidence that included photographs. "That soldier said: 'There are some things going on here that I can't live with'." The inquiry had centred on the 800th Brigade which is based in Uniondale, New York. (Weekend Warriors - probably not trained as prison guards...) The US army confirmed that the general in charge (name withheld) of Abu Ghraib jail is facing disciplinary measures and that six low-ranking soldiers have been charged with abusing and sexually humiliating detainees. Lawyers for the soldiers argue they are being made scapegoats for a rogue military prison system in which mercenaries give orders without legal accountability. A military report into the Abu Ghraib case - parts of which were made available to the Guardian - makes it clear that private contractors were supervising interrogations in the prison, which was notorious for torture and executions under Saddam Hussein. [and now the Americans - are we much better??] One civilian contractor was accused of raping a young male prisoner but has not been charged because military law has no jurisdiction over him. Hired guns from a wide array of private security firms are playing a central role in the US-led occupation of Iraq. But this is the first time the privatisation of interrogation and intelligence-gathering has come to light. The investigation names two US contractors, CACI International Inc and the Titan Corporation, for their involvement in Abu Ghraib. Neither responded to calls for comment yesterday. At one point, the investigators say: "A CACI instructor was terminated because he allowed and/or instructed MPs who were not trained in interrogation techniques to facilitate interrogations by setting conditions which were neither authorised [nor] in accordance with applicable regulations/policy." ...central command, told the Guardian: "One contractor was originally included with six soldiers, accused for his treatment of the prisoners, but we had no jurisdiction over him. It was left up to the contractor on how to deal with him." She did not specify the accusation facing the contractor, but according to several sources with detailed knowledge of the case, he raped an Iraqi inmate in his mid-teens. ...charges against the six soldiers included "indecent acts, for ordering detainees to publicly masturbate; maltreatment, for non-physical abuse, piling inmates into nude pyramids and taking pictures of them nude; battery, for shoving and stepping on detainees; dereliction of duty; and conspiracy to maltreat detainees". One of the soldiers, Staff Sgt Chip Frederick told CBS: "We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things ... like rules and regulations." His lawyer said the role of the private contractors in Abu Ghraib are central to the case. "We know that CACI and Titan corporations have provided interrogators and that they have in fact conducted interrogations on behalf of the US and have interacted the military police guards at the prison," he said. "I think it creates a laissez faire environment that is completely inappropriate. If these individuals engaged in crimes against an Iraq national - who has jurisdiction over such a crime?" [The Iragi government?? - Oh, that would be Bremmer and Rumsfeld...nevermind] "It's insanity," said Robert Baer, a former CIA agent [who] is concerned about the private contractors' free-ranging role. "These are rank amateurs and there is no legally binding law on these guys as far as I could tell. Why did they let them in the prison?" The Pentagon had no comment on the role of contractors at Abu Ghraib, saying that an inquiry was still in progress.

******Well, it hasn't taken the truth as long to get out as it did in Viet Nam. Not to say that the main stream media has said anything about this but with the Internet, the truth is out there to be had - and it is still a long time til November....********
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 7:17 AM

US Paying Over 20,000 Mercenaries in Iraq
(Associated Press, 27 April 2004)
That blurring of lines between active-duty soldiers and contracted security personnel is causing unease in Congress, as violence continues to rise in Iraq. Some lawmakers worry that private security forces operate too far outside U.S. military control -- and laws.. . . "It would be a dangerous precedent if the United States allowed the presence of private armies operating outside the control of a governmental authority and beholden only to those that pay them," . . . Roughly 20,000 private security contractors from dozens of companies operate in Iraq under contract with the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led governing body in Iraq, plus the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies. Thousands more are on assignments for the United States and others worldwide, including in Afghanistan, taking on jobs like guarding officials, protecting buildings and supply convoys, and training police and soldiers. . . . Citing security concerns, defense officials won't talk about the rules covering contractors' use of force. Although experts say the policy can vary by contract, private contractors generally are allowed to fire in self-defense but not to fire first. . . . Even so, they have been involved in several firefights from Mosul in the north to Najaf in the south, and at least a handful of security contractors have died. . . . Private personnel sometimes get paid $1,000 a day or more for the riskiest assignments. Defense experts contend nevertheless that they are cheaper in the long term than troops, who rely on the government to support their families and provide benefits. . . . Many of the contracts were thrown together quickly as the U.S.-led coalition tried to establish its presence in Iraq, leaving vague lines of authority, unclear responsibilities and muddled channels of communications with the U.S.-led coalition. As a result, experts say, rules governing the private personnel can vary depending on how their contracts are written. . . . Further complicating the situation, the coalition, contractors and Iraqi leaders are still negotiating what authorities these armed civilians will operate under when the coalition turns over political control to the Iraqis on June 30.
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posted by Lorenzo 11:45 AM

NEGROPONTE - Death Squad Diplomat
As reports are coming in that yet more Iraqi civilians are being killed in Iraq ], is it any wonder that the Honduras reneged on their commitment to participate in the effort to rebuild just as Bush announced that their former Ambassador from the U.S. was taking over? . . . There is much evidence that they may have withdrawn due to his recent appointment of John Dimitre Negroponte to Ambassador of Iraq. To the people of the Honduras, the mention of his name alone undoubtedly conjured up bloody memories of the CIA-backed death squads and countless atrocities. . . . How closely can all of those atrocities be tied to Bush's nominee for the position of Iraqi Ambassador? As Ambassador to the Honduras, it is possible that he was merely asleep the entire time he was on duty, and it was merely negligence which allowed his assigned country to become a major staging and training grounds for the Reagan-Bush cabinet's Iran-Contra affair. . . . Although the sheer number of mass murders filtered through into U.S. reports, it was only the occasional murder of an Archbishop, that group of nuns, or a Seattle man down there helping to construct a water supply that made headlines. . . . The widespread use of American aerial surveillance to direct the Contra murderers to villages where only women and children were present to be killed, the routine use of torture, the encouragement of drug-smuggling into the U.S. to provide funding for the U.S.-backed forces all were revealed only after Negroponte had left his post as U.S. Ambassador to the Honduras. And who could forget the Honduran Anti-communist Liberation Army's ever popular practice of dropping victims from helicopters while they were in flight? . . . Make no mistake about it -- both Iraqi rebels and Al Qaeda terrorists see Negroponte's appointment as the first stage in implementing a policy of covert violence against their right to sovereignty and will effectively use it to recruit and incite radicals to commit more acts of violence against us. It's no coincidence that our Office of Homeland Security issued a heightened security alert just as Bush announced his plans for Negroponte. . . . Whether or not Ambassador Negroponte advocated death squads or the indiscriminate murder of the general population in the past isn't the problem. What matters is that it happened on a large scale over a long period of time while under his watch. And with that in mind, once he's installed, will America be any safer than when Saddam Hussein was running the place?
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 3:55 PM

Blair's woes deepen as mutiny staged over Iraq and Israel
(Ben Russell, The Independent, 27 April 2004)
Tony Blair was facing a severe crisis of confidence in his foreign policy yesterday after an unprecedented attack from dozens of the most senior figures in the British diplomatic service. . . . The letter from 52 former ambassadors and heads of mission who held the most senior postings in the Foreign Office, lambasted Mr Blair for abandoning his principles over the road-map to peace in the Middle East and criticised the United States-led coalition in Iraq for failing to plan for the post-Saddam era. . . . In a damning verdict on Mr Blair's special relationship with President George Bush, they called for a "fundamental reassessment" of British policy towards the White House and the Middle East, urging Mr Blair to exert real influence over American policy as "a matter of the highest urgency". . . . Signatories include former ambassadors to Baghdad and Tel Aviv, and senior figures who served in postings including Moscow, Brussels and the United Nations. . . . "Never has government policy been so controversial. It is an indication of our serious concern that what is probably the biggest such collective group has gone straight to government in this way." . . . The former diplomats said they had "watched with deepening concern the policies which you have followed on the Arab-Israel problem and Iraq, in close co-operation with the United States". . . . Doug Henderson, the former defence minister, said: "These are the guys on the ground with a lot of experience of dealing with critical issues. We would be well advised to listen to their views very carefully." Tam Dalyell, the Father of the Commons, added: "I fully support the 52 diplomats. This is unprecedented. In my 41 years as an MP I have never seen such a move. They can't be dismissed as ex-diplomats, it's a great deal more serious than that." . . . Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, backed the diplomats. He told Channel 4: "There was a bargain offered at the time that if we supported Bush's invasion of Iraq then he would press for peace in the Middle East on the road-map. Now he has broken that commitment, instead he has taken sides with Sharon and that, I think, is what motivates the comments we see about the Middle East within this letter."
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 5:40 PM

Blood and Coca-Cola
(Stephanie Ryan, Daily Vanguard, April 6, 2004)
In the past decade, Columbian Coca-Cola employees hoping to unionize have been tortured, assassinated and taken hostage. Some survived murder attempts. Luis Cardona is one of those survivors. . . . According to Lew Church, coordinator of the Progressive Student Union at PSU, the Coke boycott has been going on for over a year. . . . "Columbia's the worst country in the world to be a union organizer," he said. "The government is conservative; they're cooperating with the Bush administration to implement a neo-liberal agenda, which tends to try to downsize, underpay and discourage unions." . . . The International Confederation of Free Trade (ICFTU), which represents 158 million workers, concluded that nearly 200 Columbians had been killed because of their trade union activities. . . . It seems like more and more power in the world is owned by corporations," he said, "and that affects everything from television and elections to whether your job still exists in Columbia ... the union is one way to try to hold those that have power, politically and economically, accountable to the people doing the work and producing the product." . . . He added, "If you're in the middle of a war and your wages are going down and your jobs are disappearing, one of the things in globalization is to have third-world countries bid for the lowest cheapest labor ... if you can maximize profits and extract it out of third-world countries, then that helps profits in Atlanta." . . . Atlanta is home to Coca-Cola, the worlds largest beverage company. . . . According to the Web site killercoke.org, "the influential men who comprise the 'Six-Pack' stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the horrific reality that Colombian Coke workers and their families are facing." . . . We think Columbia is a really important country to focus on, and we think its really important that international speakers get access to venues in the United States and be able to say what's going on as recipients of foreign policy," said Church. "This is an opportunity for people to find out both about union organizing and unions in general."
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 9:47 AM

Bush Still Has Not Explained Ties to Saudi Arabia
(The Daily MisLead, April 21, 2004)
[NOTE: The above link will take you to references for every statement made below.]

Four days after esteemed journalist Bob Woodward revealed new ties between President Bush and the Saudi Arabian government, the president has yet to directly address the charges. According to Woodward, Saudi Arabia issued a "pledge" to Bush to "increase [oil] production several million barrels a day" over the summer "as we get closer to the election". . . . Last month, Saudi Arabia led the fight within OPEC to cut production and raise gas prices in America to record levels. However, since Woodward's charges became public, the president has not answered whether that earlier move by the Saudis was part of a deliberate effort to raise prices now so that prices could then be lowered closer to the election. . . . The new allegations once again put President Bush's close ties to the Saudis front and center. Despite the Saudi government's potential ties to terrorists and 9/11, the president still calls the Saudis "our friend" and Vice President Cheney continues to dote on the royal family. As CBS News reports, Bush has "personal and deep financial ties with the Saudi royal family". Author and journalist Craig Unger, who wrote House of Bush, House of Saud, documents $1.4 billion that has "made its way" from the Saudi royal family to "entities tied" to the Bush family.
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posted by Lorenzo 3:41 PM

From our news desk in Spain
Our new President just announced the immediate withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq. The best part is that he had previously said that if the UN did not take over military control by June 30 he would bring the troops home. The fact that he has been President for just over 24 hours means that, now that he has seen all state secrets, he has proof of US blackmail, lies of former Spanish President, and all sorts of good shit.

[COMMENT: As more and more of the of the "coalition's" citizens take matters back into their own hands and change the misguided policies that tied them to Bush, we will to see the onion begin to unpeel. And once all of the peels have fallen away it will be revealed that there is nothing there. There simply is no support for remaining in a permanent state of world-wide war. No clear-thinking person in this world thinks war can solve our problems. The last to admit to this, however, will be that portion of the intentionally dumbed-down US population that, out of fear, support the Cheney-Bush junta. Eventually, like all despots, they will fall. And then we can try them for the war criminals they are.]
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posted by Lorenzo 12:16 PM

Osama bin Laden Tape Announces Truce
(The Statesman, April 15, 2004)
Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden offered a “truce” to European countries that do not attack Muslims, saying it would begin when their soldiers leave Islamic nations. . . . The message said the truce would last three months and could be extended. However, the speaker indicated it would not begin right away: “The truce will begin when the last soldier leaves our countries,” he said without elaborating. “Stop spilling our blood so we can stop spilling your blood,” the message added. . . . The message also vowed revenge for Israel’s killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. “We vow before God to take revenge for him (Yassin) from America for this, God willing,” the message said.

"Security is a need for all humans, and we could not let you have a monopoly on it for yourselves. People who are aware would not let their politicians jeopardize their security."

"By describing us and our actions as terrorism, you are necessarily describing yourself and your actions. ... Our actions are reactions to your actions that destroy and kill our people in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine."

"This war brings billions of dollars to big companies, either to those that manufacture weapons or those who reconstruct Iraq, like Halliburton and its sister companies. And from here it becomes clear who benefits from the outbreak of wars and bloodshed: war traders and vampires who administer world politics from behind the curtain."

"I plead with the honest people, intellectuals, activists and traders to form a permanent committee to raise people's awareness for the justice of our causes - on top of which comes Palestine."

. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 2:37 PM

Spanish Officer, 3 Suspects Die in Madrid-Area Raid
(Bloomberg, April 4, 2004)
A Spanish police officer was killed and 11 were injured after suspected terrorists detonated explosives as police tried to enter their apartment in a Madrid suburb tonight, Spain's Interior Minister Angel Acebes said. . . . Three suspected terrorists killed themselves in the explosion. Some of them were being sought for the March 11 attacks that killed 191 people and injured more than 1,500 in Madrid, Acebes said. . . . The raid was part of the investigation following Spain's worst terrorist attack last month. Arrest warrants were issued Thursday for six suspects in connection with the March bombings, including one for a Tunisian alleged to have led the group that planted the explosives. Since the March attack, 24 people have been arrested, including two Syrians, two Indians, two Spaniards and 15 Moroccans. Some have been released. . . . The March 11 explosions were Europe's most deadly terrorist attack since the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. . . . On Friday, explosives were found in rail tracks linking Spain and Seville, in the south of Spain. The explosives are the same type as the ones used in the March 11 attacks. The high- speed train service linking the two towns did resume, however, as the police and army guarded tracks.
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posted by Lorenzo 5:01 PM

Govt considering plans for alcohol-free zones in pubs
(Ireland On-Line, 01/04/2004)
The Government is apparently considering plans to offer grants to publicans who introduce alcohol-free zones on their premises. An inter-departmental working group is believed to be studying the proposals, which would form part of the Government’s efforts to tackle the culture of excessive drinking in Ireland. The initiative will reportedly be tested on a pilot basis at a number of locations throughout the country.

******Someone tell me, WTF is an alcohol-free zone in an Irish pub???? If their intention is to curb drinking, why don't they institute prohibition, like we did - oh yeah, it didn't work here...******
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 6:41 PM

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