"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Torture and Rape Stalk the Streets of Chechnya

Polish writer Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich visited the region where she witnessed the brutal work done by Russia's soldiers in their fight against separatists

Sunday October 27, 2002
The Observer

At 5am on 14 April 2002, an armoured vehicle moved slowly down Soviet Street. A young brown-haired man, covered in blood, his hands and feet bound, stood onboard. The vehicle stopped and the man was pushed off and brought over to a nearby chain-link fence. The car took off and there was a loud bang. The force of the explosion, caused either by a grenade or dynamite, sent the man's head flying into the neighbouring street, called Lenin's Commandments. 'It was difficult to photograph the moment, though I have grown somewhat accustomed to this,' says a petite greying Chechen woman, who has spent years documenting what Russia calls its 'anti-terrorism campaign'.
Blowing people up, dead or alive, she reports, is the latest tactic introduced by the federal army into the conflict. It was utilised perhaps most effectively on 3 July in the village of Meskyer Yurt, where 21 men, women and children were bound together and blown up, their remains thrown into a ditch.

From the perspective of the perpetrators, this method of killing is highly practical; it prevents the number of bodies from being counted, or possibly from ever being found. It has not always succeeded in this respect, however. Since the spring, dogs have been digging up body parts in various corners of Chechnya, sometimes almost daily.

Meanwhile, the more traditional methods endure. On 9 September the bodies of six men from Krasnostepnovskoye were found, naked, with plastic bags wrapped around their heads. In June, a ditch containing 50 mutilated bodies was discovered near the Russian army post in Chankala. The corpses were missing eyes, ears, limbs and genitals. Since February, mass graves have been found near Grozny, Chechen Yurt, Alkhan-Kala and Argun.

For nearly 10 years, since the beginning of the first war in December 1994, the grey-haired woman has been patrolling with her camera. She shows the gruesome images strewn on her table as if they were relics, or photographs from a family album. She runs her hand over the contours of an actual cracked skull, one of about a dozen found in February between Meskyer Yurt and Chechen Yurt.

'The remains were unearthed not long after they died,' she says. 'The tissue was still in good shape. The torn pieces of flesh suggest that the victims were attacked by dogs. It's difficult to know. People don't want to talk. They are scared that they will be next.'

The Society for Russian-Chechen Relations, in collaboration with Human Rights Watch, reports that in the span of a month between 15 July and 15 August this year, 59 civilians were shot dead, 64 were abducted, 168 were seriously wounded and 298 were tortured. Many men simply disappeared after being detained by Russian soldiers or security police; others were shot outright. During an operation in Chechen Aul between 21 May and 11 June, 22 men were killed. The majority were aged 20 to 26; two were 15.

Since Chechen Aul is considered hostile territory, it has undergone 20 such 'mopping-up operations' this year. Usually the raids are conducted by federal armed forces (particularly OMON, the police special forces, and Spetsnaz, its army equivalent) and occur at any time of day or night. Typically a village will be encircled by tanks, armoured vehicles and army trucks, one of which, known as the purification car, is designated for torture. According to Human Rights Watch in New York, torture is a preferred method of gathering intelligence. Cut off and isolated, Russian troops' best hope of discovering guerrilla activity is by grabbing citizens, almost at random, and coercing from them whatever information they might have.

Sometimes those who survive wish they were dead, as in Zernovodsk this summer, when townspeople say they were chased on to a field and made to watch women being raped. When their men tried to defend them, 68 of them were handcuffed to an armoured truck and raped too. After this episode, 45 of them joined the guerrillas in the mountains. One older man, Nurdi Dayeyev, who was nearly blind, had nails driven through his hands and feet because it was suspected that he was in contact with the fighters. When relatives later retrieved his remains, he was missing a hand. The relatives of another villager, Aldan Manayev, picked up a torso but no head. The families were forced to sign declarations that Dayeyev and Manayev had blown themselves up.
Usually groups of people simply disappear. Shortly thereafter their families begin feverish searches in all the army headquarters and watch posts. If they can track down a missing family member, they might be able to buy him or her back. The going rate for a live person is in the thousands of dollars. For a dead body, the price is not much lower. If they cannot find the person, family members mail letters to Putin (Russia's president) and file petitions with social organisations and rights groups. They post photographs with the caption missing.

And they wait. Most of the abductees never return and the trail grows cold.

Those who do return are often crippled, with bruised kidneys and lungs, damaged hearing or eyesight and broken bones. It is almost certain they will never have children.

The Russians do not deny that these things happen. Indeed, an official order has been issued banning such abuses.

But what most journalistic accounts from the region overlook is the savagery committed by the other side. Anyone considered a 'collaborator' by the guerrillas is subject to abduction for ransom or summary execution. This summer a remote-controlled mine, presumably intended for a Russian military convoy, exploded at a bus stop in the Chechen capital of Grozny, killing 11 civilians, including two children.

Analysts say that guerrilla leader Aslan Maskhadov, once regarded as comparatively secular, has succeeded in consolidating his often fractious forces by welcoming back into his command several rebel commanders regarded as radical Islamists. New rebel videotapes play down nationalist imagery in favour of Islamist symbols.

It all suggests that the brutality of the Russians has also resulted in a growing radicalisation of their opponents.

· Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich, a Polish reporter, filed this dispatch for Newsweek's Polish-language edition

The Unwinnable War

GEORGE W. BUSH finally told the truth. It happened last week when he said of the war on terrorism, "I don't think you can win it."

We know it was the truth because of the way it embarrassed him, because of the way his handlers immediately required him to repudiate it ("I probably need to be more articulate"), and because the mass of Republicans were deaf to it. Just as Bush had inadvertently spoken the exact truth about the war on terrorism at its onset ("This crusade, this war on terrorism"), he had inadvertently done so again.

Six months ago, I took a leave from this column. I had been writing obsessively about the war for more than two years, and my truth had become woefully repetitive. "Whatever happens from this week forward in Iraq," I wrote in March, "the main outcome of the war is clear. We have defeated ourselves."

In the time since I wrote that, I confess, even my bleak vision has come to seem like the good old days. After all, that was before Abu Ghraib, before the siege of Najaf, before the Sunnis and Shi'ites discovered that their hatred of the occupiers outweighed their hatred of each other, before the handover of Fallujah to outlaw militants, before Ahmed Chalabi's disgrace (and last week's rehabilitation), before Washington's installation in Baghdad of a blatant puppet regime, before the death toll of young Americans approached 1,000.

Citizens of the United States are a decent, fair-minded people. The only reason we tolerate what is being done in our name in Iraq is that, for us, this war exists only in the realm of metaphor. The words "war on terrorism" fall on our ears much in the way that "war on poverty" or "war on drugs" did.

War is an abstraction in the American imagination. It lives there, cloaked in glory, as an emblem of patriotism. We show our love for our country by sending our troops abroad and then "supporting" them, no matter what. When images appear that contradict the high-flown rhetoric of war -- whether of young GIs disgracefully humiliating Iraqi prisoners or of a devastated holy city where vast fields of American-created rubble surround a shrine -- we simply do not take them in as real. Thinking of ourselves as only motivated by good intentions, we cannot fathom the possibility that we have demonized an innocent people, that what we are doing is murder on a vast scale.

There is the single most troubling aspect of the war in Iraq. We launched it against the wicked Saddam Hussein, yet the majority of so-called "insurgents" against whom our forces are arrayed hated Hussein more than we did. We are killing people by the thousands who threaten absolutely nothing of ours.

The boys in the Iraqi resistance are not terrorists. They are not Ba'athists. They are not jihadists -- or they weren't until we gave them reason to be. Whatever the justifications for the invasion of Iraq were a year and a half ago, why are we in this war today? And as President Bush might ask, how in the world do we "win" it?

Obviously, something else is going on below the surface of all the stated reasons for this war. The Republican convention last week was gripped with war fever, and the fever itself was the revelation. War is answering an American need that has nothing to do with the Iraqi people.

Even though the war on terrorism is indeed, as the president said, a "crusade," it has nothing real to do with Islam either, although Islam is surely its target. Not Islam as it actually exists in dozens of different settings and cultures across the globe, but an imagined Islam that exists only in the troubled minds of a people who project "evil" outward and then attack it. Alas, it is an old Christian habit.

The war, meanwhile, answers the Bush administration's need to justify an unprecedented repressiveness in the "homeland," and simultaneously prompts widespread docile submission to the new martial law. But more deeply still, by understanding ourselves as a people at war, we Americans find exemption from the duty to face the grotesque shame of what we are doing in the world.

So the final truth about this war is that there is no real enemy (although we are creating enemies by the legion). There will be no victory. I resume this regular column by declaring, President Bush was right.

James Carroll's columns against the Iraq war have just been published in the book, "Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War."

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

Peace Activist Held as 'Danger to Israel'

Lawyers question state motives behind detention without trial of former woman soldier who befriended leading Palestinian militant.

Tali Fahima served her time in the Israeli army, voted for Ariel Sharon as prime minister and took it as given that her country was struggling for survival against terrorism.

Then last year, the 29-year-old legal secretary from Tel Aviv picked up a newspaper and read about Zakariya Zubeidi, the Jenin leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the group responsible for killing hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and shootings. Ms Fahima decided she would ask Mr Zubeidi why he killed Jews.

Israeli peace activist Tali Fahima, 28, speaks to the media in Tel Aviv's District Court during an appeal, Monday Sept. 6, 2004. Fahima, who was arrested last month on suspicion of planning to carry out attacks against Israeli targets, was handed over to the Prisons' Service Sunday, and will serve four months of administrative detention. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

On Sunday, the military placed Ms Fahima in detention without trial using a law applied to thousands of Palestinians over the past four years of intifada but rarely to Israelis.

The authorities declined to reveal the precise reasons but the defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, who signed the order, described her as "a clear and present danger to all Israelis".

Intelligence sources told the Israeli press that Ms Fahima had a hand in bombing an army checkpoint last month, and that she was planning attacks inside Israel.

But Ms Fahima's lawyers and friends accuse the government of using draconian security laws to silence her because she has broken a taboo against befriending and explaining the enemy.

Ms Fahima started visiting Mr Zubeidi in Jenin a little more than a year ago, despite an Israeli ban on its citizens travelling to Palestinian towns. She said she wanted to find out what motivated him to kill.

"I had to ask why a man goes ahead and does this," she told Israeli television this year. "There is a reason for this. A man doesn't wake up one morning and decide, 'OK, I'm going to carry out an attack.'"

The army describes Mr Zubeidi as one of its most-wanted terrorists. It has tried in vain to kill him five times.

After several meetings with the al-Aqsa brigade's commander, Ms Fahima described him as a freedom fighter and "a kindhearted person whom I was lucky to meet". She said she would be a human shield to protect him from Israeli assassination attempts.

"It is hard for a 28-year-old girl who was brought up on certain values to find out one day that they are all wrong," she told the Jerusalem Post in June. "Who causes the occupation? The Palestinians? No. It is the Israelis and who am I? A Jew and an Israeli and by sitting at home and doing nothing I am also responsible.

"Zubeidi is not a terrorist, rather he is fighting against the occupation. Suicide bombers are also fighting the occupation. Put yourself in their place and see what happens. They are denied basic rights and freedom."

Those views have infuriated many Israelis who have denounced Ms Fahima as a traitor and terrorist sympathiser. Her religious parents refuse to speak to her, and she was sacked from her job.

Ms Fahima's lawyers say if there were evidence she was involved in violence the authorities would have laid charges, not place her in the limbo of administrative detention.

The justice minister, Yosef Lapid, said the activist has not been charged due to the need to protect intelligence sources.

"There is very, very concrete evidence in the material indicating that she acted in a manner that endangers the security of Israel. Until there is a trial, the relevant officials believe that it would be better from the point of view of the security of Israel that she remain in detention," he said.

But Ms Fahima's lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, says her client was detained last month after refusing to inform for the Shin Bet.

"[The intelligence services] are attempting to prove to her that she is politically mistaken, they are giving her history lessons, debating with her whether this should be described as occupation, whether Palestinian fighters should be defined as freedom fighters or as terrorists," she said.

One of Ms Fahima's friends, Lin Dovrat, a peace activist, said the political motives behind her detention were clear from the authorities' claim that information against her was too sensitive to be made public in court while the Shin Bet leaked accusations to the press.

"They tried to kill Zubeidi five times and failed and she got to him and was able to talk to him and was able to connect with him on a very basic human level and I think that drives them nuts," she said.

Ms Ben-Natan says that when Ms Fahima refused to collaborate with the Shin Bet, it sought to discredit her by telling journalists she was sleeping with Mr Zubeidi, who is married. It is an accusation widely given credibility in the Israeli press, and denied by Ms Fahima.

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

Do I Spy an Israeli Spy in AIPAC?

For those who believe AIPAC and Israel are at the root of propelling
the United States into the misguided Iraq War and subsequent occupation,
the Israel spy case involving classified information on Iran is serving
as the proverbial string entwining the various conflicts in the Middle
East. Once pulled, the garment comes unraveled providing a revealing
glimpse into Zionist/Israeli espionage and influence in America and far
beyond US borders.
In an article published in March by Salon Online, retired Air Force Lt.
Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the Pentagon with the Office
of Special Plans described the transition from the Clinton to the Bush
administrations. Once the office was secured under Bush officials she
was advised not to say anything positive about the Palestinians. “At the
time, I didn't realize that the expertise on Middle East policy was not
only being removed, but was also being exchanged for that from various
agenda-bearing think tanks, including the Middle East Media Research
Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs.” The political appointees had
a lot in common, namely the views of the right-wing Likud Party in

A quick glance at these “agenda-bearing think tanks” is quite
enlightening. Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan and
an expert on the Middle East, informs us that the American Israeli
Public Affairs Committee a.k.a. AIPAC “set up the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy as a pro-Israeli alternative to the Brookings
Institution, which it perceived to be insufficiently supportive of Israel.”
Likewise, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is linked to
AIPAC. It’s founding director, Martin Indyk, is the former research director
at AIPAP. The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) is
best known for their successful promotion of the Israel-First policy
which has become the rallying cry for the US Congress, rather than
America First.
Recently the FBI removed computers from AIPAC and is conducting an
investigation of two AIPAC employees regarding whether a Pentagon official,
namely Lawrence A. Franklin passed a secret document on Iran policy to
the group. But Larry Franklin’s involvement with Israel may be the tip
of the iceberg. For the past two years, the FBI had been investigating
whether AIPAC has been passing highly classified intelligence data on
to Israel, according to Haaretz.
In his article “Pentagon/Israel Spying Case Expands: Fomenting a War on
Iran,” Professor Cole states that the information Franklin may have
passed on about US policy on Iran is most likely “an echo of the one-two
punch secretly planned by the pro-Likud faction in the Department of
Defense. First, Iraq would be taken out by the United States, and then
Professor Cole who has met Franklin claims that he has a strong
Brooklyn accent and can barely speak a few phrases of Persian or Farsi, the
language most often spoken in Iran. Cole believes that Larry Franklin was
not giving the directive to AIPAC in order to provide them with
information. Franklin “was almost certainly seeking feedback from them on
elements of it. He was asking, ‘Do you like this? Should it be changed in
any way?’ And, he might also have been prepping AIPAC for the lobbying
campaign scheduled for early in 2005, when Congress will have to be
convinced to authorize military action, or at least covert special
operations, against Iran. AIPAC probably passed the directive over to Israel
for the same reason--not to inform, but to seek input.”
Professor Cole cites an article published in the Washington Monthly
that details Franklin's meetings with a corrupt Iranian arms dealer and
con man Manuchehr Ghorbanifar (among others), who in the 1980s played a
key role in the Iran-contra scandal. Cole also points out that the
forged documents falsely purporting to show Iraqi uranium purchases from
Niger - as a pretext for going to war with Iraq - implicated Iran, and the
Israeli spy and the Niger forgeries investigations may share links.
“The Iraq/Iran nuclear plot was so far-fetched that it is what initially
made the Intelligence and Research division of the US State Department
suspicious of the forgeries, even before the discrepancies of dates and
officials in Niger were noticed…”
“AIPAC and Israel were helping write US policy toward Iran, just as
they had played a key role in fomenting the Iraq war,” Cole writes. “With
both Iraq and Iran in flames, the Likud Party could do as it pleased in
the Middle East without fear of reprisal. This means it could expel the
Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan, and perhaps just give Gaza
back to Egypt to keep Cairo quiet. Annexing southern Lebanon up to the
Litani River, the waters of which Israel has long coveted, could also be
undertaken with no consequences, they probably think, once Hizbullah in
Lebanon could no longer count on Iranian support. The closed character
of the economies of Iraq and Iran, moreover, would end, allowing
American, Italian and British companies to make a killing after the wars (so
they thought).”
Larry Franklin, the man the FBI believes may be a spy for Israel, is a
Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves and served as an
attaché to the US embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel (a position which is now viewed
with suspicion). His most recent assignment as a so-called “expert” on
Iranian affairs under neo-conservatives William J. Luti and Douglas
Feith in the Office of Special Plans appears to have been as agenda laden
as the other substitutes for real expertise to which Lt. Colonel Karen
Kwiatkowski alluded. While serving at OSP, Kwiatkowski observed, “Feith
paid scant attention to most policy detail, except that relating to
Israel and Iraq.” She further noted, “Instead of developing defense policy
alternatives and advice, OSP was used to manufacture propaganda for
internal and external use, and pseudo war planning.” It is Kwiatkowski’s
opinion that Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans was a “subversion of
constitutional limits on executive power and a co-optation through deceit
of a large segment of the Congress.”
Despite a career spent in support of Israel, in May after annoucing his
retirement from the Senate, Ernest “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina
dared to openly question Congress’ Israel-First policy in a column he
wrote for his local newspaper and later, after being attacted as an
anti-Semite, on the Senate floor. Hollings had grown exasperated with the
neo-conservative, “Project for a New American Century” agenda which had
led the US down a garden path to the military quagmire we currently face
in Iraq. To his credit, Hollings spoke out because too many service men
and women were dying needlessly in Iraq as they had 30 years ago in
Vietnam, and because it is US funded military equipment and
state-of-the-art technology that is used by Israel to wage a lopsided war against the
unarmed Palestinian civilian population.
“You can't have an Israel policy other than what AIPAC gives you around
here,” Hollings stated on the Senate floor. “I can tell you no
President takes office--I don't care whether it is a Republican or a
Democrat--that all of a sudden AIPAC will tell him exactly what the policy is...”
Hollings had come to realize that though he had supported the
President’s policy on Iraq he was misled. “There weren't any weapons, or any
terrorism, or al-Qaida. This is the reason we went to war,” he told his
Fritz waxed eloquent that day in the Senate. His comments on President
Bush were equally revealing. “I just read about President Bush's
appearance before the AIPAC. He confirmed his support of the Jewish vote,
referring to adopting Ariel Sharon's policy, and the dickens with the 1967
borders, the heck with negotiating the return of refugees, the heck
with the settlements he had objected to originally. They had those
borders, Resolution No. 242--no, no, President Bush said: I am going along
with Sharon, and he was going to get that and he got the wonderful
reception he got with the Jewish vote,” Hollings said. “There is nothing like
politicizing or a conspiracy, as my friend from Virginia, Senator
Allen, says--,” Fritz said repeating Allen’s charges that Hollings had made
“an anti-Semitic, political, conspiracy statement” because he dared to
finally, after all these years, tell the Truth as he saw it.
“That is not a conspiracy. That is the policy. I didn't like to keep it
a secret, …but I can tell you now, I will challenge any one of the
other 99 Senators to tell us why we are in Iraq, other than what this
policy is here. It is an adopted policy, a domino theory of The Project for
the New American Century,” Hollings continued. “Everybody knows it
because we want to secure our friend, Israel.”
“With President Bush's domino policy in the Mideast gone awry, he can't
keep shouting ‘Terrorism war.’ Terrorism is a method, not a war,”
Hollings asserted. “Here, might does not make right. Right makes might.
Acting militarily we have created more terrorism than we have eliminated.”
“Militarily, Israel is a veritable aircraft carrier. You can hardly fly
and you are out of the country, and everybody has to understand that.
You cannot play the numbers game Sharon plays. He thinks he can do it
militarily,” the Senator from South Carolina continued.
“I want to remind you, it was in that 6-day war--the book is ‘Six Days
of War’ by Michael Oren. Look on page 151, and Major Ariel Sharon says:
Look, we are going to decimate the Egyptian army and you will not hear
from Egypt again for several generations. And Levi Eshkol, the Prime
Minister, on page 152 says: ‘Militarily victory decides nothing. The
Arabs will still be here.’" “That is my theme. I have watched it over the
years. You have to learn not to kill together, but to live together,”
the Senator said.
Hollings spoke of being struck by a headline he had recently read.
“When I saw it, I showed it to my staff. I said: You all come in here, I
want to ask you something. ‘Israel plans to destroy more Gaza dwellings.’
You see that headline? I asked staff members: Suppose they bulldoze
your daddy's home. Wouldn't you want to cut their throat? They said: In a
New York minute.”
Hollings went on to speak about a trip where he met with the King of
Jordan, the Prime Minister of Kuwait, and Mr. Musharraf, the President of
Pakistan who had all said that if you settle the Israel-Palestine
question, terrorism would disappear around the world. “Then we came in on a
Friday evening to make a little courtesy call with the French,”
Hollings reminisced. “The majority of the troops on the field at Yorktown with
the surrender of Cornwallis were French troops. We had French troops
that helped us get this so-called freedom. All this anti-French stuff, do
not give me french fries and everything else, (this) is crazy,” he said
in reference to the incident where the cafeteria menus in the three
House office buildings changed the name of “French Fries” to “Freedom
Fries.” The name change was a rebuke to France over the country's refusal
to support the U.S. position on Iraq.
During his trip, Hollings also met with French president Jacques
Chirac. After discussing Iraq, Hollings stated that Chirac said, “What we
have to do is do something about Israel and Palestine. I said, what would
you do? He said, I would put in a peacekeeping force. I said, would
French troops come? He said, French troops would come immediately. We
would be part of it and we would separate them from killing each other
every day.”
Hollings’ talk with the president of France must have gotten back to
Israel. Today there is growing concern in France that American Jewish
money is being used to influence French politics, including the
presidential election. The candidates cited are Patrick Gaubert, a well-known
Jewish leader, at a recent European Parliament election; Laurent Dominati,
in a French parliamentary election in Paris as well as presidential
hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy.
Marc Perelman, in a recent article published by Forward magazine,
stated that Israel's ambassador to France, Nissim Zvili, has warned the
Israeli Foreign Ministry, that American Jewish money funding a French
electoral campaign would be a catastrophe. According to Perelman, Zvili has
“urged Israel to tell American Jewish groups to proceed carefully. The
source indicated that the message was approved in Jerusalem and likely
passed on to American Jewish groups.”
Last year there was a controversial agreement regarding American Jewish
funding in France between the America Jewish Congress and a vocal
pro-Israel group called the Union of French Jewish Employers and
Professionals, known by its French acronym, UPJF, Perelman noted. “Concerns are
also being voiced about the European activities of the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee, the Washington pro-Israel lobbying
organization, which has developed ties with Jewish groups in France and other
European countries to encourage the development of American-style lobbying.”
AIPAC has its hands in many lands, or so it seems. If the results
elsewhere are as catastrophic as they have been to the American political
life, its economy and world standing, (as we preemptively strike our way
into a moral abyss) God help us all.
In closing, I wish to recognize members of the Jewish community in
America and throughout the world who are supporting Palestinian prisoners
in their hunger strike. Hunger striker Mohammed Al Arouqi from Gaza has
heard from Svera Haerter, a Jewish peace activist, who called from
Italy to say that she and many other peace activists in the world are
supporting the Palestinian prisoners in their hunger strike and for the
right of freedom.
“I speak on behalf of our group called ‘Europe Jews for Just Peace’,”
Ms. Haerter said. “We have formed a network of groups aiming at
promoting peace, democracy and supporting the Palestinians in their just issue.
Our network is composed of 18 different groups from different European
countries, mainly Jewish, who are against Israeli aggressions against
the Palestinians and refusing the Israeli terrorism in the name of
Judaism.” She added that the Israelis did not have the right to commit
crimes in the name of Judaism. “We want to prove to the world that there are
many Jews who condemn what the Israelis are doing and have a strong
belief in the just cause of the Palestinians.”

Genevieve Cora Fraser


'Hate Crime' Law Passes
Senate - On To House
Greivous Constitutional Destruction
The End Of Free Speech Nears

Recently, within a defense bill on Capitol Hill another bill was
hidden. This hidden attachment pertains to so-called "hate crimes." The bill
is Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (S. 933), a pro-homosexual
hate crimes bill.

The Defense bill with the 'hate crime' attachment passed the senate 65
to 33, and will now be going to the house.

What does this mean?

Simply put, it permits the GOVERNMENT to decide what is a hate crime.
The measure also extends into our freedom of speech.

EVERYONE should be aware, that almost anything you do or say can be
construed as a 'hate crime' by someone, somewhere if that person or group
chooses to silence the views and thoughts you
are discussing.

We've already seen the Patriot Act abused during the RNC, as over 1000
Americans have been arrested merely for expressing their rights of free
speech and dissent as AMERICANS.

Now, if the DOJ couples this new bill with the Patriot Act, we are in
grave trouble. Remember that most all acts are named after WHO THE 'ACT'

Riot Act - Against riots in public

RICO Act - Racketeering and organized crime

Patriot Act - Against patiots, and those that refuse to believe it you
can read the act online at
sites like infowars.com.

An example of a "hate crime" under this new legislation would be to
simply mention the word homosexual in any church...in any CHURCH...and
that could be grounds to be arrested.

Everyone who knows about this act of madness which has NO BOUNDS OF
IMMEDIATELY. Neo-con lord bush will sign it, as he signs EVERY law that
helps to promote a police state.



Apparently Hatch and company have re-submitted the hate crimes bill,
and it is now known as S.966.

On the traditionalfamilyvalues website and elsewhere, it shows the bill
listed as S.933.

Here is another write up about the problems such a bill can create from
the senate:

Ted Twietmeyer

Treason in High Places: Pentagon Zionists, AIPEC and Israel

The FBI investigation into Israeli espionage agents in the Pentagon
is part of a major struggle between prominent Zionists in the
Pentagon and the US security apparatus. Ever since the Bush regime
came to power there has been a fierce political and organizational
war between the Pentagon Zionists and their militarist collaborators,
on the one hand, and the professional military and intelligence
apparatus, on the other. This conflict has manifested itself in a
series of major issues including the war in the Middle East, the
rational for war, the relationship between Israel and the US, the
strategy for empire, as well as tactical issues like the size of
military force needed for colonial wars and the nature of colonial
occupation. From 9/11/2001 to the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon
Zionists and the civilian militarists had the upper hand: they
marginalized the CIA and established their own intelligence services
to "cook the data", they pushed through the doctrine of sequential
wars, beginning with Afghanistan and Iraq and projecting wars with
Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. The
Pentagon Zionists increased Israel's power in the Middle East and
promoted its expansionist colonization of Palestine, at the expense
of US soldiers, budget busting expenditures and CIA objections.

The US military and security apparatus has retaliated. First by
debunking Zionist lies about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, then
by exposing the role of Zionist client Ahmed Chalabi as a double
agent for Iran, followed by a two-year investigation of Pentagon
Zionists passing documents to Israeli military intelligence and the
secret police, the Mossad.

More is at stake than a turf war between the `Israel First' Pentagon
crowd and their opponents in the US military, diplomatic corp and
intelligence agencies. The fundamental issue is the freedom of the US
people to decide or at least influence their political leaders and
their appointees without being subject to the manipulation and
control by a foreign government (Israel) and their highly placed
agents in positions of power.

Israel has for decades subverted US foreign policy to serve its
interests through the organized power of major Jewish organizations
in the US. What is new in the current Pentagon spy case is that
rather than pressuring from the outside to secure favorable policies
for Israel, the Israel loyalists are in top positions within the
government making strategic decisions about US global policy and
providing their Israeli handlers with secret documents pertaining to
top level discussions in the White House on questions of war and
peace. Today the politics of Pentagon and AIPAC espionage is
especially dangerous – because what is at stake is a new US and/or
Israeli war on Iran which will ignite the entire Middle East.

The move to high-level spying by top Zionist policy-makers like
Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz and others in the Bush
Administration is the culmination of a long series of strategic
policies promoted by AIPAC designed to enhance Israeli expansionist
goals in the Middle East.

Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams, Perle, Rubin et al were the most zealous
promoters of the war against Iraq. They worked closely with other
Zionist ideologues like Bush speechwriter David Frum to promote the
notion of "axes of evil", to engage in a sequence of wars against
Muslim regimes hostile to Israeli colonial policy in Palestine and
beyond. Wolfowitz, Feith set up the parallel `intelligence' agency
(the Office of Special Planning) run by fellow Zionist Abram Shulsky
using Chalabi to provide phony data on Iraq to precipitate that war.
An army of `Israel First' academic and journalist ideologues wrote,
spoke and acted to justify the US attack on Iraq as the first part of
a regional war to destroy any and all regimes critical of Israeli
expansionism. Cohen, Rubin, Kristol, Foxman, Ledeen and many others
provided "expert" propaganda on why US soldiers should kill and be
killed for Greater Israel. Almost daily meetings and consultations
took place between the top Zionists officials and the Israeli
military and intelligence leaders in the offices of Feith and other
Zionists. The Pentagon offices of Feith and Wolfowitz appeared to be
an upscale bordello for high ranking Israeli officials. Judging from
the subsequent policies it is clear that Pentagon Zionists took their
cues from their Israeli counterparts – Israel was given greater
funding, unlimited access to US policy makers and information
pertaining to US policy in the Middle East. Meantime US intelligence
and military officials were marginalized, their objections to Israeli
positions blown away, their very presence seen as obstacles to
realizing Sharon's vision of a Greater Israeli – sharing (?)
domination over the Middle East.

Given the high level of structural collaboration and integration of
US Pentagon Zionists and US Jewish organizations with the Israeli
state, the boundaries of what is United States policies and interests
and what are Israeli prerogatives and interests are blurred. From the
perspective of the Pentagon Zionists and their organized Jewish
supporters, it is "natural" that the US spends billions to finance
Israeli military power and territorial expansion. It is "natural" to
transfer strategic documents from the Pentagon to the Israeli State.
As Haaritz states, "Why would Israel have to steal documents when
they can find out whatever they want through official meetings?" The
routinization of espionage via official consultations between Israeli
and US Zionist officials became public knowledge throughout the
executive branch. Only it wasn't called espionage, it was referred to
as `exchanging intelligence', only the Israelis sent `disinformation'
to the Pentagon Zionists to serve their interests while the latter
passed on the real policies, positions and strategies of the US

The history of the key Zionists in the Pentagon reveals a pattern of
disloyalty to the US and covert assistance to Israel. Harold Rhode
and William Luti, both fanatical Pentagon Zionists under Feith ,
Wolfowitz and I. Lewis Libby have been under investigation by the FBI
for passing documents to Israel. Rhode had his security clearance
suspended recently. CIA operatives in Baghdad reported he was
constantly on his cell phone to Israel reporting on US plans,
military deployments, political projects, Iraqi assets and a host of
other confidential information. Michael Ledeen, another influential
Zionist policy maker who worked in the Pentagon lost his security
clearance after he was accused of passing classified material to
a `foreign country (Israel). In 2001 Feith hired Ledeen to work for
the Office of Special Plans which handled top secret documents. Feith
himself was fired in March 1983 from the National Security Council
for providing Israel with classified data. The FBI investigated
Wolfowitz for having provided documents to Israel on a proposed sale
of US weapons to an Arab country.

It is clear that Israeli agents, not simply Zionists ideologues,
infest the top echelon of the Pentagon. The question is not merely a
question of taking this or that policy position in favor of Israel
but of working systematically on a whole range of issues to further
Israeli power over and against US imperial interests.

What is surprising is not the current investigation over Israeli
spies in the Pentagon but why they have not been arrested, indicted
and sentenced a decade or two earlier.

The problem of American Jewish organizational collaboration with
Pentagon espionage - namely the role of the AIPEC as an accomplice in
the current spy case - is not exceptional. In their books, former
Mossad agent, Victor Ostrovsky ( The Other Side of Deception, 1994),
and Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon (Robert Maxwell: Israel's
Superspy, 2002) describe how the Israeli security forces have
recruited overseas Zionist Jews, who are called sayanim, to serve as
back-up supporters and collaborators in Israeli overseas operations.
AIPAC is not merely a pro-Israel `lobby' but a long-standing
listening post and gatherer of public and confidential government
information for Israel. At a more `philosophical' level there is an
insidious belief widely held among the leaders of major Jewish
organizations like AIPAC that the basic question for all Jews is
whether the "policy is good for the Jews" - narrowly defined to mean
the interest of the State of Israel and its current rulers. In
pursuit of "Defending Israel at all costs" it is very likely that
some of these officials go over the line into wartime espionage.

President Bush has declared that he is a "wartime President" – the US
is officially involved in a colonial war of aggression against the
Iraqi people. In these circumstances, espionage in time of war is a
capital offense… even if the spymasters are Israelis. It is no wonder
that the Zionist and Israeli propaganda machine is working overtime
to undermine the espionage investigation.

After the first announcement by CBS television, the rest of the mass
media gave prominent space to Israeli and AIPEC denials. More
seriously the CBS broadcast deliberately harmed the FBI spy
investigation into the links between the Pentagon and AIPEC. The FBI
blames CBS's revelations concerning Franklin when, the latter had
already confessed and was working with the FEDS to implicate AIPAC
and Israeli agents. Zionist ideologues in the US mass media and the
Israeli press try to downplay the incident – first through vehement
denials and subsequently to reducing the case of treason to a
question of a routine exchange of information by a single "lower
level", bumbling but fanatically pro-Israel Gentile functionary. They
forget to mention he was hired and directed by Douglas Feith and Paul
Wolfowitz to be their expert on Iran deeply involved in handling top
secret documents and formulating policy on Iran.

The Israeli officials claim that Mossad and military intelligence
solemnly pledged to stop spying on the US after the Jonathan Pollard
case. "We have never spied on the US since…", they claim. In fact
over 800 Israeli spies posing as `art' students and tourists were
expelled after 9/11 and several Mossad agents posing as movers in New
Jersey and Tennessee were expelled.

The arrogance of Israeli power in then US, which Sharon publically
boasted about, is largely based on the simple principle embraced by
all Zionist zealots whether they are Ivy league academics or neo-
fascist felons (like Elliot Abrams) is "What's good for Israel is
good for the US". "Good for Israel" today means bloody US wars
against Israel's adversaries, unconditional support for Israeli
expansion and pillage of Palestine and now spying on the US for the
good of Israel. Guided by this slogan it is easy to see how
everything in the US that might be of use to Israeli intelligence
whether it be documents, directives or strategic debates about big
wartime issues taking place in the White House are fair game for
transmission to Israeli intelligence.

Rather than face the evidence, the Zionist ideologues have taken to
ad hominum attacks on their espionage agent as merely a middle level
official who didn't influence policy. They overlook the fact that he
was the `delivery boy' for his Zionist bosses who actually do make
policy and work with top echelons of the Israeli state
in `coordinating' US policy to fit Israel's needs. The power of the
Israeli-US Zionist propaganda machine is so overwhelming that the FBI
had to investigate for 2 years, make endless wiretaps, videos and
photos, interview dozens of government and not-government officials
before they could prepare to make the charges. Despite being taped
and photographed in the act of taking top secret documents, AIPEC
officials deny everything and then hire a string of high-powered
defense lawyers. Already the pro-Zionists mass media suggest that
Zionist-AIPEC spying is really a case of `mishandling sensitive
documents' – a case of putting top secret documents in the wrong
mailbox. Really!

In less than two days the pro-Israel mass media buried the story, and
a series of `news reports' were published featuring AIPEC denials,
Israeli ridiculing their Pentagon mole as a fanatical idiot (Haaretz)
and launching a counter attack questioning the motives of the
investigation and the FBI counter-espionage service. The media
published stories from anonymous "insiders" who purportedly spoke of
the FBI dropping espionage charges in favor of charges
of "mishandling a classified document" or even simply dropping the
case altogether. They claim that the spy handing over a classified
document to Israeli interests didn't know it was a crime, a case of
an innocent, well-intentioned error of judgment. This piece of
propaganda has been thoroughly discredited when it was revealed that
the Israeli agent (Franklin) confessed and has been cooperating with
the FBI for the past months.

Nothing captures the power and pervasive and corrosive influence of
the US-Zionist apparatus on US politics as much as the absolute
silence of both major candidates faced with a high-level security
lapse and potentially damaging spy investigation. John Kerry, the
Democratic candidate trailing Bush in the polls refuses to expose the
Zionist Pentagon's `security failures' despite national security
being at the center of his campaign. The reason is very clear: Kerry
is tied to the AIPEC-Israel-US Zionist political machine and he is
willing to sacrifice US security for the Zionist vote even when faced
with the issue of Israeli espionage in a time of war.

The Republicans went one step further – sending their top politicos
to an AIPEC political extravaganza organized in New York two days
after AIPEC was cited by the FBI as the Israeli intermediary in the
passing of secret documents. At no time in recent modern history has
any governing or opposition party engaged in public festivities with
an organization engaged in foreign espionage. The explanation is the
unprecedented and unique political situation that exists in the US
today – the extraordinary power that a small, economically dependent
state exercises over a global imperial state via its wealthy
organized political-religious agents.

If Israel can get anything it wants from its Zionist patriots in high
places in the US government, then why engage in espionage? There are
several explanations.

The hand delivery of documents by Franklin can be seen as a time
saving and security-wise move. If discovered, Franklin's mentors can
simply deny involvement – he was acting on his own, an argument put
forth in the Israeli press. The idea of Franklin as some kind
of `loose cannon' does not explain why he was hired, retained and
given delicate assignments and praised by the senior Zionists (Feith,
Wolfowitz, Ledeen and Abrams) up to the time of his exposure.
Secondly the document transferred provided Israel with very timely
information on a major top-level debate: US policy toward Iran, more
particularly who was for or against a military assault on Teheran.
This allows Israel to plan its own military strategy knowing in
advance Washington's possible response and directing its higher up
Pentagon collaborators how to prepare the ground for acceptance of
Israeli aggression. Fundamentally Israel wanted to be in the

White House decision making loop at every stage of Middle East
policymaking via Wolfowitz, Feith et al and via confidential
documentary accounts which the Mossad could analyze directly. There
was a `need' for espionage, because the Mossad does not merely rely
on one source of information, nor does it operate only on one track.
It has direct formal and `informal' relations (spying)
with `friendly' government policy-makers. It operates on many levels,
legal and illegal, through Zionist collaborators as well as overseas
agents, through agents with false passports and though local Zionist
sleepers, who can be activated for specific tasks…

Investigations and evidence are usually enough to proceed with
indictments, interrogations and the pursuit of the leaders and
foreign handlers in a major espionage case, especially in wartime.
Thousands of innocent South Asians, Arabs and Muslims have been
picked up and jailed on the most flimsy excuses ("suspicions"). But
in the case of Israeli-AIPEC-Pentagon espionage the normal legal
processes are inoperative.

The question of espionage prosecution depends on political power - a
struggle between the Israeli State backed by the major Presidential
candidates and parties, the Zionist-American political machines and
their mass media acolytes on the one hand and, on the other hand the
FBI, professional intelligence apparatus (CIA, DIA), state prosecutor
and his investigatory staff and few stray political voices. The so-
called progressive movements and policy critics are strangely silent:
Even as they speak out against war, they fail to denounce an
espionage case which is intimately related to the next Middle Eastern
war – an Israeli attack on Iran. Why don't progressive Jews denounce
AIPAC espionage to further a new war in Iran? A signed statement "Not
in our name" would clearly separate them from these agents of foreign
wars. Three days after the initial expose, the mass media have buried
the story. The FBI is delaying any announcements. The prosecuting
attorney is under tremendous one-sided political pressure. Lacking
any mass media outlets the US republic is a helpless giant, tied in
knots by malicious dwarfs, unable to defend itself, unable to define
its own policy interests. The latest report from the FBI tells us
that self-confessed Israeli agent was preparing to lead the
authorities to his contacts in the Israeli government when CBS blew
open the case. Was CBS aware of the danger to the Israeli secret
services and was it trying to undermine the investigation? No doubt
some sort of official statement will be made, perhaps even an
indictment will be made of the middle level functionary on secondary
charges and the FBI may even dare to interview Wolfowitz and Feith on
their knowledge of the espionage network with predictable
consequences. However if there is anything beyond an interview, the
Zionist media will charge "anti-Semitism", a "Second Dreyfuss" case,
which will probably end the current investigation.

The `underground' struggle between the Pentagon Zionists and the US
security apparatus will continue. If Bush is re-elected, Wolfowitz
will most likely become Secretary of Defense. If Kerry is elected,
the closet Zionist, Richard Holbrooke, will take charge of the

American citizens will have to face a serious question: If the
security services are incapable of defending our country from foreign
espionage in high places – What is to be done?

In either case we face an imminent Zionist designed and promoted
military attack on Iran, which is likely to lead to a general
conflagration which can only benefit the neo-fascists who run the
state of Israel. And you are afraid of being called an anti-Semite
for opposing the Israel's espionage and regional wars.

James Petras

The 1918 The Espionage Act and the Sedition Act, or, Freedom of Unpopular Speech

Featuring John Stuart Mill, Charles T. Schenck and Elizabeth Baer,
Oliver Wendall Holmes, and more than 2000 people jailed for criticizing the government during World War I.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson made a dizzying reversal: after three
years of adamant refusal to involve the US in the European war, he
decided the US must enter the War to Save Democracy. He and his advisers
debated how to explain this complete about-face to the peace loving

The first pro-war propaganda office, the Creel Commission, was
established, headed by George Creel. Congress enacted the first peacetime draft
in history, and because it was feared that widespread criticism of the
sudden enthusiasm for war would disrupt US military efforts, the
Espionage Act was passed making it a crime to falsely report upon or make
statements meant to interfere with the war effort. It became illegal to
obstruct recruitment or enlistment, or to persuade others to not enlist.

The next year as doughboys headed to Europe, Congress went even
farther, passing the Sedition Act. This made it a crime to say, print, write
or publish anything that was "disloyal" regarding the US government,
flag, or military uniform. It was even illegal to speak out against the
purchase of war bonds that funded the war. A number of state legislatures
passed similar acts.

More than 2,000 people were jailed under the federal laws alone. One
man was jailed for expressing the opinion that the government should
raise taxes rather than sell war bonds. Another was arrested for telling
some knitters that soldiers would never see the socks they were making. A
farmer was turned in for criticizing the war in his own home--two
strangers who ran out of gas and came for help told the police what the
farmer had said. And a filmmaker who made an historically accurate film
about the US revolution, The Spirit of 76, was convicted because the film
showed US ally Great Britain in a negative light.

Many the leaders of the nation's most radical movements--Wobblies,
Socialists, and anarchists--found themselves cooling their heels in jail
during the war. Anarchist Emma Goldman literally chained herself to fixed
objects on stage before she opened her mouth in some towns, so the
police would not be able to carry her off until she exercised her right to
free speech under the First Amendment. Many less prominent critics of
the war were fired, tarred, feathered, or run out of town without any
intervention by law enforcement to slow down the action.

Beginning in 1919, the struggle to ensure free speech in wartime moved
to the courts. The first Supreme Court case was brought by Elizabeth
Baer and Charles T. Schenck, New York socialists who believed the draft
was unconstitutional and wrote pamphlets urging men to use every legal
means to avoid being drafted.

The Supreme Court had the difficult task of balancing the right of
individuals to speak out with the need for national security. Schenck lost;
the Court ruled that there can be exceptions to the right of free
speech. Writing for the majority, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes argued that
free speech is not an absolute; when the social welfare is at state,
some restrictions on speech may be justified. But as the war proved
bloody and pointless, more and more people expressed criticisms of it--and
especially of the Espionage and Sedition Acts.

Some were moved to form the American Civil Liberties Union. More than
any other organization, the ACLU has helped define free speech rights by
taking on hundreds of (often controversial) First Amendment cases.

Holmes began paying more attention to arguments made some fifty years
earlier by philosopher John Stuart Mill. Mill extended the reasoning of
John Milton:Time and again in history, humans have judged mistakenly
about the truth, and punished men such as Socrates, Galileo, and
Copernicus who were merely ahead of their time. Mill argued that only the
ability to correct and change opinions in the context of open debate allows
humanity to advance to better views. Even if a popularly held opinion
is true, it will be lifeless unless regularly challenged by those who
disagree with it. In having to defend it, people will have to think about
why and how it is true. Mill said that if an opinion is false, it does
no harm because it makes those with the true view hold it tighter and
firmer. Or an opinion may have some truth, in which case it needs to
collide with popular opinion like an onion simmers in a soup, so its
flavor can be added to the whole. Truth, he argued, can be very complex, and
individuals must be at liberty to discover its complexity.

Holmes was mulling over these arguments when a second Espionage Act
case reached the Supreme Court in 1919. This was the case of a young
immigrant named Abrams who, with a number of fellow factory workers,
distributed leaflets in New York City urging workers to support the Russian
Revolution and oppose US military intervention to stop it. This time,
Holmes and his colleague Lewis Brandeis voted to overturn the guilty
verdict. They were outnumbered and the court upheld Abrams' conviction, but
Holmes wrote an extraordinary dissent in defense of intellectual
freedom. His argument has influenced countless decision-makers since then.

At the center of the First Amendment, Holmes wrote, must be free trade
in ideas. "The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get
itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the
only ground upon which [the peoples'] wishes safely can be carried out."
It is essential, he wrote, to grant "freedom for the thought we hate."

Holmes argued that the words as well as the circumstances in which they
are used must be considered. For example, speech should not be
considered illegal if there is little chance the speech will bring about
illegal action, he said. Holmes set forth a standard, called the Clear and
Present Danger Test: Do words "create a clear and present danger that
they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to
prevent?" If not, the speech should be allowed. Seeing no clear and
present danger that some leaflets would hinder the US war effort, Holmes
saw no reason to punish Abrams.

Though he was on the losing side of the case, Holmes's reasoning
encouraged future courts to balance the risk of illegal action against the
risk of violating the right to self _expression.

The 1940 Smith Act targeting Communist Party members, provided one such
test. Passed during a period of fear and loathing related to World War
II, the Smith Act required that "aliens" register and be fingerprinted,
and made it a crime to advocate or teach the violent overthrow of the
US government or to belong to a group advocating such overthrow.

In Dennis v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld the Act in 1950
and modified the Clear and Present Danger test to one of "grave and
probable danger." But later, in the 1957 case of Yates v . United States,
the Court softened, ruling that to be guilty someone must act directly
against the United States; teaching about an overthrow of the government
was not itself grounds for conviction.

Related principles have been applied in cases since. In an important
case in 1969, Brandenberg vs. Ohio, the Supreme Court overturned the
conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who urged a dozen hooded supporters to
march on Congress for "revengeance." Though the speech advocated
unlawful action, there was no danger the audience would act on it, the Court
concluded, so while most people hated the speech, there was no basis
for legally stopping it.

On the other hand, the 1990s case of a Muslim religious leader who
urged burning the building of the publisher of Salman Rushdie's Satanic
Verses was considered differently. Rushdie was in hiding from a death
threat from Muslims outraged by his book, and a number of translators and
publishers involved in producing the book had already been killed or
wounded. The courts found that there was a clear and present danger that
the leader's words would lead to actions.

Deciding when to predict clear and present danger or grave and probable
danger, and determining when speech excites either danger, is not an
easy task, but more often than not appeals courts have corrected
overzealous lower courts by insisting that speech not be confused with action.

"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were
of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing
that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in
silencing mankind."

--John Stuart Mill

Leah Halper

First They Came for the Protesters

The cold but consistent policies of this administration: bomb, suppress, detain, arrest and shoot first, defend and prevaricate later.

The demonstrations in New York offer lessons on future strategies to get protesters' messages across to the public.

Tourists, old ladies and gentlemen, a building superintendent who was taking out the garbage, teenagers on their first date to a play, ministers, students, bicycle messengers and a good number of bruised and dirty yet singing and chanting protesters. It's the kind of diversity that New York City is famous for, and during this past week, the best place to find it was in the makeshift jail at Pier 57. The biggest underreported story of the Republican National Convention was not Laura Bush's Botox or conservative women making fools of themselves for California's manly governor. It was this: how could 1,800 people be arrested when they had done nothing wrong with the exception of crowding the sidewalks or block traffic? These events happen a thousand times every second in New York City. If these are crimes, all of New York should be arrested every single day.

In a country that engages in preemptive war against a small nation that had neither the intention nor the ability to attack us, preemptive suppression of dissent is the next logical step. But the word "preemptive" is misleading here, because it implies that a crime was about to be committed. It implies that Barbara Gates, 78, whose plans were as nefarious as walking at a slow pace to somewhere near the Convention and lying down, is a criminal and a threat to society. It implies that Julia Gross, 24, arrested while walking away from a "kiss-in," is a potential terrorist. These arrests, the lack of media attention concerning them, and the simultaneous pageantry within the convention imply that there is a legitimacy, in these "unsafe" times, for arresting anyone who has the audacity to even think about speaking up for dissent, even before they do so. After all, the Boy's Choir of Harlem is about to sing and the show must go on.

Some are calling the pier where the arrestees were held "Guantanamo on the Hudson." While the comparison is obviously a gross and privileged exaggeration (arrestees were released within days, not years, and none were interrogated, tortured, or isolated to the extent of the Guantanamo detainees), it does emphasize the cold but consistent policies of this administration: bomb, suppress, detain, arrest and shoot first, defend and prevaricate later. The police officers and the major newspapers were generally full of nothing but praise for the unconstitutional tactic. "It's been a good day," said Police Detective Kevin Czartorsyski on Tuesday, a day when over 800 people were arrested. "Things have pretty much happened as planned."

At the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, 420 people were arrested – more than 75 of whom were locked up for sleeping in a large space used for making puppets. It wasn't until April 2004, almost four years later, that the final arrestees stood trial and were acquitted on all charges. The arrests and protesters' subsequent treatment in jail brought heavy criticism from the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the National Lawyers Guild, Amnesty International and other civil rights organizations, but so far there hasn't been either acknowledgement or compensation to people who experienced the excessive arrests.

So the arrests in New York were not a surprise. There were a number of comparisons made, pre- and post-Convention, to the Chicago '68 demonstrations, in which the police were much more violent but arrested half as many people. The main difference between New York and Chicago, however, is the media savvy of both the police and the protesters. There were no pictures in New York of protesters being violently beaten by police. There were too many cameras around for that. Instead, protesters were just peacefully and unconstitutionally arrested. Similarly, there were no pictures of protesters being violent, and not because they didn't get the chance, but because – as protest organizers made clear – it was never in their plans.

The protests and arrests in New York raise two interrelated questions. First, how do we hold police and other agencies accountable in blatant examples of "preemptive arrests?" The second, and the one asked less often, is: what constitutes a strategically effective protest in a time of mass media conglomeration and constitutional disregard?

The first question is an easier one to answer. Christopher Dunn, associate director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told a Boston Phoenix reporter that "the common denominator" in alleged civil rights violations in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Miami was the presence of the Secret Service. In a pending lawsuit, the ACLU accuses the agency of discriminating against President Bush's critics, confining them to protest areas where the president and media will not see them. Gross and others arrested said they are also considering civil suits against the New York Police Department for unlawful arrest and chemical burns that occurred while staying in the toxic and uncleaned pier.

Answering the second question is more difficult. Does it make sense to focus on large peaceful marches that get positive media attention but don't show the range, intensity, or directness of the marches and protests that occurred the rest of the week? Or does it make sense to continue to protest in a myriad of ways: large general marches like Sunday's United for Peace and Justice procession; fierce and focused marches like that of the poor people's campaign marching for their lives; outbreaks of theatre, kiss-ins, satire, shut-up-athons; and blockades designed to disrupt and bring home people's deep dissatisfaction with the government's international and domestic policies? Part of the strength of the left/liberal/progressive/radical movement is their diversity and breadth of tactics. And activists will continue to do it all. In doing so, however, it is wise to neither underestimate the possibility for suppression and arrest, and to continue to strategically refine the message. The question for activists is not just what are you for or against, but who are you speaking to and who is really listening.

Delegates and bystanders appeared genuinely unsure of what the protests were specifically opposing and what they were offering as an alternative. There is a greater communication gap and divide between people in America than perhaps most people realize, and this emphasizes the need for protests to have a clear and articulate message. During the protest organized by the War Resisters League and the School of the America's Watch, for example, the only sign visible among the approximately 400 people while the press cameras were snaping was "Nader for President." If a march the size of Sunday's could have the discipline and unity of the poor people's campaign, based in community and specific in its message, it could articulate a progressive vision in a way that would be more difficult for the mainstream media to ignore. Watch "Amandla!" or any video of the South African people's struggle against apartheid for a look at a mass protest with a unified message.

As it was, on the final day of the convention, with over a thousand protesters still arrested and sitting in detention, the New York Times was quick to declare "victory" to the forces of suppression and order:

"It appears that the New York Police Department may have successfully redefined the post-Seattle era by showing that protest tactics designed to create chaos and attract the world's attention can be effectively countered with intense planning and a well-disciplined use of force."

While the paper of record might have been a little too eager, it does point to the need for activists, protesters, and other potential dissidents to consider their tactics more carefully. Many of the protesters – including the ones who are still protesting, and the ones who were detained at the pier – saw this as a week of victorious dissent. "We have made our voices heard, both directly to the delegates, throughout the country, and around the world," said David S., who had been planning and helping organize some of the protests. The goal of many on the streets of New York was not to speak up for John Kerry but to make visible the vast and deep running opposition to the President, the war on Iraq, and what Kensington Welfare Rights Union Director Cherrie Honkala and others called an "aggressive and unrelenting war on the poor" at home. They achieved this with limited success as most major media mentioned the size of the crowds and the number of arrests, but very little of the protesters' concrete concerns, including the vast increase in numbers of people in poverty or the consequences of the war in Iraq.

The final night of the convention, as George W. Bush proclaimed, "we are the path to the future," protesters inside and outside the convention fought hard to hold up a vision of an alternative future. Two separate protesters disrupted the speech, forcing the president to stop speaking momentarily. A carnival of resistance at Union Square had hundreds of people dancing, singing, chanting, and imagining their own kinds of freedom. It may not have changed the outcome of the election, but the week in New York made it impossible for delegates and protesters to continue as planned. Delegates, RNC officials, and media watchers around the country could not help but be aware of the vast dissent rumbling outside their windows. And protesters, faced with the effective shut-down of much of their plans, are left with the need to rethink the idea of simple disruption as a protest strategy in what promises to be an ongoing battle. Nearing midnight, as the balloons fell in Madison Square Garden, thousands outside chanted: "No More Bush!" their voices hoarse from a week of protests, but still, for now, unfettered.

Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.

Court Jesters

Remember the International Criminal Court? House Republicans do.

As America's reputation in the world dwindles to pathetic new lows, and with the United States seeking international support in Iraq and in the fight against terrorism, one might think this an inopportune moment to bait some of our closest foreign allies into unnecessary diplomatic rows. And yet, undeterred, Republican Representatives Tom DeLay and George Nethercutt teamed up on the House floor, and on July 15 they successfully pushed an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that would accomplish just that.

The "Nethercutt Amendment" would withhold economic assistance to America's NATO partners, as well as to some major non-NATO allies such as Jordan, South Africa, and Japan, until these countries sign what are known as "bilateral immunity agreements" (BIAs) that exempt U.S. nationals and foreign contractors from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Based in The Hague, Netherlands, the ICC is the first permanent court capable of trying individuals accused of the most serious violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law, namely genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Fearful of the ICC's potential to encroach on U.S. sovereignty, the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress have tried to undermine the court ever since the treaty that created the court entered into force in the summer of 2002. The Nethercutt Amendment, however, may be their most aggressive attempt to limit the court. The bill would use the threat of withholding aid from the State Department's Economic Support Fund to blackmail a bevy of U.S. allies into granting Americans immunity from prosecution before the ICC. So far, 92 countries have concluded a BIA with the United States, but there are holdouts. Under the Nethercutt Amendment, these countries would have their economic assistance stripped bare.

So, for example, the $250 million Jordan is slated to receive in fiscal year 2005 to support a wide array of governance reforms – and to reward that country for its continuing cooperation on Iraqi reconstruction efforts – would be conditional upon Jordan's accession to a BIA. Jordan, however, is unlikely to sign such an agreement. It has been highly committed to the court since its inception, and Jordan's Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zed al-Hussein is president of the ICC's governing body, the Assembly of State Parties. Like many other countries that adhere to the ICC, Jordan considers these immunity agreements illegal under the obligations set forth in the Rome Statute that created the court. Furthermore, many ICC member states simply lack the political will to enter into a BIA with the United States. For example, many eastern European and Baltic countries see their future with the European Union. They refuse to sign a BIA so as to curry favor with the rest of Europe, which strongly supports the court.

According to Citizens for Global Solutions, a Washington-based nonprofit that closely monitors the ICC, the Nethercutt Amendment would also jeopardize regional initiatives to combat drug trafficking and international organized crime, as it would slice $8 million from a coordinated effort to reduce cocoa production and drug trafficking in Peru; $9 million from the State Department's "third border initiative," which helps Caribbean countries combat drugs, arms, and human trafficking; and $1 million used to help South Africa combat counterfeiting and financial crimes.

Insofar as the Nethercutt Amendment would force the United States to abandon some of its most strategic allies at this particularly vulnerable juncture in U.S. history, many foreign-policy heads have questioned its wisdom. As one prominent human-rights expert put it, "Is picking a gratuitous fight with our allies, at this moment, really worth it?"

George W. Bush, however, is convinced that Americans will be the targets of politically motivated prosecutions, and he has fought the ICC since taking office. This relatively new diplomatic posturing is simply the culmination of a long-standing Republican hostility to the court that's grown shriller ever since Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute on December 31, 2000. In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in May 2002, the Bush administration formally signaled America's intent to "unsign" its name to the statute, a maneuver virtually unheard of in U.S. diplomatic history.

The following month, former Senator Jesse Helms introduced the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (ASPA), which is similar to the Nethercutt Amendment except that it only affects military aid. Additionally, ASPA includes broad exemptions for NATO partners and major non-NATO allies, as well as presidential authority to waive it on a country-by-country basis.

Since ASPA became law on August 3, 2002, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton has led the administration's effort to secure as many BIAs as possible. Bolton, whom Helms praised during the undersecretary's confirmation hearing as "the kind of man with whom I'd want to stand at Armageddon," is known for his rebukes of treaties that might place strictures on U.S. sovereignty. To this end, Bolton's achievements include engineering the administration's withdrawal of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty; rejection of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, an increasingly hard-line approach to North Korea; and opposition to the inspection and verification requirements of the Biological Weapons Convention. (Bolton would not respond to repeated requests for an interview.)

Yet Bolton is perhaps most famous for his crusade against the ICC. Under the threat of withholding military aid, Bolton's negotiating team has strong-armed some 92 small countries into signing immunity agreements with the United States. Other allies that have refused to sign these agreements – such as Brazil, Croatia, and Costa Rica – have had their military aid stripped.

Sometimes this can be to awkward diplomatic effect. On July 1, 2003, the Bush administration suspended military assistance to Latvia for refusing to sign a BIA – even though the country had joined the "coalition of the willing" well before the invasion of Iraq. As a result, for five months Latvian troops were supporting the U.S.-led occupation even as the United States halted military-assistance programs. Finally, in November 2003, Bush signed a waiver exempting Latvia from ASPA.

Many of the 201 House Republicans and 40 Democrats who voted for the Nethercutt Amendment are not staunch ideologues of the DeLay, Nethercutt, and Bolton variety. Rather, as one Democratic Hill staffer explained, "Most of the members who voted for this amendment weren't rabid ICC haters. They just bought into Nethercutt and DeLay's blatantly distorting rhetoric about the court."

During the floor debate on the amendment, DeLay took the opportunity to serve up the kind of red meat that would play well in certain constituencies, particularly in a time of war. After referring to the ICC as "Kofi Annan's kangaroo court," he warned his colleagues of what they might face in November if they voted against the amendment: "If you want to go home to your constituents and tell them that you think their tax dollars should go to foreign countries who allow American soldiers to be imprisoned and shipped off to Brussels without their constitutional rights, then by all means vote 'no' on the Nethercutt Amendment."

Despite DeLay's high-octane rhetoric, this bill has less to do with U.S. soldiers than it does with anti-UN election-year posturing. Status-of-force agreements and other bilateral arrangements already guarantee full U.S. jurisdiction over American personnel abroad. Furthermore, the ICC's own jurisdiction is highly limited; it defers investigations to a national court, even if that court decides not to prosecute.

Though the State Department officially opposes the Nethercutt Amendment as currently worded, it would support a version of the bill that gives the president the authority to exempt countries on a case-by-case basis. As this bill moves to the Senate, there is still a chance it will be killed in conference. Yet, as one Democratic congressional press secretary warned me, the State Department compromise raises the possibility that the amendment could still get sneaked into an omnibus spending package.

One thing is certain: This won't be the last time that the radical conservatives forsake better U.S. interests in their crusade against the ICC.

Copyright © 2004 by The American Prospect, Inc. Preferred Citation: Mark Goldberg, "Court Jesters", The American Prospect Online, Sep 1, 2004. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. Direct questions about permissions to permissions@prospect.org.

Mark Goldberg is a Prospect writing fellow.

A Copernican Foreign Policy

We Americans are sometimes like the ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy. That is, we see the United States as the fixed center of the universe, with other nations and events revolving around us. I think it's one of our endearing qualities, this ebullient national self-centeredness -- except when it leads to errors in geopolitical navigation.

President Bush gave a moving evocation of this American Ptolemaism in his acceptance speech last week. "Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom," he said. Like his mentor Ronald Reagan, Bush conveyed his conviction that God has bestowed great blessings on the United States -- made it a "shining city on a hill" -- with corresponding responsibilities to lead the world.

The problem for the United States is the disconnect between this self-image and the way the rest of the world feels about us. Increasingly, people in other countries don't see America as that beacon of idealism but as something menacing. We can think they're wrong and we can choose to ignore them, but unfortunately, that won't change the way they feel.

This disconnect is clear in recent poll findings. A study released in March by the Pew Research Center found "somewhat" or "very" unfavorable views about the United States among 63 percent of those surveyed in Turkey, 61 percent in Pakistan, 93 percent in Jordan and 68 percent in Morocco. And these are our allies in the Islamic world.

The Pew study found that images of the United States were almost as negative among America's allies in "old Europe," with sharp deterioration from two years before -- 62 percent were unfavorable in France, compared with 34 percent in 2002, and 59 percent were unfavorable in Germany, compared with 35 percent before.

The same bleak trend was evident in a 2003 study co-sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a group for which I serve as a trustee. Less than half the Europeans surveyed said they wanted to see a strong U.S. presence in the world, down from 64 percent the previous year.

The Ptolemaist in me wants to tell the rest of the world to go to hell. In economic, military and political terms, the United States is the center of the universe -- and it does have a historic mission to spread its ideals of liberty and democracy. You could hear a roar of approval for this view when Bush told the Republicans last week: "I believe that America is called to lead the cause of freedom in a new century."

But we should consider the need for a Copernican revolution in the way we think about America and the world. As students of history recall, the 16th century Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus shattered conventional wisdom when he argued that Earth is not at the center of the solar system but is one of many planets revolving around the sun. This theory was a blow to the idea that God had set Earth at the center of his creation.

The importance of Copernicus was not simply that he got it right but that the truth he revealed allowed scientists to make accurate calculations at last about the Earth's orbit and the movement of other planets. Realizing that the Earth wasn't at the center of the universe didn't make earthlings any less important; it just allowed them to do their sums right.

One of John Kerry's strengths in this presidential campaign is that he's a Copernican. He understands that however powerful and important the United States may be, it isn't the fixed center of the world. There are other nations, traveling in their own orbits -- with their own cultures, traditions and values -- which must be taken into account. Kerry takes a lot of flak from Republicans for this view, but critics miss the point.

You can't wish away America's present unpopularity in the world. It's a fact, and a dangerous one. The task of leadership, especially in a time of war -- is to gather support among other nations for U.S. policies. That's a subtle process, but it begins with a recognition that however blessed America may be, it doesn't have a God-given right to tell everyone else what to do. When America tries this approach (and Bush is hardly the first president who's guilty of it), it tends to make enemies.

So in this political season, a little more Copernicus, please. Seeing America as a great nation in a system of nations, each spinning at its own speed, will help the United States navigate better in the long journey to create a stable world, where our terrorist enemies can be contained. Who knows, it could even win us more friends.

David Ignatius
Washington Post

Beyond The Roots Of Abu Ghraib

This year, when details were disclosed on the Bush administration's legal review of how the Geneva Conventions might apply to enemy combatants, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales dismissed as "irrelevant" one of the most troubling documents to come to light. It was an August 2002 memo prepared by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that sought to explain what constituted illegal torture with regard to such prisoners under the Convention Against Torture. The memo asserted that only acts of "an extreme nature" (i.e., "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death") would constitute criminal violations under domestic and international law, and that acts that were merely cruel, inhuman or degrading might escape prosecution.

Late last month the Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations, chaired by former defense secretary James Schlesinger, released its report on allegations of prisoner abuse. The report states that an internal Defense Department working group set up in January 2003 "relied heavily on the OLC" in developing a list of 24 interrogation techniques that were subsequently approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on April 16, 2003, for use against al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to the Schlesinger report, these interrogation techniques later "migrated" to Iraq.

So, contrary to the assertions of the White House counsel, it would appear that the Justice Department's memo, as well as the president's February 2002 memo declaring that fighters detained in Afghanistan were not entitled as a matter of law to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, were quite relevant to both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib (where Iraqi detainees were covered by Geneva Conventions). At a minimum, they provided a legal backdrop for a series of contradictory and confusing policy memos signed by Rumsfeld and the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq that contributed to some of the abuse of detainees.

The Schlesinger report concludes that responsibility for that abuse goes beyond a handful of individual soldiers on the "late shift" at Abu Ghraib, or the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline. "There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels," it says. But the report stops short of asserting that the White House, Justice Department or CIA (which interrogated detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and Iraq) shared this responsibility with the Pentagon's civilian and military leadership.

Perhaps the Senate Armed Services Committee can further resolve the issue of responsibility when it holds its hearing this week to receive testimony on the Schlesinger report, as well as on a report released in August by the Army investigating detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib. Specifically:

• Did either the Schlesinger or Army investigations interview officials in the White House or at the Justice Department regarding the February or August 2002 memos relating to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture?

• What role did White House or Justice Department officials play in development of the memos on interrogation techniques signed by Rumsfeld in December 2002, January 2003 and April 2003?

• Were other agencies -- specifically the State Department, which usually takes the lead in interpreting treaties such as the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, or the National Security Council -- included in the process of developing approved interrogation techniques, and if not, why not?

• Did guidance from the White House and the Justice Department with respect to the Geneva Conventions and the definition of torture in 2002 contribute to the chain of events in the Department of Defense and military command in Iraq leading to the abuses at Abu Ghraib?

Beyond the issue of responsibility for Abu Ghraib, the Senate should explore with the Schlesinger panel whether the administration's policy -- that the war on terrorism excuses the United States from some of the limitations stipulated by the Geneva Conventions -- creates a dangerous double standard. Many believe the administration's position undercuts a number of international accords (beyond Geneva) reached under presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush making clear that certain acts -- torture, hostage-taking, attacks on domestic airlines -- are so reprehensible that they are unjustified for any reason.

Senators have an opportunity to begin laying the foundation for a new policy, one that reaffirms America's commitment to international agreements that remain relevant in a dangerous world.

The writer was director of defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council from 1993 to 2001. He teaches at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Steve Andreasen

U.S. Oil Firms Entwined in Equatorial Guinea Deals

Riggs Probe Led to SEC Inquiry on Corruption, Profiteering

Soon after arriving in Equatorial Guinea in 1991, the U.S. ambassador discovered an unusual arrangement involving the country's despotic president and the first successful oil company operating in the poor, West African nation.

Walter International Inc. was paying to send the president's son to study at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., company employees told the ambassador, John E. Bennett. The staff of the Houston company told Bennett about the arrangement, grousing that the son was "spending at will," bringing the tab for a year in Southern California to at least $50,000, the former ambassador said.

After Walter became successful with its business -- and government relations -- some of the biggest names in oil rushed to drill off the shore of a country the size of Maryland. They expanded on the type of arrangement Walter had with President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago, but on a much larger scale.

Their business activities provide a picture of how oil companies have operated in a developing country with a history of corruption. The companies paid for scholarships for children of the country's leaders, formed business ventures with government officials, hired companies linked to Obiang and rented property from government officials and their relatives, according to a U.S. Senate report released in July that reveals the companies' operations in striking detail. The report, which described the relationship between Riggs Bank of Washington and the oil firms operating in Equatorial Guinea, said the companies' actions raised "concerns related to corruption and profiteering."

A Securities and Exchange Commission investigation includes the three companies with the largest presence in the country -- Exxon Mobil Corp., Amerada Hess Corp. and Marathon Oil Corp. -- along with ChevronTexaco Corp., Devon Energy Corp. and CMS Energy Corp., the companies have said. The Senate report also cited activities of a private company, Vanco Energy Co.

Some of the companies' annual reports show their broadening investment in Equatorial Guinea. Since 1997, the amount of oil produced in Equatorial Guinea has increased seven times, to about 360,000 barrels a day. The country has emerged as the third-largest producer in sub-Saharan Africa and derives most of its revenue from oil.

Oil companies have a history of supplying cash and lavish gifts to leaders of countries whose oil reserves they want to exploit. Bribery of foreign officials was outlawed in 1977 under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, after SEC investigations led more than 400 U.S. companies to admit that they had made questionable or illegal payments in other countries. The act outlaws payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business.

Officials at the Justice Department and SEC, both of which are responsible for enforcing the act, could not provide statistics on the number of oil companies that have been accused of violations. A Justice Department spokesman said no officials wanted to discuss enforcement of the act. Paul R. Berger, associate director of the SEC's enforcement division , cited several cases in recent years that his agency had brought against oil companies, but he added that violations can be hard to discover and prove.

Two subsidiaries of ABB Ltd. -- ABB Vetco Gray of Houston and ABB Vetco Gray UK of Scotland -- pleaded guilty in the United States in July to violating the corrupt practices act. Federal regulators said they made more than $1.1 million in illicit payments to Nigerian government officials to gain advantage on oil and gas projects.

Halliburton Co., a Houston oil field services company, said in SEC filings last month that federal regulators were investigating possible improper payments under the corrupt practices act involving a project in Nigeria in which the company had participated.

In Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, human rights activists said the oil companies' payments there have helped prop up Obiang, who has ruled since seizing power in a military coup in 1979. State department reports have for years cited the regime for human rights violations, including torture, beatings and abuse of prisoners and suspects, sometimes resulting in death.

A State Department report published this year concluded that most of the money generated by the oil companies' presence has not benefited average residents in the country of 500,000. Most of the country's oil wealth "appears to be concentrated in the hands of top government officials while the majority of the population remained poor," the report said.

Sarah Wykes, who has studied the situation in Equatorial Guinea for Global Witness of London, said oil companies ignored red flags about how their money was being spent.

"At the very least, there's an appearance of the complicity with corruption," said Wykes, whose group advocates the public disclosure of payments by oil companies to countries where they operate. "It's reinforcing the culture of corruption."

Equatorial Guinea's ambassador to Washington, Teodoro Biyogo Nsue, Obiang's brother-in-law, did not return repeated phone calls for this story. Embassy personnel said Obiang could not be reached for comment. A Washington firm that handles press issues for the country, C/R International LLC, was unable to arrange interviews for this story.

While oil revenue has filled government coffers, most of the citizens still survive on about $1 a day. Three of four residents suffer malnutrition, but only 1 percent of the budget was spent on health care between 1997 and 2002.

Obiang, his family and members of his government live lavishly. Obiang owns two houses in Potomac, valued at $1.3 million and $2.5 million, property records show. One of his sons, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, owns a $6.9 million house in Los Angeles.

The payments by the oil companies came to light as part of a Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations probe of Riggs, which handled Equatorial Guinea's accounts. The Los Angeles Times reported last year on concerns about diversion of oil proceeds to Equatorial Guinea's ruler and on the country's oil funds being held by Riggs.

Federal regulators are investigating the bank for long-standing violations of laws designed to prevent money laundering.

In the course of tracing money through Riggs accounts, Senate investigators found numerous questionable transactions involving oil companies.

The oil companies made payments of more than $4 million to support more than 100 students from Equatorial Guinea studying abroad, most of whom were relatives of wealthy or powerful officials, the report said.

The report said three companies -- Exxon Mobil, Hess and Marathon -- have made large payments to officials, their family members or businesses controlled by them.

A subsidiary of Exxon Mobil leased buildings and land from the president's wife, according to a letter from the company to the Senate subcommittee. The leases were later changed to name a company controlled by Obiang.

Hess paid officials of the country nearly $1 million for building leases. In one case, a lease was negotiated by Triton Energy, a company Hess acquired in 2001, and was continued by Hess; the two companies paid $445,800 to lease property from a 14-year-old relative of the president, who was represented by his mother, according to Senate investigators.

At one point, Hess stopped paying on the lease after a judge ruled that the property belonged to someone else. A government minister called Hess officials and asked why the payments had stopped. Hess informed the minister of the judge's order. The minister got the judge on the phone and he immediately rescinded the order, Hess told Senate investigators.

Two companies -- Hess and a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil -- paid a total of nearly $1 million for security services from a company owned by the president's brother, Armengol Ondo Nguema, who has been accused of human rights abuses in his job overseeing security forces. Through a subsidiary, Triton transferred $250,000 to a Riggs account to send Ondo's children to school, according to the Senate report.

In a report released in 1999, the State Department said that at Ondo's direction, security forces "urinated on prisoners, kicked them in the ribs, sliced their ears with knives, and smeared oil over their naked bodies in order to attract stinging ants."

Ondo owns a house in Arlington valued at $463,000, according to property records.

In several instances, oil companies formed joint ventures with high-ranking officials in the country, the companies have said. Exxon Mobil entered into a business venture with a construction and real estate company controlled by Obiang, resulting in dividend payments to the president totaling $31,500 over three years.

Senate staff members would not say whether they referred any possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to the Justice Department for investigation, citing policy not to disclose such information.

The oil companies named in the Senate report declined to answer specific questions about operations in Equatorial Guinea or did not return phone calls.

"We take pride in the way we do business," said Jay R. Wilson, a spokesman for Hess. "We think we do business very ethically."

At a Senate hearing in July , Albert Marchetti, an official with Hess, said his company paid for scholarships for students from Equatorial Guinea but did not select which students received the awards. He said the company did not "have anything to do with where that money is spent and who it's spent on."

Also at the hearing, Steven Guidry, an official with Marathon, said that the company recognized the concerns about human rights abuses. "Our presence in the country, we think, goes a great distance toward improving conditions in Equatorial Guinea, and . . . we think we have a positive affect on the conditions that exist in Equatorial Guinea," Guidry said.

Andrew Swiger, an executive vice president at Exxon Mobil, said at the hearing that in Equatorial Guinea, there is "a small community of government officials and business owners."

"Virtually all government officials have some business interests of their own, or through a close relative," Swinger said. "In such countries, it is sometimes necessary to do business with a government official or a close relative of a government official. But it is still expected that we do business ethically and comply with all U.S. and local laws."

Former oil company executives said in interviews that government officials in developing countries would occasionally approach them seeking bribes or other unusual payments.

"Anything in West Africa you have to be careful," said Nicholas De'Ath, a former executive with Triton who worked in Equatorial Guinea in the late 1990s. "You have to have very clear standards, policies and procedures within your organization, and you have to make damn sure everybody follows it."

De'Ath said his company made no improper payments during the time he was in Equatorial Guinea. Company executives who were in charge at the time of the payments described in the Senate report did not return phone calls.

Because of concern that money paid by oil and other natural resource companies has been misappropriated by leaders of some countries, an international coalition of groups has been lobbying for the disclosure of fees the companies pay to do business. Billionaire financier George Soros, who is among those pushing the initiative, said in an interview that doing so would pressure the oil companies and make it "more difficult to engage in those practices."

But while some have agreed to voluntarily disclose the amount of payments, efforts to enact laws making reporting mandatory have not been successful. The Senate report said the corrupt practices act should be changed to require U.S. companies to disclose substantial payments to a country's officials, family members or businesses they control.

The payments from the oil companies to the government were facilitated by Riggs.

From 1995 until 2004, Riggs administered more than 60 accounts for the government of Equatorial Guinea, top officials and their family members. The aggregate deposits -- which ranged from $400 million to $700 million at a time -- collectively made the country the bank's biggest customer, prompting jubilation among Riggs officials.

"Where is this money coming from? Oil -- black gold -- Texas tea!" a Riggs executive vice president, Raymond M. Lund, gushed to colleagues in a 2001 e-mail.

But the Senate report concluded that in processing the oil money, Riggs "turned a blind eye to evidence suggesting the bank was handling the proceeds of foreign corruption." Riggs accepted oil companies' payments into a government account from which money could be withdrawn with the signature of Obiang and a second person: either his son, the country's minister of mines; or his nephew, the secretary of state for treasury and budget.

At one point, Riggs allowed more than $35 million from the government account to be wired into the accounts of two companies in countries with bank secrecy laws. Senate investigators think at least one of the companies is controlled partly or wholly by Obiang.

In May, the bank agreed to pay $25 million in civil penalties to settle charges by regulators that the bank was "willful" and "systemic" in its violation of anti-money laundering laws.

At the time Bennett served as U.S. ambassador to Equatorial Guinea -- 1991 to 1994 -- he said Walter was the only oil company with an office there, though other companies came to assess the country.

When Walter officials told Bennett of the scholarship money, he said he thought the practice "seemed an unusual way for a company to do business," but he was more focused on dealing with a government that was terrorizing the population using "intimidation, arbitrary arrests, widespread torture, total corruption of government services."

A former official of Walter, which was later purchased by another company, declined to comment, and its founder died. The company was not named in the Senate report.

Bennett said that when he raised concern about human rights abuses under Obiang, Walter officials grew uncomfortable. Bennett said the company was especially displeased after he went to Washington and delivered a detailed report on the Obiang regime's record of abuses.

Bennett said a Walter official "was really ticked off and just read me the riot act very forcefully." He said the official was "accusing me of making it difficult for his company to do business."

Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 7, 2004