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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Chechen Fighters Offer Bounty For Putin

9 September 2004 -- Chechen fighters promised today to give $20 million to anyone helping them capture Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yesterday, the Russian government offered $10 million for information that would help track down the two main Chechen leaders, Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basaev.

A statement on Chechen resistance websites says the award is offered to countries, organizations, or individuals who help the "Chechen Republic" in detaining "the war criminal Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin."

Maskhadov has denied involvement in the hostage taking. Basaev has not yet commented, but experts say the attack showed signs of his leadership.


Beslan: The Real International Connection

Commentators are desperately trying to make sense of what seem like senseless events in Beslan. But they are attempting to force it into political categories where it simply doesn't fit.

Some have located the school siege in the broader bloody clash between Chechen nationalists and the Russian state. 'There can be no denying the direct link between the Beslan tragedy and the war in Chechnya', wrote Ahmed Zakaev, former deputy prime minister of Chechnya, in the UK Guardian. Others have rushed to blame Beslan on Russian President Vladimir Putin, arguing that the siege is a tragic blowback for his strongman tactics in Chechnya (1).

Yet taking hostage an entire school on the first day of term, surrounding teachers, parents and kids with land mines and high explosives, makes little sense as a nationalist strike against a military aggressor or as a tactic for weakening Russian rule in the Caucasus. Instead, like the Moscow theatre siege of 2002, the school siege looked more like a murderous stunt, an al-Qaeda-esque assault, designed to provoke fear and outrage rather than to realise any discernible political aim.

Too many want to understand Beslan through traditional political and military frameworks. But there is something new going on here. As British Brigadier Aldwyn Wight told BBC2's Newsnight, the Beslan assault had 'no political rationale', and strikingly the hostage-takers exercised 'no restraint' when it came to taking casualties. The kind of violence visited on Beslan is not rooted in Chechnya or in any traditional nationalism; rather, like the attacks of 9/11, Bali, Madrid and elsewhere, this is a rootless terrorism, dislocated from political, military or national norms, with no clear motivation and little compunction about killing civilians. What has given rise to such terror?

It remains unclear who was behind Beslan. In keeping with other recent rootless attacks, nobody has claimed responsibility or explained why they did it. The Chechen authorities deny any involvement in what they describe as a 'savage attack'; former Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov, whom the Russian authorities accuse of masterminding the siege, today offering $10million for information that leads to his capture, has also denounced this attack on 'defenceless children' (2).

For obvious reasons, Russia is keen to situate Beslan within the international 'war on terror', effectively claiming that the siege was the work of al-Qaeda. Putin's al-Qaeda talk is clearly opportunist; his aim is to distract from his repressive policies in Chechnya since he launched a second war there in 1999 (the first war having taken place under Boris Yeltsin from 1994 to 1996).

So Russian officials talk up the alleged mix of foreigners who took part in the attack. A North Ossetian spokesman initially claimed that 10 of the estimated 30 to 35 hostage-takers were Arabs; a Russian official said the hostage-takers were made up of Chechens, Ingush (from the state next to North Ossetia), Arabs, Kazakhs and Slavs. Yet now some argue that there were no Arabs, but rather that the dead hostage-takers' charred faces were mistaken for dark skin. This morning Sergei Ivanov, Russia's defence minister, is quoted as saying that not a single Chechen has been found among the 32 dead terrorists, raising questions about earlier attempts to explain Beslan as a straightforward 'Chechen issue' (3).

But then, the identities of the attackers are not enough to explain why this attack was so ruthless. If a few Arabs did take part in the siege, that alone could not explain the rise of the new terrorism, in Chechnya or anywhere else. There is no doubt that the Chechen separatist movement has become internationalised over the past decade, with Mujihadeen fighters and wannabe jihadists arriving from the Balkans, Afghanistan, the Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and even Britain and France; and this influx of jihadists has certainly helped to 'Islamicise' Chechen separatism.

There are clear links between the global Mujihadeen and Chechen separatists. It is suspected that Shamil Basayev, leader of a Chechen separatist group, played a part in organising, or perhaps sanctioning, the Beslan school siege. He, like other Chechen separatist leaders, is reported to be a veteran of the Mujihadeen training camps in Afghanistan. These were originally set up with American backing in the 1980s, to train Afghans, Arabs and others to take on the invading Soviet army; US officials estimate that between 1985 and 1992, 12,500 foreigners were trained in bomb-making, sabotage, urban guerrilla warfare and other military tactics in these CIA-sponsored camps.

As the Christian Science Monitor reported this week, 'Ties between Chechen rebels and [Mujihadeen forces] stretch back to the first Chechen war (1994 to 1996)'. But it was only later, during the second war, that Mujihadeen elements started to exercise their influence. 'By 1999, when Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev invaded Russian territory in Dagestan, prompting a second war, it became clear that Islamic radicals dominated Chechen rebel groups', says the CS Monitor (4).

The influx of hundreds of jihadists did much to transform the Chechen conflict

The influx of hundreds of jihadists did much to transform the Chechen conflict, as Loretta Napoleoni notes in Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks. She argues that in the vaccum created by the collapse of the Chechen state following the first war, Mujihadeen 'warlords and armed groups blossomed....modifying Chechnya's secular resistance into radical fundamentalism' (5).

But the arrival of the Mujihadeen into Chechnya is a symptom of a far bigger problem. It is not that Arabs and others arrived in Chechnya and brought everything downhill; rather, the movement of such forces into Chechnya speaks to a broader global instability and collapse of state authority, which has nourished today's disparate terror groups, from Afghanistan to Sudan to the Caucasus.

New terrorism a consequence of Western interventions

The missing link in the debates about terrorism, about the shift from the more politically-oriented violence of the past to the blindly ruthless attacks of today, is the West's foreign interventions of the 1990s. It is by examining these that we can start to make sense of today's seemingly senseless terror. Such interventions, particularly in the Balkans, did much to create the conditions for the rise of the new stateless groups that are so different from old-style nationalist movements.

The end of the Cold War in the late 1980s and early 1990s gave rise to new rounds of Western intervention in the third world - interventions that were justified as defending beleaguered peoples against ruthless dictators and upholding human rights across the globe, rather than in the selfish, national interests of Western elites. From Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1993, to the dropping of bombs to bring 'peace' to the Balkans in the mid-90s, to Bill Clinton and Tony Blair's Kosovo war of 1999, the battles over territory and influence that defined the Cold War period were replaced with new wars that would, we were told, liberate people from tyranny.

Yet for all its stated aims, humanitarian intervention powerfully destabilised the world order, undermining the institutions that had cohered the international order in the postwar period. At the heart of the new humanitarianism there was a distinct hostility to the sovereign nation state, which had been the building block of international affairs for nearly 50 years. The Clinton administration, king of the humanitarian age, made clear its disdain for the old idea of non-intervention in sovereign states' affairs. In the early 1990s Clinton adviser Strobe Talbott outlined their preferred approach to world affairs: 'Nationhood as we know it will be obsolete. All states will recognise a single global authority.... A phrase that was briefly fashionable in the mid-twentieth century - citizen of the world - will have assumed real meaning by the end of the twentieth century.' (6).

In 1994, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared that 'the mission of the United Nations to uphold human dignity and human rights globally transcends national borders' (7). In the new world order, local state authority was out and global interventionism was in.

In undermining state authority, humanitarianism created the space for the rise of non-state actors - and it encouraged their movement across borders. This double impact of Western interventionism reached its zenith in the Balkans.

From the start of the 1990s, outside intervention in the Balkans internationalised local tensions. German recognition of the Croat and Slovene republics in 1991, Russian backing of the Serbs, American recognition of the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992 and its support for the Bosnian Muslim side - all of this transformed Yugoslavia's internal political differences into heated international issues, paving the way for a prolonged war. Western meddling ruptured Yugoslavia's internal structures, while ensuring that external pressures were increasingly brought to bear on the region. As part of this destabilising process, the USA permitted the movement of Mujihadeen forces from the Middle East and Central Asia to fight alongside the Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs.

In 1993, as documented in David Halberstam's seminal War In a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals, President Clinton gave a 'green light' to the arming of the Bosnian Muslims by Iran and Saudi Arabia, even though this defied a UN embargo against arming any side in the Yugoslav conflict (8). From 1993 to 1996 there was an influx of weapons and military advisers into Bosnia, largely organised by Iranian and Saudi officials. This opened the floodgates to the arrival of Mujihadeen fighters from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria and elsewhere, to fight with the Bosnian Muslims. All of this took place under the watchful eye of a Clintonian policy of 'no instruction' - in short, such movements should not be interfered with and, if possible, should be encouraged by a 'green light' (9).

Mujihadeen forces effectively became the armed wing of Western liberal opinion

It is unclear how many Mujihadeen were active in Bosnia. Estimates vary from 600 to 4,000. According to the US House Republican policy committee, in a statement critical of the Clinton administration, issued on 26 April 1996, 'eight flights a month packed with thousands of tons of arms and ammunition either originating in Iran or purchased and shipped with Iranian backing' arrived in Zagreb destined for the Bosnian Muslims and also for Croats; and Iran played a role in 'station[ing] from 3,000 to 4,000 revolutionary guards [Mujihadeen] in Bosnia' (10).

The opening up of Yugoslavia to Mujihadeen forces wrote the script for future movements into Chechnya. Indeed, European intelligence officials claim that Bosnia, where some Mujihadeen forces set up training camps following the end of hostilities in 1996, has become a 'one-stop shop for Islamic militants', for those moving both to and from Chechnya (11).

As Loretta Napoleoni documents in Modern Jihad, in Chechnya in the early 1990s 'the Islamist insurgency had relied mainly on foreign sponsors and domestic smuggling'. By 1995, after the Bosnian experience, Chechen forces were being assisted and armed by 'the International Islamic Relief Organisation, a Saudi-based charity funded by mosques and wealthy donors in the Gulf' and also by Pakistan. During this period, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Iran also played a role in 'funding the spread of Islamist armed groups in the region' (12). Iranian and Saudi officials seem to have taken the USA's 'green light' to mean that the sponsorship of Mujihadeen forces across state borders was as legitimate in Chechnya as it was in the Balkans.

The West continued to allow the growth and movement of Mujihadeen forces in Europe towards the end of the 1990s. In the late 1990s, in the run-up to Clinton and Blair's Kosovo war of 1999, the USA backed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against Serbia. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post in 1998, the KLA had been 'provided with financial and military support from Islamic countries', and had been 'bolstered by hundreds of Mujihadeen...[some of whom] were trained in Osama bin Laden's terrorist camps in Afghanistan'. There were links also between the Western-backed KLA and Chechen separatists (13).

The developments of the 1990s - away from a world organised around state sovereignty and towards encouraging the movement of both state and non-state forces across borders - did much to give rise to today's peculiarly rootless, cross-border movements.

Since 9/11, the US State Department and European officials have fretted about the consequences of the movement of Mujihadeen forces into Europe. The State Department is concerned that Bosnia-Herzegovina has become a 'staging area and safe haven for terrorists', including 'extremists with ties to bin Laden'. Some may now be looking at Russia after the Beslan school siege and asking what the hell they unleashed; they will no doubt support the Russian government's condemnation of foreign and Arab extremists in Chechnya. Yet targeting individual Arabs and attempting to rein in those forces unleashed in the 1990s will do little to bring peace to these regions. The underlying problem is contemporary Western intervention and its corrosive impact, rather than handfuls of mad Arabs.

Western officials wring their hands over the atrocity in Beslan, carried out by a terror group that seems irrational and, as Aldwyn Wight says, without restraint. Yet such terror networks are the product of the West's undermining of its own postwar international framework during the humanitarian era. The old national liberation and nationalist movements reflected a world organised around the principles of sovereign equality and state authority; today's terror networks hold a mirror to the West's self-destructive assault on state sovereignty and the integrity of borders in the post-Cold War world. Where the old world order, for all its vast faults, gave rise to movements that sought to create their own states, the new world order has encouraged the emergence of distinctly stateless groups, not tied to any specific community or political goal.

This goes some way to explaining why today's terrorism seems so much more unrestrained and brutal than earlier political violence. Freed from responsibility to a distinct community, with little ties to national territory or political principles, today's roving terrorist has fewer constraints on his actions - as we witnessed so devastatingly in Beslan. It is because these groups are free-floating agents rather than rooted political actors, reflecting the kind of Western intervention that revived their fortunes in the 1990s, that they can execute what appear to be unthinkable acts. In the absence of conventional political structures that might define and direct a violent campaign, the new terrorists have little compunction about killing or injuring. As Jonathan Tucker of the Monterey Institute of International Affairs has argued, because these terrorists 'are not motivated by political ideology on the far left or right', they are more likely to be 'extremists...with an apocalyptic mindset' (14).

The Mujihadeen was created and financed by the right in the 1980s, by the Reagan administration and the Thatcher government, to take on the Soviets in the Afghan war of 1979 to 1992 - that last gasp of the Cold War. In the 1990s, the baton was passed to the left; Mujihadeen forces effectively became the armed wing of Western liberal opinion, moving across borders to fight what politicians and liberal commentators in the West considered to be 'good wars', from Bosnia to Kosovo and also in Chechnya. It was the internationalisation of local conflicts by Western governments that encouraged the internationalisation of the Mujihadeen, transforming what had been a specific Afghan-based phenomenon into an effectively global force.

The same politicians and commentators who applauded the interventions of the 1990s - some of whom wrote glowing accounts of the 'brave' and 'cool' Mujihadeen in Western newspapers during the Yugoslav and Kosovo wars (15) - are as shocked as everyone else by the Beslan school siege. But perhaps, as well as condemning those who attacked innocent children and their parents, they should also interrogate their earlier support for 'humanitarian intervention' and their continuing support for Western interference abroad.

Brendan O'Neill

The Likudization of the World

9/11's real legacy is that Bush has adopted Sharon's rigid views.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is so fed up with being grilled over his handling of the Beslan catastrophe that he lashed out at foreign journalists on Monday. ''Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks,'' he demanded. ''No one has a moral right to tell us to talk to child-killers.''
Mr. Putin is not a man who likes to be second-guessed. Fortunately for him, there is still one place where he is shielded from all the critics: Israel.

On Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warmly welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for a meeting about strengthening ties in the fight against terror. "Terror has no justification, and it is time for the free, decent, humanistic world to unite and fight this terrible epidemic," Mr. Sharon said.

There is little to argue with there. The essence of terrorism is the deliberate targeting of innocents to further political goals. Any claims its perpetrators make to fighting for justice are morally bankrupt and lead directly to the barbarity of Beslan: a carefully laid plan to slaughter hundreds of children on their first day of school.

Yet sympathy alone does not explain the outpourings of solidarity for Russia coming from Israeli politicians this week. In addition to Mr. Sharon's pronouncements, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said the massacre showed "there is no difference between terror in Beersheba and terror in Beslan." And Haaretz quoted an unidentified Israeli official saying that Russians "understand now that what they have is not a local terror problem but part of the global Islamic terror threat. The Russians may listen to our suggestions this time."

The underlying message is unequivocal: Russia and Israel are engaged in the very same war, one not against Palestinians demanding their right to statehood, or against Chechens demanding their independence, but against "the global Islamic terror threat." Israel, as the elder statesman, is claiming the right to set the rules of war. Not surprisingly, the rules are the same ones Mr. Sharon uses against the intifada in the occupied territories.

His starting point is that Palestinians are only interested in annihilating Israel. From this basic belief, several others follow. First, all Israeli violence against Palestinians is an act of self-defence, necessary to the country's very survival. Second, anyone who questions Israel's absolute right to erase the enemy is an enemy. This applies to the United Nations, other world leaders, to journalists, to peaceniks.

Mr. Putin has clearly been taking notes, but it's not the first time that Israel has played this mentoring role. On Sept. 12, 2001, Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked how the previous day's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington would affect relations between Israel and the United States. "It's very good," he said. "Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy." The attacks, Mr. Netanyahu explained, would "strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we've experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror."

Common wisdom has it that, after Sept. 11, a new era of geopolitics was ushered in, defined by what is usually called the "Bush doctrine": pre-emptive wars, attacks on "terrorist infrastructure" (read entire countries), and an insistence that all the enemy understands is force. It would be more accurate to call this rigid world view the "Likud doctrine." What happened on Sept. 11 is that the Likud doctrine, previously used only against Palestinians, was picked up by the most powerful nation on Earth and applied on a global scale. Call it the Likudization of the world, the real legacy of Sept. 11.

Let me be absolutely clear: By Likudization, I do not mean that key members of the Bush administration are working for the interests of Israel at the expense of U.S. interests (the increasingly popular "dual loyalty" argument). What I mean is that, on Sept. 11, George W. Bush went looking for a political philosophy to guide him in his new role as "war president." He found that philosophy in the Likud doctrine, conveniently handed to him ready-made by the ardent Likudniks already ensconced in the White House. No thinking required.

Since then, the Bush White House has applied this logic with chilling consistency to its global "war on terror." It was the guiding philosophy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and may well extend to Iran and Syria. It's not simply that Mr. Bush sees America's role as protecting Israel from a hostile Arab world. It's that he has cast the U.S. in the same role in which Israel casts itself, facing the same threat. In this narrative, the U.S. is fighting a never-ending battle for its survival against irrational forces that seek nothing less than its total extermination.

And now the Likudization narrative has spread to Russia. In that meeting with foreign journalists on Monday, The Guardian reported that Mr. Putin "made it clear he sees the drive for Chechen independence as the spearhead of a strategy by Chechen Islamists, helped by foreign fundamentalists, to undermine the whole of southern Russia and even stir up trouble among Muslim communities in other parts of the country. 'There are Muslims along the Volga, in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. . . . This is all about Russia's territorial integrity,' he said." It used to be just Israel that was worried about being pushed into the sea.

There has, indeed, been a dramatic and dangerous rise in religious fundamentalism in the Muslim world. The problem is that, under the Likud doctrine, there is no space to ask why this is happening. We are not allowed to point out that fundamentalism breeds in failed states, where warfare has systematically targeted civilian infrastructure, allowing the mosques to start taking responsibility for everything from education to garbage collection. It has happened in Gaza, in Grozny, in Sadr City.

Mr. Sharon says terrorism is an epidemic that "has no borders, no fences," but this is not the case. Terrorism thrives within the illegitimate borders of occupation and dictatorship; it festers behind "security walls" put up by imperial powers; it crosses those borders and climbs over those fences to explode inside the countries responsible for, or complicit in, occupation and domination.

Ariel Sharon is not the commander-in-chief of the war on terror; that dubious honour stays with George Bush. But on the third anniversary of Sept. 11, he deserves to be recognized as this disastrous campaign's spiritual/intellectual guru, a kind of trigger-happy Yoda for all the wannabe Luke Skywalkers out there, training for their epic battles in good versus evil.

If we want to see the future of where the Likud doctrine leads, we need only follow the guru home, to Israel -- a country paralyzed by fear, embracing pariah policies, and in furious denial about the brutality it commits daily. It is a nation surrounded by enemies and desperate for friends, a category it narrowly defines as those who ask no questions, while generously offering the same moral amnesty in return.

That glimpse at our collective future is the only lesson the world needs to learn from Ariel Sharon.

Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail
From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Masked Terrorists, Booby-trap Bombs, and Trails of Blood: The Calculating and Cold Face of Evil

It is hard to know whether the images from inside the school at Beslan are worse in the imagination or in reality. Until now those outside have had to live with the horrors which the mind could conjure. But now we are forced to confront the reality ­ in all its banality and bravado. This is as near as most of us are likely to come to staring into the face of evil.

The pictures released last night of the scene inside the school gym where 335 people died and hundreds more were seriously injured are a curious mixture of the ordinary and the outrageous. The room has the bald functional threadbare quality which is the hallmark of post-Communist Russia. we have come to expect. They cannot afford to have wallbars the length of the room. The basketball hoops at either end of the room look battered and old.

So much for the ordinary. The outrage floods through you when you see the occupants of the place. Row after row of children, parents and grandmas, sitting, their knees drawn up as they huddle. It is as if they are trying to make themselves small to escape the attention of their brutal captors. As well they might.

From the battered basketball hoops hang homemade bombs. There is another in the centre of the room. It appears to dangle from a coathanger from the line suspended from one hoop to the other. The bombs are crude and amateurish. But the wires dangling from them mean there is no mistaking what they are.

Around the edges of the room the terrorists stand or lounge with callous insouciance. They are clad mainly in black. One or two wear dark camouflage. All are masked with heavy balaclavas.

In the doorway stands a female terrorist. She is clad in a black burkha from head to foot. There is only a slit for her eyes to reveal her humanity ­ and they show precious little of that. Like the men she is a sinister figure, dark and impenetrable.

Yet their message is clear enough. As the camera passes in the shaky video ­ barely a minute long, and clearly taken by one of the terrorists for propaganda use ­ on the floor we see blood. A few drops here. A streak there. We can only imagine the story the bloodstains tell. But those in the room do not need imagination to know.

The camera pans across the huddled ranks. It pauses for a moment on a woman in late middle age. A grandmother, perhaps, who had come to the school for the celebration with which the first day of term is always marked ­ with children in their new school clothes, carrying flowers and helium balloons.

But there is no sign of joy here. As the camera catches the grandmother's eye she turns away. She knows the price of eye contact. She lifts her hands to her head, as if remembering her captors' earlier instruction, which fatigue had gradually erased from her memory.

In the hall a boy is standing. He has a white object balanced on his head. It is hard to make out what it is. A punishment, perhaps, for some casual misdemeanour. This is the place where a boy was bayoneted for asking for a drink of water.

The pictures seem to have been taken early in the siege. The children are still wearing their clothes, which most of them later removed as the temperature rose to unbearable levels. Some have removed their shoes. The camera lingers on an explosive as a terrorist is rigging some wires. In the shot are a pair of bright new white shoes, someone's back-to-school pride, no doubt. She will not need them now.

In some shots adults are moving round the room, holding children by the hand. This must have been before the captors, enraged by the lack of progress in their desultory negotiations, forbade the children from going to the toilet, and smashed the taps so they could not drink anything except their own urine. One terrorist, by contrast, is seen holding a bottle of water, bringing home the callousness of their three-day regime. A vivid indication of the appalling heat which made their ordeal so much worse is the way that the captives are shown furious fanninng themselves in the intense heat of the North Ossetian summer.

The camera moves to a man who looks like the terrorist leader. His foot is on a book which appears to be a detonator for the bombs. With a flourish which is as theatrical as it is arrogant he waves his hand, white-gloved like some television magician, to the detonator. These were pictures the outside world was clearly ­ whatever the outcome ­ meant to see. Their intention, presumably, was to provide proof of their appalling plans if the authorities failed to meet their demands.

In the event, they were found by investigators after the siege was so tragically broken up. Their screening last night on Russian television- on the day that hundreds of thousands of Russians took to the streets to demonstrate their revulsion of terrorism in general and the Beslan massacre in particular- will only inflame a population already at boiling point. And at a time when Russian politicians show little sign of wanting to calm down their people.

It is cold. It is calculating. It is chilling. We stare into the face of the evil that sees children as an easy, unresisting and sensationally headline-grabbing target. We stare. We keep staring. And we learn nothing.

Paul Vallely
08 September 2004

Global Survey Shows 30 of 35 Countries Want Kerry in White House

09/08/04 "AFP" -- WASHINGTON - A majority of people in 30 of 35 countries want Democratic party flagbearer John Kerry in the White House, according to a survey released showing US President George W. Bush rebuffed by all of America's traditional allies.

On average, Senator Kerry was favored by more than a two-to-one margin -- 46 percent to 20 percent, the survey by GlobeScan Inc, a global research firm, and the local University of Maryland, showed.

"Only one in five want to see Bush reelected," said Steven Kull, the university's program on international policy attitudes. "Though he is not as well known, Kerry would win handily if the people of the world were to elect the US president."

The only countries where Bush was preferred in the poll covering a total of 34,330 people and conducted in July and August were the Philippines, Nigeria and Poland.

India and Thailand were divided.

The margin of error in the survey covering all regions of the world ranged from plus or minus 2.3 to five percent.

Kerry was strongly preferred among all of America's traditional allies, including Norway (74 percent compared with Bush's seven percent), Germany (74 percent to 10 percent), France (64 percent to five percent), the Netherlands (63 percent to six percent), Italy (58 percent to 14 percent) and Spain (45 percent to seven percent).

Even in Britain, where Prime Minister Tony Blair is Bush's closest ally in the war on terror, Kerry trounced the incumbent 47 percent to 16 percent.

Kerry was also greatly favored among Canadians by 61 percent to Bush's 16 percent and among the Japanese by 43 percent to 23 percent.

Even among countries that have contributed troops to Iraq, most favored Kerry, and said that their view of US foreign policy has gotten worse under Bush.

They included Britain, the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Japan, Norway and Spain.

Asked how President Bush's foreign policy had affected their feelings towards the United States, a majority of those polled in 31 countries said it made them feel "worse" about America, while those in only three countries said it had made them feel "better."

"Perhaps most sobering for Americans is the strength of the view that US foreign policy is on the wrong track, even in countries contributing troops in Iraq," said GlobeScan President Doug Miller.

In Europe, the exception for Bush was a new ally, Polland, where he was preferred by a narrow majority of 31 percent against Kerry's 26 percent.

Another new European ally, the Czech Republic, however went for Kerry (42 percent to Bush's 18 percent) as did Sweden (58 percent to 10 percent).

Asia was the most mixed region, though Kerry still did better. Aside from enjoying a large margin in Japan, he was preferred by clear majorities in China (52 percent to Bush's 12 percent) and Indonesia (57 percent to 34 percent).

But those polled were divided in India (Kerry 34 percent, Bush 33 percent) and Thailand (Kerry 30 percent, Bush 33 percent).

Latin Americans went for Kerry in all nine countries polled. In only two cases did Kerry win by a large majority -- Brazil (57 percent to 14 percent) and the Dominican Republic (51 percent to 38 percent) -- but in most cases the spread was quite wide.

Bush was preferred in Nigeria with 33 percent as compared to Kerry's 27 percent but the Democratic candidate was favored in five other African states polled -- Kenya (58 percent to 25 percent), Ghana (48 percent to 24 percent), Tanzania (44 percent to 30 percent), South Africa (43 percent to 29 percent) and Zimbabwe (28 percent to six percent).

Strongest negative views on US foreign policy were held in Germany, with 83 percent of those polled saying "worse" followed by France (81 percent), Mexico (78 percent), China (72 percent), Canada (71 percent), Netherlands ( 71 percent), Spain (67 percent), Brazil (66 percent), Italy (66 percent), Argentina (65 percent) and Britain (64 percent).

Iraqi Children Killed in US Strikes

US forces launched new attacks yesterday in the towns of Fallujah and Tal Afar, which they say are havens for foreign militant fighters, killing at least 30 Iraqis, according to doctors.

A US military statement said the air assault was part of a "precision strike" on an operating base for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant Washington says is allied to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Doctors in Fallujah said at least eight people were killed and 16 wounded. Doctor Rafi Hayad said half of those killed and injured were children.

In Tal Afar, a town west of Mosul, which the US says is a haven for foreign militants crossing from Syria, doctors said at least 17 people were killed and 51 wounded in heavy fighting.

Doctors at Tal Afar's main hospital said fighting was continuing and casualties were expected to rise.

A surge in attacks and clashes in Iraq over the past few days has pushed the official US death toll for the war past 1000.

As well as trying to contain the insurgency, Iraq's government is also grappling with a hostage crisis.

In one of the most brazen abductions so far, two Italian women aid workers and two Iraqi colleagues were snatched from their office in central Baghdad in broad daylight on Tuesday.

The captors have yet to make a statement about the kidnappings.

On Wednesday, international aid agencies met to consider withdrawing from Iraq. Jean-Dominique Bunel, a Frenchman helping to co-ordinate aid groups operating in Iraq, said he expected most of the remaining 50 foreign aid workers to pull out soon.

The latest abductions are likely to fuel uncertainty over the fate of two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who have been held since August 20 despite intense diplomatic efforts to free them.

In Washington, a group of retired Pentagon officials has called on President George Bush to appoint an independent commission to investigate military abuse of prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere since the start of the global war on terror.

"We cannot ignore that there are now dozens of well-documented allegations of torture, abuse and otherwise questionable detention practices," eight former generals and admirals said of prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In-house Pentagon investigations did not require sworn testimony, do not have subpoena power and are examples of the military trying to police itself, the officers, most of whom worked in military law, said in a letter to Mr Bush.

Two of them have called for Mr Bush to be defeated in the November election. Reuters, AP

Luke Baker
September 10, 2004

New Study Predicts Up To 44,000 Prompt Fatalities And 518,000 Long-Term Deaths From Indian Point Terror Attack

Large Radiation Release a Major Health Risk for 20 Million in New York Area

NEW YORK - September 8 - A study released today finds that the potential health consequences of a successful terrorist attack on the Indian Point nuclear plant could cause as many as 518,000 long-term deaths from cancer and as many as 44,000 near-term deaths from acute radiation poisoning, depending on weather conditions. The study was commissioned by Riverkeeper, a Hudson River-based environmental group. Dr. Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, authored the report entitled "Chernobyl-on-the-Hudson?: The Health and Economic Impacts of a Terrorist Attack at the Indian Point Nuclear Plant."

Dr. Lyman performed the calculations in the study with the same computer models and methodology used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy to analyze the health and economic impacts of radiological accidents. The study updates a 1982 congressional report based on Sandia National Laboratories' CRAC-2 (Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences) study. CRAC-2 found that a core meltdown and consequent radiological release at one of the two operating Indian Point reactors could cause 50,000 early fatalities from acute radiation syndrome and 14,000 latent fatalities from cancer.

Dr. Lyman's report found that the potential for early deaths - 44,000 cases - is comparable to the 1982 CRAC-2 estimate and the peak number of latent cancer fatalities - 518,000 cases - is over 35 times greater than the CRAC-2 estimate, corresponding to a scenario where weather conditions maximize the rain-related fallout of radioactivity over New York City.

"The study's findings confirm what Riverkeeper and hundreds of the region's elected officials have said all along: Indian Point poses an unacceptable risk to the 20 million people - including all New York City residents - who live and work in the New York metropolitan area," said Alex Matthiessen, Riverkeeper's executive director. "The time for our elected officials to take their heads out of the sand has passed. Federal and state officials are effectively shielding the nuclear industry from what has become an obvious new reality since 9/11: nuclear plants are sitting ducks and need substantially more security than is currently required - none more than Indian Point which lies just 24 miles up the Hudson from New York City. The time has come for the government to move immediately to impose stringent security measures for Indian Point and begin planning for the plant's early retirement."

"The data clearly show that a terrorist attack at Indian Point could have a catastrophic impact on the health of New York City residents, yet the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not require the development of emergency plans to protect this vulnerable population," said Dr. Lyman. "A thorough and honest evaluation of the feasibility and effectiveness of protective actions such as sheltering, evacuation and administration of potassium iodide is badly needed for individuals living far beyond the 10-mile emergency planning zone around Indian Point."

The prospect of a terrorist attack at the Indian Point nuclear power plant has been a source of great concern for residents and elected officials of the New York metropolitan area since the al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001 - particularly since one of the hi-jacked planes flew over Indian Point on its way to NYC. The recently released 9/11 Commission Report revealed that Mohammed Atta, the plot's ringleader who piloted one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center, "considered targeting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New York." Given that the reconnaissance flight paths used by the terrorists included the Hudson River corridor and that the next closest nuclear facility to New York City is over 70 miles away, the plant in question was almost certainly Indian Point.

Although the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has recently required marginal security enhancements at Indian Point and other U.S. nuclear power plants, the plants remain highly vulnerable to air and water-based attacks as well as to ground assaults by large and sophisticated terrorist teams with paramilitary training and advanced weaponry. Of special concern is the vulnerability of facilities that contain equipment vital for safe plant operation, yet are insufficiently hardened against attack.

The poorly protected spent fuel pools at Indian Point are another source of great risk to the New York area. As alarming as the results of Dr. Lyman's study are, they do not include the consequences of an attack that would damage the spent fuel pools as well as the reactors.

Among the report's key findings are:

Up to 44,000 near-term deaths from acute radiation poisoning could occur in the unlikely event of a complete evacuation of the 10-mile radius zone covered by current emergency plans. This number could be even higher for more realistic evacuation scenarios. These deaths could occur among people living as far as 60 miles downwind of Indian Point.
Up to 518,000 people could eventually die from cancer within 50 miles of Indian Point as a result of radiation exposures received within seven days of the attack.
Hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars of economic damages could befall the New York City metropolitan area, leveling a major blow to U.S. and world economic stability.
Millions of survivors could be permanently displaced because of extensive radiological contamination of their property

Lawsuit in California: Justice Catches up with a El Salvadoran Murder

Nearly 25 years after Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass in San Salvador, a chance for justice has finally appeared. In a landmark lawsuit, a federal judge in California ruled Friday that a former Salvadoran air force officer now living in the United States must pay $10 million to the family of the late archbishop.

The officer, Alvaro Saravia, once a close associate of Roberto d'Aubuisson, the late founder of El Salvador's ruling right-wing party, is accused of obtaining a gun for the assassin, arranging for his transportation to the chapel and paying him afterward.

The suit, filed on behalf of a relative of the archbishop by the Center for Justice and Accountability, a human rights group, sought damages for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity. Although Saravia went into hiding and was tried in absentia, he now faces monetary damages.

The case was watched closely in Central America, where fragile new democracies suffer the lingering effects of unpunished wartime crimes. The failure to bring rights violators to justice encourages more violence, as Romero's killing and the 1998 assassination of Bishop Juan Gerardi in Guatemala sadly illustr

The lack of arrests in the Romero murder was a signal that Salvadoran armed forces and paramilitary groups enjoyed impunity for their crimes, quickening the country's descent into a brutal 12-year civil war that left more than 75,000 civilians dead.

Countries emerging from civil conflict must reconcile the dual needs of consolidating stability and pursuing justice, a difficulty easily exploited by those intent on protecting their own interests.

In El Salvador, a sweeping amnesty law rendered the 1993 findings of a United Nations truth commission legally irrelevant. That commission found d'Aubuisson (who died in 1992) and Saravia responsible for Romero's murder, but neither man could be prosecuted in his homeland.

Thus the best chance for justice stems from the coincidence of Saravia's residency - he has been in the United States since at least 1987.

Through the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, the United States allows foreign citizens to sue people living within American borders. Fortunately, this summer, in a case involving the kidnapping of a Mexican doctor, the Supreme Court decided against the Bush administration and affirmed the applicability of the act in human rights cases.

The Saravia trial, while an inspiring exercise in American law, does raise disturbing questions about U.S. policy.

How did Saravia come to live in California in the first place? Declassified State Department and Central Intelligence Agency documents reveal that the government was aware of Saravia's alleged involvement in the Romero assassination as early as May 1980.

The trial also represents an opportunity to examine, albeit obliquely, the responsibility of the Salvadoran government and its closest ally, the United States, in the events that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Salvadoran civilians.

It is a sort of redemption, then, that the first trial in this murder took place in an American court.

Let us hope that justice will be served at last in the case of Oscar Romero, and that it will inspire the governments of the United States, El Salvador and other nations to prosecute the many human rights abusers who live openly among us.

Rigoberta Menchú Tuma, a Mayan refugee from Guatemala, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 in recognition of her work for the rights of indigenous people.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum
Copyright © 2004 the International Herald Tribune

The Chechens' American Friends

The Washington neocons' commitment to the war on terror evaporates in Chechnya, whose cause they have made their own

An enormous head of steam has built up behind the view that President Putin is somehow the main culprit in the grisly events in North Ossetia. Soundbites and headlines such as "Grief turns to anger", "Harsh words for government", and "Criticism mounting against Putin" have abounded, while TV and radio correspondents in Beslan have been pressed on air to say that the people there blame Moscow as much as the terrorists. There have been numerous editorials encouraging us to understand - to quote the Sunday Times - the "underlying causes" of Chechen terrorism (usually Russian authoritarianism), while the widespread use of the word "rebels" to describe people who shoot children shows a surprising indulgence in the face of extreme brutality.

On closer inspection, it turns out that this so-called "mounting criticism" is in fact being driven by a specific group in the Russian political spectrum - and by its American supporters. The leading Russian critics of Putin's handling of the Beslan crisis are the pro-US politicians Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov - men associated with the extreme neoliberal market reforms which so devastated the Russian economy under the west's beloved Boris Yeltsin - and the Carnegie Endowment's Moscow Center. Funded by its New York head office, this influential thinktank - which operates in tandem with the military-political Rand Corporation, for instance in producing policy papers on Russia's role in helping the US restructure the "Greater Middle East" - has been quoted repeatedly in recent days blaming Putin for the Chechen atrocities. The centre has also been assiduous over recent months in arguing against Moscow's claims that there is a link between the Chechens and al-Qaida.

These people peddle essentially the same line as that expressed by Chechen leaders themselves, such as Ahmed Zakaev, the London exile who wrote in these pages yesterday. Other prominent figures who use the Chechen rebellion as a stick with which to beat Putin include Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch who, like Zakaev, was granted political asylum in this country, although the Russian authorities want him on numerous charges. Moscow has often accused Berezovsky of funding Chechen rebels in the past.

By the same token, the BBC and other media sources are putting it about that Russian TV played down the Beslan crisis, while only western channels reported live, the implication being that Putin's Russia remains a highly controlled police state. But this view of the Russian media is precisely the opposite of the impression I gained while watching both CNN and Russian TV over the past week: the Russian channels had far better information and images from Beslan than their western competitors. This harshness towards Putin is perhaps explained by the fact that, in the US, the leading group which pleads the Chechen cause is the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC). The list of the self-styled "distinguished Americans" who are its members is a rollcall of the most prominent neoconservatives who so enthusastically support the "war on terror".

They include Richard Perle, the notorious Pentagon adviser; Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra fame; Kenneth Adelman, the former US ambassador to the UN who egged on the invasion of Iraq by predicting it would be "a cakewalk"; Midge Decter, biographer of Donald Rumsfeld and a director of the rightwing Heritage Foundation; Frank Gaffney of the militarist Center for Security Policy; Bruce Jackson, former US military intelligence officer and one-time vice-president of Lockheed Martin, now president of the US Committee on NATO; Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, a former admirer of Italian fascism and now a leading proponent of regime change in Iran; and R James Woolsey, the former CIA director who is one of the leading cheerleaders behind George Bush's plans to re-model the Muslim world along pro-US lines.

The ACPC heavily promotes the idea that the Chechen rebellion shows the undemocratic nature of Putin's Russia, and cultivates support for the Chechen cause by emphasizing the seriousness of human rights violations in the tiny Caucasian republic. It compares the Chechen crisis to those other fashionable "Muslim" causes, Bosnia and Kosovo - implying that only international intervention in the Caucasus can stabilize the situation there. In August, the ACPC welcomed the award of political asylum in the US, and a US-government funded grant, to Ilyas Akhmadov, foreign minister in the opposition Chechen government, and a man Moscow describes as a terrorist. Coming from both political parties, the ACPC members represent the backbone of the US foreign policy establishment, and their views are indeed those of the US administration.

Although the White House issued a condemnation of the Beslan hostage-takers, its official view remains that the Chechen conflict must be solved politically. According to ACPC member Charles Fairbanks of Johns Hopkins University, US pressure will now increase on Moscow to achieve a political, rather than military, solution - in other words to negotiate with terrorists, a policy the US resolutely rejects elsewhere.

Allegations are even being made in Russia that the west itself is somehow behind the Chechen rebellion, and that the purpose of such support is to weaken Russia, and to drive her out of the Caucasus. The fact that the Chechens are believed to use as a base the Pankisi gorge in neighboring Georgia - a country which aspires to join NATO, has an extremely pro-American government, and where the US already has a significant military presence - only encourages such speculation. Putin himself even seemed to lend credence to the idea in his interview with foreign journalists on Monday.

Proof of any such western involvement would be difficult to obtain, but is it any wonder Russians are asking themselves such questions when the same people in Washington who demand the deployment of overwhelming military force against the US's so-called terrorist enemies also insist that Russia capitulate to hers?

John Laughland is a trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group www.oscewatch.org

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

Russia Wakes Up to a Nuclear Threat

As fears of new terrorist attacks jolted Russia, President Vladimir Putin last week issued a first-time-ever order that should have been front page news everywhere.

Especially here in the United States. For it told as much about the security gap in America's homeland security as it did about Russia's. But no U.S. newspaper or television network put the news anywhere where you'd see it.

Belated News Flash: Putin has just dispatched Russian military troops to guard all of his country's far-flung, frighteningly under-secured nuclear weapons facilities. Yes, the same facilities his government always insisted were perfectly secure. Putin was forced to drop his government's Potemkin-false-front assurance because the latest Chechnyan terrorism in Russia (schoolhouse slaughter, subway bombing, two airline crashes) proved terrorists were capable of buying or stealing Russia's vulnerable nuclear weapons and materials - and launching a nuclear terror attack inside Russia.

That gut-check reality apparently demanded a new level of truth-telling far beyond what was acceptable back when Russia's vulnerable nukes were seen as just potential weapons for terrorists targeting Americans.

Putin's order is powerful confirmation of what some of us have been warning for years: Russia's so-called loose nukes pose a security threat for the entire planet. That warning has been sounded for more than a decade by a few bold political leaders such as former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and his colleague Sen. Dick Lugar, as well by a number of smart nuclear-weapons experts and a handful of nuclear-concerned journalists (that's where I fit in, in a bit role).

In 2002, in Moscow, I interviewed Minister of Atomic Energy Aleksandr Rumyantsev about Russia's under-secured nuclear facilities (while researching my recent book, "Avoiding Armageddon" and serving as managing editor for the PBS series of the same name). I'd gathered stories of two Russian nuclear thieves, a civilian and a Navy captain, who'd stolen nuclear fuel and were caught only after bungling efforts to sell it on the nuclear black market.

"I can guarantee you total security of those materials and the sites of its storage today," said Rumyantsev. I asked about a member of Russia's Duma (parliament) who'd just entered a Russian nuclear site by sneaking through some unguarded barbed-wire. No big deal, Rumyantsev dead-panned, the barbed wire was only intended to keep out "stray people and stray animals who might approach the facility."

Putin's rushed troop deployment says otherwise. It is the boldest effort to address the problem since the Soviet Union's collapse left its arsenals unsecured _ leading Democrat Nunn and Republican Lugar to forge the historic Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act, providing U.S. funding to destroy much of Russia's nuclear arsenal and secure the rest of it.

Bizarrely, after 9/11, when al Qaeda was clearly seeking weapons of mass destruction to use against us, President Bush froze all Nunn-Lugar funding for a year over a technicality. At the present rate, Russia's vulnerable nuclear arsenals won't be secured until well into the next decade. Which means that, while Russia's new nuclear troops are on guard, America's homeland is still at risk.

What now? In separate interviews, Nunn and Lugar, being clear-eyed visionaries, offered next-step solutions. While Putin has recognized the "extreme vulnerability" of many Russian nuclear facilities, Nunn said, both countries must respond to terrorist threats with new urgency: "We need to secure all materials."

Lugar noted that in recent months, Russia's Duma has been the party that has dragged its heels by delaying a ratification vote of an agreement to facilitate new funding by the world's industrialized nations to secure Russian weapons of mass destruction. "Russia's Duma and the Russian hierarchy felt this (effort to secure vulnerable arsenals) was interesting but not very essential," Lugar said. "Perhaps now they should ... act with urgency."

Nunn focused upon the now crucial need to safeguard the homelands of both Russia and the United States by safeguarding small nuclear weapons _ "weapons that one man can carry that can wipe out a good part of a major city." Neither country has been keen on sharing info with the other about these weapons, but Nunn said that must change in light of the new terrorist threats. "Both countries should have transparency to assure that small weapons that can be transported easily are secured," he said.

Nunn proposed one more common-sense solution. Russia's nuclear arsenal is spread over its vast land that spans 11 time zones. Dispersal was once a security precaution, assuring some survival of a U.S. attack; today it is a security problem, since some arsenal somewhere will surely be vulnerable to terrorists.

"We should offer to help Russia consolidate their nuclear weapons in a few areas," Nunn said. "And then guard the heck out of them."

(Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service.)

Why I'm Black, Not African American

It's time we descendants of slaves brought to the United States let go of the term "African American" and go back to calling ourselves Black — with a capital B.

Modern America is home now to millions of immigrants who were born in Africa. Their cultures and identities are split between Africa and the United States. They have last names like Onwughalu and Senkofa. They speak languages like Wolof, Twi, Yoruba and Hausa, and speak English with an accent. They were raised on African cuisine, music, dance and dress styles, customs and family dynamics. Their children often speak or at least understand their parents' native language.

Living descendants of slaves in America neither knew their African ancestors nor even have elder relatives who knew them. Most of us worship in Christian churches. Our cuisine is more southern U.S. than Senegalese. Starting with ragtime and jazz, we gave America intoxicating musical beats based on African conceptions of rhythm, but with melody and harmony based on Western traditions.

Also, we speak English. Black Americans' home speech is largely based on local dialects of England and Ireland. Africa echoes in the dialect only as a whisper, in certain aspects of sound and melody. A working-class black man in Cincinnati has more in common with a working-class white man in Providence than with a Ghanaian.

With the number of African immigrants in the U.S. nearly tripling since 1990, the use of "African American" is becoming increasingly strained. For example, Alan Keyes, the Republican Senate candidate in Illinois, has claimed that as a descendant of slaves, he is the "real" African American, compared with his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, who has an African father and white mother. And the reason Keyes and others are making arguments such as this is rather small, the idea being that "African American" should refer only to people with a history of subordination in this country — as if African immigrants such as Amadou Diallo, who was killed by police while reaching for his wallet, or Caribbean ones such as torture victim Abner Louima have found the U.S. to be the Land of Oz.

We are not African to any meaningful extent, but we are not white either — and that is much of why Jesse Jackson's presentation of the term "African American" caught on so fast. It sets us apart from the mainstream. It carries an air of standing protest, a reminder that our ancestors were brought here against their will, that their descendants were treated like animals for centuries, and that we have come a long way since then.

But we need a way of sounding those notes with a term that, first, makes some sense and, second, does not insult the actual African Americans taking their place in our country. And our name must also celebrate our history here, in the only place that will ever be our home. To term ourselves as part "African" reinforces a sad implication: that our history is basically slave ships, plantations, lynching, fire hoses in Birmingham, and then South Central, and that we need to look back to Mother Africa to feel good about ourselves.

But what about the black business districts that thrived across the country after slavery was abolished? What about Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright and Thurgood Marshall, none born in Africa and all deeply American people? And while we're on Marshall, what about the civil rights revolution, a moral awakening that we gave to ourselves and the nation. My roots trace back to working-class Black people — Americans, not foreigners — and I'm proud of it. I am John Hamilton McWhorter the Fifth. Four men with my name and appearance, doing their best in a segregated America, came before me. They and their dearest are the heritage that I can feel in my heart, and they knew the sidewalks of Philadelphia and Atlanta, not Sierra Leone.

So, we will have a name for ourselves — and it should be Black. "Colored" and "Negro" had their good points but carry a whiff of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Bull Connor about them, so we will let them lie. "Black" isn't perfect, but no term is.

Meanwhile, the special value of "Black" is that it carries the same potent combination of pride, remembrance and regret that "African American" was designed for. Think of what James Brown meant with "Say it loud, I'm Black and I'm proud." And then imagine: "Say it loud, I'm African American and I'm proud."

Since the late 1980s, I have gone along with using "African American" for the same reason that we throw rice at a bride — because everybody else was doing it. But no more. From now on, in my writings on race I will be returning to the word I grew up with, which reminds me of my true self and my ancestors who worked here to help make my life possible: Black.

John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is the author of "Authentically Black" (Gotham Books, 2003).

Cheney, Halliburton and Iraq

The Purloined Letter

Why was Dick Cheney so eager to invade Iraq? Why did he repeatedly link Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda after September 11, and why did he maintain that not only did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction but that he, Cheney, knew exactly where they were?

Cheney clearly came into office wanting a war on Iraq, as revealed by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil.

Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton in 1995-200. Halliburton is a corporation that does a number of things, including energy and oil and military contracting.

In 2001, Halliburton won a contract from the Department of Defence to provide "emergency services" to the Pentagon. The contract was above-board. Bids were taken from five competitors, and Halliburton won with the low bid. There was nothing illegal or irregular about such a process. But that contract may explain Cheney and his gang on Iraq.

In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Purloined Letter," the blackmail note that the police are looking for is in plain sight. It isn't hidden, just crumpled as though it were trash. The police don't bother to examine it for that reason.

It is the contract itself that is the scam. It is quite simple. A standing contract to provide "emergency services" to the Pentagon is a potential gold mine under exactly one circumstance. If a major war breaks out, the need for "emergency services" will inevitably be enormous. The contract was worth billions. But only if there was a war. If there was peace, the need for "emergency services" would be small. Halliburton was not doing that well. It needed the big bucks.

In 1998, when Cheney was CEO, Halliburton secretly changed its accounting techniques to show a higher level of profit. Without the change, it would have come in below expectations, which would have hurt its price. The change was unorthodox and "aggressive," and should have been communicated to the stockholders, which only happened after a long and quite improper delay. Halliburton finally settled this case with the Securities Exchange Commission, by paying a paltry $7.5 million fine.

Part two of the scam is also in plain view. It is the very idea that "emergency services" should and could be supplied to the US military by a private company.

The fact is that civilian employees of private firms cannot be ordered into a war zone. Halliburton, and its subsidiary Kellog, Root and Brown, was to supply air-conditioned quonset huts to the US troops for summer, 2003. It did not do so. It could not do so. Once the guerrilla war broke out, it was impossible to get enough civilian workers out to the troop positions to build the quonset huts and put in airconditioning. As a result, US troops "looked like hobos and lived like pigs" in the words of one, with their shaving cream cans exploding in the 140 degrees heat.

If, on the other hand, US troops had been assigned to build the quonset huts and put in the airconditioning, that could easily have been accomplished.

So, the "emergency services contract" was a boondoggle only in the case of a war, but in case of a war, many of the services contracted for could not actually be supplied, at least in a timely manner.

Of course, other sorts of work could be done, including in the oil fields. The Iraq war has been worth billions of dollars to Halliburton. Additional Pentagon work was thrown its way once the war began, on the grounds that it was the only corporation with the necessary experience to undertake certain tasks. Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown and Root has been accused of not being able to account for some charges it sent to the Pentagon, and of overcharging for some services it did provide.

And now Halliburton's $13 bn. contract with the Pentagon is being rebid. There are not, however, very many companies that can do what Halliburton and its subsidiaries do, and which have a long association with the Pentagon and its various bureaucratic techniques, such that they know how to fit in with the Department of Defense bureaucracy.

What was in it for Cheney? I don't think it was a matter of money. At least I hope it wasn't. Cheney sold half his Halliburton stock options in 2000 for $5 million, and it is hard to imagine a man taking his country to war to increase the other half in value by a few million.

I suspect it is political. Not all corporations make money on war. Some actually lose money. But Halliburton, Bechtel and a few other components of the Military Industrial Complex do benefit from war. Strengthening that sector of the American economy strengthens the political Right. Turning the Republic into a praetorian state would permanently yield profits for the military industrial complex in such a way as to create a permanent Republican dominance of all the branches of the US government.

Juan Cole is Professor of History at the University of Michigan. http://www.juancole.com

The Pattern is Global, But the Causes are Local

Terrorism and the measures adopted against it acquire reciprocal momentum that is all but impossible to stop once a certain threshold has been crossed. That threshold was crossed in Russia last week, with potentially enormous consequences for civil liberties in that country, for civil peace in the Caucasus and possibly for the existing peaceful relationship between Russia and America.

This is why issues of nationalism, irredentism and religion - the usual motives for terrorist outrages - are so desperately dangerous. Ignored or misinterpreted, assigned to spurious international causes, they can do immense damage. They have to be dealt with in their natural dimensions.

There is a competitive auction in terrorism. Righteously misdirected reactions to terrorism contribute to the dynamics of the terrorist interaction, reinforcing the next outrage, which is constructed to be more horrible than the retaliation suffered for the last one. This is an escalation of terror in which neither side can prevail since the possibilities are unlimited - as demonstrated at Beslan in North Ossetia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has mistakenly (or culpably) assigned an international cause to his crisis. He has followed George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon in identifying his national problem as "international terrorism." This is not true. Putin's terrorism problem is specific to him and to Russia. America's terrorism problem is specific to the United States, its past, its foreign relationships and its policies. Israel's is a matter of Israel's relationship with the Palestinians.

The source of terrorism in Russia since the late 1990s has been the ethnic nationalist uprising in Chechnya that Russian authorities have brutally been trying to stop.

Today there certainly are international reinforcements fighting for the Chechens, and there are increasing numbers of radical Islamic teachers and clerics in the Caucasus. Like Iraq, the region has become a battlefront in the war of Islamic radicals against the infidels. But to hold them responsible for what has happened in Chechnya is like insisting that "regime remnants and foreign terrorists" are the only ones doing the fighting in Iraq.

The affairs retain their national causes, and the only hope of solution remains national. But once the terrorist action-reaction auction begins, it is almost impossible to stop. Russia has already invaded Chechnya twice to "end terrorism," but terrorism simply got worse. Ariel Sharon's entire career has consisted in failed attempts to solve Israel's problem of national existence by brute destruction of what he considers its enemies. The United States invaded Afghanistan and overturned the Taliban government, but the terrorists took to the hills and the country is in political and social pieces. And now there is Iraq.

If the terrorist auction has a tangible value, such as an independent Chechnya (if that is what the Beslan terrorists wanted: nobody has yet said what they wanted, assuming that they wanted anything tangible), there is no solution except to give it to them. Everyone knows how to solve the tangible and national part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An acceptable compromise of their national claims was agreed to long ago. The clash of eschatological expectations between some Israelis and some Palestinians is what continues to make that solution impossible.

The religious fanatic has no tangible goal to be satisfied. He - or she, as we increasingly find - wants paradise and the destruction of heretics. For such a person, the terrorism auction has no earthly limit.

Putin has made a second internationalized interpretation of the Beslan massacre. He implied in his address on Saturday that U.S. activity in Georgia, and elsewhere in the Caucasus, is partly behind separatist forces there and is part of an American effort to disarm Russia as a nuclear power and otherwise weaken it.

The collapse of the USSR in 1991 had left Russia defenseless, he said. It had once been invulnerable, with unsurpassed power to protect its frontiers. Now, "we have shown ourselves to be weak, and the weak get beaten." The implication was obvious.

Could Putin do anything now other than promise resistance, power, security, repression? Politically, probably not. Is what he said going to do any good? Again, the answer is no. Moscow, and Bush's Washington and Sharon's Jerusalem, have to prove their "resolve"; they can't be seen as "pitiful, helpless giants." Yet until they tell the truth to themselves, or their countrymen tell it to them, that is just what they are.

William Pfaff
Copyright © 2004 The International Herald Tribune

The Warlords of America

Most of the US's recent wars were launched by Democratic presidents. Why expect better of Kerry? The debate between US liberals and conservatives is a fake; Bush may be the lesser evil.

On 6 May last, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution which, in effect, authorised a "pre-emptive" attack on Iran. The vote was 376-3. Undeterred by the accelerating disaster in Iraq, Republicans and Democrats, wrote one commentator, "once again joined hands to assert the responsibilities of American power".

The joining of hands across America's illusory political divide has a long history. The native Americans were slaughtered, the Philippines laid to waste and Cuba and much of Latin America brought to heel with "bipartisan" backing.

Wading through the blood, a new breed of popular historian, the journalist in the pay of rich newspaper owners, spun the heroic myths of a supersect called Americanism, which advertising and public relations in the 20th century formalised as an ideology, embracing both conservatism and liberalism.

In the modern era, most of America's wars have been launched by liberal Democratic presidents - Harry Truman in Korea, John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson in Vietnam, Jimmy Carter in Afghanistan. The fictitious "missile gap" was invented by Kennedy's liberal New Frontiersmen as a rationale for keeping the cold war going. In 1964, a Democrat-dominated Congress gave President Johnson authority to attack Vietnam, a defenceless peasant nation offering no threat to the United States. Like the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, the justification was a non- existent "incident" in which, it was said, two North Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked an American warship. More than three million deaths and the ruin of a once bountiful land followed.

During the past 60 years, only once has Congress voted to limit the president's "right" to terrorise other countries. This aberration, the Clark Amendment 1975, a product of the great anti-Vietnam war movement, was repealed in 1985 by Ronald Reagan.

During Reagan's assaults on central America in the 1980s, liberal voices such as Tom Wicker of the New York Times, doyen of the "doves", seriously debated whether or not tiny, impoverished Nicaragua was a threat to the United States.

These days, terrorism having replaced the red menace, another fake debate is under way. This is lesser evilism. Although few liberal-minded voters seem to have illusions about John Kerry, their need to get rid of the "rogue" Bush administration is all-consuming. Representing them in Britain, the Guardian says that the coming presidential election is "exceptional". "Mr Kerry's flaws and limitations are evident," says the paper, "but they are put in the shade by the neoconservative agenda and catastrophic war-making of Mr Bush. This is an election in which almost the whole world will breathe a sigh of relief if the incumbent is defeated."

The whole world may well breathe a sigh of relief: the Bush regime is both dangerous and universally loathed; but that is not the point. We have debated lesser evilism so often on both sides of the Atlantic that it is surely time to stop gesturing at the obvious and to examine critically a system that produces the Bushes and their Democratic shadows. For those of us who marvel at our luck in reaching mature years without having been blown to bits by the warlords of Americanism, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, and for the millions all over the world who now reject the American contagion in political life, the true issue is clear.

It is the continuation of a project that began more than 500 years ago. The privileges of "discovery and conquest" granted to Christopher Columbus in 1492, in a world the pope considered "his property to be disposed according to his will", have been replaced by another piracy transformed into the divine will of Americanism and sustained by technological progress, notably that of the media. "The threat to independence in the late 20th century from the new electronics," wrote Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism, "could be greater than was colonialism itself. We are beginning to learn that decolonisation was not the termination of imperial relationships but merely the extending of a geopolitical web which has been spinning since the Renaissance. The new media have the power to penetrate more deeply into a 'receiving' culture than any previous manifestation of western technology."

Every modern president has been, in large part, a media creation. Thus, the murderous Reagan is sanctified still; Rupert Murdoch's Fox Channel and the post-Hutton BBC have differed only in their forms of adulation. And Bill Clinton is regarded nostalgically by liberals as flawed but enlightened; yet Clinton's presidential years were far more violent than Bush's and his goals were the same: "the integration of countries into the global free-market community", the terms of which, noted the New York Times, "require the United States to be involved in the plumbing and wiring of nations' internal affairs more deeply than ever before". The Pentagon's "full-spectrum dominance" was not the product of the "neo-cons" but of the liberal Clinton, who approved what was then the greatest war expenditure in history. According to the Guardian, Clinton's heir, John Kerry, sends us "energising progressive calls". It is time to stop this nonsense.

Supremacy is the essence of Americanism; only the veil changes or slips. In 1976, the Democrat Jimmy Carter announced "a foreign policy that respects human rights". In secret, he backed Indonesia's genocide in East Timor and established the mujahedin in Afghanistan as a terrorist organisation designed to overthrow the Soviet Union, and from which came the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It was the liberal Carter, not Reagan, who laid the ground for George W Bush. In the past year, I have interviewed Carter's principal foreign policy overlords - Zbigniew Brzezinski, his national security adviser, and James Schlesinger, his defence secretary. No blueprint for the new imperialism is more respected than Brzezinski's. Invested with biblical authority by the Bush gang, his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives describes American priorities as the economic subjugation of the Soviet Union and the control of central Asia and the Middle East.

His analysis says that "local wars" are merely the beginning of a final conflict leading inexorably to world domination by the US. "To put it in a terminology that harkens back to a more brutal age of ancient empires," he writes, "the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together."

It may have been easy once to dismiss this as a message from the lunar right. But Brzezinski is mainstream. His devoted students include Madeleine Albright, who, as secretary of state under Clinton, described the death of half a million infants in Iraq during the US-led embargo as "a price worth paying", and John Negroponte, the mastermind of American terror in central America under Reagan who is currently "ambassador" in Baghdad. James Rubin, who was Albright's enthusiastic apologist at the State Department, is being considered as John Kerry's national security adviser. He is also a Zionist; Israel's role as a terror state is beyond discussion.

Cast an eye over the rest of the world. As Iraq has crowded the front pages, American moves into Africa have attracted little attention. Here, the Clinton and Bush policies are seamless. In the 1990s, Clinton's African Growth and Opportunity Act launched a new scramble for Africa. Humanitarian bombers wonder why Bush and Blair have not attacked Sudan and "liberated" Darfur, or intervened in Zimbabwe or the Congo. The answer is that they have no interest in human distress and human rights, and are busy securing the same riches that led to the European scramble in the late 19th century by the traditional means of coercion and bribery, known as multilateralism.

The Congo and Zambia possess 50 per cent of world cobalt reserves; 98 per cent of the world's chrome reserves are in Zimbabwe and South Africa. More importantly, there is oil and natural gas in Africa from Nigeria to Angola, and in Higleig, south-west Sudan. Under Clinton, the African Crisis Response Initiative (Acri) was set up in secret. This has allowed the US to establish "military assistance programmes" in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Benin, Algeria, Niger, Mali and Chad. Acri is run by Colonel Nestor Pino-Marina, a Cuban exile who took part in the 1961 Bay of Pigs landing and went on to be a special forces officer in Vietnam and Laos, and who, under Reagan, helped lead the Contra invasion of Nicaragua. The pedigrees never change.

None of this is discussed in a presidential campaign in which John Kerry strains to out-Bush Bush. The multilateralism or "muscular internationalism" that Kerry offers in contrast to Bush's unilateralism is seen as hopeful by the terminally naive; in truth, it beckons even greater dangers. Having given the American elite its greatest disaster since Vietnam, writes the historian Gabriel Kolko, Bush "is much more likely to continue the destruction of the alliance system that is so crucial to American power. One does not have to believe the worse the better, but we have to consider candidly the foreign policy consequences of a renewal of Bush's mandate . . . As dangerous as it is, Bush's re-election may be a lesser evil." With Nato back in train under President Kerry, and the French and Germans compliant, American ambitions will proceed without the Napoleonic hindrances of the Bush gang.

Little of this appears even in the American papers worth reading. The Washington Post's hand-wringing apology to its readers on 14 August for not "pay[ing] enough attention to voices raising questions about the war [against Iraq]" has not interrupted its silence on the danger that the American state presents to the world. Bush's rating has risen in the polls to more than 50 per cent, a level at this stage in the campaign at which no incumbent has ever lost. The virtues of his "plain speaking", which the entire media machine promoted four years ago – Fox and the Washington Post alike – are again credited. As in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, Americans are denied a modicum of understanding of what Norman Mailer has called "a pre-fascist climate". The fears of the rest of us are of no consequence.

The professional liberals on both sides of the Atlantic have played a major part in this. The campaign against Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is indicative. The film is not radical and makes no outlandish claims; what it does is push past those guarding the boundaries of "respectable" dissent. That is why the public applauds it. It breaks the collusive codes of journalism, which it shames. It allows people to begin to deconstruct the nightly propaganda that passes for news: in which "a sovereign Iraqi government pursues democracy" and those fighting in Najaf and Fallujah and Basra are always "militants" and "insurgents" or members of a "private army", never nationalists defending their homeland and whose resistance has probably forestalled attacks on Iran, Syria or North Korea.

The real debate is neither Bush nor Kerry, but the system they exemplify; it is the decline of true democracy and the rise of the American "national security state" in Britain and other countries claiming to be democracies, in which people are sent to prison and the key thrown away and whose leaders commit capital crimes in faraway places, unhindered, and then, like the ruthless Blair, invite the thug they install to address the Labour Party conference. The real debate is the subjugation of national economies to a system which divides humanity as never before and sustains the deaths, every day, of 24,000 hungry people. The real debate is the subversion of political language and of debate itself and perhaps, in the end, our self-respect.

John Pilger's new book, Tell Me No Lies: investigative journalism and its triumphs, will be published in October by Jonathan Cape

Copyright: The New Statesman. http://www.newstatesman.com

America Needs a Middle East Policy Made in the USA, Not in Tel Aviv

If there has been a recurrence of Pollardism at the Pentagon, we need to know and the president needs to act, as Truman did not with Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White.

In 1987, Jonathan Pollard, U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was imprisoned for life for selling a roomful of U.S. secret documents to Israel. Tel Aviv refused to return them. At the Clinton-Netanyahu summit at Wye River, Pollard became a subject of contention.

"Bibi" Netanyahu wanted to fly the American traitor back to Israel where he is a hero. Clinton balked. CIA's George Tenet would resign, Clinton told Netanyahu, if he pardoned Pollard.

This history is recalled for a reason. Washington today is rife with reports the FBI has been investigating whether or not a nest of Pollardites inside the Pentagon has been funneling secrets, through the Israeli lobby AIPAC, to the Reno Road embassy and on to Sharon.

Suspected mole Larry Franklin, a Pentagon Iranian analyst, was reportedly sighted trying to hand over to an AIPAC official a draft copy of a National Security Presidential Directive on Iran. With the mullahs apparently pursuing atomic bombs, Israel wants the United States to attack, denuclearize and bring down its No. 1 enemy, the regime in Tehran.

Franklin popped up on FBI radar when he joined a breakfast meeting between an AIPAC man and an Israeli diplomat. AIPAC had been under FBI surveillance for over two years as a probable conduit to Israel of the fruits of espionage against the United States.

Franklin, a devout Catholic and hawk on Iran, is now said to be cooperating with the FBI. His boss, William Luti, is the deputy to the Pentagon's No. 3, Douglas Feith, who has close ties to Likud.

According to The Washington Post, the FBI is now interviewing present and ex-officials from Cheney's office and the Pentagon as to whether Feith, Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Paul Wolfowitz might have leaked U.S. security secrets to Israel, AIPAC or Ahmed Chalabi.

Chalabi, once the Pentagon's candidate to succeed Saddam, has lately fallen from favor. Reportedly, he was caught telling Iran's intelligence station chief in Baghdad that friends in the Pentagon informed him they had broken Iran's code and were listening in on Iran's secret communications between Baghdad and Tehran.

AIPAC and the Israelis deny any spying. Cooperation between the Bush and Sharon governments is so close, they insist, there is no need to commit espionage or thieve U.S. documents. Perhaps, but the men about whom the FBI is inquiring have old, deep and questionable ties to Israel and the Likud Party of Ariel Sharon.

In 1970, Perle was picked up on an FBI wiretap discussing NSC secrets with the Israeli embassy. In 1981, as assistant secretary of defense, Perle got a top-secret security clearance for his chosen deputy Stephen Bryen, who is said to have narrowly eluded indictment for offering top-secret documents to Mossad's man in Washington.

In 1982, Feith was the object of an inquiry as to whether he had given secret documents to the Israeli embassy. Fired from the NSC, he was hired by Perle. Feith left the Pentagon in 1986 to form a law firm – in Israel. Hired by Rumsfeld in 2001, Feith set up the Office of Special Plans, which cherry-picked the intelligence to the White House that turned out to be false, but facilitated the war on Iraq.

In 1996, Perle, Feith and Wurmser co-authored a paper for Netanyahu calling for ditching Oslo, reoccupying the West Bank and overthrowing Saddam as "an important Israeli strategic objective."

In 1998, Wolfowitz and Perle signed an open letter from the neoconservative front group PNAC to Clinton, urging him to ditch diplomacy and wage war on Iraq, and pledging their full support.

On Jan. 1, 2001, eight months before 9/11, Wurmser, at AEI, called for joint U.S.-Israeli air strikes on Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya.

According to White House anti-terror chief Richard Clarke, Wolfowitz, in April 2001, wanted Osama put on a back burner and for us to go after Iraq. In the first hours after 9/11, according to Bob Woodward and Clarke, Wolfowitz wanted Iraq invaded, not Afghanistan. For his role in steering us into war, Wolfowitz was named Man of the Year – by the Jerusalem Post.

In my new book, Where the Right Went Wrong, there is a line that now appears prophetic: "America needs a Middle East policy made in the USA, not in Tel Aviv, or at AIPAC or AEI."

Having promised him a cakewalk to Baghdad and a rose garden thereafter, neoconservatives misled President Bush. He should have fired the lot of them. Having failed to do so, he ought now, in his own interests, as well as our nation's, name Patrick "Bulldog" Fitzgerald, now heading up the investigation into the Valerie Plame leak, to head up the investigation of Israeli espionage, and possible treason, against the United States.

If there has been a recurrence of Pollardism at the Pentagon, we need to know and the president needs to act, as Truman did not with Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White.

Patrick J. Buchanan

Spy-scandal Lobby Blitz: AIPAC Secures Wide Backing After Secrets Charges

Spy-scandal lobby blitz
AIPAC secures wide backing after secrets charges
By Hans Nichols

Lobbyists for an influential pro-Israel group launched into congressional overdrive when trails of a Pentagon spy scandal led to their Washington office.

Soon after media outlets reported on the scandal late last month, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbyists and their political liaisons across the country asked Democratic and Republican lawmakers to issue public statements in support of America’s premier pro-Israel group.

File photo
The House will start its probe “with a record of confidence” in AIPAC, said Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).


That intense and frantic lobbying effort, which began on the eve of the GOP convention and continued unabated in New York, led dozens of lawmakers of both parties to testify to AIPAC’s integrity before they had been briefed by the FBI investigators on the details of the case. Some lawmakers, however, stressed that they rose to AIPAC’s defense without any prompting from the group.

The FBI is reportedly investigating whether Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin passed sensitive intelligence to Israel and the role of two AIPAC employees in the matter.

AIPAC had deployed bipartisan statements in a successful campaign to quell the potentially disastrous flow of negative articles in the first cycle of an espionage scandal that FBI investigators say is expanding.

That bipartisan support has also immunized AIPAC from political attacks that question the pro-Israel group’s patriotism and has shielded it from the crossfire of a
presidential campaign.

“As much as we’ve reached out to members of Congress, they are reaching out to us,” said Josh Block, a spokesman for AIPAC.

“Clearly, expressions of support from leaders of both parties in both chambers are extremely important and reflect the deep and abiding relationship between the U.S. and Israel, and the strong relationship between AIPAC and members of Congress,” Block said.

Dozens of key lawmakers from both parties have been briefed by AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr, say numerous congressional aides. In addition, prominent Jewish community leaders across the country — many of whom are serious donors — have been phoning their friends on Capitol Hill, denouncing the allegation that a Pentagon mole slipped classified documents to AIPAC as the scurrilous work of an FBI zealot.

The briefings from the Washington office have been limited to a detailed rebuttal of AIPAC’s alleged role in receiving classified material from Franklin, followed by a pitch for statements of support, say aides.

AIPAC’s Washington briefers have shied away from addressing the broader charges against Franklin, or any other possible allegation about the Pentagon leaking drafts of its Iran policy.

But Kohr has made himself very clear that a public statement about AIPAC’s integrity would be appreciated, while a more forceful, if less tactful, play for congressional support has come in phone calls from Jewish political leaders across the country, say congressional aides for members contacted by AIPAC.

In many cases, AIPAC lobbyists have been very specific about how they wanted the lawmakers’ statements to be phrased. But in other instances, requests have been made in general terms, asking only for a public expression of support.

AIPAC, which does not give political donations but spends roughly $1 million a year on lobbying, has received supportive statements from nearly every key congressional leader.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), said, “I know AIPAC. I know the AIPAC leadership. It is an outstanding organization.”

Those comments were similar to Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R-Pa.) words: “I know AIPAC. I know its integrity. It’s a smear.”

Democrats were no less effusive in their backing of the embattled group. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said, “For more than five decades, America as a country and Americans as individuals have stood by Israel. AIPAC and its members have tirelessly led that effort, and America is better and stronger for it. It is vital work — work I know AIPAC will continue to lead effectively.”

Over on the House side, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) offered a general statement of support. “AIPAC has played a pivotal role in ensuring the strength of the special relationship between the United States and Israel,” she said. “AIPAC is a dedicated advocate for Israel, educating our nation’s leaders about opportunities to assist our democratic ally in the Middle East. I am proud to have worked closely with AIPAC and its leaders to support Israel as it works to defeat terrorism and strives toward a just and lasting peace.”

Most of lawmakers’ statements avoided the specific charges. Rather, they framed their support for AIPAC in general terms.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) was one of the few Republican lawmakers to mention the charges. “While the House will want to look carefully at any allegations that might endanger our national security, it will begin that look with a record of great confidence in our relationship with AIPAC and our strongest ally and the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel,” Blunt said.

But Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, gave an indication of how the FBI probe might be politicized on Capitol Hill. In a letter to Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the committee, Conyers asked for a formal congressional investigation.

“It now appears that these allegations may be only the tip of the iceberg of a broader effort of the Pentagon employees working in the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, to conduct unauthorized covert activities, without the knowledge of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Conyers wrote.

Republicans, however, cautioned that Democrats would suffer political consequences if they sought to demonize or slur AIPAC, especially in conjunction with the Iraq war

Hans Nichols

FBI Investigates Suspected Pentagon Security Breaches

An FBI investigation into suspected security breaches involving Pentagon officials and Israel is unlikely to result in prosecution of senior figures following pressure from the White House, according to people familiar with the case.

The investigation has highlighted concerns that a small group of neo-conservatives in the Pentagon not only may have divulged classified information to Israel, but also tried to mount intelligence and foreign policy operations without informing the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency.

Analysts said that although the neo-conservative proponents of regime change in Iraq and Iran had fallen out of favour with the White House, the presidential election in November still afforded them protection.

The White House denied allegations of a cover-up. A spokesman said there was full support for the investigation.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the White House and John Ashcroft, the US attorney-general, had intervened to apply the brakes. “The White House is leaning on the FBI. Some people in the FBI are very upset, they think Ashcroft is playing politics with this,” a former intelligence official said.

Paul McNulty, the Virginia district attorney in charge of the probe, had been told to slow down, the sources said. Asked for comment, Mr McNulty's office would only say that the investigation was continuing.

The investigations came to light last month, when officials confirmed reports that Lawrence Franklin, a mid-level analyst at the Pentagon, was the subject of an FBI inquiry into whether he passed classified information to an Israeli diplomat in Washington and to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), an influential lobby group.

Aipac had been under investigation for more than two years, a senior White House official said. Aipac and Israel deny involvement in espionage.

Stephen Green, author and investigative reporter, said the FBI had interviewed him about several prominent neo-conservatives, including Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, Douglas Feith, undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon, as well as former officials including Richard Perle, Stephen Bryen and Michael Ledeen.

The FBI is said to be looking back at investigations into alleged breaches of security involving Israel and current and former officials. None of the cases reached court. However, David Frum, former speechwriter for the president, said the investigators had found nothing serious and were about to drop the matter. He described what he called an anti-Israeli obsession among some parts of the administration who viewed Israel “not as the ally it is by law and treaty but as the source of all the trouble in the Middle East and the world”.

Mr Franklin, officials say, is suspected of providing Aipac with a draft national security presidential directive that proposed a tougher policy towards Iran.

In December 2001, Mr Franklin attended a meeting in Rome organised by Mr Ledeen with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer with ties to Israel, and Antonio Martino, Italy's defence minister, and Nicolo Pollari, head of Italian military intelligence.

Guy Dinmore in Washington