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Friday, October 15, 2004

Pro-Life Democrat Scolds John Kerry on Judicial Appointments, Abortion

Ray Flynn, the former mayor of Boston, a longtime Democrat and friend of John Kerry, scolded the presidential candidate in a new full-page ad in the New York Times. Flynn says Kerry is wrong to only support the appointment of abortion advocates to federal courts.

''Removing political correctness from that statement, Senator Kerry, you have announced that you will only support people to the federal judiciary who support killing unborn children," Flynn wrote in an open letter to Kerry.

Flynn, who heads Liberty, Life and Family, a lay Catholic group based in Washington, said the letter wasn't sent in support or opposition to his candidacy.

"I am asking you to announce today that you will not impose any abortion litmus test on candidates for the federal judiciary -- especially those who are faithful Catholics," Flynn wrote.

The former Vatican ambassador listed highly regarded Harvard Law School Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is pro-life, as an example of a capable individual who would not be eligible for a federal court position thanks to Kerry's pro-abortion litmus test.

Kerry has denied that he has a litmus test, though he has repeatedly said he would not appoint any judges who would favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized unlimited abortion.

President Bush and Kerry differed on potential Supreme Court appointments in the second presidential debate.

With as many as four possible appointments to the Supreme Court coming up in the next few years, the next president will have tremendous power to shape the legality of abortion -- potentially for decades.

"I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States," the president explained.

Such language has typically been used to refer to justices such as Atonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- two jurists who disagree that a right to abortion or assisted suicide exists in the Constitution.

In fact, Senator Kerry mentioned the two judges by name in an attempt to paint Bush as an extremist on Supreme Court picks.

As he has in the past, Kerry said he would appoint judges who would support abortion.

"Will women's rights be protected? ... Will a woman's right to choose be protected," Kerry asked. "These are constitutional rights, and I want to make sure we have judges who [support them]."

Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor

Planned Parenthood Unveils TV Ads Backing John Kerry on Abortion

Minneapolis, MN (LifeNews.com) -- The political arm of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion business, today unveiled its initial television advertising campaign on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Two different television ads will appear on cable television stations in Minneapolis and other large cities in eight key battleground states. They target single women -- voters that the abortion advocacy group and believes are more receptive to Kerry's pro-abortion views.

The $1 million dollar television campaign features 30-second ads that will run on stations such as MTV, TBS and USA through election day. Actress Helen Hunt appears in the commercials saying the women voters "hold the power to change the course of our country."

"For the first time in history, Planned Parenthood endorsed a candidate for president, John Kerry," Hunt says. "This election is that important."

Some of the ads are scheduled to run in Wisconsin, another hotly contested state.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Political Director Chris Taylor said the ads will hopefully turn out some of the 22 million single women who did not vote in the 2000 presidential election.

"It's time for the Planned Parenthood to bring its extraordinary strength with critically important voting blocs to bear at a point in history when reproductive rights are most threatened," Taylor said.

The locales chosen for the Planned Parenthood ad buy -- states where Kerry is defending turn Al Gore won in 2000 -- signal presidential Bush's strength nationwide.

Minnesota and Wisconsin are two states that Bush is hoping to move to his column and the president trails Kerry by very small margins in both industrial Midwest states.

Whether Planned Parenthood will succeed in getting women voters to mobilize behind Kerry is a good question.

A June 2003 poll conducted by the pro-abortion Center for the Advancement of Women found that 51% took a pro-life position opposing most or all abortions while only thirty percent said it should be generally available.

In fact, leading abortion advocates are acknowledging that abortion doesn't resonate with women voters.

"Abortion is there, but it's not the primary issue" for women, Debbie Walsh, executive director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, told the Scripps Howard News service in July.

"When pollsters ask (women), 'What's the most important issue for you,' it's not coming up in the top two or three," Walsh explained.

Also this summer, Karen White of Emily's List, a political organization that backs pro-abortion candidates, told the Christian Science Monitor newspaper that abortion "is not an issue where a woman wakes up every morning and says, 'I am going to look up what my candidate thinks on abortion.'"

"Now, while it may be an important issue, and she may have a very strong opinion about it, [it] is not what is driving her to vote," White admitted.

Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
October 15, 2004

Zarqawi - Bush's Man for All Seasons

"Oh Allah, America came with its horses and knights to challenge Allah and his message. Oh Allah, destroy the kingdom of Bush as you destroyed the kingdom of Caesar."
- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi audio, February 2004

"You know, I hate to predict violence, but I just understand the nature of the killers. This guy, Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda associate - who was in Baghdad, by the way, prior to the removal of Saddam Hussein - is still at large in Iraq. And as you might remember, part of his operational plan was to sow violence and discord amongst the various groups in Iraq by cold- blooded killing. And we need to help find Zarqawi so that the people of Iraq can have a more bright ... future."
- President George W Bush, June 2004

"If they do not turn in al-Zarqawi and his group, we will carry out operations in Fallujah. We will not be lenient."
- Iyad Allawi, Iraqi prime minister, October 2004

Former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset turned Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, is set to give the go-ahead to what the US Army twice could not bring itself to carry out: the leveling of Fallujah. Following a purely military logic, this is the next step after the barrage of precision strikes that are killing dozens of Sunni Iraqi civilians, according to Fallujah hospital reports.

Negotiations are going on. Allawi's government sounds optimistic. Sheikh Khaled al-Jumeili is the key Fallujah negotiator. There seems to be a deal on the table according to which the Iraqi National Guard - including a number of Fallujah residents - will control security in the city of 300,000, and residents with relatives killed or wounded by the American offensives and precision strikes may receive compensation.

But the key point is the handover of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al-Jumeili says there are only a few foreign jihadis in the city - a fact confirmed to Asia Times Online by sources in Baghdad close to the resistance in Fallujah. Al-Jumeili insists they are not terrorists, but plain mujahideen. One of the Baghdad sources is adamant, "What the Americans could not get the first time they are now getting through Allawi. Zarqawi is just an excuse for them to smash the spirit of the resistance."

There's another crucial point. Exactly which "Zarqawi" is everybody talking about?

The making of a legend
Before January 2003, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was little known. Very few people were even aware of the one-legged ethnic Palestinian Ahmed Fadeel al-Khalayleh, born in the dreary industrial wasteland of Zarqa in Jordan, who was basically a semi-literate, tattooed, Shi'ite-hating thug.

His goal while in Jordan was to topple King Hussein. It didn't work. He became a jihadi in Afghanistan in the late 1980s against the Soviets, and after returning to Jordan in 1992 spent seven years in jail for possession of guns. In fighting in 2002 following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban, one of his legs was severely injured - and may have been, or maybe not, amputated. He then found refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, protected by the Anglo-American enforced no-fly zone, with Ansar al-Islam, a group with a maximum of 400 fundamentalist Kurdish warriors. And he may have moved to the Sunni triangle after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.

Zarqawi stopped being a non-entity on February 5, 2003, when he was spectacularly catapulted onto the global stage - six weeks before the start of the Iraq war - by US Secretary of State Colin Powell's weapons of mass destruction speech at the United Nations. Powell used Zarqawi to link Saddam Hussein's secular Ba'athist regime to the "Islamic terror network", and thus partly justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Asia Times Online confirmed in Amman, Jordan in February 2003 that practically nobody knew Zarqawi outside of Jordan - even though in 2002 he had been the target of a CIA disinformation campaign tying him to the theocratic regime in Tehran. But soon the Bush administration was to invest him with the aura of an "international man of mystery" - the world's most dangerous man after Osama bin Laden.

Move over, Osama
The US$25 million bounty on his head makes Zarqawi an equal of bin Laden on America's most-wanted list. Soon Zarqawi started being characterized simultaneously as al-Qaeda's top operative in Iraq, and the number one promoter of civil war in that country. His organization, al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Unity and Holy War), cornered the global market of gory videos showing hostages chained, caged and beheaded. The Bush administration went into full gear, wanting the world to believe that petty criminal Zarqawi was holding the world hostage.

What had he actually done until 2004? Not much. Unlike bin Laden in 1998, he never issued a declaration of war against Jews and Crusaders. Because Zarqawi may have been in northern Iraq at the time - training Ansar al-Islam fighters - and because he may have traveled to Baghdad in May 2002 to treat his injured, or amputated leg, was evidence enough for Powell to speak of "a sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network". Powell of course never mentioned two crucial facts: even if Zarqawi was really in northern Iraq, he was in a safe heaven for Iraqi Kurds; and Ansar al-Islam was a mortal enemy of Saddam's Ba'athists. Not to mention the fact that the Pentagon always refused to take out Ansar's base: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was not interested in obliterating a perfect pretext for the war. Moreover, Ansar could also be used as an ally against Saddam.

Although the full weight of the Bush administration described Zarqawi as "a very senior al-Qaeda leader", strangely enough there was no meaningful Zarqawi connection whatsoever when one sifted through the terror information in the global media between September 11 and Shock and Awe in March 2003.

Senior former CIA agents say that Vice President Dick Cheney "blew up" when a report proved no links between Saddam and Zarqawi. No wonder: it was always a propaganda stunt. Cheney and the neo-conservatives had always insisted that the Iraqi resistance to the American occupation came either from "remnants" of Saddam's regime or from al-Qaeda "foreign fighters", preferably a partnership. It was not in their interests to admit to a more widespread indigenous resistance movement.

Cheney also insisted that Zarqawi could not have had his leg treated in a Baghdad hospital without Saddam's Mukhabarat (secret service) knowing it. But the leg story is a mess. US intelligence thought that Zarqawi had lost a leg in Afghanistan in 2002. But then, last May, they concluded that he still had both legs. The Bush administration's "evidence" of an al-Qaeda-Saddam link via Zarqawi may be an intercepted phone call by Zarqawi from a Baghdad hospital in 2002, while his leg was being attended to. But then "Zarqawi" shows up in a video with both legs in the 2004 beheading of hostage Nick Berg.

The truth is more straightforward. Zarqawi had no connection either with bin Laden or with Saddam. Secular Saddam hosting an Islamic radical, of all people, at a time when the American campaign against the "axis of evil" had reached a fever-pitch is a ludicrous proposition. A newspaper editor in the Sunni triangle says Zarqawi may have gone on an underground trip to Baghdad to have his leg operated on before scurrying back to Kurdistan. And sources in Peshawar confirm to Asia Times Online that Zarqawi never took the all-significant bayat (oath of allegiance) and so never struck a formal alliance with bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership.

A 'star' is born
Zarqawi suddenly had a global starring role, so he had to live up to it. Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad was organized in early 2004. It has since claimed responsibility for the beheading of Berg in May and Americans Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley in September and and Briton Ken Bigley in October. Tawhid's videos feature masked, armed militants, either with the voice over explaining how "Zarqawi" is beheading yet one more American infidel or the captions announcing the capture of yet more hostages.

This "film" career ran parallel to his emergence as a fiery ideologue. That's the thrust of the exceedingly suspect email allegedly found by the US Army in a raid of "an al-Qaeda safe house" in Baghdad in early 2004. In that email - which immediately showed up at the website of the ultra right-wing Project For a New American Century - Zarqawi allegedly writes to bin Laden asking for his help in detonating a civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq.

The email - good timing - was found exactly at a juncture when the Bush administration could not disguise any more the lack of evidence linking Saddam and al-Qaeda. There's only one problem - or several, for that matter. Al-Qaeda was actually encouraging total cooperation among all factions of the Iraqi resistance, Sunni and Shi'ite, secular Ba'athist and Islamic. The email could not possibly have been written by a mujahideen like Zarqawi. The characteristic, elaborate Islamic phraseology was not there. No mujahideen in his right mind would complain of his imminent martyrdom, as it's implied in the text. And to top it all, for the many different strands of the resistance, Allawi's administration is just a temporary nuisance in the long road of a national liberation struggle. So the plot didn't fly, and it was scrapped after a few days.

I did it my way
So, first Zarqawi was used as a justification for the Iraqi war; then he became the reason for why there was no peace. Instead, what sources close to the resistance tell Asia Times Online, is that Zarqawi is a minor player: most Iraqis, Shi'ite and Sunni alike, reject his brutal methods, and even Islamic clerics who support the resistance but criticize Zarqawi's methods are routinely denounced by Zarqawi as "collaborators".

Where is his "base"? Zarqawi may have found plenty of funds and manpower in Saudi Arabia, especially after the siege of Fallujah in April, as well as in pockets of the Sunni triangle. Tawhid does exist as a movement, it may have as many as 1,000 members. Once again, the majority of the Iraqi resistance refuse to blow up Iraqi policemen or the desperate urban youth queuing up every day to get jobs in the security services. But for Tawhid, any Iraqi collaborating with the occupation in any way is a legitimate target.

Everything imaginable, in Iraq and elsewhere, has been attributed to Zarqawi: the Casablanca and Istanbul bombings in 2003; the assassination in August 2003, in Najaf, of key Shi'ite player Ayatollah al-Hakim; bomb attacks in February 2004 where more than 100 unemployed people applying for a job with the Iraqi police were killed; the Madrid bombings in March; the beheading of Berg; a wave of attacks in June, with more than 100 dead; the beheadings of the two Americans Armstrong and Hensley and Briton Bigley in September/October. Zarqawi is connected to something like three dozen "terrorist attacks" in Iraq, not to mention countless warnings, threats or communiques. But only half a dozen attacks among roughly 3,000 against the Americans and the so-called coalition can be attributed with certainty to Zarqawi.

There's no shortage of documentation, in print and online, on how US intelligence agents operating around the world since the 1950s have created and developed their own terrorist groups; their own terrorist warnings concerning these terrorist groups; and then how they applied multibillion-dollar counterterrorism tactics - including black psy-ops - to neutralize these terrorist groups they created in the first place.

Disinformation and propaganda are key. Creating a "face" to terror is key. So these black psy-ops always include the creation of a cipher. One American psy-ops operative recently leveled with the Australian newspaper The Age: "We were basically paying up to US$10,000 a time to opportunists and criminals who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq."

Will the real Zarqawi please stand up
Zarqawi, described as "a master of disguise and bogus identification papers", has had a tendency to appear in several places at the same time, always eluding the efforts of the multibillion-dollar US intelligence machine. The Rupert Murdoch-owned The Weekly Standard, very cosy with the neo-cons, trumpeted that Zarqawi "is mounting a challenge to bin Laden's leadership of the global jihad".

But not a single source, anywhere, claims to have actually seen "Zarqawi" since late 2001 in Afghanistan. Ask the Pentagon. Ask the CIA. Ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation. No one, on the record, is able to independently verify that "Zarqawi" actually exists. There are no photos - only that same CIA-owned black and white. The CIA doesn't even know how tall or how fat "Zarqawi" is. All the literature on "Zarqawi" since late 2001 springs from dubious "confessions" by prisoners and "statements" by all sorts of people claiming to be "Zarqawi".

Even more extraordinary is that everybody and his neighbor is after Zarqawi: the Pentagon; the CIA; the Mukhabarat-lite intelligence services of Allawi; the Mehdi Army of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr; the bombed residents of Fallujah, where he apparently is hiding; not to mention millions of Iraqis who would bless the heavens above for a shot at laying their hands on a $25 million bounty. Just like bin Laden, nobody can find Zarqawi. Why?

Zarqawi as evil personified is a non-starter: this role has already been attributed to bin Laden hiding in his cave along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The truth may be that the real one-legged, squat, tattooed thug Zarqawi is dead, but a composite Zarqawi lives. He may have been created by a faction, or factions of the Iraqi resistance as a mobilizing factor, a dashing neo-Saladin rousing the masses against the infidel occupiers.

Or better yet, he may have been created by US military intelligence. This American "Zarqawi" is definitely a Hollywood improvement on the original: tall, urbane, highly articulate, and with agile legs. But then something went badly wrong with the plot. A rogue group, composed of Iraqis or foreign fighters or both, kidnapped the American Zarqawi identikit and inoculated its own virus: thus the savage, multiple beheadings.

Zarqawi exists in audio, but not in video. Unlike bin Laden, he has never performed unmasked. In both the Berg and South Korean Kim Sun-il execution videos, the Zarqawi voice is the same - and the Zarqawi character as well (although he certainly doesn't look like the "original" Zarqawi). Both videos look the same - with the same people, the same orange jumpsuits, and the same execution where mysteriously little blood flows. Audio and video are not in synch, and that suggests heavy editing.

Zarqawi was extremely useful to defuse attention from the Abu Ghraib scandal: the Berg video showed up at the height of Abu Ghraib. The "Zarqawi" in the video does not speak Arabic with a Jordanian accent. His legs seem pretty normal. And crucially, he wears a golden ring, which for an authentic jihadi would be the ultimate affront.

On the same day, June 22, of the release of the Kim video, "Zarqawi" also released a statement - but with a different voice, saying he was determined to "ignite a civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites". Curiously enough, that's exactly what US intelligence wants, a rehashing of the same old British maxim of "divide and rule".

Tawhid is also venturing into more elaborate productions. One of its recruiting videos features plenty of interviews and statements from Saudi, Algerian, Libyan and Jordanian jihadis. "Zarqawi's" voice can be heard for a few seconds - but the audio was taken from another tape released after Abu Ghraib when he was threatening Allawi's government.

This cat has nine lives
"Zarqawi" is much like a movie. Fake leg or not, return of the living dead or not, he is everywhere. American corporate media do not even bother to examine all the holes in the story. Who cares? Without Zarqawi, the Bush administration would have to painfully admit that the Iraqi resistance is a national liberation struggle. With Zarqawi, the administration can parrot to oblivion the line that Iraq is in the frontline of the "war on terror".

If multi-purpose "Zarqawi" did not exist, he would have to be invented. The "Zarqawi" myth straddles pre-invasion and post-invasion, so the neo-cons can use it to justify just about anything. Cheney and Rumsfeld may keep exhuming Iraq's "long established ties with al-Qaeda" and may justify the de facto occupation because "Zarqawi", "linked to al-Qaeda", is still there, so Iraq is turning into al-Qaeda's base for more attacks against the US. It doesn't matter that German intelligence has consistently pointed out that Zarqawi would be a fierce rival to bin Laden as the leader of global jihad.

If Bush loses the presidential election in November, the neo-cons who control his administration will be totally roasted and cannibalized by traditional Republicans. But if Bush is re-elected, he will have two months to launch and complete the all-out subjugation of Fallujah already announced by the US military and Allawi - the logical sequence of the current, devastating precision strikes.

This poses a problem. Zarqawi would have to be smoked out. But what for? The neo-cons would lose a formidable asset: after all they now insist Zarqawi is sponsored by Tehran. Yet another measure of the neo-cons' ignorance of the Muslim world is how they put all cats - Wahhabi al-Qaeda, secular Iraqi Ba'athists and Iranian Shi'ite mullahs - in the same bag.

So the world should expect more "Zarqawi" merchandise - emails, threats, communiques, grisly videos. "Zarqawi" lives. What a legend. He's unstoppable. And he votes Bush.

Pepe Escobar
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

Insurgents Strike at Heart of America's Power in Baghdad

Bombers in Baghdad took the war to the very heart of US power in Iraq yesterday when two blasts inside the supposedly impregnable Green Zone killed 10 people, four of them Americans, and injured 20.

Tawhid and Jihad, a group led by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility. Last night US forces launched a major offensive on Fallujah, where the militant leader is believed to be based. The town was pounded from the air by warplanes and helicopter gunships and heavy artillery and tanks on the ground. Two US Marine battalions began to advance into the town from the north and east.

Loudspeakers were used urging insurgents to lay down their weapons "because we are going to push into Fallujah".

The suicide attacks in the Green Zone are viewed as a huge propaganda boost for the insurgents. It is the most protected 10sq km in the country and home to the US and British embassies and Iraq's interim government.

The Iraqi interim government threatened to declare war on Fallujah. The National Security Adviser, Qassem Dawoud, said: "This cowardly act will not go unpunished. We shall strike them ... we shall smash them."

Earlier in the day an American soldier had been killed and two others injured in a roadside blast in Baghdad.

The four dead Americans in the Green Zone are believed to be private security contractors, and the injured included soldiers. The bombs had been carried in by hand despite a security regime that includes repeated stop and searches. One of them exploded at the Green Zone Café, where an explosive device was found and defused only last week. Western military sources stated that yesterday's bombs are likely to have been brought inside the area in parts and then assembled.

The area had come under mortar attack in the past. But this was the first time the militants had succeeded in carrying out an attack with so many casualties. It came on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to see an upsurge in the number of attacks, similar to the same time last year.

The first bomb exploded at just after 1pm. Three people died and three were injured in the first blast at a mock souk in the heavily fortified compound. Two more were killed in a second explosion at the café, a popular attraction for off-duty soldiers and Western civilians, five minutes later. Lieutenant-Colonel James Hutton, of the US army, confirmed that the bombers had been able to carry in their explosive devices.

Broken glass, twisted metal and dismembered body parts lay in pools of blood on the café floor. A survivor said: "People were screaming, they were stampeding trying to get out."

A member of staff at the American-run Ibn Sena Hospital inside the zone said: "There are body parts everywhere. At the moment we have eight dead, but this may rise. We have several wounded."

After the discovery of the bomb outside the café, the British embassy warned its staff not to use local shops and restaurants. Yesterday the US embassy extended the same message to its nationals. Foreign residents in the zone, especially women, have already been advised not to go out by themselves after dark.

Kim Sengupta in Baghdad
15 October 2004


For Independence, Democracy, Justice

The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, in cooperation with the Haiti Support Network and other progressive forces inside the Haitian community, is initiating an emergency campaign in support of the Haitian people's struggle for sovereignty and democracy, and in opposition to foreign occupation.
We urge you to join us in showing your support for the Haitian people. We must act now to show concrete expressions of solidarity. We will be sending urgently needed medicines to Haiti. The long-term need in Haiti is for the social and economic transformation of the island and for the Haitian people to be able to reclaim political and economic sovereignty over their country. People in the United States are making it crystal clear that the Haitian people do not stand alone. Two hundred years ago the Haitian people created what is now the second oldest republic in the Americas and the first free Black republic in the western hemisphere following the only successful slave insurrection in history.
The humanitarian catastrophe facing the Haitian people from Hurricane Jeanne can only be understood in the political and social reality caused by IMF neo-liberal policies and the anti-people policies flowing from the U.S. coup that overthrew the democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Cuba, by contrast, because it has sovereign control over its economy and resources, has been directly hit by hurricanes in recent years but has prevented any major loss of life.
The Emergency Campaign to Support the Haitian People will include support for both political/educational mobilizations and for the shipment of urgently needed medicines to Haiti. It will also publicize the struggle of those in Haiti who are the victims of repression. The Emergency Campaign to Support the Haitian People (ECSHP) will act in solidarity with those in Haiti who are heroically building opposition to the foreign occupation and its proxy government. The Haitian people are refusing to return to colonial servitude and we must support their right to be the masters of their own destiny.
We urge everyone to support the Emergency Campaign by helping to organize the upcoming Sunday, December 5 indoor rally in Solidarity with Haiti that will take place at New York Technical College located in Brooklyn, New York at 6:00 p.m. This program will feature Mario Dupuy, former Communications Secretary of State for President Aristide’s government; Ben Dupuy, Secretary General of the National Popular Party (PPN); former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, and other well-known leaders and personalities. This will be an exciting, inspirational and educational event and we hope you tell your friends and family to save the date.
Help Send Medicine to Haiti
The death toll from the September 18 floods in Northwest Haiti caused by Hurrican

4-Star Plans After Abu Ghraib

Top administration figures are angling to promote Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who ran detention facilities in Iraq, officials say.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon plans to promote Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former head of military operations in Iraq, risking a confrontation with members of Congress because of the prisoner abuses that occurred during his tenure.

Senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have privately told colleagues they are determined to pin a fourth star on Sanchez, two senior defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said this week.

Rumsfeld and others recognize that Sanchez remains politically "radioactive," in the words of a third senior defense official, and would wait until after the Nov. 2 presidential election and investigations of the Abu Ghraib scandal have faded before putting his name forward.

Top Pentagon strategists do not have a specific four-star job in mind for Sanchez, and the officials conceded that the appointment would probably not occur if Bush were defeated in his reelection bid by Democratic rival Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who has made his criticism of the conduct in the war a centerpiece of his campaign.

Among his duties in Iraq, Sanchez oversaw all detention facilities, including Abu Ghraib prison.

Support for the general among the senior-most policymakers in the Pentagon reflects the Bush administration's insistence that the prisoner abuse affair — which began in Abu Ghraib outside of Baghdad and then drew scrutiny to military jails in Afghanistan and at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — was an aberration.

But an appointment would encourage a confrontation in the Senate, where Democrats and some Republicans who would have to approve the nomination have criticized Sanchez's oversight of Abu Ghraib and the conduct of the war.

"If they really felt comfortable about this and felt it was justifiable, they would do it before the election," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who was skeptical of the timing.

A senior Senate Republican aide was more blunt.

"I would say that he would have a snowball's chance," the aide said, on condition of anonymity. "Somebody needs to be held accountable…. He failed in his leadership role."

Earlier this year, Sanchez was Rumsfeld's choice to take over the U.S. Southern Command, a post that would have elevated the three-star general to four stars. But his name was never formally offered after Senate Armed Services Committee members challenged Sanchez's role in overseeing the war and the Abu Ghraib prison affair.

Sanchez is the highest-ranking Latino in the military, and would be the first to become one of the 33 four-star generals and full admirals, which are the highest permanent rank.

"He commands a tremendous amount of respect. And what a tough job he had. He gets credit for that," an Army official said on condition of anonymity. "If calmer heads can prevail, they'll look at a soldier whose capability exceeds all those things."

A powerful constituency is pressing for Sanchez's promotion. Sanchez, who has commanded the Army 5th Corps in Germany since June, is widely respected throughout the military, and his rise from humble beginnings to one of the nation's highest-profile military positions has made him a powerful symbol in the Latino community.

"Sanchez was born in the equivalent of a log cabin — no running water, a self-made man," said Charles Krohn, who retired last year as an aide to former Army Secretary Thomas E. White. "Anything perceived as an Anglo plot to hold Sanchez responsible for the sins of others would be looked upon with great disfavor."

Nevertheless, Sanchez would face scrutiny for his oversight of Abu Ghraib and his supervision of the war during a time when the Iraqi insurgency wrested control of a number of cities from the U.S.-led coalition. In a Sept. 9 report to Congress, former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger found that Sanchez was "responsible" for creating an environment that contributed to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, but not directly "culpable."

Schlesinger defended Sanchez against formal censure, suggesting that his career was effectively over.

"Gen. Sanchez likely would have gotten his fourth star, and now is unlikely to get his fourth star," Schlesinger said. "That is a kind of comment on failed responsibility."

A Sanchez promotion could also engender criticism in the Middle East, where Abu Ghraib has become an anti-American rallying cry.

"It'll just be one more thumb in the eye of the Iraqis and the Arab world," said Charles V. Pena, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. "If Sanchez gets another star, it's just more evidence that we're not trying to deal with the hearts and mind issues inside Iraq or the larger Islamic world."

The general personally approved some of the controversial interrogation tactics that have been criticized as abusive to prisoners, according to classified portions of a recent report to Congress by Army Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, obtained by The Times. A year ago, Sanchez changed the interrogation policy three times in less than 30 days, confusing interrogators as to what was permissible, Fay wrote.

Fay said Sanchez adapted interrogation rules from those at Guantanamo where, unlike in Iraq, the administration did not grant detainees the rights of prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.

Sanchez "authorized the use of techniques that were contrary to both U.S. military manuals and international law," Leahy said in an Oct. 1 statement. "Given this incredible overstepping of bounds, I find it incredible that the reports generated thus far have not recommended punishment of any kind for high-level officials."

Several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee questioned at a hearing on the prisoner abuse investigations whether Sanchez should be disciplined for helping to create an environment that contributed to the abuse by failing to adequately staff the prison, which at its peak had a prisoner-to-guard ratio of 75 to 1. An Army directive says the ratio should not exceed 8 to 1.

John Hendren, Times Staff Writer

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