"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Torture - From J.F.K. to Baby Bush

"Don't Step on Superman's Cape."

The C.I.A. has the authority to carry out renditions under a presidential directive dating to the Clinton administration, which the Bush administration has reviewed and renewed.
Dana Priest, "Jet Is an Open Secret in Terror War," Washington Post, December 27, 2004.

Only a passing reference in an article describing how the C.I.A. flies prisoners to other countries to be tortured, the mention here of Clinton raises a troubling choice for friends in the Democratic Party: Should they continue to use the issue of torture just to bash Bush? Or do they owe it to themselves - and to the victims of American and allied torture - to root out the entire mess, no matter whose fingerprints they find on it?

Stating the alternatives so baldly, I make my own answer obvious. Others are free to weigh the issues in whatever moral, legal, political, or military terms they want. But, however they weigh it, no decent Democrat can duck the dilemma, and certainly not when the President's lawyer Alberto Gonzalez appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend his qualifications to become Attorney General.

Theater of the Absurd

The hearing, to be held early in the New Year, will provide a good taste of Absurdist Theater. Everyone knows how the play will end. Short of a new Abu Ghraib or a sudden flood of photos showing how the Americans used dogs and pigs to sexually assault Iraqi women, the Senators will confirm Gonzales for his new post.

The drama comes in how thoroughly the Democrats expose him for his role in the American torture machine. At stake is how relevant the party will be to a large number of anti-war activists. Knowing Senator Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, I believe the anti-warriors will like what they see.

Much of the attack will focus on the infamous memo to President Bush, in which Gonzales made his mark on American judicial thinking.

As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war.... The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians, and the need to try terrorists for war crimes such as wantonly killing civilians. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions ...
"Geneva" refers to the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, which the Bush Administration wanted to avoid applying to captives that American military commanders suspected of belonging to either al-Qaeda or the Taliban. As a signatory to the various Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, the United States had made their requirements part of American law. Not to worry, said Gonzalez. Mr. Bush could override the law whenever he believed that some "paradigm" had changed.

It was a bizarre reading of how the American legal system is supposed to work.

Why did Team Bush find it so important to deny captives the most minimal rights? Because, as Gonzalez wrote, the goal was "to quickly obtain information" from them. As Gonzalez no doubt knew at the time, the military and C.I.A. would get the information by applying the techniques we've since seen in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo:

Hood and shackle the captives.

Disorient them.

Stress them psychologically.

Subject them to sensory deprivation and extremes of hot and cold.

Deny them food and sleep.

Withhold medical treatment and needed medication, especially painkillers.

Keep them standing or kneeling in painful positions for hours at a time.

Force them into other agonizing postures.

Strip them naked.

Humiliate them non-stop.

Threaten them.

And kick them around a bit, just to show them who's boss.
From his discussions with the military and C.I.A., Gonzales would have known this approach as "Stress and Duress." No thumbscrews. No wheel. No rack. But, no matter. Under whatever paradigm or set of conditions, the International Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and an overwhelming list of distinguished military and civilian lawyers call it torture.

In other words, Mr. Gonzalez bent American and international law to enable war crimes. Who better to head the U.S. Department of Justice?

No Double Standard

But let's be fair: Republicans have no monopoly on American torture. In the early 1960s, the Kennedy Administration made Stress and Duress a specialty of J.F.K.'s much-beloved Green Berets, and torture became common during much of the Vietnam War. Just as in Mr. Bush's "War on Terror" - or in colonial wars throughout the ages - the explicit goal was to get information. New paradigms to the contrary, 9/11 did not change the world.

Kennedy and Johnson also led the way in having U.S. troops teach "Stress and Duress" to client armies throughout the world, notably at the School of the Americas, which has trained some of the hemisphere's worst torturers.

Nor was Gonzales the first to concoct legal arguments to help American and allied torturers ply their trade. From Camelot on, government lawyers have exhausted themselves trying to explain why Stress and Duress was not really torture, you know, but only Torture-Lite. Their arguments over decades of both Democratic and Republican administrations gave President Bush just the definitional dodge he needed when he declared after Abu Ghraib:

Let me make very clear the position of my government and our country. We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being.
Potentially more troubling for my Democratic friends is how the Clinton Administration relied on torture. One story stands out. Sometime after the February 1993 attempt to blow up New York's World Trade Center, three highly ambitious terrorists with roots in Pakistan and Kuwait moved to the Philippines to pursue their life's work. Their names now sound familiar:

Ramzi Yousef, convicted in 1997 as the mastermind of the trade center bombing.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi's uncle, captured in 2003, reportedly tortured by the C.I.A., and described in the 9/11 Commission Report as "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks."

Abdul Hakim Murad, Ramzi's old friend, a licensed commercial pilot and accident-prone bomb maker.

Following a fire in the group's Manila apartment, the local police captured Murad, while Yousef fled the country, only to be captured a month later in Pakistan. Shaikh Mohammed later showed up in Qatar.

The Philippine police held Murad incommunicado for 67 days. According to journalists Marites Vitug and Glenda Gloria, authors of Under the Crescent Moon, his captors tortured him with old fashioned brutality, got him to talk, and turned him over to their American allies. Federal prosecutors in New York then used Murad's testimony to help convict Ramzi Yousef in the World Trade Center Bombing, one of the Clinton Administration's most celebrated anti-terrorist successes.

To Clinton aides, the Murad case helped rationalize the idea of flying captives to other countries to be tortured. How often did they do it? We need to find out. On November 20, 2001, the Wall Street Journal told how the Clinton-era C.I.A. snatched five suspected members of the Egyptian Jihad from Albania and elsewhere in the Balkans and flew them to Egypt. The details are nasty.

Other stories will emerge. But however often the Clintonistas cooperated in foreign torture, or even allowed the C.I.A. itself to engage in torture, they did it in a limited, carefully controlled way. Out of sight. Out of mind. And nothing they did compared to the way the infantile Bush institutionalized torture on an industrial scale, which led in time to scores of secret C.I.A. detention centers around the world, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and - inevitably - public exposure.

Brazenly touting their rejection of the Geneva Conventions as a symbol of American resolve in fighting Islamic terrorists, Bush, Rumsfeld, and Gonzales too often acted as if they wanted the world to know. They wanted, it seems, to send "the ragheads" a message: "Don't Step on Superman's Cape."

Democrats should hammer attorney Gonzalez for his central role in this shameful disgrace. But they need to be straight in doing it. They, too, violated American and international law. They, too, fell into the ethical cesspit. And, worst of all, they left in place people, programs, and precedents on which the Bush Administration built far worse. If Democrats hide from all this, most fair-minded Americans will rightly dismiss them as unprincipled partisans.

But far more is at stake. Without exposing the whole range of American torture, any reform will leave much of it in place. Is that something most Democrats - or decent Republicans - want to let happen?

As always, I would love to see your response.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.

Economy Not Kind to Working Poor

Despite reports of an improving economy, some charities say growing numbers of people have come to them in recent months asking for help to pay the rent or feed their children.

The Sullivan Center, which takes applications for rental assistance one day a month, got requests from 399 people Tuesday. Over the previous three months, more than 400 people have come in every month to seek help with rent or utilities, said Sister Marie Sullivan. That's double the number of applicants who came in during the same period last year, she said.

The increase is sobering because the agency can afford to help only 75 to 100 families a month, Sullivan said.

"It's a sign of the times, the economy," she said. "Most of the people who are here, it's because they lost their jobs."

Lynn Hunter, 51, was one of the people applying for help at the center Tuesday afternoon. The southwest Atlanta resident said she lost her job as an assistant at a nursing home in August when sciatica made it too painful for her to walk. She applied for Supplemental Security Income, but has fallen behind on her bills while waiting for the payments to start. She thinks she's well enough to start working again, but she hasn't been able to find another job.

Hunter has gotten a little financial help from her church, but it's a small amount and many other members are also having financial troubles. "My friends, my family, everybody's scuffling," Hunter said.

At North Fulton Community Charities, which serves Roswell and Alpharetta, the number of requests for rent money or food from the pantry over the past four months is up about 20 percent over the same period last year, said director Barbara Duffy.

"The majority of the families that we help are the working poor," said Duffy. "They are the first affected and the last to recover in any kind of economic slowdown."

Duffy said 75 to 100 families a day seek help with rent, mortgage payments or utilities, or goods from the agency's food pantry. Part of the problem this year, she said, may be that there were few seasonal jobs because retailers did not want to hire many additional workers.

David Enniss, executive director of Clayton Family Care, said his agency had not seen an increase in the number of people seeking help. But he said families need more money than in the past to get them through a crisis.

"It's just getting more expensive to live," Enniss said. "Housing costs are up, utility costs are up."

Recent reports have found similar trends across the country.

In August, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that poverty in the United States grew from 12.1 percent in 2002 to 12.5 percent in 2003, an increase of 1.3 million people.

A November report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that more than 36 million people, including 13 million children, experienced hunger or worried about it last year. Two years ago, the figure was 35 million people.

"The bottom line is that it's harder and harder for the working poor to make ends meet in this country," said Ross Fraser, a spokesman for America's Second Harvest, a national food bank network.

While the economy is improving, it's still not as strong as it was a few years ago, said Enniss of Clayton Family Care.

"I do think we're seeing some job growth," Enniss said. "The unfortunate part of that is, with most of the job growth, the wages aren't that strong. We're seeing people laid off from a $40,000-a-year job and in order to go back to work they're having to take a $20,000- to $25,000-a-year job."

The largest group seeking aid is single mothers. Ennis said that about 90 percent are facing a one-time emergency, such as car problems that keep them from getting to work for a few days or a child who gets sick, forcing the parent to stay home and risk losing her job. "Those are the sorts of everyday, routine things that will throw a low-income family into crisis."

At the Sullivan Center, applicants are required to take classes in financial planning and nutrition in exchange for one-time help with rent and utilities. Applicants who are selected for the program get one-on-one meetings with a finance expert and can get help from Legal Aid if they need it.

Sullivan said some people get into trouble at the holidays because they spend more than they should, often on presents for their children. But this year, she said, most are citing a job loss or reduction in work hours as the reason they're running into trouble.

Paulette Hampton, case manager at the Sullivan Center, said the number of people seeking help has been on the rise for the past four years. About 30 percent of applicants have a full-time job and another 20 percent are working part time and trying to find full-time work, she said.

Just a few years ago, Hampton said, applicants simply couldn't find a job. "And now there are jobs, and they're not paying enough."

Anna Varela
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Conyers to Object to Ohio Electors, Requests Senate Allies

Representative John Conyers, ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, will object to the counting of the Ohio Electors from the 2004 Presidential election when Congress convenes to ratify those votes on January 6th. In a letter dispatched to every Senator, which will be officially published by his office shortly, Conyers declares that he will be joined in this by several other members of the House. Rep. Conyers is taking this dramatic step because he believes the allegations and evidence of election tampering and fraud render the current slate of Ohio Electors illegitimate.

"As you know," writes Rep. Conyers in his letter, "on January 6, 2005, at 1:00 P.M, the electoral votes for the election of the president are to be opened and counted in a joint session of Congress. I and a number of House Members are planning to object to the counting of the Ohio votes, due to numerous unexplained irregularities in the Ohio presidential vote, many of which appear to violate both federal and state law."

The letter goes on to ask the Senators who receive this letter to join Conyers in objecting to the Ohio Electors. "I am hoping that you will consider joining us in this important effort," writes Conyers, "to debate and highlight the problems in Ohio which disenfranchised innumerable voters. I will shortly forward you a draft report itemizing and analyzing the many irregularities we have come across as part of our hearings and investigation into the Ohio presidential election."

There are expected to be high level meetings with high ranking Democratic officials next week to coordinate a concerted lobbying effort to convince Senators to challenge the vote. The Green Party and David Cobb, as has been true all along, will be centrally involved in this process, as will Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The remainder of the Conyers letter reads:

3 U.S.C. §15 provides when the results from each of the states are announced, that "the President of the Senate shall call for objections, if any." Any objection must be presented in writing and "signed by at least one Senator and one Member of the House of Representatives before the same shall be received." The objection must "state clearly and concisely, and without argument, the ground thereof." When an objection has been properly made in writing and endorsed by a member of each body the Senate withdraws from the House chamber, and each body meets separately to consider the objection. "No votes...from any other State shall be acted upon until the (pending) objection...(is) finally disposed of." 3 U.S.C. §17 limits debate on the objections in each body to two hours, during which time no member may speak more than once and not for more than five minutes. Both the Senate and the House must separately agree to the objection; otherwise, the challenged vote or votes are counted.

Historically, there appears to be three general grounds for objecting to the counting of electoral votes. The language of 3 U.S.C. §15 suggests that objection may be made on the grounds that (1) a vote was not "regularly given" by the challenged elector(s); and/or (2) the elector(s) was not "lawfully certified" under state law; or (3) two slates of electors have been presented to Congress from the same State.

Since the Electoral Count Act of 1887, no objection meeting the requirements of the Act have been made against an entire slate of state electors. In the 2000 election several Members of the House of Representatives attempted to challenge the electoral votes from the State of Florida. However, no Senator joined in the objection, and therefore, the objection was not "received." In addition, there was no determination whether the objection constituted an appropriate basis under the 1887 Act. However, if a State - in this case Ohio - has not followed its own procedures and met its obligation to conduct a free and fair election, a valid objection -if endorsed by at least one Senator and a Member of the House of Representatives- should be debated by each body separately until "disposed of".

A key legal aspect of this is the second clause referenced in the letter. Rep. Conyers and the other House members involved do not believe the electors have been lawfully certified. They believe that there has been too much illegal activity on the part of Blackwell, other election officials, and Republican operatives on the ground and therefore, as stated in the letter, the electors were not "lawfully certified" under state law. Next week, the House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff will release the report referenced in the letter, which is now still in draft form, and which led Mr. Conyers to this decision.

The Senators who shall receive the greatest focus from Conyers in this matter are Biden, Bingaman, Boxer, Byrd, Clinton, Conrad, Corzine, Dodd, Dorgan, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Inyoue, Jeffords, Kennedy, Kerry, Lautenberg, Leahy, Levin, Lieberman, Mikulski, Nelson (FL), Jack Reed, Harry Reid, Rockefeller, Sarbanes, Stabenow, Wyden and Obama.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and international bestseller of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'

Neo-cons Can't Escape Responsibility for their Iraq Miscalculations

WASHINGTON - The most curious turn of the worm this season is the attack by the neo-conservatives on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the failures in Iraq.

It should be noted that until now Rumsfeld was the darling of that same bunch. He hired a batch of them as his most trusted aides and assistants in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Paul Wolfowitz as his undersecretary. Douglas Feith as his chief of planning. He installed the dean of the pack, Richard Perle, as chairman of the Defense Policy Board for a time.

The doyenne and room mother of the whole bunch, Midge Decter, wrote a fawning biography of Rumsfeld titled "Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait."

Now, suddenly, the voice of the neo-conservative movement, William Kristol, editor of The Standard, suggests that Rumsfeld has fouled up everything in Iraq and ought to be fired for his failures. Ditto, writes Tom Donnelly of the right-thinking American Enterprise Institute.

Rumsfeld himself was never a neo-conservative. He just found them useful as he took over the Pentagon for the second time. Clearly the neo-cons found Rumsfeld useful as well as they pushed their ideas on transforming the Middle East.

So what happened? Why is Rumsfeld being stabbed in the back by those he trusted the most to back his play? By the very people who have argued for years in favor of taking out Saddam Hussein, installing democracy and creating a bully pulpit, and the military bases, from which the Middle East would be weaned from dictatorship and an implacable hatred of Israel and the United States.

Simple. They want someone else to be blamed besides them for fouling up their marvelous plans and schemes - someone who is a handy lightning rod and who is NOT a card-carrying neo-conservative. So who better than Rumsfeld?

Now those folks who cheered Rumsfeld, and the Bush administration, the loudest of all nearly two years ago are marching behind such grumpy Republicans as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska in laying much of the blame at the feet of Rumsfeld.

The sharpening attacks on the defense secretary as the old year fades and the new year approaches prompted the one man who has a vote on Rumsfeld's survival, President Bush, to step forward and praise him. That, in turn, prompted a semi-spirited defense of the secretary by Republican congressional leaders.

Rumsfeld himself, who has basically no people skills at all, found it politic to spend the holidays with the soldiers and Marines in Iraq. He was even pictured wearing an apron and serving up turkey and dressing in an Army mess hall in the desert. How could anyone think, he asked, that he was not totally committed to providing those troops everything they need for survival in a bad place?

We do not for a minute suggest that Rumsfeld be let off the hook, be absolved of responsibility for gross miscalculations and gross lack of planning in the Iraq war and, especially, the post-war period. But neither do we absolve the neo-conservatives for shooting the horse they've been riding the last four years.

They were the loudest proponents of an attack on Iraq from the beginning. It was the neo-conservatives who wanted to unleash the dogs of war. It was they who championed Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraq National Congress and saw that their bogus defector tales of Saddam's nuclear weapons program and his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons gained attention and traction.

They believed Chalabi and the INC's predictions that American troops would be welcomed with showers of rose petals and there would be no need for an American occupation. Ergo, no need for anyone to actually plan to secure the country in the wake of victory or lay the groundwork for rebuilding a nation whose water, power and sewer services were falling apart before we bombed and shelled them.

When Rumsfeld goes, so too should every neo-conservative who squirmed his way into a Pentagon sinecure. They must also bear responsibility for a war that so far has cost nearly $200 billion and the lives of more than 1,300 American troops and has damaged America's standing in the world.

They cannot be allowed to load all the blame on Rumsfeld and scoot away to lick their wounds and dream again their large dreams of conquest and empire and pre-emptive strikes.

Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at: Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, 700 12th St. N.W., Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20005-3994.

A State of Chaos

George Bush has purged the last of his father's senior advisers, handing over control to his neocon allies

The transition to President Bush's second term, filled with backstage betrayals, plots and pathologies, would make for an excellent chapter of I, Claudius. To begin with, Bush has unceremoniously and without public acknowledgement dumped Brent Scowcroft, his father's closest associate and friend, as chairman of the foreign intelligence advisory board. The elder Bush's national security adviser was the last remnant of traditional Republican realism permitted to exist within the administration.
At the same time the vice president, Dick Cheney, has imposed his authority over secretary of state designate Condoleezza Rice, in order to blackball Arnold Kanter, former under secretary of state to James Baker and partner in the Scowcroft Group, as a candidate for deputy secretary of state.

"Words like 'incoherent' come to mind," one top state department official told me about Rice's effort to organise her office. She is unable to assert herself against Cheney, her wobbliness a sign that the state department will mostly be sidelined as a power centre for the next four years.

Rice may have wanted to appoint as a deputy her old friend Robert Blackwill, whom she had put in charge of Iraq at the NSC. But Blackwill, a mercurial personality, allegedly assaulted a female US foreign service officer in Kuwait, and was forced to resign in November. Secretary of state Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, presented the evidence against Blackwill to Rice. "Condi only dismissed him after Powell and Armitage threatened to go public," a state department source said.

Meanwhile, key senior state department professionals, such as Marc Grossman, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, have abruptly resigned. According to colleagues who have chosen to remain (at least for now), they foresee the damage that will be done as Rice is charged with whipping the state department into line with the White House and Pentagon neocons. Rice has pleaded with Armitage to stay on, but "he colourfully said he would not", a state department official told me. Rice's radio silence when her former mentor, Scowcroft, was defenestrated was taken by the state department professionals as a sign of things to come.

Bush has long resented his father's alter ego. Scowcroft privately rebuked him for his Iraq follies more than a year ago - an incident that has not previously been reported. Bush "did not receive it well", said a friend of Scowcroft.

In A World Transformed, the elder Bush's 1998 memoir, co-authored with Scowcroft, they explained why Baghdad was not seized in the first Gulf war: "Had we gone the invasion route, the US could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land." In the run-up to the Iraq war, Scowcroft again warned of the danger. Bush's conservative biographers Peter and Rachel Schweizer, quoted the president as responding: "Scowcroft has become a pain in the ass in his old age." And they wrote: "Although he never went public with them, the president's own father shared many of Scowcroft's concerns."

The rejection of Kanter is a compound rejection of Scowcroft and of James Baker - the tough, results-oriented operator who as White House chief of staff saved the Reagan presidency from its ideologues, managed the elder Bush's campaign in 1988, and was summoned in 2000 to rescue Junior in Florida. In his 1995 memoir, Baker observed that the administration's "overriding strategic concern in the [first] Gulf war was to avoid what we often referred to as the Lebanonisation of Iraq, which we believed would create a geopolitical nightmare."

In private, Baker is scathing about the current occupant of the White House. Now the one indispensable creator of the Bush family political fortunes is repudiated.

Republican elders who warned of endless war are purged. Those who advised Bush that Saddam was building nuclear weapons, that with a light military force the operation would be a "cakewalk", and that capturing Baghdad was "mission accomplished", are rewarded.

The outgoing secretary of state, fighting his last battle, is leaking stories to the Washington Post about how his advice went unheeded. Secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld, whose heart beats with the compassion of a crocodile, clings to his job by staging Florence Nightingale-like tableaux of hand-holding of the wounded while declaiming into the desert wind about "victory". Since the election, 203 US soldiers have been killed and 1,674 wounded.

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday December 30, 2004
The Guardian

· Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is Washington bureau chief of salon.com

What Became Of American Conservatives?

America has blundered into a needless and dangerous war, and fully half of the country's population is enthusiastic. Many Christians think that war in the Middle East signals "end times" and that they are about to be wafted up to heaven. Many patriots think that, finally, America is standing up for itself and demonstrating its righteous might. Conservatives are taking out their Vietnam frustrations on Iraqis. Karl Rove is wrapping Bush in the protective cloak of war leader. The military-industrial complex is drooling over the profits of war. And neoconservatives are laying the groundwork for Israeli territorial expansion.

The evening before Thanksgiving, Rush Limbaugh was on C-SPAN TV explaining that these glorious developments would have been impossible if talk radio and the conservative movement had not combined to break the power of the liberal media.

In the Thanksgiving issue of National Review, editor Richard Lowry and former editor John O'Sullivan celebrate Bush's re-election triumph over "a hostile press corps." "Try as they might," crowed O'Sullivan, "they couldn't put Kerry over the top."

There was a time when I could rant about the "liberal media" with the best of them. But in recent years, I have puzzled over the precise location of the "liberal media."

Not so long ago I would have identified the liberal media as The New York Times and The Washington Post, CNN and the three TV networks, and National Public Radio. But both the Times and the Post fell for the Bush administration's lies about WMD and supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On balance, CNN, the networks and NPR have not made an issue of the Bush administration's changing explanations for the invasion.

Apparently, Rush Limbaugh and National Review think there is a liberal media because the prison torture scandal could not be suppressed and a cameraman filmed the execution of a wounded Iraqi prisoner by a U.S. Marine.

Do the Village Voice and The Nation comprise the "liberal media"? The Village Voice is known for Nat Henthof and his columns on civil liberties. Every good conservative believes that civil liberties are liberal because they interfere with the police and let criminals go free. The Nation favors spending on the poor and disfavors gun rights, but I don't see the "liberal hate" in The Nation's feeble pages that Rush Limbaugh was denouncing on C-SPAN.

In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush. Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush.

The Iraqi War is serving as a great catharsis for multiple conservative frustrations: job loss, drugs, crime, homosexuals, pornography, female promiscuity, abortion, restrictions on prayer in public places, Darwinism and attacks on religion. Liberals are the cause. Liberals are against America. Anyone against the war is against America and is a liberal. "You are with us or against us."

This is the mindset of delusion, and delusion permits no facts or analysis. Blind emotion rules. Americans are right, and everyone else is wrong. End of the debate.

That, gentle reader, is the full extent of talk radio, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, National Review, The Weekly Standard and, indeed, of the entire concentrated corporate media where non-controversy in the interest of advertising revenue rules.

Once upon a time, there was a liberal media. It developed out of the Great Depression and the New Deal. Liberals believed that the private sector is the source of greed that must be restrained by government acting in the public interest. The liberals' mistake was to identify morality with government. Liberals had great suspicion of private power and insufficient suspicion of the power and inclination of government to do good.

Liberals became Benthamites (after Jeremy Bentham). They believed that as the people controlled government through democracy, there was no reason to fear government power, which should be increased in order to accomplish more good.

The conservative movement that I grew up in did not share the liberals' abiding faith in government. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Today it is liberals, not conservatives, who endeavor to defend civil liberties from the state. Conservatives have been won around to the old liberal view that as long as government power is in their hands, there is no reason to fear it or to limit it. Thus, the Patriot Act, which permits government to suspend a person's civil liberty by calling him a terrorist with or without proof. Thus, pre-emptive war, which permits the president to invade other countries based on unverified assertions.

There is nothing conservative about these positions. To label them conservative is to make the same error as labeling the 1930s German Brownshirts conservative.

American liberals called the Brownshirts "conservative" because the Brownshirts were obviously not liberal. They were ignorant, violent and delusional, and they worshipped a man of no known distinction. Brownshirts' delusions were protected by an emotional force field. Adulation of power and force prevented Brownshirts from recognizing implications for their country of their reckless doctrines.

Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy. I went overnight from being an object of conservative adulation to one of derision when I wrote that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a "strategic blunder."

It is amazing that only a short time ago, the Bush administration and its supporters believed that all the United States had to do was to appear in Iraq and we would be greeted with flowers. Has there ever been a greater example of delusion? Isn't this on a par with the Children's Crusade against the Saracens in the Middle Ages?

Delusion is still the defining characteristic of the Bush administration. We have smashed Fallujah, a city of 300,000, only to discover that the 10,000 U.S. Marines are bogged down in the ruins of the city. If the Marines leave, the "defeated" insurgents will return. Meanwhile, the insurgents have moved on to destabilize Mosul, a city five times as large. Thus, the call for more U.S. troops.

There are no more troops. Our former allies are not going to send troops. The only way the Bush administration can continue with its Iraq policy is to reinstate the draft.

When the draft is reinstated, conservatives will loudly proclaim their pride that their sons, fathers, husbands and brothers are going to die for "our freedom." Not a single one of them will be able to explain why destroying Iraqi cities and occupying the ruins are necessary for "our freedom." But this inability will not lessen the enthusiasm for the project. To protect their delusions from "reality-based" critics, they will demand that the critics be arrested for treason and silenced. Many encouraged by talk radio already speak this way.

Because of the triumph of delusional "new conservatives" and the demise of the liberal media, this war is different from the Vietnam War. As more Americans are killed and maimed in the pointless carnage, more Americans have a powerful emotional stake that the war not be lost and not be in vain. Trapped in violence and unable to admit mistake, a reckless administration will escalate.

The rapidly collapsing U.S. dollar is hard evidence that the world sees the United States as bankrupt. Flight from the dollar as the reserve currency will adversely impact American living standards, which are already falling as a result of job outsourcing and offshore production. The United States cannot afford a costly and interminable war.

Falling living standards and inability to impose our will on the Middle East will result in great frustrations that will diminish our country.

Paul Craig Roberts

CIA Intrigue Shadows Jet

A plane human rights watchers have been following worldwide as it allegedly airlifted terrorism suspects has ties in Oregon

Just who is Leonard Thomas Bayard?

Bloggers around the world are chattering about Bayard and his Oregon company, Bayard Foreign Marketing LLC, new owner of a corporate turbo-jet the CIA supposedly used to ferry terrorism suspects to overseas torture chambers. The Washington Post and The Boston Globe wrote prominent stories about him this month.

And yet nobody can find him anywhere.

Somehow, Bayard avoided the kinds of public record lists that include people who hold driver's licenses, own land, are registered to vote, have been married, divorced, killed or convicted. He or his company apparently pulled together the money to buy a multimillion-dollar Gulfstream V jet last month, yet they appear nowhere in federal corporate or regulatory filings.

His lawyer, Portland corporate attorney Scott Caplan, insists Leonard Bayard is a real person. If so, he's doing an awfully good job of hiding it.

The mysterious Mr. Bayard caught the world's attention Dec. 1, when Federal Aviation Administration records first listed his obscure company as owner of a particular airplane that has become notorious among human rights advocates.

Swedish authorities claim U.S. agents used that plane -- before Bayard owned it -- to whisk accused terrorism suspects out of the country to Egypt, where the prisoners claim they were tortured. The jet, Gulfstream serial number 581, has been linked to several other clandestine prisoner transfers. Its FAA registration number has changed at least twice this year.

Before Bayard acquired the jet, it belonged to a Massachusetts company, Premier Executive Transport Services Inc. This month The Washington Post traced Premier to several shadowy individuals with recently issued Social Security numbers.

Leonard Bayard seems to have no Social Security number at all. But he can, apparently, sign his own name.

Bayard's signature appears, tantalizingly, in neat script at the bottom of an August corporate filing with the Oregon Secretary of State's office. The handwritten document identifies only one owner of Bayard Foreign Marketing, "Leonard Thomas Bayard." It lists the company's business address as Caplan's downtown Portland law office, and Caplan as the company's registered agent.

A call placed to the phone number listed on Bayard's business registration reached an answering service operator, who would not say where she was located but said she had never met Leonard Bayard.

For his part, Caplan won't say whether he's met Bayard: "I really can't say anything about the client," he said, though, when pressed, Caplan said he is positive Bayard does exist.

Tom Malinowski doubts you'll ever meet him, though. Malinowski, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch in Washington, D.C., thinks the CIA invented Bayard.

"It's a common practice to maintain front companies, and so that's the suspicion here," Malinowski said. "One has to surmise that the agency is using them to cover its tracks."

If so, the CIA hasn't done an especially good job of it. Human rights organizations, hobbyist plane spotters and news reporters around the world have frequently recorded the Gulfstream's movements since October 2001, when it was allegedly used to ferry a terrorism suspect out of Pakistan.

Since then, the plane has been cited several times for alleged involvement in what the CIA calls "extraordinary renditions," the practice of sending suspected terrorists to other countries for interrogation. In December 2001, for example, the two Egyptian suspects were allegedly deported from Sweden to Egypt on the Gulfstream V only hours after the government there quietly denied their applications for asylum and before lawyers could file appeals.

The Swedish government, which had second thoughts after the case received press attention, says the deportation was coordinated by the U.S. government and that assurances the prisoners' rights would be protected were violated, according to a July report in The Washington Post. The Post reported that the Egyptian suspects' attorneys and family members allege the pair were tortured when they arrived in Egypt.

The Post and The Boston Globe have reported several similar allegations involving prisoners transported on Bayard's Gulfstream jet, all before the Oregon company took ownership this month.

At this point, Malinowski said, the CIA has apparently given up on keeping the airplane secret.

"Their cover has been blown," he said, and if the agency unloaded its plane and bought another, watchdogs would catch on right away and start tracking the replacement jet.

"Why waste money selling one perfectly good plane and buying another perfectly good plane?" Malinowski asked. "They can't undo what's been done."

Mike Rogoway: 503-294-7699, mikerogoway@news.oregonian.com. Researchers Margie Gultry and Lynne Palombo contributed to this report.

Are We Stingy? Yes!

President Bush finally roused himself yesterday from his vacation in Crawford, Tex., to telephone his sympathy to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and to speak publicly about the devastation of Sunday's tsunamis in Asia. He also hurried to put as much distance as possible between himself and America's initial measly aid offer of $15 million, and he took issue with an earlier statement by the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who had called the overall aid efforts by rich Western nations "stingy." "The person who made that statement was very misguided and ill informed," the president said.

We beg to differ. Mr. Egeland was right on target. We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.

The American aid figure for the current disaster is now $35 million, and we applaud Mr. Bush's turnaround. But $35 million remains a miserly drop in the bucket, and is in keeping with the pitiful amount of the United States budget that we allocate for nonmilitary foreign aid. According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.

Bush administration officials help create that perception gap. Fuming at the charge of stinginess, Mr. Powell pointed to disaster relief and said the United States "has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world." But for development aid, America gave $16.2 billion in 2003; the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002, those numbers were $13.2 billion for America, and $29.9 billion for Europe.

Making things worse, we often pledge more money than we actually deliver. Victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago are still living in tents because aid, including ours, has not materialized in the amounts pledged. And back in 2002, Mr. Bush announced his Millennium Challenge account to give African countries development assistance of up to $5 billion a year, but the account has yet to disperse a single dollar.

Mr. Bush said yesterday that the $35 million we've now pledged "is only the beginning" of the United States' recovery effort. Let's hope that is true, and that this time, our actions will match our promises.

NY Times
Published: December 30, 2004

It Takes A Little Longer for Things to Register with Dubya

It's About Aid, and an Image

CRAWFORD, Tex., Dec. 29 - As Asia suffers through a 9/11 of its own - a natural calamity instead of a man-made one, but at least 25 times more deadly - President Bush's response in coming weeks may well determine his success in repairing relations strained by three years of relentless American focus on terrorism.

It took 72 hours after the tsunamis washed away countless villages and tens of thousands of lives before Mr. Bush appeared in public to declare that the United States had the rudiments of a plan for addressing "loss and grief to the world that is beyond our comprehension." His aides said it took that long to understand the magnitude of the tragedy and to plan a recovery effort that must stretch from remote villages of Indonesia to the eastern coast of Africa.

But the aid effort that has now begun presents Mr. Bush with an opportunity to battle, with action rather than just words, the perception that took root in his first four years in office that he is all about America first.

"It's a tragedy but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate that terrorism doesn't drive out everything else," said Morton Abramowitz, who served as American ambassador to Thailand a quarter century ago and went on to become one of the founders of the International Crisis Group, which helps prepare governments to respond to unexpected shocks. "It's a chance for him to show what kind of country we are."

Mr. Bush and his aides have long argued that the administration's reputation around the world is undeserved.

Andrew S. Natsios, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, said on Wednesday that American funds for disaster relief alone were $2.4 billion last year, 40 percent of the worldwide contributions for this purpose. "We are by far the largest donor," he said. "No one even comes close to us."

That argument underlay the president's testy response when asked, at his ranch, about the comments of Jan Egeland, the United Nations relief coordinator, who charged on Monday that rich Western nations had been "stingy" in doling out foreign aid before the tsunami.

"I felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill informed," Mr. Bush replied, ticking off the magnitude of increases in American aid.

But perceptions set in a first term have a way of becoming the political canvas of the second. And America's response to this tragedy, some administration officials acknowledged, is crucial in places like Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, where the earthquake and tsunami first hit and where Islamic fundamentalism, never a political force during the cold war, is seeking to make inroads.

Any missteps by the United States in the country's politically volatile environment, noted a senior American official who is frequently in Southeast Asia, "will be exploited by the Islamic extremists to bolster their own case."

In this case, early reports indicate that even in a holiday week, the bureaucracy swung into gear fairly quickly.

To some degree, the war of perceptions has to do with whether the Asian nations believe Mr. Bush focuses on the tsunami tragedy with the same kind of energy he put in to making sure that other nations signed on to his counterterrorism agenda after Sept. 11. Just weeks after those attacks, Mr. Bush traveled to Shanghai for the annual summit of Asian leaders and made clear he would judge allies on the basis of how well they joined the fight. Among the first visitors to the Oval Office after the attack was Megawati Sukarnoputri, then Indonesia's president. She pledged to join the hunt for Al Qaeda operatives on her territory, and largely made good on the promise.

On Wednesday morning Mr. Bush, operating from a trailer just across the road from his ranch that has been converted into a secure communications center, called the leaders of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and India to pledge his support.

"I assured those leaders this is only the beginning of our help," he said of the $35 million that the administration has pledged so far.

Mr. Bush's aides are aware that the depth of America's compassion will be compared to what other nations are spending, what Washington spends on lesser disasters at home, and what is now being spent in Iraq.

Spain has publicly committed about $68 million. Australia has pledged $27 million. American officials say those comparisons can be misleading because the United States is providing airlift and other services in an aid coalition with Japan, India and Australia.

Then there are the domestic comparisons. Congress has approved roughly $13 billion for aid related to the hurricanes that hit the country in the late summer. Most of that is going to Florida, where Mr. Bush loaded fresh water and dry goods into the trunks of cars.

Of course, that was home turf, and an election campaign was under way, and even Mr. Bush's critics do not expect spending on that scale for the far greater disaster in South Asia.

And there are already signs that Democrats want to link the response to this disaster to spending in Iraq. "I just about went through the roof when I heard them bragging about $35 million," Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat and a persistent critic of how the American rebuilding operation has gone in Iraq. "We spend $35 million before breakfast in Iraq."

Speaking by telephone from his home in Vermont, Mr. Leahy, who is the ranking Democrat on the foreign operations subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, urged that a portion of the largely unspent $18 billion for Iraq reconstruction be re-directed for Asian relief efforts.

NY Times

Happy New Year '1984' State-of-Siege

Mayor, Police Promise Tight Security For City New Year's

NEW YORK -- Police boats, helicopters, bomb squads and thousands of officers will be on patrol in Times Square and around the city on New Year's Eve, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Wednesday.

Heavily armed Hercules counter-terror teams, officers armed with radiation detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs will be in Times Square, where Secretary of State Colin Powell will press the button to start the crystal ball drop marking the new year.

Police boats will monitor Staten Island ferries, long considered a possible target for potential attack. They also will patrol around Battery Park, the Brooklyn Bridge and the United Nations, Kelly said.

The commissioner said the police department had no information about a specific threat to the city on New Year's Eve.

Still, flights will be banned below 4,000 feet from 23rd to 96th streets, he said. Some subway platforms will be closed, and plainclothes officers will be on trains and street corners.

"There's an awful lot of security that we provide that will not be visible," Bloomberg said. "You'll never know who that person sitting next to you is and that's the way it should be."

© 2004 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

We Must Leave Iraq

Sooner rather than later

Why are American soldiers dying in Iraq?

The rationale has shifted as the months turn into years. "Weapons of mass destruction" – Saddam's nonexistent links to al-Qaeda – the Laurie Mylroie conspiracy theory that links Iraq to every ill under the sun, and then some, held in high esteem by the neocons: all had their day in the sun, and were disproved, discredited, and discarded. Then there was the Andrew Sullivan theory, developed just as an anthrax-laced envelope was delivered to Tom Daschle's Senate office:

"The terrorists clearly have access to the kind of anthrax that could be used against large numbers of civilians. My hopes yesterday that this was a minor attack seem absurdly naïve in retrospect. So they are warning us and testing us. At this point, it seems to me that a refusal to extend the war to Iraq is not even an option. We have to extend it to Iraq. It is by far the most likely source of this weapon; it is clearly willing to use such weapons in the future; and no war against terrorism of this kind can be won without dealing decisively with the Iraqi threat. We no longer have any choice in the matter. Slowly, incrementally, a Rubicon has been crossed. The terrorists have launched a biological weapon against the United States. They have therefore made biological warfare thinkable and thus repeatable. We once had a doctrine that such a Rubicon would be answered with a nuclear response."

Gee, if only we'd listened to Excitable Andy and just nuked the heck out of Iraq: think of all the money, and American lives, we would've saved! Some 1,300 American soldiers would still be among the living, and the over 17,000 who've had their limbs blasted to bits, or their sanity permanently impaired, would have been spared.

And if you're worried about the moral problem of several million dead Iraqis – killed on account of a wrong, completely air-headed theory – then just relax, because here's "former" Israeli intelligence agent and current director of the Ayn Rand Institute, Yaron Brook, telling us that it's okay – even commendable – to kill Iraqi civilians: concern for sparing the innocent is "self-sacrifice," says the Israeli-born Brook, whose babbling malevolence was barfed up just in time for the Christmas season. Kill! Kill! Kill! In the name of "reason," of course.

But I digress. The real reason, we're now told, that Americans must continue to die in Iraq for at least the next year, if not until 2006 and beyond, is to implant "democracy" in that unpromising soil. We all remember the presidential address to the National Endowment for Democracy in which he announced a "global democratic revolution" as the chief objective of American foreign policy – and exiled prudence from the litany of conservative virtues. Now let us recall that bizarre pronouncement – George W. Bush channeling Leon Trotsky – as we contemplate the probable outcome of the Iraqi elections.

As I wrote last year,

"So far, the Shi'ites have stood on the sidelines, waiting for the chance to take advantage of their majority status and impose an Islamic 'republic' on the rest of the country."

Now that moment has come. After fighting off Paul Bremer's plan to impose a "caucus" system of indirect elections that could be easily manipulated by occupation authorities, the Ayatollah Sistani – spiritual leader of Iraq's majority Shi'ite population – forced the Americans to agree to national elections, holding out the threat of a fatwa against the occupiers, who would then face a united Shi'ite-Sunni insurgency.

Our great "democratic" achievement to date has been to polarize the country along religious lines and conjure the specter of civil war. With the last Sunni party withdrawing its slate of candidates, and a list headed by the leader of the Iranian-backed SCIRI favored to sweep the upcoming poll, the prediction made in this space on April 14, 2003, is worth recalling:

"Another explosive factor is the role of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), formerly based in Teheran. SCIRI is the only opposition group that ever had cadres inside Iraq; unlike the Iraqi National Congress, SCIRI did not have to be flown to Iraq courtesy of the American taxpayers: they already have troops on the ground, particularly in the south.

"The main political consequence of the war, internally, is to increase Iranian influence: if free elections were held in the southern Shi'a provinces of Iraq, they would undoubtedly usher in some sort of 'Islamic Republic.' The effort by the neocons in the administration to install Ahmed Chalabi as the Pentagon's puppet, far from forestalling this possibility, only makes it a more credible threat to the postwar order. I guess it all comes under the heading of 'creative destruction'…."

But there's nothing creative about the destruction now being unleashed on Iraqi society, as a recent bomb blast aimed at the SCIRI leader killed 12 and injured dozens. (The would-be assassins hoped to get the leader of the party, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, just like they got his brother in the early days of the occupation.) The "democratic" process, applied to Iraq, has brought on a religious civil war pitting Sunni against Shi'ite – and setting both against the Christians.

SCIRI, by the way, is the one exile group that proudly boasted it wouldn't take a dime of American aid in the run-up to war, and publicly opposed the invasion, warning, even as U.S. troops poured into the country, that they would fight if the Americans tried to stay as "colonizers." Mr. al-Hakim has said more than once that he wants U.S. troops out.

I wouldn't get too excited about the reported presence of a "moderate" Shi'ite faction on the Sistani-approved list: chief among those "moderates" is our old friend Ahmed Chalabi, formerly the Pentagon's favorite Iraqi exile leader, whose links to Iranian intelligence (and access to American secrets) are of great interest to the FBI. Any Shi'ite-dominated government that arises out of this election will be ideologically and spiritually linked to Iran – where SCIRI leaders were given shelter and sustenance during the years of Saddam's rule.

As Bremer realized from the beginning, "democracy" in Iraq can only lead to theocracy. To impose the "caucus" system, however, was never a real option: it would have meant a full-scale Shi'ite rebellion, and not just the Mahdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr, but the Ayatollah Sistani's followers and the main Shi'ite parties, along with their militias, would have joined the insurgency, or mounted their own.

So much for the "global democratic revolution" in Iraq.

Remind me again why American soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq. Is it so they can hand the fruits of their "victory" over to Iran? Did some kid from Kansas get his arm blown away, and lose half his face, so the mullahs of Iraq could establish an Islamic "republic"?

Oh, look, the Iraqis are having an election – Hurrah! We're all supposed to be head over heels with joy. But a culture that is mired in the 12th century, that missed the Enlightenment, and was entirely bypassed by the liberal revolutions that swept through Europe and the Americas, if given the chance to exercise the popular will, is bound to create a tyranny. The worst atrocities can be prevented, and the "democratic" window-dressing preserved, as long as U.S. soldiers stand between the average Iraqi and the Dark Ages – but are we really prepared to stay there for decades, while we see whether forced Westernization is a viable option?

USA Today founder Al Neuharth recalls his World War II service, proudly declaring that he'd do it again, but not when it comes to Iraq:

"If I were eligible for service in Iraq, I would do all I could to avoid it. I would have done the same during the Vietnam War, as many of the politically connected did. 'Support Our Troops' is a wonderful patriotic slogan. But the best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year's resolution."

The answer to those who claim we can't leave Iraq a "failed state" is that Iraq will continue to be a "failed state" as long as we remain. Our presence is the cause of this failure.

Let's do it like Neuharth said: sooner rather than later.


Someone's not acting very presidential.

Hey, they're translating my column into Polish, Czech, French (from the right as well as left), Russian, Portugese, Serbian (more here), Slovak (?), Spanish, Chinese, and Italian. Is this Finnish (by me, or about me?) What, no Elvish?

– Justin Raimondo

Tsunami Death Toll Tops 116,000

Relief workers find devastation in Indonesia

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CNN) -- The death toll from Sunday's tsunamis has jumped sharply to over 116,000 after Indonesia reported nearly 80,000 people were killed in that country alone.

U.N. relief workers arrived in Indonesia's Aceh province to find devastation in the region closest to the epicenter of the earthquake that spawned the killer tsunamis.

Emergency workers reported that in some parts of Aceh, as many as one in every four citizens was dead.

Scenes of destruction -- homes and businesses flattened, buses tossed about like toys, piles of rubble filling the streets -- were repeated across the region, as were the scenes of grief -- residents and vacationers searching in vain for loved ones, or, at times, finding them in makeshift morgues.

Aceh province, nearly inaccessible in the best of times because of its remoteness and the presence for years of an armed insurgency, was even more cut off after Sunday's disaster.

The events began just before 7 a.m. (midnight GMT Saturday) when a massive earthquake -- at 9.0, the strongest in the world since 1964 -- struck just 160 kilometers (100 miles) off Aceh's coast.

The tsunami swamped shores, villages, the jungle and Aceh's capital, Banda Aceh, which was almost completely destroyed.

Boats slammed into bridges, and bodies were left lying on the streets or still buried beneath rubble left behind when the water subsided, CNN's Mike Chinoy reported.

Dino Patti Djalal, spokesman for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said the Indonesian military's 30,000-strong force in the province was devastated.

"The military and the police were hard hit. Hundreds were killed," he said. "One military helicopter survived."

Djalal said aid had begun arriving in the devastated province, but Chinoy said the capital showed little signs of it.

And the aftershocks continued, dozens of them, four days after the initial event.

Two of those -- both since 7 a.m. (midnight GMT Tuesday) -- topped 6.0 magnitude and were centered in India's remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands, part of the same chain as Sumatra. (Full story)

One, measuring 6.2, was centered about 300 km (200 miles) from Point Blair, on Andaman Island to the north, and Banda Aceh, to the south, just before midnight Wednesday.

On Thursday, Indian authorities issued a fresh tsunami alert and warned people in coastal areas to head for higher ground, despite the apparent absence of any major seismological activity. Reports of the warning triggered panic in the streets of Port Blair. (Full story)

Indian authorities have just begun to reach the area near the epicenter of the quakes. The impact of the aftershocks there was not yet known.

On the Indian coast, survivors wondered what they would do now that their homes have been flattened.

In Sri Lanka, survivors told CNN they were afraid and hopeless after losing everything they owned and seeing members of the families swept out to sea.

The relief effort was expected to be the largest ever, requiring millions of dollars just to stabilize the area and prevent the aftermath of the disaster from killing even more people -- as many as double the current toll, according to one World Health Organization (WHO) official. (Full story)

WHO's David Nabarro told CNN that survivors are at risk of diarrhea, respiratory infections and insect-borne diseases that could result in "quite high rates of death," but he quickly added that the living are in more danger from other survivors than from the dead. (Full story)

"The fundamental need at the moment is to look after the well-being of living people and to make sure that they have what they need for life," he said.

"And the requirement to properly dispose of dead people through burial or some other method in a way that is appropriate for the local tradition is certainly there. But it's not urgent from the point of view of public health."

Nabarro also said the mental health of the survivors is at risk. "Tremendous mental scarring" results from disasters like this one, he said.

Yvette Stevens of U.N. Emergency Relief said rebuilding would likely cost "billions" -- and completing the job "could take years."

Jan Egeland, the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, said $220 million had been pledged or donated so far, and about the same in "in-kind donations" such as supplies and personnel.

The death count continues to climb.

On Thursday, Indonesian official said the death toll had nearly doubled, from 45,000 to 79,940.

Sri Lanka increased its death toll on Thursday to 24,673. Also, 6,589 are reported missing and considered most likely dead, and 12,482 are injured.

International aid convoys arrived Wednesday in Galle on the southwest corner of the island, bringing drinking water and other aid to residents.

Officials have little information from the north and east -- the hardest hit areas and, like Indonesia's northern Sumatra, home to an armed insurgency, although one that was under the terms of a cease-fire at the time of the disaster.

Across Sri Lanka, some 1.5 million people have been forced to leave their homes and more than 888,000 no longer have homes. They crowded shelters and wandered aimlessly down streets, past signs wishing a "happy new year."

In the coastal town of Matara, locals said some 30 to 40 Western tourists were surfing when the tsunami hit, and all are missing and presumed dead. Police are trying to stem looting, which broke out shortly after the disaster, as relief slowly trickles into the area.

Just before the towering waves washed over Sri Lanka, they swamped the vacation shores of Thailand, home to 40 percent of the country's $10 billion tourism industry.

Thai officials have confirmed 1,830 deaths, more than 1,000 of which are believed to have been in the low-lying coastal province of Phang Na.

Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Thursday that casualties in his country from Sunday's tsunami could reach 3,000.

Shinawatra said 519 of the total were foreigners, and there are 4,265 people missing.

Some of Thailand's smaller vacation islands were swallowed by the water, Thailand's Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said.

As far away as Somalia on Africa's east coast, reports trickled in of fishermen swept out to sea and swimmers lost. Egeland said entire villages were swept away in Somalia, and Kenya television reporter Lillian Odera said "hundreds" were killed there.

In all, at least 11 countries -- including the Maldives, Myanmar, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Tanzania -- were affected by the monstrous waves.

CNN correspondents Hugh Riminton in Colombo, Sri Lanka; Satinder Bindra in Matara, Sri Lanka; Atika Shubert and Mike Chinoy in Banda Aceh, Indonesia; Aneesh Raman and Matthew Chance near Phuket, Thailand; Suhasini Haidar in Chennai, India; and journalist Iqbal Athas in Sri Lanka contributed to this report.

Baghdad Commander of Iraqi Security Forces Assassinated

BAGHDAD - The commander of the Iraqi National Guard in the capital city was assassinated on Tuesday by a suicide bomber who drove a car bomb into the convoy transporting the official, witnesses said.

In addition to killing Madhar al-Maula, the explosion wounded several convoy passengers. Sheikh Hazim al-Shalan, the interim defence minister, later visited the site of the explosion.

North of Baghdad, a dozen Iraqi policemen were killed by insurgents who attacked a police station about 15 kilometres outside Tikrit, police said.

The attack was the deadliest among several in the area that claimed 17 lives, police said.

In addition to the twelve, five policemen died in attacks on two other police stations in the Tikrit area, an election office in Balad, a community about 80 kilometres south of Tikrit, and the village outside Tikrit where Saddam Hussein was born.

2004 Khaleej Times

Ukraine to Pull Contingent Out of Iraq: Minister

Ukraine will withdraw its 1,400-strong military contingent from Iraq by the end of next year, Defence Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

"Next April we will be sending only a reinforced battalion rather than a brigade and by the end of 2005 we will complete our pullout of the contingent," Mr Kuzmuk's press service quoted him as saying.

The statement said a battalion would be made up of about 500 servicemen.

Ukraine's original contingent sent to Iraq was made up of some 1,600 servicemen. It has suffered nine dead and 30 injured.

The withdrawal is supported by all political forces in Ukraine.

Liberal Viktor Yushchenko, winner of this week's presidential election re-run of one that had been declared rigged, favoured the pullout as did his defeated rival, Viktor Yanukovich.

Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma sent troops to bolster the US-led force in Iraq to smooth over relations with Washington, strained over allegations that Kiev had sold illicit arms to Baghdad while Saddam Hussein was in power.

- Reuters