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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Long-Term Plan Sought for Terror Suspects

"It's not rendering to justice, it's kidnapping."

Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.

The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts. The outcome of the review, which also involves the State Department, would also affect those expected to be captured in the course of future counterterrorism operations.

"We've been operating in the moment because that's what has been required," said a senior administration official involved in the discussions, who said the current detention system has strained relations between the United States and other countries. "Now we can take a breath. We have the ability and need to look at long-term solutions."

One proposal under review is the transfer of large numbers of Afghan, Saudi and Yemeni detainees from the military's Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention center into new U.S.-built prisons in their home countries. The prisons would be operated by those countries, but the State Department, where this idea originated, would ask them to abide by recognized human rights standards and would monitor compliance, the senior administration official said.

As part of a solution, the Defense Department, which holds 500 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, plans to ask Congress for $25 million to build a 200-bed prison to hold detainees who are unlikely to ever go through a military tribunal for lack of evidence, according to defense officials.

The new prison, dubbed Camp 6, would allow inmates more comfort and freedom than they have now, and would be designed for prisoners the government believes have no more intelligence to share, the officials said. It would be modeled on a U.S. prison and would allow socializing among inmates.

"Since global war on terror is a long-term effort, it makes sense for us to be looking at solutions for long-term problems," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. "This has been evolutionary, but we are at a point in time where we have to say, 'How do you deal with them in the long term?' "

The administration considers its toughest detention problem to involve the prisoners held by the CIA. The CIA has been scurrying since Sept. 11, 2001, to find secure locations abroad where it could detain and interrogate captives without risk of discovery, and without having to give them access to legal proceedings.

Little is known about the CIA's captives, the conditions under which they are kept - or the procedures used to decide how long they are held or when they may be freed. That has prompted criticism from human rights groups, and from some in Congress and the administration, who say the lack of scrutiny or oversight creates an unacceptable risk of abuse.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the House intelligence committee who has received classified briefings on the CIA's detainees and interrogation methods, said that given the long-term nature of the detention situation, "I think there should be a public debate about whether the entire system should be secret.

"The details about the system may need to remain secret," Harman said. At the least, she said, detainees should be registered so that their treatment can be tracked and monitored within the government. "This is complicated. We don't want to set up a bureaucracy that ends up making it impossible to protect sources and informants who operate within the groups we want to penetrate."

The CIA is believed to be holding fewer than three dozen al Qaeda leaders in prison. The agency holds most, if not all, of the top captured al Qaeda leaders, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Abu Zubaida and the lead Southeast Asia terrorist, Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali.

CIA detention facilities have been located on an off-limits corner of the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, on ships at sea and on Britain's Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean. The Washington Post reported last month that the CIA has also maintained a facility within the Pentagon's Guantánamo Bay complex, though it is unclear whether it is still in use.

In contrast to the CIA, the military produced and declassified hundreds of pages of documents about its detention and interrogation procedures after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. And the military detainees are guaranteed access to the International Committee of the Red Cross and, as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, have the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court.

But no public hearings in Congress have been held on CIA detention practices, and congressional officials say CIA briefings on the subject have been too superficial and were limited to the chairman and vice chairman of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The CIA had floated a proposal to build an isolated prison with the intent of keeping it secret, one intelligence official said. That was dismissed immediately as impractical.

One approach used by the CIA has been to transfer captives it picks up abroad to third countries willing to hold them indefinitely and without public proceedings. The transfers, called "renditions," depend on arrangements between the United States and other countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and Afghanistan, that agree to have local security services hold certain terror suspects in their facilities for interrogation by CIA and foreign liaison officers.

The practice has been criticized by civil liberties groups and others, who point out that some of the countries have human rights records that are criticized by the State Department in annual reports.

Renditions originated in the 1990s as a way of picking up criminals abroad, such as drug kingpins, and delivering them to courts in the United States or other countries. Since 2001, the practice has been used to make certain detainees do not go to court or go back on the streets, officials said.

"The whole idea has become a corruption of renditions," said one CIA officer who has been involved in the practice. "It's not rendering to justice, it's kidnapping."

But top intelligence officials and other experts, including former CIA director George J. Tenet in his testimony before Congress, say renditions are an effective method of disrupting terrorist cells and persuading detainees to reveal information.

"Renditions are the most effective way to hold people," said Rohan Gunaratna, author of "Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror." "The threat of sending someone to one of these countries is very important. In Europe, the custodial interrogations have yielded almost nothing" because they do not use the threat of sending detainees to a country where they are likely to be tortured.

Dana Priest
The Washington Post
Sunday 02 January 2005


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- The estimated death toll from last Sunday's earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean stands at more than 76,000.

The international Red Cross warned that the toll could eventually surpass 100,000.

Twelve nations have been affected by the tsunami, which is being described as the worst ever natural disaster.

Many Christians are also victims of the disaster.

The Barnabas Fund, an organization providing assistance to the persecuted church, is reporting that the region of south-east India is an area where many Indian Christians live. One Barnabas Fund partner said that in the city of Nagappattinam alone, in Tamil Nadu State, about 800 Christian families have lost their homes and are living in the streets without food.

In the Indonesian province of Aceh at the tip of Sumatra, the nearest land to the epicenter of the earthquake, the population is 99.9 percent Muslim. Yet even here, the Barnabas Fund reported, its partners said about 150 Christians were killed and 5,000 left homeless.

In Sri Lanka, Barnabas Fund partners reported that many Christians were in church at about 9.00 a.m. local time when the tsunami struck.

According to a Barnabas Fund press release, “church buildings have been washed away – the number is unknown at present. Amongst those who have died are many women and children and also some pastors. Bodies are still being pulled from the rubble of the churches and other places.”

The Barnabas Fund is soliciting donations for both short term aid and long term assistance “for reconstructing Christian homes, churches and communities.”

According to a press release from the Barnabas Fund, “All donations sent ... for this need will be forwarded to our network of Christian partners in the region. Although our primary aim is to help the neediest national Christians who have suffered in this disaster, we recognize that our Christian partners on the ground may also at times be distributing their help more broadly.”

Additional information about the Barnabas Fund is available at www.barnabasfund.org

Compassion International, the well known Colorado Springs based child development organization, is setting up a Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund in the wake of the disaster.

“Because of the widespread destruction of this catastrophe, more than two million children and families are reeling from the tsunami’s effects,” said Compassion International Chief Operating Officer David Dahlin in a press release. “With the donations we receive, we plan to partner with other evangelical relief agencies to provide resources to as many of the disaster victims as we can.”

The worst hit area for Compassion has been its work in India, where at least three projects were affected by the destruction.

In North Chennai, India, more than 25 fathers of Compassion-assisted children were lost at sea when the waves struck. All the homes in this village were totally destroyed. Property damage across the eastern Indian coast is severe. The United Nations estimates that between one third and one half of the victims killed by the tsunami were children.

“Our hearts just break for what has happened to these children and their families,” Dahlin said. “Compassion workers are currently assessing needs and learning more about the situation. In India, Compassion staff are traveling to the home of each child living in the impacted areas to see if all children and family members are accounted for and if their homes have been damaged. This tsunami has devastated families across many Asian nations.”

According to Dahlin, Compassion projects in Thailand and Indonesia were not significantly affected by the disaster.

People interested in donating to the Tsunami Relief Fund can go to www.compassion.com

The British based Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) representing 12 leading humanitarian aid agencies, is launching a television and radio appeal to help disaster victims.

Brendan Gormley, Chief Executive for the DEC commented in a press release, “We’ve been watching with disbelief the pictures of the tsunami caused by the quake across Asia that wiped out whole communities in minutes. Tens of thousands have been killed and millions left without water, food or shelter. Ordinary lives, like ours, have been devastated.

“British charities in the areas hardest hit are facing a huge challenge – they need to reach all those in need but must have the money to do this,” Gormley added. In times of emergency such as this, it makes sense for agencies to come together and ask the public for help.”

According to the DEC press release, “For every person that has been killed, there are many families fighting for survival. People are scrambling in the mud and ruins looking for water, food and items to make shelter. However, the water is contaminated, sanitation systems have been destroyed and the disaster zone is now threatened with outbreaks for disease which the UN warns is likely to ‘double’ the death toll. Diseases like malaria, dengue fever and cholera can spread quickly especially in temperatures over 30 degrees.”

People across the region need help immediately the release said. “They are crying out for blankets, clothes, food, water and medical supplies. In the longer term they will need help to rebuild their homes, livelihoods, and shattered lives.”

Jeremy Reynalds
Special Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

Christian Aid Assists Native Mission Groups Helping Disaster Victims


CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. (ANS) -- Christian Aid, a Charlottesville, Va., based ministry that has helped indigenous mission groups for over 50 years, responded immediately to the tsunami crisis Monday by seeking to contact native mission groups in the affected areas. Downed lines made communication nearly impossible, but Christian Aid was able to report the following:

Within hours of a devastating undersea earthquake that struck near Indonesia December 26, indigenous missionary teams were delivering loads of emergency relief to tidal wave victims in coastal areas of seven countries.

"They didn't wait for foreign assistance," said Dr. Bob Finley of Christian Aid Mission, "but mobilized their meager resources immediately to aid the homeless victims - and now they need our help to carry on and finish the job of giving aid in the name of Christ."

Traveling at speeds of up to 600 miles an hour in open seas, the wall of water reached as high as 50-feet as it surged ashore to swamp the lower coastal areas of India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Deaths were also reported in many other places, including the Andaman Islands, Bangladesh, Burma, and Malaysia.

According to Sarla Mahara, India Director for Christian Aid, at least 62 indigenous missionary ministries are expected to be involved. "The efforts will go on for months," she said, "because it will take that long to replace tens of thousands of homes and hundreds of churches that have been destroyed."

Christian Aid staff members are also assessing the damage in Thailand and Indonesia where many of the 32 ministries supported by Christian Aid there are already sending volunteers and aid to the most affected areas.

Within 48 hours of the quake, the death toll has soared to over 50,000. Long term, the death toll may reach over 100,000 because many bodies will never be found and public health consequences are yet to appear.

"Native missionaries need immediate help to purchase blankets, tents, bottled water, food and medicine," says Dr. Finley. "But that is only the start. Long term there will be a need to restore sanitation, dig new wells to replace those contaminated, and find homes for the orphans and widows that survive. In addition hundreds of churches and missionary homes will have to be replaced in coastal areas where all buildings were completely destroyed."

In response to the crisis Christian Aid is receiving emergency contributions by telephone at 1-800-977-5650 or online at www.christianaid.org. Checks for Earthquake Relief should be sent to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906.

John M. Lindner
Special to ASSIST News Service


Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin

(By Anneta Vyssotskaia)

Despite centuries of Christian history, European countries and Western nations in general are gradually turning from their Christian roots and accepting secularistic positions obviously opposed to religious thinking. It is now more difficult for Christians to freely express their faith and for Christian ministers to preach from the Bible without being criticised, fined, sued or even sent to prison.


'Christianity persecuted? It is somewhere in Muslim or Communist countries but definitely not where I live. We celebrated Christmas this year as usual: enjoyed lots of food, Christmas gifts and decorations and all the family coming together.' So think most Westerners.

However, in many post-Christian countries the word 'persecution' may soon be a stark reality as a Christian religious majority gradually becomes an unwelcome minority. This trend is not so muc
due to large numbers migrating from non-Christian countries as to the reluctance of the population to maintain their former Christian heritage. Whilst a post-Christian humanistic society may still accept Christian cultural traditions as being entertaining and relaxing, the Christian moral and spiritual traditions are rejected as intolerant and old-fashioned.

In recent years some Protestant and Catholic leaders have expressed a mounting concern for declining Christian global influence and the world's growing hostility to the Christian faith. In March 2004, Rev. Bob Frost, President of Release International, said of Britain and Europe, 'We are closer to persecution today than at any time in my life.' He thinks that Christians must be prepared for persecution soon as growing restrictions are being imposed on religious freedom in many countries across Europe. (European Institute of Protestant Studies)

When Vatican Cardinal Paul Poupard spoke to the Italian daily 'Avvenire' in July 2004 about coming persecution against Christians in Europe, he said modern-day attacks on believers may take more subtle forms. In Europe today Christians are mocked for their faith; many young couples are ostracised socially if they want a lot of children; those who oppose same-sex 'marriage' are considered intolerant.' (CWNews.com / LifeSiteNews.com) A common target is the Biblical view on homosexuality. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned, 'We have gone from a Christian culture to an aggressive secularism with intolerant traits.' In his opinion, God remains marginalised in modern Europe. (La Repubblica)

In October 2004, Liberty Legal Institute (LLI) presented some US Senate members with a Hostility to Religious Expression Document, detailing cases of discrimination or hostility towards believers. The specialists of LLI think there is a campaign aimed at purging any religious expression from public life. For instance, a 12-year-old student was reprimanded at his school in St Louis for quietly saying a prayer before eating. A schoolgirl in Colorado was banned from bringing a Bible to school. Teachers also can suffer because of their faith.

This growing secularism and intolerance is especially obvious at all levels of education. In November 2004 it was reported that a Californian history teacher was prohibited from referring to

historical documents where God is mentioned, such as parts of the Declaration of Independence and George Washington's journal. (Reuters)

Increasingly, Western Christians need to be aware of the coming danger and prepare for it. The imperative is true spiritual revival in the West.


* God to bring true repentance to the once Christian and now backslidden nations of the West.

* the churches in the West to stand firm for the Lord and Christian values.

* Christians to be strengthened by the Lord to speak God's truth even when persecuted.

'You say, "I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing," but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in fire, so you can become rich, and white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am!' (Rev 3:17-20)


Bush Vacations - Again

On the morning of the fourth day, the president spake.

The voice defending the United States from charges of being niggardly with its tsunami aid was indeed that of President George W. Bush. From the ranch at Crawford, Texas, the cowboy-in-chief went into his defensive crouch. The TV caption said "Western White House," which is to say: presidential vacation. Late December, as all of August, means vacation, come hellfire or tsunami.

The Sunday tsunami knocked out 12 nations following a 9.0 earthquake that jolted the floor of the Indian Ocean so violently that it shuttered the very rotation of our planet. Inland villages, to say nothing of the ones beachfront, were shredded clean to the bone, from Indonesia all the way west to Somalia.

The death toll has spiked above 100,000, with untold lives never to be accounted for by mankind. The ravenous sea has swallowed hundreds, and perhaps thousands, who could have been accounted for only by others who now have no one to account for them. Winds off some of the tsunamis were clocked over 500 mph, pushing avalanches of waters 40 feet high. Sri Lanka and Indonesia were double-barreled as the waves ripped the shorelines of India, Thailand and Mogadishu (the last some 3,000 miles from the epicenter).

Some 72 hours passed before President Bush changed his vacation clothes to address the catastrophe.

The first words from the wealthiest nation on earth had come from his administration promising $15 million in assistance. This initial insult in our name rose to $35 million in the face of charges from a United Nations official that America was being "stingy." Secretary of State Colin Powell rode out to counter the "stingy" charge only to have his white steed splattered with mud. Concerned Americans who see themselves as citizens of the world noted that, since the onset of this most calamitous natural disaster of our time, President Bush had remained both out of sight and silent.

Under Bush, this steel-helmet republic is spending $87B-plus to wage an unprovoked war against an Arab state whose plight under siege is hardening the hearts of Muslims against this increasingly evangelical White House. Western nations also look askance at Bush's with-us or agin'-us approach to world diplomacy. The Sept. 11 attacks offered a chance for the United States to lead a united front against terrorism orchestrated by Osama bin Laden. This time, the earthquake-tsunami afforded an opening for statecraft.

The U.S. war president could have doubled as a missionary of peace and compassion, with a respectable tsunami-aid package and a few timely words. He could have extended an olive branch to the world's largest Muslim country, in Indonesia, as well as to the Hindu-Islamic-Buddhist populations of Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Somalia and the rest.

It is tempting to conclude that some sinister White House policy is at play here. Would Bush have reacted so slowly had the victims not been primarily brown-skinned? The answer may lie in the president's shocking immobility when his chief of staff informed him that a second jet plane had crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. What the nation apparently has saddled itself with is a sitting president who, left alone, is incapable of responding rationally to unscripted events.

The Bush schedule last week called for vacation.

The American people cannot say they weren't warned about his Advanced Vacation Syndrone (AVS). Barely six months into his first term, he dropped everything - and took a month off. Most American workers, with one-week allotments, would have still been on probation. Bush's absence almost tied Richard Nixon's record for the longest presidential stay away from the White House. Even horseback-riding, underbrush-clearing, Ronald Reagan could manage only 28 days away.

The 43rd president put the vacation record out where it poses a serious challenge for his second term. Back in the spring, prior to his August slumber, Bush had spent 40 percent of his time away from the White House, according to The Guardian newspaper, which takes note of such things. Between his inauguration and the 2004 Easter weekend, Bush had reportedly spent 233 days, or almost eight months, in 33 visits to Crawford, Texas, according to CBS News, which conducts a body watch on the president, but at a mandated out-of-sight distance. Tacking on his 78 visits to Camp David and five to the family compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, The Guardian clocked 500 presidential days spent "out of the office while in office."

The friendlier Washington Post, by August 2003, had clocked Bush with 27 percent of his presidency spent on vacation. Although, to be fair, much of this time is classified as "working vacation." Work indeed intrudes on the president's vacation schedule, as it did on Aug. 6, 2001. As reported in the 9/11 Commission Report, Bush's regular August vacation was interrupted by that CIA briefing warning that Osama bin Laden was determined to attack the United States.

The threat of an al-Qaida attack did not deter Bush from his vacation in 2001. Last week he likely slumbered through the earthquake-tsunamis. Such dedication.

Les Payne, Newsday
January 2, 2005

A Marshall Plan For South Asia (NOT)

R7 Note:
What the author suggest in this editorial in the L.A. Times is just disguised militarism. I say shove your so-called Marshall Plan...just show them the money. $350 million is still shamefully inadequate given the magnitude of this disaster. The UN is the proper avenue for aid to disasters not the capo di capo US... Oh, and by the way, Jeb should stay home.

All of this conveyed the impression that Americans don't value the lives of people in poor countries as much as they value their own, or European, lives. Most of us have been guilty of shrugging our shoulders in the past over natural disasters in South Asia. How much attention did we pay in 1991, for instance, when a cyclone claimed nearly 140,000 lives in Bangladesh?

A Marshall Plan for South Asia

If a tsunami were to strike Northern Europe, killing more than 100,000 people from Ireland to Sweden, does anybody think it would take President Bush 72 hours to speak up about the tragedy and call leaders of the devastated countries?

In fairness to the vacationing president, the full magnitude of the natural disaster in the Indian Ocean wasn't apparent immediately after the undersea earthquake and the ensuing tsunami struck a week ago today. Still, there is no disputing that the first response of the American president and government, seen as omnipotent in much of the world, was lackadaisical and stingy. When Bush finally spoke Wednesday, Spain's pledge of relief funds was nearly double that of the U.S., and even that U.S. contribution ($35 million) came only after heavy criticism of Washington.

All of this conveyed the impression that Americans don't value the lives of people in poor countries as much as they value their own, or European, lives. Most of us have been guilty of shrugging our shoulders in the past over natural disasters in South Asia. How much attention did we pay in 1991, for instance, when a cyclone claimed nearly 140,000 lives in Bangladesh?

Bush's announcement Friday that the United States will contribute $350 million, 10 times the earlier amount, can go far to show that Washington will act boldly overseas in response to natural calamities, not just military threats. Sending his brother Jeb to the disaster area also symbolizes the U.S. concern. But we also urge Bush to propose a Marshall Plan-like strategy for the region that would commit billions of dollars for long-term programs like water purification and improved sanitation systems.

The president would be wise to travel to the region in coming weeks. There is no need for a grandstanding tour of devastated communities, but a respectful visit to national capitals to express our nation's condolences and to ask how the president could help would go a long way toward rehabilitating the U.S. image in the world.

If conservatives in the president's own party balk at a multibillion-dollar Marshall Plan for South Asia, Bush shouldn't hesitate to employ his favorite marketing ploy: Peg the effort to the war on terror by pointing out the strategic importance of the region. Indonesia, the most severely affected nation, also happens to be the world's largest Muslim country, where most practice a moderate form of the religion but the government battles extremists.

Offering humanitarian assistance could inoculate Indonesians against sympathy for terrorists. An all-out effort by the U.S. to help a Muslim country would also counter those across the Muslim world who preach that the West is out to undermine all Muslim societies.

Beyond Indonesia, Sri Lanka fights Tamil terrorists, Thailand worries about Muslim separatists in the south, and India works hard to maintain peace among its many religious and ethnic communities while seeking to improve ties with Pakistan. All four nations are natural allies of the U.S., democracies of the kind Bush repeatedly says he wants to see flourish.

The U.S. spends a bit over one-tenth of 1% of its national income on aid, less than any other developed nation. A massive American-led Marshall Plan for South Asia would cost only a fraction of the nearly $225 billion requested so far to pay for the Iraq war. And, without a doubt, it would be a far wiser investment in the war on terror.

L.A. Times Editorial

The Right's Assault on Kofi Annan

Last June UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said of the media coverage of the so-called Oil for Food Scandal, "It's a bit like lynching, actually." By December the vigilantes were lining up, swinging their ropes. The neoconservative and paleoconservative assault on him and the UN has been like a slightly slower version of the Swift Boat veterans' campaign against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry--right down to the halfhearted and belated disavowals by George W. Bush.

Listening to the cable pundits, you would never suspect that there is no proof at this point that Annan, or indeed anyone else at the UN, did anything wrong. Charges of corruption against UN official Benon Sevan are suspect at best, given that they come via Ahmad Chalabi, who was also the source of the discredited information about Iraq's illusory weapons, as well as the assurances that Iraqis would greet US and British forces as liberators. Nor is there any evidence that Annan used his influence to give Cotecna, a company that employed his son, the job of monitoring contracts under the oil-for-food program, and no proof that Cotecna did anything illegal or corrupt. Although Annan's son certainly let his father down by not telling him of Cotecna's continuing "non-compete" payments to him, paternal resignations in response to the sins of prodigal sons have not been a great American tradition--certainly not under the Bush dynasty.

There are real questions about Saddam Hussein's oil sales, both inside and outside the oil-for-food program, but all the serious investigations, such as that by the US Government Accountability Office, make it clear that most of the revenue he raised had nothing to do with the UN, and that the UN did nothing without the explicit or implicit support of the United States acting through the Security Council.

The reality is that the current calls for Annan's head are provoked by his opposition to America's pre-emptive war in Iraq. On December 4 the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the hometown newspaper of Senator Norm Coleman, who has called for Annan's resignation, provided perhaps the most succinct explanation of what lies behind the attacks. Describing Coleman's call as a "sordid move," the editorial explained: "For months before the election, the right-wing constellation of blogs and talk radio was alive with incendiary rhetoric about Annan and the oil-for-food scandal.... This is really all about Annan's refusal to toe the Bush line on Iraq and the administration's generally unilateral approach to foreign affairs. The right-wingers hate Annan and saw in the food-for-oil program a possible chink in his armor. They went after it with a venomous fury."

The genesis of the oil-for-food program was Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which prompted the UN to impose sanctions to prevent Iraq from selling its oil. After the war the sanctions were retained, officially until Iraq complied with the cease-fire terms, particularly on disarmament, although US officials made no secret of the fact that they would veto the lifting of sanctions as long as Saddam remained in power.

In 1996, with sanctions causing dire hardship for ordinary Iraqis, the Security Council authorized the oil-for-food program, under which Iraq could sell its oil on the world markets and use some of the proceeds to buy food and other supplies as long as the cash was deposited in UN-controlled escrow accounts (no less than 30 percent went to pay reparations). Each contract had to be approved by the Security Council's 661 Committee.

Although UN staff told the committee that Saddam was skimming money from some of the contracts by selling the oil at a reduced price and then getting kickbacks, none of the members, including the United States and Britain, put a hold on any of them.

Needless to say, there are not many US officials prepared to come forward and admit this. Nor are many in the present Administration highlighting the implicit conclusion of the Iraq Survey Group (the team charged by Bush with examining Saddam's arsenal): that the sanctions modified by the oil-for-food program actually succeeded in their aims of insuring that the Iraqi people were fed, while oil revenues did not rebuild Iraq's armory of prohibited weapons--which is why the invaders were not able to find them.

The story of how the neocon echo chamber made oil for food into a UN scandal begins with Claudia Rosett, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who is now "journalist in residence" at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). In a 2002 Journal op-ed, just after Bush broke with his own hard-liners by going to the UN to ask for backing for an Iraq invasion, she called the program "an unholy union between Saddam and the U.N.," in which "Saddam has been getting around the sanctions via surcharge-kickback deals and smuggling." In an April 2003 New York Times piece she said "lifting the sanctions would take away the United Nations' remaining leverage in Iraq. If the oil-for-food operation is extended, however, it will have a tremendous influence on shaping the new Iraq. Before that is allowed to happen, let's see the books." Denying that the foundation, or for that matter Chalabi, set her on her quest, Rosett says she began looking at the program as part of a broader look at the Iraq economy, and that as soon as its structure was explained to her, "it was obvious that there was enormous opportunity there for graft."

The idea that the UN has "failed" by not backing the US invasion of Iraq and that everything Saddam did could be laid at its door was very much part of the house philosophy of FDD, whose masthead is a comprehensive list of those who pushed for the invasion of Iraq. The organization itself, as one observer commented, is the Project for the New American Century--the major cheerleader for the Iraq war--in another form. Its board includes Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Frank Lautenberg, Newt Gingrich and James Woolsey, not to mention Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer. Tom Barry, policy director of the International Relations Center and historian of the neocon network, says FDD "has suddenly become a major player on the right and among neocon policy institutes, one reason being that it is so richly endowed." As its own website boasts, it is closely connected with the Iraqis around the Iraqi National Congress and Chalabi.

Clifford May, FDD president and former RNC spokesman, is eager to admit that "oil for food is something we have been working hard on" but denies "that either Claudia or I have called for [Annan's] resignation." That's not because May admires the UN; he calls it "an institution badly in need of reform, whether it's for the sex scandals in the Congo or for the pretense some people in it have to become a super government for the world, or a world Supreme Court." Asked her opinion about the use others have made of her work, Rosett says, "I have focused on reporting the story, and where I have so far called for changes at the UN, have urged much greater transparency and accountability."

There is indeed a lack of transparency at the UN, but all those contracts were examined by the sanctions committee and the US State Department. Rosett denies "going after" the UN and says that "whatever was done wrong should be brought to light." But she is adamant that the UN is most at fault and she has neglected to give similar attention to US diplomats and other actors.

In subsequent articles Rosett maintained the pressure, but the issue really only exploded into the wider media world in 2004, after her revelations last March in National Review that Annan's son had been employed by Cotecna (followed several months later with the news that he had continued to get "noncompete" payments after he left). From January onward, the claims by Washington's then-favorite Iraqi, Chalabi, that retiring oil-for-food chief Sevan was on a list of 267 people for whom Saddam had authorized commissions on oil trades led to a rash of stories by Rosett and others focusing, as Chalabi had, on the one alleged UN connection.

When asked about Sevan in the Senate, Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, admitted that his only evidence against Sevan was "what was indicated in Iraqi documents"--i.e., Chalabi's list--which has still not been authenticated. Indeed, another person named on the list was George Galloway, a British MP who has just won a $290,000 libel claim against the Daily Telegraph for its unwarranted inferences from that fact.

Rosett and her colleagues ran hot with the story, not least on MSNBC and Fox, which retained her as a paid "oil-for-food" contributor. Soon the scandal was "the biggest in the history of the Universe," according to her FDD colleague and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer. William Safire picked up on Rosett's work and fulminated in the New York Times, drawing in House International Relations Committee chair Henry Hyde, who's since been on the case with all the assiduity one would expect of someone who'd said the United States should leave the UN.

Monica Crowley, hosting Scarborough Country on MSNBC in November, inadvertently substantiated the Star Tribune's claim of a "right-wing constellation." She complained that the "elite" press was ignoring the oil-for-food story, "with the exception of an intrepid reporter like our friend Claudia Rosett.... Bill Safire over at the New York Times, sort of the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal and the New York Sun, they have been covering it. But why haven't we seen more extensive coverage? This is the world's biggest swindle?" She modestly omitted MSNBC, Fox and the conservative radio circuit from the list.

Like the Swift Boat story, even though the fuss was essentially confined to these outlets, the conservatives made so much of the affair that the rest of the media seem to have concluded that there must be a flicker under all the smoke. Certainly the serious papers seem not to have thought they had a dog in this fight or that it was their job to exonerate the UN. And the UN's own response was, as usual, tepid.

Understandably, Annan had assumed that his appointment in April of former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to head an inquiry, backed by the Security Council, would see a return to sanity. However, the same people who'd demanded the inquiry then began to accuse Annan of underfunding it. When he found $30 million for it from residual oil-for-food funds set aside for administration purposes, Rosett, Safire and the rest accused him of taking bread from Iraqi children's mouths. The New York Post denounced the investigation as a cover-up, while Safire referred insultingly to Annan's "manipulative abuse of Paul Volcker," whose reputation for integrity, he said, "is being shredded by a web of sticky-fingered officials and see-no-evil bureaucrats desperate to protect the man on top who hired him to substitute for--and thereby to abort--prompt and truly independent investigation."

The witch hunters kept the caldron bubbling along until, at the end of October, Annan wrote a private letter to Iraqi Interim President Iyad Allawi, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush, suggesting that a frontal assault on Falluja was not the way to win Iraqi hearts and minds. After all, at the request of Washington, the UN is supposed to be overseeing elections there. Then the pot bubbled over. Within days, Fox's Bill O'Reilly was pontificating that "it's becoming increasingly clear that UN chief Kofi Annan is hurting the USA." On November 18 former New York Mayor Edward Koch followed with a column in the New York Sun claiming that Annan's "ability to lead the UN is seriously impaired. He no longer has the confidence of America because of his failure to create a consensus on Iraq among the permanent members." On November 24 National Review declared that "Annan should either resign, if he is honorable, or be removed, if he is not." This was echoed on November 29 by Safire, who ended a New York Times column with the comment that the "scandal" would not end "until Kofi Annan, even if personally innocent, resigns--having, through initial ineptitude and final obstructionism, brought dishonor on the Secretariat of the United Nations." Finally, on December 1 in the Wall Street Journal, Norm Coleman, the chair of the Senate investigations committee, called for Annan's resignation. Inspired by his example, Representative Scott Garrett raved a few days later, "To me the question should not be whether Kofi Annan should be in charge. To me, the larger question is whether he should be in jail."

When asked, President Bush pointedly did not repudiate Coleman's call with any expression of confidence in Annan but simply called for the investigation to take its course. A week later, after Blair had joined the rest of the world in expressing warm support for Annan and delegates in the General Assembly had given him a standing ovation, even the White House realized the damage Coleman & Co. had done to American diplomacy.

The best that Bush could manage was to have his lame-duck UN ambassador, John Danforth, give a halfhearted expression of support on his behalf. An unabashed Coleman read between the lines and held his ground: "I simply do not share the Administration's position on this matter," he said. "It is my personal and steadfast belief that Mr. Annan should step down in order to protect the long-term integrity and credibility of the United Nations."

The attacks on Annan and the UN are not likely to abate soon. Bashing the UN is an issue that allows the unilateral interventionists to ring the till, gathering support from paleocon isolationists across the country. As one GOP staffer embarrassed by Coleman's Joe McCarthy imitations gloomily predicted, the right wing is not going to drop the subject, because "they raise too much money out of bashing the UN, from the big foundations and from those small-town Rush Limbaughs."

Former Gore 2000 campaign head Donna Brazile, who says she is reconsidering her affiliation with the FDD, denounced the calls for Annan's resignation before the investigation is finished. "I worked on Capitol Hill before Kofi Annan, and the UN has always been a dirty word there," Brazile noted. "It just goes back to the neocons and their entire approach to multilateral institutions and their role in the world. They've got the airwaves to themselves. I just hope the Democrats stand up against them on this issue."

If the Democrats want to do that, they should begin by distancing themselves from the Democratic Leadership Council's shameful call for Annan's resignation and join those who signed Representative Dennis Kucinich's letter deploring the attacks. And they should join Representative Henry Waxman in demanding that the Governmental Reform Committee investigate the real oil-for-food scandal: what happened to the more than $8 billion unspent from the oil-for-food program that the United States insisted be handed over to the "Iraq Development Fund," overseen by US occupation authority head Paul Bremer. The rest of the Security Council reluctantly agreed to this payment, but only on condition that the fund be monitored by international auditors. The auditors were never allowed to do their work, and it is now suspected that most of that money went to Halliburton on no-bid contracts. Now there are grounds for some resignations. But you know who won't be calling for them.

Ian Williams
The Nation

As War Rages, Children Starve

In faith and hope the world will disagree,
But all mankind’s concern is charity.

- Alexander Pope, An essay on Man

He sure knew what he was talking about. He should. He is president of the World Bank.

In an April interview with the New York Times, James Wolfensohn suggested that in addition to blowing up people and things: "I would argue that there is also a need for a parallel and equally urgent attention to the question of development as a way to prevent terror, and to prevent conflict. . . ." In the interview he observed that the military receive $900 billion each year from world governments and wealthy farmers receive $300 billion. By contrast those same governments spend only $56 billion on development assistance for the poor. Subsequent reports made the point even more forcefully.

On December 9, UNICEF released a report entitled "Childhood Under Threat." It said that over one-half of all the children in the world or more than one billion children suffer extreme deprivation because of war, HIV. and AIDS. It observed that each year the equivalent of the entire population of children under five living in France, Germany, Greece and Italy died from deaths that could have been prevented. Each day 29,158 children under the age of five die. Three thousand nine hundred of those children die because they lack access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

The report also observed that child poverty had worsened in many developed countries, including Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Italy. That was offset by the good news that the child poverty rate in the United States had declined from 24.3 percent to 21.9 percent which, however, was accompanied by the bad news that that rate was higher than the poverty rate in any of the countries named.

A report issued two days earlier by the U.N. food and agriculture agency disclosed that 852 million people (or almost three times the number of people living in the United States) suffered chronic malnutrition and five million children a year die because of malnutrition. (The remaining 5 million that Unicef described presumably died from other causes.) Commenting on the report, Florence Chenoweth, the food and agriculture agency representative pointed out that "hunger kills one child every five seconds." If you add the 5 million children from the Unicef report to the equation every 2 ½ seconds a child dies from mostly preventable causes. In the time it takes to read this column anywhere from sixty to more than one hundred children will have died. Most of them never learned to read.

Joining the gloomy statistics reported by the various agencies was one from Oxfam International. It said that the aid budgets of rich nations had dropped by 50 percent since 1960. The report says 45 million children will die by 2015 because the wealthy are not living up to the promises of support they made many years ago. The United States spent .14 percent of national income on foreign aid in 2003. That is one-tenth of what it spent on Iraq. Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s Executive Director said: "The world has never been wealthier, yet rich nations are giving less and less. . . . The scandal must end. . . . . Unless world leaders act now to deliver a historic breakthrough on poverty, next year will end in shameful failure."

I’ve bad news for Mr. Hobbs. Shameful failure looms. On December 23 it was reported that as a result of budget deficits and the need to cut back on spending the Bush administration is cutting back on support for global food aid programs. Cutting back on food aid is a good way of reducing spending without impacting the wealthy whose pleas for help are heard and heeded. The cries of the poor are barely audible and cannot be heard in Washington. That’s why George Bush could let it be known, two days before Christmas, that contributions to global food aid programs will be cut. Some charities estimate the cuts will be in the neighborhood of $100 million. On New Year’s day Mr. Bush will use his Saturday radio address to wish everyone a happy new year. It will be happier for the well fed than for the hungry.

After this was written the Tsunami tragedy struck Asia. More than 100,000 have been killed.

Christopher Brauchli is a Boulder, Colorado lawyer and and writes a weekly column for the Knight Ridder news service. He can be reached at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu

We Must Resist America's Attempts to Undermine the United Nations

Bush's Proposal is Likely to Complicate Rather than Help International Efforts to Aid the Victims of the Tsunami Disaster

The Indian Ocean earthquake and its aftermath have taken the lives of more than 120,000 people, and displaced and impoverished very many more. Because of the speed and reach of global communications, and the involvement of Western tourists, people across the world have seen the pictures and responded with great generosity. Public opinion has forced governments into an auction of promises - although, of course, the funds will mostly come from existing aid budgets and imply no overall increase in available resources.

But it did not take long for the debate to turn to criticism of the United Nations. Commentators have suggested that the UN is failing in Darfur, failed in Rwanda, should have dealt better with Saddam Hussein and has no moral authority because of corruption in the oil for food program.

All of these claims are, at best, hopelessly ill informed. It is the Security Council which is responsible for the failure to send sufficient peace-keepers to stop the violence in Darfur, the Security Council that refused to act to prevent the Rwandan genocide and the Security Council that prolonged sanctions in Iraq. And it was the Security Council's Sanctions Committee, which was dominated by the US and the UK, that failed to take action against the widespread reports of corruption in the oil for food program.

These failures are the responsibility of the permanent members of the Security Council and not of the UN agencies or its systems for responding to humanitarian emergencies. But these criticisms are tossed about by a hungry media which instantly picks up and spreads the most outrageous criticisms and thus undermines confidence in, and respect for, the UN. And President Bush, visibly irritated by a comment from the UN Undersecretary General for humanitarian affairs that wealthy countries were "stingy" towards impoverished nations, announced a new co-ordination mechanism for international action.

In the middle of an extremely complex emergency, he tells us that the US, Australia, Japan and India will co-ordinate the international response. None of these countries has a strong record in responding to international emergencies, although India takes pride in its capacity to deal with its own problems. This proposal is likely to complicate rather than help international coordination Efforts are now under way to try to ensure that the coalition of four will work with the UN, but it is hard to see where the proposal came from, apart from yet another US attempt to snub the UN.

I find this growing appetite for UN bashing very worrying. In a period of growing international disorder, humanitarian crisis and environmental threat, there is a major push by the world's strongest power to undermine the only system we have for taking co-ordinated action to enforce peace, respond to humanitarian crisis and reach environmental agreements.

There is no doubt that the slow and bureaucratic UN system, that helped prevent the Cold War turning hot, requires reform to respond to current needs. But Kofi Annan, who was appointed as the reforming Secretary General favored by the US, has delivered major reform. If we undermine the only legitimate international system we have, we are left with a world in which might is right and where we diminish our ability to respond to the problems of poverty, disorder and environmental degradation that are a major threat to our future.

Those who seek to undermine the UN role in the international humanitarian system would be wise to pause to consider the scale of the crisis that the system is required to manage in the disorder of the post-Cold War world. On any day during the last decade, humanitarian organizations have been trying to get relief to people in up to 50 places around the world. More than four million people have been killed in violent conflicts since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Natural disasters, even before this catastrophe, have caused the deaths of more than 150,000 in eight years. At any point in the last decade, more than 100 million people will be living lives blighted by conflict and natural disaster. Around 35 million people were displaced from their homes. Overwhelmingly, those affected by the disasters live in developing countries.

In the face of this growing need, spending on humanitarian systems has doubled from 1990 to reach as much as $6billion per annum. This spending amounts to 20 cents out of every $1,000 of GDP in the OECD countries whose average per capita income increased from $21,000 to $28,000 over the last decade.

Spending on humanitarian crises comes from aid budgets, and takes about 10 per cent of the total OECD aid spend. At a time of calls for increased co-ordination, less and less of the money available has been channeled through UN mechanisms. The result has been a proliferation of actors and an allocation system where the emergencies that can grab media attention obtain funding while others are marginalized and neglected. In addition, there has been a politicization of humanitarian relief in Afghanistan and Iraq. This has led to a growing loss of life among humanitarian workers and an undermining of the sacred humanitarian principle of impartiality.

Despite all of this, there has been a considerable investment in improving UN co-ordination and a big improvement in effectiveness. The system can, of course, be improved further, but without the UN, we will go back to each country flying in whatever they fancy with chaos at airports and surpluses and shortages of crucial supplies. And with the announcement of the Colin Powell-Jeb Bush tour, we see the first group of politicians flying in to grab headlines and get in the way.

In fact, the most important humanitarian response starts in the country itself. Chances of survival in any emergency depends on action in the first 24-48 hours, and in this time scale the response is local. Thus, strengthening local capacity in crisis-prone regions is the priority.

The Red Cross and the Red Crescent have been working across the world to help build this capacity in local associations, and there has been an increased effort to build regional co-operation. This is crucial work because we are set to face growing numbers of humanitarian crises, with the growth of disorder and the increased turbulence in weather patterns that comes with global warming. On top of this, growing population means more people living on marginal land and, therefore, higher numbers of casualties in any emergency.

Of course, more crises in Florida or Japan mean some loss of life and the costs of reconstruction, but wealthy countries minimize casualties and quickly recover. It's the poor of the world who are bearing the brunt of the mounting crises. They are more vulnerable to begin with and find it more difficult to recover.

At a time when the world faces terrible challenges, of poverty, disorder and environmental degradation, there is a real danger that the US government is consistently undermining the only legitimate system of international co-operation that we have. And because the UK sees the US alliance as its foreign policy priority, we are increasingly part of the problem rather than the solution.

The author was International Development Secretary, 1997-2003

Clare Short

© 2005 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd