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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Padilla Ruling Is a Victory for Freedom

Make no mistake about it: If the Pentagon’s power to arrest Americans for terrorism and punish them without federal court interference is upheld by the courts, the floodgates will be open to omnipotent military power in America. American life will never be the same again. Life will be transformed by such power in ways unimaginable. No one will be safe from military arrest, including newspaper editors, government critics, and dissidents. Any person — any person — deemed to be an “enemy combatant” and taken into military custody will have no recourse to avoid punishment, except for the “good faith” of the Pentagon, the government organization that is responsible for plunging this nation into one of the most shameful torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandals in its history, not to mention the resulting cover-up.

As I have been writing for the past two years, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the Jose Padilla case. The power assumed by the U.S. military and the Bush administration in the Padilla case constitutes what is arguably the most ominous and dangerous threat to the freedom of the American people in our lifetime. Fortunately, this past Monday a U.S. district court in South Carolina put the quietus to the assumption and exercise of such power. The court’s ruling was a major victory for freedom, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of law. Unfortunately, however, the government is appealing, hoping to overturn the district court’s judgment.

(Underscoring the vital importance The Future of Freedom Foundation has placed on the Padilla case and the threat that it poses to the American people, we have published more than 40 original articles and commentaries on Padilla since his arrest and we have linked to countless editorials and op-eds on Padilla from other publications in our FFF Email Update. A list of FFF’s orginal articles and commentaries is posted at the end of this article. )

Jose Padilla was arrested at a Chicago airport almost three years ago on suspicion of having conspired to commit terrorism. The ordinary procedure — the procedure that has been followed in the United States since our nation’s founding — would have been to charge him with federal crimes dealing with terrorism, indict him, bring him to trial before a jury, and, if convicted, sentence him. That’s the way the U.S. criminal justice system has worked for more than 200 years.

With Padilla, the Pentagon has tried to do something completely different, something that is alien to the American way of life, something that was obviously modeled on the procedures employed by the military regimes in Chile and Argentina, many of whose military officers were trained in detention and torture techniques by the Pentagon’s very own School of the Americas, during their “wars on terrorism” in the 1980s. Securing a statement from President Bush that Jose Padilla was an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terrorism,” the Pentagon took the position that it could bypass the entire federal criminal justice system set up by the Constitution, including rights and guarantees stretching all the way back to Magna Carta. These included habeas corpus, due process of law, trial by jury, and right to counsel.

The reason the Padilla doctrine is — and should be — so critically important to the American people is that if the federal courts uphold it, the doctrine will apply not just to Padilla but to all Americans. The reason that the Pentagon has limited the exercise of such power to only one American arrested on U.S. soil is obvious: it attracts much less attention from the public and, therefore, does not appear so threatening.

But make no mistake about it: If the Pentagon’s power to arrest Americans for terrorism and punish them without federal court interference is upheld by the courts, the floodgates will be open to omnipotent military power in America. American life will never be the same again. Life will be transformed by such power in ways unimaginable. No one will be safe from military arrest, including newspaper editors, government critics, and dissidents. Any person — any person — deemed to be an “enemy combatant” and taken into military custody will have no recourse to avoid punishment, except for the “good faith” of the Pentagon, the government organization that is responsible for plunging this nation into one of the most shameful torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandals in its history, not to mention the resulting cover-up.

There can be no doubt that the Pentagon is salivating over the possibility of wielding the same power over U.S. citizens that it has been wielding over foreigners ever since 9/11. This includes the power to send detainees to U.S. gulags in different parts of the world for indefinite detention and punishment without interference from the courts. It includes the outsourcing of detainees to friendly authoritarian regimes so that they, rather than U.S. officials, can do the torturing on behalf and for the benefit of the U.S. government. In fact, the Pentagon itself would admit that the very reason it set up its primary gulag in Cuba was to avoid the constraints of the Constitution and interference from the federal judiciary in its treatment of prisoners and detainees.

Fortunately, in a testament to the wisdom and foresight of our ancestors, who established the judicial branch of government with independent judges, the federal judiciary has stopped the Pentagon dead in its tracks, especially given the Supreme Court’s recent decision in favor of Yaser Hamdi and the South Carolina district court’s decision in favor of Padilla.

Several months ago, over the vehement objections of the Pentagon, whose position toward the Court was essentially “Butt out of our operations!” the Supreme Court in Rasul v. Bush held that the Pentagon’s operations at Guantanamo Bay were subject to judicial review and, moreover, that the Guantanamo Bay detainees had the right to question their detention in federal court. The Court also ordered federal officials to either charge or release Hamdi, an American, whom the Pentagon had held for some two years as an “enemy combatant” in the war on terrorism.

And that’s exactly what Judge Henry F. Floyd ordered in his ruling on Monday in South Carolina — either charge Padilla or release him. Relying on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, Floyd made it clear that the omnipotent power that the Pentagon has been seeking over the American people, as represented by the Padilla case, was not going to stand here in the United States. In essence, he held that that’s not what America and the American way of life are all about.

Significantly, Floyd rejected the government’s ludicrous claim that it has made since 9/11 — that terrorism is an act of war rather than a criminal offense. You’ll recall that ever since 9/11 we here at The Future of Freedom Foundation — unlike so many supporters of the “war on terrorism” — have been making exactly that point — that terrorism is a crime, not an act of war. No matter how vicious those attacks, no matter how many people were killed or injured, the fact remains that the attacks fall within the same criminal-justice parameters as the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and the Timothy McVeigh attack on the Oklahoma City federal building. The accused in those cases were arrested; indicted; accorded due process of law, right to counsel, and trial by jury; and were convicted. That’s the way the system works and is supposed to work. That’s in fact why Zacarias Moussaoui, whom the feds claim was the 20th hijacker on 9/11, is being tried in federal court rather than being thrown into a military dungeon, tortured, and punished without being accorded the procedural protections in the Bill of Rights.

Unfortunately, the Pentagon continues to fight tooth and nail for the power represented by the Padilla doctrine. That’s why the government immediately announced plans to appeal the ruling. The military dearly wants the power to arrest any American and jail and punish him without federal court interference. They know that Jose Padilla and the federal judiciary are the only barriers standing in their way.

We cannot rely on Congress to stand up for the Constitution and to protect us from the military. Congress has remained silent and supine with respect to the Padilla doctrine and civil liberties ever since 9/11. Even worse, the subservience that many members of Congress have paid to the Pentagon is almost embarrassing.

We can hope only that the federal judiciary stands firm in the defense of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the criminal-justice system that has distinguished our nation from all others in history — stands firm in the defense of our freedom.

Equally important, we must continue to raise the consciousness of the American people to the threat that the Padilla doctrine poses to our way of life, especially given the possibility that the president and the Pentagon might try to persuade the Pentagon’s friends in Congress to grant the military the power over the American people that it has so persistently asserted in the Padilla case.

Jose Padilla has been incarcerated by the U.S. military for almost three years. No charges. No indictment. No trial by jury. No due process of law. For most of that time, no right to counsel. That’s the way things were done in Chile under General Pinochet and Argentina under General Videla. That’s, in fact, the way things were done under Stalin in the Soviet Union and Hitler in Germany.

It’s true that Padilla might well have committed the crimes of which he is accused. If so, then the government simply needs to charge him with those crimes. Otherwise, as Judge Floyd ordered, federal officials must release him. That’s the way we do things in America. That’s how things are done in a free society.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.

Lebanon Realignment and Syria

It is often pointed out that presidents get too much praise and blame for the economy, since the domestic economy has its own rhythms. We are now going to see everything that happens in the Middle East attributed to George W. Bush, whether he had much to do with it or not (usually not).

What is now Lebanon consists of relatively hilly territory along the eastern Mediterranean coast. The mountains allowed small and often heterodox religious groups to survive, since the mountain inhabitants were relatively isolated and central governments had a difficult time getting hold of them. On the broad plains of Syria, governments could encourage conversion to Islam, then to Shiism, then to Sunnism, and most of the population went along. In the mountains near the coast, the population stuck to its guns. Thus, the Maronite Christians resisted conversion to Islam, as did many Eastern Orthodox Christains. The success the Ismaili government of medieval Egypt had in converting Muslims to Shiite Islam was long-lived, though most of these Shiites went over to the rival "Twelver" branch of Shiism that is now practiced in Iraq and Iran. Likewise, Egyptian Ismailism spun off an esoteric sect, the Druze, who survive in the Shouf Mountains and elsewhere in Lebanon. In the coastal cities and in the Biqaa valley near Syria, the population adopted Sunni Islam with the Sunni revival of Saladin and his successors in the medieval period in Egypt, which continued under the Sunni Ottoman Empire (1516-1918 in Syria). (Egypt has been since the 1100s staunchly Sunni).

In the 1600s and 1700s, the Druze were the most powerful community on the Levantine coast. But in the 1800s the Druze were eclipsed by the Maronite Christians, both because the latter had a population boom and because they grew wealthy off their commercial ties to France and their early adoption of silk growing and modern commerce.

When the French conquered Syria in 1920, they decided to make it easier to rule by dividing it. They carved off what is now Lebanon and gerrymandered it so that it had a Christian majority. In 1920, Maronite Catholics were probably 40 percent of the population, and with Greek Orthodox and others the Christian population came to 51 percent. The Shiites were probably only about 18 percent of the population then. Both under the French Mandate (1920-1946) and in the early years of the Lebanese Republic, the Maronites were the dominant political force. When Lebanon became independent in 1943, the system was set up so that Christians always had a 6 to 5 majority in parliament.

Lebanon had a relatively free parliamentary democracy 1943-1956. In 1957, I have been told by a former US government official, the US CIA intervened covertly in the Lebanese elections to ensure that the Lebanese constitution would be amended to allow far-right Maronite President Camille Chamoun (1952-1958) to have a second term. As the Library of Congress research division ("country studies") notes:

In 1957 the question of the reelection of Shamun [Chamoun] was added to these problems of ideological cleavage. In order to be reelected, the president needed to have the Constitution amended to permit a president to succeed himself. A constitutional amendment required a two-thirds vote by the Chamber of Deputies, so Shamun and his followers had to obtain a majority in the May-June 1957 elections. Shamun's followers did obtain a solid majority in the elections, which the opposition considered "rigged," with the result that some non-Christian leaders with pan-Arab sympathies were not elected. Deprived of a legal platform from which to voice their political opinions, they sought to express them by extralegal means.

This account agrees with what I was told in every particular except that it does not explicitly mention the CIA engineering of the election. Chamoun was unacceptable to the Druze and to the Sunni nationalists newly under the influence of Gamal Abdul Nasser in Egypt. A small civil war broke out. Chamoun lied to Eisenhower and told him that the Druze goatherds were Communists, and Ike dutifully sent in the Marines to save Chamoun in 1958. Thereafter the Maronites erected a police state, with much power in the Dueuxieme Bureau or secret police. Since Washington had already overthrown the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, and is said to have helped install the Baath in power in Iraq, it may well be that the Illiberal Age in the Middle East of the second half of the 20th century was in important part the doing of Washington and was for Cold War purposes. (Those namby pamby democracies were just too weak to forestall sly Communists).

The Christian-dominated system of Lebanon fell apart for a number of reasons. The Israelis expelled 100,000 or so Palestinians north to Lebanon in 1948. The Christians of Lebanon refused to give the Palestinians Lebanese citizenship, since the Palestinians were 80 to 85 percent Muslim and their becoming Lebanese would have endangered Christian dominance. Over time the stateless Palestinians living in wretched camps grew to 300,000. (In contrast, the Maronite elite gave the Armenians who immigrated citizenship so fast it would make your head spin.)

In the second half of the 20th century, the Lebanese Shiites grew much faster, being poor tobacco farmers with large families, than did the increasingly urban and middle class Maronites. Maronites emigrated on a large scale (it is said that there are 6 million Lebanese outside Lebanon and only 3 million inside), to North America (think Danny Thomas and Salma Hayek) and to South America (think Carlos Saul Menem of Argentina and Shakira of Colombia).

By 1975 the Maronites were no longer the dominant force in Lebanon. Of a 3 million population, the Shiites had grown to be 35 percent (and may now be 40 percent), and the Maronites had shrunk to a quarter, and are probably now 20 percent. The Shiites were mobilizing both politically and militarily. So, too, were the Palestinians.

The Maronite elite found the newly assertive Muslims of the south intolerable, and a war broke out between the Maronite party-militia, the Phalange (modeled on Franco's and Mussolini's Brown Shirts) and the PLO. The war raged through 1975 and into 1976 (I saw some of it with my own eyes). The PLO was supported by the Druze and the Sunnis. They began winning against the Maronites.

The prospect of a PLO-dominated Lebanon scared the Syrians. Yasser Arafat would have been able to provoke battles with Israel at will, into which Syria might be drawn. Hafez al-Asad determined to intervene to stop it. First he sought a green light from the Israelis through Kissinger. He got it.

In spring of 1976 the Syrians sent 40,000 troops into Lebanon and massacred the Palestinian fighters, saving the Maronites, with Israeli and US approval. Since the Baathists in Syria should theoretically have been allies of the Palestinians, it was the damnedest thing. But it was just Realpolitik on al-Asad's part. Syria felt that its national interests were threatened by developments in Lebanon and that it was in mortal danger if it did not occupy its neighbor.

The Druze never forgave the Syrians for the intervention, or for killing their leader, Kamal Jumblatt. Although the Palestinians were sullen and crushed, they declined as a factor in Lebanese politics once they were largely disarmed, since they still lack citizenship and face employment and other restrictions. The UN statistics show almost 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon, half of them in squalid camps. But some social scientists believe that because of massive out-migration to Europe, there are actually less than 200,000 in the country now.

In 1982 the Israelis mounted an unprovoked invasion of Lebanon as Ariel Sharon sought to destroy the remnants of the weakened PLO in Beirut. He failed, but the war killed nearly 20,000 persons, about half of them innocent civilians. Ziad Jarrah had a long-term grudge about that. The Israelis militarily occupied southern Lebanon, refusing to relinquish sovereign Lebanese territory.

The Shiites of the south were radicalized by the Israeli occupation and threw up the Hizbullah party-militia, which pioneered suicide bombs and roadside bombs, and forced the Israeli occupiers out in 2000.

One foreign occupation had been ended, but the Syrians retained about 14,000 troops in the Biqa Valley. The Israeli withdrawal weakened the Syrians in Lebanon, since many Lebanese had seen the Syrians as a bulwark against Israeli expansionism, but now Damascus appeared less needed.

Over time the Maronites came to feel that the Syrians had outstayed their welcome. So both they and the Druze wanted a complete Syrian withdrawal by the early zeroes.

In the meantime, Syria gradually had gained a new client in Lebanon, the Shiites, and especially Hizbullah. Likewise many Sunnis supported the Syrians.

The Syrians made a big mistake in growing attached to Gen. Emile Lahoud, their favorite Lebanese president. When his 6-year term was about to expire last fall, the Syrians intervened to have the Lebanese constitution amended to allow him to remain for another 3 years. Across the board, the Lebanese public was angered and appalled at this foreign tinkering with their constitution.

Rafiq al-Hariri resigned over the constitutional change. He was replaced as prime minister by another Sunni, Omar Karami of Tripoli in northern Lebanon.

The assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the popular multi-billionnaire Sunni prime minister (1992-1998 and 2000-2004), angered a broad swathe of the Sunni community, convincing them it was time for the Syrians to go. Despite the lack of any real evidence for the identity of the assassin, the Lebanese public fixed on the Syrians as the most likely culprit. The Sunnis, the Druze and the Maronites have seldom agreed in history. The last time they all did, it was about the need to end the French Mandate, which they made happen in 1943. This cross-confessional unity helps explain how the crowds managed to precipitate the downfall of the government of PM Omar Karami.

If Lebanese people power can force a Syrian withdrawal, the public relations implications may be ambiguous for Tel Aviv. After the US withdrawal from Iraq, Israeli dominance of the West Bank and Gaza will be the last military occupation of major territory in the Middle East. People in the region, in Europe, and in the US itself may begin asking why, if Syria had to leave Lebanon, Israel should not have to leave the West Bank and Gaza.

I don't think Bush had anything much to do with the current Lebanese national movement except at the margins. Walid Jumblatt, the embittered son of Kamal whom the Syrians defeated in 1976 at the American behest, said he was inspired by the fall of Saddam. But this sort of statement from a Druze warlord strikes me as just as manipulative as the news conferences of Ahmad Chalabi, who is also inspired by Saddam's fall. Jumblatt has a long history of anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment that makes his sudden conversion to neoconism likely a mirage. He has wanted the Syrians back out since 1976, so it is not plausible that anything changed for him in 2003.

The Lebanese are still not entirely united on a Syrian military withdrawal. Supporters of outgoing PM Omar Karami rioted in Tripoli on Monday. Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah still supports the Syrians and has expressed anxieties about the Hariri assassination and its aftermath leading to renewed civil war (an argument for continued Syrian military presence).

Much of the authoritarianism in the Middle East since 1945 had actually been supported (sometimes imposed) by Washington for Cold War purposes. The good thing about the democratization rhetoric coming out of Washington (which apparently does not apply to Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and other allies against al-Qaeda) is that it encourages the people to believe they have an ally if they take to the streets to end the legacy of authoritarianism.

But Washington will be sorely tested if Islamist crowds gather in Tunis to demand the ouster of Bin Ali. We'll see then how serious the rhetoric about people power really is.

Juan Cole
posted by Juan @ 3/1/2005 06:27:00 AM

Lebanon's Hariri Killed To Make a 'Clean Break'?

The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, in Beirut on Feb. 14, was a carefully planned and executed act, geared to trigger a chain reaction of events in the region, that would conform with the long-standing policy of the neo-conservative junta running Washington.

To understand the why of the assassination—although the material perpetrator, the who, remains unclear—one must look back at the 1996 policy paper prepared under the supervision of now-Vice President Dick Cheney, and his neo-con task force of Richard Perle, Doug Feith, David and Meyrav Wurmser, et al. Entitled "A Clean Break, A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" this paper outlined a scenario whereby the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would be torn to shreds, and, first Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Iran, would be targetted for military assault and political destabilization.

The document flatly stated that Israel should engage "Hisbollah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by ... establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces [and] striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper." Furthermore, it said, Israel should divert "Syria's attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon." The paper also called for focussing on "removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq...."

The outcome of the regional convulsions provoked by the "Clean Break" doctrine, was to be a new Middle East, with Israel hegemonic in the region, presiding over a series of newly balkanized states, run by puppet regimes. The Bush Administration has recently restated its intention to pick off these governments, dubbed "outposts of tyranny," one by one. The order in which they were to be hit was assumed to start with Iran. Instead, Syria was moved into first place.

The reason for this, one regional expert told EIR, is that if Iran were attacked militarily by the United States or Israel, the Islamic Republic would respond asymmetrically, unleashing allied and sympathetic Shi'ite forces in the Persian Gulf and in Lebanon: Hezbollah's capabilities to target Israel could be effectively deployed. Thus, the source said, the need to eliminate the Lebanese-based Shi'ite Hezbollah as a factor, and at the same time neutralize Syria, before moving against Tehran.

The stage for the immediate destabilization was set diplomatically by UN Resolution 1559, presented by the U.S. and France together, and at the forefront of recent discussions between Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and French President Jacques Chirac. UN Resolution 1559, adopted last September, demands the termination of the Syrian presence in Lebanon (estimated to be 15,000 troops) and the disarming of the Hezbollah. Instead of mounting an Israeli assault directly on Syria—which would have provoked an international outcry—a flanking operation was launched, with a terrorist act that would trigger mass forces on the ground to move against the Syrian presence.

Thus, the assassination of Hariri.

Hariri: 'Mr. Lebanon'

Rafiq Hariri, a building magnate, was Lebanese Prime Minister from 1992-1998 and again from 2000-2004, when he resigned, in protest over the re-election of President Lahoud, who was backed by Syria. He was known for his key international connections, both with the Saudi Royal family (he became their personal contractor after building a palace for a member of the Saudi Royal Family in Taef, Saudi Arabia in 1977), and with French President Jacques Chirac. Hariri invested massively in rebuilding Beirut after the civil war, and made an estimated $3.8 billion. Thus he was considered "Mr. Lebanon," and enjoyed broad popular support. After he resigned in protest against Syria, he became a symbol for the opposition. Any harm done to Hariri would automatically unleash factional strife and anti-Syria protests.

As soon as the news of the brutal car bomb explosion broke, crowds of Lebanese opposition forces, who saw Hariri as one of their own, took to the streets. At his funeral on Feb. 16, hundreds of thousands demonstrated, demanding the expulsion of the Syrians. At the same time, before any investigation had yielded any leads, a well-rehearsed chorus pinned the blame on Syria. Exiled Lebanese political figure Michel Aoun, for example, stated categorically from Paris: "They [the Syrians] are responsible. It's they who control the security and intelligence services" in Beirut. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, now with the opposition, echoed Aoun's words, as did Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

After lodging an official diplomatic note of protest with the Syrian government, U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice ordered the withdrawal of U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey from Damascus. "The proximate cause was Lebanon," Rice told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "but unfortunately we have an increasing list of problems with Syria." U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, who attended the funeral, said that Hariri's death "should give renewed impetus to achieving a free, independent, and sovereign Lebanon. What that means is the complete and immediate withdrawal by Syria."

In a press conference on Feb. 17, President Bush went further, saying "... [W]e've talked clearly to Syria about ... making sure that their territory is not used by former Iraqi Baathists to spread havoc and kill innocent lives. We expect them [Syria] to find and turn over former regime—Saddam regime supporters, send them back to Iraq...."

But why would Syria, already politically targetted, kill Hariri, when it would obviously be the first place at which accusing fingers would be pointed? "What exactly would the Syrians gain from this?" asked Rime Allaf, Middle East analyst at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London. "It doesn't make any sense. The first people who will be hurt by this is Syria. Given the chaos in Lebanon and the rising anger between the factions, analytically Syria loses a lot by this," Allaf told Aljazeera.net.

A Syrian analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told Aljazeera, "The Syrians are not crazy and they are not going to be assassinating Lebanese officials." He pointed to the fact that the Syrians had been engaging in dialogue with the opposition. Others noted that Hezbollah, another prime suspect, had been lying low in the recent period, on the recommendation of Syria and Iran, both eager to avoid confrontation.

Chaos and Civil War

The easiest way for the "Clean Break" scenario to be implemented now, would be through a new civil war in Lebanon, which would lead to the balkanization of the country into ethnic/religious/sectarian entities. Tensions among factions in the country had been heating up prior to the Hariri assassination. Walid Jumblatt, for example, speaking to Christian Maronites at St. Joseph University, accused "elements" of the Syrian Baath Party of killing his father in 1975. The Baath party then demanded that Jumblatt be prosecuted in Lebanon for slander.

Meanwhile, members of the Lebanese government accused opposition figures of being tools of the United States and Israel. The Mufti of Lebanon, Mohammad Khabani, added fuel to the fire, when he stated that the Sunnis in Lebanon believed that they were being targetted through the murder of Hariri, who was a Sunni. As journalist Robert Fisk, who was on site when the bombing occurred, stressed in the British paper the Independent: "Anyone setting out to murder Hariri would know how this could reopen all the fissures of the civil war from 1975 to 1990."

Iran and Syria Close Ranks

In response to the propaganda barrage aimed against Syria, the government strengthened its strategic alliance with Iran, another neo-con target. Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otari visited Tehran, and after talks with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref, stated: "This meeting, which takes place at this sensitive time, is important, especially because Syria and Iran face several challenges and it is necessary to build a common front." The two discussed increasing cooperation in transportation, oil, irrigation, energy, and trade, as part of their "common front," and Aref pledged Iran's support.

More significant, strategically, is the support which Moscow has lent to both Syria and Iran. Flying in the face of Israeli and U.S. protests, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, one day after Hariri's assassination, saying that Russia would fulfill its pledge to sell Syria vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft missiles. The next day, Feb. 16, Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, former senior member of the Russian Defense Ministry, and currently president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, warned: "Should an aggression be launched against Iran, the war will come to Russian borders." Hassan Rowhani, head of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council (and a negotiator on nuclear issues), visited Moscow for talks with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. And on Feb. 26, the head of the Russian Federation Atomic Energy Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, is expected in Iran, to sign the final agreements on the Bushehr nuclear reactor. According to regional sources, Russia has de facto established guarantees for Iran's security, and is beefing up its southern border, from the Black Sea into Central Asia, a signal that Moscow is taking the threats against Iran and Syria very seriously.

One Iranian official summed up his view of the situation by saying, "The Third World War has already begun." Unless the political opposition inside the U.S. takes over policy-making soon, that indeed is the danger.

This article appears in the February 25, 2005 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
See also: The 'Clean Break' Plan: Implications for US Middle East Policy http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5306.htm

All They Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance

Why pick Fayetteville as the site for an anti-war rally? I can think of at least 49 reasons. Each of those reasons has a name and each were members of our community prior to their deaths in Iraq.

Some may argue that voicing opposition to war in a military town is somehow disrespectful. Tell that to the military families and veterans from many wars, including the current one, who plan to gather in Rowan Street Park on March 19 for a three-hour rally. Thousands of their supporters will be there to join them. The majority of Americans now reject the reasons used to justify the war and most feel that the US government failed to successfully plan for what has happened.

Antiwar activity is not new to the park. During the Vietnam War a GI-led demonstration drew 4,000 people. On the first anniversary of the war last year, the park saw Fayetteville's largest demonstration for peace in nearly 35 years. That rally drew national and international attention. It was conceived and planned locally with support from groups like Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out.

Local activists lead the peace movement in our community.

Fayetteville Peace With Justice, a local grass roots group began to challenge the drumbeats for war immediately following September 11, 2001. The group conducted weekly vigils at the Market House during the opening weeks of the US invasion of Iraq. The early vigils met with catcalls from those in Fayetteville holding on to outdated opinions of peace demonstrators. As the disaster in Iraq became evident, derision subsided and vocal support emerged.

There are many NC military connections to the peace movement. Jeremy Hinzman left Ft. Bragg for Canada, applying for status as a refugee on the grounds that he was being forced to participate in an illegal war. North Carolina resident and former Marine Jimmy Massey left the military after 11 years, reeling from the senseless killing he witnessed in Iraq. Fayetteville's own Drew Plummer (my son) was convicted by the Navy for disloyalty for telling a reporter that the war was about oil and that "our guys shouldn't be dying in Iraq."

The incoming executive of Veterans for Peace, Michael McPhearson, is a Fayetteville native. He served as a field artillery officer in the first Gulf War. He has a son stationed at Ft. Campbell, Ky. He will speak at the March 19 rally, just as he did last year.

Kara Hollingsworth, a young African-American woman from Washington, DC now lives in Fayetteville. Her husband is on his second deployment to Iraq. She will speak here on March 19. Busloads of activists from her hometown are coming to lend support to Kara and to her message - that it is time to bring the troops home now.

On March 18, Lila Lipscomb, whose son died in Iraq, will visit Fayetteville. Many will recognize her from the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. She will appear with others at a press conference in support of the goals of the local anti-war movement. The evening of the 18th will feature a concert with hip-hop artists Little Brother and Ricanstruction, to connect with the most vulnerable segment of our community, youth targeted by recruiters who continue to paint an unrealistic picture of military service.

A former NC-based Marine, Michael Hoffman, recently announced that the first national meeting of the organization he co-founded, Iraq Veterans Against the War, will occur in Fayetteville on March 20. On that day Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace will also hold their first national meetings ever. These groups decided to meet in Fayetteville. They chose Fayetteville because this community has been as involved in the antiwar movement as any in the country. They chose Fayetteville because this community is the home of many affected by the war like no other Americans.

The National Anti-War Coalition, United for Peace and Justice, and over 80 groups from around the state and country, are supporting the rally in Fayetteville as their national focus on March 19 for similar reasons. Groups like the North Carolina Council of Churches and other co-sponsors of the event believe that REAL support for the troops means Bring Them Home Now.

LOU PLUMMER, Up & Coming Weekly, March 2 - 8, 2005 March 02, 2005
©Up & Coming Magazine 2005