Archive for May, 2005

Bush is the dissembler

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

“In terms of the detainees, we’ve had thousands of people detained. We’ve investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of — and the allegations — by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble [sic] — that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is.” –President Bush at May 31 press conference


Do the FBI agents who have reported seeing the horrendous conditions to which Gitmo prisoners have been subjected “disassemble” too, Mr. Bush? Or is the rottenest apple at the top of the barrel? Read through these documents [updated link, 2/20/2006] and judge for yourself.

Administration lies denying the intentional nature of the atrocities are flowing like water following the 2005 Annual Report of Amnesty International that called US torture center at Guantanamo Bay “the gulag of our times.”

Let’s get one thing straight right off. Ripping people out of their home countries into a permanent imprisonment half-way around the world without trial — at a site specifically chosen by American jailers so that international and domestic law could be sidestepped — is on the face of it torture. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, and the rest of their minions have in the design and operation of their torture centers, dispensed with 790 years of enlightened concepts of how criminals and other enemies should be treated. Bush has indeed created exactly what Amnesty International says — a gulag every bit as ugly in its own way as a Soviet-era gulag.

The whole damn thing is rotten. In my opinion, President Bush is culpable for High Crimes and Misdemeanors. But so far no one is holding anyone accountable. Who is it that hates thinking America should be a beacon of international law?

Bring them home

Monday, May 30th, 2005

Son of family acquaintance killed in Iraq


Becky Lourey represented us in the Minnesota state legislature for the six years we lived in northern Pine County. I fought fires with Matthew Lourey’s brother, and my wife worked for and still writes for the newspaper now run by Matthew’s sister-in-law.


President Bush must be high if he believes what he is saying. But using triumphal language is the only way for him to maintain the delusion that the enormous loss of Iraqi and American lives required for the US to hold its spoils is worth the cost.

I did not know Matthew Lourey. But I fought a few fires with his brother when we were volunteers in the fire services of neighboring towns. Matthew’s sister-in-law runs the Askov American in Askov, Minnesota. My wife still has The Practical Pantry food column running weekly in that paper.

I’m crying. When the reality of this war strikes this close, I scream out inside against Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and their Pentagon minions — the liars who caused this situation to be a thousand-fold worse than it ever had to be.

That’s how I see this situation, whether or not Matthew Lourey did. I deeply respect his courage and sacrifice, ultimate sacrifice. But our family, friends, and neighbors should not be in this position. They should be at home with their own families.

Iraq should be allowed to sort out its own future.

For now I will just say that the outrageous lies told by President Bush today and by General Myers over the weekend — touting “progress” in Iraq, “humane” treatment of prisoners, and the building of a “safer world” where post-911 America “is more secure” — things which will not follow as long as the US aim is to “complete the mission” of taking and holding the country. And taking the country, while destroying the lives of Iraqis and our own troops alike, is what the US war is actually doing, which can easily be discerned from the small number of independent voices reporting on this war.

My heart goes out to the Loureys. I am thinking about them constantly and wishing I could do more to ease their pain, but nothing else I can think of to say is going to help. It is indeed a sad Memorial Day for our old friends in Pine County Minnesota.

Friday garden blogging

Friday, May 27th, 2005

Flood!


There is less water standing than yesterday, but the situation is bad — an entire week of rainy cold weather!


Yikes. Today is the 14th day in a row of cloudy/rainy weather. Yesterday was a doozy — 2 inches out of the 4 inches we’ve had in 7 days fell between 6am and 6pm. (See the map, x marks the spot if you can make it out)

The result of all this rain was a flooded basement, including the offices of Deep Blade Journal, aka The Bat Cave. The ground, already saturated, couldn’t take up the rapid rain load, so the water table rose above floor level and overwhelmed the sump. We had about 1/2 inch of water right under all the system power cables, so we went down about 2pm yesterday afternoon. I’m just now getting everything running again, after an entire day of swinging a mop.

A rainfall of 1/10 inch is predicted for tomorrow, and 1/10 to 1/4 inch for Sunday. If it doesn’t come too fast, we’ll be okay. But everything outside is so wet, that I’d guess 1/4 inch within two to four hours will drive in more water. The Bat Cave has been renamed Bat Springs.

All of the cables are off the floor now, and almost everything stored down here has been elevated. I have a pump running, a dehumidifier, and a fan. The heat is up as high as it goes. On the plus side, this place is clean now, after a thorough workover with a bleach solution. It’s never been so clean down here.

Of course, all this sucks for the garden. The tomatoes did not even go in. If the pea and spinach seeds that were planted damped off in the dankness, they’ll need to be replanted. (Even those guys may not be able to take this.) We’ll see in a few days.


The lilac is way behind with this dreadful weather.

The Pentagon Archipelago

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

US runs the gulags of our times


The Henry M. Jackson Foundation, named for the late ultra-anti-communist Democratic senator (and mentor to Richard Perle and other current neocons), reconstructed Perm 36, one of Russia’s most notorious gulags. Will human rights foundations of the future have the unhappy duty to reconstruct Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and other gulags in the Pentagon Archipelago?

First I want to give author Chris Floyd credit for coining the phrase “Pentagon Archipelago, which appeared in a Counterpunch posting last year, before the Abu Ghraib photos broke. His pieces on US prison torture are shockingly eloquent, even to me, a person who has studied and opposed US-sponsored torture and torture schools for 25 years.

Today Amnesty International from the platform of its annual report weighs in on the distinct lack of interest by the Republican administration and its Congress in coming clean, seeking the truth, and ending the atrocities — which continue to this day, despite the transparent lies perpetuated by mealy administration spokesman Scott McClellan.

Here is what Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty, writes in the forward to the 2005 Annual Report:

Despite the near-universal outrage generated by the photographs coming out of Abu Ghraib, and the evidence suggesting that such practices are being applied to other prisoners held by the USA in Afghanistan, Guantánamo and elsewhere, neither the US administration nor the US Congress has called for a full and independent investigation.Instead, the US government has gone to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Conventions and to “re-define” torture. It has sought to justify the use of coercive interrogation techniques, the practice of holding “ghost detainees” (people in unacknowledged incommunicado detention) and the “rendering” or handing over of prisoners to third countries known to practise torture. The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military commissions have made a mockery of justice and due process.

Scotty M. says, “We hold people accountable when there’s abuse. We take steps to prevent it from happening again. And we do so in a very public way for the world to see that we lead by example and that we do have values that we hold very dearly and believe in.”

But this is exactly the problem, as Amnesty correctly points out. That public response shows exactly the “values” that America’s Terror War “hold very dearly.” It is obvious to anyone who looks at the official public information with any scrutiny at all that no one higher than a few low-ranking soldiers seems to have any responsibility for these crimes.

Example: Afghanistan
A few months ago, The Guardian ran a story on Afghanistan, linked to in Deep Blade Journal, that the country is “one big US jail.”

Last week, an appropriately-placed story on the front page of the New York Times revealed how that jail has operated over the last three years: “Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.”

Zeynap at Under the Same Sun has a good piece on “How Dilawar [from the Times story] died.” Go there for the description of how this poor man fell into the clutches of bigoted interrogators who were part of the US forces occupying his country, and who then beat him to death — for the apparent crime of driving his taxi too close to an American base.

Here is part of the story that is distressingly revealing about the culture of official disinformation concerning the real nature of US detention:

But documents and interviews reveal a striking disparity between the findings of Army investigators and what military officials said in the aftermath of the deaths.Military spokesmen maintained that both men had died of natural causes, even after military coroners had ruled the deaths homicides. Two months after those autopsies, the American commander in Afghanistan, then-Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, said he had no indication that abuse by soldiers had contributed to the two deaths. The methods used at Bagram, he said, were “in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques.”

They lied. So why should anything on this issue that comes out of Scotty McClellan’s mouth be believed? The Amnesty report is properly damning of US officials’ lack of accountability for these war crimes.

Questions: Why so much violence? Why do US sweeps round up mostly innocents?
It has been known for over a year now that 70% to 90% of prisoners detained by the US in Iraq “had been arrested by mistake,” according to a confidential May 2004 Red Cross report.

This fact seems not to be of any concern to US commanders, who this week continued the round-up with Operation Squeeze Play where, “Almost 300 suspected insurgents have been detained in the largest joint US-Iraqi military offensive in Baghdad.”

The numbers in the round-up are getting so bad that the US has already announced a new crash program of prison construction in Iraq. The linked May 10 Washington Post story says detainees numbered

11,350 last week, a nearly 20 percent jump since Iraq’s Jan. 30 elections. U.S. prisons now contain more than twice the number of people they did in early October, when aggressive raids began in a stepped-up effort to crush the insurgency before January’s vote.

Again, referring to a another recent posting in Under the Same Sun, the policy of indiscriminant round-up is accompanied by concentration camp marking and dehumanization of the detainees.

In “How a man becomes K2,” Zeynep writes with anguish,

that unnamed man’s furrowed forehead is marked “K2” by the marine captures the fundamental process of dehumanization that you will find if you scratch the surface of all major 20th century atrocities. That man is no longer a man for those soldiers: he is a detainee, a number, a representation of the enemy, of the people who shoot at them, the people who they hate, people who they are scared of, people that aren’t people. He can be blindfolded, marked, humiliated before his heartbroken family, taken away at will….The question facing us is whether we will stop before magic markers turn into tattoos.

Absolutely do click through and read Zeynep’s entire post. If you are American, be careful looking in the mirror after you understand what is going on in Iraq. We must deal with that ugliness, before it permanently deals with us. It may be too late….

Now I want to ask why. Why is the US using its huge-sized net and overflowing its cages with so little concern about who is “guilty” of taking up arms against the occupation and who is not? Is this indiscriminant attack tantamount to war against the entire civilian population of Iraq?

Perhaps one clue to the answer may be found in a story Newsweek broke back in January. This important story is on Pentagon use of “The Salvador Option” in Iraq. Later stories gave more details about how the US is employing ex-Baathist militias to undermine Iraqi resistance to occupation with Sadaam-era methods. These policies have been insisted upon by the US, leading to severe questions about the operative sovereignty of the elected Iraqi government. See additional Deep Blade postings here, here, and here.

Then a couple of weeks ago this same question of actual lack of sovereignty of the Jaaffari government came to the surface when it expressed its desire to remove Maj. Gen. Muhammad Abdallah al-Shahwani, director of Iraq’s National Intelligence Service. According to the Knight-Ridder story,

The CIA has so far refused to hand over control of Iraq’s intelligence service to the newly elected Iraqi government in a turf war that exposes serious doubts the Bush administration has over the ability of Iraqi leaders to fight the insurgency and worries about the new government’s close ties to Iran.The director of Iraq’s secret police, a general who took part in a failed coup attempt against Saddam Hussein, was handpicked and funded by the U.S. government, and he still reports directly to the CIA, Iraqi politicians and intelligence officials in Baghdad said last week. Immediately after the elections in January, several Iraqi officials said, U.S. forces stashed the sensitive national intelligence archives of the past year inside American headquarters in Baghdad in order to keep them off-limits to the new government….

When the U.S.-led occupation authority ceded power to the semi-sovereign interim government last June, the official said, CMAD was split, with roughly half the agents going to the new interior ministry and the rest to work on military intelligence in the defense ministry. Both ministries’ intelligence departments are led by Kurds, the most consistently U.S.-friendly group in Iraq, and report to the Iraqi prime minister.

But an elite corps of CMAD operatives was recruited into the third and most important Iraqi intelligence agency, the secret police force known by its Arabic name: the Mukhabarat. Its Iraqi director is Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, a Sunni general whose three sons were executed by Saddam in retaliation for his involvement in a botched, CIA-backed coup attempt in the mid-1990s. Shahwani’s top deputy in charge of daily operations is said to be a Kurd; Shiites are believed to comprise just 12 percent of the force.

Unlike the defense and interior ministries, there is no provision in the Iraqi government’s budget for the secret police. The Mukhabarat’s money comes straight from the CIA.

Several Shiite politicians in the new government want Shahwani out, saying the Mukhabarat’s ranks are filled with Saddam’s former officers seeking revenge against the Shiite militias they fought in the 1980s. The Iraqi intelligence official said agents have complained the ex-Baathists use the word “resistance” instead of “terrorists” when describing Sunni insurgents in internal memos, raising serious doubts about the agents’ loyalties.

Whew…Iraq has a CIA-funded Mukhabarat operating without the authority of the elected government?? What kind of sick joke is the US playing here? Who is really responsible for the increasingly sectarian attacks? In this light, US policy could be seen to be directly fomenting the endless bombings and horrendous death and destruction experienced in Iraq over the last many weeks.

Let’s get back to the Newsweek story from January, and that clue to US policy, still shrouded in secrecy. Here is how Newsweek quoted Shahwani and unnamed Pentagon officials on the “insurgency problem”:

the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, [Shahwani] said, “are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them.” He said most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won’t turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists,” he said. “From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.” [emphasis added]

I’ll end for now with this speculation about US broad-sweep detention policy — it is being used for intentional collective punishment and dehumanization of the entire Iraqi population.

These realities of US policy are sickening — home invasions, indiscriminant round-ups, numbering of prisoners, stress interrogations, torture. It all reflects the brutal nature of the US taking of Iraq.

Protest crushed in Azerbaijan

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

Caspian oil pipeline unveiling today


1,760-km crude conduit from Baku to the Mediterranean avoids Russia


Saturday May 21: Police in riot gear crush a Bush-inspired pro-democracy demonstration, cleaning things up (as many as 149 arrested) for the pipeline ceremony today

Is President Bush aware that people in central Asia are taking him seriously? If so, he has a funny way of insisting that his allies in Azerbaijan uphold his pretty words. Several days before the arrival in Baku of US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and other dignitaries for dedication of the $3.2 billion, U.S.-backed Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, the government of Azeri president Ilham Aliev denied permission for then violently broke up a pro-democracy demonstration in Baku.

According to EurasiaNet:

On May 21, an opposition coalition sponsored a demonstration, calling for guarantees of a free-and-fair legislative vote. The Azerbaijani government refused to sanction the rally, and police used force to break it up. Dozens were injured in the confrontation, including several journalists covering the event who were wearing special vests designed to identify them as members of the press and thus protect them from harassment. Arrest estimates ranged from 45 to 149.

Before being set upon by club wielding riot police, some opposition demonstrators could be seen holding portraits of US President George W. Bush. During a May 10 speech in capital of neighboring Georgia, Bush indicated that the United States would back democratic change in all former Soviet states. “Across the Caucasus, in Central Asia and the broader Middle East, we see the same desire for liberty burning in the hearts of young people. They are demanding their freedom — and they will have it,” Bush told the crowd assembled on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square. “We are living in historic times when freedom is advancing, from the Black Sea to the Caspian.” In organizing the Baku rally for fair elections, opposition leaders seemed to be acting on Bush’s Tbilisi’s comments.

Here is the extent of US rebuke to the Azeri action, given Monday by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher:

We regret that Azerbaijan’s Government refused a request by the opposition to hold a peaceful rally. It’s also regrettable that the police used force to disband small groups of protestors and detain participants in an unsanctioned rally.

We again call on the Government of Azerbaijan to honor the right of its people to assemble peacefully and freely and to ensure that those detained in the rally — during the rally are afforded due process immediately.

The government’s approach to the rally and the decision to detain protestors, we think, violates the spirit of President Aliyev’s May 11th decree that affirmed the people’s constitutional right to peaceful assembly, a right that any democracy must justly cherish and safeguard. We strongly support the right of people to assemble peacefully and freely as is a normal part of the democratic process.

Nicely measured words, avoiding totally any notion that the demonstrations were put down ahead of the oil pipeline ceremony. Meanwhile, no readers of the AP release about the pipeline that came out Tuesday afternoon will be troubled by any notion that there is protest against the brutal single-party rule in Azerbaijan. This is because no such mention is made in the story, and likewise, Saturday’s crushed protest did not merit mention either.

Want to know more about what is going on in Azerbaijan and other central Asian countries? Read the stuff posted by the Central Asian and Southern Caucasian Freedom of Expression Network at CASCFEN.org.

Here are links to some of the items posted:

Letter about attack on a journalist during the May 21 demonstration

Freedom House decries detention of activists, mysterious deaths, and other insults to human rights

A report by Reporters Without Borders shows that the murder of Elmar Huseynov, editor of the independent weekly Monitor, was a contract killing ordered because of his work as a journalist.

US troops to Azerbaijan? Is Iran next?
As Deep Blade Journal posted last month, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a hushed visit to Baku on April 12. Note the proximity of Azerbaijan to Iran, perhaps in the crosshairs of the next US strike. What was Rumsfeld really doing there?

According to a piece at Ocnus.Net, US troops are already on the ground in Azerbaijan. And there are more to come, it’s just a matter of when:

Azerbaijani government sources confirmed that the agreement between Baku and Washington on locating U.S. “temporarily deployed mobile forces” was indeed finalized during U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s stealth visit to Azerbaijan on April 12. Rumsfeld and Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and Defense Minister Safar Abiyev — acting on behalf of Aliyev — struck the agreement right at Baku’s international airport. The sources said that Rumsfeld, not satisfied with Baku’s initial agreement, pressured the officials to set a quick fixed date to begin major deployments of U.S. forces to Azerbaijan. Aliyev, however, wants to delay the major U.S. forces’ arrival — or at least the formal announcement of it — until later this year.

Though the US Ambassador to Azerbaijan denied a major deployment was in the offing, it is explained at a UN site concerning development in Azerbaijan that

The so-called Caspian Guard will reportedly be headquartered in Baku and comprised of American troops trained for rapid response missions for regional crises. The guard is part of Rumsfeld’s overall strategy to re-craft America’s overseas military units from bulky Cold War bases to more deployable units flexible enough to put together different force packages for different operations. While specific information on the unit is hard to obtain, a recent report in the Wall Street Journal quoted Chief of U.S. European Command, General James Jones addressing the U.S. Congress about the guard. Jones said the U.S. plans to allocate some $100 million to cover the guard’s first 10 years of activities.

The guard will reportedly be one of the U.S. European Command’s 10 posts, with the Caspian region included in its area of responsibility. The command center will boast the most up-to-date radar equipment and also focus on dealing with potential terror attacks on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline.

Deep Blade Journal will keep close watch on these developments. They could signal that a US and/or Israeli attack on Iran might be brewing quickly, engaging US troops and warplanes in more action than a little pipeline protection.

Bush extends US legal immunity in Iraq

Sunday, May 22nd, 2005

The Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) was under official US control from May 2003 through June 2004, and is under tacit US control today. According to a recent LA Times story, accounting for these funds is anything but transparent.


These were just the OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM deposits into the DFI, $8.1 billion out of $20 billion. Why isn’t Senator Norm Coleman concerned about where this money is now?

In an almost unnoticed move, President Bush on Thursday May 19 extended for one year the blanket immunity from legal action conferred on US corporations doing business in Iraq. Munir at The Diplomatic Times Review caught this story. Thank you Munir!

According to the extension order, its purpose is

to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq constituted by the threat of attachment or other judicial process against the Development Fund for Iraq, Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations, or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof.

Executive Order 13303, first entered by the president on May 22,2003, is one mechanism the US has used to insure financial impunity for private US interests in Iraq. Please see some contemporaneous analysis of this policy of corporate anarchy and its effects here and here.

According to one of the references from these sources — the Government Accountability Project,

Activities exempt from accountability The scope of the EO’s mandate for lawlessness is limited only by the imagination. Section 1(b) shields value “of any nature whatsoever” if it “aris[es] from” or is “related to” the “sale or marketing of all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products” or “interests.” That means all corporate activities with roots or any connection to Iraqi oil. It covers everything from extraction through transportation, advertising, manufacture, customer service, corporate records and payment of taxes. It covers compliance with contractual obligations involving Iraqi oil that industry enters with the U.S. government in post-war Iraq. The scope can be further expanded to virtually all oil-related commerce, by blending Iraqi oil with domestic supplies for any given commercial transaction. Since the EO also covers petroleum “products,” It includes commerce such as plastics in the petrochemical industry or anything else for which Iraqi oil becomes relevant.

Custer Battles: criminal stories from the wild west
The environment created by both blanket immunity along with a general attitude of administration disinterest toward blatant theft has resulted in a “wild west” mentality amongst the corporations that have seen Iraq as a gold rush. Go here to read stunning stories like this one told to a Democratic Policy Committee hearing about outlaw US-Iraq contractor Custer Battles, a company that was paid with DFI funds. I am going to reproduce quite a few lines of the outrageous testimony here:

ALAN GRAYSON (Grayson, Kubli and Hoffman): Thank you very much, Senator. My name is Alan Grayson. I’m an attorney. I represent whistleblowers in the first case involving fraud by a government contractor in Iraq to be unsealed by the court. My testimony is based on what the whistleblowers have told me and told to the court. I wish I could tell you that the Bush administration has done everything it could to detect and punish fraud in Iraq, but if I said that to you, I would be lying.

In our case, the Bush administration has not lifted a finger to recover tens of millions of dollars that our whistleblowers allege was stolen from the government. The defendant in our case is Custer Battles. This company was organized by an individual named Mike Battles. In 2002, with the invasion of Iraq eminent, Battles set himself up as a security contractor. He and his colleague, Scott Custer, were featured repeatedly on Fox News and other forums as so-called security experts.

Following the invasion of Iraq, Custer and Battles sought contracts from the U.S. government. Battles later told the Wall Street Journal that the “fear and disorder in Iraq offered real promise” to him. Up to this point, their security company had garnered less than $1 million in total revenue. Indeed, when one of them traveled to Baghdad, according to my sources, he had to borrow the cab fare. Yet in the next 13 months, the Bush administration lavished over $100 million in contracts on Custer Battles. In a matter of weeks, Custer Battles received two government contracts worth around $15 million a piece.

One was to provide security inspection for civilian flights at Baghdad International Airport. Of course, there were no civilian flights at Baghdad International Airport. The Bush administration paid Custer Battles anyway. While at the airport, Custer Battles found some abandoned Iraqi Airways forklifts. They painted these over to hide the Iraqi Airways markings and then billed them to the government as materials under a different contract.

The other contract that Custer Battles quickly received was to provide security and logistical support for the distribution of new Iraqi dinars. Reports indicate that after the contract was awarded one Custer Battles staffer hopped on a Custer Battles chartered flight to Beirut with over $10 million in new Iraq dinars inexplicably in his luggage. Lebanese customs officials confiscated the money. The currency exchange contract was a time and materials contract. This meant that Custer Battles could bill the government dollar for dollar for its non-labor expenses.

Sensing great entrepreneurial possibilities in that arrangement, Custer Battles set up some Cayman Island subsidiaries. The Air Force has referred to these subsidiaries as the “sham companies.”

Custer Battles backdated and forged signatures on invoices from these sham companies. Custer Battles then directed employees to sign the fabricated invoices without even looking at them and then turn those invoices in for payment to the government. One of our whistleblowers, a Custer Battles subcontractor and former FBI agent, was recruited to participate in this scheme. He refused twice and said, “You all are going to prison.”

The second time, he was held at gunpoint in Baghdad, stripped of his weapons and security identification, and then he was released defenseless on the streets of Baghdad. I’m talking about Americans holding guns on Americans. He made his way from Baghdad through Fallujah to the Jordanian border. It is worth noting that the contracts awarded to Custer Battles were signed by U.S. contracting officers on behalf of “the United States of America.”

Custer has testified that he reported to U.S. military supervisors every single day. Custer Battles was paid $4 million in brand new U.S. $100 bills, fresh from government printing presses and still wrapped in plastic, as well as with U.S. Treasury checks imprinted with the Statue of Liberty and wire transfers from U.S. Treasury accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

On October 18, 2003, Custer and Battles attended a meeting with the U.S. military staff responsible for the currency exchange program. One of them accidentally left the Custer Battles spreadsheet on the table. One column of this spreadsheet listed what Custer Battles had spent for materials on this contract: $3.5 million. Another column listed what Custer Battles had billed to the government for these materials: almost $10 million. This spreadsheet was documentary evidence of over $6 million in fraud against the government.

Not long after another whistleblower, this one a Custer Battles employee, complained to Custer Battles that it was submitting fraudulent invoices to the government. Custer Battles asked its so-called corporate integrity officer to report.

And this is what he found: “Indicated in this report are enormous areas of discrepancies and irregularities that lend themselves to elements of criminal fraud.

“A broader issue of criminal intent has become evident. The documents are prima facie evidence of the course of conduct consistent with criminal activity and content.

“The concerns and issues raised by the whistleblower, Mr. Baldwin, in his response to my e-mail significantly reinforces my concern that criminal activity transpired here on the money exchange project.

“These leases were the cornerstone of identifying a clear and definite pattern of deception and misrepresentation while the M.X. program was in operation. Further discussions and decisions concerning the M.X. project should be coordinated through the corporate criminal defense attorney.”

Despite this, the Bush administration continued to award new contracts and approve new subcontracts to Custer Battles for almost a year after the spreadsheet fell in its hands, all the way through to the end of September of 2004. Our whistleblowers filed a lawsuit under seal under the Civil False Claims Act at the beginning of 2004. We immediately provided a copy to the attorney general. We know that both the FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service investigated these allegations.

The Air Force has said in a formal finding that there is adequate evidence that Custer Battles has defrauded the government and that this evidence justifies shutting off the flow of government contracts to Custer Battles. We estimate that the government’s total losses are tens of millions of dollars. Yet for more than a year, the Bush administration has done nothing to recover these ill-gotten gains from Custer Battles, much less bring the wrongdoers to justice.

In fact, in October of 2004, in our False Claims Act case, the very purpose of which is to recover this money on behalf of the U.S. government, the Bush administration declined to participate in the case. When we asked why, the assistant U.S. attorney indicated the Bush administration had decided, as a matter of policy, that cheating the Coalition Provisional Authority is not the same as cheating the United States.

And there is more:

SENATOR BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): But I wanted to start, Mr. Willis, in your testimony that I had read, you talked about the issue of people being paid cash in bags and a substantial amount of that kind of thing going on.

We understand this is a very difficult circumstance in Iraq. And it’s not like normal times. You’ve got major security problems and so on. But I think you described it as, kind of, a Wild West approach where somebody is to bring a bag and they get money in the bag, cash in the bag. You also indicated that, although you didn’t have personal knowledge, you were advised that upwards of $3 billion cash was in a bank vault at the CPA. Is that correct? Can you respond to some of that?

FRANK WILLIS (former senior official with the Coalition Provisional Authority): Yes, that was a rumor. I don’t have personal knowledge. There had to be a lot of money there, whatever the sum was, because when we had to pay the second payment to Custer Battles of $2 million, an Air Force captain went down, got the money and brought it up. I’ve submitted to the committee a picture of that payment, in fact. Let me give you…

SEN. DORGAN: The captain went and got $2 million in cash?

MR. WILLIS: Yes. $100 bills in plastic wrap. We played football with the plastic wrapped bricks for a little while. There is picture evidence of that particular transaction. Let me give you an example of what would happen, because we were responsible at transportation for 14 state-owned enterprises: bus companies, limousine operators, truck operators.

The executive office, say of Land Transport, a trucking company, when it was time to pay salaries would, through a voucher system, get cash. There was no way to wire money in — they had no banking system and then a very, very primitive banking system later in the summer. No way to wire cash, no tracking of transfers of that kind. So he would get a bag of cash — it might be dollars, it might be dinars — and travel to Baqouba, say, where one of our regional Land Transport operations was. The regional president believed that not all the money in the bag got to him by the time the money got to Baqouba.

Then the regional manager had that bag of cash and that was used for distribution to the truck drivers. And the truck drivers felt that not all of the money that the regional president had got to them. That was the kind of way, if you looked at the payment in the voucher system for the Iraqis, 14 state-owned enterprises, the ministry itself, 2,400 people at Iraqi Airways, that was how the process worked. And it worked on I think on a trust system that we did have a mindset that this was Iraqi money. The DFI is Iraqi money.

And we said, “Well, it may not be traced very well, and we got a lot of trust and we know there’s a lot of abuses, but at least it’s the Iraqis handling their own money and it’s getting to Iraqis in one form or fashion.”

I would distinguish that from the Custer Battles case where Iraqi money went to Americans.

There is a whole lot more in the 40-page document from which this testimony is sourced. The story that emerges is one of unmitigated theft on the part of the CPA and its contractors from both Iraq and from the US taxpayer on a massive scale. There are plenty of hints in the stories where the missing DFI funds went. And the real shame is on the Bush government that refuses to look into the abuses, even actually encouraging them through immunity confered by its executive orders. Meanwhile, the smokescreen of the Oil-for-Food probe diverts attention backwards in time, before the current theives took Iraq for themselves.

Additional history: Look at the stories of CPA misappropriation from June and July of 2004. The DFI was “suspiciously tapped before handover” of the Iraqi government to its US puppet regime, while contracts were given “to corrupt and wasteful American firms that do very little reconstruction and very little hiring of Iraqis.”

Friday garden blogging

Friday, May 20th, 2005

Garden & nature photo feature returns, this year as “Friday garden blogging”


Lycopersicon esculenta ‘Brandywine’, Lycopersicon esculenta ‘Glacier’, and Pisum sativum ‘Sugar Snap’ ready for planting


Allium sativum: The garlic bed, up six weeks now, is very healthy


I think this is an example of forest tent caterpillar (photo taken at Veazie Salmon Club), but note the odd location of the nest, not over leaves

Downing Street Memo on WPR

Thursday, May 19th, 2005

Stunning Ideas Network program tells it like it is


A model for “fair and balanced” American media, this is one of the few public radio services that I support with (necessarily) small donations. Their internet service is very good so make it a regular link in your Real Player collection.

Everyone must, simply must listen to the May 17, 5pm program from the Wisconsin Public Radio Ideas Network. Just now, I finally had a chance to listen to it. In this program, host Ben Merens interviews David Green, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Hofstra University, New York, about the “Downing Street Memo,” which in black ink “proves President Bush was intent on invading Iraq [by the summer of 2002] and that arguments for war were shaped to fit the policy.” Click the link and then scroll down the page to the 5pm hour where you’ll find the appropriate Real Player icon.

What emerges here is a refreshing, hard-hitting, deep probe of the truth — and appropriate condemnation of mainstream media — that is extremely rare in American media today:

GREEN: To me, the real travesty here, the real abdication of responsibility here, is the media. I just, and I’ll risk being redundant here, I just cannot think of a bigger story than this: The president lies, 100,000 people die, $300 billion spent on a war, America’s reputation in the world community in the garbage can, American land forces pinned down in Iraq with no end in sight, I mean it just goes on, and on, and on. All based we now know for a fact on willfully told lies constructed into a public relations blitz. And — okay — they’re going to do that, that’s what this government does, that’s what this party does.

But, you know, the whole reason the founders set up the structure of government that they did with a free press was to check and balance against that sort of thing, and nobody’s doing it now. The Democrats certainly aren’t doing it, the public isn’t doing it, and all the branches of government are in the hands of the same party. But where is the media on the biggest story of the decade — you know, apart from 911 — where is the media on this? That to me is the greatest violation of all.

Maybe I’ve been incredibly naive, and people have been telling me I have been in response to the piece that I wrote. But I’m just utterly shocked and sort of falling off my chair — …not because of what the administration has done, or not done, but because of what the media has not done.

There are some exceptions to the silence. A small Congressional minority issued on May 5 a letter to the president on the Downing Street memo, asking him among other things about the meaning of “fix intelligence and facts around policy”.

For more, please see my previous post (including a note about 2002 Iraq “gold rush” planning). Also please visit the Downing Street Memo website.

Uzbekistan, Sweden, and the Terror War

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

Work of US allies:


Photo of tortured man, killed in KIN-64/29 colony, Navoi, Uzbekistan during detention by “colony administration” on January 3, 2005. Source: The Central Asian and Southern Caucasian Freedom of Expression Network (CASCFEN), “a voluntary association of the public organizations, called to protect freedom of expression and press in the region agreed to Article 19 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration.”


Uzbekistan

Two days ago I posted a very disturbing description of the recent massacre of at least 500 people in the City of Andijan by the Uzbek regime. Dictator Islam Karimov has had a cozy relationship with the Bush administration since shortly after 9/11.

Today, Uzbek officials are claiming that they massacred no one, and that only 169 people died during rioting. Opposition spokespersons say the toll was 700 killed brutally by security forces. I continue to believe the that the narrative found here is accurate, and the official Uzbek version is horseshit.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post has added this account of what did happen:

It was a sunny, warm day, and the crowd was suffused with a sense of optimism as speakers said that they had been in touch with President Karimov and that he would be coming soon to listen to their concerns.But late in the afternoon, dark clouds began to gather and a helicopter began circling, Mavlanov recalled.

Sensing concern in the crowd, speakers urged the demonstrators to stay in the square, promising that no harm would come to them. But soon afterward, several minivans and trucks packed with security officers arrived, and the men began firing on people from the vehicles’ doors and windows.

The reaction of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other US spokespersons has been to pussyfoot around Uzbekistan, citing a few nice speeches the president has given in the past and declaring that, “We have good relations with some that we believe need to do more on the democratic front.”

British foreign secretary Jack Straw was marginally better, asking for an “international and independent inquiry” to “get to the bottom” of what happened in Andijan late last week.

Why the kid gloves crock from high US officials on Uzbekistan, and not even a word from the president himself after a horrendous massacre? After all, this same president inspired an incredible response against another dictator in Iraq who “murdered his own people.” The reasons for this, I believe, concern the strategic position of Uzbekistan and its secret role in the Terror war.

It is not easy to illustrate how the US uses Uzbekistan, as cooperation with the regime and US military basing in the country developed since 9/11 has been highly secretive. But according to a recent piece on EurasiaNet, “strategic importance of the Karshi-Khanabad base, the cornerstone of the US-Uzbek alliance, was dramatically declining. Today, many of the functions performed by the base could be easily shifted to Afghanistan.”

However, another US use of the Uzbek regime has been as torturer of choice for certain Terror War prisoners. This passage from Jane Mayer’s important February 14, 2005 New Yorker piece on rendition of Terror War suspects contains quotes from Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan,

[Murry] told me that “the U.S. accepts quite a lot of intelligence from the Uzbeks” that has been extracted from suspects who have been tortured. This information was, he said, “largely rubbish.” He said he knew of “at least three” instances where the U.S. had rendered suspected militants from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan. Although Murray does not know the fate of the three men, he said, “They almost certainly would have been tortured.” In Uzbekistan, he said, “partial boiling of a hand or an arm is quite common.” He also knew of two cases in which prisoners had been boiled to death.In 2002, Murray, concerned that America was complicit with such a regime, asked his deputy to discuss the problem with the C.I.A.’s station chief in Tashkent. He said that the station chief did not dispute that intelligence was being obtained under torture. But the C.I.A. did not consider this a problem. “There was no reason to think they were perturbed,” Murray told me.

Sweden and the Terror War
A perhaps surprising stop on the Terror War circuit is Sweden. Here I want to lead into today’s exclusive guest post by a British citizen, resident of Sweden, and friend of Deep Blade Journal, Mike Walls. You’ll see in a disturbing personal story Mike tells what all this has to do with Uzbekistan.

First, I want to quote another related story from the Jane Mayer article, illustrating how Sweden has cooperated with US rendition methods:

On December 18, 2001, at Stockholm’s Bromma Airport, a half-dozen hooded security officials ushered two Egyptian asylum seekers, Muhammad Zery and Ahmed Agiza, into an empty office. They cut off the Egyptians’ clothes with scissors, forcibly administered sedatives by suppository, swaddled them in diapers, and dressed them in orange jumpsuits. As was reported by “Kalla Fakta,” a Swedish television news program, the suspects were blindfolded, placed in handcuffs and leg irons; according to a declassified Swedish government report, the men were then flown to Cairo on a U.S.-registered Gulfstream V jet.

So it is in the context of the recent Uzbek slaughter, and stories of the crimes against humanity in the form of renditions carried out by the Bush regime and its Terror War collaborators, that Deep Blade Journal today offers this exclusive guest post….

————————————————–

GUEST POST

Questions about Uzbek, Egyptian, and Swedish complicity in the US Terror War
Recently I saw a news item on the BBC World satellite channel describing the warm relationship between Karimov and the Bush Administration. Regrettably the item did not go into any more detail than that.

For example, they could have outlined the grievances of the protesters in the recent upheavals there instead of echoing Karimov’s construction of Islamist terrorism being on the rise which, according to him, was the reason behind the protests. To put the record straight it needs to be aired that Islam Karimov’s record on human rights abuses extend not only to Muslims in Uzbekistan but to a plethora of other minorities.

I have a personal story to tell on this account. A former Uzbek colleague of mine told me how he was persecuted for being homosexual. The first time we met he mentioned the US’s cosy relationship with Karimov — that was back in 2003. My colleague was utterly disgusted and distressed. He would laugh out loud at the claim that the US wanted democracy in the region (central Asia) and sometimes in the face of other colleagues who believed such fantasies.

A couple of months ago he was sent back to Uzbekistan to an uncertain fate; nobody, not even his Swedish partner, has heard anything from him since. The fact that the Swedish authorities would do such a thing is disturbing and only lends suspicion to their general foreign policy agenda. Case in point, in late 2004 it was reported in a Swedish independent (The Local) that the now deceased Anna Lindh, back in 2001, in collaboration with the CIA extradited two Egyptian nationals back to Egypt who were summarily tortured shortly thereafter.

The Local quotes its source thus: “She [Anna Lindh] stepped aside to consult her nearest bosses and discuss the issue. It took maybe half a minute until she confirmed that they would accept the [CIA] offer.”

Could it be that the Bush Administration has a list of countries that, irrespective of their human rights record, have been approved by them because of their agreement to join in the “War on Terror”? I think we know the answer to that question but my suspicions have been aroused even more in light of the Uzbekistan and Egyptian matter here in Sweden. Could it be furthermore, then, that Göran Persson’s government agreed to extradite people back to Uzbekistan on the proviso of the US? Could it be that Sweden and a host of other countries are collaborating in this way in order to expedite the so-called “War on Terror”? The pot thickens and the boundaries between dictatorships and democracies blur ever more.

Mike Walls
May 18, 2005

Galloway media

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

Images and links for hearing media and transcript


George Galloway and Norm Coleman on May 17

Link to Real Media of entire testimony (47 minutes)

Transcript of Galloway’s full statement

PBS Newshour report on May 17

QUERY TO READERS: If anyone knows of a source for the document Galloway distributed to the committee, please post a comment or sent email. This document supposedly contains a litany of Galloway’s opposition to the actions of the Saddam Hussein regime over the years, beginning prior to the Gulf War — during the time the US and the UK were busily insuring armament of the regime. I am searching for this thing online, but I have not found it yet. Of course there was no interest in this from the mainstream media, who preferred to run this picture (see PBS link):


Galloway and Saddam, 1994

But they did not include this side-by-side, like I will here:


Rummy and Saddam, 1983

If you’re in London, see “John Pilger joins George Galloway, Mark Serwotka, (PCS general secretary – personal capacity), Lindsey German, Abdul Khaliq Mian, Salma Yaqoob, John Rees and others.

The rally will welcome George’s re-entry to parliament and will come one day after George goes before the witch-hunting Senate Sub-Committee to refute the ridiculous charges they have brought against him.”


Get over there right now! The rally starts within the hour!