Saturday, December 9, 2006

Israeli soldiers kill child with toy gun

Friday, December 08, 2006 21:01 IST

BETHLEHEM: A Palestinian child playing with a plastic rifle was shot and wounded on Friday by Israeli soldiers near Bethlehem in the West Bank, medical and security sources said.

Miras al-Azza, 12, was shot in the belly when Israeli soldiers opened fire on a group of children playing with a plastic rifle in the Aydah refugee camp.

The soldiers fired from a military position at the camp's entrance, the sources added.

The Israeli army had no immediate comment.

Dare to be disobedient

24 hours in a police cell is a price worth paying to give voice to the majority who don't want Trident

Hilary Wainwright
Saturday December 9, 2006
The Guardian

'We don't do pillows ... but I could get you an extra blanket." Kind though she was, the night officer at Clydebank police station couldn't turn a stone-floored police cell into a cosy bed and breakfast. I'd been driven back to Glasgow after my arrest during a protest at the Faslane nuclear base. The officer did stretch the rules: by the end of my 24-hour stay the satirically labelled "Fastasleep" prison mat was strewn with books, despite the regulation about one item of reading matter. Perhaps it was a relief, after nights of aggressive drunks, to face timorous requests for "the notebook at the top of my rucksack" or my toothbrush. Or perhaps she was influenced by the fact that many of her friends and family sympathise with the protesters. Even before recent talk of replacing Trident, 70% of Scottish people wanted it scrapped. The percentage supporting its replacement will soon be down to single figures.

Within the police force there is respect for the nonviolent actions of people such as Angie Zelter, a past saboteur of Hawk jets bound for East Timor and now one of the organisers of Faslane 365 - whose appeal for people to join its year-long blockade brought me up from Manchester. Angie was one of the people arrested with me. A CID officer asked to be let into her cell to shake her hand to show his respect for the Hawk action. Now Angie is midwife to a movement to stop up to £40bn being spent on weapons whose threatened use (the basis of nuclear deterrence) has been declared illegal by the international court of justice. It would take a fraction of the Trident money to find jobs for the people around Loch Lomond whose economy depends on the incongruous combination of one of Britain's most beautiful tourist spots and the nuclear base.

It was as clear as the glaring light of my police cell that nothing within the political system was going to change the government's decision. Democracy in the Labour party has all but been destroyed by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and sickening opportunism from many who should know better. The response of the Lib Dems has been pathetic.

Civil disobedience is the only way to give voice to the majority of people who want the UK to champion, not undermine, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and who want the billions being sunk in the Clyde to be spent on ending the poverty that feeds violent conflict. Civil disobedience is not an end in itself. It is leading to pressure on the Scottish parliament to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons. With the SNP strongly against these arms and likely to become the majority party at Holyrood in May, the fact that defence is not among the devolved powers is not going to protect Trident. The Scottish parliament can use its transport and environment powers to make the base unworkable, and/or it can appeal to the international laws - now part of Scottish as well as English law - that make nuclear deterrence illegal.

Civil disobedience is infectious. On January 8 Scottish parliamentarians who will join the blockade. Clerics too have got their act together, including canons close to the Archbishop of Canterbury. You don't have to be an Angie Zelter. And if you get locked up you should be the proud recipient of a letter - "the evidence is sufficient to justify my bringing you before the court of this criminal charge (of breach of the peace) ... I have decided not to take such proceeding" - from a wise procurator fiscal who knows that when the law moves away from moral common sense, it loses its legitimacy and people lose faith in the institutions trying to implement it.

· For more information on the Faslane blockade see

· Hilary Wainwright is co-editor of Red Pepper

Why religious anti-Zionism endures

How did Israelis observe November 29 - known in Israel as kaf-tet benovember? Most Jews were largely oblivious to the milestone, while some Arabs marked it with sadness.

November 29, 1947 was when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab entities - a decision hailed by many, though not all, Jews and bewailed by Arabs. While the Arabs rejected the establishment of a Jewish state anywhere in Palestine, the Zionists accepted the decision.

One key Jewish group that did not join with the Zionists were the ultra-Orthodox. I recently spoke with Yakov Rabkin, author of A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism, about their opposition to the creation of Israel.

Why remember 'kaf-tet benovember'?

Thirty-three UN members voted yes to the creation of a Jewish state; 13 objected, including the Arab inhabitants of the region. Their hostility to the Zionist project has not subsided in spite of the recognition of Israel by several Arab states. What is less known is that many of Mandatory Palestine's ultra-Orthodox Jews objected to the Zionist project even more resolutely, and their opposition has also refused to go away.

Inspired by major Jewish thinkers of the past century, they warned that a separate state for the Jews, far from becoming a safe haven, would provoke unprecedented hatred among the Arabs. Several haredi leaders had made their opinion known to the United Nations, and some had asked for protection from Zionist rule. This is why prime minister David Ben-Gurion had to placate at least some of the ultra-Orthodox Jews with concessions [IDF exemption, for instance] that keep irritating secular Israelis.

However, neither these concessions, nor the Partition Resolution and the establishment of the State of Israel would undermine the theological bases of Judaic opposition to Zionism.

How did you get interested in this?

During a sabbatical year in Jerusalem I attended a fascinating seminar on haredi anti-Zionist thought. The spectrum runs from the vociferous, headline-grabbing Neturei Karta, who join Muslim anti-Israel demonstrations, to the wait-and-see quietism of the garden-variety contemporary haredi.

In order to better understand religious Zionism, the seminar introduced us to basic texts of Jewish anti-Zionism, including the well-known Va-Yoel Moshe by Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar.

Practically all the participants in the seminar were graduates of Merkaz Harav, an important national religious yeshiva, and were committed Zionists; some had chosen to live in Hebron and other places beyond the 1967 armistice lines. At the same time, they were intellectually curious and respectful of the Jewish tradition, which warns us not to go against the nations of the world to establish a presence in the Land of Israel.

Where would you place yourself on the spectrum of observant Jews?

I want to do the will of the Creator and comply with His expectations and commandments. I don't fear contemporary culture, but am selective in embracing it. There are films, songs and novels that have become part of my life, but there are others I wouldn't dare touch.

My children have noticed that I am trying to see everything through the prism of the Torah. In many aspects I am close to the haredim, in others to the modern Orthodox. I usually pray with the Sephardim, who have less-pronounced ideological divisions among them.

Are you not afraid this book will play into the hands of anti-Semites?

Quite the opposite seems to be happening. "Your book is a hymn to Judaism" wrote a non-Jewish reader from France. Another from Montreal wrote that the book "improves his view of the Jews and of Judaism." A Belgian cardinal believes that my book "removes the fuse from the anti-Jewish violence in Europe."

I begin my work by asking: "How can the hassidic children of Antwerp or London - victims of terrorism - be held responsible for the actions of Israeli soldiers in Jenin or Ramallah?"

Shedding light on crucial distinctions between Judaism and Zionism, my book explains the nature and historical circumstances of what the founders of Zionism called "the Zionist revolution."

It is by recognizing this revolution - which created a
new national consciousness, gave millions of Jews a new language and moved them to another part of the world - that one can understand why most of the spiritual and intellectual custodians of the Jewish tradition opposed it.

This opposition to Zionism in the name of the Torah may exist as long as the Zionist enterprise itself. Even if many haredim today feel a certain sense of identification with the Zionist world view, that identification remains emotive and circumstantial: it lacks a theological basis. For them, the anti-Zionist ideas presented in my book have lost none of their authority. In the haredi context, it would be difficult to reject, or even to attenuate the authority of a Hafetz Haim or a Brisker Rov; of a Satmar Rebbe or a Lubavitcher Rebbe, all of whom categorically rejected the Zionist world view.

What has Zionism done to Jewishness?

Zionism and the State of Israel have transformed what it means to be a Jew. As I wrote, "Pious Jews were quick to take a stand against Zionism for one simple reason: Most of them saw in it a catalyst for the deliberate rejection of Judaism." Jewish religious opposition to Zionism has refused to vanish.

Would you say the recent Israeli Supreme Court decision to recognize homosexual marriages performed abroad is an example of transforming what it means to be a Jew, and of the rejection of Judaism?

There are religious and non-religious Zionists who say that decisions like this one have made them think twice about their Zionism. From my perspective, this decision relates to the civil status of the citizens of Israel, but has nothing to do with what it means to be a Jew.

It is important to distinguish between the concepts of "Jew" and "Israeli." Those who confuse the two only confirm the prescience of the rabbis denouncing Zionism a century ago: The State of Israel has indeed replaced the Torah as the main pillar of identity for many Jews, both in Israel and elsewhere. The transformation of a community that for millennia was bound together by a commitment to the Torah into an ethnic nation defined by a state is one reason for the enduring Judaic opposition to Zionism.

The hassidic (and haredi) Satmar movement has been a vanguard force against Zionism, hasn't it?

Satmar's opposition is based largely on the writings of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the late Satmar rebbe and a major Jewish thinker of the last century. His writings are rational and grounded in mainstream Jewish sources. Within the framework of the Jewish tradition it is easy to grasp this sort of rationality.

Like many other haredim, the Satmar hassidim object to the fact that it is a human initiative and not obedience to Divine Providence that has brought millions of Jews to the Land of Israel. They claim the persistent dangers facing Israel's Jews stem from the revolutionary nature of the Zionist project, which stripped the Jew of Torah and mitzvot.

Tel Aviv University philosopher Joseph Agassi, neither Orthodox nor anti-Zionist, argues that "to recognize the legitimacy of religious anti-Zionism is crucial for an honest debate about Israel and Zionism - which remains stifled since the Zionists, both Jewish and Christian, deny all legitimacy to anti-Zionism."

My hope is to open this debate. We need to realize why the idea of a separate state of the Jews has provoked so much opposition that endures to this day. Those who hide their past can only endanger their future.

The interviewer is a Netanya translator and is a graduate of Stanford University and the Technion, Haifa.

Standing Up for Jimmy Carter's Use of the Word 'Apartheid'

the new york observer

Jimmy Carter's use of the word "apartheid" in the title of his new book has generated a lot of controversy—the Washington Post reporting that a Middle East scholar has angrily resigned his affiliation with the Carter Center over Carter's book. The Democratic Party has of course banished Carter over the word, and, inevitably, Dershowitz has castigated the gentlemanly old prez.

The word is obviously loaded, as it echoes the South African regime that oppressed blacks, denying them many rights. Apartheid literally means separateness; and it's worth pointing out that the Israelis themselves call their forbidding wall, which goes well east of the Green Line, sometimes encircling Palestinian villages, a "separation fence." More importantly, if you've visited the Occupied Territories, apartheid seems a fair description of the isolation and abuse the Palestinians experience, and the denial of so many rights, including the freedom to move about, the freedom to seek employment. In this interview on Youtube, you can watch Avichai Sharon of Breaking the Silence describe how as an IDF soldier he used to confiscate Palestinians' cars for minor infractions and seize their keys and never return them, simply forget about them. There was a box of keys at his headquarters; no one had bothered to give them back. Jimmy Carter and a South African church leaderI met in Hebron both say that the Israeli treatment of Palestinians is in some ways "worse" than apartheid.

Apartheid is now a general term (with of course a South African shadow). According to the U.N.'s description, it means denying a subject group of different ethnicity "basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognised trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association."

The journalists who are now piping the Israel lobby's objections should visit the Occupied Territories and report for themselves on the real conditions of the Palestinians.

Posted by Phil on December 7, 2006 10:58 AM |

FILE UNDER: Journalism, U.S. Policy in the Mideast

Get Feith and Exit Iraq without Bush

09/12/2006 12:13:44 ã

By Ahmed Amr*

"They say that the killings and kidnappings are being carried out by men in police uniforms and with police vehicles but everybody in Baghdad knows that the killers and kidnappers are real policemen." Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (quoted by Patrick Cockburn, The Independent 11/26/2006)

Paul Bremer to NewsWeek (2/9/2004}: "The two most popular things I've done since I've been here are the de-Baathication decree … and the disbanding of the Army."

Paul Bremer to USA TODAY four months later (6/17/2004}: "People say I disbanded the army. There was no army to disband. It didn't exist. It wasn't here."

As the sectarian bloodletting in Iraq intensifies, it is easy to lose track of the American policies that unleashed the carnage.

Even the anti-war movement seems to have accepted the conventional wisdom that the insurgency and the Shiite death squads attired in police uniforms were unfortunate and unpredictable byproducts of a noble neo-con project to establish a progressive western oriented state in a turbulent region.

The greatest acts of deception in this war of choice were not the WMD allegations or the canard that Saddam was behind the atrocities of 9/11. The bigger lie is that the United States was on an idealistic expedition to fight tyranny and spread the gospel of democracy.

Bringing on the insurgency

One can trace the emergence of the insurgency to Emperor Paul Bremer's arrival in Baghdad on May 12, 2003. The American pro-consul wasted no time in issuing his first two decrees - De-Baathification and disbanding the Iraqi army. Four days after arriving in Iraq, Bremer fired 30,000 senior Baath Party officials from the government. A few days later, he dissolved the army, putting more than 400,000 Iraqi officers and soldiers out on the street without pensions.

The conventional wisdom is that Bremer 'made a mistake' that eventually led to the birth of the insurgency in the Sunni Triangle. The pro-consul's first two edicts were correctly perceived as a frontal assault against the Sunni Arab minority and the response was predictable.

Bremer's marching orders came straight from Douglas Feith - the neo-con Pentagon wizard appointed by Rumsfeld to redesign post-war Iraq after sidelining Collin Powell and the State Department. The enduring myth that the United States had no post-war plan is bunk. The State Department's legion of experts spent months meticulously putting together reconstruction plans that were shelved because the authors were deemed to be 'Arabists.' The neo-con dictionary definition of an Arabist is a seasoned American diplomat with first hand experience in the Middle East who can't pass the pro-Israeli litmus test.

For the record, Douglas Feith was the same neo-con operative tasked with setting up the pre-war WMD intelligence manufacturing plant known as the Office of Special Plans. The mission of this rogue Pentagon 'intelligence' unit was to sideline the CIA and fabricate tall tales that eventually ended up as leaks on the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post - courtesy of Judith Miller and other Likudnik spin meisters.

Feith motivated by Likudnik faith

Feith's fingerprints are all over the Iraqi debacle. For all his troubles, General Tommy Franks nominated Feith as "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth."

In hindsight, it appears that General Franks overlooked Feith's biographical data. Had Franks taken the time to assess Feith's Likudnik affiliations - he might have reached an entirely different conclusion. If anything, Feith achieved a level of success beyond his wildest neo-con fantasies.

For background information on Feith, General Franks should have consulted Jim Lobe - a respected expert on the neo-conservative cabal that hijacked American foriegn policy after 9/11. One of Lobe's articles dating back to November 3, 2003 is a must read. "Loss of Feith in Douglas" sheds quite a bit of light on Feith's Likudnik Bona Fides. The article amounts to a detailed resume of the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Lobe paints a picture of a committed Zionist who can only be described as a radical Israel Firster with political views that conform to the extreme right of the Israeli political spectrum.

Douglas Feith's Likudnik Bona Fides

What follows are some of the highlights from the Jim Lobe's article which documented Feith's long career as a Netenyahu Likudnik.

"A protege of Richard Perle, the former chairman of Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board (DPB) who stands at the center of the neo-conservative foreign policy network in Washington, Feith has long opposed territorial compromise by Israel. He was an outspoken foe of the Oslo process and even the Camp David peace agreement mediated by former president Jimmy Carter between Egypt and Israel. His former law partner, L Marc Zell, is a spokesman for the Jewish settlers' movement on the occupied West Bank."

"Also like Perle, Feith has long taken a strong interest in Israel and its security. His father, Dalck Feith, a philanthropist and major Republican contributor from Philadelphia, was active in the militantly Zionist youth movement Betar, the predecessor of Israel's Likud Party, in Poland before World War Two."

"Both father and son have been honored by the Zionist Organization of America, which, unlike other mainstream Jewish groups in the US, has consistently supported Likud positions and the settlement movement in the occupied territories and actively courted the Christian Right."

"Feith also served with Perle on the board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a think tank that promotes military and strategic ties between the US and Israel."

"In 1996, he participated in a study group chaired by Perle and sponsored by a right-wing Jerusalem-based think tank that produced a report calling for incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build a strategic alliance with Turkey, Jordan and a new government in Iraq that would transform the balance of power in the Middle East in such a way that Israel could decisively resist pressure to trade "land for peace" with the Palestinians or Syria."

"In 1997, he published a lengthy article, "A Strategy for Israel", published in Commentary magazine, where Feith argued that Israel should repudiate the Oslo accords and move to re-occupy those parts of the West Bank and Gaza that had been transferred to the Palestinian Authority."

" Two years later, he and Perle signed an open letter to then-president Bill Clinton calling for Washington to work with Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to oust Saddam Hussein."

"In May 2000, they signed a report calling for the US to be prepared to attack the Syria militarily unless Damascus failed to withdraw its troops from Lebanon."

Feith was faithful to his country - Israel

Feith's policy decisions cannot be divorced from his ideology. And his motives can only be deciphered in light of his long history as an agitator for the Israeli Lobby. Even the blind should be able to recognize Douglas Feith for what he is - a disciplined and committed Likudnik operative. In evaluating Feith's edicts - one has to think of the desired objectives of his mentors in Tel Aviv. Feith wanted what his country wanted. And his country was Israel.

Why the invasion of Iraq was good for Israel

And what exactly did Israel want? Israel would like nothing more than to see Iraq partitioned. It has a long history of supporting Kurdish separatists - if only the Iraqi variety. In deference to its strategic alliances with Ankara, Tel Aviv has an entirely different attitude towards Turkey's Kurdish rebels.

Sabotaging the Arab nationalist movement has always been a strategic goal of Zionism. For Feith's Israeli mentors, the outbreak of civil war and chaos in Iraq or any other Arab country is considered a good thing. The Likudnik obsession with the Baath party is rooted in Israel's fear of a resurgence of pro-Palestinian pan-Arab nationalism. Historically, the pan-Arabists gave the Palestinians safe havens in addition to financial, material and diplomatic support.

But that was history. In the real world, pan-Arabism continues to endure only in the minds of a few bureaucrats at the Arab League. Amr Mousa will probably go down in history as the last of the genuine pan-Arab Mohicans.

The Camp David Accord and Egypt's separate peace has already led to the disappearance of Nasserism from the political map of the region. That left Baghdad and Damascus as the last outposts of the pan-Arab nationalism.

In the case of Iraq, Saddam's token support for the Palestinians was calculated to shore up his regime's domestic legitimacy. Regardless, that was enough to put him on the Likudnik hit list. Old Israeli habits die hard and so it is that Tel Aviv continues to fight the ghost of a movement that no longer exists.

Against the backdrop of the Iraq war, Sharon and Olmert were granted ample space and time to systematically pulverize the Palestinians into slave-like submission. The goal was to get their leadership to accept an 'independent state' in Gaza and a few walled in mini-bantustans in the West Bank.

The conduct of American occupation troops in Iraq legitimized Israeli tactics. The use of torture, loose rules of engagement, scorched earth policies, collective punishment and the branding of insurgents as common criminals and terrorists were all Israeli standard operating procedures.

Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz played a pivotal role in selling these policies to the Pentagon. The neo-con insiders and their Likudnik collaborators in the mass media wanted to market the notion that America's occupation of Iraq and Israel's repression of the Palestinians were noble campaigns by two allies fighting in the same trench against a common enemy - the irrational demonic forces of 'Islamic terror.' The Palestinians were not fighting for their liberty - they were just acting out because they subscribed to a culture that breeds violence. In the same vein, Iraqi insurgents were not resisting the occupation of their country by foreign armies. They were just one huge Al-Qaeda cell operated by remote control from a cave in Afghanistan.

Neo-cons recycle old Israeli blue prints

Historical analogies are not always useful. But if one were to search for a conflict that had the same blue print as the war in Iraq and ended up with pretty much the same results - it would be the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Both invasions were unprovoked unilateral acts of aggression. The pipe dream in Lebanon was that Israel would empower the Shiites in the south, 'liberate' them from the PLO and install a pro-Israeli government under Bashir Gemayel - the Philangist warlord. Eighteen years later, the Israelis withdrew in the middle of the night after losing a war of attrition against Hezbollah - an Iranian backed Shiite resistance movement that was created to resist Israeli occupation.

The thing about Likudniks is that they are intellectually inflexible ideologues mired in a fantasy world with doctored history and delusional expectations. If at first they don't succeed in Lebanon, they roll out the same worn out blue prints in Iraq two decades later and repeat the fiasco - this time with American blood and American treasure. And so it was that Feith and Wolfowitz set out on a long cakewalk in Mesopotamia to 'liberate' the Shia and Kurds and install Ahmed Chalabi as the leader of a pro-Israeli American client state in Baghdad.

Early rumors of government death squads

With the growing insurgency, Rumsfeld's initial assessment that the rebels were just a bunch of 'dead-enders' was discredited. The Bush administration and the neo-con priesthood scrambled to deal with the new realities. Writing in the New York Times (Nov. 16, 2003), Max Boot openly advocated the use of assassination teams modeled after the CIA's Phoenix project in Vietnam.

"We can still learn important lessons from that earlier war about how to deal with the insurgency. What proved most effective in Vietnam were not large conventional operations but targeted counterinsurgency programs. Four - known as CAP, Cords, Kit Carson Scouts and Phoenix - were particularly effective."

"Phoenix was a joint C.I.A.-South Vietnam effort to identify and eradicate Vietcong cadres in villages. Critics later charged the program with carrying out assassinations, and even William Colby acknowledged there were "excesses." Nevertheless, far more cadres were captured (33,000) or induced to defect under Phoenix (22,000) than were killed (26,000)."
"There is little doubt that if the United States had placed more emphasis on such programs, instead of the army's conventional strategy, it would have fared better in Vietnam."

Max Boot is no ordinary pundit - he is a certifiable neo-con who hangs his hat at the influential Council of Foreign Relations - one of the think tanks that marketed the war. It wasn't long before journalist Seymour Hersh was revealing that U.S. Army Special Forces were conducting "pre-emptive man hunting operations" targeted at former Ba'thists and other civilians suspected of supporting the insurgency.

On January 5, 2004, Julian Coman of the Telegraph filed the following report from Washington:

Nine months after the end of Saddam Hussein's regime and his feared intelligence force, Iraq is to get a secret police force again - courtesy of Washington.

The Bush Administration will fund the agency in its latest bid to root out the Baathist loyalists behind the insurgency in parts of Iraq. The force will cost up to $US3 billion ($A4 billion) over the next three years.

Its ranks will comprise Iraqi exile groups, Kurdish and Shiite forces - and former agents who are now working for the Americans. CIA officers in Baghdad will play a leading role in directing their operations.

A former US intelligence officer said: "If successfully set up, the group would work in tandem with American forces but would have its own structure and relative independence. It could be expected to be fairly ruthless in dealing with the remnants of Saddam."

Although officially banned by the ruling Coalition Provisional Authority, militia groups are already patrolling in Iraq, resulting in an increasing death toll of top former Ba'thists.

The US hopes to organize the various groups into one force with the local knowledge, motivation and authority to hunt down resistance fighters. According to Washington, the new agency could number 10,000. Initially, salaries will be paid by the CIA, which has 275 officers in Iraq. The force is intended to have a crucial role in post-Saddam Iraq.

"The presence of a powerful secret police ... will mean that the new Iraqi political regime will not stray outside the parameters that the US wants to set," said John Pike, an expert on classified military budgets at the Global Security organization. "To begin with, the new Iraqi government will reign but not rule."

Inviting SCIRI's Death Squads to the Interior Ministry

The death squads began infiltrating the security forces right under the eyes of Bremer and Feith. Thousands of hard core disciples of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) in Iraq were ushered into the ranks of the Iraqi police and Special Forces. Many of their cadres had been trained and indoctrinated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Now, why would Feith set into motion an irreversible process that basically handed the security apparatus to Tehran's allies? Well, because, at the time, the neo-con crystal ball predicted a spontaneous Iranian uprising that would convert Iran into a carbon copy of Turkey - a country that has cordial relations with Tel Aviv. Apparently, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad hadn't shown up on Feith's radar screen.

It didn't take long for SCIRI's militias - the Badr brigades - to make their presence felt on the streets of Iraq. On Feb 3, 2004, David Enders of the Asia Times reported that "the police are increasingly reliant on other local groups to help them do their jobs. "The Badr troops often make arrests for us," said Colonel Karim Hussein "They are training to help us do our jobs."

The Road to Civil War

Two years ago, Ayatollah Abdelaziz al-Hakim, SCIRI's leader, publicly declared his intent to take over the police forces. James Hider of the London Times reported on this new development on January 12, 2005.

"An Iranian-backed Ayatollah tipped to become Iraq's first elected leader in decades said yesterday that he would carry out a purge of Iraq's intelligence and security structures if his party wins power. Asked if he planned a sweeping purge of the intelligence and security forces that the Americans built up piecemeal after the war, the Ayatollah, who once commanded Sciri's 10,000-strong militia, said: "For sure. If we want to improve the security situation. It's natural and it's one of our priorities." In their place, he said he would install "loyal Iraqis and the believers (in God), and those who believe in the process of change in Iraq."

"If he forms the government, that will be a disaster. He'll purge the army, purge the police and put his own men in it," said Ghassan al-Atiyyah, a secular Shia commentator, who is trying to build bridges with the Sunni community and defuse the uprising. "This is the road to civil war."

A strange thing happened when SCIRI emerged as the largest party in the Shia coalition that won the transitional government elections. Ayatollah Abdelaziz al-Hakim didn't emerge as the Prime Minister. That position went to Ibrahim Jaafari of the Daawa Party. Al-Hakim had his sights on a much more powerful position - the interior ministry. Sure enough, one of his aides - Bayan Jabr - was appointed as Interior Minister in April 2005.

Bayan Jabr wasted no time in making his mark. As Iraq's senior police officer - he started converting the ministry into the official residence of the death squads. By May, he had launched the purge promised by Al-Hakim.

"In May 2005, Shiite militia groups in Iraq began depositing corpses into the dumps of Baghdad. The victims, overwhelmingly Sunni, were typically handcuffed, their corpses showing signs of torture - broken skulls, burn marks, electric drill holes; by that October, the death toll attributed to such groups had reached 500." (Harper's Magazine - 08/06/2006.)

Jabr is the kind of thug who likes to get his hands dirty. The SCIRI operative who continues to serve as finance minister in Maliki's cabinet was personally involved in death squad activities.

A year ago, Solomon Moore of the Los Angeles Times painted a pretty graphic picture of the Shiite death squads in the Iraqi police force (11/29/2005). It was a long feature that gave a vivid and disturbing account of the reign of terror orchestrated by the militia infested Baghdad security forces. But perhaps the most alarming thing about the article was the allegation that Jabr had a direct hand in drawing up death lists.

"This month, U.S. forces raided a secret Interior Ministry detention facility in southern Baghdad operated by police intelligence officials linked to the Badr Brigade, a Shiite militia that has long-standing ties to Iran and to Iraq's leading Shiite political party. Inmates compiled a handwritten list of 18 detainees at the bunker who were allegedly tortured to death while in custody. The list was authenticated by a U.S. official and given to Justice Ministry authorities for investigation. It was later provided to The Times. The U.S. military is investigating whether police officers who worked at the secret prison were trained by American interrogation experts. An Aug. 18 police operations report addressed to Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who has ties to the Badr militia, listed the names of 14 Sunni Arab men arrested during a predawn sweep in the Baghdad neighborhood of Iskaan. Six weeks later, their bodies were discovered near the Iranian border, badly decomposed. All of the corpses showed signs of torture, and each still wore handcuffs and had been shot three times in the back of the head, Baghdad morgue officials said."

Out Sourcing Torture to Bayan Jabr and SCIRI

After Abu Ghraib, the Bush administration apparently decided to outsource torture to Bayan Jabr's goons. It was a natural extension of the administrations 'rendition' policies.

Jeffrey Fleishman filed this report on June 19, 2005. "The public war on the Iraqi insurgency has led to an atmosphere of hidden brutalities, including abuse and torture, carried out against detainees by the nation's special security forces, according to defense lawyers, international organizations and Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights.

Up to 60% of the estimated 12,000 detainees in the country's prisons and military compounds face intimidation, beatings or torture that leads to broken bones and sometimes death, said Saad Sultan, head of a board overseeing the treatment of prisoners at the Human Rights Ministry. He added that police and security forces attached to the Interior Ministry are responsible for most abuses.

The units have used tactics reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's secret intelligence squads, according to the ministry and independent human rights groups and lawyers, who have cataloged abuses.

"We've documented a lot of torture cases," said Sultan, whose committee is pushing for wider access to Iraqi-run prisons across the nation. "There are beatings, punching, electric shocks to the body, including sensitive areas, hanging prisoners upside down and beating them and dragging them on the ground…. Many police officers come from a culture of torture from their experiences over the last 35 years. Most of them worked during Saddam's regime." (The Times 6/19/2005)

New and Improved Canards

Now that we have put behind us the WMD canards and Iraq's non-existent links to the atrocities of 9/11 - the Bush administration and its mass media collaborators are marketing new and improved lies.

The new tall tale is that we went to Iraq on a noble mission to spread the blessings of democracy in the region. And that the democratically elected Prime Minister - Nouri Al-Maliki - is being subverted by rouge death squads and the insurgents. There is only one problem with this scenario - Maliki is the defacto leader of the death squads. He's quite happy to have the Marines engaging the insurgents in Ramadi while his security forces and allied militias go about the nasty business of ethnically cleansing Baghdad.

Fully two years ago, there was more than enough evidence to suggest that the Bush administration was complicit in establishing and nurturing death squads. Long after the death squads appeared on the scene - outfitted in their official issue police uniforms - American advisers continued to equip, train and provide logistical support to the Iranian trained militants who had infiltrated the security forces.

It's hard to imagine that the folks in the Pentagon and the CIA failed to notice the open collaboration of the Iraqi security forces with the death squads. The history of this dark chapter in the American occupation of Iraq is slowly coming to light thanks to folks like Seymour Hersch and Kim Sengupta. While Hersch's initial accounts were met by denial, The Pentagon no longer bothers disputing articles like one by Sengupta that appeared in The Independent on 10/31/2006.

"This is a shadowy struggle, which involves tortured prisoners huddled in dungeons, murder victims mutilated with knives and electric drills, and distraught families searching for relations who have been "disappeared." Iraq's savage sectarian war is now regarded as a greater obstacle to any semblance of peace returning than the insurgency. Yet, ironically, the death squads are the result of US policy. At the beginning of last year, with no end to the Sunni insurgency in sight, the Pentagon was reported to have decided to train Shia and Kurdish fighters to carry out "irregular missions." The policy, exposed in the US media, was called the "Salvador Option" after the American-backed counter-insurgency in Latin America more than 20 years ago, which led to 70,000 deaths and countless instances of human rights abuse."

The death squads are an instrument. The goal is partition.

Israel and its neo-con operatives at the Pentagon were not the only forces working towards partition. The Kurds wanted it and Al-Hakim and SCIRI are sparing no effort to achieve the same goal.

But there was always one major obstacle that stood in the way of partition. It was called Baghdad. The Iraqi capital is home to one of every four Iraqis. Its seven million residents are a mix of Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and others. Before the war, it was a secular city where Shiites and Sunnis lived in relative harmony as evidenced by the high percentage of mixed marriages and mixed neighborhoods. It was the kind of place where it was considered poor manners to ask another person's sect.

To partition Iraq - one must first partition Baghdad. What appears to be random tit-for-tat violence is actually part of a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing. The greatest mass migration in the modern history of the Middle East is underway. Over a million Iraqis have left the countries to seek refuge in Jordan, Syria and elsewhere. They include a high percentage of the crème de la crème of Iraq's professional class.

According to the United Nations, one hundred thousands Iraqi refugees are abandoning the country every month. A disproportionate number are Iraqi Sunnis and Iraqi Christians.

But there is another great exodus going on - a million plus Iraqis have been internally displaced. In Baghdad, the Sunnis are seeking safe haven west of the Tigris and the Shiites are drifting to the east bank of the river. Sadr City is operating as an independent theocracy under the rule of the Al Mahdi army. Other mixed cities like Kirkuk, Mosul and Baqouba are also experiencing ethnic cleansing campaigns.

The erosion of American influence in Iraq

As the Iraqi civil war has evolved, the ability of the Bush administration to control the course of events has steadily eroded. That was probably the major reason for going through the motions of 'restoring sovereignty' to the Iraqi government. By discarding the "occupation" label - the United States absolved itself of the legal obligation to provide security for the citizens of its Iraqi colony.

The United States military began withdrawing from Iraq two years ago. The majority of American troops never leave their fortified bases. And the primary mission of the troops in Iraq is force protection. Bush and Rumsfeld have publicly declared that they have no intention of intervening in a civil war that they refuse to acknowledge even exists.

So why continue deploying 150,000 military personnel at a cost of two billion dollars a week? Because Bush and his collaborators in both parties can't figure a face saving way to reach the exit door. Just today, he was still blaming all his troubles on Al Qaeda - a force that didn't exist in Iraq before the invasion.

Leaving Iraq under the control of a government run by the leaders of the same Iranian trained militias that operate the death squads also poses a challenge. Partition or no partition - Iran will emerge as the dominant force in the region.

The Gulf monarchs who actively backed and facilitated the neo-con inspired invasion are visibly shaken by the results of their folly. No one has ever accused the Machiavellian custodians of the oil plantations of being the brightest bulbs in the room.

Feith and Wolfowitz are long gone. No matter - the damage they intended to inflict on Iraq is done. They are definitely entitled to hang up the 'mission accomplished' sign. Their Prime Minister - Ehud Olmert - is obviously satisfied with the results. During his official visit to the United States on November 13th, he thanked Bush for the Mess on Potamia. "We in the Middle East have followed the American policy in Iraq for a long time, and we are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East."

Bush also had kind words for Olmert. "The whole central thrust of our discussions was based upon our understanding that we're involved in an ideological struggle between extremists and radicals versus people who just simply want to live in peace." Just a few months ago, Olmert and Bush teamed up to inflict a whole bunch of peace on Lebanon.

Exiting Iraq without Bush

Where Bush goes from here is anybody's guess. This empty shell of a man is susceptible to the last idea whispered in his ear - so long as it conforms to his shallow understanding of a fantasy world that exists only in his imagination. His ignorance and ineptitude are dwarfed only by his ego. We have an extremist in the White House who, after six years of neo-con indoctrination, is incapable of making rational judgments. The president is still immersed in delusions about leading victory parades down Pennsylvania Avenue. He is willing to expend whatever amount of blood and treasure necessary to leave Iraq in the lap of the next occupant of the White House.

The quickest way out of Iraq is impeachment. Elizabeth de la Vega has just published a book titled "United States v. George W. Bush et al." The former federal prosecutor is an expert at trying fraud cases. Read her book and you will walk away convinced that she has a closed and shut case proving that Bush and Cheney committed fraud against the American people to launch this war of choice.

After reading the book, don't put it away. Walk it down to your congressional representative and ask them for a book report. Better yet, get your book club to read the book and take your pals along for a visit to your Senator.

While you're waiting for the impeachment hearings, have the Senate intelligence committee resume its investigation of Douglas Feith. The pre-election Republican dominated committee has already blocked that probe for over a year. Now that the Democrats are in control, let's see if Hillary Clinton is interested in the truth before she invades the White House with her own hand picked team of neo-cons.

In the meantime, follow this link and see why Elizabeth de la Vega is about to rock America by blasting Bush et al out of the White House:

Bringing Bush to Court by Elizabeth de la Vega

* Ahmed Amr is the editor of

Gary Webb's Death: American Tragedy

By Robert Parry
December 9, 2006

When Americans ask me what happened to the vaunted U.S. press corps over the past three decades – in the decline from its heyday of the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers to its failure to challenge the Iraq WMD lies or to hold George W. Bush accountable – I often recall for them the story of Gary Webb.

Two years ago, on the night of Dec. 9, 2004, investigative reporter Webb – his career shattered and his life in ruins – typed out four suicide notes for his family, laid out a certificate for his cremation, put a note on the door suggesting a call to 911, and removed his father’s handgun from a box.

The 49-year-old Webb, a divorced father of three who was living alone in a rental house in Sacramento County, California, then raised the gun and shot himself in the head. The first shot was not lethal, so he fired once more.

His body was found the next day after movers who were scheduled to clear out Webb’s rental house, arrived and followed the instructions from the note on the door.

Though a personal tragedy, the story of Gary Webb’s suicide has a larger meaning for the American people who find themselves increasingly sheltered from the truth by government specialists at cover-ups and by a U.S. news media that has lost its way.

Webb’s death had its roots in his fateful decision eight years earlier to write a three-part series for the San Jose Mercury News that challenged a potent conventional wisdom shared by the elite U.S. news organizations – that one of the most shocking scandals of the 1980s just couldn’t have been true.

Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series, published in August 1996, revived the story of how the Reagan administration in the 1980s had tolerated and protected cocaine smuggling by its client army of Nicaraguan rebels known as the contras.

Though substantial evidence of these crimes had surfaced in the mid-1980s (initially in an article that Brian Barger and I wrote for the Associated Press in December 1985 and later at hearings conducted by Sen. John Kerry), the major news outlets had bent to pressure from the Reagan administration and refused to take the disclosures seriously.

Reflecting the dominant attitude toward Kerry and his work on the contra-cocaine scandal, Newsweek even dubbed the Massachusetts senator a “randy conspiracy buff.” [For details, see’s “Kerry’s Contra-Cocaine Chapter.”]

Thus, the ugly reality of the contra-cocaine scandal was left in that netherworld of uncertainty, largely proven with documents and testimony but never accepted by Official Washington, including its premier news organizations, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.

But Webb’s series thrust the scandal back into prominence by connecting the contra-cocaine trafficking to the crack epidemic that had ravaged Los Angeles and other American cities in the 1980s. For that reason, African-American communities were up in arms as were their elected representatives.

So, the “Dark Alliance” series offered a unique opportunity for the major news outlets to finally give the contra-cocaine scandal the attention it deserved.

Media Resistance

But that would have required some painful self-criticism among Washington journalists whose careers had advanced in part because they had avoided retaliation from aggressive Reagan supporters who had made an art of punishing out-of-step reporters for pursuing controversies like the contra-cocaine scandal.

Also, by the mid-1990s, a powerful right-wing news media had taken shape and was in no mood to accept the notion that President Ronald Reagan’s beloved contras were little more than common criminals. That recognition would have cast a shadow over the Reagan Legacy, which the Right was busy elevating into mythic status.

There was the turf issue, too. Since Webb’s stories coincided with the emergence of the Internet as an alternate source for news and the San Jose Mercury News was at the center of Silicon Valley, the big newspapers saw a threat to their historic dominance as the nation’s gatekeepers for what information should be taken seriously.

Plus, the major media’s focus in the mid-1990s was on scandals swirling around Bill Clinton, such as some firings at the White House Travel Office and convoluted questions about his old Whitewater real-estate deal.

In other words, there was little appetite to revisit scandals from the Reagan years and there was strong motive to disparage what Webb had written.

It fell to Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s right-wing Washington Times to begin the counterattack. The Washington Times turned to some ex-CIA officials, who had participated in the contra war, to refute the drug charges.

But – in a pattern that would repeat itself over the next decade – the Washington Post and other mainstream newspapers quickly lined up behind the right-wing press. On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published a front-page article knocking down Webb’s story.

The Post’s approach was twofold: first, it presented the contra-cocaine allegations as old news – “even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,” the Post reported – and second, the Post minimized the importance of the one contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted – that it had not “played a major role in the emergence of crack.”

A Post side-bar story dismissed African-Americans as prone to “conspiracy fears.”

Soon, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times joined in the piling on against Gary Webb. The big newspapers made much of the CIA’s internal reviews in 1987 and 1988 that supposedly cleared the spy agency of a role in contra-cocaine smuggling.

But the CIA’s decade-old cover-up began to weaken on Oct. 24, 1996, when CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz conceded before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days, the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.

Nevertheless, Webb was becoming the target of outright media ridicule. Influential Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocked Webb for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility that the contra war was primarily a business to its participants.

“Oliver Stone, check your voice mail,” Kurtz chortled. [Washington Post, Oct. 28, 1996]

Webb’s suspicion was not unfounded, however. Indeed, White House aide Oliver North’s emissary Rob Owen had made the same point a decade earlier, in a March 17, 1986, message about the contra leadership.

“Few of the so-called leaders of the movement … really care about the boys in the field,” Owen wrote. “THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Capitalization in the original.]

Kurtz and other big-name journalists may have been ignorant of key facts about the contra war, but that didn’t stop them from pillorying Gary Webb. The ridicule also had a predictable effect on the executives of the Mercury News. By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos was in retreat.

On May 11, 1997, Ceppos published a front-page column saying the series “fell short of my standards.” He criticized the stories because they “strongly implied CIA knowledge” of contra connections to U.S. drug dealers who were manufacturing crack-cocaine. “We did not have proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship,” Ceppos wrote.

The big newspapers celebrated Ceppos’s retreat as vindication of their own dismissal of the contra-cocaine stories. Ceppos next pulled the plug on the Mercury News’ continuing contra-cocaine investigation and reassigned Webb to a small office in Cupertino, California, far from his family. Webb resigned the paper in disgrace.

For undercutting Webb and other reporters working on the contra investigation, Ceppos was lauded by the American Journalism Review and was given the 1997 national “Ethics in Journalism Award” by the Society of Professional Journalists. While Ceppos won raves, Webb watched his career collapse and his marriage break up.

The CIA Probe

Still, Gary Webb had set in motion internal government investigations that would bring to the surface long-hidden facts about how the Reagan administration had conducted the contra war.

The CIA’s defensive line against the contra-cocaine allegations began to break when the spy agency published Volume One of Inspector General Hitz’s findings on Jan. 29, 1998.

Despite a largely exculpatory press release, Hitz’s Volume One admitted that not only were many of Webb’s allegations true but that he actually understated the seriousness of the contra-drug crimes and the CIA’s knowledge.

Hitz acknowledged that cocaine smugglers played a significant early role in the Nicaraguan contra movement and that the CIA intervened to block an image-threatening 1984 federal investigation into a San Francisco-based drug ring with suspected ties to the contras, the so-called “Frogman Case.”

On May 7, 1998, another disclosure from the government investigation shook the CIA’s weakening defenses.

Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced into the Congressional Record a Feb. 11, 1982, letter of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department.

The letter, which had been sought by CIA Director William Casey, freed the CIA from legal requirements that it must report drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered both the Nicaraguan contras and Afghan rebels who were fighting a Soviet-supported regime in Afghanistan and were implicated in heroin trafficking.

The next breach in the defensive wall was a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general Michael Bromwich. Given the hostile climate surrounding Webb’s series, Bromwich’s report opened with criticism of Webb. But, like the CIA’s Volume One, the contents revealed new details about government wrongdoing.

According to evidence cited by Bromwich, the Reagan administration knew almost from the outset of the contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the paramilitary operation. The administration also did next to nothing to expose or stop the crimes.

Bromwich’s report revealed example after example of leads not followed, corroborated witnesses disparaged, official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged, and even the CIA facilitating the work of drug traffickers.

The report showed that the contras and their supporters ran several parallel drug-smuggling operations, not just the one at the center of Webb’s series.

The report also found that the CIA shared little of its information about contra drugs with law-enforcement agencies and on three occasions disrupted cocaine-trafficking investigations that threatened the contras.

Though depicting a more widespread contra-drug operation than Webb had understood, the Justice report also provided some important corroboration about a Nicaraguan drug smuggler, Norwin Meneses, who was a key figure in Webb’s series.

Bromwich cited U.S. government informants who supplied detailed information about Meneses’s operation and his financial assistance to the contras.

For instance, Renato Pena, a money-and-drug courier for Meneses, said that in the early 1980s, the CIA allowed the contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them and keep the proceeds.

Pena, who was the northern California representative for the CIA-backed FDN contra army, said the drug trafficking was forced on the contras by the inadequate levels of U.S. government assistance.

The Justice report also disclosed repeated examples of the CIA and U.S. embassies in Central America discouraging Drug Enforcement Administration investigations, including one into contra-cocaine shipments moving through the international airport in El Salvador.

Inspector General Bromwich said secrecy trumped all. “We have no doubt that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy were not anxious for the DEA to pursue its investigation at the airport,” he wrote.

Despite the remarkable admissions in the body of these reports, the big newspapers showed no inclination to read beyond the press releases and executive summaries.

Cocaine Crimes & Monica

By fall 1998, Official Washington was obsessed with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, which made it easier to ignore even more stunning contra-cocaine disclosures in the CIA’s Volume Two.

In Volume Two, published Oct. 8, 1998, CIA Inspector General Hitz identified more than 50 contras and contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s.

According to Volume Two, the CIA knew the criminal nature of its contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

The earliest contra force, called ADREN or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre,” according to a June 1981 draft CIA field report.

ADREN also employed terrorist methods, including the bombing of Nicaraguan civilian planes and hijackings, to disrupt the Sandinista government, the CIA knew. Cocaine smuggling was also in the picture.

According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981, the CIA cable reported.

ADREN's leaders included Enrique Bermudez and other early contras who would later direct the major contra army, the CIA-organized FDN. Throughout the war, Bermudez remained the top contra military commander.

The CIA later corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking, but insisted that Bermudez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States which went ahead nonetheless.

The truth about Bermudez’s supposed objections to drug trafficking, however, was less clear. According to Volume One, Bermudez enlisted Norwin Meneses, a large-scale Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler, to raise money and buy supplies for the contras.

Volume One had quoted a Meneses associate, another Nicaraguan trafficker named Danilo Blandon, who told Hitz’s investigators that he and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermudez in 1982.

At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well known in the Nicaraguan exile community. But the FDN commander told the cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the contras.

After the Bermudez meeting, contra soldiers helped Meneses and Blandon get past Honduran police who briefly arrested them on drug-trafficking suspicions. After their release, Blandon and Meneses traveled on to Bolivia to complete a cocaine transaction.

There were other indications of Bermudez’s drug-smuggling tolerance. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermudez of narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report.

After the contra war ended, Bermudez returned to Managua, where he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991. The murder has never been solved.

CIA Drug Asset

Along the Southern Front, in Costa Rica, the drug evidence centered on the forces of Eden Pastora, another leading contra commander. But Hitz discovered that the U.S. government may have contributed to the problem.

Hitz revealed that the CIA put an admitted drug operative – known by his CIA pseudonym “Ivan Gomez” – in a supervisory position over Pastora.

Hitz reported that the CIA discovered Gomez’s drug history in 1987 when Gomez failed a security review on drug-trafficking questions.

In internal CIA interviews, Gomez admitted that in March or April 1982, he helped family members who were engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering. In one case, Gomez said he assisted his brother and brother-in-law in transporting cash from New York City to Miami. He admitted that he “knew this act was illegal.”

Later, Gomez expanded on his admission, describing how his family members had fallen $2 million into debt and had gone to Miami to run a money-laundering center for drug traffickers. Gomez said “his brother had many visitors whom [Gomez] assumed to be in the drug trafficking business.”

Gomez’s brother was arrested on drug charges in June 1982. Three months later, in September 1982, Gomez started his CIA assignment in Costa Rica.

fbiYears later, convicted drug trafficker Carlos Cabezas charged that in the early 1980s, Ivan Gomez was the CIA agent in Costa Rica who was overseeing drug-money donations to the contras.

Gomez “was to make sure the money was given to the right people [the contras] and nobody was taking ... profit they weren’t supposed to,” Cabezas stated publicly.

But the CIA sought to discredit Cabezas at the time because he had trouble identifying Gomez’s picture and put Gomez at one meeting in early 1982 before Gomez started his CIA assignment.

While the CIA was able to fend off Cabezas’s allegations by pointing to these discrepancies, Hitz’s report revealed that the CIA was nevertheless aware of Gomez’s direct role in drug-money laundering, a fact the agency hid from Sen. Kerry’s investigation in 1987.

The Bolivian Connection

There also was more about Gomez. In November 1985, the FBI learned from an informant that Gomez’s two brothers had been large-scale cocaine importers, with one brother arranging shipments from Bolivia’s infamous drug kingpin Roberto Suarez.

Suarez already was known as a financier of right-wing causes. In 1980, with the support of Argentine’s hard-line anti-communist military regime, Suarez bankrolled a coup in Bolivia that ousted the elected left-of-center government.

The violent putsch became known as the Cocaine Coup because it made Bolivia the region's first narco-state. Bolivia’s government-protected cocaine shipments helped transform the Medellin cartel from a struggling local operation into a giant corporate-style business for delivering cocaine to the U.S. market.

Some of those profits allegedly found their way into contra coffers.
Flush with cash in the early 1980s, Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the contra forces in Central America, according to U.S. Senate testimony by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

In 1987, Sanchez-Reisse said the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, other Argentine intelligence officers – veterans of the Bolivian coup – trained the contras.

CIA Inspector General Hitz added another piece to the mystery of the Bolivian-contra connection. One contra fund-raiser, Jose Orlando Bolanos, boasted that the Argentine government was supporting his anti-Sandinista activities, according to a May 1982 cable to CIA headquarters.

Bolanos made the statement during a meeting with undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Florida. He even offered to introduce them to his Bolivian cocaine supplier.

Despite all this suspicious drug activity around Ivan Gomez and the contras, the CIA insisted that it did not unmask Gomez until 1987, when he failed a security check and confessed his role in his family’s drug business.

The CIA official who interviewed Gomez concluded that “Gomez directly participated in illegal drug transactions, concealed participation in illegal drug transactions, and concealed information about involvement in illegal drug activity," Hitz wrote.

But senior CIA officials still protected Gomez. They refused to refer the Gomez case to the Justice Department, citing the 1982 DOJ-CIA agreement that spared the CIA from a legal obligation to report narcotics crimes by non-employees.

Instead, the CIA eased Gomez, an independent contractor, out of the agency in February 1988, without alerting law enforcement or the congressional oversight committees.

When questioned about the case nearly a decade later, one senior CIA official who had supported the gentle treatment of Gomez had second thoughts.
“It is a striking commentary on me and everyone that this guy’s involvement in narcotics didn’t weigh more heavily on me or the system,” the official acknowledged.

The White House Trail

A Medellin drug connection arose in another section of Hitz’s report, when he revealed evidence suggesting that some contra trafficking may have been sanctioned by Reagan's National Security Council.

The protagonist for this part of the contra-cocaine mystery was Moises Nunez, a Cuban-American who worked for North’s NSC operation and for two drug-connected seafood importers, Ocean Hunter in Miami and Frigorificos de Puntarenas in Costa Rica.

Frigorificos de Puntarenas was created in the early 1980s as a cover for drug-money laundering, according to sworn testimony by two of the firm’s principals – Carlos Soto and Medellin cartel accountant Ramon Milian Rodriguez.

,Drug allegations were swirling around Moises Nunez by the mid-1980s. At the AP, his operation was one of the targets of our investigation.

Finally reacting to these suspicions, the CIA questioned Nunez on March 25, 1987, about his alleged cocaine trafficking. He responded by pointing the finger at his NSC superiors.

“Nunez revealed that since 1985, he had engaged in a clandestine relationship with the National Security Council,” Hitz reported.

“Nunez refused to elaborate on the nature of these actions, but indicated it was difficult to answer questions relating to his involvement in narcotics trafficking because of the specific tasks he had performed at the direction of the NSC. Nunez refused to identify the NSC officials with whom he had been involved.”

After this first round of questioning, CIA headquarters authorized an additional session, but then senior CIA officials reversed the decision. There would be no further efforts at “debriefing Nunez.”

Hitz noted that “the cable [from headquarters] offered no explanation for the decision” to stop the Nunez interrogation.

But the CIA’s Central American task force chief Alan Fiers said the Nunez-NSC drug lead was not pursued “because of the NSC connection and the possibility that this could be somehow connected to the Private Benefactor program [the contra money handled by North]. A decision was made not to pursue this matter.”

Joseph Fernandez, who had been the CIA’s station chief in Costa Rica, later confirmed to congressional Iran-Contra investigators that Nunez “was involved in a very sensitive operation” for North’s “Enterprise.” The exact nature of that NSC-authorized activity has never been divulged.

At the time of the Nunez-NSC drug admissions and his truncated interrogation, the CIA’s acting director was Robert M. Gates, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 6, 2006, to be President George W. Bush’s new Secretary of Defense.

Miami Vice

The CIA also worked directly with other drug-connected Cuban-Americans on the contra project, Hitz found.

One of Nunez’s Cuban-American associates, Felipe Vidal, had a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker in the 1970s. But the CIA still hired him to serve as a logistics coordinator for the contras, Hitz reported.

The CIA also learned that Vidal’s drug connections were not only in the past.
A December 1984 cable to CIA headquarters revealed Vidal’s ties to Rene Corvo, another Cuban-American suspected of drug trafficking. Corvo was working with anti-communist Cuban, Frank Castro, who was viewed as a Medellin cartel representative within the contra movement.

There were other narcotics links to Vidal. In January 1986, the DEA in Miami seized 414 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipment of yucca that was going from a contra operative in Costa Rica to Ocean Hunter, the company where Vidal worked.

Despite the evidence, Vidal remained a CIA employee as he collaborated with Frank Castro’s assistant, Rene Corvo, in raising money for the contras, according to a CIA memo in June 1986.

By fall 1986, Sen. Kerry had heard enough rumors about Vidal to demand information about him as part of a congressional inquiry into contra drugs. But the CIA withheld the derogatory information. On Oct. 15, 1986, Kerry received a briefing from Alan Fiers, who didn’t mention Vidal’s drug arrests and conviction in the 1970s.

But Vidal was not yet in the clear. In 1987, the U.S. attorney in Miami began investigating Vidal, Ocean Hunter and other contra-connected entities.

This prosecutorial attention worried the CIA. The CIA’s Latin American division felt it was time for a security review of Vidal. But on Aug. 5, 1987, the CIA’s security office blocked the review for fear that the Vidal drug information “could be exposed during any future litigation.”

As expected, the U.S. Attorney did request documents about “contra-related activities” by Vidal, Ocean Hunter and 16 other entities. The CIA advised the prosecutor that “no information had been found regarding Ocean Hunter,” a statement that was clearly false.

The CIA continued Vidal’s employment as an adviser to the contra movement until 1990, virtually the end of the contra war.

Honduras Trafficking

Hitz revealed that drugs also tainted the highest levels of the Honduran-based FDN, the largest contra army.

Hitz found that Juan Rivas, a contra commander who rose to be chief of staff, admitted that he had been a cocaine trafficker in Colombia before the war. The CIA asked Rivas, known as El Quiche, about his background after the DEA began suspecting that Rivas might be an escaped convict from a Colombian prison.

In interviews with CIA officers, Rivas acknowledged that he had been arrested and convicted of packaging and transporting cocaine for the drug trade in Barranquilla, Colombia. After several months in prison, Rivas said, he escaped and moved to Central America where he joined the contras.

Defending Rivas, CIA officials insisted that there was no evidence that Rivas engaged in trafficking while with the contras. But one CIA cable noted that he lived an expensive lifestyle, even keeping a $100,000 thoroughbred horse at the contra camp.

Contra military commander Bermudez later attributed Rivas’s wealth to his ex-girlfriend’s rich family. But a CIA cable in March 1989 added that “some in the FDN may have suspected at the time that the father-in-law was engaged in drug trafficking.”

Still, the CIA moved quickly to protect Rivas from exposure and possible extradition to Colombia. In February 1989, CIA headquarters asked that DEA take no action “in view of the serious political damage to the U.S. Government that could occur should the information about Rivas become public.”

Rivas was eased out of the contra leadership with an explanation of poor health. With U.S. government help, he was allowed to resettle in Miami. Colombia was not informed about his fugitive status.

Drug Flights

Another senior FDN official implicated in the drug trade was its chief spokesman in Honduras, Arnoldo Jose “Frank” Arana.

The drug allegations against Arana dated back to 1983 when a federal narcotics task force put him under criminal investigation because of plans “to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from South America.”
On Jan. 23, 1986, the FBI reported that Arana and his brothers were involved in a drug-smuggling enterprise, although Arana was not charged.

Arana sought to clear up another set of drug suspicions in 1989 by visiting the DEA in Honduras with a business associate, Jose Perez. Arana’s association with Perez, however, only raised new alarms.

If “Arana is mixed up with the Perez brothers, he is probably dirty,” the DEA responded.

Through their ownership of an air services company called SETCO, the Perez brothers were associated with Juan Matta Ballesteros, a major cocaine kingpin connected to the murder of a DEA agent, according to reports by the DEA and U.S. Customs.

Hitz reported that someone at the CIA scribbled a note on the DEA cable about Arana stating: “Arnold Arana ... still active and working, we [CIA] may have a problem.”

Despite its drug ties to Matta Ballesteros, SETCO emerged as the principal company for ferrying supplies to the contras in Honduras.

During congressional Iran-Contra hearings, FDN political leader Adolfo Calero testified that SETCO was paid from bank accounts controlled by Oliver North. SETCO also received $185,924 from the State Department for ferrying supplies to the contras in 1986.

Hitz found other air transport companies used by the contras implicated in the cocaine trade. Even FDN leaders suspected that they were shipping supplies to Central America aboard planes that might be returning with drugs.

Mario Calero, Adolfo Calero’s brother and the chief of contra logistics, grew so uneasy about one air-freight company that he notified U.S. law enforcement that the FDN only chartered the planes for the flights south, not the return flights north.

Hitz found that some drug pilots simply rotated from one sector of the contra operation to another. Donaldo Frixone, who had a drug record in the Dominican Republic, was hired by the CIA to fly contra missions from 1983-85.

In September 1986, however, Frixone was implicated in smuggling 19,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States. In late 1986 or early 1987, he went to work for Vortex, another U.S.-paid contra supply company linked to the drug trade.

Fig Leaf

By the time that Hitz’s Volume Two was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking.

But Hitz made clear that the contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of contra crimes from the Justice Department, the Congress and even the CIA’s own analytical division.

Besides tracing the evidence of contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. … [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the contra program.”

One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”

Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the contras hid evidence of contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts.

Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and the major news organizations – serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his series in 1996.

Nevertheless, although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it passed almost unnoticed by the big newspapers. [For more details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’]

On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s report was posted at the CIA’s Internet site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood.

Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times never published a story on the release of the CIA’s Volume Two.

To this day, no editor or reporter who missed the contra-cocaine story has been punished for his or her negligence. Indeed, some of them are now top executives at their news organizations. On the other hand, Gary Webb’s career never recovered.

Unable to find decent-paying work in a profession where his past awards included a Pulitzer Prize, Webb grew despondent. His marriage broke up. By December 2004, he found himself forced to move out of his rented house near Sacramento.

Instead, Webb decided to end his life.

One Last Chance

Webb’s suicide offered the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times one more opportunity to set matters right, to revisit the CIA’s admissions in 1998 and to exact some accountability on the Reagan-era officials implicated in protecting the contra crimes.

But all that followed Gary Webb’s death was more trashing of Gary Webb. The Los Angeles Times ran a graceless obituary that made no mention of the admissions in the CIA’s Volume Two and treated Webb like a low-life criminal, rather than a journalist who took on a tough story and paid a high price.

The Times obituary was republished in other newspapers, including the Washington Post. No one reading this obit would understand the profound debt that American history owed to Gary Webb, who deserved the lion’s share of the credit for forcing the CIA to make its extraordinary admissions.

Yet, the big media’s consistent mishandling of the contra-cocaine scandal in the 1980s and 1990s carried another warning that the nation missed: that the U.S. press corps was no longer capable of reporting complex crimes of state.

That unaddressed danger returned with disastrous results in late 2002 and early 2003 when George W. Bush sold false stories about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction while the major newspapers acted as cheerleaders and accomplices.

At the time of Webb’s death on Dec. 9, 2004, the full scope of the Iraq disaster was still not evident, nor was the major press corps ready to acknowledge that its cowardice in the 1980s and its fecklessness in the 1990s were the direct antecedents to its complicity in the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Gary Webb had been a kind of canary in the mine shaft. His career destruction in the 1990s and his desperate act of suicide in 2004 were warnings about grave dangers that, if left ignored, would wreak even worse havoc on the United States and the world.

But – on this second anniversary of Webb’s death – it should be remembered that his great gift to American history was that he, along with angry African-American citizens, forced the government to admit some of the worst crimes ever condoned by any White House: the protection of drug smuggling into the United States as part of a covert war against a country, Nicaragua, that represented no real threat to Americans.

It is way past time for that reality – and that gift – to be acknowledged.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Withholding funds from Palestinians 'criminal': Carter


US Congress approves "screw the Palestinians" bill...
Canada's withholding funds from Palestinians 'criminal': Carter

Last Updated: Saturday, December 9, 2006 | 12:20 AM ET

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter says the decision by Canada and other nations to withhold money from the Hamas-led Palestinian government is "a crime."

Israel and western donors such as Canada have demanded Hamas renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept past peace agreements. Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction despite its stated offer of a long-term truce, rejects the conditions.

"It's a crime against the people of Palestine," Carter told CBC News in an exclusive interview from New York.

"For Canada and others to punish the Palestinian people because they voted for their candidates of choice, I think is literally a crime."

The statesman and prolific author defended his harsh criticism of Israeli policy in his latest book, saying he hopes to erode the "impenetrable wall" that blocks the U.S. public from seeing the plight of Palestinians.

'Apartheid' questioned

Jewish groups have launched petitions criticizing Carter's use of the word "apartheid" — the system of legal racial separation once used in South Africa — to describe Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

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"There is in many ways a much more serious deprivation of human rights among the Palestinians because of this ill-advised policy than even there was in South Africa," he told CBC News.

"I deplore the Palestinian suicide bombings as much or more than anything than I do what Israel has done against the Palestinian people. It's horrible on both sides and should be eliminated. But you have to look at the facts."

He said that by the time Hamas was elected in January, the Palestinian authority had already been brought to bankruptcy and couldn't pay police officers, firefighters and government employees.

Carter also said the Israeli response to the capturing of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah last summer was "excessive beyond what was needed."

Carter, who has led efforts to monitor several elections in the Palestinian Authority since leaving office, said bringing peace to the Middle East is the most important commitment in his public life.

His top-selling book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, has been criticized by pro-Israel groups and led to the resignation, announced this week, of Kenneth Stein, a Carter Center fellow and a longtime Carter adviser.

Carter's latest book has drawn stern rebukes from current Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean.

"With all due respect to former president Carter, he does not speak for the Democratic party on Israel," Pelosi said in a statement.

Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, said he intended the book to provoke debate on Israeli policy that has been stifled by the news media and others, who have been "almost unanimously silent," and lamented the lack of debate over Israeli policy in the U.S.

"It's almost a universal silence concerning anything that might be critical of current policies of the Israeli government," he said.

The book follows the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, starting with Carter's 1977-1980 presidency and the Camp David peace accord he negotiated between Israel and Egypt.

With files from the Associated Press

New Orleans approves project demolition

Dec 9, 2006, 13:36 GMT

NEW ORLEANS, LA, United States (UPI) -- New Orleans` plan to demolish the city`s four largest public housing projects has taken a step forward.

The Housing Authority of New Orleans approved the destruction Thursday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. The plan would remove about 7,500 subsidized apartments -- including the St. Bernard, C.J. Peete, Lafitte and B.W. Cooper projects -- and another 600 apartments scattered around the city.

City officials say the projects -- which had never been renovated since their construction a half-century or more ago -- were already in bad shape and Hurricane Katrina rendered them uninhabitable and not worth repairing. They also argue that rehabilitation would restore economic and racial segregation.

The city has plans to build mixed-income housing to replace the projects.

Any construction must wait for the resolution of a civil rights suit filed in June. At a meeting last week, former residents of the projects opposed demolition.

'The day you tear down St. Bernard, you`re going to break a lot of hearts,' said Sharon Jasper, a former resident.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International