Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Politics of Denial: Israel and the Palestinian Refugee Problem

by Nur Masalha
Pluto Press, 304 pp., October 2003, 978-0745321202

Review by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

Mainstream discourse on the question of Palestine confines itself largely to the land occupied by Israel in ‘67 and the fate of the people living therein. In the various peace processes convened under American aegis, the refugees of ’48 and their right of return, enshrined in UNGAR 194, received scant attention. This trend, curiously, has been replicated on the left by even some of its luminaries. Some have arrogated themselves the right to decide whether the fate of more than four million Palestinians living in the squalor of refugee camps is a “realistic” consideration to burden Israel with in a prospective settlement. In The Politics of Denial: Israel and the Palestinian Refugee Problem, Nur Masalha lays to rest the notion that sustainable peace in the region is possible without addressing the rights of the Palestinian refugees. Masalha also exposes concerns that inform Israel’s persistent denial of its responsibility in creating the refugee problem and its history of foiling attempts at repatriation and restitution.

Masalha’s scrupulously researched analysis of the Palestinian refugee question begins with the early twentieth century arrival of Jewish settlers who are accompanied by an ideology that aims to, and to a large degree succeeds in, ridding the land of its native population. Zionism seeks self determination for its people on a land inhabited by another; hence it must not only expel the native population, but also deny the reality of their dispossession. Thus are laid the foundations of the Palestinian tragedy.

Beginning with Ahad Ha’am’s description of the abuse of Palestinian peasants by the early Zionist settlers, Masalha reconstructs the story of the colonization of Palestine, culminating in al Nakba, the Palestinian tragedy of 1948. In discussing the contributions of Israel’s “New Historians” towards the understanding of the events of ’48, Masalha exposes the egregious shortcomings in the work of the most famous among them: Benny Morris. Contrary to Morris’s claims, Masalha reveals that the expulsion of Palestinians was born not of war, but of designs going back all the way to Herzl, the founder of political Zionism. Referred to euphemistically as “transfer” the idea of ethnic cleansing remained central to the Zionist project.

With painstaking attention to detail, and copious documentation Masalha deconstructs the myths surrounding the expulsion of Palestinians in ’48 and the subsequent expropriation of their lands. He describes the massacres, intimidation, armed eviction and destruction of villages that precipitated the Palestinian flight. There were fifty major and a hundred minor massacres committed by the Zionist forces. Operation Dalet, which preceded the creation of the state of Israel, was responsible for the widespread panic which was exploited by the Zionist military to drive out the Palestinians. Operation Hiram took care of those left behind.

The most important part of this study deals with the mechanisms employed by the Jewish state to expropriate Palestinian lands. The Jewish National Fund – an organization that still retains tax-deductible charitable status in Britain, Canada, US and Australia – worked in conjunction with the Transfer Committees to pave the way for the ultimate ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Operating as a quasi government, the JNF and Jewish Agency had already established the structure of a government before the formation of the State. On partition, the Zionists therefore had an advantage over the Palestinians whose organizations and institutions had been destroyed by the British colonial authorities during earlier uprisings.

Once Palestinians were driven out, Israel sold Palestinian lands to the JNF to stave off anticipated international pressure to repatriate the refugees. Israel could then claim that the land was now owned by a private organization over which it had no authority, except that JNF is a quasi governmental organization, and more importantly, its charter prevents the land it owns from ever being sold or leased to someone who is not a Jew. Although the JNF itself owns only 13% of Israeli land, it appoints half the board members on Israel Land Authority which controls most of the rest of Israel’s lands. Through this mechanism, the Jewish state conceals its Apartheid policies.

There were also 220,000 of those who were internally displaced, i.e. they were driven from their homes but they remained within the borders of Israel. Absurd legal designations like “Present-Absentees” were invented to keep them from their lands. Many were expelled in the following years.

The emergency regulations enacted have remained in place since and military expropriation of their lands continues to date. Restitution and repatriation was strictly prevented for the fear that it might set a precedent.

Having denied dispossessed Palestinians the right to return to their homes after the end of hostilities, Masalha documents the various proposals that were floated to resettle the refugees – in neighboring Arab countries, Libya, even South America. Attempts were also made to link the Palestinian refugee issue with the issue of the Jews who immigrated to Israel from other Arab countries. What is generally overlooked in these cases of course is the role of Mossad-B in precipitating their flight through acts of sabotage and intimidation to encourage them to immigrate to Israel.

Come ’67 another 250,000 Palestinians found themselves homeless as a result of Israel’s latest offensive which inter alia destroyed many ancient sites in Jerusalem. Destroyed Palestinian villages of Imwas, Yalu and Bayt Nuba were helpfully concealed under the Canada Park, developed through funds donated to the JNF by Canadian Jews to “make the desert bloom” (elsewhere, the British Park conceals evidence of a similar atrocity). Denial of the Palestinian reality was necessary to the Zionist project, and the ruins bore witness to the ugly crimes sustaining it.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, another 200,000 were expelled from the West Bank. By now the idea of “transfer” had entered the mainstream and even espoused by liberal Zionist authors, poets and intellectuals. Various plans were mooted to take care of Israel’s “demographic problem”, the alternatives being “transfer” (ethnic cleansing) or Apartheid (isolated Bantustans). The Oslo peace process conformed to the latter with Israel refusing to accept any responsibility for creating the refugee problem.

In Madrid, and subsequently in Oslo, the Palestinian negotiator’s failure to link the refugee question to UNGAR 194 made it easy for Israelis to relegate it to a secondary status. At Camp David, Masalha reveals there was “no progress on the issue, in fact no real negotiations on the subject”. For this, and its numerous other shortcomings, the process was doomed to failure. However the death of the “peace process” has once again revived the question of the Right of Return and Israeli responsibility in creating the refugee problem. As Masalha rightly concludes, there is no possibility o f a just and lasting peace, or for that matter negotiation towards that end, unless Israel acknowledges its responsibility in creating this the refugee problem.

Attacking Iran: What's In It For Bush?

Jan 17, 2007

By Paul Craig Roberts

Initially, the Bush Regime denied that Bush’s escalation speech on January 10 signaled that the Regime intends to attack Iran. Now a number of Regime officials have made it clear that Iran, not Iraq, is the focus of the Regime’s war planning. Robert Gates, the new Defense Secretary and member of the Iraq Study Group, was supposedly brought into the Pentagon to de-escalate the war. Gates now says that Iran is the target of US military moves in the Persian Gulf.

Suddenly the media is full of Bush Regime propagandistic assertions designed to make the American public believe that Iran is the enemy that is fighting against our troops in Iraq. To facilitate this deception, the Bush Regime staged a propaganda event by invading an Iranian government liaison office in Northern Iraq, kidnapping the Iranian officials and declaring them to be involved in plans to kill US troops.

The Bush Regime’s latest big lie is that the US is not winning in Iraq because of Iran. “The Iranians are acting in a very negative way,” alleges the “moderate” Gates. Iraq, the target for the escalation in US troop levels, has dimmed in importance. In the few days since Bush’s “surge” speech, Bush, Cheney, Gates, Rice, and national security advisor Hadley have said far more about Iran than about Iraq. In 2003, the same technique was used by the Bush Regime to shift the public’s attention from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein. The technique succeeded to the extent that even today a significant percentage of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Clearly, the Bush Regime expects that it can again deceive the American public. There is no doubt that Iran will be attacked. The Israeli government and the neoconservatives have been demanding it.

The question is: why is Bush, who is confronted with failure in Iraq, willing to compound his problems by attacking a more powerful Muslim state that the US has no prospect of being able to occupy?

A former member of the National Security Council gave me a possible answer. Bush can bury his defeat in Iraq with a “victory” in Iran.

Here is the victory scenario: Bush and Cheney will claim that their air attack on Iran succeeded in destroying Iran’s (non-existent) nuclear weapons program. The victory claimed by the Bush Regime and the propagandistic US media will “make America safe from nuclear attack.” This will restore Bush’s popularity and move the US back to a 50-50 political split in time for Karl Rove to steal the 2008 election with the fraudulent electronic voting machines built and programmed by Republican operatives.

The former national security official believes that Bush will be able to claim victory over Iran, because Iran will avoid responding militarily. Iran will not use its Russian missiles to sink our aircraft carriers, to shut down oil facilities throughout the Middle East, or to destroy US headquarters in the “green zone” in Baghdad. Instead, Iran will adopt the posture of another Muslim victim of US/Israeli aggression and let the anger seep throughout the Muslim world until no pro-US government is safe in the Middle East.

Bush needs a short-run victory, and Iran will let him have it in order to gain the long-run victory.

The consequences for the US, Israel, and the US puppet regimes in the Middle East will be catastrophic, but they will not occur in the short-run.

This explanation solves the dilemma of why Bush would get deeper into the quagmire for the sake of the Israel Lobby. A US attack on Iran allows Bush both to satisfy the powerful Israel Lobby and to claim to have destroyed Iran’s (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction.

Some patriotic Americans, who believe it is still possible to save America from war and a police state, see cause for hope in the upcoming trial of “Scooter” Libby, the former chief operative of VP Cheney. Libby is accused of lying about his role in leaking a covert CIA agent’s name to the press in an effort to discredit damaging evidence that Bush had lied about Iraq possessing WMD. The patriots believe that Libby’s trial will damage the Bush Regime and, thereby, reduce the Regime’s danger to freedom and democracy in America.

At this delicate point in time, the Bush Regime would not allow the Libby trial to go forward unless the Regime had arranged with the media shills it uses to control the explanation of the news (with insider leaks) to testify in a manner that lets Libby off the hook. If Libby is exonerated, expect Cheney and the neocon nazis to attack Joe Wilson as a terrorist sympathizer who tried to discredit Bush’s invasion of Iraq and war on terror. The attack on Wilson will lead into an all-out-assault on the antiwar movement.

If the Regime overcomes its defeat in Iraq with a “victory” in Iran, “you are with us or against us” will take on new life, and we will find out who are those intended for the Halliburton-built detention camps constructed in the US at great cost with our tax dollars.

Paul Craig Roberts is an economist and a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate. He served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is a former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Scripps Howard News Service. He is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and he holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He was a post-graduate at the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford University where he was a member of Merton College. He is considered to be a Reagan conservative.

In 1992 he received the Warren Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism. In 1993 the Forbes Media Guide ranked him as one of the top seven journalists in the United States.

His books.

US backed snipers are firing at random as siege continues

Residents say snipers are firing at random as siege continues

Nancy A. Youssef and Zaineb Obeid
January 15, 2007 4:12 PM

McClatchy Newspapers


BAGHDAD, Iraq - The two top U.S. officials in Iraq voiced confidence Monday that Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government would show no favoritism in its efforts to secure the city, even as residents of a Sunni Muslim neighborhood complained that Shiite Iraqi security forces and government-backed militias were preventing them from evacuating wounded and going for food.

Eight days after a joint U.S.-Iraqi offensive began to take control of the Haifa Street area in central Baghdad, residents said they had no water and no electricity and that people seeking food had been shot at random. They said they could see American soldiers nearby, but that the Americans were making no effort to intervene.

''The Americans are doing nothing, as if they are backing the militias,'' said one resident, who asked to be identified only as Abu Sady, 36, for security reasons. ''This military siege is killing us. ... If this plan continues for one more week, I don't think you will find one family left on Haifa Street.''

U.S. officials downplayed the reports. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Army Gen. George Casey told a news conference Monday that Iraqi officials had assured them that they'd target both Shiite and Sunni extremists in their efforts to pacify the city.

''I am encouraged by what I have seen. We need to give them the benefit of the doubt and let's see what happens,'' Khalilzad said. If sectarian problems arise, ''that will be a conversation down the road. I hope it will be unnecessary. At this point, what we are focused on is to help implement the plan based on the premises we agreed on.''

A U.S. military spokesman said he had no reason to believe Haifa Street residents' accounts. The residents were interviewed by phone because of the danger in reaching the area.

''The reporting we have is that it was quiet on Haifa Street,'' said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the 1st Cavalry Division, which patrols Haifa Street. ''We have nothing in our reporting to substantiate those claims.''

Sunni residents have worried that the Bush administration's decision to send 17,500 more soldiers to Baghdad to combat Sunni insurgents under a new security plan will enable the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to force Sunnis out of their neighborhoods with American assistance. Many refer to the Haifa Street fighting as the first effort of that plan.

The newest plan is at least the sixth designed to bring peace to the capital. All have failed.

''We have been here before,'' Casey said.

But he added that he was optimistic that the new effort would be more successful because there was more Iraqi ''buy-in,'' due to the Iraqi government being in charge of the plan.

With ''sustained political support, and the concentrated efforts on all sides, I believe that this plan can work, '' Casey said.

The plan, which President Bush spelled out last Wednesday in a nationally televised address, calls for U.S. troops to work side by side with their Iraqi counterparts in a neighborhood-by-neighborhood sweep of the capital. At the same time, the Iraqi government, with the help of the U.S., has pledged to pump $10 billion in aid into the city's economy, creating jobs and rebuilding infrastructure.

Bush said Iraqi officials also had committed to resolving key disputes that fueled sectarian tensions, such as how the nation should split oil revenues, how to integrate some members of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party into the government and how to fix problems with the constitution.

Casey said Monday that it would take months to measure whether the plan was working.

On Haifa Street, residents said they were already concerned about its results.

Iraqi troops, backed by American helicopters and jet fighters, moved into Haifa Street last week in what Iraqi officials said was a campaign to rid the area of al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents, who'd been welcomed by residents who were former Baath party members.

Residents said then that the Iraqi army moved in only after they'd repulsed efforts to take over the neighborhood by members of the Mahdi Army militia, which is loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr controls the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament and is a major backer of Maliki.

A 44-year-old Haifa Street resident who asked to be identified only as Abu Mohammed for security reasons said that only three or four families of an estimated 60 families remained on his block. He said no vehicles were allowed to drive through the area and that there was no electricity, kerosene or running water. Snipers have taken positions on the rooftops.

''They are shooting randomly,'' he said. ''Today, they shot Raghad Marwan, a 28-year-old young woman who was trying to get food. She got a bullet in her shoulder, and now we don't know how to get her to the hospital.''

He said several families were evacuating the neighborhood: ''I can see the families with their children walking in the narrow streets of the neighborhood taking nothing but small bags.''

''The new security plan has given militias permission to go into our houses and apartments and kill people,'' Abu Mohammed said. ''This plan targets Sunnis and forces them to leave their homes. And they are.''

(Obeid is a McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent in Baghdad.)

(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-01-15-07 1907EST

We Are Family

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

They say prayer has the power to heal
So pray for me, mother
In the human heart an evil spirit can dwell
I'm a-tryin' to love my neighbor and do good unto others
But oh mother, things ain't going well - Bob Dylan

The Manson Mythos, sad to say, seems endlessly relevant.

In The Shadow Over Santa Susana, author Adam Gorightly quotes Preston Guillory, a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff at the time of the Tate-LaBianca slayings, in conversation with Paul Krassner. Guillory shares this revelation:

A few weeks prior to the Spahn Ranch raid, we were told that we weren't to arrest Manson or any of his followers. We had a sheaf of memos on Manson - that they had automatic weapons at the ranch, that citizens had complained about hearing machine guns at night, that firemen from the local fire station had been accosted by armed members of Manson's band and told to get out of the area. Deputies started asking, "Why aren't we gonna make the raid sooner?" I mean, Manson's a parole violator, we know there's narcotics and booze. He's living at the ranch with bunch of minor girls in complete violation of his parole. Deputies at the station quite frankly became very annoyed that no action was being taken about Manson....

Now here's the kicker. Before the Tate killings he had been arrested at Malibu twice for statutory rape. Never got [imprisoned for parole violation]. Manson liked to ball young girls, so he just did his thing and he was released, and they didn't put any parole on him. But somebody very high up was controlling everything that was going on and was seeing to it that we didn't bust Manson.

Manson was left alone, Guillory told Krassner, because "something big was coming down." Krasnner asked "Why were you given such an order?" to which Guillory replied "I don't know. We didn't question our superiors." Krassner pressed: "Did you at least speculate as to the reason?" Yes, Guillory conceded: "Oh, we just figured they were gonna kill Black Panthers."

We were getting intelligence briefings that Manson was anti-black and he had supposedly killed a Black Panther. Manson was a very ready tool, apparently, because he did have some racial hatred and he wanted to vent it. But they hadn't anticipated him attacking someone other than the Panthers.

There's a lot of that these days, though much less speculative than Guillory's thoughts and several orders of degree more complicit. "No one could have imagined them taking a plane" and crashing it into the World Trade Center. No one could have foreseen the severity of Katrina. "No one anticipated the level of violence" in Iraq. But it's irrelevant here whether the celebrity Scientologist went off script or stayed on mission. The point is that Manson and his followers were untouched before the killings because authorities anticipated mayhem, not because they didn't, and for whatever reason they wanted to see some blood shed. In this respect, and almost certainly without suspecting it, the family became an undeputized branch of the LA County Sheriff's Department.

Early in his you ain't seen nothin' yet speech of last week, George Bush sited the bombing of Samarra's Golden Mosque as the principal trigger event for Iraq's sectarian violence: "Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause, and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra — in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked." Yet even though they never made America's front page, there were always compelling reasons to suspect a different calculus, and other hands on the trigger. For instance, Kurt Nimmo noted that "at least two witnesses saw 'unusual activities by the Iraqi National Guard in the area around the mosque.' Two mosque guards reported four men in ING uniforms had blindfolded them and planted explosives. A second witness, Muhammad al-Samarrai, the owner of an internet cafe in the area, was told to stay in his store and not leave the area. From 11 pm until 6:30 am, ten minutes before two bombs were detonated, the area surrounding the mosque was patrolled by 'joint forces of Iraqi ING and Americans,' according to al-Samarrai."

In April 2004 Michael Karem, then special adviser to Paul Bremer, voiced concern over the exceptional corruption and thuggish sectarianism of Bayan Jabr, the Shia Minister for Housing and Construction in Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority pajama parliament. A few days after composing a memo detailing his concern, Karem and senior aide Robert Clay were called to a meeting with the CPA's deputy administrator, Vice Admiral Scott Redd. "We were thrilled at the end of the meeting," said Karem. "Everybody was shaking their head about the corruption. They said that they were going to get rid of the minister."

But something else happened, because some else - somebody very high up, to borrow Guillory's words - had other plans:

Days later, he and Clay were asked to return to Redd's office. They walked in expecting to hear that Jabr had been fired. Instead they were told that their services with the CPA were as of that moment terminated; the minister would stay on. “We were told that we had lost effectiveness because we couldn't work with the minister,” Karem recalled. “We were in shock.”

Jabr was promoted to Minister of the Interior and, according to Harper's Ken Silverstein, his appointment "corresponds almost precisely" to the rise of Iraq's death squads. (A coincidence doubled-up soon after by the arrival of the Death Squad's own Goodwill Ambassador, John Negroponte, as the next Green Zone bully boy.)

Of course the Golden Mosque and Bayan Jabr are already old stories by the measures of Iraq's dissolution and our own time's seeming acceleration, but almost daily new filigrees of outrage are added to them. In Baghdad's latest "pacification" campaign, government-backed militias are withholding food and preventing the evacuation of wounded, while US troops make no effort to intervene. "This military siege is killing us," said Sunni Abu Sady. "The Americans are doing nothing, as if they are backing the militias."

It was evident even before the invasion that the war's intention included making a failed state of Iraq. That that's not yet conventional wisdom shows just how much too many still want to believe bad policy is made in good faith. As Keith Gottschalk gingerly asked Canada's mainstream left last week:

...isn't it even barely possible, although it seems mad, that everything that has happened in Iraq, this “progressive destructive chaos,” has been the plan from the get-go and that civil war was not only expected but hoped for? If you must rule a people or a nation for the benefit of their natural resources and geopolitical value, would it not be a possible tactic to allow them to destroy themselves first without committing too many of your own people to the effort?

Was Bush's speech, as Xymphora speculated, code to enact a Sunni genocide? Will the atrocity about to fall upon Iran become a Shia holocaust? I think the vision from the White House is grander than either proposition. There's a Mansonic logic at play here, and it's been playing since Bush's first stolen election.

Despite multiple offenses and parole violations, Spahn Ranch wasn't raided before Tate-LaBianca because the police were expressly told they should not arrest Manson or his followers. Despite the grievous injuries they've inflicted upon the nation and the constitution, George Bush and Dick Cheney will not be impeached because Democrats have elected, for some reason, to take impeachment "off the table." Like an unmolested Manson sending his family on "creepy crawly" burglaries of canyon homes Bush will not be stopped by the law, because behind the law are the gods of Helter Skelter who are not yet finished with him. As Guillory said of Manson, so Bush is "a very ready tool" who currently enjoys the unprecedented and seemingly unaccountable permission to do the unthinkable. And because he can, something big is coming down.

Only after his chaotic work is done and the last doorpost daubed in gore may he be brought low. Not to justice, because American presidents never are, but perhaps to a singular injustice that has sometimes made their acquaintance. Until then, he may as well tell us as another Texan reportedly did, "I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil's business."

Military judge: objector can't raise questions about war legality


Associated Press

An Army officer cannot try to justify his refusal to report for duty in Iraq by questioning the legality of the war because that is a political issue, a military judge has ruled.

Citing federal court precedents in a ruling issued Tuesday, Lt. Col. John Head also rejected the claims of lawyers for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada who said the his First Amendment rights shielded the 28-year-old native of Hawaii from charges stemming from his criticism of the war.

There are limits to the free-speech rights of military personnel and a military panel should decide in a court-martial set to begin Feb. 5 whether Watada's criticism amounted to officer misconduct that could have endangered the morale, loyalty and discipline of troops, Head ruled.

"We have been stripped of every defense," Eric A. Seitz of Honolulu, Watada's civilian defense lawyer, told The Seattle Times. "This is a disciplinary system, not a justice system. Otherwise, we would have been entitled to defend ourselves."

Seitz had planned to argue that the war violated Army regulations that specify wars are to be waged in accordance with the United Nations charter.

Watada is charged with missing movement after refusing to deploy with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The Army also brought charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for statements he subsequently made to journalists and on Aug. 12 in a speech to the Veterans for Peace convention in Seattle.

"Though the American soldier wants to do right, the illegitimacy of the occupation itself, the policies of this administration and the rules of engagement of desperate field commanders will ultimately force them to be party to war crimes," Watada said at the August gathering.

He could face as much as six years in prison — two for failing to join his brigade in Iraq last June and four for four charges of conduct unbecoming an officer in his criticism of the war and how it has been conducted.

Head, a military judge who presided over at a pretrial hearing at which both sides made presentations earlier this month at this post south of Tacoma, found that "whether the war is lawful" is a political question that could not be judged in a military court.

In a statement accompanying the ruling, Army officials said they had full confidence in the military-justice system to ensure that Watada gets a fair trial.

Information from: The Seattle Times,

CIA leak case figures reject Cheney immunity

NBC: CIA leak case figures reject Cheney immunity
Wilson, Plame claim that vice president is not shielded from civil lawsuit
By Joel Seidman
NBC News
Updated: 9:05 p.m. MT Jan 16, 2007

As jury selection began Tuesday in the criminal trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, claim that the vice president cannot assert immunity from their complaint.

The Wilsons have sued Libby, Cheney, senior White House adviser Karl Rove, former deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and nine unnamed government officials, accusing them of conspiring to destroy Plame's career at the CIA.

The Wilsons claim they were seriously injured by "retaliatory revelation" in revealing Plame's CIA employment. The court filing states the Wilsons' "fear for their safety and for the safety of their children." And, the filing says, "disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's covert identity makes her and her family a target for those persons and groups who bear hostility to the United States and/or its intelligence officers."

Attorneys for the Wilsons write that, "No case ever has accorded the Vice President absolute immunity." The court filing states that the fact that Cheney is a part of the executive branch "does not warrant according him absolute immunity."

The Wilsons allege that Plame's name was leaked to reporters in retaliation for a July 2003 op-ed column published in The New York Times by Wilson, refuting U.S. pre-war intelligence on Iraq's nuclear program.

The Wilsons' attorney, Melanie Sloan, writes they are seeking "money damages as compensation for the substantial harms they have suffered from the violation of constitutional and common right laws."

Statements to 'Hardball'
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who is presiding over Libby's criminal trial, strongly admonished Sloan on Dec. 20 for her appearance on the MSNBC program "Hardball," where she predicted a jury could find Libby guilty of making false statements.

Sloan told MSNBC's Chris Matthews, "I think a jury could easily still find him guilty without being the first to leak because that's not what he's been charged with. He's not charged with leaking. He's charged with making false statements."

Walton wrote in an opinion that "The Court would not tolerate this case being tried in the media."

Walton added that “making disparaging comments in a television interview about a criminal defendant in a highly publicized case on the eve of trial could cause potential members of the jury pool to engender negative attitudes about the defendant.”

In Tuesday's filing, Sloan writes that after syndicated columnist Robert Novak published Plame's name, Rove called Matthews and told him that Plame was "fair game."

Sloan adds, "Rove attempted to make this statement targeting Mrs. Wilson off the record and on the condition that he not be identified as its source, so as to avoid detection for the wrongdoing."

Motions to dismiss
Lawyers for Cheney and Libby have filed motions to dismiss the civil complaint. Cheney's attorneys argue that the suit should be dismissed on various grounds including that, "the Vice President is entitled to qualified immunity," and that Cheney is "absolutely immune from suits for civil damages."

The lawyers for the Vice President, who is expected to be a witness for Libby, also contend that the Wilsons' civil action arose after the statute of limitations for such filings had passed. Cheney's attorneys write that the Wilsons "have not pled that the Vice President ever made any public disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's alleged CIA employment status. The sole pertinent factual allegation is that the Vice President communicated the fact of her CIA employment to his national security advisor and chief of staff."

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has spent nearly three years investigating who revealed Plame's identity to Novak and Washington Post editor Bob Woodward in 2003, but no one was ever charged with that leak. Armitage last summer revealed that he was the first source of Plame to both reporters.

Joel Seidman is an NBC producer based in Washington, D.C.

Iraq refugee crisis exploding: 40% of middle class believed to have fled crumbling nation

- Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Tueday, January 16, 2007

(01-16) 04:00 PST Washington -- Iraq is in the throes of the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the Palestinian exodus from Israel in 1948, a mass flight out of and within the country that is ravaging basic services and commerce, swamping neighboring nations with nearly 2 million refugees and building intense pressure for emigration to Europe and the United States, according to the United Nations and refugee experts.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which appealed for $60 million in emergency aid last week, believes 1.7 million Iraqis are displaced inside Iraq, whose prewar population was 21 million. About 50,000 Iraqis are fleeing inside Iraq each month, the United Nations said, and 500,000 have been displaced since last February's bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. These figures are as of January 2007.

The Bush administration and the governments of Jordan and Syria, the nations that accept the bulk of the refugees, have been reluctant to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis, experts said.

"I think everyone at this point is in denial about the human consequences of the war," said Kathleen Newland, director of the Migration Policy Institute, who is familiar with the State Department's views.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., has scheduled a hearing today to push for more aid and more U.S. admissions of refugees, especially those facing death threats for working for the U.S. military.

At Kennedy's hearing, the State Department is expected to call for a slight increase in Iraqi admissions to the United States. Just 220 Iraqis were admitted last year, most of them not from the war. The Department of Homeland Security worries that it would be difficult to screen out terrorists.

"I would suspect that the Department of Homeland Security would regard it as a complete security nightmare," Newland said.

Kristele Younes, an advocate at Refugees International, said the refugee problem is growing rapidly.

"At the moment, we're seeing up to 80,000 to 100,000 that are being displaced every month," inside and outside the country, she said. "In Syria alone, there are estimations that there's about 40,000 Iraqis that are coming every month."

Roughly 40 percent of Iraq's middle class is believed to have fled, the U.N. said. Most are fleeing systematic persecution and have no desire to return.

All kinds of people, from university professors to bakers, have been targeted by militias, insurgents and criminals. An estimated 331 school teachers were slain in the first four months of last year, according to Human Rights Watch, and at least 2,000 Iraqi doctors have been killed and 250 kidnapped since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Business owners are especially prone to extortion.

The flight has undermined basic services such as water and sanitation and disrupted commerce, making it increasingly difficult for Iraqi society to function, officials said.

Iraqi Christians were an early target after the 2003 invasion; after the February bombing, Shiite militias began taking revenge on Sunnis. Violence is rising in southern Iraq between rival Shiite factions. Refugees International said many people are targeted for "un-Islamic" dress or behavior.

Iraqis who work for the U.S. government or any Western group, such as nongovernmental organizations and the news media, are especially vulnerable.

"People are targeted in extremely direct ways -- kidnapping, killings, rapes," Younes said. "Every single family we interviewed had gone through such an ordeal, and the tribal system in Iraq is such that revenge is carried out generation to generation, so they feel ... return to Iraq would be tantamount to a death sentence."

While the Bush administration is hastily devising new reconstruction plans for Iraq, refugee advocates say the country most needs emergency humanitarian aid for the most vulnerable, including orphans and women.

U.S. officials have "wanted to keep the impression that they were being successful and that there were Iraqis who were committed to building democracy," said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch and author of an extensive report on the situation. "As it turns out, many of the people who are fleeing are fleeing because of their associations with the United States."

Syria and Jordan, for their part, may want to avoid being formally saddled with refugees who have special international status.

Newland said Syria and Jordan consider the refugees tourists or illegal immigrants, "which sort of implies that the problem will go away or that they would be perfectly within their rights to kick people out."

Jordan, a U.S. ally, has long accepted Arab refugees, and so has Syria's pan-Arabist dictatorship. The fear now is that both may close their borders. Pressure on Jordan, a country of just 6 million, is intense, with Iraqi refugees now accounting for 10 percent of its population -- the equivalent of 30 million landing on U.S. shores. Jordan began restricting entry after Iraqis bombed three hotels in Amman in 2005.

Many Iraqis are also living in Egypt and Lebanon. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have barred Iraqis.

"There's just no way a small country like Jordan can, unaided, absorb hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees," Newland said.

Despite terrorism concerns, some predict the United States eventually will admit several hundred thousand Iraqi refugees, as it has after most military conflicts.

"Is it going to be one of the unintended consequences of our invasion and occupation of Iraq that we may end up taking hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in this country?" said James Hollifield, an expert in international migration and director of the Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University. "I think there's a high probability of that, which is what we saw after Vietnam."

When the South Vietnamese government collapsed, the United States initially accepted 130,000 Vietnamese, including 65,000 fearing their lives because of their collaboration with Americans. Many conferences later, 1.4 million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians had been admitted, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Smaller admissions of refugees and those claiming asylum followed the conflict in Nicaragua in the 1980s, two Cuban crises in the 1960s and 1980s, the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Gulf War in the 1990s and the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The United States is the largest refugee host in the world, admitting 2.66 million since 1976.

"The reality is that refugee flows are really tied to foreign policy," said David Reimers, a historian emeritus at New York University. "It's perfectly possible that we could wind up with a couple hundred thousand Iraqi refugees.

"The parallel to me would be after Vietnam War," Reimers said. "There was a frantic number of Vietnamese who wanted to get out, and we were caught unawares; 130,000 or so climbed aircraft and helicopters," some on their own, some evacuated by the U.S. military. Many more followed, and Thailand was soon swamped. Thailand said it could not handle the flows and was not responsible for them. The initial U.S. evacuation soon became, said Citizenship and Immigration Services, "one of the longest running migration and refugee resettlement programs in the modern era."

"Whether it was guilt feelings or a moral imperative, we began to resettle them," Reimers said.

U.S. refugee policy has long been an ad hoc affair, Hollifield said. "We sort of make it up as we go along ... The fact is, refugee policy is a function of foreign policy, but also a function of our humanitarian instincts. It is in fact a very messy business."

Most Iraqi refugees are determined to be resettled to Europe or North America, advocates say. Life in the host countries has become more difficult, they report. Resentment is growing, and most Iraqis are not legally permitted to work.

Resettlement abroad is considered a last resort on humanitarian and foreign policy grounds. Countries in conflict eventually need their people to take part in their own national struggles, some believe. "If we take all the most educated and bright people from Haiti, Haiti's going to sink into the abyss," Hollifield said the thinking goes.

For now, refugee organizations are calling for increased U.S. aid to Jordan and even, through back channels, to Syria.

Some contend large-scale resettlement to the United States is unlikely because of anti-immigration sentiment and fear of terrorism.

"Islamophobia may be too strong a word, but there is suspicion at least of Muslims from the Middle East, and at this stage -- though this could change -- I think people in this country don't see the United States as being the main cause of the refugee flows," Newland said. "I would guess they see it more as result of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence."

Despite anti-war sentiment, Newland said, "we have not seen as much of an outpouring of sympathy for the innocent victims of this war from Americans, as we did in the aftermath of that terrible photograph of the little girl on fire with napalm (in Vietnam.) Nothing seems to have quite seized the imagination of the American public about Iraqi civilian victims of war in quite that way. Maybe we're just in the early stages. "

E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at

Page A - 1


All commit to Gulf, Iraq security; Bomb kills 70
KUWAIT (Agencies): Foreign minister of the GCC, Egypt, Jordan, and the US welcomed in their meeting on Tuesday the commitment by the US to defend security of the Gulf, territorial integrity of Iraq, and to ensure a successful, fair and inclusive political process that engaged all Iraqi communities to guarantee stability of the country. This came in the final communique of the fourth consultative meeting foreign ministers of six GCC member states, Egypt, Jordan, and the US. Participants agreed that a stable, prosperous, and unified Iraq was in the interest of all countries and that efforts to achieve national reconciliation that encompassed all elements of Iraqi society was strongly supported.

Moreover, they condemned sectarian violence that undermined the ability of the Iraqi people to live in peace and security, and called for the dismantlement of all militias. They expressed desire to “prevent Iraq from becoming a battle ground for regional and international powers” and urged all to help end sectarian violence in Iraq, hoping the Iraqi government would “actively engage all components of the Iraqi people in a real political process and act in a manner that ensures inclusiveness and paves the way for the success of national reconciliation.”

The ministers considered the pursuing of these objectives as “the responsibility of the Iraqi government and called for amending the constitution accordingly, and expressed their readiness to support its efforts in this regard.” Violence has been indiscriminate in Iraq since the US-led coalition liberated the country from the grip of the former baathist regime in March 2003. tens of thousands of civilians and military personnel were either killed or injured since the liberation.

On the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the ministers considered it “a central and core problem (of the crises in the Middle East) and that without resolving this conflict the region will nor enjoy sustained peace and stability.” They affirmed their commitment to achieving peace in the Middle East through the “two-state solution”, saying the foundation for this path included the Arab Peace Initiative, UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515, as well as the Road Map. Furthermore, they called on parties to abide by the 2005 Sharm El-Sheikh Understandings, and the Agreement on Movement and Access.

They hoped the December 2006 meeting between the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert would be “followed by concrete steps in this dialogue.” They reiterated their commitment to support Palestinian economy, building and strengthening the institutions of the Palestinian state. Hamas and Fatah — the two major Palestinian factions — are engaged in lengthly dialogue with other factions to establish a government of national unity with the aim of breaking the international isolation and pave way for assistance.

As for Lebanon, the ministers underscored their commitment to full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701. They called for respecting the sovereignty of Lebanon and “non-interference in its internal affairs”. They looked forward to a successful Paris III meetings, due in the French capital later this month, “which will support Lebanon’s long term development and fiscal stability.” The ministers strongly condemned all terrorist attacks in Lebanon since Oct 2004 and affirmed that all those involved must be held accountable. The Lebanese parties are at odds over the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri, who was murdered in downtown Beirut on Feb 14 2005.

Kuwait on Tuesday signalled Arab states’ support for a US military build-up in Baghdad, saying they hoped President George W. Bush’s plan would help stabilise Iraq. “We expressed our desire to see the president’s plan to reinforce American military presence in Baghdad as a vehicle ... to stabilise Baghdad and prevent Iraq from sliding into this ugly war, this civil war,” Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Salem Al-Sabah told reporters. Sheikh Mohammad was speaking at a joint news conference with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is on a regional tour to drum up support for Bush’s decision to send more than 20,000 new troops to stabilise Iraq.

Rice earlier held a meeting in Kuwait with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the six Gulf Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. The United States won Saudi backing on Tuesday for a US plan to stabilise Iraq, but Washington’s Gulf ally said success depended on Baghdad tackling sectarian strife driving the country towards civil war. As part her Arab tour to lobby support for the new US plan for Iraq, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Kuwait from Riyadh and began a meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Gulf Arab states.

Many Arab countries, including heavyweight Saudi Arabia, fear the plan announced by US President George W. Bush to stabilise Iraq would lead to an early departure of US troops from Iraq, leaving the violence-ravaged country moving towards civil war that might spill beyond Iraq’s borders.
“We agree fully with the goals set by the new strategy, which in our view are the goals that — if implemented — would solve the problems that face Iraq,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told a joint news conference in Riyadh.
But he said the Iraqi government needed to play its part.

“(The government) must stop the resistance, bring everyone into the political process and realise the hopes of the people,” he said, adding Shiite militias must be disbanded and the US-backed constitution, seen as pro-Shiite, revised.
“(The government) must deal with the issue of militias.
“Implementation (of US strategy) requires a positive response by the Iraqis themselves to these goals ... Other countries can help, but the main responsibility in taking decisions rests on the Iraqis,” he said.

The US administration has been urging Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to play a greater role in backing Iraq.
In Kuwait, Rice was meeting the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates — to try to forge a common position on Iraq. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, fears an early US troop withdrawal would solidify Shiite power and leave minority Sunnis at the mercy of Shiite militias. Rice, who met King Abdullah on Monday night, acknowledged the Saudi concern about militias but raised the issue of Saudi debt relief for Iraq, which Washington says would be a big help.

“We will continue to work with the Iraqi government to make sure networks running dangerous militias are stopped ... The financial issue will need to be worked out,” Rice said. “We have the same goal, which is an Iraq unified with its integrity and territory intact which doesn’t face outside interference,” she said. The Saudi minister declined to say what Riyadh would do if the new US strategy failed to stabilise the country, though he rejected suggestions that Saudi Arabia would use oil as a political tool to pressure Iran over its policies in the region.

Both Washington and Riyadh accuse Shiite power Iran of encouraging militia violence in Iraq. US forces are holding five Iranians after raiding an Iranian government office in the Iraqi city of Arbil last week — the second such operation in Iraq in the past few weeks. A Saudi official said on Monday Iran had asked Saudi Arabia to help ease tensions between the Islamic Republic and the United States, as Washington held out the possibility of “engagement” with Tehran if it changed tack in Iraq. But an Iranian newspaper on Tuesday quoted a foreign ministry official denying a request for mediation, and both Rice and Prince Saudi also played down such talk.

“There is no need for mediation,” Saud al-Faisal said, but added: “Our relations with the United States are longstanding ... Iran is a neighbour of Saudi Arabia, so obviously we hope to avoid any conflict.” Rice said on Monday she would bring Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas together soon for informal talks on how to set up a Palestinian state. A senior US official said the meeting would be held in three to four weeks, probably in the Middle East. Arab states are anxious for Washington to renew efforts to find a solution to the historical conflict, which they say is the underlying cause of the region’s political problems.

An explosion outside a Baghdad university as students were heading home for the day killed at least 65 people today, in the deadliest of several attacks on predominantly Shiite areas. The attack came on a day the United Nations said more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians died last year in sectarian violence. Attacks in Baghdad — the university explosion, blasts at a marketplace for used motorcycles and a drive-by shooting — came as at least 109 people were killed or found dead nationwide in what appeared to be a final spasm of violence ahead of an imminent security operation by the Iraqi government and US forces to secure the capital.

The violence also came a day after the Iraqi government hanged two of Saddam Hussein’s henchmen in an execution that left many of the ousted leader’s fellow Sunni Muslims seething after one of the accused, the ousted leader’s half brother, was decapitated on the gallows. Cabinet ministers and legislators loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were instructed to end their six-week boycott of the political process, a parliamentarian in the political bloc said today, indicating that the decision was linked to the new security drive.

“We might be subjected to an attack and we should try solve the problem politically. We should not give a chance for a military strike against us,” said the legislator, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information was not yet public. The lawmaker said the group’s return was conditional, including demands that the government set up a committee to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops and a second that would set a date by which Iraqi forces were to take control of security nationwide. Until the walkout, the al-Sadr faction was an integral part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s governing coalition. Six Cabinet ministers and 30 legislators who belong to the movement called the boycott after al-Maliki met with President Bush in Jordan in late November.

Much of the violence has been blamed on Shiite militias, particularly the Mahdi Army militia loyal al-Sadr. Dozens of bodies turn up on the streets of Baghdad daily, many showing signs of torture. Tuesday’s largest attacks took place in primarily Shiite neighborhoods and appeared to be the work of Sunnis, who largely make up the insurgency targeting the Iraqi government and US forces. Raad Abbas, a 26-year-old who received shrapnel wounds in the attack at the motorcycle market that killed 13, said he went to the market because the city had been quieter over the past two weeks.

“Shortly after midday, I heard an explosion. Motorcycles were flying in the air, people were falling dead and wounded,” he said from his hospital bed. As the curious gathered to look at the aftermath of the first explosion — a bomb attached to a motorcycle — a suicide car bomber drove into the crowd and blew up his vehicle. The attack appeared to target the mainly Shiite neighborhood near the market but also was near the Sheik al-Gailani shrine, one of the holiest Sunni locations in the capital. The bombing near Al-Mustansiriya University took place as students were boarding minivans waiting outside the building to take them home, police said. Some police saying the explosion was caused by a suicide car bomber and others saying two of the minivans blew up as students were boarding.

About 45 minutes later, gunmen in a minivan and on two motorcycles opened fire on an outdoor market in a mainly Shiite neighborhood in nearby section of eastern Baghdad, police said. At least 11 people were killed. While most of those killed were in Baghdad, two Christian brothers and a Sunni Arab mechanic were shot to death in two separate attacks in Mosul, police said. They also found the bullet-riddled body of a man in the northern city. Gianni Magazzeni, the chief of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq in Baghdad, said 34,452 civilians were killed — an average of 94 per day — and 36,685 were wounded last year in sectarian violence.

The Iraqi Health Ministry did not comment on the UN report, which was based on information released by the Iraqi government and hospitals. The government has disputed previous figures released by the UN as “inaccurate and exaggerated.” Iraqi government figures announced in early January put last year’s civilian death toll at 12,357. Magazzeni said the UN figures were compiled from information obtained through the Iraqi Health Ministry, hospitals across the country and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad.

He also criticized the government, saying urgent action was needed to re-establish law and order in the country. “Without significant progress in the rule of law sectarian violence will continue indefinitely and eventually spiral out of control,” he warned. The UN report also said that 30,842 people were detained in the country as of Dec 31, including 14,534 in detention facilities run by US-led multinational forces. It pointed to killings targeting police, who are seen by insurgents as collaborating with the US effort in Iraq. The report said the Interior Ministry had reported on Dec. 24 that 12,000 police officers had been killed since the war started in 2003.

The report also painted a grim picture for other sectors of Iraqi society, saying the violence has disrupted education by forcing schools and universities to close as well as sending professionals fleeing from the country. At least 470,094 people throughout Iraq have been forced to leave their homes since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra. In Monday’s execution, a thickset Barzan Ibrahim plunged through the trap door and was beheaded by the jerk of the thick rope at the end of his fall, in the same execution chamber where Saddam was hanged a little over two weeks earlier. Dozens of people, mostly schoolchildren, read Quranic verses at the graves in Tikrit as mourning continued for Ibrahim, Saddam’s half brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court under Saddam.

Some 150 youths also staged a demonstration in Saddam’s hometown, 80 miles north of Baghdad, chanting “down with the pro-Iranian government” and “glory to Barzan,” but it was calmer than the day before when at least 3,000 angry Sunnis assembled for the burials in nearby Ouja..A government video of the hanging, played for reporters, showed Ibrahim’s body passing the camera in a blur. The body came to rest on its chest while the severed head lay a few yards away, still wearing the black hood pulled on moments before by one of the five masked executioners.

The United Nations warned on Tuesday of a “looming crisis” in the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk where it said ethnic Turkmen and Arabs were being intimidated by Kurdish forces. Sitting atop one of the world’s richest oil fields and just outside the borders of the largely autonomous Kurdistan region, Kirkuk could become a regional flash-point, a UN report said. Events in the area are already closely watched by neighbouring countries such as Turkey, which has historic links to the Turkmen and is deeply suspicious of Kurdish ambitions. Kurds want to annex the city for their capital and Iraq’s new constitution mandates a local referendum on the issue later this year. Under Saddam Hussein, Kirkuk was subject to an “Arabisation” policy that drove many Kurds from their homes and brought in Arabs, mostly Shi’ite Muslims from the south.

Since the US invasion of 2003, many Kurds have returned and Turkmen and Arabs in the city now complain of “ethnic cleansing”. The Iraq Study Group, which reported to US President George W. Bush last month, said there was a “great risk” of the referendum sparking further violence in Kirkuk. In its bi-monthly human rights report on Iraq, the United Nations said the deterioration of the situation in Kirkuk was a major concern, particularly the rights of Arabs and Turkmen, which it called “minorities” although census data is disputed.

“They face increasing threats, intimidations and detentions, often in KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) facilities run by Kurdish intelligence and security forces,” the report said. “Such violations may well be the prelude of a looming crisis in Kirkuk in the coming months,” it said. The report cited arbitrary detentions by security forces and by Kurdish militias, and said ethnic groups have started moving closer to their own communities for protection. Turkey fears the Iraqi Kurds will turn Kirkuk into the capital of a new independent Kurdish state, which could reignite separatism among the Kurds of southeast Turkey.

Last week Turkey said it could not stand idly by if Kurds seize control of Kirkuk, although analysts say military intervention by Turkey, a Nato ally of the United States, is unlikely. But, Ankara could increase diplomatic and commercial pressure since Turkish territory provides crucial land routes for potential Iraqi oil exports to the West. The UN report warned that violence was also rising in Mosul, another city near Kurdistan where Kurds and Arabs live in uneasy coexistence. It said 40 civilian and police deaths were reported each week on average recently.

Documents Leaked to Web Prompt First-Amendment Debate

Legal Affairs

Morning Edition, January 17, 2007 · A federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., is considering whether bloggers are entitled to the same free speech protections given to reporters for newspapers and other media. The case involves leaked documents belonging to the pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly.

Specifically, the documents concern the drug Zyprexa. It's a schizophrenia drug and the company's best-seller. Lilly had turned over the documents to lawyers representing patients who were suing the company.

As is common in such cases, the documents — thousands of pages of internal Eli Lilly e-mails, research studies and marketing reports — were kept confidential by court order. But last month, they leaked out and were obtained by several organizations, including The New York Times and NPR.

On Dec. 17, 2006, the Times ran the first of several stories based on the leaked documents. According to the Times, they showed that Lilly had engaged in a decade-long effort to play down the risks of Zyprexa — risks such as excessive weight gain and diabetes. Lilly strongly disputes the description of what the documents show.

For a couple of days, you could judge for yourself, because the Zyprexa documents were posted on the Web by individuals to whom they were also leaked.

On Dec. 18, Lilly obtained a temporary court order to get its documents back. The New York Times refused, but the Web links were shut down. Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein will be asked to restore the links.

Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Freedom Foundation in San Francisco will argue that the order to shut down the Web links violated the protections of the first amendment.

"Courts in the United States, thanks to the First Amendment, are not allowed to issue what are called 'prior restraints,' Von Lohmann said. "After all, the Pentagon Papers were also allegedly improperly obtained. And the courts have said over and over again 'It doesn't matter if the documents were improperly obtained. Courts do not issue stop-the-presses orders against people who happen to get the documents after they had been released.'"

Von Lohmann's client is anonymous. "John Doe" posted entries on a Wikipedia Web site about the Zyprexa documents. He doesn't have the stature of the reporters involved in the Pentagon Papers case. They worked for The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Neil Richards, a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, says this case squarely poses the question of whether "John Doe" deserves the same protections as the established media.

"A number of people have made claims to be the press," Richards said. "The Supreme Court, in interpreting the First Amendment, has defined the press very broadly because it doesn't want to foreclose new types of people who are engaged in press-like activities from claiming First Amendment protection."

Richards thinks the court will decide that "John Doe" is a full-fledged member of the press.

But to release the documents on the Web, Richards says, Judge Weinstein will also have to decide that the public interest in knowing what's in the documents outweighs Lilly's interest in protecting its trade secrets.

For its part, Lilly says releasing the documents could harm patients and physicians, because the documents tell only part of the story about Zyprexa.

A ruling could come at any time.


Listen to this story...


Israeli Military postpones apartheid move


Today, the Israeli Army announced in a statement that it will "postpone the implementation" of a new order which will prohibit Israelis to transport Palestinians in their cars.

Many Palestinians felt relief at this! Some would say that this is nice. We, however, forget that the normal thing is that this should not happen. No where in the world is it acceptable that you are not allowed to transfer someone else in your card based on nationality. This, however, shows how sad our situation is becomming, when we appreciate that we are not stripped from our right. We forget that it is uncomprehensible for others to hear this, and that we as humans, deserve to be free of such humiliation and discrimination.

The order itself is nothing more than an extension to the Apartheid policy currently implemented by Israel. The fact that separate road networks run throughout the West Bank for Arabs and Israelis is an illustration of how this policy dwarfs even the sickest of Apartheid South African policies which forced Blacks and coloured people to sit in the rear end of busses, reserving the front for Whites, it dwarfs the Pass laws which prohibited the movement of Blacks outside their "homelands" without a signed pass, it dwarfs the limitations on housing,

employment and education that the Afrikaan Government imposed on Blacks and coloured. As a matter of fact, I cannot think of an Apartheid Policy that does not have its like in Israel.

UN Report on Iraqi Deaths for 2006 [pdf]

UN Report on Iraqi Deaths for 2006 - PDF

How to Bury a Secret: Turn It Into Paperwork

Millions of Pages Are Declassified, but That Doesn't Necessarily Mean Divulged

By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; C01

At the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, something profound happened in the government secrecy system. With little fanfare, the paradigm of secrecy shifted.

The days when secrets would be secret forever officially ended that night. Some 700 million pages of secret documents became unsecret. No longer were they classified. They became . . . public. Imagine it: Some 400 million formerly classified pages at the National Archives, another 270 million at the FBI, 30 million elsewhere, all emerging into the sunshine of open government, squinting and pale, like naked mole rats.

This would seem a victory for freedom of information, just as President Bill Clinton envisioned when he signed Executive Order 12958 in 1995 (affirmed by President Bush in 2003), which mandated that 25-year-old documents be automatically declassified unless exempted for national security or other reasons.

But it is not so simple. There is a dirty little secret about these secrets: They remain secreted away. You still can't rush down to the National Archives to check them out. In fact, it could be years before these public documents can be viewed by the public.

Fifty archivists can process 40 million pages in a year, but now they are facing 400 million. The backlog, inside the National Archives II facility in College Park, measures 160,000 cubic feet inside a massive classified vault with special lighting and climate controls to preserve old paper. Row upon row of electronically operated steel shelves, all a pale gray, hold hundreds of thousands of document boxes buffered to fight destructive acidity. The place feels like the set of a science fiction movie, all pristine and orderly and hushed.

Inside the boxes are documents that have to be scrutinized and processed according to the classification instructions written on them by staffers in any one of several agencies, which leaves archivists with a task not unlike deciphering a 25-year-old crime scene.

"It's like 'CSI,' only it's in records," says Neil Carmichael, the supervisory archivist. "You never know what you're going to get."

The work, says Jeanne Schauble, is "esoteric," all about arcane rules and layers of document review. She holds the rather Orwellian title of director of the Initial Processing and Declassification Division at the National Archives, which means she leads the beleaguered team of archivists faced with the task of making open government real.

"The United States has the most open government in the world," says Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, "but it also has the most secretive government in the world, if you measure it by the production of new secrets."

And so, among the 400 million pages of documents awaiting their release are road maps to American history in the 1950s and 1960s: old mob investigations and the chase after Communist activists; kidnappings and bank robberies; diplomatic doings no longer deemed sensitive. But frankly, no one really knows what's there -- except the officials who originally classified them.

Not only are archivists overwhelmed by the number of documents that have arrived at the facility; they also face the strange mumbo jumbo of competing declassification instructions from various agencies. (Some agencies have given archivists with the appropriate security clearances the authority to make declassification decisions.)

When they open a box containing these old records, the archivists see a series of papers with white tabs affixed bearing numbers, dates, letters, slashes and circles that are supposed to tell them how to proceed. Each agency has a different dialect, a different set of codes for communicating its wishes to the National Archives. One agency might use an "R" to mean release, while another agency might use an "R" to mean retain.

"Each time we crack a new record group, we have to wait for that learning curve," says Meredith Wagner, an archive specialist.

Discovering the precise intent of these codes takes up time with perhaps annoying phone calls to the agencies. "But they are more annoyed if we release something they didn't intend for us to release," says Schauble.

Another minefield is the "equity" issue, which involves more than one agency having an interest in a document and its classified information. For example, if the State Department has used CIA information in its document, then both agencies have to review it for declassification. That means a document has to be pulled from boxes repeatedly -- not a good idea with delicate old paper, often of the onionskin variety.

To solve this problem, a National Declassification Initiative has been established so that agencies can sort out their equity issues together, around the same table, at the same time, and perhaps prevent embarrassments such as occurred last year when previously public information was reclassified. This new project is in its early stages.

Finally, the archivists spend their days poring over these papers, straining their eyes, kinking their necks and knowing that a lot of those classified documents never needed to be classified in the first place. In the secrecy system, over-classification is rampant. On that point, people in and out of government agree. The 9/11 Commission Report decried the level of government secrecy as a national security obstacle. A Defense Department official testified before Congress in August 2004 that perhaps 50 percent of classified documents did not need that designation.

Leaks and unauthorized disclosure of classified information are bad, "but the flip side is equally damaging, and that is the over-classification of information," says J. William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, which reports to both the National Archives as well as the White House.

To manage all this secrecy -- to store it, secure it, process it -- costs the country $7.7 billion in 2005, Leonard says.

Says Aftergood: "We are reaping the consequences of past neglect. For decades, the agencies have been allowed to run roughshod. They've been allowed to classify at will and to completely neglect the declassification side of the equation."

Old secrets also can provide context for new crises. For example, U.S. dealings with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s are still coming to light.

"It's our history, and in many cases, it's our present," Aftergood says.

With a proverbial sword hanging over their heads, agencies (excepting those associated with national security) were forced to change their secrecy culture when Clinton signed his executive order. They had to review their documents and argue for their continued classification, or see them all automatically made public. Some 400 million were declassified even before the Dec. 31, 2006, deadline. Add that backlog to the most recent 700 million declassified pages, and the mountain of paper surpasses a billion pages. But it wasn't as if these documents spilled out of a vault or were shoved out the front door of the FBI.

"You can't come down Pennsylvania Avenue and find them on the sidewalk," joked David M. Hardy, chief of the FBI's record/information dissemination section.

The FBI's declassified records are in its own repositories. Many other declassified agency records, including those of the State and Treasury departments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Federal Aviation Administration, are at Archives II in College Park.

Aftergood says he is expecting some surprises of an unknown nature, not based on anything he knows but on what he doesn't know. That, he says, is the value of declassification: offering up the unexpected.

"Without having a clue as to what they are," he said, "I'm confident they're in there."

Two Navy Men Create an Outlet For Military Protests on the We

Why They Fight -- From Within

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; C01

NORFOLK, Jan. 15 -- For Jonathan Hutto and David Rogers, life has become something of a surreality show. The two Navy men, comrades in arms, are waging a war against a war.

Working from within, Hutto, Rogers and others have established , a Web site that enables active-duty, reserve and National Guard troops to appeal directly to Congress to withdraw military personnel from Iraq. On Monday, the group held its coming-out news conference in Norfolk, announcing that more than 1,000 people have signed appeals. On Tuesday, the pleas will be presented to Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) on Capitol Hill.

All of this comes at a time when President Bush is sending even more troops to war.

"Just because you joined the military doesn't mean your constitutional rights are suspended," said Hutto, a petty officer third class and 1999 Howard University graduate. "True patriotism is having a questioning attitude about the government."

Redress in this situation means relief, he said. "Relief from this war."

Hutto, 29, works in communications on an aircraft carrier. Rogers, 34, is quartermaster on a frigate. They've been friends since boot camp three years ago. Neither has served in Iraq. But they say 60 percent of the signers have served in the war. The signers are not lawbreakers, deserters or conscientious objectors, Hutto says. They believe in obeying orders.

Some, however, are reticent to appear in public. Organizers estimated that about two dozen active-duty members showed up at the Norfolk event, in a church near the naval base here. They were expecting 50. Hutto pointed out that many of the signers do not live in the Norfolk area.

The Appeal for Redress group has its critics. "The military's job is to carry out and implement foreign policy, not influence it," said Wade Zirkle, the executive director of Vets for Freedom. "That's what separates our country from military dictatorships. That's why we don't have military coups and military people running our country."

For military folks to appeal for redress "is un-American in principle," Zirkle said, and he pointed out that some of the organizers haven't even been to Iraq. A first lieutenant in the Marines, Zirkle served two tours there and was injured by a car bomb.

In between fielding phone calls and hanging banners for the rally, Hutto and Rogers paused for a moment in a downtown park on Sunday. A memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. loomed in the sunny distance. Both men wore Martin Luther King Jr. pins.

The idea for the within-the-ranks antiwar group came after Hutto read "Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War" by David Cortright. Hutto showed the book to Rogers. They invited Cortright to come to Norfolk.

"I was so impressed by the seriousness of the discussion," said Cortright, who teaches peace studies at the University of Notre Dame. He said it takes guts for active military members to speak out. "But they do it respectfully."

A specialist 4 during Vietnam, Cortright said there were hundreds of active-military antiwar groups by 1970. "They published underground newspapers, ran coffeehouses, organized demonstrations and protests," he said. He recalled that in 1969, a petition signed by more than 1,300 active-duty military people -- calling for a national protest against the Vietnam War -- ran in the New York Times.

A widely circulated appeal for redress is a new wrinkle made possible by the Internet. The plea is simply stated. Here is the nut: I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. The site is also sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out.

Hutto launched the Web site in October. Signers include:

Kevin Torres, 23, from Brooklyn, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne who has served two tours in Iraq. "I felt like with our being there, we were making more enemies," he said. "The people hated us. They wanted us out of the city."

And Liam Madden, 22, a Marine sergeant from Vermont. He spent seven months on the ground in Iraq. "I saw Iraq struggling to get on its feet and failing to do so -- despite the best efforts of American military," he said. "I have nothing against the military or my experience. It's the policy I oppose."

Though Madden was braced for some sort of retribution, formal or informal, after he went public with his opposition to the war, "it never came," he said. "I give credit to my chain of command. After all, the appeal for redress is legal."

Madden helped to launch the site last fall. A portion is devoted to the rights and responsibilities of people in military service. A Defense Department directive allows members of the military to send a protected communication to a member of Congress on any matter without blowback.

Kucinich will meet today with representatives of the group to receive the appeals for redress and present them to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"I think it's important for the troops to have a vehicle by which they can address Congress," Kucinich, a vociferous opponent of the war, said in a phone interview. "We need to hear from them."

He said warriors have the right to question their mission and not be like the cavalry in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade": Theirs not to reason why /Theirs but to do and die.

Hutto and Rogers are aware that the Navy could become more directly involved if the United States turns its attention toward Iran. "I would go, with serious questions," Hutto said. "And with a bit of sorrow."

And, he said, "I would go because I'm in solidarity with the men and women I serve with."

Rogers agreed, though he said the whole affair -- being an antiwar warrior -- reminds him of the novel "Catch-22."

Neither sailor will be in Washington on Tuesday for the presentation of the appeals. Following previous orders, they both are headed to sea.

Ukraine Lawmaker Dead After Hunting 'Mishap'

Ukraine Lawmaker Dead After Hunting Mishap

Evhen Kushnarev, a leaders of Ukraine's pro-Russia political faction, died on Wednesday as a result of a hunting accident, the Interfax news agency reported.

Kushnarev, 56, had been one of the top figures in the Regions Ukraine political party, whose political strength is based in the industrial east and south of the country.

A companion shot Kushnarev one time in the stomach, while the former Kharkiv province governor was hunting for boar in a Kharkiv region nature reserve.

The slug severely damaged his intestine, liver, stomach, and kidney.

Police on Wednesday detained a suspect in the reportedly accidental shooting. Foul play is not suspected.

Surgeons at provincial hospital in the town Izium operated on Kushnarev twice to remove a kidney, 50 centimetres of intestine, and to stop severe bleeding in his liver.

Kushnarev never regained consciousness, and died of a heart failure Wednesday afternoon.

Kushnarev, an outspoken politician, was widely unpopular in the pro-Europe portions of Ukraine, in no small part because of his public suggestion during Ukraine's 2005 Orange Revolution the country's Russian-speaking East secede, by force if necessary.

Regions Ukraine under Kushnarev's guidance regained control over the Ukrainian parliament in September 2006, and pushed through a series of laws dramatically weakening the country's pro-Europe executive branch.

© 2007 DPA

How US is deferring war costs

from the January 16, 2007 edition

As war spending on Iraq and Afghanistan nears the levels for Vietnam and Korea, concern is rising over the 'borrow now, pay later' approach.

Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

To pay for World War II, Americans bought savings bonds and put extra notches in their belts. President Harry Truman raised taxes and cut nonmilitary spending to pay for the Korean conflict. During Vietnam, the US raised taxes but still watched deficits soar.

But to pay for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has used its credit card, counting on the Chinese and other foreign buyers of its debt to pay the bills.

Now, as President Bush is promising to boost the number of troops in Iraq, there is increased scrutiny over how the US is going to pay for it all.

The US is spending about $10 billion a month on Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, the total funds appropriated will be nearly $600 billion – approaching the amount spent on the Vietnam or Korean wars, when adjusted for inflation.

However, the actual impact of the war on the economy is different than in the past, largely because the US economy is so much bigger now. During World War II, some analysts calculate that the US spent as much as 30 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on the war effort. The Korean War, at its spending peak in 1953, represented 14 percent of GDP; Vietnam was about 9 percent. The current war, however, is less than 1 percent of America's annual $13 trillion GDP.

Payment due: in the future

The US can certainly afford the war, says budget analyst Stan Collender, a managing director of Qorvis Communications in Washington. But the spending is taking resources from other areas, he notes. Because the US is borrowing to finance the war, the cost will be borne by future generations. "And it's still going to be one of the most expensive wars we have ever fought," he says.

Unlike in previous major wars, the United States has cut taxes at the same time it has increased military spending. "It's fair to say all of the money spent on the war has been borrowed," says Richard Kogan, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank in Washington. "But eventually everything has to be paid for."

Congressional questioning

Congress hopes to hold hearings on the financial implications of the war before the president releases his budget proposal for fiscal year 2008 on Feb. 5. Democrats, now in the majority, plan to ask a wide range of questions, from the future costs of the war to how those costs should be budgeted.

"We won't balance the budget in one year. The best we can expect is five years," says Rep. John Spratt (D) of South Carolina, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, in a phone interview. "But we need to know: What is the bar we need to reach?"

Estimating the budget deficit has become more difficult in recent years because the White House has funded much of the war through emergency supplemental bills, which are not included in the federal budget. According to a Congressional Research Service report, it is a practice that other administrations have employed since the Korean War. This year, the White House is expected to ask for another $100 billion in supplemental war funds, but Representative Spratt says he would like to get the war back on the budget since it can be argued the war is no longer an emergency.

"Calling it an emergency means the spending does not get the scrutiny," he adds, because then the spending is reviewed by only one committee – House Appropriations. In addition, he says, emergency spending is exempt from caps on discretionary spending. This has prompted the military to include in the bill items that are not directly related to the war. Making the spending a part of the budget would end the practice of some members placing pet projects on a bill that must be passed, he says.

A war-by-war cost comparison

Numbers are fuzzy on how much has been spent so far on the global war on terror. According to the House Appropriations Committee, some $471 billion has been committed so far. Spratt says it's closer to $507 billion. By the end of this year, on a cash basis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be closing in on the costs of the Vietnam War ($650 billion in today's dollars) and the Korean War ($691 billion).

Some analysts believe the cost of the war is much higher than Congress estimates. In a study last January and updated in October, Harvard Prof. Linda Bilmes and Columbia Prof. Joseph Stiglitz estimated the budgetary and economic cost of the war at $2 trillion.

Ms. Bilmes, in a phone interview, says Congress looks only at its cash outlays, not at the war's future costs. For example, she says, an estimated 42,000 light trucks are in use in Iraq. Although it costs something to run them, the major cost will be replacing them. "That's not factored into the cost of the war," she says.

The same is true of the cost of taking care of injured veterans in the future. "After our study came out, what surprised us is that the VFW, the Vietnam Vets, and others said, 'Thanks for shining the spotlight on this issue, but your numbers are too low,' " Bilmes says. After working with the vets, she concluded that the future costs of caring for the wounded were much higher than she had estimated.

Just the cash costs alone have mushroomed over the past two years, says Steve Kosiak, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think tank in Washington. He estimates that Congress has appropriated nearly $300 billion during that period. "Perhaps some of the additional cost is for repairing the equipment," he says. "But it's fair to say it's partly a mystery why it's up so much."

Polls show people are concerned about the war, says Dennis Jacobe, chief economist at the Gallup Organization in Washington. But, he adds, "they are not concerned about the cost."

This is partly because of the way the war is funded through the supplemental budget process, Mr. Jacobe says. But it's also because the war has not disrupted the economy the same way past wars have. "It's really had no significant impact except for the deficit spending," he says.