Category Archives: international

Ex-Milan CIA chief goes into hiding over kidnapping of Muslim cleric

Robert Lady, the former CIA chief in Milan, has gone into hiding, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reports Tuesday. But “to this day, he continues to pay his $4,000 mortgage.”

The subject of an extradition order from Italian authorities for the role he played in the kidnapping of radical Muslim cleric Abu Omar in Milan… Lady was in Florida last, but reportedly moved on already. The only place the former agent can feel truly safe is the United States, now that an Italian court has issued an arrest warrant for him — just as it has done for 25 of his colleagues, who are said to have been involved in the Feb. 17, 2003 abduction of radical Muslim cleric Abu Omar along Via Guerzoni in downtown Milan.”

“The suspects are expected to be tried, in absentia, in June at Milan’s Palace of Justice in what will amount to the world’s first-ever trial against CIA agents accused of kidnapping,” Der Spiegel adds. “Until very recently, it seemed certain that the case would move ahead. But last week the Italian government asked the country’s highest justices at the constitutional court to determine whether the trial could proceed. This has fueled hope for Seldon and, indeed, the entire US administration, that a legal drama might still be prevented.”

“According to recent findings brought to light by American journalist Matthew Cole, writing in the March issue of GQ, it’s not just the agents involved in the abduction who need to be protected,” the paper adds. “Those truly responsible are to be found in the higher echelons of the US administration, according to Cole, who claims that current US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice personally approved the operation when she served as President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor. She apparently OKed Abu Omar’s abduction and then, according to Cole’s report, “fretted” during her meeting with the CIA over how she would inform Bush about the operation.”

[RawStory]

Prisoners to be put in cargo containers

Specially converted sea containers imported from China are to be turned into temporary jails to ease the British prisons overcrowding crisis, The Observer has learned.

The plan is to have the modules installed in five prisons by June at a cost of £3.5m each. Prisons earmarked for the new units include Stoke Heath Young Offenders Institution in Shropshire and Wayland Prison in Norfolk.

The government has also placed an order for two large-scale units comprising five containers bolted together and capable of holding 300 prisoners apiece. These larger modules will require planning permission, which means they are unlikely to be introduced until the end of the year. It is understood Rochester Prison in Kent has been identified as one possible site for the new units.

[TheGuardian]

Britain bans ‘dumb’ cluster bombs

The government has banned its armed forces from using “dumb” cluster bombs to cut the number of civilians killed and maimed by them, the Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday.

In future, British troops will only be allowed to use “smart” cluster bombs with features such as self-destruct mechanisms if they fail to explode on initial impact.

Charities such as Oxfam and Amnesty International have long argued for a ban on cluster bombs — devices containing hundreds of small bomblets which disperse over a large area — because they can leave a deadly legacy for years after the end of conflicts.

“It is our duty to make sure our forces have the equipment they need to do the job we ask of them,” Defence Secretary Des Browne told parliament in a written statement.

[RawStory]

Talking About Israel

Another great piece from Nicholas Kristof:

There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians. And that silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.

Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news media about the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories. Yet no major American candidate is willing today to be half as critical of hard-line Israeli government policies as, say, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper.

Three years ago, Israel’s minister of justice spoke publicly of photos of an elderly Palestinian woman beside the ruins of her home, after it had been destroyed by the Israeli army. He said that they reminded him of his own grandmother, who had been dispossessed by the Nazis. Can you imagine an American cabinet secretary ever saying such a thing?

…You can argue that Arabs pursue a double standard, focusing on repression by Israelis while ignoring greater human rights violations by fellow Arabs. But the suffering in Palestinian territories, while not remotely at the scale of brutality in Sudan or Iraq, is still tragically real…

…Hard-line Israeli policies have profoundly harmed that country’s long-term security by adding vulnerable settlements, radicalizing young Palestinians, empowering Hamas and Hezbollah, isolating Israel in the world and nurturing another generation of terrorists in Lebanon. The Israeli right’s aggressive approach has only hurt Israeli security, just as President Bush’s invasion of Iraq ended up harming U.S. interests…

[NYTimes]
(Times Select subscription required)

Bush’s Shadow Army

The Bush Administration is increasingly dependent on private security forces to do its dirty work, Jeremy Scahill reveals in his new book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. 

The often overlooked subplot of the wars of the post-9/11 period is their unprecedented scale of outsourcing and privatization. From the moment the US troop buildup began in advance of the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon made private contractors an integral part of the operations. Even as the government gave the public appearance of attempting diplomacy, Halliburton was prepping for a massive operation. When US tanks rolled into Baghdad in March 2003, they brought with them the largest army of private contractors ever deployed in modern war. By the end of Rumsfeld’s tenure in late 2006, there were an estimated 100,000 private contractors on the ground in Iraq — an almost one-to-one ratio with active-duty American soldiers.

To the great satisfaction of the war industry, before Rumsfeld resigned he took the extraordinary step of classifying private contractors as an official part of the US war machine. In the Pentagon’s 2006 Quadrennial Review, Rumsfeld outlined what he called a “road map for change” at the DoD, which he said had begun to be implemented in 2001. It defined the “Department’s Total Force” as “its active and reserve military components, its civil servants, and its contractors — constitut[ing] its warfighting capability and capacity. Members of the Total Force serve in thousands of locations around the world, performing a vast array of duties to accomplish critical missions.” This formal designation represented a major triumph for war contractors — conferring on them a legitimacy they had never before enjoyed.

Contractors have provided the Bush Administration with political cover, allowing the government to deploy private forces in a war zone free of public scrutiny, with the deaths, injuries and crimes of those forces shrouded in secrecy. The Administration and the GOP-controlled Congress in turn have shielded the contractors from accountability, oversight and legal constraints. Despite the presence of more than 100,000 private contractors on the ground in Iraq, only one has been indicted for crimes or violations. “We have over 200,000 troops in Iraq and half of them aren’t being counted, and the danger is that there’s zero accountability,” says Democrat Dennis Kucinich, one of the leading Congressional critics of war contracting.

[AlterNet]

Blair made secret deal with Saudis

BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair struck a secret deal with the king of Saudi Arabia, assuring him there would be no criminal charges against anyone implicated in bribery in Britain’s biggest arms deal.

In July 2005, Mr Blair assured the then crown prince, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who is now the Saudi King, that Britain would abandon an inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office into alleged massive corruption. It concerned a £60 million ($146 million) “slush fund” allegedly set up by BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest military contractor, to support the lifestyle of some members of the Saudi royal family.
Mr Blair told crown prince Abdullah during a visit to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, that the evidence would instead be offered to the Saudi authorities.

Sources with knowledge of the discussions say that even as the major fraud inquiry was expanding with the arrest of five British business executives, Mr Blair was telling crown prince Abdullah that the inquiry “was going nowhere.”

Disclosure of the secret deal undermines a parliamentary statement made by British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith last December that prosecutors, rather than Downing Street, had made the final decision to drop the inquiry. The news comes as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development prepares to send inspectors to London to find out why the inquiry was dropped. The OECD rebuked the Government for its decision to drop the case.

[TheAustralian]

Iraq experts say draft oil industry law fraught with problems

AMMAN (AFP) – Some Iraqi oil experts and politicians are aghast over their government’s approval of a bill that many fear will deliver the country’s oil wealth to international firms on a platter.

In February, capping months of bitter wrangling, the Baghdad government approved a draft law that aims to distribute revenue from crude oil exports equitably across Iraq’s 18 provinces and open the sector to foreign investors.

The multi-party government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sees the legislation as a key plank in moves to reunite a country torn apart by sectarian violence, and hopes that parliament will ratify the bill in May.

But former Iraqi oil industry officials, experts and lawmakers gathered in Jordan to debate the bill have warned that the timing is wrong, and expressed strong concerns that
Iraq would lose control of its own “black gold.”

shocking, right?

[AFP/Yahoo!]

The Ides of March 2003

Our ninja Frank Rich does it again:

TOMORROW night is the fourth anniversary of President Bush’s prime-time address declaring the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the broad sweep of history, four years is a nanosecond, but in America, where memories are congenitally short, it’s an eternity. That’s why a revisionist history of the White House’s rush to war, much of it written by its initial cheerleaders, has already taken hold. In this exonerating fictionalization of the story, nearly every politician and pundit in Washington was duped by the same “bad intelligence” before the war, and few imagined that the administration would so botch the invasion’s aftermath or that the occupation would go on so long. “If only I had known then what I know now …” has been the persistent refrain of the war supporters who subsequently disowned the fiasco. But the embarrassing reality is that much of the damning truth about the administration’s case for war and its hubristic expectations for a cakewalk were publicly available before the war, hiding in plain sight, to be seen by anyone who wanted to look.

[NYTimes]
(Times Select subscription required)

Thousands march to protest Iraq war

Thousands of anti-war demonstrators, some carrying yellow and black signs reading “U.S. out of Iraq now!” marched on the Pentagon on Saturday, one of several protests worldwide to mark four years of war.

The march, on a cold, cloudy and windy St. Patrick’s Day, comes just before the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war on Tuesday and 40 years after a similar protest at the Pentagon over the Vietnam War.

On a stage in the Pentagon parking lot, speaker after speaker demanded the end of the war in Iraq and some called for President George W. Bush’s impeachment. A flag-draped coffin was displayed near the stage bearing a picture of a young soldier killed in Iraq.

[Reuters/Yahoo!]

Chiquita to Pay $25M Fine in Terror Case

Banana company Chiquita Brands International said Wednesday it has agreed to a $25 million fine after admitting it paid terrorists for protection in a volatile farming region of Colombia.

The settlement resolves a lengthy Justice Department investigation into the company’s financial dealings with right-wing paramilitaries and leftist rebels the U.S. government deems terrorist groups.

In court documents filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said the Cincinnati-based company and several unnamed high-ranking corporate officers paid about $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC for its Spanish initials.

The AUC has been responsible for some of the worst massacres in Colombia’s civil conflict and for a sizable percentage of the country’s cocaine exports. The U.S. government designated the right-wing militia a terrorist organization in September 2001.

Prosecutors said the company made the payments in exchange for protection for its workers. In addition to paying the AUC, prosecutors said, Chiquita made payments to the National Liberation Army, or ELN, and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as control of the company’s banana-growing area shifted.

[The Guardian]

Kucinich: ‘Impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran’

During a speech on the House floor on Thursday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) declared that “impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran.” The 2004 presidential candidate, who is running again in 2008, told RAW STORY that his House floor statement “speaks for itself.”

“This House cannot avoid its constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power,” Kucinich said on the floor today. “The Administration has been preparing for an aggressive war against Iran. There is no solid, direct evidence that Iran has the intention of attacking the United States or its allies.”

Kucinich noted that since the US “is a signatory to the U.N. Charter, a constituent treaty among the nations of the world,” and Article II states that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” then “even the threat of a war of aggression is illegal.”

“Article VI of the U.S. Constitution makes such treaties the Supreme Law of the Land,” Kucinich continued. “This Administration, has openly threatened aggression against Iran in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the U.N. Charter.”

[RawStory]

Dems abandon war authority provision

WASHINGTON – Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush’s authority for taking military action against
Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.

[Yahoo!/AP]

Two Perspectives on the Iraqi Draft Oil Law

“Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?” [NYTimes]:

A new oil law set to go before the Iraqi Parliament this month would, if passed, go a long way toward helping the oil companies achieve their goal. The Iraq hydrocarbon law would take the majority of Iraq’s oil out of the exclusive hands of the Iraqi government and open it to international oil companies for a generation or more.

In March 2001, the National Energy Policy Development Group (better known as Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force), which included executives of America’s largest energy companies, recommended that the United States government support initiatives by Middle Eastern countries “to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment.” One invasion and a great deal of political engineering by the Bush administration later, this is exactly what the proposed Iraq oil law would achieve. It does so to the benefit of the companies, but to the great detriment of Iraq’s economy, democracy and sovereignty.

“Three cheers for Iraq’s new hydrocarbon law” [Slate.com]:

The recent hydrocarbon law, approved after much wrangling by Iraq’s council of ministers, deserves a great deal more praise than it has been receiving. For one thing, it abolishes the economic rationale for dictatorship in Iraq. For another, it was arrived at by a process of parley and bargain that, while still in its infancy, demonstrates the possibility of a cooperative future. For still another, it shames the oil policy of Iraq’s neighbors and reinforces the idea that a democracy in Baghdad could still teach a few regional lessons.

To illustrate my point by contrast: Can you easily imagine the Saudi government allocating oil revenues so as to give a fair share to the ground-down and despised Shiite workers who toil, for the most part, in the oil fields of the eastern region of the country?

Cheney makes 9/11-Iraq claim AGAIN

Vice President Dick Cheney, lashing out at Democrats for the first time since the felony conviction of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, his former top deputy, resumed his controversial claims Monday that the war in Iraq is the central front in the worldwide U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Cheney linked Iraq and al Qaeda even though post-invasion reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the presidential Commission on Intelligence Capabilities found no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda before the U.S.-led invasion on March 19, 2003.

In remarks to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Cheney contended that U.S. Marines face al Qaeda operatives in Anbar province, that the U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown has unmasked al Qaeda car bomb operations in Baghdad and that Osama bin Laden has promised to make Baghdad the capital of a radical Islamic empire reaching from Indonesia to Spain.

“As we get farther away from 9/11, I believe there is a temptation to forget the urgency of the task that came to us that day, and the comprehensive approach that’s required to protect this country against an enemy that moves and acts on multiple fronts,” Cheney told the annual conference of the pro-Israel group, which interrupted his speech at least 27 times with applause.

[SanFranciscoChronicle]

Curveball, the Defector Whose Lies Led to War

The Iraqi defector known as Curveball, whose fabricated stories of “mobile biological weapons labs” helped lead the U.S. to war four years ago, is still being protected by the German intelligence service, an ABC News investigation has found.

Intelligence sources, who provided ABCNews.com with the first known photo of the man, say he has been resettled in a small town near the Munich headquarters of the German service, which has continued to honor its original commitment made when he fled Iraq in 1999.

Curveball’s false tales became the centerpiece of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech before the United Nations in February 2003, even though he was considered an “unstable, immature and unreliable” source by some senior officials at the CIA.

[ABC News]