Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Iran Next, No WMD's? Babylon Paved

1) This Just In, Iran's Next:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1392078,00.html

Special forces 'on the ground' in Iran

Ian Traynor
Monday January 17, 2005
The Guardian

American special forces have been on the ground inside
Iran scouting for US air strike targets for suspected
nuclear weapons sites, according to the renowned US
investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
In an article in the latest edition of the New Yorker,
Hersh, who was the first to uncover US human rights
abuses against Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison
last year, reports that Pakistan, under a deal with
Washington, has been supplying information on Iranian
military sites and on its nuclear programme, enabling
the US to conduct covert ground and air reconnaissance
of Iranian targets, should the escalating row over
Iran's nuclear ambitions come to a head.

Acting on information from Pakistani scientists
knowledgeable about Iran's nuclear programme, Hersh
reported, US commandos have penetrated territory in
eastern Iran seeking to pinpoint underground
installations suspected of being nuclear weapons
sites.

Hersh told CNN yesterday: "I think they really think
there's a chance to do something in Iran, perhaps by
summer, to get the intelligence on the sites.

"The last thing this government wants to do is to bomb
or strafe, or missile attack, the wrong targets again.
We don't want another WMD flap. We want to be sure we
have the right information."

The New Yorker report said the Americans have been
conducting secret reconnaissance missions over and
inside Iran since last summer with a view to
identifying up to 40 possible targets for strikes
should the dispute over Iran turn violent.

"This is a war against terrorism and Iraq is just one
campaign," Hersh quotes one former US intelligence
official as saying. "The Bush administration is
looking at this as a huge war zone. Next we're going
to have the Iranian campaign."

Another unnamed source described as a consultant close
to the Pentagon said: "The civilians in the Pentagon
want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the
military infrastructure as possible."

That appeared to be a reference to noted "neocons" in
Washington, such as the defence secretary, Donald
Rumsfeld, his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and others.

Arguments about Iran's suspected nuclear programme
have raged for 20 months since it was revealed that
Tehran had been conducting secret nuclear activities
for 18 years in violation of treaty obligations.

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna has
had inspectors in the country throughout the period.
While finding much that is suspect, the inspectors
have not found any proof of a clandestine nuclear bomb
programme.

The IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, has infuriated the
Bush administration over his even-handed dealings with
Iran, while the Europeans have been pursuing a
parallel diplomatic track that has won grudging
agreement from Tehran to freeze its uranium enrichment
activities.

Hersh reported that the US campaign against Iran is
being assisted by Pakistan under a deal that sees
Islamabad provide information in return for reducing
the pressure on Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced
metallurgist who is the father of Pakistan's nuclear
bomb and who was revealed last year to be the head of
the biggest international nuclear smuggling racket
uncovered.

Since confessing his activities and being placed under
house arrest almost a year ago, Mr Khan has been
incommunicado.

After months of failure to get permission, IAEA
inspectors last week gained access to the Parchin
military facilities outside Tehran, which the
Americans contend has been a centre for Iranian
attempts to refine missile technology for nuclear
purposes, although experts agree that Iran does not
yet have a nuclear capability.

A White House aide, Dan Bartlett, sought to weaken
Hersh's New Yorker claims. The report, he told CNN,
was "riddled with inaccuracies."



2) From Riverbendblog:

http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/

Baghdad Burning

The United States has ended its physical search for
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, which was
cited by the first administration of President George
W Bush as the main reason for invading the country,
the White House has said.

Why does this not surprise me? Does it surprise
anyone? I always had the feeling that the only people
who actually believed this war was about weapons of
mass destruction were either paranoid Americans or
deluded expatriate Iraqis- or a combination of both. I
wonder now, after hundreds and hundreds of Americans
actually died on Iraqi soil and over a
hundred-thousand Iraqis are dead, how Americans view
the current situation. I have another question- the
article mentions a "Duelfer Report" stating the
weapons never existed and all the intelligence was
wrong. This report was supposedly published in October
2004. The question is this: was this report made
public before the elections? Did Americans actually
vote for Bush with this knowledge?

Over here, it's not really "news" in the sense that
it's not new. We've been expecting a statement like
this for the last two years. While we were aware the
whole WMD farce was just a badly produced black
comedy, it's still upsetting to hear Bush's
declaration that he was wrong. It's upsetting because
it just confirms the worst: right-wing Americans don't
care about justifying this war. They don't care about
right or wrong or innocents dead and more to die. They
were somewhat ahead of the game. When they saw their
idiotic president wasn't going to find weapons
anywhere in Iraq, they decided it would be about mass
graves. It wasn't long before the very people who came
to 'liberate' a sovereign country soon began burying
more Iraqis in mass graves. The smart weapons began to
stupidly kill 'possibly innocent' civilians (they are
only 'definitely innocent' if they are working with
the current Iraqi security forces or American troops).
It went once more from protecting poor Iraqis from
themselves to protecting Americans from 'terrorists'.
Zarqawi very conveniently entered the picture.

Zarqawi is so much better than WMD. He's small,
compact and mobile. He can travel from Falloojeh to
Baghdad to Najaf to Mosul… whichever province or city
really needs to be oppressed. Also, conveniently, he
looks like the typical Iraqi male- dark hair, dark
eyes, olive skin, medium build. I wonder how long it
will take the average American to figure out that he's
about as substantial as our previously alleged WMD.

Now we're being 'officially' told that the weapons
never existed. After Iraq has been devastated, we're
told it's a mistake. You look around Baghdad and it is
heart-breaking. The streets are ravaged, the sky is a
bizarre grayish-bluish color- a combination of smoke
from fires and weapons and smog from cars and
generators. There is an endless wall that seems to
suddenly emerge in certain areas to protect the Green
Zoners... There is common look to the people on the
streets- under the masks of fear, anger and suspicion,
there's also a haunting look of uncertainty and
indecision. Where is the country going? How long will
it take for things to even have some vague semblance
of normality? When will we ever feel safe?

A question poses it self at this point- why don't they
let the scientists go if the weapons don't exist? Why
do they have Iraqi scientists like Huda Ammash, Rihab
Taha and Amir Al Saadi still in prison? Perhaps they
are waiting for those scientists to conveniently die
in prison? That way- they won't be able to talk about
the various torture techniques and interrogation
tactics...

I hope Americans feel good about taking their war on
terror to foreign soil. For bringing the terrorists to
Iraq- Chalabi, Allawi, Zarqawi, the Hakeems… How is
our current situation going to secure America? How is
a complete generation that is growing up in fear and
chaos going to view Americans ten years from now? Does
anyone ask that? After September 11, because of what a
few fanatics did, Americans decided to become infected
with a collective case of xenophobia… Yet after all
Iraqis have been through under the occupation, we're
expected to be tolerant and grateful. Why? Because we
get more wheat in our diets?

Terror isn't just worrying about a plane hitting a
skyscraper…terrorism is being caught in traffic and
hearing the crack of an AK-47 a few meters away
because the National Guard want to let an American
humvee or Iraqi official through. Terror is watching
your house being raided and knowing that the silliest
thing might get you dragged away to Abu Ghraib where
soldiers can torture, beat and kill. Terror is that
first moment after a series of machine-gun shots, when
you lift your head frantically to make sure your loved
ones are still in one piece. Terror is trying to pick
the shards of glass resulting from a nearby explosion
out of the living-room couch and trying not to imagine
what would have happened if a person had been sitting
there.

The weapons never existed. It's like having a loved
one sentenced to death for a crime they didn't commit-
having your country burned and bombed beyond
recognition, almost. Then, after two years of grieving
for the lost people, and mourning the lost
sovereignty, we're told we were innocent of harboring
those weapons. We were never a threat to America...

Congratulations Bush- we are a threat now.



3) LA Times Editorial on No WMD's:

By Dante Zappala

01/14/05 "Los Angeles Times" --

This week, the White House announced, with little
fanfare, that the two-year search for weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq had finally ended, and it
acknowledged that no such weapons existed there at the
time of the U.S. invasion in 2003.

For many, this may be a story of only passing
interest. But for me and my family, it resonates with
profound depth.

My brother was Sgt. Sherwood Baker. He was a member of
the Pennsylvania National Guard deployed a year ago
with his unit out of Wilkes-Barre. He said goodbye to
his wife and his 9-year-old son, boarded a bus and
went to Ft. Dix, N.J., to be hastily retrained. His
seven years of Guard training as a forward observer
was practically worthless because he would not face
combat. All he needed to do was learn how to not die.

He received a crash course in convoy security,
including practice in running over cardboard cutouts
of children. We bought him a GPS unit and
walkie-talkies because he wasn't supplied with them.
In Iraq, Sherwood was assigned to the Iraq Survey
Group and joined the search for weapons of mass
destruction.

David Kay, who led the group until January 2004, had
already stated that they did not exist. Former United
Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix had expressed
serious doubts about their presence during prewar
inspections. In fact, a cadre of former U.N.
inspectors and U.S. generals had been saying for years
that Iraq posed no threat to our country. On April 26,
2004, the Iraq Survey Group, at the behest of the
stubborn administration sitting safely in office
buildings in Washington, was still on its fruitless
but dangerous search. My brother stood atop his
Humvee, securing the perimeter in front of a suspect
building in Baghdad. But as soldiers entered the
building, it exploded; the official cause is still not
known. Sherwood was struck by debris in the back of
his head and neck, and he was killed.

Since that day, my family and I have lived with the
grief of losing a loved one. We have struggled to
explain his death to his son. We have gazed at the
shards of life scattered at our feet, in wonder of its
fragility, in perpetual catharsis with God.

I have moved from frustration to disappointment to
anger. And now I have arrived at a place not of
understanding but of hope ‹ blind hope that this will
change.

The Iraq Survey Group's final report, which was filed
in October but revealed only on Wednesday, confirmed
what we knew all along. And as my mother cried in the
kitchen, the nation barely blinked.

I am left now with a single word seared into my
consciousness: accountability. The chance to hold our
administration's feet to that flame has passed. But
what of our citizenry? We are the ones who truly
failed. We shut down our ability to think critically,
to listen, to converse and to act. We are to blame.

Even with every prewar assumption having been proved
false, today more than 130,000 U.S. soldiers are
trying to stay alive in a foreign desert with no clear
mission at hand.

At home, the sidelines are overcrowded with patriots.
These Americans cower from the fight they instigated
in Iraq. In a time of war and record budget deficits,
many are loath to even pay their taxes. In the end,
however, it is not their family members who are at
risk, and they do not sit up at night pleading with
fate to spare them.

Change is vital. We must remind ourselves that the war
with Iraq was not a mistake but rather a flagrant
abuse of power by our leaders ‹ and a case of shameful
negligence by the rest of us for letting it happen.
The consequence is more than a quagmire. The
consequence is the death of our national treasure ‹
our soldiers.

We are all accountable. We all share the
responsibility of what has been destroyed in our name.
Let us begin to right the wrongs we have done to our
country by accepting that responsibility.

Dante Zappala is a part-time teacher in Los Angeles.
E-mail: dante.zappala@lycos.com


4) Letter from 17 years old Nofa Khadduri to President
Bush [www.abutamam.blogspot.com?]:

Thank you, for nothing.

So, Mr. President, you said what? “There are no
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”?

Huh? Funny thing you decided to mention that now.

It took you how long to admit this? Too long.

This confession of a big lie that you and your
government bestowed upon us, the people, and the rest
of the world came a little too late.

If you had told us this earlier, perhaps over a 1, 500
American soldiers would still be alive.

Perhaps that many young Americans would not have had
to give up their lives and defend their country for a
false cause.

If you, Mr. President, had told us this earlier, there
would not be so many ash burned neighborhoods in Iraq.
Cities in Iraq would not reek of death from your
bombs.

There would not be so many wives, husbands, mothers,
fathers, sisters, brothers and children crying for
their beloved ones.

There might have been a few that cried under the old
regime, it is true. But, you, you made that number
multiply by so many; even count lost its place.

But you don’t care. You didn’t have to count the dead
or collect their bodies, or even search through the
rubble for someone that you might love.

Maybe, if you had remembered to mention that Iraq had
no weapons of mass destruction since I don’t know,
let’s say 1991, when you found out that Iraq had no
capability of producing such ugly weapons; the world
would be a safer place.

But no, you decided to keep that little secret to
yourself.

You decided to sit back and watch as Iraq tumbles and
the souls of the dead rise. You sat back and watched
as your own people gave up their lives, for a country
– whose reputation, you have tainted.

So, thank you. Thank you for being so considerate.
Thank you for the partial truth you have given us, and
for all the pain and ache you caused Iraqis all around
the world. Not to mention the pain and the efforts of
the nations around the world that tried to help us,
but which you shut down and ignored over and over
again.

Please, don’t take this personally, but in all
honesty, if you are asking us “Isn’t the world a safer
place without Saddam?” think again, because you have
got the wrong person Mr. President.

The world would be safer without you too, and the
likes of you.


5) Babylon Paved Over:

Babylon wrecked by war

US-led forces leave a trail of destruction and
contamination in architectural site of world
importance

Rory McCarthy in Baghdad, and Maev Kennedy
Saturday January 15, 2005

Guardian

Troops from the US-led force in Iraq have caused
widespread damage and severe contamination to the
remains of the ancient city of Babylon, according to a
damning report released today by the British Museum.

John Curtis, keeper of the museum's Ancient Near East
department and an authority on Iraq's many
archaeological sites, found "substantial damage" on an
investigative visit to Babylon last month.

The ancient city has been used by US and Polish forces
as a military depot for the past two years, despite
objections from archaeologists.

"This is tantamount to establishing a military camp
around the Great Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge
in Britain," says the report, which has been seen by
the Guardian.

Among the damage found by Mr Curtis, who was invited
to Babylon by Iraqi antiquities experts, were cracks
and gaps where somebody had tried to gouge out the
decorated bricks forming the famous dragons of the
Ishtar Gate.

He saw a 2,600-year-old brick pavement crushed by
military vehicles, archaeological fragments scattered
across the site, and trenches driven into ancient
deposits.

Vast amounts of sand and earth, visibly mixed with
archaeological fragments, were gouged from the site to
fill thousands of sandbags and metal mesh baskets.
When this practice was stopped, large quantities of
sand and earth were brought in from elsewhere,
contaminating the site for future generations of
archaeologists.

Mr Curtis called for an international investigation by
archaeologists chosen by the Iraqis to record all the
damage done by the occupation forces.

Last night the US military defended its operations at
the site, but said all earth-moving projects had been
stopped and it was considering moving troops away to
protect the ruins.

Babylon, a city renowned for its beauty and its
splendour 1,000 years before Europe built anything
comparable, was chosen as the site for a US military
base in April 2003, just after the invasion of Iraq.

Military commanders set up their camp in the heart of
one of the world's most important archaeological sites
and surrounded the enclosed part of the ancient city.
At least 2,000 troops were installed, daily passing
iconic relics like the enormous basalt Lion of Babylon
sculpture.

In September 2003 the base was passed to a Polish-led
force, which held it until today's formal handover of
the site to the Iraqi culture ministry.

In his report, Mr Curtis accepted that initially the
US military presence helped protect the site from
looters. But he described as "regrettable" the
decision to set up a base in such an important spot.

He found that large areas of the site had been covered
in gravel brought in from outside, compacted and
sometimes chemically treated to provide helipads, car
parks and accommodation and storage areas. "The status
of future information about these areas will therefore
be seriously compromised," he said.

Archaeologists were horrified by the confirmation of
reports which have been filtering out of Iraq for
months.

"Outrage is hardly the word, this is just dreadful,"
said Lord Redesdale, an archaeologist and head of the
all-party parliamentary archaeological group. "These
are world sites. Not only is what the American forces
are doing damaging the archaeology of Iraq, it's
actually damaging the cultural heritage of the whole
world."

Tim Schadla Hall, reader in public archaeology at the
Institute of Archaeology at University College London,
said: "In this case we see an international conflict
in which the US has failed to take into account the
requirements of the Hague convention ... to protect
major archaeological sites - just another convention
it seems happy to ignore."

Lieutenant Colonel Steven Boylan, a US military spokes
man in Baghdad, said engineering works at the camp
were discussed with the head of the Babylon museum.
"An archaeologist examined every construction
initiative for its impact on historical ruins."

He said plans were being considered to move some of
the units in order "to better preserve the Babylon
ruins."

"The significance of Babylon is not lost on the
coalition," he added. "The site dates back to the time
of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon, but there are very few
visible original remains to the untrained eye."







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