Monday, March 21, 2005

Wolfowitz,Gulag Achipelago, Iraq Health, ...

1) Wolfowitz?  Are they nuts?  Well, yes.  When asked
if they had consulted their European "allies" about
the choice, a Bush spokesperson said something to the
effect of: "of course...we agreed that the candidate
would be a person with diplomatic and mangagerial
experience -- and Paul Wolfowitz has that in spades."
In other words, not a peep to the Europeans, except
confirmation that it would not be...Bono. So, instead
of Bono, Bush offers the world Bozo. If Europe
doesn't stand up to Bush on this one, then they
literally have no shame or self-respect left. If you
liked Wolfowitz in the Pentagon, you'll LOVE him in
international development governance:,12271,1441444,00.html

The poodle and the Wolf

If he's serious about Africa, Blair must oppose Bush's
World Banker

Noreena Hertz
Saturday March 19, 2005
The Guardian

This is the year Africa will be saved, and we're going
to do it - that, more or less, was the prime
minister's message at the launch last week of the
report of the Commission for Africa. But not with Paul
Wolfowitz in charge of at the World Bank, we won't.
Key recommendations - for example, that corrupt
dictators' cash in foreign bank accounts should be
repatriated, and that forcing policies such as
privatisation on countries in exchange for debt relief
and aid needs to be rethought - are highly unlikely to
be endorsed by Wolfowitz.

This, after all, is a man who, while US ambassador to
Indonesia, was scarcely a vocal critic of the
blatantly corrupt Suharto regime; a man who embodies
the mindset that compels other countries to adopt a
particular set of values and policies, whether they
are right or not.

Wolfowitz is hardly even a champion of the values on
which the bank itself was founded. He is neither well
placed to help it meet its early goal of helping
countries rebuild, nor its later one of poverty
alleviation. Wolfowitz recently told the US congress
that war-ravaged Iraq should pay not only for its
reconstruction but also for the war itself out of its
oil revenues.

Although the bank today is hardly a collaborative or
progressive operation, any moves its current
president, James Wolfensohn, has made to include
environmental considerations in lending decisions and
to broaden the range of nations consulted are unlikely
to be continued under Wolfowitz, who has a track
record of rewarding subservience. He banned countries
that opposed the war with Iraq from bidding for
reconstruction contracts.

Perhaps most worryingly he is George Bush's chosen
one. And the Bush administration is a very long way
from the bank's espoused goals and mandate.
Development thinkers are now pretty much unanimous
that trade subsidies are a serious barrier to
development. Wolfensohn has spoken out against trade
subsidies. But the Bush administration continues to
reject calls to remove subsidies on its cotton and
sugar producers, while its response to the recent
World Trade Organisation ruling that US cotton
subsidies breached its trade rules has been an attempt
to negotiate a way out of the ruling with Mali and

There could hardly be a less suitable administration
to choose a candidate to lead an organisation whose
mission is to alleviate poverty. At home Bush has
implemented a series of tax cuts for the rich, and his
latest proposal to reduce the US deficit has been to
suggest the slashing of food aid to his country's

Of course, the US hijacking the World Bank to serve
its foreign policy interests is not a new phenomenon.
But the Bush administration is unabashedly forthright
in its pursuit of self-interest, and in its
willingness to use aid as a tool to promote its
geo-political goals. Bush has said that he nominated
Wolfowitz because he had proved himself adept at
promoting US interests while ambassador to Indonesia.
But the nomination of the World Bank president is
being left to a government that has cut off aid to any
country that does not exempt it from being held to
account by the international criminal court, and that
has resisted attempts by Wolfensohn to weaken the US
stranglehold over the bank.

It is only a matter of con vention that America gets
to nominate the president of the World Bank. The US
has twice successfully rejected Germany's candidate to
head the IMF, despite the convention that allows
Europe to nominate its head.

A rejection of the presumption that the US nominates
the bank president would chime well with today's
climate of demands for more democracy and transparency
in the development arena. It is also something that
fits with the Labour government's position on
necessary reforms of the international financial

Jack Straw said of Wolfowitz's nomination: "If his
appointment is confirmed, we look forward to working
with him." That is not the response the world is
looking to Britain for. If Blair is serious about
making poverty history, he will have todo away with
such diplomatic niceties for once. A U-turn on Blair's
wider support for Bush unfortunately remains a pipe
dream. But Blair credibly can, and should, oppose the

· Noreena Hertz is the author of IOU: The Debt Threat
and Why We Must Defuse It, and professor of global
political economy at the University of Utrecht

2) It's pretty clear that Wolfowitz's nomination is
designed to destroy, not reform, the World Bank. Even
it's employees see that:,12271,1441350,00.html

Don't deposit Wolfowitz with us, plead World Bank

Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday March 19, 2005
The Guardian

Washington's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as the World
Bank's next president has triggered an outcry among
the bank's staff, who have demanded the right to have
a say in his confirmation, it emerged yesterday.
The staff association has met the bank's executives to
voice its concerns after it was swamped with
complaints from employees over the selection of Mr
Wolfowitz, the US deputy defence secretary and one of
the architects of the Iraq war.

One bank employee said yesterday: "When you work for
the bank you have to be a compromise-seeker. Everyone
sees him as a divisive figure."

In an email to members, the staff association's
chairwoman, Alison Cave, said: "While recognising that
the selection and confirmation of the next World Bank
president is the prerogative of the shareholders,
staff are asking that their views be taken into
consideration and taken seriously by the

"The staff association is preparing to act as a
conduit for these views, and the executive committee
is urgently considering the most effective way to help
staff be heard."

Staff representatives met the outgoing bank president,
James Wolfensohn, on Thursday to express the level of
alarm. A bank official said: "There have been wild
emails about petitions and rallies, but the
association has assured us it definitively is not
going to involved in any of that."

Mr Wolfowitz's relationship with a member of World
Bank staff, Shaha Ali Riza, a Tunisian-born British
citizen who works as a communications adviser for the
Middle East and North Africa department, also appears
to have become an issue.

Ms Riza, a divorcee like Mr Wolfowitz, does not work
directly for the bank president's office and their
relationship would not be prohibited by the banks
internal guidelines.

But one official said yesterday: "It should be covered
[by World Bank rules], because the bank president does
have a lot of power." A colleague of Ms Riza said:
"There's no obvious reason she should lose her job
just because her boyfriend is made president." Ms Riza
did not return calls yesterday.

Staff at the World Bank fear Mr Wolfowitz might push
through longstanding US proposals to make it an
organisation that gives out grants rather than loans.
"It's much easier to politicise grants," an official
said. "Loans have to be economically feasible."

Sebastian Mallaby, the author of The World's Banker, a
profile of Mr Wolfensohn, said: "All incoming bank
presidents face scepticism and hostility from an
entrenched and proud staff of development
professionals who think they know ten times as much as
the new president."

The World Bank's executive directors, representing its
shareholder nations, announced yesterday they would be
interviewing Mr Wolfowitz in the next few days before
making a final decision.

Mr Mallaby said he expected European states to block
the appointment.

He said Mr Wolfowitz's biggest problem would be that
his reputation would be the focus of the World Bank's
enemies once he took up the job.

"The permanent establishment of World Bank critics -
who had been diverted to protesting [about] the Iraq
war - can now do both at once," Mr Mallaby said. "It's
like Christmas for them."

Not every bank official was up in arms yesterday. One
said: "It's better to have someone dynamic and [who]
knows about development than somebody who has just
been put out to pasture. I would rather be led
strongly even if I don't agree with[ him]."

3) Europeans gear up to fight Wolfowitz idea:

EU fury grows at Wolfowitz appointment
By Geoffrey Lean
20 March 2005

The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, has
been summoned to Brussels to explain to an angry
Europe how he would run the World Bank, in an
escalation of the international row over his
nomination to head the world's most important
development body.

European countries are furious both at President
George Bush's naming of an enemy of multilateralism
and by the unilateral way it was done, and are
considering whether to block it. But there are strong
indications that, although Tony Blair knew of the
appointment in advance, he did not inform his
Secretary of State for International Development,
Hilary Benn.

The summons - officially described as an "invitation"
- was issued by Louis Michel, the new EU Development
Commissioner, while he was attending a summit of G8
environment and development ministers in Derbyshire on
Friday. His demand was welcomed by many EU
governments, but Mr Wolfowitz, who has stressed his
willingness to "listen" to his critics, has yet to

A spokesman for Mr Michel said that Mr Wolfowitz was
being asked to present his "vision for development and
the role of the World Bank",, which provides more than
$20bn (£10.4bn) in funds to developing countries each

By tradition the US effectively appoints the president
of the World Bank, while Europe chooses the head of
the International Monetary Fund (IMF), its sister
institution, even though the appointments are formally
made by the institutions' boards. Until five years ago
nominations were nodded through, but the US then
blocked the European nomination for the IMF, creating
a precedent. And just 10 days ago Mr Blair's
Commission for Africa concluded that the practice
should be replaced by an open competition to find the
best candidate.

Europe collectively has 30 votes on the World Bank
board, compared with jst 16 for the US, and
governments are considering whether to use the Africa
commission's recommendation and the IMF precedent to
block the appointment. The EU and several governments
are pointedly referring to Mr Bush's announcement as a
"proposal" rather than a "nomination".

Most experts believe that, Europe will agree Mr
Wolfowitz's appointment, rather than risk a prolonged
row that might damage the bank.

But anger is rising both at the nomination itself and
Mr Bush's arrogance in making it, after initial
soundings had met with widespread opposition around
the world. One senior British figure privately
described it as an "abuse" of power by Mr Bush last

But Britain failed to raise the issue - or the
Commission for Africa's recommendation - at an
hour-long discussion of the commission's report at the
summit. This has increased speculation that Mr Blair
was squared by Mr Bush before the announcement was

4) Uncle Sam's Gulag Archipelago -- once again, don't
say you didn't know:,1284,1440836,00.html

'One huge US jail'

Afghanistan is the hub of a global network of
detention centres, the frontline in America's 'war on
terror', where arrest can be random and allegations of
torture commonplace. Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
investigate on the ground and talk to former prisoners

Saturday March 19, 2005
The Guardian

Kabul was a grim, monastic place in the days of the
Taliban; today it's a chaotic gathering point for
every kind of prospector and carpetbagger. Foreign
bidders vying for billions of dollars of telecoms,
irrigation and construction contracts have sparked a
property boom that has forced up rental prices in the
Afghan capital to match those in London, Tokyo and
Manhattan. Four years ago, the Ministry of Vice and
Virtue in Kabul was a tool of the Taliban inquisition,
a drab office building where heretics were locked up
for such crimes as humming a popular love song. Now
it's owned by an American entrepreneur who hopes its
bitter associations won't scare away his new friends.
Outside Kabul, Afghanistan is bleaker, its provinces
more inaccessible and lawless, than it was under the
Taliban. If anyone leaves town, they do so in convoys.
Afghanistan is a place where it is easy for people to
disappear and perilous for anyone to investigate their
fate. Even a seasoned aid agency such as Médécins Sans
Frontières was forced to quit after five staff members
were murdered last June. Only the 17,000-strong US
forces, with their all-terrain Humvees and Apache
attack helicopters, have the run of the land, and they
have used the haze of fear and uncertainty that has
engulfed the country to advance a draconian phase in
the war against terror. Afghanistan has become the new
Guantánamo Bay.

Washington likes to hold up Afghanistan as an exemplar
of how a rogue regime can be replaced by democracy.
Meanwhile, human-rights activists and Afghan
politicians have accused the US military of placing
Afghanistan at the hub of a global system of detention
centres where prisoners are held incommunicado and
allegedly subjected to torture. The secrecy
surrounding them prevents any real independent
investigation of the allegations. "The detention
system in Afghanistan exists entirely outside
international norms, but it is only part of a far
larger and more sinister jail network that we are only
now beginning to understand," Michael Posner, director
of the US legal watchdog Human Rights First, told us.

When we landed in Kabul, Afghanistan was blue with a
bruising cold. We were heading for the former al-Qaida
strongholds in the south-east that were rumoured to be
the focus of the new US network. How should we
prepare, we asked local UN staff. "Don't go," they
said. None the less, we were able to find a driver, a
Pashtun translator and a boxful of clementines, and
set off on a five-and-a-half-hour trip south through
the snow to Gardez, a market town dominated by two
rapidly expanding US military bases.

There we met Dr Rafiullah Bidar, regional director of
the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission,
established in 2003 with funding from the US Congress
to investigate abuses committed by local warlords and
to ensure that women's and children's rights were
protected. He was delighted to see foreigners in town.
At his office in central Gardez, Bidar showed us a
wall of files. "All I do nowadays is chart complaints
against the US military," he said. "Many thousands of
people have been rounded up and detained by them.
Those who have been freed say that they were held
alongside foreign detainees who've been brought to
this country to be processed. No one is charged. No
one is identified. No international monitors are
allowed into the US jails." He pulled out a handful of
files: "People who have been arrested say they've been
brutalised - the tactics used are beyond belief." The
jails are closed to outside observers, making it
impossible to test the truth of the claims.

Last November, a man from Gardez died of hypothermia
in a US military jail. When his family were called to
collect the body, they were given a $100 note for the
taxi ride and no explanation. In scores more cases,
people have simply disappeared.

Prisoner transports crisscross the country between a
proliferating network of detention facilities. In
addition to the camps in Gardez, there are thought to
be US holding facilities in the cities of Khost,
Asadabad and Jalalabad, as well as an official US
detention centre in Kandahar, where the tough regime
has been nicknamed "Camp Slappy" by former prisoners.
There are 20 more facilities in outlying US compounds
and fire bases that complement a major "collection
centre" at Bagram air force base. The CIA has one
facility at Bagram and another, known as the "Salt
Pit", in an abandoned brick factory north of Kabul.
More than 1,500 prisoners from Afghanistan and many
other countries are thought to be held in such jails,
although no one knows for sure because the US military
declines to comment.

Anyone who has got in the way of the prison transports
has been met with brutal force. Bidar directed us to a
small Shia neighbourhood on the edge of town where a
multiple killing was still under investigation. Inside
a frozen courtyard, a former policeman, Said Sardar,
25, was sat beside his crutches. On May 1 2004, he was
manning a checkpoint when a car careened through.
"Inside were men dressed like Arabs, but they were
western men," he said. "They had prisoners in the
car." Sardar fired a warning shot for the car to stop.
"The western men returned fire and within minutes two
US attack helicopters hovered above us. They fired
three rockets at the police station. One screamed past
me. I saw its fiery tail and blacked out."

He was taken to Bagram, where US military doctors had
to amputate his leg. Afterwards, he said, "an American
woman appeared. She said the US was sorry. It was a
mistake. The men in the car were Special Forces or CIA
on a mission. She gave me $500." Sardar showed us into
another room in his compound where a circle of
children stared glumly at us; their fathers, all
policemen, were killed in the same incident. "Five
dead. Four in hospital. To protect covert US prisoner
transports," he says. Later, US helicopters were
deployed in two similar incidents that left nine dead.

In his builders' merchant's shop, Mohammed Timouri
describes how he lost his son. "Ismail was a part-time
taxi driver, waiting to go to college," he says,
handing us a photograph of a beardless, short-haired
19-year-old held aloft in a coffin at his funeral last
March. "A convoy delivering prisoners from a facility
in Jalalabad to one in Kabul became snarled up in
traffic. A US soldier jumped down and lifted a woman
out of the way. She screamed. Ismail stepped forward
to explain she was a conservative person, wearing a
burka. The soldier dropped the woman and shot Ismail
in front of a crowd of 20 people."

Mohammed received a letter from the Afghan police: "We
apologise to you," the police chief wrote. "An
innocent was killed by Americans." The US army
declined to comment on Ismail's death or on a second
fatal shooting by another prison transport at the same
crossroads later that month. It also refused to
comment on an incident outside Kabul when a prison
patrol reportedly cleared a crowd of children by
throwing a grenade into their midst. However, we have
since heard that the CIA's inspector general is
investigating at least eight serious incidents,
including two deaths in custody, following complaints
by agents about the activities of their military

There are insurgents active in the Gardez area, as
there are throughout the south of Afghanistan,
remnants of the old order and the newly disaffected.
Every morning it takes Afghan police several hours to
pick along the highway unearthing explosives concealed
overnight. And so it was mid-morning before we were
able to leave town, crawling over the Gardez-Khost
pass, some 10,000ft high. No one saw us slipping on to
the fertile Khost plain, where Osama bin Laden once
had his training camps - the camps were destroyed by
US cruise missiles in August 1998. Today a shrine to
Taliban loyalists still greets travellers to the city,
although no one here would say they preferred the old

US Camp Salerno, the largest base outside Kabul,
dominates the area around Khost. Inside the city,
Kamal Sadat, a local stringer for BBC World Service,
told how he was detained last September and found
himself locked up in a prison filled with suspects
from many countries. "Even though I showed my press
accreditation, I was hooded, driven to Salerno and
then flown to another US base. I had no idea where I
was or why I had been detained." He was held in a
small wooden cell, and soldiers combed through his
notebooks, copying down names and phone numbers.
"Every time I was moved within the base, I was hooded
again. Every prisoner has to maintain absolute
silence. I could hear helicopters whirring above me.
Prisoners were arriving and leaving all the time.
There were also cells beneath me, under the ground."
After three days, Sadat was flown back to Khost and
freed without explanation. "It was only later I
learned that I had been held in Bagram. If the BBC had
not intervened, I fear I would not have got out."
After his release, the US military said it had all
been a misunderstanding, and apologised.

Camp Salerno, which houses the 1,200 troops of US
Combined Taskforce Thunder, was being expanded when we
arrived. Army tents were being replaced with concrete
dormitories. The detention facility, concealed behind
a perimeter of opaque green webbing, was being
modernised and enlarged. Ensconced in a Soviet-era
staff building was the camp's commanding officer,
Colonel Gary Cheeks. He listened calmly as we asked
about the allegations of torture, deaths and
disappearances at US detention facilities including
Salerno. We read to him from a complaint made by a UN
official in Kabul that accused the US military of
using "cowboy-like excessive force". He eased forward
in his chair: "There have been some tragic accidents
for which we have apologised. Some people have been
paid compensation."

We put to him the specific case of Mohammed Khan, from
a village near the Pakistan border, who died in
custody at Camp Salerno: his relatives say his body
showed signs of torture. "You could go on for ages
with a 'he said, she said'. You have to take my word
for it," said Cheeks. He remembered Khan's death: "He
was bitten by a snake and died in his cell." He added,
"We are building new holding cells here to make life
better for detainees. We are systematising our prison
programme across the country."

For what reason? "So all guards and interrogators
behave by the same code of behaviour," the colonel
said. Is it not the case that an ever-increasing
number of prisoners have vanished, while others are
being shuttled between jails to keep their families in
the dark? Cheeks moved towards his office door: "There
are many things that are distorted. No one has
vanished here ... Look, the war against the Taliban is
one small part. I want the Afghan people with us. They
are the key to ending conflict. If they fear us or we
do wrong by them, then we have lost."

However, many Afghans who celebrated the fall of the
Taliban have long lost faith in the US military. In
Kabul, Nader Nadery, of the Human Rights Commission,
told us, "Afghanistan is being transformed into an
enormous US jail. What we have here is a military
strategy that has spawned serious human rights abuses,
a system of which Afghanistan is but one part." In the
past 18 months, the commission has logged more than
800 allegations of human rights abuses committed by US

The Afghan government privately shares Nadery's fears.
One minister, who asked not to be named, said,
"Washington holds Afghanistan up to the world as a
nascent democracy and yet the US military has
deliberately kept us down, using our country to host a
prison system that seems to be administered
arbitrarily, indiscriminately and without

What has been glimpsed in Afghanistan is a radical
plan to replace Guantánamo Bay. When that detention
centre was set up in January 2002, it was essentially
an offshore gulag - beyond the reach of the US
constitution and even the Geneva conventions. That all
changed in July 2004. The US supreme court ruled that
the federal court in Washington had jurisdiction to
hear a case that would decide if the Cuban detentions
were in violation of the US constitution, its laws or
treaties. The military commissions, which had been
intended to dispense justice to the prisoners, were in
disarray, too. No prosecution cases had been prepared
and no defence cases would be readily offered as the
US National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers
had described the commissions as unethical, a decision
backed by a federal judge who ruled in January that
they were "illegal". Guantánamo was suddenly bogged
down in domestic lawsuits. It had lost its
practicality. So a global prison network built up over
the previous three years, beyond the reach of American
and European judicial process, immediately began to
pick up the slack. The process became explicit last
week when the Pentagon announced that half of the 540
or so inmates at Guantánamo are to be transferred to
prisons in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Since September 11 2001, one of the US's chief
strategies in its "war on terror" has been to imprison
anyone considered a suspect on whatever grounds. To
that end it commandeered foreign jails, built
cellblocks at US military bases and established covert
CIA facilities that can be located almost anywhere,
from an apartment block to a shipping container. The
network has no visible infrastructure - no prison
rolls, visitor rosters, staff lists or complaints
procedures. Terror suspects are being processed in
Afghanistan and in dozens of facilities in Pakistan,
Uzbekistan, Jordan, Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia,
Indonesia and the British island of Diego Garcia in
the southern Indian Ocean. Those detained are held
incommunicado, without charge or trial, and frequently
shuttled between jails in covert air transports,
giving rise to the recently coined US military
expression "ghost detainees".

Most of the countries hosting these invisible prisons
are already partners in the US coalition. Others,
notably Syria, are pragmatic associates, which work
privately alongside the CIA and US Special Forces,
despite bellicose public statements from President
Bush (he has condemned Syria for harbouring terrorism,
for aiding the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime,
and most recently has demanded that Syrian troops quit

All the host countries are renowned for their poor
human rights records, enabling interrogators (US
soldiers, contractors and their local partners) to
operate. We have obtained prisoner letters,
declassified FBI files, legal depositions, witness
statements and testimony from US and UK officials,
which document the alleged methods deployed in
Afghanistan - shackles, hoods, electrocution, whips,
mock executions, sexual humiliation and starvation -
and suggest they are practised across the network. Sir
Nigel Rodley, a former UN special rapporteur on
torture, said, "The more hidden detention practices
there are, the more likely that all legal and moral
constraints on official behaviour will be removed."

The only "ghost detainees" to have been identified by
Washington are a handful of high-profile al-Qaida
operatives such as Abu Zubayda, Bin Laden's
lieutenant, who vanished after being picked up by
Pakistani authorities in Faisalabad in March 2002. In
June of that year, US defence secretary Donald
Rumsfeld said Zubayda was "under US control". He did
not say where, although sources in the Pakistani
government said Zubayda was being held at a CIA
facility in their country.

In May 2003, Bush clarified the fate of Waleed
Muhammad bin Attash, an alleged conspirator in the USS
Cole bombing, who disappeared after being arrested by
police in Pakistan in April 2003. Bush described
Attash as "a killer ... one less person that people
who love freedom have to worry about"; he is also one
more person who has never appeared on a US prison

In June 2004, a senior counterterrorism official in
Britain confirmed that Hambali (a nom de guerre) -
accused of organising the October 2002 Bali bombings
and unseen since Thai police seized him in August 2003
- was "singing like a bird", apparently at the US base
on Diego Garcia.

Evidence we have collected, however, shows that many
more of those swept up in the network have few
provable connections to any outlawed organisation;
experts in the field describe their value in the war
against terror as "negligible". Former prisoners claim
they were released only after naming names, coerced
into making false confessions that led to the arrests
of more people unconnected to terrorism, in a system
of justice that owes more to Stanley Milgram's Six
Degrees Of Separation - where anyone can be linked to
everyone else in the world in as many stages - than to
analytical jurisprudence.

The floating population of "ghost detainees",
according to US and UK military officials, now exceeds

The roots of the prison network can be traced to the
legal wrangles that began as soon as the first terror
suspects were rounded up just weeks after the
September 11 attacks. As CIA agents and US forces
began to capture suspected al-Qaida fighters in the
war in Afghanistan, Alberto Gonzales, White House
counsel, looked for ways to "dispense justice swiftly,
close to where our forces may be fighting, without
years of pre-trial proceedings or post-trial appeals".

On November 13 2001, George Bush signed an order to
establish military commissions to try "enemy
belligerents" who commit war crimes. At such a
commission, a foreign war criminal would have no
choice over his defence counsel, no right to know the
evidence against him, no way of obtaining any evidence
in his favour and no right of attorney-client
confidentiality. Defending the commissions, Gonzales
(now promoted to US attorney general) insisted, "The
suggestion that [they] will afford only sham justice
like that dispensed in dictatorial nations is an
insult to our military justice system."

When the first prisoners arrived at Guantánamo Bay in
January 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced that they were
all Taliban or al-Qaida fighters, and as such were
designated "unlawful combatants". The US
administration argued that al-Qaida and the Taliban
were not the official army of Afghanistan, but a
criminal force that did not wear uniforms, could not
be distinguished from civilians and practised war
crimes; on this basis, the administration claimed, it
was entitled to sidestep the Geneva conventions and
normal legal constraints.

>From there, it was only a small moral step for the
Bush administration to overlook the use of torture by
regimes previously condemned by the US state
department, so long as they, too, signed up to the war
against terror. "Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Thailand,
Indonesia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and even Syria were
all asked to make their detention facilities and
expert interrogators available to the US," one former
counterterrorism agent told us.

In the UK, a similar process began unfolding. In
December 2001, the then home secretary David Blunkett
withdrew Britain from its obligation under the
European human rights treaty not to detain anyone
without trial; on December 18, the Anti-terrorism,
Crime and Security Act was passed, extending the
government's powers of arrest and detention. Within 24
hours, 10 men were seized in dawn raids on their homes
and taken to Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons (some of
them will have been among those released in the past

Subsequently the Foreign Office subtly modified
internal guidance to diplomats, enabling them to use
intelligence obtained through torture. A letter from
the Foreign & Commonwealth Office directorate sent to
Sir Michael Jay, head of the diplomatic service, and
Mathew Kidd of Whitehall liaison, a euphemism for MI6,
suggested in March 2003 that although such
intelligence was inadmissible as evidence in a UK
court, it could still be received and acted upon by
the British government. The government's attitude was
spelt out to the Intelligence and Security Committee
of MPs and peers by foreign secretary Jack Straw who,
while acknowledging that torture was "completely
unacceptable" and that information obtained under
torture is more likely to be embellished, concluded,
"you cannot ignore it if the price of ignoring it is
3,000 people dead" [a reference to the September 11

One former ambassador told us, "This was new ground
for the FCO. As long as we didn't do it, we're OK. But
by taking advantage of this intelligence, we're
encouraging the use of torture and, in my opinion, are
in contravention of the UN Convention Against Torture.
What worried me most was that information obtained
under torture, given credence by some gung-ho
Whitehall warrior, could be used to keep another poor
soul locked up without trial or charge."

Although the true extent of the US extra-legal network
is only now becoming apparent, people began to
disappear as early as 2001 when the US asked its
allies in Europe and the Middle East to examine their
refugee communities in search of possible terror
cells, such as that run by Mohammed Atta in Hamburg
which had planned and executed the September 11
attacks. Among the first to vanish was Ahmed Agiza, an
Egyptian asylum seeker who had been living in Sweden
with his wife and children for three years. Hanan,
Agiza's wife, told us how on December 18 2001 her
husband failed to return home from his language class.

"The phone rang at 5pm. It was Ahmed. He said he'd
been arrested and then the line went dead. The next
day our lawyer told me that Ahmed was being sent back
to Egypt. It would be better if he was dead." Agiza
and his family had fled Egypt in 1991, after years of
persecution, and in absentia he had been sentenced to
life imprisonment by a military court. Hanan said, "I
called my mother-in-law in Egypt. Finally, in April,
she was allowed to see Ahmed in Mazrah Torah prison,
in Cairo, when he revealed what had happened."

On December 18 2001, Agiza and a second Egyptian
refugee, Mohammed Al-Zery, had been arrested by
Swedish intelligence acting upon a request from the
US. They were driven, shackled and blindfolded, to
Stockholm's Bromma airport, where they were cuffed and
cut from their clothes. Suppositories were inserted
into both men's anuses, they were wrapped in plastic
nappies, dressed in jumpsuits and handed over to an
American aircrew who flew them out of Sweden on a
private executive jet.

Agiza and Al-Zery landed in Cairo at 3am the next
morning and were taken to the state security
investigation office, where they were held in solitary
confinement in underground cells. Mohammed Zarai,
former director of the Cairo-based Human Rights Centre
for the Assistance of Prisoners, told us that Agiza
was repeatedly electrocuted, hung upside down, whipped
with an electrical flex and hospitalised after being
made to lick his cell floor clean. Hanan, who was
granted asylum in Sweden in 2004, said, "I can't sleep
at night without expecting someone to knock on the
door and send us away on a plane to a place that
scares me more than anything else. What can Ahmed do?"
Her husband is still incarcerated in Cairo, while
Al-Zery is under house arrest there. There have been
calls for an international independent investigation
into the roles of the Swedish, US and Egyptian

We were able to chart the toing and froing of the
private executive jet used at Bromma partly through
the observations of plane-spotters posted on the web
and partly through a senior source in the Pakistan
Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI). It was a
Gulfstream V Turbo, tailfin number N379P; its flight
plans always began at an airstrip in Smithfield, North
Carolina, and ended in some of the world's hot spots.
It was owned by Premier Executive Transport Services,
incorporated in Delaware, a brass plaque company with
nonexistent directors, hired by American agents to
revive an old CIA tactic from the 1970s, when agency
men had kidnapped South American criminals and flown
them back to their own countries to face trial so that
justice could be rendered. Now "rendering" was being
used by the Bush administration to evade justice.

Robert Baer, a CIA case officer in the Middle East
until 1997, told us how it works. "We pick up a
suspect or we arrange for one of our partner countries
to do it. Then the suspect is placed on civilian
transport to a third country where, let's make no
bones about it, they use torture. If you want a good
interrogation, you send someone to Jordan. If you want
them to be killed, you send them to Egypt or Syria.
Either way, the US cannot be blamed as it is not doing
the heavy work."

The Agiza and Al-Zery cases were not the first in
which the Gulfstream was used. On October 23 2001, at
2.40am at Karachi airport, it picked up Jamil Qasim
Saeed Mohammed, a Yemeni microbiologist who had been
arrested by Pakistan's ISI and was wanted in
connection with the USS Cole attack. On January 10
2002, the jet was used again, taking off from Halim
airport in Jakarta with a hooded and shackled Mohammed
Saeed Iqbal Madni on board, an Egyptian accused of
being an accomplice of British shoe bomber Richard
Reid. Madni was flown to Cairo where, according to the
Human Rights Centre for the Assistance of Prisoners,
he died during interrogation.

Since then, the jet has been used at least 72 times,
including a flight in June 2002 when it landed in
Morocco to pick up German national Mohammed Zamar, who
was "rendered" to Syria, his country of origin, before

It was in December 2001 that the US began to
commandeer foreign jails so that its own interrogators
could work on prisoners within them. Among the first
were Haripur and Kohat, no-frills prisons in the
lawless North West Frontier Province of Pakistan which
now hold nearly as many detainees as Guantánamo. In
January, we attempted to visit Kohat jail, but as we
drove towards the security perimeter our vehicle was
turned back by ISI agents and we were escorted back to
the nearby city of Peshawar. We eventually located
several former detainees, including Mohammed, a
university student who described how he was arrested
and then initially interrogated in one of many covert
ISI holding centres that are being jointly run with
the CIA. Mohammed said, "I was questioned for four
weeks in a windowless room by plain-clothed US agents.
I didn't know if it was day or night. They said they
could make me disappear." One day he was bundled into
a vehicle. "I arrived in Kohat jail. There were 100
prisoners from all over the Middle East. Later I was
moved to Haripur where there were even more."

Adil, another detainee who was held for three years in
Haripur after illegally crossing into Pakistan from
Afghanistan, where he had escaped from the Taliban,
says, "US interrogators came and went as they
pleased." Both Mohammed and Adil said they were often
taken from the hot cell and doused with ice-cold
water. Adil says, "American women ordered us to get
undressed. They'd touch us and taunt us. They made us
lie naked on top of each other and simulate acts."

Mohammed and Adil were released without charge in
November 2004 but, according to legal depositions,
there are still 400 prisoners detained in the jails at
the request of the US. Among them are many who it is
extremely unlikely took part in the Afghan war: they
are too young or too old to have been combatants. Some
have taken legal action against the Pakistani
authorities for breach of human rights.

A military intelligence official in Washington told us
that no one in the US administration seemed concerned
about the impact of the coercive tactics practised by
the growing global network on the quality of
intelligence obtained, although there was plenty of
evidence it was unreliable. On September 26 2002,
Maher Arar, a 34-year-old Canadian computer scientist,
was arrested at New York's JFK airport as a result of
a paper-thin evidential chain. Syrian-born Arar told
us, "I was pulled aside by US immigration at 2pm. I
told them I had a connecting flight to Montreal where
I had a job interview." However, Arar was "rendered"
in a private jet, via Washington, Portland and Rome,
landing in Amman, Jordan, where he was held at what a
Jordanian source described as a US-run interrogation
centre. From there, he was handed over to Syria, the
country he had left as a 17-year-old boy. He says he
spent the next 12 months being tortured and in
solitary confinement, unaware that someone he barely
knew had named him as a terrorist.

The chain of events that led to Arar's arrest, or
kidnapping, began in November 2001, when another
Canadian, Ahmad Abou El-Maati, from Montreal, was
arrested at Damascus airport. He was accused of being
a terrorist and asked to identify his al-Qaida
connections. By the time he'd endured two years of
torture, El-Maati had reeled off the names of everyone
he knew in Montreal, including Abdullah Almalki, an
electrical engineer. Almalki was arrested as he flew
into Damascus airport to join his parents on holiday
in May 2002, and would spend the next two years being
tortured in a Syrian detention facility.

Almalki knew Arward Al-Bousha, also from Ottawa, who
in July 2002, upon arriving in Damascus to visit his
dying father, was also arrested. El-Maati, Almalki and
Al-Bousha all knew Maher Arar by sight through Muslim
community events in Ottawa. After his release from
jail in Syria, uncharged, in January 2004, El-Maati
admitted that he had erroneously named Maher Arar as a
terrorist to "stop the vicious torture". Arar, who was
eventually released in October 2003 after a Syrian
court threw out a coerced confession in which he said
he had been trained by al-Qaida, told us, "I am not a
terrorist. I don't know anyone who is. But the
tolerant Muslim community I come from here in Canada
has become vitriolic and demoralised." Arar's case is
now the subject of a judicial inquiry in Canada, but
since his release and that of Al-Bousha and Almalki,
another five men from Ottawa have been detained in
Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Five days after the US supreme court ruled in July
2004 that federal courts had jurisdiction over
Guantánamo, Naeem Noor Khan, a 25-year-old computer
programmer from Karachi, disappeared during a business
trip to Lahore. He was not taken to Guantánamo. His
father Hayat told us that he learned of his son's fate
after a neighbour called on August 2 to say that US
newspapers were running a story about "the capture of
a figure from al-Qaida in Pakistan" who had led "the
CIA to a rich lode of information". An unnamed US
intelligence official claimed Naeem Noor Khan operated
websites and email addresses for al-Qaida. The
following day Pakistan's information minister
trumpeted the ISI's seizure of Naeem Noor Khan on
behalf of the US on July 13. The prisoner had
"confessed to receiving 25 days of military training
from an al-Qaida camp in June 1998". No corroborative
evidence was offered.

Babar Awan, one of Pakistan's leading advocates,
representing the family, said he had learned from a
contact in the Pakistani government that Naeem Noor
Khan was wanted by the US, having been named by one of
a group of Malaysian students who had been detained
incommunicado and threatened with torture in Pakistan
in September 2003. Awan said, "The student was
subsequently freed uncharged and described how he was
threatened until he offered the names of anyone he had
met in Pakistan. There is no evidence against Naeem
Noor Khan except for this coerced statement, and even
worse he has now vanished and so there is no prison to
petition for his release."

Khan had been swallowed up by a catch-all system that
gathers up anyone connected by even a thread to
terror. Unable to distinguish its friends from its
enemies, the US suspects both.

Dawn broke on the festival of Eid and four US army
vehicles gunned their engines in preparation for a
"hearts and minds" operation in Khost city,
Afghanistan. A roll call of marines, each with their
blood group scrawled on their boots, was ticked off
and we were added to the muster. The convoy hurtled
towards the city. Men and boys began to run alongside.
First a handful and then a dozen. The crowd was
heading for a vast prayer ground, and soon there were
thousands of devotees in brand newEid caps and
starched shalwas marching out to pray. The US Humvees
pulled over. The armoured personnel carriers, too. A
dozen US marines stepped down, eyes obscured by
goggles, faces by balaclavas.

They fell into formation and stomped into the crowd
while a group of Afghan police looked on
incredulously. "Keep tight. Keep tight. Keep looking
all around us," a US marines captain shouted. More
than 10,000 Pashtun men were now on their knees
praying as a line of khaki pushed between them.

An egg flew. Then another. "One more, sir, and the guy
who did it is going down," a young sergeant mumbled,
as the disturbed crowd rose to its feet. Bearded men
with Kalashnikovs emerged from behind a stone wall and
edged towards us, cutting off our path. The line of
khaki began to panic, and jostled the children. "Back
away, back away now," shouted the sergeant. Suddenly
an armoured personnel carrier roared to meet us. "Jump
up, people," the captain shouted, and the convoy sped
back to Camp Salerno.

And perhaps this event above all others - of a nervous
phalanx of US marines forcing its way across a prayer
ground on one of the holiest, most joyous days in the
Islamic calendar, an itching trigger away from a
Somalian-style dogfight of their own making - is the
one that encapsulates everything that has gone wrong
with the global war against terror. The US army came
to Afghanistan as liberators and now are feared as
governors, judges and jailers. How many US marines
know what James Madison, an architect of the US
constitution, wrote in 1788? Reflecting on the War of
Independence in which Americans were arbitrarily
arrested and detained without trial by British forces,
Madison concluded that the "accumulation of all
powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the
same hands may justly be pronounced the very
definition of tyranny"

5) This is from Paulette:

"Hearsay, but credible source."

I have it from an activist working with returning
soldiers from Fallujah that US soldiers were ordered
to block the exit of males 13 years old and up .."so
they would have someone to fight" during the siege of
Fallujah. If you have direct evidence, let's get this
out. So much for the Americans letting the
non-combatants out of the city. Our own soldiers are
having a hard time living with this, and who can blame

Furthermore, the same sources say that testing of
recently returned solders from Iraq verify high levels
of Uranium --as well as some birth defects among the
children being born to this first group. It is common
knowledge now that we have bombarded Iraq (especially
Baghdad and the the cities) with so much in the way of
depleted uranium armament that we expect a serious
"toxic" clean up problem for decades in that country.
Of course, if our solders are there, they have been
exposed also. Demand public, INDEPENDENT testing for
all returning solders and support staff---so we don't
have to wait 20-30 years for them to be helped (as in
the Agent Orange scandal during Vietnam). If your
son/daughter or husband/wife returns home, get private
testing immediately to document so you can make a case
to the government later.

AND let's get out of IRAQ before we ruin that country
any more, and before we ruin the lives of our young
men and women. Let's pay reparations and let them

6) Tsunami Bomb Article:

NZ Herald
30 June 2000

Top-secret wartime experiments were conducted off the
coast of Auckland to perfect a tidal wave bomb,
declassified files reveal.

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