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British terror suspect Binyam Mohamed (see May-September, 2001) is flown from Afghanistan (see January-September 2004) to Guantanamo. In Morocco, Mohamed confessed to a wide array of crimes to avoid torture (see July 21, 2002 -- January 2004); as he recalls, after being charged with crimes (see November 4, 2005), his captors now want him to alter his story. He will later say: “They said they were worried I would tell the court that I had only confessed through torture. They said now they needed me to say it freely. We called them the clean team, they wanted to say they had got this stuff from a clean interrogation.” He will recall one instance where he refuses to give his fingerprints; in return, he is beaten by the so-called “Emergency Reaction Force,” a much-feared assault team: “They nearly broke my back. The guy on top was twisting me one way, the guys on my legs the other. They marched me out of the cell to the fingerprint room, still cuffed. I clenched my fists behind me so they couldn’t take prints, so they tried to take them by force. The guy at my head sticks his fingers up my nose and wrenches my head back, jerking it around by the nostrils. Then he put his fingers in my eyes. It felt as if he was trying to gouge them out. Another guy was punching my ribs and another was squeezing my testicles. Finally I couldn’t take it any more. I let them take the prints.” [Daily Mail, 3/8/2009] In October 2008, all charges against Mohamed will be dropped (see October-December 2008). In late February 2009, Mohamed will be released (see February 22-24, 2009).
The International Atomic Energy Agency announces that weapons inspectors have found no evidence to support accusations that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear weapon. [CNN, 9/2/2004]
Vice President Dick Cheney says that a victory by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in the upcoming election will put the US at risk of another “devastating” terrorist attack along the lines of 9/11. Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards, calls Cheney’s remarks “un-American.” Cheney tells a group of Republican supporters in Iowa that they need to make “the right choice” in the November 2 election. “If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again—that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,” Cheney says. “And then we’ll fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we’re not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.” Edwards responds: “Dick Cheney’s scare tactics crossed the line.… What he said to the American people was that if you go to the polls in November and elect anyone other than us, and another terrorist attack occurs, then it’s your fault. This is un-American. The truth is that it proves once again that they will do anything and say anything to keep their jobs.” Edwards says that a Kerry administration “will keep the American people safe, and we will not divide the country to do it.” Cheney spokeswoman Anne Womack says Cheney’s comments merely reflect “a difference in policy” between the Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards tickets, and adds: “This is nothing new. This is nothing inconsistent with his views. This is an overreaction to something we have used repeatedly and consistently. This is something that both the president and vice president have talked about consistently, the need to learn the lessons of 9/11. He was not connecting the dots.” Later, Womack complains that Cheney’s remarks were taken out of context: “If you take the whole quote, the vice president stands by his statement. But if you just take a chunk, that’s not what he meant.” [CNN, 9/7/2004]
During the presentation and discussion of the Schlesinger report (see August 24, 2004) before the House Armed Services Committee, most Republicans, including its chairman, Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), say the investigation shows that only a handful of US soldiers were responsible for the abuses. Democrats however, like Representative Ike Skelton (D-MO), disagree. “We must not continue to call this the work of just a few bad apples,” Skelton says. [New York Times, 9/10/2004]
Muslim Brotherhood logo.
[Source: Muslim Brotherhood]The Washington Post reports that “Some federal agents worry that the Muslim Brotherhood has dangerous links to terrorism. But some US diplomats and intelligence officials believe its influence offers an opportunity for political engagement that could help isolate violent jihadists.” The Post describes the Brotherhood as “a sprawling and secretive society with followers in more than 70 countries.… In some nations—Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Sudan—the Brotherhood has fomented Islamic revolution. In the Palestinian territories, the Brotherhood created… Hamas, which has become known for its suicide bombings of Israelis. Yet it is also a sophisticated and diverse organization that appeals to many Muslims worldwide and sometimes advocates peaceful persuasion, not violent revolt. Some of its supporters went on to help found al-Qaeda, while others launched one of the largest college student groups in the United States.” A top FBI counterterrorism official says, “We see some sort of nexus, direct or indirect, to the Brotherhood, in ongoing [terrorism] cases.” A number of people connected to al-Qaeda, such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and Mohamed Atta, were members of the Brotherhood. Reportedly, “pockets” of US the government “have quietly advocated that the government reach out to the Brotherhood and its allies.” For instance, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA officer working with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, says, “Bin Laden-ism can only be gutted by fundamentalists.” But former CIA officer Graham Fuller says, “At high levels of the government, there’s no desire to go in the direction of dialogue. It’s still seen as fairly way out.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2004] In 2005, it will be reported that some Muslim Brotherhood leaders created a plan in 1982 to infiltrate the West with the ultimate goal of subverting it and conquering it (see December 1982).
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues a report on the Pentagon’s “stop-loss” program (see November 2002). The GAO report says that the Pentagon’s “implementation of a key mobilization authority to involuntarily call up reserve component members and personnel policies greatly affects the numbers of reserve members available to fill requirements.” [PBS, 9/17/2004] Over 335,000 Guardsmen and Army reservists have been “involuntarily called to active duty since September 11, 2001,” the report finds, with no sign that such involuntary deployments will decrease any time soon. The GAO finds that such widespread forcible deployments were done with little consideration of the costs to the reservists and Guard personnel in their private lives—damage to jobs, families, and other aspects—as well as the negative impact such involuntary deployments are having on the military’s ability to recruit new personnel for Guard and reserve berths. [Government Accountability Office, 9/15/2004]
The New York Times reports on the recent issuance of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq by the US intelligence community. It is the first NIE to be issued since before the invasion (see October 1, 2002). The report was leaked to the Times by unnamed government officials.
Civil War a Strong Possibility - The NIE’s findings are grim. Civil war is a strong possibility, the NIE finds. Even the best-case scenario is an Iraq whose political, economic, and national security stability is tenuous and fragile. One government official says of the report, “There’s a significant amount of pessimism.” This NIE was initiated by the National Intelligence Council under the aegis of then-CIA Director George Tenet, who has since resigned. Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin approved the final report. The NIE stands in contrast to recent pronouncements by White House officials, who have insisted that the situation in Iraq is improving daily.
Critics 'Pessimists and Hand-Wringers' - The day before the NIE was released, White House press secretary Scott McClellan called critics of the occupation “pessimists and hand-wringers” who are being “proven… wrong.” [New York Times, 9/16/2004]
White House Ignores NIE - The NIE was prepared in July 2004 and not circulated until August, indicating that the White House had little use for the document. “It was finished in July, and not circulated by the intelligence community until the end of August,” one senior administration official says. “That’s not exactly what you do with an urgent document.” [New York Times, 9/28/2004]
This NIE Closer to CIA's Own Assessments than Earlier Report - Senior CIA analyst Paul Pillar will later say that the agency’s own prewar assessments “foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition,” assessments more in line with the current NIE than with the 2002 estimate (see January 2003 and September 28, 2004). “It projected that a Marshall Plan-type effort would be required to restore the Iraqi economy, despite Iraq’s abundant oil resources. It forecast that in a deeply divided Iraqi society, with Sunnis resentful over the loss of their dominant position and Shi’ites seeking power commensurate with their majority status, there was a significant chance that the groups would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it. And it anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks—including by guerrilla warfare—unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity in the few weeks or months after the fall of Saddam” Hussein. The NIE, and the White House’s blase response to it (see September 21-23, 2004), will deepen the tension and distrust between the White House and the CIA. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 153, 244]
Retired General William Odom, the former head of the NSA under Ronald Reagan, says that President Bush’s Iraq policies are a collective geostrategical disaster. He says: “Bush hasn’t found the WMD. Al-Qaeda, it’s worse, he’s lost on that front.… That he’s going to achieve democracy there? That goal is lost, too.… Right now, the course we’re on, we’re achieving bin Laden’s goals.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 316-317]
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) opens a probe into the deaths of two Afghan detainees, allegedly at the hands of US Special Forces soldiers. The two men, Wakil Mohammed and Jamal Naseer, died on March 1, 2003 and March 16, 2003, respectively (see March 1, 2003 and March 16, 2003). Mohammed, an unarmed peasant, was being interrogated about his role in a recent firefight. While he was protesting his innocence, he was shot in the face by an American soldier. Naseer, taken into custody with seven other Afghans for interrogation about their supposed involvement with local Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters, died about a week after his capture, allegedly from repeated torture and abuse. Los Angeles Times reporters Craig Pyes and Mark Mazzetti write, “Motivation for those arrests remains cloaked in Afghan political intrigue. The action was requested by a provincial governor feuding with local military commanders, an Afghan intelligence report says.” While the Army apparently looked into the circumstances of the deaths shortly after they occurred, no official investigation was ever mounted until the Crimes of War Project began its own investigation into the deaths. When the organization released its findings to two Los Angeles Times reporters, Kevin Sack and Craig Pyes, and the reporters filed a series of articles on the deaths in September 2004, the CID opened its own probe. Former Attorney General for the Armed Forces Yar Mohammed Tamkin, who directs the Afghan investigation into the death of Naseer, concludes in his own report that there was a “strong possibility” that Naseer was “murdered as the result of torture” at the hands of his US captors. Under Afghan law, he writes, “it is necessary for our legal system to investigate the torture of the seven individuals and the murder of Jamal, son of Ghazi, and other similar acts committed by foreign nationals.” CID investigators say that the Army’s original inquiry into the deaths was stymied by a lack of information made available by the Gardez unit’s commanders. “We’re trying to figure out who was running the base,” says Army detective Christopher Coffey. “We don’t know what unit was there. There are no records. The reporting system is broke across the board. Units are transferred in and out. There are no SOPs [standard operating procedures]… and each unit acts differently.” Coffey does acknowledge that “Gardez is the worst facility—it is three or four times as bad as any other base in Afghanistan.” Naseer’s death was officially attributed to “natural causes” stemming from an apparent sexually-contracted urinary tract infection, and his death was never reported, as is standard Army procedure. Shortly after Naseer’s death, the other seven detainees were transferred to the custody of local Afghan police, who mounted their own investigation. The seven were released without charge six weeks later. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2004] Two special Forces soldiers accused of complicity in Naseer and Mohammed’s deaths will be given administrative reprimands by the Army in 2007 (see January 26, 2007).
Responding to the leaked National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) warning of a possible civil war in Iraq (see September 16, 2004), President Bush dismisses the report, saying the CIA in particular is “just guessing” about conditions in that country. Bush says that the report provides “several scenarios that said, life could be lousy, life could be okay, or life could be better, and they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.” Two days later, after senior CIA official Paul Pillar and others lambast Bush for his cavalier dismissal of the report, Bush backs away from his original description, calling it “unfortunate” and saying he should have used the word “estimate” rather than “guess.” The entire imbroglio prompts conservative columnist Robert Novak to write that the White House and the CIA “are at war with each other.” [New York Times, 9/28/2004; Roberts, 2008, pp. 153] Novak also blasts Pillar and other intelligence officials for daring to criticize the Bush administration. [New York Times, 9/28/2004]
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf meet at the Roosevelt Inn in Manhattan for an India-Pakistan summit to discuss how relations between the two countries can be improved. During the discussions, they consider the possibility of the long proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (see 1993). “Such a project could contribute to the welfare and prosperity of the people of both countries and should be considered in the larger context of expanding trade and economic relations between India and Pakistan,” they say in a joint statement. [Indo-Asian News Service, 9/24/2004; Associated Press, 9/24/2004]
Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill), a future presidential candidate, says in an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune that the US may one day need to use military force against Iran or Pakistan to prevent extremists from gaining control of nuclear weapons. He suggests that one possible scenario requiring the use force might be if Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is overthrown in a coup and extremists take over. Military force may also be necessary if negotiations with Iran fail, he says. “I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran.… And I hope it doesn’t get to that point,” he says. [Chicago Tribune, 9/25/2004]
Tom Engelhardt. [Source: Mother Jones]General David Petraeus, the commander of US military forces in Iraq, writes an op-ed for the Washington Post entitled “Battling for Iraq.” Petraeus praises the Iraqi security forces for standing up and taking much of the burden of securing the country from the US troops on the ground, writing: “Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up. The institutions that oversee them are being reestablished from the top down. And Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously in the face of an enemy that has shown a willingness to do anything to disrupt the establishment of the new Iraq.” There has been significant “progress” made, he writes, and there is “reason for optimism.” He concludes: “With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition—and now NATO—support, this trend will continue. It will not be easy, but few worthwhile things are.” [Washington Post, 9/26/2004] Perhaps coincidentally, the op-ed appears in time for the Bush re-election campaign to make much of it. Columnist Tom Engelhardt will note in 2008 that the op-ed is “just the sort of thing a president trying to outrun a bunch of Iraqi insurgents to the November 4 finish line might like to see in print in his hometown paper.” Perhaps just as coincidentally, Petraeus will soon be awarded his third star. [Asia Times, 4/29/2008]
Days after the New York Times receives leaked information about the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (see September 16, 2004), two more classified intelligence summaries are also leaked to the Times, both supporting the assessment that civil war is increasingly likely in Iraq. The reports date from 2003, and predicted that a US invasion would bolster Islamist radicals and precipitate violent internal conflicts (see January 2003). [New York Times, 9/28/2004; Roberts, 2008, pp. 153]
North Korea claims to have turned plutonium obtained from 8,000 reprocessed spent fuel rods into nuclear weapons. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon, addressing the UN General Assembly, says the weapons are needed for “self-defense” against the “US nuclear threat.” [BBC, 12/2007]
Brent Scowcroft, the foreign policy adviser who has increasingly become a figure of ridicule inside the administration (see March 8, 2003), is dismissed from the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Though Scowcroft is one of the most respected policy experts in Washington, and one of George H. W. Bush’s closest friends and colleagues, President Bush does not do him the courtesy of speaking to him personally about his dismissal. [Unger, 2007, pp. 326]
Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, releases a statement condemning the allegations of the abuse and torture of Iraqi and Afghan detainees; the statement coincides with a letter Leahy sends to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [Pyes, 9/20/2004] In the statement, Leahy says that committee chairman Sen. John Warner’s efforts to investigate the scandals "remain… hampered by the leadership of his own party and an Administration that does not want the full truth revealed.… Despite calls from a small handful of us who want to find the truth, Congress and this Administration have failed to seriously investigate acts that bring dishonor upon our great Nation and endanger our soldiers overseas.… The Bush Administration circled the wagons long ago and has continually maintained that the abuses were the work of ‘a few bad apples.’ I have long said that somewhere in the upper reaches of the executive branch a process was set in motion that rolled forward until it produced this scandal. Even without a truly independent investigation, we now know that the responsibility for abuse runs high up into the chain of command." He accuses the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate as a whole, of falling “short in its oversight responsibilities.” He calls for a truly independent investigation into the torture allegations, along the lines of the 9/11 Commission. He also calls for the US to once again begin following the guidelines of the Geneva Conventions. [US Senate, 10/1/2004] Sen. Warner’s office will later admit that Warner was pressured by unnamed Bush administration officials to “back off” investigating the Abu Ghraib abuses (see May 2004).
The fractious and contentious relationship between the White House and the CIA, never good since planning began for the Iraq war (see January 2003), has boiled over into the public eye in recent days, according to a New York Times report. James Pavitt, the former head of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, says he has never seen anything approaching “the viciousness and vindictiveness” of the relationship between the White House and the CIA. In recent days, numerous classified assessments have been leaked to the press by people sympathetic to the CIA (see September 16, 2004, September 28, 2004, and October 4, 2004), “to the considerable embarrassment of the White House.” The White House, in turn, has called the authors of the assessments “pessimists and naysayers,” and dismissed a recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq as based on guesswork (see September 21-23, 2004). Some Republican partisans claim that the CIA is waging an “insurgency” or “vendetta” against the White House, an idea that both White House and CIA officials officially reject. “Wars bring things out in people that sometimes other disputes don’t,” says James Woolsey, a neoconservative and former CIA director who is a strong supporter of the administration’s Iraq and terrorism policies. “But even with the passions of war, I think you ought to keep it within channels.” Another former intelligence official is more critical of the agency: “The agency’s role is to tell the administration what it thinks, not to criticize its policies.” CIA defenders say it is important to set the record straight by revealing the agency’s warnings about the possible dire consequences of an Iraq occupation, warnings which the White House either ignored or mocked. “There was nothing in the intelligence that was a casus belli for war,” Pavitt says, noting that while the CIA might have been wrong about Iraq and WMD, it was much closer to the mark in its prewar warnings about the obstacles that an American occupying force would face in postwar Iraq. But, Pavitt, notes, “[t]he agency is not out to undermine this president.” [New York Times, 10/2/2004] Conservative defenders of the administration angrily attack the CIA for “insubordination” and betrayal, leaving liberals and progressives in the unusual position of defending the agency. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 153]
New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman tells CBS anchor Bob Schieffer, “What we’re gonna find out, Bob, in the next six to nine months is whether we have liberated a country or uncorked a civil war.” Friedman will continue predicting a resolution of the Iraq situation in “the next six months” until at least May 2006 (see May 6-11, 2006). [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/16/2006]
Knight Ridder Newspapers reports on a leaked CIA assessment that undercuts the White House claim of links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The assessment, requested some months ago by Vice President Cheney, finds no evidence to show that Saddam’s regime ever harbored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an independent colleague of Osama bin Laden (see April 2002), and finds no evidence of any “collaborative relationship” between the former Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda (see October 2, 2002). In February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations Security Council that al-Zarqawi went to Baghdad for medical treatment and, while there, helped establish a terrorist base in Baghdad (see February 5, 2003). The assessment now shows that claim was incorrect. So was the administration’s claim that al-Zarqawi received safe haven from Hussein. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who in September 2002 called the evidence of links between Hussein and al-Qaeda “bulletproof” (see September 26, 2002), now says, “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.” Rumsfeld continues, “I just read an intelligence report recently about one person [al-Zarqawi] who’s connected to al-Qaeda who was in and out of Iraq and there’s the most tortured description of why he might have had a relationship and why he might not have had a relationship.” In June 2003, President Bush called al-Zarqawi “the best evidence of connection” between Iraq and al-Qaeda; after the assessments are leaked, Bush insists that al-Zarqawi “was in and out of Baghdad,” apparently continuing to press the idea that Saddam and al-Qaeda were connected. Al-Zarqawi did spend a lot of time in Iraq, but almost always in the northern sections of Iraq where Saddam’s control did not reach. [Knight Ridder, 10/4/2004] The day after the Knight Ridder report, Vice President Cheney will say during a debate with vice-presidential opponent John Edwards (D-NC) that al-Zarqawi was based in Baghdad both before and after the March 2003 invasion, a claim that is demonstrably false (see October 5, 2004).
Six US soldiers are charged with manslaughter in the killing of Iraqi prisoners. Two soldiers, First Lieutenant Jack Saville and Sergeant First Class Tracy Perkins, are charged with forcing an Iraqi man, Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun, and Hassoun’s cousin to leap from a bridge into the Tigris River near Samarra. Hassoun drowned. Another prisoner death is also being investigated (see January 9, 2004), and may result in further charges against the six. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 10/5/2004]
Four US soldiers are charged with murdering an Iraqi major general in their custody. Almost a year ago, Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush died during an interrogation at a base near Qaim, in western Iraq. Mowhoush was smothered to death (see November 26, 2003). The four soldiers are Chief Warrant Officers Jefferson L. Williams and Lewis E. Welshofer, Jr., Sergeant First Class William J. Sommer, and Specialist Jerry L. Loper. All are charged with murder and dereliction of duty. Williams, Welshofer, and Sommer were members of the 66th Military Company, a unit of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Loper was a member of the regiment’s Support Squadron, and assigned to helicopter maintenance. Only Welshofer has training in interrogation practices. Mowhoush, allegedly a high-ranking member of the anti-American insurgency, surrendered to US forces two weeks before his death. The Pentagon initially reported his death as due to “natural causes,” but now admits Mowhoush was tortured to death. “General Mowhoush was allegedly placed in a sleeping bag and then bound to prevent his movement,” a Pentagon report says. “One of the warrant officers [Welshofer] reportedly sat on his chest and continued the interrogation. General Mowhoush was then rolled over, and the warrant officer sat on his back.” Mowhoush died in that position. A medical examination proved that he had died of asphyxiation. Other documents later show that Mowhoush had a bag pulled over his head, the bag was wrapped tightly with electrical cords, and he was beaten and kicked by a crowd of interrogators and officials (see January 19, 2006). Regiment commander Colonel David Teeples says of the charges, “There is no evidence, there is no proof.” Much of the evidence presented in the case is classified and may not ever be made public. “If there are witnesses or documents that would disclose classified information, the trial is closed for those portions,” says retired Air Force Colonel Skip Morgan, a former military judge. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 10/5/2004] The murder charge against Sommer will later be dropped. Williams and Loper will make plea agreements in return for their testimony against Welshofer. [Rocky Mountain News, 1/17/2006] Welshofer will be convicted, but will not serve jail time or even be discharged from the Army (see January 24, 2006).
British Guantanamo prisoner Feroz Abbasi argues during his Combatant Status Review Tribunal hearing that he should be granted POW status in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. One of the three Tribunal members, an Air Force colonel, replies: “Mr. Abbasi, your conduct is unacceptable…. I don’t care about international law. I don’t want to hear the words ‘international law’ again.” [Sunday Times (London), 11/21/2004]
The letter sent by an Iraqi official to IAEA inspectors reporting hundreds of tons of missing explosives. [Source: New York Times]Dr. Mohammed Abbas of the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology writes a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency warning that the huge explosives cache at Al Qaqaa (see May 2003) has been cleaned out. The IAEA had warned US officials of the likelihood of such an event months before, as well as before the March 2003 invasion (see May 2004). Abbas says that “urgent updating of the registered materials is required.” According to Abbas, the facility is missing around 377 tons of HMX, RDX, and PETN explosives, some of the most powerful explosives ever created. HMX stands for “high melting point explosive,” RDX for “rapid detonation explosive,” and PETN for “pentaerythritol tetranitrate.” The IAEA will forward the letter to the US. IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei is “extremely concerned” about the “potentially devastating consequences” of the missing explosives, according to a European diplomat. Dr. Van Romero of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology says: “HMX and RDX have a lot of shattering power.… Getting a large amount is difficult” because most nations carefully regulate who can buy such explosives. An expert who recently led a team that searched Iraq for deadly arms says that the “immediate danger” of the looted explosives “is its potential use with insurgents in very small and powerful explosive devices. The other danger is that it can easily move into the terrorist web across the Middle East.” [New York Times, 10/25/2004]
British Prime Minister Tony Blair formally admits that he was wrong to have claimed that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of giving the order (see September 24, 2002 and September 24, 2002). Blair’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, reveals that MI6, the British intelligence agency, has formally withdrawn the claim, as well as other intelligence concerning Iraq’s ability to produce biological weapons. The claim has been heavily refuted for well over a year (see Late May 2003 and August 16, 2003). Straw refuses to say that it was a mistake to overthrow the Saddam government, saying instead that “deciding to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt would have required a huge leap of faith.… I do not accept, even with hindsight, that we were wrong to act as we did.” He notes that other governments, most notably the US government, were also convinced that Saddam had an array of WMD which could have been quickly deployed against targets in the region. Conservative MP Gary Streeter says the Blair administration owes the nation a “full apology”: “Not an apology for the intelligence but an apology for the way that the intelligence was conveyed by the government to the country.” [Age (Melbourne), 10/14/2004] Liberal Democrat Party leader Charles Kennedy accuses Blair of “avoiding answering” questions about the absence of Iraqi WMD. Liberal Democrat deputy leader Menzies Campbell says: “The withdrawal of the 45-minute claim drives a horse and cart through government credibility.… The building blocks of the government’s case for military action are crumbling before our eyes.” [Belfast Telegraph, 10/13/2004]
Deputy Homeland Security Adviser Richard Falkenrath. [Source: US State Department]The Washington Post reports that President Bush remains focused on the capture of top al-Qaeda leaders and has shown little interest in other counterterrorism efforts. The Post reports, “Bush conducts the war on terrorism above all as a global hunt for a cast of evil men he knows by name and photograph. He tracks progress in daily half-hour meetings that Richard A. Falkenrath, who sometimes attended them before departing recently as deputy homeland security adviser, described as ‘extremely granular, about individual guys.’” Falkenrath says, “This is a conversation he’s been having every day, more or less, with his senior advisers since September 11th.” It covers “the same people, over and over again.”
"Decapitate the Beast" - In 2002, the CIA identified about 30 al-Qaeda leaders known as “high-value targets,” and the Bush administration believed al-Qaeda would collapse without them. White House counterterrorism adviser Frances Townsend similarly says Bush’s strategy since 9/11 has been to “decapitate the beast.” She says the men on the list have “unique expertise, experience, or access.” Al-Qaeda may replace them, “but does that person have the same strength and leadership and capability? The answer is no. Maybe he acquires it on the job, but maybe not.” However, many counterterrorism experts increasingly believe that al-Qaeda has turned into more of an ideology than a hierarchical structure, and that the movement can easily survive the loss of its top leaders.
Crossing Names Off a List - Since shortly after 9/11, Bush has had a card containing a list of the names of the top al-Qaeda leaders, and he likes to personally cross them off the card whenever any are captured or killed. The Post says that Bush “mentions little else, save the Taliban’s expulsion from power, when describing progress against al-Qaeda. According to people who have briefed him, Bush still marks changes by hand” on his copy of list of leaders. He sees the issue largely in terms of a battle of wills between himself and al-Qaeda leaders, although he also focuses on removing the governments of countries he believes are state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iraq.
Bush Not Interested in Root Causes of Terrorism - Bush is uninterested in polls showing sharply rising anti-US sentiment overseas, particularly in Muslim countries. One high high-ranking national security official says of the increasing Muslim hostility to the US, “I don’t think it matters.” Many counterterrorism experts and officials disagree. Wayne Downing, Bush’s counterterrorism “tsar” from late 2001 until early 2004, says that Osama bin Laden has worked effectively to “convince the Islamic world the US is the common enemy.… We have done little or nothing [to combat this perception]. That is the big failure.” The Post says that “strong majorities of several dozen officers and officials who were interviewed… cite a long list of proposals to address terrorism at its roots that have not been carried out.” [Washington Post, 10/22/2004]
Vice President Dick Cheney says during a “town hall meeting” at Minnesota State University: “They’re already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy.” [White House, 10/5/2004] The Washington Post later notes that “Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and outgoing Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz held key national security posts when the Ford administration made the opposite argument 30 years ago” (see 1976). [Washington Post, 3/27/2005]
A 1996 photograph of one of the Al Qaqaa storage bunkers. [Source: New York Times]The US media learns that Iraq’s interim government reports that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives, used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads, and detonate nuclear weapons, are missing from a former military installation (see October 10, 2004). The facility, Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under US control but in reality is “a no-man’s land,” in the words of the New York Times, “picked over by looters as recently as” October 24. UN inspectors and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had monitored the huge cache of explosives for years. The IAEA says that machine tools usable for either nuclear or non-nuclear purposes are also missing. White House and Pentagon inspectors admit that the explosives disappeared some time after the US-led invasion of Iraq. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was informed of the missing explosives within the last month; according to the Times, “[i]t is unclear whether President Bush was informed.” US officials began answering questions about the missing explosives after reporters from the Times and CBS’s “60 Minutes” began asking questions. The CIA’s Iraq Survey Group has been asked to investigate the disappearance.
Similar Explosives Used in Other Terrorist Attacks - The immediate concern, according to US officials, is the explosives’ possible use in major bombing attacks against American and/or Iraqi forces. The explosives, mainly HMX and RDX, can be used in bombs strong enough to destroy airplanes or large buildings. The Times notes that the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (see After December 21, 1988) used less than a pound of such explosive. Larger amounts of the same kinds of explosives were used in the November 2003 Riyadh bombings (see May 12, 2003) and a September 1999 bombing of a Moscow apartment complex (see September 9, 1999 and September 13, 1999). The explosives can also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, the primary reason why it had been, until the invasion, monitored by UN inspectors from the IAEA.
Repeated IAEA Warnings - The IAEA had publicly warned about the danger of the Al Qaqaa explosives before the invasion, and after the overthrow of the Iraqi government, IAEA officials specifically told US officials that they needed to keep the facility locked down (see May 2003). Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says that the missing explosives need to be kept in perspective, as US and allied forces “have discovered and destroyed perhaps thousands of tons of ordnance of all types.” Iraq’s Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Rashad Omar, tells Times and CBS reporters: “Yes, they [the 380 tons of explosives] are missing. We don’t know what happened.” Omar says that after the invasion, Al Qaqaa was the responsibility of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which served as Iraq’s de facto government until June 2004 (see June 28, 2004). “After the collapse of the regime, our liberation, everything was under the coalition forces, under their control,” he says. “So probably they can answer this question, what happened to the materials.” The CPA is defunct; Bush administration officials say they don’t know where the explosives could be. One senior official says that the Qaqaa complex was listed as a “medium priority” site on the CIA’s list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. “Should we have gone there? Definitely,” says one senior official. Another senior official says that US soldiers gave the Qaqaa facility a cursory inspection during the push towards Baghdad in early April, but “saw no bunkers bearing the IAEA seal.”
Refusal to Allow IAEA Inspections after Occupation - Satellite photos taken in late 2003 showed that two of the ten bunkers containing HMX had exploded, presumably from bombing during the US offensive, but eight remained relatively intact. The Bush administration refused to let the IAEA back into Iraq to inspect and verify the Qaqaa facility or any of the other stockpiles formerly monitored by IAEA officials. By May 2004, the IAEA was warning CPA officials that the facility had probably been looted (see May 2004).
More Unguarded Stockpiles - Iraq is dotted with unguarded stockpiles of explosives, say US military and administration officials. One senior administration official notes, “The only reason this stockpile was under seal is because it was located at Al Qaqaa,” where nuclear work had gone on years ago. [New York Times, 10/25/2004]
John Bolton, a neoconservative and the Bush administration’s chief official in charge of arms reduction, says he does not believe that the unsecured nuclear weapons and items of nuclear technology belonging to the former Soviet Union pose any threat to US security. Three years earlier, a commission reported that Russian and other Eastern European “loose nukes” posed the single greatest danger to the US. “I don’t believe that at this point, or for some number of years, there’s been a significant risk of a Russian nuclear weapon getting into terrorist hands,” Bolton says. “I say that in part because of all the money we’ve spent… but also because the Russians themselves are completely aware that the most likely consequence of losing control of one of their own nuclear weapons is that it will be used in Russia.” [Washington Post, 10/26/2004] In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will write, “This assessment flew in the face of all available evidence regarding what had and had not been accomplished in Russia.” Only 54 percent of former Soviet facilities containing nuclear materials are under satisfactory security measures. The US has no idea how many Russian tactical nuclear weapons exist, where they are stored, or how well they are guarded, if they are guarded at all. Scoblic will write, “These are the weapons that nuclear experts calculate terrorists would most likely steal because their smaller size makes them easier to transport and conceal.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 209]
State Department official John Bolton, a neoconservative and arms control opponent who heads the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), defends the Bush administration record on North Korea. He is particularly dismissive of the North Koreans’ new, expanded nuclear weapons arsenal. “This is quibbling, to say they had two plutonium-based weapons and now they have seven,” Bolton says. “The uranium enrichment capability gives them the ability to produce an unlimited number.” Bolton asserts that the problem started during the Clinton administration, when, he says, Bill Clinton tried to normalize relations with North Korea and his Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was “dancing in Pyongyang and watching parades.” [Washington Post, 10/26/2004] In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will find Bolton’s mocking insouciance “shocking.” “In fact it was not quibbling,” he will write of the North Koreans’ expanded arsenal. “Having an extra half dozen weapons gave North Korea the freedom to use a few—or even sell a few—and still maintain an arsenal.” Scoblic will also note what Bolton does not, that North Korea is years away from producing any fissile material with its uranium enrichment program. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 242]
China and Iran negotiate a $70-$100 billion deal that gives China’s state oil company a 51 percent stake in Iran’s Yadavaran oil field, located near the Iraq border. The Yadavaran oil field, once thought to be two separate oil fields (Koushk and Hosseinieh), contains more than 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a total reserve of 17 billion barrels. [China Daily, 11/8/2004; Washington Post, 11/17/2004] China agrees to purchase ten million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually for a 25-year period once Iran has constructed plants to liquefy the natural gas, a feat that could take more than five years. The amount could increase to as much as $200 billion if an oil deal, currently under negotiation, is also agreed upon by the two nations. [Persian Journal, 10/31/2004] As part of the deal, Sinopec, China’s state oil company, will have the right to exploit Iran’s Yadavaran oil field, located near the Iraq border, on a buy-back basis in cooperation with another major international oil company. The Yadavaran oil field contains more than 3 billion barrels of exploitable reserves and comprises the Koushk and Hosseinieh oil fields, “which were recently found to be connected at various layers, forming an oil field with a cumulative in-place reserve of 17 billion barrels,” the Chinese Daily reports. [China Daily, 11/8/2004] Iran is estimated to have a 26.6-trillion-cubic-meter gas reservoir, the second-largest in the world. About half of its reserves are located offshore. Some observers suggest that the Iran-China agreement could establish a precedent that opens the way for other nations to do business with Iran. The US Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (ILSA), which penalizes foreign companies for investing more than $20 million in Iran’s oil and gas industry, has so far discouraged many companies from doing a large amount of business with the Islamic state. [Asia Times, 11/6/2005] Additionally, the Iran-China deal dramatically reduces the Bush administration’s leverage over Iran, as its threat to bring Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program is greatly weakened by the fact that China, as a permanent member, holds a veto at the council. [Washington Post, 11/17/2004]
In Washington, 15,000 attend a rally supporting the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian opposition group that has an office in the capital. Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) speaks at the demonstration and calls for the removal of MEK from the State Department’s terrorist list. [Los Angeles Times, 12/5/2004; San Francisco Chronicle, 1/25/2005]
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) begins investigating a 1987 meeting (see 1987) where two associates of A. Q. Khan presented Iranian officials with an offer to sell Iran nuclear technology and materials. [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]
Several months after the CIA receives an Iranian laptop computer supposedly containing top-secret information about Iran’s nuclear program (see Summer 2004), US officials admit they cannot confirm the reliability of the laptop’s documents (see November 17-18, 2004). [New York Times, 11/20/2004] Under analysis, the documents begin to lose reliability. Nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis of the New America Foundation will later say that he and fellow experts began disparagingly referring to the computer as “the laptop of death.” One of the biggest warning flags, Lewis will say, is the crude manner in which the documents on the laptop were constructed: “What led many of us to have serious doubts about it was how utterly unconnected from reality some of the information seemed. Some of the reports indicated that some of the view graphs were done in Powerpoint, which suggested to me that the program was not terribly sophisticated.” [Inter Press Service, 12/9/2006; New York Times, 12/4/2007]
IAEA Response - Officials with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will say that the laptop evidence, like much of the US’s other intelligence on Iran, is unreliable. “Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that’s come to us has proved to be wrong,” a senior diplomat at the IAEA will say. Another IAEA official will describe the agency’s intelligence stream as “very cold now” because “so little panned out.” IAEA officials are suspicious of the documents in part because most of the papers are written in English and not in Persian. “We don’t know. Are they genuine, are they real?” a senior UN official will ask. Another official who was briefed on the documents will describe himself as “very unconvinced.” Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, will call the laptop documents nothing but “fabricated information” and “nonsense.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/25/2007]
The Army completes a classified report on detainee abuse at Camp Nama, a Special Forces detention center at Baghdad International Airport. The report is based on an investigation led by Brigadier General Richard Formica into three specific allegations against the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula, which operates throughout Iraq. Formica’s report concludes that detainees who report being sodomized or beaten are seeking sympathy and better treatment, and thus are not credible. The report cites an Army medical report which had initially noted that a complaining detainee’s wounds were “consistent with the history [of abuse] he provided.… The doctor did find scars on his wrists and noted what he believed to be an anal fissure.” Two days later, Formica had the detainee re-examined by another doctor, who found “no fissure, and no scarring.” Formica concludes, “As a result, I did not find medical evidence of the sodomy.” In the case of a detainee who died in custody, Formica reports that the detainee suffered bruising to the “shoulders, chest, hip, and knees” but adds, “It is not unusual for detainees to have minor bruising, cuts, and scrapes.” A July 2006 report by Human Rights Watch will find evidence of “serious mistreatment” of detainees based on witness accounts of Special Forces interrogators and other US personnel. Formica will note in an e-mail: “I conducted a thorough investigation… and stand by my report.… [S]everal issues” he discovered “were corrected,” he will say. [Armed Forces Press Service, 6/17/2006; New Yorker, 6/17/2007]
In the opening hours of the US assault on the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah (see November 8, 2004), Lieutenant Colonel Gary Brandl tells his troops: “The enemy has got a face. He’s called Satan. He’s in Fallujah and we’re going to destroy him.” [Guardian, 11/10/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 325]
The Washington Post reports that several thousand shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), once under the control of Saddam Hussein’s government, are now missing. Their disappearance prompts US military and intelligence analysts to dramatically increase their estimate of such weapons that are missing and may be in the hands of insurgents. US analysts report that as many as 4,000 SAMs are unaccounted for, raising the total of such missiles unaccounted for to around 6,000. Exact figures are uncertain. “We don’t have a good estimate,” says a senior defense official. “Some have put forward some figures, but there is none that the Defense Intelligence Agency has confidence in.” When the US invaded Iraq, it did not secure many weapons depots, and hundreds of thousands of tons of munitions were looted. Since then, some have undoubtedly been sold to terrorist organizations. It would be a relatively simple matter to use SAMs to shoot down military or commercial aircraft, and in several instances, insurgents have used such missiles to shoot down American military helicopters. [Washington Post, 11/7/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 325]
A Marine walks past several corpses strewn in a Fallujah street. [Source: Al Jazeera]The US military undertakes Operation Phantom Fury in an effort to retake the city of Fallujah from Sunni insurgents. During the more than two-week long offensive, Iraqi NGOs are prohibited from delivering humanitarian aid to residents of the besieged city. A representative for the Iraq Red Crescent Society (IRCS), Muhammad al-Nuri, will estimate that at least 6,000 Iraqis are killed in the offensive. The Iraqi government’s own studies will suggest that 70 percent of Fallujah’s buildings are destroyed by the fighting. [IRIN, 4/4/2004; Washington Post, 11/9/2004; IRIN, 11/26/2004] In the ensuing battle, the city’s water, power, and food supplies are completely cut, actions later condemned as violations of the Geneva Conventions by a UN special rapporteur, who accuses the US of “using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population.” At least 200,000 civilians flee Fallujah, many ending up in squatters’ camps with no basic facilities. “My kids are hysterical with fear,” says one Iraqi father. “They are traumatized by the sound [of fighting] but there is nowhere to take them.” The US military bars the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and journalists from the area. All males between the ages of 15 and 55 are forced to stay in the city (see November 10, 2004). Over 100,000 civilians are trapped in the city during the US siege, forced to endure a pitched battle between US forces and between 600 and 6,000 insurgents.
US Targets Civilians - The city’s main hospital is the first target (see November 9, 2004), picked because, as the New York Times reports, “the US military believed it was the source of rumours about heavy casualties.” An AP photographer documents US helicopters killing a family of five trying to ford a river to safety. A Lebanese photographer will say, “There were American snipers on top of the hospital shooting everyone.” The photographer, Burhan Fasa’am, adds: “With no medical supplies, people died from their wounds. Everyone in the street was a target for the Americans.” Another Fallujah citizen will later recall: “I watched them roll over wounded people in the streets with tanks. This happened so many times.” A third citizen will later recall: “They shot women and old men in the streets. Then they shot anyone who tried to get their bodies.” US forces use incendiary weapons, including white phosphorus (see Mid-November 2004). When asked about the use of such controversial weaponry, Captain Erik Krivda explains, “Usually we keep the gloves on, [but] for this operation, we took the gloves off.” Just before the operation commences, a Marine commander tells his troops: “You will be held accountable for the facts not as they are in hindsight but as they appeared to you at the time. If, in your mind, you fire to protect yourself or your men, you are doing the right thing. It doesn’t matter if later on we find out you wiped out a family of unarmed civilians.” [Weinberger, 2005, pp. 63-64; Guardian, 11/10/2005]
Marine Casualties - The suffering and death are not one-sided. Lieutenant Commander Richard Jadick, a Navy doctor who volunteered to go to Iraq to help ease the shortage of doctors there, finds himself in the middle of pitched battles, doing his best to save Marines wounded in battle, many with horrific injuries. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Winn will estimate that without Jadick, his unit would have lost at least 30 more troops. Jadick will receive the Bronze Star with a Combat V for valor for his efforts. “I have never seen a doctor display the kind of courage and bravery that [Jadick] did during Fallujah,” Winn later recalls. [Newsweek, 3/20/2006]
Widespread Destruction - By the end of operations, around 36,000 of the city’s 50,000 homes are destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines. US casualty figures claim that about 2,000 Iraqis die in the fighting (Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will claim that no civilians died in Fallujah), but Iraqi human rights organizations and medical workers claim the number is somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000. A Fallujah housewife will finally return to her home to find a message written in lipstick on her living room mirror: “F_ck Iraq and every Iraqi in it.” Mike Marquesee of the human rights organization Iraq Occupation Focus, will later write that the US and British media offers a “sanitized” version of events. “[C]ivilian suffering was minimized and the ethics and strategic logic of the attack largely unscrutinized,” Marquesee will observe. The siege is inconclusive at best: for the next year, Fallujah will remain essentially under lockdown, and heavy resistance and violence will spread to other cities, including Tal-Afar, Haditha, and Husaybah. [Weinberger, 2005, pp. 63-64; Guardian, 11/10/2005] Reporter Hala Jaber, the last reporter to leave Fallujah before the military assault begins and the first to return to that devastated city months later, will write over a year after Operation Phantom Fury: “The bitter truth is that the actions of US and Iraqi forces have reignited the insurgency. Anger, hate, and mistrust of America are deeper than ever.” [London Times, 12/18/2005]
Entity Tags: Operation Phantom Fury, Richard Jadick, US Department of Defense, Muhammad al-Nuri, Hala Jaber, Mark Winn, Burhan Fasa’am, Mike Marquesee, Erik Krivda, Iyad Allawi, Geneva Conventions, United Nations
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
Secretary of State Colin Powell, having lent an air of gravitas and sobriety to the Bush administration during the re-election campaign, is told by White House chief of staff Andrew Card that he will not remain at his post for the second term. Powell agrees to pretend that he has decided to resign by his own choice rather than admit that he is being dismissed. [Unger, 2007, pp. 326]
US forces use white phosphorus (WP) gas munitions as incendiary weapons against human targets during their seige of Fallujah, Iraq (see November 8, 2004). [Inter Press Service, 11/26/2003; Daily Telegraph, 11/9/2004; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/2004; Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005] White phosphorus—also known as Willy Pete or Whiskey Pete—is used by the military for signaling, screening, and incendiary purposes. White phosphorus munitions, upon explosion, distribute particles over a wide swath of area. They burn spontaneously in the air and will continue to burn until all white phosphorus particles have disappeared. The smoke easily penetrates clothing and protective gear and can burn a person’s flesh to the bone. [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org), 11/9/2005] According to Jeff Englehart, a US soldier involved in the seige of Fallujah, “Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone.… Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 meters is done for.” [Independent, 11/8/2004]
Iraqi Witnesses Allege Use of Incendiary Weapons - “Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah,” 35-year-old trader from Fallujah Abu Hammad tells reporter Dahr Jamail. “They used everything—tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground.” Another resident, Abu Sabah, from the Julan area, explains: “They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them.” He says the pieces then explode into large fires that burn the skin even when water is applied. “People suffered so much from these,” he adds. [Inter Press Service, 11/26/2003] Corroborating their accounts, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that some “Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.” Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, tells the newspaper, “The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/2004]
Alternate Explanation - Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan, in November 2005, will deny that US troops used white phosphorus gas against people in Fallujah. “I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus,” he tells Democracy Now. “White phosphorus is used for obscuration, which white phosphorus produces a heavy thick smoke to shield us or them from view so that they cannot see what we are doing. It is used to destroy equipment, to destroy buildings. That is what white phosphorus shells are used for.” He insists that the pictures showing melted corpses with clothing still intact is not proof of white phosphorus attacks. “That can happen from numerous ways and not just from white phosphorus attacks. That can happen from massive explosions. If you look at the car bombs that the terrorists use today, you have the same effects from car bombs from suicide vests. I have personally witnessed these things here in Baghdad.” [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005]
Pentagon Confirms Use of White Phosphorus against 'Enemy Combatants' - The Pentagon, however, does not deny that the weapon was used against human targets. On November 14, 2005, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venables says that white phosphorus was used to “fire at the enemy.” He adds: “It burns.… It’s an incendiary weapon. That is what it does.” [Independent, 11/15/2005] “It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.” [BBC, 11/16/2005]
Against US Army Policy - In 1980, the Convention on Conventional Weapons banned the use of incendiary devices, like white phosphorous, in heavily populated areas. The United States was one of the few countries that refused to sign the agreement (see October 10, 1980-December 2, 1983). Even so, an instruction manual used by the US Army Command and General Staff School (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas states that “it is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.” [Independent, 11/19/2005]
First-Hand Accounts - There are a number of first-hand accounts of the battle, as well as video footage and photographs, suggesting the use of white phosphorus against human targets.
Jeff Englehart, who is in a tactical attack center about 200 meters from where a lot of the explosions that are happening [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005] , later recalls: “I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it’s known as Willy Pete.… I saw the burned bodies of women and children.” [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005]
Photographs provided by the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005] include numerous high-quality, color close-ups of bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved or caramelized by the shells. [Independent, 11/8/2004]
A documentary, titled Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre, broadcast on Italian news channel RAI a year after the assault shows helicopters launching white phosphorus munitions directly into the city. [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005] According to the RAI film, the US has attempted to destroy filmed evidence of the alleged use of white phosphorus on civilians in Falluja. [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005; BBC, 11/8/2005]
A March 2005 US Army report written by three US artillery men who participated in the siege will confirm that white phosphorus was used against human targets during the siege. “WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [High Explosive weapons]. We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.” [Field Artillery, 3/2005 ; Independent, 11/15/2005]
An Iranian exile group says it has evidence that Iran is still enriching uranium and will continue to do so despite an agreement it signed pledging it to halt such activities. The group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), also charges that in the mid-1990s, Iran bought the plans for a Chinese nuclear bomb from the global nuclear technology network led by Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan. Khan’s network sold the same type of bomb blueprint to Libya, which has renounced its nuclear ambitions (see December 2003). The NCRI’s Mohammed Mohaddessin says the Khan network also provided Iran with a small amount of highly enriched uranium, though the amount is too small to use for a weapon. While the NCRI provided information in 2002 that helped disclose Iran’s secret nuclear program, many of its subsequent allegations have been proven false.
Claims - Mohaddessin uses satellite photos to show what he says is a new nuclear facility inside Tehran’s Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology (CDADT). He says that the CDADT also houses chemical and biological weapons programs, and that Iran began enriching uranium at the site in early 2003. Mohaddessin refuses to provide any evidence for his claims, instead saying, “Our sources were 100 percent sure about their intelligence.” Those sources, he says, are scientists and other people working in the facilities, and local citizens living near the facilities who see what he calls suspicious activities.
Reaction - Many diplomats and arms control experts dismiss the NCRI’s claims, saying the claims are an attempt to undermine the recent agreement Tehran signed with Britain, France, and Germany to restrict its uranium enrichment program. In return, the agreement says, Iran can continue working on developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]
CIA Director Porter Goss, known for being dogmatically loyal to the White House (see September 25, 2003 and November-December 2004), responds to the recent spate of leaked CIA memos (see September 16, 2004, September 28, 2004, and October 4, 2004) by issuing a memo reminding agency staff that they should “scrupulously honor our secrecy oath.” The memo is leaked to the press the next day. Goss says, “Intelligence-related issues have become the fodder of partisan food fights and turf-power skirmishes.” Goss warns that agency officials must publicly support Bush administration policies: “As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies,” Goss writes. His intention is, he writes, “to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road.” Goss’s words may indicate that CIA employees must conform with administration policies and goals, but he also writes, “We provide the intelligence as we see it—and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.” Many critics of the agency and its leadership say that Goss’s memo is part of his attempt to squelch dissent within the agency’s ranks. “If Goss is asking people to color their views and be a team player, that’s not what people at CIA signed up for,” says a former intelligence official. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that “on issue after issue, there’s a real question about whether the country and the Congress are going to get an unvarnished picture of our intelligence situation at a critical time.” [New York Times, 11/17/2004; Roberts, 2008, pp. 153]
Secretary of State Colin Powell tells reporters that the US has intelligence showing Iran’s active pursuit of a nuclear warhead. The evidence, Powell says, documents Iran’s attempt to adapt ballistic missiles to deliver nuclear payloads. He says: “I have seen some information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems.… You don’t have a weapon until you put it in something that can deliver a weapon.… I’m not talking about uranium or fissile material or the warhead; I’m talking about what one does with a warhead.” Powell does not claim that Iran has the nuclear material—enriched uranium—to actually construct a bomb. “I’m talking about information that says they not only have these missiles, but I am aware of information that suggests that they were working hard as to how to put the two together.… There is no doubt in my mind—and it’s fairly straightforward from what we’ve been saying for years—that they have been interested in a nuclear weapon that has utility, meaning that it is something they would be able to deliver, not just something that sits there.”
Implication - Nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione says that Powell is implying that Iran is trying to reduce the size of a nuclear warhead to fit on one of its ballistic missiles, a difficult task. “Powell appears to be saying the Iranians are working very hard on this capability,” Cirincione says. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said just days before that it had not seen any information that Iran had conducted weapons-related work, Cirincione notes. The Bush administration is likely to press for sanctions from the UN. Powell says that the US will monitor international verification efforts in Iran “with necessary and deserved caution because for 20 years the Iranians have been trying to hide things from the international community.” [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]
Claims Said to Be Unverified - A day later, US officials say Powell’s claims are unverified, and come from a single, unvetted source that has not yet checked out. The single source is an Iranian citizen who approached US intelligence officials with a laptop computer crammed with documents and sketches purporting to be from Iran’s nuclear weapons program (see Summer 2004). Powell and other senior Cabinet members were briefed on the laptop revelations last week, and though it was stamped “No Foreign,” meaning it was not to be shared with any foreign nations, President Bush decided to share some of the information with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Administration officials tell diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany that Powell misspoke in alluding to the laptop intelligence. Powell’s office says Powell stands by his remarks. [Washington Post, 11/19/2004]
Iran agrees to suspend nuclear enrichment activities at its Isfahan and Natanz nuclear plants. The deal was arranged by Britain, France, and Germany. Iran insists the facilities are for peaceful civilian use and are not capable of producing the quantity or quality of refined products needed for the development of nuclear weapons. [BBC, 11/22/2004]
Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz meets with Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar in Delhi. Summarizing the meeting, Aiyar tells the press: “We did repeat what we have said earlier about using Pakistan as [a] transit corridor [for sourcing gas from Iran] creating mutual dependency [and]… we need to replicate such mutual dependency… in the wider trade and economic relationship between the two countries.” It has been reported that Washington is pressuring Pakistan not to enter into any sort of pipeline agreement with Iran. “The project, if it materializes, would also foreclose whatever prospects remain of the revival of the trans-Afghan pipeline project, which many still see as a raison d’etre of the US intervention in Afghanistan,” the Asian Times notes. [Asia Times, 1/11/2005]
Three years after he blamed homosexuals, abortionists, and civil liberties groups for causing 9/11 (see September 13, 2001) and apologized for some of his remarks (see September 14, 2001), televangelist Jerry Falwell misstates his remarks on NBC’s Meet the Press. He now claims that when he made his statement, he “likewise” held responsible “a sleeping church, a lethargic church.” However, the transcript and reports of his remarks show he did not make such a claim. Falwell also attacks progressive religious figure Jim Wallis as “anti-America[n]” because Wallis did not support former president Ronald Reagan’s Cold War policies of “peace through strength.” Had Wallis “been the president in World War II,” Falwell says, “we’d all be speaking German now.” Falwell widens his attack to include gay Republicans; when moderator Tim Russert notes that television writer Marc Cherry is a “conservative gay Republican,” Falwell replies, “Well, the fact that he’s a gay Republican means he should join the Democratic Party.” [MSNBC, 11/28/2004]
New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman writes: “Improv time is over. This is crunch time. Iraq will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won’t be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile.” Friedman will continue predicting a resolution of the Iraq situation in “the next six months” until at least May 2006 (see May 6-11, 2006). [New York Times, 11/28/2004]
Two Iranians attempting to illegally export thousands of American-made night-vision systems to Iran are arrested in Vienna by US and Austrian authorities. [Associated Press, 3/26/2005]
Daniel Levin. [Source: ABC News]Daniel Levin, the acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), goes to a military base near Washington and has himself subjected to simulated waterboarding to judge for himself whether or not the interrogation tactic is torture. Levin then tells White House officials that he found the experience terrifying, and he is sure it simulates drowning. Levin concludes that waterboarding clearly qualifies as torture and should not be used by US personnel except in a highly limited and closely supervised fashion. Levin, who like his predecessor Jack Goldsmith (see June 17, 2004) is deeply troubled by the White House’s advocacy of torture as a method of securing information from terror suspects, and by its refusal to issue clear guidelines as to what is and what is not torture, decides to prepare a memo—legally binding—to replace the August 2002 Justice Department memo that established torture as an acceptable method of interrogation. Goldsmith had already withdrawn the memo after finding it deeply flawed (see December 2003-June 2004). In December 2004, Levin issues his new memo, which flatly states that “[t]orture is abhorrent” (see December 30, 2004), but he notes that the Justice Department is not declaring any previous positions by the administration illegal. Levin is planning a second memo that will impose tighter restrictions on specific interrogation techniques, but he never gets the chance to complete it. New attorney general Alberto Gonzales forces him out of the department instead, and replaces him with a much more compliant OLC chief, Steven Bradbury (see June 23, 2005). Most experts believe that waterboarding is indeed torture, and that torture is a poor way of extracting accurate information. Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson will say, “There is no question this is torture—this is a technique by which an individual is strapped to a board, elevated by his feet and either dunked into water or water poured over his face over a towel or a blanket.” [ABC News, 11/2/2007; Think Progress, 11/3/2007; GulfNews, 11/5/2007] Gonzales is widely believed to have been selected as the new attorney general in part to ease the way for the Bush administration to continue its support for torture as a valid method of interrogation. Shortly after taking the office, Gonzales pressured Levin to add the footnote exculpating the administration from any legal responsibility for its previous positions, and shortly thereafter, Gonzales has Levin removed from the department. In November 2007, the Washington Post’s editorial board will decry Gonzales’s ouster of Levin, and the administration’s support for torture, as a blatant “disregard for principle.” [Washington Post, 11/6/2007] MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, a harsh critic of the Bush administration, will later call Levin “an astonishingly patriotic American and a brave man.” He will fire a broadside directly at the president: “Daniel Levin should have a statue in his honor in Washington right now. Instead, he was forced out as acting assistant attorney general nearly three years ago because he had the guts to do what George Bush couldn’t do in a million years: actually put himself at risk for the sake of his country, for the sake of what is right.” [MSNBC, 11/5/2007]
Entity Tags: Washington Post, US Department of Justice, Steven Bradbury, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Daniel Levin, Bush administration (43), Keith Olbermann, George W. Bush, John D. Hutson, Jack Goldsmith, Alberto R. Gonzales
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visits Kabul, Afghanistan. During his visit Afghan President Hamid Karzai consents to Washington’s decision to establish nine more permanent military bases in the country. The bases, to be manned by 2,200 troops, will be constructed in Helmand, Herat, Nimrouz, Balkh, Khost and Paktia. In the provinces of Khost and Paktia, there will be two bases. [News Insight, 3/5/2005] Observers note that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had little choice in the matter given that his government’s continuing existence is dependent upon the private security forces provided by the US. [Asia Times, 3/30/2005]
The New York Times reports that according to unnamed diplomats, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believes that satellite photographs indicate Iran may be testing high explosives and that procurement records suggest Iran may have the equipment necessary for making bomb-grade uranium. [China Daily, 12/2/2004] This information was reportedly provided by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) an alleged front group for the Iranian resistance group and designated terrorist organization Mujahedeen-e Khalq. [BBC, 11/18/2004] UN diplomats tell Reuters that inspectors for the IAEA would like to inspect Iranian military sites at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, and Lavizan II, in northeastern Tehran. However, the IAEA is not permitted to inspect those sites because it only has legal authority to visit sites where there are declared civilian nuclear programs. [China Daily, 12/2/2004] Five buildings in Parchin will later be inspected by the IAEA in January 2005 (see Mid-January 2005).
Daniel Levin, the outgoing chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC—see Late 2004-Early 2005), sends a memo to Deputy Attorney General James Comey. The memo will remain secret, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will learn that it provides legal advice on communications between defense attorneys and detainees in combatant status review tribunals. [ProPublica, 4/16/2009]
Knight Ridder reports that, according to US officials, congressional aides and other sources, Pentagon and White House officials “are developing plans to increase public criticism of Iran’s human-rights record, offer stronger backing to exiles and other opponents of Iran’s repressive theocratic government and collect better intelligence on Iran.” Additionally, the administration would like to withdraw troops from Iraq so Bush would have “greater flexibility in dealing with Iran,” one official tells the newspaper. [Knight Ridder, 12/8/2004] The news agency also says that the US is using the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) as a source for intelligence on Iran’s weapons programs, even though the organization “remains on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist groups.” [Knight Ridder, 12/8/2004]
James Dobbins. [Source: PBS]James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, writes an analytical piece on the subject of engagement with Iran: “Washington is not ready to join the Europeans in negotiating limits on Iran’s program, nor is it willing to offer any incentives. Conversely, the United States cannot threaten Iran with political isolation or economic sanctions because America already has in place a comprehensive economic embargo and blackout on communication.” Dobbins adds that “America has refused to negotiate, to offer concessions or to join in multilateral economic and political arrangements that its European allies may negotiate…. [W]hile Europe offers carrots, Washington brandishes no sticks. Given American difficulties in Iraq, a military invasion of Iran is implausible. An aerial attack on known nuclear sites in Iran might slow that country’s weapons program, but only at the cost of accelerated efforts at clandestine sites…. Washington is no more than an excited bystander offering advice from a safe distance.” In conclusion, Dobbins states that: “If blocking Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations is as urgent as it would seem, then engagement on that issue is imperative. At present, nothing Iran does or fails to do will alter the American posture. This unyielding attitude undercuts the prospects for Europe’s effort to negotiate a positive resolution to the nuclear crisis. It also provides the weakest possible basis for common action in the absence of such a settlement.” [International Herald Tribune, 12/2/2004]
Navy Secretary Gordon England says that a second detainee reviewed by the Combatant Status Review Tribunal in Guantanamo has been determined not to be an enemy combatant. England does not reveal the man’s name, nationality, information on when or where he was captured, when he was transferred to Guantanamo, or why the tribunal decided to reverse his status. So far, the tribunal has reviewed the statuses of 507 prisoners and made decisions in 230 of the cases. Two hundred fifteen detainees have refused to cooperate. [Reuters, 12/20/2004]
Congress passes a law forbidding US troops in Colombia, who are there advising the government in its struggle against Marxist rebels funded by drug money, from engaging in any combat against the rebels except in self-defense. The law also caps the number of American soldiers deployed in Colombia at 800. President Bush issues a signing statement that only he, as the commander in chief, can place restrictions on the use of US armed forces. Therefore, the executive branch will construe the law “as advisory in nature.” [Boston Globe, 4/30/2006]
During a dinner with visiting US nuclear experts, Iranian leaders Hashemi Rafsanjani and Hassan Rowhani say that Iran’s nuclear weapons research had been halted in 2003 because Iran felt it did not need the actual bombs, only the ability to show the world it could make them. “Look, as long as we can enrich uranium and master the [nuclear] fuel cycle, we don’t need anything else,” Rafsanjani says, according to George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Our neighbors will be able to draw the proper conclusions.” [Washington Post, 12/8/2007]
Omnitec corporate logo. [Source: Omnitec Solutions]Since the Pentagon began using retired military officers as media “military analysts” to promote the Iraq war and occupation (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond), it has closely monitored the performance of those analysts. Among other methods, it retains the services of a private contractor, Omnitec Solutions, to scour databases for any mention of military analysts in the broadcast and print media. Omnitec uses the same tools as corporate branding experts to tabulate and evaluate the performance of those analysts. One Omnitec report, issued this year, assesses the impact of the analysts in the media after they were given a carefully programmed “tour” of Iraq by the Pentagon. According to the report, upon their return, the analysts echoed Pentagon themes and talking points throughout the media. “Commentary from all three Iraq trips was extremely positive over all,” the report concludes. [New York Times, 4/20/2008]
Veterans of the Iran-Contra scandal meet for a “lessons learned” discussion, led by Elliott Abrams. One of the conclusions drawn is that, had they done it right, they could have gotten away with it. For future covert operations, they reportedly agree that they should abide by the following axioms: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the CIA has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office.” [New Yorker, 3/5/2007]
Iran reportedly begins preparing its military defenses for a possible US attack. An article in the Washington Times quotes one unnamed Iranian official who says “Iran would respond within 15 minutes to any attack by the United States or any other country.” Iranian newspapers report that Iran is expanding its 7-million-strong “Basiji” militia forces. A Western military expert based in Tehran says he believes Iran would not attempt to repel an initial invasion by US forces but would rather engage them in asymmetrical warfare once they are in. [Washington Times, 2/19/2005; Newhouse News Service, 2/21/2005]
Ariel Cohen, who co-authored a September 2002 paper (see September 25, 2002) recommending the privatization of Iraq’s oil industry, explains to reporter Greg Palast how his privatization plan would have ended OPEC’s control over oil prices. He says that if Iraq’s fields had been sold off, competing companies would have quickly increased the production of their individual patches, resulting in over production which would have flooded world oil markets, thrown OPEC into panic, and destabilized the Saudi monarchy. [BBC Newsnight, 3/17/2005; Democracy Now!, 3/21/2005; Harper's, 4/2005, pp. 75]
In an interview with Greg Palast, Robert Ebel, a former Department of Energy and and CIA oil analyst, acknowledges that the invasion of Iraq was driven by oil interests. “The thought was, ‘Why are you going into Iraq? It’s about oil isn’t it?’ And my response was, ‘No, It’s about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. The morning after, it’s about oil.’” [Democracy Now!, 3/21/2005]
The US sends teams of US-trained former Iranian exiles, sometimes accompanied by US Special Forces, from Iraq into southern and eastern Iran to search for underground nuclear installations. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005; Guardian, 1/29/2005] In the north, Israeli-trained Kurds from northern Iraq, occasionally assisted by US forces, look for signs of nuclear activity as well. [United Press International, 1/26/2005] Both teams are tasked with planting remote detection devices, known as “sniffers,” which can sense radioactive emissions and other indicators of nuclear-enrichment programs while also helping US war planners establish targets. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005] The former Iranian exiles operating in the south and east are members of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a group that has been included in the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997 (see 1997) and included in a government white paper (see September 12, 2002) that criticized Iraq for its support of the group. After the US invaded Iraq, members of MEK were “consolidated, detained, disarmed, and screened for any past terrorist acts” by the US (see July 2004) and designated as “protected persons.” (see July 21, 2004) Initially, the MEK operate from Camp Habib in Basra, but they later launch their incursions from the Baluchi region in Pakistan. [United Press International, 1/26/2005; Newsweek, 2/15/2005] They are assisted by information from Pakistani scientists and technicians who have knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] Pakistan apparently agreed to cooperate with the US in exchange for assurances that Pakistan would not have to turn over A. Q. Khan, the so-called “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb,” to the IAEA or to any other international authorities for questioning. Khan, who is “linked to a vast consortium of nuclear black-market activities,” could potentially be of great assistance to these agencies in their efforts to undermine nuclear weapons proliferation. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] In addition to allowing Pakistan to keep Khan, the US looks the other way as Pakistan continues to buy parts for its nuclear-weapons arsenal in the black market, according to a former high-level Pakistani diplomat interviewed by Seymour Hersh [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] The United States’ use of MEK is criticized by Western diplomats and analysts who agree with many Iranians who consider the group to be traitors because they fought alongside Iraqi troops against Iran in the 1980s. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]
By early 2005, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and CIA Director George Tenet have all resigned, leaving the Bush administration without any senior officials who have a close relationship with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Previously, these three officials had been pressing Musharraf to take stronger action against the al-Qaeda and Taliban safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region. With them gone, President Bush is the one who is supposed to raise the issue in regular phone calls to Musharraf. But in June 2008, two former US officials will say that the conversations backfire. Instead of demanding more action from Musharraf, Bush repeatedly thanks him for his contributions to the war on terrorism, actually reducing the pressure on him. One former official who saw transcripts of the conversations says, “He never pounded his fist on the table and said, ‘Pervez, you have to do this.’” The Bush administration will deny it failed to sufficiently pressure Musharraf. [New York Times, 6/30/2008]
A Farsi-speaking former CIA officer says he was approached by neoconservatives in the Pentagon who asked him to go to Iran and oversee “MEK [Mujahedeen-e Khalq] cross-border operations” into Iran, which he refused to do. Commenting on the neoconservatives’ ambitions in Iran, the former officer says, “They are bringing a lot of the old war-horses from the Reagan and Iran-contra days into a sort of kitchen cabinet outside the government to write up policy papers on Iran.” He says their plans for Iran are “delusional.” “They think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilize the government. They believe they can get rid of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, all the world’s problems are solved,” he says. [Guardian, 1/18/2005] Journalist Craig Unger explains the neoconservatives’ willingness to rely on MEK fighters. For them, Unger writes, MEK is not a terrorist group, but “America’s best hope in Iran.” [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]
The US Air Force begins flying sorties over Iran from its bases in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to lure Tehran into turning on air defense radars so the US can develop “an electronic order of battle for Iran.” “We have to know which targets to attack and how to attack them,” an unnamed administration official tells United Press International. [United Press International, 1/26/2005] Bush officials initially deny the overflight reports. [Guardian, 1/29/2005]
Iran hands over documents from a 1987 meeting in Dubai (see 1987) to a International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation (see November 2004). During the 1987 meeting, associates of A. Q. Khan presented Iranian officials with an offer to sell Iran the technology and materials to build a nuclear bomb. However, the IAEA does not uncover any evidence suggesting that the equipment was used in anything other than Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program. The violations are technical and based only on the fact that Iran failed to report the program. Despite its recent findings, the IAEA investigation claims it still lacks a clear understanding of Iran’s nuclear program. [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]
in January 2005 former CIA officer Reuel Marc Gerecht, now a member of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, announces the release of his new book The Islamic Paradox, which argues that the US should ally itself with the militant Islamic right and seek the overthrow of the secular Arab governments of the Middle East. For example, he compares Ayatollah Khomeini favorably with Egyptian President Honsni Mubarak, and suggests that we should support the overthrow of the Mubarak government by the Muslim Brotherhood. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 340 - 342]
Incoming Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calls North Korea one of the world’s six “outposts of tyranny.” (The others are Cuba, Myanmar—which Rice identifies by its old name of Burma—Iran, Belarus, and Zimbabwe.) In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will cite Rice’s characterization as another example of overheated Bush administration rhetoric that makes it all the more difficult to negotiate with the obstinate North Koreans over their nuclear program (see August 2003). [US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1/18/2005 ; BBC, 12/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 243]
In Delhi, the India government hosts the first-ever round-table of Asian oil ministers from the Persian Gulf, China and Southeast Asia. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanghaneh recommends creating an Asian Bank for Energy Development to finance energy projects in Asia, such as the long-proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (see 1993). He also calls for lower prices for Asian energy supplies that are sold to Asian consumers. [Asia Times, 1/11/2005; World Peace Herald, 1/17/2005]
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh interviews a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon about the administration’s plans to invade Iran. He says that Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, believe that a limited attack on Iran would inspire a secular revolution in the country. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse,” the consultant says. [CNN, 1/17/2005; New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
Dr. Jonathan Fishbein. [Source: unknown]Government whistleblower Dr. Jonathan Fishbein, in testimony before a panel at the Institute of Medicine, says that federal officials involved in a US-funded study in Uganda endangered the lives of hundreds of patients testing an AIDS drug because of careless and negligent research practices. Fishbein says officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ignored problems with the way the study was being conducted on the AIDS drug, nevirapine, which is used to protect babies in Africa from HIV infection during birth. The consequences of their failure had “grave and sometimes fatal implications for the lives of real patients,” Fishbein tells the panel. Fishbein does not allege that the drug is dangerous or ineffective. Instead, he discusses problems with the researchers involved, citing shoddy data collection, record-keeping and quality control issues. Because of those concerns, he says, the results of the study cannot be trusted. “We can ill afford to entrust the lives of people to invalid data,” he says. NIH has acknowledged that the Uganda research failed to meet required US standards. But it maintains that hundreds of thousands of African babies have been saved by using single doses of the drug to block the AIDS virus and that it can be done safely with those single doses. Nevirapine is an antiretroviral drug used since the 1990s to treat adult AIDS patients and is known to have potentially lethal side effects like liver damage when taken in multiple doses over time. Concerns have been raised over the possibility that the drug may cause long-term resistance in patients to further AIDS treatments. It is marketed in the United States as Viramune. Fishbein says that top officials at NIH became “so heavily invested in the trial’s outcome” that they could not be objective. “The old adage ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is apt,” he says. In 2003, Fishbein helped halt the study for 15 months after auditors, medical experts, and others disclosed problems with the project. But the concerns were dismissed by NIH officials, and the study began again. Documents show NIH knew of problems with the study in early 2002, but did not tell the White House before President Bush launched a $500 million plan that summer to use nevirapine throughout Africa. NIH is attempting to fire Fishbein for what it calls poor performance issues; Fishbein says the firing is retaliation for his speaking out. [Associated Press, 1/4/2005]
Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar announces that he has invited Iranian officials to visit Delhi to discuss the long proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas-pipeline project (see 1993). “A delegation from Iran will visit India on the eve of the Asian gas buyers’ summit commencing on February 14 to initiate negotiations on a term-sheet for the delivery of Iranian natural gas by pipeline at the India-Pakistan border,” he says. “Our anticipated demand in 2025 for gas would be 400 million standard cubic meters (mscm) per day. Our output today is less than 100 mscm per day. It is not possible to meet the incremental demand from domestic production…. [I]mport of LNG, and natural gas through [a] pipeline is needed to meet the demands of the growing economy.” [Asia Times, 1/11/2005]
India announces that it has agreed to a $40 billion deal with Iran. Under the terms of the agreement, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) will sell 5 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually to India over a 25-year period with the possibility of increasing the quantity to 7.5 million tons. India’s price will be computed at 0.065 of Brent crude average plus $1.2 with an upper ceiling of $31 per barrel. As part of the deal, India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) will participate in the development of Yadavaran, Iran’s largest oil field. India’s share in the oil field will be 20 percent, which translates into roughly 60,000 barrels per day of oil. Iran has retained a 30 percent stake while the Chinese state oil company Sinopec secured a 50 percent share in an agreement signed at the end of October (see October 29, 2004). India’s deal with Iran will also provide India with 100 percent of the rights in the 300,000-barrel-per-day Jufeir oilfield. [Asia Times, 1/11/2005; World Peace Herald, 1/17/2005] The agreement could give new impetus to the long proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (see 1993). The Tehran Times, which is known to represent the views of the Iranian government, comments, “The Iran-India agreement on LNG exports will pave the way for the implementation of the project to pipe Iranian gas to India via Pakistan and the dream of the peace pipeline could become a reality in the near future.” [Asia Times, 1/11/2005]
Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is considering a new approach to dealing with the insurgency in Iraq, one defense officials call the “Salvador Option.” During the 1980s, the US, primarily through the CIA, funded and supported paramilitary units, often called “death squads” by the citizenry and various human rights organizations which monitored their activities, in El Salvador and other Central American nations. These death squads carried out numerous assassinations and kidnappings, including the murder of four American nuns in 1980. Many US conservatives consider the Salvadoran operation a success, though many innocent Salvadorans died, some under torture, and the operation fomented the US government policies that became known collective as “Iran-Contra.” Now the Pentagon is debating whether the same tactics should be used in Iraq. “What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are,” says a senior military official. “We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing.” Another military source contends that Iraqis who sympathize with the insurgents need to be targeted: “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists. From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.” One proposal would “send [US] Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria.” Among the proposal’s supporters is Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But other Pentagon officials are shy of running any operation that might contravene the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and prefer the CIA to run the proposed operation. And many lawmakers, Pentagon officials, and military experts are wary of expanding the role of US Special Forces operations in such a legally and morally dubious direction. They also worry about the ramifications of using Iraqi Kurds and Shi’ite militia members against Iraqi Sunnis in potential death squads, characterized by investigative reporter Robert Parry as “a prescription for civil war or genocide.” Some speculate that this operation might be one of the reasons John Negroponte was recently named US ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte served as US ambassador to Honduras during the 1980s, and many feel Negroponte was a key figure in the establishment and operations of the Central American death squads. Other Bush officials active in the Central America program include Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Central American policies at the State Department and who is now a Middle East adviser on Bush’s National Security Council staff, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a powerful defender of the Central American policies as a member of the House of Representatives. Negroponte denies any involvement in any such program operating in Iraq. [Newsweek, 1/8/2005; Consortium News, 1/11/2005] Christopher Dickey, a Newsweek reporter with personal experience in El Salvador during the time of the death squads, writes that he is “prepared to admit that building friendly democracies sometimes has to be a cold-blooded business in the shadowland of moral grays that is the real world,” but says that the idea of US-formed death squads in Iraq, and the corollary idea of sending US Special Forces teams into Syria and perhaps other Middle Eastern countries is not only potentially a mistake, but one that is little more than “a formalization of what’s already taking place.” Former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst and Middle East specialist Patrick Lang says, “We are, of course, already targeting enemy cadres for elimination whether by capture or death in various places including Afghanistan and Iraq.” So many Special Forces personnel are already involved in such operations, Lang says, that there is an actual shortage of Green Berets to perform their primary task: training regular Iraqi troops. The operation could benefit the US presence in two ways: helping win the hearts and minds of the ordinary citizenry by successfully eliminating insurgents, or just by making the citizenry “more frightened of [the US] than they are of the insurgents.” [Newsweek, 1/11/2005]
Entity Tags: Robert Parry, Patrick Lang, US Department of Defense, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Iyad Allawi, Contras, Christopher Dickey, Central Intelligence Agency, John Negroponte, Newsweek, Elliott Abrams, Donald Rumsfeld
Timeline Tags: US Military, Iraq under US Occupation
The US television news media virtually ignores the court-martial of Specialist Charles Graner, who is charged with abusing and torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib (see May 19, 2004-March 22, 2006 and January 16, 2005), according to author and media critic Frank Rich. “[I]f a story isn’t on TV in America, it’s MIA in the culture,” Rich will write. Much of the broadcast coverage is focused on stories about President Bush’s upcoming inauguration and on Britain’s Prince Harry, who had dressed up in Nazi regalia for a costume party. The network and cable news stations grant Graner’s trial only “brief, mechanical” summations “when it was broadcast at all.” The usual claims that television news only focuses on lurid, scandal-ridden news stories do not apply here, Rich writes: “It surely didn’t lack for drama; the Graner trial was Judgment at Nuremberg turned upside down.” Viewers do not learn of defense lawyer Guy Womack’s claim during his closing argument that “In Nuremberg, it was the government being prosecuted. We were going after the order-givers. Here the government is going after the order-takers.” Rich will later write that if the American public could not be exposed to fictional films about World War II (see November 11, 2004), then it “certainly… could not be exposed to real-life stories involving forced group masturbation, electric shock, rape committed with a phosphorescent stick, the burning of cigarettes in prisoners’ ears, involuntary enemas, and beatings that ended in death (see May 3-11, 2004). When one detainee witness at the Graner trial testified… that he had been forced to eat out of a toilet, his story was routinely cited in newspaper accounts but left unmentioned on network TV newscasts.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 155]
The Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC hosts the “Transition 2005: US Policy Toward Iran” discussion with David Kay and Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Pollack states that “…the MEK as best I can tell, [inaudible] on the intelligence community, has very little support inside of Iran.” [Relations, 1/12/2005]
A portion of Merritt’s e-mail discussing a ‘core group’ of analysts to ‘carry our water.’ [Source: US Department of Defense] (click image to enlarge)Pentagon official Roxie Merritt, the Director of Press Operations, sends a memo to several top Pentagon officials, including Larry Di Rita, the top public relations aide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The memo reports on Merritt’s conclusions and proposals in the aftermath of a Pentagon-sponsored trip to Iraq by a number of military analysts. The trip is part of the Pentagon’s propaganda operation, which uses retired military officers to go on broadcast news shows and promote the administration’s Iraq policies (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). The memo is in several sections:
'Background' - “One of the most interesting things coming from this trip to Iraq with the media analysts has been learning how their jobs have been undergoing a metamorphosis. There are several reasons behind the morph… with an all voluntary military, no one in the media has current military background. Additionally we have been doing a good job of keeping these guys informed so they have ready answers when the networks come calling.”
'Current Issues' - “The key issue here is that more and more, media analysts are having a greater impact on the television media network coverage of military issues. They have now become the go to guys not only for breaking stories, but they influence the views on issues. They also have a huge amount of influence on what stories the network decides to cover proactively with regard to the military…”
'Recommendation' - “1.) I recommend we develop a core group from within our media analyst list of those that we can count on to carry our water. They become part of a ‘hot list’ of those that we immediately make calls to or put on an email distro [distribution] list before we contact or respond to media on hot issues. We can also do more proactive engagement with this list and give them tips on what stories to focus on and give them heads up on issues as they are developing. By providing them with key and valuable information, they become the key go to guys for the networks and it begins to weed out the less reliably friendly analysts by the networks themselves…
3.) Media ops and outreach can work on a plan to maximize use of the analysts and figure out a system by which we keep our most reliably friendly analysts plugged in on everything from crisis response to future plans. This trusted core group will be more than willing to work closely with us because we are their bread and butter and the more they know, the more valuable they are to the networks…
5.) As evidenced by this analyst trip to Iraq, the synergy of outreach shops and media ops working together on these types of projects is enormous and effective. Will continue to exam [sic] ways to improve processes.”
Response from Di Rita - Di Rita is impressed. He replies, “This is a thoughtful note… I think it makes a lot of sense to do as you suggest and I guess I thought we were already doing a lot of this in terms of quick contact, etc… We ought to be doing this, though, and we should not make the list too small…” In 2008, Salon commentator Glenn Greenwald will sum up the plan: “So the Pentagon would maintain a team of ‘military analysts’ who reliably ‘carry their water—yet who were presented as independent analysts by the television and cable networks. By feeding only those pro-government sources key information and giving them access—even before responding to the press—only those handpicked analysts would be valuable to the networks, and that, in turn, would ensure that only pro-government sources were heard from. Meanwhile, the ‘less reliably friendly’ ones—frozen out by the Pentagon—would be ‘weeded out’ by the networks (see May 10-11, 2007). The pro-government military analysts would do what they were told because the Pentagon was ‘their bread and butter.’ These Pentagon-controlled analysts were used by the networks not only to comment on military matters—and to do so almost always unchallenged—but also even to shape and mold the networks’ coverage choices.” [Salon, 5/10/2008]
Iran allows International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit five buildings at the Parchin military site in response to US allegations that Iran has used the site to test explosives components for a nuclear bomb. Other buildings in the area, and four other areas at the Parchin site that the agency has identified as being of potential interest, remain off limits to inspectors. During their visit, the inspectors take samples to test for the presence of nuclear activity. [BBC, 1/5/2005; Weekend Australian, 1/13/2005; BBC, 1/19/2005; BBC, 1/19/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/28/2005]
Army Specialist Charles Graner is sentenced to 10 years in prison. In a military court-martial, Graner was convicted of crimes related to the torture and abuse of prisoners in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison (see October 2003), October 17-22, 2003), November 4-December 2, 2003, and (7:00 a.m.) November 4, 2003), including charges of battery, conspiracy, maltreatment of detainees, committing indecent acts, and dereliction of duty. Graner admitted some of his actions were criminal, and told jurors, “I didn’t enjoy what I did there” before he was found guilty. Asked if he felt remorse over his actions, Graner says simply: “There’s a war on. Bad things happen.” After Graner completes his sentence, he will be dishonorably discharged. He has forfeited all of his pay and benefits. Defense lawyer Guy Womack says that Graner and his six fellow Abu Ghraib guards also facing trials (see May 19, 2004-March 22, 2006) are being used as scapegoats by the Defense Department. Graner and his lawyers were unable to effectively discuss orders being handed down from superior officers during the trial, as the judge in the court-martial, Colonel James Pohl, refused to let witnesses say the names of officers who gave the orders or what orders might have been given, in effect constraining the trial to point to Graner and his colleagues as independent, “rogue” agents operating outside the chain of command. Graner did not testify during his trial, but during sentencing said that he had done what he was ordered to do by US intelligence agents, in order to “soften up” prisoners for interrogation. According to Graner, a lieutenant in his unit told him: “If [military intelligence] asks you to do this, it needs to be done. They’re in charge, follow their orders.” He believed the orders to torture and abuse prisoners were lawful, he claims. [Associated Press, 1/16/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 155] Author and media critic Frank Rich will later note that while the print media coverage of Graner’s trial is relatively extensive, the broadcast media virtually ignores it in favor of celebrating the inauguration of President Bush (see January 11-16, 2005). [Rich, 2006, pp. 155]
Attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales turns in supplementary written answers to expand upon and clarify his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (see January 6, 2005 and January 6, 2005). Buried in the documents is what reporter Charlie Savage will call “an explosive new disclosure.” Gonzales reveals that the Bush administration had secretly decided that the Convention against Torture, an international treaty, only has force on domestic soil, where the US Constitution applies. Noncitizens held overseas have no rights under the treaty, Bush lawyers concluded. Legal scholars from all sides of the political continuum denounce the administration’s position. Judge Abraham Sofaer, who negotiated the treaty for the Reagan administration, will write a letter to Congress informing it that President Reagan had never intended the treaty’s prohibition on torture and brutal treatment to apply only on US soil. However, the Bush administration stands by its position. [Savage, 2007, pp. 213]
Chris Matthews. [Source: Montgomery College]Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s Hardball, asks three of the Pentagon’s most reliable “military analysts” (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond)—retired generals Montgomery Meigs, Wayne Downing, and Kenneth Allard—on his show to pillory a recent New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh that reveals Pentagon plans for an attack on Iran (see (Early January 2005)). Matthews calls the three “Hardball’s war council.” After the broadcast, Allard writes an e-mail to Pentagon public relations official Larry Di Rita, in which he says, “As you may have seen on MSNBC, I attributed a lot of what [Hersh] said to disgruntled CIA employees who simply should be taken out and shot.” [Salon, 5/10/2008]
Leading neoconservative Robert Kagan, speaking to the Los Angeles Times about the Bush administration’s foreign policies, says proudly: “This is real neoconservatism (see February 2, 2005). It would be hard to express it more clearly. If people were expecting Bush to rein in his ambitions and enthusiasms after the first term, they are discovering that they are wrong.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 327]
Military analyst William Arkin publishes 3,000 US military code names along with brief descriptions in his book Code Names: Deciphering US Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World. Included in his list is CONPLAN 8022 (see May 15, 2005), a top-secret pre-emptive plan to take out nuclear facilities and other threats in Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Another plan mentioned is Oplan 4305, which is a contingency plan for defending of Israel. [Arkin, 2005; MSNBC, 2/10/2005; MSNBC, 5/17/2005] Retired CIA officer Bill McNair accuses Arkin of “endangering national security.” [MSNBC, 2/10/2005]
Iran and Russia agree to work jointly on the design and launch of the first Iranian communications satellite, Zohre, at a cost of $132 million. One of the signers to the agreement, Felix Myasnikov, the general director of the Aviaexport, says he believes “that the contract will be a starting point for Russian-Iranian cooperation in space exploration as well as in other spheres of high technologies, in particular, in the aircraft industry.” [Islamic Republic News Agency, 1/31/2005]
The National Iranian American Council releases findings from a national letter writing campaign, conducted between January 24 and 29, indicating that 98.1 percent of Iranian Americans would be opposed to the use of US military force against Iran. 89.5 percent of the participants said they favored negotiations between US and Iran as the best way to address current tensions. 30.4 percent supported joint disarmament of both Iran and Israel. [National Iranian American Council, 1/31/2005]
Two thousand Austrian Steyr Mannlicher GmbH high-powered armor-piercing sniper rifles are delivered to Iran, to be used as part of Iran’s effort to clamp down on the drug smugglers pouring in across the border from Afghanistan. The weapons deal, approved by Austria in November 2004, is opposed by the US, which expressed concerns that the weapons could ultimately be used against US soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and potentially Iran. [Associated Press, 3/26/2005; Arms Technology, 4/4/2005]
During a private meeting of Ariel Sharon’s inner cabinet at the prime minister’s private ranch in the Negev desert, Sharon gives “initial authorization” for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. [Sunday Times (London), 3/13/2005]
The Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) says that it has provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information that Iran is now producing polonium-210, beryllium, and neutron generators, giving Iran the capability to produce a detonator. MEK claims that Iran plans to have a nuclear weapon by the end of 2005. Mohammed Mohaddessin, head of the group’s foreign affairs committee, tells reporters that the information was obtained from “the Iranian people” and MEK’s network inside Iran. [Associated Press, 2/3/2005; Associated Press, 2/3/2005]
The Justice Department issues a secret opinion that countermands and contradicts the administration’s official policy that torture is “abhorrent” and will not be practiced by US military or law enforcement officials (see December 30, 2004). The secret opinion is, the New York Times writes two years later while publicly revealing its existence, “an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.” The opinion gives explicit authorization to abuse detainees with a combination of physical and psychological abuse, including head-slapping, stress positioning, simulated drowning (“waterboarding”), and prolonged exposure to intense cold. New attorney general Alberto Gonzales (see November 10, 2004) approves the memo over the objections of deputy attorney general James Comey, himself preparing to leave the Justice Department after a series of battles over the legality of torture and the domestic surveillance program (see March 10-12, 2004). Comey says at the time that everyone at the department will be “ashamed” of the new opinion once the world learns of it. [New York Times, 10/4/2007]
CIA Director Porter Goss tells the Senate: “Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-US jihadists. These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in, and focused on, acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.” [New York Times Magazine, 9/11/2005]
President Bush during his State of the Union address. [Source: American Rhetoric (.com)]In his State of the Union address, President Bush salutes the Iraqi voters and the US soldiers who made the recent national assembly elections possible (see January 30, 2005). Presenting Iraqi human rights advocate Safia Taleb al-Suharl as his special guest, Bush says that Iraq has finally turned the corner towards peace, democracy, and stability. Iraq is only the first, he continues: the US will foster “democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” Dimitri Simes, president of the more traditionally conservative Nixon Center, is aghast at Bush’s words and their implications. “If Bush means it literally,” Simes says, “then it means we have an extremist in the White House (see January 22, 2005). I hope and pray he didn’t mean it.” [White House, 2/2/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 327]
Former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales is confirmed as attorney general by the Senate on a generally party-line vote of 60-36, one of the smallest margins of confirmation in Senate history. Gonzales’s confirmation hearings (see January 6, 2005 and January 6, 2005) have been the source of great controversy, with Senate Democrats accusing him of being deliberately evasive, obfuscutory (see January 17, 2005), and even obtuse during questioning, but with a solid Republican majority, Democrats have little ability to do anything to interfere with Gonzales’s ascension to power. [Savage, 2007, pp. 213] Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) explains his opposition to Gonzales: “What is at stake here is whether he has demonstrated to the Senate of the United States that he will discharge the duties of the office to which he’s been nominated, specifically whether he will enforce the Constitution and the laws of the United States and uphold the values upon which those laws are based. Regrettably, and disturbingly in my view, Alberto Gonzales has fallen short of meeting this most basic and fundamental standard.” Dodd adds that Gonzales “has endorsed, unfortunately, the position that torture can be permissible.” Fellow Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) adds: “At the very least Mr. Gonzales helped to create a permissive environment that made it more likely that abuses would take place. You could connect the dots from the administration’s legal memos to the Defense Department’s approval of abusive interrogation techniques for Guantanamo Bay to Iraq and Abu Ghraib.” Republicans are incredulous that Democrats would oppose Gonzales’s candidacy, and imply that their opposition is racially based. “Is it prejudice?” asks Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). “Is it a belief that a Hispanic-American should never be in a position like this because he will be the first one ever in a position like this? Or is it because he’s constantly mentioned for the Supreme Court of the United States of America? Or is it that they just don’t like Judge Gonzales?” Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) says: “This is a breakthrough of incredible magnitude for Hispanic-Americans and should not be diluted by partisan politics. Judge Gonzales is a role model for the next generation of Hispanic-Americans in this country.” [Fox News, 2/4/2005] When Gonzales is sworn in on February 14, President Bush will use the occasion to urge Congress to renew the controversial USA Patriot Act (see February 14, 2005). [Deseret News, 2/15/2005]
In an op-ed piece published by the Washington Post, David Kay, formerly of the Iraq Survey Group, recommends five steps the US should follow in order to avoid making the same “mistake” it made in Iraq when it wrongly concluded that Iraq had an active illicit weapons program. Three of the points address the issue of politicized intelligence. He implies that the US should learn from the experience it had with the Iraqi National Congress (see 2001-2003), which supplied US intelligence with sources who made false statements about Iraq’s weapon program. “Dissidents and exiles have their own agenda—regime change—and that before being accepted as truth any ‘evidence’ they might supply concerning Iran’s nuclear program must be tested and confirmed by other sources,” he says. In his fourth point, Kay makes it clear that the motives of administration officials should also be considered. He says it is necessary to “understand that overheated rhetoric from policymakers and senior administration officials, unsupported by evidence that can stand international scrutiny, undermines the ability of the United States to halt Iran’s nuclear activities.” And recalling the CIA’s infamous 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq (see October 1, 2002), he says that an NIE on Iran “should not be a rushed and cooked document used to justify the threat of military action” and “should not be led by a team that is trying to prove a case for its boss.” [Washington Post, 2/9/2005]
Newsweek interviews Maryam Rajavi, one of the leaders of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), at the organization’s compound in the French village of Auvers sur Oise. “I believe increasingly the Americans have come to realize that the solution is an Iranian force that is able to get rid of the Islamic fundamentalists in power in Iran,” Rajavi tells the magazine. She also insists that her group’s history of anti-Americanism has long past. [Newsweek, 2/15/2005]
North Korea announces it is suspending its participation in the ongoing talks over its nuclear program for what it calls an “indefinite period.” It blames the Bush administration’s efforts to “antagonize, isolate, and stifle [North Korea] at any cost.” North Korean officials also reiterate the claim that its nuclear weapons are intended for self-defense. [BBC, 12/2007]
Newsweek reports that there is disagreement in the Bush administration over what to do with 3,800 Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) fighters being held in custody by the US at Camp Ashraf (see April 2003). The magazine says that parts of the Defense Department want “to cull useful MEK members as operatives for use against Tehran, all while insisting that it does not deal with the MEK as a group.” They would be sent to Iran to gather intelligence and possibly reawaken a democratic movement in Iran. The CIA however has objected to this strategy “because senior officers regard them as unreliable cultists under the sway of [Maryam] Rajavi and her husband,” Newsweek explains. A Defense Department spokesman however denies there is any “cooperation agreement” with the MEK and claims that the Pentagon has no plans for using MEK members in any capacity. But an MEK official interviewed by Newsweek said the opposite: “They [want] to make us mercenaries.” Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) also feels the Defense Department has plans for MEK members. “The Defense Department is thinking of them as buddies and the State Department sees them as terrorists. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle,” he told Newsweek. [Newsweek, 2/15/2005]
In Iran, a blast occurring at a dam construction site near the town of Dailam triggers false reports of a missile strike on Iran’s Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant. News of the blast sends stocks on Wall Street downward and pushes up oil prices. Iranian official Ali Agha Mohammadi of the Supreme National Security Council claims that the false reports were engineered by Washington as part of “psychological warfare” against Tehran. [Associated Press, 2/16/2005; Fox News, 2/17/2005]
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