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[casi] from today's papers: 18-06-02

A. US turf wars betray the Iraqis, Guardian, 18 June 2002
B. Gunning for Saddam - but is the CIA capable of riggering his demise?,
Independent, 18 June 2002
C. Stop trying to behave like a Hollywood hitman, Independent, 18 June 2002
[leading article]


[Letter writers: remember to include your address andf telephone number!]

A. US turf wars betray the Iraqis

Fear of democracy is also holding back the drive to remove Saddam

Henry Porter and David Rose
Tuesday June 18, 2002
The Guardian

President Bush's instruction to the CIA to kill or capture Saddam Hussein
defies previous presidential orders banning the assassination of foreign
leaders. It can also be seen as another bewildering turn in American policy
towards Iraq. Policy has been characterised by drift, inconsistency and a
marked indifference to the suffering of Iraqis. Bush may be determined that
Saddam "needs to go," but the US record does not augur well.
The CIA is all but starting from scratch in Iraq. In 1995, President Clinton
ensured the defeat of a planned uprising by announcing the withdrawal of US
support on its very eve. Many of the CIA's assets were murdered. Since the
departure of the UN weapons inspectorate in 1998, the sole source of
information about what is happening on the ground and in Saddam's regime has
been the Iraqi National Congress, a dissident group led by Dr Ahmad Chalabi
in London.

The INC has helped arrange the defection of a stream of high-ranking members
of the regime who have brought out crucial information. These include Adnan
Saeed al-Haideri, a specialist building contractor who had documents to back
his story of how his firm had built new chemical and biological weapons
facilities, and Abu Zeinab al-Qurairy, an Iraqi intelligence
brigadier-general, who in three days of interviews with us in Beirut,
cheerfully confessed to directing massacres, torture, extra-judicial
imprisonment and a training camp for terrorists near Baghdad.

The INC maintains contact through encrypted emails and satellite phones with
a network of agents inside Iraq, some of whom have access to political and
military secrets. The INC has the wherewithal to ask specific questions of
its agents in the field and to provide swift, accurate answers.

This is an invaluable asset in planning insurgency and the administration
could be expected to seek to boost the INC's information-gathering role.
Unsurprisingly, given the US record in Iraq, it is trying to close it down.

The INC depends for its funding on money voted in 1998 by Congress. The
purse strings are held by the State Department. Last week, driven by bitter
rivalry within the US government, officials gave Dr Chalabi an ultimatum:
all funding would be withdrawn unless the INC agreed to cease its
information-collection programme permanently. Chalabi refused, saying the
INC would be "disembowelled" and reduced to exactly the vapid, exile talking
shops its Washington critics have long claimed it to be.

What makes this so hard to understand is that the US has few real
alternatives on the ground in Iraq. During the past decade there has been
only sporadic CIA representation in the north-east, where for a time the INC
operated with the cooperation of one of the warring Kurdish factions.

Bob Baer, a former CIA officer, has described in his recent book, See No
Evil, how his attempt to orchestrate armed opposition against Saddam during
the mid-90s was frustrated by mixed messages from the State Department and
ended when he was hauled back to Washington and investigated by the FBI on a
charge of conspiracy to murder Saddam Hussein.

After the covert attempts on Fidel Castro's life in the 60s and many similar
operations all over the world, the US was trying to clean up its act, at
least for public consumption. Today America is shamelessly having it both
ways, to the point where a Democrat such as Dick Gephardt can insist that
the no-assassination policy is intact.

That is precisely the kind of confused double-think which left so many
Iraqis stranded during two uprisings against Saddam and which must make them
doubt Bush's word now. The defector Abu Zeinab testified that Saddam waited
to see if the US would intervene with airpower in support of the insurgents
in 1991. When this failed to materialise the regime took it as a sign that
it could suppress the uprising with all necessary force. Tens of thousands
of people were killed.

Cutting off the INC's money is a sign of the State Department's wariness of
the INC's pro-democracy agenda. Since the 1995 debacle, the chief market for
INC intelligence has not been the CIA, which works closely with the State
Department, but the defence intelligence agency, which is run by the much
more hawkish Pentagon and places a high value on information concerning the
manufacture and movement of weaponry. It is this intelligence which has been
used to press Bush to take action against Saddam.

Much of American foreign policy seems to owe its genesis to a turf war
inside the Beltway, which is at least as complicated as anything in the
Middle East. But with so much at stake in Iraq and the Middle East, it is
disastrous that America appears unable to elaborate a coherent policy which
goes beyond the excited rhetoric of smart bombs and covert action.

B. Gunning for Saddam - but is the CIA capable of riggering his demise?
Secret War: Bush has ordered his intelligence chiefs to drive out the Iraqi
dictator, reviving all the old questions over covert US actions

By David Usborne in New York

18 June 2002

Saddam Hussein now knows what he is up against: President George Bush has
given the green light to the Central Intelligence Agency to do all it can to
drive him from power  even killing him, although this would have to be in

But if the Iraqi leader is quaking at the news, is it from fear or just

On the one hand, the CIA has 55 years of experience in diverting the
politics of other nations, sometimes to historic effect. Governments have
been ousted in countries as far apart as the Congo and Chile thanks to its
dastardly doings.

And leaders have indeed been killed, with CIA connivance. During the 1950s,
60s and 70s the agency clandestinely and successfully masterminded coups in
Iran, Guatemala, Iraq, Chile, Guyana and the Congo, formerly Zaire.

On the other hand, the CIA's operations over the decades have frequently
either gone awry  remember the disastrous "Bay of Pigs" invasion of
communist Cuba in 1961  or even when deemed a success, left a tragic
political legacy.

The CIA-backed assassination of Patrice Lumumba of the Congo in 1960 made
way for the 32-year reign of terror by the former dictator Joseph Mobutu,
later Mobutu Sese Seko. The 1954 coup in Guatemala led to 35 years of civil
war that left more than 140,000 dead.

And as secret documents have been declassified, Americans have learned of
many of the unsavoury alliances CIA operatives have forged to achieve their
aims  for example, in America's efforts to oust President Salvador Allende
of Chile. And there was Washington's silent approval of the invasion of East
Timor by Indonesia, along with the illegal use of US arms.

Mr Bush's order to the CIA, detailed by The Washington Post last weekend, to
use all its resources to precipitate Saddam's ousting, means the agency will
once more be up to its old tricks in Iraq. As well its own spies, it will
have crack teams of American special forces at its disposal. It is a mission
in the best  and arguably the very worst  of the agency's traditions. That
it might fail is something that the CIA director, George Tenet, has
reportedly put on record already.

According to the Post, Mr Tenet told the President and his cabinet recently
that the CIA's actions alone, without any kind of follow-up military
assault, stands only a 10 to 20 per cent chance of succeeding. He knows his
history and his caution was probably well-placed.

So dismal was the image of the CIA when it turned 50 in 1997 that voices
were raised in Washington  including those of two former directors  that
it be dismantled and a new
intelligence body be built from scratch. That didn't happen. It is ironic
that since 11 September, when its worst failure of all  protecting America
from foreign terror  was exposed, the agency has been given new and
multiplied burdens, notably hunting al-Qa'ida and now toppling President

Now all the old questions about the CIA and its methods will be asked anew.
How far can its operatives go in precipitating the murder of a foreign
leader? And what sort of tactics  ethical or repugnant  might it employ?
And in the event that the CIA does trigger President Saddam's demise, would
Iraq without him prove more benign or even more of a nightmare than it is

The killing of Saddam should be as easy as popping some poison in his
whisky  he is, we are often reminded, fond of more than an occasional glass
of the stuff. That sounds silly but it was, after all, the kind of approach
that was adopted by the agency in the early 1960s when Washington was
clamouring for the removal of Cuba's left-wing leader, Fidel Castro.

Early in 1961, the CIA sought the services of a mobster from Chicago to kill
the Cuban revolutionary. At a secret meeting in Miami, they furnished him
with tiny gelatine capsules filled with botulinum toxin. The gangster, John
Rosselli, was
instructed to drop the capsules in Mr Castro's food, with the warning they
wouldn't work in "boiling soup". The plan failed, of course, partly because
Mr Castro suddenly stopped frequenting the restaurant that Rosselli had

There were plenty of other, equally comical, plots hatched in the corridors
of the agency. Famously, one proposed lacing one of Castro's cigars with a
hallucinogenic similar to LSD, in the hope that he would then give a speech
under its effects and be revealed as a ranting madman. Someone else in the
agency thought of dusting his shoes with thallium to make his beard fall
out. There was also the idea of infecting his diving suit with a fungus to
cause a chronic skin disease.

It was also in 1961 and in Cuba that the CIA suffered possibly its most
humiliating disaster ever. That was the CIA-led Bay of Pigs mission:
designed to topple Mr Castro, it foundered almost as soon as the brigade of
anti-revolutionary fighters tried to come ashore. Despite attempts at
secrecy, Mr Castro apparently had ample warning to respond. When it was
over, 114 members of the invading force were killed and 1,189 more were
taken prisoner.

It is unclear, meanwhile, just how far the CIA could go in seeking, or
orchestrating the murder of President Saddam. Mr Bush couched his
authorisation for the Iraqi to be killed in "self-defence" for a very good
reason. Since the 1970s, the CIA  or any agent of the US government  is
prohibited from directly seeking the assassination of a foreign leader. The
attempts on Mr Castro's life were first revealed to a Senate intelligence
committee, known as the Church Committee after its chairman, Senator Frank
Church, in 1976.

Members also learned how the CIA tried to infect a toothbrush of Lumumba,
the first post-colonial premier of the Congo, with a deadly African plague.
That led President Gerald Ford to issue an executive order banning
assassinations by all US agencies. Later presidents renewed the ban.

There has always been debate, however, as to how water-tight the ban really

An executive order does not have the same legal standing as a law passed by
Congress. Nor is it obvious how far America's spies are at liberty still to
help engineer a murder of a
foreign leader, for instance by assisting would-be assassins from indigenous
dissident groups to commit the act so long as they leave no American
fingerprints. The other possible loophole  the one apparently chosen by
this White House  is to allow the killing of a leader "in self-defence".

Few people would mourn the death of President Saddam. But other unintended
consequences might flow from an extended CIA operation in Iraq. The
catalogue of the CIA catastrophes around the world  albeit some of them
catastrophes with the benefit of hindsight  is, after all, depressingly

Previous CIA plots

The 1951 nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company by Iran's Prime
Minister at the time, Mohammed Mossadegh, brought him into conflict with the
Shah of Iran when Britain boycotted Iranian oil in protest. The US and
Britain orchestrated a coup by encouraging Iranians working for the CIA to
turn the Islamic community against the nationalist Mossadegh. In August
1953, the Shah signed a CIA-penned royal decree replacing Mossadegh with
General Fazlollah Zahedi, who was handpicked by America and Britain.

The CIA began undermining the coalition government of the socialist
President Salvador Allende even before he was elected in 1970, amid fears of
the impact of his election on US-owned mining firms. President Nixon ordered
the CIA to prevent him taking office but the first attempted coup failed.
The CIA did not give up, having been told to "make the economy scream". The
US approved $1m in covert aid to political parties and private organisations
three weeks before Allende's overthrow in 1973 by General Augusto Pinochet.
For years, Washington denied its role in the coup.

Two years after the overthrow of the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio
Batista in 1959 by Fidel Castro, the US launched its disastrous Bay of Pigs
invasion, which sent 1,300 CIA-trained Cuban exiles to the island. Their
defeat after three days of battles was a huge embarrassment for President
John F Kennedy. Various madcap assassination schemes followed. President
Castro has survived 40 years of sanctions, which the US is refusing to lift.

Patrice Lumumba, who led his country to independence from Belgium and became
its first elected Prime Minister in 1960, was assassinated in a CIA-backed
operation with the help of Belgian intelligence  and UN connivance -- four
months after he took office. He was abducted by Congolese rebels and killed
in the province of Katanga, which declared independence after Lumumba's
election. The order for his assassination came from President Eisenhower.
Belgium has apologised for its role in his killing.

President Suharto came to power in a CIA-backed coup in 1966 that ousted
Sukarno, the father of the current President, Megawati Sukarnoputri. The
coup followed an abortive putsch in 1965, engineered by America and Britain,
and blamed on Indonesia's Communist Party. Hundreds of thousands of
Communist sympathisers were massacred by the army.Historians have said
America passed on the names of Communists to the army. The new president
offered lucrative concessions to Western firms.

C. Stop trying to behave like a Hollywood hitman

18 June 2002

If the United States had wanted to confirm every worst suspicion in the
world, it could do no worse than reveal that it has set the CIA free to
organise a coup against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Few disagree with the objective. The fall of Saddam is overdue and
much-desired, even among Arab countries. But for Washington to disclose that
it now plans to do this extra-judicially sends out entirely the wrong
message, however good it sounds to American voters. The road to global
condemnation of the United States is paved with the coups and attempted
coups of the CIA, from the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadeq
in Iran and Allende in Chile onwards. It is not without justification that
the organisation has managed the rare feat of combining a reputation for
deviousness with that of incompetence; recent events show little evidence
that it has changed its bungling ways.

Of course, these latest revelations may prove to be a deliberate leak,
intended to pile the pressure on Saddam while the administration decides
whether or not to invade his country. President George Bush and his Defence
Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, want to proceed with early action, but this has
been held up by two factors. Firstly, the vociferous international
objections, especially from the Arab world. Secondly  and probably more
importantly  has been the failure of America to develop the kind of
credible support within Iraq that could act as its ground force in the way
that the Northern Alliance did in Afghanistan.

These two factors should be just as much a check on covert CIA action as
they are on direct invasion. Additionally, to let the CIA off the leash
would be a breach of both international law and of domestic US legislation;
this is not disguised by the formula of saying that special forces would be
free to kill the Iraqi president "if he resisted".

This is no way for a mature democracy to proceed, let alone the world's only
remaining superpower. If America believes  as well it might  that the
peace and security of the world is best served by a change in regime in
Iraq, then it should proceed through legitimate action and co-ordinated
world pressure. This is the real world, not Hollywood.

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