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News, 13-20/12/02 (5) REMNANTS OF DECENCY * 2,000 protest war in Iraq, want proof * Music used as protest against sanctions * Students Stage Hunger Strike Over Iraq Policy IRAQI/US RELATIONS * Actor Sean Penn Visits Baghdad * Revisiting 'The real roots of anti-Americanism' * Hegemon faces a harried week * Pentagon Begins Airing Propaganda Broadcasts to Iraq * Smoke Screen? A new lawsuit says cigarette smugglers had a friend in R.J. Reynolds * Iraqi statement on actor Sean Penn's comments called inaccurate * Weapon of the Week * Bush's trusty new Mideast point man * Powell underestimates anti-US anger * U.S. alleges ring sent cash to Iraq * Muslims in US urge Saddam to step down REMNANTS OF DECENCY http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-peace16.html * 2,000 PROTEST WAR IN IRAQ, WANT PROOF by Curtis Lawrence Staff Reporter Chicago Sun-Times, 16th December Parting the sea of Michigan Avenue Christmas shoppers Sunday, an interfaith line of marchers more than 2,000 strong said they were opposed to a war on Iraq at least until more answers can be provided by President Bush. "The jury is still out," Cardinal Francis George said outside St. James Episcopal Cathedral, 65 E. Huron, where he participated in a prayer vigil. He said he still wanted to see the results of United Nations weapon inspections in Iraq before any decisions are made. "Let's see what the evidence is." Inside the cathedral, George joined in prayers with Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish religious leaders. "Show us the courage to be peace makers and give to all human hearts the gift of peace," George said. After the service, some religious leaders led an anti-war march down Michigan Avenue to Pioneer Plaza at the Chicago River. George was one of more than 40 clergy members who earlier this month penned a letter to Bush from the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago urging the president to work toward a peaceful alternative to war with Iraq. Helen Thorton, who led the procession inside St. James with her 8-year-old son Forrest Jackson, said she is still waiting for more evidence of weapons of mass destruction believed to be in the hands of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "I'm a mother, and I can't imagine my son going to a needless war," she said as she walked from the church to Pioneer Plaza. "As we come to lay down our burdens down by the riverside, there are questions all around," said Bishop C. Joseph Sprague of the United Methodist Church's Northern Illinois Conference. Sprague referred to those who think anti-war protests are meaningless because the Bush administration has already made up its mind to attack Iraq. "Why bother?" he asked. "We bother because there is beginning to move in this nation a voice of sanity in the midst of the voice of insanity." "I believe we have already made a difference," said Michael McConnell, regional director of the American Friends Service Committee. "Whether or not we change minds, I think we have to be out here as witnesses to what our faith teaches us about God's vision of peace," said the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel of the Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer in Hyde Park. http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/world/story/0,4386,161279,00.html? * MUSIC USED AS PROTEST AGAINST SANCTIONS Straits Times, 18th December BAGHDAD (AFP): A group of North American activists delivered a consignment of violin strings and other musical supplies to Iraq's National Philharmonic Orchestra yesterday, highlighting the impact of 12 years of UN sanctions. The equipment had been donated by members of Canada's Vancouver Opera Orchestra to British-US group Voices in the Wilderness as part of its campaign against the sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. 'Music cannot be besieged, it's been our universal language for 7,000 years,' said Ms Cynthia Banas, 73, a retired librarian from Vernon, New York. The Iraqi orchestra's conductor, Mr Abdel Razzak al-Azzawi, welcomed the 'expression of sympathy from an orchestra at the other end of the world'. Iraq charges that more than 1.7 million people have died as a result of the UN embargo. Two heads of the UN humanitarian programme in Iraq have resigned to protest against the continuing sanctions. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/kpix/20021219/lo_kpix/5309 * STUDENTS STAGE HUNGER STRIKE OVER IRAQ POLICY Yahoo, 19th December Some college students in the South Bay are giving up food for a week to protest a possible war with Iraq. About a dozen students are staging a hunger strike outside of the federal building in San Jose. They say Iraq poses no threat to the U.S., and there is no evidence of Iraqi connections to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The hunger strike will last until Friday evening, when the students will hold a vigil. IRAQI/US RELATIONS http://www.ctnow.com/features/lifestyle/celebrity/sns-ap-iraq-sean penn1214dec14,0,5448773.story?coll=hc%2Dheadlines%2Dcelebrity * ACTOR SEAN PENN VISITS BAGHDAD Hartford Courant, from Associated Press, 14th December BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Actor Sean Penn visited a Baghdad children's hospital Friday, saying he came to Iraq for a better understanding of the crisis with the United States. Penn said only that he was "very glad I'm here" when he arrived at the Al-Mansour Children's Hospital. He refused to talk further with reporters or allow them to join his tour of the hospital, saying he needed privacy with the sick children. In a statement issued here and in Washington. D.C., Penn said that "as a father, an actor, a filmmaker and a patriot" his visit to Iraq "is for me a natural extension of my obligation ... to find my own voice on matters of conscience." Penn said he was happy that he had a chance "to pursue a deeper understanding of the conflict" and hoped that "all Americans will embrace information available to them outside conventional channel." Penn's three-day visit to Iraq was organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy, which has offices in Washington and San Francisco. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/14_12_02_e.htm * REVISITING 'THE REAL ROOTS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM' by Fahed Fanek Daily Star, Lebanon, 14th December [.....] A campaign launched by Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities ("a national not-for-profit organization of more than 400 corporate executives, directors and business owners whose goal is to redirect $40 billion from America's annual military budget into public investments that benefit our people and our communities") concluded that: War will wreck the American economy, war will breed terrorism, war will discredit America in the eyes of the rest of the world and war will take a terrible toll in human life. [.....] Bush is not the first president to mislead the American public. In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded in getting congressional approval for his plans to widen the war in Indochina by propagating a false account of a naval confrontation in the Gulf of Tonkin. Now it is apparently Bush's turn to misinform the Americans in order to persuade them to agree to send American troops to kill and be killed in Iraq. Everything, it seems, is permissible to promote war. These days America seems particularly concerned about its image in the Arab world. The Americans are distressed that anti-Americanism has apparently reached new heights, and are busy diagnosing this phenomenon and prescribing the necessary remedies. One of the oddest analyses of this phenomenon was that written for the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs by Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center, in his article "The real roots of Arab anti Americanism." While concurring that anti-Americanism was on the rise in the Arab world, Rubin professes amazement as to why this is the case, since US policies "have been remarkably pro-Arab and pro-Muslim" over the past 50 years. Rubin says that the US fought against Iraq for the sake of Kuwaiti Muslims; it fought against the Christian Serbs for the sake of the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo; it helped Iraq against Iran in their 1980-1988 war; it supported Azerbaijan against Armenia, the Afghans against the Soviets, Pakistan against India, and Turkey against Greece. In short, Rubin says that in 12 conflicts, America supported the Muslim side in 10. Rubin suggests that hatred of the United States "is largely the product of self-interested manipulation by various groups within Arab society, groups that use anti-Americanism as a foil to distract public attention from other, far more serious problems within those societies." Rubin doesn't deny America's pro-Israel bias against the Palestinians, the sanctions it has imposed on Iraq for the last 12 years, its threats against Baghdad - all anti-Muslim and anti Arab positions of the first order. He doesn't delve into the real reasons behind America's coming to the aid of the Kuwaitis, the Bosnians, and the Kosovars. Nor does he expound on why Washington helped Iraq in its war with Iran. The matter had nothing to do with Islam; in fact, it can be said that the US went to the aid of the Bosnians and Kosovars despite their being Muslims not because of it. Another bizarre conclusion Rubin makes suggests that anti-Americanism in the Arab and Muslim world "is not encouraged by a belief that the United States is too tough but that it is weak, meek and defeatible." He suggests that this was encouraged by a perception that the US cannot tolerate human and material losses. Instead of a more balanced Middle East policy, Rubin calls on Washington for more of the same: more support for Israel, and a more robust response to Arab and Muslim challenges. "US policymakers," he writes, "should understand that various public relations efforts, apologies, acts of appeasement, or policy shifts will not by themselves do away with anti Americanism. Only when the systems that manufacture and encourage anti-Americanism fail will popular opinion also change. In the interim, the most Washington can do is show the world that the United States is steadfast in support of its interests and allies. This approach should include both standing by Israel and maintaining good relations with moderate Arab states - which should be urged to do more publicly to justify US support." This is the thrust of his argument, as a matter of fact. Rubin is following a Zionist agenda at the expense of American interests. Rubin's proposals amount to a prescription for even more anti-Americanism - which in turn will encourage more acts of terrorism. Fahed Fanek is a Jordanian economic and media consultant. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star http://www.dawn.com/2002/12/16/int13.htm * HEGEMON FACES A HARRIED WEEK by Jim Lobe Dawn, 16th December WASHINGTON: Hawks in the administration of US President George W. Bush received a rude reminder this week that Washington's vaunted power to determine the course of events around the world is more limited than perhaps they had thought. They had hoped to focus world opinion on Iraq's submission of an allegedly deceptive and incomplete inventory of its missiles and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to the United Nations Security Council in order to ease the way for an invasion of Iraq by mid-February. They had also hoped to get Turkey to agree to act as a base for US ground troops, so that they could attack Baghdad from the north as well as from the south via Kuwait. They did not get either one. In fact, all they got was aggravation, complaints, and defiance - from friends and foes alike. The week started auspiciously enough. Hyper-eager US diplomats grabbed the original Iraqi report from the Colombian chairman of the Security Council before he had a chance to have it copied. The White House cleared the latest additions to its controversial new national security strategy: a promise to respond with "overwhelming force", meaning nuclear weapons, if WMD were used against its troops, territory or allies; and the authority to conduct "effective interdiction" and preventive strikes against states or groups that are close to acquiring WMD or the missiles needed to deliver them. Diplomatic and military muscles thus flexed before the (presumably awestruck) world, the administration spent the rest of the week on the receiving end of a collective obscene hand gesture by countries great and small. No sooner had the new anti-WMD policy been released then an unflagged ship that had been tracked by US satellites since leaving North Korea was seized by Spanish warships in the Indian Ocean and found to be carrying Scud missiles. "A perfect opportunity to demonstrate US determination and international co-operation," thought the hawks, until Yemen, a key US ally in the war on terrorism, claimed that it had bought the missiles fair and square, protested their seizure and demanded that they be delivered. Washington meekly, if angrily, climbed down, managing in turn to anger the Spanish, one of its strongest supporters in the "war against terrorism", who asked why they had risked the lives of their own commandos at Washington's request for nothing. But that was only a foretaste of what was to come - a much more serious challenge from North Korea itself. The country's announcement that it was re-starting a nuclear power plant that had been frozen under the terms of a 1994 accord with Washington in response to the administration's decision to cut off heavy oil deliveries early next year constituted direct defiance of repeated US demands over the past two months that the country dismantle all of its nuclear programmes. By announcing that it was resuming operations in the Yangbyon plant, whose plutonium was believed to have already produced one or two nuclear bombs, the North appeared to be calling Washington's bluff, even as it restated its position that serious bilateral talks, so far rejected by Washington, could resolve all outstanding problems. Pyongyang's move - made more dramatic by its announcement on Friday that it has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to remove equipment that has been monitoring 8,000 spent fuel rods whose plutonium could be used to quickly produce several more bombs - puts administration hardliners, who have pursued the tough line on North Korea over objections from Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, between a rock and hard place. On the one hand, the credibility of the administration's tough pre-emption policy has been challenged directly by a charter member of the "axis of evil," which, unlike Iraq, really does have nuclear weapons. On the other, hard-liners know that a pre-emptive military strike risks not only a major conflagration on the peninsula, but also the permanent derailing of their Iraq and Mideast plans, not to mention straining ties with their closest allies in East Asia - South Korea and Japan - both of which have urged Washington to be more flexible toward the North. "The alternative to getting back to the table (with North Korea) is to risk a continuing spiral of action-reaction that will lead nowhere good," said Alan Romberg, a retired State Department expert on Korea now with the Washington-based Stimson Center. How to resume talks without both losing credibility and provoking cries of double standards in its kid-gloves treatment of a nuclear-armed North Korea and a far weaker Iraq will not be easy. For now, the White House has said Pyongyang's decision is "unacceptable". If Yemen was the most embarrassing of the week's episodes and North Korea the most dangerous, yet another major setback revolved around Turkey and the European Union (EU). During what one senior administration official characterised as "intense" White House talks Tuesday with the new Turkish ruling party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Bush team offered an aid package worth more than 20 billion dollars - twice the entire annual US foreign-aid budget - in exchange for full Turkish co-operation with Washington on a ground invasion of Iraq from Turkish soil. Erdogan, citing overwhelming domestic opposition to the idea, reportedly declined to strike a deal, but stressed that Ankara would be much more favourably disposed if the EU agreed to launch talks on Turkey's membership in the body within the next year. Washington, which had already been lobbying the EU hard, intensified its efforts by getting Bush personally involved, but to no avail. By the end of the week, EU members agreed only to meet again in two years to determine whether Turkey had met political and human rights conditions on membership. The decision initially provoked fury in Ankara, while in Washington, officials said they were still trying to get clarification. European diplomats complained that Washington's pressure had, if anything, been counter productive and raised real resentments. "The Americans acted as if we don't have real rules and conditions on EU membership," said one based here. "What would have been your reaction if we demanded that you admit Canada as a state?" European diplomats were particularly angry with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the leader of the administration's "attack-Iraq" faction, who travelled to Brussels after meeting Erdogan and Turkish generals in Ankara last week. "He really does believe that this is the Roman Empire," said one. The Europeans are also increasingly angry over Washington's refusal to push forward a "road map" to be put together by "The Quartet" - the United States, EU, Russia, and the United Nations - to achieve an independent Palestinian state within three years. The White House, which appointed a prominent, pro-Likud neo- conservative, Elliott Abrams, to oversee its Mideast portfolio 10 days ago, has defied EU pressure to finish work on the plan this month, before Israel's elections at the end of January. Some EU diplomats reportedly favour dropping out of the Quartet and launching their own plan given the administration's recalcitrance. http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=9F1B4D59-367D-47AE 806D788DD1E57798&title=Pentagon%20Begins%20Airing%20Propaganda%20Broadcasts% 20to%20Iraq&catOID=45C9C78D-88AD-11D4-A57200A0CC5EE46C&categoryname=Mideast * PENTAGON BEGINS AIRING PROPAGANDA BROADCASTS TO IRAQ by Alex Belida Voice of America, 16th December The U.S. military has begun propaganda broadcasts directly into Iraq in an evident bid to discredit Saddam Hussein and to turn his troops and people against him. The information about the start of the military broadcasts into Iraq was buried in a news release from the U.S. Central Command about the latest leaflet drop over the south of the country. It said among the nearly half-million leaflets dropped early Monday were some that referred Iraqis to radio frequencies where they could hear broadcasts by coalition forces. Pentagon officials subsequently confirmed the broadcasts actually began last week and emanate from special aircraft known as Commando Solo planes, which are effectively airborne radio and television stations. A Pentagon spokesman says the broadcasts contain several themes, among them, Saddam Hussein's diversion of funds intended for food to purchase weapons and his squandering of money for personal pursuits. Other themes include Saddam's history of using chemical weapons on his own people. Yet another theme is an appeal to Iraqi troops not to support the Iraqi leader in the event of a new Gulf war. The special Commando Solo aircraft have most recently been used over Afghanistan, especially during the early stages of the U.S. anti-terrorist offensive against al-Qaida and Taleban forces. http://www.time.com/time/globalbusiness/article/0,9171,1101021223-400015,00. html * SMOKE SCREEN? A NEW LAWSUIT SAYS CIGARETTE SMUGGLERS HAD A FRIEND IN R.J. REYNOLDS by Jyoti Thottam Times, 23rd December When their products are smuggled across international borders, most U.S. companies do one of two things: write off the loss as a cost of doing business or crack down and prosecute. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco ‹ according to an unusual lawsuit filed against the company by the European Union and 10 member nations ‹ had a different approach to smugglers of its cigarettes: it took them out to dinner, using expense accounts that, for some executives, totaled nearly $1 million a year. In the lawsuit, filed recently in federal court in New York City, the E.U. charges that Italian mafiosi, Colombian cocaine dealers and Saddam Hussein's eldest son have all profited from illegal sales of RJR cigarettes ‹ with the willing participation of the company, which reaped millions of dollars in illicit sales. The 149-page complaint names RJR executives who allegedly met with money launderers, and it lists the Swiss bank accounts used for payment. Stephen Heard, an attorney for RJR, calls the lawsuit "a mixture of fabrication and fantasy" and says he expects it to be dismissed. An earlier version of the lawsuit, which accused RJR of tax evasion, was dismissed in February. But experts say the money-laundering allegations are more likely to stick. "This is a new dimension, and a clearly criminal dimension," says Richard Daynard, 59, a tobacco-litigation expert and professor of law at Northeastern University in Boston. Illegal cigarettes have long been used in money laundering. "They're small, easily portable, of value and have a pretty universal market base," says John Auerbach, 33, a money-laundering expert with the risk-consulting firm Kroll, based in New York City. "They're almost like currency in some places." What's new in the E.U. suit is its allegation that not only did RJR executives know about their cigarettes' being used this way but also that it was "part of their operating business plan to sell cigarettes to and through criminal organizations." The E.U. says RJR gave its "criminal customers" special treatment: removing the tracking codes from their shipments, sending invoices separately from the cargo and allowing them to pay through multiple intermediaries. Enabling contraband sales, the lawsuit claims, allowed RJR to increase its market share in those countries while avoiding taxes. The alleged Iraq connection makes the case especially troublesome on RJR's home turf. To circumvent economic sanctions against Iraq, the lawsuit alleges, RJR used a former employee, who had become a cigarette distributor in Cyprus, to guide its Winstons and Aspens (the top-selling brand in Iraq) to Baghdad. There, Saddam's son Uday, 38, collected "taxes" on them. The trade is so lucrative, the E.U. alleges, that the Iraqi government allows the Kurdish Workers' Party ‹ considered by the U.S. to be a terrorist organization and by Iraq to be a threat to the regime ‹ to deal in cigarettes as well, as long as it pays the tax. One thing on which both RJR and the E.U. agree is that cigarettes aren't the only vehicle for money laundering ‹ stereos and CDs work almost as well. The E.U. lawsuit, along with new laws in the U.S. and Europe targeting the financing of terrorism, is meant to put other companies on notice. "The defense of 'We don't know about this,'" Auerbach says, "is becoming less and less credible." http://newsobserver.com/24hour/world/story/680707p-5067736c.html * IRAQI STATEMENT ON ACTOR SEAN PENN'S COMMENTS CALLED INACCURATE News & Observer, 18th December BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - As the official Iraqi News Agency tells it, Sean Penn made comments "indicating that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction." But the fact is Penn left open the question of whether Iraq has nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. "I did not come here to criticize any government or president," Penn said at a news conference he gave Sunday at the end of a fact-finding mission to Baghdad. He called on Washington to make public the evidence it claims it has that Iraq is stockpiling banned weapons and said more information was needed for the "right thing to happen." "It's very hard to me to believe that the American people could find a justification (for war) ... were it to be the case that there are no weapons of mass destruction," the 42-year-old actor-director said, adding: "I can't speak to and won't speak to (that)." Penn's publicist, Mara Buxbaum, issued a statement characterizing the Iraqi News Agency remarks as a "misrepresentation." "Propaganda exists and will be used to suit the perpetrator's advantage," the statement said. Norman Solomon, who accompanied Penn on the trip, said it was "preposterous" for the Iraqi News Agency to state that the actor believes the nation is clear of weapons of mass destruction. "He never said anything of the kind," Solomon said. The agency said Penn condemned U.S. and British threats against Iraq and "ridiculed the claims of the government of his country about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." Penn has said he came to Iraq seeking a better understanding of the crisis with the United States. His visit was organized by the San Francisco-based Institute for Public Accuracy, described as a progressive research organization, of which Solomon is executive director. http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0251/smith.php * WEAPON OF THE WEEK: by George Smith Village Voice, 18th December Only in the land of the free would a woman be given the opportunity to make the newest super-duper weapon‹the thermobaric bomb! Anh Duong, who fled Saigon for the U.S. in 1975, wished to serve her adopted country against tyranny. And in doing so she became the lead bomb-maker at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Maryland, where she is the designer behind the bunker buster custom-crafted to atomize Osama bin Laden's underground lairs. Duong and her team of bombing boffins worked out the explosive kinks at an accelerated pace, taking only two months to devise the ultra-powerful munition after the Defense Threat Reduction Agency sent out an order for a new fire in the hole. The first was sicced on a Nevada tunnel in December 2001. The test brought the house down‹turning a regular-looking mine into a really trashed looking one. The thermobaric bomb's magic ingredient is aluminum dust, also the secret component of another legendary weapon in the arsenal, the behemoth Daisy Cutter. Aluminum, handy foil in your kitchen drawer, is a highly dangerous explosive hazard when powdered. Duong's design duplicates conditions in a mine saturated with the flammable dust‹and then strikes a match, unleashing a twisting inferno and metal-shredding concussion. Ten thermobaric bombs were commissioned for the war in Afghanistan. One is known to have been used, according to The Baltimore Sun. That round missed, proving that even techno-wizard bangs are useless if one can't aim. Despite publicly reported failure, the legend of the thermobaric bomb is great. Introduced as a wonder weapon by mainstream-media lapdogs, it has also been denounced as a weapon of mass destruction akin to a massive and sinister Russian fuel-air explosive used in Chechnya. One publication dubbed it an anti-Muslim bomb. Not so, said an air force general assigned to spin control. The thermobaric incinerator was vetted by the Pentagon, and, in Kafkaesque wordage, "found consistent with all international legal obligations of the United States, including the law of armed conflict." Straight with the law of armed conflict or not, it is certain the thermobaric bomb is now being eyed for use in Iraq. In Gulf War I, Baghdad bunker-busting backfired when civilians were cooked in a bomb shelter. With the thermobaric bomb, however, one cannot tell if one has hit Saddam or plain folk, because everything in range is . . . dusted. http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/DL19Ak01.html * BUSH'S TRUSTY NEW MIDEAST POINT MAN by Jim Lobe Asia Times, 19th December WASHINGTON - This month's surprise - some in the State Department might say shocking - appointment of Iran-contra veteran Elliott Abrams as the top White House Mideast adviser has bolstered the notion that President George W Bush sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict very differently from his father. The appointment, announced by Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, two weeks ago, places a dyed-in-the-wool neo-conservative, whose views on the region have long been close to those of the Israel's Likud Party, in one of the most sensitive and powerful posts in the foreign policy apparatus. Although he has never been known as an Arab-Israeli specialist, what he has written on the subject is consistent with the positions of a number of prominent neo-cons such as Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle. Abrams, 54, who first came to national prominence as a controversial political appointee in the Ronald Reagan administration and who later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress regarding his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, has been a staunch critic of the Oslo peace process, and he has even opposed the "Land for Peace" formula that has guided US policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict since the 1967 war. "Yet another Likudnik is moving to a position where they control Washington's agenda on the Mideast," said Rashid Khalidi, a Mideast historian at the University of Chicago. "This is a tragedy for the Israeli and American people." Supporters of Likud were naturally more enthusiastic. "I believe Abrams understands that this is a not a war over borders, but over Israel's existence, something that almost no one in the State Department acknowledges," Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, told the Jewish weekly Forward last week. Abrams has also been hawkish on Iraq, for which he will also have responsibility as senior director for Near East and North African affairs on the National Security Council (NSC) staff. Not only has he consistently backed Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (who helped him get his first Bush job as senior staff director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations), but he also led an NSC task force on Iraq that calls for Washington to take direct control of Iraq's oil fields after an invasion. "This is a very major move, both for Iraq and the Mideast peace process," according to Joseph Wilson, a retired US diplomat who served as charge d'affaires in Baghdad during the Gulf War. "Abrams serves his constituency's interest," he added, referring to the pro-Likud neo-conservatives such as Perle, Wolfowitz and the Pentagon's Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith. Abrams replaces Zalmay Khalilzad who has been consumed since shortly after his appointment in early 2002 with sorting out his native Afghanistan, to which he serves as Bush's special envoy. Khalilzad, a prominent national security strategist with greater experience in South Asia and the Gulf than in the Mideast, has now added the new post of "ambassador-at-large for Free Iraqis" to his portfolio. He spent the last few days in London herding the fractious Iraqi opposition toward some semblance of unity. Khalilzad's predecessor in the Mideast post, Bruce Reidel, was a Clinton holdover. As a result, Abram's appointment marks the first time that a person with a keen interest - albeit little expertise - in the Arab-Israeli conflict has been assigned the White House post, and the neo-cons are jubilant. Abrams' influence on policy is already clear, particularly vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ten days ago, Washington voted for the first time ever against a UN General Assembly resolution that called on Israel to repeal the "Jerusalem Law" that declares that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel". In the past, Washington has abstained on the issue, consistent with its long-held stand that Jerusalem's status must be determined by negotiations between the parties. Abrams has in the past publicly assailed that position, arguing that Washington's refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital "tantalizes the Palestinians with the prospect of forcing the Jews to abandon Jerusalem". More important, efforts by "the Quartet" - the European Union, the UN, Russia and the United States - to produce a "road map" leading to the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state in 2005 have come to a screeching halt since Abrams' appointment. Over the strenuous objections of the State Department, as well as other Quartet members, the White House has decreed that work on the roadmap will remain frozen until at least after the elections in Israel January 28. The decision represents a total caving in to demands by Sharon, who stands to profit tremendously by the fact that international pressure on him to move toward renewed peace talks or accept a peace plan will now be nil, at least until the elections are finished. "This represents a signal victory for those who have argued that the road to peace in the Middle East runs through Baghdad, rather than Jerusalem," said one State Department official who warned that the absence of pressure on Israel at a time when Washington is preparing for war with Iraq will exacerbate resentment against the US in Arab public opinion. Along with William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, founder of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and son of Irving Kristol, godfather of the neo conservatives, Abrams has been a leading light of the fifty-something crowd in the neo conservative movement, although the Iran-contra affair forced him into a less public role in the 1990s. Abrams has been close to virtually all of the key neo-conservative officials inside the administration, as well as those on the outside in PNAC, the Center for Security Policy (CSP), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the American Enterprise Institute, the long-time roost of Perle and other neo-con hawks, most notably former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, former CIA officer Marc Reuel Gerecht, and terrorism expert Michael Ledeen. A Harvard student in the 1960s when he, like many other neo-conservatives, were associated with the Socialist Party USA, Abrams got his first job out of law school in the offices of the staunchly pro-Israel Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson of Washington state. It was there that he met Perle, Feith and Frank Gaffney. Gaffney, who himself worked for Perle in the Reagan administration, went on to found and direct CSP, on whose advisory board Perle, Abrams and Feith have all served. Abrams first gained national prominence, however, when he was appointed in 1991 by Reagan to serve as assistant secretary of state for international organizations, a spot requested on his behalf by Jean Kirkpatrick, Reagan's first UN ambassador. After Reagan failed to get Ernest Lefever confirmed as assistant secretary for human rights and humanitarian affairs, however, Abrams was put in that considerably more prominent and politically sensitive post. His tenure there was marked by frequent and angry clashes with mainstream church groups, particularly those with a large missionary presence in Central America, and prominent human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which accused him of covering up horrendous abuses committed by US backed governments, such as El Salvador and Guatemala, and rebel forces, such as the Nicaraguan Contras and Angola's Unita movement, while, at the same time, exaggerating abuses by US foes. Such conflicts only became more intense after he was appointed as assistant secretary for inter-American affairs in 1985, the year in which Congress fatefully cut off aid to the Contras, thus setting the stage for what would become the Iran-Contra Affair, which, at its core, was an effort to raise money and arms for the Contras by whatever means necessary. In his new job, Abrams not only became acquainted with the machinations of Oliver North and his fellow conspirators in the White House, he was also tasked to raise money himself, leading to his secret trip disguised as "Mr Kenilworth" to the palaces of the Sultan of Brunei. In one of the more comic episodes of the whole affair, the two men reached agreement on a $10 million contribution to the Contras, but Abrams gave the Sultan the wrong number of the Swiss bank account into which the funds were to have been deposited, and the money was never used. Abrams was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony about his trip, but he pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses of withholding information to Congress in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail term. He was pardoned by president George H W Bush along with a number of other Iran-Contra defendants in 1992. Nonetheless, his reputation for truth-telling was severely damaged - so much so that, for some time after the Iran-Contra affair broke, he was required to take an oath before testifying on any matter in Congress. Most analysts believe that he was given an NSC post by the Bush administration because it is one of the few high-level foreign policy posts which do not require Senate confirmation. After Reagan left office in 1989, Abrams, like a number of other prominent neo conservatives, was not invited to serve in the far more centrist-minded administration of Bush Senior. Instead, he worked for a number of think tanks and eventually became head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank founded by Lafever, where he wrote and lectured on foreign policy issues, including the Middle East and China. He also remained an integral part of the tight-knit, neo-con foreign policy community in Washington that revolved around Perle, Wolfowitz, Kirkpatrick, Podhoretz, Kristol and other luminaries. Then-House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich furthered Abrams' public rehabilitation in 1999 by appointing him to the new US Commission on International Religious Freedom, for which he then served as chairman in 2000. Muslim groups that came before the commission during his tenure complained on a number of occasions that Abrams refused to criticize as violations of religious freedom various controversial Israeli practices in the occupied territories and Jerusalem, such as sealing off Muslim holy sites. At the same time, Abrams' service on the commission endeared him even more to the Christian Right, which had sought strong condemnations of religious persecution of Christians in China, Vietnam, Egypt, Pakistan and Sudan, among other countries. Abrams is not known as a Mideast specialist, but has long favored Likud positions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and even assailed former Likud prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu for caving into US pressure to respect the Oslo peace process. Within just a few weeks of the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa intifada at the end of September 2000, he sharply criticized mainstream Jewish groups for calling for a resumption of peace talks between Arafat's Palestine Authority and Israel, as well as a halt to the violence. "After a decade of self-delusion, American Jews must face up to reality," he wrote at the time. "The Palestinian leadership does not want peace with Israel, and there will be no peace ... Let's stop this flight from reality before it does even more harm to Israel. Let's stop pushing for more talks and offer instead something simpler and more valuable: solidarity and support." In an article published just before his first appointment to the NSC, Abrams cited Sharon's hawkish stance as the best policy, calling it "firmness and resistance to violence or the threat of violence". The same article compared Sharon to French president Charles de Gaulle. In his position as NSC Democracy chief, Abrams reportedly played an important role in moving Rice into the Cheney-Rumsfeld camp in the June decision to demand Arafat's ouster and an overhaul of the Palestinian Authority as a condition for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The decision, which echoed Sharon's demands, infuriated Secretary of State Colin Powell and caused widespread dismay among Bush Sr's advisers, notably his former national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Over the years, Abrams has largely opposed any US pressure on Israel. As a member, along with Feith, Perle and Gaffney, of the Committee on US Interests in the Middle East, a short lived group of former Reagan administration officials formed in late 1991, Abrams opposes Bush Sr's Mideast policies, and particularly his pressure on then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir to take part in the Madrid peace conference that followed the Gulf War against Iraq and to make territorial concessions once a peace process got underway. "We advocate support for a US policy toward Israel that would - in contrast to current American policy - reflect the traditional, strong American support for the legitimacy, security and general well-being of the Jewish state: a proven, valuable democratic friend and ally of the United States," declared an ad placed by the group in the New York Times in early 1992. The group was particularly outraged by secretary of state James Baker's threat to withhold US$10 billion in housing guarantees unless Shamir stopped the construction of new settlements in the occupied territories. With Abrams overseeing the flow of paper onto to the president's desk, other foreign policy players - especially the State Department, Washington's European allies and even the old guard around Bush Sr - will find it much more difficult to get a hearing at the White House. Abrams is not only zealous in pursuit of his views; by all accounts, he is also a very canny political operator with his own network of support both inside and outside the administration. He also enjoys the strong support not only from the neo-con network in which he was nurtured, but also among more mainstream figures, notably his former boss at the State Department, George Shultz. "He is a formidable player," said one retired diplomat. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/19_12_02_c.htm * POWELL UNDERESTIMATES ANTI-US ANGER by Fahed Fanek Daily Star, Lebanon, 19th December America's new program for the Middle East, launched on Dec.12 by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, makes it seem - through the use of the term "Middle East" - as if it includes Iran, Israel and Turkey as well as the Arab world. The stated objective of the so-called US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) is to improve America's image in the Arab world. The means is through "sustained" support for political reform (i.e. democracy), economic reform (free markets), social reform (women's liberation), and educational reform (through a comprehensive overhaul of educational curricula). At first, many people thought Powell was about to launch an initiative similar to the post World War II Marshall Plan, which turned a hostile Germany into an ally of the US through economic aid. Far from pouring billions of dollars into the new initiative, however, Powell said that it would only involve a paltry $29 million to be shared by 25 different countries. Consequently, the new plan will prove to be nothing more than a public relations campaign designed to convince Arab public opinion that America is on their side. America's image in the Arab world is far worse than Powell believes. It would be extremely difficult to convince Arabs that US policies are even-handed and fair, and that it is not a strategic ally of Israel - a country determined to destroy the lives of Palestinians. It would be even more difficult to convince Arabs that America is not blockading the Iraqi people, but only Saddam Hussein, and that it is planning to wage war against Saddam and not the entire people. America can scarcely deny that it plans to occupy Baghdad, the ancient capital of the Abbasids and a potent symbol of Arab dignity, in a new humiliation for Arabs and Muslims everywhere. America helped Israel defeat the Arabs in five different wars; it devastated Iraq in 1991, and has been bombing the country almost on a daily basis ever since. It has occupied Iraq's airspace, starved its people and now occupies military bases in six Gulf Arab states. The fact that America has been instrumental in visiting successive defeats on the proud Arab nation led to hatreds building up in the entire region. These hatreds are being expressed in many ways, terror among them. What has America done to prove that it respects Arabs? By adopting political, economic, social, and educational reforms, America will damage their popularity among ordinary Arabs. Reformers will be silenced for fear of being branded as mouthpieces for the United States. As for improving its image in the Arab street, America would need far more than a public relations campaign: it would need to change its policies. US President George W. Bush and a large number of American columnists and commentators tried to ascribe the hatred demonstrated by Arabs and Muslims toward the United States to the fact that America is free, rich, democratic and strong. In other words, they tried to portray the poor and backward Arabs as being jealous of America's superiority and success. American policies in the Middle East have had nothing to do with it. "Arabs," they said, "hate Americans because of what they are, not because of what they do." Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that America is rich and democratic is cause for Arab admiration, not hatred. In fact, Arabs love America; they respect America's free society, and admire America's economic and cultural achievements. What Arabs hate, however, is American policy toward Palestine and Iraq. America is totally biased on the side of Israeli occupation of Arab lands, despite the crimes against humanity committed on a daily basis by the Israeli Army - and despite reneging on UN resolutions concerning expulsions, settlements, house demolitions and annexation. America has been incessantly and deliberately blockading the Iraqi people, depriving them of the basic requirements for a dignified existence. Iraqi universities, hospitals and infrastructure, once the pride of the Middle East, have been all but destroyed. As if that was not enough, the US is preparing for a new war that threatens to return the country to the Stone Age - besides piling even more humiliation upon the Arab nation. Moreover, America has been occupying the Arabian Peninsula for the last 12 years. Occupation is by nature reprehensible and foreign bases unacceptable - especially if their presence is aimed at the peoples and interests of the Arab nation. Before 1990, there was no US military presence in the Gulf states. After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, however, Gulf states allowed the Americans to mass troops on their territories. At the time, it was thought that this American presence would be temporary. But they stayed, and turned into forces of occupation. Their mission was (and still is) to control Arab oil. At the present time, the US has 10,000 troops, 50 aircraft, and 64 Patriot missile batteries deployed in Saudi Arabia. There are 12,000 troops, 522 tanks, 127 aircraft, and 64 missile batteries in Kuwait. In Qatar, there are 3,000 troops, 175 tanks, five reconnaissance aircraft and 7,700 land mines. In the UAE, there are 500 troops. Some 3,000 American troops, six helicopters and a number of aircraft are stationed in Oman, while Bahrain hosts 1,200 troops. Is it wrong therefore to say that the US is occupying the Arabian Peninsula? Fahed Fanek is a Jordanian economic and media consultant. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star http://www.msnbc.com/news/849720.asp?0cv=CA01 * U.S. ALLEGES RING SENT CASH TO IRAQ (MS)NBC, 19th December WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 ‹ A dozen individuals who violated a U.S. trade embargo against Iraq by funneling at least $12 million in cash and commodities to a person living in Baghdad have been indicted on money-laundering charges, federal officials said Thursday. "Those who hide in the shadows of the financial world are learning that they cannot hide any longer," Treasury Undersecretary Jimmy Gurule said at a news conference to announce the indictments. THE INDICTMENTS, handed up by a federal grand jury in Seattle on Wednesday and unsealed on Thursday, alleged that a ring of agents throughout the United States collected money and sent it to a company called Alshafei Family Connect in suburban Edmonds, Wash. Six of the suspects were arrested in simultaneous sweeps in Washington state, Roanoke, Va., Nashville, Tenn., Phoenix, St. Louis and Dallas, said U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Robert Bonner, who appeared at the news conference with Gurule and Assistant Attorney General Michael Chernoff. He said he did not know if any of the other six individuals named in the indictment, all of whom were overseas, were taken into custody. Over 30 months, the business collected $28 million in money and commodities throughout the United States, then shipped the money to London and other overseas cities. Bonner said that investigators have traced $12.07 million of that to Iraq. Alshafei Family Connect is owned and principally operated by Hussein Alshafei, an Iraqi native and naturalized U.S. citizen. Alshafei was to appear before a U.S. magistrate in Seattle Thursday afternoon. Alshafei, 34, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last week that he escaped political oppression in his native land by coming to the United States in 1994 and becoming a citizen in 2000. More than three years ago, he told the newspaper, he opened a business to help other immigrants wire money home. He said he sent the money of "thousands on thousands" of immigrants to Jordan, where relatives of those living in the United States could collect the money after crossing the border from Iraq. "There is no way to get any assistance to them, especially the kids," he told the newspaper. Bonner acknowledged that investigators have not found evidence that any of the money or commodities ended up in the hands of the Iraqi government, but he added, "We can't rule it out. Our investigation is continuing." And he said that even money sent in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to individuals living in Iraq indirectly aids Saddam Hussein's regime by easing the financial pressure brought to bear by U.N. sanctions. "We are serious about investigating and prosecuting anyone who violates the embargo against Iraq," he said. Gurule also said that Alshafei and other individuals or businesses in England, India, Canada, Brazil, Taiwan, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates who acted as intermediaries clearly knew they were breaking U.S. laws. "The objective here is concealment," he said. "The object is to make it appear that it's being moved for legitimate reasons, when in many cases it's not." The funds eventually were forwarded to a business in Iraq called Al-Nour Trading, run by a man whose last name is Fakher and whose alias is Abu Haider. Bonner said investigators are attempting to learn more about him and determine whether he is linked to Saddam's government. In addition to Alshafei and Fakher, the indictment names: Ali Mohammud Ali Abbas of Jordan; Haider Amer Fakher of Iraq; Hashim Mohsin Almosawi of Everett, Wash.; Abdulilah Hamid Daoud of London; Ahmed Fayadh Kathe of Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Salam Said Alkhursan of Dallas; Kaalid Amen of St. Louis; Ali Noor Alsutani of Nashville, Tenn.; Ali Almarhoun of Phoenix; and Malik Almaliki of Roanoke, Va. The indictment resulted from an international investigation by "Green Quest," a federal financial crimes task force staffed by agents from the Customs Service, IRS, INS, Secret Service and FBI. The indictments were the fourth action by the task force this week. On Wednesday, authorities announced the indictments of seven people in Texas accused of raising money for the Palestinian group Hamas and the arrest of seven people in Detroit and nearby Dearborn, Mich., on charges that they illegally sent $50 million a year to Yemen. Three men in Lackawanna, N.Y., were arrested Tuesday and charged with sending more than $480,000 to Yemen without a license to operate a money-transferring business. NBC News correspondent Pete Williams, producer Jim Popkin and The Associated Press contributed to this report. http://www.dawn.com/2002/12/20/int3.htm * MUSLIMS IN US URGE SADDAM TO STEP DOWN Dawn, 20th December WASHINGTON, Dec 19: US Muslims are urging Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to step down and save Iraq from another war, advocacy group spokesmen said on Thursday. Muslim groups also have urged President George W. Bush not to use the military option, as they say it will only increase the sufferings of Iraqi people. "In the interest of innocent Iraqi citizens and in the interest of peace and stability in the Middle East, we are calling on Saddam Hussein to step down," said Maher Hathout, a senior adviser to the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "But the Bush administration also needs to do its part in maintaining stability in the region by ruling out any kind of military action," he added. "It would only cause more death and suffering for the impoverished Iraqi people." The demand for Saddam's resignation, initiated by MPAC, was also supported by other US-based Muslim groups. "Most Muslims will support this demand. There's no love lost between Saddam and the Muslims," says Faiz Rehman, communications director for the American Muslim Council. MPAC's Hussam Qutub says that the war will "radicalize a lot of youngsters in the region and increase support for people like Osama bin Laden." At its annual convention at Long Beach, California, on Saturday MPAC is also going to propose other options for solving the Iraqi conflict such as "elections under UN supervision." Rehman agrees. "I don't think we are looking for his ouster alone. My doubts are that somebody else will come in and we will have the same system." He said he was not in a position to suggest an alternative "but the United States and other world powers that are seeking to remove Saddam should also have a plan for post-Saddam Iraq." MPAC, however, says that only "fair and free elections" can help resolve the Iraq dispute. Nihad Awad, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, also supports the demand for a democratic change in Iraq but says that moves for removing Saddam should come from within the country. "Every nation needs freedom and democracy. ... That's true about Iraq too," said Awad. "But if other countries intervene to bring a change, where does it end?" Awad said that the democratic change has to be universal and "also has to come from inside the society, not outside." He opposed going to war to bring a change in Iraq. "We trust the UN inspectors to do their job. They then report to UN. There should be no unilateral action without a mandate from the United Nations." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk