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[casi] News, 13-20/12/02 (5)

News, 13-20/12/02 (5)


*  2,000 protest war in Iraq, want proof
*  Music used as protest against sanctions
*  Students Stage Hunger Strike Over Iraq Policy


*  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.
*  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


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.,4386,161279,00.html?

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

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.

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.


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

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.

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

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

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

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

"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.

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.,9171,1101021223-400015,00.

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

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."

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

"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

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

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

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.

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

(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

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.

"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.

"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

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.

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

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

"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."

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