Things to look forward to in the New Year in Haiti

A report of an incursion on January 4 from the Agence Haitiene de Presse (I don’t know anything about this group): “Two people were killed and several others arrested this Tuesday at the Cité de l’Eternel located along Bicentenaire Street. The killings were carried out by police officers dressed in black and camouflage. According to area residents, the dead are Jean Ferres Nazaire, age 28, and Angela, a girl of 13. The residents of Cité l’Eternel are accusing the police of displaying a revolting lack of professionalism. “When the police storm into a neighborhood they have a tendency to shoot everything that moves and that’s what is behind the tragedy of January 4″, they protested, affirming that the two people who were shot dead had nothing to do with the violence prevailing in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.”

A report of an incursion on January 5 from the Haiti Information Project: “Hundreds of Brazilian soldiers and special units of the Haitian National Police stormed the pro-Aristide neighborhood of Bel Air in the early morning hours of January 5. Residents were surprised and frightened by the armed incursion as gunfire broke out. Witnesses reported that five persons were killed as the operation unfolded… Following the military operation, UN peacekeepers were seen providing photo opportunities to the press as they fixed a few water pipes and cleared the carcasses of burned out vehicles blocking the road. ” The AHP said that the UN troops arrested 9 men in the neighbourhood.

A report from AHP on promised demonstration elections this year: “Interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue declared Sunday that the elections will indeed go forward this year, despite, he said, the insecurity prevailing in Haiti. The next elections will be free, honest and democratic, he said. Gérard Latortue reaffirmed that February 7, 2006, will be his last day as Prime Minister. “It is out of the question for me to remain even one hour longer”, he promised. Mr. Latortue spoke against the proliferation of political parties in the country because, he said, that constitutes a threat to the success of the elections… Gérard Latortue said he hopes that no more than eight political parties will take part in the next elections scheduled for this year.”

A last crucial note courtesy of the World Bank, from January 6. The international community playing its time-honoured role: “On January 4, 2005, Haiti settled $52.6 million in overdue service payments to the Bank using its own reserves and a US$12.7 million grant contribution from Canada. This paved the way for the Bank to reinstate the country’s rights to make withdrawals under credit and grant agreements. With the exception of special grant programs, disbursements had been suspended since January 30, 2001, due to the accumulation of overdue payments to the Bank.”

So, the very first thing the World Bank has done for Haitians in the new year, after their government was ousted, after paramilitaries took over the country by massacring thousands, after the place was further devastated by hurricanes, was raid the Haitian treasury to the tune of $40 million. Canada went ahead and gave the World Bank another $12 million (Thanks, Canada).

Between the United Nations and the World Bank, Haitians are being helped from misery to even more grinding misery and from fear into massacre.

Abbas wins – and no, it’s not a victory for ‘peace’

The votes are in. In the most predictable electoral result ever, Mahmoud Abbas has won the Palestinian elections. And, predictably, headlines all over North America (that might be overblown – I’ve only seen the headlines in my own city and I am working by induction) are declaring a victory for peace.

It’s not a victory for peace.

Continue reading “Abbas wins – and no, it’s not a victory for ‘peace’”

Con Game, Indeed…

For a long time I have been meaning to do some research on the Canadian prison system (industry). I picked up a few books, some of which look very good indeed. Claire Culhane has a whole series of books written over decades – she has led a very honorable life of activism as far as I can tell from her books.

Continue reading “Con Game, Indeed…”

Pending Elections

I just wanted to quickly draw peoples attention to the first original production of the Balata Film Collective – part of (an exciting new initiative started by people from the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank/Palestine) – called Elections Under Occupation. The film gives voice to community members from Balata concerning the upcoming Palestinian elections (scheduled for this Sunday). The film draws attention in particular to the ‘red-lines’ refugees won’t cross. These aren’t oppinions that you will hear often, so I urge people to check out the film for a ground-level view of the elections and why any imposed ‘peace’ is likely to fail. I also urge people to spend some time on the website and get involved in supporting the groups work.

The politics of natural disaster

Now that there’s been some time to grieve and the dirty business has started, I believe it’s time to talk about the politics of natural disasters.

First of all, as many pointed out from the beginning but I didn’t want to point out right away, even the most natural of disasters have some human determinants. That doesn’t just mean living in earthquake or tidal wave or fire-prone areas; it also means, as CP Pandya pointed out right here, early warning systems and public education. For earthquakes, wooden buildings are much less vulnerable than concrete. For fires and floods, there are ways of building to reduce vulnerability. And of course there is repair and relief after the fact. Chomsky has recently mentioned in passing the differential impacts of hurricanes in Cuba and in Haiti. Haiti is an occupied country where the state apparatus and organization was systematically first starved and then repeatedly destroyed. Cuba is a society with a high level of social organization and a government with a degree of legitimacy. Cuba got hit worse by the hurricanes and suffered hardly any deaths; Haiti suffered thousands of deaths. Amartya Sen’s work shows how famines also have social determinants (so does Mike Davis’s book, ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’): there are not famines where there is a free press and a reasonably democratic government, because citizens intervene to force the government to get and distribute food. There is, however, chronic hunger in many such countries, because hunger is not so dramatic as famine and doesn’t evoke the same public response.

People have asked why there is more empathy for these natural disasters than for the fully people-caused ones, those caused by economic ‘restructuring’, the destruction of the third world’s fragile systems of social protection in the interests of corporations, and of course those caused by outright war and ethnic cleansing. A fair enough question, but don’t let it hide the fact that there are huge differences between how victims are treated. Even if the initial victims were people along the coasts, and usually coasts are more expensive to be on than inland areas, the process of disaster relief is one in which class differences are preserved or increased – witness the privileging of tourists on the Thai beaches over local victims, as just one example. Incidentally, this is exactly why ecological issues are not actually issues rich and poor can agree on. Wealth and power translates into an ability to insulate yourself from ecological degradation and from natural disaster. It translates into an ability to claim a large share of whatever is left to consume. If the many can be excluded, there can be plenty for the few, at least for a while. And in any case most of the planning is short term.

The other key point that must be made, especially in light of the Bush-Clinton posturing, is the one Monbiot made lately: while it is great that people are generous and giving generously, the very fact that others are dependent on our generosity for the basics of life is the problem. People’s lives should not depend on generosity, and in an equal and just world they would not.

Finally, Cynthia Peters sent a number of items on Aceh – a mainstream article, a WSJ editorial, and some comments on the editorial… read below.

The Australian January 5, 2005

Army Still at War in Aceh

Sian Powell, Jakarta correspondent

THE Indonesian military is continuing to wage war with separatist rebels in the hills of Aceh as world leaders put the finishing touches to a multi-billion-dollar aid and investment package for the devastated province.

As international military and medical teams stepped up relief efforts yesterday in Aceh, where the tsunami killed up to 100,000 people, an Indonesian military spokesman confirmed that only two-thirds of the military’s 40,000-strong force in the province was taking part in the relief effort while the remaining third was engaged in military operations against insurgents.

The rebels claimed yesterday that the Indonesian military has moved more troops into rebel-held territory under the guise of relief operations since the tsunami struck 10 days ago. They say squads of soldiers are preventing hill villagers going to help their relatives on the coast.

“They are still conducting an incessant military operation,” a rebel spokesman, Teuku Jamaika, told The Australian from his base somewhere in the Aceh hills. “There’s no difference between before and after the tsunami.”

Thousands of Australian and US military personnel are at the forefront of the relief operation on the coast of Aceh, with the support of medical and military teams from as far away as Germany and Japan.

The Indonesian embassy in Canberra last night defended the continued military operation against the rebels.

“The Indonesian military in Aceh also has a responsibility to maintain security,” a spokesman said.

“The main task of the military is to provide humanitarian aid but they are also meant to provide security.”

Colonel Djazairi Nachrowi, the head of information analysis at the national military headquarters, said there had been no ceasefire, despite an offer from rebel leaders exiled in Sweden to suspend hostilities until Aceh had recovered.

“At first we thought positively, that GAM (the Free Aceh Movement) had a conscience, and would not use the situation like this, but it turned out they held up (aid transport),” Colonel Nachrowi said.

“We are not offensive, we are defensive.”

There had been no outright attacks on the rebels, he said.

“Some TNI (Indonesian military) troops tried to escort a truck filled with aid,” he said.

“When they were on their way there was an indication they would be held up, so there was an exchange of fire. It’s not TNI attacking GAM, but an exchange of fire because humanitarian aid was held up.”

GAM spokesman Teuku Jamaika said military raids had continued in hill areas of Idi Rayek, in Bireuen, Gandapura and Pasongan. Local people had been prevented from leaving their villages to find relatives or simply to help, he said.

“It was prohibited, blocked. If they left their villages there were threats.”

University of Indonesia military specialist Salim Said said GAM rebels would try to attack aid convoys to boost their supplies while the Indonesian military continued its crackdown.

“The operation to obliterate GAM continues, nothing has changed there,” Dr Said said.

“Now another danger has threatened them, but they will still try to crush GAM.”

Kirsten Schulze, a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics and the author of a number of papers on the Aceh insurgency, said counter-insurgency operations were continuing in the province, but she said it should be remembered the military was doing most of the dirty work in hard-hit towns such as Banda Aceh.

“In Meulaboh, there are no military operations,” she said. “In East Aceh, which was not hit hard by the tsunami, yes, there are security operations going on.”

Dr Schulze, in Indonesia to continue her research, said more troops had been sent into Aceh from North Sumatra, but only to bolster the relief effort.

“Without the military, the aid effort would be even slower.”

Bakhtiar Abdullah, a GAM spokesman based in Sweden, said the military had poured troops into the region since the disaster. “The reports we received is that they are moving in more troops under the guise of relief operations,” he said.

The 19-month crackdown on the GAM rebels has become a tender issue for Indonesia. The failure of an internationally-brokered and short-lived ceasefire in 2003 prompted the massive military offensive, and Indonesia has reacted angrily to foreign criticism of various atrocities.

Before the tsunami hit, international aid workers were almost entirely prevented from operating in Aceh, journalists curtailed to an extent which made balanced coverage impossible, and diplomats largely barred from visiting.

Teuku Jamaika said two rebels were shot dead by Indonesian soldiers late last week after an all-out attack, and flatly denied the rebels had attempted to hold up an aid convoy.

“We actually already unilaterally asked the TNI for a ceasefire,” he said.

“We asked TNI to take a defensive position and only attack if we attack first. But it just doesn’t work.”


[letters can go to]

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

also: Note on WSJ Editorial by Joyo Subscriber

The Wall Street Journal Tuesday, January 4, 2005


USS Lincoln in Indonesia

Go to the Web site of the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln ( and the image that greets you is that of a sailor staring out the open door of a helicopter at the devastation spread out beneath him in Banda Aceh on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Aircraft from the Lincoln have been flying rescue and relief missions since the battle group arrived off the coast of Indonesia on Saturday.

There’s something else amazing about this picture, in addition to the horrific aftermath of last week’s earthquake and tsunami. It’s the presence of the U.S. military — something that was practically unthinkable before the tragedy of December 26. Today U.S. Seahawks are delivering food and water to Indonesian villagers and U.S. Marines are mingling with Indonesian soldiers at the island’s main military airport.

This is happening despite a ban on most military-to-military contacts imposed by Congress in 1999 in the wake of Jakarta’s bloody crackdown in East Timor. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been pushing to restore ties for more than two years now, and such a restoration is also a key objective of the new (and democratically elected) Indonesian president.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s sensible argument is that full U.S. military ties with the world’s largest Muslim nation are an essential part of winning the global war on terror. Indonesia’s democracy is young and fragile, but the military’s influence in government has waned and there is widespread agreement that the military ought to stay out of politics. Indonesians have traditionally practiced a moderate form of Islam, but in recent years several radical factions have sprung up and won adherents. Many Indonesians opposed the war in Iraq, but it’s precisely in this kind of society where contacts between American and Indonesian officers can help reduce misunderstanding.

The welcome that Indonesians are giving American sailors and Marines today stands in marked contrast to the resentment that Indonesian clerics and political leaders have often succeeded in whipping up against the U.S. in the past. Some politicians even refuse publicly to condemn Jemaah Islamiyah, the al Qaeda affiliate responsible for a string of attacks against Australian and American targets in Indonesia.

The decision by the winner of October’s election, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to open Aceh — the scene of a long-running secessionist conflict — has allowed U.S. aid to flow directly to the areas where it is most needed. Only last week, the province was off limits even to aid workers.

The Lincoln is part of one of the largest military relief operations in history. At least a dozen more U.S. warships are on their way to the region, and Australia, Singapore, France and Russia have sent military planes or vessels. The U.S. is leading a humanitarian coalition of the willing to get aid to the victims more quickly than the slow-moving United Nations is able.

If this terrible tragedy carries any useful lesson, one is that bans on military ties are usually counterproductive. We’ll never know how many more lives might have been saved had the U.S. military had a better working relationship already in place with the Indonesian military.


Note by Joyo Subscriber

The argument against resumption of U.S. military aid does not focus on natural catastrophes caused by force majeure, it involves the training and equipping of Indonesian troops by US special forces to repress, abduct, torture, maim, kill, terrorize, and massacre thousands of their compatriots in E. Timor, Aceh, W. Papua and elsewhere — because the victims, many of whom were university students, wanted a more open democratic society to replace the extremely brutal and corrupt Suharto military dictatorship the U.S. supported for 33 years. How ironic that students struggling against a repressive military to implement professed and hallowed American ideals would be tortured and murdered by U.S. trained soldiers.

Indonesia has no credible foreign military threat. To defend itself internationally it needs a very small highly trained high tech force like Singapore’s. The only reason the TNI serves like an occupying army in every nook and cranny of its own country is because the only thing it does well is terrorize its own people while stealing as much as it possibly can. The TNI are such lousy citizens that usually when natural disasters occur they are no where to be found, and if and when they ever do lend a hand its used to stuff some more illicit profits into their pockets.

Moreover, it is widely known by the U.S. government, the Pentagon, State Dept., NGOs, int’l institutions and agencies, that the Indonesian military is deeply involved in prostitution, arms dealing (to their foes to keep the insurgencies going), human trafficking, gambling, loansharking and protection rackets, raking off large cut from all large projects, among other heinous crimes. The situation is such a drain on the country, and its so pervasively systemic, that only a systematic, far-sweeping concerted approach, supported by implacable political will would have a good chance of succeeding over the medium- and longer-terms. Right now, the TNI must fan the flames of the insurgencies because it needs them to have a reason to maintain tens of thousands of troops in resource-rich secessionist provinces and to self-perpetuate its own highly profitable criminal activities.

Look at how abject poverty-stricken and devoid of infrastructure resource rich Aceh and Papua are! If they were independent states they’d be as wealthy as Brunei. It is estimated that the military and national government have misappropriated and ripped off tens of billions of dollars from graft and criminal activities in these provinces, but less than one-half of one percent (0.5%) has been used to improve the lives of the local populac. No wonder that had internationally monitored referenda been held in Aceh and Papua in recent years, it is widely believed that the secessionists would have won resounding victories.

Evidence is mounting that the TNI is exploiting the tsunami catastrophe for economic and political gain, and it is using it to continue torturing and killing insurgents. Likewise, the U.S. is using the disaster to reestablish relations with the military under the pretext that the most affected areas are hotbeds of terrorism.

With TNI’s history of terror and astonishing rapaciousness, and the Indonesian government’s notorious reputation for siphoning off huge amounts of international aid and loans–the Disaster Donor Conference to be held in Jakarta may be more aptly named: ‘Int’l Conference On How To Snatch Food Out of the Gaping Mouths of Starving Tsunami Victims and Sell for Profit.’

Moreover, journalists should stop mimicking the official propaganda. Coverage of the disaster itself has been superb, but it leaves much to be desired in terms of telling the truth about the military, political and economic situations. Exxon-Mobil’s enormous power and interests in Aceh have been virtually blacked out. Why?

Aceh is receiving more international attention in a few days than in all previous history combined. It would be a crying shame if the valiant struggle of the Achnese people is not told by journalists. The TNI has systematically liquidated every key moderate leader and spokesperson, including prominent environmentalists, journalists, human rights activists, lawyers, students and academics, community leaders. It has acted viciously, sabotaged peace talks, plundered the province, and it has been disposing massacred corpses in mass graves for decades.

The full story of the TNI’s involvement in unspeakably horrific crimes against humanity and U.S. support for those crimes both explicit and implicit must be told before there’s any consideration of renewing U.S. military cooperation and aid.

Stan Goff in 3D

I’ve said before that Stan Goff is in the must-read category. I have disagreements with much of what he says, some very strong disagreements indeed, but I invariably get something out of reading him, it’s more than a little, and what I don’t agree with I have to deal with in any case.

Goff, being a serious fellow, has written a piece that has some serious content. In it, he suggests some strategic directions for the next few years. I like a lot of things about it and there is a lot in it.

His suggestions are:

Continue reading “Stan Goff in 3D”

Dean Yates from Reuters is like Despicable Vermin

Did that get your attention? I didn’t mean it, really.

But when I saw the Reuters story republished in the Toronto Star today, I couldn’t really react any other way. The guy is writing about Aceh and is presumably there, but unable to figure out what is going on under his nose. Instead he writes about how the people in the scene in front of him are trying to get food (now there’s a story, Dean) because they are hungry.

But he starts the story like this:

ACEH WEST COAST, Indonesia Like hungry locusts, they swarmed up over the edges of the raised soccer field from all directions.

That’s right, this guy started a story about starving tsunami victims in the middle of a vicious counterinsurgency by comparing these victims to swarming, hungry locusts.

I would love for the words “despicable vermin” to be forever associated with Dean Yates the way he has associated “hungry locusts” with Acehnese tsunami/counterinsurgency victims. But it’s not going to happen.

Don’t look to Dean for any serious idea about what’s going on in Aceh. There is however an interview by Derrick O’Keefe of Allan Nairn that can tell you something.

And below is the Reuters story so Dean can at least speak for himself.

ACEH WEST COAST, Indonesia Like hungry locusts, they swarmed up over the edges of the raised soccer field from all directions.

Frantic women juggling babies on their hips. Men with desperation painted on their faces.

Up to 300 people, many taking shelter in a tiny village of no more than a dozen homes, sprinted from the trees and undergrowth, anxious to get their hands on the water and biscuits inside the U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter that had just touched down on the tsunami- ravaged west coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province.

Within seconds, dozens of men surged to the door of the helicopter, its powerful rotors still turning. Time and again, U.S. naval crewmen Jesse Cash and Vince Rodriguez struggled to push them away. “Get back, get back,” they shouted.

As each box was handed out, men fought for the food lifeline, the strong snatching their prize and running off. Women and the young stayed at the edge of the soccer field, the highest point in this village just beyond the reach of the killer waves that crushed everything in their path on Dec. 26.

One man climbed onto the wheel of the helicopter, oblivious to the deadly rotors whirling above his head.

The crew finally got all the men to sit in a semi-circle under the thrashing blades to receive the payload. But as the next box came out, they surged forward again, thrusting their hands into the cabin.

Many villagers looked dazed and tired. Their clothes were dirty. Women said their babies were sick. Some said they feared malaria.

“Sir, please help. Sir, please help,” the residents shouted at a foreign reporter.

“We need food and medicine.” They said it over and over.

While this village was spared, not far away homes were ripped off their foundations. Whole tree lines are gone, the earth gouged away. Brightly coloured fishing boats lie smashed in watery graves up to a kilometre beyond the shore.

Nearly 400,000 Indonesians have been displaced by the tsunami that swept Aceh province, the health ministry said today. About 387,000 are refugees and some 94,081 people have been confirmed killed.

In the shattered village of Meulaboh, an injured man stretched out on the ground, hooked to an intravenous drip that hung from a tree branch outside an overcrowded hospital emergency room.

In Lam Jamek, another ruined village, survivors used an elephant to pull a vehicle to the provincial capital.

For the homeless Acehnese along this west coast, a fleet of U.S. Seahawk helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier group has become their salvation, dropping urgently needed supplies up and down this battered shoreline, evacuating the injured and flying in medical teams.

As the helicopter hugged the coastline, makeshift shelters could be seen dotted among the hills – people living in small groups under salvaged corrugated iron or plastic sheeting. At some, fires burned. People came out and waved as the helicopter swooped overhead.

After the drop, the pilots spotted a refugee camp, home to scores of homeless and a few Indonesian soldiers. The U.S. crew asked if anyone needed evacuation. The soldiers said the serious cases had already been flown to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

Again, people crowded around. Seeing a foreign face, they pleaded for help.

“We don’t have enough food, clothes or medicine. Thousands are dead around here. Whole villages are gone,” said Edan, 25.

The job done, the helicopter lifted off for Banda Aceh, a 20- minute trip away. There, a tent city has sprung up, home to non- governmental organizations, international aid agencies and troops from countries such as Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Germany.

From dawn till dusk, a dozen U.S. Seahawks fly sorties, along with Superpuma military helicopters from Singapore. At any time, four to five Hercules transport planes, several from Australia, bring in food and take refugees out. Just offshore lies the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Many airports in Indonesia are now bursting with emergency supplies. But a logistical nightmare looms in distributing them through areas where roads and bridges have been washed away, Aly- Khan Rajani, CARE Canada’s program manager for Southeast Asia, said in Jakarta.

With files from the star’s wire services

Gabriel Piper U.S. Navy Reuters U.S. naval air crewmen carry an injured woman to a helicopter yesterday for transportation to Banda Aceh, where medical teams from USS Abraham Lincoln and the International Organization for Migration have set up a triage site.


Look what else they made us do

I missed it, though NYT readers probably caught it. Apparently the families of some of the Abu Ghraib torturers are suing the publishers of the photos. Publication of the photos of them torturing has done them emotional harm, and probably harm to their careers too.

I’ll just dump all the documentation below. It’s difficult to editorialize something like this. Maybe all I can add is, since Iraqis aren’t human beings and don’t count at all, this being just a debate about the torturers and their quality of life since the torturing was done, perhaps the torturers should consider suing their superiors also, for giving them the torture orders, since it could probably be argued that the torturing itself (as opposed to just the reporting of it) did them emotional harm (again we’ll leave Iraqis out) and damaged their careers, and if they weren’t following orders, they can’t plausibly claim that their activities should have been kept secret.

NY Times December 29, 2004

6 Members of Elite Navy Force Sue News Agency Over Photos


Six members of the Navy Seals and two of their wives sued The Associated Press and one of its reporters yesterday for distributing photos of the Seals that apparently show them treating Iraqi prisoners harshly.

One wife had put the photos on what she believed was a password- protected Web site, a lawyer for the group said. The suit, filed in Superior Court in San Diego, charges The A.P. with invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It does not name the plaintiffs. An Associated Press article on Dec. 3 about the photos said they had date stamps suggesting they were taken in May 2003 – months before the photographs taken at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq that led to investigations of abuse of detainees.

In one photo published by The A.P., a gun is pointed at the head of a man who appears to be a prisoner; another shows a man in white boxer shorts, with what looks like blood dripping down his chest, his head in a black hood. In another, a grinning man in uniform is apparently sitting on a prisoner. The faces of most of the prisoners are obscured, but those of their captors are not.

James W. Huston, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said yesterday that since the photographs were published, the men’s lives had been put in danger and their wives had received threatening calls. Mr. Huston said the photos had appeared in Arab news media and on anti-American billboards in Cuba.

The lawsuit demands that The A.P. obscure the faces of the Seals members if the photos are published again. Even if The A.P. agreed to shield the faces, Mr. Huston said, he would still pursue damages.

Mr. Huston said he did not know how The A.P.’s reporter got the photographs. “Obviously they were not as safe as she believed them to be,” he said of the Navy wife, adding that she was not available for comment. The wife had put the photographs on Web the site as a kind of backup storage, her lawyer said, “and planned to go back and organize them or delete them later.”

The A.P. reporter, Seth Hettena, discovered the photos on a Web site called while researching another news story on alleged brutality by members of the Seals, according to an A.P. article on the suit. The site lets members display photos in password- protected or public galleries.

Reached at The A.P.’s San Diego bureau, Mr. Hettena said he could not comment on the suit or the photos. Dave Tomlin, a lawyer representing The A.P. and Mr. Hettena, said, “We believe that the use of the photographs and the manner they were obtained were entirely lawful and proper.”

When Mr. Hettena first showed the photos to the Navy, it began its own investigation. The Navy found that some of the photographs were not exactly what they seemed. For example, the gun pointing at a prisoner had a light on the end of it and was apparently being used to illuminate a prisoner’s face, said Cmdr. Jeff Bender, a spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, Calif.

Other photographs were not as easily explained, Commander Bender said.

“The picture with the guy grinning ear to ear,” he said, referring to a shot of a Seals member posing between two hooded prisoners. “These kind of pictures are supposed to be taken strictly for administration and intelligence purposes.”

A follow-up investigation is about halfway done, Commander Bender said. Jeffrey D. Neuburger, a lawyer specializing in technology and communications issues, said that “the photos are clearly newsworthy, and as a result, the First Amendment would protect their use” by The A.P.

AP: Navy Probes New Iraq Prisoner Photos

Dec 3, 5:32 PM (ET)


CORONADO, Calif. (AP) – The U.S. military has launched a criminal investigation into photographs that appear to show Navy SEALs in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees, and photos of what appear to be bloodied prisoners, one with a gun to his head.

Some of the photos have date stamps suggesting they were taken in May 2003, which could make them the earliest evidence of possible abuse of prisoners in Iraq. The far more brutal practices photographed in Abu Ghraib prison occurred months later.

An Associated Press reporter found more than 40 of the pictures among hundreds in an album posted on a commercial photo-sharing Web site by a woman who said her husband brought them from Iraq after his tour of duty. It is unclear who took the pictures, which the Navy said it was investigating after the AP furnished copies to get comment for this story.

These and other photos found by the AP appear to show the immediate aftermath of raids on civilian homes. One man is lying on his back with a boot on his chest. A mug shot shows a man with an automatic weapon pointed at his head and a gloved thumb jabbed into his throat. In many photos, faces have been blacked out. What appears to be blood drips from the heads of some. A family huddles in a room in one photo and others show debris and upturned furniture.

“These photographs raise a number of important questions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs) and detainees,” Navy Cmdr. Jeff Bender, a spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, said in a written response to questions. “I can assure you that the matter will be thoroughly investigated.”

The photos were turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which instructed the SEAL command to determine whether they show any serious crimes, Bender said Friday. That investigation will determine the identities of the troops and what they were doing in the photos.

Some of the photos recall aspects of the images from Abu Ghraib, which led to charges against seven soldiers accused of humiliating and assaulting prisoners. In several of the photos obtained by the AP, grinning men wearing U.S. flags on their uniforms, and one with a tattoo of a SEAL trident, take turns sitting or lying atop what appear to be three hooded and handcuffed men in the bed of a pickup truck.

A reporter found the photos, which since have since been removed from public view, while researching the prosecution of a group of SEALs who allegedly beat prisoners and photographed one of them in degrading positions. Those photos, taken with a SEAL’s personal camera, haven’t been publicly released.

Though they have alarmed SEAL commanders, the photographs found by the AP do not necessarily show anything illegal, according to experts in the laws of war who reviewed photos at AP’s request.

Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge who teaches at the United States Military Academy, said the images showed “stupid” and “juvenile” behavior – but not necessarily a crime.

John Hutson, a retired rear admiral who served as the Navy’s Judge Advocate General from 1997 to 2000, said they suggested possible Geneva Convention violations. Those international laws prohibit souvenir photos of prisoners of war.

“It’s pretty obvious that these pictures were taken largely as war trophies,” Hutson said. “Once you start allowing that kind of behavior, the next step is to start posing the POWs in order to get even better pictures.”

At a minimum, the pictures violate Navy regulations that prohibit photographing prisoners other than for intelligence or administrative purposes, according to Bender, the SEALs spokesman.

All Naval Special Warfare personnel were told that prior to deployment, he said, but “it is obvious from some of the photographs that this policy was not adhered to.”

The images were posted to the Internet site The woman who posted them told the AP they were on the camera her husband brought back from Iraq. She said her husband has returned to Iraq. He does not appear in photos with prisoners.

The Navy goes to great lengths to protect the identities and whereabouts of its 2,400 SEALs – which stands for Navy Sea, Air, Land – many of whom have classified counterterrorist missions around the globe.

“Some of these photos clearly depict faces and names of Naval Special Warfare personnel, which could put them or their families at risk,” Bender said.

Out of safety concerns, the AP is not identifying the woman who posted the photos.

The wife said she was upset that a reporter was able to view the album, which includes family snapshots. Hundreds of other photos depict everyday military life in Iraq, some showing commandos standing around piles of weapons and waving wads of cash.

The images were found through the online search engine Google. The same search today leads to the Web page, which now prompts the user for a password. Nine scenes from the SEAL camp remain in Google’s archived version of the page.

“I think it’s fair to assume that it would be very hard for most consumers to know all the ways the search engines can discover Web pages,” said Smugmug spokesman Chris MacAskill.

Before the site was password protected, the AP purchased reprints for 29 cents each.

Some men in the photos wear patches that identify them as members of Seal Team Five, based in Coronado, and the unit’s V-shaped insignia decorates a July Fourth celebration cake.

The photos surfaced amid a case of prisoner abuse involving members of another SEAL team also stationed at Coronado, a city near San Diego.

Navy prosecutors have charged several members of SEAL Team Seven with abusing a suspect in the bombing a Red Cross facility. According to charge sheets and testimony during a military hearing last month, SEALs posed in the back of a Humvee for photos that allegedly humiliated Manadel al-Jamadi, who died hours later at Abu Ghraib.

Testimony from that case suggest personal cameras became increasingly common on some SEAL missions last year.

Guardian Wednesday December 29, 2004 11 AM

Attacks target Iraqi police

Staff and agencies

Police car buried under bomb rubble in west Baghdad People look at a police car buried by rubble from houses destroyed in a blast in west Baghdad. Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/AP

At least 28 people died in Baghdad last night after insurgents lured police to a house where they believed a militant was hiding and blew it up.

Police visited the house in the city’s Ghazaliya district after a tip-off. Insurgents reportedly used a remote control to blow up the building when they arrived. The explosion destroyed six neighbouring houses. At least six Iraqi policemen were among the dead and about 20 people were wounded.

The explosion is the latest in a wave of attacks intended to disrupt preparations for Iraqi elections next month. It brought the total number of Iraqis killed yesterday to 54, more than half of whom were policemen.

The US military said in a statement that between 770kg and 820kg of explosives were used in the ambush. Soldiers and policemen “worked throughout the night” pulling the dead and injured from the rubble.

The police had responded to a call from a neighbour who said there was shooting coming from a house, said a spokesman for Iraq’s interior ministry. “When the police arrived and went in, the house blew up. It seems to have been a trap.”

In another incident yesterday, insurgents slit the throats of 12 officers in a police station in Tikrit before blowing up the building.

The deputy governor of the Anbar province, Moayyad Hardan al- Issawi, was assassinated near Ramadi, east of Baghdad. Gunmen who shot him left a statement next to his body: “This is the fate of everyone who deals with the American troops”. The statement was signed by the group Mujahedeen al-Anbar, or “holy warriors of Anbar”.

Other deaths occurred in suicide bombings, shootings and car bombings throughout Iraq.

Brigadier General Jeffery Hammond, the assistant commander of the 1st Cavalry Division that controls Baghdad, predicted that attacks by insurgents would escalate further as the January 30 election date approached.

“We anticipate that the enemy will (continue with) attacks, intimidation, assassinations and other messages designed to destroy life in Baghdad.” He said Iraqi security forces would bear the brunt of providing security for the elections, with US troops backing them up only if needed.

In another development, Ukraine announced today that it would pull all of its 1,650 troops out of Iraq by the end of 2005. Most will leave by the end of April. Ukraine is the fourth largest contributor of troops to the US-led war effort.

The country’s defence minister, Oleksandr Kuzmuk, had already announced that Ukraine would gradually pull its troops out of Iraq, but not without coordinating the move with other coalition members and not before Iraq’s January elections.

NY Times December 29, 2004

Rebels Inflict Heavy Losses on the Iraqis


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 28 – Insurgents continued their relentless assault on Iraq’s fledgling security forces on Tuesday, killing at least 23 police and national guard officers in multiple attacks mainly across the Sunni-dominated zone north of Baghdad.

The authorities in central Iraq provided no totals for the day’s losses, and they have declined to say how many security officers have been killed this year. But based on deaths reported so far, the number is clearly in the hundreds, as insurgents work to destroy the effectiveness of the American-sponsored government.

Civilian officials have also been the targets of murder and intimidation, and on Tuesday the deputy governor of Anbar Province, the Sunni region to the west of Baghdad, was killed, The Associated Press reported.

A statement left with the body of the official, Moayyad Hardan al- Issawi, said, “This is the fate of everyone who deals with the American troops,” and was signed by a group calling itself Holy Warriors of Anbar, The A.P. reported, citing an interview with a provincial police official. In a town near Tikrit, north of Baghdad, the onetime home of Saddam Hussein, gunmen swarmed a police station on Tuesday, killed 12 policemen and then dynamited the building, an American Army spokesman said.

At a checkpoint near the city of Balad, also in north-central Iraq, five police officers were killed and three wounded, according to the spokesman, First Lt. Wayne Adkins of the First Infantry Division. Another policeman was killed in a separate attack near Tikrit.

In Baquba, in the same uneasy region, five Iraqi national guardsmen and one civilian were killed by a car bomb, with 22 soldiers and one civilian wounded. Another roadside bomb in the same city wounded four guardsmen.

Near Samarra, five Ministry of Interior commandos and one American soldier were wounded by an explosive device.

“Today was an extraordinary day,” said Lieutenant Adkins in a telephone interview from his base in Tikrit. The First Infantry Division operates throughout the mainly Sunni region of north-central Iraq.

In addition to the major incidents recorded by the American Army, several other attacks, some of them fatal, were reported by hospitals, police units and news agencies, although they were not officially confirmed. They included attacks on police officers around Tikrit and the gunning down of a police commander in Baquba.

In Baghdad on Tuesday, a senior commander of the national guard was the target of a car bomb as he left for work. The commander, Maj. Gen. Mudher al-Mula, was unhurt, apparently protected by his armored car, but six people were wounded, the Defense Ministry said.

Also on Tuesday, a group led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al- Zarqawi took responsibility for the car bombing on Monday outside the Baghdad headquarters of Iraq’s largest Shiite party, Reuters reported. The group said the attack had been aimed at killing the party’s leader, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite, and that more attempts on his life would be made. While Mr. Hakim escaped unhurt, at least nine people were killed in the attack.

American officials describe the mustering of effective Iraqi security forces as the linchpin of their strategy for the country, but the campaign of killings has left many officers so frightened that they wear face masks while working.

Iraqi officers are supposed to provide the main security for national elections on Jan. 30.

The continued violence in Sunni regions will make it difficult to hold elections in those regions in any case, many Iraqis believe. On Monday, the leading Sunni party said it was withdrawing from the elections and called for a six-month delay.

In a news conference on Tuesday in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, of the First Cavalry Division, predicted increasing violence across Iraq as the elections approached.

He emphasized that when the voting takes place, the American forces would not directly guard polling stations, but rather would be on call for emergencies.

“I know we must continue to work to improve the I.N.G.,” he said, referring to the Iraqi National Guard. But he said he believed that the 7,600 guardsmen in Baghdad, at least, were now “prepared to undertake independent operations,” in part because they were working with 540 “embedded trainers” from the Army.

Colombia in 2004

So, as I was saying yesterday, 2004 was bad, all signs point to 2005 being bad, but it’s too soon to give up.

As promised, here’s the history of Colombia in 2004 that I’ve been working on. It’s rather long (three parts), but really, take as much time as you need.

Colombia in 2004

‘President Alvaro Uribe badly wanted to show Colombians his only recent success: Bush’s re-election. But the US President had only three hours to visit the only supporter of his strategic project in South America.’ – Colombian economist Hector Mondragon, on Bush’s quick visit to Colombia in November 2004.

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