Friday, March 7, 2008

MIR: Is the U.S. Safeguarding Ahmadinejad?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received a red-carpet welcome in Iraq, but his visit was barely covered in US media. Who guaranteed his security in Iraq? And why is he smiling?

Answers to these questions and more on Link TV's Mosaic Intelligence Report.

Mosaic News: 3/6/08 - World News from the Middle East

The 'Rape' Of Okinawa

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By Chalmers Johnson

It all seemed deadly familiar: an adult, 38-year-old US Marine sergeant accused by the Okinawan police of sexually violating a 14-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl. He claims he did not actually rape her but only forcibly kissed her, as if knocking down an innocent child and slobbering all over her face is OK if you're a representative of the American military forces. The accused marine has now been released because the girl has refused to press charges - perhaps because he is innocent as he claimed or perhaps because she can't face the ignominy of appearing in court.

Let us briefly recall some of the other incidents since the notorious 1995 kidnapping, beating and gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by two marines and a sailor in Kin village, Okinawa. The convicted assailants in that outrage were Marine Private First Class Roderico Harp, Marine Private First Class Kendrick Ledet and Seaman Marcus Gill. Other incidents of bodily harm, intimidation and death continue in Okinawa on an almost daily basis, including hit-and-run collisions between American troops and Okinawans on foot or on auto bikes, robberies and assaults, bar brawls and drunken and disorderly conduct.

On June 29, 2001, a 24-year-old air force staff sergeant, Timothy Woodland, was arrested for publicly raping a 20-year-old Okinawan woman on the hood of a car.

On November 2, 2002, Okinawan authorities took into custody Marine Major Michael J Brown, 41 years old, for sexually assaulting a Filipina barmaid outside the Camp Courtney officer's club.

On May 25, 2003, Marine Military Police turned over to Japanese police a 21-year-old lance corporal, Jose Torres, for breaking a 19-year-old woman's nose and raping her, once again in Kin village.

In early July 2005, a drunken air force staff sergeant molested a 10-year-old Okinawan girl on her way to Sunday school. He at first claimed to be innocent, but then police found a photo of the girl's nude torso on his cell phone.

After each of these incidents and innumerable others that make up the daily police blotter of Japan's most southerly prefecture, the commander of US forces in Okinawa, a Marine Corps lieutenant general, and the American ambassador in Tokyo, make public and abject apologies for the behavior of US troops.

Occasionally the remorse goes up to the Pacific commander-in-chief or, in the most recent case, to the secretary of state. On February 27, Condoleezza Rice said, "Our concern is for the girl and her family. We really, really deeply regret it." The various officers responsible for the discipline of US troops in Japan invariably promise to tighten supervision over them, who currently number 92,491, including civilian employees and dependents. But nothing ever changes. Why?

Because the Japanese government speaks with a forked tongue. For the sake of the Okinawans forced to live cheek-by-jowl with 37 US military bases on their small island, Tokyo condemns the behavior of the Americans. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda called the recent assault "unforgivable" and demanded tighter military discipline. But that is as far as it goes.

The Japanese government has never even discussed why a large standing army of Americans is garrisoned on Japanese territory, some 63 years after the end of World War II. There is never any analysis in the Japanese press or by the government of whether the Japanese-American Security Treaty actually requires such American troops.

Couldn't the terms of the treaty be met just as effectively if the marines were sent back to their own country and called on only in an emergency? The American military has never agreed to rewrite the Status of Forces Agreement, as demanded by every local community in Japan that plays host to American military facilities, and the Japanese government meekly goes along with this stonewalling.

Once an incident "blows over", as this latest one now has, the pundits and diplomats go back to their boiler-plate pronouncements about the "long-standing and strong alliance" (Rice in Tokyo), about how Japan is an advanced democracy (although it has been ruled by the same political party since 1949 except for a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union), and about how indispensable America's empire of over 800 military bases in other people's countries is to the maintenance of peace and security.

As long as Japan remains a satellite of the United States, women and girls in Okinawa will continue to be slugged, beaten and raped by heavily armed young Americans who have no other reason for being there than the pretensions of American imperialism. As long as the Japanese government refuses to stand up and demand that the American troops based on its territory simply go home, nothing will change.

$300 Million From Chavez To Farc A Fake

Here’s the written evidence

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By Greg Palast

Do you believe this?
This past weekend, Colombia invaded Ecuador, killed a guerrilla chief in the jungle, opened his laptop – and what did the Colombians find? A message to Hugo Chavez that he sent the FARC guerrillas $300 million – which they’re using to obtain uranium to make a dirty bomb!
That’s what George Bush tells us. And he got that from his buddy, the strange right-wing President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe.
So: After the fact, Colombia justifies its attempt to provoke a border war as a way to stop the threat of WMDs! Uh, where have we heard that before?
The US press snorted up this line about Chavez’ $300 million to “terrorists” quicker than the young Bush inhaling Colombia’s powdered export.
What the US press did not do is look at the evidence, the email in the magic laptop. (Presumably, the FARC leader’s last words were, “Listen, my password is ….”)
I read them. (You can read them here) While you can read it all in español, here is, in translation, the one and only mention of the alleged $300 million from Chavez:
“… With relation to the 300, which from now on we will call “dossier,” efforts are now going forward at the instructions of the boss to the cojo [slang term for ‘cripple’], which I will explain in a separate note. Let’s call the boss Ángel, and the cripple Ernesto.”
Got that? Where is Hugo? Where’s 300 million? And 300 what? Indeed, in context, the note is all about the hostage exchange with the FARC that Chavez was working on at the time (December 23, 2007) at the request of the Colombian government.
Indeed, the entire remainder of the email is all about the mechanism of the hostage exchange. Here’s the next line:“To receive the three freed ones, Chavez proposes three options: Plan A. Do it to via of a ‘humanitarian caravan’; one that will involve Venezuela, France, the Vatican[?], Switzerland, European Union, democrats [civil society], Argentina, Red Cross, etc.”
As to the 300, I must note that the FARC’s previous prisoner exchange involved 300 prisoners. Is that what the ‘300’ refers to? ¿Quien sabe? Unlike Uribe, Bush and the US press, I won’t guess or make up a phastasmogoric story about Chavez mailing checks to the jungle.
To bolster their case, the Colombians claim, with no evidence whatsoever, that the mysterious “Angel” is the code name for Chavez. But in the memo, Chavez goes by the code name … Chavez.
Well, so what? This is what . . . .Colombia’s invasion into Ecuador is a rank violation of international law, condemned by every single Latin member of the Organization of American States. But George Bush just loved it. He called Uribe to back Colombia, against, “the continuing assault by narco-terrorists as well as the provocative maneuvers by the regime in Venezuela.”
Well, our President may have gotten the facts ass-backward, but Bush knows what he’s doing: shoring up his last, faltering ally in South America, Uribe, a desperate man in deep political trouble.
Uribe claims he is going to bring charges against Chavez before the International Criminal Court. If Uribe goes there in person, I suggest he take a toothbrush: it was just discovered that right-wing death squads held murder-planning sessions at Uribe’s ranch. Uribe’s associates have been called before the nation’s Supreme Court and may face prison.
In other words, it’s a good time for a desperate Uribe to use that old politico’s wheeze, the threat of war, to drown out accusations of his own criminality. Furthermore, Uribe’s attack literally killed negotiations with FARC by killing FARC’s negotiator, Raul Reyes. Reyes was in talks with both Ecuador and Chavez about another prisoner exchange. Uribe authorized the negotiations. However, Uribe knew, should those talks have succeeded in obtaining the release of those kidnapped by the FARC, credit would have been heaped on Ecuador and Chavez, and discredit heaped on Uribe.
Luckily for a hemisphere on the verge of flames, the President of Ecuador, Raphael Correa, is one of the most level-headed, thoughtful men I’ve ever encountered.
Correa is now flying from Quito to Brazilia to Caracas to keep the region from blowing sky high. While moving troops to his border – no chief of state can permit foreign tanks on their sovereign soil – Correa also refuses sanctuary to the FARC . Indeed, Ecuador has routed out 47 FARC bases, a better track record than Colombia’s own, corrupt military.
For his cool, peaceable handling of the crisis, I will forgive Correa for apologizing for his calling Bush, “a dimwitted President who has done great damage to his country and the world.” (Watch an excerpt of my interview with Correa here.)
Amateur Hour in Blue
We can trust Correa to keep the peace South of the Border. But can we trust our Presidents-to-be?
The current man in the Oval Office, George Bush, simply can’t help himself: an outlaw invasion by a right-wing death-squad promoter is just fine with him.
But guess who couldn’t wait to parrot the Bush line? Hillary Clinton, still explaining that her vote to invade Iraq was not a vote to invade Iraq, issued a statement nearly identical to Bush’s, blessing the invasion of Ecuador as Colombia’s “right to defend itself.” And she added, “Hugo Chávez must stop these provoking actions.” Huh?
I assumed that Obama wouldn’t jump on this landmine – especially after he was blasted as a foreign policy amateur for suggesting he would invade across Pakistan’s border to hunt terrorists.
It’s embarrassing that Barack repeated Hillary’s line nearly verbatim, announcing, “the Colombian government has every right to defend itself.”
(I’m sure Hillary’s position wasn’t influenced by the loan of a campaign jet to her by Frank Giustra. Giustra has given over a hundred million dollars to Bill Clinton projects. Last year, Bill introduced Giustra to Colombia’s Uribe. On the spot, Giustra cut a lucrative deal with Uribe for Colombian oil.)
Then there’s Mr. War Hero. John McCain weighed in with his own idiocies, announcing that, “Hugo Chavez is establish[ing] a dictatorship,” presumably because, unlike George Bush, Chavez counts all the votes in Venezuelan elections.
But now our story gets tricky and icky.
The wise media critic Jeff Cohen told me to watch for the press naming McCain as a foreign policy expert and labeling the Democrats as amateurs. Sure enough, the New York Times, on the news pages Wednesday, called McCain, “a national security pro.”
McCain is the “pro” who said the war in Iraq would cost nearly nothing in lives or treasury dollars.
But, on the Colombian invasion of Ecuador, McCain said, “I hope that tensions will be relaxed, President Chavez will remove those troops from the borders - as well as the Ecuadorians - and relations continue to improve between the two.”
It’s not quite English, but it’s definitely not Bush. And weirdly, it’s definitely not Obama and Clinton cheerleading Colombia’s war on Ecuador.
Democrats, are you listening? The only thing worse than the media attacking Obama and Clinton as amateurs is the Democratic candidates’ frightening desire to prove them right.
Note: Saturday, Bobby Kennedy hosts Greg Palast on “Ring of Fire” on Air America Radio. Sunday, catch Palast with Amy Goodman on WABC Television (New York), hosted by Gil Noble, Channel 7 at 1 pm(est).
Watch Greg Palast’s reports from Venezuela and Ecuador for BBC Television Newsnight and Democracy Now! Compiled on the DVD, “The Assassination of Hugo Chavez.”

The Myth of the Surge

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Hoping to turn enemies into allies, US forces are arming Iraqis who fought with the insurgents. But it's already starting to backfire. A report from the front lines of the new Iraq.

Click here to see more photos taken by Danfung Dennis for this feature.

It's a cold, gray day in December, and I'm walking down Sixtieth Street in the Dora district of Baghdad, one of the most violent and fearsome of the city's no-go zones. Devastated by five years of clashes between American forces, Shiite militias, Sunni resistance groups and Al Qaeda, much of Dora is now a ghost town. This is what "victory" looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. House after house is deserted, bullet holes pockmarking their walls, their doors open and unguarded, many emptied of furniture. What few furnishings remain are covered by a thick layer of the fine dust that invades every space in Iraq. Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.

My guide, a thirty-one-year-old named Osama who grew up in Dora, points to shops he used to go to, now abandoned or destroyed: a barbershop, a hardware store. Since the U.S. occupation began, Osama has watched civil war turn the streets where he grew up into an ethnic killing field. After the fall of Saddam, the Americans allowed looters and gangs to take over the streets, and Iraqi security forces were stripped of their jobs. The Mahdi Army, the powerful Shiite paramilitary force led by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, took advantage of the power shift to retaliate in areas such as Dora, where Shiites had been driven from their homes. Shiite forces tried to cleanse the district of Sunni families like Osama's, burning or confiscating their homes and torturing or killing those who refused to leave.

"The Mahdi Army was killing people here," Osama says, pointing to a now-destroyed Shiite mosque that in earlier times had been a cafe and before that an office for Saddam's Baath Party. Later, driving in the nearby district of Baya, Osama shows me a gas station. "They killed my uncle here. He didn't accept to leave. Twenty guys came to his house, the women were screaming. He ran to the back, but they caught him, tortured him and killed him." Under siege by Shiite militias and the U.S. military, who viewed Sunnis as Saddam supporters, and largely cut out of the Shiite-dominated government, many Sunnis joined the resistance. Others turned to Al Qaeda and other jihadists for protection.

Now, in the midst of the surge, the Bush administration has done an about-face. Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides ..." and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq ..." it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government. The Americans call the units by a variety of euphemisms: Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISVs), neighborhood watch groups, Concerned Local Citizens, Critical Infrastructure Security. The militias prefer a simpler and more dramatic name: They call themselves Sahwa, or "the Awakening."

At least 80,000 men across Iraq are now employed by the Americans as ISVs. Nearly all are Sunnis, with the exception of a few thousand Shiites. Operating as a contractor, Osama runs 300 of these new militiamen, former resistance fighters whom the U.S. now counts as allies because they are cashing our checks. The Americans pay Osama once a month; he in turn provides his men with uniforms and pays them ten dollars a day to man checkpoints in the Dora district ..." a paltry sum even by Iraqi standards. A former contractor for KBR, Osama is now running an armed network on behalf of the United States government. "We use our own guns," he tells me, expressing regret that his units have not been able to obtain the heavy-caliber machine guns brandished by other Sunni militias.

The American forces responsible for overseeing "volunteer" militias like Osama's have no illusions about their loyalty. "The only reason anything works or anybody deals with us is because we give them money," says a young Army intelligence officer. The 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which patrols Osama's territory, is handing out $32 million to Iraqis in the district, including $6 million to build the towering walls that, in the words of one U.S. officer, serve only to "make Iraqis more divided than they already are." In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector ..." more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. "Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems," as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it "balancing competing armed interest groups."

But loyalty that can be purchased is by its very nature fickle. Only months ago, members of the Awakening were planting IEDs and ambushing U.S. soldiers. They were snipers and assassins, singing songs in honor of Fallujah and fighting what they viewed as a war of national liberation against the foreign occupiers. These are men the Americans described as terrorists, Saddam loyalists, dead-enders, evildoers, Baathists, insurgents. There is little doubt what will happen when the massive influx of American money stops: Unless the new Iraqi state continues to operate as a vast bribing machine, the insurgent Sunnis who have joined the new militias will likely revert to fighting the ruling Shiites, who still refuse to share power.

"We are essentially supporting a quasi-feudal devolution of authority to armed enclaves, which exist at the expense of central government authority," says Chas Freeman, who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush. "Those we are arming and training are arming and training themselves not to facilitate our objectives but to pursue their own objectives vis-a-vis other Iraqis. It means that the sectarian and ethnic conflicts that are now suppressed are likely to burst out with even greater ferocity in the future."

Maj. Pat Garrett, who works with the 2-2 Stryker Cavalry Regiment, is already having trouble figuring out what to do with all the new militiamen in his district. There are too few openings in the Iraqi security forces to absorb them all, even if the Shiite-dominated government agreed to integrate them. Garrett is placing his hopes on vocational-training centers that offer instruction in auto repair, carpentry, blacksmithing and English. "At the end of the day, they want a legitimate living," Garrett says. "That's why they're joining the ISVs."

But men who have taken up arms to defend themselves against both the Shiites and the Americans won't be easily persuaded to abandon their weapons in return for a socket wrench. After meeting recently in Baghdad, U.S. officials concluded in an internal report, "Most young Concerned Local Citizens would probably not agree to transition from armed defenders of their communities to the local garbage men or rubble cleanup crew working under the gaze of U.S. soldiers and their own families." The new militias have given members of the Awakening their first official foothold in occupied Iraq. They are not likely to surrender that position without a fight. The Shiite government is doing little to find jobs for them, because it doesn't want them back, and violence in Iraq is already starting to escalate. By funding the ISVs and rearming the Sunnis who were stripped of their weapons at the start of the occupation, America has created a vast, uncoordinated security establishment. If the Shiite government of Iraq does not allow Sunnis in the new militias to join the country's security forces, warns one leader of the Awakening, "It will be worse than before."

Osama, for his part, seems like everything that American forces would want in a Sunni militiaman. He speaks fluent English, wears jeans and baseball caps, and is well-connected from his days with KBR. Before the ISVs were set up, Osama and a dozen of his original men were known to U.S. troops as "the Heroes" for their work in pointing out Al Qaeda suspects and uncovering improvised explosive devices in Dora. Osama's men helped find at least sixty of these deadly bombs. In today's Baghdad, the trust of the American overlords is a valuable commodity. Osama's power stems almost entirely from his access to U.S. contracts.

As a result, members of the Awakening who had previously attacked Americans and Shiites are now collaborating with Osama. "To a large extent they are former insurgents," says Capt. Travis Cox of the 2-2 Stryker Cavalry Regiment. Most of Osama's men had belonged to Sunni resistance groups such as the Army of the Mujahedeen, the Islamic Army and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, named for the uprising against the British occupation that year. Even Osama admits that some of his men's loyalty is questionable. "Yesterday we arrested three guys as Al Qaeda infiltrators," he tells me. "They thought that they were powerful because they are ISV, so no one will touch them. You got to watch them every day."

Osama himself makes no secret of his hatred for the Shiite government and its security forces. As we walk by a checkpoint manned by the Iraqi National Police, which is comprised almost entirely of Shiites, Osama looks at the uniformed officers in disgust. "I want to kill them," he tells me, "but the Americans make us work together."

Although Osama insists that he has no connections to Al Qaeda or other jihadists, his fellow leaders of the ISVs in Dora are directly tied to the Sunni resistance. Since the Americans often require that each mahala, or neighborhood, have two ISV bosses, Osama has given half of his 300 men to Abu Salih, a man with dark reddish skin, a sharp nose and small piercing eyes. "We know Abu Salih is former Al Qaeda of Iraq," a U.S. Army officer from the area tells me. In fact, when I meet with him, Abu Salih freely admits that some of his men belonged to Al Qaeda. They joined the American-sponsored militias, he says, so they could have an identity card as protection should they get arrested.

The other leader working with Osama is Abu Yasser, a handsome and jovial man who wears a matching green sweatshirt and sweatpants, with a pistol in a shoulder holster. "Abu Yasser is the real boss," says an American intelligence officer. "That guy's an animal ..." he's crazy." A former member of Saddam's General Security Service, Abu Yasser had joined the Army of the Mujahedeen, a resistance organization that fought the U.S. occupation in Mosul and south Baghdad. He still has scars on his arms from the battles, and he put my hand on his forearm to feel the shrapnel embedded within. Like Osama and Abu Salih, he views the Shiite-led government as the real enemy. "There is no difference between the Mahdi Army and Iran," he tells me. Now that he is working for the Americans, he has no intention of laying down his arms. "If the government doesn't let us join the police," he says, "we'll stay here protecting our area."

To watch the ISVs in action, I accompany U.S. soldiers from the 2-2 Stryker Cavalry Regiment on a mission in the neighborhood. After meeting up with Osama, Abu Salih and Abu Yasser at a police checkpoint, we walk down Sixtieth Street to the Tawhid Mosque, followed by Stryker armored vehicles from the 2-2 SCR. First Lt. Shawn Spainhour, a contracting officer with the unit, asks the sheik at the mosque what help he needs. The mosque's generator has been shot up by armed Shiites, and the sheik requests $3,000 to fix it. Spainhour takes notes. "I probably can do that," he says.

The sheik also asks for a Neighborhood Advisory Council to be set up in his area "so it will see our problems." The NACs, as they're known, are being created and funded by the Americans to give power to Sunnis cut out of the political process. As with the ISVs, however, the councils effectively operate as independent institutions that do not answer to the central Iraqi government. Many Shiites in the Iraqi National Police consider the NACs as little more than a front for insurgents: One top-ranking officer accused the leader of a council in Dora of being an Al Qaeda terrorist. "I have an order from the Ministry of Interior to arrest him," the officer told me.

As Spainhour talks to the sheik at the mosque, two bearded, middle-aged men in sweaters suddenly walk up to the Americans with a tip. Two men down the street, they insist, are members of the Mahdi Army. The soldiers quickly get back into the Strykers, as do Osama and his men, and they all race to Mahala 830. There they find a group of young men stringing electrical cables across the street. Some of the men manage to run off, but the eleven who remain are forced into a courtyard and made to squat facing the walls. They all wear flip-flops. Soldiers from the unit take their pictures one by one. The grunts are frustrated: For most of them, this is as close to combat as they have gotten, and they're eager for action.

"Somebody move!" shouts one soldier. "I'm in the mood to hit somebody!"
Another soldier pushes a suspect against the wall. "You know Abu Ghraib?" he taunts.

The Iraqis do not resist ..." they are accustomed to such treatment. Raids by U.S. forces have become part of the daily routine in Iraq, a systematic form of violence imposed on an entire nation. A foreign military occupation is, by its very nature, a terrifying and brutal thing, and even the most innocuous American patrols inevitably involve terrorizing innocent Iraqi civilians. Every man in a market is rounded up and searched at gunpoint. Soldiers, their faces barely visible behind helmets and goggles, burst into a home late at night, rip the place apart looking for weapons, blindfold and handcuff the men as the children look on, whimpering and traumatized. U.S. soldiers are the only law in Iraq, and you are at their whim. Raids like this one are scenes in a long-running drama, and by now everyone knows their part by heart. "I bet there's an Iraqi rap song about being arrested by us," an American soldier jokes to me at one point.

As the soldiers storm into nearby homes, the two men who had tipped off the Americans come up to me, thinking I am a military translator. They look bemused. The Americans, they tell me in Arabic, have got the wrong men. The eleven squatting in the courtyard are all Sunnis, not Shiites; some are even members of the Awakening and had helped identify the Mahdi Army suspects.

I try to tell the soldiers they've made a mistake ..." it looks like the Iraqis had been trying to connect a house to a generator ..." but the Americans don't listen. All they see are the wires on the ground: To them, that means the Iraqis must have been trying to lay an improvised explosive device. "If an IED is on the ground," one tells me, "we arrest everybody in a 100-meter radius." As the soldiers blindfold and handcuff the eleven Iraqis, the two tipsters look on, puzzled to see U.S. troops arresting their own allies.

In a nearby house, the soldiers find Mahdi Army "propaganda" and arrest several men, including one called Sabrin al-Haqir, or Sabrin "the mean," an alleged leader of the Mahdi Army. The Strykers transport the prisoners, including the men from the courtyard, to Combat Outpost Blackfoot. Inside, Osama and Abu Salih drink sodas and eat muffins and thank the Americans for arresting Sabrin. Everyone agrees that the mission was a great success ..." the kind of street-to-street collaboration that the ISVs were designed to encourage.

The Sunnis from the first house the Americans raided are released, the plastic cuffs that have been digging into their wrists cut off, and three of them are taken to sign sworn statements implicating Sabrin. An American captain instructs them to list who did what, where, when and how. Abu Salih, the militia leader, walks by and tells the men in Arabic to implicate Sabrin in an attack. They dutifully obey, telling the Americans what they want to hear so they will be released.

Osama, meanwhile, uses the opportunity to lobby the Americans for more weapons. Meeting with a sergeant from the unit, he asks if he can have a PKC, or heavy-caliber machine gun, to put on top of his pickup truck.

"No," the sergeant says.

"But we can hide it," Osama pleads.

After processing, Sabrin is moved to a "detainee holding facility" at Forward Operating Base Prosperity. At least 25,000 Iraqis are now in such U.S. facilities ..." up from 16,000 only a year ago. "We were able to confirm through independent reporting that he was a bad guy" from the Mahdi Army, a U.S. intelligence officer tells me. "He was involved in EJKs" ..." extrajudicial killings, a military euphemism for murders.

To the Americans, the Awakening represents a grand process of reconciliation, a way to draw more Sunnis into the fold. But whatever reconciliation the ISVs offer lies between the Americans and the Iraqis, not among Iraqis themselves. Most Shiites I speak with believe that the same Sunnis who have been slaughtering Shiites throughout Iraq are now being empowered and legitimized by the Americans as members of the ISVs. On one raid with U.S. troops, I see children chasing after the soldiers, asking them for candy. But when they learn I speak Arabic, they tell me how much they like the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr. "The Americans are donkeys," one boy says. "When they are here we say, 'I love you,' but when they leave we say, 'Fuck you.'"

In an ominous sign for the future, some of the Iraqis who are angriest about the new militias are those who are supposed to bring peace and security to the country: the Iraqi National Police. More paramilitary force than street cops, the INP resembles the National Guard in the U.S. Along with the local Iraqi police and the Iraqi army, the INP is populated mainly by members and supporters of the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias. The police had fought in the civil war, often targeting Sunni civilians and cleansing Sunni areas. One morning I accompany Lt. Col. Myron Reineke of the 2-2 SCR to a meeting at the headquarters of the 7th Brigade of the Iraqi National Police. The brigade is housed in a former home of Ali Hassan al-Majid, the notorious "Chemical Ali." Now called a JSS, or joint security station, it is particularly feared by Sunnis, who were frequently kidnapped by the National Police and released for ransom, if they were lucky. The station is also rumored to have been used as a base by Shiite militias for torturing Sunnis.

Reineke finds the brigade's commander, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Abud, sitting behind a large wooden desk surrounded by plastic flowers. Behind him is a photograph of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. To his side is a shotgun. Five or six of his officers, all Shiites, surround him. Karim and his men greet the delegation of Americans warmly ..." but then, the Americans are greeted warmly wherever they go. They assume that this means they are liked, but Iraqis have nothing to lose ..." and everything to gain ..." by pretending to be their friends.

Karim begins the meeting by accusing the Awakening of being a front for terrorists. "We have information that the Baath Party and Al Qaeda have infiltrated Sahwa," he tells Reineke. "It's very dangerous. Sahwa is killing people in Seidiya."

A few days later, I return to meet with Karim without the Americans present. I find him talking to several high-ranking Shiite officers in the Iraqi army about members of the Awakening, who have been taking over homes in Dora that once belonged to Shiites. "We need to bring back the Shiites, but the Sunnis are in the houses," one colonel tells Karim. "This battle is bigger than the other battles ..." this is the battle of the displaced." To these men, the Awakening is reviled: Eavesdropping on their Arabic conversation, I hear him angrily condemn "killers, terrorists, ugly pigs!"

Karim's phone rings, and he begins talking with a superior officer about a clash the previous day between the Awakening and armed Shiite militias. The ISVs had battled the Mahdi Army, but Karim blames U.S. troops for establishing an ISV unit in the area. "American officers took Sahwa men to a sector where they shouldn't be," he says. "Residents saw armed men not in uniforms and shot at them from buildings. Four Sahwa were injured. My battalion was called in to help." After listening for a moment, he agrees with his superior officer on a solution: Members of the Awakening must be forced out. "Yes, sir," he says. "Sahwa will withdraw from that area. They started the problem."

Away from the Americans, Karim and his men make no secret of their hatred for the Awakening. One of the most frequent visitors to Karim's headquarters is a stern and thuggish man named Abu Jaafar. A Shiite known to the Americans as Sheik Ali, Abu Jaafar has his own ISV unit of 100 men in the Saha neighborhood of Dora. "He may not be JAM," an American major tells me, using the common shorthand for the Mahdi Army, "but he has a lot of JAM friends."

The Awakening, Abu Jaafar tells me, is full of men who once belonged not just to the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Army of the Mujahedeen but also to Al Qaeda. He pulls out a list of forty-six people from the neighborhood. "Criminals in Sahwa," he says. He points to two names. "The Americans told me, 'If you see these two men, you can kill them or bring them to us.' Now they are wearing the Sahwa uniform. They say they have reconciled."

Abu Jaafar looks at me and smiles. Shiites, he says, do not need the Awakening. "We are already awake," he says. "Our eyes are open. We know everything. We're just waiting."
U.S. troops who work with the Iraqi National Police realize that beyond their gaze, the country's security forces do not act anything like police. "The INPs here are almost all Shiites," says Maj. Jeffrey Gottlieb, a lanky tank officer who oversees a unit charged with training Iraqi police. "Orders from their chain of command are usually to arrest Sunnis, not Shiites." The police have also been conducting what Gottlieb calls "United Van Lines missions" ..." resettling displaced Shiite families in homes abandoned by Sunnis. "The National Police ask, 'Can you help us move a family's furniture?' We don't know if the people coming back were even from here originally." Gottlieb shrugs. "We don't know as much as we could, because we don't know Arabic," he says.

Gottlieb had recently conducted an inventory of the weapons assigned to the 172 INP ..." short for 1st Battalion, 7th Brigade, 2nd Division. There were 550 weapons missing, including pistols, rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. "Guys take weapons when they go AWOL," he says. The police were also reporting fake engagements and then transferring to Shiite militias the ammunition they had supposedly fired. "It was funny how they always expended 400 rounds of ammunition," Gottlieb says.

Then there is the problem of "ghost police." Although 542 men officially belong to the 172 INP on paper, only 200 or so show up at any given time. Some are on leave, but many simply do not exist, their salaries pocketed by officers. "Officers get a certain number of ghosts," Gottlieb tells me. He looks at a passing American soldier. "I need some ghosts," he jokes. "How much are you making?"

When I go to visit the 172 INP, American officers from the 2-2 SCR admonish me to wear my body armor ..." to protect myself from accidental discharges by the Iraqi police. "I did convoy security in the Sunni Triangle and was hit by numerous IEDs, complex attacks, small arms," Capt. Cox tells me. "But I never felt closer to death than when I was working with Iraqi security forces."

The night I arrive, thirty-five members of the Iraqi National Police are going out on a joint raid with Americans from the National Police Training Team. The raid is being led by Capt. Arkan Hashim Ali, a trim thirty-year-old Iraqi with a shaved head and a sharp gaze. Because seventy-five percent of all officer positions in the INP are vacant, officers like Arkan often end up assuming many roles at once. Arkan gathers his men in an empty room for a mission briefing. Cardboard and Styrofoam models have been arranged to replicate the Humvees and pickup trucks they will be using. The men all wear the same blue uniforms, but they sport a hodgepodge of helmets, flak jackets and boots.

"Today we have an operation in Mahala 830," Arkan announces. "Do you know it? Our target is an Al Qaeda guy." Salah and Muhamad, two brothers suspected of working with Al Qaeda, would be visiting their brother Falah's home that night. Falah was known as Falah al-Awar, or "the one-eyed," because he had lost one of his eyes. Arrested two weeks earlier by the Americans, he had revealed under interrogation that his brothers were involved in attacking and kidnapping Americans. "He dimed his brothers out," an American officer tells me.
The briefing over, Arkan asks his men to repeat his instructions, ordering them to shout the answers. Then they head out on the raid.

At Falah's house, the INPs move quickly, climbing over the wall and breaking the main gate. Bursting into the house, they herd the women and children into the living room while they bind Muhamad's hands with strips of cloth. Muhamad begins to cry. "My father is dead," he sobs. Arkan reassures him but also controls him, holding the top of Muhamad's head with his hand, as if he were palming a basketball. The women in the house ask how long the two brothers will be taken for. Arkan tells them they are being held for questioning and describes where his base is. Then the INPs speed off in their pickup trucks, causing the Americans to smile at their rush to get away.

"We just picked up some Sunnis," jokes an American sergeant. "We're getting the fuck outta here."

The next day, Sunni leaders from the area meet with the American soldiers. The two brothers, they claim, are innocent. Before the 2-2 SCR arrived, the 172 INP had a history of going on forays into Sunni neighborhoods just to punish civilians. Fearing for their safety, the Sunni leaders ask if the two brothers can be transferred to American custody.

The Americans know that the entire raid may have been simply another witch hunt, a way for the Shiite police to intimidate Sunni civilians. The INP, U.S. officers concede, use Al Qaeda as a "scare word" to describe all Sunni suspects.

"Yeah, the moral ambiguity of what we do is not lost on me," Maj. Gottlieb tells me. "We have no way of knowing if those guys did what they say they did."

With American forces now arming both sides in the civil war, the violence in Iraq has once again started to escalate. In January, some 100 members of the new Sunni militias ..." whom the Americans have now taken to calling "the Sons of Iraq" ..." were assassinated in Baghdad and other urban areas. In one attack, a teenage bomber blew himself up at a meeting of Awakening leaders in Anbar Province, killing several members of the group. Most of the attacks came from Al Qaeda and other Sunni factions, some of whom are fighting for positions of power in the new militias.

One day in early February, I accompany several of the ISV leaders from Dora to the Sahwa Council, the Awakening's headquarters in Ramadi. They are hoping to translate their local military gains into a political advantage by gaining the council's stamp of approval. On the way, Abu Salih admires a pickup truck outfitted with a Dushka, a large Russian anti-aircraft gun. "Now that's Sahwa," Abu Salih says, gazing wistfully at the weapon. Then he spots more Sahwa men driving Humvees armed with belt-fed machine guns. "Ooh," he murmurs, "look at that PKC."

At Sahwa headquarters, in an opulent guest hall, Abu Salih meets Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, brother of the slain founder of the movement, who sits on an ornate, thronelike chair. "How is Dora?" he asks Abu Salih, sounding like a king inquiring about his subject's estate. Then he leads us into a smaller office, where three of Abu Salih's rivals from Dora are gathered. All of the men refer to Abu Risha with deference, calling him "our older brother" and "our father." It is a strange reversal of past roles: urban Sunnis from Baghdad pledging their allegiance to a desert tribal leader, looking to the periphery for protection and political representation. But the Americans have empowered Abu Risha, and Baghdad's Sunni militiamen hope to unite with him to fight their Shiite rivals.

It doesn't take long, however, for the meeting to devolve into open hostility. One of the rivals dismisses Abu Salih and his men as mere guards, not true Sahwa. "You are military, and we are political," he jeers, accusing Abu Salih of having been a member of Al Qaeda. Abu Salih turns red and waves his arms over his head. "Nobody lies about Abu Salih!" he shouts.

Abu Risha's political adviser attempts to calm the men. "Are we in the time of Saddam Hussein?" he asks. The rivals should hold elections in Dora, he suggests, to decide who will represent the Awakening there. In the end, though, Abu Salih emerges from the meeting with official recognition from the council. All of the men speak with respect for the resistance and jihad. To them, the Awakening is merely a hudna, or cease-fire, with the American occupation. The real goal is their common enemy: Iraq's Shiites.

Some of the escalating violence in recent weeks is the work of the Mahdi Army and other Shiite paramilitary forces to intimidate Sunnis like Abu Salih and prevent members of the Awakening from cooperating with the Americans. Even members of the Iraqi National Police who refuse to take sides in the bloody rivalry are being targeted. Capt. Arkan, the Iraqi who led the raid for the 172 INP, has tried to remain nonsectarian in the midst of the bitter new divisiveness that is tearing Iraq apart. Like others who served in the Iraqi army before the U.S. occupation, he sees himself as a soldier first and foremost. "Most of the officers that came back to the police are former army officers," he says. "Their loyalty is to their country." His father is Shiite, but Arkan was forced to leave his home in the majority-Shiite district of Shaab after he was threatened by the Mahdi Army, who demanded that he obtain weapons for them. He had paid a standard $600 bribe to join the police, but he was denied the job until a friend intervened.
"Before the war, it was just one party," Arkan tells me. "Now we have 100,000 parties. I have Sunni officer friends, but nobody lets them get back into service. First they take money, then they ask if you are Sunni or Shiite. If you are Shiite, good." He dreams of returning to the days when the Iraqi army served the entire country. "In Saddam's time, nobody knew what is Sunni and what is Shiite," he says. The Bush administration based its strategy in Iraq on the mistaken notion that, under Saddam, the Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority. In fact, Iraq had no history of serious sectarian violence or civil war between the two groups until the Americans invaded. Most Iraqis viewed themselves as Iraqis first, with their religious sects having only personal importance. Intermarriage was widespread, and many Iraqi tribes included both Sunnis and Shiites. Under Saddam, both the ruling Baath Party and the Iraqi army were majority Shiite.

Arkan, in a sense, is a man in the middle. He believes that members of the Awakening have the right to join the Iraqi security forces, but he also knows that their ranks are filled with Al Qaeda and other insurgents. "Sahwa is the same people who used to be attacking us," he says. Yet he does not trust his own men in the INP. "Three-fourths of them are Mahdi Army," he tells me, locking his door before speaking. His own men pass information on him to the Shiite forces, which have threatened him for cooperating with the new Sunni militias. One day, Arkan was summoned to meet with the commander of his brigade's intelligence sector. When he arrived, he found a leader of the Mahdi Army named Wujud waiting for him.

"Arkan, be careful ..." we will kill you," Wujud told him. "I know where you live. My guys will put you in the trunk of a car."

I ask Arkan why he had not arrested Wujud. "They know us," he says. "I'm not scared for myself. I've had thirty-eight IEDs go off next to me. But I'm scared for my family."

Later I accompany Arkan to his home. As we approach an INP checkpoint, he grows nervous. Even though he is an INP officer, he does not want the police to know who he is, lest his own men inform the Mahdi Army about his attitude and the local INPs, who are loyal to the Mahdi Army, target him and his family. At his home, his two boys are watching television in the small living room. "I've decided to leave my job," Arkan tells me. "No one supports us." The Americans are threatening him if he doesn't pursue the Mahdi Army more aggressively, while his own superiors are seeking to fire him for the feeble attempts he has made to target the Mahdi Army.

On my final visit with Arkan, he picks me up in his van. For lack of anywhere safe to talk, we sit in the front seat as he nervously scans every man who walks by. He is not optimistic for the future. Arkan knows that the U.S. "surge" has succeeded only in exacerbating the tension among Iraq's warring parties and bickering politicians. The Iraqi government is still nonexistent outside the Green Zone. While U.S.-built walls have sealed off neighborhoods in Baghdad, Shiite militias are battling one another in the south over oil and control of the lucrative pilgrimage industry. Anbar Province is in the hands of Sunni militias who battle each other, and the north is the scene of a nascent civil war between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. The jobs promised to members of the Awakening have not materialized: An internal U.S. report concludes that "there is no coherent plan at this time" to employ them, and the U.S. Agency for International Development "is reluctant to accept any responsibility" for the jobs program because it has a "high likelihood of failure." Sunnis and even some Shiites have quit the government, which is unable to provide any services, and the prime minister has circumvented parliament to issue decrees and sign agreements with the Americans that parliament would have opposed.

But such political maneuvers don't really matter in Iraq. Here, street politics trump any illusory laws passed in the safety of the Green Zone. As the Awakening gains power, Al Qaeda lies dormant throughout Baghdad, the Mahdi Army and other Shiite forces prepare for the next battle, and political assassinations and suicide bombings are an almost daily occurrence. The violence, Arkan says, is getting worse again.

"The situation won't get better," he says softly. An officer of the Iraqi National Police, a man charged with bringing peace to his country, he has been reduced to hiding in his van, unable to speak openly in the very neighborhood he patrols. Thanks to the surge, both the Shiites and the Sunnis now have weapons and legitimacy. And what can come of that, Arkan asks, except more fighting?

"Many people in Sahwa work for Al Qaeda," he says. "The national police are all loyal to the Mahdi Army." He shakes his head. "You work hard to build a house, and somebody blows up your house. Will they accept Sunnis back to Shiite areas and Shiites back to Sunni areas? If someone kills your brother, can you forget his killer?"
Click here to see more photos taken by Danfung Dennis for this feature.

Fired US Attorney Says Colleague Told Him Politics Was Behind His Ouster

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By Marisa Taylor

Washington - A longtime protege of President Bush told former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias that he was fired for political reasons and that he shouldn't fight his ouster, Iglesias says in a new book.

"This is political," Iglesias recalls Texas U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton telling him shortly after he was ousted. "If I were you, I'd just go quietly."

Iglesias, a former U.S. attorney in New Mexico, is one of eight federal prosecutors whose firings triggered a yearlong controversy at the Justice Department and led to the resignations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and 11 other Justice Department officials.

Iglesias cites the exchange with Sutton in his upcoming book, "In Justice," as further evidence that he was forced out because Republicans were displeased with his refusal to prosecute Democrats.

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing: a U.S. attorney all but admitting that a colleague was being hung out to dry for reasons that had nothing to do with performance or professionalism," he wrote in a draft of the book, which McClatchy obtained.

Sutton, who's the top U.S. attorney in San Antonio, didn't return phone calls Thursday seeking comment.

As a result of Iglesias' and several other prosecutors' accusations that they were fired in December 2006 for improper political reasons, the Justice Department turned over thousands of documents, and Congress forced top officials, including Gonzales, to testify.

No one has determined who decided which prosecutors should be fired and why. Democrats say that must mean the White House was calling the shots, while the administration has said it demonstrates that the firings were blown out of proportion.

Iglesias said he asked Sutton how he knew about his firing.

"I saw your name," he quoted Sutton as saying.

Iglesias said in an interview that Sutton refused to elaborate, "but to have one of the most powerful U.S. attorneys tell me my firing was political was confirmation, in my view, that I was fired for the wrong reasons."

During a congressional investigation of the firings, department e-mails revealed that Sutton was given a heads-up about the firings because he was the chairman of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.

Justice Department officials said they couldn't comment on Iglesias' account because of an ongoing probe of the firings by the department's inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility.

"The department is cooperating with that investigation and has no further comment," said spokesman Peter Carr.

Sutton, whose ties to Bush date back to the president's Texas gubernatorial campaign, has been singled out himself by Republican critics who have called for his resignation. So far, he's weathered the political storm.

The critics have accused Sutton of leading an overzealous prosecution of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, each sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for shooting a Mexican drug courier as he was trying to flee back to Mexico.

"The type of protection from political pressure that Johnny has gotten was the kind of protection that I thought we would get," said Iglesias, who said he bears Sutton no ill will. "And we didn't get it, I think largely because we didn't have a personal relationship with the president."

Spain Drops Extradition Attempt Against Guantanamo Torture Pair

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By Paul Hamilos and Vikram Dodd

Spain yesterday dropped its attempt to extradite two British residents who had been freed from Guantanamo Bay, after accepting that torture they suffered during five years of American custody had left them too weak to stand trial.

Jamil el-Banna, 45, and Omar Deghayes, 38, who were accused of being members of an al-Qaida cell in Madrid, were detained on their return to Britain in December on a European arrest warrant issued by Spain.The Madrid judge who issued the warrant, Baltasar Garzon, accepted British medical reports which found the men were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other serious medical conditions.

Banna is said to be severely depressed, suffering from PTSD, and to have diabetes, hypertension and back pain, as well as damage to the back of his left knee. Deghayes is also suffering from PTSD, and depression, is blind in his right eye, and has fractures in his nasal bone and his right index finger. Both men are said to be at high risk of suicide.

The report on Deghayes concludes: "Given all these factors, I don't see how Mr Deghayes would be able to give instructions to his lawyers, listen to evidence and give his own accurate testimony". A similar conclusion was drawn in the case of Banna, adding that were he to be separated from his wife and children again, he risked a deterioration of his fragile mental health.

Deghayes, a Libyan national whose family fled the Gadafy regime, said from his home in Brighton: "It's good - it's happy news. I always knew they would realise their mistake and give up the case. I still have problems with immigration as the authorities have taken away my resident status, but this is a relief."

The Home Office refused to guarantee to let the pair stay with their families in Britain and said: "Their immigration status is under review."

Deghayes and Banna arrived back in Britain with a third British resident, Abdennour Samuer. Banna, from north-west London, was arrested in the Gambia in 2002 after he did not accept an MI5 request to become an informant.

Irene Nembhard, a lawyer for the men, said it was time for them to be allowed to rebuild their lives.

Martial Law, Inc.

KBR: A Halliburton Subsidiary

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By Andrew G. Marshall

KBR, or Kellogg Brown & Root, was a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corporation until 2007, when bad publicity and indictments against KBR forced Halliburton to sell its shares in KBR.1
KBR and Vietnam:
KBR, having financed Lyndon Johnson from the 1940s and into the Vice Presidential position, was rewarded after Kennedy’s assassination with lucrative contracts in the escalated Vietnam War. “Johnson, who became president in 1963 after Kennedy’s assassination and who was elected with broad support in 1964, used the Gulf of Tonkin incident,” in order to “justify the sending of ground troops into Vietnam. The result of that move was the need for billions of dollars worth of bases, airstrips, ports, and bridges. Enter Brown & Root.”2
With that, “In 1965, a year after Johnson stepped up America’s participation in Vietnam, Brown & Root joined three other construction and project management behemoths, Raymond International, Morris-Knudsen, and J.A. Jones to form one of the largest civilian-based military construction conglomerates in history.” That team of corporations was known as RMK-BRJ, which, “literally changed the face of Vietnam, clearing out wide swaths of jungle for airplane landing strips, dredging channels for ships, and building American bases from Da Nang to Saigon.”3 KBR, as a member of this joint conglomerate, was also contracted to build new prison cells in Vietnam, replacing the “horribly inhumane prison cells built by the French government 75 years earlier to hold prisoners.”4
KBR and the Rwandan Genocide:
In 1990, the first invasion of Rwanda took place by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a militant organization from Uganda, overseen by a man by the name of Paul Kagame. The aim of this Tutsi rebel organization was the overthrow of Rwanda’s then-Hutu President Habyarimana, who was at the time, using World Bank loans to import enormous numbers of machetes under World Bank surveillance of Rwanda’s expenditure.5 This was the offset of the Rwandan civil war, which lasted until 1993, when a peace agreement was being brokered between Rwanda’s president and other neighboring leaders, including the President of Burundi. When the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were flying back to Rwanda during the time of peace settlements, in 1994, their plane, also carrying on board many French officials, was shot down. This is the event that triggered the Rwandan genocide.
The first invasion of Rwanda by the RPF in 1990 “had the military backing of the first Bush administration [1989-1993], including Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.”6 In 1992, “then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney commissioned Brown & Root to produce a classified report examining the benefits of greatly expanding logistics privatization. The report led the Pentagon to solicit bids from thirty-seven firms for an unprecedented five-year contract to provide the bulk of the Army’s overseas logistics needs. Later that year, the Defense Department chose Brown & Root as the first such umbrella logistics contractor.”7
In 1993, newly elected President Bill Clinton continued this policy of supporting the RPF. His trusted allies in the United Nations, Madeline Albright, then US Ambassador to the United Nations and Kofi Annan, then head of the UN’s peacekeeping operations, ensured that the relationship would be concealed from the public. Wayne Madsen reported that both Albright and Annan, “conveniently chose to ignore evidence that a US-trained and supplied guerrilla force – the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) – was responsible for the fateful April 6, 1994 terrorist missile attack on the aircraft carrying the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi home from a peace summit in Tanzania.”8
Paul Kagame, leader of the RPF, had been trained at US military bases in the United States in guerilla warfare tactics, and had very close ties to the Pentagon, the US State Department and the CIA.9 It also turns out that the US supplied the RPF with the missiles used to shoot down the plane carrying the two presidents, and that a UN investigation revealed that the warehouse which was used in assembling the missile launchers was leased to a company linked to none other than the CIA. Albright and Annan also ensured that information did not reach the public.10
Madsen revealed that a French investigation in 2004 about the shooting down of the plane, carried out on behalf of the French citizens who were killed on the plane, revealed that there was a startling connection to an organization that goes by the name of the, “International Strategic and Tactical Organization” [ISTO], which represents powerful political and corporate interests, including Armitage and Associates LC, a firm founded by George W. Bush’s first Deputy Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage, and KBR, or Kellogg Brown & Root, then a subsidiary of Halliburton.11 In 1994, KBR was in Rwanda under a $6.3 million contract called “Operation Support Hope.”12
As a result of the Rwandan genocide, many of the key players got handsomely rewarded with promotions. Paul Kagame became President of Rwanda, Kofi Annan became Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Madeline Albright became Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State. A year later, in 1995, Dick Cheney went to become the CEO of Halliburton until the year 2000.
KBR and The Congo Civil War:
Kellogg-Brown & Root, which was connected to the, “International Strategic and Tactical Organization” (ISTO), made another appearance in Africa. This time, it was to do with the Congo civil war, which started in the late 1990s. The Congo was invaded in 1996 by forces from Rwanda under the leadership of Paul Kagame, as well as Burundi and Uganda sending in troops supporting rebel Congolese leader, Laurent Kabila, to overthrow the then-President of Congo [Zaire], Mobutu Sese Seko.13 KBR, “reportedly built a military base on the Congolese/Rwandan border, where the Rwandan army has trained,” and, what’s more, “The Bechtel Corporation provided satellite maps and reconnaissance photos to Kabila so that he could monitor the movements of Mobutu’s troops.”14 Bechtel’s board of directors includes former Secretary of State George Schultz and has former Secretary of Defense, Caspar Wienberger, as a legal counsel, while Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR at this time.
After deposing the former President of Congo, Kabila gave out juicy contracts to big corporations ready to rape the Congo’s resources. American Mineral Fields (AMF) got a huge contract for exploration rights over many rich minerals, and “Mike McMurrough, a friend of US President Bill Clinton, was the chair of AMF.”15 Another big company to profit off the death of millions of Congolese people is Barrick Gold Corporation, a Canadian mining company, with former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Clinton Adviser Vernon Jordan on its board of directors, and George HW Bush as a company adviser.16
KBR in Bosnia and Kosovo:
As economics professor at the University of Ottawa, Michel Chossudovsky, noted, “Throughout the 1990s, the Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was used by the CIA as a go-between -- to channel weapons and Mujahideen mercenaries to the Bosnian Muslim Army in the civil war in Yugoslavia.” Quoting a report by the International Media Corporation, Chossudovsky wrote:
Reliable sources report that the United States is now [1994] actively participating in the arming and training of the Muslim forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina in direct contravention of the United Nations accords. US agencies have been providing weapons made in ... China (PRC), North Korea (DPRK) and Iran…
… It was [also] reported that 400 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (Pasdaran) arrived in Bosnia with a large supply of arms and ammunition. It was alleged that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had full knowledge of the operation and that the CIA believed that some of the 400 had been detached for future terrorist operations in Western Europe.
During September and October [1994], there has been a stream of "Afghan" Mujahedin ... covertly landed in Ploce, Croatia (South-West of Mostar) from where they have traveled with false papers ... before deploying with the Bosnian Muslim forces in the Kupres, Zenica and Banja Luka areas…
The Mujahedin landing at Ploce are reported to have been accompanied by US Special Forces equipped with high-tech communications equipment, ... The sources said that the mission of the US troops was to establish a command, control, communications and intelligence network to coordinate and support Bosnian Muslim offensives -- in concert with Mujahideen and Bosnian Croat forces.17
Further, a Congressional report issued in 1997, “confirms unequivocally the complicity of the Clinton Administration with several Islamic fundamentalist organisations including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda,” and that, “The "Bosnian pattern" described in the 1997 Congressional RPC report was replicated in Kosovo. With the complicity of NATO and the US State Department. Mujahideen mercenaries from the Middle East and Central Asia were recruited to fight in the ranks of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1998-99, largely supporting NATO's war effort.” It was revealed that, “the task of arming and training of the KLA had been entrusted in 1998 to the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Britain's Secret Intelligence Services MI6.”18
After the US/British instigated conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, Halliburton subsidiary KBR got another interesting contract. As the Asia Times reported, KBR’s “big break came in December 1995. Dick Cheney had been the chief executive officer of parent company Halliburton for only two months. KBR was sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo to build two army camps in the middle of two deserted wheat fields. Instead it built two cities, one in Bosnia and one in Kosovo - complete with mail delivery and 24-hour food and laundry. In other words: without KBR, there would be no operating US Army in Bosnia and Kosovo. And the money was great: from 1995-2000, the KBR bill to the US government was more than $2 billion.” On top of this:
KBR's strategic masterpiece is Camp Bondsteel - the largest and most expensive US Army base since Vietnam, still in use today, complete with roads, its own power generators, houses, satellite dishes, a helicopter airfield and of course a Vietnam-style prison. By a fabulous coincidence, Camp Bondsteel is right on the path of the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil (AMBO) Trans-Balkan Pipeline. This key piece of Pipelineistan is supposed to connect the oil-and-gas-rich Caspian Sea with Europe. The feasibility project for AMBO was conducted by none other than KBR.19
As Michel Chossudovsky wrote, “The plans to build Camp Bondsteel under a lucrative multibillion dollar DoD [Department of Defense] contract with Halliburton's Texas based subsidiary KBR were formulated while Dick Cheney was Halliburton's CEO,” and that, “The US and NATO had advanced plans to bomb Yugoslavia before 1999, and many European political leaders now believe that the US deliberately used the bombing of Yugoslavia to establish camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. According to Colonel Robert L. McCure, ‘Engineering planning for operations in Kosovo began months before the first bomb was dropped’.” The reasoning behind this was that:
One of the objectives underlying Camp Bondsteel was to protect the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil pipeline project (AMBO), which was to channel Caspian sea oil from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to the Adriatic.
Coincidentally, two years prior to the invasion, in 1997, a senior executive of `Brown & Root Energy, a subsidiary of Halliburton, Edward L. (Ted) Ferguson had been appointed to head AMBO. The feasibility plans for the AMBO pipeline were also undertaken by Halliburton's engineering company, Kellog, Brown & Root Ltd.20
KBR in Afghanistan and Iraq:
As Dan Briody wrote in The Halliburton Agenda, “When troops were deployed to Afghanistan, so was Kellogg Brown & Root. They built US bases in Bagram and Kandahar for $157 million. As it had done in the past, KBR has men on the ground before the first troops even arrived in most locations.”21 It was reported that KBR “was awarded a $100 million contract in 2002 to build a new U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, from the State Department.”22
As the Center for Public Integrity reported, “KBR, Inc., the global engineering and construction giant, won more than $16 billion in U.S. government contracts for work in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2006—far more than any other company.”23
Indeed, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq presented Halliburton and its subsidiary, KBR, with an amazing opportunity of war profiteering on a scale never before seen. Not only was the company enriching itself, but its former CEO, Dick Cheney, currently Vice President of the United States, “sold most of his Halliburton shares when he left the company, but retained stock options worth about $8m,” and the Guardian reported in 2003 that KBR “is still making annual payments to its former chief executive, the vice-president Dick Cheney.”24
In December of 2005, the Chicago Tribune reported that, “A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions.” The lobbying groups, “say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.”25 However, human trafficking experts have criticized the move by the lobbying groups, and told “the Pentagon that the policy would merely formalize practices that have allowed contractors working overseas to escape punishment for involvement in trafficking.”
The allegations of human trafficking include, “the alleged involvement of DynCorp employees in buying women and girls as sex slaves in Bosnia during the U.S. military's deployment there in the late 1990s,” and that, “Middle Eastern firms working under American subcontracts in Iraq, and a chain of human brokers beneath them, engaged in the kind of abuses condemned elsewhere by the U.S. government as human trafficking,” which pertained to KBR. The Chicago Tribune then reported in 2006 that, “some of KBR's subcontractors, and a chain of human brokers stretching to South and Southeast Asia, allegedly engaged in the same kinds of abuses routinely condemned” as human trafficking.26
In December of 2007, it was reported that, “A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.” The article continued, “Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.”27 Jones filed a lawsuit against Halliburton and KBR, and “says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave. Jones described the container as sparely furnished with a bed, table and lamp.”
KBR and the North American Union:
More recently, KBR has been awarded contracts by Shell Canada, now majority owned by its parent company, Royal Dutch Shell, “to provide field construction and module fabrication services by Shell Canada for the Scotford Upgrader Expansion east of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.”28 Business Wire reported that, “The Scotford Upgrader Expansion project is part of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) Expansion 1, which will add approximately 100,000 barrels per day of capacity to the AOSP bitumen mining and upgrading facilities. AOSP is a joint venture between Shell Canada, Chevron Canada Limited and Western Oil Sands L.P. The total estimated cost of the project is between Cdn$10 billion and $12.8 billion.”
This is significant because it directly relates to the “deep integration” of Canada, the United States, and Mexico into a North American Union under the auspices of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP). The Independent Task Force on the Future of North America was a joint task force created between the US-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE). The purpose of this task force was to produce a document, which would serve as a blueprint for the implementation of “integrating” the three countries of North America into a regional block, ultimately into a North American Union. The report was issued 2 months after the leaders of the 3 nations signed the Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement in 2005, and is titled, “Building a North American Community.”
In this document, regarding integrating energy sectors, it stated, “Canada’s vast oilsands, once a high-cost experimental means of extracting oil, now provide a viable new source of energy that is attracting a steady stream of multibillion dollar investments, and interest from countries such as China, and they have catapulted Canada into second place in the world in terms of proved oil reserves. Production from oilsands fields is projected to reach 2 million barrels per day by 2010.”29 The report further stated, “the three governments need to work together to ensure energy security for people in all three countries. Issues to be addressed include the expansion and protection of the North American energy infrastructure.”30
In 2006, the SPP created a new organization with the specific purpose of “advising” and “directing” the three governments on how to integrate properly and to set deadlines for specific programs. This organization is called the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC).
The Canadian membership of the North American Competitiveness Council includes Dominic D’Alessandro, President and CEO of Manulife Financial, who is also Chairman of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), David A. Ganong, President of Ganong Bros. Limited, as well as being a director of the CCCE and a director of Sun Life Financial, Hunter Harrison, President and CEO of Canadian National Railway Company and member of the CCCE, Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corporation who also sits on the board of CIBC, Michael Sabia, President and CEO of Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), Annette Verschuren, President of The Home Depot Canada and member of the board of the CCCE, Richard E. Waugh, President and CEO of The Bank of Nova Scotia who also is on the board of the Institute for International Finance, is a member of the Chairman's Advisory Council for the Council of the Americas, and the IMF's Capital Markets Consultative Group. Further members of the NACC include Richard L. George, President and CEO of Suncor Energy Inc., an American who is Honourary Chair of the CCCE, and Paul Desmarais, Jr., Chairman and Co-CEO of Power Corporation of Canada.
Suncor, one of the Canadian corporations on the NACC, has as a member of its board of directors an American by the name of John Huff. John R. Huff, also happens to be on the board of directors of KBR32, now in a joint project with Shell in developing the oil sands, as recommended by the SPP.
KBR and Concentration Camps:
The New York Times reported in 2003, that, “Since the attacks of Sept. 11, Kellogg Brown & Root has won significant additional business from the federal government and the Pentagon. It has built cells for detainees at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and is the exclusive logistics supplier for the Navy and the Army, providing services like cooking, construction, power generation and fuel transportation.”33 In 2005, the Independent reported that, “A subsidiary of Halliburton, the oil services group once led by the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, has won a $30m (£16m) contract to help build a new permanent prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”34
On January 24, 2006, KBR, which was still a subsidiary of Halliburton at the time, got a contract from the Department of Homeland Security, “to support the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in the event of an emergency.”35 The press release on KBR’s website further stated that the contract has a “maximum total value of $385 million over a five-year term, consisting of a one-year based period and four one-year options, the competitively awarded contract will be executed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District. KBR held the previous ICE contract from 2000 through 2005.” The Executive Director of the KBR Government and Infrastructure division was quoted in the release as saying the contract, “builds on our extremely strong track record in the arena of emergency operations support.”
The contract awarded to KBR, a construction firm, “provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs,” [Emphasis added]. Further, “The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other U.S. Government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster,” [Emphasis added].
As author, professor and former diplomat Peter Dale Scott notes in his book, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America, “On February 6, 2007, homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff announced that the fiscal year 2007 federal budget would allocate more than $400 million to add sixty-seven hundred additional detention beds (an increase of 32 percent over 2006).” Scott goes on to state that this was “in partial fulfillment of an ambitious ten-year Homeland Security strategic plan, code-named Endgame, authorized in 2003,” whose goal was to “remove all removable aliens,” as well as “potential terrorists.”36
As Scott wrote in an article shortly after the KBR contract was issued in 2006, “the contract evoked ominous memories of Oliver North's controversial Rex-84 ‘readiness exercise’ in 1984. This called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary ‘refugees,’ in the context of ‘uncontrolled population movements’ over the Mexican border into the United States.” Scott quoted Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 as a military analyst leaked the “Pentagon Papers” about the military’s activities in Vietnam, as saying, “Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters,” and that, “They've already done this on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo.”37
A recent San Francisco Chronicle article, co-authored by a former US Congressman, reported that, “Beginning in 1999, the government has entered into a series of single-bid contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States. The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.”38
As the preparations of martial law are being put in place, it is of vital important to identify the specific corporations involved in this process. Administrations change, politicians go in and out of power, but the corporation is a consistent powerhouse. In this case, KBR has been a force to be reckoned with since the rise of Lyndon Johnson. Today, it has reached new heights. It was necessary to examine the recent history of this company’s activities, much the same as identifying a person’s own history and experiences to account for their present personality: so as to better understand their actions today. Given KBR’s history related to war and violence, more light should be shed on their current activities with the Department of Homeland Security, as morality is not a concept KBR seems to understand.
Notes1 KBR Splits From Halliburton, Names New Board Members, RigZone, April 9, 2007:
2 Dan Briody, The Halliburton Agenda: The Politics of Oil and Money. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: New Jersey, 2004: pages 163-64
3 Dan Briody, The Halliburton Agenda: The Politics of Oil and Money. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: New Jersey, 2004: page 164
4 Dan Briody, The Halliburton Agenda: The Politics of Oil and Money. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: New Jersey, 2004: page 167
5 Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, 2nd ed. Global Research: 2003, page 114
6 Wayne Madsen, Jaded Tasks – Brass Plates, Black Ops, & Big Oil: The Blood Politics of Bush & Co. TrineDay: 2006, page 2
7 Habib Moody, Soldiers for Rent. The New Atlantis: No. 17, Summer 2007:
8 Wayne Madsen, Jaded Tasks – Brass Plates, Black Ops, & Big Oil: The Blood Politics of Bush & Co. TrineDay: 2006, page 2
9 Wayne Madsen, Jaded Tasks – Brass Plates, Black Ops, & Big Oil: The Blood Politics of Bush & Co. TrineDay: 2006, pages 2-3
10 Wayne Madsen, Jaded Tasks – Brass Plates, Black Ops, & Big Oil: The Blood Politics of Bush & Co. TrineDay: 2006, page 12
11 Wayne Madsen, Jaded Tasks – Brass Plates, Black Ops, & Big Oil: The Blood Politics of Bush & Co. TrineDay: 2006, page 6-12
12 Dan Briody, The Halliburton Agenda: The Politics of Oil and Money. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: New Jersey, 2004: page 186
13 Steven Hiatt, ed., A Game As Old As Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc: 2007, page 94
14 Steven Hiatt, ed., A Game As Old As Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc: 2007, page 99
15 Steven Hiatt, ed., A Game As Old As Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc: 2007, page 99
16 Steven Hiatt, ed., A Game As Old As Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc: 2007, pages 99-100
17 Michel Chossudovsky, Osamagate. Global Research: October 9, 2001:
18 Michel Chossudovsky, Osamagate. Global Research: October 9, 2001:
19 ATOL, The Iraq Gold Rush. Asia Times Online: May 14, 2004:
20 Michel Chossudovsky, The Criminalization of the State: "Independent Kosovo", a Territory under US-NATO Military Rule. Global Research: February 4, 2008:
21 Dan Briody, The Halliburton Agenda: The Politics of Oil and Money. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: New Jersey, 2004: page 219
22 Laura Peterson, Kellogg Brown & Root (Halliburton). Center for Public Integrity:
23 John Perry, Baghdad Bonanza. Center for Public Integrity:
24 Robert Bryce and Julian Borger, Cheney is still paid by Pentagon contractor. The Guardian: March 12, 2003:
25 Cam Simpson, US Stalls on Human Trafficking. Chicago Tribune: December 27, 2005:,1,2117782.story
26 Cam Simpson, U.S. to probe claims of human trafficking. Chicago Tribune: January 19, 2006:,0,1567028.story
27 Brian Ross, Maddy Sauer and Justin Rood, Victim: Gang-Rape Cover-Up by U.S., Halliburton/KBR. ABC News: December 10, 2007:
28 Business Wire, KBR Awarded Contracts for Construction and Fabrication Services by Shell Canada for Scotford Upgrader Expansion. BNet: May 14, 2007:
29 John Manley, Pedro Aspe, William Weld. “Building a North American Community”.
The Council on Foreign Relations: May 2005, page 25
30 Ibid, page 26
31 Embassy Report, Meet the Powerful Business Members of the North American Competitiveness Council. Embassy Magazine: June 13, 2007:
32 KBR, Board of Directors.
33 Elizabeth Becker, A NATION AT WAR: RECONSTRUCTION; Details Given On Contract Halliburton Was Awarded. The New York Times: April 11, 2003:
34 Rupert Cornwell, Halliburton given $30m to expand Guantanamo Bay. The Independent: June 18, 2005:
35 KBR, KBR Awarded U.S. Department of Homeland Security Contingency Support Project for Emergency Support Services. Press Releases: 2006 Archive, January 24, 2006:
36 Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. University of California Press: 2007, page 240
37 Peter Dale Scott, Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps. Pacific News Service: February 8, 2006:
38 Lewis Seiler and Dan Hamburg, Rule by Fear or Rule by Law? The San Francisco Chronicle: February 4, 2008: =/c/a/2008/02/04/ED5OUPQJ7.DTL

Latin American crisis triggered by an assassination “Made in the USA”

Go to Original
By Bill Van Auken

Nearly a week after Colombia’s cross-border raid against an encampment of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla movement in neighboring Ecuador, Latin America continues to confront its worst regional diplomatic and military crisis in decades. The US government and mass media have weighed in with unsolicited judgments and advice, attributing the tense standoff between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela to the threat of terrorism to Colombia, the complicity in terrorism on the part of Venezuela and overheated animosities between the respective heads of state of these three countries.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey declared that “it’s important to recognize that the events that took place were, in fact, a response to the presence of terrorists.” Similarly, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino affirmed that Colombia “was defending itself against terrorism.”

This official reaction extends to Colombia—Washington’s principal client state in South America and the recipient of some $600 million annually in American military aid—the mantle of the Bush Doctrine, which holds that in the “global war on terrorism” such niceties as respect for sovereign borders and international law no longer apply.

The Washington Post went a step further, calling the March 1 raid a “remarkable success” and accusing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa of “backing an armed movement with an established record of terrorism.” It compared the strike on the FARC camp to US air strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

And the New York Times, the voice of America’s erstwhile liberal establishment, found it “hard to believe that in the 21st century the democratically elected governments of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela would be talking about war.” While acknowledging that Colombia’s raid constituted “an infringement of Ecuador’s territory—a sensitive issue anywhere,” it urged the presumably hot-headed Latin leaders of Ecuador and Colombia to “cool their rhetoric and begin a serious discussion of how they can jointly secure their borders against the FARC.”

One would never guess that Washington had any role in the bloody events on the Colombian-Ecuadoran border. The Bush administration portrays itself—and is largely portrayed by a compliant media—as a selfless champion of democratic values and faithful ally of the people’s of the southern hemisphere.

The facts, however, tell another, far uglier story. The three Andean nations have been brought to the brink of war by a brutal and cold-blooded political assassination carried out to further the interests of US imperialism at the expense of the Colombian people and the population of the entire region.

The March 1 raid was carried out not to defend Colombia from terrorism, but to murder one man, Raul Reyes, considered the second-in-command of the FARC and the guerrilla movement’s principal international spokesman and diplomatic representative. He was well known in both Latin America and Europe, having served as the principal FARC negotiator in the abortive attempt under the government of President Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) to broker a peaceful settlement of the civil conflict that has wracked Colombia for more than four decades. During that same period, he met with officials of the Clinton State Department.

To carry out this political murder, air strikes were called in against the camp inside Ecuador as Reyes and some 20 of his comrades slept. Commandos were then sent into the camp to finish off most of the survivors and haul Reyes’s bloody corpse back to Colombia as a political trophy for the right-wing US-backed government of President Alvaro Uribe.

This ruthless attack was staged not to ward off some pending terrorist attack. On the contrary, it was designed as a “preemptive strike” against a negotiated release of hostages held by the FARC, among them a former presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, who holds joint Colombian-French citizenship and has been held prisoner by the FARC for six years.

Just two days before the border massacre, French President Nicolas Sarkozy publicly called for the release of the ailing Betancourt and announced that he was prepared to fly to the Colombian border to personally receiver her.

The FARC itself issued a statement that Reyes had been working through Venezuelan President Chavez to concretize plans for a meeting with Sarkozy to arrange for the hand-over of Betancourt.

The French government has not denied this account. Indeed, on Monday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told the media, “It’s bad news that the man we were talking to, with whom we had contacts has been killed. Do you see how ugly the world is?”

Meanwhile, a French deputy foreign minister confirmed the role played by Chavez in mediating the Sarkozy-FARC hostage negotiations. “President Chavez has taken the initiative, he had taken the initiative earlier on that had allowed for the release of several hostages even though the situation had been blocked for some time, so we are aware of his involvement and the important role he has played,” the minister, Rama Yade, told a news conference in Geneva.

After the news of Reyes’s assassination, the French foreign ministry issued a pointed statement to the effect that the Colombian government was well informed that France was conducting negotiations with him.

This statement was fleshed out this week by the Argentine press. Citing sources in the Argentine foreign ministry, it reported that Sarkozy had sent a delegation of three personal envoys to Colombia and that they were in the border region to meet with Reyes.

“On Saturday [the day of the cross-border raid], the three negotiators were 200 kilometers from the attack zone and were headed for a meeting with Reyes when they received a call,” the daily Pagina 12 reported. It was Luis Carlos Restrepo, head of the Colombian government’s Peace Commission, who warned them not to go to the meeting place.

US role in Reyes’s assassination

Colombian officials have openly acknowledged the role of US intelligence agencies in instigating and coordinating the March 1 targeted assassination. General Oscar Naranjo, commander of the national police told reporters it was no secret that the Colombian military-police apparatus maintained “a very strong alliance with federal agencies of the US.”

The Colombian radio network, Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN), reported Wednesday that Reyes’s location was pinpointed by US intelligence as a result of monitoring a satellite phone call between the FARC leader and Venezuelan President Chavez. The February 27 call—three days before the raid—came after the FARC released to Venezuelan authorities four former Colombian legislators—Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Perez, Orlando Beltran and Jorge Eduardo Gechem—who had been held hostage for nearly seven years.

“Chavez was thrilled by the release of the hostages, and called Reyes to tell him that everything went well,” RCN reported. Presumably, the CIA or other US intelligence agencies were also tapping phone calls between Reyes and French officials over the proposed release of Betancourt.

Another Colombian station, Noticias Uno, cited intelligence sources as saying that they had received photographs from “foreign spy planes” pinpointing the location of Reyes’s camp in Ecuador.

The Colombian police commander insisted that, while relying on US intelligence, the March 1 attack was an “autonomous operation.”

This claim is improbable to say the least. US military “trainers” are attached to the elite counterinsurgency units that would have been employed in the ground attack that finished off the survivors of the aerial bombardment.

As for the air raid itself, Ecuador’s Defense Minister Wellington Sandoval reported the attack included the use of five “smart bombs” of the type utilized by the US military. “It is a bomb that hits within a meter of where it is programmed, from high velocity airplanes,” he said. He added that to target Reyes with such weapons, “they needed equipment that Latin American armed forces do not have.”

Both Washington and the right-wing regime in Colombia were determined to stop any further hostage releases in order to further efforts to politically isolate the Chavez regime and to enforce the Bush administration’s proscription against negotiations with “terrorists.”

At the same time, the bombs dropped on the FARC encampment were undoubtedly also meant as a message to Sarkozy not to meddle in Yankee imperialism’s “backyard.” It should be recalled that the French president, shortly after his election, sent his then-wife to Libya to consummate the release of six medical workers who had been held for eight years on false charges. This political coup managed to bypass the European Union, which had been negotiating the release, and paved the way for lucrative Libyan contracts for French corporations. Washington had no intention of seeing Paris pursue a similar path in relation to Venezuela, which constitutes the fourth largest source of US oil imports.

In the final analysis, this episode in the “global war on terrorism,” which has brought three South American nations to the brink of armed conflict, is the product of a filthy political murder carried out to defend the strategic and profit interests of US capitalism.

It is a reminder that “Murder, Inc.”—as the CIA became known during the 1960s and 1970s, when it organized numerous assassinations and assassination attempts, along with right-wing coups and dirty wars—is still very much in business in Latin America.