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Monday, March 21st

Red Sox partner's plane hits spots U.S. sent terror suspects

By John Crewdson and Tom Hundley
Tribune correspondents
Published March 20, 2005

Last June, the Boston Red Sox chartered an executive jet to help their manager make a quick visit home in the midst of the team's championship season.

But what was the very same Gulfstream--owned by one of the Red Sox's partners, but presumably without the team's logo on its fuselage--doing in Cairo on Feb. 18, 2003?

Perhaps by coincidence, Feb. 18, 2003, was the day an Islamic preacher known as Abu Omar, who had been abducted in Italy the previous day and forced aboard a small plane, also arrived at the Cairo airport.

Omar, whose given name is Osama Nasr Mostafa Hassan, was imprisoned by the Egyptians and, he claims, brutally tortured. The public prosecutor in Milan, Armando Spataro, who is investigating Omar's apparent kidnapping, expects to file charges within a few days, according to an Italian official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Spataro made headlines last month when, attempting to identify the plane that transported Omar from Italy to Egypt, he served a warrant on the Italian commander of the air base at Aviano, Italy, which is home to the U.S. Air Force's 31st Fighter Wing.

Spataro declines to say whether the Gulfstream that landed in Cairo, which bore the tail number N85VM, departed from Aviano around the time of Omar's disappearance.

But Federal Aviation Administration records obtained by the Tribune show that Gulfstream N85VM has been many places around the world that the Red Sox have almost certainly never gone.

Between June 2002 and January of this year, the Gulfstream made 51 visits to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, site of the U.S. naval base where more than 500 terrorism suspects are behind bars.

During the same period, the plane recorded 82 visits to Washington's Dulles International Airport as well as landings at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., outside the capital and the U.S. air bases at Ramstein and Rhein-Main in Germany.

The plane's flight log also shows visits to Afghanistan, Morocco, Dubai, Jordan, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic.

Egypt, Afghanistan, Jordan and Morocco are among the countries to which the U.S. is known to have "rendered" terrorism suspects. Under the increasingly controversial practice of "rendition," terrorism suspects arrested abroad have been forcibly returned to their native countries for interrogation, sometimes with methods that are barred by U.S. law.

The New York Times reported last month that, days after Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush authorized the CIA to transfer suspects to third countries without obtaining separate presidential approval in each instance.

Reacting to media disclosures of some renditions in which the suspects later were found to have no terrorist connections, the House of Representatives last week voted 420-2 to prohibit the use of federal money for sending detainees to countries that practice torture.

Whether or not Gulfstream N85VM was involved in the rendition of Abu Omar or others, its itinerary has bordered at times on schizophrenic.

Less than two weeks after returning from Frankfurt, Germany, the plane was pressed into service after a Friday night game to fly Red Sox manager Terry Francona home to Yardley, Pa., in time for his son's graduation, according to the Worcester Sunday Telegram.

A week later the Gulfstream was back in Washington, D.C., headed for Shannon, Ireland.

In addition to its FAA flight history, the Gulfstream has been tracked, and sometimes photographed, by the worldwide cadre of aviation aficionados who call themselves "planespotters"--not because of its possible connection with the U.S. government, but because planespotters pride themselves on keeping meticulous records of every aircraft that comes and goes at their chosen airports.

The Red Sox logo was visible, for example, in photos taken at an air show in Schenectady, N.Y., on Aug. 23, 2003, eight days after the Gulfstream returned to Washington from an around-the-world flight that included Anchorage; Osaka, Japan; Dubai; and Shannon.

The logo was not visible when the Gulfstream was photographed during a fuel stop in Shannon on June 12, 2004. But when the plane turned up at Denver's Centennial Airport in February of this year, a photo showed it was sporting not only the Sox logo but a new registration number, N227SV.

Same jet, charter agent says

Mahlon Richards, a co-owner of Richmor Aviation in Hudson, N.Y., and the Gulfstream's charter agent, confirmed that N85VM and N227SV, which share the same manufacturer's serial number, 1172, were in fact the same aircraft.

According to FAA records, the Gulfstream's owner is not Richmor but Assembly Point Aviation, a company with an address in Albany, N.Y., but no telephone number. Dun & Bradstreet describes Assembly Point as a "religious organization" that is somehow involved with "churches, temples and shrines."

Assembly Point's sole officer and director is Phillip H. Morse of Jupiter, Fla., who reportedly made millions from the sale of the catheter-manufacturing company he founded in Glens Falls, N.Y.

Morse is a part-owner of the Red Sox, and Richards said Morse "likes to advertise the team"--hence the Red Sox logo that the jet sometimes sports.

Richmor provides charter customers and supplies pilots, maintenance and provisioning, "like with any other managed aircraft," Richards said.

The Gulfstream, which is based in Schenectady, N.Y., rents for $5,365 an hour, which works out to $128,760 for a 24-hour day or a little more than $900,000 a week. Photos of the plane's interior on Richmor's Web site show plush leather chairs and polished wood paneling.

Assuming the Gulfstream has been flying to Guantanamo on government business--a relatively safe assumption, because Guantanamo is a military reservation closed to tourists and sightseers--at standard rates those trips alone would have cost taxpayers about $13.7 million, enough to buy a less grand executive jet.

Richards said he did not know why the plane had made more than 50 trips to Guantanamo, had been in Cairo on Feb. 18, 2003, or had visited any of its other exotic locales.

"I don't ask my customers why they go anywhere, whether it's West Palm Beach or the moon," he said.

Asked who had chartered the Gulfstream for the February 2003 flight to Cairo, Richards replied, "I'll have to check with some people and call you back."

He called back several hours later to report that "my customer" did not want to be identified. Messages left at the Red Sox corporate offices in Boston and Morse's Florida home were not returned.

Although the CIA has consistently declined to discuss any specifics of its rendition program, CIA Director Porter Goss told Congress last week that, since Sept. 11, renditions had been carried out with "more safeguards and more oversight" than before.

Dulles to Germany, Cairo

Whatever mission it was on, Gulfstream N85VM left Dulles International Airport on the morning of Feb. 4, 2003, bound for Germany's Ramstein Air Force Base, FAA logs show. Once it had landed at Ramstein, the plane was not required to file further flight plans with the FAA until it was ready to return home.

Nicoletta Tomiselli, a spokeswoman for ENAV, the Italian equivalent of the FAA, said her agency was unable to release information about arrivals and departures at Aviano because it is a military air base.

Nor does the FAA have access to such information, except for scheduled commercial flights from Aviano that terminate in the U.S.

FAA records do show, however, that at 4:19 a.m. on Feb. 18, 2003, the Gulfstream was on the ground at HECA, the designation for Cairo International Airport, with a flight plan for a return to Dulles with a fuel stop in Shannon.

According to its manufacturer, the Gulfstream model 4 can carry up to 10 people at a top speed of 550 m.p.h. and fly nearly 5,000 miles without refueling, roughly the distance from Chicago to Moscow, depending on the number of passengers aboard.

Diplomatic ramifications

Although Omar's suspected kidnappers could be charged with the evidence already in Milan prosecutor Spataro's hands, identifying the aircraft used to fly Omar from Aviano to Cairo could broaden the investigation to include officials who authorized his rendition.

Any indictment of U.S. intelligence personnel would likely strain Washington's relationship with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of President Bush's strongest supporters in Europe.

But the traditional independence of Italian prosecutors guarantees that "even the minister of justice cannot tell us who to prosecute and who not to prosecute," Spataro said in a recent interview.

Before he resigned last June, former CIA Director George Tenet testified that the CIA had orchestrated more than 70 renditions during his seven-year tenure. There reportedly have been an additional 30 or so since then.

What makes the Abu Omar case different is that Omar was not first arrested by Italian police before being handed over to whoever rendered him to Egypt, something that arguably would have shielded those involved from criminal charges.

According to a Muslim woman who said she saw it happen, Omar was snatched off the sidewalk by several men and hustled into a parked van, which drove off with another car.

Precisely what happened to Omar after that is not known, except that a source familiar with Spataro's investigation says he was driven 175 miles from Milan to the Aviano air base.

Witness to a rendition

The only eyewitness account of how rendition targets are prepared for their journey comes from a veteran Swedish police inspector, Paul Forell, who was present when such a team arrived at Stockholm's Bromma airport on the night of Dec. 18, 2001.

Forell told Sweden's Channel 4 last year that those arriving at the airport included eight Americans wearing hoods and two others in business suits who introduced themselves only by their first names and said they were from the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm.

"They were very professional in their way of acting. They acted very deftly, swiftly and silently," Forell said, adding that he had the impression the team had carried out many previous renditions.

The two Egyptian-born suspects, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, who had been arrested earlier in the evening by Swedish security police, were handcuffed and their clothes cut from their bodies.

Suppositories apparently intended as a sedative were inserted into their anuses, and diapers were put on both men, followed by dark overalls, blindfolds and hoods that completely covered their heads.

The prisoners were put aboard an unmarked Gulfstream that had flown to Stockholm from Washington's Dulles airport.

The Stockholm Gulfstream, a later model 5 that bore the tail number N379P, also has been spotted in Karachi and Gambia during other renditions.

After the plane landed in Cairo at 2:35 a.m. the next day, al-Zery and Agiza were taken to Masra Tora prison. According to Swedish government documents made public by Channel 4, when the two men were visited by the Swedish ambassador five weeks later they told him they were being tortured.

Neither man was found to have any Al Qaeda connection, and al-Zery was released without charges. Agiza, who previously had been convicted in absentia of membership in an Egyptian Islamic radical organization, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Phone calls to wife

Prosecutor Spataro has reason to believe the story told by Omar last year in two telephone conversations with his wife.

According to two judicial orders authorizing continuation of the taps on Omar's home telephone, a translation of which was obtained by the Tribune, Omar explained to his astonished wife, Nabila, that he had not run away but had been kidnapped on the street in Milan 14 months earlier.

In their first conversation, on April 20, 2004, Omar said he had convinced the Egyptians he was not dangerous and had been set free, with the condition that he not leave the Egyptian city of Alexandria.

On May 10, judicial records show, Omar called his wife again. Recounting his ordeal, Omar said he had been questioned at an air base in Italy and then drugged and flown to Egypt, where he was imprisoned and tortured with electric shocks.

"These circumstances," the judge concluded, "if confirmed, would represent a very severe violation of Italian sovereignty."

The U.S. State Department has criticized Egypt for "numerous, serious human-rights abuses" during interrogations, including cases of torture that resulted in death.

Italian investigators discount the possibility that Omar made up his story for the benefit of the police, because during one conversation he directed his wife to destroy his computer before the police discovered it--a statement he likely would not have made had he known he was being overheard.

The second call from Omar was the last. Two days later, he was re-arrested by the Egyptians. Italian authorities assume he is still alive and in an Egyptian prison, although they don't know for sure.

Spataro says the Italian government has made a formal request to Egypt to return Omar to Italy but has not received a reply. An Egyptian Embassy spokesman in Washington did not respond to questions about whether Omar had been charged with a crime in Egypt, whether his complaints of torture were true or whether he would be returned to Italy.

HL on 03.21.05 @ 08:34 PM PST [link] [No Comments]

Monday, March 14th

Peace Groups Continue To Miss The Real Issue.

music: Day Of Demonstrations Guaranteed To Accomplish Absolutely Nothing
mood: By John Kaminski

Peace Groups Continue
To Miss The Real Issue
Day Of Demonstrations Guaranteed To
Accomplish Absolutely Nothing
By John Kaminski

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

I received an e-mail notice the other day informing me of a worldwide day of protests March 19 to focus public attention on America's neverending massacre of innocent Iraqi civilians and the continuing lies that attempt to justify this needless and shameful carnage.

The e-mail focused on the agenda of the local social event in Sarasota, Florida, and listed speakers, sponsors, activities, locations, and times. Conspicuously absent from this list were reasons.

Nevertheless, I replied to the notice by inquiring if organizers had been adequately briefed on the latest revelations about 9/11, and if they hadn't, I offered to happily volunteer my services. After all, it doesn't take a genius to realize that if 9/11 hadn't happened, the bogus Iraq invasion wouldn't have happened.

And therefore understanding what really happened on 9/11 would significantly improve anyone's perception of the colossal crimes the United States is committing in Iraq (and in a list of beleaguered countries that is now practically endless) - after all, the USA is now waging war on the entire world, and our so-called leaders are not ashamed to admit it.

But I never received a response to my inquiry, because these peace demonstration organizers completely avoid talking about 9/11. They have accepted the government's fantasy explanation about Arab hijackers and the need to conquer Muslim countries, and yet they still insist they are against the Iraq war.

I regard this as a profound psychotic break in the American consciousness. You can't accept the first and advocate the second and still be regarded as either sane or honest.

So in order to properly understand what you are protesting, you must understand why it happened in the first place. But all these trendy yuppies who sport peace buttons only on socially acceptable occasions are in reality confessing their stupidity for all to see if they demonstrate against the Iraq war but don't want to hear anything about 9/11.

How does it come to be that people will admit the government lied about Iraq and Afghanistan, but not admit it lied about 9/11?

And that is exactly the situation with this group called International Answer (and even more perfectly pathological with the pathetic Democratic Party organization named

These groups, which have millions of members, are deliberately designed to be appear to be progressive and peace-loving, but really they are cleverly constructed take the well-meaning concerns of average people and divert them into activities that are guaranteed to fail (because ultimately, the people who create these groups are actually working for the people who are committing the crimes they are protesting).

These are the same cynical clowns who got so many honest people worked up about the integrity of John Kerry, or the calm decisiveness of Howard Dean, and used up a zillion hours of brainpower only to take the fall last November and avoid contemplating the obviously tragic fact that with a little chutzpah that they could have overturned the election based on the crimes that were committed in Ohio and Florida. Only Kerry and Dean convinced them not to even try, further demonstrating why neither should ever have been supported in the first place.

Not that overturning the election would have mattered, because there is only one political party of any consequence in this country - the party of the banks.

You may have attended one of these peace demonstrations in the past. They are moving experiences. Ineffectual, but moving.

There is no doubting the sincerity or ardor of virtually all the participants. As motivated people, they have my admiration. They rail against the evil powers that be in all manner of creative ways, and when the day is done, they all (or, at least those who have not been pepper sprayed by the local Gestapo and thrown in jail) go home happy, delighted that they have expressed their freedom of speech and schmoozed with thousands of like-minded consciences.

Trouble is, as the unprecedented (in size) peace demos immediately prior to Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq so clearly proved, they accomplish exactly nothing.

The powers that be and their pimped media complely ignore them.

The true purpose of a peace demonstration is not to have a good time and go home happy. It is to kindle each other's anger and go home as pissed as possible, ready to follow through with every fiber of your being until the objective of your protest is achieved.

It is safe to say that, since Vietnam, the objective of no major protest in America has ever been achieved, especially since Bush the Dumber took office (and I do mean took).

The disintegration of America's Constitutional protections, the computerized pollution of America's electoral process, the poisoning by food and drug manufacturers of people all over the world, and the neverending robbery of the American people by repeatedly criminal Congressional fiat are just a few of the focuses that would provide more relevant protests.

Those made ill by deliberately poisoned vaccines or depleted uranium ammunition would be two other good reasons.

But seriously, maybe you'd rather wait until one of your relatives - perhaps a son or daughter - succumbs to one of these sadistic scams before you decide to get upset about them.

The real focus of all our protests, all our outrage at every public official we can lay our hands on, should be the greatest crime in American history, which has changed the way our country does business, which has changed, perhaps irrevocably, who we are as a people.

Americans are now known around the world as the torturers, as the sexual perverts who go out of their way to profane the sacredness of life by raping Muslim children and sexually traumatizing Muslim adults. Who are these troops we say we support as they mow down innocent families in Fallujah while they listen to heavy metal music and take drugs to dull their senses? Who are these alien neighbors of ours who refuse to hear this statement, and say "Support Our Troops!" as they close their eyes and drive off to Wal-mart to save a few pennies and destroy their own way of life.

Gee, I wonder in which chapter of Leviticus or Deuteronomy we learned to do that?

Americans are the people who plan on starving the rest the world with this Monsanto seed conspiracy, in which subsistence farmers on every continent will be deprived of their traditional method of survival because the seeds they are now forced to use (in order for their corrupt government functionaries to receive their proper bribes from soulless multinational corporations) cannot reproduce themselves. When their governments are plundered by their own feckless facsimiles of Bush or Clinton, these people will die of starvation. But you won't hear their moans in Wal-mart, at least not for a little while.

Gee, I wonder which smug rabbinical commentary told us it was OK to ignore the death rattles of dying Gentiles?

Americans are the people who didn't protest when their government refused to investigate what happened on 9/11, despite the 3,000 of their countrymen who were crushed in the rubble of deliberately demolished skyscrapers.

Americans accepted the media-spun story that Arabs run by a madman in Afghanistan did it. These fantasy bad guys got the U.S. air defenses to stand down, they got on airplanes without any identification or any record of them getting on, they performed aerobatic maneuvers that could not have been performed by Top Guns, and they defied the laws of physics by knocking down buildings that could not have fallen in ten seconds without the help of considerable explosives. We know that from the building that fell the same way that was not hit by an airliner.

Gee, if we don't care about our own fellow citizens being suddenly buried in concrete by the pervs in Washington, why should we care about dark-skinned Arabs being turned into puddles of blood thousands of miles away?

Americans accepted the lies their leaders told them, first about 9/11, then about Afghanistan, then about Iraq. Most Americans to this day still don't know that the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq were planned before 9/11.

Most Americans don't know that the PNAC report, which yearned for "a new Pearl Harbor" to turn American citizens into enraged warmongers, was written by a high American official who was also an Israeli intelligence agent, Dov Zakheim.

Most Americans don't know that their new head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, is an Israeli intelligence agent.

Most Americans don't know that their new intelligence czar, John Negroponte - he of the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran death squad fiascos - is also Jewish.

Most Americans don't know that all the TV networks are owned by Zionist Jews. Most Americans don't realize that all the major newspapers, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, are owned by Zionist Jews.

Do you understand that Iraq was no threat to the United States? Do you understand that Iraq was a threat to Israel? Do you understand that American children are killing innocent people and being killed themselves to protect Israel, not the United States?

Or are you one of those lily-livered Yankee dogs so terrified of losing your income or some friends who don't really care about you anyway that you feel compelled to say, "People aren't ready to hear this yet. You have to bring them on slowly to tell them about the problem with Israel."

We're looking at the end of civilization because of the silence of honest Americans over the most important issues of our day, and you're telling me that I have to wait til people get used to the idea we are being totally polluted by the demonic influence of Zionist warmongers, who take their authority from a holy book that says it's OK to kill non-Jews with no penalty because they're animals?

Take a wild guess as to what I have to say to cowards like that - which are the majority of the American people.

The real issue to protest March 19 is not the Iraq war, colossal crime though it is.

The real issue to protest is that George W. Bush and John Kerry are accomplices in the same series of crimes. The real issue is to realize that our country has been sold out from under us, and that Israel, thanks to the neocons, now owns us.

Have you observed how the Palestinians live? Scrambling in their rubble, constantly avoiding bombs and excuses to murder them on a whim. This is the future of America run by the Zionist monsters who control the White House, and most other aspects of your life, as well.

The real issue to protest is that the entire U.S. Congress is guilty of treason for destroying the Bill of Rights to our own Constitution by participating in this charade that there is some terror threat that justifies these police state measures.

The real issue to protest is that al-Qaeda was created by the CIA and the Mossad in a proxy war in Afghanistan and then later at a CIA training camp in the Philippines, and that 9/11 was planned, executed, and then covered up by levels of American society that are actually more powerful than the president, who is only a bobble-head doll fed lies, stimulants and quite possibly little boys (or at least big boys) as a reward for his mindless obedience to his masters with the big money.

But even more than that, the real issue to protest, in the silence of your own ravaged heart, is your own silent complicity in the savage system that kills innocent people every day so that rich Zionist Jew manipulators and their conscienceless Zionist Christian dupes can steal money from YOU.

Just to be clear, these people are Americans, British, and Israelis, and they have no real consciences, which makes them dangerous sociopaths - which is why we have a sociopathic culture that feels no guilt when we kill innocent people overseas. It is no coincidence that this attitude perfectly reflects what is written in the Talmud and the Old Testament. Now that would really be something to protest about.

A peace protest without a serious component investigating the lies about 9/11 and the predatory dominance of Israeli influence on a severely crippled America is like a body without a brain, which I suspect is what many of those protesters on March 19 will be like.

And as the world continues to burn, they'll go home happy that they did something for freedom, when in the reality of this new and ugly police-state world, they will have done nothing of consequence, because they still fail to realize what really happened on 9/11, or who is really controlling them.


John Kaminski's Internet essays can be seen on hundreds of websites around the world. They have been collected into two anthologies, the latest of which is titled "The Perfect Enemy," about how the Zionist-controlled U.S. government created the terrorist group knowns as al-Qaeda. His booklet "The Day America Died: Why You Shouldn't Believe the Officlal Story of What Happened on September 11, 2001" was written especially for those who cling to the government's false explanation of the events of that tragic day. For more information go to

HL on 03.14.05 @ 03:02 PM PST [link] [1 Comment]

Friday, March 11th

Rethinking the Iwo Jima Myth by Max Boot

On Feb. 19, 1945, 30,000 Marines splashed ashore on a small volcanic island in the central Pacific. After four days of bitter fighting, a small patrol reached the peak of Mt. Suribachi, where it planted a U.S. flag in an iconic scene captured by photographer Joe Rosenthal. This famous image was hardly the end of the battle. Iwo Jima would not be secure until March 26. Almost all of the 21,000 Japanese defenders elected to die rather than surrender. Rooting them out cost more than 6,000 American dead and 20,000 wounded, making this the costliest battle in the storied history of the Marine Corps.

It is right and proper that there should be 60th-anniversary commemorations of these heroics. For, as Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz famously said, " … on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue." Yet it would be a mistake to bury this battle in a haze of "Greatest Generation" sentimentality. Our awe at the bravery of the Marines and their Japanese adversaries should not cause us to overlook the stupidity that forced them into this unnecessary meat grinder. Selective memories of World War II, which record only inspiring deeds and block out all waste and folly, create an impossible standard of perfection against which to judge contemporary conflicts.

That is why Marine Capt. Robert S. Burrell, a history instructor at the Naval Academy, has performed a valuable service by publishing in the October 2004 issue of the Journal of Military History an article called "Breaking the Cycle of Iwo Jima Mythology." Burrell examines the planning of Operation Detachment, as the invasion was known, and shows that it was badly bungled.

The planners actually thought that Iwo Jima would be lightly defended. Nimitz had no idea that the Japanese had been preparing an elaborate defensive network of caves, bunkers and tunnels. As a result, he failed to allocate enough aircraft or warships to seriously dent the enemy defenses before the infantry landings. This oversight consigned the Marines to what a war correspondent called "a nightmare in hell." And for what?

The rationales for taking the island were shaky at the time and utterly specious in hindsight. The original impetus came from the U.S. Army Air Forces, which wanted a base from which fighters could escort B-29 Superfortress bombers on missions over Japan. But Iwo Jima was so far away from most Japanese targets — a 1,500-mile round trip — that even the newest fighter, the P-51D Mustang, lacked sufficient range and navigational equipment for that purpose. In any case, Japanese air defenses were so weak that B-29s didn't need any escort; they were able to reduce Japanese cities to ashes on their own.

When the fighter-escort mission didn't pan out, U.S. commanders had to come up with another rationale for why 26,000 casualties had not been in vain. After the war, it was claimed that Iwo Jima had been a vital emergency landing field for crippled B-29s on their way back from Japan. In a much-quoted statistic, the Air Force reported that 2,251 Superforts landed on Iwo, and because each one carried 11 crewmen, a total of 24,761 airmen were saved.

Burrell demolishes these spurious statistics. Most of those landings, he shows, were not for emergencies but for training or to take on extra fuel or bombs. If Iwo Jima hadn't been in U.S. hands, most of the four-engine bombers could have made it back to their bases in the Mariana Islands 625 miles away. And even if some had been forced to ditch at sea, many of their crewmen would have been rescued by the Navy. Burrell concludes that Iwo Jima was "helpful" to the U.S. bombing effort but hardly worth the price in blood.

In modern parlance, you might say that Iwo Jima was a battle of choice waged on the basis of faulty intelligence and inadequate plans. If Ted Kennedy had been in the Senate in 1945 (hard to believe, but he wasn't), he would have been hollering about the incompetence of the Roosevelt administration, which produced many times more casualties in five weeks than U.S. forces have suffered in Iraq in the last two years.

No such criticism was heard at the time, in part because of the rah-rah tone of World War II press coverage but also because Americans back then had a greater appreciation for the ugly, unpredictable nature of combat. They even coined a word for it: snafu (in polite language: "situation normal, all fouled up"). It's a shame that so many sentimental tributes to the veterans of the Good War elide this unpleasant reality, leaving us a bit less intellectually and emotionally prepared for the trauma of modern war.

HL on 03.11.05 @ 03:46 PM PST [link] [3 Comments]

Tuesday, March 8th

Army: Recruiting Young Blacks Tougher Now

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON - Young blacks have grown markedly less willing to join the Army, citing fear of being sent to fight a war in Iraq they don't believe in, according to unpublicized studies for the military that suggest the Army is entering a prolonged recruiting slump.

Fear of combat also is a leading reason fewer young women are choosing the Army, the studies say. Although female soldiers are barred by law from assignments in direct combat, they nonetheless have found themselves under attack by insurgents in Iraq, and 32 have died.

"More African Americans identify having to fight for a cause they don't support as a barrier to military service," concluded an August 2004 study for the Army. It also said attitudes toward the Army among all groups of American youth have grown more negative in recent years.

"In the past, barriers were about inconvenience or preference for another life choice," the study said. "Now they have switched to something quite different: fear of death or injury."

Statistically, the fear factor is about twice as strong among potential recruits as a whole as it was in 2000, the study said. That and other studies, all of which are posted on an obscure Defense Department Web site, cited the Iraq war as a major turnoff for many.

The Army has suffered more of the 1,500-plus U.S. deaths in Iraq than any other service, and thousands have been wounded. Some soldiers will serve their second tour in Iraq this year. While Army leaders say soldiers have shown a strong interest in re-enlisting, the strains of war seem to have become a barrier to first-time enlistees.

The Army's recruiting challenge is critically important not only to the long-term commitment in Iraq but also to the Army's goal of expanding by 30,000 soldiers. Through the first five months of the budget year which began last Oct. 1, the active Army is about 6 percent behind schedule to meet its 2005 recruiting goal.

Explaining the overall drop-off, Army officials cite an improving national economy that offers more career opportunities as well as concern about the war in Iraq.

Blacks make up about 23 percent of today's active-duty Army, but the share of blacks in the recruit classes of recent years dropped. From 22.7 percent at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the share slid to 19.9 percent in 2002; 16.4 percent in 2003 and 15.9 percent last year, according to figures provided by Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith.

The slide has continued, dropping to 13.9 percent as of Feb. 9.

A July 2004 study of parents' influence on young people of recruiting age found that black parents have more say in their child's career decisions than is the case with white parents. Also, black parents trust the military less and have more moral objections to military service.

The Army isn't the only service having trouble finding recruits. The Marine Corps fell slightly short of its recruiting goal in January — the first month that had happened in nearly a decade — amid parents' concerns about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the Marines remain on target to meet their full-year goal.

The Navy and Air Force have had no problems meeting their goals.

A separate study, done shortly after President Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq had ended, concluded, "Combat is the number one reason why" blacks don't want to join the Army.

Smith, the Army Recruiting Command spokesman, said Monday that the current, reduced level of black recruits is closer to the percentage of young blacks in the eligible population. "Our strategy of being representative of America is working," he said.

As recently as 2001, before the global war on terrorism, young people tended to think of military service as less risky. The 1991 Gulf War had ended after only 100 hours of ground combat with relatively few deaths, and no American soldier died in the 1999 air war over Kosovo.

Females also are getting harder to recruit, with the share of females in Army recruiting classes falling for four years running, from 21.6 percent in 2001 to 19.2 percent last year. It has slipped still further this year to 17.1 percent.

"Over time, females are seeing less benefits to joining the Army and more barriers, particularly combat-related reasons," concluded another study done for the Army last spring by the market research firm Millward Brown.

Another study cited a survey that said 50 percent of youth rate the Army as their last choice for a career.

"There is a lot of work to be done, and it will take a lot of time to make major changes in the Army experience and the Army's image," that study concluded. "Risks of military service, and particularly the Army, are perceived to far outweigh the rewards for the vast majority of youth."


HL on 03.08.05 @ 02:03 PM PST [link] [1 Comment]

Monday, March 7th

My truth (La mia verità) By Giuliana Sgrena

March 6, 2005 (from Il Manifesto)—I am still in the darkness. Last Friday was the most dramatic day of my life since I was abducted.

I had just spoken with my abductors, who for days kept telling me I would be released. So I was living in wait. They said things that I would understand only later. They talked of transfer related problems. I had learned to understand which way the wind blew from the attitude of my two "sentinels," the two fellows who watched over me every day—especially one of them, who attended to my requests, was incredibly bold. In the attempt to understand what was going on, I provocatively asked him if he was happy because I would go away or because I would stay. I was surprised and happy when, for the first time, he told me, "I only know you will go, but I don't know when."

To confirm that something new was happening, at one point they both came in the room to reassure me and joke: "Congratulations," they said, "you are leaving for Rome." To Rome, that's what they were saying.

I had a weird feeling, because that word immediately evoked liberation but also projected a void inside myself. I realized it was the most difficult moment of my abduction and that if all I had lived yet was certain, now an abyss of heavy uncertainties was widening. I changed my clothes.

They came back: "We'll escort you, but don't give signals of your presence, otherwise the Americans might intervene." That was not what wanted to hear. It was the happiest and also the most dangerous moment. If we ran into someone, meaning American troops, there would be an exchange of fire, and my captors were ready and they would have responded. I had to have my eyes covered. I was already getting used to a temporary blindness.

About what happened outside, I only knew that in Baghdad it had rained. The car ran safely in a muddy area. There was the driver and the same old abductors. I soon heard something I didn't want to hear. A helicopter flying low over the area we had stopped in. "Don't worry, now they will come look for you . . . within ten minutes they will come." They had spoken Arabic all the time, some French and much broken English. Now they spoke in this way, too.

Then they got out of the car. I stayed in that condition of immobility and blindness. My eyes were stuffed with cotton, and covered by sunglasses. I was motionless. I thought . . . what do I do? Should I start counting the passing seconds to another condition, the one of freedom? I had just started counting when I heard a friendly voice: "Giuliana, Giuliana, this is Nicola, don't worry, I've talked to Gabriele Polo, don't worry, you're free."

He took my cotton blindfold and sunglasses off. I felt relieved, not for what was going on, which I didn't understand, but for Nicola's words. He kept talking nonstop, he was uncontainable, a flood of friendly words and jokes. I finally found comfort, almost physically, a warm comfort I had long since forgotten.

The car proceeded on its way, through an underpass full of puddles, almost skidding to avoid them. We engaged in incredible laughter. It was relieving. Skidding along a road full of water in Baghdad and maybe have a bad car crash after all I had experienced would not be really explainable. Nicola Calipari sat by my side. The driver had notified the embassy and Italy twice that we were heading to the airport, which I knew was controlled by the American troops. It was less than one kilometre, they told me . . . when. . . . I remember only fire. At that point a rain of fire and bullets came at us, forever silencing the happy voices from a few minutes earlier.

The driver started shouting we were Italians, "We are Italians! We are Italians . . ." Nicola Calipari dove on top of me to protect me and immediately, and I mean immediately, I felt his last breath as he died on me. I must have felt physical pain, I didn't know why. But I had a sudden thought: I recalled my abductors' words. They said they were deeply committed to releasing me, but that I had to be careful because "the Americans don't want you to return." Back then, as soon as they had said that, I had judged their words to be meaningless and ideological. In that moment such words risked to take the taste of the most bitter truth away. I can't tell the rest yet.

This was the most dramatic moment. But the month I spent as a kidnap victim has probably changed my life forever. One month alone with myself, prisoner of my deepest belief. Each hour was a pitiless test of my work. Sometimes they kidded me. They even asked me why I would leave and asked me to stay. I pointed out that I had personal relationships. They led me to think to such priorities that too often we put aside.

"Ask for your husband's help," they told me. And I did so in the first video, the one I think you all have watched. My life has changed. Same as Ra'ad Ali Abdulaziz's, the Iraqi engineer from "Un Ponte per" who was abducted with Simona & Simona. "My life is no longer the same," he told me. I didn't understand. Now I know what he meant. Because I have experienced the hardness of the truth, I realize the difficulty of communicating it, and the weakness of trying to.

In the first days of my abduction I didn't shed a single tear. I was simply mad. I told them directly: "How can you abduct me, if I am against the war?" And they started a fierce debate. "Yes, because you want to speak to the people, we would never abduct a reporter who stays shut in the hotel. And then the fact you say you're against the war could be a cover up." I would reply, almost provoking them: "It's easy to abduct a weak woman like me, why don't you do it to the American officers?" I insisted that they couldn't ask the Italian government to withdraw its troops; that they had to address the Italian people who were and are against the war, not Italian government.

It was a month of ups and downs, moments of hope and moments of deep depression. Like when the first Sunday after my abduction, in the Baghdad house where I was prisoner and where there was a satellite television dish, they let me see the EuroNews. I saw my poster on the Rome city hall building. I was relieved. Soon after, however, a claim from the Jihad announced I would be executed if Italy didn't withdraw its troops. I was frightened. But they reassured me that it wasn't them, that people should have mistrusted those proclamations, that they were a "provocation." I often asked the one who seemed more approachable and who looked more like a soldier: "Tell me the truth, you will kill me". Nonetheless, many times, we talked. "Come see a movie on TV," they told me, while a Wahhabi woman, covered from head to foot, hung around the house taking care of me.

The abductors seemed a very religious group, constantly praying the Koran verses. But on Friday, at the time of my release, the one who seemed the most religious and who used to wake up at 5 o'clock every morning to pray, "congratulated" me and incredibly shook my hand—it is not a usual behaviour for an Islamic fundamentalist—adding "If you behave, you'll leave soon." That was followed by a rather humorous episode. One of my two guards came to me astonished because the TV showed my photographs displayed in European towns and also on Totti. Yes, Totti (the Rome football team player, T.N.). The guard said he said he was a Rome team fan and he was amazed that his favourite player had taken to field with "Free Giuliana" on his T-shirt.

I now live with no more certainties. I find myself deeply weak. I failed in my belief. I had always claimed there was need to go tell about that dirty war. And I had to decide whether to stay in the hotel or going out and chance being abducted because of my work. "We don't want anyone any more," the abductors told me. But I wanted to tell about the bloodbath in Falluja through the refugees' tales. And that morning the refugees and some of their "leaders" didn't listen to me. I had in front of me the evidence of what the Iraqi society has become with the war and they threw their truth in my face: "We don't want anyone. Why don't you stay home? What such interview can be useful for?". The worst collateral damage, the war killing communication, was falling on me. On me, who had risked it all, challenging the Italian government that didn't want reporters gong to Iraq, and the Americans who don't want our work that gives witness to what that country has really turned into with the war, despite what they call elections.

Now I wonder. Is their refusal a failure?

The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Online Journal.
Copyright © 1998-2005 Online Journal™. All rights reserved.

HL on 03.07.05 @ 12:49 AM PST [link] [2 Comments]

Tuesday, March 1st

High Court Ends Death Penalty for Youths

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A closely divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that it's unconstitutional to execute juvenile killers, ending a practice in 19 states that has been roundly condemned by many of America's closest allies.
The 5-4 decision throws out the death sentences of 72 murderers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes and bars states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes.

The executions, the court said, violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

"The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest," Justice Anthony Kennedy (news - web sites) wrote.

The ruling continues the court's practice of narrowing the scope of the death penalty, which justices reinstated in 1976. Executions for those 15 and younger when they committed their crimes were outlawed in 1988. Three years ago justices banned death sentences for the mentally retarded.

Tuesday's ruling prevents states from making 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for execution.

As a result, officials in Prince William County, Va., said Tuesday they will not prosecute a murder case there against teen sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, who is already serving life in prison in two of the 10 sniper killings that terrorized the Washington area in 1992. Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert had hoped to get the death penalty for Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the killings, but said another trial would now be an unnecessary expense.

Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in only a few other countries, including Iran (news - web sites), Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia. Kennedy cited international opposition to the practice.

"It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime," he wrote.

Kennedy noted most states don't allow the execution of juvenile killers and those that do use the penalty infrequently. The trend, he said, is to abolish the practice because "our society views juveniles ... as categorically less culpable than the average criminal."

In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia (news - web sites) disputed that there is a trend and chastised his colleagues for taking power from the states.

"The court says in so many words that what our people's laws say about the issue does not, in the last analysis, matter: 'In the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty,'" he wrote.

"The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards," Scalia wrote.

Death penalty opponents quickly cheered the ruling.

"Today, the court repudiated the misguided idea that the United States can pledge to leave no child behind while simultaneously exiling children to the death chamber," said William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

"Now the U.S. can proudly remove its name from the embarrassing list of human rights violators that includes China, Iran, and Pakistan that still execute juvenile offenders," he said.

Dianne Clements, president of the Houston-based Justice for All victims' advocacy group, criticized the decision and said she hopes that when there is a Supreme Court vacancy a strong death penalty supporter is nominated.

"The Supreme Court has opened the door for more innocent people to suffer by 16 and 17 year olds," she said. "I can't wait for the Supreme Court to have judges more concerned with American values, American statutes and American law than what the Europeans think."

The Supreme Court has permitted states to impose capital punishment since 1976. Twenty-two of the people put to death since then were juveniles when they committed their crimes. Texas executed the most, 13, and also has the most on death row now — 29.

More than 3,400 inmates await execution in the 38 states that allow death sentences.

Justices were called on to draw an age line for executions after Missouri's highest court overturned the death sentence given to Christopher Simmons, who was 17 when he kidnapped a neighbor, hog-tied her and threw her off a bridge in 1993. Prosecutors say he planned the burglary and killing of Shirley Crook and bragged that he could get away with it because of his age.

The four most liberal Supreme Court justices — John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer — had gone on record in 2002 opposing the death penalty for juveniles, calling it "shameful." Those four, joined by Kennedy, formed Tuesday's decision.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia in seeking to uphold the executions.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor filed a separate dissent, arguing that a blanket rule against juvenile executions was misguided. Case-by-case determinations of a young offenders' maturity is the better approach, she wrote.

"The court's analysis is premised on differences in the aggregate between juveniles and adults, which frequently do not hold true when comparing individuals," she said. "Chronological age is not an unfailing measure of psychological development, and common experience suggests that many 17-year-olds are more mature than the average young 'adult.'"

The 19 states allow executions for people under age 18 are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Texas and Virginia.

The federal government does not execute juveniles.

The case is Roper v. Simmons, 03-633.

HL on 03.01.05 @ 11:52 AM PST [link] [No Comments]