No. 235, July
17-23, 2002

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Make way for the President: homes and businesses bulldozed, mass arrests for Bush’s Africa trip



Protesters hold placards outside the US embassy in Pretoria, on July 9, 2003, during a demonstation against George W. Bush’s visit to Africa. REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya

Florida Supreme Court strikes down parental notification law

Controversy surrounding Bush administration’s case for war heats up

Quote of the Week

“Congratulations for saying ‘hasta la vista baby’ to Saddam Hussein. I came here from the United States because I wanted to pump you all up. I play Terminator, but you guys are the true Terminators.”

--Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking to cheering troops at the huge military compound at Baghdad international airport duirng a morale-boosting tour of US bases in Iraq, quoted in the July 5 issue of the Guardian newspaper.

Make way for the President: homes, businesses bulldozed, mass arrests for Bush’s Africa trip

Compiled By Shawn Gaynor

July, 16 (AGR)— US President George W. Bush, who embarked on his Africa tour, along with African America cabinet members Collin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, to demonstrate his administration’s “compassion,” appeared to face a growing credibility gap as he made his way from Senegal then on to South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, and finally Nigeria.

But even as the administration spoke of compassion, massive displacements and arrests took place under an unprecedented security operation for the US president.

As Bush traveled though Africa he was accompanied by about 700 security people from the US.

Africa, the world’s poorest continent, is in the grips of a devastating AIDS epidemic, and wide spread conflicts.

While Bush’s trip showcased a visit to the former Slave Stockade of Goree, his trip was short on policy breakthroughs and no new relief for the hungry continent was forthcoming.

Senegal

Bush’s first stop brought him to the mainly Muslim country of Senegal.

In preparation for his arrival, more than 1,500 persons were arrested and put in jail between Thursday and Monday. Witnesses reported that all trees in places where Bush will pass have been cut for “security”.

During Bush’s stay US military planes flew day and night over the capitol city of Dakar.

All roads going into the downtown of the capitol were closed from Monday cutting people off from access to hospitals, businesses, schools— leaving students business people and the sick stranded at home.

National exams for high schools that started on Monday were postponed.

Bush came with his own journalists, with Senegalese reporters forbidden from the area, and Senegalese security forces not allowed to come near the US president.

Senegal’s President was sidelined by Bush, and was not allowed to make a speech during the visit.

Several protest marches against American politics took place throughout the country, with protesters shouting “George Bush, assassin, George Bush, criminal!”

Bush gave his only speak in the country at the former slave trade island of Goree.

Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, and the Pope have all visited Goree without bothering the islanders who reside there, but the Bush visit was in stark contrast to other dignitaries.

“When Clinton came, he shook hands, people danced,” said former Mayor Urbain Alexandre Diagne.

For “security reasons”, the local population of 400 was chased out of their houses at 5:00am. They were forced by the American security to leave their houses and leave everything open, including their wardrobes to be searched by special dogs brought from the US.

N’diaye and other residents of Goree, site of a famous slave trading station, said they had been taken to a football ground on the other side of the quaint island at and told to wait there until Bush departed, around midday.

“It’s slavery all over again,” fumed one father-of-four, who did not want to give his name. “It’s humiliating.”

“We were shut up like sheep,” said 15-year-old Mamadou.

South Africa

When Bush arrived in South Africa, he was criticized by student groups who said he wants to champion Western imperialist ideas.

The Southern African Students’ Union (SASU) condemned the visit of American President George Bush to Africa a few days before the African Union (AU) summit in Mozambique.

The Young Africans Welfare Association (YAWA) and the Pan-African Youth Action Committee (PAYAC) also condemned the visit.

“If Mr. Bush is a sincere man he must have respect for the peoples of Africa by not bringing his dictatorial ideas to the African Union and all our heads of states,” they said.

In Cape Town about 1,500 people braved a blustery winter’s day to march to parliament in protest against Bush’s visit to South Africa.

The large crowd spontaneously started a bonfire close to the main entrance of parliament, feeding the fire with posters of Bush’s face on them.

The crowd was diverse, and included black-garbed anarchists with an effigy of Bush looking like an alien, environmentalists, purda-covered Muslim women and social activists.

Anti-War Coalition spokesperson Shaheed Mahomed denounced the South African government, saying the African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, was “siding with the side of imperialism [by] welcoming the brutal and barbaric section of the American administration.”

Ms. Mohamed said the city of Cape Town had refused them permission to stage a 48-hour picket in front of the US Consulate because of complaints from the consulate and the police.

Provincial Secretary Nkosinathi Mahala also criticized the visit saying, “We are angry at President Mbeki for encouraging a terrorist such as Bush,” Mahala said to cheers from the crowd.

Nigeria

Bush rapped up his tour in oil rich Nigeria on last Friday, accompanied by a large entourage of corporate executives. On the ground in Nigeria, there is an oil war raging. Villagers in the oil-rich Niger Delta are rising up, demanding an end to a system that keeps them in poverty as their government pumps Nigeria’s natural resources to Western nations, enriching itself and oil executives. In unprecedented acts of resistance, villagers have seized oil rigs, barges and helicopters belonging to transnational oil corporations.

As like the other stops on his tour, human displacement in the nation of security was unprecedented.

Armed police backed by bulldozers tore down illegally built homes and shops in the Nigerian capital Abuja today ahead of a visit by US President George W Bush.

The operation began after an order from President Olusegun Obasanjo to clean up the city ahead of his American counterpart’s arrival, officials said.

In one residential quarter of the city one reporter saw around 60 buildings - ranging from brick-built structures to makeshift wooden shanties - ploughed down as hundreds of residents looked on in despair.

“They didn’t give us any warning,” wailed tailor John Emeka, who saved his sewing machine but lost much of his stock when a joint taskforce of police and environmental protection agents pulled down his business.

Nearby a stock of computers lay mangled in the wreckage of an electronic goods store, and the owner of a grilled meat stand argued with officers attempting to condemn his barbecue.

The police came armed with assault rifles and tear gas, but there was no violence as the bulldozers rolled in.

More than 2,000 Nigerian police and intelligence officers have been deployed around Abuja to provide security for Bush’s visit, the last stage in a whirlwind five-nation tour of Africa.

Bush was all business as he and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice met with the Chevron Texaco CEO and chairman Dave O’Reilly. Other transnational corporations attending include Exxon-Mobil and Shell Petroleum.

Rice is a former board member of Chevron. The company named an oil tanker after her, the Condoleezza Rice.

In 1998, Democracy Now! revealed for the first time that Chevron played a role in the killing of two Nigerian villagers. This is during the time Rice was involved in the company.

The San Francisco-based oil company helped facilitate an attack by the feared Nigerian Navy and notorious Mobile Police (MOPOL).

In a interview with Democracy Now!, a Chevron official acknowledged that on May 28, 1998, the company transported Nigerian soldiers to their Parabe oil platform and barge in the Niger Delta, which dozens of community activists had occupied. The protestors were demanding that Chevron contribute more to the development of the impoverished oil region where they live.

Soon after landing in Chevron-leased helicopters, the Nigerian military shot to death two protesters, Jola Ogungbeje and Aroleka Irowaninu, and wounded several others.

Liberia

Left unresolved on the tour was the issue of US commitment to the conflict in Liberia. West African state was once a US colony settled by freed slaves from the United States under a charter from the US Congress 180 years ago.

With the US armed forces spread thin worldwide, Bush is reluctant to get involved in the civil war raging in the country.

The leading opposition group, threatened on Friday to fight any peacekeepers deployed before President Charles Taylor, who has been accused of war crimes, steps down.

The statement by Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) came as Bush considered whether to send US soldiers with a regional force.

LURD said the deployment of international troops before the departure of Taylor, who has been indicted for war crimes, would simply serve to prop up the former warlord and arch-survivor.

“While we hope for the best, we are braced for the worst; therefore any troops deployed before the departure of Taylor must be prepared for a firefight,” a statement from the group’s secretariat in northern Liberia said.

Taylor has promised to step down and accepted an offer of asylum in Nigeria, but he wants the international force in place first to, he says, avert chaos.

Bush is under international pressure to send troops to help over three million people in the country, but has remained uncommitted.

AIDS

The largest question left unanswered during the Bush visit was his sincerity in combating the AIDS epidemic.

AIDS is killing about 7,000 Africans every day.

The US Congress has not yet appropriated the money for African AIDS relief programs, and, despite his trip to Africa, Bush did not make clear whether he is willing to put real pressure on lawmakers to fully fund them.

Bush said he had not decided whether to push Congress for the full $3 billion in 2004 for his anti-AIDS initiative. By large margins, Congress approved the full amount in authorization bills earlier this spring, but the actual funds depend on approval of appropriations bills that have not yet been voted on by either house, and, in an initial indication, the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to approve only $2 billion, the amount Bush himself had originally requested for next year.

Joseph O’Neill, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, confirmed Friday that the administration would be satisfied with that amount in the first year of the program’s operation.

“In the first year, it’s going to take less money to get the job done,” he was quoted as saying in a statement that infuriated anti-AIDS activists like Paul Zeitz of the Global AIDS Alliance, who argued: “The full $3 billion—and even more—could be used right now to save lives and meet the needs of orphans.”

Even at the level of $3 billion dollars a year, the AIDS funding is less the $4 per African.

“This shows tremendous cynicism,” said Salih Booker of Africa Action, who has criticized Bush’s repeated declarations to African audiences last week about the $15 billion dollar program a “cruel hoax.” “They have called this an ‘emergency program,’ yet they think they need ‘less money to get the job done’ in the first year. The situation is more than an emergency; it’s a catastrophe, and the administration thinks it can ‘get the job done’ with $2 billion next year.”

At the same time, 116 House members sent a letter to Bush Friday urging him to support the full $3 billion for 2004, $1 billion in emergency spending on AIDS, including $1 billion for the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Although Bush’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Tommy Thompson, chairs the Global Fund, Bush has said he wants to contribute only $200 million a year to it. The Global Fund, which most activists and public-health specialists consider to be the most effective mechanism for getting aid to HIV/AIDS victims, could run out of money by the end of this year, according to current estimates.

Sources: AFP, Democracy Now, OneWorld.net, Reuters, Times of Zambia, South African Press Association

Florida Supreme Court strikes down parental notification law

July 10, Tallahassee, FL-- Saying Florida’s parental notification law violates a woman’s right to privacy, the Florida Supreme Court today struck down a law requiring physicians to notify a parent or legal guardian before performing an abortion on a young woman.

“We are pleased that the court invalidated a law that is completely unnecessary,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case along with the national ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Most teens voluntarily involve their parents in their decisions, but those who don’t often have very good reasons for not doing so. When the state forces parents to be involved, the consequences are often catastrophic.”

At issue was a Florida law — the Parental Notice of Abortion Act — that required a minor to notify a parent prior to obtaining an abortion or convince a court to grant her an exception to the requirement. Although Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed the law in 1999, it never went into effect because of the legal challenge that was filed soon thereafter.

In today’s ruling, the court held that “parent and minor are free to do as they wish in this regard, without government interference.” The decision was based on a 1989 Florida Supreme Court ruling in In Re: T.W., which held that a law requiring parental consent for an abortion violated the right to privacy.

“We are relieved that the court understood the danger that this law poses for many young women in Florida,” said Julie Sternberg, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and a one of the authors of the ACLU brief. “The law would have put teens at grave risk, seriously and needlessly hampering them from getting critical health care.”

The case was brought on behalf of nine abortion providers and clinics, as well as women’s rights groups from across Florida. They are represented by Bebe Anderson of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Richard E. Johnson, a board member of the ACLU of Florida, and Dara Klassel of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In addition to the national ACLU and its Florida affiliate, the Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, Society for Adolescent Medicine, and the Women’s Law Project also submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in the case.

The case is North Florida Women’s Health & Counseling Services, Inc., et al. v. State of Florida, et al., No. SC01-843. Lawyers for the ACLU briefs include: Randall Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida, Julie Sternberg and Louise Melling of the national ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union

Controversy surroundingBush administration’s case for war heats up

Compiled by Shane Perlowin

July 16 (AGR)— The failure to turn up chemical or biological weapons in Iraq — initially dismissed as a “sour grapes” issue by Bush Administration insiders — is growing into a genuine political problem, dogging the US and British leaders at every public appearance and sparking various agencies that had a hand in Iraq policy to begin plotting a course through the gathering storm.

The Bush administration’s admission that the president made a false allegation against Iraq in his State of the Union address was intended to help put to rest the increasing skepticism regarding the validity of the case they made for going to war against Iraq. Instead, it reopened fissures inside the administration, and in British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government.

During a carefully choreographed journey through Africa, Bush was dogged by questions as to how a bogus claim about Saddam Hussein’s quest for uranium to build nuclear weapons had made it into his January State of the Union address. “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” Bush falsely declared in January.

Bush and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice put the blame squarely on the CIA for the controversy that has called the president’s credibility into question in the mainstream and threatens to follow Bush into next year’s presidential election.

Pressed by reporters traveling with the president in Uganda to explain why that statement was included, Bush replied: “I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services.”

Rice spoke more bluntly, taking direct aim at CIA director George Tenet. She said the language in the speech had been specifically cleared by the CIA, and if Tenet had objections to the inclusion of the uranium claim, “he did not make them known.”

Forcefully defending Bush, Rice said: “The president did not knowingly, before the American people, say something that we thought to be false.”

“These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president,” Tenet said, referring to Bush’s African uranium assertion.

Tenet has publicly attempted to take the heat for the Bush administration; however, his claims contain elements that seem at odds with the White House’s version of events.

At one point in a document released by Tenet, he says that CIA analysts reviewing the State of the Union text “raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature” of the intelligence on uranium with members of the National Security Council, which is part of the White House staff. As a result of those objections, some language was changed.

But Tenet suggested that the agency went along with the final text only because of a technicality — the fact that the allegation was attributed to British intelligence.

Agency officials “in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct, i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa,” Tenet said. “This should not have been the test for clearing a presidential address,” he concluded. “This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed.”

This appears to contradict Rice’s description of events. In a lengthy interview with reporters on Air Force One, she said the only changes sought by the CIA were to remove specific references to amounts of uranium and countries from which Iraq was seeking to obtain it.

She said the agency did not object to the core of the assertion — that Iraq was seeking to procure uranium from Africa, an allegation that was a key piece of evidence supporting claims by both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. Those claims supported their argument that Iraq posed an imminent threat.

In addition, Senior administration officials told CBS News the President’s mistaken claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was included in his State of the Union address — despite objections from the CIA.

With each passing week, new revelations come forth about the shortcomings of “coalition” intelligence.

With the war still raging, enormous gaffes committed by British agents came to light, including admissions that some accusations in a highly touted “dossier” on Iraq actually were lifted from a US grad student’s 12-year-old doctoral thesis, casting doubts on the reliability of Britain’s spy agency, MI-6.

Prewar Israeli intelligence suggesting Saddam’s ballistic missile arsenal might be as large as two dozen Scuds also has been largely discredited, though some Israeli sources continue to claim Iraq hid much of its banned material across the border in Syria before the war began.

In May, sensing a gathering storm over the “missing” WMD, US intelligence analysts began leaking complaints to US news outlets suggesting that they were pressured to “bury,” in the words of one, any analysis that did not support the most alarmist view of the Iraqi threat.

In early June, two strangely outfitted trailers were discovered that seemed to fit the description of the “mobile biological weapons labs” Powell accused the Iraqis of operating in a February speech to the U.N. Security Council. No weapons material was found in the trailers, however, and within two weeks, unnamed US intelligence officials had told the Washington Post that the administration suppressed analysts’ reports that concluded the trailers were likely to have been just what the Iraqis claimed they were: support trailers used to inflate weather balloons.

By late May, having spent the previous month insisting WMD discoveries were just a matter of time, senior administration officials and the president himself began to hedge a bit, stressing the difficulty of finding such caches without cooperation from Iraqi experts, and even raising the possibility these weapons had been destroyed before the war began.

The Pentagon also moved to quash reports that it had orchestrated efforts to “sex up” intelligence on Iraq. In early June, Deputy Defense Secretary Douglas Feith, who coordinates intelligence gathering for Rumsfeld, appeared before Congress to deny these intelligence analysts’ allegations.

“This suggestion that we said to them, ‘This is what we’re looking for. Go find it,’ is precisely the inaccuracy we are here to rebut. I know of nobody who pressured anybody,” Feith said.

At the same time, Blair faced down a parliamentary inquiry, insisting that US and British statements on Iraq were based on genuine concerns and the best intelligence available. While the inquiry acquitted Blair and his Cabinet of misleading Parliament, the British leader remains under fire by angry members of his Labor Party now trying to prove the war was “illegal” because it was based on allegations that cannot be proven. Of particular damage have been accusations from Blair’s former foreign secretary, Robin Cook, who has characterized the Iraq war as a Bush family vendetta.

“This was a war made in Washington, pushed by a handful of neoconservatives and pursued for reasons of US foreign strategy and domestic politics,” Cook wrote in the London daily The Independent on Friday. Cook’s broadside coincided with new statements from anonymous British Cabinet members saying they now had very little expectation that any banned weapons would ever be found in Iraq.

A former US intelligence official who served under the Bush administration in the build-up to the Iraq war has publicly accused the White House of lying about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

The whistleblower, Gregory Thielmann, served as a director in the state department’s bureau of intelligence until his retirement in September, and had access to the classified reports which formed the basis for the US case against Saddam, spelled out by Bush and his aides.

Thielmannn said, “I believe the Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq.” He added, “Senior officials misused the information they were provided.”

At a July 10 press conference, Thielmann said that, as of March 2003, when the US began military operations, “Iraq posed no imminent threat to either its neighbors or to the United States”. He also said there was no significant pattern of cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida. He added, “This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude ... ‘We know the answers - give us the intelligence to support those answers’.”

Another whistleblower is Joseph Wilson, a lifetime US diplomat who served as the acting ambassador to Iraq in the lead-up to the Gulf War.

Last year the CIA financed Wilson to go to Niger to investigate reports that the African nation sold uranium to Iraq. Wilson found no proof such a sale occurred.

Wilson told the Washington Post, “It really comes down to the administration misrepresenting the facts on an issue that was a fundamental justification for going to war. It begs the question, what else are they lying about.”

It remains unclear why senior administration officials did not know about former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s conclusions that were given to the CIA.

During the first days of the war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stared into television cameras and said that he knew exactly where Hussein’s WMD’s were. “We know where they are,” Rumsfeld said. “They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.”

Last week, however, in an attempt to spin the discussion away from concerns about WMD, Rumsfeld told Congress that the decision to go to war was far more complex than the WMD issue and really was not centered on whether Iraq had new or ongoing WMD programs.

“The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass murder,” Rumsfeld said. “We acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light through the prism of our experience on Sept. 11.” Rumsfeld’s statement echoed an earlier assertion from his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, who said the WMD issue was chosen “for convenience” so the administration could lay out a case against Iraq at the United Nations.

Excusing Bush’s public lies, Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, clarified the definition of intelligence: “Intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean something is true,” he said.

The White House still faces broader questions about its prewar claims about Iraq. Two other critical allegations also remain unproven: that Baghdad had stocks of biological and chemical munitions and that it had links to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

“If the American people conclude that American soldiers have died because the administration has lied, it will be extremely serious,” according to Joseph Cirincione, an arms-control specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“American public opinion is clearly shifting on this issue.” He said he didn’t see how the Republicans and the administration could avert a major investigation.


Sources: BBC, CBS News, CNN, Democracy Now, The Guardian, Independent (UK), IPS, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, Reuters, Toronto Star, The Washington Post