Pentagon “rapid reaction media team” for Iraq

Washington D.C., May 8, 2007 – In January 2003 Defense Department planners recommended the creation of a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” to serve as a bridge between Iraq’s formerly state-controlled news outlets and an “Iraqi Free Media” network, according to a White Paper and PowerPoint slides that were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and are posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive.

The Pentagon team would portray a “new Iraq” offering hope of a prosperous and democratic future, which would serve as a model for the Middle East. American, British, and Iraqi media experts would be hand-picked to provide “approved USG information” for the Iraqi public, while an ensuing “strategic information campaign” would be part of a “likely 1-2 years . . . transition” to a representative government. A new weekly Iraqi newspaper would feature “Hollywood” along with the news.

Defense Department planners envisioned a post-invasion Iraq where the U.S., in cooperation with a friendly Baghdad government, could monopolize information dissemination. They did not account for independent media outlets, the Internet, and all the other alternative sources of information that are available in the modern world. The U.S. media campaign has not been able to control the message – but its execution was privatized, and contracting has made it a profitable enterprise for those able to capitalize on the Pentagon’s largesse.

Today’s posting also includes an “Iraq Media Timeline” that summarizes the U.S. media campaign and the difficult conditions faced by reporters in Iraq.

Electronic Briefing Book
Pentagon “Rapid Reaction Media Team” for Iraq
By Joyce Battle

A White Paper and PowerPoint briefing obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and published today by the National Security Archive describe Pentagon planning for a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” that was to be a critical part of an information campaign “during [the] pre-hostilities phase of the Iraq mission.” As a “bridge” after the overthrow of Iraq’s government and before the establishment of an “‘Iraqi Free Media’ network,” the rapid reaction team would create narratives leading Iraqis to feel, Pentagon planners enthused, like North Koreans who turned off state TV at night and in the morning turned on “the rich fare of South Korean TV . . . as their very own.” Foreshadowing the unfolding of the U.S. government’s Iraq media policy, preliminary work would not come cheap – Defense Department planners recommended paying two U.S. consultants $140,000 each for a campaign of six months duration.

The White Paper was prepared in January 2003 by two Defense Department offices – Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, and Near East and South Asian Affairs (Special Plans). The first is in charge of psychological warfare; the second was set up to covertly plan for the invasion of Iraq. As reported by Knight Ridder Newspapers, by mid-2002 it was clear to veteran Pentagon workers that President Bush was “methodically preparing an invasion to oust” Saddam Hussein. A planning unit – later referred to as the “Office of Special Plans” — was to coordinate “the non-military and political aspects of any campaign, as opposed to drawing up actual invasion plans.” More details of the unit’s activities have subsequently become known, particularly through a July 9, 2004 report by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the efforts of Senator Carl Levin [D-Mich.] and his staff. On October 21, 2004 the senator released a report focusing on the activities of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, which oversaw these secretive planning activities, and Levin was instrumental in obtaining the February 2007 declassification of what he called a “devastating” report by the Defense Department’s inspector general, who said the office’s role in developing and disseminating alternative intelligence analyses on Iraq – directed by Under Secretary Douglas Feith, and authorized by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz – was “inappropriate.”

According to the media White Paper, “civil-military transition of the new Iraq to a broad representative government” would take “1-2 years,” and the U.S. government would establish – in 12 months – an information system that would serve “as a model for free media in the Arab world.” To ensure that the message would be controlled, Iraq was to be provided with a “Temporary Media Commissioner” to regulate against “hate media”. He or she would operate in a receptive environment: the team would “identify the media infrastructure that we need left intact, and work with CENTCOM targeteers to find alternative ways of disabling key sites.” (Evidently the Baghdad headquarters of Arab satellite network al-Jazeera was not part of “the media infrastructure that we need left intact.”)

Iraqi, American, and “one or two” British media experts would provide information to Iraqis about U.S. intentions and operations. Their mission would include preventing Iraq’s “trifurcation” while giving Iraqis hope for the future. “Hand-Picked” Iraqis would provide “the face” for the USG campaign. The team was to “[t]ranslate USG policy and thematic guidance into information campaign (news and entertainment).” Plans for “Entertainment and News Magazine programming” ranked “Hollywood” above the news. Though U.S. policy was officially opposed to Iraq’s geographical disintegration, its internal divisions would be emphasized: a new weekly publication would have separate sections for Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurdish articles.

As Pentagon planners saw it, the themes of the “strategic information campaign” were to be crimes of the old regime, and a bright new day. They included “Mine awareness,” “Re-starting the Oil,” “Justice and rule of law topics,” “Humanitarian assistance . . . care and management of population and internal displaced persons,” “Political prisoners and atrocity interviews,” “WMD disarmament,” and “Saddam’s palaces and opulence.” Unfortunately for the architects of the war, however, the world has found uncontrolled media to view Iraq’s actual post-invasion reality — Abu Ghraib, IED’s, chlorine bombs, sabotage, disappearances, torture, botched executions, a dysfunctional legal system, a collapsed civil infrastructure, massive casualties, and an exodus numbering 2 million refugees, for whom American humanitarian aid has been effectively nonexistent — all overseen from the USG’s privileged enclave in the Green Zone. The 21st century universe of alternative media, freelancers, cell phones, video uploads, bloggers, and satellite news outlets was not, evidently, anticipated by the Pentagon, and is well beyond its control.

The U.S. government’s Iraq media policy did enrich certain defense contractors, including the Rendon Group, which also provided propaganda support for the U.S. leading up to the first Iraq war, Scientific Applications International Corporation – also known for creating a job, at the Defense Department’s behest, for Shaha Ali Riza, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz’s friend – and the Lincoln Group, which experienced a meteoric rise in fortune courtesy of the Pentagon’s largesse. Consistent failure to achieve stated goals has been no obstacle. [also here, here and here]

As for Iraq, it has been provided with media policies that resemble, according to the media watchdog International Press Institute, “those of autocratic regimes in the region, and not those of an aspiring democracy.” In the state of anarchy imposed on Iraq by the U.S. invasion, more than 200 journalists have died, including, by April 2007, at least 27 working for the U.S.-created Iraqi Media Network. Three of them were killed by U.S. forces. For reporters still striving, against great odds, to describe the conditions confronted by its people, Iraq is now, according to Reporters Without Borders, the “most dangerous country” in the world.

The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.
Document 1: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; and Office of the Assistant Secretary, Near East and South Asian Affairs (Special Plans) White Paper Entitled, “‘Rapid Reaction Media Team’ Concept;” January 16, 2003; Includes Briefing Slides.
Source: Declassified through the Freedom of Information Act

Recommends creation of a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” using “hand-picked” American, British, and Iraqi media experts to prepare for the establishment of an “Iraqi Free Media” following the invasion of Iraq. Discusses the team’s mission, personnel requirements, required tasks, and plans for “on-the-shelf” programming, and outlines topics and themes to be disseminated to the Iraqi public.

Document 2: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General Audit Entitled, “Acquisition: Contracts Awarded for the Coalition Provisional Authority by the Defense Contracting Command-Washington,” March 18, 2004.

Reports on actions taken by the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance/Coalition Provisional Authority – the entities created to govern Iraq following the U.S. invasion of March 2003 – and the Defense Contracting Command-Washington, which was in charge of administrating private sector activity in support of the invasion and occupation – when awarding contracts. The inspector general undertook this inquiry after the Defense Contract Audit Agency “found irregularities in both the award and administration of the contracts” and recommended an in-depth review. During the time span under consideration in the audit, the Defense Contracting Command awarded 24 contracts, valued at $122.5 million, of which 13, valued at $111 million, were sole-source (non-competitive.) The audit, which categorizes “media support” as “humanitarian assistance,” discusses a contract for the Iraqi Free Media Program that was granted on a no-bid basis to the Science Applications International Corporation. The Iraqi program is discussed in detail on pages 10, 16-17, 21-22, 26-29, and 33-36.

Document 3: U.S. Department of Defense, Inspector General Report Entitled, “Review of the Pre-Iraqi War Activities of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy,” February 9, 2007.

The review underlying this report was performed at the request of Sen. Pat Roberts [R-Kans.], Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. Carl Levin [D-MIch.], ranking minority member of the committee, because of substantive questions raised about some of the conclusions of the July 7, 2004 report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence entitled, “Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Pre-War Intelligence Assessments on Iraq,” particularly in regard to the possible politicization of intelligence. The inspector general’s review found that “The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers. While such actions were not illegal or unauthorized, the actions were, in our opinion, inappropriate . . . ” Therefore, “the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy did not provide ‘the most accurate analysis of intelligence’ to senior decision-makers.” (p. ii)

Iraq Media Timeline

Before (and during) the invasion of Iraq – The U.S. government broadcasts psychological warfare programming into Iraq from an EC-130E Commander Solo aircraft (a modified C130 cargo plane). (Asia Times, 8/16/03)

January 16, 2003 – Defense Department offices for special operations and low-intensity conflict and for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs (special plans), issue a White Paper/briefing calling for a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” to set up an “Iraqi Free Media” after the overthrow of the government in Baghdad.

February 2003 – C. Ryan Henry, corporate vice president for strategic assessment and development for the San Diego-based defense contractor Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), leaves to become deputy to Douglas Feith, head of the Defense Department’s policy office. (OUSD(P) Web site, Ryan Henry biography)

March 5, 2003 – The Pentagon gives a no-bid $33 million contract to SAIC for the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council (IRDC), a group of exiles put together by Paul Wolfowitz. (Acquisition, 3/18/04; San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/4/04)

March 11, 2003 – The Defense Department gives SAIC a $15 million sole-source contract for the “Iraqi Free Media” project. Though the company has worked extensively with U.S. Special Forces, it has no media experience. The contract is under Douglas Feith’s purview.

(SAIC’s vice chairman, Admiral William Owens (Ret.), was a member of the Defense Policy Board, advising Donald Rumsfeld. The company’s board members include Gen. Wayne Downing (Ret.), who also worked on domestic and international business development for the company, and was a member of the board of The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Soon after SAIC hired him, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, “Downing became a vocal advocate for overthrowing Saddam Hussein, becoming a part-time lobbyist and military planner for Iraqi dissident Adnan Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.”)

(“In 1997, Downing drafted a detailed plan for invading Iraq, spearheaded by Iraqi insurgents with the help of 5,000 or 6,000 special operations forces . . . . Gen. Anthony Zinni [U.S. military commander for the Middle East] mocked it as ‘the Bay of Goats’,” evoking the U.S. Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.)

(Until mid-2002 Downing worked for the George W. Bush administration as an NSC counterterrorism expert.) (Acquisition, 3/18/04; Asia Times, 8/16/03; Washington Post, 10/16/03; Village Voice, 11/12/03; San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/4/04)

Around March 11, 2003 – Robert Reilly, former head of the Voice of America, is hired to be project director for the Iraqi Media Network (IMN). Reilly worked for the Reagan administration as a liaison to Catholics, and as a publicist for the Nicaraguan contras. He was a member of the Center for Security Policy, whose credo was “peace through American strength.” Other members included Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Elliott Abrams, Midge Dector, and Frank Gaffney. One of Reilly’s publications posited an inherent incompatibility between Islamic theology and Western values.

Mike Furlong, who did military media work after the Kosovo war, is hired as Reilly’s deputy and the Iraqi Media Network’s program manager. (Reporters Without Borders Web site, 7/22/03; Center for Security Policy Web site)

March 20, 2003 – The U.S. invades Iraq.

March 21, 2003 – An email from a Defense Department contracting specialist indicates that someone from the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), the entity initially created by the Pentagon to rule Iraq, wants SAIC to hire four named individuals, including Shaha Ali Riza, as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for advice regarding voter education, business development, politics, women, and government reform. (Acquisition, 3/18/04; Contract No. DASW01-03-F-0537)

March 27, 2003 – SAIC is awarded an $834,744 contract for an “Advisor for Democracy and Governance Group,” including Shaha Ali Riza. (In April 2007 it is revealed that Paul Wolfowitz, in response to nepotism rules evoked when he became director of the World Bank, arranged for Riza, his significant other, to be posted to the State Department and to be granted several large raises, increasing her salary to more than $193,000.) (Acquisition, 3/18/04; Government Accountability Project Web site, 4/5/07)

March 29, 2003 – British tanks fire on four al-Jazeera journalists filming food distribution in Basra. (Reporters Without Borders Web site,4/8/03)

March 30, 2003 – U.S. forces hit Iraq’s Ministry of Information with a cruise missile, damaging the building and destroying satellite dishes. (Central Command News Release, 3/30/2003, Independent on Sunday (London), 3/30/03)

April 6, 2003 – American troops kill Qomran Abdul Razzaq, a BBC translator, when they bomb a Kurdish convoy in northern Iraq. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

April 7, 2003 – U.S. forces fire on an al-Jazeera vehicle, prominently marked “press”, on a road near Baghdad. (Reporters Without Borders Web site, 4/8/03)

April 8, 2003 – A U.S. tank fires on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel and kills Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Spanish Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso. (Associated Press, 4/19/04)

April 8, 2003 – A U.S. missile hits al-Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau and kills reporter Tariq Ayoub. The Pentagon had been extensively briefed on the bureau’s location, which was festooned with barriers marked “TV”. (MEED Weekly Special Report, 2/20/04)

April 10, 2003 – Ahmed al-Rikaby, hired by SAIC to be the Iraqi Media Network’s first television director, broadcasts the announcement “Welcome to the new Iraq” from a tent erected by U.S. soldiers. Five days later, “The Voice of New Iraq” officially begins broadcasting on AM radio. (Associated Press, 8/6/03; Christian Science Monitor, 4/21/03)

May 13, 2003 – The Iraqi Media Network begins television broadcasting from Baghdad, featuring cartoons, Egyptian soap operas, folk singers, news, sports, and interviews about Iraq’s lack of security and services. (Associated Press, 5/25/03)

May 15, 2003PR Week reports SAIC’s launching of the newspaper as-Sabah, with an initial run of 50,000. Its “short-term goal is to quell unrest among Iraqis by establishing America’s presence and control over basic issues. The San Diego-based information-technology firm holds a Pentagon-issued contract to set up a media operation in post-war Iraq in coordination with Psychological Operations and the White House communications staff.” (PR Week (US), 5/19/03)

June 2003 – Administrator Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), successor to ORHA, issues Order No. 6, declaring that the Iraqi Media Network is an interim entity replacing Iraq’s information ministry, eliminated by occupation authorities in May. IMN is given the ministry’s equipment and facilities. It retains a few hundred reporters and other staff. More than 5,000 employees are fired.

Along with the newspaper as-Sabah, the Iraqi Media Network operates a television station and two radio stations. The network’s chief editor, former Iraqi-Canadian exile George Mansour, says its news bulletins are independent. In reality they feature coalition activities and statements by Bremer. Mansour insists his journalists are “genuine” Iraqis, but some mock its reporters’ American and British accents. (Reporters Without Borders Web site, 4/26/07)

June 2003 – Independent press watchdog groups issue a report calling for the Iraqi Media Network to be dismantled because it is unclear whether it is to be an independent media outlet or a propaganda tool. Controversies include the hiring of Hero Talabani, wife of Kurdish leader/USG ally Jalal Talabani, to oversee editing, and its daily airing of a British program called “Toward Freedom.” The latter issue has led five Iraqi Media Network officials to write to managers installed by SAIC: “We respectfully request to know whose political agenda is involved here. Certainly, it is not a professionally sound programming decision to use a mediocre propaganda program from abroad to supercede our own news program. Following an exhausting hour of ‘Toward Freedom,’ it is only the most dedicated news junkies who could tolerate it without seeking another channel.” (Baghdad Bulletin, July 21, 2003)

June 2003 – Iraqi Media Network staff are not paid and go on strike. They strike again upon learning their pay scale will be that of the former Ministry of Information — $120 a month. A senior advisor to the IMN, former NBC correspondent Don North, says, “For some reason CPA have said we must adhere to the old pay scheme” despite intense competition for competent staff. (U.S. contractors hired for management positions are paid more than $200 per hour.) (Baghdad Bulletin, July 21, 2003)

June 2003 – Robert Reilly leaves the Iraqi Media Network, suddenly. (Washington Post, 10/16/03)

June 2003 – Iraqi Media Network program manager Mike Furlong is fired. (Baghdad Bulletin, July 21, 2003)

August 5, 2003 – Iraqi Media Network’s TV director, Ahmed al-Rikaby, quits, saying the network is inadequately funded and can’t compete with al-Jazeera and other alternative news sources. Al-Rikaby’s one-year contract to be television director and head of radio programs was scheduled to end in April 2004. He says low pay has led staff to leave the network. (Associated Press, 8/6/03)

August 10, 2003The Daily Telegraph, a conservative British paper, reports that former colleagues of Ahmed al-Rikaby say that Iraqi TV’s problems arose from incompetence and nepotism, and that his claims of inadequate funding “should not be taken seriously.” Al-Rikaby declares that he’s been targeted by “a smear campaign,” and says, “There was always an excuse as to why I couldn’t get what I needed.” (The Daily Telegraph, 8/10/03)

August 17, 2003 – U.S. soldiers kill Mazen Dana, a Palestinian journalist working for Reuters, while he is filming outside Abu Ghraib prison. (IPS, 9/25/03)

September 2003 – Dorrance Smith becomes media consultant to the CPA and head of the Iraqi Media Network. A childhood friend of George Bush and former producer for This Week with David Brinkley, he left ABC in 1989 to become media advisor to George H.W. Bush. He worked at This Week again from 1995 to 1999, when he was reportedly forced out, shortly before ABC decided not to renew the contract of commentator William Kristol. Kristol, a Smith colleague from the first Bush White House, was a principal cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq. (Media Research Center Web site, 12/30/99)

September 23, 2003 – Iraq’s governing council bars leading Arab satellite TV stations al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya from its ministries and events. The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders condemn the decision. IPS reports that the Iraqi Media Network has taken over a number of Iraqi radio stations and effectively shut down independent media outlets. (IPS, 9/25/03)

September 24, 2003 – U.S. soldiers open fire on AP photographer Karim Kadhim and his driver Qassim as-Saidi, and rake their car, prominently labeled “Press”, with machine gunfire. The reporters escape death by leaping from the car. (IPS, 9/25/03)

September 30, 2003 – According to the Defense Department’s inspector general, SAIC’s initial $15 million contract for the Iraqi Free Media Program is now valued at $82.3 million: “approximately 71 percent of the costs were materials.” (Department of Defense; Office of the Inspector General: Acquisition, March 18, 2004, p. 10)

October 2003 – The Pentagon begins soliciting bids for a new $200 million contract to run the Iraqi Media Network. (Village Voice, 11/12/03)

October 16, 2003 – The Washington Post reports that Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) wants to transfer $100 million meant to expand Iraq’s media network from the Pentagon to the State Department; however, the DOD’s Office for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (in charge of psychological operations) retains control. (Washington Post, 10/16/03; Village Voice, 11/12/03)

October 22, 2003 – Japan’s foreign ministry announces that the 1980s TV drama “Oshin”, called a “tearjerker” by some, will be broadcast by the Iraqi Media Network. A Japanese official hopes that “the patience, enthusiasm and forward-looking attitude of Oshin, the story’s heroine, will send out a positive message to the Iraqi people.” (Japan Economic Newswire, 10/22/03)

Early November 2003 – George Mansour is removed as the Iraqi Media Network’s news director. (Village Voice, 11/12/03)

November 3, 2003 – U.S. troops seize al-Jazeera cameraman Salah Hassan near Baquba, as he is interviewing witnesses to a roadside bomb attack, and take him to a U.S. military base, then to Abu Ghraib. He is eventually released without charge. (Observer, 11/27/05; Reporters Without Borders Web site)

November 12, 2003 -The Village Voice reports that a recent poll found that 67 percent of Iraqis with satellite receivers prefer TV news from al-Arabiya or al-Jazeera – not the Iraqi Media Network. (Village Voice, 11/12/03)

November 13, 2003 – The New York Observer reports that the CPA, dissatisfied with U.S. news coverage of Iraq, is about to create its own 24-hour broadcast operation, bypassing American networks. “It’s C-Span Baghdad”, according to CPA media advisor Dorrance Smith.

The article says that the U.S. military in Iraq and the CPA press office, described by one news producer “as staffed by political true believers, ‘neocons and evangelists’,” were “‘apoplectic’ at the press for under-reporting the ‘good news’ in Iraq.” (New York Observer, 11/13/03)

January 7, 2004 – The satellite broadcaster Arabsat, based in U.S.-friendly Saudi Arabia, begins broadcasting Iraqi Media Network’s al-Iraqiya TV programs. According to Radio Netherlands, “After the American attack on Iraq the management of both Arabsat and Nilesat announced that they w[ould] not let the Iraqi Media Network to be broadcast on both satellites but sounds like they gave it a second thought . . .” (BBC Monitoring International Reports, 1/7/04)

January 9, 2004 – After deciding not to renew SAIC’s contract to run the Iraqi Media Network, the Defense Department replaces it with the Harris Corp., a military contractor based in Melbourne, Florida. The company announces, “the Defense Contracting Command-Washington (DCC-W), on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) currently governing Iraq,” has given it a renewable $96 million to develop Iraq’s “antiquated” media network. The total value of the contract could be nearly $165 million. Its “local teammates” will be the Christian-owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. and telecommunications company al-Fawares of Kuwait. (Harris Corp. Web site, 4/27/2007)

January 20, 2004 – In his State of the Union speech, President Bush says, “To cut through the barriers of hateful propaganda, the Voice of America and other broadcast services are expanding their programming in Arabic and Persian – and soon, a new television service will begin providing reliable news and information across the region.” (White House Web site, 1/20/04)

February 14, 2004 – With $62 million, the U.S. government launches al-Hurra, a network intended to compete with al-Jazeera, to broadcast news and entertainment to Arab countries from a base in Springfield, Virginia. According to the National Post (Canada), Washington has allocated an additional $40 million for a specifically Iraqi al-Hurra operation [which begins broadcasting in April 2004.] Its programs are to be modeled after Radio Sawa, a pop music outlet that the USG considers a relative success.

According to the Post, “The Pentagon-run Iraq Media Network has flopped. Iraqis have not warmed to its broadcasts of official statements by Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator, and members of the Iraqi Governing Council.” (National Post (Canada), 12/19/03)

February 14, 2004 – Former CPA contractor and Iraqi Media Network senior advisor Don North says professional journalism training was obviously needed in Iraq – “A brutal form of training was delivered by the U.S. Army and CPA officials when they found stories offensive. They visited the offices of offending newspapers and often left them padlocked and in ruins. No mediation, no appeal.”

He says the Iraqi Media Network’s problems had many causes, including the fact that, “A revolving door of officials with no credible television or journalism experience dictated plans and policy to IMN.”

Also, “A surprising lack of operating capital, in spite of IMN’s being the most expensive U.S. government media project in history at an estimated $4 million a month, forced the IMN to run on a shoestring and look like it. There were no funds for basic equipment such as camera batteries, tripods or editing equipment. A $500 request for a satellite dish to downlink the Reuters news feed was refused. A $200 request for printing my training manual in Arabic for reporters was turned down.”

Also, “Lack of planning for program production or acquisition resulted in illegal airing of copyrighted European and Hollywood film tapes confiscated from the mansion of Saddam’s son Uday.”

Also, “IMN staff were ordered to cover endless daily CPA news conferences, interviews and photo opportunities, leaving little time and few facilities to cover genuine news stories initiated by IMN reporters on the street.”

Also, “The right of ‘collective bargaining,’ another American concept, was trashed by CPA management when IMN staff twice went on strike for higher wages. IMN staff were told in effect, ‘our way or the highway’.” (Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing, 2/14/05; Don North statement)

February 15, 2004 – Harris Corp. takes over the operation of the Iraqi Media Network from SAIC. Eleven months after SAIC was given a contract that was ultimately valued at $82.3 million, an official from one of Harris’s two regional subcontracters, Lebanese broadcasting Corporation International, says, “We are practically starting from scratch.” (MEED Weekly Special Report, 2/20/04)

March 3, 2004 – U.S. troops kill al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Mahmood Awad Hamadi in Falluja. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

March 18, 2004 – Near a checkpoint, U.S. troops kill correspondent Ali al-Khatib and cameraman Ali Abdel-Aziz of the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news station. (Associated Press, 4/19/04)

March 18, 2004 – Nadia Nasrat, announcer, Majeed Rasheed, technician, and Mohammed Ahmad Sarhan, security agent of the Iraqi Media Network, are killed by armed men in Diyala (Baquba). (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

March 18, 2004 – The Defense Department’s inspector general issues a report on CPA contracts. It says that SAIC’s original program manager for the Iraqi Media Network bought a H2 Hummer and a Ford pickup truck and chartered a DC-10 cargo jet to fly them to Iraq for his personal use “outside the scope of the contract.” When the Pentagon’s contracting office refused to authorize the purchases, SAIC “went around the authority of this acquisition specialist to a different office within the under secretary of defense for policy to gain approval and succeeded.” The inspector general could not specifically determine the cost but one category of expenses called “Office & Vehicle” totaled $381,000.

Also, when a subject specialist did not win a USAID contract, the director of the ORHA arranged for him to be covered by SAIC’s Iraqi Media Network contract. He “was first placed in charge of determining how to dispose of garbage in Iraq, and was then made Senior Ministry Advisor for the Ministry of Youth and Sport. Neither of those roles was within the scope of the Iraqi Free media contract.” ORHA’s director wrote, “we anticipate . . . [the subject matter expert] would be used on a variety of special projects essentially outside of the Indigenous media contract’s scope of work.”

The inspector general concluded, “We could not determine how the contracting officer obtained a fair and reasonable price for the Iraqi Free Media contract.” (Department of Defense; Office of the Inspector General: Acquisition, March 18, 2004, pp. 18, 21)

March 26, 2004 – U.S. troops kill ABC cameraman Burhan Mohammed Mazhoor in Falluja. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

April 6, 2004 – SAIC says “its revenue soared to a record $6.7 billion” during the last fiscal year, with “a surge in defense spending . . . . government business accounted for 80 percent of its revenue, with Pentagon contracts amounting to $3.7 billion.” (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/7/04)

April 15, 2004 – Donald Rumsfeld declares, “what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.” (Department of Defense Transcripts, 4/15/04)

April 16, 2004 – According to a leaked memo, George Bush discloses in a meeting with Tony Blair that he plans to bomb al-Jazeera’s Qatar headquarters, but Blair dissuades him. (The Mirror (U.K.), 11/22/05)

April 19, 2004 – The St. Petersburg Times reports that development work on the Iraqi Media Network’s al-Iraqiya and other media projects “has come to a near halt in recent days as Harris and other companies have been in lockdown because of the violence. Even with armed guards and armored vehicles, [project director David] Sedgley has been unable to move more than a mile or so beyond the Green Zone . . .”

The Times notes that Harris won the Pentagon contract to run the Iraqi Media Network through its “one-man Iraqi Initiatives project.” Because “it knew nothing about programming,” it subcontracted “a non-controversial Arab network,” and Newsweek’s Kuwaiti printer. (St. Petersburg Times, 4/19/04)

April 19, 2004 – On a road leading to Samarra, U.S. troops shoot and kill correspondent As’ad Kadhim and driver Hussein Saleh, and wound cameraman Bassem Kamel, employees of the Pentagon-funded al-Iraqiya TV station. (Associated Press, 4/19/04)

May 15, 2004 – Shortly before the end of its rule in Iraq, the CPA announces creation of a new framework for Iraq’s broadcast media, turning it into a sort of public broadcasting system. (Agence France Presse, 5/15/04)

Mid 2004 – A company called Iraqex, created to look for business opportunities in occupied Iraq, forms a partnership with the Rendon Group. (New York Times, 12/11/05) [Rendon has a long history of propaganda activities on behalf of conservative and Republican Party causes.]

August 7, 2004 – Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi suspends al-Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau. (New York Times, 8/8/04)

September 4, 2004 – The Iraqi interim government breaks into al-Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau, searches it, and closes it down indefinitely. (Agence France Presse, 9/6/04; Associated Press, 9/7/04)

Around September 2004 – The U.S. military awards the year-old Iraqex company a $6 million contract. The company is to undertake “an aggressive advertising and PR campaign.” It has “no background in public relations or the media.” (Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, 10/6/04; Haymarket Publishing Services, 11/19/04; New York Times, 12/11/05)

October 7, 2004 – Ahmad Jasim, al-Iraqiya reporter, is killed by unknown armed men. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

November 2004 – The CPA changes the Iraqi Media Network’s name to Iraqia Network and hires J. Walter Thompson for public relations work “to convince Iraqis that IMN or Iraqia was credible.” [The network continues to be referred to popularly as the Iraqi Media Network.] (Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing, 2/14/05; Don North statement)

November 1, 2004 – Reuters cameraman Dhia Najim is shot in the head and killed by a U.S. sniper while covering fighting between armed men and American troops. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

January 20, 2005 – Harris Corp. announces it has been awarded a second, three-month, $22 million contract by the Iraqi Media Network, covering training, programming support, systems, and deployment. (Harris Corp. Web site, 1/20/05; 4/27/2007)

February 20, 2005 – When asked by the St. Petersburg Times how Harris Corp. can “counter the perception that the Iraqi Media Network’s TV station, al-Iraqiya, is a mouthpiece for the U.S. government – especially during the time the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority was running the country,” project manager David Sedgley says, “First, Harris Corp. has never received a dime from the U.S. government – the Iraqi Media Network, including al-Iraqiya, is totally funded by the Iraqi government with Iraqi funds.”

He also says one of Harris’s objectives is to develop “fair and balanced” broadcasts, and that it has “reduced the amount of pro-American subjects” being aired.

Regarding security, he says, “If we knew it was going to deteriorate to today’s situation, I would have recommended to my management not to bid this program.” (St. Petersburg Times, 2/20/05)

February 28, 2005 – Raida al-Wazzan, al-Iraqiya TV announcer, is killed by armed men in Mosul. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

March 2005 – Iraqex changes its name to the Lincoln Group. (Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, 3/23/05)

May 31, 2005 – Jerges Mohammed Sultan, al-Iraqiya TV reporter, is killed near his house by armed men. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

June 2005 – The Defense Department’s Special Operations Command awards three five-year contracts, totaling $300 million, for articles, broadcasts, advertisements, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other messages meant to win international support for the U.S. government, including one to the Lincoln Group, which claims “select relationships in Congress, the Administration and the U.S. Department of State.” According to the New York Times, Lincoln becomes “the main civilian contractor for carrying out an aggressive propaganda campaign in Anbar Province, known as the Western Mission project. Over the next several months,” records show, “the military transfer[s] tens of millions of dollars to Lincoln for the project.”

Another contract goes to SAIC, despite “widespread criticism for its handling of Iraq’s first TV and radio network.” Its earlier contract was not renewed in December 2003 “amid complaints that the network was mainly a propaganda tool for the occupying forces.” The third is given to SYColeman Inc., headed by Lt. Gen. Jared Bates (Ret.), formerly director of operations for ORHA.

Mike Furlong, fired by the Iraqi Media Network in June 2003, is deputy director of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element and one of the officers in charge of the project. (USA Today, 12/13/05, 12/14/05, 12/23/05; San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/18/05; New York Times, 2/15/06)

June 1, 2005 – U.S. troops kill ad-Da’wa newspaper reporter Haydar al-Jourani in Najaf. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

June 22, 2005 – Yassir as-Salihi, Knight-Ridder reporter, is killed in his car by U.S. troops. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

June 28, 2005 – Ahmad Wa’il al-Bakri, ash-Sharqiya TV director, is killed by U.S. troops in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

July 1, 2005 – Khalid Sabih al-Attar, al-Iraqiya producer/presenter is kidnapped and killed by armed men in Mosul. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

July 3, 2005 – Editor-in-chief of Baghdad TV Maha Ibrahim is shot and killed by U.S. troops in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

August 27, 2005 – Rafid Mahmood Said al-Anbagy, Diyala radio presenter for the Iraqi Media Network, is killed by armed men in al-Gatoon area. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

August 29, 2005 – Hayder Kadhim and Walid Khaled Ibrahim, Reuters reporters, are killed by U.S. troops in Baghdad while covering fighting. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

September 17, 2005 – Sabah Mohssin of al-Iraqiya is killed. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

September 22, 2005 – Ahlam Yousif, TV engineer, and Bassem al-Fadli, manager, al-Iraqiya, are killed by armed men in Mosul. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

October 2005 – The Lincoln Group presents a plan called “Divide and Prosper” to the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command in Florida. It recommends making Sunni religious leaders one of the “target audiences” for U.S. propaganda. (New York Times, 1/2/06)

November 2, 2005 – Defense Secretary Rumsfeld endorses Dorrance Smith to be his chief spokesman, despite outrage resulting from an April 25 Wall Street Journal opinion piece in which Smith wrote that U.S. television networks were “a tool of terrorist propaganda” because they re-aired footage from al-Jazeera. (Washington Post, 11/2/05)

November 28, 2005 – Akeel Abdul Ridha and Muqdad Muhsin of al-Iraqiya are killed by armed men. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

November 30, 2005 – The Los Angeles Times reports, “the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.” The operation is handled by the Lincoln Group, and “is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military.” (Los Angeles Times, 11/30/05)

December 2005 – A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll indicates that 72 percent of Americans think it is wrong for the Pentagon to secretly pay the Iraqi media to publish pro-U.S. stories. (USA Today, 12/23/05)

Early January 2006 – Journalist Kamal Karim is sentenced to 30 years in prison for defaming Kurdish regional leader Masoud Barzani. His treatment is met by international outrage and his sentence is later reduced; he is imprisoned for six months. (Christian Science Monitor, 1/10/06)

January 1, 2006 – Mahmood Za’al, Baghdad TV reporter, is killed by U.S. troops in Khaldiya. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

January 2, 2005 – The New York Times reports that the Lincoln Group has been paying Sunni Iraqi religious scholars for propaganda assistance. (New York Times, 1/2/06)

January 4, 2006 – Through a recess appointment by President Bush, Dorrance Smith becomes assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. [On April 7, he is confirmed for the position by the Senate.] (Washington Post, 1/5/06; 4/8/06)

January 10, 2006 – The Christian Science Monitor reports that nearly 50 percent of Iraqis watch al-Iraqiya. However, according to its critics, “Iraq’s version of America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has simply become a propaganda tool for the country’s leading Shiite politicians. Al Iraqiya was meant to stand as a model for a burgeoning independent press, but seems to have instead become one more political spoil for its competing factions . . . . The Iraqi Media Network is another factor that is helping to turn Iraqi society into a sectarian society.” (Christian Science Monitor, 1/10/06)

Mid-January 2006 – The Defense Department inspector general begins an audit of the Pentagon’s use of the Lincoln Group for “psychological operations.” (New York Times, 2/15/06)

February 15, 2006 – The New York Times reports that two years ago the two founders of the Lincoln Group, recent Oxford University graduate Christian Bailey (né Christian Jozefowicz) and Paige Craig (formerly a U.S. Marines intelligence officer), “were living in a half-renovated Washington group house, with a string of failed startup companies behind them,” until winning contracts from the Pentagon. “Now their company . . . works out of elegant offices along Pennsylvania Avenue and sponsors polo matches in Virginia horse country. Mr. Bailey recently bought a million-dollar Georgetown row house. Mr. Craig drives a Jaguar and shows up for interviews accompanied by his ‘director of security’, a beefy bodyguard.” (New York Times, 2/15/06)

February 20, 2006 – Raeda Wazzan, al-Iraqiya news anchor, is kidnapped. Five days later she is found dead on a roadside in Mosul, where she had lived and worked. She had been shot repeatedly in the head. Her 10-year-old son was also kidnapped but he was later released. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

March 5, 2006 – The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo) reports that the Japanese Foreign Ministry is providing the animated series “Captain Tsubasa”, about a soccer-playing boy, to the Iraqi Media Network for free. Twenty-six Japan Ground Self-Defense Force water tankers in southern Iraq have been decorated with giant decals of Captain Tsubasa. A Foreign Ministry official predicts Iraqi children “will be filled with dreams and hopes by watching the show, and boost pro-Japanese sentiment even more.” (Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo), 3/5/06)

March 11, 2006 – Amjad Hamid Mohsin, director, and Anwar Turky, driver, al-Iraqiya, are killed by armed men in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

March 19, 2006 – Ali Hamid al-Mayahi, ad-Da’wa newspaper reporter, and Kamil Manahi Anbar, an-Nahar reporter and Institute of War and Peace Journalism correspondent, are killed by joint U.S.-Iraqi troops while the journalists are covering a military raid on a mosque in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

May 5, 2006 – Saad Shammari, TV host on al-Iraqiya, is found dead of apparent strangulation on a roadside in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

May 24, 2006 – The New York Times reports that an internal Defense Department investigation by Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk has concluded that payment of Iraqi newspapers to publish pro-American stories could undermine U.S. credibility and should be stopped. (New York Times, 5/24/06)

May 31, 2006 – Jafaar Ali, al-Iraqiya sports presenter, is gunned down in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

July 19, 2006 – The Defense Department drops the Lincoln Group and SAIC from the TV and radio components of a $300 million contract awarded in June 2005. SYColeman retains its part of the contract. A Pentagon psychological operations official says, “We learned that working with three companies increases expenditures in both time and money and does not provide best value to the government.”

(SYColeman is a subsidiary of intelligence contractor L-3 Communications. Since May, L-3’s president for government services has been Lt. Gen. Paul Cerjan (Ret.). After retirement, Cerjan had worked for Lockheed and Loral and was on the board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, along with Middle East policy hawks Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, and James Woolsey. He had been president of Pat Robertson’s Regent University for three years when he was called by ORHA head Jay Garner, and then “oversaw the demobilization the Iraqi army.” After that he was hired by Halliburton as “vice president of worldwide military affairs” for its subsidiary KBR, where he was in charge of military logistics for Iraq.) (Washington Post, 7/19/06; TMCnet News, 5/10/06,; CorpWatch Web site, 8/9/06; Private Warriors (Frontline) Web site, 6/21/05)

September 2006 – Willem Marx recounts his experiences paying Iraqi newspapers to publish pro-U.S. stories secretly written by American soldiers while he worked as a $1,000-a-month intern for the Lincoln Group. He mentions on one occasion needing “an unusually large advance payment” to buy upfront air time for the “Western Mission” propaganda operation, and driving through Baghdad with $3 million in cash in the trunk of a car, “separated into thirty plastic-wrapped $100,000 blocks.” The company, he reports, which paid Iraqi newspapers some $50-$1,500 to publish planted stories, expected to make $19 million for two months of work on the contract. (Harper’s, 9/06)

September 5, 2006 – SAIC reports revenue of $2 billion in the second quarter of FY 2006, a five percent increase over 2005. Government contracts accounted for about 92 percent of its 2005 revenue of $7.8 billion. Its revenue has increased by 78 percent since 2002. It has around 9,000 active contracts with the government. (San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/6/06)

Late September 2006 – The Lincoln Group receives “a two-year, $12.4 million contract to monitor English and Arabic news outlets” and to produce public relations material for the U.S. military in Iraq. Previously, the contract was handled by the Rendon Group. (New York Times, 10/20/06; Haymarket Publishing Services Ltd., 10/2/06)

October 4, 2006 – Jassem Hamad Ibrahim, al-Iraqiya driver, is killed by unidentified gunmen in Mosul as he is running errands for the station. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

October 6, 2006 – The Defense Department inspector general reports that the Pentagon did not break the law when it used the Lincoln Group “to place articles in the Iraqi media . . . .Psychological Operations are a central element of Information Operations . . . to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to U.S. objectives.”

However, the inspector general says that military officials violated contracting guidelines for competitive bidding and for overseeing costs in connection with a September 2004 Lincoln Group contract. But he recommends no punitive measures because the contract has expired. (Department of Defense Inspector General: Information Operations Activities in Southwest Asia, 10/6/06)

October 14, 2006 – Raed Qais ash-Shammari, an al-Iraqiya employee, is killed in a drive-by shooting in southern Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

December 29, 2006 – Akil Sarhan of the Iraq Media Network’s sports TV channel ar-Riyadia is killed when his car is attacked on the way to work by armed men. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

January 9, 2007 – Akil Adnan Majid, as-Sabah accountant, is kidnapped outside the newspaper’s office in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

January 20, 2007 – Mohammed Nuri and Baha’ Hussein Khalaf, reporters for the Iraqi Media Network, are killed in the Nineva governorate. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

February 4, 2007 – Suhad al-Khalidi, Iraqi Media Network reporter, is killed by U.S. troops as their patrol passes her car in Hilla. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

February 7, 2007 – Three unknown security guards for al-Iraqiya are killed by foreign security guards accompanying a delegation in as-Salihiya in central Baghdad, near al-Iraqiya headquarters. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

March 20, 2007USA Today publishes an article entitled, “Democracy’s Support Sinks; Iraqis Disillusioned, Divided on Government.” It reports that a recent USA Today/ABC News/BBC/ARD (German TV) poll found that the percentage of Iraqis who view democracy as the best system for their country has declined from 57 percent to 43 percent in 16 months, that 51 percent, including 94 percent of Sunnis, believe that attacks on U.S. forces are acceptable political acts, and that “[b]y more than 3 to 1, Iraqis say the presence of U.S. forces is making the security situation worse.” (USA Today, 3/20/07)

March 31, 2007 – Mohammed Jassim Yousif, Iraqi Media Network reporter, is killed west of Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)

April 25, 2007 – The International Press Institute, a media watchdog group, reports that “Iraq remains the most dangerous country for journalists.” It says, “The Iraqi government’s policies towards the press closely resemble those of autocratic regimes in the region, and not those of an aspiring democracy.” (Reuters Foundation Alertnet, 4/25/07)
(Most of the information in the Timeline on killed or kidnapped journalists is from the Brussels Tribunal Web site. The Tribunal’s list is based in large part on one published in az-Zawra, the Iraqi Journalist Union’s newspaper, on May 4, 2006. This timeline includes only casualties from the Iraq Media Network and its organs, or those killed or imprisoned by coalition forces. In total, the Brussels Tribune Web site lists 256 media professionals killed in Iraq as of April 2007.)


more on Blackwater. if it doesn’t ring a bell read this stuff.

Fresh Air — 3/19/07 — Interview with Jeremy Scahill about his book: “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army”

NPR:  The war in Iraq has been partly outsourced to private military contractors which are performing many of the services that used to be done by the military.  My guest, Jeremy Scahill, has written a book about one of those companies, Blackwater, which he describes as “the world’s most mercenary army and the embodiment of the Bush administration policy of privatizing military functions.”   The company, which was founded in 1996, made headlines in  2004 when four of its men were ambushed and set on fire by Sunni gunmen in Fallujah.  The charred remains of two of the men were hung on a bridge for public display.  The families of the four men are suing Blackwater for wrongful death, raising a lot of questions about accountability and oversight when private contractors play a major role in war.  Jeremy Scahill is a Polk Award-winning journalist who is a frequent contributor to The Nation and a correspondent for the radio and TV show, “Democracy Now.”  Jeremy Scahill — if you wanted to write about a private military contractor, why did you focus on Blackwater?

Blackwater USA in Fallujah

Jeremy Scahill:  Well, as a reporter I began going to Iraq in 1998 and the lead-up to the Clinton administration’s bombing there in late December of 1998.  It was the first of many trips that I would take to Iraq between ’98 and 2003 when the US occupation began.  I had spent time in the city of Fallujah.  In fact, in the summer of 2002 I had camped out there.  Having spent so much time there I paid particular attention to an event which happened on March 31st of 2004 when four American contractors were ambushed and killed, their bodies burned and dragged through the streets of Fallujah in a very gruesome and macabre display.  The people of Fallujah literally ripped these four men apart and hung their bodies from a bridge going over the Euphrates River.  I was paying very close attention to the events and very worried that the US was going to crush Fallujah because there had already been a tremendous level of violence in the city.  And indeed, the Bush administration laid siege to Fallujah a few days after that ambush happened and absolutely destroyed the city, killing hundreds of people, forcing thousands from their  homes.  As it emerged that the four men who were killed were from a private military company called Blackwater USA, and I’d never heard of them before, I said to myself, “I want to investigate this company!”

NPR:  Private contractors like KBR which is a former subsidiary of Halliburton provide services like getting food and other supplies to troops.  Private contractors build things, they bring supplies, they protect people.  Would you consider Blackwater like a company of mercenaries or the kind of contractors who get food and other supplies and offer protection?

JS:  The very essence of a mercenary is a soldier of fortune.  One of the primary motives for becoming a mercenary is monetary gain.  Blackwater’s heavily-armed forces are paid several times the wages of an average soldier.  They serve in Iraq as a sort of vanguard of the Bush administration’s occupation.  The Bush administration has outsourced one of the most mission-critical tasks of Iraq to Blackwater.  Blackwater guards the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad.  They guard several regional occupation offices in the country.  But then another fact which goes largely unreported is that while Blackwater portrays itself as a sort of “American pie” business, an all-American company, it has actually recruited mercenaries from some serious human-rights-violating countries:  Chile, Colombia, and elsewhere.  They’ve deployed them as part of their force in Iraq. 

NPR:  Have they been involved in combat operations at all? 

JS:  Oh, absolutely!  There was one incident in April, 2004, in Iraq where Blackwater was guarding a regional HQ of the occupation and Moqtada al Sadr’s forces were engaged in an uprising after the US arrested one of al Sadr — the fiery Shia cleric — one of his top aides.  This massive demonstration hit Najaf where a handful of Blackwater guards were guarding the building.  That day, April 4, 2004, Blackwater mercenaries engaged in a day-long firefight with the Mahdi Army.  In fact, during that battle there happened to be some US marines in the area and a young marine, Lance Corporal Lonny Young, was aiming his weapon down at the crowd below.  There was no commanding officer on the scene.  He asked the Blackwater guys for permission to open fire.  He said “Sir, I’ve acquired a target.  Should I open fire?” and the Blackwater guys gave him permission to open fire.  He described the conflicting emotions of killing people that day.  The fact was that Blackwater mercenaries were in overt command of an active duty US soldier.  That’s one of many incidents where Blackwater has been engaged in firefights with Iraqis.  They’ve been ambushed by Iraqis.  Their helicopters have been brought down.  So Blackwater has been very much in the thick of things in Iraq.

Bush’s “praetorian guard”

NPR:  Can you continue to give us an overview of the role Blackwater employees are playing in the Bush administration-run war on terror?

JS:  I call Blackwater “the praetorian guard” of the war on terror, the praetorian guard of course being the famed Roman mercenaries.  Because what you find with Blackwater is that they’re deployed in the key areas of the war on terror.  Their men were among the first deployed into Afghanistan after 9/11 on a covert CIA contract.  They’re training forces in Afghanistan.  Blackwater has a massive contract with the US State Department to provide what’s called “diplomatic security.”  I recently filed a FOIA request and determined that Blackwater has been paid $750M by the State Department alone since the summer of 2004 to guard senior US officials in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  Blackwater has also been deployed in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Several hundred Blackwater contractors were deployed in the hurricane zone.  And what’s interesting is that Blackwater billed the federal government $950 per day per man in New Orleans.  Their men on the ground that I interviewed in New Orleans told me that they were being paid $350 a day.  So there’s a serious question about where that $600 went!  What we find is that Blackwater, both at home and abroad, is serving the radical privatization agenda of the Bush administration.  It’s rapidly expanding its operations in the US, opening a new facility in Illinois called “Blackwater North,” and in California they’re calling it “Blackwater West.”  And then they have a 7,000-acre private military facility in the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina.  So this company really embodies so much of what’s happening in this country and around the world in the wake of 9/11.

NPR:  What do they do at the private military facility?

JS:  They train federal troops.  They train troops from various branches of the US military.  They train local and federal law enforcement.  They provide a shooting range for gun enthusiasts.  They also train in amphibious landings.  They have a man-made lake on the property that they use to train amphibious landings.  They train in defensive driving.  Blackwater’s manufacturing surveillance blimps that they’re marketing to the Department of Homeland Security for use in monitoring the US/Mexico border.  This really is a company that’s been at the cutting edge of fourth-generation warfare and has become one of the primary players and perhaps the most significant private actors in the war on terror.

Confrontation with Iran

NPR:  Blackwater got a contract in July of 2004 in the oil-rich area of the Caspian Sea.  How are they being used there?

JS: Blackwater was sent by the Bush administration into Azerbaijan to set up a Special Forces unit of the Azerbaijani military.  It’s a 90-man unit modelled on the US Navy Seals.  At the same time, Blackwater built in the port city of Baku a command-and-control center that had been a Special Forces base of the Soviet Union.  And so Blackwater sets up this command-and-control center and builds up this 90-man Azeri unit based on US Navy Seals right at Iran’s back door.  The point of that  contract was for Blackwater to set up a military presence — a heavy military presence — in a strategically important area.  The Caspian Sea, of course, is wealthy with oil and natural gas.  But also it’s a strategic area and some analysts have said that it could be used as a forward operating base in an attack against Iran.  The Iranians took this as a very hostile act and, in fact, deployed a special unit of the Iranian navy in the Caspian Sea as a direct response to Blackwater’s presence there. 

NPR:  You’re talking about ways that they might possibly be used.  But what exactly are they doing now?

JS:  Well, it’s unclear.  I’ve tried repeatedly to get updates on the original contract that I obtained, and I’ve been stonewalled in my efforts to get those contracts. So we literally don’t know what Blackwater is doing right now in Azerbaijan.

NPR:  Is that one of your criticisms of the use of private military contractors — that there’s no way for citizens to find out exactly how they’re being used and why they’re being used there?  Can Congress find that out?

A mercenary army operating in secrecy and without controls

JS:  I’ve interviewed several Congresspeople who’ve said they’ve tried for years to get detailed information on Blackwater’s contracts and other war contractors’ arrangements with the government and they’ve been stonewalled.. The fact of the matter is that Blackwater has repeatedly refused to hand over documents requested by Congress!  What’s ironic is that when Blackwater refuses to hand over these documents, they say that they’re classified!  The irony of telling Henry Waxman, chair of the Government Oversight Committee, that they can’t give him a document because it’s classified is stark.  I’m a journalist and you know that you’re fighting to get documents all the time from the government.  But when Congress can’t get them, that should raise major red flags for people in this country as to what exactly these companies are doing with our money and in our names.

NPR:  How well are those costs masked?  Doesn’t the government have to account for money it’s paying Blackwater?

JS:  Representative Henry Waxman of California since November, 2004, has been trying to get information on one Blackwater contract in Iraq.  It’s taken him nearly three years to get an answer as to who was actually paying Blackwater for security services in Iraq and who they were ultimately working for under these multi-layered tiers of subcontracts.  If you just take that one example of one pretty influential Congressperson’s attempt to find details on one contract, and you replicate that over and over, you find that this is essentially a shadow army that regularly defies Congress.

NPR:  If Congress can’t even find out what they’re being paid and what the contracts are, how are the private military contractors being funded? What does the money come out of?  What budget?

JS:  Well Blackwater for instance… the overwhelming majority of its work in Iraq is actually through the US State Department.  A lot of people erroneously believe that all contractors are working for the US military.  Blackwater has been paid $750M since June 2004 by the US State Department and that represents its single largest contract in Iraq.  But also the Pentagon pays these war contractors.  The US Agency for International Development.  Basically, the federal feeding trough in broken down into various federal agencies, and Blackwater just happens to have attached itself to the State Department portion of that.

NPR:  When we’re told by the Bush administration how much money we’re paying for the war in Iraq, does that include the money we’re paying to private military contractors? 

JS:  Well, Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois estimates that 40¢ on every dollar spent on the occupation of Iraq goes to the private sector.  And of that, $4B is being paid out to private military companies, according to Henry Waxman.  So yes, this is a big part of waging war in Iraq. 

NPR:  But it’s part of the official costs, included in the official costs?

JS:  Yes. Originally it was part of the reconstruction budget and it continues to be part of the ongoing budget for the occupation of Iraq.

Lawsuits: who has legal jurisdiction over Blackwater?  Anyone?

NPR:  As you pointed out, one of the turning points of the war in Iraq was in Fallujah when four Blackwater men were killed by insurgents and then the charred remains of two of them were hung from a bridge on display in Fallujah.  The families of the four men have filed wrongful death suits against Blackwater.  On what grounds?

JS:  The families of these four men who were killed in Fallujah all believed that their loved ones were going to be providing security for Ambassador Paul Bremer and they were going to be doing very important work as Special Forces operators.  They didn’t think of their loved ones as being contractors. They thought of them as being soldiers — what they’d been during their entire careers.  These guys were successful, decorated Special Forces operators.  They went over to Iraq.  They were working for Blackwater USA.  They’re sent into Fallujah.  And the problems began with the fact that the contracts that they were working under provided that they would be sent out with three men to a vehicle.  They were sent out with only two men to a vehicle.  That third man in the vehicle would have been a rear gunner armed with a heavy machine gun.  They were also supposed to be, according to the contracts, provided with armored vehicles.  They were sent in Pajero Jeeps which are widely known in Iraq as “bullet magnets.”  They were sent out that day according to the lawsuit of the families without a map and without the opportunity to do a pre-mission intelligence gathering.  And so these families, when their loved ones were killed, began asking Blackwater questions.  How did this happen? What were they doing in Fallujah? What was their mission that day?  And they say they were stonewalled by Blackwater for months.  And then in October of 2004, Blackwater flew the families to its compound in North Carolina for a memorial service for their loved ones.  One of the mothers of one of the Blackwater contractors killed — Donna Zovco — asked a Blackwater representative for the report on the ambush and asked for her son’s belongings.  The Blackwater representative said — she says — that the report was classified and “if you want that information you’ll have to sue.”  And so the families started to get to know each other and talked about it further and in January of 2005 they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blackwater in the state of North Carolina, alleging that the company had defrauded their loved ones, had not provided them with their contractually-obligated safeguards.  This is a case which is being monitored very closely by the whole war-contractor industry because I think there’s a concern that, like tobacco litigation, once the first domino falls, the whole pyramid starts to crumble. 

NPR:  How is Blackwater defending itself?

JS:  Very, very aggressively!  Blackwater has enlisted some of the most powerful Republican lawyers in the country to defend it.  The original lawyer on the case was actually Fred Fielding who is now Bush’s White House Counsel.  He replaced Harriet Myers.  The current counsel of record for Blackwater is none other than Kenneth Starr, the man who led the impeachment charge against President Clinton.  At one point they retained Greenberg Traurig, the powerhouse law firm.  And so Blackwater has never disputed the particulars of the lawsuit.  What they’ve done, they’ve tried to argue that they should be immune from civilian litigation in the US because Donald Rumsfeld classified Blackwater and other contractors as part of the US total force, an official part of the US war machine.  Blackwater has filed a series of briefs saying, Look, if you allow us to be sued, it’s like allowing the military to be sued and it invades the rights of President Bush to wage war as he sees fit.  The courts don’t belong in that process.  That’s what Blackwater has argued in its legal briefings and its legal papers filed with various courts.  The fact is that twice the US Supreme Court which, we should point out, is dominated by Republican appointees, rejected Blackwater’s appeals.  And so sit seems now that this case is going to go ahead in a state court in North Carolina where there would be no cap on damages a jury can award.

NPR:  Well, Blackwater is arguing that it shouldn’t be subjected to civil trials, but at the same time it doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of the military.  It’s not held accountable by the Military Code of Justice.

JS:  Right.  Blackwater has essentially declared its forces above any effective law while resisting attempts to have its private forces subjected to the Pentagon’s court martial system.  Blackwater also claims this immunity from civilian litigation.  In fact the only law Blackwater wants applied to its forces is one that has no teeth and has not been enforced in Iraq or elsewhere.  The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, which is a law that says contractors operating in the war zone should be subjected to the US criminal court system.  The fact is that there are 100,000 contractors in Iraq and only one has been indicted on any kind of charges.

NPR:  So in this Fallujah suit, Blackwater filed a countersuit against the families that are suing.  What does the countersuit say?

JS:  Blackwater would say that they’re not suing the families, they’re suing the estates of the four men killed at Fallujah, saying that they violated the terms of the contract which said they wouldn’t sue in the event of their death in Iraq or in the war zone.  So this is a $10M claim that was filed in an attempt to force the lawsuit out of the court system and into arbitration proceedings.  It’s part of Blackwater’s multi-pronged approach to fighting this lawsuit.  They’re trying desperately to get this case out of state court in North Carolina, and this is one of the great moves in that game!

NPR:  So do all employees of Blackwater have to sign a pledge that they will never sue?

JS:  You should read the contract that these guys sign when they go in to Iraq.  It basically lists every possible way a human being could be killed, including debris falling from the sky!  It says that you won’t hold Blackwater accountable for your death.  But what the families of the four men killed would allege is that that’s all well and good except you were also operating under a contract, Blackwater, that said these men would be provided with armored vehicles, heavy weapons, three men to a vehicle.  The families say, You defrauded our men and that nullifies the contract!

NPR:  There’s another suit against Blackwater that might be precedent setting.  Would you describe that?

JS:  Yes, the other lawsuit stems from an incident that happened in Afghanistan in November of 2004.  Blackwater was under contract with the government to operate airplanes inside the country, a sort of ferry service, for the US military.  They would take personnel and equipment and other supplies from Point A to Point B inside Afghanistan.  In November 2004 they were operating a flight that had on board not just Blackwater contractors but also active duty US soldiers.  The plane crashed into the side of a mountain killing all of those on board.  One of the soldiers actually survived for a brief period of time before dying.  The difference between this and the Fallujah lawsuit is that in this case you had active-duty US soldiers killed.  As a result, the National Transportation Safety Board did an investigation; the US military did an investigation.  What emerged from that is the military finding that Blackwater was at fault for the flight.  They released the transcripts of the cockpit data recorder and it showed that the pilots were messing around, X-wing figher, Star Wars men!  There were questions about whether all the safety precautions were taken that day.  So the families of the active duty soldiers have filed a lawsuit againsti Blackwater’s Aviation Division alleging that the company is responsible for their deaths as well.  And the judge that’s been hearing this case in federal court has been very aggressive in rejecting Blackwater’s arguments that it should be immune from this litigation.  So whichever one of these comes to fruition first, Fallujah or Afghanistan, could very well be a precedent-setting case.

Congress attempts to investigate Blackwater

NPR: There have been several attempts in Congress to bring more scrutiny to private military contractors.  What’s the latest?

JS:  The latest is that there’s a real war going on on Capitol Hill right now.  There are a number of pieces of legislation making the rounds and the real debate boils down to whether or not private military contractors should be subjected to the court martial system or whether they should be subjected to the jurisdiction of US prosecutors.  Lindsay Graham, a conservative South Carolina Republican who has been a military lawyer for the Air Force, slipped in language late last year into the Defense Authorization Bill which President Bush signed into law that essentially said contractors are now subject to the Uniform Military Code of Justice, the court martial system.  The mercentary industry went bonkers and said it’s unconstitutional, we’re civilians, you can’t put us under the court martial system.  That might be one area where civil libertarians and the mercenaries actually agree!  On the other side of that you have Barack Obama, Jan Schakowsky, and David Price — Democrat from North Carolina — pushing forward with an attempt to place contractors under the US court system.  Those are the two approaches that are being taken now.  But in addition to the legislation, Representative Henry Waxman of California has been on the warpath against Blackwater and I understand that he intends to continue holding hearings on the company.  He finds it outrageous that their operations are so cloaked in secrecy.  So Blackwater is going to find itself increasingly in the crosshairs.  Some people are calling it the new Halliburton.

NPR:  On the subject of accountability, Paul Bremer, just as he was leaving his position as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, issued a decree called “Order 17.”  What did this decree do?

JS:  It effectively immunized private contractors from any kind of prosecution in Iraq.  It said that Iraqis can’t seek justice for any crimes committed by private contractors in Iraq and it’s the responsibility of the government to prosecute these guys.  What’s interesting about Paul Bremer is his use of Blackwater Security in Iraq.  As one colonel says in my book, If the US military were guarding Bremer and he got killed, there would be an internal investigation.  Maybe there would be a court martial if they found soldiers at fault for his death.  If Blackwater lost Paul Bremer, it would crush their business. Their whole point of operating in Iraq at that time was to keep Bremer alive.  It was the most dedicated, determined adherence to the free market doctrine that Paul Bremer could have displayed.  He put his life literally in the hands of the private sector at a time when he was the most hated man in Iraq.

NPR:  So you’re suggesting that they would go to any means necessary to protect him even if that meant killing people who might be innocent and then there’d be no way of prosecuting them for it?

JS:  There are so many reports of Blackwater contractors just preemptively shooting at Iraqi vehicles as its convoys make their way through the country.  Some of these reports come from senior military officials who were tasked with looking at security in Iraq. They said they would ride around with their Iraqi counterparts and Blackwater guys would run them off the road.  These guys are known for being very, very aggressive. The whole point of their operation is to keep their “noun” alive.  Their “noun” was Paul Bremer and now Zalmay Khalilzad.  So they’re going to do everything they can to not lose the noun. 

Blackwater in New Orleans, in California, and througout the US

NPR:  As you’ve pointed out, Blackwater is trying to get more and more work within the US.  It was hired, for instance, as a private contractor after Hurricane Katrina.  What kind of services did it perform?

JS:  It’s interesting because Blackwater beat most agencies of the federal government to the hurricane zone. It initially deployed about 180 men. It didn’t have any government contracts, according to company officials.  They say they just went down there to help out in the relief effort.  I was in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was actually talking to two New York City police officers on Bourbon Street when all of a sudden a compact car with no license plates pulls up and these big burly guys with flak jackets, machine guns, and wraparound sunglasses and shaved heads get out of the car and say to the New York police officers, “Do you know where the rest of the Blackwater guys are?”  And the police officers said, “Yeah, there’s a bunch of them down the road.”  I turned to the police officer and said, “Blackwater?  You mean like the guys in Iraq?”  And he said, “Yeah, they’re all over the place.”  So I walked around and found some Blackwater guys and I talked to them about what they were doing there.  They told me very clearly that they were on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and that they were staying in a Homeland Security camp outside New Orleans.  One of them showed me a gold law enforcement badge and said he’d been deputized by the governor of Louisiana.  When I asked them what their mission was in New Orleans, they said they were there to confront criminals and stop looters.  The fact of the matter is that these Blackwater guys were riding around in unmarked vehicles, heavily armed.  Several of them had just been in Iraq or Afghanistan a couple of weeks earlier.  So it was very disturbing to see these private forces on the streets.  What are they going to do if they see a woman coming out of a department store carrying diapers that she didn’t buy, that she took out of the department store?  What are these private soldiers supposed to do?  After I reported that they said they were on contract with the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government was forced to admit it and it turns out they were paying these guys $350 a day and Blackwater was billing the government for $950 a day for their services. At one point Blackwater had 600 men deployed from Texas to Mississippi and they were raking in more that $240,000 a day. 

NPR:  Is Blackwater trying to get more work in the US in the aftermath of natural disasters?

JS: Oh, absolutely!  Blackwater representatives recently met with California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to talk with him about doing disaster response in the event of a California earthquake.  The company has applied for operating licenses in all of the coastal states of the US.  As I said, they’re opening military and law enforcement training facilities in Illinois and in California.  They’re building sort of a triangle around the country.  Its home base in North Carolina is an impressive facility.  It’s 7,000 acres.  It has a state-of-the-art 60,000 sq.ft. corporate headquarters that welcomes visitors with door handles made from muzzles of automatic weapons.  Blackwater was founded with the idea of anticipating increased government outsourcing of military training.  So Blackwater is positioning itself to cash in for many,many years to come.

Rumsfeld, Cheney, and their private armies

NPR:  Is it fair to say that the role of private military contractors started really expanding under the leadership of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld?

JS:  This is the life’s work of those two. Dick Cheney, when he was Defense Secretary under George H.W. Bush, one of the last things he did was to commission a study from a division of Halliburton, a company he would go on to head, looking at how to private the military bureaucracy.  That was laying the groundwork for this war contractor bonanza we’ve seen unfold since 2001.  Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others came to power in this country with a radical privatization agenda.  But the fact of the matter was, 9/11 provided Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the neo-conservatives clique that operated in the White House in those days, with this blank slate on which to paint their privatization picture. Iraq was considered a slate to be wiped clean!  And built up from the ground!

NPR:  We were talking about new roles for private military contractors.  Blackwater wants to be able to use its people as part of the peacekeeping forces in Darfur. What exactly are they trying to do?

JS:  This was an initiative that became public in March of 2006. Cofer Black was at a military conference in the nation of Jordan and announced that Blackwater would be willing to go into Darfur as a privatized peacekeeping force.  And Blackwater has been in this intensive lobbying campaign to get permission from someone — whether it’s the UN or the US government ot NATO — to deploy in Darfur.  One of the great concerns, I think, about this scenario, is that so much of the violence in Sudan is attributable to militia violence.  If you add yet another private armed force to this situation, it’s a cause for real serious concern. Blackwater always says it would only act in the interests of the US, but Congress is find it almost impossible to shed light on its operations.  It all sounds good on paper: Let’s send in this effective fighting force!  It talks about “Janjeweed be gone” and being an anti-genocide force.  But what happens if things go wrong? Well, when things go wrong in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress finds it almost impossible to get information from Blackwater.  They’ve refused repeatedly to turn over documents. So what happens when you send these guys into Darfur?  You add yet another private military operation to the mix and you create a situation in which nation states and international bodies are privatizing out these operations to private military companies, private mercenary companies.  In the process you subvert international order.  Yes — maybe Blackwater could go in in there and wipe out the Janjeweed militia.  But what happens the day after that? Where’s the political process in this? More violence is not what’s needed in Darfur right now!  The fact is that Eric Prince and others from Blackwater have been part of Christian organizations that have targetted Sudan for years.  A very disturbing thing happened last October. President Bush lifted partial sanctions on the south of Sudan, the Christian region of the country and the south Sudanese representative in Washington said he expected Blackwater to start training forces in the south of Sudan sometime soon.  He said this in January.  It’s really a disturbing development and I think a disturbing proposal by Blackwater.

Blackwater, the Pentagon, the CIA and the Christian Right

NPR:  The founder of Blackwater, Eric Prince, is very connected.  Let’s talk about him starting with the fact that he’s from a very wealthy family. How did his family make their fortune?

JS:  Eric Prince grew up in Michigan, in Holland.  His dad, Edgar Prince, was very much the king of Holland, pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of guy, who built up an empire, a company called Prince Manufacturing Corp.  Prince Manufacturing was best known for creating the now-ubiquitous sunvisor in the car… that’s from the Prince family. What Eric Prince’s father taught him was to mix a strict adherence to a Calvinist religious doctrine with a strong embrace of the free market gospel. Eric Prince, as a young man, watched as his father used the family business as a cash-generating engine to fuel the rise of the religious right as well as the Republican revolution of 1994 that brought Newt Gingrich to power. So his father was a major contributor to many Republican campaigns, but also to Gary Bauer, for instance, the founder of the Family Research Council.  He gave Gary Bauer the seed money to start the organization. Young Eric Prince was among the first interns there.  The Prince family also contributed heavily to James Dobson and Focus on the Family.  Eric Prince, interestingly, is very close to Chuck Colson, the former Watergate conspirator and one of Bush’s spiritual advisors.  This was the guy who was Nixon’s hatchet man and he’s now running faith-based prisons.  So Eric Prince grew up in this atmosphere.  His family was very close to the religious right, very close to conservative politics.  Prince himself interned in George H. W. Bush’s White House. But he complained that it wasn’t conservative enough on gay issues, the budget, the environment.  He also worked on Pat Buchanan’s insurgent campaign for president in 1992 when he ran on a very xenophobic, anti-immigrant line.  Eric Prince himself has contributed upward of a quarter of a million dollars in traceable money to federal Republican campaigns. Interestingly, he’s never given a penny to a Democrat — which is certainly his right — but he has given money to Green Party candidates to defeat Democrats.  This is a very unusual pattern for the head of a powerful corporation, to put all of his eggs in one basket.  But this guy is a committed ideologue.

NPR: Eric Prince, the founder of Blackwater, is a former Navy Seal.

JS:  In fact, he’s believed to be the wealthiest person ever to serve in the Navy Seals!  He was deployed in Haiti, Bosnia, in the Mediterranean.  I don’t think he actually wanted to leave the Navy Seals.  But in 1995 his father died of a heart attack and his wife had been diagnosed with cancer.  I think being in the Seals was no longer a reality for him.  I think that’s why he turned his sights on setting up a military company that would effectively operate like a privatized Special Forces unit.

NPR:  Joseph Schmidtz is the vice chairman of Blackwater and he had been the Pentagon’s Inspector General.  So he’s kind of connected to both the private and government worlds. Is he very politically connected?

JS:  Joseph Schmidtz was Pentagon Inspector General at a time when the war contractor bonanza was just exploding.  His job, effectively, was to police the largest war contractor bonanza in history.  He was forced to resign under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike, accusing him of not doing his job.  And then he turns around and takes a job with one of the most successful of those war contractors, Blackwater USA. Joseph Schmidtz is a committed Christian activist.  He himself is the one who brags of his membership in the military Order of Malta, the Christian militia dating back to the first Crusade.  And if you read through his speeches from when he was Inspector General, he absolutely adored Donald Rumsfeld.  He gave a speech one time in which he went on and on about Rumsfeld’s career as a wrestler!  So this was a guy who was very close.  He was a devoted Republican disciple.  He was very close to the Bush administration.  And now he’s in a leadership position at Blackwater USA. 

NPR:  Another highly-placed person in Blackwater is Cofer Black.  What’s his position in Blackwater and where was he before that?

JS:  Cofer Black is a vice chairman and he’s perhaps one of the most famous spies in US history.  Cofer Black was a thirty year veteran of the CIA when he came to Blackwater in February of 2005.  This was a man whom Osama bin Laden had marked for death in the Sudan in the 1990’s when Black was a CIA operative there. Cofer Black was also the man who caught Carlos the Jackal, at the time the most famed international terrorist.  He caught him in Sudan.  Black went on for decades to serve in the CIA.  When 9/11 happened, he was the coordinator of the CIA’s counterterrorism center and the man tasked with beginning the hunt for bin Laden.  On September 13, 2001, he’s in the White House situation room throwing papers on the ground, explaining to President Bush how he’s going to drop in Special Forces units throughout Afghanistan. He would talk in these terms:  “We’re going to put their heads on spikes.  We’re gonna have flies crawling across their eyeballs.”  He talked about chopping bin Laden’s head off with a machete so they’d have the DNA and know it was him.  He actually promised President Bush that he’d bring Osama bin Laden’s head back from Afghanistan in a box on dry ice!  Of course that didn’t happen.  So Cofer Black was one of the key players in the war on terror, one of the key players in the escalated use of the extraordinary rendition program.  And now he’s one of the key players at Blackwater USA and recently announced that he had formed his own private intelligence company.  These guys are really on the cutting edge of private military, private security, private intelligence.  And so Blackwater has really stacked its deck with veteran spies, veteran government officials and very influential officials.

Concerns in the American military about private contractors

NPR:  Would you summarize for us what you think the major concerns are about the expanding role of private military contractors?

JS:  I think the Bush administration has stretched our domestic armed forces to the limit.  The draft is off the table, for political reasons. And so the US government is left to struggle to find allies to staff its unpopular wars.  Private military companies have come in and filled that vacuum for the Bush administration.  No longer do we have a real democratic process when it comes to the decision to go to war.  No longer do we have that push and pull that would come from how many people you have in your military, how many are willing to serve in the military.  Mercenaries have provided the Bush administration with the opportunities to wage almost endless war.  It’s only how much you’re willing to pay these private forces.  If you can’t recruit the government of Chile to support your operation in Iraq, you can still hire their soldiers. So what this really does is subvert democratic processes and it subverts the natural resistence people have to aggressive or offensive wars.  The other layer of this is that the operations of these companies are absolutely shrouded in secrecy.  Not even senior officials within Congress — senior members of Congress! — can get detailed information on their contracts.  So what we’re doing is we’re taking ourselves further and further away from oversight and transparency and accountability.  We already have enough problems in this country trying to oversee official US forces!  Now you add 100,000 contractors to the mix?  This is a very frightening and disturbing development in the history of warfare.

NPR:  Have you spoken to a lot of military leaders about what they consider to be the pros and cons of the Bush administration’s reliance on private military contractors?

JS:  Well, what senior military officials have been saying publicly lately is that they think we have to watch the use of these armed contractors very, very closely.  Most recently, General John Abizaid said it on Ted Koppel’s documentary, that we really have to be careful about the use of these heavily armed contractors.  I think also there’s a real concern in the military community that the numbers are dropping in the Special Operations forces. In fact in Iraq right now there’s a slang term for a soldier who goes to work for any private military contractor — they call it “going Blackwater.”  And so if you think about it, if you’re a grunt in Iraq, and you’re out there risking your life, and you don’t even have adequate body armor, and you see these Blackwater guys making $600 or $800 a day for doing the same kinds of things that you’re doing, there’s a lot of resentment.  So it’s impacting morale in the military as well when you have these highly paid mercenaries running around in Iraq and the soldiers are looking at them and saying, “How come they’re getting a six-figure salary and I’m getting $35,000 a year and I’ve got a pregnant wife at home.”  So it really has impacted morale in the military as well.


Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans
    By Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo
    t r u t h o u t | Report    Saturday 10 September 2005

    New Orleans – Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Some of the mercenaries say they have been “deputized” by the Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards on their arms. They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.

    “This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working CONUS (Continental United States),” a heavily armed Blackwater mercenary told us as we stood on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. “We’re much better equipped to deal with the situation in Iraq.”

    Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world and they are accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences. Their presence on the streets of New Orleans should be a cause for serious concern for the remaining residents of the city and raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here. Some of the men now patrolling the streets of New Orleans returned from Iraq as recently as 2 weeks ago.

    What is most disturbing is the claim of several Blackwater mercenaries we spoke with that they are here under contract from the federal and Louisiana state governments.

    Blackwater is one of the leading private “security” firms servicing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It has several US government contracts and has provided security for many senior US diplomats, foreign dignitaries and corporations. The company rose to international prominence after 4 of its men were killed in Fallujah and two of their charred bodies were hung from a bridge in March 2004. Those killings sparked the massive US retaliation against the civilian population of Fallujah that resulted in scores of deaths and tens of thousands of refugees.

    As the threat of forced evictions now looms in New Orleans and the city confiscates even legally registered weapons from civilians, the private mercenaries of Blackwater patrol the streets openly wielding M-16s and other assault weapons. This despite Police Commissioner Eddie Compass’ claim that “Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons.”

    Officially, Blackwater says its forces are in New Orleans to “join the Hurricane Relief Effort.” A statement on the company’s website, dated September 1, advertises airlift services, security services and crowd control. The company, according to news reports, has since begun taking private contracts to guard hotels, businesses and other properties. But what has not been publicly acknowledged is the claim, made to us by 2 Blackwater mercenaries, that they are actually engaged in general law enforcement activities including “securing neighborhoods” and “confronting criminals.”

    That raises a key question: under what authority are Blackwater’s men operating? A spokesperson for the Homeland Security Department, Russ Knocke, told the Washington Post he knows of no federal plans to hire Blackwater or other private security. “We believe we’ve got the right mix of personnel in law enforcement for the federal government to meet the demands of public safety.” he said.

    But in an hour-long conversation with several Blackwater mercenaries, we heard a different story. The men we spoke with said they are indeed on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and the Louisiana governor’s office and that some of them are sleeping in camps organized by Homeland Security in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. One of them wore a gold Louisiana state law enforcement badge and said he had been “deputized” by the governor. They told us they not only had authority to make arrests but also to use lethal force. We encountered the Blackwater forces as we walked through the streets of the largely deserted French Quarter. We were talking with 2 New York Police officers when an unmarked car without license plates sped up next to us and stopped. Inside were 3 men, dressed in khaki uniforms, flak jackets and wielding automatic weapons. “Y’all know where the Blackwater guys are?” they asked. One of the police officers responded, “There are a bunch of them around here,” and pointed down the road.

    “Blackwater?” we asked. “The guys who are in Iraq?”

    “Yeah,” said the officer. “They’re all over the place.”

    A short while later, as we continued down Bourbon Street, we ran into the men from the car. They wore Blackwater ID badges on their arms.

    “When they told me New Orleans, I said, ‘What country is that in?,'” said one of the Blackwater men. He was wearing his company ID around his neck in a carrying case with the phrase “Operation Iraqi Freedom” printed on it. After bragging about how he drives around Iraq in a “State Department issued level 5, explosion proof BMW,” he said he was “just trying to get back to Kirkuk (in the north of Iraq) where the real action is.” Later we overheard him on his cell phone complaining that Blackwater was only paying $350 a day plus per diem. That is much less than the men make serving in more dangerous conditions in Iraq. Two men we spoke with said they plan on returning to Iraq in October. But, as one mercenary said, they’ve been told they could be in New Orleans for up to 6 months. “This is a trend,” he told us. “You’re going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations.”

    If Blackwater’s reputation and record in Iraq are any indication of the kind of “services” the company offers, the people of New Orleans have much to fear.


    Jeremy Scahill, a correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, and Daniela Crespo are in New Orleans. Visit for in-depth, independent, investigative reporting on Hurricane Katrina. Email:


Our latin american mercenary troops.

U.N.: Mercenary Industry Poses Problems for Latin America

by Cyril Mychalejko
April 27, 2007


The United Nations quietly released a report in March exposing an array of human rights abuses associated with a growing mercenary industry that is recruiting large numbers from Latin American countries. “We have observed that in some cases the employees of private military and security companies enjoy an immunity which can easily become impunity, implying that some States may contract these companies in order to avoid direct legal responsibilities,” said Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the U.N. Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, in a statement before the Human Rights Council. The alleged human rights abuses are not just against civilians from the countries in which they operate, but also against their own employees. These “soldiers of misfortune” are often recruited from vulnerable populations in developing countries, such as Honduras and Ecuador, countries the U.N. group visited last year to conduct investigations. The massive unemployment, low wages, fragile governments and the history of violent conflicts in these countries make their populations an ideal labor pool. In addition, the report expresses worry about the “phenomenon” of Latin American government outsourcing domestic security and military functions to the private sector and the use of such operations to “protect” oil and mining companies. “There need to be international regulations as well as domestic regulations in these countries,” said Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Tree, who has been monitoring this “out of control” industry for years in its role in the “War on Drugs” in Latin America, said that the lack of regulations and oversight is due to the fact that it’s been under the radar for years and just coming to light because of the Iraq War. It’s estimated that there may be as many as 50,000 mercenaries working in Iraq — making it the second largest force in the so-called “coalition of the willing.” Many of them may end up fighting alongside U.S. soldiers in combat situations. “The number of personal security specialists we utilize in Iraq alone is more than all the Diplomatic Security agents we have globally,” said Gregg Starr, a State Department official in testimony before Congress in June of 2006. Although there has been some reporting on high profile companies, the issue still may not be garnering the attention it deserves as no media outlets have reported on the U.N. report. According to the Working Group, there may be as many as 280 private security companies operating illegally in Honduras. A number of Honduran nationals working in Iraq for a subsidiary of the Illinois-based Your Solutions Inc. are believed to have suffered “irregularities in contracts, harsh working conditions, wages partially paid or unpaid, ill-treatment and isolation, and lack of basic necessities such as medical treatment and sanitation.” Some former employees have filed labor and criminal claims against the company with Honduran authorities. Another scandal unearthed against the company in the Working Group’s report involves illegally training Chilean recruits for Iraq in Honduras. The report states that in September 2005 the company brought 105 Chileans, some ex-soldiers, into the country under tourist visas. The Chileans, alongside their Honduran counterparts, were then sent to a former army base in the municipality of Lepaterique to receive training. The former base, now a development center of the Honduras Forestry Development Corporation, was once used by Washington in the 1980’s to train mercenaries of a maybe not-so-different sort — namely Contras, Honduras’s infamous death squad Battalion 316, and Argentina’s 601st Intelligence Battalion, a “counter-terrorist” unit initiated under Operation Condor. The possibility for industry changes in Honduras may be slight as the Working Group pointed out a “campaign of harassment, death threats and slander against the [human rights organization] Associacion para una Sociedad Mas Justa (Association for a More Just Society).” On Dec. 4, 2006 Dionisio Díaz García, a lawyer and journalist with the Tegucigalpa-based AJS, was shot in the head while driving in his car to court where he was scheduled to represent a group of security guards who had their labor rights violated. In a statement, the AJS wrote: “These companies have resorted to intimidation, smear campaigns, and open hostility toward AJS workers. On Monday, December 11, a board member and staff of CRWRC-Honduras partner group Genesis received a text message stating, ‘You are the next.'” In Ecuador conditions are more of the same: immunity, impunity, exploitation and human and labor rights violations. The report expressed concern that private security companies were using the U.S. military base in Manta to recruit employees for foreign operations (Iraq and Afghanistan) and to conduct aerial spraying and other counter-narcotics operations under “Plan Colombia.” “A transnational private security company was performing counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics tasks from the military base in Manta,” said the U.N.’s Gomez del Prado, adding that these functions should be carried out exclusively by U.S. military personnel.  Manta has become a political lightning rod as Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has threatened to not renew the “Agreement of Cooperation” with the U.S. (which expires in 2009) that allows Washington to use the Air Force base. The agreement also grants immunity to U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors — a clause which the Working Group views as problematic. The report and its documentation of abuses of the use of the base along with public opinion firmly on the side of Correa may make it even easier for him to kick Washington out when the agreement expires. Jeffrey Shippey, a former DynCorp International employee at Manta created a ghost company, Epi Security and Investigations, and recruited more than 1,000 Colombians and Ecuadorians to work in Iraq. The report noted that the company wasn’t registered in Quito nor with local provisional authorities. NGO’s told the Working Group that the company allegedly was using Chilean instructors and former Colombian military personnel.  Shippey wrote in an advertisement promoting his company at the Iraq Job Center website that, “These forces have been fighting terrorists for 41 years and…have been trained by the U.S. Navy Seals and the U.S. DEA to conduct counter-drug/counter-terror ops in the jungles and rivers of Colombia.” Another advantage of his mercenaries is that they get paid considerably less than their U.S. counterparts. In July 2005 Shippey told The Los Angeles Times, “The U.S. State Department is very interested in saving money on security now. Because they’re driving the prices down, we’re seeking Third World people to fill the positions.” Adam Isacson, Director of Programs at the Center for International Policy, worries about the stories that haven’t come to light yet. He mentioned a report translated on his website about Colombians working in Iraq for a subsidiary of Blackwater USA who had their return tickets taken away from them when they complained that they would only get paid $1,000 a month after being promised $4,000. They were essentially held hostage. “It was almost slavery,” said Isacson. “Lord knows how many more cases there are.” Tree, of the Institute for Policy Studies, said that there are other consequences that we might not see for years. One of the most worrying is that these people may take this training and use it for violent criminal activities. An example of this is the story of the “Zetas”, a group of Mexican paramilitary commandoes trained by U.S. special-forces to fight drug gangs. Many members of this group now work for the notorious Gulf Cartel, which is believed to supply large amounts of cocaine to the U.S. “Don’t train people if you don’t know what side they are going to fight for at the end of the day,” said Tree.  Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at He can be reached at Cyril(at)  To read the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries report:

more chomsky

A Painful Peace

By Noam Chomsky

Sometimes it requires judgment to select the lead stories of the day, but in November 1995 it’s easy enough: on the domestic front, balancing the budget; in the international arena, the Middle East peace process, framed by two dramatic events, the signing of the Oslo II agreement by Israel and the PLO under Washington’s guiding hand, and the assassination a few weeks later of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, another “martyr for peace,” in President Clinton’s words.

I will return to a word on the domestic story, but would like to concentrate on the “historic trade” in which the two longtime adversaries abandoned their traditional goals, at last coming to recognize that a “painful peace” requires compromise and sacrifice. Let’s begin with the bare facts of Oslo II, then turn to background developments, the commentary that all of this has elicited, and finally the significance of the events themselves and the reaction to them.

The “Historic Trade”

On September 28, Israel and the PLO initiated the second major step in the peace process (Oslo II), dividing the West Bank into 3 zones, with extensive further arrangements (not yet fully available). The Palestinian National Authority (PA) is to exercise total control in Zone A while Israel exercises total control in Zone C. Zone B is the region of “autonomy”: here the PA administers Palestinian villages under overall Israeli “security control.” Zone A consists of the municipal areas of towns populated exclusively by Palestinians. Zone C includes all Jewish settlements. Zone B is a collection of scattered sectors, about 100 of them according to Israeli maps.

In addition to Zones A, B, and C there is a fourth zone that incorporates part of the occupied territories: Jerusalem, which is assigned without comment to Israeli control, including formerly Arab East Jerusalem and an indefinite region beyond. The maps published in Israel and the New York Times identify the Jerusalem area as part of Israel (with slightly different borders). Arafat’s announcement of a “Jihad” to seek Palestinian rights in Jerusalem (in accord with the terms of Oslo I) aroused much fury in the United States, demonstrating that the devious old terrorist had not changed his stripes. Rabin’s announcement that Israel’s Jihad had been completed and that Jerusalem will be the eternal and undivided capital of Israel elicited no reaction; nor did the maps published after Oslo II, ratifying that announcement. Official rhetoric aside, Israel’s decision accords with U.S. intentions, and is therefore legitimate by definition.

The delimitation of the three zones is not precisely clear. According to the analysis accompanying Israeli maps, Zone C covers two-thirds of the West Bank and Zone B another 30 percent, with 3 percent in the Palestinian Zone A. Prime Minister Rabin, however, informed the Knesset (Parliament) on October 5 that Zone C includes 73 percent of the West Bank, the Israeli press reported. The map and analysis in the New York Times assigns 70 percent of the West Bank to Zone C. The authoritative Washington Report on Israeli Settlement estimates Zone A at 1 percent of the West Bank, Zone C at 72 percent (relying on published Israeli sources). Of the Palestinian towns, one was disputed, Hebron, with 450 Jewish settlers among some 100,000 Palestinians; Israel therefore retains substantial control. Zone C includes 140,000 Jews, Zones A and B 1.1 million Arabs. “About 300,000 Israelis are living in the areas conquered by Israel in 1967,” veteran Israeli correspondent Danny Rubinstein observes, about 150,000 of them “in the municipal area annexed to Jerusalem after 1967.”

Oslo II reaffirms the provision of the Cairo accords of May 1994 that Palestinian legislation cannot “deal with a security issue that falls under Israel’s responsibility” and cannot “seriously threaten other significant Israeli interests protected by this agreement.” The basic terms of the Cairo accords apparently remain in force for all three zones, including their provision that the Israeli Military Administration retains exclusive authority in “legislation, adjudication, policy execution” and “responsibility for the exercise of these powers in conformity with international law,” which the U.S. and Israel interpret as they please. The meaning, as the knowledgeable Israeli analyst Meron Benvenisti observed after Cairo, is that “the entire intricate system of military ordinances…will retain its force, apart from `such legislative regulatory and other powers Israel may expressly grant’“ to the Palestinians, while Israeli judges retain “veto powers over any Palestinian legislation `that might jeopardize major Israeli interests’,” which have “overriding power” (his quotes are from the text of the Cairo agreement).

Oslo II stipulates further that the Palestinian Council that is to be elected must recognize the “legal rights of Israelis related to Government and Absentee land located in areas under the territorial jurisdiction of the Council.” In effect, the PA therefore accepts the legality of already existing Jewish settlements and any further ones that Israel may choose to construct, and recognizes Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank that Israel decides to designate as state and absentee lands (unilaterally, as in the past): up to 90 percent of Area B, according to “well-informed Palestinian sources” cited by the Report on Israeli Settlement, an estimate only, because the ruling authorities do not release information.

By incorporating these provisions, Oslo II rescinds the position of virtually the entire world that the settlements are illegal and that Israel has no claim to the territories acquired by force in 1967. Oslo II reaffirms the basic principle of Oslo I: UN resolution 242 of November 1967, the basic framework of Middle East diplomacy, is dead and buried; UN 242, that is, as interpreted by those who formulated it, including — quite explicitly — the United States until Washington switched policy in 1971, departing from the international consensus it had helped shape. The “peace process” keeps to the doctrines that the U.S. has upheld in international isolation (apart from Israel) for 25 years, a matter of no slight significance.

To summarize, Israel runs Zone C (about 70 percent of the West Bank) unilaterally, and Zone B (close to 30 percent) effectively, while partially ceding Zone A (1 percent-3 percent). Israel retains unilateral control over the whole West Bank to the extent that it (and its foreign protector) so decide, and the legality of its essential claims is now placed beyond discussion. The principles extend to the Gaza Strip, where Israel retains full control of the 30 percent that it considered of any value.

To illustrate with an analogy, it is somewhat as if New York State were to cede responsibility for slums of South Bronx and Buffalo to local authorities while keeping the financial, industrial, and commercial sectors, wealthy residential areas, virtually all of the usable land and resources, indeed everything except for scattered areas it would be happy to hand over to someone else, just as Israel is delighted to free itself from the burden of controlling downtown Nablus and Gaza City directly. Here and in the isolated villages of Zone B Palestinian forces are to manage the population on the standard models: the British in India, Whites in South Africa and Rhodesia, the U.S. in Central America, and so on. Israel has at last recognized the absurdity of using its own forces for to keep the natives quiet.

To take another standard of comparison, recall that in 1988, at the most extreme period of U.S.-Israeli refusal to recognize any Palestinian rights or to have any dealings with the PLO, Rabin called for Israeli control of 40 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, speaking for the Labor Party and reiterating its basic stand from 1968 (with some variations). In 1995, Rabin recognized the need to sacrifice, and at Oslo II was willing to accept Israeli control of only about twice as much as he had demanded before — 70 percent-99 percent of the West Bank and 30 percent of the Gaza Strip — along with recognition of the legality of whatever Israel and its sponsor have done and may choose to do.

There has been another change from 1988: at Oslo, Rabin and Shimon Peres were willing to negotiate with the PLO and recognize it as “the representative of the Palestinian people,” at least in a side letter though not in the official agreement. In 1988, they had flatly refused any dealings with the PLO. That transformation has evoked much acclaim from U.S. commentators, who were particularly impressed by Rabin’s ability to overcome the revulsion he felt for his old enemy — and who prefer not to listen to the explanation offered by the objects of their admiration: “There has been a change in them, not us,” Peres informed the Israeli public as the Oslo I accords were announced; “We are not negotiating with the PLO, but only with a shadow of its former self.” The new approved shadow effectively accepts Israel’s demands, abandoning its call for mutual recognition in a two-state settlement, the program that branded the PLO a terrorist organization unfit for entry into negotiations, according to the conventions of U.S. discourse.

Without consideration of the actual background, discussion of the issues can hardly be serious. The crucial facts of recent history, however, have been almost totally banned, even from scholarship for the most part; again, a matter of no slight significance.

Commenting on the early stages of the historic trade, Palestinian human rights lawyer Raji Sourani sees “the beginning of a trend towards the militarization of Palestinian society,” consistent with the standard model of population control by client forces. That trend proceeds, Middle East correspondent Graham Usher adds, alongside “the repressive Israeli regime of containment that since Oslo [I] has killed 255 Palestinians in the West Bank And Gaza, while attacks by Palestinians have claimed 137 Israelis” (to mid-1995), and has arrested 2400 Palestinians “for alleged `Islamist tendencies’ between October 1994 and January 1995” alone.

The ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed has declined since Oslo I, a tendency described in Israel and the West as an increase in Palestinian terror; not false, but not quite the whole story either, even more so if we bring in the suppressed topic of international terrorism in Lebanon.

The ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed has declined since Oslo I, a tendency described in Israel and the West as an increase in Palestinian terror; not false, but not quite the whole story either, even more so if we bring in the suppressed topic of international terrorism in Lebanon.

U.S.-Israeli intentions to maintain those terrorist operations was made explicit the day that Shimon Peres assumed his duties as Prime Minister. “Peres Sets Tone of Post-Rabin Era,” a front-page New York Times headline read, introducing a report that “Israeli warplanes shrieked over Lebanon” and “pounded the bases of radical Palestinian guerrillas south of Beirut.” This is well beyond the “security zone” that Israel runs in South Lebanon with the aid of a terrorist mercenary force, in violation of the demand of the UN Security Council in March 1978 that it withdraw immediately and unconditionally. Peres won only praise for this demonstration of his intention “to assume Mr. Rabin’s soldier’s mantle as the scourge of Arabs who reject Israel’s offer of peace.” The adjacent column condemned the “desperate act, a horrible act, the work of cowards,” when terrorists attacked a U.S.-run military training center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the same day. Two weeks later, Hizbollah fired rockets into Northern Israel, wounding several civilians, an act of terrorism that it described as a “warning response” to “Israel’s continuing aggressions,” including the demolition of homes by the Israeli army in Lebanon and the Israeli Navy’s continuing refusal to allow Lebanese fisherman to fish off the Lebanese coast. As the rockets fell, a senior security official of Hizbollah was blown up by a car bomb. Hizbollah’s terror was condemned as a violation of the 1993 agreement that neither side would carry out actions outside of Israel’s “security zone,” an agreement that Israel violates at will: for example, two weeks earlier as Peres took office, or a month before that, on October 13, when “Israeli artillery bombarded villages outside the security zone,” a tiny item reported, with “no immediate word on casualties,” in retaliation for the wounding of Israeli soldiers in Israel’s “security zone.”

As Peres took office, the knowledgeable Middle East correspondent Mary Curtius explained that “Peres is expected to follow Rabin’s course of selectively hitting at guerrilla targets rather than pouring huge numbers of Israeli troops into Lebanon and risking more Israeli casualties” — “Rabin’s course” in July 1993, when he reacted to guerrilla attacks on Israeli troops in South Lebanon by pouring huge number of troops into Lebanon in an assault that killed 125 Lebanese and drove half a million people from their homes, as Curtius among others reported. Curtius also gives some historical background: Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 when the PLO “regularly fired Katyushas at northern communities and sent guerrillas on cross-border attacks.” That is the standard way of referring to the fact that the PLO scrupulously adhered to the U.S.-brokered truce while Israel stepped up its terrorist attacks in Lebanon, killing many civilians by bombing and other actions in a desperate attempt to elicit some response that could serve as an excuse for the long-planned invasion. The facts are uncontroversial, but unacceptable, therefore turned into their opposite here with amazing regularity (though discussed frankly in Israel).

Israeli atrocities in Lebanon regularly pass without mention or comment. More than 100 Lebanese were killed by the Israeli army or its local mercenaries in the first half of 1995, the London Economist reports, along with 6 Israeli soldiers in Lebanon. Israeli forces use terror weapons, including anti-personnel shells that spray steel darts (sometimes delayed action shells to maximize terror), which killed two children in July 1995 and four others in the same town a few months earlier, and seven others in Nabatiye, where “no foreign journalists turned up” to describe the atrocities, British Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk reported from the scene. So matters continue. The occasional mention is usually in the context of a denunciation of Hizbollah terror against Israelis in retaliation.

The brutality of the new Palestinian forces and their cooperation with the Israeli security apparatus have been reported extensively by the Israeli press and human rights monitors, and should come as no surprise. That, after all, was the announced plan. Speaking to the political council of the Labor Party on October 2 1993, immediately after Oslo I, Prime Minister Rabin explained that the Palestinian security forces would be able to “deal with Gaza without problems caused by appeals to the High Court of Justice, without problems made by [the human rights organization] B’Tselem, and without problems from all sorts of bleeding hearts and mothers and fathers.” His plan was as rational as it is conventional.

Small wonder that Henry Kissinger sees Rabin as a “visionary,” though reaching his full heights as “a visionary late in life,” on the path to Oslo I: “When you sit where I do and have, the number of world class thinkers among statesmen is very limited — and he was one of them,” Kissinger explained.

Minister of Interior Ehud Barak, now Foreign Minister in the Peres government, announced that Oslo II “ensures Israel’s absolute superiority in both the military and economic fields.” Benvenisti points out that the Oslo II map, establishing the “peace of the victors,” conforms to the most extreme Israeli proposal, that of the ultra-right General Sharon in 1981. Not surprisingly, Sharon does not appear too dissatisfied with the outcome. Correspondents report that after Oslo II, he was “smiling broadly as he talked about the bright future for” a new West Bank settlement that he had “planned and helped build…and others like it” while watching the “construction going on” and showing the press his own proposed map from 1977, now implemented by Rabin, with whom Sharon said he “felt close,” thanks to the congruence of their programs. Yisrael Harel, the founder of the Yesha Council of West Bank settlers and editor of its extremist newspaper Nekudah, agrees with Sharon and the governing Labor Party: “If they keep to the current plan, I can live with it,” he says. Prime Minister Peres’s right-hand man, Labor dove Yossi Beilin, explains that the Oslo II agreement “was delayed for months in order to guarantee that all the settlements would remain intact and that the settlers would have maximum security. This entailed an immense financial investment. The situation in the settlements was never better than that which was created following the Oslo II agreement.”

In his report on Oslo II to the Knesset, Rabin outlined “the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution.” In accord with these primary demands, hardly likely to be subject to negotiation, Greater Israel is to incorporate “united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim [a town to its east] and Giv’at Ze’ev” [a suburb to its north]; the Jordan Valley; “blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria like the one in Gush Katif” (the southern sector of Gaza that Israel retains surrounding its settlements). These blocs are to include “Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities” in the West Bank. The press reported that Ma’ale Adumim will be annexed to the greatly expanded Jerusalem area after expanded settlement establishes contiguity between the two urban areas.

The meaning of the “peace of the victors” has been spelled out accurately in the Hebrew press in Israel. Tel Aviv University Professor Tanya Reinhart observed after the Cairo agreement that the arrangements being imposed should not be compared with the end of Apartheid in South Africa; rather, with the institution of that system, with its “home rule” provisions for new “independent states,” as they were viewed by South African Whites and their friends. The analysis, since reiterated by Benvenisti and others, is quite reasonable. Political scientist Shlomo Avineri points out that “In one sense [Oslo II] is a major victory for Israel and a minimalist settlement for Arafat,” who “has done a relatively good job given the impossible circumstances under which he is working.” That is almost accurate. It is necessary, however, to recall other features of the Third World model: Arafat, his cronies, and rich Palestinians can expect to do quite well in the client relationship, whatever the effects on the population.

In brief, there is considerable agreement about the bare facts across a spectrum ranging from Sharon and Harel to the sharpest critics.

There is disagreement, however, about what the facts portend, a matter of speculation of course. Some believe that the foundation has been laid for Palestinian independence beyond the Bantustan level, even full Israeli withdrawal. To others, the more likely prospect conforms to the hopes expressed by New Republic editor Martin Peretz as he advised Israel to invade Lebanon in 1982 and administer to the PLO a “lasting military defeat” that will drive notions of independence out of the minds of Palestinians in the occupied territories: Then “the Palestinians will be turned into just another crushed nation, like the Kurds or the Afghans,” and the Palestinian problem, which “is beginning to be boring,” will be resolved. Speculation aside, at least this much seems clear: it would be pointless for Israel to retain anything like the territory it controls under Oslo II. Presumably, the government will sooner or later decide to restrict its administrative burden while continuing to integrate within Israel whatever land and resources it finds valuable, at which point another “historic trade” will be celebrated.

The “historic trade” just consummated establishes the most extreme position of U.S.-Israeli rejectionism that has been seriously put forth within the mainstream political spectrum. But however extreme a position may be, some will remain unsatisfied. Ten years ago, central elements of the Likud coalition reiterated their claim to Jordan, while conceding that “in the context of negotiations with Jordan we might agree to certain concessions in Eastern Transjordan” (the largely uninhabited desert areas). A similar position had long been held by the mainstream of the Kibbutz movement, Ahduth Avodah. which played a leading role in the Golda Meir government. To my knowledge, such claims have never been renounced. Today, some sectors, Americans and ultraorthodox prominent among them, claim the right to every stone West of the Jordan.

The pattern is the same everywhere. Saudi Arabia is the most extreme Islamic fundamentalist state in the world, but is under attack by Islamic fundamentalists for selling out to the West. If the recent terrorist bombing in Riyadh turns out to have been done by such groups, that will hardly prove the government to be “moderate,” just as one cannot seriously argue that Rabin is a “moderate” on the grounds that he was murdered by a religious extremist. The point is equally obvious in both cases — understood in the first and commonly denied in the second, consistent with doctrinal imperatives.

The Facts on the Ground

Looking more closely, we find that the expanding area of Greater Jerusalem-Ma’ale Adumim extends virtually to Jericho and the Jordan Valley, so that the anticipated permanent settlement effectively bisects the West Bank. A huge array of “bypass roads” is being constructed to fragment the region further into “cantons,” as they are called in the programs of the ultra-right now being implemented. The new roads link the territories under Israeli control so that settlers can travel freely without having to see the Arab villages scattered in the hills, or the municipal areas run by the PA. Construction of Israeli settlements, housing, and infrastructure has accelerated since Oslo I was signed in September 1993, using funds provided by the U.S. taxpayer with the agreement of the Bush and particularly the Clinton Administrations. The government of Israel continues to provide inducements to Jews to settle in the territories, where they enjoy a subsidized life-style well beyond the reach of the general population; most recently, new efforts to encourage settlement in lands confiscated from Bedouins in Ma’ale Adumim, where a new bypass road was opened on October 23 and 6000 new housing units are to be erected by the year 2005 along with 2400 new hotel rooms, its population projected to grow to 50,000. Building starts increased by over 40 percent from 1993 to 1995 (not including East Jerusalem), according to a report by Peace Now issued on October 10, though they are still well below 1992.

The same conception, Israel Shahak observes, has been implemented in Gaza, “sliced into enclaves controlled by the bypass roads [that] cut the Gaza Strip in two, in its strategically most sensitive spot: between Gaza town and the big refugee camps to the south of it.” The settlements “serve as pivots of the road grid devised to ensure Israeli control” over the areas granted “autonomy,” which are separated from Egypt and from each other. In both Gaza and the West Bank, these arrangements allow Israel to continue to imprison the population in whole or in part by road and area closures, as it has often done, sometimes for long periods.

The motive for curfew-closure may be punishment, or to deter possible terrorist action (particularly, after some Israeli atrocity, or for several weeks during the signing of Oslo II). Or simply to liberate Jewish citizens from the annoying presence of the locals, as when the Arab population of Hebron was locked up under 24-hour curfew for four days during the Passover holidays in 1995 so that settlers and 35,000 Jewish visitors brought there in chartered buses could have picnics and travel around the city freely, dancing in the streets with public prayers to bring down “the government of the Left,” laying the cornerstone for a new residential building, and indulging in other pleasures under the protective gaze of extra military forces, using the opportunity “to insult the Palestinians imprisoned in their houses and to throw stones at them if they dared to peek out of the windows at the Jews celebrating in their city,” and finally bringing the celebration to a close “by settlers rampaging through the Old City, destroying property, and smashing car windows…in a city magically cleansed…of Palestinians.” “Children, parents and old people are effectively jailed for days in their homes, which in most cases, are seriously overcrowded,” able to turn on their TV sets to “watch a female settler saying happily, `There is a curfew, thank God’,” and to hear the “merry dances of settlers” and “festive processions,” some to “the Patriarchs Cave open only to Jews.” Meanwhile “commerce, careers, studies, the family, love — all are immediately disrupted,” and “the medical system was paralyzed” so that “many sick persons in Hebron were unable to reach hospitals during the curfew and women giving birth could not arrive in time at the clinics” (Yifat Susskind, Israel Shahak, Gideon Levy).

In annexed East Jerusalem, Israel is free to extend its programs to reduce Arab citizens to second-class status. These were devised and implemented by former Mayor Teddy Kollek, much admired here as an outstanding democrat and humanitarian, and are now being extended under his successor, Ehud Olmert of Likud. Their purpose, Kollek’s adviser on Arab affairs Amir Cheshin explained, was “placing difficulties in the way of planning in the Arab sector.” “I don’t want to give [the Arabs] a feeling of equality,” Kollek elaborated, though it would be worthwhile to do so “here and there, where it doesn’t cost us so much”; otherwise “we will suffer.” Kollek’s planning commission advised development for Arabs if it would have “a `picture window’ effect,” which “will be seen by a large number of people (residents, tourists, etc.).” Kollek informed the Israeli media in 1990 that for the Arabs, he had “nurtured nothing and built nothing,” apart from a sewage system — which, he hastened to add, was not intended “for their good, for their welfare,” “they” being the Arabs of Jerusalem. Rather, “there were some cases of cholera [in Arab sectors], and the Jews were afraid that they would catch it, so we installed sewage and a water system against cholera.” Under Olmert, treatment of Arabs has become considerably harsher, according to reports from the scene.

The Kollek programs are analyzed by Israeli community planner Sarah Kaminker (a City Council member and city planner in Kollek’s administration) in a June 1994 Report submitted to the High Court on behalf of Arab plaintiffs by the Society of St. Yves, the Catholic Legal Resource Center for Human Rights. In Jewish West Jerusalem, the Report concludes, “there is large-scale illegal construction” which the Municipality does not prevent and retroactively approves. In Arab East Jerusalem, standards are different. There, 86 percent of the land has been made “unavailable for use by Arabs.” The remaining 14 percent “is not vacant land but land that has already been developed”; vacant lands are reserved for development for Jews, or kept as “open landscape views” (often for eventual development for Jews, so it regularly turns out). “The dearth of land zoned for Arab housing is a result of government planning and development policy in East Jerusalem,” where the Kollek administration conducted “a consistent effort since 1974 to limit the land area available to Arabs for licensed construction.” The goal is “demographic balance,” partially achieved in 1993 when Kollek’s Municipality “was able to announce that the number of Jews residing in East Jerusalem had surpassed the number of Arabs.”

The government has provided housing in formerly Arab East Jerusalem: 60,000 units for Jews, 555 for Arabs. Arabs whose homes have been demolished for Jewish settlement often “come from the lowest economic strata of their community” and now “live in makeshift hovels, doubled and tripled up with other families, or even in tents and caves.” Those who are willing to build their own homes on their own lands are barred by law and subject to demolition if they proceed. The threat is executed, unlike Jewish West Jerusalem, where “the problem of illegal construction…is as serious, if not more so, than that in East Jerusalem.” “Demographic balance” is advanced further by discriminatory regulations on building heights, far more limited in Arab than Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. An array of zoning provisions and other legal instruments has been designed to intensify the discrimination between Jews and Arabs, as throughout Israel itself, always using funds provided by the U.S. taxpayer directly or through tax-free donations, always with the approval of admiring U.S. commentators.

With Israel’s Jihad for Jerusalem now officially over, such programs can be extended there and beyond. The cantonization of Arab regions and the new stamp of legitimacy for the right of closure should also make it possible to refine the long-term program of inducing the population to go somewhere else, except for those who may find a place in industrial parks handed over to Israeli and Palestinian investors, linked to foreign capital.

During the occupation, the military administration barred independent development. An official order declared that “no permits will be given for expanding agriculture and industry which may compete with the State of Israel,” a device familiar from U.S. practice and Western imperialism generally, which typically permitted “complementary development” only. The facts are well-known in Israel. As Oslo II was announced, Ronny Shaked recalled that in the territories Israeli governments “were only interested in calm and cheap manpower. Decisions to develop any infrastructures, to create any industrial or agricultural development, were taken only to promote a specific Israeli interest and were forced on the inhabitants. In Hebron, for example, the Civil Administration refused denied a request to set up a factor for making nails, fearing competition with a factory in Tel Aviv. The health system, on the other hand, was taken care of, because diseases in the West Bank might also endanger residents of Tel Aviv.” The Civil Administration was cheap to run, he adds, because its “minuscule” budget was covered by taxes from the local inhabitants. It effectively continues with little change under Oslo II.

Under the Israeli regime, the local population was left with few options beyond exile or employment in Israel under terrible conditions that have been bitterly condemned for years in the Israeli press, largely concealed from those who pay the bills. The only comparative scholarly study concludes that “the situation of noncitizen Arabs in Israel is worse relative to that of nonnationals in other countries” — migrant workers in the United States, “guestworkers” in Europe, etc.

Even these options have now been sharply reduced as Palestinians are being replaced by workers brought in from Thailand, the Philippines, Romania, and other places where people live in misery. Israeli investigative reporters have documented “inhuman” working conditions and treatment, including virtual slavery and “severe sexual harassment,” much as in the Gulf principalities and other client states. The curfews and closures in the territories had “devastated the Palestinian economy and destroyed 100,000 families in Gaza alone,” journalist Nadav Ha’etzni reported in May 1995, a “trauma” that can only be compared with the mass dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians in 1948, he added. The situation is likely to deteriorate as imported semi-slave labor displaces the Palestinian workforce from the only employment that had been allowed them. In such ways, “the Oslo Accords have created a truly new Middle East,” Ha’etzni writes.

The rights of Palestinian workers in the “new Middle East” were spelled out in a May 1995 ruling by Justice Y. Bazak of the Jerusalem District court, rejecting a lawsuit brought by the workers’ rights group Kav La’Oved (“Workers’ Hotline,” Tel Aviv). The plaintiffs had requested restitution of $1 billion withheld from salaries for social benefits that Palestinian workers had never received (pensions, unemployment payments, and so on); the funds ended up in the State treasury. The Court dismissed the case, accepting the government’s argument that Knesset legislation to implement the Oslo I accords retroactively legalized the robbery, thus removing any legal basis for the suit. The Court also accepted the government’s argument that Israel’s National Insurance Law grants rights only to residents of Israel. The deductions were never intended to ensure equal rights for the Palestinian workers, Justice Bazak ruled, but were designed to keep wages for Palestinians high on paper but low in reality, thus protecting Israeli workers from unfair competition by cheap Palestinian labor. This is “a worthy and reasonable purpose which is recognized by the Court,” Justice Bazak explained, “just as the legality of imposing customs taxes is recognized for the purpose of protecting the country’s products…”

One can see why the Israeli judicial system must retain veto power over any legislation that the Palestinian authorities might contemplate; and why American taxpayers must be kept in the dark about the use of the huge subsidies they provide to Israel.

These subsidies, incidentally, are opposed by the public even more than most foreign aid, and are the one component that is immune from the sharp reductions now being instituted in the miserly U.S. program, an international scandal and virtually invisible if Israel and other U.S. Middle East interests are excluded. It includes, for example, 25 of “the most sophisticated fighter-bombers in the world,” the British press reports, a deal that “slid through Congress with no objections by legislators and virtually no comment in the American media.” This is “the first time such high-performance military equipment has been sold unrestricted and unamended abroad since the Second World War” (“sold” means funded by U.S. military aid), a “decisive enhancement of Israel’s military capabilities, giving it the power to strike at potentially dangers nations far beyond its borders: Iran, Iraq, Algeria, and Libya for example.” The U.S. “appears to be reappointing Israel as local deputy sheriff, a role which ended with the disappearance of the communist threat in the Middle East” — which, rhetoric aside, was never the real threat as the extended appointment once again reveals, and has indeed been official conceded.

Though Israel’s barring of development in the territories was well known, its extent came as a surprise even to the most knowledgeable observers when they had an opportunity to visit Jordan after the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty of October 1994. The comparison is particularly apt, Danny Rubinstein observes, since the Palestinian populations are about as numerous on both sides of the Jordan, and the West Bank was somewhat more developed before the Israeli takeover in 1967. Having covered the territories with distinction for years, Rubinstein was well aware that the Israeli administration “had purposely worsened the conditions under which Palestinians in the territories had to live.” Nonetheless, he was shocked and saddened to discover the startling truth.

“Despite Jordan’s unstable economy and its being part of the Third World,” he found, “its rate of development is much higher than that of the West Bank, not to mention Gaza,” administered by a very rich society which benefits from unparalleled foreign aid. While Israel has built roads only for the Jewish settlers, “in Jordan people drive on new, multiple-lane highways, well-equipped with bridges and intersections.” Factories, commerce, hotels, and universities have been developed in impoverished Jordan, at quite high levels. Virtually nothing similar has been allowed on the West Bank, apart from “two small hotels in Bethlehem.” “All universities in the territories were built solely with private funding and donations from foreign states, without a penny from Israel,” apart from the Islamic University in Hebron, originally supported by Israel as part of its encouragement of Islamic fundamentalism to undermine the secular PLO, now a Hamas center. Health services in the West Bank are “extremely backward” in comparison with Jordan. “Two large buildings in East Jerusalem, intended for hospitals and clinics to serve the residents of the West Bank, which the Jordanians were constructing in 1967, were turned into police buildings by the Israeli government,” which also refused permits for factories in Nablus and Hebron under pressure from Israeli manufacturers who wanted a captive market without competition. “The result is that the backward and poor Jordanian kingdom did much more for the Palestinians who lived in it than Israel,” showing “in an even more glaring form how badly the Israeli occupation had treated them.”

Electricity is available everywhere in Jordan, unlike the West Bank, where the great majority of Arab villages have only local generators that operate irregularly. “The same goes for the water system. In arid Jordan, several large water projects…have turned the eastern bank of the Jordan valley into a dense and blooming agricultural area,” while on the West Bank water supplies have been directed to the use of settlers and Israel itself — about 5/6 of West Bank water, according to Israeli specialists.

As reported by the London Financial Times last summer, “Nothing symbolises the inequality of water consumption more than the fresh green lawns, irrigated flower beds, blooming gardens and swimming pools of Jewish settlements in the West Bank” while nearby Palestinian villages are denied the right to drill wells and have running water one day every few weeks, polluted by sewage, so that men have to drive to towns to fill up containers with water or to hire contracters to deliver it at 15 times the cost. In summer 1995 the Israeli national water company Mekorot cut supplies to the southern and central parts of Gaza for 20 days because people had no money to pay their bills. While a handful of Israeli settlers run luxury hotels with swimming pools for guests and profit from water-intensive agriculture, Palestinians lack water to drink — or, increasingly, even food to eat, as the economy collapses, apart from wealthy Palestinians, who are doing fine, on the standard Third World model.

Individual cases clarify the general picture. For example, the village of Ubaydiya, where 8000 Palestinians were deprived of running water for 18 months while the nearby Jewish settlements are “flourishing in the desert” (though Mekorot did promise to restore service to deter a hearing at the High Court of Justice, with outcome unknown at the time of writing). Or Hebron, where thousands of people had no water from their pipes in August 1995. Journalist Amiram Cohen reports that in “the hot days of summer,” 1995, each Arab of Hebron received less than 1/4 of the water allotment of a resident of the nearby all-Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The radically discriminatory use of water resources should persist under Oslo II, which “continues the old policy of keeping [Palestinians] from thirsting to death,” one analyst in Israel observes, while “not allowing the increases that would be necessary for economic growth.” Water is denied for Arab industry or agriculture, restrictions that do not hold for Jewish settlers. Meanwhile Israel itself will continue to use the waters of the West Bank under its claim of “historic use” since the 1967 occupation. The Oslo II accords provide that “both sides agree to coordinate the management of water and sewage resources and systems in the West Bank during the interim period,” basically preserving the status quo. Only the waters of the occupied territories are subject to discussion, consistent with the general framework of capitulation.

The Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty has provisions on “achieving a comprehensive and lasting settlement of all the water problems between [Israel and Jordan].” They are outlined by David Brooks of Canada’s International Development Centre, a specialist on water resources of the region and a member of Canada’s delegation to the Middle East Multilateral Peace Talks on water and the environment, who comments that the terms are not “particularly remarkable as water agreements go,” with one exception: “what is omitted, or, more accurately, who is omitted. Not a word is said about water rights for the Palestinians, nor about giving them a role in managing the waters of the Jordan valley.” “Palestinians are not even party to the negotiations,” Brooks observes: “Their omission is staggering given that most of the Lower Jordan River (from Kinneret to the Dead Sea) forms the border between Jordan and what is likely in the near future to be Palestinian, not Israeli, territory.”

His basic point is correct, but the omission becomes less staggering when we depart from the rhetoric about what lies down the road and attend to its factual basis: specifically, to the fact that Israel has always made very clear its intention to retain the Jordan Valley within Greater Israel, so that Palestinian cantons that may some day be called “a state” will be largely cut off from the outside. Effective control over Palestinian enclaves by Jordan and Israel, if that proves to be the outcome, will bring to a natural conclusion the cooperative efforts of Israel and Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy that go back to the post-World War II origins of these states, including the 1948 war.

Neither Jordan nor Israel (nor the pre-state actors) has ever had any use for Palestinian nationalism, though there is a version that the U.S. and Israel do advocate: Palestinian nationalism in the sense made explicit in the official U.S. policy that provided the basis for the peace process initiated at Madrid in 1991. That conception had been spelled out in the Baker plan of December 1989, which identified the Shamir-Peres plan of Israel’s coalition government as the sole “initiative” to be considered in eventual negotiations. The basic principle of the Shamir-Peres-Baker plan was that there can be no “additional Palestinian state in the Gaza district and in the area between Israel and Jordan” — the latter already a “Palestinian state.” The terms of the Shamir-Peres-Baker plan, expressing the consensus of virtually the entire spectrum of U.S.-Israeli politics, are scarcely to be found in the United States (this journal being among the very rare exceptions), and the occasional references involve substantial misrepresentation. The highly efficient suppression of official U.S. policy makes good sense.

The Jordan-Israel Treaty is a component of the “truly new Middle East” that does receive attention in Western commentary, being far more significant than $1 billion stolen from Palestinians laboring under subhuman conditions or the assignment of crucial Palestinian resources to important partners in the peace process. Its major achievement is the integration of Israel within the U.S.-dominated Middle East system. Long-standing tacit relations among participants are now becoming more overt and efficient, and Israel is taking on its intended role as a military-industrial-technological center for the region (possibly financial center as well). This goal was difficult to achieve as long as the Palestinian issue remained a festering sore, a source of unrest in the Arab world. But Arafat’s acceptance of “the peace of the victors,” in the apparent hope of salvaging some shreds of his waning authority by becoming an agent of the powerful, has helped to suppress the Palestinian issue, at least for the present (there are other factors, including the disintegration of secular Arab nationalism and the disarray of the South generally). One notable consequence of this success is “the real peace dividend for Israel,” as the Wall Street Journal describes the fact that “the barriers are now down in the fastest-growing markets in the world, which are in the Far East, not the Middle East.” The Middle East is already pretty much in Washington’s pocket, but for a U.S. outpost to position itself in the contested Asia-Pacific region is a useful further accomplishment.

These consequences of the Oslo peace process are reflected in the rapidly rising level of foreign investment in Israel, which is increasingly seen as “the fulcrum of economic development in the region” (Lord Sterling, chairman of a major U.K. shipping company). “Israel will look back on 1995 as the year when international finance and business discovered its thriving economy,” the Financial Times observed — “thriving” in the usual manner of “economic miracles,” mimicking its patron by achieving unusually high rates of inequality and dismantling social services.

Another important component of the “peace of the victors” is the end of even a gesture towards Palestinian refugees. The Oslo settement effectively abolishes their “right of return,” endorsed unanimously by the UN General Assembly in 1948 as the most direct application of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted the previous day, and reiterated regularly since. Immediately after Oslo I, in another “visionary” pronouncement, Rabin had dashed any hopes that refugees might return to the areas of Palestinian autonomy (let alone anywhere else). That is “nonsense,” he explained: “If they expect tens of thousands, they live in a dream, an illusion.” Perhaps some “increased family reunification,” nothing more. While the Clinton Administration offered $100 million to the PA, mostly for security forces (in contrast to $3 billion to Israel, perhaps twice that if we add other devices), it cut by $17 million the U.S. contribution to UNRWA, the largest single employer in the Gaza Strip and responsible for 40 percent of its health and education services as well as for Palestininian refugees elsewhere. Washington may be planning to terminate UNRWA, which “Israel has historically loathed,” Graham Usher observed. Breaking with earlier policies, the Clinton Administration voted against all General Assembly Resolutions pertaining to Palestinian refugees in 1993 and 1994, on the grounds that they “prejudge the outcome of the ongoing peace process and should be solved by direct negotiations,” now safely in the hands of the U.S. and its clients. As a step towards dismantling UNRWA, its headquarters are to be moved to Gaza, which should effectively terminate international support for the 1.8 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The next step may be to defund it completely, UN sources report.

“A Day of Awe”

The signing of Oslo II and the Rabin assassination received enormous attention and coverage. Typical headlines after the signing give the flavor. “Israel agrees to quit West Bank.” “Israel Ends Jews’ Biblical Claim on the West Bank” in “Rabin’s historic trade with Arabs,” a “historic compromise.” “Israelis, Palestinians find a painful peace,” establishing an “undeniable reality: The Palestinians are on their way to an independent state; the Jews are bidding farewell to portions of the Holy Land to which they have historically felt most linked.” “Score One for Clinton.” “At White House, symbols of a Day of Awe.”

Editorials added that “the latest Israeli-Palestinian accord is a big one, making the historic move toward accommodation of the two peoples all but irreversible.” A Reuters chronology published here and abroad identified the Day of Awe, September 28, as the day on which “Israel and the PLO sign agreement extending Palestinian rule to most of West Bank.” The New York Times lead story after the assassination reported that Rabin had “conquered the ancient lands on the West Bank of the Jordan” and then “negotiated the accord to eventually cede Israeli control of them to the Palestinians.” The major Times think piece on Rabin focused on the “evolution” in his thinking that was “taking place before your eyes,” as “his language underwent a remarkable transformation and so did his ideas about peace with the Palestinians”; “it was astonishing how far he had roamed from where he stood in 1992.” The former Jerusalem bureau chief of the Washington Post reported that “when Rabin offered Israelis the possibility of ‘separation’ — of walling off the Gaza Strip and West Bank and getting Palestinians out of sight and out of mind — the majority responded with enthusiasm.” “Those who murdered Rabin, and those who incited them, didn’t do so because they opposed plans to create a Palestinian Bantustan,” the New Statesman correspondent reported from Jerusalem, chiding Edward Said for thinking otherwise. “No: they knew that the course Rabin was charting would lead, unless stopped, to a Palestinian state.”

That’s a fair sample

One intriguing feature is that the factual assertions are not even close to true. Israel did not “agree to quit West Bank” or “End Jews’ Biblical Claim on the West Bank.” It signed no “agreement extending Palestinian rule to most of West Bank” or “to eventually cede Israeli control of West Bank lands to the Palestinians.” Rabin never so much as hinted at an offer “of walling off the Gaza Strip and West Bank”; quite the contrary, he was adamant, clear, and consistent in stressing that nothing of the sort was even a remote possibility. And although Rabin’s “ideas about peace” had indeed “roamed far” from 1992, it was not quite in the direction indicated: in 1992, as in 1988 and before, Rabin was advocating the traditional Labor Party stand that Israel should keep about 40 percent of the occupied territories, not the far greater proportion he accepted on the Day of Awe.

As for what is “undeniable” and “irreversible,” readers can make their own guesses, recognizing that these are speculations lacking any serious factual basis. Those who “know” that Rabin’s course would lead to an authentic Palestinian state, not “a Palestinian Bantustan,” might want to explain why they dismiss out of hand not all relevant facts, but also the explicit statements of the leadership, not only Rabin, but also Shimon Peres, even more of a “visionary dove” than Rabin. Explaining the Oslo II accords to a gathering of Ambassadors in Jerusalem, Peres responded to the question whether the permanent settlement could involve a Palestinian state by making it crystal clear that “this solution about which everyone is thinking and which is what you want will never happen.” Two weeks before, journalist Amnon Barzilai reports further in Ha’aretz, Peres responded with a “resounding `No’ when asked at a meeting with the editorial board of Newsweek whether a Palestinian state might be the eventual outcome. He proceeded with a “learned explanation,” which, however, was never completed, because the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial was just then broadcast so that the meeting had to stop, and afterwards the Newsweek editors were “too excited about the verdict” to return to his thoughts.

Part of the standard story is indeed true. We should “Score One for Clinton” and observe what happened with Awe. The scale of the victory can only be appreciated by reviewing the history, almost totally suppressed in the U.S. — and, quite interestingly, by now largely forgotten abroad, not only in Europe but in Latin America and elsewhere. The facts are not in dispute, and need not be reviewed here once again. In brief, from 1967 to 1971 the U.S. led the international consensus in support of a diplomatic settlement based on UN 242, which it understood as implying full peace in return for full Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 (with perhaps minor and mutual modifications). When President Sadat of Egypt accepted these terms in February 1971 in what Rabin describes in his memoirs as a “famous…milestone” on the road to peace, the U.S. had to decide whether to keep to the policy it had crafted or join its Israeli ally in rejecting it. Kissinger insisted on “stalemate” — no negotiations, only force — and won out in the internal conflict, setting the U.S. on a lonely path as leader of the rejectionist camp, not only ignoring Palestinian rights (as did UN 242 and Sadat’s offer as well) but also rejecting one of the two paired requirements of UN 242: Israeli withdrawal. U.S. isolation deepened a few years later as the international consensus shifted to support for a two-state settlement incorporating the wording of UN 242, compelling Washington to veto Security Council resolutions, vote alone annually at the General Assembly (with Israel, and occasionally some other client state), and block all other diplomatic initiatives, a task that became increasingly complex from the early 1980s as the PLO more forcefully called for negotations leading to mutual accommodation, but was handled with ease, thanks to the services of the intellectual community.

It was not until the Gulf War established that “What We Say Goes,” in George Bush’s words, that the U.S. was able to initiate the Madrid negotiations, an authentic “peace process” because it was unilaterally run by Washington and restricted to its extremist agenda. The establishment of Washington’s rejectionist stand in Oslo I, and its affirmation in Oslo II, is an impressive achievement.

The character of the triumph is revealed in a different way when we compare the reaction to the Rabin assassination with other cases, the most obvious one being the assassination of Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir) by Israeli commandos in Tunis in April 1988. This act of international terrorism was probably intended mostly for morale-building in Israel at the height of the popular uprising (Intifada), which Israel was then unable to suppress, despite considerable brutality. On little credible evidence, Abu Jihad was charged with directing the Intifada, a claim reported as fact in the U.S. media, which did, however, recognize that Abu Jihad was known “as one of the more moderate and thoughtful officials in the PLO hierarchy” (Washington Post). The Post also reported that “many Israelis celebrated his killing as evidence of Israel’s willingness and ability to strike back at alleged terrorist leaders” and that the assassination evoked “widespread applause from Israelis, ranging from the liberal left to the far right.” The State Department condemned “this act of political assassination,” but that was the end of the matter. There were no regrets, flags at half mast, laments about the fate of the peace process, or other moving commentary. Abu Jihad was not a “martyr for peace.”

Why not? One possible reason is that he was a terrorist; true, but plainly irrelevant. His terrorist career, while bloody enough, did not even bring him close to those honored as “men of peace,” including Rabin and Peres, or still more obviously, the statesmen who praise them. Another possible reason is that he opposed the “peace process.” That too is true, at least in a technical sense. He did oppose U.S.-Israeli rejectionism, joining most of the rest of the world in advocating a two-state settlement to be achieved by negotiations leading to mutual recognition. If we adopt the usage of doctrinal convention, he opposed “the peace process,” insisting on something other than a peace of the victors in which the Palestinians become “just another crushed nation.”

Adopting the technical usage, we can make sense of the weird comments of Dennis Ross, chief Middle East negotiator for the Bush and Clinton Administrations, reported by Times Middle East specialist Elaine Sciolino. Ross describes how in March 1993 Rabin presented Clinton with a “brilliant, cogent, clear-cut argument” explaining “exactly why the delegates then negotiating on behalf of the Palestinians would not be able to deliver” — to deliver a non-rejectionist settlement recognizing the rights of the indigenous population alongside of Israel, Sciolino refrains from adding. But the PLO refused to accept Rabin’s brilliant argument: “at that point they hadn’t demonstrated they were prepared to make peace,” Ross “recalled”; Sciolino’s term “recalled” implies that the recollection is accurate (one doesn’t “recall” what didn’t happen), as indeed it is, if “making peace” means accepting U.S.-Israeli terms, rejecting UN 242 and any thought of self-determination. When we adopt the conventions, Ross’s statement is transformed from gibberish to simple truth, and Sciolino is not misleading her readers by reporting all of this as factually accurate. A little confusing perhaps, but with a proper education it all works out.

We might ask what the authentic martyr for peace was up to when Abu Jihad was assassinated — at Rabin’s “enthusiastic” initiative, Times correspondent John Kifner reported from Jerusalem. Then Defense Minister, Rabin had ordered his troops to suppress the Intifada by brutality and terror, and shortly after, to attack villages using plastic bullets, because “more casualties…is precisely our aim,” “our purpose is to increase the number of (wounded) among those who take part in violent activities.” Their “violent activities” are to dare to assert that they are free, Rabin explained: “We want to get rid of the illusion of some people in remote villages that they have liberated themselves,” and by military attacks that produce “more casualties,” we “make it clear to them where they live and within which framework,” teaching familiar lessons in Western Civ. Shortly after, when the U.S. was driven to a “dialogue” with the PLO in a last-ditch effort to derail their increasingly irritating calls for negotiations leading to mutual recognition, Rabin assured a delegation of Peace Now leaders that the dialogue was of no significance, merely a delaying action intended to grant Israel at least a year to suppress the Intifada by “harsh military and economic pressure” — exactly what happened, allowing the “peace process” to resume on course.

Plainly, Rabin is a martyr for peace and Abu Jihad a terrorist who deserved his fate.

We might also ask what Washington’s men of peace were doing at that crucial moment in 1988 when the U.S. and Israel were desperately trying to fend off the growing threat of diplomatic settlement. The leading figure among them was surely George Shultz, untainted by Reaganite scandal. Just before Abu Jihad was assassinated, Shultz was pursuing his “peace mission” in Jordan, where he “explained his understanding of the aspirations of Palestinians,” Elaine Sciolino reported, offering the example of the United States, where he is a Californian and George Bush a Texan, but they have no problem living in harmony. Palestinian aspirations can be handled in the same civilized way, under whatever arrangements U.S.-Israeli power dictate; blandly reported, plainly uncontroversial.

Shultz’s understanding of the adversary’s aspirations has echoes elsewhere, as recent news reminds us. A week before Rabin’s assassination, Fathi Shiqaqi, head of Islamic Jihad, was shot in the back and killed in Malta, “probably by Israeli agents,” the Times reported. As in the case of Abu Jihad, Israel did not take responsibility, though the press did so with “huge headlines,” Israeli correspondent Haim Baram reports, extolling “the long arm of Israel” and “the night of revenge,” while articles praised the murder and warned that “Israel will punish whoever is responsible for the killing of Jews,” and “both Rabin and Peres hinted gleefully that Mossad was involved.” Peres commented that “Islamic Jihad are killers, so it’s one less killer” — true enough, though again one might observe that Peres’s own achievements put them well in the shade, not to speak of George Shultz.

Shiqaqi’s position on peace was the mirror image of Shultz’s. Shiqaqi probably understood the “aspirations of Israelis” in the Shultz style, and would have accepted an outcome in which Jews lived submissively under Palestinian rule. On non-racist assumptions, then, either both Shultz and Shiqaqi are men of peace, or both are murderous terrorists who deserve the fate that only one has suffered. Fortunately, such assumptions are unthinkable, so we need not pursue the exercise.

While Abu Jihad and (obviously) Fathi Shiqaqi do not enter the Pantheon, some Arabs do. When Rabin was assassinated, alongside the front-page story in the Boston Globe reporting that “peace has claimed another victim,” the adjacent column recalled the assassination of Anwar Sadat — who qualifies as a peacemaker not because of his acceptance of a full peace treaty with Israel in terms of official U.S. policy in 1971, a “famous milestone” banned from history, but because of his visit to Jerusalem in 1977, opening the way to the Camp David settlement, admissible because it kept to Washington’s rejectionist demands.

Power and Propaganda

The phrase “Day of Awe” is not out of place. The U.S. has carried out a very impressive power play. The events are a remarkable testimony to the rule of force in international affairs and the power of doctrinal management in a sociocultural setting in which successful marketing is the highest value and the intellectual culture is obedient and unquestioning. The victory is not only apparent in the terms of Oslo I and II and the facts on the ground, but also in the demolition of unacceptable history, the easy acceptance of the most transparent falsehoods, and the state of international opinion, now so submissive on this issue that commentators and analysts have literally forgotten the positions they and their governments advocated only a few years ago, and can even see that “Israel agrees to quit West Bank” when they know perfectly well that nothing of the sort is true. That is really impressive, and instructive.

The most important aspect of any doctrinal system is the way issues are framed and presented, the presuppositions that are insinuated to bound discussion, remaining invisible, beyond reflection or analysis. In the old Soviet Union, the game was over if the question under debate was whether the Kremlin had made a mistake in its defense of Czechoslavakia and Afghanistan; or in Nazi Germany, if the issue was whether the threat of the Jews to civilization had been exaggerated. In the present case, what is important is the conquest of the notion “peace process,” which must be deprived of its meaning and restricted to a technical usage that ensures that the game is over before it begins. That has been done, very effectively, not by the exercise of any particular skill, but by sheer power. It is by now unimaginable that the term “peace process” would refer to the effort to achieve peace.

To be sure, that concept of “peace process” is too broad. Everyone wants peace, even Hitler and Genghis Khan. The question always is: On what terms? Under whose direction? In our highly disciplined intellectual culture, the answer to those questions is a virtual reflex: On Washington’s terms, and under its direction.

The conventions have useful consequences. One is that the phrase “the U.S. government is trying to advance the peace process” is true by definition, whatever Washington happens to be doing — say, undermining diplomatic efforts to achieve peace. And the phrase “the U.S. government is trying to undermine the peace process” is meaningless, unthinkable, even if plainly true, as it often is, dramatically so in the present case for 25 years.

Though there is no space to review the matter here, the lead domestic story (the budget) reflects a similar achievement of the doctrinal institutions. The only issue is how long it should take to balance the budget, 7 years or a bit longer. There are other possible questions. Is that what the population wants? Demonstrably not, by very large margins. Does the plan make sense? It surely does for some sectors, those that hope to maintain a powerful nanny state for the rich while the majority “learn responsibility” under rigorous market discipline, enforced by the unaccountable private tyrannies that are to rule untroubled by unruly noises from below. But does it make sense for the health of the economy, understood in terms that have to do with human interests and concerns, even economic growth? That is hardly obvious, to put it mildly. But no such questions arise once we have restricted debate to a spectrum bounded at one extreme by statist reactionaries of the Gingrich variety, and at the other by the President, who tells us: “Let’s be clear: of course — of course — we need to balance the budget,” though not quite as fast as those a few millimeters to the right would like, while “centrists” like Paul Tsongas and Bill Bradley seek a more “moderate” course between the extremists of left and right. And if Americans think they oppose budget balancing under any realistic conditions, they can be reassured that they are wrong about their beliefs by tuning in to the ultraliberal media, for example, National Public Radio, where co-host Robert Siegel of “All Things Considered” assures them that “Americans voted for a balanced budget,” detailing the cuts in social spending pursuant to the public will (and irrelevantly, over its overwhelming opposition, during the election and since, at least if opinion polls are anywhere near accurate).

In case after case, that is just what we find. Open discussion is a fine thing, as great as democracy itself, if only it is kept within the bounds that support power and privilege. It’s about as close to a true historical generalization as one can find that respectability is won by adhering to these fundamental principles, and that rending these chains is a first step towards freedom and justice.

still school of the americas, different name.

Critique of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

On January 17, 2001, the School of the Americas was replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. As a result of a Department of Defense proposal included in the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal 2001. The measure passed when the House of Representatives defeated a bi-partisan amendment to close the school and conduct a congressional investigation by a narrow ten vote margin. The amendment was sponsored by Representatives Moakley (D-MA), Scarborough (R-FL), Campbell (R-CA) and McGovern (D-MA). The following is a summary that compares the “new” school with the School of the Americas.

In a media interview last year, Georgia Senator and SOA supporter, the late Paul Coverdell, characterized the DOD proposal as “cosmetic” changes that would ensure that the SOA could continue its mission and operation. Critics of the SOA concur. The new military training school is the continuation of the SOA under a new name. It is a new name, but the same shame.

The approach taken by the DOD is not grounded in any critical assessment of the training, procedures, performance, or results (consequences) of the training program it copies. Further, it ignores congressional concern and public outcry over the SOA’s past and present link to human rights atrocities.



School of the Americas:

  • “The Secretary of the Army may operate the military education and training facility known as the United States Army School of the Americas.” U.S Code: Title 10, Section 4415

Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

  • Secretary of Defense authorized to “operate an education and training facility…”
  • Secretary of a department of the military designated as the executive agent to run school
    U.S. Code: Title 10, Section 2166.

Concerns and Comparison of Authority: The Secretary of the Army, under the direction of the Secretary of Defense, operated the SOA. After the new proposal, the Secretary of the Army, or another department of the military, still operates the school as an agent of the Secretary of Defense. The proposal offers no substantive change to the SOA.


School of the Americas:

  • provide “military education and training to military personnel of Central and South American countries and Caribbean countries.” US Code: Title 10, Section 4415
  • provide “military education and training to the nations of Latin America”,
  • “promote democratic values and respect for human rights; and foster cooperation among multinational military forces.” SOA Course Catalogue, 1998/99

Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

  • provide “professional education and training to eligible personnel of nations of the Western Hemisphere,” defined as military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel “while fostering mutual knowledge,[ …] and promoting democratic values, respect for human rights”. U.S. Code Title 10, Section 2166. Pentagon officials state this will include counter-drug operations, peace support, and disaster relief.

Concerns and Comparison of the Purpose and Mission: The purpose for the new school as described varies in scope and detail from the original language that authorized the SOA. However, the current “working” mission of the SOA as reflected in the 1998/99 SOA course catalog combined together with the actual day to day practice at the SOA is consistent with a supposed changed mission statement for WHINSEC. In short there is no change in purpose between the new school and the SOA as its mission has evolved.

As with the “working” mission of the SOA, the purpose stated for the new school downplays the militaristic aspects of the training offered and focuses instead on “leadership development, counter-drug operations, peace support, and disaster relief.” These courses existed at the SOA but have never been well attended. The 2000 SOA Certification Report to Congress shows that in 1999 a scant 14% of SOA soldiers took the peace operations, civil/military relations and the like. Over 85% took the standard SOA fare: commando tactics, military intelligence, psychological operations, and combat training. A recent newspaper headline sums it up: “Bombs and Bullets Most Popular Classes at the US Army School of the Americas.” Nothing in the Defense Authorization Bill makes a change to the attendence of classes at the new replacement school to reflect the “new” mission

The new school allows for the training of police and civilian personnel. That practice was already in place at the SOA. Further, the new authorization allows any and all military training that has been central to the SOA, including advanced combat arms, psychological operations, military intelligence, and commando tactics.

The consequence of this kind of training has been at the heart of the public and congressional controversy surrounding the SOA. It hones the skills of Latin American soldiers who then can use what they learned against their own people. For example, some of the Salvadoran soldiers cited in the UN Truth Commission report for the massacre of six Jesuit priests and their women co-workers had just returned from taking the SOA commando operations course. The Jesuit massacre by all accounts was a commando-type operation.


School of the Americas:

  • No specific detail in original congressional authorization
  • Practice: 8 hours human rights instruction tacked on

Western Hemishpere Institute for Security Cooperation:

  • Includes “mandatory instruction for each student, for at least 8 hours on human rights the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, role of the military in a democratic society” U.S. Code Title 10, Section 2166
  • No restrictions on type or amount of military training

Concerns and Comparison of the Curricula: The new school includes human rights instruction, but that is not new. As the public outcry grew and congressional censure mounted, the SOA instituted first a four-hour human rights component and then upped it to eight hours in an effort to quell critics.

While the eight hours of human rights training is not harmful, it is minimal and inadequate for a school that touts its mission mandate as “promoting democratic values, respect for human rights.” There is no requirement that the new school seek input from noted outside human rights specialists and no provision to modify the content to address specific human rights issues in particular countries (for example, paramilitaries in Colombia). In addition, there is no attempt to evaluate or to measure the effectiveness of the training through long-term monitoring of graduates or by any other means.

Although the bill is careful to minimize any mention of military training, the fact remains that, like the SOA it replaces, this is a military institution and Latin American troops will be sent there to learn military skills. The clearest proof of this is to ask how many soldiers would come to the school if it removed ALL combat-related training? We must also ask, if the primary purpose of the institution is to teach democracy and human rights, as claimed, isn’t this more appropriately done in a civilian setting?


School of the Americas:

  • No mention of a Board of Visitors (BOV) in the original congressional authorization.
  • 6-member BOV
  • Not independent oversight board

Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

  • BOV membership: 2 military officers; 1 person selected by Secretary of State; 6 people selected by Secretary of Defense including “to the extent practicable” members of the academic, religious and human rights communities; chairs and ranking minority members of House and Senate Armed Services Committees included on BOV
  • meets at least annually to “inquire into the curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters”
  • Reports its actions and recommendations to Secretary of Defense
    U.S. Code Title 10, Section 2166

Concerns and Comparisons of the Board of Visitors: In response to congressional and public criticism, the SOA instituted a six-member Board of Visitors (BOV) that was reconstituted in 1999. The BOV has been a handpicked group of SOA proponents that, according to the 1998 SOA Certification Report to Congress, focused significant energy on PR campaigns in the media and Congress to polish the SOA’s image. Despite the illusion, the SOA’s BOV does not provide independent, outside critical review or oversight of the SOA.

The authorization calls for a BOV, but gives the Secretary of Defense the broad authority to determine the composition and actual members of Board. Though a provision exists for the possible inclusion of members of the human rights, religious and academic communities, these communities are not defined, nor is any selection criteria established. Furthermore, nothing mandates the inclusion of independent human rights experts, religious leaders, and other potential critics. It is up to the discretion of the Secretary of Defense to determine whether or not it is “practicable” to include them. The Congressional make up of the Board of Visitors, limited as it is to members of the Armed Services Committees, would exclude many of the school’s congressional critics. The Board of Visitors proposed would – like the SOA BOV — be primarily a handpicked group of SOA proponents.

The problem persists: The new BOV does not provide for independent, outside oversight or critical review of the school. 


School of the Americas:

  • No provision in the original congressional authorization
  • In recent years, Appropriations Committees have required report on school and “general assessment” of graduates

Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

  • Within 60 days of meeting the BOV must submit to the Secretary of Defense a “written report of its action and of its views and recommendations pertaining” the new school.
  • By March 15 the Secretary of Defense must submit a report on the “activities of the Institute during the preceding year” to Congress U.S. Code Title 10, Section 2166

Concerns and Comparisons of Annual Report: While the SOA authorization did not mandate an annual report, in practice, the SOA has been required recently to make a report to the Foreign Operations Committee. The new provision simply codifies the current practice, but weakens even the minimal reporting requirements that have stood for the last few years.

The Annual Report – unlike the SOA Certification Report – does not require even the minimal tracking or monitoring of recent graduates that was called for in the SOA Certification Report. The proposed Annual Report is not an analysis, critique, assessment, evaluation, appraisal or examination with recommendations from an outside, independent source. It is simply “a report” of the “activities” of the school.


Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

  • Secretary of Defense ensures that the Secretary of the Army provides for transition from SOA into new school
  • The proposal calls for the repeal of original congressional authorization of the School of the Americas.

Questions and Recommendation: By repealing the original congressional authorization for the SOA, the bill closes the School of the Americas on paper. Inexplicably, however, it does so with no word of analysis. Why close a school that is without fault? Why open another that is, for all intents and purposes, identical except for name?

The DOD proposal to close the SOA and replace it with an SOA clone skipped over one vital step: Evaluation of the SOA model upon which it is based. The opening of the new school is not grounded in any critical assessment of the training, procedures, performance, or results (consequences) of the training program it copies. Further, it ignores congressional concern and public outcry over the SOA’s past and present link to human rights atrocities.

At the very least, a thorough independent investigation and report on the SOA are warranted before Congress can adequately consider the merits of any new proposal for an SOA-like training facility. A rigorous outside investigation of charges against the SOA is a reasonable approach to resolve the controversy over the School of the Americas or its replacement. The new school is substantially the same as the SOA it purports to replace. The issues raised by critics of the SOA are not addressed by the recently enacted changes. As the United States is pouring money, military hardware and military training into Colombia and SOA human rights abusers continue to operate with impunity in Colombia, Guatemala and elsewhere, these issues remain as crucial and immediate as ever.

School of the americas- read this, i’ll post more later.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Manuals used by the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas between 1982 and 1991 appeared to condone executions, beatings and other human rights abuses, the Pentagon said in a disclosure that prompted renewed calls for the school’s closure.The Pentagon on Friday disclosed English translations of portions of seven training manuals it said were pulled from use in 1991 by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. He determined that the language violated U.S. policy. At the time, the Pentagon conducted a review of the training materials and reported the findings to Congress in closed briefings.

“The review found that about two dozen isolated phrases, sentences or short passages, out of 1,100 pages in six of the manuals, were objectionable or dubious,” a Pentagon statement said, “(and) appeared to condone practices violating U.S. policy.”

The phrases, including references to “eliminating potential rivals” to “obtaining information involuntarily” to the “neutralization” of people, were taken out of context, the statement said.

The School of the Americas was established in Panama in 1946 to train Latin American military and security officers. The school was moved to Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia, in 1984.

The program has been criticized by some in Congress as a training ground for human rights abusers, but the Army says less than 1 percent of all graduates have been cited as committing human rights violations.

Other excerpts from the manuals:

“Insurgents can be considered criminal by the legitimate government and are afraid to be brutalized after capture.”

“If an individual has been recruited using fear as a weapon, the … agent must in a position of (sic) maintain the threat.”

“The … agent must offer presents and compensation for information leading to the arrest, capture or death of guerrillas.”

“The employee’s value could be increased by means of arrests, executions or pacification, taking care not to expose the employee as the information source.”

“Threats should not be made unless they can be carried out and the employee realizes that such threats could be carried out.”

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, who has fought to deny funding to the school, said the disclosure shows that “taxpayer dollars have been used to train military officers in executions, extortion, beating and other acts of intimidation” and that it “underscores the need to close” the school.

The Pentagon says the School of the Americas has trained some 60,000 officers, cadets, non-commissioned officers, police and civilians from Latin America and the United States since its founding. It says every course includes mandatory human rights training to help foster military professionalism and respect for civilian authority.

Panamanian dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos were among the 10 Latin American presidents who seized power in their countries undemocratically after attending the school.

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