Afghanistan Casualties Doubled in 2005

Sadly, it appears that the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan this past year have just about doubled the casualty rate of each of the preceding years. Troop deaths of other coalition members are also at their all time highest level. There are currently 19,000 American troops in Afghanistan.

See the numbers here for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Blogs Help Foil UK Censorship

See lenin at the Tomb on the British Foreign Office’s Cheney-esque  tactics in the attempted silencing of  former  UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray.  Particularly revolting are the Yoo-like legal contortions of one Michael Wood as he justifies the use of "intelligence" obtained via Karimov’s torture chambers. 

And lest any Americans feel smug about a torture scandal of which they aren’t the central stars, the Brits receive the Uzbeki torture product through the CIA, who, as we all know, deal in only the highest quality intelligence.

See the documents stashed for safekeeping here. Download and distribute them freely.

Talk of NSA Spying actually goes further back than that

While we’re on the subject of the NSA and intercepting international emails, I’m surprised how few people remember ECHELON.

It’s about five years old now, but the reports of the intercepts of global communications data were troubling enough to spark an investigation by the EU Parliament. The year-long investigation confirmed the existance of ECHELON, but in the end also conceded there was little which could be done about it.

The EU Report doesn’t seem to be on the EU Parliament’s website any longer, but it can still be found here (WARNING: This 200 page long PDF is fairly large, so if you’re on a dialup, expect a wait).

Earlier Wiretap Accusations

With all attention focused on the New York Times’ expose of illegal wiretapping of Americans without the benefit of a court issued warrant, that story withheld for a year, it was not the first time that accusations have come up that the NSA was indeed illegally listening in on Americans’ calls. As this article from back in April of 2005 illustrates, it appears there were some accusations by Governor Richardson of New Mexico that the NSA was monitoring his telephone calls at the request of John Bolton, then Under-Secretary of State for arms control and international security.

    Gov. Bill Richardson is concerned that some of his phone calls were monitored by a U.S. spy agency and transcripts of them were given to the president’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

    Richardson called Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, to express his concerns after Dodd revealed that Bolton had on 10 occasions asked the National Security Agency for the intercepts of phone conversations involving Americans.

    …(Richardson’s spokeman Billy) Sparks said Richardson’s call to Dodd was triggered when he read an online story by Washington journalist Wayne Madsen. The story said intelligence community “insiders” claim the NSA circumvented a ban on domestic surveillance by asserting that the intercepted calls were part of “training missions.”

In a later article in May of 2005, Wayne Madsen listed a chain of allegations of illegal wiretaps and monitoring of Americans by the NSA which no longer seem so farfetched.

    Intelligence community insiders claim that a number of State Department and other government officials may have been subject to NSA “training” surveillance and that transcripts between them and foreign officials likely ended up in the possession of Bolton and his neo-conservative political allies, including such members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff as David Wurmser (a former assistant to Bolton at State), John Hannah, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

    Possible affected individuals include: Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and their conversations with their counterparts and officials around the world; Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns and his telephone conversations with International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohammed el Baradei and Britain’s top non-proliferation official William Ehrman (Bolton was frozen out of negotiations between Burns, Britain, and Libya over the stand down of the Libyan weapons of mass destruction program) (also Burns’s conversations with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al Shara over charges by Bolton that Syria possessed WMDs and conversations between Burns and former chief UN Iraq weapons inspector Hans Blix); various phone calls made by Chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Brent Scowcroft; U.S. Special Envoy on North Korea Charles “Jack” Pritchard and his telephone conversations with U.S. ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs James Kelly, and Richard Armitage; New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and his telephone conversations with Secretary of State Powell and North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador Han Song Ryol; phone conversations between Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden and his Iranian counterpart, Majlis foreign affairs chair Mohsen Mirdamad and between Biden, his staff, and William Burns and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman; and President Jimmy Carter’s phone conversations with Cuban officials before and during his May 2002 trip to Cuba (Carter said he found no evidence to support Bolton’s claims of Cuban biological weapons development).

I suppose that since George Bush has come out and admitted he gave the order for the illegal wiretaps to be carried out by the NSA, they won’t have to use the “training mission” excuse any more. Now comes the questions about who was monitored illegally and to what purpose.

April Glaspie Redux

Remember how the justification for the US government’s permanent blockade and eventual aggressive invasion of Iraq in 2003 was based on the idea that Saddam Hussein was in defiance of the cease fire agreement that ended his war with the United Nations in 1991?

For the sake of making the real point of this post, we can neglect the fact that, as former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has explained,

“Within months of this resolution being passed – and the United States was a drafter and voted in favor of this resolution – within months, the President, George Herbert Walker Bush, and his Secretary of State, James Baker, are saying publicly — not privately, publicly — that even if Iraq complies with its obligation to disarm, economic sanctions will be maintained until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power. That is proof positive that disarmament was only useful insofar as it contained, through the maintenance of sanctions, and facilitated regime change.

It was never about disarmament. It was never about getting rid of weapons of mass destruction. It started with George Herbert Walker Bush and it was a policy continued through eight years of the Clinton presidency and then brought us to this current disastrous course of action under the current Bush administration,”

and instead focus on the question of what justified the UN war in the first place:

Why did Saddam want to invade Kuwait in August 1990? Seems he was having trouble paying off his debts from the war with Iran and Kuwait’s government was having more than their OPEC quota worth of oil produced, which was driving down Saddam’s revenues to the point where he was facing bankruptcy and perhaps the loss of his power. On top of this were allegations that the Kuwaitis were slant-drilling under Iraq’s border and stealing their oil in order to accomplish this.

Enter US ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie.

As we are reminded in this piece for the Jang group by Kaleem Omar, “Is the US State Department still keeping April Glaspie under wraps?, the United States, during a meeting between Hussein and Glaspie, invited Saddam Hussein to send his army to invade tiny, defenseless Kuwait.

As far as I can tell, the cables to Glaspie with her instructions from Secretary Baker are still classified, as Ross “welfare cheat” Perot complained in the third presidential debate in 1992, but from the transcripts of the meeting it’s pretty clear what went on:

“We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.”

Omar continues, “On July 31, 1990, two days before the Iraqi invasion, John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified to Congress that the ‘United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the US has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq.'”

After the transcript was released and a reporter asked Glaspie, “What were you thinking?” she responded, “Obviously, I didn’t think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait.”

Just some of it, huh?

I believe it is still open to question whether Bush I/Baker really intended all along to trick Iraq into the invasion so they could display the power of the UN under US leadership without the Russians in our way, or whether it was just his way of acting tough after Lady Thatcher called him “wobbly” in front of everybody.

Either way, every Iraqi life taken by the US government since then has been the victim of a criminal homicide. We better try these politicians before the global court system gets to set some more precedents of the authority of “international law” based on their crimes – precedents which would threaten the liberty of us all.

See also chapter one of Neoconned: Just War Principles: A Condemnation of the War with Iraq, “The Bogus Case Against Saddam,” by the late Jude Wanniski, his website or listen to my interview of him on the subject.