Jason Vest

Repeating Errors of History

On Jan. 8, Newsweek revealed that the Bush administration is "intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration¹s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s." The "option" under consideration: the use of death squads to kill Iraqi insurgents.

The plan more closely resembles a dark and desperate homage to the murderous legacy of Salvadoran ultrarightist Major Roberto D'Aubuisson than anything likely to bring lasting peace to Iraq. But, as Newsweek reports, since many on the American right downplay El Salvador's scores of dead civilians when they equate counterinsurgency "success" with U.S. actions in El Salvador (graciously described by the magazine as an instance where "the U.S. government funded or supported nationalist forces that allegedly included so-called 'death squads'"), the notion of using U.S. Special Forces teams to "advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers" makes perfect sense.

This latest bit of news may be the best indicator to date as to just how far around the bend the current crop of Pentagonistas has gone in their straw-grasping attempts to check the insurgency-they-never-thought-could happen. The plan should be a cause for alarm, and not just because Pentagon hawks are apparently still rationalizing away the murder of scores of Salvadoran citizens. It¹s also disturbing because the U.S. military's own scholarship over the past 20 years holds that that the military and political counterinsurgency efforts in El Salvador are at best a case study in how to prolong an insurgency, not end it.

Success? What Success?

In a 1991 paper for the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Maj. Robert J. Coates characterized the conflict – then in its twelfth year – as an ongoing "insurgency to be defeated." In other words, not quite the "success" that the Bush administration now claims it was. Having been a U.S. military advisor to the El Salvadoran Armed Forces (ESAF), Coates was certainly in a position to know just how well things were going on the ground: Contrary to rosy reports about the ESAF�s "improvements," Coates characterized its officer corps as one so "riddled with corruption" and inhumane to its own soldiers (where "officers view the enlisted men as a replaceable commodity") that it was "detrimental to the war effort" – so much so that it had actually "aided the insurgency¹s ability to prolong the war."

Coates' report was, however, really only a shorter, updated version of a 1989 report, titled "American Military Policy in Small Wars: The Case of El Salvador," by the conservative quartet of Andrew Bacevich, James Hallums, Richard White and Thomas Young, all of whom were U.S. Army lieutenant colonels at the time. Their considered opinion: a decade of billions of dollars in U.S. military and civil aid had done little but preserve a wretched status quo with no end in sight.

Unlike many who start from the errant presumption that fighting a counterinsurgency is primarily a military, rather than political, affair, the colonels held that U.S.-backed military efforts should not be the primary strategy of a counterinsurgency operation, but that the real focus should be on genuine social, political, economic and military reform – and should be conducted only with a "honest and responsive government" as a partner.

In El Salvador, the officers found, U.S. aid in the name of counterinsurgency had produced two results. The first was the creation of a better equipped and slightly better trained Salvadoran army that, in taking the fight to the FMLN, merely encouraged the rebels to disband into smaller units – units that the Salvadoran army refused to engage, opting instead for "search and avoid patrols," as one U.S. officer derisively put it. The second outcome was the strengthening of a corrupt and repressive oligarchy, financed by billions of dollars justified by wishing-will-make-it-so rhetoric about reforming El Salvador's government. Only too aware of the American obsession with not losing a country to communism, the government felt free to flout U.S. demands for progressive change and let its paramilitary terrorists run rampant. "The failure to revitalize the government," the officers wrote, "further accounts for the existing stalemate and poor prognosis for the future."

With nothing to lose, the Salvadoran military and its proxies pursued a campaign of "lavish brutality, fail[ing] to distinguish between dissenters and revolutionaries," killing tens of thousands of citizens (many of whom had nothing to do with the FMLN), all of which added up to a "U.S. policy built on a foundation of corpses." So concluded Benjamin Schwartz, the RAND Corporation analyst tasked with assessing El Salvador policy for the Department of Defense, in December 1998's Atlantic Monthly.

Schwartz noted that the "dirty little secret" to maintaining a perpetual stalemate was that "death squads worked." Looking back with revulsion, Schwartz summed up "counterinsurgency" in El Salvador as a policy that in theory "demanded nothing less than that America effect fundamental changes in the country's authoritarian culture, its political practices, and its economic, social and military structure. Such a project used to be called, presumptuously, 'nation-building¹." In reality, "for a decade American policymakers in Washington and American civilian and American military personnel in El Salvador consorted with murders and sadists." And it was mass murder that received bipartisan authorization, with Republicans "greatly exaggerating" the human rights achievements of what they knew was a perpetually "homicidal regime" and Democrats pursuing a policy of "meaningless threats," getting the occasional unenforceable condition attached to aid that they would never block lest they be perceived as too leftist.

The Moral of El Salvador

As Schwartz and others have noted, the end of the war in El Salvador had little to do with a triumph of military counterinsurgency or the effectiveness of U.S. "nation-building" efforts, but with the end of the Cold War. With the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union, the Salvadoran government knew that Tio Sam would no longer be so generous with aid or as accommodating of murder. And so the government sat down and negotiated a peace with the FMLN. The end result illustrated on of many lessons about the U.S. efforts endeavor in El Salvador: "American involvement in counterinsurgency," observed the Army War College's Steve Metz, "is often like lending money to a chronic gambler – it postpones real resolution of the problem rather than speeding it."

So what then are the real parallels between El Salvador and Iraq? First, in terms of its ability to fight, the Iraqi military is just as bad, if not worse, than the Salvadoran military. Second, given the Sunni boycott of the upcoming elections, Iraq's not going to have a truly legitimate, representative government anytime soon. Third, despite the Bush administration's rhetoric about its plans to provide a better future for the Iraqis, any U.S.-backed government in Iraq will, in light of current circumstances, likely be allowed to be as ineffectual, brutal or corrupt as it wants. As was the case in Salvador, the imperative of staving off the guerillas – now that fighting terrorism rather than communism is our prime national security objective – will trump all other considerations.

There may be some optimists in the White House – as well as Democratic enablers in Congress – who think the U.S. can still use the Salvador model without repeating its errors. But for that plan to work, the U.S. government and its army will need a modern counterinsurgency doctrine and training regimen – which it didn't have it in El Salvador, and which it doesn't have now. Pray that fortune favors the foolish.

Mole Hunt

In May, Stephen Green was hard at work campaigning for a seat in Vermont's House of Representatives when he got a phone call. The last person the 64-year-old former United Nations official, then preoccupied with health-care policy issues, expected to hear from was an FBI agent, who asked if he could come to Washington to chat with him about the history of Israeli espionage efforts against the United States.

As the author of two books on U.S.-Israeli relations, Green knew something about the subject. Still, the phone call seemed to come out of the blue. Green quickly discovered, however, that the FBI had a keen interest in the subject. Federal agents were involved in an investigation into an alleged Israeli "mole" in the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy.

Early reports suggested that the FBI had wiretap evidence that a veteran Iran analyst working in Feith's office at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Larry Franklin, may have passed a classified draft of a National Security Presidential Directive on Iran to an official working for the pro-Israel lobbying organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Members of the organization, in turn, were said to have passed the document on to Israel. (AIPAC officials strongly deny the accusations.)

But as Green spoke with investigators, he realized the agents were investigating far more than Franklin.

"Larry Franklin's name never came up, but several others did," he said.

Green, as the FBI agents knew, had a special expertise in the field of Israeli espionage in the United States. In the 1980s, he had taken time off from his job at the UN to look into the U.S.�Israeli "special relationship." He spent years combing through public records, filing and litigating Freedom of Information Act requests, and tracking down current and retired government officials. He eventually wrote two books, Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations With Israel and Living By The Sword: America and Israel in the Middle East. The Times of London and Foreign Affairs commended his work, describing it as "praised by those who believe the United States has damaged its own security, and Israel's too, by uncritical and often secret support of Israel's actions, no matter how extreme." Yet, as Foreign Affairs reported, Green's work also caused "sputter[ing] with indignation" among "those who believe� that American and Israeli interests are identical."

Green returned to the UN in 1990 and followed the subject from there. Earlier this year, he published a piece in the newsletter CounterPunch, recapping previously reported – though long-forgotten – government investigations of prominent neoconservatives for their suspected espionage or improper information-sharing with Israel. And that's where the FBI comes in.

According to the FBI agents who contacted Green, as he recounts, the article had come to their attention when one of Green�s sources – a retired national security official they were interviewing – shared it with them.

And so on June 22, Green found himself sitting across an oval-shaped conference table from two FBI agents at an undisclosed northern Virginia venue. The meeting lasted nearly four hours.

"They were extraordinarily well-informed; it was apparent they've been at this for awhile," Green says. "I asked them if there was a current reason for them asking questions about things that go back over 30 years, and they sort of looked at each other and said, 'Yes, it's a present issue,' but wouldn't say specifically what. Though they did ask very specific questions about one individual in particular."

Green said the agents asked about several current or former Pentagon officials such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, and Stephen Bryen.

"The tenor of their questions was such that it defined where these people were in terms of the nature of their focus," Green says. "They also asked about a couple other Office of Special Plans people, including Harold Rhode. Ironically, about the only name that didn't come up was Larry Franklin."

Regardless of the status of the investigation, something seemed a bit fishy. After all, Israel – one of the United States� closest allies, with deep support in the Bush Administration and especially at the Defense Department – hardly needs a Pentagon-embedded spy to get access to interagency debates about U.S. policy to Iran, as observers have pointed out. And compared with the information on arms shipments that former US Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard passed on to Israel in the 1980s, a draft of a document about U.S. policy toward Iran would hardly seem like the crown jewels.

Yet, as Newsweek has reported, Franklin had come to the FBI�s attention a year and a half ago, when he walked in on a lunch with an Israeli diplomat and an AIPAC lobbyist, both of whom were under FBI surveillance for a year. In addition, Newsweek reported that when news of the investigation surfaced, Franklin had already been cooperating with the FBI for several weeks and had reportedly led FBI agents to those who may have received information from him.

The previous FBI investigation came into focus only on September 1, when The Washington Post reported that for two years, the FBI has conducted a counterintelligence investigation into whether AIPAC has forwarded �highly classified materials from the National Security Agency . . . to Israel.� The Post piece describes Franklin�s alleged role as merely �coincidental� to the larger FBI probe of alleged intelligence-passing through AIPAC to Israel.

Both AIPAC and Tel Aviv vehemently deny any wrongdoing. And indeed, the Israeli diplomat who acknowledges meeting with Franklin and AIPAC – Naor Gilon, the Israeli embassy�s No. 3 official and a specialist on Iran�s nuclear program – returned to Washington on August 29 from a summer vacation in Israel. He admits that he met with Franklin, but insists he�s done nothing wrong.

A source familiar with the investigation told The American Prospect that when news of the investigation broke, the Justice Department had been preparing a request to the State Department to have an Israeli diplomat – by implication Gilon – declared persona non grata for allegedly having received classified U.S. intelligence from AIPAC sources.

Furthermore, a Sept. 1 report by NBC speculated that the reason the Israelis may have broken their declared post-Pollard policy of not spying on the United States is because of Israel�s preeminent concern about Iran�s nuclear program, and its view that the United States may not be prepared to act assertively enough to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The Post piece seems to imply that Franklin is more of an anti-Tehran zealot than anything else and wasn�t engaging in espionage per se. But as the Post article and the June meeting between Green and the FBI seem to indicate, the FBI is looking into the possibility there's been communication between Israeli elements and U.S. officials, including several who work for Feith and have access to sensitive intelligence on Iran and its nuclear program.

The Secret History of Anonymous

Ever since the Guardian of London revealed almost two weeks ago that "Anonymous," the author of the soon-to-be-published Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror (Brassey's, Inc.), is a CIA figure "centrally involved in the hunt for Bin Laden," the American press has been playing catch-up – yet in a strangely coy sort of way.

Public interest in the book itself isn't at all hard to understand: It's not every day that an active US intelligence officer publishes a work that disputes the Bush administration's assertions, holding that, among other things, bin Laden is not on the run; the invasion of Iraq has not made the United States safer; and that Islamists are in a campaign of insurgency, not terrorism, against the US because of US policies, not out of hatred for American values. But what's a bit harder to grasp is exactly why the media seem so reflexively deferential to the idea that "Anonymous" must be anonymous – especially when critical details revealed in a June 23 New York Times story indicated that his real identity is well-known to at least a few denizens of the Washington press corps.

Indeed, the Times piece revealed that Washington Post managing editor Steve Coll knows more about Anonymous than most – enough to give him a first name and details of his career in Coll's recently published and highly acclaimed book, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. While the Times identified "Mike" via Coll's book as a 22-year CIA veteran who ran the Counterterrorist Center's bin Laden station (code-named "Alec") from 1996 to 1999, the paper also reported that in spite of that revealing detail – and despite the fact that "Mike" is an overt CIA employee whose name is not a state secret – a "senior intelligence official" held that "Mike's" full identity had to remain unknown because revelation of his full name "could make him a target of Al Qaeda."

For the moment, all the general public knows about the book comes from excerpts posted on a handful of Web sites, and a slew of brief television and radio interviews, where Anonymous has appeared in silhouette. He also published another anonymous book two years ago, Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America, which analyzed the structure and motives of Al Qaeda.
Anonymous is not squishy; both Hubris and Eyes seem sufficiently apocalyptic to warm the heart of someone as anti-Islamic and bloodthirsty as, say, Ann Coulter. So if liberals seem ecstatic that yet another career national-security official is blasting the Bush administration for unnecessarily invading Iraq and bungling the so-called war on terror, they're also horrified by Anonymous's apparent advocacy (largely rhetorical, actually) of a military campaign that includes "killing in large numbers" and "a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure" as part of "relentless, brutal and blood-soaked defensive military action until we have annihilated the Islamists who threaten us."

But at issue here is not just the book's content, but why Anonymous is anonymous. After all, as the Times and others have reported, his situation is nothing like that of Valerie Plame, a covert operative whose ability to work active overseas cases was undermined when someone in the White House blew her cover to journalist Robert Novak in an apparent payback for an inconvenient weapons-of-mass-destruction intelligence report by her husband, Joseph Wilson. Anonymous, on the other hand, is, by the CIA's own admission, a Langley-bound analyst whose identity has never required secrecy.

A Phoenix investigation has discovered that Anonymous does not, in fact, want to be anonymous at all – and that his anonymity is neither enforced nor voluntarily assumed out of fear for his safety, but rather compelled by an arcane set of classified regulations that are arguably being abused in an attempt to spare the CIA possible political inconvenience. In the Phoenix 's view, continued deference by the press to a bogus and unwanted standard of secrecy essentially amounts to colluding with the CIA in muzzling a civil servant – a standard made more ridiculous by the ubiquity of Anonymous's name in both intelligence and journalistic circles.

When asked to confirm or deny his identity in an interview with the Phoenix last week, Anonymous declined to do either, and said, "I've given my word I'm not going to tell anyone who I am, as the organization that employs me has bound me by my word." His publisher, Brassey's, likewise declined to comment. Nearly a dozen intelligence-community sources, however, say Anonymous is Michael Scheuer – and that his forced anonymity is both unprecedented and telling in the context of CIA history and modern politics.

"The requirement that someone publish anonymously is rare, almost unheard-of, particularly if the person is not in a covert position," says Jonathan Turley, a national security law expert at George Washington University Law School. "It seems pretty obvious that the requirement he remain anonymous is motivated solely by political concerns, and ones that have more to do with the CIA. While I'm sure some would argue that there's some benefit to book sales in being anonymous because it's mysterious and fuels speculation, the fact is that if his full name and history were known and on the book, it would get a lot more attention. It's difficult for the media to cover an anonymous subject who has to abide by limits on what he can say about himself or anything that might reveal who he is."

Upon reviewing Scheuer's manuscripts, the CIA could have done what national-security agencies have done in the past with employees' works that were based on open (i.e., unclassified or publicly available) sources, but whose wide distribution might be problematic: Stamp a "secret" or "top secret" classification on it so it never sees the light of day. Yet, according to intelligence-community sources, this really wasn't an option with Scheuer's work, given the unusual origins of Through Our Enemies' Eyes.

"That book actually started as an unclassified manual in 1999 for new counterterrorist officers working bin Laden and Sunni extremism," says one veteran CIA terrorism specialist. "Scheuer had written it at the request of his successor as Alec station chief, who specifically wanted it to be something that was drawn from open sources in the Arab and Islamic worlds for two reasons: one, so people could take it out of the building and digest it at their leisure, and two, because he wanted new officers to appreciate how much is actually out there that's useful that isn't classified, particularly if you have a context for it."

Given his in-house manual's open-source-based, unclassified status, Scheuer figured it wouldn't be much of a problem to cull more public material to recast the approximately 100 pages as a marketable academic manuscript – which he did over the course of late 1999 and early 2000, submitting the book to the CIA's Publications Review Board (PRB) in the spring of 2000. According to Scheuer, the manuscript was at first denied release because the board took issue with the book's brief favorable discussion of Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" theory, which posits that antagonism between Western and Islamic cultures (among others) will drive world conflict in the coming years.

"They wrote back saying our Arab friends would be upset, and 'his views of Huntington's paradigm bring into question his ability to perform official duties,'" Scheuer says. "That came back, and I thought it was beyond the pale, so I appealed directly to the seventh floor [higher-ups]. And it took the better part of a year to get permission to submit it for publication. I believe it was because of 9/11 that they suddenly became less concerned with what they first considered ';areas of sensitivity.' But the condition was that I remain anonymous and that there be no mention of my employer on the cover or anywhere else."

Some have speculated that "Anonymous" has been publishing with at least a measure of blessing from a CIA so angered by certain White House and Pentagon elements that it has taken the unprecedented step of allowing an active intelligence officer to inveigh against the administration – and is enjoying the fact that it can unleash a critic protected by the vagaries of national-security protocols. But the fact of the matter – as interviews with other intelligence-community officials and CIA correspondence show – is that while there might be an element of truth to that now, the agency has only reluctantly approved Scheuer's books for release because he shrewdly played by the rules. And the unique nature of CIA rules has forced him into an unhappy compromise where, even when confronted with his own name, he has to publicly deny his identity unless the agency changes its mind. (The CIA did not acknowledge a call from the Phoenix, and "declined to comment on [Imperial Hubris] or its author" to the Associated Press on Friday.)

According to several long-time intelligence officers familiar with Scheuer's situation, there's no question that the agency's conditional permission was grudging. "Think back to 2002, and imagine what would have happened if a book had come out that said ';by Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA's bin Laden unit' on the cover – it would have been a bestseller overnight, reviewed and discussed all over the place," says one veteran spook. "But because it was ';anonymous' and didn't even say what exactly he did, let alone what agency he worked for, it was destined to be what it's become: a required read among people who work this stuff, but not much else. Ironically, it seems to be selling well in the agency gift shop at Langley, and everyone from the [National Security Agency] to [the Center for Strategic and International Studies] has had him over to lecture about it. But I don't think it even got reviewed but a couple of places."

One doesn't have to read the manuscript terribly closely to see how it provides some benefit to the CIA. Critical as Anonymous is of his own organization – as well as of the Bush and Clinton administrations – he absolutely blasts the FBI on pages 185 through 192. Many progressives may not cotton to the broad notion he advances here – namely, that the US should simply dispense with any sort of legalistic, law-enforcement approach to combating Al Qaeda and leave it entirely to the covert operators. But in the context of Washington's political postmortems on 9/11-related intelligence failures, this is stuff that at least makes the FBI look worse than the CIA.

Among some in the intelligence community who have either obtained copies of the Imperial Hubris manuscript or heard about certain passages, the rough consensus is that a not-long-for-his-job George Tenet indicated to the PRB that the book's publication should be allowed, as it might blunt or contextualize some of the scathing criticism likely to assail the agency in forthcoming 9/11 Commission and Senate Select Intelligence Committee reports – and also might aid the cause of intelligence reform. According to several intelligence-community sources, the manuscript was in limbo at least three months past the Review Board's 30-day deadline earlier this year. Says one CIA veteran: "I think it's possible that it got the approval around the time Tenet decided for himself that he was leaving."

Whatever the PRB's rationale, Scheuer – who in interviews with the Phoenix never explicitly said he works for the CIA, only an "intelligence agency" – says he agreed to the conditions because, regardless of any issues he may have with the agency, he truly enjoys what he does and has no desire to quit government service. "I could make more money if I left – I have contractors leave cards in my office and take me to lunch, and I have a marketable set of skills, and it would be better for the books if I could actually say who I was. But I really like working where I work and doing what I do. We do marvelous things and stupid things here, but this place is essential to the security of America, and I think we have been at the lead of making the country safer. I'm not disgruntled. If I was, I would have left already. I just want this information and perspective out there."

What he does not like, however, is the notion advanced by the agency that he's agreed to be "Anonymous" based on safety concerns. According to Scheuer and his editor at Brassey's, Christina Davidson, when Nightline wanted to interview Scheuer in 2003, the agency told the program that his anonymity was not compelled but his own choice – an assertion the agency also made in a 2002 note to Brassey's. Davidson was so infuriated that she demanded the CIA state its actual position in writing, which it finally did in a May 25, 2004, fax signed by Paul-Noel Christian, chair of the agency's PRB. The fax, obtained by the Phoenix, reads in part: "This letter is to confirm that it is the Agency, and not the author that insists that approval for the manuscript is predicated upon the author maintaining his anonymity and also that his association with the Agency is not disclosed."

In the wake of the June 23 New York Times story, Davidson sent a terse note to CIA spokesman Bill Harlow that has yet to receive a response. "To say that our author must be kept in the shadows because he has expressed fears about al Qaeda retaliation is patently false and impugns his courage," she wrote, adding the "respectful request that you cease and desist from spreading this falsehood and inform all members of your staff to do the same."

In an interview after the Times story came out last week, Scheuer sounded none too pleased. "I suppose there might be a knucklehead out there somewhere who might take offense and do something, but anonymity isn't something I asked for, and not for that reason; it makes me sound like I'm hiding behind something, and I personally dislike thinking that anyone thinks I'm a coward. When I did the first book, I said it would be a more effective book if I used my name. And they said no."

On-the-ground Reality TV

On November 22, 2003, the 16th paragraph of an Associated Press story filed from Baghdad reported that troops from the U.S. Army's Fourth Infantry Division had arrested former Iraqi lieutenant general "Taha Hassan" "for alleged involvement in mortar attacks on police stations" in his hometown of Baquoba. One day later, Agence France-Presse noted the arrest of "Taha Hassan Abbas," as he was correctly identified, in a report that included additional dramatic details. A Fourth Infantry Division spokesman quoted by AFP provided the official account of the arrest: Abbas had "resisted when an assault force approached his house," and "engaged [in] fire," which was returned by U.S. troops who "captured" Abbas and two others.

Far more important than the AP's errant reporting -- itself a reflection of the story's low priority -- is that these two dispatches moved over the wires but went unpublished by any newspaper. Instead, in what has become par for the course, readers were treated to brief depictions of beleaguered U.S. troops engaging in the challenge of bringing law and order to a country beset by Ba'athist insurrectionists. But as disturbing details and images continue to flow from investigations into the horror show that was Abu Ghraib, an increasingly outraged American public is trying to fathom why U.S. forces seem so obviously out of control in their sweeping arrests and torturous interrogations of Iraqis. Just as important, they're also wondering whether the American media have failed -- by design or default -- to convey the ground-level truth of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, minimizing the causes of Iraqi alienation and resentment.

In a soon-to-be-released documentary, a top international investigative reporter offers a tentative explanation for both forms of derailment. On March 14 -- almost six weeks before 60 Minutes II aired its Abu Ghraib story -- the Australian NineNetwork's Sunday newsmagazine program aired a scaled-down version of Iraq -- On the Brink," reported by Ross Coulthart, a journalist whose award-winning investigations have spanned rough-and-tumble assignments in East Timor and Afghanistan to seminal intelligence and public-corruption investigations in the U.S. and Australia. Indirectly, Coulthart raises serious questions about American media self-censorship -- something journalists have been wrestling with since the first Gulf War. The film also raises the possibility that, then as now, such self-censorship may have helped the military cover up Iraqi wartime deaths. (A 15-minute trailer for "Iraq -- On the Brink" can be seen at the Journeyman Pictures website Latest RealPlayer required. American audiences may get to see snippets of the documentary in Michael Moore's award-winning Fahrenheit 9/11, depending on how it's released.)

Indeed, what began at Abu Ghraib as a probe into torture has now forced the Army to reveal that at least 32 Iraqi deaths may qualify as homicides. Whether Taha Hassan Abbas was one of the victims is difficult to say; extensive official and unofficial inquiries by the Phoenix into the former general's status yielded no answers. Yet as film footage shot by the NineNet crew shows, the Fourth Infantry Division's official account of Abbas's arrest was disingenuous at best.

Beyond the sometimes-shocking documentary content of "Iraq -- On the Brink," the film bears witness to the yawning gap between what on-the-scene journalists see and what the rest of the world sees. The Hassan-arrest footage was not recorded or guarded or classified by the U.S. Army. It was shot and marketed by a major news organization, the Associated Press Television News (APTN). So why doesn't footage like this make it into U.S. news coverage? TV news services send out teasers for potential stories, and clients buy footage based on what they see in the teasers. The trouble is, either teasers don't include the most damning material or, even if such material is included, news producers, for whatever reasons, decide not to buy the whole piece. However, it happened, the footage that made it into Coulthart's documentary, as well as that which was left out, was as available to American TV networks as, say, footage of George W. Bush carrying a turkey platter to troops on Thanksgiving Day. Yet no one chose to run it.

Coulthart goes out of his way to present a nuanced view of the occupation. He notes that under the command of Colonel David Teeples, soldiers of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, which was charged with enforcing a 9:00 p.m. curfew in the Iraqi-Syrian border town of Qusabah, were exceptionally careful. Coulthart's camera crew captured images of Teeples's resolute but respectful soldiers questioning Iraqis through translators, and in one case, quickly entering and exiting a house in pursuit of a suspected curfew violator. In other encounters, U.S. troops make a point of explaining why they're doing what they're doing, and ask for the Iraqis' help in the future. Heavy weaponry aside, the footage plays like a domestic-dispute encounter from Fox TV's Cops.

These scenes stand in stark contrast to what comes next. "The Americans need to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis," Coulthart says in his voiceover. "But that's not helped by aggressive raids like this one carried out by troops not under the command of Colonel Teeples." Though the troops are not identified, patches on their uniforms peg them as soldiers from the 588th Engineering Battalion of the Fourth Infantry Division. "It's the dead of night outside the house of a senior former Iraqi officer," Coulthart continues, referring to Taha Hassan Abbas, "who's suspected of helping the insurgents."

The soldiers don't exactly approach with stealth. They kick open a gate to the house's yard. What happens next, as Coulthart explained in an interview with the Phoenix, illustrates a perilous gap in American and Iraqi cultural understanding. "First, you have to understand that guns are ubiquitous in Iraq -- most people have them, and it's very common for them to shoot them in the air all the time for any number of reasons -- from celebrations to anger to whatever," he says. "Burglary has become very common in the past year, and oftentimes, if people hear something outside their homes at night, they'll fire a shot or two into the air to scare burglars away. Now, you could just go up to a house, like other soldiers do, and just knock on the door. But some treat these missions like full-fledged combat operations and start kicking things in with guns drawn, and then you get what happens next."

Coulthart's voiceover continues: "The officer's son -- thinking the soldiers are thieves -- goes to the roof of the house and fires into the air to scare them away." The response from U.S. soldiers: "We've got a shooter on the roof!" followed by a hail of bullets loosed at the house.

The next shot -- of film, that is -- shows Abbas, a clearly unarmed, middle-aged, balding man in pajamas, hands above his head, trembling as he stands across from at least a half-dozen U.S. soldiers whose M-16s are trained on him. "Inside the house, the officer surrenders, but he doesn't understand what the Americans are saying -- and they don't have a translator," Coulthart explains. Abbas repeats the only English he appears to know -- "Welcome! Welcome!" -- over and over again, keeping his hands far above his head as the Fourth Infantry Division soldiers handle the situation in a way almost exactly the opposite of how the Third Cav troops acted in similar circumstances. The Fourth Infantry soldiers' manner foreshadows the images at Abu Ghraib that the world would see months later.

"Want me to shoot him in the leg?" one soldier yells. "I might shoot you!" another growls at Abbas. As Abbas stands motionless in the doorway between his kitchen and the next room, one soldier shouts, "He's trying to draw us in there!" Another solider half mutters, half yells, "I don't give a shit, I'm gonna shoot, I'm gonna shoot, I'm gonna shoot!" while another hollers, "I can shoot him in the leg!"

"Get the fuck over here, get the fuck over here," shouts another, while the previous soldier repeats his desire to shoot Abbas in the leg, adding that someone should also "shoot him in the foot."

Abbas steps away from the doorway and moves his back to the wall. "The Iraqi officer, thinking he's about to die," Coulthart's voiceover resumes, "can now be heard praying." The American response is far from ecumenical, with one soldier yelling, "Who the fuck are you talking to? Who the fuck are you talking to? Shut the fuck up! Shut the fuck up!" The soldier then grabs the man's pajama top and hurls him across the room into the hands of another soldier, who in turn hurls him into a chair that goes flying as the Iraqi sprawls onto the floor. One soldier begins to kick Abbas, who, though on his back, has his hands in the air again, repeating, "Welcome! Welcome!" Three soldiers put their gun barrels in his face, with one solider yelling repeatedly, "Shoot him!" Another asks, "Who's shooting?" when he hears gunfire from the roof, and then yells, "Bullshit" at the prone Abbas, who continues to repeat, "Welcome!"

The next sequence shows the capture of Abbas's adult son, who had shot the gun off on the roof; as he's being restrained, a soldier's voice barks menacingly, "Take the camera off him." The film then resumes with a shot of two women -- apparently Abbas's wife and daughter -- kneeling on the ground at gunpoint, their hands on their heads, their faces pictures of anger and humiliation.

The final shot shows the former general. Though fleeting, it is, perhaps, the most disturbing sequence of the film, given that in his previous appearance Abbas was terrified but physically unharmed. Now, his arms are restrained behind his back. His face is battered and bruised. His left eye is beginning to swell shut. The front of his shirt is stained with blood, and a stream of snot and blood dangles from his left nostril.

"No one here was killed," Coulthart's voice resumes. "But it's raids like this that can only fuel the resentment against Coalition forces."

Speaking from Australia, Coulthart doesn't entirely fault the soldiers for their initial reaction to gunfire from the roof: "One could reasonably, though incorrectly, conclude that one was being fired on, and it makes perfect sense to fire back if that's what you think." But, he says, it again raises the question of who gave the order for the squad to apprehend the general in the way it did -- especially without a translator -- given the obvious potential for creating an unnecessarily inflammatory situation. "People don't seem to realize the incalculable damage something like this causes," he says. "You can see on the face of the young woman that her heart and mind are gone forever to the Americans. When we first saw this footage, the first reaction of our Iraqi fixers was absolute anger -- I can only begin to guess what the reaction is to the scenes from Abu Ghraib."

Coulthart says he's not sure what's more troubling: that the arrest of a former Iraqi lieutenant general apparently merited no coverage; that footage showing an arrest almost completely at odds with the official account was not distributed in its entirety by Associated Press Television News; or that what was distributed wasn't of interest to any APTN clients.

"We had a hunch that there was probably some very disturbing footage cameramen had shot that American network producers had consciously chosen not to air, or that broadcast-news-service editors had edited teasers in a way that didn't prominently feature footage like this," he says. "I think the problem is more with the clients for TV news services than the services themselves. In this case, the edited version sent out was just a shortened version that didn't show the drama that we realized when we viewed the entire sequence. When we saw it, we couldn't believe no one had used it. Because the clients should have realized first off that the version was an indication of something more sinister worth investigation."

At the same time, he says, it may be asking too much of news organizations to air such footage. "This is part of the irony of how modern news systems actually work to keep stuff like this off the air. Places like APTN and Reuters TV generate so much, squirting out images 24 hours a day on permanent satellite-feed channels, that there just isn't time to monitor it and watch it all. Which is too bad, because it's the wire services like APTN and Reuters that are doing most of the really ballsy shooting."

Coulthart is similarly vexed by the lack of attention U.S. media paid to the American use of cluster bombs last year -- and how the damage they've done has engendered extreme ill will towards the American occupiers, particularly in the Doura section of Baghdad. Condemned by most international humanitarian organizations, cluster bombs explode and then spray smaller explosive bomblets over a vast area; all too often some of the bomblets don't immediately explode, causing civilian casualties later on. Featured prominently in "Iraq -- On the Brink" is Aida al-Ansari, an English-speaking Doura resident whose son and 25 others were killed when a U.S. warplane cluster-bombed her neighborhood as American forces were fighting their way into Baghdad last spring. While a handful of stories mentioned the Doura bombing last year, there's been no follow-up since -- another missed opportunity, as the Sunday crew discovered, to understand the roots of growing Iraqi anger at the occupation.

When Coulthart visited the Doura neighborhood this year, he discovered al-Ansari, who still has the shrapnel-torn, bloodstained jeans her 16-year-old son, Fahad, was wearing when he died on the operating table at a local hospital, bereft of any anesthetic to ease the pain. Almost a year later, Coulthart reports, "grief among Fahad's family and friends has now hardened to anger" directed at the U.S. government. "They hate them," al-Ansari tells him of the Americans, explaining that "they don't hate the people, but they hate Bush and the Army."

"Did they hate the United States before this war?" Coulthart asks.

"No," she responds. "They were -- everybody used to dream to go to United States to work or to do something."

"Has anyone from the Coalition ever come to you or to this community and apologized for what happened?" he asks.

"No. No one."

The documentary also includes another type of footage rarely seen on American television. Though ABC originally aired it briefly (and though a handful of Web sites have shown it at various lengths), "Iraq -- On the Brink" includes the full night-vision footage taken from the gun cameras of a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter that shows the killing of three men, one of whom appeared to be hiding a rocket-propelled grenade. Though it's impossible to verify just what the man has, the crew is nonetheless instructed by radio to "Smoke 'em," and then coolly fires through the dark at each suspected insurgent in turn. In this sort of video-game-style footage, we're used to seeing the destruction of bunkers and buildings, not human figures.

However shocking it is to watch, the action is actually permissible under the U.S. Army's rules of engagement; indeed, it was likely that reliable intelligence led the helicopter to stake out the scene in the first place, and as helicopters are notoriously vulnerable to rocket-propelled-grenade and other shoulder-fired-missile attacks, it's not entirely surprising that the Apache fired away. Rather, says Coulthart, the importance of the footage is that it reflects what many non-American Coalition military units said to his crew: that they've grown increasingly concerned about the political ramifications of the Americans' take no-prisoners/show-no-mercy approach. "When it came up in conversation with one Coalition officer," says Coulthart, "he shook his head and said, 'The Americans have gone feral and no good will come of it.'"

"Iraq -- On the Brink" also captures the brusque aloofness of CPA administrator J. Paul Bremer, the shiftiness of Ahmad Chalabi, the still-being-uncovered hidden horrors of Saddam's regime, and the bravery of the Baghdad Police Department's bomb squad in defusing scores of bombs each day. (The Americans use remote-controlled robots to neutralized explosives threatening U.S. troops; the Iraqis display what Coulthart calls a "splendid madness in heroism" as they are left to defuse bombs by hand, with no protective gear.)

While Coulthart thinks the documentary makes for an accurate and timely snapshot of post-Saddam Iraq, he exhales a rueful sigh at the mention of Abu Ghraib -- a sigh that reflects a sense of both self-recrimination and angst born of the economics of foreign correspondence. When his crew was en route to meet Teeples and his Third Armored Cavalry soldiers in Iraq's western desert, their route took them past Abu Ghraib. As Coulthart recalls, no discussion was required to stop the van; the scene they beheld "was like something out of Dante's Inferno." "We all knew what it was and what it stood for, this thing with mythological status in Iraq where all this death and misery took place," he says. "Part of what was striking was that, frankly, it wasn't looking much different now -- barbed wire, troops with menacing gun emplacements, lines of people trying to get in to see relatives.

"While we're filming overlays, up walks this mother, who tells us this horror story about her sons essentially being abducted from their home in Um Qasr by the Americans in the middle of the night. I did the interview, of course, but didn't run it in our story because it seemed a little off our focus. You're so focused on the story you tell yourself is the story -- in part because the cost is so high and the budget is so tight. It cost us $1500 a week to be there, and unless we deliver results, it's harder in the future to get the support this kind of work requires."

Indeed, Coulthart says, those sorts of cost considerations actually kept the cluster-bomb segment from appearing on Sunday for a year. "Most of that we shot last year, but we had to focus on the story we were supposed to be telling, which was mostly about Chalabi," he says. Determined to advance the dormant story on his latest visit to Baghdad, days of street reporting led the crew to al-Ansari, whose experiences ultimately made for a much more informative and affecting piece of journalism.

Yet the fact remains that a disturbing reality went unreported for a year, essentially due to constraints on time and money. "And with Abu Ghraib, it was the same situation again," Coulthart sighs. "Though we had the luxury of more time and more flexibility than anyone who covers Iraq day in and day out, we felt like we couldn't shift our focus. And the irony was, here was this story of a lifetime right under our noses. There were people standing in queues trying to see their sons, waiting eight hours a day and often being told to come back the next day, and then the next and the next. Looking back on it, I'm not only kicking myself now, but am kind of ashamed. I'm sure that if we had scratched the surface and had taken the time to systematically interview people coming out to Abu Ghraib trying to figure out what had happened to their loved ones, we could have dug something up then."

Coulthart's sentiment is not uncommon among seasoned, independent-minded reporters cognizant of the complexities of most foreign stories. But in some respects, the dice have been loaded against journalists covering Iraq since the beginning of the war. While a handful of journalists has provided a steady stream of exemplary reporting, there are some who feel that whatever good reporting has been done since the end of "major combat operations" has involved an even greater uphill battle for attention than usual. Why? Because the Bush administration's practice of embedding journalists with the troops set the tenor of Iraq-war reporting.

As the Washington Post's Richard Leiby wrote last year, embedding was nothing short of a "propaganda coup" for the Defense Department. By embedding scores of reporters (many with little or no combat or foreign experience) in rapidly advancing frontline units, argued Leiby, the Pentagon ensured that virtually no one who was "cover[ing] the instability and power vacuum left in the invasion's wake" got nearly the play their "embedded" colleagues did -- thus minimizing the disturbing realities of poor post-war planning and lulling Americans into a sense of complacency, not about what was to come, but about what was already happening.

Speaking at an extraordinary-but-unnoticed symposium at the University of Texas last year, award-winning combat photographer Peter Turnley was unsparing in his criticism of the increasingly institutionalized self-censorship he believes began in the first Gulf War, and has only become more insidious since. In Gulf War I, Turnley -- then a top Newsweek photographer -- was so uncomfortable with the Pentagon's control of journalists through its "pool" system that he actually left Saudi Arabia before the war and snuck across the Kuwaiti border by dressing as an Army colonel. While many of his colleagues were being shepherded through the theater of operations by U.S. military minders, Turnley at one point found himself surveying a horrific scene that the Army thought it had successfully quarantined from journalists.

"I witnessed U.S. soldiers forcing Iraqi prisoners at gunpoint to pick up bodies and pile them up and put them in mass graves where bulldozers would come and cover them up," he said. "There were two Iraqi soldiers, they were really very pathetic, in their 40s, didn't have teeth, very tired and fatigued, and at gunpoint being made to pick up dozens of bodies. It seemed rather inhuman to me, how long they were obliged to do this. I remember as they dropped a body next to a stack of bodies, one of the Iraqi soldiers fell to his hands and knees and started sobbing. I got on my knees and started to make a picture -- at that point an American soldier came up and punched me in the chest and said, 'You animal.' And I grabbed him by the shirt and told him I didn't make these guys do this."

Although Turnley took rolls of disturbing and moving images -- some of which he showed to the symposium audience -- almost none saw the light of day, either in Newsweek or through distribution by his photo agency. Yet almost every newspaper reproduced Turnley's photograph of a wounded U.S. soldier in a helicopter, crying as a comrade died in his arms.

During the 2003 Gulf War, Turnley -- this time for the Denver Post -- once again struck out on his own, purposely avoiding U.S. and British soldiers and focusing his attention on the Iraqi people. "For the first three weeks, I would see a convoy, a whole troupe of writers from major media outlets that would come in for a half day's reporting so they could get their dateline and then get out," he recalled. "It took me literally five seconds of entering into Iraq and looking into the eyes of people whose eyes showed mistrust, open hostility at the worst. There were towns that troops had just flown through, not staying to create any law and order. People showed me leaflets the Americans had dropped from the sky saying they should be embraced with joy and welcomed because we were bringing liberation and food and water and power, and they'd scream at me, 'Where's the water? Where are the medical supplies? In the hospital we have nothing.'"

In Turnley's view, the media-government arrangement that effectively produced much of the coverage of Gulf War II and the early occupation conspired to create what he terms a "projected idea of reality" -- which policymakers actually consider tantamount to reality. Yet wrenching situations like the one he witnessed in a Baghdad hospital five days after the city's liberation, he says, are precisely what people need to see to drive home the reality that the invasion was not about American pride, but about America's failure to secure the blessings of liberation for the Iraqi people. "I saw this beautiful little girl on the bed -- yellow socks, white shirt -- and I noticed two doctors were doing cardiac massage on her chest, and that I was watching the life of this little girl evaporating. I thought I saw her chest exhale and I had this leap of joy, I thought she was coming back to life -- and one of the doctors had this look of disgust and put a towel over her face and walked out."

The girl, Turnley found out, had died of pneumonia, for which she could have been treated. But because the Americans had failed to plan for crowds running riot, the girl's father couldn't get her to the hospital before it was too late.

A clip and transcript of "Iraq -- On The Brink" are available on the Journeyman Pictures website. A transcript of the shorter version of the documentary that aired on NineNet's Sunday program is available here; a transcript of Sunday's 2003 piece "The Spoils of War" is available here. You can also read related articles by Ross Coulthart at The Bulletin, an Australian newsweekly.

Jason Vest is a contributing writer for the Boston Phoenix.

Ahmad Agonistes

There was a story making the rounds in foreign-policy circles last fall about an exchange between two of Ahmad Chalabi's most prominent patrons and detractors -- a juicy bit that rang true, but seemed hopelessly, tantalizingly just beyond the journalistic grasp. Ubiquitous as it had become in the halls of Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon, the standard for publication lay in the ability to get verbatim confirmation of the conversational back and forth -- something no one seemed able to satisfactorily secure.

Apparently destined for the realm of apocryphal anecdotes that hacks only laugh about at the bar, the tale suddenly appeared in print via the pen of Washington Post contributor Sally Quinn on November 24, 2003, as the coda to her 6,000-word anointment of Chalabi as a bona fide Washington player:

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Implausible Denial

Writing in the December 16, 2002, edition of The Nation, I broke the news -- and explored the concerns many in the US intelligence community had -- about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's quiet success in prevailing upon Congress to authorize the creation of a new senior position at the Pentagon, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. Several months later, in the pages of the Columbia Journalism Review, I followed up with a piece devoted to the media's utter lack of interest -- perhaps best demonstrated by the absence of any reporter from a farcical confirmation hearing -- in the new Under Secretary himself, Stephen Cambone.

Despite his status as the Pentagon's über-intelligence authority, in the initial days of the breaking Abu Ghraib scandal Cambone was virtually invisible. When Rumsfeld was called to the Hill to testify before the Armed Services Committee on May 7, however, Cambone was unexpectedly summoned to the witness table from his chair behind Rumsfeld. That cameo appearance resulted in a more expansive return appearance on May 11, in which Cambone less than deftly tried to undermine Abu Ghraib investigator Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. (Cambone disputed the general's conclusion that military intelligence units effectively controlled the prison's military police detachment.) Cambone also reacted adversely to Senator Jack Reed's assertion (confirmed by Taguba) that recommendations made in a report on improving intelligence collection at Abu Ghraib by then-chief Guantánamo Bay interrogator Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller clearly called for the use of MPs in interrogations, which helped create an environment that begot the subsequent abuse and torture in the tiers. As a May 12 Washington Post editorial points out, Cambone's office approved interrogation practices that are in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.

At the May 11 hearings, Cambone and another senior Defense Department official, Army intelligence chief Lieut. Gen. Keith Alexander, essentially cast themselves as mere Pentagon representatives fielding questions about Abu Ghraib -- and not as men who might bear any responsibility for what they desperately tried to cast as an aberrant and isolated incident. Yet many of their assertions on May 11 are in fact contradicted by statements they made before the same committee a month before, as well as a year-old memo outlining the responsibilities of Cambone's office.

The Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, or OUSD(I) in Pentagonese, was originally conceived by Rumsfeld as a centralizing measure, a way to give him "one dog to kick" rather than a "whole kennel" of individual civilian and uniformed defense intelligence agencies. In choosing the person responsible for ostensibly bringing unprecedented order and control to the Pentagon's spy shops, the Secretary chose Cambone, a man with no intelligence experience but a favored protégé and loyal partisan who had served on Rumsfeld's ballistic missile threat commission and worked with the neoconservative Project for the New American Century. Previously principal deputy to Under Secretary for Policy Doug Feith (and, in that capacity, liaison between Feith and the ideological intelligence analysis unit that would later morph into the notorious Office of Special Plans), Cambone went out of his way in his confirmation hearings to say that he would closely "consult and coordinate" with Feith to "insure [that] DoD-related intelligence activity supports the goals" of the Pentagon's policy shop.

Two months after Cambone's confirmation, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz described his new portfolio in a detailed internal Pentagon memo. Reflecting the seriousness and specificity of Cambone's mission, an organizational chart appended to the memo shows a generic under secretary with six deputies, including one for war fighting and operations, whose duties include specific liaison with the intelligence elements of each of the armed services, each individual combatant command, and the under secretary for policy. The document itself explicitly states that Cambone's office will, among other things: Provide oversight and policy guidance for all DoD intelligence activities; provide policy oversight of all the intelligence organizations within the DoD, to include ensuring these organizations are manned, trained, equipped and structured to support the missions of the Department; provide assessments of and advice [to] the Secretary and CJCS [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff] on the adequacy of military intelligence performance; exercise management and oversight of all DoD counterintelligence and security activities; coordinate DoD intelligence and intelligence-related policy, plans, programs, requirements and resource allocations; oversee provision of intelligence support and involvement in information operations, focused on assessments in support of operations.

None of this should leave much to the imagination, especially when it comes to policies and practices pertaining to the dimensions of human intelligence collection that involve interrogations conducted by military intelligence. Yet when asked by Senator John Warner if his office has "overall responsibility for policy concerning the handling of detainees," Cambone dodged with a "not precisely, sir," effectively denying any responsibility as set forth in his charge by Wolfowitz. Rather, Cambone said, he only reactively "became involved in this issue from the perspective of assuring there was a flow of intelligence back to the commands and done in an efficient and effective way."

Cambone's subsequent comments were in a similar vein, and lead one to conclude that either this particular under secretary was willfully obfuscating, or that he was providing yet another glaring example of the old adage that "military intelligence" is a contradiction in terms. Nothing pertinent crossed his desk; things were always "signed out at the command level." Though he's had time to reflect on the whole affair, Cambone can't really say how he thinks any of it happened: "I don't know the facts, it's for me, hard to explain."

Key reports were seen only belatedly, "well after they were issued" or not at all, because they were "only delivered at command level." Cambone is apparently still in the dark regarding concerns voiced by the Coalition Provisional Authority and the State Department about prisoner treatment: "I'm not aware of those complaints," he said or, to clarify, "per se, in that sense, no." Though he's the senior Defense Department official responsible for intelligence, Cambone "did not discuss with anybody at Joint Task Force 7" interrogation procedure recommendations, especially ones that dealt with the transmission or dissemination of intelligence. As late as this past February -- when most other senior officials were keenly aware of the problems at Abu Ghraib -- "I still didn't know that there was a significant issue here." And when General Miller made his trip to Iraq, that was really under someone else's auspices, and merely with the "encouragement" of OUSD(I).

And one certainly shouldn't consider it anything like "collaboration" that Cambone's deputy for war fighting and operations, Lieut. Gen. William Boykin (yes, that Boykin, of anti-Islam "My God is bigger than your God" fame) was subsequently briefed by Miller on his trip to Iraq; Boykin then briefed Cambone.

What makes this all the more remarkable, though, is how different in tone and substance Cambone's comments are compared with his appearance along with all the military intelligence chiefs -- before the same committee on April 7. Review the transcript of that hearing and it seems as if Cambone and every element of the US military are working hand in glove. Recapping his first year as OUSD(I), Cambone effusively praised his uniformed colleagues and seemed to take particular delight in crowing about how closely his office was working with combatant commanders in Iraq on virtually every intelligence angle:

We undertook a major effort to support the transition from Fifth Corps to the Third Corps in Iraq, and the stand up of the Combined Joint Task Force Seven. We continue to be actively engaged with General Sanchez and General Fast, who is G2 [Army intelligence], in assisting the development of the intelligence architecture there, in providing counterintelligence support, in assisting the army and others with the transition, particularly their tactical HUMINT [human intelligence] teams and the like...the effort to improve capabilities within Iraq at the operational and tactical level has been so successful that [General Abizaid] has asked us to undertake a similar effort with his architecture in Afghanistan.

In that hearing, Cambone introduced Army military intelligence chief Lieut. Gen. Keith Alexander as having a "great deal of information" on the Army's intelligence efforts in Iraq. Of particular pride to Alexander, who expressly thanked Cambone for being "superb in providing us support" -- is a program he declined to mention at his May 11 hearing but showcased on April 7. In that instance, after discussing the successful capture of an Iraqi general and the rapid sharing of intelligence between Defense Department intelligence agencies, Alexander said he chose to share that example
because, one, it shows you how important tactical questioning, analysis and interrogation is to our folks; and two, how we are training them today. We call Intel Support to Combating Terrorism. It's done at Fort Huachuca, and it uses the lessons learned from Guantánamo to our folks in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And also the benefits for tactical questioning, for those soldiers on the ground to know how to ask the right questions of these guys is being taught through every one of our centers and every one of our schools and centers throughout the United States before soldiers deploy.

Aside from this, the only other public mention of the Intelligence Support to Combating (or Counter) Terrorism program is in the February 13, 2003, edition of the Fort Huachuca base newspaper, which describes it as a crash course for military intelligence officers bound only for Guantánamo -- but that the course will quickly become "globally oriented," as "the threat is not just in Afghanistan, it's also in the Philippines and the Middle East." While there is no mention in the article of Geneva Conventions-specific training -- and while no mention of this unique training program was made on Tuesday -- Alexander spent much of his time in the May 11 hearing emphasizing the strict adherence of his military intelligence officers to the standard training manuals, and trying to convince a skeptical committee that the whole Abu Ghraib mess likely begins and ends with nothing more than "a group of undisciplined military police." Yet on May 12, ABC News interviewed two former Fort Huachuca interrogation trainees who said that since early last year, "The US military has been teaching future interrogators how to cause physical pain while questioning detainees but remain technically within limits set by the Geneva Conventions."

Cambone can't have it both ways. The Armed Services Committee should thoroughly investigate the discrepancies between Cambone's and Alexander's April 7 and May 11 testimonies, and should recall the pair to the Hill for a more precise interrogation (in line with the Geneva Conventions, of course). In the end, the only place for Rumsfeld's "one dog to kick" may not be at his master's feet, but in the doghouse.

Jason Vest writes on national security affairs for The Nation.

Losing Higher Ground

Before we turn our attention to Tuesday's reactionary and indicative-of-utter-ignorance comments made on Capitol Hill by Senator James Inhofe, let's first revisit Sunday's Washington Post. Under the headline "Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy; U.S. May Be Winning Battles in Iraq But Losing the War, Some Officers Say," a number of career Army officers -- including the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Coalition Provisional Authority's first director of planning -- said that in strategic terms, the U.S. military has made a mess of things in Iraq, and perhaps fatally so.

The willingness of such prominent military officials to go on record may be surprising, as was the Post's finally reporting that the officer corps thinks Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz are a couple of dafties who've been allowed to flail about for far too long in the sandbox they call the Pentagon and need a permanent time-out. But the probability of career military people sounding the alarm on likely strategic disaster is low. In the days before and after the United States charged into Iraq, there was no lack of articles and studies produced by the military's own war colleges and scholarly journals that have highlighted the perils of poor strategic planning -- and strategic wishful thinking -- in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

To many of these observers, what's new is not just old but really unchanged since Vietnam: U.S. forces do well tactically but poorly strategically, especially when they're operating in a counter-insurgency situation and when they fail to consider how certain actions play with the indigenous population (which may not be on quite the same wavelength as their "liberators" or "defenders").

But whatever parallel one chooses to draw, when discussing strategy, there's one element that, as both Carl von Clausewitz and St. Augustine held, remains constant: the matter of moral authority. In the more buoyant moments of "major combat operations" last year, many commentators -- and even some officers -- cited the quick besting of the Iraqi army as the quintessential application of maneuver-warfare theories developed by the late Colonel John Boyd, a maverick military reformer. But as Boyd's more savvy associates and students noted at the time, it was both perilous and premature to equate the possible success of some of Boyd's more tactical ideas as vital to "winning the war," because the thrust of Boyd's work was on the importance of strategy.

Central to Boyd's conception of strategy was the creation of institutions that, above all, could adapt to changing realities around them -- and that effective strategy works only with high physical, mental and moral standards. On the latter point, Boyd described the importance of moral authority to strategy as fundamentally an issue of trust (something that definitely matters when one is fighting an unconventional war as an occupier). "With trust," he once said, "you gain respect, loyalty, and common purpose. ... The way to maintain moral authority is by deed, not word alone." Failure to match word and deed, he further held, creates an ethical gap that an enemy can take advantage of; and if properly exploited, that gap not only results in uncertainty and mistrust but entropy. With the onset of entropy in your own ranks, your own forces have effectively undermined themselves, and all the enemy has to do then is avail himself of your own self-made failings.

It's hard to look at the Abu Ghraib mess and not see how, in Boydian terms, a critical lapse of moral authority has undermined strategy -- that concept which another insightful modern military thinker, Albert C. Pierce, has usefully defined as "the art and science of how policy and policy-makers wrestle to the ground primordial violence, hatred, and enmity and the other powerful emotions of war on the battlefield, at higher headquarters, in the corridors of power, and among the people."

Like Boyd, Pierce, currently director of the U.S. Naval Academy's Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics, also emphasizes the importance of moral authority in warfare and notes that the many criteria that define St. Augustine's concept of a "just war" should be central to all strategic thinking. Among those is the idea of proportionality or the standard that the damage done in the course of war must not outweigh the overall good a war would achieve. But as Pierce notes, in the Augustinian equation, meeting the standard of proportionality is arrived at not by focusing on the obvious righteousness of the potential good. Rather, as he noted in a 2002 lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, "Proportionality drives the statesman to make reasonable, conscientious, and prudent calculations, and not to use rose-colored glasses in the attempt, and not to succumb to the temptations of overly optimistic assumptions and scenarios."

Looking through the Boyd and Pierce prisms at Abu Ghraib serves to underscore how poorly the Bush administration, and the Pentagon's civilian leadership in particular, has grasped strategic thinking: As numerous articles and investigations have amply documented, the prewar planning certainly didn't hew to rigorous Augustinian strategic standards, and the civilian ideologues were blind to the potential that an insufficiently trained and equipped force they were responsible for coulld only undermine a strategic vision that was dubious to begin with.

Credit should, however, be given where credit's due: While his apology was slow and lacking, Rumsfeld at least tried to ameliorate this very real strategic crisis by accepting responsibility for the appalling systematic and personal breakdowns broached by Abu Ghraib. But then along comes Senator James Inhofe, reeking of Karl Rove and cutting loose with an epistle of such vile pandering to a reactionary domestic constituency that one wonders how long it'll be before a stray artillery round from Fort Sill takes out Inhofe's Oklahoma home. One active duty officer I talked to in the wake of Inhofe's remarks -- like, "I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment" -- actually wants Inhofe indicted for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

What better way to chip away at tattered U.S. moral authority than to characterize untried and unlawfully violated prisoners as "murderers, terrorists, insurgents" with "American blood on their hands"? What better way to endear U.S. occupiers to a restive and resentful population by presumptuously ascribing a view to those whose Geneva Conventions' rights were violated as vaguely grateful ("I would guess that these prisoners wake up every morning thanking Allah that Saddam Hussein is not in charge of these prisons")? (Abdul-Basat al-Turki, Iraq's U.S.-appointed minister of human rights, would probably disagree. As he explained upon resigning on May 4, "I never imagined that what I saw in those pictures was going on," adding that he was "horrified" and was resigning "not only because I believe that the use of violence is a violation of human rights but also because these methods in the prisons means that the violations are a common act.")

What a useful message to then send -- adding insult to injury to both Iraqis and the concept of humanitarian law -- by essentially saying that torture is a relative thing: Because Hussein tortured people to death and we didn't, it really isn't that big a deal, even if international law was violated. And then the final insult to Iraqis, Americans, and citizens of the world alike: "I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons looking for human-rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying." Of course it's good for long-term, post-Hussein strategy that a U.S. senator should damn, among others, the International Committee of the Red Cross (which people in the U.S. government liked three decades ago, when it struggled to get access to American POWs in North Vietnam, and which many World War II POWs were tremendously thankful for, as are many the world over), Iraq's own Human Rights Organization, and, apparently, the U.S. military personnel conducting the five other related investigations in the service of such trivial concepts as "transparency," "accountability," and "rule of law".

As revolting as Inhofe's comments are -- and as problematic as they're likely to be for the service people who have to deal with the all the aggregate damage done in Iraq -- they are, nonetheless, refreshing, as they very well may reveal what is the true Republican id. (Whatever the case, it's one clearly devoid of an appreciation for the process of sound strategic thinking.) But perhaps most importantly, they also recall a special category that Drew Pearson and Robert Allan created for certain senators when they penned their sequel to Washington Merry-Go-Round in 1932: "Those Who Sometimes Open Their Mouths, But Say Nothing of Value."

Jason Vest is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Copyright © 2004 by The American Prospect, Inc. This article may not be resold, reprinted or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. Direct questions about permissions to permissions@prospect.org.

A Deadbeat President Hawks His Dead-end War

In his first speech to the nation from the White House since he announced the bombing of Baghdad, President Bush rattled his begging bowl with vigor and conviction on television screens across America. "Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make our own nation more secure," he declared, as he hit Congress up for a whopping $87 billion handout.

Indeed, it was hard to decide what was more appalling about Bush's address: The shamelessness with which he appealed for more deficit spending or the divorced-from-reality conviction with which he parroted his speechwriter's spin. The Pentagon source who called me moments after the speech, however, was unimpressed. "The gall," he seethed. "I'd like to give that son-of-a-bitch an eighty-seven billion dollar enema."

Sadly, our president is far more likely to get his giant-sized appropriation. Congress -- after letting fly with a bit of theatrical tongue-lashing -- will likely accede to Bush's request, forking over precious taxpayer money to fund mostly military and intelligence operations that are long on cost and short on actual details.

But while the White House will get what it wants from an enabling Congress, it's still not going to have as easy a go of it at the United Nations, especially not with Germany and France. The two nations are just as unhappy this week as they were last Thursday, when the U.S. turned in a draft Security Council resolution that gave the Iraq a U.N. imprimatur but ceded very little control. Indeed, Secretary of State Colin Powell didn't exactly endear himself to the Germans and the French by affecting a pose for public consumption that fell somewhere between exaggerated disbelief and unconvincing bonhomie. "If they have suggestions," he said of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac's objections to the U.S. plan, "we would be more than happy to listen to them."

That tune's been called before. It is unlikely that Schroeder and Chirac have forgotten how the Iraq saga unfolded: beginning with a deceptively sweet lilt ("If we are an arrogant nation they will resent us; if we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us," said Bush); segueing after 9/11 into a vaguely martial cadence of exclusivity and duplicity; then building to a crescendo with neoconservatives effusing over a "paradigm shift" in the world order, confidently sounding the death-knell for obstreperous "Old Europe" and the insufficiently accommodating UN.

Yet for all the flinty resolve that accompanied phrases like "coalition of the willing," the Bush administration finds itself back at the despised UN. But in characteristic fashion, it is defaulting to its arrogance-as-usual mode despite its ever-mounting problems. While this wrong-headed chutzpah would be cause enough for the UN to turn its back on the administration, there are two more important reasons not to accede to its ill-conceived terms.

The first is fairly obvious. Granting a patina of respectability and an infusion of deferential assistance to an occupier that doesn't know what it is doing in Iraq is only likely to make matters worse. Indeed, if the Pentagon's track record thus far is used as a barometer, the U.S. has done little to merit the primacy it so arrogantly insists upon. Paul Wolfowitz's March 27 assertion that Iraq "can finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon" has proven to be a gem of absolute stupidity, idealistic dementia and/or brazen disingenuity.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's inchoate proposal for more Iraqis to take up the security slack doesn't exactly inspire confidence -- and seems ironic in light of Iraqi administrator J. Paul Bremer's earlier decision to dismantle the Iraqi military and police over the objections of the U.S. Army. And for all the administration's bluster about "handing over" power to the Iraqis, the draft proposal's characterization of the Iraqi Governing Council as a "principal body" of administration still under control of Bremer seems a little far-fetched. The IGC is represents less a mechanism for rapid democratic transition than the imperial relationship between the likes of Lord Cromer and his khedive in Cairo.

The second reason to turn down the United States terms is arguably more esoteric, but just as compelling. In a heady moment earlier this year at a Brown University forum, the influential Pentagon adviser, Richard Perle, was all but dancing on the grave of the United Nations. Labeling the United Nation's reluctance to rubberstamp the Iraq invasion a "failure of courage," Perle held that such cowardice should be punished with nothing less than the dissolution of the Security Council.

Accepting the US draft proposal essentially rewards the temerity of neoconservatives whose ambition is to re-fashion the United Nations to suit their imperial needs. "My preference," Perle said on Apr. 1, "would be to convene a new charter conference for the United Nations and see whether we can reconstitute the United Nations so as to recognize the terrorist threat and so as to empower the international community to deal with it ... until that time, no American president will have any choice but to use the power of the United States when there is a threat that cannot be dealt with effectively by the international community."

To the neocons, the choice facing Annan and his brethren was simple: either the United Nations reconstitutes itself with the U.S. as its unquestioned master, or who knows where and when the US military might show up in the name of "securing a safer world." That's a euphemism, as we have seen, for a full-scale invasion (devoid of realistic post-conflict planning) in ostensible (but hardly credible) pursuit of weapons of mass destruction that may or may not be there, and that might, however improbably, find their way to various "evildoers" du jour.

However graceless the Bush administration's return to the United Nations may be, its mere presence before the body is an admission of failure. Indeed, Perle was so confident of what post-Saddam Iraq would reveal that he confidently proclaimed, "(W)hen the war is over ... there will be chance to judge what we did and why we did it and how it came out."

Failure, however, should not be rewarded. Not when the President of the United States declines to explain to his own people why no weapons of mass destruction have been found, and takes no responsibility for a monumental failure of planning that continues to drain the blood, spirit and treasure of both the American and Iraqi people.

Jason Vest writes regularly for the Nation, the American Prospect, and Mother Jones.

Shifting Sands of Neoconservative Logic

As images of the bombed United Nations headquarters in Baghdad appeared on television last week, my thoughts turned to a conversation I had with a very senior national-security official (a political appointee with no military experience, not a career bureaucrat) prior to the invasion of Iraq. He earnestly told me that after Saddam Hussein's fall, Americans would be welcomed in Iraq, and not with a fleeting shower of goodwill but with a "deluge" of "rose water and flowers" that would last in perpetuity. Ahmad Chalabi and American advisers would set up shop to oversee a transition spearheaded by scores of returning Iraqi exiles, who would transform Iraq into a profitable, oil-pumping society. After all, the official said, this wasn't Afghanistan, where there were lots of religious and tribal differences among the local populations. We wouldn't need to stay long, and we certainly wouldn't need the United Nations -- which, as far as this official and his compatriots were concerned, could go screw itself. The United States could handle it all. Within a year, he said, Iraq would be a beacon of democracy and stability in the Middle East.

These sentiments weren't anything new, of course; I had heard -- and still hear -- the same refrain sung by the neoconservative wing of Washington's brilliant-but-wrong choir. I therefore sighed as I anticipated the response to the query-as-rejoinder about to pass my lips. "So what do you think of the Army War College report?" I asked. The document I referred to was titled, "Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario," and it had been released in draft form the previous October, with a much more detailed version appearing in February 2003.

That report said that the administration hadn't planned adequately for a post-Hussein Iraq; it also very presciently rendered the likely results of such poor planning and gave well-considered suggestions for how to either properly shepherd Iraq to stability or, if too late for that, what not to do to make a bad situation worse. The last line of the document's penultimate section wasn't exactly encouraging: "Without an overwhelming effort to prepare for occupation," it said, "the US may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making."

The official smiled a smug smile, reiterating his belief that most of those in uniform really didn't know anything. He dismissed internal military concerns about how thinly stretched U.S. forces were and how onerous the manpower requirements in postwar Iraq would be. He was particularly derisive of Eric Shinseki, the soon-to-be-forcibly-retired Army chief of staff, whose estimates of manpower requirements for postwar Iraq had been characterized by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as "wildly off the mark." Shinseki's comments, the official I spoke with said, were "bullshit from a Clintonite enamored of using the army for peacekeeping and nation building and not winning wars."

When I saw the official a few months later -- right at the time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was saying there wasn't a guerilla war in Iraq but his top general on the ground was saying that, well, yes, in fact there was -- I asked him if he'd gotten around to reading the report. No, he said, adding as his Stepford programming kicked in that there was nothing to be worried about -- those attacking U.S. troops were just a handful of Baathists, not foreign terrorists. "We know how to deal with them," he preened, "and the average Iraqi isn't going to take up arms against us."

Now the administration has changed its tune yet again, admitting that scores of rogue Baath Party loyalists and foreign terrorists are marauding throughout Iraq. But only Baathists and al-Qaeda-linked terrorists -- or so my administration acquaintance swears. Earlier this week I sent him a copy of Sydney Morning Herald reporter Paul McGeough's Aug. 16 investigation into the burgeoning anti-American guerilla movement, which is neither Baathist nor associated with al-Qaeda or Ansar-al-Islam. As a result, McGeough reports of the post-Hussein chaos that the Bush administration was so sure couldn't occur, "tribal sheiks, Baghdad businessmen and many ordinary Iraqis [are] speaking in such harsh anti-American terms that it is hard not to conclude there is a growing body of Palestinian or Belfast-style empathy with the resistance." No response from my acquaintance has been forthcoming.

One can only hope that the events of the past week might prompt neoconservatives to reconsider certain fundamental notions about the nature of modern war and peace -- or to at least recognize that their peculiar ideas, put into practice, have proven so problematic that the United States now cannot even create a secure environment for organizations like the United Nations that actually do appreciate the complexities of rebuilding civil society. Such reconsideration is not likely to happen, however, and not just because of simple neocon zealotry. It's bad enough that the neocons default to a combination of denial and spin when confronted with realities that might conflict with their articles-of-faith worldview. What makes it worse is how that default is emboldened by a lack of informed outrage on the part of Congress or the media.

To give but one example: Last month, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith -- the official essentially responsible for the debacle of post-Hussein Iraq -- accepted a report he had hastily commissioned from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on requirements for stabilization of the country. Though the report implicitly condemned Feith's work to date (its lists of things that either haven't been done or need to be done in a radically different manner are damning), you wouldn't know it from The Washington Post's account, which made one passing reference to the report's "critical" nature and assured readers that the undersecretary had "embraced" many of the document's findings.

The Post, and everyone else, also failed to mention that the CSIS paper was essentially a rehash of the pre- and postwar work of the think tank's own Anthony Cordesman, a conservative analyst whose grounded-in-reality assessments have put him at odds with the neoconservatives -- as well as the War College's "Reconstructing Iraq...," which had been so cavalierly dismissed by my acquaintance in the administration.

So far the United States has taken the opposite approach of the one prescribed by that report -- and just about every avoidable malady the document predicted has come to pass. Despite its remarkably perceptive qualities, the report itself has only been cited in two U.S. news sources. And the main use the media has found for one of its authors, Conrad Crane (a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel), has not been for consultation on the perils of improperly executed occupation and reconstruction operations -- rather, his prime utility to news organizations like National Public Radio and The Associated Press has been to explain how military operations are given their nicknames.

In that vein, we might consider referring to postwar Iraq as "Operation Cognitive Dissonance" or "Operation Willful Ignorance," as the administration's civilian leadership and its crony generals appear to be unwilling or unable to abide reality. Though President Bush may still be unaware of it, his early July "bring 'em on" invitation to Iraqi insurgents infuriated swaths of officers and enlisted men and women alike. ("Only a frat boy who has no idea what it's like to have his ass under fire would say that," a retired officer seethed to me at the time.) It also enraged their families -- who, thanks to an administration and a Congress that have pledged "unequivocal support" to servicemen and their dependents, are about to see combat pay and family separation allowances cut and enlisted raises capped.

It's not exactly the type of practice that's in the spirit of the CSIS report, which ends by noting that the "US government -- both the executive branch and Congress -- must change certain business as usual practices in order to maximize the [Coalition Provisional Authority's] opportunities to be successful. The CPA needs more resources, personnel and flexibility. We owe it to our people in the field, and to Iraqis, to provide everything necessary to get this right. US credibility and national interest depend on it." But coming from an administration that bases policy more on faith than facts, it's hardly surprising.

Jason Vest is a Prospect senior correspondent and a contributor to The Nation and The Village Voice.

A New Hard-Liner at the DEA

Though the Republican Party prides itself on being a champion of state sovereignty, one need only mention phrases like "medical marijuana" or "drug law reform" to see how quickly the Administration of George W. Bush becomes hostile to the notion of the autonomy of states. The latest -- and perhaps most egregious -- example of this enmity is about to become manifest via a new appointment, that of veteran Justice Department official Karen Tandy, soon to be new chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Already approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee after an all but unnoticed, if not farcical, confirmation hearing late last month, the Administration evidently hopes Tandy's nomination will next clear the full Senate with as little attention or debate as possible. Lost in the shuffle has been any meaningful examination of dubious policy initiatives and prosecutions Tandy has been involved in over the past twenty years.

According to drug-reform activists, the nomination of Tandy -- a career Justice Department prosecutor and administrator whose most recent assignments have included busting mail-order bong sellers and those involved in Oregon and California's state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs -- is a clear signal from the Administration that it will give no quarter on any aspect of marijuana policy. This view is also echoed by veteran defense attorneys who have tangled with Tandy; they marvel at the lack of scrutiny her nomination has received, both in the press and on Capitol Hill. Though nary a critical question or ill word was uttered to Tandy at her hearing, a preliminary Nation investigation has found numerous instances of prosecutorial overzealousness on Tandy's part that don't lend themselves to a rubber-stamp confirmation:

While coordinating the grand jury investigation of major marijuana traffickers Christopher and Robert Reckmeyer in the Eastern District of Virginia in 1984, Tandy and two federal agents were "disqualified and prohibited from directly or indirectly participating" in the investigation by Judge Albert Bryan Jr. because they read documents the court had ruled were protected by attorney-client privilege. On an arcane point of procedure, an appellate court reluctantly reversed Bryan's decision, noting that it was finding for Tandy "with admitted discomfort" that "the government shall have been able to violate both court decrees and adjudicated rights without any accountability in this proceeding."

An April 9, 1985, Washington Post article reported that other underhanded Tandy actions in the Reckmeyer case -- like waiting until only three days before trial before giving defense attorneys over 60,000 pages of critical documents, all unindexed -- had made the US Attorney's office an object of scorn to the court and the defense bar. Robert Reckmeyer later revealed in an affidavit that after he agreed to aid the government in exchange for a lesser sentence, Tandy afforded him the highly unusual, if not dubious, privilege of lengthy private visits with his wife and family. "There came a time during my debriefings when Karen Tandy complained to me that I was 'not being cooperative,' " he wrote. "I interpreted this to mean that Ms. Tandy was upset because I was not saying what she wanted me to say. She told me that if I was not 'more cooperative' in the future, she would end my visits with my wife."

And even though Tandy's probe turned up no indication that the Reckmeyer brothers' father, William, had been involved in their criminal enterprise, Tandy ordered his property seized as well. "It cost me a lot of money, time and psychic energy in court to get my property back, but I did -- the judge implicitly said her witnesses perjured themselves," recalls William Reckmeyer.

While negotiating a 1982 plea agreement in the Eastern District of Virginia with Michael Harvey, a first-time drug offender, Tandy changed the agreement's wording -- without informing Harvey, his lawyer or the court of the change -- in a way that successfully set Harvey up for another arrest, prosecution and conviction in a South Carolina federal court upon completion of his plea-bargained Virginia sentence. An appeals court later vacated Harvey's second sentence, finding Tandy's actions disingenuous; the plea bargain, the court concluded, was "intended to 'put behind him' all of Harvey's potential liability for all offense 'arising from' the general investigation underway, which everyone involved, including Ms. Tandy, knew included activity in South Carolina that was later charged to Harvey."

According to material submitted to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 1988, Tandy failed to turn over exculpatory evidence in the 1987 prosecution for cocaine distribution of Alfredo Arroyo. Though the allegedly withheld materials ultimately proved unnecessary -- a jury acquitted Arroyo after concluding that he had been entrapped -- defense attorney John Zwerling sent case materials to NACDL's Government Misconduct Committee, asking for advice on what action, if any, might be initiated against Tandy. Failing to receive any guidance from the committee, Zwerling reluctantly let the matter lie.

Despite an overall lack of evidence in a 1994 case against John Wheeler, a North Carolina small-businessman, Tandy ordered Wheeler's business and property seized. "It was an outrageous example of the government both overreaching and overcharging, and quite frankly trying to squeeze a legitimate businessman into saying things that weren't true to further cases against others," says Joshua Treem, Wheeler's attorney. "After two years of litigation, the government dismissed all the charges pending against Johnny. They had no evidence whatsoever. It was so bad that when they submitted the dismissal letter, the judge interlineated on the order, dismissing the charges with prejudice."

The Wheeler case and others took place back in the days of the draconian Comprehensive Asset Forfeiture Act [see Eric Blumenson and Eva Nilsen, "The Drug War's Hidden Economic Agenda," March 9, 1998], a Reagan-era initiative that Tandy literally wrote the book on for Justice Department prosecutors. Though some of the more excessive aspects of that law -- which radically eroded not only the rights of suspects but of nonsuspects associated with federal investigations -- were ameliorated thanks to a late 1990s bipartisan effort spearheaded by Congressman Henry Hyde and signed into law by Bill Clinton, drug-policy observers expect Tandy's DEA to use current asset forfeiture law as expansively as possible.

Though much about Tandy's career has gone unexamined (in addition to her Virginia days, she has done stints as a federal prosecutor in Washington State and asset forfeiture chief at Justice), few senators seem interested in her past or future. So far, only Senator Richard Durbin has gone on record as opposed to Tandy's nomination; in response to his written queries, not only did Tandy demonstrate ignorance of key policy studies but she "didn't back off an inch," as Durbin put it, from the view that the DEA should proceed apace with medical marijuana raids. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein has also expressed misgivings about Tandy, observing that the nominee "doesn't seem amenable to listening" to concerns about federal law enforcement and state-sanctioned medical marijuana.

Jason Vest writes on national security affairs for The Nation.

Doctors of Intelligence

As quixotic searches for "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq continue to yield little more than chagrin, the Washington political establishment is growing restive. Yet it's hard to say what's more bemusing about the burgeoning sturm und drang along the Potomac: the pointed questions about WMD-related "intelligence" cited by the Bush Administration to justify its invasion of Iraq, or the shocked tones in which some are asking the questions.

Anyone familiar with the intelligence game knows how susceptible any intelligence -- raw reports and intercepts, finished analyses, white papers, National Intelligence Estimates -- is to potential manipulation or subversion. Yet you didn't need a specially-compartmented Top Secret clearance to divine what was going on in the so-called case for war. By simply reading the papers and connecting some slightly-arcane open source dots last year, it would be clear that the Rumsfeld-Cheney axis was having its way with the CIA.

None of this should come as a surprise. It was a well-documented fact long before 9/11 that the neoconservative clique which the defense secretary and vice president hail from has a long history of using force and subterfuge to make intelligence confirm -- implicitly or explicitly -- its ideological needs. To be fair, such tinkering isn't something unique to one strain of the polity, nor does it mean career analysts warm to the task of cooking the books. As the distinguished intelligence writer Thomas K. Powers noted in a 1982 Atlantic Monthly essay, "Dishonesty in the intelligence business is not personal but institutional," with the political realities of Washington inevitably leading the CIA to compromise its findings. And to illustrate this reality, Powers cites a case study that bears more than a passing resemblance to the current situation:

The CIA can drag its feet for only so long. For example, at the height of the controversy over the SS-9 -- the Soviet missile, first detected in the mid 1960s, that many suspected to be a first-strike weapon -- the CIA was more or less directly ordered by Melvin Laird to remove from the Soviet National Intelligence Estimate a paragraph which said that the Russians were almost certainly not planning to build a first-strike capability. Power, not argument, carried the day. Laird was the secretary of defense, and he simply would not accept the offending paragraph. This may not be what scientists call objectivity, but it is the way things work in politics.

There are, of course, other ways to get the CIA imprimatur required without being quite so interventionist. On Oct. 7, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet sent a letter to Congress that many progressives viewed as a rebuke to President Bush's relentless characterization of Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat to the U.S. because of his WMD or links to terrorism. Conventional wisdom held that the president had real problems based on the CIA's assessment that Iraqi WMD operations were not on a hair-trigger, but were only likely to be used in the event of a US attack on Iraq.

However, almost every current or retired intelligence officer I spoke with that week had a radically different view of Tenet's letter: It was, in fact, a masterpiece of equivocation, a piece of politicized intelligence whose genius lay in a judicious use of language allowing for either pro- or anti-war forces to cite it with approbation. While it did indeed say that "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short or conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW weapons against the United States," the presence of the words "for now" between "Baghdad" and the somewhat opaque "appears" gave the assessment an urgent, ominous quality easy for any hawk to seize on.

Tenet's comments on WMD ties between Saddam and Al-Qaeda also cut both ways. "This is the price George, who's a Democrat, pays if he wants to keep his job in this Administration, especially post-9/11," a veteran intelligence officer said to me. "It's language ready-made for a stump speech: 'We have credible reporting that Al-Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al-Qaeda members in areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.'"

"Reporting may be credible," the officer continued, "but credible isn't the same as true. Can it be corroborated? What's the context for it? Does this automatically mean Saddam's in cahoots with Al-Qaeda for WMD attacks, or could it be that Saddam's keeping friends close and enemies closer? And if there's 'credible information indicating Iraq and Al-Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression,' things like 'safe haven' and 'non-aggression' sound pretty different than active cooperation. Which is it?"

Also worth noting, said the same spooks, were some fishy shifts in the content and conclusions of ongoing CIA reporting on Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and missile capabilities. Though I didn't plow through all the unclassified reports, National Security Archive fellow John Prados has, and his indispensable 5000-word report in the May/June Bulletin of Atomic Scientists makes for a highly interesting and informative read.

Entitled "A Necessary War?" Prados ultimately concludes that "it is fair to suspect that CIA analysts did not approve of the cast being given to their reporting ... Conversely, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had little real need to create his own in-house intelligence staff to furnish threat information on Iraq -- George Tenet's CIA had already been hounded into doing it. The Iraqi threat was nothing like the Soviet one, but intelligence has been manipulated just the same."

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Repeating History in the Swamps of Mesopotamia

Though many have forgotten it -- if they ever noticed it in the first place -- Donald Rumsfeld once ran for president of the United States, modestly declaring in 1988 that the he was the "best among the candidates to assume the reigns of government." It's worth recalling this now because even though the eventual US military victory in Iraq seems assured (the peace may be lost, but that's another story), the strategy formulated by the utterly confident, fawned-over-by-the-public, deferred-to-by-the-press Rumsfeld didn't worked as planned.

Iraqi forces were not "shocked and awed" into submission. Iraqi citizens and soldiers did not turn on Saddam with the rapidity and force the Iraqi exile groups who have the Pentagon's ear swore they would. The initial invading force -- numerically larger than Rumsfeld and his lieutenants deemed necessary -- turned out to be too small, requiring the deployment of tens of thousands of reinforcements . . . whose deployment time to the Gulf has been less than speedy, thanks to micromanaging by Rumsfeld and his crew.

In this sense, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" bears some resemblance to a previous British imperial incursion into Iraq. While that campaign was ultimately successful, it was hallmarked by arrogance fused with an initial impudence that produced results so deceptive and disastrous that the British government later felt obliged to convene a commission of inquiry. And much of the blame, that commission found, could be put on a civilian imperial leader with grandiose ambitions contrary to Britain's national interests, as well as two senior military officials -- one who was convinced that any pressure exerted on the enemy would cause the inferior enemy to crumble, and the other who knew planning was dangerously flawed but proceeded anyway, as he was "an egotist driven by ambition and ravenous for popular acclaim," in the words of one noted military historian.

The exercise in imperial overreach now all but forgotten is the first part of the British colonial Indian Army's Mesopotamia campaign of World War I, an endeavor that went horribly awry due to overconfidence, and a fixation on Baghdad that led to going too far, too fast, with too few, outpacing thinly-stretched supply lines left vulnerable to a marauding enemy. (Déjà vu, anyone?) And rather like the confusing political backdrop to today's military action in Iraq -- are "coalition forces" going in to disarm Saddam? Liberate Iraqis? Control oil? Beget "domino democracy" in the region? -- British imperial intentions with regard to Mesopotamia were hopelessly tangled due to competing internal influences as well.

In 1914, the British War Office in London simply wanted a defensive force to protect British oil interests in Persia from possible attack by the Ottoman Turks -- still neutral, but about to come in on the German side in World War I -- in neighboring Mesopotamia. Yet rather like today's crop of neoconservatives on the Potomac, the imperial Viceroy and his cronies in India were keen to spread the empire -- or, perhaps more precisely, the Viceroy's power -- beyond India and into Mesopotamia, which technically fell into the Viceroy's area of operations.

Unlike the mandarins in London, the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, felt that war against the Turks should occasion what was euphemistically referred to as "forward defence" -- in essence an effort to rapidly take a strategically-unimportant but symbolically-charged swath of the Ottoman Empire. In October of 1914, Hardinge dispatched units of the Indian Army under the command of General Sir Arthur Barrett to secure the oil fields. Unknown to London, however, were orders given to Barrett by Hardinge to seize Basra in the event of war with the Turks. When the Turks joined the war against the British on November 5, Barrett's forward forces quickly took the al-Fao peninsula and easily dispatched Turkish forces that defended and futilely counter-attacked at Abadan.

Though a larger Turkish force had assembled at Saihan to defend Basra, Barrett decided to quickly take the fight to them. Thanks to the use of 18-pound artillery guns -- something like the "shock and awe" devices of the day -- Barrett was able to take Basra in five days. But Barrett seemed to confuse scattering Turkish troops with actually defeating them; though outgunned on the heavy artillery front, the Turks took advantage of heat mirages and cavalry-unfriendly heavy mud from rains to disperse. Acknowledging A.J. Barker's The Bastard War -- a neglected but definitive study of the Mesopotamia campaign -- Chris Baker of the Centre for First World War Studies at the University of Birmingham notes: "Misled by the apparent fragility of Turkish defences into assuming this to be the case generally, the Indian administration felt sufficiently encouraged to determine to extend Anglo-Indian operations further beyond expectations previously established in London."

A few months later in 1915, an ailing Barrett was replaced by General Sir John Nixon, who arrived bearing orders from the Indian Army's commander-in-chief that reflected Lord Hardinge's grand aspirations. (Critically, the orders had not been shared with the War Office in London, where they would have been overruled.) The orders were to take Baghdad, and as far as Nixon was concerned, even though the Anglo-Indian forces were comparatively small and lightly equipped, they would be more than enough for the job, as the taking of Basra -- and repelling a subsequent attempt to reclaim it by the Turks -- had been an easy affair.

Dizzied at the symbolic value of being able to take Baghdad, the Anglo-Indian forces began an extraordinarily rapid sweep north along the Tigris river, winning a series of battles at Qurna, Shaiba, Amara, Nasiryeh and Kut. But by the time the Anglo-Indian forces had reached Amara, they were -- just like the Anglo-American forces in the current Iraqi conflict -- racing ahead of their support units, stretching their supply lines exceptionally thin and leaving them vulnerable to irregular but increasing attacks from local Arab raiding parties who weren't particularly fond of either the Turks or the British.

Leading the Anglo-Indian forces from Amara on was Major General Charles Townshend, who, unlike Nixon, readily acknowledged that because supply units were being outpaced, the combat force was in serious trouble. But like Nixon, Townshend "regarded the Ottoman ability to conduct war with contempt, and was complacent that further success could be achieved in spite of growing difficulties." Though taking Nasiriyeh proved a bit more difficult, Townshend marched on to take Kut, taking an ugly 12% casualty rate in the process.

At this point medical evacuation and supply was in an appalling shambles. Yet eager for the glory of taking Baghdad, Townshend decided to press on, and did so with the reluctant blessing of London, which, though opposed to an advance that had taken place without the War Office's imprimatur, was finding it difficult to argue with apparent success. But at Baghdad's first line of defence -- the ancient city of Ctesiphon -- Townshend encountered all the Turks he'd routed in previous months. Losing nearly half of his division, Townshend was unable to hold his position, due in part to unremitting guerilla harassment from both Turks and Arabs. Falling back to Kut, Townshend's force came under siege, requiring the dispatch of scores of additional British troops -- nearly 3000 of which died in a futile attempt to rescue Townshend. Townshend surrendered, and the British had to retool their plans -- delaying their entry into Baghdad by two years.

Admittedly, the parallels between then and now aren't precise, especially given what seems an inevitable military victory over the Iraqis much sooner rather than later. And it's likely that any sober consideration of flawed thinking will be swamped in a predictable deluge of post-combat pride. But to policy specialists skeptical of the Rumsfeld Pentagon's belief in the US Army's "transformation" to fight a "new kind of war" that even by innovative standards dispenses with some key tenets, the apparent ignorance of history is disturbing; one would think that the Mesopotamian Campaign would have merited at least a glance by the defence intellectuals currently running the Pentagon.

Yet it's possible that even the military officers whose counsel Rumsfeld ignored aren't familiar with the campaign: The only mention of it to be found in any curricula of US military institutions of higher learning is in one section of a paper on file at Air University devoted to Townshend as an example of poor leadership. And perhaps the best study of the campaign, Barker's "The Bastard War," has been out-of-print for over thirty years.

Yet there is at least one Defense Department analyst who gave some thought to what the latest invasion of Iraq might portend based on the past -- and even though George C. Wilson, the National Journal military writer considered the dean of Washington military reporters, advised Rumsfeld in a January 2001 column to make that analyst one of his first stops in the Pentagon, the SecDef is yet to grace the threshold of his office. Franklin "Chuck" Spinney is an ex-Air Force officer turned civilian analyst, one of the few remaining "reformers" left in the Pentagon who has spent most of his career diagramming how entrenched, parochial interests in the military establishment have begat everything from wasteful spending to problematic doctrinal thinking (particularly that which relies too much on technology and precision-bombing).

In a December interview, Spinney mentioned in passing that "I'm not too concerned about the US military taking out Saddam so much as I am about what comes afterwards . . . provided, on the first point, we don't make the same mistake as the British did in World War I and send in a light force that stretches its supply lines too thin from Basra."

Last week, Spinney was rueful, but not entirely surprised, that a similar lack of consideration had gone into the current operation. "There are several parallels here, but perhaps the most important one is the lack of appreciation not just for the soldiers, but the bureaucracy, the British were facing," he said. "It's not just that both then and now the assumption was the enemy would just fold and you could just march to Baghdad without any heavy artillery or defense of your flanks. David Fromkin, in "The Peace to End All Peace," has a great section on how the British misapprehended what was going on in their adversary's political structure. It's very similar to what we have going on today . . . some people around here have really believed that we'd be welcomed with flowers and that everyone would surrender. These guys are working on a set of assumptions quite similar to the ones the British used, a sort of arrogance that doesn't reflect a real understanding of what we're getting into."

And not just in terms of war, but the occupation that follows.

Jason Vest is a contributor to The Nation and The Village Voice.

Losing the Peace

Despite the sanguine way George W. Bush and his chamberlains talk about a post-war Iraq, senior military officers are worried.

According to recent unpublicized U.S. Army War College studies being read with increasing interest by some Pentagon planners, "The possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace in Iraq is real and serious."

And that's especially true if occupation force soldiers are not retrained to be "something similar to a constabulary force" and imbued with the understanding that "force is often the last resort of the occupation soldier." The War College studies explore in detail a troubling paradox: While all experts agree that stabilizing post-Saddam Iraq would be a protracted endeavor, "the longer a U.S. occupation of Iraq continues," one of the studies notes, "the more danger exists that elements of the Iraqi population will become impatient and take violent measures to hasten the departure of U.S. forces."

One study broaches the subject of suicide attacks against U.S. soldiers. "The impact of suicide bombing attacks in Israel goes beyond their numbers," it says, "and this fact will also capture the imagination of would-be Iraqi terrorists."

Yet Bush and some of his top advisers have consistently preached that laying the foundation for post-blood-and-sand Iraq really won't be that much of a chore. In a recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute, Dubya's tone was upbeat as he rattled off a succinct post-Saddam checklist for the U.S. Army: Deliver medicine to ailing Iraqis, hand out emergency rations, destroy weapons, secure Iraq from those who would "spread chaos" internally, and mind the oil fields -- but not for "a day more" than necessary.

Indeed, after the speech, a "senior administration official" told one reporter that a transition from U.S. military to U.S. civilian control over Iraq would take only a few months. Testifying before the House Budget Committee earlier this month, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz dismissed Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki's suggestion that a U.S. occupation force might run to the hundreds of thousands; in a recent interview with the Voice, a senior Pentagon official dismissed General Shinseki's comments as "bullshit from a Clintonite enamored of using the army for peacekeeping and nation-building and not winning wars."

But at a time when the U.S. Army is a case study in multitasking -- fighting the Global War on Terrorism (or GWOT, in Milspeak), keeping watch on the Korean peninsula, peacekeeping in the Balkans, chasing Islamic rebels in the Philippines, saddling up for more action in Colombia, to name but a few chores -- a number of military professionals are quietly venting spleen about how disingenuous they believe the Bush administration is being with the public about post-war Iraq.

Some are merely angry at what they see as a gap between optimistic policy pronouncements and the hard realities of a by-the-numbers post-war reconstruction. But perhaps more importantly, others are angry at what they see as the administration's neoconservative ideologues playing fast and loose with soldiers' lives in an effort to realize a dubious vision for the Middle East. Because what the neocons dream of -- either an instantly democratic Iraq that begins a "domino effect" of democratic revolution and renewal across the Middle East, or an Iraq whose defining aspect of democracy is a volatility that destabilizes the Arab world -- is at odds with the lessons the army has learned about modern post-conflict stabilization. The situation has the potential to produce a slew of unintended or unforeseen consequences beyond the U.S.'s ability to handle them.

According to "The Day After: The Army in a Post-Conflict Iraq," a December 2002 paper produced by the War College's Center for Strategic Leadership, army studies have concluded that even with United Nations support, "a post-conflict Iraq requirement of 65,000 to 80,000" U.S. Army personnel is the low-end manpower requirement for a military occupation expected to last not a matter of months, but "a minimum of five years and possibly as many as ten."

Read on and you have to wonder whether the White House is just ignoring unpleasant possibilities, or reveling in a Roveian-Rumsfeldian cloud-cuckoo-land: While the paper reports that "experts disagree as to the required time frame needed to accomplish the post-conflict strategic requirements, particularly the governance and justice aspects, all agree that it won't be measured in months, but years." Part of the reason, the study explains, is that the past decade of army post-conflict stabilization operations has revealed that transitioning from immediate post-war stabilization to civil society is, for a host of practical reasons, complicated. It's one of the ironies of modern conflict: The war itself may go fast, but securing the peace is what matters, and often nongovernmental organizations and aid agencies don't have the resources to rapidly take up the slack -- which means the military must, even though it doesn't really want to. Realistically, the military will need to facilitate a gradual "measured withdrawal and handover to appropriate UN agencies and entities," and can't just toss the reconstruction ball to civil authorities.

While in one post-war scenario, according to the studies, Iraq's "second-tier technical and professional leaders remain in place and attempt to resume normalcy" and "the general populace passively cooperates as coalition forces attempt to stabilize the situation," the paper nonetheless forecasts the post-Saddam environment for U.S. troops as "very unstable." Key governance and legal functions are likely to be shaky as "police and judiciary are relatively dysfunctional due to the purging of the top leadership and no replacements." U.S. soldiers also find themselves in harm's way as "some Iraqi military units are operating at will and conducting guerrilla attacks throughout the country. Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish tribal leaders are ruling respective areas and are initiating frequent skirmishes in an effort to expand their power base."

The humanitarian undertaking is likely to be formidable as well -- a task, given the dangerous circumstances, that can't be left exclusively to the UN agencies and NGOs. "Post-conflict humanitarian requirements will increase dramatically," the paper predicts. "In many cases, the army will be the only entity capable of providing much needed assistance and the required security aspects of the relief effort."

And, as the paper notes, "if one 'peels the onion' " of tasks that fall under the main headers of several key "post-conflict strategic requirements," the illusion that the army will be a brief, temporary presence evaporates almost immediately. Take security. "Post-conflict Iraq security tasks may include control of belligerents, territorial security, protection of the populace, protection of key individuals, infrastructure and institutions, and reform of all indigenous security institutions," the report notes.

Officials at the War College wouldn't make available the authors of the studies to elaborate. But "The Day After" points out that each of those task subsets begets more subsets. "For example," the paper continues, "the control-of-belligerents task includes: Implement and maintain the ceasefire; enforce the peace agreement, and support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Territorial security includes border and boundary control, movement, and points of entry. Protection of the populace includes non-combatants, maintaining public order, and clearance of unexploded ordnance. The protection of key individuals, infrastructure, and institutions includes private institutions and individuals, critical infrastructure, military infrastructure, and public institutions. The reform of local security institutions includes national armed forces and non-military security forces."

Army research indicates that just to address the "security" issue, there are "well over 100 essential services that the Army must provide or support." Problem is, the army may not have enough people to fulfill those and other services. Two-thirds of army combat-support functions are not, in fact, elements of the standing army, but the army reserve. "A majority of functions and services being performed by reserve component organizations in support of the Balkans and the GWOT are the same that will be required in a post-conflict Iraq scenario," the report says--further noting that there aren't enough army specialists available right now to meet GWOT requirements alone. The "resultant stress on the army mobilization function" for post-war Iraq does not, the paper suggests, look reassuring.

Yet to the Pentagon's appointed civilian leaders (increasingly the subject of derision by many officers for their combination of grand ambition and lack of military experience), the exigencies of post-war Iraq should be, according to one, "minimal." In a lengthy interview with the Voice last week, a high-ranking Defense Department political official did concede that preparation for Iraq after a war is seriously lacking. "The planning should have started much sooner," the official said. "That's hard to deny." But, the official added by way of spin, that's really nothing to be concerned about, because compared to Afghanistan, Iraq is really much easier to handle, and won't require a protracted military presence, in keeping with Donald Rumsfeld's view that the military should not be a tool for "nation building."

"It's not like there's a bunch of roving warlords and ethnic or religious differences on the same scale as Afghanistan," the official contended. "We're getting word that a large part of the military and Ba'ath are opposed to Saddam. And I think the Iraqis, the exiles who want to go back and help rebuild in particular, are getting angry with people who don't believe they can transition to democracy without the U.S. sticking around for a long time."

Yet much of this flies in the face of the Army War College's 84-page "Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario." Designed as guidance for military planners, the report provides a detailed "mission matrix" of 135 tasks essential to Iraq's stabilization and reconstruction. Its tone has been aptly described by one officer involved in post-war planning as "Here's everything you need to do to do this right and get out of Iraq as quickly and effectively as possible, but don't hold your breath."

As much a historic inventory of American occupation and post-conflict stabilization operations as it is a considered view of post-war Iraq, among other things the paper concludes that "recent American experiences with post-conflict operations have generally featured poor planning, problems with relevant military force structure, and difficulties with a handover from military to civilian responsibility." While the administration has often tried to describe a post-Saddam Iraq as something akin to post-war Germany and Japan, the paper notes that an entire army staff was dedicated to planning for post-war occupation two years before the end of World War II. In the case of Iraq, similar foresight has not been exercised.

And while General Douglas MacArthur "had the advantage of years of relative quiet to carry out his programs" in a post-war Japan that unconditionally surrendered, this occupation will be taking place in the Middle East, one of the most volatile regions in the world. In this case, "all American activities will be watched closely by the international community, and internal and external pressure to end any occupation will build quickly," and "regionally, the occupation will be viewed with great skepticism" since "the United States is deeply distrusted in the Arab world because of its strong ties to Israel and fears that it seeks to dominate Arab countries to control the region's oil." While the occupation of Iraq "will probably be characterized by an initial honeymoon period during which the United States will reap the benefits of ridding the population of a brutal dictator," the report doesn't expect that to last too long, as "most Iraqis and most other Arabs will probably assume that the United States intervened in Iraq for its own reasons and not to liberate the population." Indeed, many of the report's principal points stand in contrast to what the planning officer characterizes as the Bush team's "rosy view of how quick and easy this will be." Among those points: "The administration of an Iraqi occupation will be complicated by deep religious, ethnic and tribal differences which dominate Iraqi society."

Noting that "Iraqi political values and institutions are rooted in a tortured history that must be understood before it is possible to consider the rehabilitation of Iraqi society," the report encapsulates the history of several hundred years of recurrent violence and instability owing to tribal, religious, and occupation-related tensions. "The establishment of democracy or even some sort of rough pluralism in Iraq, where it has never really existed previously, will be a staggering challenge for any occupation force" seeking to change a political system "where anti-democratic traditions are deeply ingrained." Indeed, the report adds, "it is also reasonable to expect considerable resistance to efforts at even pluralism."

As for returning exiles, "it is doubtful that the Iraqi population would welcome the leadership of the various exile groups after Saddam's defeat. . . . Iraqi citizens who have suffered under Saddam could well resent Iraqis coming from outside the country following a war and claiming a disproportionate amount of power." And even if some form of democracy does eventually emerge, Uncle Sam shouldn't expect kisses. "U.S. policymakers sometimes assume that a democratic government will be friendly to U.S. policies in the Middle East. This cannot," the report states, "be assumed in the case of Iraq."

Especially, the report says, if the U.S. isn't well attuned to internal Iraqi concerns. Although the war has been framed in large part as a mission of "disarmament," the report notes that the Iraqi army is one of the "few national institutions that stresses national unity," and that to "tear [it] apart in the war's aftermath could lead to the destruction of one of the only forces for unity within the society," as well as result in demobilized soldiers' joining tribal militias. And it's a given that the U.S. "will further need to seek indigenous forces to aid in law and order functions and help prepare for a post-occupation Iraq," an "inevitable part of rehabilitating" the country.

But "by developing local allies, the United States makes itself at least partially responsible for the behavior of those allies. Hence a pro-U.S. force that attacks any other Iraqi force for private resources threatens to involve the United States in the complex web of sectarian, tribal or clan warfare." In that case, the world might see something not unlike the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, where the actions of an occupying force's proxies create tensions between the occupier and other native groups.

That, in turn, could prompt terrorists to "generate strategies to alienate Iraqis who are initially neutral toward a U.S. occupation." While any acts of terror against U.S. troops would "undoubtedly require a forceful American response," actions like that "seldom win friends among the local citizenry, [and] individuals alienated from the U.S. occupation could well have their hostility deepened or increased by these acts." It would take only a handful of terrorists, the report says, "to attack U.S. forces in the hope that they can incite an action-reaction cycle that will enhance their cause and increase their numbers."

Jason Vest is a contributor to the Nation and the Village Voice.

Help from the Hill?

As a rule, both the joint Chiefs of Staff and the Central Intelligence Agency's leadership prefer that Congress stay out of their affairs. Indeed, an ideal Congress for many denizens of this realm would be one that simply holds open the cash spigots while Langley and the Pentagon set their own agendas. That makes it particularly alarming to see that as the Bush administration lays its plans for Iraq, career military and intelligence officers are increasingly -- and desperately -- looking to Congress to help stave off what they fear will be a disaster.

A number of military and intelligence hands worry that the administration's proactive strategy against Iraq will prove fatally shortsighted. Not only is Congress the body with the constitutional mandate to declare war, say advocates of congressional intervention, but the complexity and volatility of the region fully warrants a serious debate in the Capitol. "Congress ought to be having a wide-ranging policy debate," says one veteran CIA official, "because pretty soon, if [President George W.] Bush takes the preemptive route, this will happen without any debate whatsoever, and all the debate will be post-action -- including debates over events that have potential for disaster in both the short and long term."

What has some senior military officials particularly concerned is that the Bush presidency appears willing to play fast and loose with the concept of grand strategy, or the overarching principles that guide how and where to engage other nations, whether militarily or diplomatically. For instance, John Boyd, the late Air Force colonel and founder of the military-reform movement, held that a key component of grand strategy was to "influence the uncommitted or potential adversaries so that they are drawn toward our philosophy and are empathetic toward our success."

In order to achieve this, Boyd believed that the United States had to contend with "the underlying self-interests, critical differences of opinion, internal contradictions, frictions, [and] obsessions" that would likely drive the actions and perceptions of both hostile and neutral states. Bush's war hawks have willfully ignored such considerations -- not just with adversaries and the uncommitted, but with allies. And as far as the grand idea worth fighting for, one of Boyd's colleagues, retired Air Force Reserve Col. Chet Richards, has argued that the U.S. Constitution will do nicely -- but going to war without meaningful congressional deliberation certainly seems to undermine that vision.

A congressional debate, presumably, would air the questions of unilateralism, relations with neighboring countries and the long-term ramifications of American belligerence in Arab lands. These are the same concerns that currently bedevil some in the military and intelligence communities, who see the administration's emerging plans as disturbingly divorced from reality. They are troubled by the notion of Iraq as an example of the dubious new Bush doctrine of "preemption." One article that has been making the rounds among career military officials -- and that should be fodder for a wider public debate -- argues that preemption may be something worse than a bad idea.

"Is Preemption a Nuclear Schlieffen Plan?" asks a veteran defense analyst, who writes under the nom de plume "Dr. Werther" for the Defense and the National Interest Web site, which is widely read in defense circles. The article takes aim at the "vainglory, worship of force, and threat-mongering" that has characterized U.S. foreign policy rhetoric in the wake of the Cold War and which has been "pumped to epidemic levels" since September 11. Likening the "preemptive strike" policy toward Iraq to "Germany's neurotic obsession with hostile encirclement" by France in the early 20th century, Werther notes that Kaiser Wilhelm II did away with the careful foreign policy of Bismarck's era, taking instead as Germany's central military tenet the dubious idea that France would have no hesitation about violating Belgian neutrality. In the event of war, Germany would then implement the general staff chief Alfred von Schlieffen's plan, which meant first taking over Belgium and immediately knocking out the French.

Alas, it didn't quite work out that way. In fact, the Schlieffen plan "guaranteed that Germany would create enemies faster than it could kill them." (Unhappy with the Belgian invasion, in came the British, along with the French, who weren't knocked out after all.) And this, despite the fact that Germany "then possessed the most efficient, if not the largest, killing machine in the world."

What went wrong, Werther continues, is the same thing that could happen to today's United States: "The narrow tactical object of preemption crowded out the grand strategic factors that would eventually spell big trouble for the nations whose militaries they served. One senses the same pedantic, inwardly focused orientation in the press accounts of the administration's purported plan to attack Iraq. The plan appears totally focused on the number of U.S. troops and aircraft that are logistically possible to bring to bear ... notably lacking is any assurance that contiguous countries will even support the action ... . Nor is much thought given to the political ramifications for NATO ally Turkey, whose collapsing government hardly needs a reinvigorated Kurdish independence movement on its southern border."

And while the newspapers chew over the various "options" before President Bush, no shortage of active duty and retired officers are shooting every one of them down. In the last week of July, one retired Marine officer sent around an e-mail titled "Why invasion of Iraq is both dumb and undoable." Noting that the military's strategic lift capability and manpower aren't sufficient to the task, he maintains that "short of nuking Baghdad ... there is no credible decapitation option available." What's more, he observes, "We don't have the intelligence or counterintelligence or covert action capabilities we need to a) find Saddam Hussein; b) avoid catastrophic counter-strikes at home; and c) restore our credibility with the Iraq dissidents in the field." Most egregious, the officer marvels, is Bush's decision to announce in advance "a plan to take out a rogue nation armed with [chemical, nuclear, and biological] capabilities that have been used to kill tens of thousands of both Iranians and Kurds." The administration must be very confident in its capacities -- and for that, the writer marvels, it must have chosen "to believe the ideologically pure [defense adviser Richard] Perle instead of the pragmatically grounded generals and admirals who are discreetly trying to tell him the truth of the matter."

In light of all this, what's desperately needed, says one veteran CIA official, is a Democratic opposition intent on bringing the Iraq plans before Congress: "The Democrats have been afraid not just of making the case for not attacking Iraq, but of simply talking about it -- which is just about as insane and irresponsible as some of what the Bush people are proposing," the former official insists. "They have to get over their fear of 'taking on a wartime president.' We are talking about serious stuff here that must be debated: In the service of getting rid of someone we've effectively bottled up, is it really worth the casualties? Is it worth the alienation and antagonism it will beget in the region and elsewhere? Can the administration actually make a case? But beyond that, there's the larger issue: Is Congress going to cede its constitutional responsibility to the president?"

Not that Congress has never done such a thing before. Andy Jacobs, a retired Democratic representative from Indiana and the author of The 1600 Killers: A Wake-Up Call for Congress, charges that virtually every president and every Congress since Harry S. Truman has subverted the constitutional provisions on war making. As Jacobs recounts, there's a reason the framers put the power to declare war into the hands of the people's representatives: "Who is more likely to know the moms and dads of the kids who are sent to the slaughter of war -- a president surrounded and cloistered by courtiers, or members of Congress who know those parents and kids by name and mingle with them in stores, unencumbered by unsmiling guys in black suits, wearing hearing aids and dark glasses?" Jacobs asks.

Here's another reason Congress needs to deliberate, and soon: The Bush crew may get around the Iraq debate by attacking Iran first. According to multiple national security sources, plans for a "preemptive" strike against Iran's nearly completed nuclear reactor at Bushehr have already been developed. According to one source familiar with the plan, the logic behind it calls for debate, too. "The hawks believe that because the Iranians have given Hizbollah small arms, they're going to give them radioactive waste to make dirty bombs. I'm sorry, but state sponsors of terrorism are very reluctant to give up control of that stuff to surrogates," he says.

The administration needs to hear these concerns. And with stakes this high, Congress needs to make the final call.

Why Warnings Fell on Deaf Ears

What did the president know and when did he know it? Following revelations that the White House had reason to suspect an imminent al-Qaeda attack last year, even The New York Times has noted that the perennial post-Watergate question seems entirely appropriate. Nor should it be put exclusively to President Bush: In most countries, the directors of the internal and external security services would have resigned by now.

But there is also a danger in overemphasizing the stock Washington scandal question, when equally important questions go unanswered. Such as, if the Bush White House was warned, why didn't those warnings resonate? Why wasn't the threat posed by al-Qaeda -- the only entity in recent years to attack U.S. government installations -- foremost in the administration's mind?

There are a lot of potential replies to that question, but the short answer -- and the most convincing one -- is that the Bush administration was still fighting the Cold War. Hence its unhealthy obsession with that weapons relic known as the Star Wars program, and with re-creating a bipolar world in which China would take over enemy duty for the Soviet Union, while Cuba remained a vital threat. Going up against a new evil empire and its satellites, or a regional hegemon, is familiar stuff; asymmetric war against a decentralized enemy with a complex geo-theological worldview isn't. And so while al-Qaeda was responsible for bombing two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and an American warship in 1999, the central threats to American security, as articulated by the Bush campaign in 2000, were as follows: China, whose hostile intentions were clear from its attempts to influence the 1996 election, might acquire U.S. defense technology, and possibly re-export said technology to unfriendly nations; a smattering of impoverished "rogue states" (including Iraq, another Bush obsession) that might, one day, be able to lob a missile at the United States; and arms-control agreements, which the Bush people find limiting, unverifiable, and expendable.

To be fair, Chinese espionage and defense expansion are matters to be taken seriously, as is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But over the last decade, numerous military and intelligence analysts have looked on with concern as elements of the right have ginned up these threats. Their motivation for doing so often looks like little more than Cold War nostalgia, combined with the transparent desire to please defense contractors who are deeply invested in weapons programs initiated more than a decade ago.

Proponents of such blinkered defense priorities -- Andrew Marshall's Office of Net Assessment at the Pentagon, the Rumsfeld commissions on ballistic missiles and space, and Frank Gaffney's private, defense contractor-funded Center for Security Policy come to mind -- have produced a steady stream of reports based on dubious methodology.

"In the case of China and ballistic missile threats from other countries, their logic goes something like this," one of the military's most respected China scholars told me last year. "Here is where their technology is now. Here is where it could be in the near to mid-term future, given the following variables. One possibility could be an ominous one; here's the worst-case scenario, so policy should be to expect that scenario and, accordingly, arm for it. Forget factoring in a close examination of political, economic, social, or environmental trends or issues; don't consider that bellicose statements are often made for domestic consumption or in order to brown-nose aging apparatchiks. Disregard the utility of treaties and nonproliferation regimes, and make sure diplomacy tends toward the coercive rather than the constructive."

There's no need to take this critic's word for it; just visit the Center for Security Policy's Web site. Judging from the dozens of "reports" the center has issued since the August 1998 embassy bombings, the most urgent threats to American national security are, in no particular order: China, ballistic missiles, Cuba, Iraq, and threats posed to Israel by Syria and Yasir Arafat. Osama bin Laden's terrorist network doesn't make the cut. Indeed, only two of the center's "reports" since 1998 have dealt with al-Qaeda, and even those have done so only indirectly. According to the center, the most important lesson learned from the 1998 attacks was one illustrated by the U.S. retaliation against the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant: that there's no way "chemical weapons can be effectively and verifiably banned," which proves that it's necessary to kill any form of chemical weapons control.

It would be tempting to laugh this off if Gaffney's group weren't so influential. As one page on the Center for Security Studies Web site proudly notes, no fewer than 22 of the center's advisory council members now occupy key national security positions in the Bush administration. So no matter what congressional or other inquiries reveal about the failures of intelligence, it should come as no surprise that whatever intelligence was put in front of policy makers about hijacked airplanes (as missiles or otherwise) got little traction. With Iraq spawning terrorist legions, China girding for World War III, North Korea looking to launch a missile at Alaska, and Fidel Castro plotting to destroy the Colossus of the North, there simply wasn't any room for bin Laden in the pantheon of threats that govern the Bush security orthodoxy.

Jason Vest is a Washington-based senior correspondent for The American Prospect.

Ground Zero at the Pentagon

WASHINGTON, SEPT 11--Joe Vallone, the U.S. Army's environmental technology chief, crossed the threshold of his office in Corridor 5 of the Pentagon's D ring a few minutes shy of 8:00 Monday morning and began attacking the documents on his desk. Around 8:30, a colleague poked his head in. "The World Trade Center's blown up" was all he said.

Within seconds, Vallone was in the corridor hurtling towards the E-ring office of his friend and boss Ray Fatz, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health. The TV was already on, and Fatz's secretary ushered Vallone in. Shocked and horrified by what he saw, Vallone tore back to his desk and immediately called his parents in New York. He could hear his mother crying as his father picked up. "Have you heard from Fran?" he asked. "No," his father replied. From his third-floor deck in Brooklyn, the elder Vallone was looking through binoculars at what remained of the World Trade Center -- his daughter Francesca's place of work.

Vallone spent an agonizing 15 minutes at his desk, futilely trying to call his sister. Despite the lack of success, he called his parents again. "Fran will be ok," he said, trying to be optimistic and reassuring. Almost as soon as the words tumbled out his mouth, Vallone went airbone.

It was, he says, "like someone shoved me off my seat." Dust rained down from the ceiling tiles, and Vallone could feel the building shaking. "Get out of the building!" someone screamed as they ran down the corridor. "I think a bomb went off," Vallone matter-of-factly told his already-horrified parents. "I'll get back to you."

A few moments before, Vallone's boss Ray Fatz had been standing behind his desk, watching what he had hoped was an Irwin Allen movie but was an only too-real Towering Inferno. On the phone with another Brooklyn-born colleague stationed at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Fatz was telling him he had to get to a television when he heard It. "There was no warning. None. We heard a 'boom,' and then a'ba-BOOM,' and I said to my secretary,'I think we were just hit by a bomb.'"

It seemed to Fatz like the building was buckling. A shock wave was roiling everything, including the walls of his office. Grabbing his assistant and heading into the corridor, Fatz looked down the hall. The smell of jet fuel bordered on overwhelming, and the dark veil of smoke and dust rapidly moving in his direction portended no good.

It appeared that whatever had caused the blast had damaged an area encompassing at least three floors and torn through three of the Pentagon's five concentric hallway "rings." Fatz couldn't tell what, if anything, was left of the suite closest to the epicenter, the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army of Civil Works. Nor could he tell if the offices of his friend Major General R.L. Van Antwerp, Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, were still intact. Or those of Lieutenant General Larry Ellis, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans. Or those belonging to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics.

He and his secretary ran, with Vallone and scores of others not far behind them. As they poured out of the building, all eyes turned towards the Pentagon helipad, now swarming with emergency crews. Some asked if a helicopter had accidentally collided with the building. When told it was a plane, people just blinked. There wasn't much of anything inside the building except a blazing fireball. Emergency crews had begun to triage burn victims, and asked the evacuee crowd for help bearing stretchers. It was about that time that the flaming section of the Pentagon collapsed.

"There was absolutely no warning," says Vallone. "Emergency crews were hosing down the area, and there were people -- I don't know if they were corpses or wounded -- laid out in the general area. And all of a sudden, the building just folded. It wasn't very loud. It sounded like a large thud, like something heavy and wet, dropped to ground all at once."

As the building collapsed, black SUVs appeared on the scene disgorging alarmed FBI agents. Seconds later, the agents and Pentagon police were telling everyone to flee. "They were yelling, 'Everyone run, get out of here, another plane's been hijacked and it's five minutes out!' Of course you want to run, but where to?" says Fatz. "We could see pieces of debris on the highway by the Pentagon, and I'm thinking, do we have enough time to get far enough away?"

The alarm turned out to be false, and instructions to leg it became orders to go home. Unable to reach their cars, some simply hailed passing cars on Washington Boulevard. Like thousands of others, Vallone slowly began to make his way home, called his parents in New York and got the best news he'd heard all day: His sister Fran was nowhere near the World Trade Center when the towers were attacked. Tuesday morning was the rare occasion she was late to work, stuck in traffic.

Jason Vest is a regular contributor to The Nation, The American Prospect and In These Times.

Drug Warriors Shot Down Planes Before

Almost immediately after the Peruvian Air Force shot up a Baptist-owned Cessna bearing nothing more intoxicating than missionaries, the United States -- whose Central Intelligence Agency provided Peru with the Cessna's intercept data -- moved quickly to put the bulk of the blame on the Peruvians.

But even if it turns out that a CIA-employed aircrew was not as heroic in trying to stop the downing as "intelligence sources" have spun, the point is strangely moot; because according to U.S. law, no official of the American government can be held responsible for the errant shootdown of an aircraft suspected of drug smuggling in the Andes. As national attention fixates on the untimely deaths of Veronica and Charity Bowers, it's worth revisiting the circumstances that beget the legislation which effectively insulates American officials from being held accountable for the more unfortunate aspects of the drug war.

After years of providing an unfettered stream of airborne intelligence to the Colombian and Peruvian air forces, on May 1, 1994, the U.S. government abruptly stopped furnishing those countries with radar intercept information. Lawyers from the Defense, Justice and some bureaus of the State Department concluded that furnishing foreign powers with intelligence used to shoot down unarmed civilian aircraft -- a policy both Colombia and Peru were in the process of implementing -- was a violation of an International Convention on Civil Aviation 1984 amendment. (That the amendment had been backed by the U.S. as a response to the Soviet downing of Korean Airlines flight 007 gave the issue a particularly poignant edge.)

Of great concern was the lawyers' conclusion that if U.S.-provided intelligence was used in the accidental downing of an innocent aircraft -- something the Pentagon was seriously concerned about -- U.S. personnel, at both the executive and operational level, would be in definite violation of the 1984 amendment, and, under its provisions, subject to criminal charges and even the death penalty.

Not wanting U.S. government employees to be faced with premature state-mandated final exit for transmitting intercept data, the U.S. froze it's intelligence-sharing with Colombia and Peru. Upon appraisal of the freeze and the reasons for it, Drug War boosters in both the administration and Congress went into fits of apoplexy and indignation, charging the Pentagon with undercutting an effective counter-drug program that, critics noted then as now, was merely pushing coca production from one region of the Andes into another.

Among those infuriated by the Pentagon move was then Representative, now Senator, Robert Toricelli (D-NJ). At a June 22, 1994 House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing, Torricelli lambasted the intelligence-sharing suspension, calling it "incredible" that a trifle like the "legal vulnerabilities of U.S. government officials" would require a suspension of activity. In light of recent events, it's worth revisiting one of Torricelli's riffs on this point:

"The United States government tracks narco-traffickers bringing cocaine to the United States. That information is merely provided to the Peruvian or Colombian governments. They pass it to their own officials, who make their own judgements. Peruvian aircraft tracks a narco-trafficker, operating with no flight plan, often at night, with no lights. The plane is approached and wing tips attempt to communicate. There's no response. They attempt on radio communications on multiple frequencies. There's no response. There's an effort to lead them to an airport for a forced landing. They refuse and attempt to evade. And then warning shots are fired. Do you seriously believe that there is a jury in America, of any combination of American citizens, anywhere, under those circumstances, that would find a liability for U.S. government officials?"

Given current circumstances, the question is perhaps best posed to a suddenly-widowed husband and father from Michigan. At the time, however, a beleagured Robert Gelbard, then Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Matters, responded that the issue of balance between intelligence-sharing and compliance with the law was "not an easy issue susceptible to a sound-bite solution."

Making the hearing even more surreal was the flip-flop of rationality between Toricelli and Gelbard. Gelbard maintained that the Peruvians and Colombians had not actually downed any planes using U.S. radar information. Toricelli, recently returned from an Andean junket, said that in private, he had been told by Colombian and Peruvian officials that dozens of planes had either been forced or shot down by both governments.

"If they admit that they're shooting down aircraft, you suspend cooperation and sharinging information with them," Toricelli said. "Of course they're going to [officially] tell you they're not shooting down any aircraft."

Toricelli's remark reflected the "wink and nod" view taken by drug warriors irked by legal restrictions on downing unarmed civilian aircraft. In the end, those drug warriors carried the day: On September 13, 1994, the FY 1995 Defense Authorization Act was approved, and it included language not only allows American military aircraft to take part in downing civilian planes, but relieves pilots from any responsibility should they be complicit in a wrongful shootdown.

Whether or not this applies to contract employees of the civilian CIA isn't entirely clear, which may be a reason the U.S. is scrambling to pin the blame on the Peruvians. However, the Andean Region Contractor Accountability Act, introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) on April 25, tries to deal with that issue indirectly, by requiring that the U.S. government cease using contracted private military companies (PMCs) as surrogates for U.S. military and law enforcement elements in the Andes.

In an April 24 letter to the White House, Schakowsky (D-Ill) asked President Bush to not only immediately cease aerial intelligence sharing with all the Andean countries as "we have so little control over the end use of information," but also called on Bush to "immediately suspend all contracts with private military firms and individuals for narcotics control and law enforcement services in the Andean region." Along with Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Fl), Schakowsky observed that the Bowers incident was a direct result of U.S. drug policy.

"The fact remains that the missionaries would never have been spotted without the assistance of a private military company under contract with the CIA," she wrote. "As you know, the U.S. uses private military companies in its drug operations throughout Latin America, and they operate largely out of the public eye. Now that their operations have resulted in the deaths of two Americans we believe it is time to take a closer look at the policy that permits this practices."

Concerns about the potential for loss of innocent life and desire for transparency and accountability vis a vis the privatized aspects of the drug war have been raised before. This time, Schakowsky is raising it with gusto.

"I think the most important thing the congresswoman is trying to say here is that our current drug interdiction policy has failed, and we need to re-examine our strategy in dealing with narccotics," says Schakowsky spokesman Nadeam Elshami, "We have to be clear -- if were going to participate in these kinds of activities, taxpayers need to know, it should be our military that is participating, and not private companies given taxpayer money to do the militarys dirty work. If policymakers truly believe what weve been doing is the right policy, they should go to the American people and say, We are going to put our military in harms way to further Plan Colombia."

Though the notorious Alexandria, Virginia-based Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) has not renewed its command and control contract in Colombia, airborne units from Dyncorp, East Inc. and AirScan are all still active in the Andes, flying everything from crop dusters to helicopters. (Who the CIA's air contractor is has yet to be determined.)

Despite U.S. rules that state they're not to take part in actual combat operations, PMCs like DynCorp (charge to U.S. taxpayer per outsourced pilot: $90,000) have lost personnel in combative situations, and, according to sources familiar with their operations, do end up as active participants in military-style operations. But as they're contractors, not actual servicemen, their actions and deaths have attracted little attention -- hardly surprising given the notoriously opaque qualities that are intrinsic to PMCs, and very attractive to US policymakers, who tremble at the thought of actual servicemen or agents being shipped home in coffins.

Hopefully Schakowskys bill will prompt a serious inquiry not only into drug war orthodoxy, but the often-controversial use of PMCs; according to her staffers, even some Republicans are warming to her proposed legislation. But she can expect a fight from the contractors, many of whom have profitable, longstanding ties to the defense and intelligence establishments, as well as the usual lot of craven politicians from both parties who perpetuate the mythology of a righteous drug war.

Jason Vest is a contributor to The American Prospect the Washington-based contributing editor to In These Times, where a version of this story will appear in an upcoming issue.

Ashcroft a Threat to Freedom of Press

I have veered from regarding John Ashcroft as an amusing piece of political Americana to seeing him as a bona fide threat to the First Amendment since I first encountered him in 1992. I was covering the Republican National Convention in Houston for what is now the Bloomington, Indiana Independent and found myself, along with a handful of other hacks, in a room where a few dozen self-described "Evangelical Conservatives" had gathered. When a colleague and I walked in, the meeting had commenced, and a prayer circle was underway.

As is often the case in these settings, the exultation of the Almighty was anything but brief. I was slouching towards somnambulance as the appeal droned on and on, when a verbal thunderclap jolted me back to reality. The speaker's modulation had not changed (his timbre was as stupifyingly monotone as it gets). What jarred me from my increasingly narcoleptic state was the substance of a particular comment the speaker the made. My notes don't specify what the preface to his section of homily was, but I managed to record this:

"... the people of America will see through the distortion of the printed page, and that those in the media would join us to spread the truth of His word."

I blinked in amazement; a glimpse towards my colleagues confirmed that I had not imagined it. "Who the hell is this guy?" I asked one. "That's John Ashcroft, the governor of Missouri," someone replied.

I was both amused and offended; not only did it seem an amazingly craven act -- taking a shot at ol' debbbil "liberal media" whilst cowering behind the shield of faith, head bowed and eyes closed, refusing to do the ostensible enemy even the courtesy of eye contact -- but it seemed a gross violation of the unwritten rules of engagement between politicos and journos. It's one thing to get pissy over a piquant question on an issue, but praying for us because we're not plying our wordsmithery in the service of a deity?

After the session broke up I rushed for the gov and asked him if he was planning on making his prayer for the media a staple of his repertoire, as I was sure it would only endear him to the fourth estate as a sagacious politician worthy of respect and relevance. He shot me a look in response that I can only describe as un-Christian and stalked away.

After that experience, I was inclined to dismiss Ashcroft as a sort of bemusing walking malignancy, a comically uncosmetic melanoma on the already-diseased American body politic. But as I watched Missouri send Ashcroft to Washington and Ashcroft ascend -- courtesy of the fiscal aid of religious conservatives (as well as the liquor and tobacco lobbies) -- my amusement gave way to grave foreboding. With every act, every utterance of his, I found myself going back to that moment in Houston and shuddering, as I now fully appreciate Ashcroft's reality: there is no distinction between serving the public and serving his particular Jehovah. And that particular Jehovah seems to think that I, and anyone else who disagrees with his Apostle on Earth, is in need of some sort of re-education.

It would be one thing if the ex-Senator (who I hope appreciated the irony of being defeated by one who died but metaphorically lived on in the hearts of a majority of Missourians) was being dispatched to some department where he could make only so much trouble, like, say, Commerce. But when one considers that Ashcroft could be responsible for enforcing any future, Americanized version of the Official Secrets Act (approved by both houses of Congress, vetoed by Clinton, but expected to come up again), his 1992 comments portend an interpretation of the law that does not bode well for the free press clause of the First Amendment.

Indeed, despite his assertion that he will act as a "guardian of liberty and equal justice" in the service of the "rule of law," which he defines as something that "knows no class, sees no color and bows to no creed," his characterization of those judges who hold that a woman's legal right to choose an abortion is indeed Constitutional as "judicial despots" gives one pause. (He also considers those who try, from the Federal bench, to rectify the remnants of segregated schools, halt anti-affirmative action or anti-homosexual initiatives, "tyrannical activists," and once referred to a liberal voting block of the Supreme Court as "five ruffians in robes".)

That officials of his party worked with Federal, state and local authorities last year to actively keep people from protesting against his party at its convention -- both by perimeter management and infiltration -- also bodes ill for the First Amendment's bit about freedom of assembly. And doubtless he'll instruct his minions in the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia to do what they've always done to activists who continue to agitate for the Federal Colony's emancipation: prosecute vigorously when activists peacefully gather in the Capitol Rotunda.

And, from his new perch as Attorney General, there's no doubt he'll throw the full weight of the Justice Department behind one of his more insidious assaults on the First Amendment, the "charitable choice" program he slipped into the draconian 1996 Welfare Reform Act. Referred to by the decidedly bland and non-partisan National Journal as perhaps "the biggest blurring of the lines between church and state in many decades," this little gem of a provision essentially gives Federal money to any faith-based organization to provide whatever social services it wants to the poor, addicted and afflicted, and to do so with a license to proselytize. Several legal challenges based on the program's blatant violation of the establishment clause are underway. But as those challenges mount, Ashcroft's congressional allies are trying to expand "charitable choice" from social services to faith-based education programs as well.

Conventional wisdom in Washington holds that Ashcroft is in for a bruising, if not bloody, set of confirmation hearings, but that he'll emerge as Attorney General in the end. If, however, he does fail on the Hill, it's entirely possible he'll have another role in the Bush Administration, perhaps as special envoy to Iran. Doubtless the mullahs would find Ashcroft's brand of conservatism appealing.

Police Use Limited Force as Protesters Perturb IMF Meetings

April 17 -- With the constant buzz of police helicopters overhead, the alternating scents of irritant gas, pepper spray and vinegar, police barricades at intersection after intersection and throngs of protesters expressing themselves in every way -- from chants to banners to puppets to spray-painted graffiti and even partial nudity -- normally catatonic-on-Sunday downtown D.C. was anything but on Sunday.

The events of the day were largely peaceful, and some of them could be considered street theater at its best: elaborate and effective floats depicting the World Bank and IMF as a merciless machine or a bloated, roasting pig; protesters marching with giant head puppets making a mockery of world leaders; shirts adorned with the likes of "My country's getting rich off the policies of the IMF and World Bank, and all I get is this lousy T-shirt"; the beat of makeshift drums; strangers sharing food, water, and in some cases, links of chain to hamper their removal from intersections. "It's gratifying to see something like this come together, especially in downtown Washington," a bandanaed protester from New Hampshire said. "I'm proud to be here."

On Saturday about 600 people were arrested here for parading without a permit, according to police. There were 20 protest-related arrests on Sunday out of an estimated 10,000 to 35,000 people who turned out to demonstrate. Although the scene was hardly comparable to last year's riotous Seattle melee, in several cases police and protesters alike dispensed with restraint and rhetoric, instead opting for bottles, blows and batons. At about 10 a.m. Sunday, a large procession of protesters with black-clad anarchists at their vanguard strode up 14th Street NW, bearing -- in addition to placards and puppets -- fencing and other construction material, some apparently taken from a nearby construction site. As the procession neared the intersection of 14th and I streets, dozens of Metropolitan Police Department officers in squad cars and on motorcycles tore down 14th from the opposite direction. As both forces approached each other, each began to surge; upon reaching the southeast corner of 14th and I, some protesters picked up and kicked or hurled two newspaper boxes. Police entered the intersection and for a moment time seemed to stop, but quickly the police continued to aggressively advance in the face of angry rebukes from demonstrators, at least one of whom hurled a small object at the officers. Then, with no apparent provocation, the police turned and retreated to the middle of 14th Street between I and K, and some protesters scurried in hot pursuit. Others merely wandered or tentatively stood, not quite sure what to expect. Seconds later, at least half a dozen police motorcycles entered the fray, officers using their machines to literally herd protesters toward Franklin Square Park. Right behind them were more billy-club wielding officers, hands on either end of their weapons.

Despite the overall restraint they had displayed earlier, here several officers took a distinctly "hit first, ask questions later" approach, checking anyone in their path. Several reporters narrowly escaped contact. Some protesters remained passive and took the blows -- indeed, some came so quickly they had little chance to respond -- while several others (who apparently did not attend the Mobilization for Global Justice nonviolence training sessions) opted for active resistance. Still others took glancing blows while trying to drag fellow protesters to safety. Officers semipushed, semichased demonstrators well into the park, facilitating the destruction of tulip beds in the process. One protester was hit so hard he literally flew over a park bench. A girl with Day-Glo red hair was checked and flew what appeared to be several yards in a matter of seconds by one officer, who ended his onslaught with a baton blow to her face, leaving her stunned and crying on the sidewalk as she wailed, "I wasn't fighting back!"

Then the police fired irritant gas into the crowd. While Police Chief Ramsey said, "smoke dragons," a sort of tear gas light was used; all touched by it showed signs that it hurt like hell. The gas cartridges landed in the street near the northeast corner of the intersection, and the acrid smoke wafted mostly to the east but also to the south. Protesters with gas masks were remarkably quick about getting them on; those with only vinegar-soaked bandanas secured them over their faces but hotfooted it back from the expanding cloud of gas as police -- save a few skirmishing stragglersÑfell back to the middle of 14th St. and formed a static line. One gas-mask clad anarchist stalked the street bearing the black flag; others dragged the uprooted newspaper boxes (Employment Today and Washington Jobs -- perhaps apropos for an anti-world financial institution protest). Protest medics quickly deployed and tended to the baton or gas-afflicted. The anarchists seethed. Then several women in red T-shirts came right up to the police line and began chanting, "To the police, we come in peace. To the banks, we say no thanks." Others began to gently shower the gas-mask visaged police with recently uprooted tulips, most of which were hostilely batted away by officers as their commander walked behind them encouraging them to "stand fast, stand fast." Another young woman in a red T-shirt stood in front of the cops facing other protesters, making the peace sign with both hands. A red-haired young woman actually began presenting each of the officers with tulips, most of which were angrily pushed away with batons. Then Ananda Daas, a 19-year-old man from Humboldt County, Calif., took a small American flag and laid it on the ground, adorning it with tulip pedals. The black flag-carrying crew seemed to hate this, and began to leave. The growing collection of photographers loved it, and by the time they were done shooting Daas' creation, the street had all but cleared.

Protesters and police chief seem to find common ground: Gas sucks

There were other odious incidents like this that took place during the day, but in contrast to Seattle, they hardly constituted -- individually or in aggregate Ñ- a riot. Around noon at 19th and K, for example, a burgeoning throng of protesters gathered around a huge anti-World Bank puppet, directly across from a police barricade. As the hour grew later, the crowd grew larger; three rows of young protesters plunked down about 10 feet from the police line. The more they chanted ("More World, Less Bank," "Depleted Forests, Who Do We Thank? / The World Bank,"), the more additional protesters came. So, too, did the media, with photographers turning their cameras on the protesters with the same relentless interest a scientist brings to examining a specimen through a microscope.

"Film the cops!" came the repeated chant, followed by several variations. Some reporters silently exchanged glances. As the cops were doing little more than stoically standing there while the temperature climbed, turning the cameras on the constabulary seemed a bit of a stretch. But eventually -- to the chanted strains of "Corporate media, we don't need ya," the bulk of TV and still cameras did turn towards the police line. Not long afterwards, the police put on their gas masks, and bottles of vinegar were quickly passed around. Cries of "The whole world is watching" and "Take off the masks" began. Remarkably, within moments, they did. The reason for the sudden change quickly became clear when D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey sauntered out, and -- apparently drawing on Chicago political style -- coolly worked the barricade, talking with reporters and protesters alike. Angry queries about the gas masks and the use of tear gas were met with cool responses. "You don't see no gas mask on me," Ramsey said, later asking, "You think I wanna get gassed?"

"We don't want to deploy gas. We ain't gonna use gas," he said, and went on to tell protesters that as far as he was concerned, they could stay the night in the intersection. While it was his job to get delegates in and out and he wouldn't hesitate to clear necessary intersections, this, he said, was not one of them. "You can protest all you want," he said. "You got my word on that."

Dumpster de-escalation

While the chief was clear on a no-tear gas policy (at least for the 19th and I intersection), he did not say anything about the use of pepper spray, which made one of several appearances of the day a bit later one street over. Around 12:30 p.m., the anarchists under the black flag -- many of whom dressed to look like either subcommandante Marcos or Taliban women -- rallied around a wheel-borne dumpster at 20th and Pennsylvania, and began rolling it east on I Street. Turning the receptacle south on I Street, the crowd moved towards a police barricade not far from the corner of H Street. About three-fourths of the way down, police suddenly let fly streams of pepper spray, sending many scrambling back up the street and causing more than a few to collapse in pain. The anarchist-led throng renewed its advance, however, gradually moving closer, accompanied by a phalanx of media. A squad of police motorcycles rounded the corner behind the barricade, ratcheting up the tension. Once again, Ananda Daas from Humbolt County was on hand, tulip petals tucked in his waistband, but he seemed more than a little cautious about putting his mellow vibe between twitchy cops and strident anarchists. But then, Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance Gainer -- he who on Saturday had speciously held that the presence of culinary pepper at the Mobilization for Global Justice's now-forcibly demobilized headquarters was a potential ingredient for homemade pepper spray -- appeared on the scene, pleading for "de-escalation."

"Lower the gas guns," he ordered his officers, asking "everybody just chill out." After being called "the biggest [expletive deleted] hypocrite I've ever seen" and other sundry epithets, the District's number two police officer engaged protesters in what very well may be the longest discussion ever held on the protocol of Metropolitan Police Department badges. The absence of badges on the shirts or jackets of a few officers drew the ire of the anarchists, who vitriolically characterized the officers as everything from lawbreakers to intelligence agents. Gainer tried to explain that as the day had started out with intermittent rain and was currently sunny, the officers had changed jackets and shirts several times and hadn't always had the time to transfer their badges. The protesters were having none of it. But by early afternoon, most had drifted away -- not just at 18th and I, but elsewhere, too. The meetings of the IMF and the World Bank had not, as the day's organizers intended, been shut down. Nonetheless, numerous delegates were inconvenienced, and all involved in the attempt could feel proud at having helped necessitate the shutdown of 50 downtown blocks. As of Sunday night, protesters were updating their plans, strategizing for another round of direct actions on Monday.

Taking A16 Seriously

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.... corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." -- Abraham Lincoln to Colonel William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864WASHINGTON -- When the WTO convened in Seattle last year, the mainstream media was not inclined to take the notion of protests seriously. On one level, it was hard to fault reporters and editors for this; many have gone decades without seeing a major movement protest, especially against an event that was largely the dominion of the trade press. But as the situation quickly became defined by the unexpected -- the unexpected is odd, and oddity sells -- the mainstream was determined not to be caught unawares again. So when the Washington date of April 16 was disseminated, the mainstream -- and the Washington Post in particular -- got to work.And what happened next was, to some extent, what progressives have always wanted: the mainstream media started taking them seriously. Where two years ago it was virtually impossible to get meaningful stories (or stories at all) into the corporate media about the Multilateral Agreement on Investment or Congressional hearings on the IMF, suddenly everyone wanted to write about thorny global issues. Or, at least, the people talking about them: with equal parts boomer reporter nostalgia tinged with condescension (the Post's Richard Leiby on DC's anarchist soccer league), intellectual appeal (former World Chief chief economist Joseph Stiglitz on Charlie Rose and in The New Republic) and the sale value of and cultural love affair with youth (witness the anointing of activists Juliette Beck and Han Shan), suddenly everyone from The New Yorker to George was on the case, and actual critical ideas were being reported with regularity.And what did it culminate in over the past week? With regard to the protests themselves, the Post did reasonably well: though the paper was hardly as fired up over such pedestrian matters as Constitutional integrity and the intimidation tactics and excessive use of force by the police as it was over Bill Clinton's Lewinsky mess, it did at least report that such things took place. (Indeed, in some cases, it even went so far as to quote non-official sources who disputed police accounts!) Nonetheless, the editorial page swooned over the police (Wednesday's leader: "Hail to the Chief -- and His Cops"). And reminding its readers that the ghost of journalist Nick Von Hoffman has long been exorcised from its pages, the Style section generally opted for the cheeky over the probing. Post reporter Frank Ahrens in particular showed that any youthful idealism he ever had has been shoved so far up his asshole he'll never find it again; the sequence of one day writing a first-person account of sneaking in with IMF delegates ("So this is what it feels like to be The Man," he wrote) and the next fellating the irreverent business Web site the Motley Fool, is but one more exhibit in the case against the antiquated notion that the Post is even vaguely left-of-center, let alone possessed of "edge," a phrase its technocrat editors endlessly bandy about but rarely let manifest in the paper. Local TV could have been much worse as well. Cameramen captured some truly harrowing sequences of police overkill (agents of DC's colonial masters, the U.S. Marshals, setting upon a citizen simply trying to enter the courthouse; episodes of passive protesters taking pepper spray in the face) and kept with the demonstrators well into Tuesday as they rallied outside the jail, demanding authorities "free our friends." Nonetheless, anyone wanting the fullest breadth of detail on the constabulary's more irrationally exuberant moments had to turn to the indispensable Independent Media Center (especially for the appalling details of protesters' incarcerations), though venerable Washington editor and publisher Sam Smith was also on the case, rapidly putting reporting up on his Progressive Review Web site. Though independent reporting on the protests was vigilant, A16 was also an occasion to mourn the passing of alternative weeklies as they once were. CityPaper, Washington's alternative weekly, essentially decided to sit the whole thing out. Unlike Seattle Weekly's expansive print and online coverage of the WTO, CityPaper's issue of Thursday the 13th contained not one story on A16, or any issue related to it; rather than post anything on its Web site, the paper opted to wait until the 20th to publish anything at all on the protests.The op-ed pages and pundits, however, couldn't seem to publish enough on the issues and advocates involved with A16. The lack of perspective, absence of acknowledgement of fact and dearth of respect for dissent(ers) were, in many cases, the distinguishing characteristics of such endeavors. The New York Times Tom Friedman was withering with disingenuity: stringing together groups and phrases like "conspiracy theories," "Public Citizen," "anarchists" and "protectionist trade unions," Friedman cast the protesters as "quacks" in a "Coalition to Keep the World's Poor People Poor." But hallelujah, extolled Friedman, "fortunately, a major study" by a consulting firm (ubiquitous things in Washington, those) had just been released, showing that globalization as we know it really is good and there's "greater political freedom" the world over because of it. Over on the Post's op-ed page, columnist and ex-World Bank official Colbert King railed against the protesters converging on Washington: "They will be slamming a World Bank I hardly recognize," he wrote, "and they have it wrong when they demonize the World Bank as an oppressor of people and a scourge of democratic institutions." And appearing on PBS' Newshour, Congressman Sonny Callahan and economist Steven Hanke was vehemently arguing against debt forgiveness for developing nations because historically, "corrupt tyrants" have pilfered the IMF's gracious loans.These are but a sampling of the ad hominim, myopic and ahistorical arguments that seemed to dominate the realm of pundits. It's enough to have the late Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitny spinning like a whirling dervishin his grave. In 1984, Kwitny published "Endless Enemies," a penetrating study that came out of years of reporting and was subtitled "How America's Worldwide Interventions Destroy Democracy and Free Enterprise and Defeat Our Own Best Interests." Marshalling a very convincing case that a number of actions taken in the name of the Cold War were counterproductive and immoral, Kwitny reported then what is still the case now: the World Bank and IMF are essentially tools of U.S. foreign and economic policy, and ones whose primary beneficiaries -- with those institutions' knowledge and blessings -- are banks and corrupt dictators. "The IMF," Kwitny wrote, "operates minigovernments in about 40 countries. Why would a country let an international outfit like the IMF take over an important function of national government? Installing an IMF team is the West's price for keeping credit lines open. This is all part of a giant international flimflam, which accounts for a large part of the half a trillion dollars or so now owed by the poorer countries to the richer ones."Parsing out the system, Kwitny saw how World Bank loans for development were in fact considered a form of importing that led to trade imbalances, thus causing a nation to go to the IMF. IMF loans, he explained, could be looked at in two ways: "an artificial device to help poor countries buy things beyond their current means," or, more accurately, "an artificial device to allow businessmen in rich countries to sell things they otherwise couldn't sell." And when major private U.S. banks -- who, at the time, reaped half their profits from foreign lending -- loan to the developing world, he reported, right behind them are the World Bank and IMF as collection agencies. Much the same holds for the IMF today. To be sure, it's unfair to cast the IMF and World Bank, and all those who work for them, as Hell's Angels; while many who came to protest on April 16 would like to see the Bank and IMF eliminated, there were just as many protesting -- as well as working inside the institutions -- who believe they can be reformed. And one can argue that the institutions do some good, and are not irredeemable.Yet amidst the stories that reported on the feelings of confusion, exasperation and contempt the protesters roused in Bank/IMF employees, there was virtually no investigation or meaningful revisiting of the failings of these institutions, including some documented by themselves (the Bank's 1988 "discussion paper" on donor nations' manipulation of food aid budgets for their own commercial ends comes to mind). Three years ago, for example, William Greider published a detailed account of how world financial institutions contributed to Mexico's peso crisis and how those same institutions, at taxpayer expense, saved investors' asses. Needless to say, Greider's analysis was not quoted by the mainstream press. Nor was there much mulling over the fact that the neoliberal approach to Russia clearly hasn't unleashed a tide that has lifted all boats. The corruption of the Suharto regime in Indonesia is well-documented, as is the IMF's complicity in enabling it. Yet as Washington Post editorial writer Sebastian Mallaby sniffed, if there was no IMF per the protesters' wishes, that "would leave nobody to bail out an Indonesia or Mexico when the next currency collapse drives millions into poverty."At one point during the week World Bank director James Wolfensohn reproached protesters for not having gone out and experienced the developing world. Any number of pundits deserve the same admonishment as well. Indeed, the likes of Friedman, Paul Krugman and David Frum can't even be bothered to read what their intellectual opposites on these shores are writing; calling the protesters "antiglobalist" and "antitrade" was so demonstrably specious one has to wonder if Howell Raines fell asleep at the switch. Save a few hardcore ecolocalists, those labels hardly stick. Neither does the charge that the global discontents lack an alternative vision: to give but two examples, Rep. Bernie Sanders' Sustainable Global Development Resolution is hardly bereft of ideas, and Nobel economist James Tobin's proposals can hardly be dismissed out of hand. A16 proved that the mainstream media is not averse to reporting a good story, even when the story involves protests against corporate global power. But what it did prove is that the mainstream buck stops well before deep, historical analysis.

The DC Cop Crackdown

WASHINGTON -- In all the years he's run the homeless shelter at 11th and M streets in Northwest Washington, Harold Moss has never had the fire marshal show up demanding to inspect the premises.Never, that is, until last week. Moss opened his doors to the Midnight Special Legal Collective, a handful of progressive activist lawyers from Seattle in town for the massive protests against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Suddenly, the fire marshal was interested in going over the place with a fine-tooth comb. "I couldn't prove it one way or another, but in all probability, he showed up because of [the protesters]being here," said Moss, who has managed to stave off the inspector inspection.While at first blush any sort of alliance between homeless activists and anti-IMF protesters might seem incongruous, Moss is excited at the prospect; as taxed-but-not-represented DC residents have a well-documented history of suffering at the hands of the same Congress that subsidizes the IMF and World Bank. It's only natural, he says, that "we'd want to link the presence of the activists coming down to protest the actions of oppression of the third world with the oppression people get in Washington, D.C."But, he adds, this is a concept he expects people in power might find more than a little threatening.Surveillance and Implicit Threats by PoliceA number of incidents in the past week seem to support Moss's view.Since late March, a number of activists and organizers (as well as a few journalists) have been subjected to measures ranging from surveillance, implicit threats and bureaucratic intransigence apparently designed to marginalize the effectiveness of their mission.What makes the situation all the more maddening is that such actions are apparently being taken based on the ridiculous view that every protester or activist is an anarchist time bomb waiting to go off -- a view apparently buttressed by unspecified police "intelligence" that may or may not be true.Nader Panel: In League with Starbucks-Smashing Anarchists?At American University, for example, student activists were anticipating an enthusiastic turnout for a Wednesday night "globalization panel" featuring an array of activists and scholars from left to right.Last weekend, AU suddenly pulled the plug on the event.Carrie Ferrence, an AU student activist, says she asked David Taylor, chief of staff to AU's president, for the rationale behind the cancellation. According to Ferrence, Taylor replied that Washington's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) told him that "they had information from both on and off campus sources that this event would be targeted for some kind of disruption," but that "they said they wouldn't provide any security for the event."When Ferrence began to ask questions in an effort to gauge the reliability of the "information," Taylor, she said, "wouldn't reveal his sources." (Taylor did not return this reporter's calls.)Ferrence says she (and no one else she knows) was aware of any plans for protests: "This was not going to be a biased forum, but a forum designed to show all sides of the issue," she says.And, says another AU activist who declined to be identified, "I have a hard time believing that property-bashing anarchists -- who are hardly representative of protesters in Seattle or here -- would make a Ralph Nader panel at AU a target for destruction. How reliable is the police's intelligence? Have they actually analyzed it, or are they treating a rumour as real?"AU Knuckles Under, Georgetown and GW Crack DownWhile AU did cancel the panel, the university is still granting out-of-town student protesters sleeping space in open lounges.But across town at George Washington University -- which owns the World Bank building, as well as one of the IMF's buildings -- the scene seems to invite comparison to the totalitarian nightmare which so many people fear awaits little Elian upon his return to Cuba."We know they're reading our emails, and I'm fairly convinced my phone is tapped too," says GW student activist Dan Calamuci over a phone line replete with loud, regular clicking noises that he swears weren't there until about a week ago."Last week, we did a speakout -- just seven of us with a bullhorn -- at the corner of 21st and H. Within a few minutes, five cops showed up, three of whom were undercover, or trying to be -- talking into cell phones saying, 'We have three guys and four girls on the corner and this is what they're saying.'" It was not, says Calamuci, the height of surreptitious behavior.And then there is the matter of postering. "Apparently you can leave theater posters up for weeks, but political messages, forget it," says Calamuci. "At the academic center on the corner of 22nd and H is a big plate glass window where we put flyers up Sunday night around ten o'clock. There were others posters there, too -- nothing had been cleared from that area in a week. Monday morning they were all gone." Calamuci suspects the police paid the bulletin board a visit.And while AU at least offers a place for some protesters to sleep, GW has opted for the siege mentality: starting on Friday, the university will be in state of virtual lockdown; out of town students are not welcome, even for those whose visits are unrelated to the protests."We were hoping to house people in the dorms, and we offered to meet with the administration many times-while there was a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, they made the decision without consulting one 'a16' person," says Calamuci, referring to one of the coalitions sponsoring this week's protests. "This is totally undemocratic bullshit they're pulling with us." (GWU officials did not return this reporter's calls.)Cops to Activist: No Roots of Dissent on Your FarmElsewhere, even property owners aren't immune from unnecessarily watchful, if not intimidating, eyes. Last Tuesday, Bettie Hoover, the head of the DC chapter of the American Friends Service Committee and a veteran social justice activist, was surprised to learn that two Howard Country police detectives were casing her Maryland farm."One of my family found these detectives walking around my property," says Hoover, who had listed her farm on the a16 organizing Web site as a camping haven for protesters. "I said, 'Excuse me, who told you to come by,' but they never really did tell me. But they did threaten me with zoning violations if I let people camp."This guy didn't know diddly -- he didn't know what the regulations were and I did -- and I said to him,' I don't appreciate this harassment.' He said, 'Oh, no, ma'am, we're not harassing you, we're just here to help.'"Hoover's tone does not indicate a belief in the obliging verbal gestures of the constabulary. "I've had the FBI out there before taking pictures, being very direct," she says, recalling her work with the perennially-harassed CISPES in the 80s, "but I've never had anything like this happen."Even surrounding school systems are on alert. Last week the Montgomery County School System issued a circular advising educators to "be observant for any material referring to the upcoming International Monetary Fund rallies".In the circular, the easily-contactable Mobilization for Global Justice becomes an enigmatic object of "concern" by Washington, DC Police because the group might "attempt to recruit high school students to join in a planned rally." From here, it goes over the top: "The police reported the following: 'Splinter groups, possibly associated with this group, took part in the recent demonstration in Seattle that turned violent.'""It is egregious," seethes Mobilization for Global Justice's Adam Eidinger. "The Mobilization and its organizers did not engage in property destruction in Seattle. What the police are doing is generalizing a non-violent peaceful movement based on the efforts of a few dozen people in Seattle who were looking for an opportunity to smash stuff in the first place. And I don't believe even that justifies this level of investigation, harassment or intimidation. I do believe if the police succeed in convincing the public that there will be violence, it actually increases the likelihood."Indeed, the mere mention of "IMF" seems to inspire a law enforcement response that automatically presumes violence.Several DC community activists and organizers, for example, have been fighting a new city initiative aimed at forcing slumlords to tend to their properties, because they say it could use some amending. In particular, the document allows the city to evict tenants for the sins of the slumlords -- that is, if a building is in bad shape.In a show of solidarity with those efforts, several dozen anti-IMF protesters joined housing activists and tenants from the Columbia Heights neighborhood for a trip to Judiciary Square, where DC Mayor Anthony Williams' office is. Upon arrival, the group beheld a stoic-looking squadron of approximately 50 police officers lined up by the one open door. When the group tried to enter, police blocked the doorway.According to Martin Thomas, a DC resident and IMF protester, the police eventually let Griffith and his group inside for a scheduled appointment with the mayor. But everyone, was taken aback by the shrill level of police activity. "I talked to my council member about it and asked what the hell was going on," Thomas said. "He said it was because of the IMF and World Bank protests. They're really being repressive and trying to squash all solidarity efforts.""I actually talked to some of the cops," Thomas continued, and "I said, 'We've done demonstrations here all the time, and there aren't ever this many of you here. Why are you all here?' And the cop I was talking too replied, 'This isn't like any other demonstration.'"A former staffer for US News & World Report and the Village Voice, Jason Vest is a national correspondent for Speakout.com and In These Times.

Police Crack Down on IMF/World Bank Activists

WASHINGTON -- It was around 8 o'clock last Thursday evening when the buzzer rang in activist Adam Eidinger's apartment. Thinking that some of his fellow activists had arrived a bit early for a postering party, Eidinger buzzed the door open and stepped out into the hall.As one of the organizers of protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund scheduled for April 16, Eidinger is used to people dropping by in the evenings.But upon glimpsing the police badges hanging around the necks of his two visitors, Eidinger quickly realized they weren't looking for a bucket of adhesive wheat paste and reams of posters that read "Mobilization for Global Justice."Instead, the visit was part of an effort by Washington's Metropolitan Police Department to intimidate protest organizers -- even though District of Columbia municipal code makes it clear that their activities aren't criminal.According to Eidinger, the detectives said that "they were monitoring our e-mails," had read one about a "poster night" at his house, and wanted to know "what that was all about.""Since we've been doing a lot of organizing on the net, many of our e-mail lists are public," said Eidinger, whose day job is doing public relations work for Rabinowitz Communications."We know the police are looking at our e-mails, which isn't surprising, since they've been coming to meetings since day one."But, Eidinger adds, he was taken aback by what one of the officers, Detective Neil Trugman of the Gang Intelligence Unit, told him, that the postering activities of his group were illegal and must cease immediately, and any further activity would likely be cause for arrest."He said, 'I was against the war in Vietnam, I protested, we don't want to cause any problems for you, but you can't hang up posters, because it's a violation of the law,'" Eidinger says.The discussion went on for about a half-hour, and inevitably veered toward police concerns about violence."I told them if I knew of any violent people coming to town, if I knew of anyone coming here to trash anything, I would tell them, because I don't want that," Eidinger recalled."I think I calmed them down, yet they insisted that hanging posters was illegal, and that if anyone was caught, they would be arrested and charged with destruction of public property, and that they were looking out for us on the street."Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch, one of the organizers of Seattle's anti-World Trade Organization protests last November, was appalled."There seems to be an undue amount of zeal in stifling debate as compared to focusing on the substance of World Bank/IMF policies, which need to change," Wallach said. "If the police have all this spare time to crack down on people exercising their First Amendment rights, maybe they ought to check into corporate criminality of the WTO and IMF, too."What the Law SaysAccording to Fritz Mulhauser, legal program administrator of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Capital Area chapter, the police explanation was at best a stretch. Although commercial posters on lampposts are illegal, Section 108 of Title 24 of DC's municipal regulations protects political postering, with certain caveats."They can't be up for more than sixty days, they have to have on them a date when put up, they should be put securely to the lamppost to avoid be torn or disengaged by weather, and may not be fastened by adhesives that prohibit complete removal, and you can't put up more than three copies within one block," Mulhauser explained.Detective Trugman wouldn't comment on the matter without permission from D.C. police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile, who declined to meet our deadline request for a conversation.Activists and others are supposed to provide copies of the posters, along with a name, address and phone number, to the mayor's office. But it doesn't take but a short walk through some DC neighborhoods to discover that this regulation isn't the police department's -- or anyone else's -- highest priority. Multiple posters of a commercial bent can be found all over town."I've never heard of anything like this before," said Sam Smith, a lifelong DC resident and veteran activist on causes ranging from the Vietnam War to the environment and D.C. statehood. "The only times political posters have been an issue in DC is after campaigns, when all the anal compulsives want the politicians to take posters down as quickly as possible."Eidinger's case is not entirely unprecedented, however. In 1998, when a number of DC residents mounted a campaign to stop the building of a convention center, their leader, Debbie Hanrahan, received scores of tickets from the D.C. Department of Public Works for hanging anti-convention center posters. After brandishing Title 24, Section 108, Jim Drew, a longtime Washington attorney, got the city to withdraw the tickets. But the incident was, he says, chilling."I got a sense this was being directed by a higher authority -- my strong assumption was that the individual enforcement officer wasn't acting on his own, in the same way I don't think the individual police officers in this case decided to do that," he says."These regulations are extremely selectively enforced. They're only enforced when they're in opposition to a huge economic force, like the convention center or the World Bank. You don't have them enforced for anything else -- the circus, a rock concert, a yard sale."What Price Postering?The meeting with the cops left Eidinger shaky. When his postering crew arrived Thursday night, "I explained that we'd been told we'd be arrested, and I was really spooked."Even though I think I'm doing the right thing, I really don't want to get arrested and fight this out in court," says Eidinger, whose worry was understandable. Last year, he was arrested for manipulating a Bill Clinton head puppet at an anti-NATO bombing protest."As I was explaining this [situation], we noticed a police officer in his car outside my house. People were thinking, 'Are we going to walk out of here and get arrested?'""After about 20 minutes of this, we started yelling at the cop, and eventually he drove off, but I felt like I was in China, or somewhere they don't protect freedom of speech."While Eidinger and a handful of others hung back, over a dozen others went forth and postered -- with no interference from the police.A former associate editor on US News & World Report's business and investigative staffs and former Village Voice writer, Jason Vest is a national correspondent for Speakout.com and In These Times. He is also a 2000 Project Censored award-winner.

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