Betcha didn't know ... 

What the mainstream press isn't saying about Iraq

We tend to believe we're the best-informed people on Earth. Our nation was founded on the free exchange of ideas. Our newspapers and networks dwarf all others. And the sheer volume of reporting on Iraq is overwhelming. Why then do millions of other people know more about the conflict than we do? Consider that 42 percent of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9-11, when even the White House doesn't argue that. Or that most believe invading Iraq will reduce the chances of terrorism, when the CIA says precisely the opposite. The un-American drivel of talk-radio hosts may be partly responsible for the misinformation. But a larger share of the blame rests with the mainstream media. Big dailies like the AJC and TV networks like CNN should inform citizens rather than pander to them; they should challenge authorities rather than act as bullhorns for the White House. That, at least, is what our Founding Fathers intended.



America admits suspects died in interrogations
American military officials acknowledged yesterday that two prisoners captured in Afghanistan in December had been killed while under interrogation at Bagram air base -- reviving concerns that the U.S. is resorting to torture in its treatment of Taliban fighters and suspected al-Qaeda operatives.

A spokesman for the base confirmed that the official cause of death of the two men was "homicide," contradicting earlier accounts that one had died of a heart attack and the other from a pulmonary embolism.

The men's death certificates, made public earlier this week, showed that one captive, known only as Dilawar, 22, from the Khost region, died from "blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease" while another captive, Mullah Habibullah, 30, suffered from a blood clot in the lung that was exacerbated by a "blunt force injury."

U.S. officials previously admitted using "stress and duress" on prisoners including sleep deprivation, denial of medication for battle injuries, forcing them to stand or kneel for hours on end with hoods on, subjecting them to loud noises and sudden flashes of light and engaging in culturally humiliating practices such as having them kicked by female officers.

While the U.S. claims this still constitutes "humane" treatment, human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have denounced it as torture as defined by international treaty. The U.S. has also come under heavy criticism for its reported policy of handing suspects over to countries such as Jordan, Egypt or Morocco, where torture techniques are an established part of the security apparatus. Legally, Human Rights Watch says, there is no distinction between using torture directly and subcontracting it.

March 7/The Independent/Britain



U.S. buys more Iraqi oil
Facing its most chronic shortage in oil stocks for 27 years, the U.S. has this month turned to an unlikely source of help -- Iraq.

The oil-rich state has doubled its exports of oil to America, helping U.S. refineries cope with a debilitating strike in Venezuela.

After the loss of 1.5 million barrels per day of Venezuelan production in December the oil price rocketed, and the scarcity of reserves threatened to do permanent damage to the U.S. oil refinery and transport infrastructure. To keep the pipelines flowing, President Bush stopped adding to the 700 million barrel strategic reserve. But ultimately oil giants such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell saved the day by doubling imports from Iraq from 0.5 million barrels in November to over 1 million barrels per day. Essentially, U.S. importers diverted 0.5 million barrels of Iraqi oil per day heading for Europe and Asia to save the American oil infrastructure.

Jan. 26/The Observer/Britain



U.S. dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war
The United States is conducting a secret "dirty tricks" campaign against U.N. Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the e-mails of U.N. delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.

The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input.

The memo describes orders to staff at the agency, whose work is clouded in secrecy, to step up surveillance operations "particularly directed at ... U.N. Security Council Members (minus U.S. and GBR, of course)" to provide up-to-the-minute intelligence for Bush officials on the voting intentions of U.N. members regarding the issue of Iraq.

The leaked memorandum makes clear that the target of the heightened surveillance efforts are the delegations from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea and Pakistan at the U.N. headquarters in New York -- the so-called "Middle Six" delegations whose votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the U.S. and Britain, and the party arguing for more time for U.N. inspections, led by France, China and Russia.

The language and content of the memo were judged to be authentic by three former intelligence operatives shown it by The Observer.

March 2/The Observer/Britain



Thousands of U.S. fatalities expected
Low casualty rates in the Gulf War, Kosovo and Afghanistan have led Americans to expect more of the same in Iraq.

Yet military experts are quietly warning that the impending war will likely yield a high U.S. death toll.

Analysts suggest that the Bush administration is keeping silent on the issue of casualties for fear of weakening public support for the war.

"I don't think the American public is prepared for the kinds of casualties that might occur in Iraq," said NBC military analyst Col. Jack Jacobs (ret.).

A consensus appears to be emerging that U.S. deaths during an operation in Iraq will likely run into the thousands.

The two concerns most often cited to account for significant U.S. fatality rates are the likelihood of urban combat and of Saddam Hussein's use of chemical and biological weapons.

"If you want to get a regime to change, you have to go to Baghdad and the casualties are going to be great," said P. Terrence Hopmann, a director of the Watson Institute's Global Security Program.

Hussein is reportedly transforming Baghdad into an "Alamo-like" last stand, and guns and rocket-propelled grenades are being issued to the population. Four of Iraq's six Republican Guard divisions are now concentrated in Baghdad.

Gen. Joseph Hoar, the former commander in chief of the military's central command, remarked "all our advantages of command and control, technology, mobility, all of those things are in part given up [in cities]."

March 12/Manchester Times/Britain

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