Inter Press Network

Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Morality of Intervention

By Ian Williams

The people of Sudan are paying a high price for the Iraq War, which blurred the line between humanitarian intervention and moral crusade

The civil war in Sudan has claimed more than 50,000 lives in Darfur, while a million more have been driven from their homes, caught in the crossfire of the bloody conflict between the Sudanese government and ethnic minority rebels.

The need for immediate action is clear. But because of the Iraq War, it may never be taken.

Under pressure from human rights groups, both Britain and the United States have joined Kofi Annan in proposing a UN resolution that calls for economic sanctions and travel restrictions. It is an exercise in futility – the kind that paved the way for widespread massacres in Rwanda and Srebrenica. What is urgently needed now is a credible threat of a military intervention, which was all that was required to preempt genocide in the past.

The sad truth is that the lack of action on Sudan is in no small part a result of George Bush and Tony Blair's not-so-excellent adventures in desert. A study published on Wednesday by the Foreign Policy Center, a British think-tank, unequivocally laid the blame for the unfolding genocide on the Iraq war. The report criticizes Britain and the United States for backing "quiet diplomacy, " a response it characterizes as "utterly inappropriate." Its author Greg Austin told The Independent, "The commitment of the U.S. and the U.K. in Iraq and the use of military force in Iraq pushed them away from considering any sort of military option."

The invasion of Iraq also diminished the prospects for an international consensus for action in Sudan, and too vigorous a push by the U.S. will achieve little except to stiffen resistance. Fears of blurring the line between humanitarian intervention and moral crusade seem all the more pressing because of the Bush/Blair war machine, which has done its best to sell the one as the other.

While Britain and Australia have both expressed readiness to commit troops, it is almost impossible for Muslim nations in the Security Council such as Algeria and Pakistan to agree to U.S. led action against an Arab League member like Sudan. The Arab world's tolerance for the atrocities committed by their rulers is indeed a cause for despair. But the occupation of Iraq, including the treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the U.S.'s total support for Ariel Sharon, and the xenophobic anti-Muslim and anti-Arab outbursts in the United States, make that stone harder to cast.

In the case of Sudan, in particular, there is also Bill Clinton's botched destruction of the pharmaceuticals factory that demonstrated, long before 9/11 and the missing WMD, that military intelligence is often an oxymoron. And some of the organizations in the U.S. pushing for action would not be as zealous in the case of Sudan if it did not entail taking action against "Arabs."

It is therefore hardly surprising that many governments and their people across the world are willing to cut some slack for any Arab regime in the face of American "concern." And even if they were to accept the need for intervention of some kind in Sudan, why would they entrust George Bush with such a task?

While those who oppose the Bush administration's call for action are right to doubt Washington's intentions, there is no shortage of countries that are just eager to support a rogue state for reasons of shortsighted or expedient "national interest." The fact that some of the members opposing action against Sudan are the same as those who opposed the war in Iraq is hardly a cause for reassurance.

France, for example, was the patron of the former Rwandan regime, the protector almost up to last moment of the Serbian ethnic cleansers in Bosnia, the defender of Morocco's occupation and repression in Western Sahara. And even if French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin did make an excellent case against attacking Iraq, his government was previously a staunch defender of its oil interests in Iraq.

In any case, there is little evidence that the Bush administration has any serious intention of swooping down in full force and rescuing the Sudanese. The draft submitted by the U.S. is clearly a token Security Council resolution – one that oddly mandates travel restrictions against a motley paramilitary band of Sudanese brigands and militia (who are unlikely to have many cosmopolitan world travelers in their ranks). It appears to be a gesture designed to cover the administration's backside against the "If Iraq, why not Sudan" argument that is denting its already shredded credibility.

The wrangling in the Security Council is in reality a battle of expediency, with both sides pursuing their narrow interests. It also sadly makes it almost inconceivable that the Security Council or the General Assembly will authorize the robust military operation necessary to help people of Sudan.

Yet, we can be assured that polemicists on both left and right will try to polarize this serious and complicated issue into a binary, for or against, debate. When it comes to flexing military muscle, George W. Bush, the bring-'em-on president, is clearly not a man who favors nuance or subtlety. But then neither do many of the pontificating pundits in the media.

Such partisan wrangling will inevitably obscure any meaningful discussion of what can be done to alleviate the misery of Sudanese people. Here's an example of this kind of false logic that passes for debate on television: You approved intervention in Kosovo, so you must have supported the war in Vietnam and so how can you oppose intervention in Iraq?

Being "for" or "against" intervention in the abstract is, frankly, silly. It is like being for or against amputation, a gruesome medical procedure with tragic consequences that still is sometimes necessary. You can oppose the chopping off hands of thieves in, say, Saudi Arabia, be skeptical about drastic procedures that do more for profits than patients, but still be all in favor of cutting of a limb to save the body – all the while subscribing to the Hippocratic principle, "Above all do no harm."

The concept of "humanitarian intervention," however, has a long and checkered history. Nazi Germany, for example, invoked it to justify their invasion of Czechoslovakia. It was to prevent such blatant misuse that the Canadian-convened international commission on the "Responsibility to Protect" in 2000 suggested a set of precautionary principles:

Right intention, or that there should not be any hidden agenda; Last resort, i.e. all other means have been tried; Proportional means, i.e. you do not destroy the village to save it, Reasonable prospects; i.e. you have a clear plan and are not just bombing people indiscriminately to make a point; Right Authority, i.e. you possess U.N. authorization.

A military intervention guided by these principles represent the last, best hope for Sudan. While the United Nations itself is not designed to conduct robust operations that could involve serious fighting, which is why it often "franchises" them. Ideally, the Arab League should act, but they will not. The African Union has made a start, but it is hopelessly under-resourced, and similar regional operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia were highly limited successes.

The answer is not, however, the United States. This is a matter on which the EU should be given the blue-flag franchise, especially Germany whose clean record on Iraq makes it ideal for the job. Britain and the U.S. should stay in the background, at best offering logistics and funding and the most discreet diplomatic support.

Just because the Iraq War failed the test for a "just war" on all counts, it should not be a reason to abandon the principles that still represent the best assurance of morality in an ambiguous world. While military intervention represents a genuine moral quandary, it is surely wrong to sacrifice human lives so we can congratulate ourselves for our ethical stance.

Ian Williams writes on the United Nations for Alternet. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus,The Nation,and Salon.

This article was Posted on July 29,2004 to the AlterNet


"Ann Coulter: Rotten For Some, Just Right For Others"...

[The Zionist well establish double standard]

by Imraan Siddiqi

July 27, 2004 (MMN): I was watching The Learning Channel the other day, when I had a moment of clarity of sorts. They were showing the bizarre eating habits of different cultures, in particular an Icelandic tradition to honor the Vikings. Many people over there like to partake of a certain delicacy consisting of a rotting shark carcass. The locals will track down already-dead beached sharks, take them ashore, gut them and hang them upside down for weeks.

Ammonia forms in these shark carcasses, as they continue to rot----then they are stored away for about 6 months longer. Later in the year, the locals go and inspect the rotting flesh and decide after it smells putrid enough, that it is ready for consumption. I thought to myself, "Who the hell eats this stuff?"

In an indirect way, this explained to me the people who enjoy Ann Coulter's columns.

I've written before about the rotten shark carcasses that Ann has to offer. But it seems that there are people out there who like to consume this putrid, fowl mess. Enough to get her an offer to do a writeup in USA Today for the Democratic National Convention. Too bad, when they read what Ann was serving up, they suddenly lost their collective appetite.

One can only imagine the looks on the faces of the editors of The USA Today, once they got a copy of Coulter's first DNC submission. Here, they thought that they had the best that the Right-Wing had to offer---sadly, this part is true. She is truly at the head of this sorry class, which speaks volumes about the rest of what they have to offer. More than likely, without reading one of her columns, they summoned her to Boston thinking they were on the cutting edge. However, what was supposed to be a breakthrough in convention reporting ended up being a flop of epic proportions. As soon as they saw what was on the plate---they kindly passed and ran for the hills.

For all you Coulter lovers out there, you need to realize that she is a one-trick pony. She has written the same article for the last three years, just re-arranging the words. Here is Ann's recipe for success: 1) Trash some libs, 2) Throw in a racial epithet about some Arabs or Muslims---its ok to be racist towards them, 3) Mix in some material about how she supports the "sane" America. Try finding a Coulter offering that does not have all of the above----it ain't gonna happen. In order to become an "accomplished" writer with some political cred, don't you have to write about more than one subject? Apparently not nowadays. Throw in the fact that she claims to be a moral believing Christian, and the comedy comes full circle. I have yet to uncover the teachings of Christ in Ann's work----correct me if I'm wrong, but the goal is to educate humanity, not alienate it. My hunch tells me that Jesus wouldn't want Coulter rolling with his posse anyhow. His job was to heal the weak and physically sick----but I don't think anything can be done to help this social leper.

So Ann, keep up the good work. Even though you didn't get your big break this time, you still have your filth-eating masses to consume your bile. They'll buy your next book and even your action figure---godawful stench included.

*Imraan Siddiqi lives in Irving, TX and attends the University of Texas at Arlington. He writes in his spare time on a variety of issues concerning Islam and Muslims. He can be reached via e-mail at:


Pull the Troops or Face an Impeachment Movement...Vets Demand End to Occupation


As military veterans wrangle over whom to support for president, one veterans' organization has fired a shot across the bow of whoever will occupy the White House next year.

Over 400 Veterans for Peace (VFP) members gathered last weekend in Boston for the organization's annual convention, hearing from Daniel Ellsberg, historian Howard Zinn, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, members of Military Families Speak Out, and the newly-formed Iraq Veterans Against the War. They also passed a resolution in the form of a memo titled "To White House Occupant After Jan. 20, 2005," demanding

"[T]hat the next U.S. president announce, within 10 days of taking office, that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq within 60 days, and that if this 10-day period following the inauguration passes without a publicly-announced decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq within 60 days, Veterans for Peace chapters around the nation will begin a campaign including, but not limited to, petitions calling for the impeachment of the president."

The resolution states, "The United States presence in Iraq is causing, not preventing, destabilization and violence. Veterans for Peace is committed to ending this immoral, unjust war of empire regardless of who wins the 2004 U.S. presidential election."

Concurring with that sentiment as he addressed the vets assembled at Emerson College, Ritter said, "Iraq is on fire. We are the fuel for that fire and we need to withdraw it."

Timed to conclude just prior to the Democratic Party's nominating convention, also in Boston, the last event on the VFP schedule was a peace march past the heavily fortified convention center, bristling with armed guards, where the Democrats will meet.

VFP membership has grown to over 4,000 since the Bush administration ordered the invasion of Iraq last year. The organization has over 80 chapters throughout the U.S.

Mike Ferner is a member of Veterans for Peace from Toledo, Ohio. He returned from a second trip to Iraq earlier this year. He can be reached at:

URL: Boston

Weir Group admits illegal kickbacks to Saddam

7/24/2004 9:00:00 AM GMT
Source: Sun City

A British engineering firm admitted yesterday it may have paid millions in illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Weir Group, which has former NATO chief, George Robertson, on its board, is probing £4.2million in irregular payments in Iraq.

After previous denials the oil and water pump maker conceded that extra payments made to an agent to land United Nations contracts could have lined Saddam’s pockets.

A spokesman for the Glasgow-based group — Scotland’s biggest engineer — said: “The investigations have not been able to establish the ultimate recipients of the payments to the agent.”

“Therefore the group cannot rule out the possibility that sums may have been returned to Iraq.” The acutely embarrassing admission sent Weir shares down 5.25p to 276.5.

Weir chairman and BBC governor Sir Robert Smith accepted that earlier denials had been wrong.

Neither he nor Lord Robertson, also deputy chairman of phone operator Cable & Wireless, were board members when Weir made the payments in 2000.

They applied to 15 of 37 deals to service oil and water pumps under the UN programme which allowed Iraq to sell some oil to buy food.

The group's dealings will form part of an independent investigation approved by the UN looking into allegations of bribery and corruption in the administration and management of its £26bn humanitarian Oil for Food programme, which was launched in 1996 to limit the human costs of economic sanctions imposed on the then Iraqi regime.

After the war, it emerged that Saddam’s regime insisted on a mark-up of at least ten per cent on all supplies under the scheme.

Pentagon investigators found that Saddam and his cronies pocketed hundreds of millions of pounds.

They identified Weir as one of hundreds of firms they reckoned paid the illicit kickbacks.


Iran: U.S. senators daydream of regime change

7/25/2004 6:00:00 PM GMT

"Those who draft such plans live in their daydreams," Hamid Reza Asefi said.
Source: Reuters

Iran's Foreign Ministry on Sunday said that U.S. senators are "daydreamers" for sponsoring a bill aimed at toppling Tehran's rulers by supporting opposition groups inside and outside the country.

Earlier this month, republican senators, Rick Santorum, representing Pennsylvania, and John Cornyn of Texas introduced the "Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004".

The bill authorizes the U.S. president to provide $10 million to foreign and domestic Iranian pro-democracy groups such as radio and television networks in order to promote regime change in the Islamic state.

"Those who draft such plans lag behind the times, they live in their daydreams," Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, told a weekly news conference.

"They neither know Iran, nor the Iranian opposition," he said adding that Washington had been "plotting against Iran ever since the (1979) Islamic revolution" without success.

While disillusionment with the 25-year-old Islamic revolution is widespread among Iran's disproportionately youthful population, opposition to the ruling establishment is weak and disorganized.

Despite appeals by California-based satellite channels run by Iranian exiles for mass demonstrations last month to mark the fifth anniversary of student protests brutally crushed by security forces, there were no large gatherings in Iran.

Political analysts say exile opposition groups such as supporters of the former monarchy or the Iraq based People's Mujahideen Organization enjoy negligible support within Iran itself.


Soldiers tell stories about Iraq..."We shot a man with his hands up,"he said,"We even shot women and children."


NORTHAMPTON - When his turn came to speak at the community dialogue on the Iraq War, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey of the United States Marines Corps chewed his gum slowly and slowly scanned the 150 people in the audience.

What he was about to say required deliberation.

"We shot a man with his hands up," he said, "We even shot women and children."

Massey was one of three Iraq War veterans to speak yesterday at a forum sponsored by the Veterans Education Project and the American Friends Service Committee.

The event, held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Michael Curtin Post, in the Florence neighborhood, offered the audience and opportunity to hear first-hand experiences of veterans who hold varying opinions on the war in Iraq.

Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Pablo Rodriguez, a Northampton police officer, and Army National Guard Sgt. Richard Riley of Amherst, spoke about their experiences in Iraq.

Both Rodriguez and Riley said they were proud to serve in Iraq, and if called they would go back.

"I'm glad I had an opportunity to serve," said Rodriguez, who did security details at the Baghdad Airport.

Riley, who served with the Guard's 180th Engineering Detachment, built bridges as well as housing and other facilities for GIs in Iraq and Kuwait.

Massey told the audience of his disillusionment with the war. The only one of the three to engage in combat, the 12-year veteran from North Carolina said he was fully prepared to kill or be killed. But that was before the war.

Today he said he takes five different anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pills to help him deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Firing on civilians and securing oil fields was not the duty he signed up for, he said.

"Why are Marines learning to shut down oil wells - are we the Environmental Protection Agency now?" he asked as he told the audience of his realization that this war was not one he agreed with.

He started asking questions and was reassigned to combat duty.

"I'm in the desert, I'm gung-ho, ready to kill," he said, putting "your tax dollars to work. Unfortunately, your tax dollars went into a lot of civilians. I was there. I pulled the trigger.

"My main purpose in life, for 12 years, was to meet the enemy on the battlefield and destroy him," he said. "When I left to go to Iraq I didn't care whether or not I died. If you die in combat, that's an honor."

There were days when he thought to himself, "Today is a good day to die," said Massey, who received an honorable discharge.

But earlier in the evening, as people streamed into the hall and the sun lit up his face he realized yet again, "I'm glad to be in the sun."

-First published in The Republican on July 26, 2004
The author is available at


TV Series Show ‘Warmth’ Of Canadian Muslims

By Muneeb Nasir
IOL Correspondent

TORONTO, July 27 ( – A new documentary series currently being televised in Canada were chiefly produced to show "warmth" of the Muslim community in Canada and introduce their rich culture to fellow citizens, the director said Monday, July 26.

"I produced the series to please Allah firstly," Michael Milo, a Muslim convert, told in an exclusive interview.

"And as a means to bring Islam in a non-threatening and realistic way to Canadians by showing the warmth of the Muslim community."

The three-part series, "A New Life in a New Land : The Muslim Experience in Canada ," has been running on Canada ’s multi-faith channel, Vision TV, since July 15.

The documentary series examines the cultural and religious lives of Canadian Muslims.

The series host is Dawud Wharnsby Ali, internationally renowned Muslim singer, songwriter and children’s entertainer.

Each episode of the three-part series is 48 minutes and directed towards general viewers of any faith group.

Part One, "The Mosaic", which was aired July 15, tells the story of Muslim immigration to Canada , from the early history of the community to the experiences of recent arrivals.

Part two, "In Faith and Practice", scheduled to go on air on July 22, looks at how Muslims practice their faith in a Canadian context.

It also examines the significance of the Noble Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and explores the Muslim understanding of issues such as family, marriage, social responsibility and death.

The final episode, "A Warm Welcome", scheduled for broadcast on July 29, highlights the contributions that Canadian Muslims have made to the country.

"We have also created a web site and educator's guide to accompany the series. We hope this will be used by teachers, libraries, government agencies etc.," added Milo , who also produced the documentary.

"We are now developing a presentation kit for the Muslim community explaining how they may use the series in their city. From a dawah point of view, I think the project will be successful if communities pick it up and use it as it is intended to be used."

Multicultural Make-up

Milo further said the Muslim community in Canada is a microcosm of Canada ’s multicultural groups, adding his documentary tries to highlight that diversity.

"At any given mosque throughout the country, you might find up to fifty different ethnic and cultural groups," he added.

"The response has been very positive from both the Muslim and non-Muslim community. It is interesting to see the response of colleagues who have worked on the show and who have seen it. Many comment that they learn things they did not know," he added.

‘Power Of Qur’an’

Milo has worked in the field of educational media production for over 10 years and is currently a media producer at the Division of Media and Technology, University of Saskatchewan .

In the past, Milo ’s independent productions explored pop culture, sub-culture and the beliefs of western society.

This pursuit led Milo to a further study of Eastern cultures and religions with a major focus on Islam.

During this period he came in contact with a Muslim family who peeked his interest in Islam.

"An interesting Muslim family who I got to know eventually lead me to read the Qur’an," he said.

"The power of the Qur’an to speak to an individual directly changed me," he recalled.

Since then Milo has traveled to South Asia and performed Hajj (pilgrimage) to Makkah.

He hopes to continue producing documentaries with Islamic themes.

"The history of Islam is so rich and there is so little produced about it. I am hoping to possibly do a project on the historical sites mentioned in the Qur’an," he told IOL.

In 2000, Milo was awarded the Certificate of Creative Excellence from the US International Film and Video Festival.

He worked in 1996 as a segment producer on a pilot for Vision TV in the US .

The program series, ‘ON SIGHT’, was a documentary news series that dealt with contemporary issues faced by Muslims in North America .

Also in 1996, Milo co-produced a series of Public Service Announcements clearing stereotypes about Muslims, which attracted millions of viewers over CNN.

The number of Canadian Muslims has increased dramatically over the last decade, according to a census released in May last year.

The census attributed the increase to immigration from South Asia , North Africa and the Middle East .

Islam has become the number one non-Christian faith in Canada .


Iraqi general should be freed

Tuesday 27th July 2004

The United States' failure to practice what it preaches in Iraq could prove costly in the larger battle for control of the country. The hypocrisy is already painful for individuals.

The administration has held a top Iraqi scientist in solitary confinement for 17 months without any charges. The most obvious interpretation is that Lt. Gen. Amir al-Saadi is being hidden away because he told a truth that's embarrassing to the Bush administration. Serving as Iraq's chief negotiator with U.N. inspectors, he tried to show his country had abandoned its weapons of mass destruction programs.

Anne Garrels, National Public Radio's distinguished correspondent in Iraq, reported Monday that a string of U.S. officials, including former occupation leader L. Paul Bremer, believe al-Saadi should be released. And international law requires release unless the Iraqi government presses charges, which it won't, according to NPR's "Morning Edition" report ( 19 ).

Ironically, the general never joined the Baath Party, refused an order from Saddam Hussein to divorce his German-born wife and had a brother executed by the dictator. He surrendered himself almost as soon as U.S. troops arrived, and apparently cooperated.

According to NPR, it would take a decision by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or his deputy Paul Wolfowitz to release al-Saadi. Even a belated release would be fair to him. But it also might have larger implications. The Boston Globe recently reported that other Iraqi scientists are so angered by al-Saadi's treatment that they remain suspicious of U.S. intentions.

From a Bathing suit to Hijab

By Christine Hauser

Somayyah was educated in a convent and as a teenager worked as a model and in cocktail lounges. Growing up in Ireland and Britain, she tried drugs and liquor land supported alcoholic and sometimes abusive parents. Years later the 25 year old Irish woman moved to the Gulf Arab Emirate of Dubai where, through books loaned by friends, she learned about Islam.

"I would go to the beach in my bathing suit and listen to Qur'an on my Walkman," she said.

"One day I was going to the beach in a taxi driven by a Pakistani who had Qur'an on the radio. I got there and put one foot on the ground to get out.

"Then I looked at the taxi driver and said: 'No, take me back home.' I couldn't go to the beach and take my clothes off."

Now Somayyah, a school teacher who adopted the name of Islam's first female martyr, will not leave her flat without covering herself from head to toe in hijab. Since she converted her family has refused to see her.

In interviews, some said they converted because they were disillusioned by changes in their own religious traditions. Others said they were influenced by husbands or relatives or that they liked the sense of community.

"I had seen so many changes in the church that unsettled me," said Kathy Grigg, an American in her mid-thirties whose family supported her conversion to Islam.

"Latin was dropped from the mass, women were not only no longer required to cover their heads in church but were permitted to wear pantsuits. Abstinence from eating meat on Fridays was dropped."

"There was no more reverence. But to me, seeing a Muslim pray, to bow down on the ground.."

Bilal Philips, 49, a Canadian who had worked for the Saudi air force religious affairs department in Riyadh and who was well-known as a TV religious presenter, said he belonged to the communist movement in Canada and the United States.

"I became fed up. Basically I was searching for something meaningful," he said of his conversion 24 years ago.

Some US military personnel were exposed to Islam when they served in the Gulf war.

Philips manned an Islamic information centre in a tent at an air force base in Dhahran. In the six months after the war 3,000 Westerners converted at the centre, 98 percent of them US servicemen or women, he said.

They gave up alcohol but wearing Muslim attire and praying five times a day clashed with military duties.

"You got out of uniform as quickly as you could land put hijab back on," said one convert, Asma Markusson, a former US army reservist who grew up in illinois wanting to be a nun.

As for prayers "I had to catch my prayers when I could."

An organisation called Muslim members of the military has now been set up in Washington to tackle such issues as prayer timings and wearing the hijab.

Markusson said that when she arrived in Saudi in 1990 she had "strange ideas" about Muslims.

"There was this chop-chop business," she said, referring to amputations as Islamic punishment for crimes.

"And then what about all this harem stuff?" She now lives in Bahrain, one of two wives of a Saudi man.

Markusson gave up figure skating after she converted. Others stopped wearing cosmetics and bathing suits.

Jumana Sharpe, British woman who is the second wife of a UAE national, lost her business.

"Putting on hijab has been difficult for me. I had my own beauty salon and it did cause a stir with my mostly Western clients," she said.

Westerners who converted say the hardest part is not the change in lifestyle but alienation from family and friends or discrimination when they return home wearing hajab.

Some women say they have had objects thrown at them. Jan Lifke said her passport was held at a US airport because officials couldn't believe she was an American.

"My mother told me I was going to hell when I told her I converted," Markusson said.

Iraq sets up committee to impose restrictions on news reporting

By Nicolas Pelham in Baghdad

Iyad Allawi, Iraq's prime minister, has established a media committee to impose restrictions on print and broadcast media, a government official announced yesterday. The step underlines an aggressive new attitude towards press freedoms, in spite of US efforts to nurture independent media.

Ibrahim Janabi, appointed to head the new Higher Media Commission, told the FT the restrictions - known as "red lines" - had yet to be finalised, but would include unwarranted criticism of the prime minister. He singled out last Friday's sermon by Moqtada al-Sadr, a firebrand Shia cleric, who mocked Mr Allawi as America's "tail".

Outlets that broadcast the sermon could be banned, he said.

he formation of Mr Janabi's committee appears to mark a step back from Washington's democratic vision for postwar Iraq. Before last month's handover of sovereignty, US officials boasted that Iraq enjoyed the Arab world's least regulated media. One of Paul Bremer's first acts as US administrator was to abolish the information ministry, prompting a profusion of non-government newspapers, radio stations and television stations to emerge.

Mr Janabi said his committee would soon relocate to the old information ministry building, which is undergoing refurbishment.

Many of the old information ministry's 5,000 former employees have welcomed Mr Janabi's commission as a first step to regaining their jobs axed by Mr Bremer. One of Mr Janabi's first decisions was to extend payment of their salaries to last month.

But Mr Janabi sought to damp fears that he was reviving the old pre-war information ministry, which controlled all media outlets in Iraq before the US-led invasion. He said he would not introduce minders for foreign journalists, but there would be a voluntary registration process.

The measures come amid growing government nervousness that Arab satellite channels are giving publicity to Iraq's rebel groups.

Yesterday Iraq's foreign minister, Hosheyr Zebari, denounced the Arabic satellite channel, al-Jazeera, which has broadcast video recordings it received from insurgents.

"In a difficult security situation, we need to fight the terrorists by all means, and one of the main means is the media.

We need them all to co-operate, even the private sector. It's for national security," said Mr Janabi, a former Iraqi intelligence officer who for a decade served as Mr Allawi's eyes and ears in neighbouring Jordan, but has never worked as a journalist. "The red lines must be very clear. Whenever we find someone endangering national security, we will give notes to our legal committee that they are breaking the rules," he said.

Noting that al-Jazeera broadcast part of Mr Sadr's anti-Allawi sermon, he warned: "If they do it again, we will give them two weeks to correct the policy, and after that we will tell them sorry we need to close your office."

He also said that an independent media and communication committee established by Mr Bremer to regulate the broadcast media would continue to operate, although subject to his higher commission's advice.

The coalition-appointed board of governors for the state broadcaster, Iraqia, was also being absorbed into his committee, Mr Janabi said, although under pressure from London and Washington final arrangements have yet to be ironed out.

Harris, the American contractor chosen by the Coalition Provisional Authority to run Iraqia, could also lose its $96m (O79m, #52m) annual contract, if its broadcasts wavered from "the targets we want", said Mr Janabi.

A current affairs editor at Iraqia, who requested anonymity, criticised the move: "I am afraid we will now be a channel controlled by the state," he said, "all the signs are they want to use this as their mouthpiece."

Opposition politicians also attacked the new body, saying that Mr Allawi had established committees for oil and security, as well as the media, in a bid to get total control of the state machinery.

Allies of Mr Allawi, however, pointed to his decision last week to reverse a US-led coalition ban on Mr Sadr's newspaper, al-Hauza, as evidence of his commitment to press freedom.

First published in the Financial Times on 27 July 2004


Fort Carson Soldier: I Was Ordered To Push Iraqis Off Bridge Investigation Under Way Into Fatal Incident Over Tigris River

FORT CARSON,Colo.(AP),July 28, 2004 -- One of four soldiers charged with shoving two Iraqi civilians into the Tigris River where one of them drowned says his superior officers ordered up the incident and told him what to say to officials looking into the death, an Army investigator testified Wednesday.

Spc. Terry Bowman said he "was told by his chain of command what version to give CID," Sgt. Irene Cintron of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command (CID) said during a teleconference from Iraq as the military convened a hearing to determine whether the soldiers will be court-martialed.

Bowman said he had been ordered to push the men into the river, Cintron said. No names were disclosed, though three of the soldiers' commanders have received nonjudicial punishments for their roles in the incident. None of the punishments include jail time.

Sgt. 1st Class Tracy E. Perkins, 33, 1st Lt. Jack M. Saville, 24 and Sgt. Reggie Martinez, 24, are charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Jan. 3 drowning death of a man identified by family members in Iraq as Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun, 19.

Bowman, 21, is charged with assault for allegedly pushing the second man into the river at the same time. That man, a cousin of Hassoun named Marwan Fadel Hassoun, 23, survived the incident and described what happened to The Associated Press several weeks ago.

Marwan Hassoun said he tried to help his cousin swim to safety, only to lose his grip as the soldiers watched and laughed from above. "They were behaving like they were watching a comedy on stage," he told the AP.

Perkins, Martinez and Bowman appeared at Wednesday's Article 32 hearing. Saville's hearing is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 9. The four soldiers face between 5 1/2 years and 26 1/2 years in prison if they are tried and convicted on all charges.

The soldiers are assigned to Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The brigade is part of the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas.

According to Cintron, investigators learned of the death in an e-mail from the victim's family. She said she met with Marwan Hassoun on Jan. 16, and he told her how they were stopped after getting supplies in Baghdad and then driven to the bridge several miles north of Samarra.

Marwan Hassoun said he watched the soldiers push his cousin into the water and then he was pushed in, Cintron testified. He said he could hear his cousin screaming.

"He said it was eight meters (24 feet) deep and at no point did he feel the bottom of the river," she said. She described the drop from the bridge as 10-12 feet.

After he got out on the bank, Hassoun said he could hear the soldiers above laughing as they drove away. He said he then went back to a checkpoint "soaking wet from the river" and reported what happened, Cintron said.

A search was begun for a body and it was found two or three miles downriver.

Martinez initially told investigators neither he nor anyone in his platoon pushed anyone in the river, Cintron said. He said they dropped the two men off on the side of the road. A week later, on Jan. 23, Martinez said he had gone to the river's edge with the men, "kicked one in the butt" but the man jumped in on his own.

Sgt. Alexis Rincon, a member of the patrol that night, testified the soldiers forced the men to jump and that Martinez leveled a rifle at one of the Iraqis to make his point. Rincon said the man hesitated but jumped after the second Iraqi said something to him in Arabic.

None of soldiers thought the men were in danger because one quickly made it to shore, Rincon said. He said he would not have left the scene in that event, but asked if he would have gone to the man's aid, Rincon drew laughs in the courtroom when he replied: "I don't know about jumping in and saving him."

Rincon, who was granted immunity for his testimony, said Saville later jumped into the water and found it was waist deep only a few feet from shore.

The soldiers' commanders, Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, Maj. Robert Gwinner and Capt. Matthew Cunningham, were punished last spring under Article 15, which allows punishments without a court proceeding or public record. Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., has asked for congressional hearings into why their cases were handled differently than those of the soldiers.

Defense attorneys told the presiding officer, Capt. Robert Ayers, their case is crippled because three commanders are demanding immunity before they testify. Ayers ordered prosecutors to explain whether they offered immunity to defense witnesses and why.

The defense also criticized Cintron for relying on relatives to confirm the identity of the drowned Iraqi. Capt. Joshua Norris, a defense attorney for Perkins, also said unfriendly Iraqis have been known to fake the death of Iraqis "to bring the soldiers down."

Norris said that because the survivor and his family were not investigated, "you didn't know if they were the enemy or not."

"I had a victim," the investigator replied. "I didn't have a suspect of any sort."

Cintron also said it wasn't safe to exhume the body and there were no medical or dental records to help with identification. She said she believed the cousin because "we got admissions from the soldiers."

Norris suggested Zaidoun Hassoun's family just wanted money for a damaged truck.

Cintron said the family got $10,000 for the truck and $2,500 was paid to the dead man's father. She said the man didn't want to take the money because he didn't want the case ignored, and insisted that his lawyer take it.


Troops 'took turns' beating Iraqi detainees, court told

LONDON (AFP,Wed Jul 28,2004 - British troops took turns abusing a group of Iraqi detainees, dousing them in cold water, kickboxing them against a wall and ordering them to "dance like Michael Jackson," one of the detainees said in a chilling statement read out in a London court.

Kifah Taha al-Mutari's graphic allegations emerged at the start of a three-day High Court hearing in London into whether independent inquiries should be called into the alleged deaths of Iraqi civilians at the hands of British troops based in southern Iraq (news - web sites).

Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites)'s government -- which denies any systematic abuse of Iraqi detainees -- has refused to convene such inquiries, which could potentially open the way to criminal prosecutions of British troops in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq in March last year.

Mutari was among a group of hotel workers detained at the Darul Dhyafa military base near Basra, in British-occupied southern Iraq -- one of whom, Baha Mousa, 26, died in custody in September 2003.

His statement was read in court by lawyer Rabinder Singh, representing the families of Iraqi civilians allegedly killed by British forces.

Mutari alleged that he and his fellow detainees were beaten on the neck, chest and genital areas, and that "Baha appeared to have much worse ill-treatment than the others".

He said all the detainees were hooded, not once but twice, and "given water by it being poured over the hood so that we had to lick the droplets that seeped through the hood".

"Soldiers took turns in abusing us," he added. "At night the number of soldiers increased, sometimes to eight at a time."

He also described a sadistic "names game" played by the soldiers.

"Soldiers would mention some English names of stars or (football) players and request us to remember them, or we would be beaten severely," he alleged.

"One terrible game the soldiers played involved kickboxing," Mutari added. "The soldiers would surround us and compete as to who could kickbox one of us the furthest. The idea was to try and make us crash into the wall."

In yet another instance, he said, he and his fellow detainees were ordered by a British soldier "to dance like Michael Jackson", the American pop superstar.

Besides the Mousa case, the hearings centre on the deaths of four Iraqis allegedly gunned down by members of the King's Own Regiment, and the death of a police commissioner by a soldier in the Queen's Lancashire Regiment -- the same regiment implicated in Mousa's death.

Mutari was in London for the start of the High Court hearings, along with Mousa's father, a former colonel in Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s police who Tuesday denounced his son's death as "horrendous".

Military police have opened a total of 75 investigations into claims that British troops had killed, injured or abused Iraqi civilians, of which 37 were dismissed, 30 remain in progress and eight are awaiting conclusions.

"Every allegation has to be investigated thoroughly and all evidence produced then needs careful consideration," a defence ministry spokeswoman told AFP on Wednesday.

"The investigations cover a range of incidents and it would be quite wrong to conclude that the UK armed forces have been involved in systematic human rights abuse."

In arguing for inquiries, lawyer Singh cited the European Convention of Human Rights, saying that it extends to British troops serving in southern Iraq.

He said it was up to the High Court to rule whether the British government has a duty to ensure an effective, independent investigation into the circumstances in which Iraqis have died.