Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Big Business to Bush: "Now You May Begin Your War in Iraq"

The President, in the East Room, with a sack of gold:

Bush: "The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act will provide coverage for catastrophic losses from potential terrorist attacks. Should terrorists strike America again, we have a system in place to address financial losses and get our economy back on its feet as quickly as possible."
[See below in boldface for names in photograph.]
The Terrorist Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), creates a 3-year program requiring the federal government to pay 90% of terrorism-related claims that exceed $10 billion in 2003, $12.5 billion in 2004, and $15 billion in 2005.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you. Good morning and welcome to the White House. Today we're taking action to strengthen America's economy, to build confidence with America's investors, and to create jobs for America's workers. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act will provide coverage for catastrophic losses from potential terrorist attacks. Should terrorists strike America again, we have a system in place to address financial losses and get our economy back on its feet as quickly as possible.

With this new law, builders and investors can begin construction in real estate projects that have been stalled for too long, and get our hard-hats back to work. (Applause.)

I appreciate members of my Cabinet who are here who worked on this bill -- Paul O'Neill, and Don Evans and Elaine Chao. Thank you all for coming.

I appreciate the members of Congress who are here, particularly those on the stage with me who worked hard to get the bill passed -- Chairman Paul Sarbanes, Chris Dodd from Connecticut who did a lot of work to get the bill done. (Applause.) Senator Harry Reid worked hard on this piece of legislation, as well. I appreciate Chairman Mike Oxley from the House who also worked, along with Senator Dodd, to get this important piece of legislation passed. Mike, thank you for your leadership on this issue. (Applause.)

As well, we're joined by other key players from the House of Representatives, Sue Kelly, Chris Shays, John LaFalce, and Ken Bentsen. These members of Congress put the interests of the country ahead of partisanship, and as a result of their hard work I'm able to sign the bill today. I want to thank you for your leadership. (Applause.)

I also want to thank the union leaders who are here today, people with whom we've worked hard to get this done; leaders who put the interest of their membership right on the line -- Doug McCarron -- appreciate your leadership, Doug. He's the General President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. Frank Hanley is the General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers, is with us today. Joe Hunt is the General President of the Iron Workers International Union. Ed Sullivan, who is the President of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO; Terry O'Sullivan, who is the General President of the Laborers International Union of North America.

I appreciate the workers from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and Iron Workers, and the Building and Construction Trade Department of the AFL-CIO
, who are with us today representing thousands of people who are going to go back to work thanks to this piece of legislation. Thanks for your leadership, and thanks for your presence. (Applause.)

The attacks of September the 11th, 2001, devastated lives, leveled buildings and seriously, seriously disrupted our economy. Businesses suffered. The stock market halted trading. Many insurance companies stopped covering builders and real estate owners against the risk of attack. Premiums skyrocketed. Protections were diminished. Across America, hospitals and office buildings and malls and museums and construction jobs and many transportation companies have had difficulty finding terrorism insurance.

More than $15 billion in real estate transactions have been canceled or put on hold because owners and investors could not obtain the insurance protection they need. Commercial construction is at a six-year low, and thousands of hard-hat workers have been kept off the job. Commercial mortgage-backed securities have seen their bond ratings lowered, hurting many Americans invested in the bond market, including teachers and police officers and firefighters, who have lost money in their pension plans.

By helping to ensure that terrorism insurance is affordable and available, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act will permit many construction projects to move forward and to help this economy grown. Billions of dollars in investments will be more secure. The nation's hard-hats will get back to work, being able to put food on the table for their families. Investors in markets will have greater confidence that our economy is strong enough to withstand a future attack. And that's important.

This new law will also help the economy in the legal system by discouraging abusive lawsuits. Civil cases resulting from a terrorist attack will be combined in a single federal court. Lawyers will be prevented from shopping for courts with a reputation for outrageous awards. Judgments and rulings will be more consistent.

It's important for our taxpayers to understand that taxpayer dollars will not be used to pay punitive damages. I'm grateful to the members of Congress who put the interest of the workers and taxpayers ahead of lawyers. I look forward to working with the new Congress on stronger measures to prevent abusive lawsuits. And today I'm taking steps to ensure that no taxpayer dollar will be spent on legal settlements without the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury. The Secretary will work to ensure that settlements are fair to victims, not windfalls for the legal class of America. The act of Congress I sign today will encourage greater competition in the insurance market and add strength to our economy.

But there's more to do. I'll work with Democrats and Republicans in the next Congress to pass a growth-in-jobs package early next year.

My administration is determined to make America safer, to make our economy stronger. And we're making progress on both fronts. America has entered a new kind of war, requiring aggressive action abroad and active defense at home. Yesterday I signed into law the new Department of Homeland Security, to organize our government for the long-term challenge of protecting America. Today, with terrorism insurance, we're defending America by making our economy more secure. Both these achievements show the unity of our nation in a time of testing, and our resolve to lead America to a better day.

I'm now pleased to sign the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002. (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.) (Applause.)

This bill has been knocking around Congress since 9/11/01.

On October 2, 2002, after the House passed a resolution authorizing Bush to use military force in Iraq, but before the Lieberman-Warner-Bayh-McCain resolution did the same thing in the Senate, Harry Reid took to the Senate floor. Reid apparently threw the American people under a bus, breaking the Senate's threat to rein in Bush by buying votes for Bush's war - Big business will not object to Bush's war (and the increased risk of new terrorist attacks on western corporations that result from it) IF the American taxpayer picks up the tab for the damage.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

CNN's Wolf Blitzer Does His Part For Bush & War in Iraq

Rush Limbaugh's fans may think that this is journalism, but those adults among us who are old enough to have known the practitioners of real journalism (Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid, Daniel Schor, Alistair Cooke, Walter Cronkite) only cringe at the crass spectacle, leave uninformed and ill-served by the fourth estate.

On CNN, LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL - An Interview with Rep. David Bonior:
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A working breakfast at the White House earlier today does bear fruit in the form of a congressional resolution on Iraq. So far, the Bush administration and the House of Representatives are on board. The Senate wants to think about it a little bit more in the meantime. We want to call on John King over at the White House, Richard Roth is at U.N. headquarters, Jane Arraf in Baghdad.
In the words of Dick Gephardt, the resolution lawmakers will vote on calls for dealing with Saddam Hussein -- quote -- diplomatically, if we can, militarily if we must.

CNN's John King is joining us live from the White house. He has chapter and verse -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president got what he wanted in that resolution, an agreement with the House leadership, an authorization for Mr. Bush to use force against Iraq with or without the blessing of the United Nations. Democrats got what they wanted in the negotiations, an acknowledgement of the important role of the United Nations, the request that the United Nations does work with the United States and adopting a new resolution, some specific reporting requirements on the president to keep Congress informed of any military campaign and any planning for peacekeeping troops, any reconstruction inside Iraq.

Also specific language targeting any U.S. military action to the current threat posed by Iraq, and to forcing Iraq to comply with its commitments to the United Nations. It is a compromise. The president will celebrate it in about an hour here in the Rose Garden. The goal, celebrate the agreement with the White House, but also to put pressure on the Senate. The Senate majority leader Tom Daschle yet to sign on to this.

In the audience with Mr. Bush will be key lawmakers from both parties, including some Democratic senators, who favor the White House approach, all a bit of hardball, if you will, on the president's part, to try to quickly get his way in the Senate as well. Dick Gephardt, you've shown him at the top of the program, a key architect of this bipartisan agreement. He calls it a good deal. But some dissent within the House Democratic caucus, including dissent from Congressman Jim McDermott, just back from a trip to Baghdad.

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Going to war is going to be bad for the American people, so I want to try and resolve it with him by -- if we were playing poker, it would be calling his bluff. That is, he says you can have unfettered inspections, the foreign minister told us that, Tariq Aziz told us that, the president of the parliament told us that -- everybody told us that. All right. Let the inspectors come in.

KING: But it is Mr. Bush's position, of course, that inspectors should not go back and a tough resolution from Congress and a tough resolution from the United Nations. Senator Daschle is now the focal point of White House negotiations. He emerged from the breakfast here at the White House this morning. No deal yet on the Senate side. If you listen to Senator Daschle, he seems to think there will be one coming soon.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I think there is a great deal of similarity in approach with regard to the importance we put on the United Nations and the multilateral effort, on the similarity that we have with regard to our concern of weapons of mass destruction, our similarity with regard to the importance of consultation with the Congress. Those are the kinds of things that you'll find in virtually all of the resolutions involved.

KING: Some competing proposals from Democrats in the Senate, some competing ideas from some Republicans in the Senate as well. It is the White House view that the only proposal that right now can get 51 votes in the Senate is the same deal the president struck with the House leadership this morning, but a bit of lobbying here from the president, Wolf, in the next hour. A little more haggling with the Senate before we see if there's an agreement on both sides of Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: John, a little more haggling, not only with Senate Democrats like Tom Daschle, but also at least a few Republicans, including two members of the foreign relations committee, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Richard Lugar of Indiana. Are they going to be on board with the president?

KING: That is still an open question. But much of the language in this compromise with the House leadership does take into account the concerns of Senator Hagel and Senator Lugar, when it comes to working through the United Nations, recognizing that it would be preferable for the United Nations to take the lead here in concert with the United States. So a number of key concessions to them in this language. In fact, we were told by sources, even Senator Daschle said there is nothing in this resolution that he could not support. There's still some issues within the Democratic Congress, and in fact, Senator Daschle, we are told, feels a bit more emboldened to seek further concessions, because of the concerns raised not only by Democrats, but those key Republicans that you just noted.

Not unusual for the negotiating to go until the end with Congress. In the end, most expect the deal will look exactly or pretty close to what the president has struck with the House leadership.

BLITZER: John King, over at the White House, thanks for joining us. Stand by, we'll be getting back to you as the course of our coverage continues.

Indeed, President Bush's remarks on Iraq from the Rose Garden. We'll bring you those remarks live, expected to begin at the top of the hour, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 a.m. Pacific, right here on CNN. We'll hear what the president has to say directly.

Another draft resolution is floating around, though this one is at the United Nations.

As our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth is here to tell us, it's also far from a done deal. How much of a distance is there before there is a new U.N. Security Council resolution?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday, it could be weeks, and there's also another resolution, this one by the French. They're both unofficial, nothing has been formerly submitted to the Security Council yet, and floating around is an interesting term that you use, Wolf, some of these resolutions are being hidden and are being copied off somebody else's pages. That's how tightly wrapped they are. Both the U.S. and France not willing to get out in front and formally say, this is what we want, because they know very well there could be major revisions with both texts.

The U.S. resolution, which CNN does have a copy of, does give Iraq seven days to fully accept the terms of the resolution, 30 days to turn over full accounting of all weapons of mass destruction, and some other interesting points, like the ability to take Iraqi scientists and technicians and their families outside of Iraq to interview them, away from potential Iraqi intimidation. Also, no-fly, no-drive zones, exclusionary zones that the Iraqis would not be over to overfly when inspectors want to get to a suspected weapons site -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Richard, Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, expected back at the U.N. Security Council tomorrow from his talks, two days of talks, in Vienna with Iraqi officials. What's next on his agenda? He's getting ready to dispatch those inspectors with or without a new U.N. Security Council resolution.

ROTH: Well, I wouldn't have them pack their bags yet, because The U.S. is intent on not having inspections begin until there's a new resolution, the one that Washington likes. It's almost like a bad Broadway play that keeps running. The Russian ambassador just said we're waiting for Blix here at the Security Council. He'll brief the ambassadors tomorrow. And he knows he gets his instructions from the Security Council. If they tell him, we want you to go to the presidential sites, Don't leave yet, he's got to do that. He may still be allowed to set up an exploratory headquarters, get some of the arrangements ready. The State Department didn't seem to oppose that yesterday.

Two weeks from now is when Blix and his team are supposed to start some inspections potentially, so maybe there's another race to get a resolution done before then, but U.S. officials have said, we're in no rush on that.

BLITZER: All right, Richard Roth, thanks for that report. We'll be checking in with you often, obviously.

For a week now, Iraqi leaders have said U.N. weapons inspectors are more than welcome to search anywhere except some sensitive sites, perhaps presidential palaces. Why not those palaces? Let's get the view from inside Iraq. Right now, our bureau chief there, Jane Arraf is joining us live.

But what's the deal now, Jane, with those palaces, the presidential palaces, in Iraq?

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a couple of things here, Wolf. I just want to say you can probably hear behind me the call to prayer, as people head home for the evening. We're right next to a mosque.

And what the Iraqi government is telling those people is that the inspectors are welcome but, as you said, no palaces without prior notice.

Now the reason the palaces are important is that they're a symbol here, a symbol sovereignty and a symbol President Saddam Hussein, and they're not too fond of the idea of inspectors going just barging in.

There's also the feeling that these are very much United Nations weapons inspections, and that's what Iraq wants to stick to. It does not want U.S. weapons inspections.

Finally, I think we have to point out, that with comments coming from the White House, such as the easiest thing would be just maybe to put a bullet to his head, there is a little bit of suspicion here as to what the motives would be of sending in trained experts to gather intelligence from the palaces -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jane, is there a sense, though, that those U.N. inspectors will arrive around October 15th, as previously suggested, or that they could slip?

ARRAF: Certainly, Iraq is ready to let them arrive. The Iraqis woke up this morning to the official news, the government-controlled press, telling them that Iraq and the U.N. had come to an agreement. But it really will be a matter of whether there is a new U.N. resolution, a resolution that, presumably, would tighten up the rules for inspecting those palaces.

Now, Iraq has made clear, and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has reiterated in public at a press conference in Ankra that there is no way Iraq is going to agree to a new U.N. resolution. And that's where it stands. Inspectors are welcome. Iraq has made a lot of concessions, it feels, in letting them into other sites. But the palaces, there still have to be rules for those -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jane Arraf, joining us live from Baghdad. Thanks very much.

About a week ago, three United States congressmen, all Democrats, traveled to Iraq, a trip they undertook on their own, and which led to a lot of criticism from Republicans and others back at home. Here with me now, Congressman David Bonior of Michigan, one of the members of that delegation.

Welcome back. I assume you're happy to be back in the United States. A long journey to Baghdad.

REP. DAVID BONIOR (D), MICHIGAN: Always happy to be in the United States.

BLITZER: What do you make of the House Democratic leader, the minority leader, Dick Gephardt today, announcing that they've reached an agreement with the White House on the language for a congressional resolution that would give the president the authority he's seeking to use force, if necessary, against Saddam Hussein?

BONIOR: Well, I have looked at the language this morning, actually just before I came over here. There was one really significant improvement, and that is it limits the scope to Iraq, rather than the region, which I think is very important. The other stuff that I have looked at I don't think is terribly significant.

BLITZER: So are you ready to vote in favor?

BONIOR: I'm not supporting a resolution. I think we have to go back to the basics here. And ask ourselves, what will another war do in the Middle East? I think the implications are for our own troops, for our own embassy personnel around the world, for distracting from Al Qaeda and the mission that we were originally intended to make a priority. I think all of that has not been looked at in the context of the broader picture. And I don't think war is the answer here. I think we need to play the diplomatic piece out much further. We're only beginning. And I think we had some progress with Hans Blix in Vienna the last couple days, and I think we need to build on that as opposed to the threat of war and the use of force.

BLITZER: If there's a new Security Council resolution, as the U.S. is seeking, and they get it through the inspectors go back, but they're stymied once again, would you then change your mind?

BONIOR: No, I really think a war situation is going to involve us in other problems around the world not only in the Islamic world, in the air war.

BLITZER: You let Saddam Hussein sit back and let Saddam develop weapons of mass destruction if, in fact, that's what he's doing?

BONIOR: You need to contain him. There was weapons of mass destruction. Stalin had weapons of mass destruction for decades and we contained him. This idea of first strike preemption is a very serious one. We engage in this, and we give the green light to people all over the world to do the same. So this is much broader than just allowing Saddam Hussein to do what he wants to. We need to keep pressure on him, we need to do what we can to limit his use of these weapons.

BLITZER: You know, you've been criticized pretty severely from Republicans, including some others. I want you to hear what Senator John McCain said here yesterday on CNN only yesterday. He's a Republican. Listen to this.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R),ARIZONA: Congressman McDermott, Congressman Bonior want to go the floor of the House and question the president's credibility, go right ahead and do it -- don't go to Baghdad and do it. You are helping the Iraqi government sell to the Iraqi people their hatred of the United States of America, and it's wrong, and I honestly do not understand it.

BLITZER: What do you say to Senator McCain?

BONIOR: Well, Senator McCain isn't the only person who served in the military in this country. The three of us were Vietnam-era veterans. Mike Thompson, who wasn't with us, was also wounded when he was in Vietnam. We have a right as members of Congress to go. We have a right as veterans to get the full picture. In fact, we were very helpful in our message, which was very, very strong to the Iraqi government -- you need to allow unfettered, unrestricted, unconditional inspectors to come in, and I think we helped the process.

And so I would invite Senator McCain and his colleagues to go over to Iraq and see -- and talk to the officials there and see the devastation, the horrific devastation that the sanctions have caused over the last 12 years -- 50,000 Iraqi children die each year prematurely.

BLITZER: But isn't Saddam Hussein to blame for that?

BONIOR: There's a lot of people to blame, as well as the whole international community for that. We know what was happening to children, and we could developed alternatives to what has happened there. Depleted Uranium is causing enormous amounts of lymphoma and leukemia cancer as a result of the Gulf War. Nothing is being done in terms of medicine, and research and documenting this. All of this needs to be done. That is the way you start to bridge gaps with the people, not by ignoring them and isolating them and not getting them engaged in dialogue.

BLITZER: We're getting flooded with e-mail, questions. Let me read this one from Dave in Frankfort, Kentucky. "Saddam is doing the same old song and dance. Any sites that are restricted from inspections should be taken out immediately.

BONIOR: Well, I think no sites ought to be exempted from inspection. I'm hopeful that through this process we'll have complete and unfettered inspections.

BLITZER: A provocative one from Michael in Michigan. I don't if...

BONIOR: Okamos, that's in Lansing.

BLITZER: OK. "Are Fleischer suggested yesterday that the assassination of Hussein is accepted and even encouraged. There is a law on the U.S. books that makes that illegal. There is a big problem with that discrepancy."

First of all, is it illegal right now, based on what you know, for the president to order the assassination of a, quote, "terrorist," assuming they consider Saddam Hussein to be a terrorist?

BONIOR: Well, I don't know the answer to that question. But it is illegal to have -- to go after heads of state, and the law would have to be changed, is my understanding, in that respect, and I am not in favor of changing the law. At least we have our own heads of state liable to the same type of assassinations.

BLITZER: So you were upset, obviously, when you heard what Ari Fleischer had to say yesterday.

BONIOR: And I think some of the people in the white house were upset as well, because he came back, and retracted what he said a little while later.

I must tell you, there are huge numbers of people, as you probably know, throughout the country who believe that would be the quickest way to deal with this. That's not going to assure you're going to deal with the problem, because I can tell you from being there and talking to the people, that there is great anger at the international community, including the United States, for these sanctions and for the loss of half a million children.

BLITZER: Congressman Bonior, welcome back. I'm assuming you had a safe trip. Thanks for joining us.

BONIOR: Nice to be with you.

If only Wolf would dig his elbow into Bush's solar plexus.

And now we're another step closer to war in Iraq.

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Sunday, September 29, 2002

Democratic Congressmen Return from Iraq & Warn of a Prevaricating White House

The NYT reports, "Democratic Congressman Asserts Bush Would Mislead U.S. on Iraq" - Ya think?:
Democratic congressmen who are visiting Iraq this week stirred up anger among some Republicans when they questioned the reasons President Bush has used to justify possible military action against Iraq.

One of the congressmen, Representative Jim McDermott of Washington State, said today that he thought President Bush was willing "to mislead the American people" about whether the war was needed and that the administration had gone back and forth between citing supposed links between Iraq and the terrorist network Al Qaeda and Iraq's supposed attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. McDermott and Representative David E. Bonior of Michigan also said it might still be possible to work out a new inspection approach that would satisfy the Iraqis but fall short of what Mr. Bush wants.

The two Democrats' strong comments about a foreign policy matter while traveling abroad drew rebukes from Republicans at a time when the political furor over Iraq and over a bill on domestic security has sharply divided leaders of the two parties.

They spoke on the ABC News program "This Week" and in other broadcast interviews.

Senator Don Nickles, Republican of Oklahoma, who is the party's assistant leader in the Senate, said Mr. McDermott and Mr. Bonior "both sound somewhat like spokespersons for the Iraqi government." He said it was "counterproductive" to undermine Mr. Bush when he was seeking support from allies.

This has been the reason that has been given for Bush wanting, prematurely, a congressional resolution authorizing him to attack Iraq, before inspections have played out. For the 'bullying' advantage. I was going to say, "to take advantage of Bush's cowboy image," but that's an insult to cowboys. Along with their reputation for simple, honest, straightforward talk and action (acting without guile). That can hardly be said of Bush, who talks "simply" because he doesn't have verbal acuity. 'Honesty' is hardly one of Bush's traits.

Giving Bush an authorization to take the country to war in Iraq at this point is really to capitalize on what most bright and observant people around the world see about Bush: He's a loose cannon, and with a Congressional resolution authorizing him to attack Iraq, he'd be like a child who has been given a loaded gun.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, was gentler. "As long as they're careful what they say and what they do, then I think it's fine," he said. "But all of us should keep in mind that foreign affairs, national security issues, etc., are generally handled by the executive branch, with the advice and consent of the Congress."

Speaking of the administration, Mr. McDermott said, "I believe that sometimes they give out misinformation." Then he added: "It would not surprise me if they came up with some information that is not provable, and they've shifted. First they said it was Al Qaeda, then they said it was weapons of mass destruction. Now they're going back and saying it's Al Qaeda again."

When pressed for evidence about whether President Bush had lied, Mr. McDermott said, "I think the president would mislead the American people." But he said he believed that inspections of Iraq's weapons programs could be worked out.

The NYT is pressing Representative McDermott for "evidence about whether President Bush had lied," but is not pressing Bush for evidence that he isn't lying.

How the hell did we get here? From when the media failed to do any investigation on its' own (like during the Reagan administration) to now, when they carry the water for those in power and question the credibility (or integrity, or sanity, or intelligence, or patriotism) of those asking for proof of Bush's claims.
"I think they will come up with a regime that will not require coercive inspections," Mr. McDermott said, anticipating meetings on Monday between Hans Blix, the leader of the United Nations inspection group, and Iraqi officials.

"They said they would allow us to go look anywhere we wanted," he said of the Iraqis. "And until they don't do that, there is no need to do this coercive stuff where you bring in helicopters and armed people and storm buildings."

"Otherwise you're just trying to provoke them into war," he added.

Mr. Bonior, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, said: "We've got to move forward in a way that's fair and impartial. That means not having the United States or the Iraqis dictate the rules to these inspections."

Can Bush be trusted with 'a loaded gun' (the resolution)?

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Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Frontline Goes In Search Of Al Qaeda

The 'golden arches,' even in Karachi

Martin Smith reports:
The trail that led to the arrest of Ramzi bin al-Shibh began with the arrest of another man in another neighborhood two days earlier.

For months, the ISI, Pakistan's proud and darkly secretive intelligence agency, has been investigating a ring of human smugglers based in Karachi which is led by an infamous Pakistani millionaire they call "Mr. M." He owns a large "import-export business," but investigators believe he is also trafficking in illegal human cargo. Some of his payloads, they suspect, consist of 11- and 12-year-old boys destined to become camel jockeys at the race tracks in Dubai, or consist of poor undocumented workers seeking jobs in Saudi Arabia.

But the payloads they are most interested in are Al Qaeda militants on the run. They believe "M" may be able to tell them about where some of those militants may have gone or just who's still in the pipeline. Unfortunately, "M" remains at large.

However, on a balmy Monday night, the 9th of September, ISI agents and Sindh Rangers -- a paramilitary force under the control of the Interior Ministry -- raided a house in the Badurabad section of Karachi. According to a high-level Pakistani government official who spoke to me on the condition that I would not reveal his identity, the ISI arrested "a foreigner" who had been seen in the presence of a "Pakistani accomplice" on several occasions over the last few weeks. This "accomplice," I learn separately, is "M".

According to the official, the "foreigner" sang. He confirmed to investigators that he was in the business of providing false identity papers and arranging the smuggling of Al Qaeda militants across the Gulf of Oman to Middle Eastern countries such as the U.A.E., Yemen and Oman. He also told police where some of his Al Qaeda clients were hiding. Based on this information, a small contingent of around 15 to 20 ISI agents and Sindh Rangers took up positions around a four-story apartment block in the Defense neighborhood of Karachi at around 3:00 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 11. They did not know who exactly was in the building, but they knew "there were some Arabs." At around 9:00 a.m., two men came out of the buildings' front door, just beneath a sign that reads "Nice Enterprises," and began making their way across the street where they appeared headed for breakfast. The ISI agents moved out and arrested them.

The two men put up little resistance, but realizing the danger they were in they began shouting warnings back up to their friends on the fourth floor. One grenade was thrown and some shots were fired. A battle followed that lasted three to four hours, although most of this time was spent waiting for someone to make a move.

Police fired more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition at this apartment in Karachi on the morning of Sept. 11, 2002. Arrested in the raid was Ramzi bin al-Shibh.(Photo by Marcela Gaviria)

The gun battle can be roughly reconstructed from the visual record of the event. The first video crew on the scene was from GEO TV, a new Urdu-language TV news network service now beginning to broadcast by satellite around Pakistan. From their cameraman's footage it is obvious that most of the top floor was already heavily riddled with bullet holes at the time he began taping, around 9:45 a.m. And from 9:45 to 1:00 or 2:00 p.m., when the 10 men and one woman and two children were taken into custody, very little gunfire was recorded by him or the other local cameramen who covered the event. Most of that time, the "battle" was a standoff during which hundreds of reinforcements, mostly Karachi policemen, arrived.

Some neighbors told me the men in the apartment didn't fire any shots at all. I think they are wrong, but not very. I saw two bullet holes in the glass window of the shop directly across the street and a few more, no more than 5 or 6, in the front façade of that same building. This was all. There were no bullet holes visible on the roof, either. The police on the other hand, clearly fired hundreds of rounds, if not thousands, mostly from the roof of the opposite building. And after the raid only one Kalashnikov rifle was found in the apartment, along with a laptop and a message smeared in blood on the wall. "God is great. There is only one God and Mohammed is His messenger."

According to the government official, these men were lying low."There was no evidence they were planning anything. They may have just been in transit. They had only been in the apartment for less than a month."

President Musharraf announced there were eight Yemenis, one Pakistani and one Egyptian arrested. The world now knows that the big get was a 30-year-old Yemeni named Ramzi bin al-Shibh: one of the key planners of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the U.S., a former roommate of Mohamed Atta in Hamburg, Germany.

"It was not the interception of a satellite phone call by the Americans, as has been reported in your papers, that led to this arrest. It was the work of our investigators," the government official emphasized to me. I have learned more than once that there is an ongoing battle between the Pakistanis and the Americans over who is responsible for the big gets.

Another man arrested on Sept. 11 is Fazal Karim. Karim was already known to the police as one of three Yemenis responsible for the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl last spring. Karim has not been handed over to the Americans because unlike bin al-Shibh's alleged crimes, Karim's was committed on Pakistani soil. Authorities want to try him here. The ringleader of the Pearl kidnapping, British born Sheik Omar Saeed Sheik, has already been tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Meanwhile, he awaits a ruling on his appeal in a Pakistani prison.

There are some other reports that it was a tip-off from an Al Jazeera reporter that led to the arrests. Three months ago, Yosri Fouda came to Karachi to interview Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. News of the interview leaked out to reporters and editors a few weeks ago. The London Sunday Times ran a transcript of the interview about a week before the raid. Al Jazeera originally planned to broadcast the tape on Sept. 12. If the ISI was picking up information from Al Jazeera, they would have moved in on bin al-Shibh sooner. Reports of Al Jazeera leading investigators to the Al Qaeda raid are, I think, false. And only bin al-Shibh was caught. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed escaped capture.

Although barely. On Sept. 19, Interior Minister Lt. General Moinuddin Haider told a small group of Pakistani journalists that the two children captured on Sept. 11 were Khalid's. "We are holding them. We are not turning them over to anyone. And we will get Khalid." Some investigators believe he is right: that with Abu Zubaydah and bin al-Shibh in custody, and the whereabouts of bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri unknown, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be the next big get.

A very big get ... Many American counterterrorism officials believe that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the true mastermind behind 9/11. Such plots may run in his family. Sheikh Mohammed is reportedly the uncle of Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

He is a flamboyant character. While most 9/11 conspirators stayed in modest flea-bag motels, Sheikh Mohammed prefers 5-star quality hotels. And, once, he reportedly rented a helicopter to impress a dentist he was dating -- flying by her window and waving while calling her on his cell phone.

In a recent report, reporters Dan Rubin and Michael Dorgan of Knight Ridder News Service quote a U.S. intelligence official talking about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

"'He gets more interesting every day...' If he had to decide between catching Osama bin Laden and catching Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he might prefer the latter. 'Bin Laden is unquestionably the leader, the symbol and the recruiting poster. But it's looking more and more like Khalid actually makes things happen.' Their report also quotes a French terrorism expert and U.N. Security Council consultant, Roland Jacquard, as saying, '[Sheikh Mohammed] is probably the only man who knows all the pieces of the puzzle.'"

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Former No. Ireland Secretary, MP, & Blair Cabinet Member: "Iraq is no threat; Bush wants war to keep U.S. control of the region . . . .

. . . The real goal is the seizure of Saudi oil.

Maureen "Mo" Mowlan, former Labour MP, former Northern Ireland Secretary (she oversaw the negotiations which led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement), and 'enforcer' in Tony Blair's cabinet, writes in The Guardian:
I keep listening to the words coming from the Bush administration about Iraq and I become increasingly alarmed. There seems to be such confusion, but through it all a grim determination that they are, at some point, going to launch a military attack. The response of the British government seems equally confused, but I just hope that the determination to ultimately attack Iraq does not form the bedrock of their policy. It is hard now to see how George Bush can withdraw his bellicose words and also save face, but I hope that that is possible. Otherwise I fear greatly for the Middle East, but also for the rest of the world.

What is most chilling is that the hawks in the Bush administration must know the risks involved. They must be aware of the anti-American feeling throughout the Middle East. They must be aware of the fear in Egypt and Saudi Arabia that a war against Iraq could unleash revolutions, disposing of pro-western governments, and replacing them with populist anti-American Islamist fundamentalist regimes. We should all remember the Islamist revolution in Iran. The Shah was backed by the Americans, but he couldn't stand against the will of the people. And it is because I am sure that they fully understand the consequences of their actions, that I am most afraid. I am drawn to the conclusion that they must want to create such mayhem.

The many words that are uttered about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, which are never substantiated with any hard evidence, seem to mean very little. Even if Saddam had such weapons, why would he wish to use them? He knows that if he moves to seize the oilfields in neighbouring countries the full might of the western world will be ranged against him. He knows that if he attacks Israel the same fate awaits him. Comparisons with Hitler are silly - Hitler thought he could win; Saddam knows he cannot. Even if he has nuclear weapons he cannot win a war against America. The United States can easily contain him. They do not need to try and force him to irrationality.

But that is what Bush seems to want to do. Why is he so determined to take the risk? The key country in the Middle East, as far as the Americans are concerned, is Saudi Arabia: the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, the country that has been prepared to calm the oil markets, producing more when prices are too high and less when there is a glut. The Saudi royal family has been rewarded with best friend status by the west for its cooperation. There has been little concern that the government is undemocratic and breaches human rights, nor that it is in the grip of an extreme form of Islam. With American support it has been believed that the regime can be protected and will do what is necessary to secure a supply of oil to the west at reasonably stable prices.

Since September 11, however, it has become increasingly apparent to the US administration that the Saudi regime is vulnerable. Both on the streets and in the leading families, including the royal family, there are increasingly anti-western voices. Osama bin Laden is just one prominent example. The love affair with America is ending. Reports of the removal of billions of dollars of Saudi investment from the United States may be difficult to quantify, but they are true. The possibility of the world's largest oil reserves falling into the hands of an anti-American, militant Islamist government is becoming ever more likely - and this is unacceptable.

The Americans know they cannot stop such a revolution. They must therefore hope that they can control the Saudi oil fields, if not the government. And what better way to do that than to have a large military force in the field at the time of such disruption. In the name of saving the west, these vital assets could be seized and controlled. No longer would the US have to depend on a corrupt and unpopular royal family to keep it supplied with cheap oil. If there is chaos in the region, the US armed forces could be seen as a global saviour. Under cover of the war on terrorism, the war to secure oil supplies could be waged.

This whole affair has nothing to do with a threat from Iraq - there isn't one. It has nothing to do with the war against terrorism or with morality. Saddam Hussein is obviously an evil man, but when we were selling arms to him to keep the Iranians in check he was the same evil man he is today. He was a pawn then and is a pawn now. In the same way he served western interests then, he is now the distraction for the sleight of hand to protect the west's supply of oil. And where does this leave the British government? Are they in on the plan or just part of the smokescreen? The government speaks of morality and the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, but can they really believe it?

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