Seeking any venue possible to push their militarization of the country, the White House's Office of Homeland Security said that the February 3 Super Bowl in New Orleans will be given special security status, complete with fighter jets and military attack helicopters to patrol the skies. SWAT teams and National Guard troops will patrol inside and outside the stadium. Military experts are also considering equipping security forces with portable antiaircraft missile launchers. (No supporters of either team, the Militant has learned, will be given the antiaircraft weapons--a precaution against kickoff returns, long runs, or touchdown passes being blown up by partisan troops.)
Under the guise of fighting a "war on terrorism" the Bush administration is barging ahead with its assault on the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees "due process" and "protection from unreasonable search and seizure." The Fourth Amendment states that the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The Patriot Act allows the police to sneak into someone's home or office and search the premises without telling the owner; gives cops the authority to wiretap phones, personal e-mail, and the Internet, supervised by special courts granting secret authorization; and allows agents to use "roving wiretaps" to monitor phones used by an individual.
On November 30 White House officials announced plans to revise guidelines imposed on the FBI in the 1970s in the aftermath of the Watergate crisis. These would open the door for reviving the FBI's widespread domestic spying operation called Cointelpro, which was used to disrupt the movement against the Vietnam war, the Black Panther Party and other civil rights organizations, the Socialist Workers Party, and other political groups.
Under current guidelines the FBI, an agency under the U.S. Justice Department, cannot send undercover agents to spy on groups that gather at mosques or churches unless they have probable cause or evidence that indicates someone in the group has already committed a crime.
"We are conducting a comprehensive review of all guidelines, policies, and procedures," said Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden.
A revision of FBI policies dovetails with the administration's measures to establish military tribunals to try noncitizens accused of terrorism, the interrogation of 5,000 men of Middle Eastern descent, and the detention of more than 1,200 people, "nearly all of whom are unconnected to the events of September 11," the New York Times reported.
The Times noted that the detentions have provoked debates among some FBI officials who "have been openly skeptical about claims" that some of those held in detention were Al Qaeda members and that the "strategy of making widespread arrests" had prevented attacks.
"It's just not the case," said one unnamed official. "We have 10 or 12 people we think are Al Qaeda people, and that's it. And for some of them, it's based only on conjecture and suspicion."
Immigrants offered bribes for snitching
In line with moves to expand FBI covert operations, Ashcroft dusted off another program to give noncitizens a special visa classification if they finger someone as being involved in terrorist activity. The initiative, dubbed by Ashcroft the "Responsible Cooperators Program," was part of a law put on the books during the Clinton administration. It expired in September, but under the co-sponsorship of liberal Democrat Edward Kennedy was signed into law by Bush on October 1.
In response to Ashcroft's announcement and the sweeping detentions and interrogations of noncitizens, Lebanon's ambassador Farid Abboud remarked, "It seems to us a big dragnet and fishing spree." After all the hoopla, the government quietly announced it would grant the special status to only 50 people a year.
On December 3 Justice Department officials in Michigan announced the extension by one week of the deadline for young Middle Eastern men to respond to letters instructing them to set up appointments for interviews about the September 11 hijacking. Officials explained they had received no response to 365 of the 550 letters they had sent. This was not surprising, after the Detroit Free Press reported an Immigration and Naturalization Service memorandum stating that interviewees could be held without bond if the investigators developed an interest in more questioning.
"There is such a deep mistrust here," said Mohammed Abdrabboh, an attorney who represents Arab immigrants in Michigan. "People thinks it's becoming a dragnet, and this memo just confirms that."
One Arab youth, Osama Awadallah, held in detention at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, has charged prison guards with physical abuse, including kicking his leg and yanking his hair to force him to face a U.S. flag. He was attending college in California when he was arrested as a material witness on September 21.
Prosecutors had probed using sedition laws against Awadallah, supposedly in connection with the government's investigation of the September 11 hijackings. Prosecutors in Manhattan announced in early November that a federal grand jury was investigating whether there was a "seditious conspiracy to levy against the United States" on the part of the student, who allegedly knew one of the suspected hijackers.
Last month Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the youth's testimony "has convinced me that the evidence against Awadallah is not particularly strong," and ordered him released on bond.
Imperialists send more troops into Afghanistan;
support assault on Palestinians
BY PATRICK O'NEILL
Washington and its imperialist allies are expanding their military deployments in Central Asia and Afghanistan, pressing forward their brutal war to establish a protectorate in the country. British, German, and Australian troops have joined a growing U.S. strike force in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, that has begun to engage Taliban forces in the area. More than 1,300 marines, supplied with a rapidly growing store of weapons, vehicles, and attack helicopters, are operating from a desert base there.
At the same time, the White House is giv ing backing to the Israeli government's escalated war on the Palestinian people. "We're not about to tell Mr. Sharon what he should do," said U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell following a visit by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to the White House on December 2.
Near Kandahar, round-the-clock flights by military helicopters are bringing marines and equipment to Forward Operating Base Rhino, the Pentagon's name for the airfield complex they are constructing. The first marines landed at the base, described by Gen. Thomas Franks as a staging base for special operations forces in Afghanistan, on November 25, joined by 160 British special forces and U.S. commandos. By December 5 the number of marines had grown to between 1,300 and 1,400, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Three hundred plus miles away, British and U.S. special forces and more than 100 other U.S. troops have stamped their authority on Bagram air base, 20 miles north of Kabul, the capital city. Constructed by the Soviet government in the 1970s, the base became the country's only functioning airport after Kabul International was rendered unusable by an unexploded U.S. bomb.
U.S. military personnel handle air traffic control at the airport and provide their own security. Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, sent from the unit of 1,000 stationed in Uzbekistan, control a checkpoint 100 yards up the road.
The Pentagon has announced that it is assessing a number of other airfields for use in military operations, to be manned by troops presently based in Pakistan. U.S. commanders are up front about their plans to increase the numbers and striking power of their forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. "It could well be that marines could be positioned in any place inside the country, or Army forces could be positioned at another forward operating base at some point," said Franks on November 28.
Soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division were assigned to Pakistan in the last week of November to provide security at three bases in use by U.S. troops, replacing the marines sent to Kandahar.
Deployments in Central Asia
Increasing numbers of troops, including around 40 each from Italy and France, have been flown into Tajikistan. General Franks told the press that the United States, France, and other imperialist countries plan to send attack planes to Central Asia, including 18 fighter jets, along with six French Mirages to Kyrgyzstan. A Pentagon official added that "the number certainly could grow." U.S. officers say that most planes will be based in Kyrgyzstan because of its superior airfields.
Neighboring Uzbekistan is also being used as a staging post for intervention by U.S. and other forces, including the 40 French marines now in northern Afghanistan at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport.
Like the imperialist powers, the Russian government has increased its military and diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, moving to reestablish its former Kabul embassy and to construct a hospital in the city. Moscow has functioned as a close ally of Washington, providing arms and equipment to the Northern Alliance and intelligence to the Pentagon, and clearing the way for Washington's use of bases in Uzbekistan and other former Soviet Asian republics.
The U.S. rulers hope to gain not just militarily but economically from their deals with the government of the Russian workers state. They are encouraging the Moscow-backed efforts of Russian oil companies to increase their production for the U.S. market. In addition to the rich oil fields in Central Asia, Washington is eyeing Afghanistan as a possible route for oil and gas export pipelines.
U.S. protectorate takes shape
After nine days of negotiations in Bonn, Germany, delegates from four Afghan political factions adopted proposals December 5 for an interim government. In the words of the New York Times, they were "prodded" into accepting an agreement promoted by Washington and other imperialist powers through the United Nations. Representatives from the Northern Alliance and the former king predominated among the Afghans present.
Hamid Karzai, whose troops are cooperating with U.S. forces in the assault on Kandahar, will be the leader of the new government, in which Northern Alliance leaders will have a majority. Karzai is a relative of ex-king Zahir Shah, 87, who has himself been invited to serve as a possible head of state in a transitional government to follow the interim administration. According to the agreement, this transitional-interim period will last up to two and a half years before elections are held.
The agreement reinstates the 1964 constitution of the Afghan monarchy. The New York Times referred to this period of kingly rule as a "lost idyll." In fact, a popular rebellion forced Zahir Shah from his throne in 1973, ushering in a five-year period of revolutionary ferment.
In an annex to the document, delegates ceded, after initial objections, all sovereignty over the country by accepting the intervention of a UN military force. The document demands the Afghan forces "withdraw all armed military units from Kabul and other urban centers or other areas in which [such a] force is deployed." The UN Security Council is scheduled to authorize an "international security" force as early as December 22.
U.S. bombing causes civilian casualties
As U.S. forces establish a military siege of Kandahar, and imperialist aircraft pound the city's defenders, bombing raids on Taliban-controlled areas in the east of the country have left a growing number of civilian dead and wounded.
U.S. planes struck the Afghan villages of Gudara, Akal Khan, and Balut on December 1. Among the many casualties, say witnesses, were at least 50 dead in Gudara, a town of 4,000 people. Residents say the toll was much higher. One person, Muhammad Tahir, told reporters that the bombers had come on three previous occasions, destroying sheltering trees and a waterfall that provides water. "Give my message to the Pentagon," he said. "This is our village. This is our only place for living."
The villages lie within a few miles of Tora Bora, 35 miles southwest of Jalalabad in the White Mountains, which has been targeted by U.S. commanders for heavy bombardment. They claim that Osama bin Laden has taken refuge in its reinforced complex of caves and tunnels.
Pentagon officials have insisted that they have hit only military targets. But their claims were undercut December 5, when three American servicemen were killed and about 20 wounded, along with an uncounted number of Afghan opposition fighters, when a B-52 bomber dropped a "precision-guided 2,000-pound" bomb on them, according to the Times.
Testing new weapons
As in previous wars, Washington is testing new weapons in its assault on Afghanistan. The most recent are several new bombs designed to destroy underground shelters and kill everyone within them. B-52 bombers have already launched several 3,000-pound AGM-142 missiles, designed to penetrate rock and explode upon meeting the hardened structures of man-made tunnels. The weapon is jointly produced with Israel.
Military planners had other targets than Afghanistan in mind when they conceived these cave-busting weapons. "Long before we learned about bin Laden's caves, there were north Korea's caves," said Clark Murdock, the former deputy director of long-range planning for the Air Force. The Pentagon alleges that both north Korea and Iraq have stored "weapons of mass destruction" underground.
Discussion and debate about whether to target Iraq or some other nation for military action are continuing to heat up among politicians and media commentators in the United States. "There may be a need to use military troops elsewhere.... We are keeping our options on the table," said President George Bush December 4. The issue has become a focal point of discontent with Washington among the rulers of the major European powers.
The Financial Times reported "growing doubts over a possible second phase of the military campaign as well as disappointment over the lack of consultation beyond military issues.... Berlin, Paris, and London have warned the U.S. administration that the international coalition could crumble if the Pentagon started focusing on Iraq." European Union officials complain of a "one-way flow of intelligence information," noted the paper.
These disputes started to surface after the U.S. Central Command put on hold any sizable Afghan deployments of the troops of other imperialist powers following the November 14 seizure of Kabul by the Northern Alliance.
Washington has made it clear that the UN occupation force prescribed by the December 5 Bonn agreement will be subordinate to the U.S.-led war. "The Pentagon remains concerned that a second, independent military command in Afghanistan will create complications and competition over the use of facilities like the Bagram air base [near Kabul] and may even get in the way of the war," reported the New York Times, citing unnamed UN officials. The U.S. commanders would "feel much more at ease if the British were running the show," said a senior official. London's troops, who have played an active part in the war on the ground and in the air, will head up the UN force.
New facts about massacre of POWs
by U.S. and British forces
Last week the Militant reported on the massacre by U.S. and British forces, along with their Northern Alliance cohorts, of 600 prisoners of war who had rebelled at the Qala Jangi fortress near Mazar-i-Sharif.
Since then, two new facts have come to light: the rebellion was sparked by CIA officers shooting a number of Taliban prisoners. And somehow 86 of the prisoners were able to survive three days of bombardment, giving up only when they had run out of bullets and the basement where they were was flooded with water.
One of the survivors said the prisoners were angered by the fact that they were transported to the fort. He said they had surrendered at Kunduz because the Northern Alliance said that if they gave up their weapons they would be allowed to go free and go to Kandahar.
Writing in the December 10 issue of Time magazine, Alex Perry stated that the prisoners--many with their arms tied behind their backs--were interrogated by CIA operative Michael Spann and another agent identified only as "Dave." "Why are you here?" asked Spann of one. "To kill you," said the prisoner, and rushed the CIA man. The agents then opened fire, starting the rebellion. The U.S. agents shot with their pistols and then with an AK-47 assault rifle, killing a number of prisoners before Spann was killed. In their majority still unarmed, the Taliban fighters overcame their Northern Alliance guards, freed their comrades, and took rifles and other weapons from an armory.
The prisoners were able to occupy much of the large fort. U.S. special operations forces and British SAS soldiers soon arrived and began calling in U.S. air strikes and giving instructions to Northern Alliance commanders. Tank rounds, mortar shells, and missiles were fired at the prisoners. An AC-130 gunship, arriving at midnight on the second day, sprayed the Taliban-held southern end of the fort with "a golden stream" of bullets, wrote Perry.
By the afternoon of November 27 surviving prisoners had been forced to take refuge in basements. The U.S. troops ordered Northern Alliance forces to pour oil into the basement of the building and set fire to it. The prisoners held out for another four days, firing at Northern Alliance soldiers who were dragging away, and looting, the many bodies. --P.O.