Many of the 93 people detained, whose names were published in the New York Times, are charged with minor offenses such as allegedly making "fraudulent statements." Three men indicted in New Jersey were charged with "conspiring to buy, receive and possess $43,270 worth of stolen corn flakes." One serious-looking indictment for "carrying a dangerous weapon onto an aircraft," involves Salam Ibrahim el Zaatari (21), an artist of Lebanese birth who carries a utility knife for use in his work. El Zaatari has been in jail since October 28.
Ashcroft said the names of 11 people were sealed under court order and claimed that some are members of Al Qaeda, a designation that would allow Bush to put them before military tribunals. Ashcroft did not produce one shred of evidence to back up this assertion.
The Attorney General also provided an accounting of the 548 people who remain in custody across the United States on immigration charges. Government officials say not one person has yet been charged with any crime in connection with the September 11 attacks or any other act defined as terrorism by the federal authorities.
This was an "abrupt--if partial--about-face from his position" the day before when "he defended his refusal to release the names of hundreds of people detained...on the grounds that doing so would violate their privacy," the November 27 New York Times reported. Ashcroft's assertion that he didn't want to disclose the names to protect people who have been rounded up from being blacklisted went down like a lead balloon.
Ashcroft's eventual release of the names failed to appease some of his critics, including Sen. Russell Feingold, another member of the Judiciary Committee, who remarked, "I continue to be deeply troubled by [the Justice Department's] refusal to provide a full accounting of everyone who has been detained and why."
"It is ironic that the government is now concerned about rights when it has arrested and jailed hundreds of people without giving the American public any proof that the detainees are being treated fairly and consistent with the protections of the Constitution and Bill of Rights," said Lucas Guttentag, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immigration rights project. "We have a large group of people who have been kept so anonymous that their own families and lawyers can't find them or learn if they've been charged with a crime."
It has also come to light that the Justice Department has rewritten federal regulations to broaden government powers to detain noncitizens even when an immigration judge has ordered them to be released. According to an October 26 regulation issued by Ashcroft for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), new laws authorize the attorney general to detain any noncitizen who he "has reasonable grounds to believe" is "engaged in any activity that endangers the national security of the United States." The new rule was published without public notice in the Federal Register on October 31.
The ACLU has announced that it plans to challenge the rule in court as an unconstitutional violation of the right of due process for noncitizens. "With this rule change, the government can lock someone up on very little or even no evidence and throw away the key until they decide to let them go," said David Leopold, an immigration lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio.
Washington's assault on civil liberties is bumping into other unexpected hurdles at home. Police departments in several U.S. cities are balking at the Justice Department's request that they help interrogate the 5,000 men from the Middle East, reflecting concern over potential lawsuits citing racial profiling and discrimination. In Portland, Oregon, acting police chief Andrew Kirkland said the local cops could not assist federal authorities with the interrogations because they violated a 1987 Oregon statute that prohibits the cops from questioning immigrants when there is no evidence that they are linked to any crime.
First trial by military tribunal
On November 13 Bush signed a military order establishing military tribunals by "the authority vested in me as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States." He defended the move after a November 18 cabinet meeting, saying, "I would remind those who don't understand the decision I made that Franklin Roosevelt made the same decision in World War II." During the Second World War Roosevelt ordered eight Germans who had entered the country to be tried by a military court inside the FBI headquarters. Six of them were executed.
Senior Bush administration official are floating a proposal to make Zacarias Moussaoui the first person to be tried before a military tribunal, the New York Times reported on November 28. Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, was arrested in Minnesota last August. He is among the 10 people currently held in U.S. prisons as "material witnesses" to the attacks who are considered likely to be among the first to face prosecution before a military tribunal.
As ordered by Bush, the tribunals could be held on U.S. warships at sea or on military installations like the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The trial proceedings "promise to be swift and largely secret," reported the New York Times, with one military officer saying that the release of information could be limited to just the "defendant's name and sentence." Transcripts of the trial could be hidden from the public for decades.
Not allowed access to evidence
Those who are charged with being terrorists would not be tried before a jury but instead by a commission composed primarily of military officers. The accused and their lawyers, who could be military officers appointed as legal counsel, would not have the access to evidence used against them that defendants in civilian trials have.
The military tribunal "will be separate and distinct from a civilian criminal trial. It will be separate and distinct from a court-martial," said an unnamed military official involved in the discussions to set up the bodies.
Some media pundits like syndicated columnist George Will, seeking to justify this assault on the U.S. Bill of Rights, claim the tribunals are "implemented under provisions of the Uniform Military Code of Justice."
"Military attorneys are silently seething," declared conservative columnist William Safire, "because they know that...not one of the fundamental rights [of the Uniform Military Code of Justice] can be found in Bush's military order setting up kangaroo courts for people he designates...to be terrorists." Speaking of Bush's advisors, Safire says they "failed to warn him, however, that his denial of traditional human rights to citizens would backfire and in practice actually weaken the war on terror."
The Bush administration's plan to set up military tribunals is also facing obstacles from abroad. "The State Department for years has blasted the use of military tribunals and secret courts in countries such as Russia, China, Egypt, Peru and Colombia," stated an article in the November 27 Wall Street Journal. The big-business daily noted that the State Department's human rights report for 2000 criticized at least 10 countries that routinely use secret courts or special military tribunal. "It is hard to see how the State Department will be able to preserve this language without opening itself to a charge of hypocrisy," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
The government of Spain announced on November 23 that eight men it has charged with complicity in the September 11 attacks would not be extradited to the United States unless it received guarantees that the men would be tried in a civilian court.
"Extradition would be impossible," said a spokesman for Spain's Foreign Ministry. "If we're talking about a tribunal in the United States with summary procedures and military judges," he added, "these are not the same conditions that would characterize a trial in Spain or France or England or anywhere else in Europe."
Judge Baltasar Garzón, who brought the charges against the eight men, criticized the use of secret evidence in an opinion column published in the October issue of El Pais. "It is not sufficient to say 'I have evidence but I cannot make it public for fear of endangering my sources,' " he wrote. "That is not a serious approach--it is illegal."
As the White House spearheads the assault on the U.S. Constitution, it is becoming clear, as in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, that the kangaroo courts will be used against those whom the government does not have enough evidence to bring up on charges for trials in civilian or military courts. The New York Times noted that in a military tribunal "the evidence of their guilt does not have to meet the familiar 'beyond reasonable doubt' but must simply 'have probative value to a reasonable person.'" Without the right to appeal the verdict, wrote columnist Frank Rich, "those currently in captivity [could] move from internment to execution without anyone ever learning why or how they disappeared."
Washington directs massacre of POWs;
deploys thousands of combat troops
BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
The latest casualties in the imperialist war against Afghanistan are hundreds of prisoners of war massacred by U.S. forces and their Northern Alliance allies in a prison near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif November 25-28.
Some 800 prisoners, many of them from Pakistan and countries in the Middle East who had joined up with the Taliban to resist Washington's assault on Afghanistan, were being held in at the Qala Jangi fortress after surrendering to Northern Alliance forces in the nearby city of Kunduz.
According to the numerous press reports and interviews with Northern Alliance troops, the incident began when Taliban prisoners believed they were to be executed after seeing CIA operatives interrogating their comrades. Outraged at the American intervention, they rapidly overpowered their Northern Alliance guards. They took over sections of the prison, arming themselves with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. U.S. Special Forces troops and British soldiers in the area then took control of directing what turned out to be a brutal three-day massacre.
Without seeking the surrender of the prisoners, U.S. commanders on the scene called in U.S. air strikes as well as an AC-130 gunship and a Blackhawk helicopter, killing hundreds. Alex Perry of Time magazine, who was at the prison at the time of the attack, reported, "The Americans and the British are coordinating air strikes from their positions inside the fort on another part of the fort. And they're also directing the commanders inside when to tell their men to attack."
"The mission," continued Perry, "has now become to kill every single one of them." A detachment from the 10th Mountain Division stationed in Uzbekistan arrived as reinforcements, and as of midday on November 26, 750 of the captives had been killed by ground fire and U.S. air strikes, with the remaining 50 continuing to put up resistance. Reports two days later said that among those killed were 50 with their hands tied behind their backs with black scarves. Northern Alliance commander Gen. Rashid Dostum warned journalists to stay away from the scene.
As many as 150 Northern Alliance soldiers were killed and uncounted others wounded in the battle, reported Perry. A massive bomb dropped by U.S. jets missed the Taliban position by more than 300 yards, striking close to a Northern Alliance post on the outskirts of the prison. The bomb blasted a large hole in the fortress's wall, killing at least six alliance fighters and wounding five U.S. personnel. One CIA agent was killed in the battle, the first U.S. citizen acknowledged to have died in combat since U.S. bombing began on October 7.
Hundreds of U.S. special forces continue to work with and to direct the military operations of the Northern Alliance, Washington's proxy force in control of the northern part of Afghanistan. With support from Washington, Alliance troops have occupied cities, set up local rulers, and carried out summary executions and massacres. These have included some 600 put to death in Mazar-i-Sharif, for example. In Kunduz, Alliance troops were conducting house-to-house searches looking for Taliban supporters, executing captured fighters, and looting the area.
U.S. Marines enter south Afghanistan
Much of southeastern Afghanistan, including the city of Kandahar, remains under Taliban control despite nearly two months of bombardment by Washington. The U.S. imperialists have been unsuccessful in pulling together opposition groups in the area to serve as a proxy military force like the Northern Alliance in the north. On November 26 the Pentagon sent in 500 of a planned force of 1,000 Marines. They immediately seized control of an airstrip 80 miles southwest of Kandahar for use as a staging ground for combat operations in the area.
"The Marines have landed and we now own a piece of Afghanistan," proclaimed Brig. Gen. James Mattis, commander of the attack task force. The marines are a significant addition to the hundreds of special forces troops on the ground along with a 150-member CIA paramilitary unit.
The U.S. troops began sealing roads leading to and from Kandahar. CNN Online reported that the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan stated that U.S. troops have moved into the town of Takhtapul by helicopter, cutting off a main road between Kandahar and the Pakistan border, and bringing in tanks to block the road.
U.S. forces are continuing daily bombing of Kandahar and surrounding areas.
U.S. halts use of British, French troops
With the fall of Kabul in mid-October, the French and British governments rapidly set in motion plans to place sizable forces of their own in northern Afghanistan. But Washington has put on hold any such moves by its imperialist allies, making it clear that the Pentagon is in charge of military operations inside Afghanistan.
In mid-November London ordered some 6,000 troops on standby for deployment to Afghanistan on 48 hours' notice. But Washington has given no indication that such a deployment will happen anytime soon, leading Britain's defense secretary to finally take them off high alert on November 26. These forces, notes an article in the Financial Times, are separate from the 4,200 UK armed services personnel that have already been assigned to military operations in Afghanistan, who include 200 marines at sea with a battle group.
"For a week, a hundred-strong advance unit of British commandos have been stuck at Bagram airport near Kabul, surrounded by several thousand Northern Alliance fighters whose leaders resent the presence of Western troops so close to the capital," noted an article in the November 26 International Herald Tribune. Washington, according to the paper, has "ignored appeals from London" for "U.S. intervention to help the British troops" secure the roads by the airport.
Similarly, the French government, which unilaterally moved to station up to 2,000 troops in the region, has been unsuccessful in getting the green light from Washington to allow them to mobilize an advance guard of 58 marines to take up posts in northern Afghanistan by the Mazar-i-Sharif airport, which they're hoping to occupy.
These troops "have been stranded in a military base near Karshi in southern Uzbekistan," notes the Financial Times, and "there is little indication" of when an additional 200-odd troops will be able to make their way to Uzbekistan and then on to Afghanistan.
The Mazar-i-Sharif base that the French rulers have their eyes on is in use by U.S. forces for their military operations in northern Afghanistan. Paris says they want to secure the airport for humanitarian aid, but that claim has been undercut by the government's intentions to send six Mirage 2000D ground attack fighters plus two refueling aircraft to enhance their military presence.
The Tribune quotes an unidentified White House aide as saying that while the Pentagon is conducting its military operations, the Bush administration is "discouraging any peacekeeping or other moves that might dangerously interfere with our freedom of action" on the battlefield. "Nobody wants to see the war effort sidetracked because a bunch of European peacekeepers get taken hostage or caught in a firefight and have to be rescued by us," stated a government official.
Commenting on this relationship of forces, François Bayrou, a leading conservative French politician, told the Le Parisien newspaper that the European powers have no prospect of playing a significant role alongside the United States in future military actions unless European Union members move to develop an effective European rapid reaction force. Yet the timetable for getting such a force into fighting shape is still far from complete.
Berlin has announced that 3,900 German troops are ready to be dispatched to join Washington in military operations in Afghanistan. "German special forces contingents now are at the ready in Oman and await orders to decamp to Afghanistan," the Agence France Press news service reported November 26.
The imperialist rulers in Japan, though still banned by their post-World War II constitution from undertaking combat action abroad, are nonetheless making deep inroads around the war in Afghanistan in deploying their military forces. Tokyo has announced that 1,500 troops are being sent for Afghan "relief operations." The Japanese forces will include two transport ships, escorted by three destroyers, to provide logistical support, conduct rescue operations, and bring relief supplies into Afghanistan. Because of disputes within parliament, none of Japan's four destroyers equipped with advanced Aegis radar systems are scheduled to be part of this operation.
Moscow sets up shop
In contrast to the problems facing the French imperialists, Moscow has moved rapidly to enhance its presence in Kabul. The Russian government has provided the Northern Alliance with large amounts of weapons, ammunition, and heavy armor, and has furnished Washington with intelligence information. Moscow also gave the green light for U.S. forces to use airbases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, facilitating an important expansion of the U.S. military's long-term presence and capabilities in Central Asia.
Twelve Russian military and cargo planes carrying equipment and troops to Afghanistan landed at the Bagram air base near Kabul in what Russian president Valdimir Putin described as a new stage of their "cooperation" with Northern Alliance forces running the government in the city. News reports indicate that many Afghans were astonished and angered to see Russian troops occupying the former Bulgarian embassy, where they are setting up a field hospital and diplomatic offices.
Referring to the brutal occupation by the Stalinist regime in Moscow in the 1980s, Dr. Farouk, a physician, said, "Two million people were killed in our country. I think they don't remember our previous jihad."
The Russian government's stand in support of Washington's military action in Afghanistan has also led to strengthening ties between Moscow and the U.S.-dominated NATO military alliance. According to the Financial Times, NATO secretary general Lord Robertson and Putin have discussed "a British proposal for extending the scope of the North Atlantic Council--NATO's decision-making body of 19 member-country ambassadors--to include Russia on issues such as fighting terrorism, arms control, and nuclear proliferation." While the proposal does not make Russia a NATO member, UK prime minister Anthony Blair described the proposed body as a "Russia-North Atlantic Council."
On November 27 a conference orchestrated by Washington under UN cover began in Bonn, Germany, with the aim of legitimizing a de facto U.S. protectorate in Afghanistan. Factions in the Northern Alliance and the exiled former king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, apparently predominate among the hand-picked delegates.
Among those present is Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of the Northern Alliance who was president of the country until being swept out of power by the Taliban in 1996. The Tajik leader has remained the United Nations–recognized president of Afghanistan ever since. Among the Pashtuns, who make up nearly 40 percent of Afghanistan's population and are its largest ethnic group, Rabbani became a hated figure after troops under his command massacred up to 50,000 civilians in an orgy of looting and rape that destroyed Kabul in 1992.
"One of the reasons for the original popularity of the Taliban is that they brought peace and order to Afghanistan by driving Mr. Rabbani out of Kabul," noted one Pashtun tribal elder.
Meanwhile, tensions are also heating up in Kashmir, a province fought over by the governments of India and Pakistan ever since British imperialism carved up India in 1947 as part of its divide-and-rule strategy.
Islamabad has provided military bases for Washington's assault on Afghanistan, while New Delhi has offered full support for the U.S.-organized assault.
However, as Washington seeks closer ties with India, the U.S. ambassador to the country has made it clear that the White House backs New Delhi's drive to destroy groups in Kashmir that are fighting for independence against Indian forces.
"A terrorist is a terrorist," stated Ambassador Robert Blackwill. "They are not freedom fighters." Referring to Pakistan's support for fighters in Kashmir, Blackwill said, "No country will be permitted to provide sanctuaries to terrorists." The remarks come after Indian troops succeeded in killing six top leaders of one of these Pakistani-supported groups--Al-Badr--and arresting 13 others.
Bush threatens Iraq
Buoyed by the success of their war against Afghanistan and seeking to capitalize on their present momentum, the U.S. rulers are discussing what new countries to assault next.
U.S. president Bush has stepped up his war talk with more pointed threats directed at Iraq. Calling the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan "just a beginning," Bush threatened Iraqi sovereignty by demanding that president Saddam Hussein once again allow "weapons inspectors" operating under UN cover inside Iraq "in order to prove to the world he's not developing weapons of mass destruction."
Reiterating his warning that other nations could expect military attacks from Washington, Bush arrogantly stated, "If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they're terrorists. I mean, I can't make it any more clear...to other nations around the world. If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable."
CIA steps up Afghan military role
BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
The CIA has been taking on an increasing military role in Washington's war against Afghanistan. Since September a 150-member secret CIA paramilitary outfit, known as the Special Activities Division, has been operating inside the country in cooperation with U.S. special forces units.
The CIA has long deployed the Predator, an unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance plane, to spy on Afghanistan. However, after September 11, a memorandum of understanding was reached with the Pentagon to authorize the agency to equip the aircraft with Hellfire missiles--an air-to-ground laser-guided weapon--for use against selected targets. Once Washington's bombing campaign against Afghanistan began October 7, the CIA was given broader authority by the military to fire their missiles as part of combat operations when they deemed it appropriate. "Intelligence officials have said they had fired well over 40 missiles since the war in Afghanistan began" reported the New York Times on November 23.
The CIA has also worked with police agencies in 50 countries to arrest and detain 360 individuals on suspicion of being associated with terrorism. According to a report in the November 23 Washington Post, more than 100 have been detained in Europe, more than 100 in the Near East, 30 in Latin America, and 20 in Africa.
In one instance, authorities in one of these countries refused to provide the CIA with information on where the suspected individual was located. So a covert CIA team broke into a facility overseas and stole the information.
The 360 being held abroad as a result of this CIA sweep are in addition to the more than 1,200 taken into custody by the FBI and local police authorities in the United States. In addition, the FBI "through its own contacts and legal attachés overseas, has helped produce a separate, unknown number of arrests," notes the Post.