From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.

 


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Our man in Kabul
Torturing Afghanis with Fox News’ celebrity mercenary


1 AUGUST 2004

On 8 July, three Americans were arrested at a clandestine private prison in Kabul. There, the Afghan police found eight Afghanis in various stages of “interrogation”. Four of them were hanging by their heels from the ceiling.

The leader of the group was former Green Beret sergeant Jonathan Keith “Jack” Idema, a US bounty hunter and mercenary popularised by Fox News and right-wing publisher Random House. The other two turned out to be Edward Caraballo, a TV producer working on a documentary by Idema, about Idema, and Brent Bennett, a former US soldier who was apparently assisting Caraballo.

Of all the misfits, sociopaths and loonies thrown up by the War on Terror, Jack Idema is surely the most flamboyant, but he’s symptomatic of a sprawling network of contract killers, special forces soldiers and zone-of-silence types let loose upon an unsuspecting world by US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Now Jack Idema has form, as we say in the industry. He first came to public notice in 1992 when he was congratulated by the Pentagon for information on weapons-grade nuclear material from old Soviet stocks being shipped to terrorists. He supposedly extracted this information from friendly KGB contacts, but when the CIA and FBI asked him for his contacts, he refused. This may or may not have had something to do with a subsequent six-year spell in prison for fraud. Whatever. In October 2001, Idema moved to Afghanistan as a mercenary “advisor” to the Northern Alliance. He became a media star, appearing frequently on Fox News, where he was fond of asserting that everybody “on the ground” in Afghanistan knew Saddam Hussein was helping al-Qaeda.

It was in this period that Idema supplied what may have been his greatest service to the neo-conservatives’ imperial ambitions with his “discovery” of a lurid “al-Qaeda” video which purported to show terrorists training to take school kids hostage. At the time, the video raised suspicions, but it was eagerly seized by Washington and the pro-war media as a propaganda tool. To their shame, even Australia’s ABC aired it.

It now turns out that Jack Idema owns the Point Blank News Network (PBN) of Fayetteville, North Carolina, the folk you have to pay if you want to screen the al-Qaeda training video. The point here is that Idema had both the knowledge and the crew to fake the al-Qaeda video for Donald Rumsfeld.

These days, not everybody in Washington is happy with Rummy, his odious deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, or their neo-conservative agenda. In fact, within the US bureaucracy, there’s a virtual civil war between the neocons and the others, and the arrest of Idema is certain evidence of that struggle.

Upon news of the arrests, a US spokesman in Kabul denied that Idema, whose men had been swaggering around Kabul for months, was anything to do with the US. His had apparently been a private anti-terrorist campaign fuelled by the US$25m reward for Osama Bin Ladin. The spin-doctor pointed out that a wanted notice for Idema was already in circulation when his private prison was raided. But within days the US military admitted they had previously taken into custody at least one prisoner turned over to them by Idema’s Task Force Sabre 7 group.

The day after Idema’s arrest, a story in the Washington Times, based on leaks from the US State Department -- never close to the neo-cons -- said the department was “restricting the roles of some special operations troops who have been assigned secretly to US embassies to gather intelligence on al Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups”. The report went on to say that the Pentagon had been placing Green Berets and other “special operations forces” in embassies, under diplomatic cover, “to enhance the … ability to locate al-Qaeda cells and prepare to attack them.”

In other words, these people were becoming a diplomatic embarrassment and the department was taking a stand against the crazies Rumsfeld had billeted on them. It isn’t hard to see that in closing down Jack Idema’s contract operation, the State Department was drawing a line in the sand.

When,
on 22 July, Idema and his buddies got their day in the Afghan court, Idema told reporters he was working under direct orders from the Pentagon and he threatened to produce the evidence. He named as his contact Heather Anderson, director of security for Stephen Cambone, who’s Rumsfeld’s Undersecretary of Defence Intelligence.

You can read all this in vivid detail at the very well-informed Flogging the Simian blog (www.weblog.ro/soj), but one small thing caught my attention: according to a message on an obscure chat site for ex-US special forces soldiers, Jack Idema was, in May this year, working as a contract interrogator in Iraq. That’s right, in Iraq. That was during the “missing month” between Nick Berg’s disappearance and the discovery of his decapitated body in Baghdad; the month when the notorious “orange jumpsuit” execution video was filmed.

Finally we have a suspect with all the right credentials.

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POSTSCRIPT, 19 September 04:

Subsequent to the above, I contacted the source of Soj's information that Idema had worked in Iraq. He informed me that this information was mistaken and that he had meant that Idema was doing contract interrogation in Afghanistan. The investigation continues ...

Nick

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Nagging questions about Nicholas Berg's last days:
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Millions want to know the truth about the last days of the young American contractor murdered in Iraq. Was he seized a second time by US forces? The US Consul in Baghdad should tell us all she knows.


Nick Berg: the missing month

1 June 2004
A lot of people would like to know what happened to Nicholas Berg after he walked out of Baghdad’s Fanar Hotel on 10 April. They say the 26 year-old American contractor was looking for a taxi when he walked off down the street and into history.


The Nicholas Berg execution:
A working hypothesis and a resolution for the orange jumpsuit mystery

23 May 2004
Why was Nick Berg wearing a regulation-issue US prison jumpsuit when he was apparently executed on video by what are claimed to be al-Qaeda-linked terrorists? Something fishy there, but there may be a simple explanation.