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Archive for December 26th, 2010

Indian satellite rocket explodes after lift-off: TV

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

BANGALORE, India (AFP) – An Indian space rocket carrying a communications satellite exploded Saturday after lifting off from southern India, live TV footage showed.

The rocket exploded in a plume of smoke and fire moments after taking off from the Sriharikota launch site, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the city of Chennai, state-owned Doordarshan TV showed.

The United News of India (UNI) said the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) veered from its intended flight-path and disintegrated seconds after lift-off.

The Christmas Day launch had originally been scheduled for December 20 but was postponed after engineers discovered a leak in one of the Russian-designed engines of the GSLV, the news agency added.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials who conducted the unsuccessful launch were not immediately available for comment.

UNI, quoting unnamed ISRO officials, said a technical snag caused the rocket to malfunction.

In July, an Indian rocket successfully put five satellites into orbit, three months after the country’s space ambitions suffered a setback when a rocket crashed on lift-off.

India aims to launch its first manned space mission in 2016 and wants to grab a larger share of the multi-billion-dollar market for launching commercial satellites.

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Burqa-clad suicide bomber kills 40 in Pakistan

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – A burqa-clad suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing militants’ ability to strike despite army offensives.

The attack in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border came a day after fierce clashes between Pakistani Taliban insurgents and security forces in the neighboring Mohmand region that left 11 soldiers and 24 militants dead.

“I myself have counted 40 bodies but the death toll could rise as several wounded people are in critical condition,” Dosti Rehman, an official at the main government hospital in Bajaur, told Reuters.

Zakir Hussain, the top government official in Bajaur, confirmed the death toll and said 60 tribesmen were wounded. He said the death toll could rise as some of the wounded were in critical condition. Several women and children were among casualties, officials said.

The suicide bomber, who was wearing a head-to-toe burqa but whose gender has not been ascertained, detonated explosives as hundreds of people from the Salarzai tribe were heading toward a food distribution center. The World Food Programme (WFP) set up the center for people forced from their homes by earlier fighting between security forces and al Qaeda-linked militants.

A WFP spokesman said the attack took place where people were being screened at a security checkpoint near their center.

Witnesses said the attacker first threw hand grenades at tribesmen before detonating the bomb.

“First there were two small explosions and people started running for cover. But within seconds there was a major blast and there were dead bodies scattered everywhere,” witness Hussain Ahmed said. “It was very terrifying.”

ANTI-TALIBAN TRIBE

The Salarzais are a major regional anti-Taliban tribe, which has been backing army operations against the militants.

Militants have infested Pakistan’s volatile ethnic Pashtun tribal lands on the Afghan border, and the army has mounted a series of operations to dislodge them.

Salarzai tribesmen have been instrumental in raising lashkars, or tribal militia, to back the government’s operations against the militants.

A Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was retaliation for “Salarazais activities against the Taliban.”

Militants have attacked pro-government tribes in the past to punish them for supporting the government.

Hundreds of militants have been killed and many of their strongholds captured but the insurgents have shown they are able to strike back and have killed hundreds of people in a campaign of bomb attacks across the country.

On Friday, about 150 Taliban militants staged simultaneous attacks on five paramilitary checkpoints in the Baizai area of the Mohmand tribal agency, killing 11 soldiers and wounding a dozen, officials said.

At least 24 militants were killed by defending paramilitary forces but government officials said the militant death toll rose to 40 as 16 more insurgents were killed in air raids by the security forces.

A Taliban spokesman on Friday confirmed clashes but disputed the official death toll, saying only two of their fighters were killed.

Officials have claimed several times that militants have been driven out of Bajaur. A senior military official in October said it would take at least six months to clear militants from Bajaur and Mohmand.

(Additional reporting by Izaz Mohmand and Sahibzada Saeed-ur-Rehman; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Daniel Magnowski)

(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: http://www.reuters.com/places/pakistan.

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World economy can withstand $100 oil price: Kuwait

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

CAIRO (Reuters) – The global economy can withstand an oil price of $100 a barrel, Kuwait’s oil minister said on Saturday, as other exporters indicated OPEC may decide against increasing output through 2011 as the market was well supplied.

Analysts have said oil producing countries are likely to raise output after crude rallied more than 30 percent from a low in May because they fear prices could damage economic growth in fuel importing countries.

European benchmark ICE Brent crude for February closed at $93.46 on Friday after hitting $94.74 a barrel, its highest level since October 2008.

Arab oil exporters meeting in Cairo this weekend said they saw no need to supply more crude as stocks were high and prices had been inflated temporarily by cold weather in Europe.

Asked by Reuters if the world economy could stand a $100 oil price, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah said: “Yes it can.”

Iraq’s new oil minister and the head of Libya’s National Oil Corporation both told Reuters that $100 was a fair price, while Qatar’s Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah said he did not expect OPEC to increase production in 2011.

“I do not expect an OPEC meeting before June because oil prices are stable,” he said.

Some delegates even called for exporters to comply better with agreed production limits. OPEC members’ compliance with promised cutbacks reached 56 percent in November, according to Reuters estimates.

When asked if output could be raised, Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad said: “No. More compliance, more compliance.”

MARKET “WELL SUPPLIED”

The Cairo meeting of the Organization of Arab Exporting Countries (OAPEC) brought together Arab members of OPEC including top exporter Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally been viewed as a price moderate, as well as non-OPEC countries Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain.

OPEC cut output drastically after the global financial crisis struck in 2008 to prop up collapsing oil prices.

As demand has risen steeply in 2010 and is expected to rise further in 2011, the market is watching closely whether OPEC can release at least some of its spare capacity to prevent prices from soaring to around $150 per barrel as they did before the crisis struck in summer 2008.

OPEC’s most influential oil minister, Saudi Arabia’s Ali al-Naimi, said on Friday he was still happy with an oil price of $70-80 a barrel and there was no need for an extra OPEC meeting before the next scheduled one in June.

Others in the group have been pressing for a higher price, arguing that quantitative easing and a weakened U.S. dollar that spurred gains across financial markets mean the oil price strength is partly nominal.

Egyptian Oil Minister Sameh Fahmy said the current increase in oil prices was the result of higher demand on heating fuel because of the cold weather in Europe.

United Arab Emirates Oil Minister Mohammed al-Hamli said crude oil inventories are “quite high. It’s the highest over the five years average… The market is well supplied.”

(Reporting by Sherine El Madany, Shaimaa Fayed, Amena Bakr, Ashraf Fahim and Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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6.5-magnitude quake hits Iranian villages

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 12:10 PM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/21/AR2010122101184.html

TEHRAN – At least 11 people died during a 6.5-magnitude earthquake Monday night in southeasternIran, state radio reported Tuesday.

The total number of casualties was unclear at midday Tuesday, but the semiofficial Fars news agency reported that in one area in the province of Kerman, at least 1,800 houses were damaged. There were several reports of people trapped under rubble.

The tremor’s epicenter was 60 miles from the ancient city of Bam, where a 2003 quake killed at least 26,000 people.

State radio reported that the worst-hit area appeared to be a stretch of impoverished villages in which a total of about 4,000 people live in mud-brick houses. Even moderate quakes in this part of Iran have killed thousands in the past, mainly because of shoddy construction techniques and poor infrastructure.

Medical teams from the Red Crescent, the Islamic Red Cross, were dispatched to the area. But roads are reportedly blocked, and phone lines have been cut off.

“We are distributing heating appliances and water among survivors,” said Mohammad Barzang, the governor of the Rigan province, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

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Beyond WikiLeaks: The Privatization of War

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

Sunday 26 December 2010

by: Jose L. Gomez del Prado, UN Working Group on Mercenaries, t r u t h o u t | Report

Beyond WikiLeaks: The Privatization of War


(Photo: FRVMED)

The United Nation Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, started in Geneva on November 5, 2010 to review the human rights record of the United States. The following is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on November 3, 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.

Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the 19th and 20th centuries, reappeared in the 1960s during the decolonization period, operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations, a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additionally, Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.

These non-state entities of the 21st century operate in extremely blurred situations, where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations, recruiting former military as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.

However, these individuals cannot be considered civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive-defensive to an active-offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law, either, since they are not part of the army or in the armed forces chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.

PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries, for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs, which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.

Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Council has entrusted the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, principally via the following mandate:

To monitor and study the effects of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market on the enjoyment of human Rights … and to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities.

During the past five years, the Working Group has been studying emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding private military and security companies. In our reports, we have informed the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly about these issues. Of particular importance are the reports of the Working Group to the last session of the Human Rights Council, held in September 2010, on the Mission to the United States of America, on the Mission to Afghanistan and the general report of the Working Group containing the draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies for consideration and action by the Human Rights Council.

In the course of our research, since 2006, we have collected ample information which indicates the negative impact of the activities of “private contractors,” “private soldiers” or “guns for hire,” whatever denomination we may choose to name the individuals who are employed by private military and security companies as civilians but are also generally heavily armed. In the cluster of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by employees of the companies the Working Group has examined, one can find: summary executions, acts of torture, cases of arbitrary detention, trafficking of persons and serious health damages caused by PMSC employee activities, as well as attempts against the right of self-determination. It also appears that PMSCs, in their search for profit, neglect security and do not provide their employees with their own basic rights and often put their staff in situations of danger and vulnerability.

Summary executions

On September 16, 2007 in Baghdad, employees of the US-based firm Blackwater [1] were involved in a shooting incident in Nisoor Square in which 17 civilians were killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded, including women and children. Local eyewitness accounts substantiate that the attack included the use of firearms from vehicles and rocket fire from a helicopter belonging to Blackwater.

There are also concerns about the activities and approach of PMSC personnel, their convoys of armored vehicles and their conduct in traffic – in particular, their use of lethal force. The Nisoor Square incident was neither the first of its kind, nor the first involving Blackwater.

According to a Congressional report on the behavior of Xe/Blackwater in Iraq, Xe/Blackwater guards were found to have been involved in nearly 200 escalation-of-force incidents that involved the firing of shots since 2005. Despite the terms of the contracts, which provided that the company could engage in defensive use of force only, the company reported that in over 80 percent of the shooting incidents, its forces fired the first shots.

In Najaf in April 2004 and on several other occasions, employees of this company took part in direct hostilities. In May 2007, another incident reportedly occurred in which guards belonging to the company and forces belonging to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior allegedly exchanged gunfire in a sector of Baghdad.

On October 9, 2007 in central Baghdad, the shooting of employees of the PMSC Unity Resources Group (URG)[2] , who were protecting a convoy, killed two Armenian women, Genevia Antranick and Mary Awanis, when their car came too close to a protected convoy. Antranick’s family was offered no compensation and has begun court proceedings against URG in the United States.

URG was also involved in the shooting of 72-year-old Australian Kays Juma. Professor Juma was shot in March 2006 as he approached an intersection that was being blockaded for a convoy URG was protecting. Juma, a 25-year resident of Baghdad who drove through the city every day, allegedly sped up his vehicle as he approached the guards and did not heed warnings to stop, including hand signals, flares, warning shots into the body of his car and floodlights. The incident occurred at 10 AM.[3]

Torture

Two US-based corporations, CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. CACI and L-3 Services were contracted by the US government and were responsible for interrogation and translation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq.

Seventy-two Iraqi citizens who were formerly detained at military prisons in Iraq have sued L-3 and Adel Nakhla, a former L-3 employee who served as one of its translators there under the Alien Tort Statute. The plaintiffs allege having been tortured and physically and mentally abused during their detention and maintain that the defendants should be held liable in damages for their actions. They assert 20 causes of action, including: torture; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; assault and battery; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[4]

Arbitrary detention

A number of reports indicate that private security guards have played central roles in some of the most sensitive activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), such as the arbitrary detention of and clandestine raids against alleged insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan [5] , CIA rendition flights [6] , and joint covert operations.[7] Employees of PMSCs would have been involved in transporting detainees in rendition flights from “pick-up points” (such as Tuzla, Islamabad or Skopje) to drop-off points (such as Cairo, Rabat, Bucharest, Amman or Guantanamo) as well as in the construction, equipping and staffing of CIA “black sites.”

Within this context, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in May 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., a subsidiary company of Boeing, on behalf of five persons who were kidnapped by the CIA and disappeared into US secret services prisons overseas. Jeppesen would have participated in the rendition by providing flight planning and logistical support. The five persons were tortured during their arbitrary detention.[8]

Health

DynCorp International’s 2009 annual report refers to four lawsuits on behalf of three Ecuadorian provinces and 3,266 plaintiffs concerning the spraying of narcotic plant crops along the Colombian border adjacent to Ecuador.[9]

From 1991, the US Department of State contracted DynCorp to supply services for this air-spraying program against narcotics in the Andean region. In accordance with the subscribed contract of January 30, 1998, DynCorp provides the essential logistics to the anti-drug Office of Activities of Colombia in conformity with three main objectives: eradication of cultivations of illicit drugs, training of the army and of personnel of the country and dismantling of illicit drug laboratories and illicit drug-trafficking networks.

A nongovernmental organization (NGO) report documented the consequences the spraying, which was carried out within the Plan Colombia framework, had on persons living in the frontier region.[10] One-third of the 47 women in the study exposed to the spraying showed cells with some genetic damage. The study established the relationship between Plan Colombia air fumigations and damage to genetic material. The study demonstrates that when the population is subjected to fumigations, “the risk of cellular damage can increase and that, once permanent, the cases of cancerous mutations and important embryonic alterations are increased, that prompt among other possibilities the rise in abortions in the area.”

This example is particularly important given that Plan Colombia has served as the model for the arrangements that the US would apply later to Iraq and Afghanistan. Plan Colombia provides immunity to the employees of the contracted PMSC (DynCorp), just as Order 14 of the Coalition Provisional Authority did in Iraq.

Self-determination

The 2004 attempted coup d’etat perpetrated in Equatorial Guinea is a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs as a means of violating the sovereignty of states. In this case, the mercenaries involved were mostly former directors and personnel of Executive Outcomes, a PMSC that became famous for its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone. The team of mercenaries also included security guards who were still employed by PMSCs, as was the case with two employees of the company Meteoric Tactical Systems – which provided security to diplomats of western embassies in Baghdad, including the ambassador of Switzerland – and a security guard who had previously worked for the PMSC Steele Foundation and had given protection to Haiti’s President Aristide and escorted him to the plane that took him to exile.[11]

Trafficking in persons

In 2005, 105 Chileans were providing or undergoing military training in the former army base of Lepaterique in Honduras, where they were instructed in anti-guerrilla tactics, such as anticipating possible ambushes and deactivation and avoidance of explosives and mortars. The Chileans had entered Honduras as tourists and their presence in the country was illegal. They used high-caliber weapons, such as M-16 rifles and light machine guns. They had been contracted by a subsidiary of a company called Triple Canopy.

The Chileans were part of a group that also included 189 Hondurans recruited and trained in Honduras. Triple Canopy had been awarded a contract by the US Department of State. The contingent left the country by air from San Pedro Sula, Honduras in several groups, stopping over in Iceland and, upon reaching the Middle East, were smuggled into Iraq.[12]

The majority of the Chileans and Hondurans were engaged as security guards at fixed facilities in Iraq. They had been contracted by Your Solutions Honduras SRL, a local agent of Your Solutions Incorporated, registered in the US state of Illinois. Your Solutions had in turn been subcontracted by the Chicago-based Triple Canopy. Some of the Chileans are presently working in Baghdad, providing security to the Embassy of Australia under a contract with Unity Resources Group (URG).

Human rights violations committed by PMSCs against their employees

PMSCs often put their contracted private guards in vulnerable and dangerous situations, such as the one faced by the Blackwater “private contractors” killed in Fallujah in 2004. Their fate was allegedly due to the lack of the necessary safety means – which Blackwater was supposed to provide – in order to carry out their mission.

It should not be forgotten that this incident dramatically changed the course of the war and of the United States’ occupation in Iraq. In fact, it may be considered the turning point in the occupation of Iraq. The incident led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city and the successful November 2004 recapture operation, known as Operation Phantom Fury, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 American troops were killed and another 560 were wounded.

The US military first denied that it had used white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial and admitted to using the incendiary in the city as an offensive weapon. Reports following the events of November 2004 have alleged war crimes and a massacre by US personnel, including indiscriminate violence against civilians and children. This point of view is presented in the 2005 documentary film, “Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre.” In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a leading medical journal, published a study that shows that the rates of cancer, infant mortality and leukemia in Fallujah exceed those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[13]

The over 300,000 classified military documents made public by Wikileak’s show that the “Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq,” as has been widely reported by the international media recently.

The United States continues to rely heavily on private military and security contractors in conducting its military operations. The US used private security contractors to conduct narcotics intervention operations in Colombia in the 1990s and recently signed a supplemental agreement that authorizes it to deploy troops and contractors in seven Colombian military bases. During the conflict in the Balkans, the US used a private security contractor to train Croat troops to conduct operations against Serbian troops. Currently, most of the US’s massive contracting of security functions to private firms takes place in the context of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2009, the Department of Defense employed 218,000 private contractor personnel, while there were 195,000 uniformed personnel. According to the figures, about 8 percent of these contractors are armed security contractors, or about 20,000 armed guards. If one includes other theatres of operations, the figure rises to 242,657, a figure comprised of 54,387 United States citizens, 94,260 third-country nationals and 94,010 host-country nationals.

The State Department relies on about 2,000 private security contractors to provide US personnel and facilities with personal protection and guard services in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, and to provide aviation services in Iraq. The contracts for protective services were awarded in 2005 to three PMSCs: Triple Canopy, DynCorp International and the US Training Center, part of the Xe (then-Blackwater) group of companies. These three companies still hold the State Department protective services contracts today.

Lack of transparency

The information accessible to the public on the scope and type of US-PMSC contracts is scarce and opaque. The lack of transparency is particularly significant when contracting companies subcontract to others. Often, despite the US’s extensive freedom of information rules, the contracts with PMSCs are not disclosed to the public, either because they contain confidential commercial information or based on the argument that non-disclosure is in the interest of national defense or foreign policy. The situation is particularly opaque when United States intelligence agencies contract PMSCs.

Lack of accountability

Despite their involvement in grave human rights violations, not a single PMSC or PMSC employee has been sanctioned.

In the course of litigation, several recurring legal arguments have been used in the defense of PMSCs and their personnel, including the government contractor defense, the political question doctrine and derivative immunity arguments. PMSCs are using the government contractor defense to argue that they were operating under the exclusive control of the government of the United States when the alleged acts were committed and therefore cannot be held liable for their actions.

It looks as though when acts questionable under international law are committed by agents of the government, they are considered human rights violations, but when these same acts are perpetrated by PMSCs, it is “business as usual.”

Human rights violations perpetrated by private military and security companies are indications of the threat posed to the foundations of democracy when inherently public functions – such as the monopoly on the legitimate use of force – become privatized. In this connection, I cannot help but to refer to the final speech of former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1961, Eisenhower warned the American public against the growing danger of a military-industrial complex:

[W]e must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Fifty years later on September 8, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld, in his speech to the Department of Defense, warned the Pentagon military against:

an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America. … Let’s make no mistake: The modernization of the Department of Defense is … a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American’s. … The adversary [is] the Pentagon bureaucracy. … That’s why we’re here today challenging us all to wage an all-out campaign to shift the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to the tooth. We know the adversary. We know the threat. And with the same firmness of purpose that any effort against a determined adversary demands, we must get at it and stay at it. Some might ask, how in the world could the Secretary of Defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself.

Rumsfeld should have been more specific and cited the shift of the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the private sector. Indeed, that shift had been accelerated by the Bush administration: the number of persons employed by contracts that the Pentagon had outsourced was already four times more than at the Department of Defense.

It is not a military-industrial complex anymore, but, as Noam Chomsky has said, “just the industrial system operating under one or another pretext.” Dana Priest and William M. Arkin’s July 2010 article in the Washington Post, “Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control,” shows the extent that “the top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive, that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

The investigation’s findings include that some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, and that an estimated 854,000 people – nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C. – hold top-secret security clearances. A number of private military and security companies are among the security and intelligence agencies mentioned in the Post’s report.

The Working Group received information from several sources that up to 70 percent of the US intelligence budget is spent on contractors. These contracts are classified, and very little information is available to the public on the nature of the activities contractors carry out.

The privatization of war has created a structural dynamic that responds to the commercial logic of the industry.

A short look at the careers of the current managers of BAE Systems, as well as at their address books, confirms that we are no longer dealing with a normal corporation, but with a cartel that unites high-tech weaponry (BAE Systems, United Defense Industries, Lockheed Martin), speculative financiers (Lazard Freres, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank) and raw material cartels (British Petroleum, Shell Oil) with on-the-ground, private military and security companies.[14]

The majority of private military and security companies have been created, or are managed by, former military members or ex-police-officers, for whom PMSCs are big business. Just to give an example, Military Professional Resources Incorporation (MPRI) was created by four former United States Army generals when they were due for retirement.[15] The same is true for Blackwater and its affiliate companies or subsidiaries, which employ former directors of the CIA.[16] Social scientists refer to this phenomenon as the revolving door syndrome.

The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.

Without contractors: (1) the military engagement would have had to be smaller – a strategically problematic alternative; (2) the United States would have had to deploy its finite number of active personnel for even longer tours of duty – a politically dicey and short-sighted option; (3) the United States would have had to consider a civilian draft or boost retention and recruitment by raising military pay significantly – two politically untenable options; or (4) the need for greater commitments from other nations would have arisen and with it, the United States would have had to make more concessions to build and sustain a truly multinational effort. Thus, the tangible differences in the type of war waged, the effect on military personnel, and the need for coalition partners are greatly magnified when the government has the option to supplement its troops with contractors.[17]

The military cannot do without them. There are more contractors overall than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

Conclusions of the Senate Armed Services Committee concerning the impact of private security contracting on US goals in Afghanistan[18]

Conclusion 1: The proliferation of private security personnel in Afghanistan is inconsistent with the counterinsurgency strategy. In May 2010, the U.S. Central Command’s Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate reported that there were more than 26,000 private security contractor personnel operating in Afghanistan. Many of those private security personnel are associated with armed groups that operate outside government control.

Conclusion 2: Afghan warlords and strongmen operating as force providers to private security contractors have acted against U.S. and Afghan government interests. Warlords and strongmen associated with U.S.-funded security contractors have been linked to anti-Coalition activities, murder, bribery, and kidnapping. The Committee’s examination of the U.S.-funded security contract with ArmorGroup at Shindand Airbase in Afghanistan revealed that ArmorGroup relied on a series of warlords to provide armed men to act as security guards at the Airbase.

Open-ended intergovernmental working group established by the HR Council

Because of their impact in the enjoyment of human rights, the Working Group on Mercenaries, in its 2010 reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly, has recommended a legally binding instrument to regulate and monitor PMSC’s activities at the national and international level.

The motion to create an open-ended intergovernmental working group has been the object of lengthy negotiations in the Human Rights Council, led by South Africa, in order to accommodate the concerns of the Western Group, but primarily those of the United States and the United Kingdom; considerable pressure was also exerted in the capitals of African countries supporting the draft resolution. The text of the resolution was weakened in order to pass it by consensus, but, even so, the position of the Western States has been a “fin de non recevoir” – a complete demurral.

The resolution was adopted by a majority of 32 in favor, 12 against and 3 abstentions. Among the supporters of this initiative are four out of the five members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) in addition to the African Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab Group.

The adoption of this resolution opens an interesting process in the UN Human Rights Council in which civil society can participate in the elaboration of an international framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies. The new open-ended intergovernmental working group will be the forum for all stakeholders to receive inputs – not only the draft text of a possible convention and the elements elaborated by the UN Working Group on mercenaries, but also other initiatives, such as the proposal submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Montreux Document and the international code of conduct being elaborated under the Swiss Initiative.

However, the negative vote of the delegations of the Western Group indicates that the interests of the new staggering security industry – its annual market revenue is estimated to be over USD one hundred billion – have been quite well-defended, as was the case on a number of other occasions. It also shows that Western governments will be absent from the start in a full, in-depth discussion of the issues raised by the activities of PMSCs.

We urge all states to support the process initiated by the Council by designating their representatives to the new open-ended intergovernmental working group, which will hold its first session in 2011, and to continue a process of discussions regarding a legally binding instrument.

The participation of the UK and the US, the main exporters of these activities (it is estimated that these two countries’ firms control 70 percent of the security industry), as well as other Western countries where the new industry is expanding is of particular importance.

The Working Group also urges the United States Government to implement the recommendations we made, in particular, to:

· Support the US Congress’s Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, which clearly defines the functions that are inherently governmental and that cannot be outsourced to the private sector.

· Rescind immunity to contractors carrying out activities in other countries under bilateral agreements.

· Carry out prompt and effective investigations of human rights violations committed by PMSCs and prosecute alleged perpetrators.

· Ensure that the oversight of private military and security contractors is not outsourced to PMSCs.

· Establish a specific system of federal licensing of PMSCs for their activities abroad.

· Set up a vetting procedure for awarding contracts to PMSCs.

· Ensure that United States criminal jurisdiction applies to private military and security companies contracted by the government to carry out activities abroad.

· Respond to pending communications from the Working Group.

1. Blackwater Worldwide abandoned its tarnished brand name in order to shake its reputation, which was battered by its criticized work in Iraq. Blackwater renamed its family of two-dozen businesses under the name “Xe.” See Mike Baker, “Blackwater dumps tarnished brand name,” AP News Break, February 13, 2009.

2. URG, an Australian private military and security company, uses a number of ex-military Chileans to provide security to the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Recently, one of those “private guards” shot himself. ABC News, reported by La Tercera, Chile, September 16, 2010.

3. J. Mendes and S. Mitchell, “Who is Unity Resources Group?” ABC News Australia, September 16, 2010.

4. Case 8:08-cv-01696-PJM, Document 103, filed July 29, 2010. Defendants have filed motions to dismiss on a number of grounds. They argue that the suit must be dismissed in its entirety because they are immune under the laws of war, because the suit raises non-justiciable political questions and because they possess derivative sovereign immunity. They seek dismissal of the state law claims on the basis of government contractor immunity, premised on the notion that plaintiffs cannot proceed on state law claims, which arise out of combatant activities of the military. The United States District Court for the district of Maryland Greenbelt Division has decided to proceed with the case against L-3 Services, Inc. It has not accepted the motions to dismiss, allowing the case to go forward.

5. Mission to the United States of America, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/15/25/Add.3, paragraph 22.

6. James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater guards tied to secret C.I.A. raids”, New York Times, December 10, 2009.

7. Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, contractor, soldier, spy”, Vanity Fair, January 2010. See also Claim No. HQ08X02800 in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Binyam Mohamed v. Jeppesen UK Ltd, report of James Gavin Simpson, May 26, 2009.

8. ACLU Press Release: “UN Report Underscores Lack of Accountability and Oversight for Military and Security Contractors”, New York, September 14, 2010.

9. The report also indicates that the DynCorp revenues were 1,966,993 USD in 2006 and 3,101,093 USD in 2009.

10 Mission to Ecuador, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/4/42/Add.2

11. A number of the persons involved in the attempted coup were arrested in Zimbabwe, others in Equatorial Guinea itself, where the coup was intended to overthrow the government and put another in its place in order to gain access to rich resources in oil. In 2004 and 2008, the trials of those arrested in connection with the coup attempt took place in Equatorial Guinea; defendants included British citizen Simon Mann and the South African Nick du Toit. The president of Equatorial Guinea pardoned all foreigners linked to the coup attempt in November 2009. A number of reports indicated that trials failed to comply with international human rights standards and that some of the accused had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The government of Equatorial Guinea has three ongoing trials in the United Kingdom, Spain and Lebanon against the persons who were behind the attempted coup.

12 Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Mission to Honduras, United Nations document A/HRC/4/42/Add.1.

13. Wikipedia

14. Mercenaries without borders by Karel Vereycken, September 21, 2007.

15. Including General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of the Army during the Gulf War and the invasion of Panama, General Crosbie E. Saint, former Commander in Chief of the US Army in Europe, and General Ron Griffith. The president of MPRI is General Bantant J. Craddock.

16. Such as Cofer Black, former chief of the Counter Terrorism Center; Enrique Prado, former chief of operations, and Rof Richter, second in command of the Clandestine Services of the company.

17. “Privatization’s Pretensions”, University of Chicago Law Review, Jon D. Michaels.

18. Inquiry into the role and oversight of private security contractors in Afghanistan, report together with additional views of the Committee on
Armed Services, United States Senate, September 28, 2010.

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Guantanamo Closure Recedes Into Distance

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

Thursday 23 December 2010

by: Jim Lobe   | Inter Press Service | Report

Guantanamo Closure Recedes Into Distance
Joint Task Force Guantanamo’s Camp Delta. (Photo: Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Nistas)

Washington – President Barack Obama’s hopes of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility appear as far from being realised as ever in the wake of new legislation approved by Congress this week.

Wednesday’s approval by the Senate of an amendment banning the use of Pentagon funds for 2011 to transfer detainees at Guantanamo, the U.S. naval base on Cuba, to the United States or its territories appears to guarantee that the facility will remain open for business at least through next September.

The House of Representatives, which passed a similar provision last week, is expected to quickly approve the Senate version.

Despite the administration’s objections, the amendment is unlikely to be vetoed by Obama. It was strongly denounced by human rights groups that have campaigned for Guantanamo’s closure since it first began receiving detainees allegedly captured in what became the George W. Bush administration‘s “global war on terror” in 2002.

At its height, it held more than 700 terrorist suspects. The facility currently holds 174 prisoners of whom 90 – most of them Yemenis – have reportedly been cleared for repatriation, and 36 are due to be prosecuted in federal courts, although, with the Senate action, that plan may now be in jeopardy.

The remaining 48 are being held indefinitely without trial because evidence of their past ties to terrorist groups is unlikely to be admissible in a court – in some cases, due to its acquisition by torture – and because the government believes that they would return to such activities if they were released.

“Today’s vote will only serve to further erode the U.S. government’s human rights record and hamper the administration’s ability to bring terrorism suspects to justice,” said Vienna Colucci, a senior policy advisor at the U.S. section of Amnesty International (AIUSA) shortly after the Senate attached the amendment to the 2011 defence authorisation bill.

“This law will also effectively prevent the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, prolonging a human rights scandal whose closure national security and foreign policy experts agree is essential to improve U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and mend the international standing of the United States,” she added.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also assailed the bill, noting that it will effectively prevent detainees, such as alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, from being tried in civilian courts has said he intends to do.

Calling the Senate’s action a “reckless and irresponsible affront to the rule of law”, Tom Malinowski, the head of HRW’s Washington office charged that “Congress has denied the president the only legally sustainable and globally legitimate means to incarcerate terrorists.”

The amendment’s attachment to the defence bill – which authorises the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars by the Pentagon next year – comes on the heels of a report by the investigative group Pro Publica and the Washington Post that the administration is drafting an executive order that would set up a system to periodically review the cases of Guantanamo prisoners under indefinite detention without trial.

Unlike the Bush administration’s military-run “annual review boards” – the now-defunct mechanism used to assess whether such detainees could be safely repatriated – the draft plan reportedly would establish review panels whose members would be drawn from a number of different government agencies.

In addition, detainees would be represented by attorneys and gain greater access to the evidence compiled by the government against them than was the case under Bush’s review boards, which were denounced by human rights and civil liberties groups as flagrant violations of elemental due process.

While praising some of the proposed changes, some of those same groups have expressed serious reservations about the reported plan.

Noting that an executive order, which can easily be modified or lifted, was preferable to a law enacted by Congress, Elisa Massimino, the director of Human Rights First said any preventive detention regime – whether administrative or legislative – “pose(s) a serious threat to fundamental rights and are no substitute for criminal justice”.

“Reliance on indefinite detention as a path of least resistance is part of how we ended up in the Guantanamo mess in the first place,” she said.

“Where credible evidence exists against Guantanamo detainees, they should be charged and prosecuted under our criminal justice system,” added Laura Murphy, director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She noted that federal courts have successfully completed hundreds of trials of suspected terrorists over the past decade.

During his press conference Wednesday, Obama himself stressed that he still hoped to close Guantanamo, calling it “probably the number one recruitment tool” used by al Qaeda and other “jihadist organisations”.

“One of the toughest problems is what to do with people that we know are dangerous, that …have engaged in terrorist activity, are proclaimed enemies of the United States, but because of the manner in which they were originally captured, the circumstances right after 9/11 in which they (were) interrogated, it becomes difficult to try them whether in an Article III court or in a military commission,” he went on, adding, “Releasing them at this stage could potentially create greater danger for the American people.”

“The bottom line is that striking this balance between our security and making sure that we are consistent with our values and our Constitution is not an easy task, but ultimately that’s what’s required for practical reasons,” he said.

The result, according to Adam Serwer, writing on a Washington Post blog, “is basically what we’ve come to expect from the Obama administration on security and civil liberties. Having promised to reverse the trajectory of Bush-era national security policies, Obama has settled on making them marginally more lawful and humane.”

“It’s not nothing, but it’s not what Obama promised,” he added.

Meanwhile, however, the Senate action prompted much greater concern among rights groups because it appears to rule out both Guantanamo’s closure over the next year and the possibility that detainees held there will be tried in the federal courts.

That leaves the much-criticised, error-plagued military commissions, which have successfully prosecuted only five cases in the last eight years, as the only tribunal where detainees can be tried.

Attorney General Eric Holder had strongly opposed the amendment, arguing in a statement released earlier this month that it would “tak(e) away one of our most potent weapons in the fight against terrorism”.

In addition to banning the transfer onto U.S. territory of any Guantanamo detainees, the amendment forbids the government from transferring them to another country unless the defence secretary certifies that such a transfer will not jeopardise U.S. security.

*Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read athttp://www.lobelog.com.

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For Christians in Iraq, a Christmas of Mourning and Fear

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

Friday 24 December 2010

by: Shashank Bengali   | McClatchy Newspapers | Report

For Christians in Iraq, a Christmas of Mourning and Fear
Iraqis in Vancouver protest against church bombings on December 2. (Photo:E11World)

BaghdadChristmas will take place here on an altar of grief. The faces of the dead, 53 in all, stare out from photographs into the cold congregation hall, its stone floors dimpled from explosions, its ceilings still splattered with blood.

Nearly two months after a shocking assault by Islamist militants, Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church will commemorate Christmas quietly, with daytime mass and prayers for the dead, under security fit more for a prison than a house of worship. It is the same at Christian churches across Baghdad and northern Iraq, where what’s left of one of the world’s oldest Christian communities prepares to mark perhaps the most somber Christmas since the start of the Iraq war.

“There is sorrow in our hearts,” Syrian Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad said Friday in his office next to the church, which was guarded by concrete blast walls and a phalanx of police. “It is only natural that we show that we are mourning for the victims that we lost.”

What does one tell a congregation at a time like this? Matoka had written out his Christmas sermon by hand, in neat blue Arabic script that filled one side of a page and two-thirds of another. The message, he said, was about holding fast to faith in angels.

Yet the forces besieging Iraqi Christians seem to be more powerful. In a pile of papers on Matoka’s desk, along with the sermon, was a letter he and other church leaders received by e-mail last week from the Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaida-linked militant organization that claimed responsibility for the church attack.

“Be prepared,” the letter warned, “for a long, serious war that you cannot win.”

Iraqi Christians trace their history to the first century after Jesus Christ, but their numbers have more than halved since the Saddam Hussein era, when there was upwards of 1 million. The Oct. 31 assault on the church — in which five suicide bombers stormed Sunday mass, held parishioners hostage for four hours and finally detonated themselves in a gun-battle with Iraqi commandos — was the deadliest against Christians in memory, shocking a nation that had seen violence drop to its lowest levels since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Among the dead were two young priests, a 3-month-old child and a young woman who’d been married barely one month. A picture of the woman in her wedding dress, smiling, is on the altar among the photographs of the deceased. While she was at mass, church members said, her husband was at her doctor’s getting test results; she died before learning that she was pregnant.

In the following weeks, Christians were targeted and killed in their homes in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, a trading hub in ancient Mesopotamia known in the Bible as Nineveh. Last week, Amnesty International called on the Iraqi government to do more to protect Christians and other religious minorities.

The attacks have led to a new exodus of Christians to neighboring Jordan, Syria and Iraq’s relatively safe northern Kurdistan region. The United Nations refugee agency said that more than 1,000 Christian families have arrived in Kurdistan since November, many after receiving direct threats.

In Mosul, Athraa Salam Slewa, 45, said that her family had rented a house in Kurdistan and would be moving there soon.

“There is no one that will protect us here. Even the government couldn’t protect us,” she said. “My only consolation is I have good Muslim neighbors who stood beside us in these difficult circumstances.”

For Christians who’ve remained in their homes, the sight of their heavily fortified churches provides little comfort. Maher Mikha — who lives close enough to Our Lady of Salvation church that on the night of the siege his house shook and shrapnel landed at his doorstep — said that he would attend Christmas mass with mixed emotions.

“A house of God should be an open place,” said Mikha, 46, sitting with his wife and three children in a small living room under a portrait of Jesus. “But now with all these walls and the military presence, if I enter there I feel like I’m entering a prison camp.”

“And anyway,” his wife Hannah interjected, “even with all those walls, we have seen that when evil men want to attack anywhere, it doesn’t stop them.”

Yet they refuse to leave Baghdad, even after their 13-year-old son snapped a picture of one of the suicide bomber’s decapitated head with his cell phone (she made him delete it), and even after Hannah’s brother and his family packed up for Kurdistan last month.

“This is our country; this is our land,” she said. “Our grandfather’s grandfather was born here. We cannot go anywhere else.”

This is what Archbishop Matoka tells his flock: that Christianity has existed in Iraq since the first generation of its existence and that leaving one’s home behind isn’t easy. Yet most people don’t ask the church’s advice these days; they come with their minds made up, their bags packed, asking only for official documents and school reports to take with them.

His message on Christmas morning will be one of hope, but it wasn’t clear how much of that even he had left after one of the most difficult periods of his five decades in the church. Asked if he believed that Christians would always have a place in Iraq, he uttered that most ubiquitous phrase in Iraq, used by Muslims and Christians alike: “Inshallah,” which means, “God willing.”

(Special correspondent Ali Abbas contributed from Mosul, Iraq.)

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Bush Sr., James Baker Instrumental in Getting Nigeria to Drop Bribery Charges Against Cheney

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

Global Research, December 18, 2010

Former President George H.W. Bush and ex-Secretary of State James Baker were part of a negotiating team that convinced Nigerian government officials to drop bribery charges against Dick Cheney and Halliburton, the oil services firm he led prior to becoming vice president.

Bush and Baker, whose law firm was hired by Halliburton in 2004 to handle the bribery allegations, participated in conference call discussions with senior Nigerian government officials, including the country’s attorney general, Mohammed Adoke, last weekend on behalf of Cheney in an attempt to work out a settlement, according to a report published by an African news agency.

The negotiations took place in London and included Halliburton represenatives.

On Friday, Femi Babafemi, a spokesman for Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the agency that filed the 16-count indictment last week, said the case against Cheney, Halliburton and several other current and former executives has been “formally dropped.”

Earlier this week, Babafemi said Halliburton agreed during negotiation talks to a “plea bargain” and to “pay $250 million in fines in lieu of prosecution.” He said the Nigerian government accepted the terms of the settlement.

Last week, after the indictment was filed in Abuja, Nigeria’s capitol, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We do not believe that there will be a basis for further action (requiring Cheney to respond to the charges), but we will look into it.”

Moreover, Johnnie Carson, the US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairstold reporters during a conference call last week that the US government was closely following the case against Cheney and had already engaged in discussions about it with Nigerian authorities.

As Truthout previously reported, the charges revolve around $180 million in bribes executives who worked for Halliburton’s former subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) paid to Nigerian government officials between 1994 and 2004 in exchange for $6 billion in construction contracts for the Bonny Island natural gas liquefaction plant. Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil producer. [Click here for a complete timeline.]

KBR, which also has handled lucrative US government support contracts for US troops in Iraq and elsewhere, was spun off from Halliburton in 2007 into a separate company. Nigerian officials had also charged KBR in the bribery case.

The bribes allegedly went to the notoriously corrupt Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and some of his subordinates and were allegedly laundered through UK lawyer Jeffrey Tesler, who served as a consultant to KBR after it was formed in a 1998 merger that Cheney engineered between Halliburton and Dresser Industries. Tesler was hired in 1995 as an agent of a four-company joint venture that was awarded four engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts by Nigeria LNG Ltd., (NLNG). Tesler was indicted last year by the Department of Justice, which has been conducting its own probe into the matter, and he is fighting extradition to the US.

Baker’s alleged involvement in the settlement talks is not surprising given that his law firm, Baker Botts, was hired by Halliburton in 2004 to conduct an internal probe into the bribery scandal. During the investigation, James Doty, a partner at Baker Botts who led the probe, “discovered” notes written by former KBR employees indicating the firm “may” have bribed Nigerian government officials in exchange for lucrative contracts. Doty, served as general counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under Bush senior.

More recently, the SEC had questioned Cheney during its two-year-long probe of Halliburton’s accounting irregularities and concluded that he should not be held responsible for what went on behind the scenes at the company he ran between 1995 and 2000.

Truthout was unable to reach spokespeople for Bush and Baker. A Halliburton spokesperson declined to comment.

The payment to the Nigerian government will bring an immediate end to the bribery and corruption charges against Halliburton, Cheney and several of the company’s current and former executives.

Babafemi added that the payment consists of $120 million in penalties and the repatriation of $130 million “trapped in Switzerland,” and he expects Adoke to approve of the deal as early as today.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced that Tesler’s associate, Wojciech J. Chodan, the former vice president to KBR’s UK subsidiary, pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for in his role in the bribery scandal.

Chodan, who was extradited to the United States from England, is scheduled to be sentenced in February and faces a maximum five years in federal prison.

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Albert “Jack” Stanley, who Cheney had named chief executive of KBR in 1998, was also named in the indictment filed by Nigerian anti-corruption officials. Charges against him have also been dropped.

Stanley was a close associate of Cheney’s. The former vice president promoted him in 1998 to head KBR and told the Middle East Economic Digest in 1999 that having Stanley at the helm of the Halliburton subsidiary “has helped us tremendously.”

In September 2008, Stanley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud to settle charges related to a separate kickback scheme and for conspiring to violate FCPA in connection with bribery case.

According to the DOJ’s plea agreement, Stanley started paying bribes in 1995, the year Cheney was named chief executive of the corporation, and ended when Stanley was fired in 2004.  Stanley faces seven years in prison and nearly $11 million in restitution payments. He remains free on bail pending a sentencing hearing scheduled for January.

Last year, KBR pleaded guilty to violating FCPA and admitted that it paid $180 million in “consulting fees” to Tesler and a Japanese trading company for use in bribing Nigerian government officials. KBR paid a $402 million fine and Halliburton paid $177 million in civil penalties as part of its plea deal, which was handled by Baker’s law firm.

Nigerians Condemn Settlement

While Nigeria government officials may be satisfied with the settlement agreement, the same cannot be said for some of the country’s citizens and activists who had hoped to see the former vice president respond to the charges.

“I would have loved to see Dick Cheney in chains in our court and facing justice in our prisons,” said Celestine AkpoBari, program officer at Social Action Nigeria. “That would have been a very big point that would have lifted Nigeria out of its woes.”

In a statement, Emmanuel Ulayi, executive director of the Civic Duties Awareness Initiative (CIDAI), an organization that ensures “Nigerians adhere to their civic responsibilities, comdemned the decision.

Uliya said the settlement is evidence that “the fight against corruption is dead and have never been real in Nigeria.” He said if the Nigerian government was serious about rooting out corruption “it would not have reach this kind of understanding.”

Owei Lakemfa, a columnist for Nigeria’s Daily Vanguard, said Friday Cheney “is an international crook who should be in jail in his country, Iraq, Netherlands, Afghanistan, Britain, Azerbaijan or in Nigeria…But unfortunately, the scales of justice are not balanced, so he will escape justice with his loot

Global Research Articles by Jason Leopold

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