Lessons from 9/11 and ‘Battle of Algiers’

Two years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the people of the world are ever more aware of the need for peace, international cooperation, economic justice, and respect for human rights.

Not so at the Pentagon.

The “Battle of Algiers,” a film about the struggle for Algerian independence, is widely viewed as a cinematic masterpiece. But that isn’t why the Directorate for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict screened the film at the Pentagon recently. According to a Sept. 7 New York Times story, 40 military officers and civilian experts viewed the film and then engaged in a “lively” discussion on the film with its graphic depictions of torture of Algerian freedom fighters by French colonial occupation troops.

The Times’ Michael T. Kaufman reports that the Pentagon’s unnamed host urged the crowd to “consider and discuss the … problematic but alluring efficacy of brutal and repressive means of fighting clandestine terrorists in Algeria and Iraq … specifically, the advantages and costs of resorting to torture and intimidation.” Kaufman adds, “[T]he conditions that the French faced in Algeria are similar to those the United States is finding in Iraq.”

Like the French in Algeria, American soldiers in Iraq are being killed and wounded in a guerrilla war with no end in sight. With frustrations mounting, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and other top strategists are apparently weighing torture and other desperate tactics to get the crisis under control.

The French killed one million Algerians before they were finally ousted. Will the U.S. destroy a million Iraqis and countless Americans to impose neo-colonial rule on that oil-rich nation? And will they squander $500 billion in this “Bush-Cheney folly?” An Oct. 21, 2001, Washington Post article headlined, “FBI Weighs Torture Option,” reported that the FBI was considering “using drugs or pressure tactics” to “extract information” from suspects who refuse to cooperate.

The time to speak out against these Bush-Cheney Gestapo tactics whether at home or abroad is now!

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‘Salmon-gate’

The Wall Street Journal featured a revealing article July 30 on Republican Karl Rove’s strategy for using selective enforcement of government regulations to enhance the election prospects of Republican candidates.

The story concerned water from the Klamath River in southeast Oregon during a fierce drought last year. In January 2002, George W. Bush and Rove, his chief political strategist, made a much-publicized trip to Oregon, including a stop in Klamath Falls where they listened to the pleas of Republican agribusiness interests that more water be diverted from the river to irrigate 220,000 acres of cropland. But conservationists and the Klamath Indians, who depend on wild salmon for their livelihood, warned that the diversion would dry up the river and destroy the fish.

Upon Bush’s return to the capital, Rove convened a secret meeting of 50 officials of the Interior Department in West Virginia. In a slide show presentation Rove instructed the officials on how they were to manipulate federal regulations on allocation of scarce resources to help Republican candidates get elected in the 2002 election as well as in 2004. He used the Klamath River dispute as an example.

Three months later, Interior Secretary Gale Norton stood beside Oregon’s GOP Senate candidate Gordon Smith and opened the headgate, allowing Klamath water to gush into the irrigation ditches. Smith went on to win the 2002 election.

But all the warnings from commercial and sport fishermen, the Indian tribes and conservationists were borne out. The flow in the river was reduced to near zero and at least 33,000 salmon died in the worst fish kill on record. The riverbed was littered with the carcasses of the precious salmon. Nature-lovers have branded this crime “Salmon-gate.”

The Bush-Cheney gang is the worst enemy of the environment ever, the most craven servants of the petrochemical industry and other polluters. Rove’s readiness to manipulate regulatory powers even when it kills off endangered species reveals just how far they will go in their ruthless grab for power.

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