March 06, 2007

PC THINK POLICE INVESTIGATE: APR 03

Political-correctness, just a mild nerdy aberration or the new face of socialist mind control? HAMISH CARNACHAN talks to British expert Frank Ellis

Cricket is a simple game. The object is to score more runs than your opposition. There is no grey area. The game has been around for centuries yet it has remained largely unchanged. The rules are clearly recorded in black and white in the hallowed halls of Lords, where the game originated. On the rare occasions that the laws are amended, it is generally to cover an ambiguity, like the underarm ball, and requires little more than the inclusion of a minor clause.

Part of the reason the sport has become ingrained in the New Zealand psyche is possibly because of its uncluttered simplicity – indeed, it must be so because history shows we’re not that good at it.

And the recent revival of cricket in this country may also have had something to do with the fact that sport is one topic people can still talk about candidly. Some subjects are simply no longer discussed in polite company today.

These days it seems you have to be particularly careful what you say and a growing list of issues can’t be discussed in certain circles. You can’t joke about the poor driving habits of immigrants; nor can you chat about Maori and crime or the preferential treatment of indigenous peoples; and associating sexual orientation with the spread of STDs is certainly a social faux pas.

The old laughs we used to enjoy about a short person being vertically challenged and the balding man being follicly-impaired are no longer tolerated either. None of the characters on Shortland Street smoke and those who enjoy the odd drink are portrayed as having an alcohol dependency problem.

It goes on. Nowadays, Pacific Islanders can refer to themselves as the product of a tropical palm tree but "Palagis" are vilified for coining the same turn of phrase. Seventh generation New Zealanders still can’t find a box to tick on their census form that they feel comfortable with – European/Pakeha? Manuhiri? Every government department is now subtitled with its Maori language equivalent, despite the fact that the number of fluent speakers registers nothing more than an insignificant blip on the demographic chart.

Even if you think you might be statistically correct, poking fun at minorities is clearly no longer tolerated in today’s New Zealand. That may not be such a bad thing, especially if you happen to be among those being ridiculed. But when seemingly legitimate public debate or concern is stifled for fear of being branded racist, homophobic, or even redneck, to name a few of the trendy new phrases, some commentators say a dangerous precedent is being set.

When New Zealand First leader Winston Peters late last year attacked the government’s immigration policy over migrants’ nationalities, Labour immediately labelled his party "racist". Then, Peters accused the government of being "mad" for allegedly allowing people into this country under a "homosexual family member" category. Again, Labour jumped on the defensive, saying he had moved from attacking foreigners, to bashing gays.

And the woeful plight of Maori in New Zealand society is a debate that has all but been snuffed out today too. Few dare to query, yet alone criticise, what statistics clearly show as Maori under-achievement. But now, even Maori who slate their own are condemned.

This was clearly illustrated in last month’s outburst when Dame Kiri Te Kanawa pointed out that Maori in Australia seemed to be doing a lot better than Maori in New Zealand, and suggested that a change in attitude might make a difference. The inference was that Maori in Australia are different because they have to work.

Back in New Zealand, Maori attacked her for being "out of touch", and said she had clearly been living overseas for too long. Even Labour advised that important Maori role models, such as Dame Kiri, should encourage, not criticise, Maori.

Peters, who most will acknowledge as one person not afraid of speaking his mind, said in a recently presented speech that New Zealand has now become the home of the politically correct (PC) state of mind – "one of the worst curses that can be inflicted on any nation."

Peters isn’t the only public figure to cry foul of a seemingly concerted push by the Labour Government to push New Zealand down a PC path. Newstalk ZB host Leighton Smith has been outspoken on the issue and talkback shows around the country run hot whenever the subject is broached.

Bill English has also taken a swing at PC. In his first political speech of the year the National Party leader asserted that, "the culture of cringing political correctness must end".

So what exactly is this PC business about and why are there a growing num-ber of vocal critics con-centrating their efforts on putting a halt to it? Quite simply, many see the political correctness movement as a serious danger. In fact, PC is worse than a curse, it is a cancer that slowly, but surely, eats away at society and all established societal values, warns a visiting expert on the subject.

Dr Frank Ellis, a lecturer in Russian studies at the University of Leeds in England, has written a number of essays on political correctness and has published widely on matters involving the Soviet Union and Marxism. His books include From Glasnost to the Internet: Russia’s New Infosphere, The MacPherson Report: Antiracist Hysteria and the Sovietisation of the United Kingdom, and he is currently writing a manuscript on Soviet war-literature.

Before taking up an academic career Ellis was a professional soldier serving in the parachute regiment in the Special Air Service. To some it may seem a peculiar transition to go from one of the world’s elite military units into academia, however, for Ellis, his army background made it a logical step.

During his last few years in the service he worked as a military analyst and Russian and German interpreter in West Berlin, working under the auspices of the Four Power Agreement – the WWII pact whereby France, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union administered Berlin.

Ellis’s brief during that time ranged from some "very sensitive" work to understanding the Soviet military stationed in East Germany, which would have provided the main armed force to attack NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) in the event of a war. This role brought him into contact with a large number of senior Soviet officers and diplomats – an experience he describes as "fascinating".

Having the Russian speaking background, courtesy of the British army’s interpreter school, Ellis says he reached a stage in his life where he wanted to saturate himself in Russian. Essentially that meant a university application so after leaving the army he obtained his first degree and then went on to complete a doctorate.

Ellis first stumbled across the term ‘political correctness’ whilst he was building up what has become an extensive knowledge of socialist Russia. But before diving into this communist link, what exactly does the term PC mean?

"Political correctness is intended as a term of orthodoxy with regard to certain issues," Ellis explains. "It is inextricably linked with multiculturalism and a whole range of ‘isms that go with it such as feminism, antiracism, environmentalism, attitudes towards homosexuality and so on."

To that extent, Ellis suggests political correctness means adopting a position on any one of those issues that is consistent with the various orthodoxies on those subjects.

"For example, feminism has adopted over the years a hostile approach to the nuclear family. It regards the nuclear family as a prison, which ensnares and traps women, and does not allow them to develop their full potential. That would be a politically correct position to take on that issue. A politically incorrect position to take on that issue would be to say, ‘that’s complete nonsense – all societies everywhere have demonstrated marriage and the nuclear family and we are dealing with one of the fundamental building blocks of all societies wherever you find them," he says.

While the term PC has been around in our society for some years now, and political debate over it has been highlighted in the media over recent months, the earliest reference Ellis has been able to discover goes back more than 80 years - to the Soviet Union in 1921.

At that time the notion of political correctness became an important tool for Lenin who was trying to consolidate his control over his party, and used it to impose orthodoxy on almost every facet of society – education, politics, literature, law, ideology and even citizens’ reading habits.

"You can see that where it comes from it has rather unpleasant origins in view of Lenin’s contribution to the twentieth century."

That is precisely why we should be concerned about PC appearing in our society, says Ellis, because it directly threatens civil liberties.

He made this connection in 1997 when the incoming British Labour Government set up an inquiry to look at how the police conducted their investigation into the murder of a black teenager in London in 1993. No convictions were ever brought for the crime and the Labour party argued that the police did not pursue the inquiry as sufficiently as they should have done because the victim was black.

The inquest, headed by retired Scottish Judge William MacPherson, concluded that the British police force, specifically the metropolitan police in London, was institutionally racist. Subsequently, some 70 recommendations were made in the report in order to change police operational activities.

"In my opinion, many of these recommendations are a direct assault on many British freedoms. One of the most draconian of these was the proposal to consider the prosecution of racist incidences otherwise done in a public place. That, really, is referring to the privacy of your own home and the only way that can be policed is by bugging people’s houses."

And herein lies the link to socialism, according to Ellis. A totalitarian state is one in which every aspect of social and political life is controlled by the state. Although the British government did not accept all the recommendations, Ellis concludes that the MacPherson report represented a form of "Sovietisation" of Britain – a step whereby too much power was being handed over to the government.

One of the recommendations in the report, which has since been ruled an operational requirement, redefines how the British police judge a "racist incident". It states that a racist incident is any incident that is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.

"Straight away, from that definition, you have a charter for lots of malicious people to make all kinds of false accusations. The most innocent, offhand, remark in the work place could be used as the basis of a police investigation into you. It’s quite threatening," says Ellis.

The MacPherson report also made reference to the importance of introducing multiculturalism into public sector institutions, bureaucracies and the police force. Underlying this push is the assumption that multiculturalism is desirable. Ellis says there are some good aspects of having a diverse society with different ethnic groups, but he believes that this theory does not stand up to critical scrutiny.

"Historically there is plenty of evidence that shows multicultural societies have certain fault lines in them and when the conditions are right they can tear themselves to pieces. The most recent examples are Yugoslavia and Rwanda. I think we’re entitled to be suspicious about claims that diversity is the same as good inner strength."

While few would suggest that New Zealand is anywhere near such internal turmoil, some argue that there is already a strong sense of inequality that stems from a view that Maori are receiving preferential treatment to non-Maori.

Ellis suggests divisiveness is a key product of a politically correct, multicultural environment.

That is what prompted Bill English to indicate, earlier in the year, that his party might withdraw its support for Maori seats in Parliament. This move is in line with National’s premise of one standard of citizenship for all New Zealanders, and the party’s opposition to policies that give Maori special treatment, creating segregation.

In the same speech, English criticised a "taniwha clause" in the Local Government Act legislating that every decision made by local councils has to take into account the special relationship Maori have with land, air, water and other ‘toanga’.

He said the Government was risking throwing away gains by continuing down the path of division.

From a foreign perspective, Ellis suggests that those behind the politically correct movement have given up Marxism and conceded the economic side to the capitalists. However, he says they now seek to advance their agenda by concentrating on the commanding heights of culture, essentially "the universities; the public sector bureaucracies; the social services; the judiciary and the legal system, and also the media."

"Over the last 20 years they’ve done this very successfully," he says.

Winston Peters would probably agree with Ellis on that stance. He recently attacked the University of Otago’s new policy, whereby students can write assessments and exams in Maori, as "absurd political correctness".

He called the university’s plan, intended to encourage the use of Maori language, a waste of time and money.

In his New Year speech English acknowledged that speaking out on issues, like those also raised by Peters, risked being labelled a racist or a Maori-basher by the beehive. According to Ellis, this is one of the most "insidious" aspects of political correctness – the way in which advocates pull out "hate words" to scare their critics. He says this ploy creates a "wall of silence" behind which they "advance their agenda".

Tariana Turia’s highly publicised "holocaust" reference to the treatment of Maori people by Pakeha colonisation would arguably make many people wonder if Ellis has hit the nail on the head.

But he goes further, saying proponents of political correctness turn the world into language and culture by controlling the words we use - by defining the limits of acceptability of the meanings of certain words and ideas that we use.

"The term institutional racism strikes me as being very nebulous and deeply threatening because calling someone a racist is like calling someone a witch in seventeenth century Massachusetts. It inspires fear and dread and loathing and otherwise sensible people collapse and wilt when you accuse them of being a racist. The onus is never on the accuser to prove it. The onus is always on the accused to show that he is not. It overturns the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.

"Today there are various words to replace words that are now deemed unacceptable. People think there is something wrong with this – why it’s wrong to use this word in a way which we have always used it – but they are unable to articulate a response to why it is wrong. They are vulnerable to being outmanoeuvred by the people who concern themselves with this sort of thing in universities.

"Going back to the fear thing, human beings, even in western democracies don’t like standing out. Many people don’t like being made to feel as if they are the only person who holds certain views regarded as odd or strange. This is a measure of the achievement of these people in that views, which 20 years ago were regarded as quite normal and reasonable, are now regarded as bizarre and on the verge of making you a neo-Nazi."

Ellis says taking away freedom of speech is yet another example of how the PC set infringes on citizens’ civil rights and why political correctness should not be taken lightly, yet alone tolerated.

"All societies, that I have ever studied, that imposed censorship have ultimately collapsed. We are talking here about a form of intellectual censorship. Certain things need to be said sometimes and certain problems need to be faced up to. One of the problems we have to face up to in Britain is that immigration, legal and illegal is a major issue. It is causing terrible problems and is starting to cause a very extreme right-wing backlash.

"All societies and countries are occupied within certain physical infrastructure constraints. There is no doubt in my mind that Britain has reached those limits now. Our national health service simply cannot cope. The infrastructure in the southeast of England in London can’t cope. We have a massive housing crisis.

"Also there are problems in the way we do things. Not all cultures do things in the same way. Here you have a source for friction. How do you solve that friction? One way is to start killing your neighbours. The other way is to give extra power to the judiciary and the public sector bureaucracies to police our lives. So the more people you let in from different cultures or backgrounds, the more complicated a society becomes and the greater the need is for public sector bureaucracies to interfere in our lives."

The February 2003 issue of Investigate highlighted a growing concern about the Attorney General’s capacity to stack the bench of the new Supreme Court with judges sympathetic to Labour’s social and political agenda.

"Despite having failed to get any electoral endorsement from the public, [Margaret] Wilson nonetheless finds herself, as an un-elected MMP member, very much the power behind Clark’s throne," growls one commentator in the ‘Power Games’ article.

New Zealanders should take this as a warning that the ballot box is being bypassed, says Ellis. He also warns that when the PC proponents have stamped their mark on the judiciary, bureaucracies, the civil service, the universities, the public sector, and so on, then voting could almost be seen as a "meaningless gesture".

So how do supposedly ‘democratic’ societies relinquish power to their political leaders and let them get away with pushing their own agendas?

"When people are comfortable and prosperous they’re prepared to concede to feminists and all the rest of them – let them get on with their silly, stupid games. In times of economic hardship though, they are more likely to say, ‘I’m not letting my tax dollars go to fund whole-food feminist collectives, no chance. You want to play those games then you fund them with your own money and good luck to you.’ In times of economic downturn I think people are far more likely to object," says Ellis.

If he is right, then presumably, when the economy starts to falter, voters would put an end to what National calls "TPK (Te Puni Kokiri Maori development ministry) officials [driving] around the country writing out cheques at will…grants for break-dancing and family reunions".

To date almost 2500 grants, ranging in value from $500 to over $100,000, have been handed out under the Labour Government’s programme formerly known as Closing the Gaps. New Zealand also has numerous other policies that now parallel the Americans’ Affirmative Action dictum – a means of rectifying the wrongs of their past.

Ellis believes that if the PC movement is allowed to role on unchecked then race relations will collapse and he highlights the United States as an example of where racial tolerance, primarily between blacks and whites, is probably as bad now and perhaps even worse than it was during the 1960s.

For some time American universities have had strict quotas that set aside places for black students. Now though, several students are filing lawsuits against some higher education institutions because, though they have high enough marks, they are being denied a place in their chosen university because the quotas have been met for white students.

Affirmative Action was never supposed to be a permanent institution, but speaking from his experience of lecturing in the US, Ellis says it has now become deeply rooted in the American cultural sphere.

He says Affirmative Action is intellectually incoherent and fundamentally immoral - it persecutes talented, hardworking people and all admission processes for universities should be absolutely colour-blind.

In some instances it has backfired because, he says, particularly successful and hardworking black individuals are automatically suspected of being Affirmative Action beneficiaries.

This is exactly the type of divisiveness and inequality that some in this country, most vocally English and Peters, are trying to advise New Zealanders about. And though Ellis has an unapologetic right-wing (some would argue hard-line) stance, the warnings he brings from overseas appear to fly in the face of this government’s current direction.

Even the Governor General, Dame Silvia Cartwright, drifted into political territory in her last Waitangi Day speech. She advised New Zealanders not to try to become "one people…because we do not need to be".

"What we need to do is live together and play together as fellow human beings, recognising that we are a nation of a variety of races."

That is certainly a cordial notion but some critics wonder how we are supposed to "play together" when the playing field is not particularly even. Just ask Martin Crowe. He retired battered and bruised after commenting that not many Maori play cricket because they don’t have the temperament for the game. It was a bit naive of him to think he could play such a straight shot these days and not consider that the delivery would jag back so viciously.

Apparently, we were told in the ensuing row, it is the fault of the Pakeha for not making the game more attractive and accessible to Maori.

No, it just isn’t cricket anymore. Some say that Team PC have not only changed the rules, but they’ve doctored the ball too.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 02:04 AM | Comments (1)

WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? INVESTIGATE: APR 03

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Vicious dog attacks have dominated domestic news coverage in New Zealand. Now Parliament is looking at new laws to leash and muzzle the country’s canines. HAMISH CARNACHAN spent a day in the dogbox with Animal Control Services

It’s a dogs life," some people reckon, yet I can’t help but notice the irony as I observe Animal Control Services field officer Barbara Slade approach this wretched mongrel. The large brindle dog, chained to the fence of a suburban Auckland property, is nothing more than a prisoner – one that has most probably committed no crime either.

The animal has water, and a scattering of shade, but that is all. The narrow alley between the house and the fence, and the 2-metre length of chain hanging from its neck, is this dog’s cell. The grass has been worn down to a dusty patch of bare earth by constant pacing and flies swarm over the piles of sun-hardened faeces. The dog has clearly become accustomed to the insects as they crawl freely over its face and around its ears.

Despite the initially ominous barking and the dog’s daunting size it quickly relaxes around Slade – the cordiality helped by her 12 years experience in dealing with strange dogs and, the field officers’ secret weapon, tasty treats.

A neighbour had called Animal Control Services the evening before to complain about the dog’s barking. It is midday when we arrive and though the animal’s owner isn’t home it gives Slade a good chance to cast an expert eye over the dog’s condition and behaviour.

Ten minutes later, a note and calling card are left in the letterbox and we are on our way to the next callout.

Despite the poor environment, the dog was apparently in reasonable health. There is no broken skin so the chance of fly-strike is slim and it is adequately nourished. But Animal Control Services will be back to this address. There is still the issue of the barking – "a common cause of boredom," I’m informed. Slade will offer the owner advice about exercising the pet and how to help it to stop annoying the neighbours.

As an avid dog-lover, Slade is clearly not happy with the animal’s treatment but there are no grounds for its removal. If its condition was bad enough, the SPCA would be called but this time it’s more a case of her feeling sorry for it. Besides, "I’ve seen them in a lot worse states," she laments.

There isn’t a great deal of time for Animal Control staff to get attached to individual cases anyway. With nine field officers covering the Auckland isthmus 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I quickly discover they are constantly on the go.

Before mid-morning we have already patrolled a central-Auckland park, answered a call-out to a shoe-stealing dog in Onehunga, talked to the owners of another serial barker in the same suburb, and reunited a stray golden retriever with its somewhat desperate owner.

There is constant chatter over the RT (radio-telephone) in the bright red Animal Control van. Officers in another area are in hot pursuit of a roaming bullmastiff; across town there is a dog in traffic causing chaos; somewhere else another rogue dog is chasing buses and has harassed a pamphlet deliverer; an unregistered Staffordshire terrier has been collared in South Auckland.

The RT is another one of the few tools that Animal Control officers have in their arsenal. It is used as a safety measure and this is the reason for most of the incessant radio talk. The field officers are constantly informing the base operators of their movements. Before entering a property they call in their location and plan of action, then let the operator know when the job is done. The protocol is strict – it’s the officers’ lifeline in case anything goes wrong, which it does from time to time.

In February this year a Northland Animal Control officer was mauled and only escaped further injury because a police officer shot the attacking dog. Slade admits she has been bitten a number of times but shrugs it off as an "occupational hazard". She says sometimes it isn’t the animals you need to worry about, but the owners.

"I’ve been threatened by owners – eyeball to eyeball stuff – but they’re yelling at the uniform rather than me."

When she isn’t patrolling or investigating callouts from the public (or being abused by some of them), she is visiting kindergartens and schools across the city in an effort to educate children in how to deal with strange dogs, hopefully reducing attacks – a subject that seems to be in even greater demand of late.

It is, obviously, such a topical issue because of the recent spate of dog attacks throughout the country. And although there have been adults among the recent victims, it is the pictures of the brutally injured children that have touched our hearts.

The flurry of attacks started with Carolina Anderson on January 31. The dog ripped the skin from the seven-year-old’s face, down to the bone, and badly damaged her right eye.

Four days later a four-year-old Christchurch girl had her nostrils torn off by a jack russell terrier. Like Carolina, this little girl now faces years of reconstructive surgery.

A week after the Christchurch attack, a pitbull mauled a four-year-old in Lower Hutt, and the same day a five-year-old, Angel Daniels, was attacked by his aunt’s Staffordshire-terrier cross. Angel’s injuries were, quite simply, horrific and required 200 stitches.

Two more dog-attacks on preschoolers followed several days later.

And adding to the rapidly growing fright-factor are the reports that rampant packs of roaming dogs are stopping the mail getting through to homes in some parts of South Auckland.

A wave of shock and condemnation has since spread throughout New Zealand and in some instances there have been backlashes directly against dogs and their owners. So is this state of hysteria justified?

In New Zealand, A&E staff and general practitioners treat around 20 people each day for wounds inflicted by dogs and one person is hospitalised as a result of an attack. There is also a view that many other incidents go unreported.

While many experts doubt that there has been any dramatic increase in the overall number of dog attacks over the years, recent events have certainly lifted the profile. Now, man’s best friend has become public enemy number one and there is widespread debate over how best to tackle the problem.

Cruising through Auckland’s Cornwall Park, her eyes scanning the fields for errant canines, Slade says one thing the media has done is raise the awareness of dog owners’ responsibilities. Although we do two consecutive sweeps through the park, every dog we encounter is well tethered in its master’s grasp. "Dogs to be kept on a lead at all times," read the signs – people are taking more notice than ever.

"In parks, where you’ve got children and families, dogs running around off their leads are probably quite a concern for the general public. Owners are paying more attention to the rules now," says Slade.

The public have become more vigilant too, she notes, and will either inform the owner of their responsibility directly, or contact Animal Control. A $200 fine is usually enough to remind most owners of their obligations. Slade suspects the highly-visible Animal Control Services’ van patrolling the parks and suburbs not only reassures the public, but it also sets off the "ripple effect", particularly in trouble spots with a history of complaints.

"Better find your dog, mate. The catcher’s cruisin’ round after ‘im," imitates my guide.

But in today’s climate of fear even the most vigilant efforts of enforcement officers don’t seem to be enough. Dog control has become a political hot potato and added urgency has been put into the issue.

Carolina Anderson’s father has become the figurehead for those pushing for tighter dog control laws. Recently he used photos of his daughter’s horrific injuries to show MPs in Wellington the true face of dog attacks.

Subsequently, public pressure has prompted Local Government Minister Chris Carter to urgently review the 1996 Dog Control Act. In a statement released shortly after the attack on Carolina, Carter states: "It is simply unacceptable that young children are unable to enjoy the public amenities of a large metropolitan city like Auckland without fear of dog attack."

In the statement he says he is "unclear as to what steps [are] needed to prevent similar tragedies in future", but widespread consultation with interested parties, including councils, the New Zealand Veterinarian Association, the New Zealand Kennel Club, and animal enforcement contractors, has since taken place.

Though any decisions are yet to be finalised, changes to legislation are expected to include the banning of pitbulls, restrictions (possibly including mandatory muzzling) on other "dangerous" breeds, and giving local bodies greater power to enter private property and seize a dangerous dog.

Kenneth Muir, governing director and founder of Animal Control Services, contractors to the Auckland City Council, represented the New Zealand Institute of Animal Control Officers on a working party investigating possible law changes.

He is confident that the remedies will give animal control enforcers greater power to be "proactive rather than reactive". While he refuses to divulge any detailed information on the outcome of the meeting, Muir says, "It will give us some way forward to better protecting the public."

Yet, no matter what laws bureaucracy decides to draft, experts agree that effective dog control comes down to two basic principles: 1) understanding dogs, and 2) responsible ownership.

So why do dogs attack? At her kindergarten guest ap-pearance, Slade explains to 20 eager little faces that "they might attack out of fear, like if they’re approached too quickly or aggressively".

Dogs are also very territorial animals, and experts suspect that they may bite if they think they are protecting their area. But also, our four-legged friends are essentially domesticated wolves - genetically they are almost indistinguishable from their wild kin. The pack mentality is still rooted in every domestic dog and unless the animal’s owner acts as the hierarchical leader, it will assume the role – often with disastrous consequences.

There is a saying among dog control officers: Show me 10 bad dogs and I’ll show you nine bad owners. Many experts believe the problem lies with man betraying the friendship, not the commonly implied antithesis.

Slade says many people enter into dog ownership without knowing what is required of them.

"It’s not too dissimilar to having children – they require constant care and attention."

Muir agrees that like children, if they are not raised properly, dogs will go off the rails. He says there is no such thing as a ‘bad dog’ per se. Rather, they exhibit behaviours that can be directly attributed to a number of factors, for which owners must accept 100 percent responsibility.

"There’s no doubt that there are bad dogs but it is almost certainly a result of how they’ve been conditioned, how they’ve been managed, and their environment," he says.

According to Muir, most of the problem dogs that Animal Control Services deal with are those that have not been registered by their owners, an offence that carries a $400 instant fine under the 1996 Dog Control Act.

The company introduced New Zealand’s first ‘Dog Owner License Scheme’ and ‘the Good Dog Owner Campaign’ to encourage dog owners to take an interest in their responsibilities and to take part in the registration process. Predictably though, the scheme has failed in low socio-economic suburbs despite incentives such as reduced registration fees in return for attendance.

"We certainly have a lot more problems in those areas," admits Muir.

An estimated 40,000 unregistered and unwanted dogs are destroyed each year in New Zealand - that’s roughly 5 percent of the 766,000 dogs we share our homes with. Many of these animals cannot be traced to their owners because they are unregistered. Others are simply forfeited because the owners no longer want the responsibility or refuse to the pay fines.

While Animal Control officers can seize unregistered dogs if they are roaming the streets, they are not authorised to remove them from private property. Presently they can only issue (unenforceable) warning notices but under the proposed new legislation, Muir hints that this loophole is about to be tightened.

Additionally, it will provide officers with greater powers to remove ‘dangerous’ dogs from private residences. But besides some sectors of the public, "breed specific" control is something that does not sit well with many of interested parties.

In a statement released on the New Zealand Kennel Club’s website following the recent spate of attacks, the executive counsel clearly outlines its stance:

"Whereas we deplore savage dogs and their consequences, we are firmly of the opinion that the problem is owner related, and that education and enforcement will address the problem as opposed to increased legislation that will only serve to increase compliance costs to the already law abiding citizens."

The New Zealand Kennel Club’s policy position covers five principles:

1. The dog is a companion and working animal, it adds to the quality of life and also adds value to the country’s economy.

2. We deplore people who breed/train dogs to fight, and our club actively regulates against savage dogs.

3. Our focus is on the cause rather than the symptom.

4. We support owner licensing and more community education.

5. We do not support breed specific legislation.

Muir agrees that breed specific legislation won’t work. He says dogs should be "judged on their deed – not on their breed".

"Nobody believes that’s the answer to the problem. The major problem with such legislation is the cross breeding and proving a dog’s lineage. Nobody supports it because of the hassles associated with it," says Muir.

He is also quick to point out that similar laws have failed elsewhere in the world that they have been implemented.

A mass of dog attacks in Britain over a decade ago led to the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act, a move that essentially banned pitbull terriers. Has it lowered the incidence of dog attacks? Apparently it hasn’t, but perhaps the situation would be worse if nothing had been done.

In 2000, a six-year-old boy was killed by two pitbulls whilst playing outside at his Hamburg primary school. The attack has lead the German Government to introduce a breeding and importation ban on four breeds of fighting dogs: the American Staffordshire terrier; the Staffordshire; the pitbull; and the bull terrier.

There is now a "zero tolerance" stance on aggressive dogs – which many would argue makes sense – but "high risk dogs", and even their owners, are forced to undergo a character test. Many believe the "draconian" legislation will fail because unregistered owners and breeders will simply go underground. In the United States this is a major problem with a secretive, high-stakes, but highly illegal, dog-fighting movement.

Here, dog owners are barking mad over the proposed new laws because, they say, decent citizens are being punished for the actions of the irresponsible.

Animal Control Services has had a strong owner education focus since its inception almost 30 years ago and many believe that this is one of the best ways of dealing with the problem. Most groups also agree that a mandatory ownership licensing scheme, much like a driver’s license or vehicle registration, would prevent bad owners ever having their way with dogs.

There will be definite changes to existing dog control laws announced very soon. Generally, offences under the 1996 Dog Control Act carry a $1,500 maximum fine. There are exceptions, for instance a serious attack on a person or protected wildlife carries a maximum court fine of $5,000 and/or three months imprisonment.

The owners of the dog that attacked little Carolina received two months imprisonment and were ordered to pay $2,000 to the Anderson family. Muir is certain that the Government will increase penalties for the owners of dogs that cause serious injury.

"Personally, I think it should be $25,000 and five years in jail," he says.

We will have to wait and see if his wish comes true but for some, like the handful of injured children, the changes won’t have come soon enough. For others though, the lawmakers who want to fast track changes to dog control legislation are simply barking up the wrong tree.

In mid-February, Act leader Richard Prebble voted against making hasty legal amendments. It is not that he is against it though, he just reasons that: "rushed legislation is invariably bad."

To some it may seem quite ironic that the man called ‘Mad Dog’ is doing exactly what experts suggest people should do if they are ever attacked by a dog – stay still and don’t panic!

Is the Government being too reactionary to the public’s emotional outcry? If so, then dogs and dog owners could be in for the mauling. It’s supposed to be a dog’s life – yet, how many pooches would agree?

At the end of the day, it’s only when our canine companions attack that we fully understand that man’s best friend is not one of us.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:59 AM | Comments (2)

PROJECT BABYLON: WHO ARMED IRAQ? INVESTIGATE: APR 03

bushbombr.jpeg
Popular myth these days would have you believe Saddam Hussein is a creature of the CIA, a stooge of the West, armed to the teeth by America and set loose. The truth, as IAN WISHART reveals, is not quite so simple...

So now that the bullets are being fired, who can be fingered as Saddam Hussein’s suppliers of weapons of mass destruction? In a bitter irony, the answer is emerging: France and Germany, including some of the same European politicians who spoke so strongly against the US-led war. It is a story of massive campaign donations from Iraq to French and German politicians, along with multi-billion dollar arms and infrastructure deals. It is also the story of a forgotten era in modern world history – the Cold War.

While many civilians in the West have been able to level numerous allegations at America’s door over shady links to regimes like Iraq in the past, few of those allegations are set in their proper historical context.

Up until 1990, and throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties, world security was defined in a delicate superpower balancing act between the USA and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR. The communist-based Soviet Union was determined to export its political system to as many countries in the world as it could, by force if necessary, and both superpowers were ultimately behind a range of secret and not-so-secret wars in a battle for control of territory and strategic resources like oil. The Middle East – unstable and home to a large chunk of that oil, as well as the key Suez canal transport pathway – had long been a pawn in the superpower game, with groups on both sides willing to sell their allegiance to the highest bidder.

An aspect often forgotten in current times is that Soviet control of Middle East oilfields could have brought the West to its knees. By turning off the oil tap to the West, the USSR would have simultaneously reduced the West’s ability to go to war on the issue - without the oil to power the tanks, planes and ships, a US led battle force would have ground to a halt. Alternatively, all fuel in the West would have been diverted to the war effort leaving citizens without fuel for heating, transport or industry.

In other words, the stakes were extremely high.

What also makes a direct comparison between our current world and the Cold War period difficult is the bloodshed that could have resulted from a superpower clash: with the ability to nuke the entire planet dozens of times over, and mindful that it only took the assassination of a Grand Duke to begin World War I, strategists in both the US and USSR were loathe to directly intervene in "enemy" territory merely on human rights grounds.

It is only since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 that America and the West have been free to take humanitarian military action in previously unthinkable areas like Yugoslavia, a former communist satellite state.

So if that’s the historical matrix, where does the battle against Iraq have its roots?

The WMD (weapons of mass destruction) trail begins in 1975 when Saddam Hussein – at that stage still the Vice President of Iraq - joined forces with French Prime Minister (now President) Jacques Chirac in a deal to purchase French military equipment and armaments.

Hussein had, only weeks earlier, signed an agreement with the Soviet Union to purchase a nuclear reactor facility from the Russians, but the Soviet deal contained a catch: Russia was insisting on safeguards to ensure that fuel from the reactor could not be reprocessed to make nuclear weapons. Saddam was hoping he could get a better deal out of France.

Jacques Chirac sent an arms negotiation team to Iraq on March 12, 1975, who offered up to 72 of the then state-of-the-art Mirage jet fighters, as well as 40 German Dornier jets (West Germany, in 1975, was still under a United Nations ban on exporting weapons, imposed after WW II, and channelled their defence sales through France to undermine the UN sanction).

The French, for their part, were desperate to source cheap oil from Iraq in order to maintain their overall share of the world oil market. Saddam needed weapons and the ability to manufacture them under license in Iraq; France needed Iraqi oil. It was, noted commentators at the time, a marriage made in heaven.

In their desperation, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac also promised Saddam that France could build Iraq a nuclear reactor capable of breeding enough weapons-grade uranium to make three or four Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs a year. For public consumption however, France treated the reactor project as a civilian-use nuclear power station – a facade that first began to crumble only a few days after the deal was signed when Saddam Hussein told the Lebanese newspaper, Al Usbu al-Arabi, "The agreement with France is the first concrete step toward the production of the Arab atomic weapon."

As word leaked in the French media of Iraq’s intentions, some newspapers began satirising the name of the reactor, Osirak, as "O’Chirac". To save Chirac’s political sensibilities, Iraq changed the name of the reactor project to Tammuz.

Saddam’s personal relationship with Chirac was close. During numerous official and private visits, Chirac developed a taste for masgouf carp, a type of fish native to Iraqi rivers. Saddam arranged for 1.5 tonnes of masgouf to be flown to Paris as a gift to Chirac. In the French press, Jacques Chirac’s nickname was "Mr Iraq".

"Beyond Iraqi oil and the Mirage deal," writes US journalist Kenneth Timmerman in The Death Lobby: How The West Armed Iraq, France signed up to build "petrochemical plants, desalination plants, gas liquefaction complexes, housing projects, telecommunications systems, broadcasting networks, fertiliser plants, defence electronics factories, car assembly plants, a subway system, and a navy yard, not to mention Exocet, Milan, HOT, Magic, Martel, and Armat missiles; Alouette III, Gazelle, and Super-Puma helicopters; AMX 30-GCT howitzers; Tiger-G radar, and a nuclear reactor capable of making the bomb. It was a multibillion dollar relationship."

Under the nuclear contract, France not only agreed to build two reactors, Tammuz I and II, but also to train 600 Iraqi nuclear scientists at French universities. France had refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, saying it regarded its right to export nuclear material as an "issue of national sovereignty" and that it did not regard itself as bound by the Treaty.

But it wasn’t just nuclear technology that Iraq was sourcing from France. The Paris-based Institut Merieux was contracted to build Iraq’s first biological weapons research facility, although officially it was listed as "an agricultural bacteriological laboratory". The purchase went through an Iraqi agency, the General Directorate of Veterinary Services.

A year later, in 1976, Saddam Hussein was pushing for chemical weapons manufacture as well. The French Prime Minister again helped out, opening doors for Iraq in the United States. Because of its reputation for supporting terrorism, Iraq was on the US banned list, but by going through France it was hoping to bypass US restrictions. The "personal friend" of M’sieur Chirac was introduced to a French engineering company with a subsidiary branch in the US. That branch called on a New York chemical equipment company, Pfaudler & Co, and told them Iraq needed to build a pesticide factory because "Iraqi farmers are unable to protect their crops from the ravages of desert locusts and other pests".

This seemed like a reasonable request, and Pfaudler sent staff to Iraq to begin work on the project. The US company pulled out of the deal several months later when it became apparent that Iraq wanted to manufacture 1,200 tonnes of Amiton, Demeton, Paraoxon and Parathion – highly toxic organic compounds that can be converted into nerve gas.

Why would France support a regime like Iraq? Apart from the "oil for guns" advantages, Chirac saw Saddam Hussein as a similar victim of superpower politics – caught between two military giants when Iraq really wanted to steer an independent course. France, also, saw itself as "independent", and had refused full membership of NATO out of a desire to maintain full control of its nuclear arsenal.

Ninety-three percent of Iraq’s weapons had been sourced from the Soviet Union up to this point, but the USSR was keeping Iraq on a tight leash. France, and other smaller arms manufacturers, offered no such fine print in their supply contracts – "you buy it, it’s yours" was the official line.

French media reports indicate there was some opposition within Chirac’s cabinet to the idea of giving Iraq nuclear weapons technology, but "when Andre Giraud, the head of the French nuclear energy committee, protested strongly, Chirac threatened to sack him if the deal was not completed according to the signed agreement. Indeed, the matter was considered to be of such importance that President Giscard d’Estaing took personal control of the affair in order to ensure it’s smooth passage."

When the Soviets got wind of Iraq’s planned switch, they firstly threatened to call in Iraq’s debts and, when that didn’t work, threatened to withhold spares or maintenance for Iraq’s existing Soviet-made military equipment. French officials, confronted at diplomatic cocktail parties by still-fuming Russians, just grinned widely and said nothing.

Annoyed by the American company’s decision to pull out of the "pesticides factory" deal, Iraq approached two British firms in late 1976, ICI Chemicals and Babcock and Wilcox. According to the Washington Post newspaper, ICI refused to become involved because it too was "suspicious of the sensitive nature of the materials and the potential for misuse". ICI tipped off British authorities, and it is widely accepted that the CIA was made aware of the Iraqi plans by early 1977. The CIA, however, was going through some painful Congressional investigations over its unauthorised international activities and reportedly wasn’t keen to conduct another Boy’s Own adventure in Baghdad.

Instead, Saddam Hussein tried his luck in East Germany. He dispatched scientist Dr Amer Hamoudi al-Saadi to Leipzig for discussions with Karl Heinz Lohs, the director of the Leipzig Institute for Poisonous Chemicals. According to Lohs in an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel years later, al-Saadi pulled no punches.

"You Germans have great expertise in the killing of Jews with gas. This interests us in the same way...How [can] this knowledge...be used to destroy Israel?"

Germany was the first country in the world to use chemical weapons – nerve gas – in World War I and despite a 1925 Geneva Protocol banning their manufacture Germany kept working on and perfecting chemical weapons, using organophosphates.

Belgian and Swiss companies had already been contracted to begin construction of a "phosphate" processing plant at Al Qaim in Iraq. According to foreign workers interviewed later, Iraqi officials made sure that staff on the ground were not given a birdseye view of the project. Thus, an ostensibly civilian agricultural plant was constructed with Western involvement, without a realisation that the factory was part of a larger chemical weapons project.

Saddam Hussein continued to play cat and mouse with the Soviet Union, at one stage assuaging their superpower neighbour by purchasing NZ$6 billion worth of fighter aircraft, but at the same time warning the USSR not to meddle in internal Iraqi politics. Saddam even went so far as to cut off water and electricity to the Soviet embassy during one spat.

Across the border in Iran, though, Soviet KGB agents had been working to destabilise the ruthless pro-American regime of the Shah. Although the Western world saw Islamic fundamentalist students and the Ayatollah Khomeini behind the coup in Iran in 1979, it was the USSR who’d laid the groundwork in an effort both to rid the region of American influence but also to gain access to Iranian oil.

Not only was Iran lurching into Soviet orbit, Saddam also feared the flow-on effects of Islamic fundamentalism if it spilled across the border into Iraq’s majority Shiite community.

Having constructed its "pesticides" factory, Iraq began purchasing raw ma-terials for it in July 1983. The first shipment, 500 tonnes of thiodiglycol – an ingredient of mustard gas – was sourced through a Dutch company, which went on to supply many hundreds of tonnes more. The Dutch company acted as a ‘front’, ordering the chemicals in from the US. That particular deception wasn’t discovered by US authorities until 1986, three years after the first chemical weapons had been used by Iraqi forces against Iran. But US intelligence agencies had acted swiftly after the first gas attacks in December 1983, and a report to the US Government in early 1984 recommended the immediate imposition of export controls on chemicals that could be used in weapons. Iraq and Iran were the first on the banned list, but the warring nations went through so many middlemen that eventually the banned list included the entire world, save for 18 Western nations.

"During the [Iran/Iraq] war," writes Egyptian investigative journalist Adel Darwish in Unholy Babylon, "the United States, Britain and France tempered their strictures against Iraq and its production and use of chemical weapons because they were already preoccupied with confronting a more immediate threat – Ayatollah Khomeini and his fiery brand of Shia fundamentalism which was threatening to spread throughout the Islamic world."

Former Reagan-era National Security adviser Geoffrey Kemp explained to Darwish:

"The Ayatollah was calling us the Great Satan and trying to undermine governments throughout the Gulf States".

Iran, says Kemp, was seen at the time as a much greater threat to world peace than Iraq.

"It wasn’t that we wanted Iraq to win the war. We didn’t want Iraq to lose. We weren’t really that naive. We knew [Saddam] was an SOB, but he was our SOB."

Contrary to popular conspiracy theory, however, most of Iraq’s military assistance was not coming from the United States at all. Instead, throughout the war with Iran and right up to the 1991 Gulf War, the bulk of ordinary weapons, and WMD material, was coming from Europe – specifically France and Germany.

In October 1990 West German company Josef Kuhn was outed for supplying Iraq with biological weapons, two mykotoxins whose effects included skin irritation, blisters, dizziness, nausea, diarrhoea and eventually death.

West German companies were also involved in building three chemical weapons plants codenamed Ieas, Meda and Ghasi, whose task was to produce a chemical agent that could penetrate gas masks and NBC (nuclear/bio/chem) protection suits. They were successful, by all reports. A quantity the size of a sugar cube is sufficient to kill 2,500 people.

Saddam Hussein’s quest to develop the first Arab nuclear bomb has come unstuck several times. While French nuclear en-gineers worked around the clock to bring the two nuclear reactors online, both Israel’s Mossad spy agency, and Russia’s KGB, had infiltrated the project. Both countries harboured extreme concerns about a nuclear-tipped Iraq. At the same time, the Iraqi facilities were being guarded by agents from the French security agency DST. Nonetheless, Mossad managed to slip past the French and obtain the data they needed.

There was another irony: despite the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, the Iranian secret service SAVAM continued to liase closely with Mossad over their common enemy, Iraq. SAVAM supplied Israel with aerial photos of the nuclear reactors, and Israel hatched a plan to bomb them.

On June 7, 1981, 16 Israeli F-15s and F16s launched a lightning raid, skimming just 10 metres above the ground virtually all the way from Israel to Iraq to avoid radar detection. Sixteen massive concrete-piercing bombs were dropped, and all hit their mark. The French nuclear reactors built for Iraq were rubble.

Undeterred, Iraq’s nuclear programme was resurrected with the aid of German advisers in 1987, and efforts were made to secretly procure the necessary components from companies around the world. Both the CIA and Britain’s MI6 were authorised to crack down on Iraq’s efforts, and more export bans were introduced.

The American bans were more successful than the British ones. Ministers in Britain’s Tory Government had shareholdings in companies who were trying to win Iraqi defence contracts under the table. The Opposition Labour party, now in Government under Tony Blair, attempted to expose as many of the secret deals as they got wind of.

Key nuclear components ended up coming from Germany, China, France and Pakistan. China, in particular, supplied seven tonnes of lithium hydride, a chemical essential to the nuclear weapons programme.

Western intelligence estimates in 1990, prior to the Gulf War, estimated that Iraq would have a functional nuclear weapon by 1997. One agency to disagree was America’s Defence Intelligence Agency, which warned Iraq was much further ahead than previously believed. In November 1990 the DIA warned that an atomic bomb in Baghdad may only be "two months" away. As events transpired, there is evidence the DIA was right.

In their book Brighter Than The Baghdad Sun: Saddam Hussein’s Nuclear Threat To The United States, Times of London jour-nalists Daniel McGrory and Shyam Bahtia interviewed defecting Iraqi nuclear scientists after the end of the 1991 Gulf War. They discovered Saddam Hussein almost had his nuclear bomb ready to drop on US troops, but the nuclear weapons plant and the weapon were destroyed – quite by accident - during the aerial blitz that began the war.

"Total fluke. Absolute fluke — so terrifying," McGrory told WorldNetDaily.com. "We came so close to seeing the doomsday bomb being created and that is what Saddam wanted. When Desert Shield began with Saddam already in Kuwait, we poured tens of thousand of troops and manpower into the Arabian desert, thinking, "Why is Saddam sitting there watching and waiting? Why doesn’t he do something?" Our fear was that, the day before the U.N. deadline, Saddam would — wily old fox that he is — pull back, and the allies would go wobbly and say, well, we don’t want to invade; there is no point now.

"The truth is, what he had done was to gather his scientists and say, "You work day and night and you deliver me the doomsday bomb. I will detonate it before the ground war, and that will show them." He was betting that if he proved he had a nuclear device the allies would not have taken him on in war.

"Ironically, the Pentagon played a war game before the invasion began and the one question fed into the computer was: "What would we do if Saddam possessed a nuclear weapon?" The computer chewed on it for a while and spit back, "Nothing!"

McGrory also details the way some of the 18,000 nuclear scientists and workers were kept in line by Saddam Hussein. One key scientist, Hussein Shahristani, resisted Saddam.

"He went to prison; he was tortured; he was made to watch a 7-year-old boy hanged from his wrists and then executed for the sin of writing on the blackboard "Saddam is a buffalo."

"Shahristani still refused to break. He spent eight and a half years in solitary. He was allowed one visit with his wife in the very early days and their newborn child. And he watched a Republican Guard snatch the child from his wife’s arms and hold a gun to the child’s head while he had a five-minute meeting with his wife. His captors asked, "Do you wish to persist with your refusal?" Begging his wife for forgiveness, he said, "Look, I can’t take part in this."

Shahristani, who now works to help Iraqi refugees, told a British news conference in December last year:

"My most vivid memory is hearing the screams of very young children being tortured in the neighboring torturing rooms.

"However, I was more fortunate than many of my fellow political prisoners in the country. I did not have holes drilled into my bones, as happened in the next torture room. I did not have my limbs cut off by an electric saw. I did not have my eyes gauged out.

"Women of my family were not brought in and raped in front of me, as happened to many of my colleagues. Torturers did not dissolve my hands in acid. I was not among the hundreds of political prisoners who were taken from prison as guinea-pigs to be used for chemical and biological tests.

"They only tortured me for 22 days and nights continuously by hanging me from my hands tied at the back and using a high voltage probe on the sensitive parts of my body and beating me mercilessly. They were very careful not to leave any permanent bodily marks on me because they hope they can break my will and I will agree to go back and work on their military nuclear program.

"In a way I was lucky to spend 11 years in solitary confinement because I did not have to see what was going on in the larger prison – the country of Iraq – in which 20 million people were kept captives. I did not have to witness the ceremonies in which mothers were ordered to watch public executions of their sons and then asked to pay the price of the bullets that were used in the executions.

"I did not have to watch people’s tongues being pulled out and cut off because they dared to criticize Saddam or one of his family members. I did not see young men’s foreheads branded and their ears cut off because they were late for a few days to report to their military duties. I did not see the beautiful southern Iraqi Marshes drained and the reeds burnt and the Marsh Arabs massacred and their old ways of life destroyed. I did not see the beheading of more than 130 women, who were beheaded in public squares in Iraq, and their heads put out for public display.

"In many ways I was fortunate to have survived it all to tell the stories of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are not here to tell their stories. These atrocities have been going on for over two decades while the international community have either silently watched it, or at times even tried to cover it up.

"Saddam is not a run-of-the-mill dictator; he is exceptional. Weapons of mass destruction in Saddam’s hands are dangerous to the Iraqi people and to mankind."

As McGrory’s book notes, rape was also a tool of the regime.

"The man would arrest senior figures in the administration for no reason other than to get to their wives. In one case, a woman (she told us herself — she is now living in Scotland in absolute peril) was forced into a room where Saddam was staring at a file on his knee. He didn’t look up, just beckoned her over and she had to sit on his knee like some kind of recalcitrant child; she reports Saddam said, "Your husband has been a very naughty boy." And, with that, he raped her in the room, watched over by several guards.

"When another woman came in, she was so appalled with what he was about to do to her that she scratched her own face with her fingernails and blood began to pour down her face. Saddam is a fanatically fastidious man who hates any kind of dirt and when the blood dripped onto his suit, he pushed her away. Disgusted with what she had done, he said to the guards, "Take her outside and you deal with her." And four or five Republican Guards took her outside and raped her."

McGrory, like Darwish and Timmer-man, confirms the strong links between Europe – particularly Germany – and Iraq’s WMD programme.

"They have some appalling people. There are a couple of German scientists who were taken over to Iraq who actually worked for Hitler. They were still alive, these old boys, and they felt their worth was not really recognized in Germany. They were tempted by the fast buck and went over to Iraq. One man used to play Hitler’s speeches in his room and said quite openly, "The only other leader I would work for other than Adolf is Saddam Hussein; they are two of a kind." Well, they are.

"In fact, early on, Saddam used to carry around a copy of "Mein Kampf" like it was a Bible. His father had run off and left him, before he was born, and he was brought up by an uncle — a dreadful man — and this man taught Saddam from the time he could walk and talk that the Nazis were a great power. His uncle’s philosophy was that the Jews are lower than flies. And, when Saddam came to power, he allowed his uncle to publish his appalling rantings and insisted that everyone in Iraq should receive a copy of his thoughts."

McGrory also told WorldNetDaily of the vast personal fortune compiled by Hussein while his citizens starved under UN sanctions.

"It is thought to be in the region of US$100 billion. This could be one of the richest countries in the world. It oozes oil; it has fantastic agriculture; it has everything going for it and he has just wastefully, wastefully frittered it away along with his sons and relatives. The indulgences are shocking. The truth is, they whine about sanctions, saying they are hurting people, but you go to Baghdad and you see the fastest and finest cars. Uday at one stage had 34 cars."

But perhaps the last word on the threat that Saddam Hussein posed prior to US intervention should be left to Kenneth Joseph, one of a number of antiwar demonstrators who travelled to Iraq as would-be human shields.

Joseph’s group found the experience a real eye-opener, and his group managed to film 14 hours of uncensored video footage before they wereasked to leave Iraq with the rest of the human shields.

UPI news agency reported Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, as saying the trip "had shocked me back to reality."

Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn’t start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam’s bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."

Copyright 2003 onwards


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:52 AM | Comments (0)

PROJECT BABYLON: WHO ARMED IRAQ? INVESTIGATE: APR 03

bushbombr.jpeg
Popular myth these days would have you believe Saddam Hussein is a creature of the CIA, a stooge of the West, armed to the teeth by America and set loose. The truth, as IAN WISHART reveals, is not quite so simple...

So now that the bullets are being fired, who can be fingered as Saddam Hussein’s suppliers of weapons of mass destruction? In a bitter irony, the answer is emerging: France and Germany, including some of the same European politicians who spoke so strongly against the US-led war. It is a story of massive campaign donations from Iraq to French and German politicians, along with multi-billion dollar arms and infrastructure deals. It is also the story of a forgotten era in modern world history – the Cold War.

While many civilians in the West have been able to level numerous allegations at America’s door over shady links to regimes like Iraq in the past, few of those allegations are set in their proper historical context.

Up until 1990, and throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties, world security was defined in a delicate superpower balancing act between the USA and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR. The communist-based Soviet Union was determined to export its political system to as many countries in the world as it could, by force if necessary, and both superpowers were ultimately behind a range of secret and not-so-secret wars in a battle for control of territory and strategic resources like oil. The Middle East – unstable and home to a large chunk of that oil, as well as the key Suez canal transport pathway – had long been a pawn in the superpower game, with groups on both sides willing to sell their allegiance to the highest bidder.

An aspect often forgotten in current times is that Soviet control of Middle East oilfields could have brought the West to its knees. By turning off the oil tap to the West, the USSR would have simultaneously reduced the West’s ability to go to war on the issue - without the oil to power the tanks, planes and ships, a US led battle force would have ground to a halt. Alternatively, all fuel in the West would have been diverted to the war effort leaving citizens without fuel for heating, transport or industry.

In other words, the stakes were extremely high.

What also makes a direct comparison between our current world and the Cold War period difficult is the bloodshed that could have resulted from a superpower clash: with the ability to nuke the entire planet dozens of times over, and mindful that it only took the assassination of a Grand Duke to begin World War I, strategists in both the US and USSR were loathe to directly intervene in "enemy" territory merely on human rights grounds.

It is only since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 that America and the West have been free to take humanitarian military action in previously unthinkable areas like Yugoslavia, a former communist satellite state.

So if that’s the historical matrix, where does the battle against Iraq have its roots?

The WMD (weapons of mass destruction) trail begins in 1975 when Saddam Hussein – at that stage still the Vice President of Iraq - joined forces with French Prime Minister (now President) Jacques Chirac in a deal to purchase French military equipment and armaments.

Hussein had, only weeks earlier, signed an agreement with the Soviet Union to purchase a nuclear reactor facility from the Russians, but the Soviet deal contained a catch: Russia was insisting on safeguards to ensure that fuel from the reactor could not be reprocessed to make nuclear weapons. Saddam was hoping he could get a better deal out of France.

Jacques Chirac sent an arms negotiation team to Iraq on March 12, 1975, who offered up to 72 of the then state-of-the-art Mirage jet fighters, as well as 40 German Dornier jets (West Germany, in 1975, was still under a United Nations ban on exporting weapons, imposed after WW II, and channelled their defence sales through France to undermine the UN sanction).

The French, for their part, were desperate to source cheap oil from Iraq in order to maintain their overall share of the world oil market. Saddam needed weapons and the ability to manufacture them under license in Iraq; France needed Iraqi oil. It was, noted commentators at the time, a marriage made in heaven.

In their desperation, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac also promised Saddam that France could build Iraq a nuclear reactor capable of breeding enough weapons-grade uranium to make three or four Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs a year. For public consumption however, France treated the reactor project as a civilian-use nuclear power station – a facade that first began to crumble only a few days after the deal was signed when Saddam Hussein told the Lebanese newspaper, Al Usbu al-Arabi, "The agreement with France is the first concrete step toward the production of the Arab atomic weapon."

As word leaked in the French media of Iraq’s intentions, some newspapers began satirising the name of the reactor, Osirak, as "O’Chirac". To save Chirac’s political sensibilities, Iraq changed the name of the reactor project to Tammuz.

Saddam’s personal relationship with Chirac was close. During numerous official and private visits, Chirac developed a taste for masgouf carp, a type of fish native to Iraqi rivers. Saddam arranged for 1.5 tonnes of masgouf to be flown to Paris as a gift to Chirac. In the French press, Jacques Chirac’s nickname was "Mr Iraq".

"Beyond Iraqi oil and the Mirage deal," writes US journalist Kenneth Timmerman in The Death Lobby: How The West Armed Iraq, France signed up to build "petrochemical plants, desalination plants, gas liquefaction complexes, housing projects, telecommunications systems, broadcasting networks, fertiliser plants, defence electronics factories, car assembly plants, a subway system, and a navy yard, not to mention Exocet, Milan, HOT, Magic, Martel, and Armat missiles; Alouette III, Gazelle, and Super-Puma helicopters; AMX 30-GCT howitzers; Tiger-G radar, and a nuclear reactor capable of making the bomb. It was a multibillion dollar relationship."

Under the nuclear contract, France not only agreed to build two reactors, Tammuz I and II, but also to train 600 Iraqi nuclear scientists at French universities. France had refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, saying it regarded its right to export nuclear material as an "issue of national sovereignty" and that it did not regard itself as bound by the Treaty.

But it wasn’t just nuclear technology that Iraq was sourcing from France. The Paris-based Institut Merieux was contracted to build Iraq’s first biological weapons research facility, although officially it was listed as "an agricultural bacteriological laboratory". The purchase went through an Iraqi agency, the General Directorate of Veterinary Services.

A year later, in 1976, Saddam Hussein was pushing for chemical weapons manufacture as well. The French Prime Minister again helped out, opening doors for Iraq in the United States. Because of its reputation for supporting terrorism, Iraq was on the US banned list, but by going through France it was hoping to bypass US restrictions. The "personal friend" of M’sieur Chirac was introduced to a French engineering company with a subsidiary branch in the US. That branch called on a New York chemical equipment company, Pfaudler & Co, and told them Iraq needed to build a pesticide factory because "Iraqi farmers are unable to protect their crops from the ravages of desert locusts and other pests".

This seemed like a reasonable request, and Pfaudler sent staff to Iraq to begin work on the project. The US company pulled out of the deal several months later when it became apparent that Iraq wanted to manufacture 1,200 tonnes of Amiton, Demeton, Paraoxon and Parathion – highly toxic organic compounds that can be converted into nerve gas.

Why would France support a regime like Iraq? Apart from the "oil for guns" advantages, Chirac saw Saddam Hussein as a similar victim of superpower politics – caught between two military giants when Iraq really wanted to steer an independent course. France, also, saw itself as "independent", and had refused full membership of NATO out of a desire to maintain full control of its nuclear arsenal.

Ninety-three percent of Iraq’s weapons had been sourced from the Soviet Union up to this point, but the USSR was keeping Iraq on a tight leash. France, and other smaller arms manufacturers, offered no such fine print in their supply contracts – "you buy it, it’s yours" was the official line.

French media reports indicate there was some opposition within Chirac’s cabinet to the idea of giving Iraq nuclear weapons technology, but "when Andre Giraud, the head of the French nuclear energy committee, protested strongly, Chirac threatened to sack him if the deal was not completed according to the signed agreement. Indeed, the matter was considered to be of such importance that President Giscard d’Estaing took personal control of the affair in order to ensure it’s smooth passage."

When the Soviets got wind of Iraq’s planned switch, they firstly threatened to call in Iraq’s debts and, when that didn’t work, threatened to withhold spares or maintenance for Iraq’s existing Soviet-made military equipment. French officials, confronted at diplomatic cocktail parties by still-fuming Russians, just grinned widely and said nothing.

Annoyed by the American company’s decision to pull out of the "pesticides factory" deal, Iraq approached two British firms in late 1976, ICI Chemicals and Babcock and Wilcox. According to the Washington Post newspaper, ICI refused to become involved because it too was "suspicious of the sensitive nature of the materials and the potential for misuse". ICI tipped off British authorities, and it is widely accepted that the CIA was made aware of the Iraqi plans by early 1977. The CIA, however, was going through some painful Congressional investigations over its unauthorised international activities and reportedly wasn’t keen to conduct another Boy’s Own adventure in Baghdad.

Instead, Saddam Hussein tried his luck in East Germany. He dispatched scientist Dr Amer Hamoudi al-Saadi to Leipzig for discussions with Karl Heinz Lohs, the director of the Leipzig Institute for Poisonous Chemicals. According to Lohs in an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel years later, al-Saadi pulled no punches.

"You Germans have great expertise in the killing of Jews with gas. This interests us in the same way...How [can] this knowledge...be used to destroy Israel?"

Germany was the first country in the world to use chemical weapons – nerve gas – in World War I and despite a 1925 Geneva Protocol banning their manufacture Germany kept working on and perfecting chemical weapons, using organophosphates.

Belgian and Swiss companies had already been contracted to begin construction of a "phosphate" processing plant at Al Qaim in Iraq. According to foreign workers interviewed later, Iraqi officials made sure that staff on the ground were not given a birdseye view of the project. Thus, an ostensibly civilian agricultural plant was constructed with Western involvement, without a realisation that the factory was part of a larger chemical weapons project.

Saddam Hussein continued to play cat and mouse with the Soviet Union, at one stage assuaging their superpower neighbour by purchasing NZ$6 billion worth of fighter aircraft, but at the same time warning the USSR not to meddle in internal Iraqi politics. Saddam even went so far as to cut off water and electricity to the Soviet embassy during one spat.

Across the border in Iran, though, Soviet KGB agents had been working to destabilise the ruthless pro-American regime of the Shah. Although the Western world saw Islamic fundamentalist students and the Ayatollah Khomeini behind the coup in Iran in 1979, it was the USSR who’d laid the groundwork in an effort both to rid the region of American influence but also to gain access to Iranian oil.

Not only was Iran lurching into Soviet orbit, Saddam also feared the flow-on effects of Islamic fundamentalism if it spilled across the border into Iraq’s majority Shiite community.

Having constructed its "pesticides" factory, Iraq began purchasing raw ma-terials for it in July 1983. The first shipment, 500 tonnes of thiodiglycol – an ingredient of mustard gas – was sourced through a Dutch company, which went on to supply many hundreds of tonnes more. The Dutch company acted as a ‘front’, ordering the chemicals in from the US. That particular deception wasn’t discovered by US authorities until 1986, three years after the first chemical weapons had been used by Iraqi forces against Iran. But US intelligence agencies had acted swiftly after the first gas attacks in December 1983, and a report to the US Government in early 1984 recommended the immediate imposition of export controls on chemicals that could be used in weapons. Iraq and Iran were the first on the banned list, but the warring nations went through so many middlemen that eventually the banned list included the entire world, save for 18 Western nations.

"During the [Iran/Iraq] war," writes Egyptian investigative journalist Adel Darwish in Unholy Babylon, "the United States, Britain and France tempered their strictures against Iraq and its production and use of chemical weapons because they were already preoccupied with confronting a more immediate threat – Ayatollah Khomeini and his fiery brand of Shia fundamentalism which was threatening to spread throughout the Islamic world."

Former Reagan-era National Security adviser Geoffrey Kemp explained to Darwish:

"The Ayatollah was calling us the Great Satan and trying to undermine governments throughout the Gulf States".

Iran, says Kemp, was seen at the time as a much greater threat to world peace than Iraq.

"It wasn’t that we wanted Iraq to win the war. We didn’t want Iraq to lose. We weren’t really that naive. We knew [Saddam] was an SOB, but he was our SOB."

Contrary to popular conspiracy theory, however, most of Iraq’s military assistance was not coming from the United States at all. Instead, throughout the war with Iran and right up to the 1991 Gulf War, the bulk of ordinary weapons, and WMD material, was coming from Europe – specifically France and Germany.

In October 1990 West German company Josef Kuhn was outed for supplying Iraq with biological weapons, two mykotoxins whose effects included skin irritation, blisters, dizziness, nausea, diarrhoea and eventually death.

West German companies were also involved in building three chemical weapons plants codenamed Ieas, Meda and Ghasi, whose task was to produce a chemical agent that could penetrate gas masks and NBC (nuclear/bio/chem) protection suits. They were successful, by all reports. A quantity the size of a sugar cube is sufficient to kill 2,500 people.

Saddam Hussein’s quest to develop the first Arab nuclear bomb has come unstuck several times. While French nuclear en-gineers worked around the clock to bring the two nuclear reactors online, both Israel’s Mossad spy agency, and Russia’s KGB, had infiltrated the project. Both countries harboured extreme concerns about a nuclear-tipped Iraq. At the same time, the Iraqi facilities were being guarded by agents from the French security agency DST. Nonetheless, Mossad managed to slip past the French and obtain the data they needed.

There was another irony: despite the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, the Iranian secret service SAVAM continued to liase closely with Mossad over their common enemy, Iraq. SAVAM supplied Israel with aerial photos of the nuclear reactors, and Israel hatched a plan to bomb them.

On June 7, 1981, 16 Israeli F-15s and F16s launched a lightning raid, skimming just 10 metres above the ground virtually all the way from Israel to Iraq to avoid radar detection. Sixteen massive concrete-piercing bombs were dropped, and all hit their mark. The French nuclear reactors built for Iraq were rubble.

Undeterred, Iraq’s nuclear programme was resurrected with the aid of German advisers in 1987, and efforts were made to secretly procure the necessary components from companies around the world. Both the CIA and Britain’s MI6 were authorised to crack down on Iraq’s efforts, and more export bans were introduced.

The American bans were more successful than the British ones. Ministers in Britain’s Tory Government had shareholdings in companies who were trying to win Iraqi defence contracts under the table. The Opposition Labour party, now in Government under Tony Blair, attempted to expose as many of the secret deals as they got wind of.

Key nuclear components ended up coming from Germany, China, France and Pakistan. China, in particular, supplied seven tonnes of lithium hydride, a chemical essential to the nuclear weapons programme.

Western intelligence estimates in 1990, prior to the Gulf War, estimated that Iraq would have a functional nuclear weapon by 1997. One agency to disagree was America’s Defence Intelligence Agency, which warned Iraq was much further ahead than previously believed. In November 1990 the DIA warned that an atomic bomb in Baghdad may only be "two months" away. As events transpired, there is evidence the DIA was right.

In their book Brighter Than The Baghdad Sun: Saddam Hussein’s Nuclear Threat To The United States, Times of London jour-nalists Daniel McGrory and Shyam Bahtia interviewed defecting Iraqi nuclear scientists after the end of the 1991 Gulf War. They discovered Saddam Hussein almost had his nuclear bomb ready to drop on US troops, but the nuclear weapons plant and the weapon were destroyed – quite by accident - during the aerial blitz that began the war.

"Total fluke. Absolute fluke — so terrifying," McGrory told WorldNetDaily.com. "We came so close to seeing the doomsday bomb being created and that is what Saddam wanted. When Desert Shield began with Saddam already in Kuwait, we poured tens of thousand of troops and manpower into the Arabian desert, thinking, "Why is Saddam sitting there watching and waiting? Why doesn’t he do something?" Our fear was that, the day before the U.N. deadline, Saddam would — wily old fox that he is — pull back, and the allies would go wobbly and say, well, we don’t want to invade; there is no point now.

"The truth is, what he had done was to gather his scientists and say, "You work day and night and you deliver me the doomsday bomb. I will detonate it before the ground war, and that will show them." He was betting that if he proved he had a nuclear device the allies would not have taken him on in war.

"Ironically, the Pentagon played a war game before the invasion began and the one question fed into the computer was: "What would we do if Saddam possessed a nuclear weapon?" The computer chewed on it for a while and spit back, "Nothing!"

McGrory also details the way some of the 18,000 nuclear scientists and workers were kept in line by Saddam Hussein. One key scientist, Hussein Shahristani, resisted Saddam.

"He went to prison; he was tortured; he was made to watch a 7-year-old boy hanged from his wrists and then executed for the sin of writing on the blackboard "Saddam is a buffalo."

"Shahristani still refused to break. He spent eight and a half years in solitary. He was allowed one visit with his wife in the very early days and their newborn child. And he watched a Republican Guard snatch the child from his wife’s arms and hold a gun to the child’s head while he had a five-minute meeting with his wife. His captors asked, "Do you wish to persist with your refusal?" Begging his wife for forgiveness, he said, "Look, I can’t take part in this."

Shahristani, who now works to help Iraqi refugees, told a British news conference in December last year:

"My most vivid memory is hearing the screams of very young children being tortured in the neighboring torturing rooms.

"However, I was more fortunate than many of my fellow political prisoners in the country. I did not have holes drilled into my bones, as happened in the next torture room. I did not have my limbs cut off by an electric saw. I did not have my eyes gauged out.

"Women of my family were not brought in and raped in front of me, as happened to many of my colleagues. Torturers did not dissolve my hands in acid. I was not among the hundreds of political prisoners who were taken from prison as guinea-pigs to be used for chemical and biological tests.

"They only tortured me for 22 days and nights continuously by hanging me from my hands tied at the back and using a high voltage probe on the sensitive parts of my body and beating me mercilessly. They were very careful not to leave any permanent bodily marks on me because they hope they can break my will and I will agree to go back and work on their military nuclear program.

"In a way I was lucky to spend 11 years in solitary confinement because I did not have to see what was going on in the larger prison – the country of Iraq – in which 20 million people were kept captives. I did not have to witness the ceremonies in which mothers were ordered to watch public executions of their sons and then asked to pay the price of the bullets that were used in the executions.

"I did not have to watch people’s tongues being pulled out and cut off because they dared to criticize Saddam or one of his family members. I did not see young men’s foreheads branded and their ears cut off because they were late for a few days to report to their military duties. I did not see the beautiful southern Iraqi Marshes drained and the reeds burnt and the Marsh Arabs massacred and their old ways of life destroyed. I did not see the beheading of more than 130 women, who were beheaded in public squares in Iraq, and their heads put out for public display.

"In many ways I was fortunate to have survived it all to tell the stories of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are not here to tell their stories. These atrocities have been going on for over two decades while the international community have either silently watched it, or at times even tried to cover it up.

"Saddam is not a run-of-the-mill dictator; he is exceptional. Weapons of mass destruction in Saddam’s hands are dangerous to the Iraqi people and to mankind."

As McGrory’s book notes, rape was also a tool of the regime.

"The man would arrest senior figures in the administration for no reason other than to get to their wives. In one case, a woman (she told us herself — she is now living in Scotland in absolute peril) was forced into a room where Saddam was staring at a file on his knee. He didn’t look up, just beckoned her over and she had to sit on his knee like some kind of recalcitrant child; she reports Saddam said, "Your husband has been a very naughty boy." And, with that, he raped her in the room, watched over by several guards.

"When another woman came in, she was so appalled with what he was about to do to her that she scratched her own face with her fingernails and blood began to pour down her face. Saddam is a fanatically fastidious man who hates any kind of dirt and when the blood dripped onto his suit, he pushed her away. Disgusted with what she had done, he said to the guards, "Take her outside and you deal with her." And four or five Republican Guards took her outside and raped her."

McGrory, like Darwish and Timmer-man, confirms the strong links between Europe – particularly Germany – and Iraq’s WMD programme.

"They have some appalling people. There are a couple of German scientists who were taken over to Iraq who actually worked for Hitler. They were still alive, these old boys, and they felt their worth was not really recognized in Germany. They were tempted by the fast buck and went over to Iraq. One man used to play Hitler’s speeches in his room and said quite openly, "The only other leader I would work for other than Adolf is Saddam Hussein; they are two of a kind." Well, they are.

"In fact, early on, Saddam used to carry around a copy of "Mein Kampf" like it was a Bible. His father had run off and left him, before he was born, and he was brought up by an uncle — a dreadful man — and this man taught Saddam from the time he could walk and talk that the Nazis were a great power. His uncle’s philosophy was that the Jews are lower than flies. And, when Saddam came to power, he allowed his uncle to publish his appalling rantings and insisted that everyone in Iraq should receive a copy of his thoughts."

McGrory also told WorldNetDaily of the vast personal fortune compiled by Hussein while his citizens starved under UN sanctions.

"It is thought to be in the region of US$100 billion. This could be one of the richest countries in the world. It oozes oil; it has fantastic agriculture; it has everything going for it and he has just wastefully, wastefully frittered it away along with his sons and relatives. The indulgences are shocking. The truth is, they whine about sanctions, saying they are hurting people, but you go to Baghdad and you see the fastest and finest cars. Uday at one stage had 34 cars."

But perhaps the last word on the threat that Saddam Hussein posed prior to US intervention should be left to Kenneth Joseph, one of a number of antiwar demonstrators who travelled to Iraq as would-be human shields.

Joseph’s group found the experience a real eye-opener, and his group managed to film 14 hours of uncensored video footage before they wereasked to leave Iraq with the rest of the human shields.

UPI news agency reported Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, as saying the trip "had shocked me back to reality."

Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn’t start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam’s bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."

Copyright 2003 onwards


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:52 AM | Comments (0)