Thursday, July 22, 2004

Bounty Hunters in Afghanistan...Jonathan K. Idema

U.S. Admits 'Bounty Hunter' Contact
BBC News

Thursday 22 July 2004

The US military has admitted it detained an Afghan man handed over by a US citizen accused of running a freelance counter-terrorism operation.

A military spokesman said the prisoner was handed over by the American, Jonathan K Idema, in May.

A BBC correspondent in Kabul says that the disclosure is embarrassing for the US, which said it had had no links with the alleged American mercenary.

He is facing charges of torture, kidnapping and running a private jail.

'Mercenary' allegation
"We did receive a detainee from Mr. Idema or his party," said Major Jon Siepmann, spokesman for the coalition forces.

"The reason we received this person was that we believed that he was someone that we had identified as a potential terrorist and we wanted him for questioning," he said.

But forces strenuously deny that Mr. Idema was working for the military in any official capacity and insist that he is a mercenary.

They argue that they were not aware of Mr. Idema's "full track record" prior to his arrest earlier this month along with two other Americans and four Afghans.

Eight prisoners were freed from a makeshift jail in Kabul they are alleged to have run.

Mr. Idema argues that he was working with the knowledge of the US defence secretary, and that the US government had abandoned him.

He said that in May he had handed over a man to the US authorities who he described as a Taleban intelligence chief.

The suspect was released a month later when US officials decided he was not who Mr. Idema said he was.

The American went on trial on Wednesday with two other compatriots, Edward Caraballo and Brent Bennett.

They faced charges of torture, kidnapping and running a private jail.

Speaking to journalists before Wednesday's court proceedings, Mr. Idema said he had evidence to prove he was working for the Pentagon.

Better prepared
He claimed to have helped prevent several attempted terrorist attacks and said he had regular e-mail, phone and fax contact with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office and other senior Pentagon officials.

He said his group had prevented assassination attempts on Education Minister Yunis Qanooni and Defence Minister Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim.

The BBC correspondent in Kabul says that while Mr. Idema's claims are being treated cautiously, many feel that more details will emerge with every new development in this saga.

Four Afghans arrested with the Americans also stood for trial on Wednesday.

After the charges were read out, a lawyer for one of the Americans - Mr. Caraballo - asked for the trial to be delayed by at least two weeks so the defence could be better prepared.

Presiding Judge Abdul Baset Bakhtyari allowed the request and adjourned the case for 15 days.

None of the Americans spoke officially in court on Wednesday but three witnesses did appear.

They were from among the eight Afghans who were found at the alleged private jail the Americans were said to be running.

One, Sher Jan, said: "They pulled me out of my house one morning, hooded me and broke a rib with a gun... They poured hot water on me too."

Correspondents say the US bounty for al-Qaeda fugitives has drawn many foreign vigilantes to Afghanistan.

The US government has promised $25m for anyone who facilitates the arrest of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

More on the Joe Starkey story...Annie Jacobsen, of WomensWallStreet

Rig My Election, Please!

Rig My Election, Please Just how far will desperate Republicans go to trick America into another BushCo victory? - By Mark Morford, SF Gate ColumnistWednesday, July 21, 2004
Semi-clever, ultra-wealthy Bush supporters suddenly donating piles of money to the Nader campaign in an obvious attempt to steal votes from John Kerry? Pshaw. Ptooey. Child's play. Tip of the iceberg. A mere distraction.
We ain't seen nuthin' yet.
This is the time of desperation and anxiety. This is the time of hysterical Orange Alerts and imminent al Qaeda attacks coming from outta nowhere at any minute and violating our children and kicking our puppies and badly denting our Honda Accords. And, yes, this is the time of election-year political tactics coming from the increasingly anxious Right that will make Sun Tzu's "Art of War" look like a cupcake cookbook.
Do you feel it? Can you smell it in the air? The sensation that the Republican Party, though various tentacles, will stop at absolutely nothing to maintain power in the White House? It's true. It's the feeling that, during the next few months, it's all about to get very shrill, and very surreal, indeed.
How about another "imminent" terrorist threat? Pretty much a given, really. Followed, of course, by another. And then another. And then another and another until every other day the newscast features a thick-necked, panicky Tom Ridge saying yes, oh my God yes, we now have definitive proof that terrorists are more or less sort of maybe planning to strike the U.S. maybe very soon and disrupt our shopping and screw with our TV reception and blot out the sun. We just don't know, you know, where, or when, or how, or what the hell to do about it. P.S.: Vote Republican.
Look, times have changed. Of course politics has always been a truly ugly business, and each party's strategy to gain or regain power as election time rolls around has always become increasingly low down and nasty and mudslinging and soul cringing and borderline illegal.
But this time it all feels, somehow, different. Uglier. More sadistic.
There is a sense of lawlessness, of desperation, among the Republican Party right now. It is no longer a question of simply which party will run the show or which platform will have the most influence on policy. Rather, it's about a radically polarized worldview: Are we going to be an aggressive macho globally disrespected isolationist nation that has burned all bridges and molested all foreign relationships and mocked all global sympathy, or are we, as the GOP wants you to believe, going to become some liberal namby-pamby country where gays can marry each other and sexually deviant women can have abortions every day and everybody speaks French?
Because there is no middle ground. This is the GOP message. You are either with us, or you are a terrorist. You are either on the side of the "patriotic," pro-war party of WMD lies and homophobia and violence toward the global community, or you're a liberal hippie 'Nam protester like that jerknose Kerry.
What else could they do to guarantee a November win? What are they capable of, in the wake of 2000's stolen election and the rigging of the Florida recounts and a sneering, despoiled Supreme Court? Just about anything, really.
How about a nice October Surprise of suddenly finding Osama somewhere in a remote cave in Afghanistan, as the news media receives an "anonymous" delivery of a big glossy photo of Dubya himself standing outside said cave in a manly flight suit and lookin' all tough in his cowboy boots and confused smirk as he waves an American flag in one hand and holds Osama by a chain in the other? What, too obvious?
Well, then, maybe something a bit more devious? How about the thousands of electronic, touch-screen voting machines now installed in the nation's polling places, most every one manufactured by corporations run by staunch Bush-supporting Republicans and many of which don't allow for recounts or paper trails or any means of double checking their completely programmable results. An obvious recipe for election rigging? Is that Katherine Harris, giggling through her Botox?
Look. This much is clear: It's not merely going to be dirty politics as usual. It's not going to be mudslinging and name calling and finger pointing and policy wonking, childish little claims of "fuzzy math" and aww-shucks dumb-guy cowboy shtick to appeal to the lower intellects.
It is not going to merely be BushCo spending millions of its enormous war chest, as it already has, to launch incredibly vicious attack ads against Kerry and Edwards that dare to question the veracity and validity of Kerry's many Vietnam War medals or of Edwards' political experience, although Bush himself is the least-qualified president in U.S. history, one who ducked military service and went AWOL and makes all military service people wince in embarrassment.
No, it's going to be far worse. And more nauseating. Who, for example, isn't sighing in appalled disgust as the Pentagon suddenly discovers that, oh my goodness, Bush's own military-service records were "accidentally" destroyed? How amazing! And would you believe it, but the records in question just so happened to be the exact months of just those exact years that Bush was supposedly to have "served." What a crazy coincidence! Now we can never really know if he even bothered to show up for duty at all! Gosh, what a shame.
Another possibility: ditching nasty, wan little Dick Cheney. Rumor has it the Angry Puppeteer could be dumped from the ticket very soon, swapped for a less slimy and more human candidate. Maybe a nice, crusty war hero like John McCain? Or a strange, lonely, friendless woman like Condi Rice? A bitter, emasculated Colin Powell? Anything to galvanize the ticket -- make it, you know, less ugly and old and warmongering, more palatable and sassy and Edwards-like. This is the new rule: If it might force a victory, the GOP will consider it.
And, finally, if all else fails, well, why not just postpone the whole damn election itself?
That's right, simply invent some (nonspecific, unsubstantiated) terrorist threat of sufficient hysteria so that BushCo simply has no choice but to delay the vote. The result? Give you gullible, timid voters more time to reconsider your choices and maybe vote based on your fear instead of, you know, your heart, or your soul, or your ethics, or your brain, or your general sense of universal humanitarian progress.
Could it happen? Well, no. Most experts say such a delay is impossible, ridiculous, flagrantly antidemocratic. Doesn't matter. What matters is the fact that the GOP had the gall to float the idea in the first place.
So, then, let this be a warning: Get ready. Expect the unexpected. Watch the skies, scrutinize the headlines, dust off your stash of duct tape. Because Karl Rove and the BushCo war hawks and the corporate cronies who run the show aren't about to go down without a screaming, sickening, fiery fight.
And if BushCo has proven anything in the past four violent, budget-gutting, honor-molesting, nearly unbearable years, it's that there ain't no international law that can't be broken, no fear synapse that can't be hammered to death, no fraudulent power tactic that can't be abused. Anything is possible. You have been warned. God bless America.

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