>> "Dam experts say that the region of the explosion is a mountainous area with little rainfall, which is an inadequate choice for a dam site."
Is North Korea Hiding Something about Explosion?
Was the massive explosion that took place in Ryanggang for building a hydropower station, as North Korea has explained?
Despite the explanation of North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun, some analysts have said questions still remain. True, since South Korea took a satellite picture about 10 hours after the explosion, the smoke cloud grew larger than the one immediately after the explosion and that might lead to unnecessary misunderstandings.
Many people, however, have interpreted that the North might have been hiding something. The South Korean government did not seem to believe the North's explanation perfectly. A South Korean high ranking official said, "I wonder if it was really necessary to detonate such a huge quantity of explosives in building a small dam?"
North Korean defectors think the North has not given a correct explanation to conceal its military factories. It is highly likely that the North is worried about the possibility that a crowd of military plants near the explosion site would be uncovered if it acknowledged that the explosion was large-scale. A North Korean defector said, "Many large scale accidents have taken place in North Korea. April's explosion in Ryongchon, however, was the only case the North publicly admitted." Korea University professor Yoo Ho-yeol said, "South Korea needs to focus on the possibility that North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun diplomatically made the explanation without knowing core information."
Meanwhile, many people pointed out that the North's explanation is credible since it came from its Foreign Minister. They have said that unlike the explosion of Ryongchon, the North has not rapidly revealed the scale of damage and casualties because the explosion had not been an accident. Government officials have appeared to step back from their presumption by saying Monday that the large cloud formed on Sept. 9 was unclear. Intelligence authorities have not ruled out analysis that the explosion was a large-scale one. Some interpret that the government has said that the explosion is not serious just because it wasn't a nuclear test.
As of now, it is uncertain whether the North gave a correct explanation or it is hiding something. It seems that disputes over the credibility of the North's explanation will continue until North Korea reveals evidence backing its construction of a hydropower plant or South Korean and U.S intelligence authorities complete their analysis of the information.
North Korea Will Let British Diplomat Visit Blast Site
SEOUL, Sept. 13, 2004--North Korea has agreed to allow a British diplomat visit the site of a massive explosion that sparked fears the reclusive country had conducted a nuclear test. Pyongyang says the explosion was aimed at demolishing a mountain to make way for a large hydroelectric dam.
Britain's Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell requested access to the site during a visit to North Korea, the BBC reported Monday. In an unusual concession, North Korea said the British ambassador David Slinn could visit the site to see for himself as early as Tuesday.
Rammell was in Pyongyang for talks with the North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun.
"Having asked the vice foreign minister this morning for our ambassador and other ambassadors to be allowed to visit the scene of the explosion I am very pleased the North Koreans have agreed to the request," Rammell was quoted as saying. "But I pressed the Foreign Minister very strongly and said look, you know, if we want to be properly reassured then you should allow international diplomats to actually go to the area and verify the situation on the ground."
Paek said he would consider the request, Rammell said. "If this is genuinely a deliberate detonation as part of a legitimate construction project then the North Koreans have nothing to fear and nothing to hide and should welcome the international community actually verifying the situation for themselves," Rammell said.
U.S. downplays blast
Washington has downplayed the Sept. 9 explosion Yongjo-ri in Yanggang Province. It occurred on North Korea's National Day, which stoked fears that the explosion might have been a nuclear test.
Speaking to ABC television on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell cited "no indication that was a nuclear event of any kind. Exactly what it was, we're not sure."
The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that a mammoth explosion in North Korea on Thursday had produced a mushroom cloud more than three kms (two miles) across.
Yonhap said the blast was stronger than an April explosion that killed 160 people and injured some 1,300 at a North Korean railway station when a train carrying oil and chemicals apparently hit power lines.
South Korean and U.S. officials said Sunday that they were trying to ascertain the cause of the huge cloud.
North Korea lashes back
North Korea meanwhile lashed out Monday at South Korea for what it described as spreading lies about the blast, saying Seoul fostered rumors of a nuclear weapons test to divert attention from its own atomic revelations.
"There has been no such accident as explosion in the DPRK recently," said the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), accusing Seoul of a "preposterous smear campaign."
"Probably, plot-breeders might tell such a sheer lie, taken aback by blastings at construction sites of hydro-power stations in the north of Korea," it said.
South Korea was recently forced to admit that its scientists carried out experiments to produce small amounts of enriched uranium and plutonium, both key ingredients in nuclear bombs.
The South Korean experiments in 1982 and 2000, which Seoul says weren't a bid to develop weapons, are likely to further complicate six-nation talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear development.
Copyright ? 2001-2004 Radio Free Asia. All Rights Reserved.
C?c nước trong khu vực lo ngại trước một vụ nổ lớn ở Bắc H?n
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Một vụ nổ lớn xảy ra ở Bắc H?n, gần bi?n giới Trung Quốc, g?y một đ?m m?y h?nh nấm c? chu vi tới 4 kil?m?t. H?ng tin Yonhap của Nam H?n h?m nay loan tin vụ nổ n?y xảy ra hồi 11 giờ s?ng thứ Năm tuần trước tại tỉnh Yanggang của Bắc Triều Ti?n.
Nguồn tin cho biết những nước quanh v?ng như Nga, Trung Quốc, Nhật Bản v? Nam H?n, đều ghi nhận được chấn động do vụ nổ g?y ra, nhưng kh?ng nước n?o ch?nh thức loan b?o.
Ngoại trưởng Hoa Kỳ Colin Powell trong cuộc phỏng vấn truyền h?nh h?m Chủ nhật n?i rằng Washington kh?ng biết nguy?n nh?n n?o g?y ra vụ nổ lớn như vậy, nhưng ?ng kh?ng tin rằng đ? l? một vụ nổ nguy?n tử.
Trung t?m ph?ng xạ của Nga ở Vladivostok cho biết mức độ ph?ng xạ quanh v?ng vẫn b?nh thường, d? vụ nổ xảy ra gần căn cứ qu?n sự b? mật trong huyện Kimhyungjik của Bắc H?n.
Phần lớn c?c nước đều cho l? vụ nổ l? một trong những h?nh thức qu?n sự m? B?nh Nhưỡng thường l?m để vực dậy niềm tự h?o d?n tộc ở một quốc gia qu? ngh?o đ?i. H?m thứ Năm tuần qua cũng l? ng?y Bắc H?n ch?o đ?n Quốc Kh?nh lần thứ 56.
North Explosion Blasting Operation for Hydroelectric Station: BBC
North Korea's Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun said Monday that the explosion in North Korea's Ryanggang Province was actually a blasting operation for constructing a hydroelectric power station, according to U.K. broadcaster BBC.
The BBC reported that Paek had said the explosion was a planned demolition of a mountainous area linked to plans to build a hydroelectric power station, and that his comments came as a response to a request for information from U.K. Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell, who is currently visiting North Korea.
BBC also reported that Rammell asked Paek to allow a visit the blast site, and Paek said he would consider the request. Bill Rammell is visiting Pyongyang to discuss the nuclear issue and human rights.
A South Korean government official said, "There are over 6,000 hydroelectric power station under construction in the country, so the North's claim may be true," but added, "I am suspicious, however, as to why the North had to blow up such a large amount of ammunition." Dam experts say that the region of the explosion is a mountainous area with little rainfall, which is an inadequate choice for a dam site.
US ambassador Christopher Hill said in his meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hai-chan that the explosion was probably a "simple accident," not related to the nuclear activities, according to Lee Gang-jin, a senior press secretary to the prime minister. Unification minister Chung Dong-young also said in an Assembly session that the matter was not one over which one should show much concern.
Gov't Confirms 'Non-Nuclear' N. Korean Explosion
It was reported that there was a massive explosion Thursday around the town of Yongjo-ri, Kim Hyong-jik County, Ryanggang Province. U.S. Department of State, sources familiar with North Korea and the Korean government all confirmed the explosion.
A high-ranking government official said Sunday, "It is true that a large mushroom cloud about 3.5 to 4 km in diameter was observed by a satellite at around 11:00 a.m. Thursday. It was not a nuclear test, but the explosion seemed to be three times bigger than the one that took place during the Ryongchon Station accident," and added, "Both U.S. and Korean intelligence authorities are investigating what caused the explosion."
Chong Wa Dae Spokesman Kim Jong-min said, "We noticed the explosion right after it took place and reported it to the president in writing during a National Security Council meeting. But we cannot decide the nature of the accident yet."
The accident took place in a mountainous region 1,500 meter above sea level around Yongjo-ri, where it is known that there were many munitions factories nearby. In particular, the exact spot of explosion is only 10km away southwest from the Yongjo-ri base for Rodong 1 and 2 missiles and some 30km away from the Sino-Korean border.
There is much talk about the cause of the explosion. The government official said, "If a nuclear test causes an explosion, we can detect it by reading satellite data. Thus, the recent explosion in North Korea was not caused by a nuclear test." The intelligence authorities assume that an ammunition depot with over 1,000 tons of dynamite or an ammunition car may have exploded, or there may have been a chain explosion of chemical material or a big fire. Some Chinese sources argue that a massive explosion took pace in a munitions factory. Hong Sun-jik, director at the Hyundai Economic Institute said, "Other than the assumption that it may be a simple accident that took place due to old facilities, we cannot exclude the possibility that the explosion may have taken place due to the lack of control of the Kim Jong-il regime, or it may have been connected to a secret feud over the successor of Kim Jong-il following the rumor of death of Kim's wife, Koh Young-hee."
Also, some strongly argue that it is not a simple accident because it took place on Sept.9, the North's foundation day, which is considered a very important national holiday. Others argue that with Korea's nuclear experiments in the past at issue in the international community, it could be a false explosion by North Korea to intensify the Korea's nuclear issue. In other words, the North intentionally caused the explosion to deliver a message to the international community.
The government official said, "We will be able to know the exact cause only after North Korea makes an official statement or intelligence authorities announces the results of their analysis."
(Choi Byung-mook, email@example.com )
Massive Explosion Takes Place Near Sino-Korean Border
A Chinese source familiar with North Korea revealed Sunday that a major explosion took place Thursday in Kim Hyong-jik County, Ryanggang Province.
The source said, "I know there was an extremely large explosion in Kim Hyong-jik County, which is near the Sino-Korean border, on Sept. 9, North Korea's foundation day."
He added, "I heard talk that the explosion was even bigger than the one that took place during the Ryongchon Station accident... Evidence of the explosion was detected by satellite, and I understand the U.S. and other surrounding nations are paying attention to the incident."
In relation to this, another source connected to North Korea said, "I heard rumors of a large explosion taking place in North Korea's Ryanggang Province, which is close to the border with China."
An official from a certain surrounding nation who resides in Beijing said, "There is a rumor that a large explosion took place in Ryanggang Province, and interested nations are working to uncover the exact scale and cause of the explosion."
Kim Hyong-jik Country, where the explosion is known to have taken place. is across the Yalu River from Jilin Province, China, and South Korean intelligence authorities understand that a base for Taepodong 1 and 2 missiles was located at the town of Yongjo-ri, in a mountainous region of the province.
World Media Focuses on N. Korean Explosion
The media of the entire world reported Sunday on the large explosion that took place in North Korea's Kim Hyong-jik County, Ryanggang Province on Thursday. In particular, some foreign press focused their attentions on whether North Korea had conducted a nuclear test to mark North Korea's Sept. 9 foundation day, relaying news reports that a mushroom cloud had been witnessed.
As soon as AP put out a lead story on the incident, it immediately put out a follow up piece. Reuters reported Sunday that a large explosion took place in a North Korean region along the Sino-Korean border Thursday, and that the explosion was larger than the one that occurred at Ryongchon Station in April. Ahead of this, Japan's Kyodo News sent off an urgent dispatch at 11:27 a.m., while other global media like France's AFP all wired stories concerning the explosion.
In particular, major international media focused attention on the fact that the explosion took place on Sept. 9, North Korea's foundation day, and that a mushroom cloud had been witnessed.
AP and CNN didn't directly suggest that that the explosion had anything to do with a nuclear test, but said some experts were guessing that there was a possibility that North Korea had conducted a test related to its nuclear program to mark Sept. 9.
Meanwhile, the Internet edition of the New York Times reported Sunday that U.S. President George Bush and his high-ranking advisors had recently received a reliable intelligence report on North Korean moves that contained the opinions of some experts that North Korea was preparing to test its first nuclear device, quoting high-ranking officials familiar with the report. The paper said, however, that there were split opinions among intelligence organizations as to how to evaluate the importance of the new North Korean moves.
Intelligence experts who were skeptical of intelligence concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction told the NYT that they did not think North Korean activity over the last three weeks were necessarily signs that they were going to conduct a nuclear test. One high-ranking scientist familiar with nuclear intelligence said the new evidence was not conclusive, but potentially worrisome. In interviews with the NYT on Friday and Saturday, high-ranking officials did not release any specific information concerning confirmed recent moves by the North Koreans, but the paper said it appeared that some of the intelligence had come from satellites.
One official said recent North Korean moves represented a chain of believable signs that suggested they might be related to a nuclear test, and said the possibility that a nuclear test might be conducted within the next four weeks had increased greatly. The NYT said the North Korean moves included the movement of objects in a number of regions suspected of being nuclear test cities, including sites designated last year by intelligence bodies as places nuclear tests could be conducted.
Some officials said, moreover, that in the event that North Korea conducts a nuclear test, it might do so with the intention of influencing the U.S. presidential election, said the NYT.
North Korea Must Reveal What Happened in Ryanggang
There were reports that a massive explosion took place at Kim Hyong-jik County, Ryanggang Province, North Korea on Thursday. At present, it seems that the explosion was not caused by a nuclear test, but there is a high possibility that it is somehow connected to military purposes since it took place in a mountainous region 1,500 meters above sea level around the Sino-Korean border where there are few civilians living and many war plants and missile bases nearby.
In addition, there is talk that the explosion was even bigger that the one that took place during the Ryongchon Station accident last April. Some even raised suspicion that it may have to do with a nuclear test following the report that a mushroom cloud over 3km in diameter was seen. Others said that it may have been the activity of anti-government forces within the North. The Japanese media has reported that it is likely connected to a nuclear test.
North Korea needs to explain what caused the explosion and what the current development is not to add fuel to the fire amid a series of reports of abnormal signs. Actually, there have been rumors in the U.S. that a shocking incident would occur in North Korea in October and a major explosion test would take place in a remote mountain village near the Gaema Plateau.
The U.S. New York Times also reported that North Korea's moves related to nuclear development have raised concern. North Korea should not try to simply dismiss those reports and assumptions in the international community because it would not help the country itself, which needs the international community's support, as well as peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Another worrying thing is whether the Korean government has been effectively gathering even a little information on the North's moves and cooperating with neighboring countries. The National Security Council standing meeting was held three days after the massive explosion in question and that was the time the defense minister reported the accident. Not only that, some reports say the government has not even secured a satellite picture yet. Watching all this, how can the public feel reassured?
Huge Blast in North Korea Not a 'Nuclear Event,' Powell Says
By DAVID E. SANGER
and WILLIAM J. BROAD
WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said today that a huge explosion that took place Thursday on North Korea's border with China was likely "not any kind of nuclear event," but he said Washington was "monitoring" the country closely to see if a sudden burst of activity indicated the country was attempting to test a nuclear weapon for the first time.
Mr. Powell's comments came as intelligence analysts and policymakers attempted to understand what happened on Thursday near a site where North Korea bases some of its long-range missiles. South Korean news reports said that an explosion that day, a national holiday in North Korea, created a mushroom-shaped cloud that was at least a mile across, and maybe larger. But there were no signs of radiation, according to American intelligence officials, and the leading theory now is an accident that may have involved liquid rocket fuel.
Nonetheless, the explosion sent a ripple though intelligence networks that are already on high alert for any sign of a nuclear test, one that President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, warned today on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" would be "a very bad mistake."
But in private, administration officials said there was little they could do other than let the North know that it is being watched, and ask the Chinese -- the North's main supplier of food and energy -- to put pressure on the country not to set off a nuclear explosion.
"It's no longer just North Korea versus the United States," Mr. Powell said on the ABC News program "This Week." "It's North Korea versus all of its neighbors, which have no interest in seeing North Korea with a nuclear weapon."
The location of the Thursday explosion made American officials suspect right away that it was an accident instead of a test: There is a widespread assumption that the North would not demonstrate whatever nuclear capacity it has near the Chinese border, and would not do so above ground. The areas under intense satellite surveillance now -- which American officials have asked to be described only in general terms -- are closer to the center of the country, and in some remote, unpopulated areas.
In recent days, the administration has received intelligence reports describing a confusing series of actions by North Korea that some experts believe could indicate the country is preparing to conduct its first test explosion of a nuclear weapon, according to senior officials with access to the intelligence.
While the indications were viewed as serious enough to warrant a warning to the White House, American intelligence agencies appear divided about the significance of the new North Korean actions, much as they were about the evidence concerning Iraq's alleged weapons stockpiles.
Some analysts in agencies that were the most cautious about the Iraq findings have cautioned that they do not believe the activity detected in North Korea in the past three weeks is necessarily the harbinger of a test. A senior scientist who assesses nuclear intelligence says the new evidence "is not conclusive," but is potentially worrisome.
In an interview today on "Fox News Sunday," Mr. Powell confirmed that the United States has been monitoring activities at a "potential nuclear test site."
"We can't tell whether it's normal maintenance activity or something more," Mr. Powell said. "So it's inconclusive at this moment, but we continue to monitor these things very carefully."
Ms. Rice said in an interview today on CNN's "Late Edition," "We'll continue to pursue with China and Russia and Japan and South Korea satisfactory ways to have the North Koreans abandon their nuclear weapons program."
Asked if there was a "military option" on the table if the North Koreans went ahead with a test, Ms. Rice said: "The president never takes any option off the table. But we believe that the way to resolve this is diplomatically."
If successful, a test would end a debate that stretches back more than a decade over whether North Korea has a rudimentary arsenal, as it has boasted in recent years. Some analysts also fear that a test could change the balance of power in Asia, perhaps leading to a new nuclear arms race there.
In interviews on Friday and Saturday, senior officials were reluctant to provide many details of the new activities they have detected, but some of the information appears to have come from satellite intelligence.
One official with access to the intelligence called it "a series of indicators of increased activity that we believe would be associated with a test," saying that the "likelihood" of a North Korean test had risen significantly in just the past four weeks. It was that changed assessment that led to the decision to give an update to President Bush, the officials said.
The activities included the movement of materials around several suspected test sites, including one near a location where intelligence agencies reported last year that conventional explosives were being tested that could compress a plutonium core and set off a nuclear blast. But officials have not seen the classic indicators of preparations at a test site, in which cables are laid to measure an explosion in a deep test pit.
"I'm not sure you would see that in a country that has tunnels everywhere," said one senior official who has reviewed the data. Officials said if North Korea proceeded with a test, it would probably be with a plutonium bomb, perhaps one fabricated from the 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods that the North has boasted in the past few months have been reprocessed into bomb fuel.
A senior intelligence official noted Saturday that even if "they are doing something, it doesn't mean they will" conduct a test, noting that preparations that the North knew could be detected by the United States might be a scare tactic or negotiating tactic by the North Korean government.
Several officials speculated that the test, if it occurred, could be intended to influence the presidential election, though a senior military official said while "an election surprise" could be the motive, "I'm not sure what that would buy them."
While the intelligence community's experience in Iraq colors how it assesses threats in places like North Korea, the comparisons are inexact. Inspectors have seen and measured the raw material that the North could turn into bomb fuel; the only question is whether they have done so in the 20 months since arms inspectors were ousted. While Iraq denied it has weapons, the North boasts about them -- perhaps too loudly, suggesting they may have less than they say.
On the other hand, the division within the administration over how to deal with North Korea mirrors some of the old debate about Iraq. Hard-liners in the Pentagon and the vice president's office have largely opposed making concessions of any kind in negotiations, and Vice President Dick Cheney has warned that "time is not on our side" to deal with the question. The State Department has pressed the case for negotiation, and for offering the North a face-saving way out. While the State Department has won the argument in recent times, how to deal with the North is a constant battle inside the administration.
Some of the senior officials who discussed the emerging indicators were clearly trying to warn North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, that his actions were being closely watched. Asian officials noted that there has been speculation in South Korea and Japan for some time that Mr. Kim might try to stage an incident -- perhaps a missile test or the withdrawal of more raw nuclear fuel from a reactor -- in an effort to display defiance before the election. "A test would be a vivid demonstration of their view of President Bush," one senior Asian diplomat said.
The intelligence information was discussed in interviews with officials from five government agencies, ranging from those who believe a test may occur at any moment to those who are highly skeptical. They had differing access to the intelligence: some had reviewed the raw data and others had seen a classified intelligence report about the possibility of a test, perhaps within months, that has circulated in Washington in the past week. Most, but not all, were career officials.
If North Korea successfully tested a weapon, the reclusive country would become the eighth nation to have proven nuclear capability -- Israel is also assumed to have working weapons -- and it would represent the failure of 14 years of efforts to stop the North's nuclear program.
Government officials throughout Asia and members of Mr. Bush's national security team have also feared it could change the nuclear politics of Asia, fueling political pressure in South Korea and Japan to develop a nuclear deterrent independent of the United States.
Both countries have the technological skill and the raw material to produce a bomb, though both have insisted they would never do so. South Korea has admitted in the past few weeks that it conducted experiments that outside experts fear could produce bomb-grade fuel, first in the early 1980's and then in 2000.
Senior officials in South Korea and Japan did not appear to have been briefed about the new evidence, beyond what one called "a nonspecific warning of a growing problem" from American officials. But it is a measure of the extraordinary nervousness about the North's intentions that earlier this week, South Korean intelligence officials who saw evidence of an intense fire at a suspected nuclear location alerted their American counterparts that a small nuclear test might have already occurred. American officials reviewed seismic sensors and other data and concluded it was a false alarm, though the fire has yet to be explained.
A huge explosion rocked an area in North Korea near the border with China on Thursday and appeared to be much bigger than a blast at the Ryongchon train station that killed 170 people in April, the Reuters news agency said, citing a report by the Yonhap news agency of South Korea. The United States "is showing a big interest because the blast was seen from satellites," Yonhap quoted an unidentified official in Beijing as saying.
The cause of the blast has not been determined, but the Beijing official said Washington was not ruling out the possibility that it may be linked to a nuclear test. Yonhap reported that a mushroom cloud up to 2.5 miles in diameter was spotted after the blast in remote Yanggang province in the far northeast.
North Korea has declared several times in the past year that it might move to demonstrate its nuclear power. It is impossible to know how such a test might affect public perceptions of how Mr. Bush has handled potential threats to the United States. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has already accused President Bush of an "almost myopic" focus on Iraq that has distracted the United States while North Korea, by some intelligence estimates, has increased its arsenal from what the C.I.A. suspects was one or two weapons to six or eight now.
Mr. Bush, while declaring he would not "tolerate" a nuclear North Korea, has insisted that his approach of involving China, Russia, Japan and South Korea in a new round of talks with the North is the only reasonable way to force the country to disarm. He has refused to set the kind of deadline for disarmament that he set for Saddam Hussein.
When asked in an interview with The New York Times two weeks ago to define what he meant by "tolerate," he said: "I don't think you give timelines to dictators and tyrants. I think it's important for us to continue to lead coalitions that are firm and strong, in sending messages to both the North Koreans and the Iranians."
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting for this article.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
SEPT 13, 2004
High-stakes nuclear game in East Asia
Region may be closer to a nuclear arms race than previously thought
By Jonathan Eyal
LONDON - Revelations over the weekend about a massive and mysterious explosion on North Korea's border with China have intensified the feverish speculations about the country's nuclear programme.
While the chances still are that the explosion was of the conventional variety and not a nuclear test, the steadily rising tide of rumours and contradictory information represent a clear indication that the North Korean nuclear crisis is about to reach its most volatile stage.
Regardless of who wins in the United States presidential elections in November, Pyongyang will become one of the key and most urgent priorities for any US administration.
And Washington will have to deal on this matter not only with the unpredictable North Korean regime, but also with US ally South Korea.
As always, very little information is available about the latest North Korean blast, but what is known is hardly encouraging. It is clear that the explosion was huge, much bigger than the military train explosion in April, an accident in which apparently 170 North Koreans were killed.
US intelligence reports, leaked to the American media, talk of a mushroom cloud of up to 4km in diameter, consistent - at least in physical appearance - to what will happen in a rudimentary nuclear test.
Other circumstantial evidence appears even more ominous.
The blast took place in Kimhyungjik county in Ryanggang province in the north-east, near North Korea's border with China, an area with a sparse civilian population, but a high concentration of military installations.
Furthermore, US satellites have detected over the past few weeks an unusual amount of military movements in the region, consistent with preparations for some kind of a weapons test.
And, to round off the picture, the North Koreans appear to have been very calm about the event, claiming that it was a 'routine event', rather than an accident.
For the moment, both the American and South Korean authorities claim the explosion was not nuclear-related.
But the difficulty is that both governments may have a very strong political interest in not appearing to be alarmed.
With an election in the offing, the last thing President George W. Bush needs now is a full-fledged North Korean nuclear crisis, inviting accusations from Senator John Kerry, his Democratic opponent, that America's entire anti-proliferation policy has failed.
The South Koreans, mired in their own difficulties, are hardly likely to welcome such a development as well.
Precisely because of this, the timing may have been perfect for North Korea to undertake now the nuclear test it has been planning for years.
Nevertheless, and despite these conspiracy theories, the chances still are that the latest blast was not nuclear.
First, it is difficult to hide the seismic aftermath of such a nuclear blast, which would have been picked up by many other neighbouring countries, apart from the US and South Korea.
Second, even if one assumes that the US administration may have a political interest in hiding the real significance of what has happened in North Korea, the deliberate falsification of evidence would be a high-risk strategy for Mr Bush.
If information of a deliberate cover-up subsequently leaked out - as it always does in the US - the impact on his re-election campaign would be devastating.
The assumption, therefore, must be that Washington is correct, and that the latest North Korean explosion was of the conventional variety.
Yet this is hardly reassuring, for the latest murky episode is merely another twist in what is turning out to be a much more complex saga.
North Korea is known to be developing a family of long-range missiles called the Taepodong precisely in the area where the current blast has been recorded.
Taepodong 1, the first variety of this system, was test-fired over Japan in 1998, and the family of missiles was designed to carry nuclear charges.
According to South Korean intelligence reports, the engine test for the Taepodong 2 improved variety was carried out in May this year.
A full missile test is the logical next step, and it is this which we may have witnessed now.
So, although the nuclear test itself may not have happened, North Korea's advance towards the acquisition of a fully functioning nuclear capability is continuing relentlessly.
And then there is South Korea itself.
The recent revelations that some of its scientists produced enriched uranium a few years ago using lasers have been dismissed by the the government as unimportant.
The quantity involved - 0.2g - was insignificant for any weapon capability, and Seoul has also claimed that the scientists worked without government knowledge.
Perhaps, but these claims are not very persuasive.
First, the quantity of enriched uranium is hardly the issue, since nobody is suggesting that South Korea is about to build a nuclear weapon.
But what matters is that the uranium produced is close to weapons grade, far more concentrated in the active uranium-235 isotope than would be required for the country's nuclear energy reactors.
And the subsequent revelations that South Korea had also conducted a plutonium-based nuclear experiment two decades ago merely strengthens the conclusion that the South, like its northern neighbour, had an active programme which at least could lead to a nuclear capability.
The suggestion that all this was done without the knowledge of the government in Seoul hardly requires serious examination.
The conclusions are truly earth-shattering.
For years, the US has worked under the assumption that the biggest challenge in the region came from North Korea; it now turns out that the problem runs much deeper, and may include both Koreas.
Further afield, Japan and Taiwan also have all the technology and know-how to produce nuclear weapons in a short period of time.
Although everyone denies it, all the region's states are now having another look at their military posture, and this includes their military capabilities.
And for a simple reason: In many respects, the question of North Korea was always just a sideshow to much deeper strategic changes taking place throughout the region.
According to opinion polls, a majority of South Korean citizens certainly fear the North Koreans' military capabilities, but regard nuclear weapons as their historic right, their ultimate guarantee against a future aggressive China and Japan.
Japan, too, regards North Korea as an immediate threat, but views China as the long-term challenge.
And Taiwan, forced by the US to abandon its nuclear research programme decades ago, still considers the weapon as its ultimate guarantee against forced unification with China.
The announced draw-down of US military bases from the region has merely intensified this military pirouette, which has until now been conducted very secretly.
One way or another, the task for a new US president after he steps into the White House's Oval Office next January will be huge.
The challenge is no longer merely one of persuading the North Korean regime to relinquish its nuclear aspirations, but also of reassuring America's allies in the region that they do not need to advance down the nuclear road either.
The task is still feasible. Yet, one false step in these diplomatic negotiations could plunge the region into a full-fledged nuclear arms race.
So, regardless of its nature, the latest mysterious blast in North Korea has lifted the dust over a whole raft of other secret activities in that corner of Asia.
The writer is director of studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London and a regular contributor to the Straits Times.
Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
Playing the nuclear bully in Pyongyang
North Korea promises its people eternal prosperity under Kim Jong Ill, but nuclear-tipped blackmail is what Anne Penketh discovers in the most closed society in the world
13 September 2004
Two girls in pink roller-blade across a pristine square, the epitome of Asian cool. Across the vast empty expanse, neither a sweet wrapper nor a discarded piece of chewing gum is allowed to spoil the scene outside the People's Palace of Culture as the world's most reclusive communist state celebrates its 56th anniversary.
All day the country's propaganda machine churns out the familiar line: "As long as there is the wise leadership of Kim Jong Il, the Korean People's Army and the people will achieve eternal prosperity of the country."
Of the mushroom-shaped cloud that emerged over the north of the country last week, putting diplomats from East and West into a tizz, there is not a whisper.
Yesterday, standing on the platform at Yongwang metro station in Pyongyang, the visitor would be struck by the beauty of the twisted coloured glass lamps hanging from the ceiling, and by the friezes running down each side of the platform, depicting the left and right banks of a river. Yongwang (meaning Glory) is indeed a marvel to behold. But there is something more sinister that catches the eye at the bottom of the escalator that dives sharply into the bowels of the city: the two sets of giant reinforced doors. For the Soviet-era metro has the dual purpose of serving as a nuclear bunker.
North Korea has played the nuclear card for years to blackmail the international community into shoring up its communist regime. But when George Bush branded North Korea part of the "axis of evil" and warned in his state of the nation last year: "America and the rest of the world will not be blackmailed," the world moved a notch closer towards nuclear Armageddon.
News of the massive explosion suggested that Kim Jong Il, the country's mercurial dictator, or 'the experienced and tested leader' as the Korean Central News Agency describes him, may have played another card in his game of nuclear blackmail. The explosion in an area near missile bases in Ryanggang province in the remote north-east, near the border with China, was much stronger than a train explosion that killed at least 170 people in April.
If it turns out to be part of a nuclear experiment, and not an industrial accident, it could be the final proof that the regime was not boasting when it announced last year that it had developed an advanced nuclear weapons programme.
Last night the news of the explosion and mushroom cloud spread through the diplomatic community in Pyongyang, causing a frenzy of activity. So secretive is the regime, and so unpredictable its behaviour, that every one thought it quite plausible that the North Koreans had carried out their threat to test a nuclear weapon.
This is, after all, the country that waited 48 hours before informing the rest of the world of the train crash at Ryongchon in April that left 169 people dead and triggered rumours of an assassination attempt on Kim Jong Il. The regime waited another 21 hours before informing North Koreans themselves.
North Korea is the most closed society in the world, and probably the most inhumane. Its people are kept in a constant state of fear which is fed by the regular air raid warnings that could presage an attack by America.
George Bush was recently likened to Hitler by Kim Jong Il. The people have no internet connections, access to foreigners is strictly limited and tightly controlled, and the only information the North Koreans receive is through the official media. This is the policy of Juche in action, the self-sufficiency that has been the watchword of the country since its establishment at the end of the Korean war - which never produced a peace treaty between North and South Korea.
It is said that the indoctrination of the people is so successful that there is no need for the heavy-handed approach of a Soviet or East German style secret police. Random conversations in Pyongyang - in the presence of government minders - very quickly lead to city residents making a statement of loyalty to the government.
It is said that North Korean authorities place their 22.6 million citizens into three categories: core (or reliable), wavering, and hostile. The latter category seems to coincide with those who have been sent to prison camps, whose existence has been filmed by satellite photographs. But according to some sources, there may be up to 51 classifications, not just three.
Militaristic symbols are everywhere, along the huge grey avenues flanked by austere grey buildings. One roadside billboard shows three helmeted soldiers raising their fists towards a glorious future. Another exhorts: "Think and work and live according to the requirements of Sungun politics" (the policy that puts the military first).
While the military and political ?lite live a relatively cosseted life in the capital, the impoverishment of the people outside can only be glimpsed: on the road to the airport, one sees oxen pulling loaded carts, women bent double under loads of firewood and bicycles loaded up with sacks. Cars are a rarity on the broad avenues that sweep through the city.
But the modern world is now beating at the gate, and the number of North Koreans willing to risk their lives to escape is growing: 2,000 are expected to flee through China to South Korea by the end of this year, compared with 1,200 who escaped via that route last year. The days of the regime may well be numbered. But for the international community, the burning question is how to manage a "safe landing" for a nuclear-armed country whose collapse would be much more dangerous than that of East Germany 15 years ago.
At this time, the nuclear powers in the UN Security Council - Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States - are hoping to coax Pyongyang into a new round of six-party talks in order to end the latest standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. A new date for the talks - involving the two Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the US - has been pencilled in for 22 September, but North Korea is keeping mum about whether it will attend.
Delegations from Australia, Britain and China have beaten a path to Pyongyang in the last few weeks to attempt to persuade the North Korean leadership that it is useless to hedge its bets on a change of American leadership, saying that American policy is unlikely to change whether George Bush is re-elected or whether it is John Kerry in the White House.
It is hoped that the North Koreans will accept the US offer on the table: to agree to dismantle all their supposed nuclear weapons, then during a three-month period, energy supplies and other aid would start coming into the country. In the same period, though, Pyongyang would have to declare all its nuclear programmes, submit to inspections, and disable all its nuclear weapons. Once those steps are complete, further support and aid would come through.
One big problem for the West's assessment is the lack of knowledge about what is happening inside the country. Even in Burma, human rights officials can meet dissidents, or visit prisons. But not in North Korea. Out of 26 counties in North Korea, 40 are closed to foreigners - including Kimhyongik county near the Chinese border, where yesterday's incident took place. The veil of secrecy has only been lifted by the accounts of North Korean defectors. But even though their reports have been cross-checked and compared to satellite photographs, an informed observer in Pyongyang this week said that "the point is that we don't know anything for sure".
Until now, Pyongyang has issued blanket denials about the existence of prison camps for political dissidents, which could contain up to 200,000 inmates. One defector, a former North Korean army intelligence officer, told the BBC last February that he had seen prisoners gassed to death. The North Koreans said the allegations were part of a US-inspired "lie".
Pyongyang only admitted to the bizarre practice of abducting the nationals of Japan and South Korea to use them to train spies as recently as this year, after denying it for decades. Five were returned to Japan for emotional reunions last March.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International reports that the surveillance and "checking" for illegal North Koreans in China has intensified since 2001. Tens of thousands have been forcibly repatriated by China since 2002.
North Korea also seems to be the only country that practices collective punishment - meting out punishment to successive generations after an offender has paid the penalty.
A senior North Korean official admitted for the first time yesterday to a visiting British delegation that "reeducation through labour is used" in North Korea. The official, Ri Jong Hyok, who is in charge of North Korean policy towards South Korea as president of the Institute for National Reunification, said he did not know how many camps there were, and did not go into details as to whether the camps were for criminals or political dissidents.
In addition to the nuclear issue, North Korea has been accused of using its citizens as pawns in attempting to blackmail the West to provide aid in order to shore up the regime, after its disastrous famine of 1995 and 1996. "The international aid arrived in the nick of time to stop North Korea from collapsing. The government had allowed several million ordinary people to starve to death, but by around 1998 it could no longer feed the army or the party members of the DPRK - everyone faced terminal starvation," says Jasper Becker, who is shortly to publish a book on North Korea. "The UN and South Korean aid went to the ?lite and ensured they stayed loyal. Kim Jong Il was faced with being being able to impose martial law in key areas of the country and terrorise it into submission. The international community and the South Korean 'sunshine policy' elevated his status by making him central to the flow of aid and he could resume arms purchases and the nuclear weapons programme."
Richard Ragan, the country director for the World Food programme, denies suggestions that the UN aid was diverted to the military and the ?lite. He notes that last year, the North Koreans harvested 4 million tonnes of cereals whereas 5 million are needed for survival. "The military will eat from that four million tonnes - that's guaranteed," he said.
He added that he was also sceptical about the reports of UN aid being diverted because of its nature - cereals (ie not rice) and milk products designed for children. "They're not going to eat that stuff," he said.
Britain is meanwhile concerned that North Korea announced that for 2005 it will not participate in the UN consolidated appeal for humanitarian aid. Government officials say they would prefer to deal with individual governments on their own terms. Bilateral aid is not monitored in the same way as the UN operation. Now the Pyongyang government runs the risk that international aid will dry up.
But the decision to stop accepting the UN co-ordinated humanitarian aid - now nine years after the famine - may have been motivated by a desire to "save face". Mr Ragan said that the continued humanitarian aid - as opposed to other assistance - "was undermining their policy of self-sufficiency".
He predicted that economic changes which have led to the introduction of timid market reforms in the food sector could produce "winners and losers" and a new need for food aid.
But the fact of the economic reforms, introduced in 2002, may be a sign that the regime has recognised that it must adapt or die.
One Western diplomat last night portrayed Kim Jong Il as a reformer who has allowed the personality cult to build up around his late father Kim Il Sung, while he takes a back seat.
Pyongyang is draped with huge portraits of Kim Il Sung seemingly on every building. His portrait graces every government office. A huge bronze-coloured statue of him on Mansudae Hill was visited yesterday in the driving rain by pilgrims who laid wreaths and bowed in homage before walking off. Kim Jong Il is present in the official portraits, but in a lesser role."It could be that Kim Jong Il is preparing the ground to say that his father's way didn't really work, and he can step in," the diplomat said.
But in the Looking Glass world of North Korea, the real intentions of the regime can only be guessed at.
12 September 2004 19:15
Huge blast in North Korea fuels nuclear bomb fears
By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor
13 September 2004
North Korea may have brazenly defied the rest of the world by carrying out tests linked to the production of a nuclear bomb last week during celebrations to mark the 56th anniversary of the state's foundation.
A huge explosion rocked a remote part of North Korea last week, it was reported in the South Korean capital, Seoul, yesterday. US and South Korean officials rushed to say that despite the appearance of a "peculiar cloud" over the area, it was unlikely to have been a nuclear weapons test.
The news came during a visit to the North Korean capital by Bill Rammell, a British Foreign Office minister, who learnt of the explosion, 250 miles north of Pyongyang, just after 1pm while at the British ambassador's residence.
He informed officials at the North Korean Foreign Ministry, who were apparently unaware of the reported explosion.
Mr Rammell, who hopes to receive details today from the North Korean Foreign Minister, Paek Nam Sun, said the incident highlighted "the difficulties that we have with them in their dealings with the outside world".
The first report, from the South Korean news agency Yonhap, said that "a mushroom cloud with a radius of 3.5 to 4km was spotted in Kimhyongjik county" on Thursday, the 56th anniversary of the establishment of North Korea.
The mountainous area is completely closed to foreigners. Diplomats said that the location of North Korea's nuclear test site is unknown.
Some Korea watchers had feared that North Korea might carry out such an act as the temperature rises again in its dispute with the Americans over Pyongyang's suspected nuclear weapons programme.
But as the hours wore on, other possible explanations surfaced for the cloud. It may have been caused by an exploding rocket, or by a massive forest fire. The Americans were quick to deny that any nuclear explosion had taken place.
One diplomatic source in Pyongyang noted that the report first surfaced in South Korea. "It may have been a fishing expedition by the South Korean press perhaps. It happens all the time."
Diplomats were also puzzled as to why North Korea would risk alienating China, almost its only remaining ally, by exploding a bomb on its border with all the risks to the Chinese population that it would entail.
It was also unclear why North Korea would have taken the risk of exploding a bomb in the atmosphere, with the possibility of long-term loss of life to its own citizens.
If it was a nuclear bomb test there is likely to be fallout in Washington, which failed to predict the 1998 tests by Pakistan which led to a series of tit-for-tat explosions by India and Pakistan and brought the two countries to the brink of war.
UK minister tackles North Koreans on human rights abuse
By Anne Penketh in Pyongyang, North Korea
12 September 2004
Britain placed human rights at the heart of its relationship with North Korea last night as the Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell arrived in Pyong-yang to take the measure of the world's most reclusive Communist state.
Mr Rammell, making the first visit to North Korea by a British minister, made it clear from the outset of his first meeting, with the vice-foreign minister for Europe, Kung Sok Ung, that he would raise the "very serious human rights allegations'' during three days of talks.
The visit went ahead only after North Korea agreed to discuss human rights as well as the thorny nuclear issue that has bedevilled the country's relations with the rest of the world since it announced that it had a nuclear weapon in 2002.
Mr Rammell told the minister he welcomed the addition of human rights to the agenda. Mr Kung failed to respond directly at their foreign ministry meeting.
The British delegation last night raised specific human rights cases that will be discussed in more detail tomorrow. These include the fate of a former North Korean ambassador to Indonesia who was sent to labour camp, and that of two abducted South Korean pastors.
Mr Rammell and his team, which included the Foreign Office expert on human rights, Jon Benjamin, are calling for North Korea to admit a UN human rights investigator for a return trip by Mr Benjamin.
But a brief spat less than an hour later highlighted the extent of the hard-line government's paranoia, when official minders refused to allow a television camera into a new food market despite having given prior agreement.
After a short stand-off during which Mr Rammell cooled his heels outside the blue-roofed market - the produce ranged from dried squid to dog meat - his party and the camera were allowed inside.
Diplomats say that such well-stocked markets, which were introduced in the wake of monetary reform that pegged all foreign currency exchanges to the euro in 2002, are the sign of a timid liberalisation that could keep food shortages at bay.
Yet Pyongyang still looks like a city built for war, from its limitless airport runway to its deep underground Soviet-era metro and the wide avenues virtually devoid of traffic on a Saturday afternoon. About 30 military trucks were parked outside the foreign ministry yesterday.
Militaristic billboards are everywhere in the one-party state devoted to the cult of the late Great Leader Kim Il Sung, whose picture greets visitors from the airport terminal.
In central Pyongyang, dominated by austere grey buildings and monuments to his memory, soldiers raise their fists over the slogan "think and work and live according to the requirements of Sungun politics'', the policy that places the military at the vanguard of society.
Even though the party and military elite live in Pyongyang, their fear of the outside world is palpable. Talking to foreigners is actively discouraged unless the conversations are officially approved. When journalists entered a metro car at Buhung station, where patriotic music plays in the background, two people quietly slipped out of the car.
A student, who agreed to a short conversation in the presence of a government minder, was asked how much her salary would be when she found work in a hotel after completing her course. The salary is not important, she replied. "I try to repay the care of the government,'' she said.
A group of men was reading the sports news on a stand inside the metro. One of them, a surgeon named Jang Ji Min, described how he had watched the Olympic Games on television. What was his impression?
He chatted affably for a few minutes, saying he was naturally pleased at the victory of the North Korean medal for weightlifting, and was impressed by the Chinese divers.
He added: "By seeing the play of sportsmen on television I realised how they tried their best to glorify our country by having a great success at the Games.''
12 September 2004 19:21
?2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd. All rights reserved
N Korea's military edge over S Korea
By David Scofield
Despite lacking the resources necessary to feed and care for its own people, North Korea has found the funds necessary to develop its conventional military capabilities beyond those of South Korea. That North Korea's leadership is willing to allow starvation and pestilence while it fuels the military is well known, but last week's report by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses indicating an edge to DPRK forces caught many by surprise.
It is known that South Korea maintains 690,000 troops, backed by around 37,000 United States forces, while North Korea boasts a 1.1 million-strong military. The latest reckoning, however, says South Korea's air force was 103% of North Korea's, while its army and naval strengths were 80% and 90% respectively of those of the North, according to the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analysis. That doesn't count North Korea's nuclear weapons program and it doesn't count Pyongyang's 100,000 special forces. While it is difficult to compare the two sides qualitatively, in terms of numbers, the North appears to have the edge.
Of course, there are methodological questions surrounding the report. Is it appropriate, for example, to compare generations-old technology in the North with the far newer equipment in use in the South? Comparing air force, army and naval vessels ton for ton, rather then focusing on the technology in use is not a precise measure of these nations' military projection capabilities. Indeed, some analysts quickly concluded that the South Korean report was probably designed to squeeze funds out of a reluctant administration, more interested in transforming a rice paddy into a new national capital than planning for the nation's defense, independent of US ground troops that will be relocated.
These sorts of quantitative match-ups have proven meaningless in the past. Remember Gulf War I? At that time analysts warned that Saddam Hussein's standing army, battle hardened from years of conflict with Iran, would prove a formidable adversary to the more technologically advanced US coalition troops. Quite the opposite proved true. Saddam's regular army collapsed in the first days of battle against an opponent that could lay waste from afar, denying the Iraq army the chance to fire a shot before its armor was decimated - large numbers being no match for superior technology.
Again in 2003, Iraq's military hardware, weakened by years of US-driven United Nations sanctions, quickly caved. It is not armor and men in uniforms that is inflicting casualties on the US forces today, it is their opponents' utilization of asymmetric strategies that is proving hard to counter - and this is North Korea's strength as well.
The 75 or so more advanced MiG-29s and Su-25S the North possesses won't be involved in dog fights with their South Korean and US counterparts. The North is not planning for, nor does it have the resources to fuel, a wide, protracted battle. Rather, the North Koreans will likely use a blitzkrieg approach, making heavy use of its special forces.
North tops in special forces, 100,000
According to Joseph Bermudez's book The Armed Forces of North Korea, a definitive guide to North Korean military capabilities, the North has more than 100,000 such troops, the largest group of its kind in the world. In a conflict, they would be used to capture and destroy vital South Korean infrastructure and installations, while confusing the responding defense forces. It is widely speculated that these forces wearing South Korean uniforms will infiltrate the South in order to exacerbate the chaos. The number of North Korean special operatives now in the South is unknown, but is thought to be substantial.
US airmen working on the US Air Force's Osan Air Base 30 miles south of Seoul, for example, are housed largely off-base, making them easy targets for North Korean operatives in the run-up to a surprise attack. Further, North Korea has been tunneling under the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) since open hostilities ceased in 1953. So far four tunnels have been unearthed, the latest in 1989, but others are believed to still exist.
South Korea is a small country of only 98,000 square kilometers. North Korean jets can reach the capital in six minutes from their forward bases. North Korea's 12,000 artillery tubes and 2,300 MLR (multiple-launch rockets/ medium-long range) hidden in caves and underground are all within striking distance Seoul, while its medium range Nodong ballistic missiles can reach US assets throughout the South and in Japan. In the mid 80's North Korea managed to import 87 American-made Hughes MD500 helicopters, the same type South Korea uses as gun ships. The area between Seoul and the DMZ is heavily wooded and mountainous, perfect for guerrilla warfare.
Of course this has always been the problem; the frontier terrain has not changed since the last Korean conflict and the North Korean strategy to utilize its special forces troops to destroy, control and confuse is well known, but today there's an additional obstacle to defending South Korea - perception in the South.
South Korea's engagement policies, begun in earnest in the weeks following the June 15, 2000, summit between president Kim Dae-jung and Pyongyang's leader Kim Jong-il, marked the beginning of a government policy to change the way North Korea is depicted, essentially whitewashing the threat perception of the South's erstwhile nemesis. Textbooks were altered and government literature and policy was changed in a kinder, gentler approach to the misunderstood Northern brethren.
Inter-Korean activities are strongly encouraged and have proven very effective in changing the way South Korea's younger generation views the North. Major examples are the 2002 Asian Games in Busan in which over 350 North Korean athletes and "cheerleaders" attended, followed by the 2003 World University Games in Daegu where 520 North Koreans, including over 300 cheering propagandists, joined hands with South Koreans to sing unification songs.
Kinder, gentler approach of South to North
State-run media has softened its rhetoric, no longer reporting the jingoistic tendencies of the northern reclusive state with dramatic effect. In the closing days of the World Cup competition in 2002, a North Korean naval vessel attacked and sank a South Korean navy ship inside South Korean territorial waters. Two years later, not one politician from either the ruling or opposition camps attended the memorial for the six South Korean sailors who perished, and most of the nation's media outlets relegated the story to the back pages, if they covered it at all.
Many South Koreans, whether civilians or in uniform, no longer consider the North to be a threat - rapprochement policies have been a success, at least in South Korea. Unfortunately the North has not moderated its belief in unification by force, making the South vulnerable. As North Korea's military hardware is deployed in close proximity to Seoul, rapid reaction is the key to defense. But political engagement policies, designed to reduce South Korean's fear of North Korea, have reduced the nation's mental preparedness. After the naval skirmish in 2002, one young South Korean sailor confessed that he "didn't think the North would attack us". North Korea is no doubt well aware of this perceptual change, and no amount of military hardware is going to change the way the North is perceived. Timing is everything, a few minutes of confusion is all that is needed to carry out a crippling assault on South's infrastructure, military and otherwise.
Solutions are difficult. South Korea will not go back to its Cold War readiness: finger on the trigger, warily watching every move of its Northern adversary. The solution lies not in going back but in moving the North ahead, altering the perceptions within the North vis a vis the rest of the world. The North's constant war-footing, the nation's military-first philosophy, which defines the political structure of the country, is incongruent with perceptual change. North Korea's leaders need the imminent "threat" of attack to justify the system and its privations. The perception will moderate only when the North's political lens, through which outside reality is passed, is fundamentally, irreversibly, changed.
David Scofield, former lecturer at the Graduate Institute of Peace Studies, Kyung Hee University, is currently conducting post-graduate research at the School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on our sales and syndication policies.)
Death of Kim's consort: Dynastic implications
By David Scofield
North Korea is synonymous with death. The widely circulated news of Kim Jong-il's consort's death is important not in the circumstances of her demise, but in the questions of dynastic succession it has brought to the fore - who will inherit the mantle of despot in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea? Kim Jong-il is 62.
Kim's appetite for exotic food and fine alcohol is surpassed only by his appetite for female flesh, an indulgence that led him to Koh Young-hee, formerly a dancer in one of Kim's many "pleasure teams", groups of stunningly attractive girls trained in providing for his every desire. Divided into three broad categories, the women provide "satisfaction", "happiness", and "dancing and singing". Koh was a member of the third group and became Kim's consort.
Born in Japan to wide-eyed idealists who left for the North Korean "workers' paradise" in the early 1960s, Koh became one of a 2,000-strong stable of young girls "fortunate" enough to be chosen to pleasure Kim. It was while she was dancing in one of the Kim family's 32 villas and palaces that the then junior Kim became enamored with Koh. Though they never formerly married (Kim already had a wife and mistress), they became very close and Kim fathered two sons with Koh: Kim Jong-chul, 23, and Kim Jong-woon, 21. Of course, by the time of her death, reportedly of cancer, Koh was no longer "the former dancer" but had been bestowed the titles "esteemed mother" and "great woman".
And then there's 'Fat Bear'
Kim Jong-il's eldest son is Kim Jong-nam, the offspring of previous mistress Sung Hye-lim, a former actress who died two years ago in a Moscow hospital, exiled and estranged from the leader. Jong-nam has been widely considered to be Kim's heir-apparent, though this is now far from certain. Some, such as the leader's former Japanese sushi chef, who has written about Kim under the pen name Kenji Fujimoto, observed him referring to Jong-nam as "too feminine", lacking the masculine character leadership requires, and indicating a preference for the youngest. But this raises other issues concerning Confucian roles - the youngest son assuming control ahead of the eldest would be a major, and potentially destabilizing, departure from Confucian ethos.
In the past Kim Jong-nam had been widely viewed as the obvious successor. He had the right familial rank, and there is little effeminate about Kim's portly son. North Korean defectors believe Jong-nam responsible for the Hyesan purge, a "removal" of 40 individuals involved in illegal trade during the height of the famine 1996. But his love of Disneyland proved to be his undoing.
In 2001, Kim Jong-nam and his entourage, bedecked in diamond-encrusted Rolex watches and toting Louis Vuitton bags, were detained at Narita airport, reportedly en route to Tokyo Disneyland. Kim had attempted to enter the country on a forged Dominican Republic passport, using the Chinese name Pang Xiong - Fat Bear. Subsequent investigations revealed that this was not his first foray into Japan. Apparently he entered the country at least three times in late 2000. Indeed, a hostess at the exclusive gentlemen's club Soapland in Tokyo's Yoshiwara district remembered Kim's US$350-per-hour visits. She also recalls a dragon tattoo on Kim's back - tattoos are a taboo in Confucian society as they are seen to be a desecration of the body. Still today in South Korea, men with tattoos usually are thought to be members of criminal gangs.
Kim Jong-il was livid. The eldest son had embarrassed the leader and Jong-nam's place near the top of the North Korean food chain and dynasty was - and is - in doubt. Jong-nam's whereabouts are not known. He was reported to be spending his days gambling in Macau, but some experts believe the family rift has been repaired, at least partially, and he is now said to be back in North Korea, perhaps working on national cyberprojects. Before his embarrassing transgressions, he guided the Korea Computing Center (KCC), a high-tech research center outside of Pyongyang described as "advanced" by Jim Hoare, the former charge d'affaires of the British Mission in North Korea and one of the few foreigners to have visited the complex. According to the KCC website, primary research areas include the development of Linux technology. In a world dominated by Bill Gates and Microsoft, North Korea is opting for open-source - perhaps there's hope for the reclusive nation yet.
And then there's the first lady
While the deceased Koh may be "esteemed mother", she isn't "first lady". That title is reserved for Kim's only surviving (that we know about anyway) sibling, his sister Kim Kyung-hee. Kim had a brother earlier in life, but the poor lad drowned in a pond on one of the Kim estates while, it's rumored, Kim Jong-il looked on. The leader is reported to be very close with both his sister and her 33-year-old son (his name is not known beyond North Korea), raising speculation about his potential role as leader of the moribund nation.
Many experts dismiss this possibility, though, as it would end the Kim dynastic line. Kim Jong-il's nephew's father is Chang Sung-taek, vice director of the ruling Korean Workers Party's organization and guidance department and, according to senior North Korean defector Hwang Jong-yup, the de facto No 2 man in North Korea. For years, Chang enjoyed the position closest to Kim, thanks in no small measure to his marriage to Kim's sister.
But defector testimony and South Korea-based analysts indicate that Chang and Kim Jong-il are not as close as they once were. Chang has been accused of corruption and abuse of power and is now said to be living under virtual house arrest. It has also been reported that Chang and Kim Kyung-hee have parted ways. If true, this could remove Chang from any handover script. His brothers, themselves senior members in the military, will likely be keeping their heads down, fearful of being detained, or purged, themselves.
Kim Kyung-hee's official title is head of the light-industry division of the Workers Party Economic Policy Audit Department. She is believed to have unfettered access to her brother Kim Jong-il. That she has a voice in future leadership decisions is well known, but she possesses something else as well, the keys to the family fortune. US Central Intelligence Agency reports put the Kim family's wealth at around $4 billion, held, it is believed, in Swiss bank accounts. Kim Kyung-hee is charged with managing the "Family's" (writer's emphasis) business, which include gold, zinc and anthracite mining operations and the manufacture, processing and distribution of of opium, heroin and amphetamines, as well as the proliferation of counterfeit currency and other nefarious enterprises. (North Korea's smuggling, according to recent British Broadcasting Corp reports, have employed the Real IRA among others to distribute near-perfect counterfeit copies of US currency notes around Britain and Europe.)
His sister's power goes beyond the management of this conduit for cash upon which Kim Jong-il relies to fund his expensive indulgences: she has the knowledge necessary to expose the intricate network that ensures Kim's wealth and power. This information would be invaluable to those governments concerned with the dictator's nuclear-weapons program and his disregard for human life - administrations that hope to bring about real change in North Korea through the removal of this system of dynastic despots.
With so much senseless death and suffering in North Korea, it's hard to be too concerned about the death of one like Koh. Scores of ordinary North Koreans perished from treatable ailments over the past year while the elite, such as Koh, secured the best treatment abroad, regardless of expense. The death of Kim Jong-il's favorite is noteworthy because it underscores the fragility of the succession and the potential for instability at the zenith of power in North Korea.
David Scofield, former lecturer at the Graduate Institute of Peace Studies, Kyung Hee University, is currently conducting post-graduate research at the School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.
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Chilling warning on day of tears: 70,000 al-Qa'ida terrorists at large
By Raymond Whitaker
12 September 2004
More than 70,000 al-Qa'ida-trained terrorists remain at large around the world, a leading expert has warned, as ceremonies were held yesterday to commemorate the third anniversary of the 9/11 outrage.
The continuing threat of terrorism was reinforced by two blasts yesterday near Western-linked banks in the Saudi port of Jeddah, injuring at least one person. The US consulate in the city was closed as a precaution following the spate of attacks on Western targets in Saudi Arabia over recent months in which 90 people have been killed.
In Indonesia the authorities released security camera footage of a suicide bombing in the capital, Jakarta, which killed nine people and wounded more than 180 outside the Australian embassy on Thursday. The attack has been claimed by Jemaah Islamiah, a group linked to al-Qa'ida.
President George Bush marked the 11 September attacks by warning of continued danger to the US and pledging victory over international terror. "We will not relent until the terrorists who plot murder against our people are found and dealt with," he said in a live radio address from the Oval Office, surrounded by relatives of victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
After attending a prayer service, Mr Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and their wives took part in a silent commemoration at the White House. The Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was at the Pentagon, where 184 people died, and John Kerry, Mr Bush's Democratic opponent, attended a service in Boston. The largest ceremony was at Ground Zero in New York.
Since Mr Bush declared a "war on terror" in the wake of 9/11, some 3,500 members of al-Qa'ida and affiliated groups have been killed or captured, including several leading figures. But Osama bin Laden, his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader who gave them a base in Afghanistan, have not been captured.
Daniel Benjamin, former counter-terrorism adviser to Bill Clinton, warned that 70,000 terrorists trained at Afghan camps remain at large. He criticised the Iraq war as "a mistake" which had pushed many moderate Muslims towards terrorism.
The Bush administration, he said, had failed to understand that the war against terrorism was an ideological campaign, and targeting states or individuals was not the answer.
Al Qa'eda terrorists 'plan to turn tanker into a floating bomb'
By Philip Sherwell, Massoud Ansari and Marianne Kearney
Fanatics from the Islamic terror faction blamed for last week's suicide attack on the Australian embassy in Indonesia are planning to hijack an oil tanker or freighter and turn it into a floating bomb, The Telegraph has learned.
United States intelligence has passed on warnings about the plot to launch an attack in the region's busy shipping lanes to several countries, including Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. They acted after intercepting communications between activists from Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a network linked to al Qa'eda.
The terrorists have been discussing plans to seize a vessel using local pirates. The hijacked ship would be wired with explosives and then directed at other vessels, sailed towards a port or used to threaten the narrow and congested sea routes around Indonesia.
Strong indications that Islamic extremists are planning a new wave of bloody attacks against Western targets also emerged in Pakistan where detained militants revealed that the latest al Qa'eda video tape was intended to be a trigger for fresh atrocities.
Prisoners captured in recent weeks have told their interrogators that last week's taped message from Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, was a signal for al Qa'eda cells that were already on standby.
"We were told that a new tape either carrying bin Laden or his deputy's message was on its way, and that it was intended to trigger a major terror attack," a senior Pakistani intelligence official told The Telegraph. "The cadres linked to the terror network were told to carry out an attack once this video is released."
In the tape, Al-Zawahiri predicted America's defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Security was further tightened at foreign embassies in Pakistan after its release just two days before yesterday's third anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Pakistani officials investigating the activities of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, the al Qa'eda computer expert believed to have been co-ordinating a plot to bomb Heathrow airport, have recovered further information from the arrested man's computer.
Khan and other militants had collected detailed lists of local and international staff of American and British missions working in Pakistan and senior officials in the war on terrorism. The information included home addresses, daily travel routines and even names of schools attended by the children of foreigners under surveillance.
In Indonesia, Australia's top policeman said yesterday that the militants behind the embassy attack on Thursday were believed to have deployed a second team of suicide bombers in Jakarta.
"There's further intelligence in the last 24 to 48 hours of a second group active in the area," said Mick Keelty, the Federal Police Commissioner, who flew to Jakarta to investigate the blast that killed nine Indonesians and injured 182.
Police released video recordings of the blast from two security cameras yesterday. They showed a van passing on its way to the embassy before blowing apart in a flash of smoke and debris, shaking trees and buildings before the image went blurry.
The attack indicated that JI remains a lethal force, despite the arrest of more than 200 activists across south-east Asia, including Hambali, its alleged mastermind, who was seized in Thailand last year.
Azahari Husin, a British-educated explosives expert who is believed to have made the devices that blew up a Bali disco in 2002, killing more than 200 people, and the Marriott hotel in Jakarta last August, has emerged as the organisation's most wanted man.
Indonesian police said yesterday that he had been recruiting members in recent weeks in Java, the biggest island in the world's most populous Muslim country, as JI regained strength following the arrests.
Husin, a Malaysian who completed a engineering doctorate at Reading University in 1990 and later trained at al Qa'eda camps in Afghanistan, is believed to have only recently moved out of a rented house in north-west Jakarta.
Following a tip-off after Thursday's attack, investigators raided the abandoned home and discovered traces of TNT explosives and sulphur, matching residue found at the embassy bomb site.
The rejuvenation of JI will heighten concerns in Australia that the country could face terrorist attacks on its soil ahead of parliamentary elections on October 9. John Howard, the conservative prime minister, is a strong backer of President George W Bush's war on terror and 850 Australian troops are serving in Iraq.
A purported claim of responsibility for the Jakarta attack was made by JI in a statement on the internet that threatened Australia with more attacks if it did not withdraw its troops from Iraq.
Ex-policeman 'masterminded Beslan terror'
By Tom Parfitt in Nazran, Ingushetia
A police sergeant from Ingushetia who disappeared six years ago is accused of being among the ringleaders of the Beslan siege. Officials of the republic's interior ministry believe that Ali Taziyev, who worked for Ingushetia's external security division protecting government officials, has turned into a ruthless killer since he was caught up in a kidnapping involving Chechens in 1998.
His family believes that he is dead, but the interior ministry claims that he joined the Chechen rebel movement and has taken part in several operations against Russian forces, under the codename Magas.
Officials now suspect that he was one of four commanders who masterminded the attack on School Number One in Beslan in which more than 330 people died, more than half of them children.
Musa Apiyev, Ingushetia's deputy interior minister, told the Telegraph: "The fighter known as Magas, who is the former police officer Taziyev, is connected to a series of terrorist attacks and there is evidence that he participated in the Beslan incident." Mr Apiyev said that Magas was the "leader of a bandit formation" based in Ingushetia. The tiny republic, flanked by mountains, has suffered in recent years from the spill-over of conflict from neighbouring Chechnya.
Police released a photograph that, they say, shows Taziyev earlier this year with Shamil Basayev, the Chechen warlord accused by Moscow of organising the Beslan attack. The Russian security service, the FSB, has offered a ?5.5 million bounty for information leading to the capture of Basayev and another Chechen leader, Aslan Maskhadov.
In the week since the siege began, investigators have been piecing together the identities of the terrorists. The small town in North Ossetia, the Christian region that abuts Muslim Ingushetia, became the focus of world attention when 32 terrorists stormed the school and took hostage 1,100 pupils, parents and teachers, on September 1. More than 330 people were killed and hundreds more wounded when the siege came to a bloody end two days later.
Recordings of the terrorists' telephone conversations reveal that they repeatedly referred to a man called Magas, although it is unclear whether he was in the building or directing operations from outside.
A search for Taziyev was launched last month after he was accused of taking part in attacks on police stations and government buildings in the republic's capital, Nazran, in June, which killed almost 100 people.
He is also suspected of involvement in an assassination attempt on the Ingush president Murad Zyazikov earlier this year.
Police officials say that the other three commanders who organised the attack were also known by codenames: The Colonel, Abdullah and Fantomas.
Russia's general prosecutor, Vladimir Ustinov, told President Vladimir Putin last week that "The Colonel" led the operation inside the school. He has been tentatively identified as a senior rebel from southern Ingushetia. Fantomas is thought to have been a Russian or Chechen former bodyguard to Basayev. Abdullah is believed to be from Ossetia.
Mr Apiyev said: "There are more and more small units moving around in the forests and mountains in the North Caucasus who were only inside Chechnya in the past." He said many fighters were recruited through extremist Muslim communities known as Jamaats.
It remains unclear why the shy, young policeman joined the anti-Russian fighters. He has not been seen since October 10, 1998, when he and a fellow officer were ambushed while protecting the wife of a presidential adviser in Nazran. They were all piled into a car and driven into Chechnya.
A few months later, the wife was freed. The body of the second policeman was found a year later. Taziyev, however, had disappeared.
His family gave up looking for his body in 2001. "We heard nothing, even when his father died," said his mother, Lida, in an interview. "If he was alive, he would have at least passed a message to us."
Investigators, however, believe that he may have been an accomplice in the kidnapping, drawn by the prospect of ransom money. The headquarters of the Ingush interior ministry is still pockmarked by gunfire from the June raids on Nazran. Dozens of officers were killed in the attacks. Major Madina Khadzieva said that the attacks on the city and the school in Beslan were carried out by the "same bandits with the same style of attack". Magas, she claimed, was among the leaders on both occasions.
"Just a few days before the Beslan siege, we received information that a school in Nazran would be attacked," she said. "That was almost certainly a diversionary tactic by the same group."
Taziyev's family, however, is adamant that he is innocent. His younger brother, Alan, said: "The police used to think that someone else was Magas. Now they have discovered that that person is dead and they are looking for a new scapegoat."
Woman sentenced in weapons-export scheme
A Southern California woman was sentenced to one year in federal prison Thursday for her role in a scheme to use her export company to illegally export arms parts to the People's Republic of China...
US favours Herat governor removal
KABUL, September 14 (Online): The United States has supported the Afghan government's decision to sack Governor of Herat and said the change would bring peace and stability in the troubled province.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Afghanistan told BBC Radio that he supported freedom to people to hold demonstrations but destruction of government and non-governmental offices could not be allowed.
He said, "citizens are free to comment government policies but use of force or violent means to register their protest in this regard can not be tolerated at any cost".
He said recent acts of violence in Herat required sustained solution.
"Ismail Khan as the governor of Herat proved very destructive not only for the province but also for the entire region", he said.
The US diplomat further said the situation would have been different (in Herat), had they (Ismail led government) did not stop Commander Amanullah Khan from entering the province".
He termed the change a positive move before the presidential elections in Afghanistan.
He further informed he had meetings with former and newly appointed governors of Herat and assured US support to Saeed Mohammad Kherkhaw, the new governor.
He said the US troops were closely monitoring the developments in troubled province.
To a query, Zalmay said 27,000 people would be disarmed in the country during the ongoing drive for the purpose.
US deploy forces in Herat
US tanks rumble through Herat city as the American soldiers flanked by Afghan National Army have stationed in sensitive state administration buildings Monday, according to the latest reports relayed from Western Afghan city of Herat presided by powerful warlord Ismail Khan.
Helicopters and airplanes hovering over the restive city of Herat have deployed forces as the looters began to ransack foreign missions and UN offices.
Fighting erupted after the dismissal of former Herat governor Ismail khan have left ten civilians dead or injured.
The city is turned into a spirit town after trade centers, shopping mals government offices were closed in fear of the heavy gunfire traded between the US forces and Ismail Khan supporters.
Ismael Khan followers have staged fierce protests against the former governor's appointment as the new Afghan minister of mines and industry and called on the Afghan interim President Hamid Karzai to return him to power.
The peaceful protest turned into a riot as the Herat-based US soldiers aided by Afghan National Army (ANA) stepped in to ease violations.
Afghan City of Herat quiet after weekend riots
The western Afghan city of Herat is reportedly calm after riots over the weekend, in which at least four people were killed and about 50 injured.
A curfew was imposed late Sunday after hundreds of demonstrators attacked United Nations' buildings in the city and clashed with US and Afghan forces after local governor, Ismael Khan, was removed from his post on Saturday.
President Hamid Karzai, who is the favourite to win Aghanistan's first ever direct presidential election on October 9, sacked Mr Khan and appointed a replacement as part of his campaign pledge to rein in warlords.
Mr Karzai, who was named interim president in 2002 after a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban, faces 17 rivals in the vote.
Earlier, Ousted governor of western Afghanistan's Herat province appealed to his supporters in a television statement to avoid violence, after at least four people were killed in clashes following his sacking.
Hundreds of demonstrators attacked United Nations buildings in the city and clashed with US and Afghan forces on Sunday after the long-term provincial governor's sacking a day earlier.
The Kabul government Sunday announced that Khan was appointed as the minister of mines and industries and his post was given to Afghan ambassador to Ukraine, Saeed Ahmad Khair Khowa, angering Khan's supporters.
"I hope with patience, tolerance and a single aim you ensure security, peace and stability of your country and be tolerant," said Khan in his statement.
"Reshuffling and changes in a government are a normal thing," said Khan. "I am deeply affected by the number of brothers killed or injured in the past 24 hours."
Hundreds of demonstrators threw stones at the US soldiers and attacked UN offices in Herat.
"Four people were killed and tens were injured," provincial TV announced, adding that curfew was imposed from nine pm in the province.
Iran makes 'temporary' concession on nuclear plans
Compiled by Our Staff From Dispatches AP, Reuters
Monday, September 13, 2004
VIENNA Iran's refusal to give up all uranium enrichment, and thus banish suspicions that it is interested in nuclear arms, set the stage for a confrontation at a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog agency that began Monday, with the United States lobbying its allies to have Tehran taken before the Security Council. Hossein Mousavian, Iran's chief delegate at the meeting of the agency's board here, said that "at the moment" Tehran had imposed a partial freeze on enriching uranium and on assembling and making parts for centrifuges, a key part of the enrichment process, which can produce bomb-grade fuel. Mousavian said the suspension was a voluntary gesture on Iran's part to build confidence. But he told reporters it would continue "just for a short, temporary period." Mousavian gave no indication of when Tehran planned to resume uranium enrichment.
Although officials of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, declined to comment, a senior diplomat familiar with the agency said it was checking on the claim of a partial freeze.
The agenda for the meeting also included a report from the agency's chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, on South Korea's clandestine uranium enrichment and plutonium extraction experiments. The issue of Iran is not expected to be discussed before Tuesday at the earliest.
The United States appeared to soften its oratory before the opening session in apparent recognition that it might not get its way on Iran immediately. But its case was bolstered over the longer term when important European allies agreed to set a November deadline for Iran to meet demands meant to banish concerns over its possible pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In a confidential draft resolution prepared by France, Germany and Britain and made available to The Associated Press, the three European powers warned of possible "further steps" by the next International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in November.
Diplomats defined that phrase as shorthand for referral of Iran's case to the UN Security Council if Tehran hinders the investigation or refuses to suspend uranium enrichment.
ElBaradei suggested that he did not consider November a deadline. (AP, Reuters)
Copyright ? 2004 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com
A battered UN needs to go back to its roots
Simon Chesterman IHT
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
59th General Assembly
NEW YORK As the United Nations General Assembly opens on Tuesday, the world organization faces twin crises in its effectiveness and its legitimacy.
Ten years after the Rwanda crisis, the UN's inability to prevent genocide has been on painful display during the hand-wringing over Sudan. The United States has invoked the "g" word, but it is unclear that the political will and necessary troops are available to support the escalation in rhetoric.
At the same time, the United Nations remains scarred by the war in Iraq and its bloody aftermath. The failure of the Security Council to contain Saddam Hussein to the satisfaction of the United States - or to contain the United States to the satisfaction of even its allies - suggests a crisis in legitimacy that questions the very idea of the United Nations as a significant actor in international peace and security.
Now that an Iraqi government has taken formal control of Iraq - and the United Nations has demonstrated its importance to the United States in achieving this - might the time be right to push for reform of the United Nations?
Major international institutions of peace and security are difficult to forge in the absence of crisis. World War I was the backdrop for establishment of the League of Nations. The league's failure to prevent World War II led to its replacement by the United Nations. For some, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was a similar challenge not merely to the institutions but to the very idea of international order.
The war split the Security Council, divided NATO and prompted the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, to create a high-level panel to rethink the very idea of collective security in a world dominated by U.S. military power.
This panel is now the most prominent effort to reform the United Nations. Whether it or any other reform effort can succeed in improving the United Nations - or, perhaps, saving it - depends in large part on how the relationship between the United States and the United Nations is managed.
The General Assembly this year will lay the groundwork for the 60th anniversary celebrations of 2005. Over the next 12 months, governments will be responding to the report of the high-level panel and a separate meeting will review the Millennium Declaration and evaluate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. It is possible that these major reviews of the security and development agenda of the United Nations will be brought together.
This would recognize the different ways in which different people experience modern threats. While the combination of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction is the primary fear of many Western countries, economic concerns dominate in the developing world. It might be possible to link these issues, securing greater cooperation from developing countries for counterterrorism and counterproliferation activities in exchange for greater development assistance and reform of agricultural subsidies by Western countries.
It is far from clear, however, that there is an atmosphere of crisis of the kind needed to bring about change on this scale.
President Franklin Roosevelt pushed for the negotiation of the UN Charter to be held in San Francisco while the bombs of World War II were falling. Unlike the Covenant of the League of Nations, which was negotiated as one agreement among many at Versailles in 1919, the Charter's references to "the scourge of war" were reinforced by daily reports of the final battles of the global conflict.
With that in mind, it might help present reform efforts to move next year's UN General Assembly to a special session in San Francisco. This would serve three purposes.
First, especially if led by the United States, it would help to emphasize the important role played by America in establishing the United Nations as an instrument of enlightened U.S. self-interest, rather than a barrier to it.
Second, the next UN secretary general is expected to be from Asia, so it would be appropriate to convene the assembly on the edge of the Pacific.
Finally, it is possible that recalling the atmosphere of crisis that accompanied the drafting of the UN Charter 60 years ago will remove the need for a comparable crisis in order to change it.
Simon Chesterman is executive director of the Institute for International Law and Justice at New York University School of Law.
Copyright ? 2004 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com
Updated: September 13, 2004
Is reform on the agenda when the U.N. General Assembly opens?
Talk of reform at the United Nations--particularly of the Security Council--is not new. But this year, as the U.N. General Assembly begins its annual session on September 14, a panel of distinguished experts is preparing a report that could recommend radical changes in the way the United Nations operates. The panel, which will report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan by December 1, is examining how the United Nations can best respond to global security threats. It may recommend major changes, such as expanding the Security Council or creating closer links between it and other U.N. bodies. However, the General Assembly will not consider the panel's proposals until September 2005, and experts warn that past U.N. reform efforts have met resistance from member-states and the large, entrenched U.N. bureaucracy.
Why did Annan create the panel?
Annan appointed the 16-member High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change in November 2003, after a devastating year for the United Nations. The bitter policy debates that divided world opinion before the war in Iraq; the August 2003 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed 23--15 of them U.N. staffers, including Special Envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello; and the lack of a clear U.N. role in Iraq damaged confidence within the organization and raised questions about what the United Nations' mission should be. Annan has assigned the panel the task of redefining the United Nations to face new threats, a job he says is as important as the body's founding in 1945. "He wants to be bold, and he wants them to be bold," says William H. Luers, president and CEO of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, a nonprofit organization that encourages support for the work of the United Nations.
What did Annan ask the panel to do?
Primarily three things, says Thant Myintu, a political officer in the U.N. policy planning unit:
Define and analyze contemporary threats to world peace and security. "Now, more than at any other recent time, there's a greater division [between countries] in their perception of threats," Myintu says. In the 1990s, the United Nations shifted its focus from the Cold War to the threats of failed states and civil wars. Now, in an age of terrorism, another such shift is needed, experts say.
Examine the ability of the United Nations, across its entire system of non-governmental organizations and related bodies, to respond to those threats. For example, effective reforms to halt the nuclear weapons trade will involve not only the Security Council but also the International Atomic Energy Association, while bans on chemical weapons will involve the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established in 1997 to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Recommend changes to maximize the United Nations' effectiveness in responding to those threats.
What are the major issues being discussed?
The panel is studying six so-called baskets of issues combining hard (military) and soft (social and economic) threats. These are broadly defined as:
classic inter-state conflict, i.e., war between countries;
internal violence, including genocide;
poverty and disease;
weapons of mass destruction (WMD);
organized crime and corruption.
What challenges do the reformers face?
Experts say the panel faces a potential conflict between first and third world countries, which see security threats very differently. Industrialized nations consider terrorism and WMD the biggest threats to their security, experts say, while developing countries view AIDS, poverty, disease, and hunger as their most pressing risks. The panel must address both those viewpoints, experts say, although "in actual practice, the U.N. is likely to be more responsive to the threats seen by the first world countries," says James A. Paul, executive director of Global Policy Forum, a nonprofit organization that monitors policy-making at the United Nations.
The panel will also wrestle with several other hotly contested issues, including what position the United Nations should take on the doctrine of pre-emption. A country's right to attack an enemy in order to prevent a likely attack on itself--which the United States used to justify invading Iraq--has been highly controversial at the United Nations, experts say. "Pre-emption is still an issue that divides most of the countries in the world," says Robert Orr, assistant secretary-general for policy planning at the United Nations. Officials realize that, in a world in which terrorists can buy WMD, countries can't always afford to get U.N. permission before an attack, experts say. But the unrestricted use of force is not acceptable, either.
Will the panel recommend expanding the Security Council?
Experts say there is growing international pressure to expand the Security Council, which currently has 15 members. Five of those--the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia--are permanent members with a veto; the other 10 are elected by the General Assembly to two-year terms and do not have a veto. The 10 seats are allocated as follows:
two seats for Western Europe and the Commonwealth countries, including Canada and Australia;
three seats for Africa;
two seats for Asia;
one seat for the Middle East that takes one spot from Africa or Asia in alternate years;
one seat for Eastern Europe; and
two seats for Latin America/Caribbean.
Many developing countries argue that the Security Council needs broader geographical and economic representation. The panel is reportedly considering increasing Security Council membership from 15 to 24 members in three levels:
The first level would consist of the current five permanent members, who would keep their vetoes.
The second level would include seven or eight semi-permanent regional members, who would be elected for renewable terms of four or five years and would not have a veto. Some of the candidates for this group, including Japan, Germany, and India, have campaigned for permanent seats with vetoes. Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria are also mentioned as potential second level members.
The third level would replicate the current system, with 11 or 12 regional members elected for non-renewable two-year terms.
Other suggested reforms include making all Security Council seats elected or creating seats for regional bodies like the European Union or the Arab League; most experts say they are unlikely to be enacted.
What do the existing permanent members say about expanding the Security Council?
Experts say that while the five permanent members make public statements supporting expansion, they talk very differently in private. There's no chance any of the five will give up their vetoes, experts say, or share that power with other countries. "There's a huge gap between rhetoric and reality," Paul says. He says most experienced U.N. diplomats privately oppose expanding the council, arguing that a group larger than 15 members would be too cumbersome to get anything done.
What happens next?
The panel must submit final recommendations to Annan by December 1. Annan will then add modifications and circulate the report to member states for discussion in their countries and at U.N. forums. He will formally present the panel's findings to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2005. To be adopted, the reforms must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly. Experts say Annan has invested a sizable amount of his personal prestige in the reform project. "This is important to him," Orr says. "He wants to leave the organization [at the end of his term in 2006] in good shape to meet the new challenges of the 21st century."
What are the chances that reform will be enacted?
Some experts are hopeful. "This is an issue that's been batted around for a long time, but this time there's a lot of momentum," Orr says. "It could happen." Luers says the world body has been deeply affected by the terror attacks of the last few years and the bruising battles leading up to the war in Iraq. "I think Iraq was a shattering experience for many people," Luers says. "It made them realize that the world has changed." Paul says that the way events have turned out in Iraq--after initial U.S. resistance to a U.N. role, Washington sought the institution's help to organize upcoming elections-- has given the organization greater legitimacy than it had before and shown that no other body can take over its role. "For all its faults, the world is better with the U.N.," he says.
What happened to previous reform efforts?
Experts joke that talk of reform at the United Nations pops up on a "seven-year cycle." Incoming secretaries-general tend to propose reforms; for example, when Boutros Boutros-Ghali began his term in 1992, he consolidated all the U.N. bodies dealing with social and economic issues into one department and eliminated a controversial research center, Paul says. Annan has also made changes to the structure of the secretariat--the U.N. body that carries out the organization's day-to-day work--including creating a post of deputy secretary-general. Secretaries-general are fairly "free to change the secretariat, but more major reforms, like those that change the budget, need member-state approval," Paul says.
-- by Esther Pan, staff writer, cfr.org
News Analysis: Get-tough tactics in Iraq: Signs of backfire
Dexter Filkins/NYT NYT
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
BAGHDAD The mayhem that coursed through the Iraqi capital Sunday offered the latest evidence not just of the growing ferocity of the insurgency but also of the extraordinary difficulties faced by the American military as its efforts in Iraq enter a new and potentially decisive phase.
With four months to go before nationwide elections in Iraq, U.S. commanders have begun a series of military operations intended to regain control over the large sections of the country ceded to insurgents in recent months - where, if conditions remained unchanged, the staging of elections would be cast in serious doubt.
In cities like Falluja and Talafar and Sadr City, which have slipped out of the control of the Iraqi government, the Americans are embarking on especially aggressive operations with the full support of the Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi. But as the Americans move to regain control of these areas, the insurgency seems each day to be growing more brazen and more sophisticated.
On Sunday, insurgents struck the Americans and their allies in the Iraqi government in manifold ways: with suicide bombings, with mortars and with rockets, many of them showing a careful aim. Many of those attacks seemed intended not just to hurt the Americans but also to provoke them into overreacting and alienating other Iraqis. In that way, the choices confronting the Americans and their Iraqi allies here are similar to those faced by governments battling guerrilla insurgencies in the past: Ease up and the insurgency may grow; crack down and risk losing the support of the population.
The dilemma facing the Americans is that they need to break the deadlock before January, when they insist they want elections to be held. Whether the Americans can hold to their hardline approach is open to question.
In April, as the marines moved in on Falluja and Iraqi casualties soared into the hundreds, they called off their offensive and turned the city over to the insurgents. Even now, the get-tough approach is showing signs of backfiring.
When an insurgent drove a car bomb into a U.S. convoy Sunday, crippling a personnel carrier, a crowd of cheering Iraqis clambered on top.
Then an American helicopter, its pilots saying they were being shot at, opened fire, killing or wounding a number of Iraqi civilians. Inside the grim and chaotic wards of Baghdad's hospitals Sunday, the Americans seemed to have won more enemies than friends.
"When I heard the sound of the bombing, I ran out the door to see what was happening," said Nasir Saeed, a 23-year-old civilian who lay in Yarmouk hospital Sunday. "I saw a Bradley burning in the middle of the street and the people were happy, and then an American helicopter started to shoot at the mob. I fell on the ground, with wounds all over my body."
On Monday, the scene repeated itself in another corner of Baghdad. When a group of three insurgents opened fire on a vehicle carrying a group of American soldiers, they responded in force, firing dozens of bullets, destroying three cars and killing one Iraqi civilian and wounding three. "When the Americans fire back, they don't hit the people who are attacking them, only the civilians," said Osama Ali, a 24-year-old Iraqi who witnessed the attack. "This is why Iraqis hate the Americans so much."
The get-tough approach appears to be straining the Iraqi government as well.
On Monday, Allawi's office said that Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser, had been relieved of his duties and replaced with a close ally of Allawi's, Qassim Daoud. The precise reasons for Rubaie's dismissal were unclear, but he and Allawi disagreed sharply over how to quell the Shiite and Sunni insurgencies, particularly with regard to dealing with Moktada al-Sadr, the rebel Shiite cleric. Where Rubaie favored coaxing Sadr into the political mainstream, even before all of his guns were gathered up, Allawi instead simply demanded Sadr's surrender and threatened to crush his Mahdi Army if he did not. At the heart of the problem facing Allawi and the American military is the legitimacy of the elections to be held in January.
Large parts of the Sunni Triangle, the vast area north and west of Baghdad, have fallen out of U.S. control. The Americans have longed hoped that free and fair elections could drain away much of the anger in areas like the Sunni Triangle. But with so many areas out of American or Iraqi government control, it is not clear that elections can be held in those areas.
Still, both the Americans and the United Nations say they are determined to go forward with the January elections, running the risk that huge numbers of voters will not take part. "I could see circumstances where we can't do Falluja," a Western diplomat said, referring to the prospect of holding elections there. "But we will not let the rejectionists in Iraq have a veto over the elections."
Yet as U.S. forces try to retake these cities, some Iraqi leaders warn that they will meet stiff opposition, particularly in the areas, like Falluja and Ramadi, that are dominated by Sunni Arabs. That they will try to enter with the promise of bringing elections will matter little, these Iraqis say. "For sure, if the situation stays like this, it will be difficult to have free and honest elections," said Harith al-Dhari, the chairman of the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars, which represents hundreds of Sunni clerics around the country. "But Iraqis do not rely so much on these elections," Dhari said. "The most important thing is for the Americans to assign a date to their withdrawal. That is the only solution. "When you push the Iraqi people, and you harm the Iraqi people, you will just cause them to fight back harder," he said. "The idea that force will be enough to calm the Iraqis is a false dream." The Americans face a similar dilemma in trying to hold elections in the country's Shiite-dominated areas, where Sadr and his Mahdi Army are still refusing to give up their guns. In recent weeks, Sadr's aides have been traversing the country, soliciting opinions on how he might turn his guerrilla movement into a political party and turn his credibility in Iraq's slums into votes on election day. That is exactly what Mr. Allawi and British and American commanders say they want: Sadr willing to play by the rules. In April and again last month, his militia showed itself capable of seizing and holding the centers of the largest cities in southern Iraq. Unless Sadr can be persuaded to disband his militia, British officers who had to fight him in the south believe that no matter how many of his fighters they kill, he would have enough left to disrupt the January elections across southern Iraq. But Sadr has made these feints before, only to turn back to armed resistance.
It is for that reason, perhaps, that Allawi and American officers are refusing to entertain any such talks with Sadr until he disarms first. His aides, wary themselves and badly bloodied, are balking.
The New York Times
Sharon-Netanyahu Showdown Looms
by the Debkafiles
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is in a hurry. But the harder he pushes to speed up his disengagement-evacuation plan, the more he provokes the settlement movement, its supporters in his own Likud party and a whole range of opinion, including parts of the military command. His haste has drawn a backlash in the form of the warnings heard in the last few days that forcible evacuations could plunge the country into civil war.
Because no elected body has thus far approved settlement removals, Sharon is manufacturing momentum for a fait accompli by engineering bureaucratic and legislative measures. Tuesday, September 14, he will present the security and foreign affairs cabinet with the principles of a draft law defining the scale of compensation owed settlers for the loss of their homes and businesses in 21 Gaza Strip locations and four in the West Bank. First come, first served. Sharon hopes to squeeze this preliminary step through one day before Israel closes down for the New Year-Yom Kippur-Succoth season on Wednesday, September 15. He is now pinning his hopes on attractive monetary incentives for drawing volunteer evacuees into breaking the wall of opposition to the uprooting of settlements. A settler prepared to relocate in under-populated Galilee in the north or Negev in the south will receive double compensation - roughly the equivalent of $200,000 instead of $100,000.
Changes in the government lineup have improved the prospects of cabinet endorsement for this bill. The prime minister's immediate goal is to pre-empt the massive pro-settlement demonstration scheduled for Sunday, September 12, in Jerusalem.
The controversy is becoming infused with high emotion as both camps raise the stakes in the immediate term. Sharon will brook no suggestion that his plan is stalled and declares with raised voice that nothing on earth will stop the removal of the settlements he has decided to jettison. One settler, Eliezer Hisdai, who lost a daughter in a Palestinian attack, warned defense minister Shaul Mofaz this week of a possible en masse refusal by soldiers to carry out orders. Justice minister Tommy Lapid heatedly accused settler leaders of incitement to violence and defying democratic norms. He warned that the forces of law and order would not take this lying down, sparking a whole new wrangle over the limits of freedom of speech. The settlers retorted that if anyone is violating democratic norms it is Sharon who is dividing the nation over policies for which he has no mandate from any elected body.
Although the issue is genuinely incendiary, DEBKAfile has been told by its exclusive political sources that much of the fresh heat is sparked by a different factor: word is going round the ministers and top political circles that a decision has been reached by former finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a former Likud prime minister himself, to run against Sharon in the next party primaries as candidate for prime minister. After biding his time quietly in the wings for the last couple of years, he now tells his confidants it would be a mistake to postpone a direct challenge any longer. His moment has arrived.
Netanyahu has chosen his moment partly under the influence of the latest turnaround upping president George W. Bush's rating in opinion polls. In America, the majority appears unimpressed by the negative media coverage of the president's record in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite such disappointments as the failure to find Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and the continuing combat in both countries, Bush is gaining ground against Kerry as a war leader.
Israel's mass media are likewise plugging Sharon's policy as backed by most Israelis. For five years, the Likud prime minister did indeed prove unbeatable. This looks like changing. Since he came up with his stubbornly held plan to remove settlements, his popularity has been sliding. Polls held secretly in the last two weeks among the general public show results that reflect the May 1 poll held in the Likud party - with an important difference. A majority does indeed favor disengagement from the Palestinians, but 58 percent are also against the violent uprooting of settlements. Sharon's attempts to merge the two issues are not accepted.
Where Netanyahu parts ways with the prime minister is in his adherence to traditional Likud tenets, which negate the removal of Jews from their homes in any part of the Land of Israel. In the light of the current mood, he believes he can beat Sharon in a party primary and go on to win a general election as the party's prime ministerial candidate
The finance minister's political timing appears to be apt.
His two main rivals for the succession to the 74-year old Likud leader, both enthusiastic supporters of evacuation, are out of the race for the moment. The party has rejected deputy prime minister Ehud Olmert time and time again. Mofaz by backing the prime minister is tying himself in knots. He is combining his performance as great champion of the Israeli armed forces, lauding their success in warding off continuous waves of terrorists, while at the same time going out on a limb for the sake of the project to remove Israelis, lock, stock and barrel, from the Gaza Strip - against the advice of his own generals, who see great danger ahead.
In a further contortion, Mofaz is trying to shunt the hands-on job of wrestling Israeli civilians out of their homes away from the soldiers and onto the very reluctant police. But he will not be able to keep the soldiers out of the fray. The Palestinians are determined to subject the evictions, if they do take place, to heavy fire in order to demonstrate that they have got the Israelis on the run. The defense minister certainly understands that in such circumstances, the entire project is bound to be fraught with bloodshed, costing the lives of settlers, police and soldiers alike. And after the no doubt traumatic event is over, he cannot be unaware of the perils entailed in unilaterally abandoning the Gaza Strip to an avowedly hostile enemy. By sticking to Sharon, therefore, Mofaz is paying heavily in popular credibility.
If the prime minister is really so sure he enjoys popular support for his plan, as his spokesmen insist, why not hold a general election on the settlement evacuation issue? And why did he reject the proposal advanced this week of a referendum? Above all, knowing what he knows, why is he still hell-bent on pushing down the throat of an unwilling country a policy that is patently divisive and unworkable, at best; dangerous, at worst?
It is this refusal to back off at any price and the Sharon's sliding popularity that Netanyahu has decided to exploit as a fulcrum for swinging back into the prime minister's office.
Egyptian Government Weekly Magazine on 'The Jews Slaughtering Non-Jews, Draining their Blood, and Using it for Talmudic Religious Rituals'
Hussam Wahba, a columnist for the religious Egyptian weekly magazine 'Aqidati,  published by the Al-Tahrir foundation which is linked to the ruling National Democratic Party , wrote an article based upon blood libels and accusing Judaism of promoting ritual murder.  The following are excerpts from his article : 
On the Main Entrance to the Knesset it is Inscribed : 'Compassion Toward a Non-Jew is Forbidden'
"... The Jews forgot that their primary constitution, on which they rely, is full of intellectual religious terrorism against all other nations. Aqidati decided to wage a battle against International Zionism in order to expose the extent of terrorism that exists in the Zionist doctrinal mind. The truth of the matter is that the Jews themselves do not deny [the existence of] Zionist terrorism. Whoever visits the Israeli parliament known as 'The Knesset' will notice at the main entrance a sentence written on the wall saying: 'Compassion towards a non-Jew is forbidden, if you see him fall into a river or face danger, you are prohibited from saving him because all the nations are enemies of the Jews and when a non-Jew falls into a ditch, the Jew should close the ditch on him with a big boulder, until he dies, so that the enemies will lose one person and the Jews will be able to preserve their dream of the Promised Land, the Greater Israel!'
"This sentence is taken from the Jewish Talmud which is holier that the Torah itself, and was described by the Israeli Ministry of Education in the lexicon that it published at the beginning of this year for primary school students in Israel as: 'The Talmud is the oral Torah which Moses received from his Creator. It contains commandments, which every Jew must perform. The Talmud is the holy book of the Israelites and its sanctity equals or even surpasses that of the Torah...'"
The Jews' Sacred Obligation to Murder 'Goyim'
" Dr. Muhammad Abdalla Al-Sharqawi says in his book 'The Talmudic Scandals' that the Talmud ... exposes the hidden aspects of the Jewish psyche... The Jewish Rabbis came up with it as a result of the deep distress over [their] exile and fragmentation, which cultivated in the Jewish psyche hatred and loathing and a raging need for vengeance and tyrannical control over non-Jewish nations. To this day Jewish life is based to a great extent on the Talmudic dictates and principles...
"Dr. Al-Sharqawi adds that if we examine the Talmudic attitude toward other, non-Jewish nations, we will find it to be as close as can be to a desire to completely annihilate the 'Goyim' - the non-Jewish nations. For instance, the Talmud says: 'Murdering a non-Jew whenever possible is an obligation. A Jew is a sinner if he can murder non-Jews but does not do so. And a Jewish priest who blesses a person [Jew] who brings evidence that he murdered one or more non-Jews is a blessed priest. Murdering non-Jews pleases God, because the flesh of non-Jews is the flesh of donkeys and their sperm is the sperm of animals.'
"The Talmud also says 'Kill anyone who is not Jewish even if he is pious. The Jews are prohibited from saving from death any member of the other nations, or rescue him from a ditch in which he fell, because that would mean saving an idolater, even though he is pious.'
"Also, the Talmud says that 'it is righteous for a Jew to kill a non-Jew with his own hands, because whoever kills a non-Jew is offering a sacrifice to God...'
"The Talmud also contains instructions to the Jew that if the non-Jew is stronger than him, he should do anything in his power to bring about his death even in an indirect manner and to pin the blame on a non-Jewish nation; this may cause a conflict between two non-Jewish nations to the point of fighting and destroying each other. Then, God will reward any Jew who contributed to the conflict between the two nations with eternal life in Paradise...
" The Talmud did not only deal with killing non-Jews, but permitted the violation of their honor [i.e. women] and property, when it says: 'The Jew is not in the wrong if he rapes a non-Jewish woman, because non-Jewish women are permitted...'
" Dr. Al-Sharqawi concludes by saying: 'All this proves the principle that the killing of non-Jews by Jews is a sacred obligation that the Jew should carry out whenever he can, because, according to the Talmud, his arm is connected to his body for the sole purpose of killing and not for recreation.'"
The Jewish Ideology of Conflict
" Dr. Muhammad Abu Ghadir, the former head of the Hebrew Language Department in Al-Azhar University , points out that the Jews believe wholeheartedly that violence and blood are the only things that safeguard their lives. Their rabbis, throughout history, were successful in convincing them that non-belligerence with the surrounding world would lead to their destruction and that the only way for the Jews to stay alive is to follow the dictates of their holy books concerning the obligation to carry on the conflict with all other nations and to intensify the conflict with relatively weak nations.
"When they see a nation stronger than them, every Jew has a daily obligation to make every effort so that this nation should be weakened to the point that in the end it collapses, or at least becomes weaker than the Jewish nation, so that they may then eliminate it completely.
"The books of the Jewish religion say that in ancient times God addressed his Jewish worshiper, saying: 'You must have an enemy, and if you do not have one, create one so that you can defeat him and kill him and gain God's goodwill and His reward.' If we examine the word 'killing' in the books of the Jewish religion, we find that it is repeated tens and hundreds of times, which indicates to us the enormity of terrorism in Zionist religious thought, especially when we realize that 80% of the religious verses demand of the Jews to kill non-Jews, and even the sentences and the verses that do not talk about killing, and talk about, for instance, God giving the land to the Jews and not to others, you can find between the lines a clear call to the Jews to use all kinds of ploys and tricks to annihilate non-Jews who live on this earth, so that the Jews may take control over it..."
'The Talmudic Dictates Urge Jews to Draw the Blood of Muslims and Christians for Religious Rituals'
" Dr. Jama al-Husseini Abu Farha, instructor in theology at the University of Suez , points out that what the media shows us every day about Israeli conduct in the occupied territories is no different than what their history shows us about their inhumane practices towards humanity as a whole. One need only point out that they are 'blood suckers' according to the Talmudic dictates, which urge them to murder and draw the blood of Muslims in particular, and Christians even more so, and to use this blood in religious Israeli rituals.
"Jewish terrorism reached the point of underscoring that the Ten Commandments - as they claim - assert the right of Jews to plunder and steal non-Jewish money and to see their blood, honor and properties as fair game and to lend them money at [high] interest so long as they do not convert to Judaism."
'The Word Jew in English Means Trickery, Deceit and Deception'
"Zionist terrorism is not confined just to their religious doctrines; even their language reflects their radicalism and their terrorism. The Hebrew language includes many proofs of the truth of Zionist terrorism. The word 'Jew' ... is used in the English language to mean 'trickery, deceit and deception,' all of which signify cunning and slyness. It is strange that the Jews know this very well but did not try to object to it. The Oxford dictionary says that there are words related to the word 'Jew,' among them 'cheat,' 'offensive,' and 'grasping,' and all of them mean greedy, covetous, cheating, counterfeiting, aggressive, and annoying. This link between the word 'Jew' and all these meanings certainly reflects the image of the Jewish way of thinking from an English point of view, and it is undoubtedly a bad image which does not reflect the opinion of one person only but [rather] the opinion of anyone who speaks English..."
Disseminating Blood Libels
"Since admission is the highest form of evidence, we will present to the reader a letter of confession written by the Jewish Rabbi known as 'Neophytos the Convert [to Christianity].'  The letter has to do with the Jews slaughtering non-Jews, draining their blood, and using it for Talmudic religious rituals. Neophytos called his letter 'The Secret of the Blood'; in it he said that 'from a young age, the Jewish Rabbis teach their students how to use non-Jews' blood to treat illnesses and for sorcery...
"'The Rabbis use this blood in various religious rituals, among them weddings when an egg is smeared with blood and the married couple eats it the night of the wedding, which gives them the power to deceive and trick anyone who is not Jewish. Also, the Rabbis use the blood of the non-Jewish victim to treat some illnesses that afflict the Rabbis. They mix some of the blood with the blood of a circumcised baby, then brush it on his throat in order to purify him, and also anoint their temples with it to commemorate the destruction of the Temple every year; [it is also used to] anoint the chests of their dead so that God will forgive them their sins; it is also mixed in the holiday bread and in many other Talmudic rituals.'
"Therefore, these rituals that were mentioned in the Talmud and which reflect the truth about the present Jewish terrorist way of thinking are certainly implemented from time to time, while they do not hesitate to distort the image of Islam and describe it as a terrorist faith."
from the September 14, 2004 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0914/p01s04-wome.html
At 10th anniversary, a far poorer Palestinian Authority
The four-year intifada has left the Palestinian economy - and government - in shambles.
By Ilene R. Prusher | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
JERICHO, WEST BANK - When the doors of the Intercontinental Hotel opened here four summers ago, rooms were sold out and the managers had to turn people away. Today, it does not have a single guest and is kept running by a handful of people who watch the minutes tick by in crushing silence.
"When it's empty like this, every hour feels like a year," moans desk manager Jawdat Barakat, who earns a fourth of what he did in the days when the hotel was bustling. Many clients spilled in from the Oasis Casino next door - a joint Israeli-Palestinian investment which has since been shuttered. When the hotel opened, it employed 184 Palestinians. Only about 25 work here now.
Tourism was once the most promising sector of the Palestinian economy. Now business in Jericho, which bills itself as the oldest city in the world, has itself become fossilized.
Jericho's empty streets are a mirror of the downward spiral across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ten years ago this week, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gained major civilian powers for the first time as part of the Oslo Peace Accords. The Palestinian Authority (PA) soon gained the power to collect taxes, and run health, welfare, and tourism facilities, taking on the trappings of state- hood. Jericho was the first city from which Israeli forces withdrew, and, some say, the most keen to do business with Israelis.
But since the start of the intifada in late September 2000, the economy has been caught in a vicious cycle. In response to suicide bombings, Israel closed its borders to Palestinian workers, reoccupied cities it had turned over to the PA, and clamped down on Palestinian travel between cities. The latter, say people whose income was dependent on the tourism industry, is the primary reason why Jericho's economy is now virtually bust.
Most indicators point to a worsening of economic conditions - and an ever-rougher road for the PA leadership to survive its worst political crisis. Yet, while prominent Palestinians have become increasingly critical of life under the PA, decrying it as "lawless" and "chaotic," it continues to function as a de facto government - and the largest single employer in the Palestinian economy.
"The PA has managed to pay salaries ... that's the only symbol that it's still functioning," says Mohammed Shtayyeh, the director of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) in Ramallah.
The Intercontinental in Jericho wasn't alone in making huge layoffs. Approximately 90,000 people who were working in the Palestinian private sector before the intifada have since lost their jobs. But the loss of wages earned in Israel has hurt the most. Some 166,000 Palestinians used to work in Israel before the intifada, compared to 2,411 who do now, according to PECDAR, which was founded as the economic organ of the PA and is still the conduit for disbursing international donor funds. The salaries of those who worked in Israel brought up to $1 billion a year in remittances into the Palestinian economy.
Now the World Bank puts Palestinian unemployment at 28 percent - PECDAR says it's more than 50 percent. Per capita income, which in 2000 was about $2,000 a year for the West Bank and $1,600 for the Gaza Strip, has dropped to $950 and $650 respectively, PECDAR says. This year, for the first time, half of the Palestinian population will be considered to be living in poverty, according the World Bank's most recent study.
With fewer and fewer people working in the private sector, Dr. Shtayyeh estimates that about one-third of the Palestinian public is dependent on a PA salary. Tax collection - a key source of revenue for any government - was spotty to begin with and has plummeted since the intifada. The PA is able to function only through the help of donor funds.
It's not an encouraging trend. Ten years since the PA's founding, it is more dependent on foreign aid, but having a harder time getting it. For example, of the $650 million in aid the PA relies on to pay salaries this year, it has received only $140 million so far. "We are back to the scenario we had 10 years ago," Shtayyeh complains.
Now, in the course of a month, the PA needs $61 million to pay salaries and another $34 million in operating expenses, totaling $95 million. Of that, he says, $17 million comes from tax collection, and another $25 in the form of consumer and value-added taxes that Israel collects on goods coming into the country and then returns to the PA.
The difference has generally been made up by donor countries: about $10 million from the European countries and the rest from Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. Of $1 billion the PA received in 2003, 80 percent came from Arab countries. But the conflict with Israel, combined with Mr. Arafat's increasingly troubled image on the international stage, is making support to the Palestinians a more difficult sell to donors. While there have been years since the post-Oslo Accords when Japan gave $200 million to the Palestinian Authority, last year it only gave $16 million.
Less money from abroad
"There has been a sharp decline in donations, because of the closure and destruction," adds Shtayyeh. "Iraq has been hijacking the attention of other donors. The donors ask us, 'can you guarantee that the project we build will not be destroyed?' We cannot answer that."
But nor has the PA been able to answer to ongoing complaints of corruption and mismanagement. In a recent speech, Arafat acknowledged that his Authority had mistakes and that reforms were necessary, but critics say he has not acted.
"The Palestinian Authority, to a large extent, has failed to manage the Palestinian economy as effectively and efficiently as it should have," says Dr. Nasser Abdelkarim, an economist at Bir Zeit University. "The Authority has never made available any development plan since its existence. We've only engaged in emergency planning and crisis management. The PA made mistakes by granting exclusive licenses for things like telecommunications - and in this they created an unfavorable environment for the expansion of growth in the private sector."
As he speaks in the lobby of another nearly empty hotel, this one in Ramallah, he notices a prominent former minister of Post and Communications, Imad Faluji, sitting behind him. "Let him hear it," Abdelkarim says loudly, referring to the complaints of corruption. "They're all part of what built this problem."
The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, threatened to resign this summer, protesting the growing state of "chaos" in the PA. Across the territories, tensions have been building. In Gaza in July, thuggish young renegades of Arafat's Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) abducted and beat his police chief, Ghazi Jabali, and continued the wreak havoc after Arafat appointed his nephew, who was widely rejected. Prominent Palestinian legislative council member Nabil Amr - a cabinet minister until last year - was shot in his own home in Ramallah, only an hour after he appeared in a television interview in which he was highly critical of Arafat. This strife, which largely has taken place inside Arafat's Fatah faction, is closely linked to the worsening financial squeeze, say some Palestinians and outside officials.
Since the World Bank and donor countries have put increasing pressure on the Palestinian leadership to institute a system of direct deposits, less donor money has been accessible to Fatah.
"Much of the tensions we're seeing are caused by financial stress," says a Western diplomat in Jerusalem.
Walid Masri remembers the first day he saw the Palestinian police stream through the dusty streets of Jericho, past the refugee camp where he spent his childhood. "When the Palestinian police first came, we felt a kind of safety and security. We could go out at night," he recalls.
Now, a decade later, he thinks of himself as someone who doesn't live under any government at all. "There is no functioning authority now. The Israelis come in and out when they want someone. Everything has come to a halt," says Mr. Masri, a waiter at the Mount of Temptation restaurant and tourist stop in Jericho. Masri, a father of five, has had almost no work since the intifada started. A place that once bustled with Christian pilgrims, the restaurant and gift shops only reopened a few months ago. It remains eerily empty, part of a minimall tucked into a hillside below the cable cars meant to carry visitors to the mount where Jesus was tempted.
Masri's boss, Maha Abdelrazak, says she and her husband opened up again after a four-year hiatus. But they only receive one or two buses a day, compared to the 30 to 50 they used to get at the height of the tourist season, pre-intifada.
"We wish we had saved some of the money from those days. But we just put everything we earned back to into the restaurant and kept expanding. We never thought they would close the doors on tourists," says Mrs. Abdelrazak, a woman with an warm smile. The restaurant, even at lunch time in summer tourist season, has nary a customer. Only when a bus rolls in, she says, do they flick on the lights - turned off to save on energy bills.
The PA has not tried to collect taxes from them at least four years, and there are not many services she can point to that she receives from the government. Yet she wishes everyone were a bit more patient. "People want magic to happen. People think that as soon as the PA is in place, all their problems should be solved," she says. "But no one's perfect. Ten years is not a long time for a country, for a government to give the people what they want."
Businessman Pardoned by President Clinton Sentenced in Tax Evasion Case
The Associated Press
Published: Sep 13, 2004
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A businessman once pardoned by former President Clinton was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for failing to pay millions of dollars in federal income tax.
Under a plea agreement, Almon Glenn Braswell admitted that his Marina del Rey-based mail-order vitamin business, Gero Vita International, did not pay $4.5 million in taxes.
U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow said Braswell could have been sentenced to up to 41 months, but he cooperated with authorities in their case against Braswell's tax preparer, William E. Frantz, an Atlanta attorney.
However, Frantz eventually was acquitted of charges he helped Braswell avoid paying income taxes.
Braswell has paid $10.5 million in back taxes, interest and penalties, Morrow said during the sentencing hearing. He received credit for time already served in jail and will serve 10 months in prison.
Braswell, 61, has been jailed without bail since his January 2003 arrest in Miami.
Clinton granted 177 pardons and clemencies just before leaving office in 2001. Braswell was pardoned of convictions for fraud and other crimes stemming from false claims in 1983 about a baldness treatment.
His pardon became one of the most criticized after it was learned that Clinton's brother-in-law, Hugh Rodham, had been paid $200,000 to work on the case. Rodham later returned the money.
Police still probing SMS: Downer
FEDERAL police were still investigating whether Indonesian authorities had received an SMS warning prior to the Jakarta bombing, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today.
Prime Minister John Howard and Mr Downer both said last week Indonesian police received an SMS warning last Thursday morning that terrorists had threatened to attack a Western embassy if radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was not released from jail.
Suicide bombers attacked the Australian embassy 45 minutes later, killing 10 people and injuring more than 180.
But Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty yesterday said authorities had been unable to trace the SMS message.
Mr Downer said the AFP was less certain now than last week that an SMS had been sent.
"I think they are still looking into it," he said on Sydney radio 2UE.
"I don't think they are 100 per cent sure at this stage."
Mr Downer stood by the Government's decision to release details of the SMS warnings before it had been confirmed.
"We thought it was important to pass on information as it came to us and we still do think that," he said.
? Herald and Weekly Times
Saudis deny British Ambassador's claim security men helped terrorists
An official source of the Ministry of Interior today denied the interpretation given by the British Ambassador to the Kingdom Sherard Coober-Coles who expressed belief during an interview with the BBC /Radio 4 on 23 Rajab 1425 H. corresponding to 7 September 2004 that Saudi security men might have helped some terrorists who stormed Alwaha residential complex in the city of Alkhober on 30 May 2004 to sneak off.
The official source said the interpretation of the British ambassador to the Kingdom of the developments of the incident of Alwaha residential complex in Alkhober reflects his own point of view which lacks evidence and does not comply in any way with the real fact which has been announced at the time with the utmost credibility and transparency as the security men have dealt with the matter according to the responsibilities and duties implied on them at the moment, among the priorities of which is the rescue of the residents of the facility which accommodates hundreds of people from different
Muddled and Maddening
By Jagdish N. Bhagwati
Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2004
Now that his handlers want John Kerry to change weapons, in the midst of a presidential duel, from Iraq to the economic rapier, it's safe to say that they think this sets him up to inflict a fatal wound. That may well be so. Yet on trade policy, on which Howard Dean cut his teeth without gaining a cutting edge and Dick Gephardt made his last stand, one can only gasp at Sen. Kerry's gaffes.
How does one forgive him his pronouncements on outsourcing, and his strange silences on the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations? Indeed, Sen. Kerry, whose views and voting record were almost impeccable on trade, has allowed himself to be forced into such muddled and maddening positions on trade policy that, if one were an honest intellectual as against a party hack, one could only describe them as the voodoo economics of our time.
There seem to be three arguments by Sen. Kerry's advisers that have prompted this sorry situation for the Democrats: First, that the Bush trade policy is no better; second, that electoral strategy requires that Sen. Kerry act like a protectionist, while indicating subtly (to those that matter) a likelihood of freer trade in the White House; and third, at odds with the previous argument, that the U.S. does indeed have to turn trade policy around toward some sort of protectionism (and restraints on direct investment abroad) if it is going to assist workers and reward the unions. Each argument is flawed.
- Mr. Bush is no better. Yes, there are commonalities on trade in both parties, not just during the elections. They both espouse "free and fair trade." But, except for NGOs like Oxfam -- which profess trade expertise that they manifestly do not possess, and do great damage in consequence to poor nations -- every informed trade expert knows that when "fair trade" is invoked, it is code for (unfair) protectionism in the shape of anti-dumping actions against successful rivals, often from the developing nations.
Both parties, and both candidates, have backed actions against "unfair" trade. The 2004 Democratic platform promises that Sen. Kerry will create new jobs by fighting for "free, fair and balanced trade," whereas the White House Web site promises that "Free and fair trade helps create jobs by opening foreign markets to American exports." Both candidates ask for "level playing fields" or else tough retaliatory action -- pretending of course that the U.S. is on higher ground morally but on lower ground in the war for markets -- and that the other party is soft while it will act tough.
* * *
The truly disturbing sin of commission of the Kerry campaign, however, has been to surrender to the hysteria over "outsourcing." And he has made at least two howlers that would make my first-year students blush a shade of beetroot.
First, outsourcing fears have arisen over what economists call "long-distance," or arm's length, services -- which can be transmitted over "snail-mail" or over the Internet without the provider and user of services having to be in physical contact. Call-answer services operating in Manila instead of in Minneapolis; the reading of X-rays taken in Boston, via digital transmission, by radiologists in Bangalore; and tax filings prepared in Mumbai rather than in Manhattan, have produced a scare that service jobs will move offshore.
But all available estimates show that, so far, the offshore outsourcing of arm's length services has resulted in a loss of no more than 100,000 jobs annually. It is ludicrous to be alarmed by this minuscule number. One ought to face with equanimity a figure even tenfold, although the best estimates predict the annual flow over the next decade to double at worst. Nor should one forget that the U.S. itself benefits from others outsourcing to it in medical, legal, accounting, teaching and other high-value arm's-length services. The net effect on jobs due to such outsourcing is almost certainly a net gain for the U.S.
Second, Sen. Kerry has muddled matters by confusing the outsourcing of services with the altogether different issue of direct foreign (i.e. equity) investment by U.S. firms. Dell may outsource problem-solving calls to Bangalore but may buy those services from an Indian firm like Infosys: that is simply trade. But direct investment is different; it occurs typically when a firm in Nantucket closes shop and moves production to Nairobi.
Sen. Kerry went so far as to describe firms that invested abroad as "Benedict Arnolds." The silliness of this charge puts him in the same camp as Lou Dobbs, whose outpouring against sundry forms of imports and outward investment is a farrago of nonsense, offered by him with a list (on his CNN program) of traitor firms that "ship jobs abroad." As I contemplate his slip of a book titled "Exporting America," and subtitled "Why Corporate Greed is Shipping American Jobs Overseas," I think to myself: If firms that buy cheap abroad suffer from "corporate greed," is Mr. Dobbs -- whose girth and success doubtless suggest that he buys for his supper French brie and Burgundy rather than Milwaukee beer and Kraft cheese -- to be accused by the same logic of "shipping jobs abroad" because of "Personal Gluttony"? (What is sauce for the corporate goose must be sauce for the journalist gander.)
* The Doha Round. Sen. Kerry is also not good news for the critical multilateral trade negotiations in the Doha Round. Where President Bush has articulated strong support for it, Sen. Kerry has ducked the issue. Then again, on top of the strange commitment to have a 120-day review of existing trade agreements (which presumably include the WTO), the Kerry-Edwards demand that labor and environmental requirements be included, with sanctions, in old and new trade agreements, clearly aims a dagger at the heart of Doha.
For while little countries doing bilateral Free Trade Agreements with us will roll over and accept almost any conditions in exchange for preferential access to our huge market, this will simply not happen with the large developing countries that see, correctly, the protectionist hand of lobbies, including unions, behind the demands for labor and certain environmental requirements. There is no way that the mildly left-leaning India of Sonia Gandhi, and even the Brazil of Lula -- indisputably a more credible union man than any we produce -- will turn away from their longstanding objections and accept such restrictions, either in bilateral FTAs or at Doha. Has Sen. Kerry really thought this through? Also, a Kerry administration will have to cope with its protectionist and anti-trade constituencies which demand such restrictions, and with its own trade-unfriendly rhetoric. And if the Doha Round negotiations are to continue credibly through 2005, a President Kerry will face the problem of the expiry of fast-track authority extension beyond mid-year. It is hard to imagine how he will cope with this problem.
* Can Kerry Turn Free Trader? In the end, Sen. Kerry cannot totally jilt his constituencies. He will have to claw his way to freer trade, making him a greater hero in a war more bloody than Vietnam. The unions, in particular, are going to insist on their reward. This is forgotten by the many pro-trade policy advisers and op-ed columnists who argue privately that we should not worry -- because Sen. Kerry is a free trader who has merely mounted the protectionist Trojan Horse to get into the White House. The irony of this last position is that it is, in fact, too simplistic. Besides, it suggests that when President Bush does the same thing, he's lying, but that when Sen. Kerry does it, it's strategic behavior! Is it not better, instead, for us to tell Sen. Kerry that his trade policy positions are the pits -- before he digs himself deeper into a pit from which there is no dignified exit?
Mr. Bhagwati, University Professor at Columbia and Andre Meyer Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of "In Defense of Globalization" (Oxford, 2004).
Harmonizing Energies in Missile Defense
By Al Kamen
Monday, September 13, 2004; Page A19
Bureaucratic memos often stray far enough from basic English to be considered a distinct language. A wonderful example comes to us from Terry R. Little, acquisition management adviser at the Missile Defense Agency.
In a memo last month to "All Element Program Managers," Little wrote: "The Missile Defense Agency Director wants to capitalize on the extraordinarily hard work undertaken throughout the agency to develop and deliver Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) capabilities. Our purpose is to realize the solidarity of your hard work, reduce the distractions and facilitate the commonality in our focus, and maximize the efficient utilization of MDA resources.
"The goal is to eliminate wasted energy and encourage harmonizing individual energies towards the common vision to develop and field an integrated BMDS capable of providing a layered defense for the homeland, deployed forces, friends, and allies against ballistic missiles of all ranges in all phases of flight.
"I am forming the BMDS Integration Working Group (IWG) to harmonize the separate element contracts into a coherent whole. The IWG will need to have insightful discussions, innovative coordinate actions, and a collegial environment to form and evaluate alternatives that reward integrated BMDS demonstrated capabilities."
Then, inexplicably, Little lapses into English. "To assist with the IWG's success, I need your support," he writes. But he says not to forget that "the timeline is very aggressive. I would like to have the harmonization path ahead. . . ."
Any more New Age harmony and we'll all assume the lotus position and start chanting.
Meanwhile, Little manages a program that used to be called the Boost Phase Intercept Program. Then it was determined that you would have to be really, really lucky to knock out enemy missiles in the boost or launch phase, so the name was changed to the Kinetic Energy Intercept program. But the program remained the same.
Though a Republican program, the KEI has had a rocky time on the Hill. The Republican Congress whacked its budget last year and this year cut an additional $163 million.
KEI put out a "Top Ten" list last month of the technical issues the program needed to resolve to stay on track, including such minor things as the booster for the rockets and the means of finding the target.
But it appears there are only nine items on the list. Maybe Congress cut the program because they felt KEI couldn't count?
Nonprofits Fear U.S. Logo Is a Bull's-Eye
A nasty battle is brewing between nonprofit international aid groups and the Agency for International Development. Seems AID is demanding that the groups put the AID logo on vehicles and projects when AID is paying most of the tab for the activities.
The foreign aid law, AID deputy chief Frederick Schieck said, requires that "programs shall be identified overseas" if taxpayers are paying. Aid recipients should know that the American people are providing this, he said.
But putting the AID logo on vehicles and projects these days, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, is like pasting a bull's-eye on the pickup, the groups argue. With aid workers getting kidnapped and killed, the timing doesn't seem quite right.
Schieck said AID was "well aware" the organizations are "concerned, correctly," and "we're not trying to ram this down anyone's throat. . . . We're very sensitive to the security issue." For that reason, AID officials overseas, not in Washington, would have the authority to waive the requirement.
But, he noted, "taxpayer recognition is required by law" and making sure people know who is helping them is "important to the U.S. national interest." Schieck said a proposed regulation would go to the Federal Register in the next month or so.
The aid groups say it has been long-standing AID policy not to require a logo for grantee organizations, such as CARE, Save the Children or Catholic Relief Services. Those groups get money from various entities, not just AID -- as opposed to AID contractors, which are mostly private commercial firms.
"At a time when members of Congress are being told to keep a low profile overseas," said Bob Lloyd, a government relations liaison for the Association of Private Voluntary Organization Financial Managers, "AID apparently wants aid groups to hang a light on themselves."
And the security problem is not limited to a few places, Lloyd said. "Make a list of all the countries where there's been a terrorist incident -- Indonesia, Kenya, Jordan, the West Bank, Kyrgyzstan -- there's a ton of them."
Program here! Get your program here! The tight coordination between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was so close that administration officials have trouble keeping the two apart.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week that Ahmed Shah Massoud, the former Northern Alliance leader in Afghanistan, "lay dead, his murder ordered by Saddam Hussein, by Osama bin Laden, Taliban's co-conspirator." Actually, Hussein had nothing to do with that hit.
Later, Rumsfeld said: "Saddam Hussein, if he's alive, is spending a whale of a lot of time trying not to get caught. And we've not seen him on a video since 2001." He meant bin Laden.
Yup. Tighter than ticks, those two.
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
>> HOW CHAVEZ FOOLED CARTER?
Court-Packing in Venezuela
By JOANNE MARINER
Monday, Jun. 21, 2004
In this country, decades ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt once tried to remake the U.S. Supreme Court. Frustrated by court rulings that had struck down progressive social legislation, FDR proposed a bill that would have allowed him to name six new justices to the Court.
FDR's plan failed and his court-packing strategy was discredited. Although U.S. presidents subsequent to him have disagreed strongly with some of the Supreme Court's rulings, their ability to capture seats on the Court is limited. Rather than reconfiguring the Court in one fell swoop, they must proceed member by member, as justices die or leave voluntarily.
Yet, in practice if not in principle, the court-packing model survives. Especially in Latin America, a region whose judiciaries have historically been vulnerable to political pressure, heads of state have frequently tried - and succeeded - in remaking their country's top courts.
In the 1990s, the leading examples of this problem were Carlos Menem's Argentina and Alberto Fujimori's Peru. This year, it is Venezuela where judicial independence is under threat.
The Central Role of the Venezuelan Supreme Court in Settling Political Controversies
With an upcoming referendum on whether he should be recalled from office, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in serious political difficulty. It will ultimately be the Venezuelan Supreme Court that decides any controversies stemming from the upcoming referendum, questions that could directly shape Chavez's political future.
It is the Court, for example, that recently ruled that if Chavez were to be ousted in the referendum, he could run again in the regularly scheduled presidential elections of 2006. But one question the Court has yet to decide is whether Chavez, if he loses the referendum, could run as a candidate in the interim elections that result. And this issue - whether Chavez could lose the referendum, yet run again and possibly remain in power - is enormously contested.
President Chavez's supporters, it should be noted, view the Venezuelan Supreme Court as a bastion of the political opposition. They cite, as proof of the Court's hostility to Chavez, an August 2002 ruling by the Court that cleared four military officers accused of taking part in a 2002 coup against Chavez. They also point out that the entire Venezuelan judiciary has been plagued for years by influence-peddling, political interference, and corruption.
Venezuela's New Court-Packing Law
The Venezuelan courts indeed require reform. But rather than take steps to strengthen judicial independence and protect the courts from political meddling, Ch?vez's allies have moved to rig the system to favor their own interests.
Last month, the pro-Chavez majority in the National Assembly took action to dramatically shift the Supreme Court's political balance. Under the terms of a new law, the Court will expand from twenty to thirty-two members, giving the Assembly's slim governing coalition the power to obtain an overwhelming majority of the Court's seats.
Under another provision of the new law, the National Assembly gave itself the power to "nullify" the appointments of justices who are already on the Court, using extremely subjective criteria. If, for example, a majority of the Assembly concludes that a justice's "public attitude . . . undermines the majesty or prestige of the Supreme Court," or of any of its members, that justice can be stripped of his or her post.
Not only does this new provision violate basic protections of judicial independence, it is also clearly inconsistent with Venezuela's own constitution. Its wording - "nullification" of an appointment, as opposed to impeachment of a justice -- cannot disguise the fact that the provision violates the constitutional requirement that justices be removed only via a two-thirds' majority vote of the National Assembly.
The net effect of the new law is, in short, to hand over control over the Supreme Court's composition to the National Assembly. With the Assembly now enjoying the power both to pack and purge the Court, the threat to judicial independence is clear.
Already, last week, pro-Chavez legislators have begun taking action under the law, voting to remove one justice from the Court and to initiate proceedings against others. The targets, unsurprisingly, were justices perceived as hostile to Chavez and his views.
"A Dangerous Precedent for the Future"
It was sixty-seven years ago this month that the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate issued its scathing report on FDR's court-packing plan. The committee's report, made public on June 14, branded FDR's proposal "a needless, futile and utterly dangerous abandonment of constitutional principle . . . . [that] would subjugate the courts to the will of Congress and the President and thereby destroy the independence of the judiciary."
The court-packing plan, the report concluded, "violates all precedents in the history of our Government and would in itself be a dangerous precedent for the future."
Venezuela's court-packing plan is, unfortunately, far from unprecedented. But even though it follows a model found, most recently, in Argentina and Peru, it is still short-sighted, ill-conceived, and distressing.
from the September 14, 2004 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0914/p06s02-woeu.html
Russian terrorism prompts power grab
New measures announced yesterday would end direct election of governors in Russia's 89 regions.
By Fred Weir and Scott Peterson
MOSCOW - In the aftermath of a wave of terror attacks, President Vladimir Putin yesterday announced fundamental political changes that will further concentrate power in the Kremlin and erode Russia's fragile democracy.
Critics say the measures - couched as a strengthening of central government to combat terrorism - will do little to enhance public security, are aimed at broadening the Kremlin's grip on Russia's far-flung regions, and may ultimately weaken Mr. Putin's rule.
"Now it's absolutely clear, Putin wants to use this opportunity to destroy the last vestiges of Yeltsin-era democracy," says Alexander Golts, a national security expert with the weekly Yezhenedelny Zhurnal. "Instead of attacking terrorists, he's attacking our electoral system."
In an address yesterday, Putin said he would introduce a law to effectively end the direct election of governors in Russia's 89 regions. Instead, he said, Kremlin-nominated candidates would be "endorsed" by local legislatures. Further changes to the State Duma will eliminate local constituency races that currently fill half the Duma's 450 seats, in favor of electing the entire parliament by using centrally compiled national party lists.
"The organizers and perpetrators of the terror attacks are aiming at the disintegration of the state, the breakup of Russia," Putin said. "The fight against terrorism should become a national task."
The moves come as Russia reels from the Beslan school siege and other attacks, which killed more than 430 Russians in just three weeks. Bowing to public pressure, Putin on Friday approved an inquiry into the events of the hostage drama.
The political changes have long been circulating among Russia's political elite, says Liliya Shevtsova, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, but their implementation has been "accelerated" by the Beslan tragedy.
"[Putin] apparently believes this is the most effective way of dealing with Russia's problems of terror and insecurity - it fits his ideology of authoritarian modernization," says Ms. Shevtsova.
But there is also a dangerous drawback, she says: "It undermines Putin's presidency because he will be responsible for all the mistakes of the sorry guys he has appointed. It undermines the system."
The pro-Kremlin United Russia Party enjoys a two-thirds majority in the Duma, already sufficient to initiate changes to the Constitution. Eliminating the often unpredictable local constituency contests will sharply reduce the number of independent deputies who find their way into the Duma, and strengthen the electoral hand of a few Moscow-based giants, chiefly the state-backed United Russia.
"People say Putin wants to create an American-style two-party system, which would increase stability in a huge and volatile country like Russia," says Sergei Strokan, a political expert who writes for the liberal daily Kommersant. "But the problem is that Russia lacks any developed, independent political parties. The state already dominates the political field."
Some experts argue that increased Kremlin authority, while curtailing democracy, might be necessary to fight Russia's endemic official laxity and corruption. "Increasing direct Kremlin control is a logical step dictated by the dangerous weakness of our state structures," says Vitaly Naumkin, director of the independent Center for Strategic and International Studies in Moscow. "Our state will become more authoritarian, but stronger. This will certainly be welcomed by the public."
But a five-minute call-in poll on the Ekho Moskvy radio station yesterday found a majority against one of Putin's major changes. Of 3,807 people who responded, 75 percent were for the direct election of regional governors.
Putin also proposed creating a new body, called the Public Chamber, not unlike the US Department of Homeland Security. "We need a single organization capable of not only dealing with terror attacks but also working to avert them, [to] destroy criminals in their hideouts and, if necessary, abroad," Putin said.
Some critics are concerned that security forces might interpret the task as reconstituting Stalin-era networks of informers. "The idea of a public watchdog organization sounds good in principle, but what kind of popular participation will it be?" asks Mr. Strokan. "If this job is handed to the bureaucrats, we will see the task of fighting terrorism mutate into total social control."
Since the Beslan tragedy, the Kremlin has been subject to unaccustomed questioning by Russians over the loss of life to terror. Only one week ago, Putin refused to conduct a public inquiry into the school siege, saying such a probe would be unproductive, and amount to nothing more than a "political show."
But on Friday - in an apparent rare step of accountability - Putin approved an inquiry, though it will be led by a Putin loyalist.
"This is not a response to terrorism," says Andrei Kolesnikov, a political observer with the Rossiskaya Gazeta newspaper. "They have been looking for some pretext to carry out their long-thought-over plans. Other steps might follow to justify three presidential terms. The purpose is to make [Putin's] 'vertical power' more vertical still."
$3 Trillion Price Tag Left Out As Bush Details His Agenda
By Mike Allen, Washington Post Staff Writer
The expansive agenda President Bush (news - web sites) laid out at the Republican National Convention was missing a price tag, but administration figures show the total is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion over a decade.
A staple of Bush's stump speech is his claim that his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, has proposed $2 trillion in long-term spending, a figure the Massachusetts senator's campaign calls exaggerated. But the cost of the new tax breaks and spending outlined by Bush at the GOP convention far eclipses that of the Kerry plan.
Bush's pledge to make permanent his tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of 2010 or before, would reduce government revenue by about $1 trillion over 10 years, according to administration estimates. His proposed changes in Social Security (news - web sites) to allow younger workers to invest part of their payroll taxes in stocks and bonds could cost the government $2 trillion over the coming decade, according to the calculations of independent domestic policy experts.
And Bush's agenda has many costs the administration has not publicly estimated. For instance, Bush said in his speech that he would continue to try to stabilize Iraq (news - web sites) and wage war on terrorism. The war in Iraq alone costs $4 billion a month, but the president's annual budget does not reflect that cost.
Bush's platform highlights the challenge for both presidential candidates in trying to lure voters with attractive government initiatives at a time of mounting budget deficits. This year's federal budget deficit will reach a record $422 billion, and the government is expected to accumulate $2.3 trillion in new debt over the next 10 years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (news - web sites) reported last week.
The president has had little to say about the deficit as he barnstorms across the country, which has prompted Democrats and some conservative groups to say Bush refuses to admit that there won't be enough money in government coffers to pay for many of his plans.
Although a majority of voters say they are concerned about the deficit, most view Kerry as only marginally better able to deal with it than Bush, according to polls. And Bush often invokes the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in justifying the mounting governmental red ink. The president's aides, ever cognizant of his father's failure to articulate a convincing vision, said it was crucial for Bush to offer an ambitious new plan for the coming four years, despite the surge in government borrowing.
Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said the new proposals "are affordable, and the president remains committed to cutting the budget deficit in half over the next five years," although last week's CBO report indicates that goal may not be attainable.
The White House has declined to provide a full and detailed accounting of the cost of the new agenda. The administration on Thursday provided a partial listing of the proposals, including $74 billion in spending on "opportunity zones" over the next 10 years. But there was no mention of the cost of additional tax cuts and the creation of Social Security private accounts. Discussing his agenda during an "Ask the President" campaign forum in Portsmouth, Ohio, Bush said Friday that he has "explained how we're going to pay for it, and my opponent can't explain it because he doesn't want to tell you he's going to have to tax you."
Some fiscal conservatives who are dismayed by the return of budget deficits found little to cheer in the president's convention speech. Stephen Moore, president of the conservative Club for Growth, said that Bush's Social Security plan was money well spent by saving the system in the long run, but he added that Bush "has banked his presidency on the idea that people don't really care about the deficit, and he may be right."
"He's a big-government Republican, and there's no longer even the pretense that he's for smaller government," Moore said.
Kerry cited the deficit figures as fresh evidence that Bush's tax cuts were reckless and that he is taking the country in "the wrong direction." Private analysts expect the deficit to be even deeper because the White House has not accounted for the cost of continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites).
The administration has been secretive about the cost of the war and the likely impact that the bulging defense budget and continuing cost of tax cuts will have on domestic spending next year. The White House put government agencies on notice this month that if President Bush is reelected, his budget for 2006 may include $2.3 billion in spending cuts from virtually all domestic programs that are not mandated by law, including education, homeland security and others central to Bush's campaign.
But Bush has had little to say about belt-tightening and sacrifice on the campaign trail. Nor has he explained how he would reconcile all his new spending plans with the mounting deficit.
"The Bush team has gotten a lot of traction with the point that the Kerry numbers and rhetoric don't add up," said Kevin A. Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "It behooves them now to demonstrate that theirs do."
In his acceptance speech in Madison Square Garden on Sept. 2, the president also called for the expansion of health savings accounts, which provide tax breaks for families and small businesses; creation of new tax-preferred retirement savings accounts; and creation of lifetime savings accounts, which allow tax-free savings for tuition, retirement or even everyday expenses.
The "Agenda for America" also includes increasing testing and accountability measures for high schools and opportunity zones to cut regulations and steer federal grants, loans and other aid to counties that have lost manufacturing and textile jobs -- a clear appeal to swing states such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Bush has also promised to "ensure every poor county in America has a community or rural health center" and "double the number of people served by our principal job training program and increase funding for our community colleges."
Jason Furman, Kerry's economic policy director, said that Bush "wants to hide the true costs of his plan" and that taxpayers "would be shocked" to find out what he was really advocating.
An estimate from the Social Security actuary's office, included in the 2001 report of a Social Security commission appointed by Bush, put the cost of adding private accounts to the government retirement program at $1.5 trillion over 10 years. With inflation, the figure would now be about $2 trillion. Much of the expense comes from continuing to pay most retirees at current benefit levels, at the same time that some payroll taxes are being diverted to the stock and bond market.
Although advocates of partial privatization contend that the transition can be financed without cutting benefits or raising taxes, the estimates mean the president's agenda could cost even more than the Bush projections of Kerry's proposal. Hassett, the AEI economist, said private accounts would lower the long-term cost of Social Security. "If you pay a few trillion in transition costs over a decade, then maybe the system doesn't go bankrupt," he said.
Bush also called for making his tax cuts permanent, which the administration has estimated at $936.2 billion to $989.75 billion over 10 years. The tax cuts include elimination of the inheritance tax, reductions in the top four income tax rates, an increase in the child tax credit, reduction in the marriage penalty, and cuts to the capital gains and dividend tax rates.
Robert Greenstein of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put the figure for extending the tax cuts at $2 trillion over 10 years and said other tax breaks Bush mentioned in his speech -- mostly related to health care -- would likely cost $50 billion to $100 billion over the next decade., The third most expensive part of the agenda is Bush's call for the expansion of health savings accounts and creation of lifetime and retirement savings accounts. The new accounts are designed to have minimal cost in the first 10 years but have very large costs in the long run because they provide tax breaks when the money is withdrawn rather than up front.
The Congressional Research Service has estimated those two types of accounts would eventually cost $30 billion to $50 billion a year.
Peter R. Orszag, a senior fellow in economic policy at the Brookings Institution, said a conservative estimate for the cost of Bush's permanent tax cuts and Social Security accounts would be about $4 trillion over 10 years. But Bush's agenda was vague and did not include details of how he would add Social Security accounts.
"It's hard to cost out rhetoric," Orszag said.
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