For the Night of 15 March 2007


North Korea: The Chinese government strongly criticized the US in its handling of the Banco Delta Asia investigation because the US Treasury both ended its investigation and banned US banks from dealing with Banco Delta Asia.  This was some clever person’s way of allowing the Chinese authorities in Macao to take responsibility to unfreeze the North Korean accounts, without admitting a mistake.


The Chinese quickly saw through the sleight of hand and warned that the US action jeopardized the processes set in motion after the Joint Statement. IAEA Chief elBaradei affirmed from Beijing that deal is off if the funds are not released. 


North Korea and South Korea failed again to agree on a date for the first test run of the cross-border railway in 60 years. The failure to start this railroad connection is almost criminal and a colossal loss of revenue to all states on the right-of-way.


China: Only the BBC have reported on the rioting in Hunan Province, in central China this week. Rioting started after local authorities sold the local public bus line to a private company that doubled the fare. This is one of the most serious and common problems in outlying areas. Public officials sell public utilities to private companies that have connections to the public officials and they conspire to gouge the local users. 


As noted before, this is the second of the four internal crises in China that will keep it from becoming a world power anytime soon.


Protests by up to 20,000 people in an outlying town in the Han heartland of China lasted for three days; threatened the local government; and required 1,000 riot police to control. With a doubled bus rate, parents cannot afford to send their kids to school – they ride the public bus service. There are 200 of these kinds of protests against local abuses of authority every day, according to published official data.


Australia: Prime Minister John Howard affirmed Australia’s support for President General Musharraf.  Howard called Musharraf a valuable ally in the war on terror.


Howard has the right of it. Musharraf is the ally, not Pakistan. There is no widespread consensus in Pakistan that is anti-Islamic fundamentalists or even pro-US. The architecture of western policy rests on the survival and good will of a single man, whose commitment is qualified most of the time.   Howard’s statement made that clear.


The Thai Fourth Army Region declared a curfew in Thailand's southern Yala province March 14 as a result of growing violence in the province, Thai daily The Nation reported March 15. The curfew bans citizens from leaving their residences between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. local time. In order to leave their homes during the restricted hours, citizens must ask permission from the military units in their area


Afghanistan: Taliban commander Dadullah gave another telephone interview to the BBC in which he warned that 1,800 suicide bombers were ready to attack Afghanistan this spring.  It is not at all certain that Dadullah can count that high.


Nonetheless, he also made a threat against the government of Pakistan that needs to be taken seriously. Dadullah accused the government of President General Musharraf of not honoring its peace agreements with the Waziris. He threatened that the Taliban might execute their spring offensive in Pakistan.


International news services have made a point of distinguishing between Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban. If the two could work out a merger arrangement that is targeted against Pakistan, that would be a serious turn in the fight. Afghanistan and the Coalition forces are nearly ready for a spring surge in Afghanistan, but Pakistan is not.


Iran: President Ahmadi-nejad is hanging tough on Iran’s right to a nuclear program and his country and his people are going to pay the price. The five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany agreed to a package of sanctions  that include an embargo on arms exports and financial restrictions on companies and individuals linked to Iran's nuclear program and Revolutionary Guards. A final vote will take place next week.


The new sanctions are focused on company malefactors, rather than the country, but they will bite. Even the Chinese and Russians have tired of Iran’s rope-a-dope diplomacy of promising everything and delivering nothing.


Iraq: all of a sudden the news from Baghdad is about improvement in security. Certainly any reduction in killings for any reason is good news in any time period. On the other hand, for a US general to declare that the day of the militias has passed seems premature, if not irresponsible. 


First of all, security conditions in Diyala Governate are deteriorating as fast as those in Baghdad seem to be improving. Secondly, the militias in Baghdad have declined to confront US forces. That does not of itself translate into a permanent improvement. Short term good news is worth taking to heart, but it is far too early to make hay. It is not clear the sun is shining yet.


An article published in the international press showcased one fact of IED folk lore: the bombers walk to work.  US forces have discovered and seized several assembly locations for making IEDs in Mosul and Baqubah. They were tipped off by local residents in every case.


One point is that the locals always know who are the bomb makers and gun fighters in their communities, bends in the road or cross roads intersections.  A large number of people always know who are the culprits. Local security in Iraq is not much different than trying to keep a secret in a country town in the US. People know but seldom tell outsiders.


A second point is that people get tired of the aggravation, the explosions, the investigations that follow and the inconvenience. If they get half a chance at ratting out the irritants while maintaining anonymity, they will. Especially if schools open as a result. At least in two locations IED attacks have dropped. This does not mean they like Americans. They just dislike the annoying bomb makers more.


Palestine:  President Abbas accepted the new national unity cabinet today. Parliamentary approval is expected on 17 March.  Naturally Israel rejected the cabinet, without hesitation.


Special Comment: The Curious Confession of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.


Note: this comment is about the processes of the US military tribunal that are evident in the statement released today, NOT about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He is a confessed murderer. NightWatch considers him a criminal, not a terrorist, not a soldier, not a freedom fighter and not an enemy combatant in some ill-defined war on terror.  He is a self-confessed psychopath and sociopath and should have been brought to justice, not just incarcerated. And would have been in a normal criminal process. 


These comments, then, are an analysis of the statement that was released, only the statement on its face.


The unclassified statement released by the tribunal today did little to build confidence in the tribunal or the reliability of anything KSM said. From the misspelling of the name of a man in US custody for four years to multiple errors of fact bearing on his involvement in various attacks, all ruled irrelevant by the president, the statement is farcical as a product of US jurisprudence. If this is the tribunal process, then alternatives ought to be examined.


Did Khalid understand the proceeding?

Probably, but the statement does not show that to be the case.The president of the tribunal, a Navy JAG officer, asked Khalid whether he wanted to proceed in English. Khalid said he did. After reading a sentence or two of the transcript, it is clear that Khalid cannot express himself clearly in English, and that he did not understand the proceeding against him. Khalid indirectly asked about the significance of being called an enemy combatant.


What was the charge?

Being an an enemy combatant is not a crime, nor is it a charge. Charges are criminal acts, not status. Status crimes – such as being  idle with no visible means of support – are unconstitutional. Doing a crime is culpable, not being an American hater.  Ironically, Khalid helped the tribunal to confessing to a crime he actually did by his own hand and could be charged with. He clearly wants to be made a martyr. His confession to murdering Dan Pearl is no accident but a compensation for a bumbling tribunal.


Khalid said he was a soldier.

The record shows the tribunal did not understand or dismissed Khalid’s claim to be a soldier, thus a prisoner of war under the Geneva conventions. Khalid said he is an enemy of America, in his own words. Khalid said in very broken English that he considers himself a soldier, just like US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He identified himself with George Washington and with US military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He decapitated Daniel Pearl because, according to Khalid, Pearl admitted he was working for Israeli intelligence. Whoever was in charge should have called a stop at that point.  This tribunal failed to understand or ignored that those references altered the nature of the consent.


Why was a translator not used?

An Arabic translator was present and could have been used more than the two times noted in the statement. In every US state, the state courts use translators whenever there exists any doubt about a party’s ability to understand the proceeding, whether civil or criminal. (Translators earn more than defense attorneys in most states.)


But not in this one, though Khalid’s understanding of English appears so bad that he could not reply to even simple questions relative to his confession asked by the president of the tribunal, That is plain error that undermined the credibility of the proceeding.


What does take responsibility mean?

Even the most prejudicial reading of Khalid’s statements are that he admitted to waging war against the US, that is not the same as admitting to the long list of crimes, which Khalid did not. “Take responsibility for” is not the language of criminal justice because it is too vague.


Why did he plead for fairness for others?

But there’s more. Three times Khalid said the US rounded up and is holding many innocent people from Afghanistan. Khalid said that the US is holding people in Guantanamo who used to work for the CIA against the Soviets. They do not know why they were picked up.


Khalid said everything; little made sense.

Khalid will say anything, one could rightly rejoin. That is the point.  Khalid did say everything and admitted to taking responsibility for everything, but it is hard to distinguish which attacks he participated in, aside from the well known attacks and the confession to the Pearl murder.


Khalid said he was a like a US military commander.

Other evidence and Khalid’s own words are that he did not do all the things for which he “took responsibility” and a lot of them never occurred. In the record of oral testimony, Khalid made explicit that he took responsibility for many actions in the way that commanders of forces take responsibility. In a real legal proceeding, which this was not, the statement would fall short in hundreds of respects. It is not clear from the statement, whether it was written in Arabic and translated into English, or written by the government and acknowledged by Khalid, or written by Khalid’s so-called personal representative, who appears less than qualified to represent anyone, in the statement.


What was the point of the statement?

Arguably, Khalid does not deserve due process or any of the other protections of US law. That is a reasonable argument to make, and can be made about most criminals. So why is the man still denied the justice of the gallows? And why did the tribunal bother issuing such a flawed and embarrassing statement?


This man should have been tried in a criminal court.

Our sense of ourselves as civilized people mandates the protections of due process. We apply them for the common good, for the protection of the innocent, not for the benefit of an accused. Khalid’s confession to murdering Daniel Pearl would have been more than enough to justify a jury in a finding of guilt for murder under any competent criminal procedure.  One thing that the civilian criminal justice system does well is expose the baseness of the criminal defendant. There is no room for heroic speeches; only for the facts that prove malice, premeditation, deliberation and flagrant disregard for human life.


But the statement before the tribunal gave Khalid a bully pulpit for bragging and for comparing his fight to that of George Washington, which he did by name. That alone made the statement an obscenity. It also made the proceeding incompetent because it showed Khalid never admitted to committing a crime. As he said, “The language of war is victims.”  


A couple of substantive points are worth noting. Khalid was born in Kuwait of Pakistani parents. Pakistan and Kuwait are repeatedly cited by terrorists as pivotal in the support system for international terrorism.  There is also a superficial parallel between Khalid who studied in the US and the second generation French and British muslim who become terrorists. Somehow for some people, close knowledge of and education in the west seem to generate unique intensity of hostility.