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Spinning the Tubes (on USA / Iraq)
April 23, 2009
9:00 am
Forum Posts: 4297
Member Since:
April 9, 2009
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April 23, 2009
9:03 am
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April 9, 2009
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January 29 2002
US President George Bush delivers his State of the Union speech. He identifies Iraq, Iran and North Korea, as constituting an "axis of evil."

August 26 2002
US Vice President Dick Cheney delivers a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention. This speech is often referred to as one of the key public statements outlining the Bush administration's views on Iraq. He refers to Saddam Hussein as " a mortal threat" who could subject the United States or any other country to nuclear blackmail". Cheney also states that the US knows that "Saddam Hussein has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons" and that many in the government are "convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon."

September 8 2002
The New York Times runs an exclusive report on Iraq's plans to build a nuclear weapon. The report quotes anonymous officials saying Iraq had "embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb" by trying to buy "specially designed aluminium tubes" that Administration sources believed were for centrifuges to enrich uranium, and that "the first sign of a "smoking gun"... may be a mushroom cloud".

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice appears on CNN's Late Edition, saying the aluminium tubes "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs."

US Vice President Dick Cheney appears on NBC's Meet the Press saying that Saddam Hussein "is trying, through his illicit procurement network, to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium - specifically aluminium tubes."

September 9 2002
Australian Prime Minister John Howard appears on ABC Radio's AM program and is asked about the tube evidence. He replies: "I can't answer that, that's material that's come out in the United States. But I do know this, that if accurate, confirms the intelligence that we have been given to the effect that Iraq has not abandoned her aspiration for nuclear capacity. There's no doubt on the evidence on the intelligence material available to us that not only does Iraq possess chemical and biological weapons but Iraq also has not abandoned her nuclear aspirations."

September 12 2002
US President George Bush addresses the United Nations General Assembly. He outlines America's evidence against Iraq, and states that "Iraq has made several attempts to buy high strength aluminium tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon".

September 17 2002
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer delivers a Statement to Parliament on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction. He discusses the tube evidence, saying "Australian intelligence agencies believe there is evidence of a pattern of acquisition of equipment which could be used in a uranium enrichment program. Iraq's attempted acquisition of very specific types of aluminium tubes may be part of that pattern."

September 24 2002
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair delivers a Statement to Parliament on Iraq. He makes specific reference to the attempt to purchase aluminium tubes and uranium from Africa: "Since the departure of the inspectors in 1998, Saddam has bought or attempted to buy: specialised vacuum pumps of the design needed for the gas centrifuge cascade to enrich uranium; an entire magnet production line of the specification for use in the motors and top bearings of gas centrifuges; dual use products such as Anhydrous Hydrogen Fluoride and fluoride gas, which can be used both in petrochemicals but also in gas centrifuge cascades; a filament winding machine, which can be used to manufacture carbon fibre gas centrifuge rotors; and has attempted, covertly, to acquire 60,000 or more specialised aluminium tubes, which are subject to strict controls due to their potential use in the construction of gas centrifuges." Blair also states that Saddam "has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa, though we do not know whether he has been successful. Again key personnel who used to work on the nuclear weapons programme are back in harness. Iraq may claim that this is for a civil nuclear power programme but it has no nuclear power plants."

On the same day the Blair Government releases the document known as the Blair Dossier. It contains a qualification on the evidence presented about the aluminium tubes. This qualification does not appear in Tony Blair's speech: "Iraq has also made repeated attempts covertly to acquire a very large quantity (60,000 or more) of specialised aluminium tubes. The specialised aluminium in question is subject to international export controls because of its potential application in the construction of gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium, although there is no definitive intelligence that it is destined for a nuclear programme."

October 7 2002
President George Bush gives a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio outlining the threat posed by Iraq. "Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminium tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons", Bush says, that "America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

October 10 2002
The US Congress passes the Iraq Resolution authorising President Bush to use the armed forces to defend the national interest against threats posed by Iraq.

November 8 2002
The United Nations Security Council votes unanimously in favour of Resolution 1441. The resolution demands that Iraq "cooperate immediately, unconditionally, and actively" with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for the nuclear file, and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), responsible for the chemical, biological, and missile files.

November 27 2002
United Nations arms inspectors began their first field mission in Iraq in four years. (See press release).

December 2 2002
Whitehouse spokesperson Ari Fleischer responds to a CNN report that Iraq had admitted to trying to source aluminium tubes but only for conventional purposes. He says the President has said publicly that "Iraq did, in fact, seek to buy these tubes for the purpose of producing, not as Iraq now claims conventional forces, but for the purpose of trying to produce nuclear weapons. And so it's, on the one hand, mildly encouraging that Iraq would now admit to what it's been doing. But on the other hand, a lie is still a lie, because they sought to produce these for the purpose of production of nuclear weapons, not conventional."

December 7 2002
Iraq submits 12,000 page response to UN Resolution 1441 formally declaring to the United Nations that it has no weapons of mass destruction.


January 27 2003
Head of the IAEA, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei delivers his report on Iraq to the UN Security Council. Dr. El-Baradei informs the Council that IAEA inspectors "have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program" El-Baradei also states, "from our analysis to date it appears that the aluminium tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges; however, we are still investigating this issue. It is clear, however, that the attempt to acquire such tubes is prohibited under Security Council resolution 687."
Read the Statement | Inspection Report

January 28 2003
US President George Bush delivers his State of the Union speech to the US Congress. Bush states, "our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminium tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide."

In an interview for the US program NewsHour, head of the IAEA, Dr El Baradei says his agency had not seen any "specific, actionable intelligence" to suggest Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.

February 4 2003
John Howard makes a Statement to Parliament on Iraq. He explains that Australian intelligence will be used by Colin Powell in his forthcoming speech to the Security Council. He does not specifically mention the evidence relating to the aluminium tubes.

February 5 2003
US Secretary of State Colin Powell delivers a presentation to the United Nations Security Council which outlines the evidence against Iraq. He makes specific mention of the aluminium tubes and shows pictures of one of the seized tubes and the crate in which the tubes were transported. Powell states that "these illicit procurement efforts show that Saddam Hussein is very much focused on putting in place the key missing piece from his nuclear weapons program, the ability to produce fissile material."

February 11 2003
CIA Director George Tenet testifies before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Tenet says, "Iraq has established a pattern of clandestine procurements designed to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. These procurements include-but also go well beyond-the aluminum tubes that you have heard so much about."

February 14 2003
Head of the IAEA, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, briefs the United Nations Security Council. He says they are still investigating the claims that the tubes are for nuclear purposes

February 25 2003
British Prime Minister Tony Blair makes another Statement to Parliament on Iraq, recapping the "history of the Iraqi crisis".

March 7 2003
Head of the IAEA, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei updates the United Nations Security Council on the status of nuclear inspections in Iraq. Mr. ElBaradei concludes that Iraq's efforts to import aluminium tubes were not likely to have been related to the manufacture of centrifuges; that allegations that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger were unfounded; that after three months of intrusive inspections, the IAEA has to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq; and that the IAEA intends to continue inspection activities. ElBaradei also expresses his hope that Iraq will continue to expand the scope and accelerate the pace of its cooperation.

March 14 2003
Australian Prime Minister John Howard addresses the National Press club. In an answer to a journalist, Howard says, "I would have to accept that if Iraq had genuinely disarmed, I couldn't justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime. I've never advocated that."

March 16 2003
US Vice President Dick Cheney appears on NBC's Meet The Press. He responds to the IAEA report from March 7 which found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq, saying "I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq's concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past."

March 19 2003
The War in Iraq begins.

March 20 2003
Australian Prime Minister John Howard delivers an Address to the Nation, stating that "the Government has decided to commit Australian forces to action to disarm Iraq because we believe it is right, it is lawful and it's in Australia's national interest."

July 7 2003
The Sydney Morning Herald publishes an article quoting former State Department official Greg Theilmann who says that CIA claims that the Iraqi regime had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program were strongly challenged by the State Department and the US Department of Energy, and this was made known to the Australian Government. He also tells the Herald that intelligence material claiming that Iraq was buying aluminium tubes allegedly designed to reprocess uranium using a gas-centrifuge method had been rejected by the State Department.

Australian Prime Minister Howard issues a press release in response to the article, saying "I have been advised by the relevant Australian agencies that they have no record of having received any report by Ambassador Wilson as referred to in the article. The article also canvassed the differing views among US agencies about whether aluminium tubes purchased by Iraq were designed to enrich uranium. Australian agencies were aware of the debate in the United States about the purpose of the aluminium tubes. I made no reference to aluminium tubes in my statement to Parliament of 4 February or subsequently."

Later in the day Prime Minister Howard conducts a doorstop interview on the same issue, reiterating that "we didn't receive anything from Wilson, none of our agencies, and there was also talk about arguments between agencies in America about aluminium pipes, well I didn't talk about aluminium pipes in my address to Parliament on the 4th of February or subsequently. The judgements that we formed were based on the intelligence reports that our agencies got and I stand by what I said."

July 10 2003
The Australian Office of National Assessments (ONA) issues a press release acknowledging that they knew of doubts relating to the claims of Iraq attempting to buy uranium from Niger but failed to pass this onto the Prime Minister. The statement makes no mention of the aluminium tubes allegations.

July 18 2003
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer appears on ABC TV's Lateline program. He concedes that Australia had had a role in passing on intelligence in the lead up to the war, saying that in Colin Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council, "there is a little gem that came from Australia". (Read the transcript from the program).

September 22 2003
Alistair Campbell, media adviser to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, gives evidence at the Hutton Inquiry. He discusses his role in the production of the Blair dossier and the inclusion of the allegations surrounding the aluminium tubes. (Read memos relating to the tubes as discussed at inquiry).

October 2 2003
The Head of the Iraq Survey Group, David Kay, presents his findings on his search for weapons of mass destruction. He states that "despite evidence of Saddam's continued ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material."

-------------------------------------------------------------------END OF ARTICLE 2--------

April 23, 2009
9:06 am
Forum Posts: 4297
Member Since:
April 9, 2009
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Interview with Garry Cordukes

Garry Cordukes was director of International Aluminium Supply. He liaised with AT&C, the Jordanian purchasers of the tubes, and arranged the shipping of the tubes from China to Jordan. His information also helped US authorities to intercept the tubes in Jordan. This interview took place on 19 October, 2003 at Tai Shan City in Guangdong province, China.

The following is an edited interview transcript. Due to the possibility of mis-hearing, the ABC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

Could you say just how your company became involved in the shipment of the tubes to Jordan?

Yeah well there's a forum on the internet that's called the Aluminet Forum and this is a world-wide aluminium forum that's used by the aluminium industry and you get queries from all over the world - people enquiring about supply, people trying to source machinery, and our company used to monitor this site every couple of weeks and occasionally we'd pick up a client from it, and I think it was early December 2000 - there was a request on there from a company in Jordan wanting to purchase a certain type of aluminium tube, so we responded and informed them that our Chinese plant could probably produce the tube.

How big tubes are we talking about?

The tube was probably about, once again I'm going off memory here, but I think it was roughly a hundred millimetre diameter - something like that.

Did you have any inkling that they could possibly be going to use to enrich uranium so that Saddam Hussein could make a bomb?

None whatsoever - none, none whatsoever. I mean extrusion by nature produces thousands of different types of shape, we asked this company what the tubes were used for and their comments were that they were going to be re-machined to be used as flanges and sump pulleys, we didn't research that or question it - we simply accepted that. Keep in mind this was from a Jordanian company not an Iraqi company, and perhaps it was our naivety that our understanding was that Jordan was an ally of the US and Australia and we obviously didn't see that there'd be any problem with it.

In effect then you had no suspicions at all that they were going to go to Iraq...

None - none whatsoever at the time.

Tell us about finding out that something was a bit different with this shipment?

OK - I guess it was in either April or May 2001 and I got a phone call in our Sydney office from a gentleman who said he represented the Australian Defence Department and he would like to come and have a chat with me. He duly did so, and informed me that there was some possibility that the material being sent to Jordan could be forwarded onto Iraq and used for military purposes.

Did you get any inkling at the time from Chinese authorities that something was amiss?

At the time, nothing whatsoever. There was no communication with the Chinese authorities at all. Keep in mind that my position in this was an agent - a sales agent for the Chinese extrusion mill, so I wasn't privy to the day-to-day communications that the mill was involved in. But they certainly didn't indicate to me that there was any communication from the Chinese government at all, and I had no reason to disbelieve that.

Now there is a story about how at one stage you had overtures by the Chinese government that came and told your factory about the tubes and...

Ah what had happened - after I was approached by the Australian Defence Department, they asked me if I could get them a sample of this tubing, and so I said Yes, I'll be going to China next week and I'll bring you back a sample. I did ask them if there was anything else they wanted us to do, and the comment was oh not really we'll get back to you. So I duly went to China and brought back a sample of the tube - or I think perhaps two samples, I don't recall, and I was met at Sydney airport by a gentleman holding up a sign with my name on and I handed over the tubes and that was the end of that, but obviously by this stage we were quite nervous about the situation.

And the Chinese - the story about how you had an ashen-faced man come into the office and say look this is actually quite serious...

Well what'd happened, after we had heard from the Defence Department, I passed this information onto the Chinese extrusion mill, and they'd actually had great difficulty producing this tube and keep in mind the order was for 60,000 pieces, and by May they'd only been able to produce 2,000 pieces. We did delay, and I recall at one stage I actually made a phone call to the guy from the Australian Defence Department, because I really wanted to find out whether there'd been any further developments and you know we didn't want to get involved in anything that was shonky. That call was never returned. So what happened was eventually the... Chinese extrusion mill decided to ship the first container, containing 2,000 pieces, and two or three days after that shipment left the plant, the Chinese informed me that they'd received the phone call from the Chinese government - the content of that phone call was basically that the UN had approached the Chinese government and informed them that this tube was being produced in Southern China, informed them that it was going to be trans-shipped from Jordan to Iraq and that it should be stopped. Now the Chinese government immediately passed this on to the Chinese mill - keep in mind this is two or three days after the shipment had left and, and that's really the first time that we knew this was serious, you know so upon receiving that phone call, the Chinese mill informed the government that the container had left two or three days before, and the Chinese government apparently told the extrusion mill that they'd been informed by the UN that they knew to the minute when the container had left the factory - that obviously surprised us. Having said that we presented to the Chinese government all of the shipping company details, we informed them that the ship had just left and from the mill's point of view they then didn't issue the original bill of loading to the buyer, which meant he couldn't clear the goods when and if they did arrive in Jordan, and our mill proceeded them to scrap any of the other material that they had produced, and that was the end of the story.

To what extent did the United Nations say the US was prepared to go to "x" length to stop the shipment?

You really would need to ask someone in the Chinese government. I'm presenting this to you in real terms, third hand, as it was passed onto me by the management of the Chinese mill at the time. I'm giving you what was told to me and that was that the United Nations was approaching the Chinese government on behalf of the US and the US Government was prepared to take whatever action necessary to prevent the shipment reaching Jordan.

And that includes military action?

Well I can't answer that - I have no idea.

How much did the Americans know, and how do you think they found out?

Oh - once again I'd have to say to you - you'd have to ask the US Government. I don't know, obviously all I know is that the Australian Defence Department was aware of it before it left China.

In terms of the detail that Australian intelligence knew - I mean you said down to the minute when the ship left?

No well we didn't get that information until after the shipment had left, and that information comes from the Chinese Government - not the Australian.

But how remarkable is the fact that they knew that information?

Well it's obviously quite amazing from our perspective, but you know once again I've really got no comment on that.

At that time did you even know what time it'd left the...

Had no idea - as I say keep in mind I repeat again - my role was as a sales agent. I would accept enquiries, pass them onto the plant, they would assess whether they could produce or not and do costings, etc.

Could you talk me through again what steps the company took once you realised that something was amiss?

OK well firstly the first indication that there was anything unusual about this order was when I was approached by the Australian Government. Now the only thing that surprised me was that the guy that came and saw me was - that whilst he was a nice young fellow, he was obviously a message boy - that within itself made me rather cynical. I would've thought if this was a serious issue that, that they would've requested our assistance to do what we could to stop production of this material, which of course we would've because you know we're a commercial entity and we certainly wouldn't want to be involved in, what this has turned into. So that was the first hint that we had that there was something wrong. Now on the basis that there was probably three to four weeks went by after this visit from the Defence department in Australia before anything further happened, we assumed that, as the guy said to me, this material may be used for improper purposes. It was going to Jordan, not to Iraq, so from our point of view, my comment to the mill was we probably just should desist and forget it, obviously they're a commercial entity, nobody had spoken to them directly about it, so they decided to ship the first 2,000 pieces, and it wasn't until after that shipment had left that they were contacted by their government officials… My view is that the Chinese Government certainly did what they should've done just as soon as they were made aware of it. They appeared to have got straight onto the Chinese extrusion mill and explained the situation and said it'd be a very good idea if you stopped production and didn't ship.

So in terms of like how many times then you had contact with Australian officials about this...

Twice - for the initial visit, a second visit where the guy asked if we could supply the sample and then of course the third contact was at Sydney airport, but there was no communication - it was simply hand over the tube and I think the only comment was thank you and end of story.

So virtually you were told to meet this fellow at the airport, hand over the material and that was it, on your way?

As I said I asked several times, do you want us to do anything else here, or is this a problem, and it was really, well it's not really in your hands now and that was the end of the story. I was just surprised that the initial contact was probably three to four weeks before the shipment left China. It would've appeared to me that there was ample time for them to communicate and prevent it leaving.

Were you ever worried at any stage that you might be charged or arrested about this?

No, none whatsoever - we hadn't done anything, we'd simply taken an order from a client - the client had put his letter of credit in place, he'd been advertising for the product on an international website that's used by, you know reputable extruders all around the world, so from our point of view it was simply another commercial transaction.

In your dealings with the Australian government, it was more the sense that they were interested in the shipment but there were no specifics...

Correct, correct, they'd expressed interest, their comments were may be used for illegitimate purposes and we would've cooperated in any way - as we did - we promptly returned the samples to them, but once again I repeat keep in mind, well it wasn't really my decision to make whether this material would've or could've shipped, but certainly, you know the Chinese extruders were astute enough to understand that if it was a problem they would've ceased production, but that message wasn't given to them until after the first partial shipment had left. As soon as they were informed they immediately did what you or I would do, and that is cease doing the business - that was a natural reaction.

And would you have thought that if it was incredibly serious, that in your contacts with the Australian government, they would've said stop, and stop right now?

Well I would have assumed so.

What was your reaction then just seeing the tubes two years later on US television?

I guess I have to say I was rather astounded and bemused. We were very surprised because from our point of view as I say there was 2,000 pieces produced and shipped out of a 60,000 piece order - based on the information that was then provided, and that is that obviously the US officials and the United Nations were aware of the shipping details and the ship it was on, on the basis that it's at least a four week shipping time from Hong Kong to Jordan, and also based on the fact that the Chinese extruders didn't issue the bill of lading to allow the buyer to clear it, I could not see how this material could've reached the buyer. I would assume that it was intercepted somewhere, be it in Singapore when the ship perhaps called in there, or if not at port in Jordan, by the appropriate authorities... From our point of view, we weren't aware that there was a problem with Jordan - I assumed that Jordan was an ally of the US, and I would've thought that they'd have control of what goes in and out of their country. So keep in mind from our point of view this was a normal, commercial transaction; it was a Jordanian trading company that'd placed the order, I've seen this company on this same website, you know advertising, seeking all types of other products that would obviously be innocuous. There was no subterfuge about it... it seemed to me to be a rather strange way to source illegitimate product... to do it on a public website. So you know for us it was quite simply a commercial transaction to Jordan. I mean we're not stupid. If the request had've come from Iraq, then obviously we'd consider that very sensitive and it's not the sort of area we'd want to be involved in.

What was the conversation involving the use of the name Kamel?

Well when the Australian Defence Department guy visited me, one of his comments was "Are you aware that the name Kamel is Saddam Hussein's family name?" and my obvious answer was no - I had no idea, is it? But that was really the extent of that conversation.

Tell me about the first meeting you had.

He visited my Sydney office. When the initial call came we had no idea what it was about - the guy simply ring up and said can I come and see you, and he made an appointment for a couple of days later, which once again indicated there was no great urgency in the matter, and we weren't aware of what he wanted until he arrived.

About how long did you chat?

Half an hour.

What sort of things did he ask you?

Well basically you know were we aware that this product could be used for, you know illegitimate purposes, discussed the fact that it was possibly going to be shipped from Jordan to Iraq, you know he wanted to know details of how we sourced the order and just a general conversation about it, as I said he then made a call a few days later and asked if we could meet; when we met he asked if I could get him a sample, I told him yes, and that was really the end of the communications.

What's the experience been like for you?

Well you know really until, till I was contacted by your program, we still didn't understand the significance of this. I mean from our point of view we understood there was a problem with the product once the mill was contacted by the Chinese government. Prior to that our communications with the Australian Government indicated that they were perhaps investigating this product, but on the basis that at no stage did they come back to us and request further action, we assumed that that was the end of the matter, and then once of course the shipment left and the Chinese Government passed on the message to stop production and we did that... we assumed that was the end of the matter until such time as the Iraq war started, which was what, 18 months after all these events, and we saw this particular tube held up on TV. So we were rather flabbergasted, but even then we thought oh well from our point of view it's really got not too much to do with us. We've done everything we could do and that was the end of the story.

Well did it make you go back and think about the seriousness with which the Australian Defence people addressed this matter?

At the end of the day I don't know what the Australian Defence Department did or didn't know, I don't know whether they were just making initial enquiries. As I said my assumption - as yours would be, was that if it was a serious matter they would've requested you know us to perhaps ask the Chinese mill to cease production. At no stage did they do that - not that I was in a position to tell the Chinese extruders what to do or not do, but you know once again they're a fair and reasonable people and they're a commercial entity and they would not want to be involved in this as I didn't want to be. But at no stage until the first shipment had left, was there any indication that anybody didn't want this shipment to go.

Does it all feel now a bit like a...?

A Robert Ludlum novel I think. It seems that way and you know, it's put us in an unpleasant position. We wouldn't want to be seen to be supplying anything I think like any decent human being you know we don't like terrorism, we don't like wars and you know from out point of view it's not something we'd want to be involved in. Certainly with the company I work with now, we wouldn't supply this type of material whether it was to Iraq, Australia or anybody else. I mean it's not the sort of stuff we want to be involved in. You know there are government facilities all around the world that can produce what they need for their warfare, and we certainly don't want to play. So for us it was a real shock and not a comfortable position to be obviously... It's a pity that Four Corners is the one that has to tell me how serious this is because you know obviously steps could've been taken to try to right at the outset to prevent this material even being produced. Mind you I might add that there are you know mills all around the world capable of producing it, and it would appear to me that, you know I don't know the history of the company that ordered it from us, you know we don't do detailed background checks of buyers of extrusion, but it would appear to me that the guy was either just an agent or he was an idiot because he was sourcing the stuff on very, very public forums, you know. So how the Australian and US Governments became aware of it - I don't know whether they monitor these sites, whether they monitor LCs at banks. I will say that the letter of credit that the Jordanians put in place to the purchase was done through the Philadelphia Investment Bank in Jordan via the Bank of New York, you know in Shanghai, so whether government authorities monitor these things, I don't know - I've got no idea.

What was the response of the guy that asked for the order once it became clear that he wasn't going to get it?

Well he obviously wasn't very happy. You know there was a fair bit of friction after he placed the order and put the LC in place because he'd you know placed his order mid-January you know for 60,000 pieces, but with production difficulties with the product, as I say it was nearly the end of May before we were in a position to even ship 2,000 pieces. But what'd happened when we finally got word from the government I rang this guy immediately and I said well look, you've dropped us in it here, it would appear that this material's going to be used for improper purposes, we won't be sending you the original shipping documents and we won't be producing any more material. He asked why, and I informed him that we'd been told that this you know material was going to be used for some sort of military purpose. He then said well look I can give you the name of the company that's going to machine this material for flanges and he then proceeded to give me the name of a Canadian company... they sent us some hand-drawn sketches showing you know flanges and pulleys stating they were going to machine these drawings - didn't make sense to us, but apart from that from our point of view it was all over - we weren't going supply no matter what it was used for now. I then didn't hear from the Jordanian guy until probably a week after September 11th when I actually then got a phone call at home which was rather abusive and I think his parting words were I hope you die soon, so that wasn't a real pleasant phone call to receive a week or so after September 11th. So he was obviously upset - but I might add that since then I have seen this same guy attempting to source products on the same website up until probably six months ago.

So the same material that he wanted to...

Oh no, no - just you know various types of aluminium products. My assumption still remains that you know the guy's some sort of trader.

________________________________________________________END OF ARTICLE 3_________

April 23, 2009
9:15 am
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April 9, 2009
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The AWB scam – how the ‘wheat mafia’ paid Saddam

The AWB affair – the most corrupt oil-for-food scam – is a story of the impunity of those who wield power. We can sift the ‘wheat from the chaff’ to look past a corporate conspiracy into the culture that supports its players. We need to ask: at what point does the culture itself become the conspiracy?

This level of scrutiny is missing from the Report of the Oil-for-Food Inquiry (the Cole Report) [1]. I found Commissioner Terence Cole unwilling to consider how AWB might share a culture that overlaps the spheres of government and big business. Cole himself finds a signpost that such a culture exists, but takes the view that it is confined solely to AWB. In explaining AWB’s lack of disclosure he says:

"The answer is a closed culture of superiority and impregnability, of dominance and self-importance. Legislation cannot destroy such a culture or create a satisfactory one. That is the task of boards and the management of companies. The starting point is an ethical base. At AWB the Board and management failed to create, instill or maintain a culture of ethical dealing."

No, Commissioner Cole, you have not found an AWB ‘bad apple’. Rather such fruit has its roots in the class system that produces the impunity of which you speak. AWB is a symptom – not as Cole suggests merely an aberration. With the next Federal election less than 12 months away we shall see how far voters might care about, or consent to, such values as the basis for modern day Australia. Well may we say: ‘you reap what you sow’.

Cole begins by roundly condemning the AWB culture. Yet he seems to regard the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) - and by implication Minister Downer – as operating in some bizarro world in which culture is a complete blank. I feel Cole may have missed a crucial clue as to what is going on when he dismisses evidence by DFAT officer, Jill Courtney. Her evidence concerns any early recognition of the Jordanian trucking firm, Alia. According to Cole, Ms Courtney is "the only DFAT officer who stated that she knew anything about Alia". As Courtney declared:

"I recognized the name and now believe that it was a name that I heard in that context during the time I worked in the Middle East Branch in 2000 and 2001."

Cole calls Courtney’s evidence "anomalous and unsupported". Yet we might also see Cole as punching a gaping hole in his own report. As he says:

"It is difficult to see how she could have come to learn about Alia from discussions with other DFAT officers in circumstances where all other relevant DFAT officers who worked in the Middle East Section knew nothing about Alia and therefore could not have told her about it."

Here, Cole ignores culture. In so doing he implies that because other witnesses failed to mention Alia, it could not have been known. But instead might the truth be this. That it was precisely because the name of Alia was recognized that it was never mentioned formally or put ‘on the record’. Cole has missed a warning sign. If, as Courtney suggests, Alia’s name was known in DFAT circles, for what reason did it become a case of ‘whose name we dare not speak’?

I find it hard to understand why Cole prefers to keep the culture within DFAT as a closed door. All the more so because as Cole himself underlines, its record keeping and ‘post box’ role in relation to UN sanctions left much to be desired. If so, all the more reason to uncover the parallel existence of informal networks that carry information – but without the paper trail.

As we argue, the AWB brand of impunity extends to the official corridors of power. If so, then there is a well guarded bridge to a sanctuary where Downer and other Ministers remain untroubled by Cole’s terms of reference.

It is not just the AWB scandal but also the whole Iraq war folly that serves to expose the contradictory conduct of the Howard Government. In this respect the Cole Report unwittingly exposes a shocking double standard in the weight of evidence. As Cole concludes in rejecting any actual knowledge on the part of DFAT:

"In addition, there was the unassessed intelligence information. The evidence is clear that no one in the Australian intelligence community, let alone DFAT officers, regarded the scattered information available as of sufficient importance to seek to draw the available material together, let alone assess its credibility."

If this was so, it was in contrast to drawing together of (far more scattered and less credible) intelligence used to justify going to war in Iraq. Why is it that in the case of the war officials made an attempt to join the dots, yet in the case of AWB, there was no compelling need to act in the national interest?

Cole’s recommendations are highly critical of the DFAT ‘post box’ role. This lack of process (with which to police UN sanctions) is a serious policy failure. This in turn is inseparable from policy failures on Iraq; and any war crimes the Howard Government may be party to.

With insiders such as Trevor Flugge, AWB was part of an elite that defined itself as the national interest. The behavior of AWB represents the overlapping spheres of power and influence in our society. But at the same time – as seen by the sheer number of rorters in the oil for food program - we also see how AWB represents global corporate practice.

We can recall that the corporation is a ‘person’ in the eyes of the law. The film "The Corporation" [2] sees such as person as "amoral, callous and deceitful". In this respect, it meets the diagnosis of a psychopath. With AWB we can draw one more analogy. That of the Mafia. There are some disturbing parallels between mafia-like conduct and the culture of corruption evident from the oil-for-food program. After all, it was a US$100 billion fund in which over 2,000 companies were shown by UN investigator Paul Volcker to have shared in a bribery bonanza.

In the case of AWB, we can test the mafia analogy on two levels. The first is the ‘omerta’, or code of silence. According to testimony at the Cole inquiry, officials knew nothing; they were told nothing; and they never saw any of the documents. The Prime Minister and a host of other witnesses had no memory of crucial diplomatic cables; nor could they recall warnings in the many intelligence reports. Crikey’s insider email hunted through the Cole transcripts for phrases like: "I can’t recall" and "not to my knowledge". All up, the tally was 1,757 such expressions.

The second parallel is the mafia myth of the ‘man of honour’. AWB is often cited as an icon for the good name of Australia. If the corporation is a ‘person’ in the eyes of the law, then in the case of AWB, this ‘person’ is held up to be a ’man of honor’. As Howard told the Cole inquiry, AWB is "a company of great reputation". But ‘honour’ is just a screen if those involved, due to their sense of impunity, assume a different (lower) standard of conduct.

The amoral practices of AWB in effect armed the enemy as the price of doing business in Iraq. This cost came out of funds set aside for humanitarian needs; and added to the humiliation of the Iraqi people. They will not find justice unless someone lifts the lid on the full, wider extent of the AWB web of deceit. Senior officials should not be allowed to hide behind the paper-thin walls of Cole’s terms of reference.

Volcker, Cole and others have sought to pin down corruption within AWB that as a corporation we can liken in the legal sense to a ‘person’. But the injustice will be if its wider culture stays safe and intact. For like the ‘omerta’, a code of silence protects the ‘man of honor’.


[1] Report of the Inquiry into certain Australian companies in relation to the UN Oil-for-Food Programme (The Cole Report). See in particular: Volume 4 - Findings. The Knowledge of the Commonwealth.

---------------------------------------------------------------END OF ARTICLE 4 -----------

April 23, 2009
9:18 am
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AWB Inquiry: More chaff hits the fan

When the USA & Iraq announced last week that it was cancelling wheat imports from Australia, more chaff hit the fan. Australia’s wheat farmers have had a bumper crop this season, but with a glut of wheat world-wide, they have no one to sell it to. It was also revealed that non-executive directors of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) were about to give themselves a pay rise of 33 percent (raising their annual fees from $1.2 million to $1.6 million) but when the AWB wheat bribes to Saddam Hussein were revealed the AWB chairman announced that such increases were "inappropriate".

Iraq will stop buying Australian wheat until at least the conclusion of the Cole inquiry into the bribery and corruption that involves government departments, Ministers and AWB representatives. No doubt if the inquiry allows the major players — including the government — off the hook, wheat farmers can forget any more sales of wheat to Iraq.

The big Australian oil companies that moved into Iraq following the US-led occupation would have paid bribes on a massive scale. Santos, Woodside Petroleum and BHP Billiton came together in a joint venture in 2004, signing a memorandum of cooperation with the Iraq Oil Ministry to prepare for oil and gas projects in the country. It has now been revealed that BHP was going to bribe Saddam Hussein’s regime with $US100 million for the right to explore Iraq’s oil fields.

Also that the company had paid for a $US5 million wheat shipment in 1996. The war is a profit bonanza for corporations, with the Australian-based oil companies tapping into Iraq’s oil resources while the occupation forces police and oppress the population. The Hyundai corporation also bribed the regime with a $US5 million dollar wheat deal, with the knowledge and consent of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Meanwhile, the new Defence Minister Brendan Nelson announced this week that Australian troops would stay in Iraq, under the guise of rebuilding the country but in reality protecting the obscene profits of those corporations operating there.

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April 23, 2009
9:19 am
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(CNN) --- grisly photographs and videos have emerged that appear to show U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, some of whom were apparently forced to engage in sex acts.

The Australian television network SBS program "Dateline" broadcast the pictures and videos Wednesday night. One of the more graphic videos shows five men wearing hoods and masturbating for the camera, presumably under orders from their guards.

The photos and videos reportedly date from 2003 -- the same time that previously released photographs of prisoner abuse were taken.

Olivia Rousset, the SBS reporter on the story, said she came across the photographs while researching a story on guards at Abu Ghraib.

"We hope that the release of these photographs will bring about further pressure to hold high-ranking officials accountable for what we now know to have been systemic and widespread abuse occurring throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay," said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Amrit Singh on "Dateline," adding that she had not seen the images. (Watch why the hoods, nudity and poses suggest abuse -- 2:02)

Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, said he thought the timing of the new report was "unnecessarily provocative" and "irresponsible." He said any photos from that time period "do not reflect what is happening at Abu Ghraib now."

Interviewed before the photos and videos aired, Johnson said he hadn't seen the newly released images.

Publication of the original set of pictures sparked widespread international condemnation of the United States. (Gallery: Abu Ghraib pictures)

The newly released photographs appear to show more abuse, including cases of torture and sexual humiliation. They do not appear to show any new perpetrators.

In September, after the ACLU won access to those set of pictures via a Freedom of Information Act request, the U.S. government appealed the decision, tying up their release.

Mike Carey, executive producer of "Dateline," said on the SBS network's Web site that his program "obtained a file of hundreds of pictures, some that have been seen before and others that show new abuses."

Some images too graphic to air
The program did not show all of the pictures. It deemed some of them too graphic for air, Carey said.

Among the images broadcast were pictures of naked men who appeared to have suffered physical trauma, one of whom the report said had 11 nonlethal bullet wounds in his buttocks.

Other pictures show corpses, one of which the program said a U.S. Army report identified as one of three men killed during a riot over living conditions at the prison.

According to the TV report, two Abu Ghraib soldiers said that guards were ordered to use lethal rounds on prisoners after they ran out of rubber bullets trying to halt the riot.

One image depicts two women described by a guard to "Dateline" as prostitutes held at the prison for two days. In one picture, the breasts of one of the women are exposed.

Another grisly image shows a corpse that appears to have had a section torn from its head, while another one features a man whose arms are covered in purple bruises.

Also broadcast was video that appears to show a prisoner -- handcuffed to a metal door -- repeatedly slamming his head full force against the door. Though the guards appear to have videotaped the incident from several vantage points, no one is seen intervening to stop the prisoner.

The network said the man allegedly had mental problems and frequently covered himself in feces, but he was not given any psychiatric care.

The TV program obscured most of the prisoners' faces so they could not be identified.

The release of the photographs follows the release of a 2004 videotape apparently showing British soldiers beating Iraqis. Three people have been arrested in that case, which was condemned by Prime Minister Tony Blair. (Full story)

ACLU alleges orders came from brass
When the original set of Abu Ghraib photographs was released nearly two years ago, members of Congress said they had received a private viewing of other, unreleased pictures.

Seven low-ranking guards and two military intelligence soldiers -- described by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as "bad apples" -- have been disciplined for offenses documented in the original pictures.

Last May, President Bush demoted Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib during the prison abuse scandal, to colonel. She had been formally relieved of command of the 800th military police brigade a month earlier.

Another officer, Col. Thomas Pappas, was reprimanded and fined.

The longest prison sentence -- 10 years -- was given to Army Cpl. Charles Graner, seen in many of the pictures. Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, a U.S. Army reservist from Virginia, received an eight-year sentence.

"Looking at the documents we've received under FOIA, it is very clear to us that the actions of these soldiers were part of a larger program to abuse detainees that was put in place by high-ranking officials," the ACLU's Singh told "Dateline."

__________________________________________________________END OF ARTICLE 6_______

April 23, 2009
9:22 am
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Wheat deal ramps up Australia-Iraq ties

12 March 2009

Australian wheat exports to Iraq look set to reach levels not seen since the AWB scandal as Canberra and Baghdad shift the focus of their relationship from security to commerce.

Baghdad flagged it may soon take up to one million tonnes of Australian wheat, during a meeting between Trade Minister Simon Crean and his Iraqi counterpart Abdul-Falah Al-Sudani in Canberra on Thursday.

"We had discussions that showed the Iraqi government wants to enter into arrangements for the long-term supply of Australian wheat," Mr Crean told AAP through a spokesman.

"Dr Al-Sudani indicated to me that the Iraq government would be interested in buying approximately one million tonnes of Australian wheat each year, in the future."

AWB scandal took its toll

There has been a major lull in exports in the wake of the AWB wheat scandal, which came to a head with the release of the Cole inquiry report in late 2006.

Royal commissioner Terence Cole found the wheat exporter paid some $290 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime between 1999 and 2003.

Exports of wheat came to a halt in 2007 and in 2008 stood at about 348,000 tonnes, a long way from the 1.2 million tonnes imported by Iraq in 2005.

Dr Al-Sudani was part of a delegation accompanying Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a five-day visit to Australia.

Closer commercial ties were the priority during talks between Mr al-Maliki and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Six years after the invasion of Iraq, and as Australia's troop numbers dwindle, both countries are focused on growing the economic relationship in areas like agriculture and resources.

"Australia's relationship with Iraq is entering into a new phase," Mr Rudd told reporters.

"The prime minister and I have agreed that it is time to build a strong relationship based on our broad commercial and economic ties."

Iraqi PM visits war memorial

Meanwhile, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki trod a well worn path during his two-day stop in Canberra, visiting the Australian War Memorial and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Like other dignitaries, Mr al-Maliki inspected the memorial's poignant roll of honour.

Unlike those who'd come before, he stopped to pay tribute to the two Australians who have died since hostilities began in 2003.

Last on the touching walkway was a commemoration of the most recent theatre involving Australians - the unfinished Iraq war.

Engraved on the wall were the names Private Jake Kovco and Warrant Officer David Nary - two men who died serving their country, though in vastly different circumstances.

As the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq approaches, Mr al-Maliki paid tribute to efforts of Australia's servicemen and women in freeing his country from the rule of former president Saddam Hussein.

"I would like to take this opportunity to praise the personnel who helped in Iraq against the challenge of terrorism, which not only threatened Iraq but threatened humanity as well."

He offered his sympathies to the families and friends of those who had died in Iraq.

"I extend my sympathies to the families of loved ones who lost their lives while helping Iraq," Mr al-Maliki said.

________________________________________________END OF ARTICLE 7_______________

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