Last Friday, Sept. 10, I sent around a Petition for the Italian anti-war
activists kidnapped in Iraq. I wrote that the kidnappers were "most likely
in the pay of the CIA, and at the very least are doing the work of the U.S.
government by kidnappings and executions directed against civilian anti-war
I received two comments from ostensibly radical professors who criticized
my comments for being inaccurate and harmful to the cause. They focused
blame on Moslem extremists.
Below, I reprint an investigatory article from today's British "Guardian"
newspaper by Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill which buttresses the claim I
made, with specific evidence, such as: "The attackers were armed with
AK-47s, shotguns, pistols with silencers and stun guns -- hardly the
mujahideen's standard-issue rusty Kalashnikovs. Strangest of all is this
detail: witnesses said that several attackers wore Iraqi National Guard
uniforms and identified themselves as working for Ayad Allawi, the interim
There's lots more.
Just about every Islamic group, including the leaders of the resistance in
Iraq, have condemned this kidnapping of the leaders of the Italian antiwar
movement and their fellow workers.
I am amazed that some folks, despite their decades of education at elite
universities, or most likely because of it, are unable to read through the
lines and understand what is really happening in this world and who is
behind the horror.
Thank you Naomi Klein. Thank you Jeremy Scahill. And most of all,
FREE SIMONA TORRETTA, SIMONA PARI, RAAD ALI ABDUL AZZIZ and MAHNOUZ BASSAM
- Mitchel Cohen
Brooklyn Greens/Green Party of NY
Who seized Simona Torretta?
This Iraqi kidnapping has the mark of an undercover police operation
Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill
Thursday September 16, 2004
When Simona Torretta returned to Baghdad in March 2003, in the midst of the
"shock and awe" aerial bombardment, her Iraqi friends greeted her by
telling her she was nuts. "They were just so surprised to see me. They
said, 'Why are you coming here? Go back to Italy. Are you crazy?'"
But Torretta didn't go back. She stayed throughout the invasion, continuing
the humanitarian work she began in 1996, when she first visited Iraq with
her anti-sanctions NGO, A Bridge to Baghdad. When Baghdad fell, Torretta
again opted to stay, this time to bring medicine and water to Iraqis
suffering under occupation. Even after resistance fighters began targeting
foreigners, and most foreign journalists and aid workers fled, Torretta
again returned. "I cannot stay in Italy," the 29-year-old told a
Today, Torretta's life is in danger, along with the lives of her fellow
Italian aid worker Simona Pari, and their Iraqi colleagues Raad Ali Abdul
Azziz and Mahnouz Bassam. Eight days ago, the four were snatched at
gunpoint from their home/office in Baghdad and have not been heard from
since. In the absence of direct communication from their abductors,
political controversy swirls round the incident. Proponents of the war are
using it to paint peaceniks as naive, blithely supporting a resistance that
answers international solidarity with kidnappings and beheadings.
Meanwhile, a growing number of Islamic leaders are hinting that the raid on
A Bridge to Baghdad was not the work of mujahideen, but of foreign
intelligence agencies out to discredit the resistance.
Nothing about this kidnapping fits the pattern of other abductions. Most
are opportunistic attacks on treacherous stretches of road. Torretta and
her colleagues were coldly hunted down in their home. And while mujahideen
in Iraq scrupulously hide their identities, making sure to wrap their faces
in scarves, these kidnappers were bare-faced and clean-shaven, some in
business suits. One assailant was addressed by the others as "sir".
Kidnap victims have overwhelmingly been men, yet three of these four are
women. Witnesses say the gunmen questioned staff in the building until the
Simonas were identified by name, and that Mahnouz Bassam, an Iraqi woman,
was dragged screaming by her headscarf, a shocking religious transgression
for an attack supposedly carried out in the name of Islam.
Most extraordinary was the size of the operation: rather than the usual
three or four fighters, 20 armed men pulled up to the house in broad
daylight, seemingly unconcerned about being caught. Only blocks from the
heavily patrolled Green Zone, the whole operation went off with no
interference from Iraqi police or US military - although Newsweek reported
that "about 15 minutes afterwards, an American Humvee convoy passed hardly
a block away".
And then there were the weapons. The attackers were armed with AK-47s,
shotguns, pistols with silencers and stun guns - hardly the mujahideen's
standard-issue rusty Kalashnikovs. Strangest of all is this detail:
witnesses said that several attackers wore Iraqi National Guard uniforms
and identified themselves as working for Ayad Allawi, the interim prime
An Iraqi government spokesperson denied that Allawi's office was involved.
But Sabah Kadhim, a spokesperson for the interior ministry, conceded that
the kidnappers "were wearing military uniforms and flak jackets". So was
this a kidnapping by the resistance or a covert police operation? Or was it
something worse: a revival of Saddam's mukhabarat disappearances, when
agents would arrest enemies of the regime, never to be heard from again?
Who could have pulled off such a coordinated operation - and who stands to
benefit from an attack on this anti-war NGO?
On Monday, the Italian press began reporting on one possible answer. Sheikh
Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, from Iraq's leading Sunni cleric organisation, told
reporters in Baghdad that he received a visit from Torretta and Pari the
day before the kidnap. "They were scared," the cleric said. "They told me
that someone threatened them." Asked who was behind the threats, al-Kubaisi
replied: "We suspect some foreign intelligence."
Blaming unpopular resistance attacks on CIA or Mossad conspiracies is idle
chatter in Baghdad, but coming from Kubaisi, the claim carries unusual
weight; he has ties with a range of resistance groups and has brokered the
release of several hostages. Kubaisi's allegations have been widely
reported in Arab media, as well as in Italy, but have been absent from the
Western journalists are loath to talk about spies for fear of being
labelled conspiracy theorists. But spies and covert operations are not a
conspiracy in Iraq; they are a daily reality. According to CIA deputy
director James L Pavitt, "Baghdad is home to the largest CIA station since
the Vietnam war", with 500 to 600 agents on the ground. Allawi himself is a
lifelong spook who has worked with MI6, the CIA and the mukhabarat,
specialising in removing enemies of the regime.
A Bridge to Baghdad has been unapologetic in its opposition to the
occupation regime. During the siege of Falluja in April, it coordinated
risky humanitarian missions. US forces had sealed the road to Falluja and
banished the press as they prepared to punish the entire city for the
gruesome killings of four Blackwater mercenaries. In August, when US
marines laid siege to Najaf, A Bridge to Baghdad again went where the
occupation forces wanted no witnesses. And the day before their kidnapping,
Torretta and Pari told Kubaisi that they were planning yet another
high-risk mission to Falluja.
In the eight days since their abduction, pleas for their release have
crossed all geographical, religious and cultural lines. The Palestinian
group Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, the International Association of Islamic
Scholars and several Iraqi resistance groups have all voiced outrage. A
resistance group in Falluja said the kidnap suggests collaboration with
foreign forces. Yet some voices are conspicuous by their absence: the White
House and the office of Allawi. Neither has said a word.
What we do know is this: if this hostage-taking ends in bloodshed,
Washington, Rome and their Iraqi surrogates will be quick to use the
tragedy to justify the brutal occupation - an occupation that Simona
Torretta, Simona Pari, Raad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnouz Bassam risked their
lives to oppose. And we will be left wondering whether that was the plan
· Jeremy Scahill is a reporter for the independent US radio/TV show
Democracy Now; Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo and Fences and Windows
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