Iraq scandal a threat to democracy

Iraq scandal a threat to democracy

As it becomes clear the invasion of Iraq was based on a lie, it is imperative to unravel the deception and the truth, writes Robert Manne.

It is gradually becoming transparent that the endlessly repeated claim used to justify the invasion of Iraq - that Saddam Hussein possessed a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction - was false. The 200 most plausible sites for the storage of such weapons have now been inspected. Many of the most senior military, intelligence and scientific figures in the regime have been captured and interrogated for several weeks. Yet not one weapon of mass destruction has so far been found.

The spurious justification offered for the invasion of Iraq constitutes, in my opinion, one of the greatest foreign policy scandals involving Western governments since 1945. It is surely imperative for all those who care about democracy - whether or not they supported the war - to try to discover an explanation for the deception and the true causes of what has occurred.

One important moment on the road that led to the invasion of Iraq can be found in the formation in 1997 of a lobby group known as the Project for the New American Century. The PNAC represented almost all the most powerful figures associated with the defence and foreign policy wing of American neo-conservatism - Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and William Kristol.

The PNAC neocons were all former hardline Cold Warriors and muscular internationalists, who supported the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan with enthusiasm. All were equally contemptuous of the naive liberalism of Jimmy Carter and the status quo realpolitik of Henry Kissinger. All, moreover, regarded the arrival of the era of US global hegemony at the end of the Cold War as providing a splendid opportunity for spreading American ideals of liberal democracy and free trade, if necessary by military means. All supported a serious increase in US defence spending. All were suspicious about the rise of China in the long term. All advocated a policy of preventing the emergence of any superpower rival to the US.

The PNAC neocons were also unconditional supporters of Israel, with close links to the most hawkish elements of Likud. Some advocated pre-emptive strikes of the kind Israel had used in 1981 to take out Iraq's nuclear plant at Osirak. All were extremely hostile to Israel's enemies in the Middle East - Syria, Iran and Iraq. Indeed, one of the first initiatives of the PNAC was the publication of an open letter to president Bill Clinton advocating the armed overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Although some members of the PNAC supported John McCain and not George W. Bush for the Republican presidential candidacy in 2000, it was the selection of Dick Cheney as Bush's running mate that provided the neocons with what turned out to be their historic opportunity. With Cheney's support, 10 of the 18 signatories of the PNAC letter to Clinton on regime change in Iraq moved into key positions in the new Bush Administration. Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were appointed to the three most senior positions in the Department of Defence.

In general the neocons made little serious policy headway in the first months of the Bush presidency. Then September 11 occurred. In an article in Commentary of February 2002, the neo-conservative godfather, Norman Podhoretz, captured the new situation rather well: "One hears that Bush, who entered the White House without a clear sense of what he wanted to do there, now feels there was a purpose behind his election all along; as a born-again Christian, it is said, he believes he was chosen by God to eradicate the evil of terrorism from the world."

It did not require the presence of the neocons in the Administration to convince the President to go to war with Afghanistan in order to destroy the al-Qaeda bases there. Their presence, however, was crucial to the next decision - to move from war against Afghanistan to war against Iraq.

After September 11 Bush was a president in search of a missionary grand strategy for fighting global terrorism and radical Islam. The neocons were the only group inside his Administration with a prepared blueprint that answered to his mood and that fulfilled his needs.

The first significant neocon victory was Bush's announcement, in early 2002, concerning the existence of an "axis of evil", comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Their even more substantial achievement, however, was as the architects of the new, revolutionary US strategic doctrine of September 2002. In this doctrine it was announced that, as a consequence of the danger of "rogue states" launching surprise attacks on the US or secretly passing weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, in the future pre-emptive, unilateral US military action against such states might be required. With this new strategic doctrine, the victory of the neocons seemed complete.

It was not quite so. The neocons hoped for a US war against Iraq without sanction from the United Nations. After a short political struggle for the mind of the President, the combined alliance of Tony Blair, Colin Powell at the Department of State and old Republican hawks, such as James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, prevailed. Bush agreed to take his case for war on Iraq to the UN.

Although the true purpose of the neocons' planned war against Iraq was not to disarm Saddam Hussein but to bring about "regime change", the case for war had now to be argued exclusively in terms of the threat to peace posed by Saddam's illegal possession of weapons of mass destruction. Fighting wars to bring about regime change is in breach of international law. Such an argument could not be mounted at the UN.

In order to put the case for war, unambiguous evidence of Iraq's possession of such weapons obviously had to be produced. As is now becoming clear, the traditional gatherers of such intelligence - the CIA and the Pentagon's DIA - had reservations and doubts.

To achieve greater certainty, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz created inside the Pentagon a new body called the Office of Special Plans, under the leadership of a neocon former Cold Warrior, Abram Shulsky. As Seymour Hersh has argued in a recent article in The New Yorker, it was through uncritical acceptance or even manipulation of intelligence supplied by Iraqi defectors that the Office of Special Plans was able to deliver the concrete evidence concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that the case for war required.

If Hersh is right, it was on the basis of this kind of highly politicised intelligence that Bush, Blair and Howard claimed to know for certain that Saddam Hussein had amassed a vast arsenal of chemical and biological weapons that were ready for use; that the production of such weapons was increasing in tempo; and that it was almost certain that within a short few years Saddam Hussein would be in possession of nuclear weapons as well.

It now appears that every part of this assessment was false. If so, the conclusion seems inescapable. The anglophone democracies invaded Iraq on the basis of a lie.

21:31 Gepost door AlphaGamma | Permalink | Commentaren (2) |  Facebook |

Belgium, France veto U.S. demands for NATO support over Iraq

Belgium, France veto U.S. demands for NATO support over Iraq

A United Nations plane carrying U.N. weapons inspectors leaves Saddam airport in Baghdad February 10,2003

BRUSSELS, February 10 (News Agencies) - Belgium joined France on Monday, February 10, in vetoing U.S. demands for NATO military support over Iraq, a Belgian official said.

France vetoed the U.S. demands including a package of military support for Alliance member Turkey in the event of war, a NATO official said, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

France formally raised objections under a "silence procedure" invoked by NATO chief George Robertson Thursday, February 6, in a bid to force an agreement, the official said.

Under the procedure, the U.S. request for NATO to start logistical planning over Iraq would have been considered approved if none of the 19 Alliance members had objected by 0900 GMT on Monday.

The French Broke The Silence

"The French broke the silence," the NATO official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel confirmed Sunday, February 9, that his country would use its power of veto to block the accord and would probably be joined by both Germany and France.

The United States formally asked NATO on January 15 to lend various kinds of backing in the event of military attack against Iraq.

The package being proposed by NATO would include deploying Patriot anti-missile batteries, AWACS surveillance planes and chemical and biological protection units to Turkey, NATO's only Muslim state and the only one bordering Iraq.

But Belgium, France and Germany -- who are opposed to war over Iraq -- object that NATO would send the wrong signal by starting military planning when diplomacy still has a chance.

Dutch unhappy with Franco-German Proposal

In another development, Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is unhappy with a Franco-German proposal to disarm Iraq circulating in the media, his spokesman told AFP on Monday.

"We are not sure if there even is a plan, it is foolish to launch this scheme through the media and the timing is unfortunate because, as the weapons inspectors prepare to report to the United Nations on Friday, the pressure on (Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein should not let up," ministry spokesman Bart Jochems said.

"If you start waving peace plans now, Hussein will think, 'Great, I will fool them again'," he explained, reported AFP.

However, New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday that the proposal must be taken seriously.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck said on Sunday that Germany and France would present a proposal to the United Nations Security Council next week to send peacekeepers into Iraq, triple the number of UN weapons inspectors and turn the Gulf state into a no-fly zone. Clark told reporters she welcomed the move.

"Now, the New Zealand Government's position ... from the outset has been to support getting a diplomatic solution to the crisis and so prima facie suggestions by two major Continental powers like France and Germany trying to avert a war has to be taken seriously and we would look forward to hearing more about it," Clark said. U.S. and British authorities have scornfully dismissed the Franco-German initiative.

UN weapons inspectors leave Baghdad

Meanwhile, Chief U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei arrived in Cyprus on Monday on their way home after a crucial visit to Baghdad that could determine the fate of U.S war plans, AFP reported.

Blix and ElBaradei are to present their findings to the U.N. Security Council on February 14 after two days of meetings in the Iraqi capital, where they said they saw "good progress" in cooperation with UN disarmament demands.

"We are leaving with a sense of cautious optimism," ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said late Sunday.

The visit could prove momentous for the fate of Iraq as U.S. President George W. Bush has underlined he is ready to use force to strip Baghdad of the weapons of mass destruction he accuses Iraq of concealing.

On Monday, February 10, Iraq's state-run media hailed Monday the "big progress" achieved during the visit.

Babel, a newspaper owned by Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, noted the positive atmosphere that prevailed during the two-day visit.

It expressed satisfaction at the "professionalism, the exchange of points of views and the achieved results which amounted to big progress.

"Iraq has presented and is presenting the highest levels of positive cooperation with UN inspection teams whose chiefs were received by senior officials from the Iraqi leadership," the daily said.

"Iraq is expecting Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei to present a professional and fair report which would meet the same high and special level of cooperation as shown by the Iraqi side."

Babel said Iraq also expected Blix and ElBaradei, who head the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) respectively, to "remain steadfast against American pressures that seek (to project) evil on the entire world."

It urged the inspectors "to block those who are calling for war and aggression and allow the work of the U.N. inspections to regain the world's trust and credibility."

17:40 Gepost door AlphaGamma | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

Belgian "Boycott Bush" Campaign Closes U.S. Oil Stations

Belgian "Boycott Bush" Campaign Closes U.S. Oil Stations

One campaigner dressed in U.S. military uniform, while another lying supine and covered with fake blood in an Esso station to protest the U.S. war for oil

Brussels, June 15 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) - Belgium spearheaded an international anti-U.S. boycott campaign to condemn the U.S. illegal war on Iraq and the ongoing occupation of the war-scarred country, while U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld hit out on June 13 at the anti-war country over a law allowing lawsuits against foreigners for war crimes.

Boycott actions closed Esso and Texaco petrol stations in most Belgian provinces.

At an Esso petrol station in Gent a carpet of dead bodies, armed U.S. marines and U.S. President George W. Bush, illustrated the link between thousands of innocent victims, the important Iraqi oilfields and the gasoline sold by U.S. oil-multinationals Esso and Texaco, ‘For Mother Earth’ human rights organization and one of the organizers of the "Boycott Bush campaign" said Saturday, June 14 in a press release.

The boycott organizers (a coalition of NGOs including Attac, America Watchers, For Mother Earth and Christian Movement for Peace) declare that the U.S. has been acting as "a rogue state" ever since Bush was elected president.

With the boycott of certain U.S. products the growing coalition of NGOs wants to force the U.S. government to once again join the international community, complying with the rules of the United Nations and international law.

The Belgium-based For Mother Earth organization listed the U.S. products along with other alternatives on its website.

It also listed the companies which were regarded as the largest donors to the Republican Party election campaign 2000.

Using hazard warning tape and banners, the non-violent campaigners successfully closed Esso and Texaco petrol stations in Antwerp, Arlon, Bruges, Brussels, Gent, Hasselt and Namur.

"There is blood of thousands of innocent victims on the logos of Esso and Texaco. Both U.S. multinationals -who together donated $2 million U.S. to the 2000 Bush election campaign- are driving forces behind the policies of the Bush administration," said Pol D’Huyvetter, spokesperson for ‘For Mother Earth’.

"As Bush ignored the U.N. and the international public opinion, today the boycott is the most effective model of action we can offer to any citizen. Everybody can easily register his or her opposition to the U.S. foreign policy by boycotting our list of U.S. products, or all U.S. products. Money is the language which was used by the U.S. to coerce nations into their coalition. The boycott is a language they understand in Washington," he added.

In most cases the employees of the petrol-stations understood the motivations of the campaigners, and dialogue was possible. Motorists who received flyers calling on them to boycott U.S. oil companies reacted most of the time with a smile and a thumbs-up.

Why Boycott?

With the boycott of certain U.S. products, the NGOs wants to force the U.S. to comply with the rules of the U.N. and the international law

With these new boycott actions, the organizers condemn the illegal war against Iraq and ongoing occupation of the country.

These actions follow the statement of Paul Wolfowitz whose open acknowledgement that oil was the main reason for the military operation in Iraq, sparked anger with many people.

Wolfowitz admitted that although weapons of mass destruction were presented as the main cause for war, they were only a “bureaucratic excuse” to get support for the military campaign.

"For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on," he told the Vanity Fair magazine.

The recent news coverage of falsified reports about Iraq’s of Weapons of Mass Destruction undermine any last legal ground for the U.S. attack which claimed thousands of civilian victims.

"By boycotting U.S. products, I want to put pressure on the U.S. government to join the international community, complying with the rules of the United Nations and international law. With the military attack and invasion of Iraq in March 2003 the U.S. acted as a rogue state," the ‘For Earth Mother’ organization explained.

"With the attack, the U.S. violated the U.N. charter. Today more than ever U.S. companies seem to have a major impact on the policy of the U.S. administration. The U.S. government policy has increasingly been marked by arrogance and self-interest," it said.

Therefore the boycott campaigners demand that the U.S. "allow the U.N. to take over the civil administration in Iraq as soon as possible, end 'pre-emptive' attacks on other states, actively pursue a two-state solution for Palestine & Israel and stop the use of double standards concerning Weapons of Mass Destruction (e.g. those of Israel and the U.S.'s own stocks)."

They also demand the U.S. "ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, adopt the Kyoto protocol to stop global warming, abandon National Missile Defense & reinstates the ABM Treaty, recognize the competence of the International Criminal Court to prosecute war criminals and cancel all bilateral agreements, respect the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and negotiate a Treaty for complete nuclear disarmament, ratify Biological Weapons Convention, ratifies 1997 Landmine Treaty and strengthen the Chemical Weapons Convention."

17:35 Gepost door AlphaGamma | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

The Israeli Spy Ring Scandal

The Israeli Spy Ring Scandal

by whatreallyhappened

"Israel does not spy on the United States of America." -- Mark Regev, a spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Washington

Prior to 9/11, the FBI had discovered the presence of a massive spy ring inside the United States run by the government of Israel. This seems a harsh gratitude from a nation which obtains 10% of its annual budget from the American taxpayer, $3+ billion a year. Over the years, American taxpayers have been required to send Israel more than four times what the US spent to go to the moon.

What Israel has done in return was to set up government subsidized telecommunications companies which operate here in the United States. One of these companies is Amdocs, which provides billing and directory assistance for 90% of the phone companies in the USA. Amdocs' main computer center for billing is actually in Israel and allows those with access to do what intelligence agencies call "traffic analysis"; a picture of someone's activities based on a pattern of who they are calling and when. Another Israeli telecom company is Comverse Infosys, which subcontracts the installation of the automatic tapping equipment now built into every phone system in America. Comverse maintains its own connections to all this phone tapping equipment, insisting that it is for maintenance purposes only. However, Converse has been named as the most likely source for leaked information regarding telephone calls by law enforcement that derailed several investigations into not only espionage, but drug running as well. Yet another Israeli telecom company is Odigo, which provides the core message passing system for all the "Instant Message" services. Two hours before the attacks on the World Trade Towers, Odigo employees received a warning. Odigo has an office 2 blocks from the former location of the World Trade Towers.

Let us be clear here. There is nothing benign about Israel spying on the United States. When Jonathan Pollard stole our nuclear secrets (which your taxes paid to develop) and sent them to Israel, Israel did not hesitate to trade those secrets to the USSR in exchange for increased emigration quotas.

The implication of these facts is that the billions of our tax dollars sent to Israel (while women and children sleep in America's alleys and eat out of trash bins) have bought and paid for a monstrous phone tracking and phone tapping system that can eavesdrop on almost any phone call in America. Even the White House phones were open to such tapping by listening in on the other end outside the White House itself.

This actually happened. The Ken Starr report on Whitewater describes how Bill Clinton informed Monica Lewinsky that their phone sex conversations had been recorded. At the same time, Clinton ordered the FBI to cease the hunt for an Israeli mole known to be operating inside the White House itself!

So here we have a foreign nation able to listen in on most phones at will, using taps that cannot be found because they are built into the phone system itself, and willing to use the information gleaned from those calls to blackmail Americans into any desired course of action. This may well be what Ariel Sharon meant when he stated that the Jewish people control America.

That the information gleaned from these phone taps is being used to coerce the behavior of key individuals in the US Government and media is illustrated by the manner in which the government and the media have handled this scandal of the largest spy ring ever uncovered inside the United States, and of phone taps on all of our phones. They are downplaying it. Actually, burying it is a better word.

Fox News, alone of all the media, actually ran the story as a four part broadcast, and put the story up on its web site. Then, without explanation, Fox News erased the story from their web site and have never mentioned it again. CNN followed by "Orwellizing" their report of the two hour advance warning of the WTC attacks sent to Odigo employees. But far more telling is the admission made by a US Official in part one of the Fox News report that hard evidence existed linking the events of 9/11 not to Arab Muslims, but to some of the more than 200 Israeli spies arrested both before and after 9/11, but that this evidence had been CLASSIFIED.

Since then, any and all mention of the Israeli spy ring and phone tapping scandal has resulted in a barrage of shrill screams of "hate" and "anti-Semite", two well worn and frankly over used devices to try to silence discussion on any topic unfavorable to the nation which owns the spy ring in question.

The story of the uncovering of the largest spy ring ever discovered inside the United States should be the story of the century, if indeed the US media is looking out for the best interests of the American people. That this spy ring helped drug smugglers evade investigators should be a major scandal, if indeed the US media is looking out for the best interests of the American people. That the spy ring includes companies able to track and tap into any phone in America, including the White House, should be a cause celebre', if indeed the US media is looking out for the best interests of the American people.

But they are not. The media is trying to bury this story. They are spiking it, erasing it from their web sites in a chilling real-life Orwellian rewriting of history.

The actions of the US media are those of people trying to protect this spy ring and those that the spy ring worked for.

The actions of the US media are those of traitors to the American people.

17:28 Gepost door AlphaGamma | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

Freedom of speech argument wins case for GoogleFreedom of sp

Freedom of speech argument wins case for Google

Freedom of speech on the Internet, even if it causes harm to another company, is sacrosanct, at least when it comes to Google Technology Inc.

That was the ruling by a U.S. District Court judge in Oklahoma last month when a Web advertising company tried and failed to successfully sue Google for lowering its ranking on Google searches.

The case hinged on complicated mathematical algorithms and U.S. First Amendment rights, but it all came down to a simple truth: The order of appearance of Web sites on Google searches can make or break those sites.

As every Internet user knows, if a Web page appears high on a Google search, it gets noticed, especially now that Google is the Internet's dominant search engine. If a site appears far down and requires searchers to scroll through page after page of search results, well, good luck.

The problem arose when Oklahoma City-based SearchKing Inc., a portal company that lists Internet directories, came up with a way to try to profit from this ranking system.

SearchKing, which is basically a directory of Web directories linking numerous sites to each other, set up a service that brings together Web sites that have high Google rankings with other sites looking to advertise on them.

The logic being, advertise on a popular Web site and you can share that site's popularity.

For the more popular sites, SearchKing charged advertisers a higher fee.

But shortly after launching the service last summer, SearchKing's own ranking on Google plummeted, and the page rank for the ad service, called PR Ad Network, was eliminated completely, according to a court document.

SearchKing sued.

It said Google intentionally lowered SearchKing's ranking to stamp out the business. Not so, said Google, and here's where the First Amendment argument came in.

Google tends to portray its technology as hands off and objective. It likens its service to a kind of high-tech card catalogue or, say, the Dewey decimal system of the Internet.

But in the District Court case, Google argued that its ranking system isn't an objective algorithm, but is subjective, and is therefore constitutionally protected as free speech. Google said it has a right to tweak its technology and to make whatever changes to its rankings.

SearchKing cried double standard. But the court didn't agree, saying that search engines results are opinions.

"Other search engines express different opinions, as each search engine's method of determining relative significance [of search results] is unique," the court said.

In the end, the judge granted Google's motion to dismiss the case.

17:19 Gepost door AlphaGamma | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

World opposed to Bush and Iraq war, BBC poll says

World opposed to Bush and Iraq war, BBC poll says
LONDON, June 16 — A majority of people around the world view U.S. President George W. Bush unfavourably and think the United States was wrong to invade Iraq, according to a BBC poll published on Monday.
       The poll, which surveyed more than 11,000 people in 11 countries, showed 57 percent of those asked had ''a very unfavourable or fairly unfavourable attitude towards the American president,'' the British broadcaster said in a statement.
       Some 56 percent felt the United States was wrong to attack Iraq, including 81 percent of Russian respondents and 63 percent of those polled in France.
       In Jordan and Indonesia, well over half of those asked felt the United States posed a greater danger to world peace and stability than al Qaeda.
       In five of the 11 countries polled, a majority of respondents believed the United States was more dangerous than Iran, named by Bush as part of an ''axis of evil'' with Iraq and North Korea.
       And in eight of the 11, respondents said the United States was more dangerous than Syria, a country which Washington accuses of sponsoring terrorism.
       However, attitudes towards America, rather than the Bush administration, were slightly more positive.
       Half rated the country ''fairly'' while 40 percent considered it ''unfavourable.''
       Asked if their country was becoming more like America, 81 percent of Australians and 64 percent of Britons said ''Yes.''
       The survey, conducted in May and June by the BBC and pollsters around the world, covered Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, France, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
       It was commissioned for a TV programme called ''What the World Thinks of America.''

17:17 Gepost door AlphaGamma | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

Portugal reeling over child sex abuse scandal

Portugal reeling over child sex abuse scandal

By Elizabeth Nash in Lisbon

16 June 2003

The opposition socialists, until now ahead of Portugal's ruling conservative Popular Social Democrats in opinion polls, are in shock after learning some of their senior MPs may be involved in scandal over sex abuse of boys in a state orphanage.

The senior socialist MP Paulo Pedroso, number two in the party and a former labour minister, was taken from parliament by police and held for investigation three weeks ago on 15 counts of suspected child-sex abuse. Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, the party leader, who is not accused of involvement, testified in court last week, and the former prime minister Antonio Guterres, who is also not under suspicion, visited him in jail to show support.

The abuse accusations centre on Casa Pia, an austere building in a leafy Lisbon neighbourhood, home to children without families, or with parents too poor to care for them. Claims that boys suffered decades of sexual abuse while the authorities did nothing has thrown Portugal into deep shock.

"This is a black moment for us," the veteran commentator Mario Mesquita, a columnist for Publico newspaper, says. "It marks the beginning of a long crisis that's poisoning political life and undermining confidence in our leaders. People were at first incredulous, and are now morbidly pessimistic. This drama shows our dark side, and it's all played out on television, which whips up the frenzy."

Antonio Mega Ferreira, editor of Visao news magazine, says: "I cannot recall, during 25 years of democracy, experiencing such a turbulent, fragile, demoralising, anxious time as we're going through now."

A former home employee, Carlos Silvino, known as Bibi, was detained last autumn accused of abusing children in his care and supplying them for sex to socialites. Among those held on suspicion of abuse are Casa Pia's former director, its doctor, Portugal's favourite television host, a top comedian and a senior diplomat.

Proceedings are still in the investigative stage, with seven suspects detained. More detentions are expected before the trial in September. Adolescents have claimed on television they were offered sweets, ice creams and visits to football matches, then were raped in lavatories or corridors, and recruited for sex parties with powerful "friends". Others, now adult, have told of chilling experiences long suppressed.

Casa Pia came under scrutiny 20 years ago when a young inmate died. He apparently threw himself under a train after running from a car. Officials found the home's doors open all night and youngsters in a cruising area for male prostitutes.

Four children aged between eight and 12, missing for a fortnight, were found in a luxury flat in nearby Cascais owned by a diplomat. They said Mr Silvino had taken them there.

Teresa Costa Macedo, who was the Secretary of State for Family Affairs at the time, ordered a legal investigation that dragged on until it was finally shelved. Mr Silvino was expelled from Casa Pia, then reinstated with back pay in the Nineties.

Rosa Ruela, of Visao, says: "Orphans were considered worthless in Portuguese society then. Child sex abuse was a minor offence, comparable to joyriding. The children were frightened and alone, an easy target. No one took notice of what they said."

Only in the Nineties did Portugal make sex with under-14s a crime punishable by jail; for minors between 14 and 16 the penalty remains a fine. Last September, the mother of an inmate accused Mr Silvino of sexually abusing her son. He was detained in November but insists he is innocent. Last week he indicated he might turn state witness and implicate influential "friends".

In February, counsellors who questioned more than 600 children in Casa Pia found 128 had been abused.

Pedro Strecht, a child psychologist, said "Many wouldn't speak, for fear or shame. We are trained to recognise if children are exaggerating or inventing stories. The testimonies we have heard demonstrate the magnitude of the tragedy."

17:13 Gepost door AlphaGamma | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |