The 5:45 p.m. Reuters newswire update is reporting the deaths of Saddams sons, Uday and Qusay. They were killed in a shootout with U.S. paratroopers in a villa in the city of Mosul. The entire administration must be breathing a huge sigh of relief. U.S. casualties are mounting, and the home front is getting restive, as the folks back home may actually have to think about the war. With the Hussein boys shot out of the saddle, the opinion polls will swell again with approval, and the general population can return to its grave concerns regarding the upcoming nuptials of JaLo and Matt.
There is still a hot war cooking in Afghanistan, but it seems t be out of sight and out of the mind of the mainstream media. The Taliban has regrouped and is launching counter attacks against just about everybody. The so-called government of Hamid Karzai now barely controls the capital city of Kabul. The rest of the countryside has long since fragmented into its traditional tribal and clan groups with their own alliances and controlling warlords. The fact that Afghanistan has reclaimed its lost title of number one opium producer in the world is hardly mentioned anywhere. Last seasons harvest was the largest ever, approaching 5,000 tonnes. The beneficiary of this agriculture has been the Afghan farmer, some of whom are putting their kids into private schools. (Editors note: that was a joke; there are no schools in Afghanistan). The victim of this now revitalized heroin industry will be the politically punch-drunk and staggering government of a now-under-siege British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Great Britain gets 90 percent of its smack via the Afghan-Moscow-London connection. British cops are not happy.
And, as Blair hid out in Beijing last week, he was notified that one of the countrys premier biological weapons experts had apparently committed suicide. This occurred after he was unmasked as the alleged source of the BBCs stories charging the Blair government of sexing up its Iraq WMD claims. Apparently, Dr. David Kelly took pain- killers, slit his left wrist, and then calmly sat down and waited to bleed to death. The conspiracy industry, myself included, is gearing up for weeks of solid copy, as the British government is sure to mishandle this entire sordid affair.
Wherever you find a Bush family member, you are certain to find oil. They just cant help themselves. Its the family business.
In the July 4 issue of Alt, we reported the new American interest in west African oil. One of the worlds smallest and poorest counties is the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe. Fortunately, for its 170,000 citizens, that nation is sitting on just about 10 billion barrels of oil. Drilling permits is expected to generate about $100 million in revenue this year. Sao Tome will do a 40-60 split the swag with neighboring Nigeria, with Sao Tome getting the short end of the oil platform.
Sao Tome is interested in the constructing a naval base and other facilities and having the United States protect its new oil fields. The United States has shown some interest and has sent some high-ranking military people to have a look. Up till now, no decisions seem to have been made.
I say up to now, because, last Wednesday, there was a coup in Sao Tome.
Hardly noticed domestically, this was a big story in Europe and Africa. The president of the country was visiting friends on the mainland when one of the army of 900 officers led the uprising. They took over the capital, arresting government officials, and taking over the radio and television stations. Fortunately, no one was injured. At press time, the rebels are still in control, although the prisoners have been released. Their ambiguous demands seem to be related to the above-mentioned $100 million.
And this past weekend, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld signed a new deployment order. A three-ship Amphibious Ready Group, stationed off of the coast of the Indian Ocean near the Horn of Africa, was ordered to pull up anchor and set sail up the Red Sea and enter the Mediterranean. This naval group, led by the USS Iwo Jima, will wait there for orders.
Presumably, their destination will be the civil war-torn nation of Liberia. But as rebels close into the besieged capital of Monrovia and African dictator of the week Charles Taylor, one can wonder and speculate about the timing. The Iwo Jima is at least ten days steaming time from Liberia. By then, the fighting may well be over, and Charles Taylor long gone with his bagful of Krugerrands.
By then, there will be little for the complement of 4,500 sailors and marines to do but clean up the mess, help bury the dead, and evacuate anyone who couldnt escape sooner. Then again, the coast of Liberia is just a few days from Sao Tome, and its still-running coup. And the president has yet to decide where to put these troops ashore.
Paul Wolfowitz was heard to quip about Iraq, Its swimming on a sea of oil, or words to that effect. Sao Tome doesnt have its own sea of oil just yet, but its close.
And, of course, no national affairs column is complete without reporting that the Pentagon is spending more money on another private military contractor. A few days ago, the Independent (UK) reported that a US PMC, known as Kroll, Inc., was being considered to take a contract to train Iraqi security guards. I sent them a note requesting confirmation, but they have yet to reply.
And, given the state of security on the ground in Baghdad, Kroll, Inc., just might consider staying home. After all, there are safer places, such as Sao Tome. By Grady Hawkins
Deadline here at the Alt Press is looming, and the national affairs desk has more than enough stories from which to choose. Say what you will about the Bush administration, it is always good for copy. Good copy. There is nothing nickel and dime here. No fluff, no feel good human interest, or disease of the week. Its all hard-core stuff.