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Global Eye -- Gag Rule

By Chris Floyd
November 21, 2003,

Although the "conquest" of Iraq has unraveled into murderous chaos, at least the Bush Regime is winning its ferocious battle against another dangerous foe: American soldiers who were captured -- and tortured -- by Saddam Hussein's forces in the first Gulf War.

The Bushists' relentless fight to block the American captives from receiving any compensation from Iraq has eerie echoes of a similar move, more than 50 years ago, to prevent American victims of Japanese torture from filing legal claims against their tormentors. The two cases seem tied by a common ulterior motive: protecting war booty used as slush funds for "black ops" and crony kickbacks.

The 1951 peace treaty "ending" the American post-war occupation of Japan (of course, U.S. troops are still there), contained a curious provision, devised in secret by U.S. envoys. It blocked almost all claims for reparations "arising out of any actions taken by Japan and its nationals in the course of the prosecution of the war." Considering that tens of millions of people were killed, robbed or forced into slave labor by Japanese forces, this shadowy codicil was generous indeed. Thus for half a century, American victims of Japan's slave labor program have had their claims to compensation stymied by their own government. Why such legal protection for indefensible evils? U.S. historian Chalmers Johnson tells the sorry tale in this week's London Review of Books.

As Japanese armies rampaged through Asia, they grabbed a staggering amount of loot from the conquered populations. New research reveals that Emperor Hirohito set up a secret organization, Golden Lily, to keep this swag under imperial control, dispatching family members to oversee the operation. Civilian slaves and POWs were used to build elaborate underground stashes throughout the conquered territories; when sites were completed, the workers -- and often the Japanese officers supervising them -- were buried alive with the treasure, to ensure secrecy.

After Japan surrendered in 1945, American forces found some of these hoards, worth billions of dollars. Washington decided to keep the finds secret; publicizing them would have destroyed the fiction at the heart of the American-installed post-war government: that the Emperor -- and most of the Japanese ruling elite -- had been nothing but powerless figureheads in the wartime regime.

Instead, Washington used the money to bankroll covert operations by the newly formed CIA: an untraceable slush fund, free of Congressional oversight, stashed under various fronts in 176 banks in 42 different countries. Over the years, the money helped the Agency overthrow governments, subvert elections, smuggle cash to despots like Saddam Hussein, arm terrorist paramilitaries in Latin America, establish its own venture capital funds to infiltrate the business world, and so on and sickeningly on.

One of Golden Lily's chief bagmen, gangland chief Yoshio Kodama, used his stolen billions to bankroll the pro-American political faction that has controlled Japan for almost 54 years. As Johnson reports, the gangster then "went to work for the CIA and later became the chief agent for the Lockheed Aircraft Company, bribing and blackmailing politicians" to buy U.S. military hardware.

So when it devised the 1951 treaty, Washington couldn't allow compensation lawsuits that would delve into Japan's wartime -- and post-war -- finances. The money that might have been used for reparations had already been confiscated for the CIA. Many of the Japanese officials involved in snatching this blood-soaked loot were now pro-American statesmen spending billions on U.S. weapons and cutting sweet deals with U.S. corporations. Tossing a few scraps of compensation to the broken, ravaged victims of war crimes just wasn't good for business.

Now comes George W. Bush -- a proud scion of the CIA, whose headquarters bears his father's name -- carrying on this tradition. Last year, a U.S. judge awarded American captives tortured by Saddam almost $1 billion in compensation, to be taken from Iraqi assets frozen in the U.S. since the 1991 Gulf War. But Bush has thus far successfully blocked the award. Why? Because that money doesn't belong to Iraq anymore; it belongs to Bush.

Just before invading Iraq in March, Bush signed an executive order confiscating those assets. At first he insisted that this money was desperately needed for the "reconstruction" of the country he was destroying. But when the Gulf War victims said they'd be happy to postpone the award -- for years if necessary -- to help Iraq get back on its feet, the Regime changed tack.

Bushist minions now maintain that the money is gone, spent on, yes, "reconstruction," the NY Times reports. In other words, it's been given to Dick Cheney's Halliburton, the Bushist fiefdoms of Bechtel and Carlyle, and to arms merchants like Yoshio Kodama's old outfit, Lockheed (now grown into the gargantuan oligarchopoly Lockheed Martin).

But of course, no one really knows where the money has gone. After all, the Bushists maintain a bewildering array of slush funds for their ever-growing range of "black work," as Stalin liked to call it: assassinations, paramilitary operations by irregulars in mufti, bribes for warlords, torturers, Central Asian despots. As reports, even the recent $87 billion war pork bill contained $9 billion in slush money for Don Rumsfeld to spend at his whim: dark dosh for the various "secret armies" he's gathering, says the L.A. Times.

Money for torturers, despots, and cronies: but no money -- no law, no justice -- for America's own defenders, drowned in the flood of greed and dominion. Behind all the scripted rhetoric about freedom and "values," this is the reality of Bush's imperium.


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