Archive for the ‘News Archive’ Category

Hello world!

June 29, 2007

Well, my massive Word file that I’ve been throwing all of the news articles that I read into has gone corrupt.  I wanted to dump it into here, but it wouldn’t take.  So I had to c/p into Notepad and sacrifice my formatting.  At least it will all be online and searchable.



The Real Reasons Why Iran is the Next Target:
The Emerging Euro-denominated International Oil Marker
by William Clark      27 October 2004
The URL of this article is:
The Iranians are about to commit an “offense” far greater than Saddam Hussein’s conversion to the euro of Iraq’s oil exports in the fall of 2000. Numerous articles have revealed Pentagon planning for operations against Iran as early as 2005. While the publicly stated reasons will be over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there are unspoken macroeconomic drivers explaining the Real Reasons regarding the 2nd stage of petrodollar warfare – Iran’s upcoming euro-based oil Bourse.

In 2005-2006, The Tehran government has a developed a plan to begin competing with New York’s NYMEX and London’s IPE with respect to international oil trades – using a euro-denominated international oil-trading mechanism. This means that without some form of US intervention, the euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade. Given U.S. debt levels and the stated neoconservative project for U.S. global domination, Tehran’s objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on U.S. dollar supremacy in the international oil market
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes…known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. . . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
– James Madison, Political Observations, 1795
Madison’s words of wisdom should be carefully considered by the American people and world community. The rapidly deteriorating situation on the ground in Iraq portends an even direr situation for American soldiers and the People of the world community – should the Bush administration pursue their strategy regarding Iran. Current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian “petroeuro system” for oil trade. Similar to the Iraq war, upcoming operations against Iran relate to the macroeconomics of the `petrodollar recycling’ and the unpublicized but real challenge to U.S. dollar supremacy from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.
It is now obvious the invasion of Iraq had less to do with any threat from Saddam’s long-gone WMD program and certainly less to do to do with fighting International terrorism than it has to do with gaining control over Iraq’s hydrocarbon reserves and in doing so maintaining the U.S. dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market. Throughout 2004 statements by former administration insiders revealed that the Bush/Cheney administration entered into office with the intention of toppling Saddam Hussein. Indeed, the neoconservative strategy of installing a pro-U.S. government in Baghdad along with multiple U.S. military bases was partly designed to thwart further momentum within OPEC towards a “petroeuro.” However, subsequent events show this strategy to be fundamentally flawed, with Iran moving forward towards a petroeuro system for international oil trades, while Russia discusses this option.
Candidly stated, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. puppet in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency. [1] In 2003 the global community witnessed a combination of petrodollar warfare and oil depletion warfare. The majority of the world’s governments – especially the E.U., Russia and China – were not amused – and neither are the U.S. soldiers who are currently stationed in Iraq.
Indeed, the author’s original pre-war hypothesis was validated shortly after the war in a Financial Times article dated June 5th, 2003, which confirmed Iraqi oil sales returning to the international markets were once again denominated in US dollars, not euros. Not surprisingly, this detail was never mentioned in the five US major media conglomerates who appear to censor this type of information, but confirmation of this vital fact provides insight into one of the crucial – yet overlooked – rationales for 2003 the Iraq war.
“The tender, for which bids are due by June 10, switches the transaction back to dollars — the international currency of oil sales – despite the greenback’s recent fall in value. Saddam Hussein in 2000 insisted Iraq’s oil be sold for euros, a political move, but one that improved Iraq’s recent earnings thanks to the rise in the value of the euro against the dollar.” [2]
Unfortunately, it has become clear that yet another manufactured war, or some type of ill-advised covert operation is inevitable under President George W. Bush, should he win the 2004 Presidential Election. Numerous news reports over the past several months have revealed that the neoconservatives are quietly – but actively – planning for the second petrodollar war, this time against Iran.
“Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is “busier than ever,” an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries”…”Even hard-liners acknowledge that given the U.S. military commitment in Iraq, a U.S. attack on either country would be an unlikely last resort; covert action of some kind is the favored route for Washington hard-liners who want regime change in Damascus and Tehran.”
“…administration hawks are pinning their hopes on regime change in Tehran – by covert means, preferably, but by force of arms if necessary. Papers on the idea have circulated inside the administration, mostly labeled “draft” or “working draft” to evade congressional subpoena powers and the Freedom of Information Act. Informed sources say the memos echo the administration’s abortive Iraq strategy: oust the existing regime, swiftly install a pro-U.S. government in its place (extracting the new regime’s promise to renounce any nuclear ambitions) and get out. This daredevil scheme horrifies U.S. military leaders, and there’s no evidence that it has won any backers at the cabinet level.” [3]
To date, one of the more difficult technical obstacles concerning a euro-based oil transaction trading system is the lack of a euro-denominated oil pricing standard, or oil ‘marker’ as it is referred to in the industry. The three current oil markers are U.S. dollar denominated, which include the West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI), Norway Brent crude, and the UAE Dubai crude. However, since the spring of 2003, Iran has required payments in the euro currency for its European and Asian/ACU exports – although the oil pricing for trades are still denominated in the dollar. [4]
Therefore, a potentially significant news development was reported in June 2004 announcing Iran’s intentions to create of an Iranian oil Bourse. (The word “bourse” refers to a stock exchange for securities trading, and is derived from the French stock exchange in Paris, the Federation Internationale des Bourses de Valeurs.) This announcement portended competition would arise between the Iranian oil bourse and London’s International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), as well as the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). It should be noted that both the IPE and NYMEX are owned by U.S. corporations.
The macroeconomic implications of a successful Iranian Bourse are noteworthy. Considering that Iran has switched to the euro for its oil payments from E.U. and ACU customers, it would be logical to assume the proposed Iranian Bourse will usher in a fourth crude oil marker – denominated in the euro currency. Such a development would remove the main technical obstacle for a broad-based petroeuro system for international oil trades. From a purely economic and monetary perspective, a petroeuro system is a logical development given that the European Union imports more oil from OPEC producers than does the U.S., and the E.U. accounts for 45% of imports into the Middle East (2002 data).
Acknowledging that many of the oil contracts for Iran and Saudi Arabia are linked to the United Kingdom’s Brent crude marker, the Iranian bourse could create a significant shift in the flow of international commerce into the Middle East. If Iran’s bourse becomes a successful alternative for oil trades, it would challenge the hegemony currently enjoyed by the financial centers in both London (IPE) and New York (NYMEX), a factor not overlooked in the following article:
“Iran is to launch an oil trading market for Middle East and OPEC producers that could threaten the supremacy of London’s International Petroleum Exchange.”
“…He [Mr. Asemipour] played down the dangers that the new exchange could eventually pose for the IPE or Nymex, saying he hoped they might be able to cooperate in some way.”
“…Some industry experts have warned the Iranians and other OPEC producers that western exchanges are controlled by big financial and oil corporations, which have a vested interest in market volatility.
The IPE, bought in 2001 by a consortium that includes BP, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, was unwilling to discuss the Iranian move yesterday. “We would not have any comment to make on it at this stage,” said an IPE spokeswoman. “[5]
It is unclear at the time of writing, if this project will be successful, or could it prompt overt or covert U.S. interventions – thereby signaling the second phase of petrodollar warfare in the Middle East. News articles in June 2004 revealed the discredited neoconservative sycophant Ahmed Chalabi may have revealed his knowledge to Iran regarding U.S. military planning for operations against that nation.
“The reason for the US breakup with Ahmed Chalabi, the Shiite Iraqi politician, could be his leak of Pentagon plans to invade Iran before Christmas 2005, but the American government has not changed its objective, and the attack could happen earlier if president George W. Bush is re-elected, or later if John Kerry is sworn in.”
“….Diplomats said Chalabi was alerted to the Pentagon plans and in the process of trying to learn more to tell the Iranians, he invited suspicions of US officials, who subsequently got the Iraqi police to raid the compound of his Iraqi National Congress on 20 May 2004, leading to a final break up of relations.”
“While the US is uncertain how much of the attack plans were leaked to Iran, it could change some of the invasion tactics, but the broad parameters would be kept intact.” [6]
Regardless of the potential U.S. response to an Iranian petroeuro system, the emergence of an oil exchange market in the Middle East is not entirely surprising given the domestic peaking and decline of oil exports in the U.S. and U.K, in comparison to the remaining oil reserves in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. According to Mohammad Javad Asemipour, an advisor to Iran’s oil ministry and the individual responsible for this project, this new oil exchange is scheduled to begin oil trading in March 2005.
“Asemipour said the platform should be trading crude, natural gas and petrochemicals by the start of the new Iranian year, which falls on March 21, 2005.
He said other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries – Iran is the producer group’s second-largest producer behind Saudi Arabia – as well as oil producers from the Caspian region would eventually participate in the exchange.” [7]
(Note: the most recent Iranian news report from October 5, 2004 stated: “Iran’s oil bourse will start trading by early 2006” which suggests a delay from the original March 21, 2005 target date). [8] Additionally, according to the following report, Saudi investors may be interested in participating in the Iranian oil exchange market, further illustrating why petrodollar hegemony is becoming unsustainable.
“Chris Cook, who previously worked for the IPE and now offers consultancy services to markets through Partnerships Consulting LLP in London, commented: “Post-9/11, there has also been an interest in the project from the Saudis, who weren’t interested in participating before.”
“Others familiar with Iran’s economy said since 9/11, Saudi Arabian investors are opting to invest in Iran rather than traditional western markets as the kingdom’s relations with the U.S. have weakened Iran’s oil ministry has made no secret of its eagerness to attract much needed foreign investment in its energy sector and broaden its choice of oil buyers.”
“…Along with several other members of OPEC, Iranian oil officials believe crude trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and the IPE is controlled by the oil majors and big financial companies, who benefit from market volatility.”[9]
One of the Federal Reserve’s nightmares may begin to unfold in 2005 or 2006, when it appears international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for $50 dollars on the NYMEX and IPE – or purchase a barrel of oil for €37 – €40 euros via the Iranian Bourse. This assumes the euro maintains its current 20-25% appreciated value relative to the dollar – and assumes that some sort of “intervention” is not undertaken against Iran. The upcoming bourse will introduce petrodollar versus petroeuro currency hedging, and fundamentally new dynamics to the biggest market in the world – global oil and gas trades
During an important speech in April 2002, Mr. Javad Yarjani, an OPEC executive, described three pivotal events that would facilitate an OPEC transition to euros. [10] He stated this would be based on (1) if and when Norway’s Brent crude is re-dominated in euros, (2) if and when the U.K. adopts the euro, and (3) whether or not the euro gains parity valuation relative to the dollar, and the EU’s proposed expansion plans were successful. (Note: Both of the later two criteria have transpired: the euro’s valuation has been above the dollar since late 2002, and the euro-based E.U. enlarged in May 2004 from 12 to 22 countries). In the meantime, the United Kingdom remains uncomfortably juxtaposed between the financial interests of the U.S. banking nexus (New York/Washington) and the E.U. financial centers (Paris/Frankfurt).
The implementation of the proposed Iranian oil Bourse (exchange) in 2005/2006 – if successful in utilizing the euro as its oil transaction currency standard – essentially negates the necessity of the previous two criteria as described by Mr. Yarjani regarding the solidification of a “petroeuro” system for international oil trades. [10] It should also be noted that during 2003-2004 Russia and China have both increased their central bank holdings of the euro currency, which appears to be a coordinated move to facilitate the anticipated ascendance of the euro as a second World Reserve currency. [11] [12] In the meantime, the United Kingdom is uncomfortable juxtaposed between the financial interests of the U.S. (New York/Washington) banking nexus and that of the E.U. financial center (Paris/Frankfurt).
The immediate question for Americans? Will the neoconservatives attempt to intervene covertly and/or overtly in Iran during 2005 in an effort to prevent the formation of a euro-denominated crude oil pricing mechanism? Commentators in India are quite correct in their assessment that a U.S. intervention in Iran is likely to prove disastrous for the United States, making matters much worse regarding international terrorism, not to the mention potential effects on the U.S. economy.
“The giving up on the terror war while Iran invasion plans are drawn up makes no sense, especially since the previous invasion and current occupation of Iraq has further fuelled Al-Qaeda terrorism after 9/11.”
“…It is obvious that sucked into Iraq, the US has limited military manpower left to combat the Al-Qaeda elsewhere in the Middle East and South Central Asia,”…”and NATO is so seriously cross with America that it hesitates to provides troops in Iraq, and no other country is willing to bail out America outside its immediate allies like Britain, Italy, Australia and Japan.”
“….If it [U.S.] intervenes again, it is absolutely certain it will not be able to improve the situation – Iraq shows America has not the depth or patience to create a new civil society – and will only make matters worse.”
“There is a better way, as the constructive engagement of Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has shown….”Iran is obviously a more complex case than Libya, because power resides in the clergy, and Iran has not been entirely transparent about its nuclear programme, but the sensible way is to take it gently, and nudge it to moderation. Regime change will only worsen global Islamist terror, and in any case, Saudi Arabia is a fitter case for democratic intervention, if at all.” [13]
It is abundantly clear that a 2nd Bush term will bring a confrontation and possible war with Iran during 2005. Colin Powell as the Secretary of the State, has moderated neoconservative military designs regarding Iran, but Powell has stated that he will be leaving at the end of Bush’s first term. Of course if John Kerry wins in November, he might pursue a similar military strategy. However, it is my opinion that Kerry is more likely to pursue multilateral negotiations regarding the Iranian issues.
Clearly, there are numerous risks regarding neoconservative strategy towards Iran. First, unlike Iraq, Iran has a robust military capability. Secondly, a repeat of any “Shock and Awe” tactics is not advisable given that Iran has installed sophisticated anti-ship missiles on the Island of Abu Musa, and therefore controls the critical Strait of Hormuz. [14] In the case of a U.S. attack, a shut down of the Strait of Hormuz – where all of the Persian Gulf bound oil tankers must pass – could easily trigger a market panic with oil prices skyrocketing to $100 per barrel or more. World oil production is now flat out, and a major interruption would escalate oil prices to a level that would set off a global Depression. Why are the neoconservatives willing to takes such risks? Simply stated – their goal is U.S. global domination.
A successful Iranian bourse would solidify the petroeuro as an alternative oil transaction currency, and thereby end the petrodollar’s hegemonic status as the monopoly oil currency. Therefore, a graduated approach is needed to avoid precipitous U.S. economic dislocations. Multilateral compromise with the EU and OPEC regarding oil currency is certainly preferable to an ‘Operation Iranian Freedom,’ or perhaps an attempted CIA-sponsored repeat of the 1953 Iranian coup – operation “Ajax” part II. [15] Indeed, there are very good reasons for U.S. military leaders to be “horrified” at the thought of a second Bush term in which Cheney and the neoconservatives would be unrestrained in their tragic pursuit of U.S. global domination.
“NEWSWEEK has learned that the CIA and DIA have war-gamed the likely consequences of a U.S. pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. No one liked the outcome. As an Air Force source tells it, “The war games were unsuccessful at preventing the conflict from escalating.” [16]
Despite the impressive power of the U.S. military and the ability of our intelligence agencies to facilitate “interventions,” it would be perilous and possibly ruinous for the U.S to intervene in Iran given the dire situation in Iraq. The Monterey Institute of International Studies provided an extensive analysis of the possible consequences of a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and warned of the following:
“Considering the extensive financial and national policy investment Iran has committed to its nuclear projects, it is almost certain that an attack by Israel or the United States would result in immediate retaliation. A likely scenario includes an immediate Iranian missile counterattack on Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf, followed by a very serious effort to destabilize Iraq and foment all-out confrontation between the United States and Iraq’s Shi’i majority. Iran could also opt to destabilize Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states with a significant Shi’i population, and induce Lebanese Hizbullah to launch a series of rocket attacks on Northern Israel.”
“…An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities…could have various adverse effects on U.S. interests in the Middle East and the world. Most important, in the absence of evidence of an Iranian illegal nuclear program, an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the U.S. or Israel would be likely to strengthen Iran’s international stature and reduce the threat of international sanctions against Iran. Such an event is more likely to embolden and expand Iran’s nuclear aspirations and capabilities in the long term”…”one thing is for certain, it would not be just another Osirak. ” [17]
Regardless of whatever choice the U.S. electorate makes in the upcoming Presidential Election a military expedition may still go ahead.
This essay was written out of my own patriotic duty in an effort to inform Americans of the challenges that lie ahead. On November 25, 2004, the issues involving Iran’s nuclear program will be addressed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and possibly referred to the U.N. Security Council if the results are unsatisfactory. Regardless of the IAEA findings, it appears increasingly likely the U.S. will use the specter of nuclear weapon proliferation as a pretext for an intervention, similar to the fears invoked in the previous WMD campaign regarding Iraq.
Pentagon sources confirm the Bush administration could undertake a desperate military strategy to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions while simultaneously attempting to prevent the Iranian oil Bourse from initiating a euro-based system for oil trades. The later would require forced “regime change” and the U.S. occupation of Iran. Obviously this would require a military draft. Objectively speaking, the post-war debacle in Iraq has clearly shown that such Imperial policies will be a catastrophic failure. Alternatively, perhaps a more enlightened U.S. administration could undertake multilateral negotiations with the EU and OPEC regarding a dual oil-currency system, in conjunction with global monetary reform. Either way, U.S. policy makers will soon face two difficult choices: monetary compromise or continued petrodollar warfare.
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
– Abraham Lincoln
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
– Thomas Jefferson

[1] “Revisited – The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War with Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth,” January 2003 (updated January 2004)
[2] Hoyos, Carol & Morrison, Kevin, “Iraq returns to the international oil market,” Financial Times, June 5, 2003
[3] “War-Gaming the Mullahs: The U.S. weighs the price of a pre-emptive strike,” Newsweek, September 27 issue, 2004.
[4] Shivkumar, C., “Iran offers oil to Asian union on easier terms,” The Hindu Business Line (June 16, 2003).
[5] Macalister, Terry, “Iran takes on west’s control of oil trading,” The [UK] Guardian, June 16, 2004,3604,1239644,00.html
[6] “US to invade Iran before 2005 Christmas,” News Insight: Public Affairs Magazine, June 9, 2004
[7] “Iran Eyes Deal on Oil Bourse; IPE Chairman Visits Tehran,” (July 8, 2004)
[8] “Iran’s oil bourse expects to start by early 2006,” Reuters, October 5, 2004
[9] “Iran Eyes Deal on Oil Bourse, IPE Chairman Visits Tehran,” ibid.
[10] “The Choice of Currency for the Denomination of the Oil Bill,” Speech given by Javad Yarjani, Head of OPEC’s Petroleum Market Analysis Dept, on The International Role of the Euro (Invited by the Spanish Minister of Economic Affairs during Spain’s Presidency of the EU) (April 14, 2002, Oviedo, Spain)
[11] Russia shifts to euro as foreign currency reserves soar,” AFP, June 9, 2003
[12] “China to diversify foreign exchange reserves,” China Business Weekly, May 8, 2004
[13] “Terror & regime change: Any US invasion of Iran will have terrible consequences,” News Insight: Public Affairs Magazine, June 11, 2004
[14] Analysis of Abu Musa Island,
[15] J.W. Smith, “Destabilizing a Newly-Free Iran,” The Institute for Economic Democracy, 2003
[16] “War-Gaming the Mullahs: The U.S. weighs the price of a pre-emptive strike,” ibid.
[17] Salama, Sammy and Ruster, Karen,”A Preemptive Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences,” Monterry Institute of International Studies, August 12, 2004 (updated September 9, 2004)
[18] Philips, Peter, “Censored 2004,” Project Censored, Seven Stories Press, (2003)
Story #19: U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro: Another Reason for the Invasion of Iraq

William Clark is the author of an award-winning essay published online in early 2003 entitled: ‘The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War with Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth.’ , also published by Global Research at This essay received a 2003 ‘Project Censored’ award, and was published in the book, Censored 2004) [18] This pre-war essay hypothesized that Saddam sealed his fate when he announced in September 2000 that Iraq was no longer going to accept dollars for oil being sold under the UN’s oil-for-food program, and switch to the euro as Iraq’s oil export transaction currency.
Retrieved 4/6/07

US Navy denies reports of offensive military build-up in Gulf
dpa German Press Agency
Published: Monday February 19, 2007

Manama The US Navy’s top Persian Gulf commander on Monday
denied reports of a US naval offensive military build-up in the
region, affirming however that the coalition was keeping a close
watch on increasing Iranian naval exercises in Gulf waters.
Commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command and the
Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, said that this
was “an unprecedented time of instability and insecurity in the
region,” with tension in Somalia, Lebanon, Eastern Mediterranean,
Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.

He also said that Iranian military naval exercises in the past
nine months showed the suggestion of the use of mines and the threat
of the closure of the strait of Hormuz, the only sea access into and
out of the region.

Walsh, who was speaking to the media at the US Navy 5th Fleet
Command in Manama before being replaced by Vice Admiral Kevin J
Cosgriff in the coming days, described the Iranian exercises in the
strait as provocative.

“Mines are an offensive terrorist type of weapon,” he said.

“We are not giving up water to Iran. This is international waters,
it therefore should have international access and we will safeguard
that with our regional and coalition partners.”

Walsh added that concerns over Iranian intentions are augmented by
the firing of ballistic missiles into the Gulf and some of the
rhetoric coming out of the Iranian leadership.

“The question is not what the Americans are planning but what the
Iranians are planning,” he said.

“When they conduct their exercises and they fire their
missiles we are watching very closely and we are sharing that
information with our Gulf partners.”

Walsh emphasized that the US military presence in the region was
of a defensive nature, dismissing rumours of an impending attack on

The outgoing commander also said the US had no intentions of
abandoning its allies in the region and dismissed reports that the
US 5th Fleet command would be transferred out of Bahrain.
4/6/07 retrieved

The fiscal year 2008 budget, passed in the House of Representative last week, is a monument to irresponsibility and profligacy.  It shows that Congress remains oblivious to the economic troubles facing the nation, and that political expediency trumps all common sense in Washington.  To the extent that proponents and supporters of these unsustainable budget increases continue to win reelection, it also shows that many Americans unfortunately continue to believe government can provide them with a free lunch.

To summarize, Congress proposes spending roughly $3 trillion in 2008.  When I first came to Congress in 1976, the federal government spent only about $300 billion.  So spending has increased tenfold in thirty years, and tripled just since 1990.

About one-third of this $3 trillion is so-called discretionary spending; the remaining two-thirds is deemed “mandatory” entitlement spending, which means mostly Social Security and Medicare. I’m sure many American voters would be shocked to know their elected representatives essentially have no say over two-thirds of the federal budget, but that is indeed the case.  In fact the most disturbing problem with the budget is the utter lack of concern for the coming entitlement meltdown.

For those who thought a Democratic congress would end the war in Iraq, think again: their new budget proposes supplemental funds totaling about $150 billion in 2008 and $50 billion in 2009 for Iraq.  This is in addition to the ordinary Department of Defense budget of more than $500 billion, which the Democrats propose increasing each year just like the Republicans.

The substitute Republican budget is not much better: while it does call for freezing some discretionary spending next year, it increases military spending to make up the difference.  The bottom line is that both the Democratic and Republican budget proposals call for more total spending in 2008 than 2007.

My message to my colleagues is simple: If you claim to support smaller government, don’t introduce budgets that increase spending over the previous year.  Can any fiscal conservative in Congress honestly believe that overall federal spending cannot be cut 25%?  We could cut spending by two-thirds and still have a federal government as large as it was in 1990.

Congressional budgets essentially are meaningless documents, with no force of law beyond the coming fiscal year.  Thus budget projections are nothing more than political posturing, designed to justify deficit spending in the near term by promising fiscal restraint in the future.  But the time for thrift never seems to arrive: there is always some new domestic or foreign emergency that requires more spending than projected.

The only certainty when it comes to federal budgets is that Congress will spend every penny budgeted and more during the fiscal year in question.  All projections about revenues, tax rates, and spending in the future are nothing more than empty promises.  Congress will pay no attention whatsoever to the 2008 budget in coming years.

(Ron Paul online)
I know, it’s really weird of me to throw my support behind a republican, but this guy is the ‘libertarian’ I’ve been waiting for.

Check out his MySpace page, which has a brief run-down of his stances and positions on things that you would want to know. There’s also a link to his official campaign page, go click and read about the guy.

If you actually have the attention span to care about our elected officials, read the things I’ve reposted here from his webpage.

Debt and Taxes

Working Americans like lower taxes. So do I. Lower taxes benefit all of us, creating jobs and allowing us to make more decisions for ourselves about our lives.

Whether a tax cut reduces a single mother’s payroll taxes by $40 a month or allows a business owner to save thousands in capital gains taxes and hire more employees, that tax cut is a good thing. Lower taxes allow more spending, saving, and investing which helps the economy – that means all of us.

Real conservatives have always supported low taxes and low spending.

But today, too many politicians and lobbyists are spending America into ruin. We are nine trillion dollars in debt as a nation. Our mounting government debt endangers the financial future of our children and grandchildren. If we don’t cut spending now, higher taxes and economic disaster will be in their future – and yours.

In addition, the Federal Reserve, our central bank, fosters runaway debt by increasing the money supply – making each dollar in your pocket worth less. The Fed is a private bank run by unelected officials who are not required to be open or accountable to “we the people.”

Worse, our economy and our very independence as a nation is increasingly in the hands of foreign governments such as China and Saudi Arabia, because their central banks also finance our runaway spending.

We cannot continue to allow private banks, wasteful agencies, lobbyists, corporations on welfare, and governments collecting foreign aid to dictate the size of our ballooning budget. We need a new method to prioritize our spending. It’s called the Constitution of the United States.

American Independence and Sovereignty

So called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and CAFTA are a threat to our
independence as a nation. They transfer power from our government
to unelected foreign elites.

The ICC wants to try our soldiers as war criminals. Both the WTO and CAFTA could force Americans to get a doctor’s prescription to take herbs and vitamins. Alternative treatments could be banned.
The WTO has forced Congress to change our laws, yet we still face trade wars. Today, France is threatening to have U.S. goods taxed throughout Europe. If anything, the WTO makes trade relations worse by giving foreign competitors a new way to attack U.S. jobs.

NAFTA’s superhighway is just one part of a plan to erase the borders between the U.S. and Mexico, called the North American Union. This spawn of powerful special interests, would create a single nation out of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, with a new unelected bureaucracy and money system. Forget about controlling immigration under this scheme.

And a free America, with limited, constitutional government, would be gone forever.

Let’s not forget the UN. It wants to impose a direct tax on us. I successfully fought this move in Congress last year, but if we are going to stop ongoing attempts of this world government body to tax us, we will need leadership from the White House.

We must withdraw from any organizations and trade deals that infringe upon the freedom and independence of the United States of America.

War and Foreign Policy

The war in Iraq was sold to us with false information. The area is more dangerous now than when we entered it. We destroyed a regime hated by our direct enemies, the jihadists, and created thousands of new recruits for them. This war has cost more than 3,000 American lives, thousands of seriously wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars. We must have new leadership in the White House to ensure this never happens again.

Both Jefferson and Washington warned us about entangling ourselves in the affairs of other nations. Today, we have troops in 130 countries. We are spread so thin that we have too few troops defending America. And now, there are new calls for a draft of our young men and women.

We can continue to fund and fight no-win police actions around the globe, or we can refocus on securing America and bring the troops home. No war should ever be fought without a declaration of war voted upon by the Congress, as required by the Constitution.

Under no circumstances should the U.S. again go to war as the result of a resolution that comes from an unelected, foreign body, such as the United Nations.

Too often we give foreign aid and intervene on behalf of governments that are despised. Then, we become despised. Too often we have supported those who turn on us, like the Kosovars who aid Islamic terrorists, or the Afghan jihads themselves, and their friend Osama bin Laden. We armed and trained them, and now we’re paying the price.

At the same time, we must not isolate ourselves. The generosity of the American people has been felt around the globe. Many have thanked God for it, in many languages. Let us have a strong America, conducting open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations.

Border Security and Immigration Reform

The talk must stop. We must secure our borders now. A nation without secure borders is no nation at all. It makes no sense to fight terrorists abroad when our own front door is left unlocked. This is my six point plan:

1. Physically secure our borders and coastlines. We must do whatever it takes to control entry into our country before we undertake complicated immigration reform proposals.
2. Enforce visa rules. Immigration officials must track visa holders and deport anyone who overstays their visa or otherwise violates U.S. law. This is especially important when we recall that a number of 9/11 terrorists had expired visas.
3. No amnesty. Estimates suggest that 10 to 20 million people are in our country illegally. That’s a lot of people to reward for breaking our laws.
4. No welfare for illegal aliens. Americans have welcomed immigrants who seek opportunity, work hard, and play by the rules. But taxpayers should not pay for illegal immigrants who use hospitals, clinics, schools, roads, and social services.
5. End birthright citizenship. As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the incentive to enter the U.S. illegally will remain strong.
6. Pass true immigration reform. The current system is incoherent and unfair. But current reform proposals would allow up to 60 million more immigrants into our country, according to the Heritage Foundation. This is insanity. Legal immigrants from all countries should face the same rules and waiting periods.

Privacy and Personal Liberty

The biggest threat to your privacy is the government. We must drastically limit the ability of government to collect and store data regarding citizens’ personal matters.

We must stop the move toward a national ID card system. All states are preparing to issue new driver’s licenses embedded with “standard identifier” data – a national ID. A national ID with new tracking technologies means we’re heading into an Orwellian world of no privacy. I voted against the Real ID Act in March of 2005.

To date, the privacy focus has been on identity theft. It was Congress that created this danger by mandating use of the standard identifier (currently your SSN) in the private sector. For example, banks use SSNs as customer account identifiers because the government requires it.

We must also protect medical privacy. Right now, you’re vulnerable. Under so-called “medical privacy protection” rules, insurance companies and other entities have access to your personal medical information.

Financial privacy? Right now depositing $10,000 in your local bank will generate a “suspicious activity report” to the federal government.

And then there’s the so-called Patriot Act. As originally proposed,

* Expanded the federal government’s ability to use wiretaps without judicial oversight;
* Allowed nationwide search warrants non-specific to any given location, nor subject to any local judicial oversight;
* Made it far easier for the government to monitor private internet usage;
* Authorized “sneak and peek” warrants enabling federal authorities to search a person’s home, office, or personal property without that person’s knowledge; and
* Required libraries and bookstores to turn over records of books read by their patrons.

I have fought this fight for many years. I sponsored a bill to overturn the Patriot Act and have won some victories, but today the threat to your liberty and privacy is very real. We need leadership at the top that will prevent Washington from centralizing power and private data about our lives.

Property Rights and Eminent Domain

We must stop special interests from violating property rights and literally driving families from their homes, farms and ranches.

Our country’s founders would roll over in their graves if they saw the takings clause in the Fifth Amendment used to justify booting people out of their homes for the profit of private developers and tax-hungry local governments. The Supreme Court’s Kelo decision said government power could be used to condemn private homes and churches to benefit a huge pharmaceutical corporation and a large property developer.

Today, we face a new threat of widespread eminent domain actions as a result of powerful interests who want to build a NAFTA superhighway through the United States from Mexico to Canada.

We also face another danger in regulatory takings: Through excess regulation, governments deprive property owners of significant value and use of their properties – all without paying “just compensation.”

Property rights are the foundation of all rights in a free society. Without the right to own a printing press, for example, freedom of the press becomes meaningless. The next president must get federal agencies out of these schemes to deny property owners their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.

Brief Overview of Congressman Paul’s Voting Record

* He has never voted to raise taxes.
* He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
* He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
* He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
* He has never taken a government-paid junket.
* He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
* He voted against the Patriot Act.
* He voted against regulating the Internet.
* He voted against the Iraq war.
* He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
* He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.

Congressman Paul introduces numerous pieces of substantive legislation each year, probably more than any single member of Congress.

MOSCOW, March 30 (RIA Novosti) – Russian intelligence has information that the U.S. Armed Forces have nearly completed preparations for a possible military operation against Iran, and will be ready to strike in early April, a security official said.
The source said the U.S. had already compiled a list of possible targets on Iranian territory and practiced the operation during recent exercises in the Persian Gulf.
“Russian intelligence has information that the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory,” the source said.
American commanders will be ready to carry out the attack in early April, but it will be up to the country’s political leadership to decide if and when to attack, the source said.
Official data says America’s military presence in the region has reached the level of March 2003 when the U.S. invaded Iraq.
The U.S. has not excluded the military option in negotiations on Iran over its refusal to abandon its nuclear program. The UN Security Council passed a new resolution on Iran Saturday toughening economic sanctions against the country and accepting the possibility of a military solution to the crisis.
The source said the Pentagon could decide to conduct ground operations as well after assessing the damage done to the Iranian forces by its possible missile strikes and analyzing the political situation in the country following the attacks.
A senior Russian security official cited military intelligence earlier as saying U.S. Armed Forces had recently intensified training for air and ground operations against Iran.
“The Pentagon has drafted a highly effective plan that will allow the Americans to bring Iran to its knees at minimal cost,” the official said.
Russian Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week the Pentagon was planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran’s military infrastructure in the near future.
“I have no doubt there will be an operation, or rather an aggressive action against Iran,” Ivashov said, commenting on media reports about U.S. planned operation against Iran, codenamed Operation Bite.
A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf. The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006. The U.S. is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the region.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, was rather optimistic about the situation and said he ruled out a military resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem.
“We are constantly working on how to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program and other conflicts peacefully,” Lavrov said. “This policy is unchanged and we will pursue it in the future.”
Russia and the U.S. are two of the six negotiators on Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is aimed at generating energy.

SUNDAY, APRIL 01, 2007
0:12 MECCA TIME, 21:12 GMT
Israeli PM denies Iran attack plans

Standing alongside Merkel, Olmert insisted that Israel had no desire to see  fresh conflict in the region [AFP]

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has dismissed suggestions that Israel is working with the US in drawing up contingency plans for conflict with Iran.

His comments followed an assessment given to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday on the possible outcomes of a confrontation between Tehran and Washington.

“Declarations that there is an American plan to strike Iran that is being co-ordinated with Israel which would at the same time attack Syria and Lebanon is not familiar to me, and is a baseless rumour,” Olmert told a Jerusalem news conference on Sunday.

anding alongside Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor who was on a visit to Jerusalem, Olmert insisted Israel had no desire to see a fresh conflict in the region.
“Israel is not planning an attack and does not wish for war, as it did not want one in the past,” he said.

Intensifying confrontation

Olmert’s comments followed a briefing given to the Israeli cabinet earlier on Sunday by Amos Yadlin, the military intelligence chief, in which he set out his assessment of the likely reactions of Iran’s main regional allies, Syria and Hezbollah, to an intensifying confrontation between Tehran and Washington.

Related stories
Olmert invites Arab states to talks

Olmert plays down talk of Gaza raid

“They fear a war initiated by the Americans because they understand that there might be an attack against Iran over the summer, but not by Israel,” a senior government official quoted Yadlin as telling cabinet ministers.

Although Yadlin insisted that Israel had no intention of becoming  embroiled in such a conflict, he warned that any moves by the Jewish  state could be wrongly interpreted by its neighbours as a sign of hostile intent.

“If the Americans launch an offensive in Iran, Hezbollah and Syria will think the move had been co-ordinated with Israel and would expect Israel to strike them too,” another government official at the meeting told AFP.

‘New conflict’

Yadlin said he was concerned that the region might inadvertently stumble into a new conflict.

Your Views

“The new government should show signs of maturity and responsibility”
Husky, Ottawa, Canada
Send us your views

“We might again find ourselves in a war no one wanted,” he told ministers. “Israel must be prepared and make sure its steps will not lead to any miscalculation on the other side.

“Israel is closely following developments on this front out of a concern that the three players might misinterpret certain steps taken by Israel.”

Yadlin said Hezbollah was abiding by a UN-brokered ceasefire in south Lebanon, but charged that the Shia fighters were busy rearming north of the Litani river – out of the jurisdiction of UN peacekeepers.

Civilian deaths

Israel fought a 34-day war against Hezbollah last summer after two soldiers were captured in a cross-border raid.

Around 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died in the conflict.

“Hezbollah has no intention of getting into a second round of conflict,” Yadlin was quoted as saying.

“But it is busy rebuilding its forces and has accelerated those efforts for fear of a summer attack.”

On Saturday, Iran’s joint chief of staff warned Arab states neighbouring Israel against what he called a “Zionist suicide attack” this year.

“The Zionists plan to carry out a suicide plot in the summer,”  the semi-official Fars news agency quoted major general Hassan  Firouzabadi as saying.

He predicted that an Israeli attack would start from Lebanon and Syria and proceed to Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Source: Agencies

April 3, 2007
Iranian Diplomat Is Said to Be Released in Iraq
An Iranian diplomat detained in Iraq for the last two months has been released, returning today to Iran, according to the Iranian news agency IRNA.
Jalal Sharafi, who was the second secretary of Iran’s Embassy in Iraq, was abducted in Baghdad on February 4 by men wearing Iraqi military uniforms and with official identification. Iran immediately held the United States responsible for his safety and demanded his release, but at the time, an American military spokesman said the military had no knowledge of the event.
Mr. Sharafi arrived today at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport and was greeted by the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, and other ministry officials, the IRNA report said.
IRNA, a government news agency, provided no details in an English language report about the circumstances of his release, which Iran has been demanding along with the release of other Iranians still in detention in Iraq.
In Baghdad, a senior Iraqi foreign ministry official said the Iraqi government was “intensively” seeking the release of five other Iranians who had been detained there by the United States, according to The Associated Press.
Mr. Sharafi’s release from detention comes amid heightened tensions between the Iranian government and Britain over the capture of 15 British sailors who are being held in Iran.
Today, there was a glimmer of hope that the issue could be resolved by political channels. Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview on a Scottish radio station, Real Radio, that the next 48 hours would be “fairly critical” in resolving the dispute and that the release of the sailors could still be secured by diplomatic efforts.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, was scheduled to address reporters today about regional and international developments, IRNA said, but the news conference was postponed without explanation until Wednesday.
Iran and the United States have also been in a standoff of sorts in Iraq. The Bush administration has warned Iran against meddling in Iraq and American forces have detained several Iranians there on charges of providing assistance to illicit armed groups.
Iran, a Shiite state with deep and longstanding ties to Iraq’s Shiite political parties, has denied those charges and has announced that it plans to expand its ties with Iraq.
In January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that President Bush had authorized a series of American raids against Iranians in Iraq after deciding to undertake a broad military offensive against Iranian operatives in the country.
That month, American forces conducted several raids against suspected Iranian operatives in Iraq, including a raid in Erbil where the Iranians had said they were in the process of establishing a consulate, and detained several Iranians.
Graham Bowley contributed reporting for this article.

Clinton promises education improvements
By Holly Ramer, Associated Press Writer  |  March 30, 2007
CONCORD, N.H. –Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday criticized the Bush administration for outsourcing teaching to private tutoring companies, arguing that many firms have close ties to Republicans.
“This is Halliburton all over again,” the New York senator said.
The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act requires school districts to provide free tutoring in math and reading to poor children in schools that repeatedly fail to meet state testing standards. Clinton said that amounts to $500 million a year being paid to tutoring companies and other supplemental service providers that aren’t held accountable.
“Nobody’s looking over their shoulder. And we’re not really seeing results,” she members of the National Education Association’s New Hampshire chapter.
“Why would we outsource helping our kids to unaccountable private sector providers?” she said. “They don’t have to follow our civil rights laws, their employees don’t even have to be qualified, they aren’t required to coordinate with educators, there’s a grand total of zero evidence that they’re doing any good.”
Many of the providers have close ties to the Republican Party and President Bush, she told reporters later.
“It’s not enough that there are no-bid contracts that are taking money away from our troops not delivering services to them in the field, now we have these contracts going to these cronies who are chosen largely on a political basis, and we have nothing to show for it,” she complained.
Clinton, who voted for No Child Left Behind, said she had concerns with the bill from the start but thought it was worth taking a risk to see a greater investment in education.
“It hasn’t been funded properly. It hasn’t been administered correctly. It hasn’t been implemented appropriately,” she said. “It’s all stick and hardly any carrot, and it’s driving teachers and parents and everyone who cares about education a little bit crazy.”
The law’s focus on testing ignores the fact there are many ways to learn, she said, recounting a pivotal moment in her own education. When her high school staged a mock debate before the 1964 election, she was prepared to play Republican Barry Goldwater and was shocked when her teacher assigned her to portray Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. But the assignment opened her mind in a way a lecture wouldn’t have, said Clinton, who grew up in a conservative Republican home.
“It was one of the greatest educational experiences I ever had,” she said. “I had to lock myself in the library because we didn’t talk about President Johnson in my house.”
Clinton said among her priorities as president would be universal preschool education.

Lavrov against using force in Iran, talks Kosovo, Karabakh
03/04/2007 17:57 YEREVAN, April 3 (RIA Novosti) – Russia is totally against using force in international conflicts, including the Iranian nuclear problem, and advocates diplomacy in Kosovo and a breakaway region in the Caucasus, the foreign minister said Tuesday.
The UN Security Council passed a new resolution on Iran March 24 toughening economic sanctions against the country suspected of a covert nuclear program. Russia, which is building a $1-billion nuclear power plant in Iran, has resisted any strict sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
“The UN Security Council has set an international legal framework for influencing Iran, and it excludes the use of force. We call on those who have such ideas to keep within international law,” Sergei Lavrov, who is in Armenia for a two-day visit, said in an apparent reference to recent media reports about possible U.S. strikes against Iran.
The U.S. Administration sees Iran as a “rogue state” and is determined to stop the Islamic Republic, diplomatically or otherwise, from obtaining nuclear weapons. Washington now plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Central Europe allegedly to protect itself from potential missile strikes from Iran or North Korea.
In comments on another international problem, the status of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo, the Russian minister said a unilateral approach to the issue was unacceptable.
“Russia will only support a resolution that meets the interests of both Belgrade and Pristina,” Lavrov said.
The UN Security Council will consider a plan of Martti Ahtisaari, a special envoy for talks on Kosovo, outlining the future status of the province April 3. Ahtisaari pushes for Kosovo’s internationally supervised sovereignty. Serbian authorities strongly oppose the plan as a threat to their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
As a veto-wielding member in the 15-nation UN Security Council and a traditional ally of Serbia, Russia has insisted that a decision on Kosovo satisfy both Kosovar and Serbian authorities, and that it must be reached through negotiations.
The Russian foreign minister said the UN Security Council decision on Kosovo would affect other territorial conflicts and set a precedent for other self-proclaimed regions, including the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh province in Azerbaijan.
The breakaway province, which was plunged into bloodshed in the early 1990s, has been a bone of contention between Azerbaijan and Armenia ever since. Moscow has been more supportive of Armenia’s position in the conflict.
“We hope an agreement will soon be reached on Nagorno-Karabakh,” Lavrov said.
The minister said the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict where the Minsk Group of mediators – France, the U.S. and Russia – were working under the auspices of Europe’s largest security organization, the OSCE, was unique because the interests of Russia, the European Union and the U.S. did not contradict each other and those of the conflicting sides.
But Lavrov added the leadership of Armenia and Azerbaijan would have the final say in the issue.
“We appreciate the efforts of Yerevan and Baku to promote the negotiations, above all, between the presidents and foreign ministers,” he said.
Special report: Iran Nuclear Crisis
The White House renewed on Monday its denial of increasing rhetoric that the United States is preparing for war against Iran.
“We reject any notion that suggests that we are ratcheting up the language in terms of trying to prepare to go to war with Iran. That is certainly not the case,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said at a news briefing.
The reiteration by the White House occurred at the time when U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz and its support ships are leaving for the Persian Gulf to join another aircraft carrier strike group already in that region.
Last week, Perino said the United States is not escalating tensions with Iran and insisted that its naval exercises in the Gulf has been long planned.
Editor: Yan

Special report: Iran Nuclear Crisis
Iranian Foreign Minister said on Saturday that the United States was in no position to launch military strike against the Islamic Republic, stressing that talks were the only choice to resolve the nuclear standoff.
“We do not see the U.S. in a position to impose another crisis on its tax payers by starting another war in the region,” Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters during a press conference with his Bahraini counterpart, in a response to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s warnings over Tehran earlier Saturday.
“But the Islamic Republic of Iran has prepared for two scenarios. We prefer the second one which is based on dialogue and constructive interaction,” Mottaki added.
During his trip to Australia, Cheney Saturday refused to rule out the possibility of taking military action against Iran, saying that “all options are still on the table” over Tehran’s nuclear programs.
Cheney said Washington was still working with other countries to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear programs and prefers to achieve the goal peacefully.
“But all options are still on the table,” Cheney said, adding that it is still being debated in the U.S. how to move next to deal with Tehran over the nuclear issue.
In an interview with U.S. media, carried out in Australia and released on Friday, Cheney said that the United States will “do everything” it can to stop Iran’s nuclear programs.
Mottaki also stressed that dialogue was the only choice to resolve the current deadlock, urging the U.S. and its allies to return to the negotiation table.
“The only way to reach a solution for disputes is negotiations and talks. Therefore, we want the London meeting to make a brave decision and resume talks with Iran,” said the minister.
The United States, along with some other Western countries, has been accusing Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of civilian nuclear programs. Tehran has rejected such accusations, saying that its nuclear programs are designed for peaceful use of nuclear energy.
The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1737 on Dec. 23,2006, demanding Iran stop all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities including research and development, and work on all heavy water-related projects, in 60 days.
Iran refused to heed the Security Council’s demand by the deadline that fell on Feb. 21, 2007.
Editor: Yan
Shots Fired in CNN Building
Filed at 1:56 p.m. ET
ATLANTA (AP) — Gunfire was heard inside the building complex that houses CNN’s headquarters, and at least one person was carried out on a stretcher.
CNN reported that the offices of its Internet operations,, were evacuated and that a suspect was in custody. Video footage showed police pointing guns at a man lying on the ground inside a building.
An announcement over the complex’s public-address system said there had been gunfire “with potential casualties by the escalators” near the main entrance, facing Centennial Olympic Park.
“I heard four or five shots. I really didn’t see it. I got out of there quick,” said Jas Stanford, 27, who had been helping take down a stage in the park used for Final Four festivities.

Iranians release British sailors
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says 15 British naval personnel captured in the Gulf are free to leave.
He repeated Iran’s view that the British sailors and marines “invaded” Iranian waters, but said they were being released as a “gift” to Britain.
He said they would be taken to Tehran airport and flown home within hours.
Downing Street welcomed news of the release, while Iranian state media said the British crew members “shouted for joy” on hearing the news.
Television pictures showed the Iranian president smiling and chatting with the crew.
Of course diplomacy worked, it was a diplomatic incident
Colin Campbell, Stockholm, Sweden

He joked to one: “How are you? So you came on a mandatory vacation?”
The Britons were wearing suits, rather than the military uniform and tracksuits they wore in previous pictures. The one female crew member, Faye Turney, wore a blue headscarf and jacket.
An unidentified crew member said: “I’d like to say that myself and my whole team are very grateful for your forgiveness. I’d like to thank yourself and the Iranian people… Thank you very much, sir.”
Mr Ahmadinejad responded in Farsi: “You are welcome.”
‘Theatrical gesture’
Mr Ahmadinejad announced the decision to release the Britons at a news conference marking Persian New Year.
1 Crew boards merchant ship 1.7NM inside Iraqi waters
2 HMS Cornwall was south-east of this, and inside Iraqi waters
3 Iran tells UK that merchant ship was at a different point, still within Iraqi waters
4 After UK points this out, Iran provides alternative position, now within Iranian waters

He spoke at length, attacking the West over its policy in the Middle East, and it was more than an hour before he even mentioned the captives issue.
He repeated allegations that the Britons were captured in Iranian waters, and awarded medals to the Iranian commanders responsible for detaining them.
It was all part of the build up to his extraordinary theatrical gesture, says the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Robbins.
“We have every right to put these people on trial,” Mr Ahmadinejad asserted.
“But I want to give them as a present to the British people to say they are all free.”
The British government was not even brave enough to tell their people the truth
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
“I’m asking Mr Blair to not put these 15 personnel on trial because they admitted they came to Iranian territorial water,” he added, referring to taped “confessions” made by the British sailors and marines.
Britain says the 15 were in Iraqi waters under a UN mandate when they were captured nearly two weeks ago. It says the confessions were extracted under duress.
“I ask Mr Blair: Instead of occupying the other countries, I ask Mr Blair to think about the justice, to think about the truth and work for the British people not for himself,” Mr Ahmadinejad said.
“Unfortunately the British government was not even brave enough to tell their people the truth, that it made a mistake.”
The Iranian leader said no concessions had been made by the British government to secure the releases, but that Britain had pledged “that the incident would not be repeated”.
1 Royal Navy crew stray 0.5km inside Iranian waters
2 Iran gives set of co-ordinates to back up their claims
3 According to seized GPS equipment, the Royal Navy crew had previously entered Iranian waters at several other points
4 Iran informs Britain of the position where the crew were seized, inside Iranian waters

The solution to the crisis – freeing the Britons while rewarding the Iranian commanders of the operation – appears to be a face-saving compromise, says the BBC’s Frances Harrison in Tehran.
She says speculation is likely to continue over whether it had anything to do with developments in Iraq, where an Iranian envoy has reportedly been given access to five Iranians captured by US forces, and where a kidnapped diplomat was released on Tuesday.
Earlier on Wednesday Syria revealed that it had been mediating between Iran and the UK over the sailors and marines.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “We welcome what the president has said about the release of our 15 personnel. We are now establishing exactly what this means in terms of the method and timing of their release.”
The family of one of the captives, Royal Marine Adam Sperry, hailed the announcement as “the best present imaginable”.
“Whoever has been in the right or wrong, the whole thing has been a political mess, so let’s just get them home,” said his uncle, Ray Cooper.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/04/04 15:23:18 GMT

NOTE: released on Wednesday; Russia predicts US attack as early as Friday of this same week (today is Wed. 4/4/07)

12:07 MECCA TIME, 9:07 GMT
Israel ‘planning Gaza invasion’
By     Tom Spender in Jerusalem

Israel says rockets continue to be fired by
Palestinian fighters in Gaza [AP]
A day after Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, called for a regional peace conference with Arab states, his defence minister said his forces had received authorisation to begin new military actions in Gaza.
Amir Peretz said Israeli intelligence indicated that Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government, was rearming and planning “terrorist” attacks.
The Israel military has said that it has finalised preparations for incursions it says are to tackle the threat of Qassam rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli towns.
The Israeli media quoted the military as saying that between last November, when a ceasefire deal was agreed, and the end of last month, 185 rockets had been fired, 152 of which reached Israeli territory.
On the diplomatic front, Israel is reaching out to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia – but it has refused to deal with the new Palestinian unity government.
Hamas has so far refused to recognise Israel’s existence and has reiterated the right of Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
Reservist Brigadier General Tzika Fogel says such conditions of attrition leave the Jewish state no choice but to reoccupy Gaza to prevent a future war and crush Hamas once and for all.
He says Hamas is building up a Hezbollah-style military capacity and claimed that Western and regional countries would support an offensive to remove it.
“Hamas is working towards the point that they will be like Hezbollah. At that point they will start the war and it will not be good for Israel. We can’t let them start the war. We will lose a lot of respect,” he said.
“The last thing the West wants is for Hamas to have its own country. It will be an Al Qaeda zone. So Israel, the Arab countries and the free world all want us to begin a war and win it.”

Pre-emptive strike
Fogel, a former Israeli army second-in-command for the southern territories who says he is regularly called up for active duty as a reservist, believes that the Israeli military has completed its preparations and is ready to reoccupy the Gaza Strip – except Gaza City – for up to six months.
Tzika Fogel
“Hamas is a part of real Islamism. It’s a threat to Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon and they want that we finish the power of Hamas in Gaza”
He says the invasion of the area could begin as early as April 15.

“It will not be before April 15 because that’s the end of [the Jewish holiday of] Passover, and to be on the safe side it will not be after June 15, because we want it to be finished before the winter.”

“We have 200,000 Israelis living in fear of attack. Their towns are getting more and more like bunkers. But the Palestinians don’t really want to hit us with their rockets.
“They have been using the last four months just to train their people, not to damage the Israeli side.”
In recent days, Israeli media quoted military intelligence reports that Hamas was rearming with advanced weaponry and boosting its defences by building tunnels and booby-trapping several incursion points.
But the Israeli military has declined to comment on Fogel’s remarks.
A spokeswoman said: “This officer has retired and has nothing to do with the army any more. We don’t want to talk about anything he said.”

Diplomacy versus war
For their part, Palestinian officials have said that any military strike into the Gaza Strip would indicate the credibility of Israel’s claims to be a country seeking peace.

Khaled Abu Hillel, spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry, said: “We have a unity government that unites the Palestinian people behind a single programme. Any step Israel takes against this government shows that they are neither ready for nor want peace”.
Palestinian analysts have also said an Israeli invasion of Gaza could wreck chances for a peace deal with the Arab world and prompt international criticism.

Jehad Hamad, a professor of political sociology at Al Azhar University in Gaza City, said: “The Mecca agreement showed that Hamas is willing to be part of a rational Palestinian programme.

“Israel will take a hard line against this. But if they invade there would be a hugely negative reaction internationally. It will not help them make a deal with the Arab world, which has made it clear it wants peace.”

But Fogel said Israel would invade regardless of the potential damage to its image.

“If Israel initiates the war, the world will give us the same time window and expectation as they gave us at the beginning of the second Lebanon war,” he said.

“There’s no other choice. Hamas is a part of real Islamism. It’s a threat to Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon and they want that we finish the power of Hamas in Gaza. They can’t say it but they do want it.”

Fogel said previous campaigns against Hamas failed and the Israeli military would need to employ new tactics against them.

“It’s like a big swamp – you have to dry it. You have to go house by house everywhere. We cannot simply repeat what we have done before – it leads to nothing.”

‘Humanitarian disaster’

Not everyone in Israel, however, believes that Hamas is looking for a Hezbollah-style war of attrition with Israel.
Zeev Schiff, a military analyst at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, said: “I don’t think Hamas wants to get into a large-scale war. It wants to build itself up. It needs a few clashes but they prefer a kind of ceasefire.
“So Israel can act here and there, but I don’t think we are going to go big in Gaza unless something big happens first. In the army you have all sorts of opinions, but in the end it’s up to the political echelon.”
In an interview late last week, Olmert did not rule out a military strike in Gaza, but he said it would not be the first course of action he would take.
Meanwhile, the UN said any Israeli invasion of Gaza would worsen already poor living conditions.

David Shearer, head of the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalem, said: “An invasion would be a disaster from a humanitarian point of view. Things are bad enough as it is and it would make them seriously worse.”

About 400 Palestinians died last year during Israeli incursions into Gaza, he said.

Source: Al Jazeera

Authorities: Fifth-graders posted lookout, had sex in class
Story Highlights
• Four students allegedly have sex in classroom while fifth acts as lookout
• Four children charged with obscenity, fifth with being an accessory
• Teacher who was to supervise class went to assembly instead
• Word of incident passes from students to teacher to sheriff’s office
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) — Five fifth-grade students face criminal charges after authorities said four of them had sex in front of other students in an unsupervised classroom and kept a classmate posted as a lookout for teachers.
The students were arrested Tuesday at the Spearsville school in rural north Louisiana, authorities said. Two 11-year-old girls, a 12-year-old boy and a 13-year old boy were charged with obscenity, a felony. An 11-year-old boy, the alleged lookout, was charged with being an accessory.
“After 44 years of doing this work, nothing shocks me anymore,” said Union Parish Sheriff Bob Buckley. “But this comes pretty close.”
Authorities said the incident happened March 27 at the school, which houses students from kindergarten through 12th grade. A high school teacher normally watches the fifth-grade class at the time, but went to an assembly for older students and the class was inadvertently left unattended, Buckley said. (Watch authorities try to determine if a crime was committed)
The class, which had around 10 other students, was alone for about 15 minutes, he said.
“When no teacher showed up, the four began to have sex in the classroom with the other elementary students in the classroom with them,” he said.
It took a day for authorities to find out about the incident. A student who had been in the class told a high school student about it the next day, Buckley said. The student told a teacher, and school officials notified the sheriff’s office. Detectives began questioning students Thursday.
School officials did not return calls seeking comment.
The students, who were not identified because of their age, were released to their parents after their arrests, Buckley said. They will next be arraigned in juvenile court.
A message seeking comment from the district attorney was not immediately returned.
Buckley said it was unclear what penalties the children could face.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Now that those British sailors are being freed (Yay! No big war [hopefully]!) I can get back to the usual sad hypothesizing.

“It was a political deal, revealing the circus that the alleged Gitmo court system really is.”

Yup, appears to be so. Remember that guy, the al-Queda Mastermind, who confessed to everything from…well, everything, a month or so ago? Doesn’t seem quite so plausible now. Though it didn’t seem plausible before because he was most probably tortured before confessing.

I was reading a Batman comic last night and came to a realization: I like it when Batman beats the piss out of criminals and hangs them from high places to get information from them. It gives me pleasure. Makes me feel like they’re getting what they deserve. Then I thought, “Wow, but I don’t agree with the idea of torture at all. When I read about real people being tortured it makes me sick.” What’s the difference?

I decided that I could keep my moral stance because the comic is NOT REAL. The characters are caricatures, either good or bad or something ominously in-between (reserved for Catwoman and Two-Face). It’s an Idealized World full of simple conclusions and easy solutions. It’s a world based upon stories that feed our imaginations and our moral egos, but it’s a world that is decidedly not real.

That’s obvious, right?

But even in a Batman comic the majority of people in power are corrupt.

And you’ll never see Batman or Commissioner Gordon punish a person who isn’t proven to have it coming.

Sometimes I think my ideology goes to far, that it blinds me to Truth. Sometimes I think my ideology keeps me a moral human being.

It is wrong to put someone in a hidden, illegal prison for a very long time, not prove that the person did something wrong, then sentence the person to prison time and a gag order that coincides with a certain P.M.’s political timing, putting a Terrorist Hat on the said person’s head for the rest of his natural life–either punishing him horribly for something he never did, or not punishing him enough for something he DID do, all because Bush Administration Ally Howard wants to be re-elected in Australia.

It’s wrong.

Guantanamo is wrong. Secret renditions are wrong. Torture is wrong (and not even helpful in getting information). Firing U.S. Attorneys for political reasons is wrong. Taking away personal freedoms given by the Bill of Rights is wrong.

This Administration is wrong.

We don’t live in an Ideal World. Doesn’t everyone know that?

Suspicion Of Cheney Intervention Surrounds Guantanamo Plea Bargain

In February, Vice President Cheney traveled to Australia to visit with his close ally Prime Minister John Howard. At the top of Howard’s agenda was a plea to release Australian Gitmo detainee David Hicks. Last Friday, Hicks became the first person to be sentenced by a military commission convened under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, accepting nine months of imprisonment and a gag order that will not allow him to discuss the case for 12 months.

Howard lobbied Cheney during the February visit for the trial to “be brought on as soon as humanly possible and with no further delay.” The plea bargain itself was brokered by Susan Crawford, the top military commission official and a former Department of Defense inspector general under then-Secretary of Defense Cheney, without the knowledge or input of the lawyers prosecuting Hicks. The lead prosecutor expressed shock over the light sentence.

Given the nature of the deal, suspicions are being raised that the plea agreement may have been an orchestrated gesture by Cheney to benefit Howard in his re-election fight. Howard, who is lagging behind Labor Party rival Kevin Rudd in the polls, faces a tough election contest in less than nine months. Now, legal experts on both continents are sounding alarms. Some examples:

– Terry Hicks, David’s father, said in a statement that “it is clearly a political fix arranged between Mr. Howard and the Bush administration to shut up Hicks until after the election in November.”

– Bob Brown of Australia’s Green party described the deal as a political “fix” meant to benefit Howard, saying that “the message has gone very clearly from Canberra to Washington to Guantanamo Bay: don’t allow Hicks to be released until after the elections and certainly don’t allow him to speak.”

– Lex Lasry, an Australian who observed the trial, remarked, “What an amazing coincidence that, with an election in Australia by the end of the year, he gets nine months and he is gagged for 12 months from talking about it.”

– Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, said: “I’m not naive. I know that they probably worked out – I’m quite sure they worked out – a plea bargain, that would allow the United States to appear to have effected a reasonably fair proceeding, would allow David Hicks to return to Australia, and satisfy Prime Minister Howard’s needs.”

Andrew Sullivan emphatically states, “If you think this was in any way a legitimate court process, you’re smoking something even George Michael would pay a lot of money for. It was a political deal, revealing the circus that the alleged Gitmo court system really is.”

Cutler, cont’d:

Hard to substantiate any of this, from either side. But it’s all over the Australian news now, evidently. This is from ABC.

“The White House says it is ‘very pleased’ that the US Supreme Court has decided not to hear a case about whether prisoners at Guantanamo Bay can challenge their detention.”

We have a right to challenge detention, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, though I suppose citizens of other countries imprisoned by ours do not.

David Hicks feared he would be shot by his American interrogators after he was captured in Afghanistan, according to an affidavit he recently placed before an English court.

The affidavit, obtained by the ABC’s Four Corners program, sets out Hicks’s claims about his mistreatment in detail.

He says he was slapped, kicked, punched and spat on, could hear other detainees screaming in pain, saw the marks of their beatings and had a shotgun trained on him during interrogation.

“I realised that if I did not cooperate with US interrogators, I might be shot,” he said.

The affidavit also includes Hicks’s claim that he was twice taken off a US warship, flown to an unknown location and physically abused by US personnel for a total of 16 hours.

Two American investigations have found that claim unsubstantiated.

Last week Hicks pleaded guilty to a charge of providing material support for terrorism and as part of the bargain he agreed to withdraw all claims that he had been mistreated during his time at Guantanamo Bay.

But in the affidavit he says he saw one detainee set upon by dogs and physically abused, another’s face slammed into the concrete until he was unconscious and was shown a photo of fellow Australian Mamdouh Habib looking like a corpse with his face black and blue.

The allegations formed part of an affidavit that Hicks signed in an unsuccessful bid to seek British citizenship

Colonel Lawrence Wilkersin, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, says he believes the claims of mistreatment are credible.

“I know this kind of abuse happened,” he told Four Corners.

“I’ve talked to people who participated in it – CIA, military and contractor.”
In other developments:

* The father of confessed terrorism supporter David Hicks says he is still seeking advice on whether he will be restricted from speaking about his son’s time at Guantanamo Bay. (Full Story)
* The White House says it is “very pleased” that the US Supreme Court has decided not to hear a case about whether prisoners at Guantanamo Bay can challenge their detention. (Full Story)

Shouting Big Brother Cameras To Use Child Voices
Psychological warfare to shame dissenters into obedience

Steve Watson
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A previously localized trial of CCTV cameras that allow local government officials to monitor people in the streets and shout orders at anyone they deem to be acting in an anti-social manner is to be enforced nationwide across the UK. In a bizarre psychological move the cameras will speak in a child’s voice.
In an incredibly Orwellian move, loudspeakers are to be fitted to surveillance cameras throughout major cities, allowing CCTV operators to bark commands at people who drop litter, act in an aggressive manner or loiter.
Last October we reported on the trial scheme of these cameras in Middlesbrough. At the time we predicted “The voice of Big Brother has already echoed across several major cities and the program will no doubt be unfolded nationwide once the salivating control freaks in council offices have their way.” Now this has indeed come to pass.
Council workers in a control centre can monitor pictures from 12 talking cameras in the town, and communicate directly with people on the street at the flick of a switch.
Communities are being coerced into adapting existing cameras with the offer of nearly £500,000 in grants.
Home Secretary John Reid has denied that the plans were “Big Brother gone mad”, stating “This is a hugely popular scheme in Middlesbrough and the vast majority of the people here are right behind it.”
Sadly it seems Reid is right as once again the simpering jellyfish-like people of the UK have not reacted in protest to a control freak’s dream come true scheme that surpasses any methods that were ever employed by the state in the Soviet Union or currently in Communist China.
The BBC has put out a new report on this loving scheme:
Note the terroristic “skater boy” who will soon have cease and desist orders barked at him. No longer are skate boards cool and fun, Bart Simpson may still have one, but now they are the tools of evil and must be clamped down upon by the state.
The shouting cameras have been on the table for a long time and were spotted in London, along with large black megaphone apendages, up to one year ago:

In an even more frightening and conniving move it has today been revealed that the bureaucrats behind the cameras will use recordings of children’s voices to discourage any adult they target from dissenting and shouting back at the cameras.
As tech web site The Register today put it:
Using recordings of children’s voices will make it harder for those in opposition to the surveillance society to be defiant of the talking cameras. Moonies and rude gestures will most definitely be a no-no.
Children will be recruited from schools to take part in the scheme and will be shown round CCTV operating rooms on school trips, learning how wonderful the big brother state is and how forcing people to behave in a certain way in public is the essence of a free society.
The use of children’s voices to control adult behaviour is all out psychological warfare when you consider that it constitutes a total reversal of social norms. The government knows this full well and justifies it by suggesting that some people in the UK are now so devoid of morality that there is no way of setting that right other than by ritualistic public isolation and humiliation.

What does it say about the state of a society in general that the government has given up on a portion of people and has decided that the best course of action is to extradite them and label them as fair game for methods of control that wouldn’t look out of place in a horrific dystopian science fiction film?
The current divisions within society are frightening. We have reached the point where the general public is willing to accept massive invasions of their own privacy in order to deal with people they consider to be a bit of a nuisance from time to time.
It would not be surprising at all to see some people reveling in the control, egging on the shouting cameras and engaging in a proverbial “two minutes hate” against those they no longer dare stand up to themselves because they, quite rightly, fear for their own safety if they were to do so.
The most dangerous form of tyranny is one that has the consent of the people.
At the other end of the social divide the “louts” and “yobs” that are the primary target of such control mechanisms feel so divorced from society that their only means of articulation is to resort to acts of violence and vandalism.
How is it possible that further alienating these people, and almost rubbing their faces in the fact, is going to solve the problem?
Because modern day government is so obsessed with short term appearance over long term reality we are witnessing the literal unraveling of society as each problem is provided a solution that in turn engenders an even worse set of problems.
In short, such surveillance state methods are greasing the skids for the police state. As the general public cry out for more and more state intervention in society, and the dropouts become more and more alienated and reactionary, there is only one place we are all going to end up.
In a culture where people are not instilled with internal limiters on their behaviors, increasing external limiters is demanded and thus must be provided. Welcome totalitarianism.
Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
“Smith!” screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. “6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! That’s better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me.”
– George Orwell, 1984.
Post script – Only by standing up and saying no to such schemes will we be able to continue to live in a truly free society. If shouting cameras come to your area start petitions, lobby your local council, organize protest events, and most importantly send us the details!

We can’t enforce Hicks gag: Ruddock
THE gag on David Hicks speaking to the media for 12 months would not be enforceable in Australia, the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, admitted last night.
Mr Ruddock said Australia had no law making it a crime for Hicks to talk, and the United States would be able to act on a breach only if Hicks came “within their reach”.
However, in an interview with the Herald earlier yesterday, Mr Ruddock had said the order preventing Hicks, his family, friends and associates from telling his story was reasonable and enforceable. “What that’s suggesting is that the agreement can’t be avoided by telling [the story] to a family member and then they say it on his behalf,” he said.
Mr Ruddock said the extraordinary condition had nothing to do with the Federal Government. “It’s their agreement,” he said. “I didn’t seek it. The Australian Government didn’t seek it.”
Mr Ruddock said he expected the order to be enforced in Australia because it was agreed by the parties in the plea bargain and that agreement was the basis for Hicks being sent home.
But later, speaking on the ABC’s Lateline he said that for Australia to agree to an extradition, a charge similar to the one laid overseas must exist under Australian law. “In Australia, we have a position about freedom of speech.”
Asked if the gag order meant nothing, and Hicks would be able to speak to the media, Mr Ruddock responded: “I suspect you are probably right”.
Mr Ruddock said the US included the clause in the plea bargain and it was a matter for the US, Hicks, his prosecutors and his counsel. “I don’t think it’s a matter for us to enforce,” he said.
The Australian authorities could act if Hicks tried to profit directly or indirectly by selling his story, under proceeds of crime legislation.
Hicks’s military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, had suggested that if Hicks breached any of the conditions in the plea bargain – such as by speaking to the media – he could be returned to Guantanamo Bay to serve the entire seven-year sentence, which is to be suspended after the nine months.
Major Mori told the ABC: “He could potentially be brought back to Guantanamo to serve it. I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope the media respects that he’s under oath, under obligation not to talk to media, and they don’t try to set him up for failure.”
But Major Mori said the condition of silence might be a blessing. “I do think that David needs a period of time to get back to Australia, to decompress from this whole situation, get back in touch with his family, get back into his education, finish his high school qualifications, without the media harassing him,” he told the ABC’s 7.30 Report.
Hicks’s father, Terry, has expressed his outrage that the gag order extends to him, and constitutional law experts have said that it breaches Australia’s fundamental guarantees of free political discussion.

I think there’s a connection but no one can admit it because of the non-negotiation policy referring to the trading of prisoners. (Cutler)


by Sylvie Lanteaume 2 hours, 51 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Wednesday welcomed Iran’s release of 15 British naval personnel, but remained evasive about the fate of five Iranians held incognito since being seized in Iraq three months ago.

President George W. Bush “welcomes the news,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, after Tehran announced it was releasing the 15 captured on March 23 in Gulf waters.

But the US administration was at pains to deny any link between the release, and reports Wednesday that five Iranians captured by US forces in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil in January would be granted their first consular access.

On Tuesday Bush appeared to rule out any deal to win the Britons’ release, saying he agreed with British Prime Minister
Tony Blair “that there should be no quid pro quos when it comes to the hostages.”

“There is no link whatsoever. Neither we nor the British nor anyone else, as far as I know, has made that link,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey said when asked if there was a connection between Wednesday’s events.

“It would be pure speculation on my part to try and ascribe motive to any of this stuff. I simply don’t know and I don’t think anyone does short of the Iranians,” the spokesman added.

Blair also insisted Wednesday there had been “no negotiation” to secure the freedom of the captured British sailors and marines.

“Throughout we have taken a measured approach: firm but calm, not negotiating but not confronting either,” he said.

But he thanked Britain’s partners, including “friends and allies in the region,” for their efforts, amid reports that he had called on
Syria to help mediate with Iran.

The surprise announcement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the 15 were being freed coincided with the release on Monday in Baghdad of Iranian diplomat, Jalal Sharafi, kidnapped at gunpoint in Iraq in early February.

Iranian state media also said earlier Wednesday that the five Iranian officials captured in January in Iraq were expected to receive their first visit by an Iranian diplomat.

But US military spokesman Major General William Caldwell told reporters in Baghdad that a consular request to visit the five was still being examined.

“There is a consular request and it is being assessed,” he said.

The five were arrested by US forces in Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan on January 11, with the United States accusing the men of being members of the elite Al-Quds brigade of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

In both cases, the US administration has denied any linkage to the release of the British sailors and marines.

The United States was not behind the kidnapping of Sharafi and therefore was not responsible for his release, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said however the foreign ministry had been working to secure Sharafi’s release for some time saying the ministry had pursued the matter with “all the relevant authorities.”

“We approached, contacted, followed that case with both Iraqi entities and American entities with the same vigor to ensure the release,” the minister said.

But asked about the Sharafi case, McCormack expressed surprise at any US involvement: “Certainly not to my knowledge. I don’t think we have had or have anything to do in any respect with this case.”

As for the timing of the announcement of the Britons’ release and the granting of consular access to the five detained Iranians, the State Department said it was pure coincidence.

The US administration has so far remained vague about the fate of the five, who Theran has said were diplomats working in a consulate office in Arbil.

“They are being treated as any other security detainee in Iraq,” McCormack said.

“Let’s remember why they are being detained. They are being detained because they were involved in networks that were providing EFDs (explosive foreign devices) to individuals in Iraq for using those EFDs against our troops.”

Washington has accused Iranian groups of arming Iraqi insurgents with sophisticated explosives capable of penetrating armored vehicles and fomenting trouble in Iraq.

But despite repeated questions neither the State Department or the
Pentagon has provided answers as to where the five Iranians are being held, their status or the charges which could be leveled against them.

4:01 MECCA TIME, 1:01 GMT
Iran strikes blow in propaganda war

Britons were shown on Iranian television
thanking Ahmadinejad [EPA]

Iran’s blame game with Britain over the capture of 15 sailors appears to have been defused after the Iranian president announced they were to be released, but the claim game is just beginning.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his country’s decision to free the soldiers after 13 days was a gift to the British people.

In the process, his country was able to deflect attention from its nuclear programme and prove it could cause trouble in the Middle East if it wanted to.

But it did not get the main thing it sought – a public apology from London for entering Iranian waters.

Britain, which said its crew was in Iraqi waters when seized, said it never offered a quid pro quo, but relied on quiet diplomacy.

Your Views

“It is Iran’s responsibility to find a quick solution”
Emkay, Auckland, New Zealand
Send us your views

Tony Blair, the British prime minister, said London’s “measured approach” had been effective.

“Throughout we have taken a measured approach – firm but calm, not negotiating, but not confronting either,” adding a message to the Iranian people that “we bear you no ill will.”

However, Iran’s announcement coincided with the release in Baghdad of an Iranian diplomat seized in Iraq in early February.

Iran had blamed US forces for the abduction but the US denied involvement.

Iranian state media also said five Iranian officials captured by US forces in northern Iraq in January and accused of seeking to stir trouble were expected to receive their first visit by an Iranian diplomat soon.

James Dobbins, a former Bush administration envoy to Afghanistan, said: “It allowed the Iranians to demonstrate that they can’t be trifled with. They have a capacity to take action, and that will undoubtedly make people more careful.”

The US cautiously welcomed Iran’s announcement, although Dick Cheney, the vice-president, said “it was unfortunate that they were ever taken in the first place”.

He said he hoped there would be no “quid pro quo” for their release.

More careful

But what Iran might have won is a more careful Western approach to the Middle East power.

The US says its policy is to arrest Iranians in Iraq who are funnelling arms or money to Shia fighters there. But it may be more cautious if it thinks Iran is willing to retaliate by seizing US troops.

Iran may also have been trying to moderate Ahmadinejad’s hardline reputation, allowing him to announce the release to appear benevolent.

Or, it might have aimed to simply show that it can compromise, which may help it in its dispute with the US over its nuclear programme.


How the diplomatic standoff unfolded

But some analysts said Iran’s actions had caused it to be distrusted more by the international community, even if Tehran may have scored a slight propaganda victory at home.

Ahmadinejad said the British government was “not brave enough” to admit the crew had been in Iranian waters when it was captured.

But he said Britain had sent a letter to the Iranian foreign ministry pledging that the incident “will not happen again”.

Britain’s foreign ministry would not give details about the letter but said its position was clear that the detained crew had been in Iraqi waters.

Ahmadinejad declared that even though Iran had the right to put the Britons on trial, he had “pardoned” them to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, celebrated on March 30 this year, and the coming Easter holiday.

“This pardon is a gift to the British people,” he said.


After the news conference, Iranian television showed a beaming Ahmadinejad on the steps of the presidential palace shaking hands with the Britons decked out in business suits and Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the only female crew member, wearing an Islamic head scarf.

One of the British men told Ahmadinejad: “Your people have been really kind to us, and we appreciate it very much.” Another said: “We are grateful for your forgiveness.”

Ahmadinejad responded in Farsi: “You are welcome.”

But it was not just Iran and Britain who were trying to come off looking good in this standoff.

The president gave the coast guard commander
a medal for the capture of the Britons [Reuters]
Syria, Iran’s close ally, said it had played a role in winning the release of the sailors.

Walid al-Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, said in Damascus on Wednesday: “Syria exercised a sort of quiet diplomacy to solve this problem and encourage dialogue between the two parties.”

The breakthrough appeared to have caught the British government by surprise.

On Tuesday, Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, had told reporters not to expect a quick end to the standoff.

Some analysts say Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, decided the crisis had gone far enough at a time when Tehran faces mounting pressure over its nuclear programme.

Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explained: “The thing … about Iran’s negotiating strategy is that they say, ‘No, no, no’ until it suddenly becomes ‘Yes’.”

Whether that is a sign of internal dissent in Iran or finely honed, clever brinkmanship, Iran clearly gained some things from the dispute – at least enough to make the West cautious that it would be willing to enter into such a standoff again.

Observers fear that the 13-day crisis may be precursor of things to come in Iran’s confrontations with the West.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

18:32 MECCA TIME, 15:32 GMT
Amnesty: Guantanamo ‘deteriorating’

Amnesty says Guantanamo’s Camp Six is more confined than older facilities at the military jail [AP]

Conditions for detainees at the US military jail at Guantanamo Bay are deteriorating, a report by Amnesty International says.

The rights group says some detainees at the camp are close to mental and physical breakdown.

Amnesty says about 165 detainees – a third of those at the jail – are now being held at the new Camp Six facility.

“Amnesty International believes that conditions in Camp Six, as shown in photographs or described by detainees and their attorneys, contravene international standards for humane treatment,” the report says.

Increased confinement

“To be in the situation where one can’t walk more than three steps in any direction … is one of the most harrowing experiences one can have”
Moazzam Begg, former Guantanamo Bay detainee
Read Amnesty International’s latest report on the conditions at Guantanamo

Camp Six is composed of windowless, steel cells where inmates are confined for at least 22 hours a day.

The US authorities say the new facility allows inmates more “privacy” but Amnesty says Camp Six has created increased conditions of extreme isolation, to the detriment of prisoners’ mental health.

Amnesty says Camp Six is more “enclosed” than Camp Five, where detainees are thought to have been held in confinement for up to 24 hours at a time.

“While conditions in both camps are extremely harsh, according to a contact who has viewed cells in each facility, the difference in Camp Six is that detainees have no way of knowing whether it is day or night,” the report says.

“One detainee has described Camp Six as being a ‘dungeon above the ground’.”

Findings ‘unsurprising’

Moazzam Begg, a former detainee who was released without charge from Guantanamo Bay in January 2005, told Al Jazeera that he was unsurprised at the findings contained in the Amnesty report.

“I think the facts that are now coming out are highly unsurprising considering that the US government has always maintained [the] posture that people need to be broken – physically, spiritually and mentally – in order that they become more compliant,” he said.

Begg said the US’s lack of communication to detainees increased their mental distress further.

“[Detainees] don’t have meaningful communication with their families. They don’t know when or if they will ever face any trial or charge,” he said.

“To be in the situation where one can’t walk more than three steps in any direction, because the cell one is in is only eight feet by six feet, is one of the most harrowing experiences one can have.”

Source: Al Jazeera

8:59 MECCA TIME, 5:59 GMT
Playboy Indonesia ‘not pornography’

The case has drawn protests from Islamic groups who say the magazine threatens social morals [Reuters]

The editor-in-chief of Playboy Indonesia has been found innocent of violating indecency laws in the world’s most populous Muslim nation and will not face time behind bars.

Erwin Arnada had faced a maximum punishment of more than two years in prison in a case closely watched by conservative Muslim groups.

Arnada, who had vowed to continue publishing the magazine whatever the court’s  decision, later described the verdict as victory for press freedom.

But lawyers for some Islamic groups have said they will seek to bring another prosecution against the magazine.

Reading his verdict, Efran Basyuning, the presiding judge of the South Jakarta District Court, said pictures of scantily dressed women could not, under criminal laws, “be categorised as pornography.”

Hundreds of police armed with water canon were deployed outside the court in anticipation of any backlash from a crowd of protesters over the verdict.

“We will attack the Playboy office and sweep up copies of the magazine, which will destroy the morals of Indonesian children”
Irwan Asidi
Islamic Defenders Front
Prosecutors had called for Arnada to be jailed in the case seen as pitting press freedom against conservative Islamic values in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

The prosecution said Arnada had upset society and damaged Indonesia’s morals.

But Arnada argued that Playboy Indonesia does not publish photographs of naked women or do anything to break Indonesia’s indecency laws.

“This is a great gift for Playboy Indonesia because up
until today for one year my friends and I worked under
pressure,” Arnada said at a press conference after the verdict was announced.

“Today’s verdict proved press freedom is respected in this country.”

Before the verdict he said the magazine would not be pulled from the shelves even if he ended up behind bars.

Playboy’s debut issue in April last year featured several models on its cover and inside pages, showing cleavage and long legs – but nothing more explicit.

Many other magazines and websites carrying much racier content are widely available in the country.


Arnada had faced more than two years
in jail if found guilty [Reuters]
A lawyer representing a coalition of Muslim groups opposed to the magazine said they would refile the complaint not only against Playboy but against other adult magszines.

Earlier a group calling itself the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) warned it would “declare war” against the adult magazine, which is still being published in Indonesia, if the court in Jakarta failed to jail Arnada.

“We will attack the Playboy office and sweep up copies of the magazine, which will destroy the morals of Indonesian children,” Irwan Asidi, one of the Front’s leaders, told the AFP news agency ahead of the court’s ruling.

About 20 FPI members were allowed inside the courtroom itself as a panel of judges began reading the verdict.

“Playboy destroyed the mentality of the Indonesian generation. We have to fight against them. Islam not only protects Muslim followers but also non-Muslim,” FPI member Abdul Khodir said.

Speaking before the verdict, Ina Rachman, Arnada’s lawyer, said she hoped the court would rule objectively despite the protests.

“I hope the judges will take a decision independently and free from third-party influences,” she told AFP.

“We all know that the FPI has threatened all parties, including the judges and myself.”

Last year Playboy moved its Indonesian headquarters to the predominantly Hindu island of Bali after attacks on its offices in the capital, Jakarta.

Source: Agencies

14:46 MECCA TIME, 11:46 GMT
UN warns of Darfur ‘catastrophe’

About 13,000 aid workers are operating in the
Darfur region of Sudan [AFP]

The new United Nations humanitarian chief has warned of the “crying need” for political action to bring peace to Sudan’s Darfur region.

In a report to the UN security council, John Holmes said 2.2 million people had fled their homes in Darfur, and the number of displaced civilians has risen dramatically in Chad and the Central African Republic.

Holmes said it was time for politicians and concerned leaders to stop playing “protracted games with each other, with little or no thought to the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens, whom the international community meanwhile keeps alive”.

The UN emergency relief co-ordinator warned that despite 13,000 aid workers now operating in the region the poor security situation was putting efforts to help the population at risk.
Your Views

“Clearly, Darfur needs help from the rest of the world”
Jack, Houston, USA
Send us your views

“Despite its scale and success in sustaining millions and saving literally hundreds of thousands of lives, the Darfur humanitarian operation is increasingly fragile,” Holmes said after returning from a tour of Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic.

“If things do not get better, or if there were more serious incidents involving humanitarian workers, some organisations could start to withdraw and the operation could start to unravel.

“Then we could face a rapid humanitarian catastrophe … We must do everything in our power to avoid it.”

When Jan Egeland, Holmes’ predecessor, first warned the Security Council of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur three years ago this week, about 230 relief workers were struggling to assist 350,000 people.

Aid workers ‘abused’

Holmes told the Security Council that aid workers had been “physically and verbally abused, offices and residences raided and personal belongings stolen.”

About 2.2 million people have been displaced
by the conflict in Darfur [AFP]
He blamed both government forces and rebels for the violations of international law and widespread human rights abuses.

At least 200,000 people have died since the Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 but some sources believe that the death toll is much higher.

The conflict broke out when rebels from minority tribes took up arms to demand an equal share of national resources. This prompted a  heavy-handed crackdown by Khartoum and the Janjawid militia.

Holmes said that more than 250,000 people had fled to displaced persons’ camps in the last six months and more than half of the population could be living in them within 18 months.

“Meanwhile, politicisation and militarisation of camps have become a fact of life, creating a future time bomb just waiting to go off,” he warned.

The former British ambassador to France also emphasised the effect the conflict was having on Sudan’s neighbours.

“The spillover effect from Darfur is clear, not least in eastern Chad.”

He also called for better protection of the Central African Republic’s border with Darfur, through the deployment of an international peacekeeping force.

Source: Agencies

Experts wrangle over wording in U.N. climate report
Thu Apr 5, 2007 10:27AM EDT
By Jeff Mason
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Climate experts sparred on Thursday over the wording of a U.N. report spelling out the grim impact of global warming and are struggling to meet a Friday deadline.
Delegates from more than 100 countries convened in Brussels this week to discuss the report and have yet to agree on all its contents, less than 24 hours before its scheduled Friday release, people familiar with the talks said.
It predicts rising temperatures will lead to more hunger in Africa, the melting of Himalayan glaciers, more heatwaves in the United States and damage to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
“There is wrangling happening,” said Hans Verolme, director of the global climate change program at WWF, an environmental group that is an observer to the meeting.
“There are some who are questioning the scientific basis … of some of the summary statements, which is leading the authors to have to go back to the underlying document.”
The U.N. panel’s report is the most authoritative study since 2001 on the regional impact of climate change.
Verolme said the fact world leaders would read the report’s summary had added pressure for consensus on the wording.
“There is discussion whether something is ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’, and my sense is that is because people are aware here that heads of state are paying attention,” he said.
“If the text says this is very likely, the response (from governments) has to be very significant.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draws on work by 2,500 scientists. A previous report released in Paris in February concluded it was more than 90 percent likely that recent warming had a predominantly human cause.
“They know they are under the gun, but it could run late,” one delegate said of the Brussels meeting. “It’s more complex than it was in Paris and they are further behind schedule.”
The IPCC has only once broken up without a deal, at talks in Geneva in 1995. It met successfully in Montreal a few weeks later. “It’s not the end of the world if you have to give it a pause,” said James Bruce, a Canadian who chaired those talks.
Environmental groups said this week governments must act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk exacerbating poverty in developing countries and destroying natural wonders worldwide.
The report says rising temperatures will have costs for society even though some countries, such as Canada and Russia in the north, might benefit for a while from higher farm yields.
“Impacts of unmitigated climate change will vary regionally but, aggregated and discounted to the present, they are very likely to impose costs … and these costs would increase over time,” a draft copy says.
The draft says “roughly 20-30 percent of species are likely to be at risk of irreversible extinction” if the global average temperature rises by 1.5-2.5 degrees Celsius (2.7-4.5 degrees Fahrenheit).
Seas could keep rising for centuries and the report emphasizes the link between human activities and climate change.
“At the global scale the anthropogenic (human) component of warming over the last three decades has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems,” it says.
It says there is “medium confidence” that Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets could start melting if temperatures rise more than 1-2 degrees Celsius “causing sea level rise of 4-6 meters over centuries to millennia”.
(Additional reporting by Alister Dolye in Oslo)
U.S. supports “terrorists”, Iranian speaker says
Thu Apr 5, 2007 12:13PM EDT
By Kamran Haider
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The United States is putting pressure on Iran by supporting anti-Iranian militants operating from the Pakistani border region, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Gholamali Haddadadel, said on Thursday.
But Haddadadel, speaking to reporters after talks with Pakistani leaders, said Pakistan was not involved in helping the militants.
“There is no doubt in our minds that the United States spares no effort to put pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Haddadadel said, speaking through an interpreter.
“The best indication of United States’ support to a particular terrorist group is that one of the leaders of this terrorist group was given the opportunity to speak on VoA after committing the crime,” he said, referring to a Voice of America radio broadcast after an unspecified attack.
The U.S. channel ABC News reported on Tuesday the United States had been secretly advising and encouraging a Pakistani militant group that had carried out a series of guerrilla raids inside Iran.
ABC, citing U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources, said the raids had resulted in the deaths or capture of Iranian soldiers and officials.
The group, called Jundullah and made up of members of the Baluchi ethnic group, who live in both Pakistan and Iran, operated from Pakistan’s Baluchistan province on the border with Iran, ABC said.
The group took responsibility for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on a bus in the Iranian city of Zehedan, ABC said.
ABC cited Pakistani government sources as saying the secret campaign against Iran was on the agenda when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as “tendentious”. It said the suggestion Pakistan was involved in a secret war against Iran was “an absurd and sinister insinuation”.
Haddadadel said Iran had to step up cooperation with Pakistan on the border.
“Some of the militants, the rebel forces are active in our border areas and we should work with Pakistan in order to increase security cooperation,” he said.
“There is no news, no evidence, and we don’t have any reason to believe that the military establishment in Pakistan is also supporting such militants groups,” he said.
Asked if he thought the United States would attack Iran over its nuclear program, he said: “I think it is highly unlikely. We do not see any reason for military action against Iran and we do not do anything to encourage military action.”
He also said he hoped work on a gas pipeline, from Iran, through Pakistan to energy-hungry India, would begin in July. The United States opposes the pipeline.
“The pipeline has political messages that there is security in the region and the three countries – Iran, Pakistan and India – decide on their own without foreign, external influence.”
The Money Chase: Obama Cashes In
POSTED: Wednesday, April 04, 2007
FROM BLOG: Rolling Stone National Affairs Daily – Up to the minute politics and current events, from the editors of Rolling Stone.

The following blog post is from an independent writer and is not connected with Reuters News. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not endorsed by

I guess counting all that cash takes time. Barack Obama’s campaign has finally announced that it raised $25 million in the last quarter, with $23.5 million of that being dedicated primary money. On the face of it, this puts him a hair shy of Hillary Clinton. But it seems likely that he actually has more primary cash than Clinton, who has not disclosed what portion of her haul is earmarked for the general election.
UPDATE: ABC News is reporting that roughly $6 million of Hillary’s $26 million is non-primary, making Obama king of the finance hill on the Democratic side. Interestingly, he had more individual donors (100K+) than Clinton and John Edwards combined.
A roundup:
Hillary Clinton: $26 million
Barack Obama: $25 million
Mitt Romney: $23 million
Rudy Giuliani: $15 million
John Edwards: $14 million
John McCain: $12.5 million
Bill Richardson: $6 million
U.K. intrusion was a test of Iran’s defenses – Iranian official
05/04/2007 17:44 TEHRAN, April 5 (RIA Novosti) – The U.K.’s intrusion into Iran’s territorial waters was an attempt by the West to test the republic’s defense capabilities, a senior aide to Iran’s supreme leader said Thursday.
Iran detained 15 British Navy personnel in the Gulf March 23 for allegedly violating its maritime border with Iraq. Britain has insisted the servicemen were in Iraqi waters under a UN mandate, and were returning in dinghies to HMS Cornwall after patrolling oil platforms.
“By trespassing into our country’s territorial waters, the occupation forces in Iraq sought, among other things, to test Iran. But considering Iran’s political and military wisdom, they met with a firm rebuff,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, international affairs advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
He said that Iran, like the Islamic world as a whole, “is not afraid of Western power.”
“Muslims must know that they can stand up to the strongest enemies of Islam,” he said.
The 15 British Navy personnel, released by Iranian authorities Wednesday after almost two weeks in custody, returned to the United Kingdom Thursday.
The freed sailors and marines arrived at Heathrow airport on a British Airways flight at 12:03 p.m. local time (11:03 a.m. GMT). They were then transferred to two military helicopters to fly to the Chivenor military base in Devon, 200 miles southwest of London, for a private meeting with their families.
Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced the release of the 15 Royal Navy personnel in a surprise move late Wednesday, following a diplomatic standoff that his country and Britain had been engaged in since the crew’s detention in the Persian Gulf March 23.
Ahmadinejad announced the Britons’ release after just two days of talks, saying it was not the result of a deal, but that they had been pardoned by the Iranian leadership as a gesture of good will.
In return for the release, the British Foreign Ministry said it would soon consider lifting restrictions imposed on Iran following the incident.
The crisis pushed up oil prices and raised fears of a military conflict in the volatile region, as speculation grew of an impending strike by the U.S. on Iran in April.
The U.S. administration has repeatedly accused Tehran of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs by providing weapons and extremist training to the country’s Shiite factions. It also suspects the Islamic Republic of covertly developing nuclear weapons.
In January U.S. servicemen detained five Iranian officials in Erbil, in Kurdistan, confiscating computers and documents without providing any explanation.
Shortly before the release of the British sailors, IRNA reported that Iranian diplomats would be allowed to meet the five Iranians detained by the U.S.
Another Iranian diplomat, seized separately in February in Baghdad, was released and returned to Iran Tuesday. Iran accused the U.S. of abducting him, a charge the U.S. denied.
No grounds to expect early U.S. strike against Iran – Russian diplomat
05/04/2007 15:31 MOSCOW, April 5 (RIA Novosti) – There are no grounds to expect a U.S. attack on Iran in the next few days, a deputy Russian foreign minister said Thursday.
The last few days have seen reports in Russian and foreign media that the U.S. has scheduled an operation, codenamed Bite, against Iran for 4:00 a.m. local time April 6. The operation to deliver air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities was to have lasted more than 12 hours.
“Our contacts with the U.S. side give no grounds for such expectations,” Alexander Losyukov said.
The U.S. has not excluded a military option in the standoff with Iran over its refusal to abandon its uranium enrichment program. The UN Security Council passed a new resolution on Iran two weeks ago toughening economic sanctions against the country and accepting the possibility of a military solution to the crisis.
Last week, a Russian security official said that Russian intelligence had information that U.S. Armed Forces had nearly completed preparations for a possible military operation against Iran and would be ready to strike in early April.
The U.S. Administration sees Iran as a “rogue state” and is determined to stop the Islamic Republic, diplomatically or otherwise, from obtaining nuclear weapons. Washington now plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Central Europe allegedly to protect itself from potential missile strikes from Iran or North Korea.
Russia, which is separated from Iran in the south by three tiny South Caucasus nations and shares a sea border with the Islamic Republic, has been actively promoting a diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue.
Kuwaiti media warns of planned U.S. strike against Iran in Apr.
04/04/2007 14:08 ABU DHABI, April 4 (RIA Novosti) – A Kuwaiti newspaper warned Wednesday that the United States is planning a missile strike against Iran some time in April.
In an editorial citing unnamed Washington sources, As-Siyasa said air-to-surface missiles could be used in U.S. strikes against Iran, but that no ground operation would be launched to avoid casualties among U.S. service personnel.
A political statement announcing the strike will be delivered by President George W. Bush later this month, the newspaper said. It will justify the military action against Iran by the need to enhance security, peace and stability in the Gulf region and in the Middle East, and will reemphasize the danger of Tehran’s nuclear program to the United States and its allies.
Iran, blacklisted by Bush as part of what he calls “the axis of evil,” will be accused of interfering in Iraqi domestic affairs along with Syria, As-Siyasa said. Other accusations likely to be leveled at the Islamic Republic will include complicity in fuelling conflicts in Somalia, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan, as well as jeopardizing navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, the main passageway for oil tankers carrying Gulf crude to Asian markets.
According to the Kuwaiti newspaper, the U.S. Administration hopes its first military strike against Iran will trigger an anti-government outburst in the Islamic Republic, as there is growing discontent in Iranian society over the policies of “the cruel regime advocating a culture of death.”
Iran ready to defend itself from possible U.S. attack – speaker
05/04/2007 21:33 ISLAMABAD, April 5 (RIA Novosti) – Iran is prepared to defend itself should the United States attack it, the speaker of Iran’s parliament said Thursday.
The last few days have seen reports in Russian and foreign media that the U.S. has scheduled an operation, codenamed Bite, against Iran for 4:00 a.m. local time April 6. The operation, should it materialize, would deliver air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities over a 12-hour period.
“The Iranian people are ready and determined to protect their land and to repel any enemy attack,” Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel said at a press conference during his visit to Pakistan.
However, he said it was highly unlikely the U.S. would attack his country, as “the U.S. has no real reason to do so.”
The speaker added that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had assured him that Pakistan would never get involved in any actions aimed at Iran.
The U.S. has not excluded a military option in the standoff with Iran over its refusal to abandon its uranium enrichment program.
The UN Security Council passed a new resolution on Iran two weeks ago toughening economic sanctions against the country and accepting the possibility of a military solution to the crisis.
The U.S. Administration sees Iran as a “rogue state” and is determined to stop the Islamic Republic, diplomatically or otherwise, from obtaining nuclear weapons. Washington now plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Central Europe allegedly to protect itself from potential missile strikes from Iran or North Korea.
Iran’s air defense can repel U.S. air strikes – Russian brass
05/04/2007 14:44 MOSCOW, April 5 (RIA Novosti) – Iran has air defense systems capable of repelling possible United States air strikes, a high-ranking Russian military official said Thursday.
A Kuwaiti newspaper warned Wednesday that the United States was planning a missile strike against Iran some time in April. In an editorial citing unnamed Washington sources, As-Siyasa said air-to-surface missiles could be used in U.S. strikes against Iran, but that no ground operation would be launched to avoid casualties among U.S. service personnel.
“In line with my assessment, Iran’s air defense system is strong enough,” Colonel General Yury Solovyov, commander of the Air Defense Forces Special Command (former Moscow Military District Air Defense Command), said. “Currently Iran has our [Russian] air defense missile systems, which are capable of tackling U.S. combat aircraft. Iran also has French and other countries’ [defense] systems.”
Russia, which is separated from Iran in the south by three tiny South Caucasus nations and shares a sea border with the Islamic Republic, has been actively promoting a diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue.
Solovyov also said that Russia had been receiving detailed information on the current developments in the Persian Gulf situation.
Last week, a Russian security official said that Russian intelligence had information that U.S. Armed Forces had nearly completed preparations for a possible military operation against Iran and would be ready to strike in early April.
The U.S. has not excluded a military option in the standoff with Iran over its refusal to abandon its uranium enrichment program. The UN Security Council passed a new resolution on Iran two weeks ago toughening economic sanctions against the country and accepting the possibility of a military solution to the crisis.
The U.S. Administration sees Iran as a “rogue state” and is determined to stop the Islamic Republic, diplomatically or otherwise, from obtaining nuclear weapons. Washington now plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Central Europe allegedly to protect itself from potential missile strikes from Iran or North Korea.
April 5, 2007
U.S. Is Reviewing Request by Iran to Let Its Envoy Visit 5 Iranians Seized in a Raid in Iraq
BAGHDAD, April 4 — American officials are reviewing an informal request from the Iranian government for an envoy to visit five Iranians who were imprisoned after an American raid in northern Iraq in January, an American military spokesman said Wednesday.
The spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said at a news conference that the request was “being assessed at this time.” He added that the Americans had conducted the raid to go after people suspected of carrying out illegal operations in Iraq. The general did not say when the Americans might approve or reject the request.
He also said that the International Committee of the Red Cross had recently been allowed to visit a group of prisoners that included one of the five Iranians.
General Caldwell’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question concerning a report on Wednesday from the Iranian state news agency that an envoy from the Iranian Embassy in Iraq would meet with the five detainees.
Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, said the five Iranians were a subject of discussion at a regional conference held last month in Baghdad that American and Iranian diplomats attended.
General Caldwell’s comments came as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said Wednesday that his country would free 15 British marines and sailors who had been held for nearly two weeks. The British detainees were seized by the Iranian military in the northern Persian Gulf on March 23 and were accused of having trespassed into Iran’s territorial waters.
General Caldwell did not say whether there was any connection between talks over the five Iranians and negotiations over the 15 British captives.
The five Iranians imprisoned by the Americans were among six people detained in a raid on Jan. 11 in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region. American attack helicopters and armored vehicles backed up the soldiers who carried out the raid, and 200 Kurdish soldiers surrounded the Americans in a tense standoff before letting them leave with their prisoners. One of the detainees was released that day.
Iranian officials have said that the men are diplomats. Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister and a Kurd, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that although the men being held were not officially diplomats, they had nevertheless been acting as liaisons between Iraq and Iran.
“It was not a clandestine operation,” he said. “They were known by us. They were under surveillance by regional security. They operated with the approval of the regional government and with the knowledge of the Iraqi government. We were in the process of formalizing that liaison office into a consulate. Then they would have diplomatic immunity.”
The Bush administration has long accused Iran of giving weapons and money to Shiite militias in Iraq, but it has increased its accusations in recent months. On Tuesday, an Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped more than eight weeks ago by men wearing uniforms from the Iraqi security forces was released to the Iranian Embassy. Mr. Zebari said that he had pushed hard to get the captors to free the diplomat, Jalal Sharafi, and that he was still working on the issue of the five Iranians held by the Americans.
Mr. Zebari said the liberation of Mr. Sharafi, the second secretary of the Iranian Embassy here, had nothing to do with the standoff over the 15 British marines and sailors.
In other political wrangling, two members of Parliament who answer to Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, were fired by Mr. Sadr for meeting with the Americans, a third legislator, Saleh al-Ajili, said Wednesday. American military officials say Mr. Sadr is in Iran, while Mr. Sadr’s supporters say he is still in Iraq.
After the elections for Parliament in late 2005, political blocs filled the seats with members they had selected. Recent legislation has given the blocs the right to replace members, Mr. Ajili said.
He declined to give details of the meetings that the two fired legislators, Salam al-Maliki and Qusay Abdul Wahab, had with the Americans. Mr. Maliki is a former transportation minister. “We have an order not to meet with anyone from the occupation authorities,” Mr. Ajili said.
In Washington, Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the American forces in Iraq, told a television interviewer on Wednesday that there had been some initial signs of progress in the plan to improve security in Baghdad, including a decline in sectarian killings. But he acknowledged that the militant group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had responded with “sensational attacks” in Tal Afar and Kirkuk. He made his comments on “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.”
He also suggested that the Congressional measures setting a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq might embolden the insurgents. “I’m not sure that hard and fast deadlines are useful in the sense of providing the enemies out here just a time to which they have to hang tough, and then know that we would be going,” he said.
In Iraq, five employees of a power station were shot dead on Wednesday in an ambush west of Kirkuk, police officials said. In the Kut area, a concealed bomb killed two Iraqi soldiers. A former Iraqi Army colonel was shot dead in a restaurant in Falluja, and a civilian was killed by a sniper in Baghdad.
Four Iraqi policemen were killed in an ambush in restive Diyala Province on Tuesday night, a police official said Wednesday. A civilian was killed and seven were wounded in an attack the same day in the town of Khalis. The bodies of four people, including a policeman, were found Wednesday in Baquba, the capital of Diyala. Three Iraqi Army soldiers were killed in the province in a bomb attack on Wednesday, and one civilian was killed. Another civilian was discovered dead on Wednesday.
At least 22 shepherds and their sheep were seized Wednesday west of the city of Karbala by men in police uniforms. Police officials in Karbala denied any involvement.,,2050424,00.html#article_continue
Diplomacy or a deal – how the standoff ended

• Hint of US concession on Iranians held in Iraq
• Syria claims to have played leading role

Julian Borger, Michael Howard in Baghdad, Robert Tait in Tehran
Thursday April 5, 2007
The release of the 15 Britons was a “gift” to the British people to celebrate the birth of the prophet Muhammad and Easter, according to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It also came two hours after an American general revealed the US might allow Iranian diplomats to visit five countrymen arrested in Iraq three months ago.
The timing has fuelled speculation of a deal to free the British sailors and marines seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In a further coincidence, yesterday’s unexpected announcement came a day after the mysterious release of another Iranian diplomat, Jalal Sharafi, kidnapped in Baghdad at the beginning of the year by gunmen in Iraqi government uniforms.
The 13-day crisis was enveloped in a fog of secret diplomacy and informal talks. The Syrians claim to have played a leading role in persuading Iran of the foolishness in detaining the Britons any longer. Iran’s decision may have been the culmination of many reasons, but observers say Tehran must have been convinced it was in its interests to give up its bargaining chips.
The existence of a deal was denied by all involved. George Bush insisted there would be no “quid pro quo”. British officials said they had Iranian assurances a prisoner swap was not on the agenda, and President Ahmadinejad was adamant the release was for “humanitarian reasons”.
Yesterday the Iraqi foreign minister, who appears to have played a critical go-between role, added his voice to the chorus of denial. “The British media are linking it as if it is part of bargain with Iran to release the British sailors and marines. It has no connection whatsoever”, Hoshyar Zebari told The Guardian yesterday.
Mr Zebari said he had asked the US military to grant consular access to the Iranian diplomats (known as the “Irbil five” after the town in which they were arrested) in a bid to “ease the atmosphere” between Iran and the US at the time of last month’s Baghdad security conference.
The US military spokesman, Major General William Caldwell said authorities were considering the request for access.
A source close to the Revolutionary Guards gave a different account. The fate of the Irbil five was not a motive for the capture, he said, but it did become a negotiating point after the event. “Officially there is no swap. But there should not be a double standard. You want access [to your prisoners]. We want access [to ours].”
He provided the first comprehensive Iranian version of events on March 23 when the 15 Britons were captured by Revolutionary Guard sailors on the shallow seas of the northern Gulf. Not only had the British patrol strayed into Iranian waters, he claimed, but it was at least the fourth such incursion in three months.
“They came to our waters before … at least three times,” the Iranian source said. “We gave them notice that you shouldn’t be. We didn’t use aggressive methods. We didn’t shoot [across the British bows]. Both sides know the sensitive atmosphere.”
The source explained that the Britons had been captured by low-ranking Revolutionary Guards, but once arrested, their release required intervention on a higher level. That was delayed by the No Rouz (new year) holidays which only ended on Tuesday. “Junior people got them, but only senior people could let them go, and they can only let them go after an investigation,” he said. During No Rouz, he added, “everyone is in the villages and mobile phones don’t work there.”
The US refusal to exclude the use of military force against Iran to stop its nuclear programme, together with a series of separatist attacks in Iran’s border regions had put the Revolutionary Guard on alert for incursions. “They are on a yellow state of readiness,” the source said. “We don’t believe the British intent is to start a war, but America has said it is on the table.”
The investigation into the incident would have run its course and the Britons would have been released, but the affair was complicated by Tony Blair’s decision to take the matter to the UN security council last Wednesday, he added.
Analysts in Tehran said the British crew provided a convenient tool for the Iranian government at a time it was casting around for a means to strike back against an Anglo-American policy of isolation.
Iran’s leadership had become alarmed about UN sanctions over its nuclear programme as well as the seizure of diplomats and operatives in Iraq. Wary of striking at the US directly, the Iranians saw the sailors as an opportunity to humiliate Britain.
“Iran was seeking the chance to get something out of Britain,” said Mohammad Atrianfar, a commentator with close ties to moderate figures in the Iranian regime. “The issue isn’t important militarily but it has been useful politically.”
The return of Mr Sharafi to Iran on Tuesday and the prospect of access to the Irbil five strengthened the hand of President Ahmadinejad, according to Issa Saharkhiz, another political analyst.
The Britons’ televised “confessions” have served an internal political purpose – convincing a sceptical public that Iran is threatened by a determined enemy.
Wednesday April 4, 02:30 PM
Kuwait City, April 4 (Xinhua) The US is planning to attack Iran’s nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities by the end of this month, the Kuwait-based Arab Times newspaper reported Wednesday.
Citing anonymous sources in Washington, it said that various White House departments had started preparing the political speech to be delivered by the US president later this month, announcing the military attack on Iran.
The speech will provide the ‘evidence’ and the ‘justification’ for the US to resort to the military option after failing to persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions, said the report.
According to the Times, one of the justifications expected in the speech is Iran’s alleged role in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq by supporting various militias with money and arms.
The US president’s speech will also point to Iran’s political interference in Iraq, obviously in cooperation with Syria.
The sources were quoted as saying that US will not resort to a ground attack in order to avoid human losses.
New Iraq ethnic cleansing fear
WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates last night warned that limiting troops’ activities in Iraq and withdrawing from Baghdad could lead to “ethnic cleansing” in the capital and elsewhere in the country.
“One real possibility is if we abandon some of these areas and withdraw into the countryside or whatever to do these targeted missions that you could have a fairly significant ethnic cleansing inside Baghdad and in Iraq more broadly,” Gates said.
“What we do know is if Baghdad is in flames and the whole city is engulfed in violence, the prospects for a political solution are almost nonexistent,” he said on the Laura Ingraham syndicated radio programme.
Gunmen killed 11 electricity plant workers in northern Iraq after stopping their vehicle and machine-gunning them as they sat inside, Iraqi police and army officials said.
Police also said 22 goat herders from an extended Shi’ite family were kidnapped near the holy city of Karbala, 110km southwest of Baghdad. It was the second mass kidnapping in a week.
Police said gunmen ambushed the vehicle carrying power plant workers in a mainly Sunni area near Hawija, about 70km southwest of the northern city of Kirkuk.
One soldier died and a second was wounded when their patrol came under fire in the southern outskirts of Baghdad, the US military reported.
Iraq said yesterday it is extending the military crackdown in Baghdad to other flashpoint regions.
Iraqi and US officials announced that Operation Fardh Al Qanoon (Imposing Law) has already been underway in the restive northern city of Mosul since Tuesday and will also focus more on the outskirts of Baghdad.
Two Iraqi legislators from the movement of anti-American cleric Moqtada Al Sadr were sacked for meeting US officials, the movement said. A political committee of Sadr’s movement fired former transport minister Salam Al Maliki and parliament member Qusay Abdul Wahab as the movement’s representatives in the legislature for meeting American officials two days ago.

By BEN EVANS, Associated Press WriterWed Apr 4, 9:22 PM ET
Three Republican congressmen who parted with President Bush by meeting with Syrian leaders said Wednesday it is important to maintain a dialogue with a country the White House says sponsors terrorism.
“I don’t care what the administration says on this. You’ve got to do what you think is in the best interest of your country,” said Rep. Frank Wolf (news, bio, voting record), R-Va. “I want us to be successful in Iraq. I want us to clamp down on Hezbollah.”
Washington accuses Syria of backing Hamas and Hezbollah, two groups it deems terrorist organizations. The Bush administration also says Syria is contributing to the violence in Iraq by allowing Sunni insurgents to operate from its territory and is destabilizing Lebanon’s government.
Bush sharply criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., for leading a delegation to meet with Syria’s president, Bashar Assad.
The White House, however, stayed relatively quiet about a similar trip just a few days earlier by Wolf and GOP Reps. Robert Aderholt (news, bio, voting record) of Alabama and Joseph Pitts (news, bio, voting record) of Pennsylvania.
Returning on Wednesday, the lawmakers said they made clear to Assad that they support Bush and were not representing the administration. But they said they felt it was important to keep open lines of communication.
“This is an area where we would disagree with the administration,” Aderholt said. “None of us in the Congress work for the president. We have to cast our own votes and ultimately answer to our own constituents. … I think there’s room that we can try to work with them as long as they know where we draw the line.”
A White House spokesman, Alex Conant, said the administration tries to deter lawmakers from both parties from engaging Assad.
“We discourage all visits to Syria because it’s a state sponsor of terror,” he said. “A lot of officials have gone, and it hasn’t changed the Syrians’ behavior.”;_ylt=AspHav.CW4rGVVql4xBQbLWMwfIE
Americans want strong leader, fidelity, drugs less an issue: poll
1 hour, 43 minutes ago
Most Americans want their next president to be strong, decisive and of good moral character, but fewer seem to care if he or she has been unfaithful to their spouse, or even tried drugs.
A Gallup poll released on Thursday showed that while Republicans and Democrats are essentially looking for the same qualities in the next president of the United States, they differ on some important issues.
Some 77 percent of the 1,006 people polled across the country said the next president must be a strong and decisive leader, although only 34 percent said the next incumbent must have experience of government.
But where the two camps divided was on personal qualities. Only 37 percent in total said it was “absolutely essential” that the next US leader has been a faithful spouse — but broken down along party lines the figure was 52 percent among Republicans and only 25 percent among Democrats.
Gallup said this was the “starkest partisan gap” in the poll carried out late last month and “may stem from opposing partisan perspectives on the marital foibles of former president Bill Clinton.”
Clinton’s wife, Hillary, is a leading contender for the Democratic Party nomination for the 2008 presidential elections. She stood by her husband even when his affair with an intern, Monica Lewinsky, was revealed.
As for the thorny issue of drugs, voters showed themselves to be more tolerant with a total of 19 percent saying the next president should be someone who has never tried drugs — 22 percent among Republicans and 17 percent among Democrats.
Around a third of those polled said the next president had to be honest and straightforward, making it the top of the five most desirable personal qualities in the country’s leader.
But Republicans also cited integrity and good moral character, while Democrats preferred that he or she should listen to the people and not lobbyists, and focus on domestic issues rather than foreign policy.
“Democrats have a greater interest than Republicans in wanting a president who will consider public opinion when making decisions,” the poll said.
The 2008 race for the White House looks like being one of the most open in years with a slew of hopefuls on both sides, and campaigning well under way months before the first primaries for the party nominations.;_ylt=At.Mx78r8TYoo1oM98EWh4qtOrgF

U.S. Lets Red Cross See Seized Iranians
Disclosure Follows Freeing of Diplomat Abducted by Uniformed Men in Baghdad
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 5, 2007; A12
BAGHDAD, April 4 — The U.S. military has allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit five Iranian officials who were detained in Iraq nearly three months ago on suspicion of plotting against American and Iraqi forces.
A Red Cross delegation that included one Iranian citizen visited the detainees, and a request for a formal consular visit with them is “being assessed at this time” by the U.S. military, said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.
In a briefing for reporters Wednesday, Caldwell did not say when the visit took place or whether it was connected to the case of the 15 British sailors and marines detained by Iran on March 23; Iran subsequently announced that they would be released.
The Iraqi government has called for the release of the five Iranians, who were captured during a U.S. military raid in January on an office providing consular services in the Kurdish city of Irbil.
A spokeswoman for the ICRC, Dorothea Krimitsas, confirmed that her organization had visited the Iranian officials but declined to provide details. In general, she said, such inspections involve multiple visits, and information about the detainees’ treatment is discussed privately with the “detaining authorities.”
News of the visit came a day after the Iraqi government confirmed that an Iranian diplomat, Jalal Sharafi, who was abducted Feb. 4 in downtown Baghdad by people dressed in military uniforms, had been freed. The back-to-back developments raised questions about whether they were connected to the diplomatic crisis involving Britain and Iran. U.S. and Iraqi officials denied that Sharafi’s release was related.
During an international conference held in Baghdad in March, Iranian representatives discussed the issue of the five detainees with Zalmay Khalilzad, then the U.S. ambassador, and “there were promises to solve it in a friendly way,” Ali Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, told reporters Wednesday in Baghdad.
“We don’t want these relations to affect the situation in Iraq,” he said.
The Americans have accused the Iranians of being members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, which is said to be active in arming and training militant movements in the Middle East. At the time of their capture, the Iranians were without passports and attempting to flush documents down a toilet, U.S. officials have said.
In a separate development Wednesday, two members of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s bloc in the Iraqi parliament were said to be removed from the powerful political alliance because they held meetings with Americans, according to the head of Sadr’s parliamentary bloc.
Nasar al-Rubaie, a leader of the 30-person alliance of Shiite lawmakers loyal to Sadr, said that the two legislators, Salam al-Maliki and Qusay Abdul Wahab, violated “clear instructions” by meeting with the unspecified Americans.
“If there is any kind of meeting between someone and the occupation, he will be rejected by Moqtada al-Sadr himself,” Rubaie said.
But both Wahab and Maliki, a former transportation minister, emphatically denied that they had met with Americans or that they had been removed from the Sadr bloc. “This is a fabrication and completely untrue,” Wahab said in an interview. “What was said by some of the powerful people in the Sadr trend isn’t accurate and its aim is to split the lines of the Sadr trend through these rumors and accusations.”
Some American officials contend that Sadr’s organization has fractured, following speculation that the cleric retreated to Iran and left his followers without decisive leadership. The mayor of the Baghdad slum of Sadr City, Rahim al-Darraji, was attacked by gunmen last month after meeting with U.S. military officials.
Sami al-Askari, a Shiite member of parliament who works closely with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said that the accusations against the two Sadr officials may be a convenient excuse to purge two members who have been at odds with others in the bloc. But he doubted Sadr was losing control.
“There are always differences between different factions but nevertheless Moqtada Sadr is the leader of this movement,” he said.
Also Wednesday, the U.S. military said that an American soldier had been killed by small-arms fire in the southern outskirts of Baghdad while on a foot patrol Tuesday.
An engineer and four technicians working at the Mulla Abdullah power plant southwest of Kirkuk were killed when their car was struck by a roadside bomb, according to Maj. Abdul Jabbar al-Jubury of the Hawijah police station.
In southern Iraq, gunmen riding in pickup trucks kidnapped 22 shepherds in the Rufaiaa district near Karbala, an Interior Ministry official said. Meanwhile, 19 decapitated bodies arrived for burial in the southern city of Najaf, which is revered by Shiites. Religious officials in Najaf said the men were executed in a village in Diyala province because they were Shiites.
Special correspondent Saad Sarhan in Najaf and Waleed Saffar in Baghdad contributed to this report.
Questions the Navy chiefs must now answer

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent

Last Updated: 7:41am BST 05/04/2007

Yesterday the Navy breathed a huge sigh of relief. Today the inquiry into the affair will begin, with recriminations likely and many questions to be asked of commanders.

Foremost among those to be questioned will be Commodore Nick Lambert, the flotilla commander ultimately in charge of the 15 sailors who were allowed to venture out of sight of his flagship Cornwall with very little support while just two miles from Iran’s disputed territorial waters.
While Cornwall had too deep a draught to provide line of sight cover for the boarding party, there were many other ships that could have given immediate back-up.
Cdre Lambert has 12 warships under his command in Coalition Task Force 158, including several US Navy patrol boats capable of 35 knots and bristling with machineguns that would have outgunned the Iranians.
It has been suggested he could have ordered any one of these to “overwatch” the boarding party.
Questions have also been asked why the Cornwall’s Lynx helicopter was not above the two Pacific tenders during the search of the Indian vessel. They can remain airborne for four hours yet the boarding lasted 80 minutes.
The incident was also along a border that has not been entirely agreed by Iran and Iraq. Part of their 1980 war that cost a million lives was over a disputed boundary that had been agreed only in 1975.
The Navy has argued that Cornwall carried out 66 previous boardings without incident. Military observers argue that this is similar to saying an Army platoon in Basra carried out 66 foot patrols without rear cover and it was unfortunate someone got shot in the back on the 67th.
The Navy has been accused of not having the right “standard operating procedures” in place and becoming complacent after years of boardings in the Gulf. Its intelligence gathering has also come under the spotlight. They must have known tensions were running high after the Americans captured five Iranians in Iraq in January and as the UN gathered to consider sanctions.
Cornwall’s radar operators, too, should have been more alert to a sudden surge by Iranian fast patrol boats. In the past few months, there have been several incursions but the Revolutionary Guards have been chased off by bigger ships.
As a Type 22 frigate designed to chase down Soviet submarines during the Cold War, Cornwall was not the best equipped ship for the task in hand.
The question has been raised in several quarters as to why did the Navy not deploy several patrol vessels it has laid up in Britain.
Information appearing on is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright;jsessionid=HMPZA05XQHOIVQFIQMFCFGGAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2007/04/05/wiran905.xml

Gonzales Prepares to Fight for His Job in Testimony
By Dan Eggen and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 5, 2007; A01
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has retreated from public view this week in an intensive effort to save his job, spending hours practicing testimony and phoning lawmakers for support in preparation for pivotal appearances in the Senate this month, according to administration officials.
After struggling for weeks to explain the extent of his involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, Gonzales and his aides are viewing the Senate testimony on April 12 and April 17 as seriously as if it were a confirmation proceeding for a Supreme Court or a Cabinet appointment, officials said.
Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and Timothy E. Flanigan, who worked for Gonzales at the White House, have met with the attorney general to plot strategy. The department has scheduled three days of rigorous mock testimony sessions next week and Gonzales has placed phone calls to more than a dozen GOP lawmakers seeking support, officials said.
Gonzales is seeking to convince skeptical lawmakers that he can be trusted to command the Justice Department after the prosecutor firings, which he initially described as an “overblown personnel matter.” Subsequent documents and testimony from his former chief of staff have shown that Gonzales was regularly briefed on the process, revelations that have led to calls for his resignation.
Justice officials and outside experts said the effort is further hampered by legal conflicts among Gonzales and his senior aides. Top Democrats have also accused department officials of misleading Congress in previous testimony, leading Justice lawyers to insist on limiting contact between key players to avoid allegations of obstructing a congressional investigation, officials said.
As a result, Gonzales and senior Justice lawyers have so far received little assistance from the White House and cannot consult with some of his closest aides, including Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, officials said.
“We are hampered because some senior officials are not able to discuss the facts as they know them in the same room, for fears of additional accusations of misleading Congress,” said one Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sent a letter to Gonzales on Tuesday, asking for “appropriate firewalls” between potential witnesses involved in the firings.
“Our question to you is: Who do we talk to at the Department of Justice?” Leahy and Whitehouse wrote. “The office of the Attorney General appears to be hopelessly conflicted.”
Several central players in the prosecutor saga are out of the Justice Department building altogether. They include Gonzales’s former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, who resigned last month, and senior counselor Monica M. Goodling, who is on indefinite leave and who yesterday reiterated her refusal to answer questions from Congress. Michael J. Elston, McNulty’s chief of staff, also began a scheduled personal leave this week after submitting to six hours of congressional interviews last Friday, officials said.
“In a sense, this is even more difficult than a confirmation hearing, because you are defending a record that has been assailed publicly and it involves other members of Justice who are also going to be called,” said former senator Daniel R. Coats (R-Ind.), who led confirmation preparations for Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers.
“It just compounds the difficulty facing any witness in this situation,” Coats said. “You don’t have the ability to coordinate with other organizations or individuals that are going to be testifying, and there will be a lot of people looking for inconsistencies. It is no small challenge for the attorney general.”
Gonzales is getting little support from Republicans in Congress, according to several GOP aides. Gonzales is scheduled to testify next Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Committee on budget matters, and then on April 17 at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on the prosecutor firings.
Aides said the tenor has been set on the GOP side by Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican on the judiciary panel. Specter has told Gonzales in private that he should consider beginning his testimony with an apology.
In previous confirmation hearings — including those for Gonzales in January 2005 and Alito and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. since then — the White House, the Justice Department and Judiciary Committee Republicans closely coordinated their efforts.
In the case of Roberts, Specter’s chief counsel, Michael O’Neill, attended one of the mock testimony sessions known as “murder boards,” according to a former GOP committee staffer, who requested anonymity to speak freely about internal panel activities. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was in attendance to watch a similar session with Alito.
Gillespie, now head of the Virginia GOP, and Flanigan, who pulled out of contention in 2005 as Gonzales’s pick for deputy attorney general, did not return telephone calls seeking comment on their recent discussions with him.
After traveling around the country much of last week in an attempt to shore up fractured relations with U.S. attorneys, Gonzales has spent this week sequestered in his fifth-floor office suite, poring over thousands of pages of documents related to his upcoming testimony. He canceled tentative plans for a family vacation this week to focus on the hearings, officials said.
“The attorney general is very focused and is spending extensive time preparing this week to testify before Congress,” spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.
Top Democrats have focused in recent days on escalating their demands for testimony from Goodling, Gonzales’s senior counselor and White House liaison. She has told Congress that she will assert her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions about the firings.
Leahy and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, have questioned whether Goodling is attempting to hide criminal activity by refusing to answer questions.
Goodling’s attorneys, John M. Dowd and Jeffrey King, responded in a letter yesterday that such allegations “are unfortunately reminiscent of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who infamously labeled those who asserted their constitutional right to remain silent before his committee ‘Fifth Amendment Communists.’ ”

Executive power hot topic at New Hampshire forums
By Stephen Dinan
Published April 4, 2007
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani yesterday defended President Bush’s extensive use of national security tools such as the USA Patriot Act as no worse than other countries, but Sen. Barack Obama said he would use executive orders to roll back some of those powers.
“The Patriot Act does give the government more tools, more power, but it’s not vastly out of line with what other governments have, free governments, democratic governments,” Mr. Giuliani told the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination here in New Hampshire.
“All of this takes a little privacy away from somebody. It depends on who you take it away from, and what is at stake,” he said.
But Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat and one of the top Democrats seeking his party’s presidential nod, said Mr. Bush has “just gone nuts in amassing more and more executive control and skewing the checks and balances.”
Speaking to a town hall in Rochester, he said he will use executive orders to grant terrorism detainees new legal rights, prohibit torture and create more oversight for intelligence gathering such as data mining and the use of national security letters to obtain personal information from companies.
“A lot of the executive orders I’ll be issuing are just reversing some of the executive orders put forward over the last six years,” Mr. Obama said.
The two men were taking questions at separate forums yesterday as they and other candidates, fresh off announcing fundraising totals, spread throughout New Hampshire, which traditionally holds the first-in-the-nation primaries.
Some Democrats appeared unsettled at the large amounts of cash the campaign will require. At his town hall yesterday Mr. Obama, who hasn’t released a tally but has reportedly raised at least $20 million, had to defend himself against one questioner who told him, “I don’t want money to pick my next president, I want to pick my next president.”
Mr. Obama said he’s trying to change the system but for now has to play with the rules as they are.
“What I’ve tried to do is engage the system in a way that keeps me feeling like my integrity is intact I don’t take money, I don’t take money from registered federal lobbyists,” he said.
In his own town hall in Derry, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, had to explain why he loaned his campaign more than $2 million of his own money, despite earlier saying he would try to avoid that.
He joked he was just taking money from his children’s inheritance, then said he will always keep open the option of using his own money.
“I don’t have the name recognition that some of the other people have at the beginning of this race,” Mr. Romney said.
For his part, Mr. Giuliani fielded a question about his health, and assured his audience he is doing well, and there is no sign of the prostate cancer that caused him to drop out of his 2000 race for a U.S. Senate seat.
The former mayor gained a reputation for tough measures that helped him reduce crime in New York City from the so-called “crime capital” of the country to what he said was the safest big city in the nation. But those measures have left some conservatives worried about what he would do as president with the tools available to him.
Yesterday, Mr. Giuliani said it’s a balancing act. He pointed to the post-September 11 airplane-security rules as an example of an acceptable trade-off.
“It’s worth giving up that inconvenience, isn’t it?” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that if he goes too far, “That’s what we have a Supreme Court for.”
But one woman in the back of the room shook her head and repeatedly said “No” as Mr. Giuliani posed the question.
Afterward the woman, who asked that only her first name, Wendy, be used because of her job, said Mr. Giuliani would be making the same mistakes she said Mr. Bush has made on civil liberties.
“It just seems to me we are giving up some of the things that are important to us,” she said.
She said she is a registered independent who voted for President Reagan but said Republicans have a high bar for her this time, mainly because she disagrees with so much Mr. Bush has done.

Iran well-prepared to deal with any probable military attack: Ambassador
Beirut, April 5, IRNA
Iran’s Ambassador to Beirut Mohammad Reza Sheybani said on Thursday that the Islamic Republic of Iran is well-prepared to deal with any probable military attack.

He made the remarks after his meeting with former Lebanese Premier Omar Karami.
Speaking to reporters on Iran’s reaction to probable US attack, he said such a threat is unlikely but the Islamic Republic of Iran is well-prepared to defend national sovereignty.
The current political developments in the region indicated that the US waged psychological warfare to push its goals in the region, he said.
Referring to his meeting with Karami, he said during the talks the two sides reviewed the latest developments in the region, Lebanon and Iran’s achievements at various fields.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is working with Saudi Arabia to help resolve existing crisis in the Lebanon, he said.
Lauding the efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran in resolving the current crisis in Lebanon, Karami called on Iran to proceed with such efforts.
—> Iran-Lebanon-Attack

CIA hires terrorist group to operate inside Iran
New York, April 4, IRNA
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has hired a Pakistani terrorist group that has carried out a series of deadly terrorist attacks inside Iran, ABC News has reported on Wednesday.

The group, members of the Baluchi tribe, operates from Pakistan’s province of Baluchestan, just across the border from Iran.
ABC cited US government sources it did not identify as saying the US has maintained close ties to its leader, Abdel-Malik Regi, since 2005.
The group, called Jundullah, has carried out raids, resulting in the deaths or kidnapping of Iranian ordinary people as well as soldiers and officials.
The large Iranian community residing in the US protested strongly to Voice of America (VOA)’s live interview with Regi recently in which the terrorist claimed responsibility for the operations.
Regi admitted to have personally executed some of the Iranian captives, the ABC News report said.
Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant, told the program that Regi used to fight with the Taliban, adding “he’s part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist”.
“He is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera.”
The group claimed responsibility for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan.
Iranian television last month broadcast confessions by those responsible for the bus attack.
They admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan.
The only relationship with the group that US intelligence acknowledges is cooperation in tracking al-Qaeda figures in that part of Pakistan.
ABC cited Pakistani government sources as saying the secret campaign against Iran was on the agenda when Vice President Dick Cheney met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February.
Asked about the report, Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn responded:
“We don’t discuss conversations between the vice president and foreign leaders.”

Most Guantanamo detainees held inhumanely – Amnesty
London, April 5, IRNA
UK Amnesty-US Guantanamo Prisoners
Amnesty International Thursday expressed renewed alarm at the inhuman conditions in which the overwhelming majority of detainees are held in by the US at its concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The London-based human rights group said that 80 per cent of the detainees being held for more than four years without charge or trial were subjected to solitary confinement.
“The entire process at Guantanamo is a travesty of justice, but we have particular concerns over the widespread use of solitary confinement in harsh conditions at the camp,” Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said.
Allen warned that some prisoners were “dangerously close to full- blown mental and physical breakdown” and called on the US authorities to “stop pushing people to the edge with extreme isolation techniques.”
The human rights group, which has long called for the closure of the entire camp set up outside US jurisdiction, also called for independent medical experts to be allowed to examine the prisoners.
In its latest report, it estimated that there were approximately 385 men still held at the camp and that after an apparent hardening of US operational detention policy in January, around 300 are now being held in three units with minimal contact with others.
Coming after the recent release of UK resident Bisher al-Rawi, who was held for over four years, Amnesty said that the refusal by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government to help all British residents was “untenable and unacceptable.”
“The UK is duty-bound to assist people resident in the UK, many of whom are refugees and have British nationals as family members,” it said.

Russia awaits U.S. explanation on military buildup in Mideast – FM
27/01/2007 15:25 MOSCOW, January 27 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow expects the United States to explain its growing military presence in the Middle East, Russia’s foreign minister said Saturday.
“I have not seen any change in Washington’s rather assertive tone,” Sergei Lavrov said. “It continues, as [the U.S.] continues to build its military presence in the region.”
Lavrov will travel to Washington early next month to attend a ministerial meeting of four international mediators in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
At the Washington meeting, the UN will be represented by the organization’s new secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, while Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, will represent the 27-nation bloc.
The latest Mideast Quartet ministerial meeting took place on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session in New York in September 2006.
The participants expressed their support for efforts by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to form a national unity government and urged radical Islamist movement Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence, and implement the 2003 “roadmap” peace plan, which provides for a two-state solution to the Mideast conflict.

Bush fighting to stay relevant
Fri Apr 6, 2007 8:11AM EDT
By Matt Spetalnick – Analysis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With George W. Bush struggling to stay relevant in his final 22 months in the White House, his administration is looking more and more like the incredible shrinking presidency.
He finds himself increasingly hemmed in by public approval ratings stuck in the low 30 percent range, a hostile Democratic majority in Congress and an unpopular war that has eroded his credibility at home and abroad.
“The real danger is that the president becomes politically irrelevant, that he presides instead of leads,” said Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania.
Cracks have also formed in his inner circle, and many fellow Republicans are ever more skeptical of his ability to help them hold onto the presidency in the 2008 election.
At the same time, Bush’s attempt to use the megaphone of his office to shape national debate is increasingly being drowned out by public disenchantment with his Iraq policy and doubts over his leadership, analysts say.
As he settles in for the Easter holiday break at his Texas ranch, he will no doubt be contemplating the rest of his presidency. Many experts are skeptical he can salvage it.
“This is a full-blown lame-duck period in which the president’s stature is diminishing,” Madonna said. “Barring a crisis, Congress and the American people won’t be paying much attention to what he has to say.”
To make matters worse, Bush is finding himself crowded off the political calendar by an increasingly front-loaded presidential primary race, which has turned the spotlight on potential successors faster than in earlier campaigns.
That may help explain why Bush, who has vowed to “sprint” to the end of his second term, is starting to embrace “small ball” policy tactics. Aides once derided this approach, adapted from a baseball strategy of seeking incremental advances, as the hallmark of his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton.
A telling example is how Bush has devoted large chunks of time in recent months to promoting ethanol as a gasoline alternative, a pet project that has generated little public enthusiasm and which some critics say is too little, too late.
The initiative has been marked by a series of appearances with Bush donning white lab coats to tour ethanol research centers and posing alongside “flex-fuel” vehicles.
The political reality, however, is that Bush’s energy plan stands as little chance as the rest of his domestic agenda — health care, Social Security and immigration reform — of getting past newly empowered Democrats angry over Iraq.
Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, said that while bipartisan cooperation is still possible, “At this stage, Democrats are reluctant to give the president a major policy success.”
They are instead defying his veto threats and pressing ahead with legislation linking Iraq war funding to a troop withdrawal timetable, calling it the will of voters who gave them control of Congress in the November elections. Bush says it would undercut the war effort.
The looming showdown is another reflection of Bush’s decline from approval ratings of 90 percent after the September 11 attacks to near the low point of his presidency today.
Bush denies he is slipping into lame-duck status, and the White House insists he has the ear of the American people.
But mindful of his unpopularity, aides seem more intent than ever that he play to sympathetic audiences. He recently addressed the American Legion and a cattlemen’s group and stopped at a California army base en route to his Texas ranch.
An avid baseball fan, Bush also declined to throw out the first pitch of the Major League season this week. Aides blamed a scheduling conflict. But there were suspicions the White House feared he would be booed.
Adding to a sense of increasing isolation, few of Bush’s own Republicans have joined him in backing his embattled attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, against a Democratic outcry over the firing of eight federal prosecutors.
Bush could still try to turn the tables on the Democrats as Clinton did to a Republican-led House of Representatives in 1995 when he outmaneuvered them in a bitter budget fight.
“Bush could get some political mileage if he can cast them as a do-nothing, obstructionist Congress,” MacManus said.
But it was Bush on the defensive at a news conference this week when asked about a New York Times interview with Matthew Dowd, chief strategist of his 2004 campaign, who said he had lost faith in the president and described him as “bubbled in.”
Bush suggested it was Dowd’s emotional reaction to having a son in the armed forces who was “deployable” to Iraq, and he bristled when asked about conservative columnist Robert Novak writing he had become estranged from his party in Congress.

Historians battle over Okinawa WW2 mass suicides
Fri Apr 6, 2007 6:04AM EDT
By Linda Sieg
TOKYO (Reuters) – Sumie Oshiro was 25 when she and her friends tried to kill themselves to avoid capture by U.S. soldiers at the start of the bloody Battle of Okinawa.
“We were told that if women were taken prisoner we would be raped and that we should not allow ourselves to be captured,” Oshiro said on last month’s anniversary of the March 26, 1945, invasion of the Japanese islet of Zamami.
“Four of us tried to commit suicide with one hand grenade, but it did not go off,” Ryukyu Shimpo, a local Okinawa newspaper, quoted Oshiro as saying at a gathering of now elderly survivors.
The fighting on Zamami, south of the main Okinawan island, was the prelude to three months of carnage that took some 200,000 lives, about half of them Okinawan men, women and children.
Many civilians, often entire families, committed suicide rather than surrender to Americans, by some accounts on the orders of fanatical Japanese soldiers.
“The army ordered them to commit suicide,” said Yoshikazu Miyazato, 58, who plans to publish testimony from survivors on Zamami, where he says suicides accounted for 180 of the 404 civilians — about half of the islet’s population — who died.
The accuracy of such accounts, however, has been questioned by conservative historians who argue the suicides were voluntary.
Late last month, the education ministry ordered publishers of high school textbooks to modify references to Japanese soldiers ordering civilians to kill themselves.
The textbook revisions echo other efforts by conservatives to revise descriptions of Japan’s wartime actions, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s denial that the military or government hauled women away to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in Asia before and during World War Two.
Abe has sought to dampen overseas outrage over his remarks by repeating his backing for a 1993 apology to the “comfort women”, as they are known in Japan, and offering his own brief apology.
“In every case, Abe’s administration is saying there was no military involvement,” Shoukichi Kina, an opposition lawmaker from Okinawa told Reuters in a phone interview.
“They are distorting history and it is unforgiveable.”
One reason cited for the revisions was a lawsuit by a former Japanese army officer and relatives of another charging the two men were was falsely described in works by publisher Iwanami Shoten as having ordered civilian suicides in Okinawa.
That prompted the publisher and Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe to send a letter of protest to the education ministry, criticizing the fact that only the views of the plaintiffs in the court case had been taken into account.
The Battle of Okinawa, which also took the lives of about 94,000 Japanese soldiers and more than 12,000 Americans, looms large in the collective memory of inhabitants of the island — a separate kingdom until its monarch was exiled to Tokyo in 1879.
The battle, in which up to one-third of Okinawa’s inhabitants died, has been described as a futile sacrifice ordered by Japan’s military leaders to delay a U.S. invasion of the mainland.
Masahide Ota, a former governor of Okinawa who fought as a member of a “Blood and Iron Corps” of students mobilized to defend the island, says soldiers gave civilians two hand grenades — “one to throw at the enemy and one to use on themselves”.
Many historians and survivors blame military propaganda that sought to convince civilians they faced rape and torture if captured by Americans, as well as an education system that taught the virtue of dying for an emperor who was considered a living god.
“They were taught that Americans were fiends, worse than devils, and that if women were caught they would be raped and men would be killed,” Miyazato said. “It was the same as ordering them to commit suicide. They were taught it was better to die.
Ota, a historian as well as a member of parliament, fears the lessons of Japan’s wartime past are in danger of being lost.
“Education has the responsibility to convey history accurately to our children so that our country does not repeat the tragedy of the Pacific war,” he said in a statement.
“Textbooks are one method of fulfilling that mission. I think that is being forgotten.”

US reveals its efforts to topple Mugabe regime

• State department tells of regime change strategy
• Washington funded opposition activities

Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Friday April 6, 2007
The Guardian
The US admitted openly for the first time yesterday that it was actively working to undermine Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe.
Although officially Washington does not support regime change, a US state department report published yesterday acknowledged that it was supporting opposition politicians in the country and others critical of Mr Mugabe.
The state department also admitted sponsoring events aimed at “discrediting” statements made by Mr Mugabe’s government.
The report will be seized on by Mr Mugabe, who has repeatedly claimed that the US and Britain are seeking regime change.
The comments are contained in the state department’s fifth annual Supporting Human Rights and Democracy report. It sets out in detail actions the US government is taking worldwide to promote human rights.
The report has had a troubled history. Three years ago publication had to be hastily delayed when details emerged about US human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.
The US, compared with the UK, was initially slow to criticise Mr Mugabe, but has since adopted an increasingly critical stance, most recently at the Human Rights Council in Geneva last month.
In an unusual piece of candour, the state department report says: “To encourage greater public debate on restoring good governance in [Zimbabwe], the United States sponsored public events that presented economic and social analyses discrediting the government’s excuses for its failed policies.
“To further strengthen pro-democracy elements, the US government continued to support the efforts of the political opposition, the media and civil society to create and defend democratic space and to support persons who criticised the government.”
While the US and British governments still insist their aim in Zimbabwe is not regime change, they have been encouraging the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangarai, who was beaten up last month.
The report says that while Zimbabwe is nominally democratic, the government of Mr Mugabe is “now authoritarian”.
At a press conference to launch the document, the assistant secretary of state, Barry Lowenkren, said the US goal was not necessarily regime change but to create a level playing field for all parties. He added that where there was a country with record levels of inflation, denial of basic human rights and other abuses, the US had a duty to speak out so that people in Zimbabwe knew they had support.
Asked whether US efforts to promote human rights worldwide were being undermined by the hundreds of of people being held at Guantánamo, Mr Lowenkren insisted the issue was not raised by non-governmental groups at conferences he attended and participants were more interested in what the US could do to help them in their own countries.
He also denied the report was softer on authoritarian governments allied to the US, such as Belarus, than to Zimbabwe.
Mr Lowenkren said $66m was being spent on promotion of democracy and human rights in Iran, about half of which was devoted to broadcasts from outside the country and the rest spent on support for non-governmental exchanges, cultural exchanges such as the visit by the US wrestling team and a Persian internet service.
The report is critical of Russia, noting the killing of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
It says: “Political pressure on the judiciary, corruption and selectivity in enforcement of the law, continuing media restrictions and self-censorship, and government pressure on opposition political parties eroded the public accountability of government leaders.
“Security forces were involved in additional significant human rights problems.”,,2051354,00.html

FRIDAY, APRIL 06, 2007
3:09 MECCA TIME, 0:09 GMT

US state backs spaceport plans

The space tourism project is slated to begin
taking its first passengers in 2009 [Reuters]

Residents in the US state of New Mexico backed a sales tax to raise an estimated $49m toward the construction of a commercial spaceport, unofficial results show.

The state’s governor has welcomed the move saying the spaceport vote “means America’s new frontier begins in southern New Mexico”.

Spaceport America will be home to space tourism company Virgin Galactic and could eventually offer tourist trips into orbit and beyond.

Thursday’s vote involved only residents in Dona Ana County, where the spaceport is to be based.

Rick Homans, chairman of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, said the vote would mean development of the project could now move into high gear.
“Spaceport America is ready for blast off – all systems are go”
Rick Homans, New Mexico Spaceport Authority

“We can now say that Spaceport America is ready for blast off – all systems are go,” he said.
“New Mexico is prepared to launch a whole new era of discovery, exploration and commercial activity in space, on the Moon and beyond. We have nothing but beautiful black sky ahead of us.”
Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor, has backed the project saying he expects the spaceport will prove an economic boon for the state, generating up to $1 bn in revenue and creating 5,000 jobs.
Virgin Galactic, owned by British tycoon Richard Branson, plans to begin offering sub-orbital tourist flights from the spaceport in 2009.
Costly ride

Tickets will start at about $200,000 per person, for which passengers will experience just a few minutes of weightlessness at the edge of space.

The planned $198 million spaceport complex, covering some 70 square kilometres, will be located near the White Sands Missile Range, where the US launched its first rocket after World War II.

A mock-up of the cabin of the Virgin Galactic is currently on display at London’s Science Museum.

The spaceship is the first vehicle specifically designed for space tourism.

Last year another space tourism company, Space Adventures, announced plans to build a commercial spaceport in the United Arab Emirates.

The company said it plans to offer tourists flights into space using vehicles designed and built in Russia.

Source: Agencies

April 6, 2007
Hussein-Qaeda Link ‘Inappropriate,’ Report Says
WASHINGTON, April 5 (Bloomberg) — The Pentagon provided “inappropriate” analysis for its reports of a strong link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, a finding that was cited by the White House as a rationale for invading Iraq, a report by the Pentagon inspector general says.
The declassified report said Defense Department officials “undercut” the intelligence community.
It specifically said that analysts reporting to Douglas Feith, who was the under secretary for policy, told Stephen J. Hadley, the deputy national security adviser at the time, and I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, that there were “fundamental problems with how the intelligence community is assessing information.”
The 121-page report, which had been summarized at a Congressional hearing in February by the acting inspector general, Thomas Gimble, was released Thursday by Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
By coincidence, it appeared on the day Vice President Cheney again drew a link between the war and Al Qaeda, telling the radio host Rush Limbaugh that “to advocate withdrawal from Iraq at this point seems to me simply would play right into the hands of Al Qaeda.”
Mr. Gimble’s report drew a direct connection between a briefing at the White House on Sept. 16, 2002, and public comments Mr. Cheney made in the days leading to the war four years ago. The criticism of the intelligence community is one of several on a slide used in that briefing.
Inclusion of the slide, which was omitted from an earlier briefing with George Tenet, who was director of central intelligence, “clearly did not bolster support for the intelligence community,” Mr. Gimble wrote.
Mr. Levin, in a statement Thursday, said the analysis from Mr. Feith’s office “was not supported by available intelligence and was contrary to the consensus view of the intelligence community,” yet was “used by the administration to support its public arguments in its case for war.”
The slide used by the Pentagon analysts to brief the White House officials states the intelligence agencies assumed “that secularists and Islamists will not cooperate, even when they have common interests,” and there was “consistent underestimation of importance that would be attached by Iraq and Al Qaeda to hiding a relationship.”
The Pentagon, in written comments included in the report, strongly disputed that the White House briefing and the slide citing “Fundamental Problems” undercut the intelligence community.
“The intelligence community was fully aware of the work under review and commented on it several times,” the Pentagon said, adding that Mr. Tenet, at the suggestion of the defense secretary then, Donald H. Rumsfeld, “was personally briefed.”
Four days after that briefing at the White House, Mr. Cheney referred at fund-raiser to a “well-established pattern of cooperation between Iraq and terrorists.”
And on Dec. 2, he warned in a speech that Mr. Hussein’s government “had high-level contact with Al Qaeda going back a decade and has provided training to Al Qaeda terrorists.” His language mirrored that on a briefing chart titled “Summary of Known Iraq-Al-Qaeda Contacts — 1990-2002.”
Mr. Gimble noted that Mr. Cheney, in an interview in January 2004, praised a memo compiled by the Pentagon analysts that was cited in the conservative magazine Weekly Standard as “your best source of information” on the purported link.
The analysts’ appraisal of the intelligence community was in contrast to that of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its 2004 report on prewar intelligence. That committee praised the C.I.A.’s approach to assessing a possible link between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda as a “methodical approach for assessing a possible Iraq/Al Qaeda relationship” that was “reasonable and objective,” Mr. Gimble wrote.
Mr. Levin also pointed out, “The report specifically states that ‘the C.I.A. and D.I.A. disavowed any “mature, symbiotic” relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.’ ”
The Pentagon policy offices set up by Mr. Feith have been abolished, and he has left the Pentagon and is writing a book on the war. Mr. Gimble said the establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence should prevent similar inappropriate conduct.

April 6, 2007
Guantánamo Follies
There has been much speculation about the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal from a group of Guantánamo Bay inmates until they have exhausted their legal options. Was the court signaling that the appeal had no merit? Were the court’s liberals waiting for a better chance to review President Bush’s unconstitutional detention system for “illegal enemy combatants”?
Whatever the justices’ intentions, we saw one clear message in their decision, and we hope that Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, saw it too. It is past time for Congress to undo the grievous damage done by President Bush’s abuse of the Constitution when he created his system of secret prisons and public internment camps to detain selected foreigners indefinitely without any real legal challenge.
In the months since Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, the administration has pushed ahead with the show trials permitted by the law. Each development in that courtroom brings fresh evidence of how urgent it is for the courts to strike down that law and for Congress to rewrite it.
The plea bargain: Last month, after being held at Guantánamo for five years, David Hicks, an Australian citizen, pleaded guilty to a single, relatively minor charge in exchange for his freedom. This deal should infuriate any side of the debate.
Americans who support Mr. Bush’s policy on prisoners accepted its premise: that the people in Guantánamo are so dangerous that letting any out will compromise American security. If an injustice were committed here or there, Americans would just have to grit their teeth. How does that square with allowing Mr. Hicks to go home and quickly go free? Worse, the plea bargain seemed timed to help Prime Minister John Howard, a Bush ally whose inaction on the case was becoming a re-election issue in Australia.
For Americans, like us, who are sickened by the Guantánamo prison, the Hicks bargain was emblematic of its lawless nature. If there was evidence that Mr. Hicks was a terrorist, we have yet to see it. He was declared an illegal combatant by a kangaroo court created to confirm that designation, which had been applied long before. He was denied a lawyer and censored by the court when he tried to pursue abuse charges. Under his plea bargain he gave up his right to sue, repudiated his own accounts of abuse and was even barred from talking to the news media about his experience.
To understand why Mr. Hicks still found that sort of deal attractive, remember that once a person is declared an “illegal enemy combatant,” he faces a lifetime in detention. He might be released by a “combatant status tribunal,” but his chances are very slim, and the process mocks civilized standards of justice. If the prisoner is one of the very few that the Pentagon plans to charge with a crime, he will be brought before a military tribunal. That court may use evidence obtained through hearsay, coercion or even torture. If convicted, there is little likelihood that he will be released after serving his time. If acquitted, he just goes back to being an illegal combatant who can be held for life.
The censored confession: On March 14, Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, accused of the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and other crimes, went before a combatant status tribunal. According to a transcript, Mr. Nashiri said he was tortured. But it is Mr. Bush’s policy that no prisoner may allege torture in public, so this is what appeared in the transcript:
PRESIDENT (of the tribunal): Please describe the methods that were used.
DETAINEE: (CENSORED) What else do I want to say? (CENSORED) There were doing so many things. What else did they did? (CENSORED) After that another method of torture began. (CENSORED) They used to ask me questions and the investigator after that used to laugh. And, I used to answer the answer that I knew. And if I didn’t replay what I heard, he used to (CENSORED).
Officials defended this censorship by arguing that interrogation methods are so secret that they cannot be discussed, even by the prisoner. But they also said that Al Qaeda members are trained to claim torture and that Mr. Nashiri lied. If so, why censor the transcript? His answers can’t help Al Qaeda. Tragically, the most likely answer is to spare United States intelligence agents and their bosses, who could face charges if the Military Commissions Act is ever repealed or rewritten. The law gives a retroactive carte blanche to American interrogators for any abuse they may have committed.
The lawsuit: The case the Supreme Court turned down this week was filed by Guantánamo inmates who contend that their detention was illegal and that the Military Commissions Act is unconstitutional. We agree. Holding people without evidence or charges or trial is barbaric, as is denying them the right to challenge their detention in a real court, a right generally referred to as habeas corpus.
Both violate the Constitution, and the court should strike down the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which limits avenues for appeal. But Congress approved the military commissions, left in place the combatant status review tribunals and suspended habeas corpus. Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi have a moral obligation to lead the way to righting these wrongs.

April 4, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
The Rich Are More Oblivious Than You and Me
Old Lyme, Conn.
THE other day at a Los Angeles race track, a comedian named Eddie Griffin took a meeting with a concrete barrier and left a borrowed bright-red $1.5 million Ferrari Enzo looking like bad origami. Just to be clear, this was a different bright-red $1.5 million Ferrari Enzo from the one a Swedish businessman crumpled up and threw away last year on the Pacific Coast Highway. I mention this only because it’s easy to get confused by the vast and highly repetitious category “Rich and Famous People Acting Like Total Idiots.” Mr. Griffin walked away uninjured, and everybody offered wise counsel about how this wasn’t really such a bad day after all.
So what exactly constitutes a bad day in this rarefied little world? Did the casino owner Steve Wynn cross the mark when he put his elbow through a Picasso he was about to sell for $139 million? Did Mel (“I Own Malibu”) Gibson sense bad-day emanations when he started on a bigoted tirade while seated drunk in the back of a sheriff’s car? And if dumb stuff like this comes so easy to these people, how is it that they’re the ones with all the money?
Modern science has the answer, with a little help from the poet Hilaire Belloc.
Let’s begin with what I call the “Cookie Monster Experiment,” devised to test the hypothesis that power makes people stupid and insensitive — or, as the scientists at the University of California at Berkeley put it, “disinhibited.”
Researchers led by the psychologist Dacher Keltner took groups of three ordinary volunteers and randomly put one of them in charge. Each trio had a half-hour to work through a boring social survey. Then a researcher came in and left a plateful of precisely five cookies. Care to guess which volunteer typically grabbed an extra cookie? The volunteer who had randomly been assigned the power role was also more likely to eat it with his mouth open, spew crumbs on partners and get cookie detritus on his face and on the table.
It reminded the researchers of powerful people they had known in real life. One of them, for instance, had attended meetings with a magazine mogul who ate raw onions and slugged vodka from the bottle, but failed to share these amuse-bouches with his guests. Another had been through an oral exam for his doctorate at which one faculty member not only picked his ear wax, but held it up to dandle lovingly in the light.
As stupid behaviors go, none of this is in a class with slamming somebody else’s Ferrari into a concrete wall. But science advances by tiny steps.
The researchers went on to theorize that getting power causes people to focus so keenly on the potential rewards, like money, sex, public acclaim or an extra chocolate-chip cookie — not necessarily in that order, or frankly, any order at all, but preferably all at once — that they become oblivious to the people around them.
Indeed, the people around them may abet this process, since they are often subordinates intent on keeping the boss happy. So for the boss, it starts to look like a world in which the traffic lights are always green (and damn the pedestrians). Professor Keltner and his fellow researchers describe it as an instance of “approach/inhibition theory” in action: As power increases, it fires up the behavioral approach system and shuts down behavioral inhibition.
And thus the Fast Forward Personality is born and put on the path to the concrete barrier.
The corollary is that as the rich and powerful increasingly focus on potential rewards, powerless types notice the likely costs and become more inhibited. I happen to know the feeling because I once had my own Los Angeles Ferrari experience. It was a bright-red F355 Spider (and with a mere $150,000 sticker price, not exactly top shelf), which I rented for a television documentary about rich people. It came with a $10,000 deductible, and the first time I drove it into a Bel-Air estate, the low-slung front end hit the apron of the driveway with a horrible grating sound that caused my soul to shrink. I proceeded up the driveway at five miles an hour, and everyone in sight turned away thinking, “Rental.”
The bottom line: Without power, people tend to play it safe. Given power, even you and I would soon end up living large and acting like idiots. So pity the rich — and protect yourself. This is where Hilaire Belloc comes in.
He once wrote a poem about a Lord Finchley, who “tried to mend the Electric Light/Himself. It struck him dead: And serve him right!” Belloc wasn’t tiresomely suggesting that the gentry all deserve a first-hand acquaintance with the third rail, as it were, but merely that they would be smart to depend on hired help. In social psychology terms, disinhibited Fast Forward types need ordinary cautious mortals to remind them that the traffic lights do in fact occasionally turn yellow or even, sometimes, red.
So, Eddie Griffin: next time you borrow a pal’s car, borrow his driver, too. The world will be a safer place for the rest of us.
Richard Conniff is the author of “The Natural History of the Rich.”

Cheney asserts Iraq-al Qaeda link
US Vice-President Dick Cheney has repeated his assertion that the al-Qaeda network had links with Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003.
Mr Cheney told a US radio show: “They were present before we invaded Iraq.”
Hours earlier, a declassified Pentagon report said information obtained from Iraq’s former leader Saddam Hussein had confirmed they had no strong ties.
Its publication followed pressure from Democrats who suggest intelligence was twisted in the run-up to the war.
The belief that Saddam Hussein’s regime and al-Qaeda were working together was an important element in the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq.
Critics have since suggested the administration “cherry-picked” from available intelligence to bolster that case.
‘Inappropriate’ intelligence
Mr Cheney, in an interview with conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, insisted there had been a link between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the al-Qaeda terror group.
He said former al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been leading the network’s operations in the country before the 2003 US-led invasion.
“He took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq, organised the al-Qaeda operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June,” he told the show.
The newly declassified Pentagon report was based on interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two of his aides, as well as documents seized in Iraq.
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, had pushed for its full release after it was released in summary form in February.
In a statement on Thursday, he said the document showed why a defence department investigation had concluded that some Pentagon pre-war intelligence work had been “inappropriate”.
The report into former Pentagon policy chief Douglas Feith’s handling of intelligence on Iraq was prepared by the defence department’s top watchdog, Inspector General Thomas Gimble.
Under repeated questioning by Mr Levin in February, Mr Gimble said the conclusions reached in reports by Mr Feith were not fully supported by the available intelligence.
In particular, his conclusion there was a “mature and symbiotic relationship” between Iraq and al-Qaeda could not be justified on the basis of the available intelligence.
In addition, an alleged meeting between an Iraqi intelligence officer and a leader of the 9/11 attacks, Mohamed Atta, never took place.
Mr Feith’s supporters stress that the inspector general found no evidence of illegal or unauthorised activity.
Cursor hackers target WoW players
World of Warcraft players are being targeted by hackers exploiting flaws in how Windows handles animated cursors.
The flaw came to light in late March and lets attackers take over vulnerable PCs via booby-trapped websites.
Warcraft players seem to be one of the targets because accounts for the game are potentially worth significant sums of money.
Microsoft has issued a patch for the flaw early to combat the rising number of attacks.
Player power
Security firms tracking how criminal hackers are exploiting the cursor flaw suspect there are many websites hosting the code that can be used to take over vulnerable PCs.
Some of the sites have been specially created but others have been hacked to be unwitting hosts for the infection.
The potential for the flaw to do harm grew significantly with the discovery of a website that automatically generates all the attack files needed to turn a site into a booby-trap.
A large number of criminally-minded hacking gangs are cashing in on the flaw.
One Chinese group known to be using the animated cursor flaw scored some success in February when it managed to hack a Superbowl website and use it to host code for spyware.
Analysis of that malicious software showed that it lay dormant on a victims machine until they ran World of Warcraft (WoW) at which point it captured login data and sent it to the hacking group.
The group’s enthusiastic use of the cursor flaw suggests it is trying to do the same again.
The online fantasy game now has more than eight million active players around the world.
Research by security firm Symantec suggests that the raw value of a WoW account is now higher than a credit card and its associated verification data.
One card can be sold for up to $6 (£3) suggests Symantec, but a WoW account will be worth at least $10. An account that has several high level characters associated with it could be worth far more as the gold and rare items can be sold for real cash.
In a bid to head off the growing threat from the animated cursor flaw, Microsoft took the unusual step of releasing a patch for the bug on 3 April.
Usually Microsoft issues security patches on the second Tuesday of every month. The patch for the cursor flaw arrived a week early and Microsoft has been preparing it since December when the bug was first reported.
Windows users can get the patch via automatic updates or visit Microsoft to download it manually.
On its security blog, Microsoft said the patch was released early “to help better protect customers from this threat”.
The software giant urged Windows users to download and install the patch.
It said there was a chance that attacks via the vulnerability would increase but had seen little evidence of widespread use yet.
Osama Or The Easter Bunny?
Who will be paying us a visit this weekend?
Steve Watson
Friday, April 6, 2007   CENTCOM has reliably informed us that The Easter Bunny’s appearance this year may be upstaged by that of Goldstein himself, the back from the dead Osama Bin Laden.
On 4 April, a “jihadist” website carried the following posting:
“After a long absence by the shaykh of mujahidin, whom we have missed as well as his speeches, some news is being leaked indicating that Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin, God protect and preserve him and make him a thorn in the throat of the enemies, will make an appearance. The news indicates that Al-Sahab Media Establishment, which specializes in publishing Al-Qa’ida leaders’ speeches, has recently finished producing a video featuring Bin Ladin’s speech to the entire Islamic nation. ”
Furthermore, the poster of this note maintains that the speech includes several messages to the “mujahidin” in Iraq, the Palestinian People on ” the capitulation choice which HAMAS gave in to,” the Riyadh Arab summit, the “fears” of America and its allies of the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate state in Iraq, and the “good tidings of victory in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
But which Osama will it be? The fat nosed Bin Laden, the fuzzy blurry Bin Laden or the regurgitated cobbled together Bin Laden medley?
With a great deal of 9/11 truth activity and significant breakthroughs into the mainstream media over the last month, it would certainly do for those who wish to send Americans back to sleep to remind everyone who they are supposed to point the finger at and what they are supposed to think with regards to the war on terror.
We have previously covered the scores of times Osama Bin Laden has been used as a tool of fear and control as a tried and tested method whenever the going gets tough. Many tapes have been determined to be total fakes by voice analysis or simply re-hashes of old material.
In February Professor Bruce Lawrence, head of Duke University’s Religious Studies program and a leading expert on Osama Bin Laden, went on the record to say that he believes the so called “9/11 Confession” tape, released shortly after the attacks, is an outright fake that has been used by US intelligence agencies to deflect attention from “conspiracy theories” about 9/11.
Research led us to discover that the most recent “Al Qaeda” video releases featuring Bin Laden had already featured in a docudrama The Road to Guantanamo. The media tentatively even admitted that it was the government that released the tapes.
In a separate revelation, AP reported that an expert on Islamic extremism deemed the Al Qaeda footage as so out of character for al-Qa’ida it could have been taken by a security agency.
Bin Laden was created by US intelligence , worked with US intelligence in the late 70s and 80s, was used as a patsy by US intelligence before and after 911 and is now being used as a manipulative tool of fear by the criminal elite faction currently in power in the US.
In June 2006, Muckraker Report investigative reporter Ed Haas contacted the FBI to ask why 9/11 was not specifically mentioned on Bin Laden’s wanted page on the FBI website.
“The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s most wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11,” he was told Rex Tomb.
In Bin Laden’s first interview after the 9/11 attacks he denied any involvement. This isn’t like a kid caught thieving in a sweet shop – terrorists always claim responsibility for attacks they have perpetrated otherwise why bother killing people to send a political message?
Then came the now thoroughly debunked “Confession Tape”.
The fact that the FBI does not consider the ‘confession tape’ as reliable evidence of involvement in 9/11 was subsequently completely dismissed by the Washington Post and others who still say the tape proves that Al-Qaeda have, “proudly taken responsibility for the hijackings.”

US to attack Iran by end of April: report
India News | April 5, 2007
The US is planning to attack Iran’s nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities by the end of this month, the Kuwait-based Arab Times newspaper reported Wednesday.
Citing anonymous sources in Washington, it said that various White House departments had started preparing the political speech to be delivered by the US president later this month, announcing the military attack on Iran.
The speech will provide the ‘evidence’ and the ‘justification’ for the US to resort to the military option after failing to persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions, said the report.
According to the Times, one of the justifications expected in the speech is Iran’s alleged role in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq by supporting various militias with money and arms.
The US president’s speech will also point to Iran’s political interference in Iraq, obviously in cooperation with Syria.
The sources were quoted as saying that US will not resort to a ground attack in order to avoid human losses.

urope tops US in stock market value | April 3, 2007
Tony Tassell
Europe has eclipsed the US in stock market value for the first time since the first world war in another sign of the slipping of the global dominance of American capital markets.
Europe’s 24 stockmarkets, including Russia and emerging Europe, saw their capitalisation rise to $15,720bn (€11,819bn) at the end of last week, according to Thomson Financial data. That exceeded the $15,640bn market value of the US.
The rise of the euro against the dollar, growth of east European markets such as Russia and stock market outperformance spurred by improving profitability have seen Europe close a long-held gap with the US. Ian Harnett at Absolute Strategy Research, who identified the move, said this marked a “seismic shift” in markets.
The last time Europe eclipsed the US in market capitalisation was likely to have been before the first world war, said Mike Staunton, stock-market historian at London Business School. The shift mirrors a trend in the debt world, where European activity has caught up, and in some cases overtaken the US.
European shares have outperformed the US, with their market capitalisation rising 160 per cent since the start of 2003 in dollar terms, said Thomson Financial. That compared with a 70.5 per cent rise for the US stock market. Over that time the euro has risen 26 per cent against the dollar.
Europe trails the US on the indices of market capitalisation compiled by FTSE and MSCI and which are used by fund managers as benchmarks.
However, these have a reduced or no weighting to shares that cannot be freely traded such as holdings of governments or controlling family shareholders. Europe has more companies with such stakes

Opinion & analysis

Russia: Would-Be Great Power?
19:54    |    06/ 04/ 2007

MOSCOW. (Ian Pryde for RIA Novosti) – Anyone strolling around a half-decent bookshop these days will find that most of the books on current affairs seem to deal with Islam and the war in Iraq – and China.
The storyline is, of course, that China is changing the world as the rising giant and superpower of the twenty-first century. India also warrants the odd volume, but more by virtue of its size and software industry rather than its overall economy, even though it averaged GDP growth of 5.7% per annum between 1979 and 2006 and since implementing liberal reforms in the early 1990s has achieved an average of 6.8% since 1994 – a solid performance, of course, but way below that of China’s.
But go back to the early 1990s and the time after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the bookshelves were full of books on Russia, on its politics and its opportunities for western business.
And even earlier, in the 1970s and 1980s, it was Japan that was set to conquer the world after wiping out one industry after another in the United States and Europe. With the biggest banks in the world, Japan was also buying up property everywhere it could.
Nowadays popular books on Russia are not only rarer than before, but also tend to be rather negative. Racy biographies of Putin and his KGB background, or of multi-billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, seem to sell well everywhere.
In Germany, recent books on Russia carry titles such as “Russia Between the Pliers: Putin’s Empire between NATO, China and Islam” and “Putins Demokratur.”
This is odd. Russia is more confident about itself now than it has been for decades, including the early 1990s, when western observers, huge numbers of whom had no expertise on the country whatsoever, assumed that Russia would become a flourishing market economy and democracy.
Many academics, along with the U.S. Congress, were asking themselves for years “What went wrong with Russia?” and “Who lost Russia?” rather than ditching their nonsensical scholastic theories.
Joseph Stiglitz, for instance, a Nobel prize winner in economics, is so bent on discrediting the IMF policies and the Washington Consensus of the early 1990s that in his 2002 book “Globalization and its Discontents,” he utterly fails to mention that the Soviet economy was in dire straits in the 1980s and that production there was already falling long before the IMF and an army of western consultants showed up in Moscow. The rupturing of the economic ties between the republics of the Soviet Union and between the USSR and Eastern Europe were virtually pre-programmed to make an already bad situation much worse.
Few observers in the early 1990s realised that construction is far, far harder, than destruction, and that the collapse of the Soviet Union did not ipso facto mean that the successor states would develop into market democracies. Other options – including muddling through – were never considered.
In other words, the Zeitgeist doesn’t always get it right. The pundits also got it wrong on Japan, which was greatly feared – and often despised – in the United States and Europe until its bubble burst in the early 1990s and the economy went into a recession – largely as a result of the 1985 Plaza Agreement by the then G5 group of leading industrialized countries and subsequently aided and abetted by disastrous policy decisions in the late 1990s. Japan is now emerging from its recession, but the West’s current focus on China – understandable given China’s sheer scale – means it has hardly considered what impact a revitalised Japan could have on the global economy.
Much the same caveat applies to Russia. One of the best biographies of Putin and Russia’s future direction was written by a German academic Wolfgang Seiffert as long ago as 2000. His biography of Putin carries the telling subtitle: “Wiedergeburt einer Weltmacht?” (“Rebirth of a World Power?”)
But commentators, academics and policy makers are still behind the curve in understanding that Russia will play in increasingly active role on the world stage.
Hence the general surprise when President Putin was at pains to point out during the G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July 2006 that Russia was now an energy superpower – something Moscow underlined in its energy wars both before and after the summit.
True, as the new millennium began, a growing awareness of the changes in Russia began to emerge. The much-vaunted BRIC acronym to signify the large, populous countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China and their future importance for the global economy was coined by a Goldman Sachs economist in 2003. The “Global Economics Paper No. 99: Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050,” prepared by The Goldman Sachs Group, is hedged with caveats: “These countries “could become a much larger force in the world economy… if things go right.” But things could just as easily go wrong.
Being conferred a title such as “energy superpower” is of course much better than being self-appointed – the very term itself highlights Russia’s general weakness. Both China and Russia take the paradoxical line of wanting to be recognized as major powers and part of the Western club, but both are still a long way off on a number of important criteria.
Leaving aside politics and the democracy deficit to look at the economy, it is striking that of the few countries that have posed serious economic challenges to the West, only Japan has so far managed to create instantly recognizable world-class brands and globally respected companies.
Like China, Russia has few brands which are internationally famous, and most of its best known companies are in the energy sector. Admittedly, many of its own domestic brands are flourishing, but these seem to be of little interest to the average foreign reader and receive little press coverage. Russian chocolate, for instance, went through a very sticky patch in the 1990s as the big companies such as Nestle, Cadburys and so on moved in, but Russian brands such as Korkunov now hold their own on the supermarket shelves.
The failure of Russia and China to develop these kinds of new companies and take them into the international marketplace in sufficient numbers shows just how difficult it is to get into the premier league of major economies with high per capita incomes. As Lester Thurow pointed out in the early 1990s in “Head-to-Head,” Japan is the only (large) non-western economy to have managed this feat since the nineteenth century.
Russia may indeed by an “energy superpower” and China may indeed be the low cost manufacturer that has held down global inflation and made life cheaper for western consumers. But both countries still have an awfully long way to go.
Most striking of all, however, is the growing energy, communications and security nexus in Eurasia – a shift in power that is very different from that in Pacific Asia – and one which receives hardly any comment in the West.
Ian Pryde is CEO of Eurasia Strategy & Communications, Moscow.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Obesity bane of pupils
By Yin Ping (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-30 07:17
SHANGHAI: Many cities across the country face the problem, but nowhere it is as grave as in Shanghai.
The city has 15.1 and 9.2 percent obese boys and girls, 3.71 and 4.19 percentage points higher that the national average.
And obesity is the biggest cause of the school-going children’s deteriorating health and slack motor reflexes and strength. It is affecting their eyesight, too.
A recent survey on school students and health showed that 42.5 percent of Shanghai’s primary school pupils, and 73.9 and 81.1 percent of those in junior-middle and senior-middle schools had poor eyesight, the worst record in the country.
Children in the latest group performed poorly in exercises to evaluate their motor reflexes and skills, measured by strength and endurance, compared to the 2000 batch. The exercises they were asked to perform included push-ups, spot long jumps and 800-meter runs.
To overcome the problem, the city’s education authority will make it mandatory for school’s to have a one-hour physical exercise class each day. So from the next semester, kids will have three physical education (PE) and two activity classes a week.
The children will have to attend group gymnastics classes at least once a week and eye exercises no less than twice a day.
The authority will ensure that PE review is included in the overall assessment of high school graduates from this year. And from next year, the authority said, it will be made an integral part of graduates’ performance in the national college entrance examination.
Primary school kids will be encouraged to sleep at least 10 hours a day and their high school counterparts at least 9 hours to ensure that they get enough sleep.
Shanghai only mirrors the widespread decline in kids’ health across the nation. In many schools, PE classes are cut short or even canceled because they are considered a waste of time. For many teachers and parents, academic records are all that really matter.
Even schools that still have PE classes have replaced traditional exercises such as box jumping and single and parallel bars with “safer” activities.
US plans more National Guard to Iraq: NBC
Updated: 2007-04-06 09:59
WASHINGTON – The US Defense Department is preparing to send another 12,000 National Guard combat troops to Iraq, NBC Nightly News reported on Thursday, citing Pentagon sources.

New orders awaiting the signature of Defense Secretary Robert Gates will put 12,000 National Guard troops on alert to prepare to deploy to Iraq, the report said.
Four Guard combat brigades from units in four states would be involved in the involuntary mobilization, NBC said.
The one-year combat deployment would begin early in 2008, the report said.
The Pentagon referred queries about the report to the National Guard, where a spokesman had no immediate comment.
Gates did not mention a possible Guard deployment at news conference on Thursday.
More than four years into the US-led war in Iraq, the US military shows increasing signs of strain.
On Monday, the Pentagon said it would send another 9,000 US troops to Iraq, with about half of them returning to combat ahead of schedule.
Two of the affected Army units, totaling about 4,500 troops, will return to combat short of their promised year at home, reflecting the strain placed on US forces by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under the Bush administration’s new Iraq policy announced earlier this year, the Pentagon has increased force levels there by about 30,000 troops in an attempt to regain control of security and reduce sectarian violence.
The units announced this week largely replace forces already in Iraq, which number around 145,000.

Scientists: Genes determine dogs’ sizes
Updated: 2007-04-06 14:16

This undated handout photo provided by the journal Science shows Gibson, a Great Dane, right, and Zoie, a Chihuahua in Grass Valley, California. [AP]

WASHINGTON – From the towering Great Dane to the feisty little Chihuahua, all dogs are brothers under the skin. Now, researchers have uncovered a reason why the animals wearing that skin vary so much in size.
Dogs have the largest variation in body size of any land animal, so researchers led by Elaine A. Ostrander of the National Human Genome Research Institute decided to look into the reasons why.
They found a section of genes that controls small size in dogs and reported their results in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.
Learning how growth is controlled can improve the understanding of cancer and other diseases caused by growth gone awry, Ostrander said in a telephone interview.
And the research adds to the basic study of variations, perhaps improving knowledge of the differences between people, she added.
K. Gordon Lark of the University of Utah, a co-author of the report, pointed out that dogs have 200 to 300 diseases in common with people, including high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases and cancer.
“They also share our environment, so if there is an environmental influence that can trigger disease,” dogs will be going through the same process, he said in a telephone interview.
“So, if we can solve this in dogs, that’s a fantastic jump ahead,” Lark said.
Keith E. Murphy, principal investigator at the Canine Genetics Laboratory of Texas A&M University, said, “What you’ve got here is the first piece of that puzzle.”
“That’s very important and you’re looking at almost a sort of cascade effect, if you will, and we would hope that these findings, maybe you can extend to diseases … maybe even cancer,” said Murphy, who was not part of the research team.
Lark’s Portuguese water dog, Georgie, had died and he was seeking a new one. Hearing he was a geneticist, the breeder urged him to work on dog genes.
So he began the Georgie project, studying the genes of the Portuguese water dog, a breed that comes in a wide range of sizes from 25 pounds to 75 pounds.
Ostrander and colleagues then extended that to a range of large and small breeds and the researchers located a section of DNA that varied between large and small breeds in most cases.
Known as a regulatory sequence, the difference is on dog chromosome 15 next to a previously known gene named IGF1, for insulin-like growth factor 1. The hormone controlled by the IGF1 gene helps mammals ¡ª including people ¡ª grow from birth to adolescence.
In small dog breeds a mutation in the sequence next to the gene kept them from growing larger, the researchers said.
“We know this is only part of the story, but it’s a necessary part of the story,” said Ostrander, who noted there some exceptions, with the small-dog sequence appearing in larger dogs.
Other yet-unidentified genetic factors cause the exceptions, said Kevin Chase of the University of Utah, another co-author.
Overall, 21 researchers studied 3,241 dogs from 143 breeds, ranging from bichon frise, Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian, toy poodle, pug and Pekingese to Saint Bernard, Newfoundland, mastiff, Great Dane, Irish wolfhound and standard poodle.
Dogs are descended from wolves, having been domesticated 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. Selective breeding has produced the many different types of dogs that exist today.
Judging from ancient artwork, small breeds were developed quite early, Lark said.
A study of several hundred modern wolves didn’t find any with the small-dog marker, he said, but it is possible there were small wolves in ancient times.
“If you’re a primitive man you would adopt the small wolf, not the big one,” he said. And for a small wolf, life would have been easier hanging around people looking for scraps than competing with larger wolves in the wild.
And, he added, unlike today when dogs are mainly companions, in the past there was plenty of work for small dogs to do ¡ª they hunted rats and other vermin, did some herding and could be excellent watchdogs.
Jeff Sossaman of the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation said researchers there are “really excited” about the findings.
“The canine model is a perfect model for humans because we share 85 percent of our genetic makeup. So, when we find the gene on the canine side, you can directly collate that with the human,” said Sossaman, who was not part of the research group.
The research was funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute, National Science Foundation, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Judith Chiara Charitable Trust, Mars Inc. and the Nestle Purina Co.
Oil Currency Geopolitics: Europe, China, Iran and the United States

September 12, 2005

By William Clark

While most Americans are currently pre-occupied with the disastrous aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and the subsequent rise in domestic gasoline prices, it is possible that by next year at this time oil priced around $65 per barrel may have seemed like quite a bargain.  It appears that next year oil from the second largest OPEC oil producer could be priced on the international markets for €45 – €50 (euros) per barrel.  This event could introduce petrodollar versus petroeuro currency hedging, and fundamentally new dynamics to the biggest market in the world – global oil and gas trades.

Contemporary warfare has traditionally involved underlying conflicts regarding economics and resources.  Today these intertwined conflicts involve not only control over oil supplies, but also international currencies.  Current events appear to be revolving around the complex nexus of the imminent peak in global oil production, and the erosion of the U.S. dollar as the World’s International Reserve currency.  International fissures between the U.S. and the European Union., Russia, and China became visible during 2002-2003, resulting in the failure of the Bush administration to gain U.N. authorization for the impending invasion of Iraq.

Indeed, current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian “petroeuro” system for oil trade.  Similar to the Iraq war, prospective military operations against Iran relate to the macroeconomics of ‘petrodollar recycling’ and the unpublicized but real challenge to U.S. dollar supremacy from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.

Understanding these underlying issues of global oil production and oil transaction currency is critical if one wishes to understand recent events in Iraq — and current U.S. antagonism towards Iran.  Although completely censored by the five U.S. media conglomerates, in mid-2003 Iran broke from traditional and began accepting euros as payment for it oil exports from its E.U. and Asian customers.[1]

Once the petrodollar recycling system begins to erode via the emergence of a broad-based petroeuro transaction exchange, the Federal Reserve will no longer be able to effortlessly expand its debt-financing via issuance of Treasury bills, and the dollar’s international demand/liquidity value will begin to fall. This will ultimately force the U.S. to significantly change its current tax, debt, trade, and energy policies, all of which are severely unbalanced.

Saddam Hussein attempted a similar bold step back in 2000, and it remains a quasi-state secret within American society that the major U.S. petroleum conglomerates continued to purchase about 65% of Iraqi’s oil exports from 2001 to early 2003 – but with euros – not dollars.[2]  As I hypothesized in 2002, this was unacceptable, and Saddam’s decision was ultimately met with a devastating reaction from the U.S. government via a “shock and awe” campaign [3]  Upon toppling Iraq, the Bush administration immediately dismantled the Oil-For-Food program and quietly re-converted Iraq’s oil transaction currency back to the U.S. dollar – which had the rather adverse effect of wiping out 13% of Iraq’s oil export profits due to the euro’s higher valuation to the dollar in mid-2003. [4]  While Iraq was given no choice about using U.S. dollars for its oil sales, Iran is about to commit a far greater “offense” than Iraq’s switch to euros.

While the dollar is still the standard currency for trading international oil sales, in 2006 Iran intends to set up an oil exchange (or bourse) that would facilitate global trading of oil between industrialized and developing countries by pricing sales in the euro, or “petroeuro.”[5] The vast majority of the world’s oil is traded on the New York NYMEX (Mercantile Exchange) and the London IPE (International Petroleum Exchange), both of which are operated by an Atlanta-based U.S. conglomerate. These oil exchanges transact oil trades in the dollar. Tehran’s plan to open an oil exchange that utilized the euro for global oil trades represents a significant obstacle towards stated neoconservative goals of U.S. global domination.

Moreover, the euro’s higher valuation relative the dollar also explains why Russia, Venezuela and perhaps even Saudi Arabia have expressed interest in moving towards a petroeuro system for oil transactions.[6][7] Without a doubt, a successful Iranian oil bourse may create a shift away from U.S. dollars and towards euros in the oil market.  The drop in demand for petrodollars would cause the value of the dollar to plummet further, thereby undermining the U.S. position as the global economic leader.

Further evidence of the dollar’s erosion the global financial markets occurred in July 2005 when China announced that it was slightly re-valuing the yuan/RNB currency.  While the Bush administration indicated this was a “step in the right direction,” China’s re-valuation was not nearly as important as its decision to divorce itself from a dollar peg by moving towards a “basket of currencies” – likely to include the yen, euro, and dollar.[8]  Incidentally, the Chinese re-valuation immediately lowered their monthly imported “oil bill” by 2%, given that oil trades are still priced in dollars, but it is unclear how much longer this monopoly will last.

Concerning Iran, the irony is that leaked reports of U.S. plans for intervening either covertly or overtly in Iran – including a potential aerial attack on suspected nuclear facilities – would likely put pressure on the Chinese to abandon their support of the dollar. China is a major exporter to the United States, and its trade surplus with the U.S. means that China has become the world’s second largest holder of U.S. currency reserves (Japan is the largest holder with $800 billion, and China holds over $650 billion in dollar assets).

In October 28, 2004, Iran and China signed a huge oil and gas trade agreement, valued between $70 – $100 billion dollars.[9]   It should also be noted that China currently receives 13% of its oil imports from Iran, and with this deal the Chinese government effectively drew a “line in the sand” around Iran.  Despite desires by U.S. elites to enforce the monopoly petrodollar recycling system, the geopolitical risks of a U.S. aerial attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities – while simultaneously attempting to prevent the Iranian oil Bourse from initiating a euro-based system for oil trades – would surely create a crisis between Washington and Beijing. Given the Bush administration’s complete lack of interest or skill regarding “soft power” diplomacy, it seems unlikely they could use the U.N. Security Counsel to thwart the opening of the Iranian bourse in 2006.
In recent years an interesting conceptual bias has gained prominence in stateside commentary, especially within right-wing ideology, that appears to manifest on two levels.  On the one hand, there’s a singular fixation with the US military element of geopolitical relations, to the relative disregard for the economic dimension. On the other hand, there’s a certain presumption that the U.S. can pursue its geopolitical aims with impunity, while other nations will be restrained by economic considerations.
This segues into the more long-standing assumption that other major powers would be unable to overcome their own rivalries in such manner as to present effective opposition to U.S. interests; assuming that America will be able to play one against the other to our own advantage, in perpetuity. During 2002-2003 this flawed logic failed miserably when the Bush administration was unable to manipulate the members of the EU, Turkey, Mexico, Russia and China over U.S. plans to remove Saddam Hussein by military force.[10]  Tragically, we are still paying the price in blood and treasure for their arrogance.
In reality, given the events in Iraq before, during, and after the war, this belief may prove to be the key false assumption being made by the Bush administration and various neoconservative “strategists.” Based on my analysis of statements by various governments, it is clear the E.U., China, Russia and much of the world view neoconservatives as pursuing destabilizing and dangerous policies.[11]  Advocates of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and other far-right think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) openly call for U.S. “global leadership” based upon an overt U.S. military deployments designed to further solidify our hegemonic position by seizing control of the Middle East’s energy supply, establishing satellite military bases around Russia and the Caspian region, conducting belligerent naval maneuvers off the coast of China, undermining the emergence of a cohesive, powerful E.U. rival, while at the same time ignoring international law and abandoning multiple international treaties.
Yet, from all appearances this neoconservative geostrategy is being recklessly pursued without analysis, or even tacit recognition, of the subsequent unfolding economic and geopolitical consequences.
Perhaps most amazingly is irresponsible stateside commentary regarding China (see Robert Kaplan’s “How We Would Fight China,”[12]), which incredible – completely fails to mention that China is our second largest foreign banker – holding over $650 billion in U.S. Treasury Bills and other dollar-denominated assets.  Between Japan and China, they hold over $1.5 trillion in U.S. paper.  We are borrowing about $1.9 billion a day from strangers (nearly half from China and her neighbors) to fund not only massive tax cuts, but our massive military as well.  So, we have no cards to play with China, not even militarily.
We are borrowing about $1.9   billion a day from strangers (nearly half from China and her neighbors) to fund not only massive tax cuts, but our massive military as well.

The ugly truth of the matter is that if China ever becomes sufficiently perturbed by our current antagonistic naval activities (i.e. Summer Pulse ’04) [13], they could afford to stop buying billions of our debt every month, or if really upset by a US aerial attack on their principle oil export partner (Iran), they could afford to show their displeasure by suddenly unloading perhaps $300 billion of their surplus dollars.  The immediate effect would create a global dollar crisis, if not a dollar crash, likely forcing Russia and OPEC to abandon the dollar for a monopoly “petroeuro” oil pricing and transaction currency.  A punitive, collective switch, would ultimately render the US Navy in a similar state to the once mighty Soviet Fleet – rusting in port due to a collapsed economy.
Clearly, a unilateral military strike on Iran without solid proof of a nuclear weapons program would isolate the U.S. government in the eyes of the world community, and it is conceivable that such an overt action could provoke other industrialized nations to abandon the dollar in droves.  I refer to this in my book as the “rogue nation hypothesis.”
While central bankers throughout the world community would be extremely reluctant to ‘dump the dollar,’ the reasons for any such drastic reaction are likely straightforward from their perspective – the global community is dependent on the oil and gas energy supplies found in the Persian Gulf.  Global oil production is reportedly “flat out,” and is projected to begin slowly declining after 2007.[14]  Therefore, the world community will not tolerate the U.S. government unleashing a proxy military operation against Iran that could make the recent disaster wrought by hurricane Katrina insignificant in comparison.
Hence, any such efforts by the international community that resulted in a dollar currency crisis would be undertaken – not to cripple the U.S. dollar and economy as punishment towards the American people per se – but rather as a desperate attempt to thwart further unilateral warfare and its potentially destructive effects on the critical oil production and shipping infrastructure in the Persian Gulf.  Barring a U.S. attack, it appears imminent that Iran’s euro-denominated oil bourse will open in March, 2006. Logically, the most appropriate U.S. strategy is compromise with the E.U. and OPEC towards a dual-currency system for international oil trades.  Another imperative is an International treaty to allocate oil depletion in the post-Peak Oil period.  The Association for the Study of Oil and Gas Depletion (ASPO) has developed the foremost oil Depletion Protocol, also known as the Uppsala or Rimini Protocol [15].
As outlined in Petrodollar Warfare, my analysis of current U.S. geostrategic, monetary, and energy polices suggests that the 21st century will be much different from the previous century, with one possible exception. The first half of the 20th century was filled with unprecedented levels of violence and warfare on a global scale (15 million killed in WW I, 55 million in WW II). The first two decades of the 21st century present challenges that could also result in the unleashing of another period of catastrophic human suffering and destruction. In the post-nuclear age, this must not be allowed to transpire. In order to avoid such a terrible fate in this new century, American citizens, more than any others, must accept and undertake sacrifices for the betterment of humanity; we must once again begin living within our means relative to both fiscal and energy policies. It is my hope the beginning of the 21st century may be crafted by the international community into a more energy sustainable, economically stable, and less violent period than the opening decades of the previous century. Humanity and morality demand nothing less.
“The significant problems we face can not be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
– Albert Einstein

Discuss this Page
[1]           C. Shivkumar, “Iran offers oil to Asian union on easier terms,” The Hindu Business Line (June 16, 2003).
[2]           Faisal Islam , “When Will We Buy Oil in Euros?,” [UK] Observer, February 23, 2003,6903,900867,00.html

[3]           William Clark, “Revisited – The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War with Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth,” January 2003 (updated January 2004)

[4]           Carol Hoyos and Kevin Morrison, “Iraq returns to the international oil market,” Financial Times, June 5, 2003

Also see: Faisal Islam, “Iraq nets handsome profit by dumping dollar for euro,” [UK] Guardian, February 16, 2003,12239,896344,00.html

[5]           “Oil bourse closer to reality,”, December 28, 2004.  Also see: “Iran oil bourse wins authorization,” Tehran Times, July 26, 2005

[6]           Coilin Nunan, “Petrodollar or Petroeuro? A New source of global conflict,” Feasta Review 2, 2004,
Also see: Catherine Belton, “Putin: Why Not Price Oil in Euros?” Moscow Times, October 10, 2003, or archived,

[7]           James McInerney, “Saudi Sees Stronger Euro Role,” Middle East Finance and Economy, AME Info, January 12, 2005,

[8]           Richard S. Appel, “The Repercussions from the Yuan’s Revaluation,”, July 27, 2005

[9]           “China, Iran sign biggest oil & gas deal,” China Daily, October 31, 2004.  Online:

[10]         Novakeo, “Currency Wars: Euro vs. Dollar,”, May 12, 2003
Also see: “The Strategy Behind Paris-Berlin-Moscow Tie,” Intelligence, 447, February 20, 2003,

[11]         Pat Rabbitte, “Iraq Being Used by the US to Flex Its Political Muscles,” Irish Times, March 31, 2003
Also see: “China Lays Into ‘Bush Doctrine,’ ahead of US Poll,” Reuters, October 31, 2004.

[12]         John M. Glionna, “China, US Each Hold Major War Exercises,” Global Policy Forum, July 20, 2004,

[13]         Robert D. Kaplan, “How We Would Fight China,” The Atlantic, June 2005

[14]         “New Oil Projects Cannot Meet World Needs This Decade,” Oil Depletion Analysis Center (ODAC), November 16, 2004

[15]         Association for the Study of Oil and Gas Depletion (ASPO), International Workshop IV, May 19-20, 2005, Lisbon, Portugal

About the Author: William Clark has received two Project Censored awards for his research on oil currency conflict, and has recently published a book, Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar (New Society Publishers, 2005).  He is an Information Security Analyst, and holds a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Information and Telecommunication Systems from Johns Hopkins University.  He lives in Maryland.  Website:

Copyright © 2003-2005 William Clark
Reprinted for Fair Use Only

FRIDAY, APRIL 06, 2007
1:40 MECCA TIME, 22:40 GMT US captured ‘wrong Iranians’

The five Iranians were seized from a nondescript house in Irbil in northern Iraq in January[AFP]

US soldiers who captured five Iranians in the Iraq’s northern city of Irbil three months ago were hoping to seize commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, a senior Kurdish leader has said.

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish region government, said senior Guards leaders had been visiting Kurdish officials at the time of the January raid.

The five Iranian diplomats who were arrested in the raid on a house in Irbil were all innocent of US charges that they were helping co-ordinate attacks against US and Iraqi forces, Barzani told Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah television in remarks broadcast on Friday.

“It [the house] was not a secret Iranian office,” Barzani said.

“It is impossible for us to accept that an Iranian office in Irbil was doing things against coalition forces or against us. That office was doing its work in a normal way and had they been doing anything hostile we would have known that.”

“They [the Americans] did not come to detain the people [the five Iranians] in that office.”

Barzani suggested that the US forces had instead hoped to captured senior members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards who were visiting the area at the time.

“There was an Iranian delegation, including Revolutionary Guards commanders, and they came as guests of the president,” Barzani said, refering to Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president who is a Kurd.

“He was in Sulaimaniyah. They came to Sulaimaniyah and then I received a call from the president’s office telling me that they wanted to meet me as well.

“They [the commanders] came here and they came openly. Their meetings with the president and myself were reported on television. The Americans came to detain this delegation, not the people in the office.

“They [Americans] came to the wrong place at the wrong time.”

US accusations

Washington has said the five captured Iranians, who were seized in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, were seized on suspicion that they were providing aid to Shia fighters who are targeting US and Iraqi troops and civilians.

On Wednesday, a US military spokesman said that an delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross had visited the captive Iranians.

On Friday, the US military issued a further statement clarifying that there were no Iranians in an Red Cross team that had visited the five detained Iranians.

The US has denied that it granted access to the Iranian captives as part of a deal which led to Iran freeing 15 British naval personnel who were seized by Iranian forces last month.

11:13 MECCA TIME, 8:13 GMT

Israel launches deadly raid in Gaza

Large parts of Gaza already  lie in ruins following repeated Israeli raids [AFP]

Israeli forces have killed a Palestinian fighter and wounded two in what is believed to be the fiercest exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters since a ceasefire agreed in November.

Residents said the helicopters fired at least two missiles at Palestinians near the Jabalya refugee camp early on Saturday.

An Israeli army spokesperson said the helicopters fired at a “group of militants” who had tried to plant an explosive device near the border fence.

Islamic Jihad said its fighters and members of another group had been mounting an operation near the fence when the exchange of fire occurred.

Medics named one of the dead men as Fuad Mauf, 22, an activist of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

DFLP fighters said they fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at the Israeli forces and detonated bombs they had planted previously near the border fence.

Local residents said Israeli tanks had entered the area, which the army denied.

“The army has found 40 explosives planted in that area since the November ceasefire,” an army spokesman said.

Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, said: “Palestinian sources say… last night the Israeli army entered the eastern part of Gaza and Palestinians tried to prevent the tanks form entering any further. There was an exchange of gunfire and a member of the DFLP was killed by an Israeli attack helicopter.”

“The Israeli army says that was not the case. They say they believed the men were planning an attack and had observed suspicious activity. As a result they say they were compelled to enter to respond to the preparation.”

Peretz allows ‘operations’

Amir Peretz, the Israeli defence minister, authorised the army on Monday to carry out operations against fightersGaza, despite the ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Some Palestinian groups have carried on firing rockets into Israel from Gaza despite the truce, and Peretz said the Jewish state would “not allow the continued strengthening and arming” of fighters in the coastal strip.

A local leader of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was wounded by Israeli fire on Saturday in the West Bank, residents said.

Zakaria al-Zubeidi, an al-Aqsa commander from the Jenin refugee camp, was shot in the shoulder by Israeli troops, members of the group said.

“He [al-Zubeidi] was taken to a safe place where he was treated. He is okay,” a member of al-Aqsa said.

Ali al-Sumodi, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jenin, said: “This is the fifth Israeli assassination attempt targeting al-Zubaidi since the beginning of the Israeli army’s campaign to pursue him following the Jenin refugee camp battle in April 2002.

“Al-Zubaidi’s mother, brother and cousin were killed in the 2002 massacre. Israeli forces have demolished his house and detained many of his relatives, including two brothers.

“Israel claims al-Zubaidi’s name is on top of its list of wanted activists for involvement in anti-Israeli activities.”

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Second Gonzales aide resigns over US attorney flap
Fri Apr 6, 2007 7:13PM EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales abruptly resigned on Friday in another twist in the controversy surrounding the Justice Department’s firing of eight U.S. prosecutors.
The aide, Monica Goodling, is the second adviser to Gonzales to depart as criticism mounts in Congress over the department’s handling of the dismissals, which Democrats have said were politically motivated.
Goodling had invoked her constitutional right against self-incrimination in refusing to testify before a Senate panel investigating the firings last year of the prosecutors.
She resigned in a brief letter submitted to Gonzales, whose resignation has been demanded by Democrats who charge the U.S. attorney firings were political motivated, an allegation the Bush administration denies.
“We can confirm her resignation,” said an aide to Goodling’s lawyer John Dowd, of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. His office would not release her resignation letter.
In a separate letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling said Goodling’s resignation would be effective April 7.
Goodling, 33, has been a counselor to Gonzales and the department’s White House liaison and was involved in the firings. She had been on personal leave from the department for several weeks.
Democrats, who took power in Congress in January, allege the prosecutors were fired in part because Republicans viewed them as not pursuing corruption allegations against Democrats strongly enough. They and some Republicans want Gonzales, who is close to U.S. President George W. Bush, to resign.
It was not immediately clear whether Goodling’s resignation would have an impact the Senate investigation. Gonzales is scheduled to testify on April 17.
Hertling, in his letter, referred the matter to Goodling’s attorney. But he added that “the attorney general and deputy attorney general have already taken steps to ensure that no actual or apparent conflict of interest would arise with respect to Ms. Goodling or related matters.”
A spokeswoman for the Senate Judiciary Committee could not be immediately reached.
Committee member Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who has been leading the effort to get Gonzales to quit, said Goodling had no choice but to resign.
“Attorney General Gonzales’ hold on the department gets more tenuous each day,” Schumer said in a statement.
In March, Kyle Sampson resigned as chief of staff to Gonzales after acknowledging that he did not tell other department officials sooner about his dealings with the White House over the firings.
Gonzales has said that he was not involved in the firings, but Sampson testified in March that Gonzales was wrong.

US accused of using neutron bombs

Al-Rawi, right, is still on the run

The former commander of Iraq’s Republican Guard has accused the US of using non-conventional weapons in its war against the Middle East country.

Saifeddin Fulayh Hassan Taha al-Rawi told Al Jazeera that US forces used neutron and phosphorus bombs during their assault on Baghdad airport before the April 9 capture of the Iraqi capital.

Al-Rawi is one of the most wanted associates of Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi leader, still on the run.

“The enemy used neutron and phosphorus weapons against Baghdad airport… there were bodies burnt to their bones,” he said.

Al-Rawi is among the 55 most wanted Iraqis
sought by US-led forces[AFP]
The bombs annihilated soldiers but left the buildings and infrastructure at the airport intact, he added.

A neutron bomb is a thermonuclear weapon that produces minimal blast and heat but releases large amounts of lethal radiation that can penetrate armour and is especially destructive to human tissue.

About 2,000 elite Republican Guard troops “fought until they were martyred”, according to al-Rawi.

He said the Iraqi military command was surprised by the speed of the US land offensive, expecting air bombardment to last much longer.

“We had not expected the enemy to launch its land offensive from the very first or second day.

We expected the air raids to last at least a month,” he said.

“The land offensive came at the same time as the air offensive. That was a situation we did not expect,” he told Al Jazeera.

Al-Rawi, who carries a $1m US bounty on his head, was also the jack of clubs on the deck of cards of 55 most wanted Iraqis distributed by the Pentagon before the invasion in 2003.
Timeline: Four years of turmoil

Statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square, Baghdad, is pulled down by US marines [EPA]

April 9, 2003: US soldiers enter central Baghdad. Statue of Saddam Hussein is pulled down in Firdos Square. Kurdish fighters and US troops take control of cities of Kirkuk and Mosul in the north.

April 12: Revealed in the form of a deck of cards, the US military unveils a list of the 55 most wanted members of the former Saddam regime.

May 22: UN Security Council supports US-led administration in Iraq and ends economic sanctions.

May 23: US abolishes Baath Party and institutions of former regime.

July 13: US-appointed governing council meets.

July 22: Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay die in gun battle in Mosul.
August 19: Bomb attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad kills 16.
August 21: Saddam’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, is captured.
August 29: Najaf car bomb kills 125 people, including Shia leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim.
December 14: Saddam Hussein is captured in Tikrit.
February, 2004: More than 100 people killed in Irbil in suicide attacks on offices of main Kurdish factions.
March: Suicide bombers attack Shia festival-goers in Karbala and Baghdad, killing 140 people.

Muqtada al-Sadr prays with followers in Najaf
April-May: Fighters loyal to Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fight coalition forces.
June 28: Iraq’s US-occupation administration transfers power to the interim Iraqi government in a surprise move two days ahead of the scheduled handover.
August: Fighting in Najaf between US forces and supporters of al-Sadr.
September 21: Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, delivers a stern rebuke to nations that “shamelessly disregard” international law. The previous week, he branded the US-led war on Iraq as illegal.
October 6: The US Iraq Survey Group announces that 15 months of searching have uncovered no evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
November 16: British-born charity worker Margaret Hassan is killed by her kidnappers.
December 17: Colin Powell and John Snow, US secretaries, sign agreement with interim Iraqi finance minister cancelling Iraq’s $4.1 billion debt to the US.
January 30, 2005: An estimated eight million people vote in elections for a transitional national assembly. The Shia United Iraqi Alliance wins a majority of assembly seats. Kurdish parties come second.
February 28: At least 114 people are killed by a car bomb in Hilla, south of Baghdad.
April 6: Parliament selects Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, as president. Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shia, is named as prime minister.
May: Major increase in car bombings, bomb explosions and shootings, Iraqi ministries put the civilian death toll for May at 672, up from 364 in the previous month.
June 14: Massoud Barzani becomes regional president of Iraqi Kurdistan.
July 19: Study compiled by the non-governmental Iraq Body Count organisation reports nearly 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the US-led invasion.
August 28: Draft constitution endorsed by Shia and Kurdish representatives, but not by Sunni negotiators.
August 31: More than 1,000 people die in a stampede in Baghdad during a Shia ceremony.
October 19: Saddam Hussein is put on trial on charges of crimes against humanity.
Voters approve a new constitution, which aims to create an Islamic federal democracy.
December 15: Iraqis vote for the first, full-term government and parliament since the US-led invasion.
January 20, 2006: Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance win December’s parliamentary elections, but fail to gain an absolute majority.
February: A bomb attack on an important Shia shrine in Samarra unleashes a wave of sectarian violence in which hundreds of people die.
April 22: Jalal Talabani, newly re-elected as president, asks Shia compromise candidate Nuri al-Maliki to form a new government. The move ends four months of political deadlock.
May and June: An average of more than 100 civilians per day are killed in violence in Iraq, the UN reports.
June 7: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, is killed in an air strike.
September: A ceremony to transfer operational command from US-led forces to Iraq’s new army is postponed.
November: Saddam Hussein is found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death.
Iraq and Syria restore diplomatic relations after nearly a quarter century.
More than 200 die in car bombings in the mainly Shia area of Sadr City in Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein is executed [AFP]
December 30: Saddam Hussein is executed by hanging.
January, 2007: George Bush, US president, announces a new Iraq strategy with thousands more US troops to be sent to increase security in Baghdad.
Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of the revolutionary court, are executed by hanging.
UN reports more than 34,000 civilians were killed in violence during 2006, the figure surpasses official Iraqi estimates three times over.
February: A bomb in Baghdad’s Sadriya market kills more than 130 people.
March: Fighters explode three trucks with toxic chlorine gas in Falluja and Ramadi, injuring hundreds of people.
March 20: Taha Yassin Ramadan, former vice-president, is executed.
US Aiding Al Qaeda Affiliated Group In Iran?
Pakistani Intel sources and Iranian parliament claims CIA aiding anti-Iranian militants | April 6, 2007
Steve Watson
A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005 according to Pakistani Intelligence and Iranian officials.
The United States is putting pressure on Iran by supporting anti-Iranian militants operating from the Pakistani border region, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Gholamali Haddadadel, said on Thursday, as reported by Reuters news agency.
“There is no doubt in our minds that the United States spares no effort to put pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Haddadadel said.
“The best indication of United States’ support to a particular terrorist group is that one of the leaders of this terrorist group was given the opportunity to speak on VoA after committing the crime,” Haddadadel said without specifying which crime he was referring to.
It is possible Haddadadel was referring to the February 2007 bombing attack on Zaheden , which lies in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, bordering on both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Following this attack, which killed 18 Iranian soldiers, Brigadier General Mohammad Ghafari “renewed Iranian accusations that the Jundullah group was receiving support from British and US forces in neighboring Afghanistan for its campaign of violence in Sistan-Baluchestan,” David Eshel wrote in the March 2007 Defense Update.
Following the arrest of some key members linked with the Jundallah group Ghafari asserted that “A video seized from the rebels confirms their attachment to opposition groups and some countries’ intelligence services such as America and Britain.”
It was then reported that explosive devices and arsenals used in the attack came from the United States .
Haddadadel’s claims are backed up by an ABC News investigative report this week that cites Pakistani intelligence sources.
ABC’s Brian Ross states:
The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.
It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.
U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or “finding” as well as congressional oversight.
Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states.
ABC cited Pakistani government sources as saying the secret campaign against Iran was on the agenda when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February.
One interesting aspect of this is that, according to the Asia Times, the Jundullah group was formerly allegedly headed by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the so called al-Qaeda operational commander of the 9/11 attacks.
Wikipedia entry :
Jundullah (Army of God) is a militant Islamic organization that is based in Waziristan, Pakistan and affiliated with Al-Qaeda. It is a part of the Baloch insurgency in Pakistan and in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan Province. The goal of the group is to form an independent and united Baluchistan under a hardline Sunni Islamist government similar to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Though Baloch-dominated, the group claims to represent all Sunnis in Iran, regardless of ethnicity. Iran and Pakistan have designated it a terrorist organization and banned it. The militant Sunni group operates inside Iran’s southeastern border. The group poses a threat to the country’s Shi’ite clerical regime, which already faces a crisis with the West over its nuclear ambitions. The Iranian government has accused the United States of supporting the Sunni group as a destabilizing element against Ahmadinejad’s regime. The Jundallah deny any link with the United States.
The group was supposedly an anti-Western terrorist group, which means that if Pakistani and Iranian intel is to be believed, at some point the group has been co-opted by Western intelligence. Is the CIA knowingly aiding an Al Qaeda affiliated group in order to pressure the Iranian regime?
The CIA and the government have a history of using proxy armies, funded by other countries to destabilize foreign governments. Nicaragua in the 1980s is one such example, as is the funding of anti-Castro militants in Cuba.
In 1953 such tactics were successful when the CIA and MI6 removed the democratically elected nationalist cabinet of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh from power by working with Qashqai tribal leaders in southern Iran to establish a clandestine safe haven from which U.S.-funded guerrillas and intelligence agents could operate.
Let us help you reach a huge audience of potential customers. is currently rocketing up the web rankings and is rivaling and in terms of hits. This means guaranteed sales for advertisers. Help support the website and take advantage of low advertising rates. Click here for more info.

This is not the only anti-Iranian terror group that US government has been accused of funding in an attempt to pressure the Iranian government.
Multiple credible individuals including US intelligence whistleblowers and former military personnel have asserted that the government is conducting covert military operations inside Iran using guerilla groups to carry out attacks on Iranian Revolution Guard units.
It is widely suspected that the well known right-wing terrorist organization known as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), once run by Saddam Hussein’s dreaded intelligence services, is now working exclusively for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations and carrying out remote bombings in Iran of the sort that the Bush administration condemns on a daily basis inside Iraq.
Just last month after a bombing inside Iran, the London Telegraph also reported on how a high ranking CIA official has blown the whistle on the fact that America is secretly funding terrorist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.
The British government has hinted that yesterday’s attack in Basra that killed four British soldiers was carried out by militants with ties to the Iranian government. Meanwhile the fifteen British sailors, released yesterday by Iran, have admitted that they were engaged in intelligence gathering on Iranian activity.
The evidence suggests that The US and Britain are fully engaged in a covert war with Iran that has spilled over the border into Iraq, sowing more chaos and endangering the lives of more US and British troops, the vast majority of whom have no knowledge of such activity.

US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran
William Lowther
London Telegraph
Sunday, February 25, 2007
America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.
In a move that reflects Washington’s growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran’s border regions.
The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime.
In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials.
Such incidents have been carried out by the Kurds in the west, the Azeris in the north-west, the Ahwazi Arabs in the south-west, and the Baluchis in the south-east. Non-Persians make up nearly 40 per cent of Iran’s 69 million population, with around 16 million Azeris, seven million Kurds, five million Ahwazis and one million Baluchis. Most Baluchis live over the border in Pakistan.
Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA’s classified budget but is now “no great secret”, according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.
His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: “The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran’s ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime.”
Although Washington officially denies involvement in such activity, Teheran has long claimed to detect the hand of both America and Britain in attacks by guerrilla groups on its internal security forces. Last Monday, Iran publicly hanged a man, Nasrollah Shanbe Zehi, for his involvement in a bomb attack that killed 11 Revolutionary Guards in the city of Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchistan. An unnamed local official told the semi-official Fars news agency that weapons used in the attack were British and US-made.
Yesterday, Iranian forces also claimed to have killed 17 rebels described as “mercenary elements” in clashes near the Turkish border, which is a stronghold of the Pejak, a Kurdish militant party linked to Turkey’s outlawed PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
John Pike, the head of the influential Global Security think tank in Washington, said: “The activities of the ethnic groups have hotted up over the last two years and it would be a scandal if that was not at least in part the result of CIA activity.”
Such a policy is fraught with risk, however. Many of the groups share little common cause with Washington other than their opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose regime they accuse of stepping up repression of minority rights and culture.
The Baluchistan-based Brigade of God group, which last year kidnapped and killed eight Iranian soldiers, is a volatile Sunni organisation that many fear could easily turn against Washington after taking its money.
A row has also broken out in Washington over whether to “unleash” the military wing of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group with a long and bloody history of armed opposition to the Iranian regime.
The group is currently listed by the US state department as terrorist organisation, but Mr Pike said: “A faction in the Defence Department wants to unleash them. They could never overthrow the current Iranian regime but they might cause a lot of damage.”
At present, none of the opposition groups are much more than irritants to Teheran, but US analysts believe that they could become emboldened if the regime was attacked by America or Israel. Such a prospect began to look more likely last week, as the UN Security Council deadline passed for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment programme, and a second American aircraft carrier joined the build up of US naval power off Iran’s southern coastal waters.
The US has also moved six heavy bombers from a British base on the Pacific island of Diego Garcia to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which could allow them to carry out strikes on Iran without seeking permission from Downing Street.
While Tony Blair reiterated last week that Britain still wanted a diplomatic solution to the crisis, US Vice-President Dick Cheney yesterday insisted that military force was a real possibility.
“It would be a serious mistake if a nation like Iran were to become a nuclear power,” Mr Cheney warned during a visit to Australia. “All options are still on the table.”
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany will meet in London tomorrow to discuss further punitive measures against Iran. Sanctions barring the transfer of nuclear technology and know-how were imposed in December. Additional penalties might include a travel ban on senior Iranian officials and restrictions on non-nuclear business.
Additional reporting by Gethin Chamberlain.
Briton ‘could stage another September 11’
London Telegraph | April 6, 2007
Toby Harnden
The United States fears that the next September 11-style attack on America could be launched by Muslims from Britain or Europe who feel “second-class citizens” and alienated by a “colonial legacy”, according to the US Homeland Security chief.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Michael Chertoff, who arrives in Britain tomorrow for talks with John Reid, the Home Secretary, said the US was determined to build extra defences against so-called “clean skin” terrorists from Europe.
“We need to build layers of protection, and I don’t think we totally want to rely upon the fact that a foreign government is going to know that one of their citizens is suspicious and is going to be coming here,” he said.
Mr Chertoff insisted that the US required additional information, including email addresses and credit card details, to vet European passengers and rejected “the idea that we’re going to bargain with the European Union over who’s going to come into the United States” under the visa waiver scheme.
“We have an absolute right to get this, in the same way that if someone wants to be a guest in my house I have a right to ask them who they are and get identification.”
The July 7 tube and bus bombs nearly two years ago had shown that Britain had a problem with its Muslim immigrant population that America did not share, he argued.
“Our Muslim population is better educated and economically better off than the average American. So, from a standpoint of mobility in society, it’s a successful immigrant population. To some degree, the whole country is a country of immigrants, and therefore there’s no sense that we have insiders or outsiders. In some countries [in Europe], you had an influx of people that came in as a colonial legacy and may have always have felt, to some extent, that they were viewed as second-class citizens, and they’ve tended to impact and be kind of clustered in some areas.”
Mr Chertoff, a former federal prosecutor, said that one of his biggest worries was that “unknown terrorists” – such as most of the 7/7 bombers, who were British citizens with no criminal record or intelligence traces – could use the visa waiver scheme to enter and attack America.
Britain is among 27 countries that participate in the scheme, which allows visitors to enter the US without a visa for up to 90 days. About 18 million people visit America every year under this programme.
Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” who attempted to blow up a transatlantic flight in 2001, was a British citizen travelling under the visa waiver scheme.
Zacharias Moussaoui, one of the September 11 plotters, was a French citizen who entered America without a visa. Mr Chertoff said that “we can do a good job with the known terrorists, if we have their name, or if we’ve previously arrested them and have their fingerprint on file” but a more potent threat was the terrorist with no known form.
“The fear has always been the so-called ‘clean skin’ – that’s a person whose documents are completely legitimate, are not forged.”
This had led the US to require a significant tightening of the rules for passengers travelling under a visa waiver. Among the new requirements are that all passenger information be transmitted to the US before a plane takes off. Soon, passengers will have to give all 10 fingerprints, rather than just two.
“If someone’s a terrorist, and they’ve left their fingerprints at a training camp, or in a safe house where a bomb was built, and those latent fingerprints are collected, we can then, when someone crosses a border, match their real prints against those latent prints even if we don’t know their name,” he said.
Mr Chertoff rejected the idea that the Iraq war had made the world more dangerous.
“Those that are inclined to be radicalised will find a reason to be radicalised no matter what’s going on in the world.”
America was “unquestionably safer and more secure” than it was on September 11 2001 but there was a danger of complacency because it had not been attacked for more than five years.
“Where you find some softness is in some elements of the media or in some elements of the intellectual class who convince themselves that this is our fault, or that there’s an easier way to avoid the problem if we can just figure what price we have to pay. That is a plea to the sensibility of exhaustion and history has shown that’s a very damaging and very destructive impulse.”

The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt
Rolling Stone | April 5th Edition
He was the ultimate keeper of secrets, lurking in the shadows of American history. He toppled banana republics, planned the Bay of Pigs invasion and led the Watergate break-in. Now he would reveal what he’d always kept hidden: who killed JFK
>> Who assassinated JFK? The conversation continues in our politics blog, National Affairs Daily .
O nce, when the old spymaster thought he was dying, his eldest son came to visit him at his home in Miami. The scourges recently had been constant and terrible: lupus, pneumonia, cancers of the jaw and prostate, gangrene, the amputation of his left leg. It was like something was eating him up. Long past were his years of heroic service to the country. In the CIA, he’d helped mastermind the violent removal of a duly elected leftist president in Guatemala and assisted in subterfuges that led to the murder of Che Guevara. But no longer could you see in him the suave, pipe-smoking, cocktail-party-loving clandestine operative whose Cold War exploits he himself had, almost obsessively, turned into novels, one of which, East of Farewell , the New York Times once called “the best sea story” of World War II. Diminished too were the old bad memories, of the Bay of Pigs debacle that derailed his CIA career for good, of the Watergate Hotel fiasco, of his first wife’s death, of thirty-three months in U.S. prisons — of, in fact, a furious lifetime mainly of failure, disappointment and pain. But his firstborn son — he named him St. John; Saint, for short — was by his side now. And he still had a secret or two left to share before it was all over.
They were in the living room, him in his wheelchair, watching Fox News at full volume, because his hearing had failed too. After a while, he had St. John wheel him into his bedroom and hoist him onto his bed. It smelled foul in there; he was incontinent; a few bottles of urine under the bed needed to be emptied; but he was beyond caring. He asked St. John to get him a diet root beer, a pad of paper and a pen.
Saint had come to Miami from Eureka, California, borrowing money to fly because he was broke. Though clean now, he had been a meth addict for twenty years, a meth dealer for ten of those years and a source of frustration and anger to his father for much of his life. There were a couple of days back in 1972, after the Watergate job, when the boy, then eighteen, had risen to the occasion. The two of them, father and son, had wiped fingerprints off a bunch of spy gear, and Saint had helped in other ways, too. But as a man, he had two felony convictions to his name, and they were for drugs. The old spymaster was a convicted felon too, of course. But that was different. He was E. Howard Hunt, a true American patriot, and he had earned his while serving his country. That the country repaid him with almost three years in prison was something he could never understand, if only because the orders that got him in such trouble came right from the top; as he once said, “I had always assumed, working for the CIA for so many years, that anything the White House wanted done was the law of the land.”
Years had gone by when he and St. John hardly spoke. But then St. John came to him wanting to know if he had any information about the assassination of President Kennedy. Despite almost universal skepticism, his father had always maintained that he didn’t. He swore to this during two government investigations. “I didn’t have anything to do with the assassination, didn’t know anything about it,” he said during one of them. “I did my time for Watergate. I shouldn’t have to do additional time and suffer additional losses for something I had nothing to do with.”
But now, in August 2003, propped up in his sickbed, paper on his lap, pen in hand and son sitting next to him, he began to write down the names of men who had indeed participated in a plot to kill the president. He had lied during those two federal investigations. He knew something after all. He told St. John about his own involvement, too. It was explosive stuff, with the potential to reconfigure the JFK-assassination-theory landscape. And then he got better and went on to live for four more years.
T hey sure don’t make White House bad guys the way they used to. Today you’ve got flabby-faced half-men like Karl Rove, with weakling names like “Scooter” Libby, blandly hacking their way through the constraints of the U.S. Constitution, while back then, in addition to Hunt, you had out-and-out thugs like G. Gordon Liddy, his Watergate co-conspirator and Nixon’s dirty-tricks chief, who would hold his own hand over an open flame to prove what a real tough guy he was. It all seems a little nutty now, but in 1972 it was serious business. These guys meant to take the powers of the presidency and run amok. Hunt, an ex-CIA man who loved operating in the shadows and joined Nixon’s Special Investigations Unit (a.k.a. “the Plumbers”) as a $100-a-day consultant in 1971, specialized in political sabotage. Among his first assignments: forging cables linking the Kennedy administration to the assassination of South Vietnam’s president. After that, he began sniffing around Ted Kennedy’s dirty laundry, to see what he could dig up there. Being a former CIA man, he had no problem contemplating the use of firebombs and once thought about slathering LSD on the steering wheel of an unfriendly newspaperman’s car, hoping it would leach into his skin and cause a fatal accident. But of all his various plots and subterfuges, in the end, only one of them mattered: the failed burglary at the Watergate Hotel, in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1972.
The way it happened, Hunt enlisted some Cuban pals from his old Bay of Pigs days to fly up from Miami and bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which was located inside the Watergate. Also on the team were a couple of shady ex-government operators named James McCord and Frank Sturgis. The first attempt ended when the outfit’s lock picker realized he’d brought the wrong tools. The next time, however, with Hunt stationed in a Howard Johnson’s hotel room across the way, communicating with the burglars by walkie-talkie, the team gained entry into the office. Unfortunately, on the way into the building, they’d taped open an exit door to allow their escape, and when a night watchman found it, he called the cops. The burglars were arrested on the spot. One of them had E. Howard’s phone number, at the White House, no less, in his address book. Following this lead, police arrested Hunt and charged him with burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping. Abandoned by his bosses at the White House, he soon began trying to extort money from them to help pay his mounting bills, as well as those of his fellow burglars, the deal being that if the White House paid, all those arrested would plead guilty and maintain silence about the extent of the White House’s involvement.
That December, his wife, Dorothy, carrying $10,000 in $100 bills, was killed in a plane crash, foul play suspected but never proved. Two years later, impeachment imminent, Nixon resigned his presidency. And in 1973, E. Howard Hunt, the man who had unwittingly set all these events in motion, pleaded guilty and ultimately spent thirty-three months in prison. “I cannot escape feeling,” he said at the time, “that the country I have served for my entire life and which directed me to carry out the Watergate entry is punishing me for doing the very things it trained and directed me to do.”

After his release, Hunt moved to Miami, where he remarried, had two more children and spent three decades living a quiet, unexceptional life, steadfastly refusing to talk about Watergate, much less the Kennedy assassination. His connection to the JFK assassination came about almost serendipitously, when in 1974 a researcher stumbled across a photo of three tramps standing in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. It was taken on November 22nd, 1963, the day of Kennedy’s shooting, and one of the tramps looked pretty much like E. Howard. In early inquiries, official and otherwise, he always denied any involvement. In later years, he’d offer a curt “No comment.” And then, earlier this year, at the age of eighty-eight, he died — though not before writing an autobiography, American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate & Beyond , published last month. Not surprisingly, those things he wrote down about JFK’s death and gave to his eldest son don’t make an appearance in the book, at least not in any definitive way. E. Howard had apparently decided to take them to the grave. But St. John still has the memo — “It has all this stuff in it,” he says, “the chain of command, names, people, places, dates. He wrote it out to me directly, in his own handwriting, starting with the initials ‘LBJ’ ” — and he’s decided it’s time his father’s last secrets finally see some light, for better or for worse.
O ut in eureka, a few days before his father’s death, St. John is driving through town in a beat-up mottled-brown ’88 Cutlass Sierra. He is fifty-two. His hair is dark, worn long, and despite his decades as a drug addict, he’s still looking good. He has a Wiccan girlfriend named Mona. He’s also an accomplished and soulful guitar player, leaning heavily toward Eric Clapton; he can often be found playing in local haunts during open-mike nights and is working on putting a band together, perhaps to be called Saint John and the Sinners or, though less likely, the Konspirators. He’s got a good sense of humor and a large sentimental streak. The last time he saw his father, in Miami, was a week ago.
“I sat by his bedside holding his hand for about ten hours the first day,” St. John says somberly. “He hadn’t been out of bed in ten weeks, had pneumonia twenty-seven times in the last sixteen months. He’s such a tough old motherfucker, that guy. But he had all this fluid in his lungs, a death rattle, and I thought, ‘Any minute now, this is it, his last breath, I’m looking at it right here.’ A couple of times my stepmom, Laura, would say, ‘Howard, who is this?’ He’d look at me and her, and he didn’t have a clue. Other times, he would quietly say, ‘St. John.’ He said he loved me and was grateful I was there.”
At the moment, Saint doesn’t have a job; his felonies have gotten in the way. He has to borrow money to put gas in his Cutlass. Beach chairs substitute for furniture in the tiny apartment where, until recently, he lived with an ex-girlfriend, herself a reformed meth addict, and two kids, one hers, one theirs. “I would’ve loved to have lived a normal life,” he says. “I’m happy with who I am. I don’t have any regrets. But all the shit that happened, the whole thing, it really spun me over.”
And not only him but his siblings, too — a brother, David, who has had his own problems with drugs, and two older sisters, Kevan and Lisa, who still hold their father responsible for the tragedy of their mom’s death. Dorothy Hunt was staunchly loyal to her husband and, after his arrest, helped him with his plans to blackmail the White House. On December 8th, 1972, carrying $10,000 in what’s regarded as extorted hush money and, some say, evidence that could have gotten Nixon impeached, she boarded United Airlines Flight 553 from Washington to Chicago. The plane crashed, killing forty-three people onboard, including Dorothy. The official explanation was pilot error, but St. John doesn’t believe it. He thinks that the Nixon White House wanted to both get rid of his mother and send a message to his father. Nonetheless, he says he tries not to place blame.
“She got on that plane willingly and lovingly, because that’s the kind of woman she was,” he says. “They had lots of marital problems, but when it came down to it, she had his back, and she could hang in there with the big dogs. She was really pissed at Nixon, Liddy, all those guys, and she was saying, ‘We’re not going to let them hang you out to dry. We’re going to get them. Those motherfuckers are going to pay.’ So I’ve never held what happened against him. I had bitterness and resentment, but I always knew he did what he had to do given the circumstances.”
And at times, he even seems to think of his dad with pride: “Did you hear that the character that Tom Cruise plays in the Mission: Impossible movies is named after him? Instead of Everette Hunt, they named him Ethan Hunt. I know he’s been portrayed as kind of an inept, third-rate burglar, but burglary wasn’t really his bag. My dad was a really good spy, maybe a great spy.”
But then he starts talking about what it was like growing up the eldest son of Everette Howard Hunt, and a different picture emerges. “He loved the glamorous life, cocktail parties, nightclubbing, flirting, all that,” Saint says. “He was unfaithful to my mom, but she stayed with him. He was a swinger. He thought of himself as a cool dude, suave, sophisticated, intellectual. He was Mr. Smooth. A man of danger. He was perfect for the CIA. He never felt guilt about anything.”
I n the early days of the cold war, the CIA’s mandate was simple: to contain the spread of communism by whatever means necessary; it was tacitly given permission to go about its dirty business unfettered by oversight of any kind. For much of the Cold War, it was answerable to no one. And if you were lucky enough to become one of its agents, you had every right to consider yourself a member of an elite corps, a big swinging all-American dick like no other.
The middle-class son of a Hamburg, New York, attorney, E. Howard Hunt graduated from Brown University in 1940 with a bachelor’s in English, joined the Navy during World War II, served in the North Atlantic on the destroyer Mayo , slipped and fell, took a medical discharge and wound up in China working under “Wild” Bill Donovan in the newly formed Office of Strategic Services. When the OSS was transformed into the CIA, Hunt jumped onboard. He loved action as much as he hated communism, and he soon began operating with a level of arrogance entirely typical of the CIA. He was instrumental, for instance, in planning the 1954 coup in Guatemala that overthrew the left-leaning, democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, and ushered in forty years of military repression, which ultimately cost 200,000 Guatemalans their lives. Years later, when asked about the 200,000 deaths, E. Howard said, “Deaths? What deaths?” Like Saint says, he never felt guilt about anything: “He was a complete self-centered WASP who saw himself as this blue blood from upstate New York. ‘I’m better than anybody because I’m white, Protestant and went to Brown, and since I’m in the CIA, I can do anything I want.’ Jew, nigger, Polack, wop — he used all those racial epithets. He was an elitist. He hated everybody.”
In the early Fifties, his father could often be seen cruising around in a white Cadillac convertible; he loved that car. He also loved his cigars and his wine and his country clubs and being waited on by servants and having his children looked after by nannies. He was full of himself and full of the romantic, swashbuckling, freewheeling importance of his government mission. He had quite an imagination, too. When he wasn’t off saving the world from Reds, he spent much of his time in front of a typewriter, hacking out espionage novels, some eighty in all, with titles such as The Violent Ones (“They killed by day, they loved by night”) and I Came to Kill (“They wanted a tyrant liquidated, and cash could hire him to do it”).
Wherever E. Howard was stationed — he’d pop up Zelig-like in hot spots from Japan to Uruguay to Spain — he and his family lived lavishly and well, all presumably to lend credence to his cover job as a high-ranking embassy official. One estate was as large as a city block, and one dining table as long as a telephone pole, with the parents sitting at distant opposite ends. Sadly, he treated his children the way he and the CIA treated the rest of the world. They were supposed to bend to his will and otherwise be invisible. God forbid during a meal one of them should speak or rattle a dish.
“Whenever I made a sound, he looked at me with those hateful, steely eyes of his, a look of utter contempt and disgust, like he could kill,” St. John says. “He was a mean-spirited person and an extremely cruel father. I was his firstborn son, and I was born with a clubfoot and had to have operations. I suffered from petit-mal seizures. I was dyslexic and developed a stutter. For the superspy not to have a superson was the ultimate disappointment, like, ‘Here’s my idiot son with the clubfoot and glasses. Can we keep him in the closet, Dorothy?’ ”
Later, E. Howard moved the family to the last home it would ever occupy as a family, in Potomac, Maryland. It was called Witches Island. It was a rambling affair, with a horse paddock, a chicken coop, the Cold War bonus of a bomb shelter, and a fishing pond across the way. E. Howard wanted Saint to attend a top-flight prep school and one night took him to a dinner at St. Andrew’s School, to try and get his son enrolled. In the middle of the meal, Saint leaned over to his dad and whispered, “Papa, I have to go to the bathroom.” His father glared at him. Pretty soon Saint was banging his knees together under the table. “Sit still,” his father hissed. Saint said, “Papa, I really have to go.”
“I ended up pissing in my pants at the dinner,” Saint says. “Can you imagine how humiliating that was? Unbelievable.” He didn’t get into St. Andrew’s. He ended up settling for a lower-tier boarding school called St. James, near Hagerstown, Maryland. His second year there, in 1970, after being repeatedly molested by a teacher, he broke down and told his mother what was going on. She told his father. And rumor had it that E. Howard came up to St. James with a carload of guns to make the teacher disappear. “He was really, really pissed off,” says Saint. “He wanted to kill.” In any case, at the school, neither the teacher nor St. John was ever seen again.
That same year, his father retired from the CIA after being relegated to the backwaters for his role in the Bay of Pigs. He went to work as a writer for a PR firm. He was bored and missed the hands-on action of the CIA.The following year, however, his lawyer pal Chuck Colson, who was special counsel to Nixon, called him up with an invitation to join the president’s Special Investigations Unit as a kind of dirty-tricks consultant. He signed on. He really thought he was going places.
A round the time of st. john’s Miami visit in 2003 to talk to his ailing father about JFK, certain other people were also trying to get things out of E. Howard, including the actor Kevin Costner, who had played a JFK-assassination-obsessed DA in the Oliver Stone film JFK and had become somewhat obsessed himself. Costner said that he could arrange for E. Howard to make $5 million for telling the truth about what happened in Dallas. Unbeknown to St. John, however, Costner had already met with E. Howard once. That meeting didn’t go very well. When Costner arrived at the house, he didn’t ease into the subject. “So who killed Kennedy?” he blurted out. “I mean, who did shoot JFK, Mr. Hunt?”
E. Howard’s mouth fell open, and he looked at his wife. “What did he say?”
“Howard,” Laura said, “he wants to know who shot JFK.”
And that ended that meeting, with E. Howard grumbling to himself about Costner, “What a numskull.”
But then St. John got involved, and he knew better how to handle the situation. For one thing, he knew that his stepmother wanted to forget about the past. She didn’t want to hear about Watergate or Kennedy. In fact, E. Howard swore to Laura that he knew nothing about JFK’s assassination; it was one of her preconditions for marriage. Consequently, she and her sons often found themselves in conflict with St. John.
“Why can’t you go back to California and leave well enough alone?” they asked him. “How can you do this? How dare you do this? He’s in the last years of his life.”
But Saint’s attitude was, “This has nothing to do with you. This stuff is of historical significance and needs to come out, and if you’re worried that it’ll make him out to be a liar, everybody knows he’s a liar already. Is this going to ruin the Hunt name? The Hunt name is already filled with ruination.”
So when Saint arrived in Miami to talk to his dad, the two men spent a lot of time waiting for Laura to leave the house. Saint painted the living room and built a wheelchair ramp. In the mornings, he cooked breakfast. In the afternoons, he plopped a fishing hat on E. Howard’s head and wheeled him around the neighborhood. They drank coffee together. And watched lots of Fox News. And when Laura finally left, they talked.
Afterward, another meeting was arranged with Costner, this time in Los Angeles, where the actor had fifty assassination-related questions all ready to go. (The actor declined comment for this article.) Though the $5 million figure was still floating around, all Costner wanted to pay E. Howard at this point was $100 a day for his time. There would be no advance. St. John called Costner.
“That’s your offer? A hundred dollars? That’s an insult. You’re a cheapskate.”
“Nobody calls me a cheapskate,” said Costner. “What do you think I’m going to do, just hand over $5 million?”
“No. But the flight alone could kill him. He’s deaf as a brick. He’s pissing in a bag. He’s got one leg. You want him to fly to Los Angeles and for $100 a day? Wow! What are we going to do with all that money?!”
“I can’t talk to you anymore, St. John,” Costner said. And that was the end of that, for good. It looked like what E. Howard had to say would never get out.
O ne evening in Eureka, over a barbecue meal, St. John explains how he first came to suspect that his father might somehow be involved in the Kennedy assassination. “Around 1975, I was in a phone booth in Maryland somewhere, when I saw a poster on a telephone pole about who killed JFK, and it had a picture of the three tramps. I saw that picture and I fucking — like a cartoon character, my jaw dropped, my eyes popped out of my head, and smoke came out of my ears. It looks like my dad. There’s nobody that has all those same facial features. People say it’s not him. He’s said it’s not him. But I’m his son, and I’ve got a gut feeling.”
He chews his sandwich. “And then, like an epiphany, I remember ’63, and my dad being gone, and my mom telling me that he was on a business trip to Dallas. I’ve tried to convince myself that’s some kind of false memory, that I’m just nuts, that it’s something I heard years later. But, I mean, his alibi for that day is that he was at home with his family. I remember I was in the fifth grade. We were at recess. I was playing on the merry-go-round. We were called in and told to go home, because the president had been killed. And I remember going home. But I don’t remember my dad being there. I have no recollection of him being there. And then he has this whole thing about shopping for Chinese food with my mother that day, so that they could cook a meal together.” His father testified to this, in court, on more than one occasion, saying that he and his wife often cooked meals together.
St. John pauses and leans forward. “Well,” he says, “I can tell you that’s just the biggest load of crap in the fucking world. He was always looking at things like he was writing a novel; everything had to be just so glamorous and so exciting. He couldn’t even be bothered with his children. That’s not glamorous. James Bond doesn’t have children. So my dad in the kitchen? Chopping vegetables with his wife? I’m so sorry, but that would never happen. Ever. That fucker never did jack-squat like that. Ever.”
N ot that it was all bad back then, in Potomac, at Witches Island. E. Howard played the trumpet, and his son was into music too, so sometimes the pair went down to Blues Alley, in Georgetown, to hear jazz. Back home, E. Howard would slap Benny Goodman’s monster swing-jazz song “Sing, Sing, Sing” on the turntable, and the two would listen to it endlessly. And then, sometimes, during the stomping Harry James horn solo, E. Howard would jump to his feet, snapping his fingers like some cool cat, pull back his shirt sleeves, lick his lips and play the air trumpet for all he was worth. It was great stuff, and St. John loved it. “I would sit there in awe,” he says. But the best was yet to come.
It was well past midnight on June 18th, 1972. Saint, eighteen years old, was asleep in his basement bedroom, surrounded by his Beatles and Playboy pinup posters, when he heard someone shouting, “You gotta wake up! You gotta wake up!”
When he opened his eyes, Saint saw his father as he’d never seen him before. E. Howard was dressed in his usual coat and tie, but everything was akimbo. He was a sweaty, disheveled mess. Saint didn’t know what to think or what was going on.
“I don’t need you to ask a lot of questions,” his father said. “I need you to get your clothes on and come upstairs.”
He disappeared into the darkness. Saint changed out of his pajamas. Upstairs, he found his father in the master bedroom, laboring over a big green suitcase jumble-filled with microphones, walkie-talkies, cameras, tripods, cords, wires, lots of weird stuff. His father started giving him instructions. Saint went to the kitchen and returned with Windex, paper towels and some rubber dishwashing gloves. Then, in silence, the two of them began wiping fingerprints off all the junk in the suitcase. After that, they loaded everything into E. Howard’s Pontiac Firebird and drove over to a lock on the C&O Canal. E. Howard heaved the suitcase into the water, and it gurgled out of sight.
They didn’t speak on the way home. St. John still didn’t know what was going on. All he knew was that his dad had needed his help, and he’d given it, successfully.
The next day, dressed in one of his prep-school blazers, he drove to a Riggs Bank in Georgetown and met his father inside the safety-deposit-box cage. His father turned him around, lifted his blazer and shoved about $100,000 in cash down the back of his pants. The boy made it home without picking up a tail. Then his father had him get rid of a typewriter. Saint put the typewriter in a bag, hoofed it across the Witches Island property onto the neighboring spread and tossed it into the pond where he and his brother David used to go fishing.
“Don’t ever tell anybody you’ve done these things,” his father said later. “I could get in trouble. You could get in trouble. I’m sorry to have to put you in this position, but I really am grateful for your help.”
“Of course, Papa,” Saint said.
Everything he had done, he’d done because his father and his gang of pals had botched the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. Soon his mother would be killed in a plane crash, and his father would be sent to jail, and Nixon would resign, and his own life would fracture in unimaginable ways. But right now, standing there with his father and hearing those words of praise, he was the happiest he’d ever been.
Y ears later, when saint started trying to get his father to tell what he knew about JFK, he came to believe the information would be valuable. He both needed money and thought he was owed money, for what he’d been through. Also, like many a conspiracy nut before him, he was more than a little obsessed.
“After seeing that poster of the three tramps,” he says, “I read two dozen books on the JFK assassination, and the more I read, the more I was unsure about what happened. I had all these questions and uncertainties. I mean, I was trying to sort out things that had touched me in a big way.”
Touched him and turned him upside down, especially the death of his mother. He had been particularly close to her. She was part Native American and had sewed him a buckskin shirt that he used to wear like a badge of honor, along with a pair of moccasins. At the same time, Saint feels that he never got to know her. She told him that during World War II, she’d tracked Nazi money for the U.S. Treasury Department, and Saint believes that early in her marriage to his father, she may have been in the CIA herself, “a contract agent, not officially listed.” But he isn’t sure about any of it, really.
“In our family, everything was sort of like a mini-CIA,” he says. “Nothing was ever talked about, so we grew up with all of these walls, walls around my father, walls around my mother, walls around us kids, to protect and insulate us. You grow up not knowing what really happened. Like, who was my mom, for Christ’s sake? Was she a CIA agent? What was her life really like?” The one thing he does know is that when she died, so in large part did the Hunt family.
Once his father went to prison, Saint moved to Wisconsin, where he worked in a potato-processing plant and spent the rest of his time dropping acid. In 1975, he moved to the Oakland, California, area, started snorting coke and for five years drove a bakery truck. He was in a band and hoped to become a rock star, though touring alongside Buddy Guy was about the biggest thing that ever happened. Then he gave up coke and took up meth and a while later started dealing meth. Twenty years flew by. He had wild sexual escapades; he shacked up with two sisters — “nymphs,” he calls them. But mainly his life, like his father’s, was a rolling series of misfortunes. He received insurance money after his mom died, and bought a house; a week later, it burned down in some drug-related fiasco. His brother David followed a similar path; leaving boarding school, he hooked up with Saint, and together they set about snorting and dealing away the years.
Finally, in 2001, on the heels of two drug busts, Saint decided to go straight. With his ex-girlfriend, their daughter and her son, he stayed in a series of shelters, then took them to live in Eureka, several hours north of Oakland. He’s since earned a certificate in hotel management, but jobs don’t last. And the questions and uncertainties about his father continue to circulate in his head.
“In some ways we turned out similarly,” he says. “He was a spy, into secrets and covert activity. I became a drug dealer. What has to be more covert and secret than that? It’s the same mind-set. We were just on opposite sides of the — well, actually, in our case, I guess we weren’t even on opposite sides of the law, were we?” T hat time in miami, with saint by his bed and disease eating away at him and him thinking he’s six months away from death, E. Howard finally put pen to paper and started writing. Saint had been working toward this moment for a long while, and now it was going to happen. He got his father an A&W diet root beer, then sat down in the old man’s wheelchair and waited.
E. Howard scribbled the initials “LBJ,” standing for Kennedy’s ambitious vice president, Lyndon Johnson. Under “LBJ,” connected by a line, he wrote the name Cord Meyer. Meyer was a CIA agent whose wife had an affair with JFK; later she was murdered, a case that’s never been solved. Next his father connected to Meyer’s name the name Bill Harvey, another CIA agent; also connected to Meyer’s name was the name David Morales, yet another CIA man and a well-known, particularly vicious black-op specialist. And then his father connected to Morales’ name, with a line, the framed words “French Gunman Grassy Knoll.”
So there it was, according to E. Howard Hunt. LBJ had Kennedy killed. It had long been speculated upon. But now E. Howard was saying that’s the way it was. And that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t the only shooter in Dallas. There was also, on the grassy knoll, a French gunman, presumably the Corsican Mafia assassin Lucien Sarti, who has figured prominently in other assassination theories.
“By the time he handed me the paper, I was in a state of shock,” Saint says. “His whole life, to me and everybody else, he’d always professed to not know anything about any of it. But I knew this had to be the truth. If my dad was going to make anything up, he would have made something up about the Mafia, or Castro, or Khrushchev. He didn’t like Johnson. But you don’t falsely implicate your own country, for Christ’s sake. My father is old-school, a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, and that’s the last thing he would do.”
Later that week, E. Howard also gave Saint two sheets of paper that contained a fuller narrative. It starts out with LBJ again, connecting him to Cord Meyer, then goes on: “Cord Meyer discusses a plot with [David Atlee] Phillips who brings in Wm. Harvey and Antonio Veciana. He meets with Oswald in Mexico City. . . . Then Veciana meets w/ Frank Sturgis in Miami and enlists David Morales in anticipation of killing JFK there. But LBJ changes itinerary to Dallas, citing personal reasons.”
David Atlee Phillips, the CIA’s Cuban operations chief in Miami at the time of JFK’s death, knew E. Howard from the Guatemala-coup days. Veciana is a member of the Cuban exile community. Sturgis, like Saint’s father, is supposed to have been one of the three tramps photographed in Dealey Plaza. Sturgis was also one of the Watergate plotters, and he is a man whom E. Howard, under oath, has repeatedly sworn to have not met until Watergate, so to Saint the mention of his name was big news.
In the next few paragraphs, E. Howard goes on to describe the extent of his own involvement. It revolves around a meeting he claims he attended, in 1963, with Morales and Sturgis. It takes place in a Miami hotel room. Here’s what happens:
Morales leaves the room, at which point Sturgis makes reference to a “Big Event” and asks E. Howard, “Are you with us?”
E. Howard asks Sturgis what he’s talking about.
Sturgis says, “Killing JFK.”
E. Howard, “incredulous,” says to Sturgis, “You seem to have everything you need. Why do you need me?” In the handwritten narrative, Sturgis’ response is unclear, though what E. Howard says to Sturgis next isn’t: He says he won’t “get involved in anything involving Bill Harvey, who is an alcoholic psycho.”
After that, the meeting ends. E. Howard goes back to his “normal” life and “like the rest of the country . . . is stunned by JFK’s death and realizes how lucky he is not to have had a direct role.”
After reading what his father had written, St. John was stunned too. His father had not only implicated LBJ, he’d also, with a few swift marks of a pen, put the lie to almost everything he’d sworn to, under oath, about his knowledge of the assassination. Saint had a million more questions. But his father was exhausted and needed to sleep, and then Saint had to leave town without finishing their talk, though a few weeks later he did receive in the mail a tape recording from his dad. E. Howard’s voice on the cassette is weak and grasping, and he sometimes wanders down unrelated pathways. But he essentially remakes the same points he made in his handwritten narrative.
Shortly thereafter, Laura found out what had been going on, and with the help of E. Howard’s attorney put an end to it. St. John and his father were kept apart. When they did see each other, they were never left alone. And they never got a chance to finish what they’d started. Instead, the old man set about writing his autobiography and turned his back on his son. He wrote him a letter in which he said that Saint’s life had been nothing but “meaningless, self-serving instant gratification,” that he had never amounted to anything and never would. He asked for his JFK memos back, and Saint returned them, though not before making copies.
There is no way to confirm Hunt’s allegations — all but one of the co-conspirators he named are long gone. St. John, for his part, believes his father. E. Howard was lucid when he made his confession. He was taking no serious medications, and he and his son were finally on good terms. If anything, St. John believes, his father was holding out on him, the old spy keeping a few secrets in reserve, just in case.
“Actually, there were probably dozens of plots to kill Kennedy, because everybody hated Kennedy but the public,” Saint says. “The question is, which one of them worked? My dad has always said, ‘Thank God one of them worked.’ I think he knows a lot more than he told me. He claimed he backed out of the plot only so he could disclaim actual involvement. In a way, I feel like he only opened another can of worms.” He takes a deep breath. “At a certain point, I’m just going to have to let it go.”
O ut in Eureka, Saint has been reading an advance copy of E. Howard’s autobiography, American Spy . In it, his father looks at LBJ as only one possible person behind the JFK killing, and then only in the most halfhearted, couched-and-cloaked way. He brings up various other possibilities, too, then debunks each of them.
But of all the shadings and omissions in the book, the only one that truly upsets St. John has to do with the happiest moment in his life, that time in 1972, on the night of the Watergate burglary, when he helped his father dispose of the spy gear, then ran money for him and ditched the typewriter.
The way it unfolds in the book, St. John doesn’t do anything for his dad. And it’s E. Howard himself who dumps the typewriter.
“That’s a complete lie,” Saint says, almost shouting. “A total fabrication. I did that. I mean, he never took me aside and thanked me in any kind of deep emotional way. But I’m the one who helped him that night. Me! And he’s robbing me of it. Why?”
Like so many other things, he will never know why, because the next day, on January 23rd, in the morning, in Miami, the old spymaster dies.
Later in the day, Saint started reading a few of the obituaries.
One starts off, “Sleazebag E. Howard Hunt is finally dead.”
“Oh, God,” Saint says and goes looking for how The New York Times handled his father’s death. The obit reads, “Mr. Hunt was intelligent, erudite, suave and loyal to his friends. But the record shows that he mishandled many of the tasks he received from the CIA and the White House. He was ‘totally self-absorbed, totally amoral and a danger to himself and anybody around him. . . .’ ”
“Wow,” Saint says. “I don’t know if I can read these things. I mean, that is one brutal obituary.”
But the Times is right, of course. E. Howard was a danger to anybody around him, and any list of those in danger would always have to include, right at the top, his firstborn son, St. John.
Russia doubts Iran nuclear claim

Lavrov says Moscow will monitor the situation based on “concrete facts” [EPA]

Russia says it has not seen any indication that Iran has made the breakthrough in its nuclear programme that Tehran claims.

The comments made in a statement by the Russian foreign office on Tuesday come a day after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, said his country is now able to enrich uranium on an “industrial scale”.

“We do not know of any recent technological breakthroughs in the Iranian nuclear programme that would change the character of the work in the field of enrichment,” Mikhail Kamynin, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, said in the statement.

Iran’s declaration that it intended to accelerate its development of nuclear technology, in defiance of UN sanctions, was met with concern by the US and UK but Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said it was too early to draw conclusions on Iran’s claims.

Suspension call
“We will follow the situation carefully on the basis of concrete facts and not on declarations that only worsen the situation,” Lavrov told reporters.

The European Union, however, reiterated calls for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

The calmer response from Moscow is not wholly unexpected given that Russia is building Iran’s first nuclear power station at Bushehr and has supplied the Islamic republic with sophisticated military equipment.

Russia is helping Iran build its first
nuclear power station at Bushehr [EPA]

However, Moscow has also supported two sets of UN sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to comply with demands to suspend enrichment of uranium.

Enrichment is the key issue in the standoff between Iran and the West as the process can produce nuclear fuel but in highly extended form can also make the fissile core for an atomic bomb.


In a grand ceremony at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in central Iran on Monday, Ahmadinejad announced that the country was now able to enrich uranium on an industrial scale.

And on Tuesday the administration in Tehran made light of the criticism from the US and the UK.

“The objective of the Islamic Republic of Iran is not just the  installation of 3,000 centrifuges at the Natanz plant but we are  doing everything to install 50,000 centrifuges,” Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of the country’s atomic energy programme, was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA agency.

Meanwhile two UN nuclear inspectors began a trip to the Natanz facility.

The Fars news agency said the IAEA inspectors would stay in Iran for a week. An Iranian official confirmed the inspectors’ arrival and said they were on a routine visit.

The inspectors’ report, likely to emerge after their visit ends, could provide the first independent confirmation of whether Iran’s enrichment is progressing as claimed.

‘Woman’ bomber hits Iraq police
A suicide bomber reported to be a woman has attacked a police recruiting centre in Iraq, leaving at least 14 dead.
About 20 people were reported to have been wounded in the attack on a large crowd of would-be officers at a centre in Muqdadiya, north-east of Baghdad.
In Baghdad, five civilians were killed by a car bomb near the university.
The US military also announced three soldiers died in a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad on Monday, and another in combat in western Anbar province.
These latest deaths bring the estimates of the number of US military fatalities to about 40 this month.
Tallies vary, but about 3,280 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
‘No crash’
In Muqdadiya, the figure dressed in the traditional black abaya detonated a bomb within a crowd of people who were seeking recruitment forms to join the police force, local officials said.
Both recruits and passers-by were reported to be among the casualties.
Female suicide bombings are unusual but not unprecedented in Iraq. A major attack in February at a university in Baghdad was carried out by a female bomber.
Meanwhile, the US military has denied earlier reports that a US helicopter had crashed in the centre of the capital.
Iraqi police reported clashes around the scene of the apparent incident, saying the US had sealed the area off.
However, a US military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt Col Christopher Garver, told the BBC that a US helicopter was fired upon but returned safely to its base.
The US has lost more than 50 military helicopters in Iraq since the invasion with the loss of a number of soldiers.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Assam’s missing women and the sex trade
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

The biggest problem in India’s north-eastern state of Assam is separatist militancy. But it faces another, less well known issue. Thousands of its women, old and young, have gone missing over the past 10 years.
A recent police report says 3,184 women and 3,840 female children have gone missing in the state since 1996.
That’s around two females a day on average.
The report was compiled by Assam police and their research branch, the Bureau of Police Research and Development.
The local police are far too busy, according to Assam police intelligence chief Khagen Sarmah, fighting insurgents.
“Our counter-insurgency commitments affects our normal policing duties like checking trafficking.”
“Too many policemen are involved fighting the insurgents rather than following up on other crimes,” Mr Sarmah said.
‘Good looking women’
The Assam police recently rescued some girls working as call-girls around Delhi or used as “sex slaves” by wealthy landlords in states like Punjab and Haryana.
Most of them are from camps of internally displaced people dotting Assam, particularly the Kokrajhar district.
That area is home to nearly a quarter of a million people who were displaced in the late 1990s.
Nearly 800 people died in ethnic fighting in Kokrajhar and adjoining districts between Bodo tribes people and non-Bodo communities over a decade long period from 1994.
The police survey revealed an organised racket of “recruiters” who lured good-looking women with job offers outside the state.
“We arrested some recruiters but could never put an end to the rackets fully,” said police official Anil Phukan.
The modus operandi is simple: good looking women in the displaced peoples camps are offered jobs.
The parents are paid a few thousand rupees in advance, and told the daughters will send back money once they start working.
Once they go away, that rarely happens.
Money matters
Jam Singh Lakra of the Jaipur relief camp near Kokrajhar town says: “At least 20 girls have gone away with the jobs from our camp, not to return again.”
“We did identify a few recruiters and one got beaten up. But somehow the girls kept going away.”
Most families are cagey about the missing girls but some do speak up.
Tuilal Mardi of Tablegaon village says “My parents accepted the offer and sent my sister away.”
“They got a few thousand rupees but she never came back or sent any money.”
Women’s rights activist Paula Banerjee, who works on problems of displaced women says: “Ethnic conflicts all over the world results in massive displacement of women and that gives rise to heavy trafficking – the situation in Assam is no different.”
Local pornography
But not all the missing women of Assam have been taken out of the state.
Some show up in local pornographic films.
Mala Newar in Kokrajhar was known to her teachers as a “decent, well behaved girl” in school.
That was until one of them spied on her husband’s mobile phone last month and found a video clip featuring Mala in the nude having sex with a stranger.
Enquiries in Kokrajhar revealed that Mala and some other local girls were used in a pornographic films racket run by a local leader.
A hotel in the town was used for the filming.
The girls were first lured into the hotel with job offers, then offered soft drinks laced with sedatives.
They were then filmed in the nude and blackmailed into doing sex scenes for the camera.
Not all missing girls in Assam are from displaced peoples camps, though.
Indrani Bora and Ritu Borgohain are smart, educated English-speaking girls from the Assamese capital, Guwahati, who got jobs in a holiday complex in Gurgaon near Delhi seven months ago.
But both say they got slowly got drawn into a call girl racket run by the complex owner.
An officer who led an Assam police team to rescue Indrani and Ritu explains.
“All across hotels and resorts in places like Delhi and Bombay, you will find hundreds of girls from Assam and other north-eastern states working as waitresses or customer executives.
“Some do get drawn into the call-girl trade.”
Hunger driven
The Calcutta Research Group, in its recent study on conflict-induced displacement says that the displaced people in Assam live in acute poverty.
The situation has led the women in particular to desperately seek work elsewhere; even if the offers come from dubious people.
“This is because the government officials running the camps never created viable livelihood options,” says Uddipana Goswami of the Calcutta-based Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS).
Ms Goswami has worked on the displaced camps in Assam.
“Many displaced women have such exquisite craftsmanship but nobody ever tried to convert that into income alternatives,” she says.
Paula Banerjee says trafficking ignores borders therefore solutions cannot be left to local agencies alone.
“This is not a local or even a national problem.”
“This reflects the global reality, so intervention by international organisations may help check trafficking.”
(Names of the girls have been changed to protect their identity.)

China slams US piracy complaint
China has criticised the US over its decision to file a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization over copyright piracy and counterfeiting.
The US says that China’s failure to enforce copyright laws is costing software, music and book publishers billions of dollars in lost sales.
The US also argues that China makes it hard for legitimate firms to operate.
China “expressed great regret and strong dissatisfaction at the decision”, the state news agency said.
Tighter enforcement
The Xinhua news agency quoted Intellectual Property Office commissioner Tian Lipu as saying that it was “not a sensible move for the US government to file such a complaint” at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“By doing so, the US has ignored the Chinese government’s immense efforts and great achievements in strengthening intellectual property rights protection and tightening enforcement of its copyright laws,” the commissioner added.
Excessively high legal thresholds for launching criminal prosecutions offer a safe harbor for pirates and counterfeiters
US Trade Representative

On Monday, the US trade representative Susan Schwab said that piracy and counterfeiting levels in China remained unacceptably high.
The US said that despite China’s promises to crackdown on fake software, DVDs, luxury goods, car parts and shoes, many of the goods were still widely available throughout the country.
China is one of the world’s largest producers of counterfeit products, ranging from designer clothes, to pirated films and music, to luggage.
Many of the goods find their way into Europe and are knowingly bought as fakes by shoppers at markets and from street vendors. Firms claim that the poor quality copies dent their brand and divert profits and potenital clients.
‘Criminal sanction’
The US has been threatening a WTO complaint against China since 2005.
It said on Tuesday that the two cases had been submitted to the WTO.
One case claims that Beijing’s poor enforcement of copyright and trademark protections violates WTO rules. The other contends that illegal barriers to hamper sales of US films, music and books.
“Excessively high legal thresholds for launching criminal prosecutions offer a safe harbor for pirates and counterfeiters,” the US said.
“Pirates and counterfeiters who structure their operations to fit below those thresholds face no possibility of criminal sanction.”
A 60-day consultation period follows for negotiators to try to resolve the disagreements. Should this fail, then a WTO panel would rule on the case.
U.S. military develops Robocop armour for soldiers
UK Daily Mail
Tuesday April 10, 2007
We may have seen it all before in science-fiction films. But the bionic warrior is in fact a vision of real-life warfare in the 21st century. U.S. defence chiefs hope to have their troops kitted out in the outlandish combat gear as soon as 2020.
Included in the Pentagon’s Future Warrior Concept are a powerful exoskeleton, a self-camouflaging outer layer that adapts to changing environments and a helmet which translates a soldier’s voice into any foreign language.

The future soldier will also benefit from ‘intelligent’ armour, which remains light and flexible until it senses an approaching bullet, then tenses to become bulletproof.
Perhaps worryingly, several of the planned enhancements seem to owe more than a little to Hollywood blockbusters such as Robocop, Aliens and Predator.
But officials are quick to point out that many of these systems are already working in prototype form, or are refinements of proven technologies.
Some of the blueprints will be unworkable without eagerly awaited advances in nanotechnology, but researchers remain confident. And perhaps with good reason.
The sheer scale of U.S. military research spending and the pace of recent advances in aircraft stealth technology and guided precision bombs are staggering.
Project specialist Jean-Louis DeGay, a former captain in 75th Ranger Regiment, said: “We’re already trialling equipment and technologies that did not exist a few years ago.
“The air force has just debuted its new stun gun and five years after the concept of an exoskeleton was first discussed, we have fully functioning prototypes.”
He told Soldier magazine: “Five years ago, nobody thought we’d have a portable hydrogen fuel cell, but we’ve got them now.
“They’re functioning, and we’re just trying to make them smaller. And if I’m honest, nothing speeds up the development of technology like war.”
If the U.S. military’s vision of the future is even half-right, Britain’s armed forces will have their work cut out trying to keep up.
Even comparatively understated attempts to improve our troops’ battlefield technology, such as the Bowman digital battlefield radio system, have been blighted by years of delays and embarrassing technical blunders.

The Federal Reserve Monopoly Over Money
Ron Paul
Tuesday April 10, 2007
Recently I had the opportunity to question Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke when he appeared before the congressional Joint Economic committee. The topic that morning was the state of the American economy, and many of my colleagues raised questions about how the Fed might better “regulate” things to ease fears of an economic downturn. The tenor of my colleagues’ questions suggested that Mr. Bernanke’s job is nothing less than to run the U.S. economy, like some kind of Soviet central planner.
Certainly it’s true that Mr. Bernanke can drastically affect the economy at the drop of a hat, simply by making decisions about the money supply and interest rates. But why do members of Congress assume this is good? Why do we accept without objection that a small group of people on the Federal Reserve Board wields so much power over our economic well-being? Is centralized, monopoly control over our money even compatible with a supposedly free-market economy?
Few Americans give much thought to the Federal Reserve System or monetary policy in general. But even as they strive to earn a living, and hopefully save or invest for the future, Congress and the Federal Reserve Bank are working insidiously against them. Day by day, every dollar you have is being devalued.
The greatest threat facing America today is not terrorism, or foreign economic competition, or illegal immigration. The greatest threat facing America today is the disastrous fiscal policies of our own government, marked by shameless deficit spending and Federal Reserve currency devaluation. It is this one-two punch – Congress spending more than it can tax or borrow, and the Fed printing money to make up the difference – that threatens to impoverish us by further destroying the value of our dollars.
The Fed’s inflationary policies hurt older people the most. Older people generally rely on fixed incomes from pensions and Social Security, along with their savings. Inflation destroys the buying power of their fixed incomes, while low interest rates reduce any income from savings. So while Fed policies encourage younger people to overborrow because interest rates are so low, they also punish thrifty older people who saved for retirement.
The financial press sometimes criticizes Federal Reserve policy, but the validity of the fiat system itself is never challenged. Both political parties want the Fed to print more money, either to support social spending or military adventurism. Politicians want the printing presses to run faster and create more credit, so that the economy will be healed like magic – or so they believe.
Fiat dollars allow us to live beyond our means, but only for so long. History shows that when the destruction of monetary value becomes rampant, nearly everyone suffers and the economic and political structure becomes unstable. Spendthrift politicians may love a system that generates more and more money for their special interest projects, but the rest of us have good reason to be concerned about our monetary system and the future value of our dollars.

Wolfowitz To Attend 2007 Istanbul Bilderberg Meeting
Turkish journalist refers to ultra-elitist confab as “covert world government”
Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In an interview with a Turkish journalist, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz brags of his upcoming attendance of the 2007 Bilderberg Group meeting in Istanbul Turkey, while the journalist who is also set to be an an attendee refers to the elitist confab as a “covert world government.”
Bilderberg is an annual conference of the global elite, the location of which changes every year. Power brokers from industry, oil, politics, banking, business, academia, royalty and the media get together to secretly discuss the course of the world with no independent oversight or press coverage whatsoever, save leaked details obtained by muck-raking lone journalists like veteran Jim Tucker.
Bilderberg claims it does not set policy and yet whatever is discussed usually pans out in the real world within 12 months.
The BBC uncovered documents form a former Bilderberg member dating back to the early 50’s betraying the fact that the European Union and the single Euro currency were both brainchild’s of the Bilderberg Group.
At the 2005 Bilderberg meeting in Munich Germany, leaked talking points obtained from the speeches given at the conference indicated that Bilderberg expected oil prices to surge over the next 12 months, which is exactly what happened.
Bilderberg has a proven history of acting in a kingmaker capacity. Both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair attended before becoming President and Prime Minister and the mainstream media reported that Bilderberg selected John Edwards as Kerry’s running mate in 2004. Hillary Clinton was rumored to have attended last year’s conference.
The Turkish news website Referans features an article written by Cengiz Çandar, who recently interviewed Wolfowitz in Washington about Turkey’s relationship with the World Bank.
During the interview, according to a translation carried at, Wolfowitz spoke of his anticipation at potentially attending Bilderberg’s next get-together in Istanbul, which runs from 31st of May to June 3rd.
Wolfowitz describes Bilderberg as a “a valuable opportunity to meet many people and make acquaintances.”

The Internet leader in activist media – Prison Thousands of special reports, videos, MP3’s, interviews, conferences, speeches, events, documentary films, books and more – all for just 15 cents a day! Click here to subscribe! Find out the true story behind government sponsored terror, 7/7, Gladio and 9/11, get Terror Storm!
Çandar, relishing his own invitation to attend, states, “For years, conspiracy theorists claimed that the Bilderberg was covert world government. This year I will be there myself. I shall see what covert world government is all about,” to which Wolfowitz mockingly responds, “That is still being claimed, there are many web sites making similar claims.”
Çandar refers to Wolfowitz as having “Been in the administration of the Bilderberg and attended these meetings many times already.”
The main theme of this year’s conference, overlapping with Bilderberg’s sister organization the Trilateral Commission, is likely to be an agreement on behalf of the power brokers to fan the hysteria of man-made global warming in order to push a standardized carbon tax.
Shortly before last year’s Bilderberg Group meeting in Ottawa Canada, Alex Jones and his film crew were detained overnight by Canadian immigration officials and interrogated simply for trying to fly into the country to provide media coverage of an event that is uniformly ignored by major establishment newspapers because their own editors are in attendance and sworn to secrecy.
Jones was told by the immigration officials that they were tipped off by Bilderberg security and ordered to detain the radio host and his crew. Laptops were searched as Alex and crew were shouted at, harassed, and threatened with jail or deportation.
In addition, three Canadian citizens who visited the Brookestreet Hotel in Ottawa where Bilderberg met were kidnapped off the street by militarized police with guns, detained without charge and suffered the ordeal of a marathon interrogation session and psychological torture – including threats to “cut off the arms” of one of the victims.
This is how the Bilderberg Group treats anyone that tries to peaceably protest or simply cover their activities, so forgive us for scoffing when claims that they are a benign talking shop for publicity shy old men are regurgitated year upon year by the lapdog press that dare even mention their name, while demonizing the rest of us as conspiracy theorists for even suggesting that a secret conference of 200+ world power brokers, including Congressmen and members of Parliament, without oversight, is worthy of some serious scrutiny.

April 11, 2007
U.S. General in Iraq Sees Wider Use of Iran Arms
BAGHDAD, April 11 — Iranian-made weapons continue to be used in Iraq and are now making their way to a majority Sunni neighborhood as well as Shiite militia members, an American military spokesman said today.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said that Iran continues to train Iraqis on the use of the roadside bombs, known as EFPs, or explosively formed penetrators.
But he was careful not to say that the Iranian government was providing the weapons in Iraq, saying the weapons are being provided by Iranian intelligence surrogates.
EFPs hurl a molten, fist-sized lump of molten copper capable of piercing armored vehicles.
“We know that they are being in fact manufactured and smuggled into this country, and we know that training does go on in Iran for people to learn how to assemble them and how to employ them,” Gen. Caldwell said, according to The Associated Press. “We know that training has gone on as recently as this past month from detainees’ debriefs.”
In January, American officials said at least 170 American soldiers had been killed by EFPs.
“We also know that training still is being conducted in Iran for insurgent elements from Iraq. We know that as recent as last week from debriefing personnel,” Gen. Caldwell said, according to the A.P.
“They do receive training on how to assemble and employ EFPs,” Gen. Caldwell said, adding that fighters also were trained in how to carry out complex attacks that used explosives followed by assaults with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.”

April 10, 2007
Pas de Deux of Sexuality Is Written in the Genes
When it comes to the matter of desire, evolution leaves little to chance. Human sexual behavior is not a free-form performance, biologists are finding, but is guided at every turn by genetic programs.
Desire between the sexes is not a matter of choice. Straight men, it seems, have neural circuits that prompt them to seek out women; gay men have those prompting them to seek other men. Women’s brains may be organized to select men who seem likely to provide for them and their children. The deal is sealed with other neural programs that induce a burst of romantic love, followed by long-term attachment.
So much fuss, so intricate a dance, all to achieve success on the simple scale that is all evolution cares about, that of raisingthe greatest number of children to adulthood. Desire may seem the core of human sexual behavior, but it is just the central act in a long drama whose script is written quite substantially in the genes.
In the womb, the body of a developing fetus is female by default and becomes male if the male-determining gene known as SRY is present. This dominant gene, the Y chromosome’s proudest and almost only possession, sidetracks the reproductive tissue from its ovarian fate and switches it into becoming testes. Hormones from the testes, chiefly testosterone, mold the body into male form.
In puberty, the reproductive systems are primed for action by the brain. Amazing electrical machine that it may be, the brain can also behave like a humble gland. In the hypothalamus, at the central base of the brain, lie a cluster of about 2,000 neurons that ignite puberty when they start to secrete pulses of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which sets off a cascade of other hormones.
The trigger that stirs these neurons is still unknown, but probably the brain monitors internal signals as to whether the body is ready to reproduce and external cues as to whether circumstances are propitious for yielding to desire.
Several advances in the last decade have underlined the bizarre fact that the brain is a full-fledged sexual organ, in that the two sexes have profoundly different versions of it. This is the handiwork of testosterone, which masculinizes the brain as thoroughly as it does the rest of the body.
It is a misconception that the differences between men’s and women’s brains are small or erratic or found only in a few extreme cases, Dr. Larry Cahill of the University of California, Irvine, wrote last year in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Widespread regions of the cortex, the brain’s outer layer that performs much of its higher-level processing, are thicker in women. The hippocampus, where initial memories are formed, occupies a larger fraction of the female brain.
Techniques for imaging the brain have begun to show that men and women use their brains in different ways even when doing the same thing. In the case of the amygdala, a pair of organs that helps prioritize memories according to their emotional strength, women use the left amygdala for this purpose but men tend to use the right.
It is no surprise that the male and female versions of the human brain operate in distinct patterns, despite the heavy influence of culture. The male brain is sexually oriented toward women as an object of desire. The most direct evidence comes from a handful of cases, some of them circumcision accidents, in which boy babies have lost their penises and been reared as female. Despite every social inducement to the opposite, they grow up desiring women as partners, not men.
“If you can’t make a male attracted to other males by cutting off his penis, how strong could any psychosocial effect be?” said J. Michael Bailey, an expert on sexual orientation at Northwestern University.
Presumably the masculinization of the brain shapes some neural circuit that makes women desirable. If so, this circuitry is wired differently in gay men. In experiments in which subjects are shown photographs of desirable men or women, straight men are aroused by women, gay men by men.
Such experiments do not show the same clear divide with women. Whether women describe themselves as straight or lesbian, “Their sexual arousal seems to be relatively indiscriminate — they get aroused by both male and female images,” Dr. Bailey said. “I’m not even sure females have a sexual orientation. But they have sexual preferences. Women are very picky, and most choose to have sex with men.”
Dr. Bailey believes that the systems for sexual orientation and arousal make men go out and find people to have sex with, whereas women are more focused on accepting or rejecting those who seek sex with them.
Similar differences between the sexes are seen by Marc Breedlove, a neuroscientist at Michigan State University. “Most males are quite stubborn in their ideas about which sex they want to pursue, while women seem more flexible,” he said.
Sexual orientation, at least for men, seems to be settled before birth. “I think most of the scientists working on these questions are convinced that the antecedents of sexual orientation in males are happening early in life, probably before birth,” Dr. Breedlove said, “whereas for females, some are probably born to become gay, but clearly some get there quite late in life.”
Sexual behavior includes a lot more than sex. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University, argues that three primary brain systems have evolved to direct reproductive behavior. One is the sex drive that motivates people to seek partners. A second is a program for romantic attraction that makes people fixate on specific partners. Third is a mechanism for long-term attachment that induces people to stay together long enough to complete their parental duties.
Romantic love, which in its intense early stage “can last 12-18 months,” is a universal human phenomenon, Dr. Fisher wrote last year in The Proceedings of the Royal Society, and is likely to be a built-in feature of the brain. Brain imaging studies show that a particular area of the brain, one associated with the reward system, is activated when subjects contemplate a photo of their lover.
The best evidence for a long-term attachment process in mammals comes from studies of voles, a small mouselike rodent. A hormone called vasopressin, which is active in the brain, leads some voles to stay pair-bonded for life. People possess the same hormone, suggesting a similar mechanism could be at work in humans, though this has yet to be proved.
Researchers have devoted considerable effort to understanding homosexuality in men and women, both for its intrinsic interest and for the light it could shed on the more usual channels of desire. Studies of twins show that homosexuality, especially among men, is quite heritable, meaning there is a genetic component to it. But since gay men have about one-fifth as many children as straight men, any gene favoring homosexuality should quickly disappear from the population.
Such genes could be retained if gay men were unusually effective protectors of their nephews and nieces, helping genes just like theirs get into future generations. But gay men make no better uncles than straight men, according to a study by Dr. Bailey. So that leaves the possibility that being gay is a byproduct of a gene that persists because it enhances fertility in other family members. Some studies have found that gay men have more relatives than straight men, particularly on their mother’s side.
But Dr. Bailey believes the effect, if real, would be more clear-cut. “Male homosexuality is evolutionarily maladaptive,” he said, noting that the phrase means only that genes favoring homosexuality cannot be favored by evolution if fewer such genes reach the next generation.
A somewhat more straightforward clue to the origin of homosexuality is the fraternal birth order effect. Two Canadian researchers, Ray Blanchard and Anthony F. Bogaert, have shown that having older brothers substantially increases the chances that a man will be gay. Older sisters don’t count, nor does it matter whether the brothers are in the house when the boy is reared.
The finding suggests that male homosexuality in these cases is caused by some event in the womb, such as “a maternal immune response to succeeding male pregnancies,” Dr. Bogaert wrote last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Antimale antibodies could perhaps interfere with the usual masculinization of the brain that occurs before birth, though no such antibodies have yet been detected.
The fraternal birth order effect is quite substantial. Some 15 percent of gay men can attribute their homosexuality to it, based on the assumption that 1 percent to 4 percent of men are gay, and each additional older brother increases the odds of same-sex attraction by 33 percent.
The effect supports the idea that the levels of circulating testosterone before birth are critical in determining sexual orientation. But testosterone in the fetus cannot be measured, and as adults, gay and straight men have the same levels of the hormone, giving no clue to prenatal exposure. So the hypothesis, though plausible, has not been proved.
A significant recent advance in understanding the basis of sexuality and desire has been the discovery that genes may have a direct effect on the sexual differentiation of the brain. Researchers had long assumed that steroid hormones like testosterone and estrogen did all the heavy lifting of shaping the male and female brains. But Arthur Arnold of the University of California, Los Angeles, has found that male and female neurons behave somewhat differently when kept in laboratory glassware. And last year Eric Vilain, also of U.C.L.A., made the surprising finding that the SRY gene is active in certain cells of the brain, at least in mice. Its brain role is quite different from its testosterone-related activities, and women’s neurons presumably perform that role by other means.
It so happens that an unusually large number of brain-related genes are situated on the X chromosome. The sudden emergence of the X and Y chromosomes in brain function has caught the attention of evolutionary biologists. Since men have only one X chromosome, natural selection can speedily promote any advantageous mutation that arises in one of the X’s genes. So if those picky women should be looking for smartness in prospective male partners, that might explain why so many brain-related genes ended up on the X.
“It’s popular among male academics to say that females preferred smarter guys,” Dr. Arnold said. “Such genes will be quickly selected in males because new beneficial mutations will be quickly apparent.”
Several profound consequences follow from the fact that men have only one copy of the many X-related brain genes and women two. One is that many neurological diseases are more common in men because women are unlikely to suffer mutations in both copies of a gene.
Another is that men, as a group, “will have more variable brain phenotypes,” Dr. Arnold writes, because women’s second copy of every gene dampens the effects of mutations that arise in the other.
Greater male variance means that although average IQ is identical in men and women, there are fewer average men and more at both extremes. Women’s care in selecting mates, combined with the fast selection made possible by men’s lack of backup copies of X-related genes, may have driven the divergence between male and female brains. The same factors could explain, some researchers believe, why the human brain has tripled in volume over just the last 2.5 million years.
Who can doubt it? It is indeed desire that makes the world go round.

Iran offers ‘proof’ of CIA torture

Jalal Sharafi said that US agents had drilled
holes in his foot

Iranian state television has shown officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross examining an Iranian diplomat who has accused the CIA of torturing him while he was detained in Iraq.

Jalal Sharafi was shown in a hospital bed being examined by Peter Stocker from the ICRC and the Iraqi ambassador in footage broadcast on Wednesday.

During the examination, the voice of a doctor could be heard describing how Sharafi – formerly the second-most senior official in Iran’s embassy in Baghdad – had been beaten with a cable during his detention.

After his visit to the diplomat, Stocker told The Associated Press that he saw wounds on Sharafi’s body that “were several weeks old”, but said he did not know how the injuries occurred.

“I cannot say who did it and where it happened,” the ICRC official said. “I can only say that it happened during his detention.”

Stocker was accompanied to the hospital by Majid Sheikh, the Iraqi ambassador to Iran.

Diplomat accuses US

Earlier in the week, Sharafi’s Iranian doctors had reported that holes had been drilled into his foot, but the TV images were not clear enough to indicate whether the small, red marks on his foot were indeed holes.

Doctors also reported earlier that he had suffered a broken nose, serious injuries to his back, bleeding in his digestive system, and damage to his ears.

None of these injuries has been independently verified, nor were they discernible from the TV footage.

Footage released by Iranian TV showed Jalal Sharafi in hospital being examined by doctors

A spokeswoman for the ICRC in Tehran, Katayoun Hosseinnejad, confirmed the visit to Sharafi had taken place and said it had been initiated by the Iranians.

Sharafi was released from Iraq last week and later said that the CIA had questioned him about Iran’s relations with Iraq and its assistance to various Iraqi groups.

US officials have repeatedly said that Iran provides money and weapons to Shia militias in Iraq. Iran has denied this.

On Wednesday the US military put more weapons on display in Baghdad  that it said were made in Iran.

An army spokesmen said that Iran had trained Iraqi insurgents in the use of roadside bombs as recently as last month.

Israel balks at Hamas prisoner list

Marwan Barghouti is said to be one
of the 1,400 names on the list [AP]

Israeli ministers have expressed “disappointment and reservation” over a list of prisoners Hamas wants freed in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier, the prime minister’s office says.

Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government, had submitted 1,400 names it wants in exchange for Corporal Gilad Shalit, held by Gaza fighters for 10 months.

The statement from Ehud Olmert’s office said he had convened a meeting of senior officials and intelligence commanders to discuss the list on Tuesday.

Israeli political sources described the list as “highly problematic” and unacceptable because many on the list had “blood on their hands”.

Israel said it would continue its contacts on the matter with Egypt, through whom Hamas handed the names of the prisoners to Israel.

False hopes

It said that while there had been “some progress in negotiations, they are far from being completed”.

“The various reports that have appeared in this context must be treated with due caution in order not to create false hopes,” it added.

Israeli political sources said plans to convene a special ministerial committee to look into whether to loosen criteria for releasing prisoners in an exchange deal had been postponed.

Ghazi Hamad, an aide to Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister and a Hamas leader, said: “If Israel continues to insist on its own criteria, it will be responsible for the failure to reach a deal.”

Barghouthi on list

Wasfi Kabha, a Hamas cabinet minister, told Reuters on Monday that there were about 1,400 names on the list, including Marwan Barghouthi, a Fatah leader serving five consecutive life terms and widely seen as a possible successor to Mahmoud Abbas, the president.

Your Views

“A peace deal is certainly possible, but only in a situation where both sides actually want it”

Gary, London, UK
Send us your views

Also on the list is Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, suspected of ordering and planning the 2001 assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister, but held for other unspecified offences.

Freeing fighters and especially the leaders from Israeli jails is a highly emotive issue for Palestinians, as well as for Israelis who have lost relatives in attacks.

Meir Indor, the director of the Israeli Terror Victims’ Association Al-Magor, said: “We know for sure that a prime minister who will sign to release terrorists right now will bring chaos immediately.”

But an exchange deal after months of deadlock could spur progress in talks between Olmert and Abbas on Sunday.

An Abbas aide said the Palestinian president would discuss “the Arab peace initiative and prospects for reviving the peace process”.

But Olmert has said that Abbas’s power-sharing partnership with Hamas and the continued captivity of Shalit meant that no real progress towards Palestinian statehood could be made in their meetings.

The leaders agreed to hold fortnightly meetings at the urging of the US.

Shalit was seized and two colleagues killed in June by fighters from Hamas and two other armed groups who tunnelled into Israel from Gaza.

In violence on Tuesday, an Israeli hitchhiker was seriously wounded by Palestinian attackers as he waited at a junction in the northern part of the West Bank, an Israeli military spokeswoman said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

April 12, 2007
Bombing Hits Parliament in Baghdad
Filed at 9:20 a.m. ET
BAGHDAD (AP) — A bomb exploded in the Iraqi parliament’s cafeteria in a stunning assault in the heart of the heavily fortified, U.S.-protected Green Zone Thursday, killing at least two lawmakers and wounding 10 other people.
The blast in the parliament building came hours after a suicide truck bomb blew up a major bridge in Baghdad, collapsing the steel structure and sending cars tumbling into the Tigris River, police and witnesses said. At least 10 people were killed.
The bomb in parliament went off in a cafeteria while several lawmakers were eating lunch, media reports said. In addition to the two dead, state television said at least 10 people were wounded.
After the blast, security guards sealed the building and no one — including lawmakers — was allowed to enter or leave.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said no Americans were hurt in the blast.
The bombing came amid the two-month-old security crackdown in Baghdad, which has sought to restore stability in the capital so that the government of Iraq can take key political steps by June 30 or face a withdrawal of American support.
One of the dead lawmakers was Mohammed Awad, a member of the Sunni National Dialogue Front, said Saleh al-Mutlaq, the leader of the party, which holds 11 seats in Iraq’s legislature. A female Sunni lawmaker from the same list was wounded, he said.
A security official at the building said a second lawmaker, a Shiite member, also was killed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
But Mukhlis al-Zamili of the Shiite Fadhila party said the second dead lawmaker was a Kurd, adding that six of those wounded were members of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc.
Al-Zamili also said he believed a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest was behind the attack.
Another member of the National Dialogue Front, Mohammed al-Dayni, also suggested a suicide bomber was behind it.
”I am standing now at the site of the explosion and looking at the severed legs of the person who carried out the operation. If this tells us anything, it tells us that security is lax,” al-Dayni told Iraq’s Sharqiya television.
Earlier in the day, security officials used dogs to check people entering the building in a rare precaution — apparently concerned that an attack might take place.
The brazen bombing was the clearest evidence yet that militants can penetrate even the most secure locations. Masses of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are on the streets in the ninth week of a security crackdown in the capital and security measures inside the Green Zone have been significantly hardened.
The U.S. military reported April 1 that two suicide vests were found in the heavily fortified region that also houses the U.S. Embassy and offices of the Iraqi government. A militant rocket attack last month killed two Americans, a soldier and a contractor. A few days earlier, a rocket landed within 100 yards of a building where U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was holding a news conference. No one was hurt.
Khalaf al-Ilyan, one of the three leaders of the Iraqi Accordance Front, which holds 44 seats, said the attack was ”aimed at everyone — all parties — our parliament in general being a symbol and a representative of all segments of Iraqi society.”
Al-Ilyan, who is in Jordan recovering from knee surgery, said the blast also ”underlines the failure of the government’s security plan.”
”The plan is 100 percent a failure. It’s a complete flop. The explosion means that instability and lack of security has reached the Green Zone, which the government boasts is heavily fortified,” he said.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said its officials were ”investigating the nature and source of the explosion. No embassy employees or U.S. citizens were affected.”
Hadi al-Amiri, head of the parliament’s security and defense committee, said the explosion shook the building just after legislators ended their main meeting, and broke into smaller committees.
”A few brothers (fellow lawmakers) happened to be in the cafeteria at the time of the explosion,” al-Amiri told Al-Arabiya television. ”But had they been able to place this bomb inside the meeting hall, it would have been a catastrophe.”
Al-Amiri added Iraqi forces are in charge of security in the building, and that explosives could have been smuggled in amid restaurant supplies.
A television camera and videotape belonging to a Western TV crew was confiscated by security guards moments after the attack.
Attacks in the Green Zone are rare.
The worst known attack inside the enclave occurred Oct. 14, 2004, when insurgents detonated explosives at a market and a popular cafe, killing six people. That was the first bombing in the sprawling region.
On Nov. 25, 2004, a mortar attack inside the zone killed four employees of a British security firm and wounded at least 12.
On Jan. 29, 2005, insurgents hit the U.S. Embassy compound with a rocket, killing two Americans — a civilian and a Navy sailor — on the eve of landmark elections. Four other Americans were wounded.
In addition to killing 10 people, Thursday’s bombing of the al-Sarafiya bridge wounded 26, hospital officials said, and police were trying to rescue as many as 20 people whose cars plummeted off the span.
Waves lapped against twisted girders as patrol boats searched for survivors and U.S. helicopters flew overhead. Scuba divers donned flippers and waded in from the riverbanks.
Farhan al-Sudani, a 34-year-old Shiite businessman who lives near the bridge, said the blast woke him at dawn.
”A huge explosion shook our house and I thought it would demolish our house. Me and my wife jumped immediately from our bed, grabbed our three kids and took them outside,” he said.
The al-Sarafiya bridge connected two northern Baghdad neighborhoods — Waziriyah, a mostly Sunni enclave, and Utafiyah, a Shiite area.
Police blamed the attack on a suicide truck bomber, but AP Television News video showed the bridge broken in two places — perhaps the result of two blasts.
Cement pilings that support the steel structure were left crumbling. At the base of one lay a charred vehicle engine, believed to be that of the truck bomb.
”We were astonished more when we saw the extent of damage,” said Ahmed Abdul-Karim, 45, who also lives near the bridge. ”I was standing in my garden and I saw the smoke and flying debris.”
The al-Sarafiya bridge is believed to be at least 75 years old, built by the British in the early part of the 20th century.
”It is one of Baghdad’s monuments. This is really damaging for Iraq. We are losing a lot of our history every day,” Abdul-Karim said.
The al-Sarafiya bridge has a duplicate in Fallujah that was built later and made infamous in March 2004 when angry mobs hung the charred bodies of U.S. contractors from its girders.
”This bridge is linked to Baghdad’s modern history — it is one of our famous monuments,” said Haider Ghazala, a 52-year-old Iraqi architect.
”Attacking this bridge affects the morale of Iraqis and especially Baghdad residents who feel proud of this bridge. They (insurgents) want to demolish everything that connects the people with this land,” he said.
Before the al-Sarafiya bridge was destroyed, nine spans across the Tigris linked western and eastern Baghdad.
The river now serves as a de facto dividing line between the mostly Shiite east and the largely Sunni west of the city, a reality of more than a year of sectarian fighting that has forced Sunnis to flee neighborhoods where they were a minority and likewise for Shiites.
Baghdad’s neighborhoods had been very mixed before the war but hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced since then as militants from both Muslim sects have sought to cleanse their neighborhoods of rivals.
There have been unconfirmed reports for months that Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida in Iraq were planning a campaign to blow up the city’s bridges. U.S. military headquarters near the Baghdad airport and the Green Zone, site of the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi parliament and government, are both on the west side of the river.
Also Thursday, the U.S. military said its troops killed two suspected insurgents and captured 17 in raids across the country.

April 12, 2007
Civilian Claims on U.S. Suggest the Toll of War
In February 2006, nervous American soldiers in Tikrit killed an Iraqi fisherman on the Tigris River after he leaned over to switch off his engine. A year earlier, a civilian filling his car and an Iraqi Army officer directing traffic were shot by American soldiers in a passing convoy in Balad, for no apparent reason.
The incidents are among many thousands of claims submitted to the Army by Iraqi and Afghan civilians seeking payment for noncombat killings, injuries or property damage American forces inflicted on them or their relatives.
The claims provide a rare window into the daily chaos and violence faced by civilians and troops in the two war zones. Recently, the Army disclosed roughly 500 claims to the American Civil Liberties Union in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. They are the first to be made public.
They represent only a small fraction of the claims filed. In all, the military has paid more than $32 million to Iraqi and Afghan civilians for noncombat-related killings, injuries and property damage, an Army spokeswoman said. That figure does not include condolence payments made at a unit commander’s discretion.
The paperwork, examined by The New York Times, provides unusually detailed accounts of how bystanders to the conflicts have become targets of American forces grappling to identify who is friend, who is foe.
In the case of the fisherman in Tikrit, he and his companion desperately tried to appear unthreatening to an American helicopter overhead.
“They held up the fish in the air and shouted ‘Fish! Fish!’ to show they meant no harm,” said the Army report attached to the claim filed by the fisherman’s family. The Army refused to compensate for the killing, ruling that it was “combat activity,” but approved $3,500 for his boat, net and cellphone, which drifted away and were stolen.
In the killings at the gas station in Balad, documents show that the Army determined that the neither of the dead Iraqis had done anything hostile or criminal, and approved $5,000 to the civilian’s brother but nothing for the Iraqi officer.
In another incident, in 2005, an American soldier in a dangerous Sunni Arab area south of Baghdad killed a boy after mistaking his book bag for a bomb satchel. The Army paid the boy’s uncle $500.
The Foreign Claims Act, which governs such compensation, does not deal with combat-related cases. For those cases, including the boy’s, the Army may offer a condolence payment as a gesture of regret with no admission of fault, of usually no higher than $2,500 per person killed.
The total number of claims filed, or paid, is unclear, although extensive data has been provided in reports to Congress. There is no way to know immediately whether disciplinary action or prosecution has resulted from the cases.
Soldiers hand out instruction cards after mistakes are made, so Iraqis know where to file claims. “The Army does not target civilians,” said Maj. Anne D. Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman. “Sadly, however, the enemy’s tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan unnecessarily endanger innocent civilians.”
There are no specific guidelines to tell Army field officers judging the claims how to evaluate the cash value of a life taken, Major Edgecomb said. She said officers “consider the contributions the deceased made to those left behind and offer an award based on the facts, local tribal customs, and local law.”
In Haditha, one of the most notorious incidents involving American troops in Iraq, the Marines paid residents $38,000 after troops killed two dozen people in November 2005.
The relatively small number of claims divulged by the Army show patterns of misunderstanding at checkpoints and around American military convoys that often result in inadvertent killings. In one incident, in Feb. 18, 2006, a taxi approached a checkpoint east of Baquba that was not properly marked with signs to slow down, one Army claim evaluation said. Soldiers fired on the taxi, killing a woman and severely wounding her daughter and son. The Army approved an unusually large condolence payment of $7,500.
In September 2005, soldiers killed a man and his sister by firing 200 rounds into their car as it approached a checkpoint, apparently too quickly, near Mussayib. The Army lieutenant colonel who handled the claim awarded relatives a $10,000 compensation payment, finding that the soldiers had overstepped the rules of engagement.
“There are some very tragic losses of civilian life, including losses of whole families,” said Anthony D. Romero, the A.C.L.U.’s executive director, in an interview. He said the claims showed “enormous confusion on all sides, both from the civilian population on how to interact with the armed services and also among the soldiers themselves.”
Of the 500 cases released, 204, or about 40 percent, were apparently rejected because the injury, death or property damage was deemed to have been “directly or indirectly” related to combat. Of the claims approved for payment, at least 87 were not combat-related, and 77 were condolence payments for incidents the Army judged to be combat-related.
About 10 percent of the claims were rejected because the Army could not find a “significant activity” report confirming an incident.
A summary of the cases is online at
In Iraq, rules for evaluating claims have changed. Before President Bush declared major combat operations over, in May 2003, commanders considered most checkpoint shootings to be combat-related. Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the former commander of day-to-day operations in Iraq, stiffened rules at checkpoints. In late 2003, as more Iraqis were accidentally injured or killed, the Army began offering condolence payments. It has not always worked as planned, said Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, a nonprofit group in Washington.
“Sometimes families would get paid and sometimes their neighbors wouldn’t,” she said. “It caused a lot of resentments among the Iraqis, which is ironic because it was a program specifically meant to foster good will.”
The Army usually assigns a captain, major or lieutenant colonel to accept claims in Iraq and Afghanistan and decide on payment.
But in and near combat zones in Iraq, a claim’s merit is quickly judged by an officer juggling dozens of new claims each week, said Jon E. Tracy, a former Army captain and lawyer who adjudicated Iraqi civilian claims in the Baghdad area from May 2003 through July 2004.
“I know plenty of lawyers who did not pay any condolences payments at all,” said Mr. Tracy, who is now a legal consultant for the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. “There was no reason for it. It was clearly not combat, and the victim was clearly innocent, all the facts are there, witness statements, but they wouldn’t pay them.”
Half of the claims he adjudicated were property damage claims from collisions with military vehicles, he said. Most fraudulent claims were property claims; few were for wrongful killings. “You just had to read people,” he said.
About a quarter of claims were for personal injury or deaths. In his year judging claims, Mr. Tracy said he paid 52 condolence payments, most for deaths. “I had three to four times more,” Mr. Tracy said, “I just didn’t have enough money.”
Andrew W. Lehren contributed reporting from New York, and Edward Wong from Baghdad.

Scores dead in Pakistan clashes

Soldiers in Parachinar have been given shoot-on-sight orders to stop the sectarian clashes [EPA]

Sunni and Shia Muslims have exchanged gunfire in northwestern Pakistan villages, where the government has said that a week of sectarian violence has left at least 49 people dead and others 115 wounded.

However, other reports on Thursday suggested the fighting has inflicted a much higher death toll than government’s official figures suggest.

Ahmad Barakat, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Pakistan, said: “Independent security sources said that at least 100 people were killed and more than 250 others injured since the violence first erupted on Friday.”

Shoot on sight

Soldiers patrolling the streets of Parachinar, the main town in the Kurram region near the border with Afghanistan, have given orders to shoot-on-sight in an attempt to control the violence.
The latest violence began a week ago when unidentified people began shooting at Shias near their mosque in the town, following days of growing tension over a rally organized by Sunnis to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.
Barakat said: “The sectarian violence was sparked on Friday after Shia Muslims attacked a Sunni convoy when Sunnis were celebrating al-Mawlid al-Nabawi [the birthday of Prophet Muhammad].

“The next day, the Sunnis responded by attacking a Shia convoy that resulted in erupting the fighting.”

Tribal elders and clerics from the two sects have been trying to negotiate a ceasefire between the heavily armed rival groups.

Governement criticised

The government, which has come under criticism for failing to curb the clashes, is moving security forces to areas where fighting is still under way.

Mujahid Hussain, a Shia Muslim from Parachinar, claimed that Sunni fighters from neighbouring North Waziristan had arrived in the region after Friday’s clashes to support their opponents.

Hussain said: “Our people saw the bodies of several Sunni militants, and they were from North Waziristan.”

Shias make up 20 per cent of Pakistan’s 160 million population but are in the majority in Parachinar.

More than 4,000 people have been killed as a result of sectarian violence in the country since the late 1980s.

Where the Money Is
By Al Kamen
Wednesday, March 28, 2007; A13
There’s some disgruntlement amongst the grossly overpaid World Bank crowd as the time approaches for calculating annual salary increases for 2007. Seems they’re finding out that Shaha Riza, who’s been romantically linked to bank President Paul Wolfowitz, has done exceptionally well in terms of salary in the last 18 months — and she doesn’t even work there.
Riza, a British citizen who was born in Tunisia and raised in Saudi Arabia, worked as a communications adviser in the bank’s Middle East and North Africa department before she was detailed to work in Karen Hughes’s public diplomacy shop at the State Department in September 2005 — while remaining on the bank’s payroll.
She left six months after Wolfowitz took over at the bank.
Just before leaving, she was promoted to a managerial-level job, which we’re told is somewhat rare. Bank records obtained by the Government Accountability Project indicate that, before Riza’s promotion, she was earning $132,660.
Under bank rules — remember, she is still on its payroll even at State — the highest raise she should have gotten in her new job would be about $20,000, according to GAP’s calculation. Instead, she got a $47,340 raise, which put her salary at $180,000.
This fiscal year, while still at State, Riza got a raise of $13,500, bringing her up to $193,590, which is $7,000 more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes. Since she is at State and not the bank, the bank’s staff rules should have allowed only about half that, GAP said. Even if she’d been at the bank and gotten the highest performance rating compared with other bank employees, she could not have gotten that big a raise, GAP said.
So we asked Wolfowitz spokesman Kevin Kellems who’s responsible for these whopping raises.
“All arrangements concerning Shaha Riza were made at the direction of the bank’s board of directors,” Kellems said.
Well, maybe the directors felt guilty because they made her leave the building after Wolfowitz took over?
Thanks, I’ve Already Met Your Boss
Speaking of the bank, Marwan Muasher, a former foreign minister, deputy prime minister and chief of staff to King Abdullah of Jordan, last week settled in to his new job there as senior vice president for external affairs.
Muasher, acting through a real estate agent, also bought a lovely home in Northwest Washington. (Quick Loop Quiz! So now, a top employee of a key Iraq war architect is living in the home he just bought from . . .? Ah, you guessed it. Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, of course.)
Speaking of the Bushes
The Brothers Bush are having a rocky time these days dealing with the college crowd. Brother Jeb, former governor of Florida, just found out the University of Florida had decided he will not be receiving an honorary degree.
Then Brother W, the current president of the United States, sparked a fuss when he accepted an invitation to speak May 11 at ceremonies at Saint Vincent College, a Benedictine liberal arts school in the Pennsylvania congressional district of an ardent opponent of the Iraq war, Rep. John P. Murtha (D). Turns out Murtha, commencement speaker in 1983, is the second cousin of former Saint Vincent president John F. Murtha, who headed the school from 1985 to 1995. Jim Towey, who ran the Bush White House office of faith-based initiatives, is now the college’s president.
Towey anticipated the uproar in his announcement Monday of Bush’s visit, saying it has sparked a “lively and welcome discussion.” But “let me stress that our invitation to President Bush, like past invitations to other speakers for Saint Vincent commencements and other events on campus, is not an endorsement of his policies or politics.” He noted that past invitees, in addition to Murtha, have included former House speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill and William F. Buckley Jr.
He’s meeting with the senior class tonight, and there will be an “open mike” town hall meeting on April 17 for all 1,600 students to opine.
Meanwhile, the faculty voted 41 to 30 to uphold the invitation. An online petition is circulating that’s gathered 140 or so names — including one Ron MacDonald, who is not a student — telling Bush that “linking the school to your administration would irreparably tarnish Saint Vincent.”
Dead, but Still Dangerous
The Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control — which tries to grab the ill-gotten gains of drug dealers, terrorists, dictators and such — has a “watch list” of “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.”
The list has nearly 3,500 names of people and organizations we should be on the lookout for, including one Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti, who was arrested in December 2003 and executed last Dec. 30. His sociopath sons, Uday and Qusay, killed in July 2003, along with just about everyone from Tikrit, are on the list.
The Post asked Treasury why we should still watch out for the late Saddam.
“Individuals are not pulled off the list because they can still have assets in their name after death,” a spokeswoman explained. (Oddly enough, Cuba’s Fidel Castro is not on the list, although lots of Cuban operations are.) So next time you happen to see Saddam driving a Brink’s truck on the Beltway, get help!
Now, About That Pardon . . .
Former vice president Al Gore recently testified on the Hill about global warming, a subject about which he is well versed. Now Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) would like former president Bill Clinton to be at the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing tomorrow on “the Appropriate Use of the Presidential Pardoning Power.”
“Former President Clinton is no stranger to controversial pardons, most notably the pardon of Marc Rich on his last day in office,” Smith said in a press release. The fugitive financier’s wife donated $450,000 to the Clinton library. “I can think of no better person to address this issue.”
Yesterday afternoon, however, Clinton’s office called Smith’s to say that Clinton won’t make it because he will not be in Washington that day. A pity.

Bush Administration “Accidentally” Loses Potentially Incriminating E-mails

Could these people be any more transparent? Does anyone buy this garbage anymore?
Of the 1,000 White House officials with political duties, 22 — including Karl Rove, the chief political strategist — have Republican National Committee accounts that are supposed to be used only for campaign-related work. But recent revelations that some officials have used those accounts for Bush administration business, including discussions of a plan to dismiss United States attorneys, has prompted a Congressional investigation.

On Wednesday, Scott Stanzel, deputy White House press secretary, said the administration had recently begun its own inquiry, and had concluded that its policy governing political e-mail accounts was unclear, that the White House was not aggressive enough in monitoring political e-mail and that some people who had the accounts did not follow the policy closely enough.

As a result, Mr. Stanzel said, “some official e-mails have potentially been lost.” He said Mr. Bush had told the White House counsel’s office “to do everything practical to retrieve potentially lost messages.”
Yes. I’m sure they’ll really bust their asses to get back those e-mails that could further point to their own wrongdoing. For reals!

While the Bushies are swearing up and down that if any communications were lost they wouldn’t be of any value to the percolating Congressional investigation into the politically motivated firings of eight US Attorneys, they can’t escape the evidence that shows them using their RNC e-mails inappropriately.
The flap grows out of the investigation into the dismissals of the prosecutors. E-mail messages provided to Congress in that inquiry showed that Scott Jennings, a deputy political director for Mr. Bush, used his national committee address, ending in, to discuss them with aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, including D. Kyle Sampson, who resigned amid the ensuing uproar.

In January, an assistant to Mr. Jennings used a account to circulate a document discussing Democrats who are being singled out for defeat in 2008. “Please do not e-mail this out or let people see it,” the e-mail read, adding, “It is a close hold, and we’re not supposed to be e-mailing it around.”

Other messages have brought scrutiny as well, including exchanges between Susan Ralston, a former assistant to Mr. Rove, and Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist convicted of corruption charges.
I know what you’re thinking. “So? They got some e-mails mixed up. Big fucking deal, right?” Sure. They just mixed up a few e-mails and “oops” some got lost. That may be true, but even if no e-mails regarding the firing scandal were lost, their actions are nevertheless potentially illegal.
At issue is how the White House complies with two seemingly competing laws. One is the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which requires the administration to ensure that its decisions and deliberations are “adequately documented” and that records flowing out of those decisions are preserved.

The other is the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials from engaging in political business on government time.
Administration officials argue that they should be excused from these requirements because they are the first presidency in the age of instant communications. Of course, this is bullshit as plenty of people every day have no problem keeping business and personal e-mails separated into different accounts. Hell, I do it and I’m the most disorganized person you’ve ever met. No, what’s really going on here is that this administration is using this “our bad” excuse as a way to shirk their responsibilities, circumvent applicable regulations and avoid accountability. But what else is new?

I acknowledge that this story is not the worst you’ve heard about Bush and his cronies. It’s certainly not lying to the country to go to war, criminally mismanaging a domestic natural disaster recovery effort or ignoring intelligence that suggested an attack on America was imminent. Those things were really bad. However, this is just another in a long, unbroken string of sad stories about an Executive Branch drunk on power and consumed by irresponsibility and incompetence.

Stay tuned for next week, when we do it all over again.
web address:

Green Zone Down: Bomb Hits Parliament As Bush Moves to Make Baghdad a Prison

Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 12 April 2007

The Bush-McCain “surge” is working so well that now the very heart of the American-installed, American-protected Iraqi government has been struck by a bomb, killing at least two legislators, as the Washington Post, AP and the Guardian report.

The Green Zone blast came just hours after another bombing crippled one of Baghdad’s main bridges, killing several people and further choking off movement within the city. But then, that too is part of the Bush-McCain surge plan, whose ultimate goal is to turn Baghdad into a “community prison,” restricting the free movement of Iraqis in their own capital. As Robert Fisk reports in a major story in the Independent (entirely overlooked by the American corporate media):

Faced with an ever-more ruthless insurgency in Baghdad – despite President George Bush’s “surge” in troops – US forces in the city are now planning a massive and highly controversial counter-insurgency operation that will seal off vast areas of the city, enclosing whole neighbourhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with newly issued ID cards to enter. The campaign of “gated communities” – whose genesis was in the Vietnam War – will involve up to 30 of the city’s 89 official districts and will be the most ambitious counter-insurgency programme yet mounted by the US in Iraq.

But the imprisonment of Iraqis within Baghdad — a practice that has been carried out on a smaller scale elsewhere, including the wrapping of whole towns in barbed wire — is not the only goal of the Bush-McCain plan, Fisk notes:

But the campaign has far wider military ambitions than the pacification of Baghdad. It now appears that the US military intends to place as many as five mechanised brigades – comprising about 40,000 men – south and east of Baghdad, at least three of them positioned between the capital and the Iranian border. This would present Iran with a powerful – and potentially aggressive – American military force close to its border in the event of a US or Israeli military strike against its nuclear facilities later this year.

The draconian plan to “enclose” vast quadrants of the ancient city goes far beyond the stated policies of the Bush-McCain surge, Fisk reports:

So far, the Baghdad campaign has involved only the creation of a few US positions within several civilian areas of the city but the new project will involve joint American and Iraqi “support bases” in nine of the 30 districts to be “gated” off. From these bases – in fortified buildings – US-Iraqi forces will supposedly clear militias from civilian streets which will then be walled off and the occupants issued with ID cards. Only the occupants will be allowed into these “gated communities” and there will be continuous patrolling by US-Iraqi forces. There are likely to be pass systems, “visitor” registration and restrictions on movement outside the “gated communities”. Civilians may find themselves inside a “controlled population” prison.

In theory, US forces can then concentrate on providing physical reconstruction in what the military like to call a “secure environment”. But insurgents are not foreigners, despite the presence of al-Qa’ida in Iraq. They come from the same population centres that will be “gated” and will, if undiscovered, hold ID cards themselves; they will be “enclosed” with everyone else.

A former US officer in Vietnam who has a deep knowledge of General Petraeus’s plans is sceptical of the possible results. “The first loyalty of any Sunni who is in the Iraqi army is to the insurgency,” he said. “Any Shia’s first loyalty is to the head of his political party and its militia. Any Kurd in the Iraqi army, his first loyalty is to either Barzani or Talabani. There is no independent Iraqi army. These people really have no choice. They are trying to save their families from starvation and reprisal. At one time they may have believed in a unified Iraq. At one time they may have been secular. But the violence and brutality that started with the American invasion has burnt those liberal ideas out of people … Every American who is embedded in an Iraqi unit is in constant mortal danger.”

The plan’s failure will be profound, another senior officer told Fisk:

“Once the additional troops are in place the insurrectionists will cut the lines of communication from Kuwait to the greatest extent they are able,” he told The Independent. “They will do the same inside Baghdad, forcing more use of helicopters. The helicopters will be vulnerable coming into the patrol bases, and the enemy will destroy as many as they can. The second part of their plan will be to attempt to destroy one of the patrol bases. They will begin that process by utilising their people inside the ‘gated communities’ to help them enter. They will choose bases where the Iraqi troops either will not fight or will actually support them.

“The American reaction will be to use massive firepower, which will destroy the neighbourhood that is being ‘protected’.”

But of course, in this, as in every other aspect of the Bush war crime in Iraq, “failure” is a highly relative term. If the stated aim of the Bush-McCain surge were genuine — providing security to the Iraqi people in order to speed reconstruction efforts and aid the nurturing of a non-sectarian democracy — then yes, it is howlingly obvious that the plan to turn Baghdad into a gigantic, open-air concentration camp is doomed to fail. It will simply radicalize more Iraqis, kill more civilians and spike the body count of American soldiers to new heights. But as we have stated here for more than five years — even before the inevitable invasion was launched — nothing that the Bush-led action does in Iraq has anything to do with the welfare of the Iraqi people, or of American soldiers for that matters. They are simply careening around from pillar to post, trying to ride the wild beast of war they have unleashed toward their ultimate goal: strategic and economic domination of the world’s oil heartlands, and the never-ending expansion of an authoritarian militarist-corporatist state in America.

Their main difficulty comes from trying to accomplish this task without stirring up the rubes back home too much. That’s why they have not — yet — adopted the most extreme measures advocated by their cowardly cheerleaders in the armchair warrior brigade, the “more rubble, less trouble” gang so ably exposed recently by Glenn Greenwald. (*I know I’ve already mentioned Glenn Reynolds’ genocidal phrase earlier today, but it bears repeating how openly savage and murderous these wretched bootlickers really are.*) Most Americans don’t like to think of themselves as genocidal maniacs (instapunditniks excluded, of course); they like to see their country as the “shining city on the hill,” a literally holy land incapable of any evil action whatsoever. Thus every plot and ploy in Bush’s thorough-going rapine in Iraq must be portrayed as an act of altruism and idealism, false rhetoric, outright lies and the incessant, obsessive manipulation and/or repression of images and information. The Bushists must constantly calibrate what the political market will bear, and so they do operate within some constraints.

Unfortunately, the last few years have shown that the American political market — the electorate, the citizenry — will bear a great deal without really lashing out against the criminals in power. Torture, murder, rape, the destruction of whole cities, the ongoing aerial bombardment of civilian centers, the death of more than 600,000 innocent civilians — none of this has provoked throne-shaking outrage in the American people. The fact that the mild rebuke they delivered in the November 2006 elections has not only been openly scorned and rejected by Bush but largely ignored by the supposedly empowered Democratic opposition (with its “non-binding resolutions” and demands that Iraqis meet the all-important “benchmark” of an oil law that gives the nation’s resources to Western corporations) has not produced any large-scale reaction. Of course, there is some hope to be found in the growing numbers of municipalities and state legislatures calling for an end to the war and/or the impeachment of the gangsters who led us into it. But the fact that Bush has been able to launch a major escalation of the war — raising troop levels and press-ganging soldiers into even-longer tours of duty — after losing the election is yet another indication of how much scope for evil that Bush retains, despite his plummeting popularity.

And so, while he cannot reduce Baghdad to Glenn Reynolds’ longed-for rubble — at least not yet — he can push forward with this new tightening of the screws on his captive colony. When this inevitably fails in its ostensible mission, they will lurch on to something else, another scheme to keep the rubes off-balance for a few months longer, then repeat the cycle again and again. Why? Because the whole point of Bush’s strategy is to prolong the American military presence in Iraq. This is why American soldiers were sent there — to stay there. And they will stay there — no matter how many bombs go off in the Green Zone, no matter how much horrific blowback is generated by the Bush-McCain surge — until the American people make the political costs too high for any politician to bear. And this includes the Democrats, whose vaunted “anti-war” plans so far have all called for retaining some kind of military presence in Iraq, and the handover of the nation’s oil to the West. As the man said, the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.
Wolfowitz faces call to resign

Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, gave Shaha Riza a $200,000 package [AP]

Staff at the World Bank have demanded the resignation of Paul Wolfowitz, the bank’s president, after he admitted authorising large pay rises for his Libyan-born partner that took her salary to $200,000.

He faces a fight for his political life after the bank’s directors denied his claims the pay rises had been cleared by its ethics committee.

The World Bank’s staff association said on Friday that Wolfowitz, the ex-US deputy defence secretary, had “destroyed” the trust of employees and should quit.

“He must act honourably and resign,” the de facto union said in a letter to the World Bank’s 10,000 staff.

The bank’s 24 executive directors said the ethics committee had not been involved in the decision to award Shaha Riza rises that gave her a salary greater than that of Condoleeza Rice, the secretary of state.

They adjourned a meeting on Wolfowitz’s future, saying they would move quickly to reach a decision.

‘An object of scorn’

The Financial Times newspaper also called for Wolfowitz to go in an editorial on Friday.

“If the president stays (the World Bank) risks becoming an object not of respect, but of scorn, and its campaign in favor of good governance not a believable struggle, but blatant hypocrisy,” it said.

The controversy has become a deep embarrassment for Wolfowitz as he battles to overcome skepticism about a campaign that he is waging against corruption in the 185-member World Bank’s multi-billion-dollar lending.

He is also under fire from long for his management style, following a series of clashes with the board and hostility towards his appointment of US Republican party allies to jobs in his inner circle.

The nomination two years ago of Wolfowitz, a “neoconservative” hawk, by George Bush, the US president, was widely seen as controversial given his position as a main architect of the Iraq war.

Pay rises ‘a mistake’

Wolfowitz apologised on Thursday for the authorising the rises for Riza, describing the move as a “mistake.”

“I made a mistake for which I am sorry”, he told a press conference in Washington.

Wolfowitz refused to say if he might have to resign as the World Bank’s board of governors discuss the row.

Wolfowitz personally ordered the hefty pay rises for Riza, according to a Financial Times report published on Thursday.

It cited two people who had seen a memo from Wolfowitz to the head of human resources spelling out the terms of the package.

‘Real regret’

Wolfowitz said: “This was not in any way to protect personal interests. My real regret was that I didn’t more forcefully keep myself out it.

“I take full responsibility for the details of the agreement,” he said, after saying that he had followed advice given by the bank’s ethics committee on the employment of Riza.

Colin Bradford, research professor in economics and international relations at the Brookings Institution, told Al Jazeera: “The fact is that there’s evidence that he directly intervened in the matter and made some decision or recommendations that amount to decisions on his case on how to handle it.

“It takes absolutely no brains whatsoever that it is utterly and totally inconsistent with the message of anti-corruption and good governance, which the Bank is trying to promote.”

‘Personal dilemma’

Riza was transferred from the World Bank’s communications office to the US state department in line with bank regulations to avoid a conflict of interest after Wolfowitz’s appointment in mid-2005.

While still on the World Bank payroll, she was rapidly promoted and given large salary increases.

Wolfowitz acknowledged that the situation surrounding Riza “had the potential to harm this institution” and said that given his romantic involvement with her, he faced a “painful personal dilemma when I was new to the institution”.

Selective Memory and a Dishonest Doctrine

Noam Chomsky

The Toronto Star, December 21, 2003

All people who have any concern for human rights, justice and integrity should be overjoyed by the capture of Saddam Hussein, and should be awaiting a fair trial for him by an international tribunal.

An indictment of Saddam’s atrocities would include not only his slaughter and gassing of Kurds in 1988 but also, rather crucially, his massacre of the Shiite rebels who might have overthrown him in 1991.

At the time, Washington and its allies held the “strikingly unanimous view (that) whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country’s stability than did those who have suffered his repression,” reported Alan Cowell in the New York Times.

Last December, Jack Straw, Britain’s foreign secretary, released a dossier of Saddam’s crimes drawn almost entirely from the period of firm U.S.-British support of Saddam.

With the usual display of moral integrity, Straw’s report and Washington’s reaction overlooked that support.

Such practices reflect a trap deeply rooted in the intellectual culture generally – a trap sometimes called the doctrine of change of course, invoked in the United States every two or three years. The content of the doctrine is: “Yes, in the past we did some wrong things because of innocence or inadvertence. But now that’s all over, so let’s not waste anymore time on this boring, stale stuff.”

The doctrine is dishonest and cowardly, but it does have advantages: It protects us from the danger of understanding what is happening before our eyes.

For example, the Bush administration’s original reason for going to war in Iraq was to save the world from a tyrant developing weapons of mass destruction and cultivating links to terror. Nobody believes that now, not even Bush’s speech writers.

The new reason is that we invaded Iraq to establish a democracy there and, in fact, to democratize the whole Middle East.

Sometimes, the repetition of this democracy-building posture reaches the level of rapturous acclaim.

Last month, for example, David Ignatius, the Washington Post commentator, described the invasion of Iraq as “the most idealistic war in modern times” – fought solely to bring democracy to Iraq and the region. Ignatius was particularly impressed with Paul Wolfowitz, “the Bush administration’s idealist in chief,” whom he described as a genuine intellectual who “bleeds for (the Arab world’s) oppression and dreams of liberating it.”

Maybe that helps explain Wolfowitz’s career – like his strong support for Suharto in Indonesia, one of the last century’s worst mass murderers and aggressors, when Wolfowitz was ambassador to that country under Ronald Reagan.

As the State Department official responsible for Asian affairs under Reagan, Wolfowitz oversaw support for the murderous dictators Chun of South Korea and Marcos of the Philippines.

All this is irrelevant because of the convenient doctrine of change of course.

So, yes, Wolfowitz’s heart bleeds for the victims of oppression – and if the record shows the opposite, it’s just that boring old stuff that we want to forget about.

One might recall another recent illustration of Wolfowitz’s love of democracy. The Turkish parliament, heeding its population’s near-unanimous opposition to war in Iraq, refused to let U.S. forces deploy fully from Turkey. This caused absolute fury in Washington.

Wolfowitz denounced the Turkish military for failing to intervene to overturn the decision. Turkey was listening to its people, not taking orders from Crawford, Texas, or Washington, D.C.

The most recent chapter is Wolfowitz’s “Determination and Findings” on bidding for lavish reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Excluded are countries where the government dared to take the same position as the vast majority of the population.

Wolfowitz’s alleged grounds are “security interests,” which are non-existent, though the visceral hatred of democracy is hard to miss – along with the fact that Halliburton and Bechtel corporations will be free to “compete” with the vibrant democracy of Uzbekistan and the Solomon Islands, but not with leading industrial societies.

What’s revealing and important to the future is that Washington’s display of contempt for democracy went side by side with a chorus of adulation about its yearning for democracy. To be able to carry that off is an impressive achievement, hard to mimic even in a totalitarian state.

Iraqis have some insight into this process of conquerors and conquered.

The British created Iraq for their own interests. When they ran that part of the world, they discussed how to set up what they called Arab facades – weak, pliable governments, parliamentary if possible, so long as the British effectively ruled.

Who would expect that the United States would ever permit an independent Iraqi government to exist? Especially now that Washington has reserved the right to set up permanent military bases there, in the heart of the world’s greatest oil-producing region, and has imposed an economic regime that no sovereign country would accept, putting the country’s fate in the hands of Western corporations.

Throughout history, even the harshest and most shameful measures are regularly accompanied by professions of noble intent – and rhetoric about bestowing freedom and independence.

An honest look would only generalize Thomas Jefferson’s observation on the world situation of his day: “We believe no more in Bonaparte’s fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain’s fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations.”

Iraqi leaders say bombing will unite them
Fri Apr 13, 2007 11:17AM EDT
By Mussab Al-Khairalla and Yara Bayoumy
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Leaders from across Iraq’s sectarian divide pleaded for unity at a special session of parliament on Friday, gathering under high security to condemn a suicide bombing that tore through the building the day before.
A senior government source said authorities had intelligence that militants were planning an attack on parliament before Thursday’s bombing, which killed a member of parliament and wounded two dozen other people in the building’s restaurant.
An al Qaeda-backed group, the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, claimed responsibility in a Web statement for the worst breach of security in Baghdad’s most secure area — the Green Zone that also houses government offices and embassies.
Three workers in the cafe had been detained, a top lawmaker from the ruling Shi’ite Alliance bloc said. The Interior Ministry said it would not give details of the investigation.
“We had prior intelligence that there would be an attack on the parliament,” the government source told Reuters, without giving specific details of when the information had been received or what the nature of the threat was.
Security was heavy on Friday as parliament met. Vehicles and their drivers were thoroughly searched and mobile checkpoints set up. Police raided houses inside the sprawling compound.
The bombing came two months into a crackdown in Baghdad that U.S. officials hope will give the government breathing space to pull Iraq back from the brink of civil war between majority Shi’ites and once dominant minority Sunni Arabs.
Scores of lawmakers turned up for the session, including some of those wounded in the attack. Their feet crunched on broken glass littered through the building as they walked to the chamber. One female MP wore a neck brace.
“Whether we are in or out of the government and the political process, we have to find a solution to national reconciliation,” Shi’ite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who survived an assassination attempt in February, told parliament.
Previous calls for unity by Iraq’s leaders have mostly fallen on deaf ears as sectarian violence has spiraled.
“This is undeniably a difficult blow, but it should unify us to confront the evil of terrorism and it proves that terrorism is indiscriminate — Sunnis, Shi’ites, Kurds and Arabs were maimed in this attack,” Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd, told Reuters, a message he repeated in parliament.
Parliament Speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani, a Sunni, opened the special session by asking MPs to read verses of the Koran to mourn the death of Mohammed Awdh, a member of the National Front for Iraqi Dialogue, a small Sunni party.
“We are all in one ship. If this ship sinks we all drown … We are a people and they are a gang. Have you ever heard of a gang that has conquered a people in history?” he said.
Iraqi officials are investigating how the suicide bomber managed to slip past checkpoints and blow himself up while parliamentarians were eating lunch.
Hasan al-Senaid, a senior lawmaker from the Shi’ite Alliance, said the three cafeteria workers had been detained for questioning but had not been charged. Some parliamentary guards were also being investigated but none were being held.
The senior government source said initial evidence showed a member of a Sunni lawmaker’s security team might have played a role in the attack.
The U.S. military had initially said eight people were killed and more than 20 wounded in Thursday’s blast. On Friday they revised the toll down to one killed and two dozen wounded, in line with figures from Iraqi officials.
The explosives used in Thursday’s attack would have had to pass through an outer checkpoint manned by U.S. and Iraqi troops and inner checkpoints guarded by security contractors and foreign troops in the U.S.-led coalition.
Washington and some Iraqi politicians dismissed suggestions the attack signaled a failure of the U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown in the capital.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Dean Yates and Sami Aboudi in Dubai)

Watched Cops Boil
By Ann Schneider
From the April 5, 2007 issue | Posted in Columns | Email this article
Despite efforts to mask its spying activity, the city has not just been videotaping demonstrators, but has also placed infiltrators in groups around the world in advance of the 2004 Republican National Convention, leaked documents show.
Meanwhile, in federal court, the city continues to defy the letter and the spirit of a landmark 1970s class action suit that imposed modest limits on its ability to monitor, influence or disrupt political activists.
Handschu v. Special Services Division was filed in 1971 after the acquittals of the Panther 21 revealed that the NYPD was engaged in dirty tricks similar to the FBI’s counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) and had amassed more than one million files on New Yorkers. In 1980, a federal decree prohibited police spying on First Amendment activities without a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a crime was about to occur. The 1980 settlement restricted police surveillance activities, created a “paper trail” to authorize investigations, and prohibited the dissemination of the information gathered.
Arguing that such limits are “unworkable in a time of terrorism,” the city sought to modify the consent decree in 2002. Language removed included the injunction against spying activity and semi-civilian control over when a political investigation could be launched, in effect removing the decree’s enforceability.
In 2003, it came to light that the NYPD had been compiling a Demonstration Debriefing Form every time a protester was arrested, cataloguing “organization name,” “position” and “prior demonstration history.” U.S. District Court Judge Charles Haight Jr. was not pleased, saying, “These recent events reveal an NYPD in some need of discipline.” Commissioners Ray Kelly and David Cohen claimed that they were unaware the form was being used and that they immediately destroyed that database.
As a result of the revelations, Judge Haight made the police incorporate written guidelines on investigations of First Amendment activity into the NYPD’s patrol guide.
The city next tried to unilaterally legalize videotape surveillance of demonstrations by issuing Rule 47 in September 2004. The indefatigable Handschu lawyers returned to court to enjoin the rule, pointing to three peaceful and permitted rallies that were videotaped by the police, including one by Coalition for the Homeless.
The City argued that videotaping was legal as long as the purpose wasn’t solely to investigate political activity.  On Feb. 15, 2007, Judge Haight ruled that the NYPD may only videotape for legitimate law enforcement purposes. Calling the homeless demonstration “quintessential political activity,” he said police videotaping of it was an “egregious” violation of the guidelines and “any future use by the NYPD of video and photographic equipment during the course of an investigation involving political activity without compliance with the guidelines’ protocol could form the basis for a contempt proceeding.”
The city has asked the judge to “vacate, amend, alter and/or reconsider” his Feb. 15 order. A public hearing on the city’s motion will be held April 11, 2 p.m. at 500 Pearl Street in Judge Haight’s courtroom.
The People’s Lawyer is a project of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, 113 University Place, 8th floor, (212) 269-6018.

Lebanese Economy in the Doldrums
Friday is usually a quieter day in Beirut. Today was shockingly quiet.

Lebanese are now resigned to the fact that the political impasse is not going to go away any time soon. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vociferously proclaimed that the opposition is ready to freeze parliament and the government for another two years.

Lebanon’s main tourist attraction, Beirut’s downtown, has been sucked of life. The tents occupying the main squares in the downtown are sparsely populated. The massive television screens and speakers have been removed. Given the political standstill, the point of the protest has been lost. The occupation now appears to simply be an act of opposition vengeance against the govenment.

Lebanon has been quiet since January. We’ll see how long this “stability” continues.

Oddly enough, Lebanese ports are booming. The number of freighters coming and going has increased tremendously (no statistics available). According to a friend at UNDP, Lebanon has become a major point of transit. This is allegedly because of recent legal changes.

Charles Malik

April 15, 2007
Eye on Iran, Rivals Pursuing Nuclear Power
Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors.
So, too, Turkey is preparing for its first atomic plant. And Egypt has announced plans to build one on its Mediterranean coast. In all, roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting their own nuclear programs. While interest in nuclear energy is rising globally, it is unusually strong in the Middle East.
“The rules have changed,” King Abdullah II of Jordan recently told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “Everybody’s going for nuclear programs.”
The Middle East states say they only want atomic power. Some probably do. But United States government and private analysts say they believe that the rush of activity is also intended to counter the threat of a nuclear Iran.
By nature, the underlying technologies of nuclear power can make electricity or, with more effort, warheads, as nations have demonstrated over the decades by turning ostensibly civilian programs into sources of bomb fuel. Iran’s uneasy neighbors, analysts say, may be positioning themselves to do the same.
“One danger of Iran going nuclear has always been that it might provoke others,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an arms analysis group in London. “So when you see the development of nuclear power elsewhere in the region, it’s a cause for some concern.”
Some analysts ask why Arab states in the Persian Gulf, which hold nearly half the world’s oil reserves, would want to shoulder the high costs and obligations of a temperamental form of energy. They reply that they must invest in the future, for the day when the flow of oil dries up.
But with Shiite Iran increasingly ascendant in the region, Sunni countries have alluded to other motives. Officials from 21 governments in and around the Middle East warned at a meeting of Arab leaders in March that Iran’s drive for atomic technology could result in the beginning of “a grave and destructive nuclear arms race in the region.”
In Washington, officials are seizing on such developments to build their case for stepping up pressure on Iran. President Bush has talked privately to experts on the Middle East about his fears of a “Sunni bomb,” and his concerns that countries in the Middle East may turn to the only nuclear-armed Sunni state, Pakistan, for help.
Even so, that concern is tempered by caution. In an interview on Thursday, a senior administration official said that the recent announcements were “clearly part of an effort to send a signal to Iran that two can play this game.” And, he added, “among the non-Iranian programs I’ve heard about in the region, I have not heard talk of reprocessing or enrichment, which is what would worry us the most.”
The Middle East has seen hints of a regional nuclear-arms race before. After Israel obtained its first weapon four decades ago, several countries took steps down the nuclear road. But many analysts say it is Iran’s atomic intransigence that has now prodded the Sunni powers into getting serious about hedging their bets and, like Iran, financing them with $65-a-barrel oil.
“Now’s the time to worry,” said Geoffrey Kemp, a Middle East expert at the Nixon Center, a Washington policy institute. “The Iranians have to worry, too. The idea that they’ll emerge as the regional hegemon is silly. There will be a very serious counterreaction, certainly in conventional military buildups but also in examining the nuclear option.”
No Arab country now has a power reactor, whose spent fuel can be mined for plutonium, one of the two favored materials — along with uranium — for making the cores of atom bombs. Some Arab states do, however, engage in civilian atomic research.
Analysts caution that a chain reaction of nuclear emulation is not foreordained. States in the Middle East appear to be waiting to see which way Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the United Nations Security Council goes before committing themselves wholeheartedly to costly programs of atomic development.
Even if Middle Eastern nations do obtain nuclear power, political alliances and arms-control agreements could still make individual states hesitate before crossing the line to obtain warheads. Many may eventually decide that the costs and risks outweigh the benefits — as South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa and Libya did after investing heavily in arms programs.
But many diplomats and analysts say that the Sunni Arab governments are so anxious about Iran’s nuclear progress that they would even, grudgingly, support a United States military strike against Iran.
“If push comes to shove, if the choice is between an Iranian nuclear bomb and a U.S. military strike, then the Arab gulf states have no choice but to quietly support the U.S.,” said Christian Koch, director of international studies at the Gulf Research Center, a private group in Dubai.
Decades ago, it was Israel’s drive for nuclear arms that brought about the region’s first atomic jitters. Even some Israeli leaders found themselves “preaching caution because of the reaction,” said Avner Cohen, a senior fellow at the University of Maryland and the author of “Israel and the Bomb.”
Egypt responded first. In 1960, after the disclosure of Israel’s work on a nuclear reactor, Cairo threatened to acquire atomic arms and sought its own reactor. Years of technical and political hurdles ultimately ended that plan.
Iraq came next. But in June 1981, Israeli fighter jets bombed its reactor just days before engineers planned to install the radioactive core. The bombing ignited a global debate over how close Iraq had come to nuclear arms. It also prompted Iran, then fighting a war with Iraq, to embark on a covert response.
Alireza Assar, a nuclear adviser to Iran’s Ministry of Defense who later defected, said he attended a secret meeting in 1987 at which the commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said Iran had to do whatever was necessary to achieve victory. “We need to have all the technical requirements in our possession,” Dr. Assar recalled the commander as saying, even the means to “build a nuclear bomb.”
In all, Iran toiled in secret for 18 years before its nuclear efforts were disclosed in 2003. Intelligence agencies and nuclear experts now estimate that the Iranians are 2 to 10 years away from having the means to make a uranium-based bomb. It says its uranium enrichment work is entirely peaceful and meant only to fuel reactors.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns grew when inspectors found evidence of still-unexplained ties between Iran’s ostensibly peaceful program and its military, including work on high explosives, missiles and warheads. That combination, the inspectors said in early 2006, suggested a “military nuclear dimension.”
Before such disclosures, few if any states in the Middle East attended the atomic agency’s meetings on nuclear power development. Now, roughly a dozen are doing so and drawing up atomic plans.
The newly interested states include Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen and the seven sheikdoms of the United Arab Emirates — Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Al Fujayrah, Ras al Khaymah, Sharjah, and Umm al Qaywayn.
“They generally ask what they need to do for the introduction of power,” said R. Ian Facer, a nuclear power engineer who works for the I.A.E.A. at its headquarters in Vienna. The agency teaches the basics of nuclear energy. In exchange, states must undergo periodic inspections to make sure their civilian programs have no military spinoffs.
Saudi Arabia, since reversing itself on reactors, has become a whirlwind of atomic interest. It recently invited President Vladimir V. Putin to become the first Russian head of state to visit the desert kingdom. He did so in February, offering a range of nuclear aid.
Diplomats and analysts say Saudi Arabia leads the drive for nuclear power within the Gulf Cooperation Council, based in Riyadh. In addition to the Saudis, the council includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — Washington’s closest Arab allies. Its member states hug the western shores of the Persian Gulf and control about 45 percent of the world’s oil reserves.
Late last year, the council announced that it would embark on a nuclear energy program. Its officials have said they want to get it under way by 2009.
“We will develop it openly,” Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said of the council’s effort. “We want no bombs. All we want is a whole Middle East that is free from weapons of mass destruction,” an Arab reference to both Israel’s and Iran’s nuclear programs.
In February, the council and the I.A.E.A. struck a deal to work together on a nuclear power plan for the Arab gulf states. Abdul Rahman ibn Hamad al-Attiya, the council’s secretary general, told reporters in March that the agency would provide technical expertise and that the council would hire a consulting firm to speed its nuclear deliberations.
Already, Saudi officials are traveling regularly to Vienna, and I.A.E.A. officials to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. “It’s a natural right,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the atomic agency’s director general, said recently of the council’s energy plan, estimating that carrying it out might take up to 15 years.
Every gulf state except Iraq has declared an interest in nuclear power. By comparison, 15 percent of South American nations and 20 percent of African ones have done so.
One factor in that exceptional level of interest is that the Persian Gulf states have the means. Typically, a large commercial reactor costs up to $4 billion. The six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council are estimated to be investing in nonnuclear projects valued at more than $1 trillion.
Another factor is Iran. Its shores at some points are visible across the waters of the gulf — called the Arabian Gulf by Arabs and the Persian Gulf by Iranians.
The council wants “its own regional initiative to counter the possible threat from an aggressive neighbor armed with nuclear weapons,” said Nicole Stracke, an analyst at the Gulf Research Center. Its members, she added, “felt they could no longer lag behind Iran.”
A similar technology push is under way in Turkey, where long-simmering plans for nuclear power have caught fire. Last year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for three plants. “We want to benefit from nuclear energy as soon as possible,” he said. Turkey plans to put its first reactor near the Black Sea port of Sinop, and to start construction this year.
Egypt, too, is moving forward. Last year, it announced plans for a reactor at El-Dabaa, about 60 miles west of Alexandria. “We do not start from a vacuum,” President Hosni Mubarak told the governing National Democracy Party’s annual conference. His remark was understated given Cairo’s decades of atomic research.
Robert Joseph, a former under secretary of state for arms control and international security who is now Mr. Bush’s envoy on nuclear nonproliferation, visited Egypt earlier this year. According to officials briefed on the conversations, officials from the Ministry of Electricity indicated that if Egypt was confident that it could have a reliable supply of reactor fuel, it would have little desire to invest in the costly process of manufacturing its own nuclear fuel — the enterprise that experts fear could let Iran build a bomb.
Other officials, especially those responsible for Egypt’s security, focused more on the possibility of further proliferation in the region if Iran succeeded in its effort to achieve a nuclear weapons capability.
“I don’t know how much of it is real,” Mr. Joseph said of a potential arms race. “But it is becoming urgent for us to shape the future expansion of nuclear energy in a way that reduces the risks of proliferation, while meeting our energy and environmental goals.”

April 15, 2007
Lenders Sought Edge Against U.S. in Student Loans
In a fierce contest to control the student loan market, the nation’s banks and lenders have for years waged a successful campaign to limit a federal program that was intended to make borrowing less costly by having the government provide loans directly to students.
The companies have offered money to universities to pull out of the federal direct loan program, which was championed by the Clinton administration. They went to court to keep the direct program from becoming more competitive. And they benefited from oversight so lax that the Education Department’s assistant inspector general in 2003 called for tightened regulation of lender dealings with universities.
At Indiana University in 2004, for example, Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student lender, offered $3 million that the university could use for “opportunity loans” to some students if it left the direct loan program. Indiana left the direct loan program but said the $3 million was not the reason; Sallie Mae currently administers their loan program.
Bank of America, which won the University of Virginia’s student loan business, said in its 2002 proposal that certain possible incentives had “the potential to violate” federal law. The bank, which said such a discussion was normal in the bidding process, suggested that it discuss the issues with university officials “during the oral presentation phase of the process.”
All of this has helped give private lenders clear dominance of the $69 billion federal student loan industry. The lenders, who defend these practices, say they are winning business primarily because they offer lower interest rates than the government and often lower fees.
Advocates of the direct loan program say that it has been held back from offering more competitive rates and benefits, and that a very small percentage of students can take advantage of the private rivals’ advertised rates and incentives. They argue that private lenders cost the government vast amounts of money because they are subsidized and guaranteed against default.
President Bush’s budget reports that in 2006 for every $100 lent by private lenders, the cost to the government of subsidies, defaults and other items was $13.81, while the same amount lent through the direct loan program cost the government $3.85. The battle for dominance in the loan market has escalated as tuitions have soared and students have borrowed more. This is the context for many of the payments to universities and financial aid officials that have come to light as a result of recent investigations into student loan practices.
“What has happened is unbridled competition meets lack of oversight,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education.
Part of what is generating the competition is that the government runs two loan programs — and universities usually choose to participate in one or the other.
Until the 1990s, the primary program was the federal guaranteed loan program under which private lenders like Citibank, Sallie Mae or Bank of America made the loans to students. They were given a helping hand from the government, which paid subsidies to the lenders and guaranteed them against default.
Bill Clinton campaigned for president on the notion of expanding the federal government’s role as student loan guarantor into a more central position as the direct lender. The idea was that this would prove cheaper and simpler for students and be less costly for taxpayers because borrowers would pay interest to the federal government instead of to the lenders.
The program went into effect in 1994. The Democrats expected it to become dominant. But unwilling to be muscled aside, private lenders began offering schools and students a variety of benefits like scholarship money and lower interest rates and fees.
Tom Joyce, a spokesman for Sallie Mae, said, “The private sector program has better prices, better product selection, better service and better technology.”
For a few years after direct lending went into effect, it grew quickly. But as student loan volume has risen, climbing above $85 billion in 2005-6 from just over $30 billion 10 years earlier, the government’s share as a direct lender has declined, and now amounts to less than a quarter of the total.
“When direct lending was created, the initial assumption was that the bank-based program would be quickly overwhelmed by the government program,” Mr. Hartle said. No one counted on the strength of the reaction from the lending industry, he and others said.
The Education Department fought back. Richard W. Riley, then the secretary of education, tried to make the direct lending program more competitive in 1999 and 2000 by reducing origination fees and interest rates. The private lenders sued, saying Mr. Riley had no authority to do this because these rates were set by Congress under the loan legislation. (Last year, lawmakers set the interest rate on new Stafford loans, one of the most popular federally guaranteed loans, at 6.8 percent; many private lenders offer to reduce that rate for borrowers who make payments on time or meet other goals.)
In response to the lawsuit, the Education Department argued that the public and private loan programs had the power to offer the same terms and conditions, and added that better loan terms would make loans more affordable and thus reduce defaults, benefiting taxpayers.
With the Bush administration more sympathetic to the private market, the lenders withdrew the lawsuit last year, and the direct loan program has offered some of the incentives used by its private rivals.
Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, said both federal loan programs were “a vital source of funds for student aid.” Ms. McLane said that “through these two programs we have improved students’ and families’ choices by increasing competition, upgrading customer service and lowering costs.”
The Bush administration took virtually no action as lenders offered special pools of money if universities would leave the direct loan program. Lenders, by law, are barred from offering inducements to gain loan applications. But what is an inducement is not entirely clear.
A review by the Education Department’s office of the inspector general in 2003 — prompted by an accusation that Sallie Mae was offering illegal inducements — found that the department had brought only one public action, a case involving Sallie Mae and a college of podiatric medicine in 1995, which an administrative law judge later struck down.
The assistant inspector general, Cathy H. Lewis, who conducted the examination, also noted that the Education Department had not given any updated opinions about what kind of inducements were barred since 1995, even though the competition for loan business had escalated sharply since then. Ms. Lewis expressed concern about “bargaining practices between schools and lenders.” She referred to both the guaranteed loan program and private loans, which like any consumer loan lack government backing. Students increasingly rely on private loans because of limits on borrowing through the federal program.
She wrote that the practices “should be addressed through statutory and regulatory changes or further department guidance.”
Ms. McLane said in an e-mail message that the department had offered no guidance to lenders because it believed it had “no authority over the private loan instruments and market and therefore no guidance could be provided.”
She said the department had begun examining whether there should be new regulations in December.
Republicans in Congress have issued a continuing stream of criticisms about the direct lending program and tried to restrict it in a variety of ways.
Just last year, they voted to give lawmakers the power to cut the budget of the Education Department office that oversees the student loan program — a looming if indirect threat to direct lending. They also made it more difficult for many borrowers with multiple loans to combine them into a single, larger direct loan, effectively making it harder for students to refinance their debts.
“The federal government should be in the business of student loans as the lender of last resort when private lenders can’t offer competitive opportunities,” said Senator Michael B. Enzi, a Wyoming Republican who is the former chairman of the Education Committee.
In the absence of any crackdown on inducements, banks and other lenders showered universities with incentives to leave the direct lending program.
Sallie Mae, for example, offered Pace University in New York City $4 million in loans for students who would not have otherwise qualified if it left the direct loan program, the university said. Pace turned the offer down, a spokesman said. But it did eventually leave the program.
Colleges in the direct lending program were increasingly concerned about its future in the face of growing Republican opposition.
Yvonne Hubbard, director of Student Financial Services at the University of Virginia, said that was one factor that prompted the school to leave the program, along with the better deals being offered by the private lenders.
The university invited lender proposals in 2002 and chose Bank of America for a five-year term. It was in this process that the bank warned that some services under discussion had “the potential to violate” regulations against inducements.
Ms. Hubbard said she had no memory of what that language might have referred to, and a Bank of America spokesman, Joe Miller, said that it was not unusual to use this language in responding to a request to bid for a contract.
Bank of America is the only lender the University of Virginia recommends. The bank handles about 95 percent of the federal student loans at the university. Under the agreement, students who take out subsidized loans through the bank pay no origination or guarantor fees.
Ms. Hubbard said that the university tried to make clear to families that they were free to borrow from anyone but that it also offered this advice: “Take the terms we have negotiated with Bank of America and use this as your baseline, and try get your vendor to at least match it. It’s a good deal.”
Along with the partisan battle over the lending programs has come a fierce argument over their relative costs to taxpayers. Lenders vehemently argue that the direct loan program is in fact more expensive.
With Democrats now in control of Congress, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, with some bipartisan support, are pushing legislation intended to bolster the direct loan program.
Many Republicans are determined to defend private lenders. “I don’t want a few problems to be the excuse for the Democrats to put the federal government in charge of all student lending in the United States,” said Representative Ric Keller of Florida, the ranking Republican on the higher education subcommittee.
April 15, 2007
Marines’ Actions in Afghanistan Called Excessive
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 14 — American marines reacted to a bomb ambush with excessive force in eastern Afghanistan last month, hitting groups of bystanders and vehicles with machine-gun fire in a series of attacks that covered 10 miles of highway and left 12 civilians dead, including an infant and three elderly men, according to a report published by an Afghan human rights commission on Saturday.
Families of the victims described in interviews this week the painful toll of the attacks, which took place on March 4 in Nangarhar Province. One victim, a 16-year-old newly married girl, was cut down while she was carrying a bundle of grass to her family’s farmhouse, according to her family and the report. A 75-year-old man walking to his shop was hit by so many bullets that his son said he did not recognize the body when he came to the scene.
In its report, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission condemned the suicide bomb attack that started the episode, striking a Marine Special Operations unit convoy and slightly wounding one American. And the report said there might also have been small arms fire directed at the convoy immediately after the blast. But it said the response was disproportionate, especially given the obviously nonmilitary nature of the marines’ targets long after the ambush.
“In failing to distinguish between civilians and legitimate military targets, the U.S. Marine Corps Special Forces employed indiscriminate force,” the report said. “Their actions thus constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian standards.”
In the weeks immediately after the episode, the United States military began an investigation, and it is now exploring possible criminal charges, senior military officials said. The marines involved in the episode are being kept in Afghanistan, but the rest of their 120-man company has been pulled out of the country.
[The Washington Post reported late Saturday that a preliminary United States investigation had found that the people who were killed and injured were civilians, and that there was no evidence that the marines involved had come under small arms fire after the bombing.
[The preliminary findings were reported by Army Maj. Gen. Francis H. Kearney III, the commander of Special Operations troops in the Middle East and Central Asia, who ordered a formal investigation in March, The Post reported.]
An American spokesman in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. David A. Accetta, said Saturday that the military was in the final stages of approving condolence payments for families of the wounded and dead in the shootings.
The events have had the highest profile of a number of potential human rights violations by both sides, many by the Taliban and its allies, in the fighting in Afghanistan that were documented by the Afghan commission, which was established after the Taliban’s ouster and is partly financed by Congress. The commission’s report comes amid resurgent Taliban violence and coalition reprisals that are costing an increasing number of civilian lives and that have brought harsh criticism of international forces in the country.
The deputy director of the human rights commission, Nader Nadery, warned that attacks like the highway shooting had greatly contributed to outrage in Afghanistan, contradicting efforts by coalition forces to win people’s support away from the Taliban. “This is not an isolated case” he said. “People are realizing more that they are a victim of the conflict from both sides, from the Taliban and from the international operations.”
He added, “What we identified throughout all our investigation is a high level of frustration among the public and among the civilians.”
A spokesman for the United States Central Command said the Afghan commission’s report had been forwarded to Adm. William J. Fallon, the senior American officer in the region, for review.
In Washington, the chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees American Special Operations forces said Saturday that he was concerned by the information gathered so far, but that he had received assurances that a thorough military investigation was under way.
“It is a very serious matter, and the evidence is troubling,” said the chairman, Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington.
In a telephone interview from his home in Tacoma, Wash., Mr. Smith added: “There should be a full and complete investigation, and the military is doing that. That is the purpose of the report done by the Special Operations component of the Central Command.”
Anger and frustration over the shooting was evident in Spinpul, where the attack happened, and in the whole province of Nangarhar. Still mourning, the families of the victims said this week that they had demanded from President Hamid Karzai and the American generals they had met that those responsible be punished. Some of them said the soldiers should be tried under Islamic law and face the death penalty if found guilty of the killings.
“They committed a great cruelty; they should be punished,” said Gharghashta, 65, whose daughter-in-law was killed at the door of their farmhouse compound, several hundred yards from the road and the scene of the blast. The American troops were firing from the road and raked the river bed where workers were digging a ditch and the surrounding fields with gunfire, he and other witnesses said.
“She was cutting grass in the field and she was carrying the bundle of grass on her head back into the house for the animals,” said his eldest son, Abdel Muhammad, 25.
“There was a big blast and then I heard firing. I started walking toward my house,” he said. “When I reached the house, my sister called and said my sister-in-law had been killed,” he said. The young woman, Yadwaro, 16, was shot in the back and fell dead across the threshold, he said. Her husband, Tera Gul, 18, sat listening silently to his brother and then got up and walked away.
The suicide bomb attack happened 500 yards along the road from the bridge that gives the village its name, White Bridge, on the main highway 25 miles east of Jalalabad. A man driving a minibus in the opposite direction to the Marine unit exploded his vehicle as he passed the convoy of five or six Humvees, according to the commission’s report, which was drawn from interviews with witnesses, police officers, community leaders and hospital officials. One marine was lightly wounded by shrapnel from the blast, it said.
The convoy may then have come under small arms fire from one vehicle on the same side of the road as the bomber, Mr. Nadery said. In the days after the episode, the United States military said the convoy had come under a “complex ambush from several directions,” but the human rights panel questioned this.
“If such an attack did indeed occur, as it is claimed by the U.S. military, it was almost certainly very limited in scope and restricted to the immediate site” of the suicide bombing, it said in its report.
The report’s description continued: Two Humvees then moved forward 500 yards to the bridge and opened fire with roof-mounted machine-guns on a car that had stopped on a side road, some yards from the highway. The gunners then swung their weapons around and began firing on the nearby river bed and fields. They killed six people instantly and wounded at least another.
The car’s driver, a veteran mujahedeen fighter who goes by the name of Lewanai, 45, was wounded but survived the shooting by diving out of his door and scrambling behind a mound of earth. But the big guns shredded his car and the three people inside: his father, Hajji Zarpadshah, 80; his uncle, Hajji Shin Makhe, 75; and his nephew, Farid Gul, 16.
“It was an illegal action,” he said. “I know the army rules, and when I heard the blast I stopped my car, I was thinking in case they shoot me,” he said in an interview at his home nearby. “They opened fire and were shooting for 10 minutes.”
The car, now parked at a nearby gas station, is torn by gashes from the bullets over its hood, side and roof and the seats are shredded from the gunfire, the ceiling is smattered with debris and bits of blood and bone. Mr. Nadery said that the vehicle had been hit by 250 bullets.
“Their insides were all coming out,” said Noor Islam, 22, who saw the dead men in the car after the attack. “We were very upset. Two of them were old men with white beards, and one was young,” he said. “They had no weapons.”
Near the car was Shin Gul, 70, who was waiting for a ride to the nearby bazaar of Markoh where the family had a shop selling flour. He was cut down on the spot and his body so torn apart that his son, Muhammad Ayub, 35, said he could not recognize him at first. “I saw a notebook in his pocket and then I knew it was him,” he said.
Nearby a 30-year-old shepherd named Farid was shot. He died two weeks later in the hospital.
Mr. Ayub said he was with a group of workers digging a ditch in the river bed when they came under fire from the Humvees at the bridge. They all survived by taking cover in the ditch, but the bullets went over their heads. Those were the shots that killed the newlywed girl, Yadwaro, about 100 yards beyond.
As the Humvees pulled away across the bridge they opened fire on a gas station and other vehicles, killing four people in a minibus, including a 1-year-old, the report said.
In that attack and later ones along the 10-mile stretch of road from Spinpul, six people were killed and 25 were wounded.
The report covered other civilian killings in recent weeks, including extensive human-rights violations by Taliban fighters and their allies that involved beheadings and the mutilation of victims.
In other cases involving coalition troops in Afghanistan, the report detailed an airstrike in Kapisa Province in March that killed a family of nine people, including two pregnant women and four children younger than 5.
The report also criticized continuing house raids by American forces, including one on the house of one of the human rights commission’s staff members, who the report said was hooded and handcuffed to a detonator and told not to move in case it exploded.
MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2007
11:20 MECCA TIME, 8:20 GMT Sadr bloc quits Iraqi government

Al-Sadr’s political movement has six ministers in
the Shia-led coalition government [File AFP]

The political movement led by Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has pulled out of the Iraqi government to protest against the continuing US presence in the country.

Nassar al-Rubaie, head of the bloc, said on Monday: “Al-Sadr’s ministers will withdraw immediately and give the six cabinet seats to the government.”

Al-Rubaie was reading out a statement on behalf of al-Sadr.

“We found it necessary to issue an order to the ministers of the Sadrist bloc to withdraw immediately from the Iraqi government,” al-Rubaie told a news conference.

The move is unlikely to bring down the government of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, but it could create tensions in his fractious government of national unity.

‘No need for timetable’

The Sadrists have said they would remain in parliament.

Your Views

“The chances of success [in Iraq] are essentially zero because the Iraqi people have no voice”
Non Sequitur, Cadiz, Spain
Send us your views

Al-Maliki has said he sees no need to set a timetable for an American troop withdrawal because his government was working to build up Iraq’s security forces as quickly as possible so the US-led forces could leave.

Last week, tens of thousands of Iraqis answered a call by al-Sadr to rally in Najaf to protest against the presence of about 140,000 US-led troops in Iraq.

The Sadrists ended a two-month boycott of parliament in January after pulling out in protest over the timetable issue and a meeting between al-Maliki and George Bush, the US president.

Chavez defies US with energy summit

Chavez: Ethanol will increase world hunger [EPA]

Venezuela will seek to use oil wealth to consolidate regional support for anti-US politics as it hosts an energy summit of South American leaders.

The meeting on the Caribbean island of Margarita on Monday comes as a rift over ethanol fuel has emerged – with Brazil working with the US to promote its use.

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, wants the 12-nation conference to focus on regional integration as a counterweight to the US.

“Gradually, the US empire will end up a paper tiger and we, the peoples of Latin America, will become true tigers of steel,” Chavez said on the eve of the summit.

At the two-day meeting, Chavez will promote a project to build a 8,000km natural gas pipeline linking the Opec nation’s gas reserves to countries such as Brazil and Argentina.

Chavez still wants to show unity with Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, taking him on a tour early on Monday of a petrochemical plant and then holding discussions on ethanol, which Chavez says will increase world hunger.

Aides to Lula say it is his “obsession” despite being labeled “genocidal” by Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader and Chavez’s political mentor.

Consumption problems

“This planet is in danger, the human race is in danger”
Hugo Chavez,
Venezuelan president
, the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the US, has urged Latin America to pass over ethanol and rely on its oil reserves and co-operate in developing ways to reduce energy consumption.

Power outages have traditionally blighted Margarita island, and particularly its main city Porlamar.

But with Cuban help, the government has installed millions of power-saving light bulbs in recent months that Chavez – who often speaks in apocalyptic terms about the environment – said can serve as an inspiration at the summit.

“This planet is in danger, the human race is in danger,” he said after railing about high US energy demand. “Let’s do what we have to do to save mankind.”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday warned the US that if it attacks Iran, the cornerstones of its empire all over the world will collapse.

He made the statement at a live radio and television program titled `Hello, Mr. President’ on Sunday after attending the inaugural ceremony of four dairy and plastic production plants commissioned in Venezuela with Iran’s cooperation.
Chavez said that the Americans had better forget about their plans, given that such an attack will be a grave wrong-doing and will have disastrous consequences for the US.
Underlining that the US officials should make distinction between use of nuclear energy by Iran for peaceful purposes and production of atomic bomb, he said that the Americans should not impose their rules and will on the world.
Turning to annihilation of the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US during World War II, he said that bombardment of these two cities by nuclear bombs left hundreds of thousands of casualties.
He pointed to the US as the only world country which has developed atomic bombs and used it against nations.
Chavez once more defended the progress of Iran’s nuclear programs for peaceful purposes and called on the US administration to respect the Iranians’ right to access nuclear energy.
“The US threats and charges against Iran is part of the pressure policy being applied ever since the victory of the Islamic Revolution.
“The US launched Iran-Iraq war, made plots against Iran and strengthened terrorists. But Iranians had the potential to thwart all these threats and conspiracies. This is why the US continues its threats,” he added.
The Venezuelan president called on the US government to respect the Iranian nation and other nations as well as respect their independence and international rights.
The live radio and television program marking the inauguration of a dairy plant, which was commissioned in Venezuelan Zulia province, with cooperation of Iran, was attended by Bolivian President Juan Evo Morales and Iranian Ambassador to Venezuela Abdollah Zifan.

The Big Apple’s Big Brother: An NYPD Timeline
By Chris Anderson
From the April 5, 2007 issue | Posted in Local | Email this article
1955: The NYPD’s Bureau of Special Services (“BoSS” or “the Red Squad”) is formed. This secret division is tasked with spying on domestic political dissidents – especially, by the 1960s, the Black Panthers and the Young Lords.
1969: The first police cameras are installed near City Hall.
1971: The 1971 “Handschu lawsuit” exposes the level of citywide political surveillance.
1980: NYPD signs the Handschu Consent Decree, resulting in the prohibition of the NYPD from investigating any individual or group without specific information of criminal intent. Under the settlement, the NYPD agrees to release contents of its secret files on more than 250,000 New Yorkers.
1993 – 1996: Despite the formal prohibition of political spying and infiltration, New York continues to install technologically sophisticated devices, especially security cameras, in order to deter crime. In the four years, the Department of Transportation installs red-light surveillance cameras; legislation mandates the creation of cameras at ATM machines; and various tourism-heavy areas of the city are flooded with cameras.
1998: The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) notes that there are 2,397 surveillance cameras in Manhattan alone.
2002: The city files to modify the Handschu Consent Decree in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A compromise is reached in which the police agree to abide by constitutional standards that protect free speech.
2002: Unconfirmed reports allege that the NYPD has infiltrated various antiglobalization organizations, including the NYC Independent Media Center, in the run up to World Economic Forum meetings in New York.
2003: Antiwar protesters arrested at events throughout the winter of 2002 are forced to answer NYPD questions concerning their political beliefs. The infamous “demonstration debriefing forms” are later discontinued and destroyed, according to the police.
2004: In the run-up to the Republican National Convention, the NYPD’s “RNC Intelligence Squad” engages in massive preconvention surveillance of political groups in NYC and around the world.
2007: A judge rules that the NYPD has violated the relaxed Handschu Consent Decree through its videotaping of public demonstrations. The city responds by attempting to further modify Handschu – and perhaps eliminate it entirely.
our Hired Guns in an Armored Truck, Bullets Flying, and a Pickup and a Taxi Brought to a Halt. Who Did the Shooting and Why?
Washington Post | April 15, 2007
Steve Fainaru
On the afternoon of July 8, 2006, four private security guards rolled out of Baghdad’s Green Zone in an armored SUV. The team leader, Jacob C. Washbourne, rode in the front passenger seat. He seemed in a good mood. His vacation started the next day.
“I want to kill somebody today,” Washbourne said, according to the three other men in the vehicle, who later recalled it as an offhand remark. Before the day was over, however, the guards had been involved in three shooting incidents. In one, Washbourne allegedly fired into the windshield of a taxi for amusement, according to interviews and statements from the three other guards.
Washbourne, a 29-year-old former Marine, denied the allegations. “They’re all unfounded, unbased, and they simply did not happen,” he said during an interview near his home in Broken Arrow, Okla.
The full story of what happened on Baghdad’s airport road that day may never be known. But a Washington Post investigation of the incidents provides a rare look inside the world of private security contractors, the hired guns who fight a parallel and largely hidden war in Iraq. The contractors face the same dangers as the military, but many come to the war for big money, and they operate outside most of the laws that govern American forces.
The U.S. military has brought charges against dozens of soldiers and Marines in Iraq, including 64 servicemen linked to murders. Not a single case has been brought against a security contractor, and confusion is widespread among contractors and the military over what laws, if any, apply to their conduct. The Pentagon estimates that at least 20,000 security contractors work in Iraq, the size of an additional division.
Private contractors were granted immunity from the Iraqi legal process in 2004 by L. Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. occupation government. More recently, the military and Congress have moved to establish guidelines for prosecuting contractors under U.S. law or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but so far the issue remains unresolved.
The only known inquiry into the July 8 incidents was conducted by Triple Canopy, a 3 1/2 -year-old company founded by retired Special Forces officers and based in Herndon. Triple Canopy employed the four guards. After the one-week probe, the company concluded that three questionable shooting incidents had occurred that day and fired Washbourne and two other employees, Shane B. Schmidt and Charles L. Sheppard III.
Lee A. Van Arsdale, Triple Canopy’s chief executive officer, said the three men failed to report the shootings immediately, a violation of company policy and local Defense Department requirements for reporting incidents. He said Triple Canopy was unable to determine the circumstances behind the shootings, especially since no deaths or injuries were recorded by U.S. or Iraqi authorities.
“You have to assume that, if someone engages, he is following the rules and that he did feel a threat,” Van Arsdale said, adding that conflicting accounts, delays in reporting the incidents and lack of evidence made it impossible to determine exactly what provoked the shootings. Triple Canopy officials said they have lobbied for more regulation of contractors since 2004 to better define how incidents such as the July 8 shootings are reported and investigated.
Many details about the shootings are in dispute. This account is based on company after-action reports and other documents, court filings, and interviews with current and former Triple Canopy employees, including all four men riding in the armored Chevrolet Suburban that day.
Schmidt and Sheppard said they were horrified by what they described as a shooting rampage by Washbourne and waited two days to come forward because they feared for their jobs and their lives. The two have sued Triple Canopy in Fairfax County Circuit Court, arguing that the company fired them for reporting a crime.
But another man in the vehicle, Fijian army veteran Isireli Naucukidi, said Sheppard, who was driving, cut off the taxi on Washbourne’s orders, giving him a better shot. Naucukidi said the three American guards laughed as they sped away, the fate of the Iraqi taxi driver unknown. Schmidt told Washbourne, “Nice shot,” according to Naucukidi.
Naucukidi also said that Schmidt was responsible for an earlier shooting incident that afternoon involving a white civilian truck, and that he believed Schmidt and Sheppard had blamed Washbourne to cover up their own potential culpability. Schmidt denied responsibility for that shooting but acknowledged in an interview he had fired a warning shot into the grille of a car on a separate airport run that morning and had failed to report it.
Naucukidi left Triple Canopy on his own shortly after the incidents occurred. Company officials said he was not fired because, unlike the three other guards, he had reported the shootings immediately. During an interview on the Fijian island of Ovalau, where he farms, Naucukidi said he decided not to return to Triple Canopy because “I couldn’t stand what was happening. It seemed like every day they were covering something” up.
The presence of heavily armed guards on the battlefield has long been a wild card in the Iraq war. Insurgents frequently attack them. Iraqi civilians have expressed fear of their sometimes heavy-handed tactics, which have included running vehicles off the road and firing indiscriminately to ward off attacks.
Current and former Triple Canopy employees said they policed themselves in Iraq under an informal system they frequently referred to as “big boy rules.”
“We never knew if we fell under military law, American law, Iraqi law, or whatever,” Sheppard said. “We were always told, from the very beginning, if for some reason something happened and the Iraqis were trying to prosecute us, they would put you in the back of a car and sneak you out of the country in the middle of the night.”
Naucukidi said the American contractors had their own motto: “What happens here today, stays here today.”
June 2: Hilla
Washbourne sported a shaved head, a goatee and a mosaic of tattoos and piercings on his muscular, 6-foot-3-inch frame. He led one of two teams on Triple Canopy’s “Milwaukee” project, a contract to protect executives of KBR Inc., a Halliburton subsidiary, on Iraq’s dangerous roads. He earned $600 a day commanding a small unit of guards armed with M-4 rifles and 9mm pistols, the same caliber weapons used by U.S. troops.
The men referred to each other by their radio call signs. Washbourne was “JW,” his initials. Sheppard, a former U.S. Army Ranger, was “Shrek,” for his resemblance to the cartoon monster. Schmidt, a former Marine sniper, was “Happy,” an ironic reference to his surly demeanor. Naucukidi was “Isi,” an abbreviation of his first name.
Schmidt and Sheppard earned $500 a day. Naucukidi earned $70 a day for the same work.
One of the largest security firms in Iraq, Triple Canopy was known for its elite, disciplined guards, including many Special Operations veterans from all branches of service. The company provides security at some checkpoints inside Baghdad’s Green Zone. But Triple Canopy officials said the company is not responsible for protecting the Iraqi parliament building, where a bomb Thursday killed at least one person and wounded at least 20.
On the Milwaukee project, Washbourne came to symbolize a lack of discipline that was a departure from the company’s approach, according to several current and former employees.
Unlike the U.S. military, which prohibits drinking, Triple Canopy employees ran their own bar, called the Gem, inside the Green Zone. Washbourne sometimes drank so heavily his subordinates had to roust him for his own operations briefings, four current and former employees said. Washbourne said he drank, but seldom to excess.
An incident a month before the shootings underscored doubts among his colleagues about Washbourne’s leadership, several of them said. On June 2, Washbourne was leading a convoy to a State Department compound in Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. The Suburban in which he was a passenger jumped a curb at a high rate of speed, shattering the axles and halting the exposed SUV in the middle of the highway.
A blue civilian truck suddenly flew around a blind curve and headed toward the convoy, according to Washbourne and Naucukidi, who was riding with him that day. Washbourne fired more than a dozen rounds into the oncoming truck with his M-4, wounding the driver. He later said he felt threatened. Washbourne then insisted on torching his damaged SUV with incendiary grenades instead of having it towed.
Washbourne said he was following standard operating procedure, which calls for a vehicle to be destroyed once it is disabled to prevent it from falling into the hands of insurgents.
Naucukidi said Washbourne ordered the guards to tell investigators that the convoy had been attacked by insurgents, even though many of them believed it had merely been involved in a traffic accident. Washbourne insisted that a small explosion precipitated the incident and that the SUV had been run off the road by another vehicle.
When the team returned to Baghdad, Naucukidi said, it was met by Ryan D. Thomason, a close friend of Washbourne’s who was serving as acting project manager.
“What happens here today, stays here today,” Thomason said, according to Naucukidi. “Good job, boys.”
Thomason instructed the team not to discuss the incident for security reasons, said his attorney, Michael E. Schwartz. Triple Canopy recently opened a separate investigation into the incident after new information about it surfaced during litigation over the July 8 shootings.
July 8: Baghdad Airport
The July 8 afternoon run was to be Washbourne’s last before he returned to Oklahoma. The team was to travel to Baghdad International Airport to pick up a client, then return to the Green Zone.
Washbourne, as team leader, led a pre-mission briefing in the parking lot. As the briefing concluded, according to Naucukidi, Washbourne cocked his M-4 and said, “I want to kill somebody today.”
Naucukidi said he asked why. He recalled that Washbourne replied: “Because I’m going on vacation tomorrow. That’s a long time, buddy.”
In an incident report that he later submitted to Triple Canopy, Sheppard wrote that Washbourne also informed him that he was “going to kill someone today.” In an interview, Schmidt said he heard a similar remark. Washbourne denied making any comment about his hope or intention to kill that day.
Naucukidi said he didn’t take the comment seriously, because Washbourne frequently made similar jokes. “He did this really every mission: ‘Okay, let’s go shoot somebody,’ ” Naucukidi said.
Washbourne sat in the front passenger seat of the “follow” vehicle — the third Suburban in a three-truck convoy, which included a lead vehicle, filled with guards, and what they called the “limo,” a Suburban used to ferry the client. Sheppard drove. Schmidt and Naucukidi sat behind them facing backward to protect against a rear attack.
The four men agree on what happened next. The convoy arrived at Checkpoint 1, just outside the airport, and set up a blocking position to allow the lead vehicle and the “limo” to proceed through the checkpoint. The contractors noticed a small white pickup truck moving up slowly behind them from a distance of about 200 yards.
At this point, the stories diverge.
Naucukidi said Sheppard moved the Suburban to give Schmidt a better view. Naucukidi said that he and Schmidt tried to warn the white truck to stop but that it was still moving forward when Schmidt fired three times with his M-4. He said the truck stopped immediately but was still too far away for the men to see where the bullets hit.
Naucukidi also said the truck was too far away and was moving too slowly to pose a threat.
Schmidt and Sheppard waited two days before coming forward, then gave nearly identical accounts of what happened. Both said that it was Washbourne who shot at the white truck and that he fired intentionally into the windshield. “His intention was to kill,” said Schmidt, who claimed he saw a “splash” of glass from the bullets striking the windshield.
Schmidt and Sheppard said Washbourne warned them not to mention the incident, quoting him as saying, “That didn’t happen, understand?”
Washbourne said he only recalled firing two warning shots at a much larger white truck in an incident during a different run that morning. Naucukidi said he believes Washbourne is confusing that shooting with yet another incident that had occurred at the same location a few days earlier.
“There was no comments about ‘That didn’t happen, you understand,’ or anything,” Washbourne said.
“I am not a clever or witty man; I don’t say things like that,” he said. “And I’m not a morbid or sadistic” person.
July 8: Route Irish
The convoy continued through the checkpoint to pick up the KBR executive at the airport. It then left the airport and began the return trip.
Sheppard wrote that he observed “an Ambulance and a lot of activity” where the shooting had taken place. He and Schmidt said Washbourne threatened them again not to say anything.
Washbourne denied making any threats and said no ambulance was parked near the checkpoint. Naucukidi also said he did not see an ambulance.
The convoy continued down the airport road, called Route Irish by the military and contractors, toward the Green Zone. It reached speeds of 80 miles per hour.
Schmidt, Sheppard and Naucukidi agree that the convoy then came upon a taxi.
According to the accounts of Schmidt and Sheppard, Washbourne remarked, “I’ve never shot anyone with my pistol before.” As the Suburban passed on the left, Washbourne pushed open the armored door, leaned out with his handgun and fired “7 or 8 rounds” into the taxi’s windshield, both wrote in their statements.
Schmidt wrote: “From my position as we passed I could see the taxi had been hit in the windshield, due to the Spidering of the glass and the pace we were travelling, I could not tell if the driver had been hit, He did pull the car off the road in an erratic manner.”
Sheppard said Washbourne was “laughing” as he fired.
Washbourne called their accounts “an absolute, total fabrication.” He said the Suburban’s high rate of speed and the wind resistance would have made the shooting “physically impossible.”
“There’s not an ounce of truth in it. It did not happen,” Washbourne said angrily. “And as far as the statement goes where I said, ‘I’ve never shot anyone with my pistol,’ that is a lie. It was never one time said.”
Naucukidi said that Washbourne fired at the taxi with his M-4 and that he ordered Sheppard to cut off the taxi beforehand. Naucukidi said Sheppard followed the order and used the Suburban to slow down the taxi and give Washbourne a better position to shoot from.
“When we were slightly ahead, JW just opened his door and started shooting the taxi from where we were sitting,” Naucukidi said in an interview.
Naucukidi described the taxi driver as a 60- to 70-year-old man. He said he saw one hole in the taxi’s windshield but could not tell if the driver had been hit. He said the taxi abruptly stopped.
“From my point of view, this old man, he was so innocent, because he was ahead of us with a normal speed,” Naucukidi said. “He couldn’t have any danger for us.”
Sheppard sped away to catch up to the rest of the convoy, according to Naucukidi, who added that the three Americans were laughing and that Schmidt reached over, tapped Washbourne on the shoulder and told him, “Nice shot.”
“They felt that it was so funny,” Naucukidi said.
Schmidt denied that he complimented Washbourne. “No, I don’t get a thrill out of killing innocent people,” he said. “That was a moment of shame.”
Divergent Reports
When the convoy returned to the Green Zone, members of the team scattered.
Naucukidi said he immediately told his supervisor, Jona Masirewa, who served as a liaison between the Fijian contractors and the Americans, about the incidents. He said Masirewa instructed him to write up a report to use in case an investigation occurred.
Naucukidi wrote the one-page report on his laptop. It contained brief summaries of the two afternoon shootings.
Of the first incident, near the airport checkpoint, Naucukidi wrote that the white truck was approaching slowly and was 200 meters away when Schmidt opened fire: “Happy shot three (3) rounds from his M4 rifle, and the white bongo truck stopped.”
In the second incident, Naucukidi wrote, the Suburban “over took one white taxi with an Iraqi single pack,” or passenger. He wrote that “our team leader opened his door and fired three rounds at white taxi.”
But Naucukidi said Masirewa feared losing his job and did not immediately turn over the report. “It was a difficult thing for us because we are TCNs,” or third-country nationals, “and they are expats,” Naucukidi said. “They are team leaders, and they make commands and reports on us. And the team leaders were always saying, ‘What happens today, stays today,’ and if something like that happens, the team leaders, they start covering each other up.”
Masirewa, who is still employed by Triple Canopy in Iraq, did not return e-mails seeking comment.
By the time Washbourne went on vacation the following day, Schmidt and Sheppard had not reported the incidents. Schmidt said he was concerned about “catching a bullet in the head.” Sheppard said he was so shaken he spent the night at another location inside the Green Zone.
But other employees did not believe that Schmidt and Sheppard feared for their safety. Rather, they said, the two men feared for their high-paying jobs and believed that Thomason, the assistant project manager, would throw his support behind Washbourne, his close friend.
On July 10, two days after the incidents on the airport run, Sheppard finally went to Asa Esslinger, another supervisor, and reported them to Triple Canopy management.
‘Just a Rampant Day’
On July 12, back home in Oklahoma, Washbourne received a call on his cellphone from Triple Canopy’s country manager, Kelvin Kai, he recalled later.
Washbourne said Kai asked him if he remembered any shooting incidents July 8. Washbourne said he told Kai that he had forgotten to file written reports. He said he rushed to his apartment from a Tulsa pizza restaurant and sent in the reports from his laptop.
Two hours later, Kai called again from Baghdad. “He said that allegations were made that it was just a rampant day, is I believe what he called it, of shooting and mayhem,” Washbourne recalled. “I said, ‘No, boss, you got those two reports.’ ”
Kai could not be reached for comment. Triple Canopy declined to make him available, citing the ongoing lawsuit.
The following day, Triple Canopy suspended Schmidt and Sheppard pending an internal investigation. No action was immediately taken against Washbourne because he was home on leave, according to the company.
“It is essential that we have your complete cooperation in reporting the facts and circumstances of all the activities not only to Triple Canopy but also to officials from DoD and KBR if necessary,” wrote Tony Nicholson, a Triple Canopy vice president, in letters to Schmidt and Sheppard.
Triple Canopy said it took statements from 30 potential witnesses for its internal probe. One week later, the three guards were informed by Raymond P. Randall, a senior vice president of Triple Canopy, that they had been fired.
“I am personally disappointed that you failed to immediately recognize the seriousness of this breach of operating procedures and its potential impact on the company’s reputation,” Randall wrote.
The terminations did not preclude the possibility of future investigations by the military, Randall wrote.
Van Arsdale, a retired colonel in the Army’s Delta Force and a winner of the Silver Star, said Triple Canopy reported the incidents to KBR and to military officials in the Green Zone.
Triple Canopy officials said that because of the seriousness of the allegations, they expected that the military would conduct a separate investigation to determine whether further action was warranted.
Lt. Col. Michael J. Hartig, the former director of security for the Green Zone, said Triple Canopy officials approached him in his office but did not specify the allegations. “They mentioned they had a couple guys do some things that were questionable on the road, and that was pretty much it,” he said.
Hartig said he informed Triple Canopy that such incidents were “out of my venue.” He said he referred the company to the Joint Contracting Command for Iraq and Afghanistan, which administers contracts. “I didn’t want to get involved in this because I had enough going on in my life,” Hartig said. “It was like, ‘Here’s the point of contact. Have a nice day.’ ”
Two military spokespeople said they were unaware of any investigations into the shootings. Maj. David W. Small, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, which oversees Iraq, said: “This is not a Centcom issue. It’s whoever was running that contract.”
“We’re fighting a war here,” Small said.

US-Israel ties bad for peace: Soros

George Soros is Jewish but not often engaged
in Israeli affairs [AP]

George Soros, the billionaire investor, has added his voice to the debate over the role of Israel’s lobby in shaping US foreign policy.

In the current issue of the New York Review of Books, Soros takes issue with “the pervasive influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC]” in Washington and says the Bush administration’s close ties with Israel are obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Soros, who is Jewish but not often engaged in Israeli affairs, echoed arguments that have fuelled debate in academia, foreign policy think tanks and parts of the US Jewish community.
“The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism,” wrote Soros. Politicians challenge it at their peril and dissenters risk personal vilification, he said.
AIPAC has consistently declined comment on such charges, but many of its supporters have been vocal in dismissing them.
Historian Michael Oren, speaking at AIPAC’s 2007 conference in March, said the group was not merely a lobby for Israel. “It is the embodiment of a conviction as old as this (American) nation itself that belief in the Jewish state is tantamount to belief in these United States,” he said in a keynote speech.
The long-simmering debate bubbled to the surface a year ago, when two prominent academics, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, published a 12,500-word essay entitled “The Israel Lobby” and featuring the fiercest criticism of AIPAC since it was founded in 1953.
AIPAC now has more than 100,000 members and is rated one of the most influential special interest groups in the United States, its political clout comparable with such lobbies as the National Rifle Association.
The AIPAC members are all US citizens and the group receives no funding from the Israeli government.
Its annual conference in Washington attracts a Who’s Who of American politics, both Republicans and Democrats.
Unwavering support
Mearsheimer and Walt said the lobby had persuaded successive administrations to align themselves too closely with Israel.
“The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism”
George Soros, the billionaire investor

“The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but much of the rest of the world,” they wrote.
No other lobby group has managed to divert US foreign policy so far from the US national interest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of Israel are essentially identical, they wrote.
The two academics said that pressure from Israel and its lobby in Washington played an important role in President George Bush’s decision to attack Iraq, an arch-enemy of Israel, in 2003.
Mearsheimer and Walt found no takers for their essay in the US publishing world. When it was eventually published in the London Review of Books, they noted it would be hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing such a piece.
It has been drawing criticism that ranged from shoddy scholarship to anti-Semitism, chiefly from conservative fellow academics and political supporters of the present relationship between Washington and Israel.
In his contribution to the debate, Soros said: “A much-needed self-examination of American policy in the Middle East has started in this country; but it can’t make much headway as long as AIPAC retains powerful influence in both the Democratic and Republican parties.”
That influence is reflected by the fact that Israel is the largest recipient of US aid in the world.
Going mainstream

Carter’s book provoked angry reactions more
in the US than in Israel [AP]

Mearsheimer and Walt are now working on expanding their article into a book – to be published in September by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The company has not commented on online reports that it paid the two authors a $750,000 advance and plans to print one million copies.
Another mainstream publisher, Simon and Schuster, already discovered that not only is it possible to publish criticism of Israel but it can also be good for the bottom line.
Former president Jimmy Carter’s book “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” shot up the bestseller lists after its publication last November; stayed there for more than three months and is still selling well.
It had an initial print run of 300,000 copies and there are now 485,000 copies in print, said Victoria Meyer, a spokeswoman for Simon and Schuster.
Carter’s book and its reference to apartheid provoked angry reactions – more in the United States than in Israel, where leftists opposed to the occupation of the West Bank have been accusing the government of apartheid practices for years and where the word has lost its shock value.
In response to charges of bias and anti-Semitism, Carter said he wanted to provoke a discussion of issues debated routinely and freely in Israel but rarely in the United States.
“This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices,” he wrote in the Los Angeles Times during a tour to promote his book. “It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine.”
According to Oren, the pro-AIPAC historian, the Carter book and the Mearsheimer-Walt paper had the same “insidious thesis” and suffered from the same flaw – ignoring oil as a driving element in US policies on the Middle East.

By Stephanie Armour, USA TODAY

On a typical weekday, stockbroker Irvin Rosenfeld has a marijuana cigarette before work, then goes to his firm’s smoking area for another after he gets to the office. By day’s end, he usually has smoked more than a half-dozen joints — and handled millions of dollars’ in clients’ holdings.

There’s nothing illegal about it. Rosenfeld, 54, of Fort Lauderdale, has a condition that causes benign tumors in the long bones of his body. After trying to control pain by taking narcotics such as Dilaudid, he persuaded the U.S. government to put him in a test program that gives marijuana to people with certain illnesses. His pain is now manageable, he says.

“I’ve smoked 10 to 12 marijuana cigarettes a day for 25 years,” says Rosenfeld, adding he gets no euphoric effect from the drug. “All my clients know I use it. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to work.” His firm, Newbridge Securities, supports his use of marijuana and says it hasn’t hurt his performance.

In Florida, Rosenfeld is an exception to state law that bans marijuana’s use in any situation. But at a time when the use of medical marijuana is expanding — this month, New Mexico became the 12th state to allow it — the issue is raising a range of ethical and liability questions for employers across the nation.

Some companies, wary of marijuana’s impact on employee performance, continue to fire those who test positive for the drug, even when its use is sanctioned by their state for medical purposes.

Those companies include Columbia Forest Products, a manufacturer of hardwoods based in Oregon, one of the states that allows medical marijuana. Even as the company maintains its zero-tolerance policy toward drug use, it has faced legal action because its company rules conflict with Oregon’s medical marijuana law.

A few companies, such as Newbridge Securities, have embraced the notion of employees using medical marijuana at work.

Meanwhile, there are questions about whether medical marijuana laws would offer any protection to employers if a worker who used marijuana to treat pain ended up injuring others or making a mistake on the job. It’s unclear whether such an incident has occurred.

“The rights of an employer to ensure productivity and safety around machinery and on the job has to take precedence,” says Mark Levitt, a labor and employment lawyer in Tampa. “The use of marijuana has an effect on employees’ ability to perform. That’s a big concern for employers.”

Drug’s effectiveness debated

Marijuana’s effectiveness as a pain reliever is widely debated, and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for medical use. It’s used by patients with a variety of ailments, including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or HIV, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis, says the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that supports easing restrictions on the drug.

The FDA considers marijuana a controlled substance with a very high potential for abuse and says that the drug has no accepted medical use and that there is a lack of accepted safety data for use under medical supervision. The American Medical Association doesn’t support marijuana’s medical use but has urged further studies on its effectiveness.

Some doctors, however, see a treatment role for the drug.

Donald Abrams, chief of hematology and oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, said in an e-mail: “As a cancer doctor, every day I see patients with nausea from their chemotherapy, loss of appetite, pain and depression. As I am a physician in California,” which allows medical marijuana, “I can advise these patients that they might consider trying marijuana for relief of all of these symptoms.”

Abrams says the key ingredient in marijuana, THC, is available in pill form. But he says smoking marijuana is more effective because it leads to a more potent concentration of the drug in a user’s system. He says it’s unusual for patients to smoke as much as Rosenfeld, but the drug supplied by the U.S. government has relatively low potency.

He also says marijuana smoking is associated with a lower risk of developing lung cancer. Marijuana costs $35 to $75 for 1/8 of an ounce, according to Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a non-profit based in Oakland, that has pushed for greater acceptance of medical marijuana. Still, most patients must pay for their own marijuana because it usually is not covered by medical insurance.

‘Screaming for answers’

An estimated 300,000 people in the USA use medical marijuana, based on estimates from data on registered medical users from ASA.

As the number of states allowing its use increases, employers are starting to grapple with how to deal with the issue. Few disputes about medical marijuana’s impact on the workplace have made it to court, but many employers say they would have concerns if a worker needed marijuana treatments.

Although Oregon is among the states allowing medical marijuana, Hunter-Davisson, a mechanical contracting firm in Portland, maintains a drug-free policy, conducts drug tests and says it would not allow an employee to use the drug as a pain reliever.

“To let anyone work impaired is not anything you would want to be responsible for,” says Dave McCotter, safety manager at Hunter. “We couldn’t have them driving our trucks.”

Even in New York and other states that do not allow medical marijuana, companies are beginning to debate the issue.

Melek Pulatkonak, president and chief operating officer of Hakia, a fledgling Internet search engine company in New York City, says that “our concern would be: How does an employee (using medical marijuana) really focus? We would have to be sure their mind is clear.”

Pulatkonak says the company might consider flexible work hours to accommodate an employee’s marijuana use in such an instance.

None of the states with medical marijuana laws requires employers to make accommodations for the use of the drug in the workplace, says Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Yet, there are legal gray areas for companies, say employment lawyers such as Richard Meneghello of Portland, Ore., who does seminars for companies on the topic.

He says many employers remain uncertain about whether they can fire or deny employment to users of medical marijuana, or whether to accommodate them by allowing use only at home or in an area at work where they can smoke.

“It’s almost an untenable situation. Employers are screaming for answers,” Meneghello says. “We know they’re looking for clear answers, and there’s not one out there right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty. Employers are living in a dangerous situation.”

Medical users rarely prosecuted

Efforts to legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons gained momentum in the 1980s as the AIDS epidemic took hold, and AIDS-related organizations pushed governments to allow the drug to be used to alleviate symptoms such as loss of appetite.

In 1996, California passed a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana’s use for some medical reasons. Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state have adopted similar legislation.

Residents with state permits to grow or use medical marijuana typically are given cards identifying them as participants in such programs. New Mexico’s law, which takes effect July 1, will let residents use medical marijuana for ailments such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. The marijuana would be provided by the state Health Department.

In 1978, the U.S. government began a trial distribution program to up to 13 patients with various medical ailments. The program was closed to new participants in 1992. Rosenfeld, an outspoken supporter of using medical marijuana in the workplace, gets marijuana legally from the federal government as one of five remaining participants in the program.

In some states with medical marijuana laws, the drug is available at special dispensaries. Others use authorized caregivers to grow a limited number of marijuana plants. Some patients have obtained their marijuana on the black market, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

Federal law continues to ban marijuana use for any reason. It’s rare that medical marijuana users are prosecuted, but those licensed by states to grow or use marijuana for medical purposes still can be arrested by federal officials, a conflict in the law that has led to legal wrangling and confusion.

Patients usually aren’t drawn into the fray, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in California ruled in March that Angel Raich, who uses marijuana with a doctor’s approval because of a terminal brain tumor and ailments, isn’t immune from federal prosecution. She sued the U.S. government pre-emptively to try to eliminate concerns of being arrested.

‘There is a stigma to it’

Rosenfeld’s employer, Newbridge Securities, is resolute in its support of his on-the-job use of medical marijuana. Company officials say they aren’t concerned about legal liability issues because they say Rosenfeld’s use of the drug doesn’t have an impact on his ability to work. He also discloses to every client that he uses the drug.

“He’s a quality stockbroker, and he does a great job,” says Phillip Semenick, executive vice president and branch manager. “But there is a stigma to it. Some people are going to look at it and say, ‘Here’s a guy smoking pot at work? How can he do that?’ ”
Rosenfeld’s marijuana use also has led to moments that Semenick and Rosenfeld have found comical. Marijuana “has a distinct smell,” Semenick says. “The mailman or someone coming into the building will stop and notice.” He adds that the company is not concerned about how the smell of marijuana in its office might affect its image.

Rosenfeld says he has been pulled over by state police when he was carrying marijuana, but showed officers his federal paperwork to explain his situation.

Other employers haven’t been as flexible when workers have used medical marijuana.

In 2001, Columbia Forest Products fired millwright Robert Washburn after he repeatedly failed urine tests for drug use. He was enrolled in a state medical marijuana program to try to manage his leg spasms. “He was never impaired at work,” says Philip Lebenbaum in Portland, who was Washburn’s attorney when he sued the company over the firing.

But the company argued that Washburn’s use of medical marijuana violated its drug policy, even though Washburn had not used the drug on the job. Oregon’s Supreme Court ruled last year that Columbia did not have to accommodate Washburn’s off-duty marijuana use because he was not disabled.

Scott Seidman, a Portland lawyer who represented Columbia, says the company had to maintain its drug-free workplace policy because it is a federal contractor. “They felt obligated also for safety reasons,” Seidman says.

Like Rosenfeld, other users of medical marijuana have found support from their employers.

Joseph Kintzel, 41, of Golden, Colo., is a respiratory therapist who evaluates and treats patients. He has his own business but also works for medical organizations that are aware of his use of medicinal marijuana for back problems.

Kintzel says he had four back surgeries for 10 herniated discs in 1996 and 1997, and has 32 pieces of titanium holding his spine together. He still has painful muscle spasms. Kintzel says that in 2000, after trying painkillers such as morphine, Percocet and Vicodin and being out of work for two years, he used marijuana bought on the black market. He says it was a more effective pain reliever.

In 2002, after getting a doctor’s authorization, he began using marijuana regularly. Within six weeks, Kintzel says, he was off the narcotics and began riding a bike. A few months later, he was back at work. He says he gets no euphoric effect from marijuana.

A state-authorized caregiver now provides him with the drug. Like other registered medical marijuana users in Colorado and elsewhere, Kintzel carries a card that identifies him as an authorized user. Insurance doesn’t cover his marijuana costs, Kintzel says, so he buys about an ounce at a time, which lasts for 10 days. An ounce costs $200 to $250.

Kintzel, a married father of two boys, says the use of medical marijuana has helped, not impaired, his ability to work. “I work 60 to 65 hours a week,” he says. “I’ve had one sick day in the last four years.”

U.S.-Iran: this is not a chess game
19/04/2007 11:40
MOSCOW. (Anton Khlopkov for RIA Novosti) If the United States decides to take military action against Iran, it will primarily target its nuclear infrastructure facilities, first of all the Isfahan center.
But an air raid on that city will not only cause environmental damage. Isfahan is a major Muslim cultural capital, and destruction of its historical monuments will generate a conflict between the Muslim world and the United States. The cost of a military operation against Iran may prove to be enormously high for Washington.
The likelihood of a strike continues to be high. In 2006, I had an interesting meeting with an American expert of Iranian origin in Washington. He said this about the battle between the American and Iranian presidents: “This is not a chess game, this is a chicken game.” This expression models two drivers, both headed for a single lane bridge from opposite directions. The first to swerve yields the bridge to the other and loses the game. If neither player gives way, the result is a costly deadlock. This is very similar to what is happening between Iran and the United States.
Both Bush and Ahmadinejad have been making one mistake after another, and are still on the collision course – the one who gives way will lose. If neither gives way, if this nuclear gamble continues, the consequences may be disastrous for the entire world. It is obvious that the Iranians are turning a deaf ear to everything and are crossing the pale. They are not flexible on suspending uranium enrichment although for them this is a political rather than technological issue. The centrifuges that are working now in Natanz (or may have even stopped) do not carry out any industrial enrichment because the Iranians only have a couple of thousand of them instead of the many thousands that are required to achieve the desired effect. The ambitious project of uranium enrichment is simply unrealistic in Iran today.
Tehran’s statement about its intention to quit the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty merely strengthens the positions of its opponents – the United States and Israel – but does not help Russia and other countries that occupy a more reserved position on settling the Iranian issue.
Each statement in this vein (even if it’s a mere declaration like the launching of additional centrifuges) is making it more and more difficult for Moscow to defend a more balanced approach to the resolution of this problem in the Security Council and other forums.
The longer the “chicken game” lasts, the more likely it is to end without any winners. For the Republicans, represented by George W. Bush, hostilities will lead to disaster because it will not be possible to win this war. As a result, the Democrats are bound to win control over the White House in the next presidential elections.
Tehran will not be idle in the event of an attack, and it is difficult to predict where it will direct its asymmetrical blow. Clearly, Iranian missiles will not reach U.S. territory, but which American bases will they hit? Which targets will Iranian missiles destroy in Israel?
The scale and character of environmental consequences of an air attack against Iran will depend on what targets it will hit and how powerful it will be. If the bombs hit the premises containing nuclear materials, particularly in the form of gas, the aftermath may be very serious. Radioactive materials will leak into the air and the wind streamline in the Middle East is such that it can take the deadly flow in any direction. It may reach U.S. allies or U.S. troops.
Also, Iran may use not only conventional missiles but weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological arms. This is an unlikely extreme step, but the Iranians may take it in desperation, especially if the Americans start a ground-based operation. This will make a head-on car collision look like a minor accident.
Will the United States strike at Bushehr? Given the current U.S. Administration, it is not possible to predict anything for certain. I believe that Russia and the U.S. have an understanding that if a crisis develops and strikes against Iran become inevitable, Washington will inform Moscow about this, since Russian citizens may be working at some facilities. Otherwise, the United States will have to face a much bigger and more serious crisis in the Middle East.
Anton Khlopkov is a political scientist, deputy director of the Russian Center for Political Studies (PIR-Center).
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

MOSCOW, April 19 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s first deputy prime minister said Thursday he hopes the United States will not launch air strikes against Iran and called for unity within the UN Security Council.
The Islamic Republic is under UN sanctions over its failure to halt uranium enrichment, and Washington has refused to rule out a military operation against it as a way of forcing its compliance with the demands of the global community, which fears Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons.
“So far the situation remains within the diplomatic framework and Russia has twice voted. Unity of the UN Security Council exists. The last two resolutions were passed by the Security Council unanimously. And the main thing is to preserve the unity of the Security Council,” Sergei Ivanov said in an interview with The Financial Times.
He warned that otherwise Iran could suffer the fate of Iraq, which has been brought to the brink of civil war by a U.S. campaign against the Saddam Hussein regime and subsequent attempts to foster democracy in the country.
The United States has reportedly been building up its Air Force and Navy contingent near oil-rich Iran, while Russian military officials have even suggested that the U.S. could launch tactical nuclear strikes on Iran’s underground nuclear sites.
The latest United Nations resolution on the defiant regime highlights a focus on diplomacy, but accepts the possibility of a military solution to the crisis.
The UN Security Council resolution adopted March 24 toughens sanctions imposed in December and freezes foreign accounts of 13 companies and 15 individuals involved in uranium enrichment and missile development projects, imposes visa restrictions and bans arms exports from Iran.
It also threatens new sanctions if Iran does not comply with the resolution within 60 days, and urges the Islamic Republic to return to negotiations.
But Iran has consistently claimed it is pursuing peaceful nuclear power generation, which it is entitled to under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which the country is a signatory.
In defiance of the sanctions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced earlier in the month the county has started nuclear fuel production on an industrial scale, automatically placing the country on the list of nuclear powers.
However, some experts, including Russian ones, have expressed doubts, saying the claim was unsubstantiated.
Ivanov also said the ideal way of resolving the Iranian issue was to allow Iran access to peaceful nuclear energy.
“We think that enrichment on an industrial scale is not necessary. There is fuel on the international market. Please, buy it, use it under international control and export it back.” He said.
Russia, which is building Iran’s first nuclear power plant, has offered to provide the Islamic Republic with nuclear fuel for electricity generation and to accept spent fuel back for reprocessing. Tehran has neither accepted nor rejected the proposal.
When asked whether Russia had told Iran that it could stop working on the Bushehr reactor if Iran did not suspend nuclear enrichment, Ivanov said Bushehr had no relation whatsoever to the Iranian nuclear dossier.
“Because what does the Bushehr project foresee? Construction of the plant, and by the end of the year construction will be completed – if Iran pays us,” he added.
The commissioning schedule on the $1 billion project Russia is building under a 1995 contract in southern Iran was put in jeopardy over delays in payments from Iran, until Moscow said the financial problem had been partly resolved following continuous talks.
Ivanov said that after completing the construction, permission from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA), would be needed to deliver fuel to the plant.
“After we get such a permission, we will deliver on condition that the IAEA monitors continuously the whole cycle of the fuel’s existence and the fuel is shipped back to Russia. So not a single gram of industrial uranium, which is not military grade, of course, will get into Iranian hands. So there’s nothing to worry about here,” Ivanov siad.
Seung-Hui Cho Was a Mind Controlled Assassin
Deadly accuracy, disturbing revelations suggest outside involvement in VA Massacre, cocktail of brainwashing from prozac, violent video games contributed to carnage
Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Seung-Hui Cho was a mind-controlled assassin, whether you believe he was under the influence of outside parties or not, the fact is that the cultural brainwashing of violent video games and psychotropic drugs directly contributed, as it does in all these cases, to the carnage at Virginia Tech on Monday morning.
Gun grabbers are already exploiting the tragedy to disarm future students from the opportunity of being able to defend themselves against deranged killers, but the media circus is completely silent when it comes to the laying blame at the feet of a deadly cocktail of mind-warping drugs and bloodthirsty shoot-em-ups.
Outside of the obvious culpability of the factors we see in every mass shooting – video games and “antidepressant” drugs, numerous red flags concerning Monday events are beginning to suggest that Cho was more than a heartbroken nutcase with an axe to grind.
Charles Mesloh, Professor of Criminology at Florida Gulf Coast University, told NBC 2 News that he was shocked Cho could have killed 32 people with two handguns absent expert training. Mesloh immediately assumed that Cho must have used a shotgun or an assault rifle.

“I’m dumbfounded by the number of people he managed to kill with these weapons,” said Mesloh, “The only thing I can figure is that he got close to them and he simply executed them.”
Mesloh said the killer performed like a trained professional, “He had a 60% fatality rate with handguns – that’s unheard of given 9 millimeters don’t kill people instantly,” said Mesloh, stating that the handguns Cho used were designed for “plinking at cans,” not executing human beings.
Cho was certainly no slouch, in the two hour gap between the first reported shootings and the wider rampage that would occur later in the morning, during which time the University completely failed to warn the students despite having loudspeakers stationed throughout the campus, Cho had time to film a confession video, transfer it to his computer, burn it onto a DVD, package it up, travel to the post office, post the package, and travel back to his dorm room to retrieve his guns and then travel back to the opposite end of the campus to resume the killing spree. The almost inconceivable speed of Cho’s actions become more suspicious when we recall initial reports that there were two shooters.
Even if we rule out the fact that Cho had received expert firearms training, the cultural mind control of violent video games and mind-altering psychotropic drugs were themselves a cocktail of brainwashing that directly contributed to the carnage, as they do in nearly all these cases.
From the very first reports of the shootings we predicted the killer would be on prozac, would have recently been in psychiatric care and would have regularly played violent video games and that has precisely turned out to be accurate in all three instances.
The Internet leader in activist media – Prison Thousands of special reports, videos, MP3’s, interviews, conferences, speeches, events, documentary films, books and more – all for just 15 cents a day! Click here to subscribe! Find out the true story behind government sponsored terror, 7/7, Gladio and 9/11, get Terror Storm!
“Several Korean youths who knew Cho Seung Hui from his high school days said he was a fan of violent video games, particularly a game called “Counterstrike,” a hugely popular online game in which players join terrorism or counterterrorism groups and try to shoot each other using all types of guns,” reports Newsmax citing the Washington Post.
“In December 2005 — more than a year before Monday’s mass shootings — a district court in Montgomery County, Va., ruled that Cho presented “an imminent danger to self or others.” That was the necessary criterion for a detention order, so that Cho, who had been accused of stalking by two female schoolmates, could be evaluated by a state doctor and ordered to undergo outpatient care,” reports ABC News, ” but despite the court identifying the future killer as a risk, they let him go.
Investigators believe that Cho Seung Hui, the Virginia Tech murderer, had been taking anti-depressant medication at some point before the shootings, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, as well as 15-year-old Kip Kinkel, the Oregon killer who gunned down his parents and classmates, were all on psychotropic drugs. Scientific studies proving that prozac encourages suicidal tendencies in young people are voluminous and span back nearly a decade.
Jeff Weise, the Red Lake High School killer was on prozac, “Unabomber” Ted Kaczinski, Michael McDermott, John Hinckley, Jr., Byran Uyesugi, Mark David Chapman and Charles Carl Roberts IV, the Amish school killer, were all on SSRI psychotropic drugs.
Since these deadly drugs are prevalent in almost all mass shooting incidents, where is the call to ban prozac? Why is the knee-jerk reaction always to attack the 2nd Amendment rights of Americans to self-defense, a right that was exercised in January 2002 when students subdued a shooter at another Virginia university before he could kill more than three people because they were allowed guns on campus?
Why are the deeper reasons behind what motivates young men to kill pushed aside while control freaks demand that law-abiding citizens be disarmed of the only thing that can protect them from such madmen?
Questions about the sequence of events on Monday, VA Tech, as well as the profile of the killer are arousing increased suspicion.
We have been receiving numerous calls and e mails alerting us to the fact that VA Tech is pulling links from its website concerning their relationship with the CIA. Reports from November 2005 confirm that the CIA was active in operating recruitment programs based out of VA Tech. Several professors from VA Tech are involved in government programs linked with NASA and other agencies.

Wikipedia also pulled a bizarre recently taken photograph of Cho wearing a U.S. Marines uniform.
Such details only fan the flames of accusations that Cho could have been a Manchurian Candidate, a mind-controlled assassin.
The CIA’s program to create mind-controlled assassins that could be triggered by code words, MK ULTRA, is not a conspiracy theory, it’s a historical fact documented by declassified government files and Senate hearings. President Bill Clinton himself had to apologize for the program before he left office.
On the Senate floor in 1977, Senator Ted Kennedy said, “The Deputy Director of the CIA revealed that over thirty universities and institutions were involved in an ‘extensive testing and experimentation’ program which included covert drug tests on unwitting citizens ‘at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign.”
One such victim of these experiments was Cathy O’Brien, who immediately after the shootings re-iterated the revelations in her latest book, that Blacksburg Virginia is a central location for mind control programs that are still ongoing today.
CIA mind control programs can be tracked back to the 1950’s and Project BLUEBIRD, later renamed ARTICHOKE. From blogger Kurt Nimmo;
“BLUEBIRD was approved by the CIA director on April 20, 1950. In August 1951, the Project was renamed ARTICHOKE. BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE included a great deal of work on the creation of amnesia, hypnotic couriers, and the Manchurian Candidate,” writes Colin A. Ross, MD. “ARTICHOKE documents prove that hypnotic couriers functioned effectively in real-life simulations conducted by the CIA in the early 1950’s. The degree to which such individuals were used in actual operations is still classified…. BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE were administered in a compartmented fashion. The details of the programs were kept secret even form other personnel within the CIA…. The BLUEBIRD/ARTICHOKE materials establish conclusively that full Manchurian Candidates were created and tested successfully by physicians with TOP SECRET clearance from the CIA…. As well as being potential couriers and infiltration agents, the subjects could function in effect as hypnotically controlled cameras. They could enter a room or building, memorize materials quickly, leave the building, and then be amnesic for the entire episode. The memorized material could then be retrieved by a handler using a previously implanted code or signal, without the amnesia being disturbed. Hypnosis was not the mind control doctors’ only method for creation of controlled amnesia, however. Drugs, magnetic fields, sound waves, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, and many other methods were studied under BLUEBIRD and ARTHICHOKE.”
Researchers into supposed “lone nut” assassinations time and time again run across evidence pointing to CIA mind control experimentation. The best example is Sirhan Sirhan, Bobby Kennedy’s assassin. Sirhan was found to be in a completely trance-like state after pulling the trigger and couldn’t even remember shooting Kennedy when asked about the incident days later. Sirhan’s lawyer, Lawrence Teeter, has presented convincing evidence that Sirhan was under mind control.
Either way you cut it, Seung-Hui Cho was a victim of brainwashing and mind control. The right questions are not being asked and the finger of blame is being pointed in the wrong direction, ensuring that another tragedy like the VA Tech Massacre is almost guaranteed.

Cuba condemns U.S. release of alleged plane bomber
Fri Apr 20, 2007 11:04AM EDT
By Anthony Boadle
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba accused the U.S. government on Friday of protecting an anti-Castro exile blamed for the bombing of a Cuban airliner 30 years ago, blasts in Havana hotels and plots to kill Fidel Castro.
The 79-year-old Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative, was freed on bail on Thursday from a U.S. prison in New Mexico pending trial on immigration charges.
His release outraged Cubans who view him as a terrorist who is protected by the United States for opposing communism.
Relatives of the 73 passengers and crew who died in the downing of the DC-8 jet off Barbados in 1976 protested opposite the American diplomatic mission in Havana on Friday morning, demanding justice and his extradition to Venezuela.
The protesters held photos of their dead as they stood under 138 black flags in memory of victims of terrorism.
“The United States is freeing the biggest terrorist in the Western hemisphere who took our parents lives,” said Haymel Espinosa, daughter of the downed plane’s co-pilot.
A day earlier, some 100,000 Cubans protested in the eastern town of Bayamo against Posada Carriles’ release.
Havana said his freeing insulted the Cuban nation and undermined the credibility of U.S. President George W. Bush’s declared war on terrorism.
By refusing to prosecute Posada Carriles on charges of terrorism, the U.S. government was buying his silence for crimes committed when he worked for the CIA, a statement published by the Communist Party newspaper said.
“The freeing of the terrorist was arranged by the White House as compensation … so that he does not tell the countless secrets he has about him time as an agent of the U.S. special services,” the statement said.
Posada Carriles’ release was granted by U.S. Judge Kathleen Cardone, and ended a long fight by the U.S. government to keep him behind bars.
Cuba accuses Posada Carriles of planning a wave of bomb blasts in Havana hotels in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and of plotting to blow up Castro during a presidential summit in Panama in 2000. He was arrested and later pardoned by Panama.
Posada Carriles, trained by the CIA for the disastrous U.S.-backed invasion to topple Castro at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, was involved in the illegal Iran-Contra operation to supply arms to right-wing guerrillas in Nicaragua, Granma said.
Venezuela has requested his extradition to stand trial on charges he masterminded the suitcase bombing of the Cubana airliner from Caracas, where he ran a private detective company. The Cuba-born naturalized Venezuelan citizen was arrested in Caracas in connection with the bombing but escaped from a high-security prison in 1985.
Posada Carriles had been in U.S. custody since May 2005 after he entered the United States illegally to seek asylum. In January, he was indicted on seven immigration-fraud charges.
Posada Carriles traveled to Florida on a private jet after posting bail totaling $350,000 to get out of prison. He will be under house arrest at his wife’s Miami home and must wear an electronic monitoring device until his May 11 trial.

Espionage Galore under a Middle East Nuclear Cloud
April 17, 2007, 9:19 PM (GMT+02:00)

It sounded like a contest.
On Tuesday, April 17, the Shin Bet intelligence service reported Iranian intelligence had intensified its efforts to recruit Israelis as spies, targeting former Iranians applying for visas to visit their families. One young man had been snared and paid “expenses” for enlisting a friend in security and collecting information. The Shin Bet detained him on landing home, before he did any harm.
Two hours later, in Cairo, a nuclear engineer Mohammed Gaber, was accused by Prosecutor-General Abdul-Maquid Mahmoud of spying on Egypt’s nuclear program on behalf of the Mossad, which was said to have paid him $17,000. An Irishman and Japanese were sought in connection with the affair. Israel dismissed the charge as another of Cairo’s unfounded spy myths, whose dissemination was not conducive to good relations.
Neither case is isolated. Two days earlier, the Israeli-Arab parliamentarian Azmi Beshara admitted from a safe distance to the Qatar-based al Jazeera TV channel that he was under suspicion of spying for Hizballah during its war with Israel and would not be returning home any time soon.
Add on the US defense secretary Robert Gates’ visits to Jordan, Israel and Egypt this week reportedly to coordinate and oversee preparations connected to a potential military operation against Iran and, in the view of DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, these espionage rumbles denote a far greater upheaval boililng up below ground.
Most can be traced one way or another to the mysterious disappearance of the Iranian general Ali Reza Asgari from Istanbul in February. Tehran’s job description of the missing general – a former deputy defense minister, who also worked with the Lebanese Hizballah in the 1980 – is correct as far as it goes. But the failure to bring it up to date is an attempt to obfuscate the fact that, at the time of his disappearance, he headed Iran’s Middle East spy networks.
The cases disclosed Tuesday may be just the tip of the iceberg, with more spy dramas on the way. But even at this early stage of a potential intelligence earthquake, certain conclusions are indicated.
Firstly, Israeli will soon have no choice but to declare Iran an enemy state and ban Israeli travel to the Islamic Republic for the first time in the 28 years since Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. Surprisingly, Israelis are still legally permitted to visit Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.
The Shin Bet did not need to publicize Iran’s intense hunt for Israeli spies in order to stop those visits; there are other ways. The espionage case would not have been brought out in the open without the knowledge of the relevant ministers – certainly not a graphic account of how the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, whence Gen. Asgari vanished, doubles as the distribution center for visas to Iran and a recruiting center for spies. Israelis applying for visas are obliged to deposit their Israeli passports there and issued with travel documents which gain them entry to Tehran. This process is drawn out to enable Iranian intelligence agents to make their first pitch to the targeted Israeli. It is followed up after he enters Iran.
The Shin Bet’s sudden outburst of transparency indicates that the scene is being set for a major diplomatic, military or intelligence step in the summer. This time, the Israeli government will not repeat at least one of the mistakes committed in July 2006, when it refused to declare that Israel was at war and the Hizballah an enemy, even after its forces crossed in to northern Israel, kidnapped two soldiers and let loose with a Katyusha barrage.
Israel is now putting the horse before the cart and declaring Iran an enemy country before the event.
It is therefore vital to deter Israeli nationals from visiting Iran in advance of potential Middle East hostilities. If Iran is involved, even through its allies or the Hizballah, Israelis in the Islamic Republic would be in danger of being taken captive or hostage.
Israel’s latest posture and precautions are likely to have the dual effect of raising Middle East tensions and placing Iran’s ancient Jewish community, reduced now to 25,000, in jeopardy. “Israeli spy rings” may soon be “uncovered” by Iranian security agents.
Second, the Middle East has embarked on a nuclear arms race. It is no secret that at last month’s Arab summit in Riyadh, the Saudi ruler strongly urged his fellows to unite their national nuclear programs under a single roof. Though played down, this was the summit’s most important decision – not the so-called Saudi peace plan, although it made the most waves. It was a step intended to produce an Arab nuclear option versus the Iranian weapons program.
Every aspect of the unified Arab nuclear program is therefore extraordinarily sensitive and hemmed in with exceptional security measures. Each has become a prime intelligence target – and not only for Israel. Hence the song and dance the Egyptian prosecutor general made Tuesday of an alleged Israeli spy network said to operate out of Hong Kong, with an Irish and a Japanese agent charged with planting Israeli espionage software in Egyptian nuclear program’s computers, together with an Egyptian engineer. Egyptian intelligence was making sure to warn off any Egyptian tempted to work for Israeli intelligence, just as the Shin Bet was cautioning Israelis to beware of falling into Iranian intelligence traps.
The events of a single day brought Iran and its nuclear threat into sharp relief as the most pressing issues for Israel. Relations with the Palestinians and Syria, on which so many words are poured day by day, pale in comparison.

Attempted war crimes prosecutions
On 14 November 2006, human rights advocate Wolfgang Kaleck, and Michael Ratner and Peter Weiss of the Center for Constitutional Rights brought charges at the German Federal Attorney General (Generalbundesanwalt) against Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez and a number of other high officials by invoking command responsibility for their involvement in human rights violations in Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. Kaleck, Ratner and Weiss act as advocates for more than 30 human rights organisations as well as 11 former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. According to a spokesmen of the agency Federal Public Prosecutor Monika Harms will examine the statement of claim now.[50][51]
On March 15, 2007, the city council of Berkeley, California endorsed the war crimes complaint from Germany. [1]
A similar charge brought by Kaleck, Ratner and Weiss in 2004 had been rejected by German Federal Public Prosecutor Kay Nehm with the explanation that criminal prosecution in the nations of the accused and the victims should be given priority.[52][51]
Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights claimed that Rumsfeld was one of the architects of the U.S. torture program, and that he personally supervised the torture of Mohamed al-Kahtani, which is allegedly documented in the Schmidt report, an internal investigation.[53]
Hamas fighters end Israeli truce

The military wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement has said a five-month truce with the Israeli army “no longer exists” after it fired dozens of rockets into the Jewish state.

The statement came after the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades said it had fired nearly 30 rockets and 61 mortars into Israel on Tuesday.

Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the brigades, told AFP: “The truce no longer exists.

“It’s the Israeli enemy that has not respected it and now it’s the turn of Palestinian groups,” he said.

The attacks, which came as Israel observed its 59th anniversary, caused no damage or injuries.

They marked the first time that Hamas, the senior partner in the Palestinian coalition cabinet, claimed responsibility for launching rockets into Israel since a November 26 ceasefire took effect between the army and Palestinian fighters.

Abu Obaida said the firing of Tuesday’s projectiles was a response to the death of nine Palestinians, two teenagers and five fighters among them, by Israeli troops over the weekend in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

The deaths marked the bloodiest weekend of Israeli-Palestinian violence since the November truce and sparked calls for retaliation on the part of Palestinian armed groups.

Under the terms of the November ceasefire, the Israeli army withdrew troops from the Gaza Strip and Palestinian fighters there were supposed to halt rocket fire.

Until Tuesday, the truce has largely held despite violations by both sides.
Hamas fighters end Israel truce
The armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement has said it is ending its five-month truce with Israel.
Earlier in the day the group launched a sustained barrage of rockets and mortars into Israel, the first such attack since November.
The group, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said the attacks were in revenge for recent killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
The ending of the truce has not been confirmed by Hamas political leaders.
The Palestinian prime minister, Hamas’s Ismail Haniya, whilst not confirming that the ceasefire was over, said the Palestinians had tried hard to observe the truce, but this had been undermined by what he called Israeli aggression.
No casualties
An Israeli spokesman said only a small number of rockets landed in Israeli. There were no reports of casualties.
The attacks came as Israel celebrated the 59th anniversary of its establishment as a modern independent state.
There is no truce between us and the occupation, the occupation destroyed the truce from the moment it started, we did not trust the intentions of the occupation from the beginning
Izzedine al-Qassam statement
Hamas’s military wing said the attack, of nearly 100 rockets and mortars, was a response to the killing of nine Palestinians, five of them believed to be militants, during Israeli military operations in the West Bank.
Israel helicopter gunships fired machine guns near the border fence in southern Gaza soon after the rocket fire, Palestinian witnesses reported.
Hamas, which won parliamentary elections last year and is the leading faction in the Palestinian Authority, agreed to a ceasefire in November.
But it reserved the right to respond to the killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
A spokesman for the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades told the BBC that the idea of a truce had become an illusion.
A spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, Abu Ubeida, said: “There is no truce between us and the occupation, the occupation destroyed the truce from the moment it started, we did not trust the intentions of the occupation from the beginning.”
The truce had been largely observed since November, despite some violations on both sides.
BBC Middle East correspondent Katya Adler says there has been tension within Hamas over how far the ceasefire should hold.
An Israeli government official said there have been rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel at least every two days.
There is speculation in Israel that it might taken more concerted military action into Gaza.
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said: “Israel is not interested in escalation, but we hope that cooler heads among the Palestinians prevail. We however reserve the right to protect and defend our civilians.”

The end of the American dream?
By Steve Schifferes
Economics reporter, BBC News website

The US economy has been generating strong economic growth over the past few years as it has come out of recession.
After growing at more than 3% a year in 2004 and 2005, the pace picked up to a blistering 5.6% annual rate in the first quarter of this year – although the pace has since then slipped back to 2.9%.
So far, though, little of that growth has translated into the hands of the average worker, according to new research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
For real household incomes, the median point – the level at which half of households earn more and half less – has actually fallen over the past five years.
The unprecedented split between growth and living standards is the defining economic agenda
Jared Bernstein, Economic Policy Institute
That marks a notable contrast with the 1990s, when the economic boom boosted both jobs and incomes.
The puzzle of economic expansion without significant job or wage growth has been troubling US economists and commentators of all political persuasions.
Slowing wages
“The unprecedented split between growth and living standards is the defining economic agenda of the day,” says the EPI’s senior economist, Jared Bernstein.
During the five years from 2000 to 2005, the US economy grew in size from $9.8 trillion to $11.2 trillion, an increase in real terms of 14%.
Productivity – the measure of the output of the economy per worker employed – grew even more strongly, by 16.6%.
But over the same period, the median family’s income slid by 2.9%, in contrast to the 11.3% gain registered in the second half of the 1990s.
The wages of households of African or Hispanic origin fell even faster.
And new entrants to the labour market fared particularly badly.
Average hourly real wages for both college and high school graduates actually fell between 2000 and 2005, and fewer of the jobs they found carried benefits such as health care or company pensions.
The poor performance of the US economy in delivering fuller wage packets may be one reason why the public gives the Bush administration’s such a low rating on economic policy.
According to the latest Gallup poll, only 37% approve of Mr Bush’s handling of the economy, and 70% think economic conditions are getting worse, substantially worse figures than in 2004.
With mid-term elections to the House of Representatives and Senate – both, currently, held by Mr Bush’s Republicans – due in November, the contrasts are concentrating minds in both main parties.
Where has the increase gone?
One way to comprehend what is happening is to look at the split between how much of the economy is won by profits and how much by wages.
The share allotted to corporate profits increased sharply, from 17.7% in 2000 to 20.9% in 2005, while the share going to wages has reached a record low.
Meanwhile, a large section of the workforce – the unemployed or those not seeking work – have not benefited from economic growth.
Unemployment has remained stubbornly high despite the economic recovery, with the latest figure at 4.7% compared to 4% at the end of 2000. Overall job growth in the first half of the current decade has been just 1.3%.
In the 1990s, job growth of some 12% goes some way towards explaining why prosperity in that earlier period spread down the income scale.
Rising inequality
Even for those with jobs, the fruits of economic growth have been more unequally distributed within the labour market.
The incomes of the top 20% have grown much faster than earnings of those at the middle or bottom of the income distribution. The income of the top 1% and top 0.1% have grown particularly rapidly.
From 1992 to 2005, the pay of chief executive officers of major companies rose by 186%.
The equivalent figure for median hourly wages was 7.2%, leaving the ratio of CEOs’ pay to that of the average worker at 262.
In the 1960s, the comparable figure was 24.
There has been much debate about the extent to which the tax policies of the Bush administration, which lowered many taxes on capital, have contributed to this trend.
The administration argues that the tax cuts have been vital to the economic recovery, and that more jobs and higher wages will eventually follow GDP growth.
It also says that the encouragement to invest delivered by lower taxes has made the US more productive, and therefore more competitive in the global economy.
The authors of the EPI report argue that low minimum wages, weakened union power, and the loss of both blue and white-collar jobs to off shoring do much to explain the jobs picture.
Admittedly the Federal minimum wage has been static for a decade, but the downward pressure on wages is probably coming from other sources.
One is immigration, which may have a greater effect on the wages of low-skilled workers.
Another is the “China effect,”, the idea that low prices of imported manufactured goods are pushing US industry to cut its workforce in order to increase productivity.
The head of the US central bank, Ben Bernanke, recently admitted that globalisation was producing losers as well as winners.
“The changes in the pattern of production are likely to threaten the livelihoods of some workers and the profits of some firms, even when these changes lead to greater productivity,” he said.
So for politicians of all parties, trying to understand how the average family can gain a greater share in future prosperity may prove one of the biggest electoral challenges of the year.

Q&A: The fall of the dollar
The US dollar has continued its recent decline, hitting fresh lows against the pound.
Sterling hit a 14-year record against the dollar on Tuesday – above $1.99 on currency exchanges – almost breaking the key $2 rate.
The downward pressure on the greenback looks set to continue, with wide-ranging consequences at home and abroad, for both companies and consumers.
How will the dollar’s slide affect ordinary people?
Back in the 1960s when governments, not markets, decided the fate of currencies, Britain once lowered the pound’s exchange rate by 18% while telling the public that “the pound in your pocket” had not been devalued.
Of course it had. The purchasing power of the pound was eroded as the cost of imported goods went up, although British firms were able to sell their goods abroad at more competitive prices.
The US is now going through the same process. As the dollar falls against other currencies, goods imported from abroad become more expensive for US consumers.
The impact will be particularly be felt on oil prices, as two-thirds of US oil is imported.
Dearer oil means petrol price hikes, higher transport costs for goods and more expensive heating.
I don’t live in the US, but I’m planning a trip there to do some shopping. Surely it’s good news for me?
Yes, indeed. Your pounds, euros or yen will buy more dollars than before, making goods in US stores much cheaper for you.
But the upward pressure on prices could lead to a hike in US inflation this year, which would cancel out some of those gains for those of you planning to travel later.
And if you work in tourism, you have to bear in mind that people in the US are less likely to visit your own country because their holidays abroad will become more expensive.
What about the wider US economic impact?
The fall in the dollar could actually do the US economy some good, by helping to reduce the country’s huge trade deficit – the difference between the amount the US imports from the rest of the world and the amount it can sell to the rest of the world.
That deficit is now heading above $800bn for 2006, or 7% of the US economy.
As the dollar declines in value, US consumers have an incentive to buy domestic goods rather than foreign ones, helping to correct what has become a huge global imbalance.
But if US inflation does surge ahead, it might force the Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank, to raise interest rates in a bid to keep price rises in check.
That could make the country’s highly-indebted consumers more reluctant to buy any goods at all, choking off economic growth and increasing fears of an economic slowdown.
How will UK jobs and industry be affected?
The dollar’s fall could be bad news for UK and European manufacturing industry.
It will create difficulties for UK and other firms trying to sell their goods to the US public, since Americans will have to pay more for them in dollar terms.
In recent years the US has been the engine of world economic growth, and its export market has been very important.
But some Europeans now argue that with an economic revival at home, the impact could be lessened.
How long will the dollar’s slide continue?
While no one can predict the course of currency markets, the pressures are growing on the dollar.
Economists have been saying for many years that the growing trade deficit is unsustainable in the long-term.
In addition, the US economy is weakening, while the economies of Europe and Japan are getting stronger.
This is likely to mean interest rates rising in those countries, which could attract more funds from the US.

Too alarmist? Simply not true?

Or right on the money?

All of these facts are true but the conclusions can be debated.

Inspiring a dialogue is a good thing. Though what can be done…I have no fuckin’ clue. I’ve never felt so impotent.,,2064157,00.html

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all

Tuesday April 24, 2007
The Guardian

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy – but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree – domestically – as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government – the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens’ ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors – we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don’t learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of “homeland” security – remember who else was keen on the word “homeland” – didn’t raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable – as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.

Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.

1 Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a “war footing”; we were in a “global war” against a “global caliphate” intending to “wipe out civilisation”. There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space – the globe itself is the battlefield. “This time,” Fein says, “there will be no defined end.”

Creating a terrifying threat – hydra-like, secretive, evil – is an old trick. It can, like Hitler’s invocation of a communist threat to the nation’s security, be based on actual events (one Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency). Or the terrifying threat can be based, like the National Socialist evocation of the “global conspiracy of world Jewry”, on myth.

It is not that global Islamist terrorism is not a severe danger; of course it is. I am arguing rather that the language used to convey the nature of the threat is different in a country such as Spain – which has also suffered violent terrorist attacks – than it is in America. Spanish citizens know that they face a grave security threat; what we as American citizens believe is that we are potentially threatened with the end of civilisation as we know it. Of course, this makes us more willing to accept restrictions on our freedoms.

2 Create a gulag

Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal “outer space”) – where torture takes place.

At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, “enemies of the people” or “criminals”. Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders – opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists – are arrested and sent there as well.

This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.

With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now. Bush and his allies in Congress recently announced they would issue no information about the secret CIA “black site” prisons throughout the world, which are used to incarcerate people who have been seized off the street.

Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can’t investigate adequately.

But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don’t generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: “First they came for the Jews.” Most Americans don’t understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.

By the way, the establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People’s Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials. Eventually, the Special Courts became a parallel system that put pressure on the regular courts to abandon the rule of law in favour of Nazi ideology when making decisions.

3 Develop a thug caste

When leaders who seek what I call a “fascist shift” want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.

The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America’s security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution

Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode – but the administration’s endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.

Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for “public order” on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station “to restore public order”.

4 Set up an internal surveillance system

In Mussolini’s Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China – in every closed society – secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.

In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens’ phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.

In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about “national security”; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.

5 Harass citizens’ groups

The fifth thing you do is related to step four – you infiltrate and harass citizens’ groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.

Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 “suspicious incidents”. The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track “potential terrorist threats” as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as “terrorism”. So the definition of “terrorist” slowly expands to include the opposition.

6 Engage in arbitrary detention and release

This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a “list” of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.

In 2004, America’s Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela’s government – after Venezuela’s president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens.

Professor Walter F Murphy is emeritus of Princeton University; he is one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the nation and author of the classic Constitutional Democracy. Murphy is also a decorated former marine, and he is not even especially politically liberal. But on March 1 this year, he was denied a boarding pass at Newark, “because I was on the Terrorist Watch list”.

“Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that,” asked the airline employee.

“I explained,” said Murphy, “that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution.”

“That’ll do it,” the man said.

Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of “enemy of the people” tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.

James Yee, a US citizen, was the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo who was accused of mishandling classified documents. He was harassed by the US military before the charges against him were dropped. Yee has been detained and released several times. He is still of interest.

Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.

It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can’t get off.

7 Target key individuals

Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don’t toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile’s Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.

Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not “coordinate”, in Goebbels’ term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically “coordinate” early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7 1933.

Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them.

Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that “waterboarding is torture” was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.

Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were “coordinated” too, a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.

8 Control the press

Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s – all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened “critical infrastructure” when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.

Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy – a form of retaliation that ended her career.

Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of reporters such as the BBC’s Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed, including ITN’s Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated Press in Iraq had staff members seized by the US military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to see the evidence against their staffers.

Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers.

You won’t have a shutdown of news in modern America – it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it’s not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can’t tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.

9 Dissent equals treason

Cast dissent as “treason” and criticism as “espionage’. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of “spy” and “traitor”. When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times’ leaking of classified information “disgraceful”, while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the “treason” drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.

Conason is right to note how serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that the 1938 Moscow show trial accused the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact, executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and “beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death”, according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.

In Stalin’s Soviet Union, dissidents were “enemies of the people”. National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy “November traitors”.

And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year – when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 – the president has the power to call any US citizen an “enemy combatant”. He has the power to define what “enemy combatant” means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define “enemy combatant” any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.

Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin’s gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo’s, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)

We US citizens will get a trial eventually – for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. “Enemy combatant” is a status offence – it is not even something you have to have done. “We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model – you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we’re going to hold you,” says a spokeswoman of the CCR.

Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests – usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn’t real dissent. There just isn’t freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.

10 Suspend the rule of law

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency – which the president now has enhanced powers to declare – he can send Michigan’s militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state’s governor and its citizens.

Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears’s meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole’s baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: “A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night … Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any ‘other condition’.”

Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act – which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch’s soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias’ power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.

Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini’s march on Rome or Hitler’s roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.

Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.

It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere – while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: “dogs go on with their doggy life … How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster.”

As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are “at war” in a “long war” – a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president – without US citizens realising it yet – the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.

That means a hollowness has been expanding under the foundation of all these still- free-looking institutions – and this foundation can give way under certain kinds of pressure. To prevent such an outcome, we have to think about the “what ifs”.

What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack – say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani – because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.

What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.

Right now, only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us – staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody’s help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.

We need to look at history and face the “what ifs”. For if we keep going down this road, the “end of America” could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before – and this is the way it is now.

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands … is the definition of tyranny,” wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.

The last thing the Middle East’s main players want is US troops to leave Iraq

Across the region, ordinary people want the Americans out. But from Israel to al-Qaida, political groups and states have other ideas

Hussein Agha
Wednesday April 25, 2007
The Guardian
Overt political debate in the Middle East is hostile to the American occupation of Iraq and dominated by calls for it to end sooner rather than later. No less a figure than King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, arguably the United States’ closest Arab ally, has declared the occupation of Iraq “illegal” and “illegitimate”. Real intentions, however, are different. States and local political groups might not admit it – because of public opinion – but they do not want to see the back of the Americans. Not yet.
For this there is a simple reason: while the US can no longer successfully manipulate regional actors to carry out its plans, regional actors have learned to use the US presence to promote their own objectives. Quietly and against the deeply held wishes of their populations, they have managed to keep the Americans engaged with the hope of some elusive victory.
The so-called axis of moderate Arab states – comprising Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan – dreads an early US withdrawal. First, because it would be widely interpreted as an American defeat, which would weaken these pro-American regimes while both energising and radicalising their populations.
Second, if the US leaves, the emergence of a Shia regime in Iraq – in itself an offensive prospect to them – would only be a matter of time. Facing Arab antipathy, this regime would be likely to look eastward and forge close ties with its Iranian co-religionists. In the view of most Arabs, this would present a formidable challenge, setting in motion a series of dangerous events – an Iranian-Iraqi alliance; political and material support from Arab countries being offered to disgruntled Iraqi Sunni groups; retaliation by Iraqi forces; and the threat of broader regional involvement.
Third, a US departure risks triggering Iraq’s partition. As some Arabs see it, the occupation is what holds the country together. So long as coalition forces are deployed, a full-blown breakup can be avoided.
In contrast, with the Americans gone, the odds of partition would increase dramatically, presenting a threat to the integrity and security of regional states. Exacerbating dormant, and in some cases not so dormant, secessionist tendencies would be one concern. Perhaps more worrying would be the ensuing challenge to the legitimacy of the fundamental tenets of nationhood, state, and national borders.
Paradoxically, the competing axis of so-called rogue states made up of Syria and Iran also wants the US to stay. So long as America remains mired in Iraq’s quicksand, they think, it will be difficult for it to embark on a similar adventure nearby. This is true not only politically – the quagmire standing as a stark reminder of the invasion’s failure – but also militarily: US capabilities will remain stretched for as long as the occupation continues.
Moreover, American forces in Iraq present relatively soft targets for retaliation in case Iran or Syria is attacked. In short, whether or not Syria and Iran are correct in their calculations, the occupation of Iraq is seen as the most effective insurance policy against a possible US attack against them.
For Turkey, America’s presence ensures that the national aspirations of Iraq’s Kurds will not metamorphose into a fully fledged independent state, a strict red line for Ankara, which has its own irredentist Kurdish problem. By containing Kurdish ambitions, the US diminishes the probability of a costly and uncertain Turkish military campaign to thwart them. Nor is Turkey attracted to the prospect of an Iraqi Shia state allied to Iran and tolerant of Kurdish aspirations – an outcome it hopes the occupation will make less likely.
For Israel too, an American withdrawal could spell disaster. Already, nothing has dented Israeli deterrence more than America’s performance in Iraq – an inspiration to Israel’s Arab foes that even the mightiest can be brought to heel. An early withdrawal, coming in the wake of last summer’s Lebanon war, could put Israel in a dangerous position, handing a victory to Iran – the latest putative threat to Israel’s existence – and providing a boost to Syria which may be considering military options to recover the Golan Heights.
There are risks for the smaller Gulf states too. With their large Shia communities and heavy dependence on American protection, they would be threatened by an early US departure from Iraq. In Bahrain, home to an unhappy Shia majority, the fallout could be imminent.
Inside Iraq, this is a period of consolidation for most political groups. They are building up their political and military capabilities, cultivating and forging alliances, clarifying political objectives and preparing for impending challenges. It is not the moment for all-out confrontation. No group has the confidence or capacity decisively to confront rivals within its own community or across communal lines. Equally, no party is genuinely interested in a serious process of national reconciliation when they feel they can improve their position later on. A continued American presence is consistent with both concerns – it can keep clashes manageable and be used to postpone the need for serious political engagement.
Shias in government would like the US to stay long enough for them to tighten their grip on the levers of state power and build a loyal military. Those Shias who are not in power would like them to stay long enough to avoid a premature showdown with their rivals. Militant Shia groups can simultaneously blame the occupation forces for their community’s plight and attack them to mobilise further support. Pro-Iranian Shias, meanwhile, retaliate against anti-Iranian US moves with attacks on Americans in Iraq.
Al-Qaida and its affiliates arguably benefit most from the occupation. They established themselves, brought in recruits, sustained operations against the Americans and expanded. The last thing they want is for the Americans to leave and deny them targets and motivation for new members. Other Sunni armed groups need the Americans for similar reasons and for protection against Shias. For Sunni politicians, the occupation prevents a total Shia takeover of state institutions and helps increase their influence.
Of all ethnic groups, the Kurds have made best use of the Americans. Protected by the US from their powerful and ruthless historical foes, Arab and Turk, they have built quasi-independent institutions and prospered amid relative security. They have no reason to want this situation to end.
In common with neighbouring states, Iraqi Shias, Sunnis and Kurds are united in being able to use the Americans’ presence to pursue separate and often conflicting political agendas. The grand disconnect in the region is between the political sentiments of ordinary people, which are overwhelmingly for an end to occupation, and the political calculations of leaders, which emphasise the benefits of using the Americans and consequently of extending their stay – at least for the time being.
In this grim picture, the Americans appear the least sure and most confused. With unattainable objectives, wobbly plans, changing tactics, shifting alliances and ever-increasing casualties, it is not clear any longer what they want or how they are going to achieve it. By setting themselves up to be manipulated, they give credence to an old Arab saying: the magic has taken over the magician.
• Hussein Agha is a senior associate member of St Antony’s College, Oxford,,2064703,00.html

“And so, again, this becomes a question of who we are as a people. And so this resolution 333, articles of impeachment against the vice president, will let future generations know that no one is above the law of this country and that Congresses have the specific responsibility to provide a check to administrative abuse of power. That’s the way the framers set this government up.”

Kucinich Introduces Impeachment Articles Against Cheney

CQ Transcripts Wire
Tuesday, April 24, 2007; 6:09 PM

REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH, D-OHIO: Thank you very much for being here.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the government; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.

These words from the Declaration of Independence are instructive at this moment. Because not only whenever any form of government, but whenever any government official becomes destructive of the founding purposes, that official or those officials must be held accountable.

Because I believe the vice president’s conduct of office has been destructive to the founding purposes of our nation. Today, I have introduced House Resolution 333, Articles of Impeachment Relating to Vice President Richard B. Cheney. I do so in defense of the rights of the American people to have a government that is honest and peaceful.

It became obvious to me that this vice president, who was a driving force for taking the United States into a war against Iraq under false pretenses, is once again rattling the sabers of war against Iran with the same intent to drive America into another war, again based on false pretenses.

Let me cite from the articles of impeachment that were introduced this afternoon, Article I, that Richard Cheney had purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and the Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States armed forces against the nation of Iraq in a manner damaging to our national security.

That despite all evidence to the contrary, the vice president actively and systematically sought to deceive the citizens and the Congress of the United States about an alleged threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

That preceding the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the vice president was fully informed that no legitimate evidence existed of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The vice president pressured the intelligence community to change their findings to enable the deception of the citizens and the Congress of the United States.

That in this the vice president subverted the national security interests of the United States by setting the stage for the loss of more than 3,300 United States service members and the loss of 650,000 Iraqi citizens since the United States invasion; the loss of approximately $500 billion in war costs, which has increased our federal debt; the loss of military readiness within the United States armed services, through an overextension and lack of training and lack of equipment; and the loss of United States credibility in the world affairs and decades of likely blowback created by the invasion of Iraq.

That with respect to Article II, that Richard Cheney manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and the Congress of the United States about an alleged relationship between Iraq and Al Qaida in order to justify the use of United States armed forces against the nation of Iraq in a manner damaging to our national security.

And that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the vice president actively and systematically sought to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States about an alleged relationship between Iraq and Al Qaida.

That preceding to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the vice president was fully informed that no credible evidence existed of a working relationship between Iraq and Al Qaida, a fact articulated in several official documents.

With respect to Article III, that in his conduct while vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney openly threatened aggression against the Republic of Iran, absent any real threat to the United States, and has done so with the United States’s proven capability to carry out such threats, thus undermining the national security interests of the United States.

That despite no evidence that Iran has the intention or the capability of attacking the United States, and despite the turmoil created by the United States’s invasion of Iraq, the vice president has openly threatened aggression against Iran.

Furthermore, I point out in the articles that Article VI of the United States Constitution states, and I quote, “This Constitution and the laws of the United States shall be made in pursuance thereof and all treaties made or which shall be made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land. Any provision of an international treaty ratified by the United States becomes the law of the United States.”

The United States is signatory to the U.N. Charter, a treaty among the nations of the world. Article II, Section 4 of the United Nations Charter states, and I quote, “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

The articles conclude by pointing out that the vice president’s deception upon the citizens and the Congress of the United States that enabled the failed United States invasion of Iraq forcibly altered the rules of diplomacy so that the vice president recent belligerent actions toward Iran are destabilizing and counterproductive to the national security of the United States of America.

These articles of impeachment are not brought forth lightly. I’ve carefully weighed the options available to members of Congress and found this path the path that is the most important to take.

The justifications used to lead our nation to war have unquestionably been disproved. Brave soldiers and innocent civilians have lost their lives in a war the United States should never have initiated. The weight of the lies used to lead us into war has grown heavier with each death. Now is the time for Congress to examine the actions that led us into this war, just as we must work to bring the troops home. This resolution is a very serious matter, and I will urge the Committee on Judiciary to investigate and carefully consider this resolution.

At this time, I’m happy to take any of your questions.

QUESTION: Congressman, at this point do you have any other — any fellow members support this?

KUCINICH: At this very moment, the resolution is being transmitted to members of Congress. Because this resolution is so weighty in its import, it’s going to be important for members of Congress to have sufficient time to study the articles. This is unlike any other type of legislation or resolution. This is not something that you can ask anyone to make a snap judgment on. It took me a while to come to this point. And I would expect that members of Congress, given the opportunity to review these articles, will be able to come to a conclusion consistent with their own concerns and the concerns of their constituents.

QUESTION: But at this point, you stand alone, at this point?

KUCINICH: At this point, I believe that I stand with millions of Americans who have expressed concern through their state legislatures, through petitions to Congress, through contact with their members of Congress, that something has to be done to reclaim our country’s goodness, to reclaim a government which the American people want to be honest, want to be just.

And so I do not stand alone. I have multitudes of people backing this.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Chairman Conyers to look at this?

KUCINICH: I will discuss this with Chairman Conyers, now that this has been introduced, and I will ask for his consideration. And I will communicate this to all members of the House and ask them to give it the kind of thoughtful consideration that it deserves.

KUCINICH: I might point out that — that when you read the annotations here, you will see that everything that has been said in these articles has been carefully documented. In fact, I would imagine that some of you have even reported some of the statements, although perhaps the statements have not been challenged in this way until now.


KUCINICH: The question relates to why I’m bringing the articles of impeachment against Mr. Cheney, and not Mr. Bush. Is that it?

QUESTION: Why solely Mr. Cheney?

KUCINICH: Well, there’s a practical reason here. And the practical reason is — first of all, I want to say that each and every charge against Mr. Cheney relates to his conduct or misconduct in office.

Now, with respect to the president. I think that it’s very important that we start with Mr. Cheney. Because if we were to start with the president and pursue articles of impeachment, Mr. Cheney would then become president.

It’s significant and responsible to start in this way, because if the same charges would relate to the president as relate to the vice president, you would then have to go through the constitutional agony of impeaching two presidents consecutively.


KUCINICH: Well, actually — I’ll wait until that truck goes by here.

Let me tell you the difference. The difference today is that this vice president is actively encouraging aggression against Iran. It is urgent that Congress take steps to check the abuse of power. And that’s what this impeachment resolution will do.

KUCINICH: There is no comparison whatsoever — in any way, shape or manner — between these articles of impeachment and the articles of impeachment which were presented to the House of Representatives in 1999.

In fact, these articles of impeachment are deeply researched, will stand up in a discussion in the House and in the Senate. And I believe that they are — that they’re imperative to bring forth right now because the threat of war against Iran is very real.

And this vice president cannot be permitted to continue to violate both the U.S. Constitution and the U.N. Charter.

QUESTION: Congressman, you’re running for president. Are you hoping to get the others (OFF-MIKE)?

KUCINICH: Each person has to — each person will have to make his or her own decision.

This goes beyond partisan terms. This is being done to defend our constitutional system of government. This is being done so that all those of us who took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States can understand that this impeachment is one valid way in furtherance of the defense of our Constitution.

I don’t see this as being distant from anyone, in any capacity in our government. Everyone must reflect on this.

Years from now, people will ask, “Why didn’t the United States government respond when they saw this threat to our democracy? Why didn’t people inside the government respond?” if this doesn’t move forward.

And so this really isn’t so much, I might add, about the vice president as it is about who we are as a people. What is it that we stand for? What kind of government do the people of the United States expect and deserve?

KUCINICH: It’s not appropriate for the government to lie to people. It is wrong for government officials — you know, the vice president, in this case — to take this nation into war based on lies.

And so, again, this becomes a question of who we are as a people. And so this resolution 333, articles of impeachment against the vice president, will let future generations know that no one is above the law of this country and that Congresses have the specific responsibility to provide a check to administrative abuse of power. That’s the way the framers set this government up.

QUESTION: Congressman, Speaker Pelosi has said on more than one occasion she’s not interested in impeachment.

Have you had conversations with her on this, or some exchange, in your mind…

KUCINICH: No, I have not discussed this with Speaker Pelosi.

I want to stress that this is not a partisan action at all. I have not confided in anyone in the leadership of my party, because I take this action beyond partisanship, beyond party, as an obligation and commitment to my nation and my loyalty to America and my willingness to say, “Stop the lies. Stop the lying. Stop the dying that’s occurring in Iraq over lies.”

It’s imperative that America stand for the truth. It said in the Bible, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Well, let then these articles of impeachment help set our nation free from the lies that have enveloped our governmental process, the lies that are trapping us still in a war in Iraq, the lies that could take us into a war against Iran.

This is about the truth.

QUESTION: Congressman, it’s been said by some pundits that you’re just introducing these articles to gain publicity for your presidential campaign.

What do you make of those allegations? And do you think this is going to help you out in your race for the presidency?

KUCINICH: These articles are about the conduct of the vice president of the United States, that he deceived the people of the United States to take this country into a war, that he continues to exhibit a pattern of conduct that could take this country into another war based on false pretenses. That’s what this is about.

KUCINICH: And I believe that the people of this country are demanding that someone stand up and anyone has been free to do this. Anyone in the House of Representatives could take similar action if they so choose, or could take action against the vice president or the president.

QUESTION: Pelosi says it’s not going anywhere.


KUCINICH: Have you talked to her today?

QUESTION: Yes, I did.

KUCINICH: Then I would say I have not talked to her. And as much as I admire the speaker, as much as I voted to support her, I feel that it’s my obligation as a member of Congress to introduce these articles of impeachment. And I believe the American people will be the final arbiters as to whether or not these articles should go forward.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, when you say the vice president led us into war, wouldn’t that be President Bush? Isn’t Cheney working for Bush? (inaudible)

KUCINICH: Well, let’s go into Article I. “Mr. Cheney: ‘We know they have biological and chemical weapons.'” Said this in a press conference on March 17th, 2002. “We know they’re pursuing nuclear weapons.” He said this in a press briefing on March 19th, 2002. “He is pursuing, activity pursuing nuclear weapons at this time.” He said this on “CNN Late Edition,” March 24th. “We know he’s got chemical and biological, and we know he’s working on nuclear.”

“Meet the Press,” May 19th: “But we know Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.” “There is no doubt he’s amassing them against our friends, against our allies and against us.” August 26th, 2002.

On and on and on. “He has in fact activity and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.” September 8th, 2002, “Meet the Press.”

“He has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons.” March 16th, “Meet the Press.”

This vice president was a driving force in trying to create the circumstances to justify the United States’s attack against Iran. And he not only deceived the people of the United States, and the Congress of the United States, he deceived the American media.

KUCINICH: And so these articles are tightly focused on the conduct of the vice president. And to the extent that they may reflect in some way on the conduct of the president of the United States, is another matter for another day.


KUCINICH: I think the record is very clear, that this vice president used his conduct of office to promote a war and Article I and Article II are very clear that he conducted himself in such a way as to use the power of his office to promote that war.

And so this relates to the vice president. And I think I answered the question earlier about why the vice president and not the president.

Anyone else? I want to thank you very much for being here.

QUESTION: Do you have anyone you would identify as a replacement? If Vice President Cheney were impeached, it would have to be voted on the House and the Senate for confirmation.

KUCINICH: That would be up to President Bush.

Thank you.

Rice rebuffs US Congress subpoena
The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she is unwilling to answer a US House of Representatives subpoena about Iraq’s pre-war weapons.
A House committee wants to question Ms Rice about a White House assertion that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger to build nuclear weapons.
The White House claim, now discredited, formed part of the US justification for invading Iraq in 2003.
Ms Rice said supplying written answers was the best way to pursue the issue.
She said that as President George W Bush’s national security adviser at the time, she was shielded by the constitutional principle of executive privilege.
“There is a separation of powers, and advisers to the president are, under that constitutional principle, not generally required to go and testify in Congress,” she told reporters in Oslo, Norway, during a meeting of Nato foreign ministers.
‘Brick wall’
She said her staff had already written three letters in the last month to Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman, chair of the House Oversight Committee about the matter.
“If there are further questions that Congressman Waxman has, then I am more that happy to answer them again in a letter, because I think that that is the best way to continue this dialogue,” Ms Rice said.
On Wednesday night, Mr Waxman said Ms Rice had left his committee with “no choice but to proceed with the subpoena”.
“We have hit a brick wall with the secretary of state,” he said as the Democratic-led committee voted 21-10 to issue a subpoena to compel Ms Rice to testify.
“She will not propose a date to testify, she will not agree to testify, and she insists that our committee be satisfied with partial information that was previously submitted to other committees.”
CIA leak
He said Ms Rice’s position as top security adviser to the president before the invasion of Iraq gave her unique insight as to why the White House had put forth its claim that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was buying uranium from Niger.
The CIA sent former diplomat Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate the claim, which he said was unfounded.
His wife, Valerie Plame, was later identified as a CIA employee.
The Department of Justice launched an investigation into who had leaked her CIA connection.
Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a top aide to Vice-President Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the aftermath of the leak.

Less than 25% of Muslims blame al-Qaeda for 9/11 attacks
Big News
Thursday April 26, 2007
An in-depth poll of four major Muslim countries has found that in all of them large majorities believe that undermining Islam is a key goal of US foreign policy.
Most want US military forces out of the Middle East and many approve of attacks on US troops there.
Most respondents have mixed feelings about al Qaeda. Large majorities agree with many of its goals, but believe that terrorist attacks on civilians are contrary to Islam.
There is strong support for enhancing the role of Islam in all of the countries polled, through such measures as the imposition of sharia (Islamic law). This does not mean that they want to isolate their societies from outside influences: Most view globalization positively and favor democracy and freedom of religion.
These findings are from surveys in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and Indonesia conducted from December 2006 to February, 2007 by with support from the START Consortium at the University of Maryland.
Large majorities across all four countries believe the United States seeks to, “weaken and divide the Islamic world.” On average 79 percent say they perceive this as a US goal, ranging from 73 percent in Indonesia and Pakistan to 92 percent in Egypt. Equally large numbers perceive that the United States is trying to maintain “control over the oil resources of the Middle East” (average 79%). Strong majorities (average 64%) even believe it is a US goal to “spread Christianity in the region.”
“While US leaders may frame the conflict as a war on terrorism, people in the Islamic world clearly perceive the US as being at war with Islam,” said Steven Kull, editor of
Consistent with this concern, large majorities in all countries (average 74%) support the goal of getting the United States to “remove its bases and military forces from all Islamic countries,” ranging from 64 percent in Indonesia to 92 percent in Egypt.
Substantial numbers also favor attacks on US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the Persian Gulf. Across the four countries polled approximately half support such attacks in each location, while three in ten are opposed. But there is substantial variation between countries: Support is strongest in Egypt, where at least eight in ten approve of attacking US troops in the region. A majority of Moroccans also support targeting US forces, whether stationed in the Persian Gulf (52%) or fighting in Iraq (68%). Pakistanis are divided about attacks on the American military, many do not answer or express mixed feelings, while Indonesians oppose them.
However, respondents roundly reject attacks on civilians. Asked about politically-motivated attacks on civilians, such as bombings or assassinations, majorities in all countries—usually overwhelming majorities—take the strongest position offered by saying such violence cannot be justified at all. More than three out of four Indonesians (84%), Pakistanis (81%), and Egyptians (77%) take this position, as well as 57 percent of Moroccans (an additional 19 percent of Moroccans say such attacks can only be “weakly justified”).
Attitudes toward al-Qaeda are complex. On average, only three in ten view Osama bin Laden positively. Many respondents express mixed feelings about bin Laden and his followers and many others declined to answer.
There is strong disapproval of attacks by “groups that use violence against civilians, such as al-Qaeda.” Large majorities in Egypt (88%), Indonesia (65%) and Morocco (66%) agree that such groups “are violating the principles of Islam.” Pakistanis are divided, however, with many not answering.
But there is also uncertainty about whether al-Qaeda actually conducts such attacks. On average less than one in four believes al-Qaeda was responsible for September 11th attacks. Pakistanis are the most skeptical, only 3 percent think al-Qaeda did it. There is no consensus about who is responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington; the most common answer is “don’t know.”
Most significantly, large majorities approve of many of al-Qaeda’s principal goals. Large majorities in all countries (average 70 percent or higher) support such goals as: “stand up to Americans and affirm the dignity of the Islamic people,” “push the US to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries,” and “pressure the United States to not favor Israel.”
Equally large majorities agree with goals that involve expanding the role of Islam in their society. On average, about three out of four agree with seeking to “require Islamic countries to impose a strict application of sharia,” and to “keep Western values out of Islamic countries.” Two-thirds would even like to “unify all Islamic counties into a single Islamic state or caliphate.”
But this does not appear to mean that the publics in these Muslim countries want to isolate themselves from the larger world. Asked how they feel about “the world becoming more connected through greater economic trade and faster communication,” majorities in all countries say it is a good thing (average 75%). While wary of Western values, overall 67 percent agree that “a democratic political system” is a good way to govern their country and 82 percent agree that in their country “people of any religion should be free to worship according to their own beliefs.”

Clinton: US might have to confront Iran
Jerusalem Post
Thursday April 26, 2007
Democratic presidential candidate and New York Senator Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that it might be necessary for America to confront Iran militarily, addressing that possibility more directly than any of the other presidential candidates who spoke this week to the National Jewish Democratic Council.
Clinton first said that the US should be engaging directly with Iran to foil any effort to gain nuclear weapons and faulted the Bush administration for “considerably narrowing” the options available to America in countering Iran.
Iran: We’ll strike Israel and US targets if attacked
Olmert hopes for peaceful solution to Iran row
Air Force squadron 120 training for Iran
Still, she said, all avenues should be explored, since “if we do have to take offensive military action against Iran, it would be far better if the rest of the world saw it as a position of last resort, not first resort, because the effect and consequences will be global.”
Other candidates who addressed the NJDC only went as far as saying that “no option should be taken off the table” when it came to thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. All of the major Democratic presidential contenders appeared at the three-day conference, but Clinton received the most time and applause. She hit on the importance of the US-Israel relationship and the need to recover the three Israeli soldiers kidnapped last summer by Hamas and Hizbullah, but she devoted most of her address to domestic issues popular with Jewish Democrats, such as education, healthcare and the separation of church and state.
She also told the crowd in response to an audience question that her husband would serve as an international envoy to rebuild goodwill for Americans around the world if she were elected.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who spoke after Clinton, also suggested that he would use a famous former statesman as an envoy in his administration. In Richardson’s case, he was proposing former secretary of state James Baker to serve as a permanent Middle East envoy, a position Richardson would revive should he win the presidency. Baker is a Republican who served under former president George H. W. Bush.
“There has to be bipartisanship in our foreign policy,” Richardson told the press.
He also said economic and military aid to Israel should be increased, and that “the cornerstone of my foreign policy in the Middle East would be a strong relationship with Israel.”

The Lies of the Times: NYT Pushes Bush Line on Somalia
Chris Floyd
Thursday April 26, 2007
The New York Times has finally deigned to bestow prominent notice on the Bush Administration’s third on-going “regime change” operation, its blood-soaked proxy war in Somalia. But it should come as no surprise that today’s front page piece by Jeffrey Gettleman (People Who Feed Off Anarchy in Somalia Are Quick to Fuel It) is riddled with the same kind of slavish spin, artful omissions and outright lies that the paper produced in those glorious Judy Miller days of yore before the invasion of Iraq. One can only hope that Gettleman submits an invoice to the White House, to get his rightful due for this remarkable piece of government propaganda. For the story is permeated with the Bushist ethos: blame the victims, bury the truth, and smear all those who oppose the Leader’s will.
The theme of Gettleman’s piece is that resistance to the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is being led by a bunch of greedy gangsters grown fat on the anarchy that has plagued the land for more than 15 years. What’s more, this chaotic gangsterism is evidently a national trait of Somalis, who are possessed of a “raw antigovernment defiance” that is solely responsible for the collapse of the nation, and is making it hard even for the entirely benevolent Bush Administration to do anything for them. For as Gettleman ominously notes, “many Somalis…will never go along with any program.” Obviously then, the only way to tame these savages is by brute force – such as the artillery and tank fire that the Ethiopian invaders and their native warlord allies are raining down on residential areas in Mogadishu even as we speak, killing at least 350 people in the last week – and 29 civilians just yesterday, as the BBC reports, but which Gettleman politely declines to mention in his piece.
This is classic Establishment thinking here: the reduction of complex human societies to a few unruly character traits, supposedly unique and endemic faults that the poor creatures can’t control but which pose a danger to civilization, thus justifying massive military action to bring them to heel – for their own good, of course. Gettleman is stalwart in this regard. He ignores the direct and quite open American military involvement in the invasion: the U.S. training, arming and funding of the Ethiopian military, the deployment of U.S. Special Forces in the invasion, the airstrikes launched by U.S. planes on fleeing refugees, and the role of U.S. intelligence agents in arresting and “rendering” Somali refugees to the torture chambers of the Ethiopian dictatorship – all of which has been thoroughly documented by reputable mainstream newspapers in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Aside from one passing reference, in the 27th paragraph, of “covert American help” in the invasion, the only other mention he makes of any American involvement in Somalia is the Bush Administration’s “pledge of $100 million to rebuild the country.” Just another noble mission, in other words, another act of purest altruism from the “shining city on the hill.”
Of course, there are greedy gangsters in Somalia – just as there are in every single human society on earth. (Even the “shining city” itself is not noticeably lacking in this regard.) So it’s not very hard for Gettleman – or rather, the local stringers he employs in Mogadishu – to dig up some nefarious figures to illustrate his chosen theme.
Take Maxamuud Nuur Muradeeste, for example, “a squatter landlord who makes a few hundred dollars a year renting out rooms in the former Ministry of Minerals and Water.” Muradeeste says he would allow “insurgents” (i.e., those resisting the armed conquest of their nation by foreign invaders) to store guns at his place. Obviously a prime candidate for a set of Gitmo pajamas.
Or what about the equally sinister Omar Hussein Ahmed, a Mogadishu olive oil exporter? In addition to sharing a name with anti-Bush terrorists like Saddam and Obama, Ahmed “and a group of fellow traders recently bought missiles to shoot at government soldiers.” And why would they do this? “‘Taxes are annoying,’ he explained.”
And then there’s…well, that’s it. These are the people who Gettleman says are “fueling” the insurgency because the Ethiopian-installed government “poses the biggest threat yet to the gravy days of anarchy.” A gangster who makes “a few hundred dollars a year” renting rooms in a long-abandoned government building. (Perhaps Gettleman could ask Dick Cheney’s employers at Halliburton if they would consider a few hundred dollars of revenue a year to be “gravy.”) And an olive oil producer who doesn’t want to pay taxes. (Actually, Gettleman’s first capsule description of Somalia’s gangsters sounds exactly like Bush’s corporate cronies: “They do not pay taxes, their businesses are totally unregulated, and they have skills that are not necessarily geared toward a peaceful society.” So what’s not to like about these guys?)
But this would not be a classic NYT piece if its nakedly ideological framework was not subverted by the nuggets of fact buried deep beneath the sludge-like prose. And so it proves in this case. Although olive oil trader Ahmed first appears as a missile-toting gangster who just doesn’t want to pay taxes – one of the “many Somalis” whose “raw antigovernment defiance” compels them to “resist any program” or government – far, far down in the story we learn that he and his fellow traders had actually accepted the imposed new government at first, but were driven into opposition by the Bush-backed warlords’ own greed:
For many Abgal [tribal members], an influential subclan of the Hawiye, the last straw came in mid-March when the government raised port taxes by 300 percent. Mr. Ahmed, the olive oil exporter and an Abgal, said that after that, there was a mass Abgal defection to the insurgency. “The government is trying to destroy business as we know it,” he said.
The new “government” is led by clan leaders and warlords whose power and profits had been curtailed by the Islamic Courts government that took power in Somalia last year and brought the nation its first measure of peace and relative security in 15 years. So when they sought to recoup their losses with draconian tax hikes, many Somalis went into rebellion, including the “gangster” Ahmed. This is presented as some kind of wild, anarchic, even terroristic action. But what would good ole God-fearin’ American businessmen do if Washington suddenly raised their taxes by 300 percent?
And Gettleman’s own portrayal of the deposed Islamic Courts system gives the lie to his earlier depiction of Somalis’ inborn anarchy and gangsterism:
Many in the business community became fed up with paying protection fees to the warlords and their countless middle-men. Business leaders then backed a grass-roots Islamist movement that drove the warlords out of Mogadishu last summer and brought peace to the city for the first time in 15 years. The Islamists seemed to be the perfect solution for the businessmen. They delivered stability, which was good for most business, but they did not confiscate property or levy heavy taxes. They called themselves an administration, not a government. “Our best days were under them,” said Abdi Ali Jama, who owns an electrical supply shop in Mogadishu.
So it seems that Somalis – even Somali businessmen – can be governed, as long as people are treated fairly. It seems that stability and peace can be achieved in Somalia – if it rises from the grass roots and is not imposed by foreign fighters shelling neighborhoods and American bombers attacking refugees. But you can only discern this by looking at Gettleman’s piece upside down, and discarding the heavy scaffolding of spin he has erected around it.
And now we come to the heart of darkness in Gettleman’s story. For it is not enough for him, and the “Western security officials” who are his sources, simply to lampoon Somalis as a bunch of shiftless, lazy, quarrelsome darkies in the traditional Establishment fashion. No, Gettleman goes beyond this to concoct a completely false account of how this new front in Bush’s “War on Terror” was launched. Here, he invokes the eternal cry of every aggressor from time out of mind: “They made us do it.” It’s what Hitler said when he invaded Poland. It’s what Saddam said when he invaded Kuwait. It’s what Bush said when he invaded Iraq. And it’s obviously the Bushist party line now:
But then a radical wing took over, and the Islamists declared war on Ethiopia, which commands one of the mightiest armies in Africa. The Ethiopians, with covert American help, crushed the Islamist army in December and bolstered the authority of Somalia’s transitional government in the capital.
“The Islamists declared war on Ethiopia.” This, of course, is a blatant and outright lie. (Although perhaps Gettleman, taking dictation from his “Western security officials” – and apparently unable to access, say, the BBC on his computer – doesn’t actually know the truth. In any case, he obviously can’t be bothered to find out.) The truth is that Ethiopia sent a 100-strong column of trucks and armored cars across the border into Somalia on July 20 of last year to bolster the Bush-backed warlords who were trying to overthrow the Islamist Courts government, which had taken over Mogadishu a month before. It was the day after this armed incursion into Somalian territory that the Islamist Courts declared a jihad “against Ethiopians in Somalia,” not a “war against Ethiopia.”
Let’s walk through that sequence of events once again: Ethiopia makes an armed incursion into Somalia. The Somalian government declares that the Ethiopian troops should be driven out of Somalia. (Yes, I know that if Mexico sent an armed column into Texas to join up with a Chinese-backed group trying to overthrow the government of the United States, George W. Bush would react with Zen-like calm and seek a peaceful solution through diplomacy, negotiation and compromise, and that’s what the Islamic Courts guys should have done in this case. But you can’t expect such heathenish savages to respond with the enlightenment and good will that has always marked conflict resolution among the Christian nations of the West.)
Somehow from this sequence Gettleman manages to convey to readers exactly what the Bush Administration wants them to think: the Muslim terrorists started it, and now they’re getting what’s coming to them. And if you see any pictures on CNN or somewhere of innocent people being killed in the crossfire, well, that’s just because a bunch of greedy gangsters and al Qaeders are causing trouble.
And this is the “news” about Somalia that the New York Times believes is “fit to print”: lies and spin about yet another war of aggression being fought at America’s behest, with American money, troops, arms and bombs.

Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons
Correction Appended
BELTSVILLE, Md., April 23 — What is happening to the bees?
More than a quarter of the country’s 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost — tens of billions of bees, according to an estimate from the Apiary Inspectors of America, a national group that tracks beekeeping. So far, no one can say what is causing the bees to become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.
As with any great mystery, a number of theories have been posed, and many seem to researchers to be more science fiction than science. People have blamed genetically modified crops, cellular phone towers and high-voltage transmission lines for the disappearances. Or was it a secret plot by Russia or Osama bin Laden to bring down American agriculture? Or, as some blogs have asserted, the rapture of the bees, in which God recalled them to heaven? Researchers have heard it all.
The volume of theories “is totally mind-boggling,” said Diana Cox-Foster, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University. With Jeffrey S. Pettis, an entomologist from the United States Department of Agriculture, Dr. Cox-Foster is leading a team of researchers who are trying to find answers to explain “colony collapse disorder,” the name given for the disappearing bee syndrome.
“Clearly there is an urgency to solve this,” Dr. Cox-Foster said. “We are trying to move as quickly as we can.”
Dr. Cox-Foster and fellow scientists who are here at a two-day meeting to discuss early findings and future plans with government officials have been focusing on the most likely suspects: a virus, a fungus or a pesticide.
About 60 researchers from North America sifted the possibilities at the meeting today. Some expressed concern about the speed at which adult bees are disappearing from their hives; some colonies have collapsed in as little as two days. Others noted that countries in Europe, as well as Guatemala and parts of Brazil, are also struggling for answers.
“There are losses around the world that may or not be linked,” Dr. Pettis said.
The investigation is now entering a critical phase. The researchers have collected samples in several states and have begun doing bee autopsies and genetic analysis.
So far, known enemies of the bee world, like the varroa mite, on their own at least, do not appear to be responsible for the unusually high losses.
Genetic testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple micro-organisms in bees from hives or colonies that are in decline, suggesting that something is weakening their immune system. The researchers have found some fungi in the affected bees that are found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or cancer.
“That is extremely unusual,” Dr. Cox-Foster said.
Meanwhile, samples were sent to an Agriculture Department laboratory in North Carolina this month to screen for 117 chemicals. Particular suspicion falls on a pesticide that France banned out of concern that it may have been decimating bee colonies. Concern has also mounted among public officials.
“There are so many of our crops that require pollinators,” said Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat whose district includes that state’s central agricultural valley, and who presided last month at a Congressional hearing on the bee issue. “We need an urgent call to arms to try to ascertain what is really going on here with the bees, and bring as much science as we possibly can to bear on the problem.”
So far, colony collapse disorder has been found in 27 states, according to Bee Alert Technology Inc., a company monitoring the problem. A recent survey of 13 states by the Apiary Inspectors of America showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March.
Honeybees are arguably the insects that are most important to the human food chain. They are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts. The number of bee colonies has been declining since the 1940s, even as the crops that rely on them, such as California almonds, have grown. In October, at about the time that beekeepers were experiencing huge bee losses, a study by the National Academy of Sciences questioned whether American agriculture was relying too heavily on one type of pollinator, the honeybee.
Bee colonies have been under stress in recent years as more beekeepers have resorted to crisscrossing the country with 18-wheel trucks full of bees in search of pollination work. These bees may suffer from a diet that includes artificial supplements, concoctions akin to energy drinks and power bars. In several states, suburban sprawl has limited the bees’ natural forage areas.
So far, the researchers have discounted the possibility that poor diet alone could be responsible for the widespread losses. They have also set aside for now the possibility that the cause could be bees feeding from a commonly used genetically modified crop, Bt corn, because the symptoms typically associated with toxins, such as blood poisoning, are not showing up in the affected bees. But researchers emphasized today that feeding supplements produced from genetically modified crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup, need to be studied.
The scientists say that definitive answers for the colony collapses could be months away. But recent advances in biology and genetic sequencing are speeding the search.
Computers can decipher information from DNA and match pieces of genetic code with particular organisms. Luckily, a project to sequence some 11,000 genes of the honeybee was completed late last year at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, giving scientists a huge head start on identifying any unknown pathogens in the bee tissue.
“Otherwise, we would be looking for the needle in the haystack,” Dr. Cox-Foster said.
Large bee losses are not unheard of. They have been reported at several points in the past century. But researchers think they are dealing with something new — or at least with something previously unidentified.
“There could be a number of factors that are weakening the bees or speeding up things that shorten their lives,” said Dr. W. Steve Sheppard, a professor of entomology at Washington State University. “The answer may already be with us.”
Scientists first learned of the bee disappearances in November, when David Hackenberg, a Pennsylvania beekeeper, told Dr. Cox-Foster that more than 50 percent of his bee colonies had collapsed in Florida, where he had taken them for the winter.
Dr. Cox-Foster, a 20-year veteran of studying bees, soon teamed with Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the Pennsylvania apiary inspector, to look into the losses.
In December, she approached W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at Columbia University, about doing genetic sequencing of tissue from bees in the colonies that experienced losses. The laboratory uses a recently developed technique for reading and amplifying short sequences of DNA that has revolutionized the science. Dr. Lipkin, who typically works on human diseases, agreed to do the analysis, despite not knowing who would ultimately pay for it. His laboratory is known for its work in finding the West Nile disease in the United States.
Dr. Cox-Foster ultimately sent samples of bee tissue to researchers at Columbia, to the Agriculture Department laboratory in Maryland, and to Gene Robinson, an entomologist at the University of Illinois. Fortuitously, she had frozen bee samples from healthy colonies dating to 2004 to use for comparison.
After receiving the first bee samples from Dr. Cox-Foster on March 6, Dr. Lipkin’s team amplified the genetic material and started sequencing to separate virus, fungus and parasite DNA from bee DNA.
“This is like C.S.I. for agriculture,” Dr. Lipkin said. “It is painstaking, gumshoe detective work.”
Dr. Lipkin sent his first set of results to Dr. Cox-Foster, showing that several unknown micro-organisms were present in the bees from collapsing colonies. Meanwhile, Mr. vanEngelsdorp and researchers at the Agriculture Department lab here began an autopsy of bees from collapsing colonies in California, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania to search for any known bee pathogens.
At the University of Illinois, using knowledge gained from the sequencing of the bee genome, Dr. Robinson’s team will try to find which genes in the collapsing colonies are particularly active, perhaps indicating stress from exposure to a toxin or pathogen.
The national research team also quietly began a parallel study in January, financed in part by the National Honey Board, to further determine if something pathogenic could be causing colonies to collapse.
Mr. Hackenberg, the beekeeper, agreed to take his empty bee boxes and other equipment to Food Technology Service, a company in Mulberry, Fla., that uses gamma rays to kill bacteria on medical equipment and some fruits. In early results, the irradiated bee boxes seem to have shown a return to health for colonies repopulated with Australian bees.
“This supports the idea that there is a pathogen there,” Dr. Cox-Foster said. “It would be hard to explain the irradiation getting rid of a chemical.”
Still, some environmental substances remain suspicious.
Chris Mullin, a Pennsylvania State University professor and insect toxicologist, recently sent a set of samples to a federal laboratory in Raleigh, N.C., that will screen for 117 chemicals. Of greatest interest are the “systemic” chemicals that are able to pass through a plant’s circulatory system and move to the new leaves or the flowers, where they would come in contact with bees.
One such group of compounds is called neonicotinoids, commonly used pesticides that are used to treat corn and other seeds against pests. One of the neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, is commonly used in Europe and the United States to treat seeds, to protect residential foundations against termites and to help keep golf courses and home lawns green.
In the late 1990s, French beekeepers reported large losses of their bees and complained about the use of imidacloprid, sold under the brand name Gaucho. The chemical, while not killing the bees outright, was causing them to be disoriented and stay away from their hives, leading them to die of exposure to the cold, French researchers later found. The beekeepers labeled the syndrome “mad bee disease.”
The French government banned the pesticide in 1999 for use on sunflowers, and later for corn, despite protests by the German chemical giant Bayer, which has said its internal research showed the pesticide was not toxic to bees. Subsequent studies by independent French researchers have disagreed with Bayer. Alison Chalmers, an eco-toxicologist for Bayer CropScience, said at the meeting today that bee colonies had not recovered in France as beekeepers had expected. “These chemicals are not being used anymore,” she said of imidacloprid, “so they certainly were not the only cause.”
Among the pesticides being tested in the American bee investigation, the neonicotinoids group “is the number-one suspect,” Dr. Mullin said. He hoped results of the toxicology screening will be ready within a month.
Correction: April 26, 2007
An article in Science Times on Tuesday about efforts to solve the mystery of collapsing honeybee populations misstated the institution where a project to sequence honeybee genes was completed late last year. It is Baylor College of Medicine, not Baylor University. (The two became separate institutions in 1969.) And a map with the article, showing the extent of the problem in the United States, reversed the labels for Kansas and Nebraska, two states where collapsing populations have not been reported.
Flexing Muscles, Democrats Issue 3 Subpoenas
WASHINGTON, April 25 — In a vivid display of their new power, Democrats across Capitol Hill on Wednesday approved a flurry of subpoenas to fuel a series of investigations of the Bush administration.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued three subpoenas in quick order. One was to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to answer questions about the administration’s prewar claims about Iraq’s weapons programs and two were to the Republican National Committee and its chairman to be questioned about whether the party’s e-mail system was used by Bush officials to conceal some of their actions.
The Senate Judiciary Committee authorized but did not issue a subpoena for Sara Taylor, the deputy to Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser. The committee wants to question Ms. Taylor about the White House role in the dismissal of eight United States attorneys.
And, in what could be a significant development in the investigation of the dismissals, the House Judiciary Committee moved toward granting a form of immunity from prosecution to Monica Goodling, a senior aide to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales until her recent resignation. Ms. Goodling, who was deeply involved in the dismissals, has invoked her Fifth Amendment rights to decline to give testimony that might be self-incriminating.
But a grant of immunity could allow the committee to force Ms. Goodling to answer questions about just how involved the White House, and particularly its political office, was in choosing which prosecutors should be dismissed and whether the decisions were based primarily on a desire to help Republican causes or on performance shortcomings of the prosecutors, as Justice Department officials have said.
As the House Oversight Committee voted along party lines to approve the subpoenas, the atmosphere in the room was rich with themes of retribution and settling scores.
Republicans said the Democrats were using their new majority to support “fishing expeditions” and “witch hunts” solely to embarrass President Bush.
Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, the committee’s ranking Republican, said the subpoenas were “an effort to get high-profile administration figures under oath, before the cameras, for the sake of political theatrics.”
Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, the recently installed committee chairman, savored his new status as he turned aside Republican efforts to quash the subpoenas or limit them. Reflecting on the years when Republicans controlled the oversight committee during Bill Clinton’s presidency, Mr. Waxman said more than 1,000 subpoenas were issued to the executive branch.
“When President Bush took office, I saw the other extreme,” he said.
The Republicans who controlled the committee issued only four subpoenas in six years to executive agencies, Mr. Waxman said, none directly to the Bush White House.
The ability to investigate is part of Congress’s authority to conduct oversight of the executive branch, separate from its better-known function of enacting legislation
In joining the battle Wednesday, Mr. Waxman received committee approval to subpoena both the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Robert M. Duncan.
The subpoenas are intended to explore the R.N.C. e-mail accounts used by at least 37 White House employees and find out if agencies other than the General Services Administration received improper political briefings from the White House. On Jan. 26, a senior aide to Mr. Rove briefed G.S.A. employees about which Democratic members of Congress the Republican Party hoped to unseat in 2008.
Blair Jones, a White House spokesman, said Wednesday night that White House officials provided 20 briefings about Republican electoral prospects for senior officials in various agencies in 2006 and 2007. He said the briefings, first reported by The Washington Post in its Thursday editions, were given by members of the political affairs staff including Sara Taylor and Scott Jennings.
“It’s entirely appropriate for the president’s staff to provide briefings to appointed officials throughout the government about the political landscape in which they implement the president’s policies and priorities,” Mr. Jones said.Republicans tried to amend the motion seeking the subpoena to include records from the Democratic National Committee. In arguing that case, Mr. Davis suggested that the sauce appropriate for a goose could also be used with a gander.
He also objected to seeking testimony from Ms. Rice, saying that in previous Congressional appearances she had answered all possible questions about prewar intelligence.
Tony Fratto, the deputy White House press secretary, responded more caustically. He said Ms. Rice could not testify about her advice to the president while she was his national security adviser.
“Beyond that, there may be no more singularly analyzed and exhaustively studied and testified issue than the one Chairman Waxman wants to dredge up again,” Mr. Fratto said.
When Ms. Rice arrived in Oslo, Norway, on Wednesday for a meeting with NATO ministers, she declined to comment on the subpoena.
Ms. Goodling’s testimony about the dismissal of the United States attorneys could be revealing because of her regular interaction with the White House, which has rebuffed requests by Congressional investigators to turn over documents or make available White House officials for sworn interviews.
Representative John Conyers Jr., the Michigan Democrat who leads the Judiciary Committee, said of Ms. Goodling on Wednesday before the committee’s action, “She was apparently involved in crucial discussions over a two-year period with senior White House aides and with other senior Justice officials in which the termination list was developed, refined and finalized.”
Committee officials said it would be at least a month before Ms. Goodling testified, because the Justice Department would have a chance to respond to the request.
In San Diego and Arizona, corruption investigations created peril for Republicans, and in Seattle and New Mexico, some Republican leaders argued that local prosecutors were not taking action on voter fraud.
Suspicion intensified this week that politics might have played a role in the ouster of the former United States attorney in Phoenix, Paul K. Charlton. News reports have said that the Justice Department may have held up an investigation of Representative Rick Renzi, Republican of Arizona, who is facing accusations that he used his influence as a congressman to engineer a land swap benefiting a business associate.
Lawyers close to the case, confirming an article that appeared Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, said the department had been slow to approve search warrants or other crucial steps in the investigation, which had started in 2005.
“I don’t have sufficient knowledge to venture a judgment on the question of whether it is related to politics,” said Fred Petti, an Arizona lawyer and former federal prosecutor involved in the case. “But I have been surprised at how slowly the matter has progressed.”
In response to the reports, Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, denied any impropriety.
“The Department of Justice under Attorney General Gonzales has never interfered with or attempted to influence a criminal prosecution, including a public corruption case, for partisan political reasons,” Mr. Roehrkasse said.
Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting from New York.

‘Al Qaeda’: A Figment Of The Fear- And War-Mongering Propagandists’ Imagination
Damian Lataan
Wednesday April 25, 2007
Yesterday the Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his band of fearmongering lunatics warned Australians gathering at Gallipoli for ANZAC Day to be aware of a ‘terrorist threat’. In the UK Guardian today it is reported that the ‘head of Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism command said yesterday that al-Qaida had survived the six-year long “war on terror” launched by President George Bush and Tony Blair, and its central leadership had retained the ability to order devastating attacks on Britain.’ As well as Gallipoli that is. And in Iraq, where it seems the Iraqi franchise of ‘al Qaeda’ has claimed responsibility for the deaths yesterday of nine US troops.

So good is the ‘al Qaeda’ franchise business that even the Israelis have tried to set up an ‘al Qaeda’ shop in Palestine. Unfortunately the locals soon discovered that the business wasn’t genuine (apparently Mossad hadn’t paid bin Laden the franchise fee) so the business was quickly shut down.

Of course al Qaeda exists, or at least existed, (indeed, it was set up with the assistance of the CIA as part of their covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over there) but it doesn’t exist in the way that the western neocon-dominated press would have us believe. Despite the continued references to ‘al Qaeda’ everyday as we are told that they are responsible for every conceivable atrocity that occurs on our planet, there has not been any evidence whatsoever that ‘al Qaeda’ per se has ever been responsible for anything beyond the borders of Afghanistan and the remoter parts of Pakistan.

The western propagandists have presented to the world a picture of an ‘al Qaeda’ as being a massive and extremely well disciplined international organisation that has branches everywhere. Yet nowhere is there any prima facie evidence to suggest that they even exist, let alone in such an organised and disciplined way. As the piece in today’s UK Guardian demonstrates, we are expected to simply believe what we are told with the total lack of evidence being conveniently explained away as; ‘for security reasons we can’t divulge the source’.

In Iraq the US and their allies are currently busy trying to wedge the Sunni and Shi’ite factions by blaming ‘al Qaeda’ for the friction between the two groupings. This is nothing new; they’ve tried it before, but now they are putting more effort into their blame game because they see it as away of polarising the rest of Islam in the Middle East and beyond thus diverting attention away from the Israelis and their efforts to subdue Palestine, Hamas and Hizbollah but, at the same time, demonising further an Iran that has a predominately Shiite population (as against the rest of the Islamic world which is around 80% Sunni).

The problem for the US, Israel, and their western allies, is that all this propaganda is for consumption in the west only. The Middle Eastern peoples, Sunni or Shia, are very much aware that their relationships with each other are quite secure and have been for decades. For them the myth of ‘al Qaeda’ remains just that – a myth, and that the struggles that exist between various Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq are mainly a combination of political and criminal secular differences in a post-Saddam lawless era and that such violence, as bloody as it often is, is contained within Iraq and has nothing to do with the battles that Islamic peoples and Arabs generally are fighting against Israeli right-wing Zionism in Palestine and US hegemonic colonialism in the Middle East and Central Asia.
‘Al Qaeda’ remains, as it has since the US decided that they were to blame for the events of 9/11, a myth that exists solely to perpetuate fear and the illusion that there is always an enemy to justify the continued ‘Global War on Terrorism’.

Iran is a strong nation with a powerful army and any military aggression on the country will be definitely responded severely, Army Commander Ahmad Mahmoudzadeh said on Thursday.

“Iran’s army power is known to its enemies,” he added, noting, “Their threats will not have any influence on Iranians.”
“Problems emerged when the US and our enemies started intervening in domestic matters of the Islamic Republic,” he said, adding, “Our reactions indicated that the country’s power is far beyond their imagination.”
Iran has gone through numerous vicissitudes during the past 28 years after the victory of the Islamic Revolution and has always thwarted the plots of its enemies, he added.
He also said that previous experience proves the Tabas incident will never recur.
“In the Tabas attack, which occurred in 1983, Iran’s air space was violated by the US choppers in an effort to topple down the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he continued.
He said armed forces of Iran possess the state-of-the-art military techniques and tactics as well as weapons, which have made Iran a superpower in military defense.
“Military power of the country is increasing and improving every day, and we are capable of defending our country against any air, land or water invasion,” he concluded.
In April 1983, the United States attempted to secretly land aircraft and troops near Tabas, along the Dasht-e Kavir desert in eastern Iran.
Two helicopters on the mission failed, however, and when the mission commander decided to abort the mission, a helicopter and a C-130 transport aircraft collided, killing eight of the United States servicemen.

Spanish Judge Indicts 3 U.S. Soldiers

Associated Press Writer

April 27, 2007, 9:12 AM EDT

MADRID, Spain — A judge indicted three U.S. soldiers Friday in the 2003 death of a Spanish journalist who was killed when their tank opened fire at a hotel in Baghdad.

Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp were charged with homicide in the death of Jose Couso and “a crime against the international community.” This is defined under Spanish law as an indiscriminate or excessive attack against civilians during war.

At the time of the incident, all were from the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga. Judge Santiago Pedraz asked U.S. authorities to notify them of the indictment.

Couso, who worked as a cameraman for the Spanish TV network Telecinco, died on April 8, 2003, after a U.S. Army tank crew fired a shell at the Palestine Hotel, where many journalists were staying. Taras Portsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters, was also killed.

Following the incident, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said the troops responded after drawing hostile fire from the hotel. He said a U.S. review of the incident found the use of force was justified.

According to the five-page indictment, de Camp ordered the shot, and Wolford then authorized Gibson to carry it out.

“The people indicted knew and were aware that the Palestine Hotel was occupied by civilians, without there being a proved threat (sniper or otherwise) against themselves or the U.S troops, therefore, the tank shot that caused the death of Mr. Couso would constitute an attack, retaliation, or violence threat or act aimed at terrifying journalists,” the indictment said.

Pedraz has issued several arrest warrants against the three, but the United States has made clear it will not hand them over.

The three men still run the risk of arrest under a Spanish-issued international warrant should they travel to any country that has an extradition treaty with Spain.

Under Spanish law, a crime committed against a Spaniard abroad can be prosecuted here if it is not investigated in the country where it was allegedly committed.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.,0,4934161.story?coll=sns-ap-nationworld-headlines

Torture Probe of US Officials Rejected

Associated Press Writer

April 27, 2007, 11:03 AM EDT

BERLIN — German federal prosecutors on Friday rejected a U.S. group’s formal request to investigate allegations that current and former Bush administration officials were complicit in the torture of military prisoners.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights accused former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and eight other officials of either ordering, aiding or failing to prevent the torture.

It filed the complaint on behalf of 11 Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib and Mohamad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo Bay who has been accused of wanting to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

German law allows the prosecution of war crimes regardless of where they were committed, and permits any citizen or group to formally request a criminal investigation.

In rejecting the complaint, prosecutors said that it was up to the U.S. to hold any inquiry, adding that there were no indications U.S. authorities or courts would not conduct one.

Center for Constitutional Rights President Michael Ratner vowed to pursue an appeal in Germany or action in another country.

“If Germany is not willing to enforce their law we think other countries will be — we’re not going to leave a stone unturned,” Ratner said by telephone from New York. “I think everyone recognizes that high-level U.S. officials ran a torture program around the world.”

The prosecutor’s office gave the same reasons for declining to investigate a more limited complaint in 2005.

Attorneys leading the case had said, however, that they thought they had a better chance of success this time around, as they had documents from 2005 congressional hearings suggesting that Rumsfeld approved harsh methods when al-Qahtani would not crack under normal questioning.

After FBI agents raised concerns, the documents showed, military investigators began reviewing the case and in July 2005 said they confirmed abusive and degrading treatment that included forcing al-Qahtani to wear a bra, dance with another man, stand naked in front of women and behave like a dog. Still, the Pentagon determined that no torture had occurred.

The attorneys were also hopeful that testimony from former U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski — the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq — would bolster their case.

When the complaint was filed, Karpinski — who was relieved of her command and demoted to colonel in 2005 — told reporters in Berlin that she would testify against her superiors because only a handful of low-ranking soldiers have been convicted in the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

“People who are far more culpable and responsible have walked away blameless,” Karpinski said.

Ratner criticized German prosecutors for not interviewing Karpinski or other witnesses.

Prosecutors also dismissed the arguments that Germany should investigate the charges because U.S. flights carrying prisoners had crossed German airspace, and that some of the military personnel involved had been stationed in the country.

“The fact that some defendants were temporarily stationed at U.S. bases in the Federal Republic of Germany is not enough to bring a case,” they wrote.

Wolfgang Kaleck, the main German lawyer involved in the complaint, did not immediately return calls to his Berlin office.

The lawyers pushing for the German investigation said the case could not be brought with the International Criminal Court, because the United States is not a member, and could not be pursued through the U.N. because the U.S. has veto power.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.,0,6273571.story?coll=sns-ap-nationworld-headlines

On the US-Israeli Invasion of Lebanon
Noam Chomsky
Al-Adab, August 19, 2006
Though there are many interacting factors, the immediate issue that lies behind the latest US-Israeli invasion of Lebanon remains, I believe, what it was in the four preceding invasions: the Israel-Palestine conflict. In the most important case, the devastating US-backed 1982 Israeli invasion was openly described in Israel as a war for the West Bank, undertaken to put an end to annoying PLO calls for a diplomatic settlement (with the secondary goal of imposing a client regime in Lebanon). There are numerous other illustrations. Despite the many differences in circumstances, the July 2006 invasion falls generally into the same pattern.
Among mainstream American critics of Bush administration policies, the favored version is that “We had always approached [conflict between Israel and its neighbors] in a balanced way, assuming that we could be the catalyst for an agreement,” but Bush II regrettably abandoned that neutral stance, causing great problems for the United States (Middle East specialist and former diplomat Edward Walker, a leading moderate). The actual record is quite different: For over 30 years, Washington has unilaterally barred a peaceful political settlement, with only slight and brief deviations.
The consistent rejectionism can be traced back to the February 1971 Egyptian offer of a full peace treaty with Israel, in the terms of official US policy, offering nothing for the Palestinians. Israel understood that this peace offer would put an end to any security threat, but the government decided to reject security in favor of expansion, then mostly into northeastern Sinai. Washington supported Israel’s stand, adhering to Kissinger’s principle of “stalemate”: force, not diplomacy. It was only 8 years later, after a terrible war and great suffering, that Washington agreed to Egypt’s demand for withdrawal from its territory.
Meanwhile the Palestinian issue had entered the international agenda, and a broad international consensus had crystallized in favor of a two-state settlement on the pre-June 1967 border, perhaps with minor and mutual adjustments. In December 1975, the UN Security Council agreed to consider a resolution proposed by the Arab “confrontation states” with these provisions, also incorporating the basic wording of UN 242. The US vetoed the resolution. Israel’s reaction was to bomb Lebanon, killing over 50 people in Nabatiye, calling the attack “preventive” – presumably to “prevent” the UN session, which Israel boycotted.
The only significant exception to consistent US-Israeli rejectionism was in January 2001, when Israeli and Palestinian negotiators came close to agreement in Taba. But the negotiations were called off by Israeli Prime Minister Barak four days early, ending that promising effort. Unofficial but high-level negotiations continued, leading to the Geneva Accord of December 2002, with similar proposals. It was welcomed by most of the world, but rejected by Israel and dismissed by Washington (and, reflexively, the US media and intellectual classes).
Meanwhile US-backed Israeli settlement and infrastructure programs have been “creating facts on the ground” in order to undermine potential realization of Palestinian national rights. Throughout the Oslo years, these programs continued steadily, with a sharp peak in 2000: Clinton’s final year, and Barak’s. The current euphemism for these programs is “disengagement” from Gaza and “convergence” in the West Bank – in Western rhetoric, Ehud Olmert’s courageous program of withdrawal from the occupied territories. The reality, as usual, is quite different.
The Gaza “disengagement” was openly announced as a West Bank expansion plan. Having turned Gaza into a disaster area, sane Israeli hawks realized that there was no point leaving a few thousand settlers taking the best land and scarce resources, protected by a large part of the IDF. It made more sense to send them to the West Bank and Golan Heights, where new settlement programs were announced, while turning Gaza into “the world’s largest prison,” as Israeli human rights groups accurately call it. West Bank “Convergence” formalizes these programs of annexation, cantonization, and imprisonment. With decisive US support, Israel is annexing valuable lands and the most important resources of the West Bank (primarily water), while carrying out settlement and infrastructure projects that divide the shrinking Palestinian territories into unviable cantons, virtually separated from one another and from whatever pitiful corner of Jerusalem will be left to Palestinians. All are to be imprisoned as Israel takes over the Jordan Valley, and of course any other access to the outside world.
All of these programs are recognized to be illegal, in violation of numerous Security Council resolutions and the unanimous decision of the World Court any part of the “separation wall” that is built to “defend” the settlements is “ipso facto” illegal (U.S. Justice Buergenthal, in a separate declaration). Hence about 80-85% of the wall is illegal, as is the entire “convergence” program. But for a self-designated outlaw state and its clients, such facts are minor irrelevancies.
Currently, the US and Israel demand that Hamas accept the 2002 Arab League Beirut proposal for full normalization of relations with Israel after withdrawal in accord with the international consensus. The proposal has long been accepted by the PLO, and it has also been formally accepted by the “supreme leader” of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has made it clear that Hezbollah would not disrupt such an agreement if it is accepted by Palestinians. Hamas has repeatedly indicated its willingness to negotiate in these terms.
The facts are doctrinally unacceptable, hence mostly suppressed. What we see, instead, is the stern warning to Hamas by the editors of the New York Times that their formal agreement to the Beirut peace plan is “an admission ticket to the real world, a necessary rite of passage in the progression from a lawless opposition to a lawful government.” Like others, the NYT editors fail to mention that the US and Israel forcefully reject this proposal, and are alone in doing so among relevant actors. Furthermore, they reject it not merely in rhetoric, but far more importantly, in deeds. We see at once who constitutes the “lawless opposition” and who speaks for them. But that conclusion cannot be expressed, even entertained, in respectable circles.
The only meaningful support for Palestinians facing national destruction is from Hezbollah. For this reason alone it follows that Hezbollah must be severely weakened or destroyed, just as the PLO had to be evicted from Lebanon in 1982. But Hezbollah is too deeply embedded within Lebanese society to be eradicated, so Lebanon too must be largely destroyed. An expected benefit for the US and Israel was to enhance the credibility of threats against Iran by eliminating a Lebanese-based deterrent to a possible attack. But none of this turned out as planned. Much as in Iraq, and elsewhere, Bush administration planners have created catastrophes, even for the interests they represent. That is the primary reason for the unprecedented criticism of the administration among the foreign policy elite, even before the invasion of Iraq.
In the background lie more far-reaching and lasting concerns: to ensure what is called “stability” in the reigning ideology. “Stability,” in simple words, means obedience. “Stability” is undermined by states that do not strictly follow orders, secular nationalists, Islamists who are not under control (in contrast, the Saudi monarchy, the oldest and most valuable US ally, is fine), etc. Such “destabilizing” forces are particularly dangerous when their programs are attractive to others, in which case they are called “viruses” that must be destroyed. “Stability” is enhanced by loyal client states. Since 1967, it has been assumed that Israel can play this role, along with other “peripheral” states. Israel has become virtually an off-shore US military base and high-tech center, the natural consequence of its rejection of security in favor of expansion in 1971, and repeatedly since. These policies are subject to little internal debate, whoever holds state power. The policies extend world-wide, and in the Middle East, their significance is enhanced by one of the leading principles of foreign policy since World War II (and for Britain before that): to ensure control over Middle East energy resources, recognized for 60 years to be “a stupendous source of strategic power” and “one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”
The standard Western version is that the July 2006 invasion was justified by legitimate outrage over capture of two Israeli soldiers at the border. The posture is cynical fraud. The US and Israel, and the West generally, have little objection to capture of soldiers, or even to the far more severe crime of kidnapping civilians (or of course to killing civilians). That had been Israeli practice in Lebanon for many years, and no one ever suggested that Israel should therefore be invaded and largely destroyed. Western cynicism was revealed with even more dramatic clarity as the current upsurge of violence erupted after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, on June 25. That too elicited huge outrage, and support for Israel’s sharp escalation of its murderous assault on Gaza. The scale is reflected in casualties: in June, 36 Palestinian civilians were killed in Gaza; in July, the numbers more than quadrupled to over 170, dozens of them children. The posture of outrage was, again, cynical fraud, as demonstrated dramatically, and conclusively, by the reaction to Israel’s kidnapping of two Gaza civilians, the Muamar brothers, one day before, on June 24. They disappeared into Israel’s prison system, joining the hundreds of others imprisoned without charge — hence kidnapped, as are many of those sentenced on dubious charges. There was some brief and dismissive mention of the kidnapping of the Muamar brothers, but no reaction, because such crimes are considered legitimate when carried out by “our side.” The idea that this crime would justify a murderous assault on Israel would have been regarded as a reversion to Nazism.
The distinction is clear, and familiar throughout history: to paraphrase Thucydides, the powerful are entitled to do as they wish, while the weak suffer as they must.
We should not overlook the progress that has been made in undermining the imperial mentality that is so deeply rooted in Western moral and intellectual culture as to be beyond awareness. Nor should we forget the scale of what remains to be achieved, tasks that must be undertaken in solidarity and cooperation by people in North and South who hope to see a more decent and civilized world.
What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?
Noam Chomsky
TomDispatch, April 5, 2007
Unsurprisingly, George W. Bush’s announcement of a “surge” in Iraq came despite the firm opposition to any such move of Americans and the even stronger opposition of the (thoroughly irrelevant) Iraqis. It was accompanied by ominous official leaks and statements — from Washington and Baghdad — about how Iranian intervention in Iraq was aimed at disrupting our mission to gain victory, an aim which is (by definition) noble. What then followed was a solemn debate about whether serial numbers on advanced roadside bombs (IEDs) were really traceable to Iran; and, if so, to that country’s Revolutionary Guards or to some even higher authority.
This “debate” is a typical illustration of a primary principle of sophisticated propaganda. In crude and brutal societies, the Party Line is publicly proclaimed and must be obeyed — or else. What you actually believe is your own business and of far less concern. In societies where the state has lost the capacity to control by force, the Party Line is simply presupposed; then, vigorous debate is encouraged within the limits imposed by unstated doctrinal orthodoxy. The cruder of the two systems leads, naturally enough, to disbelief; the sophisticated variant gives an impression of openness and freedom, and so far more effectively serves to instill the Party Line. It becomes beyond question, beyond thought itself, like the air we breathe.
The debate over Iranian interference in Iraq proceeds without ridicule on the assumption that the United States owns the world. We did not, for example, engage in a similar debate in the 1980s about whether the U.S. was interfering in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, and I doubt that Pravda, probably recognizing the absurdity of the situation, sank to outrage about that fact (which American officials and our media, in any case, made no effort to conceal). Perhaps the official Nazi press also featured solemn debates about whether the Allies were interfering in sovereign Vichy France, though if so, sane people would then have collapsed in ridicule.
In this case, however, even ridicule — notably absent — would not suffice, because the charges against Iran are part of a drumbeat of pronouncements meant to mobilize support for escalation in Iraq and for an attack on Iran, the “source of the problem.” The world is aghast at the possibility. Even in neighboring Sunni states, no friends of Iran, majorities, when asked, favor a nuclear-armed Iran over any military action against that country. From what limited information we have, it appears that significant parts of the U.S. military and intelligence communities are opposed to such an attack, along with almost the entire world, even more so than when the Bush administration and Tony Blair’s Britain invaded Iraq, defying enormous popular opposition worldwide.
“The Iran Effect”
The results of an attack on Iran could be horrendous. After all, according to a recent study of “the Iraq effect” by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, using government and Rand Corporation data, the Iraq invasion has already led to a seven-fold increase in terror. The “Iran effect” would probably be far more severe and long-lasting. British military historian Corelli Barnett speaks for many when he warns that “an attack on Iran would effectively launch World War III.”
What are the plans of the increasingly desperate clique that narrowly holds political power in the U.S.? We cannot know. Such state planning is, of course, kept secret in the interests of “security.” Review of the declassified record reveals that there is considerable merit in that claim — though only if we understand “security” to mean the security of the Bush administration against their domestic enemy, the population in whose name they act.
Even if the White House clique is not planning war, naval deployments, support for secessionist movements and acts of terror within Iran, and other provocations could easily lead to an accidental war. Congressional resolutions would not provide much of a barrier. They invariably permit “national security” exemptions, opening holes wide enough for the several aircraft-carrier battle groups soon to be in the Persian Gulf to pass through — as long as an unscrupulous leadership issues proclamations of doom (as Condoleezza Rice did with those “mushroom clouds” over American cities back in 2002). And the concocting of the sorts of incidents that “justify” such attacks is a familiar practice. Even the worst monsters feel the need for such justification and adopt the device: Hitler’s defense of innocent Germany from the “wild terror” of the Poles in 1939, after they had rejected his wise and generous proposals for peace, is but one example.
The most effective barrier to a White House decision to launch a war is the kind of organized popular opposition that frightened the political-military leadership enough in 1968 that they were reluctant to send more troops to Vietnam — fearing, we learned from the Pentagon Papers, that they might need them for civil-disorder control.
Doubtless Iran’s government merits harsh condemnation, including for its recent actions that have inflamed the crisis. It is, however, useful to ask how we would act if Iran had invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico and was arresting U.S. government representatives there on the grounds that they were resisting the Iranian occupation (called “liberation,” of course). Imagine as well that Iran was deploying massive naval forces in the Caribbean and issuing credible threats to launch a wave of attacks against a vast range of sites — nuclear and otherwise — in the United States, if the U.S. government did not immediately terminate all its nuclear energy programs (and, naturally, dismantle all its nuclear weapons). Suppose that all of this happened after Iran had overthrown the government of the U.S. and installed a vicious tyrant (as the US did to Iran in 1953), then later supported a Russian invasion of the U.S. that killed millions of people (just as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in 1980, killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians, a figure comparable to millions of Americans). Would we watch quietly?
It is easy to understand an observation by one of Israel’s leading military historians, Martin van Creveld. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, knowing it to be defenseless, he noted, “Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.”
Surely no sane person wants Iran (or any nation) to develop nuclear weapons. A reasonable resolution of the present crisis would permit Iran to develop nuclear energy, in accord with its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but not nuclear weapons. Is that outcome feasible? It would be, given one condition: that the U.S. and Iran were functioning democratic societies in which public opinion had a significant impact on public policy.
As it happens, this solution has overwhelming support among Iranians and Americans, who generally are in agreement on nuclear issues. The Iranian-American consensus includes the complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere (82% of Americans); if that cannot yet be achieved because of elite opposition, then at least a “nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include both Islamic countries and Israel” (71% of Americans). Seventy-five percent of Americans prefer building better relations with Iran to threats of force. In brief, if public opinion were to have a significant influence on state policy in the U.S. and Iran, resolution of the crisis might be at hand, along with much more far-reaching solutions to the global nuclear conundrum.
Promoting Democracy — at Home
These facts suggest a possible way to prevent the current crisis from exploding, perhaps even into some version of World War III. That awesome threat might be averted by pursuing a familiar proposal: democracy promotion — this time at home, where it is badly needed. Democracy promotion at home is certainly feasible and, although we cannot carry out such a project directly in Iran, we could act to improve the prospects of the courageous reformers and oppositionists who are seeking to achieve just that. Among such figures who are, or should be, well-known, would be Saeed Hajjarian, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, and Akbar Ganji, as well as those who, as usual, remain nameless, among them labor activists about whom we hear very little; those who publish the Iranian Workers Bulletin may be a case in point.
We can best improve the prospects for democracy promotion in Iran by sharply reversing state policy here so that it reflects popular opinion. That would entail ceasing to make the regular threats that are a gift to Iranian hardliners. These are bitterly condemned by Iranians truly concerned with democracy promotion (unlike those “supporters” who flaunt democracy slogans in the West and are lauded as grand “idealists” despite their clear record of visceral hatred for democracy).
Democracy promotion in the United States could have far broader consequences. In Iraq, for instance, a firm timetable for withdrawal would be initiated at once, or very soon, in accord with the will of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis and a significant majority of Americans. Federal budget priorities would be virtually reversed. Where spending is rising, as in military supplemental bills to conduct the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would sharply decline. Where spending is steady or declining (health, education, job training, the promotion of energy conservation and renewable energy sources, veterans benefits, funding for the UN and UN peacekeeping operations, and so on), it would sharply increase. Bush’s tax cuts for people with incomes over $200,000 a year would be immediately rescinded.
The U.S. would have adopted a national health-care system long ago, rejecting the privatized system that sports twice the per-capita costs found in similar societies and some of the worst outcomes in the industrial world. It would have rejected what is widely regarded by those who pay attention as a “fiscal train wreck” in-the-making. The U.S. would have ratified the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and undertaken still stronger measures to protect the environment. It would allow the UN to take the lead in international crises, including in Iraq. After all, according to opinion polls, since shortly after the 2003 invasion, a large majority of Americans have wanted the UN to take charge of political transformation, economic reconstruction, and civil order in that land.
If public opinion mattered, the U.S. would accept UN Charter restrictions on the use of force, contrary to a bipartisan consensus that this country, alone, has the right to resort to violence in response to potential threats, real or imagined, including threats to our access to markets and resources. The U.S. (along with others) would abandon the Security Council veto and accept majority opinion even when in opposition to it. The UN would be allowed to regulate arms sales; while the U.S. would cut back on such sales and urge other countries to do so, which would be a major contribution to reducing large-scale violence in the world. Terror would be dealt with through diplomatic and economic measures, not force, in accord with the judgment of most specialists on the topic but again in diametric opposition to present-day policy.
Furthermore, if public opinion influenced policy, the U.S. would have diplomatic relations with Cuba, benefiting the people of both countries (and, incidentally, U.S. agribusiness, energy corporations, and others), instead of standing virtually alone in the world in imposing an embargo (joined only by Israel, the Republic of Palau, and the Marshall Islands). Washington would join the broad international consensus on a two-state settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which (with Israel) it has blocked for 30 years — with scattered and temporary exceptions — and which it still blocks in word, and more importantly in deed, despite fraudulent claims of its commitment to diplomacy. The U.S. would also equalize aid to Israel and Palestine, cutting off aid to either party that rejected the international consensus.
Evidence on these matters is reviewed in my book Failed States as well as in The Foreign Policy Disconnect by Benjamin Page (with Marshall Bouton), which also provides extensive evidence that public opinion on foreign (and probably domestic) policy issues tends to be coherent and consistent over long periods. Studies of public opinion have to be regarded with caution, but they are certainly highly suggestive.
Democracy promotion at home, while no panacea, would be a useful step towards helping our own country become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international order (to adopt the term used for adversaries), instead of being an object of fear and dislike throughout much of the world. Apart from being a value in itself, functioning democracy at home holds real promise for dealing constructively with many current problems, international and domestic, including those that literally threaten the survival of our species.
Intelligent Design?
Noam Chomsky
Khaleej Times, November 6, 2005
President George W. Bush favours teaching both evolution and “Intelligent Design” in schools, “so people can know what the debate is about.” To proponents, Intelligent Design is the notion that the universe is too complex to have developed without a nudge from a higher power than evolution or natural selection.
To detractors, Intelligent Design is creationism — the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis — in a thin guise, or simply vacuous, about as interesting as “I don’t understand,” as has always been true in the sciences before understanding is reached. Accordingly, there cannot be a “debate.”
The teaching of evolution has long been difficult in the United States. Now a national movement has emerged to promote the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools.
The issue has famously surfaced in a courtroom in Dover, Pa., where a school board is requiring students to hear a statement about Intelligent Design in a biology class — and parents mindful of the Constitution’s church/state separation have sued the board.
In the interest of fairness, perhaps the president’s speechwriters should take him seriously when they have him say that schools should be open-minded and teach all points of view. So far, however, the curriculum has not encompassed one obvious point of view: Malignant Design.
Unlike Intelligent Design, for which the evidence is zero, malignant design has tons of empirical evidence, much more than Darwinian evolution, by some criteria: the world’s cruelty. Be that as it may, the background of the current evolution/intelligent design controversy is the widespread rejection of science, a phenomenon with deep roots in American history that has been cynically exploited for narrow political gain during the last quarter-century. Intelligent Design raises the question whether it is intelligent to disregard scientific evidence about matters of supreme importance to the nation and world — like global warming.
An old-fashioned conservative would believe in the value of Enlightenment ideals — rationality, critical analysis, freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry — and would try to adapt them to a modern society. The Founding Fathers, children of the Enlightenment, championed those ideals and took pains to create a Constitution that espoused religious freedom yet separated church and state. The United States, despite the occasional messianism of its leaders, isn’t a theocracy.
In our time, the Bush administration’s hostility to scientific inquiry puts the world at risk. Environmental catastrophe, whether you think the world has been developing only since Genesis or for eons, is far too serious to ignore. In preparation for the G8 summit this past summer, the scientific academies of all G8 nations (including the US National Academy of Sciences), joined by those of China, India and Brazil, called on the leaders of the rich countries to take urgent action to head off global warming.
“The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify prompt action,” their statement said. “It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions.”
In its lead editorial, The Financial Times endorsed this “clarion call,” while observing: “There is, however, one holdout, and unfortunately it is to be found in the White House where George W. Bush insists we still do not know enough about this literally world-changing phenomenon.”
Dismissal of scientific evidence on matters of survival, in keeping with Bush’s scientific judgment, is routine. A few months earlier, at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, leading US climate researchers released “the most compelling evidence yet” that human activities are responsible for global warming, according to The Financial Times. They predicted major climatic effects, including severe reductions in water supplies in regions that rely on rivers fed by melting snow and glaciers.
Other prominent researchers at the same session reported evidence that the melting of Arctic and Greenland ice sheets is causing changes in the sea’s salinity balance that threaten “to shut down the Ocean Conveyor Belt, which transfers heat from the tropics toward the polar regions through currents such as the Gulf Stream.” Such changes might bring significant temperature reduction to northern Europe.
Like the statement of the National Academies for the G8 summit, the release of “the most compelling evidence yet” received scant notice in the United States, despite the attention given in the same days to the implementation of the Kyoto protocols, with the most important government refusing to take part.
It is important to stress “government.” The standard report that the United States stands almost alone in rejecting the Kyoto protocols is correct only if the phrase “United States” excludes its population, which strongly favours the Kyoto pact (73 per cent, according to a July poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes).
Perhaps only the word “malignant” could describe a failure to acknowledge, much less address, the all-too-scientific issue of climate change. Thus the “moral clarity” of the Bush administration extends to its cavalier attitude toward the fate of our grandchildren.
South America: Toward an Alternative Future
Noam Chomsky
International Herald Tribune, January 5, 2007
Last month a coincidence of birth and death signaled a transition for South America and indeed for the world.
The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died even as leaders of South American nations concluded a two-day summit meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, hosted by President Evo Morales, at which the participants and the agenda represented the antithesis of Pinochet and his era.
In the Cochabamba Declaration, the presidents and envoys of 12 countries agreed to study the idea of forming a continent-wide community similar to the European Union.
The declaration marks another stage toward regional integration in South America, 500 years after the European conquests. The subcontinent, from Venezuela to Argentina, may yet present an example to the world on how to create an alternative future from a legacy of empire and terror.
The United States has long dominated the region by two major methods: violence and economic strangulation. Quite generally, international affairs have more than a slight resemblance to the Mafia. The Godfather does not take it lightly when he is crossed, even by a small storekeeper.
Previous attempts at independence have been crushed, partly because of a lack of regional cooperation. Without it, threats can be handled one by one. (Central America, unfortunately, has yet to shake the fear and destruction left over from decades of U.S.-backed terror, especially during the 1980s.)
To the United States, the real enemy has always been independent nationalism, particularly when it threatens to become a “contagious example,” to borrow Henry Kissinger’s characterization of democratic socialism in Chile.
On Sept. 11, 1973,
Pinochet’s forces attacked the Chilean presidential palace. Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president, died in the palace, apparently by his own hand, because he was unwilling to surrender to the assault that demolished Latin America’s oldest, most vibrant democracy and established a regime of torture and repression.
The official death toll for the coup is 3,200; the actual toll is commonly estimated at double that figure. An official inquiry 30 years after the coup found evidence of approximately 30,000 cases of torture during the Pinochet regime. Among the leaders at Cochabamba was the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet. Like Allende, she is a socialist and a physician. She also is a former exile and political prisoner. Her father was a general who died in prison after being tortured.
At Cochabamba, Morales and President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela celebrated a new joint venture, a gas separation project in Bolivia. Such cooperation strengthens the region’s role as a major player in global energy.
Venezuela is already the only Latin American member of OPEC, with by far the largest proven oil reserves outside the Middle East. Chávez envisions Petroamerica, an integrated energy system of the kind that China is trying to initiate in Asia.
The new Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, proposed a land-and-river trade link from the Brazilian Amazon rain forest to Ecuador’s Pacific Coast — a South American equivalent of the Panama Canal.
Other promising developments include Telesur, a new pan-Latin American TV channel based in Venezuela and an effort to break the Western media monopoly.
The Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, called on fellow leaders to overcome historical differences and unite the continent, however difficult the task.
Integration is a prerequisite for genuine independence. The colonial history — Spain, Britain, other European powers, the United States — not only divided countries from one another but also left a sharp internal division within the countries, between a wealthy small elite and a mass of impoverished people.
The main economic controls in recent years have come from the International Monetary Fund, which is virtually a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department. But Argentina, Brazil and now Bolivia have moved to free themselves of IMF strictures.
Because of the new developments in South America, the United States has been forced to adjust policy. The governments that now have U.S. support — like Brazil under Lula — might well have been overthrown in the past, as was President João Goulart of Brazil in a U.S.-backed coup in 1964.
To maintain Washington’s party line, though, it’s necessary to finesse some of the facts. For example, when Lula was re- elected in October, one of his first acts was to fly to Caracas to support Chávez’s electoral campaign. Also, Lula dedicated a Brazilian project in Venezuela, a bridge over the Orinoco River, and discussed other joint ventures.
The tempo is picking up. Also last month, Mercosur, the South American trading bloc, continued the dialogue on South American unity at its semiannual meeting in Brazil, where Lula inaugurated the Mercosur Parliament — another promising sign of deliverance from the demons of the past.
Solution in Sight
Noam Chomsky
Khaleej Times, June 23, 2006
The urgency of halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and moving toward their elimination, could hardly be greater. Failure to do so is almost certain to lead to grim consequences, even the end of biology’s only experiment with higher intelligence. As threatening as the crisis is, the means exist to defuse it. A near-meltdown seems to be imminent over Iran and its nuclear programmes.
Before 1979, when the Shah was in power, Washington strongly supported these programmes. Today the standard claim is that Iran has no need for nuclear power, and therefore must be pursuing a secret weapons programme. “For a major oil producer such as Iran, nuclear energy is a wasteful use of resources,” Henry Kissinger wrote in the Washington Post last year.
Thirty years ago, however, when Kissinger was secretary of state for President Gerald Ford, he held that “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals”. Last year Dafna Linzer of the Washington Post asked Kissinger about his reversal of opinion. Kissinger responded with his usual engaging frankness: “They were an allied country.”
In 1976 the Ford administration “endorsed Iranian plans to build a massive nuclear energy industry, but also worked hard to complete a multibillion-dollar deal that would have given Teheran control of large quantities of plutonium and enriched uranium — the two pathways to a nuclear bomb”, Linzer wrote. The top planners of the Bush administration, who are now denouncing these programmes, were then in key national security posts: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.
Iranians are surely not as willing as the West to discard history to the rubbish heap. They know that the United States, along with its allies, has been tormenting Iranians for more than 50 years, ever since a US-UK military coup overthrew the parliamentary government and installed the Shah, who ruled with an iron hand until a popular uprising expelled him in 1979.
The Reagan administration then supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran, providing him with military and other aid that helped him slaughter hundreds of thousands of Iranians (along with Iraqi Kurds). Then came President Clinton’s harsh sanctions, followed by Bush’s threats to attack Iran — themselves a serious breach of the UN charter.
Last month the Bush administration conditionally agreed to join its European allies in direct talks with Iran, but refused to withdraw the threat of attack, rendering virtually meaningless any negotiations offer that comes, in effect, at gunpoint. Recent history provides further reason for scepticism about Washington’s intentions.
In May 2003, according to Flynt Leverett, then a senior official in Bush’s National Security Council, the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami proposed “an agenda for a diplomatic process that was intended to resolve on a comprehensive basis all of the bilateral differences between the United States and Iran”.
Included were “weapons of mass destruction, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the future of Lebanon’s Hizbullah organisation and cooperation with the UN nuclear safeguards agency”, the Financial Times reported last month. The Bush administration refused, and reprimanded the Swiss diplomat who conveyed the offer.
A year later the European Union and Iran struck a bargain: Iran would temporarily suspend uranium enrichment, and in return Europe would provide assurances that the United States and Israel would not attack Iran. Under US pressure, Europe backed off, and Iran renewed its enrichment processes.
Iran’s nuclear programmes, as far as is known, fall within its rights under article four of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which grants non-nuclear states the right to produce fuel for nuclear energy. The Bush administration argues that article four should be strengthened, and I think that makes sense.
When the NPT came into force in 1970 there was a considerable gap between producing fuel for energy and for nuclear weapons. But advances in technology have narrowed the gap. However, any such revision of article four would have to ensure unimpeded access for non-military use, in accord with the initial NPT bargain between declared nuclear powers and the non-nuclear states.
In 2003 a reasonable proposal to this end was put forward by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency: that all production and processing of weapon-usable material be under international control, with “assurance that legitimate would-be users could get their supplies”. That should be the first step, he proposed, toward fully implementing the 1993 UN resolution for a fissile material cutoff treaty (or Fissban).
ElBaradei’s proposal has to date been accepted by only one state, to my knowledge: Iran, in February, in an interview with Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. The Bush administration rejects a verifiable Fissban — and stands nearly alone. In November 2004 the UN committee on disarmament voted in favour of a verifiable Fissban. The vote was 147 to one (United States), with two abstentions: Israel and Britain. Last year a vote in the full General Assembly was 179 to two, Israel and Britain again abstaining. The United States was joined by Palau.
There are ways to mitigate and probably end these crises. The first is to call off the very credible US and Israeli threats that virtually urge Iran to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent. A second step would be to join the rest of the world in accepting a verifiable Fissban treaty, as well as ElBaradei’s proposal, or something similar.
A third step would be to live up to article six of the NPT, which obligates the nuclear states to take “good-faith” efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, a binding legal obligation, as the world court determined. None of the nuclear states has lived up to that obligation, but the United States is far in the lead in violating it.
Even steps in these directions would mitigate the upcoming crisis with Iran. Above all, it is important to heed the words of Mohamed ElBaradei: “There is no military solution to this situation. It is inconceivable. The only durable solution is a negotiated solution.” And it is within reach.
A Just War? Hardly
Noam Chomsky
Khaleej Times, May 9, 2006
Spurred by these times of invasions and evasions, discussion of “just war” has had a renaissance among scholars and even among policy-makers.
Concepts aside, actions in the real world all too often reinforce the maxim of Thucydides that “The strong do as they can, while the weak suffer what they must” — which is not only indisputably unjust, but at the present stage of human civilisation, a literal threat to the survival of the species.
In his highly praised reflections on just war, Michael Walzer describes the invasion of Afghanistan as “a triumph of just war theory,” standing alongside Kosovo as a “just war.” Unfortunately, in these two cases, as throughout, his arguments rely crucially on premises like “seems to me entirely justified,” or “I believe” or “no doubt.”
Facts are ignored, even the most obvious ones. Consider Afghanistan. As the bombing began in October 2001, President Bush warned Afghans that it would continue until they handed over people that the US suspected of terrorism.
The word “suspected” is important. Eight months later, FBI head Robert S. Mueller III told editors at The Washington Post that after what must have been the most intense manhunt in history, “We think the masterminds of (the Sept. 11 attacks) were in Afghanistan, high in the al-Qaida leadership. Plotters and others — the principals — came together in Germany and perhaps elsewhere.”
What was still unclear in June 2002 could not have been known definitively the preceding October, though few doubted at once that it was true. Nor did I, for what it’s worth, but surmise and evidence are two different things. At least it seems fair to say that the circumstances raise a question about whether bombing Afghans was a transparent example of “just war.”
Walzer’s arguments are directed to unnamed targets — for example, campus opponents who are “pacifists.” He adds that their “pacifism” is a “bad argument,” because he thinks violence is sometimes legitimate. We may well agree that violence is sometimes legitimate (I do), but “I think” is hardly an overwhelming argument in the real-world cases that he discusses.
By “just war,” counterterrorism or some other rationale, the US exempts itself from the fundamental principles of world order that it played the primary role in formulating and enacting.
After World War II, a new regime of international law was instituted. Its provisions on laws of war are codified in the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg principles, adopted by the General Assembly. The Charter bars the threat or use of force unless authorized by the Security Council or, under Article 51, in self-defense against armed attack until the Security Council acts.
In 2004, a high level UN panel, including, among others, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, concluded that “Article 51 needs neither extension nor restriction of its long-understood scope … In a world full of perceived potential threats, the risk to the global order and the norm of nonintervention on which it continues to be based is simply too great for the legality of unilateral preventive action, as distinct from collectively endorsed action, to be accepted. Allowing one to so act is to allow all.”
The National Security Strategy of September 2002, just largely reiterated in March, grants the US the right to carry out what it calls “pre-emptive war,” which means not pre-emptive, but “preventive war.” That’s the right to commit aggression, plain and simple.
In the wording of the Nuremberg Tribunal, aggression is “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” — all the evil in the tortured land of Iraq that flowed from the US-UK invasion, for example.
The concept of aggression was defined clearly enough by US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who was chief prosecutor for the United States at Nuremberg. The concept was restated in an authoritative General Assembly resolution. An “aggressor,” Jackson proposed to the tribunal, is a state that is the first to commit such actions as “invasion of its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State.”
That applies to the invasion of Iraq. Also relevant are Justice Jackson’s eloquent words at Nuremberg: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.” And elsewhere: “We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”
For the political leadership, the threat of adherence to these principles — and to the rule of law in general — is serious indeed. Or it would be, if anyone dared to defy “the single ruthless superpower whose leadership intends to shape the world according to its own forceful world view,” as Reuven Pedatzur wrote in Haaretz last May.
Let me state a couple of simple truths. The first is that actions are evaluated in terms of the range of likely consequences. A second is the principle of universality; we apply to ourselves the same standards we apply to others, if not more stringent ones.
Apart from being the merest truisms, these principles are also the foundation of just war theory, at least any version of it that deserves to be taken seriously.
Latin America Declares Independence
Noam Chomsky
International Herald Tribune, October 3, 2006
Five centuries after the European conquests, Latin America is reasserting its independence.
In the southern cone especially, from Venezuela to Argentina, the region is rising to overthrow the legacy of external domination of the past centuries and the cruel and destructive social forms that they have helped to establish.
The mechanisms of imperial control – violence and economic warfare, hardly a distant memory in Latin America – are losing their effectiveness, a sign of the shift toward independence. Washington is now compelled to tolerate governments that in the past would have drawn intervention or reprisal.
Throughout the region a vibrant array of popular movements provide the basis for a meaningful democracy. The indigenous populations, as if in a rediscovery of their pre-Columbian legacy, are much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador.
These developments are in part the result of a phenomenon that has been observed for some years in Latin America: As the elected governments become more formally democratic, citizens express an increasing disillusionment with democratic institutions. They have sought to construct democratic systems based on popular participation rather than elite and foreign domination.
A persuasive explanation for this has been offered by Argentine political scientist Atilio Boron, who observed that the new wave of democratization coincided with externally mandated economic “reforms” that undermine effective democracy.
In a world of nation-states, it is true by definition that decline of sovereignty entails decline of democracy, and decline in ability to conduct social and economic policy. That in turn harms development.
The historical record also reveals that loss of sovereignty consistently leads to imposed liberalization, of course in the interests of those with the power to impose this social and economic regime.
It is instructive to compare recent presidential elections in the richest country of the world and the poorest country in South America.
In the 2004 U.S. presidential election, voters had a choice between two men born to wealth and privilege, who attended the same elite university, joined the same secret society where young men are trained to join the ruling class and were able to run in the election because they were supported by pretty much the same conglomerations of private power. Their programs were similar, consistent with the needs of their primary constituency: wealth and privilege.
For contrast, consider Bolivia and Evo Morales’ election last December. Voters were familiar with the issues, very real and important ones like national control over natural gas and other resources, which has overwhelming popular support. Indigenous rights, women’s rights, land rights and water rights were on the political agenda, among many others. The population chose someone from its own ranks, not a representative of narrow sectors of privilege.
Given its new ascendancy, Latin America may come to terms with some of its severe internal problems. The region is notorious for the rapacity of its wealthy classes, and their freedom from social responsibility.
Comparative studies of Latin American and East Asian economic development are revealing in this respect. Latin America has close to the world’s worst record for inequality, East Asia the best. The same holds for education, health and social welfare generally.
Latin American economies have also been more open to foreign investment than Asia. The World Bank reported that foreign investment and privatization have tended to substitute for other capital flows in Latin America, transferring control and sending profits abroad, unlike East Asia.
Meanwhile, new socioeconomic programs under way in Latin America are reversing patterns that trace back to the Spanish conquests – with Latin American elites and economies linked to the imperial powers but not to one another.
Of course this shift is highly unwelcome in Washington, for the traditional reasons: The United States expects to rely on Latin America as a secure base for resources, markets and investment opportunities.
And as planners have long emphasized, if this hemisphere is out of control, how can the United States hope to resist defiance elsewhere?
Superpower and Failed States
Noam Chomsky
Khaleej Times, April 5, 2006
The selection of issues that should rank high on the agenda of concern for human welfare and rights is, naturally, a subjective matter. But there are a few choices that seem unavoidable, because they bear so directly on the prospects for decent survival. Among them are at least these three: nuclear war, environmental disaster and the fact that the government of the world’s leading power is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of these catastrophes.
It is important to stress the “government,” because the population, not surprisingly, does not agree. That brings up a fourth issue that should deeply concern Americans, and the world: the sharp divide between public opinion and public policy, one of the reasons for the fear, which cannot casually be put aside, that “the American ‘system’ as a whole is in real trouble — that it is heading in a direction that spells the end of its historic values (of) equality, liberty and meaningful democracy,” as Gar Alperovitz observes in America Beyond Capitalism.
The “system” is coming to have some of the features of failed states, to adopt a currently fashionable notion that is conventionally applied to states regarded as potential threats to our security (like Iraq) or as needing our intervention to rescue the population from severe internal threats (like Haiti).
The definition of “failed states” is hardly scientific. But they share some primary characteristics. They are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction. They regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, hence free to carry out aggression and violence. And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious “democratic deficit” that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance. One of the hardest tasks that anyone can undertake, and among the most important, is to look honestly in the mirror. If we allow ourselves to do so, we should have little difficulty in finding the characteristics of “failed states” right at home.
That recognition of reality should be deeply troubling to those who care about their countries and future generations — “countries,” plural, first because of the enormous reach of U.S. power, but also because the problems are not localised in space or time, though there are important variations, of particular significance for US citizens.
The “democratic deficit” was illustrated clearly by the 2004 elections. The results led to exultation in some quarters, despair in others and much concern about a “divided nation.” Colin Powell informed the Press that “President George W. Bush has won a mandate from the American people to continue pursuing his ‘aggressive’ foreign policy.’ That is far from true. It is also very far from what the population believes. After the elections, Gallup asked whether Bush “should emphasise programmes that both parties support,” or whether he “has a mandate to advance the Republican Party’s agenda,” as Powell and others claimed — and 63 per cent chose the former option; 29 per cent the latter.
The elections conferred no mandate for anything, in fact, they barely took place, in any serious sense of the term “election.” History provides ample evidence of Washington’s disregard for international laws and norms, reaching new heights today. Granted, there have always been pretexts, but that is true of every state that resorts to force at will.
Throughout the Cold War years, the framework of “defence against Communist aggression” was available to mobilise domestic support for countless interventions abroad. Then at last the communist-menace device began to wear thin. By 1979, “the Soviets were influencing only 6 per cent of the world population and 5 per cent of the world GNP” outside its borders, according to the Centre for Defense Information. The basic picture was becoming harder to evade.
The government also faced domestic problems, notably the civilizing effects of the activism of the 1960s, which had many consequences, among them less willingness to tolerate the resort to violence.
Under President Reagan, the administration sought to deal with the problems by fevered pronouncements about the “evil empire” and its tentacles everywhere about to strangle us. But new devices were needed. The Reaganites declared their worldwide campaign to destroy “the evil scourge of terrorism,” particularly state-backed international terrorism — which Reagan secretary of state George Shultz called a “plague spread by depraved opponents of civilization itself (in a) return to barbarism in the modern age.”
The official list of states sponsoring terrorism, initiated in Congress in 1977, was elevated to a prominent place in policy and propaganda.
In 1994, President Clinton expanded the category of “terrorist states” to include “rogue states.” A few years later another concept was added to the repertoire: “failed states,” from which we must protect ourselves, and which we must help — sometimes by devastating them. Later came President Bush’s “axis of evil” that we must destroy in self-defence, following the will of the Lord as transmitted to his humble servant — meanwhile escalating the threat of terror and nuclear proliferation.
The rhetoric has always raised difficulties, however. The basic problem has been that under any reasonable interpretation of the terms — even official definitions — the categories are unacceptably broad. It takes discipline not to recognise the elements of truth in historian Arno Mayer’s immediate post-9/11 observation that since 1947, “America has been the chief perpetrator of ‘pre-emptive’ state terror” and innumerable other ‘rogue’ actions,” causing immense harm, “always in the name of democracy, liberty and justice.”
After Bush took over, mainstream scholarship no longer just reported world opinion, but began to assert as fact that the US “has assumed many of the very features of the ‘rogue nations’ against which it has … done battle” (David C. Hendrickson and Robert W. Tucker, Foreign Affairs, 2004).
The category of “failed state” was invoked repeatedly by the self-designated “enlightened states” in the 1990s, entitling them to resort to force with the alleged goal of protecting the populations of failed, rogue and terrorist states in a manner that may be “illegal but legitimate” — the phrase used by the Independent Kosovo Commission. As the leading themes of political discourse shifted from “humanitarian intervention” to the re-declared “war on terror” after 9/11, the concept “failed state” was given a broader scope to include states like Iraq that threaten the US with weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism.
Under this broader usage, “failed states” need not be weak — which makes good sense. Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia were hardly weak, but by reasonable standards they merit the designation “failed state” as fully as any in history.
The concept gains many dimensions, including failure to provide security for the population, to guarantee rights at home or abroad, or to maintain functioning (not merely formal) democratic institutions. The concept must surely cover “outlaw states” that dismiss with contempt the rules of international order and its institutions, carefully constructed over many years, initially at U.S. initiative.
The government is choosing policies that typify outlaw states, which severely endangers the population at home and abroad and undermines substantive democracy.
In crucial respects, Washington’s adoption of the characteristics of failed and outlaw states is proudly proclaimed. There is scarcely any effort to conceal “the tension between a world that still wants a fair and sustainable international legal system, and a single superpower that hardly seems to care (that it) ranks with Burma, China, Iraq and North Korea in terms of its adherence to a 17th century, absolutist conception of sovereignty” for itself, while dismissing as old-fashioned tommyrot the sovereignty of others, Michael Byers observes in War Law: Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict.
The US is very much like other powerful states. It pursues the strategic and economic interests of dominant sectors of the domestic population, to the accompaniment of impressive rhetorical flourishes about its exceptional dedication to the highest values. That is practically a historical universal, and the reason why sensible people pay scant attention to declarations of noble intent by leaders, or accolades by their followers.
One commonly hears that carping critics complain about what is wrong, but do not present solutions. There is an accurate translation for that charge: “They present solutions, but I don’t like them.”
Here are a few simple suggestions for the US:
1. Accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court;
2. Sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols;
3. Let the UN take the lead in international crises;
4. Rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting the grave threats of terror;
5. Keep to the traditional interpretation of the UN Charter: The use of force is legitimate only when ordered by the Security Council or when the country is under imminent threat of attack, in accord with Article 51;
6. Give up the Security Council veto, and have “a decent respect for the opinion of mankind,” as the Declaration of Independence advises, even if power centres disagree;
7. Cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending: health, education, renewable energy and so on.
For people who believe in democracy, these are very conservative suggestions: They appear to be the opinions of the majority of the US population, in most cases the overwhelming majority. They are in radical opposition to public policy; in most cases, to a bipartisan consensus.
Another conservative and useful suggestion is that facts, logic and elementary moral principles should matter. Those who take the trouble to adhere to that suggestion will soon be led to abandon a good part of familiar doctrine, though it is surely much easier to repeat self-serving mantras.
And there are other simple truths. They do not answer every problem by any means. But they do carry us some distance toward developing more specific and detailed answers, as is constantly done. More important, they open the way to implement them, opportunities that are readily within our grasp if we can free ourselves from the shackles of doctrine and imposed illusion. Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to seek to induce pessimism, hopelessness and despair, reality is different. There has been substantial progress in the unending question for justice and freedom in recent years, leaving a legacy that can easily be carried forward from a higher plane than before.
Opportunities for education and organising abound. As in the past, rights are not likely to be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actions — attending a few demonstrations or pushing a lever in the personalised quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as “democratic politics.” As always in the past, the tasks require dedicated day-by-day engagement to create — in part re-create — the basis for a functioning democratic culture.
There are many ways to promote democracy at home, carrying it to new dimensions. Opportunities are ample, and failure to grasp them is likely to have ominous repercussions: for the country, for the world and for future generations.
— Excerpts from Failed States by Noam Chomsky 2006 by Harry Chomsky, reprinted by permission of Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Co., LLC.
Noam Chomsky
US-Haiti, March 9, 2004
Those who have any concern for Haiti will naturally want to understand how its most recent tragedy has been unfolding. And for those who have had the privilege of any contact with the people of this tortured land, it is not just natural but inescapable. Nevertheless, we make a serious error if we focus too narrowly on the events of the recent past, or even on Haiti alone. The crucial issue for us is what we should be doing about what is taking place. That would be true even if our options and our responsibility were limited; far more so when they are immense and decisive, as in the case of Haiti . And even more so because the course of the terrible story was predictable years ago — if we failed to act to prevent it. And fail we did. The lessons are clear, and so important that they would be the topic of daily front-page articles in a free press.
Reviewing what was taking place in Haiti shortly after Clinton “restored democracy” in 1994, I was compelled to conclude, unhappily, in Z Magazine that “It would not be very surprising, then, if the Haitian operations become another catastrophe,” and if so, “It is not a difficult chore to trot out the familiar phrases that will explain the failure of our mission of benevolence in this failed society.” The reasons were evident to anyone who chose to look. And the familiar phrases again resound, sadly and predictably.
There is much solemn discussion today explaining, correctly, that democracy means more than flipping a lever every few years. Functioning democracy has preconditions. One is that the population should have some way to learn what is happening in the world. The real world, not the self-serving portrait offered by the “establishment press,” which is disfigured by its “subservience to state power” and “the usual hostility to popular movements” – the accurate words of Paul Farmer, whose work on Haiti is, in its own way, perhaps even as remarkable as what he has accomplished within the country. Farmer was writing in 1993, reviewing mainstream commentary and reporting on Haiti, a disgraceful record that goes back to the days of Wilson’s vicious and destructive invasion in 1915, and on to the present. The facts are extensively documented, appalling, and shameful. And they are deemed irrelevant for the usual reasons: they do not conform to the required self-image, and so are efficiently dispatched deep into the memory hole, though they can be unearthed by those who have some interest in the real world.
They will rarely be found, however, in the “establishment press.” Keeping to the more liberal and knowledgeable end of the spectrum, the standard version is that in “failed states” like Haiti and Iraq the US must become engaged in benevolent “nation-building” to “enhance democracy,” a “noble goal” but one that may be beyond our means because of the inadequacies of the objects of our solicitude. In Haiti , despite Washington ‘s dedicated efforts from Wilson to FDR while the country was under Marine occupation, “the new dawn of Haitian democracy never came.” And “not all America ‘s good wishes, nor all its Marines, can achieve [democracy today] until the Haitians do it themselves” (H.D.S. Greenway, Boston Globe). As New York Times correspondent R.W. Apple recounted two centuries of history in 1994, reflecting on the prospects for Clinton’s endeavor to “restore democracy” then underway, “Like the French in the 19th century, like the Marines who occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934, the American forces who are trying to impose a new order will confront a complex and violent society with no history of democracy.”
Apple does appear to go a bit beyond the norm in his reference to Napoleon’s savage assault on Haiti , leaving it in ruins, in order to prevent the crime of liberation in the world’s richest colony, the source of much of France ‘s wealth. But perhaps that undertaking too satisfies the fundamental criterion of benevolence: it was supported by the United States , which was naturally outraged and frightened by “the first nation in the world to argue the case of universal freedom for all humankind, revealing the limited definition of freedom adopted by the French and American revolutions.” So Haitian historian Patrick Bellegarde-Smith writes, accurately describing the terror in the slave state next door, which was not relieved even when Haiti ‘s successful liberation struggle, at enormous cost, opened the way to the expansion to the West by compelling Napoleon to accept the Louisiana Purchase . The US continued to do what it could to strangle Haiti, even supporting France’s insistence that Haiti pay a huge indemnity for the crime of liberating itself, a burden it has never escaped – and France, of course, dismisses with elegant disdain Haiti’s request, recently under Aristide, that it at least repay the indemnity, forgetting the responsibilities that a civilized society would accept.
The basic contours of what led to the current tragedy are pretty clear. Just beginning with the 1990 election of Aristide (far too narrow a time frame), Washington was appalled by the election of a populist candidate with a grass-roots constituency just as it had been appalled by the prospect of the hemisphere’s first free country on its doorstep two centuries earlier. Washington ‘s traditional allies in Haiti naturally agreed. “The fear of democracy exists, by definitional necessity, in elite groups who monopolize economic and political power,” Bellegarde-Smith observes in his perceptive history of Haiti ; whether in Haiti or the US or anywhere else.
The threat of democracy in Haiti in 1991 was even more ominous because of the favorable reaction of the international financial institutions (World Bank, IADB) to Aristide’s programs, which awakened traditional concerns over the “virus” effect of successful independent development. These are familiar themes in international affairs: American independence aroused similar concerns among European leaders. The dangers are commonly perceived to be particularly grave in a country like Haiti , which had been ravaged by France and then reduced to utter misery by a century of US intervention. If even people in such dire circumstances can take their fate into their own hands, who knows what might happen elsewhere as the “contagion spreads.”
The Bush I administration reacted to the disaster of democracy by shifting aid from the democratically elected government to what are called “democratic forces”: the wealthy elites and the business sectors, who, along with the murderers and torturers of the military and paramilitaries, had been lauded by the current incumbents in Washington, in their Reaganite phase, for their progress in “democratic development,” justifying lavish new aid. “The praise came in response to ratification by the Haitian people of a law granting Washington ‘s client killer and torturer Baby Doc Duvalier the authority to suspend the rights of any political party without reasons. The referendum passed by a majority of 99.98%.” It therefore marked a positive step towards democracy as compared with the 99% approval of a 1918 law granting US corporations the right to turn the country into a US plantation, passed by 5% of the population after the Haitian Parliament was disbanded at gunpoint by Wilson’s Marines when it refused to accept this “progressive measure,” essential for “economic development.” Their reaction to Baby Doc’s encouraging progress towards democracy was characteristic – worldwide — on the part of the visionaries who are now entrancing educated opinion with their dedication to bringing democracy to a suffering world – although, to be sure, their actual exploits are being tastefully rewritten to satisfy current needs.
Refugees fleeing to the US from the terror of the US-backed dictatorships were forcefully returned, in gross violation of international humanitarian law. The policy was reversed when a democratically elected government took office. Though the flow of refugees reduced to a trickle, they were mostly granted political asylum. Policy returned to normal when a military junta overthrew the Aristide government after seven months, and state terrorist atrocities rose to new heights. The perpetrators were the army – the inheritors of the National Guard left by Wilson ‘s invaders to control the population – and its paramilitary forces. The most important of these, FRAPH, was founded by CIA asset Emmanuel Constant, who now lives happily in Queens, Clinton and Bush II having dismissed extradition requests — because he would reveal US ties to the murderous junta, it is widely assumed. Constant’s contributions to state terror were, after all, meager; merely prime responsibility for the murder of 4-5000 poor blacks.
Recall the core element of the Bush doctrine, which has “already become a de facto rule of international relations,” Harvard’s Graham Allison writes in Foreign Affairs: “those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves,” in the President’s words, and must be treated accordingly, by large-scale bombing and invasion.
When Aristide was overthrown by the 1991 military coup, the Organization of American States declared an embargo. Bush I announced that the US would violate it by exempting US firms. He was thus “fine tuning” the embargo for the benefit of the suffering population, the New York Times reported. Clinton authorized even more extreme violations of the embargo: US trade with the junta and its wealthy supporters sharply increased. The crucial element of the embargo was, of course, oil. While the CIA solemnly testified to Congress that the junta “probably will be out of fuel and power very shortly” and “Our intelligence efforts are focused on detecting attempts to circumvent the embargo and monitoring its impact,” Clinton secretly authorized the Texaco Oil Company to ship oil to the junta illegally, in violation of presidential directives. This remarkable revelation was the lead story on the AP wires the day before Clinton sent the Marines to “restore democracy,” impossible to miss – I happened to be monitoring AP wires that day and saw it repeated prominently over and over — and obviously of enormous significance for anyone who wanted to understand what was happening. It was suppressed with truly impressive discipline, though reported in industry journals along with scant mention buried in the business press.
Also efficiently suppressed were the crucial conditions that Clinton imposed for Aristide’s return: that he adopt the program of the defeated US candidate in the 1990 elections, a former World Bank official who had received 14% of the vote. We call this “restoring democracy,” a prime illustration of how US foreign policy has entered a “noble phase” with a “saintly glow,” the national press explained. The harsh neoliberal program that Aristide was compelled to adopt was virtually guaranteed to demolish the remaining shreds of economic sovereignty, extending Wilson ‘s progressive legislation and similar US-imposed measures since.
As democracy was thereby restored, the World Bank announced that “The renovated state must focus on an economic strategy centered on the energy and initiative of Civil Society, especially the private sector, both national and foreign.” That has the merit of honesty: Haitian Civil Society includes the tiny rich elite and US corporations, but not the vast majority of the population, the peasants and slum-dwellers who had committed the grave sin of organizing to elect their own president. World Bank officers explained that the neoliberal program would benefit the “more open, enlightened, business class” and foreign investors, but assured us that the program “is not going to hurt the poor to the extent it has in other countries” subjected to structural adjustment, because the Haitian poor already lacked minimal protection from proper economic policy, such as subsidies for basic goods. Aristide’s Minister in charge of rural development and agrarian reform was not notified of the plans to be imposed on this largely peasant society, to be returned by ” America ‘s good wishes” to the track from which it veered briefly after the regrettable democratic election in 1990.
Matters then proceeded in their predictable course. A 1995 USAID report explained that the “export-driven trade and investment policy” that Washington imposed will “relentlessly squeeze the domestic rice farmer,” who will be forced to turn to agroexport, with incidental benefits to US agribusiness and investors. Despite their extreme poverty, Haitian rice farmers are quite efficient, but cannot possibly compete with US agribusiness, even if it did not receive 40% of its profits from government subsidies, sharply increased under the Reaganites who are again in power, still producing enlightened rhetoric about the miracles of the market. We now read that Haiti cannot feed itself, another sign of a “failed state.”
A few small industries were still able to function, for example, making chicken parts. But US conglomerates have a large surplus of dark meat, and therefore demanded the right to dump their excess products in Haiti . They tried to do the same in Canada and Mexico too, but there illegal dumping could be barred. Not in Haiti , compelled to submit to efficient market principles by the US government and the corporations it serves.
One might note that the Pentagon’s proconsul in Iraq , Paul Bremer, ordered a very similar program to be instituted there, with the same beneficiaries in mind. That’s also called “enhancing democracy.” In fact, the record, highly revealing and important, goes back to the 18th century. Similar programs had a large role in creating today’s third world. Meanwhile the powerful ignored the rules, except when they could benefit from them, and were able to become rich developed societies; dramatically the US, which led the way in modern protectionism and, particularly since World War II, has relied crucially on the dynamic state sector for innovation and development, socializing risk and cost.
The punishment of Haiti became much more severe under Bush II — there are differences within the narrow spectrum of cruelty and greed. Aid was cut and international institutions were pressured to do likewise, under pretexts too outlandish to merit discussion. They are extensively reviewed in Paul Farmer’s Uses of Haiti, and in some current press commentary, notably by Jeffrey Sachs (Financial Times) and Tracy Kidder (New York Times).
Putting details aside, what has happened since is eerily similar to the overthrow of Haiti ‘s first democratic government in 1991. The Aristide government, once again, was undermined by US planners, who understood, under Clinton , that the threat of democracy can be overcome if economic sovereignty is eliminated, and presumably also understood that economic development will also be a faint hope under such conditions, one of the best-confirmed lessons of economic history. Bush II planners are even more dedicated to undermining democracy and independence, and despised Aristide and the popular organizations that swept him to power with perhaps even more passion than their predecessors. The forces that reconquered the country are mostly inheritors of the US-installed army and paramilitary terrorists.
Those who are intent on diverting attention from the US role will object that the situation is more complex — as is always true — and that Aristide too was guilty of many crimes. Correct, but if he had been a saint the situation would hardly have developed very differently, as was evident in 1994, when the only real hope was that a democratic revolution in the US would make it possible to shift policy in a more civilized direction.
What is happening now is awful, maybe beyond repair. And there is plenty of short-term responsibility on all sides. But the right way for the US and France to proceed is very clear. They should begin with payment of enormous reparations to Haiti ( France is perhaps even more hypocritical and disgraceful in this regard than the US ). That, however, requires construction of functioning democratic societies in which, at the very least, people have a prayer of knowing what’s going on. Commentary on Haiti , Iraq , and other “failed societies” is quite right in stressing the importance of overcoming the “democratic deficit” that substantially reduces the significance of elections. It does not, however, draw the obvious corollary: the lesson applies in spades to a country where “politics is the shadow cast on society by big business,” in the words of America’s leading social philosopher, John Dewey, describing his own country in days when the blight had spread nowhere near as far as it has today.
For those who are concerned with the substance of democracy and human rights, the basic tasks at home are also clear enough. They have been carried out before, with no slight success, and under incomparably harsher conditions elsewhere, including the slums and hills of Haiti . We do not have to submit, voluntarily, to living in a failed state suffering from an enormous democratic deficit.
PAUL KRUGMAN: Gilded Once More
One of the distinctive features of the modern American right has been nostalgia for the late 19th century, with its minimal taxation, absence of regulation and reliance on faith-based charity rather than government social programs. Conservatives from Milton Friedman to Grover Norquist have portrayed the Gilded Age as a golden age, dismissing talk of the era’s injustice and cruelty as a left-wing myth.

Well, in at least one respect, everything old is new again. Income inequality — which began rising at the same time that modern conservatism began gaining political power — is now fully back to Gilded Age levels.

Consider a head-to-head comparison. We know what John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in Gilded Age America, made in 1894, because in 1895 he had to pay income taxes. (The next year, the Supreme Court declared the income tax unconstitutional.) His return declared an income of $1.25 million, almost 7,000 times the average per capita income in the United States at the time.

But that makes him a mere piker by modern standards. Last year, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, James Simons, a hedge fund manager, took home $1.7 billion, more than 38,000 times the average income. Two other hedge fund managers also made more than $1 billion, and the top 25 combined made $14 billion.

How much is $14 billion? It’s more than it would cost to provide health care for a year to eight million children — the number of children in America who, unlike children in any other advanced country, don’t have health insurance.

The hedge fund billionaires are simply extreme examples of a much bigger phenomenon: every available measure of income concentration shows that we’ve gone back to levels of inequality not seen since the 1920s.

The New Gilded Age doesn’t feel quite as harsh and unjust as the old Gilded Age — not yet, anyway. But that’s because the effects of inequality are still moderated by progressive income taxes, which fall more heavily on the rich than on the middle class; by estate taxation, which limits the inheritance of great wealth; and by social insurance programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which provide a safety net for the less fortunate.

You might have thought that in the face of growing inequality, there would have been a move to reinforce these moderating institutions — to raise taxes on the rich and use the money to strengthen the safety net. That’s why comparing the incomes of hedge fund managers with the cost of children’s health care isn’t an idle exercise: there’s a real trade-off involved. But for the past three decades, such trade-offs have been consistently settled in favor of the haves and have-mores.

Taxation has become much less progressive: according to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, average tax rates on the richest 0.01 percent of Americans have been cut in half since 1970, while taxes on the middle class have risen. In particular, the unearned income of the wealthy — dividends and capital gains — is now taxed at a lower rate than the earned income of most middle-class families.

Those hedge fund titans, by the way, have an especially sweet deal: loopholes in the law let them use their own businesses as, in effect, unlimited 401(k)s, sheltering their earnings and accumulating tax-free capital gains.

Meanwhile, the tax-cut bill Congress passed in 2001 set in motion a complete phaseout of the estate tax. If the Bush administration hadn’t been too clever by half, hiding the true cost of its tax cuts by making the whole package expire at the end of 2010, we’d be well on our way toward becoming a dynastic society.

And as for the social insurance programs —— well, in 2005 the Bush administration tried to privatize Social Security. If it had succeeded, Medicare would have been next.

Of course, the administration’s attempt to undo Social Security was a notable failure. The public, it seems, isn’t eager to return to the days before the New Deal. And the G.O.P.’s defeat in the midterm election has put on hold other plans to restore the good old days.

But it’s much too soon to declare the march toward a New Gilded Age over. If history is any guide, one of these days we’ll see the emergence of a New Progressive Era, maybe even a New New Deal. But it may be a long wait.
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN: China Needs an Einstein. So Do We.
I’ve been thinking about China as I read Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Albert Einstein. China isn’t even mentioned in the book — “Einstein: His Life and Universe” — but Mr. Isaacson’s stimulating and provocative retelling of Einstein’s career plays into two very hot debates about China.

First, what does Einstein’s life tell us about the relationship between freedom and creativity? Or to put it bluntly: Can China become as innovative as America, can it dominate the 21st century, as many predict, when China censors Google and maintains tight political controls while establishing its market economy?

Second, how do we compete with China, no matter how free we are, when so many of China’s young people are studying math and science and so many of ours are dropping out? Or to put it more bluntly: If Einstein were alive today and learned science the boring way it is taught in so many U.S. schools, wouldn’t he have ended up at a Wall Street hedge fund rather than developing theories of relativity for a Nobel Prize?

Mr. Isaacson’s take on Einstein’s life is that it is a testimony to the unbreakable link between human freedom and creativity.

“The whole theme of the last century, and of Einstein’s life,” Mr. Isaacson said in an interview, “is about people who fled oppression in order to go places to think and express themselves. Einstein runs away from the rote learning and authoritarianism of Germany as a teenager in the 1890s and goes to Italy and Switzerland. And then he flees Hitler to come to America, where he resists both McCarthyism and Stalinism because he believes that the only way to have creativity and imagination is to nurture free thought — rebellious free thought.”

If you look at Einstein’s major theories — special relativity, general relativity and the quantum theory of light — “all three come from taking rebellious imaginative leaps that throw out old conventional wisdom,” Mr. Isaacson said. “Einstein thought that the freest society with the most rebellious thinking would be the most creative. If we are going to have any advantage over China, it is because we nurture rebellious, imaginative free thinkers, rather than try to control expression.”

My gut tells me that’s right, but my mind tells me not to ignore something Bill Gates said in China the other day: that putting PCs, education and the Internet in the hands of more and more Chinese is making China not only a huge software market, “but also a contributor to this market. Innovation here is really at a rapid pace.”

Will China hit a ceiling on innovation because of its political authoritarianism? That’s what we need to watch for.

In the meantime, we should heed another of Mr. Isaacson’s insights about Einstein: he found sheer beauty and creative joy in science and equations. If only we could convey that in the way we teach science and math, maybe we could nurture another Einstein — male or female — and not have to worry that so many engineers and scientists in our graduate schools are from China that the classes could be taught in Chinese.

“What Einstein was able to do was to think visually,” Mr. Isaacson explained. “When he looked at Maxwell’s equations as a 16-year-old boy, he visualized what it would be like to ride alongside a light wave and try to catch up. He realized those equations described something wondrous in reality.

“By being able to visualize and think imaginatively about science, he was able to see what more academic scientists failed to see, which is that as you try to catch up with a light beam, the waves travel just as fast, but time slows down for you. It was a leap that better-trained scientists could not make because they did not have the visual imagination.”

If we want our kids to learn science, we can’t treat science as this boring or intimidating thing. “We have to remind our kids … that a math equation or a scientific formula is just a brush stroke the good Lord uses to paint one of the wonders of nature,” Mr. Isaacson said, “and we should look at it as being as beautiful as art or literature or music.”

My favorite Einstein quotation is that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” A society that restricts imagination is unlikely to produce many Einsteins — no matter how many educated people it has. But a society that does not stimulate imagination when it comes to science and math won’t either — no matter how much freedom it has.

So my sense, from reading Mr. Isaacson’s book, is that if Einstein were alive today, he would be telling both America and China that they have homework to do.
April 30, 2007
5 Britons Are Convicted in Terror Plot
London, April 30 — A British court today found five men guilty of a conspiracy to use fertilizer bombs to blow up targets — including, perhaps, a nightclub, a shopping mall and an electric power grid — after a yearlong trial and record jury deliberations of nearly a month.
All five of the convicted men were British citizens, four of them of Pakistani descent, who made trips to Pakistan to learn about explosives and terror techniques at a camp that the court heard was connected to Al Qaeda. Two other defendants in the case, also Britons of Pakistani descent, were acquitted.
Omar Khyam, 26, Waheed Mahmood, 34, Anthony Garcia, 24, Jawad Akbar, 23, and Salahuddin Amin, 31, were convicted of conspiring to cause an explosion likely to endanger life, the Home Office said. The judge, Sir Michael Astill, sentenced the five men to life imprisonment.
“You have betrayed this country that gave you every opportunity,” Sir Michael said, after delivering the sentence.
Shortly after the verdict, Britain’s most senior counterterrorism police officer, Peter Clarke, said that the case marked a “new stage in our understanding of the threat posed by Al Qaeda to this country.” He described the defendants as “trained, dedicated, ruthless terrorists who were obviously probably planning to carry out an attack against the British public.”
The trial court heard the first concrete evidence to surface that some of the conspirators had met with two of the men who later went on to blow themselves up in an attack on London’s transit system in July 2005, the deadliest terror attack in Britain’s history.
At the time of the police surveillance of Mr. Khyam, who was convicted today, together with two of the transit bombers in early 2004, the British authorities judged that the two men who went on to become suicide bombers were not dangerous enough to pursue further, according to a 2006 parliamentary report and court evidence.
The two men went on to take part in the 2005 transit attack, which killed 52 people.
Within an hour of the verdict this morning, the opposition Conservative Party, survivors and relatives of victims of the July 2005 transit attack called for an official inquiry into why the authorities missed an opportunity to prevent the atrocity.
The Home Secretary, John Reid, put the best face on the growing controversy, saying in a statement that the law enforcement agencies could never guarantee “100 percent success” in combating terror.
Sir Michael, the judge, told defense lawyers this morning that “all of these are radicalized young men, all of these young men have been radicalized by others. They are the people who take the punishment.”
The lawyer for one of the defendants, Mr. Amin, had told the jury that Mr. Amin had been tortured after being arrested by the Pakistan intelligence authorities. The judge today said that Mr. Amin had been treated in a “completely unacceptable” way in Pakistan.
Mr. Reid, the home secretary, said today that Britain’s security services — which are likely to face the brunt of the criticism — are being increased massively in size. “But it is important to remember that 100 percent commitment can never guarantee 100 percent success,” he said.
Chavez offers allies half-price oil

Venezuela’s president has pledged to provide cheap oil to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, at a summit attended by regional leaders.

Hugo Chavez offered to sell oil to allies at a 50 per cent discount at a summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the People of the Americas in the Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto on Saturday.

“In the past, oil contributed to the development of the United States,” Chavez said in his opening address.

“Now it is time to make oil serve the development of our people. Venezuela is putting its oil reserves at the service of Latin America.”

The summit was also attended by Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega, the respective presidents of Bolivia and Nicaragua, and Carlos Lage, Cuba’s vice-president.

Chavez did not specify how much oil he would be ready to sell at a 50 per cent discount.

Venezuela is already selling oil to Caribbean countries at a 40 per cent discount.

Anti-US alliance

A leading member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), Venezuela plans to produce about three million barrels of crude oil a day in 2007

Half that planned amount is being sold to the US but Chavez is trying to forge anti-US alliances throughout Latin America and the world at large.

He remains critical of US plans to create the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a proposal to abolish or relax trade barriers between nations on the American continent.

Rene Preval, Haiti’s president, and Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador’s foreign minister, also attended the summit as observers.

Chavez said Haiti will also be eligible for the 50 per cent discount on oil.


In an opening speech to the summit, Ortega stressed efforts to “put an end to imperialist and capitalist domination” in the region.

Lage emphasised the importance of political integration over joint economic projects.

“We seek integration among our people rather than among our markets,” he said.

Morales criticised the US free trade zone plan, calling instead for “fair trade that allows countries to solve their economic problems”.

The Bolivarian Alternative was launched in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela. Bolivia joined it last year, with Nicaragua following in January.

Hamas chief issues intifada warning

Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, has told Israel that it could face another Palestinian uprising unless conditions in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank improve.

Meshaal said that the continuation of an international economic embargo of the Palestinian government and military actions by Israel would present a catalyst for such actions.

He said that current conditions would “give notice to a huge explosion that would not only affect the Palestinians but also the entire region, especially the Zionist entity”.

Meshaal made the comments to al-Ayyam, a Palestinian daily newspaper, in an interview published on Monday.

‘Red lines’

Meshaal said: “I warn and say that I see that the current situation is heading in the direction of the conditions that prevailed in the late 1990s … that paved the way for the al-Aqsa intifada. I warn, and under ‘warn’ I put many red lines.”
The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas movement, broke a five-month-old Gaza ceasefire last week by firing rockets into Israel in response to the killing of nine Palestinians by Israeli forces.
Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, said on Sunday that Israel would take measures to stop Palestinian fighters firing rockets from the Gaza Strip or attempting to infiltrate the Jewish state.
Meshaal defended the firing of rockets, saying it was a response to Israeli killing of Palestinians, but said he hoped that a ceasefire could be expanded from Gaza to the occupied West Bank.
Hamas formed a unity government last month with the Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinan president, in an effort to end internal fighting and ease the year-old economic embargo.
But tensions between Hamas and Fatah remain high, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
The Hamas leader, who held talks with Abbas in Cairo on Friday, has criticised Arab countries for being slow to live up to financial commitments made to the Palestinians.

Iraq rebuilding ‘is failing’
By     Tom Ackerman in Washington

Oil production is at pre-war level

A US audit has found many of Iraq’s reconstruction projects are falling apart and oil production is still below pre-war levels.

However, Washington said it was Iraq’s responsibility to maintain its infrastructure.

The report describes widespread waste, decay and deterioration.

Inspectors said measures to keep rebuilt infrastructure operating were not carried out by the Iraqis. Problems were found complying with international standards and construction sites did not meet safety objectives.

The report also said that electricity supply in Baghdad was down to less than seven hours a day on average, and only 15 out of 142 planned health care centres had been completed.

At Baghdad airport, it said, 10 out of 17 new generators were no longer working because they had not been maintained properly.


The sewer system at Erbil’s modernised paediatric hospital leaks, medical waste clogged drains, and a new incinerator was not being used.

And after the renovation of Iraq’s civil defence headquarters, there was evidence of water damage and wiring that posed a risk of electrical fires.
In its official response to the findings, the Pentagon said once the projects were transferred to Iraqis the US gave up control and authority over them.

The report also criticised the Iraqi government’s efforts to combat corruption, which costs at least $5bn a year.

It found that Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, had blocked 48 corruption investigations involving 102 people.

Lebanon war report slams Israeli PM

A commission probing Israel’s war in Lebanon last summer has accused the country’s wartime leaders of “very severe failures” in their handling of the conflict in an interim report.

The Winograd commission, appointed by Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, found he did not have a “well-processed plan” when he launched the campaign against Hezbollah.

The commission on Monday criticised what it called Olmert’s “severe failure in judgment, responsibility and caution” in going to war last July.

The report capped a six-month investigation into the conflict, which has been widely perceived as a failure by the Israeli public.

Upon receiving the report, Olmert said “failures will be remedied”.

‘Overly ambitious’

Your Views

“The problem is not the leaders of Israel but instead it is the Israeli society, it is the Israelis who vote and elect those leaders…”
Politics , Cambridge, United Kingdom
Send us your views

Eliyahu Winograd, chairman of the inquiry commission, said the prime minister’s declared aims in going to war – to free captured Israeli soldiers and crush Hezbollah – were “overly ambitious and impossible to achieve”.

The report also sharply criticised Amir Peretz, the defence minister, and Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, the wartime military chief, but did not call for Olmert or Peretz to resign.

Israel went to war after Hezbollah fighters killed three soldiers and captured two others in a cross-border raid. In 34 days of fighting, Israel failed to return the captured soldiers, destroy Hezbollah or prevent the group from firing thousands of rockets into Israel.

Monday’s report criticised Peretz for his inexperience and lack of familiarity with the army, and said Halutz “acted impulsively” and misrepresented the army’s readiness.

Winograd said: “We establish that these decisions and the way they were taken suffered from the most severe failures. We put the responsibility for these failures on the prime minister, the defence minister and the former chief of staff.

“If any one of them had acted in a different, better way, the decisions and the way they were made in the period in question, as well as the results of the campaign, would have been different and better.”

Sinking support

Timeline: Lebanon war

–  July 12, 2006: Hezbollah fighters crossed into Israel, killing eight soldiers and capturing two others.
Ehud Olmert called the action an act of war and blamed the Beirut government.
– July 13: Israel launched airstrikes on Beirut’s International Airport, the first of many attacks on Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure.
Hezbollah started a series of rocket attacks, hitting Haifa in northern Israel.
– July 14: Israeli planes bombed the Beirut offices of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
The next day airstrikes were extended to other cities starting with Tripoli.
– July 30: An Israeli raid on a building housing refugees in Qana in southern Lebanon killed at least 28.
– August 14:  With Israeli troops still in position in southern Lebanon, a UN-brokered ceasefire came into force.
By then more than a thousand Lebanese civilians had been killed as well as 39 Israeli civilians and 119 soldiers.

Although Olmert’s popularity has plunged to single digits as a result of the war and a series of scandals plaguing his government, Israel Maimon, the cabinet secretary, said the prime minister “is not considering resignation”.

Aides said before the interim findings were released that Olmert would fight for his political survival.

The full report is to be released in a couple of months.

It covers the first six days of the war, when Israel battered Lebanon with massive air strikes as Hezbollah pounded Israel with rockets. The report also looks at developments in the six years leading up to the conflict, beginning with Israel’s pullout from southern Lebanon in 2000 and tracing Hezbollah’s build-up along the border.

A rally calling for Olmert and his government to quit was planned for Thursday in Tel Aviv. The demonstration was being organised by a former general, military reservists who fought in the war and parents of soldiers killed in the conflict.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland in Jerusalem said the report is likely to damage Olmert’s standing further.

“One newspaper said his standing was somewhere between critical and terminal,” she said.

The report’s harshest criticism is reserved for Halutz, who has already resigned, Rowland said.

At least 1,200 Lebanese, including an estimated 270 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the summer war, as well as 119 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians.
JFK Murder Plot “Deathbed Confession” Aired On National Radio
Former CIA agent, Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt names the men who killed Kennedy
Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Monday, April 30, 2007

The “deathbed confession” audio tape in which former CIA agent and Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt admits he was approached to be part of a CIA assassination team to kill JFK was aired this weekend – an astounding development that has gone completely ignored by the establishment media.
Saint John Hunt, son of E. Howard Hunt, appeared on the nationally syndicated Coast to Coast AM radio show on Saturday night to discuss the revelations contained in the tape.
Hunt said that his father had mailed cassette the tape to him alone in January 2004 and asked that it be released after his death. The tape was originally 20 minutes long but was edited down to four and a half minutes for the Coast to Coast broadcast. Hunt promises that the whole tape will be uploaded soon at his website.
Click here to listen to a clip of the tape.
E. Howard Hunt names numerous individuals with both direct and indirect CIA connections as having played a role in the assassination of Kennedy, while describing himself as a “bench warmer” in the plot. Saint John Hunt agreed that the use of this term indicates that Hunt was willing to play a larger role in the murder conspiracy had he been required.
Hunt alleges on the tape that then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was involved in the planning of the assassination and in the cover-up, stating that LBJ, “Had an almost maniacal urge to become president, he regarded JFK as an obstacle to achieving that.”
Asked if his father followed the conspiracy theories into the Kennedy assassination, Saint John said the elder Hunt did follow the work of AJ Weberman, a New York freelance writer, who in the early 70’s first accused Hunt of being one of three bums who were arrested in Dealy Plaza. The so-called bums were interrogated and later released by authorities shortly after the assassination. Weberman, one of the founders of the Youth International Party, the Vippies, published photographs of the tramps and found that two of them bore striking similarities to Hunt and Frank Sturgis, also named by Hunt in the tape as having been played a role in the assassination conspiracy.
Asked for his opinion as to whether his father was indeed one of the Dealy Plaza tramps, Saint John, in a stunning revelation, said one of the tramps indeed looked much like his father did in 1963.

Saint John Hunt said that shortly before his death, his father had felt “deeply conflicted and deeply remorseful” that he didn’t blow the whistle on the plot at the time and prevent the assassination, but that everyone in the government hated Kennedy and wanted him gone in one way or another. Kennedy’s promise to “shatter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter the remnants to the wind” was being carried out and this infuriated almost everyone at the agency.
The Internet leader in activist media – Prison Thousands of special reports, videos, MP3’s, interviews, conferences, speeches, events, documentary films, books and more – all for just 15 cents a day! Click here to subscribe! Find out the true story behind government sponsored terror, 7/7, Gladio and 9/11, get Terror Storm!
Hunt also said that his mother’s death in a December 8, 1972 plane crash in Chicago was suspicious and that there was evidence of a White House cover-up surrounding the circumstances of the alleged accident.
Investigators discovered $10,000 dollars in her luggage and Hunt alleged that his mother traveled around the country using Nixon campaign money to payoff the families of the Watergate burglars to keep them quiet about the involvement of the Nixon White House in the Watergate break-in and cover-up.
Hunt cited numerous coincidences surrounding the aftermath of the crash, including Nixon’s appointment of his henchman, Egil Krough, to the National Transportation Safety Board which investigates plane crashes, the very day after the incident.
Eyewitnesses reported that the plane exploded above treetop level before it had even hit the runway.
Hunt said that “at least 20-25 FBI members,” as well as numerous DIA agents were at the scene of the crash within minutes before rescue personnel had even arrived, and that this fact was attested to in a letter sent by the head of the Chicago FBI to investigator Sherman Skolnick.
Hunt said that his safety was guaranteed by the dissemination of the tape and that he had several copies and had mailed others to addresses both abroad and in the U.S.
“Once this information is out there’s really no point in anyone trying to do me in or do me wrong – someone may try to discredit me but I have no skeletons in my closet,” said Hunt.
As we have previously reported, the night before the Kennedy assassination, Lyndon Baines Johnson met with Dallas tycoons, FBI moguls and organized crime kingpins – emerging from the conference to tell his mistress Madeleine Duncan Brown that “those SOB’s” would never embarrass him again.
Though Brown first went public on her 21-year relationship with Johnson in the early 80’s, to this day her shocking revelations about how he had told her the Kennedy’s “would never embarrass me again” the night before the assassination are often ignored by the media who prefer to keep the debate focused on issues which can’t definitively be proven either way (or at least can be spun and whitewashed).
In addition, Barr McClellan, father of former White House press secretary Scott McClellan and a partner in the Austin law firm that represented Johnson, wrote in his 2003 book that LBJ was a key player in the organization of the assassination and its cover-up. McClellan’s revelations were the subject of a subsequent History Channel documentary called The Guilty Men.

How much longer will this go on?! IS THERE NO SUCH THING AS ACCOUNTABILITY?!;_ylt=AmHB25kWtm3DGbwS8AdgdPhI2ocA

Corps asked to explain pump contract

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 37 minutes ago

NEW ORLEANS – When the Army Corps of Engineers solicited bids for drainage pumps for New Orleans, it copied the specifications — typos and all — from the catalog of the manufacturer that ultimately won the $32 million contract, a review of documents by The Associated Press found.

The pumps, supplied by Moving Water Industries Corp. of Deerfield Beach, Fla., and installed at canals before the start of the 2006 hurricane season, proved to be defective, as the AP reported in March. The matter is under investigation by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

In a letter dated April 13, Sen. David Vitter (news, bio, voting record), R-La., called on the Corps to look into how the politically connected company got the post-Hurricane Katrina contract. MWI employed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush’s brother, to market its pumps during the 1980s, and top MWI officials have been major contributors to the Republican Party.

While it may not be a violation of federal regulations to adopt a company’s technical specifications, it is frowned on, especially for large jobs like the MWI contract, because it could give the impression the job was rigged for the benefit of a certain company, contractors familiar with Corps practices say.

The Corps’ January 2006 call for bids for 34 pumps used the wording on how the pumps should be built and tested, with minor changes, found in MWI catalogs.

The specifications were so similar that an erroneous phrase in MWI catalogs — “the discharge tube and head assembly shall be abrasive resistance steel” — also appears in the Corps specifications. The phrase should say “abrasion resistant steel.” An incorrect reference to the type of steel that would be required apparently was also lifted.

Eugene Pawlik, a Corps spokesman in Washington, said the agency is working on a response to Vitter’s letter.

MWI declined to discuss how it won the contract. GAO would not talk about its probe.

Richard White, a federal contracting expert, said it is “not unheard for a spec to be copied, in particular in cases of emergency purchases.”

“It’s not a good practice, but it’s not anything egregious, especially if the Corps allowed other companies to negotiate to change it,” White said.

After Katrina swamped about 80 percent of the city, Congress appropriated $5.7 billion to rebuild New Orleans’ flood protection systems. Vitter and Sen. Mary Landrieu (news, bio, voting record), D-La., have excoriated the Corps over its workmanship since Katrina.

In his letter to the commander of the Corps, Vitter said the bid solicitation for the pumps “includes specifications identical to those written and marketed by Moving Water Industries.” In addition, “the testing specifications are also identical to the testing specifications developed and authored by MWI.”

A May 2006 memo by a Corps inspector working on the project, provided to the AP earlier this year, warned that the pumps were faulty and would not work if needed to remove water during a hurricane. GAO opened its investigation after the memo surfaced.

The Corps and MWI insist the pumps would have worked, but last year’s mild hurricane season never put them to the test. The pumps have been overhauled and are being reinstalled.

The Corps withheld about 20 percent of MWI’s contract price — including an incentive of about $5 million to deliver them by June 1, 2006 — until the flaws have been resolved. But the Corps also spent $4.5 million for six additional MWI pumps for use in troubleshooting the defective ones.

The Corps contract officer overseeing the January 2006 bid, Cindy Nicholas, was told about the copied specifications during a conference call with FPI Inc., a Florida company that also bid on the project, shortly after MWI was awarded the contract. A recording of the briefing was provided to the AP by FPI.

“Are you folks aware that the specifications that you folks put out was a copy of the specifications in the MWI catalog?” asked Bob Purcell, who was an FPI salesman at the time the bids were taken.

“No, I’m not aware of that,” Nicholas replied.

Corps official Dan Bradley said during the briefing that consulting engineers had a hand in drawing up the specifications.

Purcell then complained: “We were forced to meet someone else’s specifications in entirety.” He said the consultants did not cooperate with FPI, and he charged that MWI was given “a head’s up” about the job. That, he said, was evident by MWI’s order for pump engines before the contract was even put out to bid.

“I don’t know anything about that, sir,” Nicholas responded. She said that if MWI ordered the engines ahead of time, “they took a big risk.”

“Obviously it was a risk that paid off, let’s put it that way. They must have had some assurance!” Purcell exclaimed.

“Not from me,” Nicholas said.

MWI would not comment on the alleged order for pump engines before the award of the contract.

Purcell, a former MWI employee, is a plaintiff in a federal whistleblower lawsuit accusing MWI of fraudulently helping Nigeria obtain $74 million in taxpayer-backed loans for overpriced and unnecessary pumping equipment. The U.S. Justice Department has joined the suit as a plaintiff.
Hundreds arrested at Istanbul rally

Turkish police have used tear gas to break up May Day demonstrations in Istanbul, arresting up to 700 people, including half a dozen union leaders.

Disk, the country’s labour confederation, said at least one person was badly hurt in the violence as police used water cannons against protesters armed with Molotov cocktails on Tuesday afternoon.

The march was called to commemorate the 30th anniversary of a deadly rally at the city’s central Taksim Square, when unidentified armed men opened fire on a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, sparking panic that left 34 dead.

Transport was paralysed as the authorities blocked roads.

Ferries were cancelled and metro stations closed to cope with two crowds on either side of the Bosphorus.

Anniversary rally
Muammer Guler, Istanbul’s governor, put the number of arrests at “more than 100” as participants in one of the rallies, organised by Disk and several other unions, tried to march on the square in defiance of a ban.
Union leaders later managed to strike a deal with police, allowing a limited group of demonstrators access to the square.
Suleyman Celebi, Disk’s president, said: “We will only be a few thousand marching up to Taksim Square, but we are millions in our hearts.”
The organisation said in a statement that six union leaders, including Musa Cam, its secretary-general, were among scores arrested earlier near the Inonu Stadium, just down the hill from Taksim Square.
Presidential tensions
Factbox: May 1, 1977
The late 1970s were a time of rising tensions between Turkey’s rightwing government and its leftwing unions.
– On May 1, 1977, 500,000 members of the country’s trade unions rallied in Taksim Square in central Istanbul.
– Soon after the peaceful demonstration began, members of  the police and army were seen firing into the crowd.
– Thirty-six people were killed, hundreds were injured in the violence; many were crushed in the stampede to avoid the shooting.
– Turkish police charged 98 people over the incident. All were acquitted.

The arrests came against a backdrop of tensions between the army and government over the country’s disputed presidential election, on which Turkey’s highest court was expected to deliver a ruling later on Tuesday.
Several hundred people gathered chanting “Long Live May Day,” “We will not bow to pressure,” and “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism” before being dispersed by police, who moved in on any group attempting to march to the square.
Dogan Halis, a health workers’ union leader, said in a brief speech that ended when officers bundled him into a police vehicle: “We do not deserve this, Turkey does not deserve this. You are giving a shameful image of Turkey, that of the military coups of 1971 and 1980.”
Guler had rejected several earlier Disk demands to officially hold their rally on Taksim Square, citing “intelligence that many illegal organisations are planning to go there… [to] take on the police”.
In another area near the square, the Okmeydani district, about 1,000 demonstrators armed with sticks and stones faced off against a police barricade.
Outside support

Buses full of of demonstrators coming from Ankara who were prevented from crossing the Bosphorus bridge to join the rally on the European side, gathered in an area know as the Mustafa Kemal neighbourhood in Umraniye.
Other buses were stopped at toll booths at the Istanbul end of the motorway from Ankara, and Disk said police were forcing many of them back to the capital.
Disk accused police of throwing tear gas canisters inside some of the buses and said one woman was hospitalised with a broken arm and cranial trauma.
Another May Day rally in Istanbul, held in Kadikoy Square on the Asian side of the city and organised by the Turk-Is labour confederation, was said to have gone ahead without incident.
Officials said about 17,000 police have been deployed in Istanbul for the demonstrations.
Two days ago, in protests linked to the disputed presidential election, more than one million people demonstrated in Istanbul against the government and in favour of secularism and democracy.
US reports sharp rise in ‘terror’

The number of people killed in “terrorism” around the world has surged by 40 per cent to more than 20,000 last year, largely because of the war in Iraq, a US report says.

The US state department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism publication also listed Iran and Syria as the worst of what it called “state sponsors of terror”.

Global terrorism fatalities rose to 20,498 in 2006 from 14,618 in 2005 with the bulk of last year’s deaths – about 13,000 – in Iraq.

There, US-led forces are fighting armed groups, some with ties to al-Qaeda, as well as growing sectarian violence, four years after the US-led invasion.

According to an annex of the state department’s report, the number of “terrorist” incidents last year rose to 14,338 from 11,153 in 2005.

Of these, attacks in Iraq nearly doubled to 6,630 from 3,468 in 2005 and represented about 45 per cent of the total.

The report described Iraq as at the centre of the US “war on terror”, with US-led forces battling “militias and death squads increasingly engaged in sectarian violence and criminal organisations taking advantage of Iraq’s deteriorating security”.

The number of “terror” attacks also jumped to 749 from 491 in Afghanistan, where US, Nato and other forces are fighting a revived Taliban offensive more than five years after US-led forces ousted the Taliban from power.

The figures did not include attacks on US troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

‘State sponsors’

The report listed the five countries that the US describes as state sponsors of terrorism – Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

Venezuela was not added to the list but remained the only other country deemed as “not fully co-operating” with the global fight against terrorism.

It singled out Iran as the “most active state sponsor” of terror, accusing Iran of helping plan and foment attacks to destabilise Iraq and derail Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Syria drew similar charges in the report, which also noted the “strong likelihood” of Damascus’s involvement in the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, former Lebanese prime minister, in Beirut in February of 2005.

The report said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and intelligence ministry “were directly involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts and continued to exhort a variety of groups, especially Palestinian groups with leadership cadres in Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah, to use terrorism in pursuit their goals.”

In Iraq, it says Iran has played a “destabilising role,” giving material support and guidance to armed Shia groups that have attacked Sunnis, US and Iraqi forces.

At the same time, “Iran maintained a high-profile role in encouraging anti-Israeli activity, rhetorically, operationally and financially,” the report said.

In addition, the report said that Iran is still refusing to identify, try or turn over several senior members of the al-Qaeda network whom it detained in 2003.

Last year, Libya, which had shared the state sponsor of terrorism designation for years, was removed from the list after it renounced terrorism and agreed to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs in 2003.

Local violence trend

“We have seen a trend toward guerrilla terrorism, where the organization seeks to grow the team close to its target, using target country nationals”

US state department Country Reports on Terrorism

The numbers, which are based on “open sources” or public information, were compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center and included in a state department report that provides detailed assessments of such violence around the world.

The report cited some progress in global efforts to combat terrorism since the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, including enhanced border security, a crackdown on “terrorist” financing and the dismantling of some violent groups.

But it said because of this, al-Qaeda has adapted, moving toward local violence rather than “expeditionary” attacks like on September 11, where it used foreign recruits to hijack and crash commercial aircraft in the United States.

The report said: “We have seen a trend toward guerrilla terrorism, where the organisation seeks to grow the team close to its target, using target country nationals.

“Through intermediaries, web-based propaganda and subversion of immigrant expatriate populations, terrorists inspire local cells to carry out attacks which they then exploit for propaganda purposes.

“A deeper trend is the shift in the nature of terrorism, from traditional international terrorism of the late 20th century into a new form of transnational non-state warfare that resembles a form of global insurgency.”
May 2, 2007
Spying on Americans
For more than five years, President Bush authorized government spying on phone calls and e-mail to and from the United States without warrants. He rejected offers from Congress to update the electronic eavesdropping law, and stonewalled every attempt to investigate his spying program.
Suddenly, Mr. Bush is in a hurry. He has submitted a bill that would enact enormous, and enormously dangerous, changes to the 1978 law on eavesdropping. It would undermine the fundamental constitutional principle — over which there can be no negotiation or compromise — that the government must seek an individual warrant before spying on an American or someone living here legally.
To heighten the false urgency, the Bush administration will present this issue, as it has before, as a choice between catching terrorists before they act or blinding the intelligence agencies. But the administration has never offered evidence that the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, hampered intelligence gathering after the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Bush simply said the law did not apply to him.
The director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell, said yesterday that the evidence of what is wrong with FISA was too secret to share with all Americans. That’s an all-too-familiar dodge. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who is familiar with the president’s spying program, has said that it could have been conducted legally. She even offered some sensible changes for FISA, but the administration and the Republican majority in the last Congress buried her bill.
Mr. Bush’s motivations for submitting this bill now seem obvious. The courts have rejected his claim that 9/11 gave him virtually unchecked powers, and he faces a Democratic majority in Congress that is willing to exercise its oversight responsibilities. That, presumably, is why his bill grants immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated in five years of illegal eavesdropping. It also strips the power to hear claims against the spying program from all courts except the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret.
According to the administration, the bill contains “long overdue” FISA modifications to account for changes in technology. The only example it offered was that an e-mail sent from one foreign country to another that happened to go through a computer in the United States might otherwise be missed. But Senator Feinstein had already included this fix in the bill Mr. Bush rejected.
Moreover, FISA has been updated dozens of times in the last 29 years. In 2000, Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, who ran the National Security Agency then, said it “does not require amendment to accommodate new communications technologies.” And since 9/11, FISA has had six major amendments.
The measure would not update FISA; it would gut it. It would allow the government to collect vast amounts of data at will from American citizens’ e-mail and phone calls. The Center for National Security Studies said it might even be read to permit video surveillance without a warrant.
This is a dishonest measure, dishonestly presented, and Congress should reject it. Before making any new laws, Congress has to get to the truth about Mr. Bush’s spying program. (When asked at a Senate hearing yesterday if Mr. Bush still claims to have the power to ignore FISA when he thinks it is necessary, Mr. McConnell refused to answer.)
With clear answers — rather than fearmongering and stonewalling — there can finally be a real debate about amending FISA. It’s not clear whether that can happen under this president. Mr. Bush long ago lost all credibility in the area where this law lies: at the fulcrum of the balance between national security and civil liberties.
May 1, 2007
For Motherly X Chromosome, Gender Is Only the Beginning
As May dawns and the mothers among us excitedly anticipate the clever e-cards that we soon will be linking to and the overpriced brunches that we will somehow end up paying for, the following job description may ring a familiar note:
Must be exceptionally stable yet ridiculously responsive to the needs of those around you; must be willing to trail after your loved ones, cleaning up their messes and compensating for their deficiencies and selfishness; must work twice as hard as everybody else; must accept blame for a long list of the world’s illnesses; must have a knack for shaping young minds while in no way neglecting the less glamorous tissues below; must have a high tolerance for babble and repetition; and must agree, when asked, to shut up, fade into the background and pretend you don’t exist.
As it happens, the above precis refers not only to the noble profession of motherhood to which we all owe our lives and guilt complexes. It is also a decent character sketch of the chromosome that allows a human or any other mammal to become a mother in the first place: the X chromosome.
The X chromosome, like its shorter, stubbier but no less conspicuous counterpart, the Y chromosome, is a so-called sex chromosome, a segment of DNA entrusted with the pivotal task of sex determination. A mammalian embryo outfitted with an X and Y chromosomal set buds into a male, while a mammal bearing a pair of X chromosomes emerges from the maternal berth with birthing options of her own.
Yet the X chromosome does much more than help specify an animal’s reproductive plumbing. As scientists who study the chromosome lately have learned, the X is a rich repository of genes vital to brain development and could hold the key to the evolution of our particularly corrugated cortex. Moreover, the X chromosome behaves unlike any of the other chromosomes of the body — unlike little big-man Y, certainly, but also unlike our 22 other pairs of chromosomes, the self-satisfied autosomes that constitute the rest of our genome, of the complete DNA kit packed into every cell that we carry. It is a supple, switchbacking, multitasking gumby doll patch of the genome; and the closer you look, the more Cirque du Soleil it appears.
Although the precise details of its chemical structure and performance are only just emerging, the X chromosome has long been renowned among geneticists, who named it X not because of its shape, as is commonly presumed — the non-sex chromosomes also vaguely resemble an “X” at times during cell division — but because they were baffled by the way it held itself apart from the other chromosomal pairs. “They called it X for unknown,” said Mark T. Ross of the X Chromosome Group at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge. (When its much tinier male counterpart was finally detected, researchers simply continued down the alphabet for a name.) Many of the diseases first understood to be hereditary were linked to X’s span, for the paradoxical reason that such conditions showed their face most often in those with just a single X to claim: men.
Scientists eventually determined that we inherit two copies of our 23,000 or so genes, one from each parent; and that these genes, these chemical guidelines for how to build and maintain a human, are scattered among the 23 pairs of chromosomes, along with unseemly amounts of apparent chemical babble.
Having two copies of every gene proves especially handy when one of those paired genes is defective, at which point the working version of the gene can step in and specify enough of the essential bodybuilding protein that the baby blooms just fine and may never know its DNA is hemi-flawed. And here is where the Y’s petite stature looms large. Because it holds a mere 50ish different genes against its counterpart’s 1,100, the vast majority of X-based genes have no potential pinch-hitter on the Y. A boy who inherits from his mother an X chromosome that enfolds a faulty gene for a bloodclotting factor, say, or for a muscle protein or for a color receptor won’t find succor in the chromosomal analogue bestowed by Dad. He will be born with hemophilia, or muscular dystrophy, or color-blindness. But, hey, he will be a boy, for male-making is the task to which the Y chromosome is almost exclusively devoted.
In fact, it is to compensate for the monomania of the Y that the X chromosome has become such a mother of a multitasker. Over the 300 million years of evolution, as the Y chromosome has shrugged off more of its generic genetic responsibilities in pursuit of sexual specialization, the X has had to pick up the slack. It, too, has pawned off genes to other chromosomes. But for those genes still in its charge, the X must double their output, to prod each gene to spool out twice the protein of an ordinary gene and thus be the solo equivalent of any twinned genes located on other, nonsexy chromosomes.
Ah, but women, who have two X chromosomes, two copies of those 1,100 genes: What of them? With its usual Seussian sense of playfulness, evolution has opted to zeedo the hoofenanny. In a girl’s cells, you don’t see two pleasantly active X chromosomes behaving like two ordinary nonsex chromosomes. You see one hyperactive X chromosome, its genes busily pumping out twice the standard issue of protein, just as in a boy’s cells; and you see one X chromosome that has been largely though not wholly shut down, said Laura Carrel, a geneticist at Penn State College of Medicine.
Through an elaborate process called X inactivation, the chromosome is blanketed with a duct tape of nucleic acid. In some cells of a woman’s body it may be the chromosome from Dad that’s muffled, while in other cells the maternal one stays mum.
Every daughter, then, is a walking mosaic of clamorous and quiet chromosomes, of fatherly sermons and maternal advice, while every son has but his mother’s voice to guide him. Remember this, fellows: you are all mama’s boys.,,2070716,00.html

US ready to talk with Iran

Mark Tran
Wednesday May 2, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

The Bush administration today made it clear it was willing to engage in high-level talks with Iran.

The talks are likely to take place at an international conference on Iraq in Egypt this week.

The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, will attend the conference in Sharm el-Sheik, as will the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki.

Should they meet face to face at the two-day conference, starting tomorrow, it will be the highest-level contact between the two countries for almost three decades.

The meeting, bringing together officials from the US, Iran, Russia, China, the EU and Arab countries, is to discuss economic aid for Iraq and ways to rein in sectarian strife. But speculation on the possibility of direct substantive talks between the US and Iran has dominated the run-up to the conference.

“The Friday ministerial talks will be an opportunity for us together to work directly for the good of the people of Iraq,” the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, Nicolas Burns, told an audience at the Chatham House thinktank in London.

With Mr Bush facing intense Democratic party pressure on funding for the Iraq war, there is now even greater incentive for the US to turn to Iran to help stabilise Iraq.

The third most senior official at the state department, Mr Burns said he hoped Iran would discuss negotiations on the contentious issue of Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme, as well as Iraq.

The talks in Egypt, Mr Burns said, “will be important because Secretary Rice will be seated around the table with the Syrian foreign minister and, we hope and think, with the Iranian foreign minister, although the Iranians have been a little bit ambivalent.”

Iran has blown hot and cold over such a high-level meeting. There is a debate in Tehran on whether to accommodate a US change of heart.

Mr Mottaki today said Tehran had still not decided whether to accept face-to-face talks with the US. “This case is under review. No final decision has been made yet in this regard,” he said.

The comment was much softer than an earlier statement by his own deputy, who claimed the timing was not right for top-level Iran-US talks.

In his remarks, Mr Burns ran through the list of US complaints about Iran. This included Tehran’s support to Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and Shia extremists in Iraq, and its nuclear programme.

But Mr Burns emphasised America’s wish to engage Iran diplomatically.

“There is a choice: confrontation or diplomacy. We prefer diplomacy and we are trying to open two diplomatic channels – on the nuclear issue and on Iraq,” Mr Burns said.

The UN security council has imposed sanctions on Iran for its refusal to accept an international package on aid for developing nuclear power for civilian use in exchange for a halt to uranium enrichment. This would be a first step towards acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran faces further sanctions later this year should it persist with enrichment.

Despite its new willingness to talk directly to Iran at a senior level, the US still opposes direct negotiations with Iran on nuclear enrichment, a move advocated by the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who has been meeting Iranian officials on the issue.

“It is better if the nuclear issue stays in that channel,” Ms Rice said.

Mr Burns reiterated in London that the US would not negotiate with Iran on nuclear issues until it agreed to stop enrichment as called for by the security council.

Ms Rice, during a stopover in Ireland, said talks with Iran would focus on Iraq, but she would not cut off a conversation if it turned to Tehran’s nuclear programme. “I think I can handle any question that is asked of me,” she said. “If we encounter each other and wander to other subjects I am prepared to address them at least in terms of American policy.”
Venezuela exits IMF and World Bank

Chavez, far right, has pledged alleigance to other
left-wing Latin American leaders [AFP]

Venezuela is to withdraw from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, after Hugo Chavez, the country’s president, said it no longer required the institutions.

Chavez made the announcement on Monday as part of plans to create an alternative lending bank run by South American nations.

“I want to formalise our exit from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund,” Chavez said, issuing an order for Rodrigo Cabezas, Venezuela’s finance minister, to begin proceedings to withdraw from the organisations.

“We are going to withdraw before they go and rob us.”


Chavez intends to set up a new lender run by Latin American nations which he has called the ‘Bank of the South’.

He has pledged to support it with Venezuela’s oil revenues.

Separately, Chavez also offered on Sunday to contribute $250m to a new regional co-operation fund.

Since Chavez first took office in 1999, Venezuela has reduced its co-operation with the organisations.

Chavez blames the two organisations’ economic programmes of tight budget control, privatisation and open markets for continued poverty across Latin America.

After years of strong oil prices, Venezuela said it paid off its final debts to the World Bank this month.

On Monday, Chavez announced a 20 per cent minimum wage rise and a gradual reduction in the working day to six hours, as part of a rejection of IMF and World Bank policies.

More independence

Venezuela is one of several countries, particularly in Latin America, that have reduced their dependence on the IMF and World Bank in the last few years.

Other Latin American countries are also distancing themselves from international lenders.

Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s president said on Sunday that he hopes to “get out of that prison” of IMF debt and that “we are negotiating with the Fund to leave the Fund.”

Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, said last week that Chavez was damaging his country “economically and politically”.

As part of his continuing programme of nationalisation, Chavez on Tuesday will lead a rally to take over the operations of oil projects in the Orinoco Belt, currently run by some of the world’s largest companies.

“The importance of this is that we are taking back control of the Orinoco Belt which the president rightly calls the world’s biggest crude reserve,” said Marco Ojeda, an oil union leader, before the planned rally.

Chavez has promised to take at least 60 per cent of the four projects, valued at more than $30bn.

US companies ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Britain’s BP, Norway’s Statoil and France’s Total have agreed to obey a decree to transfer operational control.

No hearing for Guantanamo inmates

There are about 385 detainees still
at the Guantanamo Bay prison [AP]

The US Supreme Court has sided with the Bush administration and declined to hear an appeal by two Guantanamo detainees facing a military tribunal hearing.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan and Omar Khadr, who are facing terror charges, are seeking a review of their confinement in the federal court.

Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer said they would hear the appeal but it takes four votes for the nine-member Supreme Court to do so.

The court had ruled that the military tribunals should run first before the two men can bring an appeal.

The court’s action follows its April 2 decision not to step into related aspects of the legal battle regarding other Guantanamo Bay detainees.

In June, Hamdan won a landmark US Supreme Court ruling which led to a repudiation of the Bush administration.

Illegal system

The court had found the initial military tribunal system created to try terrorism suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to be illegal.

The ruling prompted George Bush, the US president, to seek congressional approval last year for tough interrogation and prosecution of terrorism suspects under a new military tribunal system.

The new law also took away the right of the prisoners to challenge their confinement before US federal judges.

The Supreme Court in early April rejected, for now, appeals by two different groups of Guantanamo prisoners.

Their challenge to the law was similar to the one brought by lawyers for Hamdan and Khadr.

There are about 385 detainees still at Guantanamo.

The first prisoners arrived more than five years ago after the US began what Bush called the “war on terror” in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

Son Of JFK Conspirator Drops New Bombshell Revelations
Costner was set to make documentary on Hunt’s confession, before Miami mafia stepped in, E. Howard believed government had sabotaged his wife’s plane
Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Thursday, May 3, 2007
As the explosive revelation of E. Howard Hunt’s deathbed confession, in which the former CIA agent and Watergate conspirator admits that he was part of a CIA conspiracy to assassinate JFK, continues to rage across the Internet, the establishment media remains almost mute on what is undoubtedly one of the biggest stories of the decade.
Saint John Hunt, E. Howard Hunt’s oldest son, joined Alex Jones yesterday to drop new bombshells about his father’s story. Click here to listen.
Hunt was first made aware of what his father knew about the events of November 22nd 1963 when he came into receipt of hand-written memos that outlined the birth of the plot to kill JFK in Miami where it was discussed that a coup needed to take place in order to topple Kennedy and save the CIA from being splintered into a thousand pieces, as JFK had promised.
Saint John then opened his mailbox one January morning in 2004 to discover an unlabeled cassette tape on which his father details the identity of the individuals that were involved in the actual assassination of JFK.
E. Howard Hunt names numerous individuals with both direct and indirect CIA connections as having played a role in the assassination of Kennedy, while describing himself as a “bench warmer” in the plot. Saint John Hunt agreed that the use of this term indicates that Hunt was willing to play a larger role in the murder conspiracy had he been required, but was primarily used in an oversight role.
Hunt alleges on the tape that then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was involved in the planning of the assassination and in the cover-up, stating that LBJ, “Had an almost maniacal urge to become president, he regarded JFK as an obstacle to achieving that.”

Saint John Hunt.
In the Alex Jones Show interview, Hunt reveals how Kevin Costner, star of the JFK movie, had shared a mutual friend with E. Howard Hunt and had subsequently visited Hunt in Miami in the interests of producing a documentary film based on Hunt’s knowledge of the plot.
“Kevin Costner flies down and is introduced to my father by this mutual friend and Kevin just blurted out, ‘so who killed JFK’? My father’s jaw dropped and he turned around and looked at his wife and said, ‘what did he say’?”
“So the whole thing just kind of blew up in its face and that was the end of that,” said Hunt.
Hunt said that Costner had become “somewhat of a conspiracy enthusiast” after having made the JFK movie and was very interested in starting a project based on E. Howard Hunt’s revelations.
“What my father devised was a code and a key to give Mr. Costner the relevant information without naming the names,” said Hunt, “He listed out a chain of command and a timeline series of events and things that took place along with the most important players in the plot.”
Costner considered the information to be “dynamite stuff,” but elements of the “Miami mafia” derailed the project and the documentary never got off the ground.
Saint John Hunt also revealed for the first time that E. Howard Hunt thought that the Chicago plane crash that killed his wife in 1972 was not an accident. Investigators discovered at least $10,000 dollars in Dorothy Hunt’s luggage, money that Saint John Hunt alleges was Nixon campaign funds used to payoff the families of the Watergate burglars to keep them quiet about the involvement of the Nixon White House in the Watergate break-in and cover-up.
“Later on in his life at one of these bedside confessions….tears started welling up in his eyes and he said, ‘you know Saint I was so deeply concerned that what they did to your mother they could have done to you children’ and that caused the hair on my neck to stand up – that was the first disclosure from my father that he thought there was something else going on besides sheer pilot error,” said Hunt.
Eyewitnesses reported that the plane exploded above treetop level before it had even hit the runway.
Hunt said that “at least 20-25 FBI members,” as well as numerous DIA agents were at the scene of the crash within minutes before rescue personnel had even arrived, and that this fact was attested to in a letter sent by the head of the Chicago FBI to investigator Sherman Skolnick.
Hunt cited numerous coincidences surrounding the aftermath of the crash, including Nixon’s appointment of his henchman, Egil Krough, to the National Transportation Safety Board which investigates plane crashes, the very day after the incident.
When asked about the photos of the “three tramps” that were arrested on the scene of the JFK murder but were later ordered released, Hunt agreed that they likely showed his father and the two other key conspirators.

“As my father’s son, every time I look at that comparison photo between the tramps and my father – it looks like my father to me,” said Hunt.
The Internet leader in activist media – Prison Watch the 80 minute video in which LBJ’s former mistress, Madeleine Duncan Brown, exposes Johnson’s role in formulating the plot to kill JFK. Click here to subscribe.
Hunt also said that he was reasonably confident that one of the other tramps was CIA operative Frank Sturgis, who his father had also named as a key member of the murder plot.

Hunt said that his father was not one of the shooters but was more of a manager of the plot on a command level, but was later “hung out to dry” by the CIA and the government.
Asked why Hunt became a willing conspirator in the plot to murder JFK, Hunt responded,”Within intelligence circles, he felt that it was an imperative situation that President Kennedy not be allowed to serve in that office for any longer because there was a lot of crucial things coming down, there was the Vietnam war, there was also the anger and the threats Kennedy had made to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces.”
Hunt also said that his father eventually desired to become the director of the CIA and Kennedy was a direct obstacle to that goal.
Hunt concluded by agreeing that his father’s legacy was that of a patriotic American who was manipulated and twisted by people like LBJ and Nixon, later to be deserted and have his family torn apart by these same criminals.
E. Howard Hunt finally redeemed himself shortly before his death by blowing the whistle on the JFK murder plot, but now there is a fresh attempt to bury this information on behalf of the compromised and cowardly establishment media, who have afforded this bombshell story almost no attention at all while lavishly devoting coverage to the mindlessness of Britney Spears’ comeback and radio host Don Imus’ off-hand comments.
Once again the responsibility lies with alternative media and the Internet to make sure E. Howard Hunt’s story is heard.
This is a good point, and so is the discussion further down about the causes of rampant gun crime.

I don’t like firearms, personally, but I think it’s important to remember Switzerland’s example when our leaders over here are trying to tell us that we should ban guns.

Remember that our Constitution gives us the right to bear arms in order to protect ourselves against an unjust government. It’s true that in countries in which firearms are illegal there are fewer gun crimes, but what would happen if these countries’ governments mobilized to place all people who cannot grow a full beard behind bars (silly example, but still)?

No one could fight back.

Plus, when firearms are outlawed only people who acquire illegal firearms can own them. And who are these people?

It’s a tough question, but it’s a question better discussed somewhere between the two polarities that get the most fucking air-time on television.

Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Switzerland and the gun

Switzerland has long maintained its armed neutrality.
Guns are deeply rooted within Swiss culture – but the gun crime rate is so low that statistics are not even kept.

The country has a population of six million, but there are estimated to be at least two million publicly-owned firearms, including about 600,000 automatic rifles and 500,000 pistols.

This is in a very large part due to Switzerland’s unique system of national defence, developed over the centuries.

Instead of a standing, full-time army, the country requires every man to undergo some form of military training for a few days or weeks a year throughout most of their lives.

Between the ages of 21 and 32 men serve as frontline troops. They are given an M-57 assault rifle and 24 rounds of ammunition which they are required to keep at home.

Once discharged, men serve in the Swiss equivalent of the US National Guard, but still have to train occasionally and are given bolt rifles. Women do not have to own firearms, but are encouraged to.

Few restrictions

In addition to the government-provided arms, there are few restrictions on buying weapons. Some cantons restrict the carrying of firearms – others do not.

The government even sells off surplus weaponry to the general public when new equipment is introduced.

Guns and shooting are popular national pastimes. More than 200,000 Swiss attend national annual marksmanship competitions.

But despite the wide ownership and availability of guns, violent crime is extremely rare. There are only minimal controls at public buildings and politicians rarely have police protection.

Mark Eisenecker, a sociologist from the University of Zurich told BBC News Online that guns are “anchored” in Swiss society and that gun control is simply not an issue.

Some pro-gun groups argue that Switzerland proves their contention that there is not necessarily a link between the availability of guns and violent crime in society.

Low crime

But other commentators suggest that the reality is more complicated.

Switzerland is one of the world’s richest countries, but has remained relatively isolated.

It has none of the social problems associated with gun crime seen in other industrialised countries like drugs or urban deprivation.

Despite the lack of rigid gun laws, firearms are strictly connected to a sense of collective responsibility.

From an early age Swiss men and women associate weaponry with being called to defend their country.
By Emma Sabry
A Middle East map in a typical Israeli school text book doesn’t show the Green Line which until 1967 separated Israel from Palestinian territories now occupied by the Jewish state.
Israeli children don’t learn that the Israeli side of the Green Line encompasses 78% of what was Palestine in 1947.
Moreover, if you watch the introductory video at Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall Museum, you will not hear or see anything related to the Arabs who lived in Palestine before Israel seized the territory and became a state in 1948.
It is as if the Palestinians do not exist!
Every country is guilty of telling its own version of history, and of trying to show itself as the hero of its own story, says Dr Ruth Firer, a historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “But every narrative has to be flexible enough to let others live by it. If one’s own history is written in a way that doesn’t let others live by it then we have a problem,” she adds.
In the 1980s, some Israeli historians sought to debunk what they call a distorted “Zionist narrative” by writing about the more brutal aspects of their country’s origins, including the expulsions and violence against Arabs.
But their version of Israel’s true history never made it into the mainstream narrative.
The Israelis don’t even know the word “Nakba”, or the “disaster”, which took place after Israel’s creation. The word refers to all the tragic circumstances surrounding the creation of Israel which forced an estimated 900,000 Palestinians to flee their country during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
“If you ask people in Israel about the Nakba the majority don’t know what it is,” according to Eyal Danon who works on a project with Israeli Arabs documenting the Arab and Jewish history of Jaffa.
The right of return of Palestinian refugees and the legal status of Jerusalem are among the key obstacles hampering the resumption of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
For example, Israel immediately rejected the Saudi-drafted peace plan — initially introduced in 2002 and revived by the Arab League in March — simply because it doesn’t want the refugees to return to their homeland, arguing that their return could result in the demographic elimination of Israel as a “Jewish state”.
Moreover, the Israelis believe that the Palestinians were not forced to leave their lands in the late 1940s, and thus do not have a right to return and do not deserve any kind of compensation. On the other hand, the Palestinians justify their right of return to what is now Israel because they were expelled as a result of Israeli aggression.
This clearly indicates that the Israelis must study the Nakba and the Palestinian exodus because it was their responsibility, says Eyal Danon.
Only after Israel has dealt with this, can there be dialogue with the Palestinians, she adds.

Wall Street Journal Claims Chavez Oil Policy “Aims to Weaken US”

by Stephen Lendman

Friday, May 04, 2007
posted by Steve Lendman @ 6:32 AM

The Wall Street Journal’s main Hugo Chavez antagonist is its self-styled Latin American “expert” Mary Anastasia O’Grady who makes up for in imagination and vitriol what she lacks in knowledge and journalistic integrity. She, however, wasn’t assigned to write the May 1 Journal attack piece reporters David Luhnow in Mexico City and Peter Millard in Caracas got to do titled “How Chavez Aims to Weaken US.” Of course, when it comes to Venezuela, the issue is oil and Chavez’s having the “audacity” to want his people to benefit most from their own resources, not predatory foreign oil companies the way it used to be when the country’s leadership only served the interests of capital ignoring essential social needs. No longer.

Chavez, of course, announced months ago his government would complete renationalizating his country’s oil reserves when state oil company PDVSA became the majority shareholder May 1 in four Orinoco River basin oil projects with a minimum 60% ownership in joint ventures with foreign partners. The plan was broadly denounced in the US major media with Journal columnist O’Grady writing April 16 “Chavez (was) brimming with bravado as he shredded (the) oil contracts (telling) foreigners to step aside because he’s in charge now (but the move will likely) end up hitting the ‘commandante of the revolution’ in the pocketbook (because of) corruption, incompetence and mismanagement” meaning Venezuela will now run all its own oil operations and forge its own future, not Big Oil O’Grady wants sole right to do it. No longer indeed, and O’Grady’s not pleased. She’s also dead wrong in her outlook for Venezuela’s oil future run by PDVSA with foreign partners, but don’t ever expect her to admit it.

So is the New York Times agreeing April 10 with O’Grady and other corporate media Big Oil cheerleaders. The Times used charged language condemning Chavez’s “revolutionary flourish (and his) ambitious (plan to) wrest control of several major oil projects from American and European companies (with a) showdown (ahead for these) coveted energy resources….” The Times went on to claim this action would undermine Venezuela’s growth hinting Big Oil’s threat to leave might get Chavez to back down enough to get them to stay. It never happened as this writer suggested April 12 in an article titled “Wall Street Journal and New York Times Attack journalism.” The article made it clear oil exploration and production in Venezuela is so profitable that even with a smaller share of the profits US, European and other Big Oil investors wouldn’t dream of leaving. Whine plenty, leave, not likely, and now we know they won’t.

AP’s Natalie Obiko Pearson reported April 26 that “Four major oil companies (stopped whining April 25 and) agreed to cede control of Venezuela’s last remaining (majority-owned) privately run oil projects to President Hugo Chavez’s government” with ConocoPhillips coming around May 1 showing it, too, was all bark and no bite. Those agreeing through signed memorandums of understanding were Chevron, BP(Amoco) PLC, France’s Total SA, Norway’s Statoil ASA, ConocoPhillips, and with most antagonistic of all to the idea ExxonMobil finally doing it privately as was almost certain to happen and then did.

AP reported ConocoPhillips has the most Orinoco basin exposure in two of four projects, Ameriven and Petrozuata with a (former) 50.1% stake in the latter. It was inconceivable the company would abandon them, and on May 1 it announced it would stay on. The one remaining issue to be resolved is compensation with foreign investors having until June 26 to negotiate terms for their reduced stakes. Expect more Big Oil whining followed by capitulation again to Venezuelan Energy Ministry’s expected offer of fair and equitable takeover terms.

On April 26, PDVSA’s web site reported a total of 10 foreign oil companies agreed to transfer majority control of their “Oil Belt” operations to the state-run oil company. Further, the company expects to achieve a daily capacity of 5.85 million barrels in 2012 and said its January 1 taking control of 32 oil fields will advance the country “toward full national sovereignty over (its) natural energy reserves.”

In response to these actions, and on the day it took effect, the Journal went on the attack again with more ahead certain to be as false and misleading. Its writers called Chavez a “self-proclaimed Maoist (wanting to) reshape the global oil business by sidelining the US and making China his country’s chief strategic energy partner” for investment and export. The Journal also accused Chavez of using “oil as a political weapon” since taking office in 1999 offering discounted oil “to dozens of Latin American countries” as his weapon of choice plus forging alliances with US “economic rivals like China and political rivals like Iran.”

Hugo Chavez, in fact, is a self-proclaimed social democrat charting his own independent course toward progressive “21st century socialism” along the lines Latin American expert James Petras calls the “pragmatic left” in contrast to the more “radical left” of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas; elements of “teachers and peasant-indigenous movements in Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas in Mexico;” many “small Marxist groups in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and elsewhere;” and Venezuela’s “peasant and barrio movements,” among others. Other Latin American leaders Petras calls “pragmatic” leftists include Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Cuba’s Castro and many “large electoral parties and major peasant and trade unions in Central and South America” including Mexico’s PRD party, El Salvador’s FMLN, Chile’s Communist Party, “the majority in Peruvian (Ollanta) Humala’s parliamentary party;” and others including “the great majority of left Latin American intellectuals.”

Unlike what the Wall Street Journal and rest of the US corporate media report or imply, Chavez and others on the “pragmatic left” aren’t aiming to destroy capitalism, just tame it. They also plan no wholesale renunciation of accumulated IMF, World Bank and other international lending agency debt, only calling for it to be on more equitable terms; restructuring it to make their nations’ debt burden fair; and aiming to become free from its repressive yoke as Venezuela did paying it off completely with Chavez announcing May 1 his country is pulling out of the IMF and World Bank, formally breaking free from the kind of debt slavery these institutions impose on countries they lend to guaranteeing their people continued impoverishment.

It’s an important move that may encourage other countries to follow as Ecuador’s President Raphael Correa already did ousting the country’s World Bank representative saying “we will not stand for extortion by this international bureaucracy.” Look for more IMF-World Bank resentment to surface ahead as Chavez’s and Correa’s courage may embolden other leaders to move in the same direction or at least begin by openly voicing public discontent as a first step to possible policy change to follow.

Hugo Chavez offers them a new choice having announced in March he intends creating a Bank of the South social democratic alternative to the repressive neoliberal Washington Consensus IMF-World Bank model. So far Bolivia and Argentina have agreed to be part of it with Chavez hoping other Latin countries will join as well by contributing 10% of their capital reserves for this enterprise he hopes will be operating by summer.

Additional parts of Chavez’s plan involve forging stronger ties to other oil importing nations like China to reduce Venezuela’s dependency on a hostile US. He also announced April 29 the nation hopes to gradually sell its seven US-based Citgo refineries replacing them with a new Latin American-based network in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Dominica. It’s part of his plan to provide the region a stable oil supply and 100% of the energy needs for Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) members and Haiti.

He further offers discounted oil to Latin American and other nations, not to buy support as the Journal claims, but to build progressive ALBA trade and other good neighbor alliances with regional nations the opposite of WTO-style Global North exploitive one-way deals. The Fifth ALBA Summit held in Barquisimeto, Venezuela just ended April 29 at which heads of state from Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti signed strategic ALBA agreements with delegations from Ecuador, Uruguay, Dominique and St. Vincent and the Grenadines also attending along with social movements from other states.

Chavez aims for more than just fair and equitable trade and other commercial, industrial and energy deals, and Summit leaders made progress toward them. They agreed to alliances in ALBA Education, Health, Culture, Food, and Telecommunications that may ahead extend Venezuela’s and Cuba’s social agenda to other ALBA countries and Haiti.

The May 1 Wall Street Journal article says “Chavez wants to replace the US as Venezuela’s main partner and client in the oil business (and) The big winner could be (big, bad US rival) China” that spells bad news for Washington and Big Oil. It continued saying the country has the largest proved reserves outside the Middle East, and if Chavez succeeds he’ll force the US to be even more dependent on that volatile region than it already is. Further, Journal writers take aim at PDVSA demeaning it as a state-run company claiming it has “little focus” because Chavez turned it into a “poverty-alleviation ministry.” As a result, the Journal says it became inefficient and its production fell from 3.1 million barrels a day when Chavez first took office in 1999 to 2.4 million barrels a day now according to US government Energy Information Administration (EIA) figures that look to have been cooked to bring them down.

They’re disputable with differing ones coming from alternate sources including the 2006 CIA World Factbook listing Venezuela’s daily production at slightly under 3.1 million daily barrels, around the same figure PDVSA reported then including extra-heavy crude from Orinoco belt production. In May, 2006, Venezuelan Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Raphael Ramirez indicated the International Energy Agency (IEA) recognized the nation’s daily oil production at over 3 million daily barrels while the government reports it now at 3.3 million compared to 2.6 million or less claimed by international oil analysts and EIA deliberately understating oil output the way Washington and the West distort everything positive about Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.

The Bush administration and US corporate media, flacking for Big Oil, is all over Hugo Chavez with the Journal’s May Day article staying true to form. It ends saying Venezuela “was historically one of the US’s most reliable energy allies” pumping all out to guarantee America a steady supply when it was most needed as it did in WW II, the 1973 Arab oil embargo and the 1991 Gulf war. It then blamed Chavez for changing that instead of reporting Washington was at fault for soured relations that hit rock bottom during the aborted two-day April, 2002 coup against him the Journal can’t admit the US instigated and supported.

All it can say, with a heavy-handed dose of sour grapes, is that “Mixing oil and politics may not help Mr. Chavez in the long run” as he’ll need “private companies’ expertise to develop the heavy crude in the Orinoco region” without ever conceding he already has it and a long line of takers ready to step in if any now there foolishly leave. They won’t, but don’t expect to see that opinion reported anywhere in the Wall Street Journal as they’d then have to admit everything they wrote earlier was false and misleading. They don’t have to. You just read it here.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen each Saturday to the Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on The Micro at noon US central time.

A Whoring She Will Go

Posted by Jason Miller at 4:54 AM
Peggy Noonan (born Margaret Ellen Noonan on September 7, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York) is an author of seven books on politics, religion and culture and a weekly columnist for the Wall Street Journal. She is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rutherford, New Jersey, and was a Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.
“So begins the Wiki entry for Noonan in one of the Web’s most supposedly impartial information platforms. In fact, who would suspect, from that innocuous sentence, that Noonan is almost exactly the opposite of that description? Because if there is one thing for sure about Noonan it is this: Noonan is not a true populist, nor, for that matter, a friend of the working class. But, then again, populist posturing has been the staple of rightwing and fascistoid sellouts since Mussolini and Hitler opened the franchise in the 1920s.” [from the introduction to this piece as it appears on Cyrano’s Journal Online (
Essay by Jason Miller

“Let them call me rebel, and welcome; I feel no concern from it. For I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul.”
–Thomas Paine

Peggy Noonan obviously doesn’t fear suffering “the misery of devils.” She has whored her soul to the bourgeoisie in a bargain of Faustian proportions. One need only chip away slightly at her façade of compassion and moral rectitude to reveal a very contemptible human being.

With ease, delight, and ample reward, Ms. Noonan joins a bevy of cynical pundits in sustaining the false consciousness of the masses, which in turn paves the way for the egregious crimes of the United States’ avaricious and malevolent plutocracy. If this sounds hyperbolic to you, you don’t know much about the true history of the United States, particularly its foreign policy.

Disseminating her mendacious apologias for American Capitalism and its myriad manifestations of criminality from her comfortable perch as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Peggy pollutes the minds of millions of readers each week. Bear in mind that the Wall Street Journal’s editorial section is the standard-bearer for our ruthless de facto aristocracy, having endorsed economic imperialism through the implementation of neoliberal policies, torture of prisoners in the “War on Terror”, raping the poor with “supply-side economics”, and an end to the “witch hunt” against “Scooter” Libby.

Her ties to her bourgeois masters run deep. She was married to the chief economist for the US Chamber of Commerce, Richard Rahn. She served Ronald Reagan (champion of the wealthy elite, enemy of the poor and working class, and slaughterer of tens of thousands of Latin Americans) with a gushing pride which permeates her writing to this day. Peggy Noonan literally put the words in the mouth of this heinous criminal as she authored a number of his speeches. Despite her recent criticism of Bush, prior to 2005 Noonan used the power of her pen to buttress his regime and took an unpaid leave of absence from the WSJ to campaign for Bush’s “re-election” in 2004.

In the September 2004 issue of Crisis Magazine, Bently Elliot, “Noonan’s former boss at the White House and now vice-president of communications at the New York Stock Exchange,” said this of Noonan:

“She graduated cum laude with a degree in English literature and newly acquired conservative convictions—convictions that took shape when, as Elliot puts it, her patriotism was ‘offended by the ugly, anti-American nature of the self-described ‘peace’ movement in the 1970s.'” (Elliot’s words in italics)

Evidently Ms. Noonan believes that the imperialistic invasion of a tiny nation and the resultant deaths of 58,000 US Americans and 3 million Vietnamese were both beautiful and American. Shame on those hideous, treasonous peaceniks who opposed our carnage in Vietnam!

In a blatantly revealing display of her pathological worldview, Peggy trumpeted her pride at having raised her son to consort with mass murderers. (In yet another excerpt from the Crisis Magazine profile of Ms. Noonan):

Her son, Will, loves politics and has grown into the sort of young man Noonan can bring to a dinner party at Vice-President Dick Cheney’s home “and have a good conversation with the vice president of the United States about the war,” Noonan says. “How lucky is that kid to be exposed to that sort of thing—and how lucky am I as a parent to take my son to such a thing.”

Like the malignant socioeconomic system she so tenaciously defends, Ms. Noonan’s clever spin is riddled with irreconcilable contradictions and souless priorities, which require layer upon layer of sophistry, speciousness, and prevarications to maintain an illusion of rationality and decency.

Let’s examine some of the “best propaganda bourgeoisie money can buy” as we peruse some choice analyses Peggy has composed for the Wall Street Journal in the name of God, country, and free markets:

From her September 22, 2000 “Dumb-Good vs. Evil-Smart” we have this astute observation:

“Mr. Bush, as we all know, has a tendency to mispronounce words, like a bright and nervous boy trying to show the admissions director that he’s well-read. His syntax is highly individualistic. He’s bouncy and affectionate and funny in a joshy way as opposed to a witty way.

But he is, almost transparently, a good man. He cares about children; he wants government to be honest; he wants to protect his country from bad guys; he wants to stand up for those who protect us. He is a good governor, he has a natural sympathy for those–the hardware store owner and the woman who starts her own housecleaning company–who are taxed and regulated to death in America. He thinks this abusive. He wants to liberate them. If he becomes president–when, I believe, he becomes president–he will drive conservatives to distraction with his tendency to think with his heart, and not his brain.”

In her 10/23/2000 WSJ opinion piece, subtitled “George Bush is Reaganesque. Now America Knows it”, she wrote of George Bush:

“George W. Bush not only won the debate Wednesday night, but in a way that damaged a central assumption of the Gore campaign. That assumption is that Mr. Bush doesn’t know very much. But Mr. Bush demonstrated that he knows a lot, and that his common-sense views and observations can be spoken in a common-sense language accessible to all. He sat back in his chair, spoke of America’s role in the world, and made it clear that that role should be grounded in moral modesty and strategic realism. He suggested that the various forces at work in the world should be met not with American hubris but with moderation, and with attention to the kind of example we can, as a great power, set. He seemed thoughtful, knowledgeable, and he buried the memory of the less-seasoned Gov. Bush who one day in Boston flailed when pressed by an interviewer who insisted he name the ruler of Pakistan.”

The following week Peggy scribbled a column entitled, “The Loyal Opposition” and further glorified the future Nuremberg-class war criminal:

“….He is a good man. He’d be a better man if his life had been harder. But you can’t have everything…..I was thinking the other night: Mr. Bush seems the least radical politician in America. He lives in the middle of the land of the possible. He is by nature moderate, by habit and thinking a moderate man…..”

Evidently prognostication and character assessments are not Ms. Noonan’s strengths. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to conclude that George Bush was the best man to serve as the “democratically elected” front man for the criminal enterprise we call a government, and that Ms. Noonan is a highly paid shill for our deeply entrenched oligarchy.

In February 2007, the WSJ published her, =”” happy=”” birthday,=”” mr.=”” reagan=””>subtitled “He was a man of determination and good cheer—one of America’s greats”:

“Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” was CBS’s White House correspondent during the Reagan administration, and I asked her what she remembered most. She said, “We reporters would stake out ‘the driveway’ to see who was going in to see the president. In the first few years there was a stream of people who came to argue against his budget-cutting proposals. They would march up that driveway in a huff, smoke coming out of their nostrils as they rehearsed their angry arguments about why he was destroying the lives of poor people, or schoolkids.

‘I remember specifically a group of mayors from big cities, livid about cuts to their welfare programs, school-lunch programs, etc. They were there to give the president a scolding; they were going to tell him. And in they’d march. Two hours later, out they came. We were all ready with the cameras and the mikes to get their version of the telling off. But they were all little lambs, subdued. . . . He had charmed them. . . . The mayors told us Reagan agreed with them. That they had persuaded him. . . .

Thirty minutes later Larry Speakes was in the press room telling us the numbers would not in fact change. The mayors had ‘misunderstood’ the president. Still, I’ll bet anything if you talked to those mayors today, they would tell you Reagan was a great guy.'”

Peggy is right. America needs more “greats” who can subdue people like “little lambs” when they dare to demand we use public money to provide assistance to the poor or to hungry children. One with the guile to defuse the anger of those fighting for social justice with lies and false promises most certainly qualifies as a “great guy”.

When Gerald Ford died, Ms. Peggy opined in her 12/29/06 WSJ piece, “Ford Without Tears,”

“The first is that when he pardoned Richard Nixon, he threw himself on a grenade to protect the country from shame, from going too far. It was an act of deep political courage, and it was shocking. Almost everyone in the country hated it, including me. But Ford was right. Richard Nixon had been ruined, forced to resign, run out of town on a rail. There was nothing to be gained–nothing–by his being broken on the dock. What was then the new left would never forgive Ford. They should thank him on their knees that he deprived history of proof that what they called their idealism was not untinged by sadism.”

Thank you, Peggy, for having the courage to be the voice of reason. Ford’s pardon of Nixon was a noble act indeed. Imagine if he hadn’t cut a deal with Alexander Haig to become president in exchange for the pardon. We might actually have seen a US President tried, convicted and imprisoned, for crimes both foreign and domestic. (Let’s not forget Nixon’s secret, illegal bombings in Cambodia that annihilated 600,000 human beings). Compliments of Gerald Ford, the US ruling elite can continue running rough shod over the Constitution and committing mass murder with impunity.

Peggy offered us this gem on the notoriously reactionary Rick Santorum in November, 2006. She called it, “We Need His Kind”:

“Mr. Santorum has been at odds with the modernist impulse, or liberalism, or whatever it now and fairly should be called. Most of his own impulses–protect the unprotected, help the helpless, respect the common man–have not been conservative in the way conservative is roughly understood, or portrayed, in the national imagination. If this were the JFK era, his politics would not be called “right wing” but “progressive.” He is, at heart, a Catholic social reformer. Bobby Kennedy would have loved him.”

She actually characterized Rick Santorum as a progressive. Displaying such utter disregard for truth in a widely read column took some real chutzpah! My hat is off to her on that one.

Just a few days ago, our gal Peggy lamented that “We’re Scaring our Children to Death”:

“This week saw a small and telling controversy involving a mural on the walls of Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles. The mural is big–400 feet long, 18 feet high at its peak–and eye-catching, as would be anything that ‘presents a colorful depiction of the rape, slaughter and enslavement of North America’s indigenous people by genocidal Europeans.’ Those are the words of the Los Angeles Times’s Bob Sipchen, who noted ‘the churning stream of skulls in the wake of Columbus’s Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.’

What is telling is not that some are asking if the mural portrays the Conquistadors as bloodthirsty monsters, or if it is sufficiently respectful to the indigenous Indians of Mexico. What is telling is that those questions completely miss the point and ignore the obvious. Here is the obvious:

The mural is on the wall of a public school. It is on a public street. Children walk by.

We are scaring our children to death. Have you noticed this? And we’re doing it more and more.”

How could that school have been so reckless? What could possibly have compelled those hopelessly irresponsible school administrators to reveal the truth about the genocide waged by Western Europeans against the indigenous people of Turtle Island? How dare they expose our children to such heresy! Leave Hollywood and video game manufacturers to saturate our youth with heaping portions of gratuitous fantasy violence to distract them from the horrific decimation we US Americans have been inflicting on the rest of the world for many years.

In June 2002, Ms. Noonan wrote “Capitalism Betrayed” for the Journal:

“I have been reading Michael Novak, the philosopher and social thinker and, to my mind, great man. Twenty years ago this summer he published what may be his masterpiece, “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.” It was a stunning book marked by great clarity of expression and originality of thought. He spoke movingly of the meaning and morality of capitalism. He asked why capitalism is good, and answered that there is one great reason: Of all the systems devised by man it is the one most likely to lift the poor out of poverty.

Mr. Novak answered by quoting the philosopher Jacques Maritain, who once observed that affluence in fact inspires us to look beyond the material for meaning in our lives. “It’s exactly because people have bread that they realize you can’t live by bread alone. ‘In a paradoxical way, said Mr. Novak, the more materially comfortable a society becomes, the more spiritual it is likely to become, “its hungers more markedly transcendent.'”

If capitalism is the system “most likely to lift the poor out of poverty”, it is strikingly counterintuitive that millions plunged into inhuman working conditions, wage slavery, child labor, and economic misery when the United States practiced a much “purer” form of capitalism around the turn of the Twentieth Century. Interestingly, now that US capitalism has been “tainted” through evolution into a “mixed economy”, working conditions and wages have improved significantly. Yet our unimaginably wealthy nation still has over a million homeless, a high infant mortality rate, nearly 50 million people without viable means to attain health care, and about 13% of our population living in poverty. Apparently these wretched souls must wait for the materially comfortable members of our society to evolve spiritually and begin ministering to the poor.

On Thursday, August 25, 2005, Peggy cautioned us to “Think Dark”:

“The Pentagon says this huge and historic base-closing plan will save $50 billion over the next two decades. They may be right. But it’s a bad plan anyway, a bad idea, and exactly the wrong thing to do in terms of future and highly possible needs.

The Pentagon has some obvious logic on its side–we have a lot of bases, and they cost a lot of money–and numbers on paper. They have put forward their numbers on savings, redundancies, location and obsolescence.
But they’re wrong. What they ought to do, and what the commission reviewing the Pentagon’s plan ought to do, is sit down and think dark.

In the rough future our country faces, bad things will happen. We all know this. It’s hard to imagine some of those things on a beautiful day with the sun shining and the markets full, but let’s imagine anyway.

Among the things we may face over the next decade, as we all know, is another terrorist attack on American soil. But let’s imagine the next one has many targets, is brilliantly planned and coordinated. Imagine that there are already 100 serious terror cells in the U.S., two per state. The members of each cell have been coming over, many but not all crossing our borders, for five years. They’re working jobs, living lives, quietly planning.

Imagine they’re planning that on the same day in the not-so-distant future, they will set off nuclear suitcase bombs in six American cities, including Washington, which will take the heaviest hit. Hundreds of thousands may die; millions will be endangered. Lines will go down, and to make it worse the terrorists will at the same time execute the cyberattack of all cyberattacks, causing massive communications failure and confusion. There will be no electricity; switching and generating stations will also have been targeted. There will be no word from Washington; the extent of the national damage will be as unknown as the extent of local damage is clear. Daily living will become very difficult, and for months–food shortages, fuel shortages.

Let’s make it worse. On top of all that, on the day of the suitcase nukings, a half dozen designated cells will rise up and assassinate national, state and local leaders. There will be chaos, disorder, widespread want; law-enforcement personnel, or what remains of them, will be overwhelmed and outmatched…

…And all this of course is just one scenario. The madman who runs North Korea could launch a missile attack on the United States tomorrow, etc. There are limitless possibilities for terrible trouble.”

In this example, Peggy’s Janusian stance and shameless fear-mongering on behalf of the military-industrial complex are beyond the pale. Typically, Ms. Noonan extols the virtues of small government through fiscal conservatism, cuts to federal programs to uplift the poor, and progressive tax decreases. Yet when her cronies in the defense industry face the potential of diminished profits, Ms. Noonan rolls out her propagandistic Howitzer and blasts her readers in the face with a heavy dose of dread.

Painful as it is, let’s have one final look at an excerpt from Noonan’s loathsome agitprop. From March 30, 2001, we have “The Haves vs. the Will-Haves”:

“Class warfare, says Mr. Barone, is at odds with Americans’ hopeful nature. ‘We don’t identify ourselves as permanently downtrodden; it is not the American experience that you’re kept down and can’t move up.’ In America you can not only move up, but do so quickly. The divorced single mother of this year gets a job or remarries and suddenly she and her children are not the bottom line on anybody’s statistical readout anymore.

It is the fantastic fluidity and hopefulness of Americans, their enduring sense that in only one generation they can go from nothing to everything and nowhere to anywhere, that contributes to some surprising statistics on the death tax. Only 2% of Americans pay the levy, but in the polls 70% are consistently against it. Maybe this is because, as Steve Forbes used to say, they think it unfair that anyone should have to deal with the undertaker and the taxman in the same week. But it’s also probably a good bet that this majority opposes the death tax because they believe that some day they’ll have money, or their kids will, and they won’t want to pay it.

We all think we can make it. We all think we can work hard and succeed, or win the lottery, or our cousin’s new restaurant will be a big success and he’ll hire us as greeter or maitre d’. We all dream. The inheritance tax seems antidreamer because it seems anti-American dream. A lot of Americans think that when you bash the rich you’re bashing their future ZIP code.”

Whoa there, Peggy! Someone needs to rein you in before you become hopelessly lost in the nether regions.

In actuality, Ms. Noonan is far too educated to actually believe the tripe she has written here. The meritocracy myth is a cornerstone of the opulent class’s relentless yet nearly invisible grip on wealth and power in the United States. Once can cite numerous examples of individuals who “pulled themselves up by their boot-straps” and “made something of themselves” in this land of “unlimited opportunity”.

Yet we live in a nation of 300 million people and statistics expose these “Horatio Alger’s” for the anomalies that they are. The top 1% of the US population boasts ownership of 40% of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 80% “hoards” about 9% of our riches. A child born into the bottom 20% of the US income stratification has a 1% chance of joining those in the top 5%. Those born into the middle class have a “greatly enhanced” 1.8% chance of enjoying such upward mobility. For every Larry Ellison or Bill Gates there are tens of millions of “won’t-haves”.

Incidentally, the reason many poor and working class US Americans oppose the “death tax” is precisely because media whores like Ms. Noonan have convinced them that the ESTATE TAX is “anti-American dream” and have bamboozled them into believing that there is more than an infinitesimal chance they will acquire enough financial wealth to face such a tax. The purpose of the estate tax is to limit the perpetuation of the very entrenched aristocracy Ms. Noonan would have us believe does not exist in the United States.

While Ms. Noonan is merely one soldier in an army of mendacious propagandists waging war on behalf of the moneyed elite in the United States, her incestuous ties with government, her veil of respectability, and her platform from which she penetrates the consciousness of millions who are intellectually unprepared to fend off her toxic perversions of the truth combine to make her quite formidable.

So the next time you are reading one of her columns or books, or listening to her speak, remember that Peggy Noonan is probably weaving a clever, subtle, and sophistic argument to advance the agenda of thieves and murderers. But it’s too late to worry about her soul. She made a whore of that long ago.

Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He is Cyrano’s Journal Online’s associate editor ( He welcomes constructive correspondence at or via his blog, Thomas Paine’s Corner, at
HERE kiddy kiddy…
Current mood: apathetic
Category: News and Politics
..>..> ..>..>

“Hey! Do you like fake violence? Do you think you might like real violence even more? Good! Here’s a .50-caliber machine gun and some money for college.” That’s essentially the message behind a new recruiting strategy launched last month by the US Army.
Since 2002, the Army has issued several versions of America’s Army, a military-warfare video game and recruiting tool (also available on cell phones!) that already has one of online gaming’s biggest fan bases. That, apparently, was not enticement enough. Three weeks ago, the Army upped the game’s recruitment value by sponsoring a channel on one of the world’s biggest multiplayer gaming Web sites,, to the tune of $2 million. That bought the army the rights to its own channel on the site, which offers players the opportunity to test their virtual mettle in everything from the martial CounterStrike to the marsupial absurdity of Wombat Combat.
The Army’s channel will be open for business in June. Registration will be free, as is the norm, but with a hitch: you have to agree to “additional contact from the Army.” Once signed up, gamers can compete in an array of “militainment” shooter games. Each month, the channel will hold a tournament, “Elite Forces,” allowing its most fleet-fingered fraggers to compete against one another in America’s Army. Tournament winners are promised lucrative prizes; the most-skilled players win the privilege of trying one of their cutting-edge combat simulators, which realistically mimic real-life combat situations.
The military gets a prize too, of course: unfettered marketing access to a vast legion of trigger-happy 17-to-24-year-olds.
Those who might look askance at such recruitment tactics, Army marketing director Gary Bishop insists that the new partnership is a harmless attempt “to tell the Army story.” “It’s not all about combat,” he says. “Being in the Army is about driving trucks, welding, nurses, and computers.”
Well, yes, it’s true that America’s Army features some Humvee driving, but absolutely no welding or nursing; it isn’t even possible to play as a “medic,” a staple of the warfare-gaming genre. What you do get is relentless, reflex-twitch slaughter, with the added bonus that multiplayer teams take turns as the mustachioed “Indigenous Forces,” each avatar lovingly skinned by a Naval Postgraduate School programmer in a crisp shade of “terrorist brown.”
The game, not surprisingly, has been attacked by a number of pacifist groups for sugarcoating the realities of combat. And in fact, the sugar is even thicker than usual, since the game’s producers drastically scaled down the gore effects of the Unreal graphics engine, the licensed software that America’s Army is built around. Why? To garner the “Teen” rating to draw the just-barely-pre-enlistment audience the military so desperately wants to reach. It’s the military’s hope that it won’t be long before the people eager to participate in this war-porn peep show will be unable to contain their desire to spray real bullets in the name of Uncle Sam.
Gamers have tried for years to deflect the notion that fake violence on screen does not lead to real violence, and have argued that such a cognitive disconnect afflicts only a tiny percentage of gamers. Now the Army is betting $2 million in taxpayers’ money that they’re wrong.
Row over Iraq oil law
By     Ahmed Janabi

Kirkuk’s fate will be determined through a
referendum this year

A draft law being considered by the Iraqi parliament would enable US companies to take control of Iraq’s oil industry, oil experts in the country say.

The proposed bill, approved by the Iraqi government in February after months of wrangling, opens the country’s oil sector to foreign investors 35 years after it was nationalised.

“The law is designed for the benefit of US oil companies,” Ramzy Salman, an Iraqi economist who worked for the Iraqi oil ministry for 30 years, said.

“If approved, it would take things back to where they were before the nationalisation of Iraq’s oil in 1972.”

But he said the situation would be reversed when Iraqis regained their “true sovereignty”.

‘Serious gaps’

Salman said: “If there is something that should be worked on, it is the [Iraqi] constitution.

“The constitution contains serious gaps in terms of who is in charge of the oil and its revenues … [despite the] oil in Iraq being under every Iraqi river, desert, marsh and farm.”

The new law, if approved, would authorise production share agreements (PSAs), which offer huge profits for foreign oil companies.

PSAs are normally ideal for poorer countries exploring virgin lands or wanting to extract oil from fields where the resource is well below the surface and are designed to protect investors from the risks involved in such exploration projects.

‘Completely inappropriate’

But Iraqi oil experts say investors face virtually no risk, as the country’s oil is the cheapest to extract worldwide, and is of such a high quality that it sells at a premium on world markets.

Issam al-Chalabi, Iraq’s former oil minister, said PSAs were completely inappropriate for Iraq.

He said: “An oil barrel in most of Iraq’s oilfields costs between 50 cents and one dollar to extract. Iraq’s fields are also proven, and investing in them is risk-free.

“These kinds of agreements are normally given when there is a risk, as the case in Sudan, Yemen and several other countries, where companies invest money with great risk that they would not find oil, or they find difficult to extract oil.”

Political motives

Al-Chalabi said PSAs were a highly profitable formula for oil companies and in many cases they were granted for “political reasons”.
“Under no circumstances would Iraq relinquish its authority, its responsibility and its control over Iraq’s natural resources”

Hussein Shahristani
“In the 1990s, the government of Saddam Hussein gave PSAs to Russian and Chinese oil companies, but it was more of a political decision than economic,” al-Chalabi said.

“The US and its allies lobbied in the 1990s against Iraq in order to tighten UN sanctions, while Iraq was betting on Russia and China to help remove or at least ease the sanctions.”

He said the contracted Russian and Chinese oil companies were mostly government-owned.

The 12.5 per cent profit protected by the new law is also disputed by many as being too high.

Al-Chalabi said the percentage was excessive given current oil prices.

“Iraq’s PSA with the Chinese and Russians gave a profit percentage less than 10 per cent when the oil barrel price was around $25, but now the barrel is over $60 which means the percentage of 12.5 per cent is too high,” he said.

Break-up of Iraq

The draft law would give Iraq’s provinces a free hand in giving exploration and production contracts, which some fear will lead to a decline in the authority of the central government over the country’s main resource.

Observers say that if the new law is approved, it will also encourage separatists in the oil-rich provinces to split off.

Eventually the break-up of Iraq would be impossible to prevent.

Iraq’s constitution allows governorates to form a semi-independent regions, which enjoy full rights in controlling natural resources.

Dhafir al-Ani, an Iraqi member of parliament, said: “The proposed oil law is the best possible in the current situation.

“However, if there are some gaps in it, then the reason is the constitution, which contains several controversial issues and needs to reconsidered.”

Government denial

Iraqi officials insisted in a forum held in Dubai last month that the bill due to be submitted to parliament will keep the country’s oil wealth in Iraqi hands and benefit all of its warring communities.

“Under no circumstances would Iraq relinquish its authority, its responsibility and its control over Iraq’s natural resources,” Hussein Shahristani, the country’s oil minister, told reporters in the United Arab Emirates.

Muhammad Bahr al-Ullom, who laid the early foundations of the current draft oil law when he served as Iraq’s first post-war oil minsiter in 2004, has told reporters that he is in favour of the new law. He said it would not put Iraq’s oil at the hands of foreign oil companies and it would not devide Iraq.

Al contacted Bahr al-Uloom in Iraq and agreed with him to call a few hours later for a telephone interview. However, there was no answer to a telephone call at the appointed time or when subsequent attempts to reach him were made.

Kurds and the new law

Ashti Hawrami, oil minister for the Iraqi Kurdish region, said at the Dubai conference that the Kurds would reject any ammendments to the suggested law and that they would go ahead with deals they have already made, whether the law was approved or not.

Al-Ani agreed with Salman that the proposed law was a “political” deal to strengthen US allies in Iraq.

He said: “We are a democratically elected legistlative body, if we would blindly approve anything presented to us, then why are we there?

“I prefer we go home. We have increasing signs that the law is a political deal.”

Iraq’s Kurdish semi-autonomous region has already given PSAs to foreign oil companies, and is in favour of the proposed oil law.

The region may well gain control of the oil-rich governorate of Kirkuk through a referendum due to be held later this year.

If the new law is approved and the Kirkuk referendum came in favour of the Kurds, the Kurdish region would enjoy huge economic power.

When will American people be told the truth about Iraq?

By Michael Goodwin

05/06/07 “Milwaukee Journal Sentinel”

Now that President Bush and the Democrats have taken turns grandstanding over his veto of their troop withdrawal bill, it’s time for a bipartisan burst of honesty.

Instead of haggling for political advantage, Bush and members of Congress should both confess that they have not been straight about the future in Iraq.

The president’s promise to “complete the mission” is a triumph of a tired slogan over reality, just as the Dems’ pledge to “end the war” is riddled with loopholes. It’s time to cut the bull and be realistic about where we’re going.

Start with Bush. While he blasted Dems again last Tuesday for demanding the start of troop withdrawal by Oct. 1 as a recipe for chaos, he has quietly accepted a de-facto deadline set by his own commander that is not much different.

Gen. David Petraeus said last week that he would decide in September whether the surge of added troops was working. Implicit in the commitment, which includes a public report to Congress, is that a lack of progress would doom the plan.

While it’s not clear what Plan B is, it is certain the surge must pay dividends to continue past the fall.

“We think that’s the appropriate time to make it,” Petraeus said of his review. “It will be a time at which we will have had our additional forces on the ground for several months, all of them operating in the areas in which we intend to deploy them.” If that isn’t a deadline, I don’t know what it is.

And Petraeus warned he would not be an easy grader. He will scrutinize everything from gains in the Iraqi army to progress on sharing oil revenue.

“Success, in the end, will depend on Iraqi actions,” Petraeus said. “We can provide the Iraqis an opportunity, but they will have to exploit it.”

Yet even if the surge fails, Democrats will not be delivering on their pledge to fully end the war.

Party leaders, and especially the gaggle of senators running for president, have made fanciful promises that sound as though the break would be instant, clean and complete. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), for example, said that, if Bush doesn’t end the war, “As president, I will.”

Ah, that depends on how you define “end.” Clinton, like Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), voted for the withdrawal legislation, which includes four exceptions that could keep tens of thousands of troops in Iraq indefinitely.

Under this legislation, troops could remain for purposes of:

• Protecting American diplomatic facilities and American citizens, including members of the U.S. armed forces;

• Serving in roles consistent with customary diplomatic positions;

• Engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations with global reach;

• Training and equipping members of the Iraqi security forces.

Those are worthwhile commitments, but they are huge, especially when you add in support personnel. A major in the Marine Reserves, writing in The New York Times, said those functions would need 75,000 U.S. troops.

It’s noteworthy that neither Clinton nor Obama has made a habit of citing their support for such numbers on the campaign trail.

At 75,000 strong, our force would be about half of what we have now, but still a long way from ending the war.

Indeed, the Marine major, Owen West, who has served two tours in Iraq, predicted that the 75,000 would be in Iraq at least until the fall of 2008.

That is when Americans will elect our next president. Surely by then, somebody will be forced to tell us the truth about Iraq.

Michael Goodwin is a columnist for the New York Daily News.

Bush’s popularity hits new low

The public approval rating for the US president has hit an all-time low of 28 per cent and nearly two-thirds of Americans think George Bush is “stubborn and unwilling to admit his mistakes”.

The Newsweek poll released on Saturday found Bush’s rating one percentage point lower than his father at the lowest point in his term in office.

Almost 62 per cent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s execution of the Iraq war, while 30 per cent think his actions show he is “willing to take political risks” to do what is right, Newsweek reported.

The last US leader to be as unpopular as Bush was Jimmy Carter who also scored 28 per cent in 1979 in the wake of the Iran hostage crisis.

Bush burden

Bush’s unpopularity may hurt Republican hopes of keeping the White House in 2008.

The poll also suggested that Democratic frontrunners have a promising lead over potential Republican contenders across the board, with Barack Obama, the Illinois senator, recording the best performance so far.

Obama bested Rudolph Giuliani, the Republican frontrunner and former New York mayor, by 50 per cent to 43 per cent among registered voters who responded to the Newsweek poll.

He also topped John McCain, the Arizona senator, by 52 per cent to 39 per cent and defeated Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, by 58 per cent to 29 per cent, the poll indicated.

The other popular Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, who is New York senator, topped Giuliani by 49 per cent to 46 per cent, and beat McCain by 50 per cent to 44 per cent.

She led Romney by 57 per cent to 35 per cent, the poll found.

The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on Wednesday and Thursday, interviewed 1,001 adults 18 and older.

It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Two found guilty over Bush-Blair memo leak

James Sturcke and agencies
Wednesday May 9, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

A civil servant and an MP’s researcher were today found guilty of leaking a secret memo detailing talks between George Bush and Tony Blair on the Iraq war.
David Keogh, a 50-year-old communications officer, passed the “extremely sensitive” memo to Leo O’Connor, 44, a researcher for the anti-war Labour MP, Anthony Clarke.
He hoped the document would find its way into the public domain and expose the US president as a “madman”.
The four-page memo recorded April 2004 Oval Office talks between the two leaders on events in the city of Falluja.
Its contents were so secret that much of the trial was held behind closed doors with the press excluded.
The trial centred around allegations that Keogh, a communications officer in the Cabinet Office, had leaked the document to O’Connor, who left a copy in constituency papers for Mr Clarke, the former Labour MP for Northampton South, in May 2004.
Keogh told the jury he wanted it to be used by MPs to ask questions in the House of Commons and also be seen by the 2004 US Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry.
However, when Mr Clarke found the memo, dated April 16 2004, he called the police.
Keogh was found guilty on two counts of breaking the Official Secrets Act by making a damaging disclosure of part of a government document in his possession as a crown servant without lawful authority.
The jury found O’Connor guilty on a single charge of making a damaging disclosure of a document passed to him illegally, breaching the same Act.
Keogh said he did not believe the publication of the document’s contents would harm Britain or its troops abroad, although it would cause embarrassment to Mr Bush.
David Perry QC, prosecuting, said it contained “high-level strategic discussions between world leaders”.
“The prosecution say the unauthorised disclosure of information in this case is likely to prejudice the capability of the armed forces either to carry out their tasks or lead to the loss of life or the possibility of loss of life or injury,” he said.
The court heard how a record of the meeting, which was held just before the handover of power to the Iraqi authorities, had been taken by Matthew Rycroft, Mr Blair’s private secretary for foreign affairs.
The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, were also in attendance.
The document – marked “secret and personal” – was addressed to Geoffrey Adams of the Foreign Office, accompanied by a note that read: “This must not be copied further and must only be seen by those with real need to know.”
It was then sent by secure fax to 10 Downing Street, where it was distributed.
Mr Perry went through details of who had seen the memo, including the PM’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, his foreign policy adviser, David Hill, his official spokesman, Tom Kelly, and the joint intelligence committee.
Many copies were destroyed, and others were handed to police. During the distribution process, the memo arrived at the Cabinet Office communications centre in Whitehall, where Keogh was on duty.
Mr Perry said Keogh then took the faxed copy or a copy of the faxed copy. The court heard that after initially denying his involvement, Keogh had admitted leaking the information.
“His intention was to put the document into the public domain, and that’s where Mr O’Connor came on to the scene,” he said.
O’Connor admitted copying the document after Keogh told him about it when they met at Northampton Labour club. The researcher told the jury he left the memo for his boss so he would return it to the appropriate authorities.
Rex Tedd QC, defending Keogh, told the judge that the civil servant had not acted for a political motive but had been following his conscience.
“He acted out of conscience. No doubt, he did so misguidedly and he did so in a way which was likely to cause damage,” Mr Tedd said. “He did not act out of political motive or financial gain or personal advance.”
During legal arguments, it emerged that Mr Blair wrote a letter personally thanking Mr Clarke for the return of the memo.
Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the prime minister’s leading foreign policy adviser, said only a small number of people – eight in all – had attended the April 2004 meeting “because we knew it would be a sensitive discussion about Iraq and other matters”. He said Mr Bush and Mr Blair had also discussed “military tactics”.
Sir Nigel, who said his advice to Mr Blair covered the “waterfront” of foreign, defence and security issues, was persistently questioned about whether documents were marked secret simply to cover up political embarrassment, but denied it.
Mr Tedd added: “The real position, I suggest, is that central to any principle of confidentiality is protecting any American leader from public embarrassment by the disclosure of what is said.”
Both men were granted bail and made no comment as they left the court. Sentencing was adjourned until tomorrow.,,2075831,00.html

War on war memories: how to stop it?
09/05/2007 14:18
MOSCOW. (Gennady Bordyugov for RIA Novosti) – “We often say: why should we remember the past at all? Why not let bygones be bygones? … Why should we irritate the public by remembering? … But then, I would gladly look back on being dangerously ill after I got well again. But I would try to forget it if I got worse and anxiously engaged in wishful thinking… Are bygones truly bygones? I believe the past just changes shape but always stays with us… Look at it – and you will see the truth about the present.”
Leo Tolstoy’s idea remains as true today as the day he put it down, however often it might occur to us that monuments and other symbols of the haunting past destroyed in spontaneous or instigated outbreaks of protest can obliterate that past.
Plans for a new war to regain our memories were drafted two years ago, shortly before the 60th VE Day anniversary, when the West came out to argue Russia’s decisive contribution to the Allied cause. Many urged Russia to bring penitence to its neighbors and Warsaw Pact allies. A presumption of Russia’s guilt was symbolized by the image of the Soviet soldier not as liberator but aggressor, who does not deserve to have monuments in the European Union.
That was when I first heard the painful words: “It’s historians who are to blame!”
Really, the publication of thitherto classified documents about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Katyn massacre, and deported Caucasian and Crimean peoples at first aroused gratitude of nations eager for self-determination. The collapse of the Soviet Union and socialist regimes turned their gratitude into bitter hatred of Russians as alleged culprits of national tragedies. Naturally, some people wondered if it was worthwhile to expose the crimes of overturned regimes, when those crimes were ascribed to Russians alone.
Parallels were drawn between Stalinism and Nazism. True, the two totalitarian regimes had something in common, and their comparison could help us understand the mechanisms of mass psychology and ideological indoctrination. What came instead was likening the two regimes to each other, with an appeal to the Russian nation to repent as Germany repented its Nazi past – no matter that the Nazi and Bolshevik ideologies had mutually clashing bases. At any rate, no Soviet ideological program claimed Slavic superiority or scorned other nations and cultures.
Unbiased analyses of the positive and negative aspects of WWII strategies degraded into accusing the Soviet Union of beating Germany through incomparable casualties – burying the Wehrmacht under mountains of soldier bodies. No one cared about foreign demographic studies proving frontline casualties approximately equal on either side.
The plight of war monuments reminded me of Mike Davis, a U.S. historian who urged everyone to “save Private Ivan” on the eve of the 60th Operation Overlord anniversary. As Davis saw it, the liberation of Europe started in summer 1944 not on the shore of Normandy but in Byelorussia, when Soviet partisans left their hideaways in the marshy woods to deliver a sudden blow at the Wehrmacht rear.
Soviet Operation Bagration started a few days later. With a comparison of the two huge Allied advances, Davis points out how deplorably little the American public knows about Operation Bagration. The ordinary American mind associates June 1944 not with the forced crossing of the Dvina River by Soviet troops, which started the Bagration, but with the Normandy landing – and never mind that the Soviet advance of summer 1944 committed several times greater forces than the Overlord and dealt the enemy a more devastating blow.
We do not mean that the Soviet Army did more than any other for the Allied cause but that none of the Allies paid dearer than the Soviet Union for the victory. Forty Private Ivans fell in battle to every Private Ryan. However, current VE Day celebrations ignore Soviet troops – a farmer from Samara, an actor from Orel, a miner from Donetsk or a schoolgirl from Leningrad. As it appears, some Americans are wary their country’s feat of glory may be outshone if they recognize the leading Soviet contribution to the epoch-making 20th century cause, Davis warns.
He is not alone in that. Dr. Richard Drayton of Cambridge University regards the victory over Nazism as a moral font in which the Western Allies washed off the sins of many centuries’ expansion.
Such opinions are scarce. The West skeptically regards any landmark of Russian history as a mere parallel to Russian leaders’ present-day policies. It focuses attention on propaganda rebuff to any manifestation of Russian imperialist ambitions, with a biased use of history – if not shrugging history off altogether. At any rate, it treats memory as every country’s personal matter. All that makes things look as if World War II is going on to this day. Throughout the 62 years since it finished, the war has been regarded through the prism of the postwar confrontation. This makes us Russians wonder if such historical pragmatism is truly a worthy tribute to the memory of those who fell to rid the world of fascism.
It takes honest attitudes of the West and Russia alike to the past to stop this ignoble war on WWII memories. There are good reasons to accuse Russians of forgetfulness – suffice it to mention State Duma debates on the Victory Banner, or a demolished war pilot monument in Khimki near Moscow, or again, postcards circulated in Kaliningrad for the VE Day anniversary to advertise a funeral parlor specializing in WWII veterans.
Fact juggling also works to the Russian moral detriment. Offices set up to preserve national memory use every pretext to conceal wartime documents. Ukrainian and post-Soviet Baltic historians still have no access to archive documents of 1939-40. Their research is insultingly impeded, and they nurture understandable prejudice against Russia. Then, a controversy around a Russian soldier monument in Tallinn led to a violent attack on the Estonian ambassador and embassy premises in Moscow.
Bitter truths about the horrible war will be revealed as before, whatever dishonest politicians and scholars might be doing to prevent it in Russia and other countries. We need the whole memory and the whole truth – or we will stay dangerously ill and only dream of convalescence.
Gennady Bordyugov is a research project manager with AIRO-XXI (Russian Social Research Association) and a member of the RIA Novosti expert council.

Great Patriotic War – non-stop debates?
08/05/2007 20:00 MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Shusharin) – Victory Day reminds us that we do not have a common interpretation of the Great Patriotic War.
The tradition of celebrating the victory as a big national holiday was established only in 1965, 20 years after the war ended. Leonid Brezhnev was the country’s leader at that time but there was no political connotation – big events are always seen better from a distance. However, the history of the holiday and the attitude to the war and its legacy gives one an idea about the state of Soviet society.
Victory Day was all but unknown in the Stalin-ruled U.S.S.R. Probably the authorities did not want war veterans to feel too important. War veterans are inevitably a domestic threat for both totalitarian regimes and democracies. This is the law of their adaptation to civilian life.
But an analysis of such events requires time, regardless of what the authorities want to achieve. In fiction and cinema, the first attempts to interpret the war were made under Stalin. Scholarly analysis was almost non-existent.
In 1966, Alexander Nekrich published a book called “June 22, 1941,” which was critical of the failure of Stalin and the Communist Party to prepare the Soviet Union for the coming assault from the Nazis. A ban on the book meant prohibition of any research into the early stages of the war. Gradually, the war became part of official ideology. Moreover, it was the war subject that really helped consolidate Soviet society.
However, in the latter half of the 1970s, the subject started turning into a joke. Brezhnev’s role in the war was blown out of all proportion. He was portrayed as a great military leader, or political commissar, to be precise. It appeared that all the most important battles took part on Malaya Zemlya in the south of Russia, where he fought during the war.
The authorities adopted an officially neutral attitude to Stalin – he was not seen as a great military figure but was given credit for his good leadership skills. Marshal Georgy Zhukov’s posthumous cult left no room for negative comments. Only Marshal Chuikov was allowed, by way of exception, to express negative attitude to some of Zhukov’s actions, for instance, the seizure of Berlin.
The official figure of Soviet losses in the war was estimated at “more than 20 million.” The exact number is still unknown but with the onset of perestroika Soviet scholars were allowed to talk about the casualties associated with the Stalin-Zhukov-not-a-step-back approach to Soviet soldiers. They were also able to discuss many other subjects, such as the defeat in the initial period of the war and crimes committed by Cheka (KGB’s predecessor).
Now 20 years after the start of free debates on the war’s history, there is still no unanimity in its interpretation. The war in general and each of its aspects evoke heated discussions.
Some Internet users, mostly young people, claim there is no point in celebrating Victory Day at all because genuine national heroes were in the Vlasov and Krasnov units, which fought on the Nazi side.
But those who do celebrate are also engaged in fierce debates. Is Stalin a victor or a marauder who stole the victory? How should we qualify the aftermath of the war – as Eastern Europe’s enslavement and the world’s split into two political systems, or the birth of a great empire?
It goes without saying that if we are to analyze anything, we should limit ourselves to these discussions – the advocates of betrayal do not deserve attention. What matters is not even the gist of debates but a point of departure – a system of values in which the war is analyzed. There are two major approaches.
If we proceed from the premise that a homeland is never identical to a state, the war was a national exploit and all are victors – from rank-and-file soldiers to the generalissimos, provided his actions are also judged by his attitude to his own soldiers. This is one interpretation of war history. But we decide that the state can dispose of its subjects as it sees fit, that the value of human life is zero, and the tragedy of tens of millions is nothing compared with the grandeur of one’s homeland, we will get a manifestation of a completely different mentality.
The former system of values can be called democratic, and the latter is based on a great-power approach. These two positions have determined the arguments over the war issues which have been raging for the past 62 years. Generations have changed but not the debates.
We should probably not expect them to stop. We should simply understand that national identity is work in process rather than a result. We have been discussing what will bring our nation together. Maybe non-stop debates are a form of national unity?
US Government Moves to Gag Terrorist on CIA Ties

By: Bill Van Auken – Global Research
With his trial on immigration charges set for May 11, the US government has filed a motion in federal court seeking to bar the international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles from testifying on his role as an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Venezuela has demanded that Posada Carriles be extradited to face charges there related to his masterminding of a 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian passenger jet that killed 73 people. He evaded punishment for the crime—at the time the worst single act of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere—by escaping a Venezuelan prison in 1985.
Violating international and bilateral treaties, Washington has rebuffed Venezuela’s request, charging Posada Carriles instead with minor violations of US immigration law for entering the US without a visa and lying to immigration officials. Last month, the terrorist, who had been in federal custody since May 2005, was set free on bail and returned to Miami.
The release has provoked international protests and exposed the hypocrisy of the so-called “global war on terrorism” proclaimed by a government that has sponsored and continues to harbor and protect a wanted terrorist.
The nine-page motion submitted to the federal court in El Paso, Texas, argues that the relationship between Posada Carriles and the CIA ended 30 years ago and therefore is irrelevant.
Declassified documents have established that Carriles was recruited as an agent of the CIA in 1961, was sent into the US Army for a year of training in demolition and terrorist tactics and remained directly on the CIA payroll at least until 1967. From 1969 to 1974, he served as a senior officer in the Venezuelan secret police, DISIP, charged with capturing, torturing and killing left-wing opponents of the government. During that period he remained an informant and “asset” of the CIA in Latin America.
In 1976, he planned the airline bombing, leaving its execution to two employees of his private detective agency that he set up in Caracas after a change of government forced him out of the secret police. Just two weeks before the October 1976 airline bombing, he was involved in another terrorist attack, this one in the center of Washington. A car bomb killed the exiled former foreign minister of Chile, Orlando Letelier, and an American aide, Ronni Moffitt.
After his escape from prison in Venezuela, Posada Carriles made his way to El Salvador, where he became a key operative in the illegal terror war against Nicaragua financed by the CIA and directed by the network established by the Reagan administration under the direction of Lt. Col. Oliver North of the National Security Council. He went on to Guatemala, becoming a government intelligence officer during a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
In the 1990s, by his own admission, Posada Carriles directed a series of terrorist bombings against hotels and tourist spots in Cuba, killing an Italian tourist.
And, in November 2000, he was involved in an aborted attempt to blow up a conference hall in Panama, where Cuban President Fidel Castro was scheduled to speak to hundreds of people. He was arrested and jailed for the plot, but then pardoned by outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso in 2004, reportedly as the result of either US pressure or bribes from anti-Castro Cuban exile groups.
In response to the government attempt to quash any public testimony about Posada Carriles’s ties to the CIA, the terrorist’s defense lawyers filed a countermotion this week, insisting that it was impossible to discuss the “context” of the case without dealing with their client’s relation with the agency. Moreover, the document claimed, this relationship “lasted for 25 years.”
“The government’s statement that his service to the United States ended in 1976 is incorrect,” the document said.
The implications of the motion are clear. Posada Carriles was working for the CIA when he planned and executed the terrorist bombing that murdered 73 people aboard the Cuban plane as well as the car-bomb assassination in Washington. Moreover, he remained an agent or “asset” of the US intelligence agency while continuing to carry out acts of terrorist and repressive violence in Cuba, Central America and elsewhere for at least another decade. Both of the 1976 terrorist acts took place when George H.W. Bush, the current US president’s father, was director of the CIA.
Declassified documents obtained by the National Security Archive in 2005 establish that the CIA had advance intelligence on the planned airline bombing and that the FBI’s attaché in Caracas had repeated contacts with one of the operatives who placed the bomb on the plane and, just days before the bombing, obtained a visa for him to travel to the US.
The US government’s attempt to gag Posada Carriles about his CIA ties and the countermotion alleging that these connections spanned at least 25 years expose the real reason that the Bush administration refuses to abide by international law and extradite him to Venezuela to face trial.
While the administration has offered the incredible justification that Posada Carriles could face torture in Venezuela—this from a government that has not only tortured its own detainees at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, but also deliberately sent them to other countries to be tortured—the real reason is that such a prosecution would expose Washington’s role in decades of terrorism and repression in Latin America.
On April 25, Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, Nelson Pineda, charged the US with harboring a “convicted and confessed terrorist” and demanded that Washington comply with its bilateral extradition treaty with Venezuela. Pineda read out a statement from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry that stated:
“The freeing of the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is the final result of the maneuver that the government of George W. Bush put in motion to protect him and with this act it promotes impunity and disgracefully mocks the memory of the victims of the bombing of the Cubana de Aviación plane that took place in 1976.
“This act of complicity, committed by the sinister American president, seeks to buy the silence of Posada Carriles, who has for many years been an agent of the CIA and a pawn of the Bush clan, as the declassified documents of the US demonstrate and therefore has valuable information about the criminal activities carried out against the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Responding to these charges, the US alternate representative to the OAS, Margarita Riva-Geoghegan, ignored Venezuela’s extradition request, baldly stating, “The United States is not harboring Luis Posada Carriles.” She continued, “The United States is proceeding with its own national prosecution in an area where Mr. Posada Carriles has broken US law.”
Such claims are absurd on their face. The charges of murder and terrorism, substantiated by Washington’s own declassified documents, clearly take precedence over the minor immigration infractions that are being used as a pretense for ignoring the demand for extradition and providing a cover for what is in reality the harboring and protection of Posada Carriles.
In Cuba, meanwhile, the annual May Day demonstration in Havana was dominated by signs and slogans demanding the extradition of Posada Carriles as well as the freeing of the “Cuban Five,” five Cuban nationals who have been jailed in the US since 1998. Framed up on conspiracy and espionage-related charges for monitoring anti-Castro terrorist exile groups based in Miami, the five were convicted in 2001 and sentenced to jail terms ranging from 15 years to life.
Bill Van Auken is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Bill Van Auken

Mérida, May 8, 2007 (— The Venezuelan government responded yesterday to United States Drug Czar John Walters’ criticisms that Venezuela is not cooperating with the United States in the fight against drugs by saying that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is a “drug cartel.” The Venezuelan government rejected Walters’ statements, saying that the U.S. has the intention of damaging Venezuela’s reputation and intervening in its affairs.
John Walters, who is the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington, made the statement in an interview with the Colombian magazine Semana last week. And today in Brussels, Walters made further statements about Venezuela at a meeting with the European Union and NATO about drug-related issues. Walters warned of an increasing problem with cocaine entering Europe from South America, and in particular from Venezuela.
“Venezuela is gaining importance for drug dealers,” said the US Drug Czar. “There are flights from legal airports to Dominican Republic and Haiti. Sea shipments are dispatched from several points on the Venezuelan coast.”
But the Venezuelan government rejected the claims made by Walters, saying it was an attempt to discredit anti-drug efforts in Venezuela. Minister of the Interior Pedro Carreño warned that the recent declarations are a new attempt to intervene in Venezuela with the intention of putting military bases in Venezuelan territory.
¨The United States establishes cooperation agreements in the fight against drug trafficking through economic cooperation so that they can later impose the presence of military bases under the pretense of cooperation,” said Carreño yesterday.
Carreño dismissed any possibility of permitting the intervention of US authorities in Venezuela to fight drug trafficking and accused the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of forming its own “drug cartel.” According to the Carreño, when Venezuela ended its cooperation with the DEA two years ago, they observed that the US agency was trafficking drugs through the country.
“They were making a large quantity of drug shipments under the pretense of monitoring them, and they didn’t carry out arrests or breakup the cartels,” explained Carreño. “We were able to determine the presence of a new drug cartel in which the United States Drug Enforcement Agency was monopolizing the shipment of drugs,” he said.
Carreño assured that Venezuelan security forces are willing to receive information that the United States can offer in order to detain drug traffickers in the country, but he maintained that Venezuela “is not going to allow them to carry out operations in our territory.”
“Venezuela is a free, independent country that has its own National Armed Forces and security forces to provide protection to our country, and we are not going to let some other Armed Forces come to our government and impose on us the presence of military bases,” stated Carreño.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez ordered an end to the country’s cooperation with the DEA in 2005, alleging that some members of the agency were infiltrating government intelligence and were a threat to the security of the country. Since then, Washington has made repeated accusations about drug trafficking in Venezuela, claiming that their lack of cooperation is allowing drugs to be passed through the country and into the United States.
The Venezuelan government, however, sees these declarations as an attempt to coerce them into allowing US intervention in the country. Venezuela insists that if the United States government is sincerely concerned about fighting drugs, it should lead by example and protect its own borders from illegal drugs.
“Just like they ask Venezuela to do flyovers under the excuse that this is a drug trafficking route, they should use their Air Force to flyover their own airspace,” said Carreño.
Carreño suggested that instead of continuing the supposed anti-drug program Plan Colombia, that the United States “should apply a Plan Washington, New York, or Miami, so that they flyover their own air space, and take care of their coast and border because 85% of the drugs that are produced in Latin America go to the United States.”
Just as other South American countries have suggested, Venezuela insists that the United States could best fight drug production in Latin America by lowering the demand for drugs inside the United States.
¨By the law of the market, if you reduce the demand, you reduce the production,” said Carreño.

The Deepening of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution: Why Most People Don’t Get It

Monday, May 07, 2007
Print format

Send by email

By: Julia Buxton – Open
It is hard for an outsider to get a grip on Venezuela, or the country’s President Hugo Chávez. Pick up a copy of the Financial Times , the Economist, the Independent, Wall Street Journal or the New York Times and you will be presented with a frightening vision of a “ranting populist demagogue” (In the words of a British former foreign-office minister, Denis MacShane), an anti-semite who has captured the hearts and purchased the support of hoards of irrational poor people while destroying the country’s economy.
In the United States, the rise of “authoritarianism” in Venezuela has led to progressive increases in funding allocated to the country’s “democracy promotion” agency the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), while the “security threat” posed by the country prompted the Bush administration to set up a special intelligence committee on Venezuela.
A cursory glance at the reports of the Inter American Press Association or NED-funded Reporters Without Borders reflects a country where freedom of speech is under threat and human rights under daily assault. The misiones, the Venezuelan government’s extensive package of social policy programmes are also subject to blistering criticism. Variously described by critics as a clientilist tool, indication of fiscal profligacy and / or an unsustainable welfare initiative generating a culture of dependency, this $6 billion programme has no redeeming features.
The view from Venezuela
Contrast this with opinion-poll surveys, election results and statistical information “on the ground”. Hugo Chávez was re-elected to the presidency in December 2006 with 1.7 million more votes than when he was first elected in December 1998. A March 2007 poll by Datanalisis shows that 64.7% of Venezuelans have a positive view of Chávez’s performance in office. Moreover, the majority of Venezuelans are optimistic and confident about the future and there is a high level of support for the new institutional and constitutional framework that the government has established.
According to Latinobarometro polling, the percentage of Venezuelans satisfied with their political system increased from 32% in 1998 to over 57% and Venezuelans are more politically active than the citizens of any other surveyed country – 47% discuss politics regularly (against a regional average of 26%) while 25% are active in a political party (the regional average is 9%). 56% believe that elections in the country are “clean”, (regional average 41%) and along with Uruguayans, Venezuelans express the highest percentage of confidence in elections as the most effective means of promoting change in the country (both 71%, compared to 57% for all of Latin America).
The economy is booming, country risk perceptions have fallen and despite the perception of antagonism, Venezuela remains north America’s second most important regional trading partner, and the twelfth largest in global terms. There is a vibrant new community media and a highly combative and antagonistic opposition controlled private-sector media – despite the much publicised dispute that was sparked in January 2007 over the licensing of opposition stalwart RCTV.
As for the misiones, nearly three-quarters of Venezuelans receive some form of state-sponsored health, education, housing assistance or food provision. Poverty and critical poverty are on a downward trend and the World Bank has acknowledged that: “Venezuela has achieved substantial improvements in the fight against poverty”.
Although critics have sniffed at the poverty reduction record – on the premise that high oil prices since 2003 should translate 2006 into an inevitable fall in poverty – the reductions achieved to date are a significant achievement given the critical situation Chávez inherited, the disastrous impact of opposition stoppages on the economy in 2001 and 2002, and the historical absence of state institutions capable of delivering welfare provision. In the Datanalisis survey of March 2007, the government’s performance in education, food and health service delivery received high approval ratings (68.8%, 64.7%, and 64.2% respectively) – and, to give a human touch to a favourable picture, a second Latinobarometro poll of regional perceptions found that Venezuela (along with Brazil) is viewed as the friendliest country among Latin Americans.
Is the information cited above an example of naïve “solidarity journalism”, an attempt to further embed new “myths” about the country by someone with no direct stake in the outcome?
Insights from the naïve
In one way or another, we all have a stake, direct or indirect, in the politics of Venezuela. That Venezuela’s citizens have such a manifestly different perception of their democracy than that held by external actors such as the United States and its National Endowment for Democracy is significant and important. The disconnect needs serious discussion, not least because it may illuminate why US “democracy promotion” is proving so counterproductive, anti-American sentiment so prevalent and, in Venezuela, why NED-backed groups are so reviled. If the misiones are delivering improvements in welfare and poverty reduction, then they merit detailed consideration. If there are lessons that can be learned from one, some or all of the misiones, they should not be discarded simply because of subjective prejudices toward Chávez or critiqued merely as a means of de-legitimising his government.
Engaged and balanced reporting, analysis and discussion has been required for a long time. It is even more necessary now given the acceleration of the Bolivarian revolution following the presidential election of December 2007.
Toward 21st-century socialism
Following his victory in the December 2006, Chávez unveiled plans to deepen the revolutionary agenda of the government. Central to this process is the concept of the “five motors” driving the country toward the model of “21st-century socialism” first outlined by Chávez in 2005. 21st-century socialism is seen as distinct from the “failed” Marxist experiments of the 20th century, it is strongly nationalist in influence – responding to the social and economic realities of Venezuela, and its elucidation reflects the evolution of Chávez’s thinking, away from an initial position exalting Tony Blair and the “third way” model and toward a new set of “socialist” ideas that emphasis cooperation, participation and organisation.
The five motors included: the granting of enabling powers to the executive – as a means of introducing reforms to the institutional and economic framework of the state; constitutional reform; educational reform; expansion of communal power and the creation of a new geometry of power, the latter intended to enhance the responsibilities and political importance of communal councils.
Communal councils are a vitally important element of this revolutionary deepening and planned restructuring of the state and constitution. The government has experimented with a variety of organisational forms as part of its quest to create a new model of “participatory democracy” and in response to the explosion of social organization across the country since 1999 (see Diana Raby, Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today, Pluto Press, 2006).
In 2006, legislation was introduced recognising community councils as a principle form of political organisation. The councils complement and bring coherence to the multiple networks of social organisations that deliver the misiones programmes and organise political activities, such as the water committees, land committees, health committees, electoral battle-units and endogenous development groups. Based on 200 to 400 families in urban areas and twenty to thirty in rural settings, the councils are governed by citizens’ assembles and their financial affairs overseen by public auditing processes. By the end of 2006, there were 16,000 communal councils across the country.
With the injection of $5 billion in funding for 2007, the government aims to increase this to over 25,000, allowing communities to become the new “eye” of political power in a radical, bottom up vision of democracy in which national government is balanced by grassroots power.
Running parallel with the launch of the “five motors”, Chávez outlined plans for a new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). The aim of the PSUV is to bring organisational coherence to the Chavista alliance of twenty-four party political organisations and the multiple grassroots groups that support the government. The new party is being constructed over a nine month period through a process of broad public consultation led by an intended 70,000 “promoters” (30,000 of which have already been sworn in) that aim to consult over 5 million people on the structure and role of the new party. The construction of the PSUV is to culminate in a referendum, scheduled for December 2007, in which members will approve (or otherwise) the programme of the new party.
An authoritarian lurch?
The acceleration of the Bolivarian project – in both ideological and organisational terms, has fuelled concerns over the deepening of the government’s authoritarian tendencies. Established cynics in the media, who have seen leftwing ideals rise and fall, and opponents in the anti-Chávez movement have been quick to point to a frightening new twist in the evolution of the Chávez government. This is seen to be represented by the recent granting of decree powers to President Chávez, the move to extend state control over key sectors of the economy and the debate over the formation of the PSUV.
However, it is at this point that the delineation between popular perceptions of democracy on the ground in Venezuela, and “elite” perceptions, articulated by the media and US “democracy-promotion” groups are revealed. There is widespread popular support for this new trajectory in Venezuelan politics. The creation of the PSUV is seen to be in line with the demands of grassroots groups to have more influence within the organisational framework of the Boliviarian project, while Chávez’s use of decree powers to revise the institutional structures of the state responds to grassroots pressure for more influence, power and resources at the community level. Put simply, many Venezuelans think they are getting more and better democracy through “21st-century socialism”, not less.
Squaring the circle
The promiscuous use of the terms “populist” and “authoritarian” to describe Chávez is one of the primary reasons why the nature, appeal and the durability of Chavismo has been so manifestly misunderstood by detractors. “Populism” glosses over the complex mechanisms of linkage, reciprocity and accountability that exist between government and civil society in Venezuela and the dynamics that shape the relationship between the administration and multiplicity of grassroots organisations across the country, the majority of which are far more autonomous and organisationally coherent than is implied in the “populist” narrative.
Ordinary people feel empowered by this government, a development that can only be understood through reference to the highly exclusionary model of two-party “democracy” that prevailed in Venezuela before the elections of 1998. There are two important points following from this.
First, support for Chávez is not simply predicated on the government’s capacity for economic redistribution. The appeal of Chávez and 21st-century socialism is as much to do with this being a project of political empowerment as it is one of oil-“rent” distribution. As such, a fall in the oil price will not necessarily herald the end of Chávez or support for the government.
Second, what is happening in contemporary Venezuela cannot be understood through the lens of liberal democracy. The NED, the US state department and the plethora of agencies that seek to “evaluate” democratic standards such as Freedom House and Transparency International have got it fundamentally wrong in thinking that democracy is judged through reference to the procedural mechanics of liberal democracy. Venezuelans are, on the whole, contended with their democratically elected government and the radical model of participatory democracy that it is creating.
There is still a sizeable sector that lacks political representation – largely owing to the disastrous strategies of those in the anti-Chávez movement that claimed to represent them – and clearly stability in the future requires incorporating the newly excluded back into the political mainstream. But the immediate priority for the government is giving voice and power to those who have been politically marginalised since the 1980s. To date, and despite the best efforts of the NED and the perceptions created by the media, the Bolivarian revolution has been tremendously successful.
Julia Buxton is visiting professor at the Centre for Latin American Studies in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is also senior research fellow in the department of peace studies, Bradford University. Her work includes The Failure of Political Reform in Venezuela (Ashgate, 2001)
Also on Hugo Chávez, Venezuela, and the “Bolivarian revolution” in openDemocracy:
Ivan Briscoe, “The invisible majority: Venezuela after the revolution”
(25 August 2004)
Ivan Briscoe, “All change in Venezuela’s revolution? ”
(25 January 2005)
Jonah Gindin & William I Robinson, “The United States, Venezuela, and “democracy promotion”
(4 August 2005)
Ivan Briscoe, “Venezuela: a revolution in contraflow”
(10 February 2006)
Ben Schiller, “The axis of oil: China and Venezuela”
(2 March 2006)
George Philip, “The politics of oil in Venezuela”
(24 May 2006)
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, “After Bush: dealing with Hugo Chávez”
(13 March 2007)
George Philip, “Hugo Chávez at his peak”
(28 March 2007 )
Phil Gunson, “Hugo Chávez: yo, el supremo ”
(13 April 2007)
Original source / relevant link:

Interview with John Pilger
The U.S.’ War on Democracy

Monday, Apr 30, 2007
Print format

Send by email

By: Pablo Navarrete –

John Pilger is an award-winning journalist, author and documentary filmmaker, who began his career in 1958 in his homeland, Australia, before moving to London in the 1960s. He has been a foreign correspondent and a front-line war reporter, beginning with the Vietnam War in 1967. He is an impassioned critic of foreign military and economic adventures by Western governments.
“It is too easy,” Pilger says, “for Western journalists to see humanity in terms of its usefulness to ‘our’ interests and to follow government agendas that ordain good and bad tyrants, worthy and unworthy victims and present ‘our’ policies as always benign when the opposite is usually true. It’s the journalist’s job, first of all, to look in the mirror of his own society.”
Pilger also believes a journalist ought to be a guardian of the public memory and often quotes Milan Kundera: “The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
In a career that has produced more than 55 television documentaries, Pilger’s first major film for the cinema, The War on Democracy, will be released in the United Kingdom on May 11, 2007. Pilger spent several weeks filming in Venezuela and The War on Democracy contains an exclusive interview with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

PN: Could you begin by telling us what your new film ‘The War on Democracy’ is about?
JP: I happened to watch George Bush’s second inauguration address in which he pledged to “bring democracy to the world.” He mentioned the words “democracy” and “liberty” twenty one times. It was a very important speech because, unlike the purple prose of previous presidents (Ronald Reagan excluded), he left no doubt that he was stripping noble concepts like “democracy” and “liberty” of their true meaning – government, for, by and of the people.
I wanted to make a film that illuminated this disguised truth — that the United States has long waged a war on democracy behind a facade of propaganda designed to contort the intellect and morality of Americans and the rest of us. For many of your readers, this is known. However, for others in the West, the propaganda that has masked Washington’s ambitions has been entrenched, with its roots in the incessant celebration of World War Two, the “good war”, then “victory” in the cold war. For these people, the “goodness” of US power represents “us”. Thanks to Bush and his cabal, and to Blair, the scales have fallen from millions of eyes.  I would like “The War on Democracy” to contribute something to this awakening.
The film is about the power of empire and of people. It was shot in Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, and the United States and is set also in Guatemala and Nicaragua. It tells the story of “America’s backyard,” the dismissive term given to all of Latin America. It traces the struggle of indigenous people first against the Spanish, then against European immigrants who reinforced the old elite. Our filming was concentrated in the barrios where the continent’s “invisible people” live in hillside shanties that defy gravity. It tells, above all, a very positive story: that of the rise of popular social movements that have brought to power governments promising to stand up to those who control national wealth and to the imperial master. Venezuela has taken the lead, and a highlight of the film is a rare face-to-face interview with President Hugo Chavez whose own developing political consciousness, and sense of history (and good humour), are evident. The film investigates the 2002 coup d’etat against Chavez and casts it in a contemporary context. It also describes the differences between Venezuela and Cuba, and the shift in economic and political power since Chavez was first elected. In Bolivia, the recent, tumultuous past is told through quite remarkable testimony from ordinary people, including those who fought against the piracy of their resources. In Chile, the film looks behind the mask of this apparently modern, prosperous “model” democracy and finds powerful, active ghosts. In the United States, the testimony of those who ran the “backyard” echo those who run that other backyard, Iraq; sometimes they are the same people.  Chris Martin (my fellow director) and I believe “The War on Democracy” is well timed. We hope people will see it as another way of seeing the world: as a metaphor for understanding a wider war on democracy and the universal struggle of ordinary people, from Venezuela to Vietnam, Palestine to Guatemala.
As you say, Latin America has often been described as the U.S.’ backyard. How important is Latin America for the U.S. in the global context?
Latin America’s strategic importance is often dismissed. That’s because it is so important. Read Greg Grandin’s recent, excellent history (I interview him in the film) in which he makes the case that Latin America has been Washington’s “workshop” for developing and honing and rewarding its imperial impulses elsewhere. For example, when the US “retreated” from Southeast Asia, where did its “democracy builders” go to reclaim their “vision”? Latin America. The result was the murderous assaults on Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the darkness of “Operation Condor” in the southern cone.  This was Ronald Reagan’s “war on terror”, which of course was a war of terror that provided basic training for those now running the Bush/Cheney “long war” in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Noam Chomsky recently said that after five centuries of European conquests, Latin America was reasserting its independence. Do you agree with this?
Yes, I agree. It’s humbling for someone coming from prosperous Europe to witness the poorest taking charge of their lives, with people rarely asking, as we in the West often ask, “What can I do?” They know what to do. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, the population barricaded their city until they began to take control of their water. In El Alto, perhaps the poorest city on the continent, people stood against a repressive regime until it fell. This is not to suggest that complete independence has been won.  Venezuela’s economy, for example, is still very much a “neo-liberal” economy that continues to reward those with capital. The changes made under Chavez are extraordinary – in grassroots democracy, health care, education and the sheer uplifting of people’s lives – but true equity and social justice and freedom from corruption remain distant goals. Venezuela’s well-off complain endlessly that their economic power has been diminished; it hasn’t; economic growth has never been higher, business has never been better. What the rich no longer own is the government. And when the majority own the economy, true independence will be in sight. That’s true everywhere.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, recently called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez “a threat to democracy” in Latin America. What are you views on this?
This is Orwellian, like “war is peace.” Negroponte, whose record of overseeing Washington’s terrorism in Central America is infamous, is right about Hugo Chavez in one respect. Chavez is a “threat” – he’s the threat of an example to others that independence from Washington is actually possible.
President Chavez talks about building “socialism of the 21st Century” in Venezuela. To what extent do you think this project is different to the socialist experiences in the twentieth century?
In the time I spent with Chavez, what struck me was how unselfconsciously he demonstrated his own developing political awareness. I was intrigued to watch a man who is as much an educator as a leader. He will arrive at a school or a water project where local people are gathered and under his arm will be half a dozen books – Orwell, Chomsky, Dickens, Victor Hugo. He’ll proceed to quote from them and relate them to the condition of his audience. What he’s clearly doing is building ordinary people’s confidence in themselves. At the same, he’s building his own political confidence and his understanding of the exercise of power.  I doubt that he began as a socialist when he won power in 1998 – which makes his political journey all the more interesting. Clearly, he was always a reformer who paid respect to his impoverished roots. Certainly, the Venezuelan economy today is not socialist; perhaps it’s on the way to becoming something like the social economy of Britain under the reforming Attlee Labour government. He is probably what Europeans used to be proud to call themselves: a social democrat. Look, this game of labels is pretty pointless; he is an original and he inspires; so let’s see where the Bolivarian project goes. True power for enduring change can only be sustained at the grassroots, and Chavez’s strength is that he has inspired ordinary people to believe in alternatives to the old venal order. We have nothing like this spirit in Britain, where more and more people can’t be bothered to vote any more. It’s a lesson of hope, at the very least.
‘The War on Democracy’ is to be released in UK cinemas on Friday 15th June. There will be a special preview in London on Friday 11th May. The film is released in Australia in September 2007. For more info visit: or

Is The CIA Trying to Kill Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez?

By: Chris Carlson –
“I want to kill that son of a bitch,” said the Capitan of the Venezuelan National Guard, Thomas Guillen in a recorded telephone call with his wife. In the call, played on Venezuela’s state TV channel last month, the Capitan reveals his and his father’s plans to kill President Hugo Chávez. The next day, the Capitan and his father, retired General Ramon Guillén Dávila, were arrested and taken into custody for conspiring to kill the President of Venezuela. [1]

In recent weeks, Hugo Chávez has increasingly warned that the United States has plans to kill him and is stepping up its activity against him and his government.  Chávez has also claimed that the CIA is working with associates of the famous Cuban terrorist and CIA agent Posada Carriles, designing plans for his assassination. But could there be any truth to all of this?  Could this be a classic CIA-conspiracy to kill another official “enemy” of the United States?  A quick look at the connections between the CIA and the General Ramon Guillén Dávila shows that it definitely is a possibility.

The United States manages to spread its tentacles into different countries around the world in various ways, influencing and intervening in the politics of sovereign nations. In Latin America, one of the most common ways is through supposed “drug operations.” The CIA has been known to run “anti-drug” operations in countries like Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador.

In Venezuela, such CIA-created “anti-drug” operations were led in the 1980’s by the same General Ramon Guillén Dávila who was recently planning to kill Chávez. According to the Miami Herald, Guillen was the CIA’s most trusted man in Venezuela and the senior official collaborating with the CIA during the 1980’s. [2]

As head of the Venezuela National Guard, Guillén worked closely with the CIA to infiltrate and gather information about Colombian drug trafficking operations. But instead of curbing drug operations, Guillén and the CIA ended up smuggling cocaine themselves, and the whole thing exploded when 60 Minutes aired an expose in 1993.  The CIA had collaborated with Guillén to smuggle the incredible sum of 22 tons of cocaine into the United States. [3]

After US customs intercepted a shipment of cocaine entering the country through Miami Internatoinal Airport, an official investigation revealed that General Guillén was responsible. But according to investigative journalist Michael Levine, Guillén was a CIA “asset” operating under CIA orders and protection, a fact that was later admitted by the CIA.  General Guillén was never extradited for trial in the U.S. [4]

So is General Ramon Guillén Dávila still a CIA “asset” working to knock off the Venezuelan President? Whether or not the General maintains ties with the CIA, it does seem that he would be a likely candidate for destabilization efforts against the Chávez government.

According to the web page School of the Americas Watch, General Guillén graduated from the infamous U.S. combat training school in 1967. [5] The School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001, is a US military facility that is used to train Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques and interrogation tactics.

As another of the many tentacles of the U.S. Empire, the School of the Americas has been called the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” Located in Fort Benning, Georgia, the school sends its graduates throughout the region to repress left-wing and communist movements and to influence the political situations in Latin American countries. The school has frequently supported regimes with a history of employing death squads and torture to repress their populations.

Last week, during the 5th anniversary of the 2002 U.S.-supported coup attempt against the Venezuelan government, Chávez emphasized that “the empire never rests.” He assured that the United States, along with the Venezuelan elite will continue conspiring in order to remove him from power, and that they would never accept the Bolivarian Revolution.

It would be no surprise, however, if the CIA were planning to kill or overthrow Hugo Chávez. The criminal organization has a long and dirty history of covert operations including assassinations, economic warfare, and rigged elections. In Latin America alone the CIA has overthrown numerous regimes in places like Nicaragua, Chile, Panama, Brazil, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and, most recently, Haiti in 2004.

What would be more surprising is if the CIA is not searching for a way to get rid of the popular Venezuelan President. After all, Chávez has proven to be quite a threat to the interests of the U.S. Empire and their corporate sponsors. Chávez has sharply rejected Washington’s neo-liberal agenda, nationalized major sectors of the economy, freed his country from IMF and World Bank mandates, strengthened OPEC, taken control of the nation’s oil industry, and strengthened south-south integration across the world.

However, what is even more threatening to the interests of the empire is that the revolution in Venezuela serves as an example in the region, and is now spreading to other places.  Countries like Bolivia and Ecuador are now living their own revolutions, replicating the Venezuelan experience.

It seems feasible that former CIA “asset” General Ramon Guillén Dávila was conspiring with the CIA to get rid of the most consolidated leftist movement in Latin America today. But regardless of whether or not the CIA can manage to extinguish the fire in Venezuela, it might be too late for them to control the growing wave of leftist revolutions in the region.

1.    “Presentan grabación sobre supuesto plan de magnicidio contra Chávez,” ABN /, 07/03/07

2.    Jerry Meldon, Contra-Crack Guide: Reading Between the Lines, 1998.

3.    Howard G. Chua-Eoan, “Confidence Games,” Time Magazine, Monday, Nov. 29, 1993,,9171,979669,00.html?iid=chix-sphere

4.    Michael Levine, “Mainstream Media: The Drug War Shills?,”

5.    School of the Americas Watch, Notorious Graduates from Venezuela,

Chris Carlson is a freelance journalist and activist living in Venezuela.  See his personal blog at:

Poll: Chavez Approval 65%, Despite 70% Rejection of TV Channel’s Non-Renewal

Thursday, Apr 26, 2007
Print format

Send by email

By: Gregory Wilpert –

Caracas, April 25, 2007 (— President Chavez’s performance in office continues to be viewed positively by nearly two-thirds of the population, despite a 70% rejection of the non-renewal of the TV broadcast license of RCTV, according to the Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis. Also, a new Latinobarometro poll finds that Latin Americans view Venezuela as the friendliest country in the Americas.
64.7% of Venezuelans viewed Chavez’s performance in office positively in March and 29.6% viewed it negatively, explained Datanalisis Director Luis Vicente Leon to Venezuela’s foreign press association today. The survey was conducted between March 12 and 23, among 1,300 Venezuelans of all socio-economic levels, with a margin of error of 2.7%.
A breakdown of the population’s perception of the country’s current situation shows that opinions about Venezuela are still sharply divided along class lines. In the country’s upper class—known as “A/B” among Venezuelan demographers—only 38.2% of this group views the country’s situation positively. The perception is progressively more positive, the lower people’s income, so that in the country’s largest and poorest class, known as “E,” 68.9% view the country’s situation positively.
However, when asked how Venezuelans view their personal situation, an overwhelming majority (over 60%) in all classes view it as positive.
While Chavez continues to enjoy high levels of support, opposition parties are the least respected institutions in the country, with only 26.8% of the population viewing them positively. Among the most favorably viewed institutions are the church, at 80%, and private enterprise, between 75 and 88%, depending on the sector.
With regard to the government’s performance in various areas, the most favorable areas were social programs, such as in education, food, and health, with approval ratings of 68.8%, 64.7%, and 64.2% respectively. The government received its lowest score in the area of providing personal security, with a mere 8.4% approval rating.
Another area where the government received a low approval rating was its decision not to renew the broadcast license of the private TV channel RCTV, whose license expires on May 27th. Nearly 70% of Venezuelans disapprove of the decision, while only 16.4% support it. The RCTV survey was conducted separately between April 9 and 16.
According to Leon, RCTV is the country’s most popular TV channel and those who watch the channel are much more concerned about losing its soap operas and game shows than its political programming. “Chavez will not come out of this unhurt with regard to his popularity,” said Leon and added that this was perhaps the most unpopular decision Chavez has made during his entire presidency.
In other controversial matters, a large majority of Chavez supporters are in favor of the president’s effort to create a unified socialist party, with 64.7% indicating approval and only 13.9% opposed. The rest did not indicate their preference.
This Datanalisis survey was financed by subscribers to Datanalisis’s newsletter, which goes out to about 300 of Venezuela’s main private businesses.
Latinobarometro Study
Another poll that was released recently is a study by Latinobarometro, a Chilean NGO that conducts annual surveys of political opinion in all of Latin America. According to their latest survey of how friendly Latin Americans perceive each other, Venezuela and Brazil were viewed as the two friendliest countries.
The country perceived as the least friendly is the U.S. When broken down by country, though, the perception of the U.S. is quite divided with some, such as Venezuela (53.0%), Argentina (38.0%), Mexico (33.0%), Bolivia (24.0%), and Brazil (20.0%) expressing the least confidence in the U.S. Others, though, express strong sympathy with the U.S., such as Panama (62%), Dominican Republic (52.0%), El Salvador (52.0%), Colombia (42.0%), and Costa Rica (38.0%).
Of all countries in Latin America, Venezuela made the largest leap in the past eight years, from a relatively low friendliness perception of only 4% to the highest spot in the list, at 8%.
According to Marta Lago, the director of Latinobarometro, this has something to do with Chavez’s foreign policy, which has focused much on reaching out to and integrating Latin American countries. “It calls to one’s attention how Chavez sets the agenda of Latin America because the friends [countries] that are perceived in Latin America are the friends of Chavez,” said Lagos, referring to Brazil, Argentina, and Cuba, which top off the list together with Venezuela.
The Latinobarometro survey was conducted in 18 countries and among over 20,000 participants.

May 8, 2007
Genes Take Charge, and Diets Fall by the Wayside
It was 1959. Jules Hirsch, a research physician at Rockefeller University, had gotten curious about weight loss in the obese. He was about to start a simple experiment that would change forever the way scientists think about fat.
Obese people, he knew, had huge fat cells, stuffed with glistening yellow fat. What happened to those cells when people lost weight, he wondered. Did they shrink or did they go away? He decided to find out.
It seemed straightforward. Dr. Hirsch found eight people who had been fat since childhood or adolescence and who agreed to live at the Rockefeller University Hospital for eight months while scientists would control their diets, make them lose weight and then examine their fat cells.
The study was rigorous and demanding. It began with an agonizing four weeks of a maintenance diet that assessed the subjects’ metabolism and caloric needs. Then the diet began. The only food permitted was a liquid formula providing 600 calories a day, a regimen that guaranteed they would lose weight. Finally, the subjects spent another four weeks on a diet that maintained them at their new weights, 100 pounds lower than their initial weights, on average.
Dr. Hirsch answered his original question — the subjects’ fat cells had shrunk and were now normal in size. And everyone, including Dr. Hirsch, assumed that the subjects would leave the hospital permanently thinner.
That did not happen. Instead, Dr. Hirsch says, “they all regained.” He was horrified. The study subjects certainly wanted to be thin, so what went wrong? Maybe, he thought, they had some deep-seated psychological need to be fat.
So Dr. Hirsch and his colleagues, including Dr. Rudolph L. Leibel, who is now at Columbia University, repeated the experiment and repeated it again. Every time the result was the same. The weight, so painstakingly lost, came right back. But since this was a research study, the investigators were also measuring metabolic changes, psychiatric conditions, body temperature and pulse. And that led them to a surprising conclusion: fat people who lost large amounts of weight might look like someone who was never fat, but they were very different. In fact, by every metabolic measurement, they seemed like people who were starving.
Before the diet began, the fat subjects’ metabolism was normal — the number of calories burned per square meter of body surface was no different from that of people who had never been fat. But when they lost weight, they were burning as much as 24 percent fewer calories per square meter of their surface area than the calories consumed by those who were naturally thin.
The Rockefeller subjects also had a psychiatric syndrome, called semi-starvation neurosis, which had been noticed before in people of normal weight who had been starved. They dreamed of food, they fantasized about food or about breaking their diet. They were anxious and depressed; some had thoughts of suicide. They secreted food in their rooms. And they binged.
The Rockefeller researchers explained their observations in one of their papers: “It is entirely possible that weight reduction, instead of resulting in a normal state for obese patients, results in an abnormal state resembling that of starved nonobese individuals.”
Eventually, more than 50 people lived at the hospital and lost weight, and every one had physical and psychological signs of starvation. There were a very few who did not get fat again, but they made staying thin their life’s work, becoming Weight Watchers lecturers, for example, and, always, counting calories and maintaining themselves in a permanent state of starvation.
“Did those who stayed thin simply have more willpower?” Dr. Hirsch asked. “In a funny way, they did.”
One way to interpret Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Leibel’s studies would be to propose that once a person got fat, the body would adjust, making it hopeless to lose weight and keep it off. The issue was important, because if getting fat was the problem, there might be a solution to the obesity epidemic: convince people that any weight gain was a step toward an irreversible condition that they most definitely did not want to have.
But another group of studies showed that that hypothesis, too, was wrong.
It began with studies that were the inspiration of Dr. Ethan Sims at the University of Vermont, who asked what would happen if thin people who had never had a weight problem deliberately got fat.
His subjects were prisoners at a nearby state prison who volunteered to gain weight. With great difficulty, they succeeded, increasing their weight by 20 percent to 25 percent. But it took them four to six months, eating as much as they could every day. Some consumed 10,000 calories a day, an amount so incredible that it would be hard to believe, were it not for the fact that there were attendants present at each meal who dutifully recorded everything the men ate.
Once the men were fat, their metabolisms increased by 50 percent. They needed more than 2,700 calories per square meter of their body surface to stay fat but needed just 1,800 calories per square meter to maintain their normal weight.
When the study ended, the prisoners had no trouble losing weight. Within months, they were back to normal and effortlessly stayed there.
The implications were clear. There is a reason that fat people cannot stay thin after they diet and that thin people cannot stay fat when they force themselves to gain weight. The body’s metabolism speeds up or slows down to keep weight within a narrow range. Gain weight and the metabolism can as much as double; lose weight and it can slow to half its original speed.
That, of course, was contrary to what every scientist had thought, and Dr. Sims knew it, as did Dr. Hirsch.
The message never really got out to the nation’s dieters, but a few research scientists were intrigued and asked the next question about body weight: Is body weight inherited, or is obesity more of an inadvertent, almost unconscious response to a society where food is cheap, abundant and tempting? An extra 100 calories a day will pile on 10 pounds in a year, public health messages often say. In five years, that is 50 pounds.
The assumption was that environment determined weight, but Dr. Albert Stunkard of the University of Pennsylvania wondered if that was true and, if so, to what extent. It was the early 1980s, long before obesity became what one social scientist called a moral panic, but a time when those questions of nature versus nurture were very much on Dr. Stunkard’s mind.
He found the perfect tool for investigating the nature-nurture question — a Danish registry of adoptees developed to understand whether schizophrenia was inherited. It included meticulous medical records of every Danish adoption between 1927 and 1947, including the names of the adoptees’ biological parents, and the heights and weights of the adoptees, their biological parents and their adoptive parents.
Dr. Stunkard ended up with 540 adults whose average age was 40. They had been adopted when they were very young — 55 percent had been adopted in the first month of life and 90 percent were adopted in the first year of life. His conclusions, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1986, were unequivocal. The adoptees were as fat as their biological parents, and how fat they were had no relation to how fat their adoptive parents were.
The scientists summarized it in their paper: “The two major findings of this study were that there was a clear relation between the body-mass index of biologic parents and the weight class of adoptees, suggesting that genetic influences are important determinants of body fatness; and that there was no relation between the body-mass index of adoptive parents and the weight class of adoptees, suggesting that childhood family environment alone has little or no effect.”
In other words, being fat was an inherited condition.
Dr. Stunkard also pointed out the implications: “Current efforts to prevent obesity are directed toward all children (and their parents) almost indiscriminately. Yet if family environment alone has no role in obesity, efforts now directed toward persons with little genetic risk of the disorder could be refocused on the smaller number who are more vulnerable. Such persons can already be identified with some assurance: 80 percent of the offspring of two obese parents become obese, as compared with no more than 14 percent of the offspring of two parents of normal weight.”
A few years later, in 1990, Dr. Stunkard published another study in The New England Journal of Medicine, using another classic method of geneticists: investigating twins. This time, he used the Swedish Twin Registry, studying its 93 pairs of identical twins who were reared apart, 154 pairs of identical twins who were reared together, 218 pairs of fraternal twins who were reared apart, and 208 pairs of fraternal twins who were reared together.
The identical twins had nearly identical body mass indexes, whether they had been reared apart or together. There was more variation in the body mass indexes of the fraternal twins, who, like any siblings, share some, but not all, genes.
The researchers concluded that 70 percent of the variation in peoples’ weights may be accounted for by inheritance, a figure that means that weight is more strongly inherited than nearly any other condition, including mental illness, breast cancer or heart disease.
The results did not mean that people are completely helpless to control their weight, Dr. Stunkard said. But, he said, it did mean that those who tend to be fat will have to constantly battle their genetic inheritance if they want to reach and maintain a significantly lower weight.
The findings also provided evidence for a phenomenon that scientists like Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Leibel were certain was true — each person has a comfortable weight range to which the body gravitates. The range might span 10 or 20 pounds: someone might be able to weigh 120 to 140 pounds without too much effort. Going much above or much below the natural weight range is difficult, however; the body resists by increasing or decreasing the appetite and changing the metabolism to push the weight back to the range it seeks.
The message is so at odds with the popular conception of weight loss — the mantra that all a person has to do is eat less and exercise more — that Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, an obesity researcher at the Rockefeller University, tried to come up with an analogy that would convey what science has found about the powerful biological controls over body weight.
He published it in the journal Science in 2000 and still cites it:
“Those who doubt the power of basic drives, however, might note that although one can hold one’s breath, this conscious act is soon overcome by the compulsion to breathe,” Dr. Friedman wrote. “The feeling of hunger is intense and, if not as potent as the drive to breathe, is probably no less powerful than the drive to drink when one is thirsty. This is the feeling the obese must resist after they have lost a significant amount of weight.”
This is an excerpt from Gina Kolata’s new book, “Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss — and the Myths and Realities of Dieting” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
Japanese pure gold facials offer a dazzling promise
Thu May 10, 2007 1:26AM EDT
By Hiroyuki Muramoto
TOKYO (Reuters Life!) – They say Cleopatra maintained her youth by wearing a face mask of pure gold to bed. Now in luxury-obsessed Japan, you too can gild your features and feel like a modern-day queen.
A Japanese firm showcased this week a “pure gold skin treatment” which investors say rejuvenates the skin and helps remove wrinkles and blemishes.
Gold leaf is placed on the face to accelerate cell growth in the basal layer of the skin, Umo Inc. said.
“The effects of gold include anti-ageing. It can also remove wrinkles and blemishes that women often worry about,” said a spokesman for the company which developed the therapy last year.
The luxurious treatment is available at some 30 salons and spas across Japan and one session, which lasts between one and two hours, starts at 20,000 yen ($170).
“My face started feeling warm when they finished applying gold. It feels luxurious and I feel spoilt,” said Satomi Ogura, 32, who tried the treatment at the Beautyworld Japan 2007, the country’s biggest beauty expo.
The gold facials appear to be part of a trend in Japan towards a return to the good life.
In the 1980s “bubble economy” years, wealthy Japanese were known to sprinkle gold on food and drink pink champagne by the magnum. And even during the recession, Japanese were among the world’s top buyers of luxury goods and diamond jewelry.
Tokyo’s Ritz-Carlton recently started offering a “diamond-tini”, a martini cocktail poured over a 1.06 carat stone, for 1.8 million yen. Its 13,000 yen “wagyu” beef burgers are also popular.
France’s Sarkozy cheered in Paris as protest brews
Thu May 10, 2007 9:29AM EDT
By James Mackenzie
PARIS (Reuters) – Cheering crowds met French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy at his first official engagement on Thursday, hours after police in Paris faced rioters chanting “Sarkozy fascist”.
Sarkozy does not take over from President Jacques Chirac until May 16 but there have been clear signs the right-winger’s promise of change in areas ranging from labor law to education policy will face significant opposition.
“Mr. Sarkozy has been elected. But I don’t think that you can consider that there is a general agreement over his program or that he has the the legitimacy to do just anything,” Bernard Thibault, secretary general of the main CGT union, told Le Monde.
After winning the election run-off against Socialist Segolene Royal on Sunday, Sarkozy left for a two-day retreat near Malta aboard the luxury yacht of a billionaire friend, provoking ridicule and anger among opposition parties.
He returned to Paris overnight looking suntanned and relaxed, and appeared alongside Chirac on Thursday at a ceremony in central Paris to commemorate the victims of slavery. Sarkozy waved to the crowds but said nothing.
On Wednesday night, hundreds of police had faced off against rioters chanting “Sarkozy fascist, the people will have your hide!” just around the corner from where Thursday’s ceremony took place.
University authorities also shut down one site in Paris that was occupied overnight by students who said plans to give universities more autonomy and introduce some selection in student admissions amounted to “hidden privatization”.
The students voted on Thursday to end their action, which was criticized by the main student union Unef. Protests may now be put on hold until Sarkozy tries to enact his presidential pledges.
The student protest followed three nights of violence in Paris and other cities after Sunday’s election that left hundreds of cars burnt out and scores of shop windows smashed.
Authorities have cracked down hard on the violence and courts have handed out prison sentences of up to six months to protesters. More than 100 people were arrested in Paris on Wednesday night.
With a parliamentary election next month, Sarkozy has sought to soften his authoritarian image and allies have offered reassurances that his plans to shake up rules on union rights will not be implemented without consulting all parties.
“Reforms are always done with all the people affected by a reform, rarely against them,” Trade Minister Christine Lagarde told BFM radio.
“The president of the republic has understood that and it is in that spirit that he is reaching out, that he wants to include all those involved as much as possible by telling them: let’s sit down, let’s negotiate and see what we can propose together.”
Sarkozy’s plans rules to force public sector unions to maintain a minimum service during strikes and to reform pension regulations that allow workers in some sectors to retire early with full benefits.
His allies have insisted that the new president’s clear victory in the election, where he won 53 percent of the vote, means unions did not have any right to block the changes.

“Ancient History”: U.S. Conduct in the Middle East
Since World War Il and the Folly Of Intervention
by Sheldon L. Richman
August 16, 1991
Sheldon L. Richman is senior editor at the Cato Institute.

Executive Summary
When Iranian revolutionaries entered the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and seized 52 Americans, President Jimmy Carter dismissed reminders of America’s long intervention in Iran as “ancient history.” Carter’s point was not merely that previous U.S. policy could not excuse the hostage taking. His adjective also implied that there was nothing of value to be learned from that history. In his view, dredging up old matters was more than unhelpful; it was also dangerous, presumably because it could only serve the interests of America’s adversaries. Thus, to raise historical issues was at least unpatriotic and maybe worse.(1)
As the United States finds itself in the aftermath of another crisis in the Middle East, it is worth the risk of opprobrium to ask why there should be hostility toward America in that region. Some insight can be gained by surveying official U.S. conduct in the Middle East since the end of World War II. Acknowledged herein is a fundamental, yet deplorably overlooked, distinction between understanding and excusing. The purpose of this survey is not to pardon acts of violence against innocent people but to understand the reasons that drive people to violent political acts.(2) The stubborn and often self-serving notion that the historical record is irrelevant because political violence is inexcusable ensures that Americans will be caught in crises in the Middle East and elsewhere for many years to come.
After 70 years of broken Western promises regarding Arab independence, it should not be surprising that the West is viewed with suspicion and hostility by the populations (as opposed to some of the political regimes) of the Middle East.(3) The United States, as the heir to British imperialism in the region, has been a frequent object of suspicion. Since the end of World War II, the United States, like the European colonial powers before it, has been unable to resist becoming entangled in the region’s political conflicts. Driven by a desire to keep the vast oil reserves in hands friendly to the United States, a wish to keep out potential rivals (such as the Soviet Union), opposition to neutrality in the cold war, and domestic political considerations, the United States has compiled a record of tragedy in the Middle East. The most recent part of that record, which includes U.S. alliances with Iraq to counter Iran and then with Iran and Syria to counter Iraq, illustrates a theme that has been played in Washington for the last 45 years.
An examination of the details and consequences of that theme provides a startling object lesson in the pitfalls and conceit of an interventionist foreign policy. The two major components of the theme that are covered in this study are U.S. policy toward Iran and the relations between Israel and the Arabs. Events in which those components overlapped– development of the Carter Doctrine, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Persian Gulf War–will also be examined.
In the aftermath of the most overt and direct U.S. attempt to manage affairs in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf War, it is more important than ever to understand how the United States came to be involved in the region and the disastrous consequences of that involvement. President Bush’s willingness to sacrifice American lives to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait, to restore the “legitimate” government of that feudal monarchy, and to create a “new world order” proceeds logically from the premises and policies of past administrations. Indeed, there is little new in Bush’s new world order, except the Soviet Union’s assistance. That may mean the new order will be far more dangerous than the old, because it will feature an activist U.S. foreign policy without the inhibitions that were formerly imposed by the superpower rivalry. That bodes ill for the people of the Middle East, as well as for the long-suffering American citizens, who will see their taxes continue to rise, their consumer economy increasingly distorted by military spending, and their blood spilled–all in the name of U.S. leadership.
Background: Oil
If the chief natural resource of the Middle East were bananas, the region would not have attracted the attention of U.S. policymakers as it has for decades. Americans became interested in the oil riches of the region in the 1920s, and two U.S. companies, Standard Oil of California and Texaco, won the first concession to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. They discovered oil there in 1938, just after Standard Oil of California found it in Bahrain. The same year Gulf Oil (along with its British partner Anglo-Persian Oil) found oil in Kuwait. During and after World War II, the region became a primary object of U.S. foreign policy. It was then that policymakers realized that the Middle East was “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”(4)
Subsequently, as a result of cooperation between the U.S. government and several American oil companies, the United States replaced Great Britain as the chief Western power in the region.(5) In Iran and Saudi Arabia, American gains were British (and French) losses.(6) Originally, the dominant American oil interests had had limited access to Iraqi oil only (through the Iraq Petroleum Company, under the 1928 Red Line Agreement). In 1946, however, Standard Oil of New Jersey and Mobil Oil Corp., seeing the irresistible opportunities in Saudi Arabia, had the agreement voided.(7) When the awakening countries of the Middle East asserted control over their oil resources, the United States found ways to protect its access to the oil. Nearly everything the United States has done in the Middle East can be understood as contributing to the protection of its long-term access to Middle Eastern oil and, through that control, Washington’s claim to world leadership. The U.S. build-up of Israel and Iran as powerful gendarmeries beholden to the United States, and U.S. aid given to “moderate,” pro-Western Arab regimes, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan, were intended to keep the region in friendly hands. That was always the meaning of the term “regional stability.”(8)
What threatened American access to the region? Although much was made of the Soviet threat, there is reason to believe that throughout the cold war Washington did not take it seriously in the Middle East. The primary perceived threat was indigenous–namely, Arab and Iranian nationalism, which appears to have been the dominant concern from 1945 on. “The most serious threats may emanate from internal changes in the gulf states,” a congressional report stated in 1977.(9) Robert W. Tucker, the foreign policy analyst who advocated in the 1970s that the United States take over the Middle Eastern oil fields militarily, predicted that the “more likely” threat to U.S. access to the oil would “arise primarily from developments indigenous to the Gulf.”(10) The rise of Arab nationalism or Muslim fundamentalism, or any other force not sufficiently obeisant to U.S. interests, would threaten American economic and worldwide political leadership (and the profits of state-connected corporations). As Tucker wrote, “It is the Gulf that forms the indispen-sable key to the defense of the American global position.”(11) Thus, any challenge to U.S. hegemony had to be prevented or at least contained.(12) As Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said privately during the Lebanese crisis in 1958, the United States “must regard Arab nationalism as a flood which is running strongly. We cannot successfully oppose it, but we could put sand bags around positions we must protect–the first group being Israel and Lebanon and the second being the oil positions around the Persian Gulf.”(13)
The government sought foreign sources of oil during World War II because it believed U.S. reserves were running out. Loy Henderson, who in 1945 was in charge of Near Eastern affairs for the State Department, said, “There is a need for a stronger role for this Government in the economics and political destinies of the Near and Middle East, especially in view of the oil reserves.”(14) During the war the U.S. government and two American oil companies worked together to win concessions in Iran.(15) That action brought the United States into rivalry with Great Britain and the Soviet Union, both of which had dominated Iran in the interwar period, though Reza Shah Pahlavi had succeeded in reducing foreign influence from its previous level. (Great Britain had its oil concession through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.) With the Soviets and the British occupying Iran and both favoring the decentralization of that country, the Tehran government sought to involve American oil interests as a way of enlisting U.S. support for Iran’s security and stability. The U.S. government aided the companies, by providing facilities for transportation and communication along with other help, and dispatched advisers to the Iranian regime. In 1942 Wallace Murray, a State Department official involved in Near Eastern affairs, said, “We shall soon be in the position of actually ‘running’ Iran through an impressive body of American advisers.”(16)
The relationship between the U.S. government and large American oil companies remained close throughout the war, despite differences over such issues as the government’s part ownership of commercial enterprises. The oil companies and the State Department coordinated their efforts to ensure themselves a major role in the Middle East. One indication of that coordination was the appointment in 1941 of Max Thornburg as the State Department’s petroleum adviser. The United States was a comparative latecomer to the region, but it intended to make up for lost time. Thornburg had been an official with the Bahrain Petroleum Company, a Middle Eastern subsidiary of Socal (Standard Oil of Cali-fornia) and Texaco. Throughout his government tenure, he maintained ties w