Iran ends co-operation with UN nuclear agency, open to Russian proposal
14:59:04 EST Feb 5, 2006
ALI AKBAR DAREINI
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran did an about-face Sunday on its previous rejection of a Moscow proposal to shift its uranium enrichment to Russian territory and said it remains open to negotiations even as it ended voluntary cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog agency.
Before the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to report the Iranian nuclear program to the Security Council last week, Tehran had threatened to walk away from future talks with Moscow about its proposal to handle uranium enrichment for Iran on Russian soil.
The proposal was seen as a means of assuring the world that the process would not produce materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Uranium enriched to a low degree is used as fuel for nuclear reactors. But highly enriched uranium is suitable for making atomic bombs.
Iran insists that it only wants to use nuclear research to build reactors for generating electricity. The United States and some of its allies contend Tehran is trying to build an atomic weapon.
Despite the threat, Iran on Sunday indicated it remained ready for talks on the Russian proposal.
"The situation has changed. Still, we will attend talks with Russia on February 16," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a press conference.
"The proposal has to conform itself with the new circumstances," Asefi said. "If the Russian proposal makes itself compatible with the new conditions, it can be negotiated."
His comments came a day after Javad Vaeidi, deputy head of the powerful National Security Council, said there was there was "no adequate reason to pursue the Russian plan."
It was not clear if the change of course represented a major shift in Iran's strategy in the crisis over its nuclear activities. Asefi said "the door for negotiations is still open" over Iran's nuclear program.
"We don't fear the Security Council. It's not the end of the world," he said.
Asefi issued his comments after Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced that Iran had ended all voluntary co-operation with the IAEA, acting on the order a day earlier of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The action was required as a response to the IAEA move by a law passed last year.
"We have ended all the voluntary co-operation we have been extending to the IAEA in the past two-a-half to three years, on the basis of the president's order," Mottaki said. "We do not have any obligation toward the additional protocol (anymore)."
The announcement means Iran has resumed uranium enrichment and will no longer allow snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities, both voluntary measures it had allowed in recent years in a goodwill gesture to build trust under a protocol to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
Iran has repeatedly stressed that it would continue to honour its commitments under the treaty but that it has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.
"Adoption of the policy of resistance doesn't mean we are on non-speaking terms or nonco-operative," Mottaki said. "Yesterday we had two options. One was the option of resistance and the other was surrender. We chose resistance."
"Our activities will continue within the NPT (and not beyond that)," he told a press conference. "We have withdrawn only the possibility of voluntary co-operation from them (IAEA and the West)."
Mottaki said the IAEA resolution was "the result of a political will based on U.S. hostility" toward Iran.
He said Iran would defend its right to possess nuclear technology and enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel. "We will continue this path," he told reporters.
Meanwhile Sunday, Ahmadinejad continued his defiance against the IAEA vote.
"You (the West) can't do a thing. The era of coercion and domination has ended," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
"Issue as many resolutions like this as you want and make yourself happy. You can't prevent the progress of the Iranian nation," he said.
"In the name of the IAEA they want to visit all our nuclear facilities and learn our defence capabilities, but we won't allow them to do this," Ahmadinejad said Sunday.
The IAEA resolution requests Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to "report to the Security Council" with steps Iran needs to take to dispel suspicions about its nuclear ambitions.
These include that it return to freezing uranium enrichment; consider stopping construction of a heavy-water reactor that could be the source of plutonium; formally ratify the agreement allowing the IAEA greater inspecting authority and give the nuclear watchdog more power in its investigation of Iran's nuclear program.
Tensions were likely to rise as Iran rejects pressure from the outside. It began to escalate last month after Iran removed UN seals and began nuclear research including small-scale uranium enrichment.
That came after months of futile talks between Iran and Britain, Germany and France, which negotiated on behalf of the 25-country European Union.
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War Pimp: Later than we think
By Arnaud de Borchgrave
February 6, 2006
The only reason an article from that Fascist Rag, The Washington Times, is even on SOTT is so that our readers can have real, live examples of propaganda to examine.
The man in charge of hoodwinking the Western powers about Iran's now 18-year-old secret nuclear program believes the apocalypse will happen in his own lifetime. He'll be 50 in October.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Shi'ite creed has convinced him lesser mortals can not only influence but hasten the awaited return of the 12th Imam, known as the Mahdi. Iran's dominant "Twelver" sect holds this will be Muhammad ibn Hasan, the righteous descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the 9th century, at age 5. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war, bloodshed and pestilence. After this cataclysmic confrontation between the forces of good and evil, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.
"The ultimate promise of all Divine religions," says Ahmadinejad, "will be fulfilled with the emergence of a perfect human being [the 12th Imam], who is heir to all prophets. He will lead the world to justice and absolute peace. Oh mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one." He reckons the return of the Imam, AWOL for 11 centuries, is only two years away.
Mr. Ahmadinejad is close to the messianic Hojjatieh Society, which is governed by the conviction the 12th Imam's return will be hastened by "the creation of chaos on Earth." He has fired Iran's most experienced diplomats and scores of other officials, presumably those who don't share his belief in apocalyptic conflagration.
The Iranian leader's finger on a nuclear trigger would be disquieting under any circumstances. Positively alarming would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of a man who badgers Israel, the U.S. and the European Union in belief a pre-emptive aerial attack on Iran's nuclear facilities will hasten the return of the missing Mahdi. Such an attack presumably would trigger anti-Western mayhem throughout the Middle East.
When he became Iran's sixth president since the 1979 revolution last summer, Mr. Ahmadinejad decided to donate $20 million to the Jamkaran mosque, a popular pilgrimage site where the faithful can drop their missives to the "Hidden Imam" in a holy well. Tehran's working-class faithful are convinced the new president and his Cabinet signed a "compact" pledging themselves to precipitate the return of the Mahdi -- and dropped it down Jamkaran's well with the Mahdi's zip code.
In Mr. Ahmadinejad's eyes, Iran is strong, with oil inching up to $70 a barrel and America, dependent on foreign oil, is weak. He has said publicly America and Europe have far more to lose than Iran if the U.N. Security Council votes for tough economic sanctions. He also figures if Israeli and/or U.S. warplanes strike Iran, all he has to do is give the U.S. a hard time in Iraq as American forces prepare to withdraw.
Moving two or three Iranian divisions into Iraq and activating Shi'ite suicide bombers and hit squads throughout the region would not be too hard for a country that fought an 8-year war against Iraq (1980-88) and had no compunction about giving thousands of youngsters a key to paradise and 72 virgins before sending them across Iraqi minefields.
A top Ahmadinejad officer, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Kossari, who heads the political watchdog, or Security Bureau, of Iran's armed forces, recently taunted the U.S. when he bragged "we have identified all the weak points of our enemies" and have sufficient cannon fodder -- i.e., suicide operation volunteers -- "ready to strike at these sensitive locations." Iranian television recently broadcast an animated film for Iranian children glorifying suicide bombers.
So far, Supreme Leader and Chief of State Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who sits in the holy city of Qom, has not expostulated. Mr. Ahmadinejad appears to have his religious rear well covered. His ideological mentor and spiritual guide is Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi who heads the ultraconservative acolytes who believe the 12th Imam's return is "imminent."
The son of a blacksmith, Mr. Ahmadinejad earned an engineering Ph.D. and is a former member of Iran's notorious Revolutionary Guards at a time when dissidents and "counterrevolutionaries" were executed by the thousands.
A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, first showed Iran how to build a nuclear weapon 18 years ago. He opened his nuclear black market to Iranian engineers and scientists.
The Bush administration is anxious to clear the decks in a democratic Iraq before facing the Islamist counterpart of the "Rapture" in the "Left Behind" series of books on the end of times by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
President Bush says all options are on the table. But the military option is probably the one the "twelvers" would look forward to. Some Washington think tank strategists argue if Iran's Dr. Strangelove attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon, five Iranian cities would be vaporized next day.
It might behoove the United States to sit down with "axis of evil" Iran to find out if the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine that kept the Soviet Union and the U.S. at peace for a half-century could still be made to work.
In any event, one would have to be irredeemably myopic not to see that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. The only question is how far this secret program is from delivering a usable weapon and fitting it in the nose cone of a Shahab-3 missile with the range to reach Israel. The Israeli Air Force will be "overhead" Iran long before.
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Iran Ends Voluntary Cooperation With IAEA
'Pakistan Times' Foreign Correspondent
5 Feb 06
TEHRAN (Iran): Iran said Sunday it has ended all voluntary cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog but would still hold talks with Moscow on a proposal to enrich Iranian uranium in Russia, reversing an earlier decision to abandon those talks.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran had implemented the president's orders to end voluntary cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ordered the move Saturday in response to the U.N. agency decision to refer Iran to the Security Council over fears the country is trying to develop a nuclear bomb. It means Iran will resume uranium enrichment and will no longer allow snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities — voluntary measures it had allowed in recent years in a gesture to build trust.
"We ended all the voluntary cooperation we have been extending to the IAEA in the past two-and-a-half to three years, on the basis of the president's order," Mottaki said. "We do not have any obligation toward the additional protocol (anymore)."
The action was required under a law passed last year.
Iran has repeatedly stressed that it will continue to honor its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but that it has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.
"Adoption of the policy of resistance doesn't mean we are on non-speaking terms or noncooperative," Mottaki said. "Yesterday we had two options. One was the option of resistance and the other was surrender. We chose resistance."
Open to Negotiations
Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran was open to negotiations on a Moscow's proposal that Iran shift its plan for large-scale enrichment of uranium to Russian territory. The plan is intended to allay world suspicions that Iran might use the process to develop a nuclear bomb.
Uranium enriched to a low degree is used as fuel for nuclear reactors. But highly enriched uranium is suitable for making atomic bombs.
"The situation has changed. Still, we will attend talks with Russia on February 16," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said at a press conference.
"The proposal has to conform itself with the new circumstances," he added. "If the Russian proposal makes itself compatible with the new conditions, it can be negotiated."
His comments came a day after Javad Vaeidi, deputy head of the powerful National Security Council, said there was there was "no adequate reason to pursue the Russian plan."
It was not clear if the change of course represented a major shift in Iran's strategy in the crisis over its nuclear activities. Asefi said "the door for negotiations is still open" over Iran's nuclear program.
"We don't fear the Security Council. It's not the end of the world," he added.
"The proposal has to conform itself with the new circumstances," Asefi said. "If the Russian proposal makes itself compatible with the new conditions, it can be negotiated."
Iran has said the Russian proposal has ambiguities that need to be clarified in talks. Iranian officials have also said Tehran would reject the proposal if it sought to prevent Iran from enriching uranium inside the country. They insist it must only be a complementary measure to Iran's nuclear program.
IAEA Referral Rejected
Earlier Sunday, Ahmadinejad brushed off the IAEA referral.
"Issue as many resolutions like this as you want and make yourself happy. You can't prevent the progress of the Iranian nation," he said in comments carried by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
"In the name of the IAEA they want to visit all our nuclear facilities and learn our defense capabilities, but we won't allow them to do this," he added.
Asefi reiterated that Iran would cooperate with the IAEA within the framework of the NPT and the Safeguard Agreement.
"We chose our way wisely. We have solutions for all situations that may develop. Referring Iran to the Security Council will definitely harm the other party more than Iran," Asefi said.
Twenty-seven of 35 member nations on the IAEA board voted for Iran's referral, reflecting more than two years of intense lobbying by the United States and its allies to enlist broad backing for such a move. Cuba, Venezuela and Syria voted against, and five members abstained.
After years of opposition, Russia and China backed the referral last week, bringing support from other nations who had been waiting for their lead.
But in return, Moscow and Beijing demanded that the Americans — and France and Britain, the two other veto-wielding Security Council members — agree to let the Iran issue rest until at least March, when the IAEA board meets again to review the agency's investigation of Iran's nuclear program and its compliance with board demands that it renounce uranium enrichment.
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Iran bans oil tankers'' Gulf passage if oil exports sanctioned -- MP
Feb 4, 2006
TEHRAN -- Iran will ban passage of oil tankers in the Gulf if its oil experts are sanctioned, said a senior official Saturday.
"If a ban is imposed on our oil exports, we will not allow oil tankers to sail in the Gulf waters," Mehr news agency quoted Sulaiman Jaafar Zadeh, member of the national committee for security and foreign policy in the Shura council, as saying.
He said with the current circumstances, the western threats over "our nuclear file will not materialize." The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) board of governors had agreed earlier today to refer Iran's nuclear file to the UN Security Council (UNSC).
Zadeh said the US and other Western countries "don't have the ability to take decisions in the Middle East.
"The Iranian supremecy in the region cannot be denied, and any threat or pressure on Iran will make the west receive a severe hit in Afghanistan and Iraq," he added.
He said Iran was cooperating with IAEA to have its rights to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
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Will Iran's 'petroeuro' threat lead to war?
By Jerome R. Corsi
Beginning in 2003, Iran began demanding oil payment in euros, not dollars, although the oil itself was still priced in U.S. currency. Now, Iran is seriously considering establishing an Iranian Oil Bourse, with the goal of competing with the New York Mercantile Exchange, NYMEX, and London's International Petroleum Exchange, IPE.
Right now, the NYMEX and IPE use three oil "markers" to establish price – West Texas Intermediate crude, Norway Brent crude and the UAE Dubai crude. With the establishment of an Iranian Oil Bourse, Tehran wants to create a fourth oil marker, this one priced in the euro.
In 2000, as Saddam Hussein continued to sell the United Nations on what became the "oil for food" scandal, Iraq received U.N. permission to sell Iraqi oil for euros, not dollars. Saddam even received permission from the U.N. to convert the $10 billion oil-for-food reserve fund from dollars to euros.
Many administration critics argue today that the real reason for invading Iraq in 2003 was not to remove WMD from Iraq or to establish freedom but to preserve the dollar dominance of the world's oil market. These same critics argue today that the real reason for the ramp-up of concern over Iran has nothing to do with Iran's secret nuclear weapons program or with President Ahmadinejad's threats to destroy Israel but everything to do with oil.
If the Iranians persist in creating a market mechanism to settle world oil transactions in the euro, the United States will attack just to preserve the oil market for the dollar.
Today, about 70 percent of the world's international foreign currency reserves are held in dollars. If the petroeuro begins to challenge the petrodollar, this percentage could diminish drastically.
The United States depends on the dollar foreign-currency reserves in order to sell the Treasury debt that sustains budget deficits. What if foreign-exchange portfolios from oil sales fell to 60 percent being held in dollars – would that cause a crisis in the U.S. economy? Or would it take 55 percent? Most Americans are completely unaware of this threat Iran represents to the U.S. economy.
The Iranians, however, are fully aware of what they are threatening, and so are top economic experts within the administration.
The Islamic world also has realized that America is at risk because we no longer have a gold-backed currency. For years, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has championed a move for the Muslim nations of the world to establish the gold dinar as the standard currency for settling international oil transactions. In November 2002, the West Malaysian Royal Mint reissued the gold dinar that was in common use in the Muslim world during the Ottoman Empire.
The idea would be to challenge the dollar by arguing that a fixed-value currency backed in gold is more resistant to devaluation than a floating dollar such as the U.S. has had since the administration of Richard Nixon.
In writing "Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil," Craig Smith and I argued that the United States should seriously consider establishing a gold-backed international-trade dollar to preserve stability and value in the international oil market. Clearly, any threat to petrodollar holdings could undermine social programs in the U.S., including Medicare and key welfare programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
How close is Iran to opening the Iranian Oil Bourse? The Iranian Oil Bourse is scheduled to be opened in March. Curiously, that is the same month Israel has quietly set as a deadline for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis.
Last year, President Bush was ready to concede to his liberal Democratic Party critics, allowing the EU-3 and the IAEA to lead the negotiations with Iran. Our guess is that if Iran does open an oil bourse as planned in March, Bush will take the gloves off.
The Bush administration might play with a nuclear Iran, comfortable with intelligence estimates that Iran needs much more time to produce a bomb. Maybe Iran should look more closely at the lesson of Saddam Hussein. We didn't find the WMDs our faulty intelligence claimed were in Iraq, but Hussein was trading in pertoeuros, with the full blessing of the U.N.
If Iran does open an oil bourse next month, we should expect the warplanes will soon thereafter begin to fly.
Jerome R. Corsi received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in political science in 1972 and has written many books and articles, including co-authoring with John O'Neill the No. 1 New York Times best-seller, "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry." Dr. Corsi's most recent books include "Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil," which he co-authored with WND columnist Craig. R. Smith, and "Atomic Iran: How the Terrorist Regime Bought the Bomb and American Politicians."
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War Pimp: Frist says military action a posssibility against Iran
5 Feb 06
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Saturday night that the United States must be prepared to take military action against Iran if nonviolent means don't deter the country from building nuclear weapons.
Iran has said it wants to enrich uranium only to make nuclear fuel for generating electricity. But concerns that it might misuse the technology led the International Atomic Energy Agency on Saturday to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council.
The United States has long advocated Security Council action against Iran, including possible political and economic sanctions, which have not yet occurred.
Asked whether Congress had the political will to use military force against Iran if necessary, First said: "The answer is yes, absolutely."
"We cannot allow Iran to become a nuclear nation," Frist told reporters at the Missouri GOP's annual Lincoln Days conference. "We need to use diplomatic sanctions. If that doesn't work, economic sanctions, and if that doesn't work, the potential for military use has to be on the table."
Frist also defended a program in President Bush's administration that allowed the government to eavesdrop, without warrants, on international calls and e-mails in the United States that were believed to be terrorist-related.
As Senate majority leader, the Tennessee senator said he was one of eight people in Congress who were "fully briefed" on the program. He said Democrats who criticize it do so at their own political peril.
"The program is constitutional, it is lawful and it is absolutely imperative for the safety and security of people in Missouri and people around this country," Frist said.
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Iran nuclear file a non-NPT issue, says Veteran UK politician
5 Feb 06
The Iran issue has nothing to do with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and it is about US President George W Bush and towing away British Premier Tony Blair, said Tony Benn a former minister in the labour administration.
"But I do not know why other countries have gone along with the US," said the active leftist in Britain's ruling party.
In an interview with IRNA on Sunday Benn said he was very surprised that Russia and China supported the new resolution on Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting in Vienna on Saturday.
"It may be that they think it is better to discuss the matter in the UN where, unlike the IAEA, they have a veto power," he added.
The former MP, who in May 2001 after 50 years retired from the House of Commons, said he was extremely worried about the current situation.
He warned that if Washington and Tel Aviv commit any military adventurism against Iran, "then the whole Middle East would go up in flames".
A Cabinet minister in the Wilson and Callaghan governments from 1964 to 1979 added, "Obviously, if there is sanctions, the price of oil would go up to over 100 dollars per barrel, so this is not a sensible policy to follow in any front".
Ben, former minister of technology and secretary of state for both industry and energy said the whole reason for orchestrating this crisis was "possibly much about Israel and Bush".
He also commented on the possibility that the the US is heating up the situation for oil as Washington is feared of its transactions from dollar to the European currency.
"I think that is a much bigger question because if the dollar is undermined by the setting oil in euros, the whole American economy would get into trouble."
Benn also believed that the arguments of Tehran have not been well presented in the west.
"Iranian case is not understood, it is like Iraq: Bush is heating p and Blair goes along with it and Israel is delighted." he suggested.
Saying that the control of information is now the most powerful weapon in the world, the veteran politician added, "If you leave information at the monopoly of George Bush then you will give him advantages" on this ground.
Benn also said that the antiwar movement is organizing a massive demonstration on March 18 where the main focus would be on Iran and the occupation of Iraq.
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The hidden stakes in the Iran crisis
by Thierry Meyssan
February 4, 2006
Reseau Voltaire (Translated by Colin Buchanan (endempire.blogspot.com)
At the end of this operation, Washington should have complete control over the world’s main hydrocarbon production and reserves. It will control the world economy without the need to share power. It will then be The Empire of The Beast, the New World Order.
The confrontation between the big powers over Iran continues with antagonisms hidden from view. Since December 2002, the USA has accused Iran of seeking nuclear arms in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
The seizure of Iran by the USA would mean them taking control of both the East bank of the Persian Gulf and the Southern Caspian, including their reserves of oil and gas estimated to be the second largest in the world.
Already the US have military control of part of the Caspian basin and of a corridor enabling them to link this area with the Indian Ocean (Afghanistan and Pakistan). They have also taken control of the key areas of the Gulf (Saudi Arabia and Iraq). At the end of this operation, Washington should have complete control over the world’s main hydrocarbon production and reserves. It will control the world economy without the need to share power.
At the present stage in the conflict, the big powers are divided with regard to US strategy goals. The UK, France and Germany are convinced that Iran has a nuclear arms programme. They base this on briefing by the US intelligence services who have shown them secret documents asserting that Tehran is working on a Green Salt Project aimed at developing a missile system with nuclear warheads. On the other hand, Russia, China and India consider Iran’s programme to be purely civilian in nature. They base themselves on the Fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeiny, decreeing that the production, possession and use of nuclear weapons is contrary to Islamic teaching.
Objectively, the NPT’s distinction between between legitimate civilian and prohibited military programmes is no longer pertinent given the techniques now available. Civilian know-how and facilities can easily be adapted to military use. A rigorous reading of NPT would lead to the prohibition of nuclear programmes for all states, whereas a more lax interpretation would open the door to generalized proliferation. Without dealing with this question it is impossible to resolve the Iranian case, and it is precisely this grey area which the US is exploiting in order to lead the way to war.
There is, however, perhaps one means of clarifying the situation . A special method of enriching uranium, not yet completely developed, would, once again, allow a clear distinction between civilian and military usage. Russia is endeavouring to perfect this method and proposes that it be used not only for Iran’s benefit but for that of the international community as a whole. This is expected to be one of the three major proposals which President Putin will put forward at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, this summer.
The feasibility of this project remains to be demonstrated. Russia would produce nuclear fuel on its own territory in factories constructed in partnership with the state in question under the control of the International Atomic Energy Authority(IAEA). Detailed procedures still have to be worked out to guarantee the interests of all the protagonists. If this project were to be fully realized international relations as a whole would be turned completely upside down. Russia, as the guarantor of energy provision throughout the world would eclipse the authority of the USA which today satisfies their own energy needs at the expense of the rest of the world.
Iran has made of its nuclear programme a symbol of its independance with regard to Anglo-Saxon colonialism from which it has suffered so much. Contrary to an idea put about for some time now in the atlanticist press, this ambition is not the reserve of a particular faction within Iran but is shared throughout Iranian society. In addition, if the Islamic Republic has abandoned its dream of expansion dating from the Khomeiny revolution, nowadays, it intends to play a leading role in the rejuvenated non-aligned movement.. It also intends to share its demands regarding nuclear power with other countries and reaffirm the right to a peaceful nuclear programme, not just for itself, but for everyone.
Far from being concerned exclusively with Iran, the present diplomatic game will impact on the international balance of power and the intention of the USA, reaffirmed yesterday in the State of the Union Address, to take on unilateral global leadership.
Throughout 2004 and 2005 the various powers have been making increasingly complicated moves. A European Troika was meant to play the role of honest broker between the USA and Iran; they demanded a halt in Iran’s nuclear programme and then leant decisively towards the American camp. Iran, after accepting a two and a half year moratorium on its nuclear research, resumed them on the 10th January 2006, considering that they had waited long enough as a sign of good will without any serious response form the Europeans. The Russian position had become completely opaque, the foreign minister giving to understand that he shared the point of view of the Europeans until being put in his place by Putin who reaffirmed his commitment to a peaceful solution. Finally, a series of diplomatic missions have enabled Russia, China and Iran to develop a common strategy.
The whole question was given a kick-start when Britain organsied, on 30th January, a « private ministerial dinner » bringing together the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the USA and China.. In the course of this meeting, Jack straw, British foreign minister proposed that the IAEA refer the question to the Security Council, the first step on the way to war. His Russian and Chinese opposite numbers emphasized that such a decision would have no basis in international law. Confident in the viability of their uranium enrichment project, the Russian Federation wished simply to play for time, the time necessary to put together an agreement with Iran i.e. one or two months according to the experts. The dinner was concluded by setting out a timetable which each side presented as a victory: the IAEA Council of Governors will not be able to refer Iran to the UN Security council next week because it lacks the power to do so, but will demand of the UNSC that it be given the powers to do so at a future date.
This compromise allows the Americans and Europeans to maintain the pressure and the Russians and Chinese to gain time. Working out who came out best depends on whether you consider the glass half-full or half-empty.
In practice, assuming that the Security Council gives the Council of Governors the requisite powers, the latter can only put them into effect at their next meeting on 9th March.
The Iranians make play of resenting this horse trading as a betrayal by their friends the Russians. But, it is quite possible that they have obtained a written guarantee from the Russians that they will veto any vote by the Security council authorizing war.
Whatever the case may be, the Iranians are appealing to their partners in the non-aligned movement for help. President Ahmadinejad received a phone call of support from Thabo Mbeki( South Africa, who had produced nuclear during the apartheid era, along with Israel, later renounced them). Indonesia has repeatedly called for peace, whilst Venezuela and Malaysia are soon to receive the Iranian president.
At the same time, Iran is preparing « a world without Israel and the USA ». Tehran is optimistic about putting in place an oil spot market which doesn’t accept dollars. This is already working at an experimental stage. If no nation has officially announced its participation, many are encouraging participation through private companies acting as intermediaries. Now, the dollar is an overvalued currency whose value is maintained essentially by its role as a petro-currency. Such a spot market, once really up and running, would provoke a collapse of the dollar, comparable to hat of 1939, even if its transactions only amounted to a tenth of the world turnover. US power would be undermined by the falling dollar and, in time, Israel would also find itself bankrupt
Washington is then obliged to apply all its force to ensure that the major world powers break with Tehran. Short of war, the US must at least succeed in imposing economic isolation on Iran. Paradoxically, neither option seems possible. The US and Tsahal can hardly bomb Iran’s nuclear sites, since these are maintained by Russian advisers and technicians. Attacking Iran would imply declaring war against Russia. Furthermore, even if strikes were possible, Iran would not neglect to strike back at Israel with the devastating Thor-1 missiles sold to them by the Russians. The Shiites would make life even harder for the occupation forces in Iraq. If the US choose to use an economic blockade of Iran, this could easily be bypassed through Iran’s special relationship with China. Meanwhile, Iran would deny the West part of its oil supply, bringing about a rise in prices of 300% per barrel and a huge economic crisis.
Quite clearly, the outcome of this confrontation depends on the ability of each protagonist to impose his own timetable on events. Meanwhile, the Bush administration stubbornly drives towards a confrontation which it lacks the means to carry through successfully and in which it risks loosing its authority.
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War Pimp Perle: Iraq errors show West must act fast on Iran
4 Feb 06
MUNICH, Germany - Richard Perle, a key architect of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, said on Saturday the West should not make the mistake of waiting too long to use military force if Iran comes close to getting an atomic weapon.
"If you want to try to wait until the very last minute, you'd better be very confident of your intelligence because if you're not, you won't know when the last minute is," Perle told Reuters on the sidelines of an annual security conference in Munich.
"And so, ironically, one of the lessons of the inadequate intelligence of Iraq is you'd better be careful how long you choose to wait."
Perle said Israel had chosen not to wait until it was too late to destroy the key facility Saddam Hussein's secret nuclear weapons program in Osirak, Iraq in 1981. The Israelis decided to bomb the Osirak reactor before it was loaded up with nuclear fuel to prevent widespread radioactive contamination.
"I can't tell you when we may face a similar choice with Iran. But it's either take action now or lose the option of taking action," he said.
Asked if he thought a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities was an inevitability, Perle said: "I hope that can be avoided but that's always a possibility. We are talking about physical facilities and they're always vulnerable."
Perle is one of the top U.S. neoconservatives who advocated a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam and seize alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. No such stockpiles were found after the war and U.S. President George W. Bush has acknowledged that the intelligence was bad.
Perle served under U.S. President Ronald Reagan as an assistant secretary of defense and on the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee from 1987 to 2004. He was an influential chairman of the Board from 2001 to 2003.
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Israel predicts Iran will pay 'heavy price' for nuclear defiance
By Yossi Melman
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert voiced confidence on Sunday that Iran would pay "a very heavy price" by resuming full-scale uranium enrichment after being reported to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program.
The United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency referred Iran to the Security Council on Saturday.
Olmert, in broadcast remarks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, said Israel had played an important role in what he described as an intensive and stormy diplomatic effort leading to Iran's referral to the UN body.
"At the end of the day, it shows that Iran will pay a very heavy price if it continues with its plans to try and enrich its fuel in order to be able to use it as an option to make non-conventional weapons," the interim prime minister said.
Meanwhile, Iran has ended all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced Sunday.
"We ended all the voluntary cooperation we have been extending to the IAEA in the past two and a half to three years, on the basis of the president's order," Mottaki said. "We do not have any obligation toward the additional protocol (anymore)."
The announcement means Iran has resumed uranium enrichment and will no longer allow snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities, both voluntary measures it had allowed in recent years in a goodwill gesture to build trust.
"Because of the resolution of the IAEA ... the organization should stop voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and other cooperation from Sunday," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday.
Iran announced that it sees the referral to the Security Council as the end of diplomacy. The head of the Iranian delegation to the IAEA, Javed Vaeidi, deputy head of Iran's National Security Council, told journalists after the resolution was passed that Iran "now has to implement a fuller scale of enrichment."
Resolution links Israeli, Iranian programs
At the last minute, an unprecedented article was introduced into the United Nations resolution that indirectly refers to Israel in its call for a "Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction." This is the first time a link has been made between the Israeli and Iranian nuclear programs. The article was approved in order to create as wide a consensus as possible among IAEA members.
According to Israeli intelligence, Iran will have the knowledge, ability and technology to create nuclear weapons some 12 to 18 months after it begins to enrich uranium. However, they also note that it will be another two to three years before Iran will have the quantity of material needed to assemble its first atom bomb.
American intelligence, in contrast, puts the time needed at eight years, due to expected difficulties in acquiring equipment, materials and technology, as well as know-how.
Israel's envoy to the IAEA, Yisrael Michaeli, said the clause calling for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is unacceptable, especially under present circumstances. While there is a consensus for the need to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction, approving such a call at this time is detrimental, Michaeli told the board.
In response to a query by Haaretz as to whether the resolution refers to Israel's nuclear weapons program, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the IAEA Ambassador Gregory Schulte replied that the resolution is in reference to Iran.
The IAEA resolution was approved after three days of deliberations that exposed the deep rifts among the 35 members of the board of governors, as well as the reluctance of the non-allied nations to support it. The resolution was eventually adopted with a 27-vote majority. Three states voted against (Cuba, Venezuela and Syria) and five abstained (Algeria, South Africa, Libya, Indonesia and Belarus).
According to the resolution, the Security Council can discuss Iran's nuclear program only next month, after IAEA Secretary General Mohamed ElBaradei presents his full report to the board of governors. At this stage, the Security Council is not considering sanctions against Iran, due to opposition from Russia and China.
After the vote, U.S. IAEA Ambassador Greg Schulte told Haaretz that the United States still seeks a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program. But he also said the resolution should have been taken a few years ago, after Iran's violations of its international obligations in this matter. Schulte noted that the only states that voted against isolating Iran are themselves isolated states.
He called on Tehran to suspend all uranium enrichment activities, including research and development, because the country has no need for civilian uses of atomic energy. The American also called on the country not to build the new research reactor it is constructing in Arak, which he said could be used to create plutonium for nuclear weapons, because the country does not need it.
Schulte asked Iran to stop making threats, to accept the resolution, to act wisely and with restraint, and to demonstrate transparency about its entire nuclear program.
British IAEA Ambassador Peter Jenkins, who together with his French and German counterparts sponsored the resolution, said it "sends a message of concern ... and a continuing lack of confidence in Iran's nuclear intentions. Board members cannot understand why Iran is so determined to press on with its enrichment program."
Jenkins expressed hope that Iran would take confidence-building measures and suspend its uranium enrichment program in the one-month break before the Security Council takes up the issue.
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War Pimp McCain urges Iran sanctions, outside UN if needed
4 Feb 06
MUNICH, Germany - U.S. Senator John McCain, a top member of President George W. Bush's Republican Party, urged the world on Saturday to impose economic and other sanctions on Iran, bypassing the United Nations if needed.
Welcoming the vote by the UN nuclear watchdog on Saturday to report Iran to the Security Council, McCain repeated that military action against Tehran must remain an option if it did not bow to international demands to halt its nuclear activities.
"Immediate UN Security Council action is required to impose multilateral sanctions, including a prohibition on investment, a travel ban, and asset freezes for government leaders and nuclear scientists," McCain told a security conference in Munich.
"Should Russia and China decline to join our peaceful efforts to resolve the nuclear issue, we should seek willing partners to impose these sanctions outside the UN framework."
Russia and China are permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with the United States, Britain and France.
Washington, Europe and others believe the Islamic Republic is seeking to make the atomic bomb. Tehran says its nuclear program is designed solely to generate electricity.
"Every option must remain on the table. There is only one thing worse than military action, that is a nuclear-armed Iran," said McCain, repeating comments made at last month's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
He added however that military action was a "totally undesirable option" of last resort.
In a 27-3 vote on Saturday, the International Atomic Energy Agency's board opted to notify the Security Council on Iran.
No Council action, including sanctions, will be considered before a conclusive IAEA investigative report due next month.
McCain said Iran would be a key test of U.S.-Russia ties. Without singling out policies, he criticized the government of President Vladimir Putin for a lack of democracy and mooted a boycott of a Russia-hosted G8 summit this year.
"Under Mr Putin, Russia today is neither a democracy nor an economic power. I seriously question whether G8 leaders should attend the G8 summit," McCain said.
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The State of the Union's Mystery Suspect
Feb. 04, 2006
An anti-war activist and a congressman's wife weren't the only ones detained by the Capitol Police
T-shirts, it turns out, aren't the only things that get you in trouble with the Capitol Police at the State of the Union address. Much has already been made of the fact that both anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and Beverly Young, the wife of Republican Congressman Bill Young, were ejected from the speech for wearing shirts with political messages; in Sheehan's case, her t-shirt read "2,245 dead. How many more?", while Young was sporting a sweat shirt with the words, "Support the Troops-Defending Our Freedom." Both have denounced their treatment-and both have received apologies from the police.
But on the same evening that President Bush was lauding democracy and freedom, there was one other person in attendance whose rights were infringed upon. The man, who did not want his identity revealed after the disturbing incident, was a personal guest of Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings. He is a prominent businessman from Broward County, Florida who works with the Department of Defense-and has a security clearance. After sitting in the gallery for the entire speech, he was surrounded by about ten law enforcement officers as he exited the chamber and whisked away to a room in the Capitol.
For close to an hour the man, who was born in India but is an American citizen, was questioned by the Police, who thought he resembled someone on a Secret Service photo watch list, according to Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer. Eventually, the police realized it was a case of mistaken identity and let him go. Gainer has assured Hastings that the Capitol Police, Secret Service and FBI will investigate why the man was detained for so long, and try to "sharpen our procedures." But the man was "very, very scared" by the incident, says Fred Turner, a spokesperson for Hastings. On Tuesday night, he told the congressman that the experience was "maybe just the price of being brown in America," Turner says.
"He shouldn't have gone through the ringer as long as he did," Gainer says. "He did get caught up in the morass of Secret Service FBI, Capitol Police. Everybody was trying to figure out whether he was a threat. And he absolutely, unequivocally clearly was not." Gainer apologized to the man afterwards, only one of the many apologies he has had to make this week. He met with Congressman Young at least twice, as well as with Young's wife. "There is no prohibition against simply wearing a T-shirt that states your particular cause," Gainer stresses, taking full accountability for not providing clearer direction to his officers.
Gainer says he will work with the House Sergeant at Arms to clarify the rules of the House of Representatives, and to ensure that officers have a better understanding of what constitutes a protest and demonstration. Before he finalizes the new rules, Gainer has asked his staff to look into previous arrests and ejections in the gallery to see what he can learn. One of the first protests at a State of the Union speech occurred in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson was speaking and a group of suffragettes sitting in the gallery unfurled a large yellow banner with the words, "Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?" The Capitol Police prepared to arrest the women, but the chief doorkeeper ordered them to leave them alone. An assistant doorkeeper on the floor, however, did manage to pull the banner down. Compared to what happened at this week's speech, that almost seems civilized.
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"DON'T TREAD ON ME"!
by Douglas Drenkow
6 Feb 06
One of the greatest hypocrisies of our time is the claim by the Right to stand up for "rugged individualists" whose life, liberty, and property are constantly under assault by "big government" of the Left.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that the federal government has grown under the current Republican president while it shrunk under his Democratic predecessor, the Right purporting to be champions of "libertarian" ideals is a bit like the Confederacy purporting to be guardians of "states rights" — it depends on whose liberties and whose states we're talking about: the powers-that-be or those over whom they wield power.
For the leaders of the Right are the political and philosophical bastard heirs of the slaveholding aristocracy that ruled the feudal fiefdoms of the Old South — the haunting similarity of the Red State / Blue State maps of the 21st Century to the Slave State / Free State maps of the 19th is much more than sheer coincidence — but today, although the country has yet to awaken fully from the nightmare of racism, bondage is becoming a matter less of skin pigmentation than of class distinction (not unlike how the system of castes evolved over the centuries in India).
The policies of the Right will if unimpeded take us to an "ownership society," but one less in keeping with the folksy homilies of George Bush than the dire warnings of George Orwell.
Make no mistake about it: The ultimate goal of the Right is no less than to own us — not simply lock, stock, and barrel but also body, mind, and soul.
When the Right opposes a woman's right to choose, is it not laying claim to her body?
When the Right opposes universal healthcare or supports a prescription boondoggle that benefits the drug and insurance industries who sponsored it far more than the seniors it was advertised to help, is not the Right laying claim to the wellbeing of our bodies?
When the Right wages unprovoked war on unsubstantiated rumors, killing and maiming untold thousands of human beings (both on "our side" and "theirs"), is not the Right laying claim to any and all bodies that get in the way of its insatiable greed and lust for power?
When the Right holds individuals never given the benefit of a lawyer or trial let alone a sentence of guilty or not, in isolation from their families and nations, and tortures them for information (whether useful or, all too often, not), is not the Right laying claim to not only their bodies but also their minds?
When the Right propagates propaganda through an all-too-complicit or -complacent multi-national multi-media and continually and unabashedly violates the private communications of millions of citizens, in defiance of explicit federal law, is not the Right laying claim to the innermost secrets, both personal and professional, of our very minds?
When the Right teaches our children that modern biological science is no more real than ancient religious myths, is not the Right laying claim to not only the minds but also the souls of our children?
And whenever the Right imposes its particular vision in matters of faith with the force of laws legislated, executed, and adjudicated, and damns all those who dare to think, act, or believe to the contrary, is not the Right laying claim to our souls ... and thus in effect playing God (at the peril of their own souls)?
The Right has no right to our bodies, minds, or souls (let alone the fruits of our labors, which they apparently cannot help but try to horde for themselves).
In the words of a serpentine flag from the earliest days of our nation, when patriots pledged their lives, property, and sacred honor in a life-and-death struggle against the most powerful, greedy despots of their day:
"DON'T TREAD ON ME"!
Douglas Drenkow is a researcher, writer, and political commentator living in the greater Los Angeles area. His essays appear regularly in OpEdNews, Comments From Left Field, GordonTalk, and his own site -- Progressive Thinking -- and have been linked or quoted throughout the Internet, as by BuzzFlash, SmirkingChimp, UPI, and BBC News World Edition. In addition to his writing online, Drenkow has delivered commentary in print, on the radio, and on television in the Los Angeles area; he is a frequent guest and an occasional guest host/producer for "NewsRap," the community access TV talk show hosted by Barry Gordon, former candidate for Congress and president of the Screen Actors Guild. You may e-mail Doug at email@example.com.
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Alito and Opus Dei: Jackboots of the Church
By MICHAEL CARMICHAEL
30 Jan 06
Is Judge Samuel Alito a member of Opus Dei?
If so, does it matter? If it matters, why?
A Senate staffer confirmed that the Judiciary Committee received numerous "notes and letters" stating that Judge Samuel Alito is a member of Opus Dei.
A controversial Catholic organization*, Opus Dei is now widely known from the bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, a novel by American author Dan Brown, soon to be a major film starring Tom Hanks that will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
In 1928, a Catholic priest who acquired a doctorate in law, Josemaría Escrivá founded Opus Dei in Spain. Escrivá's juridical attitude to religious doctrine permeates Opus Dei and is the source of its attraction to members of the legal profession. Opus Dei received massive political support after the fascist victory in the Spanish Civil War. Generalissimo Francisco Franco protected and fostered conservative elements within Opus Dei by appointing eight ministers to powerful positions in his government. In Spain, Opus Dei is still regarded as a potent political force. In 2002, Escrivá was canonized.
Why, then, is an Alito membership in Opus Dei of major significance? In addition to his activist record on the federal bench and his conservative ideology, Alito is deemed to be a menace to the balance of power as well as the constitutional rights of Americans. Judge Alito's affiliation with Opus Dei may be a factor in the strident opposition from Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, both progressive Roman Catholics who do not approve of the influence of religious dogma on political ideology. The majority of Americans believe in the separation of church and state, while many religious conservatives such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell would transform America into a theocratic state. Robertson and Falwell are staunch supporters of Judge Alito.
While the Moral Majority, the 700 Club and a growing bloc of Christian Conservatives have wielded a great deal of political influence in America, two years ago these protestant fundamentalists formed a coalition with conservative Catholics to re-elect President George Bush. In 2004, the Vatican intervened directly into the US presidential election to endorse their champion, George Bush. The back-story is both fascinating and compelling, for it illuminates the political dynamics taking shape in the nomination, possible confirmation and conflict centring on Alito.
In June, 2004, soon after Bush's papal audience with the late pontiff, Pope John Paul II, a letter signed by Former Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who now reigns as Pope Benedict XVI, threatened to excommunicate any Catholic politician in favour of abortion as well as any Catholic voters who would support Kerry at the polls. At that point in the presidential campaign George Bush was trailing John Kerry by double digits in the polls, and Bush seemed doomed to become a one-term president like his father.
During his papal audience with the late Pope John Paul II, Bush is reported to have complained to the pontiff and other members of the curia, including Former Cardinal Ratzinger, that he did not have the total support of all of the US Bishops. Ratzinger's letter swiftly resolved that dilemma for the politically beleaguered president.
In a perceptive article titled "Holy Warriors," Sidney Blumenthal, a former advisor to President Clinton, ascribed Bush's narrow victory over Kerry directly to the political impact of the Ratzinger letter. During his long career at the Vatican, Former Cardinal Ratzinger's decisive handling of complicated problems had become a matter of record. His official investigation of the priestly child abuse scandal involving Catholic clerics gave him the knowledge and understanding of the political and legal dynamics prevalent in Bush's America.
During 2002 and 2003, Former Cardinal Ratzinger had been the Prefect of The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). In previous centuries, the CDF was known as the Inquisition. In his official capacity as Prefect, he was largely responsible for the Vatican's ecclesiastical investigation into thousands of cases of priestly child sexual abuse. Former Cardinal Ratzinger's handling of that scandal has been the subject of substantial analysis and criticism.
At the height of the scandal, Former Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter that altered official procedure by reserving all cases of priestly child sexual abuse to the CDF. Prior to Former Cardinal Ratzinger's letter, cases of priestly sexual abuse were not restrained in the exclusive purview of the CDF. Attorneys for victims of priestly child sexual abuse in Texas argued in court that Former Cardinal Ratzinger's letter was an obstruction of justice. In a public statement, Former Cardinal Ratzinger told the Catholic News Service, "Less than one percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type." Many Catholics view this statement as callous and an attempt to cover-up the scandal. Former Cardinal Ratzinger's apparent indifference to the scandal shocked many Catholics. Many members of the College of Cardinals harkened to his message of minimizing the importance of the scandal. One Cardinal attempted to place the blame for the scandal on America's reputation for excessive litigation. He stated that attorneys were merely seeking "to make money" from the scandal. In 2005 shortly after his election to the papacy, Cardinal Ratzinger appeared to promise to make amends for earlier miscalculations in handling the charges of priestly child sexual abuse when he made a public commitment to 'attend' to the scandal. How he intends to resolve the scandal remains to be seen.
The Department of Justice under former Attorney General John Ashcroft, himself an ardent born again Christian, took no action in that case, or, more accurately, those cases. Ten thousand victims of priestly child sexual abuse were discovered in America alone, and the Catholic Church identified four thousand four hundred and fifty (4,450) of its own priests who had been incriminated in the United States. As a direct result of the scandal, the Catholic Church is known to have paid out more than $1 billion in settlements to the victims of priestly child sexual abuse. During the past two years many new reports of priestly child sexual abuse have surfaced in the United States as well as in other nations. For instance, in Brazil a recent report identified over 1,400 priests incriminated in child sexual abuse. Whether any members of Opus Dei were involved in the scandal or the handling of it is obscured by the secrecy screening the organization's membership from public scrutiny. Whether members of Opus Dei wield significant influence in the Vatican's ongoing attempts to resolve the scandal through negotiations with American government, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies may never be made public.
What adds additional interest to the role of Opus Dei and the Catholic Church in US political life is that for many years unconfirmed reports have linked Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas to Opus Dei. In March, 2001, Newsweek reported that the wife of Justice Scalia, "attended Opus Dei's spiritual functions." Justice Scalia's son, Father Paul Scalia, personally mediated the conversion of Justice Clarence Thomas to Roman Catholicism following his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
In recent years, the ultra-conservative jurist Robert Bork has converted to Roman Catholicism. In Washington, speculations about Bork and Opus Dei are relatively common. Other conservative Catholic politicians associated in the popular media with Opus Dei include Senators Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum. While the names of priests and officials of Opus Dei are made public, the identities of the lay members are not matters of public record, making it appear to be a secret organization. This situation leaves a question mark over those markedly conservative Catholics with political prominence.
Opus Dei purports to be apolitical, but its members have been associated with right-wing political causes since its inception. While the vast majority of America's Catholics are moderate to progressive in their views like Senators Kennedy and Kerry and Justice Kennedy, there is a small but vocal minority who adhere to ultra-conservative doctrine and dogma and consistently support neoconservative political candidates and their causes.
The rise to power of religious dogmatists in the guise of an Opus Dei clique on the Supreme Court through the rulings of Scalia, Thomas, and potentially Alito is a legitimate cause for concern not only on Capitol Hill, but also throughout America. Just imagine the outcry if the Supreme Court had four radical Islamicists, four zealous Zionists or four fixated followers of Reverend Sun Myung Moon. The case of Samuel Alito raises a serious question: is George Bush attempting to pack the Supreme Court with religious extremists?
If Alito is confirmed, his presence will create a majority of five Catholic justices on the US Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy is a liberal Catholic, while the recently appointed Chief Justice, John Roberts, is another deeply conservative Catholic jurist whose devout religious views have also given rise to speculation involving Opus Dei. Alito would bring to four the total of ultra-conservative Catholics on the US Supreme Court, forming an alliance that would be legal, judicial and religious.
In his infamous text, The Way, Saint Josemaría Escrivá wrote,
"Nonsectarianism. Neutrality. Those old myths that always try to seem new. Have you ever bothered to think how absurd it is to leave one's Catholicism aside on entering a university, or a professional association, or a scholarly meeting, or Congress, as if you were checking your hat at the door?"
There can be little serious doubt that the progressive Catholic members of the Senate are well aware of this famous tenet of Opus Dei. That may well be why they are stridently opposing the confirmation of the arch-conservative and dogmatic Catholic jurist, Judge Samuel Alito.
*Opus Dei, in full Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, was founded in 1928 in Spain by Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albá (canonized in 2002). It is theologically conservative and accepts the teaching authority of the church without question. It was granted special status as the first and only personal prelature in the church by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Opus Dei is the subject of a growing body of academic papers, articles, books, documentaries and films surveying trends in western religion probing its political influence and its connection to fascist regimes.
Michael Carmichael has been a professional public affairs consultant, author and broadcaster since 1968, . In 2003, he founded The Planetary Movement Limited, a global public affairs organization based in the United Kingdom. He has appeared as a public affairs expert on the BBC's Today Programme, Hardtalk, PM, as well as numerous appearances on ITN, NPR and many European broadcasts examining politics and culture. He can be reahced through his website: www.planetarymovement.org
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Brutalized & Arrested in Cleveland for Posting "Bush Step Down" Posters
4 Feb 06
The following is a first-hand account of police harrassment and brutality against a World Can't Wait organizer in Cleveland. If anything like this happens to you, let us know asap! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
My name is Carol Fisher, and I am on the staff of Revolution Books in Cleveland OH. At the bookstore we have been immersed in building and supporting the initiatives of World Cant Wait. Yesterday, 1.28.06, while putting "Bush Step Down" posters on telephone poles along a major thoroughfare on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was brutalized by Cleveland Heights police, charged with 2 counts of felony assault and held incommunicado under police custody in the hospital! This outrage and others like it must be exposed and opposed by all who hate the direction that the Bush regime is taking this country and the world.
Here is what happened:
I had set out from my house with a full agenda, to contact lots of people and get out materials about our upcoming Cleveland event to Drown Out the State of the Union address, and the call to march around the White House on Feb. 4th. My first stop was the an area known for its community of artists and progressives, where I stapled up posters for blocks and was greeted warmly by those who saw and appreciated what World Cant Wait is doing. I talked to an artist, and a Palestinian store owner who took fliers to distribute to customers.
Next stop, to the east side. I drove down a street in Cleveland Heights, another area known for its diversity and progressive history. This street was badly in need of postering too and though i was in a big hurry, I couldnt drive on without getting up a few signs. Before long a cop called from across the street: "Ma'am! Hundred dollar fine for doing that!" Oh really, since when? Another way of keeping us from getting the word out, eh? But not wanting to get arrested, I said ok and put up my staplegun and walked away. But that wasnt the end of it. "Ma'am! Hundred dollar fine unless you take those posters down." He is pursuing me across the street. Damn! OK fine, I say, I will take them down (not wanting to get into a confrontation, because I have lots to do today!) But this too is not enough for the cop. He wants my ID. I say I dont have my ID. He grabs my arm. I say let go of me, I am not doing anything wrong, I will take the posters down. People are watching to see what happens, are outraged but very afraid. The cop wont let go, he clearly wants more grief from me, and he is in the spotlight. He wants people to be scared. He pushes me against a store window and next thing I know I am face down on the sidewalk with two cops on top of me, one with his knee in my back. I am trying to call out to people, to tell them what the posters are about. They keep pushing my face into the sidewalk. I cant breathe.
I have osteoradionecrosis in my jaw, resulting from radiation treatments for cancer. My jawbone is slowly deteriorating, is very fragile, and doesnt heal well. I am 53 years old, not exactly a spring chicken. A hand comes down again to push my chin against the concrete. By this time there are four cops on the scene. My hands are tightly cuffed behind my back. They lift me up and shove me onto a parkbench and shackle my legs. I am still calling out, telling people what this is about. One of the cops says to me, "Shut up or I will kill you!", "I am sick of this anti-Bush shit!" "You are definitely going to the psyche ward." Then somebody calls the EMS, and a fire squad shows up. The cop superviser appears and puts his finger in my face: "I dont like it when people treat my men like this and if you don't obey the law you will suffer the consequences."
I am lifted into the EMS truck, hands still cuffed behind my back. I ask to make a call and this is refused, but a fireman offers to make a quick call for me. If not for this, no one would have known where I was or what was happening, a fate shared by many immigrants in this country. At the hospital, I am treated as an arch-criminal. Escorted by four policemen, I shuffle into the emergency room, legs still shackled, covered with leaves and mud. I think to myself, if I was Black, I would not have made it this far. I would probably be dead by now. People in the emergency room are shocked by the scene and by what I am saying happened. I probably do look pretty crazy by now.
They put me on a gurney and pull the curtains around. One female nurse and four male cops. They want me to undress in front of the cops. I refuse. The cops refuse to leave. Finally the nurse shields my body with a gown as I undress and put on hospital clothes. I am cuffed to the bed, and two cops remain guarding me the whole time. They put in an IV. I have no idea what they have in mind. Questions, probes, tests and a tetanus shot, a hint from the nurses that friends are calling to find out whats going on. First they say that one friend is coming in to see me, but that never happens.
After many hours a psychiatrist appears to determine my sanity. I dont want to talk to him, but have no choice. "This information is confidential", I say. Well yes, he says, but if the police want the information, I don't know if I can refuse... "This information is confidential", I repeat, and I tell him, there are times when you have to decide which side you are on. I have told him why I have wound up here and what they did to me, and I tell him, this is a moment in history when people have to stand firm against these repressive measures. He replies, "Fair enough", and proceeds to write a detailed record of my injuries.
I dont know it at the time, but outside in the waiting room all hell had broken loose. In a very short period of time, over a dozen WCW people showed up at the emergency room to demand that someone be allowed to see me. The WCW people discussed what was happening with the folks waiting in the ER, who were horrified at what was happening, and very supportive when they were shown the posters I had been putting up. The police and hospital staff claimed over and over that the police were in charge of me, and they determine what happens, not the doctors! Another example of a police state.
At one point, there was a big confrontation between the WCW people and the police, right in the ER. My supporters said that we weren't going to leave until someone saw me. Some of them were sitting in the waiting room holding the big green WCW posters.
The main cop tried to have a "private conversation" with the person with medical power of attorney. " NO! Come out here in the open where we can all hear!" As people gathered to listen to the conversation, and enter in their own opinions, the police threatened WCW folks with arrest! They argued, stood their ground, called this shameful (both to the police but also to the nurses who did nothing to stand against this shit). The cops kept saying that there was no legal right to see me, but people responded that, in Bush's America, the law is whatever the police say it is and that there is a moral and ethical right to to check on someone who is in the hospital.
Then a large phalanx of cops came. My friends pushed it as far as they could, then marched out of the ER, followed by the cops, all the way up to the street. 4 more people showed up who'd heard about what was happening and wanted to help.
A lawyer and a doctor, who are endorsers of the WCW Call, persisted in getting what info they could. All the while, people were calling the local media (who never showed up!), calling in complaints to the Cleveland Heights Police Department, and Cleveland Heights City Hall. I was never able to be seen by my own nurse or doctor or communicate by phone with anyone.
Shortly after being released from the hospital, I was released on my own recognizance. The battle is far from over. This is but one example of the attempts that the state, their authorities and spokespeople will make to try to keep us from opposing the crimes of this regime, and especially now, 2 days before the State of the Union address. Our cause is as righteous as it gets, and no attempts to intimidate or suppress, with threats or laws or physical abuse, should stop us but instead strengthen the resolve, build our organization and further demonstrate to the world that this regime is doomed, they are vicious, and they must be stopped.
As it says in the Call, "If we speak the turh, they will try to silence us. If we act, they will try to stop us. But we speak for the majority, here and around the world, and as we get this going we are going to reach out to the people who have been so badly fooled by Sush and we are NOT going to stop...The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us."
There are plans in the works for possibly a press conference, suing the Cleveland Heights Police Department, taking this issue of brutality to the Cleveland Heights City Council Meeting on Feb 6, doing a press conference, and circulating a pledge of medical personnel to not allow medical treatment to be run by the police. We will also be working with lawyers to fight these outrageous charges. If any legal aid could be offered nationally, it would really help.
Call the Cleveland Heights Police at 216-291-3883
Call Cleveland Heights City Hall at 216-291-4444
Please contact us at email@example.com or 216-633-6200
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Abramoff Pal Ralph Reed's First Try for Office Falters
By GREG BLUESTEIN
3 Feb 06
ATLANTA -- For a while, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed looked almost unstoppable in his bid for lieutenant governor of Georgia. Then he got tripped up by the Jack Abramoff scandal.
In recent months, it was reported that Reed's public relations and lobbying businesses received $4.2 million from his longtime friend Abramoff to mobilize Christian voters to fight the opening of casinos that would compete with Abramoff's Indian tribe clients.
Now, Reed's little-known rival for the Republican nomination, fellow conservative Casey Cagle, is outpacing him in fundraising, and a recent poll shows Cagle could be as strong a candidate as Reed against a Democrat.
Reed has not been charged with a crime. But analysts say the boyish-looking, 44-year-old darling of the conservative movement and former adviser to GOP presidential campaigns appears to be in political trouble because of his ties to Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in January to corruption charges and admitted swindling his Indian clients.
"Early on, he monopolized fundraising, he called upon his ties with other Republicans and he had a huge advantage," said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University. "But now, as these allegations have come out, it's hurt his ability to raise money and made other Republicans nervous. He's clearly in a much weaker position now than he was months ago."
On the campaign trial, Reed's Republican rival has been quick to exploit those ties to Abramoff. "The scandal is a national issue and Reed is right in the middle of it," said Cagle, a state senator. "It's not an issue that will go away."
On Friday, 21 of Georgia's 34 Republican state senators - all Cagle supporters - signed a letter urging Reed to withdraw from the race, saying his involvement in the Abramoff scandal "threatens to impact the entire Republican ticket."
Reed responded in a letter that he had no plans to quit: "Elections are won at the grassroots by the candidate with the strongest record and best ideas. That is why I am confident of victory."
Reed has retreated to campaign appearances with the party faithful. But even there, audience members browbeat him over Abramoff. Reed often responds with regret.
"Had I known then what I know now, I would not have done that work," he said. "On reflection, I should have turned it down."
In a poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in late December, voters were asked about hypothetical match-ups between Reed and an unnamed Democrat, and Cagle and an unnamed Democrat. In the race involving Reed, 36 percent chose the Democrat and 33 percent picked Reed. As for the Cagle race, 35 percent preferred the lesser-known lawmaker, while 30 percent choose the Democrat.
Reed is making his first bid for elective office, seeking a post that has little power but is regarded as a steppingstone to bigger things.
He raked in $1.4 million in the first six months of 2005 but only about $400,000 in the second half of the year. Cagle, meanwhile, raised more than $600,000 in the same six-month span.
Since Abramoff's fall, some of Reed's supporters have jumped ship. One of them, Clint Murphy, volunteered to help Reed soon after he declared his candidacy last February. But as allegations about Reed's ties to Abramoff surfaced, Murphy's concerns grew.
"Everything that's come out has proven my gut feeling about that man," said Murphy, who is now backing Cagle. "He is in it for Ralph Reed. And that's fine. A little ambition has never hurt anybody. But when you're not truthful, you're doing a disservice."
Reed was chairman of the Georgia GOP during the 2002 elections, when the party pulled off upset victories to elect the state's first Republican governor since 1872, Sonny Perdue.
Reed and his supporters say there is still plenty of time before the July 18 primary to turn the campaign's attention away from Abramoff. Reed also has 22 campaign fundraisers scheduled between now and the end of March.
If he beats Cagle, Reed would face a Democrat with negligible name recognition in November. The current lieutenant governor, Democrat Mark Taylor, is running for governor. (In Georgia, the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor.)
"I never thought anybody was going to hand this office to me. I thought I was going to go out and work for it," Reed said in an interview. "And I'm working very hard."
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Bush’s Tyranny for a Bankrupt Nation
By Mike Whitney
5 Feb 06
President Bush has consistently defended his massive $500 billion tax cuts. He has insisted that deficit spending be a “permanent” part of the national budget. His economic plan has eroded the confidence of central banks around the world and increased the federal debt by a whopping $3 trillion. Still, he persists in his claim that deficits should be an enduring function of government.
Doesn’t this confirm that bankrupting the country is an integral part of the Bush grand strategy?
What more proof do we need?
Imagine someone stealing your credit card and running up a $450,000 bill year after year and then defending the theft as necessary to “create more jobs” as the “trickle-down” theorists do?
Would you take such a person at his word?
Deficits are theft; and the determination to make these lavish tax cuts for the wealthy permanent proves beyond a doubt that it is part of a larger strategy to bring about an economic meltdown that will change the political complexion of the country.
What else could it mean?
Dick Cheney recently opined, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t mean anything.”
In fact, Cheney was part of the Reagan administration when Reagan’s tax cuts created monstrous $200 billion deficits, up 75% from 1980. The effects were devastating. Unemployment jumped to 10%, the 30 year mortgage skyrocketed to 15%, the economy ground to a standstill, and the nation plunged into the deepest recession since the 1930s.
Cheney fully understands the suffering that deficits produce. Now, he wants to continue that misery as a permanent function of government.
Is it really so important to reward the “fortunate 1%” that the administration would risk the economic well-being and solvency of the nation?
And, what is the relationship between the ocean of debt produced by the Bush team and their strengthening of police-state apparatus like unlimited spying on Americans, the NSS (Bush’s new Secret Police), the uniform Federal ID program, the Patriot Act, and Halliburton’s $385 million contract from Homeland Security to construct new detention and processing facilities within the United States?
Is the ascendancy of the police-state intended to balance the catastrophic effects of economic destruction? Or, do the new instruments of repression anticipate the “political turmoil” (Warren Buffet’s words) that naturally results from financial collapse?
The Bush master-plan is no different than the economic shock-therapy the United States has directed at the third world for decades. The strategy is simple and straightforward, but virtually foolproof in achieving its objectives; the crushing of the middle class and the subsequent shifting of the nation’s wealth to the “oligarchy of racketeers” who run the system.
The levers of power have all been faithfully assembled by Bush operatives, while America’s $3 trillion trade deficit looms overhead like the sword of Damocles. As the underpinnings of economic wellbeing continue to deteriorate; causing further job-flight, credit spending, and soaring energy prices; the power-brokers at the head-of-state calmly arrange the instruments of repression they’ll need to maintain order.
Did we really imagine the chickens would never come home to roost?
Regardless of what the public-relation gurus on the business channel say, the state of the union is disastrous. Bush has intentionally looted the treasury and torpedoed America’s economic future. Federal Reserve chief, Alan Greenspan cooperatively kept interest rates low so the greatest swindle in history could take place while the drowsy American public snoozed away.
Americans refuse to believe that bubbles (housing or stock market) are brought about by the deliberate and politically-motivated actions at the Federal Reserve.
Everyone agrees about the effects of high interest rates; why would there be so much uncertainty about low interest rates?
Just as high interest rates slow the economy by making loans on investment more expensive; so too, low interest rates naturally produce increased speculation by making cheap money available to a greater number of people. Greenspan knew as early as 1996 that the stock market was over-inflated when he warned that “there was a stock market bubble at this point” that is “a problem we should keep our eye on”. (Remember “irrational exuberance”?) Still, he accommodated his friends in Washington and Wall Street by waiting until tens of thousands of Americans had lost their savings (and retirement) before ratcheting up interest rates and cooling down the spec-market. The final loss to investors was an estimated $7 trillion dollars, an amount that pales in comparison to the current housing bubble which “The Economist” calls “the greatest bubble in history”. Again, it was Greenspan who instigated the housing bubble by dropping rates to a paltry 1.5% following the decline in the stock market. Regrettably, the results will be even more ruinous this time.
Never the less, low interest rates are an effective way of creating bubbles and thereby transferring wealth from one class to another. The other two “tried-and-true” methods are tax cuts and hyperinflation; both parts of the Greenspan legacy. (Expect a weakening dollar as the effects of the massive trade deficit set in)
To argue that the Federal Reserve does not support a political agenda that favors elite interests, is to say that it is not a privately-owned institution (which it is) which operates in conjunction with major investors; particularly the energy giants, the mainstream media, arms-manufacturers, and the political establishment. The Federal Reserve is joined at the hip with the Bush White House. In fact, the administration is merely a reflection of the values and goals of the financial powerbrokers at the central banks.
Don’t expect any complaints from Alan Greenspan about the rough-treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The cadres of elites are of “one mind” on the current global crusade for a new world order. If that means torturing a few thousand innocent people; so be it.
There are numerous signs that the nation’s free ride will soon be over. Gold is skyrocketing as perceptive investors see the cracks and fissures appearing in the economic foundation that binds the debtor-kingdom together. Twitchy investors are watching for news about Iran, rebel attacks in Nigeria, or a potential sell-off of greenbacks in China. Market analysts may feign equanimity but they are walking on the knifes-edge expecting the worse.
But, the worse is unavoidable; the country is dead broke. Last year alone Americans not only spent more than they earned for the first time since the great Depression; they also borrowed an additional $600 billion from their home equity to pay off credit card debt and consumer loans! This tells us that the all signs of growth in the economy are the result of credit spending. Home equity has become the new ATM card, demonstrating once again that the country is running on fumes.
This quarter’s slow growth of 1.1%, shows that the well has run dry and consumer spending (which accounts for 70% of GDP) is down for the count. Interest rates are going up, the dollar will soon be sinking, energy costs are soaring, and the unemployment line is getting longer.
Time to find a nice comfy spot beneath the freeway on-ramp…and bring your own cardboard.
The Clinton strategy would have made the transition more agreeable, but the result of globalization is roughly the same. Businesses and jobs pack up and leave driving wages through the floor, while the social safety net continues to worsen by congressional edict. The main difference with Clinton is that he strengthened the dollar by balancing the budget and showed little appetite for creating the police-state apparatus that the Bush claque relishes.
The Bush administration is preparing for a quick but agonizing transition. They have painstakingly removed whatever laws stood in the way of autocratic government. The courts will brandish the rubber stamp for the supreme executive, the congress will languish as a ceremonial institution, and the compliant media will shower praise on the Dear Leader’s iron-fisted methods of keeping the peace.
Economic disintegration is the catalyst for changing the fundamental institutions of government. The globalists in the White House have played a major role in numerous coups across the planet, all producing the same basic result; a military dictatorship with a strongman at the head of state. America is being readied for a similar transformation.
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The Failure of Citizenship
By Charles Sullivan
4 Feb 06
The Bush State of the Union address the other evening offered the same mediocrity we have come to expect from this illegitimate regime. It was nothing less than fascism incarnate and it was palpably evil. Consider it a heaping helping of dung soup served on a silver platter. It was cloaked in language to create the illusion of substance and truth. Its message was received by corporate America, by the fat cats on Wall Street, and the congressional millionaires club with applause. The remaining eighty to ninety percent of the population—those of us left out in the cold and exploited—listened with disdain and incredulity to the sickening miasma that oozed through our speakers.
As Bush himself has stated, the elite are his political base. That much should be obvious. The wealthy have been handsomely rewarded for their loyalty since the little dictator’s first inaugural, while the rest of us receive a sadistic back hand to the face. Behind the customary lies and garish displays of nationalism, beyond the euphemisms of empty meanings, lie austere truths that must be brought to the public conscience. One wonders: What planet is this man from? Where is this America described by George Bush?
In Bush’s America, truth has been so distorted, so utterly turned on its head that America is no longer a real place. It is the packaging that contains fascism, skillfully concealing the horrid product within—George Bush’s Plutocratic America. It is place devoid of real meaning; a cesspool of sorrow and disgrace, the home of a demoralized and timorous majority. It is a place sharply divided by two classes—the predator class and the prey class. Upwards of eighty percent of the population are daily preyed upon by the wealthy minority and they do nothing about it. The ignorant even welcome the rape and contempt with a smile upon their face—grateful for the chains they wear, glad for the abuse they receive. This is nothing less than a modern form of slavery; it is a true master slave relationship.
Evidence that the rich are fleecing the poor abounds. The cost of insurance for a family of four rose seventy percent during the past six years. The insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industries are reaping enormous windfall profits at the public trough. High premiums combined with high deductibles render the cost of health care unattainable to millions of lower income families. Insurance companies can and do arbitrarily and capriciously drop drug coverage at their sole discretion. The robber barons might as well be holding guns to our heads.
Bush’s health insurance plan provides additional evidence of criminality coupled with a paucity of ethics. The plan removes every ceiling for limiting the cost of drugs. It provides the pharmaceutical industry carte blanche by prohibiting Medicare from bargaining with drug companies for lower prices. Who benefits? Private insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry—the very people who write the legislation!
Meanwhile, Exxon-Mobil reported record profits in 2005 of thirty-six billion dollars, even while increasing fuel costs fifteen percent. These are the highest profits ever recorded by a corporation. Venezuela’s Citgo oil should not be lumped in with the American oil companies that are driven solely by profit motives. Hugo Chavez’s Citgo is offering deep discounts on heating oil to the world’s poor (I put only Citgo gas in my car). This demonstrates a clear delineation between Capitalism and Socialism. Adding further insult to injury, the oil companies received four billion dollars in tax relief last year. How much did you get?
Despite the baroque words uttered by Bush, his every action speaks contempt for ordinary people living from pay check to pay check—Hurricane Katrina proved that beyond all doubt. With that familiar sickly smirk on his face, Bush and his ilk are not only stealing our treasure, they are distributing it to the wealthy even as they spit in the face of the poor and the middle class. How could anyone be more openly contemptuous of working class people? Why do we tolerate such abuse and, in so many cases, actually welcome it?
We are witnessing an all pervasive mediocrity in government that has come as a result of a spectacular failure of citizenship. We are a people that value ease and convenience over self education, sacrifice and truth. We do not demand evidence in support of our views. We believe what we are told; and we do what we are told by authority. We do not like to make trouble. Asking questions requires self examining critical thinking, a skill that is rapidly disappearing from our culture of fluff and ease. We want the kind of life where the decisions are made for us—a life that does not place demands upon us. We want to be entertained, not informed by burdensome truths that may assault our conscience and cause psychological injury. That is dangerous knowledge because it would dispel the myths about what America really is. It would force us to think differently about who we are as a people. We would see us as the rest of the world sees us.
George Bush’s Orwellian vision of America did not just happen. It is the result of the influx of enormous sums of money by the wealthiest people in the world. The return on this investment is that the financial and social interest of the very wealthy is represented at the expense of all others. If you are a republican of ordinary means and you think that George Bush is looking out for your social and economic interest, I feel sorry for you. You are a damned fool who is unwilling to confront the evidence, afraid to see what is really there. You are encouraging and cheering on the very ones who are raping you. Easily swayed by empty rhetoric, you do not examine the betrayal of rhetoric through hurtful policies. You are a pathetic specimen of humanity.
The long nightmare emerged from sinister minds lusting for unlimited wealth and unrestrained power. It was aided and abetted by the commercial media every step of the way—a media owned by the wealthiest corporations. All of us are complicit. We were not vigilant in protecting the Constitution and upholding our civil rights. Through pervasive apathy and indifference we prepared the ground for fascism to germinate and to flourish. Now we are reaping the bitter harvest that may last a century or more.
Thus we allow the most atrocious lies uttered by political and moral prostitutes to go unchallenged. These lies are endlessly recycled in the commercial media until they become ingrained in the public conscience as truth. Worse than burying our heads in the sand, we bury them up our collective ass. How do you like the view?
The disgraceful and cowardly capitulation of the Democrats to the neocons in the confirmation of Alito to the Supreme Court demonstrates that the system does not and cannot work for just purposes. There are no viable opposition parties to compete with the Republicrats. We must be the opposition with our bodies; and we must do everything in our power to disrupt and subvert the cesspool of corruption that boils and festers in the nation’s capitol, or it will consume us.
When will enough people with courage and conviction rise and fight? When will we drag the criminal Bush cabal kicking and screaming to the gallows? How much worse do things have to get? Let us stop kidding ourselves by trying to work the system, by trying to appear reasonable to authority. The fascists own the process that gives them power and wealth. Political reform is too weak to dislodge those whose tentacles are wrapped around the planet and injecting it with poison. Nothing short of filling the streets day after day with massive, unrelenting protests will dislodge the prostitutes from their seats of power. Massive rebellion is the only thing they have to fear.
Let us refuse to give this illegitimate government our cooperation. Let us disrupt and take possession of the economic engine that enslaves us. Nothing short of revolution will dislodge the fascist rulers from power. Either we fight or we passively accept what is coming.
If we continue to capitulate to our oppressors—the apostles of Plutocracy—let us remove the lines from the National Anthem: “The land of the free; and the home of the brave.” They will no longer apply here.
Charles Sullivan is a photographer and free lance writer living in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A nation blind to their disgrace
4 Feb 06
A Four Minute Video Produced by GlobalFreePress.com
Music by James Blunt
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A more democratic world rejects Bush's globalism
By Robert Kuttner
February 4, 2006
THE GOOD NEWS: Democracy is breaking out all over. The awkward news: The more that people freely vote, the more fervently they reject the global designs of George W. Bush and the America he projects.
In the Middle East, the people have freely chosen two governments that could not be more a repudiation of Bush's vision for the region, nor more alarming to broader hopes of peace and stability -- Hamas in Palestine and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. Even in Iraq, whose election was held under direct American tutelage, our preferred henchmen were decisively ousted.
In Latin America, voters in Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, and most recently Chile, have chosen governments that are social-democratic at best and caudillo-populist at worst. Mexico, where a popular radical, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, leads all polls, is probably next. Some, like Chile's new president, Michelle Bachelet, are admirable, others less so. But none supports Bush's vision of corporate globalism.
America was once a universal beacon. Ever since America asserted global leadership in the mid-20th century, people around the world have expressed nothing so much as ambivalence.
They despised the US military might that frequently installed local dictators who served Washington and Wall Street, enriched themselves, and slaughtered domestic opponents; they continued to admire America's internal democracy and vitality.
They hated the economic imperialism that often made their local economies appendages of America's; they liked the consumer products and spread of advanced technologies.
They resented the universal projection of America's pop culture at the expense of their own; they wore the jeans, bought the records, and flocked to the movies.
The most effective of US postwar presidents deftly navigated this complex ambivalence. They maximized what people everywhere like about America -- the openness, the idealism, the dynamism, the support for universal human rights. American presidents sometimes resorted to force, but tried to do so after consultation and consensus. Until lately, global public opinion, on balance, respected America.
Enter George W. Bush. He offered the worst possible combination of strategies -- unilateral swagger, combined with loudly proclaimed promotion of democracy. Should anyone be surprised when the democratic elections produce a string of repudiations? Or that America dare not foment democracy in its faithful despotic allies, Egypt or Saudi Arabia, lest the people vote in two more radically Islamist regimes?
It used to be an article of faith that free elections and the American way of life went together. During the Cold War we reassured ourselves that no nation had ever freely voted in a communist government. But evidently the post-Cold War world is different.
Yes, the roots of this backlash go far beyond the presidency of George W. Bush. They date back a century, to the era of gunboat diplomacy in Latin America, and the imperial carving-up of the former Ottoman empire into modern Mideast states of convenience, ruled by instant dynasties created by Winston Churchill and western oil companies.
More recently, the backlash reflects local resentment of the ''Washington consensus" -- the imposition of one-size-fits-all economic policies that have shredded local safety nets and advantaged a global corporate class at the expense of ordinary people. But however complex their roots, the festering resentments are now deeply embedded in local cultures.
Some of those cultures have features that are truly odious by universal standards, like repression of women, brutal versions of summary justice, and religious fanaticism. But they become more deeply popular, precisely to the extent that America misunderstands them and attempts unilaterally to impose its own order.
Bush is not a widely read or worldly man. What's truly astonishing is that the neo-conservative cabal of advisers who got control of his foreign policy, many of them serious intellectuals, could believe that the United States could simultaneously promote disdainful imposition of its military might and expect that proliferation of democracy would yield popular governments that were also faithful US clients.
Given this backlash, some neo-cons have lately put in a kind word for empire. This, at least, has the virtue of consistency. But empire is not exactly attractive to the global public, much less feasible.
The world that Bush inherited was not an easy place in which to promote US-style civil society, or a civil world order. But Bush has poured oil on the flames (or in his case, flames on the oil).
It will take decades to undo the damage and restore a world in which pro-democracy again equals pro-America. In the meantime, we need nothing so much as an outbreak of democracy at home.
Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.
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Can Justice Be Trusted?
By Ari Berman
20 February 2006 Issue
Now that Jack Abramoff's dealings with members of Congress have drawn criminal indictments, the disgraced lobbyist's ties to the Bush Administration are starting to get attention. Reporters are peppering press secretary Scott McClellan with questions about "staff-level meetings" with Abramoff in the White House. Photographs of him with President Bush and other high-level officials are surfacing.
Little notice has been paid, however, to the Justice Department, charged with prosecuting Abramoff. Evidence has emerged that the department played an active role in shutting down an investigation of Abramoff's dubious lobbying activities in Guam in November 2002. The story raises questions about whether Justice can be trusted with this historic investigation - and whether top White House officials actively abetted Abramoff's shady dealings as early as 2001.
The Guam story begins in February 2001, when there was legislation before Congress to create a Supreme Court on the island territory, to be above the existing Superior Court. Judges on that court, who wanted to retain the powers of the island's traditional highest court, asked Howard Hills, a lawyer from California, to hire Abramoff to fight the bill. Abramoff's success in blocking higher wage standards in the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) - where workers are paid $3.05 an hour to make clothes bearing "Made in USA" insignia - had given him a reputation there as an influential lobbyist. Hills, Abramoff and Superior Court Judge Alberto Lamorean subsequently reached an agreement at Abramoff's Capitol Hill restaurant, Signatures. At the time Abramoff, a former member of George W. Bush's transition team, was a $750-an-hour lobbyist with access to the highest levels of the Republican Party.
Between February 2001 and July 2002, the Superior Court paid Abramoff $324,000 in lobbying fees, funneling the money in $9,000 increments through Hills to avoid disclosing that Abramoff was the beneficiary. The arrangement caught the eye of Frederick Black, the acting US Attorney on Guam since 1991. "He'd been there a long time," said Lee Radek, former head of Justice's Public Integrity Section, of Black. "I liked him. He had a good reputation." A retired district court judge appointed Black on a temporary basis, but lack of a replacement, his reputation for integrity and his high conviction rate kept him in the post.
At that time Black was leading a larger corruption investigation into Guam Governor Carl Gutierrez's office for diverting government funds for personal gain. To get Black off his back, Gutierrez hired Abramoff through a contract with the Guam International Airport Authority. "Abramoff claimed he had a top political guy at DOJ he could go to, to get rid of Black," says a source close to the investigation. The two met in DC in late 2001 or early 2002, around the time that Abramoff was employed by the Superior Court. Their strategy was to paint Black as a Clintonite, although he'd been named by the first President Bush and Gutierrez himself was a Democrat. "Gutierrez's role was to get Republicans to go to DOJ and the White House and say, Why have you not replaced that Democrat who's been acting US Attorney?" the source says. Before employing Abramoff, Gutierrez also retained Mark Touhey, a high-profile Washington lawyer who's cur rently defending Representative Bob Ney, repeatedly named in Abramoff's guilty plea for taking bribes from the lobbyist in return for official favors. Touhey reportedly met with Justice on at least one occasion to force Black's removal.
Sources confirm that in early November 2002 Black contacted the Public Integrity Section, the unit currently heading the department's Abramoff task force, and asked for assistance in investigating Abramoff's lobbying activities. Black didn't have the resources to conduct investigations of both Gutierrez and Abramoff, and wanted Washington to help on the Abramoff part. Senior officials working closely under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft were also notified of Black's request. Since Black's communication happened to raise serious questions about the integrity of a high-level federal official who was being renominated to his post, Justice forwarded the information to the Deputy Attorney General's office and the Office of Legal Policy (OLP), which generally handles such concerns.
Sources close to the probe say the information was likely passed on to then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who worked closely with Justice on such matters. "Those heads of OLP who are pretty well connected deal directly with the White House counsel," says Lee Casey, a former OLP aide under Reagan and Bush I. (Black declined to comment and Justice spokesman Bryan Sierra refused to provide details about an "ongoing criminal investigation.")
Up to this point Abramoff had lobbied to replace Black because Governor Gutierrez had hired him to do so. Now he had a personal stake in Black's investigation - he was a target of it. It's not known whether Abramoff tried to stop Black's investigation of him, but such interference would have been in character. Earlier in the year Abramoff had persuaded Justice to kill a risk - assessment report on Guam and the CNMI, which Black had ordered. The report might have jeopardized the influx of cheap labor to CNMI, where Abramoff had $1.6 million in lobbying contracts. In an e-mail dated October 1, 2001, Abramoff told CNMI officials he learned of the results of the security review from Ashcroft's chief of staff, David Ayres, whom he hosted at a Washington Redskins game. Abramoff mentioned an upcoming meeting with Ashcroft and another meeting, at a pickup basketball game, between the Attorney General and an Ashcroft aide who'd become an Abramoff staffer. "We'll hope that higher ups will take some time to squash this on their own," Abramoff wrote. Sure enough, the report never came out and Justice demoted its author, regional security specialist Robert Meissner. Did Abramoff use the same Justice channels to quash Black's inquiry?
Despite Justice's refusal to help him, Black convened a grand jury, which subpoenaed the Abramoff contract with the Superior Court on November 18, 2002. The next day the Bush Administration announced that Black would be replaced as US Attorney and demoted him to Assistant US Attorney, after twelve years on the job. His replacement was Guam's Assistant Attorney General, Leonardo Rapadas. "Fred was removed because he asked to indict Abramoff," says one of Black's colleagues at Justice. "I don't believe it was a coincidence."
Rapadas's conduit to the White House, veteran Washington lobbyist Fred Radewagen, "had access all the way up to Karl Rove," says David Sablan, former head of the Guam Republican Party. At the time of Black's demotion, former Abramoff aide Susan Ralston was working as a top assistant to Rove, a post she still holds.
Before Rapadas's confirmation, in May 2003, law-enforcement officials in Guam had supplied extensive information to Ashcroft and senior Justice officials indicating that he would have to recuse himself from the Gutierrez investigation because he was related to two people implicated in the scandal. Also in May, Guam's new Governor, Felix Camacho, a former Black ally, met with Abramoff in Washington. That same month, Jus tice dispatched Assistant US Attorney Russ Stoddard to Guam. Stoddard proceeded to bar Black from working on any public corruption cases and demanded that all new cases be approved through him, rather than the criminal division - a highly unorthodox procedure. Black's investigation into Abramoff's activities was forceably halted. Reportedly, the FBI and the DOJ Inspector General have begun looking into Black's demotion. Sources close to the IG investigation say its findings will be released soon. But the way Justice silenced Black and Meissner in part prompted Senators Chuck Schumer and Ken Salazar to call for the appointment of a special counsel to handle the Abramoff investigation. The circumstances of Black's removal raise several questions. Did the White House interfere to stop Black's investigation? Was Gonzales involved? Was Ashcroft?
More broadly, how can Justice be trusted to investigate a matter in which it is so deeply implicated? Despite the Public Integrity Section's reputation for impartiality, there are few institutional checks to prevent further political meddling into its current investigation of Abramoff. On January 25 Bush nominated the current Public Integrity Section head, Noel Hillman, to a federal judgeship in New Jersey and named a temporary replacement mid-investigation. Justice can prosecute the case without any political pressure "as long as the targets are members of Congress," says former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. "If, however, you start to develop ties between Congress, Abramoff and people in the White House, it becomes problematic, especially from an appearance perspective. Because of the Deputy Attorney Gen eral's and the Attorney General's ties to the President, the need for an outside counsel becomes greater."
Otherwise, how can the public be sure that the President's man, Alberto Gonzales, will conduct an honest, thorough investigation of Abramoff when the targets might include his top deputies, his former White House colleagues, his predecessor, his boss - indeed, himself?
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Can the President Order a Killing on U.S. Soil?
Feb. 13, 2006 issue
In the latest twist in the debate over presidential powers, a Justice Department official suggested that in certain circumstances, the president might have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United States.
Steven Bradbury, acting head of the department's Office of Legal Counsel, went to a closed-door Senate intelligence committee meeting last week to defend President George W. Bush's surveillance program. During the briefing, said administration and Capitol Hill officials (who declined to be identified because the session was private), California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bradbury questions about the extent of presidential powers to fight Al Qaeda; could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known to be on U.S. soil? Bradbury replied that he believed Bush could indeed do this, at least in certain circumstances.
Current and former government officials said they could think of several scenarios in which a president might consider ordering the killing of a terror suspect inside the United States.
One former official noted that before Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, top administration officials weighed shooting down the aircraft if it got too close to Washington, D.C.
What if the president had strong evidence that a Qaeda suspect was holed up with a dirty bomb and was about to attack? University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein says the post-9/11 congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Al Qaeda empowered the president to kill 9/11 perpetrators, or people who assisted their plot, whether they were overseas or inside the United States. On the other hand, Sunstein says, the president would be on less solid legal ground were he to order the killing of a terror suspect in the United States who was not actively preparing an attack.
A Justice Department official, who asked not to be ID'd because of the sensitive subject, said Bradbury's remarks were made during an "academic discussion" of theoretical contingencies. In real life, the official said, the highest priority of those hunting a terrorist on U.S. soil would be to capture that person alive and interrogate him. A
t a public intel-committee hearing, Feinstein was told by intel czar John Negroponte and FBI chief Robert Mueller that they were unaware of any case in which a U.S. agency was authorized to kill a Qaeda-linked person on U.S. soil.
Tasia Scolinos, a Justice Department spokeswoman, told NEWSWEEK: "Mr. Bradbury's meeting was an informal, off-the-record briefing about the legal analysis behind the president's terrorist-surveillance program. He was not presenting the legal views of the Justice Department on hypothetical scenarios outside of the terrorist-surveillance program."
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Friends Raise $2 Million for Libby Defense
Friday February 3, 2006
WASHINGTON - Friends and supporters of former White House aide I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby have raised $2 million to help him pay his legal bills.
Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, was indicted last year on charges that he lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity and when he subsequently told reporters.
The Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust hopes to raise $5 million to $6 million, or more, said Barbara Comstock, a Republican strategist and a member of the fund's steering committee.
Comstock said the contributions of $12,000 or less have been made by hundreds of people across the country. The gifts are coming in at under $12,000 to avoid tax liability for the donors, she said.
A Web site also will be used to solicit contributions. Comstock said it will be up in the next few weeks.
The fund's existence was first reported by The New York Times on Friday.
Comstock said the fund does not have to reveal the identities of its donors under law. But she described the donors as Libby's ``friends or friends of friends, colleagues at various jobs he's had over the years and just people who admire his service'' to government.
The fund's steering committee includes a few Democrats and several Republicans. Former Ambassador Mel Sembler is its chairman.
The other members include two former Republican presidential candidates, Jack Kemp and Steve Forbes; three former Republican senators, Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Spencer Abraham of Michigan and Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming; and former CIA Director James Woolsey.
Libby's trial on perjury and obstruction of justice charges is set for January 2007.
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Some confessions the government alleges it got from Jose Padilla
4 Feb 06
MIAMI - Some admissions made by accused terror operative Jose Padilla during his 3 1/2 years of military custody that are not included in the criminal indictment against him, according to Defense Department and Justice Department documents.
_Al-Qaida camp training included use of AK-47, M-16 and Uzi machine guns; use of explosives such as C-4 and dynamite; and camouflage and clandestine surveillance techniques. Early duties included guarding a Taliban outpost north of Kabul armed with an AK-47.
_Trained with another operative for plot to blow up apartment buildings in United States by filling individual apartments with natural gas and detonating them. Mission initially abandoned because Padilla and the other operative had disagreements.
_In November 2001, helped dig out the body of al-Qaida senior planner Mohammed Atef from a safe house in Afghanistan that had been bombed by U.S. forces and where Padilla had previously stayed.
_In March 2002, proposed detonating a homemade nuclear device or possibly a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States to senior al-Qaida leaders, including Sept. 11 attacks mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. KSM was skeptical and suggested they return instead to the apartment explosion plan.
_KSM hosted a farewell dinner in Pakistan the night before Padilla was to depart for the United States.
_Left for the United States in April 2002 with more than $10,000 in al-Qaida money and plans to implement the apartment proposal. Plans called for explosions in two or three apartment buildings possibly in New York, Florida or Washington, D.C.
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Specter Believes Spy Program Violates Law
By HOPE YEN
5 Feb 06
WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' explanations so far for the Bush administration's failure to obtain warrants for its domestic surveillance program are "strained" and "unrealistic," the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said Sunday.
Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), whose committee has scheduled hearings Monday on the National Security Agency program, said he believes the administration violated a 1978 law specifically calling for a secretive court to consider and approve such monitoring.
Specter, R-Pa., said he might consider subpoenas for administration documents that would detail its legal justification for the program.
"The president could've taken this there and lay it on the line," Specter said, citing the special court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
"That court has an outstanding record of not leaking. They would be pre-eminently well-qualified to evaluate this program and say it's OK or not OK," Specter told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Under the NSA program put in place after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the government has eavesdropped, without seeking warrants, on international phone calls and e-mails of people within the United States who are deemed to be a terrorism risk.
The administration has defended Bush's decision to bypass the FISA law, saying it is too cumbersome to deal with in a post-Sept. 11 world of heightened security threats. It also said Bush had authority as commander in chief and under a 2001 congressional resolution authorizing force in the fight against terrorism.
"The president's authority to take military action — including the use of communications intelligence targeted at the enemy — does not come merely from his constitutional powers. It comes directly from Congress as well," in that post-Sept. 11 resolution, according to Gonzales' prepared testimony for the hearing. The Associated Press on Saturday obtained a copy of his scheduled remarks.
Specter was skeptical.
"I think that contention is very strained and unrealistic. The authorization for use of force never mentions electronic surveillance," Specter said.
In response to written questions submitted to him by Specter before the hearing, Gonzales gives an explanation why the administration bypassed the FISA court: "The delay inherent in the FISA process is incompatible with the narrow purpose of this early warning system."
Specter, however, said that response "was not entirely responsive. ... His answer wasn't really clear." The senator said there is no reason why the administration could not have consulted with the spy court or Congress, who could have changed the law if it was too cumbersome.
But Gen. Michael Hayden, the No. 2 intelligence official in the government, said the FISA process "doesn't give us the speed and agility to do what this program is designed to do."
The program's intent is to "detect and prevent attacks. This is not about long-term surveillance to gather reams of intelligence against a stable and a fixed target," Hayden said on "Fox News Sunday."
Specter's committee has asked the administration to Justice Department documents detailing the legal justification for the NSA program.
Asked about the possibility the committee might subpoena the administration for the material, Specter said he first wanted to hear from Gonzales.
"If we come to it and need it, I'll be open about it," Specter said. He added, "If the necessity arises, I won't be timid."
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Spying Controversy Recalls Nixon
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — As the Senate prepares to hold hearings on Monday on domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, old Washington hands see a striking similarity to a drama that unfolded three decades ago in the capital.
In 1975, a Senate committee led by Senator Frank Church of Idaho revealed that the N.S.A. had intercepted the phone calls and telegrams of Americans. Then, as now, intelligence officials insisted that only international communications of people linked to dangerous activities were the targets, and that the spying was authorized under the president's constitutional powers. Then, as now, some Republicans complained that the government's most sensitive secrets were being splashed on the front pages of newspapers, while Democrats emphasized the danger to civil liberties.
Both in 1975 and today, officials defending the N.S.A. operation said it had prevented terrorist attacks. And Dick Cheney, who as vice president has overseen secret briefings for selected members of Congress on the N.S.A. program, was in the White House then, too, serving as a deputy to President Gerald R. Ford before succeeding Donald H. Rumsfeld as chief of staff.
The recent debate about the security agency "does bring back a lot of memories," said Walter F. Mondale, the former vice president, who served on the Church Committee as a Democratic senator from Minnesota. "For those of us who went through it all back then, there's disappointment and even anger that we're back where we started from."
Later, after becoming vice president under Jimmy Carter, Mr. Mondale helped usher a into law a major committee recommendation — that no eavesdropping on American soil take place without a warrant. That became the basis of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, the law that critics say is being violated by President Bush's decision to authorize eavesdropping without court warrants on people in the United States linked to Al Qaeda.
Bush administration officials deny that they have violated the 1978 statute, noting that apart from the special eavesdropping program, they are going to the FISA court for warrants more often than any previous administration.
But the officials say that going to the foreign intelligence court is impractical in some urgent situations when intercepting phone calls or e-mail messages might prevent a terrorist attack. They say the eavesdropping program was authorized by presidential order and vetted by lawyers both at the agency and at the Justice Department.
Asked at a Jan. 26 news conference about a comparison with President Richard M. Nixon's actions in the 1970's, President Bush said that past presidents had relied on "the same authority I've had" in order to "use technology to protect the American people."
He added: "There will be a legal debate about whether or not I have the authority to do this. I'm absolutely convinced I do."
Since The New York Times first disclosed the eavesdropping program in December, some who witnessed the earlier era have followed the news with an eerie feeling that events are being replayed.
"You feel like you're in an echo chamber, because the comments on both sides are so similar to 1975," said Loch K. Johnson, a historian of intelligence who served then as an aide to Mr. Church. "There are a lot of lessons from those times that are relevant today."
To read through the documents of the earlier era is to spot many themes from the current controversy: the cooperation of major telecommunications companies with the N.S.A.; the challenges of fast-changing communications technologies (then the expansion of satellite communications, now the Internet explosion); the legal rationale as laid out in detail by the attorney general (then Edward H. Levi, now Alberto R. Gonzales, who is to testify Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee). Government documents from the 1970's eavesdropping controversy were posted over the weekend on the Web site of the National Security Archive, a research center at George Washington University.
The N.S.A. revelations of 30 years ago were unearthed simultaneously by the Church Committee, two House committees and the press, focusing on two programs code-named Minaret and Shamrock.
Minaret was a watch list kept between 1967 and 1973 of Americans whose international communications — phone calls and telegrams in and out of the country — were collected by the security agency
The names were mostly submitted to the N.S.A. by other agencies because of targets' suspected involvement in four kinds of activities: terrorism; drug trafficking; threats to the president; and civil disturbances with "possible foreign support or influence," as Lt. Gen. Lew Allen Jr., then the N.S.A. director, told the Church Committee. That program ended up targeting some Vietnam War protesters and civil rights activists.
Shamrock began in 1947, growing out of a World War II program for government censorship of international telegrams. Until the program was shut down in 1975, the three major international carriers, RCA Global, ITT World Communications and Western Union International, delivered copies of messages sent each day to the N.S.A.
Senator Church emphasized to General Allen that he did not question the value of using electronic spying to catch terrorists, drug dealers or potential assassins, only "the lack of adequate legal basis for some of this activity."
Mr. Levi, the attorney general, acknowledged that the law on such spying was "ill-defined" but said courts had upheld the president's power to order surveillance for foreign intelligence without warrants.
Two Republican senators, Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona and John G. Tower of Texas, fought unsuccessfully against open hearings on sensitive N.S.A. matters, particularly the three companies' cooperation. "I must state my firm opposition to this unilateral release of classified information," Mr. Tower said at one point.
Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., who served as the committee's chief counsel, recalled in an interview, "The question of how to handle N.S.A. was more divisive than anything else we did," including extensive hearings on C.I.A. and F.B.I. abuses.
But in the end, the committee reached a broad consensus on most of its findings, including on the critical recommendation of banning eavesdropping in the United States without warrants, Mr. Schwarz said.
After the trauma of public hearings and front-page headlines, intelligence officials, too, were ready for new, clear rules. Adm. Bobby R. Inman, who testified before the Church Committee as director of naval intelligence and became N.S.A. director in 1977, said he worked actively for passage the next year of the FISA law, which required approval of a special court for eavesdropping on American soil.
"I became convinced that for almost anything the country needed to do, you could get legislation to put it on a solid foundation," Admiral Inman said. "There was the comfort of going out and saying in speeches, 'We don't target U.S. citizens, and what we do is authorized by a court.' "
But not all agreed, then or now, that the president's powers over foreign intelligence should be overseen by judges. While Vice President Cheney has not explicitly criticized the FISA statute, he has often said that laws passed in reaction to Vietnam and Watergate unjustifiably weakened the presidency.
"Over the years there had been an erosion of presidential power and authority," Mr. Cheney told reporters on Dec. 20 when asked about the eavesdropping program. "The president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy. That's my personal view."
Former Senator Gary W. Hart, a Colorado Democrat who served on the Church Committee, believes views such as Mr. Cheney's have set the clock back 30 years.
"What we're experiencing now, in my judgment, is a repeat of the Nixon years," Mr. Hart said. "Then it was justified by civil unrest and the Vietnam war. Now it's terrorism and the Iraq war."
But on Friday, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, the current chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, strongly defended the eavesdropping program and dismissed any comparison to the Nixon era.
Writing to Howard Dean, the Democratic Party chairman, who had compared the current controversy to "the abuse of power during the dark days of President Nixon," Mr. Roberts declared, "Any suggestion that a program designed to track the movement, locations, plans or intentions of our enemy particularly those that have infiltrated our borders is equivalent to abusive domestic surveillance of the past is ludicrous."
He added: "When President Richard Nixon used warrantless wiretaps, they were not directed at enemies that had attacked the United States and killed thousands of Americans."
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Wiretap Debate Déjà Vu
February 4, 2006
Documents show Ford White House embraced wiretap law
instead of claiming "inherent" Presidential authority in 1976
despite objections from Rumsfeld, G.H.W. Bush, Kissinger
Washington, D.C. - Despite objections from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then-CIA director George H. W. Bush, President Gerald Ford came down on the side of a proposed federal law to govern wiretapping in 1976 instead of relying on the "inherent" authority of the President because the "pros" outweighed the "cons," according to internal White House documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and posted on the Web today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
White House counsel Philip Buchen described a Situation Room meeting on March 12, 1976 with Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Bush, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, and attorney general Edward Levi (notably absent was White House chief of staff Richard Cheney) in which Buchen's and Levi's outline of the advantages of a wiretapping law reduced the "adamant opposition" to neutrality, allowing Levi to testify before Congress in favor of a wiretapping statute on March 29, 1976.
Buchen's talking points said the proposed law (ultimately enacted as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or FISA) "avoids likelihood that … courts will eventually decide a warrant is required," "eliminates question of validity of evidence obtained," "protects cooperating communications carriers," and would not "materially inhibit surveillance of these kinds of targets."
On the "cons" side of his talking points, Buchen described exactly the arguments against such a law that the Bush administration has now adopted as the basis for its warrantless wiretapping: "requires resort to the judiciary for exercise of an inherent Executive power" and "could result in troublesome delays or even a denial of authority in particular cases."
"Yogi Berra was right, the current wiretapping debate is déjà vu all over again, except that President Bush has come down on the con side against the law," remarked Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive.
Today's posting also includes the TOP SECRET Justice Department reports in June 1976 and March 1977 on the potential criminal liability of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency for operations such as SHAMROCK (interception of all international cable traffic from 1945 to 1975) and MINARET (use of watchlists of U.S. dissidents and potential civil disturbers to provide intercept information to law enforcement agencies from 1969 to 1973). Justice released these reports to author James Bamford under the Freedom of Information Act in the late 1970s, but in 1981, the NSA persuaded Justice to threaten Bamford with prosecution for "possession of classified information," a threat that helped Bamford's book The Puzzle Palace become a best-seller.
The Justice Department in the reports ultimately recommended against prosecution, concluding that "If the intelligence agencies possessed too much discretionary authority with too little accountability, that would seem to be a 35-year failing of Presidents and the Congress rather than the agencies" (p. 171, 30 June 1976).
"Federal employees who are carrying out President Bush's warrantless wiretapping will be especially interested in the Justice Department's 1976 assessment of whether such wiretapping makes them criminally liable," commented Blanton. "One of the main reasons the Ford administration supported having a law that governed wiretapping was that such a law would protect government officials and the telecom companies as long as they followed the law."
The Archive's posting, compiled by senior fellow Dr. Jeffrey Richelson (author of the forthcoming book, Spying on the Bomb), includes key historic documents brought to light by the Church Committee investigations of intelligence abuses, and a series of National Security Agency documents from the 1990s released under the Freedom of Information Act that describe the limits imposed by FISA and the Fourth Amendment on surveilling U.S. persons.
The posting also includes two important studies by the now-defunct Office of Technology Assessment in 1985 and 1995 on the challenges of electronic surveillance and civil liberties in a digital age, as well as a wide range of key documents from the current wiretapping debate, as featured on the www.cnss.org/fisa web site (complete legislative history of the FISA), the www.fas.org web site (the Project on Government Secrecy has published the relevant Congressional Research Service studies, among other important documents), and www.epic.org which published the FBI's 2002 guide, "What do I have to do to get a FISA?"
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When Two Worlds Collide: Why Karl Rove will eventually fall before Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald
By Elizabeth de la Vega
3 Feb 06
For Karl Rove, no news from the Plame case -- Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a CIA agent -- is definitely not good news. Seismic activity is notoriously silent, so we may not be hearing any rumblings at the moment. But speaking as a former prosecutor, I believe it highly likely that, just below the surface, the worlds of Karl Rove and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, shifting like tectonic plates, are about to collide.
As was true with Vice President Cheney's top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a federal agent as well as to the grand jury, Rove might not be charged with the leak itself. I am confident, however, that Rove will not leave this party empty-handed. He will, at the very least, almost certainly be charged with making false statements to an FBI agent. Here's why.
For starters, the evidence that Rove deliberately lied to the FBI is overwhelming.
In case anyone's forgotten, on July 14, 2003, eight days after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in an op-ed in the New York Times publicly questioned Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to acquire "yellowcake" uranium in Africa, columnist Robert Novak wrote that "two senior administration officials" had told him the trip to Niger, which Wilson referenced in that piece, had been arranged by his wife Valerie, whom the officials described as a CIA operative assigned to investigate matters involving weapons of mass destruction.
It is now undisputed that Karl Rove spoke with at least two reporters about Valerie Wilson before Novak's now infamous article appeared: Novak himself (whom Rove has known for 30 years) and Time magazine's Matthew Cooper. Some details of the discussion with Cooper are in dispute, but there's no question that the two men discussed Valerie Wilson's identity as a CIA agent and the administration's claim that she had arranged her husband's trip to Niger. After the conversation, Rove sent an e-mail about it to then Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Rove's aide Susan Ralston has reportedly testified that Rove told her not to log in the phone call, although that was the usual office procedure. On July 17, Cooper wrote an article in which he described conversations with two government officials who claimed Wilson's wife was a CIA agent and had arranged Wilson's trip to Africa. Cooper questioned whether the administration was declaring war on Wilson.
Between July 14 and October 8, when Rove was interviewed by the FBI, the Bush administration held approximately 30 press briefings in which the leak and/or the Iraq-Niger uranium allegations were discussed. There were hundreds of news articles and repeated calls for an investigation by congressmen, columnists, and the CIA.
By mid-September, Karl Rove was increasingly being named as one of the "two senior administration officials" who blew Wilson's cover and Bush's press officer Scott McClellan was facing ever more insistent questions about Rove's involvement. On September 16, McClellan said that "it was ridiculous" to suggest Rove was the leaker. On the morning of September 29, McClellan announced that "the President knows Rove is not involved." From that date to October 8, when Rove was interviewed, Bush and McClellan were specifically questioned about Rove's possible role on ten separate occasions. On October 7, Rove and other White House staffers were required to provide investigators with all documents relating to any contacts they had had with reporters about Joseph Wilson, his trip to Niger, or his wife, Valerie Wilson.
As has now been widely reported, when Karl Rove spoke to FBI agents, he specifically told them that he had not spoken to any reporters about Joseph Wilson's wife before Novak's article appeared.
Given the almost seamless press coverage of the leak during the preceding three months, the time and effort that the White House was devoting to the issue, as well as the intensifying focus on whether he himself had leaked the information, it is impossible to believe that, on October 8, Karl Rove -- known for his brilliance, attention to detail, and legendary memory -- did not remember those two conversations with reporters about Valerie Wilson. If Rove told the FBI agents otherwise, it was surely a deliberate lie.
According to reports, Rove then added that he had first heard about Valerie Wilson from a reporter, though he did not remember which reporter or when he heard it. He also said that he had enlisted the aid of the Republican National Committee and conservative news agencies among other groups to spread disparaging information about Joseph Wilson and his wife, but only after Novak's article appeared.
Rove's elaboration not only compounded his initial lie but also illuminated the world of politics that he has been incapable of leaving behind -- a world that collides head-on with the one Patrick Fitzgerald inhabits, where politics have no place and where laws, and the highest standards of public service, prevail.
Despite his measured words, Fitzgerald revealed much about his worldview in the press conference in which he announced Libby's indictment. He said that the investigation was serious because the disclosure of classified information about a CIA officer could jeopardize national security. But equally serious -- and he repeated this more than once -- was the betrayal of government employees by their own officials. Anyone who has worked as a federal prosecutor for two decades, as has Fitzgerald, has also worked closely, often late and long hours, with law enforcement agents, so it is not surprising perhaps that when asked about the damage caused by the leak, Fitzgerald offered the following:
"I can say that for the people who work at the CIA and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected. And they have to expect that when they do their job, that information about whether or not they are affiliated with the CIA will be protected. And they run a risk when they work for the CIA that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow employees."
Over and over again, in that same press conference, Fitzgerald demonstrated his belief that if you sign onto a system that has certain rules, you have to follow those rules even if it might be personally advantageous to break them. Those who tuned in saw reporters repeatedly ask him about information he could not reveal without violating the rules of grand jury secrecy or prosecutorial ethics. He was asked, for example, whether other people might be charged. He declined to answer. He was asked to evaluate the strength of the case. He declined to answer. He acknowledged how frustrating his inability to answer undoubtedly was to the assembled media, but explained that he couldn't gather information according to the rules of grand jury secrecy -- which prohibit talking about people who were investigated but not charged with a crime -- and then afterwards reveal the information anyway because it was too "inconvenient" not to answer reporters' questions.
Later in the press conference, he said simply, "All I can do is make sure that myself and our team follow the rules."
Fitzgerald's world is far removed from the world of expediency and personal advantage in which Karl Rove operates. In his carefully crafted statements during the FBI interview on October 8, Rove indicated an obvious belief that he could get away with spreading information about government employees for political purposes as long as someone else had revealed that information first, regardless of whether or not the information was disparaging or classified. He did not appear to be concerned with where the information came from, or even whether it was true.
Although it is astounding that Rove would blatantly describe such a despicable ethos (if you can call it that), it should not have been unexpected. In the world of campaign politics that Rove has so long inhabited, smears and personal attacks are designed to seem as if they were spontaneously generated. They can then wander around, undirected, until they finally curl up in America's living rooms like so many mysterious, uninvited guests. These intruders may be rude and destructive, but no one is supposed to be able to get rid of them, in part because no one is supposed to be able to sort out or pinpoint how they got there in the first place. Thus, although Karl Rove has lurked in the background of an unprecedented number of whisper and smear campaigns -- that, for instance, John McCain had an illegitimate child (a rumor spread during the Republican primaries that preceded the 2000 election), or that former Texas Governor Ann Richards was a lesbian (a persistent rumor that was spread during Bush's Texas gubernatorial campaign) -- he has never been held accountable. And that is a state of affairs to which Rove became accustomed.
Rove has escaped responsibility for his sneaky campaign tricks because the candidates for whom he has worked -- most prominently, George Bush -- have had a stunning ability to accept, unquestioningly, the miraculous appearance of information that takes down their opponents. They had no problem about endorsing brazen dishonesty or the least interest in ferreting out bad actors in their camps. At the same time, opposing candidates have had neither the resources, nor the time to fully investigate the attacks before plummeting in the polls. Afterwards, of course, it was already far too late.
Unlike Rove's former adversaries in the political world, however, Fitzgerald has both the time and investigative resources. When Fitzgerald was appointed special prosecutor, all the known facts on the outing of Valerie Wilson indicated that government officials had broken the rules, if not the law. It's no surprise then that Fitzgerald has pursued the matter vigorously; nor should it be a surprise that Rove's statement to the FBI on October 8 would have raised some obvious red flags and caused Fitzgerald to become skeptical. Rove deliberately omitted key information about conversations with reporters that he could not possibly have forgotten; he claimed to have heard classified government information only from a reporter -- despite the fact that he himself was one of the highest government officials in the nation; and then he admitted that he had no qualms about enlisting surrogates to betray government employees in order to achieve political gain.
Rove's statement raised more questions than answers. It also opened a window into the world of a President's key adviser who never left campaign mode and who had never before been tripped up, no matter what he did. Such a man would be quite unprepared for an investigator like Fitzgerald who operates under a very different timetable and in a world ordered by radically different rules.
Now that Rove's statement has been shown to be so obviously false, it would be most surprising if when his world and Fitzgerald's collide, the result isn't a political earthquake. The moment an earthquake arrives remains impossible to predict, but it would be surprising if, in the CIA leak case, the impact of a Rove indictment did not cause massive aftershocks.
Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Her pieces have appeared in the Nation, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon. She may be contacted at ElizabethdelaVega@Verizon.net.
Copyright 2006 Elizabeth de la Vega
This piece originally appeared, with an introduction by Tom Engelhardt, at TomDispatch.com
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More Allegations of Libby Lies Revealed
By Carol D. Leonnig
4 Feb 06
The special prosecutor in the CIA leak case alleged that Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff was engaged in a broader web of deception than was previously known and repeatedly lied to conceal that he had been a key source for reporters about undercover operative Valerie Plame, according to court records released yesterday.
The records also show that by August 2004, early in his investigation of the disclosure of Plame's identity, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald had concluded that he did not have much of a case against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for illegally leaking classified information. Instead, Fitzgerald was focused on charging Cheney's top aide with perjury and making false statements, and knew he needed to question reporters to prove it.
The court records show that Libby denied to a grand jury that he ever mentioned Plame or her CIA job to then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer or then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller in separate conversations he had with each of them in early July 2003. The records also suggest that Libby did not disclose to investigators that he first spoke to Miller about Plame in June 2003, and that prosecutors learned of the nature of the conversation only when Miller finally testified late in the fall of 2005.
All three specific allegations are contained in previously redacted sections of a U.S. Court of Appeals opinion that were released yesterday. The opinion analyzed Fitzgerald's secret evidence to determine whether his case warranted ordering reporters to testify about their confidential conversations with sources.
Fitzgerald revealed none of these specifics when he publicly announced Libby's indictment in October on charges of making false statements, perjury and obstruction of justice.
The once-sealed portions of the federal court opinion were written in February 2005 by U.S. Circuit Judge David S. Tatel, who was a member of a three-judge panel that agreed with Fitzgerald that the testimony of two reporters, Miller and Time magazine's Matthew Cooper, was crucial to his investigation.
Yesterday, the same panel concluded that because Libby was indicted and now faced public charges, the court no longer had to keep secret many of the details of the grand jury investigation that Tatel analyzed. Dow Jones Inc., parent company of the Wall Street Journal, had petitioned the court to release the eight-page Tatel opinion. Three of the pages were redacted.
Attorneys for Libby and Fleischer and a spokesman for Fitzgerald declined to comment yesterday.
Since January 2004, Fitzgerald has been investigating whether senior Bush administration officials knowingly leaked Plame's identity to discredit allegations made by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Plame's name and her CIA role were first mentioned publicly in a column by syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003, eight days after Wilson publicly accused the administration of twisting intelligence to justify a war with Iraq.
According to Tatel's summary of the evidence that Fitzgerald presented in the court's chambers in August 2004, the prosecutor had at least a good circumstantial case on perjury but charging Libby with intentionally leaking classified information was "currently off the table," though it could be "viable" if he gained new evidence.
Tatel wrote that interviewing Miller would be crucial to making that decision, because Libby might have mentioned to her that he knew Plame's status was covert. He concluded that simply lying about a national security matter was serious enough to warrant ordering the reporters to testify about their conversations with Libby.
"While it is true that on the current record the special counsel's strongest charges are for perjury and false statements rather than security-related crimes ... perjury in this context is itself a crime with national security implications," he wrote.
The information gives a fuller picture of the case that Fitzgerald will likely put on against Libby. Yesterday, a federal judge scheduled his trial to start on Jan. 8, 2007.
In public remarks about the indictment, Fitzgerald has accused Libby of lying when he said that he believed he first learned of Plame from NBC reporter Tim Russert and passed along that information strictly as unverified gossip to Miller and Cooper.
Tatel's opinion also includes previously unknown details about testimony by Libby and other officials. For example, Libby acknowledged to investigators that Cheney told him in mid-June 2003 about Plame's CIA role and said she helped send her husband on a mission to Niger to determine whether Iraq was seeking nuclear material from the African nation.
That was soon after a Washington Post article on Wilson's Niger trip appeared. Libby emphasized in his testimony that Cheney only said it "in an off sort of curiosity sort of fashion."
Fitzgerald also contended that Libby lied to the grand jury when he said he never mentioned Plame or her CIA job to Fleischer when they had lunch on July 7. Fleischer recalled before the grand jury that Libby did mention Plame and said she worked in the "counterproliferation area of the CIA." Fleischer said Libby stressed that "the vice president did not send Ambassador Wilson to Niger . . . the CIA sent Ambassador Wilson to Niger . . . he was sent by his wife."
Fleischer added that he thought the lunch was "kind of weird" because the normally "closed-lip" Libby was sharing confidences and remarking that the information was "hush-hush" and "on the q.t."
Libby was also asked about two July conversations he had with Miller. He said he never mentioned Wilson's wife to Miller in the first conversation but passed along some information another reporter told him about Plame in the second, according to the documents.
Miller testified last year, however, that she thought Libby was the first government official to mention Wilson's wife to her and that he did so in three conversations: on June 23, when she visited his office in the Executive Office Building, and on July 8 and 12.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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Gonzales Tells Senators Spying Program Needed to Fight Terror
Feb. 6 (Bloomberg)
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the Bush administration's domestic spying program is legal and necessary in the "war of information",sick bag to stop al-Qaeda terrorists from attacking the U.S. again.
In prepared testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales defended the legality of the domestic spying without discussing its classified operational details. The committee's Republican chairman, Arlen Specter, and Democratic members have said the wiretapping may violate federal law.
Gonzales faces his biggest challenge yet as the top U.S. law-enforcement officer in trying to justify the eavesdropping to senators and the public. His testimony today in Washington may help determine the future of the National Security Agency program that monitors, without a court order, phone calls and e-mails between people in the U.S. and suspected terrorists overseas.
"The terrorist surveillance program is not a dragnet that sucks in all conversations and uses computer searches to pick out calls of interest," Gonzales wrote in answers to written questions put to him by Specter in advance of the hearings.
In opening the hearing, Specter said it was designed to examine the "legal underpinnings" of the policy.
"The president of the United States has the fundamental responsibility to protect the country," said Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican. "But even as the Supreme Court has said, the president does not have a blank check."
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Israel releases payment to Palestinians
Last Updated Sun, 05 Feb 2006 14:26:25 EST
Israel has agreed to make an overdue payment to the Palestinian Authority, but future transfers will be halted once the Islamic militant group Hamas forms the next Palestinian government.
The $55-million US payment was frozen last week after Hamas raised its political status on Jan. 25 with a win over the ruling Fatah party in Palestinian legislative elections.
Under existing peace accords, Israel collects millions of dollars in taxes and customs duties for the Palestinians each month and transfers the funds to the Palestinian Authority.
The payment was withheld by Israeli officials who said they wanted assurances the money wouldn't be used for suicide bombings.
Cabinet Minister Zeev Boim said the money, used to pay tens of thousands of workers, is being transferred by Israel because Hamas is not yet part of the government.
Hamas officials said on Saturday after a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that they will form a new government in the coming weeks after the newly elected parliament is sworn in on Feb. 16.
The U.S., Europe, Russia, Jordan and Egypt have refused to deal with Hamas unless the group renounces its charter calling for Israel's destruction and disbands its militant wing.
The U.S. and European Union have also said they will stop aid to the Palestinians unless Hamas renounces violence.
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Magazine shuts down after controversy
5 Feb 06
An economics magazine will be shut down after running an anti-Semitic article.
The promise to shut down Global Agenda was made in a Feb. 3 letter from the head of the World Economic Forum, Professor Klaus Schwab, to the head of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris.
Schwab said the article, which called for an international boycott of Israel, was “inflammatory and venomous.” It will be replaced in the reprinted Global Agenda with an editorial by Schwab about the values of the forum. He added that it will be the last issue of the magazine.
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Monday February 6, 2006
Israelis have always been horrified at the idea of parallels between their country, a democracy risen from the ashes of genocide, and the racist system that ruled the old South Africa. Yet even within Israel itself, accusations persist that the web of controls affecting every aspect of Palestinian life bears a disturbing resemblance to apartheid. After four years reporting from Jerusalem and more than a decade from Johannesburg before that, the Guardian's award-winning Middle East correspondent Chris McGreal is exceptionally well placed to assess this explosive comparison. Here we publish the first part of his two-day special report
Said Rhateb was born in 1972, five years after Israeli soldiers fought their way through East Jerusalem and claimed his family's dry, rock-strewn plot as part of what the Jewish state proclaimed its "eternal and indivisible capital". The bureaucrats followed in the army's footsteps, registering and measuring Israel's largest annexation of territory since its victory over the Arab armies in the 1948 war of independence. They cast an eye over the Rhateb family's village of Beit Hanina and its lands, a short drive from the biblical city on the hill, and decided the outer limits of this new Jerusalem. The Israelis drew a line on a map - a new city boundary - between Beit Hanina's lands and most of its homes. The olive groves and orchards were to be part of Jerusalem; the village was to remain in the West Bank.
The population was not so neatly divided. Arabs in the area were registered as living in the village - even those, like Rhateb's parents, whose homes were inside what was now defined as Jerusalem. In time, the Israelis gave the Rhatebs identity cards that classified them as residents of the West Bank, under military occupation. When Said Rhateb was born, he too was listed as living outside the city's boundaries. His parents thought little of it as they moved freely across the invisible line drawn by the Israelis, shopping and praying inside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City.
Four decades later, the increasingly complex world of Israel's system of classification deems Said Rhateb to be a resident of the West Bank - somewhere he has never lived - and an illegal alien for living in the home in which he was born, inside the Jerusalem boundary. Jerusalem's council forces Rhateb to pay substantial property taxes on his house but that does not give him the right to live in it, and he is periodically arrested for doing so. Rhateb's children have been thrown out of their Jerusalem school, he cannot register a car in his name - or rather he can, but only one with Palestinian number plates, which means he cannot drive it to his home because only Israeli-registered cars are allowed within Jerusalem - and he needs a pass to visit the centre of the city. The army grants him about four a year.
There is more. If Rhateb is not legally resident in his own home, then he is defined as an "absentee" who has abandoned his property. Under Israeli law, it now belongs to the state or, more particularly, its Jewish citizens. "They sent papers that said we cannot sell the land or develop it because we do not own the land. It belongs to the state," he says. "Any time they want to confiscate it, they can, because they say we are absentees even though we are living in the house. That's what forced my older brother and three sisters to live in the US. They couldn't bear the harassment."
The 'apartheid wall'
There are few places in the world where governments construct a web of nationality and residency laws designed for use by one section of the population against another. Apartheid South Africa was one. So is Israel.
Comparisons between white rule in South Africa and Israel's system of control over the Arab peoples it governs are increasingly heard. Opponents of the vast steel and concrete barrier under construction through the West Bank and Jerusalem dubbed it the "apartheid wall" because it forces communities apart and grabs land. Critics of Ariel Sharon's plan to carve up the West Bank, apportioning blobs of territory to the Palestinians, draw comparisons with South Africa's "bantustans" - the nominally independent homelands into which millions of black men and women were herded.
An Israeli human rights organisation has described segregation of West Bank roads by the military as apartheid. Arab Israeli lawyers argue anti-discrimination cases before the supreme court by drawing out similarities between some Israeli legislation and white South Africa's oppressive laws. Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town and chairman of South Africa's truth and reconciliation commission, visited the occupied territories three years ago and described what he found as "much like what happened to us black people in South Africa".
As far back as 1961, Hendrik Verwoerd, the South African prime minister and architect of the "grand apartheid" vision of the bantustans, saw a parallel. "The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state," he said. It is a view that horrifies and infuriates many Israelis.
A prominent Israeli political scientist, Gerald Steinberg, responded to an invitation to appear on a panel at a Jerusalem cultural centre to debate "Is Israel the new apartheid?" by denouncing the organiser, a South African-born Jew, for even posing the question.
"As you are undoubtedly aware, the pro-Palestinian and anti-semitic campaign to demonise Israel focuses on the entirely false and abusive analogy with South Africa. Using the term 'apartheid' to apply to Israel's legitimate responses to terror and the threat of annihilation both demeans the South African experience, and is the most immoral of charges against the right of the Jewish people to self-determination," he replied.
Many Israelis recoil at the suggestion of a parallel because it stabs at the heart of how they see themselves and their country, founded after centuries of hatred, pogroms and ultimately genocide. If anything, many of Israel's Jews view themselves as having more in common with South Africa's black population than with its oppressors. Some staunch defenders of Israel's policies past and present say that even to discuss Israel in the context of apartheid is one step short of comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany, not least because of the Afrikaner leadership's fascist sympathies in the 1940s and the disturbing echoes of Hitler's Nuremberg laws in South Africa's racist legislation.
Yet the taboo is increasingly challenged. As Israel's justice minister, Tommy Lapid, said, Israel's defiance of international law in constructing the West Bank barrier could result in it being treated as a pariah like South Africa. Malaysia's prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, has called for a campaign against Israel of the kind used to pressure South Africa.
"Like the struggle against apartheid, the struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli occupation of their country enjoys enormous support from the global community," he said. "Therefore a more concrete expression of this support by global societies to this campaign is timely and fitting."
Anglican, Presbyterian and other churches have backed sanctions against Israel. Last year, one of the UK's university teaching unions endorsed a boycott of two Israeli universities, before reversing its decision amid a torrent of criticism over the reasoning behind the move.
The Israeli government has condemned boycotts as anti-semitism and an attempt to "delegitimise" the Jewish state. It asks why only Israel, a democratic country, is singled out for sanctions. A few protests are not a bandwagon, but underpinning Israeli hostility is a fear, expressed in a secret Israeli foreign ministry report, that Israel's standing abroad could sink so low in the coming years that it might find itself on a collision course with Europe which could see Israel as isolated as the apartheid regime and with serious economic consequences.
Ariel Sharon's withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip last year, and the relinquishing of direct Israeli control over that territory, temporarily dampened some of the criticism. But even as the Gaza pullout was under way, Israel was entrenching its control of those parts of the West Bank it wants to retain, using the barrier to mark out an intended future border that would carve up the territory, and expanding Jewish settlements it intends to annex - a strategy that, if carried through by Sharon's successors, is likely to strengthen the comparisons with apartheid and fuel calls for sanctions.
Israelis are genuinely bewildered that anyone might see similarities between their society and the old South Africa. Where, they ask, are the signs directing "Jews" and "non-Jews" to match the "petty apartheid" of segregated buses, toilets and just about every other facility in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
There are conspicuous differences, of course. Arab Israelis have the vote, although they were prevented from forming their own political parties until the 1980s. They are mostly equal under the law and these days the Israeli courts generally protect their rights. Jews are a majority in Israel; white South Africans were a minority. And Israel spent the first decades of its existence fighting for its life.
But for some of those with a foot in both societies, the distinctions are blurred by other realities. Some Jewish South Africans and Israelis who lived with apartheid - including politicians, Holocaust survivors and men once condemned as terrorists - describe aspects of modern Israel as disturbingly reminiscent of the old South Africa. Some see the parallels in a matrix of discriminatory practices and controls, and what they describe as naked greed for land seized by the fledgling Israeli state from fleeing Arabs and later from the Palestinians for the ever expanding West Bank settlements. "Apartheid was an extension of the colonial project to dispossess people of their land," said the Jewish South African cabinet minister and former ANC guerrilla, Ronnie Kasrils, on a visit to Jerusalem. "That is exactly what has happened in Israel and the occupied territories; the use of force and the law to take the land. That is what apartheid and Israel have in common."
Others see the common ground in the scale of the suffering if not its causes. "If we take the magnitude of the injustice done to the Palestinians by the state of Israel, there is a basis for comparison with apartheid," said the former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Alon Liel. "If we take the magnitude of suffering, we are in the same league. Of course apartheid was a very different philosophy from what we do, most of which stems from security considerations. But from the point of view of outcome, we are in the same league."
Perhaps the real question is how Israel came to be in the same league as apartheid South Africa, whether by mirroring laws and political strategies, or in the suffering caused. And how it is that the government of a people who suffered so much at the hands of discrimination and hatred came to secretly embrace a regime led by men who once stood on the docks of Cape Town and chanted: "Send back the Jews."
Torn between two struggles
In 1940, an Afrikaans-speaking Jewish boy called Arthur Goldreich was living in Pietersberg, the brutally intolerant capital of the Northern Transvaal. Goldreich was 11 and South Africa was at war with Nazi Germany.
One morning, his secondary school headmaster announced that students would be learning a foreign language, German. The implication was clear: many Afrikaners, including some of their political leaders, hoped and believed that Hitler would win the war. When Goldreich's teacher distributed the German "textbook", the Jewish boy found himself staring at a Hitler Youth magazine. He balked and wrote to the prime minister, Jan Smuts, refusing to learn German and demanding to be taught Hebrew. Goldreich got his way and was headed on a path that tore his life between two struggles; against white domination in South Africa, and for the survival of the Jewish state in Israel.
In 1948, both of Goldreich's worlds were transformed within a few days of each other. Israel declared its independence on May 14, a fortnight before the apartheid Nationalist party won South Africa's election and the men who backed Hitler came to power. Goldreich had already determined to go to Israel and fight to save it from strangulation at birth. "The reason I went was the Holocaust and the struggle against British colonialism but, of course, the Nats winning the election left me in no doubt about what I had to do," he says.
Goldreich returned to South Africa in 1954 to join his other struggle. After a few years of political agitation, he became an early member of the African National Congress's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, led by Nelson Mandela. Goldreich wasn't known to South Africa's security police, so he was installed with his family as the tenant of Lillieslief farm in Rivonia, north of Johannesburg, where the underground leadership of the banned ANC met secretly.
Mandela wrote in his autobiography how he turned to Goldreich as one of the few in the ANC's nascent guerrilla army who knew how to fight. "In the 1940s, Arthur had fought with the Palmach, the military wing of the Jewish National Movement in Palestine. He was knowledgeable about guerrilla warfare and helped fill in many gaps in my understanding."
In July 1963, the police raided the farm and captured a slew of wanted men, including Walter Sisulu, the ANC leader, and Goldreich. Five of the 17 arrested at Rivonia were white, all of them Jewish. The captured men and Mandela, who was already in detention, were charged with sabotage and plotting violent revolution, which carried the death penalty. efore he could be tried, Goldreich broke out of a Johannesburg jail and eluded a much publicised nationwide hunt by fleeing to Swaziland disguised as a priest. Goldreich now lives in the affluent and tranquil city of Herzliya on Israel's Mediterranean coast. There was a time when he believed the young Jewish state might provide the example of a better way for the country of his birth. As it is, Goldreich sees Israel as closer to the white regime he fought against and modern South Africa as providing the model. Israeli governments, he says, ultimately proved more interested in territory than peace, and along the way Zionism mutated.
Goldreich speaks of the "bantustanism we see through a policy of occupation and separation", the "abhorrent" racism in Israeli society all the way up to cabinet ministers who advocate the forced removal of Arabs, and "the brutality and inhumanity of what is imposed on the people of the occupied territories of Palestine".
"Don't you find it horrendous that this people and this state, which only came into existence because of the defeat of fascism and nazism in Europe, and in the conflict six million Jews paid with their lives for no other reason than that they were Jews, is it not abhorrent that in this place there are people who can say these things and do these things?" he asks.
Goldreich went on to found the architecture department at Jerusalem's renowned Bezalel Academy, from where he saw architecture and planning evolve as tools for territorial expansion after the 1967 war. "I watched Jerusalem with horror and great doubt and fear for the future. There were those who said that what's happening is architecture, not politics. You can't talk about planning as an abstraction. It's called establishing facts on the ground," he says.
Beyond the green line
There was a part of Johannesburg that most residents of the apartheid-era city never saw. By the 1970s, the bulk of the black population was already forced out under the Group Areas Act, which defined living areas by race. The Sophiatown neighbourhood, once a thriving corner of black life, was bulldozed and replaced by rows of dreary bungalows for whites. But several hundred thousand black people remained in Alexandra township, close to Johannesburg's most affluent neighbourhood, Sandton. The traffic out of Alexandra was one-way. Its residents left each day to work in the mines and shops or to clean homes in Sandton. Whites rarely ventured the short drive off Louis Botha avenue into the overcrowded, often squalid, unpaved back streets of an Alexandra deprived of a decent water supply, adequate schools and refuse collection.
The contrast between West and East Jerusalem is not as stark, but the disparities between Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods are underpinned by attitudes, policies and laws similar to those used against Johannesburg's black population. Most of Jerusalem's Jews never cross the "green line" - the international border that divided the city until 1967 - and many of those that do go only as far as the Wailing Wall to pray. If more Israelis were to travel deeper into the city they claim as their indivisible capital, they would encounter a different world from their own, a place where roads crumble, rubbish is left uncollected and entire Palestinian neighbourhoods are not connected to the sewage system.
According to the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, Jerusalem's Jewish population, who make up about 70% of the city's 700,000 residents, are served by 1,000 public parks, 36 public swimming pools and 26 libraries. The estimated 260,000 Arabs living in the east of the city have 45 parks, no public swimming pools and two libraries. "Since the annexation of Jerusalem, the municipality has built almost no new school, public building or medical clinic for Palestinians," says a B'Tselem report. "The lion's share of investment has been dedicated to the city's Jewish areas."
Take the interior ministry offices on each side of the divide. In the west, Jewish residents face a relatively short wait in an air-conditioned hall. In the east, Palestinians begin queueing in the middle of the night, or pay someone else to do so, to stand a chance of being served. Once the sun comes up, they wait for hours in the heat in front of an iron-grilled gate on the street for identity documents, or to register the birth of a child or the death of a parent. In Johannesburg, white people and black people were directed to different entrances of the home affairs ministry and afforded service - or not - according to their skin colour.
There is many a city in other parts of the world where minorities are forced into poor, underfunded neighbourhoods and treated as unwelcome outsiders. Where Israel's self- proclaimed capital differs is in policies specifically designed to keep it that way, as in apartheid Johannesburg. In Jerusalem and other parts of the occupied territories, Palestinians face a myriad of discriminatory laws and practices, from land confiscations to house demolitions, de facto pass laws and restrictions on movement. "The similarities between the situation of East Jerusalemites and black South Africans is very great in respect of their residency rights," says John Dugard, the international law professor widely regarded as the father of human rights law in South Africa and now the UN's chief human rights monitor in the occupied territories. "We had the old Group Areas Act in South Africa. East Jerusalem has territorial classification that has the same sort of consequences as race classification had in South Africa in respect of who you can marry, where you can live, where you can go to school or hospital."
Palestinians in East Jerusalem, often the city of their birth, are not considered citizens but immigrants with "permanent resident" status, which, some have found, is anything but permanent. In the old South Africa, a large part of the black population was treated not as citizens of the cities and townships they were born into but of a distant homeland many had never visited. "Israel treats Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as immigrants, who live in their homes at the beneficence of the authorities and not by right," says B'Tselem. "The authorities maintain this policy although these Palestinians were born in Jerusalem, lived in the city and have no other home. Treating these Palestinians as foreigners who entered Israel is astonishing, since it was Israel that entered East Jerusalem in 1967."
Israel says it has offered citizenship to anyone born in Jerusalem and that few Palestinians take it up because doing so implies recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the entire city. The government says that by choosing not to become citizens, Jerusalem's Arabs subject themselves to restrictions.
After the entirety of Jerusalem was brought under Israeli rule, the Jewish state annexed about 70 sq km of Palestinian territory and incorporated it within the new municipal boundaries - sometimes taking land from villages such as Said Rhateb's, but leaving the people and their homes outside the city. Israel then wrote laws to permit the government to confiscate property wholesale with one purpose: to transfer land and homes from Arabs to Jews.
Laws of division
"Planning and urban policy, which normal cities view as this benign tool, was used as a powerful partisan tool to subordinate and control black people in Johannesburg and is still used that way against Palestinians in Jerusalem," says Scott Bollens, a University of California professor of urban planning who has studied divided cities across the globe, including Belfast, Berlin, Nicosia and Mostar. "In South Africa there was 'group areas' legislation, and then there was land use, planning tools and zoning that were used to reinforce and back up group areas. In Israel, they use a whole set of similar tools. They are very devious, in that planning is often viewed as this thing that is not part of politics. In Jerusalem, it's fundamental to their project of control, and Israeli planners and politicians have known that since day one. They've been very explicit in linking the planning tools with their political project."
At the heart of Israel's strategy is the policy adopted three decades ago of "maintaining the demographic balance" in Jerusalem. In 1972, the number of Jews in the west of the city outnumbered the Arabs in the east by nearly three to one. The government decreed that that equation should not be allowed to change, at least not in favour of the Arabs.
"The mantra of the past 37 years has been 'maintaining the demographic balance', which doesn't mean forcing Palestinians to leave," says Daniel Seidemann, a Jewish Israeli lawyer who has spent years fighting legal cases on behalf of Jerusalem's Arab residents. "It means curtailing their ability to develop by limiting construction to the already developed areas, by largely preventing development in new areas and by taking 35% [of Palestinian-owned land in greater East Jerusalem] and having a massive government incentive for [Jews] to build up that area."
The political decision to discriminate against Arabs was an open but rarely acknowledged secret. The authors of a 1992 book on Jerusalem, Separate and Unequal, laid bare the policy. The writers, two of whom were advisers to the city's mayors, said that Israeli policy since 1967 was "remorselessly" pursued with four objectives: to expand the Jewish population in the mainly Arab east of the city; to hinder growth of Arab neighbourhoods; to induce Arabs to leave; and to seal off Arab areas behind Jewish settlements.
In 1992, Jerusalem's deputy mayor, Avraham Kahila, told the city council: "The principle that guides me and the mayor is that, in the Arab neighbourhoods, the municipality has no interest or reason to get into any kind of planning process. Thus, we encourage the building of Jewish neighbourhoods in empty areas that have been expropriated by the state of Israel. But so long as the policy of the state of Israel is not to get involved in the character of existing Arab neighbourhoods, there is no reason to require plans."
The mayor at the time, Teddy Kollek, was so identified with the city that he was known as Mr Jerusalem. Talking in 1972 about East Jerusalem, Kollek's adviser on Arab affairs, Ya'akov Palmon, told the Guardian: "We take the land first and the law comes after."
At a city council meeting two decades later, Kollek was confronted by a lone councillor outraged at the evident discrimination in limiting Arab housing development. According to an Israeli newspaper report at the time, Kollek responded that the council was adhering to a policy "followed by all governments since 1967" of restricting the growth of Palestinian neighbourhoods.
By then, discrimination was so entrenched that Kollek's statement drew almost no attention, let alone criticism.
Of the 70 sq km of annexed Arab land around Jerusalem, the state expropriated more than one-third to build homes for Jews without constructing a single house for Palestinians on the confiscated land. The Jewish population of East Jerusalem had fled or been driven out in 1948. A gradual return after 1967 turned to a flood as the settlements ate into the east of the city. Today, the population of Jewish settlements in and close to East Jerusalem has grown to nearly two-thirds that of the Arab neighbourhoods.
"Houses were built for Israelis, but the lands were overwhelmingly taken from Palestinians," says Seidemann. "This was the tool by which Israel was able to consolidate its hold over East Jerusalem. This was based on the law of expropriation for public purposes, but the public bearing the brunt of this was always Palestinian and the public benefiting from this was always Israeli."
One method of preventing further construction by Arabs in the east of the city has been to declare many open areas to be "green zones" protected from building. Bollens says about 40% of East Jerusalem is designated as a green zone, but that this is really a mechanism for land transfer. "The government calls it a green zone to stop Palestinians building homes there, and then when the government wants to develop an area [as Jewish] it lifts that green zoning miraculously and it becomes a development place."
Jerusalem's mayor, Uri Lupolianski - who chaired the city's planning and zoning committee in the 1990s - declined to be interviewed in person on these issues, but responded to written questions. "We have to keep a reasonable balance between residential areas and open green zones. We've designated green zones in all parts of Jerusalem, not just the eastern one," he wrote. "We're keeping the green zones in the entire city free from construction, and we plan to keep it this way. We believe that the development of parks and green zones in eastern Jerusalem will improve the quality of life of the people living there."
During the 1990s, about 12 times as many new homes were legally built in Jewish areas as in Arab ones. Denied permission to build new homes or expand existing ones, many Palestinians build anyway and risk a demolition order. Israel's former prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, routinely defends the demolitions by arguing that any civilised society enforces planning regulations. But Israel is the only western society to deny construction permits to people on the grounds of race. Until 1992, so did South Africa.
Israeli law also restricts where non-Jews may live. "Muslims and Christians are barred from buying in the Jewish quarter of the old city on the grounds of "historic patterns of life of each community having its own quarter'," says Seidemann, in a phrase eerily reminiscent of apartheid's philosophy. "But that didn't prevent the Israeli government from aggressively pursuing activities to place Jews within the Muslim quarter. The attitude is: what's mine is exclusively mine, but what's yours is mixed if we happen to target it."
Israeli law permits wholesale confiscation of property inside Israel or Jerusalem that is owned by Palestinians who live in areas defined as "enemy territory", including the West Bank, which was occupied by Jordan until it lost the war against Israel in 1967. "Any Palestinian who was at any point in 'enemy territory' after 1967, forfeits his property," says Seidemann. "But enemy territory includes the West Bank. It's a remarkable situation. Any property that was ever 'abandoned' by any Palestinian becomes state land and is then 'turned over to the Jewish people'. Any property that once belonged to a Jew is 'recovered to the Jewish people' and turned over to the settlers."
"I hate the term ethnic cleansing in the context of this," he says, "because of the connotations of rape and pillage, which this is not. But there was and is an active government effort using procedures such as this to rid targeted areas of its Palestinian residents and turn it into an exclusively or predominantly Jewish area. And I say, with regret, that the efforts have been moderately successful."
The law is not applied in reverse: Jews who go to live in West Bank settlements do not lose property they may own in Tel Aviv. Last year, Sharon's government quietly confiscated thousands of acres of Palestinian-owned lands within greater Jerusalem without compensation, after a secret cabinet decision to use a 55-year-old law on abandoned property against Arabs separated from their olive groves and farms by the West Bank barrier. Previous governments decided not to apply this law to East Jerusalem and the Sharon administration was embarrassed enough to expropriate the lands in secret before dropping the policy after an international outcry when it came to light. The Palestinians called the confiscations "legalised theft".
"What stands out for Jerusalem and Johannesburg is that it was and is such a prolonged use of planning in pursuit of a political objective," says Scott Bollens. "One distinction with South Africa is the racial identifiers and the racial rhetoric was so blatant, and it was so visible and it was so much part of apartheid South African language. But, despite the difference in rhetoric, the outcomes are very, very similar and the urban landscape Israel has created in the Jerusalem region is just as unequal, just as subjugating of the Palestinians as the 'group area' planning was in South Africa for the blacks."
In 2004, Jerusalem's council approved the first new masterplan for the city since 1959. The plan acknowledges some of the injustices and problems in East Jerusalem, provides for greater construction of homes in some Arab areas, and criticises Jewish settlement in the east of the city. But critics say that at its core is the same obsession with demography and what the plan describes as "preserving a firm Jewish majority in the city".
A former Jerusalem city councillor, Meir Margalit, says the process was flawed from the start because the steering committee of 31 people who put the plan together included only one Arab. "It is characteristic everywhere of colonial regimes which believe that the 'natives' are worthy neither of suitable representation nor of being masters of their own fate. The planning team apparently sets out from the assumption that, in any case, one is dealing with a Jewish city and therefore there is no reason to ask the opinion of anyone who does not belong to the Jewish people," he says.
"One cannot but receive an impression that behind the document lies an attempt to restrict the natural increase of the Arabs in the east of the city. With their historical experience, the planning team understands that this cannot be achieved through doing away with all the firstborn sons, but the plan assumes that by restricting the Arabs' living space, they will be compelled to leave the city and move into places in the periphery where they will be able to build without restriction."
Margalit says that the measures used to bring this about, including restrictions on Palestinians travelling into Jerusalem and preventing women who marry men from the east of the city from moving there, amount to "grey racism".
"This, in fact, is the strength of municipal racism. It is neither brutal nor openly visible, preferring to take cover behind apparently neutral formulations. Thus it is always carefully concealed behind consensus-oriented wording, hidden beneath a thick layer of cosmetic liberal language," he says. "This is how a unique term which does not exist in the professional literature was born in our country: 'grey racism'. This is not a racism stemming from hatred of the 'other', but a 'lite racism' rooted in a Zionist ideology which strove to be democratic but, in giving priority to Jewish interests, inevitably deprived others of their rights. When there is no equality, there is bound to be discrimination, and when all those discriminated against are of the same nationality, there is no alternative but to call it what it is - 'national discrimination' - which belongs to the same family as the infamous racial discrimination."
Over the years since the 1967 occupation, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have made it easier for the Israelis by refusing to vote in city council elections on the grounds that this would amount to recognition of Israel's claim over the entire city. Uri Lupolianski, the mayor, says that maintaining the demographic balance is no longer as crucial under the new masterplan, but he acknowledges that Arab neighbourhoods are disadvantaged. "The situation in eastern Jerusalem does leave a lot to be desired. However, during the last two years, we've taken significant measures to improve it and separate the needs of the residents from political issues," he wrote. "A new central bus station was opened, as well as the biggest Arab school in Israel. I've ordered a new plan to rebuild the roads in those neighbourhoods. Also, we've expanded the route of the light train that's currently in construction to include Arab neighbourhoods. The largest Arab cultural centre in Israel is being planned in the area.
"In the new masterplan, we have designated a wide area in eastern Jerusalem for construction for the Arab residents. There are more than 10 building plans, initiated by the municipality, currently in the works for eastern Jerusalem.
"There's no basis for comparison with South Africa. We do not separate racially between the Jews and Arabs. We do, however, acknowledge the fact that different areas are populated by different groups, and we meet the needs of all groups. We keep the building and zoning laws completely separate from any political issues."
According to the municipality's most recent annual figures, the council issued 1,695 building permits in the city in 2004. Of these, 116 went to Arab parts of East Jerusalem and, of those, 46 were to build new homes. The balance was for extensions to existing houses. In 2004, a total of 212,789 sq metres was built in all of Jerusalem; 7% was in Arab neighbourhoods. Several months ago, Israel's cabinet minister for Jerusalem, Haim Ramon, described the 33ft-high wall dissecting Arab neighbourhoods - which the government has insisted is purely a security measure with no political intent - as having the added advantage of making the city "more Jewish".
The mask of equality
Israel's one million Arab citizens are on a firmer footing. They can vote - the primary evidence, for many angered by the apartheid analogy, that Israel is not the old South Africa - at least, within Israel's recognised borders. But the Jewish state has long viewed its remaining Arab population with suspicion and hostility, and even as the enemy within, through the country's wars for survival against hostile neighbours and in the competition for land. Until 1966, Israeli Arabs lived under "military administration" which allowed detention without trial and subjected them to curfews, restrictions on jobs and where they could live, and required them to obtain passes to move around the country.
Israeli governments reserved 93% of the land - often expropriated from Arabs without compensation - for Jews through state ownership, the Jewish National Fund and the Israeli Lands Authority. In colonial and then apartheid South Africa, 87% of the land was reserved for whites. The Population Registration Act categorised South Africans according to an array of racial definitions, which, among other things, determined who would be permitted to live on the reserved land.
Israel's Population Registry Act serves a similar purpose by distinguishing between nationality and citizenship. Arabs and Jews alike can be citizens, but each is assigned a separate "nationality" marked on identity cards (either spelled out or, more recently, in a numeric code), in effect determining where they are permitted to live, access to some government welfare programmes, and how they are likely to be treated by civil servants and policemen.
Ask Israelis why it is necessary to identify a citizen as a Jew or Arab on the card and the question is generally met with incomprehension: how can it be a Jewish state if we don't know who the Jews are? The justification often follows that everyone in Israel is equal, so it does no harm. Arab Israelis will tell you differently.
Generations of Israeli schoolchildren were imbued with the idea that Arabs did not belong on the land of Israel, that they were somehow in the way. In the mid-1980s, the military was so concerned at the overt expressions of racism and anti-Arab hatred from within its ranks, sometimes cast within the context of the Holocaust, that it thought to re-emphasise "moral values".
In 1965, the government declared some lands on which Arab villages had stood for decades, or even centuries, as "non-residential". These "unrecognised" villages still exist but they are denied basic services, and subject to periodic demolitions and land confiscations.
The US state department's annual human rights report - not a document known for being hostile to Israel - concluded that there is "institutionalised legal and societal discrimination against Israel's Christian, Muslim and Druze citizens". "The government," it says, "does not provide Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20% of the population, with the same quality of education, housing, employment and social services as Jews."
In the 2002 budget, Israel's housing ministry spent about £14 per person in Arab communities compared with up to £1,500 per person in Jewish ones. The same year, the health ministry allocated just 1.6m shekels (£200,000) to Arab communities of its 277m-shekel (£35m) budget to develop healthcare facilities.
Five per cent of civil servants are Arabs, and a high proportion of those are hired to deal with other Arabs. The foreign and finance ministries employ fewer than a dozen Arab Israelis between them, when their combined staff totals more than 1,700 Jews. Until recently, the Bank of Israel and the state electricity company did not hire a single Arab.
Dan Meridor, a former cabinet minister in several governments and a one-time rival to Ariel Sharon for the leadership of the Likud party, blamed social factors and years of conflict - not an intent to discriminate - for the low representation of Arabs in the civil service. "I don't have the figures, but I think generally speaking it may be true. One has to check whether it relates to the level of education. If, for example, people in the government civil service are of higher education than the general public and the Arab population are generally lower in education than the general public, it may explain some of the differences," he says.
"Some jobs may be less accessible. Not officially, but in fact. Take the number of workers in, say, the electricity company that are Arabs and it is much much smaller than the proportion in the country. There's a historical reason for that. Jews fighting Arabs and Arabs fighting Jews was not only with weapons. There were two communities fighting for hegemony and power in the very broad sense of the word. This is the ethos of the Jews versus Arabs in the electricity company, on the land, in the labour market, in the building industry. Generally speaking, there has been improvement, but there is still, I think, in some areas, a lot to be done. Not on the legal basis - legally, everyone is equal - but on the opportunity basis."
Arab Israelis who fail to find employment in the civil service because of a lack of education say that this is the result of government policy. Israel maintains separate schools for Arabs and Jews on the grounds of language differences, but many Israeli Arab parents say this is a cover for systematic discrimination against their children.
Separate and unequal education systems were a central part of the apartheid regime's strategy to limit black children to a life in the mines, factories and fields. The disparities in Israel's education system are not nearly so great and the intent not so malign, but the gap is wide. The Israeli education ministry does not reveal its budget for each of the two systems, but 14 years ago a government report concluded that nearly twice as much money was allocated to each Jewish pupil as to each Arab child.
A Human Rights Watch report two years ago said the situation has not significantly changed and there remain "huge disparities in education spending" and that "discrimination against Arab children colours every aspect" of the education system. The exam pass-rate for Arab pupils is about one-third lower than that for their Jewish compatriots. In 2004, a threat by angry Arab Israeli parents in Haifa to register their children in Hebrew-language schools so shocked Jewish parents that the authorities quickly took steps to improve Arab schools there.
The suspicion with which the state still regards its Arab citizens was displayed by the recent revelation that the Shin Bet security service places Jewish teachers into Arab-language schools to monitor the activities of the other teachers. A Shin Bet official is also a member of the committee appointing teachers.
Israel's education ministry failed to respond to requests for an interview. Approached individually, a senior politician who formerly had responsibility for education and who has acknowledged that discrimination exists, and spoken against it, declined to be interviewed, saying he did not wish to criticise his former ministry.
Asked for an interview to respond to specific allegations of discrimination in the civil service, education and housing, the government replied through the deputy director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, Gideon Meir. He conceded that there had been de facto discrimination but said it was rooted in historic conflicts and suspicions, not an intent to subjugate.
"There was never an intention because if we really wanted to create apartheid we could have done it. The fact is we have never done it, there was never even a thought about discriminating," he said. "Yes, during certain years there were less funds given to the Arabs. There were also years after 1948 when the Arabs were under military control. Slowly, slowly the Arabs made their way up. The Arabs today can go into the civil service. The foreign ministry opened to Arabs only in 1989. It took time to build trust. I have in my department today a Bedouin.
"The fact is that Arabs were always members of the Knesset, even those who were delegitimising the Jewish state. They can participate. Is it enough? No, it's not enough. Can we do more? Yes, we can do more. But ask the Arabs who live in Israel if they want to be part of a Palestinian state and they say no, they prefer to remain where they are. Why?"
Under Sharon's tenure as prime minister from 2001, new forms of discriminatory legislation were passed, including the now notorious Nationality and Entry into Israel Law, which bars Israelis who marry Palestinians from bringing their spouses to live in the country. The legislation applies solely to Palestinian husbands or wives. Hassan Jabareen, a lawyer and director general of Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, challenged the law before the supreme court. He told the judges there was a parallel with a landmark case in 1980s South Africa - the Komani case - which successfully challenged the pass laws that broke up black families by preventing spouses from joining their husbands or wives in towns.
"As a constitutional lawyer, I find myself bringing landmark cases from the apartheid era before the Israeli supreme court because comparative cases from modern and democratic countries are not that helpful. You have to bring harsh cases in order to warn the supreme court about racist laws; not discriminatory, but racist," said Jabareen. "We had a case two years ago which essentially said Arabs would receive lower child-support allowances. We compared it to laws of economic discrimination in apartheid South Africa. In the end, the Knesset scrapped the law."
Justice was also not always blind to the difference between Arab and Jew. In June 1986, 18 months before the outbreak of the first Palestinian uprising (intifada), a Tel Aviv judge drew protests for sentencing a Jewish Israeli to six months' community service for killing an Arab boy. But the present supreme court has proved more willing than its predecessors to confront discrimination. It has yet to rule on the Nationality and Entry Law, but the then Labour interior minister in the coalition government, Ophir Pines-Paz, called it "draconian and racist" and pressed parliament to amend the legislation. The Israeli parliament responded by extending the regulations. In the past few days alone, the police have arrested eight women, the Palestinian wives of Arab Israelis, in the Israeli village of Jaljulya and deported them to the occupied territories. Among women living under the threat of future deportation is the wife of an Israeli football player. MPs say the law has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with the security threat posed by Palestinians.
Its backers question how anyone can accuse them, as Jews at the end of a long line of persecuted generations, of racism, or in any way of resembling the old Afrikaner regime. But for years, much of South Africa's Jewish population and successive Israeli governments made their own pact with apartheid - a deal that exchanged near silence by most South African Jews on a great moral issue for acceptance, and clandestine cooperation between Israel and the Afrikaner government that drew the two countries into a hidden embrace.
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USS Cole bomber in Yemeni jail break
February 07, 2006
SANAA: The man who planned the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 has tunnelled out of a Yemeni jail along with at least 13 other convicted al-Qa'ida militants, prompting Interpol to issue a global security alert.
Jamal al-Badawi, who was sentenced to death in 2004 for his role in the attack on the Cole, in which 17 sailors died, went missing late last week but Yemeni authorities did not disclose that he was involved in the prison break until Sunday.
Interpol said the escapees were a "clear and present danger to all countries".
"Their escape cannot be considered an internal problem for Yemen alone," Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble said.
Interpol demanded that Yemen issue arrest warrants and turn over all the names, photographs, fingerprints and other details of the escaped prisoners so it could send out urgent "Red Notices" on each renegade.
"Unless Interpol Red Notices are issued urgently for these fugitives and unless the world community commits itself to tracking them down, they will be able to travel internationally, to elude detection and to engage in future terrorist activity," Mr Noble said.
Yemen security forces set up checkpoints around the capital on Sunday, hoping to catch the fugitives before they escaped to the protection of semi-lawless mountain tribes.
But the terrorists have a headstart after Yemeni officials, who said on Friday that some escapees were linked to al-Qa'ida, took until Sunday to disclose that they included Badawi -- in his second escape from a Yemeni jail -- and Fawaz al-Rabahi, who was convicted of bombing the French tanker Limburg on the Yemeni coast in2002.
A security source in Yemen said the escapees had help from more than one accomplice on the outside, because the 140m tunnel they used was believed to have been dug from the mosque to the prison. The tunnel entry was in the women's section of the mosque, which is less frequented than the male section because women mainly pray at home.
The 13 militants were among 23 inmates who broke out of jail in the capital, Sanaa.
The escape is a major embarrassment for Yemeni authorities, who have cracked down on militants in the ancestral land of Osama bin Laden and positioned themselves as an ally of the US in the war on terror.
Some US officials have questioned Yemen's commitment to the US war on terror, suggesting the country has split allegiances.
A Yemeni state-run website, www.almotamar.net, said 17 of those who escaped were convicted of al-Qa'ida-linked crimes, while the other six were awaiting trial for similar charges.
Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, Prince Turki al-Faisal, expressed confidence that the escapees would be caught "because they have nowhere to go".
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Official: Hamas Won't Recognize Israel
By NADIA ABOU EL MAGD
6 Feb 06
CAIRO, Egypt - A top Hamas official said the militant group will not recognize Israel but will abide, for now, by past agreements Palestinian leaders made with the Jewish state. He also lashed out at the more moderate Fatah party for refusing to participate in a national unity Palestinian government.
The comments by Moussa Abu Marzouk, the right-hand man to Hamas' political leader Khaled Mashaal, came as Hamas leaders from Syria and Palestinian areas gathered here and began talks Monday with Egyptian officials after the group's stunning election victory.
In a statement, Abu Marzouk blamed the Fatah movement for refusing to participate in a national unity government, which Hamas wants to form to avoid an Israeli veto on it.
"We will act in the legal framework to get out from this deadlock, which our brothers in Fatah have put us in," Abu Marzouk told reporters late Sunday.
Abu Marzouk said any government set up by Hamas "will not make security arrangements with Israeli or hand over (Palestinians) who fire rockets (on Israel)." He also insisted the group would not recognize Israel.
Hamas is under growing international pressure to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist as a condition for receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid _ the lifeline of the Palestinian economy. Western powers have said they will not fund a Hamas-led Palestinian government otherwise.
Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman said last week that Egypt intends to tell Hamas leaders that they must recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals.
The leaders are executed to meet later with senior Egyptian officials, including Suleiman and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Omar Suleiman.
An Egyptian official said Monday that Egyptian officials will repeat to Hamas leaders that they should comply with all obligations undertaken by the Palestinian Authority.
"They will also be advised that they should keep all the achievements the Palestinian people have made regarding peace and security,"said the Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Mashaal arrived from Damascus leading a delegation from the movement's outside while another delegation from Gaza led by Mahmoud al Zahar arrived from the Palestinian territories.
Before the leaders started their meetings at a Cairo hotel, Abu Marzouk acknowledged that the movement faces difficulties in its attempts to set up a government.
"The most daunting task we face is to recognize the Zionist enemy and the obligations which the Authority had in the absence of similar (Israeli) obligations," he said.
Marzouk said Hamas officials had met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's leader, and that Abbas did not insist that Hamas had to recognize Israel or make other concessions before Fatah would negotiate a deal to form the next Palestinian government.
Speaking of past peace deals between the Palestinians and Israel, Marzouk told reporters: "There is no authority that inherits another authority without abiding by the agreements already made. But the other party also should be committed to the agreements."
He said Hamas would review all past deals.
"If the agreements contradict logic and rights, there are legal measures to be taken ... there are no eternal agreements," he said.
Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said Monday he will work with Abbas as long as he does not join forces with Hamas. Olmert also said Israel would continue transferring monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority as long as Hamas was not in control.
Israel agreed Sunday to transfer $54 million (euro45 million) in desperately needed tax money to the Palestinian Authority. Israel's monthly transfer of the taxes and customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinians is crucial to the functioning of the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli Cabinet decided to transfer the money because Hamas was not yet in the government, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said.
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Sharon unlikely to regain consciousness: doctors
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-06 16:41:47
JERUSALEM, Feb. 6 (Xinhuanet) -- There has been no sign that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in hospital since a Jan. 4 severe stroke, is likely to regain consciousness, doctors said on Monday.
There has been no improvement in Sharon's condition, and he is still breathing with the aid of a respirator as Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital, where Sharon has been treated, still defines his condition as "serious but stable."
Based on information released by the hospital, doctors not involved in Sharon's treatment said that his condition can be defined as "vegetative."
However, doctors said that the possibility that Sharon would regain consciousness, though slim, cannot yet be completely ruled out and that there was a slight chance that he could regain some of his physical and mental capabilities.
"His age, his medical background and the dramatic nature of his stroke are not in the prime minister's favor," said Dr. Avraham Lazari, deputy director of the Re'ut rehabilitation hospital and an expert on rehabilitative medicine.
But he added that people in Sharon's condition did occasionally regain consciousness.
"The tendency worldwide is to wait until half a year has passed since the event in order to say whether the patient will regain full consciousness or not," Lazari said.
The prime minister's own doctors have not yet offered any assessment of the likelihood of his regaining consciousness.
Generally, a vegetative patient can breathe on his own, go through regular sleep cycles and may even make occasional involuntary movements such as opening eyes, but is not aware of his surroundings and cannot speak or heed instructions.
Veteran Israeli politician Sharon, architect of Israel's Gaza pullout last summer, has remained in critical but stable condition since he suffered a massive stroke and cerebral haemorrhage on Jan.4.
Experts believe that the ex-general is unlikely to return to the Israeli political stage.
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The problem is Israel, not Hamas
2-8 Feb 06
On Thursday, 26 January, the world woke up to news of the stunning victory of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, over its main rival Fatah in the Palestinian legislative elections. Virtually all observers had predicted that Hamas would make significant gains and might even have a slight lead over Fatah, the governing party of the Palestinian Authority (PA). None -- and probably few within Hamas itself -- expected that the movement would take 74 seats out of the 132 contested seats.
Indeed, one could say without exaggeration that Hamas has outperformed itself, the enormity of the victory taking the movement by surprise, throwing its leadership off-balance, at least in the immediate aftermath of the elections. To be sure, Hamas hadn't hoped and certainly didn't plan for a landslide win. Hamas had repeatedly indicated that it would prefer to be in a position to influence the government, but not to govern itself.
In pre-election interviews Hamas leaders and candidates voiced their hope that the movement would win between 50 and 55 seats, which would have enabled the movement to assume the role of a strong opposition to a presumed Fatah-led government. It is now amply clearly that Hamas itself failed to appreciate the extent of the Palestinian public's disenchantment with the PA, including its misgovernment as well as failure to get Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian homeland.
Widespread corruption and graft permeating the PA -- indeed, rampant nepotism, favouritism, embezzlement and cronyism, as well as chronic lawlessness, chaos, and lack of personal security for the average Palestinian -- had a strong impact on voter behaviour. But it is also true that the underlying reasons for the democratic coup have to do, first and foremost, with the increased savagery of the Israeli occupation, which is nothing short of an act of rape, and the PA's failure not only to end the occupation but even to mitigate its manifestly brutal effects, impacting all aspects of Palestinian life.
Indeed, ever since the conclusion of the Oslo Agreement more than 10 years ago, Israel effectively confiscated over 50 per cent of the West Bank and implanted in occupied land dozens of Jewish-only colonies inhabited by Talmudic messianic fanatics, most of whom view non-Jews as scum, vermin and dirty animals that ought to be exterminated. Moreover, Israel effectively deprived Palestinians of the vast bulk of their freedoms and human rights and jailed tens of thousands of political prisoners in detention camps without charge or trial.
The accumulative outcome of this policy of repression, along with the frustrations of a failed and futile peace process that only provided a cover for Israel's genocidal treatment of the Palestinians, eventually led the Palestinians to shun Fatah and opt for Hamas. True, Hamas will not be able to achieve miracles for the Palestinian people, especially as far Palestinian efforts to end the Israeli occupation are concerned. To be sure, Hamas didn't promise voters that it would liberate Jerusalem in the next four years or get millions of refugees repatriated and compensated. However, Hamas, which ran on a "Change and Reform" platform, promised to put the Palestinian house in order, which is doubtless the first step towards national liberation.
Hamas will face many challenges and pitfalls, especially if the US and the EU follow through on threats to sever economic aid to a Hamas-led PA. The Quartet, whose members (US, EU, Russian and UN) met in London on Monday to discuss the rise to power of the Islamist movement, has urged Hamas to abandon armed resistance and recognise the state of Israel. In addition, the Israeli government moved to withhold a badly-needed $40 million dollar fund of tax returns, apparently for the purpose of deepening the post-electoral victory crisis facing Hamas, and indicating to the Palestinian people that Israel is the ultimate boss, not any Palestinian government.
Hamas is already seeking to avert a head-on collision with the international community, especially in the absence of any semblance of Arab solidarity. Hamas leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip sought in earnest to assure the international community that the movement would respect the international commitments of the PA but urged the world to respect the Palestinian people's free choice. This week, winning Islamist candidates told Western media, which flocked to Palestine to cover the "Palestinian Tsunami", that Hamas would prove itself to be a force of moderation and peace, and that the movement would definitely move to mend its erstwhile negative image.
On the domestic front, Hamas is seeking to form the broadest possible coalition government, probably one that would include academics and technocrats, untainted with the "terror" canard. Hamas has been urging Fatah to join the upcoming government, arguing persuasively that the weight of the Palestinian national burden exceeds the ability of any one faction to bear.
Fatah, embittered by its crushing defeat, has so far refused to join the contemplated Hamas government, on the grounds that Fatah should leave its "foe" and "rival" to "face its fate". "Let it fail, so that the people will see," said one angry Fatah candidate. However, it is likely that some Fatah leaders will sooner or later join the Hamas-led government, either out of concern for national responsibility or the attraction of public office.
There is no doubt that Hamas will have to carefully and wisely navigate both itself and the entire Palestinian national destiny through the treacherous waters of forming a functional government under occupation at home and amid hostile international storms and currents. To do that, Hamas will have to show not a small amount of pragmatism, including a possible de facto recognition of Israel.
There is no guarantee, however, that Israel will reciprocate. Israel believes that Hamas' victory is dangerous, not so much because of the "violence issue" or non-recognition of Israel (which Israel utilises for propaganda purposes) but rather because with Hamas in government, Israel would not be able to force the PA into succumbing to Israeli blackmailing tactics.
Needless to say, Israel wants a weak Palestinian partner that can be easily bullied into submission, a partner that would accept functional arrangements here and there, one that would more or less accept an enhanced and less harsh Israeli occupation, instead of genuine liberation from a nefarious and dehumanising colonialism, all in return for vague commitments to a Palestinian state without known borders and, indeed, without substance.
Hamas will not be that kind of partner and will insist on total and absolute Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 territories, including East Jerusalem. This is Israel's real concern, not Hamas' armed resistance and refusal to recognise Israel.
This is why Israel will seek to use every possible red herring or distraction to evade the crux of the matter; namely the need to adopt a strategic decision to give up the stolen land and spoils of the 1967 War.
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British police to investigate extremist protesters
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-06 20:48:25
LONDON, Feb.6 (Xinhuanet) -- The Metropolitan Police is to investigate protesters in London who urged violence against Westerners over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.
The force is considering its options following calls from members of Parliament to prosecute those who threatened suicide bombings and incited murder during the demonstrations over the weekend, the Guardian reported on Monday.
The slogans read: "Butcher those who mock Islam", "Slay those who insult Islam", "Behead those who insult Islam", and "Kill those who insult Islam".
Most of the placards advocating violence appeared on Friday, with chants like "Europe you will pay, your Sept. 11 is on the way", or "July. 7 is on its way", "Europe you will pay, fantastic four are on their way", and "Europe you will pay, Bin Laden is on his way".
However, only two people were arrested for carrying copies of the Danish cartoons which ignited the protests.
The police said in a statement on Sunday that "specialist officers were deployed on both days to record any potential evidence should it be needed at any point in the future. All complaints will be passed to the public order crime unit for further investigation. Arrests, if necessary, will be made at the most appropriate time."
Comment: For an analysis of how the Danish cartoon affair is being used to vilify Islam and set up Muslems, see our editorial Preparing the World For Another 9/11.
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When Freedom of Expression Becomes a Weapon
By Peter Matthews
5 Feb 06
Most of us are now well aware of the caricatures of the prophet Mohammad, solicited by and published last September in the right-wing Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. This week several publications resurrected those controversial images of Mohammad as a bomb-turbaned terrorist and another where he refuses suicide bombers entry into Heaven as “We’ve run out of Virgins.” Then our news sources informed us that due solely to these images “outrage sweeps across the Muslim world.” Such coverage has elicited miles of text and a Babel of blather denouncing those who would dare threaten OUR freedom of speech because it offends THEIR “backward” beliefs.
Like children following the Pied-Piper, many of us now lock-step behind the tune “Freedom of Expression,” deaf to the fact that there was precious little of the “RAGE, FURORE, VIOLENCE, DEATH THREATS” shouting from the headlines of mainstream news sources during the first two days of those stories. Given the virtual real-world absence of actual expressions of outrage, the mainstream media’s handling of this story plays like propaganda aimed at deepening the divide between “Us and Them.”
On Thursday the largest number of protesters, in a world of over one-billion Muslims, was “around 300” in Pakistan. As of noon Friday, the only reported demonstration attributed to these cartoons consisted of “about 300” Indonesians, which, somehow, Reuters viewed as meriting the headline “Uproar over Images of Mohammad Spreads across Asia.” Now, self-righteous and xenophobic fires fanned by such hyperbolic headlines, the fires have begun in earnest as people of the East and West glower at the imagined Other shrieking, “How could they!”
The current coverage of this act of “freedom of expression” and the Muslim response is further demoralizing and undermining the anti-war movement as oil-rich Iran gets hauled towards the Security Council, Bush uses the State of the Union Address to shore up waning support for the “War on Terror” and Rumsfeld calls upon the world to unite as, “a war has been declared on all of our nations” by “Islamic militants” intent on creating “a global extremist empire.”
Now come on, Osama bin Laden is so far off the map he cannot be found. And, as for Iran, well yes, their smiley President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does sound terribly threatening in the press coverage he’s getting; but then, he’s been elected by a nation who feels terribly threatened thanks to the gusher of blood and misery unleashed in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan ever since Bush-n-Company came sniffing around for oil, the geo-political leverage it insures and an ongoing excuse to keep tax-payers funding their filthy rich defence contractor and clean-up-the-mess we-made pals.
Moreover, this hyped-up coverage serves to distract (if not recruit) freedom of expression advocates from their struggle with the perceived enemy within—i.e., Western governments intent on using the “War on Terror” as a pretext for spying on and incarcerating citizens of foreign countries as well as their own, and, it may also result in diverting attention from government attempts to monitor and limit freedom of speech as well as from the numerous scandals besetting the Bush Administration.
Well, back to those cartoons…and the coverage we’re getting: By focusing on isolated expressions of anger and by describing these instances as pandemic, the media is force-feeding its viewers with the Neo-Con’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis and thereby spreading its nefarious “WE—the free, democratic, good, mature and civilized” against “THEM—the freedom-hating, despotic, evil, childlike and barbaric” world-view.
When an entire people are subsumed into this thesis of irreconcilable difference, alarm bells should thunder. One commentator on a British TV news report went so far as to describe Islam as a “virus that requires a cure.” As for the Yahoo Message Boards, a cacophony arose from the featured articles, many calling for nuking the lands of Islam into a “sea of glass” and applying the “Final Solution” to Arabs in the US and Europe. What we are witnessing is a further marginalization of the marginalized, an increased bullying of the bullied.
According to Islam, the crafting of images of Mohammad is the height of blasphemy. The way it was done, repeated and then celebrated is akin to incinerating Holy-of-Holies in public while dancing around the bonfires jeering and threatening Jews. And, who, with open eyes and ears, has not heard an echo of the Nazi’s assessment that Jews behave “like a nation within a nation;” but; now; it comes from our media, our politicians, our family and friends, when they refer to the Islamic problem.
As for those leaders of Muslim nations who have condemned these caricatures, what’s the big deal? They must state, when compelled, that these images are offensive to Muslims. Our own leaders are often quick to decry art and statements offending Christian and Jewish sensibilities—e.g., Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” and the recent imprisonment of David Irving for Holocaust denial.
Most Middle Eastern rulers rise by force and/or maintain their regime through force—the source of which is largely supplied by the arms and military training industries of the West. Several Arab political analysts have interpreted the condemnation expressed by the region’s politicos as having much to do with their attempt to keep power. Popular anger has been focused on the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; but, with these cartoons, regional leaders have a paper-tiger to publicly stab, and thereby show solidarity with their people without risking the ire of their foreign power-base.
What is cause for real outrage is how the Western media also appears enthusiastic about making a storm-in-a-tea-cup of the comprehensible reaction by a small number of Muslims. Doing so, given the human catastrophe visited upon Iraq by the self-proclaimed “civilized world” and the subsequent anguish and humiliation experienced by Muslims, will likely exacerbate this situation, as the past 24-hours is making worrisomely evident.
Our “free-press” is currently offering neither context nor analysis when addressing Muslim reactions to these caricatures. The coverage of what had been tiny isolated protests and threats of violence has been anything but responsible. As such, these reports serve only to stoke the flames of hatred while keeping us in the dark. Our “free-press” is selling-out its stated mission, and its public, most cheaply.
The context is a long history of invasion, occupation, careless killing, intensive pillaging, oppression, humiliation and the subsequent radicalization of many people in the Middle East. Presenting the public outcry of a few hundred Muslims as indicative of a billion people spread over dozens of nations only deepens an already profound sense of divide between "Us and Them." To do so is not merely sensationalist and irresponsible; it’s akin to a crime against truth, justice and humanity.
Copyright: Peter Matthews email@example.com
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What Would Jesus Do?
By Remi Kanazi
4 Feb 06
Picture this: A cartoon of Jesus, with his pants down, smiling, raping a little boy. The caption above it reads “Got Catholicism?” Or how about a picture of a Rabbi with blood dripping from his mouth after bludgeoning a small Palestinian boy with a knife shaped like the Star of David—the caption reads “The Devil’s Chosen Ones.”
I wonder if people around the world would just consider this free speech?
Of course, some would condone or agree with one, two or all three, while others would say “it’s free speech,” although they “find it offensive and in poor taste.” But do you honestly think media outlets such as the BBC, Le Monde, or any media outlet in Copenhagen would pick up these cartoons? The outrage would begin instantly and advertisers would pullout. Yet, those in Denmark and their supporters around Europe call it freedom of speech to have a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed—who is not supposed be depicted to prevent idolatry according to clerical interpretation of the Koran—with a turban shaped like a bomb on his head.
The double standard the West has set for the rest of the world is disgusting. We live in a foolish bubble where we think we are free to say or do whatever we want without consequence. I remember watching Saturday Night Live when Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope. The furor was enormous, which led to NBC receiving a 2.5 million dollar fine by the Federal Communications Commission. Imagine if it was a picture of Jesus—the US Congress would have made the Teri Schiavo intervention look like a joke.
Where are the pictures of the dead soldiers, the dead women and children in the Western media? Some governments won’t allow it and other media outlets just fear the backlash. When I need journalistic honesty, I have to turn to Al Jazeera, why is that? One cannot even deny the Holocaust in Europe, question 9/11 in America (unless you want the Ward Churchill treatment), but the West claims they’re all about free speech.
It is no coincidence the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is grossly pro-Israeli. It is no coincidence that you never heard the full quotes of Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s comments on Israel and the Holocaust—no matter the basis. And it is no coincidence that Arab analysts who are against the war in Iraq, the occupation of Palestine, and America’s “war on terror” are insufficiently represented in the European press.
So what are Muslims to do? Violence is out of the question—that would be “an overreaction.” So why not boycott? That would be a mistake as well, according to the European Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini who stated, “Calls for boycotts or for restraints on the freedom of the press are completely unacceptable.” What Frattini meant to say is that Muslims should choose capitalism over faith. Maybe the European Union will clarify through a cartoon—Mohammed selling the Koran for ten bucks in a Danish pawn shop. But boycotting is a friend of the West. However, they more conveniently title it “sanctions.” I’m sure we all remember the 500,000 Iraqi women and children that died because of the UN boycotts on Iraq after the first Gulf War.
Is Europe is willing to continue this new trend against boycotts? Will the European community call on Israel to show Paradise Now in non-independent theatres? It’s the only way to stop the boycott of Palestinian freedom of speech. Will the European Union resume aide to the Hamas-led Palestinian government tomorrow? Since Hamas’ call for the destruction of Israel is protected under the clause of freedom of speech and the group stopped suicide attacks 18 months ago, it only seems logical.
If Denmark, Norway, France, Germany and the rest of Europe believe in the freedom of speech, it should include all instances and all religions. These nations are carelessly defending their hypocrisy and reinforcing the double standard that alienates Muslims and desecrates the Muslim faith, under the guise of free speech. I guess only one question remains for small Norwegian Christian newspapers like Magazinet that reprinted the cartoons: What would Jesus do?
*** Remi Kanazi is the primary writer for the political website www.PoeticInjustice.net. He lives in New York City as a Palestinian American freelance writer and can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Protesters killed as global furore over cartoons escalates
6 Feb 06
Global protests over cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed have escalated, with two demonstrators killed in Afghanistan and Lebanon and warning shots fired outside a US consulate in Indonesia.
After a weekend that saw Denmark's embassies torched in Lebanon and Syria, fury over the images continued to spread on Monday with protests held across Afghanistan as well as in Indian-held Kashmir, Indonesia, Lebanon, Iran and Thailand.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy called for calm as the Arab world seethes over the cartoons which first appeared in a Danish daily and have been reprinted by several publications in Europe, Australia and Malaysia.
"Lets us calm things down. We have had enough hate and intolerance," he said on French radio. "There is not a religion in the world that condones killing, or the burning of flags."
One Afghan protester was shot and killed when police opened fire after demonstrators threw stones at them in a second day of demonstrations by more than 1,000 people in eastern Laghman province. Four others were injured.
In the capital Kabul about 300 people marched on Denmark's embassy where they torched a Danish flag and threw stones at the embassy, shouting "Death to Denmark, death to Norway, death to America, death to Bush."
Around 1,000 protestors also gathered in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and burnt the flags of France, Denmark and Norway. Hundreds protested in Kandahar, while more than 5,000 marched in Parwan province near Kabul.
In Lebanon, one person died and almost 50 people were wounded during rioting in the capital Beirut which saw the Danish consulate set ablaze, police said Monday.
One of the demonstrators involved in torching the mission was found dead in the staircase of the building, which was attacked by crowds of protestors on Sunday amid fury over the cartoons which are seen as blasphemous by Muslims.
In Indonesia's second city of Surabaya, police fired warning shots outside the US consulate to disperse 200 protesters from the hardline Front of the Defenders of Islam who earlier smashed windows at the Danish consulate.
Some 30 armed police took away two of the group who tried to remove the US consulate's plaque, triggering fury from the mob which shoved police. They retaliated by firing a volley of about 20 shots into the air to disperse them.
In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Danish embassy, which was closed, calling for an apology from the Danish government over the offending images.
Demonstrators left a coffin draped with a white sheet scattered with miniature red-and-white Danish flags, and a sign reading "Press freedom does not mean you may insult our Prophet Mohammed!"
Hundreds of Iranian demonstrators pelted the Austrian embassy in Tehran on Monday with stones, firecrackers and eggs, smashing several windows.
The 300-strong crowd, who were mainly members of the hardline Basij militia, also burned the flags of several European nations and demanded that the embassies of countries where the media have printed the cartoons be shut down.
Austria is the current holder of the rotating European presidency.
In Turkey, a massive manhunt was under way after a Roman Catholic priest was shot dead at his church by a gunman shouting "God is great," a common rallying cry for Islamic militants.
Authorities said police were investigating claims that the incident was connected to the caricatures.
Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, banned from Britain for his radical views and now living in Lebanon, called for capital punishment for cartoonists who dare depict the Prophet Mohammed.
Witnesses in Indian-administered Kashmir said much of the territory had ground to halt due to a general strike called to protest the cartoons. Groups of protestors took to the streets of Srinagar, the summer capital.
In Thailand, some 200 people rallied peacefully outside the Danish embassy and demanded an apology for the cartoons, which included an image of Mohammed with a bomb-shaped turban.
A junior editor of the Sarawak Tribune, a local newspaper in Malaysia resigned for publishing the cartoons in Saturday's edition.
In Australia, which was drawn into the debate after a weekend newspaper printed one of the images, there were warnings that reproducing the cartoons would "only create more bin Ladens".
"Which is more important, to preserve the freedom of speech or to antagonise one-fifth of humanity," asked Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ameer Alito.
Denmark on Monday issued a list of 14 Muslim countries which travellers should avoid -- Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller has said he is "horrified" at the way the violence and attacks have spread.
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Roman Catholic priest shot dead in Turkey
6 Feb 06
ANKARA - A Roman Catholic priest was shot dead Sunday in the courtyard of a church in Turkey, raising fears the murder could be linked to the Muslim uproar over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in Europe.
Italian priest Andrea Santoro, 59, was shot twice in the entrance of the Santa Maria Catholic Church in the northern city of Trabzon and the Vatican's ambassador to Turkey said the gunman shouted "God is great" as he fired his pistol.
"We don't have much to go on to make a proper interpretation of what happened. However, the only element which a collaborator of Father Santoro's mentioned to me is that the person who killed him shouted 'Allahu Akhbar'," Monsignor Antonio Lucibello was quoted as saying by Italy's ANSA news agency.
The acclamation, used in prayer, is also employed as a rallying cry by Islamic militants.
"There are claims that the incident may be related to the cartoons," Trabzon Governor Huseyin Yavuzdemir told Anatolia news agency. "This will become clear when the suspect is captured."
The Turkish government "ferociously" condemned the murder and promised to find the perpetrator, described by witnesses as a male in his late teens who ran away after the shooting.
A person who was inside the 19th century church told the police the assailant fired three shots as the priest opened the gate before evening prayers, Anatolia reported.
Two bullets hit the victim and a preliminary examination established that he died of a wound in his chest, it said.
The Vatican embassy in Ankara said Santoro was originally from Piverno, a small town near Rome.
Yavuzdemir said the police had information the priest had been threatened by locals in the past over alleged efforts to convert Muslims, but there was no indication the church was involved in missionary work.
"The security forces are investigating the people who have threatened and criticized him," he said, adding that Santoro had not asked for protection from the police.
Missionary activities are generally met with suspicion in Turkey, but attacks on religious personalities are virtually unheard of.
The Santa Maria Church in Trabzon, a port city on the Black Sea coast, was built in the second half of the 19th century on the orders of an Ottoman sultan to serve foreign visitors.
"We ferociously condemn this murder committed in a religious sanctuary and against a man of religion," Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, who is the government's spokesman, told Anatolia.
"The government is making all possible efforts to shed light on this incident and find out who perpetrated it and why," he said.
Police stepped up security measures at main crossroads in Trabzon and at the entrances and exits of the city, Anatolia reported.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the torching of Danish and Norwegian missions in Syria and Lebanon and warned that violence over the Prophet Mohammed cartoons would further undermine efforts to bring different cultures closer.
Erdogan maintained his criticism of the drawings but stressed that "torching and destruction cannot be a means of correcting mistakes", Anatolia reported.
"The solution should be at the negotiating table, in diplomacy," he said.
"One cannot look for a solution at the barrel of a gun. This is the wish and objective of those who want a clash of civilizations."
Turkey, a strictly secular state with a predominantly Muslim population, sees itself as a bridge between East and West and is seeking to join the European Union.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul convened an emergency meeting with senior diplomats late Sunday to discuss what initiatives Turkey can undertake to help bring an end to the cartoon crisis, officials said.
In a statement condemning the priest's murder, the foreign ministry insisted that Turkey remained an example of peaceful co-habitation between Islam and other religions.
"We believe this brutal murder is an isolated incident," it said. "We hope it will not be repeated and will not harm the climate of tolerance in our country."
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No 10 criticises 'unacceptable' cartoon protesters
Staff and agencies
Monday February 6, 2006
The behaviour of some Muslim demonstrators in London over the last few days was "completely unacceptable", Downing Street said in a statement today.
No 10 said the police would have the government's full support in any actions they wished to take as a result of the demonstrations outside the Danish embassy over the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.
The shadow home secretary, David Davis, and the shadow attorney general, Dominic Grieve, called at the weekend for police to make arrests. But Tony Blair's spokesman stressed it was for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether arrests or prosecutions were justified.
The statement was released this morning after Mr Blair spoke by phone to his Danish counterpart.
"We understand the offence caused by the cartoons depicting the prophet and of course regret that this has happened. Such things help no one," Mr Blair's spokesman said. "It is always sensible for freedom of expression to be exercised with respect for religious belief. But nothing can justify the violence aimed at European embassies or at the country of Denmark.
"The attacks on the citizens of Denmark and the people of other European countries are completely unacceptable as is the behaviour of some of the demonstrators in London over the last few days."
Mr Blair's spokesman, reading from the prepared statement, went on: "We also strongly welcome the statements of Muslim leaders here who are themselves tackling the extremists who abuse their community's good name."
The European commission president, José Manuel Barroso, is holding talks with EU governments in a bid to win "a return to peaceful debate" about the cartoons. A spokesman, Johannes Leitenberger, said Mr Barroso had consulted the Austrian EU presidency this morning and was now in contact with other member states.
He denied there was any suggestion "at the moment" of reducing or halting EU aid to the countries where there was rioting over the weekend, in which national and EU buildings were targeted.
Earlier, the exiled radical cleric, Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, called for the people behind the Danish cartoons that have caused outrage and offence around the Muslim world "to be tried and executed".
The Syrian-born preacher, who left Britain last August and has since been banned from returning, warned that countries that refused to put people on trial for insulting Muhammad must "face the consequences".
"The insult has been established now by everybody, Muslim and non-Muslim, and everybody condemns the cartoonist and condemns the cartoon," Mr Bakri told the BBC's Today programme. "However, in Islam, God said, and the messenger Muhammad said, whoever insults a prophet, he must be punished and executed. This man should be put on trial and, if it is proven, to be executed."
The cleric added that Muslims in Britain were not allowed to kill people who insulted Islam because it was against the law of the country.
Mr Bakri, the former head of the radical group al-Mujahiroun, which disbanded in 2004, left Britain last year as the government signalled its intent to detain a number of radical preachers following the July 7 bombings. Mr Bakri, who had spent 20 years in Britain, flew to Lebanon, originally saying he wanted to visit his mother. He has since been banned from returning by the home secretary, Charles Clarke.
Al-Ghuraba, an offshoot of al-Mujahiroun, organised the angry protest outside the Danish embassy in London on Friday during which demonstrators carried placards calling for people who insult Islam to be killed.
The Metropolitan police were under continuing pressure today to arrest those behind Friday's protest.
"It is very worrying, in the sense that the demonstrators on the streets over the weekend were doing things and saying things that are completely unacceptable and intolerable," the Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Hain, told the BBC. "The police need to bear down on them very heavily and chase down those who have committed offences and prosecute them where they can get the evidence, because there is freedom of speech on the one hand - that is sacrosanct.
"But on the other hand, incitement to terror, incitement to suicide bombing - all of those are clear infringements of the law. And where there is evidence to back that up, then prosecutions will obviously follow and the police are investigating that now."
Scotland Yard received more than 100 complaints after Friday's protest. Specialist police officers who attended the demonstration were understood to have taken film and photographic evidence, but no protesters were arrested. A Metropolitan police spokeswoman said any arrests would be made "at the appropriate time".
The police's decision not to make immediate arrests received some support today.
"I remember similar concerns around the way BNP [British National party] events were being policed in London - people saying the police shouldn't have allowed it to happen, they should have intervened at an earlier stage," Lord Harris, a board member of the Metropolitan police authority, said.
"The prime approach that the police take on all of these things is, is there an immediate danger to public safety? And it is much more important to deal with that and to make sure that people in the immediate environment are physically safe and then to assess whether other offences have been committed.
"That, I think, seems to have been the approach in this case, but we will need to look at it in some detail," he told the BBC.
Friday's demonstration was condemned by a range of Islamic organisations, from the moderate Muslim Council of Britain to the more radical Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which Tony Blair is seeking to outlaw because of claims it backs terrorism. Hizb-ut-Tahrir organised a less incendiary protest in London on Saturday, which passed off without incident.
Comment: Let's not forget that if the cartoons had been about the Jews and the Holocaust, the government would be arresting the cartoonists and publishers and they would be roundly condemned globally.
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February 6, 2006
In Copenhagen last October, as demonstrations provoked by the Danish satirical cartoons about Islam were starting, a reporter from the newspaper that published them told me how intensely the editorial staff had debated whether to go ahead, how uncomfortable many of them had been about the whole issue and, at the same time, how surprised they had been by the strong reaction from Muslims and the Arab embassies. At the time, however, the tension seemed likely to remain within Danish borders.
To Danish Muslims denouncing this as an instance of racism - a provocation capitalised upon by the ever expanding far right in the country - my advice was to avoid reacting emotionally, to try to explain quietly why these cartoons were offensive and neither to demonstrate nor to risk activating mass movements that could prove impossible to master. At the time, a resolution seemed to be at hand.
One might ask, then, why it is that three months later, some find it in their interests to pour fuel on the fire of a controversy, with tragic and potentially uncontrollable consequences? A few Danish Muslims visited Middle Eastern countries and ramped up the resentment: governments in the region, only too happy to prove their attachment to Islam - to bolster their Islamic legitimacy in the eyes of the public - took advantage of this piece of good fortune and presented themselves as champions of a great cause. On the other side, the controversy was just what some politicians, intellectuals and journalists needed to paint themselves as champions of the equally great struggle for freedom of expression and as resistance fighters against religious obscurantism in the name of western values.
We are facing an incredible simplification, a gross polarisation: apparently a clash of civilisations, a confrontation between principles, with defenders, in one corner, of inalienable freedom of speech and, in the other, of the inviolable sacred sphere. Presented in such terms, the debate has unfortunately become a battle of wills, and the question becomes: who will win? Muslims, wanting apologies, threaten to attack European interests, even to attack people; western governments, intellectuals and journalists refuse to bend under threats, and certain media outlets have added to the controversy by republishing the cartoons. Most people around the world, observing these excesses, are perplexed: what sort of madness is this, they ask?
It is critical we find a way out of this infernal circle and demand from those stoking this fire that they stop their polemics at once and create a space for serious, open, indepth debate and peaceful dialogue. This is not the predicted clash of civilisations. This affair does not symbolise the confrontation between the principles of Enlightenment and those of religion. Absolutely not. What is at stake at the heart of this sad story is whether or not the duelling sides have the capacity to be free, rational (whether believers or atheists) and, at the same time, reasonable.
The fracture is not between the west and Islam but between those who, in both worlds, are able to assert who they are and what they stand for with calm - in the name of faith or reason, or both - and those driven by exclusive certainties, blind passions, reductive perceptions of the other and a liking for hasty conclusions. The latter character traits are shared equally by some intellectuals, religious scholars, journalists and ordinary people on both sides. Facing the dangerous consequences these attitudes entail, it is urgent we launch a general call for wisdom.
In Islam, representations of all prophets are strictly forbidden. It is both a matter of the fundamental respect due to them and a principle of faith requiring that, in order to avoid any idolatrous temptations, God and the prophets never be represented. Hence, to represent a prophet is a grave transgression. If, moreover, one adds the clumsy confusions, insults and denigration that Muslims perceived in the Danish cartoons, one can understand the nature of the shock expressed by large segments of Muslim communities around the world (and not only by practising Muslims or the radicals). To these people, the cartoons were too much: it was good and important for them to express their indignation and to be heard.
At the same time, it was necessary for Muslims to bear in mind that, for the past three centuries, western societies - unlike Muslim-majority countries - have grown accustomed to critical, ironical - even derisive - treatment of religious symbols, among them the pope, Jesus Christ and even God. Even though Muslims do not share such an attitude, it is imperative they learn to keep an intellectual distance when faced with such provocations and not to let themselves be driven by zeal and fervour, which can only lead to undesirable ends.
In the case of these cartoons - as clumsy as they are idiotic and malicious - it would have been, and it would remain, preferable if Muslims expressed their values and grievances to the public at large without clamour, better if they paused until such a time as calm was possible. Instead, what is welling up today within some Muslim communities is as unproductive as it is insane: the obsessive demands for apologies, boycotting of European products and threats of violent reprisals are excesses that must be rejected and condemned.
However, it is just as excessive and irresponsible to invoke the "right to freedom of expression" - the right to say anything, in any way, against anybody. Freedom of expression is not absolute. Countries have laws that define the framework for exercising this right and which, for instance, condemn racist language. There are also specific rules pertaining to the cultures, traditions and collective psychologies in the respective societies that regulate the relationship between individuals and the diversity of cultures and religions.
Racial or religious insults are not addressed in the same way in the various western societies: within a generally similar legal framework, each nation has its own history and sensitivities; wisdom requires acknowledging and respecting this reality. The reality is also that the Muslim presence within western societies has changed their collective sensitivity. Instead of being obsessed with laws and rights - approaching a tyrannical right to say anything - would it not be more prudent to call upon citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression responsibly and to take into account the diverse sensitivities that compose our pluralistic contemporary societies?
This is not a matter of additional laws restraining the scope of free speech; it is simply one of calling upon everybody's conscience to exercise that right with an eye on the rights of others. It is more about nurturing a sense of civic responsibility than about imposing legislation: Muslim citizens are not asking for more censorship but for more respect. One cannot impose mutual respect by means of legislation; rather one teaches it in the name of a free, responsible and reasonable common citizenship.
We are at a crossroads. The time has come for women and men who reject this dangerous division of people into two worlds to start building bridges based on common values. They must assert the inalienable right to freedom of expression and, at the same time, demand measured exercise of it. We need to promote an open, self-critical approach, to repudiate exclusive truths and narrow-minded, binary visions of the world.
We are in dire need of mutual trust. The crises provoked by these cartoons shows us how, out of "seemingly nothing", two universes of reference can become deaf to each other and be seduced by defining themselves against each other - with the worst possible consequences. Disasters threaten that extremists on both sides would not fail to use for their own agendas. If people who cherish freedom, who know the importance of mutual respect and are aware of the imperative necessity to establish a constructive and critical debate, if these people are not ready to speak out, to be more committed and visible, then we can expect sad, painful tomorrows. The choice is ours.
· Tariq Ramadan is visiting fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford University and senior research fellow at the Lokahi Foundation, in London
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B.C. cleans up after windstorm
Last Updated Sun, 05 Feb 2006 12:17:24 EST
Crews were still clearing debris and repairing hydro lines a day after a windstorm described as the worst to hit southwestern British Columbia in more than 30 years.
B.C. Hydro said about 5,000 homes and businesses remained without power Sunday morning along the coast, just south of Vancouver.
The storm battered the region with gusts hitting 110 km/hr. High winds combined with a high tide to send water over a sea wall and into the streets and backyards of Delta and Tsawwassen.
Lorriane Clenehan woke Saturday to find the surf pounding at the door of her Boundary Bay home.
"The waves were coming about 30 or 40 feet high over the seawall, halfway down my yard, which is like 200 feet deep, and then going over the hedge and into the farmer's field next door," she said.
About 200 people were told to leave their homes and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson declared a state of emergency. At the height of the storm, about 50 residents actually left their homes.
"[The storm surge] absolutely slammed against everything that was in sight," Jackson said. "And, of course, the water just roared through everything. It was a very powerful storm."
By Sunday morning, the wind had died down and Jackson described the high tide as "manageable," with the help of fire crews and their pumps.
Vancouver Island was also hit hard and several ferry runs were cancelled.
Last Tuesday, another windstorm battered the island, knocking out power to about 50,000 homes and businesses.
Saturday's storm was even worse in Washington State. At its height, nearly 200,000 homes and businesses were without power. It would be late Sunday before all the power is restored, officials in the state said.
South of Kingston, Wash., the tides and winds were strong enough to knock one house off its foundation.
Amtrak train service between Vancouver and Seattle was to be suspended for the weekend while crews assess damage to tracks from flooding. There was also a mudslide over the tracks north of Seattle.
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Thousands without power in central Ontario
Last Updated Sun, 05 Feb 2006 23:03:52 EST
Tens of thousands of homes in central Ontario were without power on Sunday night after a storm a day earlier knocked out services to an estimated 100,000 people.
The provincial utility said electricity had been restored to about half the customers by late evening.
A Hydro One spokesperson warned that service in some areas might not be restored until Monday.
Some people had been without power since 6 p.m. EST Saturday, amid temperatures that dropped to about –4 C in many areas.
The province's electricity distribution utility, Hydro One, said its teams were racing to restore power.
"We've got our restoration process in full gear," Hydro One official Al Manchee said.
"We're pulling out all the stops."
Hydro One blamed the outages on high winds and wet snow on Saturday that knocked down trees and felled power lines in western, southern and central areas of the province.
Owen Sound, Parry Sound, Penetanguishene and London were among the communities that reported disruptions.
Hydro One officials said strong winds were continuing to hinder their efforts to restore power in some communities on the Bruce Peninsula and around Georgian Bay.
It wasn't the only area in the country to take a pounding from Mother Nature on the weekend.
More than 50,000 people in southwestern B.C. lost power on Saturday after a windstorm knocked down lines and sent sea water pouring into homes.
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Minor earthquake felt in southwestern Montana
By The Associated Press Sunday, February 05, 2006
HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- The U.S. Geological Survey reported a magnitude 4.6 earthquake Saturday evening, which was felt by residents around southwest Montana, as well as in Idaho and Wyoming.
The quake, at 8:25 p.m. MDT, was centered about 35 miles east of Lima and 40 miles west of West Yellowstone.
It was felt by residents in Lima, Virginia City, West Yellowstone, as far away as Helena as well as in Ashton and St. Anthony in Idaho and Jackson and Wilson in Wyoming, according to reports submitted to the USGS Web site Saturday night.
The National Weather Service said no damage was immediately reported.
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Moderate Earthquake At North Sumatra
February 06, 2006 19:00 PM
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 (Bernama) -- An earthquake not amounting to a tsunami threat occurred off the coast of north Sumatra this afternoon, according to the Malaysian Meteorological Services Department.
The moderate earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 on the Richter scale took place at around 3.04pm at coordinates 2.2 North 96.1 East.
The epicentre of the quake was 195km from Nias and 574km southwest of Penang, the department said in a statement here.
Meanwhile, the department said that the moderate and occasionally heavy rain in several places in Sandakan, the west coast and Kudat in Sabah would continue until early tonight.
Such conditions could cause flash floods and landslides at low-lying areas, hillslopes and river banks, it said.
It also reported that intermittent and occasionally moderate rain was expected in Tawau, Kudat, West Coast and Sandakan from Wednesday to Saturday.
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3,5 Earthquake Recorded In Tbilisi
February 6, 2006, 2:56 pm
Tbilisi, February 06 (Prime-News) – An earthquake of 3,5 points by Richter scale was recorded in Tbilisi at 08:10 a.m. on Monday.
Zurab Javakhishvili, head of the National Seismologic Defense Service told the Prime-News that the epicenter of an earthquake, which was 5 points by Richter scale, was recorded in Western Georgia on Racha-Imereti border.
According to Javakhishvili, tremors could repeat.
It is reported that the earthquake delivered no losses.
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Earthquake, aftershocks rumble through Tokyo area
February 6, 2006
FROM COMBINED DISPATCHES
A strong earthquake of magnitude 5.9 shook northeastern Japan Friday, followed by at least three strong aftershocks.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. The main quake struck at 1:37 p.m. It was centered about 20 miles below the seabed, off the coast about 80 miles northeast of Tokyo, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.
It was followed by two aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 within three minutes of each other, the Japanese Meteorological Agency said. A magnitude 5.3 aftershock followed at 3:10 p.m.
The temblors came the same day that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced that it will use the equivalent of $81.6 million from the supplementary budget for fiscal 2005 mainly to help rebuild condominiums that were built on false earthquake-resistance data and are vulnerable to major temblors.
The total includes $27.7 million to be allocated to the Tokyo metropolitan government and $16.8 million to the Kanagawa prefectural government. In Tokyo and Kanagawa prefecture, 10 defective condos are to be demolished and rebuilt.
The ministry will also spend $21.9 million to finance work by local authorities to check quake-resistance capabilities of condominiums in 21 prefectures in response to growing concern among condo owners about their apartments' anti-quake capacity, the officials said.
The ministry will give $8.4 million to the Urban Renaissance Agency, a state-run property developer, to help finance its inspections of buildings' quake-resistance capabilities.
The land ministry will also provide $10 million to the Japan Building Disaster Prevention Association, a ministry-linked organization formed by architects' groups and construction business bodies, to help it conduct a quake-resistance survey of 500 condominiums to be picked at random from across the country.
The association will complete the survey by March 31, 2007, after picking the condos from among those built within the past five years.
The government has moved to support condo owners since the revelations last November of a number of quake-susceptible condos and budget hotels built on fabricated quake-resistance data.
The land ministry said the quake-resistance data of 97 buildings in 18 prefectures was fabricated by disqualified architect Hidetsugu Aneha.
On Friday, the Diet passed the extra budget for fiscal 2005 that ends this March 31
Less than four months ago, an earthquake in Pakistani Kashmir and adjoining North West Frontier Province killed more than 87,000 people.
And this weekend, a strong magnitude 6.0 earthquake shook India's Andaman Islands early on Saturday, the USGS said. There were no immediate reports of damage on the islands, which were hit badly by the December 2004 tsunami, which was triggered by a massive earthquake off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island.
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Earthquake jolts Cotobato and Zamboanga City
6 February 2006
A shallow-focused earthquake yesterday jolted Cotabato City, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Sesimology (Phivolcs) said.
In a phone interview, Phivolcs science research (SR) assistant Julius Galdiano said that Phivolcs recorded the temblor at 8:40 am yesterday.
The temblor, which recorded a magnitude of 2.6, was believed to have originated from the Cotabato Trench, with its epicenter recorded at 52 kilometers South, 45 degrees West of Cotabato City.
Intensity II was reportedly felt in Cotabato City while intensity I was felt in Zamboanga City, said Galdiano.
The Cotabato City temblor is reportedly the second temblor recorded for this month. The first earthquake for this month was recorded in Baguio City on Feb. 3.
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Powell's Former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson Calls Pre-War Intelligence a 'Hoax on the American People'
6 Feb 06
Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson makes the startling claim that much of Powell's landmark speech to the United Nations laying out the Bush Administration's case for the Iraq war was false.
"I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council," says Wilkerson, who helped prepare the address.
"I recall vividly the Secretary of State walking into my office," Wilkerson tells NOW. "He said: 'I wonder what will happen if we put half a million troops on the ground in Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and don't find a single weapon of mass destruction?'" In fact, no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.
An interview with Lawrence Wilkerson
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Mr. Wilkerson, thanks for doing this.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Thank you for having me.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: We now know that there was deep skepticism within the intelligence community about some of these pre-war claims than what's being expressed publicly at the time. Is it reasonable to think that the administration knew about this skepticism?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Six months ago I would have said "no." Since that time, however, there have been some revelations. Principally about Sheik Al Libbi's testimony and how it was obtained. And how there was a DIA, for example, Defense Intelligence Agency, dissent on that testimony, apparently I'm hearing now, around the time the testimony was actually given.
And even more to the point than Al Libbi, Curve Ball. And the revelations that have come out about Curve Ball. And in particular the German dissent from the integrity of CurveBall's testimony.
I can tell you that having been intimately involved in the preparation of Secretary Powell for his five February 2003 presentation at the UN Security Council, neither of those dissents in any fashion or form were registered with me or the Secretary by the DCI, George Tenent, by the DDCI, John McLaughlin, or by any of their many analysts who were in the room with us for those five, six days and nights at the Central Intelligence Agency.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: And they didn't give you any inkling that--
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Not a bit.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: -- there was this debate about some of this information?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Not a bit. In fact it was presented in the firmest language possible that the mobile biological labs and the sketches we had drawn of them for the Secretary's presentation were based on the iron clad evidence of multiple sources.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Maybe they at the most senior level, like you, just didn't know?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I have to believe that. Otherwise I have to believe some rather nefarious things about some fairly highly placed people in the intelligence community and perhaps elsewhere.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: What do you think really did happen with regards to this-- disconnect between what we now know about these profound questions about some of these key sources and the fact that somebody had these questions in real time?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Well, I've been a consumer, a user of intelligence at the tactical, operational and strategic level for close to 35, 36 years. And I've seen many errors in intelligence. And I know it's not a perfectible business. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
However, I am astonished at the failures of our intelligence community over the-- last decade in particular. We failed to predict the demise of the Soviet Union. We failed to predict the Indian nuclear test in 1998.
We bombed a Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999. We failed to detect the five year planning cycle of al Qaeda, the operatives who conducted 9/11. And we failed in terms of predicting Iraq's WMDs.
So we have a significant problem in this nation with our intelligence community. And, by the way, I don't think it's fixed in any way. Yet. This administration has really done nothing to fix it. And-- so I-- I'm familiar with intelligence failure.
However, this particular one seems to me to warrant a lot more investigation than it has to this point warranted. And I take in the recognition the Robb Silberman commission, the 9/11 commission and a host of other lesser-- investigations that have attempted to look at this. And the phase two investigation now going on in the Congress, which I think as long as the Republicans control the Congress will not be a-- an investigation that reveals very much. But I think we really need to take a hard look at how not just the intelligence failures I've enumerated occurred, but how this particular one did. Because it could turn out to be one of the worst in our history.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Your experience with evaluating intelligence-- you understand from your experience evaluating intelligence, this is tough stuff.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Very.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: It often is inconclusive. And you have to use powers of critical thinking to figure out what is the right thing to do.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: And you have to listen to dissent. You must. You can't squelch dissent. You can't put dissent in an obscure footnote on page 495 of an intelligence annex. You must listen to dissent.
You must-- I-- I today regret the fact that I didn't listen better to the Intelligence Bureau and the State Department. The-- the Intelligence Bureau and the State Department at this time we were preparing Secretary Powell dissented on one key issue. And they essentially said there was no active nuclear program in Iraq.
And they were right. And the rest of the intelligence community was wrong. But the rest of the intelligence community did not take that dissent, massage it, compete it in the world of ideas in the intelligence community. It simply footnoted it and relegated it to that footnote. To that qualification, if you will.
INR was right. The rest of the intelligence community was wrong. Now INR was wrong about bio and chem. They said the same thing the rest of the intelligence community said. That he did have active bio and chem programs. But they were right about the most important weapons of mass destruction Saddam could have had, the one that backed up, for example, Dr. Rice and the Vice President and the others who talked about mushroom clouds. And I did not listen to INR. And the Secretary of State did not listen to INR. And as it turns out we should have.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: In the case if pre-war intelligence are we just talking about not listening to dissenting views?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I think that's a big part of it, but it's larger than that. A good friend of mine who was probably one of the most respected INR intelligence personnel that we had at the State Department and who indeed has gone on to join John Negroponte as one of his principle subordinates, once told me that what was missing was competition. And that struck me, because that's what we believe in in America.
You know business, education. Competition is an essential ingredient of what we do. There is no competition in the intelligence community. In other words leaders don't listen to various parts of the intelligence community debate one another.
Instead it's a conformist community. And the DCI and-- at that time presided over the conformity. In other words, if-- you had a dissenting view, that dissenting view might make it into a footnote. It might make it into a qualifying paragraph. But the intelligence community, speaking through the-- director of Central Intelligence, was going to have a conformist view.
And that view was going to be collected from the community, but it was going to be a conformist view. And there's-- it's absurd to think that the director for Central Intelligence, or now the National Director of Intelligence, is not influenced by the politics around-- him or her.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Well, that's a key question here. Is it just a-- an issue of there's a dominant view in the intelligence community and the competing views aren't heard? Or are you concerned that the view of the intelligence community that, for instance, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, is in a sense being imposed from the top?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I think there's a certain amount of politicization of intelligence. I-- don't think you can escape it because of human nature. Particularly if you have a DCI like George Tenent who is frequently in the presence of the President.
Then he is going to absorb during those meetings what the President wants. What the President is looking for. What the angle of attack the President has is. And he's going to search for intelligence that will support that angle of attack.
That's just the nature of human beings. So it's absurd for someone to say that the intelligence is not politicized at all. Of course it is. It has to be. It has to conform to the leader's wishes-- to a certain extent. And what you need in this competitive community I've described is people who will stand up to power and tell truth to power. And say, "No, that's not right," to the Vice President of the United States, for example.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: We now know from published reports that Vice President Cheney and his right hand man, Lewis Libby, went over to the headquarters of the CIA about 10 times in late 2002 and early 2003. We don't know what was said. What do you think was going on?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Well, if the Vice President was exercising his right as one of the leaders of this country to go to one of its intelligence agencies and to-- check on how they're doing and to make sure that they're doing their jobs properly and so forth, I find it difficult to believe that took 10 times. And as I've said, it's absurd to think that intelligence isn't somehow politicized at times.
It's equally absurd for the Vice President to assert that his trips out to the agency were not bringing undue influence on the agency. That's preposterous. Anytime a leader of his stature visits a single agency that many times, he is, by simply the virtue of his position, bringing undue influence on that agency.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: So you can imagine a scenario where the Vice President's over there kind of CIA?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I-- could imagine that scenario easily.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: I've never met the Vice President. He's the kind of guy who could lean on somebody?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Absolutely. And be just as quiet and taciturn about it as-- he-- as he leaned on 'em. As he leaned on the Congress recently-- in the-- torture issue.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: We've been talking grand policy. The then director of the CIA, George Tenent, Vice President Cheney's deputy Libby, told you that the intelligence that was the basis of going to war was rock solid. Given what you now know, how does that make you feel?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: It makes me feel terrible. I've said in other places that it was-- constitutes the lowest point in my professional life. My participation in that presentation at the UN constitutes the lowest point in my professional life.
I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community and the United Nations Security Council. How do you think that makes me feel? Thirty-one years in the United States Army and I more or less end my career with that kind of a blot on my record? That's not a very comforting thing.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: A hoax? That's quite a word.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Well, let's face it, it was. It was not a hoax that the Secretary in any way was complicit in. In fact he did his best-- I watched him work. Two AM in the morning on the DCI and the Deputy DCI, John McLaughlin.
And to try and hone the presentation down to what was, in the DCI's own words, a slam dunk. Firm. Iron clad. We threw many things out. We threw the script that Scooter Libby had given the-- Secretary of State. Forty-eight page script on WMD. We threw that out the first day.
And we turned to the National Intelligence estimate as part of the recommendation of George Tenent and my agreement with. But even that turned out to be, in its substantive parts-- that is stockpiles of chemicals, biologicals and production capability that was hot and so forth, and an active nuclear program. The three most essential parts of that presentation turned out to be absolutely false.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: You've said that Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld managed to hijack the intelligence process. You've called it a cabal.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Decision--
DAVID BRANCACCIO: And--
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: -- making process.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: The decision making process.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Right.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Well, let me get it right. You've said that Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld somehow managed to hijack the intelligence decision making process. You called it a cabal.
And said that it was done in a way that makes you think it was more akin to something you'd see in a dictatorship rather than a democracy. Now those are strong words. Why a cabal?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Well, the two decisions that I had the most profound insights into and which I have spoken to are the decision to depart from the Geneva Conventions and to depart from international law with regard to treatment of detainees by the Armed Forces in particular. But by the entire US establishment, now including the CIA and contractors in general.
And the post-invasion Iraq-- planning, which was as inept and incompetent as any planning I've witnessed in some 30-plus years in public service. Those two decisions were clearly-- made in the statutory process, the legal process, in one way and made underneath that process in another way. And that's what I've labeled secret and cabal-like.
Now let me hasten to add that I've taught the national security decision making process in the nation's war colleges for six years. I'm a student of that process. I will teach it again-- starting in January. This is no aberration. It's been done before. It was done with regard to the Bay of Pigs with John F. Kennedy. It was done with regard to Watergate with Richard Nixon. It was done with regard to Iran-Contra with Ronald Reagan.
It was done to a certain and rather lasting effect-- with regard to Vietnam by Lyndon Johnson and others. So you-- it's not anything new. And it's been done many times before. That is to say, decisions have been made elsewhere than in the Oval Office in other presidencies.
Normally nothing happens as long as the decision is effective, it's well executed and it produces success. It's when the decision produces failure that historians, politicians, Congressmen, American citizens want to know why. And in this case I think both decisions did produce failures and so they're going to want to know why. And-- we're seeing some of the investigations and-- looks into those decisions now to decide why they were failures.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: There's an argument that swashbuckling executives, Defense Secretary and the Vice President making executive decisions without involving the bureaucracy is very efficient, gets the--
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Oh yes.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: --job done.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Oh yes.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: But you're saying that--
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: This is the argument that's marshaled by presidents from Truman on. Although I will say that Truman and Eisenhower were probably the two least apartment to do this sort of thing.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Well think about it. Involving, just for starters, the entire National Security Council on, for instance, evaluating the intelligence that-- would help inform a decision to go to war in Iraq. And that's going to slow things down. They're going to be dissenting opinions. You're never going to get that war done.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: You mean kind of like what our founding fathers-- intended when they put the Constitution together? Checks and balances, dissent would be listened to and so forth and so on.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: You're thinking that--
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Ferdinand Eberstadt was a bright man who participated in these debates that were roiling — I mean truly roiling around Truman and then around Eisenhower as we try to implement the National Security Council and tried to implement the other parameters of the act, including the formation of the Central Intelligence Agency. And other putting together the National Defense, national military establishment and then turning it later in an amendment to the act into the Defense Department. Many debates occurred that are just like the debates we're having today.
And Ferdinand Eberstadt, remember now that the 1947 Act in part at least was passed to prohibit ever having another Franklin Roosevelt. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was also passed to prohibit having 12/16 years of one man. But I think any critic of Roosevelt would've said even people who, as my father used to say-- "Roosevelt ah terrible man. Terrible man." They might've hated his policies but they never would've accused him of being anything other than brilliant.
Ferdinand Eberstadt now, remember that history. Ferdinand Eberstadt writes to Walter Lippmann and he write-- he writes I believe in 1953 if I recall Walter Lippmann being-- that columnist who didn't mind commenting on anything. And Ferdinand says to Lippmann, "I understand that this may be a more effective process, that a few men making a decision maybe a more effective process, a secretive process may be very efficient." But suppose we get a dumb man?
Suppose we get people who can't make good decisions as FDR was pretty good at. I'm worried and I would rather have the discussion and debate in the process we've designed than I would a dictate from a dumb strongman. And that dumb strongman is his felicitous phrase.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: You're worried that we not have come to that but that we're heading down this path of--
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Oh I think it's come to that. I think we've had some decisions at this administration that were more or less dictates. We've had a decision that the Constitution as read by Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo and a few other very selected administration lawyers doesn't pertain the way it has pertained for 200-plus years. A very ahistorical reading of the Constitution.
And these people marshal such stellar lights as-- Alexander Hamilton. They haven't even read Federalist Six. I'm sure they haven't. Where Alexander Hamilton lays down his markers about the dangers of a dictate-issuing chief executive. This is not the way America was intended to be run by its founders and it is not the interpretation of the Constitution that any of the founders as far as I read the Federalist Papers and other discussions about their views would have subscribed to. This is an interpretation of the constitution that is outlandish and as I said, clearly ahistorical.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: And if the system were shown to work that might be one thing. But-- in the case of recent US for--
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Dictatorships work on occasion. You're right. Dictatorships do work but I-- I'm like Ferdinand Eberstadt. I'd prefer to see the squabble of democracy to the efficiency of dictators.
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An Open Letter to Bubba
By Charlie Anderson
Iraq Veterans Against the War
You say that I am not supporting the troops when I say that they should come home. But I am, because I know that there was no threat to our nation from Saddam Hussein, I know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and I know that we were not welcomed in Iraq as liberators. I know that the Iraq war was not worth fighting. I know, because I fought there. You say I’m confused. But what do you know about Iraq? You’ve never been there.
I’ve seen you around. I’ve seen you driving your gas guzzling SUV with the “Support Our Troops” ribbon on the back. I’ve seen you wearing your pro-war/pro-bush t-shirts as you walk right past me in my Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirt as if I don’t exist. And I’ve seen you at anti-war rallies and meetings where I often speak, as you wave your American flag and call me a traitor. In this country we have freedom of speech. But you owe me and every other veteran of this war the respect of listening to our experience.
Your magnet says “support our troops,” but what have you done for us? Not a penny of the proceeds go to us, instead they go to sweatshops in China. You say that I am not supporting the troops when I say that they should come home. But I am, because I know that there was no threat to our nation from Saddam Hussein, I know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and I know that we were not welcomed in Iraq as liberators. I know that the Iraq war was not worth fighting. I know, because I fought there. You say I’m confused. But what do you know about Iraq? You’ve never been there.
You have the audacity to claim that by not supporting the president, I don’t support the troops. Yet, the president chose to send over 160,000 of us to Iraq unprepared and without a defined mission. We had no body armor, no vehicle armor, and poor supplies of ammunition. Our families spent thousands of dollars that they did not have to supply us, while President Bush did nothing. In fact he didn’t even scold his Offensive Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, when he told our forward deployed troops, “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had.” Moreover, the mission was originally about weapons of mass destruction, but there were none. Then it was making Iraq a democracy, but yet the “insurgency” worsens. Now the president has decided that in order to honor those who died for nothing, more must die for nothing.
At present, 2,241 of my brothers and sisters in arms have died. In some way, they may be the lucky ones. Over sixteen thousand others have been wounded in this war, thousands more than planned. The term wounded sounds sterile, bland, and inoffensive. But, in reality, many of them have been so horribly damaged that medical science had to create a new word to describe their wounds: polytrauma. These people would have died in earlier wars, but because of the gallant efforts of brave doctors and medics, they get to live. They get to live with teams of ten or more doctors just trying to get their broken, mangled bodies through another day, as their families look on in horror. They get to live in a physical and emotional hell, not able to recover and not able to voice the pain they feel or the psychological demons they face. All the while suffering with a Veterans Administration under funded by nearly three billion dollars and unable to care for them in the manner they deserve.
So which one of us supports the troops? You, who has never set foot in Iraq and wants to leave my brothers and sisters there until they complete whatever the undefined mission of the week is, or me, the veteran of this war who has seen the carnage of battle, the rampant indifference of my countrymen, and just wants to bring my brothers and sisters home alive and care for them when they get here?
Keep coming to the rallies. Maybe I’ll get through your thick skull eventually. But remember I waved my flag in Baghdad, so you can sit down, shut up, and listen to me.
Author’s note: Charlie Anderson served in Iraq with the Marine Corps’ Second Tank Battalion. He is the Southeast Regional Coordinator of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He can be contacted at email@example.com
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Little Testimony Ties Saddam to Crackdown
By HAMZA HENDAWI
Feb 4, 2006 (AP)
Nearly Four Months Into His Trial, Little Links Saddam to Bloody 1982 Crackdown
After four months and 26 witnesses, prosecutors in the Saddam Hussein trial have offered little credible testimony directly linking the former leader to the killings and torture for which he's charged.
But legal experts familiar with the case say the best may be yet to come documents allegedly tying Saddam to the crackdown that followed an assassination attempt against him 23 years ago in Dujail, a mainly Shiite town north of Baghdad.
Without compelling evidence, a guilty verdict against Saddam may not provide closure for victims of Saddam's atrocities. But the experts caution that the documents which include hand written notes, interrogation orders and death sentences handed down by the Revolutionary Court may not alone be enough to win a conviction.
What is needed, they said, is to establish a clear chain of command that would show Saddam would have known what happened to the more than 140 Shiites killed and the others tortured after the 1982 attempt on the former ruler's life in Dujail, north of Baghdad.
The evidence to date mostly testimony from people who were arrested and allegedly tortured has pointed to a brutal crackdown but has not showed that Saddam played a direct role. Saddam and the seven co-defendants, charged in the Dujail killings, could face death by hanging if convicted.
"The testimonies we have heard so far are moving but they are not enough and that's causing us concern," said Nehal Bhuta, a Human Rights Watch lawyer following the Saddam trial.
"What is needed is evidence linking each of the eight defendants to what happened or evidence that Saddam could not have not known," he said by telephone from New York.
But the chief prosecutor maintains that he has the evidence to win a conviction that will be accepted not only by those Iraqis who are eager to see Saddam hang but also international legal institutions that have been skeptical of an Iraqi trial from the start.
Prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi told The Associated Press that the case's 800-page dossier includes documents showing Saddam ordered interrogations, executions and in some cases clemency.
"We have many such documents that we plan to present later in the trial," he said.
However, defense lawyers, as well as some foreign legal organizations monitoring the trial, say about a third of the documents are illegible after so many years.
Trial testimony so far has linked Saddam's half brother and co-defendant, Barzan Ibrahim, to the torture of Dujail residents in the Baghdad headquarters of Mukhabarat, or intelligence agency, that he led at the time. Some witnesses testified that Ibrahim had personally tortured them.
"Barzan is practically the top defendant in this case," said al-Mousawi.
Saddam's former deputy, Taha Yassin Ramadan, also has been implicated by witnesses in the reprisal destruction of Dujail fruit orchards shortly after the attempt on Saddam's life.
Marieka Wierda, a legal expert with the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice, said Saddam's defense could argue that his security forces were not acting on his orders when they detained and tortured hundreds.
"But the prosecution could counter that by showing that torture was a widespread practice at the time and Saddam could not have possibly not known about it," Wierda said.
Both she and Bhuta from Human Rights Watch believe the best case scenario for the prosecution would be to produce a senior member of Saddam's regime to testify against the former ruler and others in exchange for immunity.
Saadoun Shaker, who was interior minister at the time, may be one possibility. His name was mentioned by a Saddam defense lawyer as a prosecution witness. Al-Mousawi, the prosecutor, was believed to have been referring to Shaker when he told the AP last week that a senior official of the former regime would be among the witnesses.
Al-Mousawi refused to identify the witness and played down his significance.
In theory, Shaker's job should have given him an insight into internal security matters and authority over the police force. However, testimony given in court suggested that police were not involved in the Dujail crackdown, with only Mukhabarat intelligence agents, Baath militiamen and elite army units loyal to the regime.
The absence so far of a "smoking gun" incriminating Saddam has not escaped his defense lawyers.
"It's all hearsay," said attorney Khamis al-Obeidi. "All witnesses were children in 1982, some as young as 6. Their testimonies are clearly rehearsed and don't incriminate President Saddam," he told the AP.
For example, a video filmed the day of the assassination attempt and played during the trial's first session Oct. 19 only showed the former president addressing a cheering crowd at Dujail and ordering aides to detain and interrogate four suspects.
In a disposition videotaped Oct. 23, Wadah Ismael al-Sheik, who led the interrogations department of the Mukhabarat at the time, said he had not heard anything directly from Saddam about the Dujail incident.
However, he also said that Saddam decorated Mukhabarat officers, including himself, who worked on the case. The witness died of cancer shortly after the recording.
But witnesses maintained that Saddam, as head of state, bore the ultimate responsibility.
"When a lot of people are jailed and tortured, who takes that decision?" a witness told the court Dec. 6 after recounting her own torture and imprisonment. "Was he (Saddam) not the ruler while thousands were jailed and tortured?" asked another witness the following day.
Saddam, who has often launched into his own defense, varied his tactics in response to allegations by the witnesses that he was ultimately responsible for what happened.
"If Saddam was found out to have laid a hand on a single Iraqi, then everything he (a witness) says is correct," Saddam told the court Dec. 5. "Was it not the right of Saddam Hussein to have his agencies pursue those who fired at him?"
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We'd better learn to empathize with the enemy
By Miles Tompkin
4 Feb 06
This past Christmas, my son gave me a CD entitled The Fog Of War, a documentary about former U.S. Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara. In this must-see documentary, the 85-year-old gives us 11 lessons of war, none more important then the first: empathize with the enemy.
In a Feb. 2 opinion piece, Andrew Smith worries about history repeating itself in Iran and equates the present tensions in the area to Hitler and Nazism. It is a comparison that has very little to do with the present crisis, and any effort to suggest that it has is to deny the real problems and will lead us to a potential catastrophe that will make Iraq look like a Sunday school picnic.
Is Mr. Smith so phobic as to suggest that Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Syria were so smitten with Hitler that they blindly jumped aboard the Nazi train? He suggests that the "war on terror" is something left over from unfinished business in the Second World War. I would suggest that Mr. Smith examine the history of the era more closely, with an unbiased eye towards the force of Zionism and the role of the imperial Western influences in the area.
Iran made slow, creeping moves towards democracy until the 1950s when the populist Mohammed Mossadegh came to power. His move to nationalize the Anglo Iranian Oil Company led to a sequence of events regarding sanctions, military exercises and threats, and covert activity that has in no small part created the tensions of today's Iran.
Iran was a British/Russian dessert, not Nazi. If the devil himself could have removed the British from Iran, he would have gained popular support. In fact, once Eisenhower gained power, the CIA /British were happy to have Fazlollah Zahedi and Bakhtiari, two Nazi collaborators, fill the void. Sad, but very true.
Enter the Shah of Iran, a man whom Amnesty International described in 1976 as having the "worst human rights record on the planet," and to whom the CIA taught torture techniques that "were beyond belief." This was fascism of the first degree, promoted for the self-interest of the British and later the United States; but all backed by the powers in Israel, who see a moderate, Arab-friendly Iran as a threat to their expansionist ideal. This is the history that is repeating itself in Iran, only this time it is the Iranian Oil Stock Exchange that is the threat.
Nuclear issues are but a hot button to promote fear in order to convince the United States and the West that Iranian-inspired extremism is a major threat to the West. Hitler is just a sure-fire button. The Iranians had nothing to do with the Holocaust, and the Palestinians less. The Christians of the world certainly carry more blame for that vile atrocity than any poor soul in the Middle East and Persia.
At present, the anti-Iranian position is being led by forces in Israel (that have nothing to do with the theology of Judaism) through the neo-con regime in Washington. They can ill afford any friendliness between Iraq and Iran, and expect to fulfil the wishes of their fanatical arm by twisting the history of the era to fit with the goals of today.
When will we ever learn? Terrorism is not some leftover lesson learned from Adolf Hitler. Terrorism is a product of fanaticism and we embraced it in Afghanistan for short-term gain in the late 1970s. We embrace it whenever it fulfils our strategic needs, come hell or high water.
We had better take seriously this tension in Iraq, open some dialogue with Iran, and hold our noses and open some with Hamas, because a popular based movement has arrived there as well. They are no more extreme than the Sunnis we are now breaking bread with, or the mujahadin that we funded and supported in Afghanistan.
If we don't want history to repeat itself, we had better empathize with the enemy. We have done no justice towards them in this century, and we ignore that fact at our peril. Many Israelis realize this, and their press is far more open to discuss it; but for some reason, we never hear their voices. Let us never forget the Holocaust and the vile regime that killed so many innocent people, but we cannot contort the history of Hitler in Europe to promote our version of history in Palestine and Iran.
They have their own self-interests, to be sure, and have blood on their hands as well. Yet the radical forces in Iran would never have come to pass had we justly dealt with the popular movement of the day. Mossadegh looks Gandhi-like by today's standards. The outcome and the consequences are grave, and subscribing to the thesis put forth by Andrew Smith is to put our heads in the sand.
Miles Tompkins lives in Antigonish.
Copyright The Halifax Herald.
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Judge rules CIA contractor can argue duty
WWAY 3 TV
RALEIGH, N.C. A federal judge says David Passaro will be allowed to present evidence at trial that he was following orders when he interrogated an Afghan detainee who later died.
Passaro is the first U-S civilian charged under the Patriot Act after the terrorist attacks of September eleventh, 2001. He's accused of assaulting detainee Abdul Wali during the interrogation at a remote U-S military camp in Afghanistan in June 2003.
He's accused of beating Wali with a metal flashlight and kicking him. Wali was interrogated for two days and died on the third day.
The Lillington native is a former Army special operations soldier who contracted with the C-I-A. He's pleaded not guilty and his defense team says he was acting as his commanders expected.
A three-page order issued Tuesday by U-S District Court Judge Terrence Boyle stopped short of authorizing Passaro to argue a broader "public authority defense" until jurors hear evidence supporting his claim.
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Iraqi minister blows whistle on bribes
February 07, 2006
THERE is honour among thieves, but what about between people stealing from the UN oil-for-food program? Can they trust each other?
The answer, it seems, is no.
The Australian has learned that Australia's wheat exporter, AWB, was dobbed in to UN investigators by the Iraqi minister who ordered the company to pay bribes.
Iraq's former trade minister, Mohammed Medhi Saleh -- who would later become known as the Six of Hearts in America's card pack of Most Wanted Iraqis -- became a whistleblower in November 2004.
He told UN investigators that AWB had for years been making payments to a Jordanian trucking company known as Alia, which kicked the money straight back to Saddam's regime.
The news that Saleh is the rat has stunned AWB executives, some of whom have admitted they were frightened of him when he was in power in Iraq.
One executive, Michael Long, met Saleh in Baghdad in 2002. Mr Long told the Cole inquiry last week that he "vividly" remembered the meeting because it was an "extremely imposing and somewhat intimidating environment".
"The minister was dressed in full military regalia," he said. "He was armed. I counted some 17 posters of Saddam Hussein staring down at me." Saleh ordered Mr Long to add a 10 per cent "after-sales service fee" to all future wheat deals.
Saleh was captured by US forces on April 23, 2003, apparently while trying to flee to Jordan.
He was taken into custody -- perhaps to the notorious Abu Ghraib, although the US won't confirm it -- and has since been singing like a bird.
Saleh gave damning evidence to the Iraq Survey Group, a team of more than 1000 people, including dozens of Australians, who went to Baghdad after the war to discover Saddam's secrets.
He also demolished AWB's claim that it did not know it was funding Saddam's regime. Saleh was interrogated by a panel of UN investigators on November 18, 2004. According to a record of the interview, he told the UN that all Iraq's suppliers under the oil-for-food program had "paid kickbacks to the government of Iraq".
He said "AWB made its payments through Alia" and that Alia, a Jordanian trucking company, was a front for Saddam's regime.
Shortly after the interview, UN investigators turned their attention to AWB. They visited the company's headquarters in Melbourne in February and March last year.
By then, the company was already in damage control and had decided to give the UN only "limited co-operation".
The UN interviewed managing director Andrew Lindberg on February 28, Mr Long on March 1 and former chairman Trevor Flugge on March 2. All denied knowledge of the kickbacks.
They were undone by Saleh and, it seems, by Alia's managing director, Othman al-Absi, who also co-operated with the UN.
Mr Lindberg told the UN he had visited Iraq in the "shadow war" in 2002. He met Saleh in Baghdad, where he received a "mandatory lecture" on the evils of the Howard Government.
Nevertheless, Mr Lindberg thought relations were "very good".
Indeed, he believed the trade minister "harboured a special place" for AWB executives.
Apparently, he was wrong.
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Chavez aims to repel US 'invasion'
5 Feb 06
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez extended his verbal war with Washington, likening US President George Bush to Hitler while saying he was considering buying enough rifles to arm one million Venezuelans ready to repel a possible US invasion.
Speaking on Saturday at a mass rally commemorating a failed 1992 coup he led as a lieutenant colonel, Chavez warned that Washington was considering invading Venezuela and the country needed more weapons to defend itself.
"We still need a higher number of rifles," he said. "The 100,000 Russian rifles are not enough. Venezuela needs to have one million well-equipped and well-armed men and women."
Relations between Washington and Caracas have been tense in recent months, in part due to US criticism of Venezuela's purchases of military equipment, including 100,000 Russian-made Kalashnikov assault rifles.
Chavez told the crowd of cheering supporters he had started making contacts with other countries that would be able to supply the additional rifles.
During Saturday's marathon speech, the Venezuelan leader also responded to comments made on Thursday by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who compared Chavez to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and warned about populist leadership in Bolivia and Cuba, both close allies of Venezuela.
"The imperialist, mass-murdering, fascist attitude of the president of the US doesn't have limits," Chavez said. "I think Hitler could be a nursery baby next to George W. Bush."
Earlier on Saturday, tens of thousands of Chavez supporters wearing replicas of the president's trademark beret marched through the Venezuelan capital, shouting: "Yankee Imperialism, No! Revolution, Yes!"
"Chavistas," as the president's backers are known, accused the US of conspiring to overthrow Chavez, saying US spies have attempted to stir discontent within the military in hopes of ousting him.
Chavez has repeatedly accused the US of plotting to overthrow him, or even invade Venezuela. Washington has strongly denied any such plans.
© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2006, All Rights Reserved.
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Robertson again calls for Chavez's assassination: "Not now, but one day"
3 Feb 06
On Hannity & Colmes, Pat Robertson once again called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, "Not now, but one day, one day."
During the February 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Christian Coalition founder and 700 Club host Pat Robertson reiterated his call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
When co-host Alan Colmes asked Robertson, "[I]f he [Chavez] were assassinated, the world would be a safer place?" Robertson answered, "I think South America would." When Colmes later pressed Robertson, asking, "Do you want him [Chavez] taken out?" Robertson retorted, "Not now, but one day, one day, one day." Earlier, Colmes had asked, "Should Chavez be assassinated?" Robertson explained that "one day," Chavez will "be aiming nuclear weapons; and what's coming across the Gulf [of Mexico] isn't going to be [Hurricane] Katrina, it's going to be his nukes." Co-host Sean Hannity agreed that "the world would be better off without him where he [Chavez] is, because he is a danger to the United States."
Earlier that day, on the February 2 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, Robertson addressed his original August 22, 2005, appeal, in which he had said: "We have the ability to take him [Chavez] out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability." During the interview, co-host Robin Roberts asked Robertson to explain his comments on Chavez, his condemnation of the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania -- who voted a school board out of office after it imposed an intelligent design curriculum -- and his statements regarding former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, in which he suggested that Sharon's stroke was the result of Sharon's policy, which he claimed was "dividing God's land." Robertson replied:
I'm very passionate about certain things, and unfortunately, my passion maybe runs ahead of me. And in the context of what I'm saying, it isn't quite as strong as it sounds, but I am passionate about certain things and it's not politically correct at all.
From the February 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
COLMES: Should Chavez be assassinated?
ROBERTSON: Well, one day he's going to be aiming nuclear weapons; and what's coming across the Gulf isn't going to be Katrina, it's going to be his nukes.
COLMES: Would you feel better going back to the original comment that if he were assassinated, the world would be a safer place?
ROBERTSON: I think South America would. He is -- he is -- got hit squads. He's a very dangerous man.
COLMES: So, you're not taking back the comment. You believe assassination of Hugo Chavez would be in the best interests of the world.
ROBERTSON: Well, rather than going to war. One day, we're going to have to go to war, I'm afraid, if he continues his policy, you know. But, I don't know. I wrote him a letter. I apologized to him.
COLMES: But, wait a minute. If you say you apologized to him, what you just said seems to contravene that, because you just now said --
ROBERTSON: I know. I know.
COLMES: -- you think it'd be better if he be assassinated.
ROBERTSON: Alan, the whole thing we've got to deal with is that, one day, if he continues his course of trying to mobilize Marxist powers in South America, it's going to be a clear --
COLMES: He's very popular with his country.
ROBERTSON: Well, yes and no. But he does --
HANNITY: He's building up weapons against the United States, isn't he?
COLMES: He's extremely popular. Eighty-percent of his country --
ROBERTSON: He's also calling for the destruction of George Bush. He calls him a war criminal.
COLMES: Do you want him taken out?
ROBERTSON: Not now, but one day, one day, one day. My premise is, and I think as -- you know, until that comment came out, everybody thought Chavez [added link] was a fellow having to do with table grapes in California. Now --
HANNITY: I think one thing we could say is, the world would be better off without him where he is, because he is a danger to the United States.
ROBERTSON: Extreme danger.
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Venezuela coup linked to Bush team
Ed Vulliamy in New York
Sunday April 21, 2002
The failed coup in Venezuela was closely tied to senior officials in the US government, The Observer has established. They have long histories in the 'dirty wars' of the 1980s, and links to death squads working in Central America at that time.
Washington's involvement in the turbulent events that briefly removed left-wing leader Hugo Chavez from power last weekend resurrects fears about US ambitions in the hemisphere.
It also also deepens doubts about policy in the region being made by appointees to the Bush administration, all of whom owe their careers to serving in the dirty wars under President Reagan.
One of them, Elliot Abrams, who gave a nod to the attempted Venezuelan coup, has a conviction for misleading Congress over the infamous Iran-Contra affair.
The Bush administration has tried to distance itself from the coup. It immediately endorsed the new government under businessman Pedro Carmona. But the coup was sent dramatically into reverse after 48 hours.
Now officials at the Organisation of American States and other diplomatic sources, talking to The Observer, assert that the US administration was not only aware the coup was about to take place, but had sanctioned it, presuming it to be destined for success.
The visits by Venezuelans plotting a coup, including Carmona himself, began, say sources, 'several months ago', and continued until weeks before the putsch last weekend. The visitors were received at the White House by the man President George Bush tasked to be his key policy-maker for Latin America, Otto Reich.
Reich is a right-wing Cuban-American who, under Reagan, ran the Office for Public Diplomacy. It reported in theory to the State Department, but Reich was shown by congressional investigations to report directly to Reagan's National Security Aide, Colonel Oliver North, in the White House.
North was convicted and shamed for his role in Iran-Contra, whereby arms bought by busting US sanctions on Iran were sold to the Contra guerrillas and death squads, in revolt against the Marxist government in Nicaragua.
Reich also has close ties to Venezuela, having been made ambassador to Caracas in 1986. His appointment was contested both by Democrats in Washington and political leaders in the Latin American country. The objections were overridden as Venezuela sought access to the US oil market.
Reich is said by OAS sources to have had 'a number of meetings with Carmona and other leaders of the coup' over several months. The coup was discussed in some detail, right down to its timing and chances of success, which were deemed to be excellent.
On the day Carmona claimed power, Reich summoned ambassadors from Latin America and the Caribbean to his office. He said the removal of Chavez was not a rupture of democra tic rule, as he had resigned and was 'responsible for his fate'. He said the US would support the Carmona government.
But the crucial figure around the coup was Abrams, who operates in the White House as senior director of the National Security Council for 'democracy, human rights and international opera tions'. He was a leading theoretician of the school known as 'Hemispherism', which put a priority on combating Marxism in the Americas.
It led to the coup in Chile in 1973, and the sponsorship of regimes and death squads that followed it in Argentina, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and elsewhere. During the Contras' rampage in Nicaragua, he worked directly to North.
Congressional investigations found Abrams had harvested illegal funding for the rebellion. Convicted for withholding information from the inquiry, he was pardoned by George Bush senior.
A third member of the Latin American triangle in US policy-making is John Negroponte, now ambassador to the United Nations. He was Reagan's ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985 when a US-trained death squad, Battalion 3-16, tortured and murdered scores of activists. A diplomatic source said Negroponte had been 'informed that there might be some movement in Venezuela on Chavez' at the beginning of the year.
More than 100 people died in events before and after the coup. In Caracas on Friday a military judge confined five high-ranking officers to indefinite house arrest pending formal charges of rebellion.
Chavez's chief ideologue - Guillermo Garcia Ponce, director of the Revolutionary Political Command - said dissident generals, local media and anti-Chavez groups in the US had plotted the president's removal.
'The most reactionary sectors in the United States were also implicated in the conspiracy,' he said.
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Let Rumsfeld bark, says Chavez
04 February 2006
The president of Venezuela has hit back at the US defence secretary for comparing him to Adolf Hitler, calling him a "dog of the empire" who is right to be concerned by Latin America's tilt to the left which is threatening the "weakening" US "empire".
Hugo Chavez made his remarks in Havana on Friday where he received a UN prize handed over by Fidel Castro, the president of Cuba.
His visit to Havana comes amid an intensifying war of words between Washington and Latin America's leaders.
Donald Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Adolf Hitler on Thursday and criticised Cuba and the populist leadership in Bolivia.
Chavez played down Rumsfeld's comparison.
"Let the dogs of the empire bark, that's their job," he said. "Ours is to battle to achieve the true liberation of our people."
Chavez said the US government was weakening already, and echoed Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong's idea that capitalist countries were a "paper tiger" to be challenged.
"They are right to be worried, because they know what's happening here," Chavez said in a speech lasting nearly three hours after accepting his prize.
"They will forever try to preserve the US empire by all means, while we will do everything possible to shred it."
Rumsfeld expressed the same fears about Bolivia's new
reformist president, Evo Morales, whose election he described as "worrisome".
Addressing himself to Morales and the Bolivian people, Chavez said: "We will always be with you."
He praised all of Latin America's leftist leaders, from Brazil to Argentina to Chile, where a socialist, Michelle Bachelet, was recently elected president.
About 200,000 Cubans crowded Revolution Plaza for Friday night's ceremony granting Chavez Unesco's 2005 Jose Marti International Prize, which was presented by President Castro.
Thousands of young Venezuelans, Bolivians and other Latin Americans studying medicine free of charge in Cuba attended the ceremony, screaming their support for both leaders.
Castro also rejected Rumsfeld's comments, defending populism in his hour-long speech before Chavez took to the podium.
The Hitler comparison "is new and unexpected from those who,
like Hitler, dreamed of a 1,000-year empire", Castro said.
"Populist leaders are those who concern themselves with
their people, with health, with education," he said. "More dangerous are those who possess dozens of thousands of nuclear weapons."
Earlier in the day, Jose Vicente Rangel, the Venezuelan vice-president also hit back, calling Bush "the North American Hitler" and comparing his administration to the Third Reich.
The Marti prize was created by Unesco in 1994 on the initiative of Cuba to recognise an individual or institution contributing to the unity and integration of countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
It is awarded by Unesco on the recommendation of a seven-member international jury that includes Nadine Gordimer, the South African winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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Cuba’s war against terrorism
By Leonard Weinglass
Le Monde diplomatique
5 Feb 06
The UN General Assembly has condemned the United States embargo on Cuba 14 times. The US also supports various illicit acts committed against Cuba in contravention of international law. This has been made explicit by the trial of five Cubans in Florida.
FIVE Cuban men - Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino, René Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez - were arrested in Miami, Florida, on 12 September 1998 and charged with 26 counts of violating the federal laws of the United States. “The five” had come to the US from Havana to infiltrate armed organisations drawn from the Cuban exile community, which were tolerated and even protected by successive US governments, and to find out about any terrorist activity aimed at Cuba.
The island had suffered human losses (some 2,000 dead) and significant property destruction caused by the organisations. Cuban protests to Washington and the United Nations were ignored. The violence escalated after the collapse of the Soviet bloc in the early 1990s, as Cuba struggled to establish a tourism industry. The Miami mercenaries responded with a violent campaign to dissuade foreigners from visiting. A bomb was found in the airport terminal in Havana in 1997 and there were explosions in tourist buses and hotels. Boats from Miami sailed to Cuba and shelled hotels and tourist facilities.
The five were arrested without a struggle. Their mission was not to obtain US military secrets, but to monitor the activities of the organisations and report back to Havana. They were working against terrorism. Yet they were immediately put into solitary confinement cells reserved as punishment for the most dangerous prisoners and kept there for 17 months until the start of their trial. When that ended seven months later (and three months after 9/11), they were sentenced to maximum prison terms: Hernandez received a double life sentence; Guerrero and Labañino got life; and René and Fernando Gonzalez 15 and 19 years respectively.
Twenty-four of the charges were relatively minor technical offences, such as the use of false names and the failure to register as foreign agents. None of the charges involved violence in the US, the use of weapons or damage to property.
There is a revealing contrast between the US government’s handling of this case and that of Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles. They were self-confessed terrorists, part of the Miami network that planted a bomb on a DC-8 Cubana de Aviacion airliner on 6 October 1976; it exploded in mid-air, killing 73 people. When Bosch applied for legal residence in the US in 1990, an official investigation by the Department of Justice concluded: “He has been involved in terrorist attacks abroad and has advocated and been involved in bombings and sabotage.” Despite this, he was granted residence by President George Bush Sr.
Posada Carriles was arrested in Venezuela, accused of masterminding the 1976 bombing. He “escaped” from San Juan de los Morros prison in 1985, with the help of powerful friends (1). He publicly admitted, from El Salvador where he lived, that he was responsible for a series of bombings in Havana between July and September 1997 (including one in which an Italian tourist, Fabio Di Celmo, was killed and dozens wounded) (2). He was arrested in November 2000 and charged with endangering public safety by having substantial quantities of C-4 explosives in his possession, which he intended to use to kill President Fidel Castro (along with hundreds of others) at the 10th Iberian-American summit in Panama. In April 2004 a local court there sentenced him to eight years in prison.
Yet Posada Carriles received inexplicable hospitality from the US government (busy with its global war on terrorism) after a fraudulent pardon by the outgoing president of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, in August 2004. After a short stay in Honduras he was discreetly repatriated to the US in March 2005. This move was an open secret. He was reluctantly taken into custody after giving a televised press conference. He is now housed by the US authorities, not in a prison but in a special residence inside a detention facility. He does not face prosecution, only an administrative procedure for not having appropriate residential documents, which could lead to his deportation to a country of his choice. The US has refused to extradite him to Venezuela, where he faces charges related to terrorism.
Meanwhile the five Cubans were separated into maximum security prisons, each several hundred miles apart, where they still remain. Two have been denied visits from their wives for the past seven years, in violation of US laws and international norms.
During their seven-month trial, some 70 witnesses testified, including two retired generals, one retired admiral and a presidential adviser who served in the White House, all called by the defence (3). The trial record ran to 119 volumes of transcript. There were 15 volumes of pre-trial testimony and argument. More than 800 exhibits were introduced into evidence, some 40 pages long. The 12 jurors, with the foreman openly expressing his dislike of Castro, returned verdicts of guilty on all 26 counts without asking any questions or requesting a rereading of any testimony, unusual in a trial of this length and complexity.
The crime need not occur
The two main charges against the five alleged something ordinarily used in politically charged cases: conspiracy. A conspiracy is an illegal agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime. The crime need not occur. Once such an agreement is established, the crime is complete. All the prosecution need do is to demonstrate through circumstantial evidence that there must have been an agreement. In a political case such as this, juries often infer agreement, absent any evidence of a crime, on the basis of the politics, minority status or national identity of the accused. This is precisely why and how the conspiracy charge was used here.
The first conspiracy charge alleged that three of the five had agreed to commit espionage. The government argued at the outset that it need not prove that espionage had occurred, merely that there was an agreement to commit it sometime in the future. Although the media soon referred to the five as spies, the legal fact and actual truth was that this was not a case of espionage, but of an alleged agreement to commit it. Relieved of the duty of proving actual espionage, the prosecutors set about convincing a Miami jury that these men living in their midst must have had such an agreement.
In his opening statement to the jury, the prosecutor conceded that the five did not have a single page of classified government information in their possession, even though the government had succeeded in obtaining over 20,000 pages of correspondence between them and Cuba. That correspondence was reviewed by one of the highest-ranking Pentagon military officers on intelligence, who acknowledged that he couldn’t recall seeing any national defence information. The law requires the presence of national defence information to prove the crime of espionage.
All the prosecution relied on was the fact that Antonio Guerrero had worked in a metal shop on the Boca Chica navy training base in southern Florida. The base was open to the public and even had a special viewing area set aside to allow people to take photographs of planes on the runways. While working there Guerrero had never applied for a security clearance, had no access to restricted areas and had never tried to enter any. Indeed, although the FBI had him under surveillance for two years before the arrests, there was no testimony from any agent suggesting a single act of wrongdoing on his part.
His role was to “discover and report in a timely manner the information or indications that denote the preparation of a military aggression against Cuba” on the basis of “what he could see” by observing “open public activities”. This included information visible to any member of the public: the comings and goings of aircraft. He also cut articles out of the paper reporting on military units stationed there.
Former high-ranking US military and security officials testified that Cuba presents no military threat to the US, that there is no useful military information to be obtained from Boca Chica and that Cuba’s interest in obtaining the kind of information presented at trial was “to find out whether indeed we are preparing to attack them” (4).
Information that is generally available to the public cannot form the basis of an espionage prosecution. General Clapper (see note 3) was asked: “Would you agree that open-source intelligence is not espionage?” He replied: “That is correct.” None the less, after hearing the prosecution’s highly improper argument, repeated three times, that the five Cubans were in this country “for the purpose of destroying the United States”, the jury, swayed more by passion than by the law or evidence, convicted. The second conspiracy charge had been added seven months after the first. It alleged that Hernandez conspired with other non-indicted Cuban officials to shoot down two aircraft flown by Cuban exiles from Miami as they entered Cuban airspace. They were intercepted by Cuban MiGs, killing all four aboard.
The prosecution conceded that it had no evidence regarding any alleged agreement between Gerardo and Cuban officials either to shoot down planes, or where and how they were to be shot down. In consequence, the legal requirement that an agreement be proven beyond a reasonable doubt was not satisfied. The government admitted in court papers that it faced an “insurmountable obstacle” in proving its case against Gerardo and proposed to modify its own charge, which the court of appeal rejected. None the less, the jury convicted him of that specious charge.
A new trial
The five appealed their convictions to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal, which sits outside Florida, in Atlanta, Georgia. On 9 August 2005, after a thorough review, a distinguished three-judge panel attached to the court released a 93-page analysis of the trial process and evidence, reversing the convictions and sentences on the grounds that the five did not receive a fair trial in Miami.
A new trial was ordered. Beyond finding that the original trial violated the fundamental rights of the accused, the court, for the first time in US jurisprudence, acknowledged evidence produced by the defence at trial revealing that terrorist actions emanating from Florida against Cuba had taken place, and even citing in a footnote the role of Posada Carilles, correctly referring to him as a terrorist.
The panel’s decision stunned the Bush administration: Miami, with its 650,000 Cuban exiles who had provided the margin of victory for Bush in the 2000 presidential election, had been officially found by a federal appellate court to be so irrationally hostile to the Cuban government and supportive of violence against it, as to be incapable of providing a fair forum for the trial of these five Cubans. The behaviour of the government prosecutors in making exaggerated and unfounded arguments to the jury who heard the case, exacerbated that prejudice, as did the news reporting before and during the trial.
Before the decision by the eleventh circuit panel, another panel, from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (the Human Rights Commission), concluded that the deprivation of liberty of the five was arbitrary and called on the US government to remedy the situation.
Bush’s former counsel, the US attorney general Albert Gonzalez, then took the unusual step of ordering the filing of an appeal to all 12 judges of the eleventh circuit, calling on them to review the 9 August decision, a process rarely successful, least of all when the three judges of the panel were in agreement in their long and scholarly opinion. To the surprise of the many lawyers following the case, the judges of the eleventh circuit agreed on 31 October to review the decision. That process is now ongoing.
The five were not prosecuted because they had violated American law, but because their work exposed those who did. By infiltrating the terror network that is allowed to exist in Florida, they demonstrated the hypocrisy of the US claim of opposition to terrorism.
© 1997-2006 Le Monde diplomatique.
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Posada’s presence epitomizes the double standard
By Saul landau
2-8 Feb 06
The logic of the terrorism war game led me to conclude (Progreso Weekly September 22, 2005) that Osama bin Laden had engaged an attention-starved, geriatric Cuban exile named Luis Posada Carriles to help him undermine the credibility of George W. Bush. Recent events surrounding the possible release of Posada affirm my assessment.
In 1976, already the Hemisphere’s leading terrorist, Posada with Orlando Bosch plotted the bombing of a Cuban airliner over Barbados. They both claimed that this act represented war against the Castro regime. Seventy-three civilian passengers and crew members died.
Police quickly nabbed Posada’s henchman, who then ratted on their bosses. Bosch and Posada went to jail and trial. Posada escaped when friends from Miami paid someone in Venezuela before the court had decided on his case. He then went to El Salvador and worked for U.S. Lt. Col. Oliver North in his effort to supply the Contras with material to use in a terrorist war against Nicaragua. The war time Presidents, Ronald Reagan and in 1989 George W. Bush (41), were using terrorist tactics against the Nicaraguan government. A man like Posada fit right in with their plans.
Over four decades, he masterminded – with CIA help – assassination plots against Fidel Castro in Cuba, Chile and Venezuela. In 1997, he developed a plan to sabotage the Cuban tourism industry by hiring agents to detonate bombs at hotels. In one of the explosions, an Italian tourist died.
Posada said he had no regrets. In 1998, when a New York Times reporter asked him if he felt badly about the death of the Italian, Posada responded: “I sleep like a baby.”
In 2000, Panamanian authorities caught Posada and three other would-be assassins with explosives in their rented car just before Fidel Castro was to speak at the University of Panama. A Panamanian court convicted him, but rich Miami cohorts “influenced” Panama’s president Mireya Moscoso. With $4 million in her overseas account, she pardoned him and his fellow plotters just before leaving office in 2004.
Terrorists seem to need friends with money who can buy corrupt officials.
Posada then availed himself of a friend’s yacht and showed up in Miami in March 2005. The supposedly highly tuned anti-terrorist net strung by Homeland Security evidently failed to ensnare him. He walked the streets of Miami until his high profile presence caught the attention of the mass media. Then, Bush Administration officials gently arrested him, on charges of illegal entry.
A judge ruled that the government could not extradite him to Venezuela, which asked for him to face trial anew in the 1976 airline bombing case. Posada remains a Venezuelan citizen.
Supposedly, Posada would be tortured if he returned, although Posada’s lawyers offered no evidence that Venezuela practiced torture. Indeed, the facts show the opposite. But the U.S. government did not object. So, what to do with Posada? The government still says it wants to deport him, but, having ruled out Venezuela and of course “Communist Cuba,” they have yet to find a country to take him.
This debacle should bring about roars of laughter from Osama bin Laden’s cave in the remote mountains of Afghanistan. The skinny fanatic can even use this in one of his periodic missiles to the world’s media to show that Bush’s bravado rhetoric masks a powder puff opponent who coddles terrorists. (Old Joe McCarthy accused the State Department of “coddling Communists.”)
Bush might retaliate by calling Osama more names and threatening to “really get ‘em this time,” especially if the NSA wiretaps more American phones and the United States remains mired in Iraq. Bush’s swagger has given Osama the legitimizing publicity he needs: “We’re gonna smoke ‘em out,” promised Bush.
“Promise ‘em anything,” smirks Karl Rove, “and screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”
Thanks to the Bush approach of elevating Osama to the super top enemy position, the lean meanzealot knows that when he releases his periodic audio and video tapes through Al Jazeera, he possesses the necessary prestige to gull the public into thinking that he actually runs a highly efficient terror organization from a mountain cave.
Picture Osama’s well-trained goats descending rocky trails to deliver coded messages in Arabic and Urdu to Al Qaeda’s number 2 man in Peshawar. Over four years, the United States has killed dozens of number 2 men and made it hard to identify the real number two. The enigmatic al Zarqawi, who shuttles between Falluja, Iraq and other places in the Middle East – does he have a private jet? – is kind of number one and a half.
Has the “George and Osama Show” converted a serious subject into a cruel media joke, one where lots of people die in the action? In this ongoing series, Posada has taken the role of doubt-caster. His soft treatment by the Bush Administration casts doubt on Bush’s seriousness as an anti-terrorist. Posada has implicitly dared Bush to deport or charge him for mass murder. Such a posture makes it difficult for Bush’s media handlers to claim consistency for the President in dealing with terrorists. Posada’s presence as an uncharged bomber and assassin epitomizes the double standard.
Until Posada showed up uninvited in Florida last March, Bush did not have to show his anti-terrorist credentials. Now, when his script writers fill presidential speeches with the “t” word to justify torture, kidnapping and illegal eavesdropping, the shadow of Posada walking the Miami streets looms in the picture. Bush keeps repeating: “I’m a war time president” to justify his extension of powers. But what has the war time president done about a major terrorist in our midst?
“Bring ‘em on,” Bush challenged the terrorists. Posada may have taken him literally and come to the United States in response. “Here I am,” he virtually announced less than a year ago. In fact, he suspected that Bush preferred to do the fighting abroad and even there to refer the tough jobs to the men and women in the U.S. military. They, after all, and not himself, Cheney or Rumsfeld, were far better qualified to die or get wounded.
Since the mass media accept without question this theater of the absurd scenario, the war against terrorism will endure as long as Bush or Osama – or whoever replaces them – decide to keep it going. Congress did not declare war because terrorism has no defined state boundary, no real leader or clear structure. But the Bushies have elaborated a scary rhetoric that they use to justify shredding the Magna Carta and subsequent documents, like the Bill of Rights.
Indeed, Bush and Osama set a standard for the rest of the world. In mid January, French President Chirac tried to meet that ideal by threatening that France would nuke its terrorist attacker. He didn’t indicate which country planned to attack France. Nor did the media speculate.
The media also ignored the implications of Bush’s denial of Venezuela’s extradition request for Posada. In doing so, he jeopardized several extradition treaties on which he supposedly counts heavily in his war on terrorism. Indeed, using the Posada case as precedent, other countries could follow the U.S. example and refuse U.S. extradition requests and declare that well known terrorists simply entered their country illegally.
The Miami media may soon report that Posada was seen limping along Miami’s streets. As immigration lawyer Jose Pertierra explains, “If an undocumented immigrant cannot be deported within a reasonable period, he must be set free.” But, Pertierra advises, terrorists “are exempt from this rule. This is why the government has carefully avoided using the word ‘terrorist’ in the Posada Carriles case.”
Clearly, Osama understands these legal wrinkles. Indeed, he may well feel more secure should he decide to visit neighboring Pakistan. Given the amount of strife caused by a recent U.S. bombing in that country deigned to kill Osama’s newest numbers two through six men, the lanky zealot might well convince Pakistani President Musharraf to refuse to extradite him and, as Pertierra suggests, have him get off with a slap on the wrist for “crossing the border illegally.” In that U.S. attack, several Pakistani children died.
Posada’s case makes the terror game more bizarre. Other Cuban exiles, who still vow to assassinate Castro as they wait in their proctologists’ offices, will hail the return of the ancient assassin. “Viva la muerte,” these codgers will shout as they shakily raise their rum glasses to toast their life long dream. Others will even take to the streets and shout threats from their walkers at those who demand that Bush send Posada to face trial in Venezuela for his mass murder.
Meanwhile, Osama and George will continue to play “terror,” the new game in which the world itself becomes the board and characters like Posada are simply pawns, or symbolic pieces, like those in the old Monopoly game.
Landau is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies
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Afghanistan fighting spreads to Pakistan
Feb 5 2006
MILITANTS attacked Afghan government offices and a police convoy, continuing a series of assaults that has left at least 41 people dead in the region over two days, government officials said.
About 250 Afghan forces fought more than 200 rebels in the area’s fiercest fighting in months. At least 19 people were killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan on Saturday.
Afghan officials said US forces joined the battle Friday and yesterday but a US military spokesman said he could only confirm involvement in the first day of fighting.
The violence spread across the border as a roadside bomb exploded near an army vehicle yesterday in Pakistan in a north-western tribal region near Afghanistan, killing three security personnel, an official said.
Nobody immediately claimed responsibility but security officials have blamed al-Qaida-linked Islamic militants for previous attacks in the area, where Pakistan has sent thousands of troops to flush out insurgents.
The bloodshed yesterday underscored the challenge facing thousands of British and Canadian troops in coming months as they gradually relieve American forces in southern Afghanistan, a hotbed of insurgency and the drug trade.
Fighting began on Friday with a mountain ambush of a police convoy that left 16 militants and six police dead and scores wounded, said Amir Mohammed Akhund, the province’s deputy governor.
American and British war planes bombed suspected Taliban militants fleeing the fighting around midnight on Friday, killing eight of them, said Khan Mohammed, a police chief in Helmand province.
Another group of militants fleeing the initial clash attacked a government office early yesterday, killing the government chief and wounding four police, Akhund said.
Later in the day, another group of militants attacked the main government office in a neighbouring district, setting off a two-hour gunbattle that left one policeman and three suspected Taliban dead, he said.
Militants used a remote-controlled bomb to attack a police convoy in Kandahar, the main city in southern Afghanistan and a former Taliban stronghold, said Sher Mohammed, a police officer.
A woman and a child who were walking in the area were killed, and three other passers-by were wounded, he said.
Also in Kandahar, a Taliban commander, Abdul Samad, was killed by border forces as he tried to enter illegally from neighbouring Pakistan, Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid said. Ten other militants fled back across the frontier.
Fighting last year left some 1,600 people dead, the highest death toll since 2001, as militants stepped up their campaign against the US-backed central government.
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US Senator Calls for Boycott of G8 Summit in Russia
5 Feb 06
A U.S. Senator John McCain has called upon world leaders to boycott the G8 summit in Russia in July, questioning Moscow’s commitment to democracy, AFP reported.
In a speech to the Munich international security conference, McCain said that President Vladimir Putin had rolled back reforms in Russia and did not share the democratic values of the U.S. and Europe.
“Under Mr Putin, Russia today is neither a democracy nor one of the world’s leading economies, and I seriously question whether the G8 leaders should attend the St. Petersburg summit,” McCain said.
The high-profile Republican senator for Arizona, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. presidency in 2000, said Russia could have helped the U.S. and Europe transform the world following the end of the Cold War.
“The Kremlin, however, shows no interest in such a relationship. Instead it continues to pursue foreign and domestic policies strongly at odds with our interests and values.
”Even after Iran rejected the EU-3 talks and removed nuclear seals, Moscow indicated that it would proceed with a one-billion-dollar deal to sell short-range missiles to Iran.“
With Russia’s powerful Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov looking on, McCain said Russia had punished ”democratic“ Ukraine and Georgia by disrupting energy supplies ”while providing cut-rate gas to the dictatorship in Minsk“.
”It (Russia) continues to prosecute a brutal war in Chechnya that has killed as many as 200,000, radicalizing the Muslim population, and it actively supports dictatorships in Central Asia.“
McCain said ”the broadcast media are Kremlin-controlled, as are parliament, provincial governors and the judiciary. All of these were free and independent when Mr Putin took office.“
The G8 summit will take place in Saint Petersburg on July 15-17.
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Germany, France split on NATO's proper role
MUNICH, Germany, Feb 4, 2006 (AFP)
MUNICH, Germany, Feb 4, 2006 (AFP) - Germany urged NATO Saturday to take on a more wide-ranging role in battling new global threats but France and the United States disagreed over the future of the transatlantic alliance.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation "should be the first place to discuss international conflicts," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the Munich Conference on Security Policy.
Merkel called for NATO to engage in "broader operations" and take on "a primary role in the world" in comments that reflected US ambitions for the 26-country defence group.
In her first few months in power, the German leader has worked to improve relations with the United States which were severely strained over her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder's firm opposition to the US-led war in Iraq.
"Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, failing states — these are the scourges of our times," German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung told the conference. "The old NATO as a purely defensive alliance is history," he added.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld thanked Merkel for her "thoughtful and important remarks on NATO" in his own conference speech devoted to Islamic militancy.
"The competences that exist within NATO can be used to advantage in other parts of the world," Rumsfeld said.
The US defence chief praised the alliance's deployment in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime and in giving humanitarian assistance to Pakistan after a massive earthquake last year.
But NATO's potential was being held back by insufficient defence spending in members of the alliance, Rumsfeld said.
The United States was spending 3.7 percent of its GDP on defence but other NATO members were spending far less, he said. "Unless we invest in defence and security, the reality is that our homelands can be at risk."
French Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie took a more sceptical view on NATO's role and stressed the importance of the European Union's growing security capability, reflecting widespread concerns in France that a stronger NATO would mean a weaker EU.
"Let's take care ... not to spill into areas where the competence of other organisations is more suitable. Let's not waste our financial means, which are vital for fighting crises and upgrading our equipment," Alliot-Marie said.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, however, supported "pragmatic" cooperation between NATO and the European Union and sought to calm French fears.
"NATO is not a global policeman," he said.
Among the new global threats that NATO could help combat, de Hoop Scheffer mentioned the protection of energy supply lines.
"For reasons that are obvious — including the potential of terrorists targeting our energy supplies — it makes sense to me that the Allies should discuss this issue," he said.
Supplies of Russian gas to Ukraine and Georgia have recently been disrupted.
Heads of state, government ministers, top defence officials and security experts gathered in a heavily-guarded five star hotel for the conference, entitled "Restoring the Transatlantic Partnership."
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Harper can still do a lot of damage
by Linda McQuaig
February 6, 2006
There was an almost audible sigh of relief in many parts of the country when Stephen Harper was denied a majority government. After all, how much damage can even an earnest right-wing ideologue do with only a slim minority?
Sadly, quite a bit.
First, Harper effectively has a majority for at least a year, since no party will be ready to face him in an election. Of course, he'll tread carefully during this period, since his eye is on winning a majority.
Still, Harper can do a lot of damage to Canada's relatively progressive social and political systems without entering into any high-profile battles in Parliament.
George W. Bush accomplished much of his agenda by appointing right-wing radicals who rolled back progressive regulations governing the environment, food and drug inspections and the legal system.
Harper could do the same. His government could, as business has been urging, adopt U.S. drug and biotechnology testing, dismantle plans to meet our Kyoto targets, and ease up on environmental regulations, particularly those that could stall development of Alberta's oil sands — Washington's key hope for reducing its Middle East oil dependency.
Harper could also press forward with ongoing talks aimed at integrating Canada more with the U.S., and could sign an energy-sharing deal ensuring Washington even greater access to our energy.
There is also a lot Harper could do to weaken medicare, without taking a direct shot at the Canada Health Act. He could allow private medicine to flourish. Indeed, his promise of a “wait-time guarantee” for health care will deliver patients into the arms of private health providers.
Until now, Canada has managed to resist some of the worst aspects of the right-wing tide of Thatcherism and Reaganism that swept Britain and the U.S. — despite vigorous efforts here by corporate-funded organizations to push us down the same path.
Harper has been in the thick of those organizations, serving as head of the anti-medicare National Citizens Coalition. Back in 1989, he urged the Reform Party to become “a modern Canadian version of the Thatcher-Reagan phenomenon.”
He doesn't talk like that now. Like other sophisticated right wingers, he's discovered that the most effective way to sell unbridled capitalism is to camouflage it.
At a conference in Vancouver last fall, medicare opponents openly discussed how to repackage their message to make it more palatable to Canadians. As The Star's Thomas Walkom reported, one privatization guru told the crowd they'd have more success selling private medicine if they pitched it, not as a way for the affluent to jump the queue, but as a way to “strengthen” medicare.
If Harper keeps his views wrapped in the garb of moderation, he'll have a good shot at winning a majority. And then our unique Canadian social system — preserved against great odds — will be in the hands of a man who's devoted much of his life to figuring out how to destroy it.
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An ungodly business at a Paris dinner
Wednesday February 6, 1856
What should you think of there being at this moment in France a set of people who, in our nineteenth century improving upon their predecessors of the great revolution, would put the existence of the Supreme Being to the vote?
Yet here is what passed but a very few days ago: Prince Napoleon, wishing to draw about him the notabilities of the free-thinking and republican coterie, gave a dinner to seven persons, among whom were Madame George Sand, Merimee and Proudhon, the famous inventor of the formula "All Property is a Theft".
During dinner a vast deal of discussion upon religious and philosophical doctrine took place, and a wonderful deal of atheistic nonsense was expounded, without, as you may guess, any conclusion being attained. At least one of the guests (neither of those whom I have named) proposed the opinions of the seven persons present should be take in a vote upon this plain question - "Is there or is there not a Divine Being?"
The impiety was actually committed; seven little rolls of paper were deposited in a hat after each guest had written down yes or no upon the inside. Six noes came out and the seventh was a piece of blank paper.
Many comments and jokes were made upon the undecided individual who had not ventured upon either an affirmation or negation; and at last Proudhon, who (like young Napoleon's intimates) has his perfect freedom of speech with his imperial friend, turned to the Prince, and said: "Monseigneur, this is your doing, and it is not fair."
The prince denied; objected that the secrecy of the vote was sacred; but ended by avowing that the unwritten bit of paper, expressive of neither no nor yes was in truth his. He added: "To be candid, I have contradictory opinions thereupon: when I am in the plenitude of my reasoning faculties and when my intellect is clear and straight before me, I say No without any hesitation; and then again there are times when doubts overtake me, when I really do not like to assume the responsibility of a denial. Remembering the alternations of doubt and inclination to believe, I thought it on the whole safer and even more honourable to say nothing at all, and therefore I put in a blank vote".
The five others took the prince's excuses very well, laughing and seeming unconcerned; but Proudhon, with the peculiar sort of smile that he has, and that may be held to mean anything you choose (provided it be bad!), held up his hand, saying - "Ah! Monseigneur, Monseigneur! After all then, you are but a false brother".
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Anger over ferry disaster turns to violence
Staff and agencies
February 6, 2006
Egyptian relatives of victims from the Red Sea ferry disaster attempted to storm a hospital today where recovered bodies are being kept, and ransacked offices belonging to the vessel's owners.
A crowd outside the local hospital in the Egyptian port of Hurghada became angry when police officers lined up to display photographs of recovered bodies.
The relatives broke through security barriers but did not manage to enter the building.
It appeared they wanted to see the bodies of their loved ones in the hospital morgue.
Families of victims have complained that the authorities have been slow to declare who died in the tragedy and who survived.
Around 1,000 people are believed to have drowned after the Salam 98 sank on Thursday night as it crossed the Red Sea from Duba in Saudi Arabia to Safaga in Egypt.
According to the Egyptian cabinet office, rescuers have so far pulled 387 survivors from the sea and found 135 bodies.
Survivors say the tragedy began when a fire broke out on board. Water used to fight the blaze is thought to have made the ship unstable, causing it to capsize.
They have also accused the captain and crew of negligence, while Egyptian media claim the owners made the ferry unsafe by adding an extra deck after buying it from Italy.
Hundreds of angry relatives attacked the offices of the vessel's owners, Salam Maritime Transport, in Safaga. They smashed windows, threw the building's contents into the street and burned a large photograph of one of the company's ferries.
Police guarding the nearby port arrived and quickly dispersed the crowd.
The 11,800-tonne Salam 98 was carrying some 1,400 people, mostly low-income Egyptians returning from work in Saudi Arabia, when it sank.
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Careful analysis has shown that the strange alignment of the broadest Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) fluctuations is real and significant at the 99% level. The alignment, together with the extreme weakness of those broad fluctuations, presents a real mystery whose resolution is not yet in sight.
On the other hand, alignments with the ecliptic turned out to be spurious.
The long-awaited second-, third- and fourth-year WMAP data, including the polarization data, still have not appeared. The WMAP team is analyzing these data with utmost care, leading one to speculate that exciting conclusions may follow.
Comment: Or that the data and conclusions will be entirely suppressed.
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In the time of Noah department: Stars fuel designer dogs fashion
Monday, 6 February 2006, 10:29 GMT
Cross-breed dogs appear to have become designer accessories for some stars, sparking a trend in the UK and US.
Popular dogs include the puggle - half pug, half beagle - and cockerpoo - a combined cocker spaniel and poodle. Some puggles are sold for up to £3,000.
The trend is said to have been fuelled by celebrities such as Ozzy Osbourne, Uma Thurman and Sylvester Stallone.
The Kennel Club said it would monitor the trend, adding: "A dog should be for life, not just for fashion."
Cross-breeders are said to be cashing in on the popularity of the peculiar pets.
Some puggle puppies reportedly change hands for up to £3,000 each, while some cockerpoos have been sold for £600.
Labradoodles, the result of the mating of a labrador and a poodle, are also proving popular.
Kennel Club spokesman Phil Buckley said the puggle was particularly popular in the US, where there are waiting lists for the cross-breed, while the labradoodle and cockerpoo were gaining in popularity in this country.
Although there are no official sales figures, the spokesman said anecdotal evidence suggested demand is growing for designer dogs.
He said there were fears that "unscrupulous breeders" would take advantage of the popularity of certain dogs by selling them at massively inflated prices and failing to provide adequate after-sale care.
Mr Buckley, who admitted that the puggle "looks delightful", told BBC News: "The average life of a dog is 12 years and it will cost around £1,000-a-year to pay for food, bedding and vet fees.
"Getting a dog is not a decision that should be taken lightly. A dog should be for life, not just for fashion."
Actor Sylvester Stallone is said to own a puggle and singer Jessica Simpson owns a Maltipoo - a Maltese and poodle cross.
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Poultry disease hits northern Nigerian state
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-06 19:35:06
LAGOS, Feb. 6 (Xinhuanet) -- An outbreak of poultry disease has hit parts of the northern Nigerian state of Kano, and authorities are yet to ascertain whether it is caused by the bird flu virus, Nigerian newspapers reported on Monday.
Samples collected from infected birds had been sent to the National Veterinary Research Institute in Plateau state and the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital for analysis, said Salihu Jibrin, director of Veterinary Services at Kano's Agriculture Ministry.
It is not clear when the results are expected.
Jibrin cautioned poultry farmers against moving infected birds from their farms to other areas.
"We advise poultry farmers to promptly report cases of strange ailments in their birds. They are also advised to properly dispose of dead birds in a hygienic manner to avoid further spread of the disease," he said.
According to the official, the state government had set up a committee, comprising veterinary surgeons, to pay regular visits to poultry farms across the state.
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Dead violent man puzzles public
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-06 16:05:47
BEIJIGN, Feb.6 (Xinhuanet) -- An 18-years-old US man was shot dead early Sunday by officers who chased him for 20 miles at speeds up to 90 mph after he had killed an officer named Jim Sell, 63.
Jacob D.Robida died at 3:38 a.m. at Cox-South Hospital in Springfield, Mo., hospital spokesman Randy Berger said.
Robida's death left several unresolved questions about the mutiple violence he had committed.
New Bedford, Mass., police had sought Robida in a Thursday morning attack at the Puzzles Lounge in Mass.that left three men wounded, one critically. Police labeled the attack a hate crime and sought Robida for attempted murder, assault and civil rights charges.
Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler described a teenager determined to get away. Sadler said law officers set up road blocks and fired shotguns at Robida but couldn't stop him until spike strips finally flattened two tires. That slowed his green Pontiac to around 30 mph as he approached another small town, Norfork.
Officers had a clear view of Robida and his passenger, Jennifer Rena Bailey, 33, of Charleston, W.Va., after Robida's car spun nearly 180 degrees, crashing into a pair of parked cars.
"Investigators now believe Robida raised a handgun to the head of Bailey, fired, and it is believed she was killed instantly by that gunshot," Sadler said. "Robida raised that same handgun and fired on the officers who were present at the scene. They returned fire."
It appeared Sell had no idea that he had pulled over the Massachusetts suspect as Robida headed westbound. The Kentucky plates on the car Robida was driving hadn't been reported stolen.
Lt. Bill Beach, a criminal investigator for the state police, said the officers who pursued Robida's car after Sell's death also didn't know who was in the car until the chase ended.
West Virginia State Police said Bailey apparently had corresponded with Robida over the Internet and in letters and that Robida had picked her up after the Massachusetts attack.
"How they met, we don't have any idea at this point," Sgt. C.J. Ellyson said. State police there were investigating whether Bailey went willingly with Bailey or was abducted.
Bailey's youngest child is 4 and Ellyson said the children were with relatives. He did not know if Bailey was divorced or separated from her husband.
It was unclear how or why Robida and Bailey traveled to Arkansas. Robida's friends said they didn't know him to hold animosity toward homosexuals, though police investigators said he dabbled in Nazism.
Had Robida survived the Arkansas shootout, he could have faced the death penalty for capital murder in either Sell or Bailey's deaths.
Bob Perry, one of the bar patrons attacked, said before Robida's death that he was hopeful Robida would survive.
"I'd like him to be able to regain consciousness and answer some questions," Perry said Saturday. "I should have been dead 48 hours ago. I have so many questions."
David Brown, chief investigator for the Greene County Medical Examiner's office in Springfield, Mo., said Robida's body was sent to Little Rock on Sunday. Brown said the Arkansas state medical examiner would perform autopsies on all three.
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US serial number gives clue to mystery of the alien in the attic
Monday February 6, 2006
When Barney Broom began renovating his cottage he did not expect to be confronted by a pair of black eyes staring from a cloudy jar.
But the mysterious discovery of an alien in his attic has spooked the 54-year-old screenwriter and bewildered extraterrestrial experts, who yesterday suggested the US military could be involved.
The delicate 30cm (12 inch) figure of a baby alien is stored in a pungent liquid and has a US serial number painted on its four-toed foot. Possibly sculpted from a clay-like substance and painted grey, the model closely resembles the aliens depicted in a hoax film of an autopsy of the infamous "Roswell incident".
Curiously, the alien was discovered stored in an old toffee jar wrapped in a copy of the Daily Mirror dating from October 1947. In July of that year, officials at the American air base of Roswell reported and then denied finding the remains of a flying saucer. The Roswell incident sparked a popular fascination with UFOs and led the US air force to collect data on sightings.
One theory is that the alien was left in the loft by a US serviceman working at a nearby US air base. Mr Broom's two-bedroom cottage at Gunthorpe, north Norfolk, which he bought eight months ago, is 45 miles from two large US air bases at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall. Many US servicemen and women live and work in the region.
Mr Broom told the Guardian he was "a bit spooked" by the discovery but said he was not yet living in fear of being beamed up by aliens.
"It was stuffed in the corner of the loft with other old newspapers. Before me, an old spinster lived in the house. I don't think anybody had been up there for years. I haven't got three heads and I'm not the sort of eccentric lunatic to think it's an alien but it's a funny thing to find in your loft."
Mr Broom reported his finding to the Sci Fi Channel, who called in Professor Adam Roberts, an expert in science fiction literature, to examine the creature.
"The easy thing to do is dismiss it all and say it's a hoax. It may be or may not be," said Prof Roberts. "The fact that it was found near a US air base suggests there may be a military component to it."
A spokeswoman for the US air force said it had never made such models of an alien, the figure was not government property and the serial number could mean it had been catalogued by a museum. "It's a hoax," the spokeswoman said.
Prof Roberts admitted it could be a film prop dating from the 1960s, but said he was not surprised at US denials: "That is the US air force line. They deny these alien encounters. It is quite possible they concoct stories to cover up for more nefarious activities."
The Sci Fi Channel will this week broadcast live footage of the alien on its website. After further tests, Mr Broom will put it on his mantelpiece.
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China's urban income gap widens to alarming level
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-06 18:39:06
BEIJING, Feb. 6 (Xinhuanet)-- The State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC) said in a report issued on Sunday that China's urban income gap between rich and poor has widened to an alarming and unreasonable level.
The SDRC made the announcement in line with a social investigation into China's urban residents and relevant statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics.
The SDRC said China's income gap is continually expanding. At present, China's Gini Coefficient (an internationally accepted measurement of income equality) is 0.4, the international benchmark for alarm.
And the SDRC warns the actual figure may be even higher as a number of incomes may have been underestimated.
Statistics show that the 20 percent low-income group in China's cities only get 2.75 percent of the country's total urban income, or equivalent to only 4.6 percent of the income of China's 20 percent top-level rich group.
The SDRC said the widening income inequality gap is occurring in line with China's economic and social development.
It attributes the growing income gap between different industries, between the employers and the employees, and the increase in income earned outside of main work as the main reasons for the inequality.
Professor Li Yingsheng of the Renmin University of China, who participated in the social investigation on urban income, said China is still lacking an income adjustment mechanism.
Professor Li urges the government to further increase the proportion of middle-level income groups and try to raise the income of the lowest-level groups, to achieve a stable social classification.
Officials with the SDRC said the government has also pledged to take tougher measures in the coming years to curb the increasing inequality and make China's income distribution more reasonable.
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Domestic Agencies Face Cuts in Bush Budget
By ANDREW TAYLOR
February 5, 2006
WASHINGTON - Domestic priorities like federal aid to schools and health research are squeezed under President Bush's proposed budget for next year, but funding for the Pentagon, the war in Iraq and anti-terrorism efforts get impressive increases.
Monday's budget tome will have a price tag of more than $2.7 trillion. The departments of Education, Commerce, Interior and Energy - will see their budgets, on average, frozen or cut slightly below today's already austere levels.
The outline of the budget has emerged from a series of interviews with people familiar with various aspects of the proposal.
Judging from his recent record, Bush should largely get his way in clamping down on the budgets for domestic agencies that are passed each year by Congress. Last year, despite resistance from Democrats and old-school lawmakers in his own party, Bush got Congress to accept a freeze or a slight cut in almost every domestic agency budget.
``Every year of my presidency, we've reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending,'' Bush said last week. ``This year my budget will cut it again.''
Even though domestic non-entitlement programs take only one-sixth of all federal spending, they are in the administration's bulls eye as it tries to reel in the growing deficit.
The National Institutes of Health's budget is frozen at this year's level and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being asked to take a 2 percent cut. Both programs lose ground as Bush puts a higher priority on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and hurricane relief.
The Pentagon would receive a nearly 5 percent increase in its budget, to $439.3 billion, defense officials said, with an additional $120 billion earmarked for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those war funds would be spread over both the current budget year and fiscal 2007, which begins Oct. 1.
The budget also will project spending $18 billion more this year for hurricane relief along the Gulf Coast, bringing total spending in response to September's devastating storms over the $100 billion mark.
In his Saturday radio address, Bush pitched his ``American competitiveness initiative,'' which would double funding for basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years and improve training and recruitment of math and science teachers.
Bush also warned Congress last week he wants to eliminate or cut more than 140 programs to save $14 billion in 2007 alone. Last year, he succeeded in saving $6.5 billion with a similar request, winning from Congress about two-fifths of the spending cuts he sought.
Some of the new proposed cuts, such as eliminating the $107 million Commodity Supplemental Food Program, are likely to get a chilly reaction on Capitol Hill. The program provides food to low-income mothers and children under 6 years old, as well as to the elderly poor.
There's nearly universal agreement that policymakers eventually will have to tackle tackling runaway Medicare costs and Bush takes a politically perilous first step in that direction in his budget.
``We have to address these issues,'' said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who, like Bush is a member of the Baby Boom generation, whose claims on Social Security and Medicare threaten to swamp the budget in coming decades.
``It's not fair for our generation, when we have control over policy, not to look for a way to pass a more fiscally healthy nation on to our children,'' Gregg said.
While modest, Bush's endorsement of wringing tens of billions of dollars in savings from health care providers such as hospitals and nursing homes, may prove to be a difficult sell to his GOP allies on Capitol Hill. Hospitals are a powerful lobbying group and are typically some of the leading employers in lawmakers' districts and states.
``Think of lobbyists as a giant immunological system. And this (Medicare proposal) is a virus,'' said Alexander Vachon, a health care analyst. ``It is going to set off all these white blood cells to go eating on Congress.''
Still, by assuming the Medicare savings in the budget Bush can claim he is meeting his promise to cut the deficit in half - from an inflated $521 billion estimate for early 2004 - to $260 billion by the end of his presidency.
The budget meets that target by assuming Congress will agree to Bush's policy priorities and related spending cuts and new fees, even though many are unrealistic, particularly in an election year for lawmakers, or have been rejected repeatedly.
For example, better off veterans are again being asked make higher co-payments for prescription drugs and pay a new $250 annual enrollment fee for their medical care. Congress has rejected both three years in a row. A new proposal to raise fees on military retirees enrolled in the Pentagon's Tricare program isn't likely to fare much better.
A new Department of Homeland Security fee on air travel of $5 each way is likely to get stamped ``Dead on Arrival'' just as a comparable fee was last year.
The tax-based health initiatives Bush wants - boosting health savings accounts and making out-of-pocket medical costs deductible - face resistance because they reduce the revenue side of the budget and exacerbate deficits.
Despite Bush's call to curb the weed-like growth of benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid, veterans in Congress aren't expecting much progress on the deficit.
``It'll largely be a do-nothing year, unfortunately,'' said top Senate Budget Committee Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota. ``We all know the history, which is that very little in terms of bold action gets done in an election year.''
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US Director of National Intelligence warns of threat to oil supplies from potential political chaos in Nigeria
By Finfacts Team
Feb 3, 2006
Rising global oil prices are bolstering the power of America's enemies around the world, strengthening the regimes in Iran, Syria, Sudan and Venezuela and increasing Russia's assertiveness in eastern Europe, US intelligence agencies said on Thursday.
Two days after President George W. Bush called for the US to end its "addiction to oil", John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence, said the combination of rising demand for energy and instability in oil-producing regions "is increasing the geopolitical leverage of key producing states".
Negroponte said in testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that the most important election on the African horizon will be held in spring 2007 in Nigeria, the continent's most populous country and largest oil producer. The vote has the potential to reinforce a democratic trend away from military rule—or it could lead to major disruption in a nation suffering frequent ethno-religious violence, criminal activity, and rampant corruption.
He said that speculation that President Obasanjo will try to change the constitution so he can seek a third term in office is raising political tensions and, if proven true, threatens to unleash major turmoil and conflict. Such chaos in Nigeria could lead to disruption of oil supply, secessionist moves by regional governments, major refugee flows, and instability elsewhere in West Africa.
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Bush slashing foster care aid
February 4, 2006
A bill awaiting President Bush's signature includes provisions to cut off federal foster care benefits for hundreds of California children living with low-income relatives after being removed from the homes of abusive or neglectful parents.
If the cutback survives an expected court challenge, the reduction in aid will be substantial. In the Bay Area and other high-cost regions, for example, a woman providing foster care for grandchildren ages 7 and 10, who now gets $1,315 a month, would receive $723, the amount of a conventional welfare grant.
The higher aid total was ordered by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a March 2003 ruling that was binding in California and eight other Western states. The ruling said children who are placed with grandparents or other family members can receive federal aid based on their new foster parents' low incomes.
The government had argued that the aid should be based on the incomes of the parents from whose homes the children were removed.
Tucked into the federal Deficit Reduction Act, which won final passage Wednesday on a largely party-line vote of 216-214 in the House, is language declaring that the appeals court ruling was wrong and that long-standing federal law bases eligibility solely on the parents' incomes.
That might not be enough to overturn the appeals court ruling. Legal Aid lawyers plan to argue to a federal judge in Sacramento that the congressional declaration was an empty gesture, with no effect on the law that was the basis of the 2003 decision. That argument, if successful, would leave it up to Congress to change the law.
But, by including the provision, the Bush administration and congressional Republican leaders made their intention clear to rein in the appeals court and eliminate the benefits its ruling provided.
Rules for federal aid should be set uniformly by Congress, "not unilaterally by a court that wishes to legislate policy from the bench,'' said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Marysville (Yuba County), chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee that added the foster care amendment to the bill.
Congress "reaffirmed that our interpretation of the statute is the correct one,'' said Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families in the Department of Health and Human Services.
If children suffer a loss of aid, he said, "that will be a choice that the state will have made'' by not using its money to replace the federal funds.
Horn noted that California and its counties pay a higher foster care rate, equal to federal benefits, when a child is placed with nonrelatives or in a group home.
State welfare officials were unavailable for comment, but other participants in the debate expressed frustration.
"The talk from the feds is, 'Place the kids with relatives, we value relatives,' but then the funding doesn't match it,'' said Cathy Senderling, legislative advocate for the County Welfare Directors Association.
The state first estimated that a loss of federal funding would affect 4,000 California children, but last month scaled back that figure to 500 -- largely because documentation that might have made more children eligible has been difficult to find, Senderling said.
The congressional action "affects mainly people who need those benefits and help the most,'' said Yolanda Arias, one of the Los Angeles Legal Aid lawyers in the 2003 appeals court case. She said abused children's relatives, who have preference as foster parents in California, "will do without (their own needs) in order to keep the kids with them.''
Another Legal Aid attorney, Marjorie Shelby, said the savings projected by the administration, $370 million over five years, amounted to "petty cash in the federal budget.''
Their client, Enedina Rosales, took her 5-month-old grandson, Anthony, into her home after social workers removed the child from his mother's home, where he had been abused, the appeals court said. Rosales was later appointed as the boy's foster parent but was denied federal aid because his mother's income was above the eligibility standard.
Forced to take time off from work because of Anthony's medical needs, Rosales lost her job, took part-time employment and applied for welfare but had trouble making ends meet, the court said.
In ruling that Rosales was eligible for federal benefits, the court said federal law based eligibility on the income of the household where the child was living when he or she officially became a foster child. In Anthony's case, that was his grandmother's home.
The government's contrary interpretation "undermines the statutory protections for foster children that Congress meant to provide,'' Judge Marsha Berzon said in the 3-0 decision.
The ruling was the only one of its kind in the nation and left California and the eight other Western states with different standards for federal aid than other states. The Bush administration did not appeal to the Supreme Court but focused instead on countermeasures in Congress, an effort that bore fruit this week.
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Home by May: 2,000 British troops to withdraw from Iraq
By Francis Elliott, Raymond Whitaker and Marie Woolf
05 February 2006
Britain plans to begin withdrawing 2,000 troops from Iraq, starting this spring, according to a secret blueprint agreed with allies.
The pull-out plan would see an initial 500 British troops depart from southern Iraq by the end of May, a Whitehall source confirmed. By the end of the year, under a schedule revealed at a meeting of military commanders and diplomats last month, Britain intends to withdraw up to 2,000 soldiers - a quarter of its total force in Iraq.
The US is understood to have approved the proposal in principle, as long as there are no significant upheavals in Iraq's political process and security condition.
This first signal of a pull-out from Iraq will be welcomed by military commanders, who believe little can be gained by maintaining a significant presence much longer. "We will have achieved pretty much all we can by this summer," a senior military source told The Independent on Sunday, although he emphasised that some British troops would remain in the country for years to come.
The British deployment in Iraq has dragged on, with the number of military deaths rising above 100 last week. Former military chiefs spoke to The Independent on Sunday yesterday, increasing demands for a pull-out. "The longer we stay there, the more we become part of the problem and not the solution," said Field Marshal Lord Brammall, former chief of defence staff. "I have always thought we should go sooner rather than later."
Air Marshal Sir Tim Garden, former assistant chief of defence staff, said: "What we need is to draw up a set of targets for withdrawal. The timescale we would want to see for a draw-down of occupying forces is longer than nine months and less than a year."
It is understood that the final aim is for Britain to maintain no more than a training element for local security forces in south-eastern Iraq, based well away from areas such as Basra. But a military source said: "There is no question of Britain formally announcing a complete withdrawal from Iraq any time in the foreseeable future. Numbers will be simply be run down. We still have a few hundred troops in Bosnia, more than 10 years after the war ended."
A Whitehall source confirmed that a meeting was held in London on 23 January between Britain, the US, Australia and Japan to co-ordinate troop withdrawals from Iraq. Most of the Australian and Japanese troops in the country are in the four provinces of south-eastern Iraq which are under British command.
Adam Price MP, a leading critic of the Government's policies in Iraq, who helped to expose the secret blueprint, feared a partial withdrawal could simply expose the remaining troops to more danger. "The experience of Afghanistan teaches us the dangers of these so-called staged withdrawals," he said. "A reduced force is left incapable of delivering security to either themselves or the Iraqis while leaving the insurgents with a symbolic target."
The Secretary of State for Defence, John Reid, is set to make a keynote speech on Iraq on Tuesday in which he is likely to hint at the start of a pull-out. British defence chiefs are expected to hold a meeting in March on troop deployments.
An account of the withdrawal agreement leaked to the Japanese media said the country would begin withdrawing its forces in mid-March, completing its pull-out by the end of May.
The official Japanese response was to deny there was a specific time-frame for the plan, and the Australian defence minister said Canberra was awaiting formal word from Tokyo.
Despite Whitehall efforts to dampen speculation, further reports in the Japanese media still indicate a swift draw-down of British forces.
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Revealed: secret plan to keep UK troops permanently in Iraq
BRITAIN is laying secret plans to maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq.
Ministers and military officials are in negotiations with their American counterparts over the British contribution to the long-term effort to maintain peace and stability in post-Saddam Iraq once the country is handed over to its newly elected government.
The scale of the commitment is yet to be formally agreed, but defence sources confirmed that it could see the UK maintaining a military base in south Iraq, near Basra, which it currently controls, for years to come.
The news of the potential extended military posting in one of the world's most dangerous trouble spots came as a commander admitted that British soldiers preparing to deploy to lawless southern Afghanistan were "apprehensive" about the threats they will face.
The Americans, who have yet to formally admit to concrete plans for long-term military bases in Iraq once the new government has been established, are expected to maintain at least one, much larger, facility near Baghdad. Critics claim the negotiations are part of a long-term plan to maintain US control over Iraq and its oil reserves, and to establish a valuable permanent presence in the Middle East.
Details of the behind-the-scenes planning for the next phase of the Iraq operation emerged amid escalating speculation that Coalition forces were on the verge of a significant reduction in the thousands of troops currently occupying Iraq.
In the week that the death toll among UK troops in the country passed 100, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw predicted "good news" regarding the 8,000-strong force later this year. Reports from Tokyo later claimed that Japan had agreed to drastically reduce its presence in Iraq during the first half of this year, along with Britain, America and Australia, following a summit meeting in London last month.
The MoD confirmed that the government still hopes to begin a significant withdrawal this year, although the 4,000 leaving by May quoted in some reports is seen as far too optimistic as the insurgency continues to disrupt everyday life in the British zone. Military planners foresee a phased "return to barracks" as a preliminary to a gradual reduction of forces during the year.
But even after significant numbers of troops have finally left Iraq, Britain will retain a presence. One senior defence source confirmed that negotiations with the Americans are ongoing, and that the MoD is actively considering the option of withdrawing to a "non-urban location", which could be termed as a base or a "training facility" with space for hundreds of troops.
Sir Tim Garden, a former assistant chief of the defence staff, said he expected the British and Americans to remain in Iraq for many years. But he warned that the government would be "foolish" to formalise its commitment into a full-scale military base.
Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, which is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, said his troops were "apprehensive", but well trained, equipped and prepared for the task ahead of them - and he was confident that they had the capability to "operate freely" in Helmand province.
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Does Britain's new weapon break Geneva Convention?
By Francis Elliott, Whitehall Editor
05 February 2006
Britain is to spend around £50m on a new shoulder-fired "bunker-buster" to bolster the infantry's street-fighting capability. The new weapon fires grenades able to punch through reinforced concrete from a distance of around 550 yards.
Military officials say the need for the launcher has become increasingly pressing as British troops face the insurgency in Iraq. Currently infantrymen must often call in air-strikes against snipers holed up in buildings within residential areas. But such strikes risk civilian casualties and depend on close air cover being available.
The procurement of the so-called anti-structure weapons is to be officially announced in Parliament tomorrow by the defence procurement minister, Lord Drayson.
It is understood the contract for the new system, worth around £50m, is to be awarded to a consortium led by the Dynamit Nobel defence firm. The new weapon will be around 3ft long, weigh less than 20lb but be capable of accurately firing wall-busting grenades from hundreds of yards.
It is likely to be adapted from the existing Panzerfaust tank-buster that is capable of puncturing steel to a depth of three feet. Crucially, the new weapon can be fired from within enclosed spaces, reducing the risk to the user.
Defence officials deny the new shoulder-fired weapon will be used to fire so-called thermobaric munitions. Such shells release a cloud of inflammable explosive particles which is then detonated. The resulting shock wave and vacuum pressure destroy internal organs. Such is their power they are thought to be in contravention of the Geneva Convention.
Hand-held thermobaric devices were used in Afghanistan by the Russians. The grenade of a Russian RPO70 Schmel, known to the guerrillas as "Satan Sticks" were used against hideouts in caves and tunnels.
The US military experimented with the use of thermobaric rounds in the assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah last year. An internal US Marine report stated that the munition created "a shockwave of unparalleled destructive power".
"One unit disintegrated a large, one-storey masonry-type building with one round from 100 metres. They were extremely impressed." The weapons were designed by a US naval research centre in Maryland and rushed into service last year. The Marine Corps Gazette reported that "gunners became expert at determining which wall to shoot to cause the roof to collapse and crush the insurgents fortified inside interior rooms".
It added: "We found that our assaultmen had first to fire a dual-purpose, high-explosive rocket in order to create a hole in the wall or building. This blast was immediately followed by a thermobaric round that would incinerate the target or literally level the structure."
However a senior military official told the IoS last night: "The new capability will be a blast weapon not a thermobaric weapon."
The new weapon is not likely to come in time to support infantry operations for some time to come, however. The minister will say that the Ministry of Defence hopes to take delivery of the new system in 2009.
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