- Signs of the Times for Tue, 21 Feb 2006 -

Editorial: Baghdad bomb kills 22 - But Who Is to Blame?

Signs of the Times
Joe Quinn
In what has tragically become a commonplace event, today yet another car bomb exploded in Baghdad. The UK Guardian reports:
Baghdad bomb kills 22 At least 22 people were killed and 28 wounded when a car bomb exploded in a busy outdoor market in the Iraqi city of Baghdad today. Iraqi police said the bomb exploded at 4.45pm local time in Dora, a south-west district of the city. It is believed the attack was aimed at a police patrol but missed its target. The injured were taken to hospital where a source said the death toll could be much higher. Dora is one of the most dangerous parts of Baghdad, with car and roadside bombings occurring daily since a Sunni-dominated insurgency began in the summer of 2003.
Notice that a "Baghdad bomb" killed at least 22 Iraqi civilians today, and that "car and roadside bombings occur almost daily". In reading this account, you could be forgiven for coming away with the impression that "Baghdad bombs" have a life of their own and need no help from any human agency to wreak their bloody carnage. Perhaps that problem is that no one ever seems to be claim responsibility for these attacks, and journalists and commentators are just as mystified about which "Iraqi insurgent group" could possibly want to kill their own neighbors - the very members of their support base that they rely on to resist the American occupation. The fact is that these type of anonymous bombings are not new. All over the world over the past half century (and longer) bombs have been exploding and killing innocent civilians, leaving their friends and families not only traumatised, but completely confused as to why such violence was committed against them. For example, in 1998, 29 civilians, including 9 children and a woman pregnant with twins, were killed when a car bomb exploded on a busy shopping area in the town of Omagh in Northern Ireland. It was the worst single atrocity in 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland. Now one might expect that, in keeping with the lines along which the conflict had been fought for 800 years, a very large majority, if not all, of the victims would be from one side of the community or the other. But the strange thing about the Omagh bombing was that the dead were almost equally distributed between the Irish Catholic and British protestant populations. Not only that, but a warning that was telephoned to police 40 minutes before the bomb detonated contained apparently incorrect information about where the bomb was, and led police to 'evacuate' civilians towards the bomb rather than away from it. In doing so, maximum bloodshed was assured. The bombing came at a time when the 'peace process' was in full swing and efforts were being made by the warring parties to come to some form of final resolution. In the end, the bombing was placed at the door of a shadowy dissident Republican outfit called 'the Real IRA', a moniker that sounds about as unauthentic as those given to the infamous 'previously unknown Islamic groups' like 'Al-Qaeda in Iraq'. A naive patsy took the fall after a ridiculous sham of a jury-less trial and a conviction that was based on evidence from two discredited witnesses and statements by the accused that were extracted under police pressure. Condemnation subsequently fell on the Irish Republican movement in general, much to the hidden glee of certain members of the British establishment who are secretly tasked with encouraging conflict by any means and at all costs. War = profit and control after all. The idea that Western 'Democratic' governments would actually encourage violence and bloodshed against their own populations is extremely difficult for the average person to consider as even remotely possible. Yet there sits the evidence. Getting back to today's bombing in Baghdad; such events will continue to confuse and bemuse us and ultimately force us to switch off, or worse, switch on to government propaganda, until we finally open our minds to the reality that is daily become more and more undeniable. John Kaminski has already detailed that reality, at least in terms of the many "car bombings" in Iraq:
Sick Strategies For Senseless Slaughter The murderous fools are not trying to end the war; they're trying to keep it going as long as they can By John Kaminski skylax@comcast.net 5-24-05 The cat is out of the bag now. It happened quite by accident, as most revelations do. And it is seen by most of the world as the most revolting of the American/Israeli atrocities in the past few years, although it's hard to prioritize that claim because of the level and frequency of barbaric acts that are committed on a regular basis by those affluent automatons who call themselves the good guys. Yet everyone but the comatose American populace — blinded by its Orwellian media and stupefied by its demented diet of physical and mental poisons — can see it. So permit me to spell it out for those cowardly people who say they're living in the freest country on Earth, but absolutely refuse in their silent ignorance to see the blood they're spilling. No country that condones deliberate torture for any reason can ever be trusted. The first hint came in Imad Khadduri's "A warning to car drivers" written in Arabic and posted on www.albasrah.net on May 11. The dispatch was quickly picked up by two of the most realistic and reliable news sites on the Web, www.uruknet.info, which I try to read every day, and www.globalresearch.ca, which I try to read every week, since it offers less breaking and more analytical news. I consider these two sites essential to keeping up with the real news of the world, and highly recommend that you monitor them, too. Khadduri recounted a scam that opens up a clear window to seeing who is perpetrating all this inexplicable violence in Iraq. Beyond the American attempt to pacify an outraged and abused nation through demonic destruction, and beyond the Iraqi attempt to resist this totalitarian takeover by a foreign conqueror, there are more than numerous acts of violence that simply can't be understood by straightforward explanations. I mean, when a mosque blows up and Americans blame Islamic terrorists, whether Sunni or Shiite, it makes no sense. Muslims never blow up their own houses of worship. Or when reporters sympathetic to either the Iraqi cause of freedom, or even just general principles of international justice, are suddenly assassinated and the blame is placed on often imaginary Islamic extremists whose perspective is supported by these writers, how can anyone believe that Muslims did it, even thought this is what the Zionist American press and government continue to insist. So who’s doing all these demented deeds? As if we didn’t know .... Khadduri’s report went like this: “A few days ago, an American manned check point confiscated the driver license of a driver and told him to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport for interrogation and in order to retrieve his license. The next day, the driver did visit the camp and he was allowed in the camp with his car. He was admitted to a room for an interrogation that lasted half an hour. At the end of the session, the American interrogator told him: ‘OK, there is nothing against you, but you do know that Iraq is now sovereign and is in charge of its own affairs. Hence, we have forwarded your papers and license to al-Kadhimia police station for processing. Therefore, go there with this clearance to reclaim your license. At the police station, ask for Lt. Hussain Mohammed, who is waiting for you now. Go there now quickly, before he leaves his shift work”. The driver did leave in a hurry, but was soon alarmed with a feeling that his car was driving as if carrying a heavy load, and he also became suspicious of a low flying helicopter that kept hovering overhead, as if trailing him. He stopped the car and inspected it carefully. He found nearly 100 kilograms of explosives hidden in the back seat and along the two back doors. The only feasible explanation for this incident is that the car was indeed booby trapped by the Americans and intended for the al-Khadimiya Shiite district of Baghdad. The helicopter was monitoring his movement and witnessing the anticipated “hideous attack by foreign elements”. The same scenario was repeated in Mosul, in the north of Iraq. A car was confiscated along with the driver’s license. He did follow up on the matter and finally reclaimed his car but was told to go to a police station to reclaim his license. Fortunately for him, the car broke down on the way to the police station. The inspecting car mechanic discovered that the spare tire was fully laden with explosives." If this were the only example of this type I heard, I might have let it pass as just a story. But it wasn’t. There was also the sorry tale of the Iraqi man who saw American soldiers plant a bomb which shortly thereafter exploded, and when he said so out loud for all to hear, he was hauled away, never to be seen again. This story was reported on arguably the most authentic and riveting source of news from Iraq, the heart-rending "Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq," which is compiled by someone known only as Riverbend or Iraqi Girl . Again, recommended reading. She recounts, "the last two weeks have been violent .... The number of explosions in Baghdad alone is frightening. There have also been several assassinations — bodies being found here and there. It's somewhat disturbing to know that corpses are turning up in the most unexpected places. Many people will tell you it's not wise to eat river fish anymore because they have been nourished on the human remains being dumped into the river. That thought alone has given me more than one sleepless night. It is almost as if Baghdad has turned into a giant graveyard. The latest corpses were those of some Sunni and Shia clerics — several of them well-known. People are being patient and there is a general consensus that these killings are being done to provoke civil war. Also worrisome is the fact that we are hearing of people being rounded up by security forces (Iraqi) and then being found dead days later — apparently when the new Iraqi government recently decided to reinstate the death penalty, they had something else in mind. But back to the explosions. One of the larger blasts was in an area called Ma'moun, which is a middle class area located in west Baghdad. It’s a relatively calm residential area with shops that provide the basics and a bit more. It happened in the morning, as the shops were opening up for their daily business and it occurred right in front of a butcher’s shop. Immediately after, we heard that a man living in a house in front of the blast site was hauled off by the Americans because it was said that after the bomb went off, he sniped an Iraqi National Guardsman. I didn’t think much about the story — nothing about it stood out: an explosion and a sniper — hardly an anomaly. The interesting news started circulating a couple of days later. People from the area claim that the man was taken away not because he shot anyone, but because he knew too much about the bomb. Rumor has it that he saw an American patrol passing through the area and pausing at the bomb site minutes before the explosion. Soon after they drove away, the bomb went off and chaos ensued. He ran out of his house screaming to the neighbors and bystanders that the Americans had either planted the bomb or seen the bomb and done nothing about it. He was promptly taken away. The bombs are mysterious. Some of them explode in the midst of National Guard and near American troops or Iraqi Police and others explode near mosques, churches, and shops or in the middle of sougs. One thing that surprises us about the news reports of these bombs is that they are inevitably linked to suicide bombers. The reality is that some of these bombs are not suicide bombs — they are car bombs that are either being remotely detonated or maybe time bombs. All we know is that the techniques differ and apparently so do the intentions. Some will tell you they are resistance. Some say Chalabi and his thugs are responsible for a number of them. Others blame Iran and the SCIRI militia Badir. In any case, they are terrifying. If you're close enough, the first sound is a that of an earsplitting blast and the sounds that follow are of a rain of glass, shrapnel and other sharp things. Then the wails begin — the shrill mechanical wails of an occasional ambulance combined with the wail of car alarms from neighboring vehicles… and finally the wail of people trying to sort out their dead and dying from the debris. Then there was this one. On May 13, 2005, a 64 years old Iraqi farmer, Haj Haidar Abu Sijjad, took his tomato load in his pickup truck from Hilla to Baghdad, accompanied by Ali, his 11 years old grandson. They were stopped at an American check point and were asked to dismount. An American soldier climbed on the back of the pickup truck, followed by another a few minutes later, and thoroughly inspected the tomato filled plastic containers for about 10 minutes. Haj Haidar and his grandson were then allowed to proceed to Baghdad. A minute later, his grandson told him that he saw one of the American soldiers putting a grey melon size object in the back among the tomato containers. The Haj immediately slammed on the brakes and stopped the car at the side of the road, at a relatively far distance from the check point. He found a time bomb with the clock ticking tucked among his tomatoes. He immediately recognized it, as he was an ex-army soldier. Panicking, he grabbed his grandson and ran away from the car. Then, realizing that the car was his only means of work, he went back, took the bomb and carried it in fear. He threw it in a deep ditch by the side of the road that was dug by Iraqi soldiers in preparation for the war, two years ago. Upon returning from Baghdad, he found out that the bomb had indeed exploded, killing three sheep and injuring their shepherd in his head. He thanked God for giving him the courage to go back and remove the bomb, and for the luck in that the American soldiers did not notice his sudden stop at a distance and his getting rid of the bomb. "They intended it to explode in Baghdad and claim that it is the work of the 'terrorists', or 'insurgents' or who call themselves the 'Resistance'. I decided to expose them and asked your reporter to take me to Baghdad to tell you the story. They are to be exposed as they now want to sow strife in Iraq and taint the Resistance after failing to defeat it militarily. Do not forget to mention my name. I fear nobody but God, as I am a follower of Muqtada al-Sadir." The background and admission of guilt for such satanic shenanigans was clearly outlined in Frank Morales' piece on globalresearch.ca: "The Provocateur State: Is the CIA Behind the Iraqi 'Insurgents' — and Global Terrorism," by Frank Morales clearly demonstrates how Donald Rumsfeld said he was going to do exactly what these three sorry episodes show he actually did. Morales writes: Back in 2002, following the trauma of 9-11, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld predicted there would be more terrorist attacks against the American people and civilization at large. How could he be so sure of that? Perhaps because these attacks would be instigated on the order of the Honorable Mr. Rumsfeld. According to Los Angeles Times military analyst William Arkin, writing Oct. 27, 2002, Rumsfeld set out to create a secret army, "a super-Intelligence Support Activity" network that would "bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception," to stir the pot of spiraling global violence. We never got the full story on those ghastly beheadings of Nick Berg and others. Nor have we ever understood who killed the American mercenaries in Fallujah that eventually precipitated one of the great slaughters in history. Nor have we ever been able to discern if Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is actually a real person or just another bin Ladenesque boogeyman. Nor if the al-Qaeda website which claims responsibility for various atrocities is not really run by the CIA. Provoking this type of violence also further conceals the sinister genocide the Israelis continue to perpetrate on the hapless Palestinians, which is exactly its point, as is the entire Iraq invasion and destruction, and as was the inside job mass murder on 9/11 in New York City. The purpose of all these despicable acts is to conceal what the Israelis and the Americans have been doing all along to the entire Arab world, namely enslaving and destroying it. There is not now nor ever was an Arab terror threat. That was all invented by Rothschild, Rockefeller, Kissinger, Brzezinski, Bush, Cheney, Sharon, Zakheim, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams and Warren Buffett. These people are all traitors to not only their countries but to humanity in general, and should all be slammed and RICOed into Guantanamo immediately. And so should the government officials, media lackeys, and ordinary citizens who, by their complicity or their ignorance, support them. The main point in understanding these deliberate provocations to prevent peace is to understand how the American capitalist system, now hijacked by billionaires with no trace of conscience, thrives on war and profits from the misery of others. The neocon murder menace has been for months ratcheting up the hyperbole about why we need to invade Iran — which some predict will happen in June — and just this week, rumors of troop movements in the Caribbean and lockdowns at Florida military bases appear to augur an imminent invasion of oil-producing Venezuela. The overall plan is to create hell on Earth, and we are succeeding. By our silent complicity and cowardly reluctance to oppose and stop this homicidal behavior in the name of profit, we are all accessories to mass murder and the destruction of human society, not to even mention the extinction of individual human freedom and the God-given right to be safe and secure in the homes of our choice. So now that you know, what are you going to do about it? You know if you do nothing, these same things will one day happen to you.

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Jack Straw Protests Too Much

Signs of the Times

Yesterday, during his whistlestop tour of Iraq, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=KEFZOAPGLUIUFQFIQMGCFGGAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2006/02/21/ustraw.xml&sSheet=/portal/2006/02/21/ixportaltop.html" target="_blank">made</a> a couple of very interesting admissions, although undoubtedly he would not see them as such.

First, Straw informed the world that "the US government has no intention of maintaining a permanent Soviet-style "gulag" at Guantanamo Bay", which appears to be a recognition of the fact that Guantanamo Bay is indeed a Soviet Style Gulag. <a href="" target="_blank">In the Gulags</a> :

<blockquote>brutality, hunger and harsh elements were the major reasons for the Gulag's high fatality rate, which was as high as 80% during the first months in many camps.

Inmates were often forced to work in inhuman conditions. In spite of the brutal climate, they were almost never adequately clothed, fed, or given medical treatment, nor were they given any means to combat the lack of vitamins that led to nutritional diseases such as scurvy. The nutritional value of basic daily food ration varied around 1,200 calories (5,000 kilojoules), mainly from low-quality bread distributed by weight. According to the World Health Organization, the minimum requirement for a heavy labourer is in the range of 3,100–3,900 calories (13,000 to 16,300 kJ) daily. </blockquote>

Jack Straw Lurches behind US Puppet Iraqi President Talabani

Straw tells us that the allegedly Democratic US government has no intention of "permanently" maintaining a camp like Guantanamo bay where innocent people are treated as animals. The question then is how long does the US government intend on disgracing itself in this way?

Moving on to Straws second freudian slip; in defending the Guantanamo Gulag, he stated:

<blockquote>"It's also important to recognise that there is another side to this, which is called September 11 and which is not an invention of the CIA."</blockquote>

From which we understand that even though Straw accepts that Guantanamo is essentially one big torture chamber, it's existence under the auspices of the world's greatest democracy is somewhat acceptable because of the events of September 11th 2001. Just how the torture and murder of innocent people at Guantanamo bay has anything to do with the events of September 11th remains a mystery.

Of most interest however is Straw's comment that "September 11 is not an invention of the CIA." What a strange thing for the British foreign minister to say! Has someone been suggesting that September 11 <em>is</em> an invention of the CIA? Has someone been making a strong enough case for the bogus nature of the 9/11 attacks and the war on terror that Straw feels compelled to denounce such an idea? If not, then why does Straw feel the need to do so? If so, then can we see the evidence for such a claim?

Admittedly, Straw's comment is no smoking gun, but it does constitute tantalising evidence that the liars in the Bush and Blair governments are beginning to feel the heat. Our efforts, and that of other genuine freedom fighters, <em>are</em> having an effect it seems, albeit that the effect is being felt behind the scenes. Dogged determination is essential when you are fighting lies and manipulations and the psychopathic, lying, manipulators that tell them. So we will keep on giving the lie what it asks for - the truth - just as long as the liars keep on spewing their lies.

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: The Chomsky/Blankfort Polemic

Réseau Voltaire
February 20, 2006
Anti-War Demo

Tel-Aviv and Washington are linked in the Middle East. That's a fact. But the importance of this link in Washington's colonial politics is being debated in the anti-imperialist movment. For the US Jewish, anti-Zionist journalist Jeffrey Blankfort, Israeli influence is central to US policy and the anti-war movement has failed because of their inability to understand the importance of this lobby. Having developed a radical approach to this question, going so far as to deny the energy factor in the war in Iraq, Mr. Blankfort nonetheless opens interesting paths on Zionist influence in the United States. We reproduce an interview he gave to journalist Silvia Cattori.

Jeffrey Blankfort is a US journalist et producer of radio programs on KPOO in San Francisco, KZYX in Mendocino, Texas, and KPFT/Pacifica in Houston. Engaged in the political fight in favor of the Palestinians and for the creation of one binational state in Palestine since the 70s, he has become one of the favorite targets of US Zionists while also attracting the animosity of a part of the US left grouped around Noam Chomsky, who reproches Blankfort for his "lobby obsession". He was editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin and co-founder of the Labor Committee of the Middle East. Also, he was a founding member of the November 29 Coalition on Palestine.

Silvia Cattori : Washington and Tel-Aviv are intensifying their threats against Iran. In your opinion, does Israel have a precise national interest in weakening, or destroying, numerous Arab neighbors and to what degree does it succeed in orienting US policy towards new aggression in the Middle East?

Jeffrey Blankfort : My position is, and I have written an article about it, that the war in Iraq was not a war for oil, but was a war conceived by the neo-cons and the pro-Israeli lobby in the United Sates to benefit Israel, and to elevate Israel to a very important position in the Middle East, as a part of a plan to achieve overall US global control. This is what was called for in the document of the "Project for a New American Century” or PNAC. And even though a number of prominent people, politicians as well as military people, have said that this was a war for Israel, the anti-war movement will not consider that at all.

And right at this moment, the only segment of the American society that is pushing the US administration to confront Iran, happens to be the Jewish establishment or the lobby, whose main focus for months – groups like AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but also other Jewish organizations has been to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

The left and the anti-war movement are so focused on blaming everything on US imperialism on one hand, and avoiding the provoking of what they fear will be "anti-Semitism" on the other, that they have gone further from putting any blame on Israel than have elements of the mainstream. And so, having paid no price for pushing the US into the war in Iraq – and not only this war, but the first Gulf war – they are preparing to do the same with Iran. There is no lobby like it.

S.C. - In other words, the US has become a satellite of Israel and acts in fonction of Israel's interests? Is this thesis not the opposite of that of Chomsky and of the left in general, for whom it is the US that uses Israel? That there is a convergence of interests between the US and Israel, and that Israel is simply the US's cop on the ground in exchange for services rendered by the US in the Middle East?

Jeffrey Blankfort : Yes, Chomsky tends to simplify US politics, blaming everything on the elites and whoever is in the White House while avoiding the role of Congress. Today, eleven members of the Senate are Jewish, that is 11 % of the 100 members while only 2 % of the American population is Jewish. He and his supporters either directly or indirectly raise the spectre of anti-Semitism, of provoking anti-Semitism, and what happens is that people keep their mouth shut. Now, Chomsky, who was Zionist when he was younger--he lived in Israel, he has friends in Israel, was considering moving to Israel-- admitted in 1974 that this might influence his perspective – and he wanted his readers to know that. He wrote this in 1974 and yet few people who read Chomsky today know that. They do not know that he was Zionist, that he considered living in Israel.

In fact, for years he did not speak about Israel while he was speaking out about the US in Central America and Vietnam. It was a mutual friend of ours, Dr. Israel Shahak, who convinced Chomsky that he should speak up against what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. It is interesting that the most important book that Chomsky wrote about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, The Fateful Triangle, begins actually with a defence of Israel, a defence in the sense that while acknowledging all the Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, he blames the US for allowing it to happen. Now, this defence, I would say, could be used by Pinochet in Chile or any dictator the US has supported around the world, to take the primary responsibility from them and place it on the US. And I don’t buy this. And most people who understand the situation, don’t buy it either when they come to look at it. A number of friends of mine, who are friends of Chomsky, have come to agree with me. The problem is, I would say, as fellow academics, that they don't feel comfortable criticizing Chomsky, particularly since he is often attacked by the right wing.

He has defended many people who have been under attack and has thus gained their loyalty. He also has been a mentor to a number of academics, and ironically, Chomsky has been the doorway for so many people to become involved in politics. They read Chomsky, and they become excited about political work. And it is only later, if they are fortunate, that they discover that Chomsky not only opens the door, he closes it as well!

S.C. - Which would mean that Chomsky gives less importance to the pro-Israeli lobby than it has? Has Chomsky upheld unjust options for the Palestinians in order to preserve Israel, for which he has an emotional attachment? Is this a unique case or has Chomsky defended the indefensible?

Jeffrey Blankfort : For the most part. On most other subjects, he is more open. On this particular one, he won’t even debate the issue. In 1991 we had an exchange that was published in a left newspaper in New York, the National Guardian, and a friend there wanted to set up a debate between Chomsky and myself on the issue of the Israel lobby at the Socialist Scholars Conference. Chomsky refused, writing "that it would not be useful." After his refusal, I asked a professor in California, Joel Benin, whom I know, and who takes Chomsky’s position, if he would debate me. His response was identical: "it would not be useful !"

S.C. – On Iran, which today is caught in a vise, is Chomsky, in your opinion, also miminizing the role of the lobby acting in favor of Israel in the United States ?

Jeffrey Blankfort : Regarding Iran, Chomsky and the others seem to be ignoring the campaign that the lobby is waging to get us into another war, one that will be far more catastrophic than the disaster that has taken place in Iraq. There is a coalition of the 12 leading Jewish women's organizations, calling itself "One Voice for Israel," that formed in 2002 in response to the bad publicity Israel received over the destruction of Jenin. Each year, in what it calls "Take-5," it gets a million Jewish women to call the White House at the same time and then on another day, to do the same to Congress. Each time they have done it, they have tied up the Capitol switchboard. It is one of the ways in which they show their power.

This coming February 22nd, they will be phoning President Bush to express their opinion on what he should do about Iran, and its development of nuclear energy or weapons. This a kind of operation that goes on all the time, but it is not even an issue or even known about by the anti-war movement, or by the left, and Professor Chomsky has written to me and others that he is not interested in the issue.

When two years ago, the same person who invited him to have a debate with me in 1991, asked Chomsky again if he would do it, he refused, dismissing my "preoccupation" with the lobby. He also writes that he refuses to read the article that I wrote about him. This is hardly the response of an intellectual. I find it interesting that he is willing to debate Alan Dershowitz, because that is fairly easy, but he won't debate someone on the left or at least on this issue. And that is where the debate should take place.

S.C. – Do you think that other countries have their equivilent of AIPAC?

Jeffrey Blankfort : AIPAC is very unusual because while it is a registered lobby for Israel, it does not have to register as a foreign lobby. And that gives it a unique situation in the country. In every hearing in the Congress that involves Middle East issues, you have staff members of AIPAC sitting in theses committee hearing. No other lobbies, foreign lobbies, have this privilege. And they also write the legislation that Congress passes. For example, the recent Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, which was passed a couple of years ago and which lead to what we see in Lebanon and Syria today was written by AIPAC who later bragged about it. It is not a secret. The only people that pretend they don't know it is the Left. It's on AIPAC's website, it is in their publications. AIPAC also provides interns - young, bright Jewish college students to work in the offices of members of Congress. They go to a member of Congress and say: "We have this young person who is interested in working on Capitol Hill, they will come one year and they will work in your offices." No member of Congress is about to refuse a volunteer.

Also AIPAC has a special foundation that provides free trips for members of Congress to Israel. Last year over a hundred members of Congress went to Israel, on a free trip, paid for by this foundation. Now there is a big debate about such trips in Congress paid for by various lobbies, but I do not believe that anything is going to happen there that would negatively affect AIPAC. Congress will make an exception when it comes to Israel. What is interesting is we have a country to the South of us called Mexico. Mexico is far more important to the United States, to our economy, and also there are many more people of Mexican-American extraction than Jews.

They are thousands of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who work here and are responsible for growing and picking the farm produce in the United States. And yet we don’t have Congressional delegations going to Mexico, we don’t have Congress talking about the importance of Mexico. If they go to Mexico, they go for a vacation, and yet here is the focus on Israel simply because there of two things: money and intimidation. The Democratic Party has for years relied on wealthy Jewish donors for the majority of its contributions. AIPAC itself does not give money. AIPAC coordinates where the money should go, so if you are a wealthy Jewish donor and you want to do something to help Israel’s cause, AIPAC will let you know where to give it. Also, around the country, there are now about three dozen political action committees or PACs that exist only to give money to candidates who support Israel. None of them are identified by a name that has anything to do with Israel; so here in California we have something called the Northern Californians for Good Government”. You have in St-Louis, Missouri, the St-Louisans for Good Government. The biggest one is called the National PAC, NPAC. Then you have the Hudson Valley Political Action committee, Desert Caucus, etcetera.

If you look at the name of these committees, you have not idea at what they are for, whereas the other lobbies identify themselves by their special interest. Why not Jewish supporters of Israel? But even more important for Democrats, and for some Republicans, is the money contributed by individual Jews. For example, in 2002, an Egyptian-born Israeli, named Haim Saban, who came to the United States and made billions of dollars with a Saturday morning children's program, gave $12.3 million dollars to the Democratic party, which was only about a million and a half dollars less than the arm manufacturers political action committees gave to the both political parties.

Now, this is just one man. And also Haim Saban who founded the Saban Institute at the Brookings Institute which deals with Israeli issues. He is also a big supporter AIPAC, and he funds events in Washington where AIPAC trains college students for pro-Israel advocacy. University campuses are a main battleground for the Jewish forces lobbying for Israel that have come together as the Israel Campus Coalition, 28 organizations, including AIPAC with Israel at the top of their agenda.

Today, a main lobby focus is to get to the colleges campuses to stop divestment programs directed towards Israel. They also are trying to influence the next generation of community leaders who are in the universities at the moment to act in Israel's behalf.

S.C. - To help the Palestinians get justice, those who support them -- or who at least pretend to -- must speak the truth. However, it seems as if, even in their own camp, this truth is suffocated. Do you think that in the US, as in Europe, this solidarity has failed because it is led by people who are there to put breaks on any criticism of Israel? Do you think Chomsky's influence is exercized in this way?

Jeffrey Blankfort : The pro-Palestinian movement has been totally ineffectual here for a couple of reasons. One is they refuse to recognize the role the lobby plays. That‘s like going out to play a football game, but you don’t go to the stadium, you go a shopping mall instead. If you are not on the field where the game is played you are not going to win.

So here is the most powerful lobby in the United States, and the Palestinian solidarity movement has ignored with the exception of an occasional picket of AIPAC. One of the reasons is it has been influenced by certain ideological Marxist groups that are still living in another day and age where lobbies did not play a part. I have been told by political activists that to talk about the lobby is not Marxist, or talk about the lobby is not socialist. And my response is that it exists, it’s real, and that is what's important. Also, there are many self-styled Jewish anti-Zionists in the leadership positions in the movement who claim that to blame the lobby is to provoke anti-Semitism. In this, they are what I call, "Jewish exceptionalists" who bar any criticism from acts that Jews do collectively, such as lobbying for Israel which makes them, in practice, scarcely distinguishable from Zionists

And what happens is I hear all of these people dismissing the lobby and quoting Chomsky verbatim without even mentioning his name.

His influence on them is so critical, so powerful that they internalize Chomsky. And so what happens is you have a movement that refuses to recognize the major opponent of the Palestinians on American soil.

Chomsky came out against divestment at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he teaches, and where he was able to water down a divestment resolution. Then he came out two weeks later and attacked the whole divestment issue. He is against sanctions against Israel, he is against divestment, he has not revealed any kind of agenda that would change things others than having people “write letters to the editor”.

He never mentions Congress, he never mentions the Appropriation committees. If he mentions aid to Congress, he won’t say you have to stop it. He will mention like it a fact of life, like it’s raining or it’s sunny. I wrote to him about this and he was not very friendly when he wrote back.

In 1988-95 I published a magazine called the Middle East Labor Bulletin which Chomsky subscribed to. In the magazine I had a special section on the Israel lobby in Congress, in which I revealed the names of the Congress people who were in bed with the lobby and I published the sources, most of which came from the Jewish press. So anyone reading magazine, would have had ample proof about control by the lobby of Congress. I recently reread some of the issues published twelve years ago, and they could have been written today, so he can't play ignorant. I just believe his early Zionist leanings and his fears for the future of Jews is so great that it's like he's a child refusing to face the truth. It is unfortunate.

Well, Chomsky is what we call here in this country a gatekeeper. He is also a gatekeeper on another critical subject, the events of 9/11, dismissing the many questions that have been raised about the official narrative of the Bush administration on the attack on the World Trade Centre. Chomsky says there is no basis to question Mr. Bush's 9/11 story. So most of the criticism that he is getting is from people who have been doing research on 9/11, while he continues to say the story that “the Bush administration has told is the truth". So the role he pushes today on the international stage is, as far as I am concerned, is a reactionary one.

He says a lot of very positive things much of which I agree with, and again, I know many people who say they were introduced to the political world by Chomsky. He has clearly turned people on. But today, it may be a dialectical situation, now he turns people off, or in the wrong direction.

S.C. – Are your theses on Chomsky, that he ignores the influence of AIPAC and other similar institutions in US wars in the Middle East, and has a negative impact on solidarity movements, shared by many other intellectuals?

Jeffrey Blankfort: I am in a minority, but I do have an extensive mailing list, I do have a radio program, actually I have two radio programs, and one radio program happens to be in an area which is not Israeli occupied territory and where I can talk about the lobby, I can talk about Israel the way I am talking about it now. The Zionists tried to get me off the air but they were not effective.

One of the ways they intimidate people is through the various Jewish organizations. Each has taken on a different role to play. One important one is the Anti-Defamation League, whose main job is to defame, intimidate and spy on people who are critical of Israel. I was one of them who were spied on.

Its agent infiltrated our organization, the Labor Committee on the Middle East of which I was the co-founder in 1987. Then we learned that they were spying on hundreds of organizations across the political spectrum and thousands of individuals, twelve thousand individuals, six hundred organizations.

I was able to get my files to find out that they had spied on me illegally, and I sued them.

I went out to court with two other activists and after ten years they agree to settle without me having to sign a confidentiality agreement. So I always talk about this organization.

The person, who spied on me, for the ADL, was also working for South African intelligence. We had a big anti-apartheid movement in this country. Basically the Israel lobby and South Africa were on the same page, very close allies. They were allies socially, culturally and militarily. This is something that unfortunately the anti-apartheid movement also refused to deal with because of Zionist pressure.

I would say the problem with building a real political movement in the United States is blocked by Zionists and their refusal, like Chomsky, to openly deal with Zionism and its role in this country.

Back in 1988, when in the early months of the first Intifada and the anti-intervention movement refused to support a demand that Israel end its occupation of Palestinian land, a Native American a leader told me that the problem with the American movement was that there are too many Liberal Zionists in it. And this is the truth.

I never use his name, because if I publish his name he will then be attacked as being anti-Semitic.

I have been attacked as self-hating Jew, anti-Semite, but it does not matter to me because I consider the accusation of anti-Semitism to be the first refuge of scoundrel. Patriotism is the last refuge, anti-Semitism is the first. In this country it has been used to silence so many people. And this is one of the reasons I am against specifically Jewish organizations wanting to lead the fight for Palestine. What happens is that there are many anti-Zionist Jews, or who claim to be anti-Zionist, who say "we, as anti-Zionists Jews, should provide the leadership so that other people will see that not all the Jews are for Israel”.

And I am totally against that because all American taxpayers pay their taxes and support Israel. And this is an American issue. And by putting it out that Jews are the leaders, that Jews are anti Zionists Jews are doing this, what it says to non-Jews is: they can do this because they are Jewish. It has been tried, so far it has been a failure.

So when I speak, I speak not as a Jew, but as a human being. That's why when I first went to the Middle East in 1970, to Lebanon and Jordan, I did not tell people I was Jewish. I did not go there as a Jew, I went there as a journalist.

It was not important to be South African to oppose apartheid, it was not necessary to be a Nicaraguan to oppose the Contras, or to be a Vietnamese to oppose the Vietnam war. What does being Jewish have to do with opposing what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. In fact, Jews should be very careful about the leadership role. It is not the place for Jews, for people who identify as Jews. The irony is that the people who are most quoted, who speak most on this issue in the US are all Jews who are ultimately protective of Israel.

Chomsky, of course, is the most important one. They criticize Israel, you see, because that's important, you have to do that, but they deflect the main responsibility on to the US and thus while not absolving Israel, shield it from punishment such as sanctions, boycotts and divestment.

S.C. – You just dais that you were accused of anti-Semitism. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, for example, was recently accused by the French dailies "Liberation" and "Le Monde" of having uttered "anti-Semitic" remarks. Do you not think that this accusation has bcome more difficult to explot in the face of a pubic opinion that has discovered that it has been manipulated for political ends?

Jeffrey Blankfort : Well, they see it, but they are afraid to speak of it. Because the price for criticizing Jews, as Jews, is big in the US. But also, as you see, in France, in Germany, in Canada, and so on, Austria. You can criticize any other national group, but to criticize Jews collectively, not Jews as Jews, but the Jewish establishment is to jeopardize your career.

So even if privately people say one thing, they wont say it publicly. I occasional help to get progressive Palestinians and Israelis interviewed by the media in the San Francisco area. It used to be more open, I would say, on mainstream radio than it is today. Back in 1982, I was able to place an Israeli soldier, a reservist, who refused to serve in Lebanon, on the biggest radio talk show in San Francisco. He told the truth about the Lebanon war, that the Palestinians were not shelling Lebanon, and in second hour of the program, which was broadcasted to a national audience, someone, with a strong accent, called and asked "who is responsible for putting this communist on the air?" The talk show host said that he was, but in fact it was the producer who had arranged for my friend to be on the air. Very soon afterward, that talk show host who was the most popular radio programmer in San Francisco, was replaced by a Zionist who is there to this day and who is such a Zionist that every year, when they have an Israeli Day celebration in San Francisco, he is the master of ceremonies. On the airwaves, on the major networks, you will find either among the owners or the more important decision making positions, people who are clearly Zionists. The head of CBS news, Leslie Moonves, for example, is the great-nephew of David Ben Gurion.

Most people cannot or don't want to believe it when I speak of Jewish influence in the media. I read the Jewish press, and they have information on that subject that does not published in the mainstream press. This is basically where I get most of my information, and I have found it to be credible. One paper that is particularly useful is the Forward, a Jewish weekly that is like the Wall Street Journal for Jews, because it has a lot of good information that you don’t find in any other publication.

What is most interesting is that most of the people I know, who are fighting for the Palestinians in the US, never read the Jewish press. And to me, if you don’t do that, you are not serious. Because we cannot do anything in this country about what is happening in Palestine directly. But what we can do in the United States is work to weaken Israel’s support here, to expose the Israel lobby and undermine Israel position in the United States. When we weaken Israel’s support, we strengthen the Palestinian position.

SC : Aren't a number of people, touched by the misery of the Palestinians and the Iraqis, more and more conscious that the media lies?

Jeffrey Blankfort : Well, of course, the newspapers are lying, but while there is more information on the internet, that, too, even from our side, is not always reliable and we have to be careful not just to believe something we read there because it is what we want to believe.

The Bay Area, used to have seven or eight newspapers. Now there are barely two and a half. And they have become more like English tabloids, they are competing with television. Unlike Europe, the quality of television here is very poor, and people have become addicted to it. And they are also addicted to portable musical instruments like CD and MP3 players, and now there is the iPod. It is not very promising and also the political arena here doesn’t give much opportunity to play. We have two parties that, essentially, are the same, two wings of the capitalist party. One pacifies the people that's the Democrats, and the other eliminates them, that's the Republicans. They argue or pretend to about domestic issues, but when it comes to Israel they lock arms together. So for example you may have women in Congress fighting for the right to have an abortion. They join with the most right wing, anti-women members of Congress in the Senate when it comes to supporting Israel. This is never commented on or discussed within the left! It is very depressing because I don’t see much change although there were a couple of protests at local AIPAC meetings, but there is no clear connection made between the lobby and Congress and what is going on in Israel-Palestine. And I don’t see much improvement taking place. So, I cannot even say what can happen that will change it. At some point, there will be a change. I don’t know how it’s going to come around, how it’s going to come about. But I don’t see at the moment any bright prospect for the future.

S.C. – If the orientation of the media doesn't change, and if the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby continues apace in our States without ever being denounced by the left, don't you think that will give Israel a free hand to continue to foment wars against Iran, Syria, and Palestine?

Jeffrey Blankfort : The neo-cons who are almost exclusively Jewish and the Israel lobby got the US into the war in Iraq. The father of the President, the first George Bush was against it, the oil companies were against it. And despite the fact that the war is going so badly, they did not have to pay a political price because only a few isolated columnists, and but a few from the left, and none representing the anti-war movement in this country, wrote articles about that. So now, the same forces are now pushing for a US confrontation with Iran, although I don’t think that will happen, simply because the United States is bogged down in Iraq. Besides, should the US attack Iran, the troops that the US has trained in Iraq who are very pro-Iranians and connected to the two parties the SCIRI and the Dawa that were founded in Iran in 1982 and fought on the side of Iran against Saddam, will certainly respond and Iraq will explode even more than it already has. That is why I don't think the US is going to do it, even though everybody over here seems to think so. But if the US does attack Iran, that is the ultimate proof that the Zionist lobby has total control over US policy, and I don't think it is at that point now. What is happening is interesting: Bush is weak at the moment, Republicans are deserting him, he has lost votes in Congress, he will get his Supreme Court Justice, Alito, approved but AIPAC has criticized him for being soft on Iran; AIPAC has criticized him publicly for not pushing Iran before the Security Council, even though AIPAC knows that if the US brought Iran before the Security Council they will not get the vote against Iran. There is considerable speculation that Israel will attack Iran, even if the US is hesitant, because this is an election year and Israel knows and the lobby knows that anything Israel does at such times will be applauded by Congress and we may end up with the same result in Iraq.

It's interesting that newspapers note as do newscasters on the air, that no criticism is likely to be made of Israel by the president or members of Congress during an election year but they never explain why. The left, led by Chomsky, pretends to be unaware that the question even exists. The irony is, if you read the mainstream press, you will find more about what is going on in terms of the lobby, than if your read the left press, such as it is. The newspaper, The Forward, is a more important newspaper to read because it tells what’s going on with the lobby, and more recently the investigation into AIPAC which the left, again, pays no attention to. Others ask, if AIPAC is so strong, why would they investigate AIPAC ? My response is there are people in Washington, in the intelligence department, in the intelligence agencies who, for their own reasons, are very much worried about the Israelization of US foreign policy. And these people in Washington, or people who used to work in Washington, have had long term fight against the Israel lobby. The left, again, is not a participant in this, unfortunately. And this is why you have people who know what Israel is doing in Washington, what the lobby is doing in Washington and they want to stop it.

S.C. – To come back to that which separates you from Chomsky on the Palestinian question, could we say that you want the Palestinians to win while Chomsky doesn't want the Israelis to lose?

Jeffrey Blankfort : I wouldn't put it exactly that way but I do believe that the Palestinians have the priority to decide what happens in Israel and Palestine and that Chomsky is more concerned about the future of Israel and the welfare of Jews. He opposes a one-state solution and I believe single state is the only answer but I don’t argue here for that because we are not the ones to determine that. But I do give the priority to the Palestinians and he gives it to the Israelis. And that's the difference between us.

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Check Your Conscience at the Door: We're Building an Empire

by Jason Miller
Blaring its typical jarringly cacophonous morning radio jabber, the suddenly welcome sound of my alarm rescued me from the maelstrom of a nightmarish Neocon world spawned within my unconscious mind. As consciousness flooded my being, I had an epiphany. My breed of human being is a pariah in the American Empire. In the minds of the Regime's loyal foot soldiers (the Neo-Tories of the Twenty First Century) American society is waging a domestic war between those they define as liberals and those they qualify as conservatives. Since 9/11, Fox News and the Bush Regime have brain-washed them into believing that terrorists and their sympathizers are lurking around every corner, poised to infect them with a lethal virus, slice them with box cutters or obliterate them with a suicide bomb. In the black and white perspective of the Neo-Tories, you are with us or against us. If you do not fit into their narrow and misguided notion of conservatism, you must be a "liberal". The American media/propaganda machine (which the Empire's power moguls have brilliantly portrayed as "liberal" to obfuscate the fact that six corporate conglomerates own 90% of the mainstream media market) has sharply defined the “treasonous”, “ineffectual” nature of "liberals", portraying them as soft on crime, sympathetic to those demonic terrorists, Socialists and Communists, immoral, and militarily weak.

Masters of delusion

To their credit, Israel, AIPAC, the Bush Regime, powerful families (with names like Koch), the numerous multi-millionaires in Congress, powerful lobbyists, think tanks, major corporations, and the 1% of Americans who harbor 38% of the nation's wealth have done a phenomenal job of convincing a majority of the poor and working class that they are fortunate to have the privilege of fighting over the remaining crumbs of the economic pie after the ruling elite gorge themselves. Despite the 13% of Americans living in poverty, 46 million without health insurance, and approximately 3 million homeless wandering our streets, the gallimaufry ruling the United States according to the Golden Rule (he that hath the gold maketh the rules) has artfully convinced "Main Street" that it "doesn't get any better than this". The Empire's Neo-Tories boast that capitalism and the free market are "kicking ass" while Communism and Socialism have been relegated to the dustbin of history. (Obviously they have not been paying much attention to South America lately). With "free market" think tanks like Cato Institute (funded by “humanitarian-environmentalists” like Charles Koch) to provide the propaganda (sorry, I meant to say research), there is virtually no end to the "evidence" supporting the "benefits" of government deregulation of businesses and corporations.

Unfortunately, I was born with a social conscience and a powerful aversion to tyranny. My strong support of universal human rights and dignity, social justice, equality, peace, and protection of the environment has led me to dissent vehemently against the American Empire. My strenuous objections to the widening wealth gap, the state terrorism committed by the United States and Israel, corporate abuse of consumers, employees and the environment, egregious violation of international law by the US (including torture on a wide scale), obscene hypocrisy concerning nuclear capacities, rapidly diminishing civil liberties, insane expenditure of our tax dollars for military purposes, and the rapid consolidation of power into the Executive Branch have earned me the brand of "liberal".

Now is the time for the Neo-Tories to make the sign of the cross, reach for their garlic, brandish their vile of holy water, and invoke incantations from Ann Coulter. In so doing, they are certain to vanquish the lot of us weaklings who stand in the way of the true “progress” which will only occur once the Empire dedicates itself fully to the concept of survival of the fittest. Remember, Hitler eradicated the Socialist/Communist scourge as he rose to provide us with a viable sociopolitical model encompassing gross intolerance, cruel injustice, imperial conquest, genocide, and overt concentration of power in the hands of the elites.

In my poignant moment of clarity, I decided it was time for me (and others like me) to surrender our fatuous devotion to childish notions of fairness and equality. The Neocons and their Neo-Tory bootlicks possess an unwavering commitment to domination that will enable them to lead the American Empire (unfettered by weaknesses like compassion and empathy) to its true destiny: global hegemony. How could I have been so blind to the truth that the many must suffer so the few can prosper? It is an inescapable aspect of the human condition. Only 250,000 Iraqi civilian have died for the noble cause of spreading freedom and democracy (wink, wink; nudge, nudge). In the process, we have also taught those filthy Middle Easterners that we will not tolerate them selling their oil for Euros and we have established the 52nd state of the union (to complement the 51st state formed through the genocide of the Palestinians). Never mind that the Machiavellian and illegitimate Bush Regime has reduced the value of the Constitution to that of toilet paper (albeit it would probably be too rough even for that purpose).

Bury the efforts and sacrifices of Women's Suffragists, Populists, Progressives, organized labor and civil rights activists! Join the Neo-Tories in a Twenty First Century renewal of fealty to King George! William Kristol, Robert Kagan and the Empire-building signatories of the PNAC had the cajones to announce America's intentions to dominate the world. We owe it to them to make their wet dream a reality....

Imagine a nation unfettered by the silly constraints of conscience, the rule of law (over the whims of individual rulers), humanity, and justice! My mind is reeling in orgasmic delight at the virtually infinite array of possibilities. America has the potential to become an empire like no other. Envision endless hedonistic orgies, mountains of blood-drenched cash harvested from the Neo-colonies, uninhibited rape and plunder of the world’s resources, obscene exploitation of the billions of human beings not fortunate enough to inhabit the “Empire proper”, and military domination by air, sea, land and space. Sign me up to help make it happen!

In the wake of my startling realizations, I finally began seeing the light as I envisioned the American Empire as it should be. Thankfully, I have come to my senses and will cease my frivolous pursuit of inane ideals that don’t create wealth, advance technology, dominate other human beings, provide immediate gratification, or satiate carnal desires.

This is America, baby! Shut up and swear allegiance to the Flag, the Dollar, the Corporatocracy, and to the Regime.

Taking off the mask (and the gloves)

It has become too cumbersome to carry on the charade of democracy. Staging two consecutive fraudulent presidential elections, maintaining a Congress which has evolved into a rubber-stamp for the Regime, and giving the populace access to a court system packed with ideologues who eagerly await the opportunity to endorse the Empire's edicts have effectively enabled tyranny under the guise of democracy. However, these unnecessary hindrances have become obsolete. Besides, if we are to rescue Scott McClellan from eternity in Malebolge, it is time that the Bush Regime comes out of the closet and simply issues its own version of the Enabling Act.

As President-elect George Bush stated on 12/18/00:

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

Let's not keep him waiting any longer! Stop haranguing him about wire-tapping without FISA approval. Implement Patriot Act II. Embrace torture as an acceptable and necessary means of expanding the Empire by breaking its alleged enemies and dissenters. Habeas corpus and Posse Comitatus are antiquated impediments to domestic tranquility. They must be eliminated.

One of my co-workers recently asserted that everyone who disagrees with the policies of the Regime needs to be rounded up and shot. I agree. We need to implement a nation-wide dragnet to capture subversives, dissidents, liberals, war protesters, and the remaining scum whose treasonous activities retard the Empire's progress. A bullet is a hell of a lot cheaper than a prison cell. We have plenty of bullets; let's put them to use.

The Business of America is Business

Calvin Coolidge, a visionary president who recognized the necessity of laissez-faire economic policies, knew what America was about. It is time we got back to our roots by removing quaint ethical, legal, and moral constraints on businesses. American society reached the peak of its evolution during the Gilded Age. Let's reclaim that glory.

Corporations and business magnates have been hamstrung by archaic laws long enough. Let's truly free the free market. Unshackle the movers and shakers of our capitalist economy and the American Empire will blow the doors off the rest of the world. We are only consuming 25% of the world's resources now. America needs to buckle down and significantly increase its share of the world's bounty. Since the other 97% of the world's population is comprised of terrorists, savages, Socialists, non-Christians, and non-Caucasians, they need to yield to the moral imperative of the Christian God and further enrich the American Empire.

Minimum wages, Child Labor Laws, mandatory extra pay for so-called "overtime", legislation prohibiting discriminatory hiring practices and sexual harassment, and ridiculous protections for the disabled need to go. Our children have too much free time on their hands; idle hands do the work of the devil. Blacks and other minorities need to buck up and deal with it if Whites feel uncomfortable hiring them. Women need to develop a thicker skin and realize that sometimes keeping their job requires a little "extra effort". If someone is blind or wheelchair-bound, we have no obligation to accommodate their weaknesses.

Clean air and water are luxuries Americans can no longer afford. Endangered species need to go the way of the Dodo if they can't hack it anymore. The Bible clearly defines man's dominion over this planet. If Mother Earth has a problem with the way we are treating her, she can take it up with the Man Upstairs.

End the Gravy Train

Entitlements are a waste of our precious resources. Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, food stamps and the rest of those nauseating Socialistic programs must go. If someone doesn't have money, it is time they got a job. Those of us who work and pay taxes owe the lazy and weak nothing. Can't find a job or the money you need for basic necessities? Tough. If God had intended for you to survive, he would have given you the attributes and resources to do so.

Shedding our puerile concerns for the plight of the poor, the elderly, and the disabled will enable us to focus more of our resources where they belong. The $600 billion a year we spend on defense represents a mere 60% of world military expenditures. What self-respecting imperial entity would settle for such a miniscule piece of the pie? Exempting the military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the other offices of the Executive Branch necessary to rule the Empire, it is time to follow Grover Norquist's brilliant advice and start running the bath water.

Like the one in Jericho, this wall must come down...

A crucial aspect the American Empire lacks is the marriage of church and state. A tyrannical Bush Regime wedded with the powerful elements of the Religious Right and Dominionists would empower the "iron men" to rid our society of harlots and sinners like Hester Prynne.

We are a Christian nation. Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans and other followers of unenlightened religions need to convert or face harsh consequences, including crucifixion, stoning, or if we are feeling lenient, simple expulsion from our nation. Homosexuality, prostitution, abortion, and atheism will be punishable by death. Blasphemy will result in surgical removal of the tongue. Adultery will be grounds for severe torture involving the genitals. Women and children will again subjugate themselves to the masters of our nation, their husbands and fathers.

Religion will return to the public square. Those who refuse to say Merry Christmas will be flogged until they lose consciousness. Prayer will be mandatory at all public events and non-participants will receive severe beatings. Failure to attend church on a consistent basis will result in assignment to re-education centers. A government entity analogous to the IRS will oversee the collection of mandatory tithes. Those caught cheating the Church will have their hands severed. A Ministry of Decency will monitor all forms of media and stage mass public bonfires to eliminate profane, pornographic, and blasphemous materials.

The Church of the Empire will be jointly administered by members of the Bush Regime and such Christian luminaries as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Tim LaHaye. To prevent the Empire's bounty from going to waste in a heavily tithed society with Puritanical laws, the segments of the populace comprising the ruling elite (including the Church leadership) will be exempt from their own edicts. "Do as I say and not as I do" will be the order of the day.

It is time for the "Culture of Life" to prevail in the United States.

Whoring girls and women who become pregnant out of wedlock deserve to be butchered at the hands of back-alley abortionists. And as for the abandoned or abused children arising from unwanted pregnancies, they will provide a ready supply of cheap labor once we eliminate those hopelessly idealistic Child Labor Laws.

Perpetual war to expand our sphere of influence is the only way to ensure American dominance over the rest of the world. To hell with concern for the murder of innocent civilians. Those individuals are merely "collateral damage" for which we cannot be held responsible. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Better luck next time. Besides, when we murder, we are morally and legally justified because our terrorism is committed in uniform and for the cause of “freedom”. Hopefully Hamas will not discover our secret and start putting uniforms on their freedom fighters.

The Empire's work in Iraq is only beginning. Permanent military base completion, generous dispensation of depleted uranium and white phosphorus, murder, mayhem, and environmental devastation will keep us busy for a few more years. Once we have secured Iraq and the precious oil, we can take a serious look at Iran. While there are several compelling reasons to refrain from attacking Iran today, once we bring the nation of Iraq to its knees (regardless of the cost), we can set our sights on another member of the Axis of Evil. In the interim, we will further solidify our strategic position in the Middle East through our unflinching support of Israeli genocide against the malevolent Palestinians. They made their bed by electing Hamas. Now they must lie in it. Unless Hamas quietly acquiesces to the ongoing rape of its people, we will teach them obedience. We will not rest until the vermin infesting the West Bank and Gaza are servile or dead.

We can stem the tide of the ongoing threat from our subhuman black population by stepping up implementation of the death penalty. Since public lynchings are no longer an option, state murders need to become public events once again. We know that black males in particular have natural criminal inclinations, so we need this powerful deterrent to keep their savage tendencies in check.

Embryonic stem cell research must not take place. Blastocysts are human lives, whether they have been implanted in a womb or not. We need to appropriate federal funding for funerals and proper burials for those tiny human beings discarded by fertility clinics. God mandates that we deter the murderers who want to use these precious little children for their evil scientific experiments.

Finally, to keep the citizens of the Empire complacent and fulfilled, we will continue to burnish unbridled consumption into their psyches. Alluring advertising from Madison Avenue, easy credit, and the commercialization of virtually every aspect of our culture (we will even have to desecrate our sacred Christianity a bit, but such is the nature of an imperial dynasty) will prompt consumers to power the engine of America's economy.

Mirroring our spiritual bankruptcy, our people and our government will revel in false riches derived from borrowed money we can never hope to repay. But who will challenge the most powerful nation on the planet? If China calls our notes due, we will simply incinerate them with the space weapons we will have developed.

You think the American Empire is hubristic, xenophobic, cruel, avaricious, and murderous? You're right. As Aldous Huxley wrote:

"The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human."

Many Americans forgot that many other sets of people were human long ago. They checked their consciences at the door and are building an empire. Join me in letting go of the delusional belief that you can stop them. Resistance if futile. Accept your fate and surrender gracefully.

To the glory of Washington!

Excuse me now while I wretch and vomit profusely. Once I purge the toxins of imperial fantasy from my being, I will resume my dissent. In spite of my tenacious efforts, I was unable to divorce myself from my conscience. It looks like I won’t be swearing allegiance to the American Empire any time soon.

Jason Miller is a 39-year-old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. When he is not spending time with his wife and three sons, researching, or writing, he is working as a loan counselor. He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at willpowerful@hotmail.com or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner.

Comment on this Editorial

Silence the War Drums

Congressman Ron Paul 02/20/06

Before the US House of Representatives, February 16, 2006

-- Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this very dangerous legislation. My colleagues would do well to understand that this legislation is leading us toward war against Iran.
Those reading this bill may find themselves feeling a sense of déjà vu. In many cases one can just substitute "Iraq" for "Iran" in this bill and we could be back in the pre-2003 run up to war with Iraq. And the logic of this current push for war is much the same as was the logic used in the argument for war on Iraq. As earlier with Iraq, this resolution demands that Iran perform the impossible task of proving a negative – in this case that Iran does not have plans to build a nuclear weapon.

There are a few things we need to remember when thinking about Iran and this legislation. First, Iran has never been ruled in violation of its international nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

Second, Iran concluded a Safeguards Agreement more than 30 years ago that provides for the verification of Iran's fulfillment of its obligation to not divert nuclear energy programs to nuclear weapons development. Since this agreement was reached, the International Atomic Energy Agency has never found any indication that Iran has diverted or attempted to divert source or special nuclear materials from a peaceful purpose to a military purpose.

But, this does not stop those eager for conflict with Iran from stating otherwise. As the Washington Post reported last year, "U.S. officials, eager to move the Iran issue to the U.N. Security Council – which has the authority to impose sanctions – have begun a new round of briefings for allies designed to convince them that Iran's real intention is to use its energy program as a cover for bomb building. The briefings will focus on the White House's belief that a country with as much oil as Iran would not need an energy program on the scale it is planning, according to two officials."

This reminds us of the quick move to justify the invasion of Iraq by citing Iraq's "intentions" when actual weapons of mass destruction could not be found.

The resolution's second resolved clause is a real misrepresentation of the Iran/EU3 talks. The "efforts of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom" were not "to seek...suspension of enrichment and reprocessing related activities..." As the EU3-Iran Paris Agreement makes very clear, the suspension of enrichment is a purely voluntary measure taken by Iran and is "not a legal obligation."

This is similar to the situation with Iran's voluntarily observation of the Additional Protocols (allowing unannounced inspections) without legally being bound to do so. Suspending voluntary observance of the Additional Protocols is not a violation of the NPT. But, those seeking to push us toward war with Iran are purposely trying to connect the two – to confuse voluntary "confidence building" measures taken by Iran with the legally-binding Treaty itself.

Resolved clause four of this legislation is the most inflammatory and objectionable part of the legislation. It lowers the bar to initiating war on Iran. This clause anticipates that the US may not be successful in getting the Security Council to pass a Resolution because of the potential of a Russian or Chinese veto, so it "calls upon" Russia and China to "take action" in response to "any report" of "Iran's noncompliance. That is right: any report.

Mr. Speaker, this resolution is a drumbeat for war with Iran. Its logic is faulty, its premises are flawed, and its conclusions are dangerous. I urge my colleagues to stop for a moment and ponder the wisdom of starting yet another war in the Middle East.

Comment on this Article

Iran calls for end to Mohammed cartoon protests

UK Telegraph By David Rennie in Brussels 21/02/2006

Iran's foreign minister called yesterday for an end to the violent protests over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that have left dozens dead in several Muslim countries.

"We should try to cool down the situation," Manouchehr Mottaki said in Brussels. "We do not support any violence."

Mr Mottaki went on to urge European Union governments and media outlets "to take initiatives" to prevent such cartoons, which originally appeared in Denmark, from being published again.

Governments were facing "angry Muslims all around the world. We have to try our best to avoid any violence," he said. "This is what we are trying to do in Iran.

"So many of our policemen were attacked by angry people on the streets."

The Danish foreign minister, Per Stig Moeller, accused "extremists" of being behind the latest explosion of protests in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey, even as demonstrations tapered off elsewhere in the Arab world.

"It's the extremist forces that wish to keep it going," he said. "There is no doubt that all extremists will exploit the situation. Al-Qa'eda, too, will use it and fan the fire."

Iran factfile

Mr Moeller condemned a Pakistani cleric who offered a $1 million (£574,000) bounty for killing one of the cartoonists.

He called the reward "insane" and tantamount to terrorism. "It's incitement to murder. Murder is also banned by the Koran."

The cartoons first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September. But the row took off only in January, after the intervention of powerful Arab clerics and politicians.

Mr Mottaki, one of a number of hardliners brought into the government last year, faced questions yesterday from Euro MPs about his country's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

He was also pressed about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be wiped from the face of the earth and comments that the Holocaust was a "myth".

One Conservative Euro MP, Struan Stevenson, called for Mr Mottaki to be barred from the European parliament, citing allegations about his time as Iran's ambassador to Turkey in the 1980s.

His work there coincided with a series of kidnappings and assassinations of Iranian exiles and dissidents in Turkey.

Mr Stevenson said: "This man is an affront to the world of international diplomacy."

Mr Mottaki also held talks with Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, but failed to make any progress over Iran's nuclear programme.

Comment: These comments by the Iranian foreign Minister stand in stark contrast to the scurrilous allegations by Rice that Iran was in fact inciting violence over the cartoons. More evidence that Rice is a bare-faced liar and manipulator? You bet.

Comment on this Article

U.S. Envoy in Iraq Accuses Iran Of Assisting Militias, Insurgents

By Nelson Hernandez Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, February 21, 2006; Page A10

BAGHDAD, Feb. 20 -- The U.S. ambassador to Iraq accused Iran on Monday of providing weapons, training and support to Iraqi militia and insurgent groups responsible for the country's continuing violence and instability.
At a news conference, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad criticized what he called Iran's "negative role" in Iraqi affairs, saying the country's diplomatic relationship with its neighbor was tainted by a policy "to work with militias, to work with extremist groups, to provide training and weapons." He added that there was evidence the Iranians provided "indirect help" to Sunni Arab insurgents who attack U.S. and Iraqi government troops.

The Iranian aid was part of a "comprehensive strategy" by a "player seeking regional preeminence," he said.

It was not the first time the United States and its allies have made such accusations. In October, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said his government was investigating evidence that Iran had sold sophisticated bombs to insurgents in Iraq.

But Khalilzad's remarks were unusually blunt. "I have said to Iraqis that we do not seek to impose our differences with Iran on them," Khalilzad said. "But we do not want Iranian interference in Iraq."

Khalilzad rejected recent Iranian calls for the withdrawal of British troops from the southern Iraqi city of Basra, saying that the demands were "uncalled for" and that the issue was "none of their business." The Iranians, he said, were attempting to divert attention from the dispute over their nuclear ambitions.

Iran called for the withdrawal soon after the release of a tape that appears to show British troops beating teenage boys who were involved in a protest in Basra, which lies near the Iranian border in a predominantly Shiite Muslim area.

"The coalition forces are here under a U.N. mandate, at the request of the Iraqi government," Khalilzad said. "Basra is Iraqi territory, the last time I checked the map."

Iraq's relationship to Iran is a complicated one. The two countries fought a brutal, inconclusive war in the 1980s. But Iraq's population is predominantly Shiite and many Shiite politicians have close ties to Iran, having lived there in exile during the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. This has led many Iraqis to fear that their country will become a pawn of their eastern neighbor.

Some Shiite parties maintain militias in order to back their decisions with force. It has long been a goal of U.S. policy to disband these groups, and critics say the militias, and militia fighters who have joined the country's security forces, are responsible for a campaign of killing and intimidation aimed at Sunni Arabs.

At the news conference, Khalilzad reiterated a call for Iraqis to form a government representing all of the country's ethnic and sectarian groups and to staff their security ministries with competent, nonsectarian leaders. He implied that the United States could cut off aid to Iraq if they do otherwise.

"We're not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian," Khalilzad said.

At a news conference in Najaf on Monday, Ibrahim al-Jafari, the Iraqi prime minister, said foreign governments were not expected to interfere in the process of forming a government. "The next government will be formed by Iraqi hands and it will take into account the election results," he said. "And will seek to apply standards of honesty, competence and efficiency so that the performance of the government shall be strong."

Meanwhile, at least 25 Iraqis were killed in bombings Monday morning, police said, and a roadside bomb killed a coalition soldier patrolling southeast of Karbala, U.S. military authorities said in a statement.

The bulk of the attacks were in Baghdad. In the worst incident, a man detonated an explosive vest inside a bus in northern Baghdad, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than five, said Maj. Mukhallad Ani, an Interior Ministry spokesman. Ani said the bomber targeted a bus that was carrying Shiites near the Hawija bus station in the Shiite Kadhimiya neighborhood.

In Mosul, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt inside a restaurant, killing three and wounding six, all police officers, according to hospital and police officials.

The attack took place in the Abu Ali restaurant in central Mosul, said Gen. Abdul Hamid Jubouri, a spokesman for the Nineveh province police. The restaurant is close to the police headquarters and is frequented by officers, witnesses said.

Last week, insurgents destroyed a communications center in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's restive Anbar province. The insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq asserted responsibility this week. A U.S. military spokesman confirmed Monday that a communications building had been attacked but did not provide details.

Mahmood Fahdawi, the city's communications manager, said the building housed a tip line that residents could use to inform authorities of insurgent activity. But he said it also controlled cell phone service for a large part of the province.

Residents said the city is now largely disconnected from the rest of the world. Insurgents have targeted people using satellite phones, now the only means to contact security forces in the city, residents said.

Ismael Bayati, a physician, said even the city's hospital was cut off.

Comment: Of course, it's all Iran's fault!

Comment on this Article

Iran-Russian nuclear talks close

Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 10:49 GMT

Iranian and Russian officials have ended two days of talks on a Russian plan to enrich uranium on its territory for use in Iran's reactors.

It is not clear what the talks may have achieved as the Iranian delegation prepared to leave Moscow on Tuesday.

A senior Iranian official described the talks as "positive and constructive" and said they would continue.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said it was too early to declare the talks a failure.
Separately, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran would no longer hold nuclear talks with the EU-3 of Britain, France and Germany.

He said Iran attached greater weight to negotiations with Moscow on a Russian compromise plan.

"Our contacts with the European Union will no longer be held with the EU-3, but with the different countries of the European Union," Mr Mottaki said a day after talks with EU officials in Brussels.

'Last chance'

The Russian proposal was being seen by many as a last chance for Iran to compromise with the UN nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On 6 March the agency is due to issue a report that might move the whole issue to the UN Security Council.

Iran has previously insisted that it will not give up the right to enrich uranium on its own territory.

The agency reported Iran to the security council in January over a lack of co-operation and transparency in its nuclear activities.

Western powers are concerned Iran aims to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its programme is not military.

Iran resumed small-scale uranium enrichment earlier this month.

Enrichment can produce fuel for either civilian nuclear reactors or nuclear bombs.

The nuclear crisis has intensified since Iran resumed nuclear activity last summer after a two-and-a-half year freeze.

Comment on this Article

US Asks Georgia to Use Bases and Airfields for Attacks on Iran — Paper

20.02.2006 MosNews

American officials are probing whether Georgia, situated just northwest of Iran, will allow Washington to use its military bases and airfields in the event of a military conflict with Teheran, The Jerusalem Post reported Monday citing an unnamed Georgian official.
The Americans have been putting out feelers, the source, a high-ranking Georgian government foreign affairs official said, in advance of a possible military strike to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.

American reports in recent months, speculating about the possibility of a campaign against Iran because of the failure of diplomatic efforts to thwart a potential nuclear weapons program, have suggested that sustained military action, rather than a single strike, may be required given the number of Iranian nuclear facilities, their divergent locations and Iranian defenses.

Georgian government officials said that Tbilisi fears harsh Iranian military retaliation against the Georgian republic if U.S. forces were to use its territory as a base for strikes against Iran, but nonetheless may feel obligated to accede to such a request, given the country’s heavy reliance on US aid and support. The US maintains its own military bases in Georgia.

While Americans have been testing the waters lately in this direction, the source indicated, no official request of this kind has yet been made.

Georgia is also worried about the possibility of civil unrest, citing the strong opposition by its Muslim minority to the country’s participation in the war in Iraq, where there is a limited Georgian military contingent.

Military collaboration with the U.S. would also have “a most negative effect” on relations between Moscow and Tbilisi, which remains strained since the election of Georgia’s U.S.-educated president, Mikhail Saakashvili, in 2004.

Saakashvili is considered one of the most consistent U.S. supporters in the post-Soviet bloc and enjoys solid American backing. Indeed, Saakashvili is often accused by Moscow of maintaining an “American outpost in the region.”

The Georgian source added that a similar US request might be made to Azerbaijan, an immediate neighbor of Iran and another close American ally.

The close proximity of both countries to Iran makes Tbilisi and Baku desirable partners in a potential alliance against Iran.

Comment on this Article

Georgia denies US 'putting out feelers'

Jpost 21/02/2006

Following the Post's report that the US was considering using military bases in Georgia as a platform for a possible attack on Iran, the Georgian chief of General Staff denied the claims.

"This is utterly absurd," Levan Nikoleishvili, the Georgian chief of the General Staff told Russian news agency Novosti following the Monday morning report.

The Jerusalem Post was told that American officials have been quietly probing whether Georgia, situated just northwest of Iran, will be willing to allow Washington to use its military bases and airfields in the event of a military conflict with Teheran.

The Americans have been putting out feelers, a high-ranking Georgian government foreign affairs official told the Post, in advance of a possible military strike to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.

American reports in recent months, speculating about the possibility of a campaign against Iran because of the failure of diplomatic efforts to thwart a potential nuclear weapons program, have suggested that sustained military action, rather than a single strike, may be required given the number of Iranian nuclear facilities, their divergent locations and Iranian defenses.

Georgian government officials said that Tbilisi fears harsh Iranian military retaliation against the Georgian republic if US forces were to use its territory as a base for strikes against Iran, but nonetheless may feel obligated to accede to such a request, given the country's heavy reliance on US aid and support. The US maintains its own military bases in Georgia.

While the Americans have been testing the waters lately in this direction, the source indicated, no official request of this kind has yet been made.

Georgia is also worried about the possibility of civil unrest, citing the strong opposition by its Muslim minority to the country's participation in the war in Iraq, where there is a limited Georgian military contingent.

Comment on this Article

U.S. Army stretched to breaking

Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune 20-FEB-06

The Marines may be the most celebrated of the American armed forces, but it's the Army that does most of the heavy lifting, as it is doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the process, the Army is being battered and shattered in the same way that it was in Vietnam.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says that isn't the case; everything's fine. But a recent authoritative study says he is wrong. Commissioned by the Pentagon, the study was done by Andrew Krepinevich of the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He's a West Point graduate who served in a variety of Army roles, including a stint on the strategic plans and policy division, before retiring. He holds a doctorate from Harvard University.
Krepinevich says that coming out of Vietnam, military leaders were determined never again to get bogged down in prolonged small-unit combat. If the Army must fight, it would hit with overwhelming force, achieve its objectives and get out. The need to behave that way was reinforced by the end of the draft late in the Vietnam War. U.S. military forces now needed to focus on their ability to attract new recruits and retain experienced personnel.

That doctrine dictated how the Army was organized for Afghanistan and Iraq. It was totally unprepared to cope with extended battles against insurgencies; the Bush administration's strategy didn't take them into account.

Krepinevich says the Army can deploy no more than 13 brigades to hardship tours at one time. It now has 19 brigades deployed. To fill the gap, two Marine brigades have been sent to Iraq. "Stop loss" and "stop move" orders have been implemented. The reserves have been well tapped out. Active duty personnel now are commonly on their third rotation into Iraq.

The effects of this flawed strategy have been dramatic. The Army has no strategic reserve to call on if another threat were to develop. Divorce rates, domestic abuse and all kinds of mental and physical problems are on the rise among active duty soldiers. In sum, the Army is headed for a "catastrophic decline in recruitment and retention" unless something is done. The "thin green line," Krepinevich says, will break. And don't look to NATO, the United Nations or private contractors for more help, or expect Iraqi forces to develop without many years of effort.

Adding an additional 30,000 to 40,000 personnel, "if aggressively executed, could create a force sufficient to sustain current force levels indefinitely, while maintaining a modest strategic reserve," Krepinevich writes. But even that wouldn't help unless the Pentagon's strategy is changed. From a force organized "to compete as a world-class sprinter," Krepinevich says, the Army must recast itself to run marathons _ to put a "greater priority on stability operations." That, he says, will take years, and there are no good options for getting through the transition, even if nothing else happens in the world requiring the Army's attention.

Thus the Army finds itself just where it was in Vietnam, and without a draft. Its near-term future looks bleak, thanks to the flawed vision of Rumsfeld and Bush.

Comment on this Article

British sergeant 'killed in bomb ambush by rogue Iraqi police'

By Michael Evans, Defence Editor Times Online 20/002/2006

A BRITISH army sergeant killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq four months ago may have been the victim of a rogue Iraqi police attack, an investigation into his death has discovered.

New evidence on the killing of Sergeant Chris Hickey, of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, last October emerged yesterday, as it was revealed that two British soldiers were facing possible murder charges for allegedly shooting an Iraqi in the head.
A BRITISH army sergeant killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq four months ago may have been the victim of a rogue Iraqi police attack, an investigation into his death has discovered.

New evidence on the killing of Sergeant Chris Hickey, of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, last October emerged yesterday, as it was revealed that two British soldiers were facing possible murder charges for allegedly shooting an Iraqi in the head.

The suspicion that Iraqi police were behind the death of Sergeant Hickey would appear to undermine the comment from John Reid, the Defence Secretary, yesterday that it was “not far off” from when British troops could start coming home from Iraq.

Sergeant Hickey had spent the six months before his death training the Iraqi police who would play a key role in maintaining stability in Iraq.

An official report into the circumstances leading to the killing of Sergeant Hickey, 30, has disclosed that Iraqi police officers were positioned in a car on waste ground close to where the bomb went off, and were later questioned about their suspected involvement in remotely detonating the device. The Iraqi police had arrived before his patrol turned up on a notoriously dangerous road in Basra, and had parked on the waste ground with the car headlights full on, the report says.

The car remained there, "100 metres from the road", when Sergeant Hickey, who dismounted from his armoured Land Rover, began examining a suspicious mound on the edge of the waste ground.

When the device detonated, killing him instantly, the police car, still with its headlights on, did not move, the report says. Army investigators believe that the bomb was activated remotely from the waste ground.

Sergeant Andy Wilkinson, of the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, who was with Sergeant Hickey on the patrol and was injured in the bomb explosion, told The Times in December that the waste ground running beside the road provided the perfect “line of sight” for the attackers to “wait their moment before detonating the device by remote control”.

Pauline Hickey, Sergeant Hickey’s mother, said yesterday she was angry that none of the police officers had been charged. “They were questioned and photographed but allowed to go free,” she said.

Ms Hickey was told that a lieutenant-colonel of the Iraqi police service had arrived at the scene and had “vouched for the policemen in the car”.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that no Iraqi had been charged with the death of Sergeant Hickey or with the killings of any of the British soldiers who have died from enemy fire since March 2003.

At least six Iraqi police officers are in detention at the British military prison in Shaibah, in connection with other incidents, but none has been charged, the MoD said.

Comment: For more on the rise of death squads in Iraq and who is behind them, see our article Trans-Generational Tyranny.

Comment on this Article

U.S. Warns Iraq It Won't Support Sectarian Goals

By SABRINA TAVERNISE and ROBERT F. WORTH Published: February 21, 2006

The American ambassador to Iraq issued an unusually strong warning on Monday about the need for Iraq's political factions to come together, hinting for the first time that the United States would not be willing to support crucial public institutions plagued by sectarian agendas.
"The United States is investing billions of dollars" in Iraq's police and army, said the ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. "We are not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian."

Mr. Khalilzad spoke at a news conference on a day of fresh violence across Iraq. It was the bloodiest day in almost two months.

He was addressing allegations that Shiite death squads operate within the Interior Ministry. Such reports have grown in recent months, with accounts of hundreds of Sunni men being rounded up by men in police uniforms and found dead days or weeks later.

The deaths have infuriated the Sunni Arabs, whose radical fringe leads the insurgency here, and have sharpened their distrust of the Shiite-led government that swept into power last spring.

Bombing attacks on Monday, including one inside a crowded commuter bus in Baghdad and another in a restaurant in northern Iraq, left at least 26 dead and more than 60 wounded. One American soldier was also killed.

Iraqi political leaders are deep in negotiations over forming a government, more than two months after parliamentary elections.

American officials have long argued that new cabinet ministers should place the interests of their country over those of their sects. But by linking American financing to a fair, nonpartisan army and police force, even if not intended as a direct threat, Mr. Khalilzad pressed the American position more forcefully and publicly than before.

American officials are working to draw Sunni Arabs into the new government in an effort to build a stable society and begin bringing American troops home. Allaying Sunni concerns over overtly biased ministries is seen as an essential part of that effort.

The attacks on Monday, however, raised fresh fears of renewed violence.

The worst of the violence began in Mosul, in northern Iraq. Shortly after 7 a.m., a suicide bomber walked into the Abu Ali Restaurant and detonated his payload, spraying shrapnel into diners, killing at least six of them and wounding six more, the police and local officials said.

The attack was a clear strike against the police force: the restaurant is near a police station and is popular among officers, many of whom were eating breakfast.

"I could not hear anything, and there was heavy smoke," said Said Tharwat, a 30-year-old wounded in the attack.

Several hours later in Baghdad, a man wearing a suicide vest boarded a bus in Kadimiya, a bustling Shiite neighborhood, and blew himself up, killing at least 12 Iraqis and wounding 15, most of them Shiite commuters, a Ministry of Interior official said. One witness said the fiery blast, which ignited the bus, had scattered body parts and severely burned the wounded. A nearby traffic policeman was also killed.

The wounded, with burns on their hands and faces, were evacuated to Kadimiya Hospital, where an official reported a higher death toll: 17.

The violence came amid signs of serious disagreement over the shape of the government. The new Parliament is required by law to meet for the first time on Saturday, and Mr. Khalilzad's remarks seemed calculated to put pressure on Iraqis to overcome their differences.

He has sharply criticized Interior Ministry abuses in the past, echoing Sunni concerns about the ministry's failure to stop the killings. He amplified those concerns on Monday, urging the leaders to appoint interior and defense ministers who are "nonsectarian, broadly accepted and not tied to militias."

If Iraq cannot control the sectarian agendas within its government, Mr. Khalilzad said, it "faces the risk of warlordism that Afghanistan went through for a period." Mr. Khalilzad was born in Afghanistan and served as an American envoy there before coming to Iraq last year.

Tensions between Sunni Arabs and Shiite political groups are not the only obstacle to the kind of unity government that Mr. Khalilzad is advocating, and it is unlikely that a government will be formed soon, some Iraqi leaders said.

The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, also arrived Monday to discuss formation of the new government, Reuters reported.

In more behind-the-scenes political negotiating, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari visited the leader of the Shiite majority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in Najaf.

Mr. Jaafari, who was recently selected by the largest Shiite political bloc to remain prime minister in the next government, said Ayatollah Sistani had urged him to speed up the formation of the government "on the basis of high competence, integrity and transparency."

Across Iraq on Monday, insurgents engineered at least eight attacks. In central Baghdad, a homemade bomb went off near a group of Shiite day-laborers around 8 a.m., wounding 20 of them, an Interior Ministry official said.

North of Baghdad, in Nibai district, five truck drivers were killed and four wounded when their convoy supplying building materials to American forces came under attack, a provincial spokesman said. In Buhruz, another town north of Baghdad, an official from a hospital in Baquba was shot dead.

In the Diyala Bridge area south of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near an Iraqi official's convoy, killing 2 of his guards and wounding 11 civilians, the ministry official said.

American forces faced fresh opposition in Karbala, a Shiite city in the south, when the governor of the province, Akeel al-Khazali, barred American troops from entering government buildings, according to the governor's press office. Mr. Khazali took issue with the Americans' bringing dogs into the building, but it was not clear if there was another, more serious disagreement behind the order.

An American soldier was killed when his vehicle struck a home-made bomb just southeast of Karbala, the military said in a statement.

Also on Monday, an Iraqi government official said the number of confirmed human deaths from the avian flu virus have been just two, fewer than previously thought.

Comment: So let's get this straight. US policy since the beginning of its occupation of Iraq has been to set Sunni against Shi'ite, and Sunni and Shi'ite against Kurd. This policy, drawn up in Israel, has led to the balkanisation of the country.

And this end of conflict between different groups of Iraqis was the conscious purpose of said policy.

Now, the US ambassador has the gall to tell these same Iraqis that they are "sectarian". His words certainly aren't directed at the Iraqi audience. They are directed at the readers of the New York Times, those people in the US who need to be reassured that their country is in Iraq to fight sectarianism, regardless of the facts.

But when the NYT is capable of offering with a straight face the words of members of the Bush regime telling us that the resistance is in its last throes, and that is why it is more and more violent in Iraq, we shouldn't expect anything different.

Comment on this Article

Iraqi Province Cuts Off U.S. Forces

By Associated Press February 20, 2006

KARBALA, Iraq -- The governing council of Karbala province said Monday it was suspending contact with U.S. forces over the behavior of soldiers during a visit to the governor's office two days ago.

The decision followed similar moves by leaders of Maysan and Basra provinces, which have frozen ties with British forces in southern Iraq.
KARBALA, Iraq -- The governing council of Karbala province said Monday it was suspending contact with U.S. forces over the behavior of soldiers during a visit to the governor's office two days ago.

The decision followed similar moves by leaders of Maysan and Basra provinces, which have frozen ties with British forces in southern Iraq.

Karbala provincial spokesman Abdel Amir Hanoun complained that U.S. soldiers brought dogs inside the building when their commander visited provincial Gov. Aqeel al-Khazraji, considered an insult by the council.

They also blocked roads leading to the governor's office, preventing council members and the governor from parking cars outside the building, Hanoun said. The governor instructed the council to suspend contacts until U.S. forces apologize, he said.

The Karbala council is controlled by the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's largest Shiite party, and Dawa, the party of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

On Sunday, Maysan province decided to suspend ties with British authorities pending an investigation into a recently released videotape of British soldiers beating Iraqi youths during a January 2004 riot there.

British authorities said three soldiers have been arrested in connection with the beatings shown on the videotape first reported by the London newspaper News of the World.

The Maysan council also called for the release of all the province's detainees held by coalition authorities.

The governing council for Basra province, headquarters of Britain's more than 8,000-member military contingent in Iraq, also cut ties with the British military and civilian operations over the video.

Comment on this Article

Australia to send 200 more troops to Afghanistan

AFP February 21, 2006

CANBERRA - Australia will send an additional 200 troops to Afghanistan to work with Dutch-led reconstruction teams to help rebuild the war-torn nation, Prime Minister John Howard said.
Howard said the Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel would be sent to Afghanistan in late July for a two-year mission, bringing the total number of Australian troops in the country to about 500.

"It will be part of a Netherlands-led provincial reconstruction team. The ADF contribution will be a mixed security and reconstruction task force," Howard told reporters on Tuesday.

Australia helped US forces oust the former Taliban regime in late 2001, then sent back 190 special forces troops last August for a 12-month tour of duty to counter growing rebel attacks.

The numbers were again bolstered last month with an extra 110 troops and two Chinook helicopters.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said the latest deployment of 200 Australian troops would operate in the southern province of Uruzgan, a former Taliban stronghold and opium poppy growing area.

"About half will be tradies (tradesmen) and engineers who will essentially be building roads and bridges and reconstructing local communities and the others will be logistics and light armoured protection," he said.

Howard said curtailing the area's thriving heroin trade would be a matter for local officials and not Australian forces.

The Netherlands said earlier this month that it would send an additional 1,200 troops to Afghanistan as it takes the lead role in NATO's 18,500-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which begins its two-year deployment in June.

Nelson said his Dutch counterpart Henk Kamp would visit Australia next month to discuss details of the deployment.

Howard said the latest troop deployment was needed to help ensure the Taliban did not return to power.

"(This) is further evidence of the government's ongoing commitment to assist the people of Afghanistan in consolidating their embrace of democracy and resisting any attempt on the part of the Taliban to come back," he said.

He said the deployment, which he foreshadowed in July when he announced the special forces deployment, would not affect Australia's commitment of about 900 troops in Iraq.

Australian special forces in Uruzgan have already come under fire from militants and defence force head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston last week warned of increasing suicide bombs attacks in Afghanistan.

"The level of activity has remained reasonably constant. What seems to have changed is the tactics that the anti-Afghanistan government elements are using," he told a Senate committee.

"In the past there was a tendency for them to use guerrilla marauding tactics almost exclusively. What we have seen in the last three months or so is the emergence of terrorist suicide bomber type tactics. That is a new development within Afghanistan."

Labor Party opposition spokesman Robert McClelland welcomed the mission to Uruzgan as a "valuable and strategically shrewd contribution to the fight against terrorism."

Comment on this Article

Bush calls for nuclear construction by 2010

AFP Mon Feb 20, 9:22 PM ET

MILWAUKEE, United States - US President George W. Bush warned that US dependency on oil left the country "hostage" to countries that may be hostile and urged new nuclear plant construction by 2010.
"Some of the nations we rely on for oil have unstable governments, or fundamental differences with the United States," he said during a trip here, without naming the countries to which he was referring.

"These countries know we need their oil and that reduces influence. It creates a national security issue when we're held hostage for energy by foreign nations that may not like us," said Bush.

Drawing on the examples of France, China, and India, the president pushed a 1.1 billion dollar program to promote the construction of new nuclear power plants, something the United States has not done since the 1970s.

"We ought to start building nuclear power plants again. I think it makes sense to do so. Technology is such that we can do so and say to the American people, these are safe -- and they're important," he said.

The US leader, echoing remarks he made at his State of the Union speech last month, said the United States was "addicted" to oil and that some crude imports came from countries that have "unstable governments or fundamental differences with the United States."

In his speech to the US Congress on January 31, Bush called for research into ethanol, coal-fired plants, solar and wind technologies and nuclear energy so that 75 percent of oil imports from the Middle East can be replaced by 2025.

Comment: Bush wants to replace 75% of oil imports by 2025?? Obviously, the prez is simply on a PR campaign.

Comment on this Article

GOP Governors Threaten to Block Port Deal

By WILL LESTER AP Feb 21, 6:51 AM (ET)

WASHINGTON - Two Republican governors are threatening legal action to block an Arab company from taking over operations in major U.S. ports and some GOP lawmakers say the deal should be closely examined.

In the uneasy climate after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration decision to allow the transaction is threatening to develop a major political headache for the White House.
New York Gov. George Pataki and Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich on Monday voiced doubts about the acquisition of a British company that has been running six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates.

The British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., runs major commercial operations at ports in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.

Both governors indicated they may try to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states because of the DP World takeover.

"Ensuring the security of New York's port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World," Pataki said in a news release. "I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them."

Ehrlich, concerned about security at the Port of Baltimore, said Monday he was "very troubled" that Maryland officials got no advance notice before the Bush administration approved the Arab company's takeover of the operations at the six ports.

"We needed to know before this was a done deal, given the state of where we are concerning security," Ehrlich told reporters in the State House rotunda in Annapolis.

The arrangement brought protests from both political parties in Congress and a lawsuit in Florida from a company affected by the takeover.

Public fears that the nation's ports are not properly protected, combined with the news of an Arab country's takeover of six major ports, proved a combustible mix.

Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said on Fox News Sunday that the administration approval was "unbelievably tone deaf politically." GOP Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia said on ABC's "This Week,""It's a tough one to explain, but we're in a global economy. ... I think we need to take a very close look at it."

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said Monday that he and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., will introduce legislation prohibiting the sale of port operations to foreign governments.

At least one Senate oversight hearing was planned for later this month.

Critics have noted that some of the 9/11 hijackers used the UAE as an operational and financial base. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

The Bush administration got support Monday from former President Carter, a Democrat and frequent critic of the administration.

"My presumption is, and my belief is, that the president and his secretary of state and the Defense Department and others have adequately cleared the Dubai government organization to manage these ports," Carter told CNN. "I don't think there's any particular threat to our security."

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made the rounds on the talk shows Sunday, asserting that the administration made certain the company agreed to certain conditions to ensure national security. H said details of those agreements were secret.

During a stop Monday in Birmingham, Ala., Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the administration had a "very extensive process" for reviewing such transactions that "takes into account matters of national security, takes into account concerns about port security."

Comment on this Article

MEDIA: The Op-Ed Assassination Of Hugo Chávez

By: Justin Delacour 20 February, 2006 Venezuelanalysis.com

After televangelist Pat Robertson first publicly called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frias (700 Club, 8/22/05), the editors of several major U.S. newspapers were quick to denounce his outrageous incitement to violence. However, in criticizing the conservative televangelist, the U.S. prestige press overlooked its own highly antagonistic treatment of Venezuela's president, which has surely contributed to the heated political climate in which Robertson makes such threats.
Even so-called "moderate" columnists have contributed to the deterioration of U.S.-Venezuela relations by distorting the Venezuelan government's domestic and foreign policy record. Robertson may indeed be "just a garden-variety crackpot with friends in high places," as the New York Times opined (8/25/05), but the televangelist's erroneous characterization of Venezuela's president as a "strong-arm dictator" is hardly distinguishable from, say, Thomas Friedman's contention that Chávez is an "autocrat" (New York Times, 3/27/05).

In studying the opinion pages of the top 25 circulation newspapers in the United States during the first six months of 2005, Extra! found that 95 percent of the nearly 100 press commentaries that examined Venezuelan politics expressed clear hostility to the country's democratically elected president.

Distribution of U.S. commentaries about Venezuela, by newspaper (January 12, 2005 - July 12, 2005) Consistent with the U.S. media's habit of personalizing international political disputes, commentaries frequently disparaged Chávez as a political "strongman," treating him as if he were the country's sole and all-powerful political actor. U.S. op-ed pages scarcely mentioned the existence of Venezuela's democratically elected National Assembly, much less its independent legislative role. Commentaries almost invariably omitted the Venezuelan government's extensive popular support, as evidenced by Chávez's resounding victory in the August 2004 referendum on his presidency.

Mainstream newspapers rarely publish commentaries by political analysts who sympathize with the Chávez government's policies of extending education, healthcare, subsidized food and micro-credits to the country's poor. It's nearly impossible to find a U.S. op-ed page with commentary like that of Julia Buxton, the British scholar of Venezuelan politics, who argues (Venezuelanalysis.com, 4/23/05) that the Chávez government "has brought marginalized and excluded people into the political process and democratized power."

U.S. op-ed pages' collective derision of the Chávez government reveals profound contradictions within the commercial press. While editorial boards parrot official U.S. rhetoric about "democracy promotion" abroad, they have refused to provide space for commentary representing popular opinion in Venezuela. In spite of the fact that recent polls indicate that Chávez's domestic approval rating has surpassed 70 percent, almost all commentaries about Venezuela represent the views of a small minority of the country, led by a traditional economic elite that has repeatedly attempted to overthrow the government in clearly anti-democratic ways.

In presenting opinions that are almost exclusively hostile to the Chávez government, U.S. commentaries about Venezuela serve as little more than a campaign of indoctrination against a democratic political project that challenges U.S. political and economic domination of South America. The near-absence of alternative perspectives about Venezuela has prevented U.S. readers from weighing opposing arguments so as to form their own opinions about the Chávez government.

The strongman who would be dictator

In assessing Latin American governments, U.S. columnists generally operate on the unspoken assumption that acquiescence to U.S. leadership of the hemisphere is a natural prerequisite to "democracy." By this definition, Venezuela's government--which frequently speaks out in opposition to U.S. meddling in the region--is considered "authoritarian." Gone is the elementary principle that majority rule and popular sovereignty serve as the basic foundations of democracy.

Having no basis to question the Chávez government's popular mandate, op-ed pages resort to casting the president as heavy-handed. Such negative portrayals of Venezuela's government were particularly common in the Miami Herald, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and L.A. Times, which accounted for more than 75 percent of commentaries about Venezuela.

The near uniformity of the op-ed pages' distorted characterizations of Venezuelan politics reveals their propagandistic nature. The Miami Herald's Andrés Oppenheimer called Chávez a "democratically elected populist strongman" (2/27/05), claiming that he has engaged in "piecemeal destruction of the democratic system" (1/30/05). Similarly, the Herald's editorial board (5/8/05) warned that "democracy remains very much at risk under [Chávez's] demagogic sway."

The Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady labeled Chávez a "tyrant" (1/21/05) and "strongman" (4/29/05), claiming that he has presided over "the collapse of democracy" (2/11/05) in Venezuela. Three Journal editorials also referred to Chávez as a "strongman" (1/14/05, 3/14/05, 5/25/05), and the editorial board went so far as to suggest that Parade magazine should consider placing Chávez on its annual list of the world's worst dictators (2/15/05).

Jackson Diehl, the Washington Post's deputy editorial editor (3/28/05), claimed that Chávez is "well on his way to destroying what was once the most stable and prosperous democracy in Latin America." The Los Angeles Times (5/29/05) called Chávez a "would-be dictator," claiming that he engages in "undemocratic tactics."

Other major U.S. newspapers have cast Venezuela's president in nearly verbatim terms. The Houston Chronicle (2/18/05) called Chávez "authoritarian" and a "strongman," while the Chicago Tribune (6/25/05) labeled him "autocratic." USA Today (4/25/05) editorialized that Chávez “consolidates power in decidedly undemocratic ways," while the Chicago Sun-Times' Robert Novak (2/14/05) asserted that Chávez is "solidifying
dictatorial power."

“Democracy and free enterprise”

The U.S. media's distorted characterizations of Venezuela's government were typified by Diehl (Washington Post, 1/17/05), who claimed that Chávez is "aggressively moving to eliminate the independence of the media and judiciary, criminalize opposition and establish state control over the economy."

The Post more explicitly conflated democracy with U.S.-sponsored "free market" policies in a January 14 editorial, in which it asserted that Chávez's "assault on private property is merely the latest step in what has been a rapidly escalating 'revolution'... that is undermining the foundations of democracy and free enterprise."

The notion that U.S.-sponsored neo-liberalism is the only economic model compatible with democracy was further promoted by the Miami Herald (5/8/05), which declared that "the pugnacious Mr. Chávez is determined to push his populist model to the people of the region as a competitor to real democracies."

Aside from the fact that there is no state-sponsored "assault on private property" in Venezuela, the Post and Herald made no effort to explain how state intervention in the economy negates the Chávez government's democratic credentials. There is, in fact, a long tradition of pro-development state intervention in Latin American democracies. The Chávez government's land-reform policies--which form the basis of the Post's claim that Chávez attacks private property--come in the wake of several democratic experiments in agrarian reform in countries as diverse as Chile, Brazil, Bolivia and Guatemala.

Contrary to the Post and Herald's warped depiction of the Chávez's economic policies as anti-democratic, those policies largely reflect the broad popular rejection of U.S.-sponsored "free-market" policies in Venezuela. In the Post's only commentary during the period surveyed that was favorable to the Chávez government, columnist Harold Meyerson (4/13/05) astutely pointed out that Latin America's recent political swing to the left has come about democratically. Discussing the possibility that Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador might be elected president of Mexico, Meyerson noted:

“Coming after the elections of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina and Hugo Chávez (repeatedly) in Venezuela, it would be one more indication, a huge one, that Latin America has rejected an economics of corporate autonomy, public austerity and no worker rights.”

Separation of powers

In addition to ignoring the Venezuelan government's popular mandate to carry out its policies, columnists ignore the Venezuelan National Assembly's role in formulating major political legislation, such as the recent expansion of the Supreme Court and the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television. U.S. op-ed pages erroneously portray Chávez as the author of all such legislation. For example, Oppenheimer (Miami Herald, 6/5/05) contended that Chávez "single-handedly packed his country's Supreme Court with loyalists."

In reality, the expansion of Venezuela's five-chamber Supreme Court was first debated and then approved by the National Assembly. Pro-government legislators argued that the existing number of judges could not adequately handle their caseloads (Venezuelanalysis.com, 5/27/04). Venezuelan legal expert Carlos Escarrá had pointed out that the court's constitutional and political chambers were backlogged with thousands of cases (Venezuelanalysis.com, 5/17/04).

In contrast to the U.S. system, in which the president makes judicial appointments and the Senate votes on whether to confirm them, Venezuela's National Assembly selects Supreme Court magistrates. In the process of expanding the court, the Assembly selected 17 new justices from a list of 157 candidates pre-selected by a committee made up of representatives of the offices of the human rights ombudsman, the attorney general and the comptroller general (Radio Nacional de Venezuela, 12/13/04). Only in propaganda can this process be described as Chávez having "single-handedly packed" Venezuela's court.

Columnists who attack the "stacking" of Venezuela's Supreme Court also neglect to explain the political context within which the National Assembly voted to increase the number of magistrates. Among U.S. op-ed writers, only the progressive U.S. economist Mark Weisbrot (Miami Herald, 12/20/04) pointed out that Venezuela's Supreme Court had refused to prosecute military officers who temporarily overthrew the elected government in April 2002.

In light of the court's failure to defend the country's democratic institutions against violent attempts to subvert them, Weisbrot argued that it was not unreasonable for the National Assembly to expand the Court (Christian Science Monitor, 8/11/04). "If you had a Supreme Court in the U.S. that ruled that the people who participated in a military coup could not be prosecuted, Congress would impeach those justices," Weisbrot contends.

U.S. commentaries are also inaccurate in asserting that Venezuela's media law was simply "pushed through" the National Assembly by Chávez. Venezuelan legislators not only deliberated about the law, but also held in-depth studies of other countries' communication laws in drafting it. Among the communication laws from which legislators drew inspiration were those of England, France, Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and the United States.

When the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress passes a piece of legislation and George W. Bush signs it into law, one scarcely finds U.S. commentaries asserting that the president "pushed" the legislation through a "compliant" congress. However, when Venezuela's democratically elected National Assembly undertakes a similarly complex process of devising legislation that Chávez subsequently signs into law, U.S. commentaries portray the country's legislative process as if it were stage-managed by Chávez.

Guilt by association

Another method that op-ed pages use to cast Venezuela's president as "authoritarian" is to highlight his relationship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In this case, the principle upon which columnists base their argument is not only irrational but also selectively applied. To point to Venezuela's strategic international alliance with Cuba as "evidence" that Venezuela is copying the Cuban model is no more valid than to argue that the United States is becoming a monarchy on account of its strategic international relationship with the Saudi royal family.

Unfortunately, the faulty logic of classifying a country's political system on the basis of its strategic international relationships is all too common in op-ed coverage of Venezuela. For example, in charging that Chávez is "eroding the institutions on which democracies depend," the only supposed evidence that the Washington Post's Fred Hiatt (5/30/05) offered was Chávez's "embrace" of Fidel Castro. Similarly, the Wall Street Journal's O'Grady (4/1/05) labeled Chávez a "Castroite," and ludicrously claimed (7/8/05) that Venezuela is now a "Cuban province."

Such commentaries failed to distinguish between the political and economic systems of Cuba and Venezuela. The two governments have a mutual interest in countering U.S. political and economic domination of the hemisphere and reaping the benefits of an agreement whereby Cuban healthcare experts and teachers assist impoverished Venezuelan neighborhoods in exchange for Venezuelan oil at preferential prices.

However, as the U.S.-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs noted (6/21/05), Venezuela's "new socialism" differs from Cuba's "real socialism" in that it is "significantly more tolerant of private economic enterprise" and considerably more experimental in its "mixed economy" approach to achieving socialist goals. Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution "promotes state intervention in the economy yet tolerates private business, and mobilizes society through [Chávez's] revolutionary party, but allows political opposition the necessary vehicles to proselytize as well," COHA noted.

A destabilizing force

Columnists pointed to Venezuela's strategic alliance with Cuba in charging that Chávez is destabilizing the Western Hemisphere by meddling in other Latin American countries. For example, Diehl wrote (Washington Post, 6/06/05), "In his ever-closer bonding with Havana's security and intelligence apparatus, his aggressive encouragement of the insurgencies in Bolivia and elsewhere, and his constant stoking of Latin anti-Americanism, the elected but increasingly authoritarian Venezuelan [president] is emerging as the natural successor to a fading Fidel Castro."

Diehl carelessly ignores the fact that no evidence of Chávez's supposed meddling in Bolivia has ever been presented. When Roger Noriega, formerly the U.S. State Department's top official on Latin America, suggested that Chávez was somehow responsible for the demonstrations in Bolivia that culminated in the resignation of the country's president, even the stridently anti-Chávez Miami Herald (6/8/05) could find no proof for the charge. Herald reporter Jane Bussey wrote, "Bolivian government officials and Western diplomats in the region have told the Herald that while the allegations of Chávez's financial aid to [then Bolivian opposition leader Evo] Morales are widespread, there's been no hard evidence to support the charges."

Not even Bolivia's ousted president, Carlos Mesa, was willing to support the claim of Venezuelan interference. "I did not have, while in office, intelligence information" about Venezuela's alleged intervention in the Bolivian conflict, Mesa told Mexico City's El Universal newspaper (6/13/05). Despite the lack of evidence of Chávez's alleged intervention, an April 22 editorial in the Post stated that Chávez has promoted "populist turmoil" in Bolivia.

Aside from neglecting to provide proof for the charge that Chávez destabilizes Latin America, columnists failed to recognize the hypocrisy of accusing Venezuela of meddling in a region where U.S. interference is second to none. In reality, it is the Bush administration--not the Chávez government--that is known to meddle in the internal affairs of Latin American countries. During recent presidential races in Nicaragua (2001), Bolivia (2002) and El Salvador (2004), Bush administration officials openly threatened to penalize the three countries if their citizens elected candidates who opposed U.S. policies.

In addition, the U.S. government has blatantly interfered in the internal politics of Latin American countries by funding allied political organizations through the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI), and by intervening militarily in the region via arms sales, the construction of U.S. military bases, and the sponsorship of massive counter-insurgency efforts in Colombia. Direct U.S. intervention in the region is hardly a distant memory, with the U.S. invading to overthrow the government of Panama as recently as 1989, and U.S. troops arriving to support an unelected government in Haiti in 2004.

Political uniformity

The U.S. press' dismissal of the broad popular support enjoyed by the Chávez government, and that government's success in bringing poor and working-class Venezuelans into the political process, makes it hard to argue that op-ed attacks on Chávez are motivated by a genuine concern for democracy. Instead, newspapers seem to be following the lead of the U.S. government, which has long divided countries into friends and foes less on the basis of political openness or popular legitimacy and more on the question of how subservient they are to U.S. economic interests.

In a rare commentary that took a sympathetic approach to the Chávez government, then Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer (who was fired by the Times in December) summed up the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy (1/25/05):

“The fact is...that when totalitarian nations like China and Saudi Arabia play ball with U.S. business interests, we like them just fine. But when Venezuela's freely elected president threatens powerful corporate interests, the Bush administration treats him as an enemy.”

As this review of op-ed coverage of Venezuela suggests, this double standard with respect to "democracy promotion" is constantly echoed in major U.S. media, which are economically tied to those same corporate interests. In grossly slanting their op-ed coverage against the Chávez government and in line with Bush administration policy, the press demonstrates a degree of political uniformity that any "would-be dictator" would surely envy.

Justin Delacour (jdelac@unm.edu) is a freelance writer and doctoral student of political science at the University of New Mexico. He edits a blog, Latin America News Review, which can be viewed at http://www.lanr.blogspot.com.

The original version of this article appeared in the December 2005 issue of Extra!, the magazine of the U.S. media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (http://www.fair.org/). The article has been slightly revised

Comment on this Article

Churchill, Hitler and Newt

February 20, 2006 World Net Daily

You can always tell when the War Party wants a new war. They will invariably trot out the Argumentum ad Hitlerum.

Before the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam had become "the Hitler of Arabia," though he had only conquered a sandbox half the size of Denmark. Milosevic then became the "Hitler of the Balkans," though he had lost Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia, was struggling to hold Bosnia and Kosovo, and had defeated no one.

Comes now the new Hitler.

"This is 1935, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is as close to Adolf Hitler as we've seen," said Newt Gingrich to a startled editor at Human Events.

"We now know who they are – the question is who are we. Are we Baldwin or Churchill?"

"In 1935 ... Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini intimidated the democracies," Newt plunged ahead. "The question is who is going to intimidate who." Yes, a little learning can be a dangerous thing.

A few facts. First, when Hitler violated the Versailles Treaty by announcing rearmament in March 1935, Baldwin was not in power. Second, Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald quickly met with Il Duce to form the Stresa Front – against Hitler. Third, when Mussolini invaded Abyssinia in October 1935, Baldwin imposed sanctions.

But Churchill did not wholly approve.

Abyssinia, said Churchill, is a "wild land of tyranny, slavery and tribal war ... No one can keep up the pretense that Abyssinia is a fit, worthy and equal member of a league of civilized nations."

As late as 1938, Churchill was still proclaiming the greatness of Il Duce: "It would be a dangerous folly for the British people to underrate the enduring position in world history which Mussolini will hold; or the amazing qualities of courage, comprehension, self-control and perseverance which he exemplifies."

But back to the new Hitler.

The Iranians, said Newt, "have been proactively at war with us since 1979." We must now prepare to invade and occupy Iran, and identify a "network of Iranians prepared to run their ... country" after we take the place over.

"I wake up every morning thinking we could lose two major cities today and have the equivalent of the second Holocaust by nuclear weapons – this morning."

What about diplomacy?

"We should say to the Europeans that there is no diplomatic solution that is imaginable that is going to solve this problem." Newt's reasoning: War is inevitable – the longer we wait, the graver the risk. Let's get it over with. Bismarck called this committing suicide out of fear of death.

My own sense of this astonishing interview is that Newt is trying to get to the right of John McCain on Iran and cast himself – drum roll, please – as the Churchill of our generation.

But are the comparisons of Ahmadinejad with Hitler and Iran with the Third Reich, let alone Newt with Churchill, instructive? Or are they ludicrous? Again, a few facts.

In 1942, Hitler's armies dominated Europe from the Pyrenees to the Urals. Ahmadinejad is the president of a nation whose air and naval forces would be toasted in hours by the United States. Iran has missiles that can hit Israel, but no nuclear warheads. Israel could put scores of atom bombs on Iran. The United States, without losing a plane, could make the country uninhabitable with one B-2 flyover and a few MX and Trident missiles.

Why would Ayatollah Khameinei, who has far more power than Ahmadinejad, permit him to ignite a war that could mean the end of their revolution and country? And if we were not intimidated by a USSR with thousands of nuclear warheads targeted on us, why should Ahmadinejad cause Newt to break out in cold sweats at night?

Currently, the "nuclear program" of Iran consists of trying to run uranium hexafluoride gas through a few centrifuges. There is no hard evidence Iran is within three years of producing enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb.

And if Iran has been at war with us since 1979, why has it done so much less damage than Gadhafi, who blew up that discotheque in Berlin with our soldiers inside and massacred those American kids on Pan Am 103? Diplomacy worked with Gadhafi. Why not try it with Iran?

Comment on this Article

The New American Police State

By Richard Reeves Mon Feb 20, 5:27 PM ET

NEW YORK -- "When I saw that the neoconservative response to 9/11 was to turn a stateless war against terrorism into military attacks on Muslim states, I realized that the Bush administration was committing a strategic blunder with open-ended disastrous consequences for the United States that, in the end, would destroy Bush, the Republican Party and the conservative movement."

I agree with that, but I didn't write it. No liberal did.
The author is Paul Craig Roberts, one of the creators and champions of "supply-side economics," the great conservative cause of the early 1980s. As a Wall Street Journal editorial writer and then assistant secretary of the treasury under President Reagan, Roberts was a true believer and an effective advocate. His political stance is pretty well summed up in the title of his newest book: "The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice."

Roberts is a syndicated columnist now, an honorable profession, and a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a temple of talented political thinkers devoted to all the Right things, beginning with Reaganism. His essay, "My Epiphany: From Reaganaut to Anti-War Radical," is, as they say these days, sweeping the Internet. (You can read the text on VDARE.com, the Web site of the Lexington Institute.)

Roberts begins by emphasizing that he does not believe he is betraying old friends or old causes, saying that he never considered himself a slave to party or ideology. Apparently not. He has been writing strong stuff:

"Americans have forgotten what it takes to remain free. Instead, every ideology, every group is determined to use government to advance its agenda. ... The United States is undergoing a coup against the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and democracy itself. The 'liberal press' has been co-opted. ... Media concentration permitted in the 1990s has put news and opinion in the hands of a few corporate executives who do not dare risk their broadcasting licenses by getting on the wrong side of government, or their advertising revenues by becoming 'controversial.'"

He talks of "years of illegal spying" giving the White House the power of "blackmail" over media and political opposition. I might not use the same words, but I do believe that we, the people, are in jeopardy: New spying and eavesdropping technologies and their delighted abuse by intelligence-gathering organizations and their political masters are turning the United States into an emerging police state.

"Homeland Security and the Patriot Act are not our protectors," he adds. "Americans need to understand that many interests are using the 'war on terror' to achieve their agendas. The Federalist Society is using the war on terror to achieve its agenda of concentrating power in the executive and packing the Supreme Court to this effect. The neoconservatives are using the war to achieve their agenda of Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. Police agencies are using the war to make themselves less accountable. Republicans are using the war to achieve one-party rule ..."

"Debate is dead," Roberts concludes. "One certainty prevails. Bush is committing America to a path of violence and coercion, and he is getting away with it."

I asked Roberts what has been the reaction since these words were published 10 days ago.

"I have had thousands of e-mails, about 99.9 percent favorable, full of praise from Democrats and Republicans alike," he answered. "They say the country is desperate for a straight talker. ... People want to hear more. People want me to run for the Senate or for president."

I, for one, would consider voting for him, though I would hope he will finally give up on supply-side theory.

Comment: The most interesting thing about this article was where we found it: Yahoo! News' Most Popular Stories page in the editorial section. We didn't have to dig for it at all. It's funny how mainstream media outlets are starting to run the kind of news stories and opinion pieces that we've been running and commenting about on the Signs page since before 9/11.

All of a sudden, those "crazy conspiracy theorists" aren't looking so crazy after all!

The only problem we can see at this point is that even if 99.9% of all Americans are favorable of the article written by Roberts, what difference will it make if no one peacefully stands up for themselves and their families? People like Roberts can serve to let the people know that they are not alone, but they can also serve as a tranquilizer: "Well, I'm not gonna worry about it. Bush will be voted out soon, and that Roberts guy is kickin' butt, so we'll just let somebody else take care of things. Everything will be fine."

The only problem is that Bush was never "voted in" to begin with, and the Democrats and Republicans are just two sides of the same coin. What America really needs is a "new currency", and the psychopaths in Washington certainly aren't gonna do it themselves. Why would anyone who naturally seeks power do anything to diminish that authority??

Comment on this Article

Crime Of Compassion

By Katherine Hughes 20 February, 2006 Dhafirtrial.net

On October 27, 2005, after being detained 31 months and being denied access to his own records, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, an oncologist from Upstate New York, was sentenced to 22 years in Federal prison.[1] A man of Iraqi descent and Muslim faith, he lived in the U.S. since 1974 and has been an American citizen for almost 30 years. As a direct response to the humanitarian catastrophe created by the Gulf War and U.S. sanctions Dhafir founded the charity Help the Needy (HTN). Despite many difficulties, including the U.S. embargo and a brutal dictatorship in Iraq, HTN got food and medicines to millions of starving Iraqis for 13 years.[2] Without HTN aid the UN statistic of 5,200 preventable deaths per month of children under the age of five would undoubtedly have been much higher.
On February 26, 2003, the day that Dhafir was arrested, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that “supporters of terrorism had been apprehended.” Since that day senior government officials have continued to paint Dhafir as a terrorist, and Judge Norman Mordue denied Dhafir bail on four occasions. Yet local prosecutors successfully lobbied Mordue to prevent the charge of terrorism from being part of the trial. This ruling turned into a brick wall that the defense kept hitting during the proceedings: prosecutors could hint at more serious charges, but the defense was never allowed to follow this line of questioning. Despite denying Dhafir the right to address the charge in court, Mordue allowed prosecutors to bring the charge to his sentencing.

Although the government continues to characterize Dhafir as a criminal supporting terrorism, the only context in which this case makes any sense is the overwhelming humanitarian crisis created by the brutal U.S. sanctions on the country of Iraq.[3]

Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness (VITW), speaking about mainstream U.S media coverage before the Iraq War had begun, said, “I try to point out to the mainstream journalists that they have succeeded enormously in informing the U.S. public about the horrors committed by the current regime in Iraq while for the most part neglecting the horrors the United States has committed. That the regime here has used chemical weapons, engaged in torture, and violated the political and civil rights of Iraqi civilians is repugnant to all who cherish human rights. And yet, what the U.S. public doesn’t understand and will possibly never comprehend is that the greatest violations of human rights in Iraq since the Gulf War have happened as a result of U.S.-led UN economic sanctions against Iraq.”[4] Indeed, three senior UN officials living and working in Iraq resigned because they considered the sanctions to be a “genocidal” policy.[5]

Talking about her return to the U.S. after a 1998 visit to Iraq, Kelly said, “Upon our return to the U.S., customs agents turned my passport over to the State Department, perhaps as evidence that, according to U.S. law, I’ve committed a criminal act by traveling to Iraq. I know that our efforts to be voices in the wilderness aren’t criminal. We’re governed by compassion, not by the laws that pitilessly murder innocent children. What’s more, Iraqi children might benefit if we could bring their story into a courtroom, before a jury of our peers.”[6]


During the course of the proceedings the government did its utmost to prevent any discussion of the state of Iraq under the sanctions from being part of the trial. Government employees, including Susan Hutner, of the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), testified to having no knowledge of the effects of the sanctions. As the government attorney addressing the situation in Iraq, she helped draft the initial legal documentation to implement the sanctions and then worked on the sanctions for 12 years. When the defense attempted to question Hutner about the Oil for Food program, the court ruled the line of questioning irrelevant.[7]

Several government witnesses of Iraqi descent broke down on the stand when they began to talk of the effects of the sanctions on their families.[8] Each time this happened the prosecution immediately interrupted the testimony.[9] The only newspaper reporting on the proceedings, the local Syracuse Post-Standard, failed to address the sanctions as they pertained to the case.

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 1, 1990, and on August 2, U.S. sanctions against Iraq were put in place. On January 17, 1991, the first bombs of the Gulf War were dropped on Baghdad. Before this war the people of Iraq had a standard of living comparable to many Western countries. Although a brutal dictatorship, the government provided universal healthcare and education including college for all its citizens. There was virtually no illiteracy and the education system and health system were the best in the region.

The result of the war was total devastation: more bombs were dropped on Iraq in a six-week period than were dropped by all parties together in the whole of World War II. Taken together, these bombs are at least six times more powerful than two atomic bombs. Many types of bombs were used including ones containing depleted uranium (DU), the waste matter from nuclear plants; hundreds of tons of DU ammunition now lie scattered throughout Iraq. The DU dust has entered the food chain through the soil and the water, and as a result many formerly unknown diseases have become prevalent in Iraq. Many pregnant women are delivering their babies as early as six months, and many babies are born with terrible deformities. Cancer rates have skyrocketed, and if current trends continue 44% of the population could develop cancer within the next ten years. [10]

All major bridges and communication systems were bombed, making any communications both inside and outside the country extremely difficult. The water purification system was bombed and the UN has never allowed it to be repaired; as a result 15 years of raw sewage has piled up in the streets. This has been the cause of much disease and death, particularly among the young and very old. Hospitals and schools were not spared and, as a result of the bombing and the sanctions, the health and education systems in Iraq went from being the best in the region to being the worst. [11]

Robert Fisk in his new book about the Middle East says, “There was one final scourge to be visited upon the Iraqi people, a foul cocktail in which both our gunfire and our sanctions played an intimate, horrific role, one that would contaminate Iraqis for years to come, perhaps for generations. In historical terms, it may be identified as our most callous crime against the Middle East, against Arabs, against children. It manifested itself in abscesses, in massive tumours, in gangrene, internal bleeding and child mastectomies and shrunken heads and deformities and thousands of tiny graves.”[12]

In 1998 Denis Halliday, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations resigned from the UN after thirty-four years of distinguished service. At the time he was serving as the humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad, and his resignation was a direct result of the conditions he witnessed. He said, “I had been instructed to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults. We all know that the regime, Saddam Hussein, is not paying the price of economic sanctions; on the contrary, he has been strengthened by them. It is the little people who are losing their children or their parents for lack of treated water. What is clear is that the Security Council is now out of control, for its actions here undermine its own Charter, and the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. History will slaughter those responsible.”[13]

Hans Von Sponeck succeeded Denis Halliday as humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad and, and in early 2000 he too resigned from that position. Von Sponeck, talking about the Oil for Food program, said that it was impossible for each person to live on the $100 per year that was being allocated, especially because of the conditions prevalent in Iraq at the time. He said, “Set that pittance against the lack of clean water, the fact that electricity fails for up to 22 hours a day, and the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, the sheer trauma of trying to get from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”[14]

And in a report to the UN Secretary General, Professor Marc Bossuyt, an authority on international law, stated that the “…sanctions regime against Iraq is unequivocally illegal under existing human right law and could raise questions under the Genocide Convention.”[15]


Over the course of 13 years, from 1990 until 2003, HTN sent food and medicines that reached millions of starving Iraqi civilians. The aid was first sent to Maher Zagha in Jordan. Zagha is a former Onondaga Community College and Utica College student who lived in the Upstate New York area for several years before returning to Jordan.[16] He is listed as a co-conspirator with Dhafir on the indictment.

On the day of Dhafir’s arrest, Zagha was arrested in Jordan and then held in solitary for 21 days. The Jordanians interrogated him and released him and since then he has gone about his normal life, including traveling internationally. After Dhafir’s conviction in February 2005 the remaining HTN money in Jordan, $138,564.53 was confiscated along with $25,000 of Dhafir’s personal money.

Throughout the period of the sanctions container loads of food were shipped by HTN from Jordan to Iraq. Receipts from the purchase of food were shown in court. For example, an invoice from January 29th, 1997, showed the purchase of 25 tons of Thailand rice, 35 tons of flour and 2000 cans of cooking oil. Invoices from other days and years list tons of; American rice, Turkish sugar, Iranian flour, chickpeas and Iraqi lentils. Tea and tomato paste was also shipped.[17] Zagha sent the aid into Iraq using the correct official channels required by the Jordanian authorities. When he was unable to comply, he gave the aid over to the authorities. In 1990 when Dhafir sent 900 kilograms of medicine to Zagha without the correct paper work, Zagha had to give the medicine to the Iraqi embassy in Jordan. It was the only way to get the medicine into Iraq and he could only hope that it would reach the people for whom it was intended.

From 1996 through 2003 Zagha sent money to Iraq and local exchangers were used because there were no banks operating at that time. The money was sent to Dhafir’s brother Najim in Baghdad (also a physician) and two other men, Mustapha and Ammar. By getting money into Iraq from Jordan HTN was able to provide starving civilians with meat protein. The three men in Baghdad bought animals at the open markets surrounding the city, and these purchases usually coincided with the major holidays of the Muslim faith. For example, in January 2003, for one of the most holy of Muslim holidays, Eid, Zagha sent four lots of money totaling $285,000. This money bought about 4,000 lambs and cows which were sacrificed, and the food was distributed to the needy.[18] Looking at the quantities of aid provided to Iraqi civilians by HTN, it is easy to believe that they were indeed feeding more people in Iraq than all the other aid agencies put together.[19]

An email read in court showed that Dhafir believed that the U.S. government was not opposed to Iraqi civilians receiving humanitarian aid of the form that HTN was supplying. HTN and other groups, like VITW, openly advertised that they were sending aid to civilians. They did this through leaflets, websites and fundraising events. For 13 years the government took little action against people who sent aid to Iraqi civilians, and this tacit approval must have helped confirm Dhafir’s belief.[20]

Since the day of his arrest, using unfair tactics and innuendo, the
government has managed to transform Dhafir from a compassionate humanitarian into a crook and supporter of terrorists. They have done this with the aid of a complicit press and a willfully ignorant public.


From the outset in this case the approach of the government has been one of circumambulation. Michael Powell of the Washington Post said, “There is a shadow-boxing quality to the terror allegations lodged against Dhafir. In August [2004], Gov. George E. Pataki (R) described Dhafir’s as a ‘money laundering case to help terrorist organizations . . . conduct horrible acts.’ Prosecutors hinted at national security reasons for holding Dhafir without bail. But no evidence was offered to support the allegations.”[21]

In April 2004 the U.S. government brought new charges against Zagha to Interpol, and Zagha had to give up his passport. It was returned so that he could make a business trip to Syria, but on December 20, 2005, the authorities again took his passport.

To this day no evidence has been offered to link Dhafir to terrorists. And yet, on November 15, 2005, the government presented a lecture at Syracuse University’s law school entitled, “A Law Enforcement Approach to Terrorist Financing,” in which Dhafir’s case was highlighted. [22] The three prosecutors from the case, Michael Olmstead, Greg West and Steve Green were present along with Jeff Breinholt, Deputy Chief, Counterterrorism Section United States Department of Justice who was the main speaker.

Breinholt asserted that the Dhafir case had been “under prosecuted,” this despite the fact that the government brought 60 counts against Dhafir and gained conviction on 59. He cited HTN’s use of tax exemption numbers other than its own as an example of how charities functioned in their criminal activity. Many of Dhafir’s convictions on tax evasion and fraud charges are based on the assumption that people who gave money to HTN used the tax exemption number of another charity and therefore did not pay tax. The government is holding Dhafir responsible for this lost tax revenue.

One of the two numbers Dhafir used was from a charity that is the Saudi Arabian equivalent of the American charity United Way.[23] The use of another charity’s number is not an uncommon practice. What is uncommon is the fact that it resulted in a criminal prosecution. Barrie Gewanter, Director of the Central New York ACLU, has explained the normal procedure for this type of situation in numerous interviews about the HTN case. Ordinarily the state government intervenes and shuts the charity down until the situation is sorted out to their satisfaction. When and if this is achieved, the charity continues its work.[24]

The government’s philosophy in prosecuting this case was made clear in the course of the lecture. Olmstead, the head prosecutor of the Dhafir case, cited the philosopher Emmanuel Kant’s imperative, “To obey the law because it is the law.” He added that “if you break the law, you must pay the price,” apparently regardless of the unfairness of the law and the humanitarian nature of the act. Compassion comes with a very high price.

Dhafir is undoubtedly paying the price of breaking the genocidal policy of U.S. sanctions against Iraq. However, the government was unwilling to prosecute him for this without the attendant obfuscation and cover provided by the laundry list of charges that he faced. A clear message is being sent that humanitarian acts like this will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly.

By hosting this lecture on terrorist financing, Syracuse University Law School provided the government with a platform that gives credence to an accusation that is wholly lacking in evidence. They have become the most recent government accomplice. The “shadow boxing” continues with the media, public and the local law school as willing participants in the charade.

The journalist John Pilger writes, “It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and the myths that surround it”[25] It is also not enough for citizens in a democracy to see themselves as mere receptors of information. As citizens in a democracy we have an obligation to seek justice for each other. In this case it means actively going beyond the government’s obfuscation and seeking hard facts and other sources of information. If this can be achieved, Dhafir and the other HTN defendants will be vindicated; but it is no easy task.


Many people are reassured by the fact that Dhafir can appeal against his conviction and sentencing. But most have no idea what this means in terms of practicalities. Under the best possible circumstances the chances of a successful appeal are slim.

Seven government agencies investigated this case for five years. The prosecutors presented the case in minutia over the course of the seventeen weeks of proceedings. What was expected to be a 6-week trial turned into a 17-week trial and the three defense lawyers have received a fraction of their fee. Due to this lack of finances a request for transcripts was made at the beginning of the trial.[26] Judge Mordue denied this request and so one of the three defense lawyers typed the proceedings on his laptop.

But official transcripts are essential to an appeal and even if ordered today, it would take two years to get the transcript in full. The cost would be around $60,000. before any lawyer fees or other costs are taken into account.

Dhafir has been bankrupted by this course of justice and has no money for an appeals lawyer. His only hope is that people who care about compassion and justice will be able to raise enough money for him to have a viable chance of a successful appeal.

Katherine Hughes is a potter and a voracious reader of history and current events. She responded to a request from the ACLU for court watchers and attended virtually all of the Dhafir trial. To find out more about this case, please visit her website: www.dhafirtrial.net.
[1] Write to Dr. Dhafir: Rafil Dhafir, 11921-052, FCI-Fairton, PO Box 420, Fairton, NJ 08320.

[2] We learned in the proceedings that a HTN volunteer was killed
by Saddam Hussein’s regime.

[3] The first 15 counts of Dr. Dhafir’s 60-count indictment involve
violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), commonly known as the sanctions. The full indictment is available on my website:

[4] Kathy Kelly, “Other Lands Have Dreams” (Oakland: Counterpunch and AK Press, 2005), p.51.

[5] John Pilger, “The New Rulers of the World” (London: Verso 2002), p.54.

[6] Ibid, Kelly. P.37.

[7] From my witness of the proceedings and official transcript of Susan
Hutner’s cross examination by the defense, November 10, 2004.

[8] One witness broke down on the stand when testifying that his mother had died because she did not have access to necessary blood pressure medicine.

[9] A video of an HTN fundraising event was shown early in the proceedings. The government intended to play only the first few minutes, but the defense insisted that the whole video be shown.

[10] John Pilger, “The Impact of the Sanctions,” found at

[11] Information about Iraq under the sanctions can be found on the Voices in the Wilderness website. A video of a fundraising event in which Dr. Dhafir describes conditions of Iraq using the Pentagon and UNICEF as his sources is available at the address below.
The file is 12 MB: QuickTime version:


Flash version:

[12] Robert Fisk, “The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 2005) p.727.

[13] John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (London: Verso 2002), p.53.

[14] Ibid, Pilger, p.59

[15] Ibid, Pilger, p.95.

[16] In Syracuse, New York, and Rome, New York, respectively.

[17] From my witness of the proceedings

[18] Maher Zagha sent me pictures of the animals being slaughtered. A sign in each photograph shows that the animals were purchased by HTN.

[19] From my witness of the proceedings, correspondence with Maher Zagha and Dr. Dhafrir’s sentencing statement to the media.

[20] The government’s tacit approval in this case reminds me of the way that people are granted dual-citizenship: this is achieved by taking the Oath of Allegiance (and swearing away their original citizenship) and keeping the country of origin passport. This is the “accepted” practice and the media write freely about “dual-citizens.” But what if the government decides to prosecute this action in years to come?

[21] Michael Powell, “High-Profile N.Y. Suspect Goes on Trial: Arrest Was Called Part of War on Terrorism, but Doctor Faces Other Charges,” The Washington Post, October 19, 2004.

[22] The lecture was advertised by the “Institute For National Security and Counterterrorism”, INSCT, which is hosted by Syracuse University Law School:

A photograph of Greg West can be seen at this site. It was taken during the lecture and IEEPA violations are chalked on the blackboard behind him.

[23] Elaine Cassel, The War on Civil Liberties: How Bush and Ashcroft Have Dismantled the Bill of Rights (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2004). See the chapter, “Guilt by Association: The Islamic Charities,” pp 87 - 105

[24] See WCNY Public Television, “Access” with George Kilpatrick. This program aired on Wednesday, 26th October at 11pm, the night before Dr.Dhafir’s sentencing. I was part of a three-person panel with Barrie Gewanter (ACLU) and Julienne Oldfield, another of the Dhafir trial court watchers.

[25] John Pilger’s Homepage:http://www.johnpilger.com//

[26] Pages that need to be transcribed cost $5.75 each, and already
transcribed pages cost 50c a page.

Comment on this Article

U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review

By SCOTT SHANE Published: February 21, 2006

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 — In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.
The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.

But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy — governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved — it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.

Mr. Aid was struck by what seemed to him the innocuous contents of the documents — mostly decades-old State Department reports from the Korean War and the early cold war. He found that eight reclassified documents had been previously published in the State Department's history series, "Foreign Relations of the United States."

"The stuff they pulled should never have been removed," he said. "Some of it is mundane, and some of it is outright ridiculous."

After Mr. Aid and other historians complained, the archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which oversees government classification, began an audit of the reclassification program, said J. William Leonard, director of the office.

Mr. Leonard said he ordered the audit after reviewing 16 withdrawn documents and concluding that none should be secret.

"If those sample records were removed because somebody thought they were classified, I'm shocked and disappointed," Mr. Leonard said in an interview. "It just boggles the mind."

If Mr. Leonard finds that documents are being wrongly reclassified, his office could not unilaterally release them. But as the chief adviser to the White House on classification, he could urge a reversal or a revision of the reclassification program.

A group of historians, including representatives of the National Coalition for History and the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations, wrote to Mr. Leonard on Friday to express concern about the reclassification program, which they believe has blocked access to some material at the presidential libraries as well as at the archives.

Among the 50 withdrawn documents that Mr. Aid found in his own files is a 1948 memorandum on a C.I.A. scheme to float balloons over countries behind the Iron Curtain and drop propaganda leaflets. It was reclassified in 2001 even though it had been published by the State Department in 1996.

Another historian, William Burr, found a dozen documents he had copied years ago whose reclassification he considers "silly," including a 1962 telegram from George F. Kennan, then ambassador to Yugoslavia, containing an English translation of a Belgrade newspaper article on China's nuclear weapons program.

Under existing guidelines, government documents are supposed to be declassified after 25 years unless there is particular reason to keep them secret. While some of the choices made by the security reviewers at the archives are baffling, others seem guided by an old bureaucratic reflex: to cover up embarrassments, even if they occurred a half-century ago.

One reclassified document in Mr. Aid's files, for instance, gives the C.I.A.'s assessment on Oct. 12, 1950, that Chinese intervention in the Korean War was "not probable in 1950." Just two weeks later, on Oct. 27, some 300,000 Chinese troops crossed into Korea.

Mr. Aid said he believed that because of the reclassification program, some of the contents of his 22 file cabinets might technically place him in violation of the Espionage Act, a circumstance that could be shared by scores of other historians. But no effort has been made to retrieve copies of reclassified documents, and it is not clear how they all could even be located.

"It doesn't make sense to create a category of documents that are classified but that everyone already has," said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel of the National Security Archive, a research group at George Washington University. "These documents were on open shelves for years."

The group plans to post Mr. Aid's reclassified documents and his account of the secret program on its Web site, www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv, on Tuesday.

The program's critics do not question the notion that wrongly declassified material should be withdrawn. Mr. Aid said he had been dismayed to see "scary" documents in open files at the National Archives, including detailed instructions on the use of high explosives.

But the historians say the program is removing material that can do no conceivable harm to national security. They say it is part of a marked trend toward greater secrecy under the Bush administration, which has increased the pace of classifying documents, slowed declassification and discouraged the release of some material under the Freedom of Information Act.

Experts on government secrecy believe the C.I.A. and other spy agencies, not the White House, are the driving force behind the reclassification program.

"I think it's driven by the individual agencies, which have bureaucratic sensitivities to protect," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, editor of the online weekly Secrecy News. "But it was clearly encouraged by the administration's overall embrace of secrecy."

National Archives officials said the program had revoked access to 9,500 documents, more than 8,000 of them since President Bush took office. About 30 reviewers — employees and contractors of the intelligence and defense agencies — are at work each weekday at the archives complex in College Park, Md., the officials said.

Archives officials could not provide a cost for the program but said it was certainly in the millions of dollars, including more than $1 million to build and equip a secure room where the reviewers work.

Michael J. Kurtz, assistant archivist for record services, said the National Archives sought to expand public access to documents whenever possible but had no power over the reclassifications. "The decisions agencies make are those agencies' decisions," Mr. Kurtz said.

Though the National Archives are not allowed to reveal which agencies are involved in the reclassification, one archivist said on condition of anonymity that the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency were major participants.

A spokesman for the C.I.A., Paul Gimigliano, said that the agency had released 26 million pages of documents to the National Archives since 1998 and that it was "committed to the highest quality process" for deciding what should be secret.

"Though the process typically works well, there will always be the anomaly, given the tremendous amount of material and multiple players involved," Mr. Gimigliano said.

A spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency said he was unable to comment on whether his agency was involved in the program.

Anna K. Nelson, a foreign policy historian at American University, said she and other researchers had been puzzled in recent years by the number of documents pulled from the archives with little explanation.

"I think this is a travesty," said Dr. Nelson, who said she believed that some reclassified material was in her files. "I think the public is being deprived of what history is really about: facts."

The document removals have not been reported to the Information Security Oversight Office, as the law has required for formal reclassifications since 2003.

The explanation, said Mr. Leonard, the head of the office, is a bureaucratic quirk. The intelligence agencies take the position that the reclassified documents were never properly declassified, even though they were reviewed, stamped "declassified," freely given to researchers and even published, he said.

Thus, the agencies argue, the documents remain classified — and pulling them from public access is not really reclassification.

Mr. Leonard said he believed that while that logic might seem strained, the agencies were technically correct. But he said the complaints about the secret program, which prompted his decision to conduct an audit, showed that the government's system for deciding what should be secret is deeply flawed.

"This is not a very efficient way of doing business," Mr. Leonard said. "There's got to be a better way."

Comment on this Article

The Life and Death of Public Records

By Terry Allen, In These Times. Posted February 21, 2006.

Sometimes it's the small abuses scurrying below radar that reveal how profoundly the Bush administration has changed America in the name of national security. Buried within the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 is a regulation that bars most public access to birth and death certificates for 70 to 100 years. In much of the country, these records have long been invaluable tools for activists, lawyers and reporters to uncover patterns of illness and pollution that officials miss or ignore.

In These Times has obtained a draft of the proposed regulations now causing widespread concern among state officials. It reveals plans to create a vast database of vital records to be centralized in Washington and details measures that states must implement -- and pay millions for -- before next year's scheduled implementation.
The draft lays out how some 60,000 already strapped town and county offices must keep the birth and death records under lock and key and report all document requests to Washington. Individuals who show up in person will still be able to obtain their own birth certificates and, in some cases, the birth and death records of an immediate relative, and "legitimate" research institutions may be able to access files. But reporters and activists won't be allowed to fish through records, many family members looking for genetic clues will be out of luck, and people wanting to trace adoptions will dead-end. If you are homeless and need your own birth certificate, forget it: no address, no service.

Consider the public health implications. A few years back, a doctor in a tiny Vermont town noticed that two patients who lived on the same hill had ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Hearing rumors of more cases of the relatively rare and always fatal disease, the doctor notified the health department. Citing lack of resources, it declined to investigate. The doc then told a reporter, who searched the death certificates filed in the town office only to find that ALS had already killed five of the town's 1,300 residents. It was statistically possible, but unlikely, that this 10-times-higher-than-normal incidence was simply chance. Since no one knows what causes ALS, clusters like this one, once revealed, help epidemiologists assess risk factors, warn doctors to watch for symptoms,and alert neighbors and activists.

Activists in Colorado already know what it is like when states bar access to vital records. For years, they fought the Cotter Corp., claiming that its uranium mining operations were killing residents and workers. Unwilling to rely on the health department, which they claimed had a "cozy" relationship with the polluters, the activists tried to access death records, only to be told that it was illegal in this closed-records state. An editorial in Colorado's Longmont Daily Times-Call lamented, "If there's a situation that makes the case for why death certificates should be available to the public, it is th[is] Superfund area."

Some of state officials around the country are questioning whether the new regulations themselves illegally tread on states' rights. But the feds have been coy. Richard McCoy, public health statistic chief in Vermont, one of the nation's 14 open-records states, says, "No state is mandated to meet the regs. However, if they don't, then residents of that state will not be able to access any federal services, including social security and passports. States have no choice."

But while the public loses access to records, the federal government gains a gargantuan national database easily cross-referenced in the name of national security. The feds' claim that increased security will deter identity theft and terrorism is facile. Wholesale corporate data gathering is the major nexis of identity theft. As for terrorism, all the 9/11 perpetrators had valid identification.

Meanwhile, the quiet clampdown on vital records is part of a growing consolidation of information at the federal level. "That information will dovetail with the Real ID Act of 2005," says Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "Real ID cards are the other shoe that is scheduled to drop in three years." That act, signed into law last May, establishes national standards for state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards, and centralizes the information into a database.

Aside from public health and privacy concerns, closing vital records incurs a steep intangible cost: It undermines community in places where that healthy ethos still survives. In small town America, the local clerk's office is a sociable place where government wears the face of your neighbor. Each year, Vermont's 246 towns distribute their vital statistics to all residents. "It's the first place everybody goes in the Town Report," says state archivist Gregory Sanford. "Who was born, who died, who got married, who had a baby and wasn't married."

This may not be the most dramatic danger to democracy, but it is one of the Bush administration's many quiet, incremental assaults on the health of America's body politic. And it may end up listed on the death certificate for open society.

Comment on this Article

White House Civil Liberties Board Has Never Met

By Richard B. Schmitt The Los Angeles Times Mon, 20 Feb 2006 16:45:03 -0800

A year after its creation, the White House civil liberties board has yet to do a single day of work.

WASHINGTON - For Americans troubled by the prospect of federal agents eavesdropping on their phone conversations or combing through their Internet records, there is good news: A little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose is to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the fight against terrorism.

Someday, it might actually meet.
Initially proposed by the bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was created by the intelligence overhaul that President Bush signed into law in December 2004.

More than a year later, it exists only on paper.

Foot-dragging, debate over its budget and powers, and concern over the qualifications of some of its members — one was treasurer of Bush’s first campaign for Texas governor — has kept the board from doing a single day of work.

On Thursday, after months of delay, the Senate Judiciary Committee took a first step toward standing up the fledgling watchdog, approving the two lawyers Bush nominated to lead the panel. But it may take months before the board is up and running and doing much serious work.

Critics say the inaction shows the administration is just going through the motions when it comes to civil liberties.

“They have stalled in giving the board adequate funding. They have stalled in making appointments,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.). “It is apparent they are not taking this seriously.”

The Sept. 11 commission also has expressed reservations about the commitment to the liberties panel.

“We felt it was absolutely vital,” said Thomas H. Kean, the Republican former governor of New Jersey who led the commission. “We had certainly hoped it would have been up and running a long time ago.”

The inaction is especially noteworthy in light of recent events. Some Republicans joined Democrats to delay renewal of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act because of civil liberties concerns. And the disclosure in December that Bush approved surveillance of certain U.S. residents’ international communications without a court order has caused bipartisan dismay in Congress.

“Obviously, civil liberties issues are critically important, and they have been to this president, especially after 9/11,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, adding that the White House had moved expeditiously to establish the board. “We do not formally nominate until we are through the background investigation and the full vetting. It takes time to present those nominations to the Senate. But now that they have been confirmed, that is a good thing.”

The board chairwoman is Carol E. Dinkins, a Houston lawyer who was a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration. A longtime friend of the Bush family, she was the treasurer of George W. Bush’s first campaign for governor of Texas, in 1994, and co-chair of Lawyers for Bush-Cheney, which recruited Republican lawyers to handle legal battles after the November 2004 election.

Dinkins, a longtime partner in the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins, where Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales once was a partner, has specialized in defending oil and gas companies in environmental lawsuits.

Foremost among her credentials, she told Senate Judiciary Committee members in a response to their questions, was the two years she spent as deputy attorney general in President Reagan’s Justice Department. There, she said, she had to weigh civil liberties concerns while overseeing domestic surveillance and counter-intelligence cases.

The board vice chairman is Alan Charles Raul, a Washington lawyer who first suggested the concept of a civil liberties panel in an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times in December 2001. Raul, a former Agriculture Department general counsel currently in private practice, has published a book on privacy and the digital age and is the only panel member with apparent expertise in civil liberties issues.

The panel’s lone Democrat, Lanny J. Davis, has known Bush since the two were undergraduates at Yale. Civil liberties groups regard the Washington lawyer, who worked in the Clinton White House, as likely to be a progressive voice on the panel.

The board also includes a conservative Republican legal icon, Washington lawyer and former Bush Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, whose wife, Barbara, died in the Sept. 11 attacks. The fifth member is Francis X. Taylor, a retired Air Force general and former State Department counter-terrorism coordinator, who is chief security officer at General Electric Co.

The board members declined to comment for this article. Three referred calls to Dinkins, who referred calls to the White House.

The idea of such a watchdog agency was broached almost immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, as conservatives and liberals alike saw a need for the government to consider the implications of new and growing anti-terrorism measures.

The idea was to have professionals ask hard questions about whether the government was going too far in collecting and disseminating information about suspected terrorists, and to have those professionals make their views known in regular reports to the president.

The board was given a broad mandate to review the civil liberties effects of proposed regulations and executive branch policies related to the war on terrorism. It will report to Bush.

The law gives the panel access to classified information under certain circumstances, but not the power to subpoena documents. The board, which is within the Executive Office of the president, operates at the behest of the administration.

Civil liberties groups saw it as a promising first step.

“The board has the potential to be an important force in protecting civil liberties if the White House gives the board a role in the policymaking process, as Congress intended,” the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington advocacy group, wrote at the time the law was passed.

So far, that potential has not been realized.

The Bush administration waited nine months to send the nominations of Dinkins and Raul to the Senate for approval. The three other members of the board did not require Senate confirmation, but they could not function without a chairman.

Doubts about funding also developed. The administration proposed an initial budget of $750,000, which lawmakers doubled. But critics consider that far from adequate. A similar board in the Homeland Security Department was initially proposed to have a $13-million budget.

Some members of Congress are concerned that the administration may still be trying to shortchange the board.

The fiscal 2007 budget that the administration released this month includes no express mention of any funding for it. That triggered a letter of protest from Maloney and Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) to the Office of Management and Budget.

A spokesman for the office, Scott Milburn, said in an interview that money was being requested for the board, but he declined to say how much.

Congress, which championed the idea of the board, also dragged its heels. Dinkins and Raul were officially nominated in September, when the Senate Judiciary Committee was busy with a Supreme Court nomination. The panel held a confirmation hearing in November, but only two of the 18 members showed up.

The committee finally approved Dinkins and Raul on Thursday without discussion. Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said his panel moved as quickly as possible considering its other duties, such as Supreme Court nominations, and considering the time the White House took in sending the nominations to the panel.

The top Judiciary Committee Democrat, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said in an interview: “They seem to be good people. They have done good things in their lives. But they certainly don’t bring any special expertise to what I consider to be an extremely challenging position.”

But Durbin said he believed the board could still be a valuable addition to the debate over security and liberty as concern over the growing power of government after Sept. 11 cuts across ideological lines.

Dinkins asserted in her written responses to the Senate committee that the board would not be a pushover for the administration.

“The president will be best served if the board offers unvarnished and candid advice concerning whether counter-terrorism policies are developed with adequate consideration of privacy and civil liberties,” she wrote. “It is critical that … the board get up and running as quickly as possible.”

Comment on this Article

Privacy Guardian Is Still a Paper Tiger

By Richard B. Schmitt Newsday.com February 20, 2006

WASHINGTON — For Americans troubled by the prospect of federal agents eavesdropping on their phone conversations or combing through their Internet records, there is good news: A little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose is to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the fight against terrorism.

Someday, it might actually meet.
Initially proposed by the bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was created by the intelligence overhaul that President Bush signed into law in December 2004.

More than a year later, it exists only on paper.

Foot-dragging, debate over its budget and powers, and concern over the qualifications of some of its members — one was treasurer of Bush's first campaign for Texas governor — has kept the board from doing a single day of work.

On Thursday, after months of delay, the Senate Judiciary Committee took a first step toward standing up the fledgling watchdog, approving the two lawyers Bush nominated to lead the panel. But it may take months before the board is up and running and doing much serious work.

Critics say the inaction shows the administration is just going through the motions when it comes to civil liberties.

"They have stalled in giving the board adequate funding. They have stalled in making appointments," said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.). "It is apparent they are not taking this seriously."

The Sept. 11 commission also has expressed reservations about the commitment to the liberties panel.

"We felt it was absolutely vital," said Thomas H. Kean, the Republican former governor of New Jersey who led the commission. "We had certainly hoped it would have been up and running a long time ago."

The inaction is especially noteworthy in light of recent events. Some Republicans joined Democrats to delay renewal of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act because of civil liberties concerns. And the disclosure in December that Bush approved surveillance of certain U.S. residents' international communications without a court order has caused bipartisan dismay in Congress.

"Obviously, civil liberties issues are critically important, and they have been to this president, especially after 9/11," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, adding that the White House had moved expeditiously to establish the board. "We do not formally nominate until we are through the background investigation and the full vetting. It takes time to present those nominations to the Senate. But now that they have been confirmed, that is a good thing."

The board chairwoman is Carol E. Dinkins, a Houston lawyer who was a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration. A longtime friend of the Bush family, she was the treasurer of George W. Bush's first campaign for governor of Texas, in 1994, and co-chair of Lawyers for Bush-Cheney, which recruited Republican lawyers to handle legal battles after the November 2004 election.

Dinkins, a longtime partner in the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins, where Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales once was a partner, has specialized in defending oil and gas companies in environmental lawsuits.

Foremost among her credentials, she told Senate Judiciary Committee members in a response to their questions, was the two years she spent as deputy attorney general in President Reagan's Justice Department. There, she said, she had to weigh civil liberties concerns while overseeing domestic surveillance and counter-intelligence cases.

The board vice chairman is Alan Charles Raul, a Washington lawyer who first suggested the concept of a civil liberties panel in an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times in December 2001. Raul, a former Agriculture Department general counsel currently in private practice, has published a book on privacy and the digital age and is the only panel member with apparent expertise in civil liberties issues.

The panel's lone Democrat, Lanny J. Davis, has known Bush since the two were undergraduates at Yale. Civil liberties groups regard the Washington lawyer, who worked in the Clinton White House, as likely to be a progressive voice on the panel.

The board also includes a conservative Republican legal icon, Washington lawyer and former Bush Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, whose wife, Barbara, died in the Sept. 11 attacks. The fifth member is Francis X. Taylor, a retired Air Force general and former State Department counter-terrorism coordinator, who is chief security officer at General Electric Co.

The board members declined to comment for this article. Three referred calls to Dinkins, who referred calls to the White House.

The idea of such a watchdog agency was broached almost immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, as conservatives and liberals alike saw a need for the government to consider the implications of new and growing anti-terrorism measures.

Comment on this Article

Wiretap negotiations in full bloom

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and David E. Sanger The New York Times Feb 21, 2006

After two months of insisting that President George W. Bush did not need court approval to authorize wiretapping of calls between the United States and suspected terrorists abroad, the administration is trying to resist pressure for judicial review while pushing for retroactive congressional approval of the program.
The administration opened negotiations with Congress last week, but it is far from clear whether Bush can get the votes he will need.

The latest Republican to join the growing chorus of those seeking oversight is Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

In an interview Sunday on Fox News, Graham, a former military prosecutor whose opinion on national security matters commands respect in the Senate, said he believed there was now a "bipartisan consensus" to have broader congressional oversight of the program and judicial review.

"I do believe we can provide oversight in a meaningful way without compromising the program," he said, "and I am adamant that the courts have some role when it comes to warrants. If you're going to follow an American citizen around for an extended period of time believing they're collaborating with the enemy, at some point in time, you need to get some judicial review, because mistakes can be made."

Four other leading Senate Republicans, including the heads of three committees - Judiciary, Homeland Security and Intelligence - have said they would prefer some degree of judicial oversight.

Their positions, if they hold, could complicate the negotiations, which the White House is hoping will lead to legislation to approve the program retroactively, much as Congress eventually approved Abraham Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War.

Bush expanded on his defense of the program in Tampa, Florida, on Friday, saying he believed that he had to take extraordinary steps in a time of war.

"Unfortunately, we're having this discussion," he said of the debate over wiretapping. "It's too bad, because guess who listens to the discussion: the enemy."

He added: "The enemy is adjusting. But I'm going to tell you something. I'm doing the right thing. Washington is a town that says, you didn't connect the dots, and then when you do connect the dots, they say you're wrong."

But two days before Bush spoke, the White House opened the door to talks in the hope of avoiding a full-scale congressional investigation. A series of senior officials, including Harriet Miers, the White House counsel, and Andrew Card Jr., the chief of staff, began contacting crucial members of the Senate to determine what it would take to derail the investigation.

The White House has refused to discuss those talks. Trent Duffy, a deputy press secretary, said the administration "does not want to negotiate in the media." But some lawmakers have given glimpses of the conversations, including Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, a Republican member of the intelligence panel who was prepared to vote with Democrats on Thursday to open an inquiry until the White House agreed to negotiate.

Snowe, who favors some kind of judicial review, characterized the talks as a "fundamental shift" in the debate. "I think there has been a quantum leap," she said in an interview, adding that senators were now "really trying to wrestle the best way to craft a measured bill."

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, has said he would prefer to see the program brought under the authority of the court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Roberts also says he is concerned that in an era of fast-paced electronic surveillance, the court may not be able to issue warrants quickly enough to meet the needs of the program. Without offering specifics, Roberts talked of "streamlining FISA" and said the National Security Agency would have to be involved in those talks.

Comment on this Article

I confessed to escape Guantanamo torture

By JASON LEWIS The Mail on Sunday 19th February 2006

[...] He claims, he was subjected to systematic torture. He told his lawyer that he would be "hung on the door for two hours and then allowed to sit for half an hour but never allowed to sleep. This would go on for 48 hours in a row".

After this, he claims, he would be taken for interrogation for two hours at a time. "I had to kneel on the cold concrete throughout the interrogations with my cuffed hands above my head," he said. "The only way out, I was told, was to confess. I heard and saw other torture - banging, screaming, cries, barking dogs and a dead guy who had tried to escape. One of the MPs [military police] said: 'Who's next?' So I confessed to be left alone."
A British student secretly released after more than two years in America's notorious Guantanamo Bay terror suspect prison told last night how he had been barred from returning to the UK.

And, as Jamal "Tony" Kiyemba spoke of the systematic torture he suffered at the hands of his captors, The Mail on Sunday has learned that Home Secretary Charles Clarke personally intervened to keep him out of Britain on "national security grounds".

The 25-year-old Londoner has been returned to his country of birth, Uganda, where he is now in custody. Kiyemba was freed without warning last week as international pressure mounted on America to close the detention camp after a highly critical UN report on the treatment of prisoners there.

Last night his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who specialises in human rights cases, handed this newspaper a dossier detailing the abuses his client alleges he suffered.

Kiyemba claims the Americans forced him, under torture, to confess to terrorist activities, and that MI5 interrogated him repeatedly, quizzing him about British terror suspects and the jailed clerics Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada.

The Government is refusing to reveal why Kiyemba, a Leicester University pharmacy student who grew up in London and whose mother, four brothers and sister all live in Britain, has been excluded from the country. But his lawyer believes something he was tortured into saying may hold the clue.

Kiyemba was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK when he left Uganda following the death of his father in 1993. He didn't apply for British citizenship and this meant that at Guantanamo Bay he was not entitled to representation by the Foreign Office nor, on his release, to automatic rights to return to his family.

"I may not be British according to some bit of paper but in reality I am a Brit and always will be," he told his lawyer. "My doctor, my local mosque, my teens, my education, employment, friends, taxes, home and above all else my family - it is all in Britain."

Kiyemba was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. He had gone there, he claims, to study Arabic and the Koran because it was "very cheap". He says he was held there for two months, beaten by Pakistani intelligence officers, threatened with torture and, finally, blindfolded and gagged, put on an American plane and flown to the US prison at Bagram in Afghanistan.

There, he claims, he was subjected to systematic torture. He told his lawyer that he would be "hung on the door for two hours and then allowed to sit for half an hour but never allowed to sleep. This would go on for 48 hours in a row".

After this, he claims, he would be taken for interrogation for two hours at a time. "I had to kneel on the cold concrete throughout the interrogations with my cuffed hands above my head," he said. "The only way out, I was told, was to confess. I heard and saw other torture - banging, screaming, cries, barking dogs and a dead guy who had tried to escape. One of the MPs [military police] said: 'Who's next?' So I confessed to be left alone."

Kiyemba's lawyer says his client was then interviewed by MI5 officers. 'They showed him many pictures of supposed terrorists in the UK and told him that he could only get them to help if he helped them.

"But he did not know any of them - he recognised Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada from television but had never seen them in person."

In October 2002 Kiyemba was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He recalls how on the journey he was forced to wear "the tightest cuffs to date, with chains, taped goggles, ear muffs, nose masks and taped gloves to prevent finger movement". He added: "Any movement meant you got hit by the nearest soldier."

At Guantanamo, Kiyemba says he had three more visits from MI5 who asked him if he wished to make any changes to his previous statements. He says when he said no, "they left in what seemed like an angry mood".

He added: "The American interrogators did not believe my story. Soon they had me standing up for sleep deprivation. They swore that if I did not admit to having planned jihad in Afghanistan, then what lay ahead for me would be far worse.

"The Americans promised to send me to "our Egyptian friends who are renowned for torturing and they will do the dirty work for us". In the end I just gave up resisting and told them what they wanted to hear so that they would leave me alone."

But, he says, the torture did not let up. On one occasion Kiyemba claims he was forced to the ground by guards, bound and soaked with pepper spray.

"They then sprayed it on a towel until it was soaked and rubbed the towel in his eyes," his lawyer noted. "He did not know what to do about the pain. He asked a medic, who told him to wash his eyes out with cold water - this made it worse."

A letter from a senior Foreign Office staffer was the first official word Kiyemba's family got of his release. It said: "You should be aware that the Home Secretary has personally directed that he should be excluded from the UK on grounds of national security."

Last night Mr Stafford Smith, director of the human rights group Reprieve, called on the Home Secretary to reconsider his client's plight.

He said: "Jamal Kiyemba has lived his whole life in Britain since he was a boy. His mother and family all live here. Charles Clarke refused to lift a finger to help him when he was being abused in Guantanamo Bay. Now he has barred him from his home and his mother based on allegations he won't reveal but which were almost certainly based on what Jamal said under torture."

Comment on this Article

Report: Pentagon warned on torture, abuse

19/02/2006 Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Navy's former general counsel warned Pentagon officials two years before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal that circumventing international agreements on torture and detainees' treatment would invite abuse, according to a published report.
Legal theories granting the president the right to authorize abuse in spite of the Geneva Conventions were unlawful, dangerous and erroneous, Alberto J. Mora advised officials in a secret memo. The 22-page document was obtained by The New Yorker for a story in its Feb. 27 issue.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said Sunday she had not read the magazine story.

The memo from July 7, 2004, recounted Mora's 2 1/2-year effort to halt a policy that he feared would authorize cruelty toward suspected terrorists.

It also indicates that some lawyers in the Justice and Defense departments objected to the legal course the administration undertook, according to the report.

Mora said Navy intelligence officers reported in 2002 that military-intelligence interrogators at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were engaging in escalating levels of physical and psychological abuse rumored to have been authorized at a high level in Washington.

"I was appalled by the whole thing," Mora told the magazine. "It was clearly abusive and it was clearly contrary to everything we were ever taught about American values."

Mora said he thought his concerns were being addressed by a special group set up by the Pentagon. But he discovered in January 2003 that a Justice Department opinion had negated his arguments with what he described as "an extreme and virtually unlimited theory of the extent of the president's commander in chief authority."

When the first pictures from the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib appeared in the press in spring 2004, Mora said, he felt stunned and dismayed that what he had warned against had taken place, and in a different setting than Guantanamo.

Mora retired this year and now is a general counsel for Wal-Mart.

A U.N. report issued last week called for the U.S. to close its prison at Guantanamo Bay. In response, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld rejected accusations of torture or abuse and said the detention facility is well-run.

Comment on this Article

US style of human rights based on torture: Iran

Monday, February 20, 2006 IranMania.com

Iran's Minister of Defense and Logistics of Armed Forces Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said that the human rights favored by US President George Bush are based on clandestine cells, torture, terror, wire tapping of American civilians, sacrilege to religious sanctities, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and attack on civilians.
According to the Public Relations Department of Defense Ministry, the minister made the remarks in the first nationwide gathering on the goals of the Defense Ministry, IRNA reported.

It is among the wonders of the 21st century that the US administration with its black record of activities claim leadership of the world towards democracy and human rights, he said.

The US disgrace due to its crimes in Abu Ghraib prison indicates that the US administration has no respect for the most basic principles of human rights, adding that the US through such shameful acts has been completely isolated and hated in the world.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the defense minister said that sustainable development should be based on strategic, financial and qualitative planning.

Expansion of defense industries would lead to more national strength, reduction of foreign threats, acquisition of new technological know-how and

increase in the number of creative managers, said the minister.

Highlighting the current political and security status in the region and the world, he said taking into power of Afghan Muslim mujahedin in

Afghanistan, victory of big coalition in Iraq, great victory of Hamas in Palestine's legislative election, the massive turnout of Iranian people in

nationwide rallies marking the 27th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution and worldwide protests by Muslims against publication of

sacrilegious cartoons by Western media, have sealed the doom of US policies in the Middle East and the world.

Comment on this Article

Bush 'butcher of freedom': bin Laden

Sydney Morning Herald February 20, 2006

Osama bin Laden accused US forces of "barbaric" acts in Iraq comparable to those committed by Saddam Hussein, according to an audio tape first broadcast in January and posted on the internet in full today.

"The (US) criminality has gone as far as raping women and holding them hostage before their husbands ... as for the torture of men it has now come to the use of burning chemical acids and electric drills in their joints," he said in the tape posted with an English-language voice over.
"Despite all these barbaric methods ... the mujahideen are strengthening and increasing by the grace of Allah," he said.

The tape, whose authenticity could not be verified, was posted on the internet by the al Qaeda media group al-Sahab.

In January, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television aired parts of the tape, in which bin Laden said al Qaeda was preparing further attacks in the United States.

US intelligence analysts then authenticated the tape as a message from bin Laden. It was the first bin Laden tape since 2004.

In the audio released on Monday, bin Laden said the insurgency in Iraq was gaining strength despite "barbaric and oppressive steps taken by the American army and its agents to the extent that there is no longer any mentionable difference between this criminality and the criminality of Saddam."

The tape was first broadcast by Al Jazeera before new images surfaced of Iraqi prisoner abuse by US forces at Abu Ghraib prison in a 2004 scandal. The images showed sexual humiliation of prisoners and physical abuse.

US officials have often accused Saddam of links to al Qaeda, one of the reasons of the US-led war on Iraq which was chiefly based on allegations Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction.

Bin Laden's remarks appeared to disassociate his group from Saddam's regime.

He said Washington was trying to muffle any media outlet that reports the truth about the losses of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Commenting on British newspaper report in a November that US President George W. Bush had mulled bombing Al Jazeera's head office, the Saudi-born militant called Bush the "butcher of freedom" and criticised the prominent Arab television and the leaders of its host country, Qatar.

"Recently it has surfaced in documents that the butcher of freedom in the world had resolved to bomb the head offices of Al Jazeera satellite channel in Qatar after he had bombed its offices in Kabul and Baghdad although it, as it stands, is the instrument of your (Americans) servants there (in Qatar)."

In 2001, the station's Kabul office was hit by US bombs and in 2003 Al Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub was killed in a US strike on its Baghdad office. The United States has denied deliberately targeting the station.

Comment: Old Osama is an astute political commentator it seems.

Comment on this Article

Germany Weighs if It Played Role in Seizure by U.S.

By DON VAN NATTA Jr. Published: February 21, 2006

MUNICH, Feb. 20 — For more than a year, the German government has criticized the United States for its role in the abduction of a German man who was taken to an American prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he said he was held and tortured for five months after being mistaken for a terrorism suspect.

German officials said they knew nothing about the man's abduction and have repeatedly pressed Washington for information about the case, which has set off outrage here. At a meeting in Berlin last December, Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded an explanation from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the incident.
But on Monday in Neu-Ulm near Munich, the police and prosecutors opened an investigation into whether Germany served as a silent partner of the United States in the abduction of the man, Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Arab descent who was arrested Dec. 31, 2003, in Macedonia before being flown to the Kabul prison.

The action came after a two-and-a-half-hour meeting at police headquarters in which Mr. Masri told the police that he was "90 percent" certain that a senior German police official was the interrogator who had visited him three times inside the prison in Kabul but had identified himself only as "Sam." The German prosecutors said Monday that they were also investigating whether the German Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia, had been notified about Mr. Masri's kidnapping within days of his capture there, but then had done nothing to try to help him.

Mr. Masri's case has come to symbolize the C.I.A. practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which terror suspects are sent to be interrogated in other countries where torture is commonly used. In broadening its criminal inquiry into the abduction of Mr. Masri to the activities of its own government, German prosecutors are trying to determine whether the German government worked secretly with the United States in the practice.

"I feel deceived and betrayed by my own country," Mr. Masri, a 42-year-old unemployed car salesman from Neu-Ulm, said in an interview.

The German police official identified as "Sam" denied that he had visited Mr. Masri in Afghanistan and said he was "on holiday" at the time in Germany, but that he could not remember exactly where. The man was present on Monday at the police station, where Mr. Masri picked him out of a 10-person lineup. After speaking with him, Mr. Masri said that his voice was similar but that his hair style was different.

Martin Hofmann, a prosecutor in Munich, said Monday that his office would not "assume that this man is Sam" but would "go forward with our investigation."

A senior German official familiar with the case said that Mr. Masri was "at best mistaken" and that the police official "cannot be Sam."

The New York Times is withholding the official's name at the request of Germany's intelligence services because he often does undercover intelligence work. He frequently gets "sensitive" assignments and helps clean up "dirty work" for the German foreign intelligence service, said one of his longtime colleagues, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A senior Macedonian government official who was directly involved in Mr. Masri's detention told The Times that not long after Mr. Masri's capture, Macedonian officials notified the German Embassy in Skopje. C.I.A. officers in Macedonia conducted the interrogation of Mr. Masri, according to Macedonian officials.

August Stern, the Munich-based federal prosecutor who is leading Germany's criminal investigation of Mr. Masri's kidnapping, said his investigators were trying to determine whether the German Embassy had been told about Mr. Masri's capture, and then sent a German agent to the American prison in Kabul to talk with him. Mr. Stern and other senior police officers and prosecutors said they would try to interview the officials in the embassy in Skopje in coming weeks.

August Hanning, secretary of state for the Ministry of the Interior, denied in an interview that any member of Germany's secret services had visited Mr. Masri while he was held captive. "He has never been to Afghanistan," Mr. Hanning said of the German police official.

Two senior German officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case's sensitive nature, denied that Germany's Embassy had been told about Mr. Masri's capture. "The German Embassy in Skopje was not informed by Macedonian authorities while German citizen el-Masri was in custody in Macedonia," a Foreign Office spokesman said. Another official said Germany did not learn about Mr. Masri's detention until May 31, 2004, when the American ambassador to Germany at the time, Daniel Coats, informed German officials about Mr. Masri's capture and eventual release.

"According to our investigation, I am convinced that German officials did not have any knowledge before his release," the official said.

Later this week, the German government is expected to turn over a report to Parliament about Mr. Masri's case.

Meanwhile, investigators at the Council of Europe, led by Dick Marty, a Swiss lawmaker, are looking into whether there was quiet cooperation between the C.I.A. and its counterparts in European countries, including Germany, Italy and Sweden, where suspected terrorists were kidnapped and sent to third countries for interrogation.

In Italy, the authorities in June charged 23 C.I.A. agents with the abduction of a terrorism suspect from the streets of Milan. Italian officials insist that they did not know about the procedure, but some elected officials in Italy said the Americans must have tipped off their counterparts in the Italian intelligence agency.

European officials have been sharply critical of the C.I.A.'s rendition program. In particular, German officials have rebuked the United States for playing a role in the abduction of one of their citizens and then transporting him to Afghanistan on a chartered C.I.A. plane.

"I have no explanation for the whole case," a senior German official said. "To bring such a man like el-Masri from Europe to Afghanistan and to ask him some questions and six months later, the explanation is that it's a terrible error is not very convincing. To me there are still a lot of questions."

Manfred R. Gnjidic, Mr. Masri's lawyer, said he is convinced that Germany "stood by like a little school boy, watching what was going on with my client and doing nothing."

After more than five months in captivity, the United States released Mr. Masri without filing charges. His case was first disclosed in The Times in January 2005.

At the meeting last December in Berlin between the German chancellor and Ms. Rice, the kidnapping of Mr. Masri was discussed privately, but the two leaders seemed to disagree about the substance of that conversation afterward.

Ms. Merkel said the Bush administration had admitted that it had mistakenly abducted Mr. Masri. But Ms. Rice declined to discuss with reporters anything about the case. She said only that she had pledged to Ms. Merkel, "When and if mistakes are made, we work very hard and as quickly as possible to rectify them."

In Washington, a senior State Department official said Monday that the department would not comment on Mr. Masri's case, noting that it was a matter of litigation in both Germany and the United States. In late 2003, Mr. Masri left his family in Ulm for a trip to Macedonia. Macedonian and German officials said he was arrested at a border checkpoint on Dec. 31, 2003, because his name was on an Interpol terror watch list. But they said the name referred to another Khaled el-Masri.

Mr. Masri was then held in a hotel in Macedonia for several weeks, where he was questioned by the C.I.A., according to senior Macedonian and American officials. A senior Macedonian official said the German Embassy was notified about Mr. Masri within days of his capture. "Unofficially, they knew," the official said of the Germans.

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.

Two senior Macedonian officials said the Americans had asked to have Mr. Masri detained in Macedonia for 23 days. "We consider the Americans as our partners," a senior Macedonian official said. "We cannot refuse them."

Mr. Masri said he had pleaded with his captors to let him go. "Call the German Embassy," Mr. Masri said he had repeatedly told them. "I'm a German citizen. Please tell them I am here!"

"They don't want to talk to you," he said one of his captors had replied.

In a recent interview, Mr. Masri said: "I thought it was strange that they kept telling me the Germans didn't care about me. Now I know why they said that — because it was true."

At the hotel, Mr. Masri said he had been asked whether he was a member of Al Qaeda. But he was struck by the many questions he was asked about his time in Germany. He said the questions had led him to suspect that the Germans were cooperating with the Macedonians.

A German official disputed that assertion, saying Germany often shared information with their American counterparts about suspected terrorists. But the official acknowledged that the German police had not considered Mr. Masri to be an "important" suspect.

Publicly, Macedonia has denied that Mr. Masri was held illegally. "There is nothing the ministry has done illegally," Hari Kostiv, the minister of interior at the time and later the prime minister, said in an interview. "The man is alive and back home with his family. Somebody made a mistake. That somebody is not Macedonia."

By late January 2004, Mr. Masri was sent to Afghanistan, where he said he was held and beaten over the next five months.

For Mr. Masri, one of the biggest mysteries was the identity of the interrogator who identified himself as Sam, and who spoke fluent German. He visited three times during Mr. Masri's final month at the Kabul jail.

During the first meeting, Mr. Masri said he had asked the man if he was from Germany, but the man declined to answer. Mr. Masri said he had asked him, "Do the Germans know I'm here?"

"He said he did not want to answer," Mr. Masri said. "I asked him if my wife knew I was there. Sam said she doesn't know. He then said, I shouldn't ask questions, I should only answer them."

During their second meeting, the man was no longer belligerent, Mr. Masri said, bringing him cookies, chocolates and a copy of the German newsmagazine Focus. The man also asked if Mr. Masri wanted "anything from Germany."

"I said, 'Nothing, thank you,' " Mr. Masri said.

In their last meeting, a week before Mr. Masri's release, the man told him that he would be returning home soon. The last time Mr. Masri saw Sam, the interrogator was speaking with a man who he believed was an American. Soon afterward, Mr. Masri was released.

On Dec. 12, 2005, Mr. Gnjidic, the lawyer for Mr. Masri, received an e-mail message from a German journalist named Frank Kruger, who suggested that Sam might be a German police official. Earlier this month, Mr. Gnjidic said he had obtained a videotape of the police official that convinced Mr. Masri that he was Sam. On Monday, after meeting the man at police headquarters, Mr. Masri said he was 90 percent certain that the police official was Sam.

"The man was very nervous, and he could not look at me into my eyes," Mr. Masri said. "The hair is different, but the voice sounded very similar."

"For me, it is very important that we know who this man was," he said.

Mr. Gnjidic said he found it hard to believe that other than the prosecutors in Munich, no one in the German government has sought Mr. Masri's testimony about his ordeal. "The scandal for me is that the Germans did nothing when they heard a German had been captured," he said. "They should have protested very hard and tried to stop this."

Comment on this Article

U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set

By Thomas E. Ricks Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, February 21, 2006; Page A10

TAJI, Iraq -- If the U.S. effort in Iraq ultimately is successful, one reason may be the small school started recently on a military base here by Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the U.S. commander in Iraq.
Called the COIN Academy -- using military shorthand for "counterinsurgency" -- the newest educational institution in the U.S. military establishment seeks, as a course summary puts it, to "stress the need for U.S. forces to shift from a conventional warfare mindset" to one that understands how to win in a guerrilla-style conflict. Or, as a sign on the wall of one administrator's office here put it less politely: "Insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different outcome."

The purpose of the school north of Baghdad is to try to bring about a different outcome than the U.S. military achieved in 2003-04, when Army commanders committed mistakes typical of a conventional military facing an insurgency. "When the insurgency started, we came in very conventional," said Col. Chris Short, the District native and recent Manassas resident who is the new school's commandant.

Back then, U.S. forces rounded up tens of thousands of Iraqis, mixing innocent people in detention with hard-core Islamic extremists. Commanders permitted troops to shoot at anything mildly threatening. And they failed to give their troops the basic conceptual and cultural tools needed to operate in the complex environment of Iraq, from how to deal with a sheik to understanding why killing insurgents usually is the least desirable outcome in dealing with them. (It is more effective, they are now taught, to persuade them either to desert or to join the political process.)

Last year, an internal study by Army experts of U.S. commanders here found that some understood the principles of counterinsurgency and applied them well, while others faltered. "If the commander had it, the unit had it, but if the commander got it halfway, then the unit got it halfway," Casey said in a recent interview. The new school is designed to ensure that all the commanders get it.

Even now, some conventional unit commanders balk at the idea of leaving their troops for the five-day course, which covers subjects from counterinsurgency theory and interrogations to detainee operations and how to dine with a sheik. When told that he had to leave his battalion of Marines in Fallujah to come here, recalled Lt. Col. Patrick Looney, his reaction was disbelief.

"I didn't want to come," concurred Lt. Col. David Furness, commander of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, now operating between Baghdad and Fallujah. "But I'm glad I came."

Casey, the school's builder, found an easy way to make them come: He made attendance compulsory for any officer heading to a combat command in Iraq. He also meets with each class, offering the captains and lieutenant colonels a rare chance to quiz a four-star general.

Some members of the faculty, which draws heavily on Special Forces officers, were not eager to teach U.S. infantry, artillery, aviation and armor officers. Short recalled that some said: "That's not our mission. We don't teach U.S. forces." Such qualms have been eliminated, he said with a chuckle.

Again and again, the intense immersion course, which 30 to 50 officers attend at a time, emphasizes that the right answer is probably the counterintuitive one, rather than something that the Army has taught officers in their 10 or 20 years of service. The school's textbook, a huge binder, offers the example of a mission that busts into a house and captures someone who mortared a U.S. base.

"On the surface, a raid that captures a known insurgent or terrorist may seem like a sure victory for the coalition," it observes in red block letters. It continues, "The potential second- and third-order effects, however, can turn it into a long-term defeat if our actions humiliate the family, needlessly destroy property, or alienate the local population from our goals."

At points, the school's leaders seem to go out of their way to challenge current U.S. military practices here. Short said in an interview Friday inside his sandbagged headquarters that he has issues with "this big-base mentality" that keeps tens of thousands of troops inside facilities called forwarding operating bases, or FOBs, which they leave for patrols and raids. Classic counterinsurgency theory holds that troops should live out among the people as much as possible, to develop a sense of how the society works and to gather intelligence.

As Apache attack helicopters clattered overhead, Short also offered an unconventional view of Iraq's December elections, which many U.S. officials have portrayed as a great victory. "You can ask just about every Iraqi, 'What about the elections?' " he said. "They'll say" -- Short shrugged his shoulders -- " 'Well, we voted five times, and nothing's happening out here.' "

Recent attendees at the school came away impressed. "I think it's an incredibly insightful course," said Army Maj. Sheldon Horsfall, an adviser to the Iraqi military in Baghdad. "One of the things that was brought home to us, again and again, was the importance of cultural awareness."

"The course opened my eyes to some of the bigger picture," said Lt. Col. Nathan Nastase, the operations officer for the 5th Marine Regiment, based near Fallujah. He said he especially liked hearing about the role of Special Operations Forces in Iraq, as well as learning about the tactics being used by successful commanders.

The school's greatest effect seems to be on younger officers. "My initial impression of it was it was a waste of time," said Capt. Klaudius Robinson, commander of a cavalry troop in the 4th Infantry Division. "But after going through it, it really changed my thinking about how to fight this insurgency. I came to realize that the center of gravity is the people, and you have to drive a wedge between the insurgents and the people."

Before the course, he said, he expected to spend his time here combating insurgents, but instead he is focused on training and operating with Iraqi troops. "We're never going to catch every bad guy," he tells his troops. "That's not a ticket home. But what I can do is help Iraqi security forces and get them to take the lead."

"One of the things I picked up at the COIN Academy is, we don't need to be hard on people all the time," said Capt. Bret Lindberg, commander of another 4th Infantry cavalry troop.

The major criticism offered by students is that it would have been better to have the education six months earlier, when they were training their troops to deploy to Iraq, not after the units have arrived. Short had a tart response: It's not a bad idea, he said, but the Army back home wasn't stepping up to the job. "They didn't do it for three years" -- the length of the war so far, he noted. "That's why the boss said, 'Screw it, I'm doing it here.' "

At any rate, the school isn't just about operating in Iraq, Short said, but about preparing officers for the rest of their careers. "I think we're going to be in more of these wars," he said.

Comment: Col. Short says: "I think we're going to be in more of these wars." That would likely be because so much of the world hates the freedoms and democracy of the US?

Comment on this Article

The Zionist-Evangelical Alliance

By Ari Paul GNN Thu, 09 Feb 2006 15:44:25 -0800

Evangelical support for Israel is a danger to all...even Israel.

War makes for bad bedfellows. When the Nazis were allied with the government of Japan, they knew after the Axis took over the world, Germany would put its target on Japan and other nations. The U.S. supported terrorists and rogue states during the Cold War with whom it is now at war. Israel gets support from the Evangelical Christian right, which believes that after the coming of Christ, the unconverted Jews will be tossed into the pit of fire.

The Christian right supports Israel because they believe there is a Biblical prophecy that says the faithful must guide the Jews back to Israel in order to bring on the Rapture (i.e. the end of the world). Many right-wing Jews have taken advantage of that belief to rally financial support from Evangelical Christians for Israel and to lobby for pro-Israel policies in the Congress and White House. But other Jewish leaders are not as quick to team up with the Christian right. They fear the Evangelical Christian right’s domestic agenda threatens both their religious and political convictions.
Many progressive Jews believe that Jews should not support a group that wishes to impose religion onto the state, which would marginalize Jewish Americans, people of other faiths and the secular community. In addition to supporting Israel, Evangelicals want to put prayer in school, the Ten Commandments on public display, and creationism – rather “intelligent design” – to be taught alongside Darwinism in science classes. They want America to cease being a secular democracy and become a Christian nation.

“We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the Religious Right is the voice of atheism,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, at a conference in Houston last year. “We are appalled when ‘people of faith’ is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews, Catholics, and Muslims.”

When Jewish leaders talk like this it scares some hardcore Zionists. When Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who has always expressed appreciation for Evangelicals’ support for Israel, voiced concern about Evangelicals’ desire to impose Christian religion in the public sphere, Jewish author and fellow at the conservative Discovery Institute David Klinghoffer claimed Foxman’s concern was “ludicrous” and part of a ploy to raise money for the ADL in an article in the National Review.

“It almost seems to verge on insanity,” Klinghoffer said in a recent interview. “[Evangelicals] are better friends of Israel than we are.”

For Klinghoffer, Evangelical support for Israel trumps whatever plans they have to break the barrier between Church and State, even if that support based on a Biblical prophecy that ends with unconverted Jews going to Hell.

“If there is a dark conspiracy, who cares?” said Klinghoffer. “The practical outcome is that they support a president that supports Israel’s right to defend itself.”

And Klinghoffer isn’t alone. In the state of Washington, Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Toward Tradition works with Christian organizations to fight what the group calls “secular fundamentalism.” Rabbi Yechiel Z. Eckstein’s Jerusalem and Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christian and Jews fights many battles in order to encourage Christian support for Israel. Last December, Eckstein wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times that replacing ‘Merry Christmas’ with ‘Happy Holidays’ was unhealthy. Perhaps reluctantly, Eckstein, a religious rabbi, bought into the myth that secular America is fighting what one Fox News commentator calls the “War on Christmas.”

It is as if some religious Jewish and Zionist organizations are fighting Evangelicals’ battles in America so that the Evangelicals will remain Zionist allies.

“From my perspective, the effect on the U.S. can only be harmful,” said Noam Chomsky, the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguistics professor and critic of American foreign policy. “And harmful to Israel as well. The most fervent self-described ‘supporters of Israel’ are often its worst enemies.”

To whom might Chomsky be referring? For example, Meir Kahane, the radical Brooklyn-born rabbi who argued for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel, was one such ‘supporter of Israel’ and his political party was banned from the Israeli government because it was so extreme. Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, may have acted out of a nationalist spirit, but that spirit turned him into an enemy of the state.

While it is not reasonable to state that Christianity is inherently anti-Semitic, the history of this religion from the Spanish Inquisition to Martin Luther to Father Coughlin is marred with unabashed Jew-hatred. And in today’s circles of Evangelical Protestants, one can find where its prominent leaders have used Jew-baiting to rile up its people. Jerry Falwell speculated publicly that the Antichrist might be Jewish. Pat Robertson reminded his readers that German-Jewish intellectuals were responsible for communism.

More than that, some sects of Christianity will surely cite the New Testament’s blaming Christ’s death on the Jews. “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles,” reads Acts 14:2, “and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.”

But people like Klinghoffer believe that Jews should align with Evangelicals no matter what their motives and that criticism of Evangelicals’ domestic agenda is unnecessary and should be kept silent. But Jews should not give in so easily. If Jewish leaders do not speak out against the Evangelical right’s plans that blur the division of Church and State, it will aid the Christian right’s plan to impose religion into the public sphere. And it grants the Evangelicals an influence over Israel. This is a group that does not lend its support to Israel for altruism, but for religious self-interest.

This over-prioritization of Israel is dangerous. Those involved in the Christian-Zionist alliance say to the world that the Jews are so desperate for support for Israel they will forfeit equality in the States by aiding the agenda to abolish the separation of Church and State. Surely, it is time for Jewish-America to realize and resist this intellectual deficit.

“Belief in Rapture seems to me anti-Semitic,” said Chomsky. “What happens to the Jews?”

"Belief in Rapture seems to me anti-Semitic," said Chomsky. "What happens to the Jews?"
We couldn't have said it better ouselves.

Comment on this Article

Israel vows to stem flow of funds to Hamas

By Ed O'Loughlin Herald Correspondent in Jerusalem and agencies February 21, 2006

ISRAEL has declared the Palestinian Authority a "terrorist body" following the election victory by the Islamic militant group Hamas and has launched an international campaign to starve it of funds and contacts.

The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is expected to add her support to the boycott today, when she is due to arrive in Egypt to press the Arab League to drop plans to make good the loss in funding.
The president of the Palestinian Authority and the leader of the defeated Fatah party in last month's election, Mahmoud Abbas, said the authority faced a financial crisis after Israel's decision not to pay $US50 million ($67 million) in monthly customs revenue which it owes the authority under its 1993 Oslo Accords commitments.

The money is used to pay the salaries of 130,000 Palestinian Authority employees, the biggest source of income in the territories under Israeli military occupation.

"[The election] should not be used to justify further aggression against our people, or as a pretext for blackmailing it," Mr Abbas said. "The Palestinian people should not be punished for its democratic choice that was expressed through the ballot box."

Hamas is casting around for alternative sources of funding. The head of its political wing, Khaled Mashaal, was expected in Tehran yesterday to meet the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a move that will further infuriate Israel.

Mr Abbas told the Palestinian parliament he required Hamas to respect the Oslo Accords with Israel that recognise the Jewish state. "From the hour the accords were endorsed, they became a political reality to which we remain committed," he said.

The Israeli cabinet, which faces its own election on March 28, voted to adopt a range of punitive measures on Sunday, a day after the swearing in of the new Palestinian parliament, in which Hamas holds 74 of the 132 seats.

"Israel views the rise of Hamas as a dangerous milestone that turns the Palestinian Authority into a terrorist authority," the acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said. "Israel will not hold contacts with the administration in which Hamas plays any part."

Israel's diplomatic boycott is a largely symbolic gesture, Palestinians said, since Israel has for several years rejected talks with the previous, more moderate Fatah government. However, since the surprising victory by Hamas in the January 25 election, the so-called quartet of would-be Middle East peace brokers - the US, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia - also threatened to cut funding of and ties with the Palestinian Authority if Hamas does not abandon its armed struggle, recognise Israel's right to exist and endorse all previous agreements between the Fatah-led authority and Israel.

Already the US has blocked the accounts of an Islamic charity KindHearts, citing links to Hamas. The Treasury Department said on Sunday it had frozen the accounts of the Ohio-based non-profit group "pending investigation."

Hamas has repeatedly rejected demands for it to moderate its charter, which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and the institution of Islamic rule in all of the former British mandate of Palestine.

However, the party's moderate faction, led by its nominee for prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, has said it might be willing to extend its present one-sided ceasefire against Israel and to negotiate peace, provided Israel withdraws from the territories it seized in 1967.

â–  Israeli forces killed six Palestinians at the weekend. In Gaza, two militants were killed by an Israeli air strike after Israel said they were seen acting suspiciously near the border fence. In the West Bank city of Nablus, troops killed two members of the Islamic Jihad militant group and two 17-year-old boys. The Israeli army said the youths were laying explosive devices when they were shot dead.

Palestinians said they were among a group of boys throwing stones at the invading forces.

Comment on this Article

Israel's policies are feeding the cancer of anti-semitism

Paul Oestreicher Monday February 20, 2006 The Guardian

It is a lie that to reject Zionism as it is practised today is to be the inheritor of Hitler's racism.
The chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, is right. His reaction to the Anglican synod's call for sanctions against Israel is understandable. Hatred of Judaism - now commonly called anti-semitism - is a virus that has infected Christendom for two millennia. It continues to stalk the world despite its most virulent outbreak in Nazi Germany. It should not be left untreated. For too many it remains the unlearned lesson of the Holocaust. It should haunt decent Christians for generations to come.

The German pope knows that particularly well and is on the battle lines against it. On this issue, nothing divides him from the Archbishop of Canterbury and most other church leaders. If, as some now think, today's Jews are the Muslims - hatred transferred - that simply means there is a battle to maintain our common humanity on more than one front. All collective hatreds poison the body politic.

I say this as the child of a German Jewish-born father who escaped in time. His mother did not. I say it as a half-Jewish German child chased around a British playground in the second world war and taunted with "he's not just a German, he's a Jew". A double insult. But I say this too as a Christian priest who shares the historic guilt of all the churches. All Christians share a bloody inheritance.

If I feel all that in my guts and know it in my head, I cannot stand by and watch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - one of the world's most dangerous outbreaks of collective hatred - as a dispassionate onlooker. I cannot listen calmly when an Iranian president talks of wiping out Israel. Jewish fears go deep. They are not irrational. But I cannot listen calmly either when a great many citizens of Israel think and speak of Palestinians in the way a great many Germans thought and spoke about Jews when I was one of them and had to flee.

If the Christian in me has good reason to be ashamed, so now does the Jew in me. I passionately believe that Israel has the right, and its people have the right, to live in peace and in secure borders. But I know too that modern Israel was born in terror and made possible in its present Zionist form by killing and a measure of ethnic cleansing. That is history. Tell me of a nation with an innocent history. But the Zionism at the heart of Israeli politics is about the present and the future. It makes me fear for the soul of Israel today and the survival of its children tomorrow.

The Israel characterised by the words of Golda Meir that "there was no such thing as Palestinians ... they did not exist" is an Israel that is inevitably surrounded by enemies and that can only survive militarily and economically as a client state of the world's only superpower, for now. Nor can its nuclear monopoly in the Middle East last for ever. Peace cannot be made by building a wall on Palestinian land that makes the life of the miserably conquered more miserable still. A Palestinian bantustan will be a source of unrest and violence for ever.

I say all this despairing of the Israel I love. Its people are my people. The Palestinians are my neighbours. I wish they had stronger and better leaders. I wish their despairing young people had not been driven to violence. Just as I understand Jewish fears, I understand their despair. Only an Israel that understands that too can change it. And there are Jews in Israel and in the diaspora who know it. Most of them, out of a fear of being thought disloyal, are afraid to say what they know to be true. The state of Israel has become a cruel occupying power. Occupations, when they are resisted, are never benevolent. They morally corrupt the occupier. The brave body of Israeli conscientious objectors are the true inheritors of the prophets of Israel. They are the true patriots. What nation has ever loved its prophets?

But the main objective of my writing today, is to nail the lie that to reject Zionism as it practised today is in effect to be anti-semitic, to be an inheritor of Hitler's racism. That argument, with the Holocaust in the background, is nothing other than moral blackmail. It is highly effective. It condemns many to silence who fear to be thought anti-semitic. They are often the very opposite. They are often people whose heart bleeds at Israel's betrayal of its true heritage.

I began with the recognition that the cancer of anti-semitism has not been cured. Tragically, Israel's policies feed it - and when world Jewry defends Israeli policies right or wrong, then anger turns not only against Israel, but against all Jews. I wish it were mere rhetoric to say that Israeli politics today make a holocaust the day after tomorrow credible. If the whole Muslim world hates Israel, that is no idle speculation. To count on Arab disunity and Muslim sectarian conflict and a permanent American shield is no recipe for long-term security.

There are Israelis who know all that, and there are Jews around the world who know it. In Britain, Jews for Justice for Palestinians organises to give Jewishness a human face. Tell them they are anti-semites and they will laugh bitterly, for the charge hurts deeply and is a lie. Prophets such as Uri Avnery give all this eloquent expression, but are heard by only a few. The media are afraid of a lobby that is quite prepared to do them serious damage.

Yes, of course, there are many who express their solidarity with the Palestinian people. Some are Christians. They deserve respect. If, whether wisely or not, they call for sanctions, that does not make them Jew-haters - not in theory and not in practice. My concern, however, is to express solidarity with the Israel that is not represented by its leaders or popular opinion. Once, in the days of Hitler, there was another Germany represented by those in concentration camps alongside Jews and Gypsies, the martyrs who are celebrated today. There is such an Israel too. Its voices are still free to speak, though often reviled and misunderstood. That Israel has my solidarity, as all Jews have my love and prayers.

Paul Oestreicher was a member of the Church of England's general synod and director of the Centre for International Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral; he is now a chaplain at the University of Sussex

Comment on this Article

If Hamas must renounce violence, so should Israel, says

Linda McQuaig Feb. 19, 2006 Toronto Star

"We are stumped by the failure of our democratic concepts to gain a foothold in the Arab world," wrote Michael Bell, a former Canadian ambassador to Israel, in the Globe and Mail last week.

I wonder which "democratic concepts" Bell had in mind — apparently not the concept that people are free to elect the government they choose.
This is the most basic democratic concept of all. And it's clearly gained a foothold among Palestinian Arabs, who last month exercised their democratic rights by rejecting a corrupt government that had failed to advance the peace process, and electing the militant Hamas party.

Obviously the Palestinians failed to understand the subtle nuances of Western "democratic concepts." Just because the West urges them to elect a government doesn't mean they're free to elect a government the West considers unacceptable.

The New York Times reported last week that the "United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again."

If only the Palestinians would get it right the first time, it wouldn't be necessary for the West to intervene in their democratic process.

Ottawa also made clear last week that Canada would withdraw financial support — unless Hamas renounced violence, recognized Israel and accepted previous Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements.

At first glance, this seems reasonable. But why are these demands placed only on Palestinians? Shouldn't Israel also have to renounce violence? As the World Council of Churches recently argued: "If violence is incompatible with democracy and with peace, it is incompatible for both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities."

As for recognizing Israel, Hamas has implicitly indicated a willingness do this — if Israel ends its occupation. Hamas official Khaled Mishaal told a Russian journal last week that Hamas would halt its armed struggle if Israel withdrew from Palestinian land it has occupied since 1967.

The lopsided nature of Ottawa's demands is striking, particularly since Israel already exists as a country, with secure borders and the unwavering support of the most powerful nation on Earth. Meanwhile, Palestinians, after 40 years living under military occupation, are essentially powerless.

This context is so often missing from mainstream commentaries like Bell's.

Bell purports to be urging moderation on both sides, but his notion of moderation consists of demanding the Palestinians renounce their resistance to Israeli occupation, while making no demand that Israel end its occupation.

He doesn't even mention that Israel continues to build settlements on Palestinian land and to construct a massive wall incorporating large chunks of Palestinian territory inside Israel.

Aren't these aggressive actions part of the problem?

If Palestinians are going to be required to renounce violence — as they should be — shouldn't Israel also be required to renounce violence, and to stop building settlements and walls on Palestinian territory?

Rather than belittling others for allegedly failing to grasp our "democratic concepts," we could begin by showing we grasp these concepts ourselves.

Comment on this Article

UN faults Israel for halt in funds to Palestinians

Reuters Feb 20, 2006 — By Adam Entous

The U.N. envoy to the Middle East raised objections on Monday to Israel's decision to withhold tax funds from the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority after a Hamas-led parliament was sworn in.

Special Envoy Alvaro de Soto called the decision unhelpful and premature. Israel has long regarded the U.N. as a minor player in the Middle East peace process compared to the United States, which gave a low-key response to Israel's move.

"These are monies that belong to the Palestinians and should not be withheld," de Soto told Reuters one day after Israel's cabinet announced a permanent halt to the monthly transfer of about $50 million in tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians.

Israel's government made the decision after Washington, the Jewish state's biggest ally, asked the Palestinian Authority to return $50 million of its own aid to ensure it does not reach Hamas. The Islamic group is sworn to Israel's destruction.

But de Soto said Israel's decision to withhold the money ran counter to the position taken last month by the so-called Quartet of major peace mediators — the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

"It follows that the formation of a new government and the approval of its program should be awaited and that actions prior to that would be premature," de Soto said.

In its January 30 statement, the quartet said Hamas would risk losing vital aid — when it formed a government — unless it rejected violence and recognized Israel.

Commenting on Israel's decision, White House spokesman Scott McClellan appeared to focus on the quartet's demands of Hamas rather than on the timing of the Israeli move.

"We'll stay in touch with Israel on these issues," McClellan said.

"I think that our view has been spelled out very clearly, not only from our government but in the statement of the quartet. This is really about Hamas and the choice that Hamas has before it," McClellan added.

Comment on this Article

Three Palestinians wounded by Israeli gunfire

AFP Tue Feb 21, 5:21 AM ET

NABLUS, West Bank - Israeli troops shot and wounded three Palestinians, one of them seriously, and blew up what they said was a bomb-making factory during an ongoing operation in the Nablus refugee camp of Balata, medics and security sources said.
One of the Palestinians, shot in the chest and stomach, was hospitalised after he and the two others were fired on as they threw stones at soldiers.

On Monday, the second day of the Israeli incursion into Balata, 17 Palestinians were wounded.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said troops found overnight a "laboratory containing materials and explosives for making bombs" and blew it up.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli forces arrested 11 militants, including six from Hamas, which won last month's Palestinian elections, and four from its smaller rival, Islamic Jihad.

Comment on this Article

Unmanned planes to monitor traffic in Israel

By YIGAL GRAYEFF The Jerusalem Post Feb. 21, 2006 9:53

Drivers tempted to ignore a no-entry sign or cross a continuous white line in order to overtake another vehicle when the police don't seem to be around may need to be more cautious in the future.

This is because the police are considering deploying a system of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that allows them to spot traffic violations from the air and fine or prosecute offenders.
The system has already been tested in the north of the country, and on Monday southern police carried out their first trial under blue skies and unremitting sunshine just outside Lehavim, north of Beersheba. The UAV, which is equipped with a camera, flew at a height of 6,000 feet and was impossible to see or hear despite the fine weather.

So when police stopped a number of offenders, their first reaction was to deny they had committed any traffic violations and to wonder how they had been seen.

Ch.-Supt. Ze'ev Guttman, the commander of the southern traffic police, explained that a policeman in a command center controls the UAV and its camera and informs the policemen on the ground of any violations.

"It gives us the opportunity to operate another, hidden dimension of enforcement," he said.

The patrolmen also have a screen with them, and there are systems that allow them to control the UAV and its camera from their car, and to replay video footage.

"The driver sometimes asks how he was spotted and the policeman can show him," said Guttman.

When asked if the police were becoming like Big Brother, he said, "No, we are just enforcing the law."

Elad Menashe of Yavne-based Aeronautics Defense Systems, which developed the system, said, "You photographed him. You can see him the whole way, show him where he carried out the violation, and then he has nothing to say."

The offenders who were stopped were let off with a warning, as the police were only testing the equipment and cannot use the pictures as evidence in court, said Guttman. Nevertheless, he was satisfied with the morning's work.

"We see that there is potential," he said. "Here we have seen that it does serve our purposes."

Menashe said the system, which has night vision, can also track stolen vehicles and provide traffic reports.

"A helicopter costs a lot of money. Its time in the air is limited because its fuel is limited. The UAV can be in the air for 12 hours and some can be in the air twice as long," he said.

The product has attracted interest from law-enforcement agencies in Europe and Africa, and the company also sells its products to militaries around the world, including the IDF, said Menashe.

However, the UAV's camera doesn't measure speed, although it can measure the time it takes for a car to travel a particular distance and provide its average speed, said Menashe.

It would add to the use of speed cameras, which could cut the high number of road deaths in the US if deployed extensively, a new report shows. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, also recommended reducing speed limits, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said Monday.

The research was headed by the university's Prof. Elihu Richter and was carried out by teams from Hadassah and the University of Illinois School of Public Health.

Speed cameras are barely used in the US, where death tolls rose 15 percent on interstate highways following small increases in speed limits in the 1990s, the report said. This resulted in 450 to 500 more deaths each year. In Israel, road deaths increased 15% after speed limits were raised from 90 to 100 kph on three interurban highways in 1993.

Comment on this Article

What if the Cassandras are right?

Leader Monday February 20, 2006 The Guardian

Cassandra had a curse put on her to make sure no one would believe her predictions. Two people who know how she must have felt are the economics professors Paul Krugman of Princeton and Wynne Godley of Cambridge. The two have been predicting the demise of the the US and UK economies respectively (and in Professor Godley's case, both) for years without, as yet, their predictions coming true.
Both were back in the fray last week. In one of his New York Times columns, Professor Krugman reminded us that last year America's imports were 57% larger than her exports, that her borrowing binge was unsustainable and that, since a "soft landing" was unlikely, there could be a 30% fall in the value of the dollar in order to eliminate the trade deficit. Professor Godley (writing with a colleague in the Financial Times) warned that excessively high trade deficits in the US (6.5% of GDP) and in the UK (4.5%), buoyed up by budget deficits and personal borrowing, were unsustainable. If personal borrowing and spending slow down, they argue, neither government has a policy to avert a "prolonged deficiency in total demand", which implies a serious economic recession. The professors are not alone. Among others, the venerable JK Galbraith, who has been right about so many things, has been predicting a stock market crash and high unemployment for well over 10 years.

This week's UK economic statistics do not offer many crumbs for comfort either, despite the fact that total output (GDP) is being revised upwards following discovery of a serious under-recording of the contribution of the software industry. While inflation is still low at only 1.9% (and working days lost through industrial disputes are the lowest since records began in 1891), unemployment is steadily rising and the trade deficit is huge - with no obvious signs of coming down. Whether our modern Cassandras will eventually be vindicated, or whether both the US and UK economies will somehow stumble into stability, as they have these past few years, is genuinely unknowable. But if the crash does happen there will be no shortage of people claiming it was inevitable all along. And there will also be plenty of evidence to back them up. Cassandras only have to be proved right once in order to justify their prognostications, however long it takes for them to be properly tested. It would be comforting to know that governments of both the US and UK have a Plan B to be unfolded if a real economic disaster were to happen. But we would not want to forecast it.

Comment on this Article

The End of Dollar Hegemony

HON. RON PAUL OF TEXAS Before the U.S. House of Representatives February 15, 2006

A hundred years ago it was called “dollar diplomacy.” After World War II, and especially after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, that policy evolved into “dollar hegemony.” But after all these many years of great success, our dollar dominance is coming to an end.

It has been said, rightly, that he who holds the gold makes the rules. In earlier times it was readily accepted that fair and honest trade required an exchange for something of real value.

First it was simply barter of goods. Then it was discovered that gold held a universal attraction, and was a convenient substitute for more cumbersome barter transactions. Not only did gold facilitate exchange of goods and services, it served as a store of value for those who wanted to save for a rainy day.

Though money developed naturally in the marketplace, as governments grew in power they assumed monopoly control over money. Sometimes governments succeeded in guaranteeing the quality and purity of gold, but in time governments learned to outspend their revenues. New or higher taxes always incurred the disapproval of the people, so it wasn’t long before Kings and Caesars learned how to inflate their currencies by reducing the amount of gold in each coin-- always hoping their subjects wouldn’t discover the fraud. But the people always did, and they strenuously objected.

This helped pressure leaders to seek more gold by conquering other nations. The people became accustomed to living beyond their means, and enjoyed the circuses and bread. Financing extravagances by conquering foreign lands seemed a logical alternative to working harder and producing more. Besides, conquering nations not only brought home gold, they brought home slaves as well. Taxing the people in conquered territories also provided an incentive to build empires. This system of government worked well for a while, but the moral decline of the people led to an unwillingness to produce for themselves. There was a limit to the number of countries that could be sacked for their wealth, and this always brought empires to an end. When gold no longer could be obtained, their military might crumbled. In those days those who held the gold truly wrote the rules and lived well.

That general rule has held fast throughout the ages. When gold was used, and the rules protected honest commerce, productive nations thrived. Whenever wealthy nations-- those with powerful armies and gold-- strived only for empire and easy fortunes to support welfare at home, those nations failed.

Today the principles are the same, but the process is quite different. Gold no longer is the currency of the realm; paper is. The truth now is: “He who prints the money makes the rules”-- at least for the time being. Although gold is not used, the goals are the same: compel foreign countries to produce and subsidize the country with military superiority and control over the monetary printing presses.
Since printing paper money is nothing short of counterfeiting, the issuer of the international currency must always be the country with the military might to guarantee control over the system. This magnificent scheme seems the perfect system for obtaining perpetual wealth for the country that issues the de facto world currency. The one problem, however, is that such a system destroys the character of the counterfeiting nation’s people-- just as was the case when gold was the currency and it was obtained by conquering other nations. And this destroys the incentive to save and produce, while encouraging debt and runaway welfare.

The pressure at home to inflate the currency comes from the corporate welfare recipients, as well as those who demand handouts as compensation for their needs and perceived injuries by others. In both cases personal responsibility for one’s actions is rejected.

When paper money is rejected, or when gold runs out, wealth and political stability are lost. The country then must go from living beyond its means to living beneath its means, until the economic and political systems adjust to the new rules-- rules no longer written by those who ran the now defunct printing press.

“Dollar Diplomacy,” a policy instituted by William Howard Taft and his Secretary of State Philander C. Knox, was designed to enhance U.S. commercial investments in Latin America and the Far East. McKinley concocted a war against Spain in 1898, and (Teddy) Roosevelt’s corollary to the Monroe Doctrine preceded Taft’s aggressive approach to using the U.S. dollar and diplomatic influence to secure U.S. investments abroad. This earned the popular title of “Dollar Diplomacy.” The significance of Roosevelt’s change was that our intervention now could be justified by the mere “appearance” that a country of interest to us was politically or fiscally vulnerable to European control. Not only did we claim a right, but even an official U.S. government “obligation” to protect our commercial interests from Europeans.

This new policy came on the heels of the “gunboat” diplomacy of the late 19th century, and it meant we could buy influence before resorting to the threat of force. By the time the “dollar diplomacy” of William Howard Taft was clearly articulated, the seeds of American empire were planted. And they were destined to grow in the fertile political soil of a country that lost its love and respect for the republic bequeathed to us by the authors of the Constitution. And indeed they did. It wasn’t too long before dollar “diplomacy” became dollar “hegemony” in the second half of the 20th century.

This transition only could have occurred with a dramatic change in monetary policy and the nature of the dollar itself.

Congress created the Federal Reserve System in 1913. Between then and 1971 the principle of sound money was systematically undermined. Between 1913 and 1971, the Federal Reserve found it much easier to expand the money supply at will for financing war or manipulating the economy with little resistance from Congress-- while benefiting the special interests that influence government.

Dollar dominance got a huge boost after World War II. We were spared the destruction that so many other nations suffered, and our coffers were filled with the world’s gold. But the world chose not to return to the discipline of the gold standard, and the politicians applauded. Printing money to pay the bills was a lot more popular than taxing or restraining unnecessary spending. In spite of the short-term benefits, imbalances were institutionalized for decades to come.

The 1944 Bretton Woods agreement solidified the dollar as the preeminent world reserve currency, replacing the British pound. Due to our political and military muscle, and because we had a huge amount of physical gold, the world readily accepted our dollar (defined as 1/35th of an ounce of gold) as the world’s reserve currency. The dollar was said to be “as good as gold,” and convertible to all foreign central banks at that rate. For American citizens, however, it remained illegal to own. This was a gold-exchange standard that from inception was doomed to fail.

The U.S. did exactly what many predicted she would do. She printed more dollars for which there was no gold backing. But the world was content to accept those dollars for more than 25 years with little question-- until the French and others in the late 1960s demanded we fulfill our promise to pay one ounce of gold for each $35 they delivered to the U.S. Treasury. This resulted in a huge gold drain that brought an end to a very poorly devised pseudo-gold standard.

It all ended on August 15, 1971, when Nixon closed the gold window and refused to pay out any of our remaining 280 million ounces of gold. In essence, we declared our insolvency and everyone recognized some other monetary system had to be devised in order to bring stability to the markets.

Amazingly, a new system was devised which allowed the U.S. to operate the printing presses for the world reserve currency with no restraints placed on it-- not even a pretense of gold convertibility, none whatsoever! Though the new policy was even more deeply flawed, it nevertheless opened the door for dollar hegemony to spread.

Realizing the world was embarking on something new and mind boggling, elite money managers, with especially strong support from U.S. authorities, struck an agreement with OPEC to price oil in U.S. dollars exclusively for all worldwide transactions. This gave the dollar a special place among world currencies and in essence “backed” the dollar with oil. In return, the U.S. promised to protect the various oil-rich kingdoms in the Persian Gulf against threat of invasion or domestic coup. This arrangement helped ignite the radical Islamic movement among those who resented our influence in the region. The arrangement gave the dollar artificial strength, with tremendous financial benefits for the United States. It allowed us to export our monetary inflation by buying oil and other goods at a great discount as dollar influence flourished.

This post-Bretton Woods system was much more fragile than the system that existed between 1945 and 1971. Though the dollar/oil arrangement was helpful, it was not nearly as stable as the pseudo gold standard under Bretton Woods. It certainly was less stable than the gold standard of the late 19th century.

During the 1970s the dollar nearly collapsed, as oil prices surged and gold skyrocketed to $800 an ounce. By 1979 interest rates of 21% were required to rescue the system. The pressure on the dollar in the 1970s, in spite of the benefits accrued to it, reflected reckless budget deficits and monetary inflation during the 1960s. The markets were not fooled by LBJ’s claim that we could afford both “guns and butter.”

Once again the dollar was rescued, and this ushered in the age of true dollar hegemony lasting from the early 1980s to the present. With tremendous cooperation coming from the central banks and international commercial banks, the dollar was accepted as if it were gold.

Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, on several occasions before the House Banking Committee, answered my challenges to him about his previously held favorable views on gold by claiming that he and other central bankers had gotten paper money-- i.e. the dollar system-- to respond as if it were gold. Each time I strongly disagreed, and pointed out that if they had achieved such a feat they would have defied centuries of economic history regarding the need for money to be something of real value. He smugly and confidently concurred with this.

In recent years central banks and various financial institutions, all with vested interests in maintaining a workable fiat dollar standard, were not secretive about selling and loaning large amounts of gold to the market even while decreasing gold prices raised serious questions about the wisdom of such a policy. They never admitted to gold price fixing, but the evidence is abundant that they believed if the gold price fell it would convey a sense of confidence to the market, confidence that they indeed had achieved amazing success in turning paper into gold.

Increasing gold prices historically are viewed as an indicator of distrust in paper currency. This recent effort was not a whole lot different than the U.S. Treasury selling gold at $35 an ounce in the 1960s, in an attempt to convince the world the dollar was sound and as good as gold. Even during the Depression, one of Roosevelt’s first acts was to remove free market gold pricing as an indication of a flawed monetary system by making it illegal for American citizens to own gold. Economic law eventually limited that effort, as it did in the early 1970s when our Treasury and the IMF tried to fix the price of gold by dumping tons into the market to dampen the enthusiasm of those seeking a safe haven for a falling dollar after gold ownership was re-legalized.

Once again the effort between 1980 and 2000 to fool the market as to the true value of the dollar proved unsuccessful. In the past 5 years the dollar has been devalued in terms of gold by more than 50%. You just can’t fool all the people all the time, even with the power of the mighty printing press and money creating system of the Federal Reserve.

Even with all the shortcomings of the fiat monetary system, dollar influence thrived. The results seemed beneficial, but gross distortions built into the system remained. And true to form, Washington politicians are only too anxious to solve the problems cropping up with window dressing, while failing to understand and deal with the underlying flawed policy. Protectionism, fixing exchange rates, punitive tariffs, politically motivated sanctions, corporate subsidies, international trade management, price controls, interest rate and wage controls, super-nationalist sentiments, threats of force, and even war are resorted to—all to solve the problems artificially created by deeply flawed monetary and economic systems.

In the short run, the issuer of a fiat reserve currency can accrue great economic benefits. In the long run, it poses a threat to the country issuing the world currency. In this case that’s the United States. As long as foreign countries take our dollars in return for real goods, we come out ahead. This is a benefit many in Congress fail to recognize, as they bash China for maintaining a positive trade balance with us. But this leads to a loss of manufacturing jobs to overseas markets, as we become more dependent on others and less self-sufficient. Foreign countries accumulate our dollars due to their high savings rates, and graciously loan them back to us at low interest rates to finance our excessive consumption.

It sounds like a great deal for everyone, except the time will come when our dollars-- due to their depreciation-- will be received less enthusiastically or even be rejected by foreign countries. That could create a whole new ballgame and force us to pay a price for living beyond our means and our production. The shift in sentiment regarding the dollar has already started, but the worst is yet to come.

The agreement with OPEC in the 1970s to price oil in dollars has provided tremendous artificial strength to the dollar as the preeminent reserve currency. This has created a universal demand for the dollar, and soaks up the huge number of new dollars generated each year. Last year alone M3 increased over $700 billion.

The artificial demand for our dollar, along with our military might, places us in the unique position to “rule” the world without productive work or savings, and without limits on consumer spending or deficits. The problem is, it can’t last.

Price inflation is raising its ugly head, and the NASDAQ bubble-- generated by easy money-- has burst. The housing bubble likewise created is deflating. Gold prices have doubled, and federal spending is out of sight with zero political will to rein it in. The trade deficit last year was over $728 billion. A $2 trillion war is raging, and plans are being laid to expand the war into Iran and possibly Syria. The only restraining force will be the world’s rejection of the dollar. It’s bound to come and create conditions worse than 1979-1980, which required 21% interest rates to correct. But everything possible will be done to protect the dollar in the meantime. We have a shared interest with those who hold our dollars to keep the whole charade going.

Greenspan, in his first speech after leaving the Fed, said that gold prices were up because of concern about terrorism, and not because of monetary concerns or because he created too many dollars during his tenure. Gold has to be discredited and the dollar propped up. Even when the dollar comes under serious attack by market forces, the central banks and the IMF surely will do everything conceivable to soak up the dollars in hope of restoring stability. Eventually they will fail.

Most importantly, the dollar/oil relationship has to be maintained to keep the dollar as a preeminent currency. Any attack on this relationship will be forcefully challenged—as it already has been.

In November 2000 Saddam Hussein demanded Euros for his oil. His arrogance was a threat to the dollar; his lack of any military might was never a threat. At the first cabinet meeting with the new administration in 2001, as reported by Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, the major topic was how we would get rid of Saddam Hussein-- though there was no evidence whatsoever he posed a threat to us. This deep concern for Saddam Hussein surprised and shocked O’Neill.

It now is common knowledge that the immediate reaction of the administration after 9/11 revolved around how they could connect Saddam Hussein to the attacks, to justify an invasion and overthrow of his government. Even with no evidence of any connection to 9/11, or evidence of weapons of mass destruction, public and congressional support was generated through distortions and flat out misrepresentation of the facts to justify overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

There was no public talk of removing Saddam Hussein because of his attack on the integrity of the dollar as a reserve currency by selling oil in Euros. Many believe this was the real reason for our obsession with Iraq. I doubt it was the only reason, but it may well have played a significant role in our motivation to wage war. Within a very short period after the military victory, all Iraqi oil sales were carried out in dollars. The Euro was abandoned.

In 2001, Venezuela’s ambassador to Russia spoke of Venezuela switching to the Euro for all their oil sales. Within a year there was a coup attempt against Chavez, reportedly with assistance from our CIA.

After these attempts to nudge the Euro toward replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency were met with resistance, the sharp fall of the dollar against the Euro was reversed. These events may well have played a significant role in maintaining dollar dominance.

It’s become clear the U.S. administration was sympathetic to those who plotted the overthrow of Chavez, and was embarrassed by its failure. The fact that Chavez was democratically elected had little influence on which side we supported.

Now, a new attempt is being made against the petrodollar system. Iran, another member of the “axis of evil,” has announced her plans to initiate an oil bourse in March of this year. Guess what, the oil sales will be priced Euros, not dollars.

Most Americans forget how our policies have systematically and needlessly antagonized the Iranians over the years. In 1953 the CIA helped overthrow a democratically elected president, Mohammed Mossadeqh, and install the authoritarian Shah, who was friendly to the U.S. The Iranians were still fuming over this when the hostages were seized in 1979. Our alliance with Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran in the early 1980s did not help matters, and obviously did not do much for our relationship with Saddam Hussein. The administration announcement in 2001 that Iran was part of the axis of evil didn’t do much to improve the diplomatic relationship between our two countries. Recent threats over nuclear power, while ignoring the fact that they are surrounded by countries with nuclear weapons, doesn’t seem to register with those who continue to provoke Iran. With what most Muslims perceive as our war against Islam, and this recent history, there’s little wonder why Iran might choose to harm America by undermining the dollar. Iran, like Iraq, has zero capability to attack us. But that didn’t stop us from turning Saddam Hussein into a modern day Hitler ready to take over the world. Now Iran, especially since she’s made plans for pricing oil in Euros, has been on the receiving end of a propaganda war not unlike that waged against Iraq before our invasion.

It’s not likely that maintaining dollar supremacy was the only motivating factor for the war against Iraq, nor for agitating against Iran. Though the real reasons for going to war are complex, we now know the reasons given before the war started, like the presence of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s connection to 9/11, were false. The dollar’s importance is obvious, but this does not diminish the influence of the distinct plans laid out years ago by the neo-conservatives to remake the Middle East. Israel’s influence, as well as that of the Christian Zionists, likewise played a role in prosecuting this war. Protecting “our” oil supplies has influenced our Middle East policy for decades.

But the truth is that paying the bills for this aggressive intervention is impossible the old fashioned way, with more taxes, more savings, and more production by the American people. Much of the expense of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 was shouldered by many of our willing allies. That’s not so today. Now, more than ever, the dollar hegemony-- it’s dominance as the world reserve currency-- is required to finance our huge war expenditures. This $2 trillion never-ending war must be paid for, one way or another. Dollar hegemony provides the vehicle to do just that.

For the most part the true victims aren’t aware of how they pay the bills. The license to create money out of thin air allows the bills to be paid through price inflation. American citizens, as well as average citizens of Japan, China, and other countries suffer from price inflation, which represents the “tax” that pays the bills for our military adventures. That is until the fraud is discovered, and the foreign producers decide not to take dollars nor hold them very long in payment for their goods. Everything possible is done to prevent the fraud of the monetary system from being exposed to the masses who suffer from it. If oil markets replace dollars with Euros, it would in time curtail our ability to continue to print, without restraint, the world’s reserve currency.

It is an unbelievable benefit to us to import valuable goods and export depreciating dollars. The exporting countries have become addicted to our purchases for their economic growth. This dependency makes them allies in continuing the fraud, and their participation keeps the dollar’s value artificially high. If this system were workable long term, American citizens would never have to work again. We too could enjoy “bread and circuses” just as the Romans did, but their gold finally ran out and the inability of Rome to continue to plunder conquered nations brought an end to her empire.

The same thing will happen to us if we don’t change our ways. Though we don’t occupy foreign countries to directly plunder, we nevertheless have spread our troops across 130 nations of the world. Our intense effort to spread our power in the oil-rich Middle East is not a coincidence. But unlike the old days, we don’t declare direct ownership of the natural resources-- we just insist that we can buy what we want and pay for it with our paper money. Any country that challenges our authority does so at great risk.

Once again Congress has bought into the war propaganda against Iran, just as it did against Iraq. Arguments are now made for attacking Iran economically, and militarily if necessary. These arguments are all based on the same false reasons given for the ill-fated and costly occupation of Iraq.

Our whole economic system depends on continuing the current monetary arrangement, which means recycling the dollar is crucial. Currently, we borrow over $700 billion every year from our gracious benefactors, who work hard and take our paper for their goods. Then we borrow all the money we need to secure the empire (DOD budget $450 billion) plus more. The military might we enjoy becomes the “backing” of our currency. There are no other countries that can challenge our military superiority, and therefore they have little choice but to accept the dollars we declare are today’s “gold.” This is why countries that challenge the system-- like Iraq, Iran and Venezuela-- become targets of our plans for regime change.

Ironically, dollar superiority depends on our strong military, and our strong military depends on the dollar. As long as foreign recipients take our dollars for real goods and are willing to finance our extravagant consumption and militarism, the status quo will continue regardless of how huge our foreign debt and current account deficit become.

But real threats come from our political adversaries who are incapable of confronting us militarily, yet are not bashful about confronting us economically. That’s why we see the new challenge from Iran being taken so seriously. The urgent arguments about Iran posing a military threat to the security of the United States are no more plausible than the false charges levied against Iraq. Yet there is no effort to resist this march to confrontation by those who grandstand for political reasons against the Iraq war.

It seems that the people and Congress are easily persuaded by the jingoism of the preemptive war promoters. It’s only after the cost in human life and dollars are tallied up that the people object to unwise militarism.

The strange thing is that the failure in Iraq is now apparent to a large majority of American people, yet they and Congress are acquiescing to the call for a needless and dangerous confrontation with Iran.

But then again, our failure to find Osama bin Laden and destroy his network did not dissuade us from taking on the Iraqis in a war totally unrelated to 9/11.

Concern for pricing oil only in dollars helps explain our willingness to drop everything and teach Saddam Hussein a lesson for his defiance in demanding Euros for oil.

And once again there’s this urgent call for sanctions and threats of force against Iran at the precise time Iran is opening a new oil exchange with all transactions in Euros.

Using force to compel people to accept money without real value can only work in the short run. It ultimately leads to economic dislocation, both domestic and international, and always ends with a price to be paid.

The economic law that honest exchange demands only things of real value as currency cannot be repealed. The chaos that one day will ensue from our 35-year experiment with worldwide fiat money will require a return to money of real value. We will know that day is approaching when oil-producing countries demand gold, or its equivalent, for their oil rather than dollars or Euros. The sooner the better.

Comment on this Article

PEAK OIL: Oil Buckles Street and Damages Building

February 21, 2006 latimes.com : CaliforniaBy Bob Pool, Times Staff Writer

They struck oil Monday at an apartment house in downtown Los Angeles. But residents were not in a celebratory mood.

The black, tar-like substance that oozed into the basement of the three-story Iris Apartments forced authorities to red-tag the 99-year-old building and evacuate its 130 occupants.
The 1200 block of South Olive Street was also shut down when its pavement suddenly began to bulge and the oily liquid bubbled from cracks and manhole covers.

Families grabbed what they could and fled to a parking lot across the street from the brick apartment building and watched as Department of Water and Power, Gas Co. and city sanitation workers huddled with police and firefighters trying to figure out where the steaming-hot liquid was coming from.

By midafternoon South Olive Street seemed ready to deliver a gusher.

"The street looked like it was about to pop. Everybody sort of stepped back and said, 'Whoa!' " said fire Capt. Al Gonzales. "Then we put two and two together."

Authorities remembered that there's a petroleum drilling site two blocks from the apartment building. When they checked there, they discovered that workers were injecting high-pressure hot water into old wells to extract leftover crude oil.

When the St. James Oil Co. halted the hot water pumping, the bulge in the street began to subside and the flow of oily liquid quickly slowed.

But residents remained locked out of the 35-unit apartment building, which was constructed in 1907.

They said they first noticed a pungent odor shortly after midnight.

"It smelled like a sewer," said resident Alejandra Canchola, a 14-year-old ninth-grader.

Neighbor Rufina Urbano, 36, who lives in the building with her husband, Julio Baltazar, and daughter, Crystal Baltazar, 3, was awakened by the smell. "I was afraid there might be an explosion," she said.

"The smell gave me a headache. So I said let's go," said Baltazar, 31, a garment worker who has lived on the building's third floor for 10 years.

The trio planned to spend Monday night with Urbano's sister in El Sereno. Others were taken to a Red Cross shelter set up at Santee High School, said Jerome Thierry, a Red Cross representative.

Resident Daniel Bolanes, 13, took only his school backpack and a vibrant green pet iguana named Tiha. He was hoping to get back inside his unit to retrieve a Monopoly board game. "We're getting bored," said the seventh-grader.

Daniel said he peeked into the basement before evacuating and saw its floor covered with several inches of the oily substance. "It smelled like the La Brea Tar Pits," he said.

Fire officials said the building would remain off limits to residents until it could be inspected by city building and safety experts. They said the 160-degree water, injected into the oil wells at a pressure of 1,200 pounds per square inch, might have undermined its foundation.

Fire Department spokesman Ernie Bobadilla said that while the St. James Oil Co. is the only petroleum firm nearby that has a permit to operate, "there are a multitude of old pipelines in the ground here."

A worker at the company's leased site at 1325 S. Broadway said he was not authorized to comment on the incident. The firm's main office in Laguna Hills was closed Monday.

Officials indicated that portions of South Olive Street near the apartment building may have to be excavated to determine the extent of subterranean damage. The oily water could also be seen bubbling through the pavement at the intersection of Olive and Pico Boulevard.

Comment on this Article

Average British home more than $350,000

UPI Feb. 20, 2006

LONDON -- The average price of a home in Britain reached nearly $353,000 in February, up 2.7 percent from January's $343,000, the highest jump in two years.

The real estate Web site Rightmove says the price is being driven by a shortage of sellers and rising demand from buyers, reports the Telegraph.

The report said every region of England and Wales has seen house prices rise in February for the first time in 20 months.

The most expensive houses were in Greater London, where the average asking price was nearly $517,000.

Comment on this Article

'Trade with US at your own risk'

By Christopher Hope UK Telegraph 21/02/2006

A City businessman who will today learn if he is to be extradited across the Atlantic to face Enron-related fraud charges, is warning British executives to avoid dealing with the US.

David Bermingham, one of the "NatWest Three" executives, says that "the potential for disaster is enormous", and "may not be of your making".

Mr Bermingham blames the current extradition laws amid deepening concern that US prosecutors are using 2003 Extradition Act to extradite an increasing number of business people for alleged white collar crime, rather than making it easier to send suspected terrorists across the Atlantic for trial.
A City businessman who will today learn if he is to be extradited across the Atlantic to face Enron-related fraud charges, is warning British executives to avoid dealing with the US.

David Bermingham, one of the "NatWest Three" executives, says that "the potential for disaster is enormous", and "may not be of your making".

Mr Bermingham blames the current extradition laws amid deepening concern that US prosecutors are using 2003 Extradition Act to extradite an increasing number of business people for alleged white collar crime, rather than making it easier to send suspected terrorists across the Atlantic for trial.

Chain gang

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph yesterday, Mr Bermingham said: "Right here, right now, as things stand under this law, I would advise not even to engage in a business relationship with the US.

"Any businessman with any connection with the United States, however tenuous, should think very carefully about the potential peril they face. There is no doubt that people are waking up to the potential hazard of this legislation."

Mr Bermingham, 43, who now works as a film financier, said the three men were "hopeful" that the US attempt to extradite would be thrown out, after racking up an "obscene" legal bill battling the action.

His career in the City was over, he said: "Win or lose, I will never be able to resume a career again in the City. Even if we were to get a prosecution here in the UK, it would mean that I would be out of the City for five to six years. You can't just do that and step back in.

"I have been living under this uncertainty for the best part of four years. My perspective is that what does not kill you makes you stronger. This is really horrible but so many people suffer so much worse on a daily basis.

"We are suffering because of a really bad and dangerous law. I can guarantee you that 90pc of the Commons did not know what they were passing." Other High Court extradition hearings, including that of former Morgan Crucible chief executive Ian Norris, are on hold pending today's decision by two Appeal Court judges - Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Ouseley.

Mr Bermingham, along with Gary Mulgrew, 43 and Giles Darby, 43, is accused of conspiracy with others to defraud NatWest of $20m (£12m). Of this sum, more than $12m is alleged to have been shared by two senior executives at Enron.

The three men deny the charges.

The trio are appealing against a magistrates' court decision to extradite them, and seeking judicial review of the decision by the Home Secretary to uphold that ruling.

The bankers are also challenging a decision by the Serious Fraud Office not to prosecute them.

Lawyers for the three have argued that Robert Wardle, the SFO director, had acted unlawfully in not investigating allegations against them of fraud.

A Home Office spokesman said: "All those who are the subject of an extradition request to the UK are protected by full and effective safeguards in the Extradition Act 2003, regardless of their nationality.

"The act provides a much more modern framework for the making and receiving of requests, but both the old and new treaties ensure that the legitimate rights of requested persons are respected.

The United States is a trusted extradition partner with a mature legal system and it guarantees appropriate safeguards within its domestic courts".

Separately, lawyers from 66 of the FTSE 100 including Barclays, Prudential, BP, Unilever and Emap are planning to meet Home Office officials in the near future to discuss the Act, after Mike Harding, general counsel at Barclays, said that the extradition arrangements were "lop-sided".

Comment on this Article

Bush: U.S. on Verge of Energy Breakthrough

By DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press February 21, 2006

MILWAUKEE - Saying the nation is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that would "startle" most Americans,
President Bush on Monday outlined his energy proposals to help wean the country off foreign oil.
Less than half the crude oil used by refineries is produced in the United States, while 60 percent comes from foreign nations, Bush said during the first stop on a two-day trip to talk about energy.

Some of these foreign suppliers have "unstable" governments that have fundamental differences with America, he said.

"It creates a national security issue and we're held hostage for energy by foreign nations that may not like us," Bush said.

Bush is focusing on energy at a time when Americans are paying high power bills to heat their homes this winter and have only recently seen a decrease in gasoline prices.

One of Bush's proposals would expand research into smaller, longer-lasting batteries for electric-gas hybrid cars, including plug-ins. He highlighted that initiative with a visit Monday to the battery center at Milwaukee-based auto-parts supplier Johnson Controls Inc.

During his trip, Bush is also focusing on a proposal to increase investment in development of clean electric power sources, and proposals to speed the development of biofuels such as "cellulosic" ethanol made from wood chips or sawgrass.

Energy conservation groups and environmentalists say they're pleased that the president, a former oil man in Texas, is stressing alternative sources of energy, but they contend his proposals don't go far enough. They say the administration must consider greater fuel-efficiency standards for cars, and some economists believe it's best to increase the gas tax to force consumers to change their driving habits.

During his visit to Johnson Controls' new hybrid battery laboratory, Bush checked out two Ford Escapes — one with a nickel-metal-hybrid battery, the kind that powers most hybrid-electric vehicles, and one with a lithium-ion battery, which Johnson Controls believes are the wave of the future. The lithium-ion battery was about half the size of the older-model battery. In 2004, Johnson Controls received a government contract to develop the lithium-ion batteries.

On Tuesday, Bush plans to visit the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., to talk about speeding the development of biofuels.

The lab, with a looming $28 million budget shortfall, had announced it was cutting its staff by 32 people, including eight researchers. But in advance of Bush's visit, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman over the weekend directed the transfer of $5 million to the private contractor that runs the lab, so the jobs can be saved.

The department "has been informed that the NREL lab director will use these funds to immediately restore all of the jobs that were cut earlier this month due to budget shortfalls," the department said in a statement Monday.

"Our nation is on the threshold of new energy technology that I think will startle the American people," Bush said. "We're on the edge of some amazing breakthroughs — breakthroughs all aimed at enhancing our national security and our economic security and the quality of life of the folks who live here in the United States."

Later Monday, Bush visited the United Solar Ovonics Plant, which makes solar panels, in Auburn Hills, Mich., outside Detroit. "This technology right here is going to help us change the way we live in our homes," Bush told reporters.

Bush said he was impressed with the growing commercial uses of solar energy.

"Roof makers will one day be able to make a solar roof that protects you from the elements and at the same time, powers your house," Bush said. "The vision is this — that technology will become so efficient that you'll become a little power generator in your home, and if you don't use the energy you generate you'll be able to feed it back into the electricity grid."

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., questioned Bush's energy policies Monday, saying the administration also supports subsidies for luxury SUVs.

"This single tax subsidy dwarfs anything being done for hybrid batteries," Markey said in a news release.

As a complement to Bush's travels, six Cabinet officials are crisscrossing the nation this week, appearing at more than two dozen energy events in more than a dozen states.

Comment: Later, Bush elaborated on the "startling breakthroughs" that Americans can expect in the years to come. Our trusty roving reporter Ignacius O'Reilly was there to record Bush's remarks:
"Mah fellow Americans, we rely too much on foreign energy, energy terrorists use to keep us hostage, energy that helps Americans feed their food. And so my administration has worked together with top American executives and engineers and scientists and manufacturing facilities in China to perfectificate a new technolodgy that I'm excited about lots.

Now, see this? (holds up a square of shiny material) It looks like a solar panel. It's not. This gadget will save our country. And it doesn't need light. It transforms lies and BS into pure, clean electricity, and without harmful waste. My administration will line all the walls of the White House and all government buildings with this amazing space-age product.

So, go ahead evildoers, terrorists, and Cindy Sheehan - call me a liar. My lies and the lies of this administration will save this great country from economic ruin. And we'll put these panels in the homes of ordinary Americans, too. The more we all lie, the more energy we have, and the greater America becomes.

My mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, is very excited about this technology. She said that those dirty lying colored folks will finally do this country some good! (he chuckles)

And so, mah fellow Americans - even the colored ones - this is a new age for our great nation. God bless you, and god bless the United States of America."

Comment on this Article

India Seeks Humans Sickened by Bird Flu

By ASHOK SHARMA Associated Press Writer Feb 20 10:22 PM US/Eastern

NAVAPUR, India - Indian health officials went door-to-door Monday searching for people sickened by the deadly bird flu strain, while hundreds of German troops disposed of dead wild birds in a desperate attempt to contain the fast-moving disease in Europe.

In Brussels, Belgium, European Union agriculture ministers discussed ways to combat bird flu - such as by vaccinating poultry - as the disease spread to half-a-dozen EU nations.
Malaysia announced the deaths of 40 chickens from the lethal H5N1 strain, the first reported cases of the virus in the country in more than a year.

In Hong Kong Tuesday, a dead magpie found near a street flower market was confirmed to have been infected by the H5N1 virus, the government said. It was the latest in a spate of bird deaths from the strain in recent weeks.

With India conducting a mass slaughter of birds for a second day Monday, plumes of black smoke filled the air as farmers burned dead chickens in the now-deserted poultry farms around Navapur, more than 250 miles northeast of Bombay.

Local officials near the affected area reported that a 27-year-old poultry farm owner died of bird flu-like symptoms, though tests had yet to determine the cause of death. Samples from at least eight other people hospitalized for flu-like symptoms near Navapur also were being tested, and results were expected later this week.

Inspectors visited homes and farms surrounding Navapur, a town of 30,000 people, searching for signs of illness and making sure even chickens being raised at private homes were killed and properly disposed of.

"It's like a war _ they come in completely covered with masks and goggles and check if the carcasses are disposed properly," said Ghulam Vhora, a Navapur poultry farmers' association.

Since early Sunday, more than 200,000 chickens have been slaughtered around Navapur, a major poultry farming region where the H5N1 strain of bird flu was found in some of 30,000 dead chickens. Checkpoints also have been set up to stop people carrying poultry out of the area.

Heavy earth movers also dug deep pits at some poultry farms. Workers already dumped more than 200,000 bird carcasses along with the gloves, goggles and blue gowns used by health teams. The pits were coated with chemicals, including disinfectant, before being filled in.

The government now plans to slaughter some 700,000 birds within a 1.5- mile radius of the outbreak, and 48 poultry farms will be emptied and shut for three months.

There are concerns the Indian poultry industry could suffer badly. India exports some $84 million worth of poultry and eggs annually to Europe, Japan and the Middle East.

"There must be no movement of poultry out of Navapur," said O.P. Tiwari, a health officer in neighboring Surat district.

Since 2003, the H5N1 virus has devastated poultry and killed at least 92 people, mostly in Asia, according to the World Health Organization. Most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds. But scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted between humans, triggering a pandemic.

Nigerian health authorities said Monday the H5N1 strain has been identified in two more states, and the government ordered an immediate slaughter of birds in the area. The northern states Katsina and Zamfara are among five of Nigeria's 36 states now confirmed to have been affected. Nigeria documented Africa's first H5N1 case earlier this month, but no human infections have been reported.

In Europe, nearly 250 German troops cleared dead birds from the Baltic island of Ruegen, where the country's first outbreak of the disease were confirmed in wild birds last week.

EU officials cautioned against panic, saying bird flu had not reached commercial stocks, only wild birds. They encouraged people to continue eating poultry.

"This is an animal disease, not a human disease," EU Public Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said. "There is no reason for Europeans not to eat poultry meat."

France, the EU's largest poultry producer, became the latest European country to confirm H5N1 in wild fowl. Birds in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Slovenia also have tested positive for the strain. Hungary also has reported five cases of suspected H5N1 in birds.

Elsewhere in Europe, the virus has turned up in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Bulgaria.

European chicken farmers said consumption has fallen, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The EU head office said recent outbreaks of avian bird flu in wild birds had created "a very serious market situation."

However, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel told the EU farm ministers that conditions were not serious enough to warrant compensation for poultry farmers. She said she would reconsider "if the situation so requires."

France, the Netherlands, Italy and other nations want to vaccinate poultry "but opinion in Europe is divided," said Josef Proell, the Austrian agriculture minister who chaired the EU meeting.

In Asia, Malaysia's government said 40 chickens died last week from the H5N1 virus in an area near Kuala Lumpur, the main city. Agriculture Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said there were no human deaths, and all 110 chickens in the area, covering four hamlets, were slaughtered.

Malaysia had declared itself free of bird flu in January 2005, more than six weeks after its last infection was detected.

Comment on this Article

Scientists say California quake could cause Katrina II

AFP Sun Feb 19, 5:28 PM ET

ST LOUIS, United States - Many densely populated US regions face the threat of flooding as disastrous as after Hurricane Katrina, due to urban spread into river floodplains, scientists warned.

An earthquake or even a moderate flood could destroy the levee system protecting towns and cities along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers in northern California, said Jeffrey Mount of the University of California.
"The probability of a catastrophic levee failure in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in the next 50 years is two in three," Mount said on the sidelines of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual conference.

Mount gave a worrying presentation to the conference entitled "The Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta: the next New Orleans?"

He said one of the frequent earthquakes in California could destroy the levee system that has been built up since the middle of the 19th century, sending flood water over a wide area.

Mount said it could have a similar impact to the Asian tsunami in 2004.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin delta takes more than 40 percent of California's rainfall and covers some 280,000 hectares (700,000 acres). It is the main source of water for about 23 million people, of California's 34 million population.

But most of the land is below sea level and is protected by more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) of levees.

Another 5,600 hectare (14,000 acre) zone around St. Louis in Missouri faces a similar threat from the Mississippi river, according to Adolphus Busch, head of the Great Rivers Habitat Alliances.

Busch, a member of the Anheuser-Busch brewing family, said there had been excessive urbanisation in the zone despite major floods in 1993.

He said the housing and development had drastically reduced alluvial grounds that normally sponge up flood waters.

Nicholas Pinter of the University of Southern Illinois said that efforts to protect St Louis against flooding ultimately had increased the risks.

Eighty-five percent of the Mississippi is now held back by levees and the level of the river has risen by four metres (13 feet) since the start of the century, he said.

The situation is now similar to New Orleans, which was devastated last year after Hurricane Katrina smashed it water defences, and in the Sacramento region.

"In spite of 70 years of federal flood control efforts and nearly 40 years of federal flood insurance, the costs of flooding continue to rise and there is no federal policy to provide direction for future actions," said Gerald Galloway, an engineering professor at the University of Maryland.

Galloway said that development had to be restricted in risk zones and water defences had to be strengthened as the authorities in the Netherlands have done since disastrous flooding there.

"If we knew about Katrina 200 years ago, would we have done the same thing again in New Orleans?" Mount asked. "Well, in California we are reinventing our own Katrina as we speak."

Developers want to build 130,000 new homes near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in the Central Valley, Mount said. Further north, Sacramento stands as one of the most at-risk for flooding among large metropolitan areas in the United States because of its location near rivers and the condition of its levees, he said.

Greater rainfall linked to global warming will only increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, according to Anthony Arquez, an expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Comment on this Article

Stanford Professor Explains Earthquake Mystery

Bay City Newswire 02/20/06 10:25 PST

A Stanford University geophysicist has started to unravel a tectonic mystery -- the cause of several powerful earthquakes in New Madrid, Miss., almost a century ago that could strike the region again.
Between December 1811 and February 1812, the frontier outpost New Madrid was shaken by three quakes so powerful that church bells in Boston reportedly began to ring and the course of the Mississippi River was altered.

Zoback said most scientists today agree that the earthquakes each reached at least magnitude 7.

Professor Mark Zoback presented the results of his research into the temblors today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in St. Louis.

While most earthquakes are caused by movement at the juncture of rigid tectonic plates, such as California's San Andreas Fault, the New Madrid quake appears to have been caused by the after-effects of a massive glacier that reached down to what is now the middle of Illinois, Zoback's research shows.

According to Zoback, as the climate warmed and the ice melted, the ground was freed of the pressure of the heavy glacier. This constant release of this pressure caused the New Madrid quakes of a century ago.

Zoback warned that earthquakes could continue to hit the area, including large cities such as Memphis and St. Louis, for the next few thousand years.

"There's quite a few people there now and cities such as Memphis and St. Louis would be severely affected," Zoback said.

"What the scientific community must do is continue the fundamental research trying to understand why these earthquakes occur. At the applied level, scientists need to work with state and local officials to make sure the importance of earthquake hazards are considered in the development of building codes and critical structures such as bridges, schools and hospitals," he said.

The possibility of more earthquakes in the area calls for everyone to be prepared, Zoback said.

"It's one thing to know it was part of your past," he said. "It's another to be prepared for it to be part of your future.''

Comment on this Article

Philippine volcano spews ash following increased seismic activity

Feb 21, 2006,

Manila - An active volcano in the eastern Philippines spewed ash over its slopes on Tuesday after being rocked by more than 100 low-frequency earthquakes, prompting government scientists to warn of a possible eruption.

Comment on this Article

Ice worms: They're real, and they're hot

By Sandi Doughton Seattle Times staff reporter

Thriving in conditions that would turn most living things to Popsicles, these inch-long earthworm cousins inhabit glaciers and snowfields in the coastal ranges of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They move through seemingly solid ice with ease and are at their liveliest near the freezing point of water. Warm them up slightly and they dissolve into goo.
Looking for ice worms in a basin below Panorama Point on Mount Rainier, UPS students Dave Eiriksson, left, and Ben Lee begin digging what became a 12-foot-deep hole before two of the elusive creatures were spotted. "Nobody knows what ice worms do in winter," Lee said of the quest.

Dave Eiriksson and Ben Lee had to dig deep before finding ice worms on Mount Rainier. Lee is studying them for his biology thesis at the University of Puget Sound, analyzing Olympic Mountain specimens to see how they're related to ice worms elsewhere.

"I can't believe it. The elusive ice worm," a happy Ben Lee said after recently finding two on Mount Rainier.

Ben Lee is stalking a creature most people think is a myth — if they've heard of it at all.

"I don't know what we'll see," he warned, loading an ice ax and snow shovel into his backpack. "Nobody knows what ice worms do in winter."

Lee, a senior at the University of Puget Sound, has come to Mount Rainier to find out.

Thriving in conditions that would turn most living things to Popsicles, these inch-long earthworm cousins inhabit glaciers and snowfields in the coastal ranges of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They move through seemingly solid ice with ease and are at their liveliest near the freezing point of water. Warm them up slightly and they dissolve into goo.

Their life cycle remains a mystery.

But ice worms are beginning to yield their secrets to a few hardy scientists who see broad applications from understanding one of the planet's oddest inhabitants.

Ice worms in literature

Early 20th-century writer Robert Service mentioned ice worms in several books and poems, including this passage in his novel "The Trail of '98":

"In the land of the pale blue snow

Where it's ninety-nine below,

And the polar bears are dancing on the plain,

In the shadow of the pole

Oh, my Heart, my Life, my Soul,

I will meet thee when the ice-worms nest again."

NASA anted up $200,000 last year to explore the worms' cold tolerance and what it might say about the possibility of life on Jupiter's icy moons and other planets. That work could also improve cold storage of organs and tissues for transplantation.

As glaciers shrink in the face of global warming, interest is growing in ice worms and other animals whose habitat could melt away within the next 50 years. National Geographic funded one of the first field surveys to focus on ice-worm ecosystems.

"They're kind of hot right now," Lee said as he and roommate Dave Eiriksson strapped on their gear and headed up the slopes above Paradise.

The rare sunny day was perfect for "worming," as the 23-year-old Lee calls it.

The men followed a snowshoe trail that wound steeply through stands of subalpine fir half-buried in pillowy drifts. More than 600 inches of snow fall here in an average year, and it's hard to imagine anything without fur could survive.

"People don't believe me when I tell them I'm studying ice worms," said Lee, tall and lanky with curly hair and an infectious enthusiasm. "The words just don't go together."

A COLD-LOVING Minnesotan, Lee picked ice worms for his undergraduate biology thesis because they're weird, haven't been studied much and provide an excuse to get out in the mountains. He spent last summer gathering specimens from glaciers across the Olympic range.

In warmer weather, the black worms are hard to miss. As the sun sets, they swarm to the surface to feed on algae, pollen and other digestible debris.

"In some places, they're so thick you can't step without killing tons of them," Lee said.

Before dawn, the worms retreat back into the ice. Their species name, solifugus, means sun-avoiding.

In winter, when algae can't grow and snow blankets the surface, Lee suspects the worms simply stay deep inside the ice, perhaps in a dormant state.

His plan is to root them out.

"That's where we're headed," he said after an hour's uphill trudge, much of it following steps kicked into the snow by previous hikers. He pointed to a bowl below McClure Rocks at an elevation of about 7,000 feet.

It's not a glacier, but the depression is filled with snow year-round and worms are regularly spotted there in the summer.

Kicking up knee-deep powder, Lee plunged down the incline.

On the floor of the basin, he grabbed his snow shovel, held it out like a divining rod and made beeping sounds as he tried to figure out where to dig.

"We're flying by the seat of our pants," he said cheerfully.

ICE WORMS WERE FIRST described in 1887 on the Muir Glacier in Alaska. Famed Seattle photographer Asahel Curtis took pictures of worms on Mount Olympus in 1907 and dubbed them "snow eels."

But fiction, rather than fact, informed Yukon bard Robert Service, who made several references to ice worms in his poems and novels. He was probably inspired by journalist Elmer "Stroller" White, who, during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s published tall tales in the Dawson City, Yukon, newspaper, describing 4-foot-long wigglers that came out of their lairs and chirped like birds when the mercury dropped below minus 74 Fahrenheit.

In "The Ballad of the Ice Worm Cocktail," published in 1940, Service took up the theme and recounted the comeuppance of a boastful British nimrod who gagged when challenged to down a drink containing a "bilious blue" worm. It was really a piece of painted spaghetti, the poem reveals at the end. Bars in Alaska used to re-create the stunt for their customers.

While Service's work survived, ice-worm studies languished for decades.

"A hundred years of research adds up to about this much paper," Lee said, holding his thumb and index finger less than an inch apart.

Searching the Internet, he connected with biologists Dan Shain and Paula Hartzell, who between them probably account for the bulk of the world's ice-worm expertise.

Shain's first exposure came during a 1995 fishing trip to Alaska, when he saw a cartoon worm on a cafe placemat. He thought it was a joke until he saw the real thing on display at the Portage Glacier visitor center outside Anchorage.

A professor at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J., Shain has wrangled money from National Geographic and NASA for his studies on ice-worm physiology.

Hartzell, who worked with Shain, has surveyed more than 80 glaciers and is writing a book on the peculiar community of snow fleas, nematodes and spiders that dwell on the ice. As the largest invertebrate, ice worms dominate this frozen world.

"IT SUCKS TO DIG," Eiriksson observed, panting. He was standing in the bottom of a seven-foot pit, shoveling snow while Lee took a break and gulped down a muffin.

In summer, Hartzell has found worms in blue ice more than six feet below the surface. Lee peered into a crevasse in Olympic National Park and spotted a worm 10 feet down, poking its head out of a sheer ice face.

Hartzell has seen them with their tails anchored in ice and their heads waving in meltwater streams.

She's convinced they travel through tiny fissures in the ice, but other scientists have suggested the worms secrete a substance that melts a path, like a warm knife through butter.

Polar bears weather the cold with thick insulation and the ability to generate their own heat. Antarctic cod have blood laced with antifreeze. Ice worms don't have any of these defenses.

Instead, they have the remarkable ability to boost their cells' energy production when the temperature drops, Shain discovered. "It's equivalent to putting more gasoline in your tank," he said.

The worms also possess cell membranes and enzymes that function and stay flexible in temperatures where most animals' cellular processes creak to a halt.

The downside is extreme sensitivity to heat. At about 40 degrees F, the worms' membranes melt and their enzymes go haywire.

Shain's NASA project focuses on a key enzyme that regulates the worms' energy cycle.

Organs harvested for transplant deteriorate as the cells' energy stores are depleted, he explained. Unraveling the ice worms' metabolism may lead to drugs or chemical solutions that could keep organs alive longer.

It's more of a longshot, but Shain thinks the worms might also hold clues to suspended animation, or cryonics — the freezing of people or organs. In his laboratory refrigerator, worms have lived up to two years with no apparent source of food.

BLUE SHADOW ENGULFED the basin at Mount Rainier where Lee and Eiriksson continued to toil in their wormless hole, now nearly 10 feet deep. A raven perched on a rock and cocked its head to survey the scene.

During warmer weather, when the worms are easier to find, Lee scooped up hundreds from pools of glacial meltwater, packed them in a cooler with snow and FedEx'd them to New Jersey for Shain's enzyme studies.

For his own project, the UPS student is analyzing DNA from the Olympic worms, to see how they're related to other populations.

Hartzell found northern worms are so different from their southern relatives as to almost be separate species. She also found tiny, remnant populations where receding glaciers have stranded colonies.

That doesn't bode well for ice worms' future.

Rising global temperatures are melting glaciers across the globe, and few are vanishing faster than those along the coast of North America.

"When those glaciers are gone, the ice worms are going to be gone," Hartzell said.


"I found one!" Lee shouted from the bottom of the now-12-foot hole. "I think I see another one," he said, kneeling to paw through the snow.

Using his ice ax for a step, he heaved himself to the surface.

"I can't believe it," he said, grinning. "The elusive ice worm."

In each hand was a chunk of snow and what looked like a dark thread. The shorter of the two worms corkscrewed slowly, then froze — literally.

When Lee touched the tiny spiral, it snapped.

Even ice worms have their limits. Inside the insulating snow, temperatures remain near freezing. But the air temperature had dropped to about 20 F — below the ice-worm survival point.

"Oh well," Lee said. "It's still pretty exciting."

Only two other researchers are known to have found wintering ice worms, both in Alaska late last year.

Now that scientists know they can unearth the worms in winter if they're willing to dig deep enough, studies can begin to tease out the metabolic tricks that allow the creatures to endure months of entombment under the snow.

For Lee, it's back to the lab, where he will continue sorting through his DNA results.

He'll also devote time to another goal: memorizing Service's 140-line ballad, with its fanciful description of ice worms on the Mountain of Blue Snow:

"Yet all is clear as you draw near — for coyly peeking out

Are hosts and hosts of tiny worms, each indigo of snout

And as no nourishment they find, to keep themselves alive

They masticate each other's tails, till just the Tough survive."

Comment on this Article

'Welsh aren't 'true' Celts' claim

Feb 18 2006 Catrin Pascoe, Western Mail

THE MODERN nations that consider themselves to be Celtic are not actually anything to do with the "true Celts" who once dominated Iron Age Europe, according to anthropological research.

The Welsh, Irish and other peoples who regard themselves as Celtic cousins are in fact ancient Bretons who include the original English peoples.
Being Celtic is not about blood, tribes and red hair; nor is it about loving folk music and believing in the little people.

In a landmark special to be broadcast tonight, anthropologist Richard Rudgley, who comes from London, aims to separate myth from fact as he reveals the Celtic world.

Chris Malone, producer for Granada TV, joined him on the journey tracing the Celtic tradition across the world and said that it actually originated with the "true Celts" of central Europe.

Mr Malone said, "It is assumed that the Celts are the people who speak a 'Celtic' language like the Scots and Welsh.

"These are the peoples who were pushed to the fringes after the Roman invasion. People also think about the Celtic crosses, and about the whole pagan druid thing.

"But those are all the cliches. When the Romans arrived in Britain, they never described the people as Celts.

"The 'true Celts' were the continental Celts, although they spread across Europe."

He said that Victorian experts made a big mistake in assuming that what we now call the modern Celtic languages were actually from those European Celts.

Patrick Sims-Williams of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, contributes to the film, demonstrating that ancient Welsh was in Britain before these European Celts arrived.

Neither is there much evidence of migration, according to DNA research from Trinity College in Dublin.

Mr Malone said, "So the word 'Celt' as we understand it only actually started being used in that way in the 18th century, and it has taken on different meanings.

"What we think of as being Celtic is not necessarily the same as those original Celts.

"It has all been reinvented. It is a name for the tribes which were originally here in Britain and Ireland and their coming together has created this myth.

"And in that happening, the English have lost some sense of their individual identity."

He said Iron Age communi-ties like Castell Henllys, visited during the programme, were similar to Celtic settlements in Europe of the same period, but there were key differences.

"Mostly, the similarities are merely copied designs, sometimes copied burial rites."

However the Celtic concept is still important, according to the programme makers.

In reaching his conclusion, Mr Rudgley meets druids, sails in Celtic ships, rides Celtic chariots, and fights with Celtic weapons as he uncovers remarkable archaeological evidence that sheds a whole new light on the European culture.

He contends that, far from being marginal to who we are today, the Celtic tradition is a crucial part of what makes Britain.

Mr Rudgley argues that the Celtic tradition is a golden thread that has been intertwined with the heart of Europe for thousands of years; a Celtic "magic" that is still there for the taking, offering us a basis for a new Europe.

And the significant fact is that the Welsh language and related dialects spoken in places like Cornwall and Brittany preceded the arrival of both Roman and Celtic peoples.

"It is a much older language than that, which gives us some sort of common root and a much more ancient connection," added Mr Malone.

"That precedes the Celts so it is far older than we might assume."

We may not be Celts historically speaking, but we certainly want to be.

As tonight's Channel 4 programme points out, the word has now been reinvented and refers not to the original Celtic peoples of mainland Europe, but the modern "Celtic" areas.

Scotland has its Celtic football team while Wales, for a short period at least, had the Celtic Warriors rugby side.

Celtic music is sold in Irish and other traditional shops. Stones which were in fact carved by medieval monks influenced by the Christian tradition are also described as "Celtic".

And the pagan traditions of our predecessors have been revived by the Eisteddfod druids, which is also sometimes described as a Celtic ceremony. There is also a huge industry of Celtic-themed jewellery, brooches, etc, with traditional intertwined designs.

Comment on this Article

A mysterious force is non-starter for drivers

Rochedale Observer 21/02/2006

IT’S a mystery that has got motorists in Wardle scratching their heads.

They are trying to find out what it is that is preventing them from starting their cars in the vicinity of the Hare and Hounds pub.

Vehicles have been affected in the pub’s car park on Ramsden Street and nearby in East Street.

Drivers switch on the ignition and the immobilisers immediately become jammed.

They claim this strange phenomena began 18 months ago, about the same time as a mobile phone mast was erected in the grounds of Birch Hill.

Frustrated Ramsden Street resident Alistair Fitton said: "One night mine, the landlady’s and another man’s car just wouldn’t start. The immobiliser on all three cars had mysteriously frozen.

"Ever since then pub regulars and six of my neighbours have been having the same problem."

They have now come up with a back-breaking solution – a free push into the corner of the car park, where a bottle bank just happens to be in line with the mast.

Mr Fitton is unable to park near his home and now leaves his car at the bottom of East Street.

He said "I was driving my father’s MG and I completely forgot about the problem.

"I then had to push the heavy car down the street to get it to start – I nearly put my back out. As I’ve been doing it for the last 18 months, I am getting used to it."

A spokesman for Orange said: "The Orange mobile phone network operates at a frequency of between 1800 and 2100 Mhz and no other technology is permitted to operate at that frequency.

"My advice to the drivers is for them to take the cars to the garage and get the immobiliser checked out.

"The answer to the mystery may lie elsewhere."

Technical whizz, Howard Stapleton, thinks the solution may lay with an amateur radio enthusiast or the new Tetra police communications system.

Telecommunications regulator Ofcom said that every so often this type of problem emerges with immobilisers and electronic key fobs.

Spokesman Simon Bates said: "The new mast may or may not be the cause, but it’s likely the immobilsers are of an inferior quality and can’t cope with the interference.

"We advise anyone affected to call Ofcom on 020 7981 3000 and we will be happy to investigate the matter.

"We may find that we can explain the problem and take action."

Comment on this Article

Reverend warns of vampire attacks on Torino athletes

By David Moye February 20, 2006

San Diego--Paranormal preacher Dr. James Capers has warned that the Olympic athletes competing in Torino, Italy, were at risk of psychic vampire attacks from angry sports fans wishing ill will on them.
Capers runs the Temple Of Divine Prophecy Church, an international ministry that is based in San Diego, and he has an international media presence thanks to his unusual predictions and paranormal solutions to problems.

“Curses are very real,” he insists. “Especially when you have a multitude of people wishing ill will on one athlete. For instance, a person can focus their energy on John Doe the skier and say, `I don’t want them to win’ and walk through a complete scenario where they picture exactly how the athlete will lose the contest, such as a broken leg.”

Capers has been on the metaphysical map since 1990 but he says his psychic powers were given to him in the womb and then nurtured by his great aunt, Dr. Grace Valentine.
“In our family, every seventh child who was a girl had the gift.” Despite being all male, Capers was also a seventh child and apparently has developed the nine gifts of psychic ability.

“Those gifts are: faith; speaking in tongues; discernment of spirit; prophesizing; healing; powerful words; knowledge and wisdom. How many is that?”


“Oh, did I say prophesizing?”


“Oh, well, there’s knowledge.”

You said that.

“Oh my goodness, the devil must have taken control! I can’t figure out that ninth gift. Wait! It’s faith.”

Capers’ gift as a paranormal researcher has taken him many places and many worlds. Back in 1995, at the height of the O.J. Simpson trial, he spoke with Ron Goldman’s ghost, who told him O.J. was innocent and that he and Nicole were killed by two black men, one short and the other, a tall fat man.

Another time, he attended a Hollywood gala and saw Whitney Houston sing—but only after hubby Bobby Brown performed a voodoo ritual on her.

And when Kobe Bryant was accused of rape, Capers publicly defended him by using his amazing mental abilities to travel back in time and witness the alleged incident. His professional opinion: The sex was consensual but Kobe was “…a mule if you know what I mean.”

Capers is, admittedly, a different kind of religious figure than, say, the Pope, but he believes everyone is drawn to mentors for different reasons.

“Billy Graham attracted some people who appreciated his humility but there were others who weren’t into his message.”

He must be doing something right. Capers hosts a weekly public access program on Cox cable called “A Prophet Among Us” and he says, “I’ve been told it’s the number one show on Sundays.”

Although he has been asked to run the show on other cable networks across the country, so far he’s declined. “If you run those shows, you’re recruiting and I don’t want to get out of control.”

Currently, Capers is promoting a new DVD, “Learn How To Defend Yourself Against Psychic Attack, Witchcraft And Sorcery,” and is working on his pet project, an actual church of his own.

“Before Joan Kroc died, she was supposed to donate some money for a church.”

That hasn’t happened but Capers vows he will have a real-life temple for his Temple of Divine Prophecy and says he doesn’t want it to be just a black church.

“I want Asians, whites, blacks, Hispanics and every race and creed so they can all get healed.

“I want it to be a place where the psychic gifts are so developed that a minister can tell a mother to be sure to walk her child to school on Monday in order to prevent a car accident that is prophesized to happen.”

Comment on this Article

UFO group says 100 Tennesseans saw unexplained sights

WMCstations.com Feb 21, 2006

Seeing strange lights and weird objects flying in the sky, nearly a hundred Tennesseans have made such claims over the last few years and the number of UFO sightings in the state is growing.

According to the Appalachian UFO research center, about a hundred people in Tennessee reported seeing UFO's between 2004 and the winter of 2005.

Some of those sighting were right here in the Mid-South.

Tony Pratt describes his first encounter back in 1986.

"It was about 11:30, we stepped outside and saw a big triangle outside a Baptist church," said Tony Pratt.

Pratt uses his video camera to document UFO's. He claims if you point the camera toward the sun, then block out the sun itself, you can see something flying in the sky.

Comment on this Article

'Monster' Cat In China Weighs 33 Pounds

local6.com 12:38 am EST February 21, 2006

A 33-pound cat in Qingdao, China, is being described as a "feline monster" because of its 31-inch waist and large size, according to a report.

The 9-year-old cat from the Shandong Province is so heavy it needs the help of its owner to get onto a bed. However, the cat is in surprisingly good health despite its weight, Local 6 News reported.
The cat's owner said it has no interest in eating fish but prefers to eat six pounds of chicken and pork each day.

This fat cat is not alone in his weight problem, according to the report. Obesity has become a serious problem for the modern cat, primarily due to a lack of exercise and a richer diet.

Cats are susceptible to a range of illnesses including kidney trouble and diabetes, if they are allowed to remain overweight.

Comment on this Article

Parents row over boy's circumcision

Harry Mount in New York 21/02/2006 UK Telegraph

A Chicago judge has ordered a mother not to circumcise her eight-year-old son after the boy's father sought a restraining order to stop the operation.

Judge Jordan Kaplan granted the temporary ruling against the 31-year-old woman until the court could hear arguments from the father and decide whether circumcision was in the boy's best interests.

The court has not named the divorced parents to protect the boy and the judge refused to state the parents' religion.

The father, 49, called the operation an "unnecessary amputation" that could cause his son physical and emotional harm.

He has further claimed that the couple's divorce agreement provided for him to be consulted before any non-emergency medical treatment of his son.

The mother has said that two doctors have recommended the procedure to prevent recurrent infections. The judge has now ordered the couple not to discuss the case with their son.

Comment on this Article

Supreme Court Plunges Into Abortion Debate

By GINA HOLLAND Associated Press Writer Feb 21 10:13 AM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider the constitutionality of banning a type of late-term abortion, teeing up a contentious issue for a newly-constituted court already in a state of flux over privacy rights.

The Bush administration has pressed the high court to reinstate the federal law, passed in 2003 but never put in effect because it was struck down by judges in California, Nebraska and New York.

The outcome will likely rest with the two men that President Bush has recently installed on the court. Justices had been split 5-4 in 2000 in striking down a state law, barring what critics call partial birth abortion because it lacked an exception to protect the health of the mother.
But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the tie-breaking vote, retired late last month and was replaced by Samuel Alito. Abortion had been a major focus in the fight over Alito's nomination because justices serve for life and he will surely help shape the court on abortion and other issues for the next generation.

Alito, in his rulings on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, has been more willing than O'Connor, the first woman justice, to allow restrictions on abortions, which were legalized in the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

The federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act prohibits a certain type of abortion, generally carried out in the second or third trimester, in which a fetus is partially removed from the womb, and the skull is punctured or crushed.

Justices on a 9-0 vote vote reaffirmed in January that states can require parental involvement in abortion decisions and that state restrictions must have an exception to protect the mother's health.

The federal law in the current case has no health exception, but defenders maintain that the procedure is never medically necessary to protect a woman's health.

Comment on this Article

Births out of wedlock 'pass 40%'

Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 00:02 GMT

The proportion of children born outside marriage in the UK has leapt from 12% in 1980 to 42% in 2004, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In contrast, 15 other EU countries had an estimated average of 33%, the annual ONS' Social Trends report said.

The average UK household size fell from 2.9 to 2.4 people from 1971 to 2005.

This was due to more single-parent families, smaller families and an increase in households of just one person, the ONS said.
ONS editor Hayley Butcher said: "Although most children are born to married couples, this substantial rise in births outside marriage is a reflection of the rising trend in cohabiting parents."

From 1986 to 2004, the percentage of non-married people under 60 who cohabited rose from 11% to 24% among men, and from 13% to 25% for women.

Living alone

The number of households in the UK increased by 30% - from 18.6 to 24.2 million - between 1971 and 2005.

The average household size fell from 2.9 to 2.4 people over the same period.

Some seven million people lived alone in 2005 - representing 29% of all households, up from 18% in 1971 - the ONS said.

The ONS said that in the 1980s and 1990s one-person households mainly comprised older women, who tended to live longer than men.

But recent years had seen an increasing tendency for people to live alone at younger ages.

The largest increases in the last 20 years had been among people aged 25 to 44, and men from 45 to 64.

The ONS' Social Trends study also reported that young men were more likely to live with their parents than young women.

Some 57% of men aged 20 to 24 lived with their parents in 2005 - up from 50% in 1991 - compared with just 38% of women - up from 32%.

"Some young people may remain at home while in education or because of economic necessity, such as difficulties entering the housing market," the report said.

The Social Trends study's other findings included:

* In spring 2005, one in five full-time employees reported usually working more than 48 hours a week.

* Passengers travelling to or from overseas countries through UK airports (excluding transit passengers) almost quadrupled between 1980 and 2004, from 43 to 167 million.

* More than one billion journeys were made on the national rail network each year in 2003-4 and 2004-5 - the highest level since 1961.

* Transactions using debit cards increased ten-fold from 1991 to 2004, while credit card transactions trebled.

* The number of UK households that owned second homes abroad rose 45%, to almost 257,000, from 1999-2000 to 2003-4.

Comment: Religion is one of the most important control structures, and marriage has certainly been one of the most important institutions in it. Coupled with unrealistic notions of love -- that is, mistaking a chemical reaction in the body for love -- tying oneself to a contract that is difficult to break, and whose end carries with it notions of sin or angering God, has certainly done a lot to attack the mental health of many, many individuals.

And then factor in psychopathy and other pathologies... what a mess!

The increase of people choosing to cohabit without tying the knot is an important indicator of social change. But that alone is not enough as the increase in single parent families also indicates. As long as individuals continue to mate based upon sexual attraction alone, losing the rational factor of responsibility and the deep emotional bonding of love in a momentary surge of chemicals, the consequences will continue to push to an ever-increasing atomisation of society.

Obviously, such change can only come one person at a time, as people turn away from the destructive habits that are our social currency and take control over themselves.

Comment on this Article

Mother Says God Told Her to Cut Baby

Associated Press Tuesday, February 21, 2006; Page A07

McKINNEY, Tex., Feb. 20 -- A woman accused of killing her 10-month-old daughter felt that God was commanding her to cut off the baby's arms as well as her own limbs, a state psychiatrist testified Monday.

Dena Schlosser saw a TV news story about a boy being mauled by a lion and thought it was a sign of the apocalypse, a delusion that led her to sever the arms of her baby, David Self said.
"She felt she was basically commanded, in essence, to cut Maggie's arms off and her own arms off, and her legs and her head, and in some way to give them to God," said Self, who evaluated Schlosser in the months after her arrest.

Police found Schlosser in her living room, covered in blood, still holding a knife and listening to a hymn. She had sliced deep into her own shoulder and chopped off her baby's arms. Schlosser, 37, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and her attorneys are trying to prove she did not know right from wrong when Margaret, also known as Maggie, was killed.

Prosecutors, who are not seeking the death penalty, argue Schlosser knew what she was doing and should be sent to prison for life. If found not guilty, Schlosser would be hospitalized.

Comment on this Article

Beyonce 'pimp culture' blast

By Laura White, Evening Standard 21 February 2006

Dame Anita Roddick has hit out at pop icons such as Beyoncé and Britney Spears for celebrating the sex industry.

The Body Shop founder said she despairs of the "pimp and whore" culture in which pop stars simulate sex and celebrities talk proudly about visiting lap-dancing clubs.

Dame Anita told the Standard: "A lot of people seem to think it's cool to be a pimp or a whore. It's not cool. The reality is dark and evil and appalling and unregulated.
"The reality is sexual trafficking, which is about young women being forced into rooms to have sex however many times a day so the pimp can take all the money. I don't get it."

Dame Anita, 63, said such imagery, coupled with the multi-million-pound beauty advertising industry, made it virtually impossible for young women to grow up with high self-esteem.

She said: "There are thousands of ads mostly focused on women and young girls that say you are not attractive, you are not sexy, you are not intelligent unless you look like this... [in] kids' magazines there is a passivity and a stupidity that is seen as the great way forward.

"And then you hear the statistics that we have the most violent young women in Europe because of binge drinking. I haven't got much hope. Something's gone very wrong."

Her daughter Sam has famously struck out with her own business, the erotic emporium Coco de Mer in Covent Garden, which sells fair-trade kinky handcuffs and claims to have a "female-centric" focus which aims to celebrate sex without exploiting women.

Dame Anita, who still refers to herself as a feminist, has turned her back on anti-wrinkle creams and said getting older had only made her more radical and more focused.

"I am not as stringent as some in the feminist movement," she said. "If someone wants a facelift, so be it. If somebody wants Botox, smile on - who cares?

"But for me there are more important things to worry about. I travel too much to epicentres of despair to worry about Western thinking about what a woman should and should not do and should and should not say."

Dame Anita left her full-time role with The Body Shop in 2002 but she and her husband Gordon still own 18 per cent and remain the biggest shareholders. There are now 300 stores worldwide and the chain is worth around £500 million.

Dame Anita is a non-executive director and still travels the world looking for new products and encouraging other cosmetics companies to adopt the firm's
community trade approach.

Speaking prior to a lecture at the British Library called The Creative Entrepreneur next month, she praised The Body Shop for its improved products but admitted she was sad that it had not retained the creativity that was so central when it was smaller.

"I had a dedication to changing workplace behaviour," she said. "We had babies in the office, mothers breastfeeding, we brought daughters into board meetings to tell us what we were doing wrong.

"Now it's quite hierarchical and patriarchal. I think the sadness is that the bigger you get the less intimate you become." However, she has no regrets about the time she and Gordon devoted to the business, despite comments by Sam that she and sister Justine, who now works for the Body Shop in Amercia, hardly ever saw them.

Dame Anita has lent her support to the British Library as part of its Beautiful Minds programme celebrating creativity in the arts, sciences and business. She believes business can be ethical and supports the library's new business centre, which opens on 8 March.

Comment on this Article

BT bans smoking in vans

Hilary Osborne and agencies Tuesday February 21, 2006

Telecoms giant BT announced today it will ban its workers from smoking in its offices and vans from March, in a move which could set new standards across British industry.

The company is introducing the ban on March 26, as legislation outlawing smoking in the workplace comes into effect in Scotland, but more than a year before it comes into force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The decision was warmly welcomed by anti-smoking groups who urged other companies to follow suit.

From next month BT's 100,000 employees across the world, including 20,000 outside the UK will not be allowed to smoke on company premises or in vans bearing the BT logo.

Designated smoking rooms will be closed and converted to offices, store rooms or put to other use.

The provision of external shelters for smokers will be assessed but staff will be discouraged from having a cigarette outside BT buildings.

The company's offices have been smoke free for a number of years but special smoking rooms have been provided and workers have been allowed to light up in company vehicles.

From next month smoking will be banned in BT vans and in cars being used for business purposes.

Dr Paul Litchfield, BT's chief medical officer said the ban went no further than the legislation due to take effect in Scotland and that it had seemed "a nonsense" to have one rule for employees in Dumfries and another for those in Carlisle.

"The new rules introduce what we perceive to be the best practice in terms of enabling our people to live a healthy life," said Dr Litchfield.

"A lot of our people tell us that they want to give up smoking but need a little help, and this is part of that."

Dr Litchfield added that the ban was just part of the strategy, and that employees would receive information and support when giving up.

However, he acknowledged that not all employees would want to quit.

"It's a personal decision. We're not a police state and we're not going to go round saying people shouldn't be smoking, we are just going to put the infrastructure in place," he said.

A spokesman for anti-smoking group Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) said: "This is a welcome move by BT and we hope it sets a model for other employers to follow.

"There is no need to wait a year for the new law to come into force. Good employers should be acting now.

"Companies are realising that if their staff give up smoking they will benefit in terms of less sickness absenteeism."

BT estimates that around one third of its workers smoke.

Comment on this Article

French 'cure' for excess alcohol raises safety fear

By Colin Randall in Paris The Telegraph 21/02/2006

France's drinkers can now buy a potion which supposedly stops hangovers and makes alcohol disappear from the blood system up to six times faster than usual.

Made from a "secret recipe" based on plant extracts, Security Feel Better comes in tiny bottles and is recommended for use before, during or after a heavy lunch or party.
It is already on sale in a number of French supermarkets and is being exported to Korea, Germany and Switzerland with talks in progress to launch it in America and elsewhere, though not yet Britain.

The Normandy-based maker, PPN, insisted yesterday it was not trying to convince buyers they could "drink, drink, drink" without regard to health or safety.

But its publicity material is already being interpreted in France as implying that it allows drivers to get behind the wheel without fear.

PPN's website says the product should work within 45 minutes to "prevent hangover and eliminate food and drinks quicker, especially alcohol", and to ease feelings of excess after "a lunch or party".

A footnote to the site warns that time needed for the product to take effect varies between individuals. It also warns that alcohol abuse can seriously damage health.

However, there are signs on both sides of the Channel that not everyone approves of promoting a product that encourages drinkers to feel they can quickly erase the effects of alcohol.

The vast French supermarket chain Auchan said that it had stopped selling the drink after a trial period at a store in northern France.

In Britain, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said it had severe concerns about any product that led people to think they could drink and drive, whether or not it was marketed as such.

Sophie Morgaut, from the agency handling PNN's publicity, said: "We are not encouraging people to drink more, or to believe they can use Security Feel Better to drink and then drive.

"PPN is a very responsible company. Alcohol is widely available and this is a serious product which helps eliminate it more quickly."

In one test carried out during PPN's research, she said, a man who drank a whisky followed by a whole bottle of wine and a liqueur gave a reading of 187mg before taking Security Feel Better, but 80mg only 40 minutes later.

A court has ruled that Security Feel Better can be sold legally in France, provided its advertisements do not refer to blood-alcohol levels or the product's effect on them.

Comment on this Article

Austrian golds lift mood after doping saga

By Ossian Shine Reuters Mon Feb 20, 2006 6:16 PM ET

TURIN - Three Austrian Winter Olympic golds provided a perfect counterweight to the extraordinary doping saga which continued to plague their team on Monday.
Michaela Dorfmeister, who won the women's super-G, and men's giant slalom winner Benjamin Raich put a smile back on Austrian faces with the Games entering its final week, while a team win in the ski jumping gave them a further boost.

Yet the biathlon and cross-country skiing coach, whose presence in Italy had put the Austrians in such unwanted limelight when their bases were raided by police looking for drugs over the weekend, still haunted the team even though he had returned home.

Walter Mayer's admission to an Austrian psychiatric hospital was the latest almost surreal twist to a drama which has featured a night-time drugs raid by police, a car crash, an arrest and two Austrian athletes disappearing into the night.

"Walter Mayer is in the psychiatric hospital, unfortunately. He's in custody to protect himself because apparently he's said he wanted to commit suicide or something like that. I couldn't talk to him myself," Austrian Ski Federation president Peter Schroecksnadel told state radio ORF.

Mayer is banned from the Games over his involvement in a blood doping scandal at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002. He was not found during the raid.

On Sunday he crashed into an Austrian police roadblock after refusing a breath test for alcohol. He has been charged with civil disorder, an Austrian prosecutor said, and was sacked by the Austrian ski federation.

An Italian prosecutor said police had found drugs, syringes and blood transfusion equipment during Saturday night's raid on Austrian athletes.

More than 100 syringes, 30 packs of drugs as well as devices for transfusions and testing had been seized in the raid on the biathlon and cross-country teams, the official said.

The Austrian team said later that all the drugs and medical equipment collected was legitimate.

The International Olympic Committee are still examining the urine samples they took from 15 Austrian athletes the same night, IOC President Jacques Rogge told Austrian television. [...]

Comment on this Article

A question of anti-trust

Tuesday February 21, 2006 David Gow

A new front opened in the six-year war between Microsoft and the European commission last week. The endgame is uncertain, as regards both timing and outcome, but the enormous scale of the stakes are clearer: Brussels is challenging the entire basis of the group's business strategy and model. It is determined to change them.

With the US department of justice (almost) out of the picture following its 2002 settlement and most of Microsoft's once-litigious rivals either out of business or bought off, the commission sees itself as a lonely David fighting Goliath, aiming its sling at the group's quasi-monopoly. It wants to force it to face genuinely free competition.
Last Wednesday, Microsoft raised the ante yet again. The world's biggest software maker not only defied Brussels on the central issue of making servers running its Windows operating system interoperable with rival versions but challenged the authority and integrity of an independent trustee - charged with monitoring its compliance with an anti-trust ruling - it is, albeit reluctantly, co-sponsoring.

Almost two years ago, the then EU competition commissioner, Mario Monti, levied a record fine of €497m (£340m) on Microsoft for abusing its dominant position in the PC operating systems market: it had been leveraging its near monopoly on to markets for work group servers and media players.

Mr Monti demanded "remedies" - forcing Microsoft to disclose "complete and accurate" interface documents to enable rival servers to achieve full interoperability and to make available a version of Windows without a media player.

Twenty-three months later and, after court hearings, voluminous correspondence, private meetings between Neelie Kroes, Monti's successor, and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive, colossal lawyers' bills and millions of man-hours, the paramount issue of interoperability is unresolved. And, therefore, the threat of daily fines of €2m - backdated to mid-December - draws closer.

Microsoft argues that Brussels has wilfully ignored copious evidence of its compliance and, moreover, denied it due process - raising the prospect of yet another legal battle. In a 75-page assertion of its complete compliance with Mr Monti's March 2004 decision, it insisted it had gone beyond the commission's mandatory remedy and opened up (part) of the ultra-secret source code behind Windows to rivals willing to pay a - yet to be agreed - licence or royalty fee.

It attached a 49-page report from five computer science professors - British and German - wholly at odds with the findings of Professor Neil Barrett, the monitoring trustee, that the technical information Microsoft had supplied was "fundamentally flawed" and "totally unfit". But the report refused to name the academics and it transpires that at least one of them was nominated by the group to be the trustee - and rejected as he had worked for Microsoft in the past.

For Georg Greve, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe and one of the strongest of the commission's few backers, this latter response was "outrageous" in its implication that Prof Barrett was "biased". But for Mr Greve the stakes are even higher: as a spokesman for the "open source" software community, he sees the struggle between Brussels and Microsoft as a war for the soul of society and democracy itself.

"This is a conflict of approaches and models. Free software is not a single company or product, it's a fundamentally different approach to working with software and the computer industry as a whole: in upholding the freedom of competition we're asserting the values of a democratic society," he said.

Mr Greve, who accuses Microsoft of constantly trying to "wriggle out of its obligations", added: "They should comply and stop ignoring the commission and pretending they are above the law, because they are not. What's in it for them is money, control, power - the ability to leverage their monopoly on the desktop into new markets such as mobiles and set-top boxes."

The "open source" community is built around the Linux operating system, which, Mr Greve says, is increasingly popular with companies such as Sun, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and IBM as well as with governments. South Korea has recently announced plans to set up a university dedicated to developing Linux programmes.

But Mr Greve says: "Destroying Microsoft is not our objective at all. I believe they will learn eventually if they are forced to learn. As long as they put themselves above justice, politics and regulation, they have to be pinned to the ground ... When companies have desktops running on Windows, they have no choice but to use Microsoft servers. But if they choose to buy a new Linux server, they can help clients ... choose different desktop systems."

Comment on this Article

Second Virus Attacks Mac OS X

February 17, 2006

Security firms say Mac is likely to become a bigger hacker

Security researchers said Friday they have found a second virus that affects Apple computers running the Mac OS X operating system, further eroding the long-held belief that Mac machines are more impervious to attacks than Microsoft’s Windows-based personal computers.

Symantec said it has identified a new worm, “Inqtana,” that spreads through a vulnerability in the operating system. The worm has not affected any users thus far and is considered to be a “proof of concept” or a prototype that can be developed to launch more malicious versions.
“While this particular worm is not fully functional, the source code could be easily modified by a future attacker to do damage,” said Vincent Weafer, senior director at Symantec Security Response. “Macintosh users should be diligent about installing patches to their operating systems as this will prevent attacks of this type.”

Inqtana attempts to use Bluetooth connections to spread itself by searching for other Bluetooth-enabled devices that will accept requests when the computer is restarted, said security experts. If a Bluetooth connection is found, the worm attempts to send itself to those remote computers.

But security experts believe that it may not be able to spread successfully, and damage from the worm could be extremely low.

The “Inqtana” worm comes a day after the discovery of a previous virus named “Leap A” or “Oompa” that spreads through the iChat instant messaging systems on Apple’s Mac computers by forwarding itself as a file to contacts on the infected user’s buddy list (see Virus Attacks Mac OS X Users). If the malicious file is clicked on and unzipped, the virus tries to spread to other contacts on the user’s buddy list. Oompa was the first worm to target the Mac OS X operating system.

Symantec has said that it does not believe the latest worm has been developed in response to the Oompa worm found on Thursday.

“We have speculated that attackers would turn their attention to other platforms, and two back-to-back examples of malicious code targeting Macintosh OS X this week illustrate this emerging trend,” said Mr. Weafer.

Bigger Target

Other security experts have said that the discovery of the viruses show that Apple Mac computers will become a bigger target in the future. According to a web poll of more than 600 users conducted by Sophos, a London-based security firm, 79 percent of respondents believed that Apple Macs will be targeted more in the future. However, more than half of those polled said they did not believe the problem would be as great as for Windows.

“The bad news is that most people think the situation is going to get worse for Macintosh users, and more threats will be targeted against the Apple community,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.

Other security experts have said that as Apple introduces its Intel-chip-based Macs, there will be greater adoption of the operating system, which could trigger malware writers into creating more threats for the Mac.

Comment: You can imagine a basement at Microsoft full of people working on trying to infect the Mac OS.

Comment on this Article