- Signs of the Times for Wed, 01 Mar 2006 -

Editorial: Asleep at the wheel: Our leaders snooze while our government speeds out of control!

by Jane Stillwater

"I just had the worst nightmare!" said a friend.

My friend looked wild-eyed and ghastly. "Take a deep breath, calm down and spill."

"I was in this taxi and we were driving up this really steep hill and then suddenly the car began rolling backwards and I looked over at the driver and he was ASLEEP!" So. What did you do? "I grabbed the wheel and jammed my foot on the brake petal but the brakes didn't work!"

I've had those kinds of dreams before. They are terrifying. But what do they mean? Was something in my friend's life spinning out of control? "Now if it was ME having that dream," I said, "I would know exactly what it meant. This is the perfect analogy for what is going on in Washington DC these days." My friend shrugged. I had just hijacked his dream. Humph.

"Now if it was me having that nightmare," I lectured, "that steep hill would represent mankind's uphill battle to evolve into the type of human being that Jesus, Mohammad, Abraham and Buddha would be proud of. The taxi would represent our government -- the vehicle we use to get us to this urgently critical destination on time. And the cabbie would represent our leaders, the ones we hire to safely and efficiently drive this vehicle -- and to get us there in one piece and on time." My friend started to look interested. I added, "Here. Have some hot tea."

"Then who would the passenger person represent?" he asked.

"That's easy. That passenger would represent all us poor smucks who trust government leaders to get us safely to our destination -- and of course the ones who are paying the fare."

Right now, today, at this very minute, our country is like that taxi -- out of control, blindly racing backwards, careening wildly downhill to sure destruction. And our leaders are asleep at the wheel.

When my friend flagged him down, his dream-cabbie appeared to be a competent driver. He was not. He was a fraud who hadn't even passed his road test! And like that fraudulent cabbie, we Americans have been stuck with the wrong men and women to drive our vehicle of state.

These people became our leaders, according to Rob Kall, solely because of their ability to pay for the most TV advertisements -- or, according to the GAO, because they were good at stealing elections. That is no criteria for selecting a driver. None. these people have NO LEADERSHIP SKILLS. And there are no excuses for us either. We should have taken a closer look at their badges.

But do excuses really matter when the car we are riding in is out of control and madly rushing downward toward certain death?

What must we do to stop this nightmare? "What did you do in your dream?" I asked my friend.

"I pushed the stupid incompetent driver out of the way and took over myself. Then I brought the taxi under control." We need to do that too.

We need to put people in the White House, the Supreme Court and Congress who actually know HOW to stay awake and to get us to where we need to go. We need to control election spending. We need to count the votes ourselves. We need to elect people with NO ties to the weapons industry. We need to put limits on television advertising. We need to take back our airwaves. And we need to start placing (legal) wiretaps on all the White House phones and start reading THEIR e-mails.

We need to hire leaders who represent US!

And if our drivers fall asleep at the wheel and cannot get us to where WE want to go -- safely and on time -- then we need to drive our own car.

PS: I just listened to "Democracy Now" on KPFA, where investigative reporters described American black ops torture techniques in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Morocco and Poland. American military personnel -- not just a few bad apples -- torture captives in ways that you don't even want to know about. Broomsticks up the rectum? Months in freezing temperatures in unlighted cells with screeching noises blasting at them 24/7 while they hang by ropes until they confess to crimes that only fools believe had actually been committed? And the American troops who perform these unspeakable acts learn how to do it by reading these worst-than-medieval torture instructions from out of Pentagon-produced books!

"And then they came for me and by that time there was nobody to speak up for me," Pastor Niemoller said about the Nazis. If we don't get our American democratic vehicle back under control, the 600 new concentration camps that Halliburton has just been commissioned to build here in America may be used to house US. And then it could be you and me -- us Democrats and bloggers -- who are being rammed with a broom.

PPS: Okay. So our federal vehicle is being driven by a scurvy group of blood-curdling torturers -- sort of like our own personal Freddie Kruegers. But can they steer America through the economic nightmare that awaits us if something isn't done really soon about our out-of-control financial deficits? Or will we just get another sequel to "Nightmare on Wall Street"?

To quote Joseph Stiglitz, "If America were not the economic powerhouse that it is, the day of reckoning would have already come. The only questions that the world faces today are how long it will persist, how it will be tamed and how much damage -- to America and the world -- will be done in the interim. And how hard will the landing be?"



Stillwater is a freelance writer who hates injustice and corruption in any form but especially injustice and corruption paid for by American taxpayers.

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Editorial: Did You Just Hear Something?

Stephen Pizzo
28 Feb 06

Is something happening? After nearly six years of hoping something would happen, I am resisting the temptation to accept that suddenly something really is happening.

But the signs are coming in strong suddenly. It's getting harder for me to deny it. Something is afoot. Something long overdue.

Here are a few recent clues.

Clue #1:

Neocon architect says: 'Pull it down'

NeoConserativism has failed the United States and needs to be replaced by a more realistic foreign policy agenda, according to one of its prime architects....Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the best-selling book The End of History and was a member of the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a political symbol and a body of thought, it has "evolved into something I can no longer support". He says it should be discarded on to history's pile of discredited ideologies.  (Full Story)

Fukuyama goes on to single out Neocon One, George W. Bush, his economic policies and the war in Iraq, for special criticism.

Fukuyama -- who once supported the war in Iraq, now says it's the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time:

"The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism," he argues. "It seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention [in Iraq] itself or the ideas animating it kindly".

Finally there was this jaw-dropping statement from the man who created the Neocon movement :

Fukuyama says the neocon movements' key players in this administration  "are Leninists who believe that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States".

Holy cow.  The Bushies being called pack of Leninists by their own guru. 

Something is happening.

Clue #2:

If you have more than two discretionary nickels to rub together you've heard of PIMCO, the investment firm. PIMCO is hardly a hotbed of socialist thought. The company is one of the largest investment firms in the world, with more than $590 billion in assets under management.

So, when PIMCO's managing director, Bill Gross, talks about money, those with money listen. And Bill did just that this week on PIMCO's own web site.

“A copy of the annual Economic Report of the President arrived at my desk the other day....  It’s not so much that the report was a compilation of untruths or even half-truths. It’s just that it failed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and most definitely nothing but the truth. If there were WMD in our economic future, you’d be hard pressed to find them here. Mild innuendos about global and demographic challenges yes, but nothing that couldn’t or wouldn’t be overcome with good old American ingenuity, hard work, and a fawning foreign investment public nearly trampling each other to get their hands on attractive U.S. "investments."  Nowhere to be found was the catchy phrase à la Tennessee Williams referring to the "kindness of strangers" or a suggestion of "living on borrowed time."

Ah, but that, it seems to me, was the critical rub. Have we, can we, will we use capital to foster future growth or must we earmark it for future liabilities that have been under-reserved? Have we borrowed from the future to pay for today’s party and will our future creditors allow us to pay it back on our own terms with low yields and a strong dollar? While the gang that couldn’t shoot (or talk) straight expressed few doubts, I as you can probably tell, have mine.  (Full Essay Here)
(Audio Version Here)

Well! How about that? A guy who manages over half a trillion bucks of other people's money saying such startling things right out loud!  Normally Wall Street folk avoid saying anything that might spook the sheep. They like to play up the positive and brush aside the negative. It's only when disaster looms too close for comfort that they shout “fire” -- usually over their shoulder after they clear the exit first.

Bill Gross' essay is chilling confirmation that the Bush economy is but a hollow tree. It may look okay on the surface, but one strong storm and it'll come crashing to earth.  I've suspected it was so from the very start. Now it's being said by folks with a vested interest in the tree. Something is happening.

Clue #3

And then there's all the talk suddenly of America's emerging "oligarchy." Americans had thought such social termites were unique to former Soviet block nations. But apparently when George looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul – he also saw a new future for America as well. An America carved up like a juicy Angus cow, the prime cuts going to prime contractors and what's left on the floor split between the rest of us.

Now the rest of us are finally shouting “foul!”

Here's a clip from a great Web newsletter that tracks the growing American wealth disparity. It's appropriately named, “Too Much!”

New Data on America's Wealth

"Two years ago, the Federal Reserve Board had 4,522 American families interviewed, typically for 80 minutes each, about their personal household finances. Last week, the Fed unveiled a summary of the data from this massive survey effort, and the new numbers tell an old story.

America's economy, the Fed data make clear, is only working for the wealthy. Everyone else is treading water — or even falling behind....The new Fed Survey of Consumer Finances — the latest installment of research the Fed conducts every three years — offers the federal government's best update on income and wealth distribution in the United States. That distribution continues to skew.

Back in 1995, typical families in America's richest 10 percent held 697 times more net worth than typical families in the nation's poorest 25 percent. In 2004, the new Fed data reveal, the net worths of top 10 percent families outpaced the net worths of families in the bottom 25 percent by 841 times."

Yes, something is happening.

The Bushies got away with a lot of lies over the past five and half years, and for that we must blame not only them, but ourselves for letting it happen, and our media, which failed its own prime directive – to find the truth and report it.

But lies are not enough any longer, because new lies must now compete with the very ugly and obvious physical truths their earlier lies have created:

- Hard working Americans are poorer than they were, and it looks as though they are going to get poorer yet before anyone comes along able to get us back on track.

- Iraq is a mess, always has been, always will be, and they just wasted $600 billion re-learning that.

- Homeland security is another lie. We are not one iota safer today than we were on September 10, 2001. We now know that the entire Homeland security business was just one big, fabulously expensive, bureaucratic Chinese fire drill. A lot of noise and fury, signifying nada. How do we know that now?

- Katrina,
- The moronic port deal,
- The gutting of states National Guard units,
- The Keystone cops panic last week over that non-ricin attack,
- Osama still at large,
- Mullah Omar, still at large,
- Iran perking right along on a nuclear weapons program,
- North Korea is stacking up new nukes like cordwood...
- And this just in:

Veterans May Face Health Care Cuts in 2008
At least tens of thousands of veterans with non-critical medical issues could suffer delayed or even denied care in coming years to enable President Bush to meet his promise of cutting the deficit in half — if the White House is serious about its proposed budget.

 Had enough?

The bottom line --  unless you were in a top tax bracket, owned a defense contracting firm, made pharmaceuticals, or pumped oil, you've lost ground since the Bushies arrived in town.

And – here's the biggest laugh of all – it was those who have suffered most – middle class working, religious conservatives – who put these morons into power, not once, but twice. (So much for intelligent design.)

But the worm is finally turning. Better late than too late.

The November mid-term elections could be Phase I of a two-part house cleaning. Recently I spoke to a former Republican member of the California Assembly who told me, “This November I will vote for any Democrat running against any Republican for the US Congress. It's just gotten too out of hand up there with the GOP running the whole show.”

And that from a life-long Republican politician!

Yes, something IS happening.  And only one thing can screw it up – old-school Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Joey Lieberman, Rahm Emanuel, et al.

And, rest assured,  they are working furiously on doing just that.

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Editorial: America's Tarnished Image

Tunis Hebdo
Translated By Kate Brumback
February 14 - February 19 Issue

The broadcast of new images of torture by the American army at the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 and the publication February 16 of a report by five independent U.N. experts on conditions at the Guantanamo camp have tarnished the West's image a bit more in the Arab world - which was already suffering from the cartoon affair. It has also discredited the United States in matters of democracy.

In effect, the report in question, which is very critical of Washington, was - as expected - denigrated by the American administration, which has no intention of judging the 490 alleged al-Qaeda members held at the base, or of freeing them or even closing Guantanamo, despite numerous repeated appeals made by human rights organizations.

For Washington, the "war on terrorism," undertaken since the September 11, 2001 attacks, remains the top priority; even above the international legal framework.

Since then, the Guantanamo camp has been turned into a veritable bunker, where every kind of abuse has been and continues to be committed. According to the report by the five U.N. experts, "the general conditions at Guantanamo equate the prisoners' health condition to inhuman and violent treatment. In certain cases, the treatment goes so far as to be torture. … Certain interrogation methods are based on religious discrimination and aim to offend the detainees' religious beliefs," the text says.

In the same vein, the scandal of the Abu Ghraib prison, the revelation of which provoked the furor of Arabs in 2004, has surfaced again with the broadcast of new, even crueler images.

The reactions were unanimous that these images diminish the credibility of the campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East that the United States claims to be leading. In fact, they place America in an untenable situation. Would Washington have authorized torture in circumstances that don't concern Iraqis, for example, or Muslims in general?

We are correct to assume that, with what is happening at Guantanamo or what happened at Abu Ghraib, America has never taken into consideration the humanitarian aspect insofar as the tortured prisoners are, according to the United States, presumed terrorists.

"The war against terrorism" being the number one objective, Washington is ready to do anything to keep its program from waning.

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U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006

28 Feb 06

Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay "as long as they are needed"
* While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
* Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
* Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam's role in 9/11, most don't blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks
* Majority of troops oppose use of harsh prisoner interrogation
* Plurality of troops pleased with their armor and equipment

An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows.

The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College's Center for Peace and Global Studies, showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq "immediately," while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay "as long as they are needed."

Different branches had quite different sentiments on the question, the poll shows. While 89% of reserves and 82% of those in the National Guard said the U.S. should leave Iraq within a year, 58% of Marines think so. Seven in ten of those in the regular Army thought the U.S. should leave Iraq in the next year. Moreover, about three-quarters of those in National Guard and Reserve units favor withdrawal within six months, just 15% of Marines felt that way. About half of those in the regular Army favored withdrawal from Iraq in the next six months.

The troops have drawn different conclusions about fellow citizens back home. Asked why they think some Americans favor rapid U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, 37% of troops serving there said those Americans are unpatriotic, while 20% believe people back home don't believe a continued occupation will work. Another 16% said they believe those favoring a quick withdrawal do so because they oppose the use of the military in a pre-emptive war, while 15% said they do not believe those Americans understand the need for the U.S. troops in Iraq.

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11 attacks," 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was "to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq."

"Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there," said Pollster John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International. "Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68% of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein." Just 24% said that "establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World\" was the main or a major reason for the war. Only small percentages see the mission there as securing oil supplies (11%) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6%).

The continuing insurgent attacks have not turned U.S. troops against the Iraqi population, the survey shows. More than 80% said they did not hold a negative view of Iraqis because of those attacks. About two in five see the insurgency as being comprised of discontented Sunnis with very few non-Iraqi helpers. "There appears to be confusion on this," Zogby said. But, he noted, less than a third think that if non-Iraqi terrorists could be prevented from crossing the border into Iraq, the insurgency would end. A majority of troops (53%) said the U.S. should double both the number of troops and bombing missions in order to control the insurgency.

The survey shows that most U.S. military personnel in-country have a clear sense of right and wrong when it comes to using banned weapons against the enemy, and in interrogation of prisoners. Four in five said they oppose the use of such internationally banned weapons as napalm and white phosphorous. And, even as more photos of prisoner abuse in Iraq surface around the world, 55% said it is not appropriate or standard military conduct to use harsh and threatening methods against insurgent prisoners in order to gain information of military value.

Three quarters of the troops had served multiple tours and had a longer exposure to the conflict: 26% were on their first tour of duty, 45% were on their second tour, and 29% were in Iraq for a third time or more.

A majority of the troops serving in Iraq said they were satisfied with the war provisions from Washington. Just 30% of troops said they think the Department of Defense has failed to provide adequate troop protections, such as body armor, munitions, and armor plating for vehicles like HumVees. Only 35% said basic civil infrastructure in Iraq, including roads, electricity, water service, and health care, has not improved over the past year. Three of every four were male respondents, with 63% under the age of 30.

The survey included 944 military respondents interviewed at several undisclosed locations throughout Iraq. The names of the specific locations and specific personnel who conducted the survey are being withheld for security purposes. Surveys were conducted face-to-face using random sampling techniques. The margin of error for the survey, conducted Jan. 18 through Feb. 14, 2006, is +/- 3.3 percentage points.

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The Troops Want to End Iraq Occupation in 2006

By Richard B. Mazess
28 Feb 06

A recent Zogby poll of 944 US soldiers in Iraq reported that 72% thought all troops should withdraw this year. The views of the troops differ markedly from those of their commander-in-chief, and the administration; only 23% wanted to "stay-the-course". The troops views, however, concur with those of the foreign policy establishment, e.g., General William Odom, former national security advisors Brent Scowcroft, Zbignew Brezinski, and see HERE
It is not surprising that liberal experts would favor withdrawal, since they viewed the invasion as a strategic error, but many conservative pundits, who initially favored the invasion, have now recognized it as a failure, with a trillion dollar cost, that is increasingly problematic for both Middle East stability and worldwide American credibility. The hostilities in Iraq are thought to greatly increase the risk of terror attacks elsewhere according to a BBC poll of 41,000 people in 35 countries.

There were differences in the Zogby poll among the service branches with the Reserves and National Guard overwhelming in favor of withdrawal (89% and 82%) this year compared to the Army and Marines (69% and 58% respectively). Even more impressively, three-quarters of the Guard and Reserves, and half of the Army, favored withdrawal within 6 months. Marines were more inclined to stay as long as needed (37%), but only a quarter of the Army, and 9% of the Guard and Reserves felt that way. Apparently Senator Russ Feingold and Rep. Jack Murtha knew what they were talking about when they proposed many months ago that the troops had done everything possible and should be leaving Iraq in 2006.

The view of the troops parallels the documented feeling of the Iraqi public; 80% want US forces out within months (and 50% feel that attacks on the US "occupiers" are justified). Similarly there is near unanimity among the Iraqi political leadership that US forces should withdraw as soon as tactically possible. At a meeting in Cairo last November these leaders proposed the US withdraw troops from Iraqi cities by May 2006.

Support for rapid withdrawal in the Zogby survey of troops, three-quarters of whom had served two or more tours of duty, was even higher than among the U.S. public. A majority of the US public (almost 60%) now believes that the troops should be withdrawn this year. Moreover, almost half of the public say that the US should never have invaded and troops should be withdrawn immediately. The view of the troops is more in accord with that of Democrat or progressive voters, 80% of whom favor rapid withdrawal. In contrast Republican voters (41%) are less inclined for withdrawal. Support for the administrations' performance in Iraq is waning among military officers as well.

Troops and the public disagree on the reasons for the war, but both groups now eschew the egregious propaganda about Saddam's WMD. At the same time the troops ascribe their mission in Iraq to the administration line that Saddam was harboring al Qaeda (77%) and was involved in the 9/11 attacks (85%); over half the public no longer believes these obvious administration falsehoods. While the troops have been misled to accept lies they also have been misled to reject truths about their mission. Only 11% see securing strategic oil supplies as a reason for the occupation, and only 6% recognize the mission as providing long-term US military bases. In fact the latter two items have been the dominating concerns of US policy in the Middle East for half a century. The Bush administration, with support of both parties in Congress, has established 14 long-term bases in Iraq to accommodate 50-100,000 troops for the next several decades.

The majority of the troops view the insurgency as largely homegrown; only 20% say this was not true, and only 25% think that elimination of non-Iraqi fighters would inhibit the insurgent forces. Leading experts agree that the ongoing presence of US troops is itself the major factor exacerbating hostilities, with both factions of the insurgency (nationalists and Jihadists) united against foreign occupation. In 2003 the insurgency was small, and poorly organized, and could only mount 50 attacks weekly. In 2004 the attack rate went to 150 to 200 per week and in 2005 to 750 attacks weekly. Perhaps because of the increased level of insurgent activities 53% of the troops opine that a doubling of troop strength and bombing activity would necessary to control the insurgency. In spite of the difficult situation over 80% of the troops maintain good feelings toward the Iraq civilian population. The recent upsurge of violence in Iraq may make it less politically possible to have the troop withdrawal that the troops, the Iraqis, and the American public all desire.

One hopeful factor is that the Iraqi resistance offered a ceasefire in December 2005 to allow occupation forces to peacefully withdraw from the cities to defined military bases, as suggested by the Iraqi government a month earlier.

Offsetting this, however, is a complete lack of response by the Bush administration.

Dick Mazess rbmazess@wisc.edu is Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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The Soldiers Speak. Will President Bush Listen?

NY Times
28 Feb 06

When President Bush held a public meeting with troops by satellite last fall, they were miraculously upbeat. And all along, unrepentant hawks (most of whom have never been to Iraq) have insisted that journalists are misreporting Iraq and that most soldiers are gung-ho about their mission.

Hogwash! A new poll to be released today shows that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly want out of Iraq... and soon.
The poll is the first of U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq, according to John Zogby, the pollster. Conducted by Zogby International and LeMoyne College, it asked 944 service members, \"How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq?\"

Only 23 percent backed Mr. Bush\'s position that they should stay as long as necessary. In contrast, 72 percent said that U.S. troops should be pulled out within one year. Of those, 29 percent said they should withdraw \"immediately.\"

That\'s one more bit of evidence that our grim stay-the-course policy in Iraq has failed. Even the American troops on the ground don\'t buy into it ? and having administration officials pontificate from the safety of Washington about the need for ordinary soldiers to stay the course further erodes military morale.

While the White House emphasizes the threat from non-Iraqi terrorists, only 26 percent of the U.S. troops say that the insurgency would end if those foreign fighters could be kept out. A plurality believes that the insurgency is made up overwhelmingly of discontented Iraqi Sunnis.

So what would it take to win in Iraq? Maybe that was the single most depressing finding in this poll.

By a two-to-one ratio, the troops said that \"to control the insurgency we need to double the level of ground troops and bombing missions.\" And since there is zero chance of that happening, a majority of troops seemed to be saying that they believe this war to be unwinnable.

This first systematic look at the views of the U.S. troops on the ground suggests that our present strategy in Iraq is failing badly. The troops overwhelmingly don\'t want to \"stay the course,\" and they don\'t seem to think the American strategy can succeed.

It\'s tempting, but not very helpful, to repeat that the fatal mistake was invading Iraq three years ago and leave it at that. That\'s easy for a columnist to say; the harder thing for a policy maker is to figure out what we do next, now that we\'re already there.

I still believe that while the war was a dreadful mistake, an immediate pullout would also be a misstep: anyone who says that Iraq can\'t get worse hasn\'t seen a country totally torn apart by chaos and civil war. Mr. Bush is right about the consequences of an immediate pullout ? to Iraq, and also to American influence around the world.

But while we shouldn\'t rush for the exits immediately, we should lay out a timetable for withdrawal that would remove all troops by the end of next year. And we should state clearly that we will not keep any military bases in Iraq ? that\'s a no-brainer, for it costs us nothing, but our hedging on bases antagonizes Iraqi nationalists and results in more dead Americans.

Such a timetable would force Iraqis to prepare ? politically and militarily ? to run their own country. The year or two of transition would galvanize Iraqi Shiites to find a modus vivendi with Sunnis while undermining the insurgents\' arguments that they are nationalists protecting the motherland from Yankee crusaders.

True, a timetable is arbitrary and risky, for it could just encourage insurgents to hang tight for another couple of years. But we\'re being killed ? literally ? because of nationalist suspicions among Iraqis that we\'re just after their oil and bases and that we\'re going to stay forever. It\'s crucial that we defuse that nationalist rage.

For now, we\'ve become the piñ¡´¡ of Iraqi politics, something for Iraqi demagogues to bash to boost their own legitimacy. Moktada al-Sadr, one of the scariest Iraqi leaders, has very shrewdly used his denunciations of the U.S. to boost his own political following and influence across Iraq; that\'s our gift to him, a consequence of our myopia. And many ordinary Iraqis are buying into this scapegoating of the U.S. Edward Wong, one of my intrepid Times colleagues in Baghdad, quoted a clothing merchant named Abdul-Qader Ali as saying: \"I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes ? it is America. Everything that is going on between Sunnis and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America.\"

Will a timetable work? I don\'t know, but it\'s a better bet than our present policy of whistling in the dark. And it\'s what the troops favor ? and they\'re the ones who have Iraq combat experience. It\'s time our commander in chief stopped stage-managing his troops and listened to them.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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TAKE THE WHITE HOUSE BY STORM - Stop Genocide, Torture and Occupation


Multi-Day Event, Beginning March 15, come when you can and stay as long as you can - we are taking over the White House until they leave.

Wednesday, March 15th 2006 12:00 AM
Washington, DC USA

U.N. SOS - We need your help to end the reign of international criminals.

It is our duty and the duty of the United Nations to rescue the people of the world from the U.S. dictators. Murder for occupation and theft of land is illegal. Murder of journalists is criminal. Remove the traitors who have stolen the U.S. budget and used it to commit international crimes against humanity.
If we were being bombed and our journalists were being murdered here in the U.S. by a foreign country\'s military, we would hope that the people of that country would stop what they are doing and go to their president\'s office and demand that it was stopped. If we were the ones burying thousands and thousands of our family members and watching the destruction of the homes, schools, churches and offices that we had worked for decades to build, we would hope that someone, somewhere would care enough to do something for us. We must stop the criminals in our government NOW. There is no meeting with Congress that is going to change what they are doing. We must put the power of the people into action and stay there until they leave!

Inviting everyone to the White House for a protest rally to show that we do not accept the criminal government, illegal wars and the permanent occupation planned for Iraq and Afghanistan. For Nat Turner, For Martin and Coretta, For all the Torture and Assassination in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and many others - We will not allow the Slave Holders that Still Prevail in this Country to Rule us any longer. Imprisonment and torture based on race, religion, resources or region is no different than the slavery we sought to abolish years ago. The Administration is Criminal and if they will not step down, we must storm in, show them how many of us do not accept a criminal government. How can we stand by and watch them kill our brothers, sisters, journalists and friends for their dollars?

We are calling on all citizens and governments in every country to stand with us. We are calling on all Member Nations of the U.N.; All Representatives and Justices in the World Court and International Criminal Courts; All Human Rights Advocates; All Soldiers and CIA agents and government officials who have been blackmailed or are in fear of the dictators to join us in ending this reign of corporate terror in our government. The World Criminal Courts need to incarcerate Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for admitted crimes and known crimes of international scope. The Political Cooperative will put a new, temporary government in place that is comprised of people from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and all the organizations that have finally made us aware of the truth of the savage practices and illegal policies of our government in assassinating our own officials as well as people throughout the world who oppose their criminal activity. We need all of you to save U.S. victims and global victims from their ongoing criminal activity. We are calling on the military, police, citizens and religious organizations to stand with us and help us to bring democracy back to the United States and by doing so, free the world from the wrath, occupation, theft, torture, blackmail and assassination by the Criminals in the United States Government. What they have done all over the world is much worse than what Saddam Hussein has done, so why are they not in jail too? They have admitted to international and national crimes, so why have they not been taken to Court too?


White House, Washington DC Starting March 15th, come for as long as you can and bring signs that say U.N. SOS and \"Leave Now\" or whatever you would like to say. Ride Share and Room Share Plans can be made HERE
1600 Pennsylvania Ave Washington DC 20500

Darrow Boggiano

Sponsored By:
We are requesting participation from all members of the United Nations, PFAW, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Code Pink, police, soldiers, ACLU, CIA, NSA and International Courts of Justice/World Court. http://www.PoliticalCooperative.Org

Comment: The only way action like this would work would be if literally millions of people responded. And they would not only have to \"storm the White House,\" they would first have to weaken its defenses by engaging in a long siege of boycotting the news media that do not report the facts, and the corporations that support the Neocons. It would take a couple of months of consistent, hard pressure to make it work. And so far, there are not enough citizens awakened yet. They need to suffer more before they wake up and you can be sure that the Neocons will see to THAT!

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Ike Saw It Coming

By Bob Herbert
NY Times
28 Feb 06

Early in the documentary film \"Why We Fight,\" Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York City police officer whose son was killed in the World Trade Center attack, describes his personal feelings in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11.

\"Somebody had to pay for this,\" he says. \"Somebody had to pay for 9/11. ... I wanna see their bodies stacked up for what they did. For taking my son.\"

Lost in the agony of his grief, Mr. Sekzer wanted revenge. He wanted the government to go after the bad guys, and when the government said the bad guys were in Iraq, he didn\'t argue.
For most of his life Mr. Sekzer was a patriot straight out of central casting. His view was always \"If the bugle calls, you go.\" When he was 21 he was a gunner on a helicopter in Vietnam. He didn\'t question his country\'s motives. He was more than willing to place his trust in the leadership of the nation he loved.

\"Why We Fight,\" a thoughtful, first-rate movie directed by Eugene Jarecki, is largely about how misplaced that trust has become. The central figure in the film is not Mr. Jarecki, but Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican president who had been the supreme Allied commander in Europe in World War II, and who famously warned us at the end of his second term about the profound danger inherent in the rise of the military-industrial complex.

Ike warned us, but we didn\'t listen. That\'s the theme the movie explores.

Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to a national television and radio audience in January 1961. \"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,\" he said. He recognized that this development was essential to the defense of the nation. But he warned that \"we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.\"

\"The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,\" he said. \"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.\" It was as if this president, who understood war as well or better than any American who ever lived, were somehow able to peer into the future and see the tail of the military-industrial complex wagging the dog of American life, with inevitably disastrous consequences.

The endless billions to be reaped from the horrors of war are a perennial incentive to invest in the war machine and to keep those wars a-coming. \"His words have unfortunately come true,\" says Senator John McCain in the film. \"He was worried that priorities are set by what benefits corporations as opposed to what benefits the country.\"

The way you keep the wars coming is to keep the populace in a state of perpetual fear. That allows you to continue the insane feeding of the military-industrial complex at the expense of the rest of the nation\'s needs. \"Before long,\" said Mr. Jarecki in an interview, \"the military ends up so overempowered that the rest of your national life has been allowed to atrophy.\"

In one of the great deceptive maneuvers in U.S. history, the military-industrial complex (with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as chairman and C.E.O., respectively) took its eye off the real enemy in Afghanistan and launched the pointless but far more remunerative war in Iraq.

If you want to get a chill, just consider the tragic chaos in present-day Iraq (seven G.I.\'s were killed on the day I went to see \"Why We Fight\") and then listen to Susan Eisenhower in the film recalling a quotation attributed to her grandfather: \"God help this country when somebody sits at this desk who doesn\'t know as much about the military as I do.\"

The military-industrial complex has become so pervasive that it is now, as one of the figures in the movie notes, all but invisible. Its missions and priorities are poorly understood by most Americans, and frequently counter to their interests.

Near the end of the movie, Mr. Sekzer, the New York cop who lost his son on Sept. 11, describes his reaction to President Bush\'s belated acknowledgment that \"we\'ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved\" in the Sept. 11 attacks.

\"What the hell did we go in there for?\" Mr. Sekzer asks.

Unable to hide his bitterness, he says: \"The government exploited my feelings of patriotism, of a deep desire for revenge for what happened to my son. But I was so insane with wanting to get even, I was willing to believe anything.\"

© 2006 The New York Times

Comment: Indeed, the Pathocrats have no illusions about their fate should they be fully exposed to the public. That is why there is no crime they will not commit to prevent that.

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The S.O.B. has to go

Doug Thompson, Capitol Hill Blue

Bonnie Erbe, a columnist whose work I respect, writes elsewhere on this web site today that President George W. Bush should be impeached for his many high crimes against the Constitution of the United States.
\"The non-partisan polling firm Zogby International last month found that by a margin of 52 percent to 43 percent, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge\'s approval,\" Erbe says. \"Well, there\'s no \"if\" about it anymore. The president approved warrantless wiretaps in 2002. Two years later, during a campaign appearance in Buffalo, N.Y. he volunteered he\'d done nothing of the kind. That\'s called breaking the law and lying about it.\"
It has taken a while but the American people are coming around to realize what some of us have been saying for some time: George Bush is a serious threat to the future of this country and represents a clear and present danger to the peace and security of the United States of America.

We\'re not talking about some Presidential horn toad nailing an intern in the oval office. We\'re not even talking about a paranoid, power-mad President tapping the phones of the opposition party. We\'re talking about a concentrated effort to undermine the Constitution of the United States, subvert the laws of the nation and destroy the very foundations of this country.

Bush is a power-mad megalomaniac hell-bent on undermining the freedoms and civil liberties that once characterized this nation, a crazed despot who cares nothing for the truth, human decency or law.

He is more dangerous than Osama bin Laden and more corrupt than any President in modern history. He is, simply put, a threat who must be removed from office now by whatever legal means necessary to protect the safety of the nation.

Bonnie is a lady and her well-written, sanely-reasoned column should be read and heeded by all.

\"Grassroots passion for impeachment prompted by this president\'s circumvention of Congress and the Constitution is what\'s driving growing public support,\" she says. \"And America\'s transition from \'Bush fan\' to \'Bush foe\' is being ignored by the mainstream media.\"

Jonathan Turley is a constitutional law professor at George Washington University and also sees Bush as a threat to Democracy.

\"President George W. Bush has claimed the authority to violate federal statutes when he believes it is necessary for the nation\'s security,\" Turley says. \"Such a claim of authority would upset the delicate balance of power in our tripartite system of government and convert the Chief Executive into a type of maximum leader; the very scourge that led our Framers to form this Republic\"

I\'m neither as polite as Bonnie Erbe or as scholarly as Jonathan Turley. But agree with both of them without reservation.

The son-of-a-bitch has to go.

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Thousands of Indians Protest Bush Visit

1 Mar 06

AP - Tens of thousands of Indians waving black and white flags and chanting "Death to Bush!" rallied Wednesday in New Delhi to protest a visit by President Bush.

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Ann Coulter cancels appearance after Republican Complaints

By Steven Harmon
The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- Chris Meyer immediately bought 10 more tickets to the Kent County Republican Party\'s Lincoln Day Dinner -- once he heard commentator Ann Coulter backed out of her March 16 commitment as keynote speaker.

Meyer, a Grand Rapids attorney and Republican candidate for state House, protested Coulter\'s scheduled appearance by telling supporters on his campaign Web site he planned to leave the event after dinner and before Coulter\'s speech.

But now that GOP officials are hunting for a replacement, Meyer said he can feel comfortable going full tilt at the party\'s biggest fundraiser of the year.
\"I\'m pleased she\'s not coming,\" said Meyer, involved in a GOP primary with Tim Doyle for a chance to succeed state Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids. \"She\'s a divisive figure, and anytime when you\'re talking about a Lincoln Day Dinner, especially in an election year, to have a divisive figure come in is not good for the party.\"

Party officials weren\'t quite as sanguine over Coulter\'s cancellation. They were ready to pay her $35,000 and were expecting to sell the maximum 1,500 tickets at $75 a pop for the downtown event at DeVos Place.

They lost her when one of Coulter\'s booking agents found that another booking agent -- one who books Coulter for her college speaking circuit -- scheduled her for a Florida State University event in Tallahassee the same night, said Brian Pierce, the Kent County GOP\'s executive director, who handled her arrangements here.

\"You\'d think they\'d have a shared calendar, but they don\'t,\" he said of the Premiere Speaker\'s Bureau and the Young America\'s Foundation, the latter of which books her college appearances.

Although they are offering refunds for the cancellation, Kent County Republicans had not heard from anybody seeking one, Pierce said. They expect to name a replacement this week, possibly a presidential hopeful, a White House official, or somebody else from the conservative speaker\'s circuit.

Some didn\'t accept the explanation of Coulter\'s scheduling conflict. Lana Boldi, the former Democratic Party Chairwoman who criticized the choice of Coulter for the event, had her own theory.

\"I suspect high-level candidates put the pressure on (party officials) to come up with a reason to pull her,\" Boldi said. \"It would have been just too embarrassing for candidates. They were fearful it would affect their ability to fundraise and to get the votes because people would be so turned off.\"

She added: \"Whatever reason they give, I\'m simply pleased she\'s not coming to this area, because I think we\'re bigger than that.\"

John Van Fossen, the GOP\'s co-finance chairman, scoffed at the idea Coulter was edged out of her appearance in Grand Rapids because of her controversial style.

\"There was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for Ann Coulter,\" Van Fossen said. \"It was a scheduling issue we couldn\'t resolve. I don\'t think Ann Coulter has shied away from controversy. I\'m pretty confident that wasn\'t the factor.\"

The party still is hopeful of landing Coulter for another of its upcoming fundraiser events -- possibly in May, the fall or for a holiday reception, Pierce said.

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Death of a professor

Haifa Zangana
February 28, 2006
The Guardian

There is now a systematic campaign to assassinate Iraqis who speak out against the occupation

In a letter to a friend in Europe, Abdul Razaq al-Na\'as, a Baghdad university professor in his 50s, grieved for his killed friends and colleagues. His letter concluded: \"I wonder who is next!\" He was. On January 28 al-Na\'as drove from his office at Baghdad University. Two cars blocked his, and gunmen opened fire, killing him instantly.

Al-Na\'as is not the first academic to be killed in the mayhem of the \"new Iraq\". Hundreds of academics and scientists have met this fate since the March 2003 invasion. Baghdad universities alone have mourned the killing of over 80 members of staff. The minister of education stated recently that during 2005, 296 members of education staff were killed and 133 wounded.
Not one of these crimes has been investigated by the occupation forces or the interim governments. They leave that to international humanitarian groups and anti-war organisations. Among them is the Brussels Tribunal on Iraq, which has compiled a list to persuade the UN special rapporteur on summary executions to investigate the issue; they do so with the help of Iraqi academics, who risk their lives in the process. Their research shows that the victims have been men and women from all over Iraq, from different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds. Most were vocally opposed to the occupation. For the most part, they were killed in a fashion that suggests cold-blooded assassination. No one has claimed responsibility.

Like many Iraqis, I believe these killings are politically motivated and connected to the occupying forces\' failure to gain any significant social support in the country. For the occupation\'s aims to be fulfilled, independent minds have to be eradicated. We feel that we are witnessing a deliberate attempt to destroy intellectual life in Iraq.

Dr al-Na\'as was a familiar face on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya TV. He had often condemned the continued presence of US-led troops in Iraq, and criticised the sectarian interim governments and their militias. His case echoes the assassination of the academic Dr Abdullateef al-Mayah. A prominent human rights campaigner and critic of the occupation, Mayah was killed only 12 hours after he had appeared on al-Jazeera denouncing the corruption of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

Militias have replaced the disbanded Iraqi army, applying their own rule of law. Some units operate under a semblance of \"legality\" - the \"wolf brigade\", attached to the interior ministry, is infamous for its terror raids on mosques and the torture of civilians.

Last month the journalist Abdul Hadi al-Zaidi accused the government\'s militias of targeting intellectuals. He is one of a group of Iraqi journalists who, in the aftermath of al-Na\'as\'s assassination, went on strike, demanding an immediate investigation into the \"systematic assassination campaign\" against intellectuals opposed to the occupation.

After the July London bombings, Tony Blair promised the British people to \"bring those responsible to justice\". In Iraq, the British government does exactly the opposite. The law of occupation states that: \"All foreign soldiers, diplomats or contractors implicated in the killing of Iraqi civilians are immune from arrest or trial in Iraq.\" Both the British and US governments turn a blind eye to the systematic violations of human rights and murders committed by their clients in Iraq.

It has become obvious that the occupation forces, with their elite troops and $6bn-a-month budget, cannot hold Iraq. The only honorable and realistic way out is genuine dialogue with the Iraqi resistance over a complete withdrawal of foreign troops and adequate reparations and debt-cancellation to rebuild the country.

· Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi-born novelist and former prisoner of Saddam\'s regime; a longer version of this article will appear in Not One More Death, published next month by Verso


Comment: As Laura wrote in her brief history of Poland during WW II, killing the intellgentsia in any country that an imperialist power wishes to subjugate is first in the order of business:
The transformation of Poland into a German province was to be carried out over a short period of twenty-five or thirty years. Hence, no mercy was to be shown to this population. And, to guarantee the success of this fast despoliation, the intelligentsia was to be liquidated. \"It sounds cruel, \" Hitler reportedly told Hans Frank, \"but such is the law of life.\"

The terrible thing about this is that so many great minds are lost to humanity and it is humanity as a whole that suffers in the long run.

But Pathocrats don\'t think of that: they only think about power. Like germs, they don\'t understand that when the body dies, they too will be cast into the fire.

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Car bomb kills 23 amid Iraq sectarian bloodshed

1 Mar 06

BAGHDAD - At least 23 people were killed in Baghdad car bomb attack a day after a spate of bombings in Iraq left 64 dead amid renewed fears of intercommunal bloodshed.

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Hypocrite and Liar Bush Lauds Iraqis, Heads to South Asia

1 Mar 06

President Bush praised Iraqis' "defiance of the terrorists and the killers" before embarking Tuesday on a ties-strengthening visit to South Asia — the presumed hiding place of Osama bin Laden and a part of the world where the war on terror is often close at hand.

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Car bomb kills 23 amid Iraq sectarian bloodshed

28 Feb 06

AFP - At least 23 people were killed in Baghdad car bomb attack a day after a spate of bombings in Iraq left 64 dead amid renewed fears of intercommunal bloodshed.

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The Iraq War in Context: A Strategy Paper Calling for the Immediate Withdrawal of U.S. Troops

By Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer

And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid. From Dick and Lynn Cheney's 2003 Christmas card [1]

"The United States will not hesitate to strike preemptively against enemies, and will never again allow its military supremacy to be challenged." The National Security Strategy of the United States of America[2]

Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model for the world. President George W. Bush[3]

The United States needs to lose the war in Iraq as soon as possible. Even more urgently, the whole world needs the United States to lose the war in Iraq…What is at stake now is the way we run the world for the next generation or more, and really bad things will happen if we get it wrong.
Gwynne Dyer[4]

We had to create a false rational for going in [to Iraq] to get public support. The books were cooked, in my mind. The intelligence was not there. I testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee one month before the war, and Senator Lugar asked me: "General Zinni, do you feel the threat from Saddam Hussein is imminent?" I said: "No, not at all. It was not an imminent threat. Not even close. Not grave, gathering, imminent, serious, severe, mildly upsetting, none of those." General Anthony Zinni, USMC (Retired)[5]

There are people of good will who think the invasion of Iraq was wrong but our country needs to clean up the mess it has created. Pulling U.S. troops out now would be irresponsible, some fear, because it would lead to chaos. The dilemma facing those of us who want to help is that the well-being of Iraqis isn't important to U.S. leaders who invaded and occupy Iraq for other reasons. Meaningful discussions about how to best help Iraqis, or about a realistic exit strategy, or about presumed obstacles to such a strategy, depend on an honest assessment of why the United States invaded and continues to occupy Iraq. Once the real reasons for the invasion and occupation of Iraq are brought to light it is clear that an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops offers the best hope for peace and stability in Iraq.

Manipulating Our Fear and Grief

Politicians and the media tell us almost nothing about why the United States invaded and occupies Iraq. Since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 citizens have been targeted with a sophisticated campaign by the Bush administration to sow fear within the body politic. Fearful people tend to be compliant. Fed a steady diet of rhetoric prior to the war concerning weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and terror threats, and offered comforting words during the occupation about promoting freedom and democracy we suspend critical reason. Bush administration officials play on post 9/11 fears and our idealism and then invade and occupy Iraq for unrelated reasons. A Republican administration has orchestrated these efforts but far too many Democrats have gone along with this dangerous charade.

Reason may also be suspended when discussing Iraq because many of us have family, friends, or coworkers serving there. Each deployment or return of U.S. troops and each U.S. soldier killed or wounded becomes a human interest story wrapped in rhetorical cloaks of patriotism, nationalism, heroism, and service to country. Our grief is used to fuel rather than challenge the war and the causes of the war and the reasons for the occupation and so many senseless deaths go unexplored. One father of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq writes that his son's death and other deaths "will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers, may be wasted as well."[6]

Propaganda and Lies in Service to War

Prior to the terror attacks of 9/11, administration officials made it clear that Iraq wasn't a threat to its neighbors or the United States. Secretary of State Collin Powell said on February 24, 2001, "And frankly, [sanctions] have worked. [Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors." Similarly, then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said in July, 2001 that "Saddam does not control the northern part of the country. We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."[7]

The rhetoric of U.S. leaders and not the situation in Iraq changed following 9/11.[8] Vice President Dick Cheney jump-started a well-developed public relations campaign for war based on false premises on August 26, 2002: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." Less than two months later Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned that Iraq, an arch enemy of Osama bin Laden, in "a week, or a month" could provide al Qaeda with "weapons of mass destruction" that could potentially kill 100,000 people.[9]

A non-partisan report, "Iraq on the Record," produced by the United States House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform dated March 16, 2004 demonstrated that the campaign of lies and fear mongering was extensive, calculated, and coordinated. It documented "237 specific misleading statements" made by President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to justify war with Iraq. A simple definition of a misstatement is a lie. However, for "purposes of the data base," the report noted, "a statement is considered 'misleading' if it conflicted with what intelligence officials knew at the time or involved the selective use of intelligence or the failure to include essential qualifiers or caveats." The misleading statements by the five notables named above, the report said, reflected "a pattern of consistent misrepresentation."[10]

Administration officials invented or exaggerated threats with full knowledge at the time they made their false claims that Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) nor ties to international terrorists such as al Qaeda. As Anthony Zinni, former commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), noted "we had to create a false rationale for going to war" and so the "books were cooked." "No one in the region felt threatened by Saddam" and his military "didn't have the capabilities that were pumped up, that were supposedly possessed by this military." Zinni said "the rationale that we faced an imminent threat, or a serious threat, was ridiculous."[11]

9-11 offered administration officials an opportunity to sow, cultivate, and harvest the fruits of a politics of fear that would enable them to pursue previously determined objectives, including the invasion of Iraq. As Gwynne Dyer, the well respected political analyst, historian of war, and friend of the United States writes, 9-11 "unleashed forces in Washington that were itching to make a takeover bid [to take charge of the world], and now we live in the middle of a train wreck."[12] "Islamist terrorists," as Dyer notes, "are a very small enemy, though Washington does everything in its power to pump it up." The Bush administration has used the events of 9-11 to "hijack the entire international agenda for years." "How did a relatively limited disaster like 9-11 lead to the huge, system-wide disruption we are now seeing?" Dyer asks. "The best answer is that the terrorist project of the al-Qaeda jihadis has collided with and energized another, far more dangerous project for changing the world: that of the American neo-conservatives."[13]

Why the United States Invaded Iraq

Neoconservatives[14] in the Bush administration who led the country to war with Iraq wrote extensively prior to the war about their broader objectives. Their writings reveal that the war with Iraq was never about Iraq itself and that the invasion had little to do with fears about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), fighting terrorism, or spreading democracy. As Dyer notes, for the foreign policy planners in the Bush administration "Iraq is the lynchpin of a far larger enterprise."[15]

The invasion of Iraq was a key component in what the neoconservatives referred to as "America's grand strategy," an ambitious plan to use U.S. military power to achieve permanent global domination. Equally troubling, the Bush administration cast its aspirations for empire, which included plans for "regime change" in Iraq, in the light of divine mission. Ours is a "chosen nation" and God who watches over sparrows also watches over the emergence of U.S. "empire."

Three documents written by key administration officials before the U.S. invasion of Iraq describe the logic and nuts and bolts of "America's grand strategy", including the importance placed on invading Iraq. These documents are part of the public record but inexcusably they are absent from public debate concerning the reasons for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. The first is the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) report written in 1992. The two notables behind the document were Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney. Wolfowitz was at the time Under Secretary of Defense for Policy for then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He served as Deputy Secretary of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld during George W. Bush's first term in office.

The second document is "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century" (RAD) published in September 2000 by the neoconservative think tank the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). PNAC supporters dominated the Bush administration's foreign policy team, including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams, Lewis Libby, and John R. Bolton.[16] The third document, which institutionalized many of the recommendations made in the DPG and RAD reports, is "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America"(NSS), the official foreign policy statement of the Bush administration released in September 2002.[17]

The DPG draft laid out guidelines for U.S. foreign policy now that U.S. power was no longer constrained by the defunct Soviet Union. It stressed three central themes. "Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival," the DPG draft stated. "This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power." The world, in other words, had one superpower and no other nation or group of nations need apply. No rival would be tolerated anywhere, not in "Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union, [or] Southwest Asia."

As the world's only military superpower, the United States is in a unique and advantageous position, the DPG draft argued. The United States should use its dominant position, including its overwhelming military power, to establish permanent supremacy. The "first objective" of U.S. foreign policy, according to the DPG draft, was to capitalize on its strategic advantage in order to "maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."

A second theme in the DPG draft is that no nation or group of nations was in a position to stop the United States and so U.S. foreign policy should aggressively promote U.S. interests and so-called American values. The United States should use its dominant position and unstoppable military power to "spread democratic forms of government and open economic systems," and to counter regional threats, including threats from countries such as Iraq and North Korea. According to the DPG draft, U.S. military power was unprecedented in scope and without serious challenge. Its effective use would allow the United States to address a variety of problems, including: "access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, threats to U.S. citizens from terrorism or regional or local conflict, and threats to U.S. society from narcotics trafficking."

A third theme in the DPG draft is unilateralism. In order to turn present military advantages into permanent global supremacy and to use supremacy as a basis for achieving tactical objectives, the United States needed to act alone. It could no longer allow its power to be limited by international agreements, treaties, or laws. The DPG draft made no mention of taking collective action through the United Nations. It noted that although coalitions "hold considerable promise for promoting collective action," the United States "should expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies" to deal with particular crises. It "should be postured to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated."

With the election of Bill Clinton the neoconservatives lost their positions within government but their core ideas were promoted in think tanks such as The Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Established in 1997, PNAC's "Statement of Principles" said that as "the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's most preeminent power" but faces a critical question: "Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?" The United States needed "a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges." "If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests" and "it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire."

The central themes of the DPG draft were developed in great detail in PNAC's report, "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (RAD), and nearly all of RAD's recommendations became formal U.S. policy during the Bush administration's first term. RAD, published a year before the terrorist attacks of 9-11, was a sweeping blueprint for U.S. global domination through the unilateral use of military power. In "broad terms, we saw the project as building upon the defense strategy outlined by the Cheney Defense Department…," the authors of RAD wrote. "The Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) drafted in the early months of 1992 provided a blueprint for maintaining preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests." The "basic tenets of the DPG, in our judgment, remain sound."

The Soviet Union no longer existed and no nation or group of nations was capable of restraining U.S. power. "The Cold War world was a bipolar world; the 21st century is-for the moment, at least-decidedly unipolar, with America as the world's 'sole superpower,'" the RAD noted. "At no time in history has the international security order been as conducive to American interests and ideals. The challenge for the coming century is to preserve and enhance this 'American peace.'" A fundamental premise of RAD was "that U.S. military capabilities should be sufficient to support an American grand strategy committed to building upon this unprecedented opportunity." Although at "present the United States faced no global rival," RAD warned that "even a global Pax Americana will not preserve itself" and that "unless the United States maintains sufficient military strength, this opportunity will be lost." "America's grand strategy," RAD argued, "should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible."

Many aspects of "America's grand strategy" described in RAD were formalized in the NSS document. Core recommendations that were central to that strategy included:

Dramatic increases in U.S. military spending. Huge budget increases for the military, according to RAD, would enable the United States to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars," to "perform the 'constabulary' duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions," to preserve "Pax Americana," and "to maintain the United States as the 'arsenal of democracy' for the 21st century."

Significant expansion of foreign U.S. military bases into areas of strategic interest, including establishment of permanent military bases and permanent positioning of U.S. soldiers in the oil-rich Middle East. The DPG saw U.S. military power as the key to securing "access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil," and RAD notes, "Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." Although aware that the presence of U.S. troops in the region fueled anti-American hatred, RAD recommended that "a permanent unit [of the U.S. Army] be based in the Persian Gulf region."

The NSS, like RAD, sought dramatic increases in military spending and expansion of U.S. bases worldwide in order to increase interventionist capabilities. In order "to meet the many security challenges we face, the United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. forces." "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States."

The DPG, RAD and the NSS reports make clear that U.S. foreign policy is increasingly dominated by a desire to control strategically important resources, including and especially oil. The DPG draft noted, for example, that "In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil." U.S. oil dependency has shocking yet predictable foreign policy implications. The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's people but uses 25 percent of the world's oil.

According to the Cheney Energy Commission report of May 2001, U.S. oil production would decline by 18 percent and consumption would rise 31 percent by 2025 with nearly 70 percent of total supply coming from imports! The Department of Energy painted an even bleaker picture with projections that U.S. consumption would increase by 44 percent.

The U.S. military, according to these and other documents, is assigned the task of securing foreign oil supplies. Michael Klare writes in his important book, Blood and Oil, that "in a top-secret document, dated February 3, 2001, a high ranking official of the National Security Council directed the NSC staff to cooperate with the NEPDG (Cheney Energy Commission) in assessing the military implications of the administration's energy plan." This document "envisioned the 'melding' of two White House priorities: stepped up pressure on 'rogue states," such as Iraq, and 'actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.'"[18]

The Bush administration's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) released several months later named oil producing regions as "critical points" where U.S. forces may need to invade and then noted: "The United States must retain the capability to send well-armed and logistically supported forces to critical points around the globe, even in the face of enemy opposition."[19] Klare states the truth with utter simplicity: "Slowly but surely, the U.S. military is being converted into a global oil-protection service."[20]

Maintain nuclear superiority by developing "useable" nuclear weapons and denying other nations the right to develop nuclear weapons. This recommendation, seeped in double standards, is reinforced in other administration documents. RAD had called on the United States to "maintain nuclear strategic superiority, basing the U.S. nuclear deterrent upon a global, nuclear net assessment that weighs the full range of current and emerging threats, not merely the U.S.-Russia balance." The Nuclear Posture Review submitted to Congress on December 31, 2001 targeted a broad-range of potential adversaries for nuclear attack, including China, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Syria, North Korea, and Libya. It called for development of "nuclear offensive forces" as part of a "capabilities approach" to nuclear weapons and raised the possibility of development of a new generation of lower yield systems. It also raised the specter of nuclear weapons deployed in space as part of a multi-tiered missile defense system.[21

Establishment of a Missile Defense System. RAD envisions missile defense as the key to offensive warfare. "Effective ballistic missile defense will be the central element in the exercise of American power and the projection of U.S. military forces abroad. Without it," RAD warned, "weak states operating small arsenals of crude ballistic missiles, armed with basic nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction, will be…in a strong position to deter the United States from using conventional force…America's ability to project power will be deeply compromised." "The failure to build missile defenses" would "compromise the exercise of American power abroad" which would "ensure that the current Pax Americana comes to an early end."

Militarization of space. Militarizing space is a central aspect of "America's grand strategy" even though it is against international law and violates international treaties. RAD argues that "maintaining control of space will inevitably require the application of force both in space and from space, including but not limited to antimissile defenses and defensive systems capable of protecting U.S. and allied satellites; space control cannot be sustained in any other fashion, with conventional land, sea, or airforce, or by electronic warfare." It noted that "space dominance may become so essential to the preservation of American military preeminence that it may require a separate service." According to the authors of RAD:

In short, the unequivocal supremacy in space enjoyed by the United States today will be increasingly at risk…For U.S. armed forces to continue to assert military preeminence, control of space-defined by Space Command as "the ability to assure access to space, freedom of operations within the space medium, and an ability to deny others the use of space"-must be an essential element of our military strategy. If America cannot maintain that control, its ability to conduct global military operations will be severely complicated, far more costly, and potentially fatally compromised.

The RAD recommendation to militarize space is reinforced in other administration documents. According to the "Report of the Commission to Assess United States National Security, Space Management, and Organization" (the Rumsfeld Commission), "Space-related capabilities help national leaders to implement American foreign policy and, when necessary, to use military power in ways never before possible." "In the coming period," the report stated, "the U.S. will conduct operations to, from, in and through space in support of national interests both on earth and in space."[22]

The "Air Force Space Command's Strategic Master Plan FY04 and Beyond" expressed similarly that the "Air Force Space Command has the vision and the people to ensure the United States achieves Space Superiority today and in the future." "We are developing capabilities to control space and maintain our Space Superiority." It was developing "space power options to discourage…any form of coercion against the United States." "Our strategy is to maintain and increase the advantages of our force enabling capabilities while expanding our role as a full-spectrum force provider with new capabilities to deny the advantages of space to our adversaries," the Master Plan said. "Our strategy will enable us to transform space power to provide our Nation with diverse options to globally apply force in, from, and through space with modern ICBMs, offensive counterspace, and new conventional prompt global strike capabilities."[23]

The objectives to be pursued through the militarization and control of space were stated clearly in the United States Space Command report "Vision 2020." The cover of "Vision 2020" featured a laser shot from space destroying a target on earth overlaid with the caption: "US Space Command-dominating the space dimensions of US military operations to protect US interests and investments. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict." "Vision 2020" described domination of space as vital to U.S. intervention capabilities in a world that was fracturing due to inequalities resulting from globalization. "Although unlikely to be challenged by a global peer competitor, the United States will continue to be challenged regionally. The globalization of the world economy will also continue, with a widening between the 'haves' and 'have nots.'"[24]

Unilateral Action, Undermining International Law. RAD and the NSS, like the DPG report that preceded them, called on the United States to withdraw from international agreements such as the ABM Treaty and violate others such as the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that recognized "the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes…"[25] The authors ridiculed and sought to undermine the United Nations and any international agreements that limited the unilateral exercise of U.S. power. Both RAD and the NSS advocated preventive war (they call it preemption), a concept with no legal standing in international law. The United States, according to the NSS, was "prepared to act apart when our interests and unique responsibilities require." It would pursue its interests through "coalitions of the willing." "We will build defenses against ballistic missiles and other means of delivery…And, as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed. We cannot defend America and our friends," the NSS stated, "by hoping for the best." "While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively…" We will take "anticipatory action to defend ourselves…To forestall or prevent…hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively."

The QDR, mentioned above in the context of using the U.S. military to secure oil supplies, foreshadowed a "preemptive" war with Iraq. It called for military capabilities sufficient to "swiftly defeat aggression in overlapping major conflicts while preserving for the President the option to call for a decisive victory in one of these conflicts-including the possibility of regime change or occupation."[26] Arthur Schlesinger, historian and former advisor to the Kennedy administration, wrote at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq: "The president has adopted a policy of 'anticipatory self-defense' that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor…[and] today it is we Americans who live in infamy."[27]

The Bush administration invaded Iraq and implemented its "grand strategy" with impunity and then sought immunity from its illegal actions. By objective standards, U.S. leaders are guilty of war crimes. For example, the 1945 Nuremburg Charter states that "to initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." Counts one and two at the Nuremburg trial of Nazi leaders were "conspiracy to wage aggressive war and waging aggressive war" defined as "the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances."[28]

U.S. leaders could be held accountable for crimes against humanity, genocide, or crimes of war as defined by the Nuremburg Principles, the Geneva Conventions, and the 1984 Convention against Torture. Administration officials were aware of this danger and thus argued that the Geneva Conventions weren't binding for the United States in fighting the "war on terror" and they tried to cripple the International Criminal Court (ICC). The NSS said, "We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept." It also expressed the U.S. government's determination to "implement fully the American Servicemembers Protection Act, whose provisions are intended to ensure and enhance the protection of U.S. personnel and officials." Human Rights Watch dubbed this the "Hague Invasion Act" and described it this way:

U.S. President George Bush today [August 3, 2002] signed into law the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, which is intended to intimidate countries that ratify the treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American citizen of a U.S. allied country being held by the court, which is located in the Hague…In addition, the law provides for the withdrawal of U.S. military assistance from countries ratifying the ICC treaty, and restricts U.S. participation in United Nations peacekeeping unless the United States obtains immunity from prosecution.[29]

The unilateralism advocated in the DPG and RAD, and formalized in the NSS was born of necessity. Neither allies nor adversaries lent credence or international legitimacy to "America's grand strategy" aimed at establishment of a permanent global empire. The neoconservatives were determined to invade Iraq, establish a compliant government, privatize the Iraqi economy, and control Iraqi oil. They were also eager to free U.S. power from the constraints of international agreements and to establish permanent military bases in Iraq in order to control Middle Eastern oil as part of a broader effort to control global energy supplies and their suppliers.

Assessing the Train Wreck

Any thoughtful discussion of an exit strategy from Iraq must begin with the understanding that the war was not fought to protect us from WMD or terrorism, or to promote democracy, nor was it a "mistake" rooted in faulty intelligence. Publishing their RAD document in September 2000, the architects of the "grand strategy" understood that their proposals would receive a cool reception from U.S. citizens unless, they wrote, there was "some catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor." Using 9/11 as their "catalyzing event" administration officials hyped Iraq's threat, manufactured, manipulated, and falsified intelligence, and deliberately lied to both Congress and the U.S. people in order to create support for an illegal war. In doing so, they violated human decency, the U.S. constitution, and international law. "America's grand strategy" was breathtaking in arrogance and scope, a blueprint to aggressively use U.S. military power to achieve permanent global domination. Iraq was the lynchpin in that strategy. Not surprisingly, the consequences of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq have been disastrous by nearly every measure.

Financial Costs

Hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted and the war continues to cost U.S. taxpayers between $5-6 billion each month.[30] Funds squandered on the war coupled with massive tax breaks for wealthy Americans fuel enormous budget deficits that have grave implications for the U.S. economy. Total costs to the United States in its invasion and occupation of Iraq, according to Joseph Stiglitz, a Colombia University professor who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001, could reach $2 Trillion.[31]

Funds for war translate into many unmet social needs at home and abroad, needs that if met could make our communities stronger, our country safer, and the world a more hopeful place. Each dollar spent on the war is a dollar not spent to improve health care, education, or housing. It is a dollar not spent to rebuild Iraq. It is a dollar not spent to address global warming, build windmills, fight aids, or prevent a bird flu pandemic. It is a dollar not spent to help end poverty in Minnesota, the United States, or worldwide. It is a dollar not spent to strengthen our economy and our communities. It is a dollar not spent to spread hope.[32]

Worldwide nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day and according to the United Nations developing countries could achieve and maintain "universal access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food for all and safe water and sanitation for all" at a cost of approximately 40 billion additional dollars a year. "This is less than 4 percent of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world."[33] It is also less than the cost of 7 months of war in Iraq.

Human Costs

Direct human costs related to the war continue to escalate. 2235 U.S. soldiers had been killed in Iraq, including at least 30 Minnesotans, and 16,155 wounded as of January 25, 2006.[34] Estimates of Iraqi casualties vary widely. The British medical journal, The Lancet, reported in October 2004 that Iraq suffered 98,000 "excess deaths" from March 2003 to September 2004. The Project on Defense Alternatives estimates the number of Iraqi wounded to be 100,000-120,000.[35] As Gwynne Dyer writes, "Iraqi civilians kept dying from car bombs, crime, and American firepower alike: recorded deaths from gunfire in Baghdad were up ninety-fold from Saddam's time, and many more were unrecorded."[36] Contrary to media images and the rhetoric of U.S. officials, more than four times as many Iraqi civilians are killed by U.S.-led forces than by insurgent violence,[37] and those resisting the U.S. occupation are almost entirely Iraqi.[38]

Many U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq will arrive with deep physical and/or emotional wounds. Vietnam demonstrated that war never ends for soldiers. It is shameful that the Bush administration is using U.S. soldiers as cannon fodder in their "grand strategy" and equally shameful that it is cutting veteran's benefits that will be desperately needed in the coming months and years.

Abuse and Torture of Prisoners Fuel Anti-American Hatred

Thousands of Iraqis have been detained or imprisoned without charges or trials by U.S. and U.S. trained forces. Torture and abuse of prisoners, legitimated by U.S. officials and carried out by U.S. personnel are widespread, and, according to international human rights groups, have far reaching consequences. Human Rights Watch reports that \"recent policy shifts in the United States have undermined the global ban on torture.\"[39] According to Amnesty International, the Bush administration has attempted to redefine what constitutes torture:

US authorities, like those of other states which have practiced torture and ill-treatment, have sought to evade the international prohibition. They have suggested very narrow definitions of torture, described certain forms of ill-treatment as \'stress and duress\' techniques, and claimed that certain forms of treatment are not necessarily illegal but can be justified on grounds such as military necessity or self-defense, even though neither legal principle would ever justify the use of torture or ill-treatment. Moreover, torture and ill-treatment do not become permissible by being called something else, and euphemisms cannot be use to evade legal and moral obligations.[40]

It is alarming, but not surprising, that an administration determined to undermine international law and treaties that limit the unilateral exercise of U.S. power, including the Geneva Conventions outlawing torture, is also willing to ignore U.S. law while claiming unlimited power for the Executive branch. The administration has launched a major domestic spying operation in direct violation of U.S. laws. Also, when Congress overwhelmingly passed the McCain amendment that bans the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners by U.S. personnel anywhere in the world President Bush issued a "signing statement" which asserts that he will "construe the law in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President…as Commander in Chief." In other words, the McCain amendment makes torture illegal but means nothing because the President is above the law.

U.S. sanctioned abuse of prisoners is not only morally indefensible, it is counterproductive. Testimonies from tortured prisoners are notoriously unreliable. Newsweek, for example, described a case involving the rendition of an al Qaeda leader (he was sent by the United States to Egypt to be tortured) who told his torturers what was clearly false but what they wanted to hear, namely, that al Qaeda terrorists had gone to Iraq to learn about chemical and biological weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell then used this false torture-induced testimony during his much discredited speech at the United Nations to build a case for war.[41] Also, torture fuels rather than foils terror. The Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations chaired by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger concludes, "The U.S. treatment of its prisoners has been a boon rather than a setback for al-Qaeda and has thereby made the world less safe from terror."[42]

U.S. abuse and torture of detainees and the war itself have fueled anti-American hatred within and outside of Iraq. Dyer notes that back "in 2001, popular support for the Islamists was in decline almost everywhere except Saudi Arabia and perhaps Pakistan." However, "ever since 9/11, the Bush administration has been doing exactly what they want, invading Muslim countries and serving as an unpaid but highly effective recruiting agent for extremists across the whole Muslim world."[43] According to Dyer:

The obsession with the sexual humiliation of naked Arab males seemed calculated to confirm all the worst imaginable stereotypes that Muslims hold about American behavior and values, which might just have been an unfortunate coincidence-or might have been an intrinsic part of the process, for humiliating prisoners and photographing the results is a standard part of the packaging of measures for putting pressure on captives…The result was to blacken the already poor reputation of the United States virtually beyond repair, at least for this generation, in the Arab world.[44]

The problem of terrorism is real but relatively minor compared to other global challenges that must be faced, including death through disease and hunger; the threat of a bird-flue pandemic; the ongoing AIDS tragedy; global warming; the need for a rapid transition away from economies based on fossil fuels, and the pressing need to reduce population growth rates. As Dyer notes, the threat of terror "has been inflated mindlessly by the media, but also quite deliberately by powerful people with political agendas."[45] To the degree that terrorism is a legitimate threat it is clear that it is best countered through intelligence and policing and that the "war on terror" is a monumental fiasco. What is also evident is that U.S. foreign policies aimed at global domination and power projection to control resources outside our borders predictably fuel anti-American hatreds which increase threats of terror.

Destruction of Iraq

Iraq itself is in shambles. Production of oil and electricity remain below prewar levels and most citizens do not have access to safe water. Hospitals without medicines, poorly funded schools, sewage filled streets, humiliating roadblocks and searches, gas shortages, sporadic electricity, rising prices, and massive corruption are part of daily life under the U.S. occupation. Crime, unemployment, and violence, like the profits of Halliburton and other U.S. contractors, are high. The International Monetary Fund recently imposed cuts in government subsidies for gasoline, kerosene, cooking gas, and other fuels that led to riots that were met by police violence against protestors.[46] Meanwhile, Iraq is being forced to sign production sharing agreements (PSAs) in which Iraqi oil remains the legal property of the state but nearly all the benefits of oil production go to private companies.[47]

The United Nation's human rights commission in Geneva reported in April, 2005 that Iraqi children were significantly better off under Saddam Hussein's rule. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq have resulted in a doubling of the number of Iraqi children under the age of five suffering from malnutrition.[48] In May, Iraq\'s ministry of planning and development made public the results of a survey conducted in collaboration with the U.N. Development program that painted an even bleaker picture. It showed \"grave deterioration\" in living standards for the people of Iraq with 25 per cent of children suffering malnutrition. Iraq, according to the survey, is \"suffering from some of the region\'s highest rates of joblessness and child malnutrition and continuing severe deficiencies in sewage systems, electric power supplies and other essential public services.\"[49]

Deformed Democracy

There are deep conflicts and conflicting interests that divide Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq. Many Kurds want an independent Kurdistan in the north and control over northern oil fields. Many Shiites want control of vast oil reserves in the south. Both the Kurds and the Shiites, who suffered under Saddam Hussein's rule, seem determined to isolate the Sunnis in the center of the country where there is much desert and little oil. Sunnis are rightfully fearful that their 3rd class citizenship is enshrined in the present constitution.

In the January 11, 2006 issue of The Nation, Tom Hayden describes components of an Iraqi strategy to achieve peace based on "a Baghdad source with intimate knowledge of the insurgents." These components include: "an announced US timetable for troop withdrawals;" immediate "inclusion of more opposition voices in…how to reform the constitution;" "citizen diplomacy;" "a transitional new caretaker government;" "a deadline for 'free and democratic' elections for an inclusive parliament;" "a peacekeeping force under the United Nations;" "renewed economic construction;" participation of former members of the Baath party, rather than blanket exclusion of such members from the political process in Iraq; and, involving more members of "Iraq's half-million formal professional army personnel, rendered jobless by a 2003 US decree" in efforts "to insure stability and protection in Sunni areas."[50]

How Iraqis resolve or deal with their differences is hard to predict. What is clear is that the goals of the United States and the U.S. occupation complicate their many challenges. One serious problem is that Iraqi "democracy" is more illusionary than real. Authentic democracy cannot be imposed by outsiders especially outsiders with interests. The United States prevented early elections in Iraq, not because of technical difficulties, but because an elected Iraqi government would likely have reversed privatization of the Iraqi economy, denied the United States the right to control or construct permanent military bases, and demanded that U.S. soldiers leave.

In spring, 2004 UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said that Paul Bremer, U.S. pro-consul who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), "is the dictator of Iraq. He has the money. He has the signatures. Nothing happens without his agreement in this country."[51] A Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) poll taken in May 2004 indicated that only 2% of Arab Iraqis saw the Americans as liberators while 92 percent saw them as occupiers.[52] Tom Hayden offers an example of clear limits imposed on Iraqi democracy under the U.S. occupation:

While recent surveys show 80 percent of Iraqis supporting a US military withdrawal, opposition voices are rarely ever reported in American public discourse. Security conditions do not permit the insurgents to establish an overt political arm, like Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, American officials celebrate the large Iraqi voter turnout in the December 15 [2005] elections while not acknowledging that most of those same voters favor a US withdrawal.[53]

The U.S. agenda in Iraq conflicts with authentic democracy. As Dyer notes, democracy may "take root in Iraq, but it has to be left to the Iraqis. It cannot come as part of a package that also involves making Iraq an American client state, because that makes those who are in power collaborators and discredits any project with which they are associated."[54] The disastrous consequences of the U.S. occupation feed a deepening sense of desperation and despair that in turn fuels radical Islam in Iraq. A grave danger to Iraqi democracy, therefore, is the occupation itself. The problem is not that U.S. troops might leave too early so that Iraq descends into chaos (the violence of the occupation triggers the insurgency and contributes to already existing chaos). As Dyer notes, there is no "good reason to despair of a democratic future for Iraq, provided the American troops do not stay so long that power automatically devolves to the men with the guns who finally drive them out."[55]

Undermining the International Rule of Law

Most problematic over the long term, "America's grand strategy", including the invasion of Iraq and the overriding agenda of achieving global domination, sought and required the destruction of international law. Foreign policy leaders in the Bush administration wanted through the invasion, to shred international agreements and weaken and discredit the United Nations in order to remove obstacles to the unilateral exercise of U.S. power. "The real ambition of the neo-conservatives who came to power with George W. Bush, frankly expressed in their speeches and writings," Dyer writes, "was to sweep aside all impediments to the unilateral exercise of American power, starting with the legal authority of the [U.N] Security Council."[56] Richard Perle, who chaired the Defense Policy Board for the Bush administration, wrote an article for The Guardian March 21, 2003 titled , "Thank God for the death of the UN: Its abject failure gave us only anarchy. The world needs order." Perle boasted that "Saddam Hussein\'s reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony, he will take the UN down with him."[57]

Not surprisingly, dangerous U.S. unilateralism, has led many people, including friends and allies, to view the United States as a rogue nation that gravely threatens world peace. In a poll taken 6 months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, 50% of the European Union's citizens saw the United States as a danger to world peace rather than a force for good.[58] Most people in the world do not share Bush and Cheney's view that U.S. Empire reflects God's will. They understand that undermining the international system based on multilateral institutions and the rule of law in favor of unilateral U.S. action has grave implications that reach far beyond Iraq. That is why more than seventeen million people in dozens of countries took to the streets to protest U.S. plans to invade Iraq, why the United Nations refused to back the invasion, and why the "coalition of the willing" is such a sorry lot. "Either we get back to building the international institutions we started working on sixty years ago, or we get used to the idea that we are working our way up to the Third World War," Dyer writes. "So it is important that the United States does not succeed in turning Iraq into a Middle Eastern base for Pax Americana, and that Americans come to see the whole project for global hegemony as an expensive mistake."[59] Dyer explains why an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops is vital:

If the present U.S. strategy of undermining international law and asserting American military hegemony around the planet is quickly abandoned under the pressure of events in Iraq, then normal service will soon be restored internationally and we will get our global project [to replace the rule of force with the rule of law] back with only a few dents in it. If the U.S. adventure in unilateralism continues for another five years, other great powers will start taking steps to protect their interests and the UN will start to die. No other major power wants to abandon the project to outlaw war and start back down the road to alliances, arms races, and all the other old baggage, but if the world's greatest power becomes a rogue state they won't have much choice. If that happens, we have lost a lot.[60]

"Obstacles" to an Exit Strategy

In order to devise an effective exit strategy it is first necessary to understand and reject the Bush administration's objectives for invading and occupying Iraq. For the neoconservatives, the invasion and occupation are part of a "grand strategy" that served and serve multiple objectives both in and outside of Iraq. Their goals relative to Iraq itself include putting an Iraqi government in place that will allow privatization of Iraq's economy, U.S. control of Iraqi oil, and establishment of permanent U.S. military bases on Iraqi soil. The U.S. is presently constructing permanent bases in Iraq not only in an effort to pacify the insurgency but to serve as the foundation for U.S. domination of Middle Eastern oil supplies and suppliers.[61]

Outside goals served by the invasion include an intentional effort to undermine international law, agreements, and norms in favor of a unilateralist and militarized U.S. foreign policy aimed at permanent global domination. In the blunt words of the official foreign policy statement of the Bush administration (NSS), "The United States will not hesitate to strike preemptively against enemies, and will never again allow its military supremacy to be challenged."

The Bush administration argues "we" must "stay the course in Iraq" because a premature departure of U.S. troops would lead to chaos and a failed state. The opposite is likely true. Each day of occupation stifles reconstruction, feeds the insurgency, fuels anti-American hatred, and contributes to the chaos. The longer the occupation continues the worse the likely outcome. The administration's major concern is not that U.S. troop withdrawal will prompt a crisis in Iraq but rather that without U.S. military occupation the neoconservatives cannot achieve their principle objectives. Privatization of Iraq's economy would be reversed, oil contracts would be nullified, and plans to project power throughout the Middle East from U.S. military bases in Iraq would have to be abandoned. Equally important, leaving Iraq would signal that the neoconservative's grandiose, arrogant, and destructive "grand strategy" for global domination through the unilateral use of U.S. military power was finished. This one day will be a piece of good news to come out of the Iraq debacle but it is a lesson the neoconservatives themselves aren't yet ready to learn.

Tragically, U.S. troops are being used by administration officials as pawns in their imperial chess game. Unless and until the neocons in charge of U.S. foreign policy abandon goals to plunder Iraqi resources, plans for permanent military bases, and their delusional thrust for empire, Iraqis will rightfully view U.S. troops as an occupying army that fuels violence and blocks any possibility of authentic peace in or outside of Iraq. Conversely, once U.S. leaders are forced by public outrage and the Iraqis themselves to abandon these unstated goals a rapid disengagement of U.S. military forces from Iraq will be possible. This disengagement will allow possibilities for peace among Iraqis.

An Exit Strategy

Once the real reasons for the invasion and occupation of Iraq are brought into focus and rejected then the elements of a realistic exit strategy become clear.

First, the United States should announce immediately a full and complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq within four to six months. This timetable will allow an orderly withdrawal. The violence in Iraq may not end when U.S. troops leave but it is absurd to think that an occupying army that is there primarily to achieve U.S. objectives involving oil and bases can fix Iraq. U.S. troops are instruments of and magnets for violence. They fuel the insurgency because they are seen as and act as an occupying army.

A complete withdrawal is essential. U.S. war plans for the coming months and years involve a draw down in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to be accompanied by increased training of Iraqi troops and dramatic increases in deadly aerial bombing.[62] Congressman Sabo and other Democrats are using "draw down" language when criticizing the administration's Iraq policies but this isn't enough. The administration is itself promoting a "draw down" strategy that is meant to pacify U.S. domestic opponents while allowing the war and pursuit of destructive U.S objectives to continue. It will cause more Iraqi civilian casualties, deepen resentments, cripple reconstruction efforts, and fuel the ranks of the insurgents.

A four to six month timeline for a complete U.S. withdrawal would also allow Iraqi leaders to request security assistance from the international community, particularly Muslim nations, if needed. As Dyer writes:

It would be helpful if UN troops, preferably mostly from Muslim countries, were to arrive in Iraq as American troops were leaving, because there is a genuine problem of public security in Iraq. But even if other countries refuse to send their soldiers into Iraq now that things have got so far out of hand, the American troops should still go-and go very fast. The Iraqis may not succeed in composing their differences peacefully and refounding their country as a democratic state, but their chances of doing so are far greater if they do not have to contend with the American occupation and the violent resistance to it.[63]

Second, all economic contracts negotiated during the occupation, including those dealing with development of Iraq's oil reserves, must be nullified and renegotiated. Iraqis need the freedom and power to make decisions about how their economy should be run without pressure and imposition from the United States. They also should decide how and under what conditions to develop their significant oil reserves and how to market their oil. Abrogating all contracts negotiated or imposed during the occupation doesn't mean U.S. businesses will be locked out of the Iraqi economy. It does mean that any contracts between U.S. businesses and Iraqi authorities will be part of a transparent international bidding process controlled by Iraqis.

Third, the United States must abandon plans for and all construction of military bases in Iraq. "Leaving" Iraq while maintaining permanent military bases is a prescription for disaster, and as Gary Hart writes, "leaving" in this context "simply means a reduction of forces and the permanent stationing of US brigades in Iraq."[64]

Fourth, the United States should provide billions of dollars towards Iraqi reconstruction. The United States bears much of the responsibility for destroying Iraq and therefore significant responsibility for Iraq's reconstruction. Substantial funds for reconstruction will be available because the administration's $100 billion request for the latest installment for war will no longer be needed. The reconstruction funds should be administered by the United Nations in conjunction with the Iraqi government and representatives from the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish communities. Successful reconstruction efforts, including ending lucrative no-bid contracts for friends of the Bush administration, stopping the extensive corruption associated with the U.S. occupation, and fostering local Iraqi businesses and employment for Iraqis, could be significant factors in ending the insurgency.

Finally, in order to support U.S. troops we must bring them home. U.S. leaders should be held accountable for using U.S. soldiers to fight an unjust, illegal war but returning soldiers must receive the support they need to deal with physical and emotional wounds and traumas.


A rapid U.S. disengagement from Iraq is both desirable and possible once we understand and reject the reasons for the U.S. invasion and occupation. Ending the occupation will not insure a happy ending in Iraq, nothing can, but it is a prerequisite to any meaningful prospects for peace. Helping our nation rapidly disengage militarily from Iraq is a central goal for citizens but it is not enough. We must hold U.S. leaders accountable and challenge and propose alternatives to "America's grand strategy" for empire of which the war with Iraq is only the most visible expression. We should encourage U.S. leaders, political and religious, to issue a formal apology to the people of Iraq, the United Nations, and the international community, and a formal statement of commitment to work with others to build an international system based on the rule of law.

[1] This quote was sent to me by an FBI agent.

[2] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002. This is the Bush administrations official policy statement on foreign policy as required by law.

[3] Quoted in Colman McCarthy, I'd Rather Teach Peace Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2002, 71.

[4] Gwynne Dyer, Future Tense: The Coming World Order, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 2004, p 9. Dyer is a great historian of war and served in the British, Australian, and Canadian navies. He is a friendly critic of the United States.

[5] Remarks at the Center for Defense Information Board of Directors Dinner, May 12, 2004.

[6] "A Life, Wasted: Let's Stop This War Before More Heroes Are Killed," by Paul E. Schroeder, the Canton Repository, January 3, 2006, emphasis added.

[7] See "Iraq, Lies and Foolish, Deadly Pride," by Clay Evans, Boulder Daily Camera, November 27, 2005.

[8] Key members of the Bush administration's foreign policy team advocated overthrow of Saddam Hussein in a public letter to President Clinton in 1998. Administration officials discussed overthrowing the Iraqi government in January, 2001, and discussion of how to use the terror attacks of 9/11/2001 to target Iraq, even though Iraq had no ties to the attacks, took place among administration officials on September 12, 2001.

[9] "Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq," prepared for Representative Henry A. Waxman by the United States House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform-Minority Staff Special Investigations Division, March 16, 2004, 7. Available at www.REFORM.HOUSE.GOV/MIN

[10] Ibid, i, 1-2 (emphasis added).

[11] Remarks at the Center for Defense Information Board of Directors Dinner, May 12, 2004.

[12] Future Tense, p. 9.

[13] Ibid, pp 56, 58.

[14] Neoconservative refers to a political ideology and movement among a new kind of conservative that embraces interventionist foreign policies while rejecting traditional conservative views concerning limited government.

[15] Future Tense, p. 35.

[16] For a more exhaustive list see John Feffer, ed., Power Trip: U.S. Unilateralism and Global Strategy after September 11 (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003), 205-209.

[17] You can read extensive quotes from these documents in Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Saving Christianity from Empire (New York/London: Continuum Books, 2005). Or you can access these documents at the following websites. The document "Rebuilding America's Defenses" at http://www.newamericancentury.org/
RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf; The National Security Strategy of the United States of America at http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html; and, Information the 1992 Defense Policy Review at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/iraq/etc/wolf.html. Many quotes in the following pages are from these documents. All italicized words are added except references to Pax Americana.

[18] Michael Klare, Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum, New York: Owl Books, 2004, p. 70.

[19] Ibid, p. 71.

[20] Ibid, p. 7.

[21] See "Nuclear Posture Review," excerpts available at http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/npr.htm. See also, "Military," by William Hartung in John Feffer, ed., Power Trip: U.S. Unilateralism and Global Strategy after September 11 (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003), 67-70.

[22] Ibid.

[23] "Air Force Space Command's Strategic Master Plan FY04 and Beyond," October 28, 2002.

[24] "The United States Space Command Vision 2020," available at http://www.fas.org/spp/military/docops/usspac/visbook.pdf

[25] "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies," Signed at Washington, London, Moscow, January 27, 1967 and entered into force October 10, 1967.

[26] U.S. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, 30 September 2001, 2.

[27] Quoted in John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, September-October, 2002.

[28] See "The Epic Crime That Dares Not Speak It's Name," by John Pilger, ZNet Commentary, October 28, 2005.

[29] "U.S.: 'Hague Invasion Act' Becomes Law," Human Rights News, August 3, 2002 (emphasis added).

[30] As of the beginning of January 2006, the cost of the war was more than $231 billion and the Bush administration was asking for $100 billion more. For updated information on the cost of the war see


[31] "Iraq War Could Cost US Over $2 Trillion, says Nobel Prize-Winning Economist," by Jamie Wilson, published January 7, 2006 by the Guardian/UK.

[32] As of the end of January, 2006 Minnesota's share of the bill for the Iraq war was approximately $5.7 billion.

[33] Chuck Collins et al, Shifting Fortunes: The Perils of the Growing American Wealth Gap, Boston: United for a Fair Economy, 1999, p. 18.

[34] For updates on U.S. casualties see http://www.antiwar.com/casualties/ or http://icasualties.org/oif/. Estimates of the number of U.S. soldiers wounded range from 15,000 to more than 48,000.

[35](See "The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops," from the Institute for Policy Studies at http://www.ips-dc.org/iraq/quagmire/. ). Other groups put Iraqi deaths as of December 2005 at about 25,000 in the first two years of the war/occupation. See http://www.iraqbodycount.net/press/pr12.php.

[36] Future Tense, p. 23.

[37] See A Dossier of Civilian Casualties in Iraq 2003–2005 at http://www.iraqbodycount.net/press/pr12.php

[38] Gwynne Dyer writes that those resisting the U.S. occupation are "overwhelmingly Iraqi despite American propaganda: only 2 per cent of the 8,500 'security detainees' arrested by U.S. troops and held in jails at Abu Ghraib or elsewhere were non-Iraqis, and half of those were Syrians from clans that straddle and habitually ignore the border between the two countries." Future Tense, pp. 22-23.

[39] See Human Rights Watch, "U.S.: Reject Torture as Policy Option," November 1, 2005, http://www.hrw.org/.

[40] See http://web.amnesty.org/pages/stoptorture-arguments-eng

[41] "The Debate Over Torture," by Evan Thomas and Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, November 21, 2005.

[42] Quoted in the Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper "The United States' 'Disappeared' The CIA's Long-Term 'Ghost Detainees'", October, 2004, in the section "Executive Summary." Available at http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/

[43] Future Tense, p. 29 (emphasis added)

[44] Ibid. p. 19.

[45] Ibid, p. 53.

[46] "IMF Occupies Iraq, Riots Follow," by Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, January 5, 2006.

[47] See for example, "I

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Exclusive: Former UN Human Rights Chief in Iraq Says US Violating Geneva Conventions, Jailing Innocent Detainees

Democracy Now!
28 Feb 06

In his first interview since returning from Iraq, John Pace, the human rights chief for the the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, reacts to the mass killings on the ground. Pace says he believes the U.S. has violated the Geneva Conventions, is fueling the violence through its raids on Iraqi homes and is holding thousands of detainees that are for the most part innocent of any crimes.
We turn now to the War in Iraq. In the latest news at least 31 people have been killed and 75 wounded in three bomb blasts in Baghdad. The attacks come a day after the lifting of a daytime curfew imposed to curb widespread violence over the past few days.

The Washington Post is reporting 1,300 Iraqis have died over the past week making this one of the bloodiest periods since the U.S. invaded the country nearly three years ago. The mass killings began on Wednesday after a bomb destroyed the gold dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra - one of the holiest sites to Shiite Muslims.

While the bloodshed appears to have at least temporarily subsided, the outbreak of violence last week has raised new concerns about where Iraq is headed. Most of those killed in the past week did not die in roadside bombings or suicide attacks but at the hands of militias and death squads including some units working out of the Ministry of the Interior.

The Washington Post published this dispatch out of Baghdad: \"Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday -- blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound.\" Meanwhile the Independent of London is reporting that hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad by death squads working out of the Ministry of the Interior.

* John Pace, Former U.N. Human Rights Chief, Iraq. Up until earlier this month he was the human rights chief for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq. He has worked at the United Nations since 1966 and is the former Secretary to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He joins us on the phone from his home in Sydney Australia.


AMY GOODMAN: It is his first broadcast interview since he left Iraq. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

JOHN PACE: Thank you very much Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It is good to have you with us. First, your reaction to what has taken place in these last few days in Iraq.

JOHN PACE: Well, I\'m not surprised at all, as a matter of fact, because we have been trying to explain to the world at large that there has been a generalized deterioration in the situation of protection of people in Iraq. There is a breakdown of law and order which is characterized by, technically by the nonfunctioning of the police, of the judiciary, and of the penitentiary institutions. Not to mention the military intervention and the various other factors that provoke a breakdown in protection in Baghdad and most of the country. So I think it is a problem related to the relay of accurate information on the -- how serious the situation is in regard to the person in the street in Iraq. The ordinary Iraqi. Who has absolutely no protection whatsoever from the state or from the authorities.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the role of militias in Iraq?

JOHN PACE: Well, you know, they first started as a kind of militia, sort of organized armed groups, which were the military wing of various factions. And they have -- they had a considerable role to play in the vacuum that was created by the invasion. With the procedure for the transition of re-integration of the country to more representative forms of government, a number of these militias who were armed wings of political entities found themselves in government. And, therefore, they -- many of them now, are actually acting as official police agents as a part of the Ministry of Interior.

Regrettably, they have not -- they have not assumed technical responsibility on behalf of the state. They have continued to act on behalf of the factions, as it were. And so many or a large number of the – nonofficial armed groups have now become official police persons. With the results that the good policemen-the good technical police people the residue of those that remained after the rest have been fired -- after the invasion are unable to do the job properly. There\'s only one or two brigades of them. The others are all made up of militias in police uniform. And regrettably the minister of interior, at least up to now, was himself head of one of the main militias. And regrettably he has not led the police force to, at least under his command, in order to assume a more technical police protection. So you have these militias now with police gear and under police insignia basically carrying out an agenda which really is not in the interest of the country as a whole. They have roadblocks in Baghdad and other areas, they would kidnap in other people. They have been very closely linked with numerous mass executions, at least mass arrests of people who later turned up showing signs of some execution. And so they constitute a major destabilizing factor in the sense that they are responsible for a large degree of the lack of protection of Iraqis in their own country.

Another destabilizing factor, if I may, is the continuation of the military intervention in the Anbar region where you have military force applied to civilian areas for the announced purpose of hunting down terrorists or other opponents. Resulting in massive displacement and lack and destruction of civilian infrastructure and arrests of large numbers of mainly males in -- of a certain age group. The role of the militias, as I have described them, the role of the military intervention, are two major factors that are contributing to a current sense of instability in the country as a whole. We have also the-this instability is characterized by the massive degree of-- two other factors. One is the kidnapping. Ranging between 122 and 158 days of persons who range from school kids to very wealthy people being kidnapped. And the other is the fact that nobody really has any alternative except to seek to defend himself or herself by their own means. So that in turn provokes more lawlessness. Because tribes, clans, religious groups, subgroups, take the law into their own hands. There is a vacuum at the level of the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens. That is really the cause of this problem.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to --

JOHN PACE: My observation has been certainly there are sectarian aspects to the conflict that\'s going on. But in my view, at least result from my observation, the sectarian aspect is only a result of the main cause. And main cause is the total breakdown in any kind of law and order. Forget about rule of law. Law and order around the country.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break stations to identify themselves. We will be back with John Pace in a minute. [break]

To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.

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Violence Continues in Iraq; 26 Killed

SAMEER N. YACOUB, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Violence raged unabated in
Iraq on Wednesday as bomb attacks killed at least 26 people in Baghdad and mortar rounds fell on homes in a nearby town.
Saddam Hussein\'s trial resumed, meanwhile, with the defendants trying to dispute documents put forward by prosecutors detailing a wave of imprisonments and executions of Shiites in the 1980s.

With violence surging in Baghdad after a curfew was lifted Monday, a spokesman for the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars blasted the Iraqi government for failing to staunch the sectarian attacks that have pushed the country toward civil war.

\"It is clear that the government and its security forces are incapable of taking any action,\" said Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, a spokesman for the Sunni clerical group. Government forces, he said, should \"do their duty and withdraw to the Green Zone,\" the secure region in central Baghdad that houses the U.S. Embassy.

Al-Kubaisi denied Sunnis were behind the latest attacks, saying Shiite politicians and religious leaders were trying to inflame sectarian hatred \"to make use of these events and everything in this country to achieve one goal - to serve their future interests.\"

Wednesday\'s most dramatic attack - a car bomb near a traffic police office in a primarily Shiite neighborhood in southeast Baghdad - killed at least 23 people and wounded 58, according to police Lt. Thaer Mahmoud.

About an hour earlier, a bomb hidden under a car detonated as a police patrol was passing near downtown Tahrir Square, said Interior Ministry Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi. Police were unharmed but three civilians died and 15 were injured.

Also Wednesday, mortar shells fell on three houses in the mixed Sunni-Shiite town of Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing three civilians, said police Capt. Rashid al-Samaraie. Another house was hit in Qadisiyah, another religiously mixed neighborhood in western Baghdad, killing a woman, police said.

The latest blasts occurred one day after Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad traded bombings and mortar fire against mainly religious targets, killing at least 68 people following an end to curfews and vehicle restrictions that had briefly calmed a series of sectarian reprisal attacks.

At least six of Tuesday\'s attacks hit religious targets, concluding with a car bombing after sundown at the Shiite Abdel Hadi Chalabi mosque in the Hurriyah neighborhood that killed 23 and wounded 55. A separate suicide bombing killed 23 people at an east Baghdad gas station, where people had lined up to buy kerosine.

In addition to those known to have been killed Tuesday, police found nine more bullet-riddled bodies, including a Sunni Muslim tribal sheik, off a road southeast of Baghdad. It was unclear when they died.

Late Tuesday, police reported finding the body of Shiite cleric Hani Hadi handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head near a Sunni mosque in Baghdad\'s notorious Dora neighborhood.

In the Saddam trial, the chief prosecutor showed documents on an overhead screen outlining the bureaucracy behind a crackdown that led to the imprisonment of nearly 400 people and the executions of 148 people following a 1982 attempt on Saddam\'s life in the town of Dujail.

Three of the defendants denied sending handwritten letters to the Interior Ministry informing on Dujail families linked to a Shiite opposition militia accused in the assassination attempt.

\"May my hand be cut off if I gave information against anyone,\" said defendant Ali Dayih, who allegedly wrote one of the letters. \"I had no political responsibility. ... It\'s all a frame-up.\"

The surge of violence deepened the trauma of residents already shaken by fears the country was teetering on the brink of sectarian civil war, threatened talks among Iraqi politicians struggling to form a government and raised questions about U.S. plans to begin drawing down troop strength this summer.

Iraq began to tilt seriously toward outright civil war after the Feb. 22 bombing of the important Shiite Askariya shrine in the mainly Sunni city of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad.

President Bush decried the latest surge in sectarian violence Tuesday and said that for Iraqis \"the choice is chaos or unity.\"

\"The people of Iraq and their leaders must make a choice,\" Bush said before leaving for a trip to South Asia. \"The choice is chaos or unity, the choice is a free society, or a society dictated by evil people who would kill innocents.\"

Later, Bush said conversations with Iraqi leaders representing Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions helped reassure him that no larger role for the U.S. military is required and that the situation will not turn into all-out civil war.

The sectarian violence has hit Baghdad the hardest because the population in the capital is about evenly divided between Shiites and Sunnis, more so than in any other region of the country.

Before Wednesday\'s attacks, the government issued a statement declaring that 379 people had been killed and 458 wounded as of 4 p.m. Tuesday in the sectarian violence tied to the Askariya bombing.

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Spy Chief: Iraq May Spark Regional Fight

KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A civil war in
Iraq could lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East, pitting the region\'s rival Islamic sects against each other, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in an unusually frank assessment Tuesday.
\"If chaos were to descend upon Iraq or the forces of democracy were to be defeated in that country ... this would have implications for the rest of the Middle East region and, indeed, the world,\" Negroponte said at a
Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats.

Negroponte served as U.S. ambassador to Baghdad before taking over as the nation\'s top intelligence official last April.

Iraqis have faced a chain of attacks and reprisals since bombs destroyed the gold dome of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra last week. Hundreds, if not thousands, have died, including more than 65 who were killed Tuesday by suicide attackers, car bombers and insurgents firing mortars.

President Bush condemned the surge in violence and said Iraqis must make a choice between \"a free society or a society dictated ... by evil people who will kill innocents.\" Later, in an interview with ABC News\' \"World News Tonight,\" he said he did not believe the escalation of civil unrest would lead to a general civil war.

Negroponte tried to focus on progress in Iraq, but he acknowledged a civil war would be a \"serious setback\" to the global war on terror.

\"The consequences for the people of Iraq would be catastrophic,\" he said. \"Clearly, it would seriously jeopardize the democratic political process on which they are presently embarked. And one can only begin to imagine what the political outcomes would be.\"

Saudi Arabia and Jordan could support Iraq\'s Sunnis, Negroponte said. And
Iran, run by a Shiite Islamic theocracy, \"has already got quite close ties with some of the extremist elements\" inside Iraq, he added.

While Iraq\'s neighbors \"initially might be reluctant\" to get involved in a broader Sunni-Shiite conflict, \"that might well be a temptation,\" Negroponte said.

Still, he told senators he is seeing progress in the overall political and security situation in Iraq. \"And if we continue to make that kind of progress, yes, we can win in Iraq,\" he said.

Democrats noted that Negroponte wouldn\'t go quite as far as Bush did in his January State of the Union address. \"We are winning,\" Bush said then.

James Jeffrey, the State Department coordinator for Iraq, told reporters Tuesday that Iraqi security forces have managed to establish a normal and calm situation - \"by Iraq standards.\" The level of violence, he said, was about the same as before the shrine bombing.

At the Senate hearing, Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, painted a similarly stark picture of

While the government has made progress in disarming private militias, Maples said, his agency estimates that violence from the Taliban and other anti-coalition groups in Afghanistan increased 20 percent last year.

\"Insurgents now represent a greater threat to the expansion of Afghan government authority than at any point since late 2001, and will be active this spring,\" Maples said in his written statement.

Afghan insurgents increased their suicide attacks almost fourfold and more than doubled their use of improvised explosive devices, he said.

Also at the hearing:

_Negroponte would not provide an updated assessment of the number of nuclear weapons believed to be in
North Korea\'s arsenal, although a former DIA head has previously said Pyongyang has one or two.

\"We assess that they probably have nuclear weapons, as they claim that they do, but we don\'t know for a fact that they\'ve got such weapons,\" Negroponte said. To provide a number \"would merely be an extrapolation or a speculation on our part.\"

Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., was critical of the Bush administration\'s reliance on the six-party talks aimed at disarming North Korea.

\"I worry that the six-party talks have really devolved into the Chinese talks, and the Chinese have their own agenda,\" she said. \"I\'m not sure that the six-party talks is the only route we should be following.\"

_On Venezuela, Negroponte said U.S. intelligence expects President Hugo Chavez to deepen his relationship with Cuban President
Fidel Castro and \"seek closer economic, military and diplomatic ties with Iran and North Korea.\"

Negroponte said the U.S. is concerned about Chavez\'s arms purchases, using profits from oil production. \"I would say that it\'s clear that he is spending hundreds of millions, if not more, for his very extravagant foreign policy\" at the expense of the impoverished Venezuelan population, he said.

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Saddam trial reveals 'pardon' of two Dujail accused

1 Mar 06

BAGHDAD - The trial of Saddam Hussein took a new twist as prosecutors produced a letter purportedly showing the former Iraqi dictator spared the lives of two Shiites accused over an assassination bid.

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Australia: We Knew of Iraq, U.N. Concerns over Kickbacks

1 Mar 06

AP - Australia's prime minister confirmed Wednesday his government knew of U.N. concerns that the country's monopoly wheat exporter might be paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime to secure lucrative contracts.

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Iraq Sunni clerics blame Shi'ites, US for violence

1 Mar 06

Iraq's main Sunni Muslim religious organization, accusing the Shi'ite-led government and U.S. forces of involvement in attacks by Shi'ite militiamen, called on Wednesday on the community to protect its mosques.

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Iraqi PM insists Turkey visit 'legal'

1 Mar 06

AFP - Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari brushed aside President Jalal Talabani's criticism of his one-day visit to Turkey, arguing that the trip was in order with the law.

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Spy Chief: Iraq May Spark Regional Fight

1 Mar 06

AP - A civil war in Iraq could lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East, pitting the region's rival Islamic sects against each other, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in an unusually frank assessment Tuesday.

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One third US troops back from Iraq need mental help: study

1 Mar 06

One third of US troops returning from Iraq have needed at least one mental health consultation and one in five have been diagnosed with combat-induced psychological problems, a US study reported.

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Troops Widely Reject Bush's Iraq Strategy as Civilian War Support Hits New Low

28 Feb 06

WASHINGTON, D.C., - Three out of four U.S. soldiers in Iraq reject their commander in chief's strategy to keep them there, according to a unique poll that on Tuesday became the latest survey to evoke an increasingly isolated White House.

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Bush in Denial - Sez Iraq not heading toward civil war

28 Feb 06

Reuters - President George W. Bush, hit by polls showing America's support for the Iraq war at an all-time low, denied on Tuesday Iraq was sliding into civil war, despite the worst sectarian strife since a U.S. invasion.

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US seeks funds to build prisons in Iraq

1 Mar 06

Reuters - The U.S. State Department is winding down its $20 billion reconstruction program in Iraq and the only new rebuilding money in its latest budget request is for prisons, officials said on Tuesday.

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A Daily Look at Military Deaths in Iraq - 2,294 (official count) (AP)

28 Feb 06

AP - As of Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006, at least 2,294 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 1,800 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

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A Look at Deadliest Days in Iraq in 2006

28 Feb 06

AP - The deadliest days in Iraq in 2006

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Bush denies Iraq civil war threat (Reuters)

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein speaks at his trial in Baghdad Wednesday March 1, 2006. Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for torture, illegal arrests and the killing of nearly 150 people from Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt on Saddam in the town. (AP Photo/Bob Strong, Pool)Reuters - President George W. Bush, hit by polls showing America's support for the Iraq war at an all-time low, denied on Tuesday Iraq was sliding into civil war, despite the worst sectarian strife since a U.S.-led invasion.

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Germany suspects US "smear" over Iraq

28 Feb 06

U.S. media reports that German intelligence agents helped the American-led invasion of Iraq were a smear tactic against Berlin as a European power firmly opposed to the war, leading German politicians said on Tuesday.

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Hypocrite and Liar Bush: Iraq has choice between 'chaos or unity'

28 Feb 06

AFP - US President George W. Bush downplayed fears of civil war in Iraq, but said the war-torn country must choose between "chaos or unity" after one week of sectarian violence left hundreds dead.

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Terra, Terra, Terra - Cry `terra` and let loose the dogs of war.

By Anwaar Hussain
The PakTribune
28 Feb 06

Never before has one word, or its relentless repetition, done so much for one man as the word `terror' (`terra` in Texanese) has for this Texan from Crawford that now resides in the White House. No other single word, it seems, is so much responsible for Bush`s continued fame among certain naive American quarters.

Whether it is the external or internal policies of this administration, the word terra remains the cornerstone of all its past, present and future plans of action. Be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Katrina, domestic elections, passing of sham legislation, the Guantanamo Gulag, the discovery of torture dungeons or the scandal of spying on own citizens, no crisis has ever been strong enough to withstand the magic mantra of terra, terra, terra.
The latest scandal, the domestic spying program that shot to doll rags every possible U.S. law and Constitutional amendment, too is now conveniently being called the \"terrorist surveillance program.\" Were it not for the fear of puking, one would have laughed at the sickening use of this word.

The only other word that comes a close second, especially in the run ups to and the durations of external fiascos e.g. the upcoming Iran war, is the word 'freedom'. The entire presidential tenure of the current White House incumbent is laced with the two words terra and freedom. Though most Americans have begun to suspect that freedom at home, like any fixed commodity, is depleting by the exact proportion of its alleged export abroad, there are still some out there who heed this incessant chant of terra, terra, terra.

Terra has been used at times as the most well oiled ramrod with which to shove unpalatable legislation down the dissenting Americans' collective throat or, at other times, used as a stick to cow down the anti-war opposition into a mute submission.

In one of his West Point speeches, President Bush announced that the \"war on terra will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge." Not very much later, this same president in an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC`s Today show when asked if the war on terror could be won responded with, \"I don`t think you can win it.\" On the one hand this president says that Americans lives can \"never be the same\" because of his \"war on terra\" and on the other that in spite of all the sacrifice of Americans' freedom and prosperity, he will not ever win the \"war on terra\".

How gullible can a people be? This president tells the Americans that the \"war on terra\" is so vital that they have to sacrifice their freedoms, bankrupt themselves, allow spying on their private lives, change their lives forever and not ask for secrets that he keeps from them. He tells them to stay the course without telling them what the course is. Yet without bating an eye lid, he tells them that the war on terra will continue forever and even at the end of forever, it remains essentially unwinnable.

Ironically, there are still Americans out there that, despite being told that this war on terra is neither winnable nor finite, answer to the call of terra, terra, terra like faithful on a shrine. Is it a secret any more that Americans will be kept in a constant state of fear for as long as the Bush Co. can get away with it because terra, after all, is very, very profitable for certain corporations and power brokers? Is it any secret any more that the only way to stop terrorism is to expose the war on terra as yet another very dangerous US government's war scam?

Does any one need reminding any more that the so called terrorism is a desperate tactic of a desperate people, not an evil ideology? That the root cause of present day terrorism lies in US government's failed foreign policies that maintain the violent occupation of Muslim lands and the cruel subjugation of millions of marginalized Muslims. That stopping terrorism is wholly ineffective until these unjust US government policies are stopped. That, for example, the illegal and immoral continued US occupation of Iraq greatly aggravates the problem by patently authenticating the so called terrorists' claims of repression and brutal occupation of Muslim lands. That this bloody US occupation practically guarantees that Americans and their sidekicks will continue to be targets of violence wherever and whenever possible and that the soon-to-come Iran misadventure is most likely to swell the ranks of these very 'terrorists' like never before.

That all this is happening right before our eyes, with such obvious similarities to the rise of the Hitlers and Mussolinis of the past, is as hugely sardonic as it is unbelievable. For the time being however, riding on the wings of terra, the Americans are being sleep marched into history`s hall of shame. The day may be far but it surely will come when this mass delusion of the Bush supporters will finally evaporate. On that day these Americans are certain to wake up and, in a deafening global chorus of error, error, error, ask themselves the fateful question, \"What have we done?\"

So on the eve of yet another war that is about to be thrust upon yet another innocent mass of humanity, let us remember that like all empires in the history of human civilization, the Bush Empire too will eventually come to an end. And when that does finally happen, I don`t want to be around for the fear of those involuntary drops of tears when the charlatans are being meted out the Mussolini treatment.

In the meanwhile, however, "Cry terra and let loose the dogs of war."

Anwaar Hussain - eagleeye@emirates.net.ae

Copyrights : Anwaar Hussain

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The Pentagon Archipelago

Chris Floyd
Empire Burlesque
28 February 2006

When I read the passage below from Moazzam Begg\'s account of his years in Bush\'s Terror War prisons, I had a strange feeling of dislocation: it was as if 30 years had suddenly fallen away and I was back in high school, reading Solzhenitsyn\'s Gulag Archipelago in stunned disbelief at the hideous cruelty inflicted on the prisoners -- deliberately, as a carefully calculated instrument of state policy. And all of it done in the name of national security, of course, to protect the nation against \"terrorists\" and \"traitors.\"
Solzhenitsyn\'s books -- not just the factual Gulag but also the deep-delving fiction of his middle years, the powerful First Circle and Cancer Ward -- were enormous influences on my own understanding of politics, power and morality. Years later, I was in Moscow when he returned to Russia from his long exile, having outlasted the system of state terror that had consumed so many of his compatriots. However much I had come to disagree with some of his political positions on certain issues, it was a still a moment of triumph for the deeper truths and moral courage that he continued -- and continues -- to represent.

How sickening, then, to find myself last Saturday reading of the precisely the same kind of state terror that Solzhenitsyn described (and survived) once again being inflicted on innocent people -- and this time in my name, under the flag of my country, at the express order of the leaders of my government. Bush is trying to turn us all into the kind of quiet collaborationists and cowed enablers of atrocity that we habitually decry when speaking of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany: \"Oh, how could they have let such awful things go on? Why did they stand silently by? How could they swallow all those monstrous lies? I would never have stood for that kind of thing!\"

Well, tens of millions of Americans are standing for it right now –- every bit as quiescent as the most head-down, eyes-averted Soviet citizen or German burgher: countenancing, condoning, even celebrating brutal acts of state terror, and swallowing the tyrant\'s eternal lie that his crimes are committed to protect the people. For a few crumbs of prosperity from the elite\'s banquet table, for a few flattering fairy tales about national greatness, national goodness and historical destiny, for a few comforting murmurs to chase away the craven fear of madman monsters across the sea, they have sold their priceless birthright of liberty. It\'s no longer a matter of what crimes Americans will swallow; now the great question of the day is: what won\'t they swallow? They\'ve walked this far down the road of darkness – how much farther will they go? Will we one day need a Solzhenitsyn to catalogue our shame, our cruelty and our cowardice?

Excerpt from My Years in Captivity, from The Guardian: After that first heavy interrogation they took me into another room and left me there. Guards tied my hands behind my back, hog-tied me so that my hands were shackled to my legs, which were also shackled. Then they put a hood over my head. It was stuffy and hard to breathe, and I was on the verge of asthmatic panic. The perpetual darkness was frightening. A barrage of kicks to my head and back followed. Lying on the ground, with my back arched, and my wrists and ankles chafing against the metal chains, was excruciating. I could never wriggle into a more comfortable position, even for a moment. There was a thin carpet on the concrete floor, and a little shawl for warmth - both completely inadequate.

I lost track of day and night - not only was I usually in the hood but, in any case, the window was boarded up. Eventually, someone came in and removed the hood. I was there in isolation for about a month. Once they kept me from sleeping for about two days and two nights. A guard kept coming in and if I nodded off he woke me. By the end of that I was completely drained and disoriented.

I never knew what was going to happen. Sometimes they\'d take me to an outside toilet - used by the military as there wasn\'t one upstairs. But even then I was hooded, and the hood came off only when I was in the latrine area. There on the wall, in big black letters, were the words \"Fuck Islam\".

For days on end I was alone in the room. Then they\'d come for me and go over and over exactly the same ground: the camps, my role in training, my role in al-Qaeda, my role in financing 9/11. Sometimes it was the CIA, sometimes the FBI; sometimes I didn\'t even know who they were. All of them wanted a story that didn\'t exist. There are no words to describe what I felt like. [End excerpt]

And yet, underneath the massive slab of state terrorism, tendrils of human understanding and sympathy do survive between individuals, as was widely evident in the Soviet Union and even in Nazi Germany. Begg describes one such thread formed with what he considered the most unlikely suspect: an old, Bible-reading Alabama redneck, one of the guards responsible for holding him captive – away from his family, away from his life, for no reason, without any evidence, save for wild accusations most likely extracted by torture – for weeks, for months, for years on end.

Excerpt: I made a huge discovery during incarceration, about relating to people. When I first saw Sergeant Foshee, I thought, \"He\'s too old to be in the army; they must be desperate.\" And when he asked me, in his Alabama drawl, if I was English, I thought, \"Another typical raghead-hating, stars-and-bars, KKK-type redneck.\"

Most of the time, when he was in my room, Foshee sat there reading the Bible, and we didn\'t speak. I\'d heard from other guards that Foshee was racist, didn\'t like women in the army, hated JFK, lost his temper quickly and ordered people about.

Back in the US he worked as an undercover narcotics agent. But he was also a Vietnam veteran. \"Excuse me, Sergeant, do you mind if I ask you something about Vietnam?\"

As a teenager I\'d been fascinated by the Vietnam War, and even then I\'d identified with the underdog. I felt compelled to ask this vet from Nam about his experiences. I must have asked the right question. Foshee loved giving me his recollections, and I couldn\'t get enough. He described graphically the assaults he\'d been in, the friends he\'d seen killed, the civilian massacres, and the stress he\'d suffered on return to the US. Several of his comrades had been POWs. Then came the inevitable comparison between them and us. Foshee was deeply disturbed by our treatment as detainees. He couldn\'t understand why we weren\'t treated as POWs. For us he had a soldier\'s respect.

\"I don\'t know if you\'ve done anything, but they say this is a war. You should all be sent home, \'cos the war\'s over. Or you should be treated like POWs. I know there are people here who fought the Soviets for years and even I\'m a baby compared with them -- in age and experience. I get so pissed when I see those punkass kids treating y\'all that way, when they ain\'t done a thing for this country.\" He was talking about soldiers in Echo who had soaked detainees with water, then left the air conditioning on full. To me Foshee was an enigma: his attitudes were clearly Republican, and yet he did not like what he was seeing…

When Foshee heard about the incident [an episode when Begg, maddened by years of pointless confinement, exacerbated by the invasion of his room by a stream of maggots, lost control and trashed his cell] , he was very upset and tried to comfort me with stories of the Hanoi Hilton, how some of his friends had survived torture and solitary - and some hadn\'t. I had. I made a few friends with guards over the years in US custody, but only one ever earned my respect. [End excerpt]

Moazzam Begg was kidnapped in Pakistan in January 2002. As the Guardian notes in an accompanying story: \"During his internment, he spent virtually two years in solitary, was kicked and beaten, suffocated with a bag over his head, stripped naked, chained by his hands to the top of a door and left hanging, and led to believe he was about to be executed.\" The only \"evidence\" against him was the statement by a Pakistani captive that his instructor in an al-Qaeda camp had been named \"Abu Umamah.\" This is a common Arabic construction, whereby parents are called after the names of their children: \"Abu Umamah\" means, \"father of Umamah,\" which was the name of Begg\'s oldest daughter. (Similarly, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is usually referred to as \"Abu Mazen.\" Although this is often called his \"nom de guerre\" in the Western press, as if it were the kind of sinister nickname that Bolshevik terrorists took to cloak their true identity – \"Stalin,\" the man of steel, \"Molotov,\" the hammer, etc. – it is in fact just a homely way of saying that Abbas is the father of a boy named Mazen.)

From this tidbit of meaningless information -- there are countless Muslims known as \"Abu Umamah\" – American interrogators spun a wild fantasy of Begg – a British teacher born and raised in Birmingham, where his secular parents sent him to the Jewish King David School for years – as an international mastermind, a veritable Doctor Evil: \"Two FBI agents began the questioning, convinced I was involved in some nefarious web of plots, from planning to assassinate the Pope to masterminding al-Qaeda\'s finance operation in Europe, or being an instructor in one of its Afghan training camps. They had their perceptions about me and were searching for ways to confirm them - preferably from my own mouth. By now I\'d been raised to the status of some rogue James Bond-type figure. They thought I was a graduate from some prestigious British university, that I was fluent in a dozen languages, that I was an expert in computers and several martial arts….Had it not been for this ludicrous situation I\'m in, I would have been flattered,\" I once said to them. \"I should ask you to write my résumé - I\'d find a job anywhere.\"

But it was no joke, of course. One of the tools they used to torment Begg was photos of Umamah herself, which they had somehow obtained – stolen from his family home perhaps? – shortly after his capture. When that didn\'t work, the beatings and bindings described above began.

As I wrote two years ago, describing the plight of three other innocent British Muslims who\'d been ensnared in Bush\'s global net: \"The treatment of these three innocent men, chained and beaten for two years, is not just a crime, but also – like that other crime, the invasion of Iraq – an enormous waste of time and resources in the \"war on terrorism.\" We saw the grim fruit of this waste in Madrid on March 11.

\"But of course, the Pentagon Archipelago wasn\'t designed to fight terrorism; it\'s designed to advance terrorism – state terrorism. Its purpose is to establish the principle of arbitrary rule – in the name of \"military necessity\" – above the rule of law, in America and around the world. It\'s part of an overarching system of terror – aggressive war, assassination, indefinite detention, torture – employed to achieve the Regime\'s openly-stated ideological goal: \"full spectrum dominance\" of global politics and resources, particularly energy resources. Al Qaeda has the same goal, and uses the same methods, albeit on a smaller, \"asymmetrical\" scale.

\"Now we are all at the mercy of these entwined terrorist factions – both led by fundamentalist sons of two financially linked elitist clans. We will see more Guantanamos, more Madrids, before this long, dark night is over.\"

Moazzam Begg was released from captivity in January 2005, with all the false charges against him dropped.

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U.S. Opposes U.N.\'s Planned Rights Panel - Exclusion of Abusive Nations Sought

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post
28 Feb 06

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 27 -- The Bush administration will oppose a U.N.-backed resolution calling for the creation of a council to expose the world\'s worst human rights abusers, John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday.

Bolton said that a draft charter presented Thursday by the U.N. General Assembly president, Jan Eliasson, was not tough enough to ensure that nations that abuse human rights would be barred from joining the council. He said he was under instructions from Washington to reopen negotiations on the text or postpone deliberations on a new rights body for several months.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and other supporters of the compromise warned that there is no better deal to be struck and that the U.S. strategy could undermine their efforts to create an improved, though imperfect, human rights body. \"I think we should not let the better be the enemy of the good,\" Annan told reporters Monday in Geneva.

The United States and the United Nations have been pressing for nearly a year to create a strengthened human rights council to replace the 53-member Human Rights Commission. The reputation of the Geneva-based panel, which helped draft the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has recently been tainted by the frequent election of members with dismal human rights records, such as Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Senior U.S. and U.N. officials had sought to prevent countries with poor rights records from joining the new organization by raising the membership standards and requiring a two-thirds vote of the 191-member General Assembly for any nation\'s admittance. But the proposal met stiff resistance, and the current draft resolution would require members to be elected by an absolute majority -- at least 96 countries.

\"I say this really more in sorrow than in anger, but we\'re very disappointed with the draft that was produced last Thursday. We don\'t think it\'s acceptable,\" Bolton told reporters. \"My understanding is that the president of the General Assembly intends to bring this matter to the General Assembly within a day or two for a vote. If he continues on that course, we will call for a vote and vote no.\"

Annan, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour and two leading human rights organizations (Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International) say the compromise proposal is still worth supporting. They have been joined by former president Jimmy Carter and several other Nobel Prize winners, who issued a joint letter calling on the United States and other governments to back the deal.

Annan, who discussed the human rights council Sunday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appealed Monday for the United States to \"join the vast majority of governments who seem ready to accept\" Eliasson\'s proposal. He and other supporters said the proposal constituted a serious improvement on the existing Human Rights Commission.

They noted that provisions to subject all council members to scrutiny of their human rights record would discourage countries with poor records from joining. They also said that council members suspected of abusive behavior can be suspended by a vote of two-thirds of the U.N. membership present.

\"We are a country that puts high value on human rights. We wouldn\'t vote in favor if we weren\'t sure it was going to be an improvement,\" said Chile\'s U.N. ambassador, Heraldo Muñoz, a former dissident who was jailed under former Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet.

The new council would consist of 47 members selected by secret ballot on the basis of \"geographical distribution\" and committed to \"uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.\" Members would be elected for as many as two three-year terms at a time and would meet for at least 10 weeks throughout the year.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Comment: The United States has NO place on such a council. Talk about \"dismal human rights records!\"

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SOTT is Rendered Speechless at the gall: Bush chides Belarus on human rights ahead of vote

27 Feb 06

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush showed U.S. displeasure on Monday with the Belarus government\'s human rights record by meeting at the White House with two women whose husbands disappeared in the former Soviet republic.

\"This meeting ... is intended to underscore our concern about the Belarussian government\'s conduct leading up to the election, harassment of civil society and the political opposition and failure to investigate seriously the cases of the disappeared,\" White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
It comes less than three weeks before Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko seeks a new term. The United States and
European Union accuse Lukashenko of cracking down on opponents, muzzling the media and systematically falsifying ballots -- including his re-election in 2001.

The two women -- Irina Krasovskaya and Svyatlana Zavadskaya -- are co-founders of an organization called \"We Remember,\" which seeks justice for the disappeared.

Krasovskaya\'s husband, a prominent pro-democracy businessman, disappeared in 1999. Zavadskaya\'s husband was a well-known television journalist who disappeared in 2000 following his reports that Belarussian authorities may have aided Chechen separatists.

Several international investigations have concluded that the women\'s husbands were murdered.

\"We continue to stand with the people of Belarus in their effort to determine their own future,\" McClellan said.

Lukashenko, the favorite, faces three rivals in the election on March 19, including two representing Belarus\'s small opposition.

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NYT sues Pentagon over domestic spying

28 Feb 06

The New York Times sued the U.S. Defense Department on Monday demanding that it hand over documents about the National Security Agency\'s domestic spying program.

The Times wants a list of documents including all internal memos and e-mails about the program of monitoring phone calls without court approval. It also seeks the names of the people or groups identified by it.
The Times in December broke the story that the NSA had begun intercepting domestic communications believed linked to al Qaeda following the September 11 attacks. That provoked renewed criticism of the way U.S. President George W. Bush is handling his declared war on terrorism.

Bush called the disclosure of the program to the Times a \"shameful act\" and the U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into who leaked it.

The Times had requested the documents in December under the Freedom of Information Act but sued upon being unsatisfied with the Pentagon\'s response that the request was \"being processed as quickly as possible,\" according to the six-page suit filed at federal court in New York.

David McCraw, a lawyer for the Times, acknowledged that the list of documents sought was lengthy but that the Pentagon failed to assert there were \"unusual circumstances,\" a provision of the law that would grant the Pentagon extra time to respond.

The Defense Department, which was sued as the parent agency of the NSA, did not immediately respond to the suit.

McCraw said there was \"no connection\" between the Justice Department probe and the Times\' lawsuit.

\"This is an important story that our reporters are continuing to pursue and of the ways to do that is through the Freedom of Information Act,\" McCraw said.

The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires the federal government to obtain warrants from a secret federal court for surveillance operations inside the United States.

But the Bush administration says the president as commander in chief of the armed forces has the authority to carry out the intercepts and that Congress also gave him the authority upon approving the use of force in response to the September 11 attacks.

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited

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Republicans struggle to find ways to make domestic spying legal

Associated Press

A group of Republican senators failed to reach an agreement Tuesday on legislation that would write the Bush administration\'s controversial eavesdropping program into law.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he formed the \"informal working group\" to craft legislation that will strengthen its legal basis. More than a half dozen senators left an hourlong meeting offering few details about progress.

The negotiations put Republicans in a politically tricky spot. The White House has argued for more than two months that President Bush had all the authority he needed to order the surveillance of international communications of U.S. residents without first seeking a court\'s approval. The administration has said one party to the call had suspected ties to al-Qaida.

One possible proposal, advanced by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, would allow the government to monitor any electronic communication _ such as a telephone call or e-mail _ that involves a member of a terrorist organization designated by the president.

DeWine said the National Security Agency could listen for a period of time _ perhaps 45 or 90 days _ before having to go to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get a warrant. It\'s that court that critics of Bush\'s program have said he should have been using all along.

But Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., wants the intelligence court to evaluate whether the program is constitutional in regular 45-day reviews. The court also would have to certify the government is collecting information only when there is probable cause.

\"We are making progress,\" DeWine said. But \"we\'ve got a ways to go.\"

It\'s unclear if the House will act. Jamal Ware, spokesman for House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said the congressman is not working to pass similar legislation in the House and \"has been very consistent that the president has the necessary legal authority.\"

The Senate meeting came hours after the Senate Judiciary Committee held its second hearing on the president\'s wartime powers and the NSA program.

Taking a middle ground, former CIA Director James Woolsey said the warrantless eavesdropping is appropriate when U.S. intelligence officials are trying to identify terrorists based on their phone calls or other communications. But he said once suspects are identified, then court-approved surveillance is appropriate.

Doug Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor, said claims by lawmakers that Bush acted illegally by authorizing the warrantless surveillance were \"partisan, unnecessary, unfortunate and unwise.\"

\"There is a genuine argument on both sides,\" Kmiec said, adding that he generally supports Specter\'s legislation imposing modest limits on such surveillance.

Bruce Fein, a constitutional expert, was far more critical of Bush\'s executive order. He said the legal theory justifying the eavesdropping \"would equally justify mail-openings, burglaries, torture or internment camps _ all in the name of gathering foreign intelligence.\"

\"Unless rebuked, it will lie around like a loaded weapon, ready to be used by an incumbent who claims an urgent need,\" Fein said.

Fein urged Congress to wield its power to set budgets to prevent such eavesdropping by the NSA, and said the president should more broadly explain why existing powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act were inadequate.

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A chilling threat in freedom\'s land

The Buffalo News
22 Feb 06

\"The enemies of freedom will be defeated.\" - President George W. Bush, 2005\"

\"We have met the enemy and he is us.\" - Pogo, 1971\"

The following happened in the United States of America on Feb. 9 of this year.

The scene is the Little Falls branch of the Montgomery County Public Library in Bethesda, Md. Business is going on as usual when two men in uniform stride into the main reading room and call for attention. Then they make an announcement: It is forbidden to use the library\'s computers to view Internet pornography.
As people are absorbing this, one of the men challenges a patron about a Web site he is visiting and asks the man to step outside. At this point, a librarian intervenes and calls the uniformed men aside. A police officer is summoned. The men leave. It turns out they are employees of the county\'s department of Homeland Security and were operating way outside their authority.

We are indebted to reporter Cameron W. Barr of the Washington Post for the account of this incident, which, I feel constrained to repeat, did not happen in China, Cuba or North Korea. Rather, it happened a few days ago in this country. Right here in freedom\'s land.

There are those of us who\'d say the country has become less deserving of that sobriquet in recent years. They would point as evidence to the detention of U.S. citizens without charges, counsel or recourse, to laws empowering the government to check up on what you\'ve been reading, to revelations of illegal eavesdropping.

And there are others who\'d say, \"So what?\" They\'re in the 51 percent, according to a recent Los Angles Times/Bloomberg poll, who say we should be ready to give up our freedoms in exchange for security. Apparently, they are ignorant of what Benjamin Franklin said: \"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.\"

Apparently, they\'re also unversed in something candidate Bush said in 1999: \"There ought to be limits to freedom.\" This nugget of wisdom wasn\'t dropped in a discussion of national security. Rather, it was the future president\'s reaction to a Web site that made fun of him.

Seven years later, he\'s clearly getting his wish. It chills me to know that doesn\'t chill more of us. Indeed, of all the many things I cannot fathom about certain of my countrymen and women, their ability to be sanguine at the threatened abrogation of their rights is very near the top.

The only way I can explain it is that freedom - the right to do, say, think, go, \"live\" as you please - is so ingrained in our psyche, has been such a part of us for so long, that some people are literally unable to imagine life without it. They seem fundamentally unable to visualize how drastically things would change without these freedoms they treat so cavalierly, what it would be like to need government approval to use the Internet, buy a firearm, watch a movie or read these very words.

If that sounds alarmist, consider again the experience at Little Falls, where an agent of the government literally read over a man\'s shoulder, Big Brother like, and tried to prevent him from seeing what he had chosen to see. The fact that we are at war doesn\'t make that OK. The fact that we are panicked doesn\'t make it OK. The allegation that the material is unsavory doesn\'t make it OK.

Freedom is a messy business. It is also a risky business. But it means nothing if we surrender it at any hint of messiness and risk. That\'s cowardly and un-American.

You\'d think we\'d have learned that lesson after the Sedition Act of 1918, the excesses of Joseph McCarthy, the surveillance of Martin Luther King. But apparently the lesson requires constant relearning. And vigilance.

So thank you to the Little Falls library for having the guts to say, hell no.

Some things should never happen in freedom\'s land.

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Patriot Act headed for renewal despite misgivings

Laurie Kellman The Associated Press

Months overdue in a midterm election year, the USA Patriot Act renewal cleared a final hurdle in the Senate Tuesday on its way to President Bush\'s desk. But the bill\'s sponsor said he is unsatisfied with the measure\'s privacy protections and far from done tinkering with the centerpiece of Bush\'s war on terrorism.
\"The issue is not concluded,\" said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa. He said he plans more legislation and hearings on restoring House-rejected curbs on government power.

The Senate voted 69-30 Tuesday _ 60 votes were needed _ to limit debate and bring the bill to a final vote that could occur as early as Wednesday. The House then would vote and send the legislation to the White House. Sixteen major provisions would expire March 10 if President Bush doesn\'t sign the bill by then.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, did not vote.

First passed in the weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the law has been extended twice for lack of congressional accord over the balance between civil liberties protections and law enforcement tools in terrorism investigations.

Several Democrats voted \"no\" on the test vote Tuesday to protest the GOP majority\'s refusal to allow amendments, but said they would vote for the bill on final passage. These lawmakers included Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee\'s senior Democrat.

Others still plan to vote against the bill as a whole, but they stand little chance of blocking it. Led by Sens. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., they contend that the months of haggling produced few meaningful curbs on government power.

Specter agreed on that point. Even as he urged his colleagues to vote this week for the bill, he introduced a separate bill to make the government satisfy a higher threshold for warrantless wiretaps and to set a four-year expiration date for the use of National Security Letters in terrorism investigations.

However appetizing to Specter\'s colleagues in the Senate, the new bill represents items House Republicans flatly rejected during talks last year.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., has insisted that once the House approves the renewal and sends it to Bush, his chamber is done with the issue for the year.

That will be none too soon for some lawmakers. The standoff pushed renewing the law into this midterm election year. Senate leaders were forced to find a procedural way of getting the bill to a vote without losing the support of Sensenbrenner, the Bush administration and libertarian-leaning lawmakers _ all before March 10.

The solution is a convoluted procedural dance that illustrates the razor-thin zone of agreement when it comes to Bush\'s terror-fighting law.

Congress will extend the Patriot Act by passing two pieces of legislation. The first is the same accord passed last year by the House and filibustered in the Senate by members who said it contained too few privacy protections. The second is, in effect, an amendment to the first that adds enough privacy protections to win over those same libertarian-leaning Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is permitting no other amendments, allowing the measure to slide through both houses without extended debate.

Feingold, who has opposed the act since his lone \"no\" vote against the 2001 law, complained that the lack of amendments had turned the Senate into an arm of the Bush administration.

\"No one has the right to turn this body into a rubber stamp,\" he said just before Tuesday\'s vote. \"The White House played hardball and the decision was made by some to capitulate.\"

Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., countered that the war on terrorism couldn\'t wait for more debate.

\"Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead,\" Bunning told the Senate.

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Intel pros say Bush is lying about foiling 2002 terror attack

Doug Thompson, Capitol Hill Blue

Outraged intelligence professionals say President George W. Bush is \"cheapening\" and \"politicizing\" their work with claims the United States foiled a planned terrorist attack against Los Angeles in 2002.
\"The President has cheapened the entire intelligence community by dragging us into his fantasy world,\" says a longtime field operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. \"He is basing this absurd claim on the same discredited informant who told us Al Qaeda would attack selected financial institutions in New York and Washington.\"

Within hours of the President\'s speech Thursday claiming his administration had prevented a major attack, sources who said they were current and retired intelligence pros from the CIA, NSA, FBI and military contacted Capitol Hill Blue with angry comments disputing the President\'s remarks.

\"He\'s full of shit,\" said one sharply-worded email.

Although none were willing to allow use of their names, saying doing so would place them in legal jeopardy, we were able to confirm that at least four of the 23 who contacted us currently work, or had worked, within the U.S. intelligence community.

But Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is willing to go on the record, claiming Bush blind-sided his city with the claims.

\"I\'m amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels,\" the mayor says. \"I don\'t expect a call from the president but somebody.\" Villaraigosa also said he has twice requested meetings with Bush to discuss security issues for Los Angeles and was turned down both times.

Intelligence pros say much of the information used by Bush in an attempt to justify his increased spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, trampling of civil rights under the USA Patriot Act, and massive buildup of the Department of Homeland Security, now the nation\'s largest federal bureaucracy, was \"worthless intel that was discarded long ago.\"

\"A lot of buzz circulated in the months following the September 11, 2001, attacks,\" says an NSA operative. \"Snippets here and there were true but most was just random information that could never be confirmed. One thing we do know about al Qaeda is that they seldom use the same technique twice. They tried a car bomb to bring down the World Trade Center and it failed. Then they went to planes. The next time will be something different because we\'ve geared up to prevent hijacking planes and using them as flying bombs.\"

In August 2004, just as the Presidential campaign was about to heat up, the Bush White House raised the terror alert, claiming attacks were imminent on major financial institutions. The alert, apparently timed to steal thunder from Democrat John Kerry\'s nomination for President, was withdrawn after administration officials admitted it was based on old information from a discredited informant.

The discredited information dated back to the same period when intelligence agencies began receiving reports of a planned attack against Los Angeles.

Former DHS secretary Tom Ridge admits the U.S. raised terror alerts for the wrong reasons and now says he often disagreed with the timing of such alerts but was overruled by the White House.

\"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it,\" Ridge says. \"Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don\'t necessarily put the country on alert, There were times when the White House was really aggressive about raising it, and we said, \'For that?\' We often lost the argument.\"

Ridge left DHS in February 2005 and replaced him with Michael Chertoff who agrees with the \"cry wolf\" strategy of the White House.

\"Chertoff is a lackey,\" says Kevin Riley, a retired New York City Detective who knew Chertoff during his days as a U.S. Attorney in New York. \"He\'ll do whatever Bush tells him to do.\"

Intelligence pros at established Washington agencies laugh at DHS operatives, calling them \"Keystone Kops\" and \"overpaid rent-a-cops,\" saying they lack any real expertise in dealing with terrorism.

\"DHS is a political police force,\" says a retired CIA agent. \"They exist to enforce the political propaganda program of George W. Bush. That\'s all they\'re good for and they\'re not very good at that.\"

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GOP Unease Spreads to Security Issues

Peter Baker, Washington Post

The first heading on the issues page of Rep. Mark Foley\'s Web site brags that he is \"one of President Bush\'s strongest supporters in Congress.\" The Florida Republican voted for the president\'s legislation 90 percent of the time, according to the Web site, \"the 3rd highest ranking among the Florida delegation.\"
Now the Florida delegation\'s third-strongest Bush supporter is on the front lines of the Republican revolt against the president on the deal to turn over key operations at six U.S. ports to a United Arab Emirates company. Republicans who once marched in lock step behind their president on national security are increasingly willing to challenge him in an area considered his political strength.

The signs of GOP discontent have been building in the past few months. Dissident Republicans in Congress forced Bush to sign a measure banning torture of detainees despite his initial veto threat, blocked renewal of the USA Patriot Act until their civil liberties concerns were addressed and pressured the White House into accepting legislation on its secret eavesdropping program. By the time the port deal came to light, the uprising was no longer limited to dissidents.

\"We simply want to participate and aren\'t going to be PR flacks when they need us,\" Foley said. \"We all have roles. We have oversight. When you can\'t answer your constituents when they have legitimate questions . . . we can\'t simply do it on trust.\"

The breakdown of the Republican consensus on national security both reflects and exacerbates Bush\'s political weakness heading toward the midterm elections, according to party strategists. Even as Republicans abandoned him last year on domestic issues such as Social Security, Hurricane Katrina relief and Harriet Miers\'s Supreme Court nomination, they had largely stuck by him on terrorism and other security issues.

Karl Rove, the president\'s political guru and deputy chief of staff, has already signaled that he intends to use national security as the defining issue for the fall congressional campaigns, just as he did to great effect in 2002 and 2004. But with Bush\'s numbers still falling, the Republicans who will be on the ballot have decided to define the security issue in their own way rather than defer to the president\'s interpretation.

The release of a new CBS News poll showing Bush\'s approval rating dropping to 34 percent, a low for him in that survey, sent tremors through Republican circles in Washington. Scott Reed, who managed Robert J. Dole\'s presidential campaign in 1996, called the results \"pretty shattering.\" Most distressing to GOP strategists was that Bush\'s support among Republicans fell from 83 percent to 72 percent.

\"The repetition of the news coming out of Iraq is wearing folks down,\" Reed said. \"It started with women and it\'s spreading. It\'s just bad news after bad news after bad news, without any light at the end of the tunnel.\"

Bush shrugged off the poll numbers in an interview with ABC News yesterday. \"If I worried about polls, I would be -- I wouldn\'t be doing my job,\" he said before leaving Washington for a trip to India and Pakistan. \"And, look, I fully understand that when you do hard things, it creates consternation at times. And, you know, I\'ve been up in the polls and I\'ve been down in the polls. You know, it\'s just part of life in the modern era.\"

Yet at the White House, aides were decidedly downbeat, making dark jokes about the latest political trajectory and the Murphy\'s Law quality of life in the West Wing these days -- what can go wrong will go wrong. At least, some consoled themselves, Bush beat out Vice President Cheney, who was viewed favorably by just 18 percent in the CBS survey.

Others held on to the hope that this, too, shall pass.

\"We\'ve got a period of time when the news that\'s dominating the headlines is not good and some Republicans are going to feel free to distance themselves from the president,\" said a senior White House official who was not authorized to speak on the record. \"But at the end of the day, I don\'t think the breach is deep or lasting because this is the president\'s strong suit. I think it\'s about this moment in time. I don\'t think it\'s fundamental.\"

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Hypocrisy Dept: Blair Hopes Guantanamo Camp Can Close

1 Mar 06

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday he hopes the Guantanamo prison camp will close, but noted the United States had opened it in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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More pushback from Hill on eavesdropping

Pat Grier, The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON – Washington is immersed in a furious debate over the legality of the National Security Agency\'s warrantless surveillance program - and the argument\'s outcome may affect the balance of power in the US government for decades to come.
That is what a bipartisan group of US lawmakers believe, in any case, as they struggle to respond to the White House\'s assertions of broad powers in the surveillance case.

Unless Congress asserts authority over the program via some form of legislation, some legislators and legal scholars assert, it risks becoming less relevant on important questions of war and national security than it is today.

\"This is a defining issue in the constitutional history of the United States,\" constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein testified Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Since late last year, when news reports revealed the existence of the NSA program, the Bush administration has staunchly defended it as legal. Congress implicitly authorized the program when it voted in 2001 to authorize use of force in the war on terror, claims the White House.

In addition, officials say, the president\'s inherent authority as commander in chief allows him to take any steps he deems necessary in the defense of the United States.

Some key Republican lawmakers, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Warner of Virginia, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, have joined Democrats in voicing worry about the extent of power claimed by the executive branch in the eavesdropping issue.

Senator Specter\'s solution

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary panel, Sen. Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania, is leading one of the main efforts to draw up legislation on the issue.

Under a draft version of Senator Specter\'s bill, the surveillance program would come under the authority of the secret court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The legislation would require the administration to get approval from the court every 45 days for the controversial surveillance program to continue.

Specter is also calling for the FISA court to determine whether the program is constitutional - although a number of legal experts question whether any such ruling would be an inappropriate advisory opinion, or determination of a case without a plaintiff.

Senator DeWine\'s alternative

While insisting that the program is legal, the White House has indicated that it would work with Congress to codify the law in this area, if necessary. It prefers a proposal from Sen. Mike DeWine (R) of Ohio, which would exempt the program from the FISA law and set up a special congressional committee to provide oversight and review of eavesdropping cases.

The importance of this debate, say experts, lies in the fact that it bears directly on questions of power between the branches that have been debated since members of Congress wore breeches and wigs.

Its outcome will have far-reaching effects, since any shift in this balance tends to persist, say legal scholars. In addition, the White House is in essence asserting privilege in an area that Congress has specifically addressed, via the 1978 FISA statute.

\"The president is asserting an inherent constitutional authority in \'wartime\' that allows him to ignore the plain meaning of the FISA law,\" says Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. \"How it is ultimately resolved will help define the limits of presidential power.\"

At Tuesday\'s Senate Judiciary hearing, some experts said it is important to remember the context of the debate. The \"war on terror\" is not just an empty phrase, they said, but an accurate description of a struggle between the US and enemies that would do it grievous harm.

The US is the battlefield, as much as Afghanistan, former CIA Director James Woolsey told the panel. The NSA must be able to move quickly to eavesdrop on conversations that have a domestic component. \"The country has been invaded, albeit not occupied,\" said Mr. Woolsey.

While expanded congressional oversight of the program may be appropriate, the FISA law was not designed to deal with a fast-moving, internal enemy, he said.

But Harold Hongju Koh, dean of Yale Law School, called the program \"blatantly illegal.\" \"Fighting terrorism outside the law is deeply counterproductive,\" he said.

A political vs. judicial solution

Any solution will likely be a political agreement, as opposed to judicial-branch rulings, say experts. For one thing, a legal result would take years. The US Supreme Court probably would not rule on these questions until long after the Bush team leaves office.

And the very nature of the executive branch\'s claims to power in this area means that the White House might ignore legislation with which it does not agree.

\"Reasonable minds have been differing on these questions since Madison and Hamilton,\" Doug Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University, told the Judiciary panel. \"It\'s important not to have recriminations, but to pursue the issue of what is the appropriate course as we go forward.\"

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What ever happened to the NSA spying furor?

Tom Curry, MSNBC

WASHINGTON - When the New York Times revealed late last year that the Bush administration was conducting a surveillance program to listen in on American citizens' conversations with suspected al Qaida operatives, it sparked a furor.
Some Democrats said President Bush had willfully broken the 1978 law banning warrantless domestic surveillance by ordering eavesdropping on U.S. citizens.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Moveon.org, the grass-roots Democratic advocacy group, demanded the appointment of special prosecutor to go after the alleged lawbreakers in the Bush administration.
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But now, two months later, another furor - over a Dubai-based firm's acquiring of leases on terminal facilities at several U.S. ports - has blown the NSA story right off the front pages.

Spying apparently continues
Yet the NSA apparently continues to eavesdrop on Americans, and Congress seems increasingly likely to open the way to after-the-fact approval of the surveillance in legislation that may reach the Senate floor in the next several weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Specter and other senators would confer in his office late Tuesday to decide on how to move ahead with an NSA spying bill.

On Tuesday, Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., gathered a group of legal scholars and former government officials, including James Woolsey, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency under President Clinton, to get their views on legislation he's proposing that would require a special federal court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to give its OK to the NSA surveillance.

Former Reagan administration Justice Department official Bruce Fein, an outspoken foe of the surveillance, told the committee that Congress ought to use its power to cut off the NSA program's funding.

"The power of the purse is perhaps the greatest power the Founding Fathers entrusted to the legislative branch" and it "should be used now" to end the program, Fein said, unless Bush explains why he could not stay within the confines of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which bans warrantless eavesdropping in the United States.

But only one of the Judiciary Committee's Democratic critics of the Bush administration, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., seemed inclined Tuesday to take up Fein's proposal.

Indeed Judiciary Committee member Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., while critical of the administration for not revealing more about the NSA program, was specific after the hearing in saying, "I do not want to have it ended; I've never wanted to have it ended, I just want to make sure that somebody is overseeing it."

Program is \'blatantly illegal\'

Former Clinton administration State Department official Harold Hongju Koh, who is now Dean of Yale Law School, told Specter's committee that the NSA spying was "as blatantly illegal a program as I've seen."

If Congress went along with Bush's rationale for the NSA spying, it "would turn this body into a pointless rubber stamp whose limited role in the war on terror would be enacting laws the president could ignore at will."

And Koh told Specter his bill wouldn't remedy the problem. One reason: Specter's bill would allow the FISA court to authorize the entire NSA spying program, not particular searches of particular people. Therefore it would allow a general warrant, which is what the Framers of the Constitution tried to ban by writing the Fourth Amendment, Koh said.

But Woolsey gave his strong endorsement to the NSA spying.

"We live on the battlefield," he said. "The inherent authority of the president under Article 2 (of the Constitution) under these circumstance permits the types of intercepts that are being undertaken."

The United States has been invaded, he said, "and defending against invasion is at the heart of the president's article 2 authority."

Connecting ports to NSA spying

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D- Vt., did connect the hot issue of the Dubai Ports World acquisition of leases to operate terminal facilities with the now lukewarm or cold issue of NSA spying. In both cases, Leahy said, "this obsessively secretive administration proceeded with actions it must have known would face strong bipartisan opposition."

He assailed the NSA program as "secret wiretapping of ordinary Americans" and accused the Bush administration of "running roughshod over the Constitution."

He raised the question of whether Bush could grant immunity from prosecution to administration officials who conducted the surveillance.

Another Democrat on the committee, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said that administration officials, as well as telecommunications companies, might face lawsuits for what they have done under the NSA program.

The Democrats' reference to criminal prosecution or civil lawsuits echoed what ACLU official Caroline Frederickson said three weeks ago: one deterrent to Bush administration officials carrying out NSA surveillance is their prosecution.

A future administration, perhaps a Democratic one elected in November 2008, might do the prosecuting.

But despite the references to criminal prosecution and civil liability, Leahy said after the hearing he wanted to co-sponsor Specter's legislation to send the issue to the FISA court for its decision.

Asked where the NSA controversy was headed, Feingold said, "It's up to Congress, whether Congress has the courage to stand up to an extreme assertion of executive power."

Feingold said cutting off funding is one option that he is looking at. "There's a time and a place to do that which is coming up soon," he said.

He added, "We have to address the fact that the president has broken the law."

Feingold also said he opposed Specter's proposed bill because "it hands over congressional power to the executive a way that I think is very disturbing in terms of the protections in the Bill of Rights."

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Mottaki: Iranians not to give up right to uranium enrichment

28 Feb 06

Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said here Tuesday that Iranian officials will never compromise Iran\'s rights for uranium enrichment.
\"Uranium enrichment is a national issue for Iranian people,\" Mottaki said in an address to a group of traders and Iranians residing in Japan on the second day of his three-day stay in Tokyo.

\"On the one hand that\'s a right for us and on the other hand there is concern on the issue; Iran is ready to bridge the two.

\"Iran is ready to accept any plan that will both honor our rights and build trust.

\"Iran is flexible in the method for implementation of the project but will never give up its right.\"
Mottaki said the UN Security Council should not serve as a tool for a few countries. \"Gone is the era of force,\" declared the foreign minister.

He said, \"Our efforts is Iran\'s nuclear case will not find its way to the UN Security Council; however, you should know that under no condition we will give up the right.\"
Elsewhere in his address, Mottaki said confidence-building is a reciprocal measure and both sides should fulfill the job.

The West is more concerned about the scientific and technological progress of Iran, he added.

He said that Iran is in need of 20 nuclear power plants such as the one in Bushehr power plant and this calls for huge investment.

\"But what a sort of guarantee might there be that they would supply us sufficient fuel in future; therefore, we should ourselves find a way for it,\" he made clear.

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MEK Terrorist Blames Iran for Askariyah Bombing

Kurt Nimmo
February 28th 2006

In an effort to steer blame for the Samarra mosque bombing in the preferred direction, the Straussian neocon puppet masters have trotted out Maryam Rajavi, billed as president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the political front of the terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), who points an accusatory finger at Iran.

"Mrs. Rajavi strongly condemned Iranian regime's meddling in Iraq and described the Samarra bombing, planned attacks on Sunni mosques, killing of religious leaders, political figures, journalists and others as part of a war that the ruling mullahs in Iran have initiated in Iraq against its people," a propaganda release posted on the NCRI "Foreign Affairs Committee" website states. "She said the Iranian regime's motives for inciting such violence is quite clear as the mullahs failed to achieve their ominous goals in Iraq following the elections in that country. She reminded that a front of Iraqi democratic forces is shaping up at the moment which is aware of the threats of fundamentalism posed by Tehran. She emphasized that a national unity government in Iraq does not serve the interest of religious fascism ruling neighboring Iran," the statement continued.
All of this is little more than Straussian neocon nonsense, a feeble-minded attempt to shift blame on Iran in the lead-up to a shock and awe campaign to be unleashed against that country next month or early this summer. First and foremost, if we are to believe Rajavi's fairy tale, we have to assume that the religious Shia leadership in Iran would bomb their own holy shrines "as part of a war … in Iraq against its people," who are primarily Shia. "Like the tombs of the Prophet Mohammed, Imam Ali and Imam Hussain, no self-respecting Muslim, whether Shi'ite or Sunni, would ever think of attacking such a place," notes Richard Steven Hack. No doubt Maryam Rajavi realizes this, but then she is reading from a Straussian neocon script. Moreover, MEK entertains visions of grandeur, fully expecting to rule Iran in the wake of the scheduled Anglo-American attack (back in August of 1993, NCRI selected Rajavi to serve as the interim president in Iran in the event that the mullahs are overthrown).

In fact, it is appropriate to view Rajavi as the leader of a cult. Massoud (often called the "Pol Pot" of Iran) and Maryam Rajavi "exercise absolute control over the group's rank-and-file, requiring that members worship them and practice Mao-style self-denunciations," explains the Center for Cooperative Research. "Many of the MEK's members are tricked into joining the group. For example, the parents of Roshan Amini [told] the Christian Science Monitor in 2003 that their son joined because he had been told he would be able to complete two school grades in one year and earn a place in college. But after joining, Amini was not permitted to leave."

In 1997, the U.S. State Department listed MEK as a terrorist organization (during the 1970s, MEK killed U.S. military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran; in 1981, MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier's office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Premier Mohammad-Javad Bahonar, according to the State Department).

In June, 2003, after French authorities raided the MEK compound, nine members across Europe set themselves on fire in protest and critics claimed that the self-immolations were ordered by MEK's leadership.

In May, 2005, Human Rights Watch documented torture in MEK camps (MEK critics were tortured, beaten, and subjected to prolonged detention in solitary confinement at military camps in Iraq).

Of course, for the Straussian neocons, it does not matter that Maryam Rajavi and the followers of MEK are certified nut cases and sadistic sociopaths.

MEK "has been backed … by right-wing lawmakers, a group of hardline neoconservatives and retired military officers called the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), and some U.S. officials-particularly in the Pentagon-who believe that the MEK could be used to help destabilize the Iranian regime, if not eventually overthrow it in conjunction with U.S. military strikes against selected targets," writes Jim Lobe. "While the group's supporters in the Pentagon so far have succeeded in protecting the several thousand MEK militants based at Camp Ashraf near the Iranian border from being dispersed or deported, they have failed to persuade the U.S. State Department to take the group off its terrorist list, to which it was added in 1997 based on its attacks during the 1970s against U.S. military contractors and its participation in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The European Union (EU) also cites the MEK as a terrorist organization."

"The MEK has been registered by the State Department as a terrorist organization for the past 10 years, but now neo-conservative factions of the Bush administration are lobbying hard to remove it from the list," explains an editorial posted on the Bellaciao website. "Should the MEK end up benefiting from US pro-democracy largesse, it would send a clear message to people inside Iran that Washington funds groups that engage in terrorist activity."

Of course, this is hardly new, considering the United States has a long and sordid history of supporting and funding terrorists, most notably the hobgoblin of the engineered "clash of civilizations" conflict, Osama bin Laden, who was until his demise a prized CIA asset.

In fact, the CIA was responsible for overthrowing the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadeq, and installing and training (with help from the Israeli Mossad) the brutal SAVAK secret police. It is interesting to note that CIA-sponsored coup was code-named Ajax-the brand name of a scouring powder-because the CIA intended to "wash the red out" of Iran (red as in communist). It is ironic now, some fifty years later, the neocons want to use a group of Mao-inspired terrorists in their effort to reduce Iran to a smoldering heap of ethnic and religious strife.

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Iran, Russia gather for high-stakes nuclear talks

1 Mar 06

MOSCOW (AFP) - Iranian and Russian negotiators gathered for high-stakes talks on a compromise plan designed to ease global fears that Tehran is trying to build nuclear arms, with time fast running out for a deal.

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Mubarak says warns US against hitting Iran

1 Mar 06

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he had advised the United States against attacking Iran, predicting that Tehran would react through its influence over Shi'ite Muslim communities in Arab countries in the Gulf.

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U.S. plan to divide Iran - Marines produce road map to ethnic strife Washington bankrolls separatist groups

4 March 2006
issue 1990

The US and Britain have torn apart Iraq and now they want to do the same to Iran. The US military has been studying ethnic and religious tensions in Iran as part of its preparations for war.

The study was commissioned by the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA), which specialises in producing intelligence for low ranking soldiers.

This suggests that plans for war are advanced.
According to the Financial Times, the military wants to determine attitudes towards the central government and examine if Iran is prone to the same tensions that are tearing Iraq apart.

As with the planning for the war in Iraq, the Pentagon has recruited exiles to help with its survey. A similar group of Iraqi exiles told the Bush administration that US soldiers would be welcome when they invaded, and fed them false information about weapons of mass destruction.

The US plans for Iraq involved dividing the country into semi autonomous regions dominated by ethnic groups, and distributing government ministries according to sect. The result has been to drive Iraq towards civil war.

Now the White House has asked the US Congress to make available £43 million to fund a propaganda campaign aimed at Iranians.

Among the exile groups surveyed by the military are the Kurdish Democratic Party, who support the occupation in Iraq, and the followers of the deposed Iranian royal family, who hope a US invasion will restore the ­monarchy.

Many groups representing Iran's minorities refused to co­operate with the study because they fear the US is planning to break up the country.

A similar study on Iraq by the MCIA produced "culture smart cards" that are handed out to US troops in Iraq.

The cards instruct soldiers how to distinguish between ethnic and religious groups, and provide useful instructions in Arabic such as "surrender", "do not resist", and "lie on your stomach".

Among the notes on the smart cards are a brief guide to ethnic and religious groups that describe Sunni Muslims as hostile to Shias because they blame them for "undermining the mythical unity of Islam", while "Kurds are distrustful of Turkmen as they have competing claims over Kirkuk".

Iran is right to fear the presence of US and British troops on its borders with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several bombs have been set off in the southern province of Khuzestan, home to Iran's Arab minority. The Iranians have accused Britain and the US of being behind the bomb attacks.

© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

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Iran promises Hamas USD 250 million

By Roee Nahmias
Ynetnews (warning, often a disinfo source!)
28 Feb 06

The London-based Arabic-language newspaper el-Hayat reported Tuesday that Tehran promised Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal it would transfer USD 250 million to the Palestinian Authority as compensation for the freezing of American aid to the Palestinians.
In an interview with el-Hayat published on Monday, Mashaal confirmed that Iran and other Arab and Muslim states would support a Hamas-led Palestinian government.

"The Iranian leadership announced that it will support the new Palestinian government and people," he said.

"This was the viewpoint heard during my visit to Tehran in response the American threats and pressures. Other Arab and Islamic countries have committed to supporting the new government."

Meanwhile, Hamas members have expressed their satisfaction with the EU's decision to transfer some 120 million euros to the Palestinians, regarding the move as "coming to terms with the (Palestinian) election results."

\'Hamas will uphold its principles\'

Senior Hamas leader Khalil Abu Laila defined the decision "logical," adding that the organization views Europe's decision as part of a situation assessment carried out in response to "the big and unexpected surprise that shocked the entire world."

In an interview with London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat Abu Laila said, "Europe understands that it would not be wise to discontinue the aid, since nothing has occurred that garners such a move."

Hamas leader clarified that the group is willing to hold talks with any European factor, adding that "if the Europeans want to see things objectively and rationally, they must maintain ties with the government that will be formed by Ismail Haniyeh."

Abu Laila said he was pleased with the fact that Europe reversed its stance as expressed by EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana regarding the freezing of funds "without Hamas having to make any concessions or yield to pressures."

"Hamas will continue to uphold its principles even if the aid will be stopped," he added.

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources have confirmed that a Hamas delegation will leave for Moscow on Friday, where it will meet with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

It is not yet clear whether President Vladimir Putin will meet with the Hamas leaders.

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Why India Should Choose Iran, Not the US

28 Feb 06

Dr Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and one of the leading technical nuclear experts in the United States, believes that even if India gets everything it wants under the US-India civilian nuclear agreement signed by President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, it would still be only a tiny fraction of the oil and gas it could obtain from Iran to meet India\'s growing energy needs.

It is not, Dr Makhijani argues, therefore worth jeopardizing India\'s relationship with Iran by voting with the United States against Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Dr Makhijani, a PhD specialising in nuclear fusion, has since 2004 served as one of the principal members of a team providing technical support to the President-appointed Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health. He has also served on the Radiation Advisory Committee of the US Environmental Protection Agency from 1992 to 1994 as well as several other scientific advisory committees.

He has authored, solo or as part of a collaborative effort, numerous reports and books on energy and environmental issues. He was principal author of the first study of the energy efficiency potential of the US economy published in 1972, and principal editor of Nuclear Wastelands: A Global Guide to Nuclear Weapons Production and Its Health and Environmental Effects, published by MIT Press in July 1995, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by MIT Press.

He has also on numerous occasions testified before the US Congress, and has appeared on ABC World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News, National Public Radio, CNN, BBC, C-SPAN, and CBC.

AH: You and your organisation have done extensive technical research on nuclear energy and civilian nuclear reactors. What is your take on the US-India civilian nuclear agreement?

AM: First of all, it is not as yet an agreement, since there will be many obstacles in the US Congress as you know. Secondly, even if it is approved by Congress, it is not going to make a material difference to India\'s electricity scene.

If you look at India\'s electricity goals, which is 20,000 megawatts by 2020, the whole of the nuclear energy sector will at best contribute 10 to 12 percent of the total requirement even if everything goes as planned.

For this, India seems to be giving up, or at least jeopardising, a much larger and more sure source of energy, one that could provide electricity more competitively than nuclear, which is natural gas from Iran. So it (the US-India nuclear deal) does not look like a very good deal, even just on economic terms, never mind the other political or strategic considerations.

You said nuclear energy will by 2020 fill maybe about 12 percent of India\'s energy needs. Currently, the nuclear component contributes three percent.

It is about three percent now, (but) in fairness, in the first few decades, India\'s nuclear energy sector had many serious problems leading to chronic underperformance and high cost. In the last few years, the performance of the nuclear energy sector has considerably improved. But it still remains -- for the effort, economic as well as political that has been put into it -- a very low figure. The damage from under-performing nuclear plants in the electricity sector has not been properly assessed in India.

AH: Can you give me concrete examples of under-performing nuclear power plants?

AM: For example, the Rajasthan nuclear power plants, which were chronically under-performing in the 1980s and 1990s, were in the context of the electricity sector overall, quite weak. And so when you have important power plants that go down or offline most of the time or much of the time, what happens is that it has a disproportionate impact on industry.

It\'s not like a light going off in the house when the electricity goes out, and when it comes back on the light just comes on. These plants have to be started up very carefully, and with a certain procedure that is very costly and lengthy. So the impact of an under-performing and unreliable nuclear energy sector on Indian industry has been very significant.

The most important thing in the electricity sector in India is not the cost of electricity -- it\'s the unreliability of electricity. And, the fact that power is unreliable in India is one of the reasons that China gets a lot more investment despite higher costs. If you look at where corporations invest abroad, they don\'t invest in the cheapest labour places or even necessarily in places where they have more skilled labor, they invest in places where they can surely perform their jobs.

That is why Indian software is not a very big deal -- they can invest there because the performance of the software sector does not depend that much on large scale electricity supply. You can have emergency generators; it\'s not costly to do that. But the performance of a heavy industrial sector does depend on large scale supply of electricity. So it\'s very damaging to have the kind of lackadaisical approach to electricity that we have in India.

AH: But isn\'t this an argument that the Indian government itself is making, that it has to get the power sector going if the economic growth rates are to be maintained? And that in order to do that, addressing the acute energy needs is imperative and one way of doing it is to generate nuclear energy?

AM: The power sector is much more than a set of generating plants. You have to look at the whole sector. The sector has four different pieces in it. It has a generating side of course, without which there is nothing -- you have to have generation. But it doesn\'t have to be all centralised generation.

Some of it can be medium-scale and some of it can be small-scale, and it has to be connected together in a sensible way. The second thing is the transmission infrastructure.

The third thing is the distribution infrastructure, and the fourth thing is the consuming equipment -- and they are all integral to the power sector.

I\'ll give you an example. I was part of the US Presidential Energy Mission to India in 1994, as an adviser, because I know the Indian energy sector as well as the US energy sector. I had no business interests. I was just invited, and I saw the Enron project as a looming disaster even at the time. But of course, who was listening?

I visited power plants of the National Thermo Power Corporation of India at the time and was quite impressed by how well it was run, except one thing -- and it was not a problem in the power plant. It was a problem in the power sector. I noticed that something called the power factor was very low, which means that you are not using your generating capacity very well.

You get a low power factor if your transmission and distribution infrastructure is weak and more importantly, if your consuming equipment is of poor quality, specially your fluorescent lamps and your electricity motors.

So I pointed out that improving power can be done relatively cheaply and easily, and instead of rushing to import more generation at very high prices from contractors like Enron, why not first improve the power factor and increase India\'s effective generating capacity by 5 percent -- for a couple of hundred dollars a kilowatt, instead of a couple of thousand dollars a kilowatt, which is what nuclear energy will cost. But no one was interested.

It\'s much more sexy and attractive to invite foreigners to build power plants than it is to do it with domestic resources that are easily available within India\'s own infrastructure. By the way, I also found that the National Thermo Power Corporation was doing a great job, and I did not see why India necessarily needed to import so much equipment when there is so much domestic industrial capacity -- Bharat Heavy Electricals -- and the capacity to build power plants in the National Thermo Power Corporation.

I was very impressed with the laboratory as well as the industrial infrastructure in India, but it is not used well.

AH: So what are you suggesting in lieu of nuclear reactors?

AM: If there were standards for electric motors in terms of their performance, if there were standards for fluorescent lamp ballasts -- if we attended to the power factor, then we would be in a better position. The other thing is, we have large transmission and distribution losses. Some of it is theft, but I think less of it is theft -- theft has also become a convenient excuse for bureaucrats. I believe a lot of it is the poor infrastructure.

Because of unreliable electricity, a lot of people buy their own generator sets. This is very, very wasteful of capital. The local generation should be tied up to the grid and if that is done, our transmission and distribution losses would go down quite a bit. So India must adopt a grid approach, and Western countries will move there eventually.

It is very costly to do it here because the infrastructure is so big here. So instead of importing larger and larger power plants -- nuclear power plants, which are the largest of all power plants, which puts a strain on the transmission infrastructure -- India would do well to have 100 and 200 megawatt natural gas-fired power plants which would strengthen the infrastructure and reliability, apart from cost considerations.

So I don\'t believe the power sector has been well thought through. There is an ideological commitment to nuclear energy and this is an expression of ideology, not an expression of power sector interests.

AH: Are you totally against nuclear energy and India\'s efforts to enhance its output in cooperation with the US?

AM: I believe you have to evaluate every technology on what it is going to give you. There is a case to be made for nuclear energy in large countries like the US or India or any other large country. In small countries, there is not so strong a case -- nuclear power plants are just too big.

But you must ask yourself why you want a particular type of power plant and where it fits into your infrastructure.

I believe in a situation like India\'s, there are a number of disadvantages. I don\'t like nuclear energy from a number of difference points of view. The first is that it is relatively high cost. I would like it because it has zero greenhouse emissions at first approximation, and that\'s a very big advantage of nuclear energy.

But for a country like India, there are a number of disadvantages even if you disregard proliferation. The most important consideration is reliability.

If you build a 100 megawatt power plant and have too many of them, when one of them goes offline, the reliability problems ripple through the infrastructure and your power sector will tend to go down, your electricity supply will tend to go down more often. This is the calculation that is not being done in India.

Reliability is not in the centre of Indian power centre considerations, and surprisingly so, because reliability is the number one problem in India.

AH: You spoke about the quest for nuclear energy in India being part of an ideological drive. Is it, in your opinion, an ideological drive that spans the whole gamut of the overall US-India strategic partnership?

AM: I don\'t believe it is ideological in terms of the US-India relationship, because that is what India wanted to do -- cement the US-India relationship, and it seems to have given up quite a lot in the process. I think India wanted two things from the US -- nuclear power and support for a UN Security Council seat. I don\'t think the US is ever going to support another Security Council member with a veto.

The nuclear energy deal itself is going to be very tough and many of India\'s friends in the US Congress are asking questions.

The ideological commitment to nuclear energy goes back to a different era. It goes back to two things -- one of which was a kind of ideological disease that was pretty much global, centred in the United States and the Soviet Union, which is that nuclear energy is going to be a magical energy source that is going to solve all of mankind\'s problems.

So the ideological commitment, vis-à-vis India, goes back to the 1940s with Homi Bhabha and (Jawaharlal) Nehru who wanted India to be among the leaders in industry, in science, technology and they, like in many developing countries, many newly independent countries, felt that the prestige associated with the symbols of modernity were going to put countries on the map.

India, of course, had global ambitions in this regard and there was no technology that was more a symbol of modernity than nuclear energy.

So there has been a kind of glamour about being like the Americans and the British, and I understand that. But this idea of technological imitation as a road to greatness I believe it is the root of this ideological problem. It is actually leading India down the wrong road and compromising India\'s future as an industrial power.

AH: You have said that even if the agreement is ratified by Congress, nuclear power will provide only a tiny fraction of India\'s energy requirements. You\'ve also made the argument that in the final analysis, India would be giving up so much. What would India be giving up?

AM: India has jeopardised its relationship with Iran. And not only that -- you know, Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has been making great efforts, and I believe rightly so, throughout the West Asian and Central Asian region for India to make agreements on the energy questions, that will ensure long-term oil and gas supplies to India.

I believe the Iranian natural gas deal -- both the liquefied natural gas and the pipeline -- are linchpins of this whole strategy, partly for geographical reasons and partly for strategic and economic reasons, because they are the closest and cheapest deals. Iran, I believe, has the second largest natural gas reserves in the world. Natural gas, in my opinion, should be a priority fuel for two things -- for electricity generation and for transportation.

As we know, the cities of Mumbai and Delhi have been transformed in terms of pollution by the use of natural gas in buses, taxis and so on. And, beyond that, I believe if India took some leadership in the transportation area, instead of thinking that nuclear energy is going to give it technological leadership, India could truly become a technological leader in the world, say in various approaches to magnetic levitated trains, advanced hybrid car technology that is powered by natural gas, things like that.

I believe India could have a transportation sector that would be much more economical of oil and gas if it went to hybrid natural gas powered vehicles. For this as well as for the electrical sector, Iranian gas supplies would create a potential much larger than 20,000 megawatts of electricity India requires, not to talk of the 5,000 to 7,000 megawatts the Indian government may get from the United States. So the natural gas quantities available from Iran are much, much larger in terms of energy supplies than nuclear power would be from the United States.

AH: So your argument is jeopardising this relationship with Iran for the sake of US nuclear power reactors is too great a sacrifice?

AM: There is also a strategic consideration that India should have learnt from the Tarapur experience, which is that Tarapur was in the context of another period in which India and the United States were supposedly sweethearts, and fuel was promised for this.

Then India did something that the United States did not like, though we know that what India did in 1974 was triggered by something the US did -- the US sent the aircraft carrier Enterprise, armed with nuclear weapons, to the Indian Ocean during the India-Pakistan war in 1971 and threatened India.

I believe this was one of the factors that led to the Indian nuclear test (in 1974). But in Washington, not only did it never enter the debate, many of the leaders in the nonproliferation community are not even conscious of the fact that India\'s decision to go nuclear was in good part prompted by a US nuclear threat to India. They have never taken any responsibility for it, and they have never, therefore, taken any responsibility for cutting off the fuel supply to Tarapur.

It is said there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests, and this certainly applies to all of the great powers. The Indian leadership is now behaving as if this sort of cozy sweetheart relationship is going to go on forever and that the Americans are going to be in some way a reliable partner, more reliable than the Iranians.

I would say if you strip away all of the ideological considerations and ask yourself who has a greater interest in making sure that India gets what it wants, I believe today, among all of the actors, there is no party with a greater interest in making sure that India gets what it wants than Iran.

The plans that Mr Aiyar has been putting into place are very visionary and they are being, I would say, grievously compromised by things like the IAEA vote. Specifically, if India votes with the United States to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, I believe it will kill the India-Iran deal.

AH: Leave the politics aside for now; in tangible terms, how does the supply of natural gas from Iran compare with nuclear energy generated in India with the help of US-supplied nuclear reactors?

AM: Currently, the spot market prices for natural gas are $13 to $14 per million BTU (British Thermal Unit). Iranian gas by pipeline via Pakistan would be delivered to India in the vicinity of $3.5 to $4 per million BTU. This is not only much less than world prices, but at that price you can generate electricity more cheaply and that will create a much more reliable power sector in India than through nuclear power plants.

It is not that all the natural gas should be used for electricity, but just making a comparison on that basis alone -- leaving aside the consideration that it would promote peace with Pakistan - the Iran deal could be the centrepiece of a very large project that I believe India needs to lead in, which is the economic integration of West, Central and South Asia.

AH: Could you speak about the safety factor of nuclear reactors? Do you believe India has taken the required protections against the possibility of nuclear accidents and disasters, in light of investigative reports of problems at some of India\'s nuclear plants?

AM: Those kinds of investigative reports do make one very uneasy. I have not independently investigated them, but I do believe that many of these reports should be given more credence from official authorities than they have been. Fortunately, India has not had a major accident, even on the scale of Three Mile Island which was much, much less than say Chernobyl.

I can say from the US experience that the safety in the US nuclear sector has depended very critically on how open it is to outside intervenors -- that is, in the 1960s, the power plants that were being built here were not very safe. Many did not have secondary containment, their emergency core cooling systems were not very well designed.

Three Mile Island could have been a much worse disaster had there not been whistle-blowers and hearings in which the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent non-profit, was very critical of how the emergency core cooling systems were designed. As a result of that, the whole thing was revamped

There has been some openness in the Indian nuclear energy sector in the last few years. They do publish some environmental information prior to projects. But I have been dismayed by three things.

First of all, the amount of information is sorely deficient. Much more details need to be available to the public. The idea that the public cannot discuss atomic energy issues, which is in the Indian laws, is obsolete and detrimental to safety. It\'s not like publishing bomb designs, which is proper to be kept secret.

The second thing is, this kind of information should be thoroughly integrated into the environmental assessments. I looked at the environmental assessment of the Breeder Reactor Project, which is being built at Kalpakkam, and I found it was very thin.

And in the third sector, the Indians are learning an unfortunate lesson from the Americans, in that we have an environmental impact process here, but for the most part it has been perverted over the years -- the establishment decides what it wants to do and the environmental impact statement becomes pro forma.

However in the US system, there is some check on that, because the public can take the government to court. I believe the environmental impact process in India should be deepened with a much greater commitment to taking independent steps.

India has a great tap of technical and engineering and scientific expertise. It should take advantage of that and encourage independent thought to make whatever is done -- whether it is in coal or gas or oil or nuclear -- as safe as it can possibly be made.

There is always a resource constraint, but within those constraints, it has to be open to independent criticism. We (the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research) produce technical studies all the time, and we have a very good record because we send our reports for review to people we know may not agree with our conclusions and then we take their criticisms very seriously.

This is what is needed in the Indian energy sector as a whole, not just in the nuclear sector. India has, for many decades, paid an extremely heavy price for a wrong-headed development of the power sector that is focused on more centralised generation to the exclusion of the other two pieces -- strong emphasis on the consumption and distribution side. Not that we don\'t need more centralisation -- we need large-scale power plants in India.

I am not saying small is beautiful. (But) India should have a mix of large, medium and small plants that are integrated. Indian electricity planning overall, I believe, has been far too focused on large-scale generation and on imported generation, neither of which I believe are strategically very good as the basis for planning.

AH: With regard to the requirement by the US that India separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities in a credible manner and put it under international safeguards, do you think this is viable?

AM: I believe for the Indians to have submitted to this with the United States at this time is not very strategically or politically appropriate, specially if India aims to continue as a leader in the non-aligned world. It would be throwing away that leadership for something I don\'t believe it\'s going to get from the United States.

In recent years, the United States has given up its own leadership in regard to civilian facilities and nuclear weapons materials because it is currently making Tritium for its nuclear weapons program in civilian reactors of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Moreover, the United States is not itself open to IAEA inspections.

India should exercise its leadership to make the nuclear playing field level for everybody. I am not particularly for nuclear development in Iran or the US or anyplace else because of all the reasons I\'ve told you. However, I believe it is very corrosive for India to be promoting what it not so long ago called nuclear apartheid.

I was very saddened to read a comment from some official, a year or two ago, that Indians no longer talk about nuclear apartheid because India is now part of the club. This is a very, very corrosive idea.

India should talk about nuclear apartheid with the idea of getting rid of it, and leading the way in its best traditions; India should be pressuring the nuclear weapons states to get rid of the bombs. Unfortunately, the present direction of leadership in this arena, I believe, is going to be very detrimental for the country.

What India should do is publish a strict set of criteria, which will make the nuclear energy field in regard to proliferation equal throughout the world. If there are going to be inspections, then let them be universal. If there are going to be Additional Protocols of the IAEA inspections, let them also be universal.

Aziz Haniffa is the managing editor of India Abroad, where this interview originally appeared.

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Russia, Iran make new bid to break nuclear impasse


MOSCOW - Iranian nuclear negotiators arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for a fresh attempt to reach a compromise that might defuse Tehran\'s stand-off with the West over its atomic program.
Iranian officials, headed by top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, were to meet a Russian delegation for a third round of talks on Moscow\'s proposal to carry out uranium enrichment for the Islamic Republic on Russian soil.

Larijani\'s presence, matched by that of Russian Security Council chief Igor Ivanov, put the new round of talks on a higher footing and raised hopes
Iran was taking the Russian proposal seriously, something the West at times has doubted.

\"We are optimistic we can agree with our Iranian partners ... we think we can come to an agreement that a joint venture on the soil of the Russian Federation will be able to meet Iran\'s needs fully,\" Russian President
Vladimir Putin told a news conference during a visit to Hungary.

But Larijani, on arrival at Moscow\'s Vnukovo airport, repeated his position that even if Tehran agrees to a deal with Moscow, it still sees no need to stick to an international moratorium on nuclear work.

Moscow, Washington and the
European Union trio of Britain, France and Germany have said Iran returning to the moratorium is a non-negotiable pre-condition of any deal.

\"A moratorium is necessary if there is something dangerous, but all our activity is transparent and directed toward peaceful nuclear power,\" Larijani told reporters.


U.S. President George W. Bush, on a visit to Iran\'s neighbor
Afghanistan, said he backed Russia\'s efforts to find a compromise deal with Tehran.

\"Iran must not have a nuclear weapon. It is the most destabilizing thing that can happen in this region and in the world,\" Bush said.

\"So we draw with Russia as part of a diplomatic effort to solve this problem.\"

Moscow sees the enrichment joint venture as a way out of confrontation, but diplomats in Europe and the United States doubt the proposal will satisfy Iran, which they suspect of covertly seeking nuclear weapons.

Although Tehran says it has a \"basic\" agreement with Russia about the scheme, it has refused so far to give up what it sees as its right to enrich uranium at home.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran had the right to move ahead with its uranium-enrichment program to large-scale commercial production of nuclear fuel for power plants, but added that it was ready to seek a compromise.

\"We are in a position to cooperate, reach a comprehensive compromise with all the parties ... We are flexible.\"

Tehran has repeatedly said it only wants to enrich uranium to the low grade needed to generate electricity, not to the much higher level needed for bombs.

There is less than a week until a March 6 meeting of the
International Atomic Energy Agency, whose board will discuss its latest report into Iran\'s nuclear program.

The watchdog\'s report, which says it still cannot confirm there is no covert atomic activity in Iran, will then be forwarded to the
United Nations Security Council.

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Growing Threat Seen In Afghan Insurgency

Walter Pincus, Washington Post

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress yesterday that the insurgency in Afghanistan is growing and will increase this spring, presenting a greater threat to the central government\'s expansion of authority \"than at any point since late 2001.\"
\"Despite significant progress on the political front, the Taliban-dominated insurgency remains a capable and resilient threat,\" Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples said in a statement presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee at its annual hearing on national security threats.

Appearing with Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, Maples said attacks within Afghanistan were up 20 percent between 2004 and 2005, suicide bombings increased \"almost fourfold\" and use of makeshift bombs, similar to those used in Iraq, had \"more than doubled.\"

Negroponte, in his prepared remarks, acknowledged that \"the volume and geographic scope of attacks increased last year,\" but he added, \"the Taliban and other militants have not been able to stop the democratic process\" being undertaken by the central government of President Hamid Karzai.

Unlike at a similar hearing last month before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, when Negroponte read his statement for 90 minutes, he summarized his remarks yesterday in 20 minutes, and turned the floor over to Maples, who took even less time.

As a result, committee members had time to pose questions on a range of issues, covering Afghanistan, security in Iraq, North Korea\'s nuclear programs and the purchase by Dubai Ports World of a British company running terminals at six American ports.

Maples\'s prepared remarks seemed to frame some of the initial questions, including his statements that, \"with over a million Sunni Arab military-aged males in Iraq, insurgents have little difficulty mobilizing enough fighters.\" He also said, \"The elections appear to have heightened tension and polarized sectarian divides.\"

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the panel, led off by asking Negroponte what the \"benchmarks\" of civil war would be. Negroponte responded he would see it as involving \"a complete loss of central government security control, the disintegration or deterioration of the security forces of the country,\" and \"unauthorized forces . . . getting the upper hand in the situation.\"

Both Negroponte and Maples agreed that the degree to which Shiite and Kurd leaders accommodated Sunni demands would determine the outcome. Failure to broaden the government to include Sunnis in key positions \"would have the effect of prolonging the insurgency,\" Negroponte said. Although they both said Iran was providing military support to the Shiites, Maples said he did not think it was in Iran\'s interest to see a full-scale civil war and Tehran \"would probably act to avoid that.\"

On North Korea, Negroponte declined as he has in the past to provide a specific estimate of the number of nuclear weapons Pyongyang may have. \"We assess that they probably have nuclear weapons as they claim that they do,\" Negroponte said, \"but we don\'t know for a fact that they\'ve got such weapons.\"

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who pressed the issue, noted that CIA Director Porter J. Goss had publicly said the number was \"more than one or two,\" and asked Negroponte what the current unclassified estimate was. \"I\'m just reluctant to pinpoint a specific number because I don\'t want to convey the impression that we know for a fact that they have that many weapons,\" Negroponte said.

Under questioning from Clinton, Maples confirmed the North Koreans are in the process of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead, though the DIA director added, \"They have not done so yet nor have they tested it.\"

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Hypocrisy Dept: Bush hails Afghanistan's democracy, vows Bin Laden will be captured

1 Mar 06

KABUL (AFP) - US President George W. Bush hailed Afghanistan's young democracy and vowed to bring Osama bin Laden to justice as he made his surprise first visit to the country since the fall of the Taliban.

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BS Dept: Bush Confident Bin Laden Will Be Captured

1 Mar 06

AP - President Bush, on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, vowed Wednesday to stand by this emerging democracy despite a resurgence of violence, saying "the United States is not cut and run."

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Saddam Asks: 'Where Is the Crime?'

1 Mar 06

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein speaks at his trial in Baghdad Wednesday March 1, 2006. Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for torture, illegal arrests and the killing of nearly 150 people from Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt on Saddam in the town. Saddam Hussein told his judges Wednesday that he ordered the trial of Shiites who were eventually executed in the 1980s and that he ordered the confiscation of their lands, but insisted that doing so was not a crime.

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World owes Israel USD 23 billion

Gad Lior
Ynetnews (disinfo rag)
28 Feb 06

Country\'s external debt stands at USD 75.5 billion; rise in loans to foreign countries due to improvements in economy

The debt of foreign countries to Israel stands at USD 23 billion, almost double last year\'s debt of USD 12 billion, Bank of Israel data revealed.

According to the Bank\'s statistics, the Israeli economy, which until recently only borrowed money from states abroad, has since 2002 turned into a lender as well, Israel\'s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday.
As of today, the world owes the private sector in Israel USD 22.7 billion. The Bank of Israel explained that the Israeli market has attracted investments from abroad during the last year, mainly due to the profitability of the private sector, the reduction in the government\'s deficit and the acceleration of privatization processes in the economy.

The improvement in the security situation in the country has also contributed to this rise.

Meanwhile, the public sector in Israel, mainly the government, continues to borrow money in foreign markets, in order to reprocess existing debts and fund the deficit in the national budget.

According to the Bank\'s data, Israel\'s external debt has reduced by a mere USD 250 million in 2005, and totaled USD 75.5 billion.

Israel\'s financial obligations abroad, after a deduction of the country\'s assets overseas, totaled USD 35 billion in December 2005.

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A Conservative Total for U.S. Aid to Israel: $91 Billion-and Counting

By Shirl McArthur
Congress Watch
January/February 2001, Pages 15-16

The common figure given for U.S. aid to Israel is $3 billion per year-$1.2 billion in economic aid and $1.8 billion in military aid. As impressive as this figure is, however, since it represents about one-sixth of total U.S. foreign aid, the true figure is even more remarkable. It is difficult, however, to arrive at an exact number. Much of the money the U.S. gives Israel is buried in the budgets of other government agencies, primarily the Defense Department (DOD). Other subsidies come in a form that isn't easily quantifiable, such as the early disbursement of aid, which allows Israel to gain (and the U.S. taxpayer to lose) the interest on the unspent money.
With the turmoil surrounding the presidential election essentially freezing Congress into inaction, this is probably a good time to take another look at aid to Israel. The common figure given for U.S. aid to Israel is $3 billion per year-$1.2 billion in economic aid and $1.8 billion in military aid. As impressive as this figure is, however, since it represents about one-sixth of total U.S. foreign aid, the true figure is even more remarkable. It is difficult, however, to arrive at an exact number. Much of the money the U.S. gives Israel is buried in the budgets of other government agencies, primarily the Defense Department (DOD). Other subsidies come in a form that isn't easily quantifiable, such as the early disbursement of aid, which allows Israel to gain (and the U.S. taxpayer to lose) the interest on the unspent money.

This year's appropriations bills for FY 2001, which began Oct. 1, 2000, include, in addition to the $2.82 billion in economic and military foreign aid to Israel, an additional $60 million in so-called refugee resettlement and $250 million in the DOD budget, plus $85 million imputed interest, for a total of at least $3.215 billion. In addition, on Nov. 14, 2000, President William Clinton sent a special request to Congress for an additional $450 million in military aid to Israel in FY 2001, plus $350 million for FY 2002.

The package also included $225 million in military aid for Egypt and $75 million in security assistance for Jordan. The $450 million for Israel is not included in these calculations, because it is unclear at this writing whether Congress will approve the package in the current political climate.

Calculating Total U.S. Aid

Unquestionably, Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. aid since World War II. Estimates for total U.S. aid to Israel vary, however, because of the uncertainties and ambiguities described above. An Oct. 27, 2000 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, using available and verifiable numbers, gives cumulative aid to Israel from 1949 through FY 2000 (which ended Sept. 30, 2000) at $81.38 billion. On the other hand, last year the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs estimated total aid to Israel through FY 2000 at $91.82 billion.

The CRS number surely is too low, because, although it does include such things as the old food-for-peace program, the $1.2 billion from the Wye agreement, and the current subsidy for "refugee resettlement," it does not include money from the DOD budget, on the grounds that those funds are for joint research and development projects. Nor does the CRS figure include estimated interest on the early disbursement of aid funds. Last year's Washington Report estimate imputes an amount for "other aid" (including the DOD) that may no longer be valid, based as it is on a thorough study of three representative years. While this year's estimate is more conservative, the results are still shockingly high.

To the CRS number of $81.38 billion through FY 2000 can be added (with details to follow):

• $4.28 billion from the DOD; and

• $1.72 billion in interest from early disbursement of aid, for a total of $87.38 billion through Sept. 30, 2000. To that can be added the $3.22 billion detailed above, giving a grand total of $90.6 billion total aid to Israel through FY 2001. Approval of Clinton's special request for $450 million more in military aid would push the number over $91 billion.

Defense Department Funds

A search going back several years was able to identify $3.423 billion in specific DOD line items appropriated to Israel. Since that figure includes only the programs that were uncovered, it is reasonable to add 25 percent, or $856 million, to account for what was not found. The largest items in the DOD budget were $1.3 billion for the cancelled Lavi attack fighter project; $628 million for the ongoing Arrow anti-missile missile project; and $200 million for the completed Merkava tank. The fact that the U.S. military was not interested in the Lavi or the Merkava for its own use and has said the same thing about the Arrow would seem to invalidate the argument that these are "joint defense projects."


Israel began receiving early disbursement of U.S. economic aid in 1982, and of military aid in 1991. It would be inaccurate to simply apply the rate of interest to the amount of aid, because it has to be assumed that the aid monies were drawn down over the course of the year. In 1991 it was reported that Israel earned $86 million in interest on the economic aid money deposited in the U.S. Treasury. Since the period from 1982 to 1991 was a time of relatively high interest rates, the figure of $860 million (86 x 10) seems a reasonably conservative estimate for those 10 years. For the nine years since 1991, a 6 percent rate was applied to one-half of the economic aid, for a total of $324 million over the past decade.

On the military aid, the 6 percent rate was applied to one-half of the military aid for the 10 years it has been disbursed early, for a total of $540 million.

Some Comparisons

The impressive numbers for U.S. aid to Israel become even more so when they, and the attached conditions, are compared with other Middle East countries. The roughly $3.3 billion in annual aid compares with some $2 billion for Egypt, $225 million for Jordan, and $35 million for Lebanon. Aid for the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not earmarked, but has been running at about $100 million. Furthermore, aid to the PA is strictly controlled by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and goes for specific projects, mostly civil infrastructure projects such as water and sewers.

On the other hand, the U.S. gives Israel all of its economic aid directly in cash, with no accounting of how the funds are used. The military aid from the DOD budget is mostly for specific projects. Significantly however, considering current events, one of those projects was the development of the Merkava tank, which has been encircling and firing on Palestinian towns in the West Bank and Gaza.

The only condition the congressional foreign aid bill places on military aid to Israel is that about 75 percent of it has to be spent in the U.S. In contrast with other countries receiving military aid, however, who purchase through the DOD, Israel deals directly with U.S. companies, with no DOD review.

Special mention should also be made of the details of the Wye agreement. All of the $400 million going to the PA under the agreement is economic aid, whereas all of the $1.2 billion for Israel is for military projects and programs. These include $40 million for armored personnel carriers and $360 million for Apache helicopters, again significant considering current events.

Loans, The "Cranston Amendment," and Loan Guarantees

Currently, Israel owes the U.S. government almost $3 billion in economic and military loans. Direct government-to-government loans are included in the above numbers for total aid, because repayment of several loans has been "waived" by the U.S. Israeli officials are fond of saying that Israel has never defaulted on a loan from the U.S. Technically, this is true. The CRS report, however, notes that from FY 1994 through FY 1998 $29 billion in U.S. loans have been waived for Israel. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider all loans to Israel the same as grants.

There seems to be much confusion about the so-called "Cranston Amendment," named after the California senator who sponsored it in 1984. The amendment said, simply, that it is "the policy and intention" of the U.S. to give Israel economic aid "not less than" the amount Israel owes the U.S. in annual debt interest and principal payments.

Since official economic aid to Israel has always been considerably higher than the annual debt repayments, this is something of a non-issue. Furthermore, since the amendment is simply a statement of policy and intent, it may not be legally binding. In any event, although the amendment was included in every aid appropriations bill through FY 1998, it has not been repeated in the FY 1999, 2000, and 2001 appropriations bills.

The amount of U.S. government loan guarantees to Israel was not included in the above numbers, because they have not cost the U.S. any money (yet), although they are listed as "contingent liabilities" (that is, they would become liabilities to the U.S. should Israel default). Nevertheless, they unquestionably have been of tangible financial benefit to Israel. The major loan guarantees issued by Washington have been $600 million for housing between 1972 and 1990; the much publicized $10 billion for Soviet Jewish resettlement between 1992 and 1997; and some $5 billion for refinancing military loans commercially. Currently, the total U.S. contingent liability for Israeli loans is about $10 billion.

The Neeman Agreement

After Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Congress in 1996 that he wanted to reduce the level of U.S. economic aid to Israel, Israeli Finance Minister Yaacov Neeman met with members of Congress in January 1998 to negotiate the details. After much backing and forthing, they reached agreement that Israel's then-$1.2 billion in economic aid would be decreased annually, beginning FY 1999, by $120 million, and the $1.8 billion in military aid would be increased by half that, or $60 million.

As a little-reported part of the deal, the amount of military aid that Israel was allowed to spend in Israel would be increased by $15 million per year. From FY 1988 through 1990 Israel was allowed to use $400 million of its $1.8 billion U.S. military aid in Israel. Beginning in FY 1991 that was increased to $475 million. As a result of the Neeman agreement, beginning in FY 1999 the aid appropriations bill gave the amount to be spent in Israel as a percentage of the total, rather than a stated amount. This maneuver helped hide from U.S. defense contractors the fact that the U.S. direct subsidy to their Israeli competitors was being increased by $15 million per year. For FY 2001 the stated percentage works out to $520 million. None of this is included in the above figures, because it does not represent a direct cost to the U.S. taxpayers. It is clearly an indirect cost, however, in terms of lost tax revenue and lost business for American companies. X

Shirl McArthur, a retired foreign service officer, is a consultant in the Washington, DC area.


Arab Americans Lose Ground in Congress

While Arab-American candidates broke even in the 2000 elections for the House of Representatives, a major loss was suffered in the Senate, where the only Arab-American senator, Michigan Republican Spencer Abraham, was narrowly and unexpectedly defeated by former Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Stabenow had a neutral score in this magazine's Congressional Report Card (August/September issue), with one positive and one negative mark, although she did sign the letter to President Clinton urging the delinking of the economic sanctions against Iraq from the military sanctions.

In the House, Arab-American Reps. John Baldacci (D-ME), Chris John (D-LA), Ray LaHood (R-IL), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and John Sununu (R-NH) all were re-elected. In addition, Republican newcomer Darrell Issa was easily elected in California. Issa's victory offset the narrow defeat of Democrat Steve Danner in Missouri for the seat previously held by retiring Rep. Pat Danner (D-MO).

Other re-elected representatives sympathetic to issues important to Arab Americans include Reps. David Bonior (D-MI), John Conyers (D-MI), Tom Davis (R-VA), John Dingell (D-MI), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Bob Ney (R-OH), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Unfortunately, a champion of Arab-American issues was lost when Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA) failed in his bid to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Other congressional election news included the surprise defeat of Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-CT), who was the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. Although he was widely considered a good friend of Israel, Gejdenson's report card was only slightly negative, with no positive and one negative mark. He is expected to be replaced as ranking Democrat on the committee by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), also considered a strong friend of Israel. A Holocaust survivor, Lantos might be expected to be sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians living under the heel of a brutal occupying power, but his report card showed one positive and two negative marks. Lantos also signed the letter to Clinton urging the president to "stand firm" in keeping the economic sanctions on Iraq.

Copyright: Congress Watch

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Sub fleet chief: We can hit targets overseas

Hanan Greenberg
YNetnews (propaganda and disinfo rag)
28 Feb 06

In exclusive interview with Ynet, commander of army\'s most advanced, secret war machine fleet says submarines may be used in missions abroad; there\'s no room for women in unit, he states
Submarines may be used for hitting strategic targets outside Israel\'s territory, chief commander of the IDF\'s submarine fleet, Colonel Yoni, stated. \"The submarine task force is preparing for any scenario the State of Israel has defined as plausible for the army,\" he added.

In an interview with Ynet, Colonel Yoni revealed some of the capabilities of the Israeli army\'s most hi-tech and secret war machine, and hinted to the possible role of subs in future military disputes.

According to him, \"hitting strategic targets is not always a task the Air Force or the infantry can carry out… a submarine can perform the mission, and it can also be used only for collecting intelligence and securing the forces about to carry out such a mission.\"

Dozens of security operations, maybe even more, were made possible due to the IDF\'s sub fleet. However, these offensive and defensive missions will remain in the shadow for years to come, in order to enable the force to carry out similar actions in the future.

Nuclear capabilities?

While Colonel Yoni\'s statements are shrouded in mystery, publications in the foreign press have already hinted Israel\'s Dolphin submarines have the ability to carry and launch nuclear weapons, a capability that will be put to use should the country\'s nuclear ground bases are hit in a surprise attack.

The fleet commander naturally refused to comment on the subject, but said such publications abroad in themselves contribute to Israel\'s deterrence capacity.

\"The fact that foreign reports refer to the submarines as a deterring factor says something. In matters having to do with existential threats we must remain vague,\" he said, adding the IDF has recently avoided holding joint drills with foreign armies, in a bid to maintain the secrecy of its weapons.

No girls allowed

Colonel Yoni, who is personally involved in selecting each and every soldier in his unit, speaks of the people under his command with admiration and appreciation. Nevertheless, when it comes to the service of women on submarines, he is not a bearer of news.

\"The submarine was not built to accommodate both men and women. We are unable to allocate a special zone on the vessel for women dormitories. Why should we venture into something that has failed in a large part of the fleets in the world, where there is even more lenience on these issues?\" he asked.

\"Is it worth breaking the fabric created between combatants on the submarine? They are under a lot of pressure as it is,\" he concluded.

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London mayor\'s suspension frozen

Washington Times/UPI
28 Feb 06

A London judge Tuesday froze the four-week suspension of London Mayor Ken Livingstone so it can be appealed.

Livingstone was suspended for comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard. He says the remark was blown out of proportion.
The Adjudication Panel for England has agreed to review the case, which Livingstone says has constitutional implications. If he loses, Livingstone plans to take the case to the Court of Appeal and the Law Lords, the BBC reported.

Livingstone has no plans to apologize for the remark, which was directed to Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold.

A disciplinary hearing found Livingstone had brought his office into disrepute.

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Walk in each other\'s shoes

Tony Bayfield
Tuesday February 28, 2006
The Guardian

Only through dialogue can Britain\'s Christian and Jewish religious leaders deal with our differences

We Jews are a thundering nuisance. Our persistence has always been a problem for Christianity, but we\'ve really excelled ourselves over the last 60 years. Though Auschwitz was liberated back in 1944, a Christian still can\'t speak to a Jew without having the Holocaust waved reproachfully in their face. Criticise the state of Israel and the poor innocent is accused of anti-semitism. And Israel itself, positioned as it is right where the tectonic plates of the post-Christian West and the Muslim world meet, is clearly an anachronistic obstacle to global peace. We are the party-poopers who won\'t move on.
Detect a note of sarcasm, even anger? You aren\'t wrong. Failing to see the world from the point of view of the other is a major factor in most quarrels, and religious leaders get caught out more than most.

Sir Jonathan Sacks, leader of Britain\'s orthodox Jewish community, and Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, have found themselves at the centre of what is, I hope, only a minor hiccup in the normally calm relationship between Britain\'s Jews and Christians.

The problem is the determination of the Church of England to invest ethically. From which, it is inferred, investing in Caterpillar, the makers of bulldozers used by Israelis to demolish Palestinian houses, is a bad thing. Disinvesting in Caterpillar has been on the agenda for some time, but when a resolution was passed by the Synod recently, Sir Jonathan went as ballistic as an urbane Oxbridge Jew ever goes.

If the two men had been able to sit down quietly over a cup of Earl Grey, I think the conversation might have gone something like this.

\"Look Rowan, this is how it looks to the Jewish community. Ariel Sharon did a Charles de Gaulle and withdrew from Gaza. It was the best bit of news from the Middle East for a long time. Almost immediately Sharon was removed from the scene. Then the Palestinians elected Hamas, the party of the suicide bombers. But, unbelievably, polls still suggest that Israel is going to elect Sharon\'s new party - on a ticket of further withdrawals and the creation of a Palestinian state. Why on earth would anyone with honorable intentions want to pass a disinvestment motion at this particular time?\"

The archbishop would, I think, reply as follows: \"You need to understand how important it is to us to be seen to be using our wealth ethically. You don\'t know how strongly we\'ve been accused of abusing power instead of siding with the powerless. The Anglican community in Israel lives among the Palestinian Arabs and experiences the deprivations they experience. Many of them, I\'m sorry to say, hate Israel as the oppressor. There are a lot of people in the church who won\'t be convinced that our ethical stance should be trimmed because British Jewry is obsessed with Israel, defends the indefensible and - I have to say it - shouts anti-semitism and Holocaust at everyone who suggests that some of the acts of an occupying power are contrary to international law, not to mention Judeo-Christian values.\"

\"I understand,\" Sir Jonathan would reply. \"But I need to say two more things. First, 70 years ago, somebody said he would try to wipe out the Jewish people. He kept his word. Today the president of Iran says he\'s intent on wiping out the state of Israel (where nearly half the Jews left in the world live), and is developing nuclear weapons. Seventy years ago there were Jewish leaders who didn\'t take the threat seriously. I don\'t want to go down in history as a major Jewish leader who didn\'t take Iran and Hamas seriously.

\"Let me go back to the people pushing for disinvestment. I\'m not saying this applies to all of them, but there are still people who equivocate over Israel\'s right to exist; who think that we should have outgrown the need for a land of our own; who look at the world and cannot see the clash that is going on, the replaying of the Crusades, the crushing of the Jewish people between two mighty tectonic plates. They see Israel only as the cause of all the troubles. Yes, we are paranoid, but that doesn\'t mean that there aren\'t people out to dump us. Not you, Rowan, but in your church. That\'s how it feels to us.\"

I\'m a Jewish religious leader and my ability to step into someone else\'s shoes is limited. Maybe Christian readers could construct Dr Williams\'s sensitive but frank response. How does the conversation continue? How do we move from mutual frustration to empathetic and honest dialogue?

· Rabbi Tony Bayfield is the head of the Movement for Reform Judaism in Britain and a co-president of the Council of Christians and Jews


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Rice Returns From Middle East Empty-Handed

By Mouna Naim, Le Monde correspondent in Beirut
Translated By Mike Goeden
February 24, 2006

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, Condoleezza Rice\'s recent trip to the Middle East was a failure for American diplomacy, as the U.S. Secretary of State encountered united Arab opposition to Washington\'s plans to isolate the Hamas-led government in Palestine.
Allow for an initial grace period and refrain from making Palestinians pay for a political agenda yet-to-be outlined by the fledgling Hamas government. This essentially is the message that was addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her tour of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, from February 22-23.

Besides leaders of the Emirates, Mrs. Rice met with her counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council\'s six monarchies in Abu Dhabi. Her tour of the region also included a brief, unexpected stopover in Lebanon on Thursday, meant to demonstrate American \"support\" for the country\'s current political majority.

Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, declared during a joint press conference with Ms. Rice that Saudi Arabia would continue to give financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, even under a Hamas government. The Secretary pled for a continuation to the Palestinians of humanitarian assistance only.

\"How do you distinguish between humanitarian and non-humanitarian aid?\" asked Prince Saud, before adding that, \"The Palestinians need both infrastructure and humanitarian aid, and we will continue to help them.\" In Cairo the previous day, Ms. Rice had been told that Hamas must be given enough time to assess the situation and outline a political program.

In addition to the grave repercussions for the Palestinian people that a drying up of international aid would engender, the Arab countries fear that isolating the Palestinian government would work in favor of the most radical groups, even those operating outside the occupied territories.

Arab nations also dread pushing Hamas definitively into the arms of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has announced that it would compensate any loss of international aid and called for all Muslims to accord yearly financial assistance to the Hamas-led government. Iran\'s nuclear program was also on everyone\'s mind. For the Arab countries, this program is problematic if it conceals militarization plans; however, for these same countries, Israel poses no less of a threat, as it already possesses nuclear weapons.


Mrs. Rice conducted her visit to underscore her country\'s \"support\" for Lebanon. Rather than meeting with President Emile Lahoud, who clearly lacks popular support, she met with Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite community, who effectively presides over the Republic. In addition to the prime minister, Fouad Siniora, and the speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, Mrs. Rice spoke with the two main majority figures, Saad Hariri and Walid Joumblatt, at the latter\'s home in Beirut. A few hours after her departure, all lawmakers from the majority boycotted the Assembly meeting because it was held in the presidential palace. This decision was made as part of the majority\'s program of attempting to force Mr. Lahoud\'s resignation.

The U.S. Secretary of State also reminded her interlocutors of the need to apply UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which stipulates the disarmament of militias: in other words of Hezbollah and the Palestinians. In response, the general secretary of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah [SEE VIDEO BELOW], exclaimed during a rally, \"Rather than exploiting Lebanon\'s governmental institutions and differences of opinion to the benefit of Israel ... the United States should instead send its soldiers to disarm us.\"

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\'Mossad, CIA Responsible for Samarra Blast\'

Tehran Times Political Desk
February 25, 2006

Iran\'s leaders say that Americans and Israelis were the only people to benefit from the attacks on the Samarra Mosque\'s Golden Dome. How did they benefit? According to this article from Iran\'s Tehran Times, the \'occupation forces\' benefit because the resulting Muslim disunity will \'provoke civil war in Muslim countries,\' prolonging America\'s presence in Iraq.
TEHRAN: The terrible crime committed by the terrorists who bombed the holy shrines of the tenth and eleventh Shia Imams, Imam Hadi and Imam Hassan Askari, north of Baghdad in Samara on Wednesday, are intended to foment religious war amongst the Iraqi people.

Mohammad Khatami, former Iranian president and head of the Institute for Dialogue among Civilizations, expressed regret over the bombings and said that regardless of who committed these crimes, the blasts will serve to increase Muslim unity. He also agreed that the Samara bombings were designed to target the unity and sovereignty of the innocent Iraqi nation.

The speaker of the Iranian Majlis [Parliament], Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, said that during recent years, the awareness of the Iraqi nation has neutralized a great number of conspiracies of this kind, and he expressed the hope that Iraqis will once again prevent a division between Shiites and Sunnis.

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi said the blasts were an organized crime against Muslims. Shirazi told a gathering of people in the city of Qom on Thursday that the main policy of the global arrogance [America] was to weaken the roots of Islam and trigger civil war in Muslim countries. He added that in the correct circumstances, all Islamic sects should maintain their unity.

Ayatollah Mohammad Imami Kashani, who leads Friday prayers in Tehran, said that insulting the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and destroying the holy shrines of Imams Hadi and Hassan Askari fit right in with the conspiracies of the enemies of Islam.

He also said that the main purpose of these incidents is to create division between Sunnis and Shiites, adding that the Mossad and the CIA were the real organizers of the Samara blasts.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, in a speech in the central city of Shahr-e Kord on Thursday, said \"These desperate acts have been committed by a bunch of Zionists and failed occupiers.\"

Prosecutor General Ghorban-ali Dorri Najaf Abadi noted that the perpetrators of the recent blasts in Samara intend to trigger a psychological war against Islamic nations and create division among them. Abadi added that it is hard to know who conducted the bombings, but one cannot absolve the Zionists and the United States of the charges.

Issuing a statement on Thursday, the Supreme Leader's representative in Khorasan Razavi Province, Ayatollah Va'ez Tabasi, also condemned the attack. He said that these blasts were organized to create division.

But the bombing cannot hinder the formation of an Islamic government in Iraq.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr said that the blasts were a sign of the weakness of the enemies of Islam, also agreeing that these terrorist attacks will not hinder the formation of an Islamic government in Iraq.

Dozens of governmental and non-governmental organizations have also issued statements condemning the terrorist attacks in Samara, and are calling on the Iraqi nation to maintain its unity and to frustrate their enemies.

The Iraqi government, meanwhile, announced stepped-up security measures, including a ban on entering or leaving Baghdad and the deployment of armed forces into tense areas.

Iraqi Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said on Friday that the Sunni Arabs of Iraq were not responsible for the bombing of holy shrine.

\"I stress that the bombing of the shrine was not an act of the Sunnis of Iraq, but the Zarqawists and the Saddamists,\" said Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the leading party in the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance.

He was referring to supporters of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda\'s leader in Iraq, and of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

In the December elections, the alliance won 128 of the 275 seats in the Iraqi Parliament and is currently holding talks with other political factions to form a coalition government.

Hakim also called for unity between the Shiites and the Sunnis.

\"The bombing of the shrine hurts us and provokes powerful feelings, but the burning of mosques and attacks on innocents afterwards have also hurt us tremendously,\" he said in a statement.

\"We strongly denounce the attacks on Sunni mosques, and these incidents further emphasize the need for unity to get rid of the terrorists.\"

Dhafer al-Ani, spokesman for the biggest Sunni Arab bloc in Parliament, praised al-Hakim\'s statement, calling it \"a step on the road to healing the wounds.\"

Several joint Sunni-Shiite prayer services were announced for Friday, including one at the Askariya Shrine [the Samarra Mosque]. But security forces turned away about 700 people, virtually all of them Sunni, who showed up for the service.

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Israeli Activist Wants Christians Represented in Israel\'s Parliament - Author Hopes \'Bible Bloc Party\' Will Bring Believers Into Knesset

By Chad Groening
February 27, 2006

A conservative Israeli activist notes that, thanks to immigration, the Christian population of Israel has grown to a politically significant percentage. That is why he wants to form a new political party to place Christian representatives in Israel\'s Parliament, the Knesset.
Avi Lipkin is perhaps better known by his pen name, Victor Mordecai. The American-born Israeli author and lecturer has been back in the U.S. recently, telling American Christians about his desire to create the \"Bible Bloc Party.\"

Christians have historically had no voice in Israel\'s primary legislative body, Lipkin points out. His \"Bible Bloc\" will be a party that \"will have Christian activists and Christian candidates running for the Knesset ... because the Christian population in Israel has grown in the last 15 years from two percent to eight percent of Israel\'s voting population.\"

The author says he would have been able to get the Bible Bloc Party on the ballot for this year\'s elections, had it not been for certain political upheavals. \"Because of the overthrow of Shimon Peres in the Labor Party, Amir Peretz took over the party [and] demanded ... the elections be moved up to March 28th of this year,\" he explains.

\"That only gave me four months to get organized,\" Lipkin adds. \"You cannot put together a political party in three or four months. This is something that requires many years.\" As a result of the elections being moved up, he says, the Bible Bloc Party will not be able to take part in next month\'s elections, but he hopes to see the party on the ballot in time for the following Knesset Assembly elections.

Right now, the Israeli conservative notes, Muslims represent 15 percent of Israel\'s population and have 12 members on the Knesset, while Christians are not represented in that government body at all. \"The reason I\'m forming this party is because Israel is a multi-party system,\" he says, and none of the parties in Israel have any kind of Christian representation.\"

Lipkin is working to correct this disparity. \"Christians are serving the army, risking their lives on the battlefield alongside their Jewish brethren,\" he says. \"It cannot be that eight percent of the population is not represented in the Knesset.\"

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Dubai Ports World Boycotts Israel

February 28, 2006

From this morning’s Jerusalem Post:

The parent company of a Dubai-based firm at the center of a political storm in the US over the purchase of American ports participates in the Arab boycott against Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The Jerusalem Post notes that “US law bars firms from complying with such requests or cooperating with attempts by Arab governments to boycott Israel.” Once upon a time, opposing such boycotts was important to the Bush Administration.

From the BBC, 5/11/02:

“The US government is strongly opposed to restrictive trade practices or boycotts targeted at Israel,” said Undersecretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Kenneth Juster.

“The Commerce Department is closely monitoring efforts that appear to be made to reinvigorate the Arab boycott of Israel and will use all of its resources to vigorously enforce US anti-boycott regulations.”

…The Department of Commerce has issued more than $26m in fines and turned down export licenses to those found violating the law.

The boycott against Israel is an important distinction between P&O, the British company that currently operates 21 U.S. ports, and Dubai Ports World.

Comment: Last time we checked, boycotting Israel could be might be illegal... or certainly not in line with the usual Neocon policies.

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Senator Feinstein\'s War Profiteering

By Joshua Frank
28 Feb 06

It happens all the time. If the antiwar movement takes on the Democrats for their bitter shortcomings, a few liberals are bound to criticize us for not hounding Bush instead. It doesn\'t even have to be an election year to get the progressives fired up. They just don\'t seem to get it. \"How can you attack the Democrats when we have such a bulletproof administration ruling the roost in Washington?\" somebody recently e-mailed me. \"Don\'t you have something better to do than write this trash?!\"
Well, not really. It\'s too cold in upstate New York right now to do anything other than fume over the liberal villains in Washington. \"Why do I write about the putrid Democratic Party?\" I responded, \"I\'ll tell you, there\'s a reason this Republican administration is so damn bulletproof – nobody from the opposition party is taking aim and pulling the trigger.\"

And that\'s why the Dems are just as culpable in all that has transpired since Bush took office in 2000. They aren\'t just a part of the problem – the Democrats are the problem.

I mean, who is really all that surprised Bush and his boys wanted to conquer the Middle East? Not me. That\'s just what unreasonable neocons do: they stomp out the little guy, kill off the weak, and suffocate the voiceless. They only care about the girth of their wallets and the number of scalps they can tack above their mantles.

The Democrats aren\'t just letting the Republicans get away with murder, however: some of them are also reaping the benefits of the Bush wars. We constantly hear about Dick Cheney\'s ties to Halliburton and how his ex-company is making bundles off U.S. contracts in Iraq. But what we don\'t hear about is how Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband are also making tons of money off the \"war on terror.\"

The wishy-washy senator now claims Bush misled her prior to the invasion of Iraq. I don\'t think she\'s being honest with us, though. There may have been other reasons she helped sell Bush\'s lies. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Feinstein\'s husband Richard Blum has racked in millions of dollars from Perini, a civil infrastructure construction company, of which the billionaire investor wields a 75 percent voting share.

In April 2003, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave $500 million to Perini to provide services for Iraq\'s Central Command. A month earlier in March 2003, Perini was awarded $25 million to design and construct a facility to support the Afghan National Army near Kabul. And in March 2004, Perini was awarded a hefty contract worth up to $500 million for \"electrical power distribution and transmission\" in southern Iraq.

Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the Select Committee on Intelligence, is reaping the benefits of her husband\'s investments. The Democratic royal family recently purchased a $16.5 million mansion in the flush Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. It\'s a disgusting display of war profiteering, and just like Cheney, the leading Democrat should be called out for her offense.

And that\'s exactly why the Bush administration is so darn bulletproof. The Democratic leadership in Washington is just as crooked and just as callous.
More on Feinstein\'s War Dollars
Senator Feinstein\'s husband has a nice profile at SFGate. Richard Blum has scored bundles from this war and the millions have been deposited in his accounts, which he undoubtedly shares with his wife (even if they aren\'t, she\'s certainly reaping the benefits as her salary could not possibly afford a $16.5 million mansion).

Here are the basics:

Blum holds over 111,000 shares of stock in URS Corporation, which is now a defense contractor. Blum is the acting Director of URS which bought EG&G from Carlyle awhile back. URS has banked on the Iraq war, scoring a phat $600 million contract. They have seen their stock price more than triple as a result. Blum cashed in over $2 million on that venture alone and another $100 million for his investment firm.

If this was a Republican senator\'s spouse you\'d bet the liberals would be up in arms. But since Feinstein is a Democrat -- mums the word. Partisanship trumps ethics.
The House the War Bought
This is Dianne \"War-Profiteer\" Feinstein\'s new pad in San Fran. Not bad on a senator\'s salary.

Copyright - Joshua Frank

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Bush\'s \'fine\' economy sees millions go hungry

David Nason
February 27, 2006

But the most alarming news was in the growing number of people in Bush\'s fine economy who are hungry.

The Second Harvest report, using figures compiled before hurricanes Katrina and Rita, showed that 25 million Americans had been forced to get food from the organisation\'s network of food banks, soup kitchens and shelters in 2005, up 9 per cent from 2001.

The hungry included 9 million children (aged under 18) and 3 million elderly people.

The trend is reflected in data collected last year by the US Department of Agriculture, which found that more than 38 million Americans lived in hungry or \"food insecure\" households -- an increase of 5 million since 2000.
GEORGE W. Bush went to Milwaukee last week to talk more about America\'s addiction to oil. But before turning to his latest obsession, the President gave a precis of the US economy.

Bush declared the economy \"strong and gaining steam\" and rattled off the positives -- a healthy 3.5 per cent growth rate; unemployment down to 4.7 per cent; more than 4 million new jobs created in the past 30 months; home ownership at record levels; and after-tax income up 8 per cent since 2001.

\"We\'re doing fine,\" Bush assured his audience before posing the rhetorical question: \"How do we keep doing fine?\"

Three waves of the Bush magic wand provided the answers.

First, the President praised the virtues of low taxation, saying it would remain a guiding economic principle of his administration.

Next, he advocated careful government spending, although mention of the budget deficit was carefully avoided.

Finally, Bush spoke of the wonders of modern technology, reminding the good folk of Milwaukee that Americans once used typewriters instead of computers; payphones instead of mobiles and carbon paper instead of laser printers.

Now, Bush said, there was a technology explosion under way and just ahead were electric and ethanol-powered cars and power from the wind and the sun.

\"In the life of this nation we have seen incredible and rapid advances in technology,\" Bush said. \"I believe the greatest advances are yet to come.\"

But like his recent State of the Union address and like several speeches since, Bush spoke as though hybrid and electric cars and alternative energy sources had never been heard of before.

In this bizarre fantasy land, the American people didn\'t need an economic vision.

All they needed was faith in Bush and a few gadgets.

Three days after Milwaukee, the US Federal Reserve published its triennial survey of consumer finances while Second Harvest, the nation\'s largest domestic hunger-relief organisation, released the latest figures on US poverty.

The data give a different perspective of the \"fine\" US economy.

The consumer report showed that median net worth in the US had grown just 1.5 per cent between 2001-04 -- the period of the Bush administration -- compared with 10.3 per cent between 1998-2001.

The reduction was due mainly to a sharp rise in household debt -- particularly home mortgage debt -- and a decline in real wages. Adjusted for inflation, wages have actually fallen 6.2 per cent.

Wages falling this much in a period of low unemployment certainly does not augur well for the next jobs crisis, but there was more worrying news in the figures on savings and share market investment.

The number of families saying they had saved money in 2005 fell 3.1 points to 56.1 per cent while the percentage of families that bought shares directly or indirectly through mutual funds fell 3.3 points to 48.6 per cent.

Significantly, the reduction in stock ownership was the first recorded by the Fed since the consumer finance survey began way back in 1989.

But the most alarming news was in the growing number of people in Bush\'s fine economy who are hungry.

The Second Harvest report, using figures compiled before hurricanes Katrina and Rita, showed that 25 million Americans had been forced to get food from the organisation\'s network of food banks, soup kitchens and shelters in 2005, up 9 per cent from 2001.

The hungry included 9 million children (aged under 18) and 3 million elderly people.

The trend is reflected in data collected last year by the US Department of Agriculture, which found that more than 38 million Americans lived in hungry or \"food insecure\" households -- an increase of 5 million since 2000.

Second Harvest questioned about 30,000 food distribution agencies as part of its survey. More than 40 per cent of them said funding problems threatened their future work.

But the statistic that stood out most was the one that said 36 per cent of people who came seeking food lived in households where at least one person worked.

It means increasing numbers of working people in the US don\'t earn enough for their families to eat properly.

In the fine economy of George W. Bush, that is serious food for thought.

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Let history judge

By Scott Ritter
27 Feb 06

Stung by growing criticism of his Iraq policy which has manifested itself in all-time low public opinion ratings, President Bush last month embarked on a tour in which he delivered five speeches outlining his \"Plan for Victory\" in Iraq, as well as offering a defense of his decision to invade Iraq. \"It is true that much of the intelligence [used to justify the invasion] turned out to be wrong\", Mr. Bush said in the fourth of these speeches. \"As President, I\'m responsible for the decision to go into Iraq.\"

While taking responsibility for his actions, Mr. Bush has not taken well to any criticism of his role in over-selling the case for war, and in his speech was quick to attack those who dared hold him to account. \"Some of the most irresponsible comments about manipulating intelligence\", he said, \"have come from politicians who saw the same intelligence we saw, and then voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein. These charges are pure politics.\"

But it is the President, through his speeches, who is engaged in politics of the most puerile sort. Mr. Bush failed to address his role in the Niger yellowcake forgery, the aluminum tube exaggeration, the rush to embrace \"Curveball\", or any of the myriad of politicized intelligence pushed by the White House in the lead up to war with Iraq. The President continued to exploit in the basest fashion the death of nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. As has been his style since that horrible day, Mr. Bush hid behind the memory of so many fallen to mask his administration\'s shortcomings and disguise its true intent.

\"Given Saddam\'s history\", the President said (conveniently omitting that the CIA today states that Iraq had destroyed all of its WMD by the summer of 1991), \"and the lessons of September the 11th, my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat -- and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power.\" But even the CIA\'s National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, used by the Bush administration to sell its Iraq war to the US Congress, failed to identify Saddam Hussein as a threat.

The White House pushed hard to find intelligence information that backed the assertions made by President Bush in the fall of 2002 that Hussein\'s regime was an \"ally of al-Qaeda\" and posed a direct terrorist threat to America. \"This is a man that we know has had connections with al-Qaeda,\" he said, referring to Saddam Hussein. \"This is a man who would like to use al-Qaeda as a forward army. And this is a man that we must deal with for the sake of peace.\"

But neither the FBI nor the CIA were able to produce any intelligence to back up the President\'s rhetoric. Indeed, both agencies provided assessments that directly contradicted the claims of Mr. Bush, noting that any alliance between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden was highly unlikely. These findings were included in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a classified document kept secret from the American public and most members of Congress. However, in a declassified version of the NIE made public, all mention of the de-linking of Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were excised, freeing up the President and his administration to sell the Iraqi war on the basis of not only the existence of WMD in Iraq, but also the probability that Saddam Hussein would transfer these weapons to his ally, Osama Bin Laden, who \"on any given day\" could unleash hell on American soil.

\"And when the history of these days is written\", the President said, concluding the fourth and last of his Iraqi policy speeches, \"it will tell how America once again defended its own freedom by using liberty to transform nations from bitter foes to strong allies. And history will say that this generation, like generations before, laid the foundation of peace for generations to come.\"

History will tell another tale. Far from the revisionist and heavily redacted version of events offered up by President Bush, historians will write of an America which squandered the good will of the world in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, to instead push aggressively for a policy of pre-emption and hegemony. In a speech made before the graduating class of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2002, the President told the future officers of the US Army (many of whom have gone on to fight and, tragically for some, die in Iraq) that, \"Our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.\" He went on to say that \"America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge.\"

These twin policies of hegemony and pre-emption went on to be codified in the National Security Strategy of the United States, published by the White House in September 2002. The 33-page document outlined a new and muscular American posture in the world -- a posture that relied on preemption to deal with rogue states and terrorists harboring weapons of mass destruction. It stated that the United States would never allow its military supremacy to be challenged as it was during the Cold War, noting that when America\'s vital interests are at stake, it will act alone, if necessary.

President Bush has tried to justify his embrace of hegemony and pre-emption as a tragic necessity in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. But the facts do not add up. The triple-threat outlined by the Bush administration as the justification for this new policy -- Saddam Hussein\'s WMD, the Hussein-Osama Bin Laden alliance, and the transfer of WMD technology from Iraq to Al Qaeda for the purpose of attacking America -- could not be backed up either in the form of intelligence data or intelligence analysis. The fact that the Bush administration pushed so aggressively for pre-emptive war in the face of no viable threat speaks volumes about the nature and intent of the President and those who advise him.

In 1946, the Nuremburg Tribunal rejected the German defense of pre-emption when it came to the invasion of Denmark and Norway in 1940. The Germans had cited the imminent occupation of these two nations by the armed forces of France and Great Britain, which would have threatened the German northern front, as just cause. This defense was rebuked by the tribunal, led by US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who instead identified the German action as constituting a \"war of aggression.\" Judge Jackson went on to say that \"To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.\"

Judge Jackson\'s words, and my steadfast allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, motivated me to give testimony [mp3] this past Saturday at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, in particular in support of the first count put forward by the commission: that the Bush administration authorized a war of aggression against Iraq.

I\'m not a big fan of un-mandated tribunals, but given the absolute lack of attention on the part of Congress regarding the decision to invade Iraq (a lethargy encouraged somewhat by Congress\' own culpability in abrogating its responsibilities under the Constitution when it comes to war powers and holding the Executive Branch in check), I felt that my participation in the Commission\'s work would help create a record that might someday in the future motivate the representatives of the American people who occupy the Legislative Branch of government to carry work that not only serves the interests of their respective constituencies, but also defends both the letter and intent of the Constitution they are sworn to uphold and defend. America should not be looking to any international commission or tribunal to hold President Bush and his administration to account; that is the job of the American people.

When historians look back on the policies enacted by the Bush administration in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, starting off with the decision to invade Iraq in March 2003, they will be passing judgment on a United States that has violated international law as egregiously as any power in modern history. The final chapters have yet to be written on the Presidency of George W. Bush, but even if time stopped still at the present, the crimes of America and its leader are many, and terrible.

Iraq today is very much a nation under foreign occupation, which makes the very processes of democracy the United States seeks to impose on the Iraqi people questionable from a legal basis, as it is a violation of international law for occupying forces to impose their will on the processes of law and self-governance of an occupied people. It would be tragic comedy of the blackest sort for anyone to try and make a case that the Bush administration has not imposed itself in a significant and meaningful fashion regarding the drafting of the new Iraqi Constitution, the conduct of Iraqi elections, and the formulation and implementation of the Iraqi court system (especially as it concerns the ongoing trial of Saddam Hussein).

The end result of all of this illegitimate intervention on the part of the United States in Iraq is the creation of a failed nation state in Iraq today. Legal niceties aside, the end result of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq are a human and social disaster of enormous scale, where unified central governmental authority is not only non-existent, but unachievable under current conditions.

Civil war is ongoing, and threatens to explode to levels of violence several orders of magnitude greater than the horror already unfolding in Iraq on a daily basis. Those who postulate the \"what ifs\" of American policy (\"What if democracy takes root, the Iraqi economy turns around, the insurgency fades away, and Iraq emerges as a symbol of freedom for the Middle East\") have just had the nails hammered into the coffin of their false hopes. The Bush administration\'s refusal to continue funding of Iraqi reconstruction programs has thrown into the trash bin any hope of building an Iraq that could withstand the stresses of occupation and insurgency by winning over the hearts and minds of a deeply traumatized Iraqi populace.

This action by the United States not only seals the ultimate defeat of America in Iraq by guaranteeing the increase in chaos and anarchy upon which the insurgency thrives, but also certifies yet again the status of the Bush administration as a violator of international law, in this case Hague Regulations and Geneva Conventions to ensure the well-being of the occupied population by respecting their rights to life, health, food, education, and employment. Having invaded and destroyed Iraq, the United States now adds insult to injury by walking away from its responsibilities to rebuild Iraq at least to the standard that existed under Saddam Hussein\'s rule before March 2003.

While emotionally one can state that getting rid of Saddam Hussein bettered the lot of the average Iraqi citizen, intellectually this is a case that is unsustainable by fact. On every benchmark used to judge the effectiveness of a nation state, Iraq under American occupation fails to meet even the mediocre standards of Iraq as governed by Saddam Hussein, both before and during the time of sanctions. Iraq\'s education, health, transportation, security, infrastructure (especially water and electricity) and economy have all digressed since the US-led invasion.

Finally, I would be remiss not to comment here on the Bush administration\'s record of suppressing freedom of speech and expression, especially when it comes to the issue of Iraq. Within the United States we have the ongoing saga surrounding the President\'s decision to authorize unwarranted wiretaps, enabling the secretive National Security Agency to monitor and record the conversations and communications of American citizens without first going through special courts established for this purpose.

The President has justified his actions by noting that the courts in question imposed a dangerous time impediment, which impacts America\'s ability to rapidly respond to any emerging terrorist threat. He also emphasized that such intercepts only involved communications between US citizens and known Al Qaeda connections. The legality of the President\'s actions are questionable, and under current review by members of Congress.

However, given the Bush administration\'s proclivity to use the Al Qaeda label freely and often without cause (witness the repeated efforts to link Saddam Hussein\'s regime to Al Qaeda, and the ongoing description of Arab media outlets critical of US policy in the Middle East, such as Al Jazeera, as being propaganda organs of Al Qaeda), the scope of justification of these wiretaps could go far beyond any real threat that might exist from Al Qaeda, and include any anti-war movement in America that has communicated with citizens inside Iraq, or any journalist or columnist who communicates with or writes for Al Jazeera, or anyone who questions or opposes the policies of the Bush administration when it comes to the war in Iraq or the Global War on Terror.

Far from protecting America, the President Bush\'s frontal assault on the freedoms and protections afforded by the US Constitution have placed the United States, and indeed the world, in greater peril than any terrorist plot could ever aspire to.

If, by writing a book exposing the lies about Iraqi WMD or submitting an essay to Al Jazeera (or for that matter, to AlterNet or any other outlet that publishes a dissenting view), the Bush administration construes my actions as representing a threat to the United States and as such worthy of covert monitoring, so be it, for it is their actions that are seditious to the ideals and values set forth by the Constitution, not mine. When faced with the scale of the criminal activity undertaken by the Bush administration in the name of bringing freedom to the Iraqi people or defending America, the only real sedition I could commit would be to remain silent.

Scott Ritter served as a Chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq from 1991 until his resignation in 1998. He is the author of, most recently, Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein (Nation Books, 2005).

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Can states limit what candidates spend?

By Warren Richey
The Christian Science Monitor

The role of money in elections is one of the most volatile fault lines in American politics. Liberals generally favor limits on how much gets raised for campaigns. Many conservatives want few if any restrictions.

Tuesday, the US Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about a Vermont law that goes a step further than limits on campaign contributions. It also restricts how much candidates can spend.
It\'s that limit on spending that makes the case, Randall v. Sorrell, so closely watched. The high court struck down such limits in a landmark case 30 years ago. But critics say that the explosive growth in campaign spending since that time has changed the political landscape.

\"The time has come for the court to take a second look,\" says Brenda Wright of the National Voting Rights Institute in Boston. \"What we had in Vermont that prompted this law was that there was a moment when the legislature and the citizenry felt that they were on the brink of slipping into the kind of special interest money- dominated politics that they saw at the national level and they did not want to see this happening to their state.\"

At issue in the Vermont case is the constitutionality of Act 64, a law passed by the state legislature in 1997 that seeks to break the connection between money and politics by establishing strict limitations on both campaign contributions and campaign expenditures.

Act 64 reflects a policy judgment by Vermont lawmakers that the best way to ensure a level playing field in elections is to slow the flow of money at both ends of the campaign pipeline.

Supporters of the law say such spending limits are justified by the government\'s interest in fostering citizen confidence in the democratic process by preventing corruption and the appearance of corruption.

\"Under a system of unlimited campaign spending, incumbents amass war chests that deter challengers and leave many elections effectively uncontested,\" writes Ms. Wright in her brief to the court. This reduces officeholders\' accountability and diminishes robust public debate on the issues, she adds.

Opponents of the law say that while some limitations on campaign contributions do not violate the First Amendment, restrictions on how much money a candidate can spend will muzzle candidates in violation of their free speech rights.

\"The forced reduction in overall candidate campaign spending is illegitimate under the First Amendment,\" says James Bopp in his brief on behalf of the Vermont Republican State Committee challenging the Vermont law. \"In the free society ordained by our Constitution it is not the government but the people ... who must retain control over the quantity and range of debate on public issues in a political campaign.\"

The Supreme Court has already limited the inflow of campaign funds. In 1976, it handed down a landmark decision recognizing that large cash contributions to candidates in the midst of political campaigns might give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. To counter it, the high court said in a case called Buckley v. Valeo that the government could place reasonable limits on the amount of money being contributed to a political campaign.

But the justices struck down limitations on the outflow of campaign funds - the amount of money candidates could spend while trying to get elected.

Legal analysts say it is unclear how the current court will approach the case. Some suggest Justice Anthony Kennedy may emerge as the swing vote with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito siding with conservatives Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to strike down the Vermont law.

But others say the court may take a different approach, allowing lawmakers to make the policy choices of how best to conduct and finance elections.

There is little middle ground in the case. Opponents of the law say it amounts to an incumbent protection plan because challengers are barred from raising the amounts of money necessary to overcome the name recognition and other advantages of incumbency.

\"Any expenditure ceiling - especially one that uses past average expenditures as the relevant guide - will necessarily restrict the spending of some candidates to ensure that other candidates are not outspent,\" says Mitchell Pearl, a Middlebury, Vt., lawyer in a brief urging the court to strike down the law. \"Act 64 will prevent many candidates from amassing the resources necessary for effective advocacy.\"

In urging the high court to uphold Vermont\'s experiment in campaign finance reform, Vermont Assistant Attorney General Timothy Tomasi says spending limits help free candidates and officeholders from becoming beholden to campaign contributors.

\"Expenditure limits militate against the undue access and influence now afforded donors and allow officials to decide issues based on the merits, not the wishes of their financiers,\" Mr. Tomasi writes in his brief. \"They permit officials to attend to their public duties instead of seeking private dollars, and assure that candidates and officials have the opportunity to hear the views of all citizens, regardless of whether they are donors.\"

A decision in the case is expected by late June.

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Secret Service agents say Cheney was drunk when he shot lawyer

Doug Thompson, Capitol Hill Blue

Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago say Cheney was \"clearly inebriated\" at the time of the shooting.
Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited \"visible signs\" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.
According to those who have talked with the agents and others present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of the hunting party time to sober up.

We talked with a number of administration officials who are privy to inside information on the Vice President\'s shooting \"accident\" and all admit Secret Service agents and others say they saw Cheney consume far more than the \"one beer\' he claimed he drank at lunch earlier that day.

\"This was a South Texas hunt,\" says one White House aide. \"Of course there was drinking. There\'s always drinking. Lots of it.\"

One agent at the scene has been placed on administrative leave and another requested reassignment this week. A memo reportedly written by one agent has been destroyed, sources said Wednesday afternoon.

Cheney has a long history of alcohol abuse, including two convictions of driving under the influence when he was younger. Doctors tell me that someone like Cheney, who is taking blood thinners because of his history of heart attacks, could get legally drunk now after consuming just one drink.

If Cheney was legally drunk at the time of the shooting, he could be guilty of a felony under Texas law and the shooting, ruled an accident by a compliant Kenedy County Sheriff, would be a prosecutable offense.

But we will never know for sure because the owners of the Armstrong Ranch, where the shooting occurred, barred the sheriff\'s department from the property on the day of the shooting and Kenedy County Sheriff Ramon Salinas III agreed to wait until the next day to send deputies in to talk to those involved.

Sheriff\'s Captain Charles Kirk says he went to the Armstrong Ranch immediately after the shooting was reported on Saturday, February 11 but both he and a game warden were not allowed on the 50,000-acre property. He called Salinas who told him to forget about it and return to the station.

\"I told him don\'t worry about it. I\'ll make a call,\" Salinas said. The sheriff claims he called another deputy who moonlights at the Armstrong ranch, said he was told it was \"just an accident\" and made the decision to wait until Sunday to investigate.

\"We\'ve known these people for years. They are honest and wouldn\'t call us, telling us a lie,\" Salinas said.

Like all elected officials in Kenedy County, Salinas owes his job to the backing and financial support of Katherine Armstrong, owner of the ranch and the county\'s largest employer.

\"The Armstrongs rule Kenedy County like a fiefdom,\" says a former employee.

Secret Service officials also took possession of all tests on Whittington\'s blood at the hospitals where he was treated for his wounds. When asked if a blood alcohol test had been performed on Whittington, the doctors who treated him at Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial in Corpus Christi or the hospital in Kingsville refused to answer. One admits privately he was ordered by the Secret Service to \"never discuss the case with the press.\"

It\'s a sure bet that is a private doctor who treated the victim of Cheney\'s reckless and drunken actions can\'t talk to the public then any evidence that shows the Vice President drunk as a skunk will never see the light of day.

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For the sake of the world\'s poor, we must keep the wealthy at home

George Monbiot
Tuesday February 28, 2006
The Guardian

At last the battlelines have been drawn, and the first major fight over climate change is about to begin. All over the country, a coalition of homeowners and anarchists, of Nimbys and internationalists, is mustering to fight the greatest future cause of global warming: the growth of aviation.

Not all these people care about the biosphere. Some are concerned merely that their homes are due to be bulldozed, or that, living under the new flight paths, they will never get a good night\'s sleep again. But anyone who has joined a broad-based coalition understands the power of this compound of idealism and dogged self-interest.
The industry has seen it, and is getting its revenge in first. Last week the Guardian obtained a leaked copy of a draft treaty between the European Union and the US that would prevent us from taking any measure to reduce the environmental impact of airlines without the approval of the US government. This, though it might be the widest ranging, is not the first such agreement; the 1944 Chicago convention, now supported by 4,000 bilateral treaties, rules that no government may levy tax on aviation fuel. The airlines have been bottlefed throughout their lives.

The British government admits that the only area in which it is \"free to make policy in isolation from other countries\" is airport development; it could contain or reverse the growth of flights by restricting airport capacity. Instead, it is softening us up for a third runway at Heathrow, and similar extensions at Stansted, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Twelve other airports have already announced expansion plans. According to the Commons environmental audit committee, the growth the government foresees will require \"the equivalent of another Heathrow every five years\". Orwell\'s most accurate prediction in 1984 was the mutation of Britain into Airstrip One.

Already, one fifth of all international air passengers fly to or from an airport in the UK. The numbers have risen fivefold in the past 30 years, and the government envisages that they will more than double by 2030, to 476 million a year. Perhaps \"envisages\" is the wrong word. By providing the capacity, the government ensures that the growth takes place.

As far as climate change is concerned, this is an utter, unparalleled disaster. It\'s not just that aviation represents the world\'s fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions. The burning of aircraft fuel has a \"radiative forcing ratio\" of around 2.7; what this means is that the total warming effect of aircraft emissions is 2.7 times as great as the effect of the carbon dioxide alone. The water vapour they produce forms ice crystals in the upper troposphere (vapour trails and cirrus clouds) that trap the earth\'s heat. According to calculations by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, if you added the two effects together (it urges some caution as they are not directly comparable), aviation emissions alone would exceed the government\'s target for the country\'s entire output of greenhouse gases in 2050 by around 134%. The government has an effective means of dealing with this. It excludes international aircraft emissions from the target.

It won\'t engage in honest debate because there is no means of reconciling its plans with its claims about sustainability. In researching my book about how we might achieve a 90% cut in carbon emissions by 2030, I have been discovering, greatly to my surprise, that every other source of global warming can be reduced or replaced to that degree without a serious reduction in our freedoms. But there is no means of sustaining long-distance, high-speed travel.

The industry claims it can reduce its emissions by means of technological developments. But, as the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution points out, its targets \"are clearly aspirations rather than projections\". There are some basic technological constraints that make major improvements impossible to envisage.

The first problem is that our planes have a remarkably long design life. The Boeing 747 is still in the air 36 years after it left the drawing board. The Tyndall Centre predicts that the new Airbus A380 will still be flying, \"in gradually modified form\", in 2070. Switching to more efficient models would mean scrapping the existing fleet.

Some designers have been playing with the idea of \"blended wing bodies\": planes with hollow wings in which the passengers sit. In principle they could reduce the use of fuel by up to 30%. But the idea, and its safety and stability, is far from proven. Yet this is as good as it gets. As the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe says: \"The consensus view is that the rate of progress for conventional engines will slow down significantly in the next 10 years.\" And if the efficiency of engines does improve, this doesn\'t necessarily solve the problem. More efficient engines tend to be noisier (so even less acceptable to local people), and to produce more water vapour (which means that their total climate impact could in fact be higher). Even if the outermost promise of a 30% cut could be met, it would offset only a fraction of the extra fuel use caused by rising demand.

The airline companies keep talking about hydrogen planes, but if ever the technological problems were overcome they would be an even bigger disaster than current models. \"Switching from kerosene to hydrogen,\" the royal commission says, \"would replace carbon dioxide from aircraft with a threefold increase in emissions of water vapour.\" Biofuels would need more arable land than the planet possesses. The British government admits that \"there is no viable alternative currently visible to kerosene as an aviation fuel.\"

New fuel consumption figures for both fast passenger ships and ultra-high-speed trains suggest that their carbon emissions are comparable to those of planes. What all this means is that if we want to stop the planet from cooking, we will simply have to stop travelling at the kind of speeds that planes permit.

This is now broadly understood by almost everyone I meet. But it has had no impact whatever on their behaviour. When I challenge my friends about their planned weekend in Rome or their holiday in Florida, they respond with a strange, distant smile and avert their eyes. They just want to enjoy themselves. Who am I to spoil their fun? The moral dissonance is deafening.

Despite the claims made for the democratising effects of cheap travel, 75% of those who use budget airlines are in social classes A, B and C. People with second homes abroad average six return flights a year, while people in classes D and E hardly fly; they can\'t afford the holidays, so are responsible for just 6% of flights. Most of the growth, the government envisages, will take place among the wealthiest 10%. But the people who are being hit first and will be hit hardest by climate change are among the poorest on earth. Already the droughts in Ethiopia, putting millions at risk of starvation, are being linked to the warming of the Indian Ocean. Some 92 million Bangladeshis could be driven out of their homes this century in order that we can still go shopping in New York.

Flying kills. We all know it, and we all do it. And we won\'t stop doing it until the government reverses its policy and starts closing the runways.


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Why Scooter Libby is Toast and Rove will provide the butter: And why no one connected with John Fund can get life insurance

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
28 Feb 06

Scooter Libby made a mistake. He thought he was a NeoCon Insider. It was a natural mistake for him to have made, his business cards, the perks, the deference, the salary, and the access to power, all spell out Insider using the usual formula for such. But he was wrong and will now find himself tossed off the back of the Sleigh of State into the gaping maws of righteous indignation, there to serve his ultimate purpose, scapegoat and distraction. The NeoCons waste nothing, not even their hapless tools, that is their environmental policy.
Your standing and importance in the NeoCon world depend not on where you graduated college, in Scooter\'s case Columbia University, or on your overt title or what you do in the administration, that is mostly window dressing. What matters is how important you are to the inner workings of the NeoCon Cabal. No one who came on board after 1999 is really an insider. The insiders earned that status far earlier; Insiders do the work you can\'t afford to have known. Therefore no matter what they must be protected.

Scooter\'s knowledge about the actions taken by this administration can all be parsed as missteps by those at his level. The very visibility he was allowed and his connection to so many events points not to his importance but to his expendibility. Those in this administration who know themselves to have been brought on board after 2000 who also participated in questionable activities should be contacting their attorneys and working on building up funds for their defense.

The real NeoCon Insiders are political operatives placed in media, politics, and in prominent places in the larger cultural frame.

What you do as a political operative in carrying out the covert machinations of the Plan, that is what matters; that is what determines your expendibility factor. Real insiders do not have to worry about being tossed off the back of the sleigh. For them, anything is possible in terms of defense. They know too much for it to be otherwise.

This group is relatively small in number. What they did to earn that status goes to such questions as the shape and direction of policy for the last 10 years, the make up of the legion of pundits, the various \'sources\' for leaks, and other points that, if considered, help the onlooker see the reality behind the political front presented by this Administration today.

One of the best examples of this is John Fund. He is carrying his weight as a political operative; he is not expendable though occasionally he is forced to spend time on the side lines for bad behavior.

The internal structure of the NeoCon world means the need to know is based on what the individual will be doing for the Plan. This correlates with their routine inclusion on insider information. Fund has been \'briefed\' with confidential information since 2000 and before then with their internal plans, which he helped formulate. He is briefed because as a first level operative he handles what is most sensitive to them.

When the NeoCons transferred their cabal into positions within government and the media they assigned duties to those operatives they knew they could trust. Newbeys were used but not trusted with the most sensitive activities. For NeoCons trust takes a long time.

Fund, they knew they could trust. He had been one of them for nearly twenty years by then. He worked hard to make himself useful, suggesting many major appointments for this administration, providing names of individuals who would bring \'cover\' for what the administration intended to do. He wrote the book they intended to use to stifle comment on the election fraud they had already planned, and providing presence useful to them ideologically, though that is now slipping.

Instead of looking at the administration and thinking in terms of the normal chains of command superimpose on that the driving need of this administration to manipulate public opinion while bolting into position the means to ensure they cannot be displaced.

The Alito confirmation demonstrated that Congress is iced; the Supreme Court is frozen; and at this point in time the electoral process is known to be owned by the NeoCons, thanks to Diebold and manipulation within various states.

Examine Fund\'s role as a political operative. You start to see how this was accomplished.

Fund was a nerd from Live Oak, California who dreamed of power. He was recruited by Robert Novak and placed at the Wall Street Journal in 1983. His qualifications are that there is nothing he will not do as well as his facility to use the rhetoric of the freedom movement to justify policies useful to NeoCons. His problematic personal history kept him from the position of speech writer for Bush in 2000. He is useful and protected but even then the Bush administration understood his potential liabilities.

Many of those serving in positions similar to Scooter\'s in this administration were suggested by Fund. He had started his political career as a Libertarian and was familiar with most of the players from that movement. That movement provided the policy that allowed the adoption of law that decoupled costs from accountability. In this way government has increased its real income. Look at services provided by government; notice how these are being cut back while taxes continue to rise. This puts money into the pockets of the NeoCons and the friends they appoint. Their costs are lowered; their income increased. Those funds were then redirected into such adventures as the War in Iraq.

From our National Parks to Social Services policy has been used to convert \'service\' to profit centers that generated even more profits while the costs are borne increasingly by ordinary Americans through fees. What the Ports Deal tells you is that even this may not be enough; soon you may see a for sale sign in front of Yosemite and the Statue of Liberty.

Check out the action in any of the vast array of agencies and bureaus we entrust to provide services; talk to the victims and activists who are struggling against the system that is eating them alive. Every day their numbers grow.

The direction of American policy for privatization, outsourcing, and deregulation, all of which originated in libertarian think tanks such as Cato Institute in Washington D. C. and Reason Foundation in Los Angeles, were intended originally to allow the individual American more choices and so lower costs. Instead government keeps exacting taxes while the individual pays privately for services formerly funded through government.

John Fund put these players together for their mutual profit. Notice the large donors to each of these two think tanks. Koch Industries is run by Charles and David Koch, two men who have profited along with Halliburton from such expensive fiascoes as Vietnam and now in Iraq. The story of how what we once called \'the freedom movement\' was subverted has a long history. That conversion stole the hope in which thousands of activists invested their lives. The means by which it was accomplished were devious, revealing amazing foresight.

These oil men connect neatly to the same people who took over the United Nations and the Environmental Movement. The motivation was always the burnishing of the bottom line and protecting profits.

The Austrian economics that originally prevailed at Cato through the presence of the eminent economist, Murry Rothbard, was replaced by Utility Theory. Utility Theory allows for the manipulation of economic factors for the \'good of the many.\' Rothbard\'s Austrian viewpoint rejected manipulation. Rothbard was a founder of Cato. He is no longer even mentioned in their history. He was purged by Ed Crane, Cato President, and Charles Koch, their only donor at that point, in 1981. (see contemporary newsletter on line at the von Mises Institute.) At the time it was a mystery to all of us in the movement. We assumed it was a personality conflict.

But the logic of the action is clear given the present train of events

John Fund is a dear friend of Cato. He occupies a seat of honor whenever he attends one of their events for which he is comped, as is appropriate for one who has done so much in their cause. Those who work for Cato have profited largely from their conversion of freedom.

In 2000 Fund was given an even more important trust by the NeoCons inner circle; to write a book that would allow him to speak as an authority on the issue of electoral fraud. His comments on that subject are calculated to sow division among those who are working for reform. This kind of disinformation campaign has been duplicated many times, both by him and by other NeoCon political operatives. But John Fund has arguably carried more weight and done more than any other single operative to advance the NeoCon agenda.

Do a google search on his name and note the specific subjects he takes up and writes about. He anticipates the action frequently, placing specious arguments then adopted by those who respect his authority and power.

John Fund was the essential component in constructing the justifications for this and for building defenses against criticism in advance. To do that he needed to know what was going to come down. Hence, briefings.

And despite the fact he was fired from the Wall Street Journal Editorial Staff in 2002 he continues to be billed as \'their man.\' How many on line journalists get such briefings? How do I know he is being briefed? He said so.

Yesterday he appeared on the Joe Scarborough Show at MSNBC and the transcript for that show contains the following:

"FUND: Joe...
CROWLEY: ... there are so many things in this war on terror that
we cannot control.
Look, if a terrorist is-is-is intent on committing an act of terror
against the United States, they will do whatever they can to try to
find a way to do that.
FUND: Joe...
CROWLEY: I am saying that, because there are so many things we
can't control in this war, why give up an area that we can control?
FUND: Joe, one of the saddest things...
FUND: One of the saddest things in this whole debate has been the
things we can't talk about.
It is certainly true, the United Arab Emirates had a spotty record
regarding terrorism before 9/11. Since 9/11, when George Bush
said, you're either for-with us or you are against us, the United
Arab Emirates has decided, they are with us.
There are things-and I got a security briefing on this today-there
are things the United Arab Emirates has done to support the war on
terrorism that are brave, that have put that government at risk,
that we can't talk about, and our government can't talk about,
because it would only mean more terrorist attacks on the United
Arab Emirates.
So, they are silent. They can't speak for themselves. I am not
pro-Arab. I am not Muslim, but I am pro-common sense. Let's have
the 45-day review, and let's have this debate after the 45 days,
when we actually have all the information and all the facts.

Thank you so much, John Fund. I usually agree with you. Tonight,
I don't."

How many of you receive a briefing from the administration routinely? Fund is not a reporter assigned to the White House. He is not directly employed by the Wall Street Journal. Ask yourself why he has received these briefings for at least six years. The answers to questions are often unpalatable but important.

My own involvement in this story is of long standing. I had doubts and questions about John Fund from the time I noted he was using me to place rumors in the early months of the Clinton Administration. Not that I liked Clinton but neither do I like being used for someone\'s dirty work. I was then well involved in the National Federation of Republican Women. I had known John since before he was hired as Executive Director for the Libertarian Party of California in 1981. I was then Southern California Vice Chairman. Unlike Fund, I was always a volunteer whose focus was not on personal profit but on changes I wanted to leave my children. My family has a long history as champions for freedom.

It is always, perhaps, the personal, that forces us to accept the unpalatable. Events drove that message home for me.

My daughter, Morgan Pillsbury, told me she had been battered by John Fund while they were living together. I believe her. I saw the physical evidence. I am a witness, the only witness. That should have been handled as is mandated by law in New York. The deviations from what is normal procedure began to awaken me to the reality of this administration.

I was determined to see justice done. After a good many years the law suit Morgan filed is now wending its way through the system and a hearing is scheduled for this spring.

Two days ago I discovered evidence I was being stalked. Both my counsel and I agreed the timing was more than a little coincidental.

Earlier today I prepared and placed with my counsel a declaration of what I intend to say when called to testify. It is well to be prepared. The evidence I discovered is also in his hands.

Why am I being stalked? What do I know that concerns the NeoCons except that John Fund lied about a simple case of domestic violence? Sometimes you don\'t see what is significant. But over the past years I have been privy to things that never appeared in the media. I am not sure which item is of the most concern to them. I think about the train of events sometimes and wonder. John is, I came to realize, a tangle of truths and falsehoods; any inquiry will doubtless produce something the NeoCons cannot risk becoming known. Having watched the NeoCons for years I have no illusions about just how ruthless they can be. Contributing to No Child Left Behind did not give me a get out of jail free card. I do not anticipate having tea at the White House with Laura again.

Protecting John Fund appears to be more important than anyone, certainly I, had realized.

John has acted as a spy for the NeoCons, pointing out the vulnerabilities of those who were committed to the freedom movement, working to widen the chasms of distrust between all Americans, placing disinformation, attacking under pretense of politics and ideology, and accepting all of the benefits he so earned. He has championed an undeclared war on our freedoms; a conversion of our lives and wealth to their profit.

As a side note, many people will be surprised to learn that John Does not live in toney Georgetown digs. John lives in a pig sty of a bachelor pad in Jersey City. One might be lead to believe his Bible is the Bachelor\'s Home Companion by P. J. O\'Roark, but seems to be able to conceal a large amount of his personal wealth.

Morgan commented about the papers she had to clean up and sent many on to me. My counsel now has those, too.

Most Americans do not yet realize that a war is being waged -- not against Iraq but against each of us. It is not the Republican Party that is charge in this administration but a small cadre who seized executive branch power and converted it to their own uses. Most Republicans are experiencing a deer-in-the-headlights moment right now. Their Party has been hijacked, their president has been hijacked, and they do not know what to do. I remain a registered Republican working for an effective coalition.

The attack on us and on our rights has hardly begun. You don\'t go to the trouble of setting up this degree of control without having made plans to use it.

That is where we are today. The NeoCons have garnered tremendous power and wealth, but we can still win.

Solutions exist. Those include getting off all of the grids, energy, being only the first. The NeoCons want a system that provides them with an income and control in perpetuity. We need to turn off the faucets.

Getting out of debt; paying off your mortgage, working to strengthen your local organizations and charities that provide the social services we all may well need, these are also essential. Prepare to become active in and for your own community. Finally affirm the rights of all Americans under the Constitution by ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. It was that wrong step that allowed all later compromises that converted our inherent rights to privileges meted out by government.

The means exist to fight back by moving outside the NeoCon game plan.

We have choices as we move towards a different vision for America. Families, individuals, communities, and towns, that is medium for governance envisioned by our founders; people directly controlling their own lives and acting in charity and good will towards those around them. Some day we may look back and see this as a wake up call that returned us to that vision.

Don\'t allow yourself to be distracted by the pseudo drama of Scooter Libby. He was never a player, just wolf bait.

Now I am going to see if I can increase the level of my life insurance.


Melinda Pillsbury-Foster is the author of GREED: The NeoConning of America and A Tour of Old Yosemite. The former is a novel about the lives of the NeoCons with a strong autobiographical component. The latter is a non-fiction book about her father and grandfather.

Ms. Pillsbury-Foster has been active in politics since the Goldwater Campaign. She left the Republican Party to join and become active in the Libertarian Party in 1973, working as an activist and party officer until she left the Libertarian Party in 1988. She received 5% of the vote in a four way race in 1982 for California\'s 20th State Senate Race while also serving as Southern Vice-Chairman for the California Libertarian Party. She was elected to six terms as a state officer, eventually serving on National Committee.

In 1988 she rejoined the Republican Party and became a member and country officer for the National Federation of Republican Women and also served as a Regent for several years. She is also the the founder of the Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation (www.acpillsburyfoundation.com). She is the mother of four living children and one deceased.

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Minority firms getting few Katrina contracts

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Minority-owned businesses say they're paying the price for the decision by Congress and the Bush administration to waive certain rules for Hurricane Katrina recovery contracts.
About 1.5 percent of the $1.6 billion awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency has gone to minority businesses, less than a third of the 5 percent normally required.

On Tuesday, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, and Rep. Donald A. Manzullo, R-Ill., asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether small and minority-owned businesses have been given a fair opportunity to compete for Katrina contracts.

Andrew Jenkins doesn't think so.

Once Katrina's destructive waters receded, he began making calls in hopes of a winning a government contract for his Mississippi construction company.

Jenkins, who is black, says he watched in frustration as the contracts went to others, many of them larger, white-owned companies with political ties to Washington.

"That just doesn't smell right," said Jenkins, president of AJA Management and Technical Services Inc. of Jackson, Miss., noting the region has a higher percentage of blacks and minority-owned businesses that other areas of the country.

To speed aid, many requirements normally attached to government contracting were waived by Congress and the administration. The result has been far more no-bid contracts going to businesses that have an existing relationship with the government.

Affirmative action rules eased
There also was an easing of affirmative action rules for contractors and a suspension of a "prevailing wage" law that black lawmakers and business people believe will hurt the disproportionately large number of black hourly workers in the region.

"It sends a bad message," said Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. "What they're basically saying to the minority in New Orleans is, \'We'll make it harder for you to find a job. And if you do, we'll make sure you get paid less.\'\"

The Department of Homeland Security, whose FEMA division handles most of the contracts, said it is committed to hiring smaller, disadvantaged firms. But many of the no-bid awards were given out to known players who could quickly provide help in an emergency situation, spokesman Larry Orluskie said.

"It was about saving lives, protecting property, and going to who you go to, to get what you need," he said.

The Labor Department also has said its decision to temporarily suspend affirmative action rules for first-time government contractors doing Katrina work was motivated by a need to reduce paperwork to speed emergency aid.

The Army Corps of Engineers has a better record on minority contracts, with roughly 16 percent of the $637 million in Katrina contracts going to minority-owned companies, according to agency records.

Businesses with more than 50 employees typically must have a written affirmative action plan if they are awarded contracts of more than $50,000. But the Bush administration removed that requirement for three months, saying basic anti-discrimination laws would provide adequate protection.

Minorities upset, but remain hopeful
At a recent meeting in Mississippi for minority businesspeople with federal contracting officials, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said many of the 100 owners walked out in anger when told their best chance of getting work was to seek smaller subcontracts from the larger companies.

"The president has talked about small businesses being the engine of our economy, but when the time for sound bites is over his administration still uses the same backroom deals to take care of their friends," said Thompson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The situation has exacerbated racial sensitivities that already were heightened by the slow initial federal response to the New Orleans flood. Many poor black residents didn't get help for days.

Bush huddles with NAACP head
President Bush has met privately with NAACP President Bruce Gordon to discuss the racial component of the disaster. And Alford said he will get a meeting with Bush sometime soon to talk about improving opportunities for minority contractors.

With billions of dollars of new contracts still yet to be awarded, minority leaders say they remain hopeful the Bush administration will begin to provide the same types of opportunities given to large-scale contractors.

In the meantime, Willie Nelson of 33-year-old Nelson Plumbing Inc., continues to wait. He says white-owned firms scurry with work in Mississippi, while his Jackson business sits idle.

"The majority firms are all over the place," Nelson said. "We just want an equal opportunity. But it's been very difficult. They seem to be more interested in taking care of their own while we try to just get a foot in the door."

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Bush is still lying about Katrina

by John in DC
28 Feb 06

Bush tells ABC News, in an interview to be broadcast on World News Tonight, Nightline and Good Morning America, that the problem with Hurricane Katrina was that the White House didn\'t have enough \"situational awareness\" of what was happening on the ground in New Orleans:
BUSH: Listen, here\'s the problem that happened in Katrina. There was no situational awareness, and that means that we weren\'t getting good, solid information from people who were on the ground, and we need to do a better job. One reason we weren\'t is because communications systems got wiped out, and in many cases we were relying upon the media, who happened to have better situational awareness than the government.

That\'s a lie. The White House knew the levies were breaking and did nothing about it. We now know that for a fact. In addition, Bush was on vacation and didn\'t get any substantial updates about the situation on the ground until Thursday and Friday of the week (the hurricane hit Monday morning). Bush CHOSE not to get updates about Katrina, he was ON VACATION and chose to STAY on vacation.

And he wonders why he\'s at 34% in the polls. Because he\'s a liar who refuses to ever take responsibility for anything.

Then we get this little tidbit about 9/11:

I thought, for example, the reaction to the 9/11 attack was a remarkable reaction, positively. When the terrorists attacked and destroy two buildings, there were rescue teams rushing in to save lives. There was a response by the city that was a coordinated response.

Yes, the response from the city of New York was incredible, especially since you were in hiding the entire day up until 6:15PM that evening when you finally returned to the White House. And New York City\'s brave and effective response is a reflection on you how?

More about Katrina. The big problem, according to Bush, is that the government didn\'t \"comfort people.\" Comfort people? What, you mean like give em a hug?

VARGAS: When you look back on those days immediately following when Katrina struck, what moment do you think was the moment that you realized that the government was failing, especially the people of New Orleans?

BUSH: When I saw TV reporters interviewing people who were screaming for help. It looked Â? the scenes looked chaotic and desperate. And I realized that our government was Â? could have done a better job of comforting people.

The people of New Orleans didn\'t need comfort. They needed a helicopter to get them out of trapped buildings that had no food and water. Comfort them?

Then Bush starts lying about Iraq:

And as you know, we\'ve reduced troop levels this year, and that\'s because our commanders on the ground have said that the security situation in Iraq is improving because the Iraqis are more capable of taking the fight.

That\'s another outright lie. US troops levels just went down to the levels they were at right before the elections two months ago, when we sent in additional troops to help keep the peace. We didn\'t reduce troop levels because things are going better, we simply withdrew the troops associated with the election.

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Homophobic, anti-Semitic \"Christian\" activists who promote hate literature are now trying to get \"Desperate Housewives\" thrown off the air

by John in DC
28 Feb 06

The radical religious right group, the American Family Association, has become the book burners of the new century. They don\'t simply have a gripe with a few things in our culture, a few companies, a few TV shows. They want America to be forced to live under their warped, minority view of an extremist Biblical lifestyle that doesn\'t even comport with the majority of mainstream American Christianity.
And now they\'re trying to kill the hit show "Desperate Housewives."

You\'ll recall that this is the same group that "boycotted" Ford, then lost, after we exposed the organization as gay-hating, having a terrible record of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim writings, AND the fact that the AFA actually promotes the "Nazi Germany era" science of known hate groups on their Web site.

It\'s hard to believe that any American company, or politician, would want to be associated with such fringe haters.

Let me share with you, and the folks who run Desperate Housewives, the exact message the American Family Association is promoting:

Does a "Jewish upbringing" lead to a life of crime?
In the March issue of American Family Association Journal, a publication of Donald E. Wildmon\'s right-wing evangelical activist group, the American Family Association (AFA), author Randall Murphree suggested that a Jewish upbringing leads to hatred of Christians, and by extension, a criminal lifestyle.

Were gays the real evil behind the Holocaust?
Scott Lively, California chapter director of the AFA, is co-author of a book titled, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality and the Nazi Party, in which he claims that “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities.” Lively makes explicit links between his claims about the Nazi party and the modern gay equal rights movement, claiming that “From the ashes of Nazi Germany, the homo-fascist phoenix has arisen again, this time in the United States.”

Is Europe "infested" with Muslims who breed "faster than we do"?
"The problem we have with Europe is that [it] is infested with the Muslim population. The reason why is because they multiply at a much faster rate than we do," she says. "When we Christians get married, we have two, three, maybe four children -- after they\'re born, we start thinking about what college we\'re going to send them to, what education we\'re going to give them. The Muslims, on the other hand, are allowed to marry up to four wives at a time," she says, noting that terrorist Osama bin Laden had 27 children.

Is AIDS a "gay plague"?
Some time ago, you see, Thacker called AIDS "the gay plague," which everyone knows but no one will admit, particularly homosexuals and their friends in the Bush Administration.

Are gays responsible for the "end of times"?
The president of one pro-family group feels the battle in Massachusetts over legalizing homosexual marriage is a clear example of the struggle between good and evil as the end times approach.

Are Muslim-Americans trying to "take over our cities"?
Muslim newcomers are engaging in what area realtors call "block busting." In other words, he says, "They came in, paid outrageously high prices for some of our homes that you wouldn\'t give $20,000 for, paying 60 and 70 thousand, which then entrenched a number of [Muslim families] on every block." Golen believes this is part of a "concerted effort" on the part of Muslims to use their financial power take over the city, and he says, "they\'re doing a heck of a job because nobody\'s standing up to them."

Are gays "deviants"?
"...an immoral, deviant lifestyle."

Are gays a "public health" threat?
As a family physician, I’ve seen first-hand the devastation that homosexuality brings into the lives of patients that have chosen to live this way.... To promote homosexuality and even consider the sanctioning of it through “marriage” is irresponsible and is a danger to the public health of the entire country, spiritually and physically.

Do Jews control Hollywood?
The AFA Journal has long served as a platform for anti-Semitic theories and innuendo. For instance, Wildmon warned of Jewish control over popular culture, an old anti-Semitic canard, in a January 1989 article, "What Hollywood Believes and Wants." "The television elite are highly secular," Wildmon wrote. "The majority (59 percent) in the Jewish faith." In a separate article in the same issue, titled "Anti-Semitism Called a Serious Problem," Wildmon, a longtime opponent of gay rights, pointedly remarked that "Jews favor homosexual rights more than other Americans."

Are gays diseased perverts who die early? - I\'m not even going to quote this crap from AFA, read it for yourself and then tell me how any American company or politician would ever want to listen to these people.

I\'m starting to think we may need a new word for these religious right groups: Christian supremacists.

(PS You can find more American Family Association homophobia here.)

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GOP thinks exposing their ethical violations is unethical

by Joe in DC
28 Feb 06

Speaking of GOP corruption which we seem to do an awful lot of these days....we\'ve finally learned what the GOP thinks is unethical: reporting on the GOP ethics violations. From The Hill:
The House Republicans’ campaign operation is charging that a recently released Democratic report on Republican corruption violated ethics rules.

The 103-page report, “America for Sale: The Cost of Republican Corruption,” was compiled by the Democratic staff of the House Rules Committee and released by the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), last week.

The report reiterates repeats many of Democrats’ long-held concerns about Republicans’ actions on healthcare, energy, the environment, homeland security and Hurricane Katrina.

Congresswoman Slaughter did a post on the report over at DailyKos when she released the report last week. The full report is available in a pdf version here.

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Lobbyist Turns Senator but Twists Same Arms

February 28, 2006

WASHINGTON - It might be said that Senator John Thune went through the revolving door - backward.
As a lobbyist in 2003 and 2004, Mr. Thune earned $220,000 from the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, a small but ambitious company in South Dakota. The railroad hopes to rebuild and rehabilitate 1,300 miles of track, the nation\'s largest proposed railroad expansion in more than a century.

Now, as a junior senator from South Dakota, Mr. Thune is working to make that happen, raising questions about whether there should be curbs on lobbyists-turned-lawmakers in the same way that there are on those who take the more traditional route of leaving Capitol Hill for K Street.

Last year, his first in the Senate, Mr. Thune wrote language into a transportation bill expanding the pot of federal loan money for small railroads, enabling his former client to apply for $2.5 billion in government financing for its project. The loan has yet to be approved; Mr. Thune said he was trying to promote economic development in his home state.

\"I don\'t apologize, and never will,\" said Mr. Thune, a Republican, \"for working for South Dakota companies that are creating South Dakota jobs.\"

There are no legal restrictions on the legislative activities of former lobbyists who get elected to Congress. But in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and the subsequent focus on ethics, Mr. Thune\'s experience has put a spotlight on what some experts call \"the reverse revolving door.\"

The issue is among those likely to be debated on Tuesday, when the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration meets to draft changes to the lobbying law. Senator Mark Dayton, Democrat of Minnesota and a member of the rules committee, is furious with Mr. Thune over the rail project, and intends to propose language imposing a two-year ban on lawmakers\' getting \"personally and substantially\" involved in matters affecting former clients.

\"This makes some of the Jack Abramoff deals look like penny ante,\" said Mr. Dayton, who has a prominent constituent, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., that is fighting the rail expansion. \"It\'s the most despicable special-interest deal I\'ve ever seen in all my 30 years in government.\"

Independent experts do not go that far, and Mr. Thune, a former House member and former South Dakota state railroad director, has a long history with railroad issues. Yet some outside experts agree with Mr. Dayton that a cooling-off period for former lobbyists is necessary.

Currently, lawmakers and Congressional aides are barred from lobbying former colleagues on Capitol Hill for one year after leaving public office. On Tuesday, Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi and the chairman of the rules committee, is expected to propose legislation that would go further, rescinding House and Senate floor privileges for former lawmakers who become registered lobbyists.

Mr. Lott\'s bill does not address the issue of lobbyists who get elected to Congress. But Keith Ashdown, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government watchdog group, said lobbyists-turned-lawmakers should step aside from legislation involving former clients.

And James Thurber, an expert in money and politics at American University in Washington who has testified before the rules panel, said candidates should not lobby for a year before Election Day.

\"If they\'re going to be running for the Senate or the House they should not be lobbying right up to the election,\" Professor Thurber said, adding: \"The conflict of interest is too serious. In a representative democracy, you have to be very careful about cutting off the linkages to specialized interests while you\'re in office, as well as just before you get in office and after you leave.\"

According to public records and a list compiled by Professor Thurber, at least eight current members of Congress worked as lobbyists before being elected. Some, like Mr. Thune and Representative Dan Lungren, Republican of California, became lobbyists during a hiatus in public service.

Mr. Lungren, a former House member and California attorney general, worked as a lobbyist from the late 1990\'s until he returned to the House in 2005. Mr. Thune, who retired from the House in 2002, began lobbying after he lost his bid for a Senate seat that year. He continued through 2004, when he ran again and won.

His one-man company, the Thune Group, which he operated out of his Sioux Falls home, had just four clients, all with South Dakota connections; they included a boneless-beef manufacturer, a company that builds ethanol plants and a major hospital in Sioux Falls. He was also affiliated with a Washington-based law firm, Arent Fox, representing a recycling facility and the National Milk Producers Federation.

Others have had far more extensive client lists. Representative Doris Matsui, Democrat of California, represented dozens of clients - including agricultural associations, a pharmaceutical business and Verizon, the telephone company - while her late husband, Robert, was serving in Congress. She was elected to fill his seat when he died.

Still others, like Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Robert F. Bennett, Republican of Utah, have not lobbied for years. Mr. Bennett opened the Washington office of the J.C. Penney Company in the 1960\'s, he said, back in the days \"when lobbyists didn\'t earn as much as members.\"

Mr. Bennett said he saw nothing wrong with Mr. Thune\'s work; he said lobbyists often had expertise that could translate into good public policy.

\"I left Penney\'s in 1969 to join the Nixon administration and I didn\'t come to the Senate until 1992, but I brought with me a residual understanding of retailing and retailing issues,\" Mr. Bennett said. \"That expertise was helpful, and I did some things, frankly, that were helpful to the J.C. Penney Company. If it\'s good public policy, the fact that I brought that experience and expertise with me probably contributed to it.\"

That is precisely Mr. Thune\'s argument.

As the railroad\'s lobbyist, he helped Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern obtain a $230 million loan from the Federal Railroad Administration. The company president, Kevin V. Schieffer - a former chief of staff to a previous South Dakota senator, Larry Pressler - said that Mr. Thune had \"real bona fide rail industry experience,\" and that he did not see any conflict.

\"He got his last check from us a long time ago,\" Mr. Schieffer said.

Mr. Thune said the work convinced him that the same loan program could finance the big rail expansion, intended to transport so-called \"clean-burning coal\" from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming to the East Coast. Mr. Thune said the project was in keeping with President Bush\'s energy policy and would also create thousands of jobs in South Dakota.

The trouble was, the loan program was too small - just $3.5 billion all told, with $1 billion for smaller railroads like the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern. So Mr. Thune, drawing on existing legislation that was stalled, proposed increasing it to $35 billion, with $7 billion for small railroads. Although the Senate initially passed a lesser amount, Mr. Thune persuaded colleagues to include the full $35 billion when the transportation bill went to conference with the House.

Mr. Dayton, who once co-sponsored a similar bill but now says that doing so was a mistake, calls the loan provision a \"totally irresponsible boondoggle.\" Mr. Thune says that everything was done in the open, and that his constituents elected him knowing exactly whom he had worked for, and how much he was paid.

\"If you start banning elected officials from using their working knowledge on behalf of constituents,\" he said, \"I think it would greatly erode our representative form of government.\"

Comment: From AmericaBlog

South Dakota\'s Senator John Thune, who was elected with the aid of male prostitute Jeff Gannon, has provided yet another example of just how ethically bankrupt the GOPers on the hill can be. It sures seems like he has a lot in common with his infamous campaign operative

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Bush Says He Still Supports Ports Deal

28 Feb 06

President Bush said Tuesday he remains supportive of a United Arab Emirates-based company\'s takeover of some U.S. port operations, even though a new, more intensive investigation of the deal\'s potential security risks has yet to begin.

Bush is the final arbiter of that second review. Yet, he said after an Oval Office meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that \"my position hasn\'t changed\" on support for transferring control of management of some major U.S. port facilities from a British company to Dubai-owned DP World.
The administration\'s approval of the deal has caused an uproar from Republicans and Democrats in Congress that it could open the country to terrorist dangers. Lawmakers criticized the deal anew Tuesday, despite Republican leaders\' hopes that the furor had diminished.

Hoping to quell the bipartisan rebellion and prevent a potentially embarrassing clash over legislation, the Bush administration agreed Sunday to DP World\'s request for a 45-day investigation of deal\'s potential security risks, a second review that was not done before the administration\'s Jan. 17 approval.

The investigation will result in a report submitted to the president, who will have 15 days to decide whether to approve it.

Bush suggested there was no reason to think the second investigation would produce any different outcome than the first.

\"I look forward to a good, consistent review,\" he said as he and Berlusconi alternated in taking questions from reporters in the Oval Office.

He urged Congress to \"please, look at the facts.\"

\"What kind of signal does it send throughout the world if its OK for a British company to mange the ports but not a company that has been secured _ that has been cleared for security purposes from the Arab world?\" he said. After his remarks on port security, Bush told the translator not to translate his answer into Italian, unlike his other responses.

On Capitol Hill, where lawmakers returned after a weeklong break, Republicans joined Democrats in criticizing the deal, claiming that the government\'s initial approval of it was flawed.

They offered as proof Monday\'s disclosure that the U.S. Coast Guard had raised concerns weeks ago that, because of U.S. intelligence gaps, it could not determine whether the UAE company, DP World, might support terrorist operations.

Bush administration officials say those concerns were addressed and resolved.

But House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., called the Coast Guard assessment \"just another example of many unanswered questions.\"

Countering that at a Senate appropriations hearing, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Cheroot called the Coast Guard documents \"an early report\" that ultimately concluded that DP World\'s acquisition of P&O \"in and of itself, does not pose a significant threat to U.S. assets in U.S. ports.\"

Pressed by Sen. Barbara Mukluks, D-Md., Cheroot said he saw the Coast Guard memo \"about a week ago,\" but disagreed that it represented a warning. \"I don\'t see it as a flashing light,\" Cheroot said.

Elsewhere in Washington, former President Bill Clinton told reporters at a meeting of the nation\'s governors that the process by which a multi-agency panel approved the deal was \"too secretive, too low-level.\"

\"The second thing and the larger problem is that everybody in America knows we don\'t do enough on port security,\" Clinton said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, King said he was concerned by Bush administration comments that the 45-day delay would merely be an opportunity to educate Congress.

\"It is for them to conduct an investigation that they never conducted in the first place,\" King said. \"There\'s concerns among Republicans that I\'ve spoken to that the administration has not taken the investigation seriously. They want to have a real investigation _ a very intense investigation.\"

King said he planned to introduce legislation Tuesday that could give Congress an opportunity to block the deal if lawmakers are dissatisfied with the results of an investigation but he suggested he\'s unlikely to push for an immediate vote. \"It has to be a weapon held in reserve to assure there is a real investigation,\" King said.

A bipartisan group of senators have introduced the same measure in the Senate. Some Senate Republicans said the fresh investigation _ brokered by congressional GOP leaders to quell the political outcry _ wasn\'t sufficient.

Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said during that panel\'s hearing on threats to national security that he found \"flaws\" in the Bush administration\'s earlier consideration of the ports deal.

But Warner, R-Va., expressed optimism the government will approve the transaction after a lengthier investigation and he praised the \"high degree of mutual trust\" between the United Arab Emirates and United States.

On Monday, Sen. Susan Collins, the chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, disclosed the Coast Guard document during a hearing and said she was \"more convinced than ever that the process was truly flawed.\"

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Port Deal Backstory: UAE gave $1 million to Bush library

Free New Mexican
28 Feb 06

A sheik from the United Arab Emirates contributed at least $1 million to the Bush Library Foundation, which established the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University in College Station.

The UAE owns Dubai Port Co., which is taking operations from London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which operates six U.S. ports. A political uproar has ensued over the deal, which the White House approved without congressional oversight.
The donations were made in the early 1990s for the library, which houses the papers of former President George Bush, the current president\'s father.

The list of donors names Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan al Nahyan and the people of the United Arab Emirates as one donor in the $1 million or more category.

The amount of the gift grants them recognition on the engraved donor wall in the library entrance or on the paving bricks that line the library\'s walkways, according to library documents.

Roman Popaduik, chairman of the Bush Library Foundation that collects donations, said he could not discuss details of the gifts except to say the amount category and whether it was before or after 1997.

The chief executive of the Dubai company, Ahmed bin Sulayem, did not donate individually.

The hundreds of large donors include longtime Bush associates, including Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials as well as business titans - such as Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay - and big Republican donors.

Other Arab donors include the state of Kuwait, the Bandar bin Sultan family, the Sultanate of Oman, King Hassan II of Morocco and the amir of Qatar. The former Korean prime minister and China also gave tens of thousands of dollars to the library.

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Ports: All \'Bout a Dealer Named Bout

by James Ridgeway
February 23rd, 2006

This is a dream setup for any arms or dope dealer, and that\'s exactly what the United Arab Emirates is all about. The ties between its top officials and royal family with the Taliban and Al Qaeda go back at least a decade.
WASHINGTON, D.C.-To hear the administration and its supporters talk, you\'d think the workers in New York ports are carefully vetted by the Waterfront Commission, the ports themselves protected by the ever watchful Coast Guard, and routinely surveilled by U.S. Customs.

In truth, one administration after another has slashed the operational capability of the Coast Guard. Reagan even contemplated its privatization by a major defense firm. As for the Customs Service, it inspects as little as 5 percent of the cargo going through the New York ports.

This is a dream setup for any arms or dope dealer, and that\'s exactly what the United Arab Emirates is all about. The ties between its top officials and royal family with the Taliban and Al Qaeda go back at least a decade.

The UAE is not only the center of financial dealings in the Persian Gulf, it is switching central for dope and arms dealing. The dope comes out of Afghanistan into the UAE where tax monies are collected and used to buy arms, which were sent back in for the Taliban. Some of this money is thought to have helped finance the 9-11 attacks. A money trail is set forth in the government\'s filings in the Moussaoui case.

Long at the center of this operation is the mysterious Russian arms dealer, Victor Bout. The U.N. has accused Bout of providing arms to brutal regimes in Sierra Leone, Angola and to Charles Taylor in Liberia. The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C. research organization that operates a network of foreign correspondents, published a report on Bout in January 2002, citing Belgian intelligence documents from before the 9-11 attacks it had obtained. These documents reportedly show Bout earned $50 million in profits from selling weapons to the Taliban after they came to power in the late 1990s. The Center states, \"Another European intelligence source independently verified the sales, and intelligence documents from an African country in which Bout operates-obtained by the Center-claim that Bout ran guns for the Taliban \'on behalf of the Pakistan government.\' \" Peter Hain, the British Foreign Office Minister for Europe who has led the international effort to expose criminal networks behind the conflict diamonds and small arms trade in Africa, told the Center\'s reporters, it was clear that Bout\'s supply of weapons to the Taliban \"and to its ally, Osama bin Laden\" posed a real danger.

Der Spiegel, the German magazine, said in early January 2002 that Vadim Rabinovich, an Israeli citizen of Ukrainian origin, along with the former director of the Ukrainian secret service and his son sold a consignment of 150 to 200 T-55 and T-62 tanks to the Taliban. Spiegel said the deal was conducted through the Pakistani secret service and uncovered by the Russian foreign intelligence service, SVR, in Kabul, the Afghan capital. A Western intelligence source told the Public Integrity Center that Rabinovich\'s weapons had been airlifted by one of Bout\'s airfreight companies from his base in the UAE.

Rabinovich denied all this, and Bout said \"For the record, I am not, and never have been, associated with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or any of their officials, officers, or related organizations,\" Bout said, according to a copy of the statement released in the United States by one of his associates. \"I am not, nor are any of my organizations, associated with arms traffickers and/or trafficking or the sale of arms of kind [sic] anywhere in the world. I am not, nor is any member of my family, associated with any military or intelligence organizations of any country.\"

No one is suggesting Bout has any great love for the radical Muslim fundamentalists of Taliban ilk. He sold guns to the Russians fighting the CIA-backed Afghan mujahideen in their war with the Soviet Union and to the warlords opposing the Taliban. His planes are registered to various companies all operating out of the United Arab Emirates.

In fact, the United Arab Emirates have been viewed as hub for trade going and coming to Afghanistan, with drugs coming from Afghanistan on their way to the West, and weapons from Bout, going back. While transportation was via Bout\'s different air cargo interests, it also involved the Afghan state airlines, called Ariana Airlines. The airline was controlled by Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda agents masquerading as Ariana employees flew out of Afghanistan, through Sharjah, one of the emirates, and on to points west.

During the late 1990s Bout\'s center of operations was Ostend, Belgium, but when he came under pressure there, he left Belgium. The UAE office grew in importance.

Bout used various air cargo outfits. One of them was called Flying Dolphin, which in the early 2000s was owned by Sheikh Adbullah bin Zayed bin Saqr al Nayhan, a former UAE ambassador to the United States and member of the ruling family in Abu Dhabi. He was described by the United Nations as a \"close business associate of Bout.\" According to the December 20, 2000, U.N. report, Zayed\'s company is registered in Liberia, but its operations office is in Dubai.

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Will Americans Avoid Dubai Port Blunder?

By Christian Merville
Translated By Pascaline Jay
February 28, 2006

In this op-ed article from L\'Orient Le Jour, Lebanese political analyst Christian Melville explains why Americans are so rabidly against a deal involving America\'s ports and an Arab port operator, and warns of the consequences for the U.S. and its \'allies\' if the deal doesn\'t go through.
Like all apparently simple cases, this one is so complex that it just keeps giving the Bush Administration migraines. But what is it? At first glance, it is just a contract authorizing a specialized firm called Dubai Ports World, owned by the United Arab Emirates, for the tidy sum of $6.85 billion, to take over from the British company Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. [P&O] the management of six major American ports: Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Newark (New Jersey), Baltimore and New Orleans. Beforehand, the concession had been endorsed by no less than twelve government agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, before being approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an organization which, as its name indicates, supervises all investments that could affect the country\'s national security.

Up to that point, it was just an honest transaction that had been objected to by no one. But here is the problem: it is a mid-term election year in the United States; the memory of 9/11 is still is very present in people\'s minds; and the mobilization against terrorism is still strong - Americans are reminded of Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi every time their interest in al-Qaeda seems to wane.

That is why, in this case, almost all Americans are dead-set against the deal, holding the Star-Spangled Banner and dribbling anti-Arab saliva. Just listen to Rick Santorum, a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania:

\"Sure, the United Arab Emirates have been our allies for the past few years, but they must still have some connections with Islamic fascism. I\'m not ready to take that risk.\"

Or lawyer Joe Muldoon, who will defend the interests of a rival firm:

\"Today, the United Arab Emirates are our friends; but what about tomorrow? How can we be sure they won\'t be infiltrated by Iran , a country which used to be on our privileged partners\' list?\"

In all this, the press has not been silent. The tone is less virulent than in the Congress and the arguments are more qualified, when they aren\'t totally given over to derision. An editorialist from the venerable New York Times even gave a zany title to his article, \"The Arabs are here!,\" surely referring to the movie \"The Russians are coming,\" a biting 1966 comedy directed by Norman Jewison, Hollywood\'s enfant terrible [someone that stirs up mischief].

Let\'s be clear, the editorialist begins, all the noise surrounding this \"deal\" is about nothing more than the Arabs. The numbers behind the deal are far more eloquent at explaining the controversy than the explanations that have already been mentioned, which aren\'t worth repeating.

With the addition of the U.S. market, the \"stable\" of the Emirates giant reaches 51 ports ( America has a total of 360), which represent an operational capacity of 33.3 million containers per year. Add this to the fact that through these six major cities, the operator will also have ultimate control over 21 other American ports, from Portland, Maine to Corpus Christi, Texas.

The scandal might yet become a matter of State; yesterday, the White House and DP World began a strategic retreat, the first regretting its hasty decision, and the latter asking for a postponement of the March 2 agreement date, when it was supposed to take over.

George W. Bush and his staff will therefore have 45 days to examine the operations of the port concession as much as they like. They will then either put their final stamp of approval on the deal, or rescind its pervious authorization - a measure that has a precedent. In 1990 when … George H.W. Bush (the father) asked China to sell its shares in an aerospace supply factory that was considered of strategic interest.

The only fig leaf of satisfaction and self-esteem offered to the Arabs came from John Warner, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee: \"We depend on the support of countries like the UAE, Qatar , Bahrain and Kuwait in our fight against evil all round the world.\"

But in just a week, the paranoia has reached such a fever pitch, that it will be hard (if not impossible?) to ignore the consequences. Can America avoid such a blunder, at such a crucial time for itself as well as its \"friends\" in the region?

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Top Bush Aides have Ties to Arab Port Firm


WASHINGTON - The Dubai firm that won Bush administration backing to run six U.S. ports has at least two ties to the White House.

One is Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose agency heads the federal panel that signed off on the $6.8 billion sale of an English company to government-owned Dubai Ports World - giving it control of Manhattan\'s cruise ship terminal and Newark\'s container port.

Snow was chairman of the CSX rail firm that sold its own international port operations to DP World for $1.15 billion in 2004, the year after Snow left for President Bush\'s cabinet.

The other connection is David Sanborn, who runs DP World\'s European and Latin American operations and was tapped by Bush last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.
The ties raised more concerns about the decision to give port control to a company owned by a nation linked to the 9/11 hijackers.

\"The more you look at this deal, the more the deal is called into question,\" said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said the deal was rubber-stamped in advance - even before DP World formally agreed to buy London\'s P&O port company.

Besides operations in New York and Jersey, Dubai would also run port facilities in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Baltimore and Miami.

The political fallout over the deal only grows.

\"It\'s particularly troubling that the United States would turn over its port security not only to a foreign company, but a state-owned one,\" said western New York\'s Rep. Tom Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee. Reynolds is responsible for helping Republicans keep their majority in the House.

Snow\'s Treasury Department runs the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which includes 11 other agencies.

\"It always raises flags\" when administration officials have ties to a firm, Rep. Vito Fossella (R-S.I.) said, but insisted that stopping the deal was more important.

The Daily News has learned that lawmakers also want to know if a detailed 45-day probe should have been conducted instead of one that lasted no more than 25 days.

According to a 1993 congressional measure, the longer review is mandated when the company is owned by a foreign government and the purchase \"could result in control of a person engaged in interstate commerce in the U.S. that could affect the national security of the U.S.\"

Congressional sources said the President has until March 2 to trigger that harder look.

\"The most important thing is for someone to explain how this is consistent with our national security,\" Fossella said.

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Cold Fusion: A Heated History

Living On Earth

Bruce Gellerman continues his investigation into the future of fusion with a look at the latest research in the field of cold fusion, the science of creating a nuclear reaction at room temperature. Most scientists call sustained cold fusion reactions impossible, but others say their experiments are producing energy.

CURWOOD: It\'s Living on Earth, I\'m Steve Curwood, and our investigation into what could be a major energy source of the future continues at a recent meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

CURWOOD: This seems like any one of the hundreds of gatherings that take place each year on MIT\'s campus.

NAGEL: Just walk in and listen. You cannot tell that you are anywhere but a scientific conference.

CURWOOD: There are some of the best minds in the country discussing cutting edge science.

SWARTZ: I have two doctorates, one in medicine from Harvard and a doctorate in electrical engineering from MIT.

CURWOOD: Presenting their latest research.

NAGEL: These are skilled people who have done careful experiments and calculations, who stand up and tell you what they\'ve done and what they\'ve found, they respond to all your questions. They publish the information, they respond. This is an area of scientific research.

CURWOOD: And, of course, there are venture capitalists investigating the science, seeking to catch the wave on the next big thing in technology.

MALE: Clearly, there have been many advances on both the theoretical level and there are people who have experimental results that require attention.

CURWOOD: But what separates this conference and this crowd is the field they\'re investigating. It\'s cold fusion. And while few scientists are willing to accept it as a proven phenomenon, its advocates say it could provide vast amounts of non-polluting energy.

SWARTZ: It offers a chance to have the United States make the Kyoto agreement moot, and make greenhouse warming moot.

CURWOOD: What has been called \"the most enormous conflict in basic science of the 20th century\" began on March 23, 1989.

ROBERT SIEGEL ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: Scientists in Utah today made an extraordinary claim. They announced that they\'ve created fusion energy at room temperature in a simple test tube.

CURWOOD: Cold fusion was soon being hyped and hailed as the greatest discovery since fire, and, almost as soon, it was being assailed by critics as a hoax. Bruce Gellerman reports on what went wrong and what might be right about cold fusion.

GELLERMAN: Looking back, it\'s easy to see how a series of blunders nearly doomed cold fusion from the start. The first mistake, science by media circus.

GELLERMAN: Reporter questions are no match for scrutiny by fellow scientists, but University of Utah officials didn\'t want to follow standard scientific procedures and first publish the discovery in a scholarly journal. They were afraid someone would steal it so they hastily held a press conference. At times, the announcement seemed more like stand-up than scientific method

FLEISCHMANN: It\'s a pretty big kitchen (LAUGHTER)

GELLERMAN: Dr. Martin Fleischmann was clearly enjoying himself. And why not? He was possibly the greatest electrochemist of his day, and after five years of working in secret, in a basement laboratory with Stanley Pons, chairman of Utah\'s chemistry department, cold fusion was easily his greatest discovery.

FLEISCHMANN: Stan and I thought this experience was so stupid that we financed it ourselves.

GELLERMAN: As relaxed as Martin Fleischmann was, Stanley Pons was nervous. He had published 150 scientific papers, but now he didn\'t even have time to prepare notes. At the podium, Pons almost dropped the experimental cold fusion device he and Fleischmann had developed.

PONS: Basically, we\'ve established a sustained nuclear fusion reaction by means which are considerably simpler than the conventional techniques. And with this process there is a considerable release of energy and we\'ve demonstrated it can be sustained on its own. In other words, much more energy is coming out than we\'re putting in.

GELLERMAN: Pons and Fleischmann claimed their fusion device generated four times more energy then they put in. The extra heat they got out was hundreds of times more energy than any chemical reaction could have possibly produced. And all it took, they said, was some basic laboratory equipment. A battery, an electrode made out of the metal palladium, and a test tube filled with heavy water -- that\'s water made from a form of hydrogen called deuterium.

When the scientists passed an electric current through the palladium, the electrode absorbed the deuterium like a sponge. For two months Pons and Fleischmann loaded the palladium with so much deuterium the electrode bulged, squeezing the deuterium nuclei closer and closer together.

FLEISCHMANN: The experiment is very simple, and under those circumstance we have found conditions under which fusion takes place and can be sustained indefinitely. We have run the experiment hundreds of hours...

GELLERMAN: The media was abuzz with stories about \"hot energy from cold fusion.\" Congress and the president wanted answers. The Soviet Academy of Sciences even offered to set up a cold fusion research center. Soon researchers around the world were announcing they, too, were able to create cold fusion...but only once in a while. Sometimes the experiment worked, most of the time it didn\'t. It seemed cold fusion was a fickle phenomenon. Even Pons and Fleischmann could only get it to work one out of ten times.

GARWIN: The more you looked into their results the less there was, unfortunately.

GELLERMAN: Physicist Richard Garwin, IBM fellow emeritus at the Watson Research Center, was one of the first to investigate the cold fusion claims.

GARWIN: If one had that energy, that would be great. And I would be the first one to cheer. But why can those people not reproduce the energy that they get?

GELLERMAN: The ability to reproduce an experiment is the gold standard in science for verifying a discovery. But a large share of the blame why researchers weren\'t able to reproduce the results was Pons and Fleischmann\'s, and accounts for their second and third big mistakes.

The experiment they described as simple to do was anything but, and they had kept critical experimental procedures a secret.

Then there was the fourth and near fatal mistake. In hot fusion, like the sun, the reaction gives off byproducts: high energy neutrons, tritium, and helium. Pons and Fleischmann reported finding these reaction byproducts, but scientists skeptical of their claim said the levels were so low they were beyond belief.

The final blow came when Fleischmann made a sophomoric error. He miscounted the neutrons. One of the first to realize the mistake was Richard Garwin.

GARWIN: It turned out that Fleischmann and Pons didn\'t really understand anything about nuclear measurements, so all that was wrong. Anybody can make a mistake and Fleischmann made several.

GELLERMAN: The official burial came in mid-summer when a committee convened by the Department of Energy concluded there was no convincing evidence Pons and Fleischmann\'s experiment generated extra heat, or was a nuclear reaction, and the committee saw no reason to set up a special fund to investigate the claims.
Their reputations ruined, and their discovery disgraced, cold fusion became the third rail of science. Stanley Pons gave up his American citizenship and joined Martin Fleischmann in self-imposed exile in France.

GELLERMAN: But reports of the death of cold fusion were premature. The field was kept alive by a small community of researchers who meet every 18 months or so. Critics call them a cult, but these true believers are sustained by laboratory results they say prove cold fusion can produce unlimited, safe, non-polluting energy.

NAGEL: People come to me and say \"But Dave, it sounds too good to be true.\" Well, yes, it is too good to be true, but that\'s what the promise is.

GELLERMAN: Dave is David Nagel. Now research professor at George Washington University, Nagel retired as a senior scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory. The U.S. Navy was one of a number of government departments that continued to investigate cold fusion even after it had been all but forgotten in the academic world.

NAGEL: Well, it is a legitimate scientific area. It\'s certainly not alchemy. And the answer to the question about energy production, is emphatically yes. There are over 3,000 papers in this field and hundreds of them have reported net energy gain, and there are a handful that will survive scrutiny by anyone in terms of everything you want in science.

GELLERMAN: Cold fusion advocates say more than 20 laboratories in seven countries have successfully replicated the original Pons and Fleischmann experiment.

ATTENDANT : We\'re standing now outside the door of the principle laboratory...

GELLERMAN: One of the first scientists to try to repeat the experiment was Dr. Michael McKubre.
He\'s director of Energy Research at SRI International in Menlo Park, California. On his first attempt it took McKubre a month just to get the reaction going.

McKUBRE: It was then another month before we had coaxed and tweaked and pushed this experiment to the point that it gave some glimmerings of excess heat. That experiment produced three episodes of excess heat in the two months of operation of that experiment.

GELLERMAN: But it was only after three or four years of doing cold fusion experiments that Michael McKubre says he was convinced the excess energy he was measuring in his experiments was real.

McKUBRE: The heat that we\'re measuring consistently since 1989 is at least ten times, in some cases a hundred times or a thousand times larger than the sum total of all chemical reactions that could take place inside the cells. So on that basis alone you have to say to yourself \"this is probably nuclear\" but you can\'t make a claim for a nuclear effect without having some products in hand. So we set out to look for products.

GELLERMAN: Finding the byproducts of fusion -- such as helium, neutrons and radiation -- has been the holy grail of cold fusion scientists. But researchers have had difficulty detecting them, their results inconsistent and the amounts still way too low, say critics, to be from a fusion reaction.

But Michael McKubre says he has proof-positive fusion is happening. He\'s detected helium in nearly the exact amount theory says should be there, and also tritium, a rare, radioactive form of hydrogen.

GARWIN: They\'ve been very careful there, but there are mistakes.

GELLERMAN: In 1993, Richard Garwin inspected Michael McKubre\'s lab on behalf of the Department of Defense.

GARWIN: The data was not carefully preserved, things were not dated, there were only two positive runs as I recall, and one of them turned out to be a misconnection of the cell. Unless you can reproduce the results, you can\'t say you have them.

GELLERMAN: But now U.S. Navy scientists say they do have them. They claim to have verifiable, irrefutable proof cold fusion is real, despite critics who say it\'s simply impossible.

BOSS: We just keep plugging along. You\'ve gotta have a thick skin to be in this field.

GELLERMAN: Dr. Pamela Boss works at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego. She and Dr. Stanislaw Szpak have produced some of the most definitive evidence of the cold fusion phenomenon. They fund the research mostly out of their own pocket and, even though he\'s retired, Dr. Szpak still comes in almost every day to conduct cold fusion experiments, perfecting a method that he says speeds up the reaction. Now, instead of waiting weeks for cold fusion to begin, it happens instantaneously.

SZPAK: Now we have 100 percent reproducible results. In other words, we always get to that last step. We are doing that within seconds. But there is one thing that we need to concentrate is what are the conditions that lead to the last step before the nuclear reaction?

GELLERMAN: Like Michael McKubre, Szpak and Boss have measured elevated levels of tritium and have focused on detecting the other radiation byproducts of fusion reactions, gamma and x-rays. Pamela Boss:

BOSS: We work with a lot of physicists here and they, of course, were very skeptical. So then, we borrowed equipment to do gamma ray measurements and x-ray measurement. And you could see they were tracking one another. When the gamma ray detector was going up, so was the x-ray detector. And I pointed this out to the physicist who was helping us and he was a little bit disturbed by that because he made sure that everything was on separate circuits, there was no cross talk.

GELLERMAN: But the most dramatic experimental evidence Boss and Szpak have that cold fusion is a nuclear reaction is a medieval alchemist\'s dream come true. But instead of turning lead into gold, they say they have images of minute nuclear explosions turning parts of their palladium electrodes into aluminum, magnesium and zinc.

SZPAK: We see appearance of elements which weren\'t there to start with. In other words, during the experiment itself these elements have been created. Now, by what mechanism, if you\'re asking me that question, I cannot answer because I simply don\'t know yet.

GELLERMAN: Well, what are the possibilities other then cold fusion?

SZPAK: Oh, no, no, no. It\'s a nuclear reaction at room temperature.

GELLERMAN: Szpak and Boss have published the results of their experiment in a prestigious, peer-reviewed physics journal. And Japanese scientists have reported similar findings. So, how might cold fusion work? Well, few researchers at U.S. universities are investigating the question because it\'s a career destroyer; those who study cold fusion do so at their own peril. One of the few who has from the very beginning is Peter Hagelstein of MIT.

HAGELSTEIN: This experiment implied the existence of some new physics. Hence, if there\'s going to be heat there are going to be neutrons; if there\'s no neutrons hence there\'s no heat, hence it\'s all wrong. It got very confused very quickly.

GELLERMAN: Today, because of his continued work on cold fusion, Peter Hagelstein lives a life of virtual academic exile at MIT. He lost funding for his lab and he never did make full professor.
GELLERMAN: Over the years, Associate Hagelstein has come up with 150 versions of a theory trying to explain how cold fusion could create a nuclear reaction at room temperature without high levels of fusion byproducts. Now, he thinks he has it. On a blackboard in an MIT classroom he slowly sketches what looks like a box spring.

HAGELSTEIN: People drew pictures something like this picture and looked to see where the deuterium was and they calculated how likely it is that one deuteron would talk to a neighboring deuteron.

GELLERMAN: As he maps out the molecular structure of palladium, Dr. Hagelstein seems to stare through the blackboard into space. It\'s as if he had entered the through-the-looking-glass sub-atomic world that is quantum mechanics. It\'s a different universe from the one you and I live in where, theoretically, it\'s possible to be in two places at the same time.

HAGELSTEIN: The corners fit in like so, and there\'s on that fit\'s in the middle here...

GELLERMAN: As Peter Hagelstein sees it, cold fusion is not just a colder version of plasma or hot fusion, but an entirely different phenomenon. His theory doesn\'t violate any of the fundamental laws of nature. But it does require a rethinking of modern physics.

HAGELSTEIN: So, we start out now with a picture of a communication between reactions at different sites, and this is not in the textbooks.

GELLERMAN: When you show this to your colleagues do they go, yeah, I got it, that\'s it.

HAGELSTEIN: No, generally they say \"Hagelstein, you\'re as mad as a mad hatter\" or something. But some are intrigued. But, at the moment, it remains a conjecture.

GELLERMAN: In 2004, 15 years after the Department of Energy first rejected claims of cold fusion, Drs. Hagelstein, David Nagel and Michael McKubre convinced the DOE to reconsider and review the latest laboratory evidence. An anonymous panel of 18 experts was convened. Half of the members concluded there was convincing evidence that excess heat was coming out of cold fusion experiments, and about six of the experts said the phenomenon might well be caused by a nuclear reaction.

Still, half the panel called the claims preposterous, the theories implausible and the phenomenon impossible, requiring multiple miracles to occur.

Over the years, the most outspoken critic of cold fusion has been Robert Park, author of the book \"Voodoo Science.\" He calls cold fusion an illusion -- nothing more than wishful interpretation of data by researchers.

PARK: I\'ve never seen anything quite like cold fusion. It\'s an interesting phenomenon. I don\'t know how to explain it either, but after this much time if they haven\'t come up with anything more convincing than that, if everybody is not bowled over by their experiment this time...I guess I\'m still skeptical.

GELLERMAN: A healthy skepticism is at the heart of the scientific method, but it underscores the fact that while scientists try to impose objective procedures and processes in the way they conduct their experiments, science is fundamentally a human endeavor. That\'s why two skilled scientists can conduct the same experiment, look at the same things, and come to very different conclusions. Even something that\'s seemingly as simple as measuring whether there\'s excess heat coming out of a test tube.

History can offer solace, of sorts, for cold fusion advocates. In 1905, Albert Einstein came up with his revolutionary theory e=mc2, it laid the basis for nuclear energy. But it wasn\'t until 27 years later, in 1932, that scientists in the lab finally confirmed his theory. By that measure, cold fusion still has time before it\'s fully recognized, or finally rejected, by the ultimate arbiter in these matters: the scientific method.

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\'Curtain\' Of 2 Million Bees Swarm Fla. House


A neighborhood in South Florida is asking for help after a swarm of more than 2 million bees was found at a nearby vacant house, according to a Local 6 News report.

An elderly man who lived inside the South Miami home died last year. And since his death, the house has deteriorated and become overrun with bees.
Neighbor Kim Perretta said every time her family leaves their home in the morning, they\'re greeted by a swarm of bees.

Perretta said her son is allergic to insect stings, and is concerned about his safety.

\"When we would get up in the morning and they would all leave the hive, it would be like a curtain -- a curtain of bees,\" Perretta said.

South Miami Acting City Manager Yvonne Soler-McKinley said city officials are currently trying to figure out how to resolve the problem.

The beekeeper was expected to go to the abandoned home Tuesday, according to the report.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

Copyright 2006 by Internet Broadcasting Systems and Local6.com.

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Texas\' Blood-Sucking Monster - El Chupacabra\'s Popularity Has Spread to Art Exhibits, Films

ABC News
Feb. 28, 2006

In south Texas, its frightening name resurfaces in the news every few months - especially after another neighborhood pet or farm animal mysteriously dies.

\"El Chupacabra,\" they say, \"is back.\"

Parents are cautious, warning their children to stay inside at night or risk a face-to-fang encounter with the chupacabra - a red-eyed, spiky-haired, blood-sucking creature with a green-blue tint to its hide.
The chupacabra haunts the minds of the residents in La Frontera, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Here, an amalgamation of cultures blend, represented by Gulf shrimp tacos, polka-inspired Tejano music, and young, white girls who also hold quinceneras, the Mexican teen rite-of-passage celebration.

Amid this mostly peaceful cultural mishmash, the chupacabra - translates to goat-sucker - replaces the boogeyman. Rumored to be originally of Puerto Rican folklore, the chupacabra and its reign spread to Central America in the \'80s and \'90s, and has moved northward through Mexico and Texas, where it has quickly been embraced and has lately been portrayed in artwork and film.

Is It Real?

Like other mythic monsters, the chupacabra has its believers - just ask www.elchupacabra.com Webmaster and science-fiction buff Dave Pettis.

\"I just believe there can be something out there like that,\" said Pettis, who lives in Northern California. \"I don\'t think every animal in the world has been classified.\"

Pettis said he gets lots of e-mails from people. Some are curious about the creature, while others want to submit their own sightings.

\"Some people think it\'s some [lab] experiment that escaped, but other people think it\'s some animal that\'s been around for a long time, like in South America. The clearing of the rain forests has made it come out,\" he said.

The Mexican Boogeyman

It\'s these sorts of theories that make anthropologist Tony Zavaleta chuckle.

He loves the chupacabra myth, but it\'s for different reasons. It\'s simply a great part of Mexican-American folklore, he said.

While the chupacabra is by far the most popular myth, it is just one of several indigenous monsterlike creatures. There\'s also El Cucuy, or a small humanlike demon that also goes after kids at night. "It's so universal. … Every group of people, regardless of where they are, they have what I define or describe as the boogeyman — the story you use to keep children in line and inside at night," said Zavaleta, a professor and vice president for external affairs at the University of Texas at Brownsville. Zavaleta's favorite encounter with the chupacabra came while walking through Mexico City a few years ago. He spotted a mask for sale — one that looked partly like a chupacabra and partly like the Mexico president at that time. He had to laugh. "It's the metaphor for the evil president: the blood sucker," he said. The Whimsical Monster High in the mountains of northern Mexico, not far from the Texas border, many of the farmers do not laugh about the chupacabra, said artist and fellow Texas professor Carlos Gomez. There, the chupacabra is blamed for killing cattle and other livestock. While traveling around the El Cielo cloud forest a few years ago, he tried to joke with the locals about the blood-sucking monster. He received a cool response. "There had been some sightings. People were panicking," he said. "Their livestock is their livelihood. They really depend on that." His trip inspired him to create a recent set of paintings about the chupacabra. Instead of portraying it as a monster, he took a whimsical approach, defying local perceptions. "Some are old. Some are young and showboating," he said. "Some are blue with red moles, or red with freckles." A Cult Favorite Henry Serrato, who works for a south Texas television station and is an amateur filmmaker, also took a whimsical approach with his mockumentary or documentary spoof titled "The Search for the Chupacabra." Blending real in-person interviews with fictionalized accounts, his film highlights some of the absurdities of the science-fiction fan world — such as the time a real film crew showed up in south Texas ready to film scenes about sightings of a giant Pterodactyl-like bird last spotted there in the '70s. "The crew shows up in 1996 — 20 years too late. Here was a crew going around interviewing about the big bird, and everyone wants to talk about the chupacabra," he said. "It's reached cult status," he said of the chupacabra. Just a Coyote? Lately, there have been signs that the chupacabra myth may die out before reaching worldwide fame. Several carcasses of supposed chupacabras have been brought to the attention of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. And its official determination? The animals were nothing but coyotes with severe cases of sarcoptic mange, a nasty skin disease that leaves the animals emaciated and partially hairless with bluish skin. It's a plausible explanation for why people may let their imaginations wander, said Danny Pence, a professor of parasitology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. He was talking to the San-Antonio Express-News. "If you never worked with them or seen them, they do look strange," he told the newspaper. But Pettis, the chupacabra Webmaster, isn't convinced. He has seen several pictures of the carcasses. "It didn't look like a coyote. Its back legs were too long," he said.

Comment: The most dangerous blood sucking monster to come out of Texas is George W. Bush. He\'s worse than ten-thousand Chupacabras!

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Authors claim Brown \'stole\' Da Vinci Code plot

By Richard Alleyne
The Telegraph
28 Feb 06

Some might say it is a court case worthy of its subject matter: impenetrable, verging on the farcical and wrapped up in the minutiae of Christian theology.

Amid the appropriately neo-gothic setting of the High Court in London, two British-based writers yesterday claimed that The Da Vinci Code, the loosely historical murder mystery, plagiarises a book they published more than 20 years earlier.

The two, who specialise in historical conjecture, claim that its author, Dan Brown, cannibalised their text, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, to give his book plausibility and to save himself \"time and effort\" in independent research.
Michael Baigent, 52, and Richard Leigh, 62, also said that it was not just random facts that were \"lifted\" but the whole \"architecture\" and \"theme\" of their book.

At the heart of the case is their theory that Christ did not die on the cross but married Mary Magdalene and had a child, starting a bloodline that was protected by the Knights Templar and hushed up by the Catholic Church.

Brown\'s thriller is also based on the notion that Jesus married Mary, starting a family in France where their descendants continue to live.

While the arguments in the case will hardly trouble historians, millions of pounds of publishing profits are at stake, as is the proposed release of the film version of The Da Vinci Code.

With sales of 40 million and counting since it was published in 2003, the book has become an international phenomenon, generating millions of pounds of publishing and tourism spin-offs.

The film, starring Tom Hanks, Sir Ian McKellen and Audrey Tautou, is due to be released in May.

Brown, a devout Christian who attended the case, emphatically denies stealing from Baigent and Leigh\'s work and is particularly adamant that he would never suggest that Jesus was not crucified on the cross.

In a statement Brown, 40, a reclusive figure from New Hampshire, said: \"This is not an idea that I would have ever found appealing.

\"Being raised a Christian and having sung in my church choir for 15 years, I am well aware of Christ\'s crucifixion and ultimate resurrection as the very core of the Christian faith.\"

He added: \"The resurrection is perhaps the sole controversial Christian topic about which I would not desire to write.

\"Suggesting that they marry Jesus is one thing but questioning the resurrection undermines the very heart of Christian belief.\"

Baigent, a New Zealander who moved to Britain 30 years ago, and Leigh, an American who also lives in this country, wrote their book in 1982 along with another author, Henry Lincoln, who has no part in the action.

Their book is a best-seller in its own right.

They claim that when The Da Vinci Code was first printed, many people in their field noticed the similarities between the books and they began legal action almost immediately.

The case, however, has taken three years to get to court.

In a hearing last year, Leigh said: \"I don\'t begrudge Brown his success.

\"I have no particular grievance against him except for the fact that he wrote a pretty bad novel.\"

Leigh and Baigent are suing Random House, the British publisher of The Da Vinci Code, which also published their work, for breach of copyright.

Brown\'s book, although roundly criticised - Salman Rushdie described it as a \"book so bad it makes bad books look good\" - has sold four million copies in this country.

They are suing for damages for past royalties and future earnings.

Jonathan Rayner James, QC, for the claimants, listed 15 points at which he claims that the \"central theme\" of the earlier book is copied in Brown\'s novel.

He also pointed out a number of pieces of texts that he claims are directly taken from one book to another.

He claims that Brown worked from notes researched by his wife Blythe to give \"plausibility\" to his work.

Mr Rayner James added: \"It is not as though Brown has simply lifted a discrete series of raw facts from The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

\"He has lifted the connections that join the points up. He and/or Blythe has intentionally used Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in order to save time and effort that independent research would have required.\"

The claimants also point out that one of the characters in the book, a museum curator, has the same surname as Berenger Sauniere, a real person who was extensively mentioned in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

While Brown denies copyright infringement, he has already acknowledged a debt to the writers in the pages of his book.

One of the characters, Sir Leigh Teabing (an anagram of Baigent) picks the book off a shelf and gives his opinion of it.

\"To my taste, the authors made some dubious leaps of faith in their analysis,\" he tells another character.

\"But their fundamental premise is sound, and to their credit, they finally brought the idea of Christ\'s bloodline into the mainstream.\"

The case continues.

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UN says risks unknown after German cat catches H5N1 bird flu

1 Mar 06

GENEVA (AFP) - The World Health Organization said the threat to people is unknown but appears small after H5N1 bird flu infected a German cat, heightening fears of a future human pandemic.

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B.C.'s top cop acknowledges there may be a serial killer in northern B.C.

Canadian Press
1 Mar 06

Canadian Press - VICTORIA (CP) - British Columbia's top cop acknowledges some of the killings along the so-called Highway of Tears may show signs of a serial killer, though RCMP haven't found much evidence.

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\"Comet Pojmanski (C/2006 A1) has a bright green head,\" says Chris Schur who took this picture yesterday at dawn from Payson, Arizona.

What makes a comet green? The atmosphere of the comet--called \"the coma\"--contains cyanogen (CN), a poisonous gas, and diatomic carbon (C2). Both of these substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight.

See for yourself. Comet Pojmanski (5th magnitude) is an easy target for backyard telescopes. Look for it left of Venus in the early morning sky: MAP

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