- Signs of the Times for Fri, 03 Mar 2006 -

Editorial: Some Days are Harder Than Others...

Laura Knight-Jadczyk

About a week ago I wrote on my Blog that after four and a half years of reading news stories that scare the hell out of me and everyone else I know, I would be quite content to just have things back the way they were before 911 - you know, some good news, some bad news, a little give, a little take, and plenty of activity moving us toward global peace and justice.

That was our world then. Remember?

Today we are in a world where "Endless War" is our lot, and like beasts of burden, we are expected to take this on our backs, and not complain. Our masters have made the mess we are in and we are supposed to be willing to just go in and kill other people whose masters have made the mess they are in and not ask questions.

I'm sorry to be so unobliging, but my children and my children's children will have to live in whatever world we leave them and for that reason, I am highly motivated to speak out and continue to do so until there is no more breath left in me. But some days it is particularly hard. Today was one of them.

First of all, there was the news item yesterday about the teacher who was suspended for telling the truth. Let's take a look at this for just a minute:

High school in turmoil over teacher's remarks

[...] Bennish's statements ran the gamut.

He said that in Bush's State of the Union speech, the president was, in effect, "threatening the whole planet."

"Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say - we're the only ones who are right, everyone else is backwards," Bennish said.

He told students he was "not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same."

"But," he said, "there's some eerie similarities to the tones that they use."

He talked extensively about U.S. foreign policy and capitalism. At one point, he questioned Bush's stated belief that democracy is the solution to bloodshed in the Middle East.

"Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth?" Bennish asked. "The United States of America, and we're a democracy - quote, unquote."

On capitalism, he questioned whether it did anything to provide "everybody in the world with the basic needs that they need."

"Do you see how this economic system is at odds with humanity, at odds with caring and compassion?" he asked.

At the end of his talk, Bennish told students he was "not in any way implying that you should agree with me. I don't even know if I'm necessarily taking a position. But what I'm trying to do is get you to think about these issues more in-depth." [...]

But Derek Belloni, who once had Bennish as a teacher, believes high school students are too impressionable and that the teacher's views are inappropriate.

"He is making interpretation as facts," said Belloni, an 18-year-old senior. "He's preaching politics in geography class. You don't teach math in an English class."

"He wants these kids to become liberals," he said.

Wow! It makes it sound like "Liberals" is a really bad word, like "serial killer" or "cannibal." Just to make the point, let's look at a snippet of another story along the same line, a teacher dealing with the reality of the Neocon Administration honestly:

Bush goes on 'trial' in Morris - Parsippany students confront issues of terrorism and war

The former sheriff opined: "Those are young, impressionable minds those people have control over. We don't need those liberal academics doing what they're doing. I find that offensive," said Fox, a Republican who graduated from Parsippany High School.

There's more. It seems that quite a few students protested and the kid who created the furor (a psychopath in training?) has been doing the talk shows:

Students Protest After Teacher Suspended for Bush-Hitler Comments

The recording was made by 16-year-old sophomore Sean Allen the day after the president's speech. Allen said he had been disturbed by "political rants" he heard in Bennish's class.

"So these kids are going to have notes on why George Bush is related to Hitler and why the state of Israel was founded on violence and terrorism," Allen told KHOW Radio Wednesday when he went public with his tape.

"These kids are going to have notes on this and accept that as fact."

The abysmal ignorance of the majority of Americans is literally stunning.

We notice, first of all, that the word "liberal" is used by these people as though it were a bad word - a nasty "label." We also notice that these "anti-liberals" object strenuously to the word "nazi" or to Bush being compared to Hitler. Apparently they are so ignorant of history that they don't know that the Nazis, too, were rabidly "anti-liberal." They, too, used the term "liberal" as if it were a bad word.

People often wonder how the Nazis actually came to power in a civilized and modern country when you consider that the Nazi regime was among the most criminal, barbarous and immoral that the world has ever witnessed (until now, that is). The fact is that the Nazis made huge efforts to present themselves as the defenders of conventional social and moral values just like Bush and the Neocons do. They presented themselves as guarantors of public decency and law and order just like Bush and the Neocons do. The Nazis suppressed homosexuals and pornography just as Bush and his coterie of Christocrats seek to do.

The daily reality of the Third Reich was a complex mixture of fear and bribery, terror and concessions, barbarism and appeals to conventional moral values which were employed in order to gain and maintain a grip on German society. Does that sound familiar?

Nazi activists gloried in violence and hate though their targets were Jews, Poles, Gypsies and Blacks. Among their anti-Jewish propaganda images were photographs of Jews consorting with Black nightclub entertainers as though this were the epitome of Evil. There were also cartoons of Jews with bags of money they had "stolen" from respectable families who were depicted as homeless and in rags; there were even cartoons of Jewish intellectuals being arrested out of classrooms where they were teachers. We can easily picture the good German householder saying exactly what the retired sheriff said above: "Those are young, impressionable minds those people have control over. We don't need those liberal academics doing what they're doing. I find that offensive."

We can also easily picture young Mr. Sean Allen as a member of Hitler's Youth saying: "So these kids are going to have notes on why Hitler is a murderer and why the Nazi party was founded on violence and terrorism. These kids are going to have notes on this and accept that as fact."

Wow! What a concept! The Truth as Fact!

Long before Germany was officially declared a one-party state, open political dissent had come to an end by virtue of the attacks of such individuals who had the power and support of the Nazis behind them even if the official Nazi party did not openly - at first - use hardline tactics.

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. --Harry S. Truman

Another interesting thing about Nazis was their extreme hatred of Communists. Communists and Liberals. Keep in mind that Communism as it eventually came to be practiced was nothing at all like the "theory." The Communism of the Soviet Bloc countries was little more than State Corporatism. It could even be said that it was a variation on Fascism.

The communists of Germany tried to protest the intensification of the Fascist dictatorship in the city of Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) one morning. No sooner had the peaceful protesters assembled than about 500 Nazi Storm Troopers marched through the square. They tried to provoke the protesters to violence. In Breslau, violence did finally erupt when the police began firing on the protesters, and this was used as a reason to ban the Communists and all rallies as a "threat to public order."

That evening, the Nazis celebrated their victory over the Communists by staging a huge demonstration of their own. Over 50,000 people took part in the center of Breslau. The square of the largest city in Eastern Germany became a sea of swastika flags and marching columns of brown-shirted storm troopers.

The Nazis didn't, at first, use direct state violence against their opponents. They used propaganda and people like Sean Allen and retired sheriff Fox, who later got a pat on the head and maybe a nice cushy position as a Storm Trooper - about the only place left where people had work and food.

Anybody who thinks that the US isn't heading in that direction is dreaming. You don't even have to read the news to know it, just check your bank balance.

In philosophical terms, the word "Liberal" could be used to describe both the Leftists and the Communists of Germany. The Leftists of Germany were known as "Social Democrats." These were largely trade unions, worker's organizations struggling for fair wages and medical care and so on.

There was tacit encouragement by the Nazi government for the violence against the "Left." Later, as the Nazi party solidified its position, leading members of the left-wing parties were arrested as the various police forces and Nazi formations began to coordinate their activities. Attempts by the Social Democrats or Communists to hold election rallies were broken up with growing frequency. The left-wing press was suppressed, and by the time of the elections in Germany, violence from such individuals as Sean Allen, retired sheriff Fox, and their ilk (in the guise of Brown Shirts, Storm Troopers), as well as police repression, had combined to drive the Liberal Left from public view.

After the election, the Nazis turned their attention to rooting out and destroying the supporters of the now underground Left and Liberal parties. The once impressive supports of German Social Democracy, which had withstood Bismarck's attacks for fifty years, were destroyed piecemeal.

The same is being done in the U.S.

The campaign against the Left and Liberals was all the more effective because of its ambiguous nature. There was no single, decisive confrontation. It was carried out both within and outside of the existing legal structure just as we see happening in the U.S. today. The Leftists and Liberals essentially faced what were "spontaneous" attacks from "marauding bands" of Nazis just as marauding bands of Bushistas roam the schools, workplaces, internet and the streets of the U.S. These types of attack are quite effective because, essentially, the power of the State stands behind them even if it is not an "official policy".

Analysts suggest today that even if the Left and the Communists had been united, they would not have prevailed because once the Nazis and their conservatives controlled the State organs of power, as do Bush and the Neocons. I should note that the Neocons also control the vote counting, so you can just toss out any dreams of taking Congress back in the fall!

If the history of the Nazi seizure of power teaches us anything, it is that there is little the Liberals can do to stop a powerful Right Wing movement that has mass support, allies in powerful places (such as the media), and control of the repression apparatus of the State.

It should be added that the Third Reich was only able to establish and maintain itself by being in a perpetual state of emergency - under threat from "terrorists" of the day who were Jews and "Liberals." It seems that a liberal then and now is anyone who values human life in all its variations.

The bottom line is that these poor, ignorant, duped U.S. citizens who think they are so right and rightous in their anger that someone has come out and said Bush is like Hitler (he is) and whether or not the U.S. is following the same path Hitler took Germany down (it is), by using the word "Liberal" as they do, they only display their abysmal ignorance and state of complete brainwashing; because, when you start flaming Liberals, Communists and the "Left," the only conclusion that can be drawn is that you are a Fascist - a Nazi.

So, why is it so hard today? Remember, that's what I said at the beginning?

When I wrote my blog posts on COINTELPRO I knew that it was going to trigger a new wave of such activity against us though I have enough experience to know that it would very likely get a lot more subtle and devious.

Well, today a member of QFG reported the following:

I posted the Flying Fish article on Jeff Well's forum. I am quite surprised to see that an admin, using the name 'Rigorous
Intuition' (apparently Jeff himself) immediately suggested that believing that there was no passenger plane at the Pentagon was

I've posted a number of times on the blog about the mistake of constructing 9/11 "truth" upon the sand of physical evidence. The "no plane" hypothesis (more than a hypothesis for many; more like an unforgiving creed) is one of the most egregious missteps. One I believe encouraged, if not led, by COINTELPRO.

He later quotes a witness. Weird that he thinks that witnesses are more reliable than physical evidence!

I also found strange that someone else wrote:

Hi all: I would urge everyone to very carefully investigate information coming from signs-of-the-times.org. I'm not accusing anyone of anything but rather suggesting due dilligence before accepting what is posted there. I'm also not trying to single out the person who started this thread--I've seen others link to them as well. Just consider this a friendly tip. Honestly

We knew it was coming: that the claims and counter-claims would start flying just to muddy the waters. I can only suggest to the reader that you read my articles on COINTELPRO carefully, that you read all that is on our websites completely, go to the Web Archive and see how long we have been on the web, what we have been saying from day one as is archived there, determine the overall picture based on data collection and let us be known by our fruits.

Beyond that, when I read the above comment that may have come from Jeff Wells, an individual whose work I have long admired and respected, my jaw just dropped: "the mistake of constructing 9/11 "truth" upon the SAND of PHYSICAL EVIDENCE?!

Holy GEEZUS! It's worse than I thought.

You see, you don't have to be COINTELPRO or even a Nazi to do the work of both. Many well-intentioned Germans did the work for Hitler. Why? Read Ponerology for the answer. It's all there for those who care to learn.

I know how it works, but it doesn't make it any easier.

And that is why today is harder than most.

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Editorial: The Abuser's Ploy: A Means for Dominion and Downfall

Joyce Walker

You would have thought that the violence against protestors by the military in Georgia at The School of the Americas and by police in Miami at the FTAA conference would have caused a public outcry, but the events were hardly mentioned in the news, except in local media which give a slanted view. Clues to this apparent apathy might be found in some unlikely places - in the homes of families held hostage by the abuser's systematic program of control.

Abuse, An Ongoing Process

Such a family lived near my childhood home. Even the youngsters in the neighborhood recognized the irony of one small man being able to dominate everyone in his household. We couldn't figure out why the boys, who towered over him, never put him in his place. After one of the boys married a young woman with a pretty smile, we noticed that in a short while she had lost the smile and taken on the same "whipped pup"appearance as the rest of them. The abuser wasn't very bright, so the phenomenon couldn't be credited to his intelligence. It wasn't until later, while working with battered women, that I learned about the control techniques which sometimes enable an abuser to make others his mental captives.

On a larger scale, we can look at China's history of totalitarian rule and bloody purges, and somewhat comprehend citizens' passive response to government abuse of targeted groups, like the Falun Dafa religious sect. But why the silence in this country, even among supposedly progressive news sources, concerning the glaring violations of our own civil rights? How could our "advanced" society be deceived by the crude propaganda used to cause people to look the other way while their constitutional liberties are being pilfered away?

There are clear indications that a power grabbing and graft promoting coalition has been active for decades. While Republicans seem dominant, Democrats also seem to be in the thick of things. The indoctrination of the United States public has been an ongoing process, and has involved many of the same techniques as those used by the little dictator across the street to maintain dominance in his family. For the abuser or the coalition to be successful, they must convince the parties they have targeted that they are endowed with something akin to divine authority.

Derision and Intimidation, Major Tools

The abuser uses ridicule and intimidation to erode the targeted person's confidence. During this period of brainwashing, a victim of abuse might make the following statement: "He makes me feel like I can't do anything right."

The current political regime routinely uses the same techniques. Prior to corporate consolidation of the media, charges that the press had a liberal bias discouraged legitimate news investigation and kept conscientious journalists on the defensive. The bought out press's support of our government's perversion helped conceal the strong opposition which has existed from the start, while coalition bulldog tactics have proven effective in making a public example of those with courage to delve into government practices.

These techniques have also interfered with attempts to legislate democratic change, even when the Republican party is not in power. When President Clinton came into office with a progressive platform, prepared to correct inequities in our system, his opposition used the abuser's techniques to undermine his every effort, and with ineffective support from the Congress, he eventually abandoned his progressive platform and adopted the opposition's elitist agenda. In an apparent scheme designed to achieve his ouster, the Monica Lewinski affair was widely publicized, and Hillary Clinton's protests concerning the obvious conspiracy were silenced by the onslaught of criticism she encountered.

Dog Pack Behavior, A Nasty Strategy

A segment of our society makes a highly vocal and visible show of support for the president's repressive policies. This may often be a misguided expression of patriotism, but the dog pack behavior demonstrated by some is indicative of another phenomenon of family abuse. The person experiencing this type of predatory behavior may report: "He's turned the children against me, and they've become abusive too."

In a family under the domination of an abuser, or in a repressed society, members tend to align with the power figure and condone the mistreatment of the targeted party. The flimsiest excuse for the cruelty may be accepted without question. Our warring presidents have used various pretexts for initiating unwarranted aggression against others or condoning criminal abuse by governments with which we have clandestine ties. The justifications for invasions in central and South America were communist insurgency and drug trafficking. In the middle east the excuse was terrorist activities.

With China's expressed determination to bring Taiwan under its rule, plans by President Chen Shui-bian to introduce a constitutional referendum prompted China to contact President Bush for reassurance of his commitment to the "One China" position. Pressure from the United States caused Chen to back down, and the fact that our president's intervention played a major role in thwarting a move by Taiwan toward independence was not mentioned by the commercial press. What excuse would Bush have made for China had there been aggression against Taiwan ; certainly not threat from communist insurgency.

Terrorism, A Cruel Device

In order to gain irrevocable control, the abuser will stage a sudden violent attack against the victim. If he or she can find the courage report it, the description of the incident might resemble the following: "Without warning, he threw me across the room."

The shock of the assault is debilitating and degrading. If the victim tolerates it, the abuser essentially has the person under his control. The attack on the World Trade Center had the same effect. Terror gave way to a sense of being violated. Our sense of invincibility was lost. The result was the handing over to President George Bush an unprecedented amount of authority.

What followed was a ruthless abuse of power. Countries objecting to the illegal attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were punished economically, with aid being withdrawn and corporations being excluded from the reconstruction process. The president's office resorted to its customary "dirty tricks" to punish people like former U.S. Congressman Cynthia McKinney and ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson for confronting White House deceptions.

Racist propaganda has been used to quell compassion for citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq who, following the horrifying attacks on their countries, have been subjected to a reign of terror which they claim causes more suffering than that which they endured under the tyrants from whom they were supposedly liberated.

Jekyll and Hyde, The Public Show

A victim of abuse is confounded by the abuser's success at presenting a benevolent image to outsiders. The abuser's supposed popularity diminishes the victim's confidence about receiving the support necessary to stop the abuse. He or she might confide: "Everyone thinks she's so good."

Commercial media's biased coverage of President Bush following the Nine Eleven attacks exaggerated his support among the populace to the extent that people were hesitant to speak a word of dissent for fear of reprisal. But with the continued exposure of criminal activity and with the election coming up, his dazzling "Crusader" image is becoming stained by the onslaught of criticism. You wouldn't know it, though, by the way members of Congress pander to his every demand. And judging from media coverage of gala events staged in his honor during frequent visits with allied world leaders, most people would have a hard time imagining the hate his aggression has generated among the people of the world.

China's autocratic leader President Hu Jintao benefits similarly from biased media press, not only in China, but around the world. As a member of WTO and APEC, and as an insider among Bush's circle of supporters, China is enjoying new popularity. While family members pleaded for release of loved ones being tortured in China prisons, President Lu was photographed by world press wrapping pork dumplings with villagers for the Lunar New Year as part of a promotion to present a humane image of the leader.

Fear of the Unknown, The Ball and Chain

Even after a person realizes the extent of the abuser's deception, she may fear the struggles of an independent life more than the dangers of living with the abuser. A person trapped in this situation may remark:
"I don't think I can take care of the children on my own."

One journalist theorized that the people of China, after achieving a degree of prosperity, are afraid of being poor again, so when President Hu promises peace and prosperity the populace turns its head to the atrocities and falls behind the government. Does this mean that the fear of political upheaval and possible impoverishment is the real deterrent to humanitarian reform rather than the fear created by violent acts such as the massacre of dissenters at Tiananmen Square in 1989 and ongoing brutal treatment of targeted groups like the Falun Dafa?

There are probably many reasons for the reluctance of people in this country to face up to the cruelties committed by our leaders. Perhaps one of the main ones is fear of an economical downturn of the economy if there is a government shake-up. In spite of plentiful evidence of crimes against humanity, including in-depth reports by Amnesty International, independent news articles, and victim reports, many in this country are turning a blind eye to our government's abuses. If the people of our nation would wake up and take a look at what's going on, I don't believe they could be restrained from reaching out to the victims of our government's rampage and calling to account the brutes who are responsible.

Love for Freedom, the Abuser's Downfall

Sometimes the abuser's terrorist tactics backfire and, rather than submission, they are confronted with rebellion. And some find the tyrant's rule so hateful that they can't ever be brought to submission.

Risking life and limb, our new age "freedom fighters" carry video cameras to record the crimes against democracy, protest at the sites of terror exporting facilities, and defend our heritage before a Congress mired in the corruption of the war machine. Courage has never failed the women in Afghanistan who carry cameras under their burqas to expose the unmasked face of that beast - War, or the proponents of Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance who suffer cruel affliction under the Chinese government. How can the degenerate Bush coalition, the Taliban, or the Chinese autocracy stand against the power of these patriots' sacrifices?

A Brute's Death, A Bitter Legacy

Research into the fate of the last century's dictators should be enough to convince a person of the dangers in assuming the tyrant's role. But even if an abuser escapes the angry mob's vengeance and the legal consequences of his crimes, and even if he lives in ease and comfort up to his death, what kind of anguish must he suffer upon review of his life at its passing? Won't he feel each victim's pain, each mourner's grief, each soldier's agony? Surely he will see the bitter legacy that he leaves the children, a world defiled by the senseless shedding of innocent blood.

And what of the young mother who chooses death by torture over a life of subjection? Surely she must feel the love and compassion of her supporters and see the light from her sacrifice shining brightly, exposing the evil behind her persecution.

Most of us hopefully will not have to face the threat of death, torture, or imprisonment in order to do our part for the preservation of liberty. For some it is enough to speak a word of protest among friends. A letter written to a Congressman concerning a proposed bill or foreign official on behalf of a prisoner of conscience can be an effective weapon for human rights. But we all can do something, and must, or face the consequences of turning the abuser's cruelty loose on the world.

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Editorial: The S.O.B. Has to Go--Yeah, But Which One?

by Douglas Herman

“Neighbor, how stands the Union ?” ~ Stephen Vincent Benet (The Devil and Daniel Webster)

The liveliest writers live on the Net. The best and brightest American essayists flourish not on the printed page, neither in polite college presses nor pulp newsprint but where free thought meets the free form use of the English language. Only on the Net.

Yes, the liveliest literary minds now master their sword strokes on the Internet. They slice through the bland “newspeak,” severing a thousand pen strokes of turgid prose in the process, reducing the regurgitated “op-eds” of scores of dull, syndicated pundits with a few deft slashes.

When was the last time you read an Ali Massoud or Jim Davies or Greg Szymanski or Robert Fisk or Paul Craig Roberts or Paul Joseph Watson in your local, hometown rag?


Imagine how dull and depressing the interior décor of your mind would be if only allowed the wallpaper of George Will or the faux-finishes of Molly Ivins. Imagine being a young Republican and solely savoring the decorative tirades of that Anorexic Skank (queen of the ad-hominem attack!), Ann Coulter?

When was the last time you read ANYTHING of any substance or power, or of genuine outraged emotion in your hometown newspaper? Never?  

How about Charley Reese, that old unreconstructed conservative and former columnist? Your hometown newspaper ever publish anything by him anymore, now that he’s slamming Bush and the Neocons in no uncertain terms? Or how about muckraker Wayne Madsen or foreign correspondent Dahr Jamail? Most mainstream news editors wouldn’t know Dahr Jamail from Joe Camel. Or how about this guy, Doug Thompson?  


Doug Thompson, the guy who writes the Rant for Capitol Hill Blue: The Oldest Political News Site on the Internet. Thompson just happens to be one of the keenest swordsmen on the Net, slicing guys like Will and Krauthammer into mincemeat.

Not long ago Thompson wrote a column entitled: “Traitorous Bitches And Bastards.” Doug referred to members of Congress of course.

“For the most part…Congress sold out the people who elected them to office, all Americans who depend on Congress to serve as a check and balance on the excesses of the White House and the Constitution of the United States…the bitches and bastards who ‘serve’ in Congress should take a long, hard look at the blood on their hands. They stand guilty of high crimes and treason against the United States of America . They are traitors and should be treated as such.”

Good stuff. The kind of honest, heartfelt emotional stuff you’ll never read in your local newspaper, that pulp fiction of the so-called polite mainstream media.

Recently Thompson posted another Rant: The S.O.B. has to go.

I’ll leave it to my readers to discern just which S.O.B he referred.

My chief complaint with that well-argued column—calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush-- is that Thompson woefully limited his rant regarding all the other Neocon malefactors.

Because impeaching Baby Bush won’t do a damn thing if all his happy henchmen remain in power.

Okay, let’s ask ourselves one pertinent question. Which Neocon is doing a fine, honorable job for America and deserves accolades? Which BushCo employee has acted honestly like a public servant in the last five years, for the betterment of the good old USA and her Constitution? ANY nominations?

How about spin-meister Karl Rove? You believe anything he says? Or Rice; you think she has ever uttered a single, honest public statement in the past five years? In my opinion, Condaleeza Rice is about as pure as the DU-riven snow.

Or Donald Rumsfeld? You think the US military will survive our old “Stop Loss” Secretary of Defense? Recall Rumsfeld was clamoring for a hefty boost in the Pentagon budget on September 10, 2001. America was enjoying wonderful weather and unprecedented peace up until then.

How convenient, for the war toymakers, and the Neocon strategists of the PNAC, that a “New Pearl Harbor”--the 911 attacks--happened the following day.

You think the Neocons and their apologists, lobbyists, and talk show fellow travelers can boost a single honorable, unselfish, patriot in the mold of say, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Revere, Paine, Franklin or Madison?  You really think Tom DeLay approaches Daniel Webster in stature, or any of the warmonger/cowards, like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, resemble Ethan Allen or Smedley Butler? You think any Neocon—Michael Brown or Chertoff or Ashcroft for example—could reach the bootheels of any Founding Father?

Okay—Name one. Just one.

Sons of bitches all. Despoilers, plunderers, warmongers, liars, cheats, con men, blowhards, bullies, religious hypocrites, perverts (even Bill Clinton, to my knowledge, never had a gay callboy as a regular White House guest).

How about that exploding federal deficit? How many Red State grandchildren will rue the day their ancestors ever allowed the Toxic Neocons and their rigged, electronic voting machines to take total control of all three branches of the government and run their country right into the ground? Hope I live long enough to hear those outraged (and indebted and impoverished) grandchildren give all those traitors hell.

Because, predictably, those Neocon schemers--sons of bitches all--will have skeedadled with the money long before that happens.

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Video shows Bush Katrina warning

2 Mar 06

I don\'t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees
George W Bush, speaking after the disaster

Video showing President George W Bush being warned on the eve of Hurricane Katrina that the storm could breach New Orleans\' flood defences has emerged.

The footage, obtained by the Associated Press, also shows Mr Bush being told of the risk to evacuees in the Superdome.

It appears to contradict Mr Bush\'s statement four days after Katrina hit, when he said: \"I don\'t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.\"

Critics say more could have been done sooner to evacuate the city.
Speaking by video link from a room in his Texan holiday ranch on 28 August last year, Mr Bush is shown telling federal disaster officials: \"We are fully prepared.\"

He does not ask any questions as the situation is outlined to him.

Along with the video, AP obtained transcripts of seven days of briefings relating to Katrina.

Clear warning

The footage does the president no favours, the BBC\'s Justin Webb reports from Washington.

It shows plainly worried officials telling Mr Bush very clearly before the storm hit that it could breach New Orleans\' flood barriers.

In the past, the president has said nobody anticipated a breach but the video shows Michael Brown, the top emergency response official who has since resigned, saying the storm would be \"a bad one, a big one\".

\"We\'re going to need everything that we can possibly muster, not only in this state and in the region, but the nation, to respond to this event,\" Mr Brown says.

He also gives a strong, clear warning that evacuees in the Superdome in New Orleans could not be given proper assistance.

\'Very, very grave\'

Another official, Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center, tells the final briefing that storm models predict minimal flooding inside New Orleans during the hurricane.

But he adds that the possibility that anticlockwise winds and storm surges could cause the levees at Lake Pontchartrain to be overrun afterwards is \"obviously a very, very grave concern\".

His concern was borne out by events when levees collapsed, letting in the floodwater disastrously.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, shown the footage for the first time at a press conference, told Reuters he was \"shocked\" by what it revealed.

\"It surprises me that if there was that kind of awareness, why was the response so slow?\" he asked.

But Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said most transcripts of discussions had already been made available to congressional investigators examining the response to Katrina.

\"There\'s nothing new or insightful on these tapes,\" he said.

Mr Bush has accepted he shared some of the responsibility for the flawed response to Katrina and the White House has talked of the \"fog of war\" rendering decision-making difficult.

Michael Brown told AP this week that he did not \"buy the \'fog of war\' defence\".

\"It was a fog of bureaucracy,\" he said.

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ICH Exclusive: Video shows Bush, Chertoff warned before Katrina:


Watch as President Bush is briefed on the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, in this video obtained exclusively by The Associated Press. Hear what aides told him just before the storm hit the Gulf Coast.

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Bush \'was warned about impact of Katrina\'

By Alec Russell, Washington Correspondent
The Telegraph
2 Mar 06

President George W Bush was warned a day before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could swamp New Orleans, it was claimed last night.

Leaked video footage and transcripts of top-level briefings in the six days before the storm showed federal officials telling Mr Bush the storm could breach levees and overwhelm rescuers.
He did not ask a single question in the final briefing on Aug 29 last year, the day before Katrina made landfall. But he told officials in Louisiana: \"We are fully prepared\".

The footage, obtained by the Associated Press, appears to contradict Mr Bush\'s announcement four days after the storm that he did not think \"anyone anticipated the breach of the levees\".

The disclosures suggest that, while they had anticipated the disaster, federal officials were too slow in appreciating they were underprepared.

They also suggested that Mr Bush\'s confidence on Aug 29 bore no relation to the dire warnings of his officials.

Michael Brown, the then head of Fema, the federal emergency relief agency, told Mr Bush and the homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff that he feared there were not enough teams to help evacuees.

\"I\'m concerned about. . . their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe,\" Mr Brown told his superiors before Katrina struck.

Officials from the homeland security department have said that the \"fog of war\" blinded them to the scale of the crisis. The new disclosures show officials appreciated that Katrina would wreak havoc.

Mr Brown has borne most of the criticism but last night he said: \"I don\'t buy the fog of war defence. It was a fog of bureaucracy.\"

The inept initial handling of the disaster shattered Mr Bush\'s reputation as a strong and decisive leader.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited

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Democrats Want Independent Katrina Probe

Associated Press
2 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - Lawmakers from both parties said Thursday a newly disclosed videotape of a pre-Katrina briefing for
President Bush and top administration officials raises new questions about government response to the storm that flooded New Orleans and killed more than 1,300 people.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said the video \"makes it perfectly clear once again that this disaster was not out of the blue or unforeseeable. It was not only predictable, it was actually predicted. That\'s what made the failures in response - at the local, state and federal level - all the more outrageous.\"
The video, obtained by The Associated Press, \"confirms what we have suspected all along,\" said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, charging that Bush administration officials have \"systematically misled the American people.\"

Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California renewed their calls for an independent commission to investigate the federal response to the hurricane.

The House and Senate have conducted separate investigations of the federal response, and the White House did its own investigation. House Democrats for the most part refused to participate in the House probe, insisting since last fall that an independent commission should be created to handle the probe.

\"I try not to get angry, but I am plenty frustrated that we\'re not getting answers\" from the administration, said Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., one of the few Democrats who participated in the House investigation. \"If nobody was hiding anything, why did the committee not get the documents it requested? We need to use subpoenas if necessary to get those documents.\"

A spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who headed the House investigation, said there was nothing new in the tape and accompanying transcripts.

\"Top federal, state and local officials failed to process and act on information at their disposal,\" said David Marin, the spokesman. \"We already knew that.\"

But Rep. Bennie Thompson (news, bio, voting record), D-Miss., the ranking Democrat on the House
Homeland Security Committee, disagreed.

\"If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a million,\" he said. \"Six months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the homes and livelihoods of millions along the Gulf Coast, the truth about what the president knew and when he knew it has come to light.\"

The videotape captured a briefing, one day before Katrina stuck on Aug. 29, involving then-
Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown, President Bush, Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff and other officials. Brown and others warned that the storm could breach levees, endanger lives in the New Orleans Superdome and overwhelm rescuers.

Five days after the briefing, with most of New Orleans underwater, Bush said, \"I don\'t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.\"

White House and Homeland Security officials urged the public not to read too much into the video footage.

\"I hope people don\'t draw conclusions from the president getting a single briefing,\" presidential spokesman Trent Duffy said Wednesday, citing a variety of orders and disaster declarations Bush signed before the storm made landfall. \"He received multiple briefings from multiple officials, and he was completely engaged at all times.\"

The White House did not immediately respond Thursday to the renewed Democratic calls for an independent investigation.

During the briefing, Brown expressed concern that there weren\'t enough disaster teams to help evacuate the Superdome. \"I\'m concerned about ... their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe,\" Brown told his bosses the day before the hurricane hit.

Later, Bush reassured federal, state and local disaster relief officials who were participating by teleconference, \"We are fully prepared.\"

R. David Paulison, who replaced Brown as head of FEMA in the aftermath of Katrina, said Thursday he would not second-guess the administration response to the hurricane.

\"I don\'t know what else the White House could have done,\" he said. \"I think as soon as everybody recognized there was a big problem, stuff started flowing in within a couple of days.\"

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Armed forces are put on standby to tackle threat of wars over water

By Ben Russell, and Nigel Morris
28 February 2006

Across the world, they are coming: the water wars. From Israel to India, from Turkey to Botswana, arguments are going on over disputed water supplies that may soon burst into open conflict.

Yesterday, Britain\'s Defence Secretary, John Reid, pointed to the factor hastening the violent collision between a rising world population and a shrinking world water resource: global warming.

In a grim first intervention in the climate-change debate, the Defence Secretary issued a bleak forecast that violence and political conflict would become more likely in the next 20 to 30 years as climate change turned land into desert, melted ice fields and poisoned water supplies.
Climate campaigners echoed Mr Reid\'s warning, and demanded that ministers redouble their efforts to curb carbon emissions.

Tony Blair will today host a crisis Downing Street summit to address what he called \"the major long-term threat facing our planet\", signalling alarm within Government at the political consequences of failing to deal with the spectre of global warming.

Activists are modelling their campaign on last year\'s Make Poverty History movement in the hope of creating immense popular pressure for action on climate change.

Mr Reid used a speech at Chatham House last night to deliver a stark assessment of the potential impact of rising temperatures on the political and human make-up of the world. He listed climate change alongside the major threats facing the world in future decades, including international terrorism, demographic changes and global energy demand.

Mr Reid signalled Britain\'s armed forces would have to be prepared to tackle conflicts over dwindling resources. Military planners have already started considering the potential impact of global warming for Britain\'s armed forces over the next 20 to 30 years. They accept some climate change is inevitable, and warn Britain must be prepared for humanitarian disaster relief, peacekeeping and warfare to deal with the dramatic social and political consequences of climate change.

Mr Reid warned of increasing uncertainty about the future of the countries least well equipped to deal with flooding, water shortages and valuable agricultural land turning to desert.

He said climate change was already a contributory factor in conflicts in Africa.

Mr Reid said: \"As we look beyond the next decade, we see uncertainty growing; uncertainty about the geopolitical and human consequences of climate change.

\"Impacts such as flooding, melting permafrost and desertification could lead to loss of agricultural land, poisoning of water supplies and destruction of economic infrastructure.

\"More than 300 million people in Africa currently lack access to safe water; climate change will worsen this dire situation.\"

He added: \"These changes are not just of interest to the geographer or the demographer; they will make scarce resources, clean water, viable agricultural land even scarcer.

\"Such changes make the emergence of violent conflict more rather than less likely... The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur. We should see this as a warning sign.\"

Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: \"The science of global warming is becoming ever more certain about the scale of the problem we have, and now the implications of that for security and politics is beginning to emerge.\"

He said the problems could be most acute in the Middle East and North Africa.

Charlie Kornick, head of climate campaigning at the pressure group Greenpeace, said billions of people faced pressure on water supplies due to climate change across Africa, Asia and South America. He said: \"If politicians realise how serious the problems could be, why are British CO2 emissions still going up?\"

Tony Blair will be joined by the Chancellor Gordon Brown, the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, and the International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, at today\'s talks in Downing Street.

They will be meeting representatives of the recently created Stop Climate Chaos, an alliance of environmental groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Oxfam. It will also meet opposition parties.

The alliance will call for the Government to commit itself to achieving a 3 per cent annual fall in carbon dioxide emissions.

The facts

* On our watery planet, 97.5 per cent of water is salt water, unfit for human use.

* Most of the fresh water is locked in the ice caps.

* The recommended basic water requirement per person per day is 50 litres. But people can get by with about 30 litres: 5 litres for food and drink and another 25 for hygiene.

* Some countries use less than 10 litres per person per day. Gambia uses 4.5, Mali 8, Somalia 8.9, and Mozambique 9.3.

* By contrast the average US citizen uses 500 litres per day, and the British average is 200.

* In the West, it takes about eight litres to brush our teeth, 10 to 35 litres to flush a lavatory, and 100 to 200 litres to take a shower.

* The litres of water needed to produce a kilo of:

Potatoes 1,000

Maize 1,400

Wheat 1,450

Chicken 4,600

Beef 42,500

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Flashback! Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

Mark Townsend and Paul Harris in New York
Sunday February 22, 2004
The Observer

From the 22 Feb Signs of the Times

· Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war
· Britain will be \'Siberian\' in less than 20 years
· Threat to the world is greater than terrorism

Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters.

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a \'Siberian\' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.
The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

\'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,\' concludes the Pentagon analysis. \'Once again, warfare would define human life.\'

The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.

The report was commissioned by influential Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking over the past three decades. He was the man behind a sweeping recent review aimed at transforming the American military under Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Climate change \'should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern\', say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network.

An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is \'plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately\', they conclude. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.

Last week the Bush administration came under heavy fire from a large body of respected scientists who claimed that it cherry-picked science to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like. Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change.

Senior climatologists, however, believe that their verdicts could prove the catalyst in forcing Bush to accept climate change as a real and happening phenomenon. They also hope it will convince the United States to sign up to global treaties to reduce the rate of climatic change.

A group of eminent UK scientists recently visited the White House to voice their fears over global warming, part of an intensifying drive to get the US to treat the issue seriously. Sources have told The Observer that American officials appeared extremely sensitive about the issue when faced with complaints that America\'s public stance appeared increasingly out of touch.

One even alleged that the White House had written to complain about some of the comments attributed to Professor Sir David King, Tony Blair\'s chief scientific adviser, after he branded the President\'s position on the issue as indefensible.

Among those scientists present at the White House talks were Professor John Schellnhuber, former chief environmental adviser to the German government and head of the UK\'s leading group of climate scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. He said that the Pentagon\'s internal fears should prove the \'tipping point\' in persuading Bush to accept climatic change.

Sir John Houghton, former chief executive of the Meteorological Office - and the first senior figure to liken the threat of climate change to that of terrorism - said: \'If the Pentagon is sending out that sort of message, then this is an important document indeed.\'

Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added that the Pentagon\'s dire warnings could no longer be ignored.

\'Can Bush ignore the Pentagon? It\'s going be hard to blow off this sort of document. Its hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush\'s single highest priority is national defence. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group, generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two groups the Bush Administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon,\' added Watson.

\'You\'ve got a President who says global warming is a hoax, and across the Potomac river you\'ve got a Pentagon preparing for climate wars. It\'s pretty scary when Bush starts to ignore his own government on this issue,\' said Rob Gueterbock of Greenpeace.

Already, according to Randall and Schwartz, the planet is carrying a higher population than it can sustain. By 2020 \'catastrophic\' shortages of water and energy supply will become increasingly harder to overcome, plunging the planet into war. They warn that 8,200 years ago climatic conditions brought widespread crop failure, famine, disease and mass migration of populations that could soon be repeated.

Randall told The Observer that the potential ramifications of rapid climate change would create global chaos. \'This is depressing stuff,\' he said. \'It is a national security threat that is unique because there is no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat.\'

Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a disaster happening. \'We don\'t know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,\' he said.

\'The consequences for some nations of the climate change are unbelievable. It seems obvious that cutting the use of fossil fuels would be worthwhile.\'

So dramatic are the report\'s scenarios, Watson said, that they may prove vital in the US elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to accept climate change as a real problem. Scientists disillusioned with Bush\'s stance are threatening to make sure Kerry uses the Pentagon report in his campaign.

The fact that Marshall is behind its scathing findings will aid Kerry\'s cause. Marshall, 82, is a Pentagon legend who heads a secretive think-tank dedicated to weighing risks to national security called the Office of Net Assessment. Dubbed \'Yoda\' by Pentagon insiders who respect his vast experience, he is credited with being behind the Department of Defence\'s push on ballistic-missile defence.

Symons, who left the EPA in protest at political interference, said that the suppression of the report was a further instance of the White House trying to bury evidence of climate change. \'It is yet another example of why this government should stop burying its head in the sand on this issue.\'

Symons said the Bush administration\'s close links to high-powered energy and oil companies was vital in understanding why climate change was received sceptically in the Oval Office. \'This administration is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies,\' he added.

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Flashback! Key findings of the Pentagon

Sunday February 22, 2004
The Observer

· Future wars will be fought over the issue of survival rather than religion, ideology or national honour.

· By 2007 violent storms smash coastal barriers rendering large parts of the Netherlands uninhabitable. Cities like The Hague are abandoned. In California the delta island levees in the Sacramento river area are breached, disrupting the aqueduct system transporting water from north to south.

· Between 2010 and 2020 Europe is hardest hit by climatic change with an average annual temperature drop of 6F. Climate in Britain becomes colder and drier as weather patterns begin to resemble Siberia.

Article continues
· Deaths from war and famine run into the millions until the planet\'s population is reduced by such an extent the Earth can cope.

· Riots and internal conflict tear apart India, South Africa and Indonesia.

· Access to water becomes a major battleground. The Nile, Danube and Amazon are all mentioned as being high risk.

· A \'significant drop\' in the planet\'s ability to sustain its present population will become apparent over the next 20 years.

· Rich areas like the US and Europe would become \'virtual fortresses\' to prevent millions of migrants from entering after being forced from land drowned by sea-level rise or no longer able to grow crops. Waves of boatpeople pose significant problems.

· Nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable. Japan, South Korea, and Germany develop nuclear-weapons capabilities, as do Iran, Egypt and North Korea. Israel, China, India and Pakistan also are poised to use the bomb.

· By 2010 the US and Europe will experience a third more days with peak temperatures above 90F. Climate becomes an \'economic nuisance\' as storms, droughts and hot spells create havoc for farmers.

· More than 400m people in subtropical regions at grave risk.

· Europe will face huge internal struggles as it copes with massive numbers of migrants washing up on its shores. Immigrants from Scandinavia seek warmer climes to the south. Southern Europe is beleaguered by refugees from hard-hit countries in Africa.

· Mega-droughts affect the world\'s major breadbaskets, including America\'s Midwest, where strong winds bring soil loss.

· China\'s huge population and food demand make it particularly vulnerable. Bangladesh becomes nearly uninhabitable because of a rising sea level, which contaminates the inland water supplies.

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Flashback! The Marshall Plan - The Pentagon\'s Yoda

February 2003
By Douglas McGray
Wired Magazine

For 40 years, the man Pentagon insiders call Yoda has foreseen the future of war - from battlefield bots rolling off radar-proof ships to GIs popping performance pills. And that was before the war on terror.

Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon\'s 81-year-old futurist-in-chief, fiddles with his security badge, squints, looks away, smiles, and finally speaks in a voice that sounds like Gene Hackman trying not to wake anybody. Known as Yoda in defense circles, Marshall doesn\'t need to shout to be heard. Named director of the Office of Net Assessment by Richard Nixon and reappointed by every president since, the DOD\'s most elusive official has become one of its most influential. Today, Marshall - along with his star protégés Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz - is drafting President Bush\'s plan to upgrade the military. Supporters believe the force he envisions will be faster and more lethal; critics say it relies on unproven technology. As US troops gathered overseas, Marshall sat for a rare interview.
WIRED: Until recently, defense planners talked about a \"revolution in military affairs.\" Now the buzzword is \"transformation.\" Why the change?

MARSHALL: Transformation is more of an imperative: We\'ve got to transform the force. I personally don\'t like the term. It tends to push people in the direction of changing the whole force. You need to be thinking about changing some small part of the force more radically, as a way of exploring what new technologies can really do for you.

What is the next radical change the US will reveal on the battlefield?

\"One future intelligence problem: knowing what drugs the other guys are on.\" One that\'s still under way is the emergence of a variety of precision weapons, and also coupling them with sensors. Another is the ability to coordinate the activities of separate elements of the forces to a level that has never been possible before. That\'s promising, but less far along than precision weapons. A third is robotic devices: unmanned vehicles, of which the UAVs are the furthest along, but also similar kinds of devices undersea, and smaller devices that might change urban warfare by being able to crawl through buildings.

Are there revolutionary developments that don\'t involve combat?

There are ways of psychologically influencing the leadership of another state. I don\'t mean information warfare, but some demonstration of awesome effects, like being able to set off impressive explosions in the sky. Like, let us show you what we could do to you. Just visually impressing the person.

Did 9/11 change your mind about anything?

Not much. It was obvious that we were wide open to attack.

Has anything happened that surprised you?

The rapidity of the collapse of the Soviet Union surprised me. I thought they were in trouble, but the rapidity and completeness of the withdrawal were really striking.

Is there a precedent for one country staying on top through a series of military revolutions? Or does one country always leapfrog another?

Through most of the 19th century, the British Navy exhibited that kind of thing. But it was quite interesting the way they did it. They tended to let other countries, mainly France, do the early experiments and come out with new kinds of ships. If something looked like a good idea, they could come in and quickly overtake the innovator. They seemed to do that as a way of capitalizing on their advantage and saving resources.

Isn\'t the United States in a similar position now?

That\'s probably the case. But some of the countries that would be candidates to make innovations aren\'t doing it. The Japanese and West Europeans aren\'t really making big changes. The Swedes are an interesting case. For 200 years their basic problem was the possibility of a large-scale land invasion by the Russians. They\'ve decided that that has gone away. If anything could happen, it would happen across the Baltic. So they\'re rethinking, given modern technology, how to create a defense largely on sea frontiers. It\'s possible that they will make some innovations that we\'ll pick up and capitalize on.

For instance?

They\'ve designed three new naval vessels. One is an air-independent submarine [running on fuel cells rather than nuclear power, which allows it to travel almost silently and remain submerged for extended periods]. They have a surface ship that\'s a bit more conventional. And then a radically new naval vessel called the Visby, which has practically no metal in it other than the engine. It\'s constructed to be very stealthy.

You\'re known for following technology outside the traditional realm of national security. Pharmaceuticals, for instance.

People who are connected with neural pharmacology tell me that new classes of drugs will be available relatively shortly, certainly within the decade. These drugs are just like natural chemicals inside people, only with behavior-modifying and performance-enhancing characteristics. One of the people I talk to jokes that a future intelligence problem is going to be knowing what drugs the other guys are on.

In an era of terrorism and peacekeeping, are Cold War ideas based on striking a big enemy from afar and defending against missile attack still relevant?

Yes, if we want to stay in the business of long-range power projection. And if we play the role of intervening in messy disputes, some of this weaponry is still useful, as it was in Afghanistan. However, we need ground forces to go in and keep the peace.

Does new technology ultimately make us more or less vulnerable?

A friend of mine, Yale economist Martin Shubik, says an important way to think about the world is to draw a curve of the number of people 10 determined men can kill before they are put down themselves, and how that has varied over time. His claim is that it wasn\'t very many for a long time, and now it\'s going up. In that sense, it\'s not just the US. All the world is getting less safe.

Comment: Notice the above comment about \"demonstration of awesome effects\". Did Marshall mean actual explosions in the sky or merely \"special effects\", projections of explosions? If he was alluding to a technology that could produce something akin to a holographic display, we wonder could this technology perhaps be used domestically as well as against a foreign power? Could it be used to produce effects other than explosions? Other types of visual effects, like \"visions\" of some sort...

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Flashback! Top scientist attacks US over global warming

Paul Brown and Mark Oliver
Friday January 9, 2004
The Guardian

Climate change is a more serious threat to the world than terrorism, David King, the government\'s chief scientist, writes in an article in today\'s Science magazine, attacking governments for doing too little to combat global warming.

He singles out the United States for \"refusing to countenance any remedial action now or in the future\" to curb its own greenhouse gases, which are 20% of the world\'s total, even though it has only 4% of the population.
Disclosing that he had commissioned a team of scientists and engineers to find ways of reducing the severe damage the UK faces from climate change, he says the potential damage to property runs into \"tens of billions of pounds per annum\".

Britain is doing its bit to reduce emissions, but acting alone is not enough, he says. \"We and the rest of the world are now looking to the USA to play its leading part.\"

As an example of what his team is discussing, he says Britain\'s coastal defences will be subject to attack from both increased sea-level rises and greater storm surges.

\"These combined efforts have the potential to increase risk of floods in 2080 by up to 30 times present levels. In the highest emission scenario, by 2080 flood levels that are now expected once in 100 years could be recur ring every three years. People at high risk of flooding in Britain will double to nearly 3.5 million.\"

If no work is done coastal erosion in Britain will increase nine-fold, he adds.

Urging action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at once Sir David comments: \"Delaying action for decades, or even just years, is not a serious option. I am firmly convinced that if we do not stop now, more substantial, m ore disruptive, and more expensive change will be needed later on.\" [...]

Yesterday a major study published in Nature magazine showed that climate change over the next 50 years is expected to drive a quarter of land animals and plants into extinction.

Chris Thomas, professor of conservation biology at Leeds University, who was lead author of the research from four continents into the effect of higher temperatures, called the results \"terrifying\", estimating that more than 1 million species will be lost by 2050.

Much of that loss - more than one in 10 of all plants and animals - is irreversible because of the extra global warming gases already discharged into the atmosphere. However the scientists who conducted the research believe action to curb greenhouse gases now could save others from the same fate.

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Flashback! Too hot to handle - Jim Hansen, NASA\'s top climate scientist

By Bill McKibben
February 5, 2006

JIM HANSEN, the director of NASA\'S Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is a dangerous man. Not a brash man or a rebel-I remember interviewing him many years ago, and when I asked him what he did to relax, he replied, \"mow my lawn.\" He\'s spent his whole career on the NASA payroll, but never looked up at the beckoning stars, at least professionally. Instead, from a floor of offices above Tom\'s Diner, of \'\'Seinfeld\" fame, on New York\'s Upper West Side, he\'s fixed an unwavering gaze on our home planet and the narrow envelope of atmosphere that surrounds it.
It\'s in that process that he\'s acquired the data, including one of the most comprehensive and accurate temperature records for the entire globe, that makes him so unsafe-data he\'s repeatedly tried to spread to the world, but always against resistance, mostly from politicians but also from scientists.

The latest dust-up came last week, when The New York Times reported that the public affairs staff at NASA was trying to censor Hansen\'s contacts with journalists-not to mention postings on his website, his lectures, and his future papers-after he told the American Geophysical Union, in a speech on Dec. 6, that 2005 had been the warmest year on record. Not that they acted out of any untoward motive, NASA officials insist, just to make sure that he wasn\'t misquoted.

Hansen has had to deliver unpopular news before, and he\'s always persisted-and this time, as usual, he managed to turn the gag order into a megaphone. In fact, if you follow the thread of the controversies that have marked Hansen\'s career, you can understand how the idea of global warming first came to light, how it\'s been resisted, and why we seem now to be entering into the most dangerous era of all, when theory turns ever more quickly into reality.

. . .

In the late 1970s, global warming was something that very few scientists thought about and almost no politicians took seriously. Hansen, however, then a newly minted PhD arriving in New York from the Midwest, had begun to build his first global climate model, an immensely complex computer simulation of the planet\'s climate that allows its user to, say, add a layer of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and see what happens. What happens, as he put it in a paper in Science, is that the temperature goes up, a lot: He predicted that \'\'the continuing increase in fossil fuel use would lead to about 4.5-degree Fahrenheit global warming by the end of the twenty-first century.\"

The incoming Reagan administration, unfortunately, did not want to hear that-and so they cut his funding to the bone, forcing him to lay off most of his NASA staff. Still, he\'d raised the issue, gotten it on the front pages of the papers for the first time, and-since he had the best model of the world\'s climate anywhere-he eventually got a new round of funding.

The next time he had something to say, he didn\'t choose a scientific journal. It was June 1988, and the country was unusually hot-the Mississippi River was so dry that barges were unable to navigate the shallow waters. A congressional committee asked him to testify, and he did. In his allotted 15 minutes, in his usual mild voice, he predicted that 1988 would set a new global temperature record, and indeed that he was \'\'99 percent confident\" that it was due to the greenhouse effect. As he left the hearing, he told reporters: \'\'It\'s time to stop waffling so much and say that the greenhouse effect is here and is affecting our climate now.\"

That sound bite rankled the Republican administration (which tried to edit his further testimony, with about as much success as NASA had last week) but it also angered his scientific peers. He\'d broken the scientific code, talked in real-world terms, \'\'gone beyond the data.\" Daggers were drawn, and they were used. Mark Bowen, in his fine recent history of climate science, \'\'Thin Ice\" (2005), describes the next meeting of the world\'s climatologists as a \'\'get-Hansen session.\" Scientists, accustomed to publishing in peer-reviewed journals, speak in nuances and caveats. To say \'\'I\'m 99 percent certain\" goes against the academic grain.

Hansen, of course, understood this. He\'s spent his whole career in academic conferences and scientific meetings. But he also knew that the rest of the world-the audience that needed to understand our predicament-doesn\'t speak that way.

The professional criticism stung him, but it had clearly been worth it. Every newspaper and every newsmagazine published long reports on the subject-within a week, \'\'greenhouse effect\" had gone from a scientific term to a media buzzword. By year\'s end Time had named \'\'our endangered earth\" its \'\'planet of the year,\" and the elder George Bush, running for president, was promising to \'\'fight the greenhouse effect with the White House effect\"-an applause line, unfortunately, which didn\'t lead to much in the way of policy. More importantly, the fear Hansen sparked led to almost bottomless federal research budgets for his fellow scientists, and by 1995 they had concluded he was correct: The planet, said the world\'s foremost body of climatologists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was heating up and people were the cause.

In the rest of the developed world, that was enough to get policy makers working on projects like the Kyoto Treaty. But here, where all the crucial science had been done, the prospect of grappling with our fossil fuel addiction was simply too daunting for either the Clinton administration, which at least recognized the problem, or the George W. Bush White House, which turned its back. When one Environmental Protection Agency document dared to mention the possibility of a warming planet, Bush dismissed it as a product of \'\'the bureaucrats.\"

And so we go on burning ever more fossil fuel, and the earth keeps getting warmer-as Hansen\'s monthly monitoring of 10,000 temperature gauges around the planet makes depressingly clear.

But the new high temperature record isn\'t the real reason Hansen is so agitated right now, nor the reason the Bush administration would like to silence him. Instead, it\'s the messages about future change that his computer climate models keep spitting out.

Those models reveal a miserable situation at present, but a dire one in the years ahead. In his December speech to the Geophysical Union, he noted that carbon dioxide emissions are \'\'now surging well above\" the point where damage to the planet might be limited. Speaking to a reporter from The Washington Post, he put it bluntly: Having raised the earth\'s temperature 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last three decades, we\'re facing another increase of 4 degrees over the next century. That would \'\'imply changes that constitute practically a different planet.\" The technical terms for those changes include drought, famine, pestilence, and flood.

\'\'It\'s not something we can adapt to,\" he continued. \'\'We can\'t let it go on another 10 years like this.\"

And that\'s what makes him so dangerous now. He\'s not just saying that the world is warming. He\'s not just saying we\'re the cause. He\'s saying: We have to stop it now. Not wait a few decades while Exxon Mobil keeps making record profits. Not wait a few decades until there\'s some painless new technology like hydrogen cars that lets us drive blithely into the future. Not even wait a few years until the current administration can cut and run from Washington.

The president, just this week, said that we\'ve become \'\'addicted to oil,\" which is a little as though Abe Lincoln suddenly noticed the South had slaves. Bush\'s package of fixes-a little money for nuclear, for clean coal, for wind power-goes in the right direction, but so slowly as to be a gesture, not a policy. If we want to keep a semblance of the planet we were born on to, we have to act decisively, expensively, quickly, and now.

You can argue with Hansen if you want. But you better bring a pretty big data set with you. He\'s been right so far.

Bill McKibben, a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, is the author of \'\'The End of Nature\" and eight other books on environmental topics.

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Bush: U.S. Citizens Should Welcome Competition (Outsourcing of American Jobs)

Associated Press
3 Mar 06

HYDERABAD, India (AP) -- President Bush urged Americans worried about a U.S. job drift to India and other countries to welcome, not fear, competition with this rapidly growing nation of 1 billion.

\"The classic opportunity for our American farmers and entrepreneurs and small businesses to understand is there is a 300 million-person market of middle class citizens here in India,\" Bush said Friday during a discussion with young entrepreneurs at a business school here, \"and that if we can make a product they want, that it becomes viable.\"
A day earlier, Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inked a deal for the United States to provide nuclear fuel, reactors and know-how to help this energy-starved nation meet its growing demand for power, while allowing it to continue developing nuclear weapons.

\"Yesterday was a way to put the Cold War behind us,\" Bush said of the historic nuclear accord.

As part of an effort to nurture economic ties with a nation that was once estranged from the United States, the president flew here to take in both this city\'s high-tech activity that is helping to drive rapid economic growth and the rural areas around it that lag behind.

The meeting with business leaders and an earlier tour around the dusty campus of an agricultural college were aimed at showcasing ways the United States and India can cooperate to spur innovation across industries.

India\'s exploding economy has created millions of jobs. India\'s outsourcing industry alone is expected to bring in $22 billion in revenue this fiscal year, much of that generated by U.S. companies.

\"People do lose jobs as a result of globalization and it\'s painful for those who lose jobs,\" Bush acknowledged. \"Globalization provides great opportunities.\"

The boom has created millions of jobs along with consumer demands that have attracted American businesses. A luxury goods market has even emerged, with brands like Louis Vuitton and Rolls Royce setting up shop along with consumer demands that have attracted American businesses.

Though 80 percent of Indians live on less than $2 a day, India\'s middle class has swelled to a number larger the population of the entire United States. The U.S. trade deficit with India, however, nearly doubled between 2001 and 2005 to $10 billion.

At Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, Bush watched Indians using sticks and tools to hand-till soil around young peanuts, tomatoes and soybeans.

Bush was greeted here by the heavy presence of police and paramilitary soldiers. Black flags flew above buildings in the predominantly Muslim Charminar quarter, where shops were closed in protest. Several hundred communist and Muslim demonstrators, chanting \"Bush hands off India\" and \"Bush go home,\" carried posters of Osama bin Laden and burned an effigy of the American president.

\"We are protesting against George Bush because he is a warmonger,\" said B.V. Raghavulu, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

There was also a protest against Bush Friday in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Later Friday, Bush was flying to Pakistan for an overnight visit under tight security to a close ally struggling with terrorism problems. An American diplomat and three other people were killed when a suicide attacker rammed a car packed with explosives into theirs. The bombing on Thursday was in Karachi, about 1,000 miles south of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, where Bush will meet with Pervez Musharraf, the military leader who took power in a 1999 coup.

U.S. officials said there was evidence the U.S. diplomat, foreign service officer David Foy, was targeted.

\"Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan,\" Bush said at a news conference Thursday in New Delhi with Singh.

Bush aides said there were security concerns about the president going to Pakistan but that officials were satisfied adequate precautions were in place. \"But this is not a risk-free undertaking,\" said national security adviser Stephen Hadley.

Eight months in the making, the nuclear accord Bush and Singh announced Thursday would reverse decades of U.S. policy and end India\'s long isolation as a nuclear maverick that defied world appeals and developed nuclear weapons.

India agreed to separate its tightly entwined nuclear industry - declaring 14 reactors as commercial facilities and eight as military - and to open the civilian side to international inspections for the first time.

The agreement must be approved by Congress, and Bush acknowledged that might be difficult. India still refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and skeptics worry that India\'s military nuclear program would remain outside of international safeguards.

The United Nations\' nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, gave its endorsement, calling the deal \"an important step towards satisfying India\'s growing need for energy, including nuclear technology and fuel, as an engine for development.\"

\"It would also bring India closer as an important partner in the nonproliferation game,\" IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said in a statement.

The nuclear agreement drew fire from some in Congress. Critics have complained the deal undermines efforts to prevent states like Iran and North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons.

\"With one simple move the president has blown a hole in the nuclear rules that the entire world has been playing by and broken his own word to assure that we will not ship nuclear technology to India without the proper safeguards,\" said Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

\"While I believe that the Congress will support this agreement, it is important to take into consideration the nonproliferation concerns raised by some of my colleagues,\" Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn, said.

The White House said India was unique because it had protected its nuclear technology and not been a proliferator. The administration also argued it was a good deal because it would provide international oversight for part of a program that has been secret since India entered the nuclear age in 1974.

The deal also could be a boon for American companies that have been barred from selling reactors and material to India.

© 2006 The Associated Press.

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Implications of India-US defence pact

ABMS Zahur
The Daily Star
3 Mar 06

The recent US-India defence pact may have serious implications for the arms race and raise strategic questions regarding relations with China. China-India-Pakistan triangular relationship is a vital factor for South Asian peace. Bangladesh\'s internal security situation has become worse. The Islamic extremists are conducting repeated bomb raids. The government response to deal with them is inadequate so far. If India-China relationship deteriorates due to increasing US interest in Indian affairs, Bangladesh will be in a difficult situation as to whom to support -- India or China.
Though an ally for a long time, India voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meetings twice, apparently to: (a) strengthen the US-India alliance, (b) legitimise India\'s nuclear weapons, and (c) obtain great power status, and perhaps on sudden realisation of the virtues of nuclear electricity.

However, things do not appear to be as smooth or inspiring as it seems. With growing rhetoric and possibility of a confrontation, Indian government is becoming increasingly nervous at the reference of Iran to the Security Council to abandon its nuclear plans. However, US has realised that UN sanctions on Iran may be possible only through tough diplomacy. US considers Iran as \"central banker\" for global terrorism, a partner with Syria in destabilising the Middle East, despite the claim of Bush administration that its \"war on terrorism\" is successful we hardly see any sign of it.

On the contrary, she is destroying the economy of Iraq, killing innocent Iraqi civilians and demolishing a large number of historical sites. In its striving to control firmly Iraqi oil, the recent destablisation of oil market is seriously affecting the growth of developing countries, particularly the non-oil producing least developed countries. In Afghanistan, the common Afghanis appear to be in favour of withdrawal of UN forces from their soil. In Pakistan, it is not certain as to how long Pervez Musharraf will be able to contain the growing anti-US feeling.

Even if we assume that Iran has secret nuclear ambitions, other members of the UN perhaps do not have the moral right to object. After all, Pakistan, India, and Israel have built the bomb. If these countries can get away with their atomic arsenals, why shouldn\'t Iran? There is no morality that enjoins that India, Pakistan, and Israel can have nuclear bomb, but not Iran. The fear that Iran will eventually dominate large parts of the Middle East appears to be rather speculative. The fact is that US desires to remain dominant everywhere.

The growing closer relation between India and the US may not help establishing the envisaged peace in South Asia. Neither can it be overlooked by China or Russia. India may lose its image as a sober, neutral, and peaceful country. This will encourage her small neighbours to develop closer relationship with China.

US-South Asia relationship vacillated between \"close embrace and uneasy distance\" for the last five decades.

Bangladesh-US relationship was not friendly at independence, it started changing with the visits of presidents Zia and Ershad to the US. A number of developments between 1990s and the early 21st century helped in strengthening of US-Bangladesh relationship. Among these developments were Bangladesh\'s participation in US-led Gulf War coalition against Iraq, US assistance to Bangladesh to recover from devastating cyclone in 1990, and the first ever visit of a sitting US president (Bill Clinton).

In 2003, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that \"Bangladesh\'s democracy, Bangladesh\'s economic progress, Bangladesh\'s friendship and Bangladesh\'s people do matter to the US.\" Pakistan is already an ally and strategic partner of US. The other prime object of US attention is India. The US wants India to undertake regional responsibilities commensurate with its growing power. The strengthening of Indo-US bilateral relations will have implications for Bangladesh and other countries in South Asia. As far as Bangladesh is concerned, US attention to Bangladesh is because it is a democratic moderate Muslim country as compared to Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other US allies in the Muslim world.

It would be relevant to discuss in this regard about Bangladesh\'s present relationship with China. Because of very rapid growth of China (average around 9 per cent) over the last two decades, the US is showing concern. China has consistently a diplomatic strategy with two basic goals: to maintain a peaceful environment conducive to its economic development and to minimise the scope for the US and its allies to slow down China\'s rise. It has its own set of strategic interests to prevent rise of any peer or competitor or rival in Asia. It particularly seeks to keep India\'s power and influence confined within its borders and to enhance China\'s influence in South Asia.

China regards Bangladesh as having the potential to facilitate its security interests in the region. In fact, Bangladesh can play a vital part in promoting Chinese interests in the regional order. It can connect south western China with South Asia by a land route. Bangladesh along with Myanmar can provide Chinese access to the Bay of Bengal and to the Indian Ocean.

Both India and the US consider Bangladesh-China present relationship at acceptable level. However, within a decade or so, Bangladesh will have to reassure them that it is not siding with China against India. The signing of Bangladesh-China defence cooperation agreement has, however, raised suspicion in India as to its scope and intent. For strategic reasons, Bangladesh will have to be more attentive to China\'s political goals and show deference to its geo-political interests, views, and values. Once South Asia comes within China\'s sphere of influence, the situation would render China a power in South Asia too, and make its participation in any regional forum, security or otherwise, inevitable. If the US continues to prosecute its unproductive, indefinite, and costly war on terrorism, its economic power as well as its capacity for leadership may attenuate, resulting in the erosion of US political and military role in the Asia-Pacific.

The recent US-India defence pact may have serious implications for the arms race and raise strategic questions regarding relations with China. China-India-Pakistan triangular relationship is a vital factor for South Asian peace. Bangladesh\'s internal security situation has become worse. The Islamic extremists are conducting repeated bomb raids. The government response to deal with them is inadequate so far. If India-China relationship deteriorates due to increasing US interest in Indian affairs, Bangladesh will be in a difficult situation as to whom to support -- India or China.

As we see from our experience during the last five decades or so, China has proved to be a very trusted ally. Thus it may be a folly for us to damage or destroy our relationship with China to satisfy either India or the US. Our defence, economic, and technological capability should certainly improve rapidly to make our country self-reliant. We also need to develop mutual trust and confidence with other neighbours of the region. Our policymakers must carry out a true socio-political study to determine exactly the loss and profit for our people.

A.B.M.S. Zahur is a retired Joint Secretary.

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Muslims protest as Bush tours southern India

Agence France Presse
3 Mar 06

HYDERABAD, India (AFP) - US President George W. Bush met farmers and weavers in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, as Muslim protesters clashed with police and brought the business centre to a standstill.

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Teen Killed in Anti-Bush Protest in India

Associated Press
3 Mar 06

AP - Anger against U.S. President George W. Bush swept through parts of India on Friday as protesters burned his effigy and carried posters of Osama bin Laden, and rioting demonstrators clashed with Hindus in a northern city, leaving at least one dead.

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India, Pakistan got atomic arms \"legitimately\" sez Bolton

By Irwin Arieff
1 Mar 06

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Ambassador to the
United Nations John Bolton said on Wednesday the way India and Pakistan had obtained nuclear arms was legitimate, in contrast to Iran which he accused of pursuing atomic weapons in violation of its international undertakings.

While Iran is seeking to conceal development of nuclear weapons under the guise of a legitimate program to generate nuclear power, Bolton said, India and Pakistan \"did it legitimately.\"
His comments, made in response to an audience question following a speech to a meeting of the World Jewish Congress, appeared to go farther than the administration of
President George W. Bush has previously gone in embracing the two nations\' nuclear programs.

They also coincide with a visit by Bush to India in which the United States is offering New Delhi de facto recognition of its nuclear arms program. Bush is due to travel to Pakistan from India.

The United States imposed punitive sanctions on India after it tested a nuclear bomb in 1998. In the same year, the
U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning India and Pakistan for their nuclear weapons tests.

Under a deal India and the United States agreed in principle in July 2005, New Delhi would commit itself to certain international nonproliferation standards including putting its civilian nuclear facilities under international inspection.

In return it would gain access to U.S. civilian nuclear technology, including fuel and reactors, that it was denied for 30 years. India\'s military facilities would not be subject to inspections under the deal.

At the same time, the U.S. administration is pressing Iran to turn its back on a program to enrich uranium on its own soil, a plan Tehran insists is intended only to produce electric power but which Washington insists aims to develop nuclear bombs.

Bolton noted that neither India nor Pakistan had ever signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, intended to contain the spread of atomic arms, while Iran had done so.

\"I give them (India and Pakistan) credit at least that what they did was consistent with the obligations they undertook,\" Bolton said.

\"They never pretended that they had given up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. They never tried to tie what they were doing under a cloak of international legitimacy. They did it openly and they did it legitimately,\" he said.

The 1998 Security Council resolution called on India and Pakistan to stop all nuclear development programs immediately and urged other states to stop selling either country equipment that could be used in atomic arms.

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Govt. Eyes Error That Cost U.S. Billions - Deliberate?

Associated Press
2 Mar 06

In 1995, Congress exempted deep-water oil from royalty payments to spur development. But a price threshold was included in leases issued in 1996 and 1997 and again in leases sold in each year since 2000 that reinstates the royalties if market prices reach a certain level.

For some reason the language \"was inadvertently dropped\" from an addendum attached to more than 1,100 leases the Interior Department\'s Minerals Management Service issued for 1998 and 1999, Walter Cruickshank, the agency\'s deputy director, told a House Government Reform subcommittee Wednesday.

He said officials have not been able to determine who made the change, although he said it had to have been a human act, not a computer glitch.
WASHINGTON - How it happened or who\'s responsible is a mystery eight years after the fact. But what may have been a simple error - or perhaps something more ominous - has given a multimillion-dollar windfall to a group of oil and gas companies and could cost the government billions of dollars more in the years to come.

The Interior Department disclosed Wednesday that a provision was mysteriously deleted from hundreds of federal drilling leases in the late 1990s that would have required producers to pay royalties, once prices reached a certain level, on oil or gas taken from deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1995, Congress exempted deep-water oil from royalty payments to spur development. But a price threshold was included in leases issued in 1996 and 1997 and again in leases sold in each year since 2000 that reinstates the royalties if market prices reach a certain level.

For some reason the language \"was inadvertently dropped\" from an addendum attached to more than 1,100 leases the Interior Department\'s Minerals Management Service issued for 1998 and 1999, Walter Cruickshank, the agency\'s deputy director, told a House Government Reform subcommittee Wednesday.

He said officials have not been able to determine who made the change, although he said it had to have been a human act, not a computer glitch.

\"It is clear that there is no record telling people to take the language out,\" he said, and it was widely known that the department wanted the price threshold restriction in any oil and gas leases as a matter of policy.

In the late 1990s, when oil prices were well below the threshold, the issue may not have attracted attention.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the subcommittee chairman, called the whole matter \"suspicious.\"

\"This is a $7 billion word processing error,\" Issa told reporters. He said some of the leases issued during those two years could remain in effect for as long as 85 years, so the government will be unable to collect royalty payments from oil and gas taken from those leases for decades to come.

While providing no specific number, Cruickshank said the government already has lost \"several hundred million\" dollars in royalty payments from the 1998-99 leases because they lacked the threshold language. If prices remain high, lost royalties \"will be in the billions of dollars,\" he acknowledged.

The price threshold where royalties must be paid changes yearly. Most recently it was set at about $34 a barrel for oil and $4.34 per thousand cubic feet for natural gas, according to Interior officials. The price of oil Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange was nearly $62 a barrel and the government estimates it will remain in the $50-a-barrel range for years to come. Natural gas prices have been in the $9-per-thousand-cubic-feet range.

Issa said he planned to seek more documents from the Minerals Management Service, and said the issue may need to be investigated by the Justice Department to determine whether there was any deliberate wrongdoing.

When Congress enacted the royalty relief program for deep-water exploration and development, it was embraced by the Clinton administration as a way to spur more energy production in areas where the technology and prospects of success were still somewhat uncertain.

Cruickshank said he had no explanation for why the threshold requirement was taken out of the lease language when an addendum was changed for the 1998-99 leases to reflect other regulatory changes.

\"Everyone knew the (price) threshold applied\" but people didn\'t focus on it because of low market prices at the time, said Cruickshank, who joined the agency in 1988 but was not involved in writing leases.

The mystery surrounding the 1998-99 leases is part of a broader question over whether any royalty relief should be given to the industry, given high oil and gas prices and huge industry profits.

The Interior Department estimates that as much as $66 billion worth of oil and natural gas that will be taken from the Gulf of Mexico between now and 2011 falls under the royalty relief law enacted by Congress in 1995. Much of that oil and gas will be subject to royalties under the price threshold provision, which is included in leases other than those issued in 1998-99.

Several oil and gas companies have challenged the legality of the threshold requirement in leases issued before 2001. Kerr McGee, a major natural gas producer, has given notice to the Interior Department that it will soon file a lawsuit arguing that the threshold provisions are illegal.

The Interior Department will \"vigorously defend\" the ability to impose royalties under a price threshold provision, said Cruickshank. \"There\'s a lot of money at stake.\"

On the Net: - Minerals Management Service: http://www.mms.gov/

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press.

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McGovern returns Medal: I Do Not Wish to Be Associated With Torture

By Ray McGovern

As a matter of conscience, I am returning the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion given me for \"especially commendable service\" during my 27-year career in CIA. The issue is torture, which inhabits the same category as rape and slavery - intrinsically evil. I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.
Hon. Pete Hoekstra, Chair House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Washington, DC

Dear Congressman Hoekstra:

As a matter of conscience, I am returning the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion given me for \"especially commendable service\" during my 27-year career in CIA. The issue is torture, which inhabits the same category as rape and slavery - intrinsically evil. I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.

Reports in recent years that CIA personnel were torturing detainees were highly disturbing. Confirmation of a sort came last fall, when CIA Director Porter Goss and Dick Cheney - dubbed by the Washington Post \"Vice President for Torture\" - descended on Sen. John McCain to demand that the CIA be exempted from his amendment\'s ban on torture. Subsequent reports implicated agency personnel in several cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq, including a few in which detainees died during interrogation.

The obeisance of CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss in heeding illegal White House directives has done irreparable harm to the CIA and the country - not to mention those tortured and killed. That you, as Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, show more deference to the White House than dedication to your oversight responsibilities under the Constitution is another profound disappointment. How can you and your counterpart, Sen. Pat Roberts, turn a blind eye to torture - letting some people get away, literally, with murder - and square that with your conscience?

If German officials who were ordered to do such things in the 1930s had spoken out early and loudly enough, the German people might have been alerted to the atrocities being perpetrated in their name and tried harder to stop them. When my grandchildren ask, \"What did you do, Grandpa, to stop the torture,\" I want to be able to tell them that I tried to honor my oath, taken both as an Army officer and an intelligence officer, to defend the Constitution of the United States - and that I not only spoke out strongly against the torture, but also sought a symbolic way to dissociate myself from it.

We Americans have become accustomed to letting our institutions do our sinning for us. I abhor the corruption of the CIA in the past several years, believe it to be beyond repair, and do not want my name on any medallion associated with it. Please destroy this one.

Yours truly, Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an analyst at the CIA for 27 years, and is on the Steering Group of VIPS.

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A Global Infrastructure for Mass Surveillance

By Nolan K. Anderson

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out...without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable. --H. L. Mencken

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it. --Woodrow Wilson
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess of the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world\'s great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage. --Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813) Scottish jurist and historian

\"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition . . .\" Does this ring a bell? How about the name Joe Wilson - does that name sound a bell? What about Valerie Plame - any bells yet? General Shenseki?

Where do Americans find themselves in Sir Alex Tytler\'s cycle? The United States can boast a 230-year history so our actions and the time factor would bring us well into the \"apathy-dependency\" stage. If this is true, the return to the \"bondage\" stage is not far off - as witnessed by world events - especially those of the last 5 years. However, the \"apathy\" stage of our self-destruction cycle seems to be in \"fast forward\". One would have to search American history with an extremely fine-toothed comb to find a comparable period where apathy played such a major role in the individual\'s life and that of his government. Even if one were to successfully separate normal political corruption from apathy, he would still have a hard time finding a comparable era in our history where the theoretical \"opposition party\" in the Congress apparently watches the Executive Branch with \"eyes wide open\" and still refuses to acknowledge or act to restrict even the most blatant abuses of power by the Executive. Congress not only refuses to acknowledge malfeasance in the actions of the Executive, but also seems determined to abet whatever excesses the Executive wants to heap upon the country.

One could argue forever about whether poor education breeds apathy or apathy breeds poor education. The same can be said of complacency and apathy. However, the \"chicken and the egg\" arguments are not pertinent to the discussion at this point.

These points become a preface to a topic which is now crowding other subjects \"off the radar screen\" in all forms of mass media. American\'s attention is now being focused on the White House wire tapping of citizens without regard for the law. The topic becomes a bonanza for blaring headlines and sniping between the two political parties. However, the real threat to Americans lies buried under layers of apathy and total ignorance of the extent of our government\'s progress toward TOTAL surveillance of its citizens within the United States and through cooperation and coercion of other governments, the surveillance of Americans and foreigners on a global scale. This surveillance is not being designed to monitor only citizen movement on a global scale, but is also being designed to lay open to the various governments ALL personal and private matters of finance, health, political affiliation, and religious preferences, electronic communication and on, and on, and on.

The following information is not something torn from the pages of Franz Kafka or Orson Well\'s 1984. The information presented here is taken from an April 2005 report made by The International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (ICAMS) (Pdf). (Refer to References and Notes below).

The programs described below were designed before 9/11; since 9/11 these programs have been put on steroids. The world in which these programs are being constructed is one in which \"individuals are presumed guilty, detained and not told the charges against them, denied the right to face their accusers, denied the right to know the evidence against them and the criteria by which they are being judged and given no legal recourse and no one to advocate for them\". [1] Please note, this does not refer to the present definition of terrorist or enemy combatant. These programs apply to AMERICAN CITIZENS as well as the citizens of the global network of countries being brought together to form an unparalleled net of surveillance, arrest, detention, torture and indefinite detention - either with or without formal charges - and finally death. (This could have served as an agenda for The New World Order).

For one who sits idly in front of the television and watches the nightly news- reader tell about another Guantanamo prisoner (terrorist) being held for an indefinite period without any of our democratic safeguards, the \"news\" doesn\'t even register on the listener\'s Richter Scale. Little does the American know that the prisoner\'s plight being presented may be merely a prelude to his own plight under the plans presently being secretly refined and expanded by the global community under coercion and intimidation by the United States.

To bring these programs into focus and allow the reader to glimpse a portion of their scope and the progress being made in their implementation, signposts of program characteristics will be shown as well as the myths being created to conceal the progress of this global cancer. (The following may bring more meaning to the fact that the KBR arm of Halliburton has recently been awarded a contract to build a 385 million dollar detention center to set up temporary detention, processing and deportation facilities in case of a sudden influx of immigrants!!).


First Signpost: The Registration of Populations. [2]

1. Mass Detentions of Muslim Immigrants and Registration through NSEERS.

2. US-VISIT and the E.U. Visa Information System a) Biometric visas. b) Linkage of biometric information to a global web of databases. c) U.S. acquisition of domestic and foreign databases.

Second Signpost: The Creation of a Global Registration System. [3]

Biometric passports.

Third Signpost: The Creation of an Infrastructure for the Global Surveillance of Movements. [4]

1. U.S. demands for sharing passenger name records (PNR).

2. Surveillance expansion to other transportation systems.

Fourth Signpost: The Creation of an Infrastructure for the Global Surveillance of Electronic Communications and Financial Transactions.[5]

1. Mandatory data detention.

2. Expansion of ECHELON.

In 1948, the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand created a program under which they trawled the world\'s telephone communications to spy on each others\' countries and to share information on each others\' citizens that could not be obtained by their own officials under domestic laws. Since the early 1980s, this program has been called ECHELON, and has been expanded to intercept e-mails, faxes, telexes, electronic transactions and international telephone calls carried via satellites.

3. Mandatory information-gathering and reporting for financial transactions.

Fifth Signpost: The Convergence of National and International Databases.[6]

The extent of the characteristics of this signpost is very extensive and a complete listing is past the scope of this paper. However, in countries known for their oppressive regimes, the extent to which an integration of functions and information sharing with the US has been occurring is probably the greatest. Countries like Georgia, Indonesia, Egypt, Malaysia and Uzbekistan are sharing information suspects, and in some cases intelligence and military operations, with the US.

Sixth Signpost: Data Mining.

The use of computer models to assess masses of data for selected criteria. The masses of data being scanning make human interface and interpretation impossible. This amounts to having one\'s actions and motives interpreted by a computer.

Seventh Signpost: The Loss of Sovereignty Checks and Balances.[7]

When all the signposts or initiatives described above are viewed together, what emerges are the \"contours of a vast, increasingly integrated multinational registration and surveillance system, with information floating more or less freely between subsystems.

As this system emerges, the police, security, intelligence and military operations of many nations are becoming deeply integrated with US operations. National governments are giving up sovereignty and throwing aside national checks and balances in favor of an integrated security system that is largely being designed and controlled by the US.

Eighth Signpost: The Corporate Security Complex.[8]

For the government security/intelligence community, the \"war on error\" offers an unprecedented opportunity to increase its investigative surveillance powers by tapping into the possibilities offered by new information technologies.

Ninth Signpost: The Expropriation of the Democratic Principles.[9]

Governments have been able to make these changes in democracy in democratic countries by declaring a state of crisis. But, the \"war on terror\" is a war without end, so the state of crisis is permanent, not temporary. As a result, democratic societies are in grave danger of being turned, over time, into surveillance societies -- or worse, into police states.

Tenth Signpost: A loss of Moral Compass - Rendition, Torture, Death.[10]

It is now clear that the U.S. and other countries participating in the global surveillance project are engaging in torture, inhumane treatment, and indefinite detention . . . in their own facilities, as well as sending suspects to third countries where they face torture, inhumane treatment, and indefinite detention. The worst that individuals have to fear from the global system of mass surveillance is something far darker than \"mere\" loss of privacy, civil liberties, freedom of movement, or loss of democratic patrimonies. (They face indefinite detention in a global gulag).

At this point the reader may be convinced he is reading something from a science fiction book. But this is not science fiction. This is what is being planned and constructed in real time - our time. Of these 10 signposts, the one most identifiable in today\'s mass media coverage is Rendition and Torture. Even the most hardened cynic would be forced to admit there is at least a coincidental association between the Rendition and Torture being discussed in the media and that presented here as a glaring warning signpost to all Americans of a global trend being sponsored by the United States. For those who say that \"all is well\" and we merely need to trust our government, please take the time to read these ten signposts again - slowly and carefully. After a second reading, take the time to read and absorb the following myths about your safety as an American.

Myth No. 1: We are merely being asked to sacrifice some of our privacy and conveniences for greater security.

Myth No. 2: These initiatives facilitate travel.

Myth No. 3: If one has nothing to hide, one has nothing to worry about.

Myth No. 4: The technology being used is objective and reliable.

Myth No. 5: Terrorist watch lists are a reliable product of international cooperation and consensus.

Myth No. 6: If one is mistakenly caught up in the global surveillance net, one\'s government can protect one.

Myth No. 7: Governments want to implement these systems to protect their citizens from terrorists.

Myth No. 8: Western democracies are defending democracy and human rights around the world.

Myth No. 9: These initiatives make us safer.

Myth No. 10: Guaranteeing security is the paramount responsibility of governments.

Myth No. 11: At least, these initiatives are better than doing nothing.

For any American to have read this far and not have at least a twinge of unease about the direction and intentions of his government, is impossible. If any American has even the remotest contact with or interest in the true condition of today\'s world, there has to a twinge of unease by this point. If any one of these 11 myths is in any degree false, then any global citizen should be extremely worried and any American should be terrified because Americans have more to lose than the citizens of any other country in the world.

In today\'s world we have been dumbed down through our government educational system, television and Hollywood\'s interpretation of history and current events to the point where no one seems to have the faintest inclination to study and examine, with a critical eye, what our political parties fob of on us for the truth. How many in the Republican Party view their party as dishonest, insane, and/or intolerable? When Clinton was in power, how many Democrats were able to see that selling our defense secrets to the Chinese for campaign contributions was dishonest, insane AND intolerable? We apparently assume that anything said by our government - especially the President - is true and needs no examination or comment. For the most part, even a cursory examination of anything a politician says can be found to be false and is presented for his/her own reason(s).

The myths surrounding our dealings with the government\'s avowed purpose of \"protecting\" us needs more objective scrutiny than almost any other scam politicians have to inflict upon us. \"Scam\" is a harsh word, but as one examines the true nature of the programs for mass surveillance of global populations it will be seen that \"scam\" is a word far too benign to truly describe the programs presently underway. The programs, under the sponsorship and goading of the US intelligence community, are truly terrifying in scope and content. The insidious part of this \"racket\" is that it continues to grow irrespective of which party is in power. Each administration hands its \"rogue baton\" to its successor that in turn builds upon the foundation being handed it. After all, what politician has ever been guilty of reducing the size and scope of government? In essence, this succession is exemplified by Clinton\'s domestic and global surveillance system being handed to Bush who was \"honor\" (sic) bound to embellish whatever Clinton had in place. Bush\'s embellishments have been Orwellian in scope and stature - especially after 9/11. For each embellishment that has been unearthed, there has had to be a myth created to soothe the uneasy electorate. The following popular myths will be examined to see what is behind the facade of deceit for each mass surveillance program presently under development.

Myth No. 1: We are merely being asked to sacrifice some of our privacy and convenience for greater security:

Why is this a myth? Because like most myths, it doesn\'t examine any of the ramifications that would allow the citizen to analyze the pros and con\'s in order to arrive at a rational conclusion. Like most myths this one sounds so good that anyone wanting to argue the premise must be a \"terrorist in drag\".

In the first place, we aren\'t being \"asked\" anything. The scheme toward global surveillance is being pursued with the utmost stealth by all the government entities participating in the programs. Secondly, \"some\" is not in the development lexicon. We are talking here of the sacrifice of TOTAL individual privacy. This is a program development necessity because the programs are being built with an objective of \"risk assessment\". Risk assessment for the most part is concerned with the analysis of huge blocks of data to determine trends or patterns. Most of the analysis is done without human interface so it is up to computers to determine the trends. Fourth, this data sharing is done without regard to which government or governmental agency sees it or uses it. This means that while a citizen may be living within the laws of a particular country, his shared data can put him in grave danger under the laws of some other country that may be examining his \"dossier\".

Myth No. 2: These initiatives facilitate travel:

Facilitating travel is the least of \"Big Brother\'s\" objectives. \"Brother\" is more interested in creating a record of passengers\' private information. Passenger information is being stored for data mining purposes to identify risk patterns.

\"There are no legal avenues of redress to challenge one\'s risk \"score\". Those who are pulled over as moderate or \"unknown\" risks will miss flights. Those who are flagged as high risk may be \"rendered\" by the United States and other countries without any kind of due process, to third countries where they may face torture, arbitrary detention and even death\". [1]

Myth No.3: If one has nothing to hide, one has nothing to worry about.

Again we have a \"flag and apple pie\" myth created by the bureaucracy to disguise the 800-pound gorilla watching television in the living room. The key inaccuracy here is in not asking \"nothing to hide from WHOM\"? The problem is that the data that is stored and data-mined is shared with any and all agencies with which the US cooperates in this burgeoning global surveillance network. Therefore, one can never be sure who will be looking at and analyzing one\'s particular personal data. As previously stated, if a computer decides your data \"score\" isn\'t correct, there is no appeal to the totally impersonal system under which your score was calculated because the data hasn\'t been touched by human hands. Thus, the only variable for a security score unsatisfactory to some computer will be: is the victim to be tortured and killed in the area where his \"score\" was found to be unsatisfactory, or will one be rendered to some other country for \"special handling\"?

Myth No. 4: The technology being used is objective and reliable:

\"First, the factual base on which the technology rests in unreliable. The \'best information available\' on which data mining or risk-scoring technology depend is often inaccurate, lacking context, dated or incomplete. It might even be \'dirty\' information - extracted by torture, or offered by an informant who is vulnerable or is acting in bad faith.

None of the data mining programs contains a mechanism by which individuals can correct . . . or object to the information that is being used against them, or even know what it is. Indeed, these systems are uninterested in this kind of precision. They would be bogged down if they were held to the ordinary standards of access, accuracy and accountability. Operating on a precautionary principle, they are not really concerned with the truth about individuals: they are meant to cut a broad swath\". [2]

Myth No. 5: Terrorist watch lists are a reliable product of international intelligence cooperation and consensus.

Again, how can \"mere\" citizens quarrel with such a premise? Who would think their government is operating a flawed system that isn\'t designed for his/her protection? The reality is that there is no central, planned criteria for determining whose name goes on the list(s) or why. Various governments and intelligence entities establish their own criteria for establishing the lists.

\"Equally troubling is the fact that \"there is no due process afforded individuals or groups to allow them to challenge the inclusion of their names on a list. And, once the \"terrorist\" label is fastened to them, actions are taken against them without normal legal protections being afforded (protections such as presumption of innocence the right to know the evidence and allegations against one and to respond, the right to remain silent, and habeas corpus). This is the essence of the risk assessment model: it treats as intolerable risks the very legal protections that are fundamental to free and democratic societies\". [3]

Myth No. 6: If one is mistakenly caught up in the global mass surveillance net, one\'s government can protect one:

The fact is that once a citizen of any country is caught in this international surveillance web, there is little his government can do to protect him.

Myth No. 7: Governments want to implement these systems in protect their citizens from terrorists.

Who would be so foolish as to argue with such an obvious, lofty goal? Answer, anyone who is even remotely aware of the manner is which the mass surveillance systems operate. The agreements between governments are many times irresponsible and do not have adequate controls concerning the sharing of information.

There is also the economic factor involved. Some countries, to gain information on foreign citizens, freely use various forms of economic coercion. For example, the United States has the lever of withholding landing rights to force airlines to hand over passenger information. Threatened withholding of foreign aid by the US and the EU is also used as a bludgeon to force countries to acquiesce on sharing personal information on their citizens.

Myth No. 8: Western Democracies are defending democracy and human rights around the world.

Do the following examples of \"justice\" sound as though Western Democracies are interested in defending human rights?

1. The UK allows the CIA to operate one of its extraterritorial detention centers on the British island of Diego Garcia.
2. Sweden has allowed US, UK and German agencies to question suspects held in Sweden and have cooperated in the rendition of asylum applicants from Sweden to Egypt for torture and imprisonment.
3. In Italy, US intelligence agents kidnapped an Islamic militant and sent him to Egypt where he was tortured.
4. A German is alleged to have been seized by Macedonian police, hel d for weeks incommunicado, striped and beaten, flown to a jail in Afghanistan controlled by US agents where he was held and tortured for five months before being dumped in Albania.
5. The governments of Austria, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Turkey, and the UK have themselves sought to deport terrorist suspects to countries where torture is used.

Myth No. 9: These initiatives make us safer:

Another illusion from the masters of \"illusion\". The oceans of data mined by the various governments using faulty logic and conceived biases, yields outrageous number of errors. For the statistically large number of people misidentified, the consequences can be dire. What is required is good information about specific threats, not crude racial profiling and useless information on the nearly 100 percent of the population that poses no threat whatsoever. [4]

Myth No. 10: Guaranteeing security is the paramount responsibility of governments.

If this myth is true, why did 9/11 happen? The point here is that the various US intelligence agencies DID receive generalized warnings from several sources that an attack on the US using civilian airplanes was being planned, but no increased security measures were taken to safeguard the country. \"Three years after the attack, 120,000 hours of recorded telephone calls had yet to be translated by the FBI\". So how then could the oceans of data that are now being made available for computer analysis have averted an attack? The United States security apparatus did not need, before 9/11, the ocean of general irrelevant information they are now collecting and would very likely have drowned in it altogether.

Myth No. 11: At least, these initiatives are better than doing nothing.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the fact that these initiatives are robbing the American people of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights, they are doing much more harm than good to the goal of increasing domestic security. Resources are being diverted from more useful projects and in their present form and application these initiatives are not effective deterrents to terrorists.


The fallacies of these myths are apparent after even a cursory glance at what they conceal and evade. The \"slope\" they represent is not even a slippery one - it is a cliff over a disaster. Once these initiatives are in place and affecting the governments of many countries around the world having different laws, different values and different agendas, the genie is truly out of the bottle and free to run wild around the globe creating a myriad of unforeseen consequences. The genie can never be put back in the bottle.

One of the more sinister aspects of what the United States in unleashing on the world is the fact that these programs are being done with utmost stealth and with no oversight and safeguards for the citizens of any country. For repressive regimes, the rulers can always point to acting in cooperation with their \"friend\", the United States. For countries having varying degrees of democracy, the despotic urgings of the US can be used to justify the persecution of their own citizens.

For we totally unsuspecting Americans, the totalitarian aspect of these programs is truly alarming. We have worked 230 years to build a nation with a constitution that would safeguard us against the actions of a government doing exactly what this Administration is doing now. All this is being done under the cloak of hysteria created after we were attacked in September of
2001. These things are being done by a government that tries to keep its every action hidden from the people. In the eyes of our present government, it is we Americans who are the enemy. \"Terrorists\" are only a handy tool to be used against America and its founding principles.

We Americans still have time to stop our headlong fall into totalitarianism, but at this late hour it is going to take a very concentrated effort to overcome the gravity of the lack of information and apathy acting to pull us into disaster. Americans must put their democracy to the test by contacting their elected representatives and demanding that they become conversant with these initiatives. For every program approved there must be an active oversight program. Congressional representatives must be called upon to investigate these programs and weigh them against our Constitution. Any program that jeopardizes the individual or collective \"American Rights\" under our Constitution must be stopped. There must be no blind acceptance of \"Executive Privilege\". Executive Orders must be examined and challenged when necessary for the preservation of our democracy - even as badly damaged and fragile as it is.


The International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (ICAMS) was founded by the American Civil Liberties Union, Focus on the Global South, the Friends\' Committee on National Legislation, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and Statewatch.

ICAMS was launched on April 20 2005 in London, Manila, Ottawa and Washington.


Full credit for the information in this article is given to the April 2005 ICAMS report. References from ICAMS April 2005 Report:

[1] Page 39. [2] Page 5 [3] Page 8 [4] Page 12 [5] Page 14 [6] Page 18 [7] Page 33 [8] Page 35 [9] Page 38 [10] Page 39

The myths quoted are taken from the same report.

Reference: The International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (ICAMS) was founded by the American Civil Liberties Union, Focus on the Global South, the Friends\' Committee on National Legislation, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and Statewatch.

[1] ICAMS April 2005 Report pdf file, Page 14; [2] Page 24; [3] Page 32; [4] Page 48.

Nolan K. Anderson is a retired engineer and a veteran of Korea who was once a \"conservative\" until he found there was nothing left to conserve and as a veteran hates to see a tour in Korea go to waste.
(He may be reached at nkanders@bellsouth.net ).

Copyright Nolan K. Anderson

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15 Arrested At White House Protesting U.S. Torture

By Mike Ferner
2 Mar 06

Note: Protest organizers said that four days prior to the demonstration they sent out approximately 1000 news releases, 100 to news media outlets in the D.C. area. Reuters was the only news media outlet seen covering any part of the actions yesterday.
Washington – - Fifteen people were arrested yesterday in front of the White House after winding their way for two hours through the streets of the nation's capital, demanding the U.S. stop torturing detainees in military prisons.

Members of Witness Against Torture began their protest at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, continuing to the Capitol and the Department of Justice, and ending at the White House where U.S. Park Police carried out the arrests. Speakers called on officials in each of the buildings to cease planning and executing policies that have injured and killed people in prisons such as Guantanamo Bay, Bagram in Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

Arrested were Art Laffin, of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington, Amanda and Matt Dalaisio, and Tania Theriault of theCatholic Worker's Mary House in New York, Susan Crane from Jonah House in Baltimore, Matt Vogel, Mark Colville, Brian Kavanaugh, Carmen Trotta, Jacqueline Allen-Doucot, Alice Gerard, Bill Streit, Tom Feagley, Edith Tetaz and Jordan Manuel.

The march took place on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, an annual period when Catholics pray and fast to repent for sins. Speakers included many Biblical references in their remarks.

At the Department of Justice, Bill Streit used passages from the Book of Isaiah to condemn the DOJ's role in torturing prisoners. "Your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt; Your lips speak falsehood, and your tongue utters deceit…Right is repelled and justice stands far off; for truth stumbles in the public square. Honesty is lacking, and the man who turns from evil is despoiled."

Following Streit, Kristine Huskey, an attorney just back from Guantanamo where she represents a detainee, described torture methods prisoners have reported to her and other attorneys.

The 38 year-old attorney from the firm of Shearman and Sterling explained that some 30 detainees had been on a hunger strike since late last summer to protest their treatment. Despite being roughly force-fed, several others joined the strike on Christmas Day. At that point, military officials at Guantanamo ordered even harsher methods.

"Soldiers would strap a prisoner to one of several specially-purchased metal chairs with six-point restraints, insert an oversized tube through his nose and purposely overfeed him, causing him to vomit, defecate and urinate all over himself, and then leave him strapped in the chair for hours like that," Huskey stated.

Describing what happened when the military "got serious about ending the hunger strike after Christmas, she said, "They stopped using lubricant to help the tubes go down, and began using tubes with metal tips."

Despite the tortuous forced feedings, she reported, four prisoners remain on hunger strike at Guantanamo. Other speakers, citing reports from Amnesty International, corroborated Huskey's statements and added that prisoners reported many instances of injuries, bleeding, and unconsciousness from the torture-feeding methods, plus numerous physical and mental injuries from torture techniques such as sensory deprivation, beatings, and burning with lighted cigarettes.

She told the protesters and a small knot of bystanders who stopped to listen, that "One of the most important things you can do is keep this issue alive and not let the world forget. I was just in Guantanamo and I can tell you that your actions provide a glimmer of hope to these prisoners – something they've not had before. They are aware of your actions and express their thanks."

Escorting six fellow protesters dressed in bright orange jumpsuits, hands tied and hoods over their heads, the marchers proceeded along busy sidewalks to the White House, carrying signs that read, "You can deny it's torture, but the world knows," "Torture is killing a person without them dying," and "Ban all torture – no exception for Bush."

Asked for an opinion of the procession that had just passed her, one woman replied tersely, "I'm not interested." A second, referring to a reporter's notebook, said, "I don't do that.." A block later, a third person claimed, "I didn't even notice it."

Several blocks further, an employee of the National Association of Manufacturers, standing in front of its headquarters, answered, "At first I thought it was against the death penalty and then I saw what it was about. Torture? Sure, I disapprove. This war is a lie. It's a fake that's costing people's lives. It's terrible what's going on. I lost two brothers in Viet Nam. I know war is profitable, but it's wrong."

Arriving at the White House, the march was greeted by two patrol cars and a paddy wagon, quickly augmented by another wagon and dozens of uniformed and plainclothes U.S. Park Police and Secret Service agents.

Tourists stopped to watch and take pictures as the activists drew crosses made of ashes from the wood stove at Jonah House, on the White House sidewalk. Some of the tourists entered into conversation with the protesters, most stood quietly.

A 17 year-old student from California, asked what he thought about the event, said, "Torture is still bad, but it's sometimes necessary to save other lives." A passing youth slowed to inquire, "Are the people being tortured American citizens?" When answered, "No," he replied, "then what've we got to do with it?" One young man was overheard telling a woman he was with, "stick around here, honey, and your face will wind up in a database."

Francis Gabby, in Washington from Maryland's Eastern Shore for his job, began his comments carefully. "They have every right to be here. I happen to agree with the majority of what they say. I don't believe we should be torturing people."

Asked to respond to the California student's assertion that torture is bad but sometimes necessary, the 57-year old building management worker replied, "It's like the death penalty where innocent people have been executed, and besides, it just doesn't serve any purpose – in fact, it's doing the opposite. It seems like we're getting bad information anyway. I don't have answers, but I don't think this is the way."

Anne Montgomery, 79, a participant in the march, said she had been to Iraq many times with Voices in the Wilderness and Christian Peacemaker Teams. She said, "The U.S. is exporting a tremendous escalation of violence, feeding more violence in the world. Actions like this are important so that people will know that not all Americans are behind the war. Every action that says we disapprove of what our government is doing helps."

Referring to the four CPT members still held hostage in Iraq, Montgomery said yesterday's demonstration and others like it may well be helping them stay alive and contribute to their release.

Finished drawing the ashen crosses, 15 people stood with banners and signs in the "no protest" zone along one section of the White House fence and waited to be arrested. In the hour it took the Park Police to begin that process, several of the soon-to-be-arrested spoke.

Her back to the fence, Theriault stated for all to hear, "Torture and indefinite detention do not represent us and do not make us secure."

In a voice fit for a theatrical production, Trotta boomed, "I'm thinkin' about lunch counter sit-ins – deliberate, deliberate breaking of the law. I'm thinkin' about Martin Luther King, and the Catonsville 9. I'm even thinkin' about the Boston Tea Party – that was deliberate law-breaking."

The police officers arrested each person, methodically tying their hands behind their back with plastic handcuffs. Three of the arrestees were sitting on the sidewalk in orange jumpsuits, hooded, with their hands tied in front of them. Officers removed the hoods and had to unwrap the electrical cord binding their hands before placing them in handcuffs.

With the arrestees in the wagons, the police drove them to a federal booking facility in Anacostia, charged them with demonstrating without a permit, cited them into court at a later date, and released them.

After the action was over, a safety officer wearing a haz-mat hood and gloves took samples of the wood ashes on the sidewalk. As people left the area, a motorized street sweeper cleaned the sidewalk of ash.


Note: Protest organizers said that four days prior to the demonstration they sent out approximately 1000 news releases, 100 to news media outlets in the D.C. area. Reuters was the only news media outlet seen covering any part of the actions yesterday.

Ferner is a freelance writer from Ohio

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U.S. Cites Exception in Torture Ban - McCain Law May Not Apply to Cuba Prison

By Josh White and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post
March 3, 2006

Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee\'s lawyers described as \"systematic torture.\"
Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions.

Bawazir\'s attorneys contend that \"extremely painful\" new tactics used by the government to force-feed him and end his hunger strike amount to torture.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said in a hearing yesterday that she found allegations of aggressive U.S. military tactics used to break the detainee hunger strike \"extremely disturbing\" and possibly against U.S. and international law. But Justice Department lawyers argued that even if the tactics were considered in violation of McCain\'s language, detainees at Guantanamo would have no recourse to challenge them in court.

In Bawazir\'s case, the government claims that it had to forcefully intervene in a hunger strike that was causing his weight to drop dangerously. In January, officials strapped Bawazir into a special chair, put a larger tube than they had previously used through his nose and kept him restrained for nearly two hours at a time to make sure he did not purge the food he was being given, the government and Bawazir\'s attorneys said.

Richard Murphy Jr., Bawazir\'s attorney, said his client gave in to the new techniques and began eating solid food days after the first use of the restraint chair. Murphy said the military deliberately made the process painful and embarrassing, noting that Bawazir soiled himself because of the approach.

Kessler said getting to the root of the allegations is an \"urgent matter.\"

\"These allegations . . . describe disgusting treatment, that if proven, is treatment that is cruel, profoundly disturbing and violative of\" U.S. and foreign treaties banning torture, Kessler told the government\'s lawyers. She said she needs more information, but made clear she is considering banning the use of larger nasal-gastric tubes and the restraint chair.

In court filings, the Justice Department lawyers argued that language in the law written by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) gives Guantanamo Bay detainees access to the courts only to appeal their enemy combatant status determinations and convictions by military commissions.

\"Unfortunately, I think the government\'s right; it\'s a correct reading of the law,\" said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. \"The law says you can\'t torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can\'t enforce that law in the courts.\"

Thomas Wilner, a lawyer representing several detainees at Guantanamo, agreed that the law cannot be enforced. \"This is what Guantanamo was about to begin with, a place to keep detainees out of the U.S. precisely so they can say they can\'t go to court,\" Wilner said.

A spokeswoman for McCain\'s office did not respond to questions yesterday.

Murphy told the judge the military\'s claims that it switched tactics to protect Bawazir should not be believed. He noted that on Jan. 11 -- days after the new law passed -- the Defense Department made the identical health determination for about 20 other detainees, all of whom had been engaged in the hunger strike.

Guantanamo Bay officials deny that the tactics constitute torture. They wrote in sworn statements that they are necessary efforts to ensure detainee health. Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the facility\'s commander, wrote that Bawazir\'s claims of abuse are \"patently false.\"

\"In short, he is a trained al Qaida terrorist, who has been taught to claim torture, abuse, and medical mistreatment if captured,\" Hood wrote. He added that Bawazir allegedly went to Afghanistan to train for jihad and ultimately fought with the Taliban against U.S. troops.

Navy Capt. Stephen G. Hooker, who runs the prison\'s detention hospital, noted that the hunger strike began on Aug. 8, reached a peak of 131 participants on Sept. 11, and dropped to 84 on Christmas Day. After use of the restraint chair began, only five captives continued not eating.

Hooker wrote that he suspected Bawazir was purging his food after feedings. Bawazir weighed 130 pounds in late 2002, according to Hooker, but 97 pounds on the day he was first strapped to the chair. As of Sunday, his weight was back to 137 pounds, the government said.

Kessler noted with irritation that Hood and Hooker made largely general claims about the group of detainees on the hunger strike in defending the switch to the new force-feeding procedures used on Bawazir.

\"I know it\'s a sad day when a federal judge has to ask a DOJ attorney this, but I\'m asking you -- why should I believe them?\" Kessler asked Justice Department attorney Terry Henry.

Henry said he would attempt to gather more information from the officials but said there was no legal basis for the court to intervene. Bawazir\'s weight is back to normal, his health is \"robust\" and he is no longer on a hunger strike, Henry said.

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Archivist Urges U.S. to Reopen Classified Files

NY Times
March 3, 2006

WASHINGTON, March 2 - After complaints from historians, the National Archives directed intelligence agencies on Thursday to stop removing previously declassified historical documents from public access and urged them to return to the shelves as quickly as possible many of the records they had already pulled.
Allen Weinstein, the nation\'s chief archivist, announced what he called a \"moratorium\" on reclassification of documents until an audit can be completed to determine which records should be secret.

A group of historians recently found that decades-old documents that they had photocopied years ago and that appeared to have little sensitivity had disappeared from the open files. They learned that in a program operated in secrecy since 1999, intelligence and security agencies had removed more than 55,000 pages that agency officials believed had been wrongly declassified.

Mr. Weinstein, who became archivist of the United States a year ago, said he knew \"precious little\" about the seven-year-old reclassification program before it was disclosed in The New York Times on Feb. 21.

He said he did not want to prejudge the results of the audit being conducted by the archives\' Information Security Oversight Office, which oversees classification. But he said the archives\' goal was to make sure that government records that could safely be released were available. The audit was ordered by J. William Leonard, head of the oversight office, after he met with historians on Jan. 27.

\"The idea is to let people get on with their research and not reclassify documents unless it\'s absolutely necessary,\" said Mr. Weinstein, who in the mid-1970\'s successfully sued the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain records he used for his book about Alger Hiss, the State Department official found to be a Soviet spy.

The flap over reclassified records takes place at a time when record-setting numbers of documents are being classified, fewer historical records are being released and several criminal leak investigations are under way. Bush administration officials have cited the need to keep sensitive information from terrorist groups and executive privilege in justifying the need for secrecy, and some members of Congress have called for tougher laws against leaks.

Mr. Weinstein met with historians on Thursday to announce the moratorium and plans for a meeting on Monday with representatives of the intelligence and military agencies, which have had teams of reviewers at the archives studying and withdrawing documents.

In a statement, Mr. Weinstein called on those agencies to \"commit the necessary resources to restore to the public shelves as quickly as possible the maximum amount of information consistent with the obligation to protect truly sensitive national security information.\"

The secret agreement governing the reclassification program prohibits the National Archives from naming the agencies involved, but archivists have said they include the C.I.A., the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Air Force.

Judith A. Emmel, a spokeswoman for the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, said the intelligence agencies would \"continue to work with the National Archives to strike a balance between protecting truly sensitive national security information from unauthorized disclosure and ensuring that the public receives maximum access to unclassified archival records.\"

A C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said the agency looked forward to discussing the issue. \"The C.I.A. has worked hand in glove with the National Archives over the years on declassification and welcomes this initiative,\" Mr. Gimigliano said.

Historians have found that among the documents removed from open files are intelligence estimates from the Korean War, reports on Communism in Mexico in the 1960\'s and Treasury Department records from the 60\'s. The historians argue that there is no justification for keeping such papers secret.

Mr. Leonard has said he was shocked after reviewing a selection of documents presented by the historians, none of which he thought should be secret.

Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian in Washington who first uncovered the reclassification program and who attended the meeting with Mr. Weinstein, said the archivist\'s actions were \"a positive first step.\" But Mr. Aid said \"the real deals are going to get made\" only after next week\'s meeting with the intelligence agencies.

Meredith Fuchs, general counsel of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has posted many of the reclassified documents on its Web site, said Mr. Weinstein \"took our concerns very positively.\" She said he did not promise that the reclassifications would stop permanently, but assured the historians that \"if it happens, it will be guided by better standards and it will be more transparent.\"

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Democrats move to force port vote, decry Emirates\' boycott of Israel

March 2, 2006

Democrats plan to force a vote on the Dubai ports deal through a procedural measure in the House Thursday. The move is expected to fail.

However, a broad coalition of Democrats in the House are collecting signatures for a letter to President Bush decrying the United Arab Emirates funding of Hamas and its boycott against Israel. That letter -- which RAW STORY has learned has already been signed by the Democrats\' campaign chair in the House -- Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) is making the rounds now.

The letter follows. Current signatories include Democratic Reps. Ackerman, Berkley, Bishop (NY), Cardoza, Crowley, DeLauro, Emanuel, Engel, Gene Green, Hastings (FL), Higgins, Holt, Lantos, Levin, Lowey, Maloney, McNulty, George Miller, Nadler, Pallone, Rothman, Sanders, Towns, Visclosky, Wasserman Schultz, Watson, Waxman and Wexler.
We write to express our deep concerns regarding your Administration's decision to allow Dubai Ports World (DP World), a firm owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to manage operations at six U.S. ports. The UAE has pledged to provide financial support to the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority and openly participates in the Arab League boycott against Israel. The agreement that your Administration approved not only could place the safety and security of U.S. ports at risk, but enhance the ability of the UAE to bolster the Hamas regime and its efforts to promote terrorism and violence against Israel.

History has shown that the UAE has not shied away from supporting terrorist regimes. Prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, the UAE was an active supporter of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. And, on February 2, 2006, just two weeks after the port deal was approved, Reuters reported that Arab countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, pledged millions to help the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority offset any potential cut in Israeli fund transfers and U.S. foreign aid. Under the current port agreement, there are no limitations to prevent money earned by the UAE from being be used to continue funding terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, which seek the destruction of Israel.

Additionally, current law prohibits U.S. companies and individuals from participating in international economic boycotts or embargoes. In fact, we understand that the Department of Commerce Office of Antiboycott Compliance has fined several U.S. companies in the last year for complying with DP World's and UAE's enforcement of the Arab League boycott against Israel. The Administration's decision to reward a company that actively enforces the anti-Israel boycott violates the spirit and intent of our anti-boycott law and runs counter to the efforts of those of us in Congress who have sought an end to this offensive and unfair practice. The UAE should have been required to renounce its anti-Israel boycott as a condition for the deal to be approved.

Finally, press accounts have noted a breakdown in communication at the highest levels in the Administration during the process of evaluating the port agreement. Reports are now surfacing that concerns raised by the Coast Guard, the frontline defenders of our ports, were not taken into account. These omissions, coupled with UAE actions that counter our interests in the Middle East, clearly demonstrate that the Administration did not adequately evaluate the domestic and international security risks posed by this accord.

As the Administration belatedly begins a full 45-day review of the DP World investment, we strongly urge you to thoroughly examine these concerns and take all appropriate steps to ensure the security of the American people and our allies.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to your response.

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Republican Will Try to Squash Ports Deal

Associated Press
2 Mar 06

One of the most prominent House Republicans on military issues said Thursday he would try to scuttle a Dubai-based company\'s effort to manage U.S. ports as lawmakers\' complaints about the Bush administration\'s handling of the issue continued to spread.

\"Dubai cannot be trusted,\" said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and normally one of the administration\'s most trusted allies. He called the United Arab Emirates \"a bazaar for terrorist nations\" and asserted that the United States should not permit DP World to take over significant operations at six U.S. ports.

\"I intend to do everything I can to kill the deal,\" Hunter said.
Across Capitol Hill, lawmakers criticized the Bush administration anew following disclosures that the United States had launched a fresh investigation Tuesday into a proposed business deal by a second Dubai-owned company. Also sparking the furor was word of a previously unconfirmed investigation into a separate transaction by a leading Israeli software firm.

The government initially approved DP World\'s $6.8 billion purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. But on Sunday, the administration agreed to a 45-day investigation of potential security risks to quell a political backlash.

\"Too little, too late,\" Hunter said.

Opening a hearing on the matter, Hunter said it was \"quite remarkable\" that the administration did not initially undertake a full review of security implications, given that the company is owned by the United Arab Emirates - \"a bazaar for terrorist nations to receive prohibited components from sources from the free world and from the non-free world.\"

Hunter listed instances between 1994 and 2003 in which he said the country helped move materials for weapons of mass destruction, such as heavy water and high-speed electrical switches, to Pakistan, Iran and other countries. He plans to introduce legislation that would require U.S. companies to be the sole owners of infrastructure critical to national security.

The chairman\'s sharp remarks underscore the political tempest the White House has run into at a time when events in Iraq and renewed interest in the administration\'s failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina have pushed President Bush\'s popularity downward.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has sided with the administration on the DP World deal. He and the White House have praised the United Arab Emirates as a key ally in the fight against terrorism.

Congressional GOP leaders want to wait for the results of the administration\'s new DP World investigation before considering legislation to delay or block the deal.

House Democrats tried to force a debate and vote on legislation Thursday that would require the 45-day security review and congressional approval of the takeover. That effort failed on a procedural, largely party-line vote.

Leading Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee also asked the administration for details about all pending reviews of foreign business deals and any that have been conducted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The U.S. has conducted only 25 such investigations among 1,600 business transactions reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States since 1988. The panel, made up of 12 government representatives, judges the security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, complained that he learned about the second Dubai investigation from news reports, despite regular meetings and discussions with the administration and others on the ports issue recently.

\"Maybe they still haven\'t gotten their act together over the last few days,\" said King, R-N.Y.

Senior U.S. officials told lawmakers they will try to inform Congress better in the future.

\"We clearly have to do quite a bit in finding ways to provide you more promptly with the information you need,\" Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt told the Senate Banking Committee.

Dubai International Capital LLC confirmed Thursday it faced investigation over its plans to buy a British precision-engineering company, Doncasters Group Ltd., with plants in Georgia and Connecticut that make parts used in engines for military aircraft and tanks.

The same U.S. review panel also is investigating plans by an Israeli software company, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., to purchase a smaller U.S. rival.

Kimmitt said U.S. officials notified congressional leaders and oversight committees about the second Dubai-related investigation Monday. The company\'s lawyers were notified the following day.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press.

Comment: Rebellion? Somebody finally waking up?

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Dubai company holds off closing controversial ports deal

Agence France Presse
3 Mar 06

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Dubai company taking over a British firm that manages key US ports said it would hold off finalizing the deal until next week.

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Hating Arabs - Arab-haters target Dubai port company

Justin Raimondo
February 22, 2006

In a repeat of the calculated insults to the Arab world coming fast and furious these days, Democratic politicians, including putative presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, are raising a ruckus over a deal in which Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, a U.K. company that manages the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia, would be acquired by Dubai Ports World, a Dubai-based international company that manages port facilities from London to Okinawa. Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Frist, have been quick to jump on the Arab-bashing bandwagon; Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama was the first to raise the "security" issue, ahead of even Hillary and the clueless Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who wants all "foreign-owned" companies barred from managing U.S. ports. (This presumably includes U.K.-based companies such as Peninsular, and others, which together dominate the international shipping and maritime industry.)
This outcry is phony from beginning to end, starting with the ostensible reasons for the alleged "security risk" involved in doing business with a company based in the Arab world. Phony reason number one: Two of the hijackers were born in Dubai. This is completely bonkers: Dubai is a city of over one million, a major financial and industrial center, and an increasingly popular international tourist attraction. Because two Islamist nutballs were born there hardly makes it a terrorist hive. Culturally, Dubai is the freest country in the Arab world. That doesn\'t matter to the Arab-haters who are driving this campaign, however: in fact, it probably just emboldens them.

The reality is that there are U.S. troops in Dubai, over 1,000 of them, and the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai is a part) is one of our staunchest allies in the region. Indeed, Dubai is the one city in the Middle East that is the most like America in that it is a symbol – the symbol – of the Arab world\'s entry into modernity. The architecture of Dubai is a vision of futurity, and there are few urban centers in the U.S. that are cleaner or safer.

Dubai a hotbed of radical Islamist agitation? One would hardly think so, yet demagogues in both parties are now touting the factoid that the U.A.E. was one of three countries to grant diplomatic recognition to Afghanistan\'s Taliban government. What they don\'t mention is that the other two were Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the two pillars of U.S. military and economic interests in the region. Should we stop doing business with them, too?

Phony reason number two is that the 9/11 conspirators funneled money through Dubai-based banks. But Dubai is the major financial nexus of the Arab world, and, indeed, is right up there with any city in the West in that regard: funds traveling from sources in the Middle East are more than likely to have come through the U.A.E. in some shape, form, or manner. Targeting DP World on account of this is like embargoing Wal-Mart because the 9/11 hijackers bought their box-cutters there.

An odd coalition of pro-union Democrats, who represent the interests of the International Longshore Workers Union, which fears dealing with non-unionized Dubai, and deluded Christian fundamentalists, such as Cal Thomas, have banded together in an effort to demonstrate that ignorance – of both economics and the rest of the world – reigns supreme in U.S. ruling circles.

This smear campaign against an entire country – indeed, against an entire region of the world – has nothing to do with the facts. The State Department reports: "In 2004, the UAE continued to provide staunch assistance and cooperation against terrorism" and "the UAE Central Bank continued to enforce anti-money-laundering regulations aggressively." Furthermore, the U.S. and Dubai have signed something called a Container Security Initiative Statement of Principles, the purpose of which is to do what we don\'t do here in the U.S., but ought to: all U.S.-bound cargo transiting Dubai ports is carefully screened. We have also signed a defense pact with Abu Dhabi, and the emirate has been used as a base from which to pre-position U.S. troops bound for Iraq. Our planes refueled at Dubai\'s al-Dhafra air base on their way to patrol Iraq\'s no-fly zone during the run-up to the invasion. Dubai has borne the costs in fuel and facilities maintenance of these U.S. military operations, and receives not a dime in "foreign aid." In addition to hosting over 1,000 U.S. troops at various air and naval facilities, the U.A.E. is contributing to the maintenance of U.S. military bases in Germany.

I\'ve heard it said – on such Democratic Party sites as DailyKos.com – that it isn\'t the Arabic character of DP World that provokes security concerns, but the fact that the company is owned, in whole or in part, by the government of Dubai. This shows complete ignorance of the reality on the ground in the U.A.E.: if Uncle Sam doesn\'t like you in Dubai, you are history, as was discovered by the heir apparent to the throne of one of the emirates, Ras al-Khaymah, who was taken out of the line of succession in June 2003 because he was thought to be behind pre-Iraq-war demonstrations. The Gulf states are islands of U.S. influence in an Arabic-Muslim sea of Middle Eastern hostility: to insult them in so flagrant a manner would be to effectively sink the pro-U.S. governments that have so far remained our only faithful allies in the region.

Fearful of Iran, the U.A.E. has cozied up to the U.S. like no other country in the Middle East, except, perhaps, Kuwait. What\'s more, they have developed into precisely the model free market, modernized, relatively tolerant country, culturally if not politically, that we in the West have been urging on the region. In rejecting a Dubai-based company as unworthy, and raising the specter of terrorist-related activities or allegiances on the part of an internationally respected company with many Americans in top positions, the U.S. is saying that it doesn\'t matter how much the Arabs may kowtow to the West, adopt our ways, and try to enter the world of international capitalist finance and embrace globalization – we still don\'t want them because the whole region is poisoned by hate and therefore untouchable.

That is the message the warmongering Hillary and her allies on the Christian Right and in the Republican Party want to send to the people of the Middle East. And they have the nerve to wonder, "Why do they hate us?"

The answer is all too obvious.

The worst demagoguery over this issue is coming out of Sen. Chuck Schumer\'s mouth. The Democrat from New York avers:

"Just as we would not outsource military operations or law enforcement duties, we should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties."

Yet it seems as if the security-conscious senator isn\'t against outsourcing when Israel is the beneficiary: Israeli companies, as well as direct input from the Israeli government, practically dominate the burgeoning homeland security industry. And the newly installed congressional phone system is franchised to an Israeli company, yet no one is making much of a stink about the security concerns raised by people like Philip Giraldi, who writes:

"One of the more intriguing aspects of the federal investigation into the activities of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff is his Israeli connections. His large $2.2 million bail is reported to be due to fears that he would flee to Israel, as some of his business associates have already done, to avoid prosecution. Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew and ardent Zionist, set up a charity called Capital Athletic Foundation, which illegally provided $140,000 worth of weapons and security equipment to hard-line Israeli settlers.

"Abramoff also allegedly convinced Congressman Robert Ney, House Administrative Committee chairman, to award a contract worth $3 million to a startup Israeli telecommunications firm called Foxcom Wireless. The contract was for the installation of antennas in House of Representatives buildings to improve cell-phone reception. Not surprisingly, such equipment can be designed to have what is known as a \'back door\' to enable a third party, in this case Mossad, to listen in. That an Israeli firm should be given such a contract through a selection process that was described as \'deeply flawed and unfair\' is inexplicable, particularly as there were American suppliers of the same equipment, and it suggests that the private conversations of some of our congressmen might not be so private after all."

When Schumer starts questioning this sweet deal, I\'ll listen to him when it comes to DP World.

I have a suspicion that the current ruckus reflects the economic interests of not only the unions, but also Eller & Company, the Miami-based business formerly a partner of Peninsular that is now suing for being forced into an "involuntary" partnership with those feelthy Ay-rabs. The suit raises the security canard, and one wonders what sort of economic interests the smear campaign is intended to mask. A press conference held Tuesday decrying the ports deal was held in Miami, and the Miami-based nature of the smear campaign tells me that something is afoot in the land of the hanging chad. In any controversy like this, the first rule is to follow the money, and this AP report hints at the stakes:

"The lawsuit represents the earliest skirmish over lucrative contracts among the six major U.S. ports where Peninsular and Oriental runs major commercial operations: New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia. The lawsuit was filed moments before the court closed Friday and disclosed late Saturday by people working on the case."

It wouldn\'t be the first time a corporate entity tried to take out the competition by raising a bogus threat to "national security." Led by a disparate coalition of mindless opportunists, anti-Arab racists, and warmongering politicians, an effort to scare the American public into making a few ruthless "entrepreneurs" obscenely rich by giving them a virtual monopoly on America\'s port facilities shows every sign of apparent success. The victors will be laughing all the way to the bank.

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Level of Bush administration incompetence is truly chilling

By Molly Ivins
The Sacramento Bee
2 Mar 06

AUSTIN, Texas -- The administration\'s competence problem is already at the yadda, yadda, yadda stage. They were supposed to protect us from terrorist attack, they said Iraq would be a cakewalk, that we only needed 50,000 troops. They failed to plan for the occupation or Hurricane Katrina or the prescription drug plan. Yadda.

But when you look at the details of what incompetence means, it becomes both chilling and really, really expensive. The Army announced this week it has decided to reimburse Halliburton for nearly all of the disputed costs in the more than $250 million in charges the Pentagon\'s own auditors had identified as excessive or unjustified.
According to the Pentagon\'s figures, it normally withholds an average of 66 percent of what the auditors recommend. In this case, the Pentagon wound up paying all but 3.8 percent of the disputed costs, a figure so far outside the norm it was noticed immediately. Rick Barton of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the New York Times, \"To think that it\'s that near zero is ridiculous when you\'re talking these kinds of numbers.\"

You may recall Bunnatine Greenhouse, a senior civilian contracting official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who said the Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) contract was \"the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career.\" (Greenhouse was later demoted for her honesty.) Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said, \"Halliburton gouged the taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, yet the Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge bonus.\" In addition to costs, the Army, which blamed the excess to \"haste and the perils of war,\" also awarded the company additional profits and bonuses provided in the no-bid contract.

And now comes a curious new contract for KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary. The contract provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing Immigration and Custom enforcement. It\'s a contingency contract -- the contingency they have in mind apparently being \"in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the United States.\" Canadians drowning from global warming? Mexicans feeling the return of PRI? Ah, but the contract also specifies the detention centers are to \"support the rapid development of new programs.\" New programs? Far be it from me to speculate.

The alarmmeisters in the blogosphere, whose imaginations know no bounds, are already positing any number of horrors. (I cannot imagine where they get some of these far-out ideas. From reading the right-wing blogosphere?) What surprises me is that the administration has planned for ... whatever it is it\'s planning for. How forethoughtful of them to have something in place in case ... a lot of citizens need to be rounded up or something.

What else are these people planning for? How to get body armor to the troops after all this time? Improved port security?

One of the problems we have here is that in order to fix a mistake, it is first necessary to recognize that you\'ve made one. But we\'re dealing with George W. Bush. We should be getting ready for three Katrinas next year, but first the administration would have to recognize that global warming is taking place.

One of the most discouraging morsels of news in recent days is that President Bush was so enchanted by Michael Crichton\'s novel purportedly debunking global warming that he asked Crichton to the White House to chat with him. HELP! Why can\'t we ever get a break? Think what would happen if the president read the \"The Da Vinci Code.\"

And so we are back to the ultimate mistake. I\'m all in favor of saving face in Iraq; they can call it Iraqification or whatever they want to. Declare victory and go home, fine by me. But somewhere, somehow, some grown-ups are going to have to admit that this whole endeavor was a terrible idea. I\'m for democracy. I\'m against Saddam Hussein. I\'m sorry it didn\'t work out the way they wanted it to. Now let\'s go. Because anybody who tells you it couldn\'t possibly get worse is a fool.

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee

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Plague of Locusts Dept: Israeli Defense Minister sez Israel will take 20% of remaining Palestinian land

IMEMC & Agencies
02 March 2006

\"When we talk about Israel\'s permanent or future borders it includes the Jordan Valley, Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion, Ariel, Kedumim-Karnei Shomron and Rehan-Shaked\", said Israeli Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz in a speech this week in Jerusalem.

The areas he mentioned comprise 20% of the West Bank, home to 3.5 million Palestinians, many of them refugees from what is now Israel.
Settlements have expanded exponentially in the West Bank since 1993, when the \'Camp David\' accord was supposed to bring \'peace\' to the region. 250,000 Israeli settlers now live illegally (according to international law) in settlements in the West Bank, an area occupied militarily by Israeli forces since 1967. Those West Bank settlements are what Mofaz was referring to in his speech, defining what \'Israel\' will look like when \'final borders\' are decided upon.

With Israeli forces going ahead with Annexation Wall construction in an accelerated mode since the Palestinian elections January 25th, the Wall is now surrounding many parts of Palestinian land. Instead of being built upon the \'green line\' armistice border of 1967 between Israel and the West Bank, the Wall snakes through Palestinian land, protecting \'settler-only\' roads and highways, cutting apart Palestinian communities, and completely surrounding some towns and cities, like Qalqilia in the northern West Bank.

Despite paying lip-service to the US-backed \'roadmap to peace\', and demanding that Palestinian parties adhere to the terms of the \'roadmap\', Israel itself is in violation of most of the terms it agreed to when the roadmap was established -- settlement expansion being a key violation. Even while so-called \'disengagement\' of settlers was taking place in the Gaza Strip in 2005, the number of settlers in the West Bank was steadily increasing -- so much so that in 2005, the year of \'disengagement\', there was a net increase in the total number of Israeli settlers living illegally on Palestinian land.

Mofaz\' statement collaborates statements made several weeks ago by acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said that Israel would \'take the Jordan Valley\'. Their party, the Kadima Party, is expected to win in Israel\'s March 27th elections, after which it is predicted that they will engage in some highly-publicized \'pull-outs\' from some small, isolated West Bank outposts, while firming their hold on the areas detailed by Mofaz.

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Palestinians will lose essential services, says UN

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
02 March 2006

Essential services such as medical treatment, water, sewage and security will be cut by stoppages in donor aid and tax payments to the Palestinian Authority ordered in the wake of Hamas\'s election victory, a UN report warns.

Israel has halted its monthly remittance of $60m (£34.3m) in duties it collects on behalf of the PA but the report calls into question its contention that humanitarian aid to the Palestinians can be sustained if the ministries in a Hamas-dominated Authority are bypassed.
The report from the UN\'s Office of Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) came as Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister, who visits Britain for talks today, told Le Figaro newspaper that Israel was cutting contact with the PA and that \"the survival of the Palestinian Authority as an entity is less important than the future of the peace process\".

The report warns that non-payment of salaries to 153,000 PA employees will increase levels of poverty, risk basic services like health and education and, in the case of 73,000 officers in security services, cause a \"rise in criminality, kidnapping and protection rackets\".

According to the report, half of the Palestinian Ministry of Health\'s budget is financed by international aid and cuts in this funding \"will hamper service delivery and prevention activities including immunisation and mother and child care\".

It also foresees a possible \"breakdown of refuse collection and sewage disposal systems\" that would risk spreading disease.

The report argues that more than 900,000 Palestinians are dependent on a PA wage earner in the family and that this dependence is particularly high in the poorest areas. It says that \"international humanitarian agencies do not have the capacity to take over the running of PA services\", even where security would allow them to do so. UN and other agencies have cut back their personnel in Gaza because of security risks.

The report says that there has already been a \"sharp deterioration\" in humanitarian aid because of increased security measures by Israel since Hamas\'s election victory.

Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Israel envisaged salaries to security personnel being cut because this did not constitute a \"humanitarian\" need. But he said ways could be found of delivering humanitarian aid directly to essential services like hospitals.

Mr Regev said the question was whether \"Hamas would allow this or, like Saddam Hussein, refuse to do so and allow the Palestinian people to suffer\".

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Israeli \'ruler-in-waiting\' plans to starve Hamas

By Leonard Doyle, Foreign Editor
02 March 2006

She is already being spoken of as an Israeli leader in waiting. Today the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni brings to London the campaign to destabilise the incoming Hamas Palestinian government by starving it of cash.

Israel\'s policy - described by a spokesman as putting \"the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger\" - has left London feeling squeamish. Tony Blair and Jack Straw will today undoubtedly show solidarity with Israel, saying Britain is not in the business of funding terrorists. But in private there is anguish that the policy will bring malnutrition to innocent Palestinians and punish them for taking part in a democratic election. The Palestinians are completely dependent on foreign aid for their survival and Israel\'s campaign to put 3.6 million people on starvation rations is foreboding.
The EU announced on Monday that it would provide €120m (£85m) in emergency assistance to prevent financial collapse, but has kept silent on what it will do once Hamas takes office. Britain is encouraging the EU to pay salaries directly and bypass Hamas.

Ms Livni\'s hardline views were displayed earlier this week when she said that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was \"irrelevant\" and could not be permitted to become \"a fig leaf for a terrorist entity\".

US policy is to prop up Mr Abbas at all costs and Israel\'s interim ruler Ehud Olmert quickly stepped in to clarify Ms Livni\'s remarks, saying he hoped the Palestinian President would stay in office.

Ms Livni, 47, has made a considerable political journey from her early support for a Greater Israel to realisation that the country cannot remain a democracy while occupying Palestinian lands and ruling over a population that despises it. A teenager born to a nationalist family, she was nearly arrested for violently protesting against Henry Kissinger\'s ill-fated shuttle diplomacy. Despite her closely held dream of a Greater Israel, she maintains that she has long been a centrist on the national question. Raised in a hardline Likud household, Ms Livni has an ideological pedigree that is hard to top.

\"My family is part of the founding history of Israel,\" she has said. Her father\'s gravestone bears the inscription, \"Here lies the head of operations of the Irgun\" - refering to a pre-independence military organisation set up to fight the British and the Arabs. The stone also bears a carved map of Greater Israel extending to the opposite side of the Jordan river.

A former Mossad officer, Ms Livni is the daughter of Zionists - classified as terrorists by the British authorities. Her father, Eitan, was the Irgun\'s head of operations when it blew up the King David hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 28 Britons, 41 Arabs, 17 Jews and five others. The subsequent wave of terror attacks he led outraged British public opinion, leading the government to abandon the Palestinian Mandate and turn the problem over to the UN, with disastrous consequences for the Palestinians.

Ms Livni was one of Sharon\'s favourite colleagues - part of the kitchen cabinet that planned the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza last year and his key emissary. She was also the first person he asked to join the centrist party Kadima after breaking away from Likud during a row with the right over the withdrawal.

Ms Livni rose to become a lieutenant in Israel\'s army before joining its foreign spy agency Mossad when she was 22. During her time at the agency it was involved in a failed assassination attempt on the Black September leader Abu Daoud. In 1981, her first year as a foreign spy, Mossad arranged the destruction of a nuclear reactor Saddam Hussein was building at Osirak.

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Moscow and Pretoria welcome Hamas

03 March 2006

US efforts to isolate Hamas has been dealt a double blow, with South Africa saying it will meet Hamas leaders and the Palestinian resistance group set to make an official visit to Russia.

Hamas embarks on a quest for international legitimacy on Friday with an official visit to Russia, marking its first talks with a major power involved in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

But while it deals a blow to US-led efforts to isolate Hamas since it swept Palestinian elections in late January, Russia\'s mediation is seen by some in the West as a chance to talk the movement into renouncing violence and recognising Israel.
In Israel, the Russian overtures towards Hamas drew denunciations at first. But the Jewish state has adopted a wait-and-see attitude since Moscow emphasised it was sticking to the view of international mediators.

David Welch, the US envoy for the Middle East, said on Thursday that Washington wanted to to make it \"enormously difficult\" for Hamas to govern and was trying to dissuade
governments from meeting Hamas leaders.

David Welch: US wants to make
it hard for Hamas to govern
\"We urge them against contact because in our view, isolation and pressure have to be the words of the moment,\" Welch said.

But if governments are going to meet Hamas, then they should put pressure on the group to change its ideology, the US says.

Adam Ereli, the US State Department deputy spokesman, said: \"Our position is that if you are going to meet with a terrorist group, you should make it clear to them that their way of doing business is unacceptable, that their philosophy is contrary to the norms of the civilized world, and that they
should get with the programme.\"

Hamas, whose delegation is due to arrive in Moscow early on Friday, regards the visit as a chance to push its position on
the international stage.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said on Thursday: \"We will listen to the Russian government\'s vision on the Arab-Israeli conflict and we will clarify our own vision.

\"The visit in itself is a declaration of the failure of pressure exerted by the United States on the world to besiege Hamas,\" he said. \"Now Hamas is on the threshold of international legitimacy, thanks to the visit by Hamas leaders to Moscow.\"

South African invite

Pretoria has also invited the Hamas leadership to meet.

Aziz Pahad, South African deputy foreign minister, on Thursday said the government had confirmed a proposed meeting with the Hamas leadership, although details were yet to be arranged.

\"The proposed meeting will take place within the context of ongoing efforts by South Africa ... to share our experiences on the transition from apartheid to democracy with both the Palestinians and the Israelis,\" Pahad said in a statement.

\"With the election of Hamas by the majority of Palestinians during their recent parliamentary elections, South Africa is of the view that we need to engage with the Hamas leadership as part of international efforts to help bring about peace and stability in the Middle East.\"

South Africa, which under apartheid was a close ally of Israel, has sought to become a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians since white rule gave way to multi-racial democracy in 1994.

Returning US aid

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has refunded $30 million in US aid, meeting Washington\'s demand to keep it out of the hands of the new Hamas-led government.

Welch said on Thursday the money was returned a day earlier and the Palestinian Authority had promised to give back a further $20 million before Hamas took over.

A senior State Department official said the $50 million would probably be \"reprogrammed\" for humanitarian aid to Palestinians but Congress would have to agree to that.

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Needing to wake up, West just closes its eyes

February 26, 2006

In five years\' time, how many Jews will be living in France? Two years ago, a 23-year-old Paris disc jockey called Sebastien Selam was heading off to work from his parents\' apartment when he was jumped in the parking garage by his Muslim neighbor Adel. Selam\'s throat was slit twice, to the point of near-decapitation; his face was ripped off with a fork; and his eyes were gouged out. Adel climbed the stairs of the apartment house dripping blood and yelling, \"I have killed my Jew. I will go to heaven.\"

Is that an gripping story? You\'d think so. Particularly when, in the same city, on the same night, a Jewish woman was brutally murdered in the presence of her daughter by another Muslim. You\'ve got the making of a mini-trend there, and the media love trends.

Yet no major French newspaper carried the story.
This month, there was another murder. Ilan Halimi, also 23, also Jewish, was found by a railway track outside Paris with burns and knife wounds all over his body. He died en route to the hospital, having been held prisoner, hooded and naked, and brutally tortured for almost three weeks by a gang that had demanded half a million dollars from his family. Can you take a wild guess at the particular identity of the gang? During the ransom phone calls, his uncle reported that they were made to listen to Ilan\'s screams as he was being burned while his torturers read out verses from the Quran.

This time around, the French media did carry the story, yet every public official insisted there was no anti-Jewish element. Just one of those things. Coulda happened to anyone. And, if the gang did seem inordinately fixated on, ah, Jews, it was just because, as one police detective put it, \'\'Jews equal money.\'\' In London, the Observer couldn\'t even bring itself to pursue that particular angle. Its report of the murder managed to avoid any mention of the unfortunate Halimi\'s, um, Jewishness. Another British paper, the Independent, did dwell on the particular, er, identity groups involved in the incident but only in the context of a protest march by Parisian Jews marred by \'\'radical young Jewish men\'\' who\'d attacked an \'\'Arab-run grocery.\'\'

At one level, those spokesmonsieurs are right: It could happen to anyone. Even in the most civilized societies, there are depraved monsters who do terrible things. When they do, they rip apart entire families, like the Halimis and Selams. But what inflicts the real lasting damage on society as a whole is the silence and evasions of the state and the media and the broader culture.

A lot of folks are, to put it at its mildest, indifferent to Jews. In 2003, a survey by the European Commission found that 59 percent of Europeans regard Israel as the \"greatest menace to world peace.\" Only 59 percent? What the hell\'s wrong with the rest of \'em? Well, don\'t worry: In Germany, it was 65 percent; Austria, 69 percent; the Netherlands, 74 percent. Since then, Iran has sportingly offered to solve the problem of the Israeli threat to world peace by wiping the Zionist Entity off the face of the map. But what a tragedy that those peace-loving Iranians have been provoked into launching nuclear armageddon by those pushy Jews. As Paul Oestreicher, Anglican chaplain of the University of Sussex, wrote in the Guardian the other day, \"I cannot listen calmly when an Iranian president talks of wiping out Israel. Jewish fears go deep. They are not irrational. But I cannot listen calmly either when a great many citizens of Israel think and speak of Palestinians in the way a great many Germans thought and spoke about Jews when I was one of them and had to flee.\"

It\'s not surprising when you\'re as heavily invested as the European establishment is in an absurd equivalence between a nuclear madman who thinks he\'s the warm-up act for the Twelfth Imam and the fellows building the Israeli security fence that you lose all sense of proportion when it comes to your own backyard, too. \"Radical young Jewish men\" are no threat to \"Arab-run groceries.\" But radical young Muslim men are changing the realities of daily life for Jews and gays and women in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and beyond. If you don\'t care for the Yids, big deal; look out for yourself. The Jews are playing their traditional role of the canaries in history\'s coal mine.

Something very remarkable is happening around the globe and, if you want the short version, a Muslim demonstrator in Toronto the other day put it very well:

\'\'We won\'t stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.\'\'

Stated that baldly it sounds ridiculous. But, simply as a matter of fact, every year more and more of the world lives under Islamic law: Pakistan adopted Islamic law in 1977, Iran in 1979, Sudan in 1984. Four decades ago, Nigeria lived under English common law; now, half of it\'s in the grip of sharia, and the other half\'s feeling the squeeze, as the death toll from the cartoon jihad indicates. But just as telling is how swiftly the developed world has internalized an essentially Islamic perspective. In their pitiful coverage of the low-level intifada that\'s been going on in France for five years, the European press has been barely any less loopy than the Middle Eastern media.

What, in the end, are all these supposedly unconnected matters from Danish cartoons to the murder of a Dutch filmmaker to gender-segregated swimming sessions in French municipal pools about? Answer: sovereignty. Islam claims universal jurisdiction and always has. The only difference is that they\'re now acting upon it. The signature act of the new age was the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran: Even hostile states generally respect the convention that diplomatic missions are the sovereign territory of their respective countries. Tehran then advanced to claiming jurisdiction over the citizens of sovereign states and killing them -- as it did to Salman Rushdie\'s translators and publishers. Now in the cartoon jihad and other episodes, the restraints of Islamic law are being extended piecemeal to the advanced world, by intimidation and violence but also by the usual cooing promotion of a spurious multicultural \"respect\" by Bill Clinton, the United Church of Canada, European foreign ministers, etc.

The I\'d-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-in-perfect-harmonee crowd have always spoken favorably of one-worldism. From the op-ed pages of Jutland newspapers to les banlieues of Paris, the Pan-Islamists are getting on with it.

© Mark Steyn 2006

Comment: Indeed, there is a growing anti-Jewish sentiment around the world. The question is: why? Could it have anything to do with the \"facts on the ground\"? That the United States and Israel are literally creating this anti-Jewish sentiment with their war-mongering, their genocide, torture, suppression of free speech, draconian legislation, and so on? We say repeatedly that the U.S. and Israel have sown the wind...

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At least 33 killed in Iraq rebel attacks

Agence France Presse
3 Mar 06

AFP - Insurgent attacks across Iraq killed at least 33 people and wounded scores more in renewed violence as the US military said it had captured 61 rebels linked to Al-Qaeda in Iraq's frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

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Ten Iraqi Factory Workers Gunned Down

Associated Press
3 Mar 06

AP - Iraqi security forces in bulletproof vests took to the streets in the bloodied capital Friday to enforce a daytime ban on private vehicles in an effort to blunt a surge of sectarian violence that has pushed Iraq to the edge of civil war.

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Inquiry urged into warning of Iraq shrine bomb

By Mariam Karouny and Waleed Ibrahim
2 Mar 06

BAGHDAD - Iraqi politicians demanded an inquiry on Wednesday into why the government did not act on a warning about a plan to bomb a Shi\'ite shrine, an attack that has brought the country to the brink of civil war.

Government and political sources told Reuters the minister for national security sent a report to the government two weeks before last Wednesday\'s demolition of the Golden Mosque in Samarra saying security had been breached around the shrine.

But the government ignored it, they said.
\"He sent a report saying they had received information of attacks being prepared against Shi\'ite shrines,\" one official in the government said on Tuesday, criticizing the inaction of the Shi\'ite-led interim administration.

\"This shows you the incompetence,\" the senior official said.

Mithal al-Alusi, an independent Sunni member of parliament, said on Wednesday: \"I call for a political-judicial committee to be established immediately to check out these reports.\"

A spokesman for the main minority Sunni political bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, said the government\'s apparent failure to act raised questions about its role in the incident.

\"The report indicates the role of the government was greater than just ignoring the warning,\" said Zafeer al-Ani.

\"I believe the government is involved either directly or indirectly through the use of some security forces.\"

Iraqi and U.S. officials have blamed the Samarra bomb on al Qaeda, saying the group is trying to sow sectarian discord in an attempt to destroy Iraq\'s progress toward democracy.

But al Qaeda and two Sunni militant groups have accused Shi\'ites of carrying it out to create a justification for launching reprisals against Sunnis.

Also on Wednesday, pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said it had obtained a copy of the security minister\'s report and that it contained a specific warning about the Samarra mosque.


The minister, Abdul Karim al-Enazy, told Reuters he did warn the government that militants were planning attacks against Shi\'ite shrines, but insisted the report referred to Kerbala.

Enazy, a Shi\'ite, said Samarra was not mentioned at all, despite assertions to the contrary by other officials. National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie denied that any such report even existed.

But a government official, from outside the Shi\'ite bloc, said: \"Samarra was mentioned by name in the report. Whatever they say now is not true.\"

Rubaie told Reuters on Tuesday that four guards protecting the Shi\'ite shrine were arrested as suspects in the attack along with six others.

Enazy said questions remained over why the bombers, who spent long hours planting explosives overnight, did not kill any of the eight guards, who were found tied up but unharmed.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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Saddam trial hits turning point after dramatic evidence

Agence France Presse
3 Mar 06

AFP - The trial of Saddam Hussein has reached a turning point after this week's dramatic hearings, with prosecutors seeking to build up documentary evidence in a bid to prove that the toppled Iraqi dictator took personal revenge on a village after escaping assassination there.

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Robert Fisk: Somebody is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq.

Reporter: Tony Jones

The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it\'s Al Qaeda, it\'s the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities.

(Transcript of interview below)
TONY JONES: Well, Robert Fisk is one of the most experienced observers of the Middle East and in his latest book, \'The Great War for Civilisation - the Conquest of the Middle East\', he draws on almost 30 years of reporting from his base in Lebanon to look at the forces which have shaped current events and conflicts Robert Fisk, thanks for being there.


TONY JONES: Now, unless you\'ve changed your position in recent days, the one thing that you and President Bush agree on is there\'s not going to be a civil war in Iraq.

ROBERT FISK: Yeah, I listened to Bush. It made me doubt myself when I heard him say that. I still go along and say what I said before - Iraq is not a sectarian society, but a tribal society. People are intermarried. Shiites and Sunnis marry each other. It\'s not a question of having a huge block of people here called Shiites and a huge block of people called Sunnis any more than you can do the same with the United States, saying Blacks are here and Protestants are here and so on. But certainly, somebody at the moment is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq. Someone wants a civil war. Some form of militias and death squads want a civil war. There never has been a civil war in Iraq. The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it\'s Al Qaeda, it\'s the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities. I\'d like to know what the Americans are doing to get at the people who are trying to provoke the civil war. It seems to me not very much. We don\'t hear of any suicide bombers being stopped before they blow themselves up. We don\'t hear of anybody stopping a mosque getting blown up. We\'re not hearing of death squads all being arrested. Something is going very, very wrong in Baghdad. Something is going wrong with the Administration. Mr Bush says, \"Oh, yes, sure, I talk to the Shiites and I talk to the Sunnis.\" He\'s talking to a small bunch of people living behind American machine guns inside the so-called Green Zone, the former Republican palace of Saddam Hussein, which is surrounded by massive concrete walls like a crusader castle. These people do not and cannot even leave this crusader castle. If they want to leave to the airport, they\'re helicoptered to the airport. They can\'t even travel on the airport road. What we\'ve got at the moment is a little nexus of people all of whom live under American protection and talk on the telephone to George W Bush who says, \"I\'ve been talking to them and they have to choose between chaos and unity.\" These people can\'t even control the roads 50 metres from the Green Zone in which they work.


ROBERT FISK: There\'s total chaos now in Iraq.

TONY JONES: Let\'s go back, if we can, to start answering that question about who wants civil war. Back one week to the bombing of the golden shrine in Samarra. Now, most people do think the only people with reasons for doing that would be the Al Qaeda in Iraq group led by al-Zarqawi. You don\'t agree?

ROBERT FISK: Well, I don\'t know if al-Zarqawi is alive. You know, al-Zarqawi did exist before the American Anglo-American invasion. He was up in the Kurdish area, which was not actually properly controlled by Saddam. But after that he seems to have disappeared. We know there\'s an identity card that pops up. We know the Americans say we think we\'ve recognised him on a videotape. Who recognises him on a videotape? How many Americans have ever met al-Zarqawi? Al-Zarqawi\'s mother died more than 12 months ago and he didn\'t even send commiserations or say \"I\'m sorry to hear that\". His wife of whom he was very possessive is so poor she has to go out and work in the family town of Zarqa. Hence the name Zarqawi. I don\'t know if al-Zarqawi is alive or exists at the moment. I don\'t know if he isn\'t a sort of creature invented in order to fill in the narrative gaps, so to speak. What is going on in Iraq at the moment is extremely mysterious. I go to Iraq and I can\'t crack this story at the moment. Some of my colleagues are still trying to, but can\'t do it. It\'s not as simple as it looks. I don\'t believe we\'ve got all these raving lunatics wandering around blowing up mosques. There\'s much more to this than meets the eye. All of these death squads that move around are part of the security forces. In some cases they are Shiite security forces or clearly Sunni security forces. When the Iraqi army go into Sunni cities they are Shiite soldiers going in. We are not making this clear. Iraqi troops, we\'ve got an extra battalion. The Iraqi army is building up. The Iraqi army is split apart. Somebody is operating these people. I don\'t know who they are. It\'s not as simple as we\'re making it out to be. What is this thing when Bush says we have to choose between chaos and unity? Who wants to choose chaos? Is it really the case that all of these Iraqis that fought together for eight years against the Iranians, Shiites and Sunnies together in the long massive murderous Somme-like war between the Iranians and Iraqis - suddenly all want to kill each other? Why because that\'s something wrong with Iraqis? I don\'t think so. They are intelligent, educated people. Something is going seriously wrong in Baghdad.

TONY JONES: Can we look at one thing that might possibly be wrong, the Sunnis feel like they are being left out of the political equation. The Shias could end up running the majority of the government because they are indeed in the majority in a democracy.

ROBERT FISK: They do run the Government now. The Shiites do run the Government.

TONY JONES: Indeed. Couldn\'t that precisely be one of the reasons for the violence?

ROBERT FISK: Because the Sunnis don\'t have power anymore? But we\'ve been saying this if the start. Don\'t you remember that after 2003 the Anglo-American invasion, the resistance started against the Americans and we were told they were Saddam remnants, \'dead-enders\', that was the phrase used. Not anymore, because there are 40,000 insurgents, but that was the phase used at the time. They were Sunnis. They didn\'t like the fact they didn\'t have power. Then we captured Saddam and Paul Bremer, the number two pro-Consule in Baghdad, says, \"Oh, we\'ve got him,\" and everything was going to be OK. And then the insurgency got worse still. The reason was because people who wanted to join the insurgency feared that if they beat him out he might come back. Well, the moment Saddam was captured, they knew they could join the insurgency and Saddam wouldn\'t come back. I mean, there is something wrong in the narrative sequence that we\'ve been given. You know, the idea that the Sunni community is suddenly sacrificing themselves en mass, strapping explosive belts to themselves and blowing themselves up all over Iraq because they don\'t have power anymore is a very odd reflection. I think what is going on among the Sunni community is much simpler. The Sunnis are not fighting the Americans because they don\'t have power and they\'re not fighting the Americans just to get them out - and they will get them out eventually. They are fighting the Americans so that they will say, \"We have a right to power because we fought the occupying forces and you, the Shiites, did not,\" which is why it\'s very important to discover now that Moqtada al-Sadr, who has an ever-increasing power base among the Shiite community, is himself threatening to fight the British and Americans. Now, if the Shiites and Sunnies come together, as they did in the 1920s in the insurgency against the British, then we are finished in Iraq. And that will mean that Iraq actually will be united.

TONY JONES: But, Robert Fisk, what\'s is happening now, by all accounts and, indeed, the accounts of these Washington Post reporters who\'ve been into the morgue and report hundreds of bodies of Sunnies who evidently have been garroted or suffocated or shot, are all saying that Moqtada al-Sadr\'s thugs have actually taken these people away and murdered them. That was in revenge for the Golden Shrine bombing.

ROBERT FISK: Yeah, look, in August, I went into the same mortuary and found out that 1,000 people had died in one month in July. And most of those people who had died were split 50/50 between the Sunnies and the Shiites, but most of them, including women who\'d been blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs - I saw the corpses - were both Sunnies and Shiites. Now, I\'m not complaining that the Washington Post got it wrong - I\'m sure there are massacres going on by Shiites - but I think they are going on by militias on both sides. What I\'d like to know is who is running the Interior Ministry? Who is paying the Interior Ministry? Who is paying the gunmen who work for the Interior Ministry? I go into the Interior Ministry in Baghdad and I see lots and lots of armed men wearing black leather. Who is paying these guys? Well, we are, of course. The money isn\'t falling out of the sky. It\'s coming from the occupation powers and Iraqi\'s Government, which we effectively run because, as we know, they can\'t even create a constitution without the American and British ambassadors being present. We need to look at this story in a different light. That narrative that we\'re getting - that there are death squads and that the Iraqis are all going to kill each other, the idea that the whole society is going to commit mass suicide - is not possible, it\'s not logical. There is something else going on in Iraq. Don\'t ask me to...

TONY JONES: Alright. But...

ROBERT FISK: Yeah, go on.

TONY JONES: No, it does seem to be impossible to explain, but, of course, this is exactly what people were saying in Bosnia before that war started up - that people were too intermarried, that you couldn\'t separate the community.

ROBERT FISK: Iraqi is not Bosnia. Iraqi is not Bosnia. Iraqi is not Bosnia. Iraqi is not Bosnia. We discovered here in Lebanon - and this city I\'m talking to you from - that, during the civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 and killed 150,000 people, that there were many outside powers involved in promoting death squads and militias here, and paying militias, not just Arab powers, but European powers were involved in stirring the pot in Lebanon. I think we\'re being very naive. Just because I can\'t give you the detail, like, of who ordered this death squad, doesn\'t prevent us saying that something is wrong with the narrative we\'re being given the press, from the West, from the Americans, from the Iraqi Government. There is something going wrong. Iraqis are not suicidal people. They don\'t go around blowing up mosques every day. It\'s not a natural thing for them to do. It\'s never happened before. I can\'t say to you, \"Well, ok, here is the person who killed this person, or here\'s the person who left this explosive truck.\" All I am saying to you is that it is time we said, \"Hang on a minute, this is not how it looks.\"

TONY JONES: What if you put Iran into this equation, because, as we all know, Iran is under tremendous pressure from the West and particularly from the United States at the moment. It has links to these Shia militias and, possibly, links too, to these people you are talking about in the Interior Ministry.

ROBERT FISK: No, no, no, that\'s wrong. The Iranians link is with the Iraqi Government. The main parties in the government of Iraq which have been elected, who are there now dealing with the Americans, these are the representatives of Iran. Moqtada al-Sadr is irrelevant to Iran. Iranians are already effectively controlling Iraq because the two major power blocks, the two major parties who were elected and who Bush has just been talking to, these are effectively the representatives of Tehran. That\'s the point. Iran doesn\'t need to get involved in violence in Iraq.

TONY JONES: Unless the pressure from the United States ratchets up on Iran to the point where there are military threats against these nuclear facilities. Could it not therefore create havoc in Iraq?

ROBERT FISK: Well, you could say the same about Syria, too, couldn\'t you? And, of course the Americans are also accusing Syria of supporting the insurgents or letting them cross the border. But I think it it\'s much more complicated than that. For example, my sources in this area, who are pretty good, tell me that the Americans have already talked to the Syrians and are trying to do a deal with them to try and get the Syrians to help them over the insurgency and the price of Syria\'s help, I\'m told, is that the Americans will ease off on the UN committee of inquiry into the murder of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri, here in Beirut, only a few hundred metres from here, on the 14th February last year. You know, if the Americans are going to get out of Iraq - and they must get out, they will - they need the help of Iran and Syria. And I think you\'ll find that certain elements within the State Department are already trying to work on that. Now, we hear the rhetoric coming from Bush. I mean, he\'s got an absolute black-hole chaos in Iraq, he\'s got Afghanistan - not an inspiration to the world, it\'s been taken over effectively by narco warlords, many who work for Karzai, the man who\'s just been making jokes about the Afghan welcome for Bush - and Bush wants another conflict with Iran? I don\'t think the Americans are in any footing or any ability, military or otherwise, to have another war or to have another crisis in that region. They\'re in the deepest hole politically, militarily and economically in Iraq. The fact that the White House and the Pentagon and the State Department seem to be in a state of denial doesn\'t change that. We had Condoleezza Rice here - literally in that building behind me - a few days ago saying that there are great changes taking place in the Middle East - optimistically. Well, sure, there is a mosque war going on in Iraq with the Americans up to their feet in the sand, there\'s an Iranian crisis, or so we\'re told, the Saudis are frightened the Iraq war will spill over into Saudi Arabia, the Egyptians don\'t know how to reconcile Syria and Lebanon, there are increasing sectarian tensions here in Lebanon. You would think that someone is building what used to be called Potemkin villages, you know, these extraordinary things that Catherine the Great\'s court favourites use to build, facades of villages, so that everything looked nice in Russia even though things were barbarous behind the facades. I mean, this is a barbarous world we\'re living in now in the Middle East. It\'s never been so dangerous here, either for journalists or soldiers but most of all for Arabs. Hence the thousands of people in the mortuary.

TONY JONES: Robert Fisk, I am afraid we are out of time. We\'ll have to leave it there and the rest of the discussion on Iran, I suspect, we\'ll have to have when you\'re in Australia in the near future. Good luck in Beirut.

ROBERT FISK: (Laughs) Good place to have it! You\'re welcome.

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Iraq: Sunnis, Kurds unite to oppose Shiite premier

Louise Roug
Los Angeles Times
March 02, 2006

BAGHDAD - A political conflict threatened to further exacerbate Iraq\'s sectarian and ethnic divisions Thursday as Kurdish and Sunni Arab leaders issued a letter demanding that the leading Shiite Muslim coalition withdraw its nomination of interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to head the next government.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to avert attacks today, during the Muslim day of prayer, the government announced a one-day ban on private vehicles in Baghdad and its outskirts. The police and army were instructed to seal off the capital and seize any private vehicles on the roads between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.

\"We had many conflicts with the past government, and for it to continue for the next four years is just unacceptable to us,\" said Faraj Haidary of the Kurdish Alliance, which has persuaded other political blocs to sign off on the formal letter delivered Thursday.

Politicians with the leading Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, which holds a plurality of seats in the new parliament, warned that efforts to form a \"national unity\" government, a major U.S. goal, might collapse if the Kurds and Sunnis don\'t back down.

\"Jaafari is the nominee, and the UIA will not be provoked in this way,\" said Fadhil Shara, a representative of Shiite radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The political maneuvering followed a spasm of sectarian clashes that left hundreds dead in the past week. The bloodshed continued Thursday, with police reporting that more than 30 people were killed in attacks across the country.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, a leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front party and a top Sunni politician, had just stepped out of his car to have a flat tire repaired when gunmen opened fire on his convoy in southern Baghdad on Thursday afternoon.

One security guard was killed and five others were wounded in the attack, according to a statement released by the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni party.

Also on Thursday, the U.S. command said an American soldier assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Multinational Force-West, was killed Wednesday in the city of Fallujah.


• Gunmen opened fire on an Iraqi checkpoint north of the city of Samarra, killing six soldiers and four police officers.

• A bomb exploded in southeast Baghdad, killing eight people and wounding nine, according to police.

• In the vast Shiite slum on Baghdad\'s eastern edge, a bomb planted under the back seat of a minibus exploded, killing three and wounding another three, police and hospital officials said.

• Gunmen shot four policemen in the northern city of Mosul.

On the political front, political leaders opposed to Al-Jaafari said they could gather enough support in the new parliament to block his nomination and offer up their own candidate.

\"We want someone that will rule the country in a neutral way, not in a sectarian way,\" said Saleh Mutlak, head of the National Dialogue Front, a Sunni political group in parliament.

In the new 275-seat parliament, Shiites won 130 seats, Kurds control 53 and a Sunni alliance has 44. The parliament will select a three-member presidential council, which must be approved by a two-thirds majority, and that group will approve the new prime minister and cabinet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Kurds, Sunnis Attempting to Dump Jaafari

Juan Cole
2 Mar 06

The Kurds and the Americans, who are spear-heading this effort to sideline Jaafari, don\'t appear to have considered another possible outcome, which is a hung parliament, leading to new elections and extending the period of political gridlock as security deteriorates further.
The Kurdistan Alliance and the Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front are attempting to block Ibrahim Jaafari from becoming prime minister. The United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in parliament, has the right to nominate the PM, and an internal party vote resulted in Jaafari\'s victory.

Jaafari is, however, unacceptable to the United States because of his close ties to Iran and his socialist tendencies (he recently expressed admiration for Noam Chomsky and wondered if Noam would come visit Baghdad).

The US appears to be working with the Kurds and the Sunnis behind the scenes to make Jaafari\'s candidacy collapse. The United Iraqi Alliance has 132 votes in the 275-strong parliament, but 184 are needed to choose a president. It therefore needs partners from either the Kurds or Sunni Arabs or both, and these two can essentially filibuster and prevent the formation of a government unless the UIA goes along with them.

Personally, I think that given the parlous security situation in Iraq, it is absolutely crazy to be playing these political games. In the wake of the destruction of the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra, you want to go to the Shiite community and say, \'you cannot have your choice of prime minister and there is going to be a tyranny of the minorities\'? Oh, that will calm things right down.

There is no guarantee that the United Iraqi Alliance will give the Americans, the Kurds and the Sunnis a candidate who they like better. Apparently the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq cannot muster the 66 votes within the 130-strong UIA that it would need to put in its own candidate, Adil Abdul Mahdi. SCIRI has better relations with the Kurds than does Jaafari\'s Da`wa Party (Jaafari was also backed by Muqtada al-Sadr\'s faction).

The Kurds and the Americans, who are spear-heading this effort to sideline Jaafari, don\'t appear to have considered another possible outcome, which is a hung parliament, leading to new elections and extending the period of political gridlock as security deteriorates further.

Al-Zaman also reports on the attempt to dump Jaafari. It says,

\'A prominent Sunni political source said that the National Accord Front [Sunni Arab religious parties] will not participate in the government if it is decided that Jaafari will lead it. He said, \"It is impossible to work with him,\" adding, \"The Shiites knew this. We had informed them of it. We believe that for them to nominate him again is a sign that they are ignoring us.\" He said that the Sunni Arabs just could not work with Jaafari. \'

The anti-Jaafari forces are still dreaming of a Sunni-Kurd-secular coalition that could outmaneuver the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. Since it has more than a third of the seats in parliament, however, they could only select a president without the UIA if they managed to get dozens of its members of parliament to desert it and join an assortment of Baathists and Salafis instead. I don\'t find this outcome plausible. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has, according to al-Zaman, been intervening behind the scenes to keep the UIA united.

Although earlier the Fadhila or Virtue Party was cited as an element within the UIA that might bolt, taking its 15 seats with it, its leaders appear to have reconsidered. Al-Zaman says that Virtue staged a demonstration in Nasiriyah on Wednesday demanding of the Kurdistan Alliance that it not attempt to sideline the will of the nation (which had made the UIA the biggest bloc).

Al-Zaman/ DPA also report that Prime Minister Jaafari is denying the charges made yesterday by Jalal Talabani that his trip to Ankara was unconstitutional. Jaafari said it was perfectly legal.

Juan Cole is Professor of History at the University of Michigan - Visit his blog - www.juancole.com

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U.S. strategy in Iraq: No, it\'s not Vietnam. This one\'s a civil war

By Stephen Biddle
Foreign Affairs
International Herald Tribune
2 Mar 06

NEW YORK - All sides in today\'s Iraq debate share a common but unspoken assumption: the way to succeed in Iraq is to refight the Vietnam War, but the right way this time. Official strategy mirrors the Nixon administration playbook: win hearts and minds while handing the fighting over to the locals.

The antiwar movement thinks we have already lost Iraqi hearts and minds and should thus get out. Prowar critics argue that we should use late-war Vietnam territorial defense tactics, not early-war Vietnam offensive methods.

But while the debate is Vietnam redux, the war is not. Vietnam was a Maoist \"people\'s war,\" Iraq is a communal civil war with very different dynamics, and civil wars demand very different strategies than Maoist wars.
U.S. military strategy for Iraq now centers on \"Iraqization,\" the program to equip and train Iraqi security forces to replace American troops. For a Maoist people\'s war, this would make sense: it would undermine the nationalist component of insurgent resistance, improve intelligence and provide the troops needed for real security.

But in a civil war, Iraqization only throws gasoline on the fire. Sunnis perceive the national security forces as a Shiite-Kurd militia on steroids. They have a point: In an intercommunal conflict, the most effective units are the ones that are communally homogeneous. And if we want an effective Iraqi force anytime soon, it\'s going to be mostly Shiite and Kurdish.

The bigger and stronger we make national security forces, the more threatened the Sunnis feel, and the harder they are likely to fight back in a struggle that is ultimately about communal self-preservation.

The solution to inter-communal conflicts like this is a constitutional deal wherein each party agrees to ironclad guarantees of shared power that deny any the ability to oppress the others. But a large, powerful, U.S.-armed, U.S.-trained, Shiite-Kurd security force makes any such constitutional deal a fiction.

To resolve an intercommunal civil war, as opposed to countering a people\'s war, implies at least two major policy changes.

First, we must slow, not accelerate, the growth of Iraqi security forces. Even an Iraqi force with Sunni enlistees is a problem if it precedes, not follows, a constitutional deal. Combat motivation is bound to suffer if mixed Shiite-Sunni units are asked to fight Sunni enemies. And the force we can get in the near term may have few Sunnis despite efforts to recruit them. Either possibility aggravates the real conflict.

Second, we must treat the military future of Iraq as a tool for brokering constitutional compromise, not as a quick ticket home for American troops. That is, we must threaten to throw American military power behind either side in today\'s civil war as needed to compel the other to compromise.

If the Sunnis refuse to compromise, they must be threatened with full U.S. support for a homogeneous Shiite-Kurd army. If the Sunnis do agree to a compromise, they must be promised U.S. protection from communal rivals until a stable power-sharing deal can ensure their security without us.

Conversely, if the Shiite-Kurd alliance refuses to compromise, they must be threatened with abandonment or even U.S. assistance to their Sunni rivals. If they do compromise, they, too, must be promised sustained American protection until a power-sharing constitution is fully implemented.

Today\'s policy does the opposite. We have promised to remain until the creation of an effective Iraqi security force that Sunnis see as hostile, and we intend to do this regardless of either side\'s bargaining behavior.

This undermines both sides\' incentives to negotiate. For the Sunnis, the national military is coming whether they compromise or not - indeed, compromise merely trades their arms for a piece of constitutional paper backed by a hostile Shiite-Kurd army.

Shiites and Kurds, conversely, fear the Sunnis, but have been promised U.S. protection until and unless they can defend themselves whether they compromise or not. So why should they?

Yet the picture is not hopeless. Each of Iraq\'s parties is better served by a power-sharing deal than by an unconstrained, high-intensity version of today\'s low-intensity civil war. The willingness of the Shiites to compromise on constitutional amendment procedures last December gives grounds for hope that these common interests may yet prevail.

But today\'s U.S. military policy hinders rather than helps these crucial negotiations. Our prospects in Iraq are surely better if we stop opposing a civil war with a strategy designed for a Maoist people\'s war.

(Stephen Biddle is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This article is based on an essay in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.)
NEW YORK All sides in today\'s Iraq debate share a common but unspoken assumption: the way to succeed in Iraq is to refight the Vietnam War, but the right way this time. Official strategy mirrors the Nixon administration playbook: win hearts and minds while handing the fighting over to the locals.

The antiwar movement thinks we have already lost Iraqi hearts and minds and should thus get out. Prowar critics argue that we should use late-war Vietnam territorial defense tactics, not early-war Vietnam offensive methods.

But while the debate is Vietnam redux, the war is not. Vietnam was a Maoist \"people\'s war,\" Iraq is a communal civil war with very different dynamics, and civil wars demand very different strategies than Maoist wars.

U.S. military strategy for Iraq now centers on \"Iraqization,\" the program to equip and train Iraqi security forces to replace American troops. For a Maoist people\'s war, this would make sense: it would undermine the nationalist component of insurgent resistance, improve intelligence and provide the troops needed for real security.

But in a civil war, Iraqization only throws gasoline on the fire. Sunnis perceive the national security forces as a Shiite-Kurd militia on steroids. They have a point: In an intercommunal conflict, the most effective units are the ones that are communally homogeneous. And if we want an effective Iraqi force anytime soon, it\'s going to be mostly Shiite and Kurdish.

The bigger and stronger we make national security forces, the more threatened the Sunnis feel, and the harder they are likely to fight back in a struggle that is ultimately about communal self-preservation.

The solution to inter-communal conflicts like this is a constitutional deal wherein each party agrees to ironclad guarantees of shared power that deny any the ability to oppress the others. But a large, powerful, U.S.-armed, U.S.-trained, Shiite-Kurd security force makes any such constitutional deal a fiction.

To resolve an intercommunal civil war, as opposed to countering a people\'s war, implies at least two major policy changes.

First, we must slow, not accelerate, the growth of Iraqi security forces. Even an Iraqi force with Sunni enlistees is a problem if it precedes, not follows, a constitutional deal. Combat motivation is bound to suffer if mixed Shiite-Sunni units are asked to fight Sunni enemies. And the force we can get in the near term may have few Sunnis despite efforts to recruit them. Either possibility aggravates the real conflict.

Second, we must treat the military future of Iraq as a tool for brokering constitutional compromise, not as a quick ticket home for American troops. That is, we must threaten to throw American military power behind either side in today\'s civil war as needed to compel the other to compromise.

If the Sunnis refuse to compromise, they must be threatened with full U.S. support for a homogeneous Shiite-Kurd army. If the Sunnis do agree to a compromise, they must be promised U.S. protection from communal rivals until a stable power-sharing deal can ensure their security without us.

Conversely, if the Shiite-Kurd alliance refuses to compromise, they must be threatened with abandonment or even U.S. assistance to their Sunni rivals. If they do compromise, they, too, must be promised sustained American protection until a power-sharing constitution is fully implemented.

Today\'s policy does the opposite. We have promised to remain until the creation of an effective Iraqi security force that Sunnis see as hostile, and we intend to do this regardless of either side\'s bargaining behavior.

This undermines both sides\' incentives to negotiate. For the Sunnis, the national military is coming whether they compromise or not - indeed, compromise merely trades their arms for a piece of constitutional paper backed by a hostile Shiite-Kurd army.

Shiites and Kurds, conversely, fear the Sunnis, but have been promised U.S. protection until and unless they can defend themselves whether they compromise or not. So why should they?

Yet the picture is not hopeless. Each of Iraq\'s parties is better served by a power-sharing deal than by an unconstrained, high-intensity version of today\'s low-intensity civil war. The willingness of the Shiites to compromise on constitutional amendment procedures last December gives grounds for hope that these common interests may yet prevail.

But today\'s U.S. military policy hinders rather than helps these crucial negotiations. Our prospects in Iraq are surely better if we stop opposing a civil war with a strategy designed for a Maoist people\'s war.

(Stephen Biddle is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This article is based on an essay in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.)

Copyright © 2006 the International Herald Tribune

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What Bush Was Told About Iraq

By Murray Waas
National Journal
2 Mar 06

Two highly classified intelligence reports delivered directly to President Bush before the Iraq war cast doubt on key public assertions made by the president, Vice President Cheney, and other administration officials as justifications for invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, according to records and knowledgeable sources.
The first report, delivered to Bush in early October 2002, was a one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate that discussed whether Saddam\'s procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for the purpose of developing a nuclear weapon.

Among other things, the report stated that the Energy Department and the State Department\'s Bureau of Intelligence and Research believed that the tubes were \"intended for conventional weapons,\" a view disagreeing with that of other intelligence agencies, including the CIA, which believed that the tubes were intended for a nuclear bomb.

The disclosure that Bush was informed of the DOE and State dissents is the first evidence that the president himself knew of the sharp debate within the government over the aluminum tubes during the time that he, Cheney, and other members of the Cabinet were citing the tubes as clear evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program. Neither the president nor the vice president told the public about the disagreement among the agencies.

When U.S. inspectors entered Iraq after the fall of Saddam\'s regime, they determined that Iraq\'s nuclear program had been dormant for more than a decade and that the aluminum tubes had been used only for artillery shells.

The second classified report, delivered to Bush in early January 2003, was also a summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, this one focusing on whether Saddam would launch an unprovoked attack on the United States, either directly, or indirectly by working with terrorists.

The report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack the United States -- except if \"ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime\" or if he intended to \"extract revenge\" for such an assault, according to records and sources.

The single dissent in the report again came from State\'s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, known as INR, which believed that the Iraqi leader was \"unlikely to conduct clandestine attacks against the U.S. homeland even if [his] regime\'s demise is imminent\" as the result of a U.S. invasion.

On at least four earlier occasions, beginning in the spring of 2002, according to the same records and sources, the president was informed during his morning intelligence briefing that U.S. intelligence agencies believed it was unlikely that Saddam was an imminent threat to the United States.

However, in the months leading up to the war, Bush, Cheney, and Cabinet members repeatedly asserted that Saddam was likely to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or to provide such weapons to Al Qaeda or another terrorist group.

The Bush administration used the potential threat from Saddam as a major rationale in making the case to go to war. The president cited the threat in an address to the United Nations on September 12, 2002, in an October 7, 2002, speech to the American people, and in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003.

The one-page documents prepared for Bush are known as the \"President\'s Summary\" of the much longer and more detailed National Intelligence Estimates that combine the analysis and judgments of agencies throughout the intelligence community.

An NIE, according to the Web site of the National Intelligence Council -- the interagency group that coordinates the documents\' production -- represents \"the coordinated judgments of the Intelligence Community regarding the likely course of future events\" and is written with the goal of providing \"policy makers with the best, unvarnished, and unbiased information -- regardless of whether analytic judgments conform to U.S. policy.\" (The January 2003 NIE, for example, was titled \"Nontraditional Threats to the U.S. Homeland Through 2007.\")

As many as six to eight agencies, foremost among them the CIA, the Pentagon\'s Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the INR, contribute to the drafting of an NIE. If any one of those intelligence agencies disagrees with the majority view on major conclusions, the NIE includes the dissenting view.

The one-page summary for the president allows intelligence agencies to emphasize what they believe to be the conclusions from the broader NIE that are the most important to communicate to the commander-in-chief.

The President\'s Summary is among the most highly classified papers in the government. References to the summaries are contained in footnotes in the so-called Robb-Silberman report -- officially, the report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction -- that was issued in March 2005 on the use of intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq. The White House has refused to declassify the summaries or to give them to congressional committees.

The summaries stated that both the Energy and State departments dissented on the aluminum tubes question. This is the first evidence that Bush was aware of the intense debate within the government during the time that he, Cheney, and members of the Cabinet were citing the procurement of the tubes as evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program.

In his address to the U.N. General Assembly on September 12, 2002, the president asserted, \"Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon.\"

On October 7, 2002, less than a week after Bush was given the summary, he said in a speech in Cincinnati: \"Evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his \'nuclear mujahedeen\' -- his nuclear holy warriors.... Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.\"

On numerous other occasions, Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and then-U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte cited Iraq\'s procurement of aluminum tubes without disclosing that the intelligence community was split as to their end use. The fact that the president was informed of the dissents by Energy and State is also significant because Rice and other administration officials have said that Bush did not know about those dissenting views when he made claims about the purported uses for the tubes.

On July 11, 2003, aboard Air Force One during a presidential trip to Africa, Rice was asked about the National Intelligence Estimate and whether the president knew of the dissenting views among intelligence agencies regarding Iraq\'s procurement of the aluminum tubes.

Months earlier, disagreement existed within the administration over how to characterize the aluminum tubes in a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell gave to the U.N. on February 5, 2003. Breaking ranks with others in the administration, Powell decided to refer to the internal debate among government agencies over Iraq\'s intended use of the tubes.

Asked about this by a reporter on Air Force One, Rice said: \"I\'m saying that when we put [Powell\'s speech] together... the secretary decided that he would caveat the aluminum tubes, which he did.... The secretary also has an intelligence arm that happened to hold that view.\"

Rice added, \"Now, if there were any doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president, or to me.\"

The one-page October 2002 President\'s Summary specifically told Bush that although \"most agencies judge\" that the use of the aluminum tubes was \"related to a uranium enrichment effort... INR and DOE believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons uses.\"

The lengthier NIE -- more than 90 pages -- contained significantly more detail describing the disagreement between the CIA and the Pentagon\'s DIA on one hand, which believed that the tubes were meant for centrifuges, and State\'s INR and the Energy Department, which believed that they were meant for artillery shells. Administration officials had said that the president would not have read the full-length paper. They also had said that many of the details of INR\'s dissent were contained in a special text box that was positioned far away from the main text of the report.

But the one-page summary, several senior government officials said in interviews, was written specifically for Bush, was handed to the president by then-CIA Director George Tenet, and was read in Tenet\'s presence.

In addition, Rice, Cheney, and dozens of other high-level Bush administration policy makers received a highly classified intelligence assessment, known as a Senior Executive Memorandum, on the aluminum tubes issue. Circulated on January 10, 2003, the memo was titled \"Questions on Why Iraq Is Procuring Aluminum Tubes and What the IAEA Has Found to Date.\"

The paper included discussion regarding the fact that the INR, Energy, and the United Nations atomic energy watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, all believed that Iraq was using the aluminum tubes for conventional weapons programs.

The lengthier NIE also contained a note regarding the aluminum tubes disagreement:

\"In INR\'s view, Iraq\'s efforts to acquire aluminum tubes is central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, but INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors. INR accepts the judgment of technical experts at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment and finds unpersuasive the arguments advanced by others to make the case that they are intended for that purpose.

\"INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets.\"

One week after Rice\'s comments aboard Air Force One, on July 18, 2003, the Bush administration declassified some portions of the NIE, including the passage quoted above, regarding INR\'s dissent regarding the aluminum tubes.

But the Bush administration steadfastly continued to refuse to declassify the President\'s Summary of the NIE, which in the words of one senior official, is the \"one document which illustrates what the president knew and when he knew it.\" The administration also refused to furnish copies of the paper to congressional intelligence committees.

That a summary was also prepared for Bush on the question of Saddam\'s intentions regarding an unprovoked attack on the United States is significant because the administration has claimed that the president was unaware of intelligence information that conflicted with his public statements and those of the vice president and members of his Cabinet on the justifications for attacking Iraq.

According to interviews and records, Bush personally read the one-page summary in Tenet\'s presence during the morning intelligence briefing, and the two spoke about it at some length. Sources familiar with the summary said it was highly significant that the president was informed that it was the unanimous conclusion of the intelligence agencies participating in the production of the January 2003 NIE that Saddam was unlikely to consider attacking the U.S. unless Iraq was attacked first.

Cheney received virtually the same intelligence information, according to the same records and interviews. The president\'s summaries have been shared with the vice president as a matter of course during the Bush presidency.

The conclusion among intelligence agencies that Saddam was unlikely to consider attacking the United States unless attacked first was also outlined in Senior Executive Intelligence Briefs, highly classified daily intelligence papers distributed to several hundred executive branch officials and to the congressional intelligence oversight committees.

During the second half of 2002, the president and vice president repeatedly cited the threat from Saddam in their public statements. \"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,\" Cheney declared on August 26, 2002, to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

In his September 12 address to the U.N. General Assembly, Bush said: \"With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.\"

In an October 7 address to the nation, Bush cited intelligence showing that Iraq had a fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons. \"We\'re concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States,\" the president declared.

\"We know that Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America,\" he added. \"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.\"

In his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address, the president once again warned the nation: \"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.\"

In March 2003, as American, British, and other military forces prepared to invade Iraq, the president repeated the warnings during a summit in the Azores islands of Portugal and in a March 17 speech to the nation on the eve of the war. \"The danger is clear: Using chemical, biological, or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country,\" Bush said in the March 17 speech. \"The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat. But we will do everything to defeat it.\"

Senior Bush administration officials say they had good reason to disbelieve the intelligence that was provided to them by the CIA, noting that the intelligence the agency had provided earlier regarding Iraq was flawed.

And more recently, a 511-page bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on prewar intelligence regarding Iraq concluded: \"Despite four decades of intelligence reporting on Iraq, there was little useful intelligence collected that helped analysis determine the Iraqi regime\'s possible links with Al Qaeda.\"

The White House declined to comment for this story. In a statement, Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council said, \"The president of the United States has talked about this matter directly, as have a myriad of other administration officials. At this juncture, we have nothing to add to that body of information.\"

The 9/11 commission concluded in its final report that no evidence existed of a \"collaborative operational relationship\" between Saddam and Al Qaeda, adding, \"Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with Al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.\"

Copyright 2006 by National Journal Group Inc.

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Mr Blair, you sent my son to die in a war based on lies

Pauline Hickey
The Guardian
2 Mar 06

Dear Prime Minister,

Ref: Sgt Christian Ian Hickey of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, who became 97th fatality of the Iraq conflict

As a parent yourself, you will be aware that the most precious thing we have in our lives is our children. Until four months ago, I had been blessed with two grown-up sons. I still cannot get used to speaking about one of my sons in the past tense. My youngest son Christian, 30, was a member of the armed forces; he was an exceptional character, full of fun, with great sense of humour and was a generous, caring person who brought the best in people. He was an excellent soldier, who had progressed rapidly through the ranks, and became full sergeant at the age of 29. I enclose summary from the Coldstreams\' website (Shinycapstar.com) to show I am not biased as his mother.
Since the death of my son on October 2005, three days before his tour was to end, I have started to question why the invasion of Iraq occurred. My son\'s remit in Iraq was as a \"peacekeeper\", helping with the rebuilding of schools and the infrastructure, and training the Iraqi police to enable them to maintain stability in the future. At the time of his death, Chris was the platoon commander and was responsible for clearing a safe route for a large convoy.
The Iraqi police have been implicated in the death of my son, from a roadside bomb. There will be no further investigation as they were spoken to, photographed and searched, then allowed to go as an Iraqi police service lieutenant colonel arrived and confirmed their identities. It makes nonsense of our involvement with them, as their own chief of police says that he can only trust 25% of his own men. This suggests that the remainder is made up of insurgents who would think nothing of killing coalition troops.

My son was on foot patrol when the bomb exploded. This was to minimise casualties should they come in contact with an improvised explosive device. The only vehicles available to them were fibreglass Jeeps; there were no armoured Land Rovers. The British government had sent a consignment of armoured Land Rovers for the Iraqi police prior to my son\'s death. His commanding officer spoke out about this following my son\'s death, as he had requested the essential Land Rovers but was turned down on the basis that they were not suitable for the roads. Would the Iraqi police not have been using the same roads as the troops? I understand that your wife, Cherie Blair, has a government bulletproof vehicle. I would question who is at most risk: British troops in a war zone or your wife driving around London?

Does the British government not have a duty of care to the troops in Iraq? My son had to purchase his own boots before going out to Iraq as the standard army-issued boots were unsuitable and melted in the intense heat. The British troops were known to the American troops as \"the borrowers\" due to their lack of equipment and short supplies. When the death of the 100th soldier was announced on television, I was appalled to hear that instruction had come from you not to hype up the significance of the number. If this is correct, you have little humanity and do not deserve an army who are not able to question the politics and decisions made, but have to go where they are told. I was interested to hear about Maya Anne Evans, who was arrested for peacefully reading out the names of the dead soldiers, including my son, at the Cenotaph. She was arrested by 14 police officers, received a criminal record, and was fined £100.

A Ministry of Defence poll found that up to 65% of Iraqi citizens supported attacks on British troops, less than 1% thought allied military involvement was helping their situation, and 82% were strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops in their country. For nearly two years, the British public has been inundated with US and British \"exit strategies\". You should not need such a strategy when the above statistics speak for themselves, and the Iraqi people want us out.

It is time to bring the troops home and let the people of Iraq decide their own future. The west cannot enforce a democratic government upon them. The occupation of Iraq has not achieved anything positive; the people are in a worse situation now than under Saddam Hussein. We have lost 103 dedicated soldiers. They died in a war based on lies, for nothing, and it has robbed them of a future.

Going to war is one of the most important decisions this country could have taken. It has resulted in many deaths, and has far-reaching implications for the country\'s future in the international community. From the information I have collated, the legality of the invasion is questionable - and questions must be asked and answers given. I feel it is important that, as the prime minister and the person who made the ultimate decision to invade Iraq, sending some of our troops to their death, you should have a moral duty to answer the soldiers\' families\' questions.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet you for such discussion. I personally find all forms of violence and aggression abhorrent. Conflict is rarely resolved though wars of aggression - negotiation is a much better tool to try to resolve issues. I am employed as a child protection social worker, and would be held accountable if a child was injured or died because I failed do my job adequately. There would be an inquiry. I accept this as part of my employment. However, if what I am reading about your involvement and the accusations in Philippe Sands\' book are correct - and I note you are not in the process suing him - surely you too should be accountable for your actions, and there should be redress in the form of an inquiry at the very least.

As far as I am aware, neither you nor any government representative has attended any of the soldiers\' funerals or visited the many injured. (This was recently reported as 230, while in January 2005 the figure stood at 790. I am sure who does the figures, but perhaps they should be redeployed.) The true cost of this war in terms of wasted lives of both Iraqis and of coalition troops, and the true, undisclosed financial cost, far outweigh any gains. We cannot police the whole world because they do not agree with us or will not cooperate with us. I await your response with interest.

· This is an edited version of a letter delivered by Pauline Hickey to 10 Downing Street yesterday contact@mfaw.org.uk

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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New Poll: Iraq War Not Worth Fighting for 63% in U.S.

Angus Reid Global Scan
2 Mar 06

Many adults in the United States regret their government's decision to launch the coalition effort in Iraq, according to a poll by the New York Times and CBS News. 63 per cent of respondents think the result of the war with Iraq was not worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq.

The coalition effort against Saddam Hussein's regime was launched in March 2003. At least 2,295 American soldiers have died during the military operation, and more than 16,900 troops have been wounded in action.

On Feb. 22, suspected insurgents placed two bombs inside Samarra's Shiite Golden Mosque. The event has led to several days of sectarian violence in Iraq. More than 400 people have died, and more than 180 Sunni mosques have been destroyed. 54 per cent of respondents think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq, up four points since January.

In an interview broadcast on ABC on Feb. 28, U.S. president George W. Bush declared, \"I don't buy (the) premise that there's going to be a civil war (in Iraq).\"

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\'Wash Post\' Cites \'Pressure\' on Iraq Death Count

By E&P Staff
March 01, 2006

NEW YORK A day after reporting a shockingly high death toll in the current sectarian violence -- 1,300, or about four times the official figure -- The Washington Post returned to the subject today. On Tuesday, most other news outlets, including The Associated Press and Knight Ridder, questioned the Post\'s number, which it had obtained at the Baghdad morgue.
Iraqi officials also called the 1,300 number \"inaccurate\" and \"exaggerated.\" The Post said it had received confirmation from one Iraqi official that it was at least 1,000 or more.

Today, Ellen Knickmeyer, who co-authored the Tuesday story, observed that officials overseeing Baghdad\'s morgue \"have come under pressure not to investigate the soaring number of apparent cases of execution and torture in the country, the former U.N. human rights chief for Iraq said Tuesday.

\"John Pace, who left his post this month, spoke as Iraqi and U.S. officials offered widely varying numbers for the toll so far in the explosion of sectarian violence that followed last Wednesday\'s bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

\"Pace said the pressure had come from \'both sides,\' but declined to give further details. The statement seemed to refer to both the Shiite-led government and the Sunni insurgency fighting it.\"

Knickmeyer also explained the Post\'s count: \"On Monday, workers at Baghdad\'s main morgue said that more than 1,300 bodies had been brought in since the previous Wednesday and that 200 to 300 bodies remained unclaimed. Washington Post reporters saw several dozen bodies on the floor and on gurneys and tables in the entry halls outside the main rooms of the morgue. All the dead appeared to be victims of violence, as did the men in photographs of what morgue workers said were the unclaimed dead.\"

But she added: \"On Tuesday, the acting director of the morgue, Qais Hassan, denied that the morgue had received 1,300 bodies, according to the Reuters news agency. He said only 309 bodies had come in. However, even that figure, added to the more than 80 deaths in cities outside Baghdad reported by news media from Wednesday to Monday, exceeds the 379 deaths nationwide that Jafari cited.

\"News media tolls generally are lower than the actual tally of the dead, because not all news of attacks reaches the media, and because killings with only one victim generally are not reported unless the victims are notable figures or killed in bombings.\"

Pace, speaking by phone from his home in Sydney, told the Post that some of the officials connected with the morgue had been put \"under a lot of these pressures\" and had been threatened in the past and told not to investigate the killings of those brought to the morgue \"precisely because it was considered a way of attributing responsibility for such crimes.\"

The pressure would be to underreport the numbers \"or to ignore them,\" Pace said. \"I think the pressure would be not to take into account the totality of cases.\"

\"The ultimate objective is not to count the bodies\" in political killings, Pace said. \"The objective is to use that data in order to take measures to prevent its recurrence, and to take measures to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.\"

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U.S. invasion responsible deaths of over 250,000 civilians in Iraq

by John Stokes

New studies make the Bush administration\'s \"liberation\" argument for a \'pre-emptive\' war against Iraq seem questionable.

The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 by U.S.-led coalition forces has been responsible for the death of at least 150,000 civilians (not including certain of Iraq), reveals a compilitation of scientific studies and corroborated eyewitness testimonies.

The majority of these deaths, which are in addition those normally expected from natural causes, illness and accidents, have been among women and children, documents a well-researched study, that had been released by The Lancet Medical Journal.

The report in the British journal is based on the work of teams from the Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University in the U.S., and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.

A similar methodology was used in the late 1990\'s to calculate the number of deaths from the war in Kosovo, put at 10,000.

The information was obtained as Iraqi interviewers surveyed 808 families, consisting of 7,868 people, in 33 different \"clusters\" or neighbourhoods spread across the country.

In each case, they asked how many births and deaths there had been in the home since January 2002.

That information was then compared with the death rates in each neighbourhood in the 15 months before the invasion that toppled president Saddam Hussein, adjusted for the different time frames, and extrapolated to cover the entire 24.4 million population of Iraq.

The most common cause of death is as a direct result of a worsening \'culture of violence\', mostly caused by indiscriminate U.S. co-ordinated air strikes, and related military interventions, reveals the study of almost 1000 households scattered across Iraq. And the risk of violent death just after the invasion was 58 times greater than before the war. The overall risk of death was 1.5 times more after the invasion than before.

The on-going American Occupation has also created worsened civil strife as well as mass environmental destructions and related public health problems that is associated with American bomb-related released radioactive and other life-threatening pollutions. The American Occupation has also prevailed over the neglect to the repairing of vital public services-related infrastructure, which include U.S.-led destructions of water systems.

The figure of 100,000 had been based on somewhat \"conservative assumptions\", notes Les Roberts at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, U.S., who led the study.

That estimate excludes Falluja, a hotspot for violence. If the data from this town is included, the compiled studies point to about 250,000 excess deaths since the outbreak of the U.S.-led war.

Many Americans have complained that more than $200 billion U.S. tax dollars have been diverted from vitally needed public services in the United States, into apparently reckless activities. These activities are resulting in inflicted mass-casualities against totally innocent civilians, which have worsened conditions for political extremism, and ensuing \"terrorism\".

It is well documented that such activities are being viewed by many Iraqis, and other peoples internationally, to undermine a popular feeling of international security in general. Indeed, polls suggest that Americans felt much more secure under the former political ledership of U.S. President Bill Clinton, as compared to the militaristic strategies which are being pursued by the George W. Bush administration.

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Civilians Bearing Brunt of Iraq Violence

Associated Press
3 Mar 06

AP - Insurgency-related violence last year killed more than twice as many Iraqi civilians — 4,024 people — as Iraqi soldiers and police, according to government figures obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

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Daily Look at U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq

Associated Press
3 Mar 06

AP - As of Thursday, March 2, 2006, at least 2,297 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 1,805 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

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How the US Learned to Love the Bomb (Again)

Thom Cookes reports

How do you feel about a nuclear weapon that could be launched from the back of a jeep?

The slightly bizarre idea of \'user-friendly\' nuclear weapons. On the whole score of proliferation we\'re always hearing plenty about the dangers posed by the Irans and North Koreas of this world but, as we\'re about to see, while all that has been going on the US itself has been quietly beavering away on a program aimed at completely upgrading its nuclear arsenal, including the development of tactical weapons - mini-nukes that could be used on the battlefield.

(Click link above to view the interview. Click below to expand for Transcript)
REPORTER: Thom Cookes

AMBASSADOR LINTON BROOKS: I\'m going to assume that, for the foreseeable future, that we are going to need to retain nuclear weapons and we\'re going to need to retain the capability to sustain and, if necessary, modernise them.

REPORTER: Is the US, right now, developing new nuclear weapons?

HANS KRISTENSEN, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: Right now? It\'s in the process of developing a replacement for its entire stockpile.

REPORTER: How is that affecting the talk in the Administration about arms control?

DARYL KIMBALL, DIRECTOR, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: Well, you\'re assuming that there\'s talk in the Administration about arms control, which there isn\'t and frankly, this program is not well known outside the US at this stage. It\'s not even all that well known within Congress.

At the same time that the US is applying extreme pressure to North Korea and Iran to drop their nuclear programs, it\'s quietly preparing for a new atomic age.
There\'s a push to develop new, more user-friendly weapons, such as nuclear bunker-busters, that could completely change the way wars are fought.

GENERAL EUGENE HABIGER: In my view, that is a mistake, because what you are doing, what we are doing is developing a nuclear weapon that becomes more viable to use, more attractive to use, and nuclear weapons are so horrific that it does not make sense to develop a weapon that is more attractive to use.

Throughout the four decades of the Cold War, the US maintained and developed a massive nuclear arsenal designed for just one purpose - the total annihilation of the former Soviet Union.
All the thousands of bombers, ballistic missiles and nuclear submarines were designed to deter the Soviets from even thinking of using their weapons.

DR STRANGELOVE, MOVIE CLIP: Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy the fear to attack.

The 1963 film \'Dr Strangelove\' parodied the idea of \"Mutually Assured Destruction\", a guarantee that any nuclear war was unthinkable as it would result in the end of both the US and the Soviet Union.

DR STRANGELOVE: You're talking about mass murder, General, not war.

Mr President, I'm not saying we wouldn\'t get our hair mussed but I do say no more than 10-20 million people killed, tops, ah, depending on the breaks.

This declassified footage from 1953 shows the only test ever conducted of a atomic cannon.
Almost from the beginning of US nuclear research, weapons designers were working on some extraordinary prototypes, weapons they believed could be used in a limited nuclear exchange, short of all-out war.

VOICE-OVER: This film shows the preparation, transport, delivery and emplacement of the SADM in typical parachute missions by swimmers.

The Special Atomic Demolition Munition or SADM, was a nuclear bomb strapped to the chest of a Navy Seal diver.

VOICE-OVER: The time delay between arming and detonation, pre-set during preparation of the munition, allows the swimmers time to make a safe escape.

The SADM was still in the US stockpile up until the late 1980s.

VOICE-OVER: The objective of this operation is to demonstrate the Davy Crockett.

The Davy Crockett was a tiny nuclear weapon that could be fired from the back of a Jeep. This film, from 1962, shows troops testing it out in the Nevada desert.

VOICE-OVER: The round was launched at H-17 seconds to accomplish H-hour impact on the desired ground zero at a range of 2,852m. The round was set for a low height of burst. It detonated perfectly, releasing its lethal radiation.
Immediately following the exercise the battalion employed standard unit decontamination procedures to ensure that…

GENERAL HABIGER: We were involved with the recoilless rifle and its accuracy and range and that sort of thing, so that kind of set the stage, in my early, formative years.

General Eugene Habiger helped test the Davy Crockett as a 19-year-old army private. He went on to become the Commander-in-Chief of all US nuclear forces, and, up until the late \'90s, it was General Habiger who would have received the call from the President to launch the missiles.

REPORTER: How did you feel about a nuclear weapon that could be launched from the back of a jeep? It\'s a rather extraordinary proposition.

GENERAL HABIGER: Well, as a 19-year-old young man I really didn\'t think much about the consequences at that time.

NEWSREADER: Soviet television\'s lengthy announcement last night of Mr Gorbechev\'s proposed timetable to remove from the world all nuclear missiles within 15 years..

With the end of the Cold War there was a global push for disarmament. The major nuclear powers had agreed to a ban on any weapons testing at all, and there was a hope that this was the beginning of the end for nuclear weapons.
But in the US research labs, the fascination with small, usable nuclear bombs continued, and in the early 1990s it culminated in a weapon nick-named the PLYWOOD, or precision low-yield weapons design.

HANS KRISTENSEN: There were people from the airforce and the labs that came out and sort of talked in, sort of, almost elaborate terms, glorifying terms about this fantastic weapon that you could just use without any real concern about vast collateral damage. For them it was just about destroying targets, it was just a solution. They talked about mini-nukes, micro-nukes - tiny little bombs that you could pop off here and there.

REPORTER: This is the mid \'90s we are talking about?

HANS KRISTENSEN: Early \'90s, yeah.

Hans Kristensen is a researcher at the Federation of American Scientists, and compiles the definitive annual survey of the world's nuclear weapons. He says Congress was deeply concerned by the development of mini-nukes, like this suitcase bomb.

HANS KRISTENSEN: It showed that we were not, in fact, reducing the role of nuclear weapons, we were just finding new ways of using them, and there was a strong push at the time to significantly reduce the role of nuclear weapons, not just the number of weapons but the intention we had for their use.
And so they slammed the door. They put in legislation, I think in \'93, that said they banned the labs, the Department of Energy, from doing any work on weapons that had yields below 5 kilotons, even design works, nothing.

Developing new weapons had become politically unacceptable, but in the research labs and the Pentagon, the work on new bombs continued, except now it was virtually in secret.

FILM: This is the story of the B61, the story of a nuclear weapon from concept to stockpile.

The B61 was designed in the 1960s. In the mid \'90s it was modified to become the very first nuclear bunker-buster, a bomb designed to destroy deeply buried underground targets. It became one of the most controversial weapons in the US stockpile.

HANS KRISTENSEN: Early on in the conceptual phases, in \'92, \'93, \'94, in those years, it was pretty much in the dark.
But it was interesting to note from some of the documents I got out under the Freedom of Information Act, that you could see how the military would play the political situation in Congress, at some point, when they were ready, actually, to go to Congress and say, \"Buy this weapon,\" They said, \"No, let\'s wait a minute, let's wait a few months here, because we\'re going to get an election a few months down the road and the indications are that the political climate will change, so it will be more conservative and there\'ll be a bigger chance we can get that.\"
You can actually see this. They write this in the documents. \"When is Congress going to be politically favourable to us?\"

In November 1994 the Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time in 40 years, and the B61 bunker-buster project was swiftly approved.
By 2002, with George Bush in the White House gunning for North Korea and Iran, the climate had changed entirely.

GEORGE BUSH, US PRESIDENT: States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.
The United States of America will not permit the world\'s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world\'s most destructive weapons.

After pressure from his Administration, the ban on the development of mini-nukes was quietly lifted in 2003. Ambassador Linton Brooks, a former nuclear submarine commander, is the head of the National Nuclear Security Agency and is responsible for managing the US weapons arsenal.
After the mini-nuke research ban was lifted he sent an extraordinary memo to the directors of the three nuclear research labs. Claiming that the ban had caused a \"chilling effect on nuclear weapons research and development\", he thanked the labs for their support in overturning it, saying that they \"should not fail to take advantage of this opportunity.\"

DARYL KIMBALL: Essentially what Ambassador Linton Brooks told the three lab directors was \"The ban on low-yield nuclear weapons research has been lifted. Your hands are now untied, move ahead with all speed, and go get \'em boys.\"
That was the message, and that was a bit shocking to the congressional committees who had just allowed this ban to be lifted.

The congressional committee was furious with Brooks, accusing him of lying to them. They sent back a blistering memo saying that the only message Brooks had conveyed to the weapons labs was \"that of unbridled enthusiasm for new weapons designs, and for seeking new military missions for nuclear weapons\".
What Brooks asked the labs to work on was a new, improved version of the nuclear bunker-buster, now known as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. This cold war warrior is one of the few Administration figures prepared to spell out the new nuclear agenda.

LINTON BROOKS: It is the belief of some of us that the large arsenal we have aimed at destroying an urban industrial infrastructure is not an appropriate deterrent for some potential adversaries, and therefore that one might want to look at other capabilities, and that has led to the call for some kind of earth penetrating weapon.

REPORTER: This is about the Pentagon being able to threaten or deter, if you like, North Korea or Iran or other countries from having very heavily defended and buried labs for weapons of mass destruction?

DARYL KIMBALL: Yes, they want to hold at risk these facilities. They want to have a weapon in the arsenal that could theoretically be used to knock out a facility 100ft, 200ft underground.

Critics say that conventional weapons could do the same job.

GENERAL EUGENE HABIGER: It\'s a whole new dimension, now, with precision guided munitions where you can put a warhead through a door in an underground bunker and especially with some of the technologies we\'ve got available to us today.

HANS KRISTENSEN: If you have to take out a facility, an underground facility, why would you nuke it? Why not seal the entrances? Why not make it unusable?

The Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator was initially sold as a clean, surgical weapon. It was claimed that since most of the blast would be directed underground there would be a reduced risk of radioactive fallout. But the US Government\'s own tests showed otherwise.

FILM, VOICE OVER: The 100 kiloton explosion excavated more than 6 million cubic yards of earth in a matter of seconds.
The result was a crater more than 1,200 feet in diameter, the length of four football fields and 325 feet deep - the height of a 32-storey building.

This 1962 film shows an underground nuclear explosion only a third of the size that would be produced by the new bunker-buster.
Far from being contained, half of the radioactive material was distributed as fallout over a large area, despite the charge being buried almost 200m underground.
During testing, it\'s been discovered that bunker busters are unlikely to penetrate more than about 10m.

GENERAL EUGENE HABIGER: If you use a nuclear weapon, a earth penetrator, you are still going to get ejected, coming out of the radioactive material, coming out of the crater, which is going to go into the atmosphere and kill several tens of thousands or tens of millions of people, depending on where it is used.

The Nuclear Earth Penetrator project has so far been too controversial for even a Republican-controlled Congress to approve, and for the last two years, it has knocked back funding requests by the Bush Administration.

LINTON BROOKS:: The truth of the matter is that it\'s the same thing we did 10 years ago with the B61-11, only better, and I suspect that the number of Americans who know what the B61-11 is would fit pretty comfortably into this room and the number who care would fit into a somewhat smaller room.

The nuclear bunker-buster is stalled for now, but its still alive in the minds of the weapons designers and their patrons. Behind the scenes determined lobbying goes on.

DARYL KIMBALL: The civilians in the Defence Dept, within Donald Rumsfeld\'s office, the office the Secretary of Defence, want this.

GENERAL EUGENE HABIGER: Most of the push is coming from the Department of Energy.

REPORTER: And can you speculate as to why that would be?

GENERAL EUGENE HABIGER: Well, they have a vested interest, this is their they have concerns about the security of the United States, I understand that, but this is their product, and they\'re trying to sell their product.

But the US Congress has already approved a far more ambitious program. In January this year, Congress agreed to fund the Reliable Replacement Warhead Project, a plan to completely replace the existing Cold War nuclear stockpile. This new generation of weapons is supposed to be cheaper to maintain, safer, and more reliable.

HANS KRISTENSEN: That concept is not one warhead, the concept is a replacement of potentially all the warhead types in the stockpile.

REPORTER: So, yes, they are basically redesigning their entire nuclear arsenal?

HANS KRISTENSEN: They\'re in the process of essentially gearing up to redoing the nuclear era. The existing ones we\'ve had are weapons that have served us back from the dawn of the nuclear era, so to speak - yes, they\'ve been modernised - but what they\'re now doing is saying, \"That era won\'t serve us well in the future, we have to do a new one\", so they\'re designing a new nuclear era, if you will.

Defence and the Department of Energy argue that their existing weapons are too expensive to maintain and they\'ll eventually deteriorate.

HANS KRISTENSEN: I think these weapons we have could serve the nation well for many decades. It\'s not as if they don\'t work, or we think they may not work in just a few years or even a decade. I think this has a lot to do with other things and, mind you, these programs will always be sold, with the political message that serves us at the time.

LINTON BROOKS: Some responsible critics of our policies have suggested that US R&D and weapons programs hamper our ability to advance global non-proliferation. I disagree with that.
The major non-proliferation objective for the US is to keep rogue states and terrorist groups from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Our efforts to sustain and modernise US nuclear forces don\'t increase terrorist incentives to obtain those weapons - those incentives are high and really unrelated to what we do in this area. They don\'t have much impact on rogue states, whose proliferation activities march forward independently of the US nuclear program.

But not everyone agrees with Linton Brooks\' assessment.

HANS BLIX: We have many other perspectives from many other states, parties to the NPT, which point to the fact that they feel cheated.

Hans Blix, the former UN weapons inspector, is in Washington to address an Arms Control Association meeting. Linton Brooks is in the audience.

HANS BLIX: The US points to Iraq and Libya, North Korea and Iran etc, on the other side is saying you are modernising, you are talking about bunker-busters, and Chirac the other day was talking about the possible use of French nuclear weapons in some context.
It\'s not surprising that some people feel ostracised, that they are saying, \"If you don\'t pay any attention to us, maybe we should pursue the bomb.\"

REPORTER: Do you think the United States\'s ability to walk into something like the Non-Proliferation Treaty is undercut in any way by the fact that the United States is simultaneously modernising and overhauling its nuclear stockpile? Do you think it is sending out the right message by doing that?

GENERAL EUGENE HABIGER: No, it\'s not sending out the right message. If you look at the Non-Proliferation review meeting in New York last year, our delegation was dismal at best. Our participation, as I understand it, was not very appealing or attractive.
We are passing the wrong signal on several fronts, in my view, about non-proliferation.

But perhaps the greatest great fear of arms control advocates is a resumption of nuclear testing by the US to see if their new weapons will actually work.

LINTON BROOKS: What we have learned, rightly or wrongly, is that it is really difficult to know what you want to do in the future and that has led to a great reluctance to take a formal obligation not to test.
So I think the chances of this Administration signing the comprehensive test ban treaty are pretty close to zero.

REPORTER: What would it mean if the US resumed testing? What effect would that have on the US and around the world?

DARYL KIMBALL: It would be absolutely devastating. The US is already testing the patience of the rest of the world by refusing to ratify the treaty. So I think the renewal of testing would be a blow to the NPT. It would also trigger the renewal of testing by other states. I think it would be very hard for the Russian Government to resist pressure from within to resume testing.
If the Russians resume testing I think it would also open the way for the Chinese to resume testing. The Chinese tests would lead the Indians to resume testing. The Indians would like to test. If India did, Pakistan would. So we'd have a chain reaction of nuclear testing.

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ATK bags $38 million tank ammo order for Depleted Uranium bombs

20 Feb 06

Based on a depleted-uranium penetrator, the West Virginia-produced round is billed as the most advanced armor-piercing kinetic-energy ordnance available.

\"Its state-of-the-art composite sabot, propellant, and penetrator technologies give it outstanding accuracy and lethality,\" ATK said.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Army has placed a $38 million order with Alliant Techsystems (ATK) for 120-mm ammunition for its main battle tank.

The follow-on contract announced by ATK Monday extends the original contract for M829A3 tank rounds and brings the total value of the rounds ordered in fiscal year 2006 up to $77 million. Once the new pact is completed, ATK will have delivered 35,000 M829A3 rounds to the military.

ATK says the price is worth it because it gives the U.S. M1A1 and A2 Abrams tanks unmatched punch \"designed to ensure that U.S. armored forces maintain battlefield supremacy.\"

Based on a depleted-uranium penetrator, the West Virginia-produced round is billed as the most advanced armor-piercing kinetic-energy ordnance available.

\"Its state-of-the-art composite sabot, propellant, and penetrator technologies give it outstanding accuracy and lethality,\" ATK said.

The M829A3 specs show that the 22.3-kilogram round uses 8 kilograms of solid propellent to attain a muzzle velocity of 1,555 meters per second. While the velocity isn\'t as fast as other U.S. 120-mm rounds, the 10-kg projectile is heavier than the others.

The projectile\'s use of depleted uranium shows continued confidence in the slightly radioactive but increasingly controversial depleted uranium.

Critics see the radiation of depleted uranium as a potential health hazard to tank crews and to people exposed to the material after it has been fired. Armor experts, however, maintain that the extremely heavy composition of depleted uranium makes it not only a top-notch armor-piercer but a vital hardener of the Abrams\' own armor.

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Depleted uranium: How dangerous is it?

Doug Rokke, Ph.D.
Interview by Gay Alcorn
First published in The Age: June 28th, 2003

A former US military researcher tells Gay Alcorn of his crusade to expose the health risks of depleted-uranium weapons used in the Gulf wars.
Doug Rokke sits on the edge of his chair in a beige, could-be-anywhere hotel room in Carlton. He stares at you with an almost embarrassing intensity and is close to tears.

\"It\'s lonely,\" he says slowly. \"It\'s very lonely. I made a decision. I was given a job. I did my job. I learned something. I gave them an answer they didn\'t want. I became persona non grata. And the better parts of my life ended.\"

What remains is an obsession with proving he is right about the dangers of depleted uranium (DU) weapons. A waste produced from the uranium enrichment process, depleted uranium has become increasingly contentious since American and British militaries first used it in the 1991 Gulf War and, since then, in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Rokke, a health physicist who became the Pentagon\'s most senior DU expert during the first Gulf War, became convinced it had contaminated the battlefield and could be a factor in Gulf War Syndrome, the mysterious mix of illnesses that have afflicted returning soldiers. Rokke acknowledges DU\'s brilliance as a weapon - because it is an extremely dense metal that sharpens and burns as it hits its target, it is used on the ends of tank shells and missiles to penetrate steel and concrete much more easily than conventional weapons. But he also believes that he and the research team became contaminated. \"Everybody is sick,\" he says. \"We\'ve all got rashes, respiratory and kidney problems. It\'s there; there are no two ways about it.\"

Rokke is a military veteran. He joined the US Air Force in 1967 and bombed Vietnam targets \"before I could shave\". Years later, with a master of science and expertise in environmental health, he was ordered to the Gulf to help protect American soldiers if chemical and biological weapons were used and, later, to oversee DU clean-up. He became convinced DU was causing illnesses such as cancer, and that the Pentagon was downplaying its dangers. When he went public with his views, he was sacked

He is still campaigning, and this week urged the Australian Government, which doesn\'t allow weapons to be made with DU, to test returning troops for contamination and to campaign for it to be banned globally.

DU is only slightly radioactive - far less than uranium itself - but it is also chemically toxic, and scientists are divided about whether the combination poses a serious or remote health risk to soldiers and civilians who come in contact with it or inhale its dust. Little rigorous research has been done, and Rokke\'s theories remain unproven.

The official American position is that it is safe. In March, US Army Colonel James Naughton dismissed Iraqi claims that DU weapons caused cancers and leukaemia in children who played around bombed-out tanks and buildings during the first Gulf War. He claimed the real reason Iraq complained about DU weapons was because they were so effective. \"Why do they (the then Iraqi government) want it to go away?\" Naughton asked. \"They want it to go away because we kicked the crap out of them. There is no doubt DU gave us a huge advantage over their tanks.\"

In the first Gulf War, most American deaths were from friendly-fire DU weapons. Rokke was ordered to decontaminate shot-up vehicles and tanks and to investigate health effects on troops. Dressed in protective gear and masks, he and his team crawled over tanks and other vehicles, sending some back to the US. Those considered too dangerous to move were buried in a giant hole in the ground.

In the mid-1990s, he was recalled from an academic job to head the Depleted Uranium Project in Nevada, which test-fired weapons into targets to analyse the health risks and to work out how to clean up safely.

Rokke, now 54, is convinced that he and other members of his team in Iraq were contaminated and that the tests he undertook showed that significant amounts of the DU vaporised on impact, making it extremely dangerous when inhaled. He pulls up his trouser leg to reveal the red rash he says appeared within hours of his contact with DU. He holds up his hand and moves fingers clumsily to show that his fine motor skills have gone. He has respiratory problems and cataracts and has medical reports showing that the amount of uranium in his urine is way above acceptable limits.

He has become a campaigner, not just for better clean-up and treatment, but for the weapons to be banned. \"After everything I\'ve seen, everything I\'ve done, it became very clear to me that you just can\'t take radioactive wastes from one nation and just throw it into another nation. It\'s wrong. It\'s simply wrong.\"

Depleted uranium is so cheap and effective - 350 tonnes was used in weapons in the first Gulf War and possibly 500 tonnes in this year\'s Iraq conflict - that Rokke says the US is reluctant to do proper studies of veterans or Iraqi civilians. \"It\'s the arrogance. Once they acknowledge that there are actual health effects of depleted uranium munitions, then they can\'t use them any more; the house of cards falls apart.\"

Rokke, brought to Melbourne by the Victorian Peace Network, has the single-mindedness of a whistleblower. He says he has lost friends, had his house ransacked, had his taxes audited and been publicly vilified for his outspokenness.

Concerns about DU have found some political acceptance - the British Government has announced it will test returning troops for DU contamination. But neither it, nor Washington, plan decontamination in Iraq. In the Australian Senate this week, Democrat Lynn Allison urged the Government to campaign internationally against DU in the same way it does against cluster bombs. Defence Minister Robert Hill said Australian troops in Iraq were not in areas where DU was used, and \"there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that ammunition containing depleted uranium poses a significant adverse health risk to (Australian) personnel operating in Iraq\".

The scientific evidence is cloudy because there has been so little research. It is broadly accepted that DU does little harm outside the body. But it may cause serious damage if it is inhaled. That means that people near where it is used could be contaminated, and it is possible it could seep into water tables.

Professor Brian Spratt, chairman of the British Royal Society\'s DU working group, this week told Radio National he welcomed the testing of British troops, because it meant the government \"was at least taking the issue seriously, which is a very different attitude to the American military, who seem not to be interested in having any tests for their soldiers\".

Spratt acknowledged that the issue was deeply political: the military have reasons for downplaying DU\'s health effects, and the anti-nuclear lobby have an interest in inflating them.

Rokke has faith he is doing what is right, and he clings to the belief that he is still doing the job the Pentagon ordered him to do. \"I didn\'t ask for this job,\" he says. \"I was given the job, and I\'m going to finish the job.\"

Gay Alcorn is a senior writer and former Washington correspondent for The Age.

First published in The Age: June 28th, 2003

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Flashback! UK radiation jump blamed on Iraq Depleted Uranium shells

Mark Gould and Jon Ungoed-Thomas
London Times
19 Feb 06

RADIATION detectors in Britain recorded a fourfold increase in uranium levels in the atmosphere after the "shock and awe" bombing campaign against Iraq, according to a report.

Environmental scientists who uncovered the figures through freedom of information laws say it is evidence that depleted uranium from the shells was carried by wind currents to Britain.
Government officials, however, say the sharp rise in uranium detected by radiation monitors in Berkshire was a coincidence and probably came from local sources.

The results from testing stations at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Aldermaston and four other stations within a 10-mile radius were obtained by Chris Busby, of Liverpool University's department of human anatomy and cell biology.

Each detector recorded a significant rise in uranium levels during the Gulf war bombing campaign in March 2003. The reading from a park in Reading was high enough for the Environment Agency to be alerted.

Busby, who has advised the government on radiation and is a founder of Green Audit, the environmental consultancy, believes "uranium aerosols" from Iraq were widely dispersed in the atmosphere and blown across Europe.

"This research shows that rather than remaining near the target as claimed by the military, depleted uranium weapons contaminate both locals and whole populations hundreds to thousands of miles away," he said.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) countered that it was "unfeasible" depleted uranium could have travelled so far. Radiation experts also said that other environmental sources were more likely to blame.

The "shock and awe" campaign was one of the most devastating assaults in modern warfare. In the first 24-hour period more than 1,500 bombs and missiles were dropped on Baghdad.

During the conflict A10 "tankbuster" planes - which use munitions containing depleted uranium - fired 300,000 rounds. The substance - dubbed a "silver bullet" because of its ability to pierce heavy tank armour - is controversial because of its potential effect on human health. Critics say it is chemically toxic and can cause cancer, and Iraqi doctors reported a marked rise in cancer cases after it was used in the first Gulf conflict.

The American and British governments say depleted uranium is relatively harmless, however. The Royal Society, the UK's academy of science, has also said the risk from depleted uranium is "very low" for soldiers and people in a conflict zone.

Busby's report shows that within nine days of the start of the Iraq war on March 19, 2003, higher levels of uranium were picked up on five sites in Berkshire. On two occasions, levels exceeded the threshold at which the Environment Agency must be informed, though within safety limits. The report says weather conditions over the war period showed a consistent flow of air from Iraq northwards.

Brian Spratt, who chaired the Royal Society's report, cast doubt on depleted uranium as a source but said it could have come from natural uranium in the massive amounts of soil kicked up by shock and awe.

Other experts said local environmental sources, such as a power station, were more likely at fault. The Environment Agency said detectors at other sites did not record a similar increase, which suggested a local source.

A MoD spokesman said the uranium was of a "natural origin" and there was no evidence that depleted uranium had reached Britain from Iraq.

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IAEA says NO evidence of Iranian n-weapons plan

By Atul Aneja
The Hindu
2 Mar 06

DUBAI: As the countdown for a crucial meeting on Iran on March 6 gets under way, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has revealed that it has not found any evidence that Teheran had diverted material towards making atomic weapons.

In its report which has been circulated to its 35 board members, the IAEA said that its three years of investigations had not shown \"any diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices\", the Associated Press reported.
Cooperation sought

However, it called upon Iran to substantially increase its cooperation with the IAEA inspectors as the agency has not been able \"to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran.\"

Without heightened cooperation, the agency would be unable to establish whether some of Iran\'s past nuclear activities under wraps were not linked to the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki who has been visiting Japan said, \"They (IAEA) could not find evidence which shows that Iran has diverted from its peaceful purposes of nuclear activities in Iran.\" The report is likely to strongly influence the March 6 meeting in Vienna where the IAEA board is expected to discuss the future course of action on Iran.

On February 4, the board had decided to report Iran\'s case to the U.N. Security Council, which can take action against Iran, including the imposition of economic sanctions.

Buoyed by the report, Iran is rushing the head of its Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Larijani to Russia for another round of talks.

A Russian delegation led by Sergei Kiriyenko held talks with Iran over the weekend.

These discussions had revolved around the establishment of a joint venture facility in Russia, which would produce enriched uranium for generating electricity.

That meeting produced an \"agreement in principle\" on this subject.

However, later, differences appear to have surfaced on another issue - on whether Iran would be allowed to operate a small-scale enrichment plant for research purposes.

The IAEA report said that Iran had begun enrichment using 10 centrifuges - a move which can result in the production of only minute quantities of enriched uranium.

Copyright © 2006, The Hindu

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Iran Says U.S. Sabotaging Nuke Deal

March 2, 2006

Iran\'s top nuclear negotiator on Thursday insisted that bilateral talks should continue on a Russian offer to enrich uranium for Iran and warned that handing over the nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council - as the United States has demanded - would kill Moscow\'s initiative.

\"America is lying, trying to destroy the Russian proposal,\" Ali Larijani said at a news conference. \"The Americans\' insistence on handing over the Iranian nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council means the destruction of the Russian proposal.\"
Larijani said his team had put forward a \"package proposal\" in Wednesday\'s talks in Moscow, denying that the discussions had ended in failure. \"We need to give diplomats time to look at it,\" he said.

Russia has urged Iran to freeze its domestic uranium enrichment program as a condition for its offer to create a joint venture to enrich uranium for Tehran on Russian territory. But Larijani reaffirmed Tehran\'s refusal to give it up following Wednesday\'s talks. The point was reinforced by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said during a visit to Malaysia that \"it is very clear that we are not open to negotiating on our inalienable rights.\"

A Russian nuclear agency official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press, said the Moscow talks had snagged over Iran\'s refusal to return to a moratorium on enrichment.

\"They are ready in principle to accept our proposal, but we don\'t want to discuss it separately\" from the need for Iran to return to the moratorium, the official said.

Talks between Russia and Iran resumed on Thursday, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, quoting an unnamed official close to the negotiations.

\"Consultations are taking place,\" the official was quoted as saying by ITAR-Tass, without specifying who was participating in the talks on either side. The Iranian delegation was to expected to fly out of Moscow later Thursday ahead of talks in Vienna with three European nations due to take place on Friday.

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that Iran\'s persistence in conducting its own enrichment gave reason to hand over the Iranian nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council.

\"The Americans are saying one thing in words, but then they throw a spanner into the works,\" Larijani said.

Larijani said Tehran will conduct separate talks with Britain, France and Germany - which have represented the European Union in nuclear negotiations with Iran - before a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency\'s governing board on Monday.

The Vienna-based IAEA board of governors could start a process leading to punishment by the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to impose sanctions on Iran.

Iran insists its nuclear program is only to generate power, but many in the West fear Iran is aiming to develop atomic weapons.

Moscow\'s offer to have Iran\'s uranium enrichment program transferred to Russia has been backed by the United States and the EU as a way to provide more assurances that Tehran\'s atomic program could not be used to build weapons.

Larijani also said Tehran would accept inspections by the United Nations nuclear watchdog if the IAEA allows it to pursue its nuclear program.

Asked about IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei\'s reported statement that the world may have to get used to the idea of Iran\'s having limited enrichment capabilities, Larijani said it reflected a \"realistic approach.\"

\"I hope that people and ears can be found to listen to this proposal. I think that Mr. ElBaradei\'s idea can be turned into a new formula, it can be studied,\" he said.

©MMVI The Associated Press.

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The wrong way to fix Iran

By Charles A. Kupchan and Ray Takeyh
Los Angeles Times
28 Feb 06

THE BUSH administration quietly orchestrated a major shift in U.S. policy toward Iran this month, requesting $85 million from Congress to help bring about regime change in Tehran. Washington is now seeking not just to contain Tehran\'s nuclear ambitions but also to topple the Iranian government.

The war in Iraq has made all too clear the high cost of using military force to attain regime change. Accordingly, the administration is taking a page from Eastern Europe, where the United States used radio broadcasts and direct assistance to opposition groups to help undermine authoritarian governments and promote democracy. Administration officials explicitly cited Poland\'s Solidarity movement as a model.
Although democratizing Iran is a worthy objective, the administration is making a mistake in embracing a strategy for regime change based on the European experience. Conditions in Iran bear little resemblance to those that accompanied the downfall of dictatorial regimes in Europe, making it likely that the administration\'s new strategy will backfire and only strengthen Tehran\'s hard-liners. Instead of isolating Iran and seeking to undermine the regime from the outside, Washington should engage Iran, bringing about a natural process of political reform from within.

Across Eastern Europe, the opposition movements that toppled communism - and have more recently brought democracy to places such as Georgia and Ukraine - were avowedly pro-American. Dissidents were only too happy to receive assistance from Washington and to identify themselves with U.S. policy. Alignment with the U.S. remains a valuable political asset for Europe\'s new democracies.

Not so in Iran. A pronounced suspicion of the U.S. spans the political spectrum. The Bush administration\'s rhetorical - and now financial - support for the Iranian people only makes life more difficult for the democratic advocates it is intended to buttress. Iranian conservatives continue to respond to U.S. \"interference\" by cracking down on dissidents whom they portray as a \"fifth column.\" Even those reformers with pro-American inclinations have been forced to cover their backs by denouncing American belligerence.

In Eastern Europe, the regimes felled by democratic revolt were brittle and illegitimate; they had long been discredited in the eyes of their citizens. In contrast, Iran\'s current regime enjoys considerable popularity. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been quite adept at wrapping himself in the mantle of nationalism. The Bush administration fails to appreciate that its coercive diplomacy on the nuclear issue is undercutting its effort to drain support from Iran\'s leaders.

The centralized regimes of Eastern Europe also maintained tight control over the media, so U.S. broadcasts and the covert distribution of information played a vital role in fostering democratic debate. Such measures will prove far less effective in Iran, where access to cellphones, the Internet and satellite TV is widespread. Although Iran does not have a free press, domestic debate is reasonably pluralistic.

The U.S. has a stake in Iran\'s internal power struggles, and the administration is right to want to undermine Iran\'s reactionary clerics. However, the best way to do so is to offer the Iranian people not radio broadcasts in Farsi but the realistic prospect of integration into the international community. Doing this gradually, starting with the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, the U.S. can encourage Tehran to embrace decentralization, accountability and transparency - political practices that ultimately will bring down Ahmadinejad and his firebrand conservatives.

Moreover, Washington would be investing in a repository of goodwill within Iran, essential to nurturing a new generation of reformers that sees the U.S. as a prospective partner rather than the Great Satan. Coercive threats are needed to persuade Tehran to abandon its efforts to acquire the technology to produce nuclear weapons. But those threats must be accompanied by credible promises of political normalization should Tehran veer from its belligerent policies. Otherwise, only the hard-liners - who rely on external demons and isolation from the international community to justify their monopoly on power - benefit.

Eastern Europe\'s would-be democrats knew that the West was waiting for their countries with open arms, encouraging them to take the earliest opportunity to discard their repressive regimes. In a region still beset by deep distrust of American motives, Iran\'s progressives now need the same assurance.

CHARLES A. KUPCHAN is a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. RAY TAKEYH is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Rel

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

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Iran claims Israel has over 200 nuclear warheads

2 Mar 06

Teheran has information suggesting that Israel\'s nuclear arsenal exceeds 200 warheads.

\"Israel\'s nuclear potential exceeds 200 warheads. The U.S., meanwhile, is pursuing a policy aimed at distracting attention from this problem,\" Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani told the press in Moscow on Thursday.

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No deal at last-minute Iran-EU nuclear talks

Associated Press
3 Mar 06

VIENNA (AFP) - European Union powers and Iran failed to strike a deal in last-ditch talks on Tehran's suspect nuclear program ahead of a crucial UN meeting that could open the way to punitive action.

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After Afghanistan trip, Bush unlikely to see US troops in Iraq

Agence France Presse
3 Mar 06

AFP - President George W. Bush regularly reminds Americans that he is the "commander in chief", but nobody expects to see him with US troops in Iraq any time soon.

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Outlook worsens in Afghanistan

By Seattle Times news services
2 Mar 06

KABUL, Afghanistan - Fighting between U.S. forces and suspected Taliban rebels on Tuesday killed one American service member and wounded two others in southern Afghanistan, as military officials in Washington and Afghanistan said insurgent attacks rose sharply last year and are likely to worsen in 2006.
A military vehicle was damaged by a roadside bomb during the fighting in Afghanistan\'s central province of Uruzgan in which seven suspected Taliban guerrillas were captured. .

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, appearing with Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, said attacks within Afghanistan were up 20 percent between 2004 and 2005, suicide bombings increased \"almost fourfold\" and 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.

But Maples warned of a persistent and growing threat from forces loyal to the Taliban regime, which was supported by al-Qaida and allowed the terrorist network to operate training camps in the country before the U.S.-led invasion.

\"The Taliban-dominated insurgency remains capable and resilient,\" Maples said.

Maples\' comments about Afghanistan followed numerous attacks and bombings in recent months that have underscored the government\'s inability to control territory beyond the capital of Kabul, particularly in southern areas that have long been Taliban strongholds.

One of the most disturbing trends has been a surge in the number of suicide bombings, which were rare in Afghanistan before the Taliban regime was toppled. Maples also pointed to a rise in the use of so-called improvised explosive devices, typically roadside bombs that can be detonated remotely.

Compiled from The Associated Press, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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More Torture in Occupied Afghanistan

By Ted Rall

NEW YORK--\"In one of the great deceptive maneuvers in U.S. history,\" Bob Herbert wrote recently, \"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.\" Herbert, one of the New York Times\' better pundits, ought to know better than to point to Afghanistan as the right fight at the right time. But he\'s not the only Pollyanna of America\'s other dirty war.
During his 2004 presidential primary campaign Howard Dean said: \"Our military has done an absolutely terrific job in Afghanistan, which is a war I supported...I believe that, had Saddam been captured earlier, we might have been able to spend more time looking for Osama bin Laden, which is the real problem.\" John Kerry took the same position--Afghanistan war good/part of war on terror, Iraq war bad/distraction--in his run against Bush.

And so has the citizenry. Public disgust for the Iraq War, news coverage of which has been dominated by soaring body counts, torture scandals and the outbreak of civil war, has become bipartisan--only 30 percent of Americans tell the February 27 CBS News poll that they still support it.

The popularity of the occupation of Afghanistan, on the other hand, is a given. The U.S. military backing of Afghan president Hamid Karzai is so widely accepted that pollsters no longer ask voters about it. Opposition? There isn\'t any.

Liberal magazines like The Nation and The Progressive, the Air America radio network and the leftie blogosphere are packed with ferocious insults and attacks on the Bush Administration about the Iraq War, from how they conned us into it to their lack of postwar strategic planning to the profiteering and looting that ensued. But when Afghanistan makes one of its rare appearances in the leftie media, it\'s invariably held up as the war Bush ought to be fighting, the good war that got sidetracked when we went into Iraq.

Everyone loves Bush\'s war against Afghanistan, even though it was based on just as many lies as his assault on Iraq: Osama bin Laden probably wasn\'t in Afghanistan on 9/11 and was certainly not there by the time bombs began falling. People approve even though, as in Iraq, Bush didn\'t send enough troops--8,000 where 500,000 were required--to provide basic security. Even though Afghans didn\'t greet us as liberators. Even though, as in Iraq, he installed a government composed of corrupt, violent and vengeful minorities, guaranteeing sectarian bloodshed and civil war.

And even though the news from U.S.-occupied Afghanistan--if you can find any--is as relentlessly bleak as that from Iraq. Afghanistan suffers its own litany of roadside bombs, suicide bombs, massacres of foreign aid workers, citizens terrorized by kidnappers and rapists. It even has its own Abu Ghraib.

U.S. troops are jailing, torturing and occasionally murdering about 500 uncharged (and therefore legally innocent) inmates at a top-secret makeshift concentration camp at a disused Soviet-era machine shop at Bagram, about 40 miles south of Kabul. \"Some of the detainees,\" reports the New York Times, \"have already been held at Bagram for as long as two or three years.\" The paper says that the Bagram camp is \"in many ways rougher and more bleak\" than the notorious U.S. gulag at Guantánamo. \"Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages...sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for latrines.\" And if Abu Ghraib serves as a guide, check out what Army interrogator and self-admitted prisoner abuser Anthony Lagouranis says about those \"terrorists\": \"90 percent of them were probably innocent.\"

It\'s widely accepted that the torture at Abu Ghraib, combined with U.S. troops\' rough and intimidating treatment of civilians on streets and in their homes, motivates Iraqis to join, fund and provide logistical support to a growing resistance movement. Now we know that the same thing is going on in Afghanistan. When will American public opinion catch up with reality?

Both wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are equally unjustifiable, illegal, corrupt and unwinnable. Both make us less humane and less safe. Anti-Iraq War liberals who have given the Administration a free pass on Afghanistan have merely encouraged more abuse. \"For some reason,\" a senior Bush official marvels to the Times, \"people did not have a problem with Bagram. It was in Afghanistan.\"

Ted Rall, is an award-winning commentator who also works as an illustrator, columnist, and radio commentator. Visit his websigte www.tedrall.com

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High school in turmoil over teacher\'s remarks

By Kevin Vaughan and Felix Doligosa Jr.
Rocky Mountain News
March 2, 2006

AURORA - Controversy over a high school teacher\'s comparison of President Bush to Adolf Hitler erupted into a day of turmoil Thursday - with a student protest, a threatened lawsuit and dueling talk shows.

At the center of the storm was Overland High School teacher Jay Bennish, whose lecture in a world geography class last month also included harsh words about capitalism, U.S. foreign policy and the invasion of Iraq.

At one point in a 21- minute, 40-second recording of the lecture, Bennish called America \"probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth.\"
Bennish, who has been a teacher at Overland since 2000, has been suspended and is under investigation for violating a school district policy that requires teachers to present varying viewpoints. He has hired a lawyer and may fight back in court as early as today.

\"I know about 10 federal judges who are more than willing to teach the Cherry Creek School District what the First Amendment is all about,\" his attorney, David Lane, said Thursday.

Lane said he expects to file a federal lawsuit as early as this morning, and that seeking a court order to return Bennish to the classroom is one option he might pursue.

He called district administrators \"scared little rabbits\" who bowed to pressure from parents when they suspended Bennish.

Bennish did not return a message left at his Capitol Hill apartment, and Lane said the teacher would not comment.

The controversy began brewing Feb. 1, the day after Bush\'s State of the Union address, when a student used his MP3 player to record a portion of Bennish\'s lecture.

After the student\'s father complained to school officials, he took the recording to KOA radio talk show host Mike Rosen, who put it on the Internet and played parts of it on his radio program.

The school district promptly suspended Bennish, concluding that, at a minimum, his comments breached a policy requiring teachers to be \"as objective as possible and to present fairly the several sides of an issue\" when tackling subjects with religious, political, economic or social implications.

School district spokeswoman Tustin Amole said that Bennish would have been within his rights to say everything he did if he also had provided opposing views.

\"It appears that they were inappropriate because they didn\'t contain the balance,\" Amole said. \"For example, he talks at one point about human rights. He didn\'t say, \'All right, that\'s my opinion, here\'s what other people have to say about it.\' \"

Bennish\'s statements ran the gamut.

He said that in Bush\'s State of the Union speech, the president was, in effect, \"threatening the whole planet.\"

\"Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say - we\'re the only ones who are right, everyone else is backwards,\" Bennish said.

He told students he was \"not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same.\"

\"But,\" he said, \"there\'s some eerie similarities to the tones that they use.\"

He talked extensively about U.S. foreign policy and capitalism. At one point, he questioned Bush\'s stated belief that democracy is the solution to bloodshed in the Middle East.

\"Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth?\" Bennish asked. \"The United States of America, and we\'re a democracy - quote, unquote.\"

On capitalism, he questioned whether it did anything to provide \"everybody in the world with the basic needs that they need.\"

\"Do you see how this economic system is at odds with humanity, at odds with caring and compassion?\" he asked.

At the end of his talk, Bennish told students he was \"not in any way implying that you should agree with me. I don\'t even know if I\'m necessarily taking a position. But what I\'m trying to do is get you to think about these issues more in-depth.\"

Thursday began with hundreds of students - estimates varied from 200 to 700 - walking out of Overland High, located at 12400 E. Jewell Ave.

The students crowded the pedestrian bridge over Jewell chanting, \"Freedom of speech, let him teach.\" Some wore duct tape over their mouths.

But others took the side of the student who recorded Bennish\'s talk, writing \"Teach, don\'t preach\" on their T-shirts.

\"It\'s not fair,\" said Stacy Caruso, a 17-year-old junior. \"He spoke his mind. We have Christian groups in school, and they\'re not censored.\"

Caruso has taken Bennish\'s classes for the past two years and praised his approach to teaching. When studying China, his class learned about sweatshop labor. When they read about Japan, students learned about the Japanese imprisoned in American concentration camps, she said.

\"We want to know what\'s going on in the world,\" she said.

But Derek Belloni, who once had Bennish as a teacher, believes high school students are too impressionable and that the teacher\'s views are inappropriate.

\"He is making interpretation as facts,\" said Belloni, an 18-year-old senior. \"He\'s preaching politics in geography class. You don\'t teach math in an English class.\"

\"He wants these kids to become liberals,\" he said.

While Bennish and the district may disagree over the limits of his First Amendment rights, school officials gave students permission to exercise theirs as long as they were back in class for the start of third period.

By the end of the day, talk radio hosts, national news and political commentators, and bloggers had all weighed in.

The outcry came as a surprise to the student who recorded Bennish\'s lecture. Sean Allen is a 16-year-old sophomore whose political upbringing has been varied - his mother is a Democrat and his father is a Republican.

But Allen found himself at the vortex of the debate Thursday - alternately reviled and hailed, unsure of whether to return to school, talking nonstop to reporters and talk show hosts.

He called it \"probably one of the longer days of my life.\" Some people called him a \"snitch\" while others told him he \"did the right thing.\" He said he made the recording because he grew tired of Bennish\'s lectures.

\"It happened pretty much daily,\" he said.

Lane, Bennish\'s lawyer, said discourse at that level appropriately challenges students.

\"The nature of his class is to put out controversial ideas and let the students respond, to teach them to think critically,\" Lane said. \"Frequently he\'ll put out ideas he has absolutely no belief in whatsoever. . . . \"That\'s the exercise in teaching them how to think critically and not accept what anybody says at face value, either the government or him.\"

Educator talks to students

Excerpts of comments made by Overland High School teacher Jay Bennish in a geography class Feb. 1:

Discussing President Bush\'s speech the previous night:

\"The implication was that the solution to the violence in the Middle East is democratization. And the implication through his language was that democracies don\'t go to war. Democracies aren\'t violent. Democracies won\'t want weapons of mass destruction. This is called blind, naive faith in democracy. Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth? (student answer - \"India\") The United States of America, and we\'re a democracy, quote, unquote. Who has the most weapons of mass destruction in the world? (student answer - unintelligible) United States. Who is continuing to develop new weapons of mass destruction as we speak? (student answer - unintelligible) United States.\"

\"Now I\'m not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same. Obviously they\'re not. But there\'s some eerie similarities to the tones that they use. Very, very ethnocentric. We\'re right. You\'re all wrong. I just keep waiting. I mean, at some point in time I think America and Mexico might go to war again, you know? Any time Mexico plays the USA in a soccer match, what can be heard chanting all game long? (student answer - unintelligible) Pretty close. Pretty close. Now, do all Mexicans dislike the United States? No. Do all Americans dislike Mexico? No. But there\'s a lot of resentment, not just in Mexico, but all across the whole world, towards America right now.\"

\"You need to understand something - that when al-Qaida attacked America on Sept. 11, in their view they\'re not attacking innocent people. The CIA had an office in the World Trade Center. The Pentagon is a military target. The White House was a military target. Congress is a military target. The World Trade Center is the economic center of our entire economy. The FBI, who tracks down terrorists and so on and so forth around the world, has offices in the World Trade Center. Some of the companies that work in the World Trade Center are these huge, multinational corporations that are directly involved in the military industrial complex, in supporting corrupt dictatorships in the Middle East. And so in the minds of al-Qaida, they\'re not attacking innocent people. They\'re attacking legitimate targets, people who have blood on their hands as far as they\'re concerned. We portray them as innocent because they are our friends and neighbors, family, loved ones. I mean I had one of my best friends from high school, elementary school and birth, lives in lower Manhattan. . . .

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Students Protest After Teacher Suspended for Bush-Hitler Comments

2 Mar 06

A Colorado school is in upheaval following the suspension of a teacher who was recorded comparing President Bush\'s rhetoric to that of Adolf Hitler.

More than 100 students at Overland High School in Aurora, Colo., walked out of class this morning to protest the decision to put geography teacher Jay Bennish on administrative leave.
The school administration made the move after a student went public with a 20-minute recording of Bennish\'s comments to his class.

In the tape, the teacher is heard saying there were similarities between remarks Bush made in his State of the Union address and \"things that Adolf Hitler used to say.\"

Superintendent Monte Moses told ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV that policy calls for both sides of an issue to be presented to students. He said Bennish\'s presentation appeared unbalanced.

Sophomore Takes Recording to Radio Station

The recording was made by 16-year-old sophomore Sean Allen the day after the president\'s speech. Allen said he had been disturbed by \"political rants\" he heard in Bennish\'s class.

\"So these kids are going to have notes on why George Bush is related to Hitler and why the state of Israel was founded on violence and terrorism,\" Allen told KHOW Radio Wednesday when he went public with his tape.

\"These kids are going to have notes on this and accept that as fact.\"

On the tape, Bennish, who has taught in the Colorado district for five years, is heard quoting part of the State of the Union address: \"It is our duty as Americans to use the military to go out in the world and make the world like us.\" Bennish continues: \"Sounds a lot like what Adolph Hilter used to say.\"

\"We do want teachers to express their opinions, but to put that in context and to provide opposing points of view,\" Moses said. \"All discussion must be fair and balanced.\"

\"[The suspension] is not a disciplinary action. It is to give us enough time to sit down and gather all the facts,\" said Moses.

Tustin Amole, a Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman, told KMGH that an investigation of the incident would take about a week.

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Bush goes on \'trial\' in Morris - Parsippany students confront issues of terrorism and war

2 Mar 06

PARSIPPANY -- President Bush is being tried for \"crimes against civilian populations\" and \"inhumane treatment of prisoners\" at Parsippany High School, with students arguing both sides before a five-teacher \"international court of justice.\" The panel\'s verdict could come as soon as Friday.

Teacher Joseph Kyle said the \"hearing\"-- he preferred that term to trial -- opened on Monday in a senior advanced placement government class. The school\'s principal said he signed off in advance on the subject matter.
\"I knew it was a sensitive topic. Morris County is a conservative county. Parsippany is a conservative district,\" Kyle, 37, a teacher at the high school since 1998, said on Wednesday evening.

Alumnus disturbed

Former county Sheriff John Fox of Parsippany denounced the weeklong hearing -- where students debated whether Bush is a war criminal and questioned classmates playing administration officials and the Army general who oversaw Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq -- as \"terrible\"and \"disturbing.\"

\"Those are young, impressionable minds those people have control over. We don\'t need those liberal academics doing what they\'re doing. I find that offensive,\" said Fox, a Republican who graduated from Parsippany High School.

Kyle declined to discuss his opinion of Bush, the war in Iraq or the U.S. response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said he isn\'t trying to show up the president.

\"President Bush is often tried in absentia all around the world,\" Kyle said.

\"All we hear in the papers is, war crimes this, war crimes that -- without even hearing a defense. It would be irresponsible for a teacher to pretend that isn\'t happening,\" Kyle said.

Defense begins

At the high school, prosecutors rested on Wednesday following testimony from nine \"witnesses,\" Kyle said.

The prosecution list included Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen allegedly tortured by U.S. forces; international human rights attorney Michael Ratner; Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell; retired CIA foreign policy analyst Ray McGovern; and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were called by the defense before the seventh-period class concluded, Kyle said.

The defense will resume its case today with eight additional witnesses and, possibly, a verdict -- decided by two English teachers, one history teacher, a guidance counselor and someone from the school\'s media department, Kyle said.

Morris County Freeholder Jack Schrier, a Republican, said he was \"truly outraged\" by the war crimes hearing.

\"It\'s not un-American. We do have freedom of thought and freedom of speech. But we\'re a nation at war. Not only this teacher, but so many others in the nation, have lost sight of that,\" Schrier said.

Principal supportive

High school Principal Anthony Sciaino defended Kyle.

\"I think that the way he\'s doing it, in that it\'s more of a debate, makes it ideal and connects perfectly with the AP government curriculum,\" Sciaino said.

Kyle is no stranger to controversial topics. Starting on Tuesday, his sophomore class will put former President Andrew Jackson on trial for alleged abuses against Native Americans.

Kyle insisted that he doesn\'t have a partisan agenda. While teaching at Montclair High School, he conducted an impeachment trial of President Clinton while he was in office.

\"There\'s nothing bad with exploring evidence on both sides,\" Kyle said.

Kyle said he received several letters from parents who were \"all complimentary\" of the war crimes hearing.

One thing that Kyle said he would like to keep private is the verdict.

\"That decision is going to be sealed,\" he said, explaining that students will be told the outcome but asked not to tell others.

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Details Emerge in Latest Plame Emails

By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t Investigative Report
01 March 2006

The White House confirmed Tuesday that it recently turned over to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald 250 pages of emails from the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney related to covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a vocal critic of the Bush administration\'s pre-war Iraq intelligence. The emails were not submitted three years ago when then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered White House staffers to turn over all documents that contained any reference to Valerie and Joseph Wilson.

Gonzales\'s directive in October 2003 came 12 hours after he was told by the Justice Department that it was launching an investigation to find out who leaked Plame Wilson\'s undercover CIA status to reporters in what appeared to be an attempt to discredit and silence her husband from speaking out against the administration\'s rationale for war. Gonzales spent two weeks with other White House attorneys screening emails and other documents his office received before turning them over to Justice Department investigators.

News of the 250 pages of emails was revealed to Libby\'s attorneys during a court hearing Friday.
In addition to witness testimony, investigators working with Fitzgerald are said to have discovered the existence of the emails from computers that investigators had confiscated from the Office of the Vice President, people familiar with developments in the investigation said.

Attorneys for Libby and the US District Court reporter in the Libby case, William McAllister, reading from Friday\'s transcript of the hearing, confirmed that Libby\'s defense attorneys were told during Friday\'s hearing that the emails were recently turned over by the White House to Fitzgerald.

According to a copy of the transcript from Friday\'s hearing, Libby\'s attorney, Ted Wells, said he was \"told that there are an additional approximately 250 pages of documents that are emails from the office of the vice president,\" the transcript states.

Your Honor, may recall that in earlier filings it was represented or alluded to that certain e-mails had not been preserved in the White House. That turns out not to be true. There were some e-mails that weren\'t archived in the normal process but the office of the vice president or the office of administration I guess it is has been able to recover those e-mails. Gave those to special counsel I think only on February 6 and those again are going to be produced to us. We don\'t know what\'s in there. We\'ve been led to believe it\'s probably not anything startling in those e-mails.

A spokesman for Cheney would only confirm the accuracy of what was said in court: that the White House recently turned over the emails. The spokesman would not comment further.

Remarkably, other than a brief citation buried inside an Associated Press story, Friday\'s development about the White House\'s \"discovery\" of the 250 pages of emails was not covered by any major news media.

But that particular bit of courtroom dialogue between Libby\'s attorneys and Specials Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was an explosive development in the three year-old criminal probe.

For one thing, it raises numerous questions: why weren\'t the emails located in late 2003, when Gonzales enjoined roughly 2,000 White House staffers to turn over any communication about Plame Wilson and her husband, as so ordered by a Justice Department subpoena? Do the emails provide greater insight into the campaign to discredit Wilson and identify the officials who unmasked his wife\'s undercover CIA status to reporters?

A spokesperson for Gonzales did not return numerous calls for comment. But sources close to the investigation said that unnamed senior officials in Cheney\'s office had deleted some of the emails before Fitzgerald learned of their existence earlier this year, and others never turned them over to Gonzales as requested. Separately, according to people close to Fitzgerald\'s probe, there are some emails that Gonzales has refused to turn over to Fitzgerald, citing \"executive privilege\" and \"national security.\"

It\'s unclear whether a formal subpoena was issued to the White House for the emails or whether the request came in the form of a letter from Fitzgerald. Sources said the White House did not voluntarily turn them over to Fitzgerald\'s staff.

The emails from Cheney\'s office that were turned over to Fitzgerald earlier this month were written by senior aides and sent to various officials at the State Department, the National Security Council, and the Office of the President. The emails were written as early as March 2003 - four months before Plame Wilson\'s cover was blown in a report written by conservative columnist Robert Novak. The contents of the emails are said to be damning, according to sources close to the investigation who are familiar with their substance. The emails are said to implicate Cheney in a months-long effort to discredit Wilson - a fact that Cheney did not disclose when he was interviewed by federal investigators in early 2004, these sources said.

The emails also show I. Lewis \"Scooter\" Libby, Cheney\'s former chief of staff who was indicted in October on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators related to his role in the leak, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, as well as former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton and other top officials in the vice president\'s office also took part in discussions about ways in which the administration could respond to Wilson\'s public criticism about the Bush administration\'s use of intelligence that claimed Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Niger.

Wilson had traveled to Niger in February 2002 on behalf of the CIA to investigate those claims and reported back that there was no substance to the allegations. But the Niger uranium claims made it into President Bush\'s January 2003 State of the Union address and Wilson had accused the administration of \"twisting\" intelligence on the Iraqi threat to win public support for the war.

Cheney and his senior aides did not disclose to federal investigators the fact that they either received or sent emails about either Joseph Wilson or Valerie Plame Wilson when they were first questioned about their knowledge and/or role in the leak in early 2004, people close to the investigation said.

Witnesses who work or worked at the CIA, the National Security Council, and the State Department who have been interviewed in the case, and some of who are cooperating with the probe, said they told Fitzgerald that they had received or sent emails to senior aides in Vice President Cheney\'s office, the State Department and the National Security Council as early as March 2003 about Joseph Wilson.

Other emails show that in mid-June 2003 these officials had sent emails that mentioned \"Valerie Wilson\" - not Valerie Plame - and her employment with the CIA, sources close to the leak investigation said.

One email about Wilson and his wife is said to have been sent by Libby to an unknown senior individual at the National Security Council in early June 2003, after Libby was told by Marc Grossman, then Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, that Wilson\'s wife worked for the CIA and that Grossman\'s colleagues told him that Plame Wilson was involved in organizing Wilson\'s trip to Niger in February 2002 to investigate whether Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country.

However, copies of the emails were never found in the more than 10,000 documents that Fitzgerald\'s staff has collected during the course of their investigation, the sources said.

Rove and Libby both testified that they learned about Plame Wilson from reporters - a fact disputed by the emails and witness testimony - and that they were not involved in a campaign to discredit Wilson. Rove remains under scrutiny. Rove\'s attorney, Robert Luskin, did not return calls for comment.

Hadley\'s role in the leak is also being closely looked at by Fitzgerald and his staff, sources said, adding that new evidence has surfaced showing that the National Security Adviser played an intimate role in the effort to discredit Wilson and that he may be one of the still unnamed administration officials who spoke to reporters about Plame Wilson\'s work for the CIA.

Jason Leopold spent two years covering California\'s electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak investigation, and is a regular contributor to t r u t h o u t.

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Senate approves Patriot Act renewal

Jeannie Shawl
March 02, 2006 3:33 PM ET

The US Senate [official website] has approved a long-term renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act [PDF text; JURIST news archive] by a vote of 89-10 [roll call vote]. The vote was expected [JURIST report] after the Senate approved amendments to the USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005 [bill summary] which incorporate additional civil liberties protections: allowing recipients of Section 215 subpoenas for information in terror investigations to be able to challenge the accompanying gag order; eliminating a requirement that people who receive National Security Letters (NSL) [sample text, PDF; ACLU backgrounder] must provide the FBI the names of lawyers consulted about the NSL; and clarifying current law to ensure that libraries functioning in their traditional roles would not be subject to NSLs.

The renewal legislation now goes to the House for approval, where it is expected to pass. Sixteen provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire at the end of last year, but members of Congress were unable to reach agreement on the terms of the renewal, prompting instead two short-term extensions [JURIST report]. The renewal legislation will make 14 of the provisions permanent and extend the remaining two until 2009. The current legislation is set to expire March 10.

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Scum-sucking traitors to their country

3 Mar 06

The next time some loudmouth partisan puke Democrat gets in my face and starts yapping about how much better things would be if his party were running the government in Washington, I\'m going to pull out the vote tally sheet for the USA Patriot Act in Thursday\'s Senate session and ram it down his lying throat.
Where was his party when it came time to take a stand for freedom in this country? Hiding like a coward, that\'s where. Only nine Democrats and one independent - former Republican Jim Jeffords - had guts enough to vote against reauthorizing the fascist piece of crap called the Patriot Act.

The rest, including Harry Reid, that scum-sucking capitulator who claims to be the Senate Democratic leader, dropped their pants, bent over, grabbed their ankles and handed George W. Bush the k-y jelly and said \"bung-hole me all you want sir. I like getting screwed by dictators.\"

What about the leading contender for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, the so-called \"gentle lady from New York,\" Hillary Rodham Clinton? Oh, she let Bush and the rest of the Republican party gang bang her like frat boys in a horny drunken brawl. Too late to cry rape Hillary. You proved yourself a political slut like most of the rest of your party.

This is the opposition party? This is the party that partisans claim will save this country from the abuses and excesses of too many years of Republican domination? Christ, these losers couldn\'t lead a Cub Scout pack on an overnight camping trip in a suburban back yard.

I expected Republicans to fall in lockstep behind their power-mad President and sell out their country. That\'s what Republicans do in the name of control, even though a few made a token show of resistance last year by joining Democratic efforts to filibuster passage of the act. But I held out faint hope that the Dems wouldn\'t cave and join in the feeding frenzy on the Constitution. Serves me right, I guess, for trusting any politician -- Democrat or Republican.

Only these 10 voted against the act: Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), James Jeffords (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Robert Byrd (D-WV). The rest voted with Bush and against freedom.

Oh those who voted for the act will give us some propagandistic pap about adding protections for civil rights but those canges are just cosmetic crap. The act itself is a Constitution-evading invasion of basic American rights to privacy, and an abandonment of long-standing protections against illegal search and seizure.

If you think Bush was an out-of-control despot before, just see what he will do with the expanded wiretapping, surveillance and seizure powers granted him and his Gestapo-like Department of Homeland Security in the reauthorized act. Don\'t expect the House of Representatives to do anything to stop this act. The real battleground was the Senate and that battle was lost when Democrats joined with Republicans to sell out the Constitution of the United States.

Where I come from, that\'s called treason and everyone who voted for the USA Patriot Act should be considered a traitor to their country and treated as such.

And the next Democrat who gets in my face to tell me how much better things would be with his party in charge had better have a good dental insurance plan.

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Democrats and Republicans sell out to pass Patriot Act

3 Mar 06

Republicans marched in lockstep while all but nine Democrats and one independent caved and voted to reauthorrize the rights-robbing USA Patriot Act Thursday, giving President George W. Bush the power he craves to ride roughshod over the Constitution.

Those who sided with Bush included Democratic leader Harry Reid and every Republican member of the Senate, ending months of wrangling over renewal of the law that civil libertrarians call a major threat to freedom in this country.
The Senate\'s passage hands Bush a victory in his troubled second term and allows the Republicans to polish their tough-on-terror image for the midterm elections.

The 89-10 vote on Thursday was months overdue and came only after a Democrat-led filibuster that attracted GOP support forced Bush to accept modest curbs on the government\'s power to investigate suspects in terror probes.

Still, Bush savored the moment at a time when his approval ratings have suffered over the war in Iraq and his administration\'s handling of Hurricane Katrina. The House was expected to approve the two-bill package next week and send it to the president, who would sign it before 16 provisions expire March 10.

Bush applauded the Senate for overcoming \"partisan attempts to block its passage.\"

\"This bill will allow our law enforcement officials to continue to use the same tools against terrorists that are already used against drug dealers and other criminals, while safeguarding the civil liberties of the American people,\" Bush said in a statement from India.

\"I am very pleased and relieved,\" said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a possible presidential candidate, who had been unable to break the deadlock for more than two months. \"It\'s been very tough to get to this point.\"

Critics of the act held their ground. Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., insisted that the new civil liberties protections were cosmetic.

\"Americans want to defeat terrorism and they want the basic character of this country to survive and prosper,\" Feingold said. \"They want both security and liberty, and unless we give them both -- and we can if we try -- we have failed.\"

Some lawmakers who voted for the package acknowledged deep reservations about the power it would grant to any president.

\"Our support for the Patriot Act does not mean a blank check for the president,\" said Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who voted to pass the bill package. \"What we tried to do on a bipartisan basis is have a better bill. It has been improved.\"

Not enough even for the bill\'s chief sponsor in the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa. After prolonged negotiations produced a House-Senate compromise, Specter urged his colleagues to pass it even as he promised to introduce a new measure and hold hearings on how to fix it.

When The New York Times revealed in December that Bush had authorized a secret domestic wiretapping program, Democrats gained ammunition for their charge that the administration had run amok in its zeal to root out terrorists.

With the help of some Republicans, they blocked a vote on whether to renew the law before 16 provisions expired on Dec. 31.

GOP leaders were unable to break the gridlock, so Congress opted instead to extend the deadline twice while negotiations continued. In the end, the White House and the Republicans broke the stalemate by crafting a second measure that would curb some powers of law enforcement officials seeking information.

This second bill _ in effect an amendment to the measure renewing the 16 provisions _ would add new protections to the 2001 antiterror law.

They include giving recipients of court-approved subpoenas in terrorist investigations the right to challenge a gag order. The change also would eliminate a requirement that an individual provide the FBI with the name of a lawyer consulted about a National Security Letter, which is a demand for records issued by investigators.

Passed in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the original Patriot Act expanded the government\'s surveillance and prosecutorial powers against suspected terrorists, their associates and financiers.

The renewal package would make 14 of 16 temporary provisions permanent and set four-year expirations on the others.

The renewal includes several measures not directly related to terrorism. One would make it harder for illicit labs to obtain ingredients for methamphetamine by requiring pharmacies to sell nonprescription cold medicines only from behind the counter.

Another focuses on port security, imposing new criminal sanctions and a death sentence in certain circumstances for placing a device or substance in U.S. waters that could damage vessels or cargo.

Feingold\'s chief ally, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., said the package was not enough to check what he described as a presidential tendency through history of \"always grabbing more power.\"

\"The erosion of freedom rarely comes as an all-out frontal assault,\" warned Byrd, the dean of the Senate. \"Rather, it is a gradual, noxious creeping cloaked in secrecy and glossed over by reassurances of greater security.\"

The \"no\" votes came from Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., and Feingold, Byrd and seven other Senate Democrats: Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Carl Levin of Michigan, Patty Murray of Washington and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

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


The bill is HR3199.

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German pet owners advised to take precautions after cat dies of bird flu

Luke Harding in Berlin and Sarah Boseley
Wednesday March 1, 2006
The Guardian

German officials warned cat owners yesterday not to sleep accompanied by their pets, and to keep them indoors, following confirmation that a cat has died of the H5N1 avian flu virus.

The cat was found at the weekend on the Baltic island of Rügen, near to where most of Germany\'s 121 cases of H5N1-infected wild birds have been found. Tests carried out on the animal by scientists at Germany\'s Friedrich-Loeffler institute confirmed H5N1, probably from having eaten infected birds.
Thomas Mettenleiter, director of the laboratory, said it was well established that when cats eat infected birds they can themselves become infected. There had been no confirmed cases of the virus moving from cats to humans, he said. \"An infection of humans, which theoretically cannot be ruled out, could probably only occur with very intimate contact to infected animals,\" he said.

The H5N1 virus was first discovered in swans and wild birds in Germany two weeks ago. It appears to be spreading across western Europe.

Bird flu was detected yesterday for the first time in Bavaria in southern Germany, bringing to five the number of German states where the disease has been confirmed. Sweden also reported its first case yesterday.

The World Organisation for Animal Health said: \"The spread of the infection to domestic poultry in other European and neighbouring countries is highly likely, and may even be made worse by the arrival in Europe of possibly infected birds from Africa and the Middle East next spring.\"

Germany\'s agriculture ministry said last night there was no reason to panic but warned that cat owners in affected areas should keep their pets indoors. Pet owners were advised to keep their cats at arm\'s length, and not to allow them on to their bed at night.

\"It isn\'t easy for a cat to become infected. This must have happened in very unusual circumstances. Probably the cat ate a highly infectious animal,\" said Michael Schmidt, a virologist at Berlin\'s Free University. \"It is very rare for an infected animal to infect humans. There have only been about 160 cases so far. Nevertheless, it\'s best if cat owners avoid taking their cats into their beds. They should keep a distance.\"

The news caused concern for the cat population in the UK. The British Veterinary Association urged cat owners to remain calm, pointing out that the animals were as yet not at risk, because the virus has not reached the UK.

Freda Scott-Park, president of the BVA, said that the risk to the cat family had been known of since tigers in Thailand had got HSN1 two to three years ago after being fed infected chickens, but vets had not talked about it openly for fear of a backlash against pet cats.

\"We have got to be alert to the dangers to our domestic cats. We have been very well aware of it, but we haven\'t advertised the risks,\" she said.\"Already vets are having birds brought in by people saying please put them down in case they get avian flu. There is potentially a welfare problem of enormous proportions looming.\"

There is no vaccine to protect cats against flu, and unlikely to be one, because expensive clinical trials would have to be done to establish its effectiveness.

Avian flu does not transmit easily to humans. Those people who have caught H5N1 have handled sick birds. It has long been thought that, for the feared pandemic to occur, there would have to be a mixing of the avian flu virus with a human flu virus. That might well take place in another mammal.

A number of mammals are already known to get flu - the mouse family, rabbits, hares, ferrets, pigs, cats and macaque monkeys - as well as humans. But, said Dr Scott-Park, \"current strains of the virus appear to be inefficient at infecting non-human species\".

Of all the mammals that get flu, the most likely \"mixing vessel\" is not the cat, she said, but the pig. \"Pigs are a superb mixing vessel, because they manufacture virus at a rate of knots,\" she said. \"Pigs are a virus factory.\" They are also biologically similar to humans.

It was not clear last night whether the dead cat succumbed to the same strain of H5N1 which has already devastated poultry stocks across Asia and Turkey and has killed more than 160 people.

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Officials try to hunt down source of bird flu

3 Mar 06

Reuters - Illegal poultry imports may be to blame for introducing bird flu to Nigeria, officials said on Thursday, while U.S. agencies said they were struggling to plug gaps in global efforts to detect and contain the virus.

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Miss. House Advances Bill to Ban Abortion

Associated Press
1 Mar 06

JACKSON, Miss. -- Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday he would probably sign a bill under consideration in the state House that would ban most abortions in Mississippi.

The measure, which passed the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday, would allow abortion only to save a woman\'s life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.
Barbour, a Republican, said he preferred an exception in cases of rape and incest, but if such a bill came to his desk: \"I suspect I\'ll sign it.\"

The full House could vote on the bill next week, and it would then go to the Senate.

South Dakota lawmakers passed a similar bill last week that was intended to provoke a legal showdown over Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing the right to an abortion. The measure is awaiting Republican Gov. Mike Rounds\' signature. He has said he is inclined to sign it.

Mississippi already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. It requires a 24-hour waiting period and counseling for all abortions, plus the consent of both parents for minors who seek the procedure.

A Missouri lawmaker filed similar legislation to ban abortions, as well as a measure to amend the state\'s constitution.

\"The time has come for these decisions to be made in these deliberative bodies, not by nine men and women who wear black robes,\" said Republican state Sen. Jason Crowell.

The Missouri Legislature has a solid anti-abortion majority and has enacted various restrictions to the procedure.

© 2006 The Associated Press.

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Dozens rescued in Italian avalanche

Agence France Presse
3 Mar 06

ROME (AFP) - Dozens of people were rescued from an avalanche that swept down a mountain near Italy's border with France but at least one person is still missing, Italian media reported.

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Bomb hits Canadian convoy in Afghanistan, eight Taliban killed

Agence France Presse
3 Mar 06

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide car bomb wounded five coalition soldiers in southern Afghanistan while eight Taliban fighters were killed and four police wounded in a separate incident.

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Russian stock market fever raises government fear of 'bubble'

Agence France Presse
3 Mar 06

MOSCOW (AFP) - A record-shattering expansion of the Russian stock market over more than a year may have reached a ceiling and is beginning to worry the Russian government, which said that it feared the creation of a financial bubble.

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Korea's bid for truth and reconciliation

Christian Science Monitor
3 Mar 06

The Christian Science Monitor - Near the notorious former headquarters of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), investigators pore over a turbulent historical record - abuses of political prisoners, collaboration with Japanese occupiers, massacres of civilians in the Korean War.

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US Envoy Accuses China Over Product Piracy

Associated Press
3 Mar 06

AP - China is failing to do enough to prevent growing product piracy and could be forced to answer formal complaints over it in the World Trade Organization if it doesn't take more aggressive action, a U.S. trade envoy said Friday.

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Party Urges Germany to Address Iraq Intel

Associated Press
3 Mar 06

AP - An opposition party on Thursday warned it may trigger a parliamentary probe of German intelligence operations in the Iraq war unless the government addresses more fully a report that its spies passed Iraqi defense plans to U.S. forces.

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What to do when the emperor has no clothes

Garrison Keillor
Tribune Media Services
March 1, 2006

These are troubling times for all of us who love this country, as surely we all do, even the satirists. You may poke fun at your mother, but if she is belittled by others it burns your bacon. A blowhard French journalist writes a book about America that is full of arrogant stupidity, and you want to let the air out of him and mail him home flat. And then you read the paper and realize the country is led by a man who isn\'t paying attention, and you hope that somebody will poke him. Or put a sign on his desk that says, \"Try much harder.\"

Do we need to impeach him to bring some focus to this man\'s life?
The Feb. 27 issue of The New Yorker carries an article by Jane Mayer about a loyal conservative Republican and U.S. Navy lawyer, Albert Mora, and his resistance to the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. From within the Pentagon bureaucracy, he did battle against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and John Yoo, who then was at the Justice Department, and shadowy figures taking orders from Vice President Dick \"Gunner\" Cheney, arguing America had ratified the Geneva Convention that forbids cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners, and so it has the force of law. They seemed to be arguing that President Bush has the right to order prisoners to be tortured.

One such prisoner, Mohamed al-Qahtani, was held naked in isolation under bright lights for months, threatened by dogs, subjected to unbearable noise volumes and otherwise abused, so that he begged to be allowed to kill himself. When the Senate approved the Torture Convention in 1994, it defined torture as an act \"specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.\"

Is the law a law or is it a piece of toast?

Wiretap surveillance of Americans without a warrant? Great. Go for it. How about turning over American ports to a country more closely tied to Sept. 11, 2001, than Saddam Hussein was? Fine by me. No problem. And what about the war in Iraq? Hey, you\'re doing a heck of a job. No need to tweak a thing. And your blue button-down shirt--it\'s you.

But torture is something else. Most people agree with this, and in a democracy that puts the torturers in a delicate position. They must make sure to destroy their e-mails and have subordinates who will take the fall. Because it is impossible to keep torture secret. It goes against the American grain and it eats at the conscience of even the most disciplined, and in the end the truth will come out. It is coming out now.

Our adventure in Iraq, at a cost of billions, has brought that country to the verge of civil war while earning us more enemies than ever before. And tax money earmarked for security is being dumped into pork-barrel projects anywhere somebody wants their own SWAT team. Detonation of a nuclear bomb within our borders--pick any big city--is a real possibility, as much so now as five years ago. Meanwhile, many Democrats have conceded the very subject of security and positioned themselves as Guardians of Our Forests and Benefactors of Waifs and Owls, neglecting the most basic job of government, which is to defend this country. The peaceful lagoon that is the White House is designed for the comfort of a vulnerable man. Perfectly understandable, but not what is needed now. The U.S. Constitution provides a simple, ultimate way to hold him to account for war crimes and the failure to attend to the country\'s defense. Impeach him and let the Senate hear the evidence.


Garrison Keillor is an author and the radio host of \"A Prairie Home Companion.\"

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Shining Light into the Abyss

By Charles Sullivan
2 Mar 06

If one is to understand the apparently incongruent actions of the U.S. government it is imperative to view events in the proper context. Too many of us are muddled in trying to explain U.S. policy from the perspective that we are a democratic republic undivided by socioeconomic class. This is not surprising. After all, this is what we were taught from earliest childhood; and the belief has been reinforced all the way to the grave. However, the absurdity of this assertion should be obvious to any student of history. The hypocrisy of rhetoric versus the reality created by policy is simply too great to ignore, and it is growing worse every year.
To understand American policy in historical context we must divorce ourselves from the old paradigm that has been ingrained in us-America as a classless democratic republic. This is simply a popular myth used by the ruling class to deceive and subvert the working class into servitude. U.S. policy makes sense only when we examine its formulation as stemming from plutocratic interests, rather than democratic principles

America as we know it was founded upon the eradication of its indigenous people-the American Indians. When the declaration of independence was written, slavery was the institution that drove the economic engines of the country. The merchant class emerged as the ruling class-the farmers and the artisans fell into the working class. From its very inception, America was never a true democracy because it did not allow the citizenship a great proportion of the population-including non-white males, women and slaves. The founding fathers never intended to create a true democratic republic. This was the basis for what was to become a nation divided by class and gender.

Ironically, there was a viable democracy in operation during this period of colonial history-the Iroquois nation. Thomas Jefferson recognized this fact and sought to base the Constitution in part on these behaviors. But like all democracies encountered by plutocracy, the Iroquois nation was brutally eradicated. Democracy and plutocracy cannot peacefully coexist. Plutocracy is a doctrine of conquest and subjugation that cannot be reconciled with democracy. It was the elitism fostered by plutocracy that morphed into the doctrine of Manifest Destiny that drives U.S. policy to this day.

We are witnessing the continued attempted overthrow of democratic governments throughout the world by the U.S. led plutocrats-most notably in Latin America. But even as the pentagon sends our troops to conquer and subdue the people of Iraq (a feat it will never accomplish), Democratic Socialism is taking root in several South American Countries, including Venezuela, Bolivia, and Chile-and it is spreading.

The U.S. has a long history of covert actions against democratic republics. For example, a few years ago covert C.I.A. operatives succeeded in ousting Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez from office; but only for two days. The immense popularity enjoyed by Chavez is something that a puppet like George Bush and his minions can only envy. That kind of respect cannot be given-it is earned through service to the people.

Indeed, Hugo Chavez and other Lain American leaders pose a viable threat to the United States, but not for the reasons we are told. The threat is not against the people of the U.S.; it is against plutocratic rule. Removing control from a privileged few and placing power in the hands of the people, would eliminate the class divisions that have always characterized America. Colossal wealth would no longer be concentrated among the top one or two percent of society-it would be equitably distributed among the people for the good of the Commonwealth.

America's ruling elite cannot abide even the least vestige of a true democratic republic. They rail against democracy wherever they find it, as evidenced by countless U.S. sponsored acts of terror around the world. These often covert actions virtually always occur against left leaning governments that are not amendable to exploitation of their natural resources and human labor by U.S. business interests. This is what is meant when the president and cabal speak of 'protecting American interests.' They are referring to their own hold on power and wealth, not the welfare of the republic, as is so widely assumed.

The U.S. plutocracy has a long and bloody history of fomenting upheaval and violence against Democratic Socialism. For example, on September 11, 1973 a U.S. backed coup d' etat was carried out against Chilean president Salvador Allende, in which the Popular Unity (socialist) government was overthrown, and Allende was assassinated. President Allende was replaced by Augusto Pinochet, a brutal dictator who with C.I.A. backing tortured and murdered thousands of people. Pinochet is the kind of man the U.S. always backs. His kind makes the host country safe for plunder by U.S. corporations. Look at the litany of brutal dictators the U.S. has supported all over the world. The list reads like a who's who of world class terrorists. How can this be reconciled with democracy?

The assassination of Allende is part of a familiar pattern of intervention that can only be described as terrorism. The C.I.A. is involved in creating instability and insurrections in democratic governments all over the world-your tax dollars at work.

It is the plutocrats who foment political instability in democratic societies, and conduct campaigns of terror in order to exploit and to conquer. Their purpose is to extend hegemony for the creation of private wealth. Let us call it what it is-empire building. This is Manifest Destiny in action-a supremacist ideology that provides the moral underpinning for conquest and exploitation. As we have already seen, it was this doctrine that resulted in the extirpation of the American Indians and sanctioned the institution of chattel slavery. The same misguided ideology is driving U.S. Middle Eastern policy.

As critical thinkers, we must ask ourselves whom these policies benefit and whom they harm. Is the conquest of Iraq beneficial to the average American? Is it beneficial to those who live in the Middle East; or does it profit corporations such as Halliburton and individuals like Dick Cheney? When the evidence is presented in this way the truth becomes obvious.

The ideological divide between plutocracy and democracy are philosophically and ethically irreconcilable. Plutocratic government serves those possessed of wealth and power by exploiting the middle class and the under class. Democratic government places the welfare of the people above profiteering. Seen in these terms, which kind of government do we have? Once again, the truth is made clear.

The divergence comes into clear focus when we contrast George Bush with Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez. During the height of Hurricane Katrina last year, George Bush went on vacation. Dick Cheney was fly fishing in Arizona. Condi Rice was buying thousand dollar shoes in New York. The clear lack of concern for the welfare of the Gulf Region's poor speaks volumes about the Bush cabal's priorities. Hugo Chavez offered aide to the people of the Gulf Coast Region that our own government blithely abandoned. Bush flatly refused Chavez's generous offer. What does this say about who George Bush serves?

This question can be answered by investigating another Bush policy. Last year Exxon-Mobil enjoyed a $36 billion profit, primarily through the outright theft of Iraqi oil, as the result of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. This is the largest single year corporate profit in history. Exxon-Mobil paid its CEOs handsomely, and its shareholders. But it did share the wealth. Bush responded by giving U.S. oil companies an additional $7 billion of corporate welfare by giving away oil from our public lands. Can there be any doubt about whom Bush serves?

Conversely, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is providing Citgo oil to America's poor at deep discounts ranging from forty to fifty percent. By now it should be clear that the president of Venezuela is doing more for our nation's poor than our own government. The corporate media has responded to Hugo Chavez's humanitarian aide with predictable cynicism. It is often reported that Chavez is only seeking to embarrass the president. However, this assertion does not square with the facts in the case. Chavez has a history of service to the people that Bush does not. Bush caters to the elite, his self proclaimed political base. Chavez is a servant of the people, especially the poor.

Nothing more clearly delineates the contrast between Bush and Chavez than their divergent social policies. Bush consistently chooses profits over people; Chavez places people above profits. Thus, in my view, George Bush is not worthy to carry Hugo Chavez's shoes.

Socialist Venezuela does not ransack its treasury or human capital on invading and occupying foreign nations in the service of empire. Conversely, plutocratic America sends its youth to serve as canon fodder for empire. Venezuela is not involved in the invasion of sovereign nations in order to pilfer their resources. As a result of a more humane social policy, Venezuela has the financial resources to provide health care to every citizen, and higher education to all who seek it. What does this say about our own national priorities? Whose interest do they serve?

Even the most florid language cannot conceal the obvious contempt the Bush cabal has for the poor, or the world's working class people. All rhetoric aside, their actions, as well as their inactions, speak loud and clear about whose interest they are protecting.

America has a lot to answer for. Despite the willful perversion of language used to conceal unpopular truth, the soul of a nation is revealed not by what it says, but by what it does. We are not the people we purport to be. Our actions, our policies, do not portray a democratic republic concerned with human welfare, the common good. They depict the will of self-interested plutocrats who will gleefully kill every one of us in order to expand their power and increase their personal wealth. They do not care about us. To them, we are expendable servants who exist to do their evil bidding.

Occasionally events occur that reveal transitory glimpses of painful truths that are ordinarily kept hidden from public view, as when lightning strikes in darkness and reveals the contours of a landscape. Hurricane Katrina was such an event. As that powerful storm wrecked havoc upon the Gulf Coast, the world saw with absolute clarity who this government serves. Unvarnished truth of this kind is rarely a pretty sight. Yet we must see it and recognize it for all that it is.

Because we have eyes does not guarantee that we can see the truth that lies before us. Vision requires substantially more than eyes-it requires heart and soul and conscience. Our eyes may be open, yet we do not see or comprehend the travesty that unfolds before us, the hoax that is being perpetrated against us by those in power. Let us open our hearts and our minds and admit the light of truth that much of the world already knows. Let us see, for the first time, perhaps, who we really are. We must then reconcile that vision with our own conscience.

Charles Sullivan is a photographer and free-lance writer living in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at earthdog@highstream.net.

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Jon Stewart: America\'s Most Influential News Anchor?

1 Mar 06

It's not a crazy idea, West says: "Some young people trust Jon Stewart more than they do their nightly anchors."

And with the changes that are coming in the news business, Jon Stewart might someday be their nightly news anchor.

When Jon Stewart hosts the Academy Awards on Sunday, he'll be center stage in front of TV's most mainstream audience.

No more hiding in the wasteland of late-night cable. No more playing the underdog. After this, he'll be firmly entrenched as a mainstream name in comedy.

Which is great, of course, for his career as a comedian. But how will it affect his role as a newsman?

Don't laugh. American culture, it seems, can't decide whether to classify Stewart as a comedian or a journalist.

Stewart's late-night newscast parody, The Daily Show, airs four nights a week in a time slot that makes it an alternative to local newscasts. Big-name media figures like Ted Koppel and Bill Moyers have indicated they respect his opinions and take him seriously.

And surveys show that an astonishing number of young people claim they get most of their news from watching The Daily Show.

As the anchor of a show that mocks the mainstream news media, Stewart has, in many ways, become part of the mainstream news media.

The Daily Show's Comedy Central Web site describes the show this way: "One anchor, five correspondents, zero credibility."

But there's a strange duality to Stewart's fame - just like there's a duality to his show. One minute, he's trading sex jokes with the show's correspondents. The next, he's exposing the day's political hypocrisy. One day he's a guest on The Tonight Show, telling jokes to push his book, a fake account of American history. The next, he's a guest on Crossfire, giving its hosts a scathing verbal beatdown for not tackling the issues responsibly.

Should we laugh at him? Or should we take him seriously?

Both. Because Jon Stewart's approach to the day's headlines - too funny to be serious, too serious to be ignored - just might be where real TV news is headed.

To tell the truth

First, let's get something straight. In case you think college kids are the only people who pay attention to Stewart, consider the guests who've appeared in the past few months: Tom Brokaw. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Sens. Barack Obama, John McCain and Barbara Boxer. Historians David McCullough and Michael Beschloss. Former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke and former presidential envoy to Iraq L. Paul Bremer. John Edwards announced his candidacy for president on The Daily Show. And Time magazine named Stewart one of its most influential people of 2005.

In 2003, when Bill Moyers interviewed Stewart for the PBS program NOW, he introduced his guest this way: "When future historians come to write the political story of our times, they will first have to review hundreds of hours of a cable television program called The Daily Show. You simply can't understand American politics in the new millennium without The Daily Show."

Moyers later told Stewart: "I do not know whether you are practicing an old form of parody and satire or a new form of journalism. ... When I report the news on this broadcast, people say I'm making it up. When you make it up, they say you're telling the truth."

Did you hear that? Something strange has happened. The Daily Show, which doesn't try to be anything but fake, has gained loyal fans because of its truthfulness.

In a Washington Post online chat last month, media critic Howard Kurtz got a question from a reader who thought The Daily Show and its spinoff, Stephen Colbert's The Colbert Report, are better than real news shows about "holding guests to actual facts," more consistent about calling people on their lies and misstatements.

Kurtz agreed. Of course, the comedy shows have "the freedom to make stuff up," he said, and that fact shouldn't be ignored.

"But they certainly do a great job of nailing hypocrisy," Kurtz said, "in ways that much of the [mainstream media] doesn't even attempt."

(Example: When former FEMA director Michael Brown complained in a Senate hearing last month that he felt "somewhat abandoned" by those who have made him a scapegoat after Hurricane Katrina, Stewart remarked: "Somewhat abandoned. Not 'stranded on a rooftop waiting for someone in a rowboat to come and rescue you' abandoned, but abandoned.")

Stewart and his cohorts have done this so well, in fact, that they're sometimes mentioned in the same breath as major media figures.

Last month in London, The Independent critiqued a dozen of "the major American news presenters." Without apology, the story mentioned Stewart and Colbert amid names such as NBC anchor Brian Williams, CNN's Anderson Cooper and Elizabeth Vargas, the new co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight.

Look who's watching

Stewart, who took over The Daily Show in 1999, doesn't claim any sort of news cred. He has repeatedly denied he's anything but a comedian. ("I am," he told Bill Moyers, "a tiny, neurotic man, standing in the back of the room, throwing tomatoes at the chalkboard. And that's really it.")

That doesn't mean news people aren't envious of his influence. At the Democratic National Convention in 2004, Ted Koppel - who was then still host of Nightline - talked about The Daily Show's impact on the culture.

"A lot of television viewers - more, quite frankly, than I'm comfortable with - get their news from the Comedy Channel on a program called The Daily Show," Koppel said.

And Bill O'Reilly, host of The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News, was miffed when the campaigning John Kerry skipped his show and headed straight for The Daily Show couch. O'Reilly admitted, only partly tongue-in-cheek, that he "took it personally."

"I mean, you've got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night . . . ." he told Stewart, apparently a little irritated by the slight. "Eighty-seven percent are intoxicated when they watch it."

(It was later pointed out that, according to Nielsen Media Research, Daily Show viewers are better educated than O'Reilly's audience - more likely to have completed four years of college.)

'Changing media landscape'

So what does it matter if Stewart's got all this influence? After all, he's still on Comedy Central, right?

Well, the news business, in case you haven't noticed, is tumbling through some massive changes. Thanks to advancing technology and the declining economy, we have what people in suits like to call a "changing media landscape." The old institutions - newspapers, the evening network news - are faltering. New formats (blogs, TV on demand) are emerging. And while things are shaking out, there's room for a lot of changes. Which means that this Daily Show duality just might be the beginning of something bigger.

The Lilliputian Stewart doesn't look like he has the strength to turn the news industry on its ear. But that's just what is happening, says Darrell West, a political science professor at Brown University who studies politics and the media.

West doesn't even blink at the suggestion that Stewart, the king of fake news, might emerge as the new face of real news.

"It's already happening," he says. "Comedy has already crossed the great divide - they are in the news."

The confusion over Stewart - is he a comedian? is he a journalist? - is a symptom of this sea change in the news business, West says. "The line between news and entertainment has blurred over the last decade," he says. "You have a lot of people getting public affairs information from those late-night shows and Jon Stewart. And this is especially the case for young people - for some of those people, it's their only news."

No lie. A couple of years ago, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press surveyed Americans about how they get their political news. And get this: Twenty-one percent of young people (ages 18-29) said they regularly get their news from comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. ( And 23 percent said they regularly read a newspaper.)

The Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted a national survey just before the 2004 election; about 19,000 adults were asked six questions about the presidential campaign. Frankly, no one did very well: Overall, people got about 45 percent of the answers right. But those who said they're Jon Stewart fans did much better than average, getting 60 percent of the answers correct. In fact, Daily Show viewers got higher scores on average than people who said they regularly watch national news and those who said they read newspapers.

The next Dan Rather?

It's not too farfetched. In recent weeks, The Daily Show has touched on the cost of the war in Iraq; energy alternatives to reduce our dependence on oil; the Muslim riots over Danish cartoons; and the controversy over allowing a United Arab Emirates company to manage American ports. And, of course, Vice President Dick Cheney's quail-hunting incident. These headlines, combined with regular segments about the Middle East ("Mess O'Potamia") and world religions ("This Week in God"), give viewers at least a passing awareness of most major world events.

To survive, the traditional news media may have to embrace The Daily Show instead of trying to outdo it.

Already we're seeing changes in journalism stalwarts like the nightly network newscast. The traditional formula - a man at the anchor's desk, intoning the headlines with loads of gravitas and a serious expression - is starting to fade away. There's room for changes in format, and it's possible that comedy programs such as The Daily Show will begin to merge with more traditional news outlets, combining comedy and hard news.

If you look, you can see it happening now.

During the 2004 election, CBS Evening News regularly aired clips from late-night talk shows and The Daily Show, giving viewers a sampling of the latest political quips.

And last year, while CBS searched for an evening news anchor to replace Dan Rather, there was speculation - seriously - that Stewart might be given a role on the nightly newscast. When The Associated Press asked CBS chief Les Moonves about Stewart, he wouldn't rule out the possibility, pointing out that the network was trying to reinvent the news, "making it younger and more relevant, something that younger people can relate to. . . ."

It's not a crazy idea, West says: "Some young people trust Jon Stewart more than they do their nightly anchors."

And with the changes that are coming in the news business, Jon Stewart might someday be their nightly news anchor.

Show me the funny

Jon Stewart isn't full of one-liners. In fact, he often plays the disbelieving straight man, showing news clips and allowing his targets - primarily politicians and cable-news personalities - to make themselves look ridiculous. But here's a glimpse of the multilayered humor that delights Daily Show fans:

On Vice President Dick Cheney's quail-hunting mishap:"Near tragedy over the weekend in South Texas. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a man during a quail hunt at a political supporter's ranch, making 78-year-old Harry Whittington the first person shot by a sitting veep since Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, of course, was shot in a duel with Aaron Burr over issues of honor, integrity and political maneuvering. Whittington . . . was mistaken for a bird."

Jon Stewart and Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry, discussing Cheney's hunting accident (with allusions to the war in Iraq):

Stewart: I'm joined now by our own vice presidential firearms-mishap analyst, Rob Corddry. Rob, obviously a very unfortunate situation. How is the vice president handling it?

Corddry: Jon, tonight the vice president is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Whittington. According to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at the time there were quail in the brush. And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that today, Mr. Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr. Whittington in the face. He believes the world is a better place for his spreading buckshot throughout the entire region of Mr. Whittington's face.

Stewart: But why, Rob? If he had known Mr. Whittington was not a bird, why would he still have shot him?

Corddry: Jon, in a post-9-11 world, the American people expect their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak.

On the Enron trial:

"The trial of Enron chiefs Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay began 4½ years after perpetrating, allegedly, the fraud that led to the second largest bankruptcy in American history. Why 4½ years? Because apparently it's harder to bring Ken Lay to trial than it is to invade two countries."

On the investigation into the White House leak that exposed the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame:

"Last week, the investigation finally appeared to be making progress. Two reporters thought to know the name of the leaker - Matt Cooper of Time magazine and Judy Miller of The New York Times - wound up in federal court, subpoenaed by the special investigator. ... The tension mounted. Would the pair stand their ground as courageous defenders of the free press? Or perhaps arrogantly flout the law in the face of a federal investigation? Or would the story be too complicated and we'd all just focus on Tom Cruise? I mean, he's crazy. Did you see him on Oprah with his girlfriend?"

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Ethics Office For Hill Rejected - Don\'t Want NO Damn ETHICS \'Round Hyar!

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post
March 3, 2006

A Senate committee yesterday rejected a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent office to oversee the enforcement of congressional ethics and lobbying laws, signaling a reluctance in Congress to beef up the enforcement of its rules on lobbying.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted 11 to 5 to defeat a proposal by its chairman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), that would have created an office of public integrity to toughen enforcement and combat the loss of reputation Congress has suffered after the guilty plea in January of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Democrats joined Republicans in killing the measure.
The vote was described by government watchdog groups and several lawmakers as the latest example of Congress\'s waning interest in stringent lobbying reform. After starting the year with bold talk about banning privately paid meals and travel, lawmakers are moving toward producing a bill that would ban few of their activities and would rely mostly on stepped-up disclosure and reporting requirements as their lobbying changes.

\"Lobbying reform is going more the enforcement route,\" said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. \"What\'s that going to do? Nothing much.\"

Yesterday, the governmental affairs panel spent most of its three-hour drafting session debating the Collins-Lieberman proposal. Collins argued that by hiring professionals to oversee lobbying reports and the investigation of ethics complaints, Congress would improve its credibility by ending the appearance of conflict-of-interest created by the self-policing of its ethics committees.

\"The current system of reviewing lobbyists\' public reports is a joke,\" she added.

But Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), chairman of the Senate\'s Select Committee on Ethics and a member of Collins\'s panel, said the ethics panel does not need any help because it is already doing a thorough job of enforcing the chamber\'s rules. Speaking of the audits and investigations that the office of public integrity would undertake, Voinovich said: \"The ethics committee is already doing those things.\"

With the backing of current and past ethics panel members in attendance, Voinovich proposed, and the governmental affairs committee adopted, an amendment that would strike the new office from the committee\'s bill while requiring more openness in the now secretive ethics panel. An annual report would list the number of alleged rule violations that are reported or otherwise dealt with by the House and Senate ethics committees.

Watchdog groups reacted angrily. \"The cutting out of the office of public integrity really undermines this whole effort,\" said Joan Claybrook, president of the liberal group Public Citizen. Lieberman said he will try to get the integrity office approved next week when lobbying legislation is scheduled for action on the Senate floor. He said that he will be joined by other senators in a variety of efforts to get the lobbying bill back in the direction it was headed at the beginning of the year.

In January, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was joined by leaders of both parties in calling for bans or severe restrictions on gifts, meals and travel provided by private groups. The proposed stiff limitations were the initial reaction to the political scandals involving Abramoff and members of Congress and their staffs.

But as the legislation has evolved and Abramoff has faded from the headlines, calls for bans have grown scarce, and expanded disclosure has become the centerpiece of the efforts underway. Two Senate committees this week have largely left undiminished lawmakers\' ability to accept meals and travel, and the House appears headed in the same direction.

\"Disclosure, transparency and oversight systems are the tenets we\'re interested in implementing,\" said Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). Boehner succeeded Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who was forced to step down as leader last year after he was indicted in Texas on campaign-money laundering charges.

\"We\'re focusing on more disclosure, transparency,\" agreed Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which approved its own disclosure bill Tuesday. The measure will be considered by the full Senate next week.

Some of the disclosure proposals are significant. The governmental affairs committee agreed for the first time to require professional grass-roots lobbying firms to report publicly how much they spend to influence government actions. Currently, only people who are paid to directly lobby lawmakers and their staffs must disclose their activities. Grass-roots lobbying is indirect lobbying to try to galvanize voters back home.

The bill would also require lobbyists to file quarterly reports, rather than the current biannual ones, on their activities, as well as a new, annual disclosure that would detail their donations to federal candidates, officeholders and political parties. In addition, lobbyists would have to disclose all the travel they arrange for lawmakers and all the gifts worth more than $20 that they give to them.

Lobbying reports would be filed electronically and would be accessible via the Internet, something that is not always true today.

On Tuesday, the rules committee approved its own set of extra disclosures. Its bill would require that meals accepted by senators and their aides be reported online within 15 days. That bill would also require that senators get approval in advance from the Senate Select Committee on Ethics for any privately financed travel that they accept. The trips and their main details would have to be disclosed rapidly, including the names of the people who come along on private aircraft.

So far, only one outright ban has been approved. The rules committee decided to prohibit lawmakers from accepting gifts other than meals from registered lobbyists and foreign agents. That would include such benefits as tickets to sporting events and the theater. House Republican leaders have not endorsed a similar ban.

Another serious restriction, approved by the governmental affairs committee, would slow what has been called the revolving door between government and the K Street lobbying industry. The provision would double to two years the time during which former lawmakers and former top executive branch officials would be barred from lobbying their ex-colleagues. It would also ban -- for a year after leaving their Capitol Hill jobs -- former senior congressional staffers from lobbying anyone in the chamber in which they had worked. Currently, staff members are prohibited from lobbying only their former offices during their one-year \"cooling-off period.\"

But Lieberman said he wants to do more. He said he will try to curtail corporate-plane travel by forcing lawmakers to pay charter fares for their private airplane trips rather than the first-class rates that are allowed under current law.

This restriction was proposed during a debate in the rules committee earlier in the week but was defeated.

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In Denial Dept: Odds improve for Democratic takeover of Congress

3 Mar 06

A Democratic takeover of Congress, especially the House, appears possible this year despite conventional wisdom.

Pundits and odds makers recently have upped the numbers of House districts they count as competitive despite a still common assumption that Congress is so carefully gerrymandered that challengers have little hope.
Actually, dozens of House seats are anything but safe if recent election trends are an accurate guide. Sixty of the 435 House districts were politically divided in 2004, voting for candidates of different parties in the races for president and U.S. representative. Twenty-one House incumbents were elected by less than a 5 percent margin two years ago.

Democrats need to capture 15 seats from the GOP to retake the House.

\"Yeah, that could happen. But I\'d still say the chances are less than 50 percent for the Democrats,\" said Texas A&M University political science professor Harvey Tucker. \"It\'s a long way until the election. And it\'s still true that people hate Congress, but love their own congressman.\"

Yet Democrats find hope in the dramatic declines in popularity of President Bush and the Republican-led Congress. Bush\'s approval rating has dropped as low as 34 percent in recent polls, while approval of Congress has slunk to 27 percent.

Every national poll conducted in the last six months has shown Democrats running well ahead of Republicans _ sometimes by as much as 16 percentage points _ in the so-called \"generic ballot\" for the House.

The Gallup Organization last month reported Democrats are 7 points ahead, although survey editor David W. Moore said \"experience suggests Democrats need at least an 11-point margin among registered voters to have a chance of gaining majority control of the House.\"

The University of Virginia\'s Center for Politics last month issued it\'s \"dirty thirty\" list of House districts that are \"extremely likely to experience strong inter-party competition in November.\" Republicans currently hold 21 of these. But to hedge their bets, the scholars at the center recently issued a watch list of 20 other races that could quickly become competitive, 17 of which are currently in GOP hands.

\"The watchword for parties holding borderline-competitive seats? Be on the lookout,\" warned the center\'s political scholars, David Wasserman and Larry Sabato. \"Take a good, hard look at all kinds of House districts right now.\"

Charles Cook of the Washington-based \"Cook Political Report\" newsletter also has been adding names to his congressional watch list. He now estimates that 21 House seats currently held by Republicans are either toss-ups or are only leaning in the GOP\'s favor, while Democrats have 11 districts under similar threat.

Republican incumbents certainly go into the final months of the 2006 campaign with some important advantages _ fat campaign coffers and political districts that were carefully designed using the computer models to protect them.

\"The people who drew these districts had access to all kinds of data _ records of the dominant vote down to the precinct level _ and the computers to manipulate and exploit that information,\" said Tucker. \"The goal was to protect incumbents and the major political parties actually worked together to accomplish this.\"

And yet these advantages easily could be swamped if the winds of public opinion blow hard enough against incumbency.

\"These structural advantages are probably sufficiently strong enough to withstand a political hurricane on the level of a category 1, 2 or 3,\" said Cook. \"But, if the political environment looks like a category 4, those structures may not be enough to hold back the tide. If it\'s a category 5, those structures would almost certainly fail.\"

Cook said he believes the winds of anti-incumbency are currently at category 1 or 2. \"Still, the elements are there to see the potential for a category 3, 4 or even 5. But it\'s not there yet,\" he said.

The last really big shake up of Congress was 1994, when 34 Democratic incumbents were kicked out in an angry backlash to some of President Clinton\'s policies and general irritation at Democratic domination of both White House and Congress.

\"The very earliest signs of a wave in 1994 did not manifest themselves until late spring or early summer,\" Cook said.

Comment: Nobody seems to be getting it: there is NO chance of a fair and free election in the good ole US of A anymore.

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Ark\'s Quantum Quirk




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