- Signs of the Times for Mon, 06 Mar 2006 -

Editorial: Smokescreens, Snowjobs and Long Knives

Laura Knight-Jadczyk

There's been a buzz on the net for the past few days that maybe, finally, Bush is going to get his comeuppance. Cunningham has been sentenced to hard time, Katharine Harris, the "President Maker", is tainted by a related bribery scandal, Bush has been shown to be a liar (yet again) in public via the Katrina video conference expose, and most of all, the "uproar" over the Dubai Buy.

Don't kid yourselves: they're blowing smoke and snowing you.

Remember, these are desperate men who undoubtedly, as more and more people believe, were complicit in the faked Terrorist attack on 9/11. Do you really think that such criminals as that are going to go down for ignoring hurricane warnings or trying to sell off chunks of America?

Get real. These men are - literally - the new Fourth Reich and if you want to know what is really going on, what is really likely to happen, then study the history of Hitler's Germany.

Bush has got control of the judiciary, finally, thanks to Congress laying down for Alito. What do you think all that warrantless, illegal spying was all about? You don't really think Bush was using those powers to spy on ordinary citizens do you? He's already got all he needs to keep track of them. See this article to get a clue on exactly how closely average citizens are being watched without illegal wiretapping. No indeed, that warrantless surveillance was for an altogether different reason: it was to get the goods on all the members of Congress with secrets (all of them, no doubt), so as to make sure the legislation he wanted is passed, and to make sure that the judge he wanted was confirmed.

What about Meiers, you ask?

You don't really think Bush wanted her, do you?

It was blowing smoke, giving the impression that there is "give and take," a real "democracy" in the U.S. Of course he didn't really want her. If he had wanted her, you can bet she would be sitting on the court today. Georgie didn't spend that year or more doing all that warrantless surveillance on Congress for nothing.

Now he has another snow job going on to further bamboozle the slow-thinkers who keep hoping against hope that something good is accidentally going to happen, Bush will get exposed and somebody will do something. Now Bush is going after any journalist or whistle-blower who dares to expose his illegal activities.

Do you really think the New York Times and the whole Judith Miller nonsense was about protecting sources or journalistic freedom and integrity? After all, Judy was protecting members of the Criminal Bush Gang. The New York Times was promoting Bush's war. No, it was all cooked up to play out exactly as it did to give the masses the impression that there is still some real democracy in the U.S.

Now the Times is pretending to be a righteous, insulted lady for the next act.

Lemme tell ya, that's no lady!

Think about it. The New York Times is STILL printing only those things that promote the Neocon agenda and burying those things that do not. If the New York Times had really "awakened" to a sense of obligation to democracy and people's rights, it would be blazoning in giant headlines every day: Experts Call for Release of 9/11 Evidence . It would be sending out its army of investigative reporters to dig up the REAL dirt on Bush and the Neocons. But that isn't what it is doing. It's making a mealy mouthed plea for information that doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Hell's bells! If illegal wiretapping was the worst thing Bush had done, he would be a saint.

Nope. The Times is now playing the part of Harriet Meiers in Newsprint Drag. "Oh, you nasty Bushies! Warrantless wiretapping! How dare you...! We are gonna sue you!" All the Times is doing is setting itself up as a Straw Man so that Bush and the Neocons can knock it flat. And when it goes down, so goes ALL the Press in the U.S. In fact, it may even set a precedent for Internet News censorship to an all-new level of suppression.

Fact is: No attempt to investigate or impeach Bush will go anywhere because it will be declared "aid to the enemy in a time of war", backed up by the Supreme Court, and the Neocons will get away with everything.

But still, people are excitedly chuckling and suggesting that many of the Bush supporters are falling away, distancing themselves from the Administration and its cooties because election time is coming. Don't be fooled. There is no possibility of a fair election anywhere in this country. Bush lost two elections in a row, but that didn't stop him from making himself president. The exit polls told the truth, but it doesn't matter who votes for who, what matters is who is counting the votes.

It's all an act, a shadow show to give the antsy populace a little hope to cling to while the rest of the trap is prepared: Prison Camps for dissidents brought to you by Halliburton.

So, what IS likely to happen out of all this apparent dog-eat-dog Congress vs Bush Media Games Madness?

Again I say: study the history of Hitler's Germany.

What is likely to happen if the pressure builds too high is something like Hitler's Night of the Long Knives.

By 1934 Adolf Hitler appeared to have complete control over Germany, but like most dictators, he constantly feared that he might be ousted by others who wanted his power. To protect himself from a possible coup, Hitler used the tactic of divide and rule and encouraged other leaders such as Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and Ernst Roehm to compete with each other for senior positions.

One of the consequences of this policy was that these men developed a dislike for each other. Roehm was particularly hated because as leader of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) he had tremendous power and had the potential to remove any one of his competitors. Goering and Himmler asked Reinhard Heydrich to assemble a dossier on Roehm. Heydrich, who also feared him, manufactured evidence that suggested that Roehm had been paid 12 million marks by the French to overthrow Hitler.

Hitler liked Ernst Roehm and initially refused to believe the dossier provided by Heydrich. Roehm had been one of his first supporters and, without his ability to obtain army funds in the early days of the movement, it is unlikely that the Nazis would have ever become established. The SA under Roehm's leadership had also played a vital role in destroying the opposition during the elections of 1932 and 1933.

However, Adolf Hitler had his own reasons for wanting Roehm removed. Powerful supporters of Hitler had been complaining about Roehm for some time. Generals were afraid that the Sturm Abteilung (SA), a force of over 3 million men, would absorb the much smaller German Army into its ranks and Roehm would become its overall leader.

Industrialists such as Albert Voegler, Gustav Krupp, Alfried Krupp, Fritz Thyssen and Emile Kirdorf, who had provided the funds for the Nazi victory, were unhappy with Roehm's socialistic views on the economy and his claims that the real revolution had still to take place. Many people in the party also disapproved of the fact that Roehm and many other leaders of the SA were homosexuals.

Adolf Hitler was also aware that Roehm and the SA had the power to remove him. Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler played on this fear by constantly feeding him with new information on Roehm's proposed coup. Their masterstroke was to claim that Gregor Strasser, whom Hitler hated, was part of the planned conspiracy against him. With this news Hitler ordered all the SA leaders to attend a meeting in the Hanselbauer Hotel in Wiesse.

Meanwhile Goering and Himmler were drawing up a list of people outside the SA that they wanted killed. The list included Strasser, Kurt von Schleicher, Hitler's predecessor as chancellor, and Gustav von Kahr, who crushed the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.

On 29th June, 1934. Hitler, accompanied by the Schutzstaffel (SS), arrived at Wiesse, where he personally arrested Ernst Roehm. During the next 24 hours 200 other senior SA officers were arrested on the way to Wiesse. Many were shot as soon as they were captured but Hitler decided to pardon Roehm because of his past services to the movement. However, after much pressure from Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, Hitler agreed that Roehm should die. At first Hitler insisted that Roehm should be allowed to commit suicide but, when he refused, Roehm was shot by two SS men.

Roehm was replaced by Victor Lutze as head of the SA. Lutze was a weak man and the SA gradually lost its power in Hitler's Germany. The Schutzstaffel (SS) under the leadership of Himmler grew rapidly during the next few years, replacing the SA as the dominant force in Germany.

The purge of the SA was kept secret until it was announced by Adolf Hitler on 13th July. It was during this speech that Hitler gave the purge its name: Night of the Long Knives (a phrase from a popular Nazi song). Hitler claimed that 61 had been executed while 13 had been shot resisting arrest and three had committed suicide. Others have argued that as many as 400 people were killed during the purge. In his speech Hitler explained why he had not relied on the courts to deal with the conspirators: "In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I become the supreme judge of the German people. I gave the order to shoot the ringleaders in this treason."

The Night of the Long Knives was a turning point in the history of Hitler's Germany. Hitler had made it clear that he was the supreme ruler of Germany who had the right to be judge and jury, and had the power to decide whether people lived or died.

The only thing that will prevent this from happening is if a meteorite falls on the White House while Bush is brushing his teeth, or if an earthquake causes the ground to open and swallow up Washington (or Crawford, Texas if Bush is again on vacation).

Barring an Act of God or a Revolution, there's no chance of getting rid of Bush. Take that to the bank.

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Signs Economic Commentary

Donald Hunt
Signs of the Times
March 6, 2006

Gold closed at 567.20 dollars an ounce on Friday, up 1.1% from $562.00 the week  before. The dollar closed at 0.8307 euros on Friday, down 1.4% from 0.8420 for the week. That would put the euro at 1.2038 dollars, compared to 1.1876 at the end of the week before. Gold in euros, then fell to 471.17 euros an ounce from 472.38 for the week, a drop of 0.3%. Oil closed at $63.67 a barrel, up 1.2% from $62.91 at the previous week’s close. Oil in euros also fell, closing at 52.89 euros a barrel, down less than 0.2% from 52.97 for the week. The gold/oil ratio ended at 8.91, down 0.1% from 8.92 at the end of the previous week. In U.S. stocks, the Dow closed at 11,033.20, down 0.3% from 11,061.85 at the close of the week before.  The NASDAQ closed at 2,306.08, up 0.8% from 2,287.04 for the week. Bonds fell last week in the United States, with the yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note rising to 4.68% up 11 basis points from 4.57 the week before.

As we can see from comparing the price of gold and oil in euros and against each other, oil and gold did not rise last week, rather, the dollar fell. The fact that this happened as U.S. interest rates rose, which usually strengthens currencies, is not a good sign for the imperial economy.  Record low approval ratings for the U.S. president G. Bush, while continually downplayed by the mainstream U.S. media, who never refer to him as “the phenomenally unpopular president” or “the widely despised George Bush” even though that is true, cannot be hid from international investors.  Nor can the U.S. media hide the disastrous news coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan from the savvy international banking and investment community. They are even having a hard time hiding it from the United States public. The small town next to where I live, a white, rural town with a population of less than 3,000, saw a protest of more than 20 people on the town common calling for the impeachment of Bush and for the reinstating of the Constitution last week.  That’s almost 1 in 100 people.  If a similar proportion showed up in New York it would number over 100,000. Significantly, the protest was covered positively and prominently in the conservative small-town newspaper. It can be argued, though, that they don’t need to hide anything anymore, now that the Patriot Act as been expanded and made permanent last week. The treasury and the broader common wealth (understood literally) has been plundered and the Constitution has breathed its last breath.

Last week I wrote “The mainstream media’s economic news was particularly positive until the end of last week, when no one could hide the bad news for the U.S. empire. The shocks on Thursday and Friday drove the price of gold and oil up and made even optimists uneasy.”  I am not so sure upon rereading it that that is exactly true.  What MSM is actually doing is splitting.  I have seen articles demonstrating optimism about the U.S. economy side-by-side with articles bemoaning the perilous geopolitical situation or the bad straits of the U.S. empire.  Or vice versa:  optimism about the empire and pessimism about the economy.  One of the things the pathocrats have done is first to separate economics from everything else (politics, morality, geopolitical power relations, etc.), then elevate it above everything else.  They do the same with the environment, as if the basic underpinnings of economic life, natural resources, can be somehow separated from the health of the economy.  It is hard to tell if it’s denial or deliberate creation of congnitive dissonance.

Signs are multiplying that the housing bubble is about to turn into the housing crash.

U.S. Economy: Sales of New Homes Decline, Inventory a Record

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- New-home sales in the U.S. fell to the lowest level in a year in January and the number of properties on the market was the most ever, more signs housing is losing its luster after five record years.

Sales declined a greater-than-expected 5 percent to an annual rate of 1.233 million from a revised 1.298 million in December, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The number of homes for sale rose to an all-time high of 528,000 in January from December's 515,000.

Higher mortgage rates and home prices will push down sales and may contribute to a slowing of the economy in the second half, economists said. Home construction may not add to economic growth this year for the first time in more than a decade, leaving homebuilders less optimistic.

“The combination of slower demand and looser supply is likely to put downward pressure on housing-price growth,” said Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York. “Housing won't be the driver for growth as it has been.”

The following report from Massachusetts shows how the places where housing rose the most during the bubble will be the places that fall the most during the crash:

Mass. home sales plummet 21%
January prices also slip but condo deals climb

By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff
March 1, 2006

The number of single-family homes sold statewide fell 21 percent in January, the largest year-to-year decrease in monthly home sales since April 1995, and another sign that the once red-hot local real estate market is cooling, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported yesterday.

Based on the supply of homes for sale, up sharply from a year ago, the real estate market favored the buyer in January.

“For the last few years, buyers often outnumbered the supply of homes for sale, allowing prices to escalate rapidly, but that's no longer the case," said association president David Wluka.

The median selling price for a single-family home dropped to $345,500, compared with $346,000 in January, 2005, when the sales total was the second highest on record for January.

Sales of single-family homes fell for the fourth month in a row, something that hasn't happened since early 2003.

More significantly, single-family home prices in January fell 0.1 percent, breaking a 114-month streak of rising prices. At the peak of the market, between April 2004 and March 2005, prices rose at a double-digit percentage clip for 11 of those 12 months.

The state's real estate market is cooling much faster than the national market. Nationwide, home sales were down last month 4.8 percent from the pace of the previous January, according to the National Association of Realtors, but prices were still rising. Across the country, the median price for an existing single-family home was up 13.1 percent from a year ago, to $210,500.

Thus, a similar report from the other coast:

California home sales drop 24% in January
Decline reflects rising mortgage interest rates and weakening consumer confidence.

February 28, 2006: 7:26 PM EST

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California's housing market is slowing as analysts had predicted, underscored by a slump in home sales in January, according to the California Association of Realtors.

Sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 500,470 at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate in January, down 24.1 percent from a year earlier and 5.9 percent from December, according to the report from the association.

The declines reflect a weakening in consumer confidence, and a rise in mortgage interest rates which have sidelined nervous home buyers, the association said.
"We have now seen three months in a row where sales have dropped more than expected," said Robert Kleinhenz, an economist with the association. "At least some home buyers have adopted a wait-and-see attitude."

Declining sales had been expected. January is a slow month for sales and financing for home purchases is becoming more challenging with interest rates on the upswing and home prices holding at lofty levels.

And this from Florida:

Florida Bubble Busts Wide Open

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sarasota Bradenton - The Herald Tribune is reporting a 48% home sales drop in Sarasota-Bradenton.
The high season peaked in mid-February but so far there is little evidence of a long-awaited and often-predicted real estate recovery.

In fact, the Sarasota-Bradenton market had the dubious distinction of being the Florida market with the biggest decline in sales during January: a precipitous 48 percent drop when compared with the same month a year ago -- more than double the state's 19 percent decline.

The Charlotte County-North Port market saw its sales drop 18 percent during the same time frame, the Florida Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.

But values held steady. Sarasota-Bradenton posted a 23 percent increase in median sales price to $353,500 while its neighbor to the south climbed 16 percent to $227,400 when comparing January with the same 2005 month.

"I can tell you the buyers are here," said Scott Sosso, president of Sarasota-based Prudential Palms Realty, which saw its closings dip 10 percent during January. "The problem is with the sellers who don't have their homes priced correctly."

In Charlotte County-North Port, the condo action was far more anemic, dropping a whopping 92 percent as prices swooned 18 percent to $165,000…

Palm Beach County

The Palm Beach Post is reporting Palm Beach County has a mini-blood bath going.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Maybe the housing bubble hasn't burst, but it's losing air fast.

The median price of an existing home sold in Palm Beach County in January fell to $393,700, well below the November peak of $421,500 and the first time the typical home has sold for less than $400,000 since July.

Meantime, sales volumes plunged as buyers — wary that prices will keep falling and a better deal could be around the corner — waited out the slowdown. The number of sales in Palm Beach County plummeted 39 percent compared with a year ago, the Florida Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

"Palm Beach County has a mini-blood bath going," said David Dweck, a Boca Raton real estate agent and investor who heads the Boca Real Estate Investment Club.

…The price dip in the Treasure Coast was less dramatic. The median home price in Martin and St. Lucie counties was $261,500 in January, down slightly from December and 3 percent below September's record high of $269,400.

Sales volumes also fell in the Treasure Coast, dropping 44 percent compared with a year ago.

Broward County
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is reporting The boom is gone: Home sales fall 36% in Broward.

South Florida's five-year housing boom is over.

Prospective home buyers are finding prices falling to more affordable levels. Sellers are waiting impatiently as their houses sit on the market for weeks and months, only to receive tepid interest before reducing their asking prices.

"We're entering a new part of the cycle," said Brad Hunter, a West Palm Beach housing analyst. "We're in the process of returning to reality."

January sales of existing single-family homes declined dramatically in Broward and Miami-Dade counties compared with January 2005, the Florida Association of Realtors said Tuesday. The number of home sales fell 36 percent in Broward to 552 -- the fewest used homes sold in the county in one month since the Orlando-based state Realtors group started tracking home sales and prices in 1994. In Miami-Dade, home sales in January dropped 28 percent from a year ago to 580.

The real estate slowdown also has spread to the once-frenetic condominium market. The state Realtors association Tuesday reported monthly condo sales for the first time. Existing condo sales for January dropped 21 percent in Broward and 13 percent in Miami-Dade, compared with the same period last year. The median price rose 31 percent to $211,500 in Broward and 11 percent to $259,000 in Miami-Dade.

Despite the slowdown, Hunter doesn't foresee a bubble bursting and said the housing market should remain strong through the rest of the year.


Naples News is reporting Naples home sales down 31 percent.

Naples home sales down 31 percent

Hardly surprising, and certainly not devastating.

Naples home sales plunged 31 percent in January 2006 compared with January 2005, while condominium sales dropped 41 percent in those same months.

In Lee County, sales of existing homes fell 9 percent in January compared to the same month a year ago. The $287,200 average price of Lee County homes sold in January was 31 percent higher than 12 months ago, but down almost 11 percent from the $322,000 average price in December…

Lee County

The News-Press is reporting Lee existing-home sales, prices drop in January.
Prices and the number of sales for existing single-family homes in Lee County fell sharply in January as the inventory of unsold houses soared.

The median sales price was $287,200, down 10.9 percent from December's $322,300. Sales declined 30.7 percent from 1,084 to 751.

Compared to a year ago, Lee County's January median price was up 31 percent and the number of sales declined 9 percent.

Meanwhile, said Fort Myers-based real estate broker Denny Grimes of Denny Grimes & Co., "The inventory's still climbing. There are more than 11,000 houses on the market, triple what it was at the low point in the second quarter of last year."


Even lower mortgage rates couldn’t spur demand:

US home loan applications fall despite rate drop

Wednesday March 1, 7:04 am ET
By Julie Haviv

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. mortgage applications fell last week as lower interest rates failed to spur demand for loans to purchase homes, an industry trade group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity for the week ended February 24 fell 1.2 percent to 571.5 from the previous week's 578.5.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted purchase mortgage index decreased 1.9 percent to 400.8 from the previous week's 408.7. The index, considered to be a timely gauge of U.S. home sales, was also below its year-ago level of 440.0.

Borrowing costs on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, excluding fees, averaged 6.18 percent, down 0.04 percentage point from the previous week.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the industry benchmark, is substantially above its 2005 low of 5.47 percent in late June, but below its 2005 high of 6.33 percent reached in the week of November 11.

Fixed 15-year mortgage rates averaged 5.84 percent, down from 5.87 percent the previous week. Rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) increased to 5.64 percent from 5.60 percent.

Last week's drop in rates, however, managed to marginally impact demand for home refinancing.

Theroxylander in Flame blogger makes a simple yet effective point:

Two very simple statistical data: new home starts at 2.28 million annual rate in January, new home sales at 1.23 million rate. The supply exceeds the demand by 85%, and this supply is coming as a wave just few months from now.

Because the housing asset bubble is one of only two things keeping the U.S. economy alive (the other is military spending), no effort will be spared by the Federal Reserve Board to keep the bubble inflated.  Yet, in spite of these inflationary policies, they are still having trouble keeping the boom going. 

US Fed chairman Bernanke will not prick asset bubbles

By Nick Beams
1 March 2006

Like his predecessor Alan Greenspan, the new chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke will take no measures to deflate housing or other asset bubbles in the American economy.

Bernanke made his position clear in response to a question that came at the conclusion of his first major speech on monetary policy since taking over from Greenspan a month ago. The central bank, he claimed, “doesn’t really have good instruments for addressing asset price bubbles should they exist, particularly if they are in one particular segment or another.”

He acknowledged that while the Fed needed to “pay close attention” to changes in asset prices because they had an impact on spending and economic growth, it was “generally a bad idea for the Fed to be the arbiter of asset prices.”

“The Fed doesn’t really have any better information than other people in the market about what the correct value of asset prices is,” he told his audience at a symposium held last Friday at Princeton University.

This is the same position adopted by Greenspan when confronted by critics who suggested that the Fed should have taken action to halt the stock market bubble in the 1990s. In fact, Greenspan knew full well that the escalating stock market was a financial bubble. The reason he took no action was not due to lack of information or a belief that the “market knows best” but the opposition that such measures would have generated from leading figures in the financial elite.

When the stock market spiral ended in 2001, Greenspan cut interest rates to record lows in order to prevent a recession. But this has led to a rapid rise in house prices over the past five years—55 percent overall according to the Office of Federal Housing Oversight—and much more in some areas.

If Bernanke is wary of pricking this latest bubble, it is because of the crucial role that escalating house prices have played financing debt and consumption spending. Household debt has become an increasingly important factor in maintaining American economic growth because of the decline in real wages for the majority of ordinary wage earners.

According to a survey by the Federal Reserve issued last week, the growth in US household incomes has fallen sharply compared to the last years of the 1990s.
Between 2001 and 2004, the median inflation-adjusted income in the US rose by 1.6 percent before taxes, compared to an increase of 9.5 percent in the three years to 2001. This change was “strongly influenced by a 6.2 percent decline in the overall median amount of wages measured in the survey,” the Federal Reserve noted in a summary of its findings.

While Bernanke wants to continue the policies of his predecessor, how long he is able to do so is another matter. Paul Volcker, who was Fed chairman from 1979 to 1987, pointed to the mounting balance of trade deficit—$726 billion last year—as the main problem confronting the new chairman.

In an implicit criticism of Greenspan, Volcker said in an interview following the speech: “Bernanke is not inheriting the best of situations. How would you like to be responsible for an economy that’s dependent upon $700 billion of foreign money every year? I don’t know what I would do about it, but he’s going to have to do something about it sooner or later.”

Last April, in a comment published in the Washington Post, Volcker warned that the US economy was “skating on increasingly thin ice” and that at some point confidence in capital markets, which was supporting the inflow of funds into the US, could fade. Since then the ice has got even thinner, as the balance of payments deficit has blown out to more than 6 percent of gross domestic product.

Interestingly, George Ure thinks that the policy to deliberately introduce inflation to maintain asset prices may work—for a while:

It appears there is a well coordinated effort of the G7/G-8 to instigate a global round of inflation of equities and other instruments in order to cause a short term bout of inflation to preserve the values in real estate equity.  (That's why the Dow is going up when inflation numbers come out - the Dow is being prices like a hard asset - a very strange turn indeed.)

In the background, the Fed, you'll recall, is less interested in maintaining "honest money [e.g. money that will have the same purchasing power tomorrow as it does today] than it is in maintaining predictability of monetary performanceIn other words, the Fed's deep thinkers know that if we have some measure of inflation, the country can survive with its power class holding on to the reigns of power and to some extent, the retirement savings of the Baby Boomers intact.  That's why our Global Index (and aggregate of more than a half dozen stock markets and available to subscribers) has made a move above trend line recently.  I expect this came well in advance of the global bad news about housing.

Of course, the $64 gazillion dollar question is whether this global inflation plan will work.  Short term my answer is yes, or Elaine and I would not have purchased the adjoining 16 acres.  Long term, it will all blow up at some point because when corporations run out of ways to cut costs they cut worker incomes and cut workers, which is what brings about deflation and TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) financially.  Consumption drops and the economic engine reversed and drives the world into the dirt - as happened in the 1930's.

Nick Beam’s annual report on the world economy for the World Socialist Website goes into more detail about the vulnerabilities:

Nick Beams: Report on the world economy in 2006
Part One

By Nick Beams
28 February 2006

This year has opened with predictions of further strong growth in all the major industrial economies and in the global economy as a whole, following a world growth rate of 4 percent in 2005—the highest level for some time.

The president of the European Central Bank, Jean Claude Trichet, told a meeting of bankers on January 9 that global economic growth in 2006 could even exceed that of last year. Others share this view. According to Trichet, central bankers believe that “global growth is continuing at a pace that is dynamic and we don’t even exclude that global growth could be a little bit higher in 2006 in comparison with 2005.”

As if to confirm this rosy outlook, the Dow Jones industrial average went past 11,000 the following day—the first time it has reached that level since June 2001—after having gained more than 2 percent in the first four trading sessions of the New Year. The last time the Dow went past 11,000 there were predictions it could go to 36,000. Such claims are no longer made but there is, at least on the surface, the appearance of optimism.

The US economy is predicted to grow by 3.4 percent in the coming year, the eurozone by 1.9 percent, Japan by 2.0 percent, and the United Kingdom by 2.1 percent. China, having announced a 10 percent growth rate for 2005, is expected to expand by at least 8-9 percent in the coming year. Corporate profitability is also set to rise, with predictions of the profit increase for the S&P 500 at 13 percent.

However, behind the short-term optimistic outlook, serious economists have concerns about the state of the global economy. They point to a series of deep-going structural imbalances and tensions—above all generated by the mounting US balance of payments deficit and accelerating indebtedness—which, at a certain point, must give rise to rapid changes, if not a crisis. These concerns were reflected in a number of comments published as the year opened.

Adam Posen, an economist with the Institute for International Economics, in an article entitled “Batten down the hatches in case the storm hits,” drew an analogy with Hurricane Katrina, and warned of the “potential economic storm that will be generated by the inevitable adjustment of global imbalances.”

“No one could have prevented Katrina, but the damage from it could have been significantly reduced. Similarly, there are policy steps that should be taken to batten down the global economy ahead of a potentially severe shock from renewed trade protectionism or dollar adjustment.”

Little, however, had been done. “If the governments of the big economies wanted to learn from Katrina, though, they would take action to limit the damage that resolving the current global imbalances could bring” (Financial Times December 28, 2005).

While Posen did not explicitly make the point, there is a fear that if and when an economic Katrina does hit, the response of financial authorities will be on a par with that of the Bush administration when faced with the hurricane.

No doubt that response will also include Blackwell mercenaries patrolling the streets and a “cleansing” of a chunk of the population for the benefit of the oligarchy.

An article by Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), published on January 3, began as follows: “Let me first acknowledge that we are indeed living in boom times. The central scenario for 2006 is continued strong global growth. Rising global investment combined with higher demand by oil and commodity exporters should keep overall global demand growing briskly in 2006, even as US consumption and Chinese investment growth slacken.”

There were, he continued, numerous positive developments underpinning this happy scenario, including the rise of Asia, and especially China, the reduction of inflation and the decline in long-term interest rates. But this was not the end of the story.

“As good as the economic fundamentals are, it is easy to find more down-to-earth vulnerabilities. Top of the list has to be global housing prices—which are not actually that close to earth any more. With US prices up 60 percent since 2000 and even higher price inflation in many other countries it is not hard to imagine a collapse ...”

The Economist magazine drew a similar conclusion in a survey published on June 16, 2005, in which it described the global housing price boom as possibly “the biggest bubble in history.”

According to Rogoff: “[The] global financial system, while fundamentally a source of strength, is also a source of weakness. The explosion of unregulated hedge funds and the widespread use of derivatives such as credit default swaps pose risks that are simply impossible to calibrate until the system is stress-tested. This could come, for example, in the wake of a dollar collapse, still a considerable risk as global interest rates equalise and investors turn their attention to the US’s unsustainable trade deficit” (Financial Times January 3, 2006).

In a comment published the following day, Financial Times economics correspondent Martin Wolf noted that the fact that the dangers to world economy were not being recognised in financial markets was itself a factor in potential instability.

“For the world economy, a happy new year is now expected. But forecasters usually assume that recent trends will continue, modified where appropriate by reversion to a longer term mean. It is more useful, however, to ask what might change. When everything is going quite well, as now, that mostly means asking what could go wrong and, more important, whether the risks of its doing so are adequately priced. The answer is: they are not.”

The sources of these concerns were clear. For the present course to continue, Wolf noted, finance had to keep flowing into the US to meet its widening balance of payments gap, interest rates had to remain low, and debtors, especially in the US, must be willing and able to go on borrowing to finance consumption spending.

There were “many risks” of disruption arising from the “imbalances” in the world economy. The financial deficit of US households, he pointed out, was running at more than 7 percent of GDP. Indebtedness of the household sector had risen from 92 percent of disposable income in the first quarter of 1998 to 126 percent in the third quarter of last year. Household debt service payments had been pushed to an all-time high of 14 percent of disposable income. “What would happen if house prices ceased to rise or interest rates increased?”

“Large dangers of disruption exist. But markets are ignoring them. So we must recognise the danger not only that something will go wrong, but that markets will then multiply the needed corrections” (Financial Times January 4, 2006).

In other words, when a shift does take place, the consequences will be all the more severe because the possibility of such an event was ignored in the preceding period.

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Editorial: Pipes: Mass Murdering Muslims a Good Thing

Kurt Nimmo
Another Day in the Empire
06 March 2006
Once again, the Islamophobe Daniel Pipes reveals the Straussian neocon mindset, disregarding the teaching of his guru, Leo Strauss, who advised Machiavellian deception when dealing with the dumbed-down masses. "Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition's responsibility nor its burden," Pipes told New York Sun on February 28. "Civil war in Iraq … would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one," Pipes continued, allowing us commoners a glimpse of the way the Straussian neocon mind works. According to Pipes, a "civil war" in Iraq would be a good thing since it would invite "Syrian and Iranian participation, hastening the possibility of an American confrontation with those two states," an objective at the very core of the Straussian plan to unleash society and culture destroying chaos and violence in the Middle East and thus breaking the region up into more easily controllable Bantustans. More sectarian violence would also put an end to the "dream of Iraq serving as a model for other Middle Eastern countries, thus delaying the push toward elections. This will have the effect of keeping Islamists from being legitimated by the popular vote, as Hamas was just a month ago." In other words, if thousands of Iraqis must suffer horrible deaths in a "civil war" created by the Straussian neocons in the Pentagon, this will be a price worth paying, as Madeline Albright said of the medieval sanctions imposed on Iraq (1.5 million Iraqis killed, 500,000 of them children), because it will prevent democratic elections resulting in the empowerment of leaders opposed by the Straussian neocons. As Pipes views it, an Iraqi "civil war" can only be considered a good thing because Muslims will die, not non-Muslims, and for Daniel Pipes and his Straussian neocon ilk, thousands of dead Muslims is not a big deal. In fact, as Pipes hints, the "civil war" in Iraq is all about killing as many Muslims as possible, adding an appreciable heap to the 250,000 or so Iraqis killed since Bush launched his invasion. Pipes' admission that "civil war" in Iraq is a good thing on several levels gives more credence to the claim that the Straussian neocons basically engineered the current violence through black ops and provocations. Let us give thanks that Daniel Pipes is a windbag unable to keep a secret or pretend, as the Bush administration does, that the "civil war" in Iraq is an unfortunate tragedy. In fact, it is all part of a long-held plan adopted wholesale from the Jabotinsky Likudites in Israel.
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Editorial: How we move ever closer to becoming a totalitarian state

Henry Porter
UK Observer
The Prime Minister claims to be defending liberty but a barely noticed Bill will rip the heart out of parliamentary democracy. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is hardly an aerodynamic title; it doesn't fly from the lips. People have difficulty remembering the order of the words and what exactly will be the effect of this apparently dull piece of lawmaking. But in the dusty cradle of Committee A, a monster has been stirring and will, in due course, take flight to join the other measures in the government's attack on parliamentary democracy and the rights of the people. The 'reform' in the title allows ministers to make laws without the scrutiny of parliament and, in some cases, to delegate that power to unelected officials. In every word, dot and comma, it bears the imprint of New Labour's authoritarian paternity. Like all Labour's anti-libertarian bills, it appears in relatively innocuous guise. The bill was presented last year as a way of improving a previous Labour act and is purportedly designed to remove some of the burden of regulation that weighs on British business and costs billions of pounds every year. Labour says it will enable ministers to cut regulation without needing to refer to parliament and so simplify and speed things up. The reality is that the beneficiaries of this bill will not be industry and business, but ministers and the executive, who will enjoy a huge increase in their unscrutinised power. As with the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which was presented as modernising local and national emergency measures but which went much further to give ministers arbitrary powers, this bill takes another chunk out of our centuries- old democracy. The really frightening thing about last week's proceedings is that there were just two journalists watching as the minister piloting the legislation, Jim Murphy, refused to debate constitutional implications. Instead, he intoned replies drafted in advance by himself and, presumably, his civil servants. Disgracefully, he dismissed as 'debating points' considered objections from Tories Christopher Chope and Oliver Heald and Liberal Democrats David Heath and David Howarth. All raised the Kafkaesque possibility that this bill was so demonically drafted that an unscrupulous government could use it to modify the bill itself and so extend its powers even further. Watching, I reflected that this was truly how democracy is extinguished. Not with guns and bombs, but from the inside by officials and politicians who deceive with guile and who no longer pretend to countenance the higher interests of the constitution. The 'debating points' were rather more than that. They concern the powers that may be granted to ministers that could further damage the concept of habeas corpus, alter the law on Britain's relationship with the Commonwealth, on the relationship with the EU, on extradition, the appropriation of property and the criminal law. In theory, even the monarchy could be affected. This is to say little about common law, the centuries of precedents and rulings which contain so many of the historic rights of British culture. 'Oh no,' said the minister, as if talking to a child, 'ministers will give assurances; they will confine themselves to the regulations that concern business.' If that is the case, why does the bill not say so? Why is it drafted so loosely? Why is Jim Murphy doing so much to protect its versatility? Why won't he put the safeguards in the bill from the start? There can be only one answer: ministers want to bypass parliament and transfer authority to themselves and their officials under the cover of helping business. Mr Murphy has let it be known that the government might concede powers for select committees to veto use of the fast-track process for issues they consider controversial. But it is worth remembering that membership of select committees is controlled by the whips and that the chairmen are generally biddable. We should also wonder why Mr Murphy has not already drafted this veto, if he genuinely wants to protect and reassure parliament. The essential point, however, is that the individual decisions taken by ministers as a result of this new law will not be scrutinised in the chamber of the House of Commons. Sometimes, I wonder if those of us worried about the attacks on British democracy by Tony Blair's government are getting things out of proportion or misunderstanding the Prime Minister's mission, as he described it in last week's Observer I certainly understand that the capillaries of a society run from bottom to top, bearing all the bad news, intractable problems, mood swings and crises; that it is all ceaselessly pumped upwards in the direction of the Prime Minister; and that the view afforded in Downing Street must sometimes be truly extraordinary, a seething, organic, Hogarthian panorama of delinquency and unreason. A Prime Minister must try to reach beyond the day-to-day business of government, frantic though it is, and make sense of what he sees below, seek the connecting threads, order up the policies and implement them so that improvement becomes possible. Few will disagree that this is the chief impulse of Tony Blair's premiership. As he told us long ago, he is a moderniser. Modernising is still the closest thing he has to a political ideology and it was significant how many times the words modern and modernity appeared in last week's article. At one point, he declared: 'For me, this is not an issue of liberty but of modernity', as if liberty and modernity were somehow at odds. Because he is by his own account well-intentioned, he believes that nothing should get in the way of this modernising purpose, the exercise of his benevolent reason on the turbulent society below. Like Mrs Thatcher, he has become almost mystically responsible for the state of the nation. And like Mrs Thatcher, he finds that after a long period in Number 10, he is still surrounded by sluggishness and resistance. Public services are slow to reform; the judiciary obstructs ministerial action with footling concerns about individual rights; and parliament is agonisingly slow to produce the fast-acting laws he craves. You can see why, as time runs out, he has the need to cut through it all to achieve the things that he so dearly believes are right for our society. That is the way a moderniser works, because it is the only measure of success. Yet this addiction to the idea of modernity is also a kind of arrogance about the times we live in, a sense that no Prime Minister has ever faced the problems coming across his desk. It indicates a common condition in modernisers and modernists of all hues and that is an almost complete lack of a grounding in history. If Blair was more interested in British history, he would understand that the present, while certainly unique, is not uniquely awful. But more important, he would see the great damage his laws are doing to the institutions we have inherited - to the constitution, to the tradition of parliamentary sovereignty, to the independence of the judiciary, to individual rights and to the delicate relationship between the individual and the state. All of them are products of British history. They are not perfect, but they make up a fairly large part of the body politic. This is who we are. This rush of laws presented to parliament in disguise, with their hidden sleeper clauses, are a disaster for our democracy. They are changing our country rapidly and profoundly. What I saw in Committee A was the triumph of Tony Blair's modernity over liberty. (Ed: Hitler also pitched himself as a 'moderniser' who would help Germany out of the economic and international doldrums. When he did so, he did it knowing that it was a ruse and the best way to establish a totalitarian regime. It is very obvious that Blair is following the same path. You can accept it now or wait until it is an overt fact.)
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Editorial: Twilight's Last Gleaming

By John Cory
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
05 March 2006

Who are these people? These people who line their pockets with the lives of our loved ones? These gray men who lurk in shadows and kill the sunshine of democracy? These people who wear morality like a cheap suit pilfered from the collection plate of decency? Who are these people who have turned America into their own personal ATM machine? These are the people of the lie - Republicans.

    Who are these people? These people who sit in spineless silence unable to speak in defense of America? These people who mime the words of our founders, afraid to act with independence? Who utter the words "We concede," instead of "We the People?" These are the people who lie down - Democrats.

    Newspapers no longer serve the public, only their corporate masters. They have wedged themselves firmly between the cheeks of power, a tissue to sanitize the bullshit. The media has finally achieved the ultimate self-delusion; broadcasting sitcom politics, and talking points of the throne, it has become the court jester with tinkling bells and curly pointed shoes: useless, untrustworthy, and fused in falsehoods and facades.

    This is twilight's last gleaming. Attention must be paid. Democracy is dying.

    Bush and Company wants us to be afraid. Republicans sell us fear as they sell out America.

    Democrats wait in the wings, picking up their pieces of silver to keep mum. Both political parties capitalize on all the fear.

    Democrats think we will become so fearful of Republicans that we will have no other choice but to elect them. That is their incentive. Low profile, quiet acquiescence, and they think their silence will be rewarded.

    This is not the time for silence. According to recent polls from Zogby, Fox News, Gallup and CNN, 72% of our troops believe the war in Iraq is a failure and we should withdraw. 64% of the public disapproves of Bush's handling of Iraq. 69% of Americans are against the Dubai Port deal. 52% do not find Bush "honest and trustworthy."

    And yet Democrats can find no voice, no fight, no issue to unify them to protect "we the people." Major print and media outlets can find no reason to investigate Republican scandals, bribery and lies, no reason to question an administration that started a war with a lie and failed its own citizens when Katrina hit, by lying about what they did or did not know. Katrina, like 9/11, left the boy king wide-eyed and unprepared. Leader of the free world? Most Americans think not.

    When it comes time for voting, here is what I will remember: the silence.

    If there is a voice for America, let them speak now. Let them speak for the poor women who not only will find abortion illegal, but will not be allowed birth control and contraceptives. Let them speak for the old and infirm who will not be able to have healthcare and cost-effective drug prescriptions. Let them speak for true family values of providing for our veterans and protecting our troops with proper body armor and ending a false war so no more loved ones have to die for a lie.

    But most of all, let them now speak up for the one precious gift that is America - Freedom. Freedom of speech - Freedom to dissent - Freedom from illegal domestic spying. Freedom, sweet freedom for which our fathers, brothers, and sisters have fought and died for over the past 230 years!

    Hunter S. Thompson warned, "Big dark coming soon." Big dark is here.

    Our Constitution hangs by a thread. Make no mistake, this is twilight's last gleaming. It's time to defend America, not sell it down the river of corporate greed. It is time to stand up, not slink away to fight another day, because there are no more days. The monarchs of mendacity under George Bush are dismantling democracy at every opportunity.

    Democrats, you want my vote? Earn it! Get up off your ass and take a stand! Take back America. Stop whimpering. Throw out your Republican-lite Bush lickspittles and suit up for battle. We the people will support you if you speak up for the America we live in and want to preserve. You cannot claim victory simply because you kept the GOP from burying the Constitution while you let them drive it underground.

    This is twilight's last gleaming. Who will speak up for America?

John Cory is a Vietnam veteran. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V device, 1969 - 1970.
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Editorial: Matewan Revisited

Charles Sullivan

The history of America is the chronicle of class struggle. The current fight is the same fight that working class people have always waged. In the past there were three distinct classes: the upper class, the middle class and the underclass. The middle class is rapidly melding with the under class, leaving us with essentially two socioeconomic classes. In essence, what remain are the rich and the poor.

The chasm between rich and poor has never been wider and it is growing every year. For reasons that must be political, those in power expend much energy and capital denying that America is a class society. Recall how Poppy Bush used to accuse his political adversaries of conducting class warfare, even as his policies, like those of his son, do great harm to working people while benefiting the wealthy. Unrestrained capitalism is the opposite of Robin Hood and it reigns supreme in America. The hypocrisy of the elder Bush’s inane pronouncement is an insult to the intelligence of every working class citizen, who knows about class divisions first hand through long experience.

In essence, what we have here is a predator and prey relationship. The rich are today preying upon the poor, just as they have always done. This relationship is portrayed clearly and accurately through an examination of labor history. One particularly poignant example occurred in the hills of West Virginia in the spring of 1920. This was the battle of Matewan that pitted the mining companies against the coal miners who were desperately trying to organize a union. Far from being atypical of the oppression and wage slavery that characterizes America to this day, the events that unfolded in the coal fields of West Virginia are emblematic of class struggle, as documented by the historical evidence. An examination of these facts reveals the insult and insensitivity of Poppy Bush’s absurd proclamations against the working poor.

Few of us today can appreciate the atrocious conditions that working people once endured. Some of the worst working conditions in the world were encountered in the coal fields of West Virginia. Thousands of men and boys (child labor was also exploited in those days) died in the mines as a result of wanton neglect on the part of the mine owners. The lives of the coal miners were of no greater worth to the mining companies than a turnip. Workers were nothing more than property that was expendable and easily replaceable in the field.

The horrid conditions that prevailed in places like Matewan, West Virginia, are almost beyond imagination. Whole towns were under the oppressive dictatorship of the coal companies, which included the political electorate. Thus the coal companies assumed the role of God not only in the coal fields of West Virginia, but all across the land. Other corporations did the same.

The coal miners lived in constant fear and intimidation of their bosses and their goon squads. Their housing was owned by the company. Entire towns were in essence owned by the company. The coal miners were the slaves on whose backs great fortunes were amassed for the mining companies and the robber barons. The mine owners lived like kings, while the miners scratched out a subsistence living in utter squalor. The miners had to purchase their tools, their food and supplies from company stores, whose prices were grossly inflated.

The long hours of toil in the wretched and dangerous mines were paid in company scrip. Often at the end of an eighty hour work week, owing to the irregularities that always arose in keeping the company books, the miners actually owed the mining company money. Those who tried to organize unions were summarily fired from their jobs and evicted from their housing. Many were routinely beaten and murdered by company thugs, such as the Felts Detective Agency. These beatings and murders occurred all across the nation, and those who administered them did so with impunity. The police and the National Guard were under the employ of the mining companies. As they are today, they were called forth to protect the wealth and property of the rich from the justice demanded by the working poor. There was no law and there was no justice for working people.

The only protection the workers had was the union. Despite that kind of opposition, miners joined the union by the thousands in Matewan and vicinity in a display of courage that is rarely seen today. Matewan was different from the norm in an important way: its police chief, Sid Hatfield, a former coal miner, and its mayor, C. Testerman, were both men of courage and moral integrity who stood up to the thugs hired by the mining companies to terrorize the miners and their families. Understandably, such courage and strength of character were an aberration. Under enormous pressure from armed thugs, lesser men in other parts of the country capitulated and cooperated with the corrupt power of the mining companies.

These companies were essentially all powerful Agents of the Felts Detective Agency had been unlawfully evicting union families from their homes, setting their belongings out in the rain. Sid Hatfield and Mayor Testerman attempted to halt the evictions, but to no avail. Then on the afternoon of May 19, 1920, accompanied by a group of armed miners, Hatfield attempted to arrest the detectives including Baldwin-Felts president Thomas Felts, and brothers Albert and Lee, who carried out the evictions.

Hatfield and Testerman faced their heavily armed adversaries in the street. Someone fired a shot and a fierce gun battle ensued. In less than a minute eye witnesses reported that more than a hundred shots were fired. Killed in the first volley were Al Felts and mayor Testerman. When the shooting was over, seven detectives, including Lee Felts and two miners were dead or dying in the streets of Matewan. The incident became known as the Matewan Massacre.

The episode made Sid Hatfield a folk hero to working people throughout the world. Here was a man who not only faced the armed thugs hired by the mining company, he shot it out with them in the streets of Matewan and killed two of the notorious Felts brothers. Fifteen months later, however, Sid Hatfield was gunned down in a surprise attack by agents of the Felts Detective Agency on the steps of the McDowell County courthouse. No one was ever tried, much less convicted for his assassination. The murder touched off a fierce armed insurrection by the coal miners that involved more than ten thousand men.

This is the history of class conflict in America—one episode among countless thousands. But it is a history, common as it was, that is rarely told. You will not read about it in the text books used to teach history in our schools. Why? Because events like this tell the real story about America’s long war on working class people. It reveals how our nation’s wealthiest and most influential families obtained their positions of wealth and privilege. It is the kind of history that foments outrage at the injustice that still afflicts working class people to this day.

It is a history that demonstrates that ordinary people can fight back and demand justice, even against impossible odds. Better to die a free man than live a slave.

So when I hear the products of class privilege, the Bush family, for example, accusing others of fomenting class warfare it makes me shake with rage because I know the history of my country in sordid detail. I know they are spewing lies that dishonor the countless thousands of working class people who were brutally oppressed and often murdered by their employers and their hired guns. I am also reminded that the Bush family fortune has been amassed like so many other dynasties—through the brutal exploitation of working people known as wage slavery.

The Bush clan has no conception about what it is like to struggle, to sacrifice and to honor and uphold justice for ordinary people. If I were a plutocrat, if this were my legacy, I would not want the world to know about it either. It is a disgrace too vile to be put into words.

This is what I call America’s secret history—the history those in power do not want you to know about. So spare me the banal talk about a free and democratic society. That is not what America is about. This secret history explains current events perfectly. Working people are still fighting the same fight against the same foes as did Sid Hatfield and those coal miners at Matewan on that fateful day in 1920. The descendants of those people continue to work the coal fields of West Virginia and they continue to die in the mines. Under burgeoning capitalism the mining companies are now permitted to write the legislation that is supposed to provide for the safety of the miners. Thus the guns of the Felts Detective Agency have been rendered, for the time being, unnecessary. Why resort to violence when legalized bribery works so well?

How little things have changed. Working class people continue to be the prey of their corporate employers with little recourse to the judiciary. Unionism, as timid and ineffective as it is these days, continues to wane as corporate power increases. It is the same old drama being played out in modern times by the descendants of the original players—and, like it or not, all of us are participants. Now the vast majority of workers are ‘at will’ employees without any kind of protection from their employers. Thus, as in the days of Matewan, if a person wants to survive they must submit themselves to the indignity of being the property of their employers.

America is a nation that was built upon slave labor. Migrating from job to job is no better than migrating from one master to another. In any case, the worker is the slave of the employer. The tradition continues to this day, although with far more subtlety than in the past. Our elected officials, if calling them so is not to make a mockery of the term, are increasingly under the employ of the ruling elite. The judiciary is stocked with corporate apologists anxious to continue the tradition of fleecing the workers and lining their own pockets with wealth they neither create nor earn.

The fact that Industrial slavery bears a close and disturbing resemblance to its cousin chattel slavery is no accident. Its end product is almost as tragic, as the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially. As is the custom in America, the rich have gotten to where they are by riding the poor.

The character and the courage of Sid Hatfield and those coal miners at Matewan, West Virginia, are inspiring. Following their outstanding moral example, let us not capitulate to the modern thugs of American corporatocracy—to the military industrial complex and the champions of empire that would grind us under their heel. Let us read and reread labor history—America’s history—with a sense of hope and optimism, inspired by the example of Sid Hatfield and thousands of people like him.

Someone has to stand up to the thugs who have always run this country for private wealth. We must, as history demonstrates so clearly, take heart and show some courage. We must stand for justice for all, no matter the personal cost. Otherwise, we are only paying homage to high minded ideals while betraying them with our misspent lives. We must stand together, shoulder to shoulder and face the enemy. A life lived in the pursuit of justice for all is the only kind of life worth living. It is an examined life that requires character, courage and a capacity for critical thinking that can see beyond rhetoric and the mere symbols of freedom, to the bedrock of reality. It is a life that demands substance from us.

The Wobblies had it right all along. The answer to justice, to world peace, is One Big Union. An injury to one is an injury to all is as true today as it was the day the phrase was coined. We should live by this credo. Justice demands courage and even bravado. As Thoreau so eloquently stated, “A man sits as many risks as he runs.”

American history, as dismal as it often is, is also the history of class struggle against oppression. Therein lies its greatest value—its eternal hope. It is the long continued fight that has always kept America from being what it could become—a bastion of democracy and hope, bristling with peace. This is because a privileged few do not want to share the wealth of this nation with those who create it. They intend to keep it for themselves, as their predecessors did.

So we must keep alive the idea of One Big Union. It represents our best hope for halting the exportation of jobs that pits worker against worker across political boundaries. To accomplish this Herculean task requires that we have the courage and the wisdom to bring back the revolutionary unionism championed by people like Eugene Debs, Mother Jones, Emma Goldman and Big Bill Haywood.

Sid Hatfield and mayor Testerman have already shown us the way. Do we have the fortitude and the courage to follow their example?

Note: the author gratefully acknowledges and thanks long time union organizer Anthony Debella for providing the inspirational impetus behind this piece. Charles Sullivan is a photographer and free lance writer residing in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at earthdog@highstream.net

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Bolton: World Must Confront Iran

By FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press Writer Sun Mar 5, 9:03 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The U.S. ambassador to the
United Nations on Sunday told an influential pro-
Israel lobbying group there is an urgent need to confront
Iran\'s \"clear and unrelenting drive\" for a nuclear weapons program.

John Bolton, speaking before a crowd of 4,500 gathered for an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, said that a failure by the U.N. Security Council to address Iran would \"do lasting damage to the credibility of the council.\"
\"The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it will become to solve,\" Bolton said.

At issue is Iran\'s ability to enrich uranium to the point it could be used for a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and only meant to generate power. Many in the West, however, fear Iran is aiming to develop atomic weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will meet in Vienna, Austria, on Monday to discuss Iran\'s nuclear program and its compliance with an IAEA demand that it renounce uranium enrichment. The U.N. agency\'s board of governors may at that time send the file to the Security Council for further action.

Iranian officials were in Moscow last week, negotiating an offer by Russia to enrich uranium for Iran to be used for energy. The spent fuel would be returned to Russia, easing fears that Iran could use it for weapons.

Bolton said the Russian proposal lets Iran \"reap the benefits of civil nuclear power while addressing concerns that they are really pursuing nuclear weapons.\"

But he said Iran has been engaging in \"doublespeak\" during these negotiations by saying with one voice it welcomes discussion, but with the other \"flatly refusing\" to give up access to technology and material to eventually develop nuclear weapons.

Iran \"must be made aware that if it continues down the path of international isolation, there will be tangible and painful consequences,\" Bolton said.

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War Pimp Bolton Rides AGain

5 Mar 06

New York. In case Iran doesn't give up its ambitions in sphere of nuclear energy the country should face painful consequences and the USA will be able to use all means in order to counteract the threat coming from the Islamic republic, the US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton announced today, cited by Reuters agency. Bolton has mentioned that he was considering as untimely the imposing of sanctions on Iran by the UN Security Council and that Washington was preparing defensive measures for counteraction of Iranian nuclear threat.

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Propaganda! How we duped the West, by Iran\'s nuclear negotiator

By Philip Sherwell in Washington
The Telegraph

The man who for two years led Iran\'s nuclear negotiations has laid out in unprecedented detail how the regime took advantage of talks with Britain, France and Germany to forge ahead with its secret atomic programme.
In a speech to a closed meeting of leading Islamic clerics and academics, Hassan Rowhani, who headed talks with the so-called EU3 until last year, revealed how Teheran played for time and tried to dupe the West after its secret nuclear programme was uncovered by the Iranian opposition in 2002.

He boasted that while talks were taking place in Teheran, Iran was able to complete the installation of equipment for conversion of yellowcake - a key stage in the nuclear fuel process - at its Isfahan plant but at the same time convince European diplomats that nothing was afoot.

\"From the outset, the Americans kept telling the Europeans, \'The Iranians are lying and deceiving you and they have not told you everything.\' The Europeans used to respond, \'We trust them\',\" he said.

Revelation of Mr Rowhani\'s remarks comes at an awkward moment for the Iranian government, ahead of a meeting tomorrow of the United Nations\' atomic watchdog, which must make a fresh assessment of Iran\'s banned nuclear operations.

The judgment of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the final step before Iran\'s case is passed to the UN Security Council, where sanctions may be considered.

In his address to the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, Mr Rowhani appears to have been seeking to rebut criticism from hardliners that he gave too much ground in talks with the European troika. The contents of the speech were published in a regime journal that circulates among the ruling elite.

He told his audience: \"When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Teheran we were still installing some of the equipment at the Isfahan site. There was plenty of work to be done to complete the site and finish the work there. In reality, by creating a tame situation, we could finish Isfahan.\"

America and its European allies believe that Iran is clandestinely developing an atomic bomb but Teheran insists it is merely seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Iran\'s negotiating team engaged in a last-ditch attempt last week to head off Security Council involvement. In January the regime removed IAEA seals on sensitive nuclear equipment and last month it resumed banned uranium enrichment.

Iran is trying to win support from Russia, which opposes any UN sanctions, having unsuccessfully tried to persuade European leaders to give them more time. Against this backdrop, Mr Rowhani\'s surprisingly candid comments on Iran\'s record of obfuscation and delay are illuminating.

He described the regime\'s quandary in September 2003 when the IAEA had demanded a \"complete picture\" of its nuclear activities. \"The dilemma was if we offered a complete picture, the picture itself could lead us to the UN Security Council,\" he said. \"And not providing a complete picture would also be a violation of the resolution and we could have been referred to the Security Council for not implementing the resolution.\"

Mr Rowhani disclosed that on at least two occasions the IAEA obtained information on secret nuclear-related experiments from academic papers published by scientists involved in the work.

The Iranians\' biggest setback came when Libya secretly negotiated with America and Britain to close down its nuclear operations. Mr Rowhani said that Iran had bought much of its nuclear-related equipment from \"the same dealer\" - a reference to the network of A Q Khan, the rogue Pakistani atomic scientist. From information supplied by Libya, it became clear that Iran had bought P2 advanced centrifuges.

In a separate development, the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has obtained a copy of a confidential parliamentary report making clear that Iranian MPs were also kept in the dark on the nuclear programme, which was funded secretly, outside the normal budgetary process.

Mohammad Mohaddessin, the NCRI\'s foreign affairs chief, told the Sunday Telegraph: \"Rowhani\'s remarks show that the mullahs wanted to deceive the international community from the onset of negotiations with EU3 - and that the mullahs were fully aware that if they were transparent, the regime\'s nuclear file would be referred to the UN immediately.\"

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited

Comment: Amazing, isn\'t it? Why is it that the Iranians seem determined to provide America and Israel with the plausible justification to attack Iran? Where does the reports such as this one really come from? Can anyone verify that this report is accurate? Did Hassan Rowhani actually say what he is reported to have said? Sadly, given the fact that the job of the mainstream media is to simply repeat American, British and Israeli government propaganda, we will probably never know. What we do know however is that, over the past four years, we the public have been treated to a continuous stream of lies from the mouths of Bush Blair and Sharon and their lackeys.

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War Pimping: Nato may help US airstrikes on Iran

Sarah Baxter, Washington and Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv

WHEN Major-General Axel Tüttelmann, the head of Nato's Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, showed off an Awacs early warning surveillance plane in Israel a fortnight ago, he caused a flurry of concern back at headquarters in Brussels.

It was not his demonstration that raised eyebrows, but what he said about Nato's possible involvement in any future military strike against Iran. "We would be the first to be called up if the Nato council decided we should be," he said.

Nato would prefer the emphasis to remain on the "if", but Tüttelmann's comments revealed that the military alliance could play a supporting role if America launches airstrikes against Iranian nuclear targets.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will tomorrow confirm Iran's referral to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.

Iran insists it is developing peaceful nuclear energy, a claim regarded as bogus by America and Britain, France and Germany, which believe it wants to develop nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks about wiping Israel "off the map" have added to fears.

America and Israel have warned that they will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. If negotiations fail, both countries have plans of last resort for airstrikes against Iran's widely dispersed nuclear facilities.

Porter Goss, the head of the CIA, visited Recep Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, a Nato country, late last year and asked for political, logistical and intelligence support in the event of airstrikes, according to western intelligence sources quoted in the German media.

The news magazine Der Spiegel noted: "Washington appears to be dispatching high-level officials to prepare its allies for a possible attack."

Nato would be likely to operate air defences in Turkey, according to Dan Goure, a Pentagon adviser and vice-president of the Lexington Institute, a military think tank.

A former senior Israeli defence official said he believed all Nato members had contingency plans.

John Pike, director of the US military studies group Globalsecurity.org, said America had little to gain from Nato military help. "I think we are attempting to bring the alliance along politically so that when all diplomatic initiatives have been exhausted and we blow up their sites, we can say, 'Look, we gave it our best shot'."

A senior British defence official said plans to attack Iran were pure speculation. "I don't think anybody has got that far yet," he said. "We're all too distracted by Iraq."

Israel's special forces are said to be operating inside Iran in an urgent attempt to locate the country's secret uranium enrichment sites. "We found several suspected sites last year but there must be more," an Israeli intelligence source said. They are operating from a base in northern Iraq, guarded by Israeli soldiers with the approval of the Americans, according to Israeli sources.

The commander of Israel's nuclear missile submarines warned Iran indirectly in a comment to an Israeli newspaper last week that "we are able to hit strategic targets in a foreign country".

The Israelis fear Iran may reach the "point of no return" - at which it has the capacity to enrich uranium to bomb-grade purity - in the next few months. The Americans are more interested in the point at which Iran is close to developing an actual bomb, thought to be at least three years away.

Two Iranian opposition groups claimed this weekend that Iran had increased its production of Shahab 3 missiles, which have a range of 1,200 miles, sufficient to reach Israel.

Diplomatic efforts to contain Iran are likely to proceed slowly, given Russian and Chinese opposition to punitive action. A Foreign Office official said although the IAEA would refer Iran to the security council, any sanctions would be a "strictly step-by-step process".

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New US focus on Destroying - uh - \"promoting democracy\" in Iran

By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Financial Times
2 Mar 06

The US State Department has created an office dedicated to Iran to reflect the Bush administration's new focus on promoting democracy in the Islamic republic, officials said on Thursday.

Establishment of the Office of Iran Affairs follows the request to Congress made by Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, last month for an additional $75m this year to spend on influencing democratic change in Iran. The proposed spending has already triggered an internal struggle over who will control the $50m designated for a new Farsi-language television station.
The new office will come with posts in Europe and Dubai for Farsi-speaking diplomats as well as extra personnel in Washington working on human rights and public diplomacy.

Within the state department bureaucracy Iran was previously lumped together with countries of the Arabian Peninsular Affairs Office. Its separation, with extra resources, reflects a new emphasis by the Bush administration and the challenge posed by the regime's recent behaviour, a spokesman said. Only a few countries merit their own office within the state department.

The director of the new office has not been named. David Denehy, a special advisor on the Middle East, declined to comment on suggestions that he would head the office.

Mr Denehy is involved in the $50m project to create the first 24-hour Farsi television station to broadcast into Iran.

Elizabeth Cheney, who is leading the state department's "broader Middle East and North Africa initiatives", has been placed in charge of the television project rather than Karen Hughes, one of the president's closest advisors who heads US public diplomacy.

Officials told the FT there was a debate within the state department over whether the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent federal agency, should be given responsibility for the proposed new television station.

BBG's mandate covers "all US government and government sponsored, non-military international broadcasting", and includes Farsi broadcasts by Voice of America radio and television and Radio Farda.

"It's possible the BBG will not get the money," one official commented.

The officials said Ms Cheney wanted the new Farsi station to be kept separate from the BBG so that she could exert more direct control. Ms Cheney is said to be among those who were not satisfied with the oversight role played by the BBG regarding alHurra, the Arabic-language television station which is now the subject of state department and congressional inquiries into its programming and spending.

AlHurra says the inquiries are routine.

Mr Denehy and Ladan Archin, a Pentagon official assigned to the state department, recently visited private Farsi television and radio stations run by exiled Iranians in Los Angeles that broadcast into Iran. Editors said they were seeking information on their operations, setting off excitement among Iranian-Americans that the state department was looking for a suitable private vehicle for its new propaganda effort.

© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2006

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Cheney daughter leads 'cold war' on mullahs

Sarah Baxter
The Sunday Times
March 05, 2006

THE war in Iraq is her father's business but Elizabeth Cheney, the American vice-president's daughter, has been given responsibility for bringing about a different type of regime change in Iran.

Cheney, a 39-year-old mother of four, is a senior official in the State Department, which has often been regarded as hostile territory by Dick Cheney's White House team. Nonetheless father and daughter agree it would be better for the mullahs' regime to collapse from within than to be ousted by force.
The question is whether democratic reform can be achieved before Iran becomes a nuclear power. That is the younger Cheney's job. In the State Department she is referred to as the "freedom agenda co-ordinator" and the "democracy czar" for the broader Middle East. "She's fantastic and dynamic," said a colleague.

Her official title is deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and she is in charge of spending the $85m (£48m) - up from $10m last year - recently allocated to promote democracy in Iran. Much of it will be spent on broadcasting the views of exiles, dissidents and reformers inside Iran.

Cheney is better known to Iranian listeners of Voice of America's Persian service than she is to Americans, although she publicly backed her sister Mary's right to privacy when Democrats made an issue of her lesbianism in the 2004 election.

She rarely gives interviews but set out her agenda in a speech to the Foreign Policy Association's annual dinner last June. Cheney said there was a "direct parallel" between reform movements in the Arab world and Poland's Solidarity in the 1980s, which lit the "spark of freedom" in the Soviet bloc.

A strike by Tehran bus drivers that led to the jailing and torture of Mansour Osanloo, a union leader, and protests by textile workers in the northern province of Gilan have raised hopes that Iranians are fed up with the clerics' repressive rule.

"President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad was elected on the basis of a 'chicken in every pot' and there's no sign that he is living up to that," said a senior State Department official. "The patience of people who supported him is going to run out."

Iranian exiles are using the showdown with Tehran over nuclear weapons to build unity among notoriously fractured opposition groups. Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran, said in Washington last week that democratic regime change was a "race against time".

"Forget about endlessly negotiating with the mullahs," he said. "They will only buy the regime more time and a military strike would be a gift to the clerics. Everybody knows you cannot come away from the precipice without democracy."

Mohsen Sazegara, a former Revolutionary Guard turned reformer who was recently jailed in Iran, said United Nations anti-nuclear sanctions should be linked to improvements in human rights. "Iranians will see that the international community is standing up for the rights of the people of Iran," he said.

Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said Cheney was well qualified for the post. "She has a lot of experience dealing with non-governmental organisations and knows what she is talking about. She is a different person from her father."

Another Washington-based expert on Iran suggested her relationship to Dick Cheney sometimes hampered her work. "Her last name can make things difficult for her because people assume everything you tell her is going to go straight to the vice-president."

Father and daughter will be on the same side if Ahmadinejad's regime sees off its internal opposition and acquires nuclear weapons. "There's no credibility gap over our willingness to use force," a State Department official said, "but hopefully it won't come to that."

Comment: Iran has no WMD capability, the IAEA established this late last year. Everything that we are being told about the nuclear threat from Iran is a lie.

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Surprise! Helmut Kohl agrees with Ahmadinejad on Holocaust

5 Mar 06

Tehran, Iran, Mar. 06 – Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl reportedly told Iranian businessmen in Germany that he agreed with statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Holocaust was a "myth", the semi-official Jomhouri Islami reported on Monday.
The government-owned daily wrote that at a dinner gala with Iranian hoteliers and entrepreneurs, Kohl said that he "heartily agreed" with Ahmadinejad's remarks about the Holocaust.

"What Ahmadinejad said about the Holocaust was in our bosoms", the former German chancellor was quoted as saying. "For years we wanted to say this, but we did not have the courage to speak out".

Ahmadinejad caused an international furore last year when he publicly declared that the Holocaust was a "myth" and threatened that Israel must be "wiped off the map".

His comments were supported by senior Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The country's state-run media have systematically defended the position of the Iranian president and given extensive coverage to historians and "experts" who deny the Holocaust took place.

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Iran and Qaeda benefit from US in Iraq: congressman

5 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - The U.S. presence in Iraq is hurting the worldwide war on terrorism and benefits only Iran and al Qaeda, U.S. Rep. John Murtha said on Sunday.

\"The only people who want us in Iraq are Iran and al-Qaeda,\" Murtha said on CBS\'s \"Face the Nation\" political talk show. \"And I talked to a top-level commander the other day and he said China wants us there also. Why? Because we\'re depleting our resources ... our troop resources and our fiscal resources.

\"... The war on terrorism is worldwide. In Iraq, it\'s a civil war,\" said Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat.

Murtha, who in November called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, said it was useless for the United States to advise Iraqis.

\"One of the problems I see and frustrating things is our ambassador keeps giving advice to the Iraqis,\" Murtha said. \"Every time we give the Iraqis advice, they vote for someone else ... The Iraqis don\'t pay attention to our advice.\"

The U.S. role in fighting terrorism around the world is being subverted by Iraq, said Murtha, who characterized the sectarian strife between Iraq\'s Sunni and Shi\'ite Muslims as a civil war that must be settled internally.

Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran who retired from the Marines Corps Reserve as a colonel in 1990, said Iraq would do a better job of rooting out terrorists once U.S. troops leave the country.

\"I\'m convinced they know where they are, they know who they are,\" he said. \"But they won\'t tell us because they\'ve turned against us. We\'ve lost the hearts and minds of the people.\"

The United Nations is scrutinizing Iran because of its nuclear research but Murtha said Tehran has become emboldened because of the U.S. focus in Iraq.

\"We have a situation where our military is in such bad shape, it couldn\'t deploy to a second front,\" Murtha said. \"And the Iranians know this. North Korea knows it. China knows it. We\'re depleting our resources in Iraq.\"

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared on NBC\'s \"Meet the Press\" on Sunday and said the war in Iraq was going \"very, very well\" but Murtha was skeptical.

\"Why would I believe him?\" he said. \"This administration, including the president, has mischaracterized this war for the last two years ... So why would I believe the chairman of the Joint Chiefs when he says things are going well?\"

Copyright 2006 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures

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Iran will stand by rights in case of UN referral or sanctions

5 Mar 06

TEHRAN -- Supreme National Security Council Secretary General Ali Larijani said here on Sunday that referral of Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council would not prevent the Islamic Republic from conducting nuclear research and achieving development.

"It would be very outrageous for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran to the Security Council for its research work," he told reporters at a press conference.

If the nuclear dossier is referred to the UN, Iran will reduce its cooperation with the IAEA and start uranium enrichment, Larijani stated.
"Research and development forms part of our national interests and sovereignty, and we will not renounce it.

"I don't think Iran's referral to the UN would have any advantages for them (the advocates of such a move). We do not welcome this issue and all our efforts are focused on resolving the case through diplomatic and peaceful channels.

"We don't seek anything beyond our rights," Larijani stressed.

"Iran demands its rights within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with the supervision of the IAEA."

Commenting on IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei's recent report on Iran's nuclear activities, he said that after three years, the IAEA still has not found any evidence proving that Iran has diverted to a nuclear weapons program.

Asked whether Iran would use oil as a weapon in case of a referral, Larijani replied, "We are not interested in using oil as a weapon because international security is important for us. But, of course, if the situation changes, our decisions and relations will also change."

He added that Iran does not want to withdraw from the NPT.

"We have a positive view of the NPT, on condition that it is implemented correctly. But, seeing the IAEA being used as a tool by powerful countries is not acceptable for us, and if they try to change the current situation, Iran will certainly respond," he observed.

Iranian officials should make the utmost efforts to uphold the country's right to research activities on uranium enrichment, he said.

"If the IAEA or any other organization makes illegal demands of Iran, we will not accept it, but if they offer a formula to restore Iran's rights, we will welcome it.

"What's important is that Iran has acquired nuclear expertise and has reached favorable results in this regard."

On the nuclear negotiations with Moscow concerning its offer to establish a joint uranium enrichment facility on Russian soil, Larijani said that the atmosphere of the talks has been favorable so far, and Iran has not lost hope in reaching an agreement with Russia.

"We have made some good progress in talks, and some agreements have been made on a package to resolve the issue.

"We feel that Russia wants to make efforts to lead Iran's nuclear issue into a logical path."

Larijani noted that the Russian proposal should guarantee Iran's right to research and industrial-scale enrichment on its own soil.

"Our national security doctrine is based on establishing permanent security with our neighbors, and so far we have had favorable ties with Russia."

He noted that the U.S. is concerned about the Iran-Russia cooperation and has magnified the issue of the Security Council since it knows that a referral would bring an end to the negotiations with Russia.

"The U.S. administration needs a new crisis, and in order to divert world public opinion from its disgrace in Iraq, it has embarked on psychological warfare.

"The U.S. wants Iran's nuclear talks with Russia and the European Union three (Britain, Germany, and France) to fail. It is trying to show that another element needs to enter the talks, and that it has to help in order to resolve the issue.

"I view the path of Russia and Europe as far more logical than that of the U.S. since it benefits all sides, and it should not be thought that Iran will back down due to pressure," Larijani said.

"For us, Russian President Vladimir Putin is more reliable than U.S. President George W. Bush," he added.

If the U.S. does enter the scene, it must step wisely so that Iran can have a correct view of its intentions, he noted.

He called on opponents of Iran's research activities to put forward a logical reason for their demand.

"We will be flexible if there is a logical reason, but they can't deprive Iran of its rights through speculation and suspicion and without any evidence.

"The U.S. is worried Iran will build an atom bomb, but no nuclear expert has asserted that Iran could produce a bomb during the stage of research and development.

"We will not back down if they refer us to the UN, or even if they impose sanctions or wage a war, since we have developed nuclear technology.

"Through such measures they will only reduce the level of supervision," Larijani stated.

He noted that Iran would not give a positive response to bullying and threats but would respond positively to efforts to resolve the issue logically.

"We are patient, but we realize when the issue is really a suspicion and when it is really a pretext. We will respond to the questions but will not allow anyone to raise pretexts."

Larijani stated that so far Iran has passed three stages: extraction of yellow cake at the mines, conversion of yellow cake to UF6, and nuclear research and development.

ElBaradei has clearly acknowledged that Iran has acquired nuclear expertise, he said.

Larijani also denied that any discussions had been held with the EU on a suspension of Iran's nuclear activities for a specific period of time.

"We will not accept a suspension of nuclear research, but we can accept suspending industrial-scale production for a short period if certain concerns are taken into consideration."

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Risen sez: CIA used A-bomb plan as bait - gave flawed design to Iran

By James Risen
Toronto Star
4 Mar 06

Iran and EU officials failed yesterday to resolve a standoff over Iran\'s nuclear work before a United Nations atomic watchdog meeting Monday that may lead to Security Council action. In his book, State of War, James Risen includes the startling claim that the U.S. actually handed Tehran the blueprints for an atomic bomb in 2000. The CIA scheme was to introduce intentional flaws in the design plans that would delay or derail Iranian work. The following excerpt shows the poorly conceived plan and its easily identified flaws.

Risen is the reporter who revealed a secret domestic U.S. wiretapping surveillance program exists in the United States.
The Russian stood out like a poor eastern cousin on Vienna\'s jeweled cityscape.

He was a nuclear engineer who had defected to the United States years earlier and quietly settled in America. He went through the CIA\'s defector resettlement program and endured long debriefings in which CIA experts and scientists from the national laboratories tried to drain him of everything he knew about the status of Russia\'s nuclear weapons program. Like many other Russian defectors before him, his tiresome complaints about money and status had gained him a reputation within the CIA of being difficult to manage. But he was too valuable for the CIA to toss away...

So despite their disputes, the CIA had arranged for the Russian to become an American citizen and had kept him on the payroll, to the tune of $5,000 (U.S.) a month. It really did seem like easy money, with few strings attached. Life was good. He was happy to be on the CIA gravy train.

Until now. The CIA was placing him on the front lines of a plan that seemed to be completely at odds with the interests of the United States, and it had taken a lot of persuading by his CIA case officer to convince him to go through with what appeared to be a rogue operation.

The code name for this operation was MERLIN...

The Russian\'s assignment from the CIA was to pose as an unemployed and greedy scientist who was willing to sell his soul - and the secrets of the atomic bomb - to the highest bidder. By hook or by crook, the CIA told him, he was to get the nuclear blueprints to the Iranians. They would quickly recognize their value and rush them back to their superiors in Tehran.

The plan had been laid out for the defector during a CIA-financed trip to San Francisco, where he had meetings with CIA officers and nuclear experts mixed in with leisurely wine-tasting trips to Sonoma County. In a luxurious San Francisco hotel room, a senior CIA official involved in the operation walked the Russian through the details of the plan. He brought in experts from one of the national laboratories to go over the blueprints that he was supposed to give the Iranians.

The senior CIA officer could see that the Russian was nervous, and so he tried to downplay the significance of what they were asking him to do. He told the Russian that the CIA was mounting the operation simply to find out where the Iranians are with their nuclear program. This was just an intelligence-gathering effort, the CIA officer said, not an illegal attempt to give Iran the bomb.

At the case officer\'s urging, the Russian started sending messages to Iranian scientists, scholars, and even Iranian diplomats stationed at the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Vienna.

As he mingled with scientists and other academics, the Russian picked up business cards and email addresses. The Russian began to email his new contacts, sending intriguing messages explaining that he wanted to talk with them about his ability to provide materials of interest to Iran. Finally, at one conference, he hit pay dirt when he met a physics professor visiting from Tehran.

The Russian followed up his chance encounter with emails to the scientist back at his university in Iran. The Russian explained that he had information that was extremely important, and he wanted to make an offer. After some delays, the Iranian finally responded, with a wary message, asking what he had in mind. That was enough for the CIA. Now the Russian could tell Iranian officials in Vienna that he had been in touch with a respected scientist in Tehran before he showed up on their doorstep. The CIA had discovered that a high-ranking Iranian official would be travelling to Vienna and visiting the Iranian mission to the IAEA, and so the agency decided to take the next step and send the Russian to Vienna at the same time. It was hoped that he could make contact with either the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA or the visitor from Tehran.

The CIA sent him to Vienna without any backup...

Only a handful of CIA officers knew of the existence of MERLIN.

Better to let the Russian get lost and fumble his way around town than tell more officers about the operation.

He could not stop thinking about his trip to San Francisco, when he had studied the blueprints the CIA had given him. Within minutes of being handed the designs, he had identified a flaw. \"This isn\'t right,\" he told the CIA officers gathered around the hotel room.

\"There is something wrong.\" His comments prompted stony looks, but no straight answers from the CIA men in the room... After their trip to San Francisco, the case officer handed the Russian a sealed envelope with the nuclear blueprints inside. The Russian was told not to open the envelope under any circumstances. He was to follow the CIA\'s instructions to find the Iranians and give them the envelope with the documents inside. Keep it simple, and get out of Vienna safe and alive, the Russian was told. But the defector was more worried than ever about what kind of game the CIA was getting him into. And he had his own ideas about how he might play that game.

In Vienna, the Russian went over his options one more time and made a decision. He unsealed the envelope with the nuclear blueprints and included a personal letter of his own to the Iranians. No matter what the CIA told him, he was going to hedge his bets. There was obviously something wrong with these blueprints - so he decided to mention that fact to the Iranians in a letter. They would certainly find flaws for themselves, and if he didn\'t tell them first, they would never want to deal with him again...

The Russian slid his letter in with the blueprints and resealed the envelope.

After his day of floundering around Vienna, the Russian returned to his hotel, near the city\'s large Stadtpark. He did a computer search and found the right street address for the Iranian mission. His courage bolstered, he decided he would go back and finish the job in the morning.

He found 19 Heinstrasse...

The only proof that this was the right place was a mail directory, with three rows of tenants\' names on the wall beside the building\'s front door. Amid the list of Austrian tenants, there was one simple line: PM/Iran.\" The Iranians clearly didn\'t want publicity.

The Russian slipped through the front door, and hurriedly shoved his envelope through the inner door slot at the Iranian office. The Russian fled the mission without being seen. He was deeply relieved that he had finally made the handoff without ever having to come face to face with a real live Iranian. He flew back to the U.S. without being detected by either Austrian security or, more important, by Iranian intelligence...

Just days after the Russian dropped off his package at the Iranian mission, the NSA (National Security Agency) reported that an Iranian official in Vienna abruptly changed his schedule and suddenly made airline reservations and flew home to Iran. The odds were that the nuclear blueprints were now in Tehran.

From STATE OF WAR by James Risen. Copyright © 2006 by James Risen. Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY.

Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited

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Jewish plot to kill Bevin in London

Peter Day
UK Times Online

JEWISH terrorists plotted to assassinate Ernest Bevin, the foreign secretary, in 1946, as part of their campaign to establish the state of Israel, newly declassified intelligence files have shown. The plan was devised by Irgun, the insurgent group led by Menachem Begin, who went on to become a Nobel peace prize winner and prime minister of Israel.

Begin, whom MI6 believed was backed by the Soviet Union, planned to send five terrorist cells to Britain to carry out bombings and assassinations that would \"beat the dog in his own kennel\".

The Jewish insurgents aimed to force British occupying forces out of Palestine, enabling the founding of the Jewish state. Details of the plot are included in MI5 files released at the National Archives in Kew, London.
Lord Bethell, author of The Palestine Triangle and an expert on Soviet intelligence, said Bevin was detested by Zionist groups. He added, however: \"Zionists would be very angry if you compared these people with terrorists now. You have to remember that Irgun were the grandfathers of today\'s ruling politicians.

\"They would say they were at war with the British and behaved well, fighting under Marquess of Queensberry rules. They would say that they didn't target civilians.\"

Before the establishment of Israel in 1948, Britain governed the whole of Palestine under a mandate from the United Nations. Agitation among the Jewish population for a separate state escalated immediately after the second world war as refugees flooded in from Europe.

It reached its most intense point in July 1946, when the British headquarters at the King David hotel in Jerusalem was bombed by Jewish fighters dressed as Arabs with explosives contained in milk churns. Ninety-one people, 28 of them British, were killed.

The MI5 files contain a report suggesting that Irgun carried out the attack after drawing lots with two other militant groups, Stern and Hagana. Stern drew the lot to attack British ships in the Mediterranean while Hagana were chosen to attack army camps.

In August 1946, the month after the King David attack, Major James Robertson, head of MI5's Middle East section, warned London that both Begin's group and Stern were sending five terrorist cells to the capital to mirror IRA tactics of bombing and assassination.

Roberston added: "In recent months it has been reported that they have been training selected members for the purpose of assassinating a prominent British personality. Special reference has been several times made to Mr Bevin."

Bevin, the Labour foreign secretary, was an opponent of the creation of a Jewish state and had recommended that Jewish refugees in Europe should be forcibly prevented from emigrating to Palestine.

The planned terrorist campaign ended up being restricted largely to letter bombs. In 1947, 20 were sent to leading figures in Britain including Bevin and Anthony Eden, his Tory predecessor.

After the establishment of Israel, Begin, who died in 1992, dissolved Irgun and turned to politics. He became prime minister in the 1970s and was awarded the Nobel prize in 1978 jointly with Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt, for signing the Camp David peace accords.

Comment: Lord Bethell might say that:

Zionists would be very angry if you compared these people with terrorists now, that Irgun were the grandfathers of today\'s ruling politicians, or that they would say they were at war with the British and behaved well, fighting under Marquess of Queensberry rules. They would say that they didn't target civilians

but the fact remains that Zionists of the 1940\'s engaged in terrorist bombings that targetted civilians and they are the forefathers of today\'s Zionists who have not only carried on the tradition but taken it to inordinate extremes. Reference Israeli Zionist involvement in the 9/11 attacks for example. In concept, there is no different between the 1946 Israeli terrorist bombing of the King David Hotel and the September 11th attacks in New York. Both were carried out by Zionists so as to enable them to push forward their agenda of a radical reshaping of the Middle East. The ultimate truth however, is that this agenda will most likely result in the destruction of a large percentage of the all Semites in the modern-day Middle East.

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Israelis petition to stop suicide bombing film from winning an Oscar

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
04 March 2006

One of the few charges that hasn\'t been levelled against Paradise Now, the Palestinian-directed film up for the best foreign film Oscar tomorrow night, is that it\'s boring.

From the opening sequence in which Suha, a young woman returning from exile abroad, confronts the relentless, hostile stare of the Israeli soldier going through her bag at the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus, to the last scene when the screen goes blank rather than show the suicide bombing on a Tel Aviv bus which drives the story, the film grips just like the thriller that its director, Hany Abu-Assad, intended it to be.

Many of the scenes, some haunting, some darkly tragi-comic, linger in the memory: the moment when Said meets his handler from the unnamed militant faction and is told that the bombing mission is on for the next day; the release that spreads across Khaled\'s face when he believes they have aborted the mission; the laughing Israeli soldiers in the bus in closing sequence.
But then it\'s exactly because even Paradise Now\'s harshest critics agree that it is so well made that it has triggered a campaign for the withdrawal of the Oscar nomination. At an event run by the Israel Project, an advocacy group funded largely from the US, the Academy received a 33,000-signature petition against the nomination. Yossi Zur, the Israeli who organised the petition, wasn\'t there to hand it in personally because tomorrow is also the third anniversary of the day his 16-year-old son, Asaf, a computer science student, was killed, along with 16 other people, by a real Palestinian suicide bomber who boarded the bus he was travelling home from school in Haifa.

And yesterday\'s issue of Variety carried a full-page advertisement placed by the Israel Project, entitled \"An Unseen End to Paradise Now\" with a page of \"screenplay\" describing the 2003 Haifa bombing to replace the one that is never shown in the movie. The fact the film refrains from showing the carnage left by a suicide bomb - as it refrains from showing bloodshed on either side in the conflict - is part of what has infuriated its opponents.

\"The victims do not have a voice,\" says the Israel Project\'s Calev Ben David. \"Imagine a film about 9/11 which didn\'t show the consequences, which ended without the planes going into the World Trade Centre. Would it have been nominated?\" This week Mr Ben David chaired a press conference here given by Mr Zur and two other fathers, one of whom, Yosi Mendellevich, whose son Yuvi, 13 was killed in the Haifa bombing, said the film was \"dangerous propaganda\" and \"artistic terror\" which would \"actually contribute to the death industry\".

Amir Harel, the film\'s Israeli producer, says he \"can understand and sympathise with the families\' sorrow and grief\" but argues that such claims are \"irrelevant\" to a film \"which rejects terror as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict\". Certainly, the often appreciative reaction by the 20,000 Israelis who have already seen the film suggests a more complex reality than claims that it \"justifies\" suicide bombings.

The film has been playing to above-average audiences for an arthouse film, 150-a-sitting, at the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Cinematheques; yet in Nablus, where the film is set and much of it was made, there is yet to be a public showing after community leaders given a private viewing advised against it. One reason was that Said and Suha kiss each other on the lips; another was that some faction leaders objected that Said, the son of a collaborator who goes ahead with the bombing, and Khaled, who does not, were not given sufficient religious and ideological motives, as opposed to the ones of personal despair that are depicted in the film.

The latter group, like Israeli opponents, will not have liked the \"martyr video\" scene which Hany Abu Assad has said \"catches the heart of the film\'s idea by simultaneously breaking down the martyrdom-heroism as well as the monster-evil and making it human. And humans are often quite banal, but also funny and emotional,\" he says. \"In real life there often is comedy in the most tragic moments. I understand that it will be upsetting to some that I have given a human face to the suicide bombers; I am also very critical of the suicide bombers, as well.\"

Part of its impact on Israelis is to show, in far from exaggerated terms, daily hardship under occupation. \"It\'s a film everyone in Israel should see,\" said Vered Borhalevy, 28, a teacher, as she left Wednesday\'s showing in Jerusalem. \"It makes you identify with the other side.\" Was she bothered that the bombing itself is not shown? \"That you can see all the time [in television news]. This you don\'t see.\"

Jochanan Minsker, 70, an architect, said the \"most terrible thing\" in it was the contrast between living in a \"prison\" in the West Bank and the - relatively - \"normal life\" in Israel.

But the film has also challenged Palestinians. East Jerusalem student Maiada Barkhoum, 24, who was in Thursday\'s Cinematheque audience, emerged \"confused\" by the equally compelling characters of Said, and Suha, who argues passionately against suicide attacks in the film. On the one hand, she said, \"you have to sympathise with Said. I cannot support what he has done but I can understand it ... I identified with Suha\'s role. She has lost her lover and she can\'t do anything about it.\"

Film that showed Academy\'s \'double standards\'

If Paradise Now is in contention for a foreign-language Oscar, it\'s largely thanks to a fight waged on behalf of another Palestinian film, Divine Intervention. The story of two lovers separated by the Israeli occupation in the West Bank was disregarded for Oscar contention in 2002 because foreign language entries need to be sponsored by their country of origin, and Palestine did not count as a country. The Academy was accused of anti-Arab bias and blatant double standards, since Puerto Rico, Hong Kong and Taiwan have been submitting entries for years although they are not countries with full United Nations representation. In 2000, the Welsh- language film Solomon and Gaenor was nominated for the best foreign film category, with Wales as sponsoring \"country\", 800 years after it lost its independence. The Academy eventually relented, saying it would make an \"exception\".

Comment: It would appear that the Israeli lobby in the U.S. have, once again, got their way. Paradise Now did not win an Oscar for best foreign film. Yay Democracy!

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Daniel Pipes believes that civil war in Iraq will serve coalition interests

by Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
February 28, 2006

SOTT has been saying for some time that all the bombings and civil unrest in Iraq have very likely been due to \"coalition covert ops.\" In these two pieces below, one an article and the other an interview, we get a view inside the mind of a psychopath, Daniel Pipes. Pipes reveals for us the true intentions of the Neocons. Of course, he attempts to maintain the tissue of lies, that the Neocons really wanted a \"free and democratic Iraq,\" and suggests, disingenuously that the Administration is not \"thinking this way\", i.e. that civil war in Iraq is a good thing. But it is clear that the Neocons ARE thinking this way and doing everything they can to make sure that it happens.
The bombing on February 22 of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, Iraq, was a tragedy, but it was not an American or a coalition tragedy.

The destruction of the Golden Dome, built in 1905 and one of the holiest shrines of Shiite Islam, represents an escalation of the Sunni assault on the Shiites, a purposeful outrage intended to provoke an emotional backlash. It signals not Sunni weakness but the determination of elements in Iraq\'s long-ruling community to reassert its dominance. Iraq\'s president, Jalal Talabani, has rightly warned, \"The fire of sedition, when it breaks out, can burn everything in its path and spare no one.\" One shudders at the possible carnage ahead.

That said, Iraq\'s plight is neither a coalition responsibility nor a particular danger to the West.

When Washington and its allies toppled the hideous regime of Saddam Hussein, which endangered the outside world by beginning two wars of expansion, by building a WMD arsenal, and by aspiring to control the trade in oil and gas, they bestowed a historic benefit on Iraqis, a population that had been wantonly oppressed by the Stalinist dictator.

Unsurprisingly, his regime quickly fell to outside attack, proving to be the \"cakewalk\" that many analysts, including myself, had expected. That six-week victory remains a glory of American foreign policy and of the coalition forces. It also represents a personal achievement for President Bush, who made the key decisions.

But the president decided that this mission was not enough. Dazzled by the examples of post-World War II Germany and Japan – whose transformations in retrospect increasingly appear to have been one-time achievements – he committed troops in the pursuit of creating a \"free and democratic Iraq.\" This noble aim was inspired by the best of America\'s idealism.

But nobility of purpose did not suffice for rehabilitating Iraq, as I predicted already in April 2003. Iraqis, a predominantly Muslim population newly liberated from their totalitarian dungeon, were disinclined to follow the American example; for their part, the American people lacked a deep interest in the welfare of Iraq. This combination of forces guarantees the coalition cannot impose its will on 26 million Iraqis.

It also implies the need for a lowering of coalition goals. I cheer the goal of a \"free and democratic Iraq,\" but the time has come to acknowledge that the coalition\'s achievement will be limited to destroying tyranny, not sponsoring its replacement. There is nothing ignoble about this limited achievement, which remains a landmark of international sanitation. It would be especially unfortunate if aiming too high spoils that attainment and thereby renders future interventions less likely. The benefits of eliminating Saddam\'s rule must not be forgotten in the distress of not creating a successful new Iraq.

Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition\'s responsibility nor its burden. The damage done by Saddam will take many years to repair. Americans, Britons, and others cannot be tasked with resolving Sunni-Shiite differences, an abiding Iraqi problem that only Iraqis themselves can address.

The eruption of civil war in Iraq would have many implications for the West. It would likely:

*Invite Syrian and Iranian participation, hastening the possibility of an American confrontation with those two states, with which tensions are already high.

* Terminate the dream of Iraq serving as a model for other Middle Eastern countries, thus delaying the push toward elections. This will have the effect of keeping Islamists from being legitimated by the popular vote, as Hamas was just a month ago.

* Reduce coalition casualties in Iraq. As noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, \"Rather than killing American soldiers, the insurgents and foreign fighters are more focused on creating civil strife that could destabilize Iraq\'s political process and possibly lead to outright ethnic and religious war.\"

* Reduce Western casualties outside Iraq. A professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Vali Nasr, notes: \"Just when it looked as if Muslims across the region were putting aside their differences to unite in protest against the Danish cartoons, the attack showed that Islamic sectarianism remains the greatest challenge to peace.\" Put differently, when Sunni terrorists target Shiites and vice-versa, non-Muslims are less likely to be hurt.

Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one.

Also: Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Broadcast: 02/03/2006

Civil war likely in Iraq: Pipes

Reporter: Tony Jones

TONY JONES: Well Saddam\'s trial may have adjourned for a short break, but there\'s been an orgy of violence throughout Iraq since last week\'s bombing of the Shi\'ia Muslim holy site, the Golden Shrine, in Samarra. The wave of attacks and killings has left many fearful that the country is on the brink of descending into civil war. But at least one influential commentator, the director of the Middle East Forum, Dr Daniel Pipes, believes that while a civil war in Iraq would be a humanitarian tragedy, it would \"not be a strategic one\". Daniel Pipes joins us now from Philadelphia. Thanks for being there.


TONY JONES: Can you explain to me how you could regard a civil war in Iraq as anything but a strategic disaster?

DR DANIEL PIPES: Well, let me start by emphasising that it it is a humanitarian disaster and in no sense do I want one to take place. It\'s a horrible prospect. Should, however, it take place I don\'t, think from the point of view of the coalition it is necessarily that bad for our interests.

TONY JONES: Can you tell us why you think that? And I suppose the broader question is do you think that other people, that people within the administration are thinking the same way?

DR DANIEL PIPES: No, I don\'t think they\'re thinking the same way because I think they aspire to create a new Iraq. I don\'t aspire to it. I think our coalition, Australian, American, British and other achievement was in getting rid of Saddam Hussein. This was an extraordinary development and wonderful for the Iraqis for the region, and for ourselves. That does mean that we\'re in a position to create a new Iraq, a free and prosperous Iraq. That is up to the Iraqis. No matter how many soldiers we put in, it will be the Iraqis who decide their future. We can help them with money, with soldiers, and other means, but it is they who make this decision. From that point of view, should there be a civil war in Iraq, there are various trends which will be disrupted, trends which I think are negative.

TONY JONES: Tell me what sort of trends you\'re talking about? Because I\'m still struggling to understand how it would be anything but a strategic disaster.

DR DANIEL PIPES: Well, in the first place, there would be fewer attacks on our forces in Iraq as they fight each other. More broadly outside Iraq. There would be fewer attacks on us as the Shi\'ites and the Sunnis attack each other. The imperative that the US Government, in particular, has been following would be shunted aside - an imperative which I think has led to negative results, because the victors in democracy, whether it be Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have in all these cases been our most extreme enemies - the Islamists. And I think as developments in Iraq slow down the democracy process, so it will elsewhere and we will be the better for it.

TONY JONES: I\'ll come back to this question about the democracy experiment in Iraq in a moment, because there is a change of mood, it seems, among a lot of commentators in the United States on this question, on both sides of politics. But first, if your strategic assessment is right, or even if it\'s right, surely the United States would have both a legal and a moral obligation to step in between the two sides and stop a civil war?

DR DANIEL PIPES: I don\'t think so. Let me give a bit of history. Post-World War I the British and French victors, extracted, as historically victors had, money and other benefits from the defeated German and other powers. Post-World War II, the American and other victors did not extract money from Germany and Japan, but gave them money and it worked. Germany and Japan were rehabilitated. Since 1945, 60 years now, the notion that the victor pays, rehabilitates has become an assumption. I have nothing against it. It worked very well in 1945 but I don\'t believe it\'s a legal and moral obligation. I believe when one goes to war, one goes to defeat one\'s enemy not to rehabilitate them.

TONY JONES: Would I mind if I interrupt. You may not think it\'s a legal obligation, but under international law, occupying forces do have the duty, the legal duty, to protect civilians in the country that they\'re occupying.

DR DANIEL PIPES: I don\'t believe, at this point, the coalition forces in Iraq constitute an occupation no more than say American forces in Europe are an occupation force at this point. They are there at the invitation of the Government and can be told by the government to leave. So this is not an occupation anymore. There is now a constituted government in Iraq. I say the Iraqis are adults they are not our wards. They will define their future. We can help them but it is not our burden to re-establish, to rehabilitate Iraq on a new basis.

TONY JONES: If you don\'t accept the legal argument, what about the moral one?

DR DANIEL PIPES: The moral one is a good one, but it\'s not a defining one. That is to say that we do want to help Iraqis. All of us want to see a free and prosperous Iraq, but it is not a moral obligation on us. Just because we got rid of Saddam Hussein doesn\'t mean that we are obligated to fix Iraq. I think the great achievement of the coalition was to get rid of this hideous totalitarian thug running Iraq. A danger to the Iraqis, the region and the outside world. That does not imply that we must - we can try - but it doesn\'t mean we must or are obligated - to fix Iraq. And I don\'t think we can fix Iraq. If thought we could I\'d say, \"Let\'s try it. \" I don\'t think the Iraqis want us there to fix Iraq. The big difference, the key difference, between the Germans and the Japanese 60 years ago and the Iraqis today is that the Germans and Japanese went through years of total war, were smashed by it. The Iraqis went through six weeks of very limited war, and came out liberated and feeling they they are in a position to determine their destiny. I say good for them, let them do that.

TONY JONES: Isn\'t it far too cold-blooded a calculation for the invading force to say, \"Well if the Shi\'ia and Sunni are shooting and killing each other, at least they\'re not shooting at us?\"

DR DANIEL PIPES: Let me emphasise I do not want them to be shooting each other. I wish that the communities found a way to work together. I\'m just saying should there be a civil war, it is not necessarily all that bad for our interests. By no means am I endorsing it, by no means do I want one. I\'m looking at it in a cool way and saying there are advantages to it. Let me emphasise that does not mean I want it to happen.

TONY JONES: It\'s just slightly shocking for someone to say that so boldly, that\'s the point I\'m making.

DR DANIEL PIPES: Well I think it\'s useful to look at it coolly and say, \"What are our interests here?\" After all, we are looking at Iraq from our national interest point of view. Will we be all that set back by this? I say no. There are negative things, there are positive things. It\'s a mix. I\'m not quite sure how it will come out.

TONY JONES: Let\'s go back to this other fundamental argument, in fact, the argument you\'ve been making for some years now, that the democratic experiment simply isn\'t going to work or wasn\'t going to work as you were saying in Iraq. There seem to be a number of commentators from both sides of the political fence coming to that conclusion now in the United States and only today in the \'Washington Post\', the \'Atlantic Monthly\'s Robert Kaplan writes,\"For the average person in Iraq a despotic state that can protect him is far more moral and far more useful than a democratic one that cannot.\"

DR DANIEL PIPES: That\'s a good point. But my emphasis is somewhat different, in that by pushing forward too quickly - and I emphasise too quickly - the democratic process, we\'re bringing totalitarians to power. Whether it be in Afghanistan Iraq or the other countries I listed, it is the Islamists, it is the radical Islamist forces, which are best funded, most ideally coherent who invariably succeed. The most dramatic was in Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. Hamas succeeded in late January, just a month and a bit ago. I worry this is going too fast. I endorse it, it\'s a great goal. We want a democratic Middle East, but it has to be done slowly, cautiously, modestly, not ramming it through despite the consequences.

TONY JONES: Kaplan\'s argument - he\'s coming from the left as I understand it - is pretty similar in many respects to what you\'re saying. He\'s saying it has to be a long-term project. He\'s pointing to the fact that, in his view, the most stable states are Jordan, Morocco and the Gulf Emirates - countries that are all monarchies. It\'s too late, however, to turn back the clock and change the way you deal with Iraq, so what\'s the next step as far as you would see it?

DR DANIEL PIPES: The next step is to recalibrate, to realise that democracy, or elections, are the culmination of a long process of building civic society. Rule of law, voluntary associations, freedom of speech and so forth. This takes decades. We\'ve seen this around the world, and that the Middle East needs time to develop these counter-intuitive sensibilities. To learn the things that we as Westerners know as we grow up. They don\'t know these things, it will take time and that we should slow down the process. Yes, work towards eventually democracy, but more slowly than we\'re doing at present.

TONY JONES: The problem, of course, is the rhetoric, which led us into war that came from Washington - and its allies, for that matter - saying that one of the great goals of this war, of this invasion was to create a democracy and the neo-conservative dream bound up in that, that a model democracy in Iraq would somehow radiate throughout the Middle East. I mean, how can President Bush step back from that?

DR DANIEL PIPES: Well, he has already somewhat stepped back in that he doesn\'t really talk about free and prosperous Iraq, he talks about a free Iraq. He has worked backwards from it. But yes, the name in the US was Operation Iraqi Freedom. I bristled at that. I thought it should be \'Operation American Security\'. And we don\'t spend American lives to win other people\'s freedom; we do it in order to protect ourselves. I think, again, a more modest approach where we keep an eye on our interest and hope for the best for the Iraqis and do the best we can for them, or any other people\'s, but not make their welfare the reason why we go to war, why we lose lives. That\'s not going to work.

TONY JONES: Let me ask you this: who do you believe is responsible for the outrages, such as the attack on the Shi\'ia shrine in Samarra, which appear to be aimed at provoking civil war?

DR DANIEL PIPES: I have no reason to disagree with the consensus assessment that this is al-Qaeda or some affiliate of it. But one point that doesn\'t come out often is to note that the Sunnis have been running Iraq for a very long time and although they now constitute a quite small minority - 20% of the population - they believe they should be running the country. And that is behind much of the politics since the overthrow of Saddam three years ago: they\'re reluctant to let go; they see themselves as the natural rulers of Iraq. And that explains, I think much of the violence - not specifically this violence but, broadly - the Shi\'ite unrest and unwillingness to fit into a new order.

TONY JONES: The other great risk of sectarian conflict worsens in Iraq is that both Syria and Iran could be drawn into the conflict on either side. And how real is that possibility? And isn\'t that, in fact, one of the greatest dangers faced by the United States?

DR DANIEL PIPES: It is definitely a real possibility and there\'s also the possibility of Turkey, which has an unresolved border at the north of Iraq, where there\'s a lot of oil coming in, as well. I\'m more worried about the Turkish involvement, in some ways, than the other two. The US has extreme tensions, with both Syria and Iran - this could exacerbate them. I don\'t know that that\'s all to the negative. I\'m not - this is a complicated matter. But again, you know, strategically speaking, coolly speaking, I\'m not sure that\'s all to the bad; Turkey would be all to the bad.

TONY JONES: Let\'s look at Iran for a minute, because the Iranian regime, under considerable international pressure, appears to have blinked tonight. It\'s agreed to go back to ministerial talks in Vienna with the EU negotiators at the very least, not American negotiators, but with EU negotiators. I mean, they are facing the possibility of this whole thing going to the UN Security Council within a week, if they don\'t begin negotiating again. What do you think is happening here?

DR DANIEL PIPES: Well, I think the important thing about Iran is that unlike, say, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, which was a one man Stalinist rule, where one man\'s mind ran the country, in Iran, you have contending power centres and our goal - the outside world\'s goal - has to be to encourage those elements in Iran that are unenthusiastic about the race towards nuclear weaponry, to stop it. And interestingly you said was the Europeans. It is the Europeans who are at the forefront of this, for a variety of reasons, not the Americans. And it is the Europeans who are pressing as hard as they can and making some rather bold statements in this regard about the need for the Iranians to slow down. And I think the prospects are decent, that elements within Iran that don\'t want to be isolated that don\'t want war, that don\'t want this trouble ahead could prevail over the hot heads and say \"Slow down. Watch out. Don\'t do this.\"

TONY JONES: Can I ask what sort of message, though, does it send to Iran - which wants to develop nuclear weapons clearly - that President Bush has today concluded a deal with, essentially, a nuclear renegade, someone that broke with the international consensus: India, and signed a deal to give them American nuclear technology?

DR DANIEL PIPES: Yeah, it is problematic. I have grave doubts about it as well. One point to make is that the Indians never signed the nuclear proliferation treaty and, in that sense, are not renegade in the same way that the Iranians are - though I acknowledge that\'s a fairly legalistic point. No, these - there is a problem that we try and keep people or States out of the nuclear club but once they get in, they\'re in and we accept it. It is hypocritical, there is no doubt, but at the same time I\'m not quite sure what the alternative policies are. This is a high priority for the Indians and the US is looking to improve, finally, its relations with India. So this is a natural - I am very queasy about it.

TONY JONES: Doesn\'t it fundamentally undermine the argument that they\'re making about Iran developing nuclear weapons, though, that they\'re prepared even to strike Iranian nuclear sites, that that threat has been left out there. At the same time they\'re dealing with a country that broke the international consensus?

DR DANIEL PIPES: There is hypocrisy I grant, but at the same time there\'s a big difference between regimes. We accept, more dramatically, we accepted the Pakistani development of nuclear weaponry in a way we don\'t accept the Iranian one because we were not that worried that the Pakistanis would use it. We are truly worried that the Iranian capability, nuclear weapon capability would be used, would be deployed, would be not just a bomb in the attic, there for a rainy day, but actually be used. And that\'s why the alarm overrun. It\'s a lot to do with the nature of the regime as well as the technical and nuclear capabilities.

TONY JONES: Daniel Pipes, the President now goes to deal with a military dictator in Pakistan. He goes from dealing with a nuclear renegade in India to another nuclear renegade in Pakistan, who also happens, as it turns out, to be a military dictator. What will he be saying to President Musharraf about his desire to spread democracy throughout the world, do you think?

DR DANIEL PIPES: Well I think the kind of counsel I would give about going slow is likely to be - more likely to be applied in Pakistan than in many of the other neighbouring or regional states. That yes, we want democracy, yes, please move in that direction - and I\'m quite happy with that. I think that nudging dictators towards democracy, opening things up at lower levels, at the municipal level, at the legislative side, is perfectly legitimate. I don\'t think Pakistan is ready for immediate, total, open democracy such as you and we know. But working in that direction, opening things up, having a favourable trend - that to me seems like a good idea and I would hope the President would push Mr Musharraf in that direction.

TONY JONES: Well, Daniel Pipes we will have to leave you. Once again, we thank you for getting up so early in the morning to come and speak to us on Lateline.

DR DANIEL PIPES: Thank you for the invitation to chat.

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Rickman slams \'censorship\' of play about US Gaza activist

Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday February 28, 2006

A New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current \"political climate\" - a decision the play\'s British director, Alan Rickman, denounced yesterday as \"censorship\".

James Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said it had never formally announced it would be staging the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, but it had been considering staging it in March.

\"In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon\'s illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation,\" Mr Nicola said.

\"We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn\'t want to take.\"
He said he had suggested a postponement until next year.

Mr Rickman, best known for his film acting roles in Love, Actually and the Harry Potter series and who directed the play at London\'s Royal Court Theatre, denounced the decision.

\"I can only guess at the pressures of funding an independent theatre company in New York, but calling this production \"postponed\" does not disguise the fact that it has been cancelled,\" Mr Rickman said in a statement.

\"This is censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences - all of us are the losers.\"

Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old activist from Washington state crushed in March 2003 when she put herself between an Israeli army bulldozer and a Palestinian home it was about to demolish in Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

The International Solidarity Movement, of which she was a member, claimed the bulldozer driver ran her over deliberately. The Israeli Defence Forces said it was an accident, and that she was killed by falling debris.

The Israeli government said the demolitions were aimed at creating a \"security zone\" along the border. The Palestinians say they are a form of collective punishment.

\"Rachel Corrie lived in nobody\'s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard,\" Mr Rickman said.

My Name is Rachel Corrie consists of her diary entries and emails home, edited by Mr Rickman and Katharine Viner, features editor of The Guardian. It won the best new play prize at this year\'s Theatregoers\' Choice Awards in London.

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Pro-Israel Lobbying Group Roiled by Prosecution of Two Ex-Officials

New York Times

The annual gathering of the nation\'s top pro-Israel lobbying group, which starts here on Sunday, will be addressed by Vice President Dick Cheney and United Nations Ambassador John R. Bolton. Politicians are lined up to warn of the threat from Iran and Hamas. Workshops will offer advice on winning the legislative game on Capitol Hill.

But the official program omits a topic likely to be a major theme of corridor chatter: the explosive Justice Department prosecution of two former officials of the group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that is ticking toward an April trial date.
The highly unusual indictment of the former officials, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, accuses them of receiving classified information about terrorism and Middle East strategy from a Defense Department analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, and passing it on to a journalist and an Israeli diplomat. Mr. Franklin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12½ years in prison, though his sentence could be reduced based on his cooperation in the case.

The prosecution has roiled the powerful organization, known as Aipac, which at first vigorously defended Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman and then fired them last March. And it has generated considerable anger among American Jews who question why the group\'s representatives were singled out in the first place.

Aipac would appear to be an unlikely target for the Bush administration; it is a political powerhouse that generally shares the administration\'s hawkish views on the potential nuclear threat from Iran and the danger of Palestinian militancy. But the case does fit with the administration\'s determination to stop leaks of classified information.

Some legal experts say the prosecution threatens political and press freedom, making a felony of the commerce in information and ideas that is Washington\'s lifeblood. Federal prosecutors are using the Espionage Act for the first time against Americans who are not government officials, do not have a security clearance and, by all indications, are not a part of a foreign spy operation.

\"The feeling in the Jewish community is one of indignation at Aipac\'s being unfairly targeted by federal prosecutors for trying to find out what everyone in this town is trying to find out - what the government is thinking,\" said Douglas M. Bloomfield, who was a legislative director of Aipac in the 1980\'s and who now writes a syndicated column on American Mideast policy.

As the marquee conference speakers attest, Aipac\'s clout has not been visibly diminished by the criminal case. Membership has increased 25 percent in the last two years to more than 100,000, and the budget has grown to $45 million, the group said. \"As always, the organization is completely focused on its core mission, the strengthening of the U.S.-Israel relationship,\" said Patrick Dorton, an Aipac spokesman.

Mr. Bloomfield said he had been told by insiders that the investigation of Mr. Rosen, director of foreign policy issues at Aipac and an influential figure there for more than 20 years, and Mr. Weissman, a Mideast analyst with the group since 1993, had proved a \"fund-raising windfall\" as donors rallied to offer their support.

But the case has set off alarms among the policy groups, lobbyists and journalists who swap information, often about national security issues, with executive-branch officials and Congressional staff members. They were not reassured by a remark from the federal judge hearing the case, at Mr. Franklin\'s sentencing in January, that the laws on classified information were not limited to government officials.

\"Persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into unauthorized possession of classified information, must abide by the law,\" the judge, T. S. Ellis III, said. \"That applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever.\"

A January legal brief by lawyers for Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman - written in part by Viet D. Dinh, a conservative former assistant attorney general in the Bush Justice Department - argued that the charges were a dangerous effort to criminalize conduct protected by the First Amendment. That argument gets fervent support from people who may not share the Aipac officials\' conservative views on foreign policy.

\"If receiving and passing on national defense information is a crime, we\'re going to have to build a lot more jails,\" said Steven Aftergood, who runs the Project on Government Secrecy at the liberal Federation of American Scientists. \"To make a crime of the kind of conversations Rosen and Weissman had with Franklin over lunch would not be surprising in the People\'s Republic of China. But it\'s utterly foreign to the American political system.\"

Peter Raven-Hansen, a law professor at George Washington University, said the case raised several legal issues and undoubtedly would end up in the next edition of his textbook on national security law.

\"Leaving aside the idea that this might chill exchanges with the press, this is a guaranteed formula for selective prosecution,\" Mr. Raven-Hansen said. In other words, he said, so many people have conversations involving borderline-classified information that the government will not be able to prosecute them all and will have to pick and choose, raising a fundamental fairness question.

Justice Department officials will not discuss the case. But in announcing the indictment of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman in August, Paul McNulty, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said, \"Those not authorized to receive classified information must resist the temptation to acquire it, no matter what their motivation may be.\"

The inquiry dates back to 1999 when, according to the indictment against Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, they first violated the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to possess and disseminate national defense information without authorization. What remains a mystery is how and when the government first focused on the Aipac employees, and why they were singled out among the hundreds of foreign policy advocates in the capital.

Former and current intelligence officials have said the two men may have stumbled into an American intelligence operation involving electronic monitoring of Israeli interests in the United States. The indictment includes what it indicates is a verbatim quotation from an April 1999 conversation Mr. Rosen had with an official of a foreign country, identified as Israel by government officials who have been briefed on the case.

Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman are accused of orally passing on to a journalist and to foreign officials classified information about American policy options in the Middle East, an F.B.I. report on the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

In August 2002, according to the indictment, the two Aipac officials first met Mr. Franklin, who supplied them with more information, much of it involving policy options toward Iran. In pleading guilty, Mr. Franklin said he did not intend to damage the United States but hoped the two lobbyists would be advocates for his views within the administration.

(Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Mr. Rosen, and John N. Nassikas III, who represents Mr. Weissman, declined to discuss the case.)

Aipac and its former employees have tussled over legal fees. In October, according to a person who had been briefed about the dispute and who would describe the delicate negotiations only on condition of anonymity, the group offered the men about $800,000 apiece to cover legal fees. But they turned down the offer because it would have required them to give up their right to sue Aipac, the person said.

Though Aipac is not accused of wrongdoing, some lawyers say a trial could prove embarrassing for the group, because it could delve into the inner workings of the organization and the internal roles played by Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman.

\"A trial has got to be a concern for Aipac,\" said Neal Sher, a former federal prosecutor and a former executive director of Aipac. \"You don\'t know what might come out. A trial might reveal its inner workings, its dealings with the government and its dealings with Israel.\"

Mr. Sher, like other former Aipac officials, said one particularly sensitive point for the group would be any evidence that it ever acted at the behest of Israeli officials. Aipac officials have never registered as agents of Israel and have never been required to, because they have not acted at the \"order, request, direction or control\" of Israel, said Philip Friedman, the group\'s general counsel.

But the question of dual loyalty, to the United States and to Israel, became touchy after the investigation was revealed. At last year\'s conference, the group broke with tradition and did not sing the Israeli national anthem.

This year, officials have said, the tradition will be restored. Both the American and Israeli anthems are on the program.

Comment: Lots of beating around the Bush (no pun) in this article, lots of skirting the issue. Israeli Zionist influences are more of less in complete control of US foreign policy, and any part of domestic policy that influences foreign policy. The 9/11 attacks constituted the final Israeli Zionist takeover of the U.S. government. AIPAC is but the \'PR man\', the public face, of this covert coup. The Franklin spying case was simply a \'limited hangout\' to create the impression that there is still some checks on the extent of Israel\'s control of the U.S. In reality, as can be seen from the fact that AIPAC and Israeli control of the U.S. has never been stronger, there are no such checks. America\'s military capability is now Israel\'s military capability, to do with as the Zionists wish. At the top level, \'Israeli interests\' are planning a major war in the Middle East that will end with the annihilation of all Semitic people\'s therein.

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And the Great Game goes on - Russia\'s gambit of genius in talking to Hamas

By Uri Avnery
5 Mar 06

Uri Avnery describes President Vladimir Putin\'s decision to talk to Hamas as a \"gambit of genius\" that has put Russia back on the political map of the Middle East. He argues that, while the USA and Europe have consigned themselves to a self-imposed straightjacket by ostrasizing Hamas, \"Putin used the sharp scalpel of unemotional logic and made the first move\", creating an opportunity to break the political deadlock and, \"above all else ... announcing that Russia is back in the Great Game\".

If you want to understand the policy of a country, look at the map!\" advised Napoleon. What he meant was: regimes come and go, rulers rise and fall, ideologies flourish and wither, but geography stands forever. It\'s geography that decides the basic interest of every state.

Vladimir Putin, heir of czars and commissars, looked at the map. Looked and picked up the telephone to invite the Hamas leaders.

A hundred years ago, the whole expanse from India to Turkey was a battlefield between Russia and the main Western power at that time, the British Empire. Adventurers, spies, diplomats and plotters of all stripes roamed the area. This contest was known as \"The Great Game\".

In time, the actors changed. The Bolsheviks took the place of the czars; the American empire succeeded the British. But the Great Game went on.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, it seemed as if the game had come to an end. Russian influence disappeared from the region. The Soviet empire dissolved, and what remained was too weak, too poor, to take part in the game. It had no jetons.

And now, with one stroke, Putin has changed everything. Inviting Hamas to Moscow was a gambit of genius: it didn\'t cost anything, and it put Russia back on the map of the Middle East. While the whole world was still puzzled and confused by the Hamas victory, Putin used the sharp scalpel of unemotional logic and made the first move of a new game.

This way, the new czar of all the Russians exploited the weakness of his rivals. President Bush has got himself into a dismal position. When all the other pretexts for his bloody Iraqi adventure had evaporated into thin air, he raised a new flag: democracy in the Middle East. He imposed new elections on the Palestinians. In these elections, the most democratic one could imagine, the winner was - alas! - Hamas.

What to do? To declare that democratic elections are good only if they deliver the outcome we desire? To boycott the Palestinian [National] Authority, now the \"Second Democracy in the Middle East\"? To starve the Palestinians until they elect the \"right\" leadership?

Bush could, of course, recognize the elected Hamas government. But how could he do that? After all, the United States has put Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations - not only its military wing, but the whole movement, including the kindergartens and mosques. Now they are caught up in the \"clash of civilizations, the apocalyptic battle between the West and Islam.

Nothing to be done. America is a chess player caught in a position of stalemate - unable to make any move at all.

Europe is in a similar situation. Like a mental patient in a straitjacket, it cannot move its arms. It put on this jacket itself. Under American and Israeli pressure, it put Hamas on its terror list, and thus condemned itself to total impotence in the new situation.

Putin does not laugh often. But now, perhaps, he may be permitting himself a thin smile.

The Palestinians, too, are quite confused. In these elections they surprised themselves, and, no less, Hamas.

Inside Fatah, there are contradictory views about what to do. The good of the Palestinian people clearly demands a wide coalition, which would include all parties, in order to overcome the crisis and prevent a boycott of the Palestinian [National] Authority by the world. But the narrow party interest of Fatah says otherwise: Let\'s compel Hamas to govern alone. It will break its head; the world will boycott it. After a year or two, the Palestinian public will return Fatah to power.

That\'s realpolitik, but dangerous. During the one or two years, the Israeli government will enlarge the settlements, build more and more of the [Apartheid] Wall, fix new borders, annex the Jordan valley - the sky is the limit. The reaction of the Palestinian public may be quite different from what the Fatah people imagine.

Hamas is also baffled. It knows full well that the elections were less an ideological breakthrough than a protest vote - more against Fatah than for Hamas. Now Hamas must gain the heart of the Palestinian people, and the people want an end to the occupation, and peace at last.

Hamas does not want the world to ostracize the Palestinian [National] Authority and starve the population. But it cannot change its skin on the morrow of its victory. What will the Palestinians say if it suddenly declares that it is ready to recognize Israel\'s right to exist, to disarm and annul its charter? That it has sold its soul to Satan in order to enjoy the comforts of power? That it is as corrupt as Fatah?

If Israel and America wanted to lead Hamas towards a path of peace, they would ease its way towards the desired change. They could find mechanisms for the transfer of the money due to the Palestinians. They could be satisfied with an announcement that the new government is based on the Oslo Agreement (which includes the recognition of Israel) without demanding that Hamas humiliate itself in public. They could agree to a hudna (armistice) for the transition period and put an end to all violent action by both sides. Hamas can be disarmed by including its fighters in the official security forces. And, of course, and most importantly - prisoners could be released.

But the present Israeli government shows no interest in making it easy for Hamas. And if the Israeli government is not interested, what American politician, if not bent on suicide, can say otherwise?

In Israel, the Hamas victory has not given rise to sorrow and lamentations. On the contrary. Israeli leaders could hardly hold back from dancing in the streets.

At long last, it has become perfectly clear that \"There is No One to Talk With\". If Yasser Arafat was no partner, and if Mahmoud Abbas was no partner, Hamas is the mother of all no-partners. Nobody can rebuke us for going on with \"targeted killings\", destroying the Palestinian economy, building walls, breaking up the West Bank territory, cutting off the Jordan valley and generally doing whatever we feel like. And if, with God\'s help, Palestinian terrorism starts again, we can say to everybody: \"We told you so!\"

But in Israel, too, there is a lot of confusion. Under American pressure, Ehud Olmert was compelled to transfer to the Palestinian at least once the revenues that Israel has collected on their behalf. He was immediately attacked for \"surrendering\" to Hamas. Even this small act of surrendering stolen money has caused a political storm. The Israeli election, due to take place in 24 days, casts its shadow on everything.

Now comes Putin\'s daring step. He makes it easier for the Hamas leadership to moderate its stance - if it is ready to join the political game. He also makes it easier for the government of Israel - if the government of Israel wants dialogue and peace. And, above all else, he is announcing that Russia is back in the Great Game.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist

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US lawyers attack Israeli security agent \"thugs\"

By Michael Conlon
4 Mar 06

A confession extracted by torture at the hands of Israeli security \"thugs\" should not be allowed in an American court, lawyers for a Palestinian immigrant accused of funneling money to Hamas said on Friday.

U.S. prosecutors said the man, Mohammed Salah, was a liar who had information known only to high-level Hamas figures before he made the 1993 confession in question and there was no evidence to support his claims of torture.
The U.S. government considers Hamas a \"terrorist organization.\" In January, it swept to victory in Palestinian elections.

Salah, a U.S. citizen who lives in the Chicago area, is due to go on trial in October on charges leveled in 2004 that he and two other Palestinian immigrants conspired to get hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas.

He spent five years in Israeli jails in the 1990s on similar charges, and prosecutors want to use his confession in that case against him at his trial.

In an impassioned pretrial argument before Judge Amy St. Eve of the U.S. District Court, Salah\'s lawyer, Michael Deutsch, said his prosecution \"is nothing more than post-9/11 political propaganda\" and the confession was \"abhorrent\" to the U.S. system of law.

He said the confession, made 30 days after his arrest at an Israeli checkpoint, came after days of sleep deprivation, physical and sexual abuse and being tied for hours to a toddler-sized wooden chair with the front legs shortened to inflict pain.

\"It\'s embarrassing that this kind of argument would be going on in an American courtroom,\" Deutsch said, comparing the methods used by Israel in its occupied territories in 1993 with those once employed in South Africa and Chile. It violated not only international human rights but the U.S. Constitution\'s guarantees, he said.

Prosecutors on Monday are bringing in two of the agents who questioned Salah for a closed court session in an unprecedented discussion about the methods they used on Salah.

Robert Bloom, another of Salah\'s lawyers, told reporters before the hearing the Israelis were permitting \"two of their thugs to testify\" to try to make the confession credible.

Deutsch later told the judge the Shin Bet agents, whose identities will not be revealed, would testify only to \"propagandize, to cover up, to lie about what they do ... it\'s all part of a continuing lie ... to protect the state of Israel, everything else be damned.\"

Joseph Ferguson, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the judge that Salah was \"a self-admitted member of the Hamas terrorist organization (who) has always been a liar\" and news pictures taken of him from time to time after his capture show no physical signs of abuse.

He was seen more than once by U.S. consular officials who did not find him abused, he said.

At one point he was using information he had to bargain for the release of a \"terrorist mastermind,\" he said, and gave the Israelis information about the burial place of a Hamas victim, which was known only to a few people in that organization, which calls Israel its sworn enemy.

His 53-page handwritten confession shows him to be a \"high ranking member of Hamas,\" Ferguson said.

At one point, he added, a Western journalist was brought in to see his interrogation and found nothing unusual.

Deutsch countered that the journalist, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, \"worked closely with the Israeli government\" and was permitted to see a \"staged interrogation.\"

The hearing is expected to last for two weeks after which the judge will rule whether the confession can be used at the trial.

Salah, a thin bespectacled man in his 40s with a close gray beard, is free on bond and attended Friday\'s hearing. He could testify during the hearing, Deutsch said. Ferguson said if he did not testify the torture charges he had made in a written affidavit were suspect.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved

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Publish it not...the Middle East Cover-Up: Foreword

by Tim Llewellyn

No alien polity has so successfully penetrated the British government and British institutions during the past ninety years as the Zionist movement and its manifestation as the state of Israel. From the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, in which the British Foreign Secretary said his government \"view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,\" (before Britain had taken possession of Palestine from the Ottomans), through the twenty-six year history of Zionist exploitation of the British Mandate at Arab (and British) expense, to Britain\'s scuttle from Palestine in 1948 and the creation of Israel and the catastrophe for the Palestinians, and up to present-day connivance by the United Kingdom government with America\'s unremitting political and media support for Israel and its daily violation of international laws and conventions on Palestinian lands, the Zionists have manipulated British systems as expertly as maestros, here a massive major chord, there a minor refrain, the audience, for the most part, spellbound.
Some thirty-five years ago, the journalist, Michael Adams, and the Labour politician, Christopher Mayhew, made a unique and bold attempt to explain in writing this cuckoo in the nest of British politics. Both ardently supported a just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle and were shrewd observers of the tactics of successive Israeli governments and their battalions of supporters to influence and suborn Britain\'s civil structures, including government, parliament and the press. They wrote Publish it not...the Middle East Cover-Up to set out for the public in graphic episodes of reportage and personal experience the restraints the Israelis and their friends and lobbyists were imposing on freedom of speech and action in this country. Both men suffered serious setbacks to their careers, a risk anyone in public life takes who dares to speak out against the machinations of the Israeli state, not only against the Palestinians it oppresses and abuses within its own borders, as well as in the occupied territories, but against any person or institution it reckons is standing in the way of Zionism\'s progress or interfering with the \"correct\" exposition of the Zionists\' own very special versions of the past and the present.

When Adams and Mayhew wrote this book, in 1974 and 1975, they were in a hopeful mood, despite the litany of pressures, lies and dirty tricks they were recording and despite the almost unrestrained success with which Israel was going from strength to strength. The world, especially the West and most of all the United States, lay adoringly at its feet, supporting it at all costs, viewing it as a latter-day Sparta fighting against the odds, against the relentless hordes of the Arab and Islamic world.

The reason for the authors\' optimism was that in 1973 this Israeli juggernaut had been, albeit temporarily, slowed down in what the Arabs call the October War and Israel the Yom Kippur War (the latter title having predictably caught on widely in the West). Hope seems to have stirred mightily in Michael Adams\'s breast as he wrote in his introduction to the book that Western public opinion had been seriously misinformed about the Middle East (which was true) and that the war – in which the Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal and the Arab Gulf states and Iran deployed the oil price weapon – \"proved the critics\' argument that if the Arabs were denied a just settlement in Palestine they would go to war to get one.\" It was the last time the Arab regimes were to deploy effectively any weapon, military or economic.

The two authors together wrote (in Chapter Nine), \"Israel\'s capacity to survive [in the long-term] without making far-reaching concessions… seems very doubtful… Israel has established herself, and expanded her territories, on the basis of her dominant military power. But since October 1973 the balance of power has shifted significantly against Israel and the shift seems likely to continue in the same direction.\" Michael Adams (in Chapter Eight) thought that unless Israel resolved the problems of occupation and second-class citizenship for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, usually described in the West as \"Israeli-Arabs\", \"the impression is likely to gain ground in the world that Israel in its present form is indeed a country without a future.\"

I take nothing from the dedication and expertise of these two men when I say that this showed how dangerous it was, and is, to indulge in wishful thinking about any early end to the inexorable progress of the state of Israel at the expense of its neighbours, no doubt, as Michael Adams seems to imply, eventually at its own expense and probable failure (but not just yet).

* * *

After their book was published, Adams lived thirty more years and Mayhew twenty-two to see for themselves how misplaced that optimism was. In fact, neither writer had to wait anything like that long to see his hopeful prophesy begin to be undermined. Four years after the October War of 1973, two years after this book was published, President Sadat had made his ill-advised trip to Jerusalem – for once the overworked adjective \"historic\" is applicable – offering himself as an Arab hostage to Israeli fortune. Within another year, Egypt had traduced its Arab allies with the Camp David Accords, an American-supervised formula for a bilateral Egyptian peace with Israel. Against much Israeli resistance, these agreements were linked to a plan to give autonomy to the Occupied Palestinians of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and became in 1979 the first peace treaty between an Arab state and Israel. Israel, in return, gave Egypt back the Sinai peninsula, which it had seized in its 1967 blitzkrieg against its Arab neighbours. In other words, the Arab reward was to retrieve some of its own stolen property.

As it turned out, after much diplomatic fan-dancing and Israeli intransigence, the Palestinians got nothing.

Arab options in the confrontation with Israel were thus reduced to the diplomatic (and therefore ephemeral, given Israel\'s international clout), Egypt being the only Arab state that could pose any military threat of consequence; and the core of the Middle East conflict, the Palestinian problem, remained unresolved, as it does to this day.

Israel was quick to reassert itself. Three years after Publish It Not arrived on the book stalls, Israel invaded Lebanon and put surrogate Lebanese militiamen in control of a great swathe of the Lebanese South, with close Israeli army support. In 1982, Israel, with continued impunity, reinvested its presence in Lebanon dramatically and brutally, invading half the country, up to Beirut, killing seventeen thousand Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, and enabling a massacre by Lebanese Christian militiamen of up to a thousand undefended Palestinians and Lebanese in the Sabra-Shatila refugee camp in Beirut\'s southern suburbs, which Israeli forces had surrounded. Meanwhile, the Israelis continued to consolidate their hold on the occupied territories. In late 1982, they annexed Syria\'s Golan Heights, captured in 1967. By 1988 they had seized more than fifty per cent of West Bank and East Jerusalem lands and properties for Jewish settlements. In the late 1970s, Israel – now governed by the right-wing Likud Party, led by the former Jewish terrorist leader Menachem Begin – stepped up its interference in and intimidation of the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, alarmed by the growing popularity and power of local officials aligned with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Operating with little or no restraint, Jewish underground gangs blew up and generally menaced democratically elected pro-PLO mayors. The Israeli occupation forces manipulated informers, quislings and Islamists to try to undermine the PLO, which was manifestly secular in those days. Israel\'s encouragement of Islamic groups was later to rebound with ominous consequences, both for Israelis and Palestinians. Short-term, tactical expediency has always been Israel\'s weakness.

The authors\' optimism is the only misjudgement by Messrs Adams and Mayhew, and they are not the only ones, this author included, who have been tempted to see justice imminent. Many of us did so after the Gulf War of early 1991 and the Madrid peace conference later that year, when Israel was hauled to the conference tables with pro-PLO interlocutors and Syrians; again, flags were put out at the Oslo accords of 1993, when President Clinton drew Yasir Arafat and Yitzak Rabin into that awkward handshake on the White House lawn, Israel finally recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organisation and seeming to promise to make space for a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza and in Arab East Jerusalem in return for its own peace and security.

How we were fooled. How often we are still fooled. (How wry would have been the expressions on the faces of Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew had they lived to see revealed, in August, 2005, that during the 1950s, British civil servants, without the knowledge of their political bosses, supplied Israel with the heavy water vital to its construction of nuclear weapons.)

So often, the Palestinians seem to make it, deals promised, just solutions dangled, their noses pressed to the window, their case made, as by the authors of this book and a thousand journalists, writers, aid workers, diplomats, United Nations officials and (some) sympathetic Western politicians. How inevitably are their aims and hopes undermined as realpolitik is brought to bear in Washington, with Britain and the other Western states compliant, while the Israelis and their friends steal more land, destroy more futures and lives, and work to extinguish the Palestinian identity, even presence, in the Holy Land.

The essence of this book is to show how some of these Zionist deceptions were accomplished in the United Kingdom, how it was done being not so very different from how it still is done. Much has changed since the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the authors\' main spells of duty. Some aspects of life with the Zionists have changed for the better, many more for the worse. Substantially, the plight of the Palestinians, the militaristic arrogance and aggression of the Israelis, their comrades and cronies, the subservience to Israel of the United States and its ever-amenable allies in the West, and the pusillanimity and weakness of the Arab states are more pronounced than ever. When Adams and Mayhew wrote there was at least the space for a Palestinian state and hints of even-handedness in the international community; the Palestinian movement was taking its place as a political force in the region; international reporting was improving; politicians were waking up to the facts; Arab states seemed to be mobilizing.

Now, I am afraid I would have to tell the two writers were they able to hear me that the forces they so bravely resisted are stronger than ever.

* * *

I first went to the Middle East, to Beirut, for the BBC in June, 1974, the year the authors started their book. Like many, perhaps most, of my generation of correspondents and other interested visitors I arrived with the lightly slung baggage of someone who had bought vaguely into the Zionist myth: that Israel was a beleaguered democracy fighting bravely to defend a social democratic system against the massed Arab regimes, all sworn to destroy the little state.

Reading Publish it not after a lifetime in the Middle East, I realize why in those days we swallowed all this. Israel had worked its spells well, with a lot of help from its friends: these lined the benches of parliament, wrote the news stories and editorials, framed the way we saw and heard almost everything about the Middle East on TV, radio and in the press. History, the Bible, Nazi Germany\'s slaughter of the Jews, Russian pogroms, the Jewish narrative relayed and parlayed through a thousand books, films, TV plays and series, radio programmes, the skills of Jewish writers, diarists, memoirists, artists and musicians, people like us and among us, all had played their part. As Christopher Mayhew writes in Chapter Five, the bias in broadcasting was (and still is) \"a true reflection of our cultural prejudices, which are founded on half-remembered and inaccurate impressions of the Old Testament, the Crusades, the era of British colonialism, and most of all by our sense of guilt over the way we Europeans have behaved… towards the Jews.\"

Before I started reporting on the Middle East, pro-Israeli bias in British institutional life had been deep and wide, as the authors here elaborate. The Labour Party identified closely with Israel. Harold Wilson, Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and again in the mid-1970s, was a dedicated, uncritical Zionist. (Israel rewarded him with his own personal forest.) Soon after he left office in 1970, he delivered a speech in Israel attacking Resolution 242, the United Nations Security Council resolution of 1967, conceived and drafted by his own British government\'s diplomats and ministers, which called on Israel to relinquish the occupied territories. Two-Four-Two was and is the internationally accepted basis for any just settlement of the Arab-Israeli struggle. It is hard to imagine even Tony Blair, in or out of office, challenging Resolution 242 in front of an Israeli audience, inside Israel or anywhere else.

The Labour parliamentary back benches of the post-war years contained a claque of vociferously pro-Zionist MPs, red in tooth and claw, shouting down anyone who spoke up for the Arabs inside the House of Commons or out, a \"dominating influence… in the Labour Party,\" writes Christopher Mayhew in Chapter Three. He tells hair-raising stories in this revealing chapter of this Labour Party tradition: how a British Defence Minister gave permission to Haganah, the illegal Jewish army in Mandatory Palestine, through the medium of a Zionist Labour MP, to blow up bridges between Palestine and Jordan; how, in 1944, the Labour Party National Executive Committee advocated officially the transfer of Palestinian Arabs from what was to become Israel: \"Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in,\" said the Party\'s ruling body.

Mayhew speaks of the \"relentless way in which those of us who choose to speak up for the Arabs have been harassed by our opponents.\" This would not happen now, on either side of the House, and the fervent Zionist Labour MPs, some of them little better than bully-boys, Richard Crossman (not a Jew), Ian Mikardo, Maurice Edelman, Emmanuel \"Manny\" Shinwell, Sidney Silverman, Konni Zilliacus et al, are, mercifully, not only no longer with us but have not been replaced, not in such virulent form.

Labour now boasts a hard-working array of MPs who work for justice in the Middle East, though Parliament is not without its troubles. The Liberal-Democrats showed extraordinary cowardice in removing from their Front Bench one of their best MPs, Jenny Tonge, in 2004, when she tried to explain in personal terms how she could understand what might motivate a suicide bomber. In this twisted and fearful world of trying to deal with Israel, explanation becomes support, and analysis encouragement, or even incitement.

But the improvement in Parliament is almost irrelevant. The pro-Zionists are more polite, and the Arabs have more effective friends; the balance is better. But how much does Parliament matter? The executive behaves as it likes, independent of parliamentary influence and more and more in the clutch of the Prime Minister\'s cabal of advisers and cronies and therefore Washington (the Foreign Office, where real expertise lies, has largely been sidelined). Successive British governments have claimed to see and want to treat Palestine-Israel differently from the way the Americans do, but rarely if ever defy the United States in this arena. Their influence, whether unilaterally or through Europe, remains minimal, and a drag on more progressive attitudes inside the European Union, in France, Italy, Greece and Spain for example.

Not all the actions taken against anti-Zionists were verbal, written or the subtle behind-the-scenes rearrangement of diplomatic and political furniture in the Israeli interest. In Chapter Four, Michael Adams describes the disgraceful personal and physical attacks on Marion Woolfson, the eminent Jewish Scottish journalist who has for so long fought against the machinations of the Israeli lobby and opposed the concept of a Jewish state; and the arson and other crippling attentats on a printing business in South Wales that dared to print pro-Palestinian leaflets and the respected specialist journal founded by Adams, Mayhew and Anthony Nutting (a former Foreign Office Minister and Arabist), Middle East International, which survives as one of the few reliable British sources of news from the region.

It is arguable that such crude manifestations of Zionist anger are no longer necessary, though suspicions remain deep in the British-Arab community and its associates that Israel, often through its embassy, is by no means averse to more deeply played dirty tricks, putting into foul play its Intelligence arms and their close associations with western spy networks. The drugging and kidnapping of the unfortunate Mordechai Vanunu, the man who revealed in detail the scale of Israel\'s nuclear weapons programme, is one such case.

Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew would be both amused and depressed to see how the Israeli lobby recycles old myths, canards about Palestinians and Arabs and explanations of the very creation of Israel that were refuted many years ago. Israel\'s apologists are not afraid or embarrassed to repeat untruths, despite the fact that its own historians, Avi Shlaim, Illan Pappe, Tom Segev and the Palestinian-Israeli Nur Mashala, to name but four, have torn to tatters the fabric of lies and half-truths. (It was Benny Morris who first broke new ground by revealing the truth of the origins of the Palestinian refugees, and their largely forced expulsion in 1948, but he has to be distinguished from his fellow \"new historians\" since his retrospective approval of ethnic cleansing by the Zionists, and his observations that the dispossession of the Arab Palestinians in 1948 had not been comprehensive enough.) One old favourite that in late 2003 I heard one of the Israeli Embassy\'s apparatchiks spouting to an audience of university students (who knew he was telling lies) was that in April 1948 Arab leaders, through Arabic-language radio stations, had urged Palestinians to leave Palestine. The reality is that Arab leaders urged exactly the opposite. Walid Khalidi, perhaps Palestine\'s most eminent historian and scholar, tapped and exposed this for the lie that it was in 1959, and the Irish writer, Erskine Childers, corroborated Professor Khalidi\'s findings in 1961. Both men had scoured Arabic newspapers and BBC/American radio monitoring of the time and found that not only had Arab and Palestinian leaders made no calls for the Palestinians to leave, but had urged them to stay and had, in some cases, played down Jewish forces\' atrocities so as not to alarm the Arab population.

It remains absolutely imperative to the Zionists\' case to this day that the Palestinians left of their own volition. In this way, their more vital case that they must never be allowed to return carries more conviction. What Adams and Mayhew, then, and I, now, are concerned about is not that the Zionists still make this case, however spurious, but that so many politicians and journalists in the West still swallow it.

Other distortions have entered the lexicon of Middle East discussion and go unchallenged by the careless or innocent who discuss the problem. In mid-2005 I heard yet again an Israeli government official tell the BBC that the Arabs attacked Israel in June 1967. He went unchallenged. As anyone who has cared to study the facts has known since the evening of June 5 1967, Israel on that morning attacked and won the war against Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians in six fighting days. Israel can argue that it was provoked and threatened; but it was not attacked. Similarly, in October 1973, when the Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal into Sinai and the Syrians went into the Golan Heights they were not attacking Israel as such, they were trying to reclaim lands they had lost to Israel in 1967. Israel\'s helpers explain the invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 as a response to PLO terrorism launched across the Lebanese border, though there had been a cross-border ceasefire brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States in place for nine months. It all goes towards presenting Israel as the aggressed, menaced, vulnerable entity in the region, a concept the West, and especially the Americans, largely accept.

It works well. Even the \"right of return\", the Palestinian refugees\' absolute and internationally legal right to go back to their homes, is re-worked into the language of paranoid persecution, \"throwing the Jews into the sea.\" In February 2005, a BBC news presenter, interviewing a reporter in Jerusalem, threw a question at him in this form: \"And there are still plenty of people who want to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth?\" The reporter replied, \"There are, led by Hamas…\" The language is provocative and loosely stated and while it is true that many Arabs would like to see Israel gone, most of them, including Hamas, have repeatedly shown that they know in practical terms this is not a possibility, and most of them have no urge to \"throw Jews into the sea.\"

Were the question ever asked, \"is it not the case that Israel has very nearly wiped Palestine off the face of the earth and is proceeding successfully towards that end?\" the presenter might find himself the object of harsh criticism inside and outside the BBC. The lobby has not only altered our language but our innate attitudes.

Another myth constantly recycled in the face of historical evidence is that had the Arab armies not invaded Israel the day after the state was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, the Palestinians would have been able to stay safely in their homes and the UN partition plan dividing Palestine neatly into Arab-governed and Jewish-governed entities would have proceeded harmoniously. This ignores the fact that by mid-April, in fighting that had gone on between Arabs and Jews since November, 1947, up to a half the Palestinians had fled their homes, usually under the most harsh threats and physical attacks. The massacre by the members of two Jewish terrorist gangs (Irgun Zwei Leumi and the Lehi, or Stern Gang) of more than one hundred Palestinian civilians in Deir Yassin, a small and defenceless village in West Jerusalem, happened on April 9, 1948. It was hailed by such luminaries as the Irgun leader and future Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, as a prime mover in flushing the nascent Zionist state free of Arabs. In case anyone wishes to pass this off as an aberration by terrorists, an elite brigade of the nascent Israeli army, Palmach, played a part in enabling the massacre. Indeed, terrorizing Arabs out of Palestine was, at best, or worst, depending on how one sees it, a much-needed plank in the Zionist plan for the region, whether part of a long-term plan or a bonus end-product of an upheaval that matched schooled and skilled militias and battle-hardened Jews against a badly organized and basically agricultural community; well-organized and well-armed fighters with air power against a motley of ill-trained Arab armies, all of them subject to weapons embargoes and, in the case of the only decent fighting force, the Jordanian Legion, British and Zionist manipulation.

The Palestinians and the Arabs never stood a chance; but the casual reader would never know it, thanks to the deft manipulations of the truth by Israel and its many and powerful supporters.

Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew ask (and reveal): who perpetuates these historical misunderstandings, thus prolonging and intensifying the imbalance in the Middle East?

The answer remains, the Zionist lobby in all it devious forms. Since 1975, when the authors went into print, the official and institutional ranks of the Zionists in Britain have mounted and continue to mount campaigns of disinformation that dwarf their efforts of thirty and forty years ago. The parliamentary Zionist bullies of the Labour Party of the 1950s and 1960s have faded away, but the work goes on, less obviously but much more effectively, not just in selling the Israeli package to the ordinary British people but also in changing the nature of British Jews\' perceptions of themselves and their relationship to Israel. Or, to put it another way, Israel\'s alleged centrality in the life of a British Jew.

Organizations such as the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) have hundreds of thousands of pounds at their disposal, much of it coming directly from the United States, which sends a third of its whole, global foreign aid budget to Israel\'s six million citizens (the real figure, including loan guarantees, tax breaks for charities and defence deals, could be as high as $10,000m annually, a sum which puts well into perspective last year\'s USAID contribution of $8,800,000 to India\'s population of 1,100m. Or, well over $1,500 per capita for Israelis, about $8.00 for an Indian).

This great flow of funds bypasses most ordinary Israeli citizens and poor and needy Jews in Israel and elsewhere and goes straight to the projection of Zionist causes and colonialism wherever it might be needed. These funds prop up, here in the United Kingdom, not just BICOM, but organizations such as Labour Friends of Israel, close to the heart of Tony Blair, the Jewish Agency (whose raison de vivre is to get as many Jews as possible to go to Israel), the World Zionist Organisation, Paoli Zion, a Labour Party affiliate, the Council of Christians and Jews, which keeps the Church of England leadership at Lambeth Palace in close self-restraint about Israel\'s crimes against Christians and Christian institutions.

There are many more. One is the Union of Jewish Students, which elbows and induces Zionistically inclined undergraduates towards influential positions in British public life, especially the media, the banking sector and information technology.

Perhaps the most long-standing and egregious of these organizations, dating back to the early nineteenth century, when Zionism had still to be invented, is the Board of Deputies of British Jews. This influential lobby of the Zionist Great and Good is an important example of how Israel is working its magic here. Originally, the Board would have looked after Jews and Jewish interests. After all, it does not, as it claims, represent British Jewry; it represents Jews who attend synagogues and are members of Jewish institutions, and vote for the Board\'s content, which means, in effect less than half of the roughly quarter of a million Jews in the United Kingdom.

What has happened to the Board and is happening throughout Jewish institutions here is that they are more and more being identified not with the interests of their own people here, and with Jewishness and the religion of Judaism as such, but those of the Zionist movement and therefore of Israel. What has changed since Publish it not came out thirty years ago is that in the eyes of these institutions the game is afoot to make Jewish interest synonymous with the Israeli interest. This happens in many ways, in parochial education, free trips to Israel, paid-for \"gap\" years or months with the Israeli Army for Jewish students – the emphasis is not on Judaism, it is on Zionism.

Soon after the Aqsa Intifada started in 2000, and led us, whomever we like to blame, into the gory business of a low-intensity war between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel realized quickly and rightly that its massive military assault on the Arabs, and its negation of the principles of Palestinian self-rule leading to independence, might be misconstrued in the West, and it might suffer a public relations crisis similar to that of 1982, when Ariel Sharon launched his invasion of Lebanon and the resultant slaughter. The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, a high-powered outfit that has great, some would say a decisive, say in American arms of government, legislature and opinion, and has no such ironclad and aggressive equivalent in Britain, came to London to advise BICOM. The message was clear: be aggressive; pester and menace the media and the politicians in all their forms; go to court; never let up; let no adverse image or mention of Israel go unchallenged, however true, however perceived. In a word, the only story is our story: make sure everyone knows that.

If Adams and Mayhew had been appalled at the Zionist intrusions they suffered in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, they would have been paralysed by the sheer aggression of the Zionist movement here, especially concerning the media after 2000 and the success it achieved with its tactics, aided and enhanced beyond the Israeli government\'s wildest dreams by the combination of Palestinian ineptness, Arab governments\' pusillanimity, the attack on America by Osama Bin Laden\'s agents in September 2001 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the \"War on Terrorism\". For Israel\'s government and Zionist lobbies the first five years of the Millennium could have been made to order.

The Israelis and their friends fight fiercely, expertly and without quarter. Nowhere is this more true than with the press and broadcasters. Michael Adams, with deserved asperity, writes well and widely about this. When he was writing for the mainstream British press in the 1960s the dice were loaded against anyone trying to tell the truth about Israel\'s actions in Arab lands, particularly in the euphoric aftermath of the 1967 war. Israel had triumphed over its Arab neighbours, seizing much Arab territory, much of the most vital of which, in Syria and Palestine, it retains to this day nearly forty years later, and shows no sign of relinquishing. One of Adams\'s stories about Israeli excesses after the war, the destruction of three Arab villages near Jerusalem for allegedly strategic reasons (see Chapter Five), was suppressed by The Guardian; in the end he was left no choice but to withdraw his services from the newspaper (the editor, Alistair Hetherington, had taken the words of his pro-Israel friends in high places over those of the newspaper\'s own reporter). The Guardian was not the newspaper it is today.

The BBC was in the late 1960s and early 1970s as bad, if not worse: patronizing or just plain misreporting the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular, and tipping the balance in favour of pro-Israeli views and commentators, its presenters and editors in London more at fault than the reporters in the field. The BBC, then as now, was deft at defending itself with stonewall claims of \"balance\" and \"fairness\", as perceived in the corridors and boardrooms of Broadcasting House, advising those who rang or wrote to complain that their communications were most welcome and their views logged – in effect, \"Thank you and good night.\" At the BBC, all was and is for the best in the best of all BBC worlds. It was to be many years after Publish it not that the Arabs and their supporters started to emulate their opponents\' ability to reach inside the BBC, to know the individual programme editor or line manager or producer or board member or senior manager, his home address and home and extension numbers, a process the book\'s two authors set in train when they and others like-minded founded the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) and took the fight to the Zionists, albeit with a fraction of the funding and support Michael Adams might have been excused in 1975 for optimism about the press and broadcasting, to whose practitioners he set such a brave example. Media attitudes were changing. When I arrived in Beirut in the mid-1970s the foreign press corps there were being forced to absorb the Palestinian story at first hand – from guerrillas and their leaders, refugees, students, academics, local newspapermen, agency reporters and photographers, editors, businessmen, financiers, and bank clerks, Arab diplomats and dissident floaters from the far shores of the Arab world. In the 1970s, as they fought for their survival in Lebanon and for a place contiguous with Israel, from where they could attack it and try to re-enter it, the Palestinians practically ran Beirut. No-one approved of everything the Palestinian movement and its members did, and many disapproved publicly of much; the press corps had its rows with the PLO and its apparatchiks; but at least it heard and took in the Palestinian narrative and communicated it to the outside world (much to Israel\'s distress).

In what I look back on as a Golden Age of Middle East reporting, Western news bureaux in Beirut, Cairo and Amman, with access to Baghdad and Damascus, helped the world see the Arabs\' and Palestinians\' situations through their own prisms, while in no way falling into the trap of blindly admiring the Arab regimes or falling for the blandishments of their politicians. The difference between those who reported the Arab world and many of those who in Adams\'s day sat in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was that we were critical and challenged what we were told, often to our cost. Most of us had far more trouble from the Arab governments and even from their murderous agents than we did from the Israelis.

In Israel itself, in the years after the Mayhew-Adams book, the Western media began seriously to reshape their Middle East coverage. Many of the most influential British news organizations removed their often locally bred Zionist reporters who had done such a selective job in reporting their country from the 1950s onwards, and replaced them with outsiders. I found myself both in Israel and the Arab world among journalists of many nationalities, European, American, Commonwealth, who had arrived in the Middle East with many of the same pro-Israeli corpuscles in their veins as I had had in 1974 only to find that a few weeks in Israel, or viewing its government\'s or army\'s behaviour as it were from over the fence, turned them into horrified witnesses of the Israeli state\'s aggression and acquisitiveness, often to the bafflement of their less well-informed and more brainwashed producers. Many of these Western reporters were Jews from America, Canada, Britain and France; but they were not Zionists and, had they been so inclined, became rapidly less so watching Israel at first hand.

The BBC never, in all the twenty-five years I reported or commentated for them from or about the Middle East, ten of those years as Middle East staff correspondent based in the region, interfered with the gist of my analysis or the facts of my reporting. Most of my colleagues in ITV and the British print media would have acknowledged much the same forbearance. We reported vividly and honestly on such campaigns as the two Israeli invasions of Lebanon, the occupation of south Lebanon, the massacres that followed the invasion in 1982 and 1983, the first uprising, or Intifada, in 1987, and the dismal saga of the West Bank and Gaza, where Jewish settlers were commandeering more and more Palestinian land and water and terrorizing the inhabitants with Israeli army support, and had encircled and dominated most of Arab East Jerusalem, a process which is accelerating, widening, deepening and consolidating nearly twenty years later.

For all this candid journalism from inside Israel and outside, few positive results accrued, or, if they did, as in the early 1980s, they were quickly reversed and negated. As the ardent Palestinian activist and author Dr. Ghada Karmi remarked so tellingly in a public meeting in London some years ago, the Palestinian narrative seems perpetually to be processed by a faulty computer. The stories of 1948, 1967, refugees, routs, assassinations and massacres, Tel al-Zaatar, Beirut 1982, Sabra-Shatilla, the Intifadas, the breaking of bones, Jenin, Nablus and Hebron, land seizures and apartheid measures, the Separation Wall, which acquires for Israel yet more Palestinian territory and separates scores of thousands more Palestinians from their own lands and livelihood – all are told and highlighted on the screens to great acclaim and shock but then \"automatically deleted\". The Jewish narrative persists and is hammered home in all its aspects; the Israelis deploy history, or often \"history\", ancient and modern in their cause and do so relentlessly; the Holocaust is brandished as if it had somehow been a Palestinian responsibility or an excuse to defy international laws, morals and norms; money intended for Holocaust survivors is cynically diverted in the billions of dollars to furthering Zionism\'s aims and claims, especially vis-à-vis Arab lands. In contrast, the Palestinian tale limps along, disappearing from political notice if not public memory as Israel reasserts its influence or, sadly, the Palestinians fail to capitalize on their own strengths or yield to their organizational weaknesses.

In late 1990, for instance, Yasir Arafat wasted three years of the Palestinian uprising and the truths it had revealed to the world by throwing in his lot with Saddam Hussein. A few years later, with the United States putting pressure on Israel to make a proper peace, the Israelis outmanoeuvred everyone by escaping down the Oslo route to continued colonization of the Occupied Territories. Yasir Arafat misguidedly co-operated in this doomed process as well.

When I think of how hard so many honest journalists have worked to set the Israeli-Palestinian record straight in the fifty years since Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew broke new ground and their own professional backs doing it, I realize how little effect it has all had on our political leaders. They meander through the thickets of the Middle East, displaying either ignorance or indecision, helpless against the power and prejudices of the United States and its subservience to Israel and Israeli interests. This phenomenon Michael Adams perceived early in his career and railed against, almost in despair, throughout his life.

Perhaps this can be written off as political reality – regrettable and short-sighted, but the way of a cruel world. This should not, however, be the case with British TV and radio, who are constitutionally bound by their charters and conditions to provide the British (and overseas) public with fair and properly balanced coverage. Both BBC and ITN (though not Channel 4 News) fail in their duties here, and the most important of these is the BBC, to which the majority of British people turn for their understanding of what is happening in world affairs.

Michael Adams was having trouble with the BBC nearly forty years ago. In Chapter Five, which present-day critics of the BBC will read with a wearying sense of déjà vu, Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew record how in the 1960s research into programmes such as The World At One (and research into the Today Programme last summer and autumn reveals similar results) showed that the BBC gave far more time to pro-Israeli spokesmen and pro-Israeli views than it did to the pro-Arabs or to Arab perceptions. Mayhew makes one most telling point about bias, still true of the BBC, especially its main domestic radio and TV channels. He writes, after a meeting with the then Director-General of the BBC, Charles Curran, to discuss Middle East coverage:

…too little thought had been given to the distinction between conscious and unconscious bias. Most of the [BBC] company [appeared to have] the naïve belief that they or their staff would be charged with deliberate bias… they had not studied, and were not alert to, the serious problem, which was that of unconscious bias.
Second, it was plain that no serious attempt had ever been made to analyse the Corporation\'s Middle East output from the point of view of \"balance\"; and no clear directive had been issued about the meaning of \"balance\" in this context.

Incredibly, more than thirty years on, the BBC is making yet another effort to study these problems but seems after a year or so of research to be none the wiser or better. At a recent meeting I attended with the head of BBC news, the head of radio news and the BBC\'s new Middle East editorial supervisor it was evident that, publicly at least, they could not see what was wrong with the corporation\'s coverage, its failure to report properly on the continuing misery of the Palestinians; the preponderance of pro-Israeli views and condescending if not hostile attitudes on the part of studio presenters and reporters to the Arabs; the failure to recount accurately the cycle of cause and effect in the deadly struggle between a sophisticated, high-technology state war machine and a primitively armed occupied population, between the oppressor and the oppressed; the reluctance to accept that most of the time it is Israeli actions – deliberate provocations – that shatter periods of calm; the use of lurid language to describe Palestinian attacks and atrocities as compared with the bland and anonymous language (\"targeted killings\", for example, \"security fence\", instead of \"illegal assassinations\" and \"Separation and Enclosure Wall\") deployed to portray Israel\'s excesses; the BBC\'s rarely alluding to the basic fact that the \"the territories\" are militarily occupied, and the lands therein continuously being expropriated from their rightful owners, which is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the UN Charter and in the eyes and judgments of all international bodies.

In the very phrase \"Arab-Israeli dispute\" organizations like the BBC continue to imply that this is some age-old quarrel over lands that goes back into the mists of time, like that of Owen Glyndwr and Edward Mortimer in the English-Welsh borderlands of the fourteenth century. In fact, the \"Arab-Israeli dispute\" is much simpler than that and something with which the British should be familiar: settler-colonialists stealing the lands and stamping on the rights of the indigenous people.

In effect, the mainstream media refuse to report the struggle for what it is: for Palestinian freedom, pledged by the British and the League of Nations more than eighty years ago, and against colonialism and dispossession.

I have little room for detail here. These fault lines in the BBC\'s and ITV\'s coverage have, however, been detailed in many journals and books, the best being the scientific study done by Greg Philo and Mike Berry of the Glasgow University Media Group, Bad News From Israel (Pluto Press, 2004), but also, inter alia, by researchers and writers at Arab Media Watch, by myself in various talks and newspaper articles (in The Guardian and The Observer) and in a chapter in Tell Me Lies: Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq, edited by David Miller and also published in paperback by Pluto (2004), and by the indefatigable Paul de Rooij, to name but a few of the many who draw the BBC\'s misrepresentation of the Palestinian-Israeli issue to the attention of its policy-makers and editors.

The problems lie not so much in specific BBC or ITV documentaries or current affairs specials, which have on occasion acquitted themselves well, though they, with time to take care and exercise more judgment, are often as guilty as the news programmes; it is the news bulletins and daily analyses, with their continuing, seemingly endemic negative thrust as regards the Palestinians, their deference to the \"authority\" of Israel and its functionaries and their teams\' failure to base their understanding of the story on the root cause of the conflict – the Palestinians\' right to self-determination rather than Israel\'s security. All this does much to malign and undermine the Arab case. As Mayhew says, this is unconscious rather than conscious bias, something in the British soul creeping to the surface, out of our upbringing and our history and our view of \"the other\". This is also evident in insidious self-censorship, in which a reporter senses a way of pre-empting the anxiety of his bosses or the ire of the Israelis or both by crafting his story in a bland and therefore misleading manner: \"Land which the Palestinians say is occupied…\"; \"disputed\" instead of \"occupied\" territories, a phrase that still crops up on the BBC, though the circumlocution is legally and morally indefensible; the misrepresentation of the numbers of Jewish settlers on the West Bank and in Jerusalem; the failure to get into the public British consciousness the nature of the vast Separation and Enclosure Wall Israel is building around and into Palestinian territory, dividing and isolating its people and further damaging their already enfeebled economy.

This is still called by the BBC \"a security barrier\", conjuring up in the viewer\'s or listener\'s mind the image of a temporary structure the local police might put up to fence off a crime scene or to deter football hooligans.

This is all the more tragic because I know that British broadcasters reformed their attitudes in the twenty-five years or so between Publish it not and the year 2000. I can remember but one serious instance, in 1988, when the Israelis were pestering my foreign news editor to water down the BBC\'s coverage of a riot on the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem (one of Islam\'s holiest sites, known incorrectly as the Temple Mount). He cracked, understandably, and tried, unsuccessfully, to get me to insert an Israeli denial into the text of my story, which would have meant me contradicting my eye-witness account. What other efforts against me, if any, the Israelis deployed I never knew and, apart from a few very minor incidents, during a quarter-century reporting the Middle East I was unaware of any internal pressures. None of my BBC colleagues complained either.

What has changed since 2000 is worth examining.

With the failure of the Oslo peace process and the effective collapse of the two-state enterprise in 2000, at Camp David under the auspices of Bill Clinton, the subsequent outbreak two months later of what is now known among Palestinians as the Aqsa Intifada, after the Aqsa mosque on the Haram al-Sharif, where it began, and the disproportionately brutal response by Israel\'s armed forces, the Israelis were immediately aware that their reputation was in danger of attracting the same sort of international opprobrium it suffered during and after the 1982 Lebanon invasion and massacre at Sabra-Shatila and during the first Intifada of the late 1980s.

They deployed massive resources through their London embassy, using friends and lobbyists to cajole and put political and moral pressure on institutions like the BBC, it being much easier to do so now that most of the world\'s media had based their Middle East news offices and residences inside West (de facto Israeli) Jerusalem. The Israelis there leaned hard on reporters and bureau chiefs. In London, they peppered producers and editors with pro-Israeli propaganda, complaints, suggestions for stories and schmoozing lunches, the cocktails flavoured with menace. One experienced Middle East correspondent told me that a Today Programme producer once rang him in the BBC Jerusalem office to get him to follow up a story-line suggested by the Israeli Embassy. There can be little doubt that such suggestions multiplied when, in late 2000, the BBC sent a new and inexperienced team of reporters to Jerusalem.

The events of September 11, 2001, the suicide bombs, the campaign against and invasion of Iraq all helped colour British broadcasters\' view of the world, reinforcing their readiness to see the \"savagery\" of the Arabs and to recognize and exaggerate the allegedly aggressive militancy of Islam. The BBC\'s leaders tried hard to resist the attacks by Tony Blair and his henchmen, led by Alistair Campbell, on its Iraq war coverage in 2003, but were cruelly defeated by the whitewash of Tony Blair\'s spin doctors and their nefarious works in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq war by Lord Hutton, the establishment-embraced Conservative Ulster judge, in 2004. Lord Hutton seemed to have heard only the evidence of the government\'s apologists, and the BBC took the blame for its reporting of Iraq and the circumstances surrounding it.

This induced new levels of nervousness in the Corporation and heightened caution in any dealings with the Middle East and Arabs. The BBC Governors and Board of Management were especially worried about licence fee levels and BBC Charter renewal. It showed in the reporting of Israel-Palestine. Dr. Karmi\'s faulty computer was in play again. As after Lebanon in 1982, the Intifada of 1987-91, the Baruch Goldstein massacre of Arab worshippers at the Mosque of Ibrahim in Hebron in 1994, the assaults against Ramallah, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and the Occupied Territories from 2000 onwards, the Palestinian story was being deleted, or at least misrepresented. The BBC\'s appointment in 2005 of a Middle East Editor based in London, a new post provoked by the myriad complaints that flow daily into the Corporation about its lacklustre Middle East coverage, might help put its reporting back into proper balance; then again, it might not. Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew would share my scepticism.

Meanwhile, we read our responses from the Corporation with the same disbelief at its obtuseness as Mayhew did when he received this, after a complaint of pro-Israeli leanings to The World At One in late 1973 from Jim Norris, Assistant Secretary and Head of Secretariat, the then Director-General\'s powerful minder and trouble-shooter: \"….journalists doing an honest job in this country have to take account of the fact that Israeli or Zionist public relations are conducted with a degree of sophistication which those on the other side have rarely matched… an accurate reflection of publicly expressed attitudes on the issue may well inevitably reveal at times a preponderance of sympathy for the Israeli side.\" In other words, says Mayhew, \"the BBC should not concern itself with striking a balance between the arguments for the Israeli viewpoint and the arguments for the Arab viewpoint, but should reflect the greater power of the Israeli lobby.\"

I doubt that the BBC of the early twenty-first century would be so openly crass. But the way it reports the Palestinian-Israeli struggle does just what Norris suggested, reflecting the view of the strong over the weak, the state over the non-state, the possessor over the dispossessed. Any righting of the balance, or trying also to see the story through the Palestinian viewfinder, a senior BBC executive told me in 2004, \"would be to make the BBC into campaigning journalists.\" In other words, in the BBC\'s view, reporting the Palestinian story the way it is amounts to \"campaigning\".

In institutional broadcasting there is a climate of fear. Executives do not like to be accused of anti-Semitism, which is the ready-to-hand smear the Zionists and their friends have available if they think Israel is receiving a tough press.

Journalists and their bosses do not like to be harangued. They like a quiet life. They know how influential the lobby is and how well-placed are its agents in and around government and business and in the ranks of the good and the great. They want their institution to survive. In this noble cause the truth about a sensitive issue may have to go hang for a while. The BBC\'s duty to report honestly, as it did, say, in South Africa twenty years ago or Bosnia in the 1990s, is sacrificed on the altar of the Corporation\'s survival. The suits circle the wagons. The protection of the institution comes first, before its primary duty of honest reporting, rather as the United States armed forces deem \"force protection\" – safeguarding their own soldiers\' lives at all costs – a higher duty than the security of those around them.

Just as Michael Adams was \"disappeared\" from mainstream Middle East reporting, so was I from the BBC. After a three-part series I wrote and narrated for Radio 4 and the World Service in 1998, My Land Is Your Land, the Israelis and their supporters launched a massive write-in at and to all levels of the BBC complaining about my interpretation of the state of Israel\'s creation in 1948, the accompanying catastrophe (nakba) of the Palestinians and the fifty years that had followed. When I put up a further programme, a BBC commissioning editor was heard to say at a meeting that I was \"parti-pris\", a libellous statement to make about a professional journalist with nearly thirty years BBC service under his belt. After I joined CAABU, the Israeli lobby put enormous pressure on the Corporation either not to use me at all as a commentator/reporter or to spell out on my every appearance the fact that I was on the board of CAABU. This made me appear as a propagandist; the awkward nomenclature was too long for presenters to cope with; gradually I slipped from the scene, my work as a TV/radio broadcaster virtually over.

I then found out in 2002 that BBC management had circulated a memorandum to all producers and editors that if I ever appeared it was never to be mentioned that I had ever been the BBC\'s Middle East Correspondent, in case my views were associated with those of the BBC. This, together with my growing indignation at BBC Middle East coverage and the general desuetude of public service broadcasting, softened the blow of my departure from the scene. I was luckier than Michael Adams, who was ten years younger than me when the Zionists put the fatal squeeze on him at the very height of his powers.

* * *

We are back where we were before Adams and Mayhew wrote their book in 1974/5. In fact, the situation is worse; we are further back. Despite what I see as a long and healthy intervening period of honest – well, honestly attempted – coverage of the Middle East between the early 1970s and the end of the millennium, and signs that Britain\'s political establishment and the public were beginning to take notice of the region\'s realities, the Israelis have shown us their enormous powers of recovery and their extraordinary ability to exert their weight on British governance and institutions, twisting arms until our leaders cry \"\'nuff\" and comply.

Against the odds, the years of good reporting and the continued efforts of a few serious newspapers and journals, the web, and a handful of outspoken honest politicians and others in public life, monitors, aid workers, international activists, have brought a massive shift in British public opinion to support of Palestinian freedom and a solution just to both sides. Adams and Mayhew and all of us would welcome this as a worthwhile result of our and their efforts. But it is not enough by a long shot. This shift in public opinion has made little impact on Britain\'s political leaders and the chiefs of its most influential institutions. They continue to bow before the Zionists as assiduously and effectively as they did forty, fifty, ninety years ago, an attitude enhanced by dutiful British subservience to Zionism\'s great sponsor, the United States of America. It is hard to believe that there is any longer the dewy-eyed zeal of the Arthur Balfours, Lloyd Georges and Winston Churchills for the idea of Israel, or any sense that this troublesome entity in the Middle East is actually of any strategic use to Britain, as may have once been thought. (Now, surely, it is a liability rather than an asset.)

Is it guilt? Weariness in the eye of the unrelenting storm of threats, bullying, influence-peddling and propaganda? Keeping in with the US at all costs? All of these, and more? But what?

Nowhere in Publish it not is this Zionist force and its captive hold on the British establishment quite satisfactorily explained. I cannot explain it myself. Middle East scholars to this day argue over the essential reasons for Balfour\'s Declaration. There are scores of reasons for it, and for Zionism\'s hold on the United Kingdom, but they do not seem to add up to one convincing one. As far as that goes, it does not matter to Israel. The Jewish state can congratulate itself on the fact that the best efforts of Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew and those of us who have tried to follow their example have come to nothing.

The cover-up in the Middle East continues to this day, more obvious than ever, the Big Lie bigger, its promulgation more intense, the all-powerful United States more committed than ever to the prosecution of Israel\'s interests at the expense of all others, neighbours, allies, friends, enemies, even its own, American best interests.

Israel is not only guaranteed military and economic superiority over its neighbours by its hyper-power protector in Washington, it is now a full partner in the \"war against terror\", in the American drive to install US-style democracy across the Middle East and Central Asia, and in the Western defences against the perceived legions of Islamic extremists, inside our Western societies and at our Eastern approaches and frontiers. Thus Israel can remain assured that its crimes and misdemeanours will continue to be condoned, any strictures confined to words not actions, and the aspirations of the Palestinians to freedom and safety inside recognized borders ignored, with our nation\'s complicity

Is there any change in sight that might, were Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew alive today, seem to justify for them the misplaced – or perhaps, mistimed – optimism they displayed in 1975, when Israel seemed to be at a disadvantage?

One aspect of Britain that has changed radically since then is the advent in this country of an articulate and engaged Muslim and Arab population: Asians, Arabs, Africans born and raised here. They are beginning to join political life, to make their voices resonate in the mainstream media and to enter academic and professional life. The political leadership is having to take notice of them. Their views on the invasion of Iraq and Britain\'s feeble stance on Palestine have already made electoral differences, most notably in the 2005 general election. Young professional groups and people, British, hyphenated British and immigrant alike, are monitoring the politicians and the media as closely as their pro-Zionist rivals.

Their impact is inchoate as yet, but their influence is gaining strength rapidly. They are as aware of the corruption and hopelessness in many of their mother countries and cultures as they are of the biases endemic in British institutions. It is encouraging that rather than spout aged and discredited lies about their pasts, these young people are engaging with the world as it is, throughout Asia and the Middle East, in Europe and the US, not as they might wish it to have been or imagine it once was. Some, it is true, have been seduced by siren calls and subversions of the Islamic message. Terrorism has been a terrifying result. But these are not the chosen refuges of most of the Muslim and Arab citizens who are making their life in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. Were the message of Publish it not more firmly appreciated and accepted by Britain\'s ministers and editors, the likelihood of young people turning down these tracks would be much more severely constrained.

What most of them are looking for is a response to their anxieties and recognition by Britain\'s leaders and opinion-makers that justice in Palestine, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Kashmir, or Chechnya, is a safer and more productive policy than ill-thought interference and military posturing and kowtowing to a misguided superpower.

In 2006 Publish it not will have a whole new potential readership, a phalanx of people who barely existed at its original publication, to whom Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew can now speak.

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Fatah walks out of parliament

Monday 06 March 2006, 16:35 Makka Time, 13:35 GMT

Fatah legislators have walked out of the first working session of the Hamas-led Palestinian parliament after the Islamic group took initial steps to revoke powers the previous legislature granted the Palestinian president.
Monday\'s session disintegrated into shouting matches before the walk out.

The quarrel set the tone for what legislators say will be a tension-fraught term, further dimming the possibility of the defeated Fatah movement joining a new Hamas government.
The confrontation erupted over Hamas\'s attempt to overturn decisions made in the final session of the previous Fatah-controlled parliament.

In that session, Fatah gave additional authorities to its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in an attempt to strengthen him as a counterweight to their main political rivals, Hamas.

The confrontation

Fatah lawmakers insisted Hamas did not have the right to review the decisions. They were overruled by Hamas which controls an absolute majority in the 132-seat legislature, sparking the walk-out.

Azzam al-Ahmad, a Fatah member of parliament, said his party would ask the Palestinian Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

\"They [Hamas] are thirsty for power, and they can do what they want since they have a majority, but must do it according to the law,\" al-Ahmad said during a prayer break after the two-hour morning session.

During the debate, Abd al-Aziz Duaik, the parliament speaker from Hamas, repeatedly called al-Ahmad to order.

Mahmud al-Zahar, of Hamas, complained that \"every time we present an important point, Azzam al-Ahmed would stand up and try to disrupt our work\".

Minimising the clash

Al-Ahmad, who kept quoting from the Basic Law, the precursor to a Palestinian constitution, said: \"I\'m not disrupting your work. I am just presenting a legal point of view, and it\'s not my fault if you don\'t read.\"

Ismail Haniya, Hamas\'s designated prime minister, tried to minimise the clash.

\"Even though the first session seemed a little bit tense, it indicates the vitality of this legislature and ... the democratic rule through pluralism,\" Haniya said.

Ziad Abu Amr, an independent who has Hamas backing, said he hoped matters would improve over time.

\"If it\'s going to be a discussion on every detail, it\'s going to be very agonising and tiring,\" he said.

Government talks

Monday\'s confrontation made it even more unlikely that Fatah would join a Hamas government.

Fatah leaders were holding a final day of meetings on the issue on Monday.

Al-Zahar said coalition talks would wrap up this week, and that Hamas would then decide on the composition of its government.

Hamas had wanted to include Fatah, apparently in the hope of making the new government more palatable to the international community.

However, many in Fatah advocated staying in the opposition, with the expectation that a Hamas government faced with an international boycott and financial difficulties would quickly fail.

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Olmert Planning Further Unilateral Pullout

Associated Press
Sunday March 5, 2006

JERUSALEM (AP) - Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to withdraw from more West Bank settlements immediately after forming Israel\'s next government and to set Israel\'s final borders within four years if it wins upcoming elections, a top political ally said Sunday in the most explicit statement yet of Olmert\'s plans.

Border-setting is the key agenda of the Israeli leader\'s Kadima Party, which holds a commanding lead ahead of the March 28 parliamentary vote.

Olmert has said that should negotiation efforts fail, he would draw Israel\'s borders unilaterally, continuing a process started over the summer when the Israelis evacuated the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank settlements.
The Hamas victory in Palestinian elections last month made that more likely, a senior Kadima member said, spelling out Kadima\'s withdrawal plans more clearly than past statements.

Avi Dichter, a former security chief and a top Olmert ally, said Israel will dismantle more West Bank settlements - but maintain a military presence in the evacuated areas.

``It will be only a civilian disengagement, not a military disengagement,\'\' he told Israel Radio.

Despite the absence of Ariel Sharon, who remains comatose after suffering a stroke earlier this year, the centrist party he founded, Kadima, is expected to win the elections and keep Olmert at the helm.

Assuming that happens, work on the pullout will begin immediately after a new government is installed, Dichter said. The entire process of setting final borders would take about four years, he said.

``In the absence of a Palestinian partner, Israel will have to determine its final borders by itself, and that will involve the consolidation of smaller settlements into settlement blocs,\'\' he said.

Olmert will seek crucial U.S. backing for the four-year plan, Dichter added.

A senior official close to Olmert, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give details to the media, said such a disengagement was an option, but policy would be determined only after the election.

Palestinians led by Hamas denounced the plan.

``This is another indication of Israeli policy, which ignores the existence of the Palestinian people,\'\' said lawmaker Salah Bardawil, spokesman for Hamas\' parliamentary faction.

``Once again, Israel is threatening to adopt unilateral measures that vindicate Hamas\' view that there is no partner in Israel who seeks real peace, and that Israel used negotiations in previous years as a pretext to ignore and stall the granting of Palestinian rights,\'\' Bardawil said.

Nearly two years ago, President Bush said a final peace deal would have to recognize ``demographic realities\'\' on the ground - meaning Israel would not be expected to withdraw completely to the borders it held before capturing the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war because of large settlement blocs it built in the meantime.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem as part of a future independent state.

Dichter did not specify which settlements might be evacuated in the first stage.

But the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, in an item citing Dichter, reported earlier Sunday that at least 17 settlements would be evacuated in the first stage - including some that are most militantly committed to a Jewish presence in the West Bank. About 16,000 of Israel\'s 254,000 settlers live in these communities.

Jewish settler leaders have vowed to fight any evacuation plan. After a largely passive resistance in Gaza, settlers clashed fiercely with security forces who dismantled nine homes in an unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost in January. More than 200 people, most of them security forces, were wounded.

Benny Katzover, head of the Elon Moreh settlement, one of the most extreme communities mentioned in the newspaper report, said further withdrawals would not be as peaceful as the Gaza pullout.

``There is no reason why we shouldn\'t be beaten and suffer ... and stop this process with our bodies,\'\' Katzover told Israel\'s Army Radio.

Olmert has said Israel would hold on to three major settlement blocs and the Jordan River Valley, but he has not said which of the more than 120 remaining West Bank settlements he would be ready to quit first.

All four, except the Ariel bloc, 10 miles inside the West Bank, are close to Israel\'s border. Yediot reported Israel also would hold onto three other smaller settlement areas, including the volatile settlement in the heart of Hebron and nearby Kiryat Arba.

In the Gaza evacuation, Israel pulled out both settlers and soldiers, then handed over the territory to the Palestinian Authority, which has failed to stop attacks from the coastal strip.

The Israelis maintained a military presence in the four emptied West Bank settlements and will do so in future evacuations, Dichter said.

``All the territories that will be emptied of Israeli settlers will remain in the hands of the military and the security establishment in order to continue to prevent terrorism in every refugee camp, and every neighborhood and every market of every Palestinian town - until the Palestinian Authority will be a partner as Israel views a partner,\'\' he said.

Dichter said Israel would pursue its unilateral withdrawals over the next four years, ``in the hope that a Palestinian partner, whom Israel could trust, would emerge in this time.\'\'

Israel, backed by the United States and the European Union, has said it will have no ties with a Hamas-led government unless the group, which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, renounces violence, recognizes Israel and accepts past peace agreements.

Hamas, which has rejected those conditions, hopes to form a Cabinet later this month. It has been courting the ousted Fatah Party of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to join the coalition, but Fatah, which favors negotiating a final peace deal, is inclined to stay in the opposition.

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Token Opposition: Ten Against Patriot Act Reauthorization

By John Nichols
The Nation
3 Mar 06

When Senator Russ Feingold opposed the original version of the Patriot Act in 2001, the Wisconsin Democrat was alone in his defense of the Constitution.

This year, as Feingold led the frustrating fight to block reauthorization of the Patriot Act in a form that continues to threaten basic liberties, he left no doubt that he was entirely willing to stand alone once more. To colleagues who suggested that it was appropriate to trade a little liberty for the White House\'s promise of more security in the war on terror, the senator declared: \"Without freedom, we are not America. If we don\'t preserve our liberties, we cannot win this war, no matter how many terrorists we capture or kill.\"
When the key vote came Thursday, Feingold found he was not entirely alone. Along with Vermont Independent Jim Jeffords, eight Democrats joined Feingold in voting \"no\" to reauthorization. The eight were:

Hawaii\'s Daniel Akaka

New Mexico\'s Jeff Bingaman

West Virginia\'s Robert Byrd

Iowa\'s Tom Harkin

Vermont\'s Patrick Leahy

Michigan\'s Carl Levin

Washington\'s Patty Murray

Oregon\'s Ron Wyden.

While Feingold was not on his own this time, the vote was still lopsided -- 89-10 to renew and extend expiring portions of the Patriot Act, with Hawaii Democrat Dan Inouye not voting. Despite earlier talk by many members of both parties about the need to stand firm in defense of basic Constitutional protections, all Republicans and the vast majority of Senate Democrats sided with the Bush White House in favor of legislation that still, among other things, permits an administration with a penchant for warrantless wireatpping to obtain secret orders allowing it to search private records held by libraries, medical clinics, businesses and financial institutions.

The Patriot Act reauthorization also allows government agencies to issue national-security letters, which are for all practical purposes subpoenas, without the approval of the courts.

The increasingly lamentable Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, chirped that, \"Our support for the Patriot Act does not mean a blank check for the president.\"

Reid was, of course, wrong.

One senator who got it right was the dean of the chamber, West Virginia\'s Byrd, who not only voted against resuthorization but also apologized for failing to join Feingold in 2001 to oppose the Patriot Act in its original form

\"There is no doubt that constitutional freedoms will never be abolished in one fell swoop, for the American people cherish their freedoms, and would not tolerate such a loss if they could perceive it,\" explained Byrd. \"But the erosion of freedom rarely comes as an all-out frontal assault but rather as a gradual, noxious creeping, cloaked in secrecy, and glossed over by reassurances of greater security.\"

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U.S. Isolated in Opposing Plan for a New U.N. Rights Council

New York Times
4 Mar 06

UNITED NATIONS - The United States has found itself isolated in its opposition to a proposal to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission, and its pledge to vote against adoption of the plan has thrown the United Nations into turmoil.

Many delegations say they share the American misgivings about the proposal but fear that postponing or renegotiating it - the two options put forward by John R. Bolton, the United States ambassador - would doom the effort to produce a more credible rights body.
\"If we reopen it to negotiations, there will be chaos, and if we postpone it, it will be a negative signal for the priority that human rights should have at the U.N.,\" Heraldo Muñoz, the Chilean ambassador, said Friday.

Mr. Muñoz, a promoter of democracy who was held as a political prisoner under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, said, \"This is clearly a compromise and not what some countries would like, but we perceive that aside from the U.S., there are very few countries who oppose the text.\"

Human rights groups are lobbying actively for adoption, galvanized by the prospect of American rejection and by suspicion of Mr. Bolton\'s motives in objecting to the proposal.

\"It\'s an open question whether Bolton\'s throwing all the cards up in the air is meant to improve the council or to prove that the U.N. can\'t reform itself and therefore should be abandoned,\" said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

Yvonne Terlingen, the United Nations representative for Amnesty International, warned, \"If the U.S. insists on revising the text, it will be aiding and abetting those whose purpose is to wreck the council, not to make it stronger.\"

In an interview on Friday, Jan Eliasson of Sweden, the General Assembly president, who wrote the final text, said: \"I definitely don\'t want to have an isolation process vis-à-vis the U.S. This is the country of Eleanor Roosevelt and the Bill of Rights. The U.S. belongs on this council, and I want the U.S. on board.\"

The current rights commission has been faulted for allowing notorious rights abusers like Sudan and Zimbabwe to become members, and producing an effective substitute for it has been seen as a test of whether the United Nations can meet widespread demands for fundamental change.

Mr. Eliasson said he had set a goal of resolving the matter by next week because the existing commission is scheduled to begin its annual meeting in Geneva on March 13.

This week, Mr. Bolton dismissed the importance of that deadline, saying, \"It might be worthwhile having the commission meet again to remind everybody it is so bad that we can get on the track of real reform.\"

Asked for comment on the impasse, Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for Mr. Bolton, said there was nothing to add to what the ambassador had already said.

Mr. Eliasson put the proposal forward on Feb. 23 for a new Human Rights Council, after months of negotiations and revisions. Mr. Bolton said the same day that it had too many \"deficiencies\" and should be renegotiated, and on Monday he announced that the United States would oppose it if it were put to a vote.

Though the United States has no veto power in the 191-member General Assembly, a negative vote could critically undermine the new panel.

\"A Human Rights Council without the United States would lack credibility,\" Emyr Jones Parry, the British ambassador, said Thursday. Noting that the European Union had formally endorsed the text, Mr. Jones Parry said, \"The job now is to get clarity on what the U.S. wants.\"

Those working for acceptance argue that provisions in the plan for direct election of members, formal review of member nations\' rights records and suspension of gross violators would make it less likely that abusers could join.

They also claim that a requirement that new members be approved by a majority - a minimum of 96 votes - would eliminate violators from membership. The formula weakens the requirement in the original proposal, made by Secretary General Kofi Annan, for a two-thirds vote for new members of a Human Rights Council.

\"There\'s no way that a Sudan or Zimbabwe is going to be able to get on this council,\" said Mr. Roth, of Human Rights Watch.

Mr. Roth also contended that Mr. Bolton\'s absence last fall and winter from some 30 meetings of the group drawing up the proposal led other countries to conclude that the United States was not fully committed to it.

In a crucial meeting with Mr. Eliasson last month, in which countries laid down their demands, Mr. Bolton did not mention the importance to the Bush administration of the two-thirds vote. He has since cited its omission as one of the reasons for the United States objection.

\"The State Department was trying to communicate to the U.N. that the two-thirds vote was an important part of the U.S. position,\" said Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, \"and there was quite a bit of surprise in the department that Bolton didn\'t bother to mention this to Eliasson.\"

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

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Bush may be history, but sadly his work will outlast him

Iain Macwhirter
Sunday Herald
05 March 2006

How many Americans does it take to build a memorial to 9/11? Apparently 2367 and counting. That's the number of US servicemen who have died in Iraq in the four and a half years that Ground Zero in lower Manhattan has not been developed. There is still just a large hole, surrounded by street-traders selling lurid images of the attacks.

The victims groups have argued with the developers who've fallen out with the architects and the city council who have had issues with the firemen. It's a mess. You don't want to go there, Except, of course, that everyone does. It is the world's number one destination for "dark tourism".
The Ground Zero no show is also a convenient metaphor for the state of mind of America as the Iraq war turns into a nightmare from which it cannot awake. Americans, especially in New York, don't like failing at things – whether it is erecting a suitable memorial to the thousands who died in the World Trade Centre, or losing nearly as many in a war which was supposed to achieve "closure" over the atrocity.

People here are, as they say, "pissed", grumpy, confused, argumentative, ill at ease with themselves. They can't quite remember how they got into this bloody conflict in this intractable and inscrutable Middle East country. But they now just wish it would go away – with its obscene car bombs, religious fanaticism and incomprehensible politics. But there is no way this is going to end in glory.

Most Americans think the war was a mistake and want their boys back before any more of them get killed or lose limbs or minds. Injured soldiers, many of whom have suffered severe brain damage, are a regular feature in the US press. But Americans have been through this movie before – in the 1960s – and they don't want a repeat of Vietnam. Unfortunately, no-one seems to have any sensible ideas for getting the hell out of Iraq.

The notion that America is in there to create a democratic society is regarded as a sick joke. Liberals blame US neo-imperialism; conservatives increasingly regard it as confirmation that people in the Middle East are incapable of democratic politics. But neither side seems particularly keen on attacking the other over it.

Most now seem to be agreed that it was a dumb war – conceived in ignorance, prosecuted in deceit, and now a monument to American military hubris. There are still a few New Yorkers who support the war – though they are pretty hard to find. I came across just two in the course of a cold week in the city that never sleeps – neither of them sounded very comfortable.

"Would someone just tell me what else we could do after 9/11? Huh?" said a Republican media type with a conspicuous Ash Wednesday daubing on his forehead. I was tempted to say: "Just about anything apart from bombing the shit out of a country which had nothing to do with 9/11." But I didn't.

An investment analyst thought that Saddam was going to get WMD eventually. "It was right to take him out. Anyway, he was about to take over all the oil in the Middle East, so we had no choice." But she wasn't comfortable with it; you could tell by the way she couldn't make eye contact.

No-one had a good word to say about Bush. Americans are still in denial about the true cost of the war. In some ways, ridiculing Bush has become a factor in that denial. Rubbishing the President is easier than facing up to the grim reality of mass bereavement. But in the not too distant future – perhaps when the number of casualties in Iraq equals that of 9/11 – then there is going to be some kind of moral reckoning. Careful management by the military has kept the coffins off the TV screens, but it can only be a matter of time before the media starts to ask why all these young Americans had to die.

Bush has never been regarded as the sharpest tool in the box, but it was always assumed that the folksy President had surrounded himself with capable advisers. In many areas he had. But as the Katrina tapes showed last week, good advice is pretty useless if the recipient is incapable of understanding it or responding appropriately.

The tapes, released last week by the Associated Press, reveal that Bush was warned that the Katrina hurricane was likely to be "the big one". But he politely dismissed the warnings, content that his hotline to the Almighty would provide more compelling guidance.

Bush has also failed to respond to the widespread warnings that his visit to India, to seal a deal over the sale of civil nuclear technology, would be regarded as Christian hypocrisy. How can Bush deny Iran the right to develop a civil nuclear programme, when he is actively helping India acquire it? Muslim leaders are bound to regard this as another case of American hostility to Islam.

So, George Bush has few friends around right now, either in the media, Congress or Manhattan streets. But while no-one seems to have anything good to say about the President, no-one seems to have any clear idea what to do about the situation either. Get out of Iraq, certainly. But what about the nature of the political system that brought about this quasi-imperial misadventure? America doesn't do colonialism. So, how did it end up occupying an ungovernable Muslim country, with inadequate forces and little political support?

Well, a number of US commentators have been reminding their readers of the thoughts of the former Republican president, Dwight D Eisenhower, who warned in 1961 of the growing power of the "military-industrial complex" (MIC). Eisenhower – a true war leader who had led American forces to victory in the second world war – knew the military and feared that the immense power and wealth of the arms manufacturers could overwhelm US democracy and pose a threat to the stability of the world.

During the cold war, when spending on defence remained high, the complex was content. But in the decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, with rash talk of a "peace dividend", the MIC clearly had an interest in hyping up the potential threats to American military hegemony; 9/11 provided the justification for rebuilding the US military. But because Bin Laden's irregulars did not constitute a proper army, the masters of war began to look for more identifiable enemies – and alighted on Saddam Hussein.

The rest, as they say, is history. And so, they all say, is George W Bush. But the unfortunate reality for the rest of the world is that the President's work is likely to out last him. Like the hole in the ground in Manhattan, there is a big hole in the new world order where the Middle East should be. And no-one has any idea yet what is going to fill it.

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Thousands of Federal Trials Kept Secret

Associated Press
5 Mar 06

Despite the Sixth Amendment\'s guarantee of public trials, nearly all records are being kept secret for more than 5,000 defendants who completed their journey through the federal courts over the last three years. Instances of such secrecy more than doubled from 2003 to 2005.

An Associated Press investigation found, and court observers agree, that most of these defendants are cooperating government witnesses, but the secrecy surrounding their records prevents the public from knowing details of their plea bargains with the government.
Most of these defendants are involved in drug gangs, though lately a very small number come from terrorism cases. Some of these cooperating witnesses are among the most unsavory characters in America\'s courts - multiple murderers and drug dealers - but the public cannot learn whether their testimony against confederates won them drastically reduced prison sentences or even freedom.

In the nation\'s capital, which has had a serious problem with drug gangs murdering government witnesses, the secrecy has reached another level - the use of secret dockets. For hundreds of such defendants over the past few years in this city, should someone acquire the actual case number for them and enter it in the U.S. District Court\'s computerized record system, the computer will falsely reply, \"no such case\" - rather than acknowledging that it is a sealed case.

At the request of the AP, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts conducted its first tally of secrecy in federal criminal cases. The nationwide data it provided the AP showed 5,116 defendants whose cases were completed in 2003, 2004 and 2005, but the bulk of their records remain secret.

\"The constitutional presumption is for openness in the courts, but we have to ask whether we are really honoring that,\" said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and now law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. \"What are the reasons for so many cases remaining under seal?\"

\"What makes the American criminal justice system different from so many others in the world is our willingness to cast some sunshine on the process, but if you can\'t see it, you can\'t really criticize it,\" Levenson said.

The courts\' administrative office and the Justice Department declined to comment on the numbers.

The data show a sharp increase in secret case files over time as the Bush administration\'s well-documented reliance on secrecy in the executive branch has crept into the federal courts through the war on drugs, anti-terrorism efforts and other criminal matters.

\"This follows the pattern of this administration,\" said John Wesley Hall, an Arkansas defense attorney and second vice president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. \"I am astonished and shocked that this many criminal proceedings in federal court escape public scrutiny or become buried.\"

The percentage of defendants who have reached verdicts and been sentenced but still have most of their records sealed has more than doubled in the last three years, the court office\'s tally shows.

Of nearly 85,000 defendants whose cases were closed in 2003, the records of 952 or 1.1 percent remain mostly sealed. Of more than 82,000 defendants with cases closed in 2004, records for 1,774 or 2.2 percent remain mostly secret. And of more than 87,000 defendants closed out in 2005, court records for 2,390 or 2.7 percent remain mostly closed to the public.

The court office also found a sharp increase in defendants whose case records were partly sealed for a limited time. Among newly charged defendants, the numbers in this category grew from 9,999 or 10.9 percent of all defendants charged in 2003 to 11,508 or 12.6 percent of those charged in 2005.

But the AP investigation found, and court observers agree, that the overwhelming number of these cases sealed for a limited time involve a use of secrecy that draws no criticism: the sealing of an indictment only until the defendant is arrested.

AP\'s investigation found a large concentration of both kinds of secrecy at the U.S. District Court here: limited sealing of records and extensive sealing that continues even after the courts are done with a defendant.

\"When the sentences are sealed, that\'s a con on the community,\" said Lexi Christ, a Washington defense lawyer for a man acquitted in a crack cocaine case.

In that case, all the defendants\' names became public when the indictment was unsealed. But all other records for six defendants who pleaded guilty remained sealed more than two years after the public trial in which two of the drug dealers were convicted.

One of the cooperating witnesses admitted to seven murders and testified in open court against co-defendants who had committed fewer, Christ said. But like the others who pleaded guilty and cooperated, that witness\' plea deal and sentence were sealed.

\"Cooperating witnesses are pleading guilty to six or seven murders, and the jury doesn\'t know they\'ll be sitting on the Metro (subway) next to them a year later. It\'s a really, really ugly system,\" Christ said.

Prosecutors argue that plea agreements must be sealed to protect witnesses and their families from violent retaliation. But Christ said that makes no sense after the trial when the defendants know who testified.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press found the U.S. District Court here has 469 criminal cases, from 2001-2005, that are listed by this court\'s electronic docket as \"no such case.\" An AP survey over a shorter period found similar numbers here and got oral acknowledgment from the clerk\'s office that the missing electronic docket numbers corresponded to sealed cases. However, these figures include an unknown number of sealed indictments that will be made public if arrests are made.

\"That\'s horrifying,\" said Loyola\'s Levenson. \"When I was a prosecutor from 1981 to 1989, I never heard of secret dockets.\"

No matter how few turn out to be almost totally sealed after the defendant\'s case was completed, \"it\'s still significant,\" said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee and a pioneer in campaigning against court secrecy.

\"The Supreme Court has said that criminal proceedings are public,\" Dalglish added. \"In this country, we don\'t prosecute and lock up convicts and have no public track record of how we got there. That violates the defendants\' rights not to mention the public\'s right to know what it\'s court system is doing.\"

Although Justice Department does not keep comprehensive nationwide statistics on secrecy in federal prosecutions, it does track how often prosecutors ask permission from headquarters to hold a secret court proceeding, like an arraignment, hearing, trial or sentencing.

The department estimates it got 100 such requests from October 2000 though October 2004, Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said. Another 100 arrived during the 12 months that ended October 2005, he said.

Sierra said the large recent increase occurred because the department sent a memo to all federal prosecutors in 2004 reminding them they need Washington\'s approval before requesting or agreeing to secret courtroom proceedings. Filing of secret papers in cases doesn\'t require such permission.

On the Net: Reporters Committee: http://www.rcfp.org/

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press.

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Please smile while under the boot

By Mulham Assir
5 Mar 06

The self-righteous arrogance with which the West feigns shock at Muslim reactions to humiliation reveals how deeply the colonial attitude runs in the Occident

Not only have the whites been guilty of being on the offensive, but by some skilful manoeuvres, they have managed to control the responses of the blacks to the provocation. Not only have they kicked the black, but they have also told him how to react to the kick... He is now beginning to show signs that it is his right and duty to respond to the kick in the way he sees fit.\" -- Steve Biko, freedom fighter against Apartheid, killed while under police arrest.

The Western world -- commonly referred to in its own media as the \"civilised world\" (CW) -- has been shocked by the anti-Islamic cartoons debacle. Well, not exactly shocked by the cartoons, but by the Muslim world\'s reaction to them. The cartoons represent a simple exercise in free speech by the artists who created them, do they not? Not quite. Not so much a spontaneous expression of free speech as a command performance: the cartoons had been commissioned with what seems to be a deliberate intent to provoke.

Many opinion pieces -- \"civilised\" opinion pieces that is -- remind us by way of contrast of the open-mindedness with which Christians are willing to mock their own religious icons and do so freely. That is the proper and -- pardon the repetition -- \"civilised\" way to react. After all, can one be civilised and object to free speech? It is true that these symbols are a bit shop-worn and the aura of inviolability that used to surround them has thinned as new symbols worthy of worship and taboo protection have emerged, like the Holocaust dogma. Free speech clearly has its restrictions: there are several people at this very moment in the CW\'s prisons for questioning the literal dogma of the Holocaust.

Beyond the gratuitous, bigoted insult, the cartoons specifically equate Islam with terrorism (the Prophet shown wearing a bomb with a lit fuse as a turban) and also ascribe resistance to the occupation of Islamic nations to \"Islamic fundamentalism\" (toting the old \"99 virgins\" Zionist misrepresentation of the purpose of the Palestinian struggle). Nonetheless, these notions do not shock a Western audience that has been systematically exposed to anti-Arab and anti-Islamic bashing for decades; a campaign exacerbated after the little American holocaust, \"9/11\".

Demonisation of Islam and the \"clash of civilisations\" supposedly instigated by Islam are propaganda measures meant to choke off inquiry into the causes of Muslim anger. President Bush\'s commission on public diplomacy noted in 2003 that in nine Muslim and Arab nations only 12 per cent of respondents surveyed believed that \"Americans respect Arab/Islamic values.\" It recommended spending a few million dollars on ... propaganda.

Occasional mealy-mouthed statements by President Bush -- he of the \"crusade\" gaffe -- that \"turro\'rists\" misrepresent Islam are undercut by his highest honchos. General William Boykin, undersecretary at the Defense Department, infamously stated publicly that when faced with a Muslim \"I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol\" and that America\'s enemy was a \"spiritual enemy ... called Satan\". His boss, Donald Rumsfeld, refused to condemn Boykin\'s statements, claiming, \"We\'re a free people.\"

They would have all cued up at the mike to condemn as \"virulently anti-Semitic\" a cartoon showing, say, Moses with a Dimona diadem, holding aloft Tables that read \"Thou shall expel/imprison/kill them and Thou shalt grab every hilltop, every village.\"

The Western media continue to focus precisely on what the cartoons sought to provoke: Muslim anger. Why the riots, the violence, the damage to property? Martin Luther King Jr, who knew a thing or two about the topic, said that riots are the voice of the voiceless. There is no powerful Muslim lobby to flex its muscles, to choreograph an organised protest, to corral advertisers, to threaten any given newspaper with financial ruin, much less to use the levers of government to demand the world\'s vigilance against the grave danger of anti-Islamism (the phrase anti-Semitism cannot be used by other Semites; it is occupied lexical territory).

There is, however, another kind of Muslim reaction in the CW: the repeated walk to Canossa of \"Muslim community leaders\" who are expected to publicly repudiate every incident of \"Muslim violence\" on the planet. They are what might be called \"Muslims on parole\". They express regret, disavow \"terrorism\" (the freelance variety, not state terrorism, which is a civilised necessity leading to democracy) and actually attempt to explain Islam to the viewer. It is a debasing exercise that serves to enhance the Western audience\'s perception that religion is the root problem; almost never does it touch on the real causes of anger among the millions who happen to be Muslim: oppression, humiliation, demonisation, occupation, expropriation of land and resources, ethnic cleansing, colonialism.

The ignorant arrogance, bigotry and immorality of the Islam bashers should not be downplayed but the propaganda that sustains it from the top cannot dissimulate the fact that the Western world\'s clash is not truly with Islam. The CW will clash with any people who: (1) inhabit a land rich in vital natural resources, notably oil, or coveted by land grabbers, or deemed a suitable strategic bridge for world domination; (2) reject so-called civilisers even when they bring the \"democracy\" gift; (3) have the temerity to contemplate trading in euros instead of dollars. Such people cannot avoid entering a collision course with the CW. They may be Catholic for all the good it does them. Ask Chavez of Venezuela. He also refuses to react properly when being kicked.

How Muslim of him!

* The writer is a Lebanese political commentator.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

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Bull in the China Shop

by Eric Margolis

The mood across the Mideast could not be grimmer. Criss-crossing the region and meeting with politicians, intelligence officials and businessmen reveals a pervasive feeling events are fast spinning out of control.

The destruction of a key Shia shrine in Samarra last week brought Iraq to the edge of all-out civil war. Some security officials here believe rogue Shia government troops blew up the mosque to steal the gold encrusting its dome. This criminal act provoked a Shia/Sunni bloodbath that left at least 1,300 dead.
Saudi Arabia and Jordan are quietly aiding Sunni forces in Iraq to counter growing Iranian influence over the Shia-run regime in Baghdad. Fears are even being expressed that Iraq's civil conflict might ignite a Sunni/Shia war across the Mideast. Things are so bad in Iraq that a leading Israeli general just observed that overthrowing Saddam Hussein had been a mistake.

Even America's staunchest Arab allies are deeply dismayed by the Bush administration's destabilizing policies. Washington has become the proverbial bull in the Mideast china shop.

Neo-conservatives around Bush were working to overthrow Syria's isolated regime. But just as another "regime change" appeared likely, they pulled back when it was clear the only alternative to Syria's Asad regime was the long-persecuted underground Muslim Brotherhood.

Washington's support of minority, anti-Syrian factions in Lebanon and clumsy political machinations there risk re-igniting the ferocious civil war of 1975–1990.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent Mideast trip designed to financially and politically strangle the democratically elected Hamas government in Palestine roused widespread rage and contempt.

America is being denounced as arrantly hypocritical for first pretending to promote democracy, then trying to crush its results. Hamas' hard-line policies are not particularly popular in the region, but people feel the deepest anguish for the misery, suffering and dehumanization of Palestinians.

While the Bush administration trumpets Hamas' refusal to so far accept Israel's existence, Arabs keep asking why no pressure is put on Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, as the UN resolved, stop colonizing the West Bank and Golan, and dismantle its covert nuclear program. (While the U.S. threatens war against Iran over its limited nuclear program, it winks at Israel's large nuclear arsenal. This glaring double standard is a primary cause of anti-American rage across the Muslim world.)

Egypt's formerly petrified political system is beginning to wobble as Islamists gain momentum in spite of repression and vote-rigging. The Saudis escaped a potentially serious attack last week on their main oil complex. In Jordan, security is intense after the recent deadly bombing of an Amman hotel. The Danish cartoon drama enflamed anti-government passions from Morocco to Pakistan, shaking the entire region.

America's allies in the Arab world and Pakistan are pleading with Washington to show some support for Palestinian rights and tone down what is seen across the Mideast as Bush's anti-Islamic crusade. But Washington is heedless to the dangers faced by its allies.

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The New World Order Story

By Davidson Loehr
5 Mar 06

As we struggle to put the events of and following 9-11-2001 into the most complete perspective, we're hampered by having to find a way through the minefields of "conspiracy theory" accusations. There are so many parts to consider, it's almost impossible to argue from any one event. If we argue that the Bush administration was complicit in the attacks of 9-11 - that they intentionally murdered 3,000 Americans in order to further their imperialistic agenda abroad and their transformation of America into a command-and-control plutocracy here at home - a hundred others will pick holes in individual pieces of the 9-11 conspiracy theory, and derail the argument rather than clarifying or advancing it. It's like trying to pick up Jell-O without the bowl.

Nor can this ever be a merely intellectual game. Suggesting that our own leaders orchestrated the murders of 9-11 - while proposing Arab Muslims as perhaps no more than the fictional enemy toward which they hope to direct American scorn and fury - this idea evokes deep and powerful resentment and resistance, whether it is true or not.
Author David Ray Griffin, whose research I'll be using for some parts of this essay, quotes from a stunning letter to the Los Angeles Times Magazine from September 18, 2005 from William Yarchin of Huntington Beach, California:

"The number of contradictions in the official version of … 9/11 is so overwhelming that … it simply cannot be believed. Yet … the official version cannot be abandoned because the implication of rejecting it is far too disturbing: that we are subject to a government conspiracy of "X-Files" proportions and insidiousness."

In this essay, I will try picking up the bowl rather than just the Jell-O - the deep story that frames much of our history - to see if I can grasp the overall story that includes 9-11, our imperialism, our invasions of Iraq and Iran, the theft of trillions of dollars from the tax base to transfer to the top tenth of a percent or so of our population, the rise in repressive laws, loss of civil liberties, increase in the state power of Christian fundamentalism, and its accompanying marginalization of women that always accompanies fascisms and fundamentalisms.

There is such a "bowl," such a meta-story. It is not hidden, not obscure, and not hard to grasp. It is even quite easy to defend. In fact, I want to begin by defending that frame story, to get a feel for its raw and deep power and appeal.

Hearing and empathizing with this story may be the biggest challenge for Americans and perhaps many others, for it is a story grounded in "Realpolitik," not liberal idealism. But this story is the most powerful story on the table, and one of the most powerful in American history, and its command to act before the window of opportunity closes is a command to which some powerful leaders have listened – and have believed that only fools would not listen. It is not too much to call this plot a sacred mission, worth almost any price, for so much is at stake.

Along the way, I'll try to indicate how and where some of the other streams of action have arisen, for they all fit together into a coherent and necessary whole – which is another strong argument for this story.

The story can be put simply, though it must then be fleshed out with its historical developments, and its prehistoric foundations.

The plot we see most easily is the desire of our political leaders – of both parties – to establish a global American empire (sometimes called a Pax Americana, or a peace on American terms), wrapped in a command-and-control form of governance both abroad and at home. As the plot moves through time and thought, it gathers to it several other necessary components. These include a massive military buildup, control of all the world's economies we can control, spread of our military to protect the economic interests of those who are steering us, disempowerment of citizens at home through disinformation and restrictions on civil rights, and the transformation of our economy into a two-tiered plutocracy in which "those who own the country ought to govern it." That sentiment seems modern, but the words came from John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. It's part of the larger sentiment that those who own the world ought to govern it, which is at the heart of this ancient story.

In this story, some familiar words receive new definitions. "Democracy" and "freedom," for example, have little or nothing to do with individual rights or the freedom of the majority of the people to choose the government that serves their interests. "Democracy" and "freedom" refer to the freedom of our large corporations to operate with a minimum of restraint in each target country, and our desire to replace uncooperative rulers – whether or not they were democratically elected – with puppet rulers who will be friendly to the economic and imperialistic objectives of those who control US policies. It would be hard to sell this longer and more honest definition, and much easier to sell it if it's called the opposite of what it really entails: democracy and freedom. But it's just a small part of a much bigger and more important story.

The newest incarnation of this ancient story is the "New World Order."

George HW Bush popularized the phrase "New World Order" in a speech he made on September 11, 1990.

The roots of GHW Bush's version of this new "order" were in the Trilateral Commission, which David Rockefeller set up in 1973. This was an effort to study restructuring the economic priorities of the world around the desires of the three major markets of the US, Europe and Japan. What this means is that the goal was to write the rules for the world's emerging global economy in ways that gave preference and profit to the US, Europe and Japan.

A linked, prior and more significant organization was the Council on Foreign Relations, which starred some of the biggest money players in a Council that had immense influence on US foreign policy. This means they exerted influence to make sure US foreign policy kept the financial desires of America's wealthiest individuals and corporations at the top of its priorities.

George HW Bush served on the boards of both the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations in the 1970s, dropping out of them to present a "cleaner" image for his 1980 run for the presidency.

The biggest obstacle to this grand "New World Order," however, was that – once the masses understood what it was about – it would be very hard to get popular support for. Why? Because this was an elitist plan, to benefit the wealthiest individuals and corporations, to enlist the military in support of their agenda – which outsiders would quickly call their greed – and it's a hard sell to get soldiers to die just to make a handful of greedy people very rich. It would take a lot to sell this story – it would certainly take reframing, repackaging, to present it as a patriotic imperative that could get wide public support.

All this was in the background, a plot without effective characters or an adequate vehicle to move forward in restructuring the economic priorities and advantages of … well, by the time of Bush's speech in 1990, it no longer needed to be a "trilateral" commission, for in 1989 the world had changed in an unforeseen and dramatic way. And this changed everything.

It came in the aftermath of the USSR's fall in 1989. The fall of Communism ended the Cold War (World War II continued without armed conflict between the USSR and the US).

What the fall of Communism meant was that we were the only superpower in the world. We no longer had to think only in terms of bonding with Europe and Japan against Russia. There was no nation on earth that could defeat us in a war. We had more weapons and more money than anyone. We also had moral authority, and the respect of most of the world. History offered us an almost unprecedented chance, and it was felt that it would be both cowardly and stupid not to take it.

We had the chance to reshape the world's operating procedures in ways that would benefit those who spoke for the US economic interests above all others. Some of the argument was that someone would be writing the rules for the order of this "new world," and we'd be crazy if we didn't do it. This is a powerful argument, much more powerful than the idea that doing this wouldn't be nice.

Almost everything was at stake. With no superpower to stop us, we could control the currency in which the majority of world trade was conducted. We could be the only military superpower, and prevent other countries from developing the means to threaten us. Our corporations could demand economic advantages in the world market, as our English language made strides toward becoming the language in which international business was done. We could – perhaps most importantly – control the world's oil supply, if we could establish a permanent presence in the Middle East, a goal the US has had since the 1920s.

The implications of this global ambition were profound, and reached both abroad and within. Since the goal was power over others who might challenge us, that power would have to be established, both through armies without and laws within. It was feared, realistically, that lily-livered liberals would oppose such a bold – and bloody – plan. Above all, this new order was to serve the economic interests of the most powerful corporations and those who controlled the largest shares of wealth.

The global ambitions of the New World Order are fundamentally opposed to democracy. It was a plutocracy, an oligarchy, the rule by those who owned. This isn't a new evil. It's a longstanding historical reality. Those who control the money control the armies and the laws, and the distribution of wealth – which will always be claimed as their right, even their birthright.

There are two ways of putting this. One is to say that those with great wealth can and will write the laws to disempower those from whose labors their great wealth is taken. Another is to say that this system demands a few people who are willing to sell out everyone else in order to be on top. History shows there is no shortage of such people – and that, given the chance, most of us would be among them.

But everything would have to be changed, in order to organize the world around the center of serving the economic interests of those whose money commanded the world's largest army. Consideration of individual rights would have to give way to obeying the power of the state. Why? Because in the New World Order, the vast majority of people will be doing more work for less money to benefit fewer people, and they're not likely to keep doing it if they have choices, or even access to necessary information. Again, liberal whimpers about truth, honesty, fairness to all, and the rest – these have always been answered by the world's realists, who say "Just stay asleep, dopes! The fight goes to the strong, not the righteous, and merely smart people are outwitted by shrewd people every time – especially when the shrewd are also wealthy, well-connected, and control enough politicians, judges and media to make the rest of you live within their story! The penalty for naivete on that scale has been and will continue to be serving those who have the gumption to go after it."

We can all think of a few times this savvy, reality-centered, realpolitik story has slipped to the surface. I remember Bob Dole, a consummate professional politician who did get it, responding to a hopelessly naïve question – in 1996, I think. The starry-eyed liberal asked him if having so much big money in politics might mean that those who contributed the money would want something in return for it! Dole seemed amazed at the level of naivete, and gave his smiling response that, well, they certainly expected more than just good government!

In fact, campaign contributions are investments, which show some of the biggest returns of any investments in the world. Those who control the money know that, and use it. But, faced with the level of naïvete most of the masses have – as illustrated in the exchange with Bob Dole above – it's been very easy to dismiss objections as "conspiracy theories."

A Digression: "Conspiracies" & Conspiracy Theories

It's worth a digression to understand what a conspiracy is. The American Heritage Dictionary defines "conspiracy" as "1. An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful or subversive act." And "conspiracy theory" is defined simply as "A theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance, rather than by an individual or isolated act." The etymology means "to breathe together," or perhaps to be breathing the same kind of air. There are other ways of saying this that don't call forth silent-movie-era images of over-costumed villains twirling handlebar moustaches. Everyone knows how fraternity brothers or school alumni can help you get what you want by moving ahead of others. You're brothers, sisters, alums; you breathed the same air, and it creates a bond we've all exploited at one time or other. This is a conspiracy. It's getting what we want not just by our merits, but also by our behind-the-scenes contacts.

"Conspiring" – breathing the same air – can also be as simple as operating out of the same paradigm. When we share basic assumptions, we don't need secret meetings in order to work together. Teams operating out of a shared gameplan act in coordinated ways with a minimum of conversation, because paradigms have an inherent logic that helps direct the actions of those who understand and serve the paradigms.

Every major piece of legislation is the result of a conspiracy – between power brokers, pork-barrel interests, lobbyists. In fact, a lobbyist's job is to conspire with lawmakers to see that the laws passed benefit those who pay the lobbyists rather than the vast majority of others, who may not be served by them at all. Most theories involve conspiracies, whether the ends are defined as strictly illegal, or just favoring special interests. We don't want to reject all conspiracy theories, only the wrong ones, the outrageous ones, that are contradicted by virtually all the facts.

To reshape both our country and the world to transfer money, power and authority to the very rich, tax structures would have to be changed, because the biggest continual pot of money comes from taxes, which must be diverted away from social services, away from education, away from health care and so on, and into the control of those who own the country (and world). Why? Because no one earns a thousand times more money than those who do the work for them. They take the money because they have changed the laws to channel it to them, like diverting a thousand streams into one large reservoir: theirs.

This sounds bad, but it is also easy to see it as a just and logical order. Those at the top prefer to feel that they rose to the top through an innate or acquired superiority - and to the victors go the spoils. Many will recognize this as the script of "Social Darwinism," the idea that "natural selection" selects the best people and classes to rise to the top – ignoring the fact that they control the laws to give them most of that money.

This story is about dominating the world – it's one of our favorite stories, and one of the most popular plots for some of our favorite movies, and comes from the deep biological past of our highly territorial species. From "Dr. Strangelove" to "Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings," "The Matrix" and beyond, the ambition to dominate everything is one of our most characteristic and powerful urges – far stronger than the comparatively wimpy desire for peace and harmony.

And again, since someone must write the rules, why shouldn't it be America - meaning those who control America's riches and resources, and have the best access to lawmakers? Without a coherent and powerful answer to this question, there is no effective opposition to the scheme of our new imperialism – along with all that it implies. And the philosophy guiding the New World Order demands a command-and-control governance both abroad and at home, since it is not designed to serve the majority, but to serve the extreme minority – who can easily see themselves as "our best people." To pull this off, the masses must be either converted or bamboozled, though the latter is easier.

The art of bamboozling us is not a secret art. Until recently, it was talked about quite openly, going all the way back to at least the 1920s. The name from that time, one of the most important names in the art of bamboozling the masses, was Edward Bernays. Bernays had worked in Woodrow Wilson's Committee on Public Information, the first U.S. state propaganda agency. Bernays wrote that \"It was the astounding success of propaganda during the [First World] war that opened the eyes of the intelligent few in all departments of life to the possibilities of regimenting the public mind.\" (Noam Chomsky, Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, p. 54)

Here are more words from this most influential American: \"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.\" To carry out this essential task, \"the intelligent minorities must make use of propaganda continuously and systematically,\" because of course they alone \"understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses\" and can \"pull the wires which control the public mind.\" This process of \"engineering consent\"--a phrase Bernays coined--is the very \"essence of the democratic process,\" he wrote shortly before he was honored for his contributions by the American Psychological Association in 1949. (Chomsky, 53)

Another member of Woodrow Wilson's propaganda committee was Walter Lippman, one of the most influential and respected journalists in America for about fifty years, and a brilliant, articulate, man. The intelligent minority, Lippman explained in essays on democracy, are a \"specialized class\" who are responsible for setting policy and for \"the formation of a sound public opinion.\" They must be free from interference by the general public, who are \"ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.\" The public must \"be put in its place\"; their function is to be \"spectators of action,\" not participants--apart from periodic electoral exercises when they choose among the specialized class. (Chomsky, 54)

This "intelligent minority" were felt, by liberals, to be liberals, so they could easily agree with the thrust of Lippman's sentiments because they shared them. Surely, the benighted masses did need the more intelligent, the more culturally advanced, to steer them into the more enlightened paths that were the private domain of America's liberals.

But the "intelligent minority" could and did morph into the "opulent minority" in a heartbeat, and the liberals seemed caught completely unaware. Once mass media are recognized as a means of spoon-feeding desired attitudes and wants to the masses, isn't it likely that they will be controlled and used by those who control the money and the media?

The point here is not to scorn Bernays, Lippman and the other brilliant and influential men who developed the science of "engineering consent." The logic is clear: to rule masses, to get masses to serve your ends rather than primarily their own, you must help form their opinions for them by creating the story out of which they will live. Another name for this process is "colonizing," which involves taking away people's stories and getting them to accept supporting roles in a story that benefits you: that's the complaint behind the phrase "taxation without representation." Yes, it's treating them like herd animals, but it is so easy to feel that the "masses" are herd animals. Much of the liberal ideology of the 1970s operated out of a similar feeling that the (intellectually) superior citizens should mold the options of the masses into forms the liberals saw as desirable. All power corrupts. The New World Order differs only in that it is unabashedly the desire for absolute power on a scale unprecedented in history.


I want to defend this ambition as a fundamental, permanent, part of human nature: the nature of profoundly territorial animals. It's worth remembering that the dog who barks at you from behind his master's fence is barking for the same reason his master built the fence.

I remember being both outraged and tickled at the same time when the professors in liberal "humanities" divisions of elite universities - who were trying to argue that we have no instincts, only "nurture" - fought to control the intellectual territory of their universities by forbidding or shouting down speakers who would come from a set of intellectual assumptions about human nature that contradicted theirs. These are territorial struggles, and they seem always to have been a large part of our definition as a species.

When I was married, my wife bred, raised, trained and showed a wonderful and rare breed of dog known as Briards: French shepherds. Still probably my favorite kind of dog, their great intelligence and innate concept of "territory" taught me a lot about territorial animals, including our own species. I remember an annual meeting where one of the owners showed a movie of French Briards as they worked their sheep. They used dogs because there were no fences. Think about this. The dogs were led around the perimeters of the owner's land. There weren't lines on the ground, they were just led around these invisible boundaries, and internalized them. Those, then, were the invisible boundaries within which they kept the sheep. If we don't marvel at the very thought of it, it's because that notion of territory is equally embedded in us, no matter how miserable we'd be at herding sheep.

Imperialistic aims for world domination are inherent, but not inherently evil. They are our territorial imperative taken to imaginative extremes. The Roman Empire (the First Reich) and the Holy Roman Empire (the Second Reich) were somewhat more benevolent schemes than the Third Reich. It all depends upon whom the empire is serving, and at whose expense. But we absolutely love the desire for world domination, and never tire of watching it unfold in movies. Yes, we almost always identify with the oppressed rather than the powerful; we do know our place.

The desire to control and command is as deeply ingrained as any trait we have, and far more powerful than altruistic or peaceful desires; again, just identifying the movie plots that attract us helps identify the stories we love.

Also we look out for Number One, and will easily and often look away from actions that could threaten our position. This was the behavior of the Good Germans in the 1930s and 1940s – those average citizens who knew what was going on but didn't want to create trouble for themselves, and so remained silent. History has made the phrase "Good Germans" an ironic one, meaning the cowardly people rather than the truly good ones. But it's profoundly human, and can be seen in the behaviors of nearly every other animal, too.

Lower-ranking animals in other species also routinely recede into the background when dominant animals are fighting. There's something in us that "accepts our assigned place" when we don't believe we have the means to oppose it, even when the assigned place is low, even demeaning - as slave-owners know.

The New World Order was a re-emergence of a will to power as old and deep as anything in our species – or any other territorial species. Even religions, which like to see themselves as forces of the highest good, kill quickly and mercilessly when the primacy of their myth is threatened by "infidels." This is the plot of all religious persecution, every religious war, and every heretic's trial. The crime is not accepting their definition of spiritual and intellectual territory. It's about territory, whose territory, who makes the rules - and nearly everything is at stake.

This is some of the biological basis of all our territorial impulses, including plutocracy, oligarchy and imperialism. And the opportunity which presented itself to the US in 1989 was truly gigantic, on a scale unprecedented in human history. The goal of this "Fourth Reich" is the greatest in history, dwarfing the conquests of the Persians, Alexander, Rome, the Ottoman Empire or the British Empire, and by a huge margin. How on earth could intelligent and aware people not want to rise to the occasion history has offered us?

The plan for how to start putting this New World Order in place may have been Dick Cheney's. The desire to attack Iraq can be traced back at least to 1992, when Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis "Scooter" Libby were the primary authors of the Pentagon's "Defense Planning Guidance" paper, written for then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. The focus was on Saddam, Iraq, oil, and the Middle East. Cheney offered the plan to Bush I in the waning days of his administration, but it was leaked, then withdrawn after a brief public outcry erupted over its boldness.

This wouldn't have surprised the great historian Arnold Toynbee, who had predicted in the 1950s that the next great conflict would not be between the US and the USSR, but between the white Christian world and the Arab Muslim world.

In 1996, Richard Perle led a study group that produced the document "A Clean Break," recommending that Israel adopt a policy of "preemption," including a "focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." Wolfowitz and Perle would become founding members of the Project for the New American Century the following year.

Momentum was gaining for transforming the US into a military force with the weapons and the will to take advantage of this historic opportunity to establish the New World Order – which must be, they believed, the American Empire.

But such plans would require a great deal of money transferred for defense spending, the relinquishment of a lot of "peacetime" individual freedoms, and a national willingness to make significant sacrifices which might continue for years. While those who loved the plan thought it was well worth it, no one believed the majority of Americans would.

This problem of how to mobilize the society occupied several thinkers.

In his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperative (New York: Basic Books, 1997), former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski helped strengthen and focus a key element of the grand plan. He was clear that America must gain control of the Central Asia/Mideast region to ensure its continued primacy as the word superpower. He believed there was a fairly narrow "window of historical opportunity, for America's constructive exploitation of its global power could be relatively brief." (p. 210). He saw the problem as being the fact that America was "too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America's power, especially its capacity for military intimidation…. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization." (pp. 35-36).

But "the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion," he added "except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public's sense of domestic well being." (p. 36). What could make us embrace the economic and human sacrifices needed for "imperial mobilization" would be "a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat." (p. 212). Earlier, he had noted that the public was willing to support "America's engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." (pp. 24-25)

So. The goal – the worldwide American Empire, Pax Americana or Fourth Reich – was clear. As things now stood, it was not marketable because it would divert tremendous funds away from the social services, education, health care, and other infrastructure expenses that the majority of Americans saw as benefits too important to give up. The only times people seem to be willing to make this kind of a sacrifice is when they are united by an external threat to their security – as they were after Pearl Harbor. It seems to take a dramatic and often deadly attack to spur the people to agree to concerted military action, with the great sacrifices that involves. But to those convinced of the moral imperative of taking advantage of the gift history was offering us, those sacrifices were worth it – were a small price to pay.

There is a school of thought showing that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt contrived the attack on Pearl Harbor as his way of getting Congress and the public aroused enough to enter WWII. There are documents saying he transferred the naval unit from California to Hawaii where it would be more exposed, over the objections of the unit's first commander (who he then relieved) and the second (who went), as well as withholding the information we had on the location of the Japanese fleet from our commanders in Hawaii because FDR needed the attack to happen. He believed that we needed to enter WWII in Europe (as I also do), and that the only way we were likely to get the collective resolve to do so was through an attack as dramatic and outrageous as the attack on Pearl Harbor. He may have been right. This is also saying that he believed the sacrifice of 2400 American lives was a price worth paying, and here too, many would agree - though, I suspect, not those 2400.

This background to the attack on Pearl Harbor – which Brzezinski would have known – contains within it the precedent for sacrificing several thousand innocent Americans in the "new Pearl Harbor" which was beginning to be hoped for, as a price worth paying in order to realize the New World Order.

Why Iraq?

As I recently read in John Perkins' book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,

"Iraq was very important to us, much more than was obvious. Contrary to common public opinion, Iraq is not simply about oil. It is also about water and geopolitics. Both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow through Iraq; thus, of all the countries in that part of the world, Iraq controls the most important sources of increasingly critical water resources. During the 1980s, the importance of water – politically and economically – was becoming obvious to us…. (Perkins, p. 183)

Also, Iraq is in a very strategic location. It borders Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, and has a coastline on the Persian Gulf. It is within easy missile-striking distance of both Israel and the former Soviet Union. Military strategists equate modern Iraq to the Hudson River valley during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. In the eighteenth century, the French, British and Americans knew that whoever controlled the Hudson River valley controlled the continent. Today, it is common knowledge that whoever controls Iraq holds the key to controlling the Middle East. (Perkins, p. 184)

The argument for attacking Iraq became more visible in 1997, after PNAC was formed. As David Ray Griffin reports (pp. 130-131 of The 9-11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions), Paul Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad published an article in the Weekly Standard – which is edited by the chairman of PNAC, William Kristol – entitled "Saddam Must Go" in 1997. A month later, these three and fifteen other members of PNAC – including Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton and Richard Perle – sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to use military force to "remov[e] Saddam Hussein and his regime from power" and thereby "to protect our vital interests in the Gulf." In May 1997 they sent a letter to Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott – the Speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader, respectively. Complaining that Clinton had not listened to them, these letter-writers said that the United States "should establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests in the Gulf – and, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power." Finally, Rebuilding America's Defenses, published by PNAC in September 2000, emphasized that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a threat to American interests in the region. (Griffin, 131)

The Project for the New American Century is very blunt about this:

"The U.S. has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein…. (PNAC, p. 14)"

The PNAC – one of the most important eighty-page papers in US history – is quite blunt throughout, as these few excerpts show:

"At present the U.S. faces no global rival. America's grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible."

"[This] requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the future. (p. i)"

"[The goal of all this is to maintain] a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity. (v), an international security environment conducive to American interests and ideals…. (2), [that protects] American interests and principles. (3)"

We need to translate the underlined terms, because they're not straightforward. "American principles" does not mean we want democratically-elected governments in these countries. We have routinely helped dictators who cooperated with our economic ambitions gain power. These men include a long list of tyrants, including the Shah of Iran, Mobutu in the Congo, Pinochet in Chile, all of whom replaced democratically elected heads of government.

"American principles, interests and prosperity" means a regime in which we dictate some or all economic terms, usually under the threat or presence of military power. That is the New World Order in a nutshell.

After outlining the plan and the military structures needed to implement it, the authors note,

Until the process of transformation is treated as an enduring military mission - worthy of a constant allocation of dollars and forces - it will remain stillborn. (60)

In perhaps its most famous sentence, the paper also notes that "... the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor. (p. 51, emphasis added)

And the link back to the original paper by Wolfowitz and Libby written for Cheney in 1992 is acknowledged: "In broad terms," the authors write, "we saw the project as building upon the defense strategy outlined by the Cheney Defense Department in the waning days of the Bush Administration. (ii)"

The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was formed by people who were members or supporters of the Reagan and Bush I administrations, some of whom also became central figures in George W. Bush's administration. These individuals included Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Dick Cheney, Zalmay Khalilzad (closely associated with Paul Wolfowitz), Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and James Woolsey. Interestingly, John Lehman, a member of the 9-11 Commission, has been a member of PNAC or at least puclicly aligned with it. He had been Secretary of the Navy during both Reagan administrations, and signed PNAC's "Letter to President Bush on the War on Terrorism," September 2001 (www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter.html) (Griffin, The 9-11 Commission, p. 313)

Further development of the "Pearl Harbor" metaphor came in the Rumsfeld Commission Report of January 7, 2001, where he said:

"The question is whether the U.S. will be wise enough to act responsibly and soon enough to reduce U.S. space vulnerability. Or whether, as in the past, a disabling attack against the country and its people - a "Space Pearl Harbor" - will be the only event able to galvanize the nation and cause the U.S. Government to act." (www.defenselink.mil/cgi-bin/dlprint.cgi)

And on the evening of 9-11-2001 itself, Rumsfeld said to Senator Carl Levin, then chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee:

"Senator Levin, you and other Democrats in Congress have voiced fear that you simply don't have enough money for the large increase in defense that the Pentagon is seeking, especially for missile defense…. Does this sort of thing convince you that an emergency exists in this country to increase defense spending, to dip into Social Security, if necessary, to pay for defense spending - increase defense spending?" (www.defenselink.mil/cgi-bin/dlprint.cgi)

When the Bush administration took office in 2001, ten of the eighteen signers of the letters to Clinton and Republican congressional leaders became members of the administration. It was no mere coincidence therefore, that the Bush administration was already intent on removing Saddam Hussein when it took office. And it is also not surprising to learn that immediately after the 9-11 attacks, some members of the Bush administration wanted to use those attacks as the basis for their long-desired invasion to bring about regime change in Iraq." (Griffin, 9-11 Commission, p. 131)

Why did the U.S. attack Afghanistan within a month after 9-11? Griffin cites several authors to say that we wanted to build a multibillion dollar pipeline route by a consortium known as CentGas (Central Asia Gas Pipeline), which was formed by US oil giant Unocal. The planned route would bring oil and gas from the land-locked Caspian region, with its enormous reserves, to the sea through Afghanistan and Pakistan. (122-123, Griffin)

It was not safe to consider building the giant pipeline because of the civil strife that had erupted in Afghanistan since the withdrawal of the Soviet Union in 1989. In the late 1990s, the US government supported the Taliban in the hope that it would be able to unify and stabilize the government through its military strength. (123)

Griffin cites Ahmed Rashid's 2001 book Taliban: Militant Islam and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001) for some of this history. Griffin says, "In July 1998, the Taliban, after having failed in 1997 to take the northern city of Mazar-i-Shyarif, finally succeeded, giving it control of most of Afghanistan, including the entire pipeline route. CentGas immediately announced that it was 'ready to proceed.' But soon, US embassies were blown up in Kenya and Tanzania, and the US launched cruise missile strikes against Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan. Unocal withdrew from CentGas, convinced that the Taliban would not be able to make the country stable enough to invest billions in the pipeline.

When the Bush administration came to power, it decided to give the Taliban one more chance, which occurred at a four-day meeting in Berlin in July 2001. According to the Pakistani representative at this meeting, Niaz Naik, US representatives, trying to convince the Taliban - who were asking for a larger share of profits from the pipeline - to share more power with US-friendly factions, said: "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs." (quoted in Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, Forbidden Truth: U.S.- Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden (New York: Nation Books/Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002), and NPH 91. (Griffin, p. 316)

Naik said he was told by Americans that "military action against Afghanistan would go ahead… before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest." (from George Arney, "U.S. 'Planned Attack on Taleban'," BBC News, September 18, 2001, as reported by Griffin, p. 316.) The US attack on Afghanistan began, in fact, on October 7, which was as soon as the US military could get ready after 9-11. (Griffin, 125)

As early as October 10, 2001, the US Department of State had informed the Pakistani Minister of Oil that "in view of recent geopolitical developments," Unocal was again ready to go ahead with the pipeline project. (The Frontier Post, October 10, 2001, cited in Ahmed, The War on Freedom, p. 227)

Finally, Griffin relates this quote from an Israeli writer: "If one looks at the map of the big American bases created, one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean." (Chicago Tribune, March 18, 2002, quoting from Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv.)

This seems enough to suggest strongly that the US attack on Afghanistan was related to the desire to build a pipeline, and that the events of 9-11 were the pretext of this invasion, not its cause.

But the attacks of 9-11 were part of much more than just the lust for a lucrative pipeline across Afghanistan. It must finally be seen as that "new Pearl Harbor" which would let the American people and Congress finally seize the resolve to begin taking the steps needed to bring about the New World Order.

We may not duck the fact that our leaders' decision to bring about the attacks of 9-11 included their belief that the loss of several thousand innocent American lives was a price worth paying.

This idea of the loss of innocent lives as "a price worth paying" will seem repugnant to almost everyone at first glance. On second glance, we've heard it before, and bought it before. Every military leader knows this.

It was FDR's implicit assessment of the 2400 American lives lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor, as the price of getting us into WWII against Hitler.

It was LBJ's assessment of the American and Vietnamese lives that would be lost as a result of his calculated lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident. He had to believe this loss of life was a price worth paying. He could not have known or believed the price would finally include 59,000 dead Americans and over two million dead Vietnamese.

It was Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright's assessment that the more than 500,000 innocent children's lives lost because of our sanctions against Iraq after the first Gulf War were, as Albright put it, "A price we're willing to pay."

Let's not kid ourselves. When it comes to wars we believe at the time to be noble – or even ignoble wars that we nevertheless think will bring us the eventual control of noble oil fields – the loss of a few thousand or more innocent lives is always a price our leaders have been willing to pay.

Why would we think 9-11 would be different, especially after it had become part of the rhetoric, that this goal of an American Empire would probably slip through our fingers without something that could qualify as "a new Pearl Harbor"?

And somewhere here we need to remember that when the Bush administration took power, Karl Rove brought his favorite philosopher, whose thought has remained central to the Bush regime: Machiavelli, whose 17th century book The Prince was about getting and keeping power over people by any means necessary.

Cui Bono?

One way to seek the motives behind 9-11 is to ask who benefited: whether 9-11 brought benefits to this administration that they could have anticipated.

They certainly brought benefits. The Bush administration speechwriters used the theme as a leit-motif. The president declared that the attacks provided "a great opportunity."(Bob Woodward, Bush at War [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002, p. 32]

Donald Rumsfeld stated that 9-11 created "the kind of opportunities that World War II offered, to refashion the world." ("Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with the New York Times," October 12, 2001)

Condoleeza Rice had the same thing in mind, telling senior members of the National Security Council to "think about 'how do you capitalize on these opportunities' to fundamentally change . . . the shape of the world." (Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic [New York: Henry Holt, 2004), p. 229.)

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, issued by the Bush administration in September 2002, said: "The events of September 11, 2001 opened vast, new opportunities." (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002 - available at www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html).

They were intended to. It's one of history's great coincidences – not even the most cynical could believe it was any more than a coincidence – that eleven years to the day after George HW Bush first declared his dream for a "New World Order" on September 11, 1990, came the awful events of 9-11-2001 that at last made it possible to attempt.

9-11 as an Inside Job

On 12 February 2006, I preached a sermon on John Perkins' important and disturbing book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. On Friday, as I was putting the sermon in final form, I was struck by the philosophy underlying all the deceptions, piracy and invasions of developing countries Perkins describes – and in which he took part for a decade. The philosophy was that everything and everyone can be subordinated to making more money for those few who control the money in our society, including assassinations, slave labor factories, invasions and mass murder (as in Panama and Iraq).

But every preacher has read enough "scripture" to know that the love of money is a demanding demon that knows no limits until and unless they are forced on it. The thoughts Perkins shows driving the ambitions of our corporations abroad cannot stop outside our borders; they must be operating here, too.

And foremost among them is the idea that people are secondary to profits, and that sacrificing people to increase profits is good business. We're all familiar with this philosophy. It was behind the "cost-benefit analysis" approach that decided a few thousand deaths in fiery car crashes were a smarter move than spending under $10 per car to move the gasoline tank so it would be less likely to explode upon impact. It's the same thinking that has had big tobacco companies lying about their products' cancer risks for decades, or pharmaceutical companies selling drugs whose unpublicized side effects include death, or….

Overcome with the sudden sight of this larger pattern – an affliction ministers should learn to resist – I decided to throw in, at the end of the sermon on Perkins' book, something on 9-11. There were several serious mistakes made here. First, 9-11 can't be "added to" another topic without becoming the subject. Second, though I'd read several books on 9-11 (David Ray Griffin's The New Pearl Harbor as the best), I hadn't done much research and, by Friday night, didn't have time to. So I sort of flung a few websites out, from the thousands that have sprung up in the "9-11 conspiracy theory" genre. Not only is that not good research, it's so sloppy it can be offensive to anyone not already convinced of our government's complicity in the worst attack in American history – and it did, though about a third of those present rose in a standing ovation. But some people in the good Unitarian church I serve were disgusted, insulted, outraged, and felt hurt and betrayed by what seemed a flippant treatment of an extremely contentious and painful theory of 9-11, done almost as an afterthought.

I thought the criticisms were correct, the whole range of them. I had a good sermon on John Perkins' important book, then slapped on a short piece on 9-11 that sounded and felt like little more than an angry rant, reflecting my own anger which I hadn't processed enough to let it power a sermon rather than disempowering it. So I pulled the sermon from our website, and from another website that had picked it up almost immediately (www.propeace.net), deciding to fix it. But I couldn't fix it. First, I needed to separate it from Perkins' book; then I needed better research, for such a dramatic assertion: that our government choreographed and caused the attacks of 9-11.

That night, I wrote David Ray Griffin's publisher, asking them to forward my e-mail: I was hoping for access to his writing and research on 9-11. Griffin answered early the next morning, and attached five chapters from his new (third) book on the subject, still unpublished.

That led to this essay. David believes, as I do, that our government was behind 9-11. He describes it as a "false flag" operation, named for times when ships (including at least one well-documented case of a US ship) attacked one of our own ships, killing our own citizens, while flying the flag of the country against whom we wanted to go to war, needing only to arouse sufficient public and Congressional fury.

I recently read a current example of President Bush's inclusion of "false flag" operations that's worth posting as a preface to the large issue of 9-11 as a false flag. The details are contained in a new version of the book \'Lawless World\' written by a leading British human rights lawyer, Philippe Sands QC:

Preident Bush had said \"The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would \'twist arms\' and \'even threaten\'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.\'\' Prime Minister Blair responded that he was: \"solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam.\"

President Bush also said: \"The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.\" (from "The White House Memo," by Gary Gibbon, 2 February 2006, from a White House meeting between Bush and Blair on 31 January 2003.

This is a textbook illustration of the "false flag" tactic. Were the attacks of 9-11-01 also a false-flag operation? I believe they were. In what follows, I have borrowed from Griffin's own hard work, for which I thank him. The working title of his third book is Christian Faith and the Truth behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action.

In his third chapter - "The Destruction of the WTC: Why the Official Account Cannot be True" - he claims to show that the official conspiracy theory of 9-11 "clearly belongs in the category of outrageous theories, because it is contradicted by virtually all the relevant facts."

Among the data is the little-publicized fact that "Fire has never – prior to or after 9/11 – caused steel-frame high-rise buildings to collapse. Defenders of the official story seldom if ever mention this simple fact. Indeed, the supposedly definitive report put out by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), even implies that fire-induced collapses of large steel-frame buildings are normal events. Far from being normal, however, such collapses have never occurred, except for the alleged cases of 9-11."

After several pages of technical details about this, other serious fires in high-rises which destroyed several or many floors (after burning for 15+ hours) but never caused the buildings to collapse, he turns this around for a double-edged effect, by saying "Every previous total collapse has been caused by the procedure known as 'controlled demolition,' in which explosives capable of cutting steel have been placed in crucial places throughout the building and then set off in a particular order. Just from knowing that the towers collapsed, therefore, the natural assumption would be that they were brought down by explosives."

Griffin adds that the physical evidence supports this in spades, because "the collapses had at least eleven features that would be expected if, and only if, explosives were used." Here are some of them:

Sudden Onset. Only in controlled demolitions is the onset of collapse sudden rather than a gradual weakening, leaning, and falling.

Straight Down. Vertical collapse into or nearly into the building's own footprint is one of the chief reasons for using controlled demolitions, so neighboring buildings won't be damaged. For fire to produce a sudden, straight fall, all 287 steel columns would have to have weakened to the point of collapse at the same instant. The official conspiracy theory of 9-11 offers no explanation for this.

Almost Free-Fall Speed. A building can only fall at almost free-fall speed if the supports for the lower floors are destroyed, so that when the upper floors come down, they meet no resistance.

Total Collapse. The core of each tower contained 47 massive steel box columns. The official "pancake theory" needs all horizontal steel supports to have broken free from those vertical columns. This would have left 47 columns standing straight up. The 9-11 Commission tried a clever way around this problem, when they said, "The interior core of the buildings was a hollow steel shaft, in which elevators and stairwells were grouped." They simply neglected to mention the 47 massive columns.

Demolition Rings. Rings of explosions running rapidly around a building, also shown in the collapses.

Molten Steel. This would be expected only if explosives were used, and there was much evidence of molten steel at the WTC collapse from the eye-witness accounts of firefighters.

Sounds produced by explosions. There is abundant eyewitness testimony to the occurrence of explosive sounds, along with other phenomena suggestive of controlled demolition.

(The other four characteristics of the WTC collapse that accompany controlled demotion were Sliced Steel (special explosives cut steel supports into manageable lengths); Pulverization of Concrete and Other Materials (Gravity can break concrete into chunks, but some of the dust at 9-11 was on the order of only 10 microns in size); Dust Clouds (produced by explosions propelling the pulverized dust outward); and Horizontal Ejections (in which the force of the explosives can shoot heavy steel supports out up to 500 feet horizontally, as happened in the WTC).

Then Griffin adds an interesting note, when he says "The importance of the nature of the collapses, as summerized in these eleven features, is shown by the fact that attempts to defend the official theory typically ignore most of them. For example, an article in Popular Mechanics, seeking to debunk what it calls some of the most prevalent myths about 9-11 fabricated by "conspiracy theorists," completely ignores the suddenness, verticality, rapidity, and totality of the collapses as well as failing to mention the testimonies about molten steel, demolition rings, and the sounds of explosions."

In a footnote, he adds more information on this widely quoted article:

"As to why Popular Mechanics would have published such a bad article, one clue is perhaps provided by the fact that the article's "senior researcher" was 25-year-old Benjamin Chertoff, the cousin of Michael Chertoff, the new head of the Department of Homeland Security (see Christopher Bollyn, "9-11 and Chertoff: Cousin Writes 9-11 Propaganda for PM," Rumor Mill News, March 4, 2005 (http://www.rumormillnews.con'cgi-bin/forum.cgi?bem=661761).

"Another relevant fact is that this article was published shortly after a coup at this Hearst-owned magazine, in which the editor-in-chief was replaced (see Christopher Bollyn, "The Hidden Hand of the CIA and the 9-11 Propaganda of Popular Mechanics," American Free Press, March 19, 2005 (http://www.rense.com/general63brutalpurgeofPMstaff.html). Young Chertoff's debunking article has itself been effectively debunked by many genuine 9-11 researchers, such as Jim Hoffman, "Popular Mechanics' Assault on 9-11 Truth," Global Outlook 10 (Spring-Summer 2005), 21-42 (which was based on Hoffman, "Popular Mechanics' Deceptive Smear Against 9-11 Truth," 911Review.com, February 15, 2005 (http://911review.com/pm/markup/index.html), and Peter Meyer, "Reply to Popular Mechanics re 9-11," www.serendipity.li/wot/pop_mech/reply_to_popular_mechanics.htm.

"To be sure," Griffin adds, "these articles by Hoffman and Meyer, while agreeing on many points, take different approaches in response to some of the issues raised. But both articles demonstrate that Popular Mechanics owes its readers an apology for publishing such a massively flawed article on such an important subject."

Besides the eleven distinguishing marks of controlled demolition, Griffin adds five more facts that he suggests identify this as a "false flag operation," of which at least three deserve mention here:

Removal of steel. In false-flag operations, it's customary for authorities to remove evidence (rather than preserving it for extensive inspections). In early January 2002, Fire Engineering magazine said: "We are literally treating the steel removed from the site like garbage, not like crucial fire scene evidence…. The destruction and removal of evidence must stop immediately." (Fire Engineering, January 2002)

WTC Security. Why has it not often been mentioned that the President's brother, Marvin Bush, and his cousin, Wirt Walker III, were connected to the company responsible for the security of United Airlines, Logan Airport (where Flight 77 was hijacked) and the WTC? Marvin was one of the directors of Securacom, and Wirt was CEO from 1999 to January 2002. One would think, as Griffin says, that these details would have made the evening news – or The 9-11 Commission Report.

Foreknowledge of the collapse. Mayor Rudy Giulani, talking on ABC News about setting up a temporary command center at 75 Barkley Street, said:

"We were operating out of there when we were told that the World Trade Center was gonna collapse, and it did collapse before we could get out of the building." (for Giuliani's complete statement, see "Who told Giuliani the WTC Was Going to Collapse on 9-11" (http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/wtc_giuliani.html. It can be heard at www.wireonfire.com/donpaul.

Griffin says, "This is an amazing statement. Prior to 9-11, fire had never brought down a steel-frame high-rise. The firemen who reached the 78th floor of the south tower certainly did not believe it was going to collapse. Even the 9-11 Commission has said that to its knowledge, "none of the [fire] chiefs present believed that a total collapse of either tower was possible." (The 9-11 Commission Report, p. 302). So why in the world would anyone have told Giuliani that at least one of the towers was about to collapse?"

And who could have known?

While much more has been written on the collapse of the towers, the points Griffin raises are so fundamental that they must be answered clearly and directly – which they have not, either in the 9-11 report, the NIST report, or the propaganda piece in Popular Mechanics – or the only theory still on the table is the theory that these buildings were brought down by controlled demolitions set off to follow the planes hitting the buildings. Considering the access to the buildings needed to plant such demolitions, nothing points to Arab terrorists, and everything points to the collapse of the WTC as an inside job. And the implications of that are staggering.

I am persuaded by David Griffin's arguments that 9-11 was indeed a "false flag" operation. This means we need to question the identification of the hijackers as Arabs and (especially) devout, fanatical Muslims, which could provide an emotional rationale for the desired invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

In an earlier book (The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions), he suggests some problems with the official conspiracy theory here too. For instance, while the 9/11 Commission Report characterized Mohamed Atta, who they called the ringleader, as "fanatically" religious, some journalists found that he loved cocaine, alcohol, gambling, pork, and lap dances. A Wall Street Journal editorial found that not only Atta but several of the other alleged hijackers also indulged such tastes in Las Vegas ("Terrorist Stag Parties," WSJ, October 10, 2001). The 9/11 Commission ignored these reports, and professed to have no idea why these men met in Las Vegas – several times (9/11 Commission Report, p. 248). Also, the government claimed to identify Atta from two bags that failed to get loaded onto Flight 11, which contained "flight simulations manuals for Boeing airplanes, a copy of the Koran, a religious cassette tape, a note to other hijackers about mental preparation, and Atta's will, passport, and international driver's license. But why would Atta have intended to take such things on a plane he expected to be totally destroyed?" Griffin quotes Seymour Hersh, who wrote in the New Yorker that a former high-level intelligence official told him "Whatever trail was left was left deliberately - for the FBI to chase." (Griffin, 9-11 Commission, p. 21)

Furthermore, although we are told that four or five of the alleged hijackers were on each of the four flights, the flight manifests that have been released have no Arab names on them. Also, Griffin noted that six of the nineteen men officially identified as the suicide hijackers reportedly showed up alive after 9-11: Waleed al-Shehri, Ahmed al-Name, Saeed al-Ghamdi, Mohand al-Shehri, Salem al-Hazmi and Abdulaziz al-Omari (Griffin, p. 19)

And in his new, unpublished, book, Griffin brings in another odd incident: the suppression of oral histories.

While the Fire Department of New York recorded hundreds of interviews in 2001, the City of New York, amazingly, suppressed them. Early in 2002, the New York Times requested copies under the freedom of information act, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration refused. Finally, several families of 9/11 victims joined the Times in filing suit. After a long process, the New York Court of Appeals finally ordered the release of most - but not all - records on August 12,2005.

As David Griffin reports, "Once the content of these testimonies is examined, it is easy to see why persons concerned to protect the official story about 9/11 would try to keep them hidden." Here are some of those statements:

"There was just an explosion [in the south tower]. It seemed like on television when they blow up these buildings. It seemed like it was going all the way around like a belt, all these explosions." – Firefighter Richard Banaciski

"I saw a flash flash flash at the lower level of the building. You know like when they demolish a building?" – Assistant Fire Commissioner Stephen Gregory

Wall Street Journal reporter John Bussey, describing his observation of the collapse of the south tower from the ninth floor of the WSJ office building, said: "I … looked up out of the office window to see what seemed like perfectly synchronized explosions coming from each floor…. One after the other, from top to bottom, with a fraction of a second between, the floors blew to pieces." (John Bussey, "Eye of the Storm: One Journey Through Desperation and Chaos," WSJ, Sept 12, 2001)

Another Wall Street Journal reporter said that after seeing what appeared to be "individual floors, one after the other exploding outward," he thought: "My God, they're going to bring the building down. And they, whoever they are, HAD SET CHARGES…. I saw the explosions." (Alicia Shepard, Cathy Trost, and Newseum, Running Toward Danger: Stories Behind the Breaking News on 9/11, Foreword by Tom Brokaw (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002, p. 87)

A similar perception was reported by Beth Fertig of WNYC Radio, who said: "It just descended like a timed explosion - like when they are deliberately bringing a building down…. It was coming down so perfectly that in one part of my brain I was thinking, 'They got everyone out, and they're bringing the building down because they have to.'
(Quoted in Judith Sylvester and Suzanne Huffman, Women Journalists of Ground Zero (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), p. 19.

"Pops" – a term often used to describe the sound of professionally-set charges in controlled demotions of buildings – were described by many eyewitnesses in the oral histories obtained after August 12, 2005:

"As we are looking up at the [south tower]," said firefighter Joseph Meola, "it looked like the building was blowing out on all four sides. We actually heard the pops. Didn't realize it was the falling – you know, you heard the pops of the building. You thought it was just blowing out." (Oral history of Joseph Meola, 5)

"Pops" were also reported by paramedic Daniel Rivera:

Q. How did you know that it

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Foreign Company Runs Indianapolis Airport; Responsible For Law Enforcement

Mon Mar 06 2006 01:22:21 ET

Indianapolis International Airport, a facility that serves more than 8 million passengers every year, is operated by a foreign-owned company.

And the company has stated contractual obligations at the airport -- which include law enforcement!
BAA International, LLC, herein called the Employer, provides airport management services for the Indianapolis Airport Authority at the Indianapolis International Airport, herein called the Airport, and for various surrounding municipal airports/heliports. The Employer employes approximately 475 employees to fulfill its contractual obligations at the Airport which include law enforcement, finance, human resources, and other services. Indiana state statute gives the Airport Authority the power to contract with the Employer to provide law enforcement personnel responsible for enforcing state, federal, and aviation laws on Airport property, and BAA provides such services 24 hours per day.

In its law enforcement department, the Employer employs approximately 3 security specialists, 70 public safety officers, and 37 police officers...
BAA Indianapolis LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of BAA plc, a private company which owns and operates seven airports in the United Kingdom including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports serving London.

Indianapolis International is now the largest privately managed airport in the United States.

Comment: The contract was extended for another three years, which takes it through 2008.

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Wasn't Jesus A Liberal?

By Gary Vance

Liberalism has been under assault for years now. The battering of this grand political philosophy has altered the contemporary definition of liberal to the point that Conservatives use it as a profane word. They use it to paint a political opponent as anti-God and anti-American. It has gotten to the point that moderate and liberal Christians are afraid to be open about their political leanings. Sadly, it even affects their conscience and choices as they enter the voting booth. This is particularly troubling to me as a Christian evangelical minister who loves America.

Liberalism as defined by Webster's Third New International Dictionary: "a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for tolerance and freedom for the individual from arbitrary authority in all spheres of life…"
I am not sure why anyone would feel threatened by Liberalism as defined by the dictionary. They are apparently unaware or simply refuse to acknowledge the long history of liberals who have labored for the betterment of society and the furthering of God's Kingdom.

The labor movement of the early twentieth century was aided significantly when major Christian denominations got behind it. No average American would have a fair wage today if it weren't for liberal Christians and labor activists. Liberal Christians and civil rights activists fought and still fight against conservative America for racial equality. Child labor laws were enacted because liberals fought for them. Medicare and Social Security exist today because of Liberalism. "Bleeding heart liberals" have long advocated for the homeless, the hungry, the less fortunate, and the disenfranchised. The women of America owe liberals a big thank you for their almost equal rights. "Tree hugging liberals" fight for clean air and water standards instead of favoring industrial polluters and short term profiteering that destroy God's green earth.

Liberals believe in affordable health care for all U.S. citizens. They also believe in higher taxes for the rich and lower taxes for the middle class and the poor. Liberals love their spouses and children. Liberals faithfully attend their churches to worship God. Liberals love America and hate terrorism and have proved it by fighting in every war for this country. Liberals come in all shapes, sizes, and color. They are found in the ranks of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, agnostics, and atheists.

Conservative Republican policies generally favor the wealthy and ignore the needs of the poor. Their policies are so often greed-driven, with no concern for the environmental or societal consequences for their exploitive actions. Jesus plainly taught that the love of money is the root of all evil. So, Christians can go after the various "fruit" of sin in our society, but they won't see the real change for the better until the axe is laid to the root. Christians should oppose greed-driven policies as a primary point of political concern.

I am sick of reading letters to the editor and editorials that paint Democrats and liberals as anti-God and anti-American and that portray conservative Republicans as the only true Christian patriots. We know that many Democrats are pro-choice and many support gay issues and this troubles most evangelicals. Democrats also support causes that should be of Christian concern that go untouched by Republicans. I have listed some in the above paragraphs. True prophetic vision sees that there is great need for repentance on the left and the right. The effects of powerful lobbyists, special interest groups, greed and corruption abound on both sides of the aisles of Congress. God sees it all and so should Christians. Christian voters need to see that God's heart breaks over more than just a few political and moral issues. It is time to take off our blinders and mourn for the sorry state of affairs that is American politics.

Jesus was the ultimate liberal progressive revolutionary of all history. The conservative religious and social structure that He defied hated and crucified Him. They examined His life and did not like what they saw. He aligned Himself with the poor and the oppressed. He challenged the religious orthodoxy of His day. He advocated pacifism and loving our enemies. He liberated women and minorities from oppression. He healed on the Sabbath and forgave adulterers and prostitutes. He associated with drunks and other social outcasts. He rebuked the religious right of His day because they embraced the letter of the law instead of the Spirit. He loved sinners and called them to Himself. Jesus was the original Liberal. He was a progressive, and He was judged and hated for it. It was the self-righteous religionists that He rebuked and He called them hypocrites.

The primary issues of Christian Liberalism were birthed when Jesus spoke the profoundly prophetic words found in Matthew 25: 31-46. These scriptures reveal God's heart for the poor, the sick and other neglected people through out history. Christians should read this text and judge for themselves which of the two groups mentioned there more accurately reflect the political parties of today. His Liberalism lives on today and the issues have not changed much.

I am glad that conservative Republican candidates advocate for the family and a few Christian issues, but we must quit pretending that they are the only ones that Christians should consider voting for. People should not call themselves pro-life if they are only anti-abortion and yet feel no twinge of conscience over the unfair application of capital punishment or wars fought for dubious motives. A true pro-life position cares just as passionately for the born as the un-born and views war as a last resort when all other options are exhausted.

Christians should look for candidates that will work for issues that are of importance to Christ and that can be tackled legislatively. Sadly, most of those causes have historically been opposed, ignored, and minimized by conservative Republican policy makers. They seem to dangle the moral issues carrot around election time. Then, even with a Republican controlled White House and Congress, prove themselves powerless to do anything about those issues when they convene to legislate. Issues such as eliminating poverty and homelessness in America, true equal rights for all citizens, environmental protection, a fair minimum wage, affordable health care, and lowering our infant mortality rate all go unattended. That's just to name a few.

I have some questions for the Christian Right. Why have you not held our current elected majority officials accountable for their failure to address the full spectrum of Christian issues? Why would you vote for them again?

It is time for Christians of conscience to stand up to religious and political hypocrisy. Christians should proudly proclaim progressive values today and should advocate for the Christian Liberalism that is our heritage and our legacy.

Continue to Part TWO

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Global time-bomb

Review by Richard Mabey

Tim Flannery's climatic epic on the erosion of life on Earth is an epitaph and a cause for hope

THE WEATHER MAKERS: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change by Tim Flannery Allen Lane, £20; 368pp
IS THERE ANYTHING new to say about climate change? Anything beyond the now incontestable evidence of ice-cap melting and proliferating weather disasters that still fails to shift the Earth's most powerful economies? Tim Flannery's epic book deals remorselessly with these familiar signs of acute planetary stress, but adds something quite special.

In lucid and authoritative prose, he details what the implications of global heating will be for the intricacy of life on Earth. He sees a terrible unravelling of the links that have bound Earth's fabulously rich biosphere together, and in his exquisite delineation of their history and imminent endangerment his book becomes a hymn to life. Its destruction would, to him, be a kind of blasphemy.

Flannery is a distinguished Australian scientist, and the fact that, after a decade of sordid politicking, his home country has the world's highest per capita output of carbon dioxide, makes the political edge in his book sharp and rankling. But it's the poetic naturalist in him that is the true radical. Deploying palaeontology, ethics and cost-benefit analysis with equal facility, he weaves a narrative of allegorical power, from volcanic blow-outs 50 million years ago to the modern extinction of Costa Rica's golden toad, desiccated and then lost with the logged-out cloud forests. Climate change is as old as the Earth, but never has the planet seen it happen so fast, or had so much to lose.

It is the mechanisms of loss that are so telling, the reciprocities broken, the feedback loops stoked up. Plankton flourishes under sea-ice, and as the Antarctic ice sheet begins to disappear it is dying, robbing the great whales of their chief foodstuff, and the Earth of one of its major carbon "sinks". In New Guinea in 1997, drought and frosts killed vast areas of virgin montane oak forest. Firestorms followed, burning not just the dead trees but the ground, releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Pacific coral reefs are collapsing, robbed of sunlight by the vast cloud of toxic smog (the size of the US) that hung over South-East Asia in 2002, and poisoned by seaborne pollutants. They are another carbon sink, as well as one of the most beautiful ecosystems in the history of the Earth.

The changes are inexorable, the interdependence of the biosphere (what James Lovelock calls Gaia) ironically making calamity a shared thing in the same way that life is. And we are in the thick of it, as both culprit and victim. One of the revelations of climate-change research (itself a symbiotic, multi-faceted, almost Gaian business) is that the first phase of global warming, begun 10,000 years ago by the fires and soil disturbance of early farmers, was what provided climatic conditions benign enough for the evolution of human civilisation. It would be hard to imagine a circle more ironically vicious.

Yet Flannery remains an optimist, although he doesn't hold out much hope that governments and business will become the saviours of the planet. His closing sections on likely ways out of the crisis are a depressing catalogue of duplicity and self-interest (there is a powerful coalition between right-wing evangelists and the coal industry in the USA that argues that atmospheric carbon dioxide will "fertilise the Earth", and return us to Eden).

He remains convinced that a radical cutting of emissions is the only practical solution, and, as a believer in decentralised federalism both at a Gaian and a political level, that this is down to all of us. An immediate 70 per cent reduction would stabilise temperatures within about 50 years, just in time to prevent the worst-case scenarios kicking in.

Yet even with that, dramatic changes are inevitable: we are "physically committed" to them in researchers' jargon. The snow-cap of Mount Kilimanjaro will soon vanish into the heavens. Will the loss of that iconic image of the Earth's grandeur stir consciousnesses? Or will it take a Katrina-sized hurricane hitting Washington (not impossible) to do the trick?

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Decline of whales worries scientists

By Mary Pemberton
Associated Press

Strict hunting limits have not reversed drop in numbers in Alaska\'s Cook Inlet

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- In the 1970s, there were about 1,300 beluga whales in Cook Inlet, delighting locals and tourists alike. Last year, the number was estimated at just 278. Why their numbers are dwindling has scientists puzzled -- and scared.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is embarking on a status review to determine if the belugas need the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act.
A listing was rejected in 2000 because then it was believed that overharvesting was to blame. Seven years of strict limits on hunting have proved that theory wrong, said Lloyd Lowry, a professor of marine mammals with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

\"There is something else going on,\" he said this past week.
The status review will look at possible reasons for the decline. That includes changes in habitat, such as noise from shipping, recreational boating and pile driving. The noise could be interfering with the whales\' ability to locate each other and find food.

Scientists also will look at development around the inlet, including the expansion of the Port of Anchorage. Waste discharges from the municipality will be considered, as well as the impact of oil and gas development.

\"There are a lot of things we are looking at,\" said Brad Smith, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service. But so far, he said, nothing jumps out as a likely cause.

\"There is no smoking gun,\" he said.

The fisheries service recently set a harvest limit of eight whales through 2009, alternating a harvest of one and two whales a year. Only Alaska Native subsistence hunters are allowed to kill the whales.

The harvest now is set so low that the population should be growing 2 percent to 4 percent a year, but it\'s not, Lowry said. \"This population, according to pretty good survey data, is not growing at all,\" he said.

One cataclysmic event -- a large stranding in the inlet\'s 20-foot tides, perhaps, or an oil spill or tsunami -- could push the remaining whale population over the edge, said Lowry.

In contrast to the isolated belugas whales of Cook Inlet, belugas overall are thriving in Alaska, with at least 35,000 to 40,000 animals in four Arctic stocks.

Smith said the status review will be expanded this time. It will include a prediction at what point the inlet whales -- considered a genetically distinct population -- could go extinct.

\"It certainly does not look encouraging,\" Smith said.

Copyright 2006 IndyStar.com.

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Bulge in Central Oregon may be a volcano

Space and Earth science
September 14, 2005

Scientists studying a land bulge near Bend, Ore., think a new volcano may be forming. A group from the U.S. Geological Survey is studying the swelling in Earth\'s crust. It is nearly two-thirds the size of Portland, Ore.

Recent eruptions at Mount St. Helens have rekindled interest in the patch of land west of Bend in Central Oregon.
Scientists say it probably started growing in 1997 and has been rising 1.4 inches a year since. The likely cause of the bulge is a pool of magma. Larry Chitwood, a geologist at Deschutes National Forest, told The Oregonian the pooling magma is under tremendous pressure causing the Earth\'s surface to expand and bulge.

The uplift could be anything from the early stages of a volcano, to a pooling of liquid rock. USGS geologists admit, they just don\'t know.

In March 2004, 350 small earthquakes indicated magma was moving underground, but the bulge has been quiet since.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

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FEMA Worried About New Madrid Quake Zone

February 28, 2006
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - Preparing for a catastrophic earthquake along the New Madrid fault is a priority, a FEMA official said Friday before a congressional field hearing on government readiness to handle natural disasters.

\"New Madrid is at the top of the list,\" Michel Pawlowski, section chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said. \"It\'s our primary objective.\"

Pawlowski told a congressional committee that FEMA has \"significant concerns\" for the potential of a catastrophic earthquake equal in magnitude to those that struck parts of the Mississippi River Valley in 1811-1812, and again in 1895.

The estimated magnitude of those earthquakes is 7.5 or 8. The probability of a magnitude 6 or larger earthquake is 25 percent to 50 percent over the next 50 years.

Even a magnitude 7 earthquake would destroy more than 60 percent of buildings in St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., because most buildings predate building requirements aimed at resisting the shock, officials estimate.

\"A catastrophic earthquake in the central United States along the New Madrid Seismic Zone could pose unprecedented problems and challenges,\" Pawlowski said.
FEMA officials are worried about how quickly they could enter the affected area because many roads, bridges, and approaches could not be expected to withstand a high-magnitude earthquake, he said.

\"It will be a monumental challenge,\" Pawlowski said. \"That\'s why we want as many partners as possible to address this.\"

FEMA, which was sharply criticized for its handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, began in earnest in December to prepare for the possibility of an earthquake along the New Madrid fault.

Pawlowski would not say whether the Katrina criticism had prompted the agency\'s interest in the 50-mile-wide New Madrid fault zone, centered near the southeast Missouri town of New Madrid, and which stretches from Alabama to Illinois.

Instead, he pointed to its potential, wide-ranging impact on the nation\'s economy, estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

He said a strong earthquake could disrupt the flow of commodities by underground pipeline, rail, barge and highway; halt the flow of food exports, fuel oil and coal outside the region; cripple FedEx\'s hub in Memphis, Tenn.; and block routes for emergency services.

Pawlowski said FEMA expects to have a regional response plan in place by June 2007.

A House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and which oversees FEMA and emergency management, traveled to Los Angeles on Thursday and St. Louis on Friday to gauge how prepared local, state and federal governments would be in responding to a natural disaster, and avoid problems that emerged with Katrina.

Shuster served on a special committee that last week released the findings of its investigation into the government\'s response to Katrina. Shuster said Friday he is leaning toward introducing legislation that would separate FEMA from the Homeland Security Department.

That\'s in response to criticisms that FEMA\'s traditional role of dealing in natural disasters has gotten lost in Homeland Security\'s emphasis on fighting terrorism.

\"Response was slow and key decisions were made late,\" Shuster said. \"We can\'t afford to get it wrong again. Business as usual doesn\'t work in a catastrophic disaster.\"

Missouri emergency management director Ronald Reynolds said most federal emergency funds have been tied to terrorism and not available for natural disasters. \"That\'s been changing since Katrina,\" he said. \"It\'s about time.\"

Eugene Schweig of the U.S. Geological Survey testified Friday that the 1800s New Madrid earthquakes and its thousands of aftershocks upended land, made the river unnavigable, and created landslides in a multistate region.

Such an event today would rupture underground pipelines, burst levees, and wreak havoc in the Midwest and East.

Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., have asked the federal government to conduct an emergency response exercise along the entire New Madrid fault zone to expose how response might be improved in the event of a devastating earthquake.

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Study: Indian Ocean Quake 'Broke Some Of The Rules'

March 1, 2006

PASADENA, Calif. - Regions of the Earth previously thought to be immune to giant earthquakes might actually be at high risk of experiencing them, according to a Caltech study released Wednesday.
Researchers studied the Dec. 26, 2004, Sumatra-Andaman earthquake in the Indian Ocean, which accounted for last winter's devastating tsunami, and concluded that previous ideas about where giant earthquakes are likely to occur need to be revised. Based on their data, researchers determined that the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake had a magnitude of 9.15, making it the third-largest earthquake in the past 100 years.

"This earthquake didn't just break all the records, it also broke some of the rules," said Kerry Sieh, a Caltech geology professor and one of the study's authors.

The earthquake occurred on the Sunda subduction megathrust, a giant earthquake fault. Previously, researchers believed megathrusts could only produce giant earthquakes if the oceanic plate was young and buoyant.

The oceanic crust at the site of the 2004 earthquake is old and dense, and the relative motion between the plates is slow. "For all these reasons, received wisdom said that the giant 2004 earthquake should not have occurred," said Jean-Philippe Avouac, a Caltech geology professor.

"But it did, so received wisdom must be wrong. It may be, for example, that a slow rate of motion between the plates simply causes the giant earthquakes to occur less often, so we didn't happen to have seen any in recent times -- until 2004," Avouac said.

Other subduction zones that were not previously considered to be a risk, but may need to be reassessed, include the Ryukyu Islands between Taiwan and Japan and the Caribbean from Trinidad to Barbados and Puerto Rico.

Better monitoring systems with continuously recording GPS stations should be installed in some subduction zones to assess their seismic potential, Sieh said.

The report will appear in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature.

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Scores of Fish Beach Themselves in N.C.

Associated Press
Feb. 26, 2006

The timing matched another oddity: the water\'s oxygen level, which veered from one extreme to the other.

\"We measured the oxygen levels in the water this morning and they were very low,\" said Stephanie Garrett, environmental technician with DWQ. \"Then two and a half hours later, they were high.\"
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - State and local wildlife experts are trying to figure out what led more than a thousand flounder, spot and pin fish to beach themselves at the Marine Corps\' New River air base - and then swim away.

They believe it may be related to a popular phenomenon known in coastal Alabama as \"jubilee.\"

The fish surfaced in shallow water Friday morning. They were lethargic, but alive.

\"It\'s kind of strange,\" said Mike Sanderford, New River Riverkeeper. \"It\'s a bunch of fish up here, but they\'re not dead. They\'re almost docile.\"

When he arrived, Sanderford said, the fish were lying in shallow water and allowed him to touch them before they swam away.

Representatives of the Division of Water Quality, N.C. Marine Fisheries and N.C. Marine Patrol checked on the fish along the air station\'s shoreline Friday morning. One expert estimated about 1,000 to 1,500 were crowded in the waterline.

But by afternoon, they were gone. The timing matched another oddity: the water\'s oxygen level, which veered from one extreme to the other.

\"We measured the oxygen levels in the water this morning and they were very low,\" said Stephanie Garrett, environmental technician with DWQ. \"Then two and a half hours later, they were high.\"

She said that might be a clue that the area saw a case of the \"jubilee\" phenomenon, in which thousands of live, healthy fish beach themselves.

Scientists know that a jubilee occurs when variety of factors deoxygenate the water, forcing fish to the shore.

Jubilees occur in a number of places, but nowhere as often and as regularly as on Mobile Bay\'s eastern shore. Jubilees usually occur during the summer, providing a free feast to locals who head to shore to gather the fish up.

\"It\'s normal to them, they all know the conditions that are needed and go down with gigs to get the flounder,\" said Bianca Klein, biologist at the Air Station. \"It\'s definitely a rarity here, though.\"

Only about 50 fish died, and that may not have been from natural causes.

\"The flounder that were dead were the big ones,\" Sanderford said. \"We\'re guessing someone came out here early this morning and started to pick out the biggest ones to take home for dinner, but wondered why they were beached and thought something might be wrong with them.\"

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About 70 whales found washed up on Japan beach

Associated Press
February 28, 2006

About 70 whales were found washed up on a beach in Ichinomiya, Chiba Prefecture, on Tuesday, but surfers and local residents cooperated in returning the mammals back to sea, a town official said.

Surfers initially reported seeing several whales beached up in Ichinomiya Tuesday morning, said town spokesman Takeshi Ide.

Ide said local officials later confirmed about 70 melon-headed whales had washed up on shore in the Pacific coastal town of Ichinomiya.

The whales, each about 2 meter long, resemble dolphins and usually inhabit only deep water, according to another town official Mieko Ishii.

Several local residents and about 50 surfers joined in the rescue and carried the whales back to the water, Ide said.

It was not immediately known why such a large number of whales washed up at one time, he said.

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Dozens of whales found dead after washing up on beach

Associated Press
March 1, 2006

About 50 whales were found dead Wednesday after they beached for a second time on a Chiba Prefecture beach, despite an earlier attempt to redirect them to the sea, an official said Wednesday.

The dead whales were among a pod of about 70 melon-headed whales that had first beached themselves in Ichinomiya, Chiba Prefecture, early Tuesday morning, said Ichinomiya town official Mieko Ishii.

Surfers and local residents had helped return the whales to sea, but by Wednesday morning the pod had run itself back up on the shore, Ishii said.

She said about 50 whales were found dead, while the remaining 20 -- each measuring about 2 meters long -- were transported to a relatively calm fishing port and would be released into the sea at a later date.

Experts would examine some of the dead mammals to determine a cause of the death, while the remaining will be buried in the town, Ishii said.

The whales resemble dolphins and usually inhabit only deep water. It was not immediately known why such a large number of the whales washed up at one time, Ishii said.

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Dolphins Discovered Fleeing Warming Tropical Waters


(Miami, Florida) Marine researchers who have been observing the same pod of dolphins off Florida\'s eastern coast for three years have now, for the first time, photographed the dolphins swimming directly northward.

\"These bottlenose dolphins, possibly the smartest creatures on Earth, were observed swimming directly northward\", said Prof. Bonita Krillman. \"Given the recently observed warming of the tropical oceans, we theorize that this pod is heading poleward in search of cooler waters\".
Underwater listening devices, used to pick up the normal playful squeals of the fun-loving dolphins, recorded squeals with a noticably different timbre, the researchers reported. \"They sounded more terrified than playful\", claimed Crystal Dearing, a graduate student working toward a degree in Anthropogenic Environmental Disasters at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. \"They sounded distressed and fearful\".

The scientists, who perform their work aboard the research ship \"Gaia\'s Revenge\" were noticeably shaken by the observation of the dolphin pod\'s behavior. \"We were performing our usual tasks -- photographing and communing with the pod -- when someone yelled, \'Oh my God! They are travelling directly northward!\'. We were stunned at the obvious implications of this unusual behavior\", related Ms. Dearing.

Dr. William Fishman, program manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration\'s (NOAA\'s) Sustainable Wildlife Division was also troubled by the news. Contacted by phone, Dr. Fishman said \"this is exactly what we would expect for dolphin behavior... if you had hot water poured on you, you would flee, wouldn\'t you?\"

The group plans to extend their two week research cruise by another week to see how far northward the dolphins migrate. Even though the researchers have been working in the same region off the Florida coast for ten years, the present pod has been studied for only three years. Tragically, another pod that had been closely followed for seven years was decimated by a great white shark in 2003.

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UK: How we move ever closer to becoming a totalitarian state

Henry Porter
Sunday March 5, 2006
The Observer

The Prime Minister claims to be defending liberty but a barely noticed Bill will rip the heart out of parliamentary democracy

The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is hardly an aerodynamic title; it doesn\'t fly from the lips. People have difficulty remembering the order of the words and what exactly will be the effect of this apparently dull piece of lawmaking.

But in the dusty cradle of Committee A, a monster has been stirring and will, in due course, take flight to join the other measures in the government\'s attack on parliamentary democracy and the rights of the people. The \'reform\' in the title allows ministers to make laws without the scrutiny of parliament and, in some cases, to delegate that power to unelected officials. In every word, dot and comma, it bears the imprint of New Labour\'s authoritarian paternity.

Like all Labour\'s anti-libertarian bills, it appears in relatively innocuous guise. The bill was presented last year as a way of improving a previous Labour act and is purportedly designed to remove some of the burden of regulation that weighs on British business and costs billions of pounds every year. Labour says it will enable ministers to cut regulation without needing to refer to parliament and so simplify and speed things up.

The reality is that the beneficiaries of this bill will not be industry and business, but ministers and the executive, who will enjoy a huge increase in their unscrutinised power. As with the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which was presented as modernising local and national emergency measures but which went much further to give ministers arbitrary powers, this bill takes another chunk out of our centuries- old democracy.

The really frightening thing about last week\'s proceedings is that there were just two journalists watching as the minister piloting the legislation, Jim Murphy, refused to debate constitutional implications. Instead, he intoned replies drafted in advance by himself and, presumably, his civil servants. Disgracefully, he dismissed as \'debating points\' considered objections from Tories Christopher Chope and Oliver Heald and Liberal Democrats David Heath and David Howarth. All raised the Kafkaesque possibility that this bill was so demonically drafted that an unscrupulous government could use it to modify the bill itself and so extend its powers even further.

Watching, I reflected that this was truly how democracy is extinguished. Not with guns and bombs, but from the inside by officials and politicians who deceive with guile and who no longer pretend to countenance the higher interests of the constitution.

The \'debating points\' were rather more than that. They concern the powers that may be granted to ministers that could further damage the concept of habeas corpus, alter the law on Britain\'s relationship with the Commonwealth, on the relationship with the EU, on extradition, the appropriation of property and the criminal law. In theory, even the monarchy could be affected.

This is to say little about common law, the centuries of precedents and rulings which contain so many of the historic rights of British culture. \'Oh no,\' said the minister, as if talking to a child, \'ministers will give assurances; they will confine themselves to the regulations that concern business.\'

If that is the case, why does the bill not say so? Why is it drafted so loosely? Why is Jim Murphy doing so much to protect its versatility? Why won\'t he put the safeguards in the bill from the start? There can be only one answer: ministers want to bypass parliament and transfer authority to themselves and their officials under the cover of helping business.

Mr Murphy has let it be known that the government might concede powers for select committees to veto use of the fast-track process for issues they consider controversial. But it is worth remembering that membership of select committees is controlled by the whips and that the chairmen are generally biddable. We should also wonder why Mr Murphy has not already drafted this veto, if he genuinely wants to protect and reassure parliament.

The essential point, however, is that the individual decisions taken by ministers as a result of this new law will not be scrutinised in the chamber of the House of Commons.

Sometimes, I wonder if those of us worried about the attacks on British democracy by Tony Blair\'s government are getting things out of proportion or misunderstanding the Prime Minister\'s mission, as he described it in last week\'s Observer

I certainly understand that the capillaries of a society run from bottom to top, bearing all the bad news, intractable problems, mood swings and crises; that it is all ceaselessly pumped upwards in the direction of the Prime Minister; and that the view afforded in Downing Street must sometimes be truly extraordinary, a seething, organic, Hogarthian panorama of delinquency and unreason.

A Prime Minister must try to reach beyond the day-to-day business of government, frantic though it is, and make sense of what he sees below, seek the connecting threads, order up the policies and implement them so that improvement becomes possible. Few will disagree that this is the chief impulse of Tony Blair\'s premiership. As he told us long ago, he is a moderniser. Modernising is still the closest thing he has to a political ideology and it was significant how many times the words modern and modernity appeared in last week\'s article. At one point, he declared: \'For me, this is not an issue of liberty but of modernity\', as if liberty and modernity were somehow at odds.

Because he is by his own account well-intentioned, he believes that nothing should get in the way of this modernising purpose, the exercise of his benevolent reason on the turbulent society below. Like Mrs Thatcher, he has become almost mystically responsible for the state of the nation. And like Mrs Thatcher, he finds that after a long period in Number 10, he is still surrounded by sluggishness and resistance. Public services are slow to reform; the judiciary obstructs ministerial action with footling concerns about individual rights; and parliament is agonisingly slow to produce the fast-acting laws he craves.

You can see why, as time runs out, he has the need to cut through it all to achieve the things that he so dearly believes are right for our society. That is the way a moderniser works, because it is the only measure of success.

Yet this addiction to the idea of modernity is also a kind of arrogance about the times we live in, a sense that no Prime Minister has ever faced the problems coming across his desk. It indicates a common condition in modernisers and modernists of all hues and that is an almost complete lack of a grounding in history. If Blair was more interested in British history, he would understand that the present, while certainly unique, is not uniquely awful.

But more important, he would see the great damage his laws are doing to the institutions we have inherited - to the constitution, to the tradition of parliamentary sovereignty, to the independence of the judiciary, to individual rights and to the delicate relationship between the individual and the state. All of them are products of British history. They are not perfect, but they make up a fairly large part of the body politic. This is who we are.

This rush of laws presented to parliament in disguise, with their hidden sleeper clauses, are a disaster for our democracy. They are changing our country rapidly and profoundly. What I saw in Committee A was the triumph of Tony Blair\'s modernity over liberty.

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World in peril, Chomsky tells overflow crowd

Press & Sun-Bulletin
Sunday March 5, 2006

VESTAL - There are dire consequences to the current direction of the U.S. foreign policy, said Noam Chomsky in a speech Saturday at Binghamton University. Among those consequences, he said, is a nuclear Armageddon.

"Under the current U.S. policies, a nuclear exchange is inevitable," the 77-year-old MIT professor said in his presentation, "Imminent Crises: Paths Toward Solutions." He spoke to an over-capacity crowd in BU's Osterhout Concert Theater.

Chomsky cited nuclear proliferation and environmental collapse as the two greatest crises that "literally threaten survival."

Since the 1960s Chomsky, a widely acclaimed professor of linguistics, has crusaded against political contradiction, nuclear proliferation and Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Regarded by many as the greatest intellectual alive today and dismissed by others as a radical, Chomsky has voiced harsh criticism against the foreign policy of the United States since World War II.

About 1,500 people crammed into the main theater, while a television broadcast the speech to a room of about 500 next door. Ushers were forced to turn hundreds of people away as the building filled beyond its capacity.

Asked whether he had anticipated the number of people, the building's operations director, Darryl Wood, responded, "Not this many, no."

Inside the theater, Chomsky delivered an account of the world's ills. He addressed the history of the Iraq conflict, the unrest it has fostered, and Iran's intentions for nuclear armament - a path, he said, that is directly tied to U.S. aggression in the Middle East. Chomsky outlined a course of action. "All of this is under our control if we're not willing to observe passively and obediently," he said. "Take democracy seriously."

Peter Klotz drove two hours from Siena College in Loudonville to see the professor. "He knows what he's talking about," Klotz said. "His ideas are certainly not new, but he presents things in a very concise manner."

John Hamilton, who drove from Ithaca to see Chomsky, stood up to ask a question during the question-and-answer period following Chomsky's speech. "My question is, what do you find hopeful?" Hamilton said.

"I think one should be very optimistic for the reasons I just mentioned," Chomsky said. "The large majority of the population already agrees with the things activists are committed to. All we have to do is organize people who are convinced."

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The Power of Nightmares: WMD Terrorism

By William M. Arkin
Washington Post

Terrorist \"capabilities\" to use weapons of mass destruction are \"more limited\" than those of states like North Korea and Iran, but the threat of terrorist attack with WMD is \"more likely\" than an attack by any state, top U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday.

Despite this broad assertion, U.S. officials offer only that there is the \"possibility\" of a future terrorist attack with WMD. They present no evidence that there is any actual terrorist capability, not a single example of terrorists receiving assistance from WMD states to develop their own capabilities nor do they offer any intelligence indicators that terrorists are making headway towards achieving any WMD capability.
I\'ve never thought that terrorists posed much of a weapons of mass destruction threat, and I\'ve always thought that the specter of \"nuclear terrorism\" was promiscuous and politically motivated, both to undermine disarmament and to bolster U.S. WMD programs.

The image of a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction is certainly a powerful one, and the threat is so catastrophic, the Bush administration has made it a priority in fighting the war against terrorism.

It shouldn\'t be. What is more, there is also enormous cost in continuing to let the WMD nightmare rule: It was responsible for the war with Iraq; it was at the root of the failure of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to deal with hurricane Katrina; it is central to the current debate over the security of American ports.

Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Michael Maples testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday on the worldwide threats to the United States.

Their testimony was the usual combination of optimism about U.S. progress in the war on terrorism and happy talk about \"encouraging developments in Iraq\" together with dire talk about a dangerous and nightmarish world.

The \"global jihadist threat,\" Negroponte said, is the \"preeminent threat\" to U. S. national security and interests abroad.

\"The ongoing development of dangerous weapons and delivery systems constitutes the second major threat to the safety of our nation, our deployed troops, and our allies,\" Negroponte also said.

\"We are most concerned about the threat and destabilizing effect of nuclear proliferation,\" Negroponte said, and \"WMD-related proliferation and two states of particular concern, Iran and North Korea,\" is the central concern.

But it is the terrorist threat with weapons of mass destruction that continue to get the administration excited.

Noting a time long ago \"when a few states had monopolies over the most dangerous technologies,\" Negroponte said \"al Qaeda remains interested in acquiring chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials or weapons to attack the United States, US troops, and US interests worldwide.\"

\"Indeed, today,\" Negroponte said,

\"we are more likely to see an attack from terrorists using weapons or agents of mass destruction than states, although terrorists\' capabilities would be much more limited. In fact, intelligence reporting indicates that nearly 40 terrorist organizations, insurgencies, or cults have used, possessed, or expressed an interest in chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents or weapons. Many are capable of conducting simple, small-scale attacks, such as poisonings, or using improvised chemical devices.\"

That\'s quite the arsenal. I guess in order to understand why U.S. officials would focus on terrorist weapons of mass destruction while IEDs and suicide bombers and civilian airliners seem quite effective, you\'d have to understand the U.S. government\'s definition: Everything is a weapon of mass destruction.

And then there is the issue of proportion. North Korea\'s existing nuclear weapons, heck Russia\'s thousands of precariously controlled and maintained nuclear weapons, are less threatening than poisons or \"improvised chemical devices\" wielded by terrorists?

Neither Negroponte nor Maples offered any current intelligence indicating trends towards terrorists acquiring any of these capabilities.

\"Several terrorist groups, particularly al Qaeda, remain interested in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) weapons,\" Maples said. \"Al Qaeda\'s stated intention to conduct an attack exceeding the destruction of 9/11 raises the possibility that future attacks may involve unconventional weapons.\"

Saying that nation-states were still \"constrained by the logic of deterrence,\" Negroponte noted that such \"constraints may be of little utility in preventing the use of mass effect weapons by rogue regimes or terrorist groups.\"

The truth is that the United States government has a gigantic weapons of mass destruction bureaucracy, from intelligence collectors and targeters to WMD scientists to the world\'s premier underground bunker physicists to \"counter-proliferation\" and \"global strike\" warriors to technology interdictors to effects analysts and disaster response cadres. There is no getting around the fact that that apparatus has both an appetite and an interest in characterizing the threat as worthy of enormous investment.

WMD are such an emotional threat that no one really asks whether the investment equals the threat or is focused on the right problem. U.S.-Russian nuclear disarmament is stalled and programs to safeguard existing WMD technologies and materials are starved in comparison with new programs to stop \"proliferation\" (read terrorist proliferation).

All based on bureaucratic self-justification and someone\'s unsubstantiated nightmare?

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America the Anesthetized

Alex Sabbeth
March 4, 2006

The new Zogby poll gauging the opinions of American troops in Iraq has drawn attention mostly because it finds that 72 percent believe the United States should withdraw in a year or less and only 23 percent favor George W. Bush's plan to \"stay the course.\"

But the poll also illustrates the power of propaganda.

Shockingly, 85 percent of the troops questioned believe they are fighting in Iraq \"to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11 attacks\" – one of the key Iraq War myths built by Bush's frequent juxtaposition of references to Osama bin-Laden and Saddam Hussein.

This subliminal message has stuck with the vast majority of U.S. troops even though Bush eventually acknowledged publicly that there is no evidence linking Saddam to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
In other words, more than eight in 10 of the U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq think they are there avenging the 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, even though the U.S. government lacks evidence of the connection.

The poll also found that 77 percent think that a major reason for the war was \"to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaeda in Iraq\" – another myth nurtured by the Bush administration even though Hussein's secular government was a bitter enemy of al-Qaeda's Islamic fundamentalists.

Traitorous Troops?

Despite this confusion over the reasons for the war, the poll exploded another myth promoted by the administration and its media allies – that Americans are unpatriotic if they criticize Bush's policies, because to do so would damage troop morale.

It turns out the troops want the war brought to a quick end because they have concluded it's unwinnable based on their own experiences, not from the carping of home-side naysayers, often denounced as \"traitors\" by Bush's supporters.

It seems somehow that 72 percent of the U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq have become \"traitors,\" too.

But what's going on? How can the Bush administration and its supporters get away with spreading so much confusion about the reasons for invading Iraq? How can they justify demonizing so many Americans who disagree with the war policy?

The answer seems to be that the relentless application of propaganda was always part of the administration's strategy for herding the American public in the direction favored by Bush and his neoconservative advisers.

Remember Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Office of Strategic Influence, the secretive project designed to manipulate international opinion but which was expected to \"blow back\" some of its propaganda onto the American people.

On Feb. 19, 2002, five months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and 13 months before the invasion of Iraq, the New York Times reported that this Pentagon office was \"developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations\" in order \"to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries.\"

News of this disinformation program caused outrage and led to a Pentagon announcement that the office had been shut down. But Rumsfeld later explained that the concept was kept alive even though the office was closed.

\"There was the Office of Strategic Influence,\" Rumsfeld said. \"You may recall that. And \'Oh, my goodness gracious, isn't that terrible; Henny Penny, the sky is going to fall.' I went down that next day and said, \'Fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine, I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done' and I have.\" [See Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting press release, Nov. 27, 2002]

So the Pentagon continued its propaganda project of placing stories, possibly false, in the foreign media, with some of them surely feeding back into the U.S. political debate though the U.S. government is barred from disseminating propaganda at home.

In 2003, the Pentagon produced another propaganda program described in a document called \"Information Operations Roadmap,\" which describes the need for influencing journalists, enemies and the public.

The document recognizes that Americans consume propaganda – on TV and through the Internet – that is intended for foreign audiences. [BBC, Jan. 28, 2006]

Propaganda Abroad

While the Pentagon insists that its public information is accurate, albeit promoting images favorable to the United States, the BBC registered a different opinion about the stories circulated by the U.S. military during the Iraq invasion.

\"We're absolutely sick and tired of putting things out and finding they're not true,\" a senior BBC journalist told the Guardian. \"The misinformation in this war is far and away worse than any conflict I've covered, including the first Gulf War and Kosovo. …

\"I don't know whether they (Pentagon officials) are putting out flyers in the hope that we'll run them first and ask questions later or whether they genuinely don't know what's going on – I rather suspect the latter.\" [The Guardian, UK, March 28, 2003]

Military analysts also shake their heads at how reliant the administration has become on propaganda for promoting its goals. Sam Gardiner, an instructor in strategy at the National War College, said the Bush administration has waged a systematic P.R. campaign to sell the invasion of Iraq to the American public.

\"There is absolutely no question that the White House and the Pentagon participated in an effort to market the military option,\" Gardiner said. \"The truth did not make any difference to that campaign. To call it fixing is to miss the more profound point.

\"It was a campaign to influence. It involved creating false stories; it involved exaggerating; it involved manipulating the numbers of stories that were released; it involved a major campaign to attack those who disagreed with the military option; it included all the techniques those who ran the marketing effort had learned in political campaign.\" [Kevin Zeese, Democracy Rising, June 23, 2005]

Government Propaganda

So, there was the tale about Pfc. Jessica Lynch, both her fierce resistance under fire and her daring rescue from a hostile Iraqi hospital – when the reality was that she never fired a shot and the hospital staff presented no opposition to her rescue. [AP, Nov. 11, 2003]

Then, there was ex-football player Pat Tillman, who died in Afghanistan. Contrary to official reports of his death in a firefight while on patrol, he actually was killed by friendly fire, a reality that was suppressed for five weeks while the Bush administration milked the propaganda advantage of Tillman's death.

\"I'm disgusted by things that have happened with the Pentagon since my son's death,\" his mother, Mary, told the Los Angeles Times. \"I don\'t trust them one bit.\"

The truth was stretched, too, when it came to containing negative stories, like the abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Bush said the problem was limited to a few guards on the night shift and that the United States doesn't engage in torture.

The reality has turned out to be much worse. Torture and other abuse of prisoners have reached from Guantanamo Bay to Iraq and Afghanistan – finally overwhelming official denials.

The Bush administration has practiced propaganda on domestic issues as well. In 2005, the Government Accountability Office objected to the broadcasting of fake \"news videos\" that were designed to look like independent news stories. The GAO said the stories appeared to violate federal rules against propaganda. [AP, Feb. 19, 2005]

The GAO also reported that the administration spent more than $1.6 billion on public relations and media contracts in a 2 ½ year span, including hiring advertising firms to sell its policies to the America public. [www.democrats.reform.house.gov]

Beyond this expensive outreach, the Bush administration has succeeded in gaining cooperation from U.S. news organizations in its news management. Bowing to the administration's national security claims, New York Times executives held the story of warrantless wiretaps for more than a year, possibly altering the outcome of 2004 election.

Violence in Iraq

And what has happened to journalists who act independently and write what they observe in war zones like Iraq?

In 2005, they were killed at a record rate, including a growing number of them becoming the victims of \"targeted\" killings, according to the International Federation of Journalists. At least 89 journalists were murdered because of their professional work out of a total of 150 media deaths, IFJ said.

\"The numbers are staggering,\" IFJ general secretary Aidan White said.

IFJ listed 38 deliberate killings in the Middle East in 2005, with 35 occurring in Iraq. Five other media workers in Iraq were killed by U.S. troops, bringing the total killed by coalition forces to 18 since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. [Reuters, Jan. 23, 2006]

In April 2003, as U.S. forces were moving into the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, a U.S. tank fired on the Palestine Hotel, which housed foreign journalists, purportedly in \"response to hostile fire.\" Two journalists were killed, but other reporters monitoring the fighting from their balconies denied that there had been any shooting from the hotel.

\"There is simply no evidence to support the official U.S. position that U.S. forces were returning hostile fire from the Palestine Hotel,\" said a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. [CBS, May 28, 2003]

U.S. news executives also have complained about strong-arm tactics used to prevent journalists from reporting on incidents that might undermine support for the war back in the United States.

\"Our journalists in Iraq have been shoved to the ground, pushed out of the way, told to leave the scene of explosions; we've had camera disks and videotapes confiscated, reporters detained,\" said Associated Press Washington bureau chief Sandy Johnson. [Nation, Dec. 25, 2003]

As the Iraqi insurgency grew in 2004, so did the heavy-handed tactics against journalists. In May, three Reuters journalists and one working for NBC said U.S. forces subjected them to beatings and other abuse similar to what was later revealed at Abu Ghraib prison.

\"Two of the three Reuters staff said they had been forced to insert a finger into their anuses and then lick it, and were forced to put shoes in their mouths, particularly humiliating in Arab culture,\" Reuters reported.

\"The soldiers told them they would be taken to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, deprived them of sleep, placed bags over their heads, kicked and hit them and forced them to remain in stress positions for long periods.\" [Reuters, Oct, 14, 2004]

The British newspaper, The Guardian, described Iraqi police following the American lead in adopting their own harsh tactics toward journalists in 2004:

\"Dozens of journalists in Najaf, including the entire BBC team, were forced from their hotel at gunpoint and detained by local police. Around 60 journalists from local and foreign news organisations including the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Independent as well as the BBC, were held for almost an hour while police officers delivered what one correspondent described as an \'unexpected press conference at gunpoint.' …

\"Correspondents in the Najaf Sea hotel said around a dozen policemen, some masked, stormed into the rooms of journalists and forced them into vans and a truck. The Independent\'s Donald Macintyre reported that the police, some masked, \'shouted threats and abuse at the reporters, along with their Iraqi drivers and translators, and fired about a dozen shots inside and outside the hotel before taking them before the police chief, Major-General Ghaleb al-Jazaari, to hear his emotional complaints about media coverage and the sufferings of police officers during the present crisis'.\" [Guardian, Aug., 26, 2004]

One of the lessons of \"democracy\" apparently being taught to the Iraqi government is the need to control the information reaching the public, at almost any cost. What American spin doctors call \"spreading our values\" has become the tireless manipulation of public perceptions within an endless \"information war.\"

Media stories are planted; public relations firms are hired to shape the opinions of an unsuspecting public; reporters who document contrary facts are deemed the enemy and are subject to bullying or worse.

Rumsfeld's dictums about the need to wage \"strategic\" media campaigns may be right in a way that his words didn't fully articulate. The truth must be managed lest the American people learn what the administration is actually doing.

Author Alex Sabbeth acts as an informal researcher and organizer for several retired intelligence officers who share his concerns about America\'s future.

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The Hiroshima Cover-Up

by Amy Goodman and David Goodman
August 5, 2005

A story that the U.S. government hoped would never see the light of day finally has been published, 60 years after it was spiked by military censors. The discovery of reporter George Weller\'s firsthand account of conditions in post-nuclear Nagasaki sheds light on one of the great journalistic betrayals of the last century: the cover-up of the effects of the atomic bombing on Japan.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima; three days later, Nagasaki was hit. Gen. Douglas MacArthur promptly declared southern Japan off-limits, barring the news media. More than 200,000 people died in the atomic bombings of the cities, but no Western journalist witnessed the aftermath and told the story. Instead, the world\'s media obediently crowded onto the battleship USS Missouri off the coast of Japan to cover the Japanese surrender.

A month after the bombings, two reporters defied General MacArthur and struck out on their own. Mr. Weller, of the Chicago Daily News, took row boats and trains to reach devastated Nagasaki. Independent journalist Wilfred Burchett rode a train for 30 hours and walked into the charred remains of Hiroshima.

Both men encountered nightmare worlds. Mr. Burchett sat down on a chunk of rubble with his Baby Hermes typewriter. His dispatch began: \"In Hiroshima, 30 days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly - people who were uninjured in the cataclysm from an unknown something which I can only describe as the atomic plague.\"

He continued, tapping out the words that still haunt to this day: \"Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller has passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world.\"

Mr. Burchett\'s article, headlined \"The Atomic Plague,\" was published Sept. 5, 1945, in the London Daily Express. The story caused a worldwide sensation and was a public relations fiasco for the U.S. military. The official U.S. narrative of the atomic bombings downplayed civilian casualties and categorically dismissed as \"Japanese propaganda\" reports of the deadly lingering effects of radiation.

So when Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter George Weller\'s 25,000-word story on the horror that he encountered in Nagasaki was submitted to military censors, General MacArthur ordered the story killed, and the manuscript was never returned. As Mr. Weller later summarized his experience with General MacArthur\'s censors, \"They won.\"

Recently, Mr. Weller\'s son, Anthony, discovered a carbon copy of the suppressed dispatches among his father\'s papers (George Weller died in 2002). Unable to find an interested American publisher, Anthony Weller sold the account to Mainichi Shimbun, a big Japanese newspaper. Now, on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings, Mr. Weller\'s account can finally be read.

\"In swaybacked or flattened skeletons of the Mitsubishi arms plants is revealed what the atomic bomb can do to steel and stone, but what the riven atom can do against human flesh and bone lies hidden in two hospitals of downtown Nagasaki,\" wrote Mr. Weller. A month after the bombs fell, he observed, \"The atomic bomb\'s peculiar \'disease,\' uncured because it is untreated and untreated because it is not diagnosed, is still snatching away lives here.\"

After killing Mr. Weller\'s reports, U.S. authorities tried to counter Mr. Burchett\'s articles by attacking the messenger. General MacArthur ordered Mr. Burchett expelled from Japan (the order was later rescinded), his camera mysteriously vanished while he was in a Tokyo hospital and U.S. officials accused him of being influenced by Japanese propaganda.

Then the U.S. military unleashed a secret propaganda weapon: It deployed its own Times man. It turns out that William L. Laurence, the science reporter for The New York Times, was also on the payroll of the War Department.

For four months, while still reporting for the Times, Mr. Laurence had been writing press releases for the military explaining the atomic weapons program; he also wrote statements for President Harry Truman and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. He was rewarded by being given a seat on the plane that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki, an experience that he described in the Times with religious awe.

Three days after publication of Mr. Burchett\'s shocking dispatch, Mr. Laurence had a front-page story in the Times disputing the notion that radiation sickness was killing people. His news story included this remarkable commentary: \"The Japanese are still continuing their propaganda aimed at creating the impression that we won the war unfairly, and thus attempting to create sympathy for themselves and milder terms. ... Thus, at the beginning, the Japanese described \'symptoms\' that did not ring true.\"

Mr. Laurence won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the atomic bomb, and his faithful parroting of the government line was crucial in launching a half-century of silence about the deadly lingering effects of the bomb. It is time for the Pulitzer board to strip Hiroshima\'s apologist and his newspaper of this undeserved prize.

Sixty years late, Mr. Weller\'s censored account stands as a searing indictment not only of the inhumanity of the atomic bomb but also of the danger of journalists embedding with the government to deceive the world.

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, and David Goodman, a contributing writer for Mother Jones, are co-authors of The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them.

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Crisis And Disintegration Of The Arroyo Fascist Regime In The Philippines

By E. San Juan, Jr.
03 March, 2006

Ang sagot sa dahas ay dahas, kapag bingi sa katwiran.\"[The answer to force is force if the other party is deaf to reason.] –
JOSE RIZAL, national hero of the Philippines

The end of the Arroyo fascist regime is fast approaching. It is bound to implode in one big catastrophic upheaval that will unleash violence and murderous abuses symptomatic of the decay of the bankrupt neocolonial system. Or it will exit peacefully if disciplined mass mobilization in the Metro Manila area and elsewhere can prevent the regime\'s deployment of whatever armed elements it can use to postpone its ruin. To be sure, U.S. intervention-military and diplomatic-will try to save its lackeys, or sacrifice them for a new set of servants who will do Washington\'s bidding-U.S.-tutored military officers and unscrupulous business technocrats tied to transnational financial-corporate interests. Either way, there is no escape from the intensifying crisis of a moribund clientelist system ridden with irresolvable contradictions.
Events seem to be unfolding with a vengeance. Since her access to government power through the flawed 2004 electoral exercise, Gloria Arroyo has turned out to be a huge disappointment to those who supported her in People Power II as an alternative to Estrada. Arroyo was definitely not a Cory Aquino with the charisma of the martyred Ninoy. Arroyo\'s experience in politics conformed to the routine career of a member of local oligarchic dynasties; but her clan grew rich primarily from bureaucratic and business manipulation, not landlord exploitation. Today, criminal linkages surround her family and cronies. She might appear for some to resemble Ferdinand Marcos-without the savvy and pretense to intellectual substance of the latter. Despite U.S. tutelage, Arroyo\'s managerial mode and policies demonstrate an essentially autocratic style of governance wholly subservient to the dictates of the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and the Washington Consensus.

Right from the beginning, Arroyo\'s ascendancy was characterized by rampant human rights violations. She presided over an unprecedented series of political assassinations of journalists, lawyers, church people, peasant leaders, women activists, and workers. The human rights group KARAPATAN has documented the brutalization of 169,530 individual victims, 18,515 families, 71 communities and 196 households. Arroyo has been tellingly silent over the killing and abduction of countless members of opposition parties and popular organizations. Most of those killed or \"disappeared\" belong to progressive groups such as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Anakbayan, Karapatan, KMU, and others. They were protesting Arroyo\'s repressive taxation, collusion with foreign capital tied to oil and mining companies that destroy people\'s livelihood and environment, fraudulent use of public funds , and other anti-people measures. Such groups and individuals have been tagged as \"communist fronts\" by Arroyo\'s National Security Advisers, the military and police; the latter agencies have been implicated in these ruthless atrocities. Just as what happened to the torturers of the Marcos regime, no one has been brought to trial and found responsible for any of the killings and other outrageous brutalities.

Meanwhile, Arroyo has hired a U.S. lobbying firm, Venable, for national governance. The US firm will ostensibly raise money for the modernization of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). It will also propose crucial amendments to the Constitution so as to allow foreign ownership of land, public utilities, and the mass media. Charter change will be pushed through to permit Arroyo to retain power even under a new parliamentary set-up. To conciliate Washington, Arroyo is heeding the Bush administration\'s strategy of devising Anti-Terrorism Laws and National ID Systems to suppress the articulation of grievances by the poor, deprived majority. Because of severe unemployment, soaring prices of oil products and basic commodities, unjust salaries and wages, increased tax burdens, chronic corruption in government, insufficient and costly social services, lack of genuine land reform, alarming proliferation of gambling, drugs, and State violence against ordinary citizens, millions of Filipinos, including landed elite, businessmen and professionals, have called for Arroyo\'s resignation (see March 2005 survey of Pulse Asia; Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 4, 2005).

Since 2004, Arroyo\'s administration suffered a stunningly rapid erosion of support from the traditional comprador and oligarchic segments of the ruling bloc. On one hand, the ousted Estrada camp has really never reconciled itself to its loss of power, given its populist tendencies and residual nationalist leaning. On the other hand, the Arroyo clique failed to offer a viable compromise to those excluded, given its dependence on bureaucratic corruption, extortions from business and other criminal activities. Never really interested in popular mobilization, the Arroyo clique has relied on bribery and other mendacious machinations. It operates with a narrow circle of parasitic generals, \"trapos\" (traditional politicians), and mediocre hirelings from media and academy. Its popular base is non-existent. Its influence on landlord oligarchs and the Makati elite has always been superficial and precarious, mediated by brokers like Fidel Ramos, De Venecia, and assorted confidence tricksters. In short, Arroyo\'s mode of governance has always been fundamentally unstable, unconsolidated, and opportunistic.

One of the first signs of the vulnerability of Arroyo\'s position may be found in her yielding to the massive popular demand for withdrawal of Filipino troops in Iraq following the Angelo de la Cruz kidnapping. Of course, she tried to exploit its \"nationalist\" potential. But her continuing servility to Bush\'s imperialist aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, together with her obedience to the WTO neoliberal program of privatization and deregulation, reinforced her utter dependency on global forces that only served to undermine her authority, her claim to represent the Filipino nation. Arroyo followed Fidel Ramos in implementing the Visiting Forces Agreement, together with other onerous treaties, thus maintaining U.S. control of the Philippine military via training of officers, logistics, and dictation of policies toward the Moro insurgents as well as to the New People\'s Army guerillas. This is the profound legacy of the persisting colonial subjugation of the Philippines and the instrumentalization of the local bureaucracy and military to carry out U.S. imperial strategy in the first half of the twentieth-century up to Cold War anti-communist policies and the current \"war against global terrorism.\" Without US support, the Filipino elite cannot sustain the oppression and exploitation of the propertyless workers, peasants, and middle strata now driven to flee and settle in other lands.

This explains why the AFP continues to pursue a fanatical anti-communist program today even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capitalist reversal in China and in Eastern Europe. Its Christian chauvinist orientation militates against any pluralist outlook or even multiculturalist sympathy for the plight of the Bangsa Moro people and other indigenous communities (Igorots, Lumad) who have organized and armed themselves to fight for justice and dignity, for regaining their ancestral habitats.

But this AFP subservience to Washington does not insure the absence of internal rifts and breakdown of \"professionalism\" due to abuses and corruption of the politicized officer ranks (see Alfred McCoy\'s book, Closer Than Brothers, Yale University Press, 2000). This is a pattern which has almost become institutionalized for lack of any genuine democratic, nationalist ethos, given the function of this organ of government (established by the U.S. colonial authority) to suppress the revolutionary forces of the first Philippine Republic, the Moro Sultanate resistance, and numerous peasant insurrections (including the Huk uprising) constantly reproduced by the fierce class divisions in a semi-feudal and neocolonized formation. It is doubtful if a Hugo Chavez, or even a clone, can germinate from this Pentagon-supervised organ of repression.

We can thus understand the \"Hello Garci\" episode, following the Oakwood \"Mutiny,\" as a symptom of the internal divisions in the AFP and the loss of Arroyo\'s full control. Whatever sliver of moral legitimacy Arroyo\'s administration still possessed then, gradually dissolved in the AFP squabbles caused by this exposure. Not even her successful attempt to stop impeachment proceedings in Congress could really repair the rupture of political legitimacy dating back to the May 2004 elections. The \"Hello Garci\" scandal may be read as a symptom of the advanced disintegration of the comprador-landlord hegemony eviscerated by the Marcos dictatorship, temporarily revived by Cory Aquino, and given extension by Fidel Ramos\' mock-utopian resuscitation of Marcosian rhetoric.

Circumstance more than personality functions as the key determinant. Arroyo cannot rescue this coalition of conflicting political forces because of lack of the abundant foreign subsidies that Ferdinand Marcos then enjoyed. This is worsened by the depletion of natural resources and educated social capital (due to emigration, breakdown of schooling, etc.) and the strict limits of local capital accumulation (no independent industrial ventures) due to the pressures of globalization and the US \"war\" to re-establish its global hegemony by systematic torture and unrelenting bombing.

Arroyo has no other way out. The Economic Crisis of 1997-1998 destroyed any illusions of the Philippines becoming a new Asian Tiger. While Ramos and Estrada offered compromises to the working people and the intelligentsia, they failed to halt the advance of the armed struggle in the countryside and the national-democratic social movements in the cities. Civil society continues its resurgence despite State/military repression. With a profit-centered neoliberal hegemony in control, the unimpeded impoverishment of the countryside has resulted in mass exodus to the cities and outward, hence a million Filipinos leave every year for jobs abroad.

The failure of the inept corrupt regimes of Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo is also evidenced by the continuing Bangsa Moro insurgency led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In this context, the breakdown of the MNLF-Misuari accommodation also proves how fragile is the peace won by Malacanang bribery, coercion, and promises. Hence the need of the U.S. after the 9/11 attack to stigmatize the New People\'s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines as terrorist organizations, capitalizing on the repulsive acts of the Abu Sayyaf and the pervasive climate of fear following the bombings in Bali, Indonesia, and elsewhere. This will not stop the disintegration of the neocolonial order and the defeat of U.S. interventionary salvaging of its Frankenstein monster.

Meanwhile, structural conditionalities continue to extract enormous debt payments to the World Bank and other financial consortiums, draining two-thirds of the social wealth of the Philippines and depriving education and other social services of sorely needed funds. Neoliberalizing schemes enforced by U.S.-dominated agencies (WTO, IMF) continue to inflict havoc and misery on the majority of 86 million Filipinos. It has bred criminality, worsened corruption, inflamed reactionary Christian fundamentalism, and exposed everyone to the wrath of natural disasters (witness the Leyte flood, a repeat of previous devastating calamities in Luzon and elsewhere). It has contributed to the staging of the Wowowee tragedy, a glaring symptom of how the iniquitous system gambles the dreams of the desperate millions.

Marcos\' institutionalization of \"the warm body export\" in 1974 to tax the poor and relieve labor-peasant unrest has structured the economy to be wholly dependent on regular remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers, the main source of dollar earnings required to pay the foreign debt. The remittance topped $18 billion last year, giving the impression that the country was becoming prosperous. Arroyo prematurely celebrated this index of an economic recovery entirely contingent on the unpredictable fluctuation of the global labor market.

This infamous \"warm body export\" has led to nearly ten million Filipinos displaced to 140 countries, chiefly as OCWs (Overseas Contract Workers) in poorly paid jobs (mainly as domestics, caregivers, and semi-skilled labor), often victimized by unscrupulous racist employers, abandoned by their own government to fend for themselves-an average of five OCW corpses arrive each day at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. These \"New Heroes\" (\"mga bagong bayani\" to Cory Aquino) are now clamoring for Arroyo\'s ouster.

Relentless corruption, cynical manipulation, and the outright lack of any concern for the people\'s welfare have distinguished Arroyo\'s unconscionable rule from its inception. Faced with the loss of moral and political legitimacy, Arroyo has institutionalized a pattern of terror throughout the country since taking the reins of government. Particularly with the election of party-list representatives from BayanMuna, killings, abductions and outright harassment of anyone criticizing the government have intensified.

The Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace has confirmed that the majority of human rights violations have been committed by the AFP, the Philippine National Police, and the CAFGU (Civilian Armed Forces Government Units). And this could not have occurred without the tacit or covert approval of Arroyo and her advisers. As the Promotion of Church People\'s Response put it in their Feb. 24 Statement: \"GMA cheated her way to victory in the May 2004 elections, using public funds to secure votes in her favor and rig the election results….GMA\'s record of political killings and violations of civil liberties, especially with her Calibrated Preemptive Response scheme, is now the worst since the downfall of Marcos.\"

Having reviewed the history of this current conjuncture, we take the position of denouncing President Arroyo\'s flagrant violation of the Philippine Constitution via the pretext of a \"National Emergency.\" In truth, it is Arroyo\'s emergency. This has been convincingly demonstrated by the lawyers of CODAL (Counsels for the Defense of Liberties) and the Catholic Bishops. Arroyo\'s suppression of civil liberties and democratic freedoms imposed by Proclamation 1017, carried out by the military and police, opens the way to militarist brutal dictatorship similar to Ferdinand Marcos\' authoritarian rule. Unlike Marcos, however, Arroyo does not have the full support of the comprador and landlord oligarchy; Ramos, Estrada, Aquino and other factions of the ruling class that they represent have demanded her resignation. Clearly these groups, with obvious support from the U.S., would prefer \"business as usual\"-a managed transition to a legitimate administration elected by the majority, with a program of economic and political reforms to solve rampant graft and corruption, endemic unemployment, deepening poverty and hopelessness of the masses. Can such a transition be peacefully administered by the traditional politicians (such as De Venecia) with U.S. patronage?

Utilizing the pretext of a coup by right, left and other anti-Arroyo forces, Arroyo issued Proclamation 1017 chiefly to intimidate, harass and selectively punish her critics. With her emergency powers, she has arrested all the duly-elected representatives of BAYAN MUNA, thus intimidating others who might voice criticism and protest. Her police and military have suppressed street demonstrations and public rallies, raided the offices of newspapers and other media, and threatened the arrest of hundreds, including such prestigious members of political dynasties such as Jose \"Peping\" Cojuangco. It appears, however, that Arroyo is using the usual \"divide-and-rule\" tactic, isolating the \"communist\" elements, frightening their allies, and threatening others with \"warrantless arrests.\" Arroyo and her advisers believe that we are still engaged in the Cold War, fighting agents of the Soviet Union and Communist China. However, this bogey of a \"coup\" conspiracy fails to convince people because those arrested do not include the military officials that the regime has named as complicit in the plot to overthrow the Arroyo clique. Arroyo surely cannot afford to alienate the military hierarchy she depends on; but can she fool all the honest nationalist officers whose sympathies are with the people?

Arroyo\'s \"National Emergency\" decree arrogates to a clique or fraction of the ruling class the use of the coercive State apparatus (courts, police, all public offices and funds) to promote the interest of a few families and their extended retinues. It is foolish to say that Arroyo should be given a chance to explain. Since taking power in 2001, Arroyo has never explained the role of the AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) in the killing or brutalization of thousands of peasants, workers, women, professionals, Moros, Lumads, and youth. No explanation has been given for the lack of decent jobs for thousands who leave everyday-over 100,000 nurses and doctors left in the last decade. No explanation for the collapse of the nation\'s health care system. No explanation for the violence against women, for the pollution of habitats, the neglect of OCWs raped and beaten and killed. No explanation for the hunger, diseases, and misery afflicting millions of Filipinos.

Devoid of any \"check-and-balance\' restraint from Congress or Court, Arroyo\'s martial-law terror has been unleashed chiefly on the progressive and nationalist sectors of the citizenry. Should we expect a massacre of Indonesian or Chilean proportions? Marcos tried to do it, but he had to compromise in the end. Clearly, today, the hand of the U.S. and its agents has been exposed in directing this selective dragnet, even as the US Embassy continues to refuse to surrender four American soldiers charged by the Philippine Court with rape. Meanwhile, thousands of U.S. Special Forces and their mighty warships are standing by, just in case….

We join a multitude of people\'s organizations at home and abroad in this project of affirming popular democracy, social justice, and national sovereignty. Exposed for cheating, lying, and stealing the people\'s money, Arroyo\'s fascist rule can no longer claim even a semblance of legitimacy. Nor can the State apparatus controlled by Arroyo claim the authority that solely emanates from the Filipino people, assuming that a constitutional democratic republic is still the framework of order and security. The Arroyo regime\'s moral rottenness and political decay have precipitated its total repudiation and condemnation by the Filipino masses.

We call on all conscienticized Filipinos, democrats and nationalists to unite and rally against the Arroyo fascist group imposing terror on the whole country. Civil liberties promulgated in the 1987 Constitution and by the United Nations\' Universal Declaration of Human Rights can only be guaranteed by public demonstrations, street rallies, strikes, and other visible manifestations of the exercise of social and civic rights. We call on all peoples around the world concerned with justice, democracy, and human dignity to express solidarity with the Filipino people in overthrowing the Arroyo regime, releasing all political prisoners, and restoring full and genuine sovereignty to the Filipino people.

E. San Juan, Jr. is the Director, Philippines Cultural Studies Center Storrs, CT 06268, USA

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Coup prevented in Belarus - KGB

0:19 | 01/ 03/ 2006

MINSK, March 1 (RIA Novosti, Olesya Luchaninova) - The Belarusian state security service (KGB) said Wednesday that it had forestalled a coup planned by the opposition, to take place on March 19-20.

KGB Chairman Stepan Sukhorenko said the opposition had intended to gather several thousands of people in the national capital Minsk after the announcement of presidential election results, and to blow up an explosive device during the rally.
Following this, the opposition planned to declare the election results false, seize administrative buildings and railway stations, and block railroads, the security chief said.

Sukhorenko said that representatives of some Belarusian NGOs, as well as militants from Ukraine, Georgia, and former Yugoslavia could have been brought into the coup.

\"The unregistered non-governmental organizations have gone underground, and are acting with a strong level of professionalism, as most of their members have been trained abroad.\"

Around 100 mobile phones with Lithuanian SIM-cards and several tens of thousand dollars had been seized from one of these organizations, Partnership.

He said the organization was financed by a regional branch of the National Democratic Institute, and U.S. citizen David Hamilton. The KGB chief said the United States had allegedly allocated $12 million to support these activities in 2006.

The official said the plotters would be unlikely to implement their plans now that they have been made public.

\"However, we will monitor the situation, and if they risk doing this, we will find the explosive devices.\"

\"We know both the organizers and perpetrators,\" he said, adding that they would be detained if they attempted to carry out their plan.

Alexander Milinkevich, the democratic opposition presidential candidate, said earlier that it would be announced that incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko had gained at least 75% of the vote in the elections.

He said Belarusians wanted change, and wanted to live in a different country.

\"If we get rid of the information vacuum, the existing Belarusian regime will fall,\" he said.

He also said the opposition would not hold any rallies, even if they lose the elections.

According to Milinkevich, the situation in Belarus was alarming, as \"the elections can already be considered non-democratic.\"

\"The elections are being held under total falsification and persecution of the opposition. We are taking part in this political campaign in order to destroy the fear that reigns in our society.\"

The incumbent president, Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed \"Europe\'s last dictator\" by the Western media, has ruled Belarus since 1994.

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Venezuela aims for biggest military reserve in Americas

By Greg Morsbach in Caracas
The Guardian
4 Mar 06

Around 500,000 Venezuelans will start a four-month military training programme today to turn them into members of the country\'s territorial guard. They are the first group of a total of 2m Venezuelan civilians who have so far signed up to become armed reservists.

By the summer of 2007, Venezuela is likely to have the largest military reserve in the Americas, which is expected to be almost double the size of that in the United States.
The huge recruitment drive is part of President Hugo Chávez\'s plan to create a people\'s army that would answer directly to him in the event of civil unrest or an armed conflict.

General Alberto Muller Rojas, one of the members of the army high command who helped to devise the new thinking in military strategy being adopted by Venezuela\'s leftwing government, said: \"If for example the United States were to invade Venezuela one day, and that\'s what many people are expecting, the only way we could repel such an attack would be a full scale guerrilla war against the foreign aggressors.

\"Our professional army only numbers 80,000 soldiers, so we would need to use civilians like in Iraq to fight the Yankee forces.\"

Top military officials are confident that a reserve force of 2m, or one in five adults, would be sufficient to dissuade any country from invading Venezuela, the world\'s fifth biggest oil exporter and fifth biggest supplier of crude oil to the US.

Many of Venezuela\'s state-owned companies, such as the oil giant PDVSA, have started their own territorial guard units. However, they are being asked to join the formal training programme offered by the armed forces.

Richard Arrais, 40, a marketing executive who works at PDVSA\'s headquarters in Caracas, has his own office and works in a nine-to-five job Mondays to Fridays. But once a week he and his friends meet up as reservists.

He said: \"Since January we\'ve been holding informal meetings to discuss military tactics and to receive courses such as first aid.

\"But the training starting this Saturday will be tougher. There will be drill, weapons training and assault courses, as well as a military exercise in the countryside.\"

Mr Arrais and others like him say they are happy to give up every Saturday in defence of their fatherland and the values of President Chávez\'s socialist revolution. They believe internal opposition forces and the United States could strike at any moment.

So far service in the territorial guard is voluntary. But the Venezuelan parliament is studying proposals to make it obligatory for all Venezuelan adults to join the territorial guard.

Mr Chávez has sought to position himself at the vanguard of a bloc of Latin American leftist leaders acting as a counterpoint to US hegemony in the region.

Tensions between Caracas and Washington have simmered in recent weeks with an espionage row that has resulted in a US naval attache being expelled and disputes on a range of issues from the war on drugs to aviation safety restrictions.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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Corrupt Congress: Broken system facilitated Cunningham\'s graft

By Ruth Marcus
The Argus
4 Mar 06

IT is tempting, and certainly convenient, for his former colleagues in Congress, to dismiss Randy Duke Cunningham as an aberration. He is, in a sense, as prosecutors told the judge who is to sentence Cunningham this week, the California Republican engaged in unparalleled corruption. The ordinary lawmaker can\'t be bought for the price of an antique armoire - or, in Cunningham\'s case, nine armoires, six Persian carpets, three antique oak doors, two candelabras and a china hutch.
A fighter-pilot-turned-congressman-turned-felon, Cunningham took the gold in brazenness and gluttony. He extorted a Rolls-Royce from a defense contractor and parked it in the congressional garage. He had the contractor buy his California house for a hugely inflated price and then demanded extra money to cover capital gains taxes and moving expenses. He offered volume discounts for frequent bribers, helpfully writing out the fee schedule on his congressional letterhead. In all, he raked in an astonishing $2.4 million in graft.

But if Cunningham is unparalleled, he is also symptomatic. The corruption scheme he was at the center of exposes systemic flaws that will persist well after he is behind bars: the seductive availability of millions in earmarked funds, the corrosive combination of money and politics, the easy slide into an egomaniacal sense of entitlement for lawmakers surrounded by staff and sycophants. The system didn\'t cause Cunningham\'s corruption, but it undoubtedly facilitated it.

Last week\'s guilty plea by Cunningham\'s co-conspirator, defense contractor Mitchell Wade, illuminates the way easy access to earmarks can corrupt even without bribes - or, to be a bit more blunt, with the legal bribes known as campaign contributions. The plea agreement describes how Wade wanted his company, MZM Inc., to open a facility in the district of Virginia Republican Virgil Goode (Representative A, in the language of the plea). MZM employees contributed $46,000 to Goode\'s campaign from 2003 to 2005, making the company his single largest source of campaign cash. Unbeknownst to Goode, but also unsurprisingly, Wade illegally reimbursed his employees and their spouses for their contributions.

And then - surprise - Wade asked for federal funding for the facility he wanted to build in the district. As described in the matter-of-fact language of the plea agreement, In June 2005, Representative A\'s staff confirmed to Wade that an appropriations bill would include $9 million for the facility and a related program. Wade thanked Representative A and his staff for their assistance. You bet he thanked them: a $9 million contract for a mere $46,000 in contributions - in comparison with Cunningham\'s prices, a real bargain.

Tit for tat

The link between campaign contributions and legislative favors wasn\'t exactly understated. The plea agreement describes Wade\'s dinner with Representative B - Katherine Harris, R-Fla. - at which they discussed the possibility of

MZM\'s hosting a fund-raiser for Representative B later in the year, and the possibility of obtaining funding and approval for a Navy counterintelligence program in Representative B\'s district and locating an MZM office in that district. Subtle, huh? Wade didn\'t get his funding, but that doesn\'t make the seamy intersection between campaign cash and legislative favor-seeking much less distasteful.

Prosecutors said Harris, like Goode, wasn\'t aware that the $32,000 she received from MZM employees and spouses was secretly underwritten by Wade - though he turned up with the checks in hand to deliver them to her personally. Did she and Goode think that all these MZM employees from outside their districts had spontaneously come to the realization that they were the best two members of Congress? When someone who has never given campaign donations suddenly decides - along with a spouse - to write out checks for the maximum donation, something fishy is up. When you need the cash, though, there\'s not much incentive to sniff too hard to discern precisely how odoriferous it is.

Large egos

If the system discourages politicians from questioning the sources of their campaign cash, it also encourages them to behave like potentates, cosseted by fawning staff. An analysis by UCLA psychiatrist Saul Faerstein, submitted to the court by Cunningham\'s lawyers, concludes that the fighter pilot\'s sense of grandiosity and mantle of invulnerability, while adaptive and life-preserving in Vietnam, were maladaptive in the Washington culture. With all due respect to the doctor, if he thinks an outsized sense of ego is unique to Cunningham among members of Congress, he probably hasn\'t met too many.

Indeed, the sentencing memo - prosecutors are asking for 10 years - illustrates how Cunningham\'s staff enabled his corruption. When Cunningham bought a Chevy Suburban from Wade for well below the market price, his staff altered the title registration application to increase the sales price - though Cunningham never paid the higher amount. A top aide delivered a cash-stuffed envelope from Wade to Cunningham. When the aide finally confronted Cunningham about these shady dealings and asked him to resign, or at least not seek re-election, the congressman pondered the matter and decided to stay on.

And here\'s a tale of what passes for principle in Washington: The staffer didn\'t turn him in - he quit. He\'s now a lobbyist, specializing in - you guessed it - defense and appropriations.

Ruth Marcus is a member of The Washington Post\'s editorial page staff.

© 2000-2006 ANG Newspapers

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Corruption in Real Time: Lawmakers Embrace Lobbyist Cash

By Richard Simon and Mary Curtius
Times Staff Writers
5 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - Capitol Hill is abuzz these days with talk about keeping lobbyists at a distance. But when it comes to the political cash they can generate, interest in keeping them near remains strong.

This weekend, Rep. Howard P. \"Buck\" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) is hosting a $5,000-per-person gathering - which invitations said would feature golf, fishing, snorkeling and \"much, much more\" - in the Florida Keys. McKeon anticipated that many of the guests would be lobbyists.

Also this weekend, lobbyists are among those at \"Winterfest \'06,\" where supporters of Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) can ski and snowmobile at the exclusive Yellowstone Club in his home state.
And in Washington, scores of less flashy, but still lucrative, fundraisers will be held in the coming weeks for Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike. Lobbyists, along with clients and friends, will constitute many of those in attendance.

The expensive events are perfectly legal. But they have raised questions about whether Congress is missing the point as it responds to the scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful influence peddler who this year pleaded guilty to defrauding clients and conspiring to bribe lawmakers.

As has become clear in recent days, legislation with the best chance of passing does not tackle campaign finance issues, but would require members of Congress and lobbyists to more fully detail their contacts with each other.

Some lawmakers and many watchdog groups say a failure to address what they see as the source of lobbyists\' greatest influence - political contributions - would be a glaring oversight.

\"If we\'re truly serious about getting to the core of the problem, we need to look not only at lobbying reform but at campaign finance reform,\" Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said.

But Dodd agreed with other members of a key Senate committee last week that trying to limit the fundraising clout of lobbyists as part of efforts to overhaul congressional ethics rules would virtually ensure that neither takes place.

Figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that studies political fundraising, illustrate the growing importance of lobbyists in producing donations.

The group found that lobbyists\' contributions to 2004 congressional candidates totaled $22 million - nearly five times as much as a decade earlier. And that figure does not include the substantial amounts that lobbyists persuaded others to give.

Many lawmakers and their aides say they see nothing wrong with relying heavily on lobbyists for fundraising help, so long as contributions are disclosed.

\"From the beginning of the Republic, lawmakers have interacted with people who lobby,\" said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), a member of the House GOP leadership. \"Either you abide by the law [regulating such relationships] or you don\'t.\"

Watchdog groups, however, contend that under existing rules, it is hard to gauge the extent to which lobbyists prod clients and friends to make donations.

Alex Knott, head of the Lobby Watch project for the Center for Public Integrity, said lobbyists had \"huge cadres of people that they do business with on a daily basis who want political favors. They can tap these donors\" for contributions.

Lobbyists\' effectiveness in spurring others to give is shown by how often lawmakers name them to fundraising positions. Knott\'s group estimates that since 1998, at least 79 members of Congress have hired lobbyists to head or act as treasurer of their campaign committees or political action committees.

With an eye on these trends, Fred Wertheimer, head of Democracy 21, said a two-pronged approach to reform was needed.

He has recommended significant cuts in contributions lobbyists can make to House and Senate candidates or the political action committees set up by members of Congress. His plan would limit their donations to a candidate to $200 per election, down from the current $2,100 cap. The maximum contribution per year to political action committees would be $500, down from $5,000.

Wertheimer\'s proposal also would bar lobbyists from soliciting or delivering contributions and from leading candidates\' political committees.

Although there seems to be little backing in Congress for such moves, some lawmakers are voluntarily changing their fundraising practices in response to the Abramoff scandal.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) canceled fundraisers for his political action committee that were scheduled at resorts in Hawaii and Orlando, Fla.

His campaign spokesman, John McGovern, said Hastert hoped other lawmakers would follow his lead.

\"The speaker believes that he should lead by example,\" McGovern said, adding that Hastert had encouraged lawmakers in both parties to \"avoid participating in events that although perfectly legal, may create an appearance that … can be misconstrued by the public.\"

Hastert has by no means abandoned fundraising, a key aspect of his job. In late February, he headlined a fundraising breakfast at Westwood\'s posh Regency Room for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

A business lobbyist who declined to be named because he did not want to offend lawmakers he dealt with said his invitations to fundraisers at expensive resorts had declined. But he said he was still inundated with invitations to more modest affairs; his calendar included 14 such events one day last week.

H. Stewart Van Scoyoc, head of a Washington lobbying firm, said bookings of a special room in his offices for fundraising events had dropped.

The room, with a view of the Capitol\'s dome, is being used about two times a week this year, down from three to five times a week at this point last year.

\"People are being more cautious,\" Van Scoyoc said.

Still, at least 175 fundraisers are scheduled this month for members of Congress. And some lawmakers continue to devise events that go far beyond the usual banquets.

Those who made large contributions to the political action committee established by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) received invitations to a recreation-oriented weekend in early February at the Big Sky Resort.

Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, hosted a seven-hour train ride from Fort Worth to San Antonio in return for $5,000 donations to his political action committee.

Planned fundraising events for other lawmakers revolve around baseball\'s spring training camps, a pheasant hunt, a paintball tournament and a circus.

Lawmakers generally use their political action committees to provide financial help to others in their party. That\'s one reason McKeon, the new chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, made no apologies for this weekend\'s \"Key Largo Get-Away\" that benefits his committee.

The GOP \"is going to need money\" to hold its House majority, he said.

Invitees to Burns\' winter festival gave large contributions to his reelection campaign or his political action committee.

Polls show he is facing a tough reelection fight this fall, in part because of his links to Abramoff. He recently returned donations he had accepted from Indian tribes Abramoff had represented.

But Burns said he had no qualms that the get-together for his backers this weekend would cause him political damage.

He said he had hosted similar events in the past. \"It\'s old stuff.\"

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

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Senator wants to ban \'fast lane\' for Web

By Anne Broache and Declan McCullagh
CNET News.com
ZDNet News
March 2, 2006

Network operators would be barred from blocking or degrading Internet connections and favoring those of companies that pay for peppier access, according to a Senate bill introduced Thursday.

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said his measure will foster \"equal treatment\" for all Internet content and dispel worries that telecommunications providers will play favorites in the future.

Because Wyden\'s proposal represents the most aggressive legislative attempt to dictate what kind of Internet services are permissible or not, it\'s likely to provoke a political spat between proponents of so-called \"network neutrality\" and the traditionally influential telecommunications industry. Executives at Verizon Communications, BellSouth and the newly merged AT&T and SBC Communications have recently talked about the desirability of a two-tiered Internet in which some services--especially video--would be favored over others.
\"The big network operators are saying, \'We built the network; we own the network; everybody\'s basically got to go along with what we\'re saying.\' What I\'m saying is, \'No, the consumers built the network; the subscribers built the network. They paid for the network. That is what this is all about,\'\" Wyden told reporters in a conference call.

The Federal Communications Commission would be given power to police violations and hand out \"cease and desist\" orders, according to the bill, titled the Internet Non-Discrimination Act. Wyden said that he didn\'t oppose companies offering different speeds of service at different prices, a practice already undertaken by several major Internet providers, provided that content is treated equally within each level of service.

No broadband provider has proposed to block certain Web sites. But they have said Yahoo, for instance, could pay a fee to have its search site load faster than Google. Other possibilities include restricting file-swapping applications that hog bandwidth, or delivering their own video content faster than a similar service provided by rivals.

BellSouth pledged in a statement on Thursday not to block or degrade \"legitimate\" Net traffic, but said it would not support Wyden\'s bill. \"Without a managed network, the only way customers will be able to be sure they can enjoy high-bandwidth services is by upgrading to higher-speed connections whether they need them for everyday applications on not,\" said Herschel Abbott, the company\'s vice president of governmental affairs. \"That choice should be the customer\'s choice, not the government\'s choice.\"

AT&T also said it will not block or degrade content. It said in a statement: \"At this stage, we\'re exploring different product models, but feel strongly that this is an issue that has to be solved in the marketplace.\"

With a few exceptions that were quickly remedied by the Federal Communications Commission, no telecommunications provider appears to be blocking Internet traffic and demanding payment to lift the block. The FCC also has adopted a nonbinding policy statement saying that Americans are \"entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.\"

The U.S. Telecom Association, which counts both large and small telecommunications providers as members, said Thursday that the bill was unnecessary because \"the FCC clearly has the authority and has already demonstrated the will to protect consumer choice and address cases of blocking, impairment or degradation.\"

Telecommunications providers generally argue that they have the right to be compensated for money spent in building the networks and to create a \"fast lane\" for those willing to pay up. Intrusive federal legislation, they say, would reduce the incentive to invest in speedier networks in the future.

On the other side are Internet content and application providers, which say Net neutrality requirements are essential to preserve the Net\'s traditional openness.

Dozens of technology companies and advocacy groups sent a letter Thursday to the House of Representatives\' Commerce Committee, urging that \"Congress take steps now to preserve this fundamental underpinning of the Internet and to assure the Internet remains a platform open to innovation and progress.\"

The list of groups includes Adobe Systems, Amazon.com, the American Association of Libraries, EarthLink, eBay, Google, Match.com, Microsoft, Skype, TiVo and Yahoo.

Other proposals in Congress address network neutrality--including a draft bill before the House Commerce Committee--but technology companies say those don\'t go far enough. One proposal, from Texas Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican who chairs the panel overseeing telecommunications law, says providers \"may not block, or unreasonably impair or interfere with, the offering of, access to or the use of any lawful content, application or service provided over the Internet.\"

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Corruption in Neocon-land: Top CIA Official Under Investigation - No. 3 Official at CIA Is Subject of Investigation Related to Bribery Probe

ABC News
March 3, 2006

A stunning investigation of bribery and corruption in Congress has spread to the CIA, ABC News has learned.

The CIA inspector general has opened an investigation into the spy agency\'s executive director, Kyle \"Dusty\" Foggo, and his connections to two defense contractors accused of bribing a member of Congress and Pentagon officials.
The CIA released an official statement on the matter to ABC News, saying: \"It is standard practice for CIA\'s Office of Inspector General -- an aggressive, independent watchdog -- to look into assertions that mention agency officers. That should in no way be seen as lending credibility to any allegation.

\"Mr. Foggo has overseen many contracts in his decades of public service. He reaffirms that they were properly awarded and administered.\"

The CIA said Foggo, the No. 3 official at the CIA, would have no further comment. He will remain in his post at the CIA during the investigation, according to officials.

Two former CIA officials told ABC News that Foggo oversaw contracts involving at least one of the companies accused of paying bribes to Congressman Randall \"Duke\" Cunningham. The story was first reported by Newsweek magazine.

Friendship With Defense Contractor

The California Republican has pleaded guilty after admitting he accepted $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for arranging defense contracts. He was sentenced today to eight years and four months in prison for corruption. Federal law enforcement officials said Cunningham is cooperating and the investigation is continuing.

As executive director of the CIA, Foggo oversees the administration of the giant spy agency. He was appointed to the post by CIA Director Porter Goss after working as a midlevel procurement supervisor, according to former CIA officials.

While based in Frankfurt, Germany, he oversaw and approved contracts for CIA operations in Iraq.

Foggo is a longtime friend of Brent Wilkes, listed as unindicted co-conspirator No. 1 in government documents filed in the Cunningham investigation. The two played high school football and were in each other\'s weddings.

According to government documents, Wilkes gave Cunningham $630,000 in cash and gifts in exchange for help in getting government contracts.

Wilkes was the founder of ADSC Inc, in 1995. Under Wilkes, the company obtained more than $95 million in government contracts.

Officials say they could not describe the CIA contracts in question because some of them were classified secret.

\'Bribe Menu\'

Cunningham is involved in what prosecutors call a corruption case with no parallel in the long history of the U.S. Congress. He actually priced the illegal services he provided.

Prices came in the form of a \"bribe menu\" that detailed how much it would cost contractors to essentially order multimillion-dollar government contracts, according to documents submitted by federal prosecutors for today\'s sentencing hearing.

\"The length, breadth and depth of Cunningham\'s crimes,\" the sentencing memorandum states, \"are unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress.\"

Prosecutors will ask federal Judge Larry Burns to impose the statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The sentencing memorandum includes the California Republican\'s \"bribery menu\" on one of his congressional note cards, \"starkly framed\" under the seal of the United States Congress.

The card shows an escalating scale for bribes, starting at $140,000 and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe.

The rate dropped to $25,000 per additional million once the contract went above $20 million.

At one point Cunningham was living on a yacht named after him, \"The Dukester,\" docked near Capitol Hill, courtesy of a defense company president.

ABC News\' Vic Walter contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures

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Corruption: Katharine Harris in Hiding - linked to finance scandal

Tampa Tribune
Published: Mar 3, 2006

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, linked to a campaign finance scandal, is turning away even routine requests to provide funding for special interests.

Harris has taken pride in going after these earmarks - so-called pork barrel spending - but on Thursday she stayed away from meetings with special interests, including executives from Florida\'s university system.

Among the reasons for her absence was a meeting with top-gun campaign finance lawyer Ben Ginsberg, whom she hired as a \"precaution,\" Harris spokeswoman Kara Borie said.
On the sixth day after she was identified as a recipient of illegal campaign contributions, the Republican congresswoman from Longboat Key stayed behind closed doors. She issued a statement in which she denied knowing that contributions made to her by defense contractor Mitchell Wade had been illegal.

She also had her employees release a partial series of documents, requested by the Tribune, that relate to her attempts at obtaining federal tax dollars for dozens of special interests since 2004.

Among the documents: An April 26 letter to defense appropriations subcommittee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, the Largo Republican, in which Harris seeks $10 million for a Navy project backed by Wade.

In the letter, Harris emphasizes the importance of the project, asking that it be added to her list of five priorities and identifying it as her new No. 3 choice.

She denied any connection between her help for Wade\'s company, MZM Inc., and the illegal contributions.

Wade told prosecutors he personally handed over the contributions to Harris in 2004. A year later, he gave her his proposal for the project.

At the time, MZM-related contributions to Harris\' 2004 campaign amounted to more than any other source.

\"I never requested funding for this project in exchange for contributions, but rather to bring more high-skill, high-wage jobs to the region,\" Harris said in her statement.

As she huddled with Ginsberg, Young and other advisers, executives of Florida\'s state university system and their Washington lobbyist stopped by her office to make their seasonal pitch to Florida\'s delegates for money in spending bills.

Usually, the politically connected university system visitors - including state Chancellor Mark B. Rosenberg - are treated with deference and escorted into a back office.

This time, they didn\'t even get to meet with their contact, a deputy chief of staff who wasn\'t in the office. Instead, Harris\' legislative director, Scott Weaver, sat down with them in a small waiting room.

Weaver apologized for the absences, blaming \"abnormal circumstances.\"

As the education officials prepared to list their wishes for funding, Weaver interrupted.

\"Look, we may not even request anything this year,\" Weaver told them. \"The climate here is such I don\'t think anyone knows what is going to happen. We may just not do it at all.\"

Wade pleaded guilty Feb. 24 to bribing a California congressman, Randy \"Duke\" Cunningham, and funneling illegal contributions by reimbursing employees who wrote checks to Harris and a Virginia congressman, Virgil Goode.

Cunningham, Harris and Goode helped Wade and MZM in their attempts to secure federal tax dollars by slipping appropriations into massive spending bills.

Like Harris, Goode has touted the benefits to his district, where MZM, he said, would bring jobs and spur economic development.

Harris, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said in her statement Thursday that she had not been contacted by officials regarding the MZM investigation. Nor have her employees been contacted or been sent \"target letters,\" Borie said.

Harris\' office did not release all her earmark request forms Thursday, as Harris pledged she would do in an interview with the Tribune five weeks ago. Harris released her supporting letter for the MZM project, but neither she nor Rep. Young would turn over the standard request form for the proposal.

Still, in her statement Thursday, Harris reiterated her earlier contention that such records should be disclosed.

\"I am supportive of bringing transparency to the appropriations process,\" she said, adding that she would support reform to make full disclosure a congressional standard.

Young, who received 3,570 earmark requests from members of Congress last year, feels differently.

\"This isn\'t just about her,\" Young spokesman Harry Glen said. \"This has been the policy of the committee for years. It\'s internal correspondence from one member to another.\"

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Dubai Ports deal broke law, Sen. Shelby says

News Washington correspondent
Birmingham News
3 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - Government officials broke the law when they agreed to let a United Arab Emirates-owned company operate terminals at major American ports without doing a more extended review of the national security implications, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby said Thursday.
\"It\'s my interpretation that the Byrd Amendment is pretty clear, that if you look at the legislative history, they certainly didn\'t follow the law that I thought they should have,\" Shelby, R-Ala., said in an interview after a congressional hearing on the Dubai Ports World deal. He referred to the 1992 law that requires extra national security review of some foreign investments.

Shelby and others are planning legislation to tighten the government\'s review of major foreign investments in the United States by giving Congress more notice of the transactions before they are complete.

Criticism of the Bush administration\'s approval of an Arab state-owned company\'s purchase of a London port-management firm has been severe from Republicans and Democrats alike.

The critics argue the decision put economic considerations ahead of security.

The U.S. government\'s formal review lasted about 30 days, and the deal was approved once the relevant agencies determined there was no risk to national security. A second, more detailed 45-day investigation was skipped.

Following the uproar, Dubai Ports World announced it would volunteer for the 45-day review.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., sponsored the law in 1992 and said at the time that it was meant to trigger a longer investigation whenever companies controlled by foreign governments were involved. Treasury officials say they\'ve always believed it was unnecessary if the security concerns are satisfied in the first 30-day review.

\"If you familiarize yourself with the legislative history and you believe the statute is unclear, would it be fair to say that you\'re putting the letter of the law over the spirit of the law?\" Shelby asked a top treasury official during the hearing.

\"We shouldn\'t let a legal interpretation separate us,\" said Robert Kimmitt, deputy treasury secretary.

Shelby shot back, \"But that\'s what you\'re doing.\"

Kimmitt said that 46 times during President Clinton\'s administration, foreign state-owned companies applied for the U.S. government\'s approval to invest in the United States and only one deal was extended to the 45-day investigation. During the Bush administration, there have also been 46 such applications and four of them got the extra scrutiny.

With its purchase of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. in London, Dubai Ports World would take over terminal operations at six American ports.

U.S. officials argue the work is limited to using piers and cranes to load and unload cargo from ships at ports that are owned by state or city governments. They also said that between 70 percent and 80 percent of American ports have some foreign-owned company operating on them.

`La-la land\':

But Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., whose district includes one of the affected ports, said anyone who suggests that terminal operations are unrelated to security is \"living in la-la land.\"

Many members of the banking committee called for national intelligence officials to have more involvement in the foreign investment review process. And Shelby dismissed suggestions that an increased role for Congress would improperly inject politics into decisions that affect national security and international relations.

\"We\'re a co-equal body. We have to be involved. I believe if we had been involved earlier on this ... they might not be where they are today,\" Shelby said.

On Thursday, Britain\'s High Court agreed to the $6.8 billion sale of the London-based P&O Co. to Dubai Ports World, The Associated Press reported. But Justice Nicholas Warren agreed to delay his ruling until today to permit Miami-based Eller & Co. Inc. to appeal his decision. Eller is a business partner with the British company and has complained that under the sale it will become an \"involuntary partner\" with Dubai\'s government.

A second Dubai-owned company confirmed Thursday that the Bush administration has launched an additional investigation over the potential security risks of its business moves in the United States, The AP reported.

Dubai International Capital LLC said it was confident the United States would approve its plans to buy a British precision-engineering company with plants in Georgia and Connecticut that make parts used in engines for military aircraft and tanks.

Senators complained that a deal involving tank engine parts drew the extra investigation while the port deal did not.

E-mail: morndorff@bhamnews.com

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Buffett loses faith in US

The Truth Will Set You Free
March 04, 2006

Warren Buffett, sometimes thought of as America\'s greatest capitalist, said he was buying stocks of companies that do business elsewhere . . .

I wonder how much Buffett knows that we don\'t.
Buffett [bought] stocks in companies that earn a \"large part\" of their profits outside the United States, and denominated in currencies other than dollars.

Buffett did not identify the companies, but the investments might be considerable. In his letter, Buffett did not itemize $7.15 billion of the $46.72 billion of stock investments that Berkshire had at year end.

That\'s Billion, with a \"B.\" That\'s a lot of investment to leave unitemized.

Buffett began trading in currencies in March 2002, amid concern that U.S. policies were causing trade and budget deficits to soar, and would cause non-U.S. investors to pull money out of the country. He said his view has not changed.

Keep in mind that \"non-U.S. investors\" here means foreigners. But, the statement is very misleading because the investors who will \"pull money out of the country\" are just as likely to be domestic as they are to be foreign. The statement is just a red-herring designed to feed into growing nationalistic fervor.

Last year, the U.S. trade deficit rose 17.5 percent to a record $725.8 billion. Buffett said it might rise more, and that as investments shift, non-U.S. investors \"will begin earning more on their holdings than we do on ours.\"

Two observations. First, the comparison between \"non-U.S. investors\" and \"we\" further emphasizes the \'us against them\' dichotomy. Second, the trade deficit is largely caused by multinational companies, many of which are owned by great American \"capitalists,\" that manufacture abroad and import to the US.

\"As U.S. (interest) rates have risen relative to those of the rest of the world, holding most foreign currencies now involves a significant negative \'carry,\'\" Buffett wrote, referring to financing costs. \"In contrast, the ownership of foreign equities is likely, over time, to create a positive carry--perhaps a substantial one.\"

What he\'s really saying is that there is NOTHING left in the US to own. REALLY. They (the really big players) already own everything worth owning. But, the US remains an outstanding source of INTEREST payments.

The best-known non-U.S. investment at Berkshire may be Asian oil producer PetroChina Co. . . . Berkshire owns about $1.92 billion of the company\'s shares, nearly four times what it paid for them.

Berkshire, however, also owns large stakes in U.S. companies with large non-U.S. sales, including Anheuser-Busch Cos., Coca-Cola Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

So, now that we know that \"investors\" have lost faith in the United States, my question is, how long will it take for the United States to lose faith in investors?

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Bush\'s Insane Plan Would Raise Deficit by $1.2 Trillion, Budget Office Says

NY Times
3 Mar 06

WASHINGTON, March 3 - President Bush\'s budget would increase the federal deficit by $35 billion this year and by more than $1.2 trillion over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office reported on Friday.

The nonpartisan budget office said that Mr. Bush\'s tax-cutting proposals would cost about $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years and that his proposals to partly privatize Social Security would cost about $312 billion during that period.
The office also said Mr. Bush\'s proposals to save money on Medicare, Medicaid and most nonmilitary programs would offset about one-third of the cost of his other proposals.

The report comes as Republican leaders in Congress prepare to settle on their own budget for next year, which could differ substantially from Mr. Bush\'s. They are already running into political and economic obstacles as they try to extend Mr. Bush\'s tax cuts, pay for the war in Iraq and squeeze spending on antipoverty programs, education and most other areas of nonmilitary spending.

Senate Republicans, nervous about their prospects in this fall\'s midterm elections, are balking at Mr. Bush\'s proposal to trim $36 billion over five years from Medicare, the government health program for the elderly.

House and Senate leaders remain bogged down over a limited extension of Mr. Bush\'s tax cut for stock dividends, and Senate Republicans have repeatedly failed in efforts to permanently repeal the estate tax.

At first blush, the Congressional Budget Office\'s report appears optimistic because it envisions that the budget deficit will slowly decline from $371 billion this year as economic growth generates more revenue and as Mr. Bush\'s budget cuts take effect.

Measured as a share of the total economy, the budget deficit would decline to about 1 percent in 2011 from 2.8 percent this year. Though the government would still be borrowing money each year, the annual deficit would be low by historical standards.

But the budget office noted that it had not included money for military costs in Iraq and Afghanistan after this year. The Bush administration has asked for a total of $92 billion in supplemental spending this year for those efforts.

Mr. Bush\'s budget also omits any cost for preventing a huge expansion of the alternative minimum tax, a parallel income tax that is expected to engulf tens of millions of people over the next several years.

Mr. Bush\'s budget assumes that the government will reap well over $1 trillion from the alternative minimum tax over the next decade, but Republicans and Democrats alike have vowed to prevent that from happening.

The optimistic outlook also assumes that Congress freezes or cuts the vast majority of discretionary government programs outside of military and domestic security ones.

Mr. Bush\'s 2007 budget would cut $2.1 billion next year from education, which had been one of the president\'s areas for increased spending. It would also cut money for community development block grants, low-income housing, child-support enforcement against deadbeat fathers and scores of other programs with support in Congress.

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Concerns mount over higher rates on student loans

Zachary Coile
Chronicle Washington Bureau
March 6, 2006

Washington -- The Republican-led Congress and President Bush are facing growing anger on college campuses as students and their parents prepare to pay higher borrowing costs because of new changes to federal student loan programs.

Congress narrowly passed a deficit-reduction bill last month that cut $12 billion from student loan programs, which was signed by the president. The new law will slash subsidies to lenders and raise interest rates on loans taken out by parents.

Lawmakers already had approved a steep increase in interest rates for Stafford loans, used by nearly 10 million students each year. Both rate increases take effect July 1.

Jessica Pierce, a senior at UC Santa Cruz who has Stafford loans, said she was outraged by the changes approved by Congress.

\"They\'re trying to balance the budget on the backs of students,\" said Pierce, who chairs the university\'s student union assembly.
The higher interest rates come as many students and parents are already struggling to cope with rising tuition costs. Department of Education figures suggest that at least 400,000 qualified students do not enroll in four-year colleges each year because of financial barriers.

The average debt of college graduates has jumped by 50 percent over the last decade, according to the Project on Student Debt, a nonprofit advocacy group. But for the last several years, low interest rates have helped students cushion the blow and reduce their monthly payments.

Education policy experts said the new cuts in subsidies to lenders and changes to interest rates will result in greater borrowing costs for many students and parents.

Students with Stafford loans, the most common type of federal loan, who have locked in variable rates as low as 4.7 percent this year will face higher monthly payments when those loans shift to a fixed rate of 6.8 percent in July.

The move to a fixed rate was first approved by Congress in 2002 with bipartisan support and the backing of many lenders and student groups, who believed the change would shield students from even higher variable rates. But now many students and parents oppose the change, fearing it will increase their monthly payments.

Mike Rau, whose 20-year-old daughter, Lisa, is a sophomore at San Francisco State University, is worried she will end up paying thousands of dollars more in interest on her Stafford loans.

\"When she gets out of school and starts making payments, instead of it taking four years to pay off her loans it will take five or six years,\" said Rau, who is helping his daughter pay for college. \"It saddles them with more debt for longer in their lives.\"

Lisa Rau, who is studying creative writing, communications and philosophy, is trying to save a portion of each paycheck from her 18-hour-a-week work-study job. But she is concerned that higher monthly interest payments will limit her options after college.

\"It might have an impact on whether I go to grad school,\" she said. \"If I don\'t have the money and I\'m trying to pay off a lot of these loans and the interest rates are going up, that might be out of the question.\"

Financial aid experts said the move to a fixed interest rate will be painful for many borrowers in the short term, but could help students if variable rates continue to climb. As recently as the 2000-2001 academic year, the variable rate for Stafford loans exceeded 6.8 percent.

\"The argument for fixed rates is that they are predictable for students and predictable for the government,\" said Sandy Baum, a senior policy analyst for the College Board and an economics professor at Skidmore College. But at a time when rates are still relatively low, \"the idea that students are paying a higher rate than the market rate is a very unappealing one,\" she said.

As part of the new bill, Congress also increased the interest rate on loans paid by parents. Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students, better known as PLUS loans, had been scheduled to rise from the current rate of 6.1 percent to a fixed rate of 7.9 percent.

But lawmakers, seeking greater savings in the budget package, boosted the rate even higher, to 8.5 percent. The change is likely to make the loans less attractive to many parents.

\"The question for parents is: Is it better to take out a PLUS loan or is it better to take out a home equity loan?\" Baum said. \"They need to look at all their options.\"

The changes will have broad consequences for colleges in the Bay Area. At UC Berkeley, 8,400 undergraduate students and 3,500 graduate students have borrowed money to pay for college using Stafford loans. Parents of 2,100 undergraduates are receiving PLUS loans.

Cheryl Resh, UC Berkeley\'s director of financial aid, plans to e-mail students this spring with advice on how to cope with the changes. She is already urging students to consider consolidating their loans before July 1 to lock in a lower interest rate.

\"I\'m hoping that parents of students who are here right now are going to help their students take advantage of consolidating at a time when there are still some very good rates out there,\" Resh said.

Barbara Hubler, director of financial aid at San Francisco State University, said she and other college administrators were disappointed that Congress in recent years has not boosted funding for Pell Grants -- which are awards, not loans -- to help students struggling to pay for college.

\"We know that across the (California State University system) more students are reaching the maximum on their federal direct loans and are having to take out more money from private lenders,\" Hubler said. \"That is another drawback. Those are not subsidized by the government. ... It just means more money and another lender they will have to pay back when they get out of school.\"

Supporters of the new law said it contains some provisions to help students. Congress raised the Stafford loan limits to allow students to borrow more in their first two years in college, although the total they can borrow remains at $23,000. The measure also will phase out the 3 percent origination fees for Stafford loans, although some lenders already have been discounting the fees.

The bill was narrowly passed by Congress because of concerns over the $39 billion in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, student loans and other programs. In December, Vice President Dick Cheney cast a tie-breaking vote to pass it in the Senate. The House passed the bill Feb. 1 by just two votes.

The new law has been a political liability for Republicans in Congress and the White House. During a question-and- answer session at Kansas State University in January, Bush was asked by sophomore Tiffany Cooper why the government was cutting $12 billion from student loan programs.

\"I was just wondering how is that supposed to help our futures?\" she asked.

Bush responded: \"Actually, I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We are not cutting money out of it.\"

The $12 billion will come largely from trimming the profits made by lenders on student loans and raising the rates on parent borrowers, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Democrats said the money should have been used to lower interest rates and increase Pell Grants instead of being diverted to the federal Treasury. Student groups claimed the changes were mostly aimed at paying for $70 billion in tax cuts.

\"Some people will describe it as paying down the deficit,\" said Luke Swarthout, a higher education associate for the Public Interest Research Group. \"If you look at how the reconciliation process started, it becomes clear this is, in fact, a down payment on a series of tax cuts.\"
Increasing costs of higher education

Starting July 1, the cost of student loans for students and their families is scheduled to rise because of changes approved by Congress and President Bush. Among them:

-- Students who have been paying variable interest rates of 4.7 percent (for in-school students) to 5.3 percent (for college graduates) for their federal Stafford loans will now pay a fixed rate of 6.8 percent. The change, first approved by Congress in 2002, will affect nearly 10 million students who receive Stafford loans each year. An average college student who graduates with $17,500 in student loans will pay an additional $1,600 in interest over 10 years by switching from a 5.3 percent variable rate to a 6.8 percent fixed rate.

-- Interest rates for loans taken out by parents will jump from a variable rate of 6.1 percent to a fixed rate of 8.5 percent cent under the bill passed by Congress last month. About 800,000 parents each year take out the federal loan, called the PLUS loan. A parent who took out $10,000 in PLUS loans will pay an additional $1,500 over 10 years in interest by switching to an 8.5 percent fixed rate.

-- Loan limits for freshmen will be raised from $2,625 to $3,500, and for sophomores from $3,500 to $4,500. But the total amount a student can borrow through the program will stay the same at $23,000.

-- Loan limits for professional and graduate students will be raised from $10,000 to $12,000. Graduate students will now be eligible for PLUS loans.

-- Student borrowers will no longer be able to consolidate their loans while they are in school, and they won\'t be able to consolidate their loans with their spouse\'s loans.

-- The 3 percent origination fee for loans will be phased out gradually by 2010. But a separate 1 percent loan guaranty fee will be included.

-- The Department of Education will offer two new grants: Academic Competitiveness grants of $750 for freshmen and $1,300 for sophomores, and SMART grants for juniors and seniors of $4,000. Applicants must be full-time students and eligible for Pell Grants.
Advice from financial aid experts

Here are some strategies financial aid experts suggest for holding down student loan costs when new interest rate increases start this summer:

-- Consider consolidating student loans before July 1, when the higher interest rates kick in. \"Being able to consolidate and lock in a low interest rate is always a good thing for students to do,\" said Cheryl Resh, director of financial aid at UC Berkeley.

-- Parents should look into the option of a home equity loan -- it may be cheaper than a PLUS loan when the rate goes up to 8.5 percent. \"The interest on home equity loans is tax deductible,\" said Sandy Baum, a senior policy analyst for the College Board. \"There are some people who can deduct interest on education loans, but not everyone.\"

-- Shop around among loan providers: Some lenders are waiving origination fees, others are not. The interest rates are set on federal loans, but the terms of the loan are often very different. And students should avoid taking on too much debt. \"People have to be more cautious about their borrowing levels,\" Baum said. \"You should never borrow the maximum amount you can afford. You should always give yourself some leeway.\"

Sources: Chronicle staff, Department of Education, Public Interest Research Group, United States Student Association

E-mail Zachary Coile at zcoile@sfchronicle.com.

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Bush Proposes Significant Medicare Cuts - Republican Opposition

by Congressman John M. McHugh

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. John M. McHugh (R-NY) is collecting the support of his Republican colleagues in an effort to oppose significant cuts to Medicare proposed last month by President Bush. The fiscal year 2007 budget plan proposes to reduce Medicare spending by a total of $36 billion over five years.
\"In New York State, this would mean cuts of nearly $770 million for our hospital-based health care providers - hospitals, health care and nursing facilities, and home health agencies that provide critical services to the elderly and populations that cannot afford health care on their own,\" McHugh said. \"In my own 23rd Congressional District, these cuts would mean the loss of more than $16 million in Medicare payments over the next five years. Frankly, our hospitals and health care facilities can ill afford to sustain these cuts and continue to provide all of the services that our communities both need and deserve.\"

Healthcare Association of New York State President Daniel Sisto said, \"These Medicare cuts would be catastrophic for New York\'s health care providers and our patients. We are thankful for the courage and leadership Congressman McHugh and his Republican colleagues in the House are demonstrating by taking a firm stand against a plan that would jeopardize our ability to provide the quality care our patients deserve.\"

The impact of the proposed cuts on hospitals and hospital-based care alone would be more than $10 billion nationwide. In addition, the plan finds other major sources of savings by eliminating inflation-based Medicare payment increases for skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and hospices, as well as by reducing coverage for patients requiring post-acute care for hip and knee replacement. Currently, 32 percent of the nation\'s hospitals have negative total margins and 7 out of 10 are losing money on Medicare.

\"Our nation, and Congress in particular, faces a major challenge in terms of demonstrating fiscal restraint without jeopardizing critical programs such as Medicare,\" McHugh said. \"It will only become more essential as our Baby Boomers age, and we must be cognizant of future costs. But the impact of these sizeable cuts will be felt far and wide by hospitals, health care providers, and patients across the U.S. who are already stretching scarce resources to the max.\"

Members of the New York Congressional Delegation who thus far have joined McHugh in the effort are Reps. Boehlert, Kelly, King, Kuhl, Sweeney, and Walsh.

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Bush budget plan rattling Congress - Nervous lawmakers are shrinking from the tough pruning amid an election year and a forced hike in the national debt ceiling.

By Andrew Taylor
The Associated Press

Washington - President Bush\'s budget blueprint for next year is nearing its first tests on Capitol Hill, and it\'s clear the plan has many hurdles to overcome.

Nervous lawmakers are flinching from spending cuts proposed by Bush, and as his GOP allies draft plans to implement the budget, election-year politics are driving their decisions.

The first item to be tossed overboard is likely to be Bush\'s proposal for $36 billion in savings from the politically sacrosanct Medicare program for the elderly.
\"On our side of the aisle, in an election year, the message is: \'Can\'t we put this off?\"\' Senate Budget Committee chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said Wednesday of the plan to cut Medicare provider payments.

One item that can\'t be put off much longer is a bill to raise the $8.2 trillion limit on the national debt. Congress must act before lawmakers leave Washington on March 18 for a weeklong recess or else the first- ever default on U.S. obligations could occur.

Gregg and his House Budget Committee counterpart, Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, have tentatively scheduled committee votes on the budget next week

Both men are torn between the demands of conservatives for spending cuts and the reluctance of politically vulnerable Republicans from swing districts and states to cast risky votes to cut popular programs.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have yet to act on Bush\'s $92 billion request for emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more hurricane relief.

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Lott on Low-Income Heating Pleas: \"I thought we were having global warming.\"

Monday, March 06, 2006
Bob Geiger

How cruel and indifferent is Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi?

With a bipartisan alliance that included Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed and moderate Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine arguing passionately in favor of badly-needed emergency funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Lott took to the microphone to give his take on providing warm homes to the elderly and disabled.

"What is it we are not going to give people for free? Is there any limit? Is there any limit to the amount of money?" asked Lott, adding snidely "I thought we were having global warming."
The occasion was Senate debate and a roll call vote last week on $1 billion in funding for LIHEAP, which has been woefully under-funded since falling under the knife of Bush-administration budget cuts. LIHEAP was authorized by Congress to receive $5.1 billion in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but only $2.2 billion was appropriated in fiscal year 2006 thanks to the president's Deficit Reduction Act.

Despite soaring energy prices that have placed already-struggling people in even more trouble this winter, Team Bush decided in December that it was more important to give more tax cuts to the wealthy than to fund home heating for the poor.

Not to be outdone by Lott's callousness, Republican John Ensign of Nevada, whined about the dangers of increasing the deficit by heating the homes of the elderly, despite having voted for every budget-busting tax cut placed before the Senate.

"There are those of us who believe that deficits are real. They are absolutely real," said Ensign. "People get up and talk about them all the time. But when it comes right down to whether you are willing to make tough choices instead of just increasing the spending and passing that debt on to the next generation, they aren\'t willing to offer other spending cuts so that we are not increasing the deficit."

Fortunately, warmer hearts prevailed and the Snowe-sponsored legislation (S. 2320) passed Thursday by a vote of 66-31, with most Republicans voting against it.

"The current low-income fuel assistance program has not had an increase in real dollar terms since 1983," said Snowe, who has voted with the Democrats on every previous attempt to fund the program. "Let there be no mistake about the fact that this program is vital. It is significant. It is essential to so many of the families in my State and across the country. The urgency of this legislation has escalated to an emergency."

Snowe's colleague from Maine, Republican Susan Collins, supported the legislation in more real-life terms.

"I want my colleagues to understand exactly what is at stake here," said Collins. "Early Tuesday morning, my State suffered a terrible tragedy--three people, including a woman and her 10-year-old son, died when their house caught fire and burned to the ground. There was the most deadly fire in Maine in 6 years. They lived in Limestone, ME, a town in northern Maine. On the night of the fire, temperatures were below zero. The family had run out of heating oil, and as a result, was using wood stoves to provide the heat. According to the firefighters, the fire started near one of the wood stoves in the kitchen. This is literally a matter of life and death."

Jack Reed and Democrat John Kerry tried on many occasions in 2005 to pass more ambitious LIHEAP funding measures – for $3.1 billion and $2.9 billion – but were shot down each time by the GOP. While the measure passed last week must still go to the House for approval, it appears that having Republican sponsorship and a much lower price tag might allow some help to get to the needy before winter ends.

Said Reed in a powerful argument for the bill's passage: "We have a chance to help people, a last chance to help people this year who are literally freezing. It we do not take it, shame on us."

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Bush and the bomb

Saturday March 4, 2006
The Guardian

Last-ditch nuclear talks between Iran and the European Union\'s big three did not go well yesterday, breaking up shortly after they began in Vienna.

That was not surprising since there had been an impasse in negotiations for weeks now. But it was more than just an unfortunate coincidence that the session was held a day after George Bush, visiting New Delhi, struck a landmark deal allowing India to develop peaceful nuclear energy while staying outside the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), the world\'s most important legal barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons.

This smacks of double standards that will make it hard to hold the line on this issue and gives some substance to the charge, voiced by an angry President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that opposition to Iran\'s nuclear ambitions - which he claims are peaceful - is politically motivated. Next week this potentially disastrous confrontation is likely to move to the UN security council.
India of course, is not Iran, and the US is not alone in wooing the world\'s largest democracy or in piling on the rhetoric about shared values. Outside the capital, Mr Bush spent most time in Hyderabad, the country\'s Silicon Valley, symbol of its increasingly close integration into the global economy and home to high-earning outsourced call centres and software exporters. Nor is India in the same league as neighbouring Pakistan. This US ally in the \"war on terror\" - which the president is visiting today following an ominous suicide bombing attack on the US consulate in Karachi - has also acquired nuclear weapons without ever signing the NPT. But Pakistan has a far worse record on proliferation and is suspected of selling known-how to Iran. The US is now treating India like its uniquely special ally Israel, also outside the NPT, which maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear capacity and is believed to have 200 warheads.

Part of the rationale for the agreement is helping to reduce the dependence of India\'s booming economy on oil and thus cut greenhouse gas emissions. Another element is accepting a fait accompli which is likely to benefit a US nuclear industry that is keen to sell fuel and reactor components. The hard-fought terms means that 14 of India\'s 22 reactors will be placed under scrutiny; military ones will not. The military will also retain control of fast-breeder reactors, highly efficient producers of the plutonium needed for warheads - whose numbers could rise from an estimated 50 today to 300-400 in a decade. That is a stunning reversal after 30 years of efforts to deny India nuclear technology, including sanctions when it conducted a nuclear test in 1998.

The US has defended this volte-face in terms of realpolitik and shared values, while China (a \"big five\" nuclear power under the NPT) is clearly another key, common factor. In return, Washington has demanded Indian support for UN moves against Iran - causing problems from the Indian left and Muslims for prime minister Manmohan Singh. But above all else it is impossible to ignore the disastrous effect this deal is likely to have on global non-proliferation efforts. This is of a piece with other aspects of the US administration\'s cavalier approach to internationally agreed standards on legal issues or the environment. Mr Bush has been strongly criticised for failing to sell his policy and may face problems in Congress before the deal is approved.

India is a democracy, as is Israel; but both exist in violent and suspicious neighbourhoods. This agreement is about breaking the rules and expecting others to abide by them - or, as one critic put it nicely \"preaching temperance from a barstool\". It sends a message to Iran and North Korea that the US will only withhold nuclear technology from regimes it dislikes. Most Indians are delighted. But there may be some thoughtful smiles in Tehran and Pyongyang as the wider implications sink in.

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Bush in India: Another covert deal, sans brouhaha

Rukhmini Punoose
March 4, 2006

When President Bush announced on Friday that Americans would soon be eating India's famed mangoes, he failed to explain why.
Alongside the more flaunted nuclear deal, the US and India have also fleshed out another, more covert deal. That of a 1000-crore project called the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agricultural Research and Education.

The project, touted by Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the "second green revolution", was informally launched this morning when the President visited Hyderabad's Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University, where he time in the various research labs including the pesticide and biochemical labs.

While both administrations have been extremely tight lipped about this deal, the seeds of the project were sown in July last when the PM visited the US. It was decided then to create a body that would identify collaborative scientific research, development and commercialisation, promote emerging technologies and energise trade links between the two nations over a three-year period. The board will comprise eight members from each country, representing academia, government and the private sector.

The university Bush visited, is famed for growing 302 different varieties of seeds and is recognised as pioneers in new rice growing and sustaining technologies. They have single-handedly pushed Andhra Pradesh to the forefront of seed growth and research in India.

"We showed him the cutting edge research we are doing on increasing productivity of various crops," said Dr. M. Ganesh, principal scientist and head of the Agriculture School. "The President also spent time understanding the various types technological and natural methods we incorporate here."

One of the chief drivers for the project in the government\'s eyes is that the Indian agricultural sector desperately needs a shot in the arm. There has been a sizeable imbalance in the growth of this sector, with the growth rate ranging from 5 per cent per annum in Punjab to 1 per cent in Assam.

However, some agricultural scientists believe that the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative could spell disaster for indegenous research and that the Center is taking a myopic view of things.

"There is a complete blackout at the top about what's going wrong. This is the worst agrarian crises since Independence," says Devinder Sharma an agricultural scientist, who is also a food policy analyst on the forum for biotechnology and food security.

Sharma says the Initiative\'s board is dominated by large multinationals like Walmart and Monsanto, who are all set to determine the Indian agricultural research agenda.

"The American IPR regime offers patent holders rights to life form, plants and seeds, so there is also the threat of losing rights to indigenous genetic resources. There is also the additional fear that India could become the dumping ground for all the genetically modified crops that there are no takers for in Europe and many other parts of the world," Sharma says.

MS Swaminathan, the father of the green revolution and an honorary member of the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative, feels that no one can affect our farmers unless we are willing.

He adds that he hasn't seen the documents of the agreement yet but says that the country is facing a real crisis.

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Two standards question for Bush

By Jonathan Beale
BBC state department correspondent

In diplomacy, it is often hard to achieve tangible results, especially on a three-day visit.

Therefore, President Bush\'s South Asia tour will be viewed as a success. India and the US reached a landmark deal on civilian nuclear cooperation.

More than that, the agreement marked a new bond of trust.

After mutual Cold War suspicions, the US now sees India as an important ally - a partner to spread shared values of prosperity, democracy and freedom.
Hard road

President Bush has still got to convince a sceptical US Congress that the nuclear deal is a good one.

Politicians on Capitol Hill question whether it will undermine international efforts to tackle the spread of nuclear weapons.

Remember, India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and its military programme will still be hidden away from international inspections.

Some US politicians say that India is being rewarded for bad behaviour. Others fear the deal will send out entirely the wrong signal to Iran.

And President Bush\'s arguments so far have not been convincing.

He believes that helping India with its civilian nuclear programme will ease pressure on diminishing oil supplies. Well, not for a long time yet.

He also has to convince the international community that the US was right to bend the rules just for India.


The favouritism being shown to India is making other countries in the region wary.

Pakistan\'s President Musharraf has already asked for the same kind of help and been rebuffed. The US essentially says Pakistan cannot yet be trusted.

China - the major power in the region - will watch with some suspicion as to how the Indo-US relationship develops. Is India now a rival? How will Beijing now challenge America\'s influence?

Even though President Bush can look back on this visit with some satisfaction, he will also have been fully aware of the controversy he still creates.

In India, tens of thousands demonstrated ahead of his arrival. In Pakistan the police were swift to clamp down on protesters. His first visit to Afghanistan had to be carried out in secrecy.

President Bush may be a friend to those countries\' leaders - but he is still hated by many of their people. American foreign policy is still defined by its war on terror. One swallow does not make a summer.

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Photos: Anti-Bush rallies in India

Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 16:24 GMT

Tens of thousands of people across India have been protesting against US President George W Bush\'s visit.

In Delhi, some 50,000 protesters, many of them Muslims, took to the streets, denouncing Mr Bush as a \"global terrorist\".

In the Indian-administered part of Kashmir, demonstrators chanted \"Bush Go Home!\", burning US and European flags.

Many said they came to protest against Mr Bush\'s policies, especially the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Hyderabad and other cities, rallies were organised by left-wing parties and workers\' groups.

There were minor scuffles between protesters and riot police in the city of Calcutta.

Security has been raised around a hotel in Delhi, where Mr Bush was due to stay during his three-day visit.

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The Charade of Non-Proliferation

by Rodrigue TremblayMarch 5, 2006

The competition to dominate the global market for uranium-enrichment and reprocessing technology has intensified in the last few months, while countries such as Russia, France and the United States, the \"nuclear weapons states\" (NWS), (along with Great Britain and China), vie to supply Iran and India and other countries with \"peaceful purposes\" nuclear technology. But how to sell and export nuclear technology to produce energy for civilian use, when everybody knows such technology has important military applications? Could there be a fundamental conflict between the economic and political interests of exporting nations? Could there also be some hypocrisy and even some bad faith on the part of a few governments?

Mind you, this is not a new problem.
The International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA), for example, was created in 1957 by the United Nations, with the primary purpose of containing the number of countries involved in producing nuclear weapons. The Treaty on Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was specifically introduced a decade later, in 1968, to formally commit countries to respect the objective of non-proliferation, while simultaneously attempting to disarm existing nuclear stockpiles without blocking the production of peaceful nuclear energy. Indeed, the Treaty contained three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology. -This meant that non-nuclear nations accepted not to develop nuclear weapons on their own, while the existing so-called nuclear powers committed themselves not to \"induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to ... acquire nuclear weapons.\"

In 1975, in a parallel agreement, some 44 nuclear-supplier states voluntarily accepted to coordinate their controls regarding the export of nuclear-related materials, equipment, and technology. NSG members, including the United States, are expected to forgo nuclear trade with governments that do not subject themselves to the International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards regime, while the IAEA has the responsibility for verifying that these countries\' exports are not used by the importing state for any military purpose.

The fundamental philosophy behind this collective effort of non-proliferation is an implicit commitment on the part of \"nuclear weapons states\" that they will not use their privileged position to pressure or bully other nations. In particular, the five main nuclear countries have undertaken not to use their nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear country, except in response to a nuclear attack. That is the reason why more than 170 countries are party to the treaty.

However, since the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq, and since the Bush-Cheney administration has adopted a policy of preemptive use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states as an integral part of its global military strategy, a nuclear weapons arms race is going full speed ahead among smaller nations, anxious to protect themselves from foreign interference. Great Britain and France have also indicated that they may use nuclear weapons in response to a non-conventional attack by \"rogue states\". -The introduction of such preemptive-strike doctrines and the adoption of external threatening postures in the affairs of sovereign states have considerably reduced the legitimacy and logic of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation.

What is even more problematic is the fact that some countries have not signed the NP Treaty (Israel, India, Pakistan) and have developed nuclear weapons programs without being subjected to sanctions, while other countries trying to do the same thing (North Korea and Iran) have been threatened with pressures and retaliation. This smacks of a double standard and has considerably reduced confidence in the fairness of interntional agreements.

What\'s more, the Bush-Cheney administration, on March 2, 2006, seemed to \"reward\" India, (a country which exploded a nuclear device in 1974 and which has refused to sign the NP Treaty) when it co-signed a nuclear technology sharing agreement. With this agreement, the U.S. has sent another confusing message to other countries anxious to tap nuclear energy, either for civilian or military use. By agreeing to supply nuclear reactors, fuel and expertise to help India produce larger quantities of plutonium, without insisting that India sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, George W. Bush has, in effect, violated if not destroyed the 1968 Treaty.

This recalls his unilateral abrogation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, in early 2001 and his undermining of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty with his policy of placing weapons in space. There seems to be a pattern here with Bush and his circle of risk-taking advisors. -Rather than showing wisdom and leadership and convening international conferences to improve on older treaties, the Bush-Cheney administration has an inclination to abrogate treaties on its own and thus create legal and diplomatic voids.

That is why, in The New American Empire (p. 171), I referred to this administration as some sort of a \"wrecking crew\" of international treaties and institutions. The Bush-Cheney administration\'s \"go-it-alone\" policies in a complex world have been, and continue to be, an abject failure. After their departure, somebody will have to rebuild the entire international system of cooperation from scratch, a system which has been irresponsibly dismantled in only a very few short years.

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Bush nukes legal and ethical constraints - How does U.S. go after Iran after sweet deal with India, asks Haroon Siddiqui

Toronto Star
5 Mar 06

Eye-Ran. That\'s what the Americans call Iran - pronounced Ee-Ra\'an. This is a minor matter, compared to how the U.S. is bullying Iran over its nuclear program, even while rewarding India for committing worse transgressions of international nuclear rules.

All nation-states operate in their own interests, of course. But American disregard for the law, and the moral and political inconsistency of its foreign policy, has hit a new low under George W. Bush.
On Thursday, he signed an historic nuclear deal with India - \"a Santa Claus giveaway,\" said the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace - with little or no regard for its impact on the effort to contain Iran and North Korea.

Friday, he was in Pakistan rejecting a plea from his hosts that, they, too, be given access to civilian nuclear technology, since they are in the same boat as India, having developed the bomb on the sly and refusing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Bush responds, correctly, that India, a transparent democracy, has not had an A.Q. Khan-like nuclear bazaar.

So you would think that the president - an advocate of democracy in the Muslim world - would be leaning hard on Gen. Pervez Musharraf to hasten civilian rule, rather than gathering more power in his hands.

Yet Bush only offered lame rhetoric: Yes, Musharraf must move towards democracy but ...

The president needs the general in the war on terrorism, especially hunting down Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Bush needs India even more, for a host of reasons, including its booming economy, which U.S. businesses want to tap.

Hence the nuclear concessions. Ignoring both U.S. and international law, Bush has promised India access to high-end technology and a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel.

In return, India gets to keep its nuclear arms program. It will have to open up only 14 of its 22 reactors for inspection. The rest it can keep secret, including a fast-breeder reactor that produces the plutonium for bombs. It can even build more breeders.

There is, however, an argument that, rather than a gift from Santa Claus, this is a tough bargain. It opens up two-thirds of India\'s secret program to inspection. Which is why the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear inspection arm of the UN, welcomes it.

But the lesson nuke-seeking nations can draw is clear: As the late Z.A. Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan, once famously said, eat grass if you must to free up the resources to develop the bomb, and the world will, eventually, embrace you.

\"With one simple move, the president has blown a hole in the nuclear rules that the world has been playing by,\" said Representative Edward Markey, the leading critic of the deal in Congress.

How do you now go after Iran?

Unlike India, Pakistan or Israel, it signed the non-proliferation treaty. It has not violated the treaty, which entitles it to develop nuclear energy.

What Iran is guilty of is cheating - hiding some aspects of its program - and a lot of fiery anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric. But its cheating has been minuscule compared to Israel\'s, India\'s and Pakistan\'s.

That\'s why the Atomic Energy Agency report, which goes before its board of governors tomorrow, is so mild: The agency cannot give Iran a clean bill of health but it can find no proof of a nuclear weapons program.

\"India is more guilty than Iran could be,\" says Dilip Hiro, a London-based expert on Iran. \"North Korea is more guilty than Iran could be.\"

All this is awkward enough, but there\'s more.

Trying to sell the India deal to a skeptical Congress, Bush says that giving India more nuclear power will \"take the pressure off the global demand for energy.\"

This is precisely what Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford said in the 1970s to rationalize their plan to sell the Shah of Iran nuclear power plants. \"But, flush with a bulging exchequer, thanks to rising oil prices from 1973 and 1974, he ignored U.S. corporations and awarded the first contract for a nuclear plant to Siemens of West Germany,\" wrote Hiro in The Iranian Labyrinth (Nation Books, 2005).

One is left with no other conclusion than that the U.S. basically does what it wants and tries to rationalize it by dictating the media mantra of the day.

None of this should come as a surprise. After all, the U.S. was once a great friend of Saddam Hussein.

Haroon Siddiqui writes Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiq@thestar.ca.

Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited

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Ilan Pappe on the Israel-Palestine conflict

March 3rd, 2006

Last October, when Prof. Ilan Pappe was visiting the SF Bay Area, he was interviewed by Steve Zeltzer for his Labor Video Project cable TV program. This is the audio for the 57 minute program in which Pappe talks about the history of Zionism, the Palestinian Nakba, Israeli-Palestinian labor relations, the need for a one state solution, divestment, and the support of the Israeli public for the Iraq war. You can download or listen to the program by clicking on http://www.radio4all.net/proginfo.php?id=16276 and scroll down to the bottom right hand corner of the page.
My name is Ilan Pappe, I am a lecturer at Haifa University, in Israel. I am a long time activist, for peace, human rights, civil rights; basically, an historian who wrote several books on the Arab-Israeli conflict, focusing particularly on the 1948 events and their impact on the current situation.

Q: So why did you decide to become an expert, or study the question of the Palestinians and the formation of Israel?

I realized at the very early stage that the research of history in the cases of people like myself, or as anyone knows in Israel and Palestine, is not just an intellectual pursuit; that the reality, the realities of conflict are informed by what happened in the past. And therefore I thought that not only historians, professional historians, but the society at large should look deeply into the past if it wishes to understand the present better. And I also understood that the way history is taught, being taught and researched in Israeli academia is very loyal to the Zionist ideology, and it was very clear for me, from the early stage in my professional carrier that writing history books, and teaching history courses about the Palestine past, is also a political act, an ideological act, not just an intellectual act.

Ever since then I am still convinced that my way of activism, which connects my professional history of writing, and my political activity in the present, is tightly closed together and I think this is why I still insist also on continuing researching the past, and being active in the present.

Q: When you began to study this, I mean, what conclusions did you come to about, about the state of Israel and the situation of the Palestinians?

I think what came out is something which I think many, many Palestinians before me realized, but for me it took this individual journey into the past to understand that. I was taught as an Israeli academic that there is a very complex story there, and in fact what you find out is that this is a very simple story, a story of dispossession, of colonization, of occupation, of expulsion. And the more I go into it, the clearer the story becomes, even it becomes simpler, and it also brought me to think of the state of Israel, and the Jewish majority in it, in very much the same terms that I used to think about places such as South Africa, and the white supremacy regime there. So I think this is the natural, main conclusion.

Q: The theory of Zionism was that if Jews had their own state that would be a solution to anti-Semitism, and that they will need a state to really defend Jews. What is the reality today?

Well, the reality is first of all that if you create a Jewish state, even if, and I will come back to it in a second, even if a Jewish state is the only solution for anti-Semitism, definitely it cannot be a solution if that state is being built at the expense of a native population. I mean, the fact that in 1948 the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homeland, dispossessed, did not allow Israel to become a safe place. Or the fact that the Zionists\' forefathers decided to create a Jewish state in the midst of the Arab world was also not a good formula to insure security. So the timing and the location of the project of building a Jewish state by itself had the seeds of insecurity. So it could not really solve the problem of anti-Semitism, and as we know, it, in many ways, increased anti-Semitism after the Second World War.

But even more than that, I think that one of the major conclusions of Jews who were not Zionists, after the second world war, was that Jews should take a very active part in building a world where not only anti-Semitism, but basically racism and ideologies of that kind, would not have hold of the people\'s minds and hearts. And I think this is why you saw, after second world war, many Jews trying to be active in movements such as the civil rights movement, in the socialist movement, and so on; exactly motivated by this belief that the right answer to anti-Semitism was not Zionism but rather an international moral movement.

Of course, there are different versions. One can do it from the liberal side, one can do it from the socialist side, but I think basically it is the same idea. However, I think that these alternatives were weakened by the hold Zionism took over the Jewish story, if you want. Or the Jewish representation in the period after the second world war.

Q: How has Zionism, the ideology of Zionism, affected Israel, and how does the Israeli working class see itself, if you want?

There is a parallel, not the right word, I am looking for. The ethnic origin of the working class in Israel is very distinct. Most of the working class peoples in Israel, ever since the creation of the state, are/were either Jews coming from Arab countries, or Palestinians. These were Palestinians who were not expelled in 1948 and became the Arab minority inside Israel. This correspondence between the ethnic origin of people and their class, socio-economic position in society, informs the role in the state no less than the class-consciousness, so to speak.

So, on the one hand, it was easy, relatively easy, to take the Palestinian working class and to enroll them for instance to the Israeli Communist Party, which was the most popular party among the Palestinians in Israel in the 60s and the 70s. On the other hand, a big failure was with the Jews coming from Arab countries, because they will be asked that their only ticket to be integrated into the Jewish society was to be anti-Arab. And they chose nationalism, nationalism rather than socialism, as the best way of improving their position in life. That meant that the socialist left, so to speak, in Israel, was very weakened by the fact that it really only consisted of Arabs and not of any significant numbers of Jews.

Q: What has been the recent struggle that you\'ve been engaged in at the University -why don\'t you talk about how that began, and why that happened?

I should begin by saying that I think the very important, precondition for any genuine reconciliation in Israel and Palestine is an Israel-Jewish ability to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing of 1948. I think the Israelis have a mechanism of denial that educated a whole society to totally obliterate from its memory the terrible crimes that the Jews had committed against the Palestinians in 1948, and even afterwards. I am totally convinced that such an acknowledgement, very much like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, is a precondition for any genuine reconciliation, and therefore my main struggle in the Israeli universities is to allow at least the universities to become a source where people can learn about that denied past.

I encourage students to go and research 1948, and one of these students in his research exposed an unknown massacre in 1948, which was another important brick in the story that we are trying to build. He was a very brave student, most of the students of mine and of others do not dare to write about 1948, and he was disqualified for that. And, I struggled against the university, and because of my struggle against it, and my other political activities, which include the call for boycott and divestment against Israel, the university tried to expel me in May, 2002. And had it not been for the international uproar, they probably would have succeeded, despite the fact that I have a tenured position.

I think this is a bad sign, but it is also a good sign. It is a good sign that there is a feeling in the Israeli academia that if someone tells the truth about what happened in the past, people are not stupid and they are not morally corrupted, and they will do something. And I think the major Israeli struggle is to prevent people like myself to have access to the public, and the main struggle of people like myself is to find alternative ways to get to the people. And for some reasons, which are not always positive, but that is the reality. Israeli Jews, like American Jews, would rather hear it from an Israeli Jew than from a Palestinian. Because what I am saying, the Palestinians have been saying from many years, but for understandable reasons it is much easier for the Israeli public to hear me.

Q: What was the massacre that the student of yours described? And what was the excuse or justification for his disqualification?

Right. The massacre was in the village of Tantura, which is south of Haifa, and the largest massacre in the war. The Israeli army used to occupy the Arab villages in the way that usually left one flank opened so that the people could be expelled through that side. In several cases, like in the case of Tantura, this did not happen. They made a mistake, it was not on purpose, and they closed the village from all four flanks. One of the reasons, on the west the village was on the sea, and the Israeli navy blocked the village. So in situations like these, the Israeli soldiers used to massacre the people rather than cleanse them. And about 230 people, mostly young men and middle-aged men, were massacred and the women and children were expelled to Jordan. That is what he exposed.

Why was he disqualified? The student could not find enough archival evidence, because the Israeli army was trying to hide the events. So he did something, which we call a professional historiography, a oral history. So he went to interview both Jewish soldiers who participated in the massacre, and Palestinian survivors. And both confirmed that the massacre took place. Now, they found six places in his master dissertation where he did not, when they checked his tapes of the interviews, what was said in the tapes did not accurately correspond to what he transcribed. But none of these sections of the interviews made any difference to the overall conclusion. And as we all know, even very experienced professors, if you check them very thoroughly with their sources, there will be some discrepancies between their sources and what happened. And on the basis of that, he was disqualified whereas students and veteran professors, who had many more known mistakes in their works, would never be challenged in such a way.

Q: So that was a pretext?

Oh, yes, definitely that was a pretext. The academic authorities wanted to send a message, and they succeeded, unfortunately. They sent a message to graduate students: don\'t touch that subject because you are going to hurt your career chances.

Q: So this is a forbidden subject?

Yes, this is a forbidden subject in Israel. Any many of my students, who were in the midst on working on 1948, after this incident, decided to change their subject.

Q: And on what basis did they try to expel you from your position?

Well, they had just a long list of accusations, but if I summarize it, it boils down to three main issues:

One, is my accusation against the university in this affair, where I accused the university of moral corruption, and they said that this was disloyalty to the institute and they found in the context a clause which allows them to expel someone on the basis of that.

Secondly, I taught against their authorization a course on the 1948 Nakba, the catastrophe, the Palestinian catastrophe. That was another reason. And thirdly, my support for the idea of boycotting and sanctioning and divestment against Israel.

They learned in the context that you can bring to court for not being loyal to the state, not only loyal to the institution. So, I think, my trial, my would-be-trial - because the trial eventually did not take place - exposed how undemocratic Israel is when it comes to anyone challenging its Zionist character. It is a democracy in the sense that once you are within the Zionist frame of mind, you can really say what you want, and people even will protect your rights to say this. But once you challenge Zionism itself, the democracy ceases to exist and you are being treated as a traitor.

Q: One of your positions is that you are against the idea of a Jewish state, and when you say that you are not within the framework of a Zionism. Is that what you are talking about?

Yes, yes, definitely. Its sort of a bizarre thing, because, as I say, instead of Israel we should have a democratic secular state, this is tantamount to treason in Israel. This is regarded as treason. But on the other hand it is very difficult to take someone within the Israeli context to court and say: \"this guy is dangerous because he is for democracy and secularism.\" And I think, they have been lying for so many years that the indoctrination was so effective that Jews will never come to that conclusion, and once we are there, they found it very difficult to deal with it.

You know, when a Palestinian says he is for a secular democratic state, they will say \"Yes, and they don\'t mean it, we know exactly what they want.\" But when someone who is a product of the Israeli-Jewish system says it, they are going to check the production line !! How did it happen? That\'s an abberation and I think they are totally bewildered by that.

Q: And what was the response of the media in Israel to your trial, and their efforts to expel you from your position at the university?

Well, unfortunately, the media, especially in the last five years, was not really supportive of any critical approach and it\'s very tragic that both the media and the academia, which are supposed to be the most critical segments in a secular society, as against religious institutions, cease to play that role.

I remember that they never played it, but definitely in the last five or ten years they are totally conformist and they support the government; very few voices of dissent, and I was only attacked in the media.

Q: You were on national television?

Yes, but I learnt very soon that the only reason I am invited - so I stopped doing it - was to stage a public trial against me. Nobody gave me a chance to speak, they would bring me to a studio to do a kind of a public trial. So I understood it was an ambush and I ceased to go to television studios because it was useless, and they did not allow me to speak.

The encouraging side of the story is the society itself: I got a lot of emails, of letters and phone calls of support from many many Israeli Jews whom I never met before, and even in the town where I live people used to stop and shook my hand. And I have a feeling, because a lot of people are not aware of it, that there is a kind of a terror, and intimidation of the Jews in Israel. They are frightened of saying aloud that they feel because it is such a closed society, that you are nearly ostracized. It is not like America where you can away to some other places, it is a very closed society, and it affects your family, it affects your career if you are doing something, which is easily labeled as treason.

But I think people really felt that I, and others like me, were voicing what they were feeling. For many. many months now, but still they don\'t dare to say now because the price is too high.

Q: What was the role of the Histadrut, the Israeli trade union, and your own union at the university?

Well, it goes back to the history of socialism and Zionism in Palestine, which we have to be aware of. Socialism, in the case of Zionism, and the Histadrut is the main organization that fuses together, these two ideologies, socialism and Zionism. There was a very limited interpretation of socialism; it was really employing socialism as a means in the hand of a colonialist movement. Socialism was used to at best, at best, to co-opt Arab workers, but more often to expel them from the labor market. This is true about the Mandatory period, between 1918 and 1948, and I don\'t think anything changed.

The Histadrut as a general trade union is a body, which does not stand to the workers, or to the unions, but to the Zionist ideology. Without Histadrut, it would have been impossible to colonize the Occupied Territories as a labor market. Without Histadrut it would have been impossible to build the labor market in Israel during the years of occupation in such a way that the Palestinians became really slaves, slave workers rather than equal workers. So, as a union of teachers, or academics, on that level it is even worst. I mean, the Histadrut does not at all dare to take any position against the Occupation, against the government\'s policies. It pays lip service to the idea of social equality, and so on. But it does not really do anything. It is a sad story.

Q: How are Palestinian workers, Arab workers, treated in Israel?

Very unfairly, very unfairly. I mean they suffer from two levels of discrimination. Until the 1980s, they constituted a very important part of the unskilled working labor market, and the skilled worker market, but more in the field of construction and services and so on. To put it more simply, one can say they did all these jobs that most Israeli Jews did not want to perform. But they were badly paid compared to Jewish workers, and there was a kind of institutionalized system that discriminated against them on every level of workers rights, from the salary down to the insurance policies, welfare system and everything. The things got worst in the late 1980s, because in the late 1980s there was a big immigration of Russians into Israel, almost one million.

Some of them were pushed into the labor market to replace the Palestinian workers from the jobs that they were allowed to have. So the on one hand, you had a glass ceiling that did not allow the Palestinian workers to go into the more attractive jobs, so to speak, and since the 1980s even these limited jobs were not available and were given by private and public businesses to Russian immigrants.

Q: So the future, within an Israeli state, for the Palestinians, is not bright?

Not at all. In fact, it is even dangerous. Israel controls the life of two groups of Palestinians: there are the Palestinians citizens inside Israel and there are the Palestinians under Occupation. These are very two different groups. I think the group under Occupation is under grave threat, there is still a very serious possibility that this people will be ethnically cleansed, once again, and that mass killing will be performed against it.

Here we are really talking about almost genocide, in the future. Although I don\'t think this will really happen and I hope that the world will not stand aside. But for the Palestinians in Israel, where this danger is not that imminent, the future means even less rights, social rights, civil rights, human rights, than they have now. They still have limited of these, but it will become worst. The Jewish state will become more ethnic, more racist, more exclusive, and anyone who is not a Jew, or is not regarded as Jew, will suffer from it more in the future than he or she suffers today.

Q: When you began this call for boycott and divestment in Israel, first of all, what kind of support did you get? May be you can talk about England, and the reaction of the government, and the Israeli state?

This I don\'t want to take the credit for it. I did not start it. I think it is very important for people to understand that large segments of the civil society, in the US and in Europe, for many years now, feel that enough is enough with regard to the Israeli policies in Palestine. And I think many good people were waiting for their governments to do it, because all the time there was the talk of the \"peace process,\" the diplomatic effort, and they did not want to disrupt it.

But I think people now realize that the diplomatic effort is helping the Occupation, and is not going to bring an end to the Occupation. And with this realization, there was a lot of energy, especially in Europe, especially in Britain, that people wanted to do something. And they are the ones who brought out the idea of boycott, and similar people in America brought up the idea of divestment; because I think they were veterans of the campaign against South Africa, I think that is where the idea emanated. But when we heard about it in Israel, the most progressive left decided to support it. That support gave a lot of impetus, a lot of encouragement to the people abroad to continue, and when the Palestinian society under Occupation voiced its support for this idea as the best strategy, it really burst out.

In England, a very important group of people belonging to the Association of University Teachers, which is called the AUT, a very important trade union, felt - I think rightly so- that in the campuses of the universities, because you know, England is very close to Israel. Most of the Israelis are Anglophones, they really like England, academics really like to go to England and we have a very good system that allows people to go abroad. Academic institutes encourage people to go abroad, to expand their academic knowledge. And they felt that all these Israelis were coming to the British campuses, for short terms or long terms. They were the experts on the Arab world; they were experts on the human rights and civil rights. I mean the discrepancy between the ideologies they represented, and what they were talking about, was such that it was like having the Israeli embassy taking over the academics in Britain. And they decided, but at least they want to start in England, by an official boycott on anyone who officially represents the Israeli academia.

I don\'t think they wanted to prevent individual Israelis from coming and talking and dialoguing. I think they were right in pointing to the role of the Israeli academia, as being the main spokespersons, spokesmen for the cause. And they passed a motion for boycott, which was accepted. And the Zionist lobby woke up and put a lot of pressure.

Q: What did they do?

They hired a very important law firm in England that charged the AUT executive committee with anti-Semitism if they would continue. Of course, I don\'t think they would have won the case, but you can see the AUT executive committee saying to themselves, it is not worth it, we don\'t want to go, which is a pity, they should have shown more solidarity. But they were really intimidated by this. There was a proper libel suit, and if you know the English law, it is even more difficult to catch someone in England than it is here in Israel. But nonetheless they were intimidated, and even more that they mobilized all the Jewish historians of the Holocaust, and everything. They equated the AUT decision to a decision of the Holocaust denial. This, of course is very stupid, and so on, but it worked on people.

But I must tell you that the AUT people have not given up, they are preparing a new motion, they are trying a new strategy, they are working from one chapter to the other to convince people and the most interesting thing is that the boycott is working, de facto. I mean, the decision of the AUT to retract angered people so much that most of the British members of the AUT actually thought that they did not care whether an official decision was taken or not, they think that it is the right way forward.

Q: Now, the Zionists in the Israeli state, did they have a history of accusing people who are critical of Zionism, of being anti-Semites, or Jews of being self-hating Jews?

Oh yes, I think there are many many chapters from the very beginning of Zionism, from different sources, Jews criticized the idea; it could be from a settler point of view, it could been from an orthodox point of view. I think one of the most telling chapters of this, is the struggle, in a way the unfortunately unsuccessful struggle of Zionism against the Bund in the Jewish international socialist movement in post second world war Europe. As you know, the Jews who survived the Holocaust were in camps, which were called the displaced persons camps. And, in fact, many of the Jewish survivors liked the idea of both the internationalist approach, as we talked about it before, or even the socialist one.

And the Zionists did not only argue with these people, they used a lot of violence. There is a book by an historian, called Yosef Grodzinsky, about this struggle, and in fact what the Zionists did, they recruited young Jews to the Jewish underground, the Haganah, so that these people would not be distracted, and won over by a group of international ideologies, or a group which connected Judaism with an international prospective. And that\'s just one historical example, and you know we have the history of more non-Zionist groups inside Israel, they are being isolated, like Matzpen, who were spied on by the secret services, and later there was the other group that was imprisoned. Definitely, this is something the Zionists are willing to fight with all the force against.

Q: Did you hear about the role of the AFT, American Federation of Teachers, in opposing this boycott?

Yes, I did, and there was also a role played by all kinds of professional associations in the American academia, like the Political Science Association, and so one. And I was not surprised. I did not really think that anyone in the American trade unions, or labor movements, would follow their British colleagues. I think we need a much more, a lot of groundwork here before this will happen. But it really begs these questions, which I hope, that\'s another part of the campaign, which people tend to ignore.
It is not just about stopping money into getting to Israel so that the Occupation can continue. I think it is an educational thing, it is to ask American taxpayers, to ask American workers, to ask American human rights and civil rights activists why the only case in the world where you don\'t voice a clear position, whereas in any other cases you do, is the case of Israel. What makes it so different, and I think the more we will hear the Jews asking these questions, I hope this will convince them that they had it wrong all these years from excluding Israel from the same criteria in which they would judge other cases in the world.

Q: What has been the role of Israel and Zionism, in relation to imperialism?

Well, I think it starts with colonialism, before imperialism. It is very clear that without the adoption of Zionism as a colonialist project by the British Empire, there would not have been a Jewish settlement in Palestine. That\'s very clear. They needed the British military power, political power in order to start the project, that\'s very clear. Without it, it would not have occurred. And then I think that it is fair to say that without serving the American imperialism as a front base, I doubt it whether Israel would have existed or survived. So I think that one of the important lessons the Israelis have still to learn, if they are so closely connected to an empire such as the US, and they are not thinking of any alternative ways of existing within a certain society, or certain area, when the empire will fall, they are likely to fall too. This is something most Israelis do not realize unfortunately.

Q: So the role the US is decisive in keeping Israel?

Oh, yes, absolutely, it is decisive. In any way you look at it, from the financial assistance, not only the grants, but also the loans, from the military assistance, from the diplomatic immunity that America gives Israel at the UN through its veto, voting. And we have seen it in times like the 1973 War, when really the Americans were willing to go to a nuclear war in order to save Israel.

Q: Some supporters of Israel in the US would say it is not fair to compare Israel to the apartheid state of South Africa, and that Israel is a democratic state - what is the relationship of apartheid in South Africa to Israel?

I think like many cases in history, there are similarities and dissimilarities. But I think in a general picture, the similarities are more than the dissimilarities. The apartheid in South Africa was a petty apartheid; it had this abusive side to it which included segregation in buses, services and so one, ways of course of dispossession, tortures and so on. This side of the petty apartheid doesn\'t exist in Israel, there is no segregation on that level. But in many ways, if you include the Occupation inside the apartheid regime in Israel, it is worst than the apartheid in South Africa.

So there are sides to the Israeli apartheid, let\'s say the external side may seen less threatening and more \"democratic\", but the essence of the regime is as bad, if not worst in many ways. And I think the most important thing is the land issue. The basic feature for apartheid in Israel is the issue of land, not allowing Palestinians to have any relations to landownership, land transactions, and so on. Many people don\'t know that the land in Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and because of that it cannot be sold and transacted with non-Jews.

Q: Is that legal?

It\'s legal, it is part of the Israeli constitution in law that 93% of the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. Hence the Palestinians who are 20% of the population have only access to 7% of the land, which is of course where they have also to compete with the money and power of the Jewish private sector. But as far as land, as state-owned land is concerned, the vast majority of it belongs to the state. This is the reason why since 1948 you have hundreds of new Jewish settlements, neighborhoods being constructed and not one new Arab village or neighborhood was built. We are talking about an Arab population that has a natural growth which is three times more than the Jewish one, and yet they are limited into a space in which they are not allowed to expand. That is, I think, the worst side of apartheid in that part of Israel. Of course, the Occupation and the regime of Occupation in the West Bank and in the Gaza strip is definitely worse than an apartheid system.

Q: What is the role of the Jewish National Fund?

Very important. The Jewish National Fund has a double role. A historical role in 1948 in turning the villages and the lands from which the Palestinians were dispossessed, into a Jewish land. This, the major role of this organization was historically to make sure that every land and house, and asset taken from the Palestinian side, is not moved to the state, but is moved to the Jewish people so to speak, so that it can never be re-Arabized, if you want, again.

Today the JNF plays a different role. In a way it continues to play this role in the West Bank, where it is an active government agency that tries to dispossess Palestinians, and take their land and transfer it to Jews. Inside Israel it is a very vast landowner; every land that is owned by the JNF is a land that only Jews can have. For example, in the Galilee, where the JNF owns land, there are many settlements, and the JNF can force the settlement, and forces the settlement not to accept any Arabs into their settlement under that law. It is a very important tool of colonization, in the past and in the present. And in the present it is a kind of custodian of the Jewish character of the land, which has many implications for Palestinians.

Q: So it enforces the apartheid regime?

I would say it is the main agency of apartheid in Israel.

Q: The US is interested in pushing its economic policies, privatization, free trade zones, in the Middle East, and also in Iraq. What is the role of Israel in pursuing these policies and pushing them in the Middle East?

I think it is a double role. One is that the Israeli chiefs of the economy, about ten years ago, decided to install in Israel a very extreme model of a Reaganite economy. That by itself serves a lot of American interests. But more important, I think, is the fact that Israel is playing through the American intervention either in Iraq, but also in countries such as Egypt and the Gulf states, and so on, a very important role in solidifying the capitalist system of a new Middle East. The reason that Israel can play such an important role in such a future is both because it has succeeded in selling itself to the Americans as an Orientalist country. That is to say a country, which knows the Arabs well. So if you want to have business in the Arab world, you\'d better have some Israeli advisors, or you\'d better have your headquarters in Israel because we understand you, and we understand the Arab world.

That\'s one way.

The second reason is that the Israeli financial institutes, the high-tech institutes, and so one, are so more advanced in that respect, that they will benefit, and are benefiting already, from that kind of capitalist economy, whereas more traditional economic sectors of the Arab world are going to suffer. It is like taking two societies in a very different economic capacity, and imposing them on this free market ideology, which doesn\'t give equal opportunities but rather says: we are all starting from the same departure point, but of course we are not equal in our resources and abilities. And in that respect the Israeli economic system has such a big advantage that I am afraid, that given the chances, it can really exploit the situation in such a way that would even alienate Israel further from the Arab world.

Q: Are you familiar with the role of Intel building a plant on Palestinian land?

Yes, I think this is one the reasons that the divestment movement in the US targeted several projects, in order to bring the message home to the American public, that it is not just a genuine American policy that supports the Israeli Occupation, that people are making money out of the Israeli Occupation. Caterpillar was one example with these huge machines that were used for 48 years to destroy houses on the one hand, wipe out villages and construct apartheid wall.

And Intel is another place where, we have to understand, there is very limited space in the Occupied Territories. And when that space is confiscated, for the sake of creating industrial plants, these industrial plants are serving two purposes. One is to employ Palestinian workers in conditions which are much cheaper to the employers, than they would be in Israel, because the Histadrut does not provide them any protection as workers. And the other way is because land is so cheap, and when you have a land like Intel in the Occupied Territories, that means they don\'t pay any taxes. So the profits are very very high if you move a section of your business into the Occupied Territories. This is just a model for the future, it won\'t end there. This is, I think, a very important part of the American direct support for the Occupation.

Q: Is there any opposition in the Jewish working class to Zionism?

Not really, unfortunately. There used to be. When the Communist Party was active and strong, in the 1950s and 1960s, it succeeded in convincing workers that there is a direct link between Zionism and workers interests. However, as I describe the process by which the working class is made up of Jews and non-Jews who still think that their ticket for integration is through nationalism, and not through working-class consciousness, I think that we have to admit that in this sense there is no good news to report.

Q: The supporters of Israel, left supporters of Israel, basically say that the two-state solution is the only real possibility for Israel, and that\'s why they push its support in the US. What is your answer to that?

I can see a support for a two-state solution emerging, immediately after the Six-Day war, when Israel did not yet annex the East Jerusalem, did not yet build one Jewish settlement in it. There was a lot of logic of saying that despite, despite the fact that it is only 20% of Palestine could be a basis for a Palestinian state, next to Israel, and that these two states, in the future, would develop in such a way that they might turn it into one state, and even find a way of solving the refugees problem. But this is all water under the bridge.

In 2005, with the number of Jewish settlements, with the Greater Jerusalem becoming one third of the West Bank, and the local, and global, and regional balances of power, I think a two-state solution can only become an indirect way for continuing the Occupation. And as I said before, if we understand that the diplomatic effort has deepened the Occupation, has not brought an end to it, so in the case of the two-state solution we have to liberate ourselves from that paradigm. It can only help the Occupation and the Zionist colonization, and only the beginning of ideas of one-state solution can create a different future there.

Q: The US government has had large numbers of neo-cons, Zionists, Wolfowitz. First of all, what do you think about that role of these people inside the US government, and the whole situation as far as the US expansion of war in the Middle East?

I think that neo-conservatism is mainly a product of the Cold War, and I think as happened in Israel, so in the US, a lot of people benefit economically, sociologically, politically, from a situation of conflict which begins with the producers of arms, and it ends with the people who have a hold on the decision-making apparatus in the name of national security.

And of course this was all lost in a way when the Soviet Union collapsed, and the cold war ended. And I think this group of people were looking for a new bogey man, a new threat to the national security of the US and they found it because of the very strong influence, I think, of Israel among other things, in the Arab world and the Islamic world. Of course, movements such as the Islamic Al-Qaeda did not help. They provided the pretext, and the context for even pushing these ideas even further. And what we have now is the same people, a next generation, who would do all they can to perpetuate the conflict, because they benefit from the conflict. They benefit from situations of wars, of conflicts, and so on, and I think this is what enforces their hold over the American policy making in the world at large, and in the Middle East in particular.

Of course, in the Middle East, they are aided by another group of people, the Christian Zionists which should not be underrated, where it comes from a more deep fundamental religious ideology, when these forces fused together you have a very aggressive American policy in the Middle East which has all the features of the colonialist policy in the late 19th century, and will end in the same way I think. People will learn that you cannot occupy and colonize for too long.

But it is very disturbing because any American action in the Middle East also complicates the relations between the US and the Muslim world at large, and I think destabilizes the world. And when we talk about destabilization, it means that the human societies do not attend to their crucial problems, but rather deal with problems which are made up by people such as the neo-cons. Problems that would not really exist, I mean there is not really that much of a cultural clash between Muslims and Americans, but it serves very well the neo-cons through political scientists such as Samuel Huntington to say that there is a fundamental clash. We are not talking here about two human societies, but rather of \"aliens and humans.\" You know, you go to Hollywood, to the American television, and you can see how the cultural production has come, how the cultural production reinforces these images, which serve the capitalist interests of neo-cons and their allies.

Q: Have you been surprised about the media in the US, the way they present the Palestinian situation and the Israeli situation?

Yes, I was surprised because I remember different chapters in the American media coverage of the Middle East in the 50s and the 60s, which I think was better. But what really surprises me was not so much the bias I was prepared for the bias, I was not prepared for the stupidity, I mean for the superfluous. You know, it is almost like an insult to intelligence the way they describe things there. It is not even by taking sides. I would have understood taking sides, like saying this is a situation: we describe it as it is, but we take the Israeli side. I would have been against it, I don\'t think it is a fair media coverage, but at least it comes from somewhere. But what we have here is a very simple, childish, way of describing this as a kind of a war between the forces of evil and the forces of good. Almost, there is no difference between Star Wars foes in Hollywood and the way the major TV channels here describe the situation there on the ground. That, as I said, is an insult to intelligence.

Q: The majority of Americans were in favor, initially of supporting the war in Iraq. What was the situation in Israel: is there a growing opposition to this invasion?

I think the support in Israel was even stronger than in America. It was quite amazing to read the Israeli press, and to hear Israelis being very enthusiastic before the invasion of Iraq, and after the invasion of Iraq. If you want, one can define the Israeli sentiment as, \"now the Americans will understand that.\" So don\'t expect any opposition in Israel to the war in Iraq. There is no opposition whatsoever, there is only support; much more than there is in the US. Of course, I did not talk about the Palestinians in Israel who were totally against the war, or some other Jews. There is an interesting group of Iraqi Jews who signed a petition against the war, showing solidarity to Iraqis for being Iraqis, knowing that the war would kill a lot of Iraqis, but, unfortunately, there was no continuation for that. I was among several dozens of people, we demonstrated against the war, but it is really a pathetic number, it is not very impressive.

Q: Is this economic crisis ,the privatization, the taxes on the Israeli working-class, had any kind of reverberation politically?

It\'s surprising how we are all waiting for it to happen. Israelis have the widest gap between the haves and the haves-not index of social and economic inequality in the Western World, so to speak, Israel is number one. You would expect that this would produce some sort of social protest, to be translated, and every now and then it was, like in the time of the Israeli Panthers, the Black Panthers movement, and before that. But every time this is done, the Israeli government is doing one or two things: it creates a situation of war so that these social protests will not mature, and that\'s one of the reasons why the Israeli army went into such a harsh response against the second uprising in the Territories, in 2000, because of the relative calm the social protests were sanctioning , especially in the development towns where most of the African Jews live and work, or do not work because the unemployment is very high. And that\'s one thing they do.

The second thing they do, they try to employ some kind of election policies- economics, which give a lot of benefit to people for a very short period before elections to silence down people. But I think it won\'t help them in the long run. Twenty-five percent of the Israelis have a very acceptable, even high standard of living, which is a large number compared to many societies in the Third World. And that gives the Israeli political system some sort of stability. But 75% live very close, if not below, what we call in Israel, the poverty line. And this gap eventually will explode. Now, one of the reasons it does not explode, as I said before, is the Israeli ability to create a continuous situation of conflict, so that you are not allowed to deal with your social and economic problems. But I don\'t think it will hold water for too long.

Q: What is the role of the Labor Party in this coalition government?

There was a good article today in Haaretz by Gideon Levy who, I think rightly, said to people who are voters of the Labor Party, to vote for the worst people they can. There is now an actual competition for leadership. And he said, \"don\'t vote for anyone who relatively may keep this party alive\" and he gave the names. \"Vote for these people, they are surely going to destroy the party, once and for ever, which is the only chance for building on its ruins a genuine Labor Party\". And this is typical of Levy who always knows how to articulate things better than we all, really summarizes the situation of the Labor party. It\'s a shadow party of the Likud, it\'s a party that believes in capitalism, and a free market model of the worst kind; it\'s support of the Occupation, it has nothing to offer. Any day that this party is alive prevents any other political, genuine political force of socialism from emerging in Israel as an alternative.

Q: That sounds like the Democratic Party.

Yes. I mean I am not a great expert on America, but yes, that\'s my feeling. I watch the Democrats and the Republicans, within a very limited prism as an Israeli, but definitively it is true, and, unfortunately, of some of the social democratic parties in Europe as well.

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Condoleezard Lies Again

By Jonathan S. Landay
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - A State Department-commissioned poll taken days before January\'s Palestinian elections warned U.S. policymakers that the militant Islamic group Hamas was in a position to win.

Nevertheless, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the election that they had no advance indication of a major Hamas triumph.
The poll found that Hamas had been gaining support in previous months and was running neck-and-neck with the secular Fatah party - 30 percent vs. 32 percent - among likely voters. It was distributed within the State Department on Jan. 19, six days before the elections.

The poll found that corruption in the Palestinian Authority was the leading issue among Palestinians, and that 52 percent believed that Hamas was more qualified to clean it up, compared with 35 percent who put their faith in Fatah, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas\' moderate faction.

Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department, won a landslide victory, throwing American policy into confusion because the Bush administration had anticipated a Fatah win.

\"I don\'t know anyone who wasn\'t caught off guard by its very strong showing,\" Rice said on Jan. 29 as she flew to London for talks on the election results with her counterparts from the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. \"I think what was probably underestimated was the depth of resentment of the last, really, decade of corruption and the old guard.\"

Rice said that she had directed State Department officials to determine \"why nobody saw it coming ... because it does say something about perhaps not having had a good enough pulse on the Palestinian population.\"

On Friday, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said, \"I don\'t think the poll and the secretary\'s remarks are in conflict. She didn\'t say we were surprised that they won.

\"I think what took people by surprise was the margin of victory,\" Ereli said. \"Nobody foresaw that huge a sweep.\"

The survey of 1,000 Palestinians ages 18 and over, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, was conducted Jan. 13-15 by a local organization with questions written by the Office of Research, part of the State Department\'s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, or INR.

The poll was obtained by the Project on Government Secrecy, a program run by the Federation of American Scientists, a policy research group, which provided it to Knight Ridder.

Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy, said that while the poll didn\'t predict Hamas\' big win, it clearly showed a trend toward victory for the Islamic militants.

\"Either Secretary Rice was being disingenuous or else her department has a serious information-sharing problem, because INR could not have done a much better job of assessing the Palestinian election than they did,\" said Aftergood. \"No one else did a better job than INR. So to profess surprise of the outcome is incomprehensible.

\"This is secrecy squared,\" he continued. \"It\'s one thing to keep secrets from the public. But when the bureaucracy is keeping secrets from itself, policy is compromised.\"

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The Democratic Republic of Hamas

By Mike Whitney

Imagine someone grabbed you by the throat, threw you on the ground, and began pummeling you in the head and chest. Would you be inclined to address him serenely saying, "Yes, I recognize your right to exist"?

Of course not. The first thing you would try to do is free yourself from his clutches and get back on your feet.

How different is this from the dispute between Israel and the newly-elected Hamas?

Occupation is a form of violence directed at people to prevent them from controlling their own destiny. It is very similar to a vicious mugging where one party completely dominates the other. It is an attack on the fundamental principles of statehood, sovereignty and self-determination.
The election of Hamas demonstrates the collective will of the Palestinian people to rid themselves of a corrupt regime and stand up to Israeli occupation.

What's wrong with that?

Whether it pleases the Tel Aviv chieftains or their patrons in Washington doesn't make a bit of difference. Their duty is simply to support democracy wherever it appears in keeping with their rhetoric.

Israel has made the election a referendum on the Hamas Charter, a clearly incendiary document that undermines their struggle for liberation. Hamas' leaders now have an opportunity to dump the charter and write another based on widely accepted principles of equality and justice. This would be a serious blow to Israel's public relations campaign that has been so damaging Hamas' credibility.

Israel is also demanding that Hamas oversee the disarming of its militias. That will never happen, nor should it. Sovereign nations have a right to defend themselves, just as individuals have an "inalienable right" to bear arms.

Disarmament may be high on Israel's "wish list" but it's a non-starter. Besides, there's no evidence that hostilities were ever mitigated because people of one country surrendered their weapons to another. If Israel sincerely seeks disarmament, then it should be a reciprocal agreement; each side giving up a proportionate amount of their weaponry to a neutral third party. (ie. The United Nations)

We can be quite certain that Hamas would be more than receptive to any "mutual disarmament" plan as it would only diminish the possibility of future aggressive intrusions on Palestinian land.

On the issue of whether Hamas should accept "Israel's right to exist or not"; the question is based on a false premise and, as such, intentionally misleading. It is Israel's ongoing military-presence in the occupied territories that thwarts Palestinian statehood. Therefore, it is incumbent on Israel to honor Palestine's "right to exist" by respecting UN resolutions and vacating the territories consistent with the demands of international law.

This isn't rocket-science. Israel knows what is required to meet its obligations to the international community and is shunting that responsibility off on Hamas. Hamas' Prime Minister-designate, Ismail Haniya, has already said that he would acknowledge Israel's right to exist when Israel withdraws to the "internationally-recognized" '67 borders.

The ball is in Israel's court.

Regrettably, Israel shows no willingness to comply with UN resolutions or to negotiate with their Palestinian counterparts. Rather, the aggressive strategy to annex more Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem, and the main settlement-blocks is continuing apace.

Sharon and his chief-advisor Dov Weiglass have already consigned the Roadmap to "formaldehyde" and brushed aside any chance for a negotiated settlement. There is no "partner for peace" among the hard-right Israeli leadership. Both Likkud and Kadima parties believe that the Intifada was the last major obstacle between themselves and the dream of Greater Israel.

Even so, its puzzling that Prime Minister Olmert and his right-wing friends wouldn't celebrate the election results. After all, with Hamas spearheading the government suicide bombings are bound to decrease or Israel will seek revenge on government officials. This puts Hamas in the troublesome position of being forced to distance themselves from the militant wing of the organization. We are sure to see dramatic changes in Hamas (that should be welcome in Israel) as it transforms itself more and more into a political party divorced from the acts of violence which have always undermined its broader objectives. Suicide bombings have always been a public relations disaster for the Palestinians. Perhaps, this will finally turn the page on that mutually tragic chapter.

We should note, however, that recent research by Robert Pape ("Al Qaida's Smart Bombs"; NY Times) proves that suicide bombings do not derive from religious fanaticism but, rather, are the direct result of occupation. Pape's science-based analysis has appeared in the New York Times editorial page and provides detailed statistical evidence of his shocking conclusions. This should dispel the mistaken belief that an aberrant form of Islam somehow fuels the violence. "Islamo-fascism" and "radical Islam" are inventions of western think-tanks which have created the rationale for invading Muslim lands and stealing their resources. Pape's writing disproves the prevailing myth that animates the current "war on terror".

The election of Hamas is one of the few positive developments in the Arab-Israeli conflict in years. It is surprising that Israel is responding so irrationally. After all, it was Israel that isolated Arafat for more than two years in his dilapidated hovel, the Muq'tada, refusing to negotiate with him and dismissing him as "irrelevant". Now, Sharon has refused to deal with his hand-picked, personal favorite Mahmoud Abbas for more than a year.

The message could not be clearer. Israel has no intention of negotiating with Abbas, Arafat, or any other Palestinian leader. It will move ahead with its primary goals regardless of world condemnation, isolation, or war. If Sharon was concerned at all about Abbas' political future he would have made minor concessions that would have made Abbas look good in front of his own people, but he didn't. It simply didn't matter enough to him to do so.

Hamas now faces the same dilemma. They have become the legitimate leaders of a country that doesn't exist. They do not control their air-space or their borders, their roads or their water. Their sovereign rights as a free people have been savaged and discarded for 38 years of brutal occupation.

Where will they turn for help?

Their tormentors in the United States have already demanded a refund of $50 million given to the PA. And, as Amira Hass reports, Israel is threatening to withhold the "$50 to $65 million per month" that they brazenly extort from "Palestinian tax and customs monies." This is the moral equivalent of Donald Rumsfeld charging the people of Falluja for the cluster-bombs that were used to decimate their city.

No one is surprised that Israel and America are threatening to cut off vital humanitarian aid to punish the Palestinians for exercising their democratic right as free people. In fact, it would be surprising if they didn't.

When has it ever mattered in the West whether Arabs were collectively starved to death or simply shot at a checkpoint?

The challenges that Hamas faces do not diminish the magnitude of its electoral victory. Palestine is now a bone-fide member in the community of democratic states. We should be confident that they will make the right choices that best affect the welfare of their people and secure their liberation from foreign occupation.

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Hamas throws a hardball - before negotiations can occur, Israel must recognise Palestine

Khaled Amayreh
Al-Ahram Weekly
2-5 Mar 06

...it seems amply clear that Israel views the election of Hamas by a majority of Palestinians as a clear political challenge. Hamas has been arguing loudly -- and convincingly -- of late that it is wrong to demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel while not demanding that Israel recognise Palestine, ie a Palestinian state within the internationally recognised 1967 borders. Hamas is also asking the international community to pressure Israel to define its physical borders before considering the issue of recognition.
One month ahead of Israeli general elections, Israeli political parties are vying to woo an increasingly jingoistic Jewish public to their respective camps. As may have been expected, their main tool of attracting voters is hateful anti-Palestinian rhetoric.

This week, a spate of vitriolic, racist and even bellicose statements against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, coloured the Israeli elections campaign.

The often-base litany started immediately after Hamas\'s electoral victory on 25 January, when Likud Chairman Benyamin Netanyahu compared the Islamic movement\'s triumph with Hitler\'s rise to power in Germany in the mid-1930s.

Netanyahu -- a master of bombastic sound bites -- didn\'t bother to explain how a ravaged people languishing under a sinister military occupation who have a hard time feeding their own children and a even harder time accessing their schools, hospitals and places of work, thanks to ubiquitous Israeli army roadblocks, can be compared to the nefarious Third Reich which destroyed Europe and caused the deaths of tens of millions.

Netanyahu\'s analogy drew no negative reactions from Israeli society. Quite to the contrary, leaders of nearly all Jewish political parties, including the Labour Party headed by the purportedly \"moderate\" Amir Peretz, sought to out-manoeuvre Netanyahu by prominently featuring a decidedly anti-Palestinian discourse in all their proclamations.

Take, for example, Tzivi Livni, the former Likud extremist, who now serves as Israel\'s foreign minister. Other Israeli parties, especially on the right and the extreme right, continue to argue over which approach should be adopted toward the \"so- called Palestinians\". The more pragmatic parties, such as the Likud, propose apartheid-like arrangements in the West Bank, where Palestinians are packed in Bantustans and enclaves until they become fed up with their misery and subsequently emigrate.

The more Talmudic-minded parties, such as the National Union and National Religious Party (Mifdal), propose three alternatives for dealing with Palestinians: enslavement whereby non-Jews living under Jewish law are forced to become \"water carriers and wood hewers,\" expulsion, or outright extermination. Interestingly, these \"alternatives\" encompass not only Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, but Israel\'s Palestinian citizens as well -- so-called Israeli-Arabs.

Putting Talmudic whims aside, the Israeli government has actually stepped up its efforts to further narrow Palestinian horizons, employing a combination of psychological war, vitriolic propaganda and disinformation, as well as draconian and extremely repressive measures on the ground.

Indeed, while telling the international community that Israel is not interested in starving Palestinian children, Israeli officials have indicated that they are willing and ready to blockade Palestinian population centres and induce a \"diet\", as suggested by Israeli government official Dov Weisglass last week. In the past, Israeli occupation soldiers, acting like armed robbers in broad daylight, stormed Palestinian banks and seized millions of dollars in cash. Indeed, there is no guarantee that the perpetually nervous Israeli political-military establishment won\'t do it again to realise the ultimate Israeli goal of bringing the Palestinians to their knees. As if severe economic pressure and acts like seizing Palestinian tax money were not enough, one Israeli security official actually threatened this week to assassinate Ismail Haniya, the next Palestinian prime minister, if a \"single terrorist act\" is carried out from this point forward. Avi Dichter, former head of the Shin Bet, Israel\'s chief domestic intelligence agency, said that Haniya and his colleagues had no immunity from assassination.

Needless to say, this must be music to the ears of hundreds of thousands of anti-Palestinian Jewish voters who will not have a hard time choosing a candidate on 28 March. The propinquity of the Israeli elections is certainly a factor in these shrill and hyperbolic statements. Indeed, it is well known in Israel that the most effective way of gaining support among the Israeli Jewish public is by demonstrating one\'s harshness, bloodiness, and criminality towards the Palestinians. This explains the election by Israelis of such notorious and certified war criminals as Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, to mention just two.

Nonetheless, it seems amply clear that Israel views the election of Hamas by a majority of Palestinians as a clear political challenge. Hamas has been arguing loudly -- and convincingly -- of late that it is wrong to demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel while not demanding that Israel recognise Palestine, ie a Palestinian state within the internationally recognised 1967 borders. Hamas is also asking the international community to pressure Israel to define its physical borders before considering the issue of recognition.

Of course, these intrinsic and most fundamental questions are anathema to Israel which seeks to dilute the entire peace process by claiming that the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem are actually \"disputed territories\" subject to negotiations and bargaining between the nearly vanquished PA and a dominant Israel that has America at her beck and call. Israel is trying in earnest to stage a propaganda offensive against Hamas and the PA by building up an \"international coalition\" against legitimising Hamas until the latter recognises Israel and in return of nothing -- just as the PLO formally did in 1993.

In doing so, Israel hopes to have sufficient time to complete its unilateral plans and designs in the West Bank; namely to annex up to 60 per cent of the occupied territory, which will reduce Palestinian population centres to isolated ghettos, cut off from each other and the rest of the world. This, indeed, is the only Israeli prescription for a viable Palestinian state living peacefully side by side with Israel.

In this context, Hamas rightly believes that the upcoming period is unlikely to bear witness to any serious efforts towards a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For his part, Abbas, while on a visit to Yemen this week, vindicated Hamas\'s posture, saying he understood Hamas\'s insistence that Israel recognise a Palestinian state on 100 per cent of the occupied Palestinian territories. \"I don\'t blame them,\" said Abbas, adding rather bitterly, \"We recognised Israel in 1989, but look what happened after that.\"

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And the Great Game goes on - Russia\'s gambit of genius in talking to Hamas

By Uri Avnery
5 Mar 06

Uri Avnery describes President Vladimir Putin\'s decision to talk to Hamas as a \"gambit of genius\" that has put Russia back on the political map of the Middle East. He argues that, while the USA and Europe have consigned themselves to a self-imposed straightjacket by ostrasizing Hamas, \"Putin used the sharp scalpel of unemotional logic and made the first move\", creating an opportunity to break the political deadlock and, \"above all else ... announcing that Russia is back in the Great Game\".

If you want to understand the policy of a country, look at the map!\" advised Napoleon. What he meant was: regimes come and go, rulers rise and fall, ideologies flourish and wither, but geography stands forever. It\'s geography that decides the basic interest of every state.

Vladimir Putin, heir of czars and commissars, looked at the map. Looked and picked up the telephone to invite the Hamas leaders.

A hundred years ago, the whole expanse from India to Turkey was a battlefield between Russia and the main Western power at that time, the British Empire. Adventurers, spies, diplomats and plotters of all stripes roamed the area. This contest was known as \"The Great Game\".

In time, the actors changed. The Bolsheviks took the place of the czars; the American empire succeeded the British. But the Great Game went on.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, it seemed as if the game had come to an end. Russian influence disappeared from the region. The Soviet empire dissolved, and what remained was too weak, too poor, to take part in the game. It had no jetons.

And now, with one stroke, Putin has changed everything. Inviting Hamas to Moscow was a gambit of genius: it didn\'t cost anything, and it put Russia back on the map of the Middle East. While the whole world was still puzzled and confused by the Hamas victory, Putin used the sharp scalpel of unemotional logic and made the first move of a new game.

This way, the new czar of all the Russians exploited the weakness of his rivals. President Bush has got himself into a dismal position. When all the other pretexts for his bloody Iraqi adventure had evaporated into thin air, he raised a new flag: democracy in the Middle East. He imposed new elections on the Palestinians. In these elections, the most democratic one could imagine, the winner was - alas! - Hamas.

What to do? To declare that democratic elections are good only if they deliver the outcome we desire? To boycott the Palestinian [National] Authority, now the \"Second Democracy in the Middle East\"? To starve the Palestinians until they elect the \"right\" leadership?

Bush could, of course, recognize the elected Hamas government. But how could he do that? After all, the United States has put Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations - not only its military wing, but the whole movement, including the kindergartens and mosques. Now they are caught up in the \"clash of civilizations, the apocalyptic battle between the West and Islam.

Nothing to be done. America is a chess player caught in a position of stalemate - unable to make any move at all.

Europe is in a similar situation. Like a mental patient in a straitjacket, it cannot move its arms. It put on this jacket itself. Under American and Israeli pressure, it put Hamas on its terror list, and thus condemned itself to total impotence in the new situation.

Putin does not laugh often. But now, perhaps, he may be permitting himself a thin smile.

The Palestinians, too, are quite confused. In these elections they surprised themselves, and, no less, Hamas.

Inside Fatah, there are contradictory views about what to do. The good of the Palestinian people clearly demands a wide coalition, which would include all parties, in order to overcome the crisis and prevent a boycott of the Palestinian [National] Authority by the world. But the narrow party interest of Fatah says otherwise: Let\'s compel Hamas to govern alone. It will break its head; the world will boycott it. After a year or two, the Palestinian public will return Fatah to power.

That\'s realpolitik, but dangerous. During the one or two years, the Israeli government will enlarge the settlements, build more and more of the [Apartheid] Wall, fix new borders, annex the Jordan valley - the sky is the limit. The reaction of the Palestinian public may be quite different from what the Fatah people imagine.

Hamas is also baffled. It knows full well that the elections were less an ideological breakthrough than a protest vote - more against Fatah than for Hamas. Now Hamas must gain the heart of the Palestinian people, and the people want an end to the occupation, and peace at last.

Hamas does not want the world to ostracize the Palestinian [National] Authority and starve the population. But it cannot change its skin on the morrow of its victory. What will the Palestinians say if it suddenly declares that it is ready to recognize Israel\'s right to exist, to disarm and annul its charter? That it has sold its soul to Satan in order to enjoy the comforts of power? That it is as corrupt as Fatah?

If Israel and America wanted to lead Hamas towards a path of peace, they would ease its way towards the desired change. They could find mechanisms for the transfer of the money due to the Palestinians. They could be satisfied with an announcement that the new government is based on the Oslo Agreement (which includes the recognition of Israel) without demanding that Hamas humiliate itself in public. They could agree to a hudna (armistice) for the transition period and put an end to all violent action by both sides. Hamas can be disarmed by including its fighters in the official security forces. And, of course, and most importantly - prisoners could be released.

But the present Israeli government shows no interest in making it easy for Hamas. And if the Israeli government is not interested, what American politician, if not bent on suicide, can say otherwise?

In Israel, the Hamas victory has not given rise to sorrow and lamentations. On the contrary. Israeli leaders could hardly hold back from dancing in the streets.

At long last, it has become perfectly clear that \"There is No One to Talk With\". If Yasser Arafat was no partner, and if Mahmoud Abbas was no partner, Hamas is the mother of all no-partners. Nobody can rebuke us for going on with \"targeted killings\", destroying the Palestinian economy, building walls, breaking up the West Bank territory, cutting off the Jordan valley and generally doing whatever we feel like. And if, with God\'s help, Palestinian terrorism starts again, we can say to everybody: \"We told you so!\"

But in Israel, too, there is a lot of confusion. Under American pressure, Ehud Olmert was compelled to transfer to the Palestinian at least once the revenues that Israel has collected on their behalf. He was immediately attacked for \"surrendering\" to Hamas. Even this small act of surrendering stolen money has caused a political storm. The Israeli election, due to take place in 24 days, casts its shadow on everything.

Now comes Putin\'s daring step. He makes it easier for the Hamas leadership to moderate its stance - if it is ready to join the political game. He also makes it easier for the government of Israel - if the government of Israel wants dialogue and peace. And, above all else, he is announcing that Russia is back in the Great Game.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist

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More LIES Dept: Administration Revives Dispute Over Eavesdropping Authority

By Barton Gellman
Washington Post
4 Mar 06

In a new defense of its warrantless eavesdropping program, the Bush administration yesterday reopened a dispute about whether it tried and failed to obtain direct congressional authority for use of the president\'s war-making powers on U.S. territory.
The Justice Department has asserted that Congress implicitly granted President Bush the power to secretly order interception of some overseas calls and e-mails made by Americans in the United States when it passed a resolution authorizing use of military force against those responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Eavesdropping is part of war, the administration maintains, and the battlefield includes the United States.

But former senator Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), majority leader at the time of the vote, argued in a Dec. 23 opinion article in The Washington Post that Congress could not have implied such power because it refused a more direct request.

\"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote\" on Sept. 14, 2001, Daschle wrote, the White House asked to insert the words \"in the United States\" into the use-of-force resolution. \"I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority,\" Daschle added. \"I refused.\"

Assistant Attorney General William Moschella, responding yesterday to questions from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), wrote that \"we do not recall such a discussion with former Senator Daschle and are not aware of any record reflecting such a conversation.\" Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse, asked about the letter, said Moschella was referring only to Justice Department officials.

Daschle, in a telephone interview yesterday, stood by his account. \"They can deny it, but it happened,\" Daschle said, \"and there\'s no question in my mind that the reason\" is that Bush advisers \"feared that they didn\'t have the authority\" to exercise war powers domestically without the inserted language.

Denis McDonough, who was then Daschle\'s foreign policy aide, said in a separate interview that David Crane, his counterpart in the office of then-Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), was the person who brought the White House request to Daschle. \"He said, \'We\'d like one last-minute change here,\' \" McDonough said. It was clear from the context, he said, that Crane\'s request \"was coming from the White House.\"

Reached by telephone last night, Crane said he has \"absolutely no recollection of that ever having occurred.\" Though he took part in negotiations over the use-of-force resolution, Crane said, he had been reassigned to another task before the resolution reached the Senate floor.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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White House Aims at Damage Control - Sources, Reporters Could Be Prosecuted

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 5, 2006

The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources. The efforts include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.

In recent weeks, dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI\'s Washington field office, who are investigating possible leaks that led to reports about secret CIA prisons and the NSA\'s warrantless domestic surveillance program, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the two cases.
Numerous employees at the CIA, FBI, Justice Department and other agencies also have received letters from Justice prohibiting them from discussing even unclassified issues related to the NSA program, according to sources familiar with the notices. Some GOP lawmakers are also considering whether to approve tougher penalties for leaking.

In a little-noticed case in California, FBI agents from Los Angeles have already contacted reporters at the Sacramento Bee about stories published in July that were based on sealed court documents related to a terrorism case in Lodi, according to the newspaper.

Some media watchers, lawyers and editors say that, taken together, the incidents represent perhaps the most extensive and overt campaign against leaks in a generation, and that they have worsened the already-tense relationship between mainstream news organizations and the White House.

\"There\'s a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public\'s business risk being branded traitors,\" said New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in a statement responding to questions from The Washington Post. \"I don\'t know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad.\"

President Bush has called the NSA leak \"a shameful act\" that was \"helping the enemy,\" and said in December that he was hopeful the Justice Department would conduct a full investigation into the disclosure.

\"We need to protect the right to free speech and the First Amendment, and the president is doing that,\" said White House spokesman Trent Duffy. \"But, at the same time, we do need to protect classified information which helps fight the war on terror.\"

Disclosing classified information without authorization has long been against the law, yet such leaks are one of the realities of life in Washington -- accounting for much of the back-channel conversation that goes on daily among journalists, policy intellectuals, and current and former government officials.

Presidents have also long complained about leaks: Richard Nixon\'s infamous \"plumbers\" were originally set up to plug them, and he tried, but failed, to prevent publication of a classified history of the Vietnam War called the Pentagon Papers. Ronald Reagan exclaimed at one point that he was \"up to my keister\" in leaks.

Bush administration officials -- who complain that reports about detainee abuse, clandestine surveillance and other topics have endangered the nation during a time of war -- have arguably taken a more aggressive approach than other recent administrations, including a clear willingness to take on journalists more directly if necessary.

\"Almost every administration has kind of come in saying they want an open administration, and then getting bad press and fuming about leaks,\" said David Greenberg, a Rutgers University journalism professor and author of \"Nixon\'s Shadow.\" \"But it\'s a pretty fair statement to say you haven\'t seen this kind of crackdown on leaks since the Nixon administration.\"

But David B. Rivkin Jr., a partner at Baker & Hostetler in Washington and a senior lawyer in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, said the leaking is \"out of control,\" especially given the unique threat posed by terrorist groups.

\"We\'re at the end of this paradigm where we had this sort of gentlemen\'s agreement where you had leaks and journalists were allowed to protect the leakers,\" Rivkin said. \"Everyone is playing Russian roulette now.\"

At Langley, the CIA\'s security office has been conducting numerous interviews and polygraph examinations of employees in an effort to discover whether any of them have had unauthorized contact with journalists. CIA Director Porter J. Goss has spoken about the issue at an \"all hands\" meeting of employees, and sent a recent cable to the field aimed at discouraging media contacts and reminding employees of the penalties for disclosing classified information, according to intelligence sources and people in touch with agency officials.

\"It is my aim, and it is my hope, that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information,\" Goss told a Senate committee.

The Justice Department also argued in a court filing last month that reporters can be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act for receiving and publishing classified information. The brief was filed in support of a case against two pro-Israeli lobbyists, who are the first nongovernment officials to be prosecuted for receiving and distributing classified information.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said last month that he is considering legislation that would criminalize the leaking of a wider range of classified information than what is now covered by law. The measure would be similar to earlier legislation that was vetoed by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and opposed by then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft in 2002.

But the vice chairman of the same committee, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), complained in a letter to the national intelligence director last month that \"damaging revelations of intelligence sources and methods are generated primarily by Executive Branch officials pushing a particular policy, and not by the rank-and-file employees of the intelligence agencies.\"

As evidence, Rockefeller points to the case of Valerie Plame, a CIA officer whose identity was leaked to the media. A grand jury investigation by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald resulted last year in the jailing of Judith Miller, then a reporter at the New York Times, for refusing to testify, and in criminal charges against I. Lewis \"Scooter\" Libby, who resigned as Vice President Cheney\'s chief of staff. In court papers, Libby has said that his \"superiors\" authorized him to disclose a classified government report.

The New York Times, which first disclosed the NSA program in December, and The Post, which reported on secret CIA prisons in November, said investigators have not contacted reporters or editors about those articles.

Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Post, said there has long been a \"natural and healthy tension between government and the media\" on national security issues, but that he is \"concerned\" about comments by Goss and others that appear to reflect a more aggressive stance by the government. Downie noted that The Post had at times honored government requests not to report particularly sensitive information, such as the location of CIA prisons in Eastern Europe.

\"We do not want to inadvertently threaten human life or legitimately harm national security in our reporting,\" he said. \"But it\'s important . . . in our constitutional system that these final decisions be made by newspaper editors and not the government.\"

In Sacramento, the Bee newspaper reported last month that FBI agents had contacted two of its reporters and, along with a federal prosecutor, had \"questioned\" a third reporter about articles last July detailing the contents of sealed court documents about five terrorism suspects. A Bee article on the contacts did not address whether the reporters supplied the agents with any information or whether they were subject to subpoenas.

Executive Editor Rick Rodriguez said last week he could not comment based on the advice of newspaper attorneys. Representatives of the FBI and the U.S. attorney\'s office in Los Angeles, which is conducting the inquiry, also declined to comment.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck declined to discuss details of the leak investigations there but said they were being conducted independently of the White House and were not aimed at pressuring journalists.

In prosecuting a former Defense Department analyst and two pro-Israel lobbyists for allegedly spreading sensitive national security information about U.S. policy in the Middle East, the Bush administration is making use of a statute whose origins lie in the first anxious days of World War I.

The Espionage Act makes it a crime for a government official with access to \"national defense information\" to communicate it intentionally to any unauthorized person. A 1950 amendment aimed at Soviet spying broadened the law, forbidding an unauthorized recipient of the information to pass it on, or even to keep it to himself.

Lawyers for American Israel Public Affairs Committee staff members Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman say the vagueness of the statute makes the Justice Department\'s prosecution of their clients unconstitutional. One count of the indictment specifically charges them with passing \"classified national defense information\" to a member of the media in 2004.

The Justice Department said \"there plainly is no exemption\" for the media under the Espionage Act, but added, \"a prosecution under the espionage laws of an actual member of the press for publishing classified information leaked to it by a government source would raise legitimate and serious issues and would not be undertaken lightly, indeed, the fact that there has never been such a prosecution speaks for itself.\"

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Bush declares war on freedom of the press

March 6, 2006
Capitol HIll Blue

Using many of the questionable surveillance and monitoring techniques that brought both questions and criticism to his administration, President George W. Bush has launched a war against reporters who write stories unfavorable to his actions and is planning to prosecute journalists to make examples of them in his \"war on terrorism.\"

Bush recently directed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to use \"whatever means at your disposal\" to wiretap, follow, harass and investigate journalists who have published stories about the administration\'s illegal use of warrantless wiretaps, use of faulty intelligence and anything else he deems \"detrimental to the war on terror.\"

Reporters for The New York Times, which along with Capitol Hill Blue revealed use of the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and emails of Americans, say FBI agents have interviewed them and criminal prosecutors at the Justice Department admit they are laying \"the groundwork for a grand jury that could lead to criminal charges,\"

CIA Director Porter Goss told Congress recently that \"it is my aim and it is my hope that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information. I believe the safety of this nation and the people of this country deserve nothing less.\"

As part of the investigation, the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency are wiretapping reporters\' phones, following journalists on a daily basis, searching their homes and offices under a USA Patriot Act provision that allows \"secret and undisclosed searches\" and pouring over financial and travel records of hundreds of Washington-based reporters.

Spokesmen for the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security admit there are \"ongoing investigations\" regarding publication of stories \"involving threats to national security\" but will not reveal what those investigations include.

In addition to using the USA Patriot Act to pry into the lives of journalists, the Justice Department has also dusted off a pre-World War I law to prosecute people who receive classified information, although the law was aimed at military personnel not civilians.

\"This is the first administration that I can remember, including Nixon\'s, that said we need to think about a law that would put journalists who print national security things up in front of grand juries and put them in jail if they don\'t reveal their sources,\" says David Gergen, who served as President Regan\'s director of communication and also worked in the Nixon and Ford White Houses.

Political scientist George Harleigh, who worked in the Nixon administration, says such use of federal law enforcement authority was illegal when Nixon tried it and still so today.

\"We\'re talking about a basic violation of the Constitutional guarantee of a free press as well as a violation of the rights of privacy of American citizens,\" Harleigh says. \"I had hoped we would have learned our lessons from the Nixon era. Sadly, it appears we have not.\"

In recent weeks, the FBI has issued hundreds of \"National Security Letters,\" directing employers, banks, credit card companies, libraries and other entities to turn over records on reporters. Under the USA Patriot Act, those who must turn over the records are also prohibited from revealing they have done so to the subject of the federal probes.

\"The significance of this cannot be overstated,\" says prominent New York litigator Glenn Greenwald. \"In essence, while the President sits in the White House undisturbed after proudly announcing that he has been breaking the law and will continue to do so, his slavish political appointees at the Justice Department are using the mammoth law enforcement powers of the federal government to find and criminally prosecute those who brought this illegal conduct to light.

\"This flamboyant use of the forces of criminal prosecution to threaten whistle-blowers and intimidate journalists are nothing more than the naked tactics of street thugs and authoritarian juntas.\"

Just how widespread, and uncontrolled, this latest government assault has become hit close to home last week when one of the FBI\'s National Security Letters arrived at the company that hosts the servers for this web site, Capitol Hill Blue.

The letter demanded traffic data, payment records and other information about the web site along with information on me, the publisher.

Now that\'s a problem. I own the company that hosts Capitol Hill Blue. So, in effect, the feds want me to turn over information on myself and not tell myself that I\'m doing it.
You\'d think they\'d know better.

I turned the letter over to my lawyer and told him to send the following message to the feds:

Fuck you. Strong letter to follow.

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Senator ties Guard to spy plan - MEMOS SUGGEST NATIONWIDE EFFORT

By Edwin Garcia
Mercury News Sacramento Bureau
1 Mar 06

SACRAMENTO - A special California National Guard unit that was disbanded last year amid suspicion it was engaged in domestic spying may have been part of a nationwide effort to monitor the activities of U.S. citizens, a state senator charged Tuesday.

Internal National Guard documents seem to suggest, according to Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Garden Grove, that Guard units in nine other states may have had similar spying initiatives when California\'s unit became public last summer.
``Because they were all created at about the same time and, to the best of our knowledge thus far seemingly engaged in similar activity, including domestic surveillance activities,\'\' Dunn said, ``we could only conclude that it had been part of a concentrated or coordinated effort to create such units around the country.\'\'

A Guard official denied the allegations, and said three independent investigations cleared the California National Guard\'s Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion unit. Spokesman Jon Siepmann also denied the program ever conducted surveillance on U.S. citizens.

Officials at the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., did not return telephone messages and e-mails.

The unit formed in California, first reported by the Mercury News in June, had been given ``broad authority\'\' to monitor, analyze and distribute data on potential terrorist threats. Top Guard officials, the Mercury News learned then, were involved in tracking a Mother\'s Day anti-war rally organized by families of slain U.S. soldiers.

Rally participants -- including Gold Star Families for Peace, Raging Grannies and CodePink -- were outraged when they learned a newly formed Guard unit monitored the group. So was Dunn, who was chair of a budget committee that oversaw the Guard and launched investigations into the alleged domestic spying.

A spokesman for the Colorado National Guard, which Dunn identified as one of the states with a spying unit, called the senator\'s allegation off-base. ``Nobody in the Guard wants to do something that is illegal,\'\' said Capt. Robert Bell.

The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act bars the U.S. military from domestic law enforcement unless responding to specific circumstances. But no such law exists for Guard troops in California.

Dunn and Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, introduced legislation last week that would bar Guard members from engaging in domestic spying unless authorized by law.

``We have to close the loopholes so that our military personnel do not engage in unauthorized police activity domestically, including spying,\'\' Dunn said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, during which time he also disclosed the information contained in the Guard documents he obtained through a subpoena last year.

The documents include a two-page memorandum from the National Guard Bureau, which coordinates Guard activities across the country. Dunn said the memo -- with the subject line ``Existing `Fusion Center\' concepts in the States and Territories\'\' -- acknowledged the presence of such centers in California, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia.

The memo, written by the National Guard Bureau\'s Robert Jennings, includes a line about how policies should include a thorough legal review ``to maintain the strict separation between federal and state missions.\'\'

Dunn interpreted the statement as the National Guard\'s admission that it was fully aware there was a federal law against spying but that it didn\'t apply to state units.

``We are still trying to answer the question of where exactly the idea and the push behind the creation of such units came from,\'\' Dunn said, adding, ``We have met with great resistance to gaining access to such information.\'\'

Siepmann, of the California National Guard, said fusion refers to government agencies sharing information since Sept. 11, 2001, to respond to crimes. ``The existence of a fusion center is very different than the existence of a domestic surveillance center,\'\' Siepmann said. ``Fusion doesn\'t equate to surveillance or spying.\'\'

The communications director of the Guard\'s lobbying group, the National Guard Association of the United States, also disputed Dunn\'s conclusions about coast-to-coast spying.

``It doesn\'t seem likely at all,\'\' said John Goheen, whose military experience spans three decades. ``You have to understand what the Guard\'s role is; the Guard is not an organization that does domestic intelligence. It runs counter to my experience.\'\'

Allegations of domestic spying -- whether by Guard troops or through the use of controversial wiretaps under the Bush administration -- have rankled civil libertarians since the 1960s, when the military gathered information on at least 100,000 Americans.

The California unit was quietly dismantled in November, bringing a sigh of relief to the anti-war groups -- until they learned of the latest developments from Dunn.

``This is a story that doesn\'t seem to end,\'\' said Ruth Robertson of Palo Alto, a member of the Raging Grannies who wasn\'t surprised to know that similar units may have existed in other states.

Dunn also is pushing for the creation of a Joint Intelligence Committee. The committee, he said, is needed to provide oversight over taxpayer funds being used for intelligence activities.

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Prisoners still tortured in Iraq, Amnesty alleges

The Associated Press

LONDON The human rights group Amnesty International released a report Monday saying detainees in Iraq are still being tortured by their captors despite the attention generated by the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.

The report lists allegations from former detainees who said they were beaten with plastic cables, given electric shocks and made to stand in a flooded room as an electrical current was passed through the water.
Amnesty said researchers conducted interviews in Jordan and Iraq with former detainees, relatives of current detainees and lawyers involved in detainees\' cases in Iraq.

The interviews were conducted last year and this year, Amnesty said at its London headquarters.

\"Some of the detainees have been held for over two years without any effective remedy or recourse,\" Amnesty said in the report. \"Others have been released without explanation or apology or reparation after months in detention, victims of a system that is arbitrary and a recipe for abuse.\"

The U.S. military responded to the report by saying that all detainees are treated according to international conventions and Iraqi law.

A U.S. detention command spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill, said, in an e-mailed response to questions, that each detainee is given a form explaining the reasons for his or her imprisonment and the files are reviewed every 90 to 120 days.

The Amnesty report called for an overhaul of the way detainees are treated by the British, American and Iraqi authorities. In particular, Amnesty wants those who detain people in Iraq to ensure that inmates are given due process - a lawyer and an appearance before an impartial court - and to fully investigate any abuse allegations.

\"Since Abu Ghraib, the multinational force - and the United States in particular - promised they would put safeguards in place,\" said an Amnesty spokeswoman, Nicole Choueiry. But the lack of legal safeguards is \"still an obstacle to detainees getting and enjoying their human rights,\" she said.

The report, quoting a U.S. military Web site, said that figures compiled in November showed there were 14,000 detainees in military prisons in Iraq. Last year, the U.S. military said it planned to spend about $50 million to expand Iraqi prison capacity to hold up to 16,000 people.

Notorious photographs from 2003 showing Iraqi inmates being abused led to the convictions of several U.S. soldiers and inquiries by the U.S. authorities into how prisoners were treated.

The Amnesty report urged the British and U.S. governments to publicly declare that torture and degrading treatment of prisoners will not be tolerated, to end indefinite internment of people in Iraq and to conduct impartial, transparent investigations of those accused of mistreating detainees.

The British Defense Ministry said allegations of wrongdoing are taken seriously, and that a police investigation is initiated when there are any grounds that a criminal act might have occurred. It also said that international observers are invited into British detention centers - a policy Amnesty said should be standard for all nations holding prisoners.

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Military to continue to pay Iraqi media to Propagandize (LIE)

By Charles Aldinger
4 Mar 06

The U.S. military will continue to pay Iraqi media to publish reports favorable to American forces following an investigation into the controversial practice, the top U.S. general in Iraq said on Friday.

Army Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. forces there, told reporters in a teleconference from Iraq that the investigation by a Navy admiral ordered by Casey \"found that we were operating within our authorities and responsibilities.\"
Some members of the U.S. Congress raised questions about the payments when it was revealed in December that Iraqi journalists and newspapers were being paid to use articles produced by the military.

Casey said he had not issued an order to halt the payments.

\"And, right now, based on the results of the investigation, I do not intend to in the near term,\" he said.

\"However, we will continue to evaluate this over time as the situation on the ground here evolves.\"

Casey said results of the investigation by Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk would be announced in the coming weeks and that some \"procedural recommendations\" could be made.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said in recent weeks the Pentagon had not done a good job in the information war against enemies like al Qaeda, saying U.S. personnel felt constrained partly due to fear of criticism in the media. The U.S. military has argued it is important to counter what it calls misinformation and propaganda spread by insurgents.

Van Buskirk\'s inquiry was announced in December after the military confirmed U.S. troops in an \"information operations\" task force wrote articles with positive messages about the U.S. mission that were translated from English into Arabic and placed in Iraqi newspapers in return for money.

The U.S. command in Iraq at the time said \"articles have been accepted and published as a function of buying advertising and opinion/editorial space, as is customary in Iraq.\"

Some U.S. lawmakers have said the practice could undermine U.S. credibility as American officials try to foster democratic institutions in Iraq and tout its emerging free press.

Rumsfeld said last month that he was mistaken when he stated several days previously that the military had stopped paying Iraqi newspapers to publish pro-American articles.

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited

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Military denies withdrawal plan

By Ibon Villelabeitia

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military in Iraq said on Sunday media reports that America and Britain planned to pull all troops out of Iraq by spring 2007 were \"completely false,\" reiterating that there was no timetable for withdrawal.

Two British newspapers reported on Sunday that the pull-out plan followed an acceptance by the two governments that the presence of foreign troops in Iraq was now an obstacle to securing peace.

But a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq reiterated previous statements by U.S. and Iraqi officials that foreign troops would be gradually withdrawn from the country once Iraqi security forces were capable of guaranteeing security.
\"This news report on a withdrawal of forces within a set timeframe is completely false,\" Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson said of the stories in Britain\'s Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Mirror, which quoted unnamed senior defense ministry sources.

\"As we\'ve said over and over again, any withdrawal will be linked to the ability of the Iraqi security forces to maintain domestic order on behalf of a representative Iraqi government that respects the rights of all its citizens. This is an ongoing assessment and not linked to any timeframe,\" he said.


Iraq\'s Kurdish President Jalal Talabani said he would issue a decree on Sunday to summon a first sitting of the parliament elected in December.

Talabani on Saturday added his voice to pressure from other leaders for Shi\'ite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to step aside, saying his resignation would help persuade other parties to form a national unity government that could halt a slide toward civil war.

As at least 14 people were killed in sectarian violence on Saturday, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East called for a broad coalition Washington hopes can foster stability and allow it to start withdrawing its troops.

The Shi\'ite United Alliance, the biggest bloc in the new parliament, nominated Jaafari to keep his job despite security and economic difficulties and criticism of his handling of violence that has killed more than 500 people since the destruction of a major Shi\'ite shrine in Samarra on February 22.

But smaller factions are refusing to join a coalition he leads and rival Shi\'ite leaders are considering putting up a new nominee, political sources say. Parliament is likely to sit around next Sunday, government sources say, but forming a government may take much longer.

The premier must be confirmed by a two-thirds majority.

General John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, met both Talabani and Jaafari in Baghdad: \"The government of national unity must be formed to bring the country together,\" he said.

There are about 135,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines and about 8,500 British troops in Iraq. The full U.S.-led coalition numbers around 160,000. Italy, with the fourth largest contingent in Iraq, has said it plans to pull out this year.

U.S. and British troops have trained 230,000 Iraqis to take on roles in the police force and Iraqi army, but both are currently incapable of securing the country on their own.

Talabani and Shi\'ite Interior Minister Bayan Jabor have called for sectarian and ethnic militias to join the U.S.-trained security forces, something U.S. officials in Baghdad have long been urging.

Government leaders, including Talabani and Jabor, are in parties which have justified maintaining their own militia forces, however, and Jabor set no timetable for any change.

\"There is no reasonable justification for any fear of the militias at the present time,\" Jabor said.

Sunni leaders have accused the government of condoning death squads targeting minority Sunnis and operating from inside the Shi\'ite-controlled Interior Ministry. In the north, Sunni Arabs complain of the power of Kurdish peshmerga militias.

Militia leaders deny condoning any such violence.

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Insurgent sniper shoots dead US soldier north of Baghdad

China People\'s Daily

Insurgent snipers gunned down a U.S. soldier in Dhuluiyah town of northern Iraq on Sunday, witnesses said.

\"A sniper shot dead a U.S. soldier in the Sorah intersection in central Dhuluiyah town while the U.S. troops were near an Iraqi army checkpoint at the site,\" a witness told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The attack prompted U.S. troops to open fire randomly, wounding three civilians and damaging four cars and several shops, the witness added.

U.S. soldiers backed by helicopters immediately searched the surrounding buildings and orchards, detaining some suspected civilians before they pulled out of the town, the witnesses said.

Dhuluiyah, some 100 km north of Baghdad, has been a hotbed of insurgency against the U.S. troops since the invasion in 2003.

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More obese kids predicted

Last Updated Mon, 06 Mar 2006 00:12:51 EST
CBC News

There will be more obese children all around the world by the end of the decade, the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity says.
In a report to be published Monday, the journal forecasts that almost half the children in the Americas will be obese by 2010, up from the current level of about one-third.

In Europe, the proportion will rise to nearly 40 per cent from about 25 per cent.

Dr. Philip James, chairperson of the International Obesity Task Force, described the development as an \"epidemic.\"

Researchers reached the conclusion based on a series of reports tracking obesity in school children in 25 countries and younger kids in 42 countries.

* FROM JAN. 17, 2006: Canadians getting dangerously fatter, study says

Obesity rose in most of the countries, based on factors including a lack of exercise and the easy availability of junk food, reinforced by massive advertising.

Experts are predicting dire consequences for health-care systems as fat children become fat adults.

Dr. Brian McCrindle, a childhood obesity expert at Toronto\'s Hospital for Sick Children, told the Associated Press that governments should consider banning food ads aimed at children.

Scientists are also saying that soft drinks are causing problems.

Two studies are expected to be published this week that link obesity and soft drinks.

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Four new cases of bird flu reported in Switzerland

www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-06 06:58:26

GENEVA, March 5 (Xinhuanet) -- With the discovery of four new cases of H5 bird flu, the total number of bird flu cases in Switzerland rose to 11 on Sunday.

The latest H5 cases were all found in the northeastern region of the country, involving two ducks and a coot in canton Thurgau and another coot in canton Zurich.
The Federal Veterinary Office said in Bern that it had sent samples, as with previous cases, to an EU laboratory in Britain totest whether the birds had died of the most dangerous H5N1 virus.

So far only one H5N1 case involving a wild duck has been confirmed in the country, whose lakes usually attract a lot of migratory wild birds.

No domestic fowl in the country have tested positive for the disease.

The veterinary office said that it expected further cases in the next few days as surveillance programs have been stepped up around the country.

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Poland confirms presence of H5 bird flu virus in dead swans

www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-06 00:17:02

WARSAW, March 5 (Xinhuanet) -- Poland on Sunday confirmed the presence of the H5 bird flu virus in two dead swans, but said further tests are needed to determine whether it is the lethal H5N1.

Agriculture Minister Krzysztof Jurgiel told a press conference that further tests will be conducted in the European Union reference laboratory in Britain and the result is expected next week.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said Poland is fully prepared for any bird flu outbreak.

The two swans were found dead two days ago on the banks of the Vistula River in the northern city of Torun.

The affected areas have been placed under close surveillance. The central European country has told the EU Commission it will take all necessary measures to contain the virus.

Earlier in the day, the Polish television network TVP3 reportedthe first case of the H5N1 virus in a swan found dead in north Poland, adding the information has been unofficially confirmed by the head of the veterinary services.

Local veterinary authorities have set up a safety zone of a three km radius around the area where the swan was found, and moreprotective measures will be taken in the city soon, TVP3 said.

Neighboring Germany has reported several bird flu cases near the border during the past few days.

Polish veterinary authorities have ordered strict surveillance of the border areas, ordering the poultry to be kept indoors.

Cases of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus, which has killed at least 92 people, mostly in Asia, since 2003, have been reported ineight EU countries -- Austria, Germany, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Slovakia.

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Bird flu in cats sparks WHO fears

Monday, March 6, 2006 Posted: 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)

VIENNA, Austria (Reuters) -- Avian flu extended its spread across Europe as Poland confirmed on Monday that two dead swans had the virulent H5N1 virus and Austria reported that several cats had been infected.
Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), meeting in Geneva, said the spread of bird flu was unprecedented and the threat of a human pandemic would not go away.

China said on Sunday the H5N1 virus had killed a man in southern Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong. There had been no reported outbreaks in birds in the area where he died and experts in Hong Kong urged authorities to find the source.

The WHO has previously confirmed 94 human deaths from bird flu since late 2003. The virus remains essentially an animal disease which humans contract through close contact with infected birds.

However, the virus is mutating and there are fears it may eventually change enough to be transmitted easily from human to human.

The virus is currently spreading rapidly among wild birds and has reached 15 new countries over the past month, moving across Europe and also hitting Egypt and West Africa.

Austria said the H5N1 virus has been found in several cats in the southern region of Styria, a rural area which has reported outbreaks of the virus in wild swans and ducks. A dead cat in northern Germany was found to have the virus last week.

The WHO has played down the threat to human health from infection in domestic cats, but the news has alarmed pet-loving Europeans and made headlines across the continent. It is thought that cats are getting the virus by eating infected birds.

Two dead swans found in northern Poland had H5N1, the Polish veterinary institute was quoted as saying by the PAP news agency on Monday. \"It was the H5N1 strain. It\'s certain,\" the institute\'s Jan Zmudzinski said.

The rapid spread of the virus has dealt a heavy blow to Europe\'s poultry industry and heightened fears for human health.

\"Events in recent weeks justify our concern,\" said Margaret Chan, the WHO\'s top influenza official, at the start of a three-day meeting to prepare defenses against a pandemic.
Hong Kong fears

Experts in Hong Kong are demanding to know how thorough surveillance of the disease is in China after Chinese officials reported a ninth human death from the virus.

\"It may mean that the surveillance system is not good enough to detect such an outbreak, or poultry deaths have not been handled as seriously as human cases, that they are buried or burnt without investigating the cause,\" said infectious disease expert Lo Wing-lok in Hong Kong on Monday.

\"There is a case for the Guangdong provincial government to come clean on the situation of poultry infection in Guangdong.\"

Guangdong shares a land border with Hong Kong, where the H5N1 virus made its first known jump to man in 1997, killing six people.

Health experts stress there is no risk from eating properly cooked meat, but fears over the virus have dented consumption.

France, which has Europe\'s largest poultry industry, has said it is losing 40 million euros ($48 million) a month after an outbreak of H5N1 at a poultry farm. The news led more than 40 countries to impose curbs on French poultry products, including foie gras.

France announced a new case of H5N1 in a wild duck in the east of the country on Sunday, while another test on a wild swan showed the virus had spread several hundred km (miles) south to the Mediterranean Bouches-du-Rhone area.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said on Saturday the United States was preparing for an outbreak of avian flu and assured consumers that poultry remained safe to eat.

\"There is no way to put a big cage around the United States. I think it is fair to assume we\'ll deal with ... avian influenza,\" said Johanns. \"We could see it in domestic flocks as well as (wild) birds.\"

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Blair under fire for evoking God in Iraq war decision


LONDON - Tony Blair triggered strong reactions from parents of soldiers killed in Iraq and the political opposition, after the British prime minister evoked God in his decision to go to war.

Details emerged Friday of Blair\'s interview on an ITV1 television talk show where he said God and history would judge his action in joining the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
\"That decision has to be taken and has to be lived with, and in the end there is a judgment that -- well, I think if you have faith about these things then you realise that judgment is made by other people,\" Blair said in the interview with host Michael Parkinson which will air Saturday night.

Pressed to clarify what he meant, Blair, a devout Christian, replied: \"If you believe in God, it\'s made by God as well.\"

The words did not sit well with Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Basra in 2004, one of the 103 British soldiers to date to have lost their lives in the Iraqi conflict.

\"How can he say he is a Christian?\" said Gentle, a campaigner with Military Families Against the War.

\"A good Christian wouldn\'t be for this war. I\'m actually quite disgusted by the comments.\"

Reg Keys, the father of a dead soldier, accused Blair of \"using God as a get-out for total strategic failure and I find it abhorrent.\"

His son Lance Corporal Tom Keys was one of six Royal Military policemen killed by an Iraqi mob in Majar al-Kabir in June 2003.

Keys, who stood against the prime minister in the last general election on an anti-war ticket, said Blair\'s remarks reminded him of US President George W. Bush who was quoted as saying last year that God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.

\"God and religion have nothing to do with this war,\" Keys said.

That view was echoed by the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Britain\'s second opposition party, who said \"going to war isn\'t just an act of faith.\"

It requires legal analysis and a close look at the consequences, and Blair\'s \"prospectus for military action was flawed,\" Menzies Campbell said.

Other Liberal Democrats agreed that God should not be part of the equation.

\"It is a bizarre and shocking revelation that the prime minister claims to have been guided by the supernatural in this matter, especially given the particular religious sensitivities in the Middle East,\" said Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat member of parliament from the Oxford area, who is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society.

\"We don\'t want Bush or Khomeini-type fundamentalism in our politics,\" he added.

Blair is seen by some as the most religious British premier since William Gladstone (1809-1898), who gave up his vocation as a pastor to enter politics.

Blair\'s handlers, including his former communications chief Alastair Campbell, have reportedly tried to steer Blair away from references to God, including reputedly removing the phrase \"God bless you\" from Blair\'s television address on the outbreak of the Iraq war.

During last year\'s election campaign, BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman asked Blair if he prayed with Bush.

Looking decidedly uncomfortable, Blair replied: \"No, Jeremy, we don\'t pray together.\"

But questions of religion surround Blair. There is speculation he plans to convert from High Church Anglican to Catholicism after leaving office.

Blair\'s wife Cherie is a strong Catholic and he regularly attends Mass with her and their children at the prime minister\'s country residence in Chequers.

The Catholic priest of that parish, Timothy Russ, has revealed that Blair asked for advice on moving between the churches.

But Blair says he has no plans to convert and only attends Catholic services so the family can worship together.

© Copyright Agence France-Presse.

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Empty Promises Dept: UK, US to withdraw Iraq forces by early \'07: papers

5 Mar 06

LONDON - The United States and Britain are planning to pull all their troops out of Iraq by the spring of 2007, two British newspapers reported in their Sunday editions, quoting unnamed senior defense ministry sources.

The Sunday Telegraph said the planned pull-out followed an acceptance by the two governments that the presence of foreign troops in Iraq was now a large obstacle to securing peace.

\"The British government is understood to be the driving force behind the withdrawal plan but all 24 coalition members are likely to welcome the move, given the growing international unpopularity of the war,\" the Telegraph said.
The Bush administration and Pentagon have stated repeatedly there is no timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and a U.S. military spokesman repeated that on Saturday.

\"We\'ve made no such plans,\" said Pentagon spokesman Major Paul Swiergosz.

There are currently about 135,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines and about 8,500 British troops in Iraq. The full U.S.-led coalition numbers around 160,000. Italy, which has the fourth largest contingent in Iraq, has said it plans to pull out this year.

Britain\'s Sunday Mirror newspaper also reported on the planned withdrawal saying it would happen within 12 months.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said frequently in the past that foreign troops will be gradually withdrawn from Iraq once Iraqi security forces are capable of guaranteeing security for the 27 million population.

U.S. and British troops have trained 230,000 Iraqis to take on roles in the police force and a slowly expanding Iraqi army, although both are currently incapable of securing the country on their own.

The U.S. military withdrew around 15,000 troops after Iraq had successful elections in December for its first full-term parliament since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Tensions in Iraq have soared over the past two weeks as fighting between the country\'s main Muslim sects has intensified.

There is also an on-going two-year-old insurgency being waged by militants against the U.S.-backed Iraqi government, its security forces and foreign troops.

The recent sectarian violence has provoked fears that the country is on the brink of civil war, a scenario that could greatly complicate the role of foreign troops.

However, the Telegraph, quoting a defense official, said that if civil war were to break out, it would likely cause the withdrawal plan to be put off.

Comment: Don\'t be fooled! It\'s easy to make promises designed to allay the concerns of an agitated populace when all the while you are planning to further terrorize them so that they will support more war mongering further on.

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Tony, Don\'t wait for God. We will judge you

Mary Riddell
Sunday March 5, 2006
The Observer

God will judge Tony Blair on the Iraq war. Or so the Prime Minister told Michael Parkinson. Think back to another television appearance, this time last year. On that occasion, Mr Blair faced a studio of women and a different ombudsman. History would deliver its verdict on him, he said. His audience denounced his war, but he was certain that no tribunal, divine or temporal, would ever find his judgment wanting.

This time, as the third anniversary of the start of war approaches, Mr Blair sounded less sure. Wishful thinking, maybe, but he looked to me like a man haunted, at last, by what he had unleashed. If Mr Blair is finally realising his catastrophic error, that shift is partly down to the mothers, wives and partners who have never stopped pointing out the folly of this conflict.
Wednesday is International Women\'s Day. It will be marked by thousands of petitions for peace, to be handed in at US embassies across the world. Such pleas have rarely looked more hopeless. Hundreds lie dead after the bombing of the golden mosque at Samarra. The old conflict, a daily toll of death and suffering, may soon be swept away by new variant civil meltdown. From Burnley to Baghdad, women warned of this. Obviously, millions of men did so, too, but female opponents outnumbered male ones in Britain, and their Iraqi counterparts faced the hideous fate always meted out to the women and children of war.

It was not that they had prospered under Saddam Hussein and UN sanctions. In Basra, in 2002, 25 out of the 26 obstetrics and gynaecology students were women. Yet their patients were weak and sick, and one in eight of the babies they delivered would not see their fifth birthday.

Grief is more random now. A week ago today, a group of Iraqi mothers watched their teenage sons leave for a game of football. They never saw them again, unless you count a morgue visit to identify body parts scraped from a bombed pitch. Other women will struggle to be heard on Wednesday. Sharia law, they say, has pushed a once-secular society back into a medieval world. Honour killings, beheadings, forced veiling, rape, acid attacks and sexual servitude are a part of everyday life. So are power cuts, dead phone lines, ruptured fuel supplies and no food because the markets are shut and silent.

This time three years ago, the planet echoed to the testosteronic din of men marching to war. The UN said no, but God said yes. Politicians bought the neocon fairy tale that totalitarian regimes would collapse into dust, allowing westernised democracies to spring up in their place. Women, and less credulous men, were not so eager to believe that the God-given goodness of America and Britain trumped law and logic. Nor could they grasp how attacking nation states wipes out stateless terror.

The noise has turned to purdah. When 60 people died in a single day last week, newspapers and TV networks barely mentioned it. Incipient civil meltdown, insurgency and a more powerful Iran, intent on getting a nuclear bomb, attract hardly more coverage than a prize dahlia contest at a village fete. Iraq was the prototype of the sitting-room war, in which all would be seen, 24/7, and all explained. But the chloroform rag of boredom, embarrassment or hopelessness prevailed. We are all anaesthetised now.

In that vacuum, the voice of women has not died. Last week, the families of 18 servicemen killed in Iraq delivered a petition to an absent Prime Minister. Tony Blair was not on the runway to meet the flag-draped coffins of their children, nor available at Number 10. Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son, Gordon, is among the dead, had received a personally signed letter saying: \'I am afraid a meeting with you will not be possible.\'

Another mother, Pauline Hickey, sent her own begging note, imploring Mr Blair to bring the troops home. \'We have lost 103 dedicated soldiers,\' she wrote. \'They died in a war based on lies, for nothing.\'

British and American armed services are never going to end the insurgency fomented by the war they fought. Most Iraqis say they want them gone. The test is whether than an exit is more likely to unleash civil war or forestall it. Iraq\'s elected leaders still mostly want troops to stay, but the case is getting weaker. My friend in Baghdad says coalition soldiers are a spectral presence, never at the trouble spots. So what are they there for?

In other respects, Britain has already walked away. Conflict, when it is discussed at all, revolves round us: our civil liberties, our freedom of speech, our rule of law, our consciences, our wish to wash our hands of a country about which we know very little, except that we never wanted to invade it in the first place.

Leave it to the Iraqis, people say. Is that all we have to offer to the thousands of women who mourn their husbands and children in the knowledge that three bitter years may only be a curtain-raiser on the real event?

Either Iraq will implode, in which case neighbour will slaughter neighbour and the impact will open all the fault lines of the Middle East. Or else we look for other solutions, frail as they may seem. Iran, which backs Shia Islam, may not want a civil war, knowing the most likely conflict is a three-way Shia clash between the movement\'s major factions and their militias. There is still scope for a government of national unity, if the Shia majority that won January\'s elections offers more power to the Sunni minority. Obviously, this is Iraq\'s business, but, given the gallons of blood on Britain\'s hands, it could at least look interested.

As the anniversary of Shock and Awe approaches, the clamour starts up again. In a flood of books, the impresarios and cheerleaders of war revise their views. Francis Fukuyama declares the end of neoconservatism. Paul Bremer, the US postwar administrator, relives a reign in which he ordered a flat tax of 15 per cent on a country with no taxes.

Here is another narrative. After the war, almost eight million children, many of them girls, went back to school. Attendance rose to 85 per cent at primary school, 4 per cent higher than the regional average, and Unicef was hopeful. Last Friday, the charity found out that 400 schools were being targeted by insurgents intent on slaughtering pupils and their teachers.

On Ministry of Education figures, 64 children have been murdered in the last four months and 57 injured. Remember them on Wednesday. They are the ones failed by military onslaught and by Tony Blair\'s God. They are also the reminder that those who seek a political solution for Iraq cannot afford to fail.


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On the dotted line: Governor signs paper-ballot bill into law

Associated Press
March 3, 2006

New Mexico\'s 33 counties will switch from a patchwork of voting methods to a single paper-ballot system under a bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Bill Richardson.

The governor, who pushed the proposal through the recent legislative session, said the system would make voting more secure and restore the public\'s confidence in elections.

\"We believe that all voices deserve to be heard, and when it comes to elections, that all votes deserve to be counted,\" the governor said at a signing ceremony that more resembled a campaign event.
Richardson, a Democrat, is running for re-election this year and is also considering a possible presidential bid in 2008.

The new law \"makes us a national leader in election reform,\" the governor said at an event in a Santa Fe County office building that was Web cast on his re-election Web site.

Under the system, voters would manually mark ballots and then feed them into electronic tabulating machines. In compliance with federal law, voters with disabilities would have access to ballot-marking machines that would allow them to vote without assistance.

The new system could be at least partially in place by the Nov. 7 general election, although many details still need to be ironed out, according to the secretary of state.

The law says counties must comply once an adequate supply of voting systems is available and once enough money is on hand for the new machines, the software and the paper ballots that the secretary of state will provide.

Richardson has earmarked $11 million from capital-projects funds, and the federal government has provided $9 million for new machines that can be used by disabled voters.

Counties under the new law also are supposed to be spared having to pay the nearly $4 million they still owe on electronic-voting machines that will no longer be useable -- although it\'s not yet clear how that will work. \"We\'re still trying to sort through all of that,\" said Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron.

Chaves County, for example, will have to jettison 120 electronic-voting machines it has been using and another 70 it recently purchased that have never been used, said County Clerk Rhoda Coakley. The county still owes about $400,000 for machines, she said.

\"I\'m not against paper ballots,\" said Coakley, who has been the clerk or chief deputy clerk for 28 years. \"I\'m just very conservative, and when you have the unknown factors of paper and printing costs year after year, that\'s a concern.\"

Mary Herrera, the county clerk in Bernalillo County -- home to about one-third of the state\'s voters -- estimates it could cost about $6 million for the county to convert to an all-paper system. The county still owes about $1.8 million on its machines, she said.

\"We\'re the largest county, and I really have to make this work. ... It\'s going to be very challenging,\" Herrera said.

Vigil-Giron said the ballot-marking machines for the disabled that will be bought with federal money -- and the tabulators that accompany them -- have been ordered.

There must be one for each polling place, and Elections Director Ernest Marquez said in some counties, that will be sufficient; they won\'t have to order additional tabulators.

Currently, 12 counties use paper ballots exclusively, according to Marquez. In all other counties, paper ballots are used for mail-in absentee voting, and in some cases for early voting as well. Those paper systems would have to be replaced with the new one.

Lawmakers opposed to the bill complained it would give one company -- Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software -- a monopoly in the state. Their AutoMark machines for use by the disabled are the only state-certified machines that comply with federal law, according to Marquez. That\'s the machine counties will be getting from the secretary of state, along with ES&S-made tabulators that read those ballots. Counties that need additional tabulators would likely choose that ES&S machine, critics said.

The new law requires that the voting systems be purchased through a competitive bidding process.

A law passed last year requires New Mexico to implement a voting system that provides a \"voter verifiable and auditable paper trail.\"

Supporters of paper ballots said it made no sense to retrofit existing electronic machines to meet that requirement.

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Fourteen indicted in Appalachia election fraud probe

March 03, 2006

WISE - Fourteen individuals, including the mayor/town manager of Appalachia, a town councilman, and two law enforcement officials, were indicted by a Wise County grand jury on multiple counts stemming from an alleged conspiracy to conduct election fraud during the 2004 town elections.

The indictments show the investigation hasn\'t been just about pork rinds, Special Prosecutor Tim McAfee said during a press conference at the Wise County Courthouse. The investigation into allegations of voter fraud evolved from early reports of attempted vote buying before town elections that reportedly involved items like bags of pork rinds, packs of cigarettes, and six-packs of beer.

While the entire affair may have been sparked by rumors of \"votes being sold for pork rinds,\" said McAfee, \"I think it would be a fair statement to say it is not about pork rinds, and never was about pork rinds.\"
The grand jury handed down a total of nearly 1,000 felony counts leveled against the 14 individuals on 269 alleged violations of law ranging from conspiracy, to tampering with absentee ballots, to forgery, to illegal seizure of private property by law enforcement officials for their own personal use. Drug trafficking by some individuals has also been alleged. (my emphasis,ilyana)

McAfee said the 300-page indictment document and the investigation details \"a pattern of misconduct\" before, during and after the May 4, 2004, town elections that boils down to \"corruption\" that permeated Town Hall.

Those indicted include Appalachia Mayor/Town Manager Ben Cooper; Town Councilman Owen Anderson \"Andy\" Sharrett III; Sharrett\'s father, Appalachia Parks and Recreation Director Owen Anderson \"Dude\" Sharrett Jr.; Sharrett\'s brother, Adam Brody Sharrett; wife to Dude and mother of Andy and Adam Sharrett, Belinda Carolyn Sharrett, employed in a clerk position in Town Hall; Dude Sharrett\'s aunt, Betty Chloe Sharrett Bolling; Dude Sharrett\'s brother, Kevin Lee Sharrett of Indiana; and Dennis Martin \"Boogie\" Sharrett, another of Dude Sharrett\'s brothers.

Kevin Lee Sharrett is alleged to have brought illicit drugs from Indiana into the Appalachia area.

Appalachia\'s chief law enforcement officer, Benjamin Graham Surber, has been charged with being a part of the election fraud conspiracy as well as occupying a sham position, collecting pay for no work. McAfee alleged Thursday that Surber\'s \"job\" was basically to collect a paycheck so Cooper could maintain direct control over the police department.

Appalachia Police Officer Mike Baber is charged with seizing private property for his personal benefit.

\"You don\'t keep TVs for your personal use,\" McAfee said.

McAfee alleged that on at least one occasion Baber seized property without a search warrant, and the victims of \"police raids\" may have been flirting with the shady side of the law themselves and were reluctant to complain.

Don Houston Estridge, who worked as a mail carrier in the Appalachia Post Office, is charged with intercepting and diverting absentee ballots so they could be doctored with forged signatures and false statements then returned to the Wise County Voter Registrar\'s office as legitimate ballots.

Charges against three women who reside in Big Stone Gap include allegations they signed false requests for assistance at the polls so their votes could be cast for the slate of candidates, headed up by Cooper, favored by the alleged conspirators.

Absentee ballots were marked by persons other than the intended voters, McAfee said, and \"many (absentee ballots) never saw their intended recipient.\"

McAfee said an arraignment hearing for all 14 individuals has been scheduled in Wise County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. on March 14. He said authorities will likely contact each of the indicted individuals over the next week or so to report voluntarily to the sheriff\'s department for processing, and figured most if not all will prefer that to being picked up by deputies and placed under arrest. McAfee said he expected many of the individuals will probably be set free under personal recognizance pending the arraignment hearing.

McAfee and Assistant Special Prosecutor Greg Stewart said the outcome of the 2004 town elections could have \"mathematically\" been altered as a result of the alleged conspiracy, counting the 55 or so absentee ballots thus far in question. There were 585 votes cast, including 103 absentee ballots - far more than a typical election in Appalachia - with seven candidates for three available seats on the Town Council.

Cooper and his running mates of Sharrett and Eddie Golloway ousted longtime Mayor Gary Bush to seize control of Town Hall. Golloway is not a party to any of the indictments.

McAfee said Thursday\'s indictments do not signal the close of the investigation. He said the indictments merely signal the end of \"Chapter One,\" and the probe is ongoing.

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Gigantic cosmic cataclysm in Stephan's Quintet of galaxies

Space and Earth science
March 03, 2006

Recent infrared observations made with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have revealed the presence of a huge intergalactic shock wave, or "sonic boom" in the middle of Stephan's Quintet, a group of galaxies which is now the scene of a gigantic cosmic cataclysm. This discovery, made by an international research team including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (MPIK) in Heidelberg, provides a local view of what might have been going on in the early universe, when vast mergers and collisions between galaxies were commonplace.
When astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope turned their attention to a well-known group of galaxies called Stephan's Quintet, they were, quite simply, shocked at what they saw. There, sweeping through the group, lurks one of the biggest shock waves ever seen.

For decades, astronomers using optical telescopes have known that the galaxies in this group, located about 300 million light years away, have a very distorted distribution of visible light from stars, indicating that the galaxies have experienced encounters in the past, and are now engaged in further collisions. But this, as it turns out, is only part of the drama. Recently, astronomers have become able to measure what, apart from the stars, is present in Stephan's Quintet. By looking in the radio and X-rays they discovered huge quantities of gas - about 100,000 million solar masses, mainly composed of hydrogen and helium - in the space between the galaxies, more than all the gas inside the galaxies themselves.

Now, a team of scientists from Caltech, USA and from the Astrophysics Department of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (MPIK) in Heidelberg, Germany, together with other collaborators from the USA and Australia, have turned the Spitzer Space Telescope, equipped with a super-sensitive infrared spectrograph, towards the location of the group. They discovered that one of the galaxies, called NGC7318b, which is falling towards the others at high speed, is generating a giant shock wave in front of it - larger even than the Milky Way - as it ploughs its way through the intergalactic gas. The results of this amazing discovery are to be published on March 10th in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The signature of the shock-wave was given by the detection of strong radiation from molecular hydrogen. When hydrogen molecules are "excited" by the mechanical energy produced in the collision and transported by shock waves, they emit a distinctive type of radiation that can be detected in the infrared, and it was this radiation that was picked up by Spitzer. "The strength of the emission and the fact that it shows the gas to be highly disturbed was a huge surprise to us, said team leader Dr. Phil Appleton. "We expected to see the spectral signature of dust grains - but instead we saw an almost pure laboratory-like spectrum of hydrogen molecules and almost nothing else. It was quite unlike anything we had seen before in a galaxy system."

Spectrometers have the ability to break light down into its component wavelengths, where the chemical signatures of the material that produced it can be seen as spectral lines. The width of these lines allows astronomers to determine the velocity of the gas, with wider lines indicating gas at a higher velocity. The hydrogen line seen by Spitzer in Stephan's Quintet is the widest ever observed for hot hydrogen molecules, corresponding to gas motions of 870 kilometres per second, equivalent to a Mach number of 100 or more. "To better understand this situation", says Dr. Richard Tuffs, a team member from MPIK, "one can think of the shock waves created by supersonic aircraft in the Earth atmosphere. There, water droplets can condense behind the shock in humid conditions, while in Stephan's Quintet hydrogen molecules could form out of a turbulent and cooling intergalactic medium. Of course, all this is happening on an enormous scale in Stephan's Quintet."

The Spitzer observations provide a new diagnostic for studying conditions in merging and colliding galaxies, which were much more prevalent in the early universe. "Observing a nearby densely populated galaxy group, immersed in a thick gas cloud, gives us a local view of what might have been going on in the early universe about 10 billion years ago, soon after the first galaxies formed, when the intergalactic medium

and the galaxy density were much greater than today. In this respect these observations are a bit like stepping into a time machine", said Dr. Cristina Popescu, another team member from MPIK. The new results may indicate that some of the emission from the most luminous infrared galaxies seen in the very distant Universe may actually be created not by stars, but by vast shocks in the gas between the colliding galaxies.

Though far in the future, it is likely that in about two billion years from now, we will collide with the slightly larger neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy, creating shocks of our own.

Original work: P.N. Appleton, K.C. Xu , W. Reach , M.A. Dopita , Y. Gao , N. Lu , C.C. Popescu, J.W. Sulentic, R.J. Tuffs, and M.S. Yun, Powerful High-Velocity Dispersion Molecular Hydrogen Associated with an Intergalactic Shock Wave in Stephan's Quintet, The Astrophysical Journal, 639:L51-L54, 10 March 2006

Source: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

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Physicists Predict Stock Market Crashes

February 24, 2006

On Monday, October 19, 1987 – infamously known as "black Monday" – the Dow fell 508 points, or 22.9%, marking the largest crash in history. Using an analytical approach similar to the one applied to explore heart rate, physicists have discovered some unusual events preceding the crash. These findings may help economists in risk analysis and in predicting inevitable future crashes.
Although stock prices fluctuate, the variations across the overall market are relatively small, as well as similarly random (or "Gaussian") on a large time scale. Nobody knows what causes the giant drops that result in market crashes, except that crashes involve a variety of factors.

While analyzing stock-price fluctuations based on critical dynamics and phase transitions, physicists from the University of Tokyo (Kiyono et al.) have observed some surprising behavior preceding market crashes. During the year before black Monday, the team found that the probability of large price fluctuations increased unexpectedly ("non-Gaussian" behavior), as if approaching a critical point signifying a major change. At the critical point – or day of the crash – an abrupt phase transition did indeed occur as the probability model changed from being scale dependent to scale invariant. Scale invariance, which in this case meant that the prices no longer depended on the time scale, is characteristic behavior observed at a critical point.

"Because the probability of the occurrence of extremely large fluctuations shows a sharp increase before black Monday…our observations suggest that, through the internal dynamics, the system gradually approaches a critical point where inherent, multi-scale fluctuations are likely to result in a crash," said the scientists in a study published in a recent Physical Review Letters.

This "critical" model builds on the idea that the volatility, or variation, of price changes can quantitatively measure how much the market may fluctuate. In fact, volatility – not actual price – is the key input in Black and Scholes' "option pricing" model on price variation over time, developed in 1973 and highly influential in financial markets.

However, volatility alone could not explain the occurrence of large price fluctuations found by Kiyono et al. The team also studied price changes on a short (10-minute) time scale, and discovered a probability of large fluctuations on this scale, as well. This similarity of fluctuations on different time scales resembles the behavior of earthquakes and heartbeats, which are also scale invariant. The physicists think that the small-scale stock price fluctuations may have caused highly clustered behavior of individual traders, which then grew rapidly through internal interactions in the stock market.

"If the same characteristics can be observed in other stock indices, our approach may be applicable to quantitative risk evaluation," the scientists reported.

Does an increasing probability of price fluctuations necessarily mean a crash will occur? Not at all, since even the most statistically promising analysis cannot account for external factors. For example, the team observed extreme price fluctuations in log returns before 1990. However, because the Iraqi attack on Kuwait in August 1990 and the Gulf War in 1991 led to declining stock prices and action, the internal dynamics of the market underwent a radical change and a phase transition and critical point did not occur.

Citation: Kiyono, Ken, Struzik, Zbigniew R., and Yamamoto, Yoshiharu. Criticality and Phase Transition in Stock-Price Fluctuations. Physical Review Letters. 96, 068701 (2006)

By Lisa Zyga, Copyright 2006 PhysOrg.com

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