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

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Some Things Never Change

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times

According to Reuters, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will call today (Tuesday) for a global, interventionist approach to confront terrorism head on and win a battle over values and ideas. In his speech Blair will state that:

"This is not a clash between civilizations, it is a clash about civilization.'We' is not the West. 'We' are as much Muslim as Christian or Jew or Hindu. 'We' are those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others, to democracy, liberty and human rights administered by secular courts. The only way to win is to recognize this phenomenon is a global ideology; to see all areas in which it operates as linked and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists"

Right here, we have the core of the myth of Islamic terrorism. Blair and Bush are merely the spokesmen for the real strategists in their respective government "think-tanks". These are the people who are behind the current headlong dash towards global war that uses the myth of Islamic terrorism as its rationale. Blair states that this terrorism is a "global ideology", which leads us to believe that there are masses of organised Islamic terrorists all over the world, armed to the teeth, that want to impose a world-wide Islamic regime that eschews "religious tolerance, openness to others, democracy, liberty and human rights administered by secular courts." So tell us, where are these terrorists? Where is the administrative center of this monstrous campaign to turn the world into dark planet living out an Islamic Orwellian nightmare?

Of course, there is no such thing. At most, as Blair would have to agree, there is a small band of fundamentalist Islamophiles who are entirely dependent on nation states for their survival, and it just so happens that the nation states that have been sponsoring such types over the years are the same nation states that want us to believe that there is a global threat to Western civilisation. In short, it is all a bunch of horse hockey, big lies to fool the people in a big way through the use of the age-old mechanism of problem-reaction-solution. Bush and Blair create the problem, provoke the reaction from Western populations, and then provide the solution.

The proof of this is evident from the lies that have already been exposed over the invasion of Iraq and the alleged threat that Saddam posed. Saddam posed no threat at all, and Bush, Blair et al knew it, yet they lied big time to convince us otherwise.

It is interesting to note that the alleged threats to Western civilisation posed by this bogus global Islamic terrorist ideology are all already on the wane in both Britain and the U.S. Religious tolerance is at an all-time low, Muslims in both countries are now being eyed with suspicion and are treated as potential terrorists by state authorities and Western civilians alike. "Openness to others" is therefore soon to be a thing of the past. Western "Democracy" is headed in the same direction, with new government anti-terrorist laws stripping British and American citizens of their fundamental civil rights and freedoms, go and read the Patriot Acts I and II and the British "glorifying terrorism" law if you do not believe me.

Under these laws "liberty and human rights administered by secular courts" will also be consigned to the dustbin of Western political history. The supreme court in America is dominated by Bush-appointed judges who share his elitist and racist 'Christian' beliefs. One need only to look at the type of "freedom and Democracy" that is being bestowed on Iraq by American troops to understand that to Bush and Blair, freedom and democracy are just catch phrases designed to lull the public into a state of complacency while Iraq is pillaged and plundered and divided up among the ravening hyenas that make up the Western government-industry complex.

Consider these two BBC reports on where the money from Iraqis oil reserves have ended up. Here and here.

As a further example of how the 'anti-terrorism' policies of Bush and Blair are either facilitating terrorism or helping the alleged terrorists to achieve their alleged goals, the Scotsman today carries the following report:

Identity cards a 'present' to terrorists and criminals, spy heroine says

A National identity card scheme will be a "present" to terrorists, criminal gangs and foreign spies, one of Britain's most respected former intelligence agents has told ministers.

The warning from Daphne Park, who served for 30 years as a senior controller for MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, came as the parliamentary power struggle over the identity cards bill dragged on. [...]

The former MI6 agent passed a withering verdict on the proposed cards, ridiculing ministers' suggestions that the system will make people safer. In fact, she said, the complete opposite is true.

"The very creation of such an enormous national identity register will be a present to terrorists; it will be a splendid thing for them to disrupt and blow up," she said.

"It will also provide valuable information to organised crime and to the intelligence services of unfriendly countries. It will be accessible to all of these," she said.

Baroness Park is not the first former intelligence officer to question the value of a national ID card. Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, last year said she did not believe the cards would make Britain any safer from terrorist attack; they would quickly be copied, she said.

It is all but impossible that the policy makers in Blair's cabinet are unaware of these facts, yet they insist on pushing forward with attempts to have a national 'biometric' ID card introduced. Ask yourself, why? If such a measure has no relevance to the job of keeping British citizens safe from terrorists, then why would Blair want to impose these restrictions on civil liberties? How can it be that, while Blair is claiming that the "terrorists" goal is to destroy Western freedoms and Democracy, Blair himself is systematically denuding British citizens of these same Western freedoms?

In his speech, Blair will also say that:

"nations must recognize extremism is deep rooted - with 40 to 50 countries subject to regular terrorist attacks loosely linked to its ideology - and that an interventionist stance was the precondition for future prosperity and stability."

What Blair will not admit is that many of these terrorist attacks are carried out or financed by Western governments which is simply part and parcel of the problem-reaction-solution mechanism and designed to create the 'reality' of deep-rooted global terrorism which then necessitates Blair's "interventionist stance" aka bombing the hell out of a foreign country on the basis of the existence of a bogus threat to the West from within that country.

Can you see it? How, with the resources and reach of a nation state - specifically the most powerful country on earth - it becomes very easy to engineer a global crisis and kick-start a military rampage that could well end with the deaths of millions upon millions of people? Make no mistake, this is what is happening, right under our noses, the evidence is there for all to see, all that is required is for people to face that evidence and give up their dependency on the diet of lies and disinformation fed to them by their governments and their government's hired prostitutes - the mainstream media.

Speaking from his cell at Nuremburg in 1945 to Gustave Gilbert, a Jewish German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist, Nazi Reichmarshall Herman Goering stated:

"Of course the people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Today, this manipulative strategy as defined by Goering in 1945 is being used by Bush and Blair to, yet again, manipulate the people of the world to support a war of aggression on countries of the Middle East. Over 60 years ago, our own fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers succumbed to the propaganda and the big lie and supported a needless world war that left 65 million dead. Are we prepared to allow history to repeat itself?
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Editorial: More Evidence Neocons Are Destroying Bill of Rights

Monday March 20th 2006, 12:38 pm
Kurt Nimmo
Another Day in the Empire

I don't know how much more evidence we need to demonstrate there is a plot underway to dismantle the Bill of Rights. Now we learn that soon after "the dark days" of nine eleven, "lawyers from the White House and the Justice Department began meeting to debate a number of novel legal strategies to help prevent another attack," according to US News & World Report. "Meeting in the FBI's state-of-the-art command center in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the lawyers talked with senior FBI officials about using the same legal authority to conduct physical searches of homes and businesses of terrorism suspects–also without court approval," that is to say in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment. You know it is bad when the FBI-with its long and infamous history of trashing the Bill of Rights-resisted this effort. "FBI Director Robert Mueller was alarmed by the proposal," two officials told the magazine. "Mueller was personally very concerned … not only because of the blowback issue but also because of the legal and constitutional questions raised by warrantless physical searches." Apparently Mueller was so concerned he made it a point "to leave Washington-and sometimes the country-so as not to get pulled into the political crossfire. When Gonzales testified February 6 [before the Judiciary Committee], Mueller was on his way to Morocco." Of course, we are told by neocon cheerleaders in the corporate media the Bush White House and the Justice Department are only interested in "warrantless physical searches" against possible "al-Qaeda" bad guys. Most Americans have nothing to fear-that is so long as they do not fear the trashing of the Constitution. But then, considering most Americans are woefully ignorant of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and know more about cartoon characters, the absence of such fear should not come as a surprise.
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Pissed Off Patriots

Actor Charlie Sheen Questions Official 9/11 Story

Alex Jones & Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
March 20 2006

Actor Charlie Sheen has joined a growing army of other highly credible public figures in questioning the official story of 9/11 and calling for a new independent investigation of the attack and the circumstances surrounding it.

Over the past two years, scores of highly regarded individuals have gone public to express their serious doubts about 9/11. These include former presidential advisor and CIA analyst Ray McGovern, the father of Reaganomics and former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury Paul Craig Roberts, BYU physics Professor Steven Jones, former German defense minister Andreas von Buelow, former MI5 officer David Shayler, former Blair cabinet member Michael Meacher, former Chief Economist for the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush's first term Morgan Reynolds and many more.
Speaking to The Alex Jones Show on the GCN Radio Network, the star of current hit comedy show Two and a Half Men and dozens of movies including Platoon and Young Guns, Sheen elaborated on why he had problems believing the government's version of events.

Sheen agreed that the biggest conspiracy theory was put out by the government itself and prefaced his argument by quoting Theodore Roosevelt in stating, "That we are to stand by the President right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

"We're not the conspiracy theorists on this particular issue," said Sheen.

"It seems to me like 19 amateurs with box cutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75% of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory. It raises a lot of questions."

Sheen described the climate of acceptance for serious discussion about 9/11 as being far more fertile than it was a couple of years ago.

"It feels like from the people I talk to in and around my circles, it seems like the worm is turning."

Suspicious collapse of buildings

Sheen described his immediate skepticism regarding the official reason for the collapse of the twin towers and building 7 on the day of 9/11.

"I was up early and we were gonna do a pre-shoot on Spin City, the show I used to do, I was watching the news and the north tower was burning. I saw the south tower hit live, that famous wide shot where it disappears behind the building and then we see the tremendous fireball."

"There was a feeling, it just didn't look any commercial jetliner I've flown on any time in my life and then when the buildings came down later on that day I said to my brother 'call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition'?"

Sheen said that most people's gut instinct, that the buildings had been deliberately imploded, was washed away by the incessant flood of the official version of events from day one.

Sheen questioned the plausibility of a fireballs traveling 110 feet down an elevator shaft and causing damage to the lobbies of the towers as seen in video footage, especially when contrasted with eyewitness accounts of bombs and explosions in the basement levels of the buildings.

Regarding building 7, which wasn't hit by a plane, Sheen highlighted the use of the term "pull," a demolition industry term for pulling the outer walls of the building towards the center in an implosion, as was used by Larry Silverstein in a September 2002 PBS documentary when he said that the decision to "pull" building 7 was made before its collapse. This technique ensures the building collapses in its own footprint and can clearly be seen during the collapse of building 7 with the classic 'crimp' being visible.

The highly suspicious collapse of building 7 and the twin towers has previously been put under the spotlight by physics Professor Steven Jones and Kevin Ryan of Underwriters Laboratories, the company that certified the steel components used in the construction of the World Trade Center towers.

"The term 'pull' is as common to the demolition world as 'action and 'cut' are to the movie world," said Sheen.

Sheen referenced firefighters in the buildings who were eyewitnesses to demolition style implosions and bombs.

"This is not you or I watching the videos and speculating on what we saw, these are gentlemen inside the buildings at the very point of collapse."

"If there's a problem with building 7 then there's a problem with the whole thing," said Sheen.

Bush's behavior on 9/11

Sheen then questioned President Bush's actions on 9/11 and his location at the Booker Elementary School in Florida. Once Andy Card had whispered to Bush that America was under attack why didn't the secret service immediately whisk Bush away to a secret location?

By remaining at a location where it was publicly known the President would be before 9/11, he was not only putting his own life in danger, but the lives of hundreds of schoolchildren. That is unless the government knew for sure what the targets were beforehand and that President Bush wasn't one of them.

"It seems to me that upon the revelation of that news that the secret service would grab the President as if he was on fire and remove him from that room," said Sheen.

The question of how Bush saw the first plane hit the north tower, when no live footage of that incident was carried, an assertion that Bush repeated twice, was also put under the spotlight.

"I guess one of the perks of being President is that you get access to TV channels that don't exist in the known universe," said Sheen.

"It might lead you to believe that he'd seen similar images in some type of rehearsal as it were, I don't know."

The Pentagon incident

Sheen outlined his disbelief that the official story of what happened at the Pentagon matched the physical evidence.

"Show us this incredible maneuvering, just show it to us. Just show us how this particular plane pulled off these maneuvers. 270 degree turn at 500 miles and hour descending 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes, skimming across treetops the last 500 meters."

We have not been able to confirm that a large commercial airliner hit the Pentagon because the government has seized and refused to release any footage that would show the impact.

"I understand in the interest of national security that maybe not release the Pentagon cameras but what about the Sheraton, what about the gas station, what about the Department of Transportation freeway cam? What about all these shots that had this thing perfectly documented? Instead they put out five frames that they claim not to have authorized, it's really suspicious," said Sheen.

Sheen also questioned how the plane basically disappeared into the Pentagon with next to no wreckage and no indication of what happened to the wing sections.

Concerning how the Bush administration had finalized Afghanistan war plans two days before 9/11 with the massing of 44,000 US troops and 18,000 British troops in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and in addition the call for "some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor," as outlined in the PNAC documents, Sheen stated, "you don't really put those strategies together overnight do you for a major invasion? Those are really well calculated and really well planned."

"Coincidence? We think not," said Sheen and he called the PNAC quotes "emblematic of the arrogance of this administration."

A real investigation

Sheen joined others in calling for a revised and truly independent investigation of 9/11.

Sheen said that "September 11 wasn't the Zapruder film, it was the Zapruder film festival," and that the inquiry had to be, "headed, if this is possible, by some neutral investigative committee. What if we used retired political foreign nationals? What if we used experts that don't have any ties whatsoever to this administration?"

"It is up to us to reveal the truth. It is up to us because we owe it to the families, we owe it to the victims. We owe it to everybody's life who was drastically altered, horrifically that day and forever. We owe it to them to uncover what happened."

Charlie Sheen joins the rest of his great family and notably his father Martin Sheen, who has lambasted for opposing the Iraq war before it had begun yet has now been proven right in triplicate, in using his prominent public platform to stand for truth and justice and we applaud and salute his brave efforts, remembering Mark Twain's quote.

"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot."

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The bodies are piling up

By Cindy Sheehan
Information Clearing House
20 Mar 06

"More fighting and sacrifice will be required to achieve this victory, and for some, the temptation to retreat and abandon our commitments is strong." -- George Bush, Radio Address, March 18, 2006

On March 19, 2003, George Bush "shocked and awed" the world by his premature, if not wholly, unnecessary invasion of Iraq. I can remember that night when he came on to tell us that he had begun his war crimes against Iraq in earnest. I was sitting on my couch sobbing for the innocent people of Iraq and for our children who had been put in harm's way by their careless commander in chief.
I was also terrified on a personal and primal level for my son, Casey. As a mother, that terror came from a deep and up to then, unreachable and unknown place in my soul. I hoped in my head that the predictions of swift and easy victory by the various neocon liars would be true, but I knew in my heart that such a "cake walk" would not be possible.

When George flew onto the deck of the Abraham Lincoln on May 1st, 2003 and declared "mission accomplished" and an end to major combat in Iraq, I wanted to jump for joy, but I thought his playing fighter pilot in his special costume and his posturing pronouncements were premature.

When the 4th Infantry Division from Ft. Hood captured Saddam in his hidey-hole in December of 2003, I was hoping against hope that our troops would be coming home soon, since they got the person who took Osama's place as George's "most wanted" and again, selfishly prayed that Casey would not have to go over to the mess for his scheduled deployment in March of 2004.

I saw many people in George's circle telling us that the paths of our troops would be strewn with flower petals instead of improvised explosive devises and that chocolates, not bullets, would be tossed at them. No amount of praying, hoping, or kidding myself stopped the invasion from happening, or brought a swift conclusion to the war. Right around the 1st anniversary of the invasion, Casey and the 1st Cavalry left for Iraq. After Casey had been there for 5 days, he and 7 other soldiers were killed on 04/04/04 in an ambush in Sadr City by the Mahdi forces loyal to Moqtada al Sadr.

Shortly after Casey was killed, power was transferred from Bremer to a puppet government and Bremer skulked out of Iraq in the middle of the night with 8.8 billion dollars missing from the Coalition Provisional Authority. Bremer came home to a Presidential Medal of Freedom and Casey came home in a cardboard box and we picked him up from SFO at the United Airlines loading dock the day before Easter that year. Casey was also awarded medals that were pinned on the uniform that covered his breath-less chest.

George Bush said today that the war was going to take more fighting and more sacrifice. I want to know who is fighting? I want to know if the members of the executive and legislative branches that are so willing to leave our troops in the middle of sectarian violence and a militarily undefeatable resistance are willing to send their children and other of their relatives over to the dessert to take the place of the at least 72% of soldiers who want to come home? Are they willing to go over there themselves to fight? George Bush didn't finish his commitment to the country when he went AWOL from the Alabama National Guard, why hasn't he been called back up to go and fight and die in his own "noble cause?" I have heard of other men and women his age who have been called back up. This is not our children's fight. As in all war, the only people who benefit are the war profiteers.

I would also like to know who is sacrificing in this country besides the soldiers and their families? Where are the shared sacrifices of the past? There was a USA Today poll recently which said that at least 50% of our population has "cried" because of the war and so many more have put magnets on their cars. I wonder how many of our citizens wake up everyday with broken hearts and holes in their lives that can never be filled? I wonder how many wake up missing arms, legs, or both? I wonder how many can't sleep because they are afraid of the nightmares that haunt even their waking hours? George Bush is sacrificing squat and it is easy for him to keep the people of Iraq and our troops in harm's way because it costs him absolutely nothing.

In one of George's canned speeches to another hand-picked audience (who obviously were not wearing t-shirts with his own tragic number of war dead on them), he assured another poor, unfortunate Gold Star Mother, that he would make sure her son didn't die in "vain." He is still insisting on killing more people because he has already killed so many. I realized a hard fact of life shortly after Casey was killed. He died in vain. He and so many more of his buddies would be alive if their commander in chief and the war machine weren't so greedy, heartless and incompetent.

As the country of Iraq disintegrates more everyday, and we know that the bodies are piling up in the morgues faster than they can be buried, it is time to honor the sacrifices of our young people who were misused, ill-used and killed in Iraq by bringing their still living buddies home immediately. The Iraqi people know that the violence won't stop until the occupiers leave. The insurgency cannot go on without targets. It is time to realize that no matter how hard the Pentagon works at its propaganda machine, terrorism cannot be stopped by killing innocent people. Terrorism can only be stopped by analyzing what is causing the terrorism and changing behavior accordingly.

Buddhists say that everyone dies twice. Once when his/her body dies and once when the last person who remember him/her dies. I want Casey and his buddies to live forever. I want the memories of our children who have been tragically killed in this war to be honored by remembering them as the last casualties of the military industrial complex not as pawns used in an evil game of corporate greed run amok and governmental corruption and cold-heartedness gone unchecked.

Finally, today George said that the temptation to abandon "our" commitments is strong. Did he have a mouse in his pocket? I never made a commitment to preemptive war. I didn't authorize Congress to abrogate their responsibilities to declare war. I didn't give the orders to invade a country that was absolutely no threat to the USA. I also didn't give the orders to use depleted uranium and wmd in Iraq. I wasn't the one who devoted myself to torture and imprisoning people without due process. I didn't lie to the world about the reasons for the invasion. I have no commitments to honor in Iraq but I believe George's commitments are criminal and they should be abandoned as swiftly as humanly possible.

I am not a war criminal: Most of us are not. These are not my commitments. It is time for all of us who don't want to be linked or identified with the criminal cabal in DC to stand up loudly and repudiate the behavior of the ones who would lead the world to disaster. It is time to declare stridently that these crimes against humanity are not being done in our names, or with our consent or approval.

Instead of a 4th anniversary of shock and awe next year, we need to strive together everyday to bring our troops home and turn our mourning into celebration and our depression into joy.

Honor the dead. Protect the living. End the war.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was killed in Iraq on April 04, 2004; Founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace ( www.GSFP.org ) and author of Not One More Mother's Child. Cindy is also the very proud mother of Carly, Andy, and Janey Sheehan who hold down the fort in Vacaville, California.

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Dark Pearl

By John S. Hatch
Information Clearing House
20 Mar 06

"We don't torture."-George W. Bush (Straussian 'ignoble lie')

"We don't do body counts."-Gen. Tommy Franks (Straussian ignoble truth)

I don't believe in Jesus, but I'm starting to believe in the devil. What is it about neo-con, Reptile-Republican Fundamentalist Christian politicians in particular, that accounts for such breath-taking, sadistic, self-indulgent, unnecessary cruelty? How to explain it?
Florida Governor Jeb Bush wants to trim the state budget so he can deliver $1.5 in tax cuts to his wealthy friends. How to go about it-auction off some Diebold voting machines? Execute fewer blacks (perhaps just temporarily exclude kids, the mentally handicapped, the mentally ill, or the demonstrably innocent)? No. He is actually denying high-nutrient formula to high-need, high-risk children, such as those with CP or those on dialysis who need to be fed through a stomach tube. Medicaid went from a more expensive version to one which cost $15 for six cans, to nothing. It was suggested that parents and caregivers 'blenderize' food and insert that down their sick kids' tubes, something which most doctors argue is ineffective and dangerous. Maybe just send the kids to Guantanamo, where they know how to deal with picky eaters.

But really. Why would a Governor, a filthy rich guy, a member of the Bush Dynasty, perhaps the next American emperor, a Christian who wears his love o' Jesus on his sleeve, why would such a man want to deny life-saving nutrients to sick and dying children at a real savings amounting to a virtual nullity, that is a negative number because as they get sicker as a result of his policy, children need more and more expensive medical intervention. Is this the same governor who became girlie-man hysterical over the case of the unfortunate Terri Schiavo who turned out to be deathly impervious to all his incantations and invocations and pious pronouncements about the sanctity of life? Turns out she was as brain dead as the last guy he ushered to the electric chair, just as all the not-so-girlie doctors said. It's funny the life-and-death distinctions that the reptile republicans draw with such ease. Did I mention that the milk-denied feeding-tube kids happen to be dirt-Katrina poor? Maybe that's a clue. At the same time as the Schiavo fiasco was unfolding, the exact opposite was taking place with regard to a little girl on a ventilator in another hospital. The insurance company wanted it shut off. The mother did not. Guess who won? And do you think the little girl was white, or black? Seems in Bushland if you're white (with money) you have a right to life (even if you're dead). If you're black, and poor, you have a right to die. Harsh? Katrina, kachink.

What is it with these Bushes? Granddaddy Prescott, not content to run a bank and get stinking rich and enjoy what passes for 'refinement' in America, instead found it necessary to help bankroll Hitler at a time when such otherwise laudable high finance couldn't quite be overlooked in America. Jeb's brother Neil bankrupted a bank (very well, a Savings and Loan) that he ran, leaving taxpayers on the hook for maybe a couple of billion. But praise the Lord of miracles! Jesus kept him out of jail.

Poppy Bush after being chief CIA spook and authorizing who knows what cloak-and-dagger mayhem and (illegal) murder around the world, claimed to be 'out of the loop' when it came to Rapacious Ronnie Reagan's arms dealing with hostage holding Iran (and as part of that dirty deal the captives were held far longer than they would otherwise have been) and his resulting loving aid to his nun-raping, Archbishop murdering, exploders of children's heads, Reagan's darling 'Freedom-fighters' in Nicaragua (sound familiar?). You'd think a former head of the CIA would at least have learned to lie convincingly, but for that perhaps one must first understand basic syntax. But looped or not, George H. W. got lots of unnecessary blood on his hands during Gulf War I. Whole oases of the stuff while his brave military men and women used bulldozers to bury surrendering conscripts-kids buried alive in the desert, or systematically picked off, one by one, from low-hovering helicopters, unarmed and unresisting. And then let's not forget the piece de resistance, the mother of all massacres, the so-called Highway of Death, in which not even dogs and goats were spared. But Jesus must've been looking over somebody's shoulder, because Poppy never got charged with war crimes. Jesus kept him out of jail too.

It's quite normal for a son to want to follow in his Daddy's career footsteps and to dream of exceeding the accomplishments of the old geezer. But what if you're Genghis Jr., or Attila Jr., or George II? That can complicate matters a little. How to outdo Daddy's deeds when he was so devilishly good at what he did? How many people can a Vlad Jr. impale? You almost have to have a plan. In modern times you need a PNAC. And with the help of people like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Jeb Bush, Eliot Abrams, and others, including the ultra-nasty Karl Rove. George Jr. got one. Or maybe it got him.

PNAC (Project for a New American Century), was think tank whose deep ruminations and profound ponderings had been bubbling and percolating and sending up sulfurous fumes since even before the time of that other profound thinker Ronald Reagan ('Ideas are stupid things.'), and which had advocated, amongst other items, a 'winnable' nuclear war against the Soviet Union. Now it just needed the right leader to come along, plus, please, please, please, a 'new Pearl Harbor event' to galvanize citizens into stupefied compliance, a PNAC panic, and their gift to the world could be wrapped in just the right colorful tissues of patriotism, freedom, democracy, and Christian values. A flag-wrapped American Crusade for global domination. And George was just the guy to deliver the package, which actually contained those usual staples of American domestic and foreign polity: Banality, Bullshit, Bullets, and Blood. That was the real 4-B Plan for the New American Century that its patient proponents had waited so long to implement.

And they didn't have to wait much longer. In George they had their man at last. Already plans were in place to invade Iraq, Syria, Iran, plans George liked very much, especially that first destination. 'They tried to kill my Daddy!' Bastards!

Karl Rove especially would have loved Operation Northwoods. That was the plan, advocated by Commie-obsessed dumbass maniac General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, and approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the time (and perhaps even inspired by outgoing General Eisenhower), to murder an unspecified number of Americans on American soil (the number would have to have been sufficiently large to get everyone's attention-bombs and shootings in Washington and Miami and elsewhere) and plant evidence pointing to Cuba, thus 'justifying' an invasion to rid the island of that meddlesome Castro and make it safe once again for democracy, or at least for Batista/Mafia types like in the good old days before the long-winded Generalissimo stole the place and closed the crooked casinos. President Kennedy put a stop to the madness, but one can visualize the PNAC people, and especially Karl grow all knock-kneed and girlie-man faint at the pure Straussian beauty of the plan. It had everything-death, deception, plausible deniability-and perhaps sweetest of all, the knowledge that only the boys in the secret tree house held the power. Sweet secret terrorism for freedom and Jesus. And Jesus would keep them out of jail.

Now PNAC had George, but they still needed their Straussian artifice, their own cloak-and-dagger Op Northwoods, their own private Pearl. It had to be big, and spectacular. It had to have the power to anesthetize the people into allowing their Straussian masters to implement the plans so carefully drawn and so patiently waited upon. It had to scare the crap out of everybody so that they would remain complacent and allow the newly proclaimed 'wartime leader' to defend them. And to seek revenge in their name, of course. Against whom didn't so much matter.

It worked. 9-II was the perfect, prayed-to-Jesus-for PNAC Pearl. Well, the pearl wasn't quite faultless; it was lumpy, it was discolored, it was fake, that is, manufactured, but for the purposes of the PNAC people it was precious nonetheless. It was a pure Rovian rapture. When World Trade Center buildings one, two and seven came down in ways consistent with controlled demolition and in defiance of any other scientific explanation (the odds of even one building collapsing naturally in that manner even after such an attack have been calculated at billions to one), at a time when New York and Washington airspace was left unguarded (that the White House, Pentagon, Washington Monument, and millions of people in Washington and New York would accidentally be left unprotected only on that coincidental occasion simply defies logic), there was no turning back. It was show-time. It was blow time. Did you notice perchance how quickly evidence from crime scene 'Ground Zero' was removed and destroyed? How the White House resisted every reasonable call for an inquiry into the disaster, and when that proved impossible because of public opinion, how did its best to strangle it by denying personnel and funds and by so narrowly defining its mandate that it doesn't even answer to the fate of Building 7? Anyway, it was time for Shock and Awe, American style, without delay. First an ugly orgy of pure destruction in Afghanistan as if to bomb an unfortunate stone-age country back to, well-the First Neolithic age, one supposes. Five-hundred pound bombs and cluster bombs cannot distinguish between the innocent and the guilty, and nor can bullets in the control of those who don't care who gets hurt and for whom everyone is a 'Raghead' anyway. And of course the use of depleted uranium (half-life: 4.5 billion years) is a crime against humanity in itself. There would be many such crimes amid empty talk of freedom and democracy. Death and lies. Lies and death. Banality, Bullshit, Bullets and Blood. And it was as if despite the tough cowboy rhetoric, Osama bin Laden was worth a lot more alive than dead to the Bush administration after all, and soon the President couldn't stifle a yawn whenever the 'Evildoer' was mentioned. His real ambitions lay elsewhere, where the bastards had tried to kill his Daddy, who killed a heck of a lot of other peoples' Daddies.

The incipient further slide into American Barbarism might have been predicted by that term-shock 'n awe-as if blowing up Iraqi families (in the name of freedom and democracy, and liberation, of course) were no more consequential than providing a fireworks display for the amusement of Amerikaner Ubermenschen on the ground and those lapping it up on Fox or CNN. And a rapid slide it was. And in America, even before 9-11 occurred, even as put options were being taken on United and American Airlines stock and that of Morgan Stanley Merrill Lynch, that is, individuals with inside knowledge were betting massively that those companies' shares would soon lose value, plans had been made to invade Iraq-massive lies had been invented (as Goebbels taught, the bigger the lie, the better its chances of being believed), a propaganda machine greased, Jesus was bonked on the head and snatched on board by the Christian far-right Falwellian loonies and other 'good-doers', Iraqi oil assets were tentatively divided up on paper, and it was show time.

When Donald Rumsfeld says that the gloves are coming off, you had better believe him, especially if you suspect he had itchy knuckle syndrome all along. Soon there was blood on cell walls-mostly Muslim blood, but no less red-in New York and Los Angeles and Boston and Chicago, amid a de facto suspension of domestic habeas corpus because the Justice Department used all kinds of tricks and loopholes to deny due process, or simply disregarded the law. Hey, everything changed, remember? Well it sure did. And if you thought that torture doesn't exist in a domestic gulag system that has swallowed up more prisoners than any other nation on earth, mostly non-violent underprivileged and undereducated Black and Hispanic males, you would be quite mistaken. Muslim 'terrorist suspects' were routinely subjected to denial of civil rights, to beatings, threats, sleep and food deprivation, and what other perverted torments might occur to their racist and sadistic guards. No charges were laid, but many detainees were deported on spurious or real, if minor, immigration infractions. Others left in disgust.

As President Bush moved inexorably toward the concept of a 'Unitary Executive' Presidency, that is, the notion that a 'wartime' president is above the law, the Constitution and any constraints upon his behavior whatsoever including any impediment regarding the imprisonment without charge or trial, torture-or even the ex-judicial killing-of anyone he perceived to be a threat to National Security, as defined by himself, the United States was slipping into the greatest crisis of her history. Never mind that Bush was/is no more a wartime President than any other President conducting un- undeclared war whether on drugs, crime, or Vietnam. This one was based on deception and lies from the beginning, and thus was and remains illegal, and therefore criminal. Furthermore, the concept of 'Unitary Executive' is as hollow as the legal-weasel justifications for torture or the treatment of the Constitution, with its sacred guarantees of civil rights-which Bush swore to uphold-as '…just a goddam piece of paper.' And presumably the rights of American citizens-previously thought by some to be 'God-given'-are just goddam paragraphs on that goddam piece of paper, to be ignored at the pleasure of the Unitary Executive, who as we know all too well doesn't like to read. Except for the Presidential 'findings' he likes to write allowing himself to ignore any and all laws, and a concept as meaningless legally as 'Unitary Executive', unless you're the torture-enabling, Constitution-suspending, ass-licking Attorney General. But he's Hispanic! And Jesus has kept him out of jail.

They caught Saddam and put him on show-trial, quite illegally. Charge: killing 114 innocent Iraqis. American Post Gulf War I sanctions killed one million innocent Iraqis, half of whom were children under the age of five. Gulf War II has so far killed between 50,000-100,000 innocent Iraqis, many of them women and children. There is no evidence that Saddam tortured children, although perhaps he did. There is videotaped evidence that Americans have tortured and even raped young children, sometimes in front of their parents. Chaney and Bush are adamant that such practices will continue. Is a sense of irony lacking? Outrage? Why aren't the streets full of vomit?

So just six years into the new century, and five into the disastrous Bush Imperium, with ever patient PNAC having finally had its chance to implement its bold policies, and already it could take a century or two for America to regain a semblance of honor and respect in the world. If that's even within the realm of possibility. That is, if Americans recover the vision and courage to recognize that the America they thought they knew is gone, dead-stolen in two elections, democracy's red blood bled out of her, her veins filled with the stinking formaldehyde of fascism. America the torturer. America the denier of justice and due process. America as brutal, illegal warrior and plunderer of the world. America the paranoid, spying illegally on its own citizens. America, gulag master to the globe. America in the thrall of a Jesus myth as crazy and vicious as PNAC's own impending Armageddon. America, nuclear first-striker. America, failed state.

The danger is that the PNAC peanuts and their Divinely Inspired Protégé have committed such crimes on such a massive scale that there is now nothing to lose in moving forward even further. Having embarked on a great criminal scheme with all the bravado and machismo of the average stupid criminal, they are now left with no choice but to bluff their way through, to go down shooting, or to go to jail. Two elections have been stolen, why not attempt a third? Or cancel elections altogether? Or, having been complicit (at the very least) in 9-11, why not go for 9-11 The Sequel and hope for even a fraction of the original's success? When you have as much innocent blood on your hands as these people do, a little more won't make much difference. Look for a sequel sometime around late September '06. It might even happen in Canada, just for the touch of Straussian finesse that would offer-it would show that the Evildoers are still at work, and it would teach those uppity Canadians a lesson for not joining the Coalition of the Killing. Straussians love to kill two or even three quail with one stone while sending secret decoder messages.

I began with the bizarre decision on the part of Florida Governor Jeb Bush to spend extra medical dollars in the Sunshine State by denying seriously sick children adequate nutritional sustenance. It's not as if they were 'bad' children, refusing to say their prayers while demanding chocolates and ice-cream; they have to be fed formula through a tube directly into their stomachs. Many of them probably don't have long to live. Gov. Jeb's State government tried to present this as a money-saving measure. Those tax breaks, you know…

It turns out that his big Presidential bro indulged a similar incomprehensible mean streak (as if we didn't know). Before passing the despised Patriot Act II, he had some tame Gonzalez or other slip in a clause giving the President authority to put any state on the so-called fast-track for carrying out the death penalty. For all the body parts, and blood, and torture, and insanity and sadness and death he is responsible for in Afghanistan and Iraq, it seems that George just can't get enough of the stuff. So in spite of recent DNA proof that many American death row inmates are innocent, or had terrible representation, or are mentally handicapped or were children at the time of their alleged crimes, George trumped Jeb by removing what few safeguards which might remain against wrongful death. Why? There is speculation that as Governor of Texas just such a plan was denied because of that state's demonstrably abysmal record of judicial oversight. (Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist, now mercifully departed, found that even innocence is not necessarily a defense against execution, make that black execution of course.) As governor, even with the enthusiastic help of the Ghoulish Gonzalez, George was only able to execute 151 individuals (including the virtually undefended, mentally handicapped, children). Still a record, but imagine what he might have accomplished without such artificial constraints!

Sometimes the devil you know is the worst possible scenario.

America at the crossbones. If it's already too late-bon soir et adieu!

John S. Hatch is a Vancouver writer and film-maker. Currently he is Associate Producer of 'Windup', a Dave Coté film entered at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

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America's Blinders

By Howard Zinn
The Progressive
20 Mar 06

Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?

The question is important because it might help us understand why Americans-members of the media as well as the ordinary citizen-rushed to declare their support as the President was sending troops halfway around the world to Iraq.
A small example of the innocence (or obsequiousness, to be more exact) of the press is the way it reacted to Colin Powell's presentation in February 2003 to the Security Council, a month before the invasion, a speech which may have set a record for the number of falsehoods told in one talk. In it, Powell confidently rattled off his "evidence": satellite photographs, audio records, reports from informants, with precise statistics on how many gallons of this and that existed for chemical warfare. The New York Times was breathless with admiration. The Washington Post editorial was titled "Irrefutable" and declared that after Powell's talk "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."

It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived.

One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.

If we don't know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. I am not speaking of the history we learned in school, a history subservient to our political leaders, from the much-admired Founding Fathers to the Presidents of recent years. I mean a history which is honest about the past. If we don't know that history, then any President can stand up to the battery of microphones, declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He will say that the nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must therefore send ships and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve him.

But if we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.

We would remind whoever we can that President Polk lied to the nation about the reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasn't that Mexico "shed American blood upon the American soil," but that Polk, and the slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.

We would point out that President McKinley lied in 1898 about the reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control, but the truth is that we really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American corporations. He also lied about the reasons for our war in the Philippines, claiming we only wanted to "civilize" the Filipinos, while the real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.

President Woodrow Wilson-so often characterized in our history books as an "idealist"-lied about the reasons for entering the First World War, saying it was a war to "make the world safe for democracy," when it was really a war to make the world safe for the Western imperial powers.

Harry Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was "a military target."

Everyone lied about Vietnam-Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia, all of them claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.

Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to the United States.

The elder Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, leading to the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country.

And he lied again about the reason for attacking Iraq in 1991-hardly to defend the integrity of Kuwait (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraq's taking of
Kuwait?), rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq? Would we not instinctively rebel against the sacrifice of lives for oil?

A careful reading of history might give us another safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that there has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between the government and the people of the United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught.

We have been led to believe that, from the beginning, as our Founding Fathers put it in the Preamble to the Constitution, it was "we the people" who established the new government after the Revolution. When the eminent historian Charles Beard suggested, a hundred years ago, that the Constitution represented not the working people, not the slaves, but the slaveholders, the merchants, the bondholders, he became the object of an indignant editorial in The New York Times.

Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one another. We mustn't talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, "Father of the Constitution," said, thirty years before Marx was born that there was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.

Our present leaders are not so candid. They bombard us with phrases like "national interest," "national security," and "national defense" as if all of these concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.

Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that-not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor-is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.

If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there-the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances"-do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.

The deeply ingrained belief-no, not from birth but from the educational system and from our culture in general-that the United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in the first grade, when we are compelled to "pledge allegiance" (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with "liberty and justice for all."

And then come the countless ceremonies, whether at the ballpark or elsewhere, where we are expected to stand and bow our heads during the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," announcing that we are "the land of the free and the home of the brave." There is also the unofficial national anthem "God Bless America," and you are looked on with suspicion if you ask why we would expect God to single out this one nation-just 5 percent of the world's population-for his or her blessing.
If your starting point for evaluating the world around you is the firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every other nation on Earth, then you are not likely to question the President when he says we are sending our troops here or there, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our values-democracy, liberty, and let's not forget free enterprise-to some God-forsaken (literally) place in the world.
It becomes necessary then, if we are going to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens against policies that will be disastrous not only for other people but for Americans too, that we face some facts that disturb the idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.

These facts are embarrassing, but must be faced if we are to be honest. We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which millions of Indians were driven off their land by means of massacres and forced evacuations. And our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation, and racism. We must face our record of imperial conquest, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, our shameful wars against small countries a tenth our size: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq. And the lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not a history of which we can be proud.

Our leaders have taken it for granted, and planted that belief in the minds of many people, that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world. At the end of World War II, Henry Luce, with an arrogance appropriate to the owner of Time, Life, and Fortune, pronounced this "the American century," saying that victory in the war gave the United States the right "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit."

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have embraced this notion. George Bush, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2005, said that spreading liberty around the world was "the calling of our time." Years before that, in 1993, President Bill Clinton, speaking at a West Point commencement, declared: "The values you learned here . . . will be able to spread throughout this country and throughout the world and give other people the opportunity to live as you have lived, to fulfill your God-given capacities."

What is the idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? The World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and the United States was thirty-seventh on the list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any other nation. One of five children in this, the richest country in the world, is born in poverty. There are more than forty countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And there is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison-more than two million.

A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world. It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from the liars and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join the rest of the human race in the common cause of peace and justice.

Howard Zinn is the co-author, with Anthony Arnove, of "Voices of a People's History of the United States."

© 2005 The Progressive. All Rights Reserved

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Decline and fall- Kevin Phillips, no lefty, says that America -- addicted to oil, strangled by debt and maniacally religious -- is headed for doom.

By Michelle Goldberg

In 1984, the renowned historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Barbara Tuchman published "The March of Folly," a book about how, over and over again, great powers undermine and sabotage themselves. She documented the perverse self-destructiveness of empires that clung to deceptive ideologies in the face of contrary evidence, that spent carelessly and profligately, and that obstinately refused to change course even when impending disaster was obvious to those willing to see it. Such recurrent self- deception, she wrote, "is epitomized in a historian's statement about Philip II of Spain, the surpassing wooden- head of all sovereigns: 'No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.'"
Though the last case study in "The March of Folly" was about America's war in Vietnam, Tuchman argued that the brilliance of the United States Constitution had thus far protected the country from the traumatic upheavals faced by most other nations. "For two centuries, the American arrangement has always managed to right itself under pressure without discarding the system and trying another after every crisis, as have Italy and Germany, France and Spain," she wrote. Then she suggested such protection could soon give way: "Under accelerating incompetence in America, this may change. Social systems can survive a good deal of folly when circumstances are historically favorable, or when bungling is cushioned by large resources or absorbed by sheer size as in the United States during its period of expansion. Today, when there are no more cushions, folly is less affordable."

For all her prescience, it seems likely that Tuchman, who died in
1989, would have been stunned by the Brobdingnagian dimensions of American folly during the last six years. Just over 20 years after she wrote about the Constitution's miraculous endurance, it's hard to figure out how much of the democratic republic created by our founders still exists, and how long what's left will last. The country (along with the world) is in terrible trouble, though the extent of that trouble is both so sprawling and multifaceted that it's hard to get a hold on.

It's not just that America is being ruled by small and venal men, or that its reputation has been demolished, its army overstretched, its finances a mess. All of that, after all, was true toward the end of Vietnam as well. Now, though, there are all kinds of other lurking catastrophes, a whole armory of swords of Damocles dangling over a bloated, dispirited and anxious country. Peak oil -- the point at which oil production maxes out -- seems to be approaching, with disastrous consequences for America's economy and infrastructure. Global warming is accelerating and could bring us many more storms even worse than Katrina, among other meteorological nightmares. The spread of Avian Flu has Michael Leavitt, secretary of health and human services, warning Americans to stockpile canned tuna and powdered milk. It looks like Iran is going to get a nuclear weapon, and the United States can't do anything to stop it. Meanwhile, America's growing religious fanaticism has brought about a generalized retreat from rationality, so that the country is becoming unwilling and perhaps unable to formulate policies based on fact rather than faith.

At any time, of course, one can catalog apocalyptic portents and declare that the end is nigh. Obviously, things in America have been bad before -- there has been civil war, depression, global conflagrations. The country seems to have exhausted its ability to elect decent leaders, but some savior could appear before 2008. One doesn't want to be hysterical or give in to rampaging pessimism. Books about America's decline in the face of an ascendant Japan filled the shelves in the 1980s, and a decade later, the country was at the height of power and prosperity.

Yet just because America has endured in the past does not mean it will in the future. Thus figuring out exactly how much danger we're in is difficult. Are things really as dire as they seem, or are anxiety and despair just part of the cultural moment, destined to be as ephemeral as the sunny mastery and flush good times of the Clinton years? It's human nature to believe that things will continue as they usually have, and that we'll once again somehow stumble intact through our looming crises. At the same time, it's hard to imagine a plausible scenario in which the country regains its equilibrium without first going through major convulsions.

So how scared should we be?

Kevin Phillips' grim new book, "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century," puts the country's degeneration into historical perspective, and that perspective is not conducive to optimism. The title is a bit misleading, because only the middle section of the book, which is divided into thirds, deals with the religious right. The first part, "Oil and American Supremacy," is about America's prospects as oil becomes scarcer and more expensive, and the last third, "Borrowed Prosperity," is about America's unsustainable debt. Phillips' argument is that imperial overstretch, dependence on obsolete energy technologies, intolerant and irrational religious fervor, and crushing debt have led to the fall of previous great powers, and will likely lead to the fall of this one. It reads, in some ways, like a follow-up to "The March of Folly."

"Conservative true believers will scoff: the United States is sue generis, they say, a unique and chosen nation," writes Phillips. "What did or did not happen to Rome, imperial Spain, the Dutch Republic, and Britain is irrelevant. The catch here, alas, is that these nations also thought they were unique and that God was on their side. The revelation that He was apparently not added a further debilitating note to the later stages of each national decline."

There's a sad irony to the fact that Phillips has come to write this book. His 1969 book, "The Emerging Republican Majority," both predicted and celebrated Republican hegemony. As chief elections and voting patterns analyst for the 1968 Nixon campaign, he is often credited for the Southern strategy that led to the realignment of the Republican Party toward Sun Belt social conservatives. Today's governing Republican coalition is partly his Frankenstein.

Phillips has been disassociating himself from the contemporary GOP for some time now -- his last book, "American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush," attacked the presidential clan as a corrupt threat to American democracy. His concern with the growing power of religious fundamentalism was evident then. As he wrote in the introduction, "Part of what restored the Bushes to the White House in 2000 through a southern- dominated electoral coalition was the emergence of George W. Bush during the 1990s as a born-again favorite of conservative Christian evangelical and fundamentalist voters. His 2001-2004 policies and rhetoric confirmed that bond. The idea that the head of the Religious Right and the President of the United States can be the same person is a precedent- shattering circumstance that had barely crept into national political discussion."

Since then, there's been much more attention paid to the role of evangelical Christians in the Republican Party. In "American Theocracy," though, Phillips brings something important to the discussion -- a global historical perspective on the relationship between growing religious zeal and the end of national greatness. "[T]he precedents of past leading world economic powers show that blind faith and religious excesses -- the rapture seems to be both -- have often contributed to national decline, sometimes even being in its forefront."

To tell the story of the impending end of American supremacy, Phillips ranges through history and across subjects, going into detail about seemingly tangential matters like the production of whale oil in 17th century Holland. It can be a slog -- Phillips is sometimes a dry writer who builds his arguments by slapping down numbers and statistics like a bricklayer. (At least he's self-aware -- at one point in his section on religion, he notes, "By this point the reader may feel baptized by statistical and denominational total immersion.") Much of what he writes in individual chapters has been covered elsewhere in numerous books about peak oil, the religious right and economic profligacy.

But Phillips' book is very valuable in the way he brings all the strands together and puts them in context. He has a history of good judgment that affords him the authority to make big-picture claims: In 1993, the New York Times Book Review wrote of him, "through more than 25 years of analysis and predictions, nobody has been as transcendentally right about the outlines of American political change as Kevin Phillips." Other recent books foresee American meltdown; James Howard Kunstler's "The Long Emergency" deals with some of the same gathering threats as "American Theocracy." Kunstler is a far more engaging writer than Phillips, but he's also more prone to doomsday speculation, and he sometimes seems to relish the apocalyptic scenario he conjures. It's Phillips' sobriety and gravitas that gives "American Theocracy" ballast, and that makes it frightening.

The first section, "Oil and American Supremacy," covers the history of oil in American politics, both foreign and domestic, and what it means for America when oil starts running out. The subject of peak oil has been extensively covered elsewhere, yet it remains on the fringes of much of the political debate in America, despite its massive implications. Essentially, peak oil is the point at which more than half the earth's available oil has been extracted. "After this stage, getting each barrel out requires more pressure, more expense, or both," writes Phillips. "After a while, despite nominal reserves that may be considerable, more energy is required to find and extract a barrel of oil than the barrel itself contains." Before that point comes, scarcity will drive prices to unheard-of levels. If that happens, the entire American way of life -- the car culture, agribusiness, frequent air travel -- will become untenable.

Experts differ about when we might pass the peak, but as Phillips notes, "even relative optimists see it only two or three decades away." Unfortunately, the United States is uniquely unable to grapple with the mere idea of life after cheap gasoline, because the country's entire sprawling infrastructure was built on the assumption that oil would remain plentiful. Writes Phillips, "[B]ecause the twenty- first-century United States has a pervasive oil and gas culture from its own earlier zenith -- with an intact cultural and psychological infrastructure -- it's no surprise that Americans cling to and defend an ingrained fuel habit... The hardening of old attitudes and reaffirmation of the consumption ethic since those years may signal an inability to turn back."

The end of previous empires, Phillips explains, also corresponded with the obsolescence of their dominant energy source. The Netherlands was the "the wind and water hegemon" from 1590 to the
1720s. In the mid-18th century, Britain, harnessing the newly discovered power of coal, became the leading world power, only to be left behind by oil-fueled America. "The evidence is that leading world economic powers, after an energy golden era, lose their magic -- and not by accident," he writes. "The infrastructures created by these unusual, even quirky, successes eventually became economic obstacle courses and inertia-bound burdens."

"American Theocracy's" middle section deals with religion. Once again, the book's value lies not in any new revelations -- Phillips mostly relies on the work of other reporters and analysts -- but in the context provided. In his sweeping overview, he misses some subtleties. He writes, for example, "Opponents of evolution -- successful so far in parts of the South -- are indeed busy trying to ban the teaching of it and textbooks that support it in many northern conservative or politically divided areas." That's not quite true -- Darwin's foes might dream of the day when he's expunged from the schools, but right now, their focus is on having creationism or "intelligent design" taught alongside evolution, not in place of it.

That's a relatively small point, but it's indicative of the rather cursory treatment Phillips gives to the dynamics of the movement he decries. He's much more interested in what it portends -- a kind of soft theocracy that itself is an indication of an empire in decline. What he's talking about is not a Christian version of Iran, but a country ruled by an evangelical party whose electoral machinery is integrated into a network of fundamentalist churches.

Again, the most fascinating part of this section lies in Phillips' comparisons of America with past global powers -- the intolerance of Christian Rome, the militant, expansionist Catholicism of 17th century Spain, the theocratic Calvinism of the mid-18th century Netherlands and the evangelical enthusiasms of Victorian Britain. Toward the end of the Netherlands' worldwide dominance, he writes, "Dutch Reformed pastors called for national renewal and incessantly attacked laziness, prostitution, French fashions, immigrants and homosexuals."

Phillips' final section, about national debt and the increasingly insubstantial nature of the United States economy, follows the model of the rest of the book, offering a summary of others' research on the subject, followed by historical analysis. What concerns Phillips here is not just the country's staggering national debt -- although that concerns him plenty -- but also the shift from a manufacturing to a financial-services economy, which he calls financialization. Instead of making things, Americans increasingly make money by moving money around. Finance, he writes, "fattened during the early 2000s -- this notwithstanding the 2000-2002 collapse of the stock market bubble -- on a feast of low interest enablement, credit-card varietals, exotic mortgages, derivatives, hedge-funded strategies, and structured debt instruments that would have left 1920s scheme meister Charles Ponzi in awe."

Unless the United States proves immune from the economic laws that have heretofore prevailed, this arrangement is unsustainable. As former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker wrote last April in the Washington Post, under the placid surface of the seemingly steady American economy, "there are disturbing trends: huge imbalances, disequilibria, risks -- call them what you will. Altogether the circumstances seem to me as dangerous and intractable as any I can remember, and I can remember quite a lot. What really concerns me is that there seems to be so little willingness or capacity to do much about it."

Again, as Phillips shows, the historical record provides warnings: "Historically, top world economic powers have found 'financialization' a sign of late-stage debilitation, marked by excessive debt, great disparity between rich and poor, and unfolding economic decline."

Looking at the possible crises facing the country, Phillips writes of the "potential for an incendiary convergence if -- a big if, to be sure -- several of the worry-wart camps prove to be correct... I can't remember anything like this multiplicity of reasonably serious calculations and warnings. It is as if the United States, like the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes's 'One-Hoss Shay,' is about to lose all its wheels at once."

For someone who is profoundly uneasy about America's future right now, there's something perversely comforting about reading this from a figure like Phillips. It suggests that one's enveloping sense of foreboding is based on something more than the psychological stress of living under the Bush kakistocracy. A feeling that the world is falling apart is usually associated with neurosis; now, it's possible that it's a sign of sanity.

But if Phillips is correct, the coming years are going to be ugly for all of us, not just blithe exurbanites with SUVs and floating-rate mortgages. With oil growing scarce and America unable or unwilling to even begin weaning itself away, we could see a future of resource wars that would inflame jihadi terrorism and bankrupt the country, shredding what's left of the social safety net. As Phillips notes, a collapsed economy would leave many debt-ridden Americans as what Democratic leaders have called "modern-day indentured servants," paying back constantly compounding debt with no hope of escape via bankruptcy. The prospect of social breakdown looms. The desperation of New Orleans could end up being a preview.

Desperate economic times are not good for democracy. The Great Depression, which ushered in the New Deal, was an anomaly in this regard. In an Atlantic Monthly article published last summer, the Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman wrote, "American history includes several episodes in which stagnating or declining incomes over an extended period have undermined the nation's tolerance and threatened citizens' freedoms." During the Midwestern farm crisis of the 1980s, when tens of thousands of families lost their land due to a combination of rising interest rates and falling crop prices, the Posse Comitatus, a far-right paramilitary network, made exceptional recruiting inroads. One poll had more than a quarter of Farm Belt respondents blaming "International Jewish bankers" for their region's woes.

The right's ideological infrastructure has only grown stronger since then. Kunstler may not have been exaggerating when he told Salon, "Americans will vote for cornpone Nazis before they will give up their entitlements to a McHouse and a McCar."

Eventually, like Spain, England and the Netherlands, the United States, shorn of imperial fantasy, may evolve into something better than what it is today. But terrible times seem likely to come first -- years of fuel shortages, foreign aggression, millenarian madness and political demagoguery. A Democratic president could stop exacerbating the country's problems and could reconcile with the rest of the world, but it's unclear how much he or she could really turn things around. America's economic and energy foundations are too badly eroded to be restored anytime soon. Besides, redistricting and the overrepresentation of rural states in the Senate mean that the GOP will remain powerful even if a decisive majority of Americans vote against it. Zealous conservatives in Congress and the media will almost certainly mount an assault on any future Democratic president just as they did on Bill Clinton. Governmental deadlock, as opposed to flagrant recklessness and misrule, is probably the best that can be hoped for, at least for the next few years.

In the days after Sept. 11, 2001, it was clear to everyone that the United States had suffered a hideous blow, but few had any idea just how bad it was. It didn't occur to most people to wonder whether the country's very core had been seriously damaged; if anything, America had never seemed so united and resolute. Almost five years later, with Bush still in the White House, a whole cavalcade of catastrophes bearing down on us and a lack of political will to address any of them, the scope of Osama bin Laden's triumph is coming sickeningly into focus. He didn't start the country on its march of folly, but he spurred America toward bombastic nationalism, military quagmire and escalating debt, all of which have made its access to the oil controlled by the seething countries of the Middle East ever more precarious. Now the United States is careening down a well-worn road faster than anyone could have imagined.

Copyright © 2005 CanWest Interactive Inc., an affiliate of CanWest Global Communications Corp.

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Why the war is a waste

New York Daily News
19 Mar 06

Three years after the invasion of Iraq, the only positive result of this war that the Bush administration can claim is the removal of Saddam Hussein, who had been our man in the Middle East, from power. Otherwise, the Iraqi people are worse off than before, and so are we.

Several reports indicate that at the invasion's third anniversary more than 250,000 Iraqis have died from violence or the breakdown of basic health care and other infrastructure. Poverty, childhood malnutrition, inflation and unemployment are skyrocketing. Academics and other professionals have left the country after being targeted for murder or kidnapping, draining Iraq of resources to rebuild the nation.
America's involvement has helped Al Qaeda recruit more operatives, and analyses from our own embarrassed government note an increase in worldwide terrorism. Iraq's civil war may heat up and drag the entire Middle East into chaos.

We are hurting ourselves overseas. The administration has increased the risk faced by our soldiers because it has tortured prisoners. Our people have suffered greatly, as discussed in another op-ed in this section, including mental illness and cancers from exposure to depleted uranium weapons.

At home, the American public is polarized, as overall costs of the war may exceed $1 trillion. The Halliburtons grow wealthier, while our own needy suffer from further social service budget cuts. The War on Terror has given President Bush an excuse to infringe on privacy and democracy.

War advocates will unreasonably demand that we can only withdraw from Iraq if there is a solution that is complete, able to predict every contingency. But their only solution is to bluster, as they did during Vietnam that we can't just pull out. No one has offered a practical military or political strategy that solves all the problems of leaving Iraq. No one ever will. The administration may, in a sleight-of-hand strategy, replace ground troops with air strikes that kill even more civilians. This is, of course, a false and cynical solution.

Those who understand the spiraling tragedy of Iraq must unite and admit to the world that preemptive invasion, torturing prisoners, slaughtering of innocents, even harming our own soldiers are simply wrong. Only such an admission - and an apology - will put us back on the path to being a member of the global community.

What happens after this first step? We don't know. But speaking truth to tyranny is the place to start. Otherwise, we will learn directly, not just from history books, that just as empires rise, they also fall, brought down by their own hubris.

Jordan is dean of the College of Social and Political Justice, International University for Graduate Studies, St. Kitts and Nevis, BWI. Wollman, a senior fellow at Peace Studies Institute, teaches psychology at Indiana's Manchester College.

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This misadventure has alienated most of the world from Bush

Gary Younge
Monday March 20, 2006
The Guardian

Since going to war, the president has managed to make himself almost as unpopular with US voters as he is with Iraqis

Shortly before the first Gulf war the recently retired chairman of the United States joint chiefs of staff, Admiral William Crowe, went for lunch with his successor, Colin Powell. In words that resonate today, Crowe warned Powell that "a war in the Middle East - killing thousands of Arabs for whatever noble purpose - would set back the US in the region for a long time. And that was to say nothing of the Americans who might die".

But despite his own misgivings, Crowe clearly believed military intervention was likely in the interests of presidential prestige.

"It takes two things to be a great president," he told Powell. "First you have to have a war. All the great presidents have had their wars. Two you have to find a war where you are attacked."
Six years into his presidency it is difficult to think of a single, substantial foreign policy initiative that US president George Bush has pursued that did not involve war, or the threat of it. There is good reason for this. It is the one area in which America reigns supreme, accounting alone for 40% of the global military expenditure and spending almost seven times the amount of its nearest rival, China.

Yet greatness eludes him. For if the last six years have proved anything, it is the limitations of military might as the central plank of foreign policy. Indeed, shorn of meaningful diplomacy or substantial negotiation, it has failed even on its own narrow, nationalistic terms of making America safer and securing its global hegemony. In short, in displaying his strength in such a brash, brazen, reckless and ruthless manner, Bush has asserted power and lost authority and influence both at home and abroad.

With his approval ratings at Nixonian lows and the mid-term elections on the horizon, many of his fellow Republicans regard him as a liability.

Stumbling across the political landscape, rallying support for lost causes, he resembles Ernest Harrowden in The Picture of Dorian Gray, a character whom Oscar Wilde described as "one of those middle-aged mediocrities, who have no enemies, but are thoroughly disliked by their friends".

Last week's release of the national security strategy did not counter that trend but confirmed it. Insisting that diplomacy remains America's "strong preference", it went on to reaffirm its commitment to pre-emption. "If necessary, under long-standing principles of self-defence, we do not rule out use of force before attacks occur," it states. Iran received special mention, with a warning that talks "must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided".

In practice this translates into a per perverse version of carrot-and-stick diplomacy. Offer your adversary a carrot and then threaten to whack them with the stick while they are eating it.

That America's standing has plummeted with this approach is without question. Of the 10 countries polled in 2000 and again in 2005 by the Pew research group, the US had fallen in people's estimation in eight of them. In only three - Canada, Britain and Russia - did a majority still look upon the US favourably. It's not difficult to see why.

Last week the country that aspires to lead the free world stood alongside only Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands and against 170 countries in rejecting the creation of a new UN council to protect human rights. Only the US and Somalia (which has no recognised government) have failed to ratify the UN convention on the rights of the child.

So long as the US clung to the notion that military strength would always have the last say, none of this mattered. Like a band of demented Millwall supporters, the Bush administration could strut across the global stage chanting: "No one likes us, we don't care". Indeed, in the first few years after 9/11 it wore its unpopularity like a badge of honour.

But as events in Iraq have soured, the ability of the Bush administration to deliver on these threats has diminished considerably. With its military overstretched and its diplomatic goodwill spent, it has been forced back to the table from a relative position of weakness, because nobody trusts it or particularly fears it. If anything, both Iran and North Korea have been emboldened by its failures in the Gulf.

Meanwhile, elections keep on producing the wrong results. Hamas is in power in Palestine; René Préval, the protege of Jean-Bertrand Aristide whom the US helped remove in a coup two years ago, won the presidency in Haiti; Ahmed Chalabi, the protege of the neocons whom the US wanted to impose on the Iraqi people at the outset of the war, could not win a single seat. Elsewhere, voters in Latin America have opted for leaders who campaigned against the neoliberal economic strictures imposed by Washington.

The issue is not whether the developing world is ready for democracy - as the administration keeps arguing - but if the US is ready for the democratic choices made by the developing world.

But the principle area where the US has demonstrated its military supremacy and its diplomatic weakness is Iraq. This misadventure has not only alienated most of the world from the administration, but increasingly alienated the two constituencies it really does need to win over - the Iraqis and the Americans. One of the key demands of the United Iraqi Alliance, the broadbased Shia coalition that won the elections in December, was the removal of the American military. Given that the Sunnis are leading the insurgency, this leaves few backers among the Iraqis.

And, simultaneously, support for the war in the US is haemorrhaging. A CNN/USA Today poll last week showed 60% of Americans believe it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq and disapprove of the way Bush is handling the war. More than half want to see the troops withdrawn within a year. Even three-quarters of the soldiers fighting in Iraq, according to another poll, believe the US should leave within a year.

These problems may in no small part be due to the fact that in invading Iraq, Bush fulfilled only half of Crowe's criteria for a great presidency. Despite efforts to convince the world otherwise, the war for which he will be remembered - Iraq - had nothing to do with why the US was attacked on September 11. On its own, that would be a moral issue of lying to the public.

What has transformed it into a political problem is the dire situation on the ground in Iraq. The most important single factor that shapes Americans' attitudes to any war is whether they think America will win, explains Christopher Gelpi, an associate professor of political science at Duke University who specialises in public attitudes to foreign policy. Over the past year, the percentage of Americans who believe the US is "certain to win" has plummeted from 79% to 22%; those who are either certain it will not win or believe this to be unlikely have risen from 1% to 41%.

"They are in big trouble," explains Gelpi. "Bush's speeches, even as late as December, managed to shore up public opinion a little bit. But what you can do with speeches at this point is pretty limited. It's not even clear who's listening."

Wrong war. Wrong strategy. Wrong president. Just plain wrong.


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Guantanamo protest in SF halts traffic downtown, 17 arrested

Associated Press
20 Mar 06

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Police arrested 17 protesters and pulled several others wearing orange jumpsuits from a makeshift prison cell Monday in the heart of the city's financial district.

The rally, organized by Act Against Torture, which advocates shutting down the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons, marked the third anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq and was held outside the office of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
The demonstrators who blocked Market Street were arrested and will be cited for failing to obey police and blocking an intersection, said San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens.

More than 100 protesters crowded behind police barricades in the rain. Several demonstrators carted the prison cell into the intersection and hopped inside, while others held banners and stood sentinel holding anti-torture and anti-Bush banners.

A half-dozen trumpeters, saxophone players and drummers from The Brass Liberation Orchestra, a live music group advocating peaceful causes, belted out upbeat jazz tunes as protesters were shepherded into a police van.

"Our government is openly torturing people and detaining them indefinitely and we have to put an end to it," said Ayah Young, 23, a San Francisco State University student. "This was fairly effective even though it wasn't a huge turnout. It was spiritual and peaceful and we got our message across."

The protest started around 8:15 a.m. and police redirected traffic in a two-block radius around the demonstration, Gittens said.

Market Street reopened about a half-hour later, he said.

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Lapham's Case for Impeachment

By Terrence McNally
March 21, 2006.

Harper's editor Lewis Lapham explains why he wrote his provocative essay arguing for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

In November 1972 Richard Nixon won 61 percent of the popular vote, carried 49 of 50 states and won the Electoral College 520-17. Yet only three months later the Senate voted 77-0 to hold hearings investigating the Watergate break-in and its coverup -- a bit of petty theft, a campaign dirty trick that could hardly have made the difference in one of the most lopsided elections in U.S. history. A year later the House voted 414-4 that the Judiciary Committee investigate whether there were grounds for impeachment. Three articles of impeachment were eventually approved by the committee, and in August 1974 Nixon resigned before he could actually be impeached.
In 1999 Bill Clinton was acquitted by a vote of the full Senate after being impeached over lying about an extramarital affair.

Today George W. Bush sits apparently shielded from accountability by loyal and unified Republican control of the House and Senate. Bush, who deceived this nation into a catastrophic war and has admitted domestic wiretaps without warrants in clear violation of federal law, has seemed invulnerable to even the possibility of impeachment.

Is the tide finally beginning to turn?

Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's Magazine for nearly 30 years, wrote a cover essay for the March issue of the magazine that makes a strong and well-reasoned case for the impeachment of George W. Bush. Lapham has recently shifted roles, becoming editor emeritus so that he can devote himself to editing Lapham's Quarterly, a new journal about history, while continuing to write his monthly column for Harper's.

TERRENCE MCNALLY: I had to go to four newsstands to buy a copy of the March issue of Harper's. The first three were sold out. I assume it's because of the red sleeve attached to the cover with the words "IMPEACH HIM" in large bold letters. Why did you write this now?

LEWIS LAPHAM: In late December I came across a report that had been assembled by congressman John Conyers of Michigan which lays out much of this case. He had begun to assemble a report a year ago in May, before the discovery of the Bush administration's use of the NSA to impose electronic surveillance on American citizens.

TM: So before what seems most clearly to be a violation of federal law?

LL: Right. Conyers held a series of hearings last summer on what are known as the Downing Street Minutes, a series of memoranda that were exchanged back and forth within the British government in the spring and summer of 2002, between its officials in London and its representatives in Washington. It becomes very clear in the correspondence that the Bush administration is determined to go to war in Iraq no matter what the facts are. And it's clear that there are no weapons of mass destruction, that there is no connection between Saddam and Al Qaida, that Saddam is not in any kind of a position to pose a threat -- certainly to the United States or probably not even to any of the countries in the Middle East.

The British intelligence people are saying to each other that Washington is determined to invade, and they're going to fix the facts to fit their wish. There had been suspicions and rumors of this for two or three years, but here it was in print. The memoranda were not rejected or contradicted by the British government. Conyers held a hearing, and then sent a letter to the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon signed by 130 members of the House of Representatives.

TM: I'll bet most people think Conyers was out there alone. One hundred thirty people signed this letter?

LL: It could be 120 or 124, but it was a substantial number, and it was backed by signatures from 500,000 American citizens acquired over the internet. The petition to the administration sought answers to questions. This is what has been said -- what do you have to say about it? And of course there was a stonewall; there was no answer whatever.

Reacting to that, Conyers then set out with his staff to find out what could be learned from open sources -- press, books, congressional testimony -- to establish that a criminal fraud was perpetrated on the American people and on the American Congress in going to war. When he released the report -- 182 pages with 1,100 footnotes -- there was no mention at all in any of the mainstream press. As far as the New York Times, Washington Post, the networks and so forth were concerned, it never happened.

I called Conyers' office and asked if they could send a copy. I read it, and it seemed to me an impressive piece of work, at least worth being discussed and given broader circulation. I wrote the essay in somewhat the same spirit that Conyers had presented the report, which was to at least ask the questions.

I said to Conyers, look, you've got no chance of getting an impeachment motion going in the House of Representatives, which is controlled with an iron fist by the Republican majority.

TM: Whereas, in the case of Nixon, there were Republicans like Howard Baker, not the lockstep partisanship that we face today.

LL: Exactly. Subsequent to writing the essay, I came across George Washington's farewell address. In it, he says that we in the United States must be very vigilant against the despotism likely to be imposed by one party on the other. Our government only works with a balance of power between the judiciary, the legislative and the executive.

TM: Some wise people I've interviewed have pointed out that while we were one of the first to institute this sort of democracy, it doesn't mean ours is the best form. Many other countries have learned from our model and have instituted proportional representation, parliamentary elections and so on. Here, short of impeachment, a president is assured of four years, so checks and balances become all the more important.

LL: And I think that is a weakness in our system and a strength in some of the European systems, where you can have a vote of no confidence.

TM: At this moment -- after Katrina, the release of the illegal wiretap information, and 34 percent approval ratings and 70 percent against the war -- you would call an election.

LL: Yes.

TM: I suspect this despotic reign may be reinforced by both John Roberts and Samuel Alito with their interpretations of a "unitary executive" and a more imperial presidency.

LL: That's entirely possible. We don't know yet, but I think that's a pretty fair supposition.

People tend to forget that we have three branches of government, and that it is the constitutional task of the Congress to assert its power to correct the imbalance of power when it gets out of hand, which it now clearly has. For Congress not to do this is an abdication of their responsibilities.

Let's go back to the '70s. There were Republicans, Baker among them, who knew that it was their duty to act as senators and not simply as representatives of a political party. When you mention branches of government to people these days, they're apt to think you mean Democrat and Republican.

There was greater political consciousness during the impeachment proceedings against Nixon because the country was emerging from a poorly conceived war in Vietnam, a very clear demonstration of what happens when the government in Washington acts in secret.

TM: Though not as assertive as they might have been, Congress did at critical moments stand up to Johnson and to Nixon.

LL: They did. We've lost some of that backbone over the last 30 years. There's been a softening of the American political will and energy within both parties.

TM: Finally, given the political calculus we've just been talking about, you do not see impeachment as likely -- what's your best-case scenario when this kind of information gets out into the general public?

LL: I hope for a gradual raising of the political consciousness. You now see Sen. Russell Feingold suggesting a motion to censure of the president for his actions with regard to electronic surveillance. A motion to censure is preliminary to a motion to impeach. So you have more people talking about it, and you have more people trying to understand the constitutional crisis and what's at risk.

What's at risk is our constitutional system of government. More people need to understand that. They also need to understand their power as citizens. More people need to remember these people work for us.

Interviewer Terrence McNally hosts Free Forum on KPFK 90.7FM, Los Angeles (streaming at kpfk.org).

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It's criminal - Impeachment is the only recourse that can bring a halt to the madness in Iraq, and the insanity being planned in Iran and elsewhere.

by Scott Ritter
March 20, 2006

As America reaches the third anniversary of President Bush's decision to invade and occupy Iraq, there is for the first time the unsettling realization brought about by the clarity of acts that emerges only after the passage of time that something horrible has happened.

This awakening of collective awareness on the part of the American people is reflected not only in the numerous polls which show President Bush's popularity plummeting to all-time lows, largely because of the war in Iraq, but also the collective shrug of the shoulders on the part of the one-time cheerleaders for the war in Iraq -- the mainstream American media -- when covering the hollow rhetoric of the President as he tries to rally a nation around a cause that has long since lost its allure.
No amount of flowery language and repeated pulls at the patriotic heartstrings of America, no repeated assault on the senses and sensibilities through repetitious referral to the events of 9/11 can jump start a second phase of the kind of mindless nationalistic fervor that greeted the erstwhile Cowboy President when he first herded a compliant America down the path of war with Iraq three years ago.

Looking back on the string of unfulfilled objectives, broken promises, squandered dreams, shattered bodies and eviscerated lives that was and is the war in Iraq, one thought emerges plain and clear. This isn't simply a result of bad governance. This is criminal.

Bad governance is telling the American people that a war with Iraq would be concluded in a manner of months, and would cost the American taxpayer less that $2 billion, when in fact the war has gone on for three years now, with no end in sight, and over a quarter-trillion dollars have been expended, with untold billions more to be spent.

Criminal governance is the fabrication of a justification for war (weapons of mass destruction), hiding the President's true intentions from the American people and the Congress of the United States (Bush signed off on the Iraq war plans in late August 2002, and yet continued to publicly state that no decision for military action had been made), and shredding international law by waging an aggressive war of pre-emption void of any United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing such actions.

Bad governance is manipulating war planning on the part of military professionals so that we enter into a conflict with far too few troops for the task, with no plan for how to proceed once the fighting ended and the reality of occupation set in.

Criminal governance is violating every principle of the laws of war in the conduct of the occupation of Iraq, manipulating the economic and political direction of Iraq, suppressing its population, and engaging in wanton acts of widespread murder, torture and abuse of the Iraqi people.

The fact is the war in Iraq has degenerated into one giant hate crime.

American soldiers and Marines are being thrown into a cauldron of our own making, scalded by a conflict with no purpose or direction, with the end result being that in order to survive these fighting men and women have dehumanized the totality of the Iraqi people.

The ancestors of ancient Babylon have become nothing more than "sand niggers", "rag-heads", "camel jockeys", "ninja women" or "haji" in the hearts and minds of American fighting men who are now killing Iraqis in ever increasing numbers. Gone is any talk of rebuilding Iraq. We are there to destroy it. The criminal nature of the war in Iraq is starting to become common knowledge among observers of the war.

It has long sense been common knowledge on the part of those waging it. In Vietnam Americans were shocked by the revelations of Mai Lai and the murder of innocent Vietnamese civilians by American fighting men. But Mai Lai is repeated in bits and pieces every day in Iraq, with the American military occupation slaughtering family after family of Iraqis in the name of bringing peace and security.

The realization that something has gone horribly wrong in Iraq, however, has not translated into any kind of discernable action on the part of the American people. While pundit after pundit breaks ranks with the Bush administration on Iraq, often repudiating their own pre-war chest beating and encouragement of the war, the fact is that the manifesto which manifested itself in the invasion of Iraq -- the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States -- continues to dictate the manner and nature of America's interfacing with the rest of the world in unquestioned fashion.

Indeed, President Bush has, on the eve of the third anniversary of the Iraqi war, promulgated a new, improved version of this manifesto, the 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States, which re-affirms America's commitment to the principles of pre-emptive war. In short, the President has re-certified America as the greatest threat to international peace and security in modern times, especially when one considers that even as America is engaged in the brutal rape and occupation of Iraq, President Bush has his eyes firmly set on another war of aggression in Iran.

What are the American people doing in response? There is a huge difference between becoming aware and taking action. While poll numbers on Iraq reflect a growing unease about the war, this unease has not manifested itself into any discernable reaction of consequence. The Democratic Party has remained largely mute, largely because of the culpability on the part of much of its membership in facilitating and sustaining the Iraqi war and its underlining doctrine of global domination by the United States.

But in the face of the near total subservience on the part of the Republican Party in supporting the policies of President Bush no matter how illegal and harmful they are to America and the world, the Democratic Party must shake itself free of the doldrums it currently finds itself stuck in. The time for passive recognition that the war in Iraq has gone bad is long past.

The time for concrete political action has arrived. The Democrats need to recognize that the political struggle in America today is not a trivial extension of the partisan Red State-Blue State nonsense the American media likes to bandy about, but rather a far more serious struggle of national survival, if one in fact defines the American nation as being reflective of the ideals and values set forth by the Constitution of the United States.

The Iraq War, if anything, is a reflection of the total abrogation of constitutional responsibility and process by the Congress of the United States. As a result, the President has led a nationdown the path of illegal war of aggression which has damaged America's reputation abroad, and its very fabric here at home. The Republican-controlled Congress has done little to stop this collective march towards national self-destruction, rubber-stamping the president's illegal actions with little regard to either the rule of law or Congress's status as a second but equal branch of government.

This must end.

The fact is that America today stands on the brink of having everything we stand for as a nation being swept away by a power-crazed President and a compliant Congress, both of whom are Republican. Whatever direction the Democratic Party takes in the future, it must be with the recognition that the hopes and dreams of saving the United States as a nation of laws founded in the words and principles of the Constitution rest heavily on their shoulders. The Democratic Party must become laser-like in its rejection of the war in Iraq, resolute in condemning this war for what it is, an illegal war of aggression,and determined in fighting for the concept of a nation governed by the rule of law by holding President Bush accountable for his illegal actions.

In short, the rallying cry of the Democratic Party must become impeachment. Given the magnitude of the crimes committed by the United States in Iraq under the direction and leadership of President Bush and his administration, there is simply no other recourse that can bring a halt to the madness in Iraq, and the insanity being planned in Iran and elsewhere.

The remedy is clear. The question now is whether the Democratic Party is up to the task.

Scott Ritter served as chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until his resignation in 1998. He is the author of, most recently, Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the U.N. and Overthrow Saddam Hussein (Nation Books, 2005).

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Bush still sees no reason to apologise

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
20 March 2006

If anyone was looking for even the slightest hint of second thoughts from those led the US into Iraq, they would have been sorely disappointed on the third anniversary of a war that is eating into America's soul and that may well reshape its political landscape.

More sacrifice would be required, but "our goal is nothing less than complete victory", President George Bush declared in his weekly radio address yesterday.

Ignore the doom-mongering, Dick Cheney urged his countrymen on CBS's Face the Nation programme. This was no civil war; rather the insurgents had reached "a stage of desperation". On both the security and political fronts, Iraq was showing "major progress".
Writing in The Washington Post, Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary - blamed by many for the absence of post-invasion planning - was equally unrepentant. The big picture would be determined by history, "not by daily headlines, website blogs, or the latest sensational attack", Mr Rumsfeld declared. To retreat now would be "the modern equivalent of handing post-war Germany back to the Nazis, or of asking the former Communist states of eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because the West did not have the patience to see through the job of turning them into free countries".

The plain fact, however, is that back in March 2003, almost no Bush administration policy-maker could even imagine that yesterday the country would be in agonising debate over a conflict three years old with no end in sight - in an Iraq that even the pro-American former prime minister Iyad Allawi said was in the midst of a civil war.

When Mr Bush triumphantly proclaimed an end to the war in May 2003 from the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, the Pentagon's expectation was that by the end of that year no more than 30,000 US troops would be deployed in Iraq. Today 130,000 are still there - and General George Casey, the senior US commander in the country, warned yesterday that he saw "a couple of more years of this". The war has been a drain on American blood, treasure and morale. As of yesterday, at least 2,311 US servicemen had died there, and more than 13,000 had been wounded. By the end of 2006, the conflict will have cost $320bn (£183bn).

The psychological cost is unquantifiable, but enormous. For a minority the war has brought bereavement and personal sadness. Half of all Americans know someone who has served in Iraq; some 10 per cent of them had a relative or friend who had been killed or wounded there, according to a poll by USA Today.

Mr Bush's place in history will be determined by his decision to invade. Back in March 2003, his approval ratings stood at 70 per cent. Now they have dropped to less than 40 per cent. Two-thirds of the public believes the country is "on the wrong track". Iraq sweeps every other issue off the table.

This November's mid-term elections meanwhile may well turn into a referendum on Iraq, and the Republican Party may lose control of either the House of Representatives or the Senate, conceivably both.

Even among the Republican faithful, support for Mr Bush is starting to erode. "If you demand complete victory, you'll never leave," Senator Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican who is mulling a 2008 White House run, said yesterday.

The war, he declared, was helping to bankrupt the country. "And if you ask, are we better off, is the Middle East more stable than three years ago, the answer is, 'Absolutely not'."

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Man Overboard - Manliness and the Bush Administration

By Ruth Marcus
March 21, 2006

I have a new theory about what's behind everything that's wrong with the Bush administration: manliness.

"Manliness" is the unapologetic title of a new book by Harvey C. Mansfield, a conservative professor of government at Harvard University, which makes him a species as rare as a dissenting voice in the Bush White House. Mansfield's thesis is that manliness, which he sums up as "confidence in the face of risk," is a misunderstood and unappreciated attribute.
Manliness, he writes, "seeks and welcomes drama and prefers times of war, conflict, and risk." It entails assertiveness, even stubbornness, and craves power and action. It explains why men, naturally inclined to assert that "our policy, our party, our regime is superior," dominate in the political sphere.

Though manliness is "the quality mostly of one sex," Mansfield allows that women can be manly, too, though the sole example he can seem to come up with, and deploys time and again, is Margaret Thatcher. "Is it possible to teach women manliness and thus to become more assertive?" he wonders, but not really. "Or is that like teaching a cat to bark?" Me-ow!

"The problem of manliness is not that it does not exist," Mansfield concludes. "It does exist, but it is unemployed." Well, um, excuse me, but I think -- it's just my opinion, now, maybe you disagree, and I'm sure we could work it out -- Mansfield has it exactly backward. Manliness does exist. The problem is that it's overemployed -- nowhere more than in this administration.

Think about it this way: Is a trait exemplified by reluctance to ask directions -- "for it is out of manliness that men do not like to ask for directions when lost," Mansfield writes -- really what you want in a government deciding whether to take a country to war?

The undisputed manliness of the Bush White House stands in contrast to its predecessors and wannabes. If Republicans are the Daddy Party and Democrats the Mommy Party, the Clinton White House often operated like Mansfield's vision of an estrogen-fueled kaffeeklatsch: indecisive and undisciplined. (Okay, there were some unfortunate, testosterone-filled moments, too.) Bill Clinton's would-be successor, Al Gore, was mocked for enlisting Naomi Wolf to help him emerge as an alpha male; after that, French-speaking John Kerry had to give up windsurfing and don hunting gear to prove he was a real man. And Bush's father, of course, had to battle the Wimp Factor. Mansfield recalls Thatcher's manly admonition to 41 on the eve of the Persian Gulf War: "Don't go wobbly on me, George."

No wimpiness worries now. This is an administration headed by a cowboy boot-wearing brush-clearer, backstopped by a quail-shooting fly fisherman comfortable with long stretches of manly silence -- very "Brokeback Mountain," except this crowd considers itself too manly for such PC Hollywood fare. "I would be glad to talk about ranchin', but I haven't seen the movie," Bush told a questioner.

There are, no doubt, comforting aspects to the manly presidency; think Bush with a bullhorn on top of the smoldering ruins of the twin towers. After a terrorist attack, no one's looking for a sensitive New Age president. Even now, being a strong leader polls at the top of qualities that voters most admire in Bush.

But the manliness of the Bush White House has a darker side that has proved more curse than advantage. The prime example is the war in Iraq: the administration's assertion of the right to engage in preemptive and unilateral war; the resolute avoidance of debate about the "slam-dunk" intelligence on weapons of mass destruction; the determined lack of introspection or self-doubt about the course of the war; and the swaggering dismissal of dissenting views as the carping of those not on the team.

The administration's manliness doesn't stop at the water's edge. Pushing another round of tax cuts in 2003, Vice President Cheney sounded like a warrior claiming tribute after victory in battle: "We won the midterms. This is our due," Cheney reportedly said. After the 2004 election, Bush exuded the blustering self-assurance of a president who had political capital to spend -- or thought he did -- and wasn't going to think twice before plunking down the whole pile on Social Security.

Mansfieldian manliness is present as well in Bush's confident -- overconfident -- response to Hurricane Katrina (insert obligatory "Brownie" quote here). And the administration's claim of almost unfettered executive power is the ultimate in manliness: how manly to conclude that Congress gave the go-ahead to ignore a law without it ever saying so; how even manlier to argue that your inherent authority as commander in chief would permit you to brush aside those bothersome congressional gnats if they tried to stop eavesdropping without a warrant.

Mansfield writes that he wants to "convince skeptical readers -- above all, educated women" -- that "irrational manliness deserves to be endorsed by reason." Sorry, professor: You lose. What this country could use is a little less manliness -- and a little more of what you would describe as womanly qualities: restraint, introspection, a desire for consensus, maybe even a touch of self-doubt.

But that's just my view.


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Damage Control: The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll - A new generation of conspiracy theorists is at work on a secret history of New York's most terrible day.

By Mark Jacobson
New York Magazine
March 27 Issue

1. 11/22 and 9/11
They keep telling us 9/11 changed everything. But even in this Photoshopped age of unreliable narrators, much remains the same. The assassination of President John Kennedy, the Crime of the Last Century, occurred in plain sight, in front of thousands-yet exactly what happened remains in dispute. The Warren Commission found that Lee Harvey Oswald, fellow traveler of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, shot Kennedy with a cheap Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. The commission found that Oswald, who two days later would be murdered by nightclub owner Jack Ruby, acted alone.
Yet, as with so many such events, there is the sanctioned history and the secret history-players hidden from view. In the Kennedy murder, the involvement of shadowy organizations like the Mafia and the CIA came into question. This way of thinking came to challenge the official narrative put forth by the Warren Commission. It is not exactly clear when the grassy knoll supplanted the sixth-floor window in the popular mind-set. But now, four decades after Dallas, it is difficult to find anyone who believes Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman.

But if Oswald didn't kill the president, who did? So 11/22 remains an open case, an open wound.

Now here we are again, contemplating the seemingly unthinkable events of September 11. An official explanation has been offered up: The nation was attacked by the forces of radical Islam led by Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda jihadists. Again, this narrative has been accepted by many.

But not all.

2. War Without End
"Just your average wild-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth conspiracy nuts," Father Frank Morales told me as he surveyed the 200 or so graying beatniks and neighborhood anarchist punks sporting IS IT FASCISM YET? buttons who had assembled in the basement of St. Mark's Church for the weekly Sunday-night meeting of the New York 9/11 Truth Movement to hear a lecture by Webster Tarpley, author of 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.

Saying he was in New York "to debunk the outrageous myth . . . the absurd fairy tale" that the tragic events of September 11, 2001, were the work of nineteen fanatics with box cutters sent by a bearded man in a cave, the 60-year-old Tarpley projected a slide designated "State-Sponsored False Flag Terrorism," depicting a Venn diagram of three interconnected circles.

Circle one was labeled patsies, comprising "dupes," "useful idiots," "fanatics," "provocateurs," and "Oswalds." Included here were the demonized bin Laden and alleged lead hijacker Mohammad Atta. The second ring, marked MOLES, contained "government officials loyal to the invisible government," such as Paul Wolfowitz, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and, of course, George W. Bush. The third circle, PROFESSIONAL KILLERS, encompassed "technicians," "CIA special forces," "old boys"-the unnamed ones who did the dirty work and kept their mouths shut.

September 11 was the true face of corporatized terror, said Tarpley, graduate of Flushing High School, class of 1962 (also Princeton), and author of an "unauthorized" biography of George Herbert Walker Bush. The book paints the Bush-family patriarch, Senator Prescott Bush, as knowingly profiting from Hitler's Third Reich in his role as a director of the Union Banking Corporation, where, Tarpley's book says, the Nazis kept their money.

According to Tarpley, this, roughly, is how it went down on September 11: Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Pet Goat–engrossed president played their assigned roles enabling the strange events of the day, including the wholesale "stand-down" of the multi-trillion-dollar American air-defense system. Cued by fellow mole Richard Clarke, the main players made sure the CIA-owned-and-operated Osama and his alleged 72-virgin-craving crew got the blame, the towers collapsing not from fire, as reported by the brainwashed mainstream media, but thanks to a well-planned "controlled demolition."

Laying out his scenario, Tarpley touched on many of the "unanswered questions" that make up the core of the 9/11 Truth critique of the so-called Official Story.

Like: How, if no steel-frame building had ever collapsed from fire, did three such edifices fall that day, including 7 World Trade Center, which was not hit by any airplane?

And why, if hydrocarbon-fueled fire maxes out at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and steel melts at 2,700 degrees, did the towers weaken sufficiently to fall in such a short time-only 56 minutes in the case of the South Tower?

And why, if the impact destroyed the planes' supposedly crash-proof flight-recorder black boxes, was the FBI able to find, in perfect condition, the passport of Satam al Suqami, one of the alleged American Airlines Flight 11 hijackers?

And how to explain the nonperformance of the FAA and NORAD?

How could they, an hour after the first World Trade Center crash, allow an obviously hostile airplane to smash into the Pentagon, headquarters of the entire military-industrial complex, for chrissakes? And why did the Defense Department choose to stage an extraordinary number of military exercises on 9/11-occupying matériel and spreading confusion about who was who on that day?

And why was it so important, as decreed by Mayor Giuliani, to clear away the debris, before all the bodies were recovered?

And what about the short-selling spree on American and United airlines stock in the days before the attacks? Betting on the stocks to go down-was this real sicko Wall Street insider trading?

There were so many questions. But when it came to the big "why" of 9/11, there was only the classic conspiratorial query: "Who benefits?"

For Tarpley and others, this was a slam dunk: September 11 was a holocaust-as-ordered by the neocon cabal Project for the New American Century, which, like its Svengali, Leo Strauss, recognized the U.S. masses to be meth-addled, postliterate, post-logical lard-asses, a race of "sheeple" that would never rise to inherit the mantle of post–Cold War world-dominators without "some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor." In other words, a new Pearl Harbor like the old Pearl Harbor, which Roosevelt was supposed to have known about and used as an excuse to get us into World War II.

Pearl Harbor, the Reichstag fire, take your pick. What mattered was that 3,000 human beings were dead, freeing Manchurian Candidate Bush to decree his fraudulent War on Terror, a Social Darwinian/Hobbesian/with-us-or-against-us struggle to corner the planet's dwindling bounty-a global conflict without end in which only the strong, the white, and the Republican would survive.

3. Your "HOP" Level
In his paper "What Is Your 'HOP' Level?" Nick Levis, who co-coordinates the N.Y. 9/11 Truth meetings with Father Morales and Les Jamieson, categorizes the basic narrative theories about September 11. The options essentially boil down to four.

(A) The Official Story (a.k.a. "The Official Conspiracy Theory"). The received Bushian line: Osama, nineteen freedom-haters with box cutters, etc. As White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, there was "no warning."

(B) The Incompetence Theory (also the Stupidity, Arrogance, "Reno Wall" Theory). Accepts the Official Story, adds failure by the White House, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. to heed ample warnings. This line was advanced, with much ass-covering compensation, in The 9/11 Commission Report.

(C) LIHOP (or "Let It Happen on Purpose"). Many variations, but primarily that elements of the U.S. government and the private sector were aware of the hijackers' plans and, recognizing that 9/11 suited their policy goals, did nothing to stop it.

(D) MIHOP ("Made It Happen on Purpose"). The U.S. government or private forces planned and executed the attacks.

Tarpley's conception of a far-flung, supragovernmental alliance of intelligence agencies (he reserves a key spot for Britain's MI6) and military forces is only one of many MIHOPs floating around 9/11 Truth circles. Popular are various configurations of a Cheney-Bush MIHOP, with most asserting that the vice-president, who appeared to be in charge on 9/11, was the main actor in the plot. Also ambient is the ecodoomsday Peak Oil MIHOP, the idea that the "peaking" of petroleum reserves required a false provocation to start an "oil war" in the Middle East.

More controversial is Mossad MIHOP: the conjecture that Israeli intelligence (and kowtowing by the U.S. to the "Israel lobby") played a crucial role, attempting to draw the U.S. into a prolonged struggle with Israel's enemies. Notable in this is the "white van" story: Five men observed filming the attacks from Liberty State Park were later pulled over by cops near Giants Stadium. One man was found to have $4,700 in his sock. "We are Israelis," the men reportedly told the cops. "We are not your problem." The men were quickly deported to Israel, after which the Forward claimed that the company that owned the van, Urban Moving Systems, was a Mossad front.

Mossad MIHOP dovetails with the baseless rumor, widely believed in Arab countries, that 4,000 Jewish World Trade Center workers were told to stay home that day, showing that conspiracy theory can be tricky terrain. Mossad MIHOP easily morphs into Zionist MIHOP or Jewish MIHOP, leading to the charges of anti-Semitism that have dogged the 9/11 Truth movement. "Do I believe Israel has undue influence over U.S. foreign policy?" asks one activist. "Absolutely. But there are people in this movement who are fucking Nazis. You have to draw the line at Holocaust denial."

Deeper into late-night-talk-radio, Da Vinci Code territory are numerous incarnations of the New World Order MIHOP, defined by Nick Levis as the work of "a global ruling elite seeking greater control of the world Zeitgeist." Ever elastic, NWO MIHOPs often date back to secret societies like the Knights Templar, founded in 1118 during the First Crusade. (Bush's alleged slip of calling the terror war a "crusade" was a key hint to the real, if surreal, agenda.) The continuity is clear to any student of the hidden history. The Templars begat the Freemasons (look at the pyramid-meeting-the-eye on every dollar in your pocket, fool!), from whom emerged the nefarious Illuminati, and onward to current standard-bearers like Yale's Skull and Bones society (both Bushes are Bonesmen; John Kerry, too), the Council on Foreign Relations, and the blue-helmeted armies of the United Nations.

Less-cited scenarios include Sino MIHOP, claiming the attack was a first strike in the inevitable conflict between China and the West. Scientologists have suggested a Shrink MIHOP, imagining evil Thetan psychologists as culprits. In the postmodern battle of paranoid narratives, we get to choose our terror dream, identify our own evil genius.

4. Inevitable MIHOP
"For me, MIHOP was inevitable, because the more you know, the more you know," says Les Jamieson, a friendly, eminently reasonable 51-year-old from Brooklyn who remembers the moment the scales of Official Story hallucination fell from his eyes.

"I read a story in Newsweek, which said these generals were told earlier that week not to fly. Obviously, someone knew. My reaction was, 'Holy shit.' This process has been one holy shit after another."

Father Frank Morales's conversion was more dramatic. Raised in the Jacob Riis Projects, Morales, who if not for his priest collar could be mistaken for an East Village hipster, is a longtime Lower East Side hero, primarily for his work with local squatter communities. The day after 9/11, the diocese asked if he'd go to ground zero to perform last rites. "They said be prepared, because 'we're not talking bodies, Frank, we're talking body parts.' "

"I could feel myself getting madder and madder, not the way a priest is supposed to feel," says Morales. Sitting with a fireman, Morales called out, "If I had somebody in this mess, I'd wanna get those motherfuckers." It was then, Morales says, that the fireman whispered, "Hey, that's not it. You wanna know something? Bush and bin Laden have the same banker."

It was everything that happened afterward, the Patriot Act and Iraq, that turned him into a 9/11 Truth activist, says Morales, who likewise sees little alternative to MIHOP.

"To me," Morales says, "this is about history. History and truth, the nature of truth in a not particularly truthful age."

"We're like the minutemen of Revolutionary times, prosecutors in the discovery phase for a trial that is sure to come," says Jamieson, who on Saturday afternoons can often be found at ground zero holding up a banner proclaiming that 9/11 was AN INSIDE JOB.

As 9/11 Truth advocates know well, the veracity they seek is unlikely to meet the ontological standards of Saint Anselm. They've got people on their side like the "WebFairy," who runs a site "proving" the towers were not hit by planes but holograms, or "ghost planes." Still, the truth movement wields one irrefutably puissant weapon in its struggle. As Nick Levis says, "Would you believe anything George W. Bush told you?"

5. A Fast-Moving Meme
Google "911 conspiracy" and the bytes bury you. The first great conspiracy theory of the Internet Age-imagine JFK assassinationology with the Web!-9/11 Truth is a fast-moving meme. The thicket of "truth" sites is myriad. There is "911truth.org," 911forthetruth.com," "911truthla.org," "nakedfor911truth.com," "911truthemergence.com," "911citizenswatch.org," "911research.wtc7.net," "911review.com," and hundreds more.

It can be argued that a whole new kind of politics is being waged in the 9/11 Truth assault. Apocalyptical survivalists and extreme Bush-haters are equally attracted to the movement's blanket J'accuse. Be you a Starbucks-window breaker or John Bircher, you don't need a weatherman to know which way Thomas L. Friedman and his globalist windbaggery blows.

This is not a movement that takes its Nagra tape recorders to document Dealey Plaza acoustics to ascertain which bullet came from what angle. When 9/11 Truth "researchers" cite "the physical evidence," they usually mean the referred reality of photographs or videos posted on the Net. Paul Thompson, whose 9/11 timeline has become the undisputed gold standard of Truth research, does all his work on the Net. "I don't have to be any particular place to do this," says Thompson, who for a while moved to New Zealand so it would be easier for him to concentrate.

Yet it is difficult to deny the allure of this movement. The conspiracist has always relied on a degree of magical thinking. As Marshall McLuhan would swear if he weren't dead, there has never been a more conspiracy-ready medium than the Net. It is an exhilarating serendipity that every surfer has felt: the glorious synchronicity in the way one link handshakes the next, the sensation of not knowing how you got there but being sure this is the right place. Such miraculous methodology cannot simply be random. For the moment, it feels like Truth.

"There's reality, and there's illusion," says William Rodriguez. "When illusion becomes reality, that's a problem; 9/11 is a giant illusion."

Coincidences are rife. What is to be made of reports that prior to September 11, parties unknown purchased the domain names "nycterrorstrike.com," "horrorinnewyork.com," and "tradetowerstrike.com." Was this Mohammad Atta's idea of a cyberjoke?

Consider Pammy Wynant, protagonist of the novel Players, by Don DeLillo. Published in 1977, the book describes how Pammy, working for a firm called Grief Management Council, which has its offices in the World Trade Center, at first thought the WTC was "an unlikely headquarters for an outfit such as this. But she changed her mind as time passed. Where else would you stack all this grief?" Later, DeLillo writes, "to Pammy the towers didn't seem permanent. They remained concepts, no less transient for all their bulk than some routine distortion of light."

Even dismissing numerological smut-like how 9+1+1=11 and there are eleven letters in both George W. Bush and The Pentagon, for which ground was broken September 11, 1941, exactly 155 (=11) years after the Masonic-dominated Founding Fathers opened the Constitutional Convention on September 11, 1786, not to mention, for CIA MIHOP fans, that Kissinger and the Langley boys chose September 11, 1973, to overthrow Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende-we appear to have entered the realm of the precognitively strange.

Does it matter that the pilot for the conspiracy-themed Lone Gunmen (a short-lived Fox knockoff of The X-Files), which aired on March 4, 2001, tells the story of a U.S. government agency's plot to crash a remote-controlled 727 into the World Trade Center as an excuse to raise the military budget and then blame the attack on a "tin-pot dictator" who was "begging to be smart-bombed"?

And why does every 9-year-old know how to fold a $20 bill so it forms a likeness of the burning Pentagon on one side and the Trade Center on the back? (See clydelewis.com/twenty.html.)

German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen may have been roundly chastised for calling 9/11 "the greatest work of art ever." Yet what is the conspiracist's obsessive attempt to make sense where there is no sense but a kind of (paranoid) art? No wonder Jungian shrinks, who churn out copious papers on the topic, are so crazy about 9/11. It's got so much archetype. Perhaps one of these learned men will pen a monograph on mandala-like smoke patterns (wwnet.fi/users/veijone/satan.htm) in the burning South Tower, which seem to form a likeness of Lucifer?

6. Inside the Truth Vacuum
"People are always coming up with stuff about holograms and planes shooting pods. That's what happens when the truth is systematically suppressed," says Monica Gabrielle, whose husband, Richard, was killed in the attacks.

Monica, who describes herself as being "a completely normal housewife paying my taxes, raising my children" before 9/11 and who now lives on Long Island "with my dog, my alarm, and some plants," testified before the 9/11 Commission. She ended her statement saying she hoped "this commission understands the need to leave a legacy of truth, accountability, and reform as a tribute to all of the innocent victims . . . We look to you for leadership."

Asked if she ever expected to get a "legacy of truth," Monica, who manifests an endearingly New Yorkish manner, laughs. "I must be an idiot because, yeah, I did. I was brought up to believe in things like the U.S. government. But we got screwed. The commission was whitewash, a stonewall. Maybe 3,000 people dead wasn't enough to do the right thing. Did they need 5,000, or 10,000?

"They had these people come in, made them promise to do better next time, and gave them medals. Rich was dead, and nobody was at fault. To me, that's a sin . . . With them, everything is fake. The government gave out ceremonial urns to the victims' families. It had beach sand inside. From Coney Island or somewhere. They could have at least used the dust from the Trade Center. Something real."

Asked about 9/11 Truth, Monica laughs again. "You want tinfoil-hat-wearing nutters? I get these e-mails from this woman. She's nice, supportive. Then she says to be careful because 'our thoughts, feelings, and bodily functions are being controlled 100,000 percent by electromagnetic waves.' But I write back. I know she means well. Everyone needs a friend."

"Conspiracy theories," says Lorie Van Auken with a sigh. She's one of the "Jersey girls" who pushed the Bush administration to convene the 9/11 Commission. Her husband, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee, was killed in the North Tower. She says, "That's why we demanded the commission, so there wouldn't be any conspiracy theories.

"Now, when I hear Philip Zelikow [the 9/11 Commission's executive director] wrote a book with Condi Rice or was seen with Karl Rove, it drives me crazy. I feel like I'm trapped in a truth vacuum."

One thing that has changed over Lorie's "career as a 9/11 widow" is that she's come to appreciate "these conspiracy nuts, or whatever you want to call them.

"At first, we widows didn't want to be seen with conspiracy people. But they kept showing up. They cared more than those supposedly doing the investigating. If you ask me, they're just Americans, looking for the truth, which is supposed to be our right."

7.Why 7 WTC Fell
Talking to these women was not unlike watching the Zapruder film, I thought. The famous 8-mm. movie shot by ladies'-garment manufacturer Abraham Zapruder has been used to justify any number of Kennedy-assassination theories. Think the driver of the limo was the actual shooter, as a few nutbags have postulated? It's in the Zapruder film, if you're stoned and squint enough.

However, you always get to the part where the president's head explodes in a flash and shower of blood. It remains a horrible, frozen moment. One look and I am back in geometry class at Francis Lewis High School, the principal's voice on the loudspeaker saying that the president had been shot, that he was "dead."

Speaking with the widows, or simply walking by a firehouse, was a teleportation back to the raw unspun brutality of the Day. This isn't as much of a stretch as it sounds, since I was there on September 11.

I'd just walked right into what would come to be called ground zero. No one stopped me. I knew the towers had fallen, seen it on TV. Still, I didn't expect things that big to totally disappear, as if the ground had swallowed them up.

"Where are the towers?" I asked a fireman. "Under your foot" was the reply.

Hours later, I sat down beside another, impossibly weary firefighter. Covered with dust, he was drinking a bottle of Poland Spring water. Half his squad was missing. They'd gone into the South Tower and never come out. Then, almost as a non sequitur, the fireman indicated the building in front of us, maybe 400 yards away.

"That building is coming down," he said with a drained casualness.

"Really?" I asked. At 47 stories, it would be a skyscraper in most cities, centerpiece of the horizon. But in New York, it was nothing but a nondescript box with fire coming out of the windows. "When?"

"Tonight . . . Maybe tomorrow morning."

This was around 5:15 p.m. I know because five minutes later, at 5:20, the building, 7 World Trade Center, crumbled.

"Shit!" I screamed, unsure which way to run, because who knows which way these things fall. As it turned out, I wasn't in any danger, since 7 WTC appeared to drop straight down. I still have dreams about the moment. Even then, the event is oddly undramatic, just a building falling.

Now the 9/11 Truth movement tells me I saw much more. According to Jim Hoffman, a software engineer and physicist from Alameda, California, where he authors the site 911research.wtc7.net, what I saw was a "classic controlled demolition." This was why, Hoffman contends, 7 WTC dropped so rapidly (in about 6.6 seconds, or almost at the speed of a free-falling object) and so neatly, into its "own footprint."

For 7 WTC to collapse unaided at that speed, Hoffman says, would mean "its 58 perimeter columns and 25 central columns of structural steel would have to have been shattered at almost the same instant, so unlikely as to be impossible."

What happened at 7 WTC might be the key to the entire mystery of September 11, contends Hoffman. The $500 million insurance profit made by Larry Silverstein is a garden-variety motive, but the list of 7 WTC tenants sets conspiracy heads spinning.

To wit: The IRS, the Department of Defense, and the CIA kept offices on the 25th floor. The Secret Service occupied the ninth and tenth. The Securities and Exchange Commission (home to vast records of bank transactions) was on floors 11 through 13. The 23rd floor was home to Rudy Giuliani's Office of Emergency Management, his crisis center. If this wasn't enough, the mortgage of 7 WTC was held by the Blackstone Group, headed by Pete Peterson, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, stalwart players in any NWO MIHOP.

In the 9/11 Truth cosmology, the destruction of 7 World Trade Center is akin to Jack Ruby's shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. Seven WTC was the home of secrets. It had to go. Central to the scenario is a comment made by Silverstein in a 2002 PBS documentary.

"We're like the minutemen of Revolutionary times, prosecutors in the discovery phase of a trial that's sure to come," says Les Jamieson.

"We've had such a terrible loss of life," he quotes himself as saying on 9/11. "Maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it."

"Pull it," as Truth people never tire of repeating, is the term usually used for controlled demolition.

These were vexing questions, especially since 7 WTC is not even mentioned in The 9/11 Commission Report. Nor is the building given much shrift in the subsequent "Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Towers," compiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

And there I was, thinking all I saw was a building falling down.

8. The Magician and the Expert
A few days after the St. Mark's meeting, I went to a Community Board No. 1 forum where the NIST report would be discussed. The meeting was in the Woolworth Building, the world's tallest structure when it was completed in 1913. Since it was still standing, it seemed a good place to talk about the only former world's tallest building(s) to fall down. I was with William Rodriguez, who, as he always does, brought along his video camera, "so they know I'm watching them."

As a boy shining shoes in Puerto Rico, William dreamed of being wrapped in a straitjacket and suspended upside down from a flaming rope. "That was going to be my big trick. It was my goal to become a magician, the greatest illusionist in the Caribbean basin."

Later, Rodriguez met James Randi, a.k.a. the Amazing Randi, the magician best known as a debunker of supernatural claims, offering the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge to anyone able to demonstrate verifiable evidence of psychic powers.

"Randi was my mentor," said William. "I admired him for his tricks but also because he never said they were anything but tricks. He separated the truth from the phony."

William moved to New York, but beyond some gigs at Mostly Magic, his career did not take off. He started working for a cleaning company in the World Trade Center. He'd stay there twenty years.

On 9/11, William was late. Instead of mopping the stairwells on the 110th floor, where he almost certainly would have died, he was chatting with the maintenance crew on level B-1 in the basement. "I heard this massive explosion below, on level B-2 or 3. I saw this guy come up the stairs. The skin on his arms was peeled away . . . hanging. Then I heard another explosion, from above. That was the first plane, hitting the building."

In possession of one of the few master keys in the building, William led firemen up the stairwells. He was responsible for getting at least a dozen people out of the towers. Trying to escape as the North Tower fell, he found himself beneath a half-buried fire engine.

"I told myself this is going to be a slow death, but I should make it last as long as I could. My training as an escape artist helped me. I knew to be calm. They found me just in time. I understood my whole life had been pointing to this moment."

Acclaimed as "the last man pulled from the rubble," William became a hero of 9/11. "I was at the White House. They took my picture with President Bush."

Four years later, after repeatedly being rebuffed in his attempts to tell officials his story about the basement explosion, William is suing the U.S. government under the rico statute, legislation drafted to prosecute Mafia families. The suit reads like an Air America wet dream, with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft, George Tenet, Karl Rove, and others (the Diebold Company is thrown in for good measure) listed as defendants.

"They say I'm a conspiracy theorist; I call them conspirators, too," William says.

"It is like Randi said. There's reality, and there's illusion. When illusion becomes reality, that's a problem. Nine-eleven is a giant illusion. Besides, what can they do to me? I'm a national hero, Bush told me so himself."

"That's him, the NIST guy," William said, indicating Dr. S. Shyam Sunder, head of the institute's Trade Center report.

An elegantly attired man in his fifties, Dr. Sunder, holder of degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and MIT, took his seat beside Carl Galioto, a partner at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, architects of the new $700 million replacement for 7 WTC. Behind them was a slide of "the new downtown skyline," dominated by another Skidmore project, the Freedom Tower, which, at an iconic 1,776 feet, is next in line to be the world's tallest building. Like the new 7 WTC, which Galioto said featured a "two-foot-thick vertical core encasing the elevators, utility infrastructure, and exit stairs," the Freedom Tower will be "among the safest buildings ever built." This was important, the architect said, because "constantly building and rebuilding" was what New York was all about.

After Dr. Sunder's presentation (planes and fire did it), a woman from N.Y. 9/11 Truth stood up and said she hadn't been able "to sleep at night" since her best friend had died at the WTC. She had hoped NIST would clear up doubts, but this was not the case. "I have here a report which contradicts much of what you say."

The woman put a paper by Steven E. Jones, a physics professor from Brigham Young University, in front of Dr. Sunder. Jones makes the case for controlled demolition, claiming the persistence of "molten metal" at ground zero indicates the likely presence of "high-temperature cutter-charges . . . routinely used to melt/cut/demolish steel."

"I hope you read this; perhaps it will enable you to see things a different way," the woman said.

"Actually, I have read it," Dr. Sunder said with a sigh.

Later, asked if such outbursts were common, Dr. Sunder said, "Yes. I am sympathetic. But our report . . . it is extensive. We consulted 80 public-sector experts and 125 private-sector experts. It is a Who's Who of experts. People look for other solutions. As scientists, we can't worry about that. Facts are facts."

I asked Dr. Sunder about 7 WTC. Why was the fate of the building barely mentioned in the final report?

This was a matter of staffing and budget, Sunder said. He hoped to release something on 7 WTC by the end of the year.

NIST did have some "preliminary hypotheses" on 7 WTC, Dr. Sunder said. "We are studying the horizontal movement east to west, internal to the structure, on the fifth to seventh floors."

Then Dr. Sunder paused. "But truthfully, I don't really know. We've had trouble getting a handle on building No. 7."

9. Can 49.3 Percent of the People Be Crazy?
Late in the summer of 2004, as the Republicans in Madison Square Garden extolled George Bush's staunch protection of the homeland, a Zogby poll asked New Yorkers if they believed that "some of our leaders knew in advance attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and consciously failed to act."

Of city residents, 49.3 percent said yes.

A year and a half later, doubt had increased, at least according to my own informal canvassing. Per Nick Levis's "HOP" paper, I offered four choices: (A) the Official Story; (B) the Official Story plus incompetence; (C) LIHOP; (D) MIHOP.

Of the 56 respondents, 28 said C, 23 picked B, with 4 (including two Muslim cabdrivers) opting for MIHOP.

Almost every white person with a straight job said B. Many disliked Bush but said they couldn't bring themselves to believe the U.S. government would take part in the death of 3,000 of its countrymen.

Typical was the opinion offered by an investment banker at a downtown bar. "I can see them wishing it would happen, secretly happy it did. But on purpose? Look at the way they've managed Iraq. They're boobs. They couldn't have pulled off 9/11 without getting caught. Not possible."

Uptown, responses were different. "Yeah, they knew," said a retired transit worker on 116th Street, one of the 17 of 22 black people questioned who picked C. He said he'd heard Marvin Bush, the president's younger brother, was a director of Securacom, a firm that on 9/11 was in charge of security not only at the World Trade Center but also for United and American airlines as well as at Dulles airport, where Flight 77 took off.

"That true?" he asked.

Yeah, I said. That's what I heard.

"There anywhere he ain't got no brother?"

"Bush's cousin, Wirt Walker III, worked there, too."

"Wirt? The third? You're shitting me."

This was pretty much the opinion. If Katrina proved the government was willing to let people die, right there on TV, why should 9/11 have been any different? Only one person picked A, the official story. This was a fireman, who was smoking a cigarette outside a downtown engine company. Truth be told, I wasn't keen on quizzing firemen about 9/11 Truth, but I knew the guy's brother from high school.

"Not answering that," he said, warning not to ask others in the company, which had lost men on 9/11. This didn't mean he wasn't of the opinion that if he lived to be a million he'd never "see anything as corrupt, bullshit, and sad as what happened at the WTC.

"They got their gold and shipped us to Fresh Kills," he said. Call it one more conspiracy theory, but many uniformed firefighters believe the powers that be cared more about finding the gold reserves held in vaults beneath the Trade Center than the bodies of their fallen brothers.

Still, the fireman said, if he had to pick a letter in my poll, it would be A.

"Osama fucking bin Laden, like Bush says. If I thought it was someone else, then I'd have to do something about it. And I don't want to think about what I'd do."

10. Disinformation
It weighs on you, thinking about 9/11, the day and the unremitting aftermath. Being a supposedly unflappable New Yorker offers little solace. The wound remains unhealed, emotions close to the surface.

Certainly there was an urgency as activists gathered at the Veselka restaurant after the Tarpley meeting.

With all the saber-rattling about Iran, this was no time to decrease vigilance, said Nick Levis, proposing a toast: "That in 2006, we will crack the Official Story so we can stop being 9/11-heads and return to normality." A classically hermetic New York conversation ensued, quickly moving from snickers about bin Laden's supposed CIA code name, "Tim Osmond . . . as in Donny and Marie," to speculation about the role of Jerry Hauer, Giuliani's former OEM guy, in the post-9/11 anthrax threats.

Talk came to a halt, however, with the mention of whether it was American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon on 9/11.

Broached in 2002 by Thierry Meyssan in his French best-seller L'Effroyable Imposture (The Appalling Fraud), the idea that the Pentagon was struck by a missile instead of a 757 is the most controversial tenet of 9/11 Truth–iana. The claim is based on Meyssan's reading of photographs ("Hunt the Boeing" at asile.org/citoyens/numero13/pentagone/erreurs_en.htm) supposedly showing the hole in the building to be no more than fifteen to eighteen feet wide-far too small to fit a plane with a 125-foot wingspan.

But there are problems, such as the many eyewitnesses who saw a plane flying low near the Pentagon shortly before impact. Disputing the no-crash theory, Jim Hoffman has argued, "This is just the sort of wackiness defenders of the Official Story harp on to show how gullible and incompetent we conspiracy theorists are supposed to be." In other words, Meyssan and other no-plane believers were either wrong, unknowing dupes or spreaders of disinformation.

The D-word is nothing to take lightly in conspiracy circles. For, as Thomas Pynchon notes in his "Proverbs for Paranoids," if they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.

At Veselka, the question was, if Flight 77 did not crash, what happened to the 56 people on the plane? This query did not sit well with Nico Haupt, a thin, black-clad man from Cologne, Germany, compiler of the 9/11 Encyclopedia (911review.org/Wiki/Sept11Topics.shtml).

"Gassed," he hissed. "Have you ever heard of gassing? It is very easy. You open the door of the plane, and it spreads."

"You think they gassed them?" Would even the Illuminati stoop this low?

Haupt cast a withering look. "That, or some other method of murder. Assholes!"

"Nico, calm down," said Tarpley. "This is tactics. There's no reason to make an enormous moral issue out of everything."

But Haupt was past consoling. "You are motherfuckers. Stupid motherfuckers." Slamming the tabletop, he gathered his things and stormed out.

"Nico is so emotional," said one activist, returning to her plate of pierogi.

11. 250 Greenwich Street
After dinner, I stopped at ground zero. Before the towers were built, my father took me here when the area was called Radio Row and sold tubes cheap. After 9/11, I spent many nights watching the great plume of water, shining in the vapor lamps, raining onto the smoking pit.

Now I was in front of the replacement for 7 WTC, Silverstein's $700 million baby, a nifty parallelogram with a stainless-steel finish like a Viking stove in a Soho loft. According to the Web brochure, 7 WTC collapsed "probably" as a result of "the ignition of Con Edison diesel stored in the base." To "avoid this hazard in the new building, the diesel is stored under the new plaza across from the reopened Greenwich Street."

Another change is the offering of an alternative address, 250 Greenwich Street. Apparently, Silverstein felt this would play better in "the trendy Tribeca neighborhood." Call it real-estate MIHOP.

When the new 7 WTC opens, N.Y. 9/11 Truth plans a demonstration here. Now, however, it being late Sunday night, the place looked like a neutron-bomb landscape, lights on in the finished lobby, gleaming card-reading security gates in place, but no sign of humanity anywhere.

A giant LCD screen scrolled various alphabetical fonts, one after another. It was numbing watching this, thinking that time was moving on, new fortunes would be made here, and like 11/22, it would never be known who did what on 9/11.

A cop car pulled up. They wanted me to move on. Cops always want you to move on. Not that I was in any hurry. Larry Silverstein didn't own the sidewalk. I had as much right to the disaster as anyone.

Then I remembered one more factoid. David Cohen, who headed the CIA office at 7 WTC on September 11, was the same guy hired by Ray Kelly as deputy commissioner of Intelligence. It was Cohen who instituted the subway bag search, one more chimera of security in the post-9/11 world. Who knew what a guy like that might be up to? So I moved on. Can't trust anyone nowadays.

Mossad Did It
A common theory, especially in the Arab world, holds that Israel orchestrated the attacks in order to bring the U.S. into conflict with Israel's enemies. Evidence cited ranges from the arly spurious and deeply anti-Semitic (the oft-heard, oft-refuted canard that Jews were told to leave the towers before the attacks) to the apparently true but unexplainable. (Five men who were seen filming the attacks in Liberty Park were later apprehended and found by the Forward to have ties to Mossad.)

Oilmen Did It
A theory based on the idea that worldwide oil production, having reached its peak, is beginning a long decline, leading to surging energy prices and global economic collapse. The 9/11 attacks, goes this scenario, were orchestrated by Cheney, Bush, and their friends in the oil industry and government, in order to begin a process that would secure further reserves in Iraq and increase the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf.

Bush and Cheney Did it
The most basic of conspiracy theories. Bush and Cheney orchestrated the attacks, for much the same reason Roosevelt was sometimes said to have orchestrated Pearl Harbor: in order to begin the conflict that would allow them to realize their global ambitions.

The New World Order Did It
After winning a long struggle against the old Kissingerian pragmatists and balance-of-power devotees, neocon idealists centered at the Council on Foreign Relations initiated the conflict in order to establish the United States as the sole global power.

A Rogue Network Did It
A secret government used Bush and Cheney as patsies in carrying out the attacks. Bush was kept on the run in Air Force One (code-named "Angel") by an anonymous call saying, "Angel is next." Bin Laden and his henchmen were CIA plants and double agents. Britain's MI6 intelligence service was involved. The towers were blown up from inside, by teams of secret government assassins. Even Bush and Cheney are in the dark about why the attacks took place.

Shrinks Did It
Scientologists believe that psychiatry (through a mechanism that remains murky) helped give birth to the suicide attackers "through drugs and psycho-political methods."

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Bush's Iraq Attack

Bush Didn't Bungle Iraq, You Fools - The Mission Was Indeed Accomplished

By Greg Palast
The Guardian
20 Mar 06

Get off it. All the carping, belly-aching and complaining about George Bush's incompetence in Iraq, from both the Left and now the Right, is just dead wrong.

On the third anniversary of the tanks rolling over Iraq's border, most of the 59 million Homer Simpsons who voted for Bush are beginning to doubt if his mission was accomplished.

But don't kid yourself -- Bush and his co-conspirator, Dick Cheney, accomplished exactly what they set out to do. In case you've forgotten what their real mission was, let me remind you of White House spokesman Ari Fleisher's original announcement, three years ago, launching of what he called,


How droll of them, how cute. Then, Karl Rove made the giggling boys in the White House change it to "OIF" -- Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the 101st Airborne wasn't sent to Basra to get its hands on Iraq's OIF.

"It's about oil," Robert Ebel told me. Who is Ebel? Formerly the CIA's top oil analyst, he was sent by the Pentagon, about a month before the invasion, to a secret confab in London with Saddam's former oil minister to finalize the plans for "liberating" Iraq's oil industry. In London, Bush's emissary Ebel also instructed Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, the man the Pentagon would choose as post-OIF oil minister for Iraq, on the correct method of disposing Iraq's crude.

And what did the USA want Iraq to do with Iraq's oil? The answer will surprise many of you: and it is uglier, more twisted, devilish and devious than anything imagined by the most conspiracy-addicted blogger. The answer can be found in a 323-page plan for Iraq's oil secretly drafted by the State Department. Our team got a hold of a copy; how, doesn't matter. The key thing is what's inside this thick Bush diktat: a directive to Iraqis to maintain a state oil company that will "enhance its relationship with OPEC."

Enhance its relationship with OPEC??? How strange: the government of the United States ordering Iraq to support the very OPEC oil cartel which is strangling our nation with outrageously high prices for crude.

Specifically, the system ordered up by the Bush cabal would keep a lid on Iraq's oil production -- limiting Iraq's oil pumping to the tight quota set by Saudi Arabia and the OPEC cartel.

There you have it. Yes, Bush went in for the oil -- not to get more of Iraq's oil, but to prevent Iraq producing too much of it.

You must keep in mind who paid for George's ranch and Dick's bunker: Big Oil. And Big Oil -- and their buck-buddies, the Saudis -- don't make money from pumping more oil, but from pumping less of it. The lower the supply, the higher the price.

It's Economics 101. The oil industry is run by a cartel, OPEC, and what economists call an "oligopoly" -- a tiny handful of operators who make more money when there's less oil, not more of it. So, every time the "insurgents" blow up a pipeline in Basra, every time Mad Mahmoud in Tehran threatens to cut supply, the price of oil leaps. And Dick and George just love it.

Dick and George didn't want more oil from Iraq, they wanted less. I know some of you, no matter what I write, insist that our President and his Veep are on the hunt for more crude so you can cheaply fill your family Hummer; that somehow, these two oil-patch babies are concerned that the price of gas in the USA is bumping up to $3 a gallon.

Not so, gentle souls. Three bucks a gallon in the States (and a quid a litre in Britain) means colossal profits for Big Oil, and that makes Dick's ticker go pitty-pat with joy. The top oily-gopolists, the five largest oil companies, pulled in $113 billion in profit in 2005 -- compared to a piddly $34 billion in 2002 before Operation Iraqi Liberation. In other words, it's been a good war for Big Oil.

As per Plan Bush, Bahr Al-Ulum became Iraq's occupation oil minister; the conquered nation "enhanced its relationship with OPEC;" and the price of oil, from Clinton peace-time to Bush war-time, shot up 317%.

In other words, on the third anniversary of invasion, we can say the attack and occupation is, indeed, a Mission Accomplished. However, it wasn't America's mission, nor the Iraqis'. It was a Mission Accomplished for OPEC and Big Oil.

On June 6, Penguin Dutton will release Greg Palast's new book, Armed Madhouse: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War. View his investigative reports for Harper's Magazine and BBC television's Newsnight at www.GregPalast.com.

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Iraqi diplomat gave U.S. prewar WMD details

By Aram Roston, Lisa Myers
& the NBC Investigative Unit
Updated: 7:36 p.m. ET March 20, 2006

In the period before the Iraq war, the CIA and the Bush administration erroneously believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding major programs for weapons of mass destruction. Now NBC News has learned that for a short time the CIA had contact with a secret source at the highest levels within Saddam Hussein's government, who gave them information far more accurate than what they believed. It is a spy story that has never been told before, and raises new questions about prewar intelligence.
What makes the story significant is the high rank of the source. His name, officials tell NBC News, was Naji Sabri, Iraq's foreign minister under Saddam. Although Sabri was in Saddam's inner circle, his cosmopolitan ways also helped him fit into diplomatic circles.

In September 2002, at a meeting of the U.N.'s General Assembly, Sabri came to New York to represent Saddam. In front of the assembled diplomats, he read a letter from the Iraqi leader. "The United States administration is acting on behalf of Zionism," he said. He announced that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that the U.S. planned war in Iraq because it wanted the country's oil.
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But on that very trip, there was also a secret contact made. The contact was brokered by the French intelligence service, sources say. Intelligence sources say that in a New York hotel room, CIA officers met with an intermediary who represented Sabri. All discussions between Sabri and the CIA were conducted through a "cutout," or third party. Through the intermediary, intelligence sources say, the CIA paid Sabri more than $100,000 in what was, essentially, "good-faith money." And for his part, Sabri, again through the intermediary, relayed information about Saddam's actual capabilities.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.

The sources say Sabri's answers were much more accurate than his proclamations to the United Nations, where he demonized the U.S. and defended Saddam. At the same time, they also were closer to reality than the CIA's estimates, as spelled out in its October 2002 intelligence estimate.

For example, consider biological weapons, a key concern before the war. The CIA said Saddam had an "active" program for "R&D, production and weaponization" for biological agents such as anthrax. Intelligence sources say Sabri indicated Saddam had no significant, active biological weapons program. Sabri was right. After the war, it became clear that there was no program.

Another key issue was the nuclear question: How far away was Saddam from having a bomb? The CIA said if Saddam obtained enriched uranium, he could build a nuclear bomb in "several months to a year." Sabri said Saddam desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than that. Sabri was more accurate.

On the issue of chemical weapons, the CIA said Saddam had stockpiled as much as "500 metric tons of chemical warfare agents" and had "renewed" production of deadly agents. Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons and had "poison gas" left over from the first Gulf War. Both Sabri and the agency were wrong.

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Top Ten Catastrophes of the Third Year of American Iraq

Monday, March 20, 2006
Juan Cole

The American war against Iraq began on March 20, 2003, so today is the third anniversary. The Himalyan mistakes of the American administration of the country in its first two years have by now been much analyzed -- the punitive steps against even low-level Baath Party members, the firing of tens of thousands of Sunni Arabs, the dissolution of the army, the permitting of looting on a vast scale, the failure to understand tribal honor, the failure to get a handle on the early guerrilla war, the failure to understand Shiite Islam, the torture at Abu Ghraib, the failure to get services on line, the destruction of Fallujah, the ill-timed and ill-advised attempt to "kill or capture" Muqtada al-Sadr, the adoption of an election system that allowed the almost complete exclusion of the Sunni Arabs, etc., etc.
Here, let us examine the top disasters of the third year in American Iraq.

1. The Shiite religious parties, having won a majority in parliament, took over the Ministry of the Interior and drew, for its special police commandos, on members of the Badr Corps. Badr is the paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and it was trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. These special commandos set up secret prisons and tortured Sunni Arabs they suspected of being in the guerrilla resistance to the new order.

2. The constitution drafted by the elected parliament enshrines Islam as the religion of state and stipulates that the civil parliament may pass no legislation that contravenes the established laws of Islam. It hints that clerics and ayatollahs will be appointed to court benches. The constitution has brought Iraq to the brink of being an Islamic Republic, with potentially harmful effects on the rights of women, gays, Christians and others. Since the Shiite religious parties had won the January 30, 2005 elections, this outcome was predictable.

3. The constitution allows provinces to establish provincial confederacies. This provision reflections the model adopted by the Kurds in the north, which is now attractive to Shiite parties in the south. These confederacies can claim 100 percent of the revenues from all future petroleum, natural gas and other natural resource finds. The loose, weak federal government, like the early American state under the Articles of Confederation will be robbed of sovereignty (and income) by ambitious provincial elites. It is possible that these provincial confederacies may break up the country.

4. The US military used Kurdish and Shiite troops to attack the northern Turkmen city of Talafar in August. Kurdish troops, drawn from the Peshmerga militia, were allowed to paint lasers on targets in the city, which were then destroyed by the US air force. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed, and much of the population was displaced for some time. Shiite troops and local Shiite Turkmen informants were used to identify and interrogate alleged Sunni insurgents. Turkey was furious at the attack on ethnically related Turkmen and threatened to halt its cooperation with the US. Although the attack was allegedly undertaken to capture foreign forces allegedly based in the city, only 50 were announced apprehended. The entire operation ended up looking like a joint Kurdish-Shiite attack on Sunni Turkmen, backed by the US military. Turkmen and Kurds do not generally get along, and Turkmen accuse Kurds of wanting to ethnically clense them from Kirkuk. The entire operation was politically the worst possible public relations for the US in northern Iraq, and seems unlikely to have put a signficant dent in the guerrillas' capabilities.

5. All three Sunni Arab-majority provinces rejected the new constitution by a sound margin, two of them by a two-thirds majority. The Kurdish and Shiite provinces overwhelmingly approved the charter. Iraq thus has a permanent constitution that is absolutely unacceptable to the country's most powerful minority.

6. British government leakers revealed that George W. Bush told British PM Tony Blair in April, 2002, that he was seriously considering bombing the HQ of the Aljazeera satellite news channel. Bush's reputation, already low in the Arab world, took another hit.

7. Iraqi petroleum exports fell to an average of only 1.8 million barrels a day during the past year, down from 2.8 million barrels per day before the war. In recent months the exports have been as low as 1.1 million barrels a day.

8. Guerrillas have managed to surround and cut off Baghdad, the capital and a population center with 1/4 of the country's inhabitants, from much fuel and electricity.

9. Widespread hopes, fanned by the Bush administration, that Sunni Arab participation in the parliamentary elections would lead to a reduction in guerrilla violence proved completely untrue. The various Sunni Arab lists garnered 58 seats of 275. The Sunni Arabs have now adopted a two-track strategy, working in parliament to play the Kurds and the Shiites off against one another while its paramilitary wing continued to blow things up with unrelenting ferocity.

10. Guerrillas in Samarra on February 22 blew up the Askari Shrine, holy to Shiites because of its association with the hidden Twelfth Imam, whose Second Coming many await. The Sunni Arab guerrilla movement has been trying to provoke popular attacks and sectarian reprisals, but this is the first time it met with a measure of success. Enraged Shiites attacked 100 mosques, damaging between two and four dozen, killing some Sunni clerics, and murdering hundreds of Sunnis. Iraqi clerics, both Shiite and Sunni, helped bring Iraq back from the brink of hot civil war. The US troops in the country proved generally unuseful in this crisis.

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U.S. Companies Profited As Iraqi Children Died - 'Iraq was awash in cash. We played football with bricks of $100 bills'

By Callum Macrae and Ali Fadhil
The Guardian
20 Mar 06

At the beginning of the Iraq war, the UN entrusted $23bn of Iraqi money to the US-led coalition to redevelop the country. With the infrastructure of the country still in ruins, where has all that money gone?
In a dilapidated maternity and paediatric hospital in Diwaniyah, 100 miles south of Baghdad, Zahara and Abbas, premature twins just two days old, lie desperately ill. The hospital has neither the equipment nor the drugs that could save their lives. On the other side of the world, in a federal courthouse in Virginia, US, two men - one a former CIA agent and Republican candidate for Congress, the other a former army ranger - are found guilty of fraudulently obtaining $3m (£1.7m) intended for the reconstruction of Iraq. These two events have no direct link, but they are none the less products of the same thing: a financial scandal that in terms of sheer scale must rank as one of the greatest in history.

At the start of the Iraq war, around $23bn-worth of Iraqi money was placed in the trusteeship of the US-led coalition by the UN. The money, known as the Development Fund for Iraq and consisting of the proceeds of oil sales, frozen Iraqi bank accounts and seized Iraqi assets, was to be used in a "transparent manner", specified the UN, for "purposes benefiting the people of Iraq".
For the past few months we have been working on a Guardian Films investigation into what happened to that money. What we discovered was that a great deal of it has been wasted, stolen or frittered away. For the coalition, it has been a catastrophe of its own making. For the Iraqi people, it has been a tragedy. But it is also a financial and political scandal that runs right to the heart of the nightmare that is engulfing Iraq today.

Diwaniyah is a sprawling and neglected city with just one small state paediatric and maternity hospital to serve its one million people. Years of war, corruption under Saddam and western sanctions have reduced the hospital to penury, so when last year the Americans promised total refurbishment, the staff were elated. But the renovation has been partial and the work often shoddy, and where it really matters - funding frontline health care - there appears to have been little change at all.

In the corridor, an anxious father who has been told his son may have meningitis is berating the staff. "I want a good hospital, not a terrible hospital that makes my child worse," he says. But then he calms down. "I'm not blaming you, we are the same class. I'm talking about important people. Those controlling all those millions and the oil. They didn't come here to save us from Saddam, they came here for the oil, and so now the oil is stolen and we got nothing from it." Beside him another parent, a woman, agrees: "If the people who run the country are stealing the money, what can we do?" For these ordinary Iraqis, it is clear that the country's wealth is being managed in much the same way as it ever was. How did it all go so wrong?

When the coalition troops arrived in Iraq, they were received with remarkable goodwill by significant sections of the population. The coalition had control up to a point and, perhaps more importantly, it had the money to consolidate that goodwill by rebuilding Iraq, or at least make a significant start. Best of all for the US and its allies, the money came from the Iraqis themselves.

Because the Iraqi banking system was in tatters, the funds were placed in an account with the Federal Reserve in New York. From there, most of the money was flown in cash to Baghdad. Over the first 14 months of the occupation, 363 tonnes of new $100 bills were shipped in - $12bn, in cash. And that is where it all began to go wrong.

"Iraq was awash in cash - in dollar bills. Piles and piles of money," says Frank Willis, a former senior official with the governing Coalition Provisional Authority. "We played football with some of the bricks of $100 bills before delivery. It was a wild-west crazy atmosphere, the likes of which none of us had ever experienced."

The environment created by the coalition positively encouraged corruption. "American law was suspended, Iraqi law was suspended, and Iraq basically became a free fraud zone," says Alan Grayson, a Florida-based attorney who represents whistleblowers now trying to expose the corruption. "In a free fire zone you can shoot at anybody you want. In a free fraud zone you can steal anything you like. And that was what they did."

A good example was the the Iraqi currency exchange programme (Ice). An early priority was to devote enormous resources to replacing every single Iraqi dinar showing Saddam's face with new ones that didn't. The contract to help distribute the new currency was won by Custer Battles, a small American security company set up by Scott Custer and former Republican Congressional candidate Mike Battles. Under the terms of the contract, they would invoice the coalition for their costs and charge 25% on top as profit. But Custer Battles also set up fake companies to produce inflated invoices, which were then passed on to the Americans. They might have got away with it, had they not left a copy of an internal spreadsheet behind after a meeting with coalition officials.

The spreadsheet showed the company's actual costs in one column and their invoiced costs in another; it revealed, in one instance, that it had charged $176,000 to build a helipad that actually cost $96,000. In fact, there was no end to Custer Battles' ingenuity. For example, when the firm found abandoned Iraqi Airways fork-lifts sitting in Baghdad airport, it resprayed them and rented them to the coalition for thousands of dollars. In total, in return for $3m of actual expenditure, Custer Battles invoiced for $10m. Perhaps more remarkable is that the US government, once it knew about the scam, took no legal action to recover the money. It has been left to private individuals to pursue the case, the first stage of which concluded two weeks ago when Custer Battles was ordered to pay more than $10m in damages and penalties.

But this is just one story among many. From one US controlled vault in a former Saddam palace, $750,000 was stolen. In another, a safe was left open. In one case, two American agents left Iraq without accounting for nearly $1.5m.

Perhaps most puzzling of all is what happened as the day approached for the handover of power (and the remaining funds) to the incoming Iraqi interim government. Instead of carefully conserving the Iraqi money for the new government, the Coalition Provisional Authority went on an extraordinary spending spree. Some $5bn was committed or spent in the last month alone, very little of it adequately accounted for.

One CPA official was given nearly $7m and told to spend it in seven days. "He told our auditors that he felt that there was more emphasis on the speed of spending the money than on the accountability for that money," says Ginger Cruz, the deputy inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction. Not all coalition officials were so honest. Last month Robert Stein Jr, employed as a CPA comptroller in south central Iraq, despite a previous conviction for fraud, pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal more than $2m and taking kickbacks in the form of cars, jewellery, cash and sexual favours. It seems certain he is only the tip of the iceberg. There are a further 50 criminal investigations under way.

Back in Diwaniyah it is a story about failure and incompetence, rather than fraud and corruption. Zahara and Abbas, born one and a half months premature, are suffering from respiratory distress syndrome and are desperately ill. The hospital has just 14 ancient incubators, held together by tape and wire.

Zahara is in a particularly bad way. She needs a ventilator and drugs to help her breathe, but the hospital has virtually nothing. Her father has gone into town to buy vitamin K on the black market, which he has been told his children will need. Zahara starts to deteriorate and in desperation the doctor holds a tube pumping unregulated oxygen against the child's nostrils. "This treatment is worse than primitive," he says. "It's not even medicine." Despite his efforts, the little girl dies; the next day her brother also dies. Yet with the right equipment and the right drugs, they could have survived.

How is it possible that after three years of occupation and billions of dollars of spending, hospitals are still short of basic supplies? Part of the cause is ideological tunnel-vision. For months before the war the US state department had been drawing up plans for the postwar reconstruction, but those plans were junked when the Pentagon took over.

To supervise the reconstruction of the Iraqi health service, the Pentagon appointed James Haveman, a former health administrator from Michigan. He was also a loyal Bush supporter, who had campaigned for Jeb Bush, and a committed evangelical Christian. But he had virtually no experience in international health work.

The coalition's health programme was by any standards a failure. Basic equipment and drugs should have been distributed within months - the coalition wouldn't even have had to pay for it. But they missed that chance, not just in health, but in every other area of life in Iraq. As disgruntled Iraqis will often point out, despite far greater devastation and crushing sanctions, Saddam did more to rebuild Iraq in six months after the first Gulf war than the coalition has managed in three years.

Kees Reitfield, a health professional with 20 years' experience in post-conflict health care from Kosovo to Somalia, was in Iraq from the very beginning of the war and looked on in astonishment at the US management in its aftermath. "Everybody in Iraq was ready for three months' chaos," he says. "They had water for three months, they had food for three months, they were ready to wait for three months. I said, we've got until early August to show an improvement, some drugs in the health centres, some improvement of electricity in the grid, some fuel prices going down. Failure to deliver will mean civil unrest." He was right.

Of course, no one can say that if the Americans had got the reconstruction right it would have been enough. There were too many other mistakes as well, such as a policy of crude "deBa'athification" that saw Iraqi expertise marginalised, the creation of a sectarian government and the Americans attempting to foster friendship with Iraqis who themselves had no friends among other Iraqis.

Another experienced health worker, Mary Patterson - who was eventually asked to leave Iraq by James Haveman - characterises the Coalition's approach thus: "I believe it had a lot to do with showing that the US was in control," she says. "I believe that it had to do with rewarding people that were politically loyal. So rather than being a technical agenda, I believe it was largely a politically motivated reward-and-punishment kind of agenda."

Which sounds like the way Saddam used to run the country. "If you were to interview Iraqis today about what they see day to day," she says, "I think they will tell you that they don't see a lot of difference".

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Killing Women and Children: The "My Lai Phase" Of The Iraq War

By Mike Whitney
Information Clearing House
20 Mar 06

What goes through George Bush's mind when he sees the dead bodies of Iraqi women and children loaded on the back of a pickup truck like garbage?

Is there ever a flicker of remorse; a split-second when he fully grasps the magnitude of the horror he has created?
March 15 was another defining moment in America's downward moral-spiral in Iraq. Eleven members of an Iraqi family were killed in a wanton act of slaughter executed by American occupiers. Photos taken at the scene show the lifeless bodies of young children, barely old enough to walk, lying motionless in the back of a flatbed truck while their fathers moan inconsolably at their side.

What parent can look at these photographs and not be consumed with rage?

The US military openly admits it attacked the house in Ishaqi where the incident took place. Reuters reports that, "Major Ali Ahmed of the Ishaqi police said US forces landed on the roof of the house in the early hours and shot the 11 occupants, including five children."

"After they left the house they blew it up", he said. "The bodies, their hands bound, had been dumped in one room before the house was destroyed," (policeman) Hussein said. Police had found spent American issue cartridges in the rubble." (Reuters)

The autopsy report at the Tikrit hospital said, "All the victims had gunshot wounds to the head".

Iraqi policeman Farouq Hussein noted, "It is a clear and perfect crime without any doubt".

The evidence provided by Reuters suggests that we have entered the "My Lai phase" of the Iraq war, where the pretensions about democracy and liberation are stripped-away and replaced with the gratuitous butchery of women and children. The carnage in Ishaqi illustrates the growing recklessness and desperation of Washington's failed crusade.

Military spokesman Major Tim O' Keefe justified the attack saying they were searching for "a foreign fighter facilitator" for Al Qaida in Iraq. He added, "Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building. Coalition Forces returned fire utilizing both air and ground assets….Two women and one child were killed. The building was destroyed."

In fact, 11 women and children were killed and there's no evidence to verify that the house was being used as an Al Qaida safe-house.

The US military made similar claims after bombing raids in January and December when a total of 17 family members were killed.

The grim fact is that is that the lives of Iraqi women and children are of no real consequence to US officials. As General Tommy Franks boasted, "We don't do body counts". The victims of American aggression are simply dismissed as collateral damage undeserving of any further acknowledgement.

The story has received scant attention in the establishment media, which prefers to highlight the stumbling oratory of our Dear Leader as he reaffirms our commitment to western "pro-life" values.

In truth, George Bush is as responsible for the deaths of those children as if he had put a gun to their heads himself and shot them one by one.

At present, we have no way of knowing how frequently these attacks on civilians are taking place. The Pentagon strategy of removing independent journalists from the battlefield has created a news-vacuum that makes it impossible to know with confidence the extent of the casualties or the level of the devastation. The few incidents like this that find their way into the mainstream create a troubling picture of military adventurism and brutality that is no longer anchored to any identifiable moral principle or vision of resolution. It is simply violence randomly dispersed on a massive scale; traumatizing the Iraqi people and bringing the United States into greater disrepute.

There were no Al Qaida fighters in the home in Ishaqi. The attack was just another lethal blunder by a blinkered military fighting an invisible enemy.

"The killed family was not part of the resistance; they were women and children," said Ahmed Khalaf. "The Americans promised us a better life, but we only get death."

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Did Marines Commit Crime in Iraq Civilian Deaths? Prompted by Video and Magazine, Military Investigates Incident in Which 15 Iraqis Died, Including Children

ABC News
20 Mar 06

A bloody videotape shot by a local Iraqi journalism student has prompted the Pentagon to launch a criminal investigation into an incident that left at least 15 Iraqi civilians dead in the city of Haditha.

The details of what happened four months ago in Haditha are just now coming to light with the release of the videotape by an Iraqi organization called Hammurabi Human Rights.
The tape shows the bloodied and bullet-marked homes that had been allegedly stormed by the Marines, and includes comments by local residents.

"This is my father," a boy says on the tape. "He didn't do anything wrong. Why did they kill him?"

'These Are Children'

The video shows the bodies of some of the dead, including one of three children killed.

"These are children," one man on the tape says. "Are you telling me these are terrorists?"

It all started when a roadside bomb hit a convoy of 12 Marines in Haditha, killing 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas.

The official press release said simply: "A U.S. Marine and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb."

Prompted by Magazine

Military officials now acknowledge the Iraqis were not killed by the bomb - but, they now say, by crossfire as U.S. Marines stormed the surrounding homes.

The military did not launch an investigation until two months after the incident, when Time magazine showed officials the video and eyewitness testimony.

"We launched an investigation of our own with the help of a human rights group," said Aparisim Ghosh, a writer for Time. "We spoke to some eyewitnesses. And it turns out all the people killed were killed by the Marines in small arms fire and, in a few instances, by an explosive that was tossed into the home by the Marines themselves."

Senior Pentagon officials would not comment on the details of the case but said they take the allegations very seriously, which is why they've launched the criminal investigation.

It still is not clear the Marines used excessive force, but the locals seem to have made up their minds.

"They came and started shooting all of a sudden," one local said. "They didn't even knock on the door. They killed them wholesale."

According to a military spokesman, the Marines involved still are deployed in Iraq.

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One Morning in Haditha- U.S. Marines killed 15 Iraqi civilians in their homes last November. Was it self-defense, an accident or cold-blooded revenge?

Time Magazine
19 Mar 06

The incident seemed like so many others from this war, the kind of tragedy that has become numbingly routine amid the daily reports of violence in Iraq. On the morning of Nov. 19, 2005, a roadside bomb struck a humvee carrying Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, on a road near Haditha, a restive town in western Iraq. The bomb killed Lance Corporal Miguel (T.J.) Terrazas, 20, from El Paso, Texas. The next day a Marine communiqué from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported that Terrazas and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast and that "gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire," prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one other. The Marines from Kilo Company held a memorial service for Terrazas at their camp in Haditha. They wrote messages like "T.J., you were a great friend. I'm going to miss seeing you around" on smooth stones and piled them in a funeral mound. And the war moved on.
But the details of what happened that morning in Haditha are more disturbing, disputed and horrific than the military initially reported. According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, the civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children. Human-rights activists say that if the accusations are true, the incident ranks as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. service members since the war began.

In January, after TIME presented military officials in Baghdad with the Iraqis' accounts of the Marines' actions, the U.S. opened its own investigation, interviewing 28 people, including the Marines, the families of the victims and local doctors. According to military officials, the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the military's initial report, the 15 civilians killed on Nov. 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents. The military announced last week that the matter has been handed over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which will conduct a criminal investigation to determine whether the troops broke the laws of war by deliberately targeting civilians. Lieut. Colonel Michelle Martin-Hing, spokeswoman for the Multi-National Force--Iraq, told TIME the involvement of the NCIS does not mean that a crime occurred. And she says the fault for the civilian deaths lies squarely with the insurgents, who "placed noncombatants in the line of fire as the Marines responded to defend themselves."

Because the incident is officially under investigation, members of the Marine unit that was in Haditha on Nov. 19 are not allowed to speak with reporters. But the military's own reconstruction of events and the accounts of town residents interviewed by TIME--including six whose family members were killed that day--paint a picture of a devastatingly violent response by a group of U.S. troops who had lost one of their own to a deadly insurgent attack and believed they were under fire. TIME obtained a videotape that purports to show the aftermath of the Marines' assault and provides graphic documentation of its human toll. What happened in Haditha is a reminder of the horrors faced by civilians caught in the middle of war--and what war can do to the people who fight it.

Here's what all participants agree on: At around 7:15 a.m. on Nov. 19, a U.S. humvee was struck by a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) attached to a large propane canister, triggered by remote control. The bomb killed Terrazas, who was driving, and injured two other Marines. For U.S. troops, Haditha, set among date-palm groves along the Euphrates River, was inhospitable territory; every day the Marines found scores of bombs buried in the dirt roads near their base. Eman Waleed, 9, lived in a house 150 yards from the site of the blast, which was strong enough to shatter all the windows in her home. "We heard a big noise that woke us all up," she recalls two months later. "Then we did what we always do when there's an explosion: my father goes into his room with the Koran and prays that the family will be spared any harm." Eman says the rest of the family--her mother, grandfather, grandmother, two brothers, two aunts and two uncles--gathered in the living room.

According to military officials familiar with the investigation, the Marines say they came under fire from the direction of the Waleed house immediately after being hit by the IED. A group of Marines headed toward the house. Eman says she "heard a lot of shooting, so none of us went outside. Besides, it was very early, and we were all wearing our nightclothes." When the Marines entered the house, they were shouting in English. "First, they went into my father's room, where he was reading the Koran," she claims, "and we heard shots." According to Eman, the Marines then entered the living room. "I couldn't see their faces very well--only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny." She claims the troops started firing toward the corner of the room where she and her younger brother Abdul Rahman, 8, were hiding; the other adults shielded the children from the bullets but died in the process. Eman says her leg was hit by a piece of metal and Abdul Rahman was shot near his shoulder. "We were lying there, bleeding, and it hurt so much. Afterward, some Iraqi soldiers came. They carried us in their arms. I was crying, shouting 'Why did you do this to our family?' And one Iraqi soldier tells me, 'We didn't do it. The Americans did.'"

TIME was unable to speak with the only other survivor of the raid, Eman's younger brother, who relatives say is traumatized by the experience. U.S. military officials familiar with the investigation say that after entering the house, the Marines walked into a corridor with closed doors on either side. They thought they heard the clack-clack sound of an AK-47 being racked and readied for fire. (Eman and relatives who were not in the house insist that no guns were there.) Believing they were about to be ambushed, the Marines broke down the two doors simultaneously and fired their weapons. The officials say the military has confirmed that seven people were killed inside the house--including two women and a child. The Marines also reported seeing a man and a woman run out of the house; they gave chase and shot and killed the man. Relatives say the woman, Hiba Abdullah, escaped with her baby.

According to military officials, the Marines say they then started taking fire from the direction of a second house, prompting them to break down the door of that house and throw in a grenade, blowing up a propane tank in the kitchen. The Marines then began firing, killing eight residents--including the owner, his wife, the owner's sister, a 2-year-old son and three young daughters.

The Marines raided a third house, which belongs to a man named Ahmed Ayed. One of Ahmed's five sons, Yousif, who lived in a house next door, told TIME that after hearing a prolonged burst of gunfire from his father's house, he rushed over. Iraqi soldiers keeping watch in the garden prevented him from going in. "They told me, 'There's nothing you can do. Don't come closer, or the Americans will kill you too.' The Americans didn't let anybody into the house until 6:30 the next morning." Ayed says that by then the bodies were gone; all the dead had been zipped into U.S. body bags and taken by Marines to a local hospital morgue. "But we could tell from the blood tracks across the floor what happened," Ayed claims. "The Americans gathered my four brothers and took them inside my father's bedroom, to a closet. They killed them inside the closet."

The military has a different account of what transpired. According to officials familiar with the investigation, the Marines broke into the third house and found a group of 10 to 15 women and children. The troops say they left one Marine to guard that house and pushed on to the house next door, where they found four men, one of whom was wielding an AK-47. A second seemed to be reaching into a wardrobe for another weapon, the officials say. The Marines shot both men dead; the military's initial report does not specify how the other two men died. The Marines deny that any of the men were killed in the closet, which they say is too small to fit one adult male, much less four.

According to the military officials, the series of raids took five hours and left at least 23 people dead. In all, two AK-47s were discovered. The military has classified the 15 victims in the first two houses as noncombatants. It considers the four men killed in the fourth house, as well as four youths killed by the Marines near the site of the roadside bombing, as enemy fighters. The question facing naval detectives is whether the Marines' killing of 15 noncombatants was an act of legitimate self-defense or negligent homicide. Military sources say that if the NCIS finds evidence of wrongdoing, U.S. commanders in Iraq will decide whether to pursue legal action against the Marines.

The available evidence does not provide conclusive proof that the Marines deliberately killed innocents in Haditha. But the accounts of human-rights groups that investigated the incident and survivors and local officials who spoke to TIME do raise questions about whether the extent of force used by the Marines was justified--and whether the Marines were initially candid about what took place. Dr. Wahid, director of the local hospital in Haditha, who asked that his family name be withheld because, he says, he fears reprisals by U.S. troops, says the Marines brought 24 bodies to his hospital around midnight on Nov. 19. Wahid says the Marines claimed the victims had been killed by shrapnel from the roadside bomb. "But it was obvious to us that there were no organs slashed by shrapnel," Wahid says. "The bullet wounds were very apparent. Most of the victims were shot in the chest and the head--from close range."

A day after the incident, a Haditha journalism student videotaped the scene at the local morgue and at the homes where the killings had occurred. The video was obtained by the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, which cooperates with the internationally respected Human Rights Watch, and has been shared with TIME. The tape makes for grisly viewing. It shows that many of the victims, especially the women and children, were still in their nightclothes when they died. The scenes from inside the houses show that the walls and ceilings are pockmarked with shrapnel and bullet holes as well as the telltale spray of blood. But the video does not reveal the presence of any bullet holes on the outside of the houses, which may cast doubt on the Marines' contention that after the IED exploded, the Marines and the insurgents engaged in a fierce gunfight.

There are also questions about why the military took so long to investigate the details of the Haditha incident. Soon after the killings, the mayor of Haditha, Emad Jawad Hamza, led an angry delegation of elders up to the Marine camp beside a dam on the Euphrates River. Hamza says, "The captain admitted that his men had made a mistake. He said that his men thought there were terrorists near the houses, and he didn't give any other reason."

But the military stood by its initial contention -that the Iraqis had been killed by an insurgent bomb- until January when TIME gave a copy of the video and witnesses' testimony to Colonel Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. After reviewing the evidence, Johnson passed it on to the military command, suggesting that the events of Haditha be given "a full and formal investigation." In February an infantry colonel went to Haditha for a weeklong probe in which he interviewed Marines, survivors and doctors at the morgue, according to military officials close to the investigation. The probe concluded that the civilians were in fact killed by Marines and not by an insurgent's bomb and that no insurgents appeared to be in the first two houses raided by the Marines. The probe found, however, that the deaths were the result of "collateral damage" rather than malicious intent by the Marines, investigators say.

The U.S. has paid relatives of the victims $2,500 for each of the 15 dead civilians, plus smaller payments for the injured. But nothing can bring back all that was taken from 9-year-old Eman Waleed on that fateful day last November. She still does not comprehend how, when her father went in to pray with the Koran for the family's safety, his prayers were not answered, as they had been so many times in the past. "He always prayed before, and the Americans left us alone," she says. Leaving, she grabs a handful of candy. "It's for my little brother," she says.

With reporting by With reporting by Aparisim Ghosh/ Baghdad

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Iraqi police say U.S. troops executed 11, including baby

By Matthew Schofield
Knight Ridder

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi police have accused U.S. troops of executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, in the aftermath of a raid Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The villagers were killed after U.S. troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals and blew up the house, the document said.
Accusations that U.S. troops have killed civilians are commonplace in Iraq, though most are judged later to be unfounded or exaggerated.

A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Tim Keefe, said that the U.S. military has no information to support the allegations and that he had not heard of them before.

"We're concerned to hear accusations like that, but it's also highly unlikely that they're true," he said. He added that U.S. forces "take every precaution to keep civilians out of harm's way. The loss of innocent life, especially children, is regrettable."

Navy investigators announced last week that they were looking into whether Marines intentionally killed 15 Iraqi civilians - four of them women and five of them children - during fighting in November.

Report is unusual

But the report of the recent killings in the Abu Sifa area of Ishaqi, eight miles north of the city of Balad, is unusual because it originated with Iraqi police and because Iraqi police were willing to attach their names to it.

The report was compiled by the Joint Coordination Center in Tikrit, a regional security center set up with U.S. military assistance. An Iraqi police colonel signed the report, which was based on communications from local police.

Brig. Gen. Issa al-Juboori, who heads the center, said his office assembled the report on Thursday and that it accurately reflects the direction of the current police investigation.

He also said he knows the officer heading the investigation. "He's a dedicated policeman, and a good cop," he said. "I trust him."

The case involves a U.S. raid conducted, according to the official U.S. account, in response to a tip that a member of al-Qaida in Iraq was at the house.

Neighbors agreed in interviews that the al-Qaida member was at the house. They said he was visiting the home's owner, a relative. The neighbors said the homeowner was a schoolteacher.

According to police, military and eyewitness accounts, U.S. forces approached the house at around 2:30 a.m. and a firefight ensued. By all accounts, in addition to exchanging gunfire with someone inside the house, U.S. troops were supported by helicopter gunships, which fired on the house.

But the accounts differ on what took place after the firefight.

According to the U.S. account, the house collapsed because of the heavy fire. When U.S. forces searched the rubble they found one man, the al-Qaida suspect, alive. He was arrested. They also found a dead man they believed to be connected to al-Qaida, two dead women and a dead child.

But the report filed by the Joint Coordination Center, which was based on a report filed by local police, said U.S. forces entered the house while it still was standing.

"The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women and two men," the report said. "Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals."

The report identified the dead by name, giving their ages. The two men killed were 22 and 28. Of the women, one was 22, another was 23, a third was 30 and the fourth was 75. Two of the children were 5 years old, two were 3, and the fifth was 6 months old, the document said.

The report was signed by Col. Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf, who was described in the document as the assistant chief of the Joint Coordination Center.

A local police commander, Lt. Col. Farooq Hussain, interviewed by a Knight Ridder special correspondent in Ishaqi, said autopsies at the hospital in Tikrit "revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed." Efforts to reach hospital spokesmen Sunday were unsuccessful.

Keefe, the U.S. military spokesman, said that he had seen photographs of the victims and had not seen handcuffs, which caused him to doubt the validity of the report.

Other Iraq news

Elsewhere in Iraq on Sunday, police found 14 more victims of alleged sectarian score-settling between Sunni Arabs and Shiites - men shot with their hands and feet bound and dumped in two Baghdad sewage-treatment ponds.

The discoveries raised the number of victims shot execution-style to well over 100 in just six days. On Tuesday and Wednesday, 87 victims were recovered, including 29 dug out of a mass grave on Baghdad's east side.

Nearly 1,500 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers sought to root out insurgents from farming villages an hour's drive north of the capital, and at least 21 other people died in insurgent and sectarian violence nationwide.

Iraqi politicians still had not formed a government more than three months after landmark elections for the country's first permanent post-invasion parliament, but they announced an agreement on naming a Security Council to deal with key matters while negotiations proceed.

The U.S. military said it released more than 350 detainees in Iraq on Saturday.

In a statement, the military said the releases were recommended by a review committee consisting of U.S. officers and Iraqi officials, which found no reason to hold them. All those released were men.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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Death squads on the prowl in a nation paralysed by fear

Patrick Cockburn in Arbril
20 March 2006

Iraq is a country paralysed by fear. It is at its worst in Baghdad. Sectarian killings are commonplace. In the three days after the bombing of the Shia shrine in Samarra on 22 February, some 1,300 people, mostly Sunni, were picked up on the street or dragged from their cars and murdered. The dead bodies of four suspected suicide bombers were left dangling from a pylon in the Sadr City slum.

The scale of the violence is such that most of it is unreported. Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister, said yesterday that scores were dying every day. "It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more," he said. "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."
Unseen by the outside world, silent populations are on the move, frightened people fleeing neighbourhoods where their community is in a minority for safer districts.

There is also a growing reliance on militias because of fears that police patrols or checkpoints are in reality death squads hunting for victims.

Districts where Sunni and Shia lived together for decades if not centuries are being torn apart in a few days. In the al-Amel neighbourhood in west Baghdad, for instance, the two communities lived side by side until a few days ago, though Shias were in the majority. Then the Sunni started receiving envelopes pushed under their doors with a Kalashnikov bullet inside and a letter telling them to leave immediately or be killed. It added that they must take all of their goods which they could carry immediately and only return later to sell their houses.

The reaction was immediate. The Sunni in al-Amel started barricading their streets. Several Shia families, believed to belong to the Shia party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), were murdered later the same day the threatening letters were delivered.

"The local Sunni suspected those Shias of being behind the letters," said an informant. "Probably they called in the local resistance and asked them to kill the Sciri people."

One effect of the escalating sectarian warfare is to strengthen the Sunni insurgency as their own community desperately looks to its defences.

It is not as if life was not already hard enough before the latest escalation in communal violence. Three years ago, most Iraqis were glad to see the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, even if they did not like the US occupation, because they wanted normal lives. They had been living in a state of war since 1980 when the Iraqi leader invaded Iran. They then had eight years of bloody conflict followed by the invasion of Kuwait, defeat by the US-led coalition, the Shia and Kurdish uprisings of 1991 and then 12 years of UN sanctions.

Instead of improving, life in Baghdad has become far more dangerous than it was under Saddam Hussein. Every facet of daily living is affected.

In the last few days, temperatures have started to soar in Iraq and people would normally be buying summer clothes. But in the shopping district of al-Mansur last week few people were on the streets. Many shops were closed because their owners are too frightened to leave their homes.

But even staying in your own house carries problems. In the torrid heat of the Iraqi summer people are dependent on air conditioning to make life tolerable. But Baghdad gets only three or four hours of electricity a day. Almost everybody has a generator, large or small, depending on what they can afford. But the price of petrol, still heavily subsidised by the government, tripled before Christmas. One friend called Mohammed complained: "Either I wait seven or eight hours in a queue to buy the fuel or I get it on the black market. But black market fuel means that I would have to spend $7-8 a day to run my generator and I simply can't afford that." Mohammed added that he had just spent 10 hours, 5 am until 3pm, queuing to buy a bottle of gas which he, like most Iraqis, use for cooking.

Iraqis have been compelled to find ways of going on living even in the most testing conditions but even their resolution is beginning to weaken.

Mohammed's brother had a job in a company selling air-conditioning units. Since this is the beginning of the summer on the Mesopotamian plain - one of the hottest places on earth - it should be a good business, but the brother has just lost his job. The company he worked for was owned by a Kurd. His life was threatened and he shut down the company before moving to Jordan with his family.

Iraqi political parties have now spent three months since the election on 15 December trying to form a government. But ask an Iraqi on the street what he wants from a new government and many reply: "What government? It never does anything for us." Supply of electricity, clean water and sewage disposal are all down from 2003. The only improvement is in electricity supply outside Baghdad but even this is sporadic. In Kurdistan, the only peaceful part of Iraq, electrical supply is currently only a few hours a day. Everywhere there are men beside the road selling black-market petrol smuggled in from Iran. Turkey has cut off supplies of refined fuel because it has not been paid.

All Iraq is suffering, but Baghdad and the central provinces are turning into a slaughter house. Normal life has long been impossible. The symbol of post-Saddam Iraq is the blast wall, giant grey concrete blocks placed end to end to create fortifications of medieval appearance. They have come to dominate Baghdad and most other Iraqi cities. They protect US positions, police and Iraqi army posts and all government buildings. They also strangle streets leading to traffic gridlock at notorious choke points.

Some Iraqis are living better than before 2003. Teachers and government officials are earning $200 a month where they used to earn $10.

There are also Kurds and Shia inhabiting provinces north and south that they wholly dominate. But elsewhere, Iraqis live lives of chromic insecurity.

In al-Khadra, a Sunni neighbourhood in west Baghdad, for instance, the insurgents are waging two wars at the same time, one against the Americans and the other against Shia militiamen, some of whom work for the Ministry of the Interior.

Last week, Sunni guerrillas attacked a car which they claimed was carrying CIA agents in a road tunnel and killed those inside. Two days later, they ambushed a convoy of vehicles of the Badr Group, the Shia militia. Four of the militiamen were killed and petrol was poured over their bodies and set alight. Soon afterwards, a bus was spotted abandoned by a highway. At first it was thought it might contain a bomb. Instead it had a more grisly cargo, the bodies of 18 Sunni tortured and killed. In districts such as al-Khadra, the civil war has already begun.

Comment: Probability is that the "death squads" are American hired mercenaries or MOSSAD gangs just killing as many people as they can get away with while blaming it on "insurgents."

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Gunmen storm Iraqi police station

Last Updated Tue, 21 Mar 2006 08:15:29 EST
CBC News

Suspected insurgents killed at least 17 police officers and freed 33 prisoners during a daybreak attack on a police station in Iraq on Tuesday, police said.
Police said more than 20 gunmen in five civilian cars arrived at dawn at the station in the city of Muqdadiyah, north of Baghdad.

They lobbed a mortar round at the station, then stormed it on foot, firing automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. At least 17 police officers and a guard at a neighbouring courthouse were killed in the fighting. Ten of the attackers were also killed, police said.

The attackers set the police station on fire and detonated a series of bombs as they made their escape.

The attack left 13 others wounded, including police officers and civilians.

Most of the freed prisoners were suspected insurgents.

Muqdadiyah is about 95 kilometres northeast of Baghdad in the Sunni heartland.

On Monday, at least 39 people were killed in Iraq by insurgents and sectarian gangs.

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10 bodies found in Baghdad, including 13-year-old girl

Evening Echo
20 Mar 06

Iraqi authorities today reported finding 10 more bullet-riddled bodies dumped in the capital Baghdad, one of them that of a 13-year-old girl.

The 10 bodies were the latest gruesome discoveries tied to the underground sectarian war being conducted by Shiite and Sunni Muslims as they settle scores in the chaos that grips the Iraqi capital.

As many as 700 people have been killed in sectarian violence since the February 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra and the subsequent series of car bombings and mortar attacks in the Sadr City slum on March 12.

Baghdadis voiced anger today when asked about their lives as the war entered its fourth year.

"Since US-led troops) came into Iraq, we get nothing," said Ali Zeidan. "Three years have passed by for the Iraqi people and they are still suffering psychologically ... and economically."

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Spring Cleaning

Video: Superstorms And Global Warming

Reported by Jim Acosta

A new study warns more bad weather like the Australian cyclones is on the way for the rest of the world, and says global warming may be to blame.

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Flashback: Christians Link Against Global Warming - Opposed by Evangelical Bush Supporters

By Foster Klug
The Associated Press
8 Feb 06

A group of 86 evangelical Christians began a campaign Wednesday that links their faith with an attempt to fight global warming.

The leaders, who face opposition from some conservative evangelicals, want the U.S. government to pass legislation requiring the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

The group said Christians, and the U.S. government, have a responsibility to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse. Many scientists believe these gases have intensified recent hurricanes, heat waves, disease outbreaks and droughts.
Evangelicals are an important part of the Republican Party, and while the group has begun talks with several Republican lawmakers, they say they have not discussed the matter with President Bush.

The president, who is strongly religious, opposes the Kyoto climate-change accord on the grounds it would damage the economy and does not require developing countries to also make cuts. The United States is responsible for a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases.

The group's call for political action will be backed by advertisements in The New York Times and other publications, and by television and radio commercials.

"We want to engage Americans," said Rev. Jim Ball, the publisher of Creation Care magazine. "We feel that as evangelical leaders our responsibility here is in the United States."

The Rev. Leith Anderson, a former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said the group's effort marked an important change in the evangelical community, where many are realizing that some issues, such as global warming, AIDS and other humanitarian crises, need strong government involvement. That notion runs counter to the views of certain conservatives.

"We're acknowledging the fact that our government has to take action," Anderson said.

The group's efforts have sparked criticism by other evangelicals, some of whom question the scientific evidence on global warming.

During Wednesday's news conference, a reporter asked how the group planned to persuade those evangelicals who believe the earth is merely thousands of years old to believe scientists who say global warming is a real phenomenon and made worse by humans.

Paul de Vries of the New York Divinity School answered that, "However old a person may believe the Earth is, all of us believe that it was made and it was good. Therefore, whatever we have done with it has been messing up God's creation, and we have a responsibility."

©MMVI The Associated Press.

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5.5 magnitude quake strikes PoK

Tuesday, 21 March , 2006, 01:24

Washington: A 5.5 magnitude earthquake rattled Pakistan Occupied Kashmir on late Monday, the US Geological Survey said.
The moderately sized tremor was 125 kilometers southwest of Gilgit.

But the USGS National Earthquake Information Center said the quake, at 2310 IST, was felt 145 kilometers away in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Meanwhile, Srinagar and adjoining areas also felt a moderate earthquake, but there was no immediate report of loss of life or damage to properties.

As soon as the quake struck at around at 11.15 pm rattling doors and windowpanes, panic-stricken people rushed out of their houses and were afraid to return fearing aftershocks.

A devastating earthquake, with its epicentre in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, had left an estimated 300 people dead in Jammu and Kashmir in October 2005.

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Earthquake rocks northern Algeria

March 21 2006 at 02:01AM

Algiers - An earthquake hit the town of Laalam, east of Algiers, late on Monday night, killing at least four people and injuring another 36, local authorities in Bejaia district said.
Algerian national radio said the earthquake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, shook the Kherrata region at 9.44pm.

Its epicentre was situated near the town of Kherrata, between Bejaia and Setif (260km and 300km from the capital respectively).

Algeria, the north of which is in a seismic zone at the junction between the Eurasian and African plates, is regularly affected by earthquakes.

In May 2003 Algiers and its region were struck by a violent quake that killed 2 300 people and injured more than 10 000.

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Minor eruption detected at volcano in northern Japan


A volcano in northern Japan erupted early Tuesday, spewing a small amount of ash into the air, the Meteorological Agency said.
Mount Meakandake on Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido, about 890 kilometers (555 miles) northwest of Tokyo, erupted about 6:28 a.m., the weather agency said in a news release.

A column of white smoke up to 400 meters (1,320 feet) high was observed moving toward the southeast.

About 8,500 residents of the nearby town of Ashoro have been advised not to go near the 1,499-meter (4,947-foot) volcano, but no evacuation order has been issued, according to Keiichi Kamada, official of Hokkaido Prefectural Office.

The volcano had another minor eruption in 1998, according to the weather agency.

Japan, which has 108 active volcanos, is among the world's most seismically active countries.

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Erupting NZ volcano 'still volatile'

March 21, 2006 - 11:09AM

A South Pacific volcano remained volatile, with observers reporting a significant rise in the water level of its crater lake - a phenomenon that occurred shortly before its last major eruption in 1964.
The crater on the remote Raoul Island exploded on Friday, probably burying a New Zealand conservation worker, who has been missing since, under five metres of mud and ash.

Inspected from the air, the volcano "is less active than Friday, with no cloud or ash plume, but ... it is still potentially volatile," said New Zealand Conservation Department area manager Rolien Elliott.

"Vulcanologists on the plane ... observed a rise in the level of the Green Lake of 6-8 metres compared to the footage of the area taken on Friday," she said.

The inspection flight saw no sign of Mark Kearney, 32, who was at the crater lake monitoring the water temperature when it erupted.

New Zealand's Conservation Minister Chris Carter said Kearney, a Conservation Department staff member, was almost certainly killed in the eruption on the remote island in the Kermadec group, 1,000km north of New Zealand.

Police, vulcanologists and eight conservation staff - including five who were evacuated on Friday - arrived at the island on Tuesday to check conditions and search for Kearney.

Elliott said conservation workers returning to the island were "shocked by the destruction from the eruption".

"Large trees are just uplifted and blown apart. Boulders are strewn across a large area with a thick layer of ash everywhere around the eruption site," she said.

A three-member team planned to hike to the island's highest point to get a view across the lake and crater site, about 1.5km away.

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Five Deaths Blamed on Plains Snowstorm

Associated Press
21 Mar 06

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A powerful storm dumped more than a foot of snow in the Plains, closing schools and roads and forcing residents to man shovels Monday during the first day of spring.

Hundreds of schools were closed in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and South Dakota, and at least five deaths were blamed on the storm. Spring officially began at 1:26 p.m. EST.
Myron Williams, who raises livestock near Wall, was busy shoveling a foot of snow from gates and feedlots on his property. The rancher said the work was hard but the precipitation was welcome.

"We're glad to have the moisture," Williams said. "Nothing's free, so you've got to pay for everything."

Twenty-five inches of snow was reported in central Nebraska, parts of South Dakota had up to 18 inches, northeast Colorado had at least a foot, northwest Kansas had up to 10 inches and parts of the Oklahoma Panhandle got half a foot.

Several stretches of Interstate 80 were closed in Nebraska, the State Patrol said. Parts of Interstate 70 were closed in western Kansas, and in Colorado more than 150 miles of the highway were shut down.

In South Dakota, a stretch of about 200 miles of I-90 was reopened Monday. The highway had been closed from Rapid City to Chamberlain because of the heavy snow and tractor-trailers that had gotten stuck.

The storm postponed the final day of the South Dakota Legislature's 2006 session, and forced Nebraska's Legislature to cancel its Tuesday meeting.

Also Monday, at least two tornadoes touched down in rural Oklahoma as a wave of thunderstorms moved across the state.

Heavy rain soaked parts of the South over the weekend. Up to 8 inches of rain was reported in northern Texas, causing flooding around the Dallas area. Waters subsided Monday, and the storms may have eased chronic drought.

"It is definitely going to help with the drought, but it is not going to reverse it," said weather service meteorologist Stacie Hanes.

In Dallas, the body of a woman was recovered from a creek. Officials believe high water swept her car off a road Sunday night.

In Colorado, one person was killed Sunday in a traffic accident on a slush-covered road, the State Patrol said. And authorities said a woman reportedly suffering from Alzheimer's disease was found dead Monday after she wandered away from her home.

Two motorists died on an icy highway in southwest Nebraska on Sunday, authorities said.

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Infected Planet- Modern human plagues like bird flu aren't the result of mysterious forces. Whether we mean to or not, we bring them on ourselves.

By Stan Cox
March 21, 2006

When Michael Crichton's first novel, "The Andromeda Strain," was published in 1969, it was scary but also strangely reassuring. If some new disease were to threaten humanity with a deadly pandemic, it seemed, the microbe responsible would come from another planet. The march of medical progress appeared to have terrestrial germs on the run.

Twenty-five years later, when Laurie Garrett published her nonfiction bestseller, "The Coming Plague," people were waking up to the fact that our own abused planet is perfectly capable of spawning a steady stream of new diseases without any help from alien worlds.
Today, old familiar scourges like tuberculosis, malaria, measles, and diarrhea -- and a newer one, AIDS -- are the world's biggest killers, but they've been joined by a host of newcomers. Indeed, one could get the impression that each year brings a new disease. That's because it does.

Mark Woolhouse, chair of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, has counted 38 new pathogens (disease-causing biological agents) that have moved into the human population from other animal species in just the past 25 years. In a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last month, Woolhouse noted that we're under assault not only from those novel species, but also from new genetic variants of pathogens that have been with us for a long time.

A recent tally identified 1,415 disease-causing microbes in humans, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasitic worms. We share fully 61 percent of those pathogens with other animal species. Of the total, 175 cause "emerging diseases" -- ones not known until recently in humans. Of those, 75 percent came out of other animals to invade Homo sapiens.

The impact of species-jumping pathogens varies. Hendra virus moved from fruit bats to horses in 1994 and is known to have killed a total of only three people. Since the 1970s, the Ebola virus has incited some horrifying outbreaks that, so far, have failed to blow up into epidemics. Influenza viruses usually cause a lower mortality rate but hit far more people; currently, an H5N1 "bird flu" strain threatens to break that pattern by staging an encore of the 1918-19 killer flu pandemic that killed 50 million to 100 million people. HIV/AIDS is both chronically widespread and deadly, now accounting for almost a fourth of infectious disease deaths.

But have "emerging" species-jumping diseases actually been with us for millenia, identified only when medical research achieves sufficient precision in detecting and identifying microbes? Durland Fish, professor at the Yale School of Public Health, says that better research is part of it, but there still appears to be a faster rate of disease appearance these days. He told me, "Dr. Woolhouse makes an interesting point: that 'emerging disease' is a new concept but a very old process. Humans have always acquired new diseases." We're being hit more frequently today than in previous eras, he says, partly because "transportation, trade, human population growth, and environmental change are going on at unprecedented rates."

They don't show up uninvited

Scientists have seen associations between human activites, which have burgeoned in the past quarter century, and diseases that gained prominence during those same years. Some examples:

The chances of the potentially catastrophic flu virus H5N1, and others like it, emerging from interaction between wild birds, domestic animals and people may have been enhanced by loss of natural wetlands in southern China. That has led infected migratory birds to alight more often on farms and other populated areas. There, they come into contact with denser populations of chickens, ducks and pigs destined to satisfy an increasing rate of animal-protein consumption per person.

Ticks transfer the bacterium that causes Lyme disease from infected mice and deer to people. First described in New England in the 1970s, Lyme disease is now a chronic problem in parts of the United States. Reforestation in eastern states, but by a less diverse ecosystem than the one that was destroyed during original white settlement two to three centuries ago, has brought large populations of deer, mice and ticks into much closer contact with suburb-dwelling humans.

Mad cow disease is believed to have resulted from the ecologically suspect practice of feeding processed livestock remains to naturally vegetarian cattle. Scary little protein fragments called prions that appear to be responsible for the disease are not destroyed when meat is cooked. They can and do strike humans, causing the debilitating and inevitably fatal condition known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Perhaps the biggest threat from new genetic strains of old, familiar pathogens is the onslaught of bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics. Livestock are now a widely recognized source of drug-resistant strains of salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria. Heavy feeding of antibiotics to cattle, swine and poultry (often even when they're not sick) in the overcrowded, filthy conditions of gigantic feedlots, animal-confinement facilities and meat-packing plants provide ideal incubators for bacteria resistant to the drugs. Meat coming out of such ecological horror houses can contain animal feces bearing the newly evolved "superbugs." Of 10 organisms listed by the U.S. Public Health Service as the most serious threats in this country, seven are carried by meat and dairy products.

The most catastrophic of the recent emerging diseases so far has been AIDS. The route by which HIV jumped to humans is still a matter of speculation, but encroachment into forests and the resulting increased contact with other primate species is widely believed to have been involved.

Destruction of forest habitat in Asia has driven several species of fruit bats infected with Nipah virus into increasing contact with pigs and humans, and both are susceptible. Nipah is an especially nasty virus, causing severe headache, fever, nausea and seizures. In seven outbreaks since 1999, in Malaysia, India and Bangladesh, it has killed one-third to three-fourths of its victims. A series of Bangladesh cases in 2004 indicated possible human-to-human transmission -- an ominous sign.

When severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) broke out in Guangdong province of China in 2002-03, the virus that causes it was also found in palm civets. Soon, the small wild mammals -- a traditional food in the province -- were being targeted for killing by the thousands. Some scientists decried the slaughter as unnecessary ecological disruption. Now it appears that bats, not civets, are the reservoir for the virus. And experts are saying that bat extermination programs would be no more effective than civet killing as a way to curb SARS, Nipah or other bat-harbored diseases.

When people in the American Midwest began falling ill in 2003 with monkeypox (a disease similar to human smallpox), investigators quickly discovered that all of the victims had been in contact with that beloved North American native, the prairie dog. The pox virus had entered the country in infected African rodents legally imported by pet stores, where they had passed it on to the highly susceptible prairie dogs.

Since its first detection in the United States -- in New York in 1999 -- West Nile virus has become an annual threat in many U.S. regions. The virus kills 5 percent to 15 percent of those infected, and more than one-third of elderly patients who are infected die from it. It's known to infect more than 200 species of birds, but unlike bird flu, it doesn't depend primarily on migratory fowl to get around. It's passed to humans by mosquitoes, and many human activities make mosquito populations more mobile. For example, the Asian Tiger mosquito, one of at least 43 species known to carry West Nile, has been reaching U.S. ports since the 1980s in water that collects in used tires imported from Asia. However, it is still not known how the virus first reached this country. (One also wonders why we're importing used tires.)

You play, you pay

Modern human plagues aren't a result of mysterious forces. It's not, as Kurt Vonnegut has put it, that "the Earth's immune system is trying to get rid of us." Diseases have concrete, often mundane causes. The necessary species and genetic variants are everywhere, and whether we mean to or not, we're relentlessly seeking them out and inviting them to do their worst.

To cause human disease, a pathogen first has to come into contact with people. As with bird flu, Nipah and lyme disease, environmental disruptions like habitat destruction or distorted reforestation serve that purpose well. Or, as with monkeypox and SARS, the exotic-pet or exotic-food industries can introduce pathogens to their new home.

However, every new disease-of-the-year doesn't blow up to the catastrophic scale of HIV, which was first recognized two decades ago and is now estimated to be killing almost three million people a year. The impact of most new diseases is ghastly for victims but very small for humanity as a whole. How do a few microbial species go on to cause widespread illness and death, while others don't?

Like any organism entering a new environment, the microbe population either must have within it some genetic variants that are somewhat well-adapted to their new human host, or, once in the host, it has to throw up new, better-adapted forms quickly through mutation or by scavenging genetic material from other strains or species. That's probably why a large proportion of new human diseases are RNA viruses, which mutate and scavenge more readily than DNA viruses, bacteria or other pathogens.

Chance mutations that improve an organism's ability to thrive are extremely rare, even among viruses. This year, the world is watching and waiting to find out if the H5N1 bird-flu strain is capable of producing mutants that can spread directly from person to person. Two years ago, we were wondering if SARS would beat the odds and go global. But it's not all up to the pathogen; as its hosts, we help determine its success.

Given enough opportunities, even highly improbable events have a way of eventually happening. Twenty-first-century humanity does everything in a big way, and much of what we do gives microbes the multiple chances they need to make the improbable unavoidable. Rare, better-adapted genetic combinations may not succeed in the first or fifth or 50th person they've infected -- but give them enough opportunities, and they'll be off and running.

In a 2005 paper published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Mark Woolhouse and two colleagues described the mathematical hurdles a species-jumping germ must clear before it can sort out or produce the necessary mutants, spread through a population and cause an epidemic. The lucky pathogen that finds itself in a human body gets a boost over those hurdles, because of the sheer scale of civilization.

When people crowd into high-density cities, sprawling slums and hospitals; consume insufficient or bad food and polluted water; travel widely and often; ship vast quantities of products worldwide; make sex an industry; damage their immune systems by disease, chemotherapy, transplant-facilitating drugs or environmental toxins; or are plunged into the chaos of war, the pathogen has a much bigger field of play.

Some efforts to economize through greater resource efficiency can give pathogens the boost they need. In "The Coming Plague," Laurie Garrett noted that in the 1980s, airlines began saving fuel by drastically cutting the rate of cabin air turnover, and that large numbers of people now live and work in "energy efficient settings" that also restrict outside air flow. Groups of people repeatedly rebreathing the same air have a better chance of getting sick.

Some pathogens, like West Nile virus, don't have to work out a genetic system for direct person-to-person transmission because they've evolved to be transferred by mosquitoes or other vectors. And any ecological disruption that creates favorable conditions for disease-carrying species of insects or ticks favors the disease as well.

It's not surprising that descriptions of humanity's attempts to fight off microbial assaults often involve military imagery. In his 2001 book, "War and Nature," Edmund Russell describes how malaria-laden mosquitoes were often equated with America's Japanese enemies in World War II-era propaganda, while pesticides used to fight the insects had originated in the chemical weapons industry. Our war with mosquitoes has produced no winner. Despite the vast quantities of insecticides sprayed in the years since, malaria still kills 1.2 million people a year.

And then there's global warming, the grandaddy of all ecological threats. What effect will it have on human disease? Many predictions are dire, because warmer conditions have the general effect of increasing biological activity. There is concern, for example, that tropical insect species will bring pathogens into now-temperate regions.

Yale's Durland Fish downplays the specter of pestilence: "We don't have a lot of convincing evidence that global warming will result in epidemics. So far, health alone is not a sufficient reason to reduce CO2."

The overall forecast may indeed be cloudy, but for specific diseases there is very good evidence that more people would fall sick in a hotter world. Outbreaks of cholera in Asia and Latin America have been shown to happen when coastal ocean temperatures rise, as they do during El Niño events. Cholera bacteria lying dormant in the bodies of microscopic marine animals called copepods are stimulated by the warmer temperatures to become active, multiply rapidly and cause local outbreaks.

Heading off future pandemics

The modern better-living-through-chemistry approach is unlikely to do us much good in the face of new pathogens or new, more virulent forms of old ones. Especially against viruses, existing drugs are rarely very effective, and pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to make the huge investment of time and money to develop new drugs until a new disease is already a widespread problem.

As Laurie Garrett explained last year in a comprehensive review of the bird flu threat, we should not expect companies to develop an effective vaccine in time. For one thing, vaccines are much less profitable and more risky than are drugs. In a more recent piece, Garrett argued for a public-health approach that involves monitoring wild bird and virus movements and protecting domestic fowl when the virus is expected to hit a particular area. She even called on the world's bird watchers to help in the effort.

As long as our species continues making the planet a friendlier place for microbes that can infect us, we'll never see the end of potential public-health emergencies. When I asked Durland Fish if he was placing bets for or against a bird flu pandemic, he wouldn't venture any guesses; rather, he made this prediction: "Sooner or later, whether it's H5N1 or another strain, a pandemic is inevitable -- like an earthquake in California."

When new diseases show up, we have no choice but to deal with them. But in the meantime, we need to reverse the ecological damage that makes us increasingly vulnerable. Doing that would also help reduce the already huge and largely unnecessary death toll from existing infectious diseases. That toll currently stands at about 12 million per year worldwide, chiefly in the most severely impoverished parts of the planet. The World Health Organization weighed in late last year with its contribution to the global Millenium Ecosystem Assessment project. In a summary of its report, WHO saw people's health as closely tied to the health of the planet:

Measures to ensure ecological sustainability would safeguard ecosystem services and therefore benefit health in the long term. Where a population is weighed down by disease related to poverty … the provision of [shelter, food and water] should be the first priority for public health policy. Where ill health is caused, directly or indirectly, by excessive consumption … substantial reductions in consumption would have major health benefits while simultaneously reducing pressure on life-support systems.

This is not a "war" that can be "won." We can't command viruses to stop swapping RNA or order birds to stop migrating. And among the many species that humans are known to be driving to extinction, none are microscopic. No matter how cruel some of those microbes can be when they manage to invade our bodies, the only long-term answer is to live and let live.

Stan Cox is a plant breeder and writer in Salina, Kan.

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Scientific jury still out on prospects of avian flu pandemic

Last Updated Mon, 20 Mar 2006 17:16:52 EST
CBC News

Scientists are divided about whether sporadic cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu in humans means a global pandemic is nearing.

The human health impact of H5N1 has been minimal, compared to killers like malaria and AIDS.
"If you're a bird, it's a pandemic," said Mike Leavitt, the U.S. human health secretary in Washington. "If you're a human, it's not."

H5N1 is one of the most lethal viruses to infect birds, but it has not gained the genetic changes needed to transmit easily from person to person.

"Those pundits that have been predicting disaster all this time," said Dr. Richard Schabas, Ontario's former chief medical officer. "I think it's time for them to take a good hard look at what has happened and what hasn't happened, and maybe re-evaluate their assessment."

As days pass without H5N1 altering its behaviour in humans, the chances of it triggering a pandemic are reduced, Schabas said.

Not necessarily, says Dr. Todd Hatchette, a virologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

"We don't know exactly what influenza needs to become effectively transmitted human to human," said Hatchette. " We don't know when it's going to happen. And because we don't know what it needs, we can't predict which virus is going to be the one that becomes the next pandemic."

World Health Organization officials are urging countries to prepare for a pandemic that could kill millions of people. They point to H5N1 as the strain most likely to trigger one.

Sometimes the nuances of the message get lost, said Dick Thompson, a spokesperson for the UN body in Geneva.

"We have to get across the complete message: this is a dangerous virus, but we don't know when or if it's going to transform into a pandemic virus."

Schabas agrees that another flu pandemic will hit in the next few decades. But he doesn't think it will be as devastating as the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, saying some preparedness is appropriate but the current panic is not.

By stockpiling drugs with a limited shelf life and making vaccines for H5N1, governments are wasting scarce resources and ramping up public panic, Schabas said.

On the other hand, his critics don't see evidence of panic; they feel it's just proper emergency planning.

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Bird flu virus 'now in two forms'

Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 10:53 GMT

The H5N1 virus responsible for the current virulent strain of bird flu has evolved into two genetically distinct strains, US scientists have confirmed.
They fear this could increase the risk to humans - and complicate the search for an effective vaccine.

The US team analysed more than 300 H5N1 samples taken from infected birds and people between 2003 and summer 2005.

Details were presented to the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.

Prior to 2005 every known human case of bird flu had been caused by a particular subtype of the H5N1 virus, which infected people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

But the latest analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified a genetically distinct variant which appears to have emerged last year, infecting people in Indonesia.

Researcher Dr Rebecca Garten said: "As the virus continues its geographic expansion, it is also undergoing genetic diversity expansion

"Back in 2003 we only had one genetically distinct population of H5N1 with the potential to cause a human pandemic. Now we have two."

Pandemic concern

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has spread across Europe, Africa and parts of Asia and killed nearly 100 people worldwide and infected about 180 since it re-emerged in 2003.

Scientists fear it could evolve to gain the ability to jump easily from human to human, at which point it could trigger a pandemic, resulting in millions of deaths world-wide.

All influenza viruses mutate easily, and H5N1 appears to be no exception.

Dr Nancy Cox, chief of the CDC's influenza branch, stressed that neither of the two genetic subtypes of H5N1 had the ability to pass easily from human to human.

US authorities are now working on vaccines to combat both subtypes. However, the development of a definitive vaccine can only take place once the exact form of a pandemic virus is known.

Despite this researchers are confident that a vaccine that could protect against one subtype of H5N1 would also offer at least partial protection against the other.

Professor Hugh Pennington, a microbiologist at Aberdeen University, said flu viruses were expert at evolving rapidly to exploit new opportunities.

He said it was possible that either of the two subtypes could gain the ability to jump from person to person.

Science may have under-estimated the ability of H5N1 to spread across large areas of the world in the way that it has already done, he said.

"But no need to panic. The virus is still a bird virus, it is not yet a human virus, and it may never be a human virus.

"As long as we manage to keep it reasonably under control in the birds I think we can breathe relatively easily for at least a year or two."

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Dollar Signs

UAE, Saudi considering to move reserves out of dollar

REGIONAL FX HEADLINES Tuesday, March 21, 2006

WASHINGTON - A number of Middle Eastern central banks said on Tuesday they would seek to switch reserves from the US greenback to euros.
The United Arab Emirates said it was considering moving one-tenth of its dollar reserves to the euro, while the governor of the Saudi Arabian central bank condemned the decision by the United States to force Dubai Ports World to transfer its ownership to a 'US entity,' the UK Independent reported.

"Is it protectionism or discrimination? Is it okay for US companies to buy everywhere but it is not okay for other companies to buy the US?" said Hamad Saud Al Sayyari, the governor of the Saudi Arabian monetary authority.

The head of the United Arab Emirates central bank, Sultan Nasser Al Suweidi, said the bank was considering converting 10 per cent of its reserves from dollars to euros.

"They are contravening their own principles," said Al Suweidi. "Investors are going to take this into consideration (and) will look at investment opportunities through new binoculars."

The Commercial Bank of Syria has already switched the state's foreign currency transactions from dollars to euros, Duraid Durgham head of the state-owned bank said. The decision by the bank of Syria follows the announcement by the White House calling on all US financial institutions to end correspondent accounts with Syria due to money-laundering concerns.

Syria's Finance Minister Mohammad Al Hussein said: "Syria affirms that this decision and its timing are fundamentally political."-Khaleej Times Online

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U.S. War Spending to Rise 44% to $9.8 Bln a Month

By Tony Capaccio and Jeff Bliss
17 Mar 06

U.S. military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan will average 44 percent more in the current fiscal year than in fiscal 2005, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said.

Spending will rise to $9.8 billion a month from the $6.8 billion a month the Pentagon said it spent last year, the research service said. The group's March 10 report cites ''substantial'' expenses to replace or repair damaged weapons, aircraft, vehicles, radios and spare parts.
It also figures in costs for health care, fuel, national intelligence and the training of Iraqi and Afghan security forces -- ''now a substantial expense,'' it said.

The research service said it considers ''all war and occupation costs,'' while the Pentagon counts just the cost of personnel, maintenance and operations.

The House approved emergency funding that includes the military spending last night by a vote of 348-71. The measure authorizes $72 billion for war costs and almost $20 billion for hurricane relief. The Senate is expected to pass it next month.

Congress already has approved $50 billion in supplemental war funding for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, after spending $100 billion last year. To date, Congress has approved about $337 billion for the wars since Sept. 11, 2001.

2007 Funding

The administration has said it also will seek $50 billion in war funding for fiscal 2007 to serve as a bridge fund until needs are assessed. That will be on top of the $439.3 billion defense budget the president submitted.

The request the House approved last night includes $67.6 billion for war operations, much of it in costs for personnel and repair and replacement of equipment; about $4.9 billion to train and equip Afghan and Iraqi security forces; and about $2 billion for defenses against roadside bombs, which have been a leading cause of death for U.S. servicemen in Iraq.

To date, 2,310 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq since the war began three years ago, 1,808 of them in combat, according to the Pentagon.

The hurricane money approved last night will go toward housing, enhancing levees and public safety projects in Louisiana and Mississippi following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina last August, the administration has said.

Spending on the wars and hurricane relief will help widen the federal budget deficit to a record $423 billion this fiscal 2006, an increase from last year's $319 billion deficit, the administration forecast last month.

$87 Billion Already

Of the $87 billion already approved for hurricane relief and rebuilding, $31 billion has been earmarked for health and social services, school repairs, payments to farmers and unemployment insurance; $41 billion is going for temporary housing and flood insurance payments and $15 billion is set aside for levee and road repairs and repairs to damaged federal facilities, according to the administration.

The measure passed last night includes an amendment to prohibit a Dubai-owned company from operating port facilities in the U.S. DP World, the third-largest container port operator, has already promised it will sell its U.S. operations to a U.S. buyer. Most lawmakers conceded the issue was moot but wanted their opposition to the original deal to be on record.

Other amendments provide extra money for anti-drug operations in Colombia and peacekeeping efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net.
Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net

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Do-Nothing Congress - 97 days of work for $165,200 while the majority of Americans go down the tubes.

By Kathy Kiely

WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives is on track this year to be in session for fewer days than the Congress Harry Truman labeled as "do-nothing" during his 1948 re-election campaign.

Members of Congress are taking an entire week off for St. Patrick's Day. It's the latest scheduling innovation to give members more time to meet with constituents.
Through Friday, the House was in session for 19 days, compared with 33 for the Senate. If they stick to their current schedule - including two weeks off in April, a week in May and July, plus all of August - House members will spend 97 days in Washington this year.

The House was in session 108 days in 1948, according to the chamber's archives, compared with 141 days last year.

"This is an election year and people want to see more of their constituents," says House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

During the first two months of the year, House members logged a total of 47 hours in the Capitol. They took off almost the entire month of January , while the Senate confirmed Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

For both chambers, workweeks have become short in recent years. Roll call votes are seldom scheduled for Mondays or Fridays. In the House, they are often postponed until late Tuesday.

As a result, it's difficult to schedule committee meetings. Some panels meet when Congress is not in session, but not often.

When in Washington, lawmakers do a lot of multitasking. Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., struggled to ready an immigration bill for the full Senate, as panel members drifted in and out of the room. They were juggling a floor debate on the budget and other meetings.

Critics contend Congress needs time to discuss important issues. "The Tuesday-to-Thursday work schedule is a detriment," says Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., who served five terms in the House during the 1980s and returned last year.

Some experts think an absentee Congress is not bad. "I don't think there's anything wrong with them being out of Washington," says John Samples of the Cato Institute, a think tank that favors limited government. "They might be better representatives."

Lawmakers will make $165,200 this year. Leaders earn more.

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US$: Forget Iran, the problem's at home

By John Berthelsen
Asia Times
21 Mar 06

Of all the things that could wreck the US dollar - and there are many - the projected Tehran oil bourse, which is tentatively scheduled to open on March 20 to trade Iran's crude and other petroleum products in euros rather than US dollars, is probably not among them.

The much greater threat to the US currency is the US current account deficit, which ballooned to 7% of gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2005. The announcement drove the euro up to 1.202 against the US dollar as skittish traders renewed their concerns about the world's fiat currency

The opening of the Tehran bourse has been described by a Bulgarian university professor named Krassimir Petrov as ''the ultimate nuclear weapon that can swiftly destroy the financial system underpinning the American empire". Both Petrov and William Clark, writing in a publication called the Energy Bulletin, have suggested that the decision by US President George W Bush to attack Iraq on March 20, 2003, was to thwart then-dictator Saddam Hussein's move to price his crude in euros rather than dollars. They and other writers have been warning that Iran's decision to open a euro-denominated oil bourse places the mullahs in the same danger of being attacked.

That appears to be an overstretch. First, there is the question of how much crude an Iranian oil bourse would handle. Iran is the world's fourth-largest producer of crude, pumping only about 5% of the world total, and is unlikely to add much to that, according to a Hong Kong-based energy research analyst for a major US investment bank in an interview with Asia Times Online. He prefers to remain unnamed.

The Iranian fields are mature and over the next decade their production will probably begin to fall, the Hong Kong-based energy analyst says. Other nations that are likely to trade on the Tehran bourse probably would include Venezuela, the world's 10th-largest producer, run by President Hugo Chavez, who is eager to tweak the US nose.

There appear to be few others at the moment. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has very nearly become a US client state, as has Kuwait. Mexico, Canada and Norway appear unlikely to fall in line in euro trade, Norway especially since neither it nor the United Kingdom uses the euro as its currency. Russian President Vladimir Putin briefly floated the idea of pricing Russian energy exports in euros in 2003, only to have the idea shot down decisively when Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov a few days later said: "This topic cannot even be discussed. There can be no administrative decisions here. The market decides … oil is a commodity that is traded for dollars, and if it is sold for dollars, it means that suits the buyers and sellers."

According to an independent financial research analyst based in Shanghai also interviewed Asia Times Online, a decision by any other country than Iran or Venezuela to trade in euros in Tehran is going to be made on a commercial basis and not a political one. At this time, it is not a commercial decision that appears to make sense despite the fact that a number of Middle East nations, angered by the US decision to block a Dubai state-owned company from buying and operating six US seaports, said their central banks are considering switching their reserves from US dollars into euros.

According to a March 14 story in The Independent of London, the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, said it was looking to move a tenth of its dollar reserves into euros, and the governor of the Saudi central bank condemned the US move blocking Dubai Ports World from taking over the US ports as ''discrimination''.

As an example of the dollar's imperviousness to reports of petro-switches, the UAE announcement had almost no effect on world currency markets, whose traders are skittish enough to respond to slight rumors of wheat blight in the Caucasus to shift in and out of currencies with lightning speed. The US dollar, which spent last week strengthening against the euro before the threats by the Middle Eastern central bankers, fell slightly against the European currency by a quarter of a percentage point to a one-week high of $1.1945 - before it retreated later.

Then there is the question of which crude importers will want to pay in petro-euros rather than petrodollars. Although use of the dollar as the world's fiat currency has been declining for about 30 years, some 70% of international currency reserves, which finance international trade, are in US dollars. Japan and China alone have built up nearly US$2 trillion in US Treasury bonds and other dollar holdings. China in particular has floated trial balloons about switching reserves out of the dollar, only to have the trial balloons decisively shot down by the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank.

Japan and China now face a quandary. They and their fellow international creditors are as much hostage to their debtor as the US is hostage to them. Any fall in the dollar that would be driven by a switch to petro-euros risks damaging their reserves.

The peril of driving down the US dollar, either intentionally or unintentionally, was illustrated on July 21, 2005, when the People's Bank of China discarded its strict peg of 8.28 yuan to US$1, valuing its currency against a basket of foreign currencies instead, and allowing the trading band for the yuan to widen slightly, by 2%, to 8.11:US$1. In hours, the yuan rose to its new level. At that time, China was holding US$600 billion in foreign reserves. The 2% move against the dollar cost China US$30 billion in dollar reserves.

China and Japan are now two of the world's largest importers of crude, although both are dwarfed by the United States, which produces only 7.61 million barrels of oil per day against consumption of more than 20 million barrels, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Then there is the question of what the holders of euros are going to do with their money. With Britain and Norway, two major oil producers, excluded from the euro currency zone, the euro bond market is dwarfed by the dollar bond market, to the point where there is no place in Europe to invest prospective vast sums of petro-euros.

By and large, once crude transactions take place in euros, the euros are exchanged for dollars. In November 2000, when Saddam Hussein announced he would switch international transactions from a US dollar standard to euros, a United Nations study estimated that Iraq's initial shift in pricing cost the country at least $270 million in transaction and other costs. Saddam recouped that money when the euro rose 17% against the dollar on other factors.

This obviously leaves the world's holders of US Treasuries in a quandary. There is little doubt that they would love to diversify away from the US currency, not least because of the growing danger of a dollar collapse. But a possible dollar collapse is much more likely to stem from the unsustainability of the country's gigantic and growing trade and budgetary deficits and the irrational fiscal policies of the Bush administration.

(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd.

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Those Corporate Homewreckers - It's just not possible to be a responsible parent or spouse if your work leaves you with barely enough time to shower.

By Barbara Ehrenreich
The Progressive
March 21, 2006

I was in the Atlanta airport recently, cruising a bookstore, when this catchy title leaped out at me: Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports.

Since the author is National Review Washington editor and Fox News pundit Kate O'Beirne, I indulged my vanity and looked up my own name in the index. There I was, right up front on page 4, credited with ruining our families. If O'Beirne had done a little more research, she might have found me responsible for wrecking our military and schools, as well. But I can't complain: Destroying the family is a hefty accomplishment all by itself.
This isn't the first time I've gotten rightwing attention as a homewrecker. Back in the mid-'90s, James Dobson's Focus on the Family once described me as a woman who'd dedicated her life to the destruction of the American family, in more or less those words.

Partly this is just the rightwing translation of the word "feminist." Some of you may recall Pat Robertson's attack on feminism during the controversy over the Equal Rights Amendment in the '80s. Feminists, he said, busy themselves becoming lesbians, killing their children, and advancing Marxism -- a formidable agenda to say the least, especially if your children are fast on their feet.

What brought me to the Atlanta airport was not a trip to a convention of lesbian, Marxist, child-killers. I was returning from a holiday spent with my son and his girlfriend and my nephew and his wife, and I was rushing home because I was eager to rejoin my granddaughters (ages 4 and 1), who are the lights of my life.

News of the Dobson attack had hit at a similar moment: I was returning from a visit to my grandmother and an ailing aunt in Iowa. My job may be to "destroy the American family," but I've never managed to destroy a single family member, even one of the more irritating ones. If anyone is "ruining" the American family, it's all the employers who refuse to recognize that their employees have family responsibilities, as well as jobs.

I'm thinking of two categories of employers, which often overlap: 1) Those who don't pay enough for their employees to live on, thus forcing them to work second jobs, and 2) those who abuse their salaried employees with expectations of 10 or more hours of work per day. Apparently there are more and more such anti-family employers, as Americans now surpass even the famously workaholic Japanese in annual hours on the job.

From 1979 to 2000, Japan reduced the average annual hours worked by 305, whereas the United States reduced its annual hours by a whopping total of four, according to The State of Working America, 2004-2005. All variety of things suffer when work expands to fill evenings and weekends -- health, for example, and citizenly participation. How can you frame an opinion on the issues if you never get a chance to read or have long discussions with friends?

But families -- and especially children -- take the worst hit. It's just not possible to be a responsible and responsive parent or spouse if your work leaves you with barely enough time to shower. But to get back to Kate O'Beirne: Will you help me save the family by joining me in a campaign for adequate wages and a return to the concept of the eight-hour day? If not, let's at least fight fair. You get out your photos of your grandkids (if any) and I'll get out mine.

Barbara Ehrenreich is a columnist for The Progressive. Her latest book is "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream."

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Creating a Moral Economy- To revive progressive ideals, we first need to dispel the empty rhetoric of market fundamentalism.

By Fred Block
The Nation
March 21, 2006

Market fundamentalism has ruled the country for close to 25 years. It has produced weak economic performance, corporate crime waves, government corruption and a coarsening of the culture. But the amazing thing is that efforts to hold the market fundamentalists accountable have gained so little traction.
The daily headlines suggest that a toxic combination of arrogance, corruption and incompetence is weakening the Republican Party's hold on national political power. As the Democrats struggle to capitalize on this opportunity, progressives should remember what happens when one side wins an election without defeating the opponent's main ideas.

Back in 1992 Bill Clinton campaigned successfully for president with promises to "put people first" and provide health insurance for all. But he quickly discovered that the ideas that had been dominant during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were still hegemonic.

Market fundamentalism -- a dogmatic belief in the power of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" to create prosperity -- survived the Republicans' electoral defeat. Clinton was pressured to put aside many of his campaign promises to conform to this orthodoxy. And when he did defy market fundamentalism by pushing for universal health insurance, he suffered a catastrophic defeat.

Market fundamentalism has ruled the country for close to 25 years. It has produced weak economic performance, corporate crime waves, government corruption and a coarsening of the culture. But the amazing thing is that efforts to hold the market fundamentalists accountable have gained so little traction.

Perhaps the best explanation for this has been offered by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. In "The Lost Art of Democratic Narrative," published by The New Republic in March 2005, Reich argues that differences over economic policy have been fought out in American politics over the past century by appropriating four specific story lines -- the rot at the top, the mob at the gates, the triumphant individual and the benevolent community. The party that tells these stories most persuasively wins, he observes, and in recent years the prize has gone to the Republicans.

In the 1930s, in contrast, the Democrats were successful in telling people a story in which government action could overcome the rot caused by business greed while also protecting us from the overseas mobs following fascist (and later, communist) leaders. Moreover, government assistance would create a benevolent community that could respond, as FDR said, to the "third of a nation [that was] ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished." Within this community of care, hard work would be rewarded so that individuals could triumph and achieve upward mobility for their families.

According to Reich, the critical turning point came when the Republicans, starting with Reagan, hijacked these same stories and constructed a plot line in which the rot came from liberal elites, with the "Evil Empire" of the Soviets playing the role of the mob at the gates. Triumphant individuals had to be freed from government interference to restore the health of voluntary and faith-based communities. The Republicans have been telling versions of these same stories ever since, with George W. Bush endlessly promising to protect us from the terrorist mobs that have to be resisted overseas.

In both the New Deal and the Republican stories, however, there is a fifth narrative, providing a principle of order that integrates and organizes the four other elements. Starting in the 1930s, the Democrats employed a narrative in which an activist government overcomes the weaknesses of an unregulated market economy to achieve stability and renewed economic growth.

This story would not ordinarily have been an easy sell, but the severity of the Depression made people receptive. Roosevelt and the Democrats seized the opportunity, and the narrative of an activist government reinforced by the New Deal's concrete successes gave credibility to Democratic stories about the rot, the mob and the triumphant individuals living in benevolent communities.

That powerful Democratic narrative dominated U.S. politics for more than 30 years. But the combination of disillusionment over the Vietnam War, the stagflation of the 1970s and growing conflicts over gender, race and the environment began to undermine its effectiveness. As Republicans started to mobilize resentment against Democratic policies, Democratic politicians stopped telling the old stories.

This opened the way for the Republicans to invoke Adam Smith's mysterious mechanism of the "invisible hand" as the critical element that binds the other Republican stories together. Since the market can be relied on to coordinate all economic activity, the triumphant individual can be set free of government restrictions, and liberal elites can be dismantled.

But it is not an option for progressives simply to recycle the stories and rhetoric of the New Deal. Years of conservative dominance have undermined any notion that government can actually serve the public good. Right-wingers pointed to the pathetic federal response to Hurricane Katrina as proof that government cannot protect us. Republican corruption and ineptitude, in short, has the partially intentional function of discrediting government in general. Reich's stories won't work without a new master narrative that explains how we could all prosper under a different policy regime.

It is useful to remember that Franklin Roosevelt developed and mobilized the language of activist government well before Keynes and others came up with an economic justification for it. Roosevelt made the initial break with market fundamentalism on his own, and it was only later that the Keynesian revolution in economics legitimized his path.

Similarly, it was not the economic research of men like Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman that made the revival of market fundamentalism possible. It was the fact that their economic ideas could be easily expressed in familiar and simple moral terms. In both cases, the key to changing the dominant story has not been economic theory but the power of a moral language.

This suggests that we could make the phrase "moral economy" serve as the organizing narrative for a revival of progressive ideas. The term has a long and rich history, but it is also shorthand for the argument that sustainable prosperity must be built on strong moral foundations. This is something that Adam Smith, one of the patron saints of market fundamentalism, understood, but it is a lesson that his contemporary followers have completely forgotten. Smith recognized that the pursuit of self-interest can only serve the common good if individuals are systematically constrained by moral sentiments.

The essential idea was brilliantly expressed in the title of a 1980s bestseller, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." The guiding principles of a moral economy are familiar rules such as don't hit, take turns, play by the rules, listen to the teacher, don't waste food and art supplies, and be prepared to share. These principles produce order in the elementary school classroom, and they can also assure order and prosperity in our nation's economy.

These kindergarten rules, in fact, translate directly into the four key principles that would be an integral part of a moral economy. "Don't hit" and "take turns" are about the principle of reciprocity; we need to behave toward others as we want them to act toward us. We should avoid force and coercion in our economic relations, including the quiet violence that occurs when we exploit someone's vulnerability or ignorance. Reciprocity is the foundation upon which trust is built, and high levels of trust are indispensable for economic prosperity.

"Play by the rules" and "listen to the teacher" express the principle of responsible competition. In the world of sports, competition pushes people to elevate their performance beyond all expectations. But the competition is so productive precisely because it is structured by rules and because the referees are on the field waving penalty flags. Economic competition is the same; it leads to elevated performance only with clear rules and when the regulators are able to call fouls and march off penalty yardage. And these rules must be continually updated to discourage unfair and injurious competitive strategies.

The injunction against waste is the principle of conservation of all resources, including human beings, nature and the built environment. Providing the maximal opportunity for each person to develop his or her capacities is the best way to avoid wasting our human resources. Conservation of both nature and constructed materials is central to the vision of a sustainable economy that no longer assumes that fossil fuels and minerals can be indefinitely wrested from the earth.

Finally, sharing exemplifies the principle of cooperation. Market ideology focuses only on competition, but a productive economy depends on cooperation. The most productive firms are those that create high levels of cooperation between employees and managers, and most large-scale economic efforts require complex webs of cooperation between different firms and public-sector agencies. An economy's capacity to generate and exploit innovations is a direct result of its ability to facilitate cooperation among these different actors.

These four principles -- reciprocity, responsible competition, conservation and cooperation -- interact and reinforce one another to enhance a moral economy's effectiveness. But market fundamentalists understand nothing of this. In fact, their policies have weakened our economy by deliberately ignoring and violating all these principles.

Envisioning a moral economy does not require any heroic assumptions about human nature; it does not assume that people are always cooperative and kind. On the contrary, it starts from the idea that the individual pursuit of self-interest has to be controlled, or it will turn destructive.

Market fundamentalists are the utopians; they imagine that the market magically transforms everyone into angels who can be trusted to do the right thing. The moral-economy narrative recognizes that there is no "royal road," no magic formula that will produce the desired combination of prosperity, order and justice. Rather, it is through the continuous exercise of democratic self-governance that we can reform our institutions to make both the economy and the government work better to achieve our shared objectives.

By establishing this vision of a moral economy, we can tell a unified story of how our fellow citizens can prosper. But it is important to avoid those old assumptions that government is always good and corporations are necessarily evil. Our government consistently fails to help people with day-to-day problems of health care, education and childcare, or finding work that pays a decent wage. Reforming government so that it works effectively for people is a critical part of building a moral economy.

At the same time, shared prosperity depends on "enterprise" -- collective projects of innovation carried out with boldness and energy. Entrepreneurial activity can and should occur throughout society -- in the public sector, in the nonprofit sector, in small business, in large corporations and in a wide variety of collaborations among these sectors.

A moral economy would unleash this capacity for shared problem-solving in ways that fit with the four principles laid out earlier. So while we expose corporations that cheat their employees or the public, we should reward those that channel their efforts into innovations. A reformed corporate sector is a critical building block of a moral economy.

With the construction of a moral economy as the frame, Reich's other stories fall into place. The "rot at the top" has never smelled so putrid; the decay comes from the obscenely wealthy who have abandoned real enterprise for paper manipulations that generate outlandish returns. The "mob at the gates" continues to be those committed to jihad against the West. But the Bush administration's response to this threat has been completely self-defeating.

We need, instead, greater international cooperation to combat terrorism and concerted efforts to build a moral economy at the global level. Creating a world in which children born in the slums of Cairo, Islamabad and Lagos have real opportunities for meaningful employment and political participation is the only way to isolate the jihadists.

The triumphant individuals in this narrative are people of different ethnicities, immigrants and native born, both women and men, gay and straight, rural, suburban and urban, for whom the doors of opportunity would be reopened by the project of building a moral economy. With such an economy, our nation would become a "benevolent community" in which each individual is able to reach his or her full potential.

To be sure, stories are not enough. We also need bold policy ideas that would implement the principles of a moral economy. But the stories have to come first, and those stories must connect us to our nation's richest traditions.

The great popular movements of our nation's history -- against the slave trade, for the abolition of slavery, for women's suffrage, for trade union rights, for restraints on the power of big business in the Progressive Era, and extending to the civil rights movement, the New Left and the environmental movement -- can all be understood as efforts to align our economic and political institutions with our deepest moral commitments. We will be honoring their legacy when we present a vision of a moral economy as an alternative to the failed claims of market fundamentalism.

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Secret loans: Blair was warned but gave the go ahead

The Scotsman
19 Mar 06

TONY Blair's intimate involvement in sanctioning the loans which have rocked his government is exposed today, after one of his closest confidantes confirmed that he "knew exactly what was going on" and was aware of the risks from the start.

A senior member of the Prime Minister's inner circle gave a remarkable insight into the angst and confusion within the party's fundraising operation as it prepared for the 2005 election.

Blair last week accepted responsibility for the hugely controversial £14m in loans, which did not have to be declared in public. It emerged last week that at least three of the lenders had subsequently been nominated for peerages by the party.
But, in an extraordinary off the record interview with Scotland on Sunday, one of his closest allies revealed that:

• The Prime Minister and a select band of confidants involved had to "convince each other" that taking loans from party supporters was the right thing to do;

• Blair opted for the loans strategy because the party was "skint" and faced meltdown during the General Election campaign last year;

• The clinching argument was the belief that rival parties were using the system to swell their coffers.

This weekend, Blair and the Labour high command have also "gagged" Labour's treasurer to prevent him from exposing the identities of the party's multi-millionaire lenders, because they are protected by commercial "confidentiality clauses".

The Prime Minister entered into the deal with the group of lenders to ensure that their contributions could not be exposed at a later date.

However, it emerged last week that three Labour lenders - Sir David Garrard, Chai Patel and Barry Townsley - were on the list of nominations for elevation to the Lords signed by Party chairman Ian McCartney in October.

The source, a senior Labour figure who was close to the hectic planning that produced the loans strategy last night came out fighting, claiming the party's rivals were already exploiting the system.

But he suggested that there was some reluctance within Blair's inner circle over entering into the arrangements. He recalled that, although the move was not illegal, they had needed to "convince each other" to ditch a veto that had been in place under previous Labour regimes.

"Why did the party do it? Because the party was skint," he said. "We weren't going to get beaten up [in the election] if the others were doing it.

"We didn't exactly invent the wheel, it was there. The wheel was there.

"Blair knew exactly what was going on. As far as he was concerned, it was absolutely legal. It wasn't a matter of convincing him because it was absolutely legal. It was a matter of everyone convincing each other."

Labour Party Treasurer Jack Dromey, who is conducting an investigation into the so-called loans-for-peerages affair, has been given a secret list of all the lenders.

But he has been warned that he cannot go public with their names in a report on the embarrassing saga, which he plans to deliver to party chiefs on Tuesday, because it could leave Labour officials open to legal action in the future.

Although the Prime Minister has attempted to defuse the furore, it threatened to spiral further out of his control last night, after it was confirmed that the controversial policy was conducted by a tight circle of his aides - to the exclusion of even senior Cabinet ministers including Gordon Brown and John Prescott.

Dromey launched a furious attack on the party hierarchy last week after it emerged that at least three of the lenders had subsequently been nominated for a seat in the House of Lords.

Scotland on Sunday also understands that Sir Jeremy Beecham, the elected chairman of the party's all-powerful National Executive Committee (NEC), who will chair an important meeting of the body in London on Tuesday, was upset that he had not been consulted.

Knowledge of the fundraising strategy was restricted to Blair, Labour's then general secretary, Matt Carter, and the party's main fundraiser, Lord Levy. Party chairman Ian McCartney was let in on the secret when Carter and Levy asked him for permission to seek the huge loans last spring to help bankroll a General Election campaign that cost at least £17m.

In addition to the internal fall-out from the revelations, Labour will come under further pressure to disclose more details of the loan arrangements to the body in charge of sanctioning nominations to the upper chamber.

A spokeswoman for the Lords Appointments Commission said: "In light of recent events we have written to the leaders of all three political parties asking them whether there is anything else they would like to tell us."

The party last night maintained that it had done nothing wrong.

Battered Blair living on borrowed time

THE names were barely readable for Ian McCartney, as he struggled with the important papers handed to him during his recuperation from heart surgery last October. Officially, the Labour Party chairman was on lengthy sick leave following a critical heart bypass operation. But some things simply could not wait.

Chai Patel, Barry Townsley, Sir David Garrard and at least one other candidate had been presented to him for elevation to the House of Lords, all with the blessing of Tony Blair. None of the names will have stood out as particularly surprising - or familiar - to McCartney as he discharged his duty by signing the papers.

It was not until last week that these apparently innocuous names developed an explosive significance for McCartney and the entire Labour movement. For the men on the list for ennoblement were not long-serving party stalwarts, nor tireless philanthropists. They were, rather, tycoons who had handed millions of pounds to Labour in the run-up to last year's General Election.

Until a furious Patel broke his silence last week, nobody other than the wealthy benefactors and a tight circle around Blair himself knew anything about the cash, which had been delivered via a complex loan strategy designed to ensure the party could fund its successful bid for a third term in office.

Patel wrote to the House of Lords Appointments Commission to ask if his nomination for a peerage had been blocked, though he denies that his nomination was in exchange for his reported £1.5m loan to Labour.

"If they had said: 'You will get this by signing this,' I would have walked out of the room," insisted Patel.

"I am very sad that whatever happens from here I am linked to an event which has got nothing to do with the things I believe in, but has been reduced to a bazaar where people are saying: 'What is the price of the peerage?'"

New Labour has long been pilloried as having a love affair with lucre, but what made this row stand out from previous scandals was the implication that this time the money was loaned rather than donated so that the transaction could be kept secret.

As revelations of the loans seeped out, one who shared this view was none other than Jack Dromey, the Labour Party treasurer, who had no idea of the apparent link between loans and nominations to the Lords.

While Downing Street was finally waking up to the implications of a policy agreed a year before, a furious Dromey ploughed through last Sunday's newspaper revelations about the loans with increasing alarm. Across the room, his wife, the Constitutional Affairs Minister Harriet Harman, was also weighing up the consequences.

Dromey, deputy general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, decided that Labour must investigate itself to prevent the matter spiralling out of its control. He contacted Downing Street on Monday to demand full details of the loans, and his increasingly irate public interventions would propel the affair into a full-blown crisis.

"This was all about Jack's ego," one furious fellow party apparatchik complained. "He didn't like being left out. He had his position and he thought it gave him power, when really it is a purely honorific title."

Honorific or not, the party treasurer is an elected official and he jointly signs the annual report on its finances. But Dromey was denied access to information on a funding stream that had brought almost £14m into Labour coffers. Unfortunately for an increasingly evasive party establishment, Dromey, a veteran of the Grunwick strike and pickets of the 1970s, is not one to give up.

Significantly, the usual rebel MPs who can always be relied upon to oppose Blair were not the only ones to echo his complaints. On Wednesday, as concerns over the policy began to accelerate, the Prime Minister was waylaid by Warrington North MP Helen Jones as he rushed out of Prime Minister's Question Time and berated, in public, over his behaviour. When he arrived at the Labour MPs' ruling parliamentary committee, one member, his former minister Angela Eagle, picked up the theme.

"She really had a go," another member of the committee told Scotland on Sunday. "When she mentioned the issue of the loans, the response was like when your aged aunt farts at the dinner table. Pure embarrassment. But his answers were not wholly convincing."

By the time Blair emerged from the meeting, his advisers were beginning to accept that he could not simply ride out this storm. After a last-ditch series of meetings with Dromey on Wednesday failed to allay his concerns, it was decided that the Prime Minister would have to demonstrate that he was taking action. His monthly press conference the following day was identified as the ideal opportunity to begin the fightback.

The tactic was not universally welcomed. Dromey sensed a stitch-up and, according to one colleague, "retreated with Harriet to discuss what to do".

"He seriously considered resigning his position with the party," the source added, "but he decided to fight on in pretty dramatic fashion."

Less than an hour after Blair had survived the landmark vote on his Education Bill on Wednesday, relieved ministerial advisers were winding down in the bars in and around Westminster when they received texts telling them to turn on TVs, wherever they were.

"They were all about Jack's interviews. It was incredible," said one aide. In an attempt to get his retaliation in first, Dromey toured television studios to announce his own inquiry into the "improper" interpretation of Labour's own sleaze-busting party funding rules.

"Even Enron, I think, would be amazed at hearing the sort of accounting practices that seem to be going on in the Labour Party," said Dromey. In a neat move that signified the gravity of what he was entering into, Harman immediately resigned her responsibility for electoral reform.

The loophole in the Political Parties and Referendum Act, which requires parties to declare donations but enables them to "hide" loans, has been known for some time. Indeed, it is believed that the Tories have used the legislation to conceal details of up to £20m-worth of loans. But previous Labour general-secretaries, particularly David (now Lord) Triesman, forbade their party from following suit.

In the run-up to last year's election, however, his successor, Matt Carter, was faced with a campaign bill estimated at £20m, while donations were at an alarmingly slow rate.

Party insiders believe that Carter appealed to the party's legendary fundraiser, Lord Levy, who helped devise the new loans-for-Labour strategy. Whether that, in turn, developed into loans-for-peerages remains a matter of debate and Dromey's investigation.

Patel was approached after the election, in July, as the party struggled with a soaring overdraft, a slump in membership and gathering concerns among its traditional bankers, the Co-op and Unity Trust banks. He was schmoozed at dinner parties at Levy's north London home where, amid the splendour of marble and a swimming-pool, Blair himself could be relied upon to make an appearance. At the end of it, he agreed a loan at a "commercial rate of interest" - which meant it did not have to be disclosed. Three months later, he was on the fast-track to the House of Lords.

"This kind of behind-the-scenes loan arrangement was invented by the Conservatives to get around the law," complained Eagle, who is also a member of the party's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC). "It's therefore a great disappointment to me to come across the possibility that someone in the Labour Party may have been doing the same thing."

Other MPs joined in: Gordon Prentice bemoaned the "swirling allegations" and David Winnick called for current nominations for peerages to be suspended while the entire process was "cleaned up".

While Tory backbenchers made hay with the row, David Cameron was unable to put the government to the sword because of his party's own form on the matter. But this offered only temporary relief for the increasingly beleaguered Prime Minister in the wake of attacks from within his own party, and especially those who hope to hasten Gordon Brown's takeover at the top.

An august Blair launched a revised counter-attack at his press conference, at noon on Thursday, in which he signalled an acceptance that he had to give ground. In a nifty twist, he stressed his own discontent at the system of party funding, and he then bestowed upon the Cabinet Secretary, rather than himself, the right to recommend honours.

It was a traditionally polished performance, but Scotland on Sunday has been told that the sleaze-busting blueprint was "pinched" wholesale from a masterplan drawn up by the Brown camp in preparation for their man's attempts to "clean out the stables" if he succeeds Blair.

The Prime Minister's public appearance came immediately after a Cabinet meeting at which his own deputy revealed his anger at the status quo. John Prescott reportedly "went bananas" as he sat at the Cabinet table - but the object of his rage was not the Prime Minister. "He was livid with Dromey for going public," the source added. "In doing so he did, however, disclose that he had known nothing about it. He said: 'I didn't know the facts; nobody knew the facts.'"

Prescott was not alone. Brown's allies maintain that the Chancellor was similarly in the dark, which only adds another troubling element to this most mysterious of Labour's dalliances with sleaze and cronyism. In his day-job, Brown has maintained a rigid control over the nation's finances - a budget of around £500bn - yet Blair and his closest aides kept him out of their big secret on party funding.

While Brown's people appear not to have orchestrated the row that engulfed Blair this week, they have not been slow to exploit his latest weakness - and it has been left to Downing Street to sort the mess out.

Immediately after Blair's performance on Thursday, Dromey was summoned for further negotiations which, according to the Prime Minister's aides, produced a "truce". Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the view of Dromey, who hopes to produce a report to the NEC on Tuesday.

Scotland on Sunday understands that the treasurer has been furnished with a list of all those who have loaned money to the party, and how much of the £14m they have contributed.

However, he has also been warned that he cannot reveal any of the names, because they signed confidentiality clauses with Labour before releasing the money - and the party could face legal action if these are broken.

"Jack hopes to disclose their names as part of his investigation," a party insider confirmed. "He's trying to find a way of getting them into his report on Tuesday, but the party has made it quite clear that there could be legal consequences if any of the names came out."

A legal battle with those he has worked hard to court in the past? The prospect does not bear thinking about for Blair. As he faces renewed protests over the Iraq war - which will have lasted for three years tomorrow, together with the prospect of further battles from within his own party over education and other controversial public sector reforms, the future must look increasingly grim to a Prime Minister with retirement on his mind.

If there is one minor positive Downing Street has salvaged from the loans-for-peerages scandal, it is the hope that it will bring state funding closer. It is an option that is said to appeal to Blair, and one aide explained last night: "All democracies need strong parties, and these have to be paid for."

But, whether or not Blair is truly happy with the notion that taxpayers should fork out yet more money for their politicians, it is hardly the epitaph he would want after almost a decade in charge of the country. Nor would be want to be remembered for the claim that he sanctioned secret loans to keep his party afloat and then agreed that some of the men who provided them should be elevated to the Lords.

The question for Blair, as he peruses the latest grim details of the latest sordid little scandal to afflict his increasingly fragile premiership, is this: are things going to get much better any time soon; and, if they are not, is it time to give up on his hope for a better legacy and get out while it is still his decision to go?

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Does the Gulf of Mexico Hold as Much Oil as Saudi Arabia?

by Jerome R. Corsi
Posted Mar 21, 2006

Mexico's giant Cantarell oil field, in the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan, was supposedly discovered in 1976 after a fisherman named Cantarell reported an oil seep in the Campeche Bay. Last week, Mexico announced finding another giant oil field off Veracruz, the Noxal, estimated to hold more than 10 billion barrels of oil.
Exploration yielded surprising results. It turned out that Mexico's richest oil field complex was created 65 million years ago, when the huge Chicxulub meteor impacted the Earth at the end of the Mesozoic Era. Scientists now believe that the Chicxulub meteor impact was the catastrophe the killed the dinosaurs, as well as the cause for creating the Cantrell oil field.

The impact crater is massive, estimated to be 100 to 150 miles (160 to 240 kilometers) wide. The seismic shock of the meteor fractured the bedrock below the Gulf and set off a series of tsunami activity that caused a huge section of land to break off and fall back into the crater under water.

Proponents of the abiotic, deep-earth theory of the origin of oil point argue that the deep fracturing of the basement bedrock at Cantarell caused by the meteor's impact was responsible for allowing oil formed in the Earth's mantle to seep into the sedimentary rock that settled in the huge underwater crater. Geologists have documented that the bedrock underlying the crater shows "melt rock veinlets pointing to large megablock structures as well as a long thermal and fluid transport" as part of the post-impact history. In other words, the bedrock at Cantarell did suffer sufficiently severe fracturing to open the bedrock to flows of liquids and gases from the deep earth below.

An important, but neglected, study of the bedrock underlying the Saudi oil fields provided strong evidence that the oil fields resulted from fractures and faults in the basement rock, not from a disproportionately large number of dinosaurs having died for some reason or another uniquely on the Arabian Peninsula. The study published in 1992 by geologist H.S. Edgell http://perso.wanadoo.fr/brcgranier/gmeop/Edgell_1992.htm argued that the Saudi oil fields, including the giant field at Ghawar, were "produced by extensional block faulting in the crystalline Precambrian basement along the predominantly N-S Arabian Trend which constitutes the 'old grain' of Arabia."

In other words, according to the abiotic, deep earth theory of oil's origin, we do not have to assume that all the dinosaurs herded like Elephants to Saudi Arabia at the end of the Mesozoic Era, where they died in a giant heap that produced oil. Bedrock cracks, whether or not due to meteor impacts, can serve to open the above sedimentary layers to trap oil deposits seeping upward.

Until the 1960s, geologists considered collisions of extraterrestrial objects with the Earth as interesting, but not necessarily important. Since Cantarell was discovered, geologists have come to realize that the intense shock waves generated in meteor impact events have significantly shaped Earth's surface, distributed its crust, and fractured its bedrock. Over 150 individual geological structures, many masked over by subsequent sedimentary deposits, have been identified as important, ranging from circular impact bowls measuring from only a few kilometers in diameter to as much as 200 kilometers (approximately 125 miles) in diameter. Moreover, Cantarell has stimulated interest in meteor impact structures as potential locations to explore in order to find oil producing sites.

In recent years, we have only begun exploring the Gulf of Mexico for oil. So far the results are impressive. Instead of imploring Congress to examine the oil producing potential of wood chips and switch grass, President Bush may be better advised to press ahead to extend oil exploration into the Gulf of Mexico to the limits current technology will permit.

Wouldn't the Bush administration and other "peak oil" advocates be surprised to find that a resource as close as the Gulf of Mexico might just rival the 260 billion barrels of oil reserves Saudi Arabia currently claims?

Mr. Corsi is the author of several books, including Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry (along with John O'Neill), Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil (along with Craig R. Smith), and Atomic Iran: How the Terrorist Regime Bought the Bomb and American Politicians. He is a frequent guest on the G. Gordon Liddy radio show. He will soon co-author a new book with Jim Gilchrist on the Minuteman Project.

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Bush Is Real Crazy

Bush Repeats US Would Use Military To Protect Israel

By Henry J. Pulizzi
Dow Jones Newswires
20 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush on Wednesday reiterated the U.S.'s commitment to using its military to defend Israel from Iran, if necessary.

"I made it clear, and I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel," Bush said during a question and answer session after a speech in Cleveland. "And at any rate, our objective is to solve this issue diplomatically."

Bush said Iran's statements advocating the destruction of Israel represent a " serious threat."

"That's a threat. A serious threat. It's a threat to world peace. It's a threat in essence to a strong alliance," he said.

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The American Political Market and the 51st State

March 20, 2006
by Rodrigue Tremblay

People outside the United States have a hard time understanding why the U.S. government treats thestate of Israel better than most of the 50 American states. Over the last decade, the U.S. government has transfered some $100 billion to Israel, with nearly no conditions attached, while Israeli citizens do not pay any taxes in the United States. Why such generosity, while the state of Louisiana, after the hurricane Katrina, had all the trouble in the world receiving aid from Washington?
Officially, annual U.S. aid to Israel is $3 billion per year-$1.2 billion in economic aid and $1.8 billion in military aid. In fact, the figure is closer to $20 billion, since much of the money the U.S. gives Israel is buried in the budgets of a host of government agencies, especially in the Defense Department (DOD). That may explain how a country of about 7 million inhabitants can afford to have submarines capable of launching missiles and has a stock of at least 200 nuclear bombs.

So, what is the answer to the above question? The answer is MONEY. Some of the billions of dollars that go annually to Israel come back, one way or another, into the coffers of the Republican and Democratic parties in the U.S. The organization that coordinates this financing and lobbying of American politicians is AIPAC (American Israeli Political Action Committee). It describes itself as "America's Pro-Israel Lobby". This is the most powerful lobbying organization in the U.S. for foreign policy, and it is an umbrella organization that coordinates hundreds of other organizations devoted to Israel's welfare.

AIPAC has a 50-person board of directors and only 70,000 members. Its current annual budget is $35 million to $40 million, but its political war chest is much larger. AIPAC controls as many as 125 other political action committees (PACs) that can be put into motion at its command and that receive the collaboration of wealthy philanthropists. It spends tens of millions of dollars each year donating to and lobbying members of Congress, courting both Republicans and Democrats alike. Few organizations wield as much power in influencing American public policy.This goes a long way in explaining why both major parites have nearly identical foreign policies.

AIPAC employs 150 officers who do daily lobbying work on Congress, writing legislation and demanding that senators and representatives put Israel's interests before those of their own constituents. Their men in Congress from both parties "initiate" pro-Israel resolutions that are guaranteed overwhelming passage, because noboby dares oppose them, even if some of them are truly outlandish. That is why it is recognized that AIPAC,with the support of a host of phony nonprofit foundations, is the equivalent of a parallel government in Washington D.C., but it is a government whose spiritual heart is in Tel Aviv, not in the U.S.

That U.S. Mideast policy has been motivated for decades by the powerful pro-Israel lobby has been documented by a Harvard-University of Chicago study. "No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical," concludes the study.

The AIPAC lobby is so powerful that it has succeeded in imposing its complete censorship on both houses of Congress, for any foreign policy related directly or indirectly to Israel. It is common knowledge that no senator or representative dares make a speech on the floor of his or her institution critical of Israeli policy, simply because the retribution could be the loss of his or her seat. -Senators or representatives who do not receive a sufficiently high legislative mark from AIPAC find themselves opposed in their primaries or in their elections by well-oiled adversaries. AIPAC's allies in the far right media cheerleaders crowd, radio talk shows and TV attack crews at Fox News Channel stand ready to finish the job and oppose any American politician who wavers somewhat regarding Israel.

Each year, scores of U.S. senators and representatives go on pilgrimage to the Promised Land, reaffirming their public commitments to Israel. Such advocacy trips are disguided as "trade missions". They are usually organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

To illustrate the deference that senators and congressmen are obligated to profess to Israel, consider the eccentric statement that one U.S. senator made on the floor of the Senate, on March 4, 2002. On that day, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma said the September 11 terrorists attacks were punishment by God in response to U.S. policy toward Israel (too lukewarm in his view). President George W. Bush himself often preaches to the choir, as when he declared to an AIPAC crowd, on May 18, 2004 : "The United States is strongly committed, and I am strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state." Presidential candidates in the U.S. usually have an official trip to Israel on their agenda before starting their campaign in earnest. George W. Bush did it in December 1998 (his first trip outside the U.S.), while potential Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did it last September (2005).

Such pro-Israel talk is music to the ears of American Christian evangelicals and Bible Belt Christian groups who support Israel's far right and are the domestic strategic political allies of AIPAC. One of their spokesmen is former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, a Republican who has made several trips to Israel and was the first recipient of the American Israel Committee's annual Friend of Israel Award in 2003. -An example among thousands of the type of political pressure that the so-called Amen Corner brings to bear on politicians is the declaration last January (2006) by televangelist Pat Robertson that the felling of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a massive stroke was punishment from God "for dividing the Land of Israel."

In order to have instant access to senators and congressmen, AIPAC supplies them with embedded "free interns."

It is not known if that type of "free" service extends to the White House. What is known is the obligation for leaders in Congress and important political fundraisers to attend the annual Hanukkah receptions at the White House.

We have an indication of how solidly fixed this system of corruption and influence peddling is, when we consider that a new anti-corruption lobbying bill being studied in Congress would outlaw free meals from lobbyists, but not lobbyist-paid junket trips abroad, for senators and representatives. -Now, many of these political overseas trips are sponsored and financed by AIPAC to visit Israel and influence American policy making.

One also got a glimpse of how things work in Washington D.C. when it was recently divulged that nearly three dozen members of Congress, including leaders from both parties, pressed the government to reject a Louisiana Indian casino, in 2001, while they were collecting large donations from rival tribes and their chief lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The latter, one of George W. Bush's main fundraisers, is presently involved in a major influence-peddling scandal.

Ever since the 1917 Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine, the political establishments in both Great Britain and the United States have had a special relationship with Israel. It is now known, for example, that the UK was the country that provided Israel [illegally under the 1968 treaty on Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)] with the plutonium and technology that it used to build its first atom bombs. It is also well known that the U.S. government treats Israel as its "uniquely special ally" for nuclear programs, again, an illegal cooperation under NPT.

All this put together creates a picture that goes a long way in explaining how things are shaping up in the Middle East. In particular, anybody interested in geopolitics has to be knowledgeable on how the political systems function in the United States. If you read a book by any author on the subject and the index does not include the acronym 'AIPAC', you know that the book is, at the very least, incomplete.

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The Israel Lobby

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt

For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread 'democracy' throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the 'Israel Lobby'. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. This largesse is especially striking since Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to that of South Korea or Spain.

Other recipients get their money in quarterly installments, but Israel receives its entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and can thus earn interest on it. Most recipients of aid given for military purposes are required to spend all of it in the US, but Israel is allowed to use roughly 25 per cent of its allocation to subsidise its own defence industry. It is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent, which makes it virtually impossible to prevent the money from being used for purposes the US opposes, such as building settlements on the West Bank. Moreover, the US has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems, and given it access to such top-drawer weaponry as Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets. Finally, the US gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its Nato allies and has turned a blind eye to Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Washington also provides Israel with consistent diplomatic support. Since 1982, the US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members. It blocks the efforts of Arab states to put Israel's nuclear arsenal on the IAEA's agenda. The US comes to the rescue in wartime and takes Israel's side when negotiating peace. The Nixon administration protected it from the threat of Soviet intervention and resupplied it during the October War. Washington was deeply involved in the negotiations that ended that war, as well as in the lengthy 'step-by-step' process that followed, just as it played a key role in the negotiations that preceded and followed the 1993 Oslo Accords. In each case there was occasional friction between US and Israeli officials, but the US consistently supported the Israeli position. One American participant at Camp David in 2000 later said: 'Far too often, we functioned . . . as Israel's lawyer.' Finally, the Bush administration's ambition to transform the Middle East is at least partly aimed at improving Israel's strategic situation.

This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for US backing. But neither explanation is convincing. One might argue that Israel was an asset during the Cold War. By serving as America's proxy after 1967, it helped contain Soviet expansion in the region and inflicted humiliating defeats on Soviet clients like Egypt and Syria. It occasionally helped protect other US allies (like King Hussein of Jordan) and its military prowess forced Moscow to spend more on backing its own client states. It also provided useful intelligence about Soviet capabilities.

Backing Israel was not cheap, however, and it complicated America's relations with the Arab world. For example, the decision to give $2.2 billion in emergency military aid during the October War triggered an Opec oil embargo that inflicted considerable damage on Western economies. For all that, Israel's armed forces were not in a position to protect US interests in the region. The US could not, for example, rely on Israel when the Iranian Revolution in 1979 raised concerns about the security of oil supplies, and had to create its own Rapid Deployment Force instead.

The first Gulf War revealed the extent to which Israel was becoming a strategic burden. The US could not use Israeli bases without rupturing the anti-Iraq coalition, and had to divert resources (e.g. Patriot missile batteries) to prevent Tel Aviv doing anything that might harm the alliance against Saddam Hussein. History repeated itself in 2003: although Israel was eager for the US to attack Iraq, Bush could not ask it to help without triggering Arab opposition. So Israel stayed on the sidelines once again.

Beginning in the 1990s, and even more after 9/11, US support has been justified by the claim that both states are threatened by terrorist groups originating in the Arab and Muslim world, and by 'rogue states' that back these groups and seek weapons of mass destruction. This is taken to mean not only that Washington should give Israel a free hand in dealing with the Palestinians and not press it to make concessions until all Palestinian terrorists are imprisoned or dead, but that the US should go after countries like Iran and Syria. Israel is thus seen as a crucial ally in the war on terror, because its enemies are America's enemies. In fact, Israel is a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.

'Terrorism' is not a single adversary, but a tactic employed by a wide array of political groups. The terrorist organisations that threaten Israel do not threaten the United States, except when it intervenes against them (as in Lebanon in 1982). Moreover, Palestinian terrorism is not random violence directed against Israel or 'the West'; it is largely a response to Israel's prolonged campaign to colonise the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

More important, saying that Israel and the US are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: the US has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around. Support for Israel is not the only source of anti-American terrorism, but it is an important one, and it makes winning the war on terror more difficult. There is no question that many al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are motivated by Israel's presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians. Unconditional support for Israel makes it easier for extremists to rally popular support and to attract recruits.

As for so-called rogue states in the Middle East, they are not a dire threat to vital US interests, except inasmuch as they are a threat to Israel. Even if these states acquire nuclear weapons – which is obviously undesirable – neither America nor Israel could be blackmailed, because the blackmailer could not carry out the threat without suffering overwhelming retaliation. The danger of a nuclear handover to terrorists is equally remote, because a rogue state could not be sure the transfer would go undetected or that it would not be blamed and punished afterwards. The relationship with Israel actually makes it harder for the US to deal with these states. Israel's nuclear arsenal is one reason some of its neighbours want nuclear weapons, and threatening them with regime change merely increases that desire.

A final reason to question Israel's strategic value is that it does not behave like a loyal ally. Israeli officials frequently ignore US requests and renege on promises (including pledges to stop building settlements and to refrain from 'targeted assassinations' of Palestinian leaders). Israel has provided sensitive military technology to potential rivals like China, in what the State Department inspector-general called 'a systematic and growing pattern of unauthorised transfers'. According to the General Accounting Office, Israel also 'conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the US of any ally'. In addition to the case of Jonathan Pollard, who gave Israel large quantities of classified material in the early 1980s (which it reportedly passed on to the Soviet Union in return for more exit visas for Soviet Jews), a new controversy erupted in 2004 when it was revealed that a key Pentagon official called Larry Franklin had passed classified information to an Israeli diplomat. Israel is hardly the only country that spies on the US, but its willingness to spy on its principal patron casts further doubt on its strategic value.

Israel's strategic value isn't the only issue. Its backers also argue that it deserves unqualified support because it is weak and surrounded by enemies; it is a democracy; the Jewish people have suffered from past crimes and therefore deserve special treatment; and Israel's conduct has been morally superior to that of its adversaries. On close inspection, none of these arguments is persuasive. There is a strong moral case for supporting Israel's existence, but that is not in jeopardy. Viewed objectively, its past and present conduct offers no moral basis for privileging it over the Palestinians.

Israel is often portrayed as David confronted by Goliath, but the converse is closer to the truth. Contrary to popular belief, the Zionists had larger, better equipped and better led forces during the 1947-49 War of Independence, and the Israel Defence Forces won quick and easy victories against Egypt in 1956 and against Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1967 – all of this before large-scale US aid began flowing. Today, Israel is the strongest military power in the Middle East. Its conventional forces are far superior to those of its neighbours and it is the only state in the region with nuclear weapons. Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties with it, and Saudi Arabia has offered to do so. Syria has lost its Soviet patron, Iraq has been devastated by three disastrous wars and Iran is hundreds of miles away. The Palestinians barely have an effective police force, let alone an army that could pose a threat to Israel. According to a 2005 assessment by Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies, 'the strategic balance decidedly favours Israel, which has continued to widen the qualitative gap between its own military capability and deterrence powers and those of its neighbours.' If backing the underdog were a compelling motive, the United States would be supporting Israel's opponents.

That Israel is a fellow democracy surrounded by hostile dictatorships cannot account for the current level of aid: there are many democracies around the world, but none receives the same lavish support. The US has overthrown democratic governments in the past and supported dictators when this was thought to advance its interests – it has good relations with a number of dictatorships today.

Some aspects of Israeli democracy are at odds with core American values. Unlike the US, where people are supposed to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship. Given this, it is not surprising that its 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second-class citizens, or that a recent Israeli government commission found that Israel behaves in a 'neglectful and discriminatory' manner towards them. Its democratic status is also undermined by its refusal to grant the Palestinians a viable state of their own or full political rights.

A third justification is the history of Jewish suffering in the Christian West, especially during the Holocaust. Because Jews were persecuted for centuries and could feel safe only in a Jewish homeland, many people now believe that Israel deserves special treatment from the United States. The country's creation was undoubtedly an appropriate response to the long record of crimes against Jews, but it also brought about fresh crimes against a largely innocent third party: the Palestinians.

This was well understood by Israel's early leaders. David Ben-Gurion told Nahum Goldmann, the president of the World Jewish Congress:

If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country . . . We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?

Since then, Israeli leaders have repeatedly sought to deny the Palestinians' national ambitions. When she was prime minister, Golda Meir famously remarked that 'there is no such thing as a Palestinian.' Pressure from extremist violence and Palestinian population growth has forced subsequent Israeli leaders to disengage from the Gaza Strip and consider other territorial compromises, but not even Yitzhak Rabin was willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state. Ehud Barak's purportedly generous offer at Camp David would have given them only a disarmed set of Bantustans under de facto Israeli control. The tragic history of the Jewish people does not obligate the US to help Israel today no matter what it does.

Israel's backers also portray it as a country that has sought peace at every turn and shown great restraint even when provoked. The Arabs, by contrast, are said to have acted with great wickedness. Yet on the ground, Israel's record is not distinguishable from that of its opponents. Ben-Gurion acknowledged that the early Zionists were far from benevolent towards the Palestinian Arabs, who resisted their encroachments – which is hardly surprising, given that the Zionists were trying to create their own state on Arab land. In the same way, the creation of Israel in 1947-48 involved acts of ethnic cleansing, including executions, massacres and rapes by Jews, and Israel's subsequent conduct has often been brutal, belying any claim to moral superiority. Between 1949 and 1956, for example, Israeli security forces killed between 2700 and 5000 Arab infiltrators, the overwhelming majority of them unarmed. The IDF murdered hundreds of Egyptian prisoners of war in both the 1956 and 1967 wars, while in 1967, it expelled between 100,000 and 260,000 Palestinians from the newly conquered West Bank, and drove 80,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights.

During the first intifada, the IDF distributed truncheons to its troops and encouraged them to break the bones of Palestinian protesters. The Swedish branch of Save the Children estimated that '23,600 to 29,900 children required medical treatment for their beating injuries in the first two years of the intifada.' Nearly a third of them were aged ten or under. The response to the second intifada has been even more violent, leading Ha'aretz to declare that 'the IDF . . . is turning into a killing machine whose efficiency is awe-inspiring, yet shocking.' The IDF fired one million bullets in the first days of the uprising. Since then, for every Israeli lost, Israel has killed 3.4 Palestinians, the majority of whom have been innocent bystanders; the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli children killed is even higher (5.7:1). It is also worth bearing in mind that the Zionists relied on terrorist bombs to drive the British from Palestine, and that Yitzhak Shamir, once a terrorist and later prime minister, declared that 'neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat.'

The Palestinian resort to terrorism is wrong but it isn't surprising. The Palestinians believe they have no other way to force Israeli concessions. As Ehud Barak once admitted, had he been born a Palestinian, he 'would have joined a terrorist organisation'.

So if neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America's support for Israel, how are we to explain it?

The explanation is the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby. We use 'the Lobby' as shorthand for the loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. This is not meant to suggest that 'the Lobby' is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues. Not all Jewish Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them. In a 2004 survey, for example, roughly 36 per cent of American Jews said they were either 'not very' or 'not at all' emotionally attached to Israel.

Jewish Americans also differ on specific Israeli policies. Many of the key organisations in the Lobby, such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations, are run by hardliners who generally support the Likud Party's expansionist policies, including its hostility to the Oslo peace process. The bulk of US Jewry, meanwhile, is more inclined to make concessions to the Palestinians, and a few groups – such as Jewish Voice for Peace – strongly advocate such steps. Despite these differences, moderates and hardliners both favour giving steadfast support to Israel.

Not surprisingly, American Jewish leaders often consult Israeli officials, to make sure that their actions advance Israeli goals. As one activist from a major Jewish organisation wrote, 'it is routine for us to say: "This is our policy on a certain issue, but we must check what the Israelis think." We as a community do it all the time.' There is a strong prejudice against criticising Israeli policy, and putting pressure on Israel is considered out of order. Edgar Bronfman Sr, the president of the World Jewish Congress, was accused of 'perfidy' when he wrote a letter to President Bush in mid-2003 urging him to persuade Israel to curb construction of its controversial 'security fence'. His critics said that 'it would be obscene at any time for the president of the World Jewish Congress to lobby the president of the United States to resist policies being promoted by the government of Israel.'

Similarly, when the president of the Israel Policy Forum, Seymour Reich, advised Condoleezza Rice in November 2005 to ask Israel to reopen a critical border crossing in the Gaza Strip, his action was denounced as 'irresponsible': 'There is,' his critics said, 'absolutely no room in the Jewish mainstream for actively canvassing against the security-related policies . . . of Israel.' Recoiling from these attacks, Reich announced that 'the word "pressure" is not in my vocabulary when it comes to Israel.'

Jewish Americans have set up an impressive array of organisations to influence American foreign policy, of which AIPAC is the most powerful and best known. In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in Washington. AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of Retired People, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle Association. A National Journal study in March 2005 reached a similar conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place (tied with AARP) in the Washington 'muscle rankings'.

The Lobby also includes prominent Christian evangelicals like Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson, as well as Dick Armey and Tom DeLay, former majority leaders in the House of Representatives, all of whom believe Israel's rebirth is the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and support its expansionist agenda; to do otherwise, they believe, would be contrary to God's will. Neo-conservative gentiles such as John Bolton; Robert Bartley, the former Wall Street Journal editor; William Bennett, the former secretary of education; Jeane Kirkpatrick, the former UN ambassador; and the influential columnist George Will are also steadfast supporters.

The US form of government offers activists many ways of influencing the policy process. Interest groups can lobby elected representatives and members of the executive branch, make campaign contributions, vote in elections, try to mould public opinion etc. They enjoy a disproportionate amount of influence when they are committed to an issue to which the bulk of the population is indifferent. Policymakers will tend to accommodate those who care about the issue, even if their numbers are small, confident that the rest of the population will not penalise them for doing so.

In its basic operations, the Israel Lobby is no different from the farm lobby, steel or textile workers' unions, or other ethnic lobbies. There is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway US policy: the Lobby's activities are not a conspiracy of the sort depicted in tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For the most part, the individuals and groups that comprise it are only doing what other special interest groups do, but doing it very much better. By contrast, pro-Arab interest groups, in so far as they exist at all, are weak, which makes the Israel Lobby's task even easier.

The Lobby pursues two broad strategies. First, it wields its significant influence in Washington, pressuring both Congress and the executive branch. Whatever an individual lawmaker or policymaker's own views may be, the Lobby tries to make supporting Israel the 'smart' choice. Second, it strives to ensure that public discourse portrays Israel in a positive light, by repeating myths about its founding and by promoting its point of view in policy debates. The goal is to prevent critical comments from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing US support, because a candid discussion of US-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favour a different policy.

A key pillar of the Lobby's effectiveness is its influence in Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism. This in itself is remarkable, because Congress rarely shies away from contentious issues. Where Israel is concerned, however, potential critics fall silent. One reason is that some key members are Christian Zionists like Dick Armey, who said in September 2002: 'My No. 1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel.' One might think that the No. 1 priority for any congressman would be to protect America. There are also Jewish senators and congressmen who work to ensure that US foreign policy supports Israel's interests.

Another source of the Lobby's power is its use of pro-Israel congressional staffers. As Morris Amitay, a former head of AIPAC, once admitted, 'there are a lot of guys at the working level up here' – on Capitol Hill – 'who happen to be Jewish, who are willing . . . to look at certain issues in terms of their Jewishness . . . These are all guys who are in a position to make the decision in these areas for those senators . . . You can get an awful lot done just at the staff level.'

AIPAC itself, however, forms the core of the Lobby's influence in Congress. Its success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it. Money is critical to US elections (as the scandal over the lobbyist Jack Abramoff's shady dealings reminds us), and AIPAC makes sure that its friends get strong financial support from the many pro-Israel political action committees. Anyone who is seen as hostile to Israel can be sure that AIPAC will direct campaign contributions to his or her political opponents. AIPAC also organises letter-writing campaigns and encourages newspaper editors to endorse pro-Israel candidates.

There is no doubt about the efficacy of these tactics. Here is one example: in the 1984 elections, AIPAC helped defeat Senator Charles Percy from Illinois, who, according to a prominent Lobby figure, had 'displayed insensitivity and even hostility to our concerns'. Thomas Dine, the head of AIPAC at the time, explained what happened: 'All the Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians – those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire – got the message.'

AIPAC's influence on Capitol Hill goes even further. According to Douglas Bloomfield, a former AIPAC staff member, 'it is common for members of Congress and their staffs to turn to AIPAC first when they need information, before calling the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, committee staff or administration experts.' More important, he notes that AIPAC is 'often called on to draft speeches, work on legislation, advise on tactics, perform research, collect co-sponsors and marshal votes'.

The bottom line is that AIPAC, a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on Congress, with the result that US policy towards Israel is not debated there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. In other words, one of the three main branches of the government is firmly committed to supporting Israel. As one former Democratic senator, Ernest Hollings, noted on leaving office, 'you can't have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.' Or as Ariel Sharon once told an American audience, 'when people ask me how they can help Israel, I tell them: "Help AIPAC."'

Thanks in part to the influence Jewish voters have on presidential elections, the Lobby also has significant leverage over the executive branch. Although they make up fewer than 3 per cent of the population, they make large campaign donations to candidates from both parties. The Washington Post once estimated that Democratic presidential candidates 'depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 per cent of the money'. And because Jewish voters have high turn-out rates and are concentrated in key states like California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania, presidential candidates go to great lengths not to antagonise them.

Key organisations in the Lobby make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but knew that Ball was seen as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment. In this way any aspiring policymaker is encouraged to become an overt supporter of Israel, which is why public critics of Israeli policy have become an endangered species in the foreign policy establishment.

When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more 'even-handed role' in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was 'irresponsible'. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean's remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that 'anonymous attackers . . . are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning – without much evidence – that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.'

This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to 'bring the sides together', Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn't tolerate even-handedness.

During the Clinton administration, Middle Eastern policy was largely shaped by officials with close ties to Israel or to prominent pro-Israel organisations; among them, Martin Indyk, the former deputy director of research at AIPAC and co-founder of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP); Dennis Ross, who joined WINEP after leaving government in 2001; and Aaron Miller, who has lived in Israel and often visits the country. These men were among Clinton's closest advisers at the Camp David summit in July 2000. Although all three supported the Oslo peace process and favoured the creation of a Palestinian state, they did so only within the limits of what would be acceptable to Israel. The American delegation took its cues from Ehud Barak, co-ordinated its negotiating positions with Israel in advance, and did not offer independent proposals. Not surprisingly, Palestinian negotiators complained that they were 'negotiating with two Israeli teams – one displaying an Israeli flag, and one an American flag'.

The situation is even more pronounced in the Bush administration, whose ranks have included such fervent advocates of the Israeli cause as Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis ('Scooter') Libby, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and David Wurmser. As we shall see, these officials have consistently pushed for policies favoured by Israel and backed by organisations in the Lobby.

The Lobby doesn't want an open debate, of course, because that might lead Americans to question the level of support they provide. Accordingly, pro-Israel organisations work hard to influence the institutions that do most to shape popular opinion.

The Lobby's perspective prevails in the mainstream media: the debate among Middle East pundits, the journalist Eric Alterman writes, is 'dominated by people who cannot imagine criticising Israel'. He lists 61 'columnists and commentators who can be counted on to support Israel reflexively and without qualification'. Conversely, he found just five pundits who consistently criticise Israeli actions or endorse Arab positions. Newspapers occasionally publish guest op-eds challenging Israeli policy, but the balance of opinion clearly favours the other side. It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one.

'Shamir, Sharon, Bibi – whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me,' Robert Bartley once remarked. Not surprisingly, his newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, along with other prominent papers like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Washington Times, regularly runs editorials that strongly support Israel. Magazines like Commentary, the New Republic and the Weekly Standard defend Israel at every turn.

Editorial bias is also found in papers like the New York Times, which occasionally criticises Israeli policies and sometimes concedes that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances, but is not even-handed. In his memoirs the paper's former executive editor Max Frankel acknowledges the impact his own attitude had on his editorial decisions: 'I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert . . . Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries. As more Arab than Jewish readers recognised, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective.'

News reports are more even-handed, in part because reporters strive to be objective, but also because it is difficult to cover events in the Occupied Territories without acknowledging Israel's actions on the ground. To discourage unfavourable reporting, the Lobby organises letter-writing campaigns, demonstrations and boycotts of news outlets whose content it considers anti-Israel. One CNN executive has said that he sometimes gets 6000 email messages in a single day complaining about a story. In May 2003, the pro-Israel Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) organised demonstrations outside National Public Radio stations in 33 cities; it also tried to persuade contributors to withhold support from NPR until its Middle East coverage becomes more sympathetic to Israel. Boston's NPR station, WBUR, reportedly lost more than $1 million in contributions as a result of these efforts. Further pressure on NPR has come from Israel's friends in Congress, who have asked for an internal audit of its Middle East coverage as well as more oversight.

The Israeli side also dominates the think tanks which play an important role in shaping public debate as well as actual policy. The Lobby created its own think tank in 1985, when Martin Indyk helped to found WINEP. Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel, claiming instead to provide a 'balanced and realistic' perspective on Middle East issues, it is funded and run by individuals deeply committed to advancing Israel's agenda.

The Lobby's influence extends well beyond WINEP, however. Over the past 25 years, pro-Israel forces have established a commanding presence at the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Security Policy, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). These think tanks employ few, if any, critics of US support for Israel.

Take the Brookings Institution. For many years, its senior expert on the Middle East was William Quandt, a former NSC official with a well-deserved reputation for even-handedness. Today, Brookings's coverage is conducted through the Saban Center for Middle East Studies, which is financed by Haim Saban, an Israeli-American businessman and ardent Zionist. The centre's director is the ubiquitous Martin Indyk. What was once a non-partisan policy institute is now part of the pro-Israel chorus.

Where the Lobby has had the most difficulty is in stifling debate on university campuses. In the 1990s, when the Oslo peace process was underway, there was only mild criticism of Israel, but it grew stronger with Oslo's collapse and Sharon's access to power, becoming quite vociferous when the IDF reoccupied the West Bank in spring 2002 and employed massive force to subdue the second intifada.

The Lobby moved immediately to 'take back the campuses'. New groups sprang up, like the Caravan for Democracy, which brought Israeli speakers to US colleges. Established groups like the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Hillel joined in, and a new group, the Israel on Campus Coalition, was formed to co-ordinate the many bodies that now sought to put Israel's case. Finally, AIPAC more than tripled its spending on programmes to monitor university activities and to train young advocates, in order to 'vastly expand the number of students involved on campus . . . in the national pro-Israel effort'.

The Lobby also monitors what professors write and teach. In September 2002, Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neo-conservatives, established a website (Campus Watch) that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report remarks or behaviour that might be considered hostile to Israel. This transparent attempt to blacklist and intimidate scholars provoked a harsh reaction and Pipes and Kramer later removed the dossiers, but the website still invites students to report 'anti-Israel' activity.

Groups within the Lobby put pressure on particular academics and universities. Columbia has been a frequent target, no doubt because of the presence of the late Edward Said on its faculty. 'One can be sure that any public statement in support of the Palestinian people by the pre-eminent literary critic Edward Said will elicit hundreds of emails, letters and journalistic accounts that call on us to denounce Said and to either sanction or fire him,' Jonathan Cole, its former provost, reported. When Columbia recruited the historian Rashid Khalidi from Chicago, the same thing happened. It was a problem Princeton also faced a few years later when it considered wooing Khalidi away from Columbia.

A classic illustration of the effort to police academia occurred towards the end of 2004, when the David Project produced a film alleging that faculty members of Columbia's Middle East Studies programme were anti-semitic and were intimidating Jewish students who stood up for Israel. Columbia was hauled over the coals, but a faculty committee which was assigned to investigate the charges found no evidence of anti-semitism and the only incident possibly worth noting was that one professor had 'responded heatedly' to a student's question. The committee also discovered that the academics in question had themselves been the target of an overt campaign of intimidation.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all this is the efforts Jewish groups have made to push Congress into establishing mechanisms to monitor what professors say. If they manage to get this passed, universities judged to have an anti-Israel bias would be denied federal funding. Their efforts have not yet succeeded, but they are an indication of the importance placed on controlling debate.

A number of Jewish philanthropists have recently established Israel Studies programmes (in addition to the roughly 130 Jewish Studies programmes already in existence) so as to increase the number of Israel-friendly scholars on campus. In May 2003, NYU announced the establishment of the Taub Center for Israel Studies; similar programmes have been set up at Berkeley, Brandeis and Emory. Academic administrators emphasise their pedagogical value, but the truth is that they are intended in large part to promote Israel's image. Fred Laffer, the head of the Taub Foundation, makes it clear that his foundation funded the NYU centre to help counter the 'Arabic [sic] point of view' that he thinks is prevalent in NYU's Middle East programmes.

No discussion of the Lobby would be complete without an examination of one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of anti-semitism. Anyone who criticises Israel's actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle Eastern policy – an influence AIPAC celebrates – stands a good chance of being labelled an anti-semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an Israel Lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-semitism, even though the Israeli media refer to America's 'Jewish Lobby'. In other words, the Lobby first boasts of its influence and then attacks anyone who calls attention to it. It's a very effective tactic: anti-semitism is something no one wants to be accused of.

Europeans have been more willing than Americans to criticise Israeli policy, which some people attribute to a resurgence of anti-semitism in Europe. We are 'getting to a point', the US ambassador to the EU said in early 2004, 'where it is as bad as it was in the 1930s'. Measuring anti-semitism is a complicated matter, but the weight of evidence points in the opposite direction. In the spring of 2004, when accusations of European anti-semitism filled the air in America, separate surveys of European public opinion conducted by the US-based Anti-Defamation League and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that it was in fact declining. In the 1930s, by contrast, anti-semitism was not only widespread among Europeans of all classes but considered quite acceptable.

The Lobby and its friends often portray France as the most anti-semitic country in Europe. But in 2003, the head of the French Jewish community said that 'France is not more anti-semitic than America.' According to a recent article in Ha'aretz, the French police have reported that anti-semitic incidents declined by almost 50 per cent in 2005; and this even though France has the largest Muslim population of any European country. Finally, when a French Jew was murdered in Paris last month by a Muslim gang, tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets to condemn anti-semitism. Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin both attended the victim's memorial service to show their solidarity.

No one would deny that there is anti-semitism among European Muslims, some of it provoked by Israel's conduct towards the Palestinians and some of it straightforwardly racist. But this is a separate matter with little bearing on whether or not Europe today is like Europe in the 1930s. Nor would anyone deny that there are still some virulent autochthonous anti-semites in Europe (as there are in the United States) but their numbers are small and their views are rejected by the vast majority of Europeans.

Israel's advocates, when pressed to go beyond mere assertion, claim that there is a 'new anti-semitism', which they equate with criticism of Israel. In other words, criticise Israeli policy and you are by definition an anti-semite. When the synod of the Church of England recently voted to divest from Caterpillar Inc on the grounds that it manufactures the bulldozers used by the Israelis to demolish Palestinian homes, the Chief Rabbi complained that this would 'have the most adverse repercussions on . . . Jewish-Christian relations in Britain', while Rabbi Tony Bayfield, the head of the Reform movement, said: 'There is a clear problem of anti-Zionist – verging on anti-semitic – attitudes emerging in the grass-roots, and even in the middle ranks of the Church.' But the Church was guilty merely of protesting against Israeli government policy.

Critics are also accused of holding Israel to an unfair standard or questioning its right to exist. But these are bogus charges too. Western critics of Israel hardly ever question its right to exist: they question its behaviour towards the Palestinians, as do Israelis themselves. Nor is Israel being judged unfairly. Israeli treatment of the Palestinians elicits criticism because it is contrary to widely accepted notions of human rights, to international law and to the principle of national self-determination. And it is hardly the only state that has faced sharp criticism on these grounds.

In the autumn of 2001, and especially in the spring of 2002, the Bush administration tried to reduce anti-American sentiment in the Arab world and undermine support for terrorist groups like al-Qaida by halting Israel's expansionist policies in the Occupied Territories and advocating the creation of a Palestinian state. Bush had very significant means of persuasion at his disposal. He could have threatened to reduce economic and diplomatic support for Israel, and the American people would almost certainly have supported him. A May 2003 poll reported that more than 60 per cent of Americans were willing to withhold aid if Israel resisted US pressure to settle the conflict, and that number rose to 70 per cent among the 'politically active'. Indeed, 73 per cent said that the United States should not favour either side.

Yet the administration failed to change Israeli policy, and Washington ended up backing it. Over time, the administration also adopted Israel's own justifications of its position, so that US rhetoric began to mimic Israeli rhetoric. By February 2003, a Washington Post headline summarised the situation: 'Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy.' The main reason for this switch was the Lobby.

The story begins in late September 2001, when Bush began urging Sharon to show restraint in the Occupied Territories. He also pressed him to allow Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres, to meet with Yasser Arafat, even though he (Bush) was highly critical of Arafat's leadership. Bush even said publicly that he supported the creation of a Palestinian state. Alarmed, Sharon accused him of trying 'to appease the Arabs at our expense', warning that Israel 'will not be Czechoslovakia'.

Bush was reportedly furious at being compared to Chamberlain, and the White House press secretary called Sharon's remarks 'unacceptable'. Sharon offered a pro forma apology, but quickly joined forces with the Lobby to persuade the administration and the American people that the United States and Israel faced a common threat from terrorism. Israeli officials and Lobby representatives insisted that there was no real difference between Arafat and Osama bin Laden: the United States and Israel, they said, should isolate the Palestinians' elected leader and have nothing to do with him.

The Lobby also went to work in Congress. On 16 November, 89 senators sent Bush a letter praising him for refusing to meet with Arafat, but also demanding that the US not restrain Israel from retaliating against the Palestinians; the administration, they wrote, must state publicly that it stood behind Israel. According to the New York Times, the letter 'stemmed' from a meeting two weeks before between 'leaders of the American Jewish community and key senators', adding that AIPAC was 'particularly active in providing advice on the letter'.

By late November, relations between Tel Aviv and Washington had improved considerably. This was thanks in part to the Lobby's efforts, but also to America's initial victory in Afghanistan, which reduced the perceived need for Arab support in dealing with al-Qaida. Sharon visited the White House in early December and had a friendly meeting with Bush.

In April 2002 trouble erupted again, after the IDF launched Operation Defensive Shield and resumed control of virtually all the major Palestinian areas on the West Bank. Bush knew that Israel's actions would damage America's image in the Islamic world and undermine the war on terrorism, so he demanded that Sharon 'halt the incursions and begin withdrawal'. He underscored this message two days later, saying he wanted Israel to 'withdraw without delay'. On 7 April, Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's national security adviser, told reporters: '"Without delay" means without delay. It means now.' That same day Colin Powell set out for the Middle East to persuade all sides to stop fighting and start negotiating.

Israel and the Lobby swung into action. Pro-Israel officials in the vice-president's office and the Pentagon, as well as neo-conservative pundits like Robert Kagan and William Kristol, put the heat on Powell. They even accused him of having 'virtually obliterated the distinction between terrorists and those fighting terrorists'. Bush himself was being pressed by Jewish leaders and Christian evangelicals. Tom DeLay and Dick Armey were especially outspoken about the need to support Israel, and DeLay and the Senate minority leader, Trent Lott, visited the White House and warned Bush to back off.

The first sign that Bush was caving in came on 11 April – a week after he told Sharon to withdraw his forces – when the White House press secretary said that the president believed Sharon was 'a man of peace'. Bush repeated this statement publicly on Powell's return from his abortive mission, and told reporters that Sharon had responded satisfactorily to his call for a full and immediate withdrawal. Sharon had done no such thing, but Bush was no longer willing to make an issue of it.

Meanwhile, Congress was also moving to back Sharon. On 2 May, it overrode the administration's objections and passed two resolutions reaffirming support for Israel. (The Senate vote was 94 to 2; the House of Representatives version passed 352 to 21.) Both resolutions held that the United States 'stands in solidarity with Israel' and that the two countries were, to quote the House resolution, 'now engaged in a common struggle against terrorism'. The House version also condemned 'the ongoing support and co-ordination of terror by Yasser Arafat', who was portrayed as a central part of the terrorism problem. Both resolutions were drawn up with the help of the Lobby. A few days later, a bipartisan congressional delegation on a fact-finding mission to Israel stated that Sharon should resist US pressure to negotiate with Arafat. On 9 May, a House appropriations subcommittee met to consider giving Israel an extra $200 million to fight terrorism. Powell opposed the package, but the Lobby backed it and Powell lost.

In short, Sharon and the Lobby took on the president of the United States and triumphed. Hemi Shalev, a journalist on the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, reported that Sharon's aides 'could not hide their satisfaction in view of Powell's failure. Sharon saw the whites of President Bush's eyes, they bragged, and the president blinked first.' But it was Israel's champions in the United States, not Sharon or Israel, that played the key role in defeating Bush.

The situation has changed little since then. The Bush administration refused ever again to have dealings with Arafat. After his death, it embraced the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, but has done little to help him. Sharon continued to develop his plan to impose a unilateral settlement on the Palestinians, based on 'disengagement' from Gaza coupled with continued expansion on the West Bank. By refusing to negotiate with Abbas and making it impossible for him to deliver tangible benefits to the Palestinian people, Sharon's strategy contributed directly to Hamas's electoral victory. With Hamas in power, however, Israel has another excuse not to negotiate. The US administration has supported Sharon's actions (and those of his successor, Ehud Olmert). Bush has even endorsed unilateral Israeli annexations in the Occupied Territories, reversing the stated policy of every president since Lyndon Johnson.

US officials have offered mild criticisms of a few Israeli actions, but have done little to help create a viable Palestinian state. Sharon has Bush 'wrapped around his little finger', the former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft said in October 2004. If Bush tries to distance the US from Israel, or even criticises Israeli actions in the Occupied Territories, he is certain to face the wrath of the Lobby and its supporters in Congress. Democratic presidential candidates understand that these are facts of life, which is the reason John Kerry went to great lengths to display unalloyed support for Israel in 2004, and why Hillary Clinton is doing the same thing today.

Maintaining US support for Israel's policies against the Palestinians is essential as far as the Lobby is concerned, but its ambitions do not stop there. It also wants America to help Israel remain the dominant regional power. The Israeli government and pro-Israel groups in the United States have worked together to shape the administration's policy towards Iraq, Syria and Iran, as well as its grand scheme for reordering the Middle East.

Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was critical. Some Americans believe that this was a war for oil, but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure. According to Philip Zelikow, a former member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, and now a counsellor to Condoleezza Rice, the 'real threat' from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The 'unstated threat' was the 'threat against Israel', Zelikow told an audience at the University of Virginia in September 2002. 'The American government,' he added, 'doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.'

On 16 August 2002, 11 days before Dick Cheney kicked off the campaign for war with a hardline speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Washington Post reported that 'Israel is urging US officials not to delay a military strike against Iraq's Saddam Hussein.' By this point, according to Sharon, strategic co-ordination between Israel and the US had reached 'unprecedented dimensions', and Israeli intelligence officials had given Washington a variety of alarming reports about Iraq's WMD programmes. As one retired Israeli general later put it, 'Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British intelligence regarding Iraq's non-conventional capabilities.'

Israeli leaders were deeply distressed when Bush decided to seek Security Council authorisation for war, and even more worried when Saddam agreed to let UN inspectors back in. 'The campaign against Saddam Hussein is a must,' Shimon Peres told reporters in September 2002. 'Inspections and inspectors are good for decent people, but dishonest people can overcome easily inspections and inspectors.'

At the same time, Ehud Barak wrote a New York Times op-ed warning that 'the greatest risk now lies in inaction.' His predecessor as prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, published a similar piece in the Wall Street Journal, entitled: 'The Case for Toppling Saddam'. 'Today nothing less than dismantling his regime will do,' he declared. 'I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of Israelis in supporting a pre-emptive strike against Saddam's regime.' Or as Ha'aretz reported in February 2003, 'the military and political leadership yearns for war in Iraq.'

As Netanyahu suggested, however, the desire for war was not confined to Israel's leaders. Apart from Kuwait, which Saddam invaded in 1990, Israel was the only country in the world where both politicians and public favoured war. As the journalist Gideon Levy observed at the time, 'Israel is the only country in the West whose leaders support the war unreservedly and where no alternative opinion is voiced.' In fact, Israelis were so gung-ho that their allies in America told them to damp down their rhetoric, or it would look as if the war would be fought on Israel's behalf.

Within the US, the main driving force behind the war was a small band of neo-conservatives, many with ties to Likud. But leaders of the Lobby's major organisations lent their voices to the campaign. 'As President Bush attempted to sell the . . . war in Iraq,' the Forward reported, 'America's most important Jewish organisations rallied as one to his defence. In statement after statement community leaders stressed the need to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction.' The editorial goes on to say that 'concern for Israel's safety rightfully factored into the deliberations of the main Jewish groups.'

Although neo-conservatives and other Lobby leaders were eager to invade Iraq, the broader American Jewish community was not. Just after the war started, Samuel Freedman reported that 'a compilation of nationwide opinion polls by the Pew Research Center shows that Jews are less supportive of the Iraq war than the population at large, 52 per cent to 62 per cent.' Clearly, it would be wrong to blame the war in Iraq on 'Jewish influence'. Rather, it was due in large part to the Lobby's influence, especially that of the neo-conservatives within it.

The neo-conservatives had been determined to topple Saddam even before Bush became president. They caused a stir early in 1998 by publishing two open letters to Clinton, calling for Saddam's removal from power. The signatories, many of whom had close ties to pro-Israel groups like JINSA or WINEP, and who included Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Bernard Lewis, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, had little trouble persuading the Clinton administration to adopt the general goal of ousting Saddam. But they were unable to sell a war to achieve that objective. They were no more able to generate enthusiasm for invading Iraq in the early months of the Bush administration. They needed help to achieve their aim. That help arrived with 9/11. Specifically, the events of that day led Bush and Cheney to reverse course and become strong proponents of a preventive war.

At a key meeting with Bush at Camp David on 15 September, Wolfowitz advocated attacking Iraq before Afghanistan, even though there was no evidence that Saddam was involved in the attacks on the US and bin Laden was known to be in Afghanistan. Bush rejected his advice and chose to go after Afghanistan instead, but war with Iraq was now regarded as a serious possibility and on 21 November the president charged military planners with developing concrete plans for an invasion.

Other neo-conservatives were meanwhile at work in the corridors of power. We don't have the full story yet, but scholars like Bernard Lewis of Princeton and Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins reportedly played important roles in persuading Cheney that war was the best option, though neo-conservatives on his staff – Eric Edelman, John Hannah and Scooter Libby, Cheney's chief of staff and one of the most powerful individuals in the administration – also played their part. By early 2002 Cheney had persuaded Bush; and with Bush and Cheney on board, war was inevitable.

Outside the administration, neo-conservative pundits lost no time in making the case that invading Iraq was essential to winning the war on terrorism. Their efforts were designed partly to keep up the pressure on Bush, and partly to overcome opposition to the war inside and outside the government. On 20 September, a group of prominent neo-conservatives and their allies published another open letter: 'Even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack,' it read, 'any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.' The letter also reminded Bush that 'Israel has been and remains America's staunchest ally against international terrorism.' In the 1 October issue of the Weekly Standard, Robert Kagan and William Kristol called for regime change in Iraq as soon as the Taliban was defeated. That same day, Charles Krauthammer argued in the Washington Post that after the US was done with Afghanistan, Syria should be next, followed by Iran and Iraq: 'The war on terrorism will conclude in Baghdad,' when we finish off 'the most dangerous terrorist regime in the world'.

This was the beginning of an unrelenting public relations campaign to win support for an invasion of Iraq, a crucial part of which was the manipulation of intelligence in such a way as to make it seem as if Saddam posed an imminent threat. For example, Libby pressured CIA analysts to find evidence supporting the case for war and helped prepare Colin Powell's now discredited briefing to the UN Security Council. Within the Pentagon, the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group was charged with finding links between al-Qaida and Iraq that the intelligence community had supposedly missed. Its two key members were David Wurmser, a hard-core neo-conservative, and Michael Maloof, a Lebanese-American with close ties to Perle. Another Pentagon group, the so-called Office of Special Plans, was given the task of uncovering evidence that could be used to sell the war. It was headed by Abram Shulsky, a neo-conservative with long-standing ties to Wolfowitz, and its ranks included recruits from pro-Israel think tanks. Both these organisations were created after 9/11 and reported directly to Douglas Feith.

Like virtually all the neo-conservatives, Feith is deeply committed to Israel; he also has long-term ties to Likud. He wrote articles in the 1990s supporting the settlements and arguing that Israel should retain the Occupied Territories. More important, along with Perle and Wurmser, he wrote the famous 'Clean Break' report in June 1996 for Netanyahu, who had just become prime minister. Among other things, it recommended that Netanyahu 'focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right'. It also called for Israel to take steps to reorder the entire Middle East. Netanyahu did not follow their advice, but Feith, Perle and Wurmser were soon urging the Bush administration to pursue those same goals. The Ha'aretz columnist Akiva Eldar warned that Feith and Perle 'are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments . . . and Israeli interests'.

Wolfowitz is equally committed to Israel. The Forward once described him as 'the most hawkishly pro-Israel voice in the administration', and selected him in 2002 as first among 50 notables who 'have consciously pursued Jewish activism'. At about the same time, JINSA gave Wolfowitz its Henry M. Jackson Distinguished Service Award for promoting a strong partnership between Israel and the United States; and the Jerusalem Post, describing him as 'devoutly pro-Israel', named him 'Man of the Year' in 2003.

Finally, a brief word is in order about the neo-conservatives' prewar support of Ahmed Chalabi, the unscrupulous Iraqi exile who headed the Iraqi National Congress. They backed Chalabi because he had established close ties with Jewish-American groups and had pledged to foster good relations with Israel once he gained power. This was precisely what pro-Israel proponents of regime change wanted to hear. Matthew Berger laid out the essence of the bargain in the Jewish Journal: 'The INC saw improved relations as a way to tap Jewish influence in Washington and Jerusalem and to drum up increased support for its cause. For their part, the Jewish groups saw an opportunity to pave the way for better relations between Israel and Iraq, if and when the INC is involved in replacing Saddam Hussein's regime.'

Given the neo-conservatives' devotion to Israel, their obsession with Iraq, and their influence in the Bush administration, it isn't surprising that many Americans suspected that the war was designed to further Israeli interests. Last March, Barry Jacobs of the American Jewish Committee acknowledged that the belief that Israel and the neo-conservatives had conspired to get the US into a war in Iraq was 'pervasive' in the intelligence community. Yet few people would say so publicly, and most of those who did – including Senator Ernest Hollings and Representative James Moran – were condemned for raising the issue. Michael Kinsley wrote in late 2002 that 'the lack of public discussion about the role of Israel . . . is the proverbial elephant in the room.' The reason for the reluctance to talk about it, he observed, was fear of being labelled an anti-semite. There is little doubt that Israel and the Lobby were key factors in the decision to go to war. It's a decision the US would have been far less likely to take without their efforts. And the war itself was intended to be only the first step. A front-page headline in the Wall Street Journal shortly after the war began says it all: 'President's Dream: Changing Not Just Regime but a Region: A Pro-US, Democratic Area Is a Goal that Has Israeli and Neo-Conservative Roots.'

Pro-Israel forces have long been interested in getting the US military more directly involved in the Middle East. But they had limited success during the Cold War, because America acted as an 'off-shore balancer' in the region. Most forces designated for the Middle East, like the Rapid Deployment Force, were kept 'over the horizon' and out of harm's way. The idea was to play local powers off against each other – which is why the Reagan administration supported Saddam against revolutionary Iran during the Iran-Iraq War – in order to maintain a balance favourable to the US.

This policy changed after the first Gulf War, when the Clinton administration adopted a strategy of 'dual containment'. Substantial US forces would be stationed in the region in order to contain both Iran and Iraq, instead of one being used to check the other. The father of dual containment was none other than Martin Indyk, who first outlined the strategy in May 1993 at WINEP and then implemented it as director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.

By the mid-1990s there was considerable dissatisfaction with dual containment, because it made the United States the mortal enemy of two countries that hated each other, and forced Washington to bear the burden of containing both. But it was a strategy the Lobby favoured and worked actively in Congress to preserve. Pressed by AIPAC and other pro-Israel forces, Clinton toughened up the policy in the spring of 1995 by imposing an economic embargo on Iran. But AIPAC and the others wanted more. The result was the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, which imposed sanctions on any foreign companies investing more than $40 million to develop petroleum resources in Iran or Libya. As Ze'ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha'aretz, noted at the time, 'Israel is but a tiny element in the big scheme, but one should not conclude that it cannot influence those within the Beltway.'

By the late 1990s, however, the neo-conservatives were arguing that dual containment wa

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Jimmy Carter sez: It's not too late for lasting peace in the Middle East

By Jimmy Carter
The Guardian
20 Mar 06

For more than a quarter of a century, Israeli policy has been in conflict with that of the US and the international community. Israel's occupation of Palestine has obstructed a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land - regardless of whether Palestinians had no formal government, one headed by Yasser Arafat, or one with Mahmoud Abbas as president and Hamas controlling the parliament and the cabinet.
The unwavering US position since Dwight Eisenhower's administration has been that Israel's borders coincide with those established in 1949, and, since 1967, the universally adopted UN resolution 242 has mandated Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories. As part of the Quartet, including Russia, the UN and the EU, George Bush has endorsed a "road map" for peace. But Israel has officially rejected its basic premises.

With Israel's approval, the Carter Centre has monitored all three Palestinian elections. They have all been honest and peaceful, with the results accepted by winners and losers. Hamas will control the cabinet and prime minister's office, but Abbas retains all authority exercised by Arafat. Abbas still heads the PLO, the only Palestinian entity recognised by Israel. He has unequivocally endorsed the Quartet's road map. Post-election polls show that 80% of Palestinians still want a peace agreement with Israel and nearly 70% support Abbas as president.

Israel has announced a policy of destabilising the new government (perhaps joined by the US). The elected officials will be denied travel permits, and every effort is being made to block funds to Palestinians. In the short run, the best approach is to give the dust a chance to settle and await the outcome of Israel's election this month. Hamas now wishes to consolidate its political gains, maintain domestic order and stability, and refrain from contacts with Israel. It will be a tragedy if it promotes or condones terrorism.

The pre-eminent obstacle to peace is Israel's colonisation of Palestine. There were just a few hundred settlers in the West Bank and Gaza when I became president, but the Likud government expanded settlement activity after I left office. Although President Bill Clinton made strong efforts to promote peace, a massive increase of settlers occurred during his administration, to 225,000 [not including East Jerusalem], mostly while Ehud Barak was prime minister. Their best official offer to the Palestinians was to withdraw 20% of them, leaving 180,000 in 209 settlements, covering about 5% of the occupied land.

The 5% figure is grossly misleading, with surrounding areas earmarked for expansion, roadways joining settlements with each other and to Jerusalem, and wide arterial swaths providing water, sewerage, electricity and communications. This intricate honeycomb divides the West Bank into fragments, often uninhabitable or even unreachable.

Recently, Israeli leaders have decided on unilateral actions without involving either the US or the Palestinians, with withdrawal from Gaza as the first step. As presently isolated, without access to the air, sea, or the West Bank, Gaza is a non-viable economic and political entity. The future of the West Bank is equally dismal. Especially troublesome is Israel's construction of huge concrete dividing walls in populated areas and high fences in rural areas. The wall is designed to surround a truncated Palestine completely.

This will never be acceptable either to Palestinians or to the international community, and will inevitably precipitate increased tension within Palestine and stronger resentment from the Arab world against America, which will be held accountable for the plight of the Palestinians.

The acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and others pointed out years ago that Israel's permanent occupation will be increasingly difficult as the relative number of Jewish citizens decreases demographically both within Israel and in Palestine. This is obvious to most Israelis, who also view this dominant role as a distortion of their ancient moral and religious values. Over the years, opinion polls have consistently shown that about 60% of Israelis favour withdrawing from the West Bank in exchange for permanent peace.

Casualties have increased during the past few years as the occupying forces imposed tighter controls. From September 2000 until March 2006, 3,982 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis were killed in the conflict, and this includes many children: 708 Palestinian and 123 Israeli.

There is little doubt that accommodation with Palestinians can bring full Arab recognition of Israel and its right to live in peace. Any rejectionist policies of Hamas or any terrorist group will be overcome by an Arab commitment to restrain further violence and to promote the wellbeing of the Palestinian people.

Down through the years, I have seen despair evolve into optimism. Even now, we need not give up hope for permanent peace for Israelis and freedom for Palestinians if three basic premises are honoured:

1. Israel's right to exist - and to live in peace - must be recognised and accepted by Palestinians and all other neighbours.

2. The killing of innocent people by suicide bombs or other acts of violence cannot be condoned.

3. Palestinians must live in peace and dignity, and permanent Israeli settlements on their land are a major obstacle to this goal.

© Project Syndicate and The Council on Foreign Relations, 2006

· The former US president Jimmy Carter led the Carter Centre/National Democratic Institute observation of the Palestinian elections in January

Comment: A better idea is for Palestine to be given their stolen country back and to then decide if they want to accept the Israeli refugees from WW II IF there is room for them...

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Palestinians losers in Mideast water war - Israel Monopolizes 75% of Palestinian Water

Agence France Presse
19 Mar 06

NAZLET ISA, West Bank - Israel's vast separation barrier slices Nazlet Isa off from one of the richest water sources in the arid northern West Bank where the fight for water is a fight for survival.

Israel is believed to monopolise around 75 percent of Palestinian water resources in a region where rainfall is infrequent and water a strategic asset.
In the agriculture-dependent Palestinian territories, hemmed in by Jewish settlements, the lack of resources causes havoc for farmers, while pollution and inadequate waste disposal create manifold sanitation and health problems.

In the northern West Bank town of Nazlet Isa, giant concrete slabs 10 metres (33 feet) high -- lambasted as an apartheid wall by the Palestinians -- have left six homes stranded on the Israeli side along with the rich underground aquifer.

A special system of pipes to access the water was finally built with Israeli permission but immediate access and control has passed into other hands.

"The route of the wall matches that of water resources, the latter being conveniently located on the Israeli side," said Elisabeth Sime, director of aid organisation CARE International, in the
Gaza Strip and West Bank.

The Palestinians are adamant that the wall -- which they see anyway as a land grab designed to delimit the borders of their promised future state -- was built deliberately to siphon off the aquifer.

Israel says it was built for security reasons to prevent suicide bombers infiltrating Israel or Jewish settlements.

"With the wall, the Israelis clearly sought to commandeer water resources," charges Hind Khury, a former Palestinian cabinet minister responsible for Jerusalem and now the government's representative in Paris.

"Without water, there is no life. Israeli policy has always been to push Palestinians into the desert," he added.

Abdul Rahman Tamimi, director of the non-governmental Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG), said the coincidence of the route of the wall with the layout of the region's aquifers was no accident.

"The wall cuts some communities off from their only source of water, prevents tanker trucks from getting around and puts up prices," he said.

In Qalqilya, in the northern West Bank, around 20 wells, or 30 percent of the town's resources, were lost because of the wall, Tamimi says.

While agriculture accounts for nearly a third of Palestinian gross domestic product, only five percent of Palestinian land is irrigated.

On the other hand, 70 percent of Israeli and Jewish settlement land is watered, even if agriculture amounts to barely two percent of Israeli

"The fact that Israel confiscates and overexploits water affects every sector of Palestinian economic life and causes problems for the chances of development in the region and therefore chances of peace," Tamimi said.

More than 220 communities in the West Bank -- around 320,000 people -- are unconnected to mains water.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are therefore forced to buy water from trucks -- an expense many can ill afford -- to supplement local supplies that often fall woefully short of requirements.

One such consumer is weather-beaten 76-year-old Nazmi Abdul Ghani. Clutching clumps of soil and turning to the heavens, the grandfather of 100 is desperate. "I can't go on like this. My land is parched and I'm ruined."

One of the doyens of the northern West Bank village of Saida, he uses expensive water tankers to irrigate his tomatoes, onions and potatoes.

"The Israelis stole our land and took our water," he rages.

In the small town of Attil, at least a third of the local drinking water is contaminated by sewage and pesticides. Nine-year-old Fatima, her eyes misted with fever, routinely falls sick.

Waste and faeces from neighbouring houses run down the hill and seep through the floors and walls of Fatima's home. They slowly eat away at its foundations and emit a hideous stench.

"I often get stomach ache. I throw up. It's the same for all the children here," she says looking feverishly at her mother Awa.

Doctor Hossam Madi says diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, fever, kidney failure, infection and dermatological problems blight most Palestinian children and persist into adulthood because of poor water supplies.

"The quality of water is getting worse and worse," said CARE's Sime.

"A high proportion of new-born babies die of water-born infections. In the long run, Israelis will be affected by the pollution of water in the Palestinian territories."

In villages such as Jalbun, household, agricultural and industrial waste from Israeli settlements speed up the process of water pollution.

Tamimi accuses some Israeli businessmen and settlers of dumping toxic waste on Palestinian land in an act of "environmental terrorism".

Water supply problems faced by Palestinians are unfortunately typical of those hoping to be dealt with at the World Water Forum, which opened in Mexico City on Thursday.

The March 16-22 forum hopes to help shape global strategy to improve distribution and eradicate waste of the precious resource that increasingly leads to conflict.

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Food runs low in Gaza after Israel closes key crossing

The Scotsman
20 Mar 06

A "PUNITIVE" shortage of basic foodstuffs in Gaza overshadowed a meeting last night in which the Hamas movement was due to present its cabinet list to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president.

Bread supplies in Gaza were running out yesterday because of Israel's closure of the Karni crossing, through which imports and exports flow to and from the crowded coastal enclave, according to UN officials and Gaza residents. Israel said the closure was due to security reasons.

Sugar and oil were also reported to be in short supply.

Palestinians claim the closure for a total of 46 days this year - more than three times as many as last year - is a "collective punishment" following Hamas's victory in the January legislative elections.
There were reports last night that the United States had brokered an arrangement whereby emergency relief supplies would flow into Gaza from Egypt.

Israel has offered that Palestinians use an alternative crossing, at Kerem Shalom, to bring in supplies.

But the Palestinians say agreeing to that would mean allowing Israel to nullify a signed agreement brokered by Washington specifying that Karni is the transit point for goods to and from Israel.

That, they say, would set a precedent for the cancellation of other signed agreements as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan.

Mr Abbas said before a meeting last night with Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister designate, that he expected the legislative council to convene soon for a vote of confidence in the cabinet, comprised entirely of Hamas members.

Aides to Mr Abbas said he would not reject the cabinet.

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Baruch Marzel: IDF must assassinate left-wing activist Uri Avnery

By Nadav Shragai
Haaretz Correspondent
21 Mar 06

National Jewish Front leader Baruch Marzel, now campaigning for the March 28 Knesset election, said Monday the leaders of the Kadima party are "traitors" and "criminals" and called on the Israel Defense Forces to assassinate the far-left leader of the Gush Shalom movement Uri Avnery.
Speaking Monday in Jerusalem and Ramle, Marzel said left-wing activists are bringing destruction upon themselves and said they sometimes harm the interests of Israel no less than do the country's external enemies.

In response to comments by Avnery calling the 2001 assassination of cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi a Palestinian "targeted killing" - a term generally reserved for IDF strikes on terror leaders - Marzel said the IDF needs to target Avnery.

Marzel also said, "Traitors sit in Kadima. They betrayed their own principles, Judaism and Zionism."

On Monday evening, Peace Now called on Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to examine Marzel's statements for suspected illegal incitement.

"Marzel forgot that he receives immunity only if and when he is voted into the Knesset - not before. Marzel is doing everything he can to make headlines and to shock people," Peace Now said.

In addition to attacking his political opponents, Marzel also launched an offensive against Israel's legal system and system of rule.

"Israel is ruled by the junta. In the army, in the courts and in government there joint thinking, joint voting and joint decision making," Marzel said. He said the state prosecution and the High Court of Justice make decisions that cause "Jewish bloodshed." He also said that "if polling stations were placed in the Supreme Court, it is reasonable to assume that a coalition of MK Ahmed Tibi and Meretz would win."

The far-right extremist also expressed anger at attacks by National Union and the National Religious Party that he said increase the chances he won't obtain the minimum number of votes to allow him to enter the Knesset.

Marzel maintained Tuesday that polls conducted on behalf of his party indicate the National Jewish Front would secure five seats in the coming election.

Non-partisan polls predict Marzel's party won't receive any seats.

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"To Hell With All of You"- The Power of Saying No

20 Mar 06

As the new Hamas government is sworn into power in the Palestinian Authority, we might ask: What would bring a people, the most secular of Arab populations with little history of religious fundamentalism, to vote Hamas? Mere protest at Fatah ineffectualness in negotiations and internal corruption doesn't go far enough. While warning Hamas that their vote did not constitute a mandate for imposing an Iran-like theocracy on Palestine, the Palestinians took the only option left to a powerless people when all other avenues of redress have been closed to them: non-cooperation.
Gandhi put it best: "How can one be compelled to accept slavery? I simply refuse to do the master's bidding. He may torture me, break my bones to atoms and even kill me. He will then have my dead body, not my obedience. Ultimately, therefore, it is I who am the victor and not he, for he has failed in getting me to do what he wanted done. Non-cooperation is directed not againstthe Governors, but against the system they administer. The roots of non-cooperation lie not in hatred but in justice."

Non-cooperation, perhaps the most powerful means of non-violent resistance, arises in situations when the oppressed have no other avenues to achieve their freedom and their rights. Since it is the international community, the US, Israel and, yes, Fatah, who have closed all avenues of redress to the Palestinians, they carry the "blame" for the rise of Hamas. It is to them that the message of the Palestinian electorate is aimed: "To hell with all of you!"

To hell with the international community that closed off Palestinians' appeal to international law and human rights conventions. Had only the Fourth Geneva Convention been applied, Israel could never have constructed its Occupation in the first place. International law defines an occupation as a temporary military situation that can only be resolved through negotiations. Therefore an Occupying Power such as Israel is prohibited from taking any unilateral action that makes its control permanent. Besides its military bases, every single element of Israel's Occupation is patently illegal: settlements and the construction of a massive system of Israel-only highways that link the West Bank settlements to Israel proper; the extension of Israel's legal and planning system into occupied Palestinian areas; the plunder of Palestinian water and other resources for Israeli use; house demolitions and the expropriation of Palestinian lands; the intentional impoverishment of the local population; military attacks on civilian populations -- to name but a few. Even when Israel's construction of the "Separation Barrier" was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in the Hague and its ruling ratified by the General Assembly, nothing was done to stop it.

To hell with the United States that closed off negotiations as an avenue for redressing Palestinian rights and for enabling Israel to make its Occupation permanent. At the very start of the Oslo "peace process," at Israel's urging, the US reclassified the Palestinian areas from "occupied" to "disputed," thus removing international law as the basis of negotiations and pulling the rug out from under the Palestinians. Had international law been respected, the Occupation would have ended under the weight of its own illegality. But once power became the only basis of negotiations, Israel easily overwhelmed the Palestinians. Until today Palestinians have nothing to look for in negotiations. With the Americans supporting Israeli unilateralism, with the US veto neutralizing the UN as an effective avenue of redress, and with European passivity, they have been cut adrift.

To hell with Israel that has closed off even the possibility of a viable Palestinian state by expanding into Palestinian areas. The world ignored the Palestinians' "generous offer" to Israel: recognition within the 1967 borders in return for a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories. Or in other words, an Israel on 78% of historic Palestine with the Palestinians--today a majority in the country--accepting a state only on 22%. Israel is now posed, with American support and international complicity, to make its Occupation permanent and reduce the Palestinians to a prison-state truncated into five "cantons" all controlled by Israel. No borders, no freedom of movement, no water, no viable economy, no Jerusalem, no possibility of offering a hopeful future to the traumatized, brutalized, undereducated, unskilled, impoverished Palestinian youth.

And to hell with Fatah that, in addition to enabling corruption, did not effectively pursue the Palestinians' national agenda of self-determination. The Palestinian Authority ran its affairs removed from the people, failing to provide material and moral support to victims of Israeli attacks and policies of house demolitions. Most Palestinians did not vote Hamas (only 44% did), so the door was not closed on Fatah which, most Palestinians seem to hope, will learn its lesson from this setback.

Indeed, the vote for Hamas was not a closing of the door at all, but a rational, intentional and powerful statement of non-cooperation in a political process that is only leading to Palestinian imprisonment. Hamas, if anything, stands for steadfastness, sumud, the refusal to submit. This conflict is too destabilizing to the entire global system to let fester, the Palestinians are saying. You can all impose upon us an apartheid system, blame us for the violence while ignoring Israeli State Terror, pursue your programs of American Empire or your notions of a "clash of civilizations," we the Palestinians will not submit. We will not cooperate. We will not play your rigged game. In the end, for all your power, you will come to us to sue for peace. And then we will be ready for a just peace that respects the rights of all the peoples of the region, including the Israelis. But you will not beat us.

As an Israeli Jew who sees how the Occupation has eroded the moral foundations of my society and, indeed, my entire people, and as a resident of Israel-Palestine who knows that my fate is intricately intertwined with that of the Palestinians, I pray that such an end will come sooner rather than later.

Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at jeff@icahd.org.

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War Drums

War Pimping: Iran set to step up enrichment

From correspondents in Vienna
March 21, 2006

IRAN is about to run a 164-centrifuge cascade to enrich uranium, a step that would increase urgency for UN action on Teheran's nuclear program, diplomats said.
"Iran is on the verge of operating a 164-centrifuge cascade with UF6 (uranium hexafluoride gas)," a Western diplomat said, referring to machines arrayed in series, known as cascades, used to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors or material for the explosive core of an atom bomb.

A second diplomat - who, as others, asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue - said Iran was set to go ahead with the cascade work and was doing some last-minute "piping connections".

Iran in mid-February reversed its earlier suspension of enrichment work by putting the feedstock UF6 gas into single centrifuges at a facility in Natanz and has moved on to running a 10-centrifuge and now a 20-centrifuge cascade.

The next step would be a 164-centrifuge cascade, a research-level operation to learn about techniques used in running thousands of centrifuges.

The first diplomat said Iran's rapid progress in uranium enrichment might come up when the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany meet in New York today.

The 15-member council is considering issuing a statement calling on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment over fears the Islamic Republic is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

The diplomat said Iran's move towards operating its 164-centrifuge cascade was "further evidence of the need for urgent UN Security Council action".

"Iran is making faster progress at Natanz than expected," the diplomat said.

Iran is seeking to run more than 50,000 centrifuges in Natanz, an operation that could potentially produce enough highly enriched uranium for up to a dozen atom bombs a year.

A third diplomat said Iran could run the 164-cascade "whenever they want", adding: "Don't underestimate the Iranians."

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Iran: Time To Leak - Where are the whistleblowers about Iran?

Katharine Gun
March 20, 2006

It is exactly three years since the United States and Great Britain invaded Iraq, and a little over three years since Martin Bright and his colleagues at the London Observer quietly tested the veracity of an e-mail passed to them anonymously, whilst I nervously waited to see if the e-mail I leaked would appear in a newspaper. All this for the purpose of slowing down, if not derailing, a war that many felt was being rushed into by gung-ho politicians Bush and Blair.
Looking back, we have an ever-clearer picture of what was going on behind the scenes. Since my leak, there have been more; all because civil servants are disgusted by the manipulation of truth, even outright lies.

Yet, here we are, three years on, with all the knowledge we have about the lack of WMD in Iraq, about the intent on regime change all along, about the lives destroyed, the untold misery of thousands, the renditions, torture, secret prisons and beatings-and still we remain silent about U.S. intentions toward Iran.

Do we believe that the Bush administration is too bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan to dare go anywhere near Iran? Or do we just not care about the mini-nukes, so called low-yield, ground-penetrating nuclear bombs that Bush and his advisers are ready to unleash on its next Middle East target? Even if Bush does not declare all-out war on Iran, the bombing of key installations, with or without a nuclear payload, is an act of aggression and threatens to plunge an already angered and turbulent Middle East into further chaos.

Iran may be saber-rattling, it may even have an extremist government, but so does North Korea, yet we choose the diplomatic route with them always. Of course, North Korea doesn't have that precious commodity, oil. Iran is surrounded by nuclear powers, no wonder she twitches nervously. Little mention is made of India, Pakistan, China or Israel; these countries can arm themselves to the hilt, but it is absolutely out of the question for Iran to possess sources of nuclear energy, let alone means to defend herself.

We must face facts; nuclear nonproliferation as a practical solution is defunct and useless. A blind eye is turned to those we call friends, whilst our foes face the threat of war. A true solution would be gradual decommissioning of all nuclear weapons globally-so why is that never advocated by the leaders of our "peace-loving" nations? How ironic is it that the solution to Iran's nuclear ambition is the threat of nuclear weapons? Since when did two wrongs make a right?

Truth telling and whistle blowing are crucial after a war as ill advised as Iraq-at least it allows us to piece together the facts-but it's too late to save lives. Where are the memos and emails about Iran now?

I urge those in a position to do so to disclose information which relates to this planned aggression; legal advice, meetings between the White House and other intelligence agencies, assessments of Iran's threat level (or better yet, evidence that assessments have been altered), troop deployments and army notifications. Don't let "the intelligence and the facts be fixed around the policy " this time.

Such government activities are not paper-free endeavors. It is not unreasonable speculation to assume that documents are being drafted now or already exist. As the political momentum builds towards a military "solution," it would be wrong to wait until bombs have fallen on Iran and families destroyed before finally informing the public.

I was asked recently about how I chose between the public interest and the national interest when I made my disclosure. I believe there was no choice, because in essence, the two are the same.

The Iraq war has cost the United States and Great Britain dearly, in both financial and human terms. It has cost us credibility around the world. Not only does the majority of world opinion believe the invasion of Iraq was illegal; it also sees us, through the medium of video footage, acting aggressively and cruelly during the occupation of Iraq.

Surely, avoiding all of the above would have been in the public and national interest. As Vietnam War whistleblower Dan Ellsberg said, "Like so many others, I put personal loyalty to the president above all else-above loyalty to the Constitution and above obligation to the law, to truth, to Americans, and to humankind. I was wrong." Don't put your loyalty above truth and the law; help us avoid this unnecessary evil.

Five years into the 21st century and there has been little but conflict and destruction. Is this how we envisaged the new millennium? Is this the future we want for our children, one of fear and conflict? It is time to turn the course of events and start building a new consensus, a consensus of peace and dialogue, of truth and understanding. We cannot and must not rely on others to speak truth to power.

There are many brave and honest individuals working for the U.S. and U.K. governments. This message is directed to you. Look at the enormous deficit your government has created, the billions of dollars used to dominate countries in the Middle East-would this money not have been better spent on education, health, communities and the environment? I urge you to contact the National Security Whistleblowers Association in the United States or other alternative media organizations such as TomPaine.com. Know that you are not alone.

Katharine Gun was a translator at the Britain's communications spy agency, General Communications Headquarters. In 2002, she leaked a top-secret memo to a British newspaper, revealing the U.S. was spying on U.N. Security Council members before their vote on the Iraq war.

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FBI weaving web in Pak to launch attack on Iran

Pak Tribune
March 19, 2006

ISLAMABAD: In order to accomplish its evil designs against Iran United States of America has established Federal Bureau of Intelligence office in Pakistan.

FBI is working in Islamabad for last one and half year. The FBI agents are working as Finger Print Staff at Inspector General of Police Islamabad Office under the guise of Immigration Wing, Weekly Pulse reports.
Interior Ministry has given proper permission to FBI agents and it has been disclosed in some circles that a Finger Print department has been set up under the supervision of National Police Bureau at IG Office.

If one looks at emerging political scenarios US who wants to attack Iran under the guise of Tehran's uranium enrichment program, these FBI agents will be used against Iran and for the time being they have been given the task to keep an eye on all such organizations and people who are working for Iranian interests in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sources have also confided to the said scribe that US authorities also think that people who want to travel to US on forged identity might be terrorists therefore FBI Immigration Wing thoroughly investigate all such people who want to travel to US whether legally or illegally.

The US intelligence agencies have also launched a Satellite system to transfer all gathered information from Pakistan to US in wink of an eye. Whereas these agents have also been assigned another task and that is to keep a vigil on the activities of Chinese embassy.

US, which used the incident of 9/11 for its advantage as it not only romped the Islamic states of Afghanistan and Iraq and killed hundreds and thousands of innocent people under the hollow and so called slogan of war against terrorism and to restore its imposed democracy in both states.

The establishment of FBI network by US at Pakistani soil for accomplishing its nefarious designs against China and Iran also helped Washington to label Pakistan as a "den of terrorists".

When Inspector General of Police Iftikhar Ahmed Chaudhry was contacted and asked about the FBI agents and their proper office, he said there are no FBI agents at his office and only a finger print wing has been established there, which is working under National Police Bureau.

We have no idea and knowledge about FBI activities, he concluded.

When Pulse Contacted Mr Shoaib Suddhal, Chairman National Police Bureau to get his view on the FBI office in IG Office, he said in 2003 Pakistan signed an agreement with US to set up a state of the art finger prints department in the country. Initially US provided Rs 10 million and latest equipment and we have received all these things. The wing is working efficiently and has helped a lot in investigations, he added.

Mr Suddhal said that the department will be made digital from next year.

He also said that digital finger prints departments will be established throughout the country initially these centers will be set up at provincial headquarters and later these will be established at district headquarter level.

He also said that entire network will be made Online and the entire finger print record will be available Online at federal level. The entire system will be established with an estimated cost of 1.5 billion rupees. The new system, he said has improved the surveillance and investigation from suspects.

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Who is the rogue state really?

By Asghar Bishbareh
Information Clearing House
20 Mar 06

A brief history of Iran since 16th century
Iran is one of the few countries in the world that has never become a colony of any of the imperialist powers. However, during the reign of Kajar dynasty from 1795 to 1925, Iran plunged into a deep cri-sis, and to some extent, colonial powers dominated Iran both economically and politically thanks to inept and corrupt monarchs.
In 1514, Ottoman Turks invaded Azerbaijan (northwest provinces of Iran) and by the treaty of Chaldran occupying some of the area until Nadir Shah expelled them in 18th century. In 1801, Rus-sians annexed Georgia. By the treaties of Gulistan (1813) and Turkomanchai (1828), Russia deprived Iran of its Caucasian provinces, including the territory north of the Aras River, together with a strip of land along the Caspian Sea that is now part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Russian expansion into Central Asia continued, and finally, by the conquest of Transcaspia in 1884, Iran lost Bukhara, Khiva, and Merv.

In 1920, the Soviet Union invaded Gilan, the coastal province on the west of the Caspian Sea, and set up an independent pro Russian state. During the World War II, (1941) although Iran had stayed neutral, allied forces led by the British and the former Soviet Union) attacked Iran occupying the southern and northern provinces respectively. Subsequently, British removed Reza Shah, the foun-der of the Pahlavi dynasty from power and replaced him with his son, Mohammed Reza Shah.

In 1953, the U.S.'s CIA and UK's MI-6 staged the military coup and toppled Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mossadegh's government, which by any Western standards was much more democratic than that of Americans under the Bush -Cheney administration. In fact, the anti-American revolution of 1979 was the direct consequences of US's policy of regime change in Iran in which US brought down the democratic government and restored the absolute monarchy.

In spite of that, Bush-Cheney administration frantically pursuing the policy of regime change advocated by Israel, who has been exerting intense pressure through its U.S. supporters to launch war of aggression against Iran under the false justification of Iran's nuclear weapons program.

In 1980, the US and England in conjunction with their supinely obedient rulers, kings, emirs, and sheiks in the Persian Gulf encouraged Saddam to invade Iran, financed Iraq's war machine, and supplied Saddam with technical, logistics, intelligence, chemical and biological weapons.

To safeguard the great nation's territorial integrity and its sovereignty, Iran had no choice but to rebuild and modernize its defense forces. Despite its military might in the region and the geostrate-gic importance of Iran in the world, which stretches from Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, Iran has always played by the rule and abided by the international law and has never attempted to exploit or impose its will on the neighboring countries or any other sovereign nations for two centuries.

Iran even stayed away from reclaiming its lost territories, which was historically and legally part of the Persian Empire. For example, Bahrain Island is an archipelago consisting of about thirty-three islands situated midway in the Persian Gulf with historical connections to Iran. In the year 1521, the Portuguese colonial forces swept into the island ferociously beheading its king, and ruled the island up until 1602.

During the Safavids dynasty, in 1603, the Portuguese were expelled from the Persian Gulf, including Bahrain by the Iranians naval forces. As a part of Persian Empire, since then the island adminis-tered and governed by the Iranians until 1783, and subsequently, the island occupied and run by the British until 1971. Before the British's withdrawal from the Persian Gulf in 1971, Iranian parlia-ment in November 1957 unanimously passed a legislation decreeing Bahrain, as the 14th Province of Iran. However, because of the peaceful and non-confrontational manners of Iranians in nature, the issue was referred to the UN for peaceful solution.

The UN held a referendum in the island for independence or reunification with Iran. Since the out-come of the referendum favored independence, Iran accepted the outcome immediately. As a result, the UN decided to allow the Bahrainis to form an independent state. Based on the UN decision and backed by Iran, Bahrain, with 70% of Shiite population declared its independence on August 15, 1971.

Ironically, the same very island is now turned out to be a launching pad for the US Fifth Fleet Head-quarters. From whence they break into the neighboring countries terrorizing and attacking the sov-ereign nations based on the fabrication of lies and deceptions in order to steal their natural re-sources, which is the reminiscent of Hulagu Khan's Mongol forces in Baghada and Kublai Khan's armada in the Mediterranean Sea.

Even though British ended its physical presence in the Persian Gulf's sheikhdoms, its influence re-mained strong in the region. Nonetheless, right after the former protector's withdrawals, US took over the region and became the new protector of the states. In 1981, six Persian Gulf Arab states, which are comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emir-ates, created the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf (CCG), formerly named Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).

Qatar is the largest staging post for the U.S. imperial forces in the region, and became the Central Command Headquarters for the US military aggressions against the entire Middle East, and from whence they have already invaded two sovereign nations namely Afghanistan and Iraq based on the hit list, that Israeli mentor had handed Bush even before 9/11. It appears that, the hit list also in-cludes Iran and Syria for Bush-Blair future adventures.

In the recent meeting, the GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Bin Hamad Al Attiyah hypocriti-cally expressed his concern over Iran's civilian nuclear program and declaring that it posed what he called a threat to member countries of the GCC, U.S., and NATO. This statement emanating from a council that has provided the colonial powers and foreign aggressors with the launching pad in their soils to destroy and occupy their Arab brothers homeland in Iraq in the past three years, and now, allowing foreign invaders to do the same to Iran.

UAE, which is another member of the GCC, who obtained the rights to self-governance from England just in 1971 (35 years ago), misleadingly, repeated his claims over the three Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf. Since they have never been masters of their own destinies in the past, therefore, it fol-lows that their foreign protectors need new bases in the region for possible unprovoked confrontation with Iran or as a part of their psychological warfare against Iran designed to destabilize the region. Moreover, in order to create tension in the region, US and England encouraging the states of the GCC to use a bogus name for the "Persian Gulf", which is the only common and internationally recognized term that accepted by the UN.

Election Process in Iran and the US & a tale of the two presidents
Had not been for the Supreme Court (his daddy's old friends') decision in Florida 2000 campaign, Bush would not be able to assume his dictatorial powers by rigging the 2004 election in Ohio in which, thousands of black voters were disfranchised, and foreign observers were barred from over-seeing the election process.

Ahmadinejad and Bush speak for the two different constituencies. While the neocons' cabal has backed Bush's rise to power to represent the corporations like Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, and Halliburton, on the contrary, working class, unemployed, the rural, urban, and religious poor voted for Dr. Ahmadinejad.

During the eight-year imposed war of Iraq against Iran, Ahmadinejad, the new president of Iran served voluntarily deep inside the enemy's territory. On the other hand, during the patriotic Viet-nam War, George W. Bush, joined the near home Champaign division of National Guards in Texas architected by his daddy and went AWOL for an entire year to escape the war. Furthermore, at the defining moment and at the time of needs, the self declared war president, along with his VP, Che-ney, who is the real president did not raise up from their nuclear proof bunkers for couple of days. 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina events were the examples.

Bush's media trying to portray Ahmadinejad as an absolute dictator, while in fact, he does not enjoy the same power as George W. Bush does. Ahmadinejad is not even the commander-in-chief. Meaning that he cannot declare war, and unlike the US weak Congress who made Bush an emperor by giving him carte blanche, the real power in Iran rests with the parliament (Majlis), the parliament that in the past, impeached one president and many cabinet ministers of governments.

Even Senator, Hillary Clinton, who has backed Iraqi invasion and now supporting Bush policy of confrontation with Iran, recently, said that Bush treated the Senate like a plantation. The strange thing is that the failure in Iraq is now apparent to a large majority of American people, yet the Con-gress is acquiescing to Bush's call for a needless and dangerous confrontation with Iran.

Ahmadinejad was struggling to have his cabinet ministers approved by the parliament. For example, his nominees for the ministry of oil were rejected twice by the parliament, and the process has al-ready begun to impeach his transportation minister over the crash of airplane. On the contrary, Bush has the absolute power to appoint anyone for any posts or offices he wants. He openly, by-passes the congress and the court. For example, John Bolton was appointed by Bush as the US Am-bassador to the UN without even the Congress approval. Simply he exercised his executive power.

John Bolton the one who once said that the UN did not exist without the US. Another way of describ-ing Bolton's comment is that the UN is nothing but the US rubber stamp. In fact, the UN and its subsidiaries like IAEA is a tool used by the US to advance its policy. He is now sitting in the UN and coercing the Security Council to issue a strongly worded "presidential statement against Iran provid-ing the US with a pretext for intervention if Iran continues to enrich uranium.

During the initial confirmation debate of John Bolton in the Senate in 2004, senior Sen. Joseph Bi-den said that sending Bolton to the UN was like sending a bull to the china market.

Bush's Patriot Act, which is now almost the law of the land is in fact, reversed the concept of pre-sumption of innocence into presumption of guilt in the US making Bush an absolute king empower-ing his modern inquisitors to invade the citizens' privacy arresting them even without search war-rants. The reason for this gross erosion of civil liberties is the security of state, which is a term that has been used by all dictators including Hitler. US needs an enemy, if does not exist, the ruling party can create even an imaginary one. During the Cold War, bogyman was the Soviet Union then Sad-dam, now Iran has become Bush's new bogyman.

Exercising his executive power, Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans without warrants, ignoring the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Consequently, Civil rights leaders are now monitored. Antiwar groups are under surveil-lance. Domestic phones are tapped. Mails are opened and emails are monitored. The FBI is conduct-ing warrantless "black bag" break-ins of private residences and offices, while US government agen-cies have been barred from using persistent cookies since 2000 because of privacy concerns. Police are to be given sweeping powers to arrest people for every offence, including the minor traffic infrac-tions and misdemeanors.

In the first round of Iranian presidential elections in which 62 percent of the eligible voters cast their ballots for seven candidates with diverse political inclinations. The electoral process in Iran was much more democratic than that of the U.S. two-party system of presidential election of 2004 in which each candidate from either party won about 25% of the popular votes (the turn out was about 50% and that in the US, there is no run-off election). This means that about 75% of population did not vote for Bush's reelection. Yet, Bush and his neocons cabal call it democracy.

Therefore, Bush is in no position at this point in time, to question even the outcome of elections in banana republic however, on the eve of the election in Iran, he hypocritically said that the electoral process in Iran ignores the basic requirements of democracy.

Some pundits believe that the intellectually challenged president was cherry- picked and indoctri-nated into the doctrine of Hegelian Dialectic by the illuminati to establish the world new order. They led him to believe that Bush has a heavenly mandate to meddle in the business of every sovereign nation. And therefore, should any of the sovereign states dare not to acquiesces supinely to the US unilateralist and imperial global hegemony, Bush has the divine rights to invade and occupy them by force under the pretext of what he calls WMD, Human Rights abuse, and supporting terrorism.

Despite the fact that there is no a real and visible enemy armed with conventional or non-conventional weapons who wants to attack US and that according to their own investigations, no single state or country directly or indirectly involved in the 9/11 tragedy except, a dozen or few more stateless terrorists, who used the civilian aircrafts as the weapons. However, paranoid war president and the commander-in- chief, George. W. Bush, gripped with hysteria, like Don Quixote de la Man-cha, the hero character of Cervantes, imagines himself as a gallant warrior who is at war with ghosts and giants. Yet, the GOP calls him wartime president.

Bush and his war party keep comparing their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the World War II, in which Stalin defeated the army of the Third Reich. On the contrary, neither, Iraq nor Afghanistan had the real combat armies. The Iranians had almost destroyed the Iraqi army during the eight- years war, and the remnants of its military forces were decimated during the first Persian Gulf War. As for Afghanistan, its army was made of almost militia type forces with antiquated weapons lacking air force and mechanized ground forces. Yet, the occupation forces are bogged-down in both coun-tries. However, it is noteworthy that without Iran, the US could never have occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. They know that launching war of aggression against Iran would mean they would be driven out of those two countries."

Unlike the parliamentary democracy, the US president is not directly elected by the popular votes, rather based on the America's 18th century constitution; the powerful Electoral College elects the president. This flawed method of voting system opens the entire election process to all sorts of ir-regularities. When voters cast their ballots, they are actually electing the 538 members of the Elec-toral College, the ones who will really cast votes for the president.

States get one electoral vote for each of 100 senators and one electoral vote per US representative, which are 435, plus three electoral votes for the District of Columbia. It is noteworthy that the larg-est state like California with the population of about 36 million has two senators (the same number of senators for the smaller states), i.e., the state of Wyoming with a population of about half a million has two senators also.

Holy Warriors in the US & Secular Europe
In his first term, during an interview, Bush said that Iran had a history of brutality. Since he doesn't know the history and according to Michael Moore, he does not read the newspapers, or the books rather than the religious ones and so much so, he does not know even the difference between the myth and the recorded history, it follows that Bush's statement must come from the Book of Daniel. 9: 6, which says that Darius, the King of Persia arrested Daniel the Prophet and threw him into the pit of lions. Lumping Iran into the "axis of evil", he has also repeatedly marked Iran as a real threat to the Middle East. It seems that these statements emanating from the Book of Ezekiel 38:5-6, prophesizing that Iran and Armenia from far off lands in the north, are going to gather their forces to attack Israel.

According to the Guardian, a former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath recalled that Bush confessed, God, apparently addressing the president each time as "George", had told him, "Go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. Go and end the tyranny in Iraq.

There is no shortage of modern Nostradamus, prophecy gurus, and end time specialists in and around the White House. Among the most flamboyant Armageddon experts and wizards are Hal Lindsey and Pat Robertson. The former claims that he has been in communication with God since he was a child. The latter declared that during the election times God spoke to him pledging that George W. Bush would win the election. Both neocons, are extremely far right fanatics and very in-fluential figures, who are umbilically connected to the White House, and usually, what they preach reflecting the Bush's administration viewpoints.

Pat Robertson, who lives like a king, has invested millions of dollars in stock markets; and according to the ABC News, some believe that he is running a questionable charity organization called Opera-tion Blessing. A super rich Social Darwinist who believes that under-privileged Americans have the liberty to live under the bridge. He also accepts as true that all Muslims are Arabs, including the Iranians. Advocating hatred against the other faiths and philosophies, Robertson, on his private TV show, issued a fatwa (religious edict) ordering CIA to assassinate the Venezuelan democratically elected and popular socialist President, Hugo Chavez who is a critic of Bush's foreign policy.

Recently, he also suggested that Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for pulling Israel out of Gaza. God considers this land to be his," Robertson said on his TV program The 700 Club. "You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.'" He also said, however, that in the Bible, the prophet Joel "makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land.'"

Bush's former grand inquisitor, John Ashcroft once claimed, "In America, there was no king but Je-sus"? And that the Pentagon's new special ops units' commanding officer, Lt. Gen. William Boykin claimed that "the US Army was the house of God and Muslims the agent of Satan".

According to the Independent, Tony Blair proclaimed that God would judge whether he was right to send British troops to Iraq, echoing statements from his ally, George W. Bush. Contradicting warn-ings from advisers not to mix politics and religion, the Prime Minister said that his interest in poli-tics sprang from his Christianity and its "values and philosophy" had guided him in public life.

The irony here is that Bush and his like-minded advisers and groupthink, which are entirely fanatic extremists, have launched the medieval times style crusade against the other religions' extremists.

It is not coincidence that the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is one of the Bush few exponents in Europe and his troops have already joined the Iraqi crusade, defended the far right- neo-conservative Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, who originally published 12 satirical and racist cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The cultural editor of the Danish newspaper is Flemming Rose who has a close ties with far right neocons circle in US, including Daniel Pipes, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. The same paper that is now defending the freedom of press, refused to publish satirical cartoon of Christ in 2003.

The EU countries keep claiming that they are secular; however, their claim has proved to be other-wise as their national flags echoing the religious symbolism. Furthermore, the foundation of the EU is based on the Christian values. On November 1, 1993, which falls on All Saints Day, at Maastricht, the Netherlands, the 12 members of the formerly named EEC officially ratified and changed it to EC, and subsequently transformed into EU. The festival of All Saints, also sometimes known as "All Hallows," or "Hallowmas," is a feast celebrated in their honour. All Saints is also a Christian formula invoking all the faithful saints and martyrs, known or unknown. The Roman Catholic holiday (Festum omnium sanctorum) falls on November 1.

Crusaders in Iraq
As the Venezuelan writer, Fernando Baez eloquently articulates, what is happening in Iraq today is the largest cultural catastrophe since the Mongols forced entry into Baghdad in 13 century.

According to wikipedia.org, in 1258, the Mongols laid siege to the city and constructed a palisade and a ditch. Siege equipment was erected as well. The bombardment began on January, 1258 and by February 4, a breach was made. By february 5, the Mongols controlled a stretch of the wall. Al-Musta'sim tried to negotiate, but was refused.

On February 10, Baghdad surrendered, after the Caliph Al-Musta'sim came out of the city and gave himself up, at which point he was executed, by wrapping him in a rug and having him either "beaten to a pulp" or trampled by horses. The Mongols swept into the city on February 19, 1258, which began a week of massacre, looting, and fire.

Paradoxically, the brutal assault against the cradle of civilization this time around, planned and executed - not by the Mongols rather by the forces of American modern King George II who shame-lessly portrays himself as the great leader of the civilized world. The brutal invasion of Iraq took place on March 19, 2003, with indiscriminate carpet bombings. The occupation forces used bunker busters and "MOAB" bombs, which apparently, stands for "The Mother of All Bombs, aka the Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb."

However, the real hidden meaning of the "MOAB" goes far deeper than what the US military appar-ently illustrates it as "the mother of all bombs". MOAB is a symbolism and a biblical name repre-senting the Crusade. According to Genesis: 30-38, Moab was the son of Abraham's nephew Lot and the name of a place named after him (the land of "MOAB") in Jerusalem. When the Crudaders occupied the area, the castle they built to defend the eastern part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was called Krak des Moabites. The name also signifying the covenant, and appears in the Scriptures many times (Genesis: 30-38; Deuteronomy 29:1; Ruth1:1, 22; 2 Kings 1:1; 2 Chronicles 20:22; Daniel 11:41).

The salvo of shock and awe inflicting bombs that went down in Baghdad resulted in mass destruc-tion and devastation of cultural and religious artifacts, which belong to the ancient Mesopotamian kingdoms of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon where according to recorded history, is the birthplace of civilization.

According to Baez over one million books, 10 million documents, and 14,000 archaeological artifacts have been lost in the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Among the world precious books that were burnt in the Baghdad National Library included the early editions of Arabian Nights, the treatises of the two Iran's great mathematician and astronomer, Omar Khayyam and philosopher, scientist, and medical writer, Avicena, aka Abu Ali Sina, and the dissertation of distin-guished Arab- Spanish philosopher, Averroes, aka Ibn Rushdi.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Rice said that before mushroom of cloud appeared on Washington DC, the US had to stop Iraq. At the same time, on the other side of Atlantic, notorious Tony "B.Liar" of England claimed that Saddam had capacity to nuke London within 48 hours.

England has the history of brutal colonial tactics of the "divide and rule", and its prime minister, Tony Blair who pursuing the same old dirty trick, claimed that if the occupation forces leave Iraq, there would be civil war, which is nothing but a shell game because the root cause of violence and insurgency in Iraq is the foreign occupation. It is noteworthy that in the 1920s when the British had installed her puppet king and prime minister like Faisal and Noori Said in Iraq whose regime would not last a day without the imperial forces bayonets, then British prime minister at the House of Commons was saying the same things as Blair does today.

American style liberty & freedom of press
Bush also considers himself as the flag bearer of democracy on the face of the planet who supports and disseminates freedom, and liberty. Therefore, any independent nation who disagrees with the Bush's foreign policy is subject to liberation and regime change. Just the way US liberated Guan-tanamo from Cuba and turned it into the concentration camps, which Amnesty International calls it Gulag of modern time. Just the way US liberated Iraqi oil pipelines. Just the way, the Bush – Che-ney's administration liberated the undemocratic Abu-Ghraib Prison from Saddam Hussein, the dic-tator, and turned it into a democratic torturing chamber, where, the insurgents are systematically tortured and abused democratically by the US occupation forces.

Like the Stalin's purges, the Republican presidents in the past, used the doctrine of McCarthyism to remove their critics or opposition groups from the offices, restricting the freedom of speech and erod-ing the civil liberties. During the WW II, American citizens of German and Japanese origins were rounded up and lucked up in the camps until the end of the war.

Despite its glamorous PR campaign and empty slogans designed targeting the international audi-ences, not only the US has never been interested in democracy, but also, it has used all its political and military might to bring down the democratic states and backing the brutal tyrants especially, in the Middle East and Latin America.

According to Robert Fisk, who is a distinguished journalist and an author, during the US invasion both in Iraq and Afghanistan, journalists were the prime targets, including the Western and Arab journalists i.e., Aljazeera offices were bombed twice in Baghdad. British newspaper The Daily Mirror reported that Bush told UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at a White House summit on 16 April 2004 that he wanted to bomb Aljazeera's headquarters in Qatar.

In response to the bribery scandal of Iraqis media by the US to write the favourable stories about the war in Iraq, War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who speaks and acts like Joseph Goebbels, recently admitted that they were doing just the PR campaigns and claiming that they had every right to do so. Rumsfeld has also admitted that he "ghosted" a detainee, meaning that he made the decision to hold a prisoner without keeping any records of the fact.

According to Doug Thomson, the Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue, Pentagon orders soldiers to promote Iraq war while home on leave and hundreds of American military men and women returned to the
United States on holiday leave with orders to sell the Iraq war to a skeptical public. The program, coordinated through a Pentagon operation dubbed "Operation Home front", ordered military person-nel to give interviews to their hometown newspapers, television stations and other media outlets and praise the American war effort in Iraq.

During the election campaign in Lebanon, Bush proudly said, "Freedom is on the march in the Mid-dle East." On the contrary, some voters in northern Lebanon were reportedly bribed to cast their bal-lots for the U.S.-backed anti-Syrian faction.

Foreign nationals are being kidnapped and flown from country to country by the CIA planes under the false suspicion of so-called renditions. Recently, the head of a European investigation into alleged CIA secret prisons in Europe reported that there was evidence pointing to the existence of a system of "outsourcing" of torture by the United States, and that European governments were aware of it.

History of the US policy of regime change & snubbing international law
In 1953, the U.S.'s CIA staged the military coup and toppled Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mossadegh's government and restored pro-American system of absolute monarchy.

In 1954, CIA ousted Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala. In 1961, the US-backed invasion of Bay of Pigs of Cuba but failed. The same year, CIA assassinated Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of Congo, and eliminated Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, their former ally in the Dominican Republic, and subsequently, the CIA ousted Juan Bosch, the democratically elected leader of the Dominican Repub-lic. In 1963, CIA eliminated general Abdul Karim Qassim, president of Iraq, and toppled Jose Maria Velasco of Ibarra of Ecuador, and U.S. backed coup against South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. In 1964, the CIA backed the overthrow of João Goulart in Brazil, and covertly supported the election of Eduardo Frei Montalva of Chile. In 1965, the US staged a bloody military coup toppling the democratically elected President, Sukarno in Indonesia, installing a brutal dictator, Suharto who killed over a million people in Indonesia during his reign of terror. Subsequently, the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia supplied their newly installed military tyrant with a list of 5,000 suspected communists given to them by the CIA to be executed. In addition, the CIA supported a military coup that brought Joseph Mobutu to power in the Congo in 1965. In 1967, the CIA supported Regime of the Colonels in Greece through a military coup. In the 1967, U.S. supported Israel Six-Day War, and CIA launched the military "Operation Condor" assassinating Che Guevara, the legendary hero and the icon of the socialist revolution in Bolivia.

On September 11,1973, which was the first 9/11, the US staged a bloody coup d'état in Chile in which Salvador Allende, who had come to power in 1970 by the democratic election campaign process was killed instantly. Subsequently, the notorious General Pinochet, who had the full US backing, seized the power and became an absolute military dictator. Consequently, thousands of Chileans were slaughtered, tortured, or sent to the detention centers, many more disappeared, and some of them are still missing.

Not to mention Granada, Panama, former Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan, in 1992, U.S.- and French staged a military coup against the most honest and democratic election campaign process in the his-tory of entire Arab world ever and annulled the election. The Arab's only democratic election was held in Algeria in 1992 in which the Islamic parties won the landslide victory. Now, the US and Is-rael are reportedly planning to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called. The goal is to starve the Palestinian Authority of cash and international connections forcing its President to call a new election, bringing back the corrupt Fatah groups in power again ignoring the fact that Hamas won the landslide victory in the democ-ratic election campaign. If the outcome of elections suits the US corporate interest, Bush calls it free and fair, if not, declares it bunk.

While 25% of the world pollution comes from US, Bush-Cheney administration yet, does not recog-nize the Kyoto protocols. US not only refuse to join the International Court of Criminal (ICC), but also have attempted to undermine it. The Hague Invasion Act, which was introduced and passed in August 2002 by the Congress, allows the US government to save US citizens from extradition to the ICC, and also authorizes any necessary action, including the miltary invasion to free U.S. soldiers and officials handed over to that Court. The stated purpose of the Act was to protect United States military personnel and other elected and appointed officials of the United States government against criminal prosecution by an international criminal court to which the United States is not party.

Although the United States is a signatory to the 1983 Convention that prohibits the use of White Phosphorus "against military targets within concentrations of civilians," it has not ratified Protocol III, which involves restrictions against the incendiary weapons.

The cultural devastation committed by the US and the coalition of idiots is the gross violation of the Hague Convention of 1954, which states that in times of war, cultural heritage must be protected by the occupation forces. As a pattern of behavior, this convention like many other internationally es-tablished protocols, are not yet recognized by Washington.

Iran's nuclear program
Initiated and backed by the US, the idea of Iran's nuclear program goes back to four decades. It kicked off in the 1960s, under auspices of the U.S. within the framework of bilateral agreements be-tween the two countries. In 1967, the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) was built and run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The TNRC was equipped with a US supplied 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor. Iran signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968.

Westinghouse Corporation lobbied very hard to convince both Iran and the US governments to con-struct at least 23 nuclear reactors in Iran. In 1975 the U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, had signed National Security Decision Memorandum 292, titled "U.S.-Iran Nuclear Cooperation," for the sale of nuclear reactors to Iran projected to bring U.S. corporations more than $6 billion in revenue. That time the population of Iran was about 30 millions, however, was pumping as much as 6 million barrels of oil a day, with a domestic oil consummation of about ½ millions barrels a day. Today, Iran with a population of about 70 millions, consumes about two millions barrels a day domestically, whereas produces about 4 million barrels a day. Not to mention currently, Iran's refinery capacities are far shorter than those of the growing demands for domestic refined products i.e., gasoline, which are imported from abroad.

President Gerald R. Ford even signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and op-erate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete "nuclear fuel cycle. The notion behind Ford strategy was introduction of nuclear power would both provide for the growing needs of Iran's economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.

In 1975, Kraftwerk-Union A.G. of Germany, a joint venture of Siemens AG and A.E.G Telefunken, signed a contract worth $4-$6 billions to build the nuclear power plant. Construction of the two nu-clear generating units was subcontracted to Thyssen Krupp AG, and was to have been completed in 1981. However, during the imposed war on Iran, the reactors were then damaged by Iraqi air strikes.
In 1995, Iran signed a contract with Russia to resume work on the half complete Bushehr plant. The construction is being done by the state-controlled company Atomstroyexport (Russian for Atomic Construction Export), which an arm of Russia's atomic energy ministry, Minatom.

As an industrializing nation, Iran's civilian nuclear power plant is crucial for rising demand for power supply and its growing population. In fact, Iran's population has more than doubled in 20 years, the country regularly imports gasoline and electricity, and that burning fossil fuel in large amounts harms Iran's environment drastically. Additionally, Iran questions why it should not be allowed to diversify its sources of energy, especially when there are fears of its oil fields eventually being depleted. Therefore, it is not sustainable for Iran to use its valuable non-renewable resources simply for electricity. Moreover, developing the excess capacity in oil industry would cost Iran about $40 billion, whereas, nuclear power costs a fraction of this, in view of the fact that Iran has abundant supplies of accessible uranium ore.

Furthermore, the nuclear situation in Iran is about more than the production of nuclear fuel. It is a national issue - it is about a country's independence, sovereignty, and national identity- it is about a country that have emerged from about two centuries of Western bullying and regime change (1953) - it is about a country that wants to master its own destiny. It is about a country that wants to be treated equally and with respect on the world stage. In a nutshell, it is about national pride.

When the sovereignty and independence of Iran is at stake, the nation has the final say. On Febru-ary 11, 2006, millions of Iranians poured into the streets and expressed their support for Iran's peaceful nuclear programs achieved by its indigenous young scientists. Their message was loud and clear. All speaking in one voice, they demanded that they would never forsake their inalienable legal right to the nuclear technology. People from all walks of life, including the religious, secular, poor, rich, reformist, conservative, young, old male, female, and intellectual were aligned behind their president honoring their scientific achievements and securing the nation's independence. Conse-quently, it is not for Bush, Blair, or Jacques Chirac to decide whether Iran needs the civilian nuclear plants or what type of reactors it should have. i.e. light water or heavy water.

While President Jacques Chirac trying to portray himself as a civilized and liberal democrat, on the other hand, talking like war lord and openly threatening to use its nuclear weapons against Iran, and subsequently, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy bluntly accuses Iran of secretly making nuclear weapons without showing a shred of evidence. Why EU in general, France, and Eng-land in particular pursuing Bush's policy towards Iran?

The answer is, they all have one thing in common that is the economic interest that glues them to-gether. As the exclusive fuel, suppliers France and England are profiting millions of dollars annually from recycling the fuels for the other countries nuclear reactors, especially the German and Japanese plants. For both countries, recycling nuclear fuel is an uncontested business bonanza and economic windfall. To them, allowing Iran, which is an emerging and potential low-cost supplier of nuclear fuels to share their profits, is unacceptable. Therefore, they view Iran as a threat to their lucrative businesses. They cannot say this openly, but deceitfully and unfairly launched a smear campaign and making it look like Iran is building nuclear bombs.

While on the one hand, Western powers formally declare that Iran has the rights to nuclear energy, building image that they are logical and rational in order to fool the world. On the other hand, trying to force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program used for nuclear energy, however if, Iran outsources its nuclear fuels to Russia or Western suppliers, that will be okay with them. What kind of logic is that? That is nothing but the logic of neocolonialism.

The fact is, Western powers in general and US in particular view nuclear technology as their intel-lectual property. Legally speaking, they cannot patent the nuclear technology as their intellectual property simply because if they do, then the matter must be resolved by the World Trade Organiza-tion (WTO) meaning that the UN nuclear watchdog, IAEA will be irrelevant. However, they use eve-rything in their power, including the backroom dealings, or bribing and intimidating others to mo-nopolize it. Profiteering is the capitalists Achilles heel. They do everything they can at any cost in order to make the money. No matter how civilized or liberal democrat they are, money always comes first.

As for Bush administration, Iran's threat is not for its nuclear program, but their perceived threat is coming from Iran's mercantile exchange market, which is called oil bourse. Iran is planning to open its own oil bourse, a mercantile exchange, and potentially a futures market, where traders can buy and sell oil and gas in Euros, not dollars. If everything goes as planned it is scheduled to kick off in March 19 otherwise will take place sometimes later this year. However, even before the realization of the idea, Iran is being accused of making nuclear bombs and is being threatened with illegal sanc-tions or war of aggression.

In 2001, Venezuela wanted to switch to the Euro for all its oil sales. The following year, there was a coup attempt against Chavez, reportedly with assistance from the CIA. However, the military coup failed and Chavez who was democratically elected president escaped the assassination plot against his life unharmed. In November 2002, Saddam Hussein demanded Euros for his oil, in 2003; Iraq was invaded and occupied by the US.

Shifting from dollars to Euros is not good news for America's system of dollar hegemony, which its nominal value is backed by the world daily sales of oil . Some countries are already replacing their dollar reserves with Euro in silence. If the oil bourse does not trigger a blow to the US already trou-bled economy straight away, but it will take out the steam in the long- run. The economy that its to-tal federal debts is $8.2 trillion (60% owned by foreigners, i.e., EU, China, Japan, and S. Korea), with a current account deficit of $700 billion, and $500 billion of budget deficit, with zero savings and re-cord business and personal debts, cannot sustain further setback in the long haul.

The US Senate just approved to raise the government debt limit to nearly $9 trillion, with the new ceiling expected next year, the debt will represent $30 thousand for every US citizen. Bush's gov-ernment has already spent $350 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, and asking for another $120 billion for the current year. US allocated $450 billion for its military budget, which is almost half of the entire world military spending, and trying to resolve its economic issues by the military forces.

The US's GDP which was always ranked first in the world, slid into second in 2004 after the EU. During the same period, its total exports ranked third after the EU and Germany respectively. EU's GDP was $12,865 trillion compared to US GDP of $11,734 trillion, Germany's total exports was $950 billion compared to the US total exports of $750 billion, and Germany's net exports exceeded $200 billion (source: IMF, Germany's Bundesbank, US Census Bureau). Thanks to Bush-Cheney inept and ham-fisted leadership.

Bush orchestrated media campaign against Iran, deliberately distorting Ahmadinejad's speeches, and fictitiously considering him a threat, whereas the truth of the matter is that he was quoting di-rectly from the founder of Iran's Islamic Revolution, which is a slogan that has been there since 1979, and surprisingly, never captured the US media attention up until now.

However, Ahmadinejad has also, said, "A nation which has culture, logic and civilization does not need nuclear weapons. The countries, which seek nuclear weapons, are those, which want to solve all problems by the use of force. Our nation does not need such weapons," which surprisingly, Bush & Co. media never reflected that.

Nevertheless, during the 26 years life of the revolution, Iran has never made any effort to wipe any country off the map. It is noteworthy that the Iranians indeed, are the liberators of Israelites. That was Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia, who liberated Israelites from slavery in Babylon 25 centu-ries ago. Additionally, the great king provided them with a free of charge means of transportation all the way to Jerusalem. Furthermore, the Iranians are not Arabs and consequently, there is no strate-gic ground for any animosity between Iran and Israel.

Bush illegal covert operations in Iran under the pretext of democracy
While US and England have destroyed and torn apart Iraq with their illegal occupation, on the other hand, ludicrously, accusing Iran of interfering in Iraq, and blaming it for their failure. In fact, the US media frenzy against Iran for what they claim, as "threat" is a smokescreen used to distract the world attention from Bush's miserable failure in Iraq.

According to the Financial Times, the US military has been studying ethnic and religious tensions in Iran as part of its preparations for war. The military wants to determine attitudes towards the cen-tral government and examine if Iran is prone to the same tensions that are tearing Iraq apart. As with the planning for the war in Iraq, the Pentagon has recruited exiles to help with its survey. A similar group of Iraqi exiles told the Bush administration that US soldiers would be welcome when they invaded, and fed them false information about weapons of mass destruction. Among the exile groups that surveyed by the military are the Kurdish Democratic Party, who support the occupation in Iraq; the followers of the deposed Iranian royal family, who hope a US invasion will restore the monarchy; and the former pro-Saddam militant opposition group.

Now the White House has asked the US Congress to make available $75 million to fund a round-the-clock radio and television from UAE broadcasting false news and propaganda campaign into Iran aimed at brainwashing for regime change.

There are also reports that the US has already funded and mobilized a number of the Iranian Chal-abies residing Beverly Hills, London, and Paris in order to cook the intelligence and fix the case against Iran to justify Bush's preemptive war. Among the groups are: the monarchists mainly oper-ating from the US; the leftist elements of exile groups, including the remnants and new militants of the old pro-Moscow Communist Party of Iran, aka the Tudeh Party, along with the other communist factions operating from England; and the militant opposition group operating from Iraq. Some of the exile groups who are on the payrolls of the CIA and the British MI6 and acting like the Trojan Horses, are now operating in the Persian Gulf states and carrying out the acts of sabotage and ter-rorism in order to destabilize Iran.

Iranian's security forces have already arrested the terrorists who planted bombs in the City of Ahvaz killing a number of innocent people. According to the Iranian officials, they have the concrete evi-dence that the Bush and Tony Blair's administrations had equipped and dispatched these terrorists from their launching pad in Basra.

Iran has become the new focal point of distorted and Goebbels style Western media's propaganda, despite the fact that it is evident that Iraq has become a mission impossible rather than the "mission accomplished" for Bush-Cheney, their controlled media deliberately ignoring the reality on the ground and dire situation in Iraq. The timing of this kind of cries of outrages that are coming from the Western media against Iran raises more questions than answers as it coincides with the Bush-Blair preparations for possible sanctions at the Security Council, and like Iraq's prewar WMD sce-nario, they are fixing the case against Iran.

Bush media also keep claiming that Iran has broken the seals, and trying to trick the world into be-lieve that Iran is violating the NPT, and therefore, is in non-compliance in order to justify the American corporate war against Iran who is in fact, neither a threat nor a strategic adversary to the US. The US corporate media knowingly ignoring the fact that Iran's Parliament had passed a law last year that required – in the event the IAEA Board reported Iran to the Security Council – the cessation of all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA above and beyond that required by Iran's Safe-guards Agreement. That includes the resumption of all Iranian Safeguarded nuclear programs that had been voluntarily suspended.

Since US will never be satisfied with partial submission and she wants the total capitulation. There-fore, There is security risk involved, if Iran agrees with the non binding terms in the presidential statement (UN Security Council), which contains a demand that Iran accept an additional protocol that gives IAEA inspectors exceptional access to plants and research laboratories as this was the case in Iraq before the war. For instance, Germany who apparently was against the Iraqi invasion, now reportedly confirmed that its foreign intelligence agency (BND) who worked in Iraq before the war, supplied U.S. occupation forces with Saddam defense information and helping them select bombing targets at the start of the Iraq war.

The US, England, and Israel who possess sufficient nuclear weapons to destroy the world, are the very countries that deceitfully cooked the case against Iraq, are now trying to do the same to Iran by demonizing it simply for having a civilian nuclear plants used for generating the electricity.

The US is the only country on the face of the planet that has used nuclear bombs against innocent civilians in Japan in 1945, and mustard and Agent Orange gases in Vietnam (WMD) after the WWII.
On the 60th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Na-gasaki, new questions are being asked about whether it was really necessary to use the atomic weapons?

About 80,000 people were killed in a split second in Hiroshima. Five months later, more than 70,000 others died from radiation and injuries. Three days after Hiroshima's attack, the U.S. dropped an-other nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000 people before the year-end. Since 1945, tens of thousands more citizens of both cities continue to suffer and die from radiation-induced can-cers, birth defects and stillbirths.

Couple of weeks ago, Tony Blair said that Britain needed to improve its nuclear capabilities, and ac-cording to the special report by The Guardian on Argentina dated Nov. 22,2005, Margaret Thatcher forced François Mitt errand to give her the codes to disable Argentina's deadly French-made missiles during the Falklands war by threatening to launch a nuclear warhead against Buenos Aires. Eng-land who is a world away from the Islas Malvinas (Falklands Islands) threatening to use its nuclear warheads killing millions of innocent people just to keep its colony there.

Recently, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, a former High Court judge who fled Uganda for Brit-ain after it became clear that standing up to the dictator had placed his own life in jeopardy, is now, accusing Tony Blair of helping the US to run Idi Amin-style tactics in the war on terrorism.

Israel, who possesses illegally about 200-300 nuclear bombs in its arsenal, with technical assistance of US and England, openly disregards the international law and IAEA rules. It has constantly ig-nored almost all the UN resolutions, with the American veto in the Security Council and whose hu-man rights records is clearly questionable and has attacked all its neighbours plus Iraq's nuclear plant, and has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran with American bunker buster bombs and the German Dolphin type submarines, which acquired them almost free of charge.

Nuclear negotiations of the EU-3 with Iran
EU-3, including England, France, and Germany, who entered into the negotiations with Iran, played good cops to Bush's bad cop during the talks with Iran over the nuclear issues. However, in order for confidence building, Iran in good faith agreed to suspend its nuclear activities voluntarily allowing the IAEA to seal off its equipment until the negotiations end. Now that the negotiations ended with no results, and consequently, Iran is not deemed in non-compliance and has not violated its agree-ment with the EU-3 because the terms of the accord were based on non-binding and temporary con-ditions not permanent.

Iran, as a signatory to the NPT, plus the additional protocols has the legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, Israel, India, Pakistan, and N. Korea who developed nuclear weapons refused even to ratify the NPT. Despite the fact that there is no law or treaty banning peaceful nuclear research; to do uranium enrichment is legal and it simply violates the good will of Germany, France, and Britain, with which Iran negotiated a volun-tary deal about three years ago to abandon its uranium enrichment program.

Negotiations collapsed because no matter what concessions Iran made to the EU, at the end of the day, Iran would have nothing to gain. Iran has credible argument for refusing to rely on foreign countries for its energy because, in fact, Russia is not a reliable partner. Russia's game of natural gas roulette with Ukraine and Georgia is a perfect example. Moreover, the repeated delays by Russia to launch the Bushehr nuclear power plant shows that Moscow cannot be trusted as honest and de-pendable business partner.

Furthermore, Russia has the history of betrayals of its friends and allies. In 1915, during the Arme-nians and Turks conflict, Russia simply walked away. In 1938, Stalin pandered to Hitler in return for DM 200 millions of Germany's loan and let Poland to be divided between Germany and Russia. During the 1962 Cuban crisis, Nikita Khrushchev backed off. In the first Persian Gulf War, Gor-bachof approved the US orchestrated UN Security Council sanctions against Iraq. During the bom-bardments of the former Yugoslavia, the Russians did nothing and let their Slav brothers down. So much so, they simply let their former partner, Iraq to be occupied. Therefore, double-crossing Iran by Russia, which is Russia's one of a few partners and close friends left in the world, should not come as a surprise.

Contracting out Iran's nuclear fuel to Russia is bad for Iran and serendipity for Russia because the Russians want to build at least 20 nuclear plants for Iran in the near future each requiring enriched uranium fuel that will cost Iran about $40-50 millions for startup. Subsequently every two or three years, the nuclear plans need recycling again that will cost almost the same amount for each.

Iran cannot count on Russia's undertaking because after 12 years, they have not even been able to finish the Bushehr plant, which was half complete by the time they undertook in 1995 to complete it by 2001 or so. How they will be able to deliver the fuels to Iran on time for the future plants. While the Iranians are quite capable of recycling their own nuclear fuels domestically, then why should Iran outsource them to unreliable and unpredictable foreign suppliers in the first place?

The Bush administration initially did not want Mohamed ElBaradei to be the director of the Inter-national Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for another term, and when faced strong opposition from the other member states then rewarded him with the Noble Peace prize in order to get him on board. As for Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the UN, the US did other way around. First, they rewarded him with Noble Peace Prize when he declared that occupation of Iraq was illegal, right after that Bush and Blair produced evidence that allegedly Kofi Annan and his son had been involved in brib-ery scandal in the Food for Oil program in Iraq during Saddam regime. By contrast, both Blair and Bush administrations were to blame because they new exactly what was going on in the program from the very beginning.

It seems that the US's stick and carrot tactics is working for the UN and the IAEA as ElBaradei has now agreed to send Iran's dossier to the UN Security Council and its report sent to the 35 member states, ElBaradei said Iran has failed to answer crucial questions about its nuclear program after three years of an agency investigation.

Quite the opposite, Iran has not violated the NPT, does not have a nuclear weapons program, and poses no threat to its neighbors or the United States. ElBaradei hypocritically praised the US recent nuclear deal with pariah state like India, who ignores the IAEA's rules, on the contrary, denounced Iran, who plays by the rule, meaning they are pandering to the lawbreakers, and chastising those who obey the law. This conspicuous double standard makes a mockery of the IAEA and US long-standing advocacy of the NPT. Why should Iran be treated differently from Israel, India, and Paki-stan, all of which have their own nuclear fuel recycling production?

Despite the US and EU's propaganda machine that accusing Iran of enriching uranium to make nu-clear bombs, Iran is now operating only a 10-15-centrifuge cascade putting uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas into centrifuges, which distill out enriched uranium at its pilot enrichment plant in Natanz. Iran had not yet even fired up the whole 164-centrifuge cascade at the plant. The US and the IAEA recognize that it is nowhere near getting a bomb with 164- centrifuge cascades, as it re-quires industrial-scale enrichment facilities with thousands of centrifuges, which could produce enough highly enriched uranium for atomic bombs.

Bush administration has abandoned Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by helping India to boost its nuclear weapons. Unlike nuclear- armed India, Pakistan, and Israel, who did not sign up the NPT, Iran is the signatory to the NPT, plus the Additional Protocols. Mockingly, the IAEA, EU, and US while are penalizing Iran for playing by the rules, on the other hand, rewarding the coun-tries that illegally possess nuclear weapons and refused to sign the Non-proliferation Treaty.

It seems like some countries have sovereignty while others are subject to the US political whim. Unlike the US who has broken the international laws and protocols, Iran is not guilty of abdicating or reneging on its obligations as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Under the terms of that treaty, Iran has an inalienable right to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination. Nuclear technology is neither a patent nor the patented property nor the intellectual property of the US or EU or anybody else to monopo-lize it, and whether they like it or not, they have to live with nuclear-powered Iran.

Asghar Bishbareh can be reached at: abish61@hotmail.com

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Chavez Again Talks of a U.S. Invasion

Associated Press
21 Mar 06

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned that if U.S. troops were to invade any Latin American country, "revolutionaries" from across the region would join forces to battle the Americans.

Chavez's remark in a speech Monday night confirmed what many in Venezuela have long presumed: that his government would go to the aid of a close ally like Cuba in the hypothetical scenario of the U.S. sending troops.
Although U.S. officials often dismiss his claims as outlandish, Chavez insists his country must be on guard to face any potential U.S. military attack. Washington also has said repeatedly it has no plans to attack Cuba.

The Venezuelan leader said the U.S. "should know that if it wants or someday decides ... to invade any of our countries - be it Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, today, tomorrow or the next day - we would be there gathering together the revolutionaries to do battle with weapons in hand against U.S. imperialism."

The U.S. has accused Chavez of trying to export his socialist "revolution" to neighboring countries, saying he is a destabilizing force in the region.

Chavez has responded furiously that he poses no threat, saying the U.S. is the one with a history of invading countries from Iraq to Panama.

He also lashed out Monday against Washington's efforts to promote free trade deals with Latin American countries. "They're making deals with the devil," he said.

Chavez argues the U.S.-proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas would help transnational companies grow wealthier at the expense of Latin America's poor. He has joined Cuban President Fidel Castro in proposing a "Bolivarian Alternative" trade pact based on socialist principles rather than free-market competition.

"I am convinced that in this century we will bury U.S. imperialism, sooner rather than later," Chavez said.

Chavez addressed an audience at the presidential palace after officials signed a deal for Venezuela to sell fuel under preferential terms to El Salvador cities governed by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front - a political party that in the 1980s was a rebel group fighting U.S.-backed troops.

Despite political tensions between Chavez's government and Washington, Venezuela still sells the largest share of its oil to the United States.

© 2006 The Associated Press.

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N. Korea Suggests It Can Strike U.S. First

Associated Press
21 Mar 06

North Korea suggested Tuesday it had the ability to launch a pre- emptive attack on the United States, according to the North's official news agency. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the North had built atomic weapons to counter the U.S. nuclear threat.
"As we declared, our strong revolutionary might put in place all measures to counter possible U.S. pre-emptive strike," the spokesman said, according to the Korean Central News Agency. "Pre-emptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States."

Last week, the communist country warned that it had the right to launch a pre-emptive strike, saying it would strengthen its war footing before joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises scheduled for this weekend.

The spokesman also said it would be a "wise" step for the United States to cooperate on nuclear issues with North Korea in the same way it does with India.

Earlier this month, President Bush signed an accord in India that would open some of its atomic reactors to international inspections in exchange for U.S. nuclear know-how and atomic fuel.

The accord was reached even though New Delhi has not signed the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. North Korea has withdrawn from the treaty.

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Pocket Protector Parade

Rewriting The Science - there are things the White House doesn't want you to hear

60 Minutes
19 Mar 06

As a government scientist, James Hansen is taking a risk. He says there are things the White House doesn't want you to hear but he's going to say them anyway.

Hansen is arguably the world's leading researcher on global warming. He's the head of NASA's top institute studying the climate. But this imminent scientist tells correspondent Scott Pelley that the Bush administration is restricting who he can talk to and editing what he can say. Politicians, he says, are rewriting the science.

But he didn't hold back speaking to Pelley, telling 60 Minutes what he knows.
Asked if he believes the administration is censoring what he can say to the public, Hansen says: "Or they're censoring whether or not I can say it. I mean, I say what I believe if I'm allowed to say it."

What James Hansen believes is that global warming is accelerating. He points to the melting arctic and to Antarctica, where new data show massive losses of ice to the sea.

Is it fair to say at this point that humans control the climate? Is that possible?

"There's no doubt about that, says Hansen. "The natural changes, the speed of the natural changes is now dwarfed by the changes that humans are making to the atmosphere and to the surface."

Those human changes, he says, are driven by burning fossil fuels that pump out greenhouse gases like CO2, carbon dioxide. Hansen says his research shows that man has just 10 years to reduce greenhouse gases before global warming reaches what he calls a tipping point and becomes unstoppable. He says the White House is blocking that message.

"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," says Hansen.

Restrictions like this e-mail Hansen's institute received from NASA in 2004. "… there is a new review process … ," the e-mail read. "The White House (is) now reviewing all climate related press releases," it continued.

Why the scrutiny of Hansen's work? Well, his Goddard Institute for Space Studies is the source of respected but sobering research on warming. It recently announced 2005 was the warmest year on record. Hansen started at NASA more than 30 years ago, spending nearly all that time studying the earth. How important is his work? 60 Minutes asked someone at the top, Ralph Cicerone, president of the nation's leading institute of science, the National Academy of Sciences.

"I can't think of anybody who I would say is better than Hansen. You might argue that there's two or three others as good, but nobody better," says Cicerone.

And Cicerone, who's an atmospheric chemist, said the same thing every leading scientist told 60 Minutes.

"Climate change is really happening," says Cicerone.

Asked what is causing the changes, Cicernone says it's greenhouse gases: "Carbon dioxide and methane, and chlorofluorocarbons and a couple of others, which are all - the increases in their concentrations in the air are due to human activities. It's that simple."

But if it is that simple, why do some climate science reports look like they have been heavily edited at the White House? With science labeled "not sufficiently reliable." It's a tone of scientific uncertainty the president set in his first months in office after he pulled out of a global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We do not know how much our climate could, or will change in the future," President Bush said in 2001, speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House. "We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it."

Annoyed by the ambiguity, Hansen went public a year and a half ago, saying this about the Bush administration in a talk at the University of Iowa: "I find a willingness to listen only to those portions of scientific results that fit predetermined inflexible positions. This, I believe, is a recipe for environmental disaster."

Since then, NASA has been keeping an eye on Hansen. NASA let Pelley sit down with him but only with a NASA representative taping the interview. Other interviews have been denied.

"I object to the fact that I'm not able to freely communicate via the media," says Hansen. "National Public Radio wanted to interview me and they were told they would need to interview someone at NASA headquarters and the comment was made that they didn't want Jim Hansen going on the most liberal media in America. So I don't think that kind of decision should be made on that kind of basis. I think we should be able to communicate the science."

Politically, Hansen calls himself an independent and he's had trouble with both parties. He says, from time to time, the Clinton administration wanted to hear warming was worse that it was. But Hansen refused to spin the science that way.

"Should we be simply doing our science and reporting it rigorously, or to what degree the administration in power has the right to assume that you should be a spokesman for the administration?" asks Hansen. "I've tried to be a straight scientist doing the science and reporting it as best I can."

Dozens of federal agencies report science but much of it is edited at the White House before it is sent to Congress and the public. It appears climate science is edited with a heavy hand. Drafts of climate reports were co-written by Rick Piltz for the federal Climate Change Science Program. But Piltz says his work was edited by the White House to make global warming seem less threatening.

"The strategy of people with a political agenda to avoid this issue is to say there is so much to study way upstream here that we can't even being to discuss impacts and response strategies," says Piltz. "There's too much uncertainty. It's not the climate scientists that are saying that, its lawyers and politicians."

Piltz worked under the Clinton and Bush administrations. Each year, he helped write a report to Congress called "Our Changing Planet."

Piltz says he is responsible for editing the report and sending a review draft to the White House.

Asked what happens, Piltz says: "It comes back with a large number of edits, handwritten on the hard copy by the chief-of-staff of the Council on Environmental Quality."

Asked who the chief of staff is, Piltz says, "Phil Cooney."

Piltz says Cooney is not a scientist. "He's a lawyer. He was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, before going into the White House," he says.

Cooney, the former oil industry lobbyist, became chief-of-staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Piltz says Cooney edited climate reports in his own hand. In one report, a line that said earth is undergoing rapid change becomes "may be undergoing change." "Uncertainty" becomes "significant remaining uncertainty." One line that says energy production contributes to warming was just crossed out.

"He was obviously passing it through a political screen," says Piltz. "He would put in the word potential or may or weaken or delete text that had to do with the likely consequence of climate change, pump up uncertainty language throughout."

In a report, Piltz says Cooney added this line "… the uncertainties remain so great as to preclude meaningfully informed decision making. …" References to human health are marked out. 60 Minutes obtained the drafts from the Government Accountability Project. This edit made it into the final report: the phrase "earth may be" undergoing change made it into the report to Congress. Piltz says there wasn't room at the White House for those who disagreed, so he resigned.

"Even to raise issues internally is immediately career limiting," says Piltz. "That's why you will find not too many people in the federal agencies who will speak freely about all the things they know, unless they're retired or unless they're ready to resign."

Jim Hansen isn't retiring or resigning because he believes earth is nearing a point of no return. He urged 60 Minutes to look north to the arctic, where temperatures are rising twice as fast as the rest of the world. When 60 Minutes visited Greenland this past August, we saw for ourselves the accelerating melt of the largest ice sheet in the north.

"Here in Greenland about 15 years ago the ice sheet extended to right about where I'm standing now, but today, its back there, between those two hills in the shaded area. Glaciologists call this a melt stream but, these days, its a more like a melt river," Pelley said, standing at the edge of Greenland's ice sheet.

The Bush administration doesn't deny global warming or that man plays a role. The administration is spending billions of dollars on climate research. Hansen gives the White House credit for research but says what's urgent now is action.

"We have to, in the next 10 years, get off this exponential curve and begin to decrease the rate of growth of CO2 emissions," Hansen explains. "And then flatten it out. And before we get to the middle of the century, we've got to be on a declining curve.

"If that doesn't happen in 10 years, then I don't think we can keep global warming under one degree Celsius and that means we're going to, that there's a great danger of passing some of these tipping points. If the ice sheets begin to disintegrate, what can you do about it? You can't tie a rope around the ice sheet. You can't build a wall around the ice sheets. It will be a situation that is out of our control."

But that's not a situation you'll find in one federal report submitted for review. Government scientists wanted to tell you about the ice sheets, but before a draft of the report left the White House, the paragraph on glacial melt and flooding was crossed out and this was added: "straying from research strategy into speculative findings and musings here."

Hansen says his words were edited once during a presentation when a top official scolded him for using the word danger.

"I think we know a lot more about the tipping points," says Hansen. "I think we know about the dangers of even a moderate degree of additional global warming about the potential effects in the arctic about the potential effects on the ice sheets."

"You just used that word again that you're not supposed to use - danger," Pelley remarks.

"Yeah. It's a danger," Hansen says.

For months, 60 Minutes had been trying to talk with the president's science advisor. 60 Minutes was finally told he would never be available. Phil Cooney, the editor at the Council on Environmental Quality didn't return 60 Minutes' calls. In June, he left the White House and went to work for Exxon Mobil.

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Ancient Sarcophagus Unearthed in Cyprus

Associated Press
21 Mar 06

NICOSIA, Cyprus A 2,500-year-old sarcophagus with vivid color illustrations from Homer's epics has been discovered in western Cyprus, archaeologists said Monday.

Construction workers found the limestone sarcophagus last week in a tomb near the village of Kouklia, in the coastal Paphos area. The tomb, which probably belonged to an ancient warrior, had been looted during antiquity.
"The style of the decoration is unique, not so much from an artistic point of view, but for the subject and the colors used," said Pavlos Flourentzos, director of the island's antiquities department.

Only two similar sarcophagi have ever been discovered in Cyprus before. One is housed in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the other in the British Museum in London, but their colors are more faded, Flourentzos said.

Flourentzos said the coffin _ painted in red, black and blue on a white background _ dated to 500 B.C., when Greek cultural influence was gaining a firm hold on the eastern Mediterranean island. Pottery discovered in the tomb is expected to provide a precise date.

Experts believe the ornate decoration features the hero Ulysses in scenes from Homer's Iliad and Odyssey _ both hugely popular throughout the Greek world.

In one large painting, Ulysses and his comrades escape from the blind Cyclops Polyphemos' cave, hidden under a flock of sheep. Another depicts a battle between Greeks and Trojans from the Iliad.

Archeologists think the scenes hint at the status of the coffin's occupant.

"Why else take these two pieces from Homer and why deal with Ulysses? Maybe this represents the dead person's character _ who possibly was a warrior," Flourentzos said.

Other drawings depict a figure carrying a seriously injured or dead man and a lion fighting a wild boar under a tree. These are not believed to be linked with Homer's poems.

Reflecting a long oral tradition loosely based on historic events, Homer's epics were probably composed around 800 B.C. and written down in the 6th century B.C.

The tomb was found in an area containing several ancient cemeteries which belonged to the nearby town of Palaepaphos, 11 miles inland from modern Paphos.

First settled around 2800 B.C., Palaepaphos was the site of a temple of Aphrodite _ the ancient goddess of beauty who, according to mythology, was born in the sea off Paphos.

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Woman With Perfect Memory Baffles Scientists

Lee Dye
March 20, 2006

James McGaugh is one of the world's leading experts on how the human memory system works. But these days, he admits he's stumped.
McGaugh's journey through an intellectual purgatory began six years ago when a woman now known only as AJ wrote him a letter detailing her astonishing ability to remember with remarkable clarity even trivial events that happened decades ago.

Give her any date, she said, and she could recall the day of the week, usually what the weather was like on that day, personal details of her life at that time, and major news events that occurred on that date.

Like any good scientist, McGaugh was initially skeptical. But not anymore.

"This is real," he says.

Soon after AJ took over his life, McGaugh teamed with two fellow researchers at the University of California at Irvine. Elizabeth Parker, a clinical professor of psychiatry and neurology (and lead author of a report on the research in the current issue of the journal Neurocase), and Larry Cahill, an associate professor of neurobiology and behavior, have joined McGaugh in putting AJ through an exhaustive series of interviews and psychological tests. But they aren't a lot closer today to understanding her amazing ability than they were when they started.

"We are trying to find out, but we haven't hit 'bingo' yet," says McGaugh.

His initial hypothesis, like several others, has turned out to be wrong - or at least incomplete.

McGaugh has spent decades studying how such things as stress hormones and emotions affect memory, and at first he thought AJ's memories were of such emotional power that she couldn't forget them.

But that hypothesis fell short of the mark when it became obvious that "the woman who can't forget" remembers trivial details as clearly as major events. Asked what happened on Aug 16, 1977, she knew that Elvis Presley had died, but she also knew that a California tax initiative passed on June 6 of the following year, and a plane crashed in Chicago on May 25 of the next year, and so forth. Some may have had a personal meaning for her, but some did not.

"Here's a woman who has very strong memories, but she has very strong memories of things for which I have no memory at all," McGaugh says.

That became particularly clear one day when he asked her out of the blue if she knew who Bing Crosby was.

"I wasn't sure she would know, because she's 40 and wasn't of the Bing Crosby era," he says.

But she did.

"Do you know where he died?" McGaugh asked.

"Oh yes, he died on a golf course in Spain," she answered, and provided the day of the week and the date when the crooner died.

When the researchers asked her to list the dates when they had interviewed her, she "just reeled them off, bang, bang, bang."

She also told McGaugh that on the day after a particular interview, which took place several years ago, he flew to Germany.

"I said what? I went to Germany? I couldn't even remember what year I had gone to Germany," he says.

That level of recall suggests another hypothesis. Some people are able to recall past events by categorizing them. Certain events, or facts, are associated with others, and filed away together so that they may be easier to access. That's a trick that is often used by entertainers who use feats of memory to wow their audience.

AJ does have "some sort of compulsive tendencies. She wants order in her life," McGaugh says. "As a child, she would get upset if her mother changed anything in her room because she had a place for everything and wanted everything in its place.

"So she does categorize events by the date, but that doesn't explain why she remembers it."

Also, her degree of recall is so much greater than any other person's in the scientific literature that it seems unlikely to be the complete answer, McGaugh adds.

She is also quite different from savants who have surfaced from time to time with extraordinary abilities in music, art or memory.

"Some of them can remember every single detail about the particular hobby that they have, such as baseball or calendars or art, but they are very narrow," he says. McGaugh described one person who could memorize a piece of music instantly, and not forget it, but who "couldn't make change or couldn't take a bus because he didn't know where he was."

By contrast, AJ is a " fully functioning person," McGaugh says.

The researchers are preparing to take their work in a new direction in hopes of understanding what is going on here. It's possible AJ's brain is wired differently, and that may show up through magnetic resonance imaging. Testing is expected to begin within six months.

"We will be looking at her brain, using brain scanning techniques, to see if there's anything that is dramatically different that we can point to," McGaugh says.

Those of us with normal, very fallible memories function somewhat like a computer in that different areas of our brains are interconnected and thus better-suited for general memories. We know where we live and how to get to work, but we may not know what the weather was like on this date four years ago.

It's possible that AJ's brain has some "disconnections" that help her recall past events from her memory bank without interference from the parts of her brain that act as general processors. But the problem is that even if they find some interesting wiring through brain scans, the researchers will be limited in their conclusions by the fact that AJ seems to be unique.

So unique, in fact, that the Irvine team has given her condition a new name. They call it hyperthymestic syndrome, based on the Greek word thymesis for "remembering" and hyper, meaning "more than normal."

Some day, the researchers say, they hope to know what's different about AJ's brain, but they are still a ways off.

"In order to explain a phenomenon you have to first understand the phenomenon," McGaugh says. "We're at the beginning."

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Mayan underworld proves researchers' dream

Mar 20, 2006 — By Tim Gaynor

TULUM, Mexico (Reuters) - The ancient Maya once believed that Mexico's jungle sinkholes containing crystalline waters were the gateway to the underworld and the lair of a surly rain god who had to be appeased with human sacrifices.

Now, the "cenotes," deep sinkholes in limestone that have pools at the bottom, are yielding scientific discoveries including possible life-saving cancer treatments.
Now, the "cenotes," deep sinkholes in limestone that have pools at the bottom, are yielding scientific discoveries including possible life-saving cancer treatments.

Divers are dipping into the cenotes, which stud the Yucatan peninsula, to explore a vast underground river system.

Hefting air tanks, guidelines and waterproof lamps, they have so far mapped 405 miles of channels that form part of a huge subterranean river delta flowing into the Caribbean sea, and they are only just starting.

Scientists investigating the network of caverns and galleries, formed by rainwater passing through porous limestone, have found a wealth of early archeological relics and prehistoric animal bones.

They also have identified dozens of new aquatic species specially adapted to extreme environmental conditions which could have medical applications.

In the Riviera Maya, a strip of Caribbean tourist resorts including the world-famous archeological site of Tulum, there are more than 500 cenotes. Some are open to the jungle, while others have tiny eye-like holes letting in sunlight and jungle roots.

Their waters have filtered through sponge-like limestone which leaves them so transparent that divers say they feel like they are floating in space. The pools range in depth from a few feet (a meter) to an abyss where explorers have still not touched bottom at over 500 feet.

"It is proving to be a totally unique environment," said marine biologist Tom Iliffe of Texas A&M University. "We are finding things down there including forms of life that no one had ever guessed existed, and there is a lot more work to be done."


The Yucatan sits on a limestone plateau where rainwater percolates down to nonporous rock below ground. Over millions of years, underground river systems have formed that flow out to the sea through caves.

The region's 7,000 to 8,000 cenotes were formed when caves collapsed in on themselves. The resulting sinkholes became a vital water source and a focus for Mayan sacrifices to honor Chac, the volatile, crocodile-like rain deity.

In recent years, biologists delving into the underlying river systems, which unlike the sinkholes are jet-black because of the lack of sunlight, have identified 40 entirely new species, mostly blind shrimps and fish which have adapted to life in the system's harsh conditions, where dissolved oxygen and food are scarce.

Among the startling discoveries are microorganisms that live in the transitional zone where the fresh water rivers flow out into the Caribbean, and salt-water sponges which may contain anti-tumor compounds.

"Research is at an early stage, but it is quite possible that the bacteria and sponges may have potential biomedical applications including cures for cancer," Iliffe told Reuters in a telephone interview. "There is a great deal of scientific excitement about it."

Other finds made by divers roaming the deep, dark corridors include the bones of giant jungle sloths, rabbits and even mammoths dating back beyond the last Ice Age.

"When you come up and tell people there are elephants down there they really think you've gone crazy," said Sam Meacham, an underwater explorer and conservationist.


In the past three decades the population of the Riviera Maya has soared 10-fold to close to 1 million people, as tourists from the United States, Europe and Mexico flock to the palm-fringed strip to soak up the sun.

Environmentalists say that the explosive development has been only patchily regulated and warn that waste produced by resort hotels and service towns in the area is already polluting the complex underground oasis.

"It's totally the Wild West, when what is needed is carefully planned, sustainable development," said Meacham, who runs the Quintana Roo Water Systems Research Center, a local non-profit group that raises consciousness about water issues in schools.

Water conservation will be a key issue when ministers, hydrologists and environmentalists from around the world meet at the World Water Forum in Mexico City from March 16-22.

Meacham says human sewage is pumped deep underground, and that at least one water system in the Yucatan has been polluted with fecal matter. The impact of 250 tonnes of trash dumped in landfills each day has yet to be evaluated.

The hundreds of tourists who dive and snorkel each day in any of a dozen cenotes and caves open to the public are also unwittingly destroying the ecosystems before they can be properly understood, Iliffe says.

"Fish are following the divers into the caves and they gobble up all the life, and they (the caves) are left biologically sterile," he said.

"When you consider that they could possibly lead to a cure for cancer, it is essential to conserve them."

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NASA Halts Kennedy Space Center Operations After Accidents

Matthew Borghese
All Headline News
March 20, 2006

Cape Canaveral, Florida (AHN) - NASA is halting shuttle launch preparation at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) after a series of recent accidents.

KSC Director Jim Kennedy stopped work on NASA's three-orbiter shuttle fleet and International Space Station (ISS) components after a small fire at the Vehicle Assembly Building, among other problems.

Kennedy says, "We must stop, in their tracks, the chain of events that led me to call for this safety stand-down."

Kennedy says that the small fire "could have been catastrophic," where two fully fueled shuttle solid rocket boosters were stacked.

Kennedy calls the accidents "a threat to successfully accomplishing our mission - the launching of astronauts and payloads into space."

"We understand that incidents may occur, but a major mishap could result in losing the confidence of the American people."

According to Kennedy, the accidents "could derail NASA's plans to complete the International Space Station and begin exploration of the moon, Mars and beyond."

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Around the World

Blair wants battle of ideas with terrorists

21 Mar 06

LONDON - British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday will call for a global, interventionist approach to confront terrorism head on and win a battle over values and ideas.

"This is not a clash between civilizations, it is a clash about civilization," Blair will say in a speech this afternoon, according to extracts released by his official spokesman.
"'We' is not the West. 'We' are as much Muslim as Christian or Jew or Hindu. 'We' are those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others, to democracy, liberty and human rights administered by secular courts," he will say.

The speech, due to be given at a Reuters Newsmaker event, is the first of three that Blair plans to deliver on terrorism and the significance of Iraq and Afghanistan. The second will be given in Australia and the third in the United States.

"The only way to win is to recognize this phenomenon is a global ideology; to see all areas in which it operates as linked and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists," the speech will say.

Blair will say a belief in an "activist approach" to foreign policy, based on values and interests, is the theme underlying the government's approach to issues from Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan, to climate change and poverty in Africa.

Blair's spokesman played down fears the speech might ring alarm bells in Iran, which is locked in a battle of wills with the United States and Europe over its nuclear program.

"On Iran, we are engaged in an activist, interventionist approach. It isn't just sitting back waiting for Iran, it is trying to enforce through diplomacy," the spokesman said.

Blair will contrast his approach with one he calls the "doctrine of benign activity," a doctrine he says sees setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan as a reason why Saddam Hussein and the Taliban should have been left in place.

"The terrorists know that if they are to succeed either in Iraq or Afghanistan or indeed Lebanon or anywhere else wanting to go the democratic route, then the choice of a modern future for the Arab or Muslim world is dealt a potentially mortal blow," Blair will say.

"Likewise if they fail and those countries become democracies and make progress, then not merely is that a blow against their whole value system but it is the most effective message against their wretched propaganda about America, the West and the rest of the world."

Blair said nations must recognize extremism is deep rooted -- with 40 to 50 countries subject to regular terrorist attacks loosely linked to its ideology -- and that an interventionist stance was the precondition for future prosperity and stability.

© Copyright Reuters Ltd.

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Protesters defy Belarus authorities for third day of rallies against election

06:36:55 EST Mar 21, 2006

MINSK, Belarus (AP) - Temperatures plunged. Then it began snowing. But when dawn broke Tuesday in Belarus, they were still there - a few hundred determined demonstrators huddled around a dozen small tents on Minsk's central square.

The protesters are trying to mimic techniques that worked in neighbouring Ukraine, where crowds of 100,000 or more jammed the centre of the capital for weeks in December 2004, forcing a rerun of a flawed presidential election.
But their diminishing numbers suggested the opposition was losing momentum in its drive to overturn President Alexander Lukashenko's overwhelming victory on Sunday, despite support from the United States and the European Union.

International observers said the vote fell short of democratic standards, and Europe's main human rights organization denounced it as a farce. Washington called for a new election.

On Sunday night an estimated 10,000 people had poured into Oktyabrskaya Square to register their outrage - a demonstration extraordinary for its size and for the restraint shown by police. The former Soviet republic is a tightly controlled country where police have cracked down swiftly on unsanctioned opposition gatherings.

Leaders called on them to return to the square Monday evening, but only about 5,000 heeded the call. By midnight their numbers had fallen to a few hundred.

"What happened last night will be in history books," the main opposition candidate, Alexander Milinkevich, told the shivering protesters early Tuesday.

"We are here, and we have begun the true struggle for freedom, truth and justice," he said, urging supporters to stick it out.

During the night the protesters formed a human chain around a dozen small tents they set up in the square, locking arms to protect the tiny encampment. Others tried to bring in blankets, food and hot beverages to help them endure their vigil in freezing temperatures but were often detained by police.

"I believe that the repression will not stop us," said Olena Savina, 21, a journalism student who said police detained her for about an hour and took away the bread, sausages and sleeping mats she was bringing to the square. "I believe that there will be more and more of us."

Milinkevich has called Lukashenko an "illegal, illegitimate president," describing his official vote tally as "monstrously inflated." Backing his appeal for a new vote, the United States hinted it might impose travel restrictions on Belarusian leaders.

"The United States will continue to stand with the people of Belarus," said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, congratulated Lukashenko and said the results would help strengthen the alliance of the two ex-Soviet countries.

Milinkevich said two top opposition figures, United Civil Party leader Anatoly Lebedko and his deputy, Alexander Dobrovolsky, were detained early Tuesday.

Andrei Denko, head of a leading opposition newspaper called Nasha Niva, was detained by police after he got off a bus by the square Tuesday morning.

Three Georgian citizens, including a diplomat, were detained late Monday in Belarus and were likely to be deported, Georgian legislator Givi Targamadze said in Tbilisi.

Belarusian authorities claimed before the vote that Georgians including Targamadze were involved in an alleged election-day terror plot aimed at overthrowing the government - accusations widely dismissed as scare tactics.

The Belarusian Interior Ministry said it could not immediately confirm the detentions.

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Demonstrator still in coma, police deny responsibility

PARIS, March 21, 2006 (AFP)

A demonstrator who was hospitalised after Saturday's disturbances in Paris over the French government's youth jobs plan remained in a coma on Tuesday, as a row broke out over how he received his injuries.

Cyril Ferez, a 39 year-old member of the SUD PTT union, was trampled underfoot in a charge by police against rioters in the Place de la Nation, according to the union.
"The attitude of the police was particularly scandalous. Having resorted to significant violence during the demonstration, the forces of law and order refused to call for first aid as Cyril was lying on the ground in an obviously serious state," SUD PTT said.

But a paramedic from the CRS riot police said that Ferez had told him his injuries were inflicted by other demonstrators.

In a deposition to an official investigation into the incident, the paramedic said Ferez was "in a semi-conscious state with multiple facial bruising" and that he appeared to have consumed alcohol.

In the ambulance which took them to hospital Ferez "realised we were keen to get to the exact truth and he admitted he had had an argument with other demonstrators who had attacked him", the unnamed paramedic said.

But SUD PTT said "once again the General Services Inspectorate (investigating authority) and the government are trying to cover up a police blunder".

Tens of thousands of people attended Saturday's protest march, which was peaceful until the end, when groups of masked men began throwing projectiles at police and setting fire to vehicles. Police responded with tear gas and baton charges.

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Kadhafi says Saddam still legitimate Iraqi leader, government illegal

Agence France Presse
20 Mar 06

ROME - Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi said Saddam Hussein should still be considered Iraq's legal president and the current government illegitimate as it was elected under an occupation regime.

In an interview with the Italian Sky TG24 television channel, he slammed the practice of sending in troops to get rid of heads of state, saying that by that theory he could be next.

Kadhafi said that "Saddam Hussein cannot be tried because he is a prisoner of war and under the Geneva Convention should be released at the end of hostilities.
"Saddam is still to be considered the legal president of Iraq because he was not overthrown by the people but by the occupation forces."

"It is dangerous to send troops to eliminate heads of state who are not appreciated, because tomorrow it could be the turn of Castro, Kadhafi or Mugabe, or even China and North Korea," he said, referring to Cuban President Fidel Castro and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

"The invasion of Iraq was not justified because Saddam had already abandoned weapons of mass destruction," Kadhafi added, referring to the main US pretext for invading Iraq three years ago.

He said that the United States should get out of Iraq in its own interest "because the Iraqis are no longer afraid of the Americans so that the murder of US soldiers has become routine."

Libya and the United States resumed direct diplomatic relations in June 2004 -- after a gap of 24 years which saw US planes bomb Tripoli in 1986 -- following Kadhafi's announcement of a programme to destroy his weapons of mass destruction.

© Copyright Agence France-Presse.

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Back in the USA

Baker's Latest Assignment; tell Bush we lost

By Mike Whitney
Information Clearing House
20 Mar 06

The cracks and fissures are finally beginning to appear in Fortress Bush. The AP is reporting that Congress quietly appointed an "Iraq Study Group" headed by James A. Baker to "assess the Bush administration's policies in Iraq and political and economic developments in the troubled country". In other words, Baker has been picked to tell Bush that the war is over; we lost.

The group was voted into being with little fanfare to spare the White House any unnecessary embarrassment, but the message is clear; the adults are finally stepping in. The war has been so appallingly mismanaged that jittery American elites are forcing themselves back into the policy-making apparatus.
The group is led by Bush-family friend and consigliore, James Baker who helped the president squeak-by in election 2000 by convincing the Supreme Court that his client (George Bush) would suffer "irreparable harm" if the legally cast Florida ballots were counted. Now, Baker has returned, leading a team of disgruntled government big-wigs and policy-wonks to see if they can extricate the recalcitrant executive from his Babylon folly. The move illustrates the widening chasm between American elites and the White House over the bungled handling of the war. In the last two weeks, die-hard conservatives William Buckley and Francis Fukuyama "bailed out" decrying the present policy as a failure and urging the administration to change course.

Just days ago, Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a foreign policy giant and master of American-style Realpolitik, added his voice to the growing chorus of nay-sayers; opining that it was time for the withdrawal of American troops. It is unlikely that Buckley, Fukuyama, or Brzezinski would concede defeat if it was just a matter of wiping out another 100,000 Iraqis or so. Their judgment is predicated on the simple fact that the U.S. will not win.

The newly-formed Baker group consists of political insiders and powerbrokers who typically work behind the scenes to guide the ship of state in a corporate-friendly direction. Members include former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, head of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Lee Hamilton, former CIA Director Robert Gates, former Clinton advisor Vernon Jordan, former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta, former Defense Secretary William Perry, former Senator of Virginia Chuck Robb, and Former Senator of Wyoming Alan Simpson.

Traditionally, the real power in Washington derives from a core of elites who hale from the various think-tanks and semi-secret organizations (particularly the 4,200 member Council on Foreign Relations CFR) that provide the financial support for congressional campaigns and political maneuvering. This new commission represents a departure from their normal modus operandi of working behind the scenes. That implies that the situation is graver than we think. Baker would never humiliate the president unless the plutocrats were running scared, but Bush has given them little choice. The deteriorating situation in Iraq and the thickheaded disregard for differing opinions has raised the level of angst among Baker's friends and precipitated a major crisis.

The group is put together to look like a "fact-finding" mission, but it's not hard to figure out what's going on. All of the members are well-connected with contacts on ground in Iraq as well as in the military. They know what is going on in Iraq; it's a mess, that's why they have decided to break with precedent and jump in headfirst.

The group will probably produce a document that will tell the nation that the 'war has been lost' and we should prepare to leave immediately. There's no telling what the media's response will be. Some will see it as a conspiracy by panicky Americans Mandarins who want to wrest power from the small cadres of fanatics and neocons that surround the president. In fact, that is exactly the case.

In just six years Bush has enraged enemies, alienated allies, increased terrorism, eviscerated America's moral authority, and savaged the military. In fact, military equipment is deteriorating at five times the normal rate and many soldiers are now headed for their forth tour in Iraq. Baker knows that this situation is not sustainable.

He'll try to pile up enough facts to make his case before the American people hoping administration die-hards will see the light. It won't be easy.

It's likely that the group will make concrete suggestions concerning a timetable for complete withdrawal, a plan to remove troops from all Sunni cities, negotiations with high-ranking members of the Iraqi resistance, appeals for international assistance, and stealth-agreements for future oil concessions.

There are many glaring ironies about Baker's involvement in the present coup. Baker not only led the charge in the 2000 election; he also headed the Independent Task Force on Strategic Energy Policy Challenge for the 21st Century for the Council on Foreign Relations. As Lawrence Shoup reports in "The CFR Debates Torture" ( Z Magazine March 2006) "Fifty one task force members, many of them connected to the oil industry, signed the report which reached a consensus on a number of questions. The first general conclusion was that 'a new era of energy scarcity' was upon the world…presenting fundamental obstacles to continued economic growth and prosperity. …"

The report advised the forming of an "interagency process to articulate and promote energy security policy" …noting that the Bush administration has moved has moved rapidly in this direction through the creation of the White House Energy Policy Development Group headed by Vice President Dick Cheney".( Lawrence Shoup; "The CFR Debates Torture")

This was the beginning of the dividing up of Iraq according to future contracts with the oil giants. (all behind closed doors) This suggests that it was James A. Baker who provided the report to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) that persuaded them that 'something had to be done about Iraq'.

Now he's back telling them its time to quit.

Baker's new assignment is to loosen the madman's grip on the nations' steering wheel and glide the people's-wagon back to safety. Expect to see Baker looking a lot like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill.

After years of struggle, Baker and company have finally created the one-party system of their dreams with a government that is unaccountable to the people, the law, or its political base. Unfortunately, he's about to learn what others have known for some time; the nation is in the vice-like grip of homicidal maniacs who have no intention of relinquishing power or admitting defeat.

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Media Avoids Covering Vote on Permanent Bases

By David Swanson

Something is happening in Iraq that most Americans have never heard about, but many Americans think the war is being fought for: the United States is building what look like permanent military bases.

Something happened in Congress last Thursday that most Americans have not heard about. A number of Congress Members, led by Barbara Lee and Tom Allen, proposed an amendment to the latest giant spending bill for the war, an amendment forbidding the United States to establish permanent bases in Iraq.
Both Lee and Allen spoke on the floor in support of the amendment, as did Jan Schakowsky, John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Sheila Jackson Lee, David Price, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey, Maurice Hinchey, and the militantly pro-war Jane Harman. That's a lot of speeches. Did you read about any of them anywhere? See them on TV? How about on the radio?

The amendment passed!

Did you read or hear that anywhere? You almost certainly did not, unless you search out information on the internet or subscribe to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Lexis-Nexis database contains most major newspapers and transcripts of many talk shows. I did a search Sunday afternoon for "Barbara Lee." I found four relevant articles. One was from the San Francisco Chronicle. One was Lee's own press release. And two were Allen's press release. I also searched for "permanent bases." Again I found Lee's press release. I also found a story from Agence France Press and two from the BBC quoting the U.S. ambassador to Iraq promising that the United States would not build permanent bases. Neither the BBC nor AFP had anything about the amendment passed by Congress.

If you search for "Iraq" in Lexis Nexis it comes back with too many articles to display. Media decision makers are, to put it mildly, aware of Iraq as an issue in the news. In fact, dozens of articles covered the vote to spend another $72 billion on the war. But they did not mention the amendment.

The relevant reporters had all been sent press releases from two Congress Members and various NGOs, such as the Council for a Livable World, which sent out this one: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/8979

The blogosphere was blasting the news all over Thursday evening. And on Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle had the story, in print and online. The article began:

"Washington -- The House passed a $92 billion emergency spending package Thursday to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for Hurricane Katrina relief operations. The House, in approving the spending bill 348-71, also gave anti-war Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland a rare victory by accepting her proposal to bar permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq."

After a few other paragraphs, it continued:

"Lee's amendment, which would bar the use of any funds in the new spending bill to establish permanent bases, passed on a voice vote, with no one speaking in opposition. President Bush and some top administration officials have said the U.S. military has no interest in permanent bases, the prospect of which is among the causes of anti-American unrest in Iraq. Leaders of the Republican majority also may have chosen to avoid a debate and recorded vote on Lee's proposal because they didn't want to go on record endorsing a permanent military presence in Iraq when polls show Americans oppose the war. Opponents also may try to strike the amendment when leaders of the House and Senate reconcile their bill for final passage. 'In adopting this amendment, we can take the target off our troops' backs by sending a strong and immediate signal to the Iraqi people, the insurgents and the international community that the United States has no designs on Iraq,' Lee said on the House floor."

That's quite a story: an issue so touchy that the majority party goes against its own wishes in order to avoid going on record, and a reporter, with his editor's approval, anticipates that they will likely reverse that position behind closed doors. Won't that be an even bigger story!

Well, no. Not if no one has heard about this one. And not if no one has even heard that bases are being built or that Iraqis are killing Americans because of it.

Maybe the wisest course is to cut out the middleman. Go straight to Barbara Lee's press release for your news on this issue:

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How to spot a baby conservative - Whiny children, claims a new study, tend to grow up rigid and traditional. Future liberals, on the other hand ...

Toronto STAR
19 Mar 06

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

The study from the Journal of Research Into Personality isn't going to make the UC Berkeley professor who published it any friends on the right. Similar conclusions a few years ago from another academic saw him excoriated on right-wing blogs, and even led to a Congressional investigation into his research funding.

But the new results are worth a look.
In the 1960s Jack Block and his wife and fellow professor Jeanne Block (now deceased) began tracking more than 100 nursery school kids as part of a general study of personality. The kids' personalities were rated at the time by teachers and assistants who had known them for months. There's no reason to think political bias skewed the ratings - the investigators were not looking at political orientation back then. Even if they had been, it's unlikely that 3- and 4-year-olds would have had much idea about their political leanings.

A few decades later, Block followed up with more surveys, looking again at personality, and this time at politics, too. The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.

The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective.

Block admits in his paper that liberal Berkeley is not representative of the whole country. But within his sample, he says, the results hold. He reasons that insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics. The more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives to the way things are, and find liberal politics more congenial.

In a society that values self-confidence and out-goingness, it's a mostly flattering picture for liberals. It also runs contrary to the American stereotype of wimpy liberals and strong conservatives.

Of course, if you're studying the psychology of politics, you shouldn't be surprised to get a political reaction. Similar work by John T. Jost of Stanford and colleagues in 2003 drew a political backlash. The researchers reviewed 44 years worth of studies into the psychology of conservatism, and concluded that people who are dogmatic, fearful, intolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, and who crave order and structure are more likely to gravitate to conservatism. Critics branded it the "conservatives are crazy" study and accused the authors of a political bias.

Jost welcomed the new study, saying it lends support to his conclusions. But Jeff Greenberg, a social psychologist at the University of Arizona who was critical of Jost's study, was less impressed.

"I found it to be biased, shoddy work, poor science at best," he said of the Block study. He thinks insecure, defensive, rigid people can as easily gravitate to left-wing ideologies as right-wing ones. He suspects that in Communist China, those kinds of people would likely become fervid party members.

The results do raise some obvious questions. Are nursery school teachers in the conservative heartland cursed with classes filled with little proto-conservative whiners?

Or does an insecure little boy raised in Idaho or Alberta surrounded by conservatives turn instead to liberalism?

Or do the whiny kids grow up conservative along with the majority of their more confident peers, while only the kids with poor impulse control turn liberal?

Part of the answer is that personality is not the only factor that determines political leanings. For instance, there was a .27 correlation between being self-reliant in nursery school and being a liberal as an adult. Another way of saying it is that self-reliance predicts statistically about 7 per cent of the variance between kids who became liberal and those who became conservative. (If every self-reliant kid became a liberal and none became conservatives, it would predict 100 per cent of the variance). Seven per cent is fairly strong for social science, but it still leaves an awful lot of room for other influences, such as friends, family, education, personal experience and plain old intellect.

For conservatives whose feelings are still hurt, there is a more flattering way for them to look at the results. Even if they really did tend to be insecure complainers as kids, they might simply have recognized that the world is a scary, unfair place.

Their grown-up conclusion that the safest thing is to stick to tradition could well be the right one. As for their "rigidity," maybe that's just moral certainty.

The grown-up liberal men, on the other hand, with their introspection and recognition of complexity in the world, could be seen as self-indulgent and ineffectual.

Whether anyone's feelings are hurt or not, the work suggests that personality and emotions play a bigger role in our political leanings than we think. All of us, liberal or conservative, feel as though we've reached our political opinions by carefully weighing the evidence and exercising our best judgment. But it could be that all of that careful reasoning is just after-the-fact self-justification. What if personality forms our political outlook, with reason coming along behind, rationalizing after the fact?

It could be that whom we vote for has less to do with our judgments about tax policy or free trade or health care, and more with the personalities we've been stuck with since we were kids.

Kurt Kleiner is a Toronto-based freelance science writer.

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Cold Warrior in a Strange Land A Tomdispatch Interview with Chalmers Johnson (Part 1)


As he and his wife Sheila drive me through downtown San Diego in the glare of mid-day, he suddenly exclaims, "Look at that structure!" I glance over and just across the blue expanse of the harbor is an enormous aircraft carrier. "It's the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan," he says, "the newest carrier in the fleet. It's a floating Chernobyl and it sits a proverbial six inches off the bottom with two huge atomic reactors. You make a wrong move and there goes the country's seventh largest city."

Soon, we're heading toward their home just up the coast in one of those fabled highway traffic jams that every description of Southern California must include. "We feel we're far enough north," he adds in the kind of amused tone that makes his company both alarming and thoroughly entertaining, "so we could see the glow, get the cat, pack up, and head for Quartzsite, Arizona."

Chalmers Johnson, who served in the U.S. Navy and now is a historian of American militarism, lives cheek by jowl with his former service. San Diego is the headquarters of the 11th Naval District. "It's wall to wall military bases right up the coast," he comments. "By the way, this summer the Pentagon's planning the largest naval concentration in the Pacific in the post-World War II period! Four aircraft-carrier task forces -- two from the Atlantic and that's almost unprecedented -- doing military exercises off the coast of China."

That afternoon, we seat ourselves at his dining room table. He's seventy-four years old, crippled by rheumatoid arthritis and bad knees. He walks with a cane, but his is one of the spriest minds in town. Out the window I can see a plethora of strange, oversized succulents. ("That's an Agave attenuata," he says. "If you want one, feel free. We have them everywhere. When the blue-gray Tequila plant blooms, its flower climbs 75 feet straight up! Then you get every hummingbird in Southern California.") In the distance, the Pacific Ocean gleams.

Johnson is wearing a black t-shirt that, he tells me, a former military officer and friend brought back from Russia. ("He was amused to see hippies selling these in the Moscow airport.") The shirt sports an illustration of an AK-47 on its front with the inscription, "Mikhail Kalashnikov" in Cyrillic script, and underneath, "The freedom fighter's friend, a product of the Soviet Union." On the back in English, it says, "World Massacre Tour" with the following list: "The Gulf War, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Angola, Laos, Nicaragua, Salvador, Lebanon, Gaza Strip, Karabakh, Chechnya… To be continued."

Johnson, who served as a lieutenant (jg) in the Navy in the early 1950s and from 1967-1973 was a consultant for the CIA, ran the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley for years. He defended the Vietnam War ("In that I was distinctly a man of my times…"), but is probably the only person of his generation to have written, in the years since, anything like this passage from the introduction to his book Blowback: "The problem was that I knew too much about the international Communist movement and not enough about the United States government and its Department of Defense… In retrospect, I wish I had stood with the antiwar protest movement. For all its naiveté and unruliness, it was right and American policy wrong."

Retired, after a long, provocative career as a Japan specialist, he is the author of the prophetic Blowback, The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, published in 2000 to little attention. After 9/11, it became a bestseller, putting the word "blowback," a CIA term for retaliation for U.S. covert actions, into common usage. He has since written The Sorrows of Empire, Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. ("As an academic subject, the American Empire is largely taboo," he tells me. "I'm now comfortably retired, but I had a successful academic career. I realize that young academics today will take up the subject and start doing research on aspects of our empire only if they've got some cover. They need somebody to go first. I've had some of my former graduate students say, 'Look, you're invulnerable. If you won't take the lead, why do you expect us to go do a research project on the impact of American military whorehouses on Turkey. I mean, let's face it, it's a good subject!")

He is just now completing the final volume of his Blowback Trilogy. It will be entitled Nemesis.

Sharp as a tack, energetic and high-spirited, by turns genuinely alarmed and thoroughly sardonic, he's a talker by nature. Our encounter is an interview in name only. No one has ever needed an interviewer less. I do begin with a question that had been on my mind, but it's hardly necessary.

Tomdispatch: Let's start with a telltale moment in your life, the moment when the Cold War ended. What did it mean to you?

Chalmers Johnson: I was a cold warrior. There's no doubt about that. I believed the Soviet Union was a genuine menace. I still think so.

There's no doubt that, in some ways, the Soviet Union inspired a degree of idealism. There are grown men I admire who can't but stand up if they hear the Internationale being played, even though they split with the Communists ages ago because of the NKVD and the gulag. I thought we needed to protect ourselves from the Soviets.

As I saw it, the only justification for our monster military apparatus, its size, the amounts spent on it, the growth of the Military-Industrial Complex that [President Dwight] Eisenhower identified for us, was the existence of the Soviet Union and its determination to match us. The fact that the Soviet Union was global, that it was extremely powerful, mattered, but none of us fully anticipated its weaknesses. I had been there in 1978 at the height of [Soviet leader Leonid] Brezhnev's power. You certainly had a sense then that no consumer economy was present. My colleagues at the Institute for the USA and Canada were full of: Oh my god, I found a bottle of good Georgian white wine, or the Cubans have something good in, let's go over to their bar; but if you went down to the store, all you could buy was vodka.

It was a fairly rough kind of world, but some things they did very, very well. We talk about missile defense for this country. To this day, there's only one nation with a weapon that could penetrate any missile defense we put up -- and that's Russia. And we still can't possibly match the one they have, the Topol-M, also known as the SS-27. When [President Ronald] Reagan said he was going to build a Star Wars, these very smart Soviet weapon-makers said: We're going to stop it. And they did.

As [Senator] Daniel Moynihan said: Who needs a CIA that couldn't tell the Soviet Union was falling apart in the 1980s, a $32 billion intelligence agency that could not figure out their economy was in such awful shape they were going to come apart as a result of their war in Afghanistan and a few other things.

In 1989, [Soviet leader] Mikhail Gorbachev makes a decision. They could have stopped the Germans from tearing down the Berlin Wall, but for the future of Russia he decided he'd rather have friendly relations with Germany and France than with those miserable satellites Stalin had created in East Europe. So he just watches them tear it down and, at once, the whole Soviet empire starts to unravel. It's the same sort of thing that might happen to us if we ever stood by and watched the Okinawans kick us out of Okinawa. I think our empire might unravel in a way you could never stop once it started.

The Soviet Union imploded. I thought: What an incredible vindication for the United States. Now it's over, and the time has come for a real victory dividend, a genuine peace dividend. The question was: Would the U.S. behave as it had in the past when big wars came to an end? We disarmed so rapidly after World War II. Granted, in 1947 we started to rearm very rapidly, but by then our military was farcical. In 1989, what startled me almost more than the Wall coming down was this: As the entire justification for the Military-Industrial Complex, for the Pentagon apparatus, for the fleets around the world, for all our bases came to an end, the United States instantly -- pure knee-jerk reaction -- began to seek an alternative enemy. Our leaders simply could not contemplate dismantling the apparatus of the Cold War.

That was, I thought, shocking. I was no less shocked that the American public seemed indifferent. And what things they did do were disastrous. George Bush, the father, was President. He instantaneously declared that he was no longer interested in Afghanistan. It's over. What a huge cost we've paid for that, for creating the largest clandestine operation we ever had and then just walking away, so that any Afghan we recruited in the 1980s in the fight against the Soviet Union instantaneously came to see us as the enemy -- and started paying us back. The biggest blowback of the lot was, of course, 9/11, but there were plenty of them before then.

I was flabbergasted and felt the need to understand what had happened. The chief question that came to mind almost at once, as soon as it was clear that our part of the Cold War was going to be perpetuated -- the same structure, the same military Keynesianism, an economy based largely on the building of weapons -- was: Did this suggest that the Cold War was, in fact, a cover for something else; that something else being an American empire intentionally created during World War II as the successor to the British Empire?.

Now that led me to say: Yes, the Cold War was not the clean-cut conflict between totalitarian and democratic values that we had claimed it to be. You can make something of a claim for that in Western Europe at certain points in the 1950s, but once you bring it into the global context, once you include China and our two East Asian wars, Korea and Vietnam, the whole thing breaks down badly and this caused me to realize that I had some rethinking to do. The wise-ass sophomore has said to me -- this has happened a number of times -- "Aren't you being inconsistent?" I usually answer with the famous remark of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist, who, when once accused of being inconsistent, said to his questioner, "Well, when I get new information, I rethink my position. What, sir, do you do with new information?"

A personal experience five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union also set me rethinking international relations in a more basic way. I was invited to Okinawa by its governor in the wake of a very serious incident. On September 4, 1995, two Marines and a sailor raped a 12-year old girl. It produced the biggest outpouring of anti-Americanism in our key ally, Japan, since the Security Treaty was signed [in 1960].

I had never been to Okinawa before, even though I had spent most of my life studying Japan. I was flabbergasted by the 32 American military bases I found on an island smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands and the enormous pressures it put on the population there. My first reaction as a good Cold Warrior was: Okinawa must be exceptional. It's off the beaten track. The American press doesn't cover it. It's a military colony. Our military has been there since the battle of Okinawa in 1945. It had all the smell of the Raj about it. But I assumed that this was just an unfortunate, if revealing, pimple on the side of our huge apparatus. As I began to study it, though, I discovered that Okinawa was not exceptional. It was the norm. It was what you find in all of the American military enclaves around the world.

TD: The way we garrison the planet has been essential to your rethinking of the American position in the world. Your chapters on Pentagon basing policy were the heart of your last book, The Sorrows of Empire. Didn't you find it strange that, whether reviewers liked the book or not, none of them seemed to deal with your take on our actual bases? What do you make of that?

Johnson: I don't know why that is. I don't know why Americans take for granted, for instance, that huge American military reservations in the United States are natural ways to organize things. There's nothing slightly natural about them. They're artificial and expensive. One of the most interesting ceremonies of recent times is the brouhaha over announced base closings. After all, it's perfectly logical for the Department of Defense to shut down redundant facilities, but you wouldn't think so from all the fuss.

I'm always amazed by the way we kid ourselves about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in our society. We use euphemisms like supply-side economics or the Laffer Curve. We never say: We're artificially making work. If the WPA [Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression] was often called a dig-holes-and-fill-em-up-again project, now we're making things that blow up and we sell them to people. Our weapons aren't particularly good, not compared to those of the great weapons makers around the world. It's just that we can make a lot of them very rapidly.

TD: As a professional editor, I would say that when we look at the world, we have a remarkable ability to edit it.

Johnson: Absolutely. We edit parts of it out. I mean, people in San Diego don't seem the least bit surprised that between here and Los Angeles is a huge military reservation called Camp Pendleton, the headquarters of the First Marine Division. I was there myself back in the Korean War days. I unfortunately crossed the captain of the LST-883 that I was serving on. We had orders to send an officer to Camp Pendleton and he said, "I know who I'm going to send." It was me. (He laughs) And I'll never forget it. The world of Marine drill sergeants is another universe.

In many ways, as an enthusiast for the natural environment, I am delighted to have Pendleton there. It's a cordon sanitaire. I spent a little time with its commandant maybe a decade ago. We got to talking about protecting birds and he said, "I'm under orders to protect these birds. One of my troops drives across a bird's nest in his tank and I'll court martial him. Now, if that goddamn bird flies over to San Clemente, he takes his chances." Even then I thought: That's one of the few things going for you guys, because nothing else that goes on here particularly contributes to our country. Today, of course, with the military eager to suspend compliance with environmental regulations, even that small benefit is gone.

TD: So, returning to our starting point, you saw an empire and…

Johnson: …it had to be conceptualized. Empires are defined so often as holders of colonies, but analytically, by empire we simply mean the projection of hegemony outward, over other people, using them to serve our interests, regardless of how their interests may be affected.

So what kind of empire is ours? The unit is not the colony, it's the military base. This is not quite as unusual as defenders of the concept of empire often assume. That is to say, we can easily calculate the main military bases of the Roman Empire in the Middle East, and it turns out to be about the same number it takes to garrison the region today. You need about 38 major bases. You can plot them out in Roman times and you can plot them out today.

An empire of bases -- that's the concept that best explains the logic of the 700 or more military bases around the world acknowledged by the Department of Defense. Now, we're just kidding ourselves that this is to provide security for Americans. In most cases, it's true that we first occupied these bases with some strategic purpose in mind in one of our wars. Then the war ends and we never give them up. We discovered that it's part of the game; it's the perk for the people who fought the war. The Marines to this day believe they deserve to be in Okinawa because of the losses they had in the bloodiest and last big battle of World War II.

I was astonished, however, at how quickly the concept of empire -- though not necessarily an empire of bases -- became acceptable to the neoconservatives and others in the era of the younger Bush. After all, to use the term proudly, as many of them did, meant flying directly in the face of the origins of the United States. We used to pride ourselves on being as anti-imperialist as anybody could be, attacking a king who ruled in such a tyrannical manner. That lasted only, I suppose, until the Spanish-American War. We'd already become an empire well before that, of course.

TD: Haven't we now become kind of a one-legged empire in the sense that, as you've written, just about everything has become military?

Johnson: That's what's truly ominous about the American empire. In most empires, the military is there, but militarism is so central to ours -- militarism not meaning national defense or even the projection of force for political purposes, but as a way of life, as a way of getting rich or getting comfortable. I guarantee you that the first Marine Division lives better in Okinawa than in Oceanside, California, by considerable orders of magnitude. After the Wall came down, the Soviet troops didn't leave East Germany for five years. They didn't want to go home. They were living so much better in Germany than they knew they would be back in poor Russia.

Most empires try to disguise that military aspect of things. Our problem is: For some reason, we love our military. We regard it as a microcosm of our society and as an institution that works. There's nothing more hypocritical, or constantly invoked by our politicians, than "support our boys." After all, those boys and girls aren't necessarily the most admirable human beings that ever came along, certainly not once they get into another society where they are told they are, by definition, doing good. Then the racism that's such a part of our society emerges very rapidly -- once they get into societies where they don't understand what's going on, where they shout at some poor Iraqi in English.

TD: I assume you'd agree that our imperial budget is the defense budget. Do you want to make some sense of it for us?

Johnson: Part of empire is the way it's penetrated our society, the way we've become dependent on it. Empires in the past -- the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the Japanese Empire -- helped to enrich British citizens, Roman citizens, Japanese citizens. In our society, we don't want to admit how deeply the making and selling of weaponry has become our way of life; that we really have no more than four major weapons manufacturers -- Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics -- but these companies distribute their huge contracts to as many states, as many congressional districts, as possible.

The military budget is starting to bankrupt the country. It's got so much in it that's well beyond any rational military purpose. It equals just less than half of total global military spending. And yet here we are, stymied by two of the smallest, poorest countries on Earth. Iraq before we invaded had a GDP the size of the state of Louisiana and Afghanistan was certainly one of the poorest places on the planet. And yet these two places have stopped us.

Militarily, we've got an incoherent, not very intelligent budget. It becomes less incoherent only when you realize the ways it's being used to fund our industries or that one of the few things we still manufacture reasonably effectively is weapons. It's a huge export business, run not by the companies but by foreign military sales within the Pentagon.

This is not, of course, free enterprise. Four huge manufacturers with only one major customer. This is state socialism and it's keeping the economy running not in the way it's taught in any economics course in any American university. It's closer to what John Maynard Keynes advocated for getting out of the Great Depression -- counter-cyclical governmental expenditures to keep people employed.

The country suffers from a collective anxiety neurosis every time we talk about closing bases and it has nothing to do with politics. New England goes just as mad over shutting shut down the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as people here in San Diego would if you suggested shutting the Marine Corps Air Station. It's always seen as our base. How dare you take away our base! Our congressmen must get it back!

This illustrates what I consider the most insidious aspect of our militarism and our military empire. We can't get off it any more. It's not that we're hooked in a narcotic sense. It's just that we'd collapse as an economy if we let it go and we know it. That's the terrifying thing.

And the precedents for this should really terrify us. The greatest single previous example of military Keynesianism -- that is, of taking an economy distraught over recession or depression, over people being very close to the edge and turning it around -- is Germany. Remember, for the five years after Adolf Hitler became chancellor in 1933, he was admired as one of the geniuses of modern times. And people were put back to work. This was done entirely through military Keynesianism, an alliance between the Nazi Party and German manufacturers.

Many at the time claimed it was an answer to the problems of real Keynesianism, of using artificial government demand to reopen factories, which was seen as strengthening the trade unions, the working class. Capitalists were afraid of government policies that tended to strengthen the working class. They might prove to be revolutionary. They had been often enough in that century. In this country, we were still shell-shocked over Bolshevism; to a certain extent, we still are.

What we've done with our economy is very similar to what Adolf Hitler did with his. We turn out airplanes and other weapons systems in huge numbers. This leads us right back to 1991 when the Soviet Union finally collapsed. We couldn't let the Cold War come to an end. We realized it very quickly. In fact, there are many people who believe that the thrust of the Cold War even as it began, especially in the National Security Council's grand strategy document, NSC68, rested on the clear understanding of late middle-aged Americans who had lived through the Great Depression that the American economy could not sustain itself on the basis of capitalist free enterprise. And that's how -- my god – in 1966, only a couple of decades after we started down this path, we ended up with some 32,000 nuclear warheads. That was the year of the peak stockpile, which made no sense at all. We still have 9,960 at the present moment.

Now, the 2007 Pentagon budget doesn't make sense either. It's $439.3 billion…

TD: … not including war…

Johnson: Not including war! These people have talked us into building a fantastic military apparatus, and then, there was that famous crack [Clinton Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright made to General Colin Powell: "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?" Well, if you want to use it today, they charge you another $120 billion dollars! (He laughs.)

But even the official budget makes no sense. It's filled with weapons like Lockheed Martin's F-22 -- the biggest single contract ever written. It's a stealth airplane and it's absolutely useless. They want to build another Virginia class nuclear submarine. These are just toys for the admirals.

TD: When we were younger, there were always lots of articles about Pentagon boondoggles, the million-dollar military monkey wrench and the like. No one bothers to write articles like that any more, do they?

Johnson: That's because they've completely given up on decent, normal accounting at the Pentagon. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist, and a colleague at Harvard have put together a real Pentagon budget which, for the wars we're fighting right now, comes out to about $2 trillion. What they've added in are things like interest on the national debt that was used to buy arms in the past. Turns out to be quite a few billion dollars. Above all, they try to get a halfway honest figure for veterans' benefits. For this year, it's officially $68 billion, which is almost surely way too low given, if nothing more, the huge number of veterans who applied for and received benefits after our first Gulf War.

We hear on the nightly news about the medical miracle that people can be in an explosion in which, essentially, three 155 millimeter shells go off underneath a Humvee, and they survive through heroic emergency efforts. Barely. Like Bob Woodruff, the anchor person from ABC News. The guy who saved his life said, I thought he was dead when I picked him up. But many of these military casualties will be wards of the state forever. Do we intend to disavow them? It leads you back to the famous antiwar cracks of the 1930s, when Congressmen used to say: There's nothing we wouldn't do for our troops -- and that's what we do, nothing.

We almost surely will have to repudiate some of the promises we've made. For instance, Tricare is the government's medical care for veterans, their families. It's a mere $39 billion for 2007. But those numbers are going to go off the chart. And we can't afford it.

Even that pompous ideologue Donald Rumsfeld seems to have thrown in the towel on the latest budget. Not a thing is cut. Every weapon got through. He stands for "force transformation" and we already have enough nuclear equipment for any imaginable situation, so why on Earth spend anything more? And yet the Department of Energy is spending $18.5 billion on nuclear weapons in fiscal year 2006, according to former Senior Defense Department Budget Analyst Winslow Wheeler, who is today a researcher with the Center for Defense Information.

TD: Not included in the Pentagon budget.

Johnson: Of course not. This is the Department of Energy's budget.

TD: In other words, there's a whole hidden budget…

Johnson: Oh, it's huge! Three-quarters of a trillion dollars is the number I use for the whole shebang: $440 billion for the authorized budget; at least $120 billion for the supplementary war-fighting budget, calculated by Tina Jones, the comptroller of the Department of Defense, at $6.8 billion per month. Then you add in all the other things out there, above all veterans' care, care of the badly wounded who, not so long ago, would have added up to something more like Vietnam-era casualty figures. In Vietnam, they were dead bodies; these are still living people. They're so embarrassing to the administration that they're flown back at night, offloaded without any citizens seeing what's going on. It's amazing to me that [Congressman] John Murtha, as big a friend as the defense industry ever had -- you could count on him to buy any crazy missile-defense gimmick, anything in outer space -- seems to have slightly woken up only because he spent some time as an old Marine veteran going to the hospitals.

Another person who may be getting this message across to the public is Gary Trudeau in some of his Doonesbury cartoons. Tom, I know your mother was a cartoonist and we both treasure Walt Kelly, who drew the Pogo strip. How applicable is Pogo's most famous line today: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

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Fascist Fun

The Letter of the Law - The White House says spying on terror suspects without court approval is ok. What about physical searches?

By Chitra Ragavan
US News & World Report
27 March 2006 Issue

In the dark days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a small group of lawyers from the White House and the Justice Department began meeting to debate a number of novel legal strategies to help prevent another attack. Soon after, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to begin conducting electronic eavesdropping on terrorism suspects in the United States, including American citizens, without court approval.
Meeting in the FBI's state-of-the-art command center in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the lawyers talked with senior FBI officials about using the same legal authority to conduct physical searches of homes and businesses of terrorism suspects - also without court approval, one current and one former government official tell US News. "There was a fair amount of discussion at Justice on the warrantless physical search issue," says a former senior FBI official. "Discussions about - if [the searches] happened - where would the information go, and would it taint cases."

FBI Director Robert Mueller was alarmed by the proposal, the two officials said, and pushed back hard against it. "Mueller was personally very concerned," one official says, "not only because of the blowback issue but also because of the legal and constitutional questions raised by warrantless physical searches." FBI spokesman John Miller said none of the FBI's senior staff are aware of any such discussions and added that the bureau has not conducted "physical searches of any location without consent or a judicial order."

In December, the New York Times disclosed the NSA's warrantless electronic surveillance program, resulting in an angry reaction from President Bush. It has not previously been disclosed, however, that administration lawyers had cited the same legal authority to justify warrantless physical searches. But in a little-noticed white paper submitted by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to Congress on January 19 justifying the legality of the NSA eavesdropping, Justice Department lawyers made a tacit case that President Bush also has the inherent authority to order such physical searches. In order to fulfill his duties as commander in chief, the 42-page white paper says, "a consistent understanding has developed that the president has inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches and surveillance within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes." The memo cites congressional testimony of Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, in 1994 stating that the Justice Department "believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes."

"Black-bag jobs." Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse says the white paper cited the Gorelick testimony simply to bolster its legal defense of the NSA's electronic surveillance program. Roehrkasse points out that Justice Department lawyers have told Congress that the NSA program "described by the president does not involve physical searches." But John Martin, a former Justice Department attorney who prosecuted the two most important cases involving warrantless searches and surveillance, says the department is sending an unambiguous message to Congress. "They couldn't make it clearer," says Martin, "that they are also making the case for inherent presidential power to conduct warrantless physical searches."

It could not be learned whether the Bush administration has cited the legal authority to carry out such searches. A former marine, Mueller has waged a quiet, behind-the-scenes battle since 9/11 to protect his special agents from legal jeopardy as a result of aggressive new investigative tactics backed by the White House and the Justice Department, government officials say. During Senate testimony about the NSA surveillance program, however, Gonzales was at pains to avoid answering questions about any warrantless physical surveillance activity that may have been authorized by the Justice Department. On February 6, Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, asked Gonzales whether the NSA spying program includes authority to tap E-mail or postal mail without warrants. "Can you do black-bag jobs?" Leahy asked. Gonzales replied that he was trying to outline for the committee "what the president has authorized, and that is all that he has authorized" - electronic surveillance. Three weeks later, Gonzales amended his answer to Leahy's question, stating that he was addressing only the legal underpinnings for the NSA surveillance program but adding: "I did not and could not address operational aspects of the program, or any other classified intelligence activities." In the past, when Congress has taken up explosive issues that affect the bureau, Mueller has made it a point, officials have said, to leave Washington - and sometimes the country - so as not to get pulled into the political crossfire. When Gonzales testified February 6, Mueller was on his way to Morocco.

Government officials told the magazine that Mueller and then Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who also questioned the NSA spying program, both believed that while it was a close call legally, the president did have authority to conduct electronic surveillance of terrorism suspects in the United States without court approval; both men, however, raised grave concerns about the possible use of any information obtained from any warrantless surveillance in a court of law.

At least one defense attorney representing a subject of a terrorism investigation believes he was the target of warrantless clandestine searches. On Sept. 23, 2005 - nearly three months before the Times broke the NSA story - Thomas Nelson wrote to US Attorney Karin Immergut in Oregon that in the previous nine months, "I and others have seen strong indications that my office and my home have been the target of clandestine searches." In an interview, Nelson said he believes that the searches resulted from the fact that FBI agents accidentally gave his client classified documents and were trying to retrieve them. Nelson's client is Soliman al-Buthe, codirector of a now defunct charity named al-Haramain, who was indicted in 2004 for illegally taking charitable donations out of the country. The feds also froze the charity's assets, alleging ties to Osama bin Laden. The documents that were given to him, Nelson says, may prove that al-Buthe was the target of the NSA surveillance program.

The searches, if they occurred, were anything but deft. Late at night on two occasions, Nelson's colleague Jonathan Norling noticed a heavyset, middle-aged, non-Hispanic white man claiming to be a member of an otherwise all-Hispanic cleaning crew, wearing an apron and a badge and toting a vacuum. But, says Norling, "it was clear the vacuum was not moving." Three months later, the same man, waving a brillo pad, spent some time trying to open Nelson's locked office door, Norling says. Nelson's wife and son, meanwhile, repeatedly called their home security company asking why their alarm system seemed to keep malfunctioning. The company could find no fault with the system.

In October, Immergut wrote to Nelson reassuring him that the FBI would not target terrorism suspects' lawyers without warrants and, even then, only "under the most exceptional circumstances," because the government takes attorney-client relationships "extremely seriously." Nelson nevertheless filed requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, with the NSA. The agency's director of policy, Louis Giles, wrote back, saying, "The fact of the existence or nonexistence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter."

"Maximum speed." For the FBI, the very mention of the term "black-bag jobs" prompts a bad case of the heebie-jeebies. In 1975 and 1976, an investigative committee led by then Sen. Frank Church documented how the FBI engaged in broad surveillance of private citizens and members of antiwar and civil rights groups, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. The committee's hearings and the executive-branch abuses that were documented in the Watergate investigation led to numerous reforms, including passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978. The law created a special secret court tasked with approving electronic wiretaps in espionage and other national security investigations. After the Aldrich Ames spy case, Congress amended FISA to include approval of physical searches. After 9/11, the law was further amended to allow investigators to place wiretaps or conduct physical searches without notifying the court for 72 hours and to obtain "roving" wiretaps to allow investigators to tap multiple cellphones.

In justifying the NSA's warrantless surveillance program, Gonzales has argued that the review process required for a FISA warrant is too cumbersome for a program that is of "a military nature" and that requires "maximum speed and agility to achieve early warning."

White House lawyers, in particular, Vice President Cheney's counsel David Addington (who is now Cheney's chief of staff), pressed Mueller to use information from the NSA program in court cases, without disclosing the origin of the information, and told Mueller to be prepared to drop prosecutions if judges demanded to know the sourcing, according to several government officials. Mueller, backed by Comey, resisted the administration's efforts. "The White House was putting pressure on Mueller to broadly make cases with the intelligence," says one official. "But he did not want to use it as a basis for any affidavit in any court." Comey declined numerous requests for comment. Sources say Mueller and his general counsel, Valerie Caproni, continue to remain troubled by the domestic spying program. Martin, who has handled more intelligence-oriented criminal cases than anyone else at the Justice Department, puts the issue in stark terms: "The failure to allow it [information obtained from warrantless surveillance] to be used in court is a concession that it is an illegal surveillance."

Mueller has been criticized by some agents for being too close to the White House. His predecessor, Louis Freeh, made his break publicly from President Clinton, even returning his White House security access badge. Until recently, Mueller reported to the White House daily to brief Bush and Cheney. But Mueller has not shied away from making tough decisions. He refused to allow FBI agents to participate in CIA and Defense Department interviews of high-value prisoners because of the administration's use of aggressive interrogation techniques. In Iraq and at the Pentagon-run camp for terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, it has been FBI agents who have called attention to what they viewed as abuse of detainees.

It is unclear how much resistance from the FBI the White House and the Justice Department will be willing to brook. What is clear, however, is the extraordinary extent to which officials in both places inject themselves in the bureau's operations. In late 2004, President Bush asked then FBI Deputy Director Bruce Gebhardt, filling in for Mueller during the daily White House briefings, minute details about a suspected terrorism threat in Kansas. "Don't worry, Mr. President," responded Gebhardt, straight-faced. "We have Kansas surrounded."

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Bombs and Butchers - "Where Do We Get Such Men?"

18/19 Mar 06

The question posed in our title rings historical and true, and nine out of ten readers might surmise it refers to the Marines at Khe Sanh, or perhaps the boys of Pointe du Hoc, or possibly the lost battalion almost 90 summers ago in the fields of France.

But it is artifice, a quote from a movie based on James Michener's novel, The Bridges of Toko-ri. It rings true because we think it ought to be true: because it tidies up the sordid and disjointed reality of violence in the name of a cause.

This process is behind the confidence trick of how the state mystifies and glorifies its underhanded acts. In war, we are supposed to think of Audie Murphy, or Alvin York, or Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain as typical exemplars. We should indeed think of such men, and honor their deeds. But due diligence requires we think of other men, whose acts in the name of the state, the state that acts in your name, were more important--meaning more consequential for our history.
Men like John Buchanan Floyd, Secretary of War in 1860, whose arguably treasonable acts armed an insurrection against the Constitution he had sworn to protect. Or Woodrow Wilson, possessed of messianic ego and pathological dishonesty, who fed American youth into the furnace of a senseless war even as he rammed through a supine Congress a law making criticism of himself punishable for up to ten years. Or Donald Rumsfeld, a disastrously incompetent successor to John Floyd Buchanan's portfolio: a man who arrogantly and inflexibly defends the quagmire in Iraq because it got rid of the supposed Devil Incarnate Saddam Hussein, even as he feigns amnesia regarding his 1980s diplomatic mission to assure Saddam of U.S. support.

Where, indeed, do we get such men? Why do they always seem to choke the upper levels of government like kudzu on a Georgia hillside? What is the structural morphology of human society that ordains such creatures shall insert themselves into the body politic and determine its fate?

The latest example of such men--that is, men whose relation to their country is that of a tapeworm to the large intestine--comes to us courtesy of a conference on the Vietnam War held by the John F. Kennedy Library on 11 March 2006.

Among the array of self-justifying participants, the choicest quote was offered by former Chief of Staff to President Nixon and later Secretary of State Alexander Haig. He said that military leaders in Iraq are repeating a mistake made in Vietnam by not applying the full force of the military to win the war.

"Every asset of the nation must be applied to the conflict to bring about a quick and successful outcome, or don't do it," he said. "We're in the midst of another struggle where it appears to me we haven't learned very much."

Haig, whose swansong in public office was a borderline hysterical (and unconstitutional) statement that he was "in charge" after the attempted assassination of President Reagan, made a sententious declaration at the Kennedy Library that sounded reasonable--until one subjects it to a moment's analysis. Notice that once the decision for war is made according to the Haig formula, every asset of the nation should be brought to bear. But who makes the decision for war? Is it a wise one? Is it even an honest one? A skeptic would suggest that the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident was a fraud, as was the declaration that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

With his silence, Haig implies that Americans are supposed to give a pass to "leaders" who lie the country into war, so long as those leaders direct it like berserkers. Is it the duty of Americans only to make every sacrifice necessary (and with a GDP of over $13 trillion, there are a lot of assets to be sacrificed; unfortunately they involve our children's standard of living), and never to question the rationale and the principle behind the war?

Haig does not expatiate on that question. Neither does he expound on precisely what it means to apply every asset. Would that mean fire-bombing? Nuclear weapons? Poison gas? These have been military means from time to time. Apparently the 57,000 U.S. military and up to two million Vietnamese deaths were not, in Haig's mind, a sign of serious warmaking.

Really? The United States dropped more bombs on Southeast Asia than in all the theaters of war in World War II. The basso profundo roar of a B-52 arc light mission shook the earth as it rent eardrums and pulped the internal organs of those military or civilians unfortunate enough to be in the immediate vicinity. Quang Tri Province may have been the most blasted and bombed real estate in the history of war.

Millions of acres of coastal mangrove forest (protecting the shore from typhoons and anchoring the way of life of the local peasantry) were wiped out. The Agent Orange defoliation campaign was a lasting success, as the Vietnamese population's scientifically interesting genetic mutations can attest even unto the present day. [2]

For an impressionistic portrait of a mere sideshow of the Vietnam War, we quote at length Simon Jenkins in the Times of London [3]:

"The bombing of Laos ranks among the most obscene acts of war. It was wanton destruction, power without restraint divorced from the purpose of battle, which is to take and hold territory. . . . Like medieval armies salting fields and poisoning wells, modern air forces leave behind them weapons which they know will sprout death for decades to come.

"By the time Nixon and Kissinger sent the Air Force's 'strategic' B52s to the Plain of Jars in 1970--against the pleading of local commanders--the Vietnam War was lost. But punitive bombing exacted a terrible revenge on Laos, as on Cambodia to the south. Laos suffered a monsoon of destruction, with a peak of 500 sorties a day. The B52s used napalm, defoliants and weapons which, on any definition, were 'chemical.' They bombed the plain's neolithic jars, like bombing Stonehenge. At night they hosed anything that moved with cannon."

What was the physical effect of the bombing?

"The beautiful plain, in reality a long valley flanked by high karst mountains, is still a morass of craters, each containing unknown horrors. Its settlements were more blasted than the Somme, more flattened than Dresden. The 500-year-old provincial capital of Xiang Khouang saw its temples reduced to dustclouds by B52s, described afterwards as 'looking like Hiroshima.' Nobody knows how many people died. The only memorial I saw was to the 320 villagers of Tham Piu, forced from their homes into a cave, where a direct hit from a T28 rocket incinerated them."

And more than three decades on, the dying persists:

"Still the war continues, killing and maiming hundreds. Every other day, someone treads on a bomb, plays with it or hits it with a hoe or a fishing line. Instantly the years roll back and blood and guts are everywhere. There are far too many bombs ever to be cleared."

This is the war Al Haig thinks the government, which succored his bank account, fought with one arm tied behind its back. This is the war our resident wise man says the government conducted with a blameworthy excess of moral scruple.

Where indeed, in which circle of hell, do we get such men?

Werther is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based defense analyst

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Polls show public want Australian troops out of Iraq

Gillian Bradford
The World Today
20 Mar 06

ELEANOR HALL: A new opinion poll out today suggests that almost two thirds of people in this country want Australian troops to leave Iraq within the next couple months.

The research, by public affairs firm Hawker Britton, was conducted at the same time that Defence Minister Brendan Nelson was announcing that Australian soldiers would remain with the US-led Coalition well into next year.

And today the Federal Labor Party has said that Australia's "open commitment" is unwise and that the troops should be brought home.

Labor's Defence Spokesman Robert McClelland has been speaking to reporter Gillian Bradford about the survey.
ROBERT MCCLELLAND: It shows that the Australian people are very concerned that we're going to be sucked along into a civil war situation in Iraq, and certainly that could happen if we don't precisely define what our mission is and what the benchmarks for achieving that mission are. So far the Government's failed to do that.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Prime Minister has of course maintained that Australians shouldn't cut and run. Isn't he right to say that we've got to stay there as long as the Iraqis need us?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Well, again, that open-ended, and we say open chequebook commitment is unconditional, and for instance there's been no conditions attached regarding the appropriate conduct of the Iraqi regime itself.

Certainly one ministry appears to be tolerating, if not sponsoring, its own sectarian violence and payback, and that is something which can only aggravate the civil disquiet and the potential for, indeed, civil war.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: So are you saying Australia's government needs to place a lot more pressure on the Iraqi Government to get its own house in order?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Very much so. I mean, this open-ended and open chequebook commitment is directly contrary to that objective.

I mean, we are entitled to know as Australians, and certainly they must be told, look, this is what we're intending to do, we're intending to train x-thousand number of members of the security force, supervise or protect the Japanese in respect of this particular scope of works.

But after that point in time, the time has come for you to have your own house in order, to put aside this sectarian rivalry, appropriate compromise where necessary to form a viable government and take responsibility for your own security.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: What difference do you think it would make to the security situation in Iraq if Australia did pack up and leave?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: In one sense we've completed our objective, one would think, in terms of training, I think it's about two battalions of members of their security forces and, from my understanding, assisted the Japanese in terms of protecting them while they complete their existing scope of works.

I mean, April or May, one would think after the current rotation would be an appropriate time to leave.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: So what do you say is a better use of Australian troops?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Well, we've clearly got, and Condoleezza Rice confirmed last week on our own doorstep, our own backyard is a particularly dangerous place in terms of international terrorism.

And the irony of it is, that is where we can be most effective in the international fight against terrorism, because that's where we've got our geographic, our historic and diplomatic ties more closely than any other nation in the world, and where we can be most effective in assisting the United States in terms of our Australian-United States alliance, and the international community, to combat international terrorism.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: But where specifically are you saying those troops could go? It's not as though we can just drop them into Indonesia uninvited.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Well it's, it's both a question of troops, but it's also a question of resources. For instance, we've spent $1.2 billion on the war in Iraq to date, and that's more than we spend each year on the entire Australian Federal Police budget.

There's obviously a lot that can be done in South East Asia to assist them with policing activities, with intelligence activities, but indeed I think it's being explored and should be explored, actually supporting the Philippines Government in terms of the area in southern Philippines where terrorism is rife.

Certainly, several years ago, the United States assisted that government with several thousand troops, and these are things where Australia obviously could be exploring.

ELEANOR HALL: Labor's Defence Spokesman Robert McClelland, speaking to Gillian Bradford.

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Let Us Prey

Pentagon hired contractor to advise on collecting information on churches, mosques, other U.S. sites - Plans for Fake Terrorist Attacks?

By Jonathan S. Landay
Knight Ridder Newspapers
20 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - A Pentagon intelligence agency that kept files on American anti-war activists hired one of the contractors who bribed former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., to help it collect data on houses of worship, schools, power plants and other locations in the United States.

MZM Inc., headed by Mitchell Wade, also received three contracts totaling more than $250,000 to provide unspecified "intelligence services" to the White House, according to documents obtained by Knight Ridder. The White House didn't respond to an inquiry about what those intelligence services entailed.
MZM's Pentagon and White House deals were part of tens of millions of dollars in federal government business that Wade's company attracted beginning in 2002.

MZM and Wade, who pleaded guilty last month to bribing Cunningham and unnamed Defense Department officials to steer work to his firm, are the focus of ongoing probes by Pentagon and Department of Justice investigators.

In February 2003, MZM won a two-month contract worth $503,144.70 to provide technical support to the Pentagon's Joint Counter-Intelligence Field Activity, or CIFA. The top-secret agency was created five months earlier primarily to protect U.S. defense personnel and facilities from foreign terrorists.

The job involved advising CIFA on selecting software and technology designed to ferret out commercial and government data that could be used in what's called a Geospatial Information System. A GIS system inserts information about geographic locations, such as buildings, into digital maps produced from satellite photographs.

According to a "statement of work," the data that CIFA was interested in obtaining included "maps, street addresses, lines of communication, critical infrastructure elements, demographic and other pertinent sources that would support geocoding and multi-level analysis."

Geocoding involves assigning latitudes and longitudes to locations, such as street addresses, so they can be displayed as points on maps. Such tools increasingly are being used by U.S. corporations and law enforcement agencies.

MZM was to "assist the government in identifying and procuring data" on maps, as well as "airports, ports, dams, churches/mosques/synagogues, schools (and) power plants," said the statement of work.

"In many cases, the government already owns such data, and for reasons of economy, government-owned data is preferred," said the statement. It isn't clear why U.S. intelligence agencies couldn't do the work themselves.

Navy Cmdr. Gregory Hicks, a Pentagon spokesman, said MZM began working on the project in October 2002, when the agency was created.

Its job was to help the agency integrate technology into its "information architecture to help CIFA use available (satellite) imagery, which is produced legally by other commercial and government agencies," Hicks said.

"GIS software ... is designed to allow integration of geographic and imagery data with threat information to provide complex analytic products," he said. "Not knowing the location of key infrastructure and points of interest, such as bridges, chemical plants, schools, parks, and even religious facilities, as they relate to threat information, could significantly affect the accuracy of such analysis and plans and lead to disastrous results."

He was unable to discuss further details of CIFA's dealings with MZM, citing the ongoing investigations into Wade's dealings with the Pentagon.

CIFA recently has come under fire following disclosures that it maintained information on individuals and groups involved in peaceful anti-war protests at defense facilities and recruiting offices.

The information was stored in a database that was supposed to be reserved for reports related to potential foreign terrorist activity.

In a March 8 letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a senior Pentagon official said that a review of the Cornerstone database had identified 186 "protest-related reports" containing the names of 43 people that were mistakenly retained in the database.

"These reports have since been removed from the Cornerstone database and refresher training on intelligence oversight and database management is being given to all CI (counter-intelligence) and intelligence personnel," said the letter from Robert W. Rogalski, an acting deputy undersecretary of defense.

The disclosure that CIFA was storing information on anti-war activities added to concerns that the Bush administration may have used its war on terrorism to give government agencies expanded power to monitor Americans' finances, associations, travel and other activities.

The administration's domestic eavesdropping program and FBI monitoring of environmental, animal rights and anti-war groups have also fueled such fears. The administration contends that its programs are legal and insists that they're designed to ensure civil liberties while protecting national security.

A Washington Post story last year contained a brief reference to the White House contracts in a report on the company's dealings with the Pentagon.

Wade, who faces up to 20 years in prison, was one of four men charged in the Cunningham case. Cunningham, who resigned from Congress in November after serving for 15 years, was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison earlier this month.

Copyright Knight Ridder Newspapers

Comment: And what do they want this "intell" for? Why do they want "latitudes and longitudes?" Why, for targeted bombing, of course! After all, if you are going to fake terrorist attacks, might as well make them count for your side while you are at it!

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Religious fanaticism out of control

By Dave Zweifel
The Capital Times
20 Mar 06

In case you're still not sure just how destructive the Bush administration has become to this country, you need to read Michael Specter's piece in the March 13 issue of the New Yorker magazine.

It's enough to give you the willies.

Specter documents how the Bush people have stacked the Food and Drug Administration with fanatics who regularly trump science to advance their own religious beliefs. It reads like a modern-day Galileo being persecuted by the Catholic Church because he maintained Earth was round.
Although Specter cites several examples of religious beliefs thwarting scientific advances by key appointees to the FDA and other divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services (Tommy Thompson's old department), one of the most egregious has been to block a vaccine designed to thwart cervical cancer.

Two of the country's bigger pharmaceutical companies Merck and GlaxoSmithKline have developed and proven the safety of a vaccine that prevents a common sexually transmitted disease called human papillomavirus (HPV). Strains of HPV are known to cause cervical cancer in early adulthood. The vaccine needs to be administered to girls before they become sexually active, which is an average age of 17.

And therein lies the rub for the religious base of the Republican Party that George Bush and company have installed in crucial posts in the health department. That base and George W. Bush himself steadfastly adheres to the proposition that kids need to practice abstinence. In their eyes, anything from promoting the use of condoms to giving young girls vaccinations against sexually transmitted diseases only encourages promiscuity among young people.

These people refuse to believe results of the numerous scientific studies that have shown the availability of condoms, for instance, has absolutely no impact on the rate of teen sex, or that young people who pledge to abstain actually engage in sex as often as those who don't take a pledge.

Their religion maintains that premarital sex is a sin, period, which is fine except that Bush has created a situation where those overzealous religious beliefs instead of scientific fact determine national policy.

"Since George W. Bush became president, the United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on abstinence programs, and it has cut almost that much in aid to groups that support abortion and the use of condoms as a primary method of birth control," Specter pointed out.

But, who would believe they would actually block approval of a vaccine that can prevent cancer?

The role that religion is playing in important health decisions has caused several career FDA doctors and staff to quit their jobs in disgust.

It isn't just an insane war. It's the anti-environment policies, the unjust tax policies, the ceaseless trashing of civil liberties and the subjugation of solid medical science for religious zealotry that is tearing down an America that was based on fairness and truth.

Can we really survive nearly three more years of this destruction?

Dave Zweifel is editor of The Capital Times. E-mail: dzweifel@madison.com.

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Good Christian hate

Monday, March 20, 2006
David Neiwert

Did you know that the theory of evolution was cooked up -- probably by Jews -- as part of a New World conspiracy to enslave mankind? No?
Well, the people agitating for teaching "creation science" in the schools at Dover, Pa., will tell you that if you talk to them long enough.

Not that it came out publicly this week, when Michael Marcavage's Repent America outfit -- whose work in Dover I recently discussed -- sponsored an appearance at Dover Area High School by none other than "Doctor Dino" himself, Kent Hovind. They're much too clever for that -- instead, they keep the banter to a steady stream of trite rhetorical bombs:
Much of creationist speaker Kent Hovind's seminar felt more like a clean stand-up comic show than a religious lecture. Hovind, a creation science evangelist, used terms including "American Communist Lawyers' Union" when referring to the ACLU. He called the Big Bang Theory a "cosmic burp," and said "Charlie Darwin's" lies should be removed from textbooks.

He joked about his former experience as a science teacher for 15 years and said students taught him that "There's not much intelligent life on this planet."

He went on to call evolution the "dumbest and the most dangerous religion in the history of the earth."

You see, Hovind and his ilk save the "serious stuff" for later.

As earlier coverage of the Hovind seminars noted, Hovind is actually a right-wing extremist with a penchant for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And of course, Marcavage denied the charges, in imitable fashion:
Michael Marcavage, whose Philadelphia-based organization Repent America is sponsoring Hovind's visit, said the accusations of anti-Semitism and extremism are unfair.

"He believes that people are from one race, the human race," Marcavage said.

He said some Jewish organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Civil Liberties Union, are targeting Christians because of their faith.

"Those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh are under the spirit of anti-christ," Marcavage added, a reference to 1 John 4:2-3.

Yes, you see: Jews can't help being under the spirit of the anti-Christ. Well, they could if they converted. But otherwise, it's just in their nature. And defending themselves against anti-Semitic smears is of course how they "target Christians."

Actually, Marcavage and Hovind are birds of a feather: far-right extremists trying to pose as nominally normal, mainstream folks. The Southern Poverty Law Center report on Hovind's "Dinosaur Adventure Land" -- a creationist theme park for kiddies -- makes clear that this isn't just generic fundamentalism:
Opened in 2001, Dinosaur Adventure Land sprung from Hovind's Creation Science Evangelism ministry, which began to evolve in the late '80s. CSE sells videos and audiotapes of Hovind's lectures and his debates with evolutionary scientists, along with books on "Evolution and the New World Order." (At least one of them, Fourth Reich of the Rich, alleges a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.)

Hovind also points his followers to Citizens Rule Book, popular among antigovernment "Patriots"; Media Bypass, an antigovernment magazine with strong anti-Semitic leanings; and titles by America's leading authority on tax-dodging, Irwin Schiff, who was indicted on criminal tax evasion charges in March ... Two years ago, Hovind's "fine Christian friend," Joseph Sweet of the Joy Foundation, ran into similar trouble, sued by the feds for allegedly teaching folks how to evade income taxes.

An earlier SPLC report detailed just what comprises Hovind's theological approach:
Do you think the theory of evolution is a Satanic plot to bring about the New World Order? Are you worried that Darwin's idea produced "Communism, Socialism, Naziism, abortion, liberalism and the New Age Movement?" Then Dr. Kent Hovind is for you.

Hovind, who runs the Creation Science Evangelism ministry from Pensacola, Fla., says the whole Bible is literally true and that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. While that may seem par for the creationist course, Hovind also sells anti-Semitic books like Fourth Reich of the Rich and has recommended The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book blaming the world's problems on a Jewish conspiracy.

Environmentalism and income taxes, Hovind says, are designed to destroy the United States and "bring it under Communism." "Democracy," he says, "is evil and contrary to God's law."

So the response he received in Dover, at least according to the local news report, was problematic:
On Friday, he found a receptive audience in Dover.

According to several in the crowd of more than 600, Hovind's charisma and humor got his message across: "The universe was created by God."

"Everybody's fighting over it," Frysinger, a 13-year-old who attends Dover's intermediate school, said of evolution versus creation.

"Actually, what he's saying is true," his brother, Chris Frysinger, 15, said of Hovind's lecture. "He knows what he's talking about. You can hear it in his voice."

Myriah Hartzell, 11, recently stopped attending a Christian school and enrolled in Dover Area School District's North Salem Elementary School because she wanted to be in a larger school that has a football team. She came to Hovind's seminar with her parents and younger brother and said she brought a book along expecting to be bored by the lecture. But she said Hovind was very funny and held her attention.

Most of those who attended, of course, were probably predisposed to listen to Hovind's message favorably -- even if they didn't previously share his views on the New World Order. And thus the far right continues to exert its gravitational pull on mainstream America.

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Weird and Wacky

Anger at Bin Laden niece's reality TV show

Oliver Burkeman in New York
Tuesday March 21, 2006
The Guardian

The news that Osama bin Laden's niece is to star in a US reality TV show has provoked fury from families of some of those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The as yet unnamed series, being offered at auction to US television networks, will follow the California-born Wafah Dufour as she follows her "dream to make it in the music business", according to Regan Media, which is producing it.

Ms Dufour, a 27-year-old graduate of Columbia University law school, was born Wafah bin Ladin, the daughter of Carmen bin Ladin, former wife of the al-Qaida leader's half-brother Yeslam. "I understand that when people hear my last name, they have preconceived notions," Ms Dufour said in a statement. "But I was born in America and I love my country."

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She has never met her uncle, she said, but Regan Media made no effort to deny that she owes her fame to the connection. "Her history and her quest for stardom will make a compelling television series: she is a musician, a young woman, and, most important, a human being," said the company's founder, Judith Regan."She is a young woman who falls in love, has her heart broken, worries about her looks, doesn't always listen to her mother, and hasn't spoken to her father in years."

A spokeswoman for the September 11th Families Association called the show "an absolute disgrace ... we urge every TV network and channel planning to run this series to think again. The very idea that the family of a man with so much blood on his hands should profit from some sort of instant celebrity is an outrage."

In fact, the series will not be Ms Dufour's first brush with celebrity. Last year, she posed for a photoshoot reclining in a bubble bath, wearing only a necklace.

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Aliens gave me psychic powers

By Claire McNeilly
21 March 2006

Patrick King attracted newspaper headlines when he recently predicted a huge bank robbery but he been predicting the future and telling clients secrets from their past for more than 40 years. Claire McNeilly casts her fate to the winds and meets the man who claims he was abducted by aliens at the age of five
IF you have any skeletons hidden in your closet or some dark secret to protect, you might want to stay away from Co Down clairvoyant Patrick King. But if you'd like to know whether your partner is having an affair or if you can really trust a friend, then maybe it might be worth a visit to his home in Holywood ...

After all, the clinical psychologist-turned-fortune teller has been reading his clients' minds, as well as predicting their futures, for over 40 years.

Even an ex-girlfriend of Michael Stone, the notorious Milltown Cemetery murderer, once popped in - Paddy, knew, he says, "because I smelt a terrorist off her".

Then there are those who may be searching for information about a lost loved one and, of course, a few who are looking for love ...

"People of all ages come to see me, from 15 to my oldest client, who's 97," the 58-year-old Manchester University psychology graduate reveals. "And I have a lot of regulars. Everyone wants to know something different. A few come purely to ask if they will be happy, but most of them have secrets."

Indeed, once Paddy, who has one daughter, Debbie (33), consults the tarot cards, his crystal ball, or reads your palm, he claims it can be quite a revelation.

And sometimes, apparently, it only takes one look - when his fourth wife-to-be Esther (52) walked in, for instance, he says: "I told her I was going to be her husband."

Over the years, he claims to have seen some unbelievable things.

"One girl who came for a reading had killed a three-year-old child, and a man had murdered his family and escaped justice.

"These type of people want to know if I know what they've done and if they'll ever be found out."

Of course, among the questions every sceptic asks are: how can one believe him? And how can he possibly know what he claims is true?

"People test me all the time," he protests. "Once a woman swallowed her wedding ring when she tried to hide it! But if you're going to come and try to bluff me, what's the point?"

Where, then, do these so-called revelatory powers come from?

"I don't think clairvoyance is a gift," he replies, "it's something I work on and practise every day. My mum read tea leaves and, as a child, she taught me the basics; it's been a learning curve since then and I've learned from my mistakes."

One such 'mistake', if you could call it that, was his inability to foresee a disaster for a relative who was raped in east Belfast by four men some years ago.

"I didn't know it was going to happen," he admits, "even though I had just left my psychology job to concentrate on fortune telling full time."

At £25 per half hour session, his counsel isn't cheap, but there are some who clearly think it's worth it.

"There are 26 millionaires who come to see me - they usually want to know if the Inland Revenue is going to catch up with them," he says.

"Then there are murderers who want to know if their victim's body will be found.

"Other people have been stealing from their employers ... and I've also done readings for policemen, as well as members of the IRA and UDA."

If - as he claims - his access to sensitive paramilitary information at one point led Special Branch to bug his office, he must be shouldering the weight of withholding the truth?

"Who am I to judge?" he counters. "I don't pass on information, although in the past I have helped the police with murder investigations."

His isn't, obviously, a job for the faint-hearted either.

"You have to be careful what you tell people. I get threats all the time. For example, if I've told a woman her husband is having an affair and she confronts him ..." he trails off.

"I also remember a man coming in with his wife and her sister. I did the women's readings first and when it came to his turn I told him they were both pregnant - by him."

Apart from treading the murky waters of human nature, there is frequently an upside to his profession.

"Sometimes you're helping folk without them realising," he explains. "During one reading I told a woman to insure her husband, because she would have nothing left when he died.

"She replied that he was fighting fit, but did it anyway. A few days later, he had a heart attack and passed away."

Reports in different publications in the past have suggested that there could be some truth in Patrick's predictions.

"A few weeks before a triple killing in Portavogie, a woman visited me. I saw the tragedy written in her cards and I told her," he explains.

Despite that, Elizabeth Downes died, along with her 17-year-old daughter, Joanne, on May 3, 1992. They were both shot dead at the family home by her husband, Stuart, who then turned the gun on himself.

So what's the point of seeing the future, if you can't change what's in store? Especially if you diagnose yourself with throat cancer - as he did recently ("I'm hoping to receive a date for an operation fairly soon").

Is turning to the occult simply a question of faith - or loneliness?

"I don't believe in God. I believe in what I can see and hear; some of which has been terrible," he says.

"Religion has been geared to keep the masses in check; if people didn't believe in Jesus Christ, mayhem would ensue."

He adds: "I'm not close to my family (he has four brothers and five sisters) and I don't have any friends either. Who would want to be friends with someone who can read their mind?"

Patrick started down his chosen path after a supernatural childhood experience.

"One night, when I was about five, I was taken away by a UFO," he says.

"I shared a room with my brother and mummy put us to bed around 8pm. The next thing I knew it was morning ... but I remembered being in a very bright room with several people. They were between 4ft 5ins and 5ft tall, with big faces and big eyes. All I can say is, I came back a clairvoyant."

Before I leave, Paddy is keen to give me an insight into what my destiny holds.

He asks me to pick nine tarot cards, which he reads, along with my palm.

As a qualified psychologist, Patrick can no doubt pick up more than most from appearance and body language - but I still found the experience disconcerting.

What he told me about the future is, well, possible, that I'll meet a gorgeous man (indeed, a pleasant change) and move to England (God help us all).

But the revelations about a past relationship were rather shocking - if what he says is true.

After I leave I'm in limbo for a while.

Still, without wishing to cast aspersions on Paddy's powers, or disparage those who consult him, I can't help remembering an Albanian proverb: there are no scarecrows in the desert.

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

Signs of the Times
March 21, 2006


Relax and Knit

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