Sections on today's Signs Page:
Editorial: Signs of the Times Attacked by Abovetopsecret.com Psy-ops!
23 Mar 06
As many of our readers are probably aware, we had a little "to do" with a gang we consider to be agents of Pentagon psy-ops - abovetopsecret.com and friends - last night. We were up until 3 a.m. dealing with the backlash from this situation.
What is clear from this Stealth Attack that ran amok is that Signs of the Times is probably the most dangerous site on the internet from the perspective of the Powers That Be. For them to take the risk of exposure as they did (and did they get exposed!) only convinces us that the issues in question are of such importance that they will pull out all stops to defame, harass, stalk, and intimidate us with the ultimate goal of destruction. They want to see SOTT disappear from the Web, that is certainly clear and it is now becoming even clearer just WHO is behind it.
It was only this morning that we understood that this event was supposed to be a "stealth" attack. We were never supposed to see the letter from abovetopsecret.com's attorney, Wayne C. Jaeschke, Jr. of Morrison & Foerster LLP in McLean VA . It was sent to our host server, not to us. In fact, after the ridiculous letters claiming "copyright infringement" that I published on my blog back in January, it is clear why: ATS knew that such nonsense - even if written by an attorney - would not fly with us because they do not have a legal leg to stand on. Writing a critique of an article is NOT making a "derivative" work - and if journalists, scientists, scholars in all fields, are denied the ability to critique nonsense such as the article published by abovetopsecret.com - there is no future for any intellectual progress in our society. We might as well declare science, journalism, research of any kind, dead and buried.
In any event, this stealth attack intimidation letter was sent not to us, but to our site host. It was probably only because the tech's were so upset that they sent it to us. And of course, once I had it - the "smoking gun" so to say - you bet I published it!! Here was proof positive that Joe Quinn's article debunking the debunking of the Pentagon Strike was seen as a BIG THREAT! Within FIVE minutes, poor, pitiful Wayne knew that he had shot himself in the foot and was on the phone to the server screaming that he was now getting death threats because I published his contact details!! Well, hell's bells... it's public info on the internet! Click the link and visit Wayne - see his friendly face.
Possibly utilizing the "special psychological knowledge" of the psychopath that Andrew Lobaczewski describes in his work on Ponerology, good ole Wayne did such a number on those poor tech guys that they folded instantly. They took the site down again. So, we were back on the phone with them again pointing out that, when we chose their company, we explained the nature of our site and the nature of the likely attacks that would come out of the woodwork against us and they had declared that it was NO PROBLEMO. So, knowing that and seeing that Mr. Jaeschke still managed to intimidate the heck out of them really makes you wonder just what kinds of things he said to them on the phone? Geez! Didn't Hannibal Lecter convince a guy to swallow his own tongue? But I digress... what happened was that the server techs were so scared, they took the site down again. They told us we had to remove Wayne's letter from the forum where I had published it. We pointed out that there was no way we could do that without having access to the forum which we didn't because they had pulled the plug on our site. So, they agreed to put it back up so I could make the adjustments.
I was IN THE PROCESS of doing it, trying to upload the changes, when the site disappeared again!
Back on the phone. Apparently, poor Wayne was so frantic that a few minutes were going by with his connection to abovetopsecret.com exposed for all the world to see that I just wasn't doing it fast enough and he had to dial up those poor guys and terrorize them some more.
Well, we patiently explained that Wayne is just a cointelpro agent and internet psy-ops game player using his position as an attorney to intimidate them. They were REALLY scared! So, after they got calmed down a bit, the site went back up and they stayed on the phone until I gave them the signal that the letters had been removed from all three threads.
I actually felt sorry for those poor fellas! And that kind of terror is what psychopaths count on and that is why it is so important to study psychopathy, to know them fully and well so that you are not susceptible to their maneuvers and manipulations! In this day and time, a course about psychopaths ought to be required for anybody in a position to be intimidated or coerced by such blatant strong-mouth manipulation. But I digress again.
What is evident is that what Wayne was really upset about the publication
of his close association with abovetopsecret.com - after all, as one
of the posters to our forum points out: "MoFo
is a heavyweight law firm. Sort of like the Mercedes-Benz of law firms. These
aren't ambulance chasers. Their meat and potatos are IP law and other big corporation
stuff. Intel retains them, among others. They don't usually bother with harassment
suits, but as long as your coin is good (and plenty), they'll do whatever you
want. Whoever is behind this has a lot of coins
to throw around." Having said that, there are two Wayne Jaeschke's
at MoFo (is that name symbolic?), most likely father and son, of which our
Wayne is the son. It seems that while MoFo might be the 'Mercedes Benz' of
law firms, Wayne junior isn't up to much other than intimidating customer support
at server companies and trying
to find new ways to build bigger and better speakers, probably so he can listen
to a recording of his own voice telling himself what a big, powerful lawyer
This brings me to something else most interesting, the whole so-called Project SERPO hoax that abovetopsecret.com - with the gleeful assistance of attorney Wayne Jaeschke - has been running on the internet since last fall. There is a discussion about that on our forum also, and on this page of that discussion you will see a very interesting image about half way down.
This is an image of an email that Bill Ryan of Project SERPO sent to me claiming that it had been sent to him by "friends" who were on the list of recipients. When I published it, I blacked out the name of the sender because I wasn't at all sure that a respectable attorney with a reputable law firm would actually be doing what this email suggests he is doing: creating disinformation to propagate via abovetopsecret.com. But now I can tell you who wrote that email because his involvement with ATS is now on the record: it was Wayne Jaeschke of Morrison & Foerster LLP in McLean VA.
Gee, isn't that right down the road from the CIA?
In short, this high-end corporate attorney is VERY thick in the whole Abovetopsecret gang activity. Funny, QFG only ever had ONE attorney member and he only lasted about a week.
Readers, if you want to know the deep, dark, nitty gritty details behind this abovetopsecret.com cointelpro operation, you will not want to miss a single one of my blog posts on that subject:
Is Is the Above Top Secret Forum COINTELPRO?
COINTELPRO Updates: Above Top Secret Forum
Abovetopsecret.com COINTELPRO Update
AboveTopSecret.com COINTELPRO Update 2
More Inside Scoops on Abovetopsecret.com!
The Spider and The Fly: SkepticOverlord and COINTELPRO
Abovetopsecret: Ethics and Google Bombs
as well as our related forum discussions.
Simon Grey: Christian Bailey: Abovetopsecret?
‘Project SERPO’ story: Needs Research
Now, we are no strangers to COINTELPRO. We have been targeted since I started investigating UFOs in 1993 and talking about it back in 1995. It seems that the reason we have been targeted for such constant and outrageous harassment for the past three years is because of our work on the "Pentagon Strike."
The subject of the Pentagon Strike was subjected to intense cointelpro activity from the very beginning so that now, even the so-called 911 truth seekers will nod their heads sagely and say "Yeah, it's just a set-up to make the whole 911 truth movement look silly."
I beg to differ.
I admit that I thought exactly the same thing in the beginning when our readers began to write to me and ask me about Theirry Meyssan's book. In fact, I even wrote comments to that effect and urged everyone to NOT touch this one with a mile long pole.
But even though I had made that initial assessment, I still put our researchers on it because I WAS curious. And as the info kept coming in, it looked more and more like the Pentagon was, indeed, the "smoking gun" of 911 - even moreso than the collapse of WTC building 7.
I wrote my article "Comments on the Pentagon Strike" based on what info we had collected, adding to it as time went by and as more info came to light.
The Pentagon Flash Video was based, in part, on this article. What really shocked us was the way the video "took off" on its own. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that it has been viewed by at LEAST 500 million people. Yeah, half a BILLION (and that was six months ago when we assembled the data for a count). It took down about five dedicated servers that were hosting it. It also triggered some VERY interesting reactions. But what I want to point out here is that the extraordinary popularity of this video says one thing: people know subconsciously that it is TRUE, that there was no Flight 77 at the Pentagon. Now notice carefully that I do not say that there was no PLANE, because there certainly was. It was just not Flight 77 nor anything like a Boeing 757.
This short little video did what no other work on 911 "Truth" had done up to that point: it triggered a whole lot of active "damage control" as we will see in a few moments.
What I noticed about the reactions to the Pentagon Strike that we have received is that they are overwhelmingly positive. Sensible people who can see through Bush and the Neocons have no problem seeing that there was no Flight 77 at the Pentagon. The negative reactions are also interesting; they fall into two categories: 1) honest, sincere people who have been influenced by the cointelpro/psy-ops who then, without even being aware, become de facto cointelpro agents; 2) the REAL cointelpro/psy-ops agents.
To give an example of what I think is the former type: not too long ago, Jeff Wells, on his Rigorous Intuition blog made the astonishing remark that
"I've posted a number of times on the blog about the mistake of
constructing 9/11 "truth" upon the sand of physical evidence. The "no
plane" hypothesis (more than a hypothesis for many; more like an
unforgiving creed) is one of the most egregious missteps. One I believe encouraged, if not led, by COINTELPRO."
First of all notice that, like a robot, he is repeating "no plane," as though that is what is being said. It is not. What is being said is that it was NOT a Boeing 757. But this is the first clue that Jeff Wells is mechanically repeating something that has impressed itself on his mind in some way.
The second thing to note is this astonishing phrase: The "sand of physical evidence" ??? !!!!
Now, let me say right up front here that being accused of being cointelpro ourselves is truly bizarre, but not unexpected. After all, that's what cointelpro does: muddy the waters, create foodfights, and generally make it impossible for people to get together and actually make a difference. The very fact that Jeff Wells can say that (and I think he's a sincere guy) just proves my point about psy-ops and how it affects the mind. It literally begs the question as to how someone can be so mentally divided that, on the one hand, they can question why anyone can't see through Bush and the Neocons, and on the other hand, believe that "witness testimony" is more reliable than physical evidence. Isn't that something of a contradiction? That's the same kind of general hystericization that has taken over the minds of Americans and makes it almost impossible to show them facts about Bush and Gang and to get them to see the reality. That's the same kind of mindset that allows Americans to sit by complacently while Bush and the Neocons wage pre-emptive war, torture, divest Americans of their rights, engage in illegal spying, vote fraud, destroy the economy of America, and the whole host of criminal activities going on in this country. And if anybody thinks that this gang of criminal psychopaths can't run psy-ops to produce "innocent" witnesses to say anything they want them to say, or to even buy witnesses, think again! And if you still think you can vote the bastards out of office, you had better wake up before it is too late.
So, when somebody says: "the mistake of constructing 9/11 "truth" upon the sand of physical evidence" what he is really saying is that he MUST acknowledge that the physical evidence (or lack thereof) is compelling, but still - because somebody SAID something different, and because the cointelpro activity waged against this was so thorough from the start - he just has to go with the "witnesses." And many people will do that because the alternative is far too horrible to contemplate.
And that is the big problem with the whole 911 truth movement. COINTELPRO that produces such muddled thinking as is evidenced in Jeff Wells, a guy I used to read faithfully and really admired.
Moving along now... In Joe's Flying
Fish article that abovetopsecret.com and Wayne Jaeschke and their bosses
in the Pentagon are so desirous of making disappear from the internet, Joe
Quinn wrote the following::
We notice that very few items of so-called "conspiracy theory" have rattled the "Bushes" quite like our Pentagon Strike Flash did. The Pentagon Strike video came out on August 23rd 2004. Probably nobody really noticed it at that point, but it hit a chord of response in the hearts of millions of people around the world. They began to madly download and forward it to their friends and relatives. Latest stats on how many people have viewed it to date are 500 million!
Apparently it even landed in the email box of the Editor of the Washington Post, which is why Carol Morello sent us an email asking for an interview. Or so she said. My suspicion was that the Post was instructed to do "damage control", albeit oh, so gently!
Now, look at this mini-timeline:
August 23rd 2004: Pentagon Strike Video which propagates wildly for a month.
September 11, 2004: CatHerder post to Above Top Secret forum.
September 21st 2004: First contact by Carol Morello of the Washington Post
October 7th 2004: Washington Post article
It was an interesting feeling to know that if they hadn't seen the Pentagon Strike before, certainly George and Dick, Karl and the gang were watching it after the Washington Post wrote an article about it.
October 19th 2004: George Bush visits New Port Richey - a previously unscheduled "whistle-stop" on his campaign trail. NPR is very small, not likely to be a major target of any presidential candidate, but it just happens to be Laura Knight-Jadczyk's hometown. It was our initial reaction that Dubya's visit to Laura's little home town - certainly of no importance on the campaign trail - was deliberately done to send a message to her. Fact is, her daughter's ex-boyfriend wrote to tell her that he had been among those selected to shake the hand of George W. himself! Now, how's that for a coincidence?
As to exactly what Carol Morello of the Washington Post wrote to Laura, here is the pertinent passage which is actually quite revealing:
A couple of editors here saw the video/film, and I was asked to find out what I could about it. As you can imagine, we continue to have an intense interest on the attack on the Pentagon and the people who were affected.
I've just begun reporting, so it would be premature to tell you what "perspective" my story would have.
My initial impressions are that the questions and theories expressed in the video got a spurt of attention in early 2002, after the publication of a best selling book in France, then the furor died down for a while, and now they have re-emerged with the extraordinarily wide dissemination of this video on the Internet.
The 911 Commission report appears to have done little to dampen the controversy. I hoped to speak to you about how and why you posted it on your web site, what kind of response you've received and what you think about it. […]
Notice that she attributes the resurgence of interest in the "Pentagate" problem to the Pentagon Strike video. Can we say "damage control"?
And if there is damage control, then that means there is damage.
Up to this point in time, the only acknowledgement the administration ever gave to such issues was to refer vaguely and dismissively to "conspiracy theories". Now, suddenly, it seems that dealing with the "conspiracy theories" in a direct manner was seen to be imperative. "9/11: Debunking the Myths" came out in Popular Mechanics Magazine in March of 2005, just five months after the Washington Post article. That's pretty fast work.
Under the tutelage of Editor in Chief Jim "Oh look, a tank!" Meigs, Popular Mechanics assembled a team of researchers, including "professional fact checkers" (impressive eh?) to debunk the 16 most common claims made by conspiracy theorists about 9/11. Unsurprisingly, the PM editors claim that, in the end:
"we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate."
In fact, a careful analysis of the article shows that at most, just three of the sixteen claims could have been the result of "reporting error", forcing us to assume that, in the razor-like, emotionally unclouded cerebrum of Jim Meigs, at least 13 of the conspiracy claims about 9/11 are the result of "cynical imaginations aiming to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate".
The sad fact is that, while Popular Mechanics claims to be interested in understanding what really happened that day, their rebuttal of sixteen of the most common claims by so-called "conspiracy theorists" about 9/11 isn't worth the $3.57 of server space that it has so far cost them to publish it.
If there is one glaring hole in the arguments put forward by 9/11 conspiracy "debunkers", it is the fact that such people have never come up with a reasonable argument to explain why, in the wake of 9/11, so many obviously intelligent citizens became gripped by the uncontrollable urge to continually waste their time recklessly and fecklessly "injecting suspicion and animosity into public debate" for no apparent reason. It really is a mystery. Maybe they're trying to take over the world or something.
On the other hand, it doesn't take a degree in psychology to understand the primary motivations of the conspiracy debunkers. You see, the very last thing that many Americans (and others) want to believe is that their government would attack its own people. For 9/11 "debunkers", logic and intellect have no part to play in investigating the question of what really happened on 9/11. It's pure emotion all the way. [...]
Most people think that "conspiracy theories" are made up by "conspiracy theorists", but the term "conspiracy theory" is most often used by those people who have most to gain from the ridicule of the allegations that are directed at them. The tactic has been used to such great effect over the years that certain high crimes committed by government have become the touchstone by which all other "conspiracies" are measured.
Take the folks at Popular Mechanics. In dealing with 9/11 they simply couldn't resist referencing that other most despicable crime committed by a US government - but of course, to them it's just another "theory":
"Don't get me wrong: Healthy skepticism is a good thing. Nobody should take everything they hear--from the government, the media or anybody else--at face value. But in a culture shaped by Oliver Stone movies and "X-Files" episodes, it is apparently getting harder for simple, hard facts to hold their own against elaborate, shadowy theorizing."
Did you catch it? The reference to Oliver Stone can mean only one thing: Jim's "fact checkers" contacted the CIA, and they told him straight up that some bullets really can do magic things.
So far, we have been generous to the people at Popular Mechanics. We have assumed that they are simply well-intentioned but misguided souls. However, it appears that there is a more sinister, and dare we say it, "conspiratorial" side to Popular Mechanics' "innocent" debunking of 9/11 conspiracy theories. You see, it turns out that one of the main contributors to the article is one Benjamin Chertoff, a cousin of the new Dept. of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff.
American Free Press' Christopher Bollyn, who dug up the information, also claims that Ben Chertoff's mother was a Mossad agent. While there is, as of yet, no evidence of any working relationship between the two, it is certainly noteworthy that the cousin of the current Homeland Security Chief, (who, in his previous incarnation as head of the Justice Department's criminal division was instrumental in the release of obvious Israeli spies before and after 9/11), happens to be behind a high-profile attempt to debunk 9/11 conspiracy theories. [...]
According to another 9/11 researcher:
"The editors of Scientific American followed in the footsteps of Popular Mechanics in exploiting a trusted brand in order to protect the perpetrators of the mass murder of 9/11/01. The column by Michael Shermer in the June, 2005 issue of Scientific American, titled Fahrenheit 2777, is an attempt to deceive the magazine's readers into dismissing the overwhelming evidence that 9/11 was an inside job without ever looking at that evidence. More specifically, Shermer attempts to inoculate readers against looking at the decidedly scientific refutation of the official story… […]
According to another 9/11 researcher:
"The editors of Scientific American followed in the footsteps of Popular Mechanics in exploiting a trusted brand in order to protect the perpetrators of the mass murder of 9/11/01. The column by Michael Shermer in the June, 2005 issue of Scientific American, titled Fahrenheit 2777, is an attempt to deceive the magazine's readers into dismissing the overwhelming evidence that 9/11 was an inside job without ever looking at that evidence. More specifically, Shermer attempts to inoculate readers against looking at the decidedly scientific refutation of the official story… […]
Shermer's column exhibits many of the same propaganda techniques as the ambitious feature article in the March issue of Popular Mechanics by Benjamin Chertoff, for which Shermer professes admiration:
'The single best debunking of this conspiratorial codswallop is in the March issue of Popular Mechanics, which provides an exhaustive point-by-point analysis of the most prevalent claims.'
Comparing the two attack pieces is instructive. Both pieces mention a similar range of issues, with Shermer adding Jewish conspiracy rumors and UFOlogists to the mix...
This last is undoubtedly a direct reference to Signs of The Times, while avoiding giving a direct link to our website out of fear that the reader might be influenced.
Shermer uses an array of deceptive methods to persuade the reader that challenges to the official story of the 9/11 attack are worthy only of ridicule and should not be scrutinized. His primary technique is to use hoaxes and unscientific ideas to "bracket" the valid ideas that he seeks to shield the reader from.
That Shermer went to such great lengths to thoroughly misrepresent the painstaking, scientific, evidence-based work of many researchers is a testament to the success of the Pentagon Strike Video! It really stepped on a sore toe. And that tells us something important, the same thing Carol Morello of the Washington Post wrote:
"…the questions and theories expressed in the video got a spurt of attention in early 2002, after the publication of a best selling book in France, then the furor died down for a while, and now they have re-emerged with the extraordinarily wide dissemination of this video on the Internet."
We notice that never, in any of the two major "debunking" articles that followed fast on the heels of the Pentagon Strike video, was the video ever even mentioned by name, nor was our website mentioned. Other books, other researchers, other web sites were mentioned, but the deliberate avoidance of Signs of The Times - the origin of the Pentagon Strike, was conspicuous. We notice the same trend in the Above Top Secret forum.
Again we point out: debunkers are sent in only when damage control is needed. And damage control is only needed when it is thought that there might be damage. That means that the Pentagon Strike is understood clearly, in the minds of the perpetrators, to be the weak link in their chain of lies.
Debunkers are sent in not to give answers to the outstanding questions, but to push the emotional buttons of the public, to reassure people who really want "a reason to believe" that their government is not lying to them. [...]
As Laura Knight-Jadczyk notes in her book 9/11:The Ultimate Truth, the attack on the Pentagon is the Achilles Heel of the entire 9/11 coverup, and for one very good reason: while we all saw repeated footage of Flight 11 and Flight 175 crash into the WTC towers, and we all saw the wreckage of Flight 93 and have hundreds of eyewitness testimonies that a commercial airliner did indeed crash in Pennsylvania, there is no reliable evidence that a Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon on September 11th 2001. No one has seen any footage that shows Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon, and the tapes that actually exist that could easily and immediately prove what did hit that day, have been confiscated by the FBI and the U.S. government studiously refuses to release them.
The US government claims that a Boeing 757 impacted the Pentagon on 9/11, many people dispute this, yet the same American government refuses to release video tapes that would put the matter to rest and show once and for all what hit the Pentagon. Use your head and ask yourself, "why?"
There is one very obvious answer.
In other words, you can push the WTC building's collapse from now 'til doomsday
and get nowhere... Even if you prove that it collapsed due to explosives, you
can't ever prove that those planes that flew into the WTC buildings were not
big passenger jets with Arab hijackers onboard. Even if you forced the government
to admit that, yes, there were explosives that brought down the building, it
could be attributed to "terrorists" in a big discovery and bait and switch.
That's why they don't really worry too much about the WTC attacks. That's why
all manner of conspiracy theories about the WTC are tolerated with disdainful
But notice that there is NO real amusement about the Pentagon Strike. Oh, sure, they work really hard to poke fun at it, but the fact is, the Pentagon Strike video baited the Beast from his lair and it was for THAT reason that special "agents" like The Washington Post, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, abovetopsecret.com and Wayne Jaeschke have been employed to stop it! To STAMP it out! To get RID of it! At ALL costs! Heck, that's probably what was on Dick Cheney's mind when he shot his buddy... he was having a waking dream and thought he was pointing the gun at the SOTT team!
The fact is, there is NO defense against the facts on the ground at the Pentagon except the word of a small group of "special" witnesses against another small group who say that it was NOT Flight 77.
The truth is: NOBODY saw Flight 77 fly into the Pentagon. It didn't happen.
Joe Quinn's rebuttal of the Pentagon Strike rebuttal created and propagated by abovetopsecret.com is just too dangerous to be allowed to continue to be "out there."
Even if it is completely legal to write a critical analysis as Joe Quinn did - utilizing the original article for the critique (how else can you write an analysis?), covert intimidation and coercion from a fancy lawfirm in Virginia has been initiated to force the removal of this article from the internet after the pathetic efforts of the abovetopsecret.com 3 "Amigos" didn't do the job.
Discerning those whose intent is to deceive from those who are already deceived, but sincere, it is very difficult but it can be done if people will begin to educate themselves and deal with the FACTS.
Really and truly grokking COINTELPRO and the damage it does, and learning how to combat it, is a MUST if anything positive is ever to happen on this god-forsaken planet.
Now those of you that have read this far, let me mention that we removed our fundraiser, our fun little "Send Dick Cheney to the Moon" thing because, after a month, we raised less that 20% of our target - that is, double digits in thousands, not triple digits. Meanwhile, we know that the moveon.org people who haven't yet awakened to that fact that all their efforts and all their money is just going down the drain were able to raise several million dollars.
Do you see moveon.org getting attacked? Do you see their website being taken down? In fact, please try to think of any other website that has been so thoroughly subjected to defamation, repeated DOS attacks, personal harassment, stalking, and now outright assault and intimidation from people with obvious connections to the Bush Neocons.
You can't. There isn't another website that can demonstrate with hard evidence, documentation, the level of attack that SOTT has been subjected to for the past five years.
Think about it.
And think about how much you might want us to continue to be available to you for news, analysis, commentary, and just the TRUTH.
When we are gone, who will take our place?
From the 'Protocols of the Pathocrats':
[T]o sow discord in all parties, to dislocate all collective forces which
are still unwilling to submit to us, and to discourage any kind of personal
initiative which might in any degree hinder our affair. THERE IS NOTHING MORE
DANGEROUS THAN PERSONAL INITIATIVE: if it has genius behind it, such initiative
can do more than can be done by millions of people among whom we have sown
So if you want us to be able to continue, you must show some personal initiative
and stand behind us now, please. Give
as generously as you can because we see a long and expensive
fight coming. And if we don't get the funds to be able to fight this battle,
then we will know that not enough people want what we are offering: just
the Truth. If you want us to be here for you tomorrow and after tomorrow,
give today! Please! And Thank all of you who have already given!
Comment on this Editorial
Editorial: War Making 101 - A User's Manual
I've lived through seven decades and can remember the late 1930s before WW II began. In fact, I began my formal education in kindergarten within days of when Hitler sent his Wehrmacht across the Polish border in an act of illegal aggression and began that near six year horror. I was too young to understand it then, and I can barely remember that fateful "first Pearl Harbor" on December 7, 1941. Franklin Roosevelt wanted in on that fight and did all he could to goad the Japanese to attack us. He knew with enough prodding they would, and when it came, we knew about when and where it would happen. We were ready to mobilize and join the battle, we did it, and nothing's been the same since.
FDR at least took the country to war as the Constitution says we must. On December 11,1941 he asked the Congress to make that declaration against Japan and also Nazi Germany in response to Hitler's declaring it against us. It was the last time a US Congress would ever use the constitutional authority it alone is allowed in Article I, Section 8 of that sacred document. The Founding Fathers thought that authority so important they codified it. They believed that on what is the single most important issue a nation ever faces, that awesome power should never placed in the hands of a single person. They wanted only the Legislative Branch to have it and only exercise it after careful, deliberative debate. That Branch still has it if it so wishes, but for the last 65 years it decided in its infinite indifference to abrogate it's authority and allow the President to usurp it and use it at his pleasure and choice. We've seen the result - a mess without end. We've had war after war after endless war (including the ones fought by others we encouraged and financed plus all the CIA covert mischief and abuse) with no end in sight and in every instance since WW II against designated "enemies" that never threatened or attacked us or had any intention to. Doing that by direct intervention based on no provocation, as we have, is called illegal aggression, which is exactly the crime the Nazis were tried for at Nuremburg. In the words of the Tribunal: "To initiate a war of aggression....is not only an international crime, it is the supreme crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." The worst of those found guilty in that Tribunal were hanged. Think any of our leaders will ever meet the same fate as they should, of course? Fat chance, even though the worst of ours are as guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity as were the worst Nazis.
THE RESULT OF THE CONGRESS SCRAPPING THE MOST IMPORTANT CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY IT ALONE HAS
Here's one definition of a dictator or at least one practicing to become one. It's a head of state able to decide alone with unchallengeable authority whether or not to take a nation to war for any reason. Here's an add-on to that definition. If a leader does it for any reason other than to respond to an attack by another nation or clear evidence an attack is coming, that leader is also a war criminal. Noam Chomsky believes every US president since WW II was and is a war criminal. Ditto, so do I.
This essay will concentrate on the current "war criminal in charge." With some background for the historically uneducated, I'll then fast forward to the present and take you into the heart of the beast we better get to know well and quickly before it eats us alive. I'll lay out what I call a war maker's manual, step by step or rule by rule, from when we were new at this ugly business and still learning to the present. Ready? Here we go.
I can't match the famous Chinese general Sun Tzu who wrote his masterful Art of War 2400 years ago and won't even try. But I've seen the modern day script played out enough times and think I've gotten the hang of it now. First, some basic rules:
A. Get the language right. It's not enough to say Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or Venezuela are threats to our national security. We have to say or imply it's the new Hitler Saddam, the "crazed Arabs and mullahs" running Iran (sorry - they're Persians, not Arabs, and only changed the country's name to Iran in 1934......you can call them "crazed Arabs" though, who'll know the difference besides the Iranians), the demonic Taliban who beat up on defenseless women, or the "demagogue" Hugo Chavez "awash in oil money and trying to destroy democracy and destabilize the region"........he happens to have the most vibrant democracy in the Western Hemisphere and is selling the country's oil at a discount to poor nations and poor US communities in need. Think Exxon-Mobil would do that? Now you're getting it.
B. Always pick on a much weaker target country, the weaker the better, preferably defenseless and unable to fight back. It's then best to soften them up in advance by stealth bombing or sabotaging their strategic infrastructure. It's also best to pick on a weak nation of color (we almost always do - Yugoslavia was a rare exception), and best of all is to pick on a Muslim nation of color. Arab nations (and Persia/Iran) qualify as they're not quite white enough, not at least the "crazed Arab ones."
C. When you "pull the trigger", strike the target with overwhelming force. You know the new "Militaryspeak" language - "shock and awe." Who dreams up this stuff? You can bet it's a big PR firm, ad agency or something out of a Hollywood bad dream factory. The target country may be defenseless, and likely is, but you gotta hit 'em like a using a howitzer to kill a gnat even though a strong wind will do the trick. The reason for the "blitzkrieg" approach is it not only grinds your enemy to dust and fast, it also scares hell out of all other nations worried they may be next or in the queue and moving up.
D. There's one other element peculiar to today in the US that's not a rule but a resurrection of sorts from the First Crusade 900 years ago. Back then Pope Urban II, who no doubt believed he got his marching orders from the Almighty, launched his assault against Islam and Muslims in his holy Crusade to regain control of the sacred city of Jerusalem. When his forces finally got into the city they weren't very nice to the Muslims, Jews and even Eastern Christians living there.
It's timely for this essay to note that the Vatican has begun to rehabilitate the Crusaders by sponsoring a late March conference that portrays those holy wars as having been fought with the "noble aim" of regaining the Holy Land for Christianity. I'm sure all Muslims around the world will understand, forgive and forget.
Students of Western Civilization might also recall that Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 for "glory" (that's French for empire) and to restore Islam to its genuine teachings (I guess meaning to bring those misguided souls back to their Christian roots). The Little Corporal didn't fare much better there than he did at Waterloo or that a latter day Napoleon wannabe is now doing in Iraq. It's a shame he's not still around to explain that to our current "head dreamer of empire." But I doubt it would do much good as below I explain the only authority our warrior president listens to.
The point from my brief history lesson is to connect it to our own present situation. For the first time ever, we now have a president, at least the first one admitting it publicly, who also believes the Almighty speaks to him, tells him what to, and he's just following orders from that higher authority. I don't think he's kidding when he says God told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. I wonder if that same God told him to steal from the poor and give to the rich. I also wonder what God he's referring to. It's not the one I was brought up to believe in and the principles I was taught to think are pretty sacred in the Ten Commandments, especially the core "golden rule" one.
NOW LET'S GO THROUGH THE STEPS/RULES
Rule No. 1- Develop a tradition of militarism over time. It takes many years of practice to hone skills and perfect them. The US has followed this practice and incredibly has been at war (real war with mass slaughter) internally and/or abroad every year without exception with one or more adversaries since its inception.
No other nation today is more addicted to war than the US. It seems like it's always been that way, and it has. Of course, you'd never know it from the sanitized history we're taught up to the highest levels in all our schools - even the best of them like the two esteemed universities I was lucky enough to attend. I later understood their mission was to program my mind, teach me acceptable doctrine to "make me a good citizen." It's part of the package called "The American Way." Fill their heads with mush and make 'em believe the sun is out when it's really dark and pouring rain. They did teach me how to learn though, and I've tried to use that skill ever since to discover and understand what they should have taught me but never did.
Militarism and empire go way back to our Founding Fathers including the one we call the Father of the country. Some Father. He referred to the nation as a "rising empire", and he helped build it during and after the Revolutionary War. During that conflict he not only dispatched the British (they really just decided it wasn't worth it and left), he waged a second war against our native Indians, all of whom he thought of as subhumans (American Untermenschen). He called for their total annihilation and sent General John Sullivan and 5,000 troops to attack the noncombatant Onondaga people in 1779 with orders to destroy all their villages, homes, fields, food supplies, cattle herds and orchards. He also stole Indian land from the Onieda people who aided him when he was most in need at Valley Forge. I guess it was his way of showing gratitude. The guy we're taught to revere was a racist and genocidist. With that kind of Father what could we expect from the "offspring." I'll bet they're still teaching George's military tactics to the recruits at West Point and telling these impressionable kids that "Father knew best."
George's tradition was handed down and became more robust over time. Along the way to the present day, we expanded the frontier west and south and slaughtered about 18 million of our native people in the process. Their only offense was they happened live on the land we wanted, so we stole it from them. It didn't matter that they'd been there for about 20-30,000 years. How could we let a "little tradition" stand in the way of "progress" and "development." Once we had it all from coast to coast (including the half of Mexico we also stole), we set our sights offshore for conquests and easily found a few. In our beneficence to our southern "neighbor" we let the Mexicans keep half their country, but only because the majority population was in the southern half, and we didn't want all those dark-skinned people "diluting" our white Anglo-Saxon majority.
As fate would have it we spared Canada. But it was touch and go for our northern neighbor as we coveted their land too, and it may only have been our attention diverted to other "adventures" plus a few cooler heads that kept us from taking it. During our so-called War of 1812, there were those in the US more interested in annexing territory in "British North America" than fighting the British over their naval blockades, interception of our ships and impressment of our seamen. We were humming "O Canada" again in the 1920s, when the "Canucks" as now were friendly allies with no hostile intention toward us or anyone else. We actually drew up serious war plans to invade the country and occupy it. I'm not kidding. Why? The same reason we invaded Iraq or at least one of them. To steal their oil, and back then we had plenty of our own and lots more we'd find. We also had a similar war plan approved in 1919 to attack Mexico and steal their oil too. We want everyone's oil and most everything else they have as well. One day we may change our mind and just declare both countries and all others (or just their resources, markets and cheap labor) US property by an act of Congress or a Presidential directive or decree. Our neighbors (and all other nervous nations) shouldn't worry though. Whenever we conquer or colonize we make it clear we come as friends to help them. In the old days it was to bring them civilization. Now that "help" comes in our special style of "friendship" at the barrel of an M1A1 tank or sights of a cruise missile or nuclear bomb. But "it's for their own good, to bring them democracy and freedom" and the rest of the tired old rhetoric. It was shameless bunk back then just as now.
Fast forward a bit to WW II and its aftermath when the US emerged as the only nation left standing as the world's sole superpower. The Soviets may have developed "the bomb", but the war so devastated them (along with most of Europe and East Asia) it took about 15 years of redevelopment for them to regain even a semblance of normalcy. The US was now free to run amuck and took full advantage. What "amuck" we've run since needs much more space than I have here. So fast forward again to the current era and let Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter explain more recent US policy and its incurable addiction. He did it eloquently when he said "US foreign policy can be defined as follows: kiss my arse or I'll kick your head in." He said that during the Clinton years. He had a lot more to say about the Bush administration in his 2005 Nobel lecture and acceptance speech when he called the invasion of Iraq "a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law." He went on to say the US "quite simply doesn't give a damn about the UN, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant."
YOU GOTTA SHOW YOU MEAN BUSINESS
That brings us to Rule No. 2 - When you're the meanest, toughest, baddest guy in the neighborhood, you gotta show it by beating up on a weakling occasionally. Otherwise no one will take you seriously, and someone else might try to challenge your supremacy. That's how a local godfather does it in my city of Chicago. It works the same on the global stage as it does on the South Side here.
I can hardly improve on Harold Pinter's eloquence so I'll just add to it by calling the Bush-Cheney administration an unchallengeable practioner of reckless and outrageous policies at home and abroad and being the most reactionary, statist and psychopathic administration in our history. It stands alone in its brazen uncompromising methods, fanatical extremism, bold and deceptive rhetoric and almost pathological insistence on secrecy. In sum - they're crazy and out-of-control. How's that Harold? It all came out after 9/11 that we now know was an event much different than the official explanation we were given. On that fateful day, the mask came off, the ugly face of a threatening tyranny could be spotted, and the bombs began falling.
So what's going on with us? Was this warped proclivity always there but never understood or quite so visible as now? Or is there something in our DNA that makes us like a modern day out-of-control Sparta? Is it a "bad seed?" Is it curable? Not a chance with the crowd running wild in Washington now declaring they'll throw nuclear bombs around like hand grenades in future wars and are already doing it below the radar in the two we're now fighting - that's right two ongoing wars, the other one being in Afghanistan which in case you hadn't noticed is still "hot" and killing US and other occupying forces. And that one has no end in sight either.
THEY PUT THEIR PLANS IN WRITING AND WE CAN ALL READ THEM - AND SHUDDER
Rule No. 3 - Write it all down clearly and in detail. That way everyone can read it and understand you mean business. What better way to scare shaky allies and intimidate and deter other nations thinking about defying us to forget about it or we'll beat up on them. It works most of the time.
The Bush-Cheney crowd try to make it work every time and since 9/11 have kept practicing to let everyone know they're not kidding. We believe 'em. But just to make sure no one forgets they just updated their September, 2002 National Security Strategy with more belligerent language than the original. The original, in case you didn't know or forgot, lays out an "imperial grand strategy." It's nothing less than a declaration of "preventive war" (the term "pre-emptive" is used incorrectly as that can only apply in a defensive action against a known impending attack) against any nation or force this administration decides is a threat to our national security. It doesn't mean it is, just that we say it is. That threat includes any nation we label "unstable" or a "failed state" (whatever that is). And a little add-on to the original NSS was their FY 04 Air Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan. It laid out a plan to "own outer space" (think the Martians will buy it), weaponize it with the most advanced and destructive weapons and technology including nuclear ones, and develop and place out there unmanned space vehicles to surveille the entire planet.
And there are two more gems everyone should know about. One is the May, 2000 DOD Joint Vision 2020 that outlined a plan for "full spectrum dominance." That's code language ("Militaryspeak" again) meaning total control over all land, sea, air and space and using any means including nuclear war to achieve it and keep it. The other jewel is the Nuclear Policy Review of December, 2001 that claims a unilateral right to declare and wage future wars using first strike nuclear weapons. Anyone nervous? You'd better be because the Bush administration declared a permanent state of war against "bad guys" we call "terrorists." I have my own definition of what each of those terms means and it's lots different from theirs. Dick Cheney gave us his message when he declared a "global war on terrorism" that may last for decades and may include in our target queue dozens of countries (the number keeps changing, but they have plenty in mind and don't plan to run out).
THEY'RE NOT KIDDING AND IT JUST GOT WORSE
Rule No. 4 - Just in case anyone still misunderstands, ratchet up the rhetoric, make it even meaner and tougher and start beating the war drums to announce you're planning to demonstrate your seriousness. That should get everyone's full attention.
If all this doesn't scare you, then you didn't read the morning papers right after the ides of March (amazing they didn't choose that day when another noted warning was made, went unheeded and led to a bad ending for a guy whose initials were JC - no, the other one). On March 16 we learned that an updated National Security Strategy outlined the first full statement of US strategic goals since the original 2002 document written in the run-up to the Iraq war and which, in fact, was a declaration of war against that country six months before it began. The new Strategy identifies Iran as the "single country" that may pose the biggest threat to the US and reaffirms our unilateral right to take preventive military action against them. It denounced Tehran as an "ally of terror" and "enemy of freedom" along with daily accusations they're trying to acquire nuclear weapons and even use them. It also audaciously claims "we may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran."
Iran never attacked any other nation or even threatened to. It endorses a negotiated settlement (didn't we use that ploy with Saddam) but warns of "confrontation" if that effort fails. Sound familiar? Haven't we heard that song before? The clincher will be when we call the Iranian mullahs and/or President Ahmadinejad "Hitler." And haven't we overdone that one too? Can't we let the old brute stew in his special hell without degrading his ignominy by equating all our other designated "bad guys" with him? And shouldn't the public have caught on to this snake oil sales pitch by now? You're giving them too much credit. They never get it or understand in this nation the renowned author and social critic Gore Vidal calls the "United States of amnesia." The equally renowned author and my fellow Chicagoan, Studs Terkel, calls our malady a "national Alzheimer's disease." Sadly, it's true. The public can't recall last week's headlines let alone the events of months or years past or heaven knows any knowledge or sense of history - the real kind, that is, not the mythology we're fed in school or through the corporate media.
The updated document goes further and claims the right to take preventive action against any nation we designate an enemy state or any undefined terrorist group we say seeks to acquire WMD. Again, it doesn't matter if it's true, only that we say it's true. And we never explain what WMD is, so I will. Only nuclear weapons so qualify, not chemical or biological. The war hawks want you to think all three types do, but all weapons experts know otherwise. The latter two types can only cause havoc over a small area while only the former can really cause mass destruction not only on its target but over a vast area affected by deadly toxic radiation fallout that can never be remediated.
The report goes on to warn us that while al-Qaeda has been "significantly degraded" since the Afghan war it's also been dispersed and decentralized which now poses new challenges. And it claims the "fight in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry." I wish someone would explain what that means. And there's more:
Besides Iran, clearly number one in the target queue, the document also lists North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Belarus, Burma and Zimbabwe as "despotic systems." It specifically labels Syria an ally of terror and enemy of freedom - meaning Israel wants us to do their dirty work by ousting their leader and replacing him with someone more subservient to Israeli and Western interests.
It says the US must "isolate enemy elements" but engage those willing to give up violence (read: they're violent because we say they are, but we'll forgive them if they surrender their national sovereignty to the "Godfather").
It specifically singles out Venezuela and Hugo Chavez as "a demagogue awash in oil money (who is) undermining democracy and seeking to destabilize the region." This stuff is breathtaking, and allow me to translate it. First, though let me thank and commend President Chavez for being one of the few world leaders with the courage and backbone to respond to the reckless US policy and vicious lies about him and all else by pointing his finger at the real king of destabilizers and state terrorists. In comments he made on March 19 during his regular Sunday TV program, Hello, President, for ordinary Venezuelans to call and speak to him directly, ask a question and get his response, he called George Bush "Mr. Danger", the world's greatest terrorist, a coward, murderer, immoral and sick among other things. The man's very perceptive.
Now the translation of the NSS comments on President Chavez. What they're saying is that the Chavez extraordinary reforms bringing the Venezuelan people vital social benefits like free health care and education they never had before; his most vibrant democracy in the Americas; his innovative trade agreements that are fair to all participating countries and his opposition to the US promoted exploitive ones; and his beneficent policy of helping his neighbors, other developing countries, and some poor communities in US cities like selected neighborhoods in my own city of Chicago by selling them discounted oil (or heating oil to US cities - again, think Exxon-Mobil would do that?) are not in the interests of the US or the giant transnational corporations who want the right to exploit the country and every other developing one as well for their own benefit. That means no social programs for the people, just opportunities for US giant transnationals to have open and free access to plunder for profit. We call that "free trade." I call it "the American way." Hugo Chavez and the great majority of Venezuelans justifiably want no part of it. Neither should we.
It also emphasizes the need to enhance the administration's post-conflict capabilities and to create a "civilian reserve corps" to rebuild countries after a war ends - meaning after we destroy them by illegal aggression we'll award big no-bid contracts to the likes of Halliburton and Bechtel to rebuild them......shoddily..... and steal the US taxpayers blind while doing whatever it is they're doing. We do know Halliburton is expert at building US military bases and "torture-prisons."
Finally, it states a policy to promote nuclear power abroad to provide "reliable, emission-free energy." I love this one too. This is a sales pitch for General Electric and all other US corporations that will profit big time if we can convince other countries to let US corporations build nuclear power plants for them and all the rest that goes with them. And, oh yes, these plants most definitely are not emission-free. Where I live in Chicago is testimony to that. I'm surrounded by 11 nuclear power plants, many of them aging (as are most others) and all of them have a disturbing history of safety violations caused by aging and shoddy maintenance (another common problem in many other cities). Even without a serious accident (which will happen one day), these facilities (and all others everywhere including any newly built ones) discharge enough deadly toxic radiation daily in their normal operations to contaminate the food we eat (even organic food), the water we drink and the air we breathe into our lungs. And if one of these plants ever has a core meltdown and metropolitan Chicago is downwind from the fallout, the city and suburbs alone will become uninhabitable for the next 4.5 billion years (forever) and would have to be evacuated quickly with all possessions left behind and lost (including our homes) except for what we could carry in suitcases or in the trunks of our cars if we own one which I don't. This is the kind of madness our government is trying to sell the US public and the world. But no matter. They'll do that and anything else to help their corporate friends......even if it kills us.
SELLING WAR - IT'S NOT HARD TO DO
Rule No. 5 - After putting your intentions clearly in writing and showing you mean business, the next step is scaring the public by choosing a "target country" and convincing them it threatens our security and welfare. You explain you're trying to reason with it, but if it won't listen, force may be necessary as a last resort. But not to worry. We'll only do this for our own safety and security. If you do this well enough (and these guys are experts, they've had so much practice), you hope the public will go along with your madness even if things don't go well and despite what your real objectives are.
With two out-of-control wars on their hands, why would they ever want to start another one? We don't have enough troops to handle Iraq and Afghanistan, there's growing discontent in the ranks including desertions in the thousands, and our military spending is off the charts and running up massive budget deficits even the new Fed chairman is alarmed about. He and other experts know they're only sustainable by "the kindness of strangers" that one day may become less kind as well as the wholesale shredding of our social safety net to fund wars. For me that's a clinical definition of insanity, but that doesn't deter this crowd. The war drums are beating loudly and the demonizing of our new number one public enemy is clearly Iran. In mid-February Secretary of State Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the US would "actively confront" Iran and asked for an extra $75 million in funding for anti-Tehran propaganda and support for opposition groups outside the country. And she just turned up the heat a notch or two more by accusing Iran of lying about its (nuclear) activities and calling the country "a central banker to terrorism" - an overused false, deceptive and demonizing line she and others have used before.
Of course, this is all part of "the big lie" and prepping of the public for the "fun and games" they have in mind. What's never mentioned and what the sleepwalking public doesn't understand is there's only one "king" and undisputed world champion of "terrorism" (the state-sponsored most deadly kind of all) and central banker of terrorism. There may be a few other bit players around that come and go, but the US for at least many decades has been financing the most widespread and egregious terrorist activities on the planet - mainly its own, but it spreads it around when it can get other willing co-conspirator nations to join in. I'll let some of the worst of them go unnamed, but the reader need only check what nations have become part of our "coalitions of the willing" in victim countries now under the heel of the oppressive US boot. And then they can add a few more to that list like our closest of all allies in the Middle East and a few more in South and East Asia.
The issue with Iran has nothing to do with the furor over that country's wanting to develop its commercial nuclear industry, having the right to enrich its own uranium and even the right to develop weapons to defend itself against really hostile enemies. They'd be crazy and irresponsible not to want to want an adequate defense. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is in full compliance with it, and has every legal right to enrich its uranium. But that doesn't cut it with the "Godfather" because Iran won't sell out its sovereignty to the US and our oil and other corporate interests. India, Pakistan and Israel, on the other hand, are nuclear outlaws, have known stockpiles of nuclear bombs, and have not signed the NPT. But they know "who's boss", show proper deference, can build and stockpile nuclear bombs (maybe even use a few) and they're valued and trusted strategic allies. It follows that attacking Iran is quite acceptable because the "Godfather" tolerates no disobedient "outliers", and such behavior must be severely punished to oust their leaders, replace them with more "friendly" ones, and deter other nations from showing the same independence or notion of moving that way.
WELCOME TO THE MODERN NUCLEAR AGE UNMASKED
Rule No. 6 - First the rule and then the message from it. The rule is: when you've got 'em, use 'em. Of course, that means using whatever most destructive or high tech weapons you have, especially if the target country only has lesser ones. It also means: what's the point of having 'em if you can't or don't use 'em. The message then is: toxic radiation is good for you. That must be what they're selling because the US has now stated its intent to use industrial strength nuclear bombs in any future wars if it chooses to. Can they really sell this line of sheer madness? They're trying, and I don't hear anyone screaming about it yet.
Waging war by illegal aggression is bad enough, but doing it recklessly in another so-called "shock and awe" attack with so-called "bunker-buster mini-nukes" that aren't mini is reckless and insane. The rhetoric about them is false and deliberately deceptive. These bombs are industrial strength and can be made to any potency and likely would be from one third to two thirds as powerful as a Hiroshima bomb. They're designed to penetrate a designated target and explode underground for supposed protection. The DOD falsely claims this fantasy. They deceptively state that these weapons are safe to use because only the protected target is destroyed while the toxic radiation from the detonation is contained underground. Baloney. This is just another shameless lie. Some of it will be contained, but any bomb this powerful will release most of its toxic and lethal radiation into the atmosphere contaminating a vast area depending only on how many targets are struck, where they are, and by how many nuclear bombs. Let's be clear what will happen if this attack goes ahead as planned or any other like it they may have in mind. It will likely be Hiroshima and Nagasaki x you pick the multiple - anywhere from double to infinity. And the result will be many thousands of innocent people murdered, many more thousands poisoned by toxic, lethal radiation and a vast area irremediably contaminated for the next 4.5 billion years. Think it's worth it, never mind unjustified, egregious and a gross breach of international law.
Should this administration be insane enough to do this (and after the announcement of March 16 it looks more likely than ever), the entire Middle East may boil over, and the US will have descended even deeper into its hellish sinkhole of endless (and now full-scale) nuclear war, massive destruction and killing, and nation bankrupting levels of endless spending with no end in sight. Doesn't this crowd understand this? They must, but that doesn't deter the damn fools. They're often wrong but never in doubt. Haven't they ever heard the great lyrics to folk singer Pete Seeger's Vietnam era ode to the damn fool of that period - "Waste deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool says push on." And don't they remember the memorable Stanley Kubrick 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove, that even I saw back then, and I dislike movies. Kubrick portrayed a nuclear Doomsday Machine. The film's subtitle was "how to stop worrying and love the bomb." Anyone believing that then or now can only love great suffering and large-scale death and destruction instead of life. But you can bet these guys will convince a lot of people it's worth it - for what and whom. Them maybe, but not us.
AND NOW THE NEXT STEP - THE MOVE FROM A REPUBLIC TO TYRANNY
Rule No. 7 (the last one) - Your manual is almost complete, and you're about to become as expert at this game as the big boys actually playing it. The only step left is to do at home everything you want to do abroad without having to nuke the public to sell it. Scaring hell out of them should do the trick.
We may find out and sooner than we think if it'll work. But this time we may be getting in over our heads and headed for the abyss if the alarm sounded by retired General Tommy Franks proves true. A few months after he retired he gave an interview to Cigar Aficionado magazine (a most unlikely venue - maybe he envisioned the world going up in smoke) and made what to some was an astonishing statement. He said if another terrorist attack occurs in the US "the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government." He went on to say such an attack will result in our losing our "freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years......(and that Bush)..... will likely declare martial law......."
Have I ruined your day? Fasten your seat belt, it gets worse. For some time now, a number of US government officials and private "terrorism" experts are on record predicting it's just a matter of when, not if, the US will be struck again. Some say it will be worse than 9/11. And on June 6, 2003, the AP quoted a US government report that "there is a high probability that al-Qaida will attempt an attack with weapons of mass destruction in the next two years." Now I'd never advise anyone believe anything said by any government official. But those of us, including myself, convinced our own government was behind or complicit in the first 9/11 attack, should take this warning very seriously. It means if that conclusion is true (and again, I believe it is) this warning and General Franks' grim assessment may, in fact, be advance word of what's ahead. We should heed that warning and be prepared as best we can. One astute observer I heard comment said in all seriousness that for anyone with enough resources a prudent option today would be to have "a second passport and a little property in Vancouver." He added we should think out our escape route in advance and be ready to take it.
HERE'S THE NIGHTMARISH SCRIPT YOU CAN PRACTICE LOSING SLEEP OVER
Rule (or reality) No. 8 - The script is written and the plans are ready to go. Here's how it's likely to play out.
I've discussed this scenario before in another essay, but it deserves repeating here with some added embellishment to scare you even more. I began by suggesting we're being set up (as well as being given fair warning if we can read the tea leaves) for a planned major strike against us. I then went on to say.......You know the drill by now. A major attack happens on US soil, the Bush administration and complicit corporate media hype what happened, scare the public and get them mad enough to demand retribution. If they haven't yet attacked Iran, they blame this on them so they now have public and outside support to do it claiming secret intelligence they can't reveal and it's (nuclear) bombs away - and George Bush's approval rating skyrockets just like after 9/11, and the Republicans keep control of both houses of Congress in November. Karl Rove couldn't plan it any better.
And there's one more thing I didn't write before but will add here. Tommy Franks' assessment and vision will become reality, the Constitution will be suspended, martial law will be declared and we'll have crossed the Rubicon and passed from a republic (what's left of it) to tyranny just as it happened in ancient Rome and more recently in Weimar Germany. We're no different or safer than they were. It works the same in every country, and we should understand nothing is more fragile than our sacred freedom and liberty. It can easily be taken from us without our knowledge or with our compliance when we think it guarantees us security. The reputed old Chinese proverb and curse (likely derived from another source) said "May he (or you) live in interesting times." It didn't mean "let the good times roll and all is well in the world." Whether of Chinese origin or not, I'll settle for the curse and say it surely applies to today in this country like never before in our history.
I've tried to use this essay to warn everyone reading it how deadly serious the times we're now living in are. We must understand that, spread the word, enlist the support of others, and desperately try to head off the impending disaster I think lies ahead if we all don't act in time. It's really that serious.
I could end this a lot of ways. I usually do it either inspirationally or with a warning. This time it's the latter because the situation is grave, and the time is short. What's at stake is nothing less than saving the republic (again what's left of it) and our sacred Constitutional rights. Unless enough of us are willing to fight for both and do it soon, there may be nothing left to fight for. Understand the threat, get mad, energized and heed Pogo's advice and wisdom that "we've met the enemy and it's us." Now what are we gonna do about it?" It's our move next.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog address at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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Editorial: Democratizing the World: One Torture Victim at a Time
By Jason Miller
Psychological torture, sleep deprivation, brutality, severe sexual humiliation,
and murder summon visions of a dank dungeon in a remote region of pre-invasion
Iraq, Iran, or North Korea, replete with evil inquisitors and hooded executioners.
However, those manifestations of horror did not spring forth from the Axis of
Evil. They are actually drawn from official post-9/11 US policy. Despite its
fabled commitment to human rights, the United States government has been committing
and enabling acts of torture for half a century. Not even Superman had the power
to snatch “Truth, Justice and the American Way” from the crushing
jaws of imperialistic ambition and avarice.
Ironically titled, Albert McCoy’s A
Question of Torture probes and exposes the extent of “the Land of the
Free’s” involvement in human torture over the years. Only a mainstream
media 90% controlled by five major corporations (whose executives and major stockholders
are amongst the de facto rulers of the America’s so-called republic) could
so effectively maintain the illusion that the United States is the world leader
in protecting human rights. Somewhere out there, David Copperfield is burning
with envy. Rest easy, David. They are running out of magic. Destroying our Constitution
and reversing the humanitarian gains achieved by millions of Americans with a
social conscience throughout our nation’s history, the Bush Regime is extinguishing
the candle of hope America once offered to humanity. Despite the exhaustive efforts
of the media handmaidens, people are taking notice.
Painstakingly slow ascent....high velocity decline
From our nation’s birth, many fine Americans labored vigorously to attain
a higher moral plane by ending slavery and advancing the rights of children,
minorities, women, and workers. Contrary to the fairy tale of America’s
benevolent government “of the people”, many amongst the plutocracy
and emerging corporatocracy fought the American evolution of human rights tooth
and nail. Rumsfeld, Gonzales, and company have taken that resistance to new heights
and are plunging the United States into an abyss of evil, at home and abroad.
Minority Americans, Native Americans, and citizens of other nations have been
aware of this descent for years, even before the Neocon catalyzed acceleration.
However, as the ruthlessly brazen disciples of Strauss have fervently attacked
human rights, many amongst America's indoctrinated White working class are smelling
the coffee, and it is not the best part of waking up.
On March 8, 2006, the US State Department released its Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices for 2005, in which it detailed human rights abuses occurring
in over 190 nations. In an act of supreme hypocrisy, they excluded themselves.
As one can readily discern simply from reading McCoy's expose' of human torture
committed by the United States since 1950, the United States is far from being
of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness".
"Torture is evil, pure and simple," is the powerful lesson Peggy Piel
imparted to her son, Alfred McCoy. Having spent a year of her childhood in Nazi
Germany, this erudite Jewish American knew a bit about the subject of torture.
Despite his mother's moralistic viewpoint, McCoy penned his examination of the
history of torture committed and facilitated by the United States in a detached,
analytical manner, without imposing a moral judgment. Noting over 30 pages of
sources, McCoy meticulously researched his chilling glimpse into America's Heart
of Darkness, yet still maintained relative objectivity. No easy task in light
of the virtually countless egregious violations of human rights and acts of murder
committed by the American Empire and its proxies.
Abu Gharib was simply a sign of a "few bad apples"....or was it?
In 1950, the intelligence organization of the “leader of the free world” began
to take a strong interest in research involving psychological torture.
“From 1950 to 1962, the CIA became involved in torture through a massive
mind-control effort, with psychological warfare and secret research into human
consciousness that reached a cost of a billion dollars annually—a veritable
Manhattan Project of the mind.”
While the United States was trumpeting its deep devotion to universal human rights,
the CIA was busily developing and funding research to yield “new and improved” torture
tactics with which they could extract information from Cold War enemies. Utilizing
its unique capacity to wield tremendous power clandestinely, the United States’ intelligence
juggernaut infiltrated and exploited hospitals, divisions of the military, and
universities to enable its research.
Many of the nauseating acts of inhumanity depicted in the Abu Gharib photos reflect
the rotten fruits of CIA labors. Years of study and experimentation determined
that torture involving physical pain lacked efficacy. The CIA found that strong
subjects usually responded by stiffening their resistance and weaker ones often
gave false information just to end the pain. Psychological torture, including
sensory deprivation, sensory disorientation, assault on personal identity and
self-inflicted pain appeared to provide a much richer yield of information. The
Abu Gharib photos are a window through which one can view the CIA-created world
of psychological torture. Hooding, stress positions, extreme intimidation with
ferocious dogs (for which a soldier was convicted on 3/21), and sexual humiliation
are recurring images in the Abu Gharib pictures and are powerful examples of
CIA torture protocol. Other techniques of psychological torture the US military
and CIA have used on detained suspects in the “War on Terror” are
sleep deprivation, isolation, and dietary manipulation. As the Command
Responsibility report by Human Rights First indicates, 45 detainees in the
US “War on Terror” have been murdered or have died as a result of
physical abuse. As McCoy argues, there is a fine line between psychological torture
and physical torture, and as the American Gulag has demonstrated, torturers usually
cross that line.
As an aside, it is important to remember that there are currently over 14,000 “suspected
terrorists” or “enemy combatants” in US custody. These individuals
have been charged with no crime and have been denied due process. Guilty until
proven innocent. Now that is justice the American way. Abu Gharib is only an
aberration because the torturers were caught. Inflicting severe psychological
and mental anguish on suspected enemies of the Empire is now official policy
and has taken place at Bagram Air Base, Camp Cropper, Guantanamo Bay and throughout
the American Gulag. As for the McCain Anti-Torture Law, Bush and his fellow war
criminals are already inventing ways to circumvent it.
Abu Gharib is simply a public display of the psychological and physical torture
the CIA has been implementing and practicing for years. From 1962 to 1974, the
CIA sharpened its talons through a federal entity called the Office of Public
Safety, a branch of US AID. According to McCoy, the OPS trained one million police
officers in 47 countries. Not surprisingly, it was not long before these same
law enforcement entities began committing severe human right rights abuses and
acts of torture.
"Practice makes perfect"
It was morally repugnant enough that the United States killed three million Vietnamese
civilians in their imperialistic escapade into Southeast Asia, euphemistically
labeling them as “collateral damage”. However, McCoy describes torture
policies and techniques which resulted in the murder of tens of thousands more
Vietnamese. The Phoenix program was implemented by the CIA to eradicate the Vietcong
underground. Under CIA administration and supervision, the PRUs (aka Provincial
Interrogation Centers) of the Phoenix program degenerated into a collection of
South Vietnamese murderers, thugs and criminals who accepted bribes, presumed
guilt based on gossip, and murdered their detainees after they completed their
interrogation. Ultimately, (if one is gullible enough to take the word of former
CIA director William Colby), the Phoenix program murdered 20,587 “Vietcong”.
Saigon’s government puts the figure at 40,994.
Educating them on the finer points of torture and murder
The CIA also bears responsibility for the creation of SAVAK, the Shah of Iran’s
ruthless secret police force. SAVAK killed 20,000 Iraqi “dissidents” during
the Shah’s reign. In the Philippines, CIA instruction resulted in 3,257
murders and 35,000 victims of torture by the Ferdinand Marcos regime.
After its defeat in Vietnam, the United States government infiltrated Latin America
with a vengeance (to stop the spread of the “Communist threat”).
Project X, represented another CIA endeavor to impart their wisdom in the arts
of torture to ruthless US allies Not satisfied with their 1963 torture manual
called Kubark, the CIA wrote a sequel in Spanish entitled Handling of Sources,
Interrogation, Combat Intelligence, and Terrorism and the Urban Guerilla.
Of the sequel, McCoy writes,
“Apart from these cold-blooded tactics of kidnapping, murder, beatings,
and betrayal, the manual evidences, in its 144 single-spaced pages, an amorality,
a studied willingness to exploit an ally without restraint or compunction, hardened
on the anvil of the Vietnam conflict.”
Once located in Panama, an odious US Army institution known as the School of
Americas (sometimes called the School of Assassins) bestowed the CIA’s
torture wisdom upon hundreds of Latin American military officers. The School
of Americas fell under the auspices of Project X and provided the “hands
on” training to accompany the CIA torture manuals. Interestingly, by 1983
the CIA had begun to re-emphasize the use of psychological over physical torture
when it wrote its Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual. A laundry list
of CIA-trained Latin American military personnel and dictators murdered and tortured
hundreds of thousands thanks to the tutelage of Project X.
Of war crimes, evasion of responsibility and impunity
McCoy notes that the United States took a break and out-sourced torture to its
allies throughout the 1990’s. Unfortunately for the world, the Bush Regime
opportunistically seized 9/11 to begin its PNAC inspired quest for global military
dominance. In the process, the administration implemented torture as official
United States policy. Desperately attempting to fend off critics and preserve
the crumbling façade of moral superiority, America’s ruling class
has sacrificed several from amongst those near the bottom of the food chain.
However, calling the prosecution and conviction of a handful of military personnel
justice would be a farce. Those ultimately responsible for America’s abject
torture continue to act with impunity.
As McCoy has vividly illustrated, America’s “grunts” at Abu
Gharib and throughout the American Gulag were acting under the orders of the
Bush Regime and under the supervision of the CIA:
1. On September 11, 2001, George Bush told Donald Rumsfeld and his staff, “Any
barriers in your way, they are gone.” When they reminded him of legal constraints,
Bush shouted, “I don’t care what the international lawyers say; we
are going to kick some ass.”
2. Six days later, Bush authorized the CIA to begin rendition of terror suspects
to nations known to commit torture.
3. On November 13, the President determined that Al Qaeda suspects would be denied
access to domestic or international courts.
4. Close to the end of 2001, Bush’s Justice Department approved the use
of “sleep deprivation and deployment of ‘stress factors’” for
5. Bush decided the Geneva Conventions did not apply to his “War on Terror” on
January 8, 2002.
6. On January 9, 2002, John Woo of the Justice Department crafted a memo denying
application of the Geneva Conventions and the US War Crimes Act to suspected
members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, whom he characterized as “enemy combatants”.
Since they were now neither soldier nor citizen, the articles of the Geneva Convention
barring “cruel treatment and torture” and “humiliating and
degrading treatment” did not apply to them (according to Yoo’s perverse
7. As Afghans captured in the “War on Terror” started populating
Guantanamo Bay prison on January 11, Donald Rumsfeld stated that those “unlawful
combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention.”
8. On January 18, the man Bush later elevated from White House legal counsel
to Attorney General (for his loyalty to the Empire) informed the President that
the Justice Department “had issued a formal legal opinion concluding that
the Geneva Convention III on the Treatment of Prisoners of War does not apply
to the conflict with Al Qaeda.”
9. The following day, Rumsfeld advised his field commanders that “Al Qaeda
and Taliban individuals under the control of the Department of Defense are not
entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of
10. January 22, 2002: Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee presented Alberto
Gonzales with a 37 page memo which outlined the means to implement “coercive
interrogation” without legal consequences, affirming that “neither
the federal War Crimes Act nor the Geneva Conventions would apply to the detention
conditions of al Qaeda prisoners”, and that Bush had the Constitutional
power to suspend US treaties with Afghanistan.
11. Behind the scenes, Bush and Rumsfeld approved an SAP or “special-access
program” within the CIA. By its very nature, only a handful of top level
government officials are aware of the existence of an SAP. This particular SAP
endowed the CIA, Navy Seals, and Army Delta Force with the power to assassinate,
kidnap and, of course, to torture. Concurrently, the CIA began creating the American
Gulag by establishing secret prisons in places like Diego Garcia Island and Thailand.
12. The Bush administration entrusted the CIA with “operational command” of
its long coveted “War on Terror”, which enabled the United States
to abandon FBI and military restrictions on torture.
13. In August of 2002, Bybee, Yoo, and Vice Presidential counsel David Addington
created another Justice Department memo “legitimizing” torture. Employing
reasoning which defied the laws of reality, this trio determined that federal
law and the UN anti-torture conventions only prohibited torture that was “specifically
intended to inflict severe pain or suffering, whether mental or physical.” They
concluded that to be a crime, the torture must “be equivalent in intensity
to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment
of bodily function, or even death.” Utilizing this memo, the CIA could
evade responsibility for torturing “enemy combatants” simply by claiming
they were attempting to gain information rather than to inflict pain. The memo
also constructed a very strict definition of psychological torture, interpreting
many CIA techniques as legal. Most significantly, in defiance of the Supreme
Court’s decision in Youngstown Sheet and Tube et al vs. Sawyer, Bybee and
his cohorts asserted that restraints on Bush’s directives to interrogate
would “represent an unconstitutional infringement of the President’s
authority to conduct war.”
14. At about the same time as the release of the Bybee memo, the Justice Department
gave the CIA classified permission to utilize harsher interrogation tactics than
the military, including water boarding, a practice which leads the victim to
believe they are drowning.
Bush and his murderous cabal gave the authorization, the CIA provided supervision,
and the military carried out the “coercive interrogation”. A Question
of Torture sheds significant light on the culpability of Generals Miller and
Sanchez in implementing the policy of inflicting excruciating psychological and
physical pain on “enemy combatants” throughout the military prison
system in Iraq, the nation America “rescued” from Saddam Hussein.
America’s leaders condoned torture and ordered their subordinates to carry
it out. In the tradition of monsters like Pol Pot and Idi Amin, they revel in
their endless access to money, power, and immunity. Small wonder much of the
world hates the American Empire, and its de facto rulers in particular.
Playing with fire
The CIA has repeatedly demonstrated that they are slow learners. Brutality, abuse,
and torture, whether physical or psychological, are not only gross violations
of a person’s inalienable human rights; they are ineffective means of extracting
information or modifying behavior. The FBI is one of the few federal law enforcement
or military entities not implicated in the web of torture emerging in the “War
on Terror” and, according to McCoy’s research, its agents’ legal,
humane interrogation tactics were yielding respectable results before Bush superseded
them with the CIA.
Besides lacking value beyond its capacity to satisfy a primal urge for revenge,
torture is a double-edged sword which harms both perpetrator and victim. McCoy
points out that committing torture intoxicates one with power. Organizations
and governments engaging in mass torture deteriorate as the rule of law and respect
for humanity disintegrates, breaking down their political and social structures.
Objectifying and inflicting suffering upon helpless human beings leaves deep
scars upon the souls of the torturers and creates monstrous sociopaths Contrary
to the wishful thinking of the Bush Regime, the United States will reap a bitter
harvest once the noxious weeds of torture grow to maturity.
Realistically, except in the minds of those who tenaciously cling to their indoctrination
from the American Empire, there is no question that the United States egregiously
violates human rights on a frequent basis. For a more thorough examination of
the cancer of torture ravaging the United States, read A
Question of Torture by Alfred McCoy.
Jason Miller is a 39 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts.
When he is not spending time with his wife and three sons, researching, or writing,
he is working as a loan counselor. He is a member of Amnesty International and
an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes
responses at firstname.lastname@example.org or
comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.
Comment on this Editorial
Editorial: God Forgive America
Thursday March 23rd 2006, 10:18 am
Instead of "God Bless America," we should put "God Forgive America" bumperstickers on our cars. Americans, as participants in horrendous war crimes, should ask for forgiveness. America is a killer nation-not only do we kill Iraqis and Afghans, but we are in the process of killing ourselves.
"After forming microscopic and submicroscopic insoluble Uranium oxide particles on the battlefield, they remain suspended in air and travel around the earth as a radioactive component of atmospheric dust, contaminating the environment, indiscriminately killing, maiming and causing disease in all living things where rain, snow and moisture remove it from the atmosphere," writes independent scientist and international expert on radiation, Leuren Moret. "Global radioactive contamination from atmospheric testing was the equivalent of 40,000 Hiroshima bombs, and still contaminates the atmosphere and lower orbital space today. The amount of low level radioactive pollution from depleted uranium released since 1991, is many times more (deposited internally in the body), than was released from atmospheric testing fallout."
In short, we will pay for the crimes of our government-a government several magnitudes more destructive than the Nazis-and so will our children, and our children's children, in fact the entire human race will pay for 4.5 billion years (the half life of uranium). In order to understand the incomprehensible dimension of this, consider that the earth and solar system are 4.54 billion years old. Scientists believe the Homo sapien genus is a mere 400,000 years old.
God forgive America.
Bush tells us nuclear war (and using depleted uranium is indeed nuclear war) is required in order to save us from "al-Qaeda," a phantom created by the very government Bush represents. In order to protect us (so we may die from depleted uranium and other toxins released in our names), Bush tells us we must "stay the course" in Iraq.
As the Iraqis have learned, this "course" consists of mass murder and unspeakable crimes. In the town of Ishaqi, Iraqi civilians-including babies and grandmothers-have paid the ultimate price for Bush's determination to fight the "al-Qaeda" poltergeist. "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?" muses journalist Mike Whitney. Bush and his Straussian neocon handlers are not inclined to look at the grisly photos of dead babies in Ishaqi. Instead of addressing the issue, the Pentagon tells the corporate media the massacre of innocents is little more than a "pattern of misinformation" contrived by America's enemies.
It is sincerely curious how things work. For instance, as the war crimes committed in Haditha ripple across the news cycle, we learn about the fate of the Christian Peacemakers Teams members, abducted nearly four months ago by the so-called the Swords of Righteousness Brigade.
"A gruelling four-month ordeal for two Canadian peace activists and a British colleague held hostage in Iraq ended Thursday in a bloodless military operation by multinational forces," reports CanWest Interactive. "U.S. Army Gen. Rick Lynch said in Baghdad that the coalition forces were tipped off to where the hostages were by someone captured Wednesday night."
It should be noted that the Swords of Righteousness Brigade is linked to the Islamic Army in Iraq and the IAI is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, itself a documented British and U.S. intelligence asset (for details, see my New Swords of Righteousness Brigades Video blog entry from earlier this month). Evidence abounds that much of the "al-Qaeda in Iraq" and Iraqi "insurgent" violence is the result on Anglo-American black ops, as the capture and subsequent release of several British SAS and American "counterinsurgency" terrorists over the past few months reveal.
In a deranged sort of way, it makes sense for counter-ops to kill abducted peacemakers, humanitarians, and journalists, as Tom Fox and Margaret Hassan were killed. It makes absolutely no sense for the Iraqi resistance to kidnap and murder these people, most working to help the Iraqi people.
God forgive monsters who slaughter the peacemakers. God forgive Americans who tune out reality in preference for televised football games and sit-coms while a pathological government kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people in their names. If you believe in God, now is the time to ask for forgiveness. Now is the time to get off the sofa and out of the gym or mall and demand that your government stop murdering not only Iraqis and Afghans, but the entire planet with depleted uranium and other war-making toxins and poisons.
It will be too late on the day you sit helplessly by and watch in horror as your child dies from cancer caused by depleted uranium blowing in the wind. "I am death, shatterer of worlds," declared Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project, quoting the Bhagavad-Gita, after the explosion of the first atomic bomb.
Let's call a spade a spade-this largely ignored horror has a name: omnicide, the murder of all life on the planet.
God forgive America.
Comment on this Editorial
The "Non-Existent" Jewish Lobby
In Dark Times, Blame the Jews
March 24, 2006
On the face of it, there's little that's new in the provocative research paper "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," published online last week by two leading political scientists, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Their underlying thesis, that Israel's advocates have pressured America into an unjustified and damaging alliance with Israel, has been around for decades, flogged with little success by generations of Israel's detractors. Their more immediate argument, that Israel and its allies manipulated America into war with Iraq, has been simmering at the edges of the debate since before the invasion. By now it's part of our national background noise.
What is new and startling is the document's provenance. Its authors are not fringe gadflies but two of America's most respected foreign-affairs theorists. One, Mearsheimer, is a distinguished professor at the University of Chicago. The other, Walt, is academic dean of the nation's most prestigious center of political studies, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Though it's tempting, they can't be dismissed as cranks outside the mainstream. They are the mainstream.
Even more startling, given who they are, is the flimsiness of their work. Countless facts are simply wrong. Long stretches of argument are implausible, at times almost comically so. Much of their research is oddly amateurish, drawn not from credible documents or primary source interviews but from newspaper clippings, including dozens from this newspaper, seemingly dug up in quick Internet word searches aimed at proving a point, not exploring the truth. Some are wildly misquoted. An undergraduate submitting work like this would be laughed out of class. A dean apparently gets to see it posted on Harvard's Web site.
Considering the authors' credentials, the paper calls for substantive rebuttal by those who disagree. But that, as we'll see, is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. The larger, more urgent question is how things came to this pass. What could possibly have led two of the best and brightest foreign policy mandarins to compose and publish such an embarrassment?
Some of Israel's more overheated defenders were trying this week to diagnose the problem as a character flaw in the authors. Their solution is to counterattack. That's a mistake. Leaving aside the folly of trying to answer a claim that Israel is a bully by bullying the messenger, the response misses the point. Mearsheimer and Walt are products of their time.
These are dark, poisonous days we live in, and the poison is spreading. In Iraq, America has stumbled into a quagmire of historic proportions, with global consequences that are proving nothing short of catastrophic. If that weren't enough, our nation is nearly bankrupt, with a national debt nearly equal to our Gross Domestic Product. And the Arctic is melting. The miscalculations seem inexplicable. There must be someone to blame.
We shouldn't be surprised, then, at the sight of respected professors, and not only professors, coming unhinged.
The Mearsheimer-Walt paper shows how far the notion that Israel is to blame for the Iraq War has moved from the crackpot fringe to the center. Three years ago it was heard mainly from campus radicals. Two years ago it started getting picked up by a handful of Washington insiders, memorably including Senator Ernest Hollings and General Anthony Zinni. Now it's reached the heart of the academic establishment.
And the notion has grown with the telling. Compared with the professors, Hollings and Zinni now seem modest in their claims. They argued merely that the Iraq War had been fought for Israel's benefit. In this they were echoing the widespread theory that the war was foisted on the Bush administration by a cabal of mostly Jewish neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. That was a shaky enough argument back in 2004. It was already clear by then, from the disclosures of former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and others, that President Bush had Saddam Hussein in his sights from the moment he entered office. It was also clear, or should have been, that Bush and Cheney had assembled an administration of known quantities, including Wolfowitz and Feith, who served their purposes. The notion that a group of Pentagon underlings could bamboozle the White House into an unintended war was ludicrous on its face. Whatever else might be said of George Bush, he knows his mind and is not easily manipulated.
Mearsheimer and Walt, however, have constructed a far more ambitious theory. They mean to indict the entire U.S.-Israel relationship, going back to the point in 1973 when American aid rose into the billions and America became the essential broker in Middle East diplomacy. Since then, they write, "the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security." Indeed, "the United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel."
But if America's ties to Israel were the main cause of America's current troubles in the Muslim world, as Mearsheimer and Walt argue, then Muslim hostility would have been rising steadily since 1973. It has not. There have been periods of conflict and periods of good will. Things were bad during the early 1980s, around the time of the Lebanon War. They picked up in the late 1980s, when America was working actively to broker Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, and improved even more in the 1990s, when Israel was working toward reconciliation with the Palestinians.
Throughout, groups of terrorists sought to attack American targets, including Hezbollah in the 1980s, Al Qaeda beginning in the 1990s. But they did not represent a groundswell of mass rage. No, the groundswell began in 2000 with the outbreak of the televised intifada. It became a firestorm after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
If America's support for Israel has been steady since 1973, as the authors say, then it cannot explain a crisis that erupted in 2000 or 2003.
What's different, of course, is the "effort to spread democracy throughout the region." Mearsheimer and Walt present it as a natural corollary of American support for Israel, but it's nothing of the sort. Support for Israel is a broadly popular aspect of American policy that goes back decades. Spreading democracy in the Middle East - or, more precisely, imposing it - is an eccentric doctrine taken up, amid intense controversy, by the current administration. Some of its key advocates see democratization as a way of protecting Israel; others, conversely, support Israel as an outgrowth of their vision of democracy. Some elements of the pro-Israel advocacy community back this crusade enthusiastically; most do not.
Mearsheimer and Walt have no time for such subtleties. For them, the cause of Israel is inseparable from the ideological crusade of the past three years. The Israel they depict, in a relentless, selective marshaling of facts, half-truths and occasional untruths, is a moral burden and a strategic liability. It was conceived in racism and founded in "explicit acts of ethnic cleansing, including executions, massacres, and rapes by Jews." It has been bent since 1948 on expansionism and ethnic purification, and since 1967 on tightening its brutal grip on the West Bank and Gaza. The authors claim repeatedly that they do not question Israel's right to exist, but they spend page after page doing just that, with barely a hint of a counter-argument.
Then, having dismissed the case for Israel, they ask: "[I]f neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America's support for Israel, how are we to explain it?" Their answer is "the Israel Lobby."
Their lobby is a sprawling alliance of Jewish organizations, major newspapers, Democratic and Republican politicians, liberal and conservative think tanks and more Jewish organizations, all single-mindedly determined to help Israel achieve its goals at the expense of American interests. "The core of the Lobby," they write, "is comprised of American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel's interests." To be sure, they hasten to add, "not all Jewish-Americans are part of the Lobby." One 2004 survey found that "roughly 36 percent of Jewish-Americans said they were either 'not very' or 'not at all' emotionally attached to Israel." Good news: No more than 64% of American Jews are out to undermine America.
Here, again, they protest: They do not mean to impugn. There is, they say, "nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway U.S. policy towards Israel." They don't mean to suggest "the sort of conspiracy depicted in anti-Semitic tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion."
It's just that the Lobby has, well, "a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress," controls key access to the executive branch and suppresses dissent throughout society. Its "not surprising" goal, they write, is to weaken Israel's enemies to the point that "Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding, and paying." Nothing "improper" there.
At times their narrative is surprisingly ill-informed. They state, incorrectly, that Israel did not allow Palestinian refugees to return after 1948. They claim, incorrectly, that Israel's citizenship laws are based on something they call "blood kinship."
They state, incredibly and without substantiation, that Israel's counter-terrorism raids in the 1950s were aimed at territorial expansion. They claim that Yitzhak Rabin, who first endorsed Palestinian statehood in a Yediot Aharonot interview in 1974, was opposed to Palestinian statehood.
At a more basic level, they ignore or gloss over critical distinctions in their effort to portray "the Lobby" as a monolith. Supporters of Israel's cause are depicted as unanimous in backing territorial expansion and opposing concessions to the Palestinians; when the authors happen to notice advocates of compromise, such as Edgar Bronfman and Seymour Reich, they are presented as lonely voices of dissent rather than as leaders of major factions within the organized Jewish community.
The very term "pro-Israel" becomes, in their hands, elastic to the point of deceptiveness. One minute it describes those who are sympathetic to Israel; the next minute it denotes those whose main motivation is loyalty to Israel. By switching back and forth, they manage to make the casual sympathizers melt in among the diehards to create the appearance of a vast, terrifying octopus.
The deception is helped along by the cherry-picking of quotes. In one egregious case, they attempt to prove how deeply Paul Wolfowitz is "committed to Israel" by quoting the Forward, which "once described him as 'the most hawkishly pro-Israel voice in the Administration.'" A check of the endnotes shows that the words did appear in the Forward, but they were describing the conventional wisdom, not the Forward's view. The article was about a pro-Israel rally where Wolfowitz was booed for defending Palestinian rights. The point was that the conventional wisdom was wrong.
Some facts need repeating, though they shouldn't. Israel was founded by majority vote of the United Nations General Assembly. It has faced and continues to face powerful enemies intent on its destruction. Its citizenship is open to all races and creeds, from European Jews to South American Indians and Vietnamese boat people. Tens of thousands of Israelis are West Bank and Gaza Palestinians who gained their citizenship by marrying Israelis.
Most important, Israel has had the support of successive American administrations in large part because it enjoys the sympathy of much of the American people. In part this flows from Christian religious convictions. In part it reflects admiration for Israeli spunk. In part it stems from a perception of shared values. Israel has not always lived up to its own best ideals. But, unlike much of the world, it tries.
Mearsheimer and Walt join a long line of critics who dislike Israel so deeply that they cannot fathom the support it enjoys in America, and so they search for some malign power capable of perverting America's good sense. They find it, as others have before, in the Jews.
Comment: Forward is an important newspaper in the US Jewish community. We are posting their articles today on the "Jewish Lobby" question so that our readers can better understand the mindset. In this article, the editors decry discussion of "Jewish Lobby" as a manifestation of an age-old "blame the Jews" rhetoric.
The author of the following article, again from Forward, gives examples of one instance where the Jewish Lobby did have influence.
Comment on this Article
Pro-Israel Activists Block Travel Reform
March 17, 2006
WASHINGTON - Jewish organizations played a leading role in defeating the effort, launched in response to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, to ban privately funded trips for members of Congress.
Advocates of lobbying reform and many members of Congress stepped up their push for a ban on travel paid for by private individuals and organizations after Abramoff Â— who organized junkets for many lawmakers Â— pleaded guilty in January to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy. With lawmakers fearing a public backlash over the Abramoff scandal, many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle were lining up behind legislation that would outlaw privately funded trips and place severe restrictions on gifts and meals from lobbyists.
But then Jewish organizations, in the lead of a loose coalition of nonprofit groups, moved to block the reforms on travel, arguing that one of their most effective lobbying tools has been privately sponsored trips to Israel for lawmakers. Israel is the number one foreign destination of privately funded congressional trips, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Washington's powerful pro-Israel lobby, is the second largest underwriter of such overseas travel.
The tide appears to have turned against those pressing for a ban on travel, according to congressional insiders. They say that a solid bipartisan majority now favors watered down legislation that would impose some restrictions on privately funded travel by legislators and require full transparency, but still allow privately funded trips. The severe restrictions on gifts and meals remain.
"We've all been successful in making sure that there are no immediate rushes to action" on travel reform, said William Daroff, vice president for public policy at the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group of North American Jewish federations. "We are very comfortable with the bill that is now being debated on the Senate floor because it brings about a good combination of smart reform that aims to rid the system of many of the abuses while not imposing a ban."
In the past five years, Aipac and its affiliated American Israel Education Foundation spent almost $1.1 million dollars on trips Â— most of them to Israel Â— for members of Congress, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a Washington lobbying and campaign finance watchdog organization. Aipac is second only to the well-funded Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, which has spent close to $ 3.5 million on trips for members of Congress since 2000. During the period surveyed, Israel was the foremost destination for such travel, accounting for 164 out of 1,922 privately funded trips overseas by members of Congress. Almost all trips to Israel are funded by Aipac, with some financed by local Jewish federations and other Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee. The dovish Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation spent more than $200,000 on congressional trips to Middle Eastern countries, including Israel.
Pro-Israel groups argue that banning "educational" trips, which seldom have any recreational or entertainment component Â— unlike the junkets organized by Abramoff and many other lobbyists Â— would be a mistake. During an appearance in front of the House of Representatives Rules Committee, Daroff said that banning educational trips would be "throwing the baby out with the bath water." Congress, Daroff said, is seeking ways to block lobbyists from improperly trying to obtain legislators' support by showering them with lavish recreational trips. But visits to Israel, he said, are intended to teach legislators and their staff "about some of the most critical foreign policy and security issues of the day."
Many members of Congress seem to agree.
When going on Aipac-funded trips "you'd better hold your breath, because you don't do anything but go to meetings," said Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, during his appearance at the House hearing last week.
Some watchdog groups are still lobbying for a blanket ban on privately funded trips, including travel to Israel. "The whole concept of privately financed travel is an extension of lobbying activity by interest groups, with very few exceptions, and Aipac is not one of those exceptions," said Craig Holman, the legislative representative of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, a nonprofit consumer-rights organization in Washington. "Even if these trips are very educational, Aipac has its own agenda that it is pushing," he added.
Members of Congress ought to travel to the Middle East to learn about outstanding issues there, Holman said, but "they should go on a clean slate," using taxpayer money and maintaining a balanced itinerary. "When the spinning is all done by one side, that is not a true educational experience," but "something that rather resembles propaganda," Holman said. He conceded that the fight for a blanket ban on privately funded travel has little chance of success.
Congress pushed for lobbying-reform legislation in January, after Abramoff pleaded guilty to corruption charges and made clear that he would share information with federal investigators about his past contacts with legislators. Last week, however, because of a growing conviction on Capitol Hill that sweeping reform is unneeded and because of sharp disagreements among House Republicans, the legislation seemed to be losing steam. Some Hill insiders even speculated that despite the initial enthusiasm, lobbying-reform legislation might not be passed this year.
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Harvard distances itself from criticism of Israel lobby
w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
By Shmuel Rosner
WASHINGTON - Harvard University has decided to remove its logo from a study that denounces the pro-Israel lobby's impact on American foreign policy, in order to distance itself from the study's conclusions.
The university also appended a more strongly worded disclaimer to the study, stating that it reflects the views of its authors only. The former disclaimer said merely that the study "does not necessarily" reflect the university's views.
The controversial study, published this week, was authored by Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. It charged that American foreign policy has been subordinated to Israeli interests and accused the pro-Israel lobby of responsibility for America's invasion of Iraq.
The study's many critics claim that its academic quality is poor, and that it is essentially a political polemic rather than genuine academic research. Well-known researchers such as Marvin Kalb, also of Harvard's Kennedy School, said this week that the study fails to meet minimal academic standards.
However, it has aroused great interest among the Arab media and been widely quoted there. The PLO's office in Washington distributed it by email to thousands of subscribers, and lobbyists for Arab states have been passing it around. The study also earned praise from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
One of the study's claims is that American opponents of Israel are consistently silenced by charges of anti-Semitism from the pro-Israel lobby. Congressman Eliot Engel of New York, in an interview with Haaretz this week, termed the study itself a form of anti-Semitism and said that it deserved the American public's contempt.
According to the study, the pro-Israel lobby is an octopus whose tentacles affect congressional legislation, administration policies, the press and other agencies. The paper focuses on the main pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, but also discusses other organizations, such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and devotes considerable attention to pro-Israel government officials - many of them Jewish - such as former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz in the Bush administration and former assistant secretary of state Martin Indyk in the Clinton administration.
The study also accused the pro-Israel lobby of monitoring academics to ensure that they do not diverge from the pro-Israel line. They will undoubtedly see proof of this contention in Harvard's decision to distance itself from the study due to pressure applied by pro-Israel donors. According to the New York Sun, Robert Belfer - who gave the Kennedy School $7.5 million in 1997 in order, among other things, to endow the chair that Walt now occupies - called the university and asked that Walt be forbidden to use his title in publicity for the study.
Israeli officials have been concerned over the study, saying it is liable to be used to delegitimize Israel among the American intelligentsia. As of yesterday, however, it did not seem to have won much support among academics specializing in American foreign policy. According to one such academic, who asked to remain anonymous, "the study obviously contains many correct facts, but their presentation is skewed and the conclusions [the authors] derive from them are unfit for publication. For instance, it completely ignores the enormous influence of the Arab oil lobby on American policy, and presents a one-sided and utterly politically biased picture of the world."
Other academics - some of them not known as fans of AIPAC - also cited many professional flaws in the study, such as omitting relevant facts, relying on unofficial sources (including Haaretz), and leaping to conclusions that are not necessarily supported by the facts.
In addition to reiterating the well-worn charge that Jewish neoconservatives in the Bush administration were responsible for America's invasion of Iraq, the study accuses the pro-Israel lobby of inciting the American government and people against the Palestinian Authority, tilting American policy against Syria and other Arab states, and trying to push the United States into aggressive action against Iran's nuclear program.
Comment: Harvard is beating a hasty retreat, but there is no Jewish lobby, right?
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Scholars' Attack on Pro-Israel Lobby Met With Silence
By Ori Nir
March 24, 2006
WASHINGTON - In the face of one of the harshest reports on the pro-Israel lobby to emerge from academia, Jewish organizations are holding fire in order to avoid generating publicity for their critics.
Officials at Jewish organizations are furious over "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a new paper by John Mearsheimer, a top international relations theorists based at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, the academic dean of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. In their report - versions of which appear on the Kennedy School Web site and in the March 26 issue of the London Review of Books - the scholars depict "the Israel lobby" as a "loose coalition" of politicians, media outlets, research institutions, Jewish groups and Evangelical Christians that steers America's Middle East policy in directions beneficial to Israel, even if it requires harming American interests.
Despite their anger, Jewish organizations are avoiding a frontal debate with the two scholars, while at the same time seeking indirect ways to rebut and discredit the scholars' arguments. Officials with pro-Israel organizations say that given the limited public attention generated by the new study - as of Tuesday most major print outlets had ignored it - they prefer not to draw attention to the paper by taking issue with it head on. As of Wednesday morning, none of the largest Jewish organizations had issued a press release on the report.
"The key here is to not do what they probably want, which is to have this become a battle between us and them, or for them to say that they are being silenced," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "It's much better to let others respond."
Pro-Israel activists were planning a briefing for congressional staffers to be held Thursday. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering releasing a letter in response to the new paper, congressional staffers said.
Some of the arguments made in the new paper are reminiscent - both in content and style - of ones routinely found on virulently anti-Israeli Web sites, both on the extreme right and on the extreme left, pro-Israel activists said. For example, Mearsheimer and Walt argue that "the main driving force behind the [Iraq] war was a small band of neo-conservatives, many with ties to Likud"; Israel "is becoming a strategic burden" on the United States and "does not behave like a loyal ally"; "the U.S. has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around," and that in Israel, "citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship." The paper argues that "thanks to the lobby, the United States has become the de-facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the Occupied Territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians."
Like no other lobby, Mearsheimer and Walt argue, pro-Israel forces have "managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest." The tentacles of that lobby, the paper argues, reach far into Washington think tanks from the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution to the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. It argues that pro-Israel views pervade the editorial boards of the liberal New York Times and the conservative Wall Street Journal.
The study left pro-Israel activists fuming, albeit behind the scenes. "The truth is that this really wouldn't be worth spending any time discussing if not for the fact of where these people are located and what their reputations are," said Ken Jacobson, associate national director of the Anti-Defamation League. He pointed out that the paper contains no new revelations or insights, is riddled with factual errors and makes arguments that the ADL is accustomed to dealing with from extremists on the margins of America's political arena. Jacobson said that he had prepared a rebuttal to the study, but for the time being it is only being used for internal ADL purposes.
"In these kinds of things you're always trying to debate how important will it be in terms of the impact, if you give it more attention," he said. "The amount of attention we will give it will depend on how it plays out" in the public domain.
At least one leading pro-Israel luminary, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, author of "The Case for Israel," is attempting to confront Walt and Mearsheimer. He has challenged the scholars to a debate; the two, prodded by Harvard's campus newspaper The Crimson, accepted, "under the appropriate circumstances."
Mearsheimer and Walt also seem to be resisting further publicity.
"I don't have an agenda in the sense of viewing myself as proselytizing or trying to sell this," Mearsheimer told the Forward. "I am a scholar, not an activist, and I am reticent to take questions from the media because I do believe that this is a subject that has to be approached very carefully. You don't want to say the wrong thing. The potential for saying the wrong thing is very great here."
Mearsheimer was hosted on National Public Radio Tuesday for a full hour, to talk about Iraq, but did not make any mention of the controversial paper he co-authored. "To have a throwaway line or two on public radio to promote yourself is a bad idea," he told the Forward, following his NPR appearance. "I prefer to take the high road, although that is not always easy." Since publication, Mearsheimer added, he and Walt also turned down offers from major newspapers, radio and television networks to lay out their thesis.
The abstract of the report posted on the Kennedy School Web site appears to soft-pedal Mearsheimer and Walt's argument. It states that the authors argue that America's commitment to Israel is "often justified as reflecting shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives," though in fact the report works to undercut the notion of Israel as a dependable ally that shares the values of the United States.
While the paper has generated little attention in the mainstream media or policymaking circles, it has produced a buzz within the academic community and among advocates on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Palestinian activists and Arab affairs scholars sent the article to many people by email, but the controversy rarely strayed beyond the realm of Internet blogs.
Several editors, foreign affairs reporters and columnists for major American newspapers contacted by the Forward did not know about the study. They didn't sound especially interested when told about the report's findings.
"We might take a look at it, to see if there is any interest from a lobbying point of view," said David Meyers, managing editor of Roll Call, a Washington-based publication that covers Capitol Hill. A senior editor with one of America's largest daily newspapers, who asked not to be quoted by name, said: "We don't get excited about academic papers unless they tell us something new, and this one doesn't."
Given the relatively low publicity, pro-Israel activists said they are not worried about the short-term impact of the study. The main concern voiced by pro-Israel advocates was that the study would become a major archival resource on the role that American supporters of Israel play in shaping the government's Middle East policy.
"We live in a Google age," said Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi, a public relations expert who heads The Israel Project, an organization devoted to improving Israel's image in the media, "and in this age things like this can take a life of their own."
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Blaming the lobby
Unless the Jewish lobby loosens its grip on Washington's foreign policy, the US should expect a change in its standing among Arabs.
In the last 25 years, many Palestinians and other Arabs, in the United States and in the Arab world, have been so awed by the power of the US pro-Israel lobby that any study, book, or journalistic article that exposes the inner workings, the substantial influence, and the financial and political power of this lobby have been greeted with ecstatic sighs of relief that Americans finally can see the "truth" and the "error" of their ways.
The underlying argument has been simple and has been told time and again by Washington's regime allies in the Arab world, pro-US liberal and Arab intellectuals, conservative and liberal US intellectuals and former politicians, and even leftist Arab and American activists who support Palestinian rights, namely, that absent the pro- Israel lobby, America would at worst no longer contribute to the oppression of Arabs and Palestinians and at best it would be the Arabs' and the Palestinians' best ally and friend. What makes this argument persuasive and effective to Arabs? Indeed, why are its claims constantly brandished by Washington's Arab friends to Arab and American audiences as a persuasive argument? I contend that the attraction of this argument is that it exonerates the United States' government from all the responsibility and guilt that it deserves for its policies in the Arab world and gives false hope to many Arabs and Palestinians who wish America would be on their side instead of on the side of their enemies.
Let me start with the premise of the argument, namely its effect of shifting the blame for US policies from the United States onto Israel and its US lobby. According to this logic, it is not the United States that should be held directly responsible for all its imperial policies in the Arab world and the Middle East at large since World War II, rather it is Israel and its lobby who have pushed it to launch policies that are detrimental to its own national interest and are only beneficial to Israel. Establishing and supporting Arab and other Middle East dictatorships, arming and training their militaries, setting up their secret police apparatuses and training them in effective torture methods and counter-insurgency to be used against their own citizens should be blamed, according to the logic of these studies, on Israel and its US lobby. Blocking all international and UN support for Palestinian rights, arming and financing Israel in its war against a civilian population, protecting Israel from the wrath of the international community should also be blamed not on the United States, the studies insist, but on Israel and its lobby. Additionally, and in line with this logic, controlling Arab economies and finances, dominating key investments in the Middle East, and imposing structural adjustment policies by the IMF and the World Bank which impoverish the Arab peoples should also be blamed on Israel, and not the United States. Finally, starving and then invading Iraq, threatening to invade Syria, raiding and then sanctioning Libya and Iran, besieging the Palestinians and their leaders must also be blamed on the Israeli lobby and not the US government. Indeed, over the years, many pro-US Arab dictators let it leak officially and unofficially that their US diplomat friends have told them time and again how much they and "America" support the Arab world and the Palestinians were it not for the influence of the pro- Israel lobby (sometimes identified by the American diplomats in more explicit "ethnic" terms).
While many of the studies of the pro-Israel lobby are sound and full of awe-inspiring well- documented details about the formidable power commanded by groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its allies, the problem with most of them is what remains unarticulated. For example, when and in what context has the United States government ever supported national liberation in the Third World? The record of the United States is one of being the implacable enemy of all Third World national liberation groups, including European ones, from Greece to Latin America to Africa and Asia, except in the celebrated cases of the Afghan fundamentalists' war against the USSR and supporting apartheid South Africa's main terrorist allies in Angola and Mozambique (UNITA and RENAMO) against their respective anti-colonial national governments. Why then would the US support national liberation in the Arab world absent the pro-Israel lobby is something these studies never explain.
The United States has had a consistent policy since World War II of fighting all regimes across the Third World who insist on controlling their national resources, whether it be land, oil, or other valuable minerals. This extends from Iran in 1953 to Guatemala in 1954 to the rest of Latin America all the way to present-day Venezuela. Africa has fared much worse in the last four decades, as have many countries in Asia. Why would the United States support nationalist regimes in the Arab world who would nationalise natural resources and stop their pillage by American capital absent the pro-Israel lobby also remains a mystery unexplained by these studies. Finally, the United States government has opposed and overthrown or tried to overthrow any regime that seeks real and tangible independence in the Third World and is especially galled by those regimes that pursue such policies through democratic elections. The overthrow of regimes from Arbenz to Goulart to Mossadegh and Allende and the ongoing attempts to overthrow Chavez are prominent examples, as is the overthrow of nationalist regimes like Sukarno's and Nkrumah's. The terror unleashed on populations who challenged the US-installed friendly regimes from El Salvador and Nicaragua to Zaire to Chile and Indonesia resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands, if not millions by repressive police and militaries trained for these important tasks by the US. This is aside from direct US invasions of South East Asian and Central American countries that killed untold millions for decades. Why would the US and its repressive agencies stop invading Arab countries, or stop supporting the repressive police forces of dictatorial Arab regimes and why would the US stop setting up shadow governments inside its embassies in Arab capitals to run these countries' affairs (in some cases the US shadow government runs the Arab country in question down to the smallest detail with the Arab government in question reduced to executing orders) if the pro-Israel lobby did not exist is never broached by these studies let alone explained.
The arguments put forth by these studies would have been more convincing if the Israel lobby was forcing the United States government to pursue policies in the Middle East that are inconsistent with its global policies elsewhere. This, however, is far from what happens. While US policies in the Middle East may often be an exaggerated form of its repressive and anti- democratic policies elsewhere in the world, they are not inconsistent with them. One could easily make the case that the strength of the pro-Israel lobby is what accounts for this exaggeration, but even this contention is not entirely persuasive. One could argue (and I have argued elsewhere) that it is in fact the very centrality of Israel to US strategy in the Middle East that accounts, in part, for the strength of the pro-Israel lobby and not the other way around. Indeed, many of the recent studies highlight the role of pro-Likud members of the Bush administration (or even of the Clinton administration) as evidence of the lobby's awesome power, when, i t could be easily argued that it is these American politicians who had pushed Likud and Labour into more intransigence in the 1990s and are pushing them towards more conquest now that they are at the helm of the US government. This is not to say, however, that the leaders of the pro-Israel lobby do not regularly brag about their crucial influence on US policy in Congress and in the White House. That they have done regularly since the late 1970s. But the lobby is powerful in the United States because its major claims are about advancing US interests and its support for Israel is contextualised in its support for the overall US strategy in the Middle East. The pro- Israel lobby plays the same role that the China lobby played in the 1950s and the Cuba lobby still plays to this day. The fact that it is more powerful than any other foreign lobby on Capitol Hill testifies to the importance of Israel in US strategy and not to some fantastical power that the lobby commands independent of and extraneous to the US "national interest." The pro-Israel lobby could not sell its message and would not have any influence if Israel was a communist or anti-imperialist country or if Israel opposed US policy elsewhere in the world.
Some would argue that even though Israel attempts to overlap its interests with those of the US, that its lobby is misleading American policy- makers and shifting their position from one of objective assessment of what is truly in America's best interest and that of Israel's. The argument runs as follows: US support for Israel causes groups who oppose Israel to hate the US and target it for attacks. It also costs the US friendly media coverage in the Arab world, affects its investment potential in Arab countries, and loses its important allies in the region, or at least weakens these allies. But none of this is true. The United States has been able to be Israel's biggest backer and financier, its staunchest defender and weapon-supplier while maintaining strategic alliances with most if not all Arab dictatorships, including the Palestinian Authority under both Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Moreover, US companies and American investments have the largest presence across the Arab world, most prominently but not exclusively in the oil sector. Also, even without the pathetic and ineffective efforts at US propaganda in the guise of the television station Al-Hurra, or Radio Sawa and the now-defunct Hi magazine, not to mention US-paid journalists and newspapers in Iraq and elsewhere, a whole army of Arabic newspapers and state-television stations, not to mention myriad satellite television stations celebrate the US and its culture, broadcast American programmes, and attempt to sell the US point of view as effectively as possible encumbered only by the limitations that actual US policies in the region place on common sense. Even the offending Al-Jazeera has bent over backwards to accommodate the US point of view but is constantly undercut by actual US policies in the region. Al-Jazeera, under tremendous pressure and threats of bombing from the United States, has for example stopped referring to the US occupation forces in Iraq as "occupation forces" and now refers to them as "coalition forces". Moreover, since when has the US sought to win a popularity contest among the peoples of the world? Arabs no more hate or love the United States than do Latin Americans, Africans, Asians, or even and especially Europeans.
Finally we come to the financial argument, namely that the US gives an inordinate amount of money to Israel -- too exorbitant a cost that is out of proportion to what the US gets in return. In fact, the United States spends much more on its military bases in the Arab world, not to mention on those in Europe or Asia, than it does on Israel. Israel has indeed been very effective in rendering services to its US master for a good price, whether in channelling illegal arms to central American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s, helping pariah regimes like Taiwan and apartheid South Africa in the same period, supporting pro-US, including Fascist, groups inside the Arab world to undermine nationalist Arab regimes, from Lebanon to Iraq to Sudan, coming to the aid of conservative pro- US Arab regimes when threatened as it did in Jordan in 1970, and attacking Arab nationalist regimes outright as it did in 1967 with Egypt and Syria and in 1981 with Iraq when it destroyed that country's nuclear reactor. While the US had been able to overthrow Sukarno and Nkrumah in bloody coups, Nasser remained entrenched until Israel effectively neutralised him in the 1967 War. It is thanks to this major service that the United States increased its support to Israel exponentially. Moreover, Israel neutralised the PLO in 1982, no small service to many Arab regimes and their US patron who could not fully control the organisation until then. None of the American military bases on which many more billions are spent can claim such a stellar record. Critics argue that when the US had to intervene in the Gulf, it could not rely on Israel to do the job because of the sensitivity of including it in such a coalition which would embarrass Arab allies, hence the need for direct US intervention and the uselessness of Israel as a strategic ally. While this may be true, the US also could not rely on any of its military bases to launch the invasions on their own and had to ship in its army. American bases in the Gulf did provide important and needed support but so did Israel.
AIPAC is indeed powerful insofar as it pushes for policies that accord with US interests and that are resonant with the reigning US imperial ideology. The power of the pro-Israel lobby, whether in Congress or on campuses among university administrators, or policy-makers is not based solely on their organisational skills or ideological uniformity. In no small measure, anti- Semitic attitudes in Congress (and among university administrators) play a role in believing the lobby's (and its enemies') exaggerated claims about its actual power, resulting in their towing the line. But even if this were true, one could argue, it would not matter whether the lobby has real or imagined power. For as long as Congress and policy-makers (and university administrators) believe it does, it will remain effective and powerful. I of course concede this point.
What then would have been different in US policy in the Middle East absent Israel and its powerful lobby? The answer in short is: the details and intensity but not the direction, content, or impact of such policies. Is the pro- Israel lobby extremely powerful in the United States? As someone who has been facing the full brunt of their power for the last three years through their formidable influence on my own university and their attempts to get me fired, I answer with a resounding yes. Are they primarily responsible for US policies towards the Palestinians and the Arab world? Absolutely not. The United States is opposed in the Arab world as elsewhere because it has pursued and continues to pursue policies that are inimical to the interests of most people in these countries and are only beneficial to its own interests and to the minority regimes in the region that serve those interests, including Israel. Absent these policies, and not the pro-Israel lobby which supports them, the United States should expect a change in its standing among Arabs. Short of that, the United States will have to continue its policies in the region that have wreaked, and continue to wreak, havoc on the majority of Arabs and not expect that the Arab people will like it in return.
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Mother Nature's Revenge
Are birds trying to tell us things?
Mar. 23, 2006. 01:00 AM
Ryan Reynolds is a psittalinguist - a person who interprets budgie-speak.
Since 1999, he has invested thousands of hours slowing down and deconstructing recordings of his beloved budgie, Victor, who died five years ago at the young age of 3, as well as other talking budgies.
Victor had a vocabulary of 1,000 words, which he used in context, Reynolds says.
Reynolds, founder of The Budgie Research Group, later reached out to others with talking budgies, hoping to share information. To describe their work, they coined the term psittalinguistics, from psittacidae, or the parrot family.
So what are budgies saying?
"This is going to sound crazy, but they talk about spiritual things: God, the afterlife, a better world for them," Reynolds says.
Reynolds, 50, is semi-retired from an administrative job. He's the group's senior translator, thanks partly to his work in radio communications with the Canadian Armed Forces from 1975 to 1985, which helped him develop his listening skills. A sensitive ear is crucial because budgies talk at a rate of 150 to 200 words a minute, he says.
"I don't claim to be 100 per cent (accurate), but other people do hear what I hear. It's not my imagination," Reynolds says.
"It takes a lot of skill and concentration. Budgies have a particular way of pronouncing words. It's like picking up accents."
Apart from the research group, which numbers 1,000 psittalinguist collaborators from around the world, Reynolds mounted an extensive website that includes captioned recordings of budgies speaking (http://www.parrotresearch.com), and he's working on a book tentatively entitled, The Prophecies of Parrots - the Story of Victor the Budgie.
Reynolds says Victor predicted a "tsunami on the south bank of Asia" and warned of an upcoming "super volcano." In the weeks before he died, Reynolds says Victor told him God was coming to take him away.
"I don't know about predictive ability," says veterinarian Petra Burgmann of the Animal Hospital of High Park. "What frame of reference would it have for a tsunami? But I certainly believe it's possible they know when they're about to die."
Rupert Sheldrake, a London-based biologist, biochemist, philosopher and author, who trained at Cambridge and Harvard, researches unexplained perceptiveness in animals, such as telepathy, sense of direction and premonition.
He repeatedly tested N'kisi, a captive African Grey parrot who seemed to respond telepathically to the thoughts and intentions of his owner, Aimee Morgana. He wanted to find out whether the bird would use words matching randomly chosen pictures Morgana was looking at in another room.
"These findings are consistent with the hypotheses that N'kisi was reacting telepathically to Aimee's mental activity," Sheldrake reports on his website (http://www.sheldrake.org).
"The fact that these experiments statistically prove that N'kisi's use of speech is not random also give evidence of his sentience and intentional use of language."
Toronto parrot owner Margaret Evered, formerly a behaviour biologist and now a computer consultant, doesn't need science to prove that she and her female African Grey parrot have a psychic bond.
Evered recounts how the bird, Plato, anticipated her return after a one-year absence - even though not even her parents, in whose care she'd left the bird, knew when she was returning.
"One day she wouldn't go to bed. She just kept standing at the door, waiting. I rolled in at 2 a.m.," Evered says.
She and Plato have shared a home for 21 years, from the time Plato was captured in the Congo when she was about 1.
Evered says Plato understands what she says. She has a vocabulary of about 300 words, which she mixes and matches as circumstances warrant.
Plato uses intonation appropriate to the circumstances. She'll ask "okay?" softly when someone is unwell. Or she'll refuse to do something with a vociferous "no" as she bounces up and down.
Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, has revolutionized thinking about these birds by proving they do conceptualize - thanks to her 20-year collaboration with Alex, an African Grey parrot (http://www.alexfoundation.org).
Parrot owners have to realize their pets have the cognitive ability of a 5-year old, she says. Locking them up without stimulation eight to 10 hours a day causes emotional damage and leads to behavioural problems, such as screaming or feather-plucking.
That's not likely to happen with one Toronto bird. Still a baby at age 3, Angel, a double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, lives in a spacious aviary equipped with a TV and a window that looks out onto Queen St. W.
Her owner, Charlie Ravka, keeps her on the second and third storeys above his store, which serves as office and occasional sleeping quarters.
"She's unpredictable, hilarious," Ravka says. "I don't know what she'll do next. But when I wake up, she says, 'How are you?' And when I'm on the couch, she sits on the back and preens my hair.
"The parrot is my buddy."
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Whale song reveals sophisticated language skills
12:24 23 March 2006
NewScientist.com news service
Humpback whales use their own syntax – or grammar – in the complex songs they sing, say researchers who have developed a mathematical technique to probe the mysteries of whale song.
The team adds that whales are the only other animals beside humans to use hierarchical structure in language, in which phrases are embedded in larger, recurring themes.
This concept echoes scientific suggestions from the 1970s, but the new computer analysis claims to confirm this and provides an objective measure of the songs' structure and complexity.
Male humpback whales produce songs that last anywhere from about six to 30 minutes. These vocalisations vary greatly across seasons, and during breeding periods they are thought to help attract female partners. Their eerie sound and patterns have captured the attention of marine biologists for decades.
Researchers describe human language as hierarchical because it consists of sentences which contain clauses, which in turn contain words. This hierarchy helps us to extract meaning from what we hear. But some researchers remained sceptical that whale songs could contain this degree of organisation when Roger Payne and Scott McVay first offered the idea in 1971 (Science, vol 173, p 587).
At the time, some argued that the observation was too subjective, explains Ryuji Suzuki, a study co-author at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a pre-doctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US.
He and colleagues developed a computer algorithm to analyse the complex patterns of moans, cries and chirps in 16 humpback whale songs. The software draws on mathematics such as probability, and considers the placement and repetitive nature of the smallest units of the animals' songs.
Suzuki says the analysis objectively demonstrates that the whale songs have a hierarchical syntax. To hear the team's recording of humpback whales crooning off the Hawaiian coast, click here.
The algorithm can also assign a numerical value to a whale song to describe its degree of complexity. Shorter whale songs appear more complex than longer ones, according to the new study.
Suzuki stresses whale songs are still a far cry from our own means of expression. He says that the use of terms referring to distinct and sometimes abstract objects appears unique to human language. "We don't have any evidence of such things in whale songs."
"We're still very far from knowing the meaning of whale songs," he admits.
Comments: Sounds like the whales need to start communicating with the budgies.
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Virulent new strain of tuberculosis sparks alert
By M.A.J. McKenna in Atlanta, Georgia
March 25, 2006
A STRAIN of tuberculosis that resists almost all of the drugs used to fight it is appearing around the world, including the US, the World Health Organisation and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have warned.
The strain, known as "extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis", or XDR-TB, has the potential to return TB treatment "to the pre-antibiotic era" in which the only treatment was cutting out parts of the lungs.
"XDR-TB is cause for concern because it is widely distributed and renders patients virtually untreatable," said Kenneth Castro, director of the division of TB elimination at the Centres for Disease Control. If the strain went unchecked, he added, deaths from TB - which affects 9 million people annually and kills 2 million - would rise.
TB is also the biggest killer of people with HIV, causing about 13 per cent of AIDS deaths.
But while cases of the debilitating and potentially fatal disease are subsiding in the US, the subset of infections resistant to some or most of the drugs used against TB is burgeoning, the WHO said. Between 2000 and 2004, 20 per cent of bacteria recovered from TB patients and tested at WHO-affiliated labs worldwide were resistant to the two main drugs, isoniazid and rifampin, used to treat the disease, earning them the label "multi-drug resistant".
Health authorities fear the development of drug resistance in tuberculosis because it transforms treatment of the disease from a six-month course of daily doses of the two main drugs into a regimen that stretches up to two years.
The regime uses a menu of six "second-line" drugs that are less effective, more expensive and more toxic to patients - the drugs can fail and lead to the death of patients.
Because TB-control programs around the world were complaining of patients who did not recover even with those lengthy treatment programs, the WHO undertook a second analysis to determine how resistant TB had become, said Marcos Espinal of the WHO's Stop TB Partnership.
When they rechecked their samples, the labs found that extensively drug-resistant TB - defined as a TB strain that resists not only the two main drugs, but at least half of the secondary drugs - had existed at least since 2000 and had been growing.
Overall, the WHO said, 347 cases of extensively drug-resistant TB had been found since 2000. By 2004 this had risen to 11 per cent of all drug-resistant cases in industrialised countries.
With 500,000 people worldwide suffering from multi-drug-resistant TB, the true rate of the extensively resistant form is likely to be higher than the labs have recorded, because many countries do not have the resources for TB surveillance and analysis, Dr Espinal said.
The study noted that while the most-resistant TB was identified in all regions, it was most common in Eastern Europe and western Asia.
Factors contributing to increases in drug resistance include interruption in treatment among TB-infected people, lack of testing and the absence of infection-control measures in large settings such as hospitals and prisons, researchers said.
An analysis done just in the US found 74 cases of XDR-TB between 1993, when the Centres for Disease Control began recording any case of drug resistance, and 2004.
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Jordan confirms first cases of bird flu
Last Updated Fri, 24 Mar 2006 06:47:46 EST
Jordan has reported its first cases of bird flu after a few turkeys died on a poultry farm, but it says the deadly disease has not spread to any farm workers who came into contact with the birds.
Jordan's Health Ministry announced the cases on Friday, saying tests have confirmed that the strain is H5N1. The farm is north of the capital Amman.
Officials have ordered people in the Jordan Valley to eat poultry from their farms within a week or risk of having their birds culled. Authorities in Israel and the Palestinian territories imposed a similar measure after finding the virus in their poultry stocks.
Officials have also increased monitoring of birds on poultry farms in the valley.
Jordan had already imposed a ban on imports of poultry products and pet birds before the discovery this week.
The Middle Eastern country has reportedly imported 60,000 doses of Tamiflu, the frontline drug used to treat humans who develop bird flu, and it has set aside significant funds to handle a possible outbreak. It has said it would use the money to vaccinate poultry and to compensate farmers for the loss of their flocks.
Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, all of which have reported cases of bird flu, are the only countries in the region where the disease has been transmitted to humans who later died. The countries have engaged in extensive culling after finding the disease in their domestic birds.
In other bird flu news, a three-year-old Cambodian girl has died of the disease, becoming the first human victim of bird flu in the country in almost a year. The World Health Organization confirmed the death on Friday.
According to statistics compiled by the World Health Organization, 103 people in eight countries, mainly in Asia, have died of bird flu.
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Ice caps melting faster than forecast
Mar. 24, 2006. 10:17 AM
Global warming of only a couple of degrees Celsius projected by the end of this century is enough to trigger widespread melting of the massive Greenland ice cap and the partial collapse of Antarctica's ice sheets, prominent climate researchers warn in two studies published yesterday.
The findings are a stunning about-face from previous expert forecasts that such massive melting would take millennia to kick in, even with rising global atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
This new research, based on a comprehensive look at global warming in the distant past, says melting the two icy domains could eventually raise sea level worldwide by as much as five metres, enough to flood low-lying regions like the Netherlands and most Pacific atolls, as well push half a billion people inland.
The full five-metre rise could take several centuries but the world's oceans could easily be a metre higher by 2100, the researchers said.
"The melting is going to happen faster than we thought. It's already begun to happen," said University of Calgary ice researcher Shawn Marshall, the sole Canadian among the authors of the two studies published by the journal Science.
"We could be past the point of no return for Greenland this century," he said in an interview.
A 1998 federal government report rated most of P.E.I., the eastern coast of Nova Scotia and the Beaufort Sea shore in the Western Arctic as "highly sensitive" to a global sea level rise of under seven-tenths of a metre.
Marshall and the other researchers acknowledged they were taken by surprise by the breakneck escalation in the melting of glaciers and ice sheets in recent years. Since 1980 the portion of the Greenland ice cap experiencing annual melting has increased by 40 per cent.
"It's not a gradual change. It's like flipping a switch. Areas that haven't experienced melt in centuries suddenly do," said Marshall.
A widely quoted report in 2001 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that major melting was no threat in Greenland and Antarctica in this century.
But Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona, said the new research shows these massive ice sheets are much more sensitive to global warming than originally suspected.
"Once we're above two times the pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide we're in the danger zone," said Overpeck, who is lead author on one of the studies.
'The melting is going to happen faster than we thought. It's already begun to happen.
"Somewhere after that we'll pass a threshold where melting of the ice sheets and sea level rise is irreversible," he said.
Most experts agree that carbon dioxide concentrations double the pre-industrial level will be reached sometime after 2050 unless global emissions are at least cut in half. The current atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is about 380 parts per million compared to 280 parts per million before widespread burning of fossil fuels began around 1870.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries have pledged to reduce their overall emissions of greenhouse gases to 5 per cent below 1990 levels starting in 2008.
But soaring emissions from China and other developing countries - and the Kyoto boycott by Australia and the United States - mean that global carbon dioxide levels are expected to continue rising steadily.
The new warning is based on using climate extremes from the last major global warming to check the reliability of future climate conditions projected by complex computer models.
A prolonged hot spell began 129,000 years ago because natural orbital variations caused the Earth's northern axis to tilt more toward the sun producing much higher temperatures in the northern hemisphere, especially the Arctic.
A decade-long international research project gathered an evidence of climate change from that period, including the disappearance of glaciers in Canada's Arctic archipelago, halving of Arctic sea ice coverage, major shrinking of the Greenland ice cap and a northward march of the boreal forest.
Examination of Australia's Great Barrier Reef also indicated that sea levels were four to six metres higher than today.
A group of U.S. researchers then produced many of the same results by simulating increased sun on the northern hemisphere in an advanced climate model which Calgary's Marshall beefed up to handle glacier movements and ice melting.
"The model got it about right for the past which gives us more confidence in its forecasts," said Marshall.
A second research team, led by Overpeck, then used the souped-up model to project what would happen to the Earth's ice cover if global temperatures were raised by higher levels of carbon dioxide rather than a shift in the planet's tilt.
They found that tripling pre-industrial carbon dioxide levels by 2100 caused widespread melting in Greenland and the Arctic but didn't raise sea levels the five metres recorded in the Australia reefs. The Western Antarctic Ice Sheet must also melt, the scientists concluded.
Even a two degree Celsius rise in global average temperature would cause thermometers to soar as much as eight or 10 degrees in the Arctic and Antarctic, a feedback process known as polar amplification.
"All the things we were worrying about happening did happen and it didn't take that much warming," said Overpeck.
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Greater efforts needed to save Amazon rainforests
Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:58 PM ET170
LONDON (Reuters) - About 40 percent of the Amazon's rainforests could be lost by 2050 unless more is done to prevent what could become one of the world's worst environmental crisis, scientists said on Wednesday.
Existing laws and preserving public wildlife reserves will not be enough. Measures are also needed to protect rainforests from the impact of profitable industries such as cattle ranching and soy farming, they added.
"By 2050, current trends in agricultural expansion will eliminate a total of 40 percent of Amazon forests, including six major watersheds and ecoregions," Britaldo Soares-Filho, of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil, said in a report in the journal Nature.
A watershed is an area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains from it goes into the same place. It supplies water and habitats for plants and animals.
Soares-Filho and his colleagues used computer models to simulate what would happen to the Brazilian rainforests in the future under different scenarios.
"For the first time, we can examine how individual policies ranging from the paving of highways to the requirement for forest reserves on private properties will influence the future of the world's largest tropical forest," Soares-Filho said in a statement.
Without further checks, the scientists predict nearly 100 native species will be deprived of more than half of their habitats and nearly 2 million square kilometres (772,300 sq mile) of forest will be lost.
But if more is done to control expansion and increase protected areas, 73 percent of the original forest would remain in 2050 and carbon emissions would be reduced.
The scientists said better conservation of the rainforest would have worldwide benefits so developed countries should be willing to pay to make it possible.
"By building a policy-sensitive crystal ball for the Amazon, we are able to identify the most important policy levers for reconciling economic development with conservation," said Daniel Nepstad, a co-author of the study who leads the Amazon program of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts.
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America Loves War
Iraqi civilian deaths shrouded in secrecy
Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 12:30 GMT
Recent figures from the campaign group Iraq Body Count put the minimum number of civilians killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion three years ago at between 33,710 and 37,832.
Although many of those deaths were caused by insurgent attacks, multi-national forces stationed in Iraq ostensibly to protect the population have been responsible for a significant number post-invasion.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed during major offensives by US-led forces against insurgents in cities such as Falluja, and many others have died after lethal force was used at military checkpoints.
Military commanders have said those killed were "collateral damage" or the unfortunate victims of "crossfire" between their troops and militants.
But the announcement that US military investigators have flown to Iraq to study allegations that their troops deliberately shot dead at least 15 civilians in Anbar Province in November has cast doubt on some of those claims.
'Riddled with bullets'
A US statement at the time said the civilians, including seven women and three children, died in a roadside bomb explosion that also killed a marine in the western town of Haditha.
But survivors and those who saw the bodies said the account was not true.
"Their bodies were riddled with bullets, there was evidence that there had been gunfire inside their homes, there were blood spatters inside their homes," Bobby Ghosh, a journalist who took up the case for Time magazine, told the BBC.
"It was quite clear that these people were killed indoors, which couldn't possibly have happened if they'd been involved in a roadside blast."
An initial military inquiry found the two families had indeed been shot dead in their homes by the marines, but it described the deaths as "collateral damage".
The report has now prompted the US Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) to determine the motives behind the killing.
The NCIS will have to decide whether the civilians were killed by accident or were targeted by the marines as an act of revenge in a potential war crime.
Several American veterans of the war in Iraq have told the BBC's Newsnight programme that the marines' reaction to the roadside bomb attack in Haditha was not an isolated incident.
Specialist Michael Blake, who served in Balad, said it was common practice to "shoot up the landscape or anything that moved" after an explosion.
Another veteran, Specialist Jody Casey, who was a scout sniper in Baquba, said he had also seen innocent civilians being killed.
Bombs "go off and you just zap any farmer that's close to you", he said.
Mr Casey said he did not take part in any atrocities himself, but was advised to always carry a shovel. He could then plant this on any civilian victims to make it look as though they were digging roadside bombs.
The US and British governments say the fact the allegations are being investigated at all shows that progress has been made in Iraq.
UK International Development Minister Hilary Benn welcomed the inquiry and said it was important that the perpetrators were being brought to justice.
"The big difference between now and the 30 years that people endured under Saddam is that when things happened nobody was called to account, there was no due process," he said.
Although human rights groups have also welcomed the launch of the inquiry, they are quick to point out that the multi-national forces have investigated only a minority of the reports alleging the unlawful or deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians.
Nicole Choueiry, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International, told the BBC News website that those investigations which had taken place had often been inadequate and shrouded in secrecy.
The victims' families are also often unaware of how to apply for compensation.
There are no governmental or judicial bodies in Iraq to investigate human rights violations and the activities of international groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have been limited by the deteriorating security situation.
Ms Choueiry believes an official body needs to be set up to ensure multi-national troops fulfil their mission while abiding by international humanitarian and human rights law.
"Whether the investigations are civilian or led by the judiciary, the most important thing is for them to be independent, impartial and transparent," she said.
But the effectiveness of such an organisation would be severely restricted by an order originally issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority, and renewed by the Iraqi government in 2004, that grants foreign forces immunity from Iraqi criminal and civil law.
Instead, the troops remain subject solely to the jurisdiction of their own states.
The US and UK have been accused of limiting the number and power of criminal prosecutions - in January, a US officer was punished with a reprimand and a $6,000 fine for killing a captured Iraqi general - or simply not undertaking them at all.
No prosecution was launched after a US marine was filmed shooting dead an incapacitated insurgent in a mosque in Falluja in November 2004.
Phil Shiner, a solicitor representing several Iraqi families taking the British government to court over human rights violations, told the BBC News website the small chance of anything being investigated effectively makes redundant the fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians in times of war or under occupation by a foreign power.
"The protection of the fourth Geneva Convention means nothing if the military does not investigate the crime," he said.
Mr Shiner has challenged the immunity of British troops in Iraq and their right to run their own investigations by arguing that European human rights law applied during their operations.
The UK High Court ruled in December that the British government would have to hold an "independent and effective" inquiry into the death of a man from Basra, Baha Mousa, because he died while in British custody.
Although the High Court also said it would be "premature" to conclude the British government was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights before the outcome of the ministry's own investigation was known, such a ruling could have profound consequences for the armed forces.
It has considerably strengthened the case for the prosecution of soldiers found to have acted unlawfully.
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The War Lovers
The war lovers I have known in real wars have usually been harmless, except to themselves. They were attracted to Vietnam and Cambodia, where drugs were plentiful. Bosnia, with its roulette of death, was another favourite. A few would say they were there "to tell the world"; the honest ones would say they loved it. "War is fun!" one of them had scratched on his arm. He stood on a landmine.
I sometimes remember these almost endearing fools when I find myself faced with another kind of war lover - the kind that has not seen war and has often done everything possible not to see it. The passion of these war lovers is a phenomenon; it never dims, regardless of the distance from the object of their desire. Pick up the Sunday papers and there they are, egocentrics of little harsh experience, other than a Saturday in the shopping mall. Turn on the television and there they are again, night after night, intoning not so much their love of war as their sales pitch for it on behalf of the court to which they are assigned. "There?s no doubt," said Matt Frei, the BBC's man in America, "that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East ... is now increasingly tied up with military power."
Frei said that on 13 April 2003, after George W Bush had launched "Shock and Awe" on a defenceless Iraq. Two years later, after a rampant, racist, woefully trained and ill-disciplined army of occupation had brought "American values" of sectarianism, death squads, chemical attacks, attacks with uranium-tipped shells and cluster bombs, Frei described the notorious 82nd Airborne as "the heroes of Tikrit".
Last year, he lauded Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the slaughter in Iraq, as "an intellectual" who "believes passionately in the power of democracy and grass-roots development". As for Iran, Frei was well ahead of the story. In June 2003, he told BBC viewers: "There may be a case for regime change in Iran, too."
How many men, women and children will be killed, maimed or sent mad if Bush attacks Iran? The prospect of an attack is especially exciting for those war lovers understandably disappointed by the turn of events in Iraq. "The unimaginable but ultimately inescapable truth," wrote Gerard Baker in the Times last month, "is that we are going to have to get ready for war with Iran . . . If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear status, it will be a threshold moment in the history of the world, up there with the Bolshevik revolution and the coming of Hitler." Sound familiar? In February 2003, Baker wrote that "victory [in Iraq] will quickly vindicate US and British claims about the scale of the threat Saddam poses".
The "coming of Hitler" is a rallying cry of war lovers. It was heard before Nato's "moral crusade to save Kosovo" (Blair) in 1999, a model for the invasion of Iraq. In the attack on Serbia, 2 per cent of Nato's missiles hit military targets; the rest hit hospitals, schools, factories, churches and broadcasting studios. Echoing Blair and a clutch of Clinton officials, a massed media chorus declared that "we" had to stop "something approaching genocide" in Kosovo, as Timothy Garton Ash wrote in 2002 in the Guardian. "Echoes of the Holocaust", said the front pages of the Daily Mirror and the Sun. The Observer warned of a "Balkan Final Solution".
The recent death of Slobodan Milosevic took the war lovers and war sellers down memory lane. Curiously, "genocide" and "Holocaust" and the "coming of Hitler" were now missing - for the very good reason that, like the drumbeat leading to the invasion of Iraq and the drumbeat now leading to an attack on Iran, it was all bullshit. Not misinterpretation. Not a mistake. Not blunders. Bullshit.
The "mass graves" in Kosovo would justify it all, they said. When the bombing was over, international forensic teams began subjecting Kosovo to minute examination. The FBI arrived to investigate what was called "the largest crime scene in the FBI?s forensic history". Several weeks later, having found not a single mass grave, the FBI and other forensic teams went home.
In 2000, the International War Crimes Tribunal announced that the final count of bodies found in Kosovo's "mass graves" was 2,788. This included Serbs, Roma and those killed by "our" allies, the Kosovo Liberation Front. It meant that the justification for the attack on Serbia ("225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59 are missing, presumed dead", the US ambassador-at-large David Scheffer had claimed) was an invention. To my knowledge, only the Wall Street Journal admitted this. A former senior Nato planner, Michael McGwire, wrote that "to describe the bombing as 'humanitarian intervention' [is] really grotesque". In fact, the Nato "crusade" was the final, calculated act of a long war of attrition aimed at wiping out the very idea of Yugoslavia.
For me, one of the more odious characteristics of Blair, and Bush, and Clinton, and their eager or gulled journalistic court, is the enthusiasm of sedentary, effete men (and women) for bloodshed they never see, bits of body they never have to retch over, stacked morgues they will never have to visit, searching for a loved one. Their role is to enforce parallel worlds of unspoken truth and public lies. That Milosevic was a minnow compared with industrial-scale killers such as Bush and Blair belongs to the former.
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American War Crimes
by Michael S. Rozeff
March 24, 2006
From my point of view, the American State has committed innumerable and grave war crimes by starting and prosecuting the Iraq War. I do not refer to crimes defined by international law or by past war crimes tribunals. I am no lawyer and neither are most Americans, but we understand what many crimes are. For my purposes here, it does not help us understand American war crimes in Iraq to subject our State's deeds in that country to an abstruse tangle of international code and interpretation. It does help us to look at what has happened from a simple commonsense point of view.
Let us think of war crimes as a subset of all crimes. They are those crimes committed in the course of war, start to finish. There are many crimes that we are accustomed to domestically, such as murder, theft, rape, arson, kidnapping, assault, maiming, causing bodily injury, vandalism, and property destruction. We know what these crimes are. They also occur in the course of war. To simplify matters, I speak of all these crimes as one category: crimes against property, or crimes that violate property rights. I do not mean to minimize the severity of the loss of human life by lumping it together with the loss of a building. I mean to make an accurate simplification. Murder is a property crime, since each person owns his own body. Rape violates the property right of a person, since it uses his or her body against his or her will. Kidnapping involves physically controlling a person's body, again a property crime. Obviously crimes like theft, arson, and property destruction all violate property rights. Maiming a person is a crime. I think it helps us to count all these crimes together as one set of property crimes in order to sense the enormity of their totality.
At the orders of the leaders in the Bush Administration, supported by most members of Congress who voted for war resolutions and voted for funding, America instigated the current war on Iraq in March of 2003 and before. If there are war crimes in Iraq, these men and women are most directly responsible. These people and perhaps some others comprise the American State, the organization that marshals our tax dollars and orders the military into action. I leave to others the naming of the names of those most directly responsible for American actions in Iraq. A reasonable indictment should have access to records in order to determine who had what responsibility. Whatever list I might produce here would surely be incomplete and possibly inaccurate. Simply to provide examples, in the Executive branch, certainly President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, Secretary of State Rice, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld would be indicted. Advisors like Paul Wolfowitz and Steven Hadley might also be. Influential members of the CIA, the military, and the Congress likely also would appear on a list of those who set war crimes into motion.
But I have said "if there are war crimes in Iraq." Have there been American war crimes in Iraq? To answer affirmatively, we need to document three facts: property destruction, American responsibility for property destruction, and criminality of the American acts. I believe that most Americans know that there has been massive property destruction, and they know that Americans are directly responsible for much of it. They have seen some of it on television. However, most Americans probably don't believe that America's acts have been criminal acts.
The property destruction in Iraq is well-known. No one denies it. The only arguments are over how big it has been. A recent BBC News article places civilian Iraqi deaths at a minimum of between 33,710 and 37,832. Other estimates range far higher. No one knows how many Iraqi civilians have been injured. The group Iraq Body Count reports 42,500 injuries. Then there is destruction and damage done to all sorts of goods, from homes to capital goods to possessions. There are vast economic losses as businesses have been disrupted and destroyed. Civilians no doubt have been arrested and, at times, tortured.
The American responsibility for a large fraction of this property destruction is well-known. Our military forces have actively been engaged in it from day one of the war. Domestic Iraqi elements and foreign interlopers have also done their share of crime and destruction. Again, my purpose is not to allocate the crimes among the groups and persons responsible. I am unable to do that. As an American whose taxes support the carnage, who'd like to see it ended, and who'd like to prevent a repeat performance, my interest here is in American culpability, in getting us to clean up our own act. This does not mean I do not condemn the crimes being committed by Arabs, Iraqis, or other nationalities. I do.
This brings us to the third element, which is the criminality of the American acts. There is no doubt that American armed forces and possibly paid civilian contractors have destroyed large amounts of property. They have also seized large amounts of property. Whether or not these are crimes hinges on one question: Were these acts done in self-defense or not? It seems almost self-evident that many property rights violations have been visited upon people who either were not attacking Americans in Iraq or had not attacked them in America. But this is apparently not enough to condemn Americans for their acts. The rules of war allow for "collateral damage." I won't question that doctrine here, although it can be questioned. But collateral damage is only allowable if there is justification for fighting the war in the first place. The major concern is still the criminality or non-criminality of America's presence in Iraq.
The issue of criminality most certainly does not hinge on whether Saddam Hussein was a bad man who mistreated his people, whether he committed atrocities or not, whether he wined and dined terrorists, whether he harbored ambitions to possess stores of biological or chemical weapons, or whether he had invaded Kuwait years earlier upon an American diplomatic snafu. In 2003, there was no self-defense issue involved in any of these activities. It does not hinge on whether he actually had such weapons, whether provided by Americans or developed on his own. Unless he used them on America, there was no self-defense issue involved. And there is no recorded attack by Iraq on America that brought on this war. Perhaps there is some wiggle room when an attack is imminent, perhaps then a country is entitled to attack first. Even in this case, diplomacy often goes on almost to the inception of hostilities. But neither of these was the case between Iraq and the U.S. There was no imminent and no actual attack. Most amazingly we had the spectacle of a President rabidly making speeches about non-existent threats as if they were both real and imminent, from a country that could not possibly launch an attack on the U.S.
Criminality surely does not hinge on whether or not Iraq was or was not a democracy as this has nothing at all to do with self-defense, notwithstanding the ravings of the President and his cabal of neoconservatives. It has nothing to do with bringing freedom to anyone, because this goal also has nothing to do with American self-defense. Whether or not America is capable of bringing freedom and whether or not it has actually done this are pertinent questions and acts much to be doubted, but even if we were capable and did bring freedom to Iraq this would not justify attacking the country. There is no self-defense issue involved in "liberating" Iraq because there has been no attack on America by the Iraqis. While this sounds quite like the Soviet Union's liberation of its satellites after World War II, if we are generous and give the American State the benefit of the doubt as to its honorable intentions, there is still no way to justify the slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqis while liberating their country. But the basic issue remains that doing the supposed good deed of bringing freedom does not excuse acts of aggression. If this rationale for war-making is accepted, which means that committing wrongs to accomplish a supposed right is morally acceptable, then I am justified in cutting out your kidney in order to give it to a person who can't live without it. I am justified in taking your home and turning it over to homeless people. When the President uses such a rationale, he only shows us that he is bereft of proper moral education.
Criminality does not hinge on whether or not the Iraqi people suffered under Saddam Hussein. This has nothing to do with American self-defense. It does not hinge on provocative words or statements uttered by Iraqi leaders, although no one says this brought on the war. Political leaders make all sorts of statements and to construe them as an actual attack that requires self-defense would be folly. That would make for wars at the pleasure of any country that felt itself insulted or threatened by the words of another. This is not to say that there is no situation in which the combination of words and deeds, such as the massing of armies at a border or the sailing of warships or the overflights of airplanes, might trigger hostilities by a party under threat of attack.
Nor does American self-defense hinge on whether or not Iraq did or did not obey various United Nations resolutions or cooperate fully or partially with U.N. officials. Just because there is an international political body that the states have set up does not change the substance of whether acts are criminal or not. The states have anointed the U.N. as a power that provides a legal cover when enough member states have enough votes to act. These political procedures do not mean that all actions taken under the U.N. aegis suddenly become non-crimes or always lawful no matter what their content is. The U.N. is not above the law although it is convenient for it to think it is. Anyway, in the Iraqi case, there was no Iraqi crime committed that justified Americans "defending" themselves by a wholesale attack and bombardment of Iraq and by a continuing war that has created huge property damage in Iraq. If this were so, I think we would hear President Bush reminding us about it today as justification for continuing our defense efforts. We hear nothing of the kind.
We hear that the damage America has done is justified because the world is now a safer place with Saddam toppled from power. But this too, besides being a fantasy, has nothing to do with American self-defense. American and world safety may or may not have been lower with Saddam in office, but that does not justify attacking him. We are not talking about a serial killer haunting the streets of Los Angeles. We are talking about the head of a foreign country and making war on another country, with all its attendant death and destruction. If the U.S. or any other country starts wars on the flimsy basis of increasing its safety, then any country anywhere is justified in starting a war merely by identifying a country, neighboring or otherwise, as reducing its "safety." Hitler surely could, and probably did, justify his many aggressions on grounds such as this. Perhaps he spoke of some other reasons than safety, like Anschluß or Lebensraum, but the basic idea is the same, namely, "we are justified in attacking because it makes us better off." This has nothing to do with self-defense and everything to do with immoral behavior.
The criminality or lack of it in America's actions does not hinge on the pragmatic strategy of attacking the terrorists before they attack us. It's quite obvious that the terrorists who brought down the Trade Towers died in the effort. Their actions trace back to Al-Qaeda, not Iraq, not Saddam Hussein, and still less to the Iraqi people against whom many crimes have been committed. Al-Qaeda fostered a number of terrorist acts in the past 25 years, and no one has ever tied them to Saddam Hussein as the kingpin. He's on trial now, but not for causing terrorism against the United States or Great Britain or Spain or Indonesia. And if there had been evidence that showed Saddam's complicity in international terrorist acts, that still would not have justified the sort of war that America began, executed, and is carrying out today, long after his capture. There is such a thing as a proportionate response to crimes. The damage inflicted by America on Iraq is out of all proportion to the crimes supposedly committed by Saddam Hussein that are supposed to justify the American action.
Were American actions justified by self-defense? The answer is "no." This means that the officials of the American State committed war crimes. This means that they should be indicted and tried for war crimes.
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Is War the Real National Pastime?
Haider RizviNEW YORK, Mar 22 (IPS)
In his provocative documentary "Why We Fight", director Eugene Jarecki asks whether Washington's foreign policy is overly preoccupied with the idea of military supremacy, and if the military has become too important in U.S. life.
Jarecki interviews subjects from across the political spectrum, including Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York police officer whose son died in the Sep. 11 attack on the World Trade Centre; Bill Kristol, editor of the neo-conservative Weekly Standard; Gore Vidal, a prominent author and liberal commentator; James Roche, secretary of the U.S. Air Force; and U.S. pilots identified as Fuji and Tooms, who dropped the first bombs over Baghdad when the Iraq war broke in 2003.
Following are excerpts from a recent interview IPS conducted with the award-winning filmmaker.
Q: Tell us why you chose this title for your film.
A: Actually, this is the title of a series of films made during World War II by the legendary director Frank Capra. It seems to me that in the past 60 years, the reasons for American war have changed and become far more complicated for everyday people to understand.
The film asks the question, why we fight. I cannot say that it provides an answer, because it wasn't really my goal to provide a single answer. It was my goal to bring together voices from a wide range of experts and the insiders, people touched by American war who could become a kind of chorus of concern looking more deeply at the issues involved and the stakes implied than customarily happens in our shallow news media outlets.
It looks at today's critical situation in Iraq and it's impossible to look at the history of American war over the past half century without naturally being reminded of the crisis in which we now find ourselves.
Q: Have you faced any problems in terms of distribution?
A: If you are a filmmaker trying to cover a politically sensitive subject in the United States, America has suffered such a degradation of our open media system in recent years, such a shift away from the values of a democratic society, that problems arise long before the distribution phase. At the very start, the struggle to get financing for a film like this in the United States would have proved immediately prohibitive. So we moved overseas to the BBC, to Canada, to France and Germany, to countries whose media systems are far more open than ours, and in many ways shame ours.
Q: Has the movie been shown in Iraq?
A: It has not been shown in Iraq. There has been a movement by the British forces television to show the film to their own troops serving in Iraq, but it has not been shown in Iraq.
Q: In the movie, you have interviews with U.S. weapon manufacturers and footage of weapons manufacturing sites. How did you manage to get access to those sites?
A: Well, you know, I worked very hard to reach out to people all across the spectrum, and when you are making a film about war, you are dealing with people at all levels. And in order to secure access to these people, in general one had to go through the Pentagon. We were involved in a very serious inquiry and not in an ambush, a kind of tough love for America and the American story.
Q: You highlighted the speech of U.S. Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) in which he expresses his deep concern over the "military-industrial complex". Do you agree with those who would rather describe this phenomenon as "military-industrial-prison-media complex"?
A: Yes, unfortunately, what Eisenhower is talking about is the concern that the interests of corporations have been placed ahead of the interests of the people. That can take many forms, whether it's military-industrial or pharmaceutical or media. There are so many industries in America that can have undue, unwarranted influences on the affairs of the state.
In many ways, Eisenhower is simply noting the rise of special interests in the United States. [But] the military-industrial complex has a special distinction as a special interest. The enormity of its business and the way in which it operates it makes more difficult in times of threats [when] you can insulate military-industrial special interests from the kind of oversight and review that others feel might be needed. So the military-industrial complex is a sort of favoured nation among special interests.
Q: You focused on the invasion of Iraq. How do you view the recent developments regarding Iran's nuclear programme and the threats Tehran is facing?
A: I think the concern of course is to what extent the conflict with Iran is another very unfortunate side effect of the calamitous decision on the war in Iraq. You may remember that U.S. policymakers asserted from the start that it would be what they called a "cakewalk". Having gotten rid of Saddam [Hussein], upbeat people would be dancing in the streets, and the country would immediately take a new shape. All of those dreams of course have collapsed. What we now face is a situation of intense chaos. By unseating [Hussein], the United States in many ways liberated the Shia in Iraq and the fundamentalists in Iran who have far more in common with each other.
Q: It is very interesting that in the film you used the footage of [current U.S. Defence Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld's meeting with Saddam Hussein in 1983, when he was the special envoy of Pres. Ronald Reagan.
A: You can't study the history of the current war without following the roots all the way back to the overthrow of Mossedeq (1953) in the interests of British Petroleum. But along the way, there is no way to ignore Ayatollah Khomeini [in Iran]. Along the way, there is no way to ignore Saddam Hussein. No way to ignore that the United States and Saddam Hussein had reasons to ally with each other. The question is, what is it about U.S. foreign policy that makes us these kinds of bedfellows, such that we have to conduct war to unseat them?
Q: Are you hopeful about the realisation of these dreams and aspirations for taking back the republic?
A: I don't know, but I think the hope for America to be a democratic republic is the founding hope. That has always been a work in progress. And there always come challenges. [The communist-hunting Senator Joseph] McCarthy was a challenge, today is a challenge, slavery was a challenge, the death of the Native Americans was a challenge, the eugenics movement before the Second World War was a challenge, the Depression was a challenge.
There have been so many challenges. We have a nation of leaders who cared deeply about this country. But now we face a situation where the stakes are so high that what I would hope to see is that Americans would look into the streets of New Orleans, into the streets of Falluja, and they would see a world that really is not viable. They would see a platform of ideas that are shortsighted, not holistic in nature. These are platforms of ideas that do not meet the needs of everyday people in the shrinking world. And so the question is: Will Americans come to see that with sufficient vigour to have the kind of impact that people need to have on policy and democracy?
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Benchmarks: US Iraq casualties stay high
By MARTIN SIEFF
UPI Senior News Analyst
WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- As Iraq teeters on -- or over -- the brink of civil war the pressure is not easing on the hard-pressed U.S. ground forces there.
Over the past month, the average rate at which U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq has significantly fallen, the but the rates at which they are being wounded have dramatically increased.
U.S. mainstream media reports have focused only on the numbers being killed. But over the past eight months, we have repeatedly emphasized in this column that the far larger numbers of U.S. troops wounded, especially those wounded too seriously to return to active duty, represent a far broader and more statistically significant figure of the scale of insurgent activity and the degree to which it is succeeding or failing to inflict significant casualties on U.S. forces.
The total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq through Tuesday, March 21 since the start of U.S. operations to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003, was 2,319, according to official figures issued by the Department of Defense, a rise of 49 in the past 39 days or an average of just over 1.3 killed per day.
The good news is that this is a more than 60 percent improvement on the rate of 3.1 killed per day in early February. And it is a 350 percent improvement on the 33 U.S. soldiers killed in only seven days from Jan. 11 through Jan. 17, an average of 4.7 soldiers killed per day.
The bad news, however, is that in the 39 days from Feb. 11 through March 21, 616 U.S. soldiers were injured in Iraq, an average of 15.8 per day. This was more than twice as bad as the Feb. 4-10 period when 47 U.S. soldiers were injured at an average rate of just under seven per day. And it was also more than 36 percent worse than the rate of the five-day period from Jan. 30 through Feb. 3 when 58 U.S. soldiers were injured, according to the DOD figures, at an average rate of 11.6 per day.
These figures are also of significance in that they represent a trend over almost 40 days -- a far longer period than than the ones in which we usually examine casualty rates and their statistical trends in the conflict.
The number of U.S. troops wounded in action from the beginning of hostilities on March 19, 2003, through March 21, 10, was 17,269, according to the Department of Defense figures.
Some 7,981 of those troops were wounded so seriously that they were listed as "WIA Not RTD" in the DOD figures. In other words: Wounded in Action Not Returned to Duty, an increase of 275 such casualties in 39 days, at an average rate of just over seven injured per day.
This more than twice as bad as the 3.3 per day average of the Feb. 4-10 period and it was almost 50 percent worse than the Jan. 30-Feb. 3 period when 24 U.S. troops were wounded seriously enough that they were not returned to duty at an average rate of 4.8 per day.
These figures should also be seen in the context of another trend in the Iraqi conflict. Since the destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque in Samara last month, for the first time Iraqi Shiites have started reacting in a popular, violent manner on a broad scale against the Sunni community.
This might be expected to distract the Sunni Muslim insurgents from focusing on targeting U.S. troops and, indeed, just a few days ago USA Today reported a trend we have been monitoring and documenting in this column for almost four months -- the number of attacks and casualties inflicted on U.S. forces has been decreasing somewhat while the insurgents have turned with increasing ferocity first on the new Iraqi security forces and, since January, against Iraqi civilian targets.
However, as we noted above, the capability of the insurgents to go on waging attacks on U.S. forces and increasing the number of them they are injuring has not diminished, it has increased: The insurgency is therefore clearly growing in its capabilities as it has been able to inflict far worse punishment on the Iraqi Shiite community while maintaining or even increasing its rate of casualties inflicted on U.S. troops at the same time.
President George W. Bush's optimism and determination to stay the course in his press conference Tuesday must therefore be tempered by the sobering reality reflected in the statistics issued by his own Department of Defense: There is not the slightest indication that current U.S. strategy and tactics in Iraq are diminishing the popularity and capability of the insurgency. It continues to grow in its tactical capabilities against both U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.
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Time for a New Dictionary
by Mark G. Brennan
March 24, 2006
Looks like it's time for a new dictionary. The hardcover copy of The American Heritage Dictionary, a copy which my mother gave me as I left for college in 1982, now has such disgusting dirt stains on the edge of the pages from my persistent flipping through it that two conclusions jump to mind. First, either my logophilia knows no bounds or, second, I should wash my hands more often. For the last 24 years my hardcover AHD has served me well. I have looked up the word "Manichaeism" so many times that I finally highlighted it in yellow magic marker. While I can recite its definition verbatim, my limited intellect prevents me from actually understanding its proper definition, let alone correct usage. I can turn to "steatopygia" with my eyes closed after it appeared on a dorm mate's "Word of the Day" calendar and became a secret word among us sophomoric sophomores. But although I trusted my hardcover AHD to get me through all of life's major vocabulary crises, little did I know that it had misinformed on the definition of the simple word "again."
Even though I had heard the word "again" since my earliest childhood memories, I never had reason to question its meaning. Whether through context or repetition I always assumed that "again" meant just what the AHD said it meant: once more, another time, anew. While I never fell for the old joke where you tell someone, "Did you know that the word 'gullible' is not in the dictionary?," I was gullible enough to believe the AHD's definition of "again." After listening to President Bush's press conference on Tuesday, I am saddened to learn that my dictionary has been lying to me for these last two-plus decades. Old friends, soon departed – and you can keep my dirty paw prints on your outer facing edge as a sendoff!
At yesterday's news conference a reporter asked the President how he would respond to a woman, a waning Bush supporter, who told that same reporter outside a Cleveland hotel after the President's speech on Monday, "He's losing me. He's been there too long. He's losing me." Our commander-in-chief responded,
I also understand the consequences of not achieving our objectives by leaving too early. Iraq would become a place of instability, a place from which the enemy can plot, plan and attack. I believe that they want to hurt us again. (emphasis added)
Iraq will hurt us "again"? Like when the Iraqis flew the planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001? Like when they blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Office Building in Oklahoma City in 1995? Like when they killed 230 Marines with a suicide truck bomb in Lebanon in 1983? If indeed "again" means "one more time," we should all dig deep into our memory banks for the initial incident that sparked such a usage of a seemingly simple word. Before you know it we could be on the receiving end of such ahistorical comments as the one which emanated from Mr. Blutarski in Animal House in which he tried to fire up the troops by reminding them about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor. At least Mr. Blutarski used grammatically and syntactically correct English. Plus, his comical gross misinformation never caused anyone's death and in fact helped John Belushi's popularity, unlike President Bush's attempt to rationalize The American Occupation of Iraq.
Maybe we should ask Ricardo Barraza, Dale G. Brehm or Nyle Yates III how they would judge the President's use of the word "again." Unfortunately we can't since these three honorable Americans are the latest fallen soldiers, bringing the total number of "Americans No Longer with Us But With Whom I Would Rather Have a Beer Than Anyone in the Current Administration" to 2,311. Two Rangers and a member of the 101st Airborne, killed in combat so that Iraq can not hurt us "again."
One thing I will give the President credit for is his observation regarding the timetable for American withdrawal from The Occupation. Some toadying reporter asked the President if there will "come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?" Sounding like an eminent diplomatic historian of the 20th Century, President Bush sagaciously responded, "That, of course, is an objective. And that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq." While I am dubious of his claim that evacuating The Occupied Territory is an objective since it directly clashes with our global Wilsonian expansion and nation-building, I have no doubt that future presidents will be the ones who will have to grapple with the decision. On second thought, perhaps they won't grapple with any such decision as I have yet to see even the glimmer of a discussion regarding our occupations of Korea, Japan or the Balkans. As for any "government of Iraq" making such a momentous decision, and the United States actually agreeing to it, I would first expect to see the election of another Polish Pope again. Please tell me if I used the word correctly since my old dictionary is now lying in state.
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Ba-Ba-Ba, Ba-Bomb Iran, Iraq, and???
Iran denounces US accusation as lie to undermine Islam
www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-24 21:53:23
TEHRAN, March 24 (Xinhua) -- A top Iranian cleric on Friday denounced the US accusation over Iran's nuclear program as a lie to undermine the world of Islam, saying that the Iranians will never "keep silent," the official IRNA news agency reported.
"This lie has now become clear and obvious, and the Iranian nation will not keep silent ... and people from different walks of life in Iran are unanimously stressing country's access to the nuclear technology," Substitute Friday Prayers Leader of Tehran, Mohammad Emami Kashani, was quoted as saying in a sermon.
Kashani said the United States is actually intended to "undermine the world of Islam and to make the Islamic establishment exhausted" by picking up the accusation over Iran's nuclear program, stressing that the (Iranian) "nation avoids any hesitation and is stressing its right."
Kashani's comments came as a statement on the Iranian nuclear issue drafted by Britain and France is being discussed among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.
The statement sets a two-week deadline for Iran to suspend all activities for building nuclear fuel reactor and to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but Russia and China fear that tough rhetoric of the statement would radicalize the tension.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council had indefinitely postponed a meeting originally due on Tuesday to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue, a move aimed at giving the "Permanent Five" enough time to reach consensus.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Wednesday in Qatar that even the Security Council can not pressurize Iran to give in on its nuclear program.
On March 8, the IAEA handed over the Iran's nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council after the agency's board of governors meeting.
Iran has denounced the involvement of the Security Council, vowing never to give in to pressure and bully.
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US: No final deal reached over Iran's nuclear issue
www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-24 08:57:03
WASHINGTON, March 23 (Xinhua) -- The United States said on Thursday that it has failed so far to reach an agreement on Iran'snuclear issue with other parties but insisted that it is moving "in the right direction."
"There are discussions going on, and clearly, we haven't reached a final agreement on text. So we're going to have to continue with our diplomacy," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at a briefing.
"We believe it's moving in the right direction," McCormack said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has expressed optimism that the United States will find the right language on this issue, McCormack said.
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Sunni mosque blast kills 5 in northern Iraq
www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-24 21:14:58
BAGHDAD, March 24 (Xinhua) -- A roadside bomb exploded outside a Sunni mosque in northern Iraq on Friday, killing five and wounding 18, a local police source told Xinhua.
The blast occurred at around 1:15 p.m. (1015 GMT) outside the Saad bin Abiwaquas mosque in Khalis, a town 80 km northeast of Baghdad, said the source from the Joint Coordination Center in Baquba.
The bombing caused many casualties as worshippers were leaving the mosque after midday prayers, he added.
Also on Friday, the Iraqi police found five bodies in execution-style in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad.
The latest deaths brought the number of bodies found in Baghdadon Friday to 12.
Earlier in the day, the police said that seven bodies were found at the entrance of the al-Bunoug neighborhood in northern Baghdad.
A wave of sectarian reprisal attacks between the main Iraqi Shiite and Sunni communities swept the country in the wake of a bombing attack that destroyed a major Shiite shrine in northern Iraq on Feb. 22.
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Harsh reality: Bush administration's own grim Iraq assessment
Posted by Cam Simpson at 7:20 pm CST
Repeated suggestions by the White House and friendly commentators that the news media's selective displays of terrorist attacks in Iraq are warping American public opinion seem to belie several unclassified assessments of the situation produced by the U.S. government itself.
In fact, just two weeks ago the Bush administration publicly released a detailed report stating that "even a highly selective" inventory of the terrorist attacks inside Iraq "could scarcely reflect the broad dimension of the violence" there.
It comes from the Iraq section of a congressionally mandated annual compilation, "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," produced by the State Department and released at a press conference March 8.
The main focus of the report for Iraq, as with all other nations listed, is on that government's own human rights record. But the report also briefly catalogues the overall atmosphere in Iraq in order to provide context.
Here are some salient excerpts.
· In Iraq, "A climate of extreme violence in which people were killed for political and other reasons continued."
· "Insurgents and terrorists killed thousands of citizens … Using intimidation and violence, they kidnapped and killed government officials and workers, common citizens, party activists participating in the electoral process, civil society activists, members of security forces, and members of the armed forces, as well as foreigners."
· "Bombings, executions, killings, kidnappings, shootings, and intimidation were a daily occurrence throughout all regions and sectors of society. An illustrative list of these attacks, even a highly selective one, could scarcely reflect the broad dimension of the violence."
· "Bombings took thousands of civilian lives across the country during the year."
· "Former regime elements, local and foreign fighters, and terrorists waged guerrilla warfare and a terrorist campaign of violence impacting every aspect of life. Killings, kidnappings, torture, and intimidation were fueled by political grievances and ethnic and religious tensions and were supported by parts of the population."
· "Insurgents and terrorists targeted anyone whose death or disappearance would advance their cause and, particularly, anyone suspected of being connected to government-affiliated security forces."
· "All sectors of society suffered from the continued wave of kidnappings. Kidnappers often killed their victims despite the payment of ransom. The widespread nature of this phenomenon precluded reliable statistics."
In several important respects, this report contradicts the thesis of the current White House public relations campaign on Iraq - to convince Americans that the "reality" in Iraq is far better than the constant stream of bad news they see on their televisions every night.
If anything, the State Department's candid assessments would seem to indicate that things might be far worse than the press is currently able to report.
But the State Department is not alone. A recent assessment by the U.S. Agency for International Development painted a similar picture of Iraq. It was included as a part of a bid solicitation seeking contractors for a 28-month effort to implement "a social and economic stabilization program" in 10 Iraqi cities.
First reported by The Washington Post earlier this year, the Jan. 2 assessment summed things up this way, according to a copy:
"Former regime elements, foreign fighters and Islamic extremists continue to conduct terrorist attacks with devastating effect upon Iraqi civilians … Moreover, these attacks significantly damage the country's infrastructure and cause a tide of adverse economic and social effects that ripple across Iraq."
Beyond the havoc unleashed by terrorists, the USAID assessment also stated that "criminal elements within Iraqi society have had almost free reign."
Although this report might not have been intended for widespread public consumption, its conclusions are even more interesting given that USAID has been perhaps the most notoriously upbeat agency inside the federal government when it comes to reporting publicly on Iraq.
Respected Washington analyst Anthony Cordesman, of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, once suggested that USAID's Iraq reports bordered on pure propaganda, calling its first-year assessment of reconstruction efforts inside the country (released in 2004), "little more than 25 pages of glossy, self-congratulatory rubbish."
Beyond the assessments being released publicly by the administration, the depressing weight of the ongoing violence in Iraq also offers evidence enough that it would be nearly impossible for the news media to over-emphasize how bad things really are there.
According to statistics compiled by the Brookings Institution, bombings alone claimed an average of 62 lives each and every week during the last 12 full months in Iraq (excluding the 167 people killed in bombings this month, as of March 19).
That means every week, for the last 52 weeks, bombings in Iraq averaged a yield of more fatalities than the infamous London transit bombings in July 2005.
Or consider the numbers this way: In just the past 10 months, more people died in Iraq from terrorist bombings than all of those who died during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.
In all, Brookings says bombings alone (it only counts a bombing if it kills at least three people) have so far killed 5,746 people in Iraq and wounded 11,473 as of March 19.
Thousands more, of course, have been killed or disappeared by other means.
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Saddam's FM unveiled as double spy for French, CIA
WASHINGTON, March 23 (Xinhua)
Saddam Hussein's last foreign minister was a paid spy for French intelligence, which later turned him over to the CIA for information about Iraq's secret weapon programs, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The French intelligence and the CIA used a third-country intermediary to get information about Iraq's weapon programs and Saddam's inner circles from Naji Sabri, when he served as the Iraqi foreign minister before Saddam's government was toppled by U.S. troops in 2003, the report quoted former U.S. intelligence officials as saying.
In September 2002, the French arranged a meeting between a CIA middleman and Sabri at a hotel room in New York, when the latter was attending a UN. meeting there.
At the meeting, the then Iraqi foreign minister sold intelligence on Iraq's alleged secret weapon programs to the CIA for 100,000 U.S. dollars.
He told the CIA's middleman that Saddam possessed chemical weapons and wanted a nuclear bomb, but needed much more time to build one than the CIA estimate of several months to a year.
The information provided by Sabri was thought to be more accurate than the CIA's own assessment on Saddam's arsenal.
However, Saddam's alleged nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs were proved to be nonexistent after the war.
Sabri later broke off the secret contacts with U.S. intelligence agents after refusing to accept the CIA's proposal that he should defect to the United States and publicly renounce Saddam.
After the U.S. troops toppled the Saddam regime, Sabri was neither arrested nor included in the notorious "deck of cards" of the U.S. military's most wanted Iraqi suspects.
He now lives in Qatar teaching journalism. During a telephone interview with U.S. media Wednesday, the former Iraqi top diplomat flatly denied being a CIA spy.
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Chernobyl disaster linked to higher rate of infant mortality in Britain
By Ian Herbert and Deborah Linton
Published: 23 March 2006
The debate over the health effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Britain reopens today with research which suggests that infant deaths were higher in areas where rain fell as the plume of fallout passed overhead.
A study by the epidemiologist John Urquhart, to be presented at a conference at City Hall in London marking the 20th anniversary of the disaster, suggests that infant deaths may have risen by 11 per cent between 1986 and 1989 in those areas compared with 4 per cent in other areas, a correlation that Mr Urquhart describes as very significant.
Mr Urquhart - the author of a previous study which suggested that 2,000 more children than normal died before their first birthday between 1986 and 1989 - obtained infant death figures from 1983 to 1992 for 200 hospital districts across Britain. Areas across which cloud passed such as Liverpool, Bradford, Leicestershire, and Bristol, showed higher than average infant mortality which, he suggests, cannot entirely be explained by social factors.
The study also suggests that a downwards infant mortality trend was interrupted in the four years after the disaster at the Ukrainian power station and continued to rise until 1992 in the most contaminated areas.
Mr Urquhart argues that a plume of fallout from Chernobyl arrived near the Isle of Wight and passed over Bristol into south Wales. Another plume clipped the coast of Kent and then covered most of East Anglia and part of Essex. Another worked its way from east London to Hertfordshire, resurfacing in parts of Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.
Parts of West Yorkshire and most of the West Midlands, Wales, Merseyside, Lancashire, and Cumbria were significantly affected.
Mr Urquhart, who gave evidence in the 1980s to the Government investigation led by Sir Douglas Black into evidence of a leukaemia cluster near Sellafield, Cumbria, said: "Previous research has established that there has been an increase in thyroid cancers in the young in the north of England for which Chernobyl is the probable cause.
"This new study shows that the infant mortality trend, which was otherwise downwards, rose for a period of four years in England and Wales after Chernobyl. The results based on such a large population suggest that the effect of radioactive fallout could be two orders of magnitude greater than previously suspected."
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Let Freedom Ring
Matthews: "How can you not trust" Bush?
Thu, Mar 23, 2006 2:20pm EST
Summary: During a discussion about President Bush's recent public relations campaign to rally support for the war in Iraq, Chris Matthews said: "How can you not trust a man who says, 'I won't be able to win this war in my presidency; I'm leaving it up to other presidents in the future'?"
On the March 22 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews discussed President Bush's recent public relations campaign to rally support for the war in Iraq with Republican strategist Ed Rogers and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. McMahon asserted that "[p]eople don't believe this president, they don't trust this president, and it's moved over into character issues," to which Matthews replied: "How can you not trust a man who says, 'I won't be able to win this war in my presidency; I'm leaving it up to other presidents in the future'?"
Matthews was referring to a response Bush gave during his March 21 White House press conference after a reporter asked Bush if he could "assure [the American people] that there will come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq." Bush answered, "[T]hat, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq." He then added, "You mean a complete withdrawal? That's a timetable. I can only tell you that I will make decisions on force levels based upon what the commanders on the ground say."
From the March 22 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
McMAHON: His approval ratings have dropped to a level you haven't seen since Richard Nixon. People don't believe this president, they don't trust this president, and it's moved over in to character issues.
>MATTHEWS: How can you not trust a man who says "I won't be able to win this war in my presidency; I'm leaving it up to other presidents in the future"? You're basically taking a real -- what do they call it? Not an umbrella defense. A prevent defense. You're saying basically, "OK, I'm not going to win this war."
ROGERS: He's moved the goal post.
MATTHEWS: He's moved the goal post. He said, "I'm not going to win this in the next three years, boys and girls. You're gonna have to live with this." This is a long term -- I think [Secretary of State] Condi Rice was the first to use a "generational struggle" [to describe the Iraq war] .
While suggesting that his viewers should trust the president because of Bush's acknowledgement that the U.S. is not going to prevail in Iraq during his own presidency, Matthews failed to address whether previous claims about Iraq by the Bush adminstration -- "Mission Accomplished," the insurgency in Iraq is in "the last throes," and the U.S. is winning in Iraq -- also should have earned him the public's trust.
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Activist sent to Adams jail for refusing to remove shirt
Jeremy P. Meyer
A community activist was jailed Wednesday for 45 days by an Adams County judge for wearing a T-shirt in court with a photograph of executed killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams and the word "redemption."
Shareef Aleem, 37, was found in contempt March 1 for wearing the shirt during his trial on charges he assaulted a police officer.
Aleem apparently refused Judge Katherine Delgado's order to remove the shirt, citing his First Amendment rights.
Williams was a former gang member convicted of homicide in California who was executed in December despite pleas from supporters who said he had reformed.
"There are limits to the judge's powers concerning free speech," Aleem's attorney, Mark Burton, said. He promised an appeal and said Aleem planned a hunger strike while in jail.
Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said he doesn't believe Aleem's shirt rises to the level of contempt.
"It sounds like an abuse of power to order someone to jail for 45 days because he doesn't respect the integrity of the court," Silverstein said. "He probably has grounds for an appeal."
Delgado didn't return a phone call Wednesday.
Aleem was arrested Feb. 3, 2005, during a University of Colorado Board of Regents meeting about professor Ward Churchill. Police say Aleem became combative at the meeting, then ripped off an officer's badge and grabbed an officer by the throat.
Aleem pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault of a peace officer, which carries a 16-year prison term.
The trial ended in a hung jury. Prosecutors are set to retry the case May 8.
On Wednesday, Burton sought a dismissal of the contempt citation. But Delgado sent Aleem to jail, where he is being held without bail.
According to Burton's motion, Aleem removed a T-shirt on Feb. 28 that prosecutors found offensive. That shirt had the words "U.S. History 101" and included a picture in which a white overseer whipped a black slave.
The next day Aleem refused to remove the shirt depicting Williams after prosecutors objected.
According to the motion, "He was exercising his free speech and religious rights to wear this shirt, and the shirt did not detract or interfere with the judicial process."
Prosecutors on Wednesday would not say why they objected to the shirts.
Miles Madorin, staff attorney for Colorado District Attorney's Council, wouldn't comment on Aleem's case but said judges need contempt power.
"The courts operate on the fact that people willingly go along with decorum of the court," he said. "Contempt enforcement helps the courts to continue to function."
However, Burton's motion said jurors were allowed to wear T-shirts portraying musician Bob Marley, "a political figure ... closely associated with black nationalism."
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FBI, police spying is rising, groups allege
By Alexandra Marks | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
NEW YORK – Inside the Time's UP! office on Houston Street in Manhattan, pictures of people taking part in an environmental protest line an old refrigerator. In one, a man with short hair and a chiseled physique is talking on his cellphone. In another, a large man wields a video camera.
The people at Time's UP!, an environmental activist group, suspect these men are not protesters at all, but rather plainclothes police officers. "We say these people are spying, and they're definitely being assisted by the police if they're not police themselves," says Bill DiPaola, director of Time's UP!
Is that concern paranoia? Or is it skepticism in this post-9/11 era of increased surveillance?
Political activists from New York to Colorado to California report that they believe police and FBI surveillance of their activities has increased markedly since the terror attacks 4-1/2 years ago since Congress approved the USA Patriot Act loosening some of the strictures on law enforcement. They include environmental groups like Time's UP!, peace activists in Pittsburgh, and even a police union protesting for higher wages in New York City.
To try to find out if law officers are spying on them, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed Freedom of Information requests for more than 150 groups and individuals in more than 20 states who believe their first amendment rights are being violated.
Time's UP! is one of the groups that says the alleged surveillance is aimed at intimidating them. They acknowledge public events can be watched by anyone but they're concerned police have crossed the line into inappropriate spying to discourage people's from publicly criticizing government policies.
Local police and the FBI insist that none of their activities is aimed at chilling political speech. All investigations are conducted under strict guidelines put in place after abuses were documented during the Civil Rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Before any investigation of a political group proceeds, law officers require reasonable suspicion or information that an individual or a group is involved in criminal or terrorist-related activities.
"Our only interest is in preventing, disrupting, and defeating terrorist-related operations or criminal activity - and that's through appropriate investigations that are conducted in accordance with attorney general guidelines," says Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman.
Throughout American history, and particularly during times of conflict, the balance between civil rights and national security has shifted toward the latter and later come under scrutiny. From World War II through the cold war to the sociopolitical upheaval of the 1960s, repeated civil rights violations occurred in the name of national security - from people being imprisoned and denied jobs for their political statements to the infiltration of political groups.
"We're nowhere near there now. Throughout the 20th century, we ... built better protections against intrusions on constitutional rights," says Alasdair Roberts, professor at the Maxwell School in Syracuse University in New York and author of "Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age. "Nevertheless we can't take these gains for granted, and we have to take these issues of surveillance seriously."
The FBI says peace and environmental activists are confusing legitimate investigation of potential terrorist or criminal activity with free-speech violations. Peace activists say law enforcement is misusing the fear of terrorism to impede legitimate speech.
One recent case involves the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice in Pittsburgh. It says FBI documents it obtained prove that they were being watched in an investigation of antiwar activities. A heavily redacted memo states that the center holds "daily leaflet distribution activities" and is "a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism."
"The memo may say it's an international terrorism matter at the top, but when you read the text and the subject it's clearly an investigation of antiwar activity," says Jim Kleissler, of the Merton Center. "They clearly tried to link terrorism to public dissent."
Mr. Carter says that the investigation was not of the organization, but of an individual. Once it was determined that individual was not involved with the Merton Center it ended, he says.
The number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF), cooperative teams of local, state, and federal officers, jumped from fewer than 30 prior to the 2001 terrorist attack to more than 80 today. The Merton Center says it was investigated under a JTTF jurisdiction. Professor Roberts says these JTTFs have the greatest potential for constitutional violations because much of their activity is classified offering little opportunity for public accountability.
"It's difficult to appraise whether the activities are reasonable or not unless there's a certain amount of transparency," he says. "Sometimes you can't reveal law enforcement activity, but it's generally possible to get a general broad outline of what it is."
In New York, the activists at Time's Up! say the police are using surveillance to intimidate them. Their members are part of a monthly pro-environment bike ride around the city, where sometimes hundreds of people show up. The police want the group to get a parade permit. Time's UP! argues that it's a spontaneous gathering that takes place in 400 cities around the world. The courts have so far sided with the protesters. The police say they're simply trying to maintain order and that plainclothes police are vital to that goal.
Antiwar and anticorporate protesters have also filed suit against the NYPD, charging that plainclothes police behavior during the Republican National Convention in 2004 and at the World Economic Forum in 2002 was aggressive, intimidating, and designed to agitate the crowd. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne disagrees, saying the officers were there to maintain order.
"We don't want the chaos of an arrest spilling into the rest of the march," says Deputy Commissioner Browne, explaining that plainclothes officers mingle with the crowd. The goal is to allow them to identify and separate anarchists and others who may want the protest to turn violent from the lawful protesters.
The NYPD is also fending off a lawsuit from its own police officer's union. The Patrol Benevolent Association (PBA) says the NYPD sent Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) investigators to take pictures of protesting officers during contract negotiations with the city.
"The concern is that they're trying to intimidate our members, the implication being that you could be disciplined for asserting your first amendment rights," says Michael Murray, a lawyer with the PBA.
The NYPD denies that and says the IAB officers were there to maintain order.
"If you're a cop and you're confronted with your union leader saying, 'Hey, step aside, we're the police,' that could put a cop in a difficult position," says Browne. "The IAB are there to ensure there's no misconduct by the police, they're the police that police the police."
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Levees may not protect all New Orleans: officials
By Jeffrey JonesThu Mar 23, 5:47 PM ET
Mayor Ray Nagin said on Thursday he is confident that $770 million of levee repairs will protect most of New Orleans this hurricane season, but officials warned another Katrina-strength storm could swamp low-lying areas again.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is racing to meet a June 1 deadline -- the formal start to the hurricane season -- to have the 350 mile levee system protecting New Orleans and the surrounding area back to pre-Katrina condition or better.
Nagin and presidents of two nearby Louisiana parishes said after a tour of levee and floodwall repair projects with Maj. Gen. Don Riley, the Corps' director of civil works, they were pleased with the progress, which is now 49 percent complete.
"Based upon their scope of work, the number of contractors that they have, the progress thus far, it looks as though June 1's a good date and we should be just about ready," Nagin said at a construction site where massive temporary gates for his city's 17th Street Canal are being built.
About 169 miles of levees were damaged in the August 29 hurricane. Levee failures led to flooding of 80 percent of New Orleans and wholesale destruction in parishes like St. Bernard and Plaquemines. More than 1,300 people were killed on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Nagin and Riley said they could not be 100 percent sure that neighborhoods among the worst hit after Katrina, the Lower Ninth Ward and parts of New Orleans East, will be safe should another big hurricane slam the region this summer.
Both areas were submerged when a levee holding back the Industrial Canal breached, and both still lie mostly in ruins.
Nagin this week warned anxious residents who want to rebuild in those areas that risks will be high for about two years, until long-term flood-control improvements can begin.
"It's less risk with these repairs, but there still is risk and even if we go into September 2007 and complete all the authorized projects, there will still be risk," Riley said.
When this round of repairs and reinforcement is done, the system should be stronger than before, so the danger would be from the levees being topped, he said.
Various engineering groups have blamed breaches on a range of factors, from soil erosion and settling along floodwalls to poor design and maintenance by the Corps and its contractors.
Nagin said he is now comfortable with Corps officials' claims about the quality of the repair work on the levee system protecting New Orleans, most of which was built in the 1960s.
"It's a different time and space. The world is watching and monitoring it a lot closer, paying attention ... and I've also talked to some independent engineers, and they seem to be on track. It looks much better," he said.
Some residents remain wary.
"I don't know -- I hope it holds. We've been through too much down here now," said retired longshoreman Earl Green, 79. He lives in a rented apartment after evacuating to Arkansas and Michigan and has opted not to rebuild his flooded home.
The 70-ton gates set for the mouth of the 17th Street Canal, where a breach caused flooding in the Lakeview area, are aimed at protecting against a surge from Lake Pontchartrain.
U.S. President George W. Bush has asked Congress to appropriate an additional $1.46 billion for long-term levee and pumping-station improvements. It has yet to be approved.
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New Mexico Democrats call for Bush impeachment
By SUE MAJOR HOLMES
March 21, 2006
ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - The New Mexico Democratic Party is calling for President Bush's removal from office.
Party Chairman John Wertheim said Tuesday that delegates to Saturday's state party convention supported a call for the president's impeachment largely because of "perceived abuses of power and corruption in the Bush administration."
He listed as examples of abuses of power, warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens, the misstatement of facts preceding the invasion of Iraq, and the scandal surrounding the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide in connection with the leak of the identity of a covert CIA operative.
"Everyone understands President Bush is not going to be impeached," Wertheim said. "But these abuses of power and corruption in the administration are deeply serious matters and there should be more talk about this abuse of power."
The one-sentence amendment, added from the floor to the platform's section on political and election reform, reads: "Resolved, that the Democratic Party of New Mexico supports the impeachment of President George Bush and his lawful removal from office."
Marta Kramer, executive director for the Republican Party of New Mexico, said Tuesday the Democrats "foolishly" voted to "to impeach and punish our president for aggressively waging the war on al-Qaida and terrorist organizations."
"How will dragging the country into impeachment hearings protect Americans?" she asked. "How will censuring the president protect Americans?"
The amendment, suggested by Bernalillo County convention delegate Robb Chavez, was accepted on a show of hands by about 80 percent of the nearly 1,400 registered convention delegates, Wertheim said. It required support by at least two-thirds of the delegates.
Kramer said the action proved the only plan the Democrats have "is to attack our president, undermine American resolve and demoralize our troops."
Wertheim said Democrats perceive a double standard between President Bush and former President Clinton. Concerns raised about Bush's actions are "much more serious than anything that was said about President Clinton," he said.
The Democrats met to nominate candidates for the June 6 primary election and to pass a party platform.
The delegates also approved a resolution concerning religious freedom in light of a lawsuit against the Air Force by an Air Force Academy graduate from Albuquerque.
The resolution states: "We believe no member of the armed services should be coerced, forced, manipulated or evangelized to any particular religion nor to any religious beliefs at all."
Mikey Weinstein, who is Jewish, sued last October, alleging the academy was unconstitutionally imposing evangelical Christianity on cadets. The lawsuit, joined by active-duty officers, asked the court bar illegal proselytizing throughout the Air Force. The group's lawyers recently asked to amend the lawsuit to also seek a declaration that the service's new guidelines on religion are unconstitutional.
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US immigration debate intensifies
Friday, 24 March 2006, 12:56 GMT
Thousands of people in the US city of Milwaukee have protested against plans to criminalise undocumented workers.
They oppose a bill passed last year by representatives that would make it a felony to be in the US illegally.
The rally came as President Bush urged Congress to tone down the rhetoric on immigration, which is likely to be a key issue in November's mid-term poll.
Senators are due to debate the issue, with many Republicans opposing Mr Bush's calls for a guest-worker plan.
He is proposing to allow foreigners to remain in the US for a set period of time to carry out specific jobs.
It is estimated that 11.5 million people are living in the US illegally. Many of them work in the agricultural sector and the construction and service industries.
Mr Bush said on Thursday that the message should be: "If you are doing a job that Americans won't do, you're welcome here for a period of time to do that job."
However, his proposals face opposition from some members of his own party - among them Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist - who advocate a tougher line on immigration, including stringent border controls.
Senator Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, has said proposals to criminalise undocumented workers and their support networks "would literally criminalise the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself".
The Senate debate, which is scheduled to begin next week, is expected to last two weeks.
Meanwhile, protests for and against tougher immigration controls are set to continue.
Milwaukee's "Day Without Latinos" protest will be followed by a rally on Saturday in Los Angeles, California, where organisers are hoping to attract 500,000 protesters.
And on Monday, supporters of tighter border controls are planning to take to the streets of Washington and Boston.
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Smoke and Fire
Whiny child will be an adult Tory, says study
By David Usborne in New York
Published: 24 March 2006
Depending on your political predilections, you have double reason to be worried if you find your school-age child tends to be the whiny, sit-at-the-back-of-the-class kind. You had better get the child's confidence level up a notch or you may have a future conservative in your nest.
A study by Professor Jack Block of the University of California at Berkeley should be sufficient warning. He has been specialising in this area for years and his conclusions are clear: the boys and girls who are resilient, smooth and sure of themselves end up liberal in their older years.
The research, in the latest Journal of Research into Personality, does not exactly say that Dick Cheney, the Vice President, must therefore have been the most tiresome wimp in school. Or that Al Gore won the school popularity contest. But it comes close. "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 professor found after selecting 90 children for his experiment and following their development over two decades to adulthood.
"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 introspective." Conservatives point out that the pool of children around Berkeley in San Francisco may not be scientifically representative of America.Jeff Greenberg, a social psychologist at the University of Arizona, said: "I found [the study] to be biased, shoddy work, poor science at best."
The columnist Jonah Goldberg said: "If one or two of the whinier kids turn out to be conservative, it might have more to do with the fact that their parents are whiny conservatives. Heck, if I lived in Berkeley, I might be whiny, too."
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Berlusconi sees conspiracy to oust him from power
By Desmond O'Grady in Rome
March 25, 2006
THE Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is finding the going tough as next month's election approaches.
Mr Berlusconi has lost two ministers, is trailing in the polls and has performed poorly in a debate with his main challenger.
One of his ministers was accused of phone-tapping political opponents, while the other flashed an anti-Islam T-shirt on TV. This minister, Roberto Calderoli, was responsible for a last-minute change in the electoral law to restore a system of proportional voting widely seen as favouring Mr Berlusconi. However, since resigning Mr Calderoli has said it is a "swinish" law.
Mr Berlusconi performed worse than expected in the first of two TV debates with the leader of the centre-left, Romano Prodi. Pollsters put Mr Prodi 3 per cent ahead.
Despite the parlous state of the economy, Mr Berlusconi has been telling Italians they have never had it so good. On TV he reeled off statistics and lists of laws passed. But this barely dented the centre-left's lead because people measured his claims against their experience.
Now Mr Berlusconi is warning that a centre-left government will mean "Mortadella and taxes". Mortadella, a cold, pressed-meat sausage, is Mr Prodi's nickname, and Mr Berlusconi wants to identify him with higher taxes.
Last Saturday Mr Berlusconi accused the board of the industrialists' convention of siding against him with the centre-left, the trade unions, the five main daily newspapers and a section of the judiciary. He usually includes the banks and the co-operative movement in the conspiracy.
Mr Berlusconi has only two weeks to breathe life into his campaign. But he is resilient, energetic and perhaps desperate.
He can only improve on his performance in the second TV debate on April 3. However, the rigid format does not favour Mr Berlusconi, who is at his best when he can transform a debate into a brawl.
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Explosion rocks chemistry school in France
Last Updated Fri, 24 Mar 2006 08:13:59 EST
A large explosion at a chemistry school in eastern France has killed one person and injured another, news services reported.
Fire officials told the Associated Press that the blast, which ignited a fire, occurred on Friday in the city of Mulhouse, near the border with Germany, on the ground floor of the Superior National School of Chemistry.
Police said they have evacuated the area surrounding the school, which is part of a campus near the city centre and 8,000 students are enrolled there.
Teachers were counting students at the scene to ensure there were no other casualties, according to France-Info radio.
Accordring to a report by TF1 television, a witness said it felt like an earthquake.
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Most French back total ban on smoking in public places: poll
www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-24 22:44:03
PARIS, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Most French people support the ideaof a total ban on smoking in public places, a government poll showed on Friday.
According to the Ifop poll, carried out last month at the government's request and published by the French daily Le Figaro, 78 percent of respondents support such a ban, with a majority in all age groups in agreement.
Retirees were the group most in favour of the measure (89 percent) with youngsters aged 15-24 slightly more reticent (66 percent).
When the pollsters split the preferences in terms of venue, there was most overall support for a ban in offices (78 percent), in restaurants (74 percent), and in discos and cafes (57 percent).
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Thinking like the French
Michael, a sales manager in the French office of a multinational, recounts his experience with a commercial prospect: "After I laid out the benefits and attributes of our new services, I was told that these would never work. Hearing that, I left only to learn later that they were actually quite interested in what we were developing. How do you explain that? Why is it that the French seem so negative?!!!"
How many expatriates can relate to Michael? They resent having their contributions challenged or their action plans received in what seems a negative, critical way. And yet, there is an explanation to what is perceived as French negativism!
This French concept explains how attitudes foreigners may perceive as critical actually reflect a process of intelligent, logical thought.
Esprit Critique doesn't mean offering negative criticism. Instead, it means only holding true what has been verified. That is to say, using rational arguments to support or challenge an idea, by breaking down a problem and progressing from the simplest to the more complex components, by laying out the pros and cons so that all facets are taken into account before coming to a conclusion.
Most of the French you work with will have studied philosophy at school. There they learn that intelligence begins with doubt. In fact, all new ideas are approached with a question, the hypothèse.
Once the French state the hypothesis, they lay out their arguments, alternating between la thèse, that reasons that support the question and l'antithèse, reasons that challenge it.
The more they can stretch out their arguments for one or for the other, the more intelligent they are, or so French people perceive: this expansion of the scope of the question allows them to gain a better understanding of the different viewpoints and alternatives. Only once all possibilities have been exhausted will they reach a conclusion: the synthèse.
This final conclusion usually appears as the only reasonable choice given the pros and cons discussed. In almost all cases, the final decision is a much stronger one: more realistic and sustainable given the fact that it's been taken with a wider understanding of the stakes at hand.
This is already a contrast with the way many North Americans are taught to 'sell' their ideas, whereby the starting point is a conviction, the belief that they're 'right' and can prove it by listing their reasons.
Debate v débat
Consider a 'debate' in an anglo-saxon context. Whether in a parliamentary or academic context, you find yourself with two teams with opposite viewpoints. They exchange 'proofs' supporting their belief and a winner is designated.
For the French, the débat is a discussion period: a time to share ideas and expand the scope of a subject. In the context of business, it usually involves sitting around a table for a heated discussion of all of the angles of an issue.
Being right is not important at this stage and participants can add to both sides. You may be surprised to find that some people actually contradict themselves! This isn't a sign of confusion. Rather, they are showing their 'intelligence', that is to say, their ability to think out an issue. The doubts they express aren't a sign of weakness, but cues for thoughtful discussion.
You may find the discussion overwhelming. When French managers find themselves under pressure or in an environment of uncertainty, they seem to carefully analyze every facet of a decision before taking a stand, as if to reassure themselves. Some expatriate managers jokingly describe this process as "analysis paralysis".
Working in English, or in an international environment, can contribute to the ambiguity and stress of a decision-making process. Pushing them for a decision will only add pressure and therefore extend the discussion. You'll usually find that someone will eventually round up the discussion with a simple "Bon, et alors?" (So, where does this lead us… ) This is the point where hopefully everyone comes to a shared conclusion.
So, to get back to Michael: if you've spent the first part of a meeting speaking only of the strengths of a project, in a sense you have lead your opposite number to respond to you by listing all of the possible weaknesses. When you know this ahead of time, you realize that a negative response can indeed be a sign of interest and that the ensuing exchange of ideas will lead to an eventual conclusion.
How to use it
It can be frustrating to see your prospective client or colleague go back and forth when what you really want is a firm and definite 'yes'.
Don't let the process discourage you; if you're told your project won't work, make the person you're talking to work for you by asking them for more details:
* What are the weaknesses that you see? How would you suggest we overcome these?
* Are these really key issues? Do they cancel out the strengths of the product?
* Are there other needs this project might address?
You'll be surprised at how enriching this exchange can be for you and for your project.
Better yet, integrate some "esprit critique" into your business thinking. Don't be afraid to challenge your assumptions before asserting your opinions! Present your ideas in context and so as to show they've been the subject of rational analysis and deliberate thought. The attention you pay to this will increase the value of your contributions in the eyes of your French colleagues and clients.
And, on the personal side, as you learn to join in the debate - instead of feeling yourself to surrounded by negativity and hounded by criticism - you may start to find this process creative and enriching.
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Even as government prepares to talk, violence rocks Paris
PARIS, March 23, 2006 (AFP)
Violence erupted in central Paris again Thursday as rioters took over a protest march over a controversial labour law, hurling rocks and bottles at police and lighting cars and shops ablaze.
The chaos on the Invalides esplanade, a chic central neighbourhood dominated by government ministries, came as students pressed on with a fourth day of demonstrations nationwide, even as the embattled Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin gave ground by offering talks with trade unions and student groups.
Police said in the early evening that 420 people had been arrested across France Thursday, a third of them in the capital, mainly for violence, vandalism and attacks on security
In Paris 141 people were arrested after gangs of masked youths hurled projectiles, smashed shop windows and set fire to cars, police said.
Bands of masked youths, who appeared not to be part of the main protest march, threw stones and metal bars at firemen called to a put out a blaze in a nearby shop. Police sealed off the bridges on the nearby river Seine and lobbed tear gas canisters at the rioters.
"Violence is the only way of making yourself heard," said Baptiste, a youth from a Paris suburb observing the demonstration. "If (the government) wants to have a go at us, we'll have a go back."
Some 220,000 people, by official count, took part in the protests. Organisers said 450,000 people had participated.
Clashes also took place between police and protesters in the Mediterranean port of Marseille, the cities of Rennes, Grenoble and Lyon, and the Paris suburbs of Savigny-sur-Orge, Creteil and Rueil-Malmaison.
Sixty people were injured nationwide, including 27 police officers, according to statistics released in a statement, while one 21-year-old man was taken to hospital in Paris with serious head injuries.
Protests against the government's contested First Employment Contract (CPE) have repeatedly turned violent, but the government said the youth-dominated demonstrations and marches had been dwindling since the first major shows of force earlier this month.
The disturbances came as Villepin's government began to give first hints of conciliation in the crisis, with the premier preparing to hold open-agenda talks with the main trade unions on Friday.
In a letter Villepin promised that the agenda of the talks would be "completely open," and in their reply the unions said they "reaffirm their demand for the CPE to be withdrawn before we agree to dialogue or negotiation on employment, job insecurity and the future of the youth."
France's three main employers' organisations told AFP they had also been invited to attend talks with the prime minister immediately after his meeting with unions.
Villepin also wrote to student leaders asking them to talks at his residence next week, his office said.
The prime minister has come under growing criticism - even from within his ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) - for failing to respond to the growing campaign of popular opposition, and Thursday's initiative was the first sign of a search for a compromise.
An open-ended contract that can be terminated within the first two years without justification, the CPE was conceived by Villepin as a tool against France's high youth unemployment rate which is can reach more than 50 percent in the high-immigration suburbs hit by last year's riots.
But it is opposed by an alliance of students, unions and left-wing political parties, who see it as a breach in France's hard-won system of employee protection. They have been demanding its complete withdrawal as a precondition for ending their protests.
A day of nationwide strikes and more demonstrations is planned for Tuesday.
The measure was voted through parliament two weeks ago as part of a wider equal opportunities law, and is now awaiting approval from the Constitutional Council - the body that rules on the constitutionality of laws - before coming into force.
Villepin, 52, who was appointed by President Jacques Chirac 10 months ago, has staked his political future on implementing the CPE, and it was still unclear how much he would be willing to compromise.
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Scientist discovers that evolution is missing from Arkansas classrooms.
Jason R. Wiles
In the fall of 2004, I received an e-mail from an old friend back in Arkansas, where I was raised. She was concerned about a problem her father was having at work. "Bob" is a geologist and a teacher at a science education institution that serves several Arkansas public school districts. My friend did not know the details of Bob's problem, only that it had to do with geology education. This was enough to arouse my interest, so I invited Bob to tell me about what was going on.
He responded with an e-mail. Teachers at his facility are forbidden to use the "e-word" (evolution)
with the kids. They are permitted to use the word "adaptation" but only to refer to a current characteristic of an organism, not as a product of evolutionary change via natural selection. They cannot even use the term "natural selection." Bob feared that not being able to use evolutionary terms and ideas to answer his students' questions would lead to reinforcement of their misconceptions.
But Bob's personal issue was more specific, and the prohibition more insidious. In his words, "I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD ... but I am NOT to say that these rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old."
As a person with a geology background, Bob found this restriction hard to justify, especially since the new Arkansas educational benchmarks for 5th grade include introduction of the concept of the 4.5-billion-year age of the earth. Bob's facility is supposed to be meeting or exceeding those benchmarks.
The explanation that had been given to Bob by his supervisors was that their science facility is in a delicate position and must avoid irritating some religious fundamentalists who may have their fingers on the purse strings of various school districts. Apparently his supervisors feared that teachers or parents might be offended if Bob taught their children about the age of rocks and that it would result in another school district pulling out of their program. He closed his explanatory message with these lines:
"So my situation here is tenuous. I am under censure for mentioning numbers. … I find that my 'fire' for this place is fading if we're going to dissemble about such a basic factor of modern science. I mean ... the Scopes trial was how long ago now??? I thought we had fought this battle ... and still it goes on."
I immediately referred Bob to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). They responded with excellent advice. Bob was able to use their suggestions along with some of the position statements of numerous scientific societies and science teacher organizations listed by the NCSE's Voices for Evolution Project in defense of his continued push to teach the science he felt obligated to present to his students. Nevertheless, his supervisors remained firm in their policy of steering clear of specifically mentioning evolution or "deep time" chronology.
I was going to be in Arkansas in that December anyway, so I decided to investigate Bob's issue in person. He was happy for the support, but even more excited to show me around the facility. Bob is infectiously enthusiastic about nature and science education. He is just the kind of person we want to see working with students. He had arranged for me to meet with the directors of the facility, but he wanted to give me a guided tour of the place first.
Self-censorship in defense of science?
I would like to describe the grounds of the facility in more detail, but I must honor the request of all parties involved to not be identified. It was, however, a beautiful place, and the students, fifth-graders that day, seemed more engaged in their learning than most I had ever seen. To be sure, the facility does a fantastic job of teaching science, but I was there to find out about what it was not teaching. Bob and I toured the grounds for quite some time, including a hike to a cave he had recently discovered nearby, and when we returned I was shown to my interview with the program director and executive director.
Both of the directors welcomed me warmly and were very forthcoming in their answers to my questions. They were, however, quite firm in their insistence that they and their facility be kept strictly anonymous if I was to write a story about Bob's issue. We talked for over an hour about the site's mission, their classes, and Bob's situation specifically. Both directors agreed that "in a perfect world" they could, and would, teach evolution and deep time. However, back in the real world, they defended their stance on the prohibition of the "e-word," reasoning that it would take too long to teach the concept of evolution effectively (especially if they had to defuse any objections) and expressing concern for the well-being of their facility. Their program depends upon public support and continued patronage of the region's school districts, which they felt could be threatened by any political blowback from an unwanted evolution controversy.
With regard to Bob's geologic time scale issue, the program director likened it to a game of Russian roulette. He admitted that probably very few students would have a real problem with a discussion about time on the order of millions of years, but that it might only take one child's parents to cause major problems. He spun a scenario of a student's returning home with stories beginning with "Millions of years ago …" that could set a fundamentalist parent on a veritable witch hunt, first gathering support of like-minded parents and then showing up at school board meetings until the district pulled out of the science program to avoid conflict. He added that this might cause a ripple effect, other districts following suit, leading to the demise of the program.
Essentially, they are not allowing Bob to teach a certain set of scientific data in order to protect their ability to provide students the good science curriculum they do teach. The directors are not alone in their opinion that discussions of deep time and the "e-word" could be detrimental to the program's existence. They have polled teachers in the districts they serve and have heard from them more than enough times that teaching evolution would be "political suicide."
Bob's last communication indicated that he had signed up with NCSE and was leaning towards the "grin and bear it" approach, which, given his position and the position of the institution, may be the best option. I was a bit disheartened, but still impressed with all the good that is going on at Bob's facility. I was also curious about other educational institutions, so I decided to ask some questions where I could.
The first place I happened to find, purely by accident, was a privately run science museum for kids. As with Bob's facility, the museum requested not to be referred to by name. I was only there for a short time, but I'm not quite sure what to make of what happened there. I looked around the museum and found a few biological exhibits, but nothing dealing with evolution. I introduced myself to one of the museum's employees as a science educator (I am indeed a science educator) and asked her if they had any exhibits on evolution. She said that they used to, but several parents - some of whom home-schooled their children, some of whom are associated with Christian schools - had been offended by the exhibit and complained. They had said either that they would not be back until it was removed or that they would not be using that part of the museum if they returned. "It was right over there," she said, pointing to an area that was being used at that time for a kind of holiday display.
Later that evening, I had a visit with the coordinator of gifted and talented education at one of Arkansas's larger public school districts. As before, she has requested that she and her school system be kept anonymous, so I will call her "Susan." Susan told me she had overheard a teacher explaining the "balanced treatment" given to creationism in her classroom. This was not just any classroom, but an Advanced Placement biology classroom. This was important to Susan, not only because of the subject and level of the class, but also because it fell under her supervision. Was she obliged to do something about this? She knew quite well that the "balanced treatment" being taught had been found by a federal court to violate the Constitution's establishment clause - perhaps there is no greater irony than that two of the most significant cases decided by federal courts against teaching creationism were Epperson v. Arkansas and McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education.
Susan sincerely wanted to do something about it, but she decided to let it go. Her reasoning was that this particular teacher is probably in her final year of service. To Susan, making an issue out of this just was not worth the strife it would have caused in the school and in the community.
As the discussion progressed that evening, I learned that omission was the method of dealing with evolution in another of Arkansas's largest, most quickly growing, and wealthiest school districts - an omission that was apparently strongly suggested by the administration. I tried to check on this, but made little progress, receiving the cold shoulder from the administration and the science department at that school. However, I spoke with a person who works for a private science education facility that does contract work for this district: "Helen" - she, like the other people I had visited, requested that she and her employers not be identified. I asked Helen about her experiences with the district's teachers. Her story was that in preparation for teaching the students from that district, she had asked some of the teachers how they approached the state benchmarks for those items dealing with evolution. She said, "Oh, I later got in trouble for even asking," but went on to describe their answers. Most teachers said that they did not know enough about evolution to teach it themselves, but one of them, after looking around to make sure they were safely out of anyone's earshot, explained that the teachers are told by school administrators that it would be "good for their careers" not to mention such topics in their classes.
Inadequate science education
How often does this kind of thing happen? How many teachers are deleting the most fundamental principle of the biological sciences from their classes due to school and community pressure or due to lack of knowledge? How many are disregarding Supreme Court decisions and state curriculum guidelines? These are good questions, and I have been given relevant data from a person currently working in Arkansas. We will call this science teacher Randy. I was introduced to him through the NCSE. He made it clear that his identity must be protected.
Randy runs professional development science education workshops for public school teachers. He's been doing it for a while now, and he has been taking information on the teachers in his workshops via a survey. He shared some data with me.
According to his survey, about 20 percent are trying to teach evolution and think they are doing a good job; 10 percent are teaching creationism, even though during the workshop he discusses the legally shaky ground on which they stand. Another 20 percent attempt to teach something but feel they just do not understand evolution. The remaining 50 percent avoid it because of community pressure. On an e-mail to members of a list he keeps of people interested in evolution, Randy reported that the latter 50 percent do not cover evolution because they felt intimidated, saw no need to teach it, or might lose their jobs.
By their own description of their classroom practices, 80 percent of the teachers surveyed are not adequately teaching evolutionary science. Remember that these are just the teachers who are in a professional development workshop in science education! What is more disturbing is what Randy went on to say about the aftermath of these workshops. "After one of my workshops at a [state] education cooperative, it was asked that I not come back because I spent too much time on evolution. One of the teachers sent a letter to the governor stating that I was mandating that teachers had to teach evolution, and that I have to be an atheist, and would he do something."
Of course it's false to suggest "you're either an anti-evolutionist or you're an atheist." Many scientists who understand and accept evolution are also quite religious, and many people of faith also understand and accept evolution. But here was a public school teacher appealing to the governor to "do something" about this guy teaching teachers to teach evolution. Given that evolutionary science is prescribed in the state curriculum guidelines, and given that two of the most important legal cases regarding evolution education originated in Arkansas, how exactly would we expect the governor to respond? I am not sure whether Gov. Mike Huckabee responded to this letter, but I have seen him address the subject on "Arkansans Ask," his regular show on the Arkansas Educational Television Network. I've seen two episodes on which students expressed their frustration about the lack of evolution education in their public schools. Both times, Huckabee advocated the teaching of creationism in public schools. Here is an excerpt from one of these broadcasts, from July 2004:
Student: Many schools in Arkansas are failing to teach students about evolution according to the educational standards of our state. Since it is against these standards to teach creationism, how would you go about helping our state educate students more sufficiently for this?
Huckabee: Are you saying some students are not getting exposure to the various theories of creation?
Student (stunned): No, of evol … well, of evolution specifically. It's a biological study that should be educated [taught], but is generally not.
Moderator: Schools are dodging Darwinism? Is that what you …?
Huckabee: I'm not familiar that they're dodging it. Maybe they are. But I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that's why it's called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I'd be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that's held by people. But it's not the only view that's held. And any time you teach one thing as that it's the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it.
Huckabee's answer was laced with important misconceptions about science. Perhaps the most insidious problem with his response is that it plays on our sense of democracy and free expression. But several court decisions have concluded that fairness and free expression are not violated when public school teachers are required to teach the approved curriculum. These decisions recognized that teaching creationism is little more than thinly veiled religious advocacy.
Furthermore, Huckabee claimed not to be aware of the omission of evolution from Arkansas classrooms. From my limited visit, it is clear that this omission is widespread. But it's certain Huckabee had heard about the omission before. This is from the July 2003 broadcast of "Arkansans Ask":
Student: Goal 2.04 of the Biology Benchmark Goals published by the Arkansas Department of Education in May of 2002 indicates that students should examine the development of the theory of biological evolution. Yet many students in Arkansas that I have met … have not been exposed to this idea. What do you believe is the appropriate role of the state in mandating the curriculum of a given course?
Huckabee: I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view. And I would hope that that would be all points of view and not only evolution. I think that they also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism …
The governor goes on for a bit and finishes his sentiment, but the moderator keeps the conversation going:
Moderator (to student): You've encountered a number of students who have not received evolutionary biology?
Student: Yes, I've found that quite a few people's high schools simply prefer to ignore the topic. I think that they're a bit afraid of the controversy.
Huckabee: I think it's something kids ought to be exposed to. I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally. But that does not mean that I'm afraid that somebody might find out what it is…
How are teachers like "Bob," administrators like "Susan," and teacher trainers like "Randy" supposed to ensure proper science education if politicians like the governor consistently advocate the teaching of non-science?
It is telling that none of the people I spoke with were willing to be identified or to allow me to reveal their respective institutions. In the case of "Bob" and his facility's directors, they were concerned about criticism from both sides. They did not want to lose students by offending fundamentalists or lose credibility in the eyes of the scientific community for omitting evolution.
The shortcomings of evolution instruction in Arkansas don't end at the state's borders. But we seldom realize the wider influence our local politicians might have. For instance, the Educational Commission of the States is an important and powerful organization that shapes educational policy in all 50 states. Forty state governors have served as the chair of the ECS, and Governor Huckabee currently holds this position.
Because anti-evolutionists have been quite successful in placing members of their ranks and sympathizers in local legislatures and school boards, it is imperative that we point out the danger that these people pose to adequate science education. The science literacy of our future leaders may depend on it. Although each school, each museum, or each science center may seem to be an isolated case, answering to - and, perhaps trying to keep peace with - its local constituency, the examples suggest that evolution is being squeezed out of education systematically and broadly. Anti-evolutionists have been successful by keeping the struggle focused on the local level. The fallout is widespread ignorance of the tools and methods of science for generations to come.
The author, Jason R. Wiles, is co-manager of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal. The center's mission is to advance the teaching and learning of evolution through research. Wiles, an Arkansas native, has a bachelor's degree in biology from Harding University (with a minor in Bible) and a master's degree from Portland State University. He's currently a Ph.D. candidate in science education at McGill.
A slightly different version of the article was originally published in the Reports of the National Center for Science Education, a peer-reviewed journal.
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