- Signs of the Times for Tue, 04 Apr 2006 -

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Editorial: The Israel Lobby and Democratic Public Discourse

by Rodrigue Tremblay
April 2, 2006

"Perhaps the most obvious political effect of controlled news is the advantage it gives powerful people in getting their issues on the political agenda and defining those issues in ways likely to influence their resolution."

W. Lance Bennett

A taboo but critically important subject is how pro-Israel lobbyists influence U.S. foreign policy, and whether it is in America's long term interests to let its foreign policy be designed along such narrow lines.

A seminal contribution to this debate is the recently published study by two international affairs specialists from Harvard University and the University of Chicago. In an 83-page-12,800-word article published in the March 10 '06 issue of The London Review of Books, and titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer analyzed how, through lies, disinformation and corruption, a vast network of Neocon journalists, think tanks, lobbyists, and largely Jewish officials within the Bush-Cheney administration have seized the foreign policy debate and manipulated America into invading Iraq in an unjust war. Such a development has important consequences not only for America, but also for the entire world and for the international legal system.

The Harvard-Chicago study attempts to provide answers to questions which have been raised by a host of distinguished American figures over the years. Indeed, what did former conservative congressman Paul Findley (R-Illinois) mean when he said that pro-Israeli groups are able to suppress free debate, compromise national secrets, and shape American foreign policy? -What did former senator Ernest " Fritz" Hollings (D-SC) mean when he said that "You can't have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here"? -What did Congressman Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana) mean when he said that Congress is "not even-handed" when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "for political reasons," and that "Israeli leaders understand our system very, very well [and] because they understand our system they can exploit it"? -What did Congressman James Moran (D-VA) mean when he said that "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we wouldn't be doing this"? - What did former Bush Sr. national security adviser Brent Scowcroft mean when he said that " [Ariel] Sharon has Bush (Jr.) wrapped around his little finger."

And, finally, what did New York columnist Thomas Friedman mean when he said that "It's the war the neoconservatives marketed. Those people had an idea to sell when September 11 came, and they sold it. Oh boy, did they sell it. So this is not a war that the masses demanded. This is a war of an elite"?

Normally, the Lobby's standard tactic when confronted with an annoying book, study or declaration consists in ignoring it or giving it the silent treatment in the many media it controls. In this case, because of the notability and credentials of the authors and their schools, and the fact that its conclusions were so damaging to the all-powerful Israel Lobby, there was no question of letting the Harvard-Chicago study become the starting point for an open and sensible national debate on the subject. Rather, feeling threatened like a tracked animal, the Lobby reacted viciously and came out firing with all its canons. No study revealing how AIPAC and its cohorts of organizations corrupt the entire American foreign policy process could be left standing. It had to be denounced and disparaged at all costs.

The pro-Israel lobby itself cannot do anything wrong. Even Neocon lobbyist Jack Abramoff said he used influence-peddling and corruption of American public officials in order to please God, just as others wage war in order to please God: "I felt that the resources coming into my hands were the consequence of God putting them there" ( New York Times Magazine). The Lobby is to the United States what the Party used to be to the old Soviet Uniion: it crushes any dissent. The Lobby does not want or feel any need to debate and justify itself. Period. -End of discussion. If you disagree with them and decry their influence, you're a "Nazi" or an "anti-Semite" -end of the conversation.

This is too easy. It is not the end of the discussion. It's only the beginning. In a democracy, when a political system is being sold to the highest bidders, this has to be explained to the electorate. Specifically, it has to be explained how such political influence peddling translates into elements of the U.S. foreign policy.

No one disputes that the Jewish lobby is an influential force in US politics and that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) is one of the most powerful organizations in Washington. The facts are all there in the open for everyone to see: it is well known that AIPAC and its web of political organizations keep a close watch on every U.S. senator and representative, with the ones on the 'right side' being supported and rewarded, and those on the 'wrong side' being denounced and punished.

Many of these politically-oriented organizations, including the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC), are part of the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, which regroups 52 national Jewish organizations. One of its recent chairmen was media baron Mortimer Zuckerman, the owner of the NY Daily News and US News and World Report, and whose job it was to lobby the President of the United States. Zuckerman is a frequent guest on the TV public affairs program "The McLaughlin Group".

So the Lobby's attack machine thought it to be its duty to disparage the authors of the study, with smear, slander and "ad hominem" defaming attacks. It immediatly launched a "preemptive" hate campaign directed at professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, using the entire panoply of negative epithets in their arsenal, with the obvious objective of harassing and intimidating the two authors, and to send a lesson to anyone in academia who would dare to imitate them.

Like the fishes that produce an opaque liquid to confuse their adversaries when pursued, the pro-Israel Lobby has many attack tools at its disposal.

First, the pro-Israel lobbyists tried the old trick of "guilt by association".

They began by insinuating that professors Mearsheimer and Walt published a study whose conclusions did not differ that much from other messages previously issued by Islamist scholars or by far right American individuals, such as David Duke and Rev. Louis Farrakhan. The fact that the two authors had probably never met anyone among the individuals in question and did not share their views did not matter. The purpose was to put everybody in the same basket in order to undermine the authors' credibility. The two authors were even accused by a zealot of promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the old czarist forgery that asserted, in 1903, a Jewish plan for world domination.

Then they relied on intimidation and launched the over-used "anti-Semite" epithet.

It used to be that "anti-Semitism" referred to racial hatred, racial exclusion, threats of racial expulsion or even racial extermination. -Not anymore. The mere fact of analyzing or criticizing a public policy remotely involving Jewish policy makers, which is perfectly legitimate and is the sign of a mature democracy, opens one up to an accusation of anti-Semitism. Intellectual totalitarianism would seem to prevail in the U.S., whenever and wherever a public policy involves somewhat the state of Israel or Jewish policy makers, or both. You may live in a democracy, but you cannot question any Jewish-led public agenda, as could be the case, for example, with a globalistic and militaristic U.S. foreign policy. -This is the supreme tactic of intimidation, used to silence critics and analysts and coerce them to self-censor.

Then, the Lobby used a a third level of weapons of mass intellectual destruction. To destroy the study and prevent a public debate on its merits, its propaganda machine did not hesitate to slander and defame the two authors, pretending the study was not of a high intellectual caliber. Some Jewish professors from professional schools, such as well-known defense lawyer and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz, came out publicly to chastize the authors' sources, deemed not to be reliable enough. A front organization acting as a propaganda machine for the Lobby, called the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) did not want to be left out and proclaimed that "virtually every word and argument (in the study) is, or ought to be, in serious dispute." The substantial content and the conclusions did not seem to be worth discussing for these critics. Only the assumed research methods were relevant in their views.

But the final salvo came from the money class who supplies funds to universities such as Harvard and Chicago, and does not hesitate to pull the strings when asked. The Lobby enlisted lawyer Robert Belfer, a former Enron director, and other "pro-Israel donors and so-called philanthropists" to give a hand at pressuring the two universities involved. For one, it seems Mr. Belfer, in 1997, contributed $7.5 million to Harvard's Kennedy School. Probably imbued with the need to protect academic freedom, lawyer Bob Belfer is reported to have called Harvard (presumably departing Harvard president Laurence Summers) expressing his deep concerns about the study and asking that professor Stephen Walt not use his professorship title in publicity related to his study. If this is not censorship, what is censorship?

There you have it. -How a powerful political machine works to suppress debate, research and publications that are inimical to its agenda. Short of murder, all means seem to be justified to deprecate and undermine the credibility of the researchers and their work.

This time, however, the Lobby may have gone too far.

With its outrageous overkill tactics, it has only succeeded in discrediting itself all over the world. Its strong-armed tactics designed to slander and intimidate two respected scholars is backfiring. It has served only to illustrate and demonstrate the fascist-like tactics and methods that the Lobby ruthlessly employs to silence its critics. In fact, this episode may mark a turning point in the unchallenged stronghold that the Israel Lobby exercises over public information and public policy in the United States. Too many eyes and too many ears have been opened by this revealing incident.

The New American Empire
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Editorial: The Palestinian people are fed up with traitors

Remarks collected by Silvia Cattori from Omar, a resident of Gaza
3 April 2006

S.C.: What causes you the most suffering at the moment in Gaza?

We're suffering the most from the noise of the cannon fire and the deafening bombs that explode all night long as well as during the day in the area Israel calls the "No Go Zone", north of Betlaya, in the east of Gaza.

S.C.: Are the new authorities appealing to Europe after each aggression to force Israel to stop murdering you?

Our authorities have already made thousands of appeals to the international community, to the United States, to Europe, all in vain. And now that we have been labeled as a "terrorist" people for having voted for Hamas, nobody even wants to talk to us. So, we are punished for having democratically elected a government they qualify as "terrorist".

S.C.: How is the population living with this punishment? Will they end up by turning against these authorities that the world wishes to isolate?

No, I don't think so. Never. Never.

S.C.: What exactly happened on Friday, March 31, 2006 in Gaza?

A booby-trapped car exploded at the moment that the vehicule of Abu Youssef Al Qouqa, the chief of the Salah Ed Deen brigades passed by. His assassination was followed by serious incidents.

S.C.: So it wasn't an air attack by Israel?

It occurred in the same way as the assassination of a Jihad chief two months ago.

S.C.: Was it then a joint assassination by Israeli services and Palestinian services? If yes, are militants designated by Israel now doubly threatened?

Exactly! As a people, we are not directly targeted by these assassinations. But the leaders of Hamas or Jihad wanted by Israel, they are more than ever threatened.

S.C.: Threatened from the interior?

Threatened by Israel, but unfortunately with the collaboration of the Palestinians.

S.C.: Do these collaborators have a name?

After the assassination of their leader, Abu Abeer, the spokesman of the Salah Ed Deen brigades accused Mohammed Dalhan and Rachida Bouskaf, the chief of preventative security, as well as Mash' Harawi, a member of Fatah, and Tareq Abou Rajap, a member of the secret service. I think Abu Abeer made a serious mistake by calling them by their names.

S.C.: An error for himself?

For himself and for the people. He should never have cited the names of these people. He will without a doubt be assassinated himself. Right afterwards, they shot at him, but they missed. This declaration lit the fuse. During the funeral of Abu Youssef Al Quoqa, there was fighting in the street between the people of Abu Abeer and the bodyguards of Nabil Tammous, who belong to the death squads originally created by Mohammed Dalhan. Three people were killed, twenty were wounded. People from Hamas intervened to separate them and were able to stop the outbreak.

S.C.: What will the Hamas government do to avoid other incidents?

They announced that it was no longer possible to carry firearms without authorization.

S.C.: So Mohammed Dahlan's men have to follow it?

Yes, they'll no longer be above the law. We all hope here that these people will be judged as fast as possible.

S.C.: Do you think the people targeted will allow themselves to be arrested and judged without a fight?

You know, people have had enough of all these traitors, of all these collaborators, and of these "death squads". These people continue to play with the lives of the people. They have poisoned the lives of honest Palestinians for years. Everyone hopes the present government will succeed in punishing them according to the law.

S.C.: Are you saying that people are ready to denounce the named collaborators?

There are collaborators who are known - one is even a general - but until now they have been protected by people in the ex-Palestinian Authority. Some well-known collaborators that are, unfortunately, protected by Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

S.C.: Until today?

Now that the government is in place, we are certain that the new authorities are not going to continue to protect them. I think that, if the case is opened, they'll flee to Israel or elsewhere abroad.

S.C.: What you are saying is very serious. Outside, the representatives of the old authority continue to speak of the necessity of respecting the Oslo Accords!

The representatives of the old authority do not live under the permanent threat of Israel, but in luxurious residences; their way of life absorbs millions of dollars that we are lacking here. They are far removed from the real suffering of our people who live under terror. Israel wants to negotiate by dictat and we should obey, and recognize its existence while it denies ours? I hope that the day will come when these people who came to terms with the occupier will realize what it means to live in the north of Gaza, in Jenin, in Hebron, in Naplouse, constantly under Israeli attack.

I hope the day will come when these people, who collaborated in one way or another, will be judged and imprisoned; and that God helps our government protect the Palestinians as best he can.

Translated by signs-of-the-times.org
l'original en français
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Editorial: The Disheartening Fall of Doug Thompson

Monday April 03rd 2006, 8:40 am
Kurt Nimmo
Another Day in the Empire

In the last few days, people have lamented the fall of Doug Thompson, editor of Capitol Hill Blue. Last week Thompson came out against the nine eleven truth movement, basically called those of us who believe the attacks were pulled off by elements within the United States government conspiracy nuts. I am not surprised by this. Capitol Hill Blue is a "liberal" website, often in favor of Democrats, and suffering from the disease most Democrats suffer from-a pathetic belief in the efficacy of government, if only we endeavor to elect good people.

In fact, those who are offered at election time are nothing less than jobbers for the plutocracy, water carriers for the transnational corporations in control of the political machinery of state, and a vote for Democrat or Republican is a vote for tyranny. Thompson has denounced "partisan puke" Democrats on numerous occasions. However, it would appear Thompson is simply upset that Democrats have become Republicans and Republicans are out of the closet fascists in the pocket of mega-corporations and moneyed interests.

One gets the opinion that Thompson would not complain so much if Democrats went back to their roots. The Democratic Party traces its origins back to the Democratic-Republican Party founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1792. It was formed by small farmers and workers in opposition to the creation of the Bank of the United States, a central bank not authorized by the Constitution. By the late 1800s, the original Democrats morphed into the pro-business Bourbon Democrats, controlled by mercantile, banking, and railroad interests and worked against small farmers and working people. It was a downhill slide into corporatism from there-and as Mussolini later declared, fascism is in essence corporatism.

I really can't say more about Thompson's political opinion-the link to his column archive on the Capitol Hill site is broken and returns a vanilla "page not found" message. I know he hates and mistrusts the current crop in Washington and came out vociferously against the Bush clan's attempts to dismantle the Constitution and set up a high-tech snoop state, beginning with the NSA revelations.

On the one hand, Thompson understands there is a concerted effort at work to strip Americans of their constitutional rights, while on the other he declares the government as bumbling and incompetent and thus unable to pull off the attacks of September 11, 2001.

"I know my government. They're just not good enough to pull off something like this," wrote Thompson. "I'm usually the first to suspect my government of malfeasance. I love a good conspiracy theory as much as Oliver Stone but I cannot buy into this one.... The 9/11 attacks succeeded because of the incredible improbability that such a ragtag group could pull it off and our lackluster intelligence agencies failed to act on credible reports of terrorist activity."

Thompson's reasoning is like a piece of Swiss cheese, shot full of holes. He ignores research demonstrating that it would have been impossible for a "ragtag" group of Arab cave dwellers to pull off nine eleven. How did Osama bin Laden get NORAD to stand down? Thompson does not bother to tell us.

It seems Thompson is a garden variety "liberal" or "progressive," unable to accept the fact government is maleficent. One wonders. Like Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, and other voices contra the gaggle of neocons in Washington, it appears Thompson is unable to admit that the very essence of government is engineered violence, coercion, thievery, and murder. According to so-called progressives and far-lefters, government can be reformed. Government can be trusted-so long as we are pulling the levers. Government is essentially good.

I consider September 11, 2001, the defining moment of government. Not only is the government-not the clerical workers and petty bureaucrats, but the upper, controlling echelon, those working directly for the plutocrats, the ruling elite-capable of such treachery and immorality, but they plot such things continually, if incrementally and usually less flamboyantly. Operation Northwoods, Vietnam, Waco, these are but the most recent manifestations of government malevolence and murderous perniciousness.

Unfortunately, Doug Thompson has fallen into mental quicksand, a philosophical impasse he will not be able to escape from. Once you accept the often pedaled excuse that government is simply a blundering and floundering giant, you have set yourself up to be victimized. I believe Emma Goldman had it right when she declared, "The political arena leaves one no alternatives, one must be either a dunce or a rogue."

I'd hate to think Doug Thompson, who has in the past written so brilliantly about the prevarication and ruthlessness of government, has become a dunce.

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Editorial: What Rense.com Is Not Talking About

Signs of the Times

I have been looking at Rense's website for the last two years and have gathered from Laura's research that he most likely, whether consciously or not, is an asset of Cointelpro. Rense's website gives the image of having no limits on what they will put up and yet there are some glaring omissions.

One of these omissions is in regards to birdflu. The site is like 'birdflu central' with daily updates on birdflu occurring all over the planet, yet there has not been one article in respect to the likelihood that Birdflu is a HOAX.

Another omission is in regard to drastic climate changes, METEORS, the many recent meteor sightings and the many recent discoveries of impact crater from meteors around the world. The signs website has an excellent supplement on Meteors found here.

The last omission that I will mention here is in regard to the Signs website and the pentagon Strike video, which considering the fact that 500+million people have seen it, should feature on Rense's lefthand column as a permanent feature and a permanent link to the Producers thereof, namely Signs of the Times.

One can look at this from the point of view of what is of paramount importance for the PTB, and what they don't want the populace to see. If indeed it is true, that Rense is an arm of Cointelpro, then the important things are the things omitted from the site, some of which I mentioned above. It follows, that nothing that appears on Rense is important at all. It is only for keeping the population distracted!

The Facts are:

1) the US is spending as if there is no tomorrow and as though they will never ever have to pay the money back.

2) The speed with which the US is implementing a world clamp down and a control on the populace is without parallel in modern history.

3) There is hardly any attempt at disguising their fascist march for world domination, as though they know that they will not be held accountable, ever.

4) There is a lack of exposure of the lies of the U.S. from other nations, who have intelligence services with satellite surveillance and who surely know what is going on.

5) The US is using Depleted Uranium in the Middle East and other places indiscriminantly, as though the consequences of radiation of vast areas (including Europe and the U.S.) is of no concern.

Talking to a friend about this, the question that was brought up was why don't they want the populace to ponder the possibility of cataclysmic earthchanges in the very near future, if they are happy to entertain the notion of perpetual war or economic megabust or whatever else is on Rense?

One answer that we came up with is this:

If the PTB have been given advance notice of an imminent (within the next 5-10 years) comet strike (such as the cyclical comet strike with a cycle of 3600 years as mentioned by Laura), then it would be important for the PTB to vector the attention of the populace into all kinds of areas of no real importance.

If the populace knew that the world would be impacted by a massive cataclysm in say April 2009 then:

1) the populace would not be as easily controlled.

2) They would probably reevaluate their life and maybe not go to work.

3) The world economy would collapse, but in a nonlinear fashion, in other words, not when the PTB plans to pull it.

4) The people, from journalist to military official, might not continue to compromise their souls (if they have one) for their masters in order to pay their mortgage/lifestyle unless they are also promised salvation in an underground bunker, which is doubtful.

The PTB, including other world leaders, would have been promised a safe haven, most likely in some deep underground bunker or a 'rapture' for the religiously-minded. This would explain why they go about things as though they will never be held accountable.

Building of underground cities requires massive amounts of money, tunnel workers and industries related to the building thereof. A collapse before time of the world economy would severely hamper the effort of the PTB in creating a safe haven. If not, then maybe an angry and cheated population, whose attention were not distracted on bogus terrorists etc., would hamper the plans of the PTB. Donald Hunt mentions the issue of crowd control and possible riots in Monday's economic report here.

In a recent interview, Richard Dolan claims that there is extensive tunneling going on in America. He mentions a quote from Rumsfeld of the missing 2.6 trillion dollars from the Pentagon's coffers in 2001. The interview can be found here.

Whether the above answer is the answer or just part of the answer is open to discussion, but the fact remains that certain things appear to be deliberately omitted from Rense, and that in itself raises obvious questions. As I have already mentioned, I seriously doubt that any of the things mentioned on Rense are of any real importance, other than providing us with evidence of the direction that the PTB don't want us to look.
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Pimping The War On Terror

Blix: Iran Years Away From Nuclear Bomb

Apr 03 12:38 PM US/Eastern

OSLO, Norway - Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Monday that Iran is a least five years away from developing a nuclear bomb, leaving time to peacefully negotiate a settlement.

Blix, attending an energy conference in western Norway, said he doubted the U.S. would resort to invading Iran.

"But there is a chance that the U.S. will use bombs or missiles against several sites in Iran," he was quoted by Norwegian news agency NTB as saying. "Then, the reactions would be strong, and would contribute to increased terrorism."
Blix said there is still time for dialogue over Iran's nuclear enrichment program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes but the West fears is part of a secret nuclear weapons program.

"We have time on our side in this case. Iran can't have a bomb ready in the next five years," Blix was quoted as saying.

Blix, also a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, urged the United States to take its time, as it is doing in a similar nuclear standoff with North Korea.

"The U.S. has given itself time and is negotiating with North Korea, while Iran got a very short deadline," he was quoted as saying.

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High Court Declines to Take Up 'Dirty Bomber' Case

By David G. Savage, Times Staff Writer
April 4, 2006

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court decided Monday against hearing the celebrated case of Jose Padilla, the supposed "dirty bomber," but only because the Bush administration had freed him from military custody.

By a 6-3 vote, the justices dismissed an appeal filed on Padilla's behalf because his case raised only a "hypothetical" claim about unchecked presidential power.
The court's action clears the way for Padilla to be tried on criminal charges in a federal court in Miami. However, it leaves unresolved the question of whether the president, as commander in chief, has the power to arrest Americans in this country and hold them without a trial if he believes they are working for the enemy.

President Bush and his lawyers have claimed this power as part of his wartime authority. They argue that in its war on terrorism, the government needs special powers to intercept and question Al Qaeda conspirators who are plotting attacks in this country.

But the U.S. Constitution and federal law says American citizens cannot be arrested and held without "due process of law." That usually involves, at minimum, a hearing before a judge in which the detained person can challenge the government's basis for holding him.

From the start, the case of Jose Padilla vs. Donald Rumsfeld had the potential to be a legal landmark in the area of presidential powers and civil liberties during war. Instead, it has been an exercise in frustration for the lawyers who challenged Bush's view.

In June 2002, then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft announced that the government had disrupted a plot to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States. Padilla, a Bronx-born Muslim, it was alleged, had trained at Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. He was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after a flight from Pakistan.

Rather than charge him as a suspected criminal, the White House said the president had decided to hold Padilla in military custody as an enemy combatant. He was not permitted to speak with his family or a lawyer, and no charges were filed against him. Civil libertarians said this was blatantly unconstitutional.

Two years ago, the administration dodged a likely defeat in the Supreme Court when the justices, by a 5-4 vote, dismissed Padilla's first case on technical grounds. His lawyers in New York had filed a legal challenge to his detention there, but their client was then held in a military brig in South Carolina. The court said his lawyers should have filed their claim in South Carolina.

Four liberal justices dissented, saying the "essence of a free society" involved freedom from arbitrary imprisonment.

The same day, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia made the same point in a related case that freed U.S.-born Taliban soldier Yaser Esam Hamdi. "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the executive," Scalia wrote. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy voiced a similar view.

The stated views of Scalia and the moderate Kennedy strongly suggested that Padilla would eventually win. His lawyers started over again in South Carolina, hoping to quickly get his case back before the high court. But last fall, when his second appeal was pending before the justices, the Bush administration changed course.

It indicted Padilla on a terrorism conspiracy charge in Florida that made no mention of a "dirty bomb" or a plot to blow up buildings in the U.S. The government moved him from military custody into the federal court system and urged the high court to dismiss his appeal as moot.

Monday's decision not to hear the case meant that the administration had again avoided a likely defeat. Civil libertarians voiced disappointment.

"It's unfortunate that the executive has been able to avoid final review for so long of a case that presents such fundamental questions of the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens," said Deborah Pearlstein, a lawyer for Human Rights First. "But there's no question that the court's opinion puts the president on notice."

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer voted to hear Padilla's latest appeal. Nothing prevents the government from switching course again and returning Padilla to the brig, Ginsburg said.

Three others - Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice John Paul Stevens - issued a statement explaining they had turned down the case because Padilla was no longer held by the military.

His case "raises fundamental issues respecting the separation of powers" and that "counsels against addressing those claims when the course of legal proceedings has made them, at least for now, hypothetical," they said.

Justices Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. apparently voted against hearing Padilla's case, but they did not say why.

Comment: And here we see the effects of Bush's two stolen elections and his stacking of the Supreme Court. He can now rule as he wishes.

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Geneva Convention 'should be updated'

By Kim Sengupta
The Independent
04 April 2006

John Reid, the Defence Secretary, has called for a sweeping overhaul of international law to counter the threat of terrorism.

Acknowledging the idea would be "controversial", Mr Reid declared yesterday that radical changes were necessary to the Geneva Convention, that there should be a right to carry out pre-emptive strikes on a perceived threat and that intervention should be allowed in another sovereign country to save its people from internal repression.
He maintained that the alterations were necessary to counter terrorist organisations which were capable of carrying out devastating attacks while ignoring laws which governments have to abide by.

Critics claimed, however, that such "reforms" would herald a slide towards draconian actions by the Government, such as practised by the Bush administration at Guantanamo Bay, hitherto held to be illegal by British courts.

It would also have provided another excuse for invading Iraq in the light of the Government's failure to prove that Saddam Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction.

More immediately the changes would allow military strikes against installations in Iran, suspected of attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons, which government ministers privately say will breach current international laws.

Mr Reid said "We risk trying to fight a 21st century conflict with 20th century rules which, when they were devised, did not contemplate the type of enemy which is now extant.

"The laws of the 20th century placed constraints on us all which enhanced peace and protected liberty. We must ask ourselves whether, as the new century begins, they will do the same. We now have to cope with a deliberate regression towards barbaric terrorism by our opponents. The legal constraints upon us have to be set against an enemy that adheres to no constraints whatsoever."

On the question of confronting regimes brutalising their own people, Mr Reid received an element of support from shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague. Mr Hague, on a visit to Darfur, said the international community must do more to provide "protection and security" for the people of the Sudanese province.

Comment: Riiiiight. We'd just like to point out that many European nations have been battling "evil terrorists" for decades, and they never had to turn themselves into fascist dictatorships or destroy international law to do so.

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Your Voice Didn't Echo... A Letter to My Husband Upon His Return from Iraq

by Katherine Brengle
April 3, 2006

For the past six months, whenever I heard your voice, it was only the echo of your voice from 8,000 miles away... It was set against a backdrop of static, and the world sank into an eerie silence when it came through the telephone.

Last night, at 3 am, I heard your voice, but it did not echo. The eerie silence was gone, replaced by boisterous laughter and conversation and that reverberating hum that airports have, even in the middle of the night.

You sounded tired, but you didn't sound half-alive as you have for the past six months.

When it was time to hang up, there was no feeling of "what if" or fear or trepidation. Our parting was joyful and nonchalant, each of us secure in the knowledge that all was now well and you would be home in a few days, safe where you belong.

Today, when I saw the news report of soldiers killed in Iraq, I was able to mourn for those soldiers without wondering if you were one of them. I felt selfish, but at the same time I felt safe. I felt guilty, but at the same time I felt relieved.

Last night, while I waited for your call telling me you had arrived on US soil, I made my very first "Bring the Troops Home" highway banner with the leftover materials from your "Welcome Home" highway banner. I hung it on the fence across the street, facing the river and the Route 79 on-ramp. I feel like I can really fight now, now that I do not have to worry every day that you will not come home.
I am happy, for the first time in many months.

I am also sad, because too many other American families have not had this experience--they have not been able to celebrate a homecoming, because their soldiers have not come home--at least not as they should have.

War is ugly, and selfish, and it rips families and countries apart.

We owe it to ourselves to live in peace. We all claim to want it, but very few of us stand up and work for it.

I have tried to do my part--writing, joining other peaceful Americans and exercising the right to gather in protest, wearing a pin here or a t-shirt there, hanging my little sign in the window and my not-so-little banner on the highway... All in the hope that something I do will lodge in the heart of another American and make him/her question the purpose of doing battle with other human beings.

All in the hope that one thought might be sparked, one passion ignited, one harmful action undone...

Soon you will be here in our home again. But the fight continues for many thousands of other American troops, and the fight will go on until we are able to halt the war machine and teach our fellow Americans, and the rest of the world, that the way of guns and bombs and murder and rape and detainees and torture and violence is not the way to peace.

Peaceful actions bring peaceful time.

Stand with me, in solidarity, for peace.

Katherine Brengle is a freelance writer and activist. She is also a member of Military Families Speak Out, and her husband currently serves with the United States Marine Corps in Iraq. Katherine recently joined the staff of the American Liberalism Project where her column appears on Tuesdays.

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5 Marines die, 3 missing in Iraq accident

The Mercury News
Mon, Apr. 03, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A U.S. military truck rolled over in a flash food in western Iraq's Anbar province, killing five U.S. Marines, injuring another and leaving three other troops missing, the military said Monday.
The military said it was "using all the resources available" to find the two Marines and a sailor who were missing following the Sunday accident.

The rollover of the seven-ton truck appeared to be an accident and was "not a result of enemy action," the military said.

No names were released.

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Prodi pledges to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq if elected

www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-04 11:09:50

ROME, April 3 (Xinhua) -- The center-left candidate for Italy'srole of prime minister, Romano Prodi, said on Monday he would bring Italian soldiers in Iraq back home as soon as possible if his coalition won the general elections on April 9-10.
Speaking during the second of two televised debates with incumbent Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ahead of the election, Prodi said, "When we become the government, we'll opt for a speedy pullout of our troops in secure conditions, talking with the Iraqi authorities so as not to create situations of risk or danger."

It would be done "as soon as possible," said Prodi, a former premier and former European Commission president.

Berlusconi, in spite of strong domestic objections, sent about 3,000 troops to Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The center-right premier, a staunch U.S. ally in Iraq, has said all Italy's troops would be brought home by the end of this year.

One of the key themes of the 90-minute debate was taxation. Prodi has announced plans to reintroduce an inheritance tax which had been abolished by the conservatives, insisting the tax would only affect the wealthiest.

Berlusconi accused Prodi's coalition of intending to redistribute wealth by "taking away from the middle-class to give to what they call the working class."

Berlusconi, in office since 2001, also repeated his doubt over Prodi's ability to keep his coalition together, which ranges from Roman Catholic centrists to communists.

The first debate on March 14 drew 16 million viewers, a record for a political discussion. Many analysts said Prodi won on points, although Berlusconi and most of his allies denied that, according to Italian media.

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Three terror suspects appear in Australian court

Monday April 3, 3:25 PM

One of three Australian Muslims arrested over the weekend on charges of planning a terrorist attack has denied the allegations and says he had been framed by the police.
Prosecutors accused the suspect, Bassam Raad, 24, of trying to stockpile weapons and of discussing "a violent act of jihad" with a radical cleric who was arrested with 18 other men late last year on charges of planning a major terrorist attack.

Raad and two other men, his cousin Majed Raad, 21, and Shoue Hammoud, 26, were arrested Friday and charged with being members of a terrorist group and funding a terrorist group.

If convicted, they face up to 25 years in jail.

Police allege the trio are members of a prayer group led by Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who preached in Melbourne until he was arrested and charged with leading a terrorist cell last November.

Majed Raad and Hammoud appeared briefly in court on Monday but did not apply for bail, meaning police were not required to reveal details of the evidence against them.

But Bassam Raad requested bail and insisted he was innocent of the charges against him. "I am innocent, those people have framed me," he said.

Raad, representing himself, acknowledged discussing religion with Benbrika but denied plotting terrorist violence.

"Even if we are talking about something, we just talk, doesn't mean we're going to do (anything)," he said.

Raad also insisted he could not have given a terrorist group money because he had none to spare. "I own a 200 dollar car, where would I get the money to buy a machine gun?" he asked.

Raad went on to assert that he could not get a fair trial in Australia because he was Muslim. "Because I am Muslim this affects me," he said. "Muslims to you are bad, at the end of the day you will be against me."

In arguing against bail, prosecutor Nick Robinson told the court police had recorded conversations between Raad and Benbrika in which the two allegedly discussed being involved "in a violent act of jihad" -- or holy war, attempting to acquire firearms and using stolen credit cards.

He said Raad was "committed to the fostering or doing of a terrorist act."

The presiding judge refused the bail application and remanded all three men in custody. Another hearing was scheduled for April 28.

The three were arrested by the same task force that carried out Australia's largest counter-terrorism operation last November, when Benbrika and 19 followers in Melbourne and Sydney were charged with terrorism offenses.

Victoria state police commissioner Christine Nixon said the latest arrests had "seriously disrupted" the activities of a group allegedly plotting a terrorist attack.

Police have not linked any of the suspects with specific threats to identified targets.

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War Pimp Alert: No more pussyfooting around Iran

The Telegraph

Three years on, we are still unable to look at foreign policy except through the lens of the Iraq war. This is especially true when it comes to Iran, whose alphabetical and geographical proximity to Iraq makes for facile comparisons.

In particular, it is argued that deploying force against Teheran would bring about the same unhappy consequences as the toppling of Saddam: it would lead to more instability; it would inflame Muslim opinion throughout the world, including in Western cities; it would violate international law; and it would worsen the lives of ordinary Iranians.

Once again, the motives of those calling for direct action are called into question.
Just as we were forever being told that the West had sold weapons to Ba'athist Iraq, so we are now being reminded that it was British and American agents who overthrew Iranian democracy in the first place, back in 1953. This last argument is very silly: the fact that we made mistakes in the past is not a reason to make more mistakes in the future. But the other objections are serious ones, and deserve to be considered separately.

Take, first, the argument that a military strike would destabilise the country. This is true: the mullahs are currently very stable indeed, having concocted a system that prevents Iranians from voting for anyone who dislikes them.

But this domestic stability is bought with international aggression. Not only is Iran arming paramilitary groups in neighbouring states, it has been implicated in terrorist actions as far afield as London and Buenos Aires. To borrow a metaphor from Lenin, Iran is exporting its internal contradictions.

As for Iran becoming a cause célèbre for Muslims in other countries, this is based on a misunderstanding. Iraq was a largely Arab country and, as such, part of a community that stretched as far as Morocco and was united not only by historical and linguistic ties but by a nexus of shared news media.

The Persians, by contrast, have been periodically at war with their Arab neighbours since the time of the Great Kings. More importantly, Iranians are Shia, which sets them apart from the orthodox Sunni teachings that attract some 90 per cent of the world's Muslims. To this day, the million-odd Sunnis who live in Teheran are not allowed their own mosque - unlike their co-religionists in, say, London or Washington.

Nor are Sunnis the only minority with a grievance. The ayatollahs have engaged in human rights violations every bit as gruesome as Saddam's, including the show-trials of Jews and, in one recent case, the execution of a teenage girl on adultery charges.

But what, you might ask, has any of this to do with us? The answer is that Iran's nuclear ambitions go well beyond the regional. Two years ago, the mullahs deployed Shahhab-3 ballistic missiles, with a range of 800 miles. Last October, this newspaper revealed that Teheran was receiving clandestine shipments of missile technology from North Korea. The best estimate is that Iran will have the bomb by 2008.

This is not some symbolic goal: the ayatollahs are building nuclear weapons because they want to use them.

President Ahmadinejad has called for the annihilation of Israel. His adviser, Mohammad Ali Ramin, wants to export military technology to the 150 countries that he believes would back Iran against the West. Another adviser, Hassan Abbasi, has - in addition to calling Britain the "mother of all evil" - observed that, once George Bush leaves office, the West will return to its traditional quiescence.

He is probably right: for the past decade, the EU has pursued a policy of "constructive engagement" with Iran. In what must stand as his single greatest failure, Jack Straw has repeatedly visited Teheran, hoping naively to coax the mullahs out of their nuclear ambitions.

As for the charge that it's all about oil, let us not be shy of saying that it is in no one's interests for a large chunk of the world's oil supplies to be in the hands of hostile fanatics.

What, then, should we do? There is, after all, a danger that military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities might boost support for Ahmadinejad - indeed, some Iranian dissidents believe that his wild rhetoric is designed to provoke precisely such an attack. Unlike Iraq, whose nuclear programme was wiped out with a single raid in 1981, Iran is attempting the more complex procedure of centrifuge separation of uranium hexafluoride gas in installations spread throughout the country.

A direct strike might be a necessary last resort. But our earlier objective should be to support the opposition groups. The enemies of the ayatollahs are divided: some are monarchists, some communists, some representatives of Iran's national minorities. Some are in exile, some in Iranian campuses. Around 40,000 are trained soldiers based in Iraq, where they have been disarmed by the Americans. But, together, these groups speak for perhaps 85 per cent of the population. They hold the key to replacing this wicked regime.

Comment: A message to the Telegraph: WAKE UP!
"This is not some symbolic goal: the ayatollahs are building nuclear weapons because they want to use them."
Oh, kind of like how the US is developing new "mini-nukes" because they plan on using them?

The only problem is, with Bush threatening any nation he wants, who wouldn't be developing a nice stash of nuclear arms so that they can cause a nuclear standoff and thereby prevent the US from attacking?

Of course, given that the US government has previously overthrown a democratically elected government in Iran, and the fact that Iran's current leadership seems to be doing all it can to provoke Bush, it seems that perhaps there may still be CIA involvement in Iranian affairs...

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War Whore Condi, War Crimes & the Press

by Robert Parry
April 3, 2006

During the three years of carnage in Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has shifted away from her now-discredited warning about a "mushroom cloud" to assert a strategic rationale for the invasion that puts her squarely in violation of the Nuremberg principle against aggressive war.
On March 31 in remarks to a group of British foreign policy experts, Rice justified the U.S.-led invasion by saying that otherwise Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "wasn't going anywhere" and "you were not going to have a different Middle East with Saddam Hussein at the center of it." [Washington Post, April 1, 2006]

Rice's comments in Blackburn, England, followed
similar remarks during a March 26 interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which she defended the invasion of Iraq as necessary forthe eradication of the "old Middle East" where a supposed culture of hatred indirectly contributed to the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"If you really believe that the only thing that happened on 9/11 was people flew airplanes into buildings, I think you have a very narrow view of what we faced on 9/11," Rice said. "We faced the outcome of an ideology of hatred throughout the Middle East that had to be dealt with. Saddam Hussein was a part of that old Middle East. The new Iraq will be a part of the new Middle East, and we will all be safer."

But this doctrine – that the Bush administration has the right to invade other nations for reasons as vague as social engineering – represents a repudiation of the Nuremberg Principles and the United Nations Charter's ban on aggressive war, both formulated largely by American leaders six decades ago.

Outlawing aggressive wars was at the center of the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II, a conflagration that began in 1939 when Germany's Adolf Hitler trumped up an excuse to attack neighboring Poland. Before World War II ended six years later, more than 60 million people were dead.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who represented the United States at Nuremberg, made clear that the role of Hitler's henchmen in launching the aggressive war against Poland was sufficient to justify their executions – and that the principle would apply to all nations in the future.

"Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions," Jackson said.

"Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose, it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment," Jackson said.

With the strong support of the United States, this Nuremberg principle was then incorporated into the U.N. Charter, which bars military attacks unless in self-defense or unless authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

Nervous Blair

This fundamental principle of international behavior explains why British Prime Minister Tony Blair was so set on a Security Council vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq or at least indisputable evidence that Iraq remained a serious military threat to other countries. Based on internal British legal opinions, Blair knew the invasion would be illegal.

This concern led the Bush administration to hype evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, which included Rice's famous declaration that she didn't want the "smoking gun" evidence of Hussein's WMD to be "a mushroom cloud."

Bush even considered staging his own casus belli by tricking Iraq into firing on a U-2 reconnaissance plane painted with U.N. colors to win U.N. backing for attacking Iraq, according to minutes of a Jan. 31, 2003, meeting in the Oval Office that involved Bush, Blair and senior aides, including then-national security adviser Rice.

Despite Bush's promise at that meeting to "twist arms and even threaten" other nations, the United States couldn't bully a majority of the U.N. Security Council into supporting an invasion, especially with Iraq giving U.N. weapons inspectors free rein to search suspected WMD sites and with nothing found.

On March 19, 2003, Bush chose to press ahead with the invasion anyway, ousting Hussein's government three weeks later but then stumbling into a bloody insurgency that has now pushed the nation to the brink of civil war. Tens of thousands of Iraqis – possibly more than 100,000 – have died, along with more than 2,300 U.S. troops.

U.S. arms inspectors also failed to find any caches of WMD. Other allegations about Hussein's supposed collaboration with al-Qaeda also proved unfounded. Gradually, Rice and other senior Bush aides shifted their rationale from Hussein's WMD to a strategic justification, that is, politically transforming the Middle East.

This new rationale – essentially an assertion of a special U.S. right to invade and occupy any country that is perceived as an obstacle to U.S. goals in the world – is a spin-off of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century of the 1990s.

"In neoconservative eyes, the Iraq war was not about terrorism; it was about the pivotal relationship between Saddam Hussein and the assertion of American power," Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke observed in their book, America Alone. "Hussein provided, in effect, the opportunity to clarify American global objectives and moral obligations."

The PNAC architects saw Hussein as a blot on American global dominance because he had survived standoffs with the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration. His removal would demonstrate that overt resistance to America's permanent status as the world's uni-polar power had dire consequences.

Hesitant Nation

But the American public was less eager to support, either in treasure or blood, such an open declaration of imperial designs. So, the invasion of Iraq was repackaged as defensive, to protect the American people from even a more devastating 9/11 attack.

In late 2002 and early 2003, the Bush administration and its media allies also demonstrated their dominance of the domestic political scene, unleashing a war fever inside the United States in support of Bush's Iraq War claims.

The few voices of political dissent, such as former Vice President Al Gore, were drowned out in ridicule or under accusations of treason. When a singer in Dixie Chicks dared criticize Bush, trucks were driven over the group's CDs.

Cautionary advice from longtime allies, such as France and Germany, was greeted with fury, too. "French fries" were renamed "freedom fries," and Bush enthusiasts poured French wine into gutters.

The U.S. national press corps also bent under these waves of jingoism. The New York Times and the Washington Post put stories supporting Bush's Iraq War claims on the front page while burying or killing articles that questioned the case for war. MSNBC's Phil Donahue was fired for allowing too many war critics on his show.

Even when Bush's pre-war WMD claims proved false, the U.S. news media played down disclosures that put Bush in a negative light. In 2005, major news outlets shunned revelations in the so-called Downing Street Memo, which quoted the chief of British intelligence as saying in July 2002 that the pro-war intelligence was being "fixed."

Similarly, in early 2006, the big U.S. newspapers were slow to react to another leaked British memo of the Jan. 31, 2003, Oval Office meeting at which Bush plotted ways to trick and bully the world into supporting the Iraq invasion. The memo, which appeared in the British press in early February 2006, finally reached the New York Times' front page almost two months later, on March 27, 2006.

Rice Infatuation

Now, the U.S. news media is turning a blind eye to Rice's revamped war rationale. There has been virtually no commentary in the mainstream press about the extraordinary assertion by a Secretary of State that the United States has the right to invade other countries as a means to eradicate something as vague as "an ideology of hate."

Far more press attention is paid to Rice's stylish clothing and her future job prospects, from her professed interest in becoming National Football League commissioner to speculation that she will be part of the next Republican presidential ticket.

Indeed, the attitude of the major U.S. news media – by not objecting to Rice's hazy doctrine – seems to be that there is nothing morally or legally wrong with invading a country that isn't threatening the United States.

For instance, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, who beat the drum often for the Iraq War, penned an opinion piece criticizing congressional Democrats for not embracing Bush's vision of striking out preemptively as part of "a long struggle" against "a new totalitarian ideology" in the Islamic world.

"The Democrats implicitly reject almost everything the Bush administration says about how Sept. 11 changed the world, or our perception of it," Hiatt wrote in an article entitled "Democrats' Narrow Vision." [Washington Post, April 3, 2006]

Yet implicit in the U.S. news media's non-coverage of Rice's new rationale for war is that there is nothing objectionable or alarming about the Bush administration turning its back on principles of civilized behavior promulgated by U.S. statesmen at the Nuremberg Tribunal six decades ago.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

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West accused of fiddling figures on Iraq aid

By Stephen Castle in Brussels
The Independent
04 April 2006

Britain and other Western nations are using huge debt write-offs to Iraq to boost development aid statistics and give a misleading impression of their generosity to the Third World, campaigners say.

The UK, France, Germany and Italy have all bracketed debt cancellations to Iraq as part of their assistance to the world's poorest nations.

Figures released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are expected to show that most, if not all, of the 15 nations in the EU before its 2004 expansion increased aid contributions.

But the statistics will include massive write-offs to Iraq in 2005 when the UK cancelled €499m (£350m) of debt to Baghdad, France €1.6bn, Germany €1.28bn and Italy €925m.
A report released yesterday by non-governmental organisations said that, while the countries were not breaking international rules, they were misleading the public.

The document, compiled by a group including Oxfam and ActionAid, accused many European countries of "massaging their aid figures in a way that can mislead the public". It adds: "In the case of Iraq, the rationale for cancelling these debts has more to do with geopolitics than poverty reduction. These transactions should not be allowed to count towards countries' headline aid figures."

Chris Davies, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said: "We fail to meet our UN targets on development aid and yet we fiddle the figures when it is in our interest. Actions like this breed cynicism in the long-run."

In addition to the debt cancellation for Iraq, millions of euros were also written off for Nigeria, with the UK setting aside €1.6bn under a deal negotiated through the Paris Club.

Though debt cancellation has traditionally been a priority for campaigners, the Iraq war has made the issue politically controversial. The NGOs accused European countries of breaking commitments made at a UN summit in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002 in which they agreed that "resources provided for debt relief do not detract from overseas development aid (ODA) resources intended to be available for developing countries". That charge was rejected by the British Government, which said that it was operating within agreed guidelines. The Monterrey consensus "makes no mention of ODA accounting, and ODA accounting was not within the competence of the Monterrey meeting", said a British official.

But Oxfam argues that the latest figures released by the UK suggest that its aid may actually have fallen between 2004 and 2005 if debt relief for Iraq and Nigeria is excluded.

In addition to debt cancellation, €840m of cash counted as development aid went to housing refugees within European countries and €1bn on education students within the EU. The NGOs claimed that €12.5bn - roughly one-third of all aid spent last year by EU governments - was not given directly to fight poverty.

EU countries are committed to setting aside 0.39 per cent of their gross national income for development by the end of this year with individual nations providing at least 0.33 per cent.

The European commissioner for development, Louis Michel, said that including debt write-offs was "clearly not prevented" by OECD criteria. His spokesman added that the EU would soon draft rules to better co-ordinate national aid programmes, which would include addressing the definition of what constituted official aid.

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"I've been in combat too long"

By Bill Katovsky

Summary: Max Cleland grew up in Lithonia, Georgia. After graduating from college he entered the Army as a signal officer and was given a desk job, but requested a transfer to Vietnam. During the siege of Khe Sanh, after surviving five days of point-blank rocket attacks on his hillside position, Cleland boarded a Chinook helicopter to set up a new communications post. Upon leaving the aircraft, he saw a grenade at his feet. Thinking that it was his, he reached down to pick up the grenade. It exploded. It was April 8, 1968. [...]

In 2002, what Cleland calls "the second big grenade in my life" blew up in his face. Running for reelection to the Senate, he was confronted by a Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss, who used the George Bush/Karl Rove playbook to smear him as a weakling on national security. Chambliss (who sat out the Vietnam war with a bad knee) ran a commercial that depicted Cleland's face morphing into that of Osama bin Laden. Cleland lost the election, a blow from which he says he still hasn't recovered.
Max Cleland grew up in Lithonia, Georgia. After graduating from college he entered the Army as a signal officer and was given a desk job, but requested a transfer to Vietnam. During the siege of Khe Sanh, after surviving five days of point-blank rocket attacks on his hillside position, Cleland boarded a Chinook helicopter to set up a new communications post. Upon leaving the aircraft, he saw a grenade at his feet. Thinking that it was his, he reached down to pick up the grenade. It exploded. It was April 8, 1968.

"When that grenade went off, I was totally conscious. Totally," Cleland recalled. "Saw the bone sticking out from my right arm. Body was on fire, filled with hot shrapnel. The flash burns seared my flesh and was the only reason I didn't burn to death right there. I was bleeding to death. Three men ran to me after the smoke cleared. I was burning. I was literally smoking, dying, and bleeding to death. They staunched the bleeding. Called in a chopper. Put me on the chopper and medevac'd me 50 miles to a hospital. A Quonset hut. I was just about to pass out by then. I said, 'Do what you can to save my leg.'"

"Every time I think about the incident," Cleland writes in his autobiography, "Strong at the Broken Places," "I blamed myself for getting wounded, for not coming back from the war whole, for somehow 'screwing up.' For thirty-two years, I had carried around the weight of that uncertainty. When I was having a bad night, the lingering self-doubt could keep me awake for hours."

In 1999, Cleland received a phone call from a former Marine who had just watched a History Channel show on combat medics in which Max was interviewed. The caller, David Lloyd, had been in the helicopter with Max. He was also the first to come to his aid, tying off the bleeding on one of his legs with a tourniquet fashioned from strips from Max's uniform and web belt. Lloyd then attended to a young soldier who was wounded by the blast. The soldier kept crying, "It's all my fault!" Fresh out of basic training and only in-country for several days, he had foolishly straightened out the pins of his grenades for quick access. That made them live grenades. When one fell loose from his pack, it exploded.

Lloyd's call changed Cleland's life. "David had given me an invaluable gift, the gift of peace of mind," Cleland said. "Finally, I can say, 'It was not my fault.' That is a great burden off my shoulders. It makes all the other burdens in my life seem less significant and more manageable."

Facing life as a triple amputee, Cleland sunk into despair. Politics pulled him out. At 28, he became the youngest member of the Georgia State Senate. Picked by President Jimmy Carter to head the Veterans Administration, Cleland created veterans' centers across the country and worked to create the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, a revolution in veterans' health care. He ran successfully for the U.S. Senate in 1996.

In 2002, what Cleland calls "the second big grenade in my life" blew up in his face. Running for reelection to the Senate, he was confronted by a Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss, who used the George Bush/Karl Rove playbook to smear him as a weakling on national security. Chambliss (who sat out the Vietnam war with a bad knee) ran a commercial that depicted Cleland's face morphing into that of Osama bin Laden. Cleland lost the election, a blow from which he says he still hasn't recovered.

Since then, Cleland has thrown himself into working for Iraq veterans. He campaigned on behalf of Tammi Duckworth, who recently won the Democratic nomination for an Illinois Congressional seat. Duckworth is an Iraq war vet who lost her legs in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade downed the helicopter she was flying.

Asked by NPR what it was in Duckworth that reminded him of himself, Cleland said, "Her sense of having been blown to Hell and back. And that, coming back to this country, you know that you're not going to sit on your rear end. You're not just going to collect a retirement or a pension. You're going to fight like hell for a new life, a new job, a new career and one in public service."

- - - - - - - - - - - -

I find myself today, going on sixty-four, a washed-up, dried-up prune of a military veteran who has been thrown on the scrap heap of time and looking back wistfully and saying, "I wished I'd done more to prevent the current disaster in Iraq that's exactly mocking the first disaster in Vietnam that I was personally a part of."

I go to Walter Reed Hospital now for trauma counseling. For my own self. Because it never ends. I've got post-traumatic stress disorder. Didn't know I had it. Anxiety and fear and all that crap. And it never goes away. But you can submerge it into a higher cause like politics.

So here I am, back at Walter Reed, thirty-seven years later, dealing with the trauma of Vietnam. I never got the counseling back then. But I look down the hall, and it's still 1968. Seeing all these young Iraq War veterans blown up, missing arms and legs and eyes, I just can't stand it. It triggers all of my stuff from Vietnam. And these young men had the same grit and courage that we had going off to war. You go up to 'em, and say, "How ya doing, son?" "Fine, sir!" they answer. But years later, it will take its toll. They just don't know yet.

I'm seeing the full circle of the Vietnam experience. What's happening today is that a certain number of young Marines and Army guys are doomed to get killed and blown up and have missing arms and legs and eyes, and maybe they'll be on the phone twenty to thirty years later talking to some guy writing a book about them. I have seen this movie before. I'm terrified that I'm seeing Vietnam all over again in my lifetime.

Iraq is Vietnam on steroids. I recently had a phone call from a friend of mine who was in the same infantry battalion that I later went into. He wrote the history of that battalion in a book called "The Lost Battalion." His name is Charley Krohn and he teaches at the University of Michigan. He is a hard-core Republican, but he transcends his party. He says, "We have the worst of both worlds in Iraq." Charley knows combat. His squad lost over half its men -- over twenty men -- in the woods outside Hue during the Tet Offensive.

Anybody who understands Vietnam or went through it, like me and Charley and others, sees this war in Iraq as nothing other than total folly. Its impact on me has been profound. It got me involved in the Kerry presidential campaign. It attracted my fellow Vietnam veterans who understood the arrogance of power and were wounded by it. When I speak with soldiers back from Iraq, they have the same deep, mixed feelings that we had when we came back from Vietnam. They are proud of having served their country. But then again, they are disgusted and angry with the way they were used and finding themselves in a situation where they get blown up and maimed and worse.

Bush has created a war that didn't have to happen. As Richard Clarke put it, "Invading Iraq after 9/11 was like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor." Instead of going after bin Laden and all of his terrorists in the mountains, Bush transferred those resources and those men on the ground to Iraq. We now see a new generation of terrorists willing to blow themselves up to take out a bunch of Americans. And you add the Iraqi people. What you have is an absolute disaster.

Bush has gotten young Americans killed and wounded and blown up in a shooting gallery in Iraq. In a way, that is criminal. It is grinding the American military down. People are going back for their third tours. We have in effect thrown in everything we've got. And it ain't working. It's getting worse. There's continued killing. And sooner or later either the people or Congress is gonna ask, "Is it worth it?" And they are gonna answer, "No!" And then where are all these young men and women who have lost legs and arms and eyes going to be? That's called Vietnam.

The main problem is that there is no exit strategy to win in Iraq. What was our exit strategy in World War I and World War II? My answer was to win. Former Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki requested 250,000 to 500,000 troops for Iraq. These additional troops were necessary to secure the population. Bush didn't want to go with that number. So there are not enough troops on the ground to win. We are trapped in the quagmire. And the American people will ultimately reject that. As a matter of fact, the majority of Americans think it is not worth it anymore. I knew it would happen. It took the American people about two years to come to that realization.

Sooner or later, the U.S. will ultimately withdraw from Iraq. What they have created in Iraq is a terror haven, a civil war that has no end. We destabilized Iraq. It had a stable government. We didn't like it. We had Saddam Hussein in a box. But this president went in and took Saddam Hussein out and thought that was gonna be the end of it. He didn't listen to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said, "Mr. President, do you understand the consequences?" Of course he did not. Not only didn't he know the consequences of those decisions, Bush wanted to be macho and be better than his daddy.

The people who got us into this war didn't want to learn from history. Of the 550,000 who served in Vietnam, 100,000 were foxhole strength. So Defense Secretary Rumsfeld wanted to go in on the cheap. The original Pentagon Plan for the invasion of Iraq called for 500,000. That's the first plan Bush was shown, because the Army has about 131 indices on a matrix that says: Given the terrain, given the forces, given the population, if you are going to invade the country and do regime change and have to occupy and secure the population and control the terrorists, then take all these factors and you come out with the X factor, which was 500,000 troops. Rumsfeld and Bush wanted to go in and do it on the cheap in a running start -- not as Colin Powell did in the first Gulf War and send 500,000 people in there at one time. Your ground war lasts ten hours and it's over. No. Not this crowd. They had no idea what they were doing. So the problem is that another generation of young Americans will come to grief over war. Under Bill Clinton, General Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, used to say, "American military is the great hammer. But every problem in the world is not necessarily a nail."

John Kennedy once described himself as an idealist with no illusions. In conflicts outside the boundaries and waters of the United States, you better be a realist. The history of the world teaches us that no foreign power is going to invade some country without tremendous opposition. We ran up against the Oriental mind-set in Vietnam. In the Middle East, they think in thousands of years: "Though it takes a thousand years for revenge, I'll get ya."

Sooner or later, the impact of the politics of unmitigated war in the Middle East will be felt here in America. But it will take time as the impact of these policies is felt in our pocketbook, in the gut, in the minds and hearts of American people. There is a great line by Benjamin Franklin. Coming out of Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, a lady asked, "Dr. Franklin, what kind of government do we have?" And he said, "We have a Republic -- if you can keep it." So this sense of an American experiment is not a given thing.

I've run across people -- young people, old people -- who want to continue the fight for what they perceive as the defense of democracy in our country. I met this lady who worked for former Senator Tom Daschle. They were clearing out his office on Capitol Hill. She said that she initially wanted to leave the country and move to Costa Rica. She then quoted something from Thomas Jefferson, and I will paraphrase: "Every generation has to decide anew whether it wants to continue this democracy." One of Kerry's campaign speeches used a quote from President Kennedy. It went: "Every man can make a difference. And all of us should try." That is what inspired me to get involved in politics.

When I had gone over to Vietnam, I was thinking it would be like South Korea. Finger in the dike. Stop the bad guys from taking over the south. You know, we are the good guys. They are the bad guys. I bought the whole premise. But then each week, each month that went by, I saw that we were more motivated than the South Vietnamese troops. Then I ran across a friend of mine who was an adviser to the Vietnamese. He was an Army captain. He said, "We are on the wrong side." The situation on the ground was completely different than we had been told. The Viet Cong went after us with dynamism, and they did so with such ferocity that they were looked upon as patriots. The Viet Cong swam in the sea of the people. They could not have existed had the public not supported them. So we became the new French.

I wound up being retired from the United States Army the day before Christmas Eve 1969. I was sitting in my mother's living room in my little hometown. No future. No hope. No job. No income. No apartment. No car. So the decade which had dawned with such promise in January 1961 and with such great words -- "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" -- ended up with me biting the whole bait. I went with the whole program. In Georgia, nobody would give me a job. Nobody was coming around and saying, "Oh, you're a great American hero." I'd have a friend take me to Atlanta and we'd get drunk. I'd come back and think, "What the hell kind of life is this?" So I decided to get back into politics. I really had no other alternative if I wanted to get out of all this pain and sorrow. Running for public office was something that would give me a sense of meaning and purpose and direction. It was something I could do to make a contribution. I had been interested in running for Congress, but I didn't think I could win as a fresh face. I looked at the State Senate, which included my hometown in the district. I thought, "Well maybe if I ran a good campaign, I could win." And so I ran and raised my own money.

After I got elected to the Georgia State Senate in 1970 and Jimmy Carter was elected governor, I put forward a resolution in the State Senate for the withdrawal of our ground forces in exchange for our POWs. Although I had never joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War, what began to sink into my mind, as I saw more and more casualties coming home with arms and legs lost, was, "This has got to stop." The only thing that I thought could get us out of Vietnam was to get our POWs back.

When he became president, Jimmy Carter took a big chance on me to run the Veterans Administration, because I was only thirty-four and I had never run anything bigger than a platoon. He put me in charge of a department larger than eight cabinet departments combined. And it was a glorious experience. Tremendous stress. Tremendous pressure. But we were highly focused. We were highly motivated. Because we had to take care of these Vietnam veterans coming back.

We created a diagnosis for PTSD -- post-traumatic stress disorder. The former chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives thought Vietnam veterans were crybabies. World War II guys didn't believe all this stuff. So, PTSD was created as a diagnosis. I created the vet center program with Senator Alan Cranston and Jimmy Carter. The first vet center I dedicated personally. It was in Van Nuys, California. It was me and two guys. No band. No flag. No flair. Nothing. Now there are twenty vet centers in the country. And they are swamped -- not only by veterans of the Vietnam era, but also from the Gulf War. Now more and more are from the Iraq War.

In four years, we also were able to create a new vocational-rehabilitation program, which had not been updated since World War II. We were able to do a helluva lot. But after Jimmy Carter lost the election in '80, I only got one phone call the next day. It was from a low-level guy in one of the veterans organizations. That was it. He said that I had the most thankless job in Washington.

I put my stuff back in a truck and hauled it back to Georgia. I moved in with my mother and daddy again for two years. And I then ran for Georgia's secretary of state. Won that. I was secretary of state for twelve years. I probably shoulda stayed there. But U.S. Senator Sam Nunn walked away from his seat. And Clinton was in office. It looked like good things were happening. I figured that the only reason I'd go to Washington would be to take Sam Nunn's place on the Armed Services Committee. So I ran and won. I thought that if I just worked hard and did a good job -- I looked after our troops and cared about Georgia -- that I would be re-elected and carry on Sam Nunn's legacy.

What I didn't reckon on happening was George Bush winning in 2000 and Karl Rove coming in and teaming up with Ralph Reed. And then in 2002, with the impact of 9/11, the Republican Party began trashing everybody as if they were un-American. I was actually an author of a homeland security bill along with Joe Lieberman. But the Chambliss campaign ran an ad saying that I voted against George Bush and homeland security. Well, I voted against some amendments while the bill was in committee. They just did their normal fear and smear job. And yet, I had voted for Bush's tax cut and I voted for the war, which is the worst vote I ever cast.

Looking back at my six years in the U.S. Senate, I take pride in the accomplishments during the early days. The expansion of NATO in Western Europe, in Poland and the Czech Republic and so on. It was literally the expansion of freedom. The march of justice and freedom expanding through the Western European theater and into some old Soviet-dominated areas.

Then came Clinton's impeachment. The trial in the Senate was the most awful experience you can possibly imagine. I was sick as a dog. Not just politically but personally. I had mononucleosis and didn't even know it. Viral infection in my sinuses. I just thought I was gonna die.

I voted not guilty. While Clinton lied and so forth, it certainly was not an impeachable offense. But it brought down the Democratic progress, and it activated the radical right. It gave them something to beat the Democrats over the head with in the elections of 2000. Which is one reason Bush won.

In the Senate, I also tried to push for families qualifying under the GI Bill to take care of the troops. After 9/11, under the flag that was flown at election time, good works seem to not matter. That is one of the powerful discouraging things about politics today. It's not what you produce or the good works that you do. It's whether or not you're able to withstand a thirty-second negative ad and if you're willing to go out and trash the other guy or gal just as badly. It's all character assassination politics now. It seems to carry the day. That's the sad part about it.

Personally, after my Senate loss on election night 2002, it went downhill from there. I still haven't emerged from that loss. In Robert Caro's book about Lyndon Johnson, LBJ said that he lost the South after the Civil Rights bill. By 1968, Nixon had embarked on the Southern strategy: "Go after the redneck boys on race. It'll bring 'em in every time." You know, it's become more subtle over the years. Certainly, it's what Ralph Reed had used against me in my 2002 re-election campaign. The Confederate emblem on the state flag was the incendiary bomb in Georgia politics. And it hit the third rail. Which killed us all. It gave the hatchet to the right wing. They raised the issue that Democrats were trying to take away Georgia's culture. The cultural war included the Confederate flag. That was their symbol. The Republicans were for the whites. The Democrats were for the blacks. They pulled the flag into their cultural issues of abortion, guns, gays, and God. Karl Rove got a lot of money to come down and push nothing but voter registration and turnout for white males. That's what was coming off the charts in anger against all Democrats. There was also George Bush's five visits to Georgia. They buried us with their strategy. It turned out an extra 140,000 angry white males who normally didn't vote. And it turned the mid-term election. Governor Roy Barnes and I lost by approximately the same margin.

When I'm in public office and doing something worthwhile in a cause, I have a mission and a purpose. I can perform and do great things and enjoy it magnificently. When I don't have that, I'm struggling with deep depression and discouragement and a sense of meaninglessness. When John Kerry announced his candidacy, he asked me to introduce him at Charleston, South Carolina.

With John Kerry, it looked like maybe the Vietnam War had produced a leader for the country who could translate that powerful negative into a very powerful positive experience, and with a new positive direction in our foreign policy. But that was not to be.

Today, there are no manners in politics. We've seen the viciousness with which the Republican crowd goes after people. They took out Senator John McCain in South Carolina in 2000; Senator Bob Smith in the New Hampshire primary, again a Vietnam War veteran; Chuck Robb in 2000 in Virginia; myself in 2002 in Georgia; John Kerry and Tom Daschle in 2004. The viciousness of their campaigns of character assassination has reached new levels. It's obvious that they threw out any rules of law. Now it's all about whatever it takes to win and devil take the hindmost. It's getting kids killed in Iraq and our foreign policy is at low ebb. The economy is going down. The dollar is getting weaker. Increasingly we are just the laughingstock of the world.

I'm a Democrat, so I cite Thomas Jefferson. He said there were basically two classes of people: one that tends to leave authority to the select few and the powerful, and the other is one that wants to give the people control. Jacksonian Democracy is really the fulfillment of that. Andrew Jackson. Old Hickory. The hero of New Orleans. He had a great line that I used for John Kerry. "One man with courage is a majority." I've been down to Andrew Jackson's home. The Hermitage outside of Nashville, Tennessee. He ran for president once and didn't make it. But he ran for president a second time and did make it. Ironic that such a man of the South represented Democratic ideals. Now, Democratic ideals are being shunned for the past twenty to twenty-five years in the modern South.

But anyway, the point is that the great history of the United States will ultimately triumph over any radical departure from real authentic American values which go all the way back to Plato and are echoed through Jefferson, Jackson, Benjamin Franklin, and a host of others. And that is the sense of wisdom and justice. And moderation and courage. In fact, with the phrase "equal justice under law," you really don't have an underpinning of law until there is a sense of justice. And what is justice? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That one man's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is just as valued as another man's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Therein lie your values of the democratic process.

This Republican crowd is a Trojan horse. They say one thing and do another. I don't think you have to be false with people. You have to tell the truth and seriously connect with people. Average citizens thought they were doing the right thing by voting for Bush and this crowd. You need to be honest and straightforward and real with the American people. Ultimately, as Lincoln said, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

I have no more desire to return to politics. I still have tremendous desire for public service. I'm on the Export-Import Bank Board right now, but I want to stay involved in public service in Georgia. But I have no desire to put my name on the ballot. I won't ever run for office again. I can't handle it. Because it did me in. It's too much physically and emotionally. So probably my best venue is out of the limelight. I'm like an old combat commander. I've been in combat too long. I was in combat for nine years, from October 1995 to just recently. I have known both military and political battles. I have been traumatically wounded by both. Winston Churchill said that politics is a lot like war, except in war, you get killed once. In politics you get killed many times.

Looking back on my career, I am proud of being the Veterans Administration head and dealing with the aftermath of the Vietnam War, in particular, putting together the program for veterans' centers, which deals with the emotional aftermath of war for veterans and their families. Thank God for that program, because it is being swamped by a new crew of Iraq War veterans. They are dealing with depression, anxiety attacks -- stuff like that. We have created a quarter of a million Iraq War veterans. In Vietnam, we had eight and a half million veterans. We are adding to that quarter of a million number every day. Walter Reed is swamped with bona fide casualties. Particularly amputees. The VA is swamped. They don't have enough resources. Senator Craig, a hard-core Republican from Idaho who is on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, admitted that the VA medical program was about a billion dollars short. The private counseling program is where it is most short. That is what ought to be beefed up. With all these Iraq War veterans coming home, their families will also need counseling.

Instead of "American Idol" on TV, we ought to be focusing on the lives of these young kids coming back with injuries that would have killed them in Vietnam, like concussions to the brain, because 85 percent of the casualties in Iraq are due to explosive devices. That's a shock and trauma to the system even if you survive it. It blows up your insides and your brain in a concussion that you won't ever get over. It is just terrifying to come back and have to live with that the rest of your life. But these kids are so brave and so courageous that we ought to be focusing on them. Instead, many people put a sticker on the back of their car that says, "We Support the Troops," and then they put a Bush/Cheney sticker on the other side. And think that that's America.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are trapped in a mixed message. Anytime you have troops at war, you are reluctant to criticize it. Because then you are attacked as un-American and unpatriotic. So it's hard to stand up and speak the truth. Those who do get trashed. They get attacked by the Slime Machine. The price to go up against them is awful. I was on the 9/11 Commission, but I resigned after a year because we would never get access to all of those presidential daily briefs. Ten, twenty years later you'll have another commission and go into this thing in depth. But right now, it's all part of this massive cover-up that somehow we are fighting the war on terrorism in Iraq.

The current political situation is enough to kill everybody's spirits. We are in a deep dark time in American history, but the American character is wonderful. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. recently told me that the great thing about our democracy is that it is self-correcting.

Excerpted with permission from "Patriots Act: Voices of Dissent and the Risk of Speaking Out," by Bill Katovsky. The Lyons Press.

-- By Bill Katovsky

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America - It Ain't Pretty

White House shake-up to continue?

By Suzanne Malveaux
Monday, April 3, 2006

CRAWFORD, Texas -- Presidential press secretary Scott McClellan and Treasury Secretary John Snow could be next in a shake-up in the Bush administration, according to White House and GOP sources.

The possible departure of both men could be among "several senior-level staff" announcements to come within the next couple of weeks, said former White House staff members, GOP strategists and administration officials.

"You're going to have more change than you expect," one GOP insider said.
One change already has been announced: Chief of staff Andy Card officially will leave April 14 and is being replaced by Josh Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Under one scenario, Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, would replace McClellan, Republican officials said.

But other GOP strategists said they believe McClellan's position is secure because of his close relationship with President Bush going back to Texas. McClellan was a communications aide to the president when he was governor of the Lone Star state.

Despite the administration's public comments of support for Snow, sources inside and outside the White House have said Bush has been ready to replace the treasury chief for the past year and has been searching for an "acceptable alternative."

Others are expected to survive the shake-up. Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, Vice President Dick Cheney's team, and Joe Hagin, Bush's deputy chief of staff, likely will stay, administration sources said.

The White House press office declined to comment on personnel decisions.

The changes would come during a tough stretch of time for the president, whose poll numbers have dropped, in particular because of growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq.

Focus on Congress, communications

In his new role as chief of staff, Bolten is focusing on improving White House communications and legislative affairs to regenerate the administration's message and performance, said sources familiar with his thinking.

"There are two positions he is anxious to turn -- Scott's position and legislative affairs," said a source with close ties to the White House.

"It's not about who but what is broken. He does not view it ... in terms of personalities, that's the way Josh thinks," another source said. "Josh keeps his counsel fairly close. He's very logical, and the logical place to start looking is communications."

Numerous Republican officials said the discussion is focused on McClellan.

"There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the state of communications, the daily communication from the podium, the congressional communications and strategic communications from both in and outside the White House," said one White House insider.

Another such insider said, "It is something the president would have to decide directly. While Josh Bolten wouldn't have to get permission to get rid of others, the president really likes McClellan. They go back all the way back to Texas. And Scott has no real intention of leaving."

Several Republican officials said one idea under consideration would be to have Bartlett take over McClellan's spot.

"Dan would have to let go of significant responsibilities. All the chairs would shift if that happened," said one GOP official.

Sources with close ties to White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace dismissed speculation she might leave. Recent reports revealed her husband, who has post at the U.S. mission to the United Nations, moved to New York last week.

'Elder statesman-type' sought for legislative liaison

Bolten is looking for a strong "elder statesman-type" to reach out to lawmakers, and many Republicans have complained the White House has dealt with Congress "as a transmitter but not receiver."

"The Bush White House has dealt with Congress in a highhanded way, and people are angry. But there is no magic cure," said one Republican official.

The future of Candida Wolff, head of legislative affairs, is unclear.

Many White House insiders said "she is not the problem," describing her as a "nice, smart, hard worker," but they said she is "too junior" to turn around the administration's poor relationship with some senior Republicans.

Some prominent names mentioned for the position include former Rep. Bill Paxon, a New York Republican, and former Sen. Phil Gramm, a Texas Republican.

Paxon, a lawmaker from 1989-99, is described as "someone everyone likes" and "after 10 years or so out of the spotlight might be ready to roll again."

Gramm, who stepped down in 2002, is described as "someone who would be a great play for the base but not a strong on the communications front."

Sources close to former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tennessee, and GOP adviser Vin Weber are no longer on the short list for legislative liaison.

Sources: Dissatisfaction with Snow not new

GOP sources said that even before the change in chief of staff was announced, Bush had been trying to find a replacement for Snow.

A couple of weeks ago, Bush offered the job to Time Warner Chairman and CEO Dick Parsons, who turned down it, sources said. (Time Warner is the parent company of CNN.com.)

Sources said the White House has had difficulty getting someone to accept the position.

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has expressed interest but is said not to be close to the president. Gramm has also expressed interest.

While those close to Snow dismiss talk of his imminent departure as rumor, one acknowledged "he's not going to be turning down the lights in January 2009 for the next guy to come in. ... He's going to leave at some point in time when it makes sense, but now he's focusing on his work."

But many White House and Republican officials are not so diplomatic.

"You've got an economic team that can't communicate about the economy. You've had two terrible secretaries. He's seen as really bad," an official said.

Comment: If Bush is still in office, it isn't enough change.

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A Dark Day Revisited

By Sean Smith and Jac Chebatoris
April 10, 2006 Issue

Five years later, Hollywood is betting that America is ready for films about what happened on 9/11. Are we?

If movie trailers are supposed to cause a reaction, the preview for "United 93" more than succeeds. Featuring no voice-over and no famous actors, it begins with images of a beautiful morning and passengers boarding an airplane. It takes you a minute to realize what the movie's even about. That's when a plane hits the World Trade Center. The effect is visceral. When the trailer played before "Inside Man" last week at the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, audience members began calling out, "Too soon!"

In New York City, where 9/11 remains an open wound, the response was even more dramatic. The AMC Loews theater on Manhattan's Upper West Side took the rare step of pulling the trailer from its screens after several complaints. "One lady was crying," says one of the theater's managers, Kevin Adjodha. "She was saying we shouldn't have [played the trailer]. That this was wrong ... I don't think people are ready for this."
We're about to find out. "United 93" is the first feature film to deal explicitly with the events of September 11, 2001, and is certain to ignite an emotional debate before and after it opens on April 28. Is it too soon? Should the film have been made at all? More to the point, will anyone want to see it? Other 9/11 projects are on the way as the fifth anniversary of the attacks approaches, most notably Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center," starring Nicolas Cage, opening Aug. 9. But as the harbinger, "United 93" will take most of the heat, whether it deserves it or not.

The real United 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field after 40 passengers and crew fought back against the terrorists who had hijacked the plane. Writer-director Paul Greengrass ("The Bourne Supremacy") has gone to great lengths to be respectful in his depiction of what occurred, proceeding with the film only after securing the approval of every victim's family. "Was I surprised at the unanimity? Yes. Very. Usually there are one or two families who are more reluctant," Greengrass writes in an e-mail. "I was surprised and humbled at the extraordinary way the United 93 families have welcomed us into their lives and shared their experiences with us." His team's research was meticulous. "They even went so far as to ask what my mother had been wearing on the plane," says Carole O'Hare, whose 79-year-old mother, Hilda Marcin, died on the flight. "They were very open and honest with us, and they made us a part of this whole project." Universal, which is releasing the film, plans to donate 10 percent of its opening weekend gross to the Flight 93 National Memorial Fund. That hasn't stopped criticism that the studio is exploiting a national tragedy. O'Hare thinks that's unfair. "This story has to be told to honor the passengers and crew for what they did," she says. "But more than that, it raises awareness. Our ports aren't secure. Our borders aren't secure. Our airlines still aren't secure, and this is what happens when you're not secure. That's the message I want people to hear."

It's unclear whether Americans will pay $9.50 to hear it. The A&E cable movie "Flight 93" drew 5.9 million viewers in January, the highest-rated show in the channel's history. But movies are different. "I don't want anyone to go who doesn't want to have this experience," says Adam Fogelson, Universal's president of marketing. "But when I see what's on screen, I feel comfortable that a lot of people will." Audiences seem to be split on the issue. "I don't think that's a movie I really want to see," says Jackie Alvarez, 73, of San Ramon, Calif., after seeing the trailer. "It gave me the creeps. It's way too soon." But 17-year-old Antoine Richardson of Memphis, Tenn., is looking forward to it. "I don't think it's exploitative or too soon," he says. "It helps us remember." As if any of us could forget.

Comment: Yup, it's "too soon". And that's exactly what the crooks in Washington - including Bush - are betting on: that you and I not only don't want to know the truth, but that we can't even stand to think about 9/11. And some people think the idea that the Bush government would use 9/11 for its emotional impact is treasonous!

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Father questioned after children found dead in blazing car

Monday, April 3, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The bodies of two young children were found in a burning car Sunday, and police suspect their father set the blaze, officials said.

After extinguishing the fire, firefighters discovered the bodies of two children in the sport utility vehicle on a downtown alley, said Brian Humphrey, a fire department spokesman.
Their names and ages were not immediately released.

"There were two individuals that were placed in a car -- two kids -- and the car was set on fire," police Sgt. Lee Sands said.

"We believe the person responsible for this crime is the children's father."

The 54-year-old father was found near the SUV with severe burns on his face, hands and legs, authorities said.

He was hospitalized in critical condition and being questioned by police.

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Justices Decline Terror Case of a U.S. Citizen

The New York Times
April 4, 2006

WASHINGTON - Jose Padilla, the American citizen held for more than three years in military custody as an enemy combatant, fell one vote short on Monday of persuading the Supreme Court to take his case.

Four votes are necessary for the court to take a case, and Mr. Padilla's appeal received only three. The result was to leave standing a decision by the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., that endorsed the government's power to seize a citizen on United States soil and keep him in open-ended detention.

Nonetheless, the outcome was not the unalloyed victory for the Bush administration that it might have appeared to be.
Three justices who voted not to hear the case - Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and John Paul Stevens, along with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. - filed an unusual opinion explaining their position. They noted that Mr. Padilla, who is now out of military custody and awaiting trial in federal district court in Miami on terrorism-related charges, was entitled to a criminal defendant's full range of protections, including the right to a speedy trial.

Most significant, the three justices warned the administration that the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, stood ready to intervene "were the government to seek to change the status or conditions of Padilla's custody."

The comment was clearly a reference to the sequence of events last fall, when the administration, days before it was due to file a brief in response to Mr. Padilla's Supreme Court appeal, announced that it had obtained a grand jury indictment and planned to shift him to civilian custody.

The administration then filed a brief arguing that the appeal had to be dismissed as moot, since Mr. Padilla was getting the relief he requested when he filed his original petition asking to be released from custody or charged with a crime.

The Miami indictment charges him with providing material support to terrorists as part of a cell that is said to have sent money and recruits overseas. He is being held without bail; a trial is scheduled for Sept. 9.

In simply turning down Mr. Padilla's appeal, Padilla v. Hanft, No. 05-533, the court did not make a formal determination that the case was moot. But Mr. Padilla's transfer from military custody to the civilian justice system rendered his legal claims, "at least for now, hypothetical," Justice Kennedy said in the explanatory opinion, which the two other justices signed.

"Even if the court were to rule in Padilla's favor, his present custody status would be unaffected," Justice Kennedy said.

In shifting Mr. Padilla to civilian custody, the government said that it reserved the right to redesignate him as an enemy combatant and send him back to military custody. His lawyers argued that for that reason, the Supreme Court should hear his case.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed, filing an opinion on Monday dissenting from the court's refusal to hear the case.

"Nothing the government has yet done purports to retract the assertion of executive power Padilla protests," Justice Ginsburg said, adding that "nothing prevents the executive from returning to the road it earlier constructed and defended." She said she was "satisfied that this case is not moot."

Justices David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer did not sign Justice Ginsburg's opinion, noting only that they, too, had voted to hear the case.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who voted against hearing the appeal, neither signed Justice Kennedy's opinion nor offered an explanation of their own. It is possible that they objected to the language in the Kennedy opinion about the court's readiness to intervene "promptly to ensure that the office and purposes of the writ of habeas corpus are not compromised" if the administration were to change Mr. Padilla's status once again.

The silence of these three justices was only one of several mysteries surrounding the court's disposition of the case, among the most prominent of the cases generated by the administration's handling of those it has labeled enemy combatants.

One mystery is what took the court so long. Mr. Padilla's appeal had been pending for months, and had been taken up by the justices at their weekly closed-door conference eight times since mid-January. That length of time was hardly needed to produce the four pages of opinions, three for Justice Kennedy and one for Justice Ginsburg, that the court issued on Monday.

Another mystery is the role played by Justice Stevens, who signed Justice Kennedy's opinion rather than provide a crucial fourth vote to his natural allies - Justices Ginsburg, Souter and Breyer. Two years ago, Justice Stevens wrote for Justices Ginsburg, Souter and Breyer in dissent from an earlier ruling in Mr. Padilla's legal saga.

That was a 5-to-4 decision holding that the federal appeals court in New York, which had ordered Mr. Padilla released, lacked the authority to decide the case. The five justices in the majority then required Mr. Padilla to file a new habeas corpus petition seeking release in South Carolina, where he was held in the Navy brig in Charleston.

Justice Stevens, dissenting, criticized the majority as failing to address the merits of Mr. Padilla's case, which he said "raises questions of profound importance to the nation."

In her dissenting opinion on Monday, Justice Ginsburg quoted those words, identifying them as those of Justice Stevens. As a careful writer, not given to wasting words herself, Justice Ginsburg appeared to be sending a signal of her dismay at Justice Stevens's failure to join her in dissent this time.

The two mysteries - the lengthy consideration and the role of Justice Stevens - may not be unrelated. It is possible that the Kennedy opinion was the result of a long negotiation, and that the price Justice Stevens exacted for not giving the dissenters the crucial fourth vote needed to hear the case was insertion of the language that can be read as warning the administration not to presume on the court's patience.

The test may come if Mr. Padilla is acquitted by a jury in the Miami federal case or receives and serves a short sentence. The government would then have to decide whether to set him free or find a way to keep him confined.

The federal court charges against him bear little if any relationship to the accusations the administration made after he was arrested after arriving at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on a flight from Pakistan.
He was then described as an operative for Al Qaeda on a mission to detonate a dirty bomb in the United States.

In another development on Monday, the court agreed to resolve a dispute among the lower courts with implications for thousands of deportation and criminal sentencing cases. The question is whether a drug offense that is only a misdemeanor under federal law, but that an individual state's criminal code treats as a felony, is deemed an "aggravated felony" for purposes of immigration law or for adding time to a federal sentence.

The issue is particularly important in immigration law because deportable aliens with "aggravated felonies" on their records are ineligible for administrative discretion, making their deportation essentially automatic, no matter the individual circumstances. To resolve the issue, the court accepted two cases, Lopez v. Gonzales, No. 05-547, and Toledo-Flores v. United States, No. 05-7664.

Comment: Sure it was. The Supreme Court is dancing around and putting on a good show while the Bush gang continues to play games with Americans' lives. Think about it: the Supreme Court "endorsed the government's power to seize a citizen on United States soil and keep him in open-ended detention". If that isn't fascism, what is?! It's also nice to see that, to protect our liberties from those "evil terrorists", Bush and his gang are destroying those same freedoms. Alas, the "terrorists" have won and Bush has failed. Isn't that a good reason to impeach the whole White House gang?

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Moussaoui ruled eligible for September 11 death penalty

Tuesday April 4, 4:46 PM

A US jury ruled that would-be Al-Qaeda suicide pilot Zacarias Moussaoui is eligible for execution, deciding his lies cost lives in the September 11 attacks.

"You will never get my blood, God curse you all," Moussaoui, the only person tried in the United States over the deadly 2001 strikes, shouted at the public benches as he was led from court.
A new phase of the trial, with harrowing testimony from survivors and relatives of some of the nearly 3,000 people who perished, will begin Thursday, to decide whether the sentence is carried out.

Judge Leonie Brinkema pierced the suffocating tension of the seventh floor courtroom, in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, as she read out the verdict.

She declared the jury had found against Moussaoui on three capital counts of conspiracy to commit terrorism, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to destroy aircraft.

"Ladies and gentlemen, are these ... your unanimous verdicts?" Brinkema asked, drawing nods from the nine men and three women who had deliberated for 19 hours stretched across three days.

Moussaoui, who stunned the trial last week by declaring he had been picked to fly a hijacked airliner into the White House on September 11, 2001, sat in a trance-like state, muttering what seemed to be a prayer as the verdict was read out, a smile playing across his lips.

Before he was led into court, wearing a green prison jumpsuit and white-knit cap, Moussaoui had chanted loudly in an adjacent holding cell. "Allah Akbar" (God is great) and other, undecipherable shouts were heard.

Relatives of some of the September 11 victims, who sat for days watching court testimony, were in the third row of the courtroom.

"We couldn't have a better closing, for all of us, even those who don't believe in the death penalty," said Rosemary Dillard, who lost her husband Eddy in the attacks.

"We know he is guilty."

Abraham Scott broke down as he remembered his wife Janice, who perished at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

"It's very emotional ... it's hard to describe. I thought I would be delighted but I wasn't.

"I don't think Moussaoui is totally to blame, even though I think he deserves death. I equally blame the government."

Lorie Van Auken, a 9/11 widow from New Jersey, said she did not think Moussaoui should be eligible for death.

"I don't think he contributed to what happened on September 11th. I think he's been scapegoated," she said.

Also in New York, Charles Wolf, who lost his wife in the World Trade Center, worried that if the jury follows through and says Moussaoui should be put to death, he would be rewarded with the matrydom he craves.

"I don't want to play into his hands, I want to be smarter than that," Wolf said.

The US government, which saw its failure to stop the attacks exposed in a catalogue of bungles, missteps and mistakes highlighted by defense lawyers, savoured a legal victory in the war on terror.

"We are pleased with the jury's ruling in this important case," Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said in a statement.

"Our efforts on behalf of the victims of 9/11 will continue as we pursue the next phase of this trial," Scolinos said.

A French lawyer representing Moussaoui said defense lawyers would wage an "at all costs" battle to save his life.

"We are going to do all we can in an attempt to convince the jury ... that the death penalty should not be carried out," Francois Roux told AFP in a telephone interview.

The defense team, he said, was working on framing a picture of Zacarias Moussaoui's past, personality and deprived upbringing in France, and would call several French witnesses to testify either in person or by video link.

The jury's decision means they accepted the government's argument that Moussaoui's lies, "with lethal intent", in jail after his arrest in August 2001 directly resulted in the deaths of at least one person on September 11.

Had he told about his knowledge of the plot, authorities would have been able to unroll a massive prevention operation, and would have stood a chance of stopping the attacks, the government claimed.

Defense lawyers had urged the jury not to make the 37-year-old Frenchman a hero, and to deny him the matyrdom on which he appeared to have set his sights.

Defense counsel Edward MacMahon said: "Moussaoui was not involved in the 9/11 plot, no matter what he says."

Moussaoui stunned the trial with his claim that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had ordered him to fly an airliner into the White House on September 11.

The jury will now have to decide whether Moussaoui should be executed or go to jail for life, without the possibility of parole. The new hearings will start on Thursday.

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Denver Airport Screener Roughs Up Woman, 83, in Wheelchair

April 2, 2006

'I don't know if she thought my mom had a bomb in her Depends or what'

An infuriated Denver woman has filed a complaint with the Transportation Security Administration after a security screener forced her 83-year-old mother to get out of her wheelchair and walk to a pre-flight screening area, despite doctor's orders not to stand and an orthopedic card saying she had a metal plate in her hip.

The incident at Denver International Airport occurred eight days ago when Sally Moon, her sister and a Frontier Airlines employee were transporting Bernice "Bea" Bogart to a special security screening area. Moon's sister, who did not have concourse clearance and the Frontier employee were left behind as Moon pushed her mother to the screening site.
Bogart, wheelchair bound since a 1999 fall that broke her hip and further disabled by breast cancer surgery in 1997 and a major stroke in 2004 that caused dementia, was under strict doctor's orders not to stand without assistance or her walker. She carried a special orthopedic card to alert airport security she had a metal plate in her hip.

Moon had been told by Frontier and TSA staff that screeners would not require Bogart to leave her chair for the security check, so she turned to put her mother's carry-on luggage through the x-ray device. When she turned back, she discovered her mother had been picked out for further screening and was out of her chair, "hobbling" through a glass-walled corridor.

"There were no grab bars," Moon told the Rocky Mountain News. "What I could see really was her fingers trying to hang onto a little ledge."

Moon says she instinctively reached out to assist her mother, fearing another fall and another broken hip.

"Don't touch her!" Moon says the screener warned.

Moon attempted to tell the young screener, a woman in her mid-to-late 20s, that her mother was under doctor's orders not to stand without her four-wheeled walker, but the screener shot back, "You'd better change your attitude. Or do you want me to make it so you don't fly today?"

Bogart, who is also hard of hearing, was allowed to sit briefly, but the screener soon instructed her to stand again and lift her arms, according to Moon. She then reportedly lifted Bogart's arms because the elderly woman couldn't, due to her earlier breast cancer surgery.

Moon says she was told to sit across the room "or else" when she continued to protest.

After the "prolonged search," the pair was cleared to continue to their gate and Moon put her "shocked" mother on the flight to Tennessee for a month's visit with Bogart's youngest daughter.

An angry Moon attempted to complain to Denver's TSA management, but was told to make her complaint to the national office. Supervisors would not tell her the name of the screener who had made boarding her mother so difficult.

"I don't know if she thought my mom had a bomb in her Depends or what," Moon said.

While Moon is still angry and cynical that TSA will do anything about her complaint, a Denver TSA spokeswoman said the agency expects a high degree of professionalism from screeners and Moon's complaint would be investigated. TSA's Office of Civil Rights will soon issue a response, she said.

"When we receive complaints, we take them very seriously, we investigate them and we address any personnel issues as appropriate," she said.

Bogart, now in Nashville, says she doesn't want to see anyone get in trouble.

"They were all kind except for that one girl. I thought she was a little harsh," she said. "She wouldn't let my daughter help me. And I have a hard time standing very long at a time at all."

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Red Cross Gives Up Control of Katrina Aid

Associated Press
Mon Apr 3, 2:05 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The American Red Cross is relinquishing control over some disaster aid dollars and cracking down internally on "improper conduct" that tainted its response to Hurricane Katrina.

A 24-page statement to a Senate panel, set to be released later Monday, is the first in a series of reforms undertaken by the nation's largest charity since acknowledging last year that its $2 billion response to the Aug. 29 Gulf Coast storm fell short.
Responding to recent allegations of waste, the Red Cross said it is moving to standardize financial controls, hire more investigators to review whistleblower complaints and cede control to churches and faith-based groups in underserved areas.

"Could the Red Cross and the entire nonprofit community have done better? Undoubtedly," wrote Red Cross chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter to Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, whose committee is leading the congressional inquiry.

"There is no excuse for the instances of improper conduct which impacted on our performance and response during Hurricane Katrina and on our continued relief and recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast," McElveen-Hunter said.

The reform proposals come as some lawmakers, including Reps. Jim McCrery, R-La., and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., have questioned whether Congress should rethink its national disaster response plan that gives the Red Cross the primary role and the dollars that flow with it.

Critics said the Red Cross failed to respond quickly enough in some low-income, minority areas, while internally some volunteers and employees have questioned whether charity dollars are being put to their best use.

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Former Head Of Star Wars Program Says Cheney Main 9/11 Suspect

Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones
Prison Planet.com
April 4 2006

Official version of events a conspiracy theory, says drills were cover for attacks

The former head of the Star Wars missile defense program under Presidents Ford and Carter has gone public to say that the official version of 9/11 is a conspiracy theory and his main suspect for the architect of the attack is Vice President Dick Cheney.
Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret. flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam. He is the recipient of the Eisenhower Medal, the George F. Kennan Peace Prize, the President's Medal of Veterans for Peace, the Society of Military Engineers Gold Medal (twice), six Air Medals, and dozens of other awards and honors. His Ph.D. is in Aeronautics and Nuclear Engineering from Caltech. He chaired 8 major international conferences, and is one of the country's foremost experts on National Security.

Bowman worked secretly for the US government on the Star Wars project and was the first to coin the very term in a 1977 secret memo. After Bowman realized that the program was only ever intended to be used as an aggressive and not defensive tool, as part of a plan to initiate a nuclear war with the Soviets, he left the program and campaigned against it.

In an interview with The Alex Jones Show aired nationally on the GCN Radio Network, Bowman (pictured below) stated that at the bare minimum if Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were involved in 9/11 then the government stood down and allowed the attacks to happen. He said it is plausible that the entire chain of military command were unaware of what was taking place and were used as tools by the people pulling the strings behind the attack.

Bowman outlined how the drills on the morning of 9/11 that simulated planes crashing into buildings on the east coast were used as a cover to dupe unwitting air defense personnel into not responding quickly enough to stop the attack.

"The exercises that went on that morning simulating the exact kind of thing that was happening so confused the people in the FAA and NORAD....that they didn't they didn't know what was real and what was part of the exercise," said Bowman

"I think the people who planned and carried out those exercises, they're the ones that should be the object of investigation."

Asked if he could name a prime suspect who was the likely architect behind the attacks, Bowman stated, "If I had to narrow it down to one person....I think my prime suspect would be Dick Cheney."

Bowman said that privately his military fighter pilot peers and colleagues did not disagree with his sentiments about the real story behind 9/11.

Bowman agreed that the US was in danger of slipping into a dictatorship and stated, "I think there's been nothing closer to fascism than what we've seen lately from this government."

Bowman slammed the Patriot Act as having, "Done more to destroy the rights of Americans than all of our enemies combined."

Bowman trashed the 9/11 Commission as a politically motivated cover-up with abounding conflicts of interest, charging, "The 9/11 Commission omitted anything that might be the least bit suspicious or embarrassing or in any way detract from the official conspiracy so it was a total whitewash."

"There needs to be a true investigation, not the kind of sham investigations we have had with the 9/11 omission and all the rest of that junk," said Bowman.

Asked if the perpetrators of 9/11 were preparing to stage another false-flag attack to reinvigorate their agenda Bowman agreed that, "I can see that and I hope they can't pull it off, I hope they are prevented from pulling it off but I know darn good and well they'd like to have another one."

A mainstay of the attack pieces against Charlie Sheen have been that he is not credible enough to speak on the topic of 9/11. These charges are ridiculed by the fact that Sheen is an expert on 9/11 who spends hours a day meticulously researching the topic, something that the attack dogs have failed to do, aiming their comments solely at Sheen's personal life and ignoring his invitation to challenge him on the facts.

In addition, from the very start we have put forth eminently credible individuals only for them to be ignored by the establishment media. Physics Professors, former White House advisors and CIA analysts, the father of Reaganomics, German Defense Ministers and Bush's former Secretary of the Treasury, have all gone public on 9/11 but have been uniformly ignored by the majority of the establishment press.

Will Robert Bowman also be blackballed as the mainstream continue to misrepresent the 9/11 truth movement as an occupation of the fringe minority?

Bowman is currently running for Congress in Florida's 15th District.

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Political and Presidential - Ponerology

Berlusconi TV gets new fine for breaking vote rule

By Rachel Sanderson
Mon Apr 3, 11:45 AM ET

ROME - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's broadcasting company received its third fine on Monday in as many weeks for having given too much airtime to its founder in the run-up to next week's general election.

Italy's independent communications watchdog fined Mediaset's TG4 news shows 250,000 euros ($300,000) just hours before the tycoon, who is lagging in opinion polls, faces challenger Romano Prodi in their last TV debate before the April 9-10 vote.
RAI state television will host the debate at 9:15 p.m. (1915 GMT).

The watchdog said it had served TG4, run by Berlusconi's friend Emilio Fede, with the maximum possible sanction because it had continued to fail to share airtime equally between Berlusconi and his rivals even after a fine for bias a week ago.

Newscaster Fede, one of the most familiar faces on Italian television, is an unabashed cheerleader for Italy's richest man, saying recently he loved the prime minister "like a brother."

"The privileged support that TG4 constantly offers its publisher, the prime minister, shows its allergy to the idea of a conflict of interest," said Enzo Carra, television spokesman for the opposition leftist Daisy Party.

Mediaset, which is 38 percent controlled by Berlusconi through a family holding company, was not immediately available for comment but has said it thought its previous fines -- totaling 300,000 euros for two programs -- were unjustified.

Berlusconi's control of the media -- he directly or indirectly controls 85 percent of Italian TV -- has dominated election debate with the tycoon denying accusations of a conflict between his political office and business interests.

Berlusconi, whose empire spans TV and radio to magazines, books, advertising, movies and football, bombarded Italians with television appearances in the campaign's first five weeks before stricter election laws governing media coverage began.

He has since complained of unfair treatment and argued that not being given all the air time he needed to answer questions made him unexpectedly lose his first TV debate against Prodi on March 14.

But data published in Corriere della Sera newspaper showed Mediaset channels gave Berlusconi total airtime of 10 hours, 21 minutes and 4 seconds from January 1 to March 15, compared with 1 hour, 35 minutes and 21 seconds for Prodi, who has said he is not keen on TV appearances.

The picture was little different at RAI state TV, which Berlusconi indirectly controls as head of government.

Chairman Claudio Petruccioli said last week Berlusconi's center-right coalition had gained nearly twice as much news coverage on RAI as the opposition during the election period.

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Russians Sense the Heat of Cold War

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, April 3, 2006; Page A14

MOSCOW -- In this city, it's beginning to feel like a new Cold War, driven by what many people here see as an old American impulse: to encircle, weaken or even destroy Russia, just as the country is emerging from post-Soviet ruins as a cohesive, self-confident and global power.
The specter of a U.S. nuclear first strike even resurfaced this month. An article in Foreign Affairs magazine, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested that the United States could hit Russia and China without serious risk of retaliation. That sent heads spinning here with visions of Dr. Strangelove.

"The publication of these ideas in a respectable American journal has had an explosive effect," former Russian prime minister Yegor Gaidar wrote in an article in London's Financial Times newspaper. "Even those Russian journalists and analysts who are not prone to hysteria or anti-Americanism took it as an outline of the official position of the U.S. Administration."

"Today, it's accepted by most of the establishment that we are under pressure, that we are being surrounded, and it's leading to a defensive nationalist vision," said Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute of the United States and Canada in Moscow.

Intensifying U.S. criticism -- that Russia is rolling back democratic institutions, interfering in the countries of the former Soviet Union and using its vast energy resources to further its interests -- is leading to widespread resentment here and seen as little more than self-serving rhetoric. Russians widely believe that U.S. programs to promote democracy in Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus are a Trojan horse intended to sideline Russia and expand NATO.

Academics point to reports such as one released recently by the Council on Foreign Relations: "To ease Russian pressure on neighboring states," it said, "the United States should work to accelerate those states' integration into the West."

"We are gradually being pushed to the northeast of the Eurasian continent away from the seas . . . to the place where the depths of freezing is more than two meters," said Natalia Narochnitskaya, vice chairman of the international affairs committee in the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, and a member of the nationalist Rodina Party.

She rues the loss of the three Baltic states to European Union and NATO membership and the possible loss of Russia's naval presence on the Black Sea.

"The messianism of American foreign policy is a remarkable thing," she said. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks, Narochnitskaya said, "it seems like Khrushchev reporting to the party congress: 'The whole world is marching triumphantly toward democracy but some rogue states prefer to stay aside from that road, etc. etc.' "

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks appeared to put U.S.-Russian relations on a new and remarkable footing. President Vladimir Putin facilitated the stationing of American troops in Central Asia to support military operations in Afghanistan. In 2002, Putin, still regarded as a reformer, was offered a year-long chairmanship of the Group of Eight leading industrial democracies.

Today, some public figures in the United States, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have suggested that President Bush boycott the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg this summer to register dismay at Russia's foreign policy and its internal direction.

Many U.S. officials hold up the administration of President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s as imperfect but headed in the right direction; people here say those years were simply chaotic.

"For a person of democratic and liberal persuasions, I can say that Russia has never been freer or more affluent," said Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. "Putin inherited a non-state, so he first wants to build a state and create the conditions for modernization and democracy. Do I worry about some domestic developments? Of course. I could be more critical than most Americans. But it's like blaming winter for following autumn."

In Moscow, strains in the relationship are viewed more as a result of the United States' inability to accept the fact that Russia is no longer the servile entity of the 1990s -- when it blustered but, in the end, always caved because it was weak.

"We have safeguarded and will safeguard our national interests," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters last week. "If someone dislikes this, this is not our problem."

On certain issues, such as the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, Russian officials say they will work with the West, but on their own terms. There is, for instance, broad agreement with the United States that Iran should not acquire nuclear weapons, but little consensus on what steps to take to prevent that from happening. Russia is opposed to imposing sanctions on Iran, with which it has strong economic ties.

But in the area known as Russia's "near-abroad," the former Soviet republics at its periphery, Russia and the West often take diametrically opposed views of the same situation.

In Belarus, Western governments condemned the recent reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko as a farce. Russia declared the contest free and fair, as it has in contested ballots across the former Soviet Union.

Even if Russians recognize electoral fraud, they are not going to concede the point, said Rogov. "My suspicion is that since we see no better alternative, we prefer the status quo -- no matter how bad it is."

Narochnitskaya said the underlying issue is not democracy but influence. "The hysteria around Belarus and the demonization of President Lukashenko has more to do with his anti-NATO, anti-Western stand than his lack of democracy," she said. "Belarus is a missing piece of the puzzle assembled from the Baltics to the Black Sea. There are points on the map where we can yield, but there are some where it's important not to do so."

The point that appears to animate Russians most is Ukraine. Since that country's Orange Revolution, the popular protests that swept President Viktor Yushchenko into power 16 months ago, relations between the two countries have soured. At the beginning of this year, the Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom briefly cut off natural gas supplies, which are critical to Ukraine's heavy industry and households. In parliamentary elections last month, Yushchenko's party suffered a humiliating setback to a Moscow-backed candidate.

In Washington and European Union capitals, the cutoff was seen as punishment for Yushchenko's Western orientation, particularly his desire to bring Ukraine into NATO.

For Russia, such a move would be anathema. The defense and civilian industries of the two countries remain closely intertwined, and Russia's Black Sea fleet is based in the Crimea on Ukrainian territory.

"The idea of admitting Ukraine into NATO is hammering the final nail into the coffin of Russia as an independent great power," Rogov said. "We go out, you go in. Unfortunately, it's almost a consensus in Russia that the West is trying to isolate Russia."

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Tom DeLay Plans to Resign From Congress

AP Special Correspondent
April 4, 2006

WASHINGTON - Succumbing to scandal, former Majority Leader Tom Delay intends to resign from Congress within weeks, closing out a career that blended unflinching conservatism with a bare-knuckled political style.

Republican officials said Monday night they expect the Texan to quit his seat later this spring. He was first elected in 1984, and conceded he faced a difficult race for re-election.
"He has served our nation with integrity and honor," said Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who succeeded DeLay in his leadership post earlier this year.

But Democrats said the developments marked more than the end to one man's career in Congress.

"Tom DeLay's decision to leave Congress is just the latest piece of evidence that the Republican Party is a party in disarray, a party out of ideas and out of energy," said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

A formal announcement of DeLay's plans was expected Tuesday at a news conference in Houston.

DeLay is under indictment in Texas as part of an investigation into the allegedly illegal use of funds for state legislative races.

Separately, the Texan's ties with lobbyist Jack Abramoff caused him to formally surrender his post as majority leader in January, within days after the lobbyist entered into a plea bargain as part of a federal congressional corruption probe.

More recently, former DeLay aide Tony Rudy said he had conspired with Abramoff and others to corrupt public officials, and he promised to help the broad federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud that already has resulted in three convictions.

Neither Rudy, Abramoff nor anyone else connected with the investigation has publicly accused DeLay of breaking the law, but Rudy confessed that he had taken actions while working in the majority leader's office that were illegal.

DeLay has consistently denied all wrongdoing, and he capped a triumph in a contested GOP primary earlier this year with a vow to win re-election.

In an interview Monday with The Galveston County Daily News in Texas, DeLay said his change of mind was based partly on a poll taken after the March Republican primary that showed him only narrowly ahead of Democrat Nick Lampson.

"Even though I thought I could win, it was a little too risky," the paper quoted him as saying.

In a separate interview with Time Magazine, DeLay says he plans to make his Virginia condominium his primary residence, a step that will disqualify him from the ballot in Texas and permit GOP officials there to field a replacement candidate. "I can do more on the outside of the House than I can on the inside right now. I want to continue to fight for the conservative cause. I want to continue to work for a Republican majority," DeLay told the magazine for its online edition.

It was not clear Monday night whether Texas Gov. Rick Perry would call a special election to fill out the unexpired portion of DeLay's term, or whether the seat would remain vacant until it is filled in November.

Either way, DeLay's concern about the potential loss of a Houston-area seat long in Republican hands reflected a deeper worry among GOP strategists. After a dozen years in the majority, they face a strong challenge from Democrats this fall, at a time when President Bush's public support is sagging, and when the Abramoff scandal has helped send congressional approval ratings tumbling.

Until scandal sent him to the sidelines, DeLay had held leadership posts since the Republicans won control of the House in a 1994 landslide. At first, he had to muscle his way to the table, defeating then-Speaker Newt Gingrich's handpicked candidate to become whip.

But DeLay quickly established himself as a forceful presence - earning a nickname as "The Hammer" - and he easily became majority leader when the spot opened up.

He sat at the nexus of legislation, lobbying, political campaigns and money.

And while he was a conservative, he raised millions of dollars for the campaigns of fellow House Republicans regardless of their ideology, earning their gratitude in the process.

He supported tax cuts, limits on abortions, looser government regulation of business and other items on the conservative agenda, and he rarely backed down.

DeLay was the driving force behind President Clinton's impeachment in 1999, weeks after Republicans lost seats at the polls in a campaign in which they tried to make an issue of Clinton's personal behavior.

His trademark aggressiveness helped trigger his downfall, when he led a drive to redraw Texas' congressional district boundaries to increase the number of seats in GOP hands.

The gambit succeeded, but DeLay was soon caught up in an investigation involving the use of corporate funds in the campaigns of legislators who had participated in the redistricting.

He attacked prosecutor Ronnie Earle as an "unabashed partisan zealot," and said numerous times he hoped to clear himself of the charges quickly and renew his claim to the majority leader's office.

The trial has yet to begin.

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US project to rebuild health system has run out of money

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
The Independent
04 April 2006

A plan to build 142 health clinics in Iraq has run out of money with only 20 of the centres completed.

The contract, awarded to the US company Parsons, was intended to restore Iraq's healthcare system, once considered the best in the region. Instead the contractor will walk away having completed just 15 per cent of the planned construction, unless emergency funding can be found.
Naeema al-Gasseer, the World Health Organisation's representative for Iraq, told The Washington Post it was a "shocking" state of affairs. "We're not sending the right message."

The US Agency for International Development says that in Iraq "diarrhoea, measles, respiratory infections and malaria - compounded by malnutrition affecting 30 per cent of children under five - contribute to excessive rates of infant and child mortality". Child malnutrition has doubled since the invasion, according to Jean Ziegler, the UN Human Rights Commission's expert on the "right to food", and now stands at around 7.7 per cent.

Brigadier General William McCoy, the US Army commander with control over reconstruction projects in Iraq, said emergency funds were being sought for the clinics from the US military and foreign donors.

Comment: But there's still plenty of money left for killing people!

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Bush's Paper Trail Grows

By John Prados
April 4, 2006

On March 27, The New York Times published an article based on access to the full British record of the Iraq policy conversation that President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair held on January 31, 2003, as recorded by Blair's then-national security adviser David Manning.

British legal scholar Philippe Sands had already revealed this discussion in his book Lawless World, and the British television network Channel 4 had -- two months ago -- printed many of the same excerpts of Manning's memo, but the Times coverage focused new attention on the memo, previously ignored by the U.S. media.

The memo reveals that the two leaders agreed that military action against Iraq would begin on a stipulated date in March 2003 -- despite the fact that no weapons of mass destruction had been found there. The memo reveals how the two leaders mulled over ways to supply legal justification for the invasion. Indeed this record supplies additional evidence for the view that Bush planned all along to unleash this war.

Suddenly, the media descended upon the Bush White House demanding explanations. Spokesman Scott McClellan answered that "we were preparing in case it was necessary, but we were continuing to pursue a diplomatic solution." McClellan tried to turn the question around by insisting that the press had been covering Bush at the time chronicled in the memo, implying that if the truth were different the press should have known better.
He referred repeatedly to a December report from U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to back his assertion that Iraq had failed to cooperate with the inspections. Evidently that cowed the reporters, for there has been little follow-up. But White House damage control should not be allowed to cover up this evidence that the president knew his case for war was based on faulty evidence.

First, the evidence is overwhelming that Bush hosted the January 31 meeting to manage his move to war, not as an occasion to review progress toward disarming Iraq. The record of the session shows this -- with talk of the war plan, the starting date, the justification and the securing of a second U.N. resolution as a legal cover, but there is more than that. Consider the context: the day the memo was taken U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell began the extensive review at the CIA of the allegations he would use to make his Security Council "briefing" -- already scheduled -- supposedly "bulletproof." It was also that same day that the codebreaking National Security Agency issued a directive to spy on the friendly nations who were members of the U.N. Security Council to divine their attitudes on the move to war.

The day before, according to Bob Woodward's account, Bush had told Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, "We will kick ass." By his account, Berlusconi tried to dissuade Bush from war. Woodward duly notes the president resorting to his standard line that no decision had yet been made on military action. The Manning memo suggests otherwise, with Bush revealing March 10 as the projected date for beginning bombing -- a campaign to hit 1,500 targets in four days, the "shock and awe" which U.S. officials bragged about at the time. Moreover, on January 24, the U.S. military commander, General Tommy Franks, had sent his final war plan up through Rumsfeld to the president. Bush's comment to Blair on January 31, that "he was not itching to go to war," is belied by the entire surrounding structure of events.

The other significant finding in the Manning memo concerns Tony Blair's intentions. The press reporting at the time -- regardless of what Scott McClellan says today -- was that the purpose of the Blair-Bush meeting was to decide whether there needed to be a second U.N. resolution. Postwar investigations in London show that in late January Blair received official advice from his attorney general Lord Goldsmith that such a resolution was necessary to fulfill the terms of the existing resolution 1441. At the meeting with Bush, however, the record shows Blair presented the project as a convenience. "If anything goes wrong... a second resolution would give us international cover, especially with the Arabs," Blair said, according to Manning's memo.

Bush went along with Blair's talk of a resolution, but his own propositions on justifications for war revealed his true lack of interest in U.N. action. Bush speculated about deceiving Saddam into shooting at U.S. aircraft phonied up to look like U.N. planes, or getting an Iraqi scientist to assert that WMD were being concealed. The most widely reported aspect of the Bush-Blair meeting was these speculations (talk of a Saddam assassination was less justification than opportunity).

Bush told Blair he would "twist arms" to get a U.N. resolution, corresponding exactly to the NSA spy directive, which would track the success of Bush arm-twisting through U.N. members' own communications. Regardless of the outcome, Bush told Blair, "military action would follow anyway." Blair's assurance at that point that Britain stood with the U.S. put him squarely in the box with Bush of seeking to initiate an aggressive war.

Finally, on the matter of U.N. inspections, David Manning appears to have engaged in some policy advocacy, as opposed to strictly confining himself to recording the proceedings of this meeting in his memorandum to Tony Blair. Manning's paper notes the conversation among the leaders on the urgency of action if Bush's timeline was to be met. Blair's adviser argued that, "We therefore need to stay closely alongside Blix, [and] do all we can to help the inspectors make a significant find." But Manning's view did not reflect the realities of -- at least -- U.S. intelligence cooperation with the inspections. Rather, the CIA had been parsimonious in its help, taking weeks to begin providing tips, and then holding back many of its target folders, while national security adviser Condi Rice had put pressure on Blix to declare Iraq in violation.

Immediately upon finishing their talk, at 4:12 p.m. Bush and Blair appeared before newsmen, where Bush declared, "Saddam Hussein is not disarming. He is a danger to the world." Bush then added archly, "This issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months," an almost exact repetition of Blair's comment at their secret meeting, as recorded by Manning, that "we should be saying that the crisis must be resolved in weeks, not months."

President Bush asserted, inaccurately, that Resolution 1441 "gives us the authority to move without any second resolution," a position the Attorney General of Great Britain had rejected only days before. Blair followed up, insisting that Dr. Blix had told the Security Council that Saddam was not cooperating with UN inspectors. In fact, what Blix had said when he reported to the U.N. on January 27 was that there had been difficulties with the Iraqi government but the situation was improving, and he added that his inspectors had made 300 visits to 230 different sites without finding any evidence of WMD. Nuclear inspector Mohammed ElBaradei had agreed, "We have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program." Hans Blix's own take on the Bush-Blair conversation rings true: "The U.S. government did not want to raise the hope that there was any way out but war."

On balance the newly revealed record of President Bush's secret meeting of January 31, 2003, confirms that by that date Bush's Iraq war was certain. The Manning memo supplies an explicit picture of Bush not merely cherrypicking only the intelligence he wanted to use, but scheming to overcome the consequences of not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In all likelihood the debate over the Iraq war will come to center on the question of how much sooner than January 2003 was Bush's war policy cast in stone. Was it September 2002, when Bush blurted out "I don't know what more evidence we need" and set up the White House Iraq Group to sell the war? Was it April at a previous Bush-Blair summit in Crawford or December 2001 when General Franks presented the first war plan to the president? Was it on or immediately after 9/11 or was it the day George W. Bush took the oath of office as President of the United States?

John Prados is a senior fellow of the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C., and author of Hoodwinked: The Documents that Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War (The New Press).

Comment: The following is a comment on this article posted by an Alternet reader:

Posted by: Tom Degan on Apr 4, 2006 2:30 AM

Imagine, if you will, that a president who led the children of America into a war based on indisdputable lies was named Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton! A duly elected representitive of all the people who was almost removed from office for lying about having a harmless fling with a half-witted intern! Can you just imagine the hell that would have broken loose on the far right? Impeach? They would now be seeking the death penalty!

Why is it that Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and John Conyers of Michigan, two men of undeniable courage, are now treated by their colleagues as political pariah's? In short, what's wrong with this picture?

Why is it that the House and Senate are unable to muster up the courage to pass a mere censure of the president? What's wrong with our representitives?

A man walked up to me after having a look at the large, magnetic, custom-made "IMPEACH BUSH" sign on my van (that was stolen late that evening) and he said to me, "If Bush is impeached, someone oughtta put a bullet in Bill Cinton's brain". What's wrong with that man?

Twice the electorate sent to the White House an administration so mired in corruption, incompetence and stupidity that anyone paying even cursory attention couldn't have failed to pick up on it.

What's wrong with America?

And now, due to the wrecklessness and criminality of our "rulers" we're about to experience a total socio-economic catasrophe and I'm not even contemplating moving to Canada.

I ask you: What the hell's wrong with me?

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

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Controversial election fails to break political impasse in Thailand

www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-04 18:57:24

BANGKOK, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Thai caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has claimed victory in Sunday's snap election, a poll called by him three years earlier in hopes of defusing protracted street protests and rallies demanding his resignation. But the outcome apparently failed to appease his foes, who vowed to go on with their rallies until the premier steps down.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Tuesday the opposition would run in by-elections if Thaksin quit now. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which spearheaded two months of street rallies against Thaksin, threatens to resume their protests on Friday unless the premier quit.

In a live interview Monday night, Thaksin claimed his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party's leading place in last weekend's election, garnering 57 percent of the total popular votes. He said according to unofficial results, the party received 18 million out of the total 28 million votes, down from 19 million last year.

Most of by-elections had to be held in Thailand's south, an opposition stronghold which long complained of the government's failure to curb violence along the strip bordering Malaysia.

There is no guarantee any further rounds of ballot-casting could produce MPs, in which a minimum 20 percent eligible votes are required, said the Election Commission (EC).

However, in the vast North and Northeast region, Thaksin-led TRT has scored another mandate relying on the unwaiving support from some 60 million farmers who benefited from the government's populist policies.

Swore in five years ago, the CEO-style telecom tycoon has steered his country out of the shadow of 1997 financial crisis by undertaking structural reforms and boosting consumer demand.

The government launched mass poverty-lifting plans, hailed by the grass-root civilians, but lambasted by opposition and critics as means of buying votes in a more sophisticated form.

Through his cabinet's strenuous efforts, Thailand declared the early repayment of International Monetary Fund (IMF) debts in 2003. The stock market rebounded, real estate boomed and economy maintained a continuous growth. This year, the Thai Chamber of Commerce forecast up 5 percent economic growth, compared to 4.5 percent in 2005.

Thaksin also won high marks for his leadership in responding to the Dec. 26 tsunami in 2004 and the efforts to contain bird flu. The high-profile performance helped him secure a second term in 2005 with an overwhelming grip of 377 parliamentary seats, making him the first ever premier being re-elected in decades in a country long ruled by military and disturbed by coup.

But some of the shine has gone off Thaksin's reputation. Critics and Bangkok urban elite accused him of everything from abuse of power to mismanagement of the southern unrest as well as corruption, abuse of power and cronyism.

The anti-Thaksin demonstration ballooned following Thaksin's family sold their 50-percent stake in Shin Corp, the telecoms giant he founded before entering politics, to a Singapore investment company late January.

The 1.9 billion dollars tax-free deal sparks allegations of wrongdoing and abuse of power by the critics and became the focal point for an escalating political confrontation which have been brewing among portions of the middle class people in Bangkok.

On Feb. 24, the premier abruptly dissolved the parliament and called snap elections on April 2 as a way out of political dilemma which has thrown the country onto the brink of chaos.

Despite the boycott by three major opposition parties, Thaksin has determined to push forward the polls which he portraited as a referendum on his rule.

After the futile appeal for Thailand's revered King to name a new prime minister, the opposition rejected Thaksin's offer to form a national unity government once he returns with fresh mandate.

Buoyed with the solid support from mass countryside population in the north, Thaksin has promised not to take office if mustering less than 50 percent of the votes.

Still, the boycott of the three major opposition parties combined with the disqualification of some 400 obscure-party candidates left Thaksin's party unopposed in 276 out of the total 400 constituencies, nearly 70 percent of districts.

While claiming victory, the embattled premier floated the idea to set up a panel of eminent people to resolve political crisis, which was again turned down by his foes.

The Democratic Party said they were not interested in the offer and no longer trust the prime minister.

Media mogul Sonthi Limthongkul, who launched the anti-Thaksin campaign last September, said the offer was another attempt by Thaksin to maintain the grip on power and would go ahead with a large-scale demonstration scheduled for Friday.

Chamlong Srimuang, a former politician and core leader of anti-Thaksin rallies, on April 2 affirmed the mainstream protest would be resumed after the election until the prime minister resigns.

Democrats have repeatedly accused TRT of hacking into the EC's database to enable disqualified candidates to run apart from paying candidates to make them contest in the poll.

Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the only certain outcome of the poll was a political mess that could ultimately embroil the Constitutional Court, suggesting no quick fix to a crisis that has wrecked the stock market and economic growth forecasts.

The country may get a new premier, but questions of legality and legitimacy will likely grow louder. This is likely to take a toll on the economy as foreign and local investors wait to see what becomes of the political uncertainty.

Domestic consumption and even the export sector could take a hit if this situation is prolonged, said political analysts.

According to Thai Chamber of Commerce, Thailand's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth could drop to some 3.2 percent from the projected 4.5 percent if the conflict remain unsolved. The country will fail to move forward with several free trade agreement and a portfolio of infrastructure mega-projects.

The outlook for constitutional amendments also seems bleak, given that the civic and pro-democracy groups are unlikely to support supervision by TRT of such a crucial process, they said.

"Thaksin is the only candidate. Even if he wins, it will be difficult for him to rule because the country is split," said Chalongphob Sussangkarn, president of the Thailand Development Research Institute, an independent think tank.

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An Average Joe's Spectacular Lies

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 03 April 2006

Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.
- Edmund Burke

Page four of Sunday's Washington Post carried a story titled "The President as Average Joe," which described how George W. Bush is trying once again to cast himself as a regular fella so as to boost his anemic poll numbers. "As he takes to the road to salvage his presidency," reported the Post, "Bush is letting down his guard and playing up his anti-intellectual, regular-guy image."
Most of us, presumably, know enough "Average Joe" types to fill a room. Most of us, presumably, don't know a single "Average Joe" type who could pull off a trick like the one reported by the New York Times last week. The issue centered, once again, around a memo that was drafted before the invasion of Iraq.

"During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003," read the Times, "[Bush] made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by the New York Times."

"The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable," continued the Times report. "Mr. Bush predicted that it was 'unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.' Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment. The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein."

Comment: Fake a UN plane? Set up your opponent? Where have we heard this before?

Quite a nifty trick for an Average Joe, yes? This was from the same regular fella who ever-so-earnestly told journalist Helen Thomas last week that he didn't want war, because no president wants war. Here we have merely another lie, an accent in a symphony of lies. If Bush did not want war, why decide upon an attack despite the absence of the public motivator for attack, the weapons of mass destruction? Why try to goad Hussein into a fight?

Remember when the administration made that humorous little video of George searching the Oval Office for the weapons of mass destruction way back when? It was truly an "Average Joe" moment that, in light of the revelations afforded by this pre-war memo, brings the yellow bile up the back of the throat.

Seven more American soldiers died in Iraq over the last few days, bringing the total to 2,332. It is difficult to count the number of civilians who have been slaughtered in the it-isn't-a-civil-war-not-really violence of the last several weeks. It takes a special kind of "Average Joe" to get so many people killed in so short a time thanks to lies of such width and breadth. Most "Average Joes," after all, lie about sex or fishing or their bowling score from Saturday night.

Most "Average Joes," likewise, enjoy being considered straight-shooters. They don't hide from hard truths and expect to be able to handle whatever comes their way. Mr. Bush, it seems, would rather be massaged with pleasing fictions from his staff, and is perfectly happy to have his handlers encase him in bubble-wrap to protect him from the aftershocks resulting from astonishingly bad decisions.

Reporter Murray Wass, writing for the National Journal, wrote another essay last week that exposed more of the lies that were used to trick the people of this nation into supporting the unnecessary and criminal invasion of Iraq. "Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser," wrote Waas, "cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address - that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon - might not be true."

"The pre-election damage-control effort in response to (Ambassador Joseph) Wilson's allegations and the broader issue of whether the Bush administration might have misrepresented intelligence information to make the case for war had three major components," continued Waas. "Blame the CIA for the use of the Niger information in the president's State of the Union address; discredit and undermine Wilson; and make sure that the public did not learn that the president had been personally warned that the intelligence assessments he was citing about the aluminum tubes might be wrong."

It is disturbing enough to encompass the hard fact that there has not been, at any point, an element of "incompetence" in the process that has left us in such a deranged state in Iraq. Virtually every item on the Bush administration's wish list has been obtained in the last four years, thanks to the invasion, occupation and conveniently subsequent mess that has followed. Objectively, one must know that a barrage of falsehoods was required to create such a situation. To see these lies exposed one after another, like a long line of sausage links, would seem to be beyond tolerance.

Sadly, our collective ability to absorb and discard such terrifying information appears to be without limit. The revelations offered by the New York Times regarding Bush's pre-invasion decision to go to war no matter what, and his decision to goad Iraq into a war whether or not they posed a threat, passed through the waters of the mainstream media with nary a ripple. The same went for Mr. Waas's report; the information he provided in such scathing detail was met by the mainstream press with a thunderous nothing.

It is almost amusing. The pundits and politicos are justifying each other's vapid and useless existence these days by carrying forth an empty debate as to whether or not Mr. Bush and his people lied us into a war. Yet when hard evidence of these lies is presented in stark black and white, the response is a whistling silence.

The duality is astonishing; if you are callow enough to subject yourself to the dreck that passes for news on television, you might actually see someone acknowledge the existence of the evidence of these lies before turning on a dime to claim that no one lied about anything. Maybe, just maybe, you'll see someone claim the administration is "incompetent."

No one who lies so often or so effectively can be described as incompetent. This kind of thing requires nimble skills combined with an utter absence of conscience.

"Iraq is becoming a country that America should be ashamed to support," reads a chilling New York Times editorial from Sunday, "let alone occupy. The nation as a whole is sliding closer to open civil war. In its capital, thugs kidnap and torture innocent civilians with impunity, then murder them for their religious beliefs. The rights of women are evaporating. The head of the government is the ally of a radical anti-American cleric who leads a powerful private militia that is behind much of the sectarian terror."

Not a bad day's work for an Average Joe.

Comment: So, given all of the above, when will William Rivers Pitt wake up to the truth about 9/11?

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Israel Lobby? What Israel Lobby?

U.S. Support for Aggressive Zionism, the Real Problem in the Middle East

By Albert Doyle, LL.B., LL.M.

"So likewise a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification...

"Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and con- fidence of the people, to surrender their interests."- Washington's Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

The Bush administration would have Americans believe that the problems in the Middle East are caused by Saddam Hussein, Muslim fundamentalism and mindless terrorism. Increasingly Bush & Co. see all foreign policy matters through the distorting lens of their own "war on terrorism" vision. In fact, a principal if not the main cause of conflict in the Middle East is another "ism," namely Zionism and the blind support given it by the United States.
The latest confusions, reversals and failures of U.S. policy in the Middle East all trace back to long-standing U.S. support for Zionism. Increasingly, as Bush ties himself ever tighter to the policies of Ariel Sharon, it comes down to Israel and the United States against the world, the recent administration claims of a right of "preemptive attack" on Iraq being just the latest example. Americans must examine closely to what they are being tied and where we are going, morally as well as politically.

Zionism is essentially Jewish nationalism rooted in 19th century racist, colonialist thinking gilded over with a "religious" patina. The earliest Zionists saw security for persecuted Jews in a "return" to Palestine and those early leaders were clear if circumspect to the point of deceit about having to displace the Arab inhabitants of Palestine to secure their goals.1 Zionism became serious about a century ago as east European Jews emerged from their village religious culture, although many early Zionist leaders were not religious Jews. The early Zionist movement was vigorously opposed by more assimilated western European Jews as well as most Jewish religious leaders; it gained support, although still a minority, on the break up of the Ottoman Empire and really got off the ground with the World War I British Balfour Declaration which promised Zionists a homeland in Palestine in exchange for certain services to the British. Palestinian Arabs, Muslim and Christian, were at the time the large majority in Palestine and the famous declaration contained the cynical and impossible condition (now forgotten) that the Jewish homeland was not to be at the expense of the majority Arab population of Palestine. In fact, the Zionist state which came into being was precisely at the cost of that majority of Palestinian Arabs. Today we are expected to forget this but not surprisingly the victims have had trouble with the idea and still do. Ariel Sharon intends to bludgeon them into submission to virtual slave status, at best, and "ethnic cleansing" at worst. The question is whether America should support this. Few want to face this question, least of all our political leaders.

The actual Zionist state came into being when authorized by the United Nations at the end of World War II, fueled by western sympathy for European Jews persecuted by the Nazis and a deeper traditional Biblical-based belief in the "right" of a Jewish "return" to the Holy Land. The subsequent hallmark characteristics of that state have been the accelerating "ethnic cleansing" of the majority Arab population, open defiance of many United Nations criticisms of its abuses of Palestinians, occupation of territory beyond its internationally mandated borders by violence (Israel has never defined its own borders), the utter destruction of large numbers of Arab villages within Israel2 and the planting of its own citizens in occupied territory in violation of international law. These actions are justified by Zionist claims of aggression by the Arabs who indeed initially did resist the Zionist takeover. As in British-ruled Ireland of past centuries this resistance to occupation became "disloyalty," or in this case "terrorism," and serves to excuse further dispossession. The British of course no longer rule in Ireland which may be instructive about the longer term effectiveness of such policies.

Such acts would certainly justify the label of "rogue state" if pursued by any other country. Shockingly, they have been supported by successive U.S. administrations and Congresses blinded by "passionate attachment" to the Zionist state. What has caused this to come to pass? The current rhetoric about the "war on terrorism" certainly doesn't explain it. The passionate attachment long predated the current intifada and the suicide bombers. The intifada and suicide bombings have of course provided a handy excuse for posturing about "wars on terrorism" by Zionists and their supporters, while ignoring the real causes of conflict.

A serious if often hidden factor in this long-standing support of Zionist goals in Palestine is the strain of Biblical fundamentalist religious belief running deep in the American Protestant tradition, the dominant religious tradition in the United States. As just one example of many which could be given, we note Woodrow Wilson (the selfproclaimed "son of the manse" in this case) promising to deliver Palestine to Jewish Zionist leaders after World War I when Jews constituted a small minority in that country and as an exception to his "crusade for democracy" elsewhere. His position was based on his religious beliefs and he was not alone. Similar views were held by many U.S. politicians and are still held by many. These views also had an ugly negative side of serious bias against Muslims, Arabs and specifically Palestinians, who were widely perceived as inferior, backward people, obstacles to Jewish inspired progress in the Middle East. Ludicrous though it may seem today in the light of current events, many thought that the Palestinians would benefit by the Jewish domination in Palestine and the Zionists who had no such intentions allowed this view to continue.3

Certainly a major factor in the passionate attachment was also sympathy for the Jews because of their mistreatment by the Nazis, the well known and constantly promoted "Holocaust." The Holocaust is still used to justify violations of Palestinian rights - even though the Arabs had no part in the Nazi mistreatment of the Jews. Jews, mostly from Eastern Europe initially, flooded into Palestine after World War II although at the time they were still a small minority in Palestine and owned little of the land.4 Alarmed Palestinian Arabs did not accept this invasion, protested and resisted (sometimes with violence) but obtained little sympathy from the victorious allies and they were overcome by the superior armed forces of the Zionists who also engaged in widespread terrorism, deliberately encouraged Arabs to flee, as modern revisionist Israeli historians now concede. Nevertheless, to this day the Zionist lies told at the time are often repeated; that the Arab states caused the exodus. Although this propaganda lie is now discredited in Israel,5 it is still often heard in the United States from Israel's passionate defenders. Palestinian expellees in 1948 constituted 54% of the then Arab population of Palestine. Several years ago the U.N. estimated that there were 4.6 million displaced Arabs in camps in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and a total of 5.4 million "refugees." All Palestinian Arabs are estimated to total 8.5 million, greatly outnumbering Israeli Jews (see Prior 1).

Many Palestinians were driven out of their homes, farms and businesses into refugee status and to this day are denied the right to return, against all rules of international law. Their properties were seized without compensation by a variety of means, ranging from crude to devious (e.g., from outright violent military expulsion to "legal" seizure of "abandoned property," claims of state security needs, etc.) all of which come down to one unpleasant description - seizure or theft.6 When forced to explain this many Zionists fall back on comparison with past colonialist usurpations by others, for example the treatment of the American Indians. Modern humanitarian consensus, international agreements and treaties, painfully worked out by the nations of the world in the aftermath of bloody modern wars, are simply ignored - or it is boldly claimed that they don't apply to Jews who see themselves as unique victims in world history and thus presumably entitled to oppress others. Some even claim divine authority for these acts and support of fundamentalist American Christians is important in this evil.

The Palestinian refugees, most of whom trace back their history in the land thousands of years, are denied the right of return to their homes, while any Jew, however remote his connection (if any) with Palestine, is entitled to enter Israel under the Laws of Return, usually with significant financial subsidies. This racist and illegal system is supported financially by the United States taxpayer who has given Israel financial and military hardware support now totaling about $100 billion, far more than any aid to any country, including the Marshall Plan aid to all of Europe after World War II. Americans so concerned about the financial health of the U.S. Social Security and Medicare systems ignore this huge outflow and it is seldom mentioned in the media.

All of this was accomplished under cover of a palisade of outright lies that continue to this day - that the refugees had left voluntarily, that the land was a desert before the Jews came, that there were few Palestinians, and other similar nonsense still widely supported by American Jews and many others.7 Some of the worst falsehoods are now recognized and discreetly ignored in Israel today but amazingly still appear routinely in the U.S. media and Zionist propaganda in America. "National security" lies are practiced from time to time in all countries but Israel surely leads the league in volume, crassness and external support! Many brazen examples can be given but some of the worst were the barefaced lies told by Abba Eban to the world and to his sympathetic American government contacts at the beginning of the 1967 war when he denied flatly that Israel had started the war, a fact now conceded by everyone, including most scholars in Israel. (The back-up lie is that it was all justified because of impending Arab attacks - another falsehood, itself now being slowly exposed in turn.)

The bottom line: the Zionist state was created at the cost of a huge historic and human injustice to the Palestinian Arabs, while western governments and the U.S. in particular averted their gaze. Political Zionism was not supported by most religious and secular Jews at the time of its development and this still holds true today among a minority of Jews worldwide who see Judaism as a religion not as a political movement.

The shocking fact is that all of this is known to many of the people in responsible places in our government. Nevertheless they try to avoid thinking about it and do not dare to mention any matter reflecting badly on Zionism because, in the case of the non-Jews in particular, they covet their positions and fear the consequences of incurring the wrath of the Zionist lobby. That lobby is very powerful in this country. It can and does unleash a highly effective intellectual and economic reign of terror against any public figure who dares speak out against Zionist injustices. Criticism of Israel is now routinely claimed by the Zionist lobby to be evidence of "anti-semitism" and no politician dares risk that accusation. The politically dead bodies of the few Congressmen and Senators who dared to question the Zionist steamroller litter the ground in Washington as a reminder.8 Every Washington politician knows this. And they also know there is no U.S. political downside for following the Zionist line. For this reason, with cause, Congress has been called "Israel occupied territory." Billions in "aid" flow yearly without a murmur.

Seldom discussed but also very important, Christian Biblical fundamentalism is still a major factor in U.S. attitudes. Fundamentalist American Christians in the millions now constitute the blindest of Zionist true believers, outnumbering by far the Jewish Zionists in America. The seriousness of this is illustrated by a recent example: a prominent U.S. political leader, Congressman Dick Armey, apparently a Protestant fundamentalist, recently called openly for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from Palestine and it passed virtually without comment in the U.S. media. Can you imagine what would have been the reaction if he called for the removal of the Jews from Palestine? The motive of these Christian Zionists is mainly a primitive, literalist interpretation of certain parts of the Old Testament which causes them to believe that God is on the side of the Zionists in the Holy Land no matter what they do. Many Protestant Christian fundamentalists also expect the conversion of a remnant of the Jews to Christianity as a prelude to the return of the Messiah and the end of the world, a belief quietly ignored by Zionists who take what they can get from whatever source.

Finally, the American public is traditionally and tragically ignorant about foreign countries in general and little interested in foreign events, as often noted by outsiders who visit our shores. This ignorance and lack of interest makes it easy to propagandize Americans about foreign affairs. The Bush administration has benefitted from this in that its inept foreign policy seldom comes under serious criticism and blind, jingoistic support for anything claimed to relate to "the war on terrorism" is now the order of the day. Zionists have exploited this crude ignorance, never more than now. Ignoring their own long-term abuses and world condemnation, they claim to be motivated in their recent brutalities only by the new Bushian "war on terrorism." They have also recently become quite concerned to "reform" the Palestinian leadership, a hypocritical stance which impresses only the U.S. administration.

The result of this background of ignorance, religious fundamentalist dogma and lies is that successive U.S. administrations continue to support Israel with an almost hypnotic devotion - a startling modern example of George Washington's warning about "passionate attachment" to foreign countries. No other nation benefits from this extreme emotionalism. Not even Britain. A gigantic transfer of wealth from the United States to Israel occurs with virtually no Congressional oversight. The result has been the creation of a powerful Zionist military machine in the Middle East which bullies its enemies and creates new enemies for the sponsor of that machine, the United States. The constant wailing of the Zionist lobby that Israel is in danger of being "driven into the sea" by militarily powerful surrounding nations is regarded as somewhat of a joke in Israel, but not here it seems. The reality is that it is the Palestinians who are in danger of being driven out of their country - into the sea so to speak! The current Arab intifada, created by desperation, with its suicide bombings provides a convenient cover for the Israelis and the Bush administration to avoid dealing with the cause of this conflict - aggressive Zionism - and to shift public attention to "terrorism" which after all is the result of the problem, not the cause.

Many United Nations Security Council Resolutions critical of Israeli actions over the years have been blocked by the United States veto or are opposed by the U.S. in the General Assembly in ludicrous votes of 120 or so to 2, 3 or 4 with the three of four being the U.S., Israel and sometimes one of our puppets like Micronesia or the Marshall Islands. We have become a world laughing stock for these votes but few Americans know or care. It is in the United Nations that the "passionate attachment" is most apparent but unnoticed by the American public. At home the huge annual "aid" passes silently. Recently in the United Nations things reached a ludicrous stage when the United States reversed the position on a peace-seeking resolution it had sponsored originally when the Israelis decided they didn't like it. The U.S. also blocked a move to send U.N. peacekeepers to Palestine after the recent Jenin massacres, a move supported by virtually the entire world and one which would have saved many lives. The passionate attachment has a cost and it is the blood of innocent people, Arabs, Jews and others.

Our leaders often say that Israel must be supported because it is a democracy and an ally. We've heard a lot of that recently. Indeed Israel has many structures of a democracy: political parties, elections, a somewhat free press, etc., but on even cursory examination it is a democracy only for Jews. Legal and extralegal discrimination of various kinds against non-Jews is an accepted part of the system of that country, very much like the former South African regime.9 These include inability of non-Jews to own property, to move freely, and many others. Arabs inparticular are regularly subject to abusive, humiliating restrictions in their own land - not to mention the continued seizure of their property, deprivation of water, etc. These things are mostly ignored in our media, but when mentioned are excused on grounds that they are necessary for Israel's security. In fact they trace back to fundamental Zionist policies long predating the Arab intifada, etc. The reality is that "Israel's security" means that discriminatory rules are necessary to insure a xenophobic, racist state - a state in reality "for Jews only." The security of the majority is not a factor. Can you imagine the outcry if Ireland or Poland excluded minority non-Catholics who were formerly a majority but had been dispossessed, from ownership of property on grounds that this was needed to ensure state security and religious or national purity! Nor need we compare the similar racial policies of National Socialist (Nazi) Germany, a comparison by the way often made by dissenting Jews in Israel. To the credit of Jews there is a vigorous dissent to Israel's immoral policies within Israel - but not in the United States!

All this leads one to ask: so some people think there are special rules for Jews? The answer seems to be yes, and many Jews and some non-Jews see nothing wrong with this although they prefer that the issue not be discussed as it is morally rather difficult to defend - unless of course one is a fanatical Christian or Jewish Zionist. Those folks are embarrassingly rather open about it as we hear from various famous television preachers.

The "alliance" is a one-way street. Israel is of little practical value as an ally and provides almost nothing in return. It used to be loudly claimed that they were a bulwark against Soviet penetration of the Middle East. They never were, quite the opposite, but in any case that excuse faded with the end of Soviet communism. And the promotion of Israel as bulwark against aggression by Iraq or Iran won't fly. As for the "war on terrorism," they are a handicap. One of the restraints on Bush's desired war on Iraq is fear of Israeli participation and its consequences. No use of bases in Israel is possible for obvious reasons and our blind support of Israel "right or wrong" causes many others increasingly to be wary of American "friendship." In the real world Israel has repaid our support with spying efforts against us, transfers of forbidden military technology to the Chinese communists, a murderous assault on a U.S. Navy vessel, "Liberty" (falsely claimed to be an error - a claim which no American military expert supports - one more lie in a long train of lies) and other examples. Because of U.S. ineptitude in foreign intelligence matters we have even become dangerously reliant on Israel for many such information in the Middle East where their interests manifestly are not ours.

How did this ridiculous "passionate attachment" to an alien, racist, aggressive and habitually lying nation come about? The long-standing bias based on Biblical fundamentalist views and its anti-Arab, anti-Muslim counterpoint is a deep factor.

As mentioned, a major factor is also "Holocaust" propaganda. Americans have been inundated with propaganda about this historic event for many years, mostly post-1967. Much of it is exaggerated if not outright false.10 Sixty years after the events we are flooded with "commemorations," government supported "museums" (actually propaganda vehicles) and other daily reminders of the supposedly unique victimhood of Jews. None of this is spontaneous from the American people. It is a skillful and devious manipulation of public consciousness by people with an agenda, that is the continued support of the Zionist state of Israel, come hell or high water!

The Holocaust has become for Jews and some others a quasi-religious dogma.11 As such it simply cannot be questioned even when false stories about it are revealed and faux-religious belief in it is used to stifle criticism of Israel. In many European countries it is a criminal offense to question any aspect of the Holocaust stories, no matter how far-fetched or untrue. Few Americans are aware of this offense against freedom of speech because the subject is studiously avoided by the U.S. media. These laws are no joke. Many have been jailed or fined under them and some Zionist supporters have called for such laws here. The Holocaust is indeed a potent weapon in the hands of Zionists.

When President Harry Truman gave the green light for Zionists to take over Palestine at the expense of its thenconstituted majority, the Palestinian Arabs (the current Bush green light to the evil Sharon shows how little things have changed), his most knowledgeable and objective advisors warned that it would lead to unending conflict in the area and would be to the long-term disadvantage of U.S. interests. In fact, this has come about. Truman candidly admitted that his decision was based on pedestrian domestic political considerations involving the support of U.S. Jews in elections and his personal religious beliefs. Is it possible to redeem this error and put the U.S. back on a course of supporting justice rather than money or power? The answer is of course, yes, but it is unlikely that those presently in power have the wisdom and courage to do so. However, there are signs that many Americans are waking up to the evil of our "passionate attachment" for Zionism. It can only be hoped that their voices will be heard. The wisdom of George Washington must prevail in this for the good of Jews, Arabs and Americans.

* * * * * *

If a reader feels that this article paints too negative a picture of Zionism and Israel as a brutal, devious and unjust group I can only plead that it is the conclusion I have reached only after long and thoughtful study and analysis. I didn't always have these views. I once followed the herd and didn't look too hard for the truth and justice in the Palestine disputes. I do not deal here with the undoubted evil and tragedy of the Palestine suicide bombings, etc. These are certainly adequately covered in the daily media in the U.S., although the things mentioned above are certainly not so covered. Consider this an attempt to restore some balance.

Notes, Doyle

1. Michael Prior, Zionism and the State of Israel (London & New York: Routledge, 1999), particularly comments on The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzel, ed. Raphael Patai (New York: Herzl Press, 1960). Prior's book is one of the best studies of the subjects dealt with here including biblical analysis of Zionist claims.

2. Rashid Khalidi, Palestine Reborn (London & New York: Taurus, 1992). Khalidi estimates the utter destruction and plowing under of over 400 villages. Israeli sources reluctantly now admit this after concealing it for years. See also Khalidi, All that Remains: The Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 (Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992).

3. Lawrence Davidson, America's Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University of Florida Press, 2001).

4. Rashid Khalidi, op. cit. In 1939 Jews were 30% of the population of Palestine but held 5.7% of the land. In 1948 Arabs still far out-numbered Jews and still held a large majority of the land. This changed rapidly.

5. Benny Morris, "Falsifying the Record: A Fresh Look at Zionist Documentation of 1948," Journal of Palestine Studies, 24:44-62.

6. Prior, op. cit. 30. Today 92% of the State of Israel is totally closed "legally" to non-Jews.

7. Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial (New York: Harper and Row, 1984). Peters' book, long exposed as fraudulent (see Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestini Conflict [London & New York: Verso, 1995]) is still cited by American Zionist apologist.

8. Paul Findley, They Dare to Speak Out; People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby (Lawrence Hill & Co., 1985). The recent defeat of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia is just the latest example of many.

9. Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years (London & Chicago: Pluto Press, 1984). See also Edward W. Said et al., "A Profile of the Palestinian People" in Blaming the Victims, ed. by Said and Christopher Hitchens (London & New York: Verso, 1988).

10. Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry (London & New York: Verso, 2000): "Articulating the key Holocaust dogmas, much of the literature on Hitler's Final Solution is worthless as scholarship. Indeed, the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud."

11. Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1999).

MR. DOYLE, a lawyer from New York, now resides in Florida. He is married and has five children. Most of his work was as General Tax Attorney in the international area which led him to visit many countries.

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Those Ungrateful Iraqis

Mash, Daily Kos
April 3, 2006

Daniel Pipes gave an interview yesterday to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review entitled "Pipes calls war a success". In it Pipes calls Iraq a success:

Q: How will we know when the occupation or the invasion of Iraq was a success or a failure?

A: Oh, it was a success. We got rid of Saddam Hussein. Beyond that is icing.

According to Pipes, the real lesson in Iraq is not the failure of American policy, but the ingratitude of the Iraqi people:

Q: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the Iraq war?

A: The ingratitude of the Iraqis for the extraordinary favor we gave them -- to release them from the bondage of Saddam Hussein's tyranny. They have rapidly interpreted it as something they did and that we were incidental to it. They've more or less written us out of the picture.

I am really sorry the Iraqi people have hurt Mr. Pipes's feelings. Clearly, the Iraqis failed to throw the requisite amount of roses at our feet for the favor we did them.

Mr. Pipes thinks that we should lower our expectations in Iraq. According to Mr. Pipes, we should only concern ourselves with destroying societies not rebuilding them. We've got smart bombs we should use them. The blue collar work of rebuilding a society that we bomb to oblivion should be left to the lowly Europeans or some other bleeding heart types:

Q: Does that mean a significant change in what we are doing now, in terms of policy. Should we announce withdrawals?

A: The number of troops is not my issue. It's the placement and role of the troops. For three years now I have been protesting the use of American troops to mediate between tribes, help rebuild electricity grids, oversee school construction, which seems to me to be a wrong use of our forces, of our money. The Iraqis should be in charge of that. We should keep the troops there, in the desert, looking after the international boundaries, making sure there are no atrocities, making sure oil and gas goes out, otherwise leaving Iraq to the Iraqis.

Q: Is there anything major that the Bush administration should do now to make things go smoother?

A: We did something good in getting rid of the Taliban and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. That is really the extent of our role, to get rid of the hideous totalitarian regimes.

In any event, the theory is good. It's the implementation that has gone wrong. Mr. Pipes's theory has withstood the test of reality:

Q: Do you generally agree with President Bush's Middle East policy - its goals and its methods?

A: I agree with the goals much more than the methods. I just gave an example of Iraq, where I believe the goal of getting rid of Saddam Hussein and trying to have a free and prosperous Iraq are worthy goals. I criticize the implementation. The same goes with democracy. I think democracy is a great goal for the region. I criticize the implementation; I think it's too fast, too American, too get-it-done yesterday.

Lest you start thinking that Mr. Pipes is unhappy that the implementation of his theory might have led to unintended consequences, think again. He, like Charles Krauthammer, loves a good civil war. Mr. Pipes enumerates all the good things a bloody civil war can do:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It all makes sense to me now. We misunderstood Mr. Pipes when he said Iraq was going to be a cakewalk. When he said "cakewalk", he meant that defeating Saddam would be a cakewalk. The resulting chaos was not part of his thinking. In fact, the resulting chaos is not even our problem. It is all making sense to me now.

Before you dismiss Mr. Pipes as some right wing chicken hawk on the lunatic fringe, you might want to consider that he does have the ear of the President of the United States. The notion that America should rampage through the world without a care for the devastation this rampage may cause the societies which face our wrath is not a fringe notion - it has significant support within the Administration. In fact, it is the primary driving force behind Mr. Bush's stay the course policy in Iraq. If you genuinely do not care about the consequences of your actions, it is much easier to label your misadventures as successes. This, I think, in large part explains the strange and often disconnected versions of reality that come from the President and the Vice President. After all, according to Mr. Pipes:

We are engaged in a war, a profound war and long-term war, in which Afghanistan and Iraq are sideshows. The real issue is the war that radical Islam, a global phenomenon, has declared on us and that has already been underway for many years, and we're still at the beginning of it. That's the really major issue.

Now, if only the Iraqis understood their rightful role in this war of civilizations; if only they understood that they are cannon fodder in the cause of the greater good; if only they understood that Mr. Pipes, from his perch in front of a television screen, thinks the slaughter of innocents is good theater; then and only then, would they be more grateful to the United States for this great favor we have done them. Instead, they continue this nonsense of caring more for their own lives than the greater glory of Daniel Pipes's small but influential little mind.

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New Christian pro-Israel lobby more powerful than AIPAC

4/3/2006 9:23:00 PM GMT

The Jewish lobby has long had a powerful influence on the U.S. foreign policy but there is growing evidence that Israel now found strong support from American Christians who are forging an alliance with American Jewish organizations.
A U.S. Televangelist recently announced that he will launch a new Christian pro-Israel lobby that is expected to be more powerful than the U.S.'s largest pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), according to Israel's daily Haaretz.

John Hagee, the founder and senior pastor of the evangelical Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas - which includes more than 18,000 members - announced his plans at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represents 52 national Jewish groups.

He told Jewish community leaders that 40 million (out of the 50 million) evangelical Christians in the United States back Israel, adding that he is determined to use this power to help the state of Israel by launching a powerful Christian pro-Israel lobby.

More than 400 hawkish Christian community leaders, who are well-known pro-Israeli supporters, met in February to discuss the establishment of the new lobby. Other than Hagee, its leaders include evangelist George Morrison; fundamentalist Baptist minister Jerry Falwell; and Gary Bauer, president of the American Values organization.

Though Israel has always enjoyed a broad support among the American public, its most vocal and influential supporters were American Jews. But political analyst note that this began to change in recent years, as Christians took on an increasingly important role in American politics, particularly since George W. Bush recaptured the White House for Republicans in 2000.

"President Bush's election gave Christian conservatives a measure of influence with the executive branch of the United States government that they had not enjoyed since the Reagan administration," according to Robert P. George, a professor of politics at Princeton University and an astute Beltway observer. "Their influence is greater than it was with the administration of President Bush's father and, of course, they had no influence with Clinton."

Hence, according to George, "Christian conservatives are a force to be reckoned with in Washington. They are not in a position to dictate policy, but they almost always influence it on issues of concern to them." And, of course, one of those issues of concern is Israel.

Some analysts also say that the September 11 attacks reinforced many Christians' support for the Jewish state. "I think popular American support for Israel, certainly after 9/11, has gone back up again," says Glickman, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture who served in the United States Congress for 18 years. "After 9/11, that support is firmer now than it was before" he said.

According to Hagee, the new Israel lobby is due to be launched in July during a Washington conference that will be attended by hundreds of U.S. evangelicals. He said that the group's activities would be a "political earthquake," as it would target senators and congressmen on Capitol Hill. A quarter of congressmen are evangelicals, Hagee said, adding that many American legislators represent regions that include a large evangelical population.

Hagee also plans to establish an effective network of key activists across the United States who can be reached within 24 hours for emergency lobbying efforts. He said he already appointed 12 regional directors who will be responsible for lobbying activities in their areas and that he plans to appoint representatives in every state and major city.

Hagee, one of 20 evangelical leaders who met with coma-stricken Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during his last trip to Washington, also said he would head a delegation of 500 evangelicals due to visit Israel this summer.

Hagee already discussed his project with Israel's consul general in New York, Aryeh Mekel, who said that the "evangelical population's support of Israel is very important."

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Danny Ayalon, responded in a similar manner when he discussed the formation of the new lobby with Hagee last February. "We see Christians in the United States as true friends and important supporters on the basis of shared values, and we welcome their efforts to strengthen the ties between Israel and the U.S.," he said at the time.

Rabbi James Rudin, author of "The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us," said that Hagee has been known for many years as an enthusiastic advocate of Israel, and is a typical right-wing Christian supporter of the Jewish country.

Rabbi Rudin's words couldn't be more true. Hagee once told Christian worshippers at the Cornerstone Church in Texas, that "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state. Not since Camp David but since King David."

Pro-Palestinian groups say that this new alliance between Jewish groups and Christian conservatives in the United States could never bring a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, som left of centre activists like MJ Rosenberg of the Israeli Policy Forum fear that the new Christian pro-Israel lobbies may constrain the U.S.'s ability to act as a fair mediator between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

"It's more than damaging," he says. "It's frightening."

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John Hagee: Iran Poses Grave Threat to Western Civilization

by Robert B. Bluey
Posted Mar 16, 2006

Pastor John Hagee, author of Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, says an Iranian attack on Israel could happen sooner than most people think. So what's being done about it?
Hagee shared with HUMAN EVENTS his thoughts on the growing concerns about Iran's nuclear threat-to Israel and the United States.

Jerusalem Countdown is Hagee's latest work on the Middle East. He previously wrote From Daniel to Doomsday: The Countdown Has Begun and The Beginning of the End.

Hagee is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, a non-denominational evangelical church with more than 18,000 active members.

How long will it take before Israel and Iran engage in warfare?

Israel will engage Iran before the end of May!

What will an attack on Jerusalem mean for the United States?

You are assuming an attack on Jerusalem will be successful! Jerusalem is the spiritual home for millions of Jews and Christians in America. The very dust in the street is sacred in this holy city. Israel fully anticipates retaliation from Iran. Former IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya'alon, expressed confidence that Israel's anti-missile systems could protect the country, whether missiles are fired directly from Iran, by the Hizbullah launchers amassed along Israel's northern border or through Kassam rockets being amassed within Judea and Samaria. "Israel is able to strike at Iran in a number of ways, not just through air strikes," Ya'alon added.

Should the United States be an aggressor against Iran?

It would be shameful for America, with all it's military might, to allow Israel to fight our fight!

Is the United States vulnerable to a nuclear attack from Iran?

America is very vulnerable to nuclear suitcase bombs, which have the capacity to kill a million or more people per explosion. Paul L. Williams, a former consultant to the FBI on terrorism, reports there are seven teams of terrorist now working in the United States. The seven areas that have been identified are New York, Miami. Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. These terrorist groups are working out of mosques and Islamic centers, which are protected by the law as "houses of worship."
While Iran can reach Europe with a missile, it does not yet have a missile with sufficient range to reach America.

Why must the United States put its own security on the line to defend Israel?

Iran is a threat to western civilization ... not just to Israel. Iran with nuclear weapons will be the world's worst nightmare. America and Europe will be blackmailed to bow to the Islamofacist agenda. The attack on 9/11 proved Islamics have the will to kill us, they are now searching for the power to kill us ... nuclear power.

Are the American people ready for another war in the Middle East?

Absolutely not! Many Americans want to "cut and run" from Iraq. Our fighting terrorist on their soil prevents them from being on our soil!

How will Ariel Sharon's stroke and subsequent demise impact Israel's view of Iran?

Israel's military intentions will be dictated by the nations need of security, not who is prime minister. Israel does not owe it to the world to commit national suicide for world peace!

How do you know the Iran poses as grave a threat as your book details?

Nothing is known for certain until the lazer guided bunker buster bombs are released and the missiles are launched. My sources in times past have been extremely accurate and their predictions, given to me in April of 2005, have once again come true.

How are Russia, France and Germany helping Iran achieve its goal of a nuclear holocaust?

Several years ago, former Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, sat in my office and told me that when he was Prime Minister he gave to America's intelligence community photographic proof that Russian scientist were helping the Iranians develop medium range missiles that had the ability to reach Europe and Jerusalem. Russia has been developing its relationships with the Islamic nations. I believe that relationship will develop in the future into Russia providing military leadership for radical Islamic forces against Israel. Russia's payoff is the oil from the Persian Gulf giving it the ability to become a super-power again. The Islamic payoff is the control of Jerusalem.

I have no direct knowledge of France and Germany's activity or lack thereof personally!

Will a Shiite-led Iraq partner with Iran?

I don't know!

Why can't radical Islam and Israel peacefully co-exist?

Radical Islam, as in Hamas, exists for the destruction of Israel and death to the Jews! The Hamas Charter is a declaration of death! Hamas will either destroy Israel or Israel will destroy Hamas. There will be no long term peaceful co-existence. The Hamas Charter mocks all forms of peaceful co-existence with Israel!

Comment: We posted Mark Twain's The War Prayer recently. Read it again and weep...

We noted on the page that had the original of this interview, the following ad:

Iraqi Liberation Day reminder

To which which we can only ad our own graphic...

Signs Sick Bag

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Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Jeffrey Blankfort
April 3, 2006

"In an article in the New York Times (April 19, 2003), reporter Emily Eakin tells the story of a University of Chicago confab called to assess theory's fate. At a session attended by a bevy of humanities superstars, a student asked: What good is theory if, he said, 'we concede in fact how much more important the actions of Noam Chomsky are in the world than all the writings of critical theorists combined.’" Jon Spayde, Senior Editor, Utne Reader Nov/Dec 2004

Noam Chomsky has been the foremost critic of America’s imperial adventures for more than three decades. That is probably the only point of agreement shared by his legions of loyal supporters and his equally committed although far less numerous detractors. His domination of the field is so extraordinary and unprecedented that one would be hard-put to find a runner-up. It is a considerable achievement for someone who has been described, at times, as a "reluctant icon."[1]

Despite his low-key demeanor and monotone delivery, Chomsky has been anything but reluctant. On closer examination, however, it appears that he has gained his elevated position less from scholarship than from the sheer body of his work that includes books by the dozens—30 in the last 30 years--and speeches and interviews in the hundreds.

In the field of US-Israel-Palestine relations he has been a virtual human tsunami, washing like a huge wave over genuine scholarly works in the field that contradict his critical positions on the Middle East, namely that Israel serves a strategic asset for the US and that the Israeli lobby, primarily AIPAC, is little more than a pressure group like any other trying to affect US policy in the Middle East. For both of these positions, as I will show, he offers only the sketchiest of evidence and what undercuts his theory he eliminates altogether.

Nevertheless, he has ignited the thinking and gained himself the passionate, almost cult-like attachment of thousands of followers across the globe. At the same time it has made him the favorite hate object of those who support and justify the US global agenda and the domination of its junior partner, Israel, over the Palestinians. Who else has whole internet blogs dedicated to nothing else but attacking him?

What is less generally known is that he admits to having been a Zionist from childhood, by one of the earlier definitions of the term—in favor of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and a bi-national, not a Jewish state—and, as he wrote 30 years ago, "perhaps this personal history distorts my perspective.?[2]Measuring the degree to which it has done so is critical to understanding puzzling positions he has taken in response to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Given the viciousness and the consistency with which Chomsky has been attacked by his critics on the "right," one ventures cautiously when challenging him from the "left." To expose serious errors in Chomsky’s analysis and recording of history is to court almost certain opprobrium from those who might even agree with the nature of the criticism but who have become so protective of his reputation over the years, often through personal friendships, that have they not only failed to publicly challenge substantial errors of both fact and interpretation on his part, they have dismissed attempts by others to do so as "personal" vendettas.

Chomsky himself is no more inclined to accept criticism than his supporters. As one critic put it, "His attitude to who those who disagree with him, is, by and large, one of contempt. The only reason they can't see the simple truth of what he's saying is that they are, in one way or another, morally deficient."[3]

Although I had previously criticized Chomsky for downplaying the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on Washington’s Middle East policies,[4] I had hesitated to write a critique of his overall approach for the reasons noted. Nevertheless, I was convinced that while, ironically, having provided perhaps the most extensive documentation of Israeli crimes, he had, at the same time immobilized, if not sabotaged, the development of any serious effort to halt those crimes and to build an effective movement in behalf of the Palestinian cause.

An exaggeration? Hardly. A number of statements made by Chomsky have demonstrated his determination to keep Israel and Israelis from being punished or inconvenienced for the very monumental transgressions of decent human behavior that he himself has passionately documented over the years. This is one of the glaring contradictions in Chomsky’s work. He would have us believe that Israel’s occupation and harsh actions against the Palestinians, its invasions and undeclared 40 years war on Lebanon, and its arming of murderous regimes in Central America and Africa during the Cold War, has been done as a client state in the service of US interests. In Chomsky’s world view, that absolves Israel of responsibility and has become standard Chomsky doctrine.

Following through with a critique of his work seemed essential after reading an interview he had given last May to Christopher J. Lee of Safundi: the Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies and circulated on Znet.[5]

Quite naturally, the discussion turned to apartheid and whether Chomsky considered the term applied to Palestinians under Israeli rule. He responded:

I don’t use it myself, to tell you the truth. Just like I don't [often] use the term "empire," because these are just inflammatory terms... I think it's sufficient to just describe the situation, without comparing it to other situations.

Anyone familiar with Chomsky’s work will recognize that he is no stranger to inflammatory terms and that comparing one historical situation with another has long been part of his modus operandi. His response in this instance was troubling. Many Israeli academics and journalists, such as Ilan Pappe, Tanya Reinhart and Amira Hass, have described the situation of the Palestinians as one of apartheid. Bishop Tutu has done the same and last year Ha’aretz reported that South African law professor John Dugard, the special rapporteur for the United Nations on the situation of human rights in Occupied Palestine and a former member of his country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, had written in a report to the UN General Assembly that there is "an apartheid regime" in the territories "worse than the one that existed in South Africa."[6]

Chomsky explained his disagreement:

Apartheid was one particular system and a particularly ugly situation... It's just to wave a red flag, when it's perfectly well to simply describe the situation...

His reluctance to label Israel’s control of the Palestinians as "apartheid" out of concern that it be seen as a "red flag," like describing it as "inflammatory," was a red flag itself and raised questions that should have been asked by the interviewer, such as who would be inflamed by the reference to ‘apartheid’ as a "red flag" in Israel’s case and what objections would Chomsky have to that?

A more disturbing exchange occurred later in the interview when Chomsky was asked if sanctions should be applied against Israel as they were against South Africa. He responded:

In fact, I've been strongly against it in the case of Israel. For a number of reasons. For one thing, even in the case of South Africa, I think sanctions are a very questionable tactic. In the case of South Africa, I think they were [ultimately] legitimate because it was clear that the large majority of the population of South Africa was in favor of it.
Sanctions hurt the population. You don't impose them unless the population is asking for them. That's the moral issue. So, the first point in the case of Israel is that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.

Obviously not. But is it acceptable to make such a decision on the basis of what the majority of Israelis want? Israel, after all, is not a dictatorship in which the people are held in check by fear and, therefore, cannot be held responsible for their government’s actions. Israel has a largely unregulated, lively press and a "people’s army" in which all Israeli Jews, other than the ultra-orthodox, are expected to serve and that is viewed by the Israeli public with almost religious reverence. Over the years, in their own democratic fashion, the overwhelming majority of Israelis have consistently supported and participated in actions of their government against the Palestinians and Lebanese that are not only racist, but in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Chomsky made his position clear:

So calling for sanctions here, when the majority of the population doesn't understand what you are doing, is tactically absurd-even if it were morally correct, which I don't think it is. The country against which the sanctions are being imposed is not calling for it.

The interviewer, Lee, understandably puzzled by that answer, then asked him, "Palestinians aren't calling for sanctions?

Chomsky: "Well, the sanctions wouldn't be imposed against the Palestinians, they would be imposed against Israel."
Lee: "Right... [And] Israelis aren't calling for sanctions."

That response also disturbed Palestinian political analyst, Omar Barghouti, who, while tactfully acknowledging Chomsky as "a distinguished supporter of the Palestinian cause," addressed the issue squarely:

Of all the anti-boycott arguments, this one reflects either surprising naiveté or deliberate intellectual dishonesty. Are we to judge whether to apply sanctions on a colonial power based on the opinion of the majority in the oppressors community? Does the oppressed community count at all? [7]

For Chomsky, apparently not. But there were more absurdities to come:

Furthermore, there is no need for it. We ought to call for sanctions against the United States! If the US were to stop its massive support for this, it's over. So, you don't have to have sanctions on Israel. It's like putting sanctions on Poland under the Russians because of what the Poles are doing. It doesn't make sense. Here, we're the Russians.

First, what does Chomsky mean by saying "there is no need of it?" He was certainly aware, at the time of the interview that Israel, with its construction of a 25-foot high wall and fence, appropriately described by its critics as the "Apartheid Wall" was accelerating the confiscation of yet more Palestinian land and continuing the ethnic cleansing that began well before 1947 and there was nothing other than the weight of public opinion that might stop it.

Second, while there would be considerable support of sanctions against the US, if such were possible, would this not violate Chomsky’s own standard for applying them? Had he not moments before, said that the majority of the people must support them? He apparently has a different standard for Israelis than he does for Americans. And what the Palestinians may wish doesn’t count.

Then, having just told the interviewer that he did not like making comparisons, what can one make of his placing the relationship that existed between Poland and the former Soviet Union (Russia, in his lexicon) in the same category as that existing between Israel and the United States? He was referring to the implementation of sanctions by the Reagan administration against Poland in 1981 after the East Bloc nation had instituted martial law in response to the rise of the Solidarnosc movement. What role the Soviet Union had in that has been debated, but it should be obvious that there is no serious basis for such a comparison.

In retrospect, however, it was no surprise. In the Eighties, Chomsky placed Israel’s relationship to the US in the same category as that of El Salvador when the Reagan administration was backing its puppet government against the FMLN. Not embarrassed at having spouted such nonsense, he still repeats it. [8] Even then, he exhibited a gritty determination to deflect responsibility for Israel’s actions on to the United States. To point this out is not to defend the US or its egregious history of global criminality—which is not defensible—but to expose the deep fault lines that inhabit Chomsky’s world view.

In case I had missed something, however, I wrote him, asking if he wished to clarify what the Polish-Soviet relationship had in common with that of Israel and the US?

He declined to answer that question but with reference to my asking him about his avoidance of placing blame on Israel, he responded:

I also don’t acknowledge other efforts to blame others [presumably Israel] for what we do. Cheap, cowardly, and convenient, but I won’t take part in it. That’s precisely what’s at stake. Nothing else. [9]

"Cheap, cowardly and convenient" to blame Israel? If his primary desire is to protect Israel and Israelis from any form of inconvenience is not obvious from that private response, his public effort to sabotage the budding campus divestment program should leave no doubt where and with whom his sympathies lie:

In an exchange with Washington Post readers, Chomsky was asked by a caller:

Why did you sign an MIT petition calling for MIT to boycott Israeli investments, and then give an interview in which you state that you opposed such investment boycotts? What was or is your position on the proposal by some MIT faculty that MIT should boycott Israeli investments?

Chomsky replied:

As is well known in Cambridge, of anyone involved, I was the most outspoken opponent of the petition calling for divestment, and in fact refused to sign until it was substantially changed, along lines that you can read if you are interested. The "divestment" part was reduced to three entirely meaningless words, which had nothing to do with the main thrust of the petition. I thought that the three meaningless words should also be deleted... On your last question, as noted, I was and remain strongly opposed, without exception -- at least if I understand what the question means. How does one "boycott Israeli investments"? (Emphasis added). [10]

I will assume that Chomsky understood very well what the caller meant: investing in Israeli companies and in State of Israel Bonds of which US labor union pension funds, and many states and universities have purchased hundreds of millions of dollars worth. These purchases clearly obligate those institutions to lobby Congress to insure that the Israeli economy stays afloat. This isn’t something that Chomsky talks or writes about.

The caller was referring to a speech that Chomsky had made to the Harvard Anthropology Dept. shortly after the MIT and Harvard faculties issued a joint statement on divestment. It was gleefully reported in the Harvard Crimson by pro-Israel activist, David Weinfeld, under the headline "Chomsky’s Gift":

MIT Institute Professor of Linguistics Noam Chomsky recently gave the greatest Hanukkah gift of all to opponents of the divestment campaign against Israel. By signing the Harvard-MIT divestment petition several months ago—and then denouncing divestment on Nov. 25 at Harvard—Chomsky has completely undercut the petition.
At his recent talk for the Harvard anthropology department, Chomsky stated: "I am opposed and have been opposed for many years, in fact, I’ve probably been the leading opponent for years of the campaign for divestment from Israel and of the campaign about academic boycotts."
He argued that a call for divestment is "a very welcome gift to the most extreme supporters of US-Israeli violence... It removes from the agenda the primary issues and it allows them to turn the discussion to irrelevant issues, which are here irrelevant, anti-Semitism and academic freedom and so on and so forth." [11] (Emphasis added.)

Here you see one of the tactics that Chomsky uses to silence his few left critics; he accuses them of aiding "the most extreme supporters of US-Israeli violence."

When contacted by the Cornell Daily Sun which was preparing an article on the MIT-Harvard divestment movement, Chomsky repeated his objections, and "despite acknowledging the existence of this petition," the reporter wrote, Chomsky said, ‘I’m aware of no divestment movement. I had almost nothing to do with the ‘movement’ except to insist that it not be a divestment movement.’" [12] (Emphasis added)

A least, he cannot be accused of inconsistency. After speaking at the First Annual Maryse Mikhail Lecture at the University of Toledo, on March 4, 2001, Chomsky was asked:

Do you think it's is a good idea to push the idea of divestment from Israel the same way that we used to push for it in white South Africa?

Chomsky replied:

I regard the United States as the primary guilty party here, for the past 30 years. And for us to push for divestment from the United States doesn't really mean anything. What we ought to do is push for changes in US policy. Now it makes good sense to press for not sending attack helicopters to Israel, for example. In fact it makes very good sense to try to get some newspaper in the United States to report the fact that it's happening. That would be a start. And then to stop sending military weapons that are being used for repression. And you can take steps like that. But I don't think divestment from Israel would make much sense, even if such a policy were imaginable (and it's not).
Our primary concern, I think, should be change in fundamental US policy, which has been driving this thing for decades. And that should be within our range. That's what we're supposed to be able to do: change US policy. (Emphasis added)

Let us examine the response he gave at this event. Having stated forthrightly his opposition to pressuring Israel through divestment, he made no suggestion that his audience contact their Congressional representatives or senators regarding their support for aid to Israel. Mass appeals to Congress to stop funding, whether it was in opposition to the war in Vietnam or the Contras in Nicaragua, have been a basic element in every other nation-wide struggle against US global policy. Why not in this case? If Chomsky has ever called for any actions involving Congress, I could find no record of it.

Middle East activists, consequently, following Chomsky’s lead, have continued to allow members of Congress and liberal Democrats, in particular, avoid paying any political price for supporting legislation that has provided Israel with the billions of dollars and the weaponry it has used to suppress the Palestinians, confiscate their land and expand its illegal settlements. This is what has devastated the Palestinians, not the meaningless three score plus Security Council resolutions reprimanding Israel that the US has vetoed but which, for Chomsky, validate his position that the US is the main culprit.

What he suggested to this audience—getting a newspaper to report the helicopter "sales" to Israel should have had those not entranced by his presence shaking their heads. As for changing US policy being "within our range," if Israel is a US "strategic asset," as he maintains, how does Chomsky suggest this be done? Beyond contacting your local newspaper editor, he doesn’t.

Last year, Noah Cohen had the temerity to challenge Chomsky’s opposition to both a "single state" solution and implementing the Palestinian "right of return." Chomsky defended his "realism" and accused Cohen of being engaged in "an academic seminar among disengaged intellectuals on Mars... [and] those who take these stands" [are] "serving the cause of the extreme hawks in Israel and the US, and bringing even more harm to the suffering Palestinians." [13]

Note, again, how Chomsky accuses those who disagree with him of harming the Palestinians. This evidently includes the Palestinians themselves who refuse to surrender their "right of return." Their crime, in Chomsky’s opinion, is to oppose what he praises as the "international consensus," the support of which, for him, is "true advocacy." [14]

"The main task," he says, "is to bring the opinions and attitudes of the large majority of the US population into the arena of policy. As compared with other tasks facing activists, this is, and has long been a relatively simple one." [15] Simple? Who, we must ask, is on Mars? Of course, as noted previously, he offers no suggestions as how to accomplish this.

Although he doesn’t advertise it publicly, Chomsky did sign a petition calling for the suspension of US military aid to Israel, but it has received little publicity and Sustain, the organization initiating the campaign has done little to promote it. It is not a demand that Chomsky raises in his books or interviews. When I pointed this out, he responded:

That is totally false. I’ve always supported the call of Human Rights Watch and others to stop ‘aid’ to Israel until it meets minimal human rights conditions. I’ve also gone out of way to publicize the fact that the majority of the population is in favor of cutting all aid to Israel until it agrees to serious negotiations (with my approval)... [16]

Given the probable nature and outcome of previous "serious negotiations" and the relative strength in the power relationship, this would present no problem for Israel as was demonstrated at Oslo and since. Chomsky’s claim to have supported Human Rights Watch's call for stopping aid to Israel, however, was a figment of his imagination. This was confirmed by an HRW official who explained that HRW had only asked that the amount of money spent on the occupied territories be deducted from the last round of loan guarantees. [17] That is hardly the same thing. When I pointed this out to Chomsky, he replied:

To take only one example, consider ‘HRW, Israel's Interrogation of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories,’ p. xv, which states that US law prohibits sending any military or economic aid to Israel because of its practice of systematic torture. [18]

To my objection that this did not exactly constitute what would be described as a "campaign," he testily responded:

Calling actions illegal is sufficient basis for a reference to a call that the actions should be terminated. If you prefer not to join HRW and me in calling the aid illegal, implying directly that it should be terminated, that's up to you. Not very impressive... [19] (Emphasis added)

I will leave it to the reader to decide whether describing US aid to Israel as illegal in a single document is the same as conducting a campaign to stop it.

Two and a half years earlier, Chomsky had made his position quite clear:

It is convenient in the US, and the West, to blame Israel and particularly Sharon, but that is unfair and hardly honest. Many of Sharon's worst atrocities were carried out under Labor governments. Peres comes close to Sharon as a war criminal. Furthermore, the prime responsibility lies in Washington, and has for 30 years. That is true of the general diplomatic framework, and also of particular actions. Israel can act within the limits established by the master in Washington, rarely beyond. [20] (Emphasis added)

While no doubt a statement of this sort is comforting to the eyes and ears of Israel’s supporters in "the left," it should be obvious that his waiving of the Jewish State’s responsibility to adhere to the Nuremberg principles, as well as the Geneva Conventions, clearly serves Israel’s interests. (While a strong case can certainly be made against Peres, as well, he is not in Sharon’s class in the "war criminal" competition.)

Chomsky’s rationalization of Israel’s criminal misdeeds in The Fateful Triangle should have rung alarm bells when it appeared in 1983. Written a year after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, in what would become a sacred text for Middle East activists, he actually began the book not by taking Israel to task so much as its critics:

In the war of words that has been waged since Israel invaded Lebanon on June 6, 1982, critics of Israeli actions have frequently been accused of hypocrisy. While the reasons advanced are spurious, the charge itself has some merit. It is surely hypocritical to condemn Israel for establishing settlements in the occupied territories while we pay for establishing and expanding them. Or to condemn Israel for attacking civilian targets with cluster and phosphorous bombs "to get the maximum kill per hit." When we provide them gratis or at bargain rates, knowing that they will be used for just this purpose. Or to criticize Israel’s ‘indiscriminate’ bombardment of heavily-settled civilian areas or its other military adventures, while we not only provide the means in abundance but welcome Israel’s assistance in testing the latest weaponry under live battlefield conditions... .In general, it is pure hypocrisy to criticize the exercise of Israeli power while welcoming Israel’s contributions towards realizing the US aim of eliminating possible threats, largely indigenous, to American domination of the Middle East region.[ 21]

First, the PLO was seen as a threat by Israel, not by the United States in 1982, particularly since it had strictly abided by a US-brokered cease-fire with Israel for 11 months, giving it a dangerous degree of credibility in Israeli eyes. Second, whom did Chomsky mean by "we?" Perhaps, President Reagan and some members of Congress who gently expressed their concern when the number of Palestinians and Lebanese killed in the invasion and the wholesale destruction of the country could not be suppressed in the media. But he doesn’t say. It certainly wasn’t those who took to the streets across the country to protest Israel’s invasion. Both political parties had competed in their applause when Israel launched its attack, as did the AFL-CIO which took out a full page ad in the NY Times, declaring "We Are Not Neutral. We Support Israel!" paid for by an Israeli lobbyist with a Park Avenue address. The media, in the beginning, was also supportive, but it is rare to find an editorial supporting US aid to Israel. It is rarely ever mentioned and that’s the way the lobby likes it. So is Chomsky creating a straw figure? It appears so.

If we follow Chomsky’s "logic," it would be an injustice to bring charges of war crimes against Indonesian, El Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Haitian, or Filipino officers, soldiers, or public officials for the atrocities committed against their own countrymen and women since they were funded, armed and politically supported by the US. Perhaps, General Pinochet will claim the Chomsky Defense if he goes to trial.

He pressed the point of US responsibility for Israel’s sins again in his introduction to The New Intifada, noting that as one of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, "It is therefore Washington’s responsibility to prevent settlement and expropriation, along with collective punishment and all other measures of violence... .It follows that the United States is in express and extreme violation of its obligations as a High Contracting Party." [22]

I would agree with Chomsky, but is the US refusal to act a more "extreme violation" than the actual crimes being committed by another signatory to the Conventions, namely Israel? Chomsky would have us believe that it is.

It is a point he made clear at a talk in Oxford in May, 2004, when he brought up the killing a week earlier of the Hamas spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin by the Israeli military as he left a Mosque in Gaza. "That was reported as an Israeli assassination, but inaccurately" said Chomsky. "Sheikh Yassin was killed by a US helicopter, flown by an Israeli pilot. Israel does not produce helicopters. The US sends them with the understanding that they will be used for such purposes, not defense, as they have been, regularly."

Chomsky is correct to a point. What is missing from his analysis is any reference to the demands from Congress, orchestrated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel’s officially registered lobby, to make sure that the US provides those helicopters to Israel to use as its generals see fit. (In fact, there is not a single mention of AIPAC in any one of Chomsky’s many books on the Israel-Palestine conflict). What Chomsky’s British audience was left with was the conclusion that the assassination of Sheik Yassin was done with Washington's approval.

While its repeated use of helicopters against the Palestinian resistance and civilian population has been one of the more criminal aspects of Israel’s response to the Intifada, absolving the Israelis of blame for their use has become something of a fetish for Chomsky as his introduction to The New Intifada [23] and again, in more detail in Middle East Illusions, illustrates:

On October 1, [at the beginning of the Al-Aksa Intifada] Israeli military helicopters, or, to be more precise, US military helicopters with Israeli pilots, sharply escalated the violence, killing two Palestinians in Gaza... . The continuing provision of attack helicopters by the United States to Israel, with the knowledge that these weapons are being used against the civilian Palestinian population, and the silence of the mainstream media is just one illustration of many of how we live up to the principle that we do not believe in violence. Again, it leaves honest citizens with two tasks: the important one, do something about it; and the second one, try to find out why the policies are being pursued. (Emphasis added) [24]

What to do Chomsky again doesn’t say, but he does try to tell us why:

"On that matter, the fundamental reasons are not really controversial... It has long been understood that the gulf region has the major energy sources in the world... " [25]

Chomsky then goes on for two pages explaining the importance of Middle East oil and the efforts by the US to control it. It is the basic explanation that he has repeated and republished, almost verbatim, over the years. What it has to do with the Palestinians who have no oil or how a truncated Palestinian state would present a threat to US regional interests is not provided, but after two pages the reader has forgotten that the question was even posed. In his explanation there is no mention of the lobby or domestic influences.

Chomsky does acknowledge that "major sectors of American corporate capitalism, including powerful elements with interests in the Middle East [the major oil companies!]" have endorsed a "two-state solution" on the basis that

the radical nationalist tendencies that are enflamed by the unsettled Palestinian problem would be reduced by the establishment of a Palestinian mini-state that would be contained within a Jordanian-Israeli military alliance (perhaps tacit), surviving at the pleasure of its far more powerful neighbors and subsidized by the most conservative and pro-American forces in the Arab world... .This would, in fact, be the likely outcome of a two-state settlement." [26]

Such an outcome would have little direct influence on regional Arab politics, except to demoralize supporters of the Palestinian struggle in the neighboring countries and around the world, a development that would clearly serve US interests. It would, however, curb Israel’s expansion, which is critical to Israel’s agenda, not Washington’s. Chomsky also fails to recognize a fundamental contradiction in his argument. If the support of Israel has been based on its role as protector of US strategic resources, namely oil, why does not that position enjoy the support of the major oil companies with interests in the region?

It is useful to go look at Chomsky’s earlier writings to see how his position has developed. This paragraph from Peace in the Middle East, published in 1974 and repackaged with additional material in 2003, is not dissimilar from the liberal mush he often criticizes:

I do not see any way in which Americans can contribute to the active pursuit of peace. That is a matter for the people of the former Palestine themselves. But it is conceivable that Americans might make some contribution to the passive search for peace, by providing channels of communication, by broadening the scope of the discussion and exploring basic issues in ways that are not easily open to those who see their lives as immediately threatened. [27]

Readers should note amidst the vagueness of this paragraph, how Chomsky’s suggestion that "the active pursuit of peace" should be left to "people of the former Palestine" mirrors a phrase that we have heard frequently from Clinton and since from George the Second and Colin Powell, namely, "leaving the negotiations to the concerned parties".

This was published a year after the October 1973 war when the US was massively increasing both military and economic aid to Israel, a fact Chomsky emphasizes in his other writings. Raising it in this context, however, was not on his agenda at that time.

It is reasonable to conclude by now that Chomsky’s dancing around the question of US aid, his opposition to divestment and sanctions, and to holding Israel to account, can be traced more to his Zionist perspective, irrespective of how he defines it, than to his general approach to historical events . It doesn’t stop there, however. An examination of a sampling of his prodigious output on the Israel-Palestine conflict reveals critical historical omissions and blind spots, badly misinterpreted events, and a tendency to repeat his errors to the point where they have become accepted as "non-controversial facts" by successive generations of activists who repeat them like trained seals. In sum, what they have been given by Chomsky is a deeply flawed scenario that he has successfully sold and resold to them as reality.

The consequences are self-evident.

Those who have relied on Chomsky’s interpretation of the US-Israel relationship for their work in behalf of the Palestinian cause, have been functionally impotent. There is simply no evidence that any activity they have undertaken has applied any brake on the Palestinians’ ever-deteriorating situation. I include here, specifically, the anti-war and solidarity movements and their leading spokespersons who have adopted Chomsky’s formulations en toto. How much responsibility for their failure can be laid at Chomsky’s feet may be debatable, but that he has been a major factor can not be. On the other hand, for those in the movement whose primary interest has been to protect Israel from blame and sanctions, and their numbers are not small, Chomsky has been extremely helpful.

Up to this point, I have dealt largely with Chomsky’s opinions. His scholarship, unfortunately, exhibits the same failings. They were succinctly described by Bruce Sharp on an internet site that examines his early writings on the Cambodian genocide. Chomsky, wrote Sharp

does not evaluate all sources and then determine which stand up to logical inquiry. Rather he examines a handful of accounts until he finds one which matches his predetermined idea of what the truth must be; he does not derive his theories from the evidence. Instead, he selectively gathers ‘evidence’ which supports his theories and ignores the rest. [28]

His failures, wrote Sharp, are:

rooted in precisely the same sort of unthinking bias that he derides in the mainstream press. Stories which support his theory are held to a different (far lower) standard of accountability than stories which do not. [29]

These criticisms, to be sure, are not exclusive to Chomsky, but given his elevated status and credibility as a scholar, they are particularly relevant. What has been described by Sharp is closer to the function of a courtroom prosecutor than a historian.

Granted, the issues concerning the effort to secure a just resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict are complex and controversial, but they need to be honestly examined and debated. Everyone, however, is not an equal participant in that debate. The question of the Palestinian "right of return" is for Palestinians themselves to determine, not Israelis, Washington or Chomsky’s "international consensus." Another issue, closely connected, "one-state vs. two states," is more complicated and upon which Palestinians are themselves divided. Although I support a single state, I do not intend to argue for it here, only to present and lay out for the reader Chomsky’s perspective. Given the dominance of the Zionist narrative, however, neither issue has the potential of energizing significant numbers of Americans in their behalf beyond those with a personal or vested interest in their outcome.

Two issues that do have that possibility and which are intimately linked are

1. Stopping the flow of tax dollars to Israel. In view of the sharp cuts being made across the nation in spending on health, education and pensions, there is a ready audience for stopping that aid which has now surpassed the $100 billion mark. It would include ending public and private investment in Israel, in Israeli companies, and in American companies doing business in Israel, which has already begun in a limited way; in other words, imposing the sanctions that Chomsky deplores, and
2. Exposing and challenging the pro-Israel lobby’s stranglehold on Congress and its control over US Middle East policies which is accepted as a fact of life by political observers in Washington and elsewhere, but not by Chomsky.

Chomsky does mention from time to time that the majority of the American people is less than enthusiastic about military aid to Israel but fails to take the issue further than that. His fixation on Israeli pilots flying US helicopters, notwithstanding, relegating the potential power of the aid issue and the lobby to the margins of political discourse has been essential for Chomsky since they undermine the basis of his analysis that

  1. Israel is essentially a US client state that is supported by Washington based on its "services" as a "strategic asset" [30] and "cop on the beat" [31] for US interests in the Middle East and elsewhere and
  2. The "rejectionist" position of the United States, espoused by successive administrations that oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state is the primary obstacle blocking the implementation of a "two-state solution." Moreover, he would have us believe that US policy, despite occasional appearances to the contrary, has supported "the gradual integration of the occupied territories within Israel." [32]
  3. The influence of the pro-Israel lobby has been exaggerated by its critics and ? is more of a swing factor than an independently decisive one... [and] that opens the way for the ideological influence to exert itself - lined up with real power." [33]

On these three points there is an extraordinary amount of contradictory evidence provided by reputable scholars in the field of which Chomsky is clearly aware (since he quotes them when useful) but chooses to ignore. Within the limits of this article, I will only be able to touch on a few.

The "Strategic Asset" Theory

Chomsky’s argument that US support for Israel has been based on its value as a "strategic asset," was most clearly articulated The Fateful Triangle in 1983 and was repeated in interviews and speeches until the Soviet Union was no longer a threat and new justifications were required:

From the late 1950s... the US government came increasingly to accept the Israeli thesis that a powerful Israel is a "strategic asset" for the United States, serving as a barrier against indigenous radical nationalist threats to American interests, which might gain support from the USSR. [34]

The paucity of evidence he supplies to back it up should long ago have raised eyebrows. One item he inevitably brings up is a National Security Council Memorandum from January, 1958, that, according to Chomsky "concluded that a ‘logical corollary of opposition to growing Arab nationalism "would be to support Israel as the only strong pro-Western power left in the Middle East" 35 On such an important point, one would expect he could produce something more recent. In that same year, in response to the successful anti-colonial uprising against the British in Iraq and nationalist moves in Lebanon, Eisenhower sent the marines to that country to protect perceived threats to US interests. Use of Israeli troops was apparently not considered.

The only regional "services" provided by Israel referred to by Chomsky were the defeat of Egypt in 1967 (when France was Israel’s major arms supplier) that was clearly done for Israel’s own interests and it’s role in dissuading the Syrian government from coming to the aid of the Palestinians when they were under attack by Jordan’s King Hussein in September, 1970. That’s it. And in the latter instance, Israel did not need the US to activate its forces to prevent what has been incorrectly recorded (not by Chomsky) as an attempted PLO takeover of Jordan. [36]

What Chomsky and those who parrot his analysis ignore (since he fails to mention them) are other factors that played a role in the routing of the PLO, such as internal Palestinian dissent, the refusal of the Syrian air force under Hafez Al-Assad—no friend of the PLO-- to provide air cover, and the strategic advantages of Jordan’s largely Bedouin forces. It was Henry Kissinger who exaggerated Israel’s role in the outcome of that situation and its potential as a Cold War asset [37], and, ironically, it is Kissinger’s position that Chomsky has enshrined as "fact."

There is another factor in the "strategic asset" argument that is usually overlooked. As Camille Mansour points out:

[T]hese struggles for influence, occurring in a region so close to Israel, are often linked (an in the case of the Jordanian crisis, were definitely linked) to the Arab-Israeli conflict itself: for the Americans, Israel was in the paradoxical position of being an asset by alleviating threats to its own and American interests—threats, however, that it may have itself originally provoked through its situation of conflict with the Arabs. [38]

This opinion was confirmed earlier by Stephen Hillman, former staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, who wrote:

The strategic service that Israel is said to perform for the United States—acting as a barrier to Soviet penetration of the Middle East—is one that is needed primarily because of the existence of Israel, but for which the Arabs would be much less amenable to Soviet influence... It is true that Israel provides the United States with valuable military information and intelligence, and it is conceivable... that the United States might have need of naval or air bases on Israeli territory. These assets in themselves... do not seem sufficient to explain the expenditure by the United States between the founding of Israel and 1980 of almost $13 billion in military assistance and over $5.5 billion in economic support, making Israel by far the largest recipient of United States foreign aid." [39] (Emphasis added)

Chomsky was quite of aware of Tillman’s work, using it frequently as a reference in The Fateful Triangle. The above citation was not included. More to his liking was a comment by the late Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a Democrat from Washington, that Chomsky included in The Fateful Triangle and has been repeating in virtually every book, interview and speech he makes about the Israel-Palestine conflict. According to Jackson

Israel’s job was to "inhibit and contain those irresponsible and radical elements in certain Arab states... who were they free to do so, would pose a grave threat indeed to our principal sources of petroleum in the Persian Gulf. [40]

He was referring to "the tacit alliance between Israel, Iran (under the Shah) and Saudi Arabia" yet there is no evidence that any of the three countries ever performed that role. When the first Bush administration considered the region’s oil sources threatened by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, it acted on it own, and went out of its way to keep Israel from participating. This has not dissuaded Chomsky from continuing to tell us the same tale.

Why Chomsky believes we should give credibility to Jackson’s opinion is that he was "the Senate’s leading expert on the topic [of oil]" in Fateful Triangle ( p. 535); "the Senate’s expert on the Middle East and Oil" in Toward a New Cold War. (p. 315)

"the Senate’s leading specialist on the Middle East and Oil" in The New Intifada, (p .9) and Middle East Illusions (p. 179);"the ranking oil expert," on P. 55 in Deterring Democracy, "the Senate’s leading specialist on the Middle East and oil," in Pirates and Emperors, (p. 165), and "an influential figure concerned with the Middle East," Hegemony or Survival ( p.165).

I dwell on Chomsky’s descriptions of Jackson because they are characteristically misleading. The closest thing that Jackson came to being an oil expert was having once chaired an investigation on domestic oil practices while head of the Senate Interior Committee.

Aside from being known as "the senator from Boeing," in recognition of the many lucrative contracts he funneled Boeing’s way while chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jackson’s main legacy is as co-author of the Jackson-Vanik amendment which made the success of US-USSR Cold War negotiations dependent on the Soviet Union opening its doors to Jewish emigration. Understandably, that made him the darling of the pro-Israel lobby and American Jews, in general, who provided $523,778 or 24.9% of his campaign contributions over a five-year period. [41] An opponent of détente and a Cold War hawk, he was "virtually the last Democrat in the Senate to support... [the Vietnam] war." [42] Most recently, he has been remembered as the Congressional patron saint of the neo-cons, having given Richard Perle his start on the path to evil.

Thanks to his support of both Israel and the US military-industrial complex, Jackson’s labors did not go unnoticed by the influential Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a major promoter of the integration of the US and Israeli arms industries since 1976. It is another key component of the pro-Israel lobby that Chomsky has never mentioned. In 1982, it established the Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson Distinguished Service Award and Jackson became its first honoree. The most recent was his protégé, Perle.

Had Chomsky mentioned Jackson’s hawkish pro-Israel background it would surely have raised questions about the senator’s credibility if not stripped it away altogether.

Apart from a handful of loyalists who seem echo his every word, Chomsky’s view of US-Israel relations does not fair as well with his fellow academics, including those who generally share his world view. While careful not to mention Chomsky by name, for example, Professor Ian Lustick was clearly referring to his theory when interviewed by Shibley Telhami in 2001:

The US is strong enough and rich enough that, even when thereare crises like the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which was clearly a majorcrisis, it could address it. But... the biggest question in terms ofwhat motivates the US domestically has been on what is the source ofthe commitment to Israel. That really has been the core question. Andhere you have different competing views. For a long time, there was a view which said that the commitment to Israel is a corollary to the USstrategic interest, that, essentially, the US sees Israel as an instrument in its broader strategic interest, containing the Soviet Union during the Cold War and then later, maintaining the flow of oil, reducing terrorism, etc.
The truth of the matter is that theory just doesn't work, because Israel was, at various stages, very useful strategically, and other stages it was not viewed to be strategically very important. Even more important, probably, during muchof the Cold War, the bureaucracies – the Executive bureaucracy, the Defense Department, and the State Department -- did not view Israel to be a strategic asset, and some of them viewed it to be a detriment. So that just doesn't do it. [43]

Whether valid or not, if during the Cold War the US regarded Israel as a reliable ally against Soviet-backed regimes in some Arab states, this argument vanished as quickly as did the USSR. When Afif Safieh, Palestinian Delegate to the UK and the Holy See visited the United States just before the collapse of the Soviet Union he was surprised to see

within pro-Israeli circles ... their worry was about the loss of "anenemy," what it might signify for the raison-d'etre and the strategicfunction and utility of Israel in American foreign policy as a bastionand strategic asset to contain Soviet expansionism. It was preciselyduring this period that the ideological construction of an alternative global threat, the peril of Islam, took shape.[44]

The Soviet collapse forced not only the pro-Israel lobby, but Chomsky, as well, to scramble for a new reason justifying continued US support; the lobby to maintain, Chomsky to explain the US-Israel relationship.

He found it in a statement by former Israeli intelligence chief, Shlomo Gazit. The Cold War argument that Chomsky had earlier relied upon he now found to have been "highly misleading," preferring "the analysis... of Gazit" who wrote after the collapse of the USSR that:

Israel’s main task has not changed at all, and it remains of crucial importance. Its location at the center of the Arab Muslim Middle East predestines Israel to be a devoted guardian of stability in all the countries surrounding it. Its [role] is to protect the existing regimes: to prevent or halt the processes of radicalization and to block expansion of fundamentalist religious zealotry.[45]

"To which we may add," Chomsky wrote in the preface to the new edition of Fateful Triangle, "performing dirty work that the US is unable to undertake itself because of popular opposition or other costs." [46] Chomsky is still writing as if it were the Seventies or Eighties; there apparently is no limits to the "dirty work" the US will do for itself these days. Gazit would, of course, be expected to come up with an excuse for maintaining US support. But stability? If anything, Israel’s presence in the region has been the key destabilizing factor in the region and on two occasions, in 1967, and again in 1973, it almost led to nuclear war (and did lead then to a costly Arab oil embargo.) In the early days of the October War, when it appeared that Israeli troops might be overrun, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan reportedly panicked and threatened to use Israel’s atomic weapons on Egypt if the US did not rush Israel an airlift of conventional weapons. The Nixon administration promptly responded. [47]

As Mansour points out, "By so urgently asking Washington for arms, the Israeli government did not behave as a strategic asset, but as a protégé that feared—exaggeratedly perhaps—for its life." [48]

It should be noted that not until 1978, when Menachem Begin was elected prime minister, did Israel officially promote itself as a US asset. In an interview in the January 1991 Journal of Palestine Studies, the late retired Israel General Matti Peled said, "The argument that Israel is a strategic asset of the US serving as a static aircraft carrier, has never been more than a figment of the Israeli imagination. It was first proposed by Prime Minister Begin as a way of justifying the considerable grants given to Israel to purchase American weapon systems.... The Kuwaiti crisis has proved that the argument was false..." The arms deals were useful to the U.S, he said, because they triggered even bigger arms sales to America's Arab allies.

In 1986, and reprinted in four editions through 2002, Chomsky’s popular Pirates and Emperors contained a "strategic asset" theory that appeared to be pumped up on steroids. In one of five references to Israel performing that service, he wrote:

The US has consistently sought to maintain the military confrontation and to ensure that Israel remains a "strategic asset." In this conception, Israel is to be highly militarized, technologically advanced, a pariah state with little in the way of an independent economy apart from high tech production (often in coordination with the US), utterly dependent on the United States and hence dependable, serving US needs as a local "cop on the beat" and as a mercenary state employed for US purposes elsewhere... [49]

Chomsky couldn’t have been more mistaken. Thanks to the political support of the United States, Israel is anything but a "pariah state." It enjoys favored nation status with the European Union, its largest trading partner, and its arms industry, despite increasing integration with its US counterpart, is one of the world’s largest and competes with that of the US on the world market. Israel is also one of the major centers of the domestic high tech industry. It is hardly hostage to US demands although that characterization is what Chomsky is clearly trying to suggest. Furthermore, while the Israeli military and its arms manufacturers did serve US interests in Latin America and Africa, from the Sixties to the early Eighties, they did so for their own interests which happened to be mutually profitable.

Israel’s alleged usefulness to the US has been negated from other angles. Harold Brown was Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of Defense. When his Israeli counterpart suggested that the two countries make plans for joint nuclear targeting of the Soviet Union in case of a war, Brown told Seymour Hersh that the Carter administration

would not have wanted to get involved in an Israeli-Soviet conflict. The whole idea of Israel as a strategic asset seems crazy to me. The Israelis would say, ‘Let us help you,’ and then you end up being their tool. The Israelis have their own security interests and we have our interests. They are not identical. [50]

Professor Cheryl Rubenberg challenged the Chomsky mindset from another perspective:

[T]he constraints imposed on American diplomacy in the Middle East by virtue of the US-Israeli relationship have impeded Washington’s ability to achieve stable and constructive working relationships with the Arab states, a necessary prerequisite for the realization of all American regional interests... .Even those regimes that pursued close associations with Washington in spite of the American-Israeli union were constrained from publicly normalizing the ties for fear of the domestic opposition an overt affiliation with the United States would bring... .
American corporate and commercial interests in the Middle East have been constrained in other ways... .To cite but one example: as a result of pressure that pro-Israeli groups were able to exert on Congress, a set of antiboycott laws was passed that severely limit [US] business in the Arab world. As a result, American companies and the United States economy suffer an estimated $ 1 billion loss per year. [51]

That antiboycott legislation has been successfully used to prosecute American companies over the years and is now being employed by pro-Israel members of Congress to stifle efforts of US activists to instigate a boycott of Israeli products in the United States. There is no need to ask where Chomsky stands on that.

Furthermore, Rubenberg, emphasizing the point made by others, asks, "How can Israel, committed to policies that a priori assure the perpetuation of regional instability, be considered a strategic asset to American interests?" [52]

For the post-Soviet era, Chomsky might have sought support for his case from neocon stalwart Douglas Feith. With only slight modifications, these lines from an article by the Deputy Defense Secretary in the Harvard Law Review, Spring 2004, could have been written by Chomsky himself:

For a variety of reasons, Israel has remained strategically relevantsince the Soviet Union’s demise... Israel’s geography ensures itscontinued importance to the US Even without a Soviet presence, theMiddle East remains important to the US as the primary source ofAmerican oil imports... .
Israel has been a loyal ally to the US and, through its strength, a stabilizing Force in an otherwise volatile region. Although Israel’s very existence has fueled numerous conflicts in the Middle East, from the perspective of the US government, the destruction of Israel, the region’s sole liberal democracy, is strategically not an option. Operating on the principle that Israel is here to stay and should stay, US aid to Israel has yielded enormous strategic dividends for the US By creating a regional imbalance ofpower favoring Israel, aid has curbed Arab military aggression andprevented situations, namely full-blown war between Israel and itsneighbors, in which the US might need to deploy troops to the MiddleEast. (Emphasis added)

This last paragraph is quite interesting. Not only does Feith reinforce earlier citations from Hillman, Mansour and Rubenberg regarding Israel’s existence being the source of regional instability, he suggests that Israel has been justly rewarded for preventing another war that’s its presence would otherwise have caused. That’s chutzpah.

The "Rejectionist" Theory

"In the real world," Chomsky writes, "the primary barrier to the ‘emerging vision’ [the Arab League’s offer of full peace and recognition in exchange for Israeli withdrawal] has been and remains, unilateral US rejectionism." (Emphasis added) 53 Chomsky would have us believe that it is primarily the US and not Israel that stands in the way of a peaceful (if not a just) settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict. He fails, however, in all his prolific writings, to explain why this solution would interfere and not enhance US power in the Middle East since the Palestinian state suggested, as he frequently acknowledges, would be weak and dependent largely on Israel, the US and other Arab countries for its economic survival.

By repeating it over and over, often several times on the same page, Chomsky has made the "rejectionist" label stick to the US like tar paper. What he has really achieved, however, is establishing his own definition of the term, yet another "straw man" that he can then pummel the stuffing out of as if it were real. This has required some nimble shifting and inexcusable ignoring of the available record that every US president beginning with Richard Nixon has tried to get Israel to withdraw from the land it captured in 1967, albeit now, after successive failures, White House efforts have been reduced to a dribble.

These "peace plans" as they were called were not initiated for the benefit of the Palestinians but to pacify the area in the pursuit of America’s regional and global interests that have been negatively affected by Israel’s continuing occupation as described earlier. Under those plans, Palestinians in the West Bank would likely have once again come under Jordanian sovereignty and the Gazans under that of Egypt. Other than Camp David, in which Israel ended up the big winner, all the plans have been doomed:

"What happened to all those nice plans?" asked Israeli journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery. "Israel's governments have mobilized the collective power of US Jewry - which dominates Congress and the media to a large degree - against them. Faced by this vigorous opposition, all the presidents, great and small, football players and movie stars - folded one after another." [54]

The origin of the term "rejectionist" is important. Chomsky lifted it from what was referred to in the Seventies by Israel’s supporters, Chomsky among them, as the Palestinian "rejection front." It was the term they used to describe those Palestinian resistance organizations, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DPFLP), and some smaller groups, that rejected the existence of Israel as a Jewish state and called for the establishment of a democratic, secular state in all of historic Palestine, a position to which Chomsky was and remains unalterably opposed.

In 1975, Chomsky considered the possibility of

a unitary democratic secular state in Mandatory Palestine... an exercise in futility. It is curious that this goal is advocated in some form by the most extreme antagonists: the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and expansionist elements within Israel. But the documents of the former indicate that what they have in mind is an Arab state that will grant civil rights to Jews, and the pronouncements of the advocates of a Greater Israel leave little doubt that their thoughts run along parallel lines, interchanging "Jew" and "Arab. [55]

The Palestinian struggle did not, in fact, become acceptable in Chomsky’s eyes until it accepted the US-Israel demand that the PLO recognize Israel’s legitimacy within its 1967 borders. That he equates the desires of Palestinians to regain their lost homeland to the program of the most extremist Israeli colonizers is also telling. Another piece of the puzzle fits. Writing in 1974, he was more explicit:

The Palestinian groups that have consolidated in the past few years argue that this injustice could be rectified by the establishment of a democratic secular state in all of Palestine. However, they frankly acknowledge—in fact, insist—that this would require the elimination of the "political, military, social, syndical and cultural institutions" of Israel" which will necessitate armed struggle, which "guarantees that... all elements of Israeli society will be unified in opposing the armed struggle against its institutions.
Even if, contrary to fact, the means proposed could succeed—I repeat and emphasize, even if, contrary to fact, these means could succeed—they would involve the destruction by force of a unified society, its people, and its institutions—a consequence intolerable to civilized opinion on the left or elsewhere." (emphasis in original) [56]

Apparently, for Chomsky, "civilized opinion" excluded the entire Arab world and much of the Third World—at least in sufficient numbers for the UN General Assembly to overwhelmingly brand Zionism as a form of racism in 1975. His "civilized opinion" as well, did not consider the expulsion of the Palestinians to be an "intolerable consequence" of the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state.


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How the GOP Became God's Own Party

By Kevin Phillips
Washington Post

Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.

We have had small-scale theocracies in North America before -- in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah. Today, a leading power such as the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews.

Indeed, there is a potent change taking place in this country's domestic and foreign policy, driven by religion's new political prowess and its role in projecting military power in the Mideast.
The United States has organized much of its military posture since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks around the protection of oil fields, pipelines and sea lanes. But U.S. preoccupation with the Middle East has another dimension. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits -- oil and biblical expectations -- require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.

The political corollary -- fascinating but appalling -- is the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition. Since the election of 2000 and especially that of 2004, three pillars have become central: the oil-national security complex, with its pervasive interests; the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and the debt-driven financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street.

President Bush has promoted these alignments, interest groups and their underpinning values. His family, over multiple generations, has been linked to a politics that conjoined finance, national security and oil. In recent decades, the Bushes have added close ties to evangelical and fundamentalist power brokers of many persuasions.

Over a quarter-century of Bush presidencies and vice presidencies, the Republican Party has slowly become the vehicle of all three interests -- a fusion of petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless credit-feeding financial complex. The three are increasingly allied in commitment to Republican politics. On the most important front, I am beginning to think that the Southern-dominated, biblically driven Washington GOP represents a rogue coalition, like the Southern, proslavery politics that controlled Washington until Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860.

I have a personal concern over what has become of the Republican coalition. Forty years ago, I began a book, "The Emerging Republican Majority," which I finished in 1967 and took to the 1968 Republican presidential campaign, for which I became the chief political and voting-patterns analyst. Published in 1969, while I was still in the fledgling Nixon administration, the volume was identified by Newsweek as the "political bible of the Nixon Era."

In that book I coined the term "Sun Belt" to describe the oil, military, aerospace and retirement country stretching from Florida to California, but debate concentrated on the argument -- since fulfilled and then some -- that the South was on its way into the national Republican Party. Four decades later, this framework has produced the alliance of oil, fundamentalism and debt.

Some of that evolution was always implicit. If any region of the United States had the potential to produce a high-powered, crusading fundamentalism, it was Dixie. If any new alignment had the potential to nurture a fusion of oil interests and the military-industrial complex, it was the Sun Belt, which helped draw them into commercial and political proximity and collaboration. Wall Street, of course, has long been part of the GOP coalition. But members of the Downtown Association and the Links Club were never enthusiastic about "Joe Sixpack" and middle America, to say nothing of preachers such as Oral Roberts or the Tupelo, Miss., Assemblies of God. The new cohabitation is an unnatural one.

While studying economic geography and history in Britain, I had been intrigued by the Eurasian "heartland" theory of Sir Halford Mackinder, a prominent geographer of the early 20th century. Control of that heartland, Mackinder argued, would determine control of the world. In North America, I thought, the coming together of a heartland -- across fading Civil War lines -- would determine control of Washington.

This was the prelude to today's "red states." The American heartland, from Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to Ohio and the Appalachian coal states, has become (along with the onetime Confederacy) an electoral hydrocarbon coalition. It cherishes sport-utility vehicles and easy carbon dioxide emissions policy, and applauds preemptive U.S. airstrikes on uncooperative, terrorist-coddling Persian Gulf countries fortuitously blessed with huge reserves of oil.

Because the United States is beginning to run out of its own oil sources, a military solution to an energy crisis is hardly lunacy. Neither Caesar nor Napoleon would have flinched. What Caesar and Napoleon did not face, but less able American presidents do, is that bungled overseas military embroilments could also boomerang economically. The United States, some $4 trillion in hock internationally, has become the world's leading debtor, increasingly nagged by worry that some nations will sell dollars in their reserves and switch their holdings to rival currencies. Washington prints bonds and dollar-green IOUs, which European and Asian bankers accumulate until for some reason they lose patience. This is the debt Achilles' heel, which stands alongside the oil Achilles' heel.

Unfortunately, more danger lurks in the responsiveness of the new GOP coalition to Christian evangelicals, fundamentalists and Pentecostals, who muster some 40 percent of the party electorate. Many millions believe that the Armageddon described in the Bible is coming soon. Chaos in the explosive Middle East, far from being a threat, actually heralds the second coming of Jesus Christ. Oil price spikes, murderous hurricanes, deadly tsunamis and melting polar ice caps lend further credence.

The potential interaction between the end-times electorate, inept pursuit of Persian Gulf oil, Washington's multiple deceptions and the financial crisis that could follow a substantial liquidation by foreign holders of U.S. bonds is the stuff of nightmares. To watch U.S. voters enable such policies -- the GOP coalition is unlikely to turn back -- is depressing to someone who spent many years researching, watching and cheering those grass roots.

Four decades ago, the new GOP coalition seemed certain to enjoy a major infusion of conservative northern Catholics and southern Protestants. This troubled me not at all. I agreed with the predominating Republican argument at the time that "secular" liberals, by badly misjudging the depth and importance of religion in the United States, had given conservatives a powerful and legitimate electoral opportunity.

Since then, my appreciation of the intensity of religion in the United States has deepened. When religion was trod upon in the 1960s and thereafter by secular advocates determined to push Christianity out of the public square, the move unleashed an evangelical, fundamentalist and Pentecostal counterreformation, with strong theocratic pressures becoming visible in the Republican national coalition and its leadership.

Besides providing critical support for invading Iraq -- widely anathematized by preachers as a second Babylon -- the Republican coalition has also seeded half a dozen controversies in the realm of science. These include Bible-based disbelief in Darwinian theories of evolution, dismissal of global warming, disagreement with geological explanations of fossil-fuel depletion, religious rejection of global population planning, derogation of women's rights and opposition to stem cell research. This suggests that U.S. society and politics may again be heading for a defining controversy such as the Scopes trial of 1925. That embarrassment chastened fundamentalism for a generation, but the outcome of the eventual 21st century test is hardly assured.

These developments have warped the Republican Party and its electoral coalition, muted Democratic voices and become a gathering threat to America's future. No leading world power in modern memory has become a captive of the sort of biblical inerrancy that dismisses modern knowledge and science. The last parallel was in the early 17th century, when the papacy, with the agreement of inquisitional Spain, disciplined the astronomer Galileo for saying that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of our solar system.

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

Over the last 25 years, I have warned frequently of these political, economic and historical (but not religious) precedents. The concentration of wealth that developed in the United States in the bull market of 1982 to 2000 was also typical of the zeniths of previous world economic powers as their elites pursued surfeit in Mediterranean villas or in the country-house splendor of Edwardian England. In a nation's early years, debt is a vital and creative collaborator in economic expansion; in late stages, it becomes what Mr. Hyde was to Dr. Jekyll: an increasingly dominant mood and facial distortion. The United States of the early 21st century is well into this debt-driven climax, with some analysts arguing -- all too plausibly -- that an unsustainable credit bubble has replaced the stock bubble that burst in 2000.

Unfortunately, three of the preeminent weaknesses displayed in these past declines have been religious excess, a declining energy and industrial base, and debt often linked to foreign and military overstretch. Politics in the United States -- and especially the evolution of the governing Republican coalition -- deserves much of the blame for the fatal convergence of these forces in America today.

Kevin Phillips is the author of "American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" (Viking).

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Global Chaos

China official urges cut in US debt holding

By Kevin Yao and Benjamin Kang Lim
April 4, 2006

BEIJING - China should trim its holdings of U.S. debt and can stop buying dollar bonds, a vice chief of the national parliament said, rattling markets on Tuesday, weeks before President Hu Jintao visits Washington.

As China is a leading financier of the U.S. current account deficit and holds the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, the comments from Cheng Siwei sent the dollar lower against the euro and yen and pushed U.S. government bond prices down.
The comments could add to the contentious issues that will come up during Hu's visit, notably what some U.S. politicians and companies see as currency manipulation by China, accused of holding down the yuan to gain an unfair trade advantage.

Hong Kong's Beijing-funded Wen Wei Po newspaper carried Cheng's comments, made in Hong Kong on Monday.

"China can stop buying dollar-denominated bonds, increase buying of U.S. products and gradually reduce its holdings of U.S. bonds," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "But all these must follow the prescribed order," he said, without setting out that sequence.

An official at the central bank said this was merely Cheng's personal opinion and a reporter present for the speech said Cheng had stressed he was expressing his own views.

"The comments only reflected his academic view. The People's Bank of China has been studying issues regarding the management of foreign exchange reserves," the central bank official told Reuters.

Cheng is one of more than 10 vice chiefs of the parliament, as well as chairman of the China Democratic National Construction Association, one of eight minor political parties loyal to the Communist Party.

His rank is equivalent to vice premier, outranking cabinet ministers, and he often speaks on economic issues, but he does not exercise direct control over government policy.

"Cheng Siwei is a scholar and at the same time a national leader," said Zhang Zuhua, a former official familiar with the workings of the government. "He often expresses his views as an expert, and doesn't just give bureaucratic talk.


Hu meets U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on April 20. U.S. officials say Hu's visit will focus on trade issues as the Bush administration seeks to narrow its trade gap with China, which hit a record $202 billion in 2005.

Analysts say China has been gradually diversifying away from dollar assets in its foreign exchange reserves but fears of a collapse in the U.S. currency will prevent it from making any dramatic shift.

It has been a big buyer of U.S. government bonds, helping to finance the U.S. current account deficit and keep American interest rates low. Investors watch closely for any sign that Beijing might shift the government's investment mix.

Central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan said last month that China would adjust the mix of its reserves in light of global market conditions. In doing so, China's criteria would be safety, liquidity and profitability, in that order.

China's foreign exchange reserves hit $854 billion at the end of February, Premier Wen Jiabao said in a speech published in the official People's Daily on Tuesday, confirming a previously reported figure.

China held $262.6 billion of U.S. Treasuries as of January, dwarfed by Japan's holding of $668.3 billion, according to U.S. Treasury data.

Chinese officials have denied reports they plan to cut the current volume of dollar assets and analysts say China may have to buy more U.S. assets as the country's foreign exchange reserves have been growing rapidly, driven by the inflows of dollars from its trade surplus, foreign investment and hot money.

The central bank buys dollars to ensure the yuan does not rise too sharply after last year's landmark revaluation. Those dollars, along with assets in other foreign currencies, accumulate in its reserves.

Cheng also said China should widen the yuan's trading band at an appropriate time, the newspaper said.

But China must keep the yuan "relatively" stable in the near term and avoid an "excessively" high rise in foreign exchange reserves, he said.

The country would make the yuan fully convertible in the longer term, but it still did not have a timetable, Cheng said.

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Harper's get-tough speech draws warm reception from police association

Last Updated Mon, 03 Apr 2006 11:33:44 EDT
CBC News

Prime Minister Stephen Harper received enthusiastic applause from the nation's police on Monday as he reiterated his government's promise to toughen the federal justice system.
Just hours before the opening of the new Parliament, the prime minister took time out to be the keynote speaker at a conference of the Canadian Professional Police Association at Ottawa's Chateau Laurier hotel.

Harper reiterated campaign promises to impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug crimes, weapons offences and crimes committed while on parole. He also spoke of his government's plan to end conditional sentences for serious crimes such as weapons offences.

"If you do a serious crime, you're going to do serious time," he said to applause.

"It's quite remarkable the prime minister has found the time for us," said association president Tony Cannavino, who noted that it was the first time a PM had ever addressed a conference of the police association.

Harper told about 150 front-line police personnel representing 54,000 members that his government will scrap the former Liberal government's draft legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill would have allowed people found with small amounts of the drug to avoid a criminal record. They would have instead faced fines.

Harper received sustained applause when he spoke of his government's intention to repeal the so-called faint hope clause - a section of the Criminal Code that allows a criminal serving a life sentence to apply for early parole.

"I thought we might find a responsive audience here," the PM quipped.

Both Harper, and Justice Minister Vic Toews, who also addressed the gathering, promised to find a way to put more officers on the street.

Harper said his government will fund the initiative through cost-sharing programs with municipalities and savings from scrapping the federal gun registry.

Toews said he was proud to say that his first public speech on justice issues as minister of justice was being delivered to the association.

"As always, your opinions and expertise are greatly valued," he said.

The issue of crime is one of the five priorities the newly elected Conservative government has targeted for the legislative session that begins Monday. Ethics, health care, tax cuts and child care round out the agenda.

Comment: Next thing you know, Harper will try to reinstall the death penalty in Canada.

All of North America is under the dark cloud of repression. Step by step, it advances and descends.

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Poland insists on changing name of Auschwitz concentration camp

www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-04 12:49:26

WARSAW, April 3 (Xinhua) -- The Polish Embassy in Berlin expressed strong disapproval on Monday at a German newspaper's comment on Poland's request to change the official name of "Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp," said the Polish Press Agency.
The influential daily newspaper, Berliner Zeitung, said on Saturday that it would be almost impossible to have the Auschwitz Concentration Camp renamed. The concentration camp in Auschwitz was regarded as a lasting symbol and reminder for humanity of the universal threat of genocide. It should not be narrowly associated with the historical national socialist Nazi regime in Germany, the newspaper commentary added.

The Polish government made the request to change the official name of "Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp" to "Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau" in March, aiming to remind the world that the death camp was built and run by Nazi Germany.

The government in Warsaw wanted the grim history of the Auschwitz site, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, to be separated from Poles or Poland. It said it expected an answer to its renaming request later this year.

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S. Africa shocked over police shooting spree in Johannesburg

www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-04 15:02:45

JOHANNESBURG, April 4 (Xinhua) -- A slaughter of eight people, including four police officers, in Johannesburg on Monday night shocked South Africa where gun-related violence and deaths are nevertheless not unusual.
A senior police officer at a West Rand police station first shot dead three women and a one-year-old baby and then went on to wipe out four senior colleagues around 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Monday, local media reported on Tuesday.

Superintendent Chippa Mateane, 42, was shot dead by police in Sebokeng around 4 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Tuesday morning after an extensive manhunt, the SAPA news agency reported..

Blood spattered dockets lay strewn around the detective's offices at Kagiso police station in Krugersdorp after the rampage killing. Three of the officers were shot in an office -- two in the head and one in the chest -- and another officer's body was found lying outside the office with a bullet wound to the chest.

The three were found lying under a table scattered with dockets,with three bullet holes marking the wall behind the table.

A police spokeswoman said the man had shot dead three women anda one-year-old baby about half an hour before he made his way to the police station. Another women was wounded and taken to hospital.

Senior Superintendent Mary Martins-Engelbrecht said it was not clear what caused the killing spree as it was difficult to collect information from people who were visibly traumatized, the SAPA said.

"Everyone (at the police station) is devastated and doesn't know why," an officer told SAFM radio.

The shooting spree took place as safety experts from some 120 countries converged in the eastern port city of Durban for the 8th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion.

A study by the University of South Africa showed during the conference that in the country, death rate due to violence was more than six times higher than the global rate.

The study showed gunshot injuries made up 46 percent of violence-related deaths in South Africa. Of the 6,167 firearm deaths recorded in 2004, 86 percent were violence-related, 13 percent were suicides and less than 1 percent were unintentional.

The police spokeswoman told SABC radio news the man had fled the scene in a police car which he later abandoned. He made his way to Sebokeng where he allegedly shot his brother who is in hospital in a critical condition. Police managed to track him down and shoot him.

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Briton, American Detained in Chukotka for Illegally Crossing Border


British and American citizens have been detained in the Far Eastern Russian province of Chukotka, governed by Roman Abramovich, for illegally crossing the Russian state border, RIA Novosti reported.

Presumably, the two foreigners are tourists. "The detainees have passports, commercial visas, tents and arctic equipment with them. A .44 Magnum-Colt pistol and cartridges have been also found among their belongings," a local security services spokesman said.

They told the police that they were heading from South America to Great Britain, and had crossed the Russian-American border in the Bering Strait, traveling from Alaska.

But Russian authorities seem to be doubtful about the aim of their visit to Russia and have started an investigation into the case.

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Third round of Kosovo talks ends with little progress

www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-04 11:17:43

VIENNA, April 3 (Xinhua) -- A third round of talks on the future status of Kosovo ended here Monday between officials from Serbia and Kosovo with no final agreement being reached.
UN mediator Albert Rohan, who chaired Monday's session, said stark differences remained on both sides, though they had reached consensus on certain issues.

Monday's discussions were based on a report drafted by the UN office on the status of Kosovo, after summarizing the results of the previous two talks. They focused on the financing of the Serb minority in Kosovo, municipal boundaries, and the relations between Kosovo's Serb minority and Serbia.

Both sides expressed reservations with the contents of the report, according to local media reports.

After the Kosovo war ended in June 1999, the province became a UN protectorate according to Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council.

Ethnic Albanians, who comprise over 90 percent of the province's population, insist on full independence. But Serbia insists Belgrade must retain sovereignty over the province.

The UN-mediated negotiation process on the status of Kosovo started last November, and two round of talks were held in Vienna in February and March. The two sides will meet again in Vienna on May 4 for the fourth round of talks.

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Arab literary giant Mohammad al-Maghout dies

Mon Apr 3, 11:51 AM ET

DAMASCUS - Syrian writer Mohammad al-Maghout, whose poems and plays fiercely criticized Arab regimes, died on Monday aged 72, the official news agency SANA said.

"Syria and the Arab world lost a giant today," the agency said, adding that Maghout had died after a long illness.
Maghout's work combined satire with descriptions of social misery and malaise, illustrating what he viewed as an ethical decline among rulers in the region.

He teamed up with Syrian actors Dureid Laham and Nihad Qali to produce some of the region's most popular and acclaimed theatrical works, such as "Exile."

"Policemen, Interpol men everywhere; you search for the perfect crime," Maghout wrote in one of his poems. "There is only one perfect crime; to be born an Arab."

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Watch Out!

UN health body confirms 4 Egypt bird flu cases

Mon Apr 3, 1:11 PM ET

CAIRO - The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that four Egyptians have caught bird flu, including two who died from the virus, an Egyptian Health Ministry official said on Monday.

Nasr al-Sayyed told Reuters that a WHO laboratory in Britain had verified the four cases as the dangerous H5N1 strain of the virus. The result was received on Sunday, he said.
The Egyptian government sends samples from people it suspects have caught the virus to the WHO for final confirmation.

The government says a total of eight Egyptians have been infected by bird flu. Two of those have recovered, while the others are still being treated.

Two sisters aged 18 months and six years were the most recent cases reported by the government, although the WHO has yet to confirm they have the virus. They are in intensive care, the official MENA news agency quoted the health minister as saying on Monday.

Bird flu has killed at least 107 people worldwide, including the deaths in Egypt, according to the most recent figures from the WHO.

The virus was first detected in Egypt in birds in February and has devastated the poultry industry. The government has banned domestic rearing of fowl, but people in poor rural areas are ignoring instructions to get rid of their poultry.

Bird flu has so far not been transmitted from human to human, but can be caught from infected birds. Although difficult for humans to catch, scientists fear it could mutate into a form that can pass easily between humans.

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Smoke and ire

By Jack Cox
Denver Post Staff Writer
April 3, 2006

Platteville - As waitress Sharon Johnson sees it, the newly enacted statewide smoking ban is less about protecting people's health than about snuffing out their rights.

"If they can do this, what else can they do?" she says, referring to the legislators who voted to prohibit smoking in virtually all public places beginning July 1.

"It's pretty obvious where this is going. Our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness at this point is gone. I suppose the next thing they'll do is take away my right to remodel my house the way I want to do it."
Such libertarian sentiments run deep in Platteville, one of many rural Colorado towns where tobacco smoke is as routine a sight in bars and coffee shops as cardboard cups in Starbucks. As Johnson's co-worker and fellow smoker Jill Frasier puts it, "Quite frankly, I think this is wrong. Fifty-eight people decided our lives are going to change, and they're just cramming it down our throats."

The smoking ban, signed by Gov. Bill Owens last week, will apply to all enclosed spaces except casinos, tobacco shops, cigar bars, the smoking lounge at Denver International Airport and private workplaces with no more than three employees. Homes, cars and ranch buildings are exempt.

In Platteville (population 2,400), a Weld County farm town on U.S. 85 midway between Brighton and Greeley, even some nonsmokers think the new law goes too far.

"I always thought it was fair all these years to have a choice. If you wanted to smoke, you could walk into a designated smoking area," says Pam Sheley, finishing a leisurely breakfast at Mussman's Main Street Cafe.

Her daughter, Samantha Grey, who is sharing the booth along with her children Tim, 5, and Allyson, 9 months, has a similarly laid-back view.

"I'm a nonsmoker," she says. "When I go to a bar, I expect to smell smoke. But I prefer nonsmoking in restaurants."

A block up the street in Del's Lounge, a watering hole known for its collection of some 3,500 gimme caps, all stapled to the ceiling in neat but dust-covered rows, veteran barkeep Velma Seaman - an ex-smoker herself - zeros in on the loophole for casinos.

"My problem is, it's the moneyed places where you can still do it," she says, getting nods of agreement on this weekday morning from three regulars, all women. "They supposedly approved this exemption because gambling and smoking are so tied together.

Well, aren't smoking and drinking just as linked?"

Across town at the Platteville chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars, patron Wayne Gill - a smoker for 50 of his 64 years - also sees a double standard in the casino exemption.

"If this is such a big health issue," he wonders, pulling out a Pall Mall, "why do we have hundreds of people up in these casinos smoking, while I can't sit here in the VFW hall and have a cigarette and a beer?"

A few bar stools away, retired machinist Paul Dadisman, a nonsmoker, gives the argument a slightly different twist.

"If smoking is bad for you, outlaw it across the board. What are we trying to say here?" he says, sipping beer from a pewter mug he has brought with him. "If a place of business wants to have smoking, it's none of the government's business."

Not everyone in Platteville is opposed to the ban.

"I'm all for it. Smoking has been proven to be bad for you, and they say secondhand smoke is bad as well," says Richard Herrman, a grandfatherly horse rancher who gave up cigarettes 20 years ago with the help of a hypnotist.

"I also don't think this will affect (the restaurant) business one bit," he adds, perusing

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Uncle Sam's scientists busy building insect army

Apr. 1, 2006. 04:50 PM

No, it's not an April Fool's joke: Defence research agency creates landmine-sniffing bugs
A rocky foreign terrain. Platoons of remotely controlled cyborg-insects sniffing out landmines, transmitting their location back to human handlers.

Can you picture it? No?

Well, that's the difference between you and the scientists, "extreme thinkers," at DARPA, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, where soldier insects are already in the works.

The agency's mandate is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military through "far-future" thinking. Its cutting-edge, some would say lunatic-fringe, researchers give new meaning to the concept of brainstorming.

But way back at the dawn of computer time, circa 1969, they developed the precursor to the Internet, known as the ARPANET. They invented GPS, global positioning systems. They're credited, in fact, with half the major innovations in the high-tech industry, not to mention the 120-plus technologies they've come up with for the military, everything from the now standard M-16 rifle to stealth aircraft.

But back to the bugs.

DARPA's current big idea is to implant tiny microsystems into insects at the pupa stage of their development, when they can be "integrated" into their internal organs.

A step or three later, they could be turned into miniature unmanned vehicles for use on military missions "requiring unobtrusive entry into areas inaccessible or hostile to humans." Osama Bin Laden's cave, say.

But first things first.

In its call for proposals from university researchers and private firms last month, DARPA said the immediate goal is "the controlled arrival of an insect within five metres of a specified target located 100 metres away. It must then remain stationary indefinitely, unless otherwise instructed ... to transmit data to sensors providing information about the local environment."

Dragonflies and moths are "of great interest," but "hopping and swimming insects could also meet final demonstration goals."

Or not. Similar research on honeybees and wasps in 2003 was, quite frankly, a wash-out.

The insects had tiny radio transmitters glued to their backs to track their movements in the hope their natural foraging behaviour could be harnessed to check for toxic substances. But the bees buzzed off, to feed and mate. In agency parlance, "their instinctive behaviours prevented them from performing reliably."

Still, researchers learned that bees can recognize individuals. Whether they could also learn to salute, as one skeptic put it, is unknown. The whole cyborg-insect idea may sound hare-brained, but to Stephen Tobe, a University of Toronto zoologist specializing in invertebrate endocrinology, it's plausible.

"If the correct microsystem was inserted, the insect's neurons could surround it. But its entire nervous system would have to be reprogrammed. It's difficult to conceptualize where they'd implant it."

The question is intriguing, says Tobe, but "whether it should be pursued, well ... I won't even go there. It's great DARPA has lots of money to throw around for blue-sky thinking."

Indeed it does: $3.1 billion this year. That compares with the $325 million Ottawa has earmarked for supposedly blue-sky research up here. The difference is more than enough to make Canadian scientists "weep with envy," says John Polanyi, the Nobel Prize-winning U of T chemist. But it's the philosophy of the research they truly envy, he adds.

"The long-term, out-of-the-box approach is why the U.S. is the world leader in science. Canada thinks in the short term. It's all about wealth creation here, having business models, setting milestones for work even before it's begun."

DARPA's staff of scientists and engineers, drawn from universities and IT companies, work on a project for three to five years before they're rotated into something fresh. Their assignment is to come up with big ideas, the most impossible-seeming referred to in-house as "hard problems" or the "unobtainiums." The actual development work is contracted out to university labs, Harvard among them, and private companies.

"Our job is to take the technical excuse off the table, so people can no longer say it can't be done," director Anthony Tether told the U.S. Congress in 2003.

The agency was created in 1958, four months after the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite, seriously denting American assumptions of military superiority. It coordinates with the Pentagon, but from the start has been independent and self-governing. "Failure to keep the bureaucracy at bay would have doomed the value of DARPA, and this has been consistently recognized over the years," says its website.

"These guys have the freedom to think big, run wild," says Noah Shachtman, a New York technology analyst who runs Defensetech.org.

"They know some of their more outlandish schemes won't ever happen - like maybe the armies of cyber-insects - but they pick up important pieces of knowledge in the process."

With a defence department budget of $600 billion a year, he says, "there is room for a place like DARPA, where the research is imaginative, far-out and sometimes creepy."

The insect work is part of DARPA's Controlled Biological and Biomimetic Systems Program. Biomimetics is taking an idea from nature and putting it into technology: How does a gecko climb up walls, an octopus camouflage itself, a beetle sense fire from 40 kilometres away? And how can those skills be adapted into machines, or more likely, robots?

(DARPA likes robots so much that it funds the $2 million prize for an annual robot-car race between Los Angeles and Las Vegas to foster research.)

Back in the lab, work is well-advanced on a biomimetic underwater robot that the agency calls the "robolobster." It mimics the action of its organic cousin, scurrying along the ocean floor, looking for mines and buried bombs.

Then, there's "BigDog," a "robotic beast of burden" that's being developed to haul over rough terrain at least 40 kilograms of supplies that soldiers have to carry.

And not least, the Raptor project, a "marsupial" robot aircraft that will command a squad of roving robots. In the military scenario, Raptor would be airdropped into enemy territory and, like a kangaroo spilling out her young, would release a squad of small robots. They would traverse unknown terrain using night vision lenses and laser radar and the intelligence they pick up communicated back to the Raptor for transmission to the humans at base.

DARPA isn't limiting itself to mimicking nature. It's also changing it.

The department of naval research famously pioneered the use of dolphins for military service in the Vietnam War. DARPA plans the same for sharks.

It's working on a neural implant to manipulate sharks' brain signals, allowing humans to control their movements, decipher their brain activity, possibly decode their perceptions. The "unobtainium" here is to transform the sharks into stealth spies, capable of following vessels without being spotted, sensing chemical trails and electromagnetic fields.

At least, that's the plan. (DARPA doesn't comment on the status of its projects, but word is they're still at the dogfish stage.)

Rats have already come through with flying colours. Remote-controlled electrodes implanted in their brains make them capable of searching through piles of rubble

The jury is still out on the research being funded on "brain machine interface," which would allow mechanical devices to be controlled via human thought-power. To date, a monkey has been taught to move a computer mouse and a tele-robotic arm simply by thinking about it.

It's a start. It may be the finish. But at an agency where the mantra is "high risk, high pay-off," a high failure rate is hardly a surprise. Some 85 to 90 per cent of projects don't accomplish their planned goals.

"When we fail, we fail big," wrote Charles Herzfeld, director in the mid-1960s, in summing up research disasters in an official 1975 history. "You could do really any damn thing you wanted, as long as it wasn't against the law or immoral."

On the one hand, that led to the Internet. On the other, to several fiascos, including the now-infamous mechanical elephant, part of the decade-long Project Agile during the Vietnam War.

The idea was for the early-robot Babar to penetrate through the Vietnam jungle when jeeps couldn't. But when the then-director found out about the work, he shut it down, calling it a "damn fool" idea that would destroy the agency's credibility if word got out.

Hearing in the 1970s that the Soviets were beavering away on telepathy and psychokinesis (moving objects by mental force), DARPA swiftly followed suit, searching for the magical someone who could psychically spy around the globe without leaving home.

It was a bust. Several million dollars later, the agency concluded that, if parapsychology even existed, it couldn't be tapped into on demand.

More recent debacles - but from a public-relations, if not research, standpoint - have occurred in the spate of anti-terrorism projects ignited by the 9/11 attacks. In 2002, DARPA-funded biologists built an infectious polio virus from its chemical components. The virus wasn't created as a weapon, but it prompted fears that it, or even more hazardous viruses, could be.

Its "Total Information Awareness" project, a data-mining technology aimed at detecting suspected terrorists through credit card and computer use, sparked furious outrage from privacy and civil rights advocates. "It was cancelled," says Noah Shachtman, "but sections of it are probably still going on in surveillance circles."

He says a giant surveillance blimp that would float 28,000 metres in the sky and look down on a city is still in development. "Some of the stuff can be Orwellian, but the agency really is interested in dual-use technology that benefits the military and the public, like the Internet."

And so it continues. Insects, rats, even geckos sacrificing themselves for the cause of unfettered, visionary research. Plants too: Their ability to bend and wave in a breeze is being studied for adaptation into aircraft.

Incredibly, however, DARPA has been knocked lately for being too practical. "Some people think they're not blue-sky enough," says Shachtman.

He pauses, and adds: "I don't agree."

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Cockroaches live in a democracy

Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News
Monday, 3 April 2006

Cockroaches govern themselves in a very simple democracy where each insect has equal standing and group consultations precede decisions that affect the entire group, indicates a new study.
The research determines that cockroach decision-making follows a predictable pattern that could explain group dynamics of other insects and animals, such as ants, spiders, fish and even cows.

Cockroaches are silent creatures, save perhaps for the sound of them scurrying over a countertop. They must therefore communicate without vocalising.

"Cockroaches use chemical and tactile communication with each other," says Dr José Halloy, who co-authored the research in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"They can also use vision," says Halloy, a scientist in the Department of Social Ecology at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium.

"When they encounter each other they recognise if they belong to the same colony thanks to their antennae that are 'nooses', that is, sophisticated olfactory organs that are very sensitive," he says.

Give me shelter

Halloy tested cockroach group behaviour by placing the insects in a dish that contained three shelters. The test was to see how the cockroaches would divide themselves into the shelters.

After much "consultation", through antenna probing, touching and more, the cockroaches divided themselves up perfectly.

For example, if 50 insects were placed in a dish with three shelters, each with a capacity for 40 bugs, 25 roaches huddled together in the first shelter, 25 gathered in the second shelter, and the third was left vacant.

When the researchers altered this set-up so that it had three shelters with a capacity for more than 50 insects, all the cockroaches moved into the first "house".

A delicate balance

Halloy and his colleagues found that a balance existed between cooperation and competition for resources.

"Cockroaches are gregarious insects [that] benefit from living in groups. It increases their reproductive opportunities, [promotes] sharing of resources like shelter or food, prevents desiccation by aggregating more in dry environments, etc," he says.

"So what we show is that these behavioural models allow them to optimise group size."

The models are so predictable that they could explain other insect and animal group behaviours, such as how some fish and bugs divide themselves up so neatly into subgroups, and how certain herding animals make simple decisions that do not involve leadership.

Important research

Dr David Sumpter, a University of Oxford zoologist, says the new study "is an excellent paper" and "important".

"It looks both at the mechanisms underlying decision-making by animals and how those mechanisms produce a distribution of animals amongst resource sites that optimises their individual fitness," he says.

"Much previous research has concentrated on either mechanisms or optimality at the expense of the other."

For cockroaches, it seems, cooperation comes naturally.

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Proposed Gay Games Event Divides Ill. Town

Associated Press Writer
Apr 4, 4:38 AM EDT

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. -- Among the items on the City Council's agenda seems a simple matter: Whether to give rowers a permit to have a boat race this summer on a small man-made lake.

But because the rowers are gay - participating in something called the Gay Games - what would normally be a mundane debate about parking and street closures is instead a heated battle between those who see the event as a threat to their small-town way of life and those who see such views as simply small-minded.
On Tuesday, the City Council was scheduled to discuss whether to allow the Olympics-style Gay Games to hold its rowing event in this bedroom community of 40,000 about 50 miles northwest of Chicago.

One look at the angry letters to the editor that have frequently appeared in the local newspaper reveal it isn't the logistics of the race that's on residents' minds.

"Make no mistake: The purpose of the Gay Games is to legitimize homosexuality and make it appear as a wholesome lifestyle choice," wrote Tim Coakley, a critic of the games.

In the same day's paper, Perry and Christine Koste dismissed such views. After wondering if Crystal Lake's motto should be "homophobic capital of the Midwest," they asked, "How proud are we to live in such a narrow-minded, backward hateful community?"

The debate over the Gay Games was the subject of two contentious hearings before the city's park district last month. The full board ultimately voted to approve the race, sending it to the City Council.

If the City Council approves it, the race would only need permission from neighboring Lakewood, which also borders the lake, before the event can be held. Officials in Lakewood say they plan to approve the games.

One of the Gay Games' missions is to raise awareness about gays to reduce stereotypes - a point organizers kept discussing during the park district hearings, said spokesman Kevin Boyer.

"It is very difficult to disregard what these people said and just deal with how boats are unloaded and loaded," Boyer said. "You are going to say this is not right and this is why the Gay Games are needed."

Most of the events for the Gay Games are set in Chicago. Organizers have said the weeklong competition set for July is expected to draw 12,000 participants, tens of thousands of spectators and pump more than $50 million into the economy.

The games, which started in 1982 in San Francisco, are held every four years and are open to gay and straight participants. Other sports include badminton, basketball, cycling, flag football and racquetball.

The furor in Crystal Lake about the games goes to the heart of why many people say they stay in or move to such a community.

Coakley said one reason he and his family moved to Crystal Lake a decade ago was because "there is more of a family values kind of atmosphere" there.

It's the same with Sunita Stone. "Crystal Lake is a G-rated place," she said. "There's no reason to start making things racy. If you want to go to Chicago to do that, that's fine. I'm not going to go there."

Comment: It's a boat race for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. How is that "racy"?

Such talk doesn't surprise Al Hunter, a Northwestern University sociologist who has studied local communities. Hunter said that as suburbs have grown, a number of businesses and industries have abandoned big cities in favor of outlying areas.

That means that as people work closer to home, they travel less to the city and identify less with it, he said. The Gay Games, he said, may feel like an outside invasion.

Mayor Aaron Shepley said the Gay Games organizers have made the event more about a statement on gays and lesbians and not rowing, thus putting Crystal Lake at the center of a debate about social values.

"To the extent that part of the agenda of promoters was to draw attention to a social platform, they've been successful," he said. "And to an extent, it's been at the expense of Crystal Lake's image."

Still, Shepley believes the City Council will vote to allow the rowing competition and said Gay Games organizers will be treated like anyone else who has an event in the town.

"This is only an endorsement of the First Amendment and the anti-discrimination laws of the state," Shepley said. "That's all it is - following the law."

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Stars to 'fall like rain' midnight of April 21

April 4th, 2006

"Chinese records say 'stars fell like rain' in the shower of 687 B.C. In recent times, however, the Lyrids have generally been weak," the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said in its astronomical bulletin.
IT MAKES no difference who you are. Soon, opponents of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who may have been wishing for nearly a year for certain things to happen can make all the wishes they want.

The auspicious hour is at midnight on April 21.

But to better appreciate the heavens, stargazers are advised to go somewhere dark, preferably some place without street lights-but safe.

Then look up.

A keen eye could see up to 20 "falling stars" per hour, courtesy of the annual Lyrids meteor shower that has not failed to provide a spectacle every year for the past 2,600 years.

"Chinese records say 'stars fell like rain' in the shower of 687 B.C. In recent times, however, the Lyrids have generally been weak," the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said in its astronomical bulletin.

Up to 10 meteors can be seen every night this month, but the peak of the meteor shower, which lasts less than 24 hours, will be at midnight on April 21 to early morning of April 22.

"The observation of the meteors is most favorable after midnight when the constellation Lyra, the showers' radiant, is already more than 30 degrees above the northeastern horizon," PAGASA said.

Meteors are rock particles that burn due to friction and are pulled by the earth's gravitation, causing them to appear like stars falling from the sky.

Meteor showers occur every month except for three months of the year, said Bernardo M. Soriano Jr., chief of PAGASA's Atmospheric, Geophysical and Space Sciences branch.

The brightest and most spectacular shower is the Leonid meteor shower in November. This spectacle can hurl up to 100 meteors every hour.

"Now is the best time to watch the shower because generally the sky is clear. Even if there is La Niña, the absolute value of the rainfall is still smaller than the volume during the rainy season," he said.

Soriano said the best areas to watch a shower are dark places without streetlights. Artificial lighting causes light pollution, which diminishes the visibility of the sky, he said.

Those who are in well-lit places can use black cloth to cover their peripheral vision and make holes through which they could watch the sky, he added.

But is it in the stars, Brutus?

Or in ourselves?

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Human Insanity

Boston Crane Collapses, Killing at Least 3

Associated Press
April 3, 2006

BOSTON - A construction crane and scaffolding collapsed on a downtown street Monday, killing at least three people near Emerson College and crushing several cars, fire officials said.

Witnesses described hearing a rumble and then the crash of scaffolding that kicked up a cloud of metal, dust and boards.
Construction crews had been using the crane and scaffolding to work on a 14-story college dormitory on Boylston Street, which runs along the south side of Boston Common. No students were injured, said Emerson Vice President of Public Affairs David Rosen.

"It's terrible," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who drove to the accident site after the collapse, around 1:30 p.m. "People just driving down the street in their cars, construction workers just doing their jobs - they never knew what hit them."

John Hynes of Boston was driving up Boylston Street when he saw the scaffolding start to tumble just ahead of him.

"You could see it coming down and then I started rolling forward. It started to hit my car, and then I sped up," said Hynes, grandson of former Boston Mayor John Hynes. He said his car and several others on the street were crushed.

The building - a dormitory and campus center - has been under construction for nearly two years and was scheduled to open for the fall semester, Rosen said.

"It's very distressing," Rosen said. "We're waiting for the police and fire to investigate."

A spokeswoman at Macomber Builders, the contractor hired by Emerson, had no immediate comment.

The contractor is based in South Boston and has been in business for more than 100 years, according to the company Web site. The site also promotes its employee safety program.

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Two dead, 30 missing as Mauritania boat disappears

By Ibrahima Sylla
Mon Apr 3, 8:20 AM ET

NOUAKCHOTT - Two people drowned and 30 were missing after a launch carrying would-be illegal immigrants from Mauritania to Spain's Canary Islands disappeared off the West African coast, emergency services said on Monday.

Another launch transporting 25 people from Mauritania, Gambia, Senegal and Mali was rescued on Saturday afternoon after it had drifted for weeks along the coast of Mauritania following problems with its outboard motors, officials said.
Navy officials were searching for the missing boat after fishermen found the bodies of two men floating at sea. The open, mostly wooden fishing boats normally used by illegal migrants are often unable to withstand storms or rough seas.

Both vessels had left the Mauritanian port of Nouadhibou, close to the northern border with Western Sahara, on the perilous 500-mile voyage to the Canary Islands.

"We left Nouadhibou more than a month ago and we went 17 days without food," one 25-year-old survivor told Reuters. "We had nothing to drink but sea water."

The man, who asked not to be identified, said each passenger had paid the equivalent of $1,200 for the trip. Around 20 of them were being treated in Nouakchott for exhaustion, starvation and dehydration.

Their launch was rescued 20 miles from the capital Nouakchott after having drifted on ocean currents 300 miles south of Nouadhibou.

More than two-thirds of the population of West Africa are under 30 years of age, and unemployment in some countries tops 50 percent, leaving many with no hope of finding a job.

Mauritania signed a deal with Spain last month to try to stem the rising tide of migrants attempting the dangerous crossing. The two governments agreed to mount joint coastal patrols and to crack down on people-trafficking networks.

The governor of Nouadhibou estimated in March that around 1,000 sub-Saharan Africans were arriving in the port every month to attempt the crossing, one of the main routes into Europe since Moroccan officials clamped down last year on attempts to enter Spain's north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

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Lab Grows Bladders From Cells of Patients

Associated Press Writer
April 4, 2006

BOSTON - At age 16, Kaitlyne McNamara is different beyond her defective spine, crutch, leg braces and 54 surgeries. She has one of the world's first re-engineered bladders.

It is the first time a complex human organ like the bladder has been mostly replaced with tissue grown from a patient's own cells. Only simpler tissues - skin, bone, and cartilage - have been lab-grown and transplanted in the past.
"It's really science fiction at its best," said Kaitlyne's mother, Tracy McNamara.

The bladder transplants, performed on seven patients ages 4 to 19, were being reported online Tuesday in The Lancet medical journal - a breakthrough that could hold exciting promise for someday regenerating ailing hearts and other organs.

"This suggests that tissue engineering may one day be a solution to the shortage of donor organs in this country for those needing transplants," said Dr. Anthony Atala, the lead researcher.

Growing other organs will likely hold unforeseen challenges, however, since organs are so specialized in their functions, scientists stress.

Even for people with bladder disease - and there are an estimated 35 million in the United States alone - Atala's technique requires testing on more patients and for longer times, researchers say. Replacing an entire bladder would pose many more problems, including reconnecting urine tubes, blood supply and nerve signaling, according to Dr. Steve Y. Chung, an Illinois urologist who wrote a commentary for The Lancet.

Still, he called the work "a tremendous, tremendous advance."

For the children and teenagers in the study, the transplants reduced leaking from their bladders - a potentially big gain in quality of life. For Kaitlyne McNamara, the transplant has meant a new social life.

Since birth, the teen from Middletown, Conn., has coped with spina bifida, a defect that leaves the spine incompletely closed. She's trudged through a grinding series of medical tests, treatments and procedures.

There was the urinary infection that nearly killed her as a toddler. There were the surgeries to correct her spine and legs. By age 11, there was the kidney damage from her weak bladder that again put her life in jeopardy.

Yet maybe the worst part, for a teenager, was simply being different. "I didn't fit in with the kids," she said. "Sometimes the kids made fun of me."

It wasn't necessarily her crutch, braces, or 4-foot-2 height that set her apart, at least in her mind. It was more the accidents from her diseased bladder, which would frequently leak.

That was before her surgery five years ago. Now, her kidneys are working again, and she no longer wears a diaper. Instead, she was waiting for alternations on a low-cut champagne-colored dress for her junior prom.

"Now that I've had the transplant, my body actually does what I want it to do," she said last week. "Now I can go have fun and not worry about having an accident."

Scientists, marveling at how animals like salamanders regenerate lost limbs, have long toyed with the futuristic possibilities of regrowing worn-out or injured human parts.

Over the past decade, researchers began fashioning better scaffold-like platforms that hold growing cells and dissolve inside the body. The study of stem cells, which can mature into all the body's other tissues, has also supercharged progress in regenerative medicine.

The researchers at Children's Hospital in Boston used a more mature cell type known as a progenitor. They first operated on the patients to remove bad tissue that made up more than half their bladders. They fished out muscle and bladder wall cells, seeded them on cup-like bladder-shaped scaffolds of collagen, then let the cells reproduce in the lab for seven weeks. Starting with tens of thousands, they ended up with about 1.5 billion cells. The cell-bearing molds were then surgically sewn back to the remnants of the patients' original and partly working bladders, where the lab-nurtured cells kept maturing.

The team, which began its work in 1999, followed the last patient for almost two years. In undergoing the experimental procedure, the patients skirted the typical side effects of grafts that would otherwise have been made with their own intestinal tissue.

Atala, who has since moved to Wake Forest University, has already begun commercializing his transplant techniques through Tengion, a company he helped found in King of Prussia, Pa. It has licensing rights to patents on his work.

Some researchers were more cautious about the promise shown with the new procedure, saying the study lacks any direct comparison group of patients getting the traditional graft.

Dr. Joseph Zwischenberger, who edits the journal of the American Society of Artificial Internal Organs, questioned how well the new bladders worked in the first few patients and raised a "red flag" about two patients who left the study for personal reasons and were ultimately omitted from the results. He also said Atala's attempts to commercialize the technique should add some skepticism toward the findings, which he nonetheless called "very interesting preliminary data."

The patients in the study must still deal with the ravages of spina bifida, which can turn off nerve signals that keep the bladder healthy. It causes the stiff, leathery bladder to leak frequently.

The rebuilt bladders, though, were up to three times more elastic and better at holding urine, the researchers report. In all seven patients, kidney function was preserved, the study said. The patients must still empty their bladders regularly with a tube but can avoid leaking in between.

"You don't want your little girl to wear a diaper all her life," said Tracy McNamara.

She used to worry about her daughter dying from kidney damage or urinary infections. That's all faded into the past. Now, she worries about all the time her daughter fritters away on the telephone, talking to friends.

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U.S. kids getting too bulky for car seats

Last Updated Mon, 03 Apr 2006 11:38:27 EDT
CBC News

Thousands of American toddlers are too fat to be properly protected by their car-safety seats in a crash, a new study suggests.
The research concludes that at least 283,000 U.S. children aged one to six are too heavy for standard seats, including booster seats commonly used for children aged four and up.

The study appears in the April issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It does not deal with obesity rates in Canada or other countries.

It says the problem is most noticeable among youngsters who exceed the weight limit for seats with built-in harnesses rated at up to 40 pounds (18 kilograms).

An estimated 182,000 three-year-old children in the U.S. fall into that category.

The danger is that the momentum of a crash could overpower the harness, allowing the child to spring free.

"Year after year, injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes continue to the leading cause of death for children in the United States," the study said.

The study was launched after researchers at a Baltimore safety centre began seeing children who weighed more than the limit for almost all available seats.

"Estimates of child obesity are as high as 10 per cent for children two to five years of age in the United States," the authors wrote. "In the past three decades, the rates of childhood obesity have doubled for children two to five years of age ... and have tripled for children six to 11 years of age."

Doctors are still trying to figure out what to do about the problem, they said. "We do know, however, that childhood obesity is increasing, and we can expect even more children to face the prospect of limited or no child-safety seats available to protect them."

Responding to the demand for stronger seats, manufacturers are now producing beefed-up versions costing $240 US and up, the study said.

The prices cause extra problems for low-income families, whose children are more likely than average to be obese and more likely to be hurt or killed in a car crash, the study said.

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Strike The Root

Denver Commuters Scramble to Get to Work

AP Business Writer
April 3, 2006

DENVER - Thousands of commuters scrambled to find rides to work Monday after transportation workers in the Denver area went on strike for the first time in 24 years, a move that halted rail service and shut down more than half the region's bus routes.
Highway officials said Denver thoroughfares ran smoothly during the morning rush but some off-ramps were backing up more than usual.

Commuters, many surprised that the union rejected the Regional Transportation District's latest offer, drove to work or caught one of the few buses running. RTD officials expected to be able to keep about 45 percent of the bus routes operating amid the strike but said rail service, regional service and transit centers would be down.

"I didn't think they were going to strike," said Phil Mainelli, who caught a bus to downtown from south Denver.

Striking workers were on the picket lines early Monday, some holding signs that read: "RTD put us on the street, but we'd rather be serving you."

Light rail operator Gary Welch, 36, said he voted to reject the proposal, saying RTD could have offered more by cutting waste. He said big raises given to some managers while union wages were frozen were a blow to the rank-and-file.

"The people, my passengers, they have to understand, this is not against them," Welch said. "We got to look after ourselves. We got families like anybody else," he said.

In Boulder, the University of Colorado urged the estimated 10,000 students, faculty and staff who use the transit system to carpool or walk or bike to campus. The shutdown was also expected to cause headaches for fans headed to Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies' opening game.

The transit system averages about 275,000 rides per weekday.

Union leadership had recommended approval of RTD's latest labor proposal, but 55 percent of workers rejected the offer, which included a wage hike of $1.80 an hour over three years, with 15-cent raises in hourly pay every quarter. No new talks were immediately scheduled.

"It's very disappointing," said transit spokesman Scott Reed. "We had the largest wage rate increase offer in RTD's history on the table, and we agreed to do exactly what the union requested, which was split possible future health care cost increases."

Carol Erven-Robinson, 25, said she would have to find another mode of transportation from a halfway house where she is staying to a downtown restaurant where she works.

"There are 160 women here and all of us rely on the bus system to get to work, to get to appointments, to get anywhere," Erven-Robinson said. "We're all trying to figure out how do we get to work."

Fifty-five percent of the 1,750 Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001 members voted Sunday to reject the Regional Transportation District's latest contract offer, union officials said.

Local 1001 president Yvette Salazar said workers would remain on strike until a better contract is offered.

"I talked to my family and they told me that you do what you have to do," said bus operator Deb Sena, 49, who has been with RTD for nearly 10 years. "I'm just hopeful that when we go out there and picket, we'll get a lot of public support that things will change and that we're back at work the next day."

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Sarkozy making the most of CPE debacle

April 3, 2006

PARIS - The crisis over France's botched youth jobs reform has prompted an important power-shift in the French government, with a discredited Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin eclipsed by his powerful rival Nicolas Sarkozy, commentators said Monday.
The massive wave of protests against the First Employment Contract (CPE) has been directly primarily at the 52 year-old prime minister, who single-handedly conceived the idea in January and then railroaded it through parliament.

After President Jacques Chirac's elaborate compromise offer on Friday - to ratify the contract but suspend it while the most contested points are amended - Villepin remains in office, and can claim he has not surrendered on his key objective which was to see the CPE into law.

In a sign of his continuing resolve, on Monday morning he chaired a meeting of cabinet ministers to discuss the government's programme for the coming months.

But if appearances have been saved, the consensus among opinion-makers Monday was that the prime minister's authority has taken a severe dent - especially as it is clear that day-to-day handling of the CPE crisis has now been given over to his ambitious number two, Sarkozy.

The interior minister has already been in touch over the weekend with unions and student groups in a bid to defuse the month of mounting opposition.

Critical both of the CPE itself - he favours a general reform of the labour code - and of the lack of consultation that preceded its passage into law, Sarkozy, 51, can play the role of disinterested third party, anxious to apply the balm of negotiation and detente.

Moreover it is supporters of Sarkozy in the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) who will draw up the new law to supersede the CPE. Many in the party have made clear they regard the contract as a dead letter, and may put up little fight to defend it.

"Mr. de Villepin has been punished for his intransigence by being quite simply taken off the case. Outwardly he may have won because the law is promulgated, but in reality he is the loser," said Le Monde newspaper.

With presidential elections looming in just over a year, the fall-out from the crisis could be decisive because few now give Villepin much hope of resurrecting his career in time. It thus becomes more likely than ever that Sarkozy, who runs the UMP, will be the man to lead the centre-right into the election.

But if the UMP chief can claim a tactical victory in his dogged pursuit of power, that may be to underestimate the damage that the CPE crisis has done to the government, the centre-right in general and indeed to the whole of French politics, commentators said.

Newspapers of left and right described Chirac's complex effort to dig the government out of its hole as "preposterous", "surrealist" or "like a three card trick", and said the gap separating the public from their elected politicians could only widen at the sight of such political contortions.

"When a president promulgates a law while at the same time asking for it not be applied, when a prime minister stays in his post but is shorn of all powers to end the crisis, it is clear something abnormal is going on," said Les Echos financial daily.

Some newspapers echoed accusations made by the opposition Socialist Party (PS) that powers are shifting from the government to a political party - Sarkozy's UMP - which they said is constitutionally questionable, and others lamented the prospects of Chirac's last year in office.

"The president is on paper the most powerful leader in Europe. But here he is caught in a tug-of-war between his two putative successors forced to knock up impromptu solutions for crises he is unable to stop happening. What a disastrous 'fin de regne'" said Le Monde.

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French strike in new bid to kill youth job law

By Anna Willard
April 4, 2006

PARIS - French transport workers and teachers staged new strikes on Tuesday and students across the country prepared to take to the streets for a protest they hope will sound the death knell for a youth hire-and-fire law.

France's ruling conservatives stopped short of agreeing to scrap the law but, faced with sliding poll ratings and internal rifts over how to deal with the crisis, signaled they could offer more concessions in possible talks with trade unions.
Opponents of the regulations want at least as many people to take to the streets as a week ago, when between one and three million protesters marched through French cities in the biggest demonstration the country has seen for decades.

"It's annoying that the railways go on strike over things that don't really concern them," fumed Farid Morsle, an estate agent from the northern Paris suburb of Pontoise who was late into the capital because his train had been canceled.

Marie Wagner, a striking teacher from the eastern city of Strasbourg, said she had faced no transport problems. "I back the strike because I have children and job insecurity is a concern," she said.

Disruption from strikes was less than a week ago, with two high-speed trains out of three leaving Paris on time in the morning, and metro services in the capital barely hit. Public transport in northern cities, such as Lille, was untouched.

Air traffic was hit, with aviation authorities estimating around a third of flights had been canceled and others delayed by up to 90 minutes. France's top oil refiner Total SA said strikes slightly reduced output at three out of six plants.

"We are perhaps on the verge of a great victory," far-left leader Olivier Besancenot told France 2 television.

"But the CPE is not dead yet," he added of the disputed First Job Contract (CPE), aimed at encouraging firms to take on young workers by giving them the right to summarily lay them off at any time during a two-year period.

Backers of the contract say it will free up the labor market by allowing employees to bypass French laws making it hard to lay off workers once on their books -- often cited by firms as a disincentive for taking on staff in the first place.

President Jacques Chirac has urged a softening of key parts of the legislation -- for example halving the maximum duration of the contract to a year -- and his conservatives signaled further possible climb-downs on the measure.


"We'll be ready as of tomorrow to receive the unions, to listen to them. There won't be any limits to the talks," promised Bernard Accoyer, parliamentary chief of Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party.

Asked on French radio if the offer of talks was merely a tactic to take the steam out of the protests, or whether the CPE could actually be replaced, he replied: "Let's not speak about the CPE because we want to talk about the future."

Unions have vowed to resist overtures for talks unless ruling conservatives pledged to scrap the CPE and start anew on ways to tackle chronic youth joblessness stuck at 22 percent.

A mass police presence, including some 4,000 in Paris, was being deployed to stop a re-run of violence on March 28, when police in the capital used tear gas on hundreds of youths who threw bottles and petrol bombs.


Chirac's declaration on Friday that he would sign the CPE bill even as he called for amendments, was seen as a bid to stave off the risk that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, a champion of the CPE and long-time Chirac ally, would resign.

But the move could weaken Villepin and boost the hand of Nicolas Sarkozy, interior minister and chief of Chirac's UMP who will now have a key role in any amendments and negotiations.

Sarkozy, whose relations with Chirac are strained, nurtures hopes of beating Villepin off to be the right's candidate for president in the 2007 elections.

Facing his third major crisis in a year -- after last May's referendum rejection of the European Union constitution and November's rioting in poor suburbs -- Chirac insisted late on Monday that his conservatives maintain "complete coherence."

But Le Figaro quoted a number of Sarkozy allies as calling for the scrapping of the CPE, a move which would leave question marks over Villepin's future.

A survey by pollsters BVA showed just 25 percent of the those questioned on April 1 approved his handling of the economy, five points down on a month before.

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Cyber Mania

Readers Flock to Newspapers' Online Sites

AP Business Writer
Mon Apr 3, 12:48 PM ET

CHICAGO - Newspapers' online audiences are growing rapidly, according to a new industry study, highlighting a key growth area that newspapers are seeking to exploit as print circulation continues to be challenged.

A study being released Monday by the Newspaper Association of America, a trade group, found that one in three Internet users - 55 million - visit a newspaper Web site every month.

Also, unique visitors to newspaper Web sites jumped 21 percent from January 2005 to December 2005, while the number of page views soared by 43 percent over the same period.
The study coincides with the NAA's annual convention in Chicago. Top of mind for the publishers attending was the looming sale of 12 Knight Ridder Inc. newspapers by The McClatchy Co., which is acquiring the storied publishing company in a $4.5 billion deal that will reshape the landscape of American newspapers.

Strategies for coping with the rapid transformation of consumers' news consumption habits due to the Internet was also a big topic at the three-day conference, which began Sunday.

Andrew Swinand, executive vice president at Starcom Worldwide, a major advertising-buying agency, said during a panel discussion that newspapers could do more to harness their presence online, such as getting more participation from audiences.

Swinand also said his firm would like to buy advertising across newspaper Web sites but had difficulty doing so, and had to go through third-party vendors. He also said it was difficult to buy both print and online advertising through newspapers, and that the process for fulfilling newspaper ad sales was cumbersome and less automated than in other media.

Swinand did say afterward that he was still "bullish" on newspapers' online advertising potential, but added that newspapers should do more to personalize and localize their online content, in ways such as the social networking site MySpace does.

In other topics, executives from The Sun in Baltimore, the head of news at E.W. Scripps Co. and the head of online media at McClatchy discussed another big pending issue for newspapers: how to integrate print and online news operations.

Having new people come in with fresh ideas was key for newspapers as they develop their online operations said Mark Contreras, Scripps' vice president of news operations. Those people are likely to devise new initiatives over the next few years that will "save our bacon," he said.

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China Surpasses U.S. In Internet Use

Natalie Pace

New York - Chinese Internet users spend nearly two billion hours online each week, while the U.S. audience logs on for 129 million hours per week.

That's the bombshell Dr. Charles Zhang, chairman and CEO of Sohu.com, dropped last month after ringing the opening bell at the Nasdaq, a milestone for a Beijing-based company.
Zhang reported that, according to his internal research, Chinese Internet users numbered over 150 million--and possibly up to 200 million--and Sohu.com, including all of their properties, was in the top five most trafficked sites in the world. Nielsen NetRatings, which doesn't have statistics for China, reports that the U.S. had 154 million active users in January 2006. This means that China, if Zhang is correct, is at or above the U.S. in the number of Internet users and that these users stay connected far longer each time.

How could the milestone of China surpassing the U.S. in Internet users have gone so unremarked? It turns out that it isn't that easy collecting data on over a billion people in a country as vast as China, where most people are not connected by phone lines.

The China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) reports that the number of active Chinese Internet users was 111 million by Dec. 31, 2005, up from 94 million a year earlier. And over the past two years, it has been growing at a steady rate of 18%. However, according to Zhang, the CNNIC polling is conducted by calling fixed line phones. "Young people do not use fixed line phones. They all have mobile phones," Zhang said, explaining why he believes the CNNIC is reporting lower-than-accurate numbers.

Even if we assume that China is still behind the U.S. in terms of users, China definitely wins in another critical area. One of the most valued metrics of Internet usage (especially for advertisers) is time spent online. Chinese users average 15.9 hours per week, while Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO - news - people ), the most popular Internet site in the U.S., can only get its users to stick around for less than one hour per week (216.5 minutes per month according to ComScore Media Metrix). That's 1.765 billion hours per week online in China, compared with 129 million hours per week online in the U.S.

What's up with all that time online? This is the first time in Chinese history that the nation has been connected. As Zhang explains, "People log onto the Internet and Sohu.com because, in China, there is no Forbes, Reuters or The Washington Post. Print media was all state-controlled and official, and the Internet filled this void." Indeed, according to the CNNIC, 67.9% of online use in China is spent devouring news, more than searching (65.7%) and e-mailing (64.7%). By contrast, only 3% of Yahoo!'s U.S. traffic clicks over to news.*

Moreover, China has a lot more room to grow than the U.S. While roughly half of the U.S. population is actively using the Internet, just 11.7% of the Chinese population is currently plugged in. [...]

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