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Editorial: The Israel Lobby

From John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt
University of Chicago & Harvard University

We wrote 'The Israel Lobby' in order to begin a discussion of a subject that had become difficult to address openly in the United States (LRB, 23 March). We knew it was likely to generate a strong reaction, and we are not surprised that some of our critics have chosen to attack our characters or misrepresent our arguments. We have also been gratified by the many positive responses we have received, and by the thoughtful commentary that has begun to emerge in the media and the blogosphere. It is clear that many people - including Jews and Israelis - believe that it is time to have a candid discussion of the US relationship with Israel. It is in that spirit that we engage with the letters responding to our article. We confine ourselves here to the most salient points of dispute.

One of the most prominent charges against us is that we see the lobby as a well-organised Jewish conspiracy. Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits, for example, begin by noting that 'accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-semitism' (Letters, 6 April). It is a tradition we deplore and that we explicitly rejected in our article. Instead, we described the lobby as a loose coalition of individuals and organisations without a central headquarters. It includes gentiles as well as Jews, and many Jewish-Americans do not endorse its positions on some or all issues. Most important, the Israel lobby is not a secret, clandestine cabal; on the contrary, it is openly engaged in interest-group politics and there is nothing conspiratorial or illicit about its behaviour. Thus, we can easily believe that Daniel Pipes has never 'taken orders' from the lobby, because the Leninist caricature of the lobby depicted in his letter is one that we clearly dismissed. Readers will also note that Pipes does not deny that his organisation, Campus Watch, was created in order to monitor what academics say, write and teach, so as to discourage them from engaging in open discourse about the Middle East.

Several writers chide us for making mono-causal arguments, accusing us of saying that Israel alone is responsible for anti-Americanism in the Arab and Islamic world (as one letter puts it, anti-Americanism 'would exist if Israel was not there') or suggesting that the lobby bears sole responsibility for the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. But that is not what we said. We emphasised that US support for Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories is a powerful source of anti-Americanism, the conclusion reached in several scholarly studies and US government commissions (including the 9/11 Commission). But we also pointed out that support for Israel is hardly the only reason America's standing in the Middle East is so low. Similarly, we clearly stated that Osama bin Laden had other grievances against the United States besides the Palestinian issue, but as the 9/11 Commission documents, this matter was a major concern for him. We also explicitly stated that the lobby, by itself, could not convince either the Clinton or the Bush administration to invade Iraq. Nevertheless, there is abundant evidence that the neo-conservatives and other groups within the lobby played a central role in making the case for war.

At least two of the letters complain that we 'catalogue Israel's moral flaws', while paying little attention to the shortcomings of other states. We focused on Israeli behaviour, not because we have any animus towards Israel, but because the United States gives it such high levels of material and diplomatic support. Our aim was to determine whether Israel merits this special treatment either because it is a unique strategic asset or because it behaves better than other countries do. We argued that neither argument is convincing: Israel's strategic value has declined since the end of the Cold War and Israel does not behave significantly better than most other states.

Herf and Markovits interpret us to be saying that Israel's 'continued survival' should be of little concern to the United States. We made no such argument. In fact, we emphasised that there is a powerful moral case for Israel's existence, and we firmly believe that the United States should take action to ensure its survival if it were in danger. Our criticism was directed at Israeli policy and America's special relationship with Israel, not Israel's existence.

Another recurring theme in the letters is that the lobby ultimately matters little because Israel's 'values command genuine support among the American public'. Thus, Herf and Markovits maintain that there is substantial support for Israel in military and diplomatic circles within the United States. We agree that there is strong public support for Israel in America, in part because it is seen as compatible with America's Judaeo-Christian culture. But we believe this popularity is substantially due to the lobby's success at portraying Israel in a favourable light and effectively limiting public awareness and discussion of Israel's less savoury actions. Diplomats and military officers are also affected by this distorted public discourse, but many of them can see through the rhetoric. They keep silent, however, because they fear that groups like AIPAC will damage their careers if they speak out. The fact is that if there were no AIPAC, Americans would have a more critical view of Israel and US policy in the Middle East would look different.

On a related point, Michael Szanto contrasts the US-Israeli relationship with the American military commitments to Western Europe, Japan and South Korea, to show that the United States has given substantial support to other states besides Israel (6 April). He does not mention, however, that these other relationships did not depend on strong domestic lobbies. The reason is simple: these countries did not need a lobby because close ties with each of them were in America's strategic interest. By contrast, as Israel has become a strategic burden for the US, its American backers have had to work even harder to preserve the 'special relationship'.

Other critics contend that we overstate the lobby's power because we overlook countervailing forces, such as 'paleo-conservatives, Arab and Islamic advocacy groups . . . and the diplomatic establishment'. Such countervailing forces do exist, but they are no match - either alone or in combination - for the lobby. There are Arab-American political groups, for example, but they are weak, divided, and wield far less influence than AIPAC and other organisations that present a strong, consistent message from the lobby.

Probably the most popular argument made about a countervailing force is Herf and Markovits's claim that the centrepiece of US Middle East policy is oil, not Israel. There is no question that access to that region's oil is a vital US strategic interest. Washington is also deeply committed to supporting Israel. Thus, the relevant question is, how does each of those interests affect US policy? We maintain that US policy in the Middle East is driven primarily by the commitment to Israel, not oil interests. If the oil companies or the oil-producing countries were driving policy, Washington would be tempted to favour the Palestinians instead of Israel. Moreover, the United States would almost certainly not have gone to war against Iraq in March 2003, and the Bush administration would not be threatening to use military force against Iran. Although many claim that the Iraq war was all about oil, there is hardly any evidence to support that supposition, and much evidence of the lobby's influence. Oil is clearly an important concern for US policymakers, but with the exception of episodes like the 1973 Opec oil embargo, the US commitment to Israel has yet to threaten access to oil. It does, however, contribute to America's terrorism problem, complicates its efforts to halt nuclear proliferation, and helped get the United States involved in wars like Iraq.

Regrettably, some of our critics have tried to smear us by linking us with overt racists, thereby suggesting that we are racists or anti-semites ourselves. Michael Taylor, for example, notes that our article has been 'hailed' by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (6 April). Alan Dershowitz implies that some of our material was taken from neo-Nazi websites and other hate literature (20 April). We have no control over who likes or dislikes our article, but we regret that Duke used it to promote his racist agenda, which we utterly reject. Furthermore, nothing in our piece is drawn from racist sources of any kind, and Dershowitz offers no evidence to support this false claim. We provided a fully documented version of the paper so that readers could see for themselves that we used reputable sources.

Finally, a few critics claim that some of our facts, references or quotations are mistaken. For example, Dershowitz challenges our claim that Israel was 'explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship'. Israel was founded as a Jewish state (a fact Dershowitz does not challenge), and our reference to citizenship was obviously to Israel's Jewish citizens, whose identity is ordinarily based on ancestry. We stated that Israel has a sizeable number of non-Jewish citizens (primarily Arabs), and our main point was that many of them are relegated to a second-class status in a predominantly Jewish society.

We also referred to Golda Meir's famous statement that 'there is no such thing as a Palestinian,' and Jeremy Schreiber reads us as saying that Meir was denying the existence of those people rather than simply denying Palestinian nationhood (20 April). There is no disagreement here; we agree with Schreiber's interpretation and we quoted Meir in a discussion of Israel's prolonged effort 'to deny the Palestinians' national ambitions'.

Dershowitz challenges our claim that the Israelis did not offer the Palestinians a contiguous state at Camp David in July 2000. As support, he cites a statement by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and the memoirs of former US negotiator Dennis Ross. There are a number of competing accounts of what happened at Camp David, however, and many of them agree with our claim. Moreover, Barak himself acknowledges that 'the Palestinians were promised a continuous piece of sovereign territory except for a razor-thin Israeli wedge running from Jerusalem . . . to the Jordan River.' This wedge, which would bisect the West Bank, was essential to Israel's plan to retain control of the Jordan River Valley for another six to twenty years. Finally, and contrary to Dershowitz's claim, there was no 'second map' or map of a 'final proposal at Camp David'. Indeed, it is explicitly stated in a note beside the map published in Ross's memoirs that 'no map was presented during the final rounds at Camp David.' Given all this, it is not surprising that Barak's foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, who was a key participant at Camp David, later admitted: 'If I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David as well.'

Dershowitz also claims that we quote David Ben-Gurion 'out of context' and thus misrepresented his views on the need to use force to build a Jewish state in all of Palestine. Dershowitz is wrong. As a number of Israeli historians have shown, Ben-Gurion made numerous statements about the need to use force (or the threat of overwhelming force) to create a Jewish state in all of Palestine. In October 1937, for example, he wrote to his son Amos that the future Jewish state would have an 'outstanding army . . . so I am certain that we won't be constrained from settling in the rest of the country, either by mutual agreement and understanding with our Arab neighbours, or by some other way' (emphasis added). Furthermore, common sense says that there was no other way to achieve that goal, because the Palestinians were hardly likely to give up their homeland voluntarily. Ben-Gurion was a consummate strategist and he understood that it would be unwise for the Zionists to talk openly about the need for 'brutal compulsion'. We quote a memorandum Ben-Gurion wrote prior to the Extraordinary Zionist Conference at the Biltmore Hotel in New York in May 1942. He wrote that 'it is impossible to imagine general evacuation' of the Arab population of Palestine 'without compulsion, and brutal compulsion'. Dershowitz claims that Ben-Gurion's subsequent statement - 'we should in no way make it part of our programme' - shows that he opposed the transfer of the Arab population and the 'brutal compulsion' it would entail. But Ben-Gurion was not rejecting this policy: he was simply noting that the Zionists should not openly proclaim it. Indeed, he said that they should not 'discourage other people, British or American, who favour transfer from advocating this course, but we should in no way make it part of our programme'.

We close with a final comment about the controversy surrounding our article. Although we are not surprised by the hostility directed at us, we are still disappointed that more attention has not been paid to the substance of the piece. The fact remains that the United States is in deep trouble in the Middle East, and it will not be able to develop effective policies if it is impossible to have a civilised discussion about the role of Israel in American foreign policy.

John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt
University of Chicago & Harvard University
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Editorial: Colbert & the Courtier Press

By Robert Parry
May 5, 2006

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has joined the swelling ranks of big-name journalists outraged over comedian Stephen Colbert's allegedly rude performance, offending George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner on April 29.

"Colbert was not just a failure as a comedian but rude," Cohen wrote. "Rudeness means taking advantage of the other person's sense of decorum or tradition or civility that keeps that other person from striking back or, worse, rising in a huff and leaving. The other night, that person was George W. Bush."

According to Cohen, Colbert was so boorish that he not only criticized Bush's policies to the President's face, but the comedian mocked the assembled Washington journalists decked out in their tuxedos and evening gowns.

"Colbert took a swipe at Bush's Iraq policy, at domestic eavesdropping, and he took a shot at the news corps for purportedly being nothing more than stenographers recording what the Bush White House said," Cohen wrote. "Colbert was more than rude. He was a bully." [Washington Post, May 4, 2006]

Yet, while Cohen may see himself defending decorum and civility, his column is another sign of what's terribly wrong with the U.S. news media: With few exceptions, the Washington press corps has failed to hold Bush and his top advisers accountable for their long record of deception and for actions that have violated U.S. constitutional principles and American moral standards.

Over the past several years, as Bush asserted unlimited presidential powers and implemented policies that have led the United States into the business of torture and an unprovoked war in Iraq, Washington journalists mostly stayed on the sidelines or actively assisted the administration, often wrapping its extraordinary actions in a cloak of normality designed more to calm than alert the public. At such a dangerous moment, when a government is committing crimes of state, politeness is not necessarily a virtue.

So, average Americans are growing more and more agitated because too often in the past five years they have watched the national press act more like courtiers to a monarch than an independent, aggressive Fourth Estate. This fawning style of the Washington media continued into the April 29 dinner.

Even as the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq passed 2,400 and the toll of Iraqi dead soared into the tens of thousands, the journalists seemed more interested in staying in Bush's favor than in risking his displeasure. Like eager employees laughing at the boss' jokes, the journalists applauded Bush's own comedy routine, which featured a double who voiced Bush's private contempt for the news media while the real Bush expressed his insincere respect.

WMD Search

Two years ago, at a similar dinner, journalists laughed and clapped when Bush put on a slide show of himself searching under Oval Office furniture for Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Rather than shock over Bush's tasteless humor - as the President rubbed the media's noses in the deceptions about Iraq's WMD - the press corps played the part of the good straight man. Even representatives of the New York Times and the Washington Post - the pillars of what the Right still likes to call the "liberal media" - sat politely after having served as little more than conveyor belts for Bush's pre-war propaganda.

But the media's willful blindness didn't end even when Bush's WMD claims were no longer tenable. Less than a year ago, as evidence surfaced in Great Britain proving that Bush had twisted the WMD intelligence, major U.S. newspapers averted their eyes and chastised anyone who didn't go along.

The so-called Downing Street Memo and other official government papers, which appeared in British newspapers in late spring 2005, documented how the White House in 2002 and early 2003 was manipulating intelligence to justify invading Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein.

On July 23, 2002, British intelligence chief Richard Dearlove told Prime Minister Tony Blair about discussions with top Bush advisers in Washington, according to the meeting minutes. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," Dearlove said. [See Consortiumnews.com's "LMSM - the Lying Mainstream Media."]

Despite that dramatic evidence - emerging in June 2005 - the Washington Post failed to pay much attention. When hundreds of Post readers complained, a lead editorial lectured them for questioning the Post's news judgment.

"The memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration's prewar deliberations," the Post's editorial sniffed. "Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002." [Washington Post, June 15, 2005]

When Rep. John Conyers and a few Democratic congressmen tried to draw public attention to the historically important British documents - but were denied an actual hearing room by the Republican majority - Post political correspondent Dana Milbank mocked the Democrats for the cheesy surroundings of their rump hearing.

"In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe," Milbank wrote. "They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official." [Washington Post, June 17, 2005]

'Not Funny'

After Colbert's lampooning of Bush and the Washington press corps, Milbank appeared on MSNBC on May 1 to pronounce the comedian's spoof "not funny," while Milbank judged the President's skit with Bush impersonator Steve Bridges a humorous hit.

Milbank's assessment was shared by many journalists at the dinner, a reaction that can partly be explained by the pressure Washington reporters have long felt from well-organized right-wing media-attack groups to give Bush and other conservatives the benefit of every doubt. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Bush Rule of Journalism" or Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]

For Washington journalists, who realized their reactions at the dinner were being broadcast on C-SPAN, laughing along with Bush was a win-win -- they could look good with the White House and avoid any career-damaging attacks from the Right -- while laughing at Colbert's jokes could have been a career lose-lose. However clever Colbert's jokes were, they were guaranteed to face a tough crowd with a lot of reasons to give the comedian a chilly reception.

Colbert's monologue also struck too close to home when he poked fun at the journalists for letting the country down by not asking the tough questions before the Iraq War.

Using his faux persona as a right-wing Bush acolyte, Colbert explained to the journalists their proper role: "The President makes decisions; he's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down.

"Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction."

Cringing Behavior

Even before the Colbert controversy, the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner and similar press-politician hobnobbing have been cringing examples of unethical journalistic behavior.

The American people count on the news media to act as their eyes and ears, as watchdogs on the government, not lap dogs wagging tails and licking the faces of administration officials. Whatever value these dinners might once have had - as an opportunity for reporters to get to know government sources in a more casual atmosphere - has long passed.

Since the mid-1980s, the dinners have become competitions among the news organizations to attract the biggest Hollywood celebrities or infamous characters from the latest national scandal. Combined with lavish parties sponsored by free-spending outlets like Vanity Fair or Bloomberg News, the dinners have become all about the buzz.

Plus, while these self-indulgent affairs might seem fairly harmless in normal political times, they are more objectionable when American troops are dying overseas and the Executive Branch is asserting its right to trample constitutional rights, including First Amendment protections for journalists.

This contradiction is especially striking as the news media fawns over Bush while he attacks any nascent signs of journalistic independence. The administration is currently looking into the possibility of jailing investigative reporters and their sources for revealing policies that the White House wanted to keep secret, such as warrantless wiretaps of Americans and clandestine overseas prisons where detainees are hidden and allegedly tortured.

The fact that so many national journalists see no problem cavorting with Bush and his inner circle at such a time explains why so many Americans have reached the conclusion that the nation needs a new news media, one that demonstrates a true commitment to the public's right to know, rather than a desire for cozy relations with the insiders.

Indeed, in a world with a truly independent news media, it is hard to imagine there would ever be a White House Correspondents' dinner.

In such a world, the Washington Post also might find better use for its treasured space on its Op-Ed page than giving it over to a columnist who favors decorum over accountability. The Post might even hire a columnist who would object less to a sharp-tongued comedian lampooning a politician and complain more about a President who disdains domestic and international law, who tolerates abusive treatment of prisoners, and who inflicts mayhem on a nation thousands of miles away that was not threatening the United States.

Only the likes of Richard Cohen could see George W. Bush as the victim and Stephen Colbert as the bully.
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Editorial: Al-Arian's final persecution

May 04, 2006
John Sugg

You have to wonder about a few things in the May 1 sentencing of Sami Al-Arian.

For example, Alberto Gonzalez -- the "torture-is-OK" and "no-law-binds-the-president" U.S. attorney general" -- flew into the Tampa Bay area five days before the courtroom spectacle in which federal District Judge James Moody threw the book at Al-Arian, albeit a tattered tome that bore no resemblance to truth, justice or the U.S. Constitution.

Or, consider that Tampa's U.S. Attorney, Paul Perez, showed up -- for the first time during the Al-Arian case -- at the prosecution table on sentencing day. Courthouse gossips, including some of Perez's own staff, have told me he had wanted to keep a little distance during the trial in case his subalterns faltered. Falter they did. The prosecution team stumbled through awful lawyering and a series of strategic pratfalls. After a decade of investigations, costing U.S. taxpayers as much as $50 million, the feds didn't prove a single crime was committed by Al-Arian and three other Palestinians. Meanwhile, real terrorists with blood on their minds, such as Mohammed Atta, went undetected in Florida.

So, why did Perez show up at the drama's final scene? Why was he so eager to race to a spot in front of the TV cameras and make inflammatory claims about things his minions couldn't prove to a jury?

It's almost as if Perez knew Moody was going to surprise everyone and ignore the negotiated recommendations from both prosecution and defense attorneys that Al-Arian be given the light side of federal sentencing guidelines of 46 to 57 months in jail. With time served, Al-Arian could have anticipated almost immediate release and deportation. Now, with Moody's sentencing, he'll languish through as much as another 18 months in jail.

Those at the sentencing hearing noticed that the prosecutors, when they entered the courtroom, appeared almost jovial. That's suspicious when you remember how badly they were humiliated when a jury in December failed to return a single guilty verdict against Al-Arian and his three co-defendants. (Other counts resulted in mistrials, but in no instance did more than two of the 12 jurors favor conviction on any charge.)

Why were the feds so upbeat? What had gone on when Gonzalez dropped into town? Considering that this administration admits to no legal restraint, and its deceptions and mendacities are a matter of daily public discussion, I believe the fix was made. Careers could be capped or ended by anyone not playing on the team.

Perez already had been passed over for one federal judgeship -- and speculation among his own staff was that it stemmed from his office's clear complicity in attempting to frame an anti-corruption crusading state judge.

So, my bet is that Gonzalez came to town and lowered the hammer. 'Give me blood,' is what I think he told Perez and Moody. Or else.

The only reasonable explanation is that Al-Arian was set up by the "recommendation" from the U.S. Attorney's office for a light sentence. Snookered. The feds never intended for Al-Arian to leave jail anytime soon. Judge Moody did as ordered.

The government's motivation? Revenge. Occam's Razor -- the simplest explanation that fits the facts. The prosecutors have routinely lied and deceived in presenting their case. This final deception was in character. What they couldn't win in a fair trial, they rejoiced at achieving by deceit.

Beyond that, there's little doubt of Moody's deeply ingrained prejudice. The judge would not allow the defense to bring up the slightest mention during the trial of the almost four decades of grinding military occupation of Palestinian lands by the Israelis. Tons of evidence -- highly prejudicial and largely irrelevant to the facts of the case -- was admitted about Israeli deaths. No evidence was allowed about Palestinian deaths. The jury heard about murdered Israeli children, nothing about the far greater number of murdered Arab kids.

Despite that grossly unjust imbalance dictated by Moody, the jurors saw through the propaganda and said, repeatedly, "not guilty."

Al-Arian did eventually plead guilty to one count -- but that was a greatly eviscerated charge. He faced another trial on the remaining counts if he didn't reach an agreement. In an interview last year, he asked me to withhold his assessment of Moody. At that time, he said he feared another trial because he was sure that the overtly biased Moody would not allow a verdict other than guilty.

But a plea of guilty is a plea of guilty. The stateless Palestinian refugee conceded:

What Al-Arian didn't do is to admit to any violence. And, the government stipulated that nothing he admitted to resulted directly or indirectly in violence.

Moreover, what's missing from most of the egregiously misleading reports in The Tampa Tribune, and in the statements by Judge Moody at sentencing, is a time element. The record was very clear that Al-Arian had no active role with the Islamic Jihad after the federal government designated it a terrorist organization in the mid-1990s. Al-Arian's earlier activities -- political activism and fund-raising -- occurred during the time when it was perfectly legal to support the group.

Yet, Judge Moody justified his harsh sentence by claiming Al-Arian had blood on his hands -- an assertion rejected by the jurors. One who spoke to me said the jury "most emphatically" disagreed with the conclusion by Moody.

This was the same judge who had ruled that Al-Arian and associates couldn't mention one word about the military occupation or the plight of the Palestinian people. As I wrote after that ruling, if MLK had been on trial in Judge Moody's courtroom for disturbing the peace, he wouldn't have been allowed to mention Jim Crow or lynchings. This is how ludicrous the judge's rulings were: The prosecution, during closing arguments, noted a document that mentioned U.N. Resolution 242. The defense wanted to explain to the jury what 242 said. The judge wouldn't allow it because it painted a somewhat sympathetic picture of the Palestinians.

The judge also insulted the jurors by parroting a discredited, paid government snitch, Munir Arafat. His testimony was thoroughly demolished during the trial.

Arafat had asserted that Al-Arian sent his children to the best U.S. universities, while promoting the violence that killed children in the Middle East. That hyperbolic claim was rejected by the jury.

Al-Arian is far from a perfect person. Not only did he lie to Harper, but he was deceptive (or as he told me in an interview last year, "incomplete") in statements to me. But he wasn't the only one. The ersatz terrorism expert who started the crusade against Al-Arian, Steve Emerson, also lied. Harper also reported that Emerson had claimed the Tampa Palestinians were involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Emerson claimed he had proof. He did not. Emerson also sued me, and couldn't produce proof of his allegations; I prevailed.

The Tampa Tribune made up stories out of air. Under the tutelage of Emerson, the newspaper tried to pin the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing on Al-Arian. The paper has never retracted or apologized for that mendacity.

According to an article by the highly regarded St. Petersburg Times columnist Susan Taylor Martin, the Israelis weren't much interested in the final chapter of the Al-Arian case. He just wasn't that important.

But for our government, he represented the utter failure of George Bush's "war on terrorism." He had to pay the price.

When was Al-Arian important? More than a decade ago, when Israel's Likudniks in the United States, such as Emerson, were working feverishly to undermine the Oslo peace process. No Arab voice could be tolerated, and Al-Arian (unlike any terrorist I've heard about) was vigorously trying to communicate with our government and its leaders. He was being successful, making speeches to intelligence and military commanders at MacDill AFB's Central Command, inviting the FBI and other officials to attend meetings of his groups. People were beginning to listen and to wonder why only one side of the Middle East debate was heard here.

That was the reason for Al-Arian's political prosecution, a horrendous undermining of our Constitution's guarantees of free speech and fair judicial process.

I disagree with Al-Arian on many things. I believe his people would have won their state had they pursued the tactics of MLK and Gandhi. I believe Israel needs to be assured of security (but not conquest and expansion) and the Palestinians deserve an end to occupation. Al-Arian recognized the inevitability of Israel; he never conceded the Israelis could be partners in peace and prosperity.

Beyond all of that is the fact that any study of Al-Arian reveals a clear trajectory, one that veered away from radicalism and toward a belief in democracy. The government found one very old letter authored by Al-Arian (but never mailed) that condoned a violent attack (against military units, not civilians). What America never had a chance to hear were the many subsequent statements that moved toward moderation.

It's interesting that Judge Moody called the Palestinian academic a "master manipulator." Another man claims that he originated that phrase, as it applied to Al-Arian -- Norman Gross, a radical activist for Israel who lives in St. Petersburg. It's fitting, but sad, that an American judge should adopt the slogan of one side in this case. Justice in Tampa is neither balanced or blind.


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Pschopathic Legacy


US: Government creating "climate of torture"

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
AI Index: AMR 51/070/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 109
3 May 2006

Amnesty International today made public a report detailing its concerns about torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees both in the US and in US detention sites around the world.

The report has already been sent to members of the UN Committee Against Torture, who will be examining the US compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on 5 and 8 May in Geneva. The Convention against Torture prohibits the use of torture in all circumstances and requires states to take effective legal and other measures to prevent torture and to provide appropriate punishment for those who commit torture.

The US is reportedly sending a 30-strong delegation to Geneva to defend its record. In its written report to the Committee, the US government asserted its unequivocal opposition to the use or practice of torture under any circumstances -- including war or public emergency.
"Although the US government continues to assert its condemnation of torture and ill-treatment, these statements contradict what is happening in practice," said Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director Of Amnesty International USA. "The US government is not only failing to take steps to eradicate torture it is actually creating a climate in which torture and other ill-treatment can flourish -- including by trying to narrow the definition of torture."

The Amnesty International report describes how measures taken by the US government in response to widespread torture and ill-treatment of detainees held in US military custody in the context of the "war on terror" have been far from adequate. This is despite evidence that much of the ill-treatment stemmed directly from official policy and practice.

The report reviews several cases where detainees held in US custody in Afghanistan and Iraq have died under torture. To this day, no US agent has been prosecuted for "torture" or "war crimes".

"The heaviest sentence imposed on anyone to date for a torture-related death while in US custody is five months -- the same sentence that you might receive in the US for stealing a bicycle. In this case, the five-month sentence was for assaulting a 22-year-old taxi-driver who was hooded and chained to a ceiling while being kicked and beaten until he died," said Curt Goering.

"While the government continues to try to claim that the abuse of detainees in US custody was mainly due to a few 'aberrant' soldiers, there is clear evidence to the contrary. Most of the torture and ill-treatment stemmed directly from officially sanctioned procedures and policies -- including interrogation techniques approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld," said Javier Zuniga, Amnesty International's Americas Programme Director.

The report also lists concerns surrounding violations of the Convention against Torture under US domestic law, including ill-treatment and excessive force by police, cruel use of electro-shock weapons, inhuman and degrading conditions of isolation in "super-max" security prisons and abuses against women in the prison system -- including sexual abuse by male guards and shackling while pregnant and in labour.

The US last appeared before the Committee Against Torture in May 2000. Practices criticized by the Committee six years ago -- such as the use of electro-shock weapons and excessively harsh conditions in "super-maximum" security prisons -- have in some cases been exported for use by US forces abroad -- serving as a model for the treatment of US detainees in the context of the "war on terror".

"The US has long taken a selective approach to international standards, but in recent years, the US government has taken unprecedented steps to disregard its obligations under international treaties. This threatens to undermine the whole framework of international human rights law -- including the consensus on the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," said Javier Zuniga.

Amnesty International called on the US to demonstrate its commitment to eradicating torture, by withdrawing the reservations it has entered to the Convention against Torture, including its "understanding" of Article 1 of the Convention, which could restrict the scope of the definition of torture by the US.

The organization also called on the US to clarify to the Committee in no uncertain terms that under its laws no one, including the President, has the right or authority to order the torture or ill-treatment of detainees under any circumstances whatsoever -- and that anyone who does so, including the President, will have committed a crime.

Background
The Committee Against Torture is a 10-member body of independent experts established by the Convention against Torture to monitor the compliance of states with their obligations under the treaty. It meets twice a year and, among other tasks, reviews the periodic reports of states. At its forthcoming 36th session, which will take place from 1 to 19 May 2006, it will consider reports presented by Georgia, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Qatar, Peru, Togo and the US. Amnesty International has provided written briefings to the Committee in respect of Georgia, Guatemala, Qatar, Togo and the US.

The second and third periodic reports of the US will be considered by the Human Rights Committee, which monitors states' compliance under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, at its 87th session in July.

In total, 141 states have ratified the Convention against Torture.

For a full copy of the report, please see http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engamr510612006



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U.S. Torture and Abuse of Detainees

Human Rights Watch
05/05/2006

"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

-The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5 (1948)

Each day brings more information about the appalling abuses inflicted upon men and women held by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. U.S. forces have used interrogation techniques including hooding, stripping detainees naked, subjecting them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, and depriving them of sleep-in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This apparently routine infliction of pain, discomfort, and humiliation has expanded in all too many cases into vicious beatings, sexual degradation, sodomy, near drowning, and near asphyxiation. Detainees have died under questionable circumstances while incarcerated.

This must end. Torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading practices should be as unthinkable as slavery. U.S. Department of Defense officials have announced that certain stress interrogation techniques will no longer be used in Iraq. But President Bush should ban all forms of abuse during interrogation in Iraq and everywhere else that the United States holds people in custody. It is wrong in itself and leads to further atrocities.



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Somali President Says U.S. Backs Warlords

05.03.2006
Forbes.com

The leader of a U.N.-backed transitional government that is trying to assert control over Somalia said Wednesday he believes the United States is funding an alliance of warlords fighting radical Islamic militias in his country and should be working directly with his administration instead.

The United States has said only that American officials have met with a wide variety of Somali leaders to try to fight international terrorists in the country.
Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed told The Associated Press during a two-day visit to Stockholm that he believes Washington is supporting the warlords-turned-politicians as a way of fighting several top al-Qaida operatives who are being protected by radical clerics.

"They really think they can capture al-Qaida members in Somalia," he said. "But the Americans should tell the warlords they should support the government, and cooperate with the government ... We are the legitimate government, and we will help you fight terrorism."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he did not know "the origin of these remarks in terms of what he has in mind."

"Our interest is purely in seeing Somalia achieve a better day," McCormack said. "It's a real concern of ours, terror taking root in the Horn of Africa ... We don't want to see another safe haven for terrorists created."

Somalia has not had an effective central government since clan-based warlords overthrew the government in 1991 and then began fighting each other.

A transitional government headed by Yusuf was formed in October 2004 but its members quickly split over what the government's priorities were and where it should be located. It only controls a few cities and Yusuf spends much of his time out of the country.

The State Department said in March that the U.S. government was concerned about "al-Qaida fugitives responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam (in Tanzania) and the November 2002 bombing of a tourist hotel and attack on a civilian airliner in Kenya, who are believed to be operating in and around Somalia."

Several key warlords in the new government have formed an alliance with the stated aim of capturing al-Qaida members. The Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism was formed after a fundamentalist Islamic group began asserting itself in the capital and portrayed itself as an alternative to warlords.

Fueling suspicion that the group is receiving outside aid, the alliance has become one of the most powerful militias in Somalia in a matter of months.

Residents of alliance-held areas report trucks arriving full of new weapons, and Somalis with connections to the alliance have said U.S. officials have frequently visited its leaders.

Yusuf said U.S. support for the warlords could undermine the government's efforts to bring stability to the region.

"These groups, they really do not want Somalia to become a stabilized country," he said. "They do not want the government to function."

He said his government is committed to fighting terrorism, but that it can only be effective if it first gets help from the international community "to build the country up from scratch."




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U.S. Warns Russia to Act More Like A Democracy

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 5, 2006; Page A01

The Bush administration has warned Russia that the upcoming summit of the Group of Eight nations in St. Petersburg could be a debacle unless the Kremlin takes specific actions in the coming weeks to demonstrate a commitment to democracy, according to U.S. officials.
The administration has privately identified to Moscow concrete steps it should take before the July meeting, such as registering civil society groups that have been harassed, as a way of deflecting criticism that Russia has no business hosting a summit of democratic nations. And administration officials have sharpened their rhetoric about Russia's backslide toward autocracy.


Vice President Cheney talks with Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, at a democracy conference in Vilnius, Lithuania.

At a European democracy conference in Lithuania yesterday, Vice President Cheney accused Russia of "unfairly and improperly" restricting the rights of its people and using oil and gas as "tools of intimidation or blackmail" against neighboring countries.

"Russia has a choice to make," Cheney said. "And there is no question that a return to democratic reform in Russia will generate further success for its people and greater respect among fellow nations."

Administration officials are increasingly concerned about President Bush's attending a meeting of the world's major democracies in a country that by most definitions is not. Bush has made expansion of freedom and democracy the central tenet of his foreign policy but has been reluctant to alienate his avowed friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin, even as the Kremlin has rigged or canceled elections, taken over independent television, and prosecuted political enemies.

Some critics, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have called on Bush to boycott the G-8 summit in protest of Putin's suppression of dissent, but the president has rejected such a move as counterproductive. While Cheney said yesterday that the United States supports democracy "through direct aid," Bush has cut funding for democracy groups in the former Soviet Union in half.

"We have to show some leadership," former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) said in a speech at the Hoover Institution last week. Edwards, who helped lead a Council on Foreign Relations panel on Russia, said Bush should tell Putin that "if you want to be seen as a legitimate power in the world, a force for good, and you want to look outside and not just inward, then democratic reforms matter."

Bush, though, wants Moscow's help on an array of issues, including preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Putin has joined Bush in pressuring Tehran but resists U.N. sanctions. Bush called Putin on Monday to lobby him on Iran, but during the call Putin changed the subject and pressed Bush to finish negotiations allowing Russia into the World Trade Organization. Bush vowed to do so "soon." Aides said that there was no quid pro quo but that they hope to conclude WTO talks before the summit.

The summit, set for July 15-17, has forced administration officials to rethink their approach to Russia for fear that the meeting will be consumed with questions about why the leaders of the world's leading democracies would seemingly ignore Putin's crackdown on internal opposition. Cheney has shown particular interest in the matter, summoning Russia scholars to brief him and meeting secretly with a leading Russian democrat, according to people informed about the sessions.

Administration officials concluded it is not practical to simply urge Russia to be more democratic, so they developed a list of half a dozen things Moscow can do in the next two months to signal a new direction.

Among other things, the administration is recommending that Russia register nongovernmental organizations that have been pressured, such as the New Eurasia Foundation; guarantee energy supplies to neighbors; and ensure that independent monitors are permitted to observe elections down to the local level, according to officials who were not authorized to speak on the record.

"We're not ordering them, we're not telling them," said one official. "We want a good meeting." If the Russians do too, they will take some of these actions, the officials said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley met with Putin's national security adviser, Igor Ivanov, at the White House yesterday.

Another option under consideration at the White House is to have Bush visit Ukraine before the G-8 summit to demonstrate his solidarity with former Soviet republics that feel pressured by Russia.

"There's concern in Washington that if they go to that sort of meeting the risk is they'll be seen as validating Putin," said Steven Pifer, who was deputy assistant secretary of state in Bush's first term and is now a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "On the other hand, they have to balance that against how much you want to put your thumb in your host's eye."

The Kremlin has come to realize that it has an image problem in the West, and this week, for the first time, it hired a Western public relations firm, Ketchum. "They were looking for help to improve lines of communication with the world media," said Ketchum Senior Vice President Noam Gelfond.

The Russian government also agreed to include on its official list of summit-related activities a June 29 forum in Moscow on national security and human rights. Among the participants are the New Eurasia Foundation and financier George Soros's Open Society Institute, which is viewed with enormous suspicion by Russia for its role in training democracy activists who toppled governments in Ukraine and Georgia.

But Putin and his aides bristle when they feel they are being lectured, and it remains unclear whether they are willing to make any substantive changes. After Cheney's speech in Lithuania yesterday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov pronounced his remarks "completely incomprehensible," according to the Reuters news service.

Cheney's speech reflected a shift in the administration's tone. On Monday, Rice complained about the Kremlin concentration of power. "The jury is out about where Russia is going to end up," she said. On Wednesday, World Press Freedom Day, her spokesman lumped Russia with China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Iran as countries that repress journalists.

Cheney's decision to go to Lithuania was itself a message to Russia. The gathering in Vilnius of democratic leaders from the region is the kind of meeting that might normally rate an assistant secretary of state. It's also the kind that typically irritates Russia, which views such gatherings as hostile.

Cheney made a point of meeting with two of Moscow's least favorite people, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who led revolutions in those post-Soviet republics. Cheney had planned to meet with opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich of Belarus, but Milinkevich was jailed by the Belarusan government last week.

"The regime should end this injustice and free Mr. Milinkevich, along with the other democracy advocates held in captivity," Cheney said. He added: "There is no place in a Europe whole and free for a regime of this kind."

Addressing Russia, Cheney said, "In many areas of civil society, from religion and the news media to advocacy groups and political parties, the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people." Referring to Russia's brief cutoff of gas to Ukraine, Cheney said, "No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail."

Comment: What a joke.

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US Urges 'Aggressive action' Against Saudi Arabia

03 May 2006
Mail and Guardian Online

A United States Congress-mandated commission called on the government to take "aggressive action" against Saudi Arabia for alleged religious-freedom violations and warned that religious rights were under threat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom also urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to maintain Saudi Arabia as well as China, North Korea, Sudan, Iran, Vietnam, Eritrea and Burma on the annual government blacklist of "severe religious-freedom violators".

In addition, the commission proposed that Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan be included in the blacklist.
Those designated as "countries of particular concern" in the annual state department international religious-freedom report could face sanctions.

Afghanistan, where the former Taliban regime was once designated as a particularly severe violator, has been added to the commission's "watch list" this year, joining Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US is directly engaged in political reforms, "the universal right to religious freedom is imperiled," warned Michael Cromartie, the commission's chairperson.

In Afghanistan, the courts and scholars last month angrily demanded that a Muslim who converted to Christianity be sentenced to death under Sharia law, enraging its Western allies. President George Bush had to personally intervene in convert Abdul Rahman's case and he was spirited out of Afghanistan to asylum in Italy.

Although Rahman's case was eventually dismissed, "concerns about his personal safety meant that he could no longer stay in Afghanistan", Cromartie noted.

A few months before, an Afghan journalist, who is also a Muslim scholar, was imprisoned and threatened with death after being found guilty of blasphemy. His purported "crime" was to question the strict interpretation of some tenets of Islam, the majority religion in Afghanistan, the commission said.

It also warned that in Iraq, an escalation in the level of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims threatened to halt political reforms.

Targets of religiously motivated attacks also include secular Muslims, non-Muslim minorities, and women, it said.

"The result is that many non-Muslim minorities are leaving Iraq, an exodus that may mean the end of the presence in Iraq of ancient Christian and other communities that have lived on those same lands for 2 000 years," Cromartie said.

He also said that religious freedom conditions in Saudi Arabia had not substantially improved since it was blacklisted two years ago.

The US government, Cromartie said, "must not hesitate in taking aggressive action" against the country.

Comment: Given the other stories in this thread about the extent of US human rights abuses, this story is a perfect example of the arrogance, hypocrisy and duplicity of the US government.

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US Accused Of Killing Children

Reuters
05/04/06

RAMADI, Iraq - Iraqi doctors and neighbours in the Sunni Arab city of Ramadi accused U.S. troops of killing children in a missile strike on Thursday but the military said no civilians, only eight insurgents, were killed.

Local television footage showed the body of a boy lying in the rubble of a house. Hospital and police officials gave death tolls ranging from five to 13, with up to another 15 wounded. [...]

Disputes over the identities of those killed in U.S. attacks are not uncommon. U.S. commanders say they go out of their way to avoid civilian casualties and accuse rebels of intentionally operating from crowded neighbourhoods. Many Iraqis say U.S. forces do not take enough care to avoid killing civilians.

"The American troops struck a house with two missiles in Maysaloon Street, then followed them with a third," said one man at the scene, who declined to be named for fear of reprisal.

"They brought the house down on people's heads."

"Is this the democracy that Bush wants? This is terrorism," he said, venting popular anger at U.S. President George W. Bush.





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US invasion of Iraq brings religious persecution - US report

May 3, 2006
Truthaboutiraqis.blogspot.com

The US invasion of Iraq has produced several results in the oil-rich country:

1. Lawlessness
2. Sectarian violence fuelled by US-trained death squads
3. Debilitated state of the Iraqi economy
4. Abu Ghraib-style torture and murder
5. Failing public health care system
6. Failing infrastructure
7. Embezzled monies slated for reconstruction

... This list is virtually endless.

However, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has said "it continues to be especially concerned about the situation in Iraq."

"The situations in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate that freedom of conscience goes to the heart of our foreign policy goals. In these two countries, where the United States is directly engaged in political reconstruction, the universal right to religious freedom is imperiled. "

The report also raises alarms that Christians may entirely leave Iraq, marking the end of Christian heritage in Iraq for the last 2000 years.

"In Iraq, an escalation in the level of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims threatens to halt political reconstruction. Targets of religiously motivated attacks also include secular Muslims, non-Muslim minorities, and women. The result is that many non-Muslim minorities are leaving Iraq, an exodus that may mean the end of the presence in Iraq of ancient Christian and other communities that have lived on those same lands for 2,000 years."
The body has called for immediate action on the part of the Iraqi government and the illegal American occupiers:

"The development of a permanent constitution and legal system that will guarantee every Iraqi citizen's right to freedom of religion or belief and other human rights in accordance with Iraq's international obligations continues to be a concern."

The status of women in Iraq is also of particular concern as the report directly implements government officials (supported, protected, endeared by the US military) of suppressing women's rights:

"In addition, there have been numerous reports of violence, including murder, particularly against women, in an effort by various militia and insurgent groups and even, in some areas, local officials, to impose an extremist version of Islamic law in parts of the country."

The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) requires that the United States designate as CPCs those countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.

You can read more here ...



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Beyond Incompetence: Washington's War in Iraq

By Jonathan Cutler
05/03/06 "ICH"

If there is a central principle animating Noam Chomsky's commentaries on US foreign policy, it is his affinity for Realpolitik analysis. As Chomsky argues in a recent interview, "Our leaders have rational imperial interests. We have to assume that they're good-hearted and bumbling. But they're not. They're perfectly sensible." This methodological axiom presents some serious challenges for those trying to understand the US war in Iraq. With so much evidence of bumbling within the Bush White House, it is tempting to join the chorus of critics, led by the Democrats, who say that incompetence is the defining feature of US foreign policy. Is it possible to tell the story of the US invasion of Iraq as "perfectly sensible"?


Chomsky is adamant and he is right to warn against the idea that foreign policy elites are more fool than knave. "Consider the actual situation, not some dream situation... If we can enter the real world we can begin to talk about it... We have to talk about it in the real world and know what the White House is thinking. They're not willing to live in a dream world."

What, then, is the "actual situation" that led the Bush administration to make the "perfectly sensible" -- if entirely imperialist -- decision to invade Iraq and topple the regime of Saddam Hussein? Here, according to Chomsky, is the real world:

"If [Iraq is] more or less democratic, it'll have a Shiite majority. They will naturally want to improve their linkages with Iran, Shiite Iran. Most of the clerics come from Iran... So you get an Iraqi/Iran loose alliance. Furthermore, right across the border in Saudi Arabia, there's a Shiite population which has been bitterly oppressed by the U.S.-backed fundamentalist tyranny. And any moves toward independence in Iraq are surely going to stimulate them, it's already happening. That happens to be where most of Saudi Arabian oil is. Okay, so you can just imagine the ultimate nightmare in Washington..."

Chomsky isn't making this stuff up. One can get quick confirmation of Chomsky's characterization of this "ultimate nightmare" scenario from the key "realists" of Republican foreign policy establishment -- folks like Bush Sr., former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Secretary of State James Baker, and Colin Powell. When presented with a Shiite uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991, the "realists" opted to leave Saddam in power, rather than let the nightmare become reality. In a co-authored 1998 memoir, A World Transformed, Bush Sr. and Scowcroft insist that they acted to preserve "the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf" (p.489). In his 1995 memoir The Politics of Diplomacy, James Baker recalls that he didn't want to "play into the hands of the mullahs in Iran, who could export their brand of Islamic fundamentalism with the help of Iraq's Shiites and quickly transform themselves into the dominant regional power" (p.437). Colin Powell, in his 1995 memoir My American Journey, is equally blunt. "Why didn't we finish him off?... In March, the Iraqi Shiites in the south rose up in arms... But our practical intention was to leave Baghdad enough power to survive as a threat to an Iran that remained bitterly hostile toward the United States" (pp.512, 516).

The problem is that fear of this "ultimate nightmare" provided the rationale in 1991 for not invading Iraq, or more precisely, not promoting the political ascendance of the Iraqi Shiite majority. Chomksy argues that fear of the nightmare scenario will deter realists from supporting US withdrawal from Iraq. But did the "realists" get us into Iraq? "Realists" may keep us in Iraq, but did the "realists" unleash Iraqi Shiite power by terminating Sunni Baathist political and military rule? "Realists" may, in fact, be sensible -- at least in a self-serving way -- but

Scowcroft
, Baker, and Bush Sr. all publicly warned George W. Bush about the risks of unleashing the ultimate nightmare. Kissinger -- who first floated the idea of seizing the Eastern Province from the Saudis in the mid-1970s, prior to the Iranian revolution -- was explicit in a Washington Post Op-Ed. The key to any move to topple Saddam, he insisted, was the contour of "the political outcome," especially insofar as Saudi Arabia would be unlikely to cooperate in the formation of a "Shiite republic" that "would threaten the Dhahran region in Saudi Arabia, and might give Iran a new base to seek to dominate the gulf region." Chomsky is at a loss to explain -- in Realpolitik terms -- the 2003 decision by George W. Bush to invade Iraq and empower the Iraqi Shiite majority.

Gilbert Achcar, like Chomsky, is inclined to stipulate the decisive role of Realpolitik in US foreign policy. Looking at the case of Iraq, however, Achcar makes an exception. "In the case of Iraq, and in this case exclusively," writes Achcar in a 2004 CounterPunch article, "the Bush administration has acted on ideological views so contrary to the 'reality principle' that they could only lead into this major nightmare of U.S. imperial policy... History will probably record this venture as one of the most important blunders ever committed by an administration abroad from the standpoint of U.S. imperial interests."

Chomsky and Achcar both agree that the general aim of the invasion was based on "realism." As Chomsky says, the US would not have invaded Iraq "if its main product was lettuce and pickles... If you have three gray cells functioning, you know... the US invaded Iraq because it has enormous oil resources." Likewise, Achcar is "fully aware of the very oily factors" involved in US military intervention. However, Achcar insists that "many of its concrete decisions" -- chiefly the "clumsiness of de-Baathification... [and the] dissolution of the Iraqi military" -- represented "blunders" and "wild dreams" of "crackpot idealists" who allow "high-flying moral rhetoric" to help guide foreign policy "in a way that stands in blatant contradiction to pragmatic needs."

For Achcar, the crucial decisions were not the ones that simply toppled Saddam Hussein but the ones -- made in May 2003, at the start of the formal US occupation -- to actively undermine authoritarian Sunni minority rule in Iraq. "Whatever the reason," says Achcar, "the fact is that Bush Jr. and his collaborators have acted for a while in conformity with their democratic proclamations." These decisions unleashed a major "nightmare" because they "opened the way for the Iraqi people to seize control of their own destinies... to the benefit of Islamic fundamentalist forces, somewhat on the Iranian pattern." The "clumsiness" is particularly difficult to explain in the terms of Realpolitik since regime change -- without Shiite empowerment -- could have been accomplished "more effectively...had the Bush administration acted from a craftily Machiavellian perspective and managed to get hold of Iraq through an arrangement with the Iraqi army and other apparatuses of the Baathist state."

If there is room for rapprochement between Achcar and Chomsky, it is because Achcar actually agrees that the familiar "realist" crowd never would -- and never did -- jettison craftily Machiavellian perspectives on foreign policy. Achcar insists, however, that on the key questions regarding the political outcome in Iraq -- de-Baathification, military dissolution, and Shiite power -- the "administration was divided." Realists fought against all of these policies for post-invasion Iraq, favoring something more like a US-backed military coup that would result in a political outcome akin to Saddamism-without-Saddam and an "arrangement" with the Baathist state. There was, however, a rival faction within the Bush administration: the so-called neo-conservatives, vaguely defined as those who favored a "crusade for bringing democracy" to Iraq. Neo-conservatives championed comprehensive de-Baathification and dissolution of the Sunni-led military establishment -- even if it meant empowering Iraqi Shiites.

Chomsky, however, seems not to have taken note of neo-conservatives or any factional battles within the Bush administration. In his many interviews on the war in Iraq, he rarely if ever says anything about neo-conservatives (a peculiar asymmetry in light of neo-conservative vilification of Chomsky). His analysis posits not only Realpolitik, but a unified actor. One of the great merits of Achcar's analysis, by contrast, is his attention to the crucial split between neo-conservatives and realists in Washington.

Machiavelli for Zionists

Do neo-conservatives represent the antithesis of Realpolitik? Are neo-conservatives bumbling crackpot idealists who unwittingly opened Pandora's box in Iraq by substituting idealistic dreams of democracy ahead of realist Machiavellian statecraft? Indeed, Achcar suggests that the neo-conservative agenda for Iraq represents "a typical case of self-deception." Perhaps. Financial Times columnist Samuel Brittan, in a typical attack on the neo-conservatives, published an October 2003 Realpolitik manifesto -- This Is Not a Time for Boy Scouts -- in which he condemned neo-conservative zeal as "almost indistinguishable from that of the liberal imperialists" who think foreign policy should be guided by morality. Another defender of Realpolitik, John J. Mearsheimer, dismisses neo-conservative theory as "essentially Wilsonianism with teeth."

Some neo-conservatives welcome that depiction, if not the accompanying criticism. William Kristol and Lawrence F. Kaplan, two prominent neo-conservatives, insist that their book, The War Over Iraq: Saddam's Tyranny and America's Mission, "wears its heart on its sleeve" (p.ix). They present a relentless critique of "a narrow realpolitik that defined America's vital interests in terms of oil wells, strategic chokepoints and regional stability" (p.viii). Even as they celebrate "creating democracy in a land that for decades has known only dictatorship" (p.ix), they make no mention of -- and seem utterly oblivious to -- the prospect of Iraqi democracy emboldening Shiites in Iraq, Iran, or Saudi Arabia.

Kristol and Kaplan may be "Boy Scouts," as suggested by Brittan; or maybe they simply find it convenient to appear good-hearted and bumbling, as Chomsky warned. Either way, not all neo-conservatives wear their merit badges or their heart on their sleeve. The neo-conservative movement is hardly monolithic; there have been many fissures and splits along the way. The crucial point, however, is that some key neo-conservatives are as committed to cold-hearted Machiavellian Realpolitik as any so-called "realist." The battle dividing the Bush administration in Iraq is between two factions of Realpolitik strategists.

Indeed, as Achcar has recently noted, "in some neo-con circles" there is actually support for the same scenario feared most by Chomsky's realists: "some kind of Shia state controlling the bulk of Iraq's oil" that would align itself with Iranian Shiites and "unleash" Shiite power in the whole area, "including the Saudi Kingdom where the main oil producing area is inhabited by a Shia majority." To assume that evidence of neo-conservative support for de-Baathification in Iraq represents a simple blunder by naďve and incompetent Wilsonian idealists is, at best, a misunderstanding -- at worst, a serious underestimation -- of neo-conservative visions for US foreign policy.

Consider, for example, David Wurmser's book, Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein (hereafter, TA). Wurmser published Tyranny's Ally while serving as a Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a think tank long identified with neo-conservative foreign policy analysis. After his time at AEI, Wurmser moved on to service within the Bush administration, most recently serving as Middle East expert in the office of Vice President Richard Cheney. Published in 1999, the book is a Machiavellian tour de force -- and a blueprint for US policy in the Middle East. There are striking parallels between the policies endorsed in Wurmser's book and those enacted by the Bush administration at the start of the US war in Iraq.

Wurmser directly confronts so-called "realist" fears regarding Shiite power in Iraq.

"The ensuing chaos of any policy that generates upheaval in Iraq would offer the oppressed, majority Shi'ites of that country an opportunity to enhance their power and prestige. Fear that this would in turn enable Iran to extend its influence through its coreligionists has led Britain and the United States, along with our Middle Eastern allies, to regard a continued Sunni control of Iraq as the cornerstone for stability in the Levant. Saudi Arabia in particular fears that any Shi'ite autonomy or control in Iraq will undermine its own precarious stability, because an emboldened Shi'ite populace in Iraq could spread its fervor into Saudi Arabia's predominantly Shi'ite northeastern provinces. The Saudi government also fears that this upheaval could spread to predominantly Shi'ite Bahrain, or to other gulf states with large Shi'ite minorities." (TA, p.73)

Wurmser's book is animated by a persistent focus on "balance of power" realist politics. "Iran and Iraq... are serious threats to the United States. How can we vanquish one without helping the other? Similarly, how can we deal either with a radical, secular, pan-Arabic nationalism or with fundamentalist pan-Islamism without allowing one to benefit from the other's defeat? (TA, p.72). For Bush and Scowcroft -- and for the Clinton foreign policy team -- the only plausible response was a balance of power based on the "dual containment" of Iraq and Iran. Wurmser, however, proposes a Realpolitik basis for moving US policy from dual containment toward a "Dual Rollback of Iran and Iraq" (TA, p.72).

Wurmser offers a direct challenge to the underlying factual premise of balance-of-power policies in the Gulf, even as he embraces the Machiavellian principles of balance-of-power politics. "U.S. policy makers have long presumed that the majority Shi'ite population of Iraq would serve as Iran's fifth column there; but would it?" (TA, p.72). Wurmser thinks not. Instead, he argues that "Iraqi Shi'ites, if liberated from [Saddam's] tyranny, can be expected to present a challenge to Iran's influence and revolution" (TA, p.74). More specifically, Wurmser claims that "Shi'ite Islam is plagued by fissures, none of which has been carefully examined, let alone exploited, by the opponents of Iran's Islamic republic" (TA, p.74, emphasis added). The idea of exploiting fissures is entirely consistent with realist theories of power balancing.

Wurmser argues that at the theological core of the Iranian revolution is "a concept promoted by Ayatollah Khomeini, the wilayat al-faqih -- the rule of the jurisprudent" that served as "the bulldozer with which Khomeini razed the barrier between the clerics and the politicians" (TA, p.74). For Wurmser, the central strategic fissure within Shiite Islam is between those who favor Khomeini's vision and those who reject the rule of the jurisprudent. "The concept of wilayat al-faqih is rejected by most Shi'ite clerics outside Iran (and probably many of those within Iran, too)... The current leading ayatollah of Iraq, Ayatollah Sayyid 'Ali Sistani, has reaffirmed [this rejection], much to the chagrin of the Iranian government" (TA, p.75).

Wurmser suggests that the US could and should exploit this fissure to its own advantage. The "liberation" of the Iraqi Shia can be used to achieve a "Regional Rollback of Shi'ite Fundamentalism."

"[A] shift of the Shi'ite center of gravity toward Iraq has larger, regional implications. Through intermarriage, history, and social relations, the Shi'ites of Lebanon have traditionally maintained close ties with the Shi'ites of Iraq. The Lebanese Shi'ite clerical establishment has customarily been politically quiescent, like the Iraqi Shi'ites. The Lebanese looked to Najaf's clerics for spiritual models [until it was transformed into a regional outpost for Iranian influence]. Prying the Lebanese Shi'ites away from a defunct Iranian revolution and reacquainting them with the Iraqi Shi'ite community could significantly help to shift the region's balance and to whittle away at Syria's power" (TA, p.107, 110).

The core of the Regional Rollback, however, is Iran. For Wurmser, so-called "realists" have always been correct to emphasize the link between Iraqi and Iranian Shiites, but they have misunderstood the potential nature of the link. If realists have traditionally feared Iranian influence in Iraq, Wurmser argues that the more likely scenario is Iraqi influence in Iran. The demise of traditional Sunni rule over the Iraqi Shiites "could potentially trigger a reversal" of fortune for the Iranian regime.

"Liberating the Shi'ite centers in Najaf and Karbala, with their clerics who reject the wilayat al-faqih, could allow Iraqi Shi'ites to challenge and perhaps fatally derail the Iranian revolution. For the first time in half a century, Iraq has the chance to replace Iran as the center of Shi'ite thought, thus resuming its historic place, with its tradition of clerical quiescence and of challenge to Sunni absolutism... A free Iraqi Shi'ite community would be a nightmare for the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran" (TA, p.78-79).

For Wurmser, the liberation of Najaf and Karbala would promote and empower potential US allies in Iraq and Iran. Wurmser's strategy foresees US military intervention against the Sunni minority in Iraq, not primarily as a springboard for further military intervention in Iran, but as the Iraqi detonator for a populist, Shiite-led rebellion against rival clerics in Iran. Neo-conservative support for the political ascendance of Shiite Iraq is not about the principle of democracy. Nor are neo-conservatives blind to the ways in which regime change in Iraq might transform the relationship between Iraq and Iran. Neo-conservatives who favor de-Baathification in Iraq might seem like blundering fools who would unwittingly hand Iraq to Iranian clerics. Wumser's scheme, however, is to hand Iran to Iraqi clerics, especially the followers of Ayatollah Sayyid 'Ali Sistani. For Wurmser, the road to Tehran begins in Najaf.

Wurmser is hardly alone in his strategic vision for the Middle East. His successor at AEI, Reuel Marc Gerecht -- formerly a CIA agent in Iran -- enthusiastically embraces the same vision for dual rollback in Iraq and Iran. In a May 2001 article entitled "Liberate Iraq," Gerecht dismisses "fear of an Iraqi-Iranian Shi'ite collusion upsetting the balance of power in the Middle East. This kind of fraternity between Iraqi and Iranian Shi'ites simply does not exist -- except in the minds of Republican 'realists' who tragically used this argument a decade ago." An August 2002 article entitled "Regime Change in Iran?" makes the case for dual rollback and argues that the ascendance of the Iraqi Shia "will be brutal for the mullahs." Similarly, a March 2003 article by Michael Ledeen -- another prominent neo-conservative at AEI -- predicts, "If we understand this war correctly, the Iraqi Shi'ites will fight alongside us against the Iranian terrorists."

 

That is a very big "if" at the heart of neo-conservative thinking about Iraq and Iran. Richard Perle, doyen of neo-conservatives at AEI, writes in his 2003 book with David Frum, An End to Evil (hereafter, EE), that "President Bush took an enormous risk in Iraq. The risk could well have gone wrong -- and it could still go wrong" (p.36). Similarly, Gerecht warns that "the mullahs" -- once they saw signs of Iraqi Shiite rule in Iraq -- would fight back. Gerecht's August 2002 Weekly Standard article acknowledges that "the Bush administration should prepare itself for Iranian mischief in Iraq's politics."

In advance of the war, however, neo-conservatives found comfort in some "area studies" research -- which they published and promoted -- that found reason to believe Iraqi Shiites might ultimately prevail in any intra-Shiite competition between clerics in Iraq and Iran. In an April 2000 book Who Rules Iran?, published by the Washington Institute, Wilfred Buchta argues that Ayatollah 'Ali Khamene'i, successor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has "a theological Achilles' heel" -- unlike Khomeini before him, and unlike Sistani in Iraq, Khamene'i is not a Grand Ayatollah. In his review of clerical opposition to the Iranian regime, Buchta describes Sistani as "Khamene'i's most serious competitor for the religious leadership of Shi'is throughout the world" (p.89).

Whatever the particular merits or deficiencies of Wurmser's analysis of fissures within Shiite Islam, these do not fully explain the intensity of "realist" opposition to Bush administration policies in Iraq. Neither realists nor neoconservatives shed tears for Saddam Hussein, nor would either grieve the fall of the incumbent Iranian regime. Realists, however, fear that the end of Sunni Arab control in Iraq and the rise of the Shia will tip the balance of power in the Persian Gulf away from a key US ally: the Sunni Arab regime in Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, neo-conservatives agree with realists that the Saudi regime fears Shiite regional power. Echoing the "nightmare" scenario articulated by Chomsky and the "realists," neo-conservatives like Richard Perle agree that the House of Saud has good reason to fear a Shia Gulf.

"[W]hile the royal family, the government, and the moneyed elite all live on the western, Red Sea side of the country, the oil is located on the eastern, Persian Gulf side. And while the people in the west are almost uniformly Sunni, one-third of the people in the Eastern Province... are Shiites.... Independence for the Eastern Province would obviously be a catastrophic outcome for the Saudi state" (EE, p.141).

Sounds just like the realists -- but with a crucial twist. Unlike Chomsky's realists, Perle and Frum think that Shiite control of Arabian Peninsula oil would be catastrophic for the Saudi state, but think it "might be a very good outcome for the United States" (EE, p. 141). This is the great neo-conservative heresy. If realists make little or no distinction between what is good for the Saudis and what is good for the United States, neo-conservatives regard Saudi Arabia as an unreliable, if not downright hostile, regime. Wurmser describes the "Saudi Wahhabi state" as "particularly menacing" (TA, p.68).

Varieties of American Imperialism

Disagreement over the strategic value of the US-Saudi alliance goes to the heart of the venomous battle that has long raged between neo-conservatives and "realists." Indeed, the "Saudi" question is, in many respects, the constitutive difference that cuts through the fog that otherwise surrounds the civil war in Washington over the political outcome of regime change in Iraq.

The earliest evidence of a split between neo-conservatives and "realists" -- the decision by Ronald Reagan to sell Saudi Arabia an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) -- is also the most illuminating for making sense of the division. The most useful expression of neo-conservative hope for Reagan administration foreign policy and of subsequent "anguish" comes from a May 1982 New York Times Magazine essay penned by self-proclaimed neo-conservative, Norman Podhoretz, long-serving editor of Commentary, the official publication of the American Jewish Committee. After the fall of the Shah in Iran, Podhoretz explains, neo-conservatives looked forward with great enthusiasm to Reagan's plan for "shoring up the American position" in the Persian Gulf in order "to secure the oilfields against either a direct or an indirect Soviet move." This would be accomplished by stationing "American ground forces somewhere in the region," perhaps on the Israeli-occupied Sinai peninsula.

Neo-conservative hopes were dashed, however, when "this new idea was dropped" after "Saudis...voiced their opposition." For fear that the oil-rich "Saudis might have done something to damage" the US economy, explains Podhoretz, Reagan fell into the "habit of appeasing Saudi Arabia." Having lost the Shah, the US would now "supply the Saudis with advanced weaponry, including the Awacs planes... depending upon them to police the region" on behalf of the US.

Podhoretz argues that the decision to substitute the fallen Iranian regime with a Saudi surrogate was "bad... on its own terms," that is, for the immediate strategic interests of the United States. If Iran under the Shah proved to be an unreliable "pillar of sand" for the US, "what could we expect of Saudi Arabia?" But the tilt toward Saudi Arabia was "all the more disturbing in its implications for the American connection with Israel" because "the Saudis refused to join" a "de facto alliance" that would "unite the moderate Arab states and Israel."

Podhoretz rejects as false the "general impression" that all neo-conservatives are Jewish, and in no way claims that all supporters of Israel are neo-conservatives. Indeed, the vast majority of Jewish voters and not a few Zionists remain loyal to the Democratic Party. Podhoretz acknowledges, however, "it is certainly true that all neo-conservatives are strong supporters of Israel" who "would all agree that at a minimum the United States has a vital interest in the survival" of Israel as an "outpost" of "the free world." That is, if forced by Arab-Israeli conflict to choose between a strategic alliance with the Saudis and one with the Israelis, neo-conservatives support the latter, rather than the former.

Neo-conservatives lost the battle to prevent the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia, but that fight serves as an extremely useful proxy for distinguishing between "neo" conservatives -- who believe that US interests are best served by reliance on Israel, if only that relationship were not regularly jeopardized by the American habit of appeasing the Saudis -- and "realist" conservatives -- who believe that US interests are best served by reliance on Saudi Arabia, if only that were not jeopardized by the American habit of appeasing the Israelis.

The AWACS battle reveals the misleading and potentially self-serving function of labels like "realist" and "neo-conservative," then and now. Whatever the historical salience of the "neo-conservative" label, the term is neither adequate nor helpful in clarifying the defining qualities of the faction. The "neo" in neo-conservatives initially described liberals and anti-Stalinist Leftists who made common cause -- on a number of different political fronts -- with various factions of the traditional Right. Notwithstanding the diversity of neo-conservatives on a host of issues, however, the AWACS issue did a great deal to reveal a crucial division on the Right. As Podhoretz argued, the AWACS affair indicated that -- in matters of foreign policy -- "neo-conservatives" are united in support of Israel. More specifically, neo-conservatives are Right "Zionists" who believe US supremacy in the Persian Gulf is best protected by the US-Israeli alliance. As Podhoretz indicated, not all neo-conservatives are Jewish; so, too, not all are "new" to the Right.

The label "realist" may provide an implicit contrast with allegedly "unrealistic" or "idealistic" neo-conservatives, but it obscures more than it reveals about "realist" commitments in the Middle East. To judge from the Reagan administration AWACS affair, the so-called "realists" are Right "Arabists" who believe that US supremacy in the Persian Gulf is best protected by the US-Saudi alliance. Very few are Arab; some are Jewish.

Each side of this split regularly accuses the other of bad faith -- of trying to serve two flags at once. Right Zionists insist that US recognition of Israel as a strategic asset is compromised by the influence of "big oil" money. Richard Perle and David Frum, for example, insist that the Saudis distort the prevailing US assessment of its strategic interests in the Persian Gulf.

"The reason our policy toward Saudi Arabia has been so abject for so long is not mere error. Our policy has been abject because so many of those who make the policy have been bought and paid for by the Saudis... [T]oo many of our recent ambassadors to Saudi Arabia have served as shills for Saudi Arabia the instant they returned home" (EE, p.141-142).

Similarly, critics of the US-Israeli alliance portray Israel as a strategic burden, rather than an asset. Most recently, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published an article in the London Review of Books entitled, "The Israel Lobby."

"Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of [Israel]... One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests... [but] the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the 'Israel Lobby.'"

Each side questions the strategic wisdom of appeasing the other side and searches for extra-strategic explanations for a strategic disagreement. The central strategic question, however, is unavoidable for any empire: which proxy state can most reliably "police" imperial interests?

Right Zionists and Right Arabists tend to agree that recurring battles in the US over policy toward Iraq and Iran are often "proxies" for larger strategic questions about the wisdom of the US alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Right Arabists like Caspar Weinberger, in his 1990 memoir, Fighting for Peace (hereafter, FP) argue that Israel survives, in part, through classic balance-of-power strategies. In explaining the basis for long-standing ties between Israel and the Shah of Iran, for example, Weinberger describes "a natural affinity of all religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East to unite (when at all they unite) against the vast majority -- the Arab population. Hence some Jews, Christians, Turks, and Persians have long linkages... Israel had close ties to Iran under the Shah" (FP, p.365).

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion allegedly referred to this strategy as the "Doctrine of the Periphery." Gary Sick, a former Carter administration NSC staffer and a critic of Right Zionist activities with the US, describes the "Doctrine" -- which he calls "a touchstone for Israeli foreign policy -- in his 1991 book October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan.

"This doctrine was predicated on the belief that while Israel was destined to be surrounded permanently by a ring of hostile Arab states, just outside this hostile ring there were non-Arab states such as Turkey, Ethiopia and Iran that were themselves frequently at odds with the Arabs and therefore potential allies of Israel. It was a classic case of the old maxim, 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend,' raised to the level of international policy" (p.60).

The Doctrine of the Periphery is simply Realpolitik for Right Zionists. For Israel and Right Zionists, however, the 1979 Iranian Revolution created complex new risks and opportunities for the Doctrine of the Periphery. On the one hand, there was the immediate crisis of anti-Zionist and anti-American zeal within the Revolution. On the other hand, the Shiite Revolution seemed likely to embolden Shia insurgents in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Gulf Emirates and aggravate hostilities between Arab and Shiite populations. For Right Zionists, the risk of Shiite anti-Zionism was partially offset by the opportunity for a strengthened alliance of the periphery forged on the basis of aggravated rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

For Right Arabists, Iranian hostility toward the US, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia pointed in one direction and one direction only: support for incumbent Arab regimes. At the start of the Iran-Iraq war, the US remained officially neutral. But Caspar Weinberger (Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration) acknowledges that he found it "difficult... to remain neutral... we 'tilted' toward Iraq" (FP, p.358).

This tilt toward Iraq -- in the service of the US-Saudi Alliance -- was a grave concern for Right Zionists. Notwithstanding the anti-Zionist and anti-American fervor of the Iranian regime, Right Zionists like Michael Ledeen -- a key player in the Iran-Contra affair -- viewed the Iran-Iraq war very differently from those like Weinberger who tilted toward Iraq. In his 1988 memoir, Perilous Statecraft: An Insider's Account of the Iran-Contra Affair (herafter, PS), Ledeen explains, "Israel was far more concerned about Iraq than about Iran, since Iraq had participated in the Arab wars against Israel... Iran, at least in the short run, posed no comparable threat to Israel" (PS, p.100). Even as Saudi Arabia -- and Right Zionists like Weinberger -- became pivotal supporters of Iraq in the 1980s Gulf War, Israel -- along with Right Zionists like Ledeen -- championed Iran in its battle against Iraq. As for the Iranians, Ledeen is quick to point out that their "hatred of Judaism did not prevent them from buying weapons from the Jewish state" (PS, p.97).

The AWACS battle lines held in the Iran-Contra affair. Weinberger refers to Iran-Contra as an "Israeli-Iranian plot." For Right Zionists like Wurmser, Weinberger's unofficial tilt toward Saddam Hussein -- akin to a Saudi-Iraqi plot -- helped the US become tyranny's ally. So, too, Weinberger's great fear was that any outreach to Iran "would adversely affect our newly emerging relationship with Iraq" (FP, p.364-366). Right Zionists feared the exact opposite -- that the "newly emerging relationship" between the US and Iraq would adversely affect the US-Israeli alliance.

In many respects, Right Zionist war plans for Iraq represents an audacious attempt to reverse the pro-Saudi tilt in US policy that developed in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution and deepened with the movement of US forces onto Saudi soil following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Make no mistake: the US invaded Iraq, but it went to war with the Saudis. The Iraqi political tilt toward Iran is not an accident -- the unintended consequence of bumbling naiveté -- so much as the heart of a future geo-strategic alliance with Iranian Shiites, if not the incumbent clerical regime.

Right Arabists understand the stakes quite well and this -- more than any dovish conversion on the road to Baghdad -- explains the vehemence of their "anti-war" opposition. Although they have attacked the war on a variety of fronts -- for its aggressive unilateralism, its abuse of intelligence, its abuse of prisoners, etc. -- the heart of the critique has always been the political outcome -- symbolized by de-Baathification and the disbanding of the Sunni-led Iraqi Army.

The most famous Right Arabist attack on the Iraq war -- celebrated by much of the Left--remains Richard Clarke's 2004 book, Against All Enemies -- an "insider" account that ostensibly confirmed the senselessness of the US invasion of Iraq and highlighted -- in the person of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (p.30) -- Right Zionist attempts to use 9/11 as a springboard for promoting their agenda for Iraq. "Instead of addressing [the al Qaeda] with all the necessary attention it required, we went off on a tangent, off after Iraq," Clarke complains (p.286-287). The war in Iraq is a "mistaken and costly" attack on "an oil-rich Arab country that posed no threat to us" (p.264-266). Beyond the headline-grabbing charge that the invasion of Iraq was a "tangent" that sidetracked the war on terror, however, Clarke also offers an entirely different -- if less publicized -- "insider" analysis of the Realpolitik rationale for war.

Clarke asserts that al Qaeda inaugurated "a war intended to replace the House of Saud" (p.282). According to Clarke, it was "concern with the long-term stability of the House of Saud" (p.265) in light of the challenge from al Qaeda that led "some in the Bush administration, including Dick Cheney" (p.283) to favor war with Iraq. "With Saddam gone, they believed, the U.S. could reduce its dependence on Saudi Arabia, could pull forces out of the Kingdom, and could open up an alternative source of oil" (p.283). The war on Iraq was, in effect, an indirect attack on the House of Saud.

Clarke is not persuaded. "The risk that the United States runs is of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy" that will undermine the House of Saud "without a plan or any influence about what would happen next... The future and stability of Saudi Arabia is of paramount importance to the United States; our policy cannot just be one of reducing our dependence upon it" (p.283). Just for good measure, Clarke criticizes "firing of the army and de-Baathification" in Iraq (p.272). The Right Arabist critique, in a nutshell.

What's Left?

The vilification of the "neo-conservative" Right Zionists may be well deserved. According to the worst accusations, they are agents of Israel who serve a foreign flag. At best, they represent one imperialist faction within the US foreign policy establishment -- the faction that believes Israel is able to police the Middle East and secure US access to the region's strategic oil resources and the Suez Canal. Anti-imperialists on the Left have good reason to oppose this as an imperialist war and rightly assert that no more US troops should die in order to make the Middle East safe for US empire.

In doing so, however, the Left sometimes runs the risk of becoming unwitting partners in an intra-imperialist battle between Right Zionists and Right Arabists. Right Arabists -- like Brent Scowcroft and General Anthony Zinni--posing as the equivalent of Republican "anti-war activists" do not demand immediate withdrawal of US troops; they attack the "incompetence" of those who have executed this war. Right Arabists are not opposed to the US micro-managing the political outcome in Iraq; they oppose the particular outcome that empowers Iraqi Shiites and Kurds at the expense of Sunni Arab power in Iraq and beyond.

The anti-imperialist Left has no business aligning itself with Right Arabists, and yet the dangerous consequences of this alliance have only grown as Right Arabists have begun to regain control of the US ship of state. Nowhere is the risk for the Left more evident than in the writing of Robert Dreyfuss, a contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother Jones, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.

Dreyfuss is a good reporter and, to his credit, he understands the Right Zionist and Right Arabist battle lines within the Bush administration. However, because all of his political firepower is directed at the "neocon-dominated" United States, his critique is completely neutralized in those instances where Right Arabists have managed to regain some influence over Iraq policy. Dreyfuss pins everything on the idea that Right Zionists are dominating US policy. It legitimizes his uncritical embrace of Right Arabist perspectives on Iraq.

In a December 2004 comment, for example, Dreyfuss finds evidence of considerable Right Zionist panic, expressed by "leading neocon strategist" Max Singer, that Right Arabists were winning greater influence over Iraq policy. "What world is Singer living in?" asks Dreyfuss. "The United States is supporting the Sunnis and Baathists? Course not."

More recently, Dreyfuss has acknowledged that the balance in US policy might have shifted back toward the Right Arabists. In an article sub-titled "Bring Back the Baath," Dreyfuss reports on "U.S.-Baath Talks."

"What the United States ought to have done two years ago -- namely, make a deal with the resistance and its core Baathist leadership -- might, after all, be happening. It is unclear how far up the food chain in the Bush administration this effort goes, but it appears that a desperate Ambassador Khalilzad has realized the importance of forging ties to the Baath party... That's all good...."

If Dreyfuss feels awkward about declaring the increasingly Right Arabist inclinations of a Republican administration "all good," he certainly hides it well. Give Dreyfuss the benefit of the doubt and assume that his pro-Baathist perspective is derived not from his love of Sunni Arab authoritarianism but the fact that the "resistance and its core Baathist leadership" offer the best chances for driving the US out of Iraq. That remains to be seen. If the US makes its peace with the Baathists, it is Sistani and the Iraqi Shiites who may ultimately drive the US out of Iraq.

Whatever his intentions, however, Dreyfuss has become a pawn of Right Arabists. Not surprisingly, they have embraced him openly. Charles Freeman, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a prominent Right Arabist, provides a glowing blurb on the back cover of the book. Moreover, key chapters on Right Zionists draw on interviews with Freeman, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Atkins, and other prominent Right Arabists whom Dreyfuss quotes approvingly.

The Left would do well to remember that there are at least two imperialist camps in Washington -- one Right Arabist and one Right Zionist. Both are "sensible," within the framework of imperialist statecraft. Neither deserves our embrace. Will Sistani -- like the Shah before him -- collaborate with Israel and police US interests in the Middle East? Or will the Baathists and Saudis patrol the region for the US? These are urgent questions for US imperialism. Not so for the anti-imperialist Left. Our demand is simple: Bring the troops home. Now. 

Jonathan Cutler teaches sociology at Wesleyan University. For more Iraq analysis and commentary, go to his blog,  www.profcutler.com.





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Success is not the transition to death by electric drill

David Clark
Thursday May 4, 2006
The Guardian

It has long been clear to all bar its most stubborn advocates that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been the mother of all foreign policy disasters. Three years ago this week, President Bush flew on to the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended". In a display of premature triumphalism that quickly came to symbolise the hubris and folly of US policy, the banner over his head declared: "mission accomplished".
But judging failure and holding those responsible to account has been complicated by a lack of clarity about what exactly that mission was. So many justifications for war have been offered that its supporters have found it relatively easy to respond to the collapse of one by seeking refuge in another. It is only comparatively recently that they have run out of places to hide. The WMD case was beginning to unravel even before Bush declared victory. As the most recent US state department report demonstrates, terrorism is a greater threat than ever. There has been no "democratic domino effect" sweeping across the Middle East. And even the claim to have liberated Iraqis from a cruel and despotic regime now seems increasingly forlorn.

The failure to achieve these war aims would be bad enough in view of the enormous cost in blood and treasure, but there is now considerable evidence to suggest that in most respects the invasion has made a bad situation worse. That there was no Iraqi WMD threat, or even the prospect of one, is less of a problem than that the risks of proliferation have increased. The Blair-Bush-Gadafy axis of desperation may have delivered Libya's paltry WMD programme in exchange for international rehabilitation, but in the far more serious case of Iran, the Iraq quagmire means that Washington has few good options for preventing the mullahs going nuclear.

More broadly, Iraq has served to dramatically weaken the deterrence effect of American military power. Post-cold war American military planning had been based on a two-war standard: the ability to fight two medium-sized wars in separate theatres simultaneously. Iraq has revealed America's inability to contain even a single low-intensity insurgency without absorbing a large proportion of its available strength. Tied down, Gulliver-like, America today gives potential rogue states little reason to fear its wrath.

The argument that the invasion of Iraq was a natural extension of the war on terror was always weak. In fact, Iraq is a much bigger terrorist threat now that Saddam has gone. Claims of a link between Ba'athism and al-Qaida have become self-fulfilling as Islamists have been able to position themselves in the vanguard of opposition to the occupation. Furthermore, Iraq provides an ideal laboratory for perfecting the kind of terrorism al-Qaida wants to export to the west. Unlike Afghanistan, which was little more than a jihadi playground, Iraq supplies an urban setting, an active theatre of operations and a steady supply of western targets.

In a report last autumn, a leading expert on counter-terrorism, Anthony Cordesman, identified 39 "major adaptations" in the tactics and capabilities of the insurgency. Many of these skills and the people who have perfected them could easily be used to bring violence to our own streets. It is a horrifying thought, but it is perhaps only a matter of time before suicide bombers carrying backpacks are replaced by Baghdad-style car bombs that are much harder to detect and are capable of killing hundreds instead of dozens.

The idea that the removal of Saddam's regime would unleash a wave of democratic sentiment across Iraq and the wider Arab world had its brief, heady moment of apparent realisation last year with elections in Egypt, Palestine and Iraq. How different things look in 2006. With the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the theocratic Shia parties the main beneficiaries of the vote, the triumphalist "end of history" assumption that democracy will always replicate pro-western outcomes has been exposed for the wishful thinking it always was.

Meanwhile, the pro-democracy movement in Iran - the Middle Eastern country where it stood probably the greatest chance of indigenous success - has been suppressed as part of an authoritarian backlash against the perceived threat of American influence on its borders. The politics of national security always favour the demagogue, and President Ahmadinejad should be counted as one of the main beneficiaries of the Iraq war.

In many parts of Iraq real political power has passed to the street, where militias aligned to the ruling parties enforce their own laws, using violence against opponents of the regime, women who refuse to wear the veil and shopkeepers who sell alcohol. Much has been made of the suggestion that the supposedly moderate prime minister designate, Jawad al-Maliki, intends to disband the militias. Yet Maliki, deputy leader of the Islamist Dawa party, has promised to do no such thing. His plan is to merge the militias into the security forces, giving official sanction to their already widespread penetration of police and army. Whether it is in the ministries of Baghdad or on the streets of Basra, Iraq is now ruled by people who in any other context would be denounced by liberal hawks as Islamofacists.

The argument of last resort for those who supported regime change has always been that at least Saddam has gone and the torture chambers have been closed. Even that has turned out to be an illusion, with the news that the director of the Baghdad morgue has had to flee Iraq under threat of death for revealing that thousands of Iraqis are being killed by death squads, many of them linked to the interior ministry. Some of the victims have apparently been tortured to death with electric drills. The build up to war was full of contested claims about Saddam's secret police feeding his opponents into industrial shredders. Is our success to be measured in the transition from shredders to electric drills?

The final line of defence is to question the priorities of those who continue to raise Iraq, and dismiss the issue as a bore. Most of us would gladly move on from Iraq, be we should not do so on the self-interested terms demanded by those who led us to this disaster. Not while the people of Iraq continue to suffer the consequences. Not while those responsible remain in power. Not while there is the remotest chance that it might happen again.



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Depleted Uranium - Far Worse Than 9/11

by Doug Westerman
May 3, 2006

Depleted Uranium Dust - Public Health Disaster For The People Of Iraq and Afghanistan

In 1979, depleted uranium (DU) particles escaped from the National Lead Industries factory near Albany, N.Y.,which was manufacturing DU weapons for the U.S military. The particles traveled 26 miles and were discovered in a laboratory filter by Dr. Leonard Dietz, a nuclear physicist. This discovery led to a shut down of the factory in 1980, for releasing morethan 0.85 pounds of DU dust into the atmosphere every month, and involved a cleanup of contaminated properties costing over 100 million dollars.

Imagine a far worse scenario. Terrorists acquire a million pounds of the deadly dust and scatter it in populated areas throughout the U.S. Hundreds of children report symptoms. Many acquire cancer and leukemia, suffering an early and painful death. Huge increases in severe birth defects are reported. Oncologists are overwhelmed. Soccer fields, sand lots and parks, traditional play areas for kids, are no longer safe. People lose their most basic freedom, the ability to go outside and safely breathe. 9/11? Welcome to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sounds worse than Dr. Jawad Al-Ali (55), director of the Oncology Center at the largest hospital in Basra, Iraq stated, at a recent ( 2003) conference in Japan:

"Two strange phenomena have come about in Basra which I have never seen before. The first is double and triple cancers in one patient. For example, leukemia and cancer of the stomach. We had one patient with 2 cancers - one in his stomach and kidney. Months later, primary cancer was developing in his other kidney--he had three different cancer types. The second is the clustering of cancer in families. We have 58 families here with more than one person affected by cancer. Dr Yasin, a general Surgeon here has two uncles, a sister and cousin affected with cancer. Dr Mazen, another specialist, has six family members suffering from cancer. My wife has nine members of her family with cancer".

"Children in particular are susceptible to DU poisoning. They have a much higher absorption rate as their blood is being used to build and nourish their bones and they have a lot of soft tissues. Bone cancer and leukemia used to be diseases affecting them the most, however, cancer of the lymph system which can develop anywhere on the body, and has rarely been seen before the age of 12 is now also common.",

"We were accused of spreading propaganda for Saddam before the war. When I have gone to do talks I have had people accuse me of being pro-Saddam. Sometimes I feel afraid to even talk. Regime people have been stealing my data and calling it their own, and using it for their own agendas. The Kuwaitis banned me from entering Kuwait - we were accused of being Saddam supporters."

John Hanchette, a journalism professor at St. Bonaventure University, and one of the founding editors of USA TODAY related the following to DU researcher Leuren Moret. He stated that he had prepared news breaking stories about the effects of DU on Gulf War soldiers and Iraqi citizens, but that each time he was ready to publish, he received a phone call from the Pentagon asking him not to print the story. He has since been replaced as editor of USA TODAY.

Dr. Keith Baverstock, The World Health Organization's chief expert on radiation and health for 11 years and author of an unpublished study has charged that his report " on the cancer risk to civilians in Iraq from breathing uranium contaminated dust " was also deliberately suppressed.

The information released by the U.S. Dept. of Defense is not reliable, according to some sources even within the military.

In 1997, while citing experiments, by others, in which 84 percent of dogs exposed to inhaled uranium died of cancer of the lungs, Dr. Asaf Durakovic, then Professor of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at Georgetown University in Washington was quoted as saying,

"The [US government's] Veterans Administration asked me to lie about the risks of incorporating depleted uranium in the human body."


At that time Dr. Durakovic was a colonel in the U.S. Army. He has since left the military, to found the Uranium Medical Research Center, a privately funded organization with headquarters in Canada.

PFC Stuart Grainger of 23 Army Division, 34th Platoon. (Names and numbers have been changed) was diagnosed with cancer several after returning from Iraq. Seven other men in the Platoon also have malignancies.

Doug Rokke, U.S. Army contractor who headed a clean-up of depleted uranium after the first Gulf War states:,

"Depleted uranium is a crime against God and humanity."

Rokke's own crew, a hundred employees, was devastated by exposure to the fine dust. He stated:

"When we went to the Gulf, we were all really healthy,"

After performing clean-up operations in the desert (mistakenly without protective gear), 30 members of his staff died, and most others"including Rokke himself"developed serious health problems. Rokke now has reactive airway disease, neurological damage, cataracts, and kidney problems.

"We warned the Department of Defense in 1991 after the Gulf War. Their arrogance is beyond comprehension.


Yet the D.O.D still insists such ingestion is "not sufficient to make troops seriously ill in most cases."

Then why did it make the clean up crew seriously or terminally ill in nearly all cases?

Marion Falk, a retired chemical physicist who built nuclear bombs for more than 20 years at Lawrence Livermore Lab, was asked if he thought that DU weapons operate in a similar manner as a dirty bomb.

"That's exactly what they are. They fit the description of a dirty bomb in every way."

According to Falk, more than 30 percent of the DU fired from the cannons of U.S. tanks is reduced to particles one-tenth of a micron (one millionth of a meter) in size or smaller on impact. "The larger the bang" the greater the amount of DU that is dispersed into the atmosphere, Falk said. With the larger missiles and bombs, nearly 100 percent of the DU is reduced to radioactive dust particles of the "micron size" or smaller, he said.

When asked if the main purpose for using it was for destroying things and killing people, Falk was more specific:

"I would say that it is the perfect weapon for killing lots of people."


When a DU round or bomb strikes a hard target, most of its kinetic energy is converted to heat " sufficient heat to ignite the DU. From 40% to 70% of the DU is converted to extremely fine dust particles of ceramic uranium oxide (primarily dioxide, though other formulations also occur). Over 60% of these particles are smaller than 5 microns in diameter, about the same size as the cigarette ash particles in cigarette smoke and therefore respirable.

Because conditions are so chaotic in Iraq, the medical infrastructure has been greatly compromised. In terms of both cancer and birth defects due to DU, only a small fraction of the cases are being reported.

Doctors in southern Iraq are making comparisons to the birth defects that followed the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII. They have numerous photos of infants born without brains, with their internal organs outside their bodies, without sexual organs, without spines, and the list of deformities goes on an on. Such birth defects were extremely rare in Iraq prior to the large scale use of DU. Weapons. Now they are commonplace. In hospitals across Iraq, the mothers are no longer asking, "Doctor, is it a boy or girl?" but rather, "Doctor, is it normal?" The photos are horrendous, they can be viewed on the following website

Ross B. Mirkarimi, a spokesman at The Arms Control Research Centre stated:

"Unborn children of the region are being asked to pay the highest price, the integrity of their DNA."

Prior to her death from leukemia in Sept. 2004, Nuha Al Radi , an accomplished Iraqi artist and author of the "Baghdad Diaries" wrote:

"Everyone seems to be dying of cancer. Every day one hears about another acquaintance or friend of a friend dying. How many more die in hospitals that one does not know? Apparently, over thirty percent of Iraqis have cancer, and there are lots of kids with leukemia."

"The depleted uranium left by the U.S. bombing campaign has turned Iraq into a cancer-infested country. For hundreds of years to come, the effects of the uranium will continue to wreak havoc on Iraq and its surrounding areas."

This excerpt in her diary was written in 1993, after Gulf War I (Approximately 300 tons of DU ordinance, mostly in desert areas) but before Operation Iraqi Freedom, (Est. 1,700 tons with much more near major population centers). So, it's 5-6 times worse now than it was when she wrote than diary entry!! Estimates of the percentage of D.U. which was 'aerosolized' into fine uranium oxide dust are approximately 30-40%. That works out to over one million pounds of dust scattered throughout Iraq.

As a special advisor to the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the Iraqi Ministry of Health, Dr. Ahmad Hardan has documented the effects of DU in Iraq between 1991 and 2002.

"American forces admit to using over 300 tons of DU weapons in 1991. The actual figure is closer to 800. This has caused a health crisis that has affected almost a third of a million people. As if that was not enough, America went on and used 200 tons more in Bagdad alone during the recent invasion.

I don"t know about other parts of Iraq, it will take me years to document that.

"In Basra, it took us two years to obtain conclusive proof of what DU does, but we now know what to look for and the results are terrifying."

By far the most devastating effect is on unborn children. Nothing can prepare anyone for the sight of hundreds of preserved fetuses " scarcely human in appearance. Iraq is now seeing babies with terribly foreshortened limbs, with their intestines outside their bodies, with huge bulging tumors where their eyes should be, or with a single eye-like Cyclops, or without eyes, or without limbs, and even without heads. Significantly, some of the defects are almost unknown outside textbooks showing the babies born near A-bomb test sites in the Pacific.



Dr. Hardan also states:

"I arranged for a delegation from Japan's Hiroshima Hospital to come and share their expertise in the radiological diseases we

Are likely to face over time. The delegation told me the Americans had objected and they decided not to come. Similarly, a world famous German cancer specialist agreed to come, only to be told later that he would not be given permission to enter Iraq."

Not only are we poisoning the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, but we are making a concerted effort to keep out specialists from other countries who can help. The U.S. Military doesn"t want the rest of the world to find out what we have done.

Such relatively swift development of cancers has been reported by doctors in hospitals treating civilians following NATO bombing with DU in Yugoslavia in 1998-1999 and the US military invasion of Iraq using DU for the first time in 1991. Medical experts report that this phenomenon of multiple malignancies from unrelated causes has been unknown until now and is a new syndrome associated with internal DU exposure.
Just 467 US personnel were wounded in the three-week Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991. Out of 580,400 soldiers who served in Gulf War I, 11,000 are dead, and by 2000 there were 325,000 on permanent medical disability. This astounding number of disabled vets means that a decade later, 56 percent of those soldiers who served in the first Gulf War now have medical problems.

Although not reported in the mainstream American press, a recent Tokyo tribunal, guided by the principles of International Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law, found President George W. Bush guilty of war crimes. On March 14, 2004, Nao Shimoyachi, reported in The Japan Times that President Bush was found guilty "for attacking civilians with indiscriminate weapons and other arms,"and the "tribunal also issued recommendations for banning Depleted Uranium shells and other weapons that indiscriminately harm people." Although this was a "Citizen's Court" having no legal authority, the participants were sincere in their determination that international laws have been violated and a war crimes conviction is warranted.

Troops involved in actual combat are not the only servicemen reporting symptoms. Four soldiers from a New York Army National Guard company serving in Iraq are among several members of the same company, the 442nd Military Police, who say they have been battling persistent physical ailments that began last summer in the Iraqi town of Samawah.

"I got sick instantly in June," said Staff Sgt. Ray Ramos, a Brooklyn housing cop. "My health kept going downhill with daily headaches, constant numbness in my hands and rashes on my stomach."

Dr. Asaf Durakovic, UMRC founder, and nuclear medicine expert examined and tested nine soldiers from the company says that four "almost certainly" inhaled radioactive dust from exploded American shells manufactured with depleted uranium. Laboratory tests revealed traces of two manmade forms of uranium in urine samples from four of the soldiers.

If so, the men - Sgt. Hector Vega, Sgt. Ray Ramos, Sgt. Agustin Matos and Cpl. Anthony Yonnone - are the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.

The 442nd, made up for the most part of New York cops, firefighters and correction officers, is based in Orangeburg, Rockland County. Dispatched to Iraq in Easter of 2003, the unit's members had been providing guard duty for convoys, running jails and training Iraqi police. The entire company is due to return home later this month.

"These are amazing results, especially since these soldiers were military police not exposed to the heat of battle," said Dr. Asaf Duracovic, who examined the G.I.s and performed the testing.

In a group of eight U.S. led Coalition servicemen whose babies were born without eyes, seven are known to have been directly exposed to DU dust. In a much group (250 soldiers) exposed during the first Gulf war, 67% of the children conceived after the war had birth defects.

Dr. Durakovic's UMRC research team also conducted a three-week field trip to Iraq in October of 2003. It collected about 100 samples of substances such as soil, civilian urine and the tissue from the corpses of Iraqi soldiers in 10 cities, including Baghdad, Basra and Najaf. Durakovic said preliminary tests show that the air, soil and water samples contained "hundreds to thousands of times" the normal levels of radiation.

"This high level of contamination is because much more depleted uranium was used this year than in (the Gulf War of) 1991," Durakovic told The Japan Times.

"They are hampering efforts to prove the connection between Depleted Uranium and the illness," Durakovic said

"They do not want to admit that they committed war crimes" by using weapons that kill indiscriminately, which are banned under international law."

(NOTE ABOUT DR. DURAKOVIC; First, he was warned to stop his work, then he was fired from his position, then his house was ransacked, and he has also reported receiving death threats. Evidently the U.S. D.O.D is very keen on censoring DU whistle-blowers!)

Dr. Durakovic, UMRC research associates Patricia Horan and Leonard Dietz, published a unique study in the August 2002 issue of Military Medicine Medical Journal. The study is believed to be the first to look at inhaled DU among Gulf War veterans, using the ultrasensitive technique of thermal ionization mass spectrometry, which enabled them to easily distinguish between natural uranium and DU. The study, which examined British, Canadian and U.S. veterans, all suffering typical Gulf War Syndrome ailments, found that, nine years after the war, 14 of 27 veterans studied had DU in their urine. DU also was found in the lung and bone of a deceased Gulf War veteran. That no governmental study has been done on inhaled DU "amounts to a massive malpractice," Dietz said in an interview.

The Japanese began studying DU effects in the southern Iraq in the summer of 2003. They had a Geiger counter which they watched go off the scale on many occasions. During their visit,a local hospital was treating upwards of 600 children per day, many of which suffered symptoms of internal poisoning by radiation. 600 children per day? How many of these children will get cancer and suffer and early and painful death?

"Ingested DU particles can cause up to 1,000 times the damage of an X-ray", said Mary Olson, a nuclear waste specialist and biologist at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Washington D.C.

It is this difference in particle size as well as the dust's crystalline structure that make the presence of DU dust in the environment such an extreme hazard, and which differentiates its properties from that of the natural uranium dust that is ubiquitous and to which we all are exposed every day, which seldom reaches such a small size. This point is being stressed, as comparing DU particles to much larger natural ones is misleading.

The U.S. Military and its supporters regularly quote a Rand Corp. Study which uses the natural uranium inhaled by miners.

Particles smaller than 10 microns can access the innermost recesses of lung tissue where they become permanently lodged. Furthermore, if the substance is relatively insoluble, such as the ceramic DU-oxide dust produced from burning DU, it will remain in place for decades, dissolving very slowly into the bloodstream and lymphatic fluids through the course of time. Studies have identified DU in the urine of Gulf War veterans nine years after that conflict, testifying to the permanence of ceramic DU-oxide in the lungs. Thus the effects are far different from natural uranium dust, whose coarse particles are almost entirely excreted by the body within 24 hours.

The military is aware of DU's harmful effects on the human genetic code. A 2001 study of DU's effect on DNA done by Dr. Alexandra C. Miller for the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in Bethesda, Md., indicates that DU's chemical instability causes 1 million times more genetic damage than would be expected from its radiation effect alone.

Studies have shown that inhaled nano-particles are far more toxic than micro-sized particles of the same basic chemical composition. British toxicopathologist Vyvyan Howard has reported that the increased toxicity of the nano-particle is due to its size.

For example, when mice were exposed to virus-size particles of Teflon (0.13 microns) in a University of Rochester study, there were no ill effects. But when mice were exposed to nano-particles of Teflon for 15 minutes, nearly all the mice died within 4 hours.

"Exposure pathways for depleted uranium can be through the skin, by inhalation, and ingestion," writes Lauren Moret, another DU researcher. "Nano-particles have high mobility and can easily enter the body. Inhalation of nano-particles of depleted uranium is the most hazardous exposure, because the particles pass through the lung-blood barrier directly into the blood.

"When inhaled through the nose, nano-particles can cross the olfactory bulb directly into the brain through the blood brain barrier, where they migrate all through the brain," she wrote. "Many Gulf era soldiers exposed to depleted uranium have been diagnosed with brain tumors, brain damage and impaired thought processes. Uranium can interfere with the mitochondria, which provide energy for the nerve processes, and transmittal of the nerve signal across synapses in the brain.

Based on dissolution and excretion rate data, it is possible to approximate the amount of DU initially inhaled by these veterans. For the handful of veterans studied, this amount averaged 0.34 milligrams. Knowing the specific activity (radiation rate) for DU allows one to determine that the total radiation (alpha, beta and gamma) occurring from DU and its radioactive decay products within their bodies comes to about 26 radiation events every second, or 800 million events each year. At .34 milligrams per dose, there are over 10 trillion doses floating around Iraq and Afghanistan.

How many additional deaths are we talking about? In the aftermath of the first Gulf War, the UK Atomic Energy Authority came up with estimates for the potential effects of the DU contamination left by the conflict. It calculated that "this could cause "500,000 potential deaths". This was "a theoretical figure", it stressed, that indicated "a significant problem".

The AEA's calculation was made in a confidential memo to the privatized munitions company, Royal Ordnance, dated 30 April 1991. The high number of potential deaths was dismissed as "very far from realistic" by a British defense minister, Lord Gilbert. "Since the rounds were fired in the desert, many miles from the nearest village, it is highly unlikely that the local population would have been exposed to any significant amount of respirable oxide," he said. These remarks were made prior to the more recent invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, where DU munitions were used on a larger scale in and near many of the most populated areas. If the amount of DU ordinance used in the first Gulf War was sufficient to cause 500,000 potential deaths, (had it been used near the populated areas), then what of the nearly six times that amount used in operation Iraqi Freedom, which was used in and near the major towns and cities? Extrapolating the U.K. AEA estimate with this amount gives a figure of potentially 3 million extra deaths from inhaling DU dust in Iraq alone, not including Afghanistan. This is about 11% of Iraq's total population of 27 million. Dan Bishop, Ph.d chemist for IDUST feels that this estimate may be low, if the long life of DU dust is considered. In Afghanistan, the concentration in some areas is greater than Iraq.

What can an otherwise healthy person expect when inhaling the deadly dust? Captain Terry Riordon was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces serving in Gulf War I. He passed away in April 1999 at age 45. Terry left Canada a very fit man who did cross-country skiing and ran in marathons. On his return only two months later he could barely walk.

He returned to Canada in February 1991 with documented loss of motor control, chronic fatigue, respiratory difficulties, chest pain, difficulty breathing, sleep problems, short-term memory loss, testicle pain, body pains, aching bones, diarrhea, and depression. After his death, depleted uranium contamination was discovered in his lungs and bones. For eight years he suffered his innumerable ailments and struggled with the military bureaucracy and the system to get proper diagnosis and treatment. He had arranged, upon his death, to bequeath his body to the UMRC. Through his gift, the UMRC was able to obtain conclusive evidence that inhaling fine particles of depleted uranium dust completely destroyed his heath. How many Terry Riordans are out there among the troops being exposed, not to mention Iraqi and Afghan civilians?

Inhaling the dust will not kill large numbers of Iraqi and Afghan civilians right away, any more than it did Captain Riordan. Rather, what we will see is vast numbers of people who are chronically and severely ill, having their life spans drastically shortened, many with multiple cancers.

Melissa Sterry, another sick veteran, served for six months at a supply base in Kuwait during the winter of 1991-92. Part of her job with the National Guard's Combat Equipment Company "A" was to clean out tanks and other armored vehicles that had been used during the war, preparing them for storage.

She said she swept out the armored vehicles, cleaning up dust, sand and debris, sometimes being ordered to help bury contaminated parts. In a telephone interview, she stated that after researching depleted uranium she chose not to take the military's test because she could not trust the results. It is alarming that Melissa was stationed in Kuwait, not Iraq. Cleaning out tanks with DU dust was enough to make her ill.

In, 2003, the Christian Science Monitor sent reporters to Iraq to investigate long-term effects of depleted uranium. Staff writer Scott Peterson saw children playing on top of a burnt-out tank near a vegetable stand on the outskirts of Baghdad, a tank that had been destroyed by armor-piercing shells coated with depleted uranium. Wearing his mask and protective clothing, he pointed his Geiger counter toward the tank. It registered 1,000 times the normal background radiation. If the troops were on a mission of mercy to bring democracy to Iraq, wouldn"t keeping children away from such dangers be the top priority?

The laws of war prohibit the use of weapons that have deadly and inhumane effects beyond the field of battle. Nor can weapons be legally deployed in war when they are known to remain active, or cause harm after the war concludes. It is no surprise that the Japanese Court found President Bush guilty of war crimes.

Dr. Alim Yacoub of Basra University conducted an epidemiological study into incidences of malignancies in children under fifteen years old, in the Basra area (an area bombed with DU during the first Gulf War). They found over the 1990 to 1999 period, there was a 242% rise. That was before the recent invasion.
In Kosovo, similar spikes in cancer and birth defects were noticed by numerous international experts, although the quantity of DU weapons used was only a small fraction of what was used in Iraq.


FIELD STUDY RESULTS FROM AFGHANISTAN

Verifiable statistics for Iraq will remain elusive for some time, but widespread field studies in Afghanistan point to the existence of a large scale public health disaster. In May of 2002, the UMRC (Uranium Medical Research Center) sent a field team to interview and examine residents and internally displaced people in Afghanistan. The UMRC field team began by first identifying several hundred people suffering from illnesses and medical conditions displaying clinical symptoms which are considered to be characteristic of radiation exposure. To investigate the possibility that the symptoms were due to radiation sickness, the UMRC team collected urine specimens and soil samples, transporting them to an independent research lab in England.

UMRC's Field Team found Afghan civilians with acute symptoms of radiation poisoning, along with chronic symptoms of internal uranium contamination, including congenital problems in newborns. Local civilians reported large, dense dust clouds and smoke plumes rising from the point of impact, an acrid smell, followed by burning of the nasal passages, throat and upper respiratory tract. Subjects in all locations presented identical symptom profiles and chronologies. The victims reported symptoms including pain in the cervical column, upper shoulders and basal area of the skull, lower back/kidney pain, joint and muscle weakness, sleeping difficulties, headaches, memory problems and disorientation.

Two additional scientific study teams were sent to Afghanistan. The first arrived in June 2002, concentrating on the Jalalabad region. The second arrived four months later, broadening the study to include the capital Kabul, which has a population of nearly 3.5 million people. The city itself contains the highest recorded number of fixed targets during Operation Enduring Freedom. For the study's purposes, the vicinity of three major bomb sites were examined. It was predicted that signatures of depleted or enriched uranium would be found in the urine and soil samples taken during the research. The team was unprepared for the shock of its findings, which indicated in both Jalalabad and Kabul, DU was causing the high levels of illness. Tests taken from a number of Jalalabad subjects showed concentrations 400% to 2000% above that for normal populations, amounts which have not been recorded in civilian studies before.

Those in Kabul who were directly exposed to US-British precision bombing showed extreme signs of contamination, consistent with uranium exposure. These included pains in joints, back/kidney pain, muscle weakness, memory problems and confusion and disorientation. Those exposed to the bombing report symptoms of flu-type illnesses, bleeding, runny noses and blood-stained mucous. How many of these people will suffer a painful and early death from cancer? Even the study team itself complained of similar symptoms during their stay. Most of these symptoms last for days or months.

In August of 2002, UMRC completed its preliminary analysis of the results from Nangarhar. Without exception, every person donating urine specimens tested positive for uranium contamination. The specific results indicated an astoundingly high level of contamination; concentrations were 100 to 400 times greater than those of the Gulf War Veterans tested in 1999. A researcher reported. "We took both soil and biological samples, and found considerable presence in urine samples of radioactivity; the heavy concentration astonished us. They were beyond our wildest imagination."

In the fall of 2002, the UMRC field team went back to Afghanistan for a broader survey, and revealed a potentially larger exposure than initially anticipated. Approximately 30% of those interviewed in the affected areas displayed symptoms of radiation sickness. New born babies were among those displaying symptoms, with village elders reporting that over 25% of the infants were inexplicably ill.

How widespread and extensive is the exposure? A quote from the UMRC field report reads:

"The UMRC field team was shocked by the breadth of public health impacts coincident with the bombing. Without exception, at every bombsite investigated, people are ill. A significant portion of the civilian population presents symptoms consistent with internal contamination by uranium."

In Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, UMRC lab results indicated high concentrations of NON-DEPLETED URANIUM, with the concentrations being much higher than in DU victims from Iraq. Afghanistan was used as a testing ground for a new generation of "bunker buster" bombs containing high concentrations of other uranium alloys.

"A significant portion of the civilian population"? It appears that by going after a handful of terrorists in Afghanistan we have poisoned a huge number of innocent civilians, with a disproportionate number of them being children.

The military has found depleted uranium in the urine of some soldiers but contends it was not enough to make them seriously ill in most cases. Critics have asked for more sensitive, more expensive testing.

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

According to an October 2004 Dispatch from the Italian Military Health Observatory, a total of 109 Italian soldiers have died thus far due to exposure to depleted uranium. A spokesman at the Military Health Observatory, Domenico Leggiero, states "The total of 109 casualties exceeds the total number of persons dying as a consequence of road accidents. Anyone denying the significance of such data is purely acting out of ill faith, and the truth is that our soldiers are dying out there due to a lack of adequate protection against depleted uranium". Members of the Observatory have petitioned for an urgent hearing "in order to study effective prevention and safeguard measures aimed at reducing the death-toll amongst our serving soldiers".

There were only 3,000 Italian soldiers sent to Iraq, and they were there for a short time. The number of 109 represents about 3.6% of the total. If the same percentage of Iraqis get a similar exposure, that would amount to 936,000. As Iraqis are permanently living in the same contaminated environment, their percentage will be higher.

The Pentagon/DoD have interfered with UMRC's ability to have its studies published by managing, a progressive and persistent misinformation program in the press against UMRC, and through the use of its control of science research grants to refute UMRC's scientific findings and destroy the reputation of UMRC's scientific staff, physicians and laboratories. UMRC is the first independent research organization to find Depleted Uranium in the bodies of US, UK and Canadian Gulf War I veterans and has subsequently, following Operation Iraqi Freedom, found Depleted Uranium in the water, soils and atmosphere of Iraq as well as biological samples donated by Iraqi civilians. Yet the first thing that comes up on Internet searches are these supposed "studies repeatedly showing DU to be harmless." The technique is to approach the story as a debate between government and independent experts in which public interest is stimulated by polarizing the issues rather than telling the scientific and medical truth. The issues are systematically confused and misinformed by government, UN regulatory agencies (WHO, UNEP, IAEA, CDC, DOE, etc) and defense sector (military and the weapons developers and manufacturers).

Dr. Yuko Fujita, an assistant professor at Keio University, Japan who examined the effects of radioactivity in Iraq from May to June, 2003, said : "I doubt that Iraq is fabricating data because in fact there are many children suffering from leukemia in hospitals," Fujita said. "As a result of the Iraq war, the situation will be desperate in some five to 10 years."

The March 14, 2004 Tokyo Citizen's Tribunal that "convicted" President Bush gave the following summation regarding DU weapons: (This court was a citizen's court with no binding legal authority)

1. Their use has indiscriminate effects;

2. Their use is out of proportion with the pursuit of military objectives;

3. Their use adversely affects the environment in a widespread, long term and severe manner;

4. Their use causes superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering.

Two years ago, President Bush withdrew the United States as a signatory to the International Criminal Court's statute, which has been ratified by all other Western democracies. The White House actually seeks to immunize U.S. leaders from war crimes prosecutions entirely. It has also demanded express immunity from ICC prosecution for American nationals.



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Israel and America - Partners In Genocide


Hamas: We'll move toward peace if Israel leaves occupied lands

Haaretz
04/05/2006

Hamas could reciprocate moves toward peace if Israel agrees to withdraw from all lands occupied in 1967 and recognizes Palestinian rights, the group's leader Khaled Meshal said on Wednesday.
"If Israel withdrew to the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem, acknowledges the right of return, lifts its siege, dismantles the settlements and the wall and releases the prisoners, then it is possible for us as Palestinians and Arabs to make a serious step to match the Zionist step," Meshal said.

"Anything ahead of this is hypothetical; the main Israeli
parties have four objections: they are unanimous in their rejection of the 1967 borders, Jerusalem, the right of return and dismantling the settlements, so there is no chance for a compromise," added Meshal, who has been in exile in Syria for years. [...]

Comment: Sounds reasonable, so why no peace? Click here to find out

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Iran Military Denies Israel Is 1st Target If US Attacks

AP
03/05/2006

UNITED NATIONS --The Iranian military on Wednesday rejected a statement from a top Revolutionary Guards commander that Israel would be Iran's first retaliatory target in response to any U.S. attack, according to an Iranian news agency.

Brig. Gen. Alireza Afshar, an armed forces spokesman and deputy to Iran's Chief of Military Staff, said Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghani's statement "is his personal view and has no validity as far as the Iranian military officials are concerned," according to the Entekhab News Agency.
A translation of Afshar's remarks was provided to The Associated Press.

Dehghani was quoted by the Iranian Student News Agency on Tuesday as saying: "We have announced that wherever (in Iran) America does make any mischief, the first place we target will be Israel."

His threat reinforced the Iranian president's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and added to international concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres reacted to Dehghani's warning with a call to Iran to scrap its nuclear program and a warning of his own: "Remember that Israel is exceptionally strong and knows how to defend itself."

The Entekhab News Agency said Afshar was asked about Dehghani's comments at a book exhibition in Tehran.

"Mr. Dehghani was the spokesman of a military maneuver which ended on April 8 (he has no official positions now) and his statement is his personal view and has no validity as far as the Iranian military officials are concerned," Afshar was quoted as saying.

Dehghani, who served as a spokesman during a large-scale war game by the elite Revolutionary Guards last month, was described in the Iranian Student News Agency report as a general and by Entekhab as a rear admiral.

He told the Student News Agency that the military exercises were held ahead of schedule to send a message to the U.S. and its allies against any plans for a military strike.

U.S. President George W. Bush has said a military option remains on the table if Iran doesn't agree to international demands to stop enriching uranium and open its nuclear program to intrusive inspections. But Bush has stressed that Washington wanted to solve the dispute through diplomacy.

The U.S., Britain and France are expected to circulate a Security Council resolution shortly, making mandatory the council's earlier demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment. They want the resolution adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter which can be enforced by sanctions - or if necessary - military action.

But Russia and China, while concerned about Iran's nuclear program, say there is no evidence yet that they are pursuing nuclear weapons and oppose putting the resolution under Chapter 7.



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An Unnecessary Crisis - Setting the Record Straight about Iran's Nuclear Program

2005-11-19

By The Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations -New York

In a region already suffering from upheaval and uncertainty, a crisis is being manufactured in which there will be no winners. Worse yet, the hysteria about the dangers of an alleged Iran nuclear weapon program rest solely and intentionally on misperceptions and outright lies. In the avalanche of anti-Iran media commentaries, conspicuously absent is any reference to important facts, coupled with a twisted representation of the developments over the past 25 years. Before the international community is lead to another "crisis of choice", it is imperative that the public knows all the facts and is empowered to make an informed and sober decision about an impending catastrophe.

1- Systematic Pattern of Denial of Iran's Rights and Its Impact on Transparency

Since early 1980s, Iran's peaceful nuclear program and its inalienable right to nuclear technology have been the subject of the most extensive and intensive campaign of denial, obstruction, intervention and misinformation.
Valid and binding contracts to build nuclear power plants were unilaterally abrogated;

Nuclear material rightfully purchased and owned by Iran was illegally withheld;

Exercise of Iran's right as a shareholder in several national and multinational nuclear power corporations was obstructed;

Unjustified and coercive interventions were routinely made in order to undermine, impede and delay the implementation of Iran's nuclear agreements with third parties; and

Unfounded accusations against Iran's exclusively peaceful nuclear program were systematically publicized.

As a result, and merely in order to prevent further illegal and illegitimate restrictions on its ability to procure its needed materials and equipments, Iran had been left with no option but to be discrete in its perfectly legal and exclusively peaceful activities. In doing so, Iran broke no laws nor diverted its peaceful program to military activities. It only refrained from disclosing the details of its programs. In nearly all cases, it was not even obliged to disclose these programs under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Therefore, while Iran's rights under the NPT continued to be grossly and systematically violated, and while major state parties to the Treaty persisted in their non-compliance with many of their obligations under Articles I, IV and VI of the Treaty in general, and under paragraph 2 of Article IV vis-ŕ-vis Iran in particular, Iran nevertheless continued to diligently comply with all its obligations under the Treaty.

2. Nuclear Technology OR Nuclear Weapons?

A vicious cycle of restrictions on Iran's nuclear program and attempts by Iran to circumvent them through concealment and black market acquisitions have fueled mutual suspicions. In this self-perpetuating atmosphere, the conclusion is already drawn that Iran's declared peaceful nuclear program is just a cover for developing atomic weapons. But this conclusion is based on two erroneous assumptions, which have been repeated often enough to become conventional wisdom.

2.1- Iran Needs Nuclear Energy

2.1.1. Nuclear Energy for an Oil-Rich Country

The first is that Iran has vast oil and gas resources and therefore does not need nuclear energy. Although it is true that Iran is rich in oil and gas, these resources are finite and, given the pace of Iran's economic development, they will be depleted within two to five decades. With a territory of 1,648,000 km2 and a population of about 70 million, projected to be more than 105 million in 2050, Iran has no choice but to seek access to more diversified and secure sources of energy. Availability of electricity to 46,000 villages now, compared to 4400 twenty five years ago, just as an example, demonstrates the fast growing demand for more energy. And the youthfulness of the Iranian population, with around 70% under 30, doesn't allow complacency when it comes to energy policy. To satisfy such growing demands, Iran can't rely exclusively on fossil energy. Since Iranian national economy is still dependant on oil revenue, it can't allow the ever increasing domestic demand affect the oil revenues from the oil export.

2.1.2. US Support for Iranian Nuclear Program

Iran's quest for nuclear energy picked momentum following a study in 1974 carried out by the prestigious US-based Stanford Research Institute, which predicted Iran's need for nuclear energy and recommended the building of nuclear plants capable of generating 20,000 megawatts of electricity before 1994. Now, 30 years later, Iran aims at reaching that level by 2020, which may save Iran 190 million barrels of crude oil or $10 billion per year in today's prices.

Therefore, Iran's nuclear program is neither ambitious nor economically unjustifiable. Diversification - including the development of nuclear energy - is the only sound and responsible energy strategy for Iran.

Even the US State Department was convinced of this in 1978 when it stated in a memo that the U.S. was encouraged by Iran's efforts to expand its non-oil energy base and was hopeful that the U.S.-Iran Nuclear Energy Agreement would be concluded soon and that U.S. companies would be able to play a role in Iran's nuclear energy projects.

2.1.3. Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Producing fuel for its nuclear power plants is an integral part of Iran's nuclear energy policy. While domestic production of fuel for this number of nuclear power plants makes perfect economic sense, Iran's decision should not be judged solely on economic grounds. Having been a victim of a pattern of deprivation from peaceful nuclear material and technology, Iran cannot solely rely on procurement of fuel from outside sources. Such dependence would in effect hold Iran's multi-billion dollar investment in power plants hostage to the political whims of suppliers in a tightly controlled market. Furthermore, it is self evident that the time-consuming efforts to gain the necessary technology and develop the capability for fuel production must proceed simultaneously with the acquisition and construction of nuclear power plants. Otherwise constructed plans may become obsolete in case of denial of fuel without a contingency capacity to produce it domestically.

2.2. Iran Does Not Need Nuclear Weapons for Its Security

The second false assumption is that because Iran is surrounded by nuclear weapons in all directions - the U.S., Russia, Pakistan and Israel - any sound Iranian strategists must be seeking to develop a nuclear deterrent capability for Iran as well.

It is true that Iran has neighbors with abundant nuclear weapons, but this does not mean that Iran must follow suit. In fact, the predominant view among Iranian decision-makers is that development, acquisition or possession of nuclear weapons would only undermine Iranian security. Viable security for Iran can be attained only through inclusion and regional and global engagement. Iran's history is the perfect illustration of its geo-strategic outlook. Over the past 250 years, Iran has not waged a single war of aggression against its neighbors, nor has it initiated any hostilities.

Iran today is the strongest country in its immediate neighborhood. It does not need nuclear weapons to protect its regional interests. In fact, to augment Iranian influence in the region, it has been necessary for Iran to win the confidence of its neighbors, who have historically been concerned with size and power disparities.

On the other hand, Iran, with its current state of technological development and military capability, cannot reasonably rely on nuclear deterrence against its adversaries in the international arena or in the wider region of the Middle East. Moreover, such an unrealistic option would be prohibitively expensive, draining the limited economic resources of the country. In sum, a costly nuclear-weapon option would reduce Iran's regional influence and increase its global vulnerabilities without providing any credible deterrence.

There is also a fundamental ideological objection to weapons of mass destruction, including a religious decree issued by the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran prohibiting the development, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons.

3. Negotiations with UK, France and Germany (EU3)

3.1. Iran's Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures

In October 2003, Iran entered into an understanding with France, Germany and the United Kingdom with the explicit expectation to open a new chapter of full transparency, cooperation and access to nuclear and other advanced technologies. Iran agreed to a number of important transparency and voluntary confidence building measures and immediately and fully implemented them.

It signed and immediately began full implementation of the Additional Protocol;

It opened its doors to one of the most expansive and intrusive IAEA inspections;

It provided a detailed account of its peaceful nuclear activities, all of which had been carried out in full conformity with its rights and obligations under the NPT;

It began and has continuously maintained for the past 2 years a voluntarily suspension of its rightful enrichment of Uranium as a confidence building measure;

It further expanded its voluntary suspension in February and November 2004, following agreements with EU3 in Brussels and Paris respectively, to incorporate activities which go well beyond the original IAEA's definition of "enrichment" and even "enrichment-related" activities.

3.1.1. Resolution of Outstanding Issues

Iran has worked closely with the IAEA, during the course of the last two years, to deal with the issues and questions raised about its peaceful nuclear program. All significant issues, particularly those related to the sources of HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) have now been resolved. Indeed, except for few mostly speculative questions, nothing more remains to close this Chapter

3.1.2. No Indication of Non-Peaceful Activity

The Agency's thorough inspections of Iran have repeatedly confirmed Iran's assertion that no amount of inspection and scrutiny will ever show the slightest diversion into military activity. The Director-General confirmed in Paragraph 52 of his November 2003 report that "to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme." After one more year and over a thousand person-days of the most rigorous inspections, the Director-General again confirmed in Paragraph 112 of his November 2004 report that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities." This conclusion has been repeatedly reaffirmed in every statement by responsible authorities of the IAEA.

3.2. Broken Promises and Expanded Demands by the EU3

Regrettably, Iran received very little, if anything, in return for its transparency, cooperation and voluntary suspension of the exercise of its legitimate and inalienable right. The European negotiating partners, pressured by the US, instead of carrying out their promises of cooperation and open access, have repeatedly called for expansion of Iran's voluntary confidence building measures only to be reciprocated by more broken promises and expanded requests:

The October 2003 promises of the EU3 on nuclear cooperation and regional security and non-proliferation was never even addressed.

The February 2004 written and signed commitment by the EU3 to "work actively to gain recognition at the June 2004 Board of the efforts made by Iran, so that the Board works thereafter on the basis of Director-General reporting if and when he deems it necessary, in accordance with the normal practice pertaining to the implementation of Safeguards Agreements and the Additional Protocol" was violated, even though Iran had in fact carried out its part of the deal by expanding its suspension to include assembly and component manufacturing. Instead, the EU3 proposed a harsh resolution with further unjustifiable demands in June 2004;

The EU3 never honored its recognition, in the Paris Agreement of November 2004, of "Iran's rights under the NPT exercised in conformity with its obligations under the Treaty, without discrimination."

In spite of its repeated and publicized claims, the EU3 never offered, throughout the negotiations process, any meaningful incentives to Iran, other than empty and demeaning "promises" of "consideration" of "possible future cooperation".

4. The Paris Agreement

In November 2004, following extensive negotiations, Iran and EU3 agreed on a package that has become known as the Paris Agreement. The objective of the Paris Agreement was to "to move forward" in "negotiations, with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement on long term arrangements. The agreement will provide objective guarantees that Iran's nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes. It will equally provide firm guarantees on nuclear, technological and economic cooperation and firm commitments on security issues."

The Paris Agreement envisaged that "while negotiations proceed on a mutually acceptable agreement on long-term arrangements," and "to build further confidence, Iran has decided, on a voluntary basis, to continue and extend its suspension to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities."

At the same time, the EU3 recognized "that this suspension is a voluntary confidence building measure and not a legal obligation" as well as "Iran's rights under the NPT exercised in conformity with its obligations under the Treaty, without discrimination."

The Paris Agreement rested on the premise that the purpose of the Agreement was reaching mutually acceptable long term arrangements and that suspension was a temporary measure for as long as negotiations were making progress. The Agreement further envisaged specific mechanisms to monitor and assess progress.

4.1. March Report: Lack of Progress

In March 2005, in accordance with the Paris Agreement, senior officials from Iran and the three European countries were mandated to make an assessment of the progress that had been achieved. The reports of over three months of negotiations by the working groups, created by the Paris Agreement, made it evident that while there was every prospect for reaching a negotiated solution based on the Paris Agreement, and while Iran had made many significant and far-reaching proposals benefiting both sides, the EU3, faced with extraneous pressure, were simply trying to prolong fruitless negotiations. This policy, in addition to its devastating impact on mutual trust, was detrimental to Iran's interests and rights as it attempted to superficially prolong Iran's voluntary suspension by dragging the negotiations.

It also became evident that despite repeated requests by Iran from EU3 representatives to present their proposals and ideas on the implementation of various provisions of the Paris Agreement to the working groups, the European three did not have the intention or the ability to present its proposals on "objective guarantees that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes [and] equally ... firm guarantees on nuclear, technological and economic cooperation and firm commitments on security issues" as called for in that Agreement.

In short, it became evident that after massive pressure from the United States in the winter of 2005, the EU3 had conceded to unilaterally altering the Paris Agreement into solely an instrument of de-facto cessation of Iranian peaceful enrichment program, in violation of the letter and spirit of that Agreement.

4.2. Iran's Proposals

In February 2005, Iran suggested to the EU3 to ask the IAEA to develop technical, legal and monitoring modalities for Iran's enrichment program as objective guarantees to ensure that Iran's nuclear program would remain exclusively for peaceful purposes. While one member of EU3 accepted the suggestion, unfortunately the lack of consensus among the EU3 prevented resort to the IAEA as an authoritative and impartial framework for solving the impasse.

On March 23, 2005, in a clearly stated desire to salvage the Paris Agreement, Iran offered a collection of solutions for objective guarantees suggested by various independent scientist and observers from the United States and Europe. The package included:

1.

Strong and mutually beneficial relations between Iran and the EU/EU3, which would provide the best guarantee for respect for the concerns of each side;

2.

Confinement of Iran's enrichment program, in order to preclude through objective technical guarantees any proliferation concern:

1.


Open fuel cycle, to remove any concern about reprocessing and production of plutonium;

2.

Ceiling of enrichment at LEU level;

3.

Limitation of the extent of the enrichment program to solely meet the contingency fuel requirements of Iran's power reactors;

4.

Immediate conversion of all enriched Uranium to fuel rods to preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment;

5.

Incremental and phased approach to implementation in order to begin with the least sensitive aspects of the enrichment program and to gradually move to enrichment as confidence in the program would be enhanced;

Legislative and regulatory measures

1.

Additional Protocol;

2.

Permanent ban on the development, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons through binding national legislation;

3.

Enhancement of Iran's export control regulations;

4.

Enhanced monitoring

1.

Continued implementation of the Additional Protocol; and

2.

Continuous on-site presence of IAEA inspectors at the conversion and enrichment facilities to provide unprecedented added guarantees.

4.2.1. EU3 Inability to React

Extraneous pressure had resulted in the absence of any desire or ability by EU3 to even consider any "objective guarantee" as called for in the Paris Agreement and instead to maneuver to achieve a de-facto cessation of Iran's lawful activities. This extraneous political element precluded even a serious review by EU3 of these independently worked out proposals, which continue to have the most credible potential of providing a basis for allaying all reasonable concerns.

Even Iran's further good-faith effort on April 29, 2005 to salvage the process by suggesting the negotiated resumption of the work of the UCF- which had never had any past alleged failures, and is virtually proliferation free - at low capacity and with additional confidence building and surveillance and monitoring measures was rejected outright by EU3 officials without even consideration at political level.

4.2.2. Prelude to Breakdown in Nuclear Talks

Iran replied to such intransigence with self-restraint to ensure that no opportunity was spared for an agreed settlement. In a ministerial meeting in Geneva in May 2005, Iran agreed to extend the period of full suspension for another two months, in response to a commitment made by the EU3 ministers to finally present their comprehensive package for the implementation of the Paris Agreement by the end of July or early August 2005, that is nearly nine months after the Agreement.

Iran made it clear in Geneva that any proposal by the EU3 must incorporate EU3's perception of objective guarantees for the gradual resumption of the Iranian enrichment program, and that any attempt to turn objective guarantees into cessation or long-term suspension were incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement and therefore unacceptable to Iran.

4.2.3. A Further Compromise Suggested by Iran

Eager to salvage the negotiations, in a further message to the Ministers, Iran offered the most flexible solution to the EU3 as they were finalizing their package:

Commencement of the work of Esfahan plant (UCF)

At low capacity, Under full scope monitoring,

Agreed arrangements for import of the feed material and export of the product;

Initial limited operation at Natanz following

Further negotiations on a mutually acceptable arrangement,

or

Allowing the IAEA to develop an optimized arrangement on numbers, monitoring mechanism and other specifics;

Full scale operation of Natanz:

Based on a negotiated agreement;

Synchronized with the fuel requirements of future light water reactors.

4.3. EU's Package: Too Many Demands, No Incentives

Against all its sincere efforts and maximum flexibility, on 5 August 2005 Iran received a disappointing proposal. It not only failed to address Iran's rights for peaceful development of nuclear technology, but did not offer anything to Iran in return. It even fell far short of correcting the illegal and unjustified restrictions placed on Iran's economic and technological development, let alone providing firm guarantees for economic, technological and nuclear cooperation and firm commitments on security issues. While Iran had made it crystal clear that no incentive would be sufficient to compromise Iran's inalienable right to all aspects of peaceful nuclear technology, the offers of incentives incorporated in the proposal were in and of themselves demeaning and totally incommensurate with Iran and its vast capabilities, potentials and requirements.

4.3.1. Extra-Legal Demands of Binding Commitments from Iran

The proposal self-righteously assumed rights and licenses for the EU3 which clearly went beyond or even contravened international law and assumed obligations for Iran which have no place in law or practice. It incorporated a series of one-sided and self serving extra-legal demands from Iran, ranging from accepting infringements on its sovereignty to relinquishing its inalienable rights.

It sought to intimidate Iran to accept intrusive and illegal inspections well beyond the Safeguards Agreement or the Additional Protocol. It asked Iran to abandon most of its peaceful nuclear program. It further sought to establish a subjective, discriminatory and arbitrary set of criteria for the Iranian nuclear program, which would have effectively dismantled most of Iran's peaceful nuclear infrastructure, criteria that if applied globally would only monopolize the nuclear industry for the Nuclear-Weapon States.

4.3.2. Vague, Conditional and Demeaning Offers to Iran

The proposal had absolutely no firm guarantees or commitments and did not even incorporate meaningful or serious offers of cooperation to Iran. It amounted to an elongated but substantively shortened and self-servingly revised version of an offer that had been proposed by EU3 and rejected by Iran in October 2004 even prior to the Paris Agreement. This indicated that there was no attempt on the part of EU3 to even take into consideration the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement in their proposal.

This point is further illustrated by the fact that the proposal never even mentioned the terms "objective guarantees", "firm guarantees" or "firm commitments", which were the foundations of the Paris Agreement. Instead it tried to replace "objective guarantees" with termination of Iran's hard gained peaceful nuclear program, and replace "firm guarantees and firm commitments" with vague, conditional and partial restatements of existing obligations.

In the area of security, the proposal did not go beyond repeating UN Charter principles or previously-made general commitments. Worse yet, the proposal even attempted to make EU3's commitment to these general principles of international law optional, partial, and conditional by prefacing the segment with the following statement: "The EU3 propose that, within the context of an overall agreement, this section could include, inter alia, the following mutual commitments in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations."

Another example is the negative security assurances provided in the proposal by the nuclear-weapons states of the EU3. The proposal offered the mere repetition - only by UK and France -- of a universal commitment already made by all nuclear weapon states in 1995 to all NPT members. It even made the application of that commitment to Iran contingent on an overall agreement by stating "Within the context of an overall agreement and Iran's fulfillment of its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the United Kingdom and France would be prepared to reaffirm to Iran the unilateral security assurances given on 6 April 1995, and referred to in United Nations Security Council Resolution 984 (1995)."

In the area of technology cooperation, it failed to include even an indication - let alone guarantees -- of the EU3 readiness to abandon or ease its violations of international law and the NPT with regard to Iran's access to technology. For instance, while under the NPT, the EU3 is obliged to facilitate Iran's access to nuclear technology, the proposal makes a conditional and ambiguous offer "not to impede participation in open competitive tendering." And far from the generally advertised offer of EU cooperation with Iran in construction of new nuclear power plants, the proposal generously offered to "fully support long-term co-operation in the civil nuclear field between Iran and Russia."

In the area of economic cooperation, the proposal only included a conditional recital of already existing commitments and arrangements. While most of the document amounted to general promises of future considerations, even specific offers went no further than conditional expressions of "readiness to discuss." Two examples may be sufficient in this regard: "The EU3 would continue to promote the sale of aircraft parts to Iran and be willing to enter into discussion about open procurement of the sale of civil passenger aircraft to Iran." Or, "the EU3 and Iran, as well as the Commission, would discuss possible future oil and gas pipeline projects."

This proposal made it self-evident that negotiations were not "proceeding" as called for in the Paris Agreement, due to EU3 policy of disregarding the requirements of that Agreement, reverting to their pre-Agreement positions, and prolonging a semblance of negotiations without the slightest attempt to move forward in fulfilling their commitments under the Tehran or Paris Agreements. This protracted continuation was solely designed to keep the suspension in place for as long as it takes to make "cessation" a fait accompli. This was contrary to the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement and was not in line with principles of good faith negotiations.

In short, the proposal, read objectively in the context of the negotiating history of the Paris Agreement as well as its letter and spirit, clearly illustrates the total abandonment of that Agreement by the EU3, who have conveniently accused Iran of the same.

4.3.3. Minimal Reaction from Iran

After such a long period of negotiations and all that Iran had done and continues to do in order to restore confidence as well as the flexibility that Iran has shown, there was no pretext for any further delay in the implementation of the first phase of Iran's proposal, by limited resumption of UCF at Esfahan, which has been free from any past alleged failures, and is virtually proliferation free. In this context, Iran informed the Agency of its decision to resume the uranium conversion activities at the UCF in Esfahan and asked the Agency to be prepared for the implementation of the Safeguards related activities in a timely manner prior to the resumption of the UCF activities.

4.4. Who Violated the Paris Agreement?

According to the Paris Agreement, "the suspension will be sustained while negotiations proceed on a mutually acceptable agreement on long-term arrangements." It also envisaged a mechanism for assessment of progress within three months. In the meeting of 23 March 2005, it was clear that there had been no progress over the preceding three months. As a clearly-stated attempt to salvage the agreement, Iran made its March 23rd proposal in terms of a package of objective guarantees.

The refusal of the EU3 to even consider that package coupled with their behavior in the course of the negotiations, their August 2005 proposal and their repeated statements during the time of the presentation of that proposal and since then made in abundantly clear that under pressure from the US following the Paris Agreement, the EU3 had decided to unilaterally change the nature of the Paris Agreement. This amounted to a breach of the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement as well as the principle of good-faith negotiations.

The EU3 negotiating posture and the empirical evidence of lack of progress had in fact removed any onus from Iran to continue the suspension. However, Iran decided to maintain the suspension of all enrichment related activities and resume only the UCF process, which is by definition a pre-enrichment process. Therefore, the assertion that Iran broke the Paris Agreement is a self-serving and factually false proposition. In fact, the reverse is the case.

5. Iran Goes the Extra Mile for a Negotiated Solution

The Islamic Republic of Iran has always wanted to ensure that no effort is spared in order to reach a negotiated resumption of its enrichment activities. It, therefore, engaged in good faith and intensive negotiations with the EU3 and other interested delegations during the Summit of the United Nations in September 2005 in order to remove obstacles to the resumption of good-faith and result-oriented negotiations in accordance with established rights and obligations under the NPT. In this context, Iran responded positively to a proposal which would have removed any concern about the continued operation of the UCF in Esfahan at lower capacity for a specific period to allow negotiations to reach results. Iran also agreed to resume negotiations with the EU3 and to consider all proposals that had been presented.

Furthermore, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in his address to the General Assembly on September 17, 2005, made yet another far reaching offer of added guarantee by inviting international partnership in Iran's enrichment activities.

While the President reiterated that Iran's right to have fuel cycle technology was not negotiable, he presented the following confidence-building positions and proposals in his statement:

Readiness for constructive interaction and a just dialogue in good faith;

Prohibition of pursuit of nuclear weapons in accordance with religious principles;

Necessity to revitalize the NPT;

Cooperation with the IAEA as the centerpiece of Iran's nuclear policy;

Readiness to continue negotiations with the EU3;

Readiness to consider various proposals that have been presented;

Welcome the proposal of South Africa to move the process forward;

Acceptance of partnership with private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of uranium enrichment program in Iran which engages other countries directly and removes any concerns.

6. Abuse of IAEA Machinery

Regrettably, the EU3, pressed by the United States, adopted a path of confrontation in the September 2005 IAEA Board of Governors meeting. In clear violation of their October 2003 and November 2004 commitments, the EU3moved a politically motivated and factually and legally flawed resolution in the IAEA Board of Governors, and together with the United States and using all their combined diplomatic and economic leverages imposed it on the Board through an unprecedented resort to voting rather than the previously unbroken practice of consensus.

6.1. No Legal or Factual Grounds for IAEA "Findings"

The imposed resolution makes a mockery of the proceedings of the Board of Governors by rehashing alleged failures that had already been dealt with in the November 2003 Board. At that time, despite the existence of ambiguities and serious questions on important issues such as the source of HEU contamination, "findings" of "non-compliance" or "absence of confidence" in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's program were impossible.

The Board refrained from making such findings in 2003 not because of a now-claimed "voluntary restraint" by EU3, but because such were factually and legally impossible due to the nature of failures - which were solely of technical reporting character -- and also because of the fact that the Director-General had specifically stated in his November 2003 report that "to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme."

It is ironic that after two years of cooperation, over 1200 person/days of intrusive inspections, resolution of nearly all outstanding issues particularly the foreign source of contamination, and after repeated reiteration of the finding of non-diversion including the conclusion in the IAEA November 2004 report that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities," the imposed resolution discovered ex post facto that the failures "detailed in Gov/2003/75 [the aforementioned report of November 2003] constitutes non-compliance."

6.2. The Real Story: Pressure to Deny Iran's Inalienable Rights

While the resolution attempted to create a convenient - albeit false - pretext of these alleged and old reporting failures for its so-called "findings", it is abundantly clear that the reason for production of this resolution was by no means those alleged failures, but instead the resumption of Iran's perfectly legal and safeguarded activities in Esfahan.

In this context, it must be underlined that all States party to the NPT, without discrimination, have an inalienable right to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. As this right is "inalienable", it cannot be undermined or curtailed under any pretext. Any attempt to do so, would be an attempt to undermine a pillar of the Treaty and indeed the Treaty itself.

Iran, like any other Non-Nuclear-Weapon State, had no obligation to negotiate and seek agreement for the exercise of its "inalienable" right, nor could it be obligated to suspend it. Suspension of Uranium enrichment, or any derivative of such suspension, is a voluntary and temporary confidence-building measure, effectuated by Iran in order to enhance cooperation and close the chapter of denials of access to technology imposed by the west on Iran. It is not an end in itself, nor can it be construed or turned into a permanent abandonment of a perfectly lawful activity, thereby perpetuating, rather than easing, the pattern of denial of access to technology.

The suspension of Uranium enrichment has been in place for nearly two years, with all its economic and social ramifications affecting thousands of families. The EU3 failed to remove any of the multifaceted restrictions on Iran's access to advanced and nuclear technology. In a twist of logic, it even attempted to prolong the suspension, thereby trying to effectively widen its restrictions instead of fulfilling its commitments of October 2003 and November 2004 to remove them.

As the IAEA Board of Governors had underlined in its past and current resolution, suspension "is a voluntary, non-legal binding confidence building measure". When the Board itself explicitly recognizes that suspension is "not a legally-binding obligation", no wording by the Board can turn this voluntary measure into an essential element for anything. In fact the Board of Governors has no factual or legal ground, nor any statutory power, to make or enforce such a demand, or impose ramifications as a consequence of it.

7. The Way Forward: No Coercion, Good-Faith Negotiations

The recently imposed resolution on the IAEA Board of Governors is devoid of any legal authority, and any attempt to implement it will be counter-productive and will leave Iran with no option but to suspend its voluntary confidence building measures. The threat of referral to the Security Council will only further complicate the issue and will not alter Iran's resolve to exercise its legitimate and inalienable rights under the NPT.

At the same time, Iran is determined to pursue good-faith interaction and negotiations, based on equal footing, as the centerpiece of its approach to the nuclear issue. A diplomatic and negotiated framework is the desired approach for a successful outcome and Iran is ready to consider all constructive and effective proposals.

Iran welcomes consultations and negotiations with other countries in order to facilitate the work of the Agency and calls on the EU3 to replace the course of confrontation with interaction and negotiation to reach understanding and agreement.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is committed to non-proliferation and the elimination of nuclear weapons, and considers nuclear weapons and capability to produce or acquire them as detrimental to its security. Iran will continue to abide by its obligations under the NPT and will continue to work actively for the establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.



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Iran Military Denies Israel Is 1st Target If US Attacks

Dow Jones Newswires
05-03-061446ET

UNITED NATIONS (AP)--The Iranian military on Wednesday rejected a statement from a top Revolutionary Guards commander that Israel would be Iran's first retaliatory target in response to any U.S. attack, according to an Iranian news agency.

Brig. Gen. Alireza Afshar, an armed forces spokesman and deputy to Iran's Chief of Military Staff, said Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghani's statement "is his personal view and has no validity as far as the Iranian military officials are concerned," according to the Entekhab News Agency.

A translation of Afshar's remarks was provided to The Associated Press.
Dehghani was quoted by the Iranian Student News Agency on Tuesday as saying: " We have announced that wherever (in Iran) America does make any mischief, the first place we target will be Israel."

His threat reinforced the Iranian president's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and added to international concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres reacted to Dehghani's warning with a call to Iran to scrap its nuclear program and a warning of his own: "Remember that Israel is exceptionally strong and knows how to defend itself."

The Entekhab News Agency said Afshar was asked about Dehghani's comments at a book exhibition in Tehran.

"Mr. Dehghani was the spokesman of a military maneuver which ended on April 8 (he has no official positions now) and his statement is his personal view and has no validity as far as the Iranian military officials are concerned," Afshar was quoted as saying.

Dehghani, who served as a spokesman during a large-scale war game by the elite Revolutionary Guards last month, was described in the Iranian Student News Agency report as a general and by Entekhab as a rear admiral.

He told the Student News Agency that the military exercises were held ahead of schedule to send a message to the U.S. and its allies against any plans for a military strike.

U.S. President George W. Bush has said a military option remains on the table if Iran doesn't agree to international demands to stop enriching uranium and open its nuclear program to intrusive inspections. But Bush has stressed that Washington wanted to solve the dispute through diplomacy.

The U.S., Britain and France are expected to circulate a Security Council resolution shortly, making mandatory the council's earlier demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment. They want the resolution adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter which can be enforced by sanctions - or if necessary - military action.

But Russia and China, while concerned about Iran's nuclear program, say there is no evidence yet that they are pursuing nuclear weapons and oppose putting the resolution under Chapter 7.



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Iran stands in the way of US designs

May 4, 2006
By Stephen Zunes

Note: On Tuesday, the five veto-wielding permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom) and Germany failed to reach an agreement on a Security Council resolution with regard to Iran's nuclear program that would open the possibility of imposing sanctions on Iran. In his report to the Security Council last Friday, International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran had failed to halt its uranium-enrichment activities within the 30-day period prescribed by the Security Council on March 29.

With even mainstream media outlets such as the Washington
Post and The New Yorker publishing credible stories that the United States is seriously planning a military attack on Iran, increasing numbers of Americans are expressing concerns about the consequences of the US launching another war that would once again place it in direct contravention of international law.
The latest US National Security Strategy document, published this year, labeled Iran as the most serious challenge to the United States posed by any country. This should be an indication of just how safe the US is in the post-Cold War world, where the "most serious challenge" is no longer a rival superpower with thousands of nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery systems capable of destroying the country, but a Third World nation on the far side of the planet that, according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate out of Washington, is at least 10 years away from actually producing a usable nuclear weapon.

Furthermore, Iran has no capacity to develop any delivery system in the foreseeable future capable of landing a weapon within 16,000 kilometers of US shores.

However, despite the fact that there is no evidence that Iran is even developing nuclear weapons in the first place, the Bush administration and congressional leaders of both main US parties argue that simply having the technology that would make it theoretically possible for Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon at some point in the future is sufficient casus belli.

As part of his desperate search for enemies, President George W Bush claimed in January that a nuclear-armed Iran would be "a grave threat to the security of the world", words that echoed language he used in reference to Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion of that oil-rich country.

Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney vowed "meaningful consequences" if Iran did not give up its nuclear program, and US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton claimed there would be "tangible and painful consequences" if Iran did not cooperate.

The Washington Post quoted White House sources as reporting that "Bush views Tehran as a serious menace that must be dealt with before his presidency ends", apparently out of concern that neither a Democratic nor Republican successor might be as willing to consider a military option.

Not that he needs to worry about that. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, widely seen as the front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, accused the Bush administration in January of not taking the threat of a nuclear Iran seriously enough, criticized the administration for allowing European nations to take the lead in pursuing a diplomatic solution, and insisted that the administration should make it clear that military options were being actively considered.

Similarly, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, another likely contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, accused the Bush administration of "ignoring and then largely deferring management of this crisis to the Europeans". Taking the diplomatic route, according to Bayh, "has certainly been damaging to our national security".

Despite the hostility of these two Democratic senators toward diplomatic means of resolving the crisis and the similarity of their rhetoric to the false claims they made prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein's government was a threat to global security and that diplomatic solutions were impossible, both Clinton and Bayh are widely respected by their fellow Democrats as leaders on security policy.

Indeed, in May 2004, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution, with only three dissenting votes, calling on the Bush administration to "use all appropriate means" - presumably including military force - to "prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons".

As with the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, Republican and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have tended to call witnesses before the relevant committees who would present the most alarmist perceptions as fact. Last month, for example, Patrick Clawson of the right-wing Washington Institute for Near East Policy testified before the Senate International Relations Committee: "So long as Iran has an Islamic Republic, it will have a nuclear-weapons program, at least clandestinely."

None of the senators present, however, bothered to mention the inconvenient fact that under the secular regime of the shah that preceded the Islamic Republic, Iran also had a nuclear program (which was actively supported and encouraged by the United States). However, Clawson said that since a nuclear program was inevitable under the Islamic Republic, only by overthrowing the government - not through a negotiated settlement - would the US be safe from the nuclear threat. He insisted, therefore, that "the key issue" was not whether an arms-control agreement could be enforced, but "how long will the present Iranian regime last?"

The risks from a US attack on Iran
With the ongoing debacle in Iraq, any kind of ground invasion of Iran by US forces is out of the question. Iran is three times as big as Iraq, in terms of both population and geography. It is a far more mountainous country that would increase the ability of the resistance to engage in guerrilla warfare, and the intensity of the nationalist backlash against such a foreign invasion would likely be even stronger.

An attack by air- and sea-launched missiles and bombing raids by fighter jets would be a more realistic scenario. However, even such a limited military operation would create serious problems for the US.

The Washington Post, in a recent article about a possible US strike against Iran, quoted Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency Middle East specialist, as noting that "the Pentagon is arguing forcefully against it because it is so constrained" by ongoing operations in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan.

Similarly, the Post quoted a former Pentagon official in contact with his former colleagues as observing, "I don't think anybody's prepared to use the military option at this point." Given the growing opposition to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld 's handling of the war in Iraq within the leadership of the armed services, as expressed by a number of prominent recently retired generals, a major military operation without strong support from America's military leadership would be particularly problematic.

Fears expressed by some opponents of possible US military action against Iran that the Iranians would retaliate through terrorist attacks against US interests are probably not realistic. Indeed, Iran's control over foreign terrorist groups and its role in terrorist operations have frequently been exaggerated by US analysts.

However, there are a number of areas in which the United States would be particularly vulnerable to Iranian retaliation. One would be in the Persian Gulf, where US Navy ships could become easy targets for Iranian missiles and torpedoes.

Perhaps more serious problems would be in Iraq, where US troops are operating against the Sunni-led insurgency alongside Iranian-backed pro-government militias. If these Iranian-backed militias also decided to turn their guns on American forces, the US would be caught in a vise between both sides in the country's simmering civil war with few places to hide.

It would be difficult for the US to label militias affiliated with the ruling parties of a democratically elected government fighting foreign occupation forces in their own country as "terrorists" or to use such attacks as an excuse to launch further military operations against Iran. (Given that the Iraqi government is ruled by two pro-Iranian parties, recent charges by the Bush administration that Iran is aiding the anti-government Sunni insurgency are utterly ludicrous and have been rejected by Baghdad.)

A US air strike would be a clear violation of the UN Charter and would be met by widespread condemnation in the international community. It would further isolate the US as a rogue superpower at a time in which it needs to repair its damaged relations with its European and Middle Eastern allies.

Even Britain has expressed its opposition to military action. Pro-Western Arab states, despite their unease at Iran's nuclear program, would react quite negatively to a US strike, particularly since it would likely strengthen anti-American extremists by allowing them to take advantage of popular opposition to the US utilizing force against a Muslim nation in order to defend the US-Israeli nuclear monopoly in the region.

As a result, the negative consequences of a US attack may be strong enough to persuade even the Bush administration not to proceed with the military option.

Israel as a proxy
Though direct US military action against Iran is still very possible, it is more likely that the United States will encourage Israel to take military action instead. In such a scenario, US officials believe that the United States would gain the perceived benefits of a military strike against Iran while limiting the damage to the US by focusing the world's wrath on Israel.

Fox News has reported that Bush administration officials in effect told the Israelis that "we are doing the heavy lifting in Iraq and Afghanistan ... and that Israel needs to handle this themselves".

Israel has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to violate international legal norms and - with US veto power blocking the Security Council from imposing sanctions on Israel, and the United States providing vast sums of unconditional military and economic assistance to the Israeli government - its ability to get away with doing so.

The Israeli government is convinced that the US occupation of Iraq has radicalized the Iranian clerical leadership and that Iran, unlike Iraq in the final years of Saddam Hussein, poses a risk to Israel's national-security interests. However, for reasons mentioned above, Israeli leaders have been reported to believe that the US will not move militarily against Iran and that they will end up using their own forces instead.

An Israeli strike is not inevitable, however. Public opinion polls show that a majority of Israelis oppose the idea. Policy analyst Steve Clemons was quoted in the Washington Monthly as saying, "I have witnessed far more worries about Iranian President [Mahmud] Ahmadinejad's anti-Holocaust and anti-Israel rhetoric in the US than I did in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem ... Nearly everyone I spoke to in Israel, who ranged in political sympathies from the Likud right to ... left, thought that ... Israel thought it wrong-headed and too impulsive to be engaged in saber-rattling with Iran at this stage."

He added, "Israeli national-security bureaucrats - diplomats and generals - have far greater confidence that there are numerous potential solutions to the growing Iran crisis short of bombing them in an invasive, hot attack."

There is no indication that Iran would ever contemplate a first strike against Israel or any other country. Tehran, like other Islamic governments in the region, has used Israel's repression of the Palestinians for propaganda purposes, but has rarely done anything actually to help the Palestinians. It is inconceivable that the Iranians would ever consider launching a nuclear attack on Israel - which possesses at least 300 nuclear weapons and sophisticated missiles and other delivery systems that could destroy Iran - for the sake of the Palestinians, many thousands of whom would die as well. However, an Israeli attack could give Iran grounds for retaliation.

Despite these dangers, Israel - with US encouragement - has long considered the possibility of an attack against Iran.

In the mid-1990s, prior to the election of the US-backed Likud government of Benjamin Netanyahu to office, the peace process with the Palestinians was progressing steadily, a peace treaty had been signed with Jordan, and diplomatic and commercial ties with other Arab states was growing.

With the prospects of a permanent Israeli-Arab peace, US arms exporters and their allies in Congress and the administration of president Bill Clinton, along with their hawkish counterparts in Israel, began emphasizing the alleged threat to Israel from Iran as justification for the more than $2 billion worth of annual US taxpayer subsidies for US arms exporters for them to send weapons to Israel.

Among these was an agreement to provide Israel with sophisticated F-15 fighter-bombers. As the peace process faltered because of increased repression and colonization by Israel and increased terrorism from radical Palestinian groups and as reformists appeared to be gaining momentum in Iran, Israel began focusing on more immediate threats closer to home, though deliveries of the F-15s continued through 2001.

Last year, however, the US unexpectedly provided Israel with an additional 30 long-range F-15s at a cost of $48 million each. The US has also recently provided Israel with 5,000 GBU-27 and GBU-28 weapons, better known as "bunker-busters", warheads guided by lasers or satellites that can penetrate up to 10 meters of earth and concrete to destroy suspected underground facilities.

Reuters reported a senior Israeli security source as noting, "This is not the sort of ordnance needed for the Palestinian front. Bunker-busters could serve Israel against Iran ..." Israel also has at least five submarines armed with sea-launched missiles that could easily get within range of Iranian targets.

One scenario reportedly has Israel sending three squadrons of F15s to fly over Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, currently controlled by the US Air Force, to strike at major Iranian facilities. The US would provide satellite information for the attack as well as refueling for the Israeli jets as they leave Iranian air space for their return to Israel.

The London Sunday Times has reported that the Israelis have been "coordinating with American forces" for such a scenario. That same article described Israeli commando training operations at a full-sized mockup of Iran's Natanz nuclear facility at a military facility in Israel's Negev Desert and the dispatch of clandestine Israeli Special Forces units into Iran. Meanwhile, the Israeli Ofek-6 spy satellite is now reported to have been moved to an orbit over Iranian facilities.

As far back as April 2004, Bush exchanged letters with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in which he stated, in reference to Iran, that "Israel has the right to defend itself with its own forces".

Despite the widely held tail-wagging-the-dog assumptions, history has shown that the US has frequently used Israel to advance its strategic interests in the region and beyond, such as aiding pro-Western governments and pro-Western insurgencies, keeping radical nationalist governments such as Syria in check, and engaging in covert interventions in Jordan, Lebanon, and now Kurdistan.

During the 1980s, Israel was used to funnel arms to third parties the US could not arm directly, such as the apartheid regime South Africa, the Guatemalan junta, the Nicaraguan Contras and, ironically, the Iranian mullahs. Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 - despite formal criticism - was enthusiastically supported by the administration of US president Ronald Reagan.

One Israeli analyst was quoted as saying in the Washington Post during the Iran-Contra scandal, "It's like Israel has become just another federal agency, one that's convenient to use when you want something done quietly." Nathan Shahan wrote in Yediot Ahronot that his country serves as the "Godfather's messenger", since Israel "undertakes the dirty work of the Godfather, who always tries to appear to be the owner of some large, respectable business".

Israeli satirist B Michael describes US aid to Israel as a situation where "my master gives me food to eat and I bite those whom he tells me to bite. It's called strategic cooperation."

Just as the ruling elites of medieval Europe used the Jews as money-lenders and tax collectors to avoid the wrath of an exploited population, the elites of the world's one remaining superpower would similarly be quite willing to use Israel to do their dirty work against Iran. That way Israel, not the US, will get the blame. (In fact, there are those who blame Israel even when the United States takes military action itself, such as the various conspiracy theories now circulating that the US invasion of Iraq was done on behalf of Israel.)

It won't work
A military strike against Iran, either directly by the US or through Israel, will not likely succeed in curbing Iran's nuclear program. Indeed, it will likely motivate the Iranian government, with enhanced popular support in reaction to foreign aggression against their country, to redouble its efforts.

Iran has deliberately spread its nuclear facilities over a wide geographical range, in at least nine major locations. Even the bunker-buster bombs may not fully penetrate a number of these facilities, assuming all the secret sites could be located.

The US-backed Israeli raid of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, according to virtually all accounts by Iraqi nuclear scientists, was at most a temporary setback for Saddam Hussein's nuclear program and ultimately led to the regime accelerating its timetable for the development of nuclear weapons until it was dismantled under the watch of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency in the early 1990s. Despite this, the US Congress passed a resolution in 1991 defending Israel's action and criticizing the UN for its opposition to Israel's illegal military attack.

The only real solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program is a diplomatic one. For example, Iran has called for the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone for the entire Middle East in which all nations in the region would be required to give up their nuclear weapons and open up their programs to strict international inspections. Iran has been joined in its proposal by Syria, by US allies Jordan and Egypt, and by other Middle Eastern states. Such nuclear-weapons-free zones have already been successfully established for Latin America, the South Pacific, Antarctica, Africa and Southeast Asia.

The Bush administration and congressional leaders of both US parties have rejected such a proposal, however, insisting that the United States has the right to decide unilaterally which countries get to have nuclear weapons and which ones do not, in effect imposing a kind of nuclear apartheid.

In 1958, the US was the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East region, bringing tactical nuclear bombs on its ships and planes. Israel became a nuclear-weapons state by the early 1970s with the quiet support of the US government. To Iran's east, Pakistan and India have developed nuclear weapons as well, and the Bush administration recently signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with India and has provided both countries with nuclear-capable jet fighter-bombers.

Located in such a dangerous region, then, it is not surprising that Iran might be seeking a nuclear deterrent. The US and Israel do not want Iran to have such a deterrent, however, since it would challenge the US-Israeli nuclear monopoly in that oil-rich region. In other words, what those in the Bush administration, the Israeli government and the bipartisan leadership in Congress are concerned about is protecting the hegemonic interests of the US and its junior partner Israel, not stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Such a policy does not protect the interests of the American or Israeli people, nor does it help the people of Iran and the Middle East as a whole. It remains to be seen, however, whether the American public will once again allow the Bush administration and the leadership of both parties in Congress successfully to employ exaggerated stories of potential "weapons of mass destruction" controlled by an oil-rich country on the far side of the world to justify a disastrous war.

Stephen Zunes is Middle East editor for the Foreign Policy In Focus Project. He serves as a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and is the author of Tinderbox: US Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003).





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The Salvador Option has been invoked in Iraq

By John Pilger
05/04/06 "ICH"

The American public is being prepared. If the attack on Iran does come, there will be no warning, no declaration of war, no truth.
The lifts in the New York Hilton played CNN on a small screen you could not avoid watching. Iraq was top of the news; pronouncements about a "civil war" and "sectarian violence" were repeated incessantly. It was as if the US invasion had never happened and the killing of tens of thousands of civilians by the Americans was a surreal fiction. The Iraqis were mindless Arabs, haunted by religion, ethnic strife and the need to blow themselves up. Unctuous puppet politicians were paraded with no hint that their exercise yard was inside an American fortress.

And when you left the lift, this followed you to your room, to the hotel gym, the airport, the next airport and the next country. Such is the power of America's corporate propaganda, which, as Edward Said pointed out in Culture and Imperialism , "penetrates electronically" with its equivalent of a party line.

The party line changed the other day. For almost three years it was that al-Qaeda was the driving force behind the "insurgency", led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a bloodthirsty Jordanian who was clearly being groomed for the kind of infamy Saddam Hussein enjoys. It mattered not that al-Zarqawi had never been seen alive and that only a fraction of the "insurgents" followed al-Qaeda. For the Americans, Zarqawi's role was to distract attention from the thing that almost all Iraqis oppose: the brutal Anglo-American occupation of their country.

Now that al-Zarqawi has been replaced by "sectarian violence" and "civil war", the big news is the attacks by Sunnis on Shia mosques and bazaars. The real news, which is not reported in the CNN "mainstream", is that the Salvador Option has been invoked in Iraq. This is the campaign of terror by death squads armed and trained by the US, which attack Sunnis and Shias alike. The goal is the incitement of a real civil war and the break-up of Iraq, the original war aim of Bush's administration. The ministry of the interior in Baghdad, which is run by the CIA, directs the principal death squads. Their members are not exclusively Shia, as the myth goes. The most brutal are the Sunni-led Special Police Commandos, headed by former senior officers in Saddam's Ba'ath Party. This unit was formed and trained by CIA "counter-insurgency" experts, including veterans of the CIA's terror operations in central America in the 1980s, notably El Salvador. In his new book, Empire's Workshop (Metropolitan Books), the American historian Greg Grandin describes the Salvador Option thus: "Once in office, [President] Reagan came down hard on central America, in effect letting his administration's most committed militarists set and execute policy. In El Salvador, they provided more than a million dollars a day to fund a lethal counter-insurgency campaign . . . All told, US allies in central America during Reagan's two terms killed over 300,000 people, tortured hundreds of thousands and drove millions into exile."

Although the Reagan administration spawned the current Bushites, or "neo-cons", the pattern was set earlier. In Vietnam, death squads trained, armed and directed by the CIA murdered up to 50,000 people in Operation Phoenix. In the mid-1960s in Indonesia CIA officers compiled "death lists" for General Suharto's killing spree during his seizure of power. After the 2003 invasion, it was only a matter of time before this venerable "policy" was applied in Iraq.

According to the investigative writer Max Fuller (National Review Online), the key CIA manager of the interior ministry death squads "cut his teeth in Vietnam before moving on to direct the US military mission in El Salvador". Professor Grandin names another central America veteran whose job now is to "train a ruthless counter-insurgent force made up of ex-Ba'athist thugs". Another, says Fuller, is well-known for his "production of death lists". A secret militia run by the Americans is the Facilities Protection Service, which has been responsible for bombings. "The British and US Special Forces," concludes Fuller, "in conjunction with the [US-created] intelligence services at the Iraqi defence ministry, are fabricating insurgent bombings of Shias."

On 16 March, Reuters reported the arrest of an American "security contractor" who was found with weapons and explosives in his car. Last year, two Britons disguised as Arabs were caught with a car full of weapons and explosives; British forces bulldozed the Basra prison to rescue them. The Boston Globe recently reported: "The FBI's counter-terrorism unit has launched a broad investigation of US-based theft rings after discovering that some of the vehicles used in deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen in the United States, according to senior government officials."

As I say, all this has been tried before - just as the preparation of the American public for an atrocious attack on Iran is similar to the WMD fabrications in Iraq. If that attack comes, there will be no warning, no declaration of war, no truth. Imprisoned in the Hilton lift, staring at CNN, my fellow passengers could be excused for not making sense of the Middle East, or Latin America, or anywhere. They are isolated. Nothing is explained. Congress is silent. The Democrats are moribund. And the freest media on earth insult the public every day. As Voltaire put it: "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

This article first appeared in the New Statesman. For the latest in current and cultural affairs subscribe to the New Statesman print edition.

© New Statesman 1913 - 2006



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"Our Descent Into Hell Has Begun"

Tony Swindell
05/04/06
Counterpunch

Message from a Vet of My Lai Time

A few weeks ago we got a friendly letter from Tony Swindell, a newspaper editor in Sherman, Texas. "Begin paying attention," Swindell urged, "to stories from Iraq like the very recent one about U.S. Marines killing a group of civilians near Baghdad. This is the next step in the Iraq war as frustration among our soldiers grows -- especially with multiple tours.

"I served with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, and My Lai was not an isolated incident. We came to be known as the Butcher's Brigade, and we also were the birthplace of the Phoenix Program. The brigade commander and a battalion commander were charged with murdering civilians (shooting them from helicopters, recorded in some of my photos), although both skated. If you recall from his autobiography, Colin Powell served briefly with the 11th in Duc Pho before going to division HQ in Chu Lai.

"The atrocities against Iraqi civilians are slipping under the media radar screen, but they're going to explode in America's face not too long from now and dwarf the Abu Ghraib (sic) incident. That was a fraternity beer bust by comparison. The Ft. Sill episode [described in JoAnn Wypijewski's piece from April, "The Army Slays Its Own."] is another one of the same storm clouds on the horizon. I sincerely fear for our country."

We asked Swindell to expand these thoughts. Here's his powerful response. AC/JSC

In Iraq, our descent into hell, our "Apocalypse Now" moment, has begun. First there was Gitmo, then the global rendition program, then Abu Ghraib, then the pulverizing of Fallujah, and now trigger-happy raids that are filling multitudes of sandy graves with men, women and children. Has "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" become the mission in Babylon? Can't anyone remember Vietnam, where we left behind more than a million dead civilians? In Iraq, we've way past the half-million mark, probably the million mark, if you count the 1990s sanctions. Are the American people as blind and deaf as they seem? Don't we see ourselves walking through the gates of hell and can't we hear the doors clanging shut on our country?

Who am I to say all this, you might ask. Fair enough, I reply. So let me tell you a story about monstrous crimes and tragedies from my generation about to be repeated in Iraq in front of the whole world. First, understand that a single soldier can't be expected to grasp the total criminality of war because his whole universe is a tiny place right in front of his nose. So he can stay alive. If he knew everything that was going on, he would be heartbroken, and if he also knew why, he would go insane.

The narrowness of his vision is exactly how even the best and most humane soldier unwillingly becomes a monster, and the people who create war know this. Out of grief and rage, with the stench of his buddy's shredded flesh in his nostrils, the soldier stops asking questions and then begins making up his own rules with a rifle. He has touched the heart of darkness and there's no going back ever. Embracing the whore called war destroys morality, and doing all this in a dishonorable cause compounds the damage.

That's why we who have been there must speak out forcefully. If it requires a stiff punch in the mouth to jump-start some addled neocon brains, so be it. And for anyone who gets their political truth from self-inflating whoopee cushions like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, it will come none too soon. To remain silent this time risks the loss of everything that our country stands for.

The story I want to tell you begins on a miserably hot day in February, 1969, as I watched U.S. Army Col. John W. Donaldson put a cup of rice wine mixed with blood to his lips and drink deeply. No matter that the concoction was alive with heartworms, Donaldson never flinched. At the time, I was serving as an army combat correspondent attached to the 11th Light Infantry Brigade and my job that day was to follow Donaldson around, snapping picture after picture of the macabre festivities unfolding in front of my eyes. He was the brigade commander at a bloody punching bag called LZ Bronco next to the village of Duc Pho. The brigade base camp was part of the Americal Division, headquartered to the north in Chu Lai.

The colonel and a large contingent of other brigade and division officers were guests of honor at a Tet festival in the Montagnard village of Ba To in the central highlands southwest of Chu Lai. Nearby was a Special Forces A Team camp, an ominous triangular fortress bristling with 105 mm cannon at each corner firing flechette rounds. A snake couldn't have crawled through the maze of sharp barbed and razor tape wire surrounding the compound, and dozens of claymore mines were set in the walls. A claymore at close range will instantly render you into your constituent molecules.

The Montagnard village and A Team camp had been hit hard by concentrated North Vietnamese forces earlier in the week, and Donaldson's presence was in part a thumb in the eye to enemy commanders licking their wounds in nearby triple canopy jungle. The landscape gave me chills, because the beautiful, green-dappled hills all around the village were pockmarked with hundreds of fresh artillery and bomb craters exposing the bright red soil. I couldn't get the image of the Jolly Green Giant with a bad case of acne out of my mind. While topless Montagnard women spruced up the area with totems and bright banners to cover attack damage, a sacrificial water buffalo calf was slowly being prodded to death with a spear by the local village chief. It took about half an hour before the calf sagged to its knees in exhaustion, at that point too weak to even cry out. The chief then cut the calf's throat above a large earthen jug to catch the pulsing blood while another villager poured rice wine and stirred.

Unknown to the visitors, the Montagnards had earlier tortured to death three North Vietnamese captives and partook of their blood in the company of Special Forces A Team troopers. These unfortunate had been impaled through their anuses with bamboo poles and given the same spear prodding. Later, their bodies were staked out along enemy infiltration trails as a mortal warning to the enemy.

This day became my own personal "Apocalypse Now" moment, a full decade before the Francis Ford Coppola's movie was released. Not long before, we became personally aware that soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, had rampaged in My Lai when military police ransacked our hooch looking for evidence and then hauled Rusty Calley off in handcuffs. Meanwhile, Tiger Teams were creating ruthless, bloody havoc across the Batangan Peninsula against suspected enemy cadre. Brutality against civilians was standard operating procedure. Because of the Pacification Program mass relocations, entire swathes of the countryside began to resemble the Missouri Burnt District during the Civil War.

The Phoenix Program was in full swing, and it was the horror to end all horrors. I had earlier tagged along on a Phoenix mission directed by the ARVN National Police, and will spare you the details. Trust me, you do not want to know what was being done. Standing there and watching Donaldson drink from the cup, the profound symbolism of all that was wrong in this place hit me like a blow in the face. Ironically, an anti-war rag called the Overseas Weekly or Overseas latched onto one of my pictures and captioned it, "Army Brass Drinks Blood In Pagan Ceremonies".

By February 1969, morale in the brigade had hit rock bottom because of horrific casualties caused primarily from booby traps, and an entire battalion had been stood down as non-functional. The North Vietnamese were endlessly blasting our firebases with 122 mm rocket artillery, and LZ Bronco was soon to be hit more than 200 times during a famous assault that came to be called "Duc Pho Burning". Mutinies, insubordination and fragging of officers became commonplace. Soldiers cracked and a few committed suicide. One grunt over the edge opened fire into the POW compound, killing a number of captured enemy. Col. Donaldson and a battalion commander, two of the highest-ranking officers in the brigade, were charged with murdering civilians from helicopters while the My Lai investigation was still underway. A young Major Colin Powell assigned to the 11th Brigade ­ who was well acquainted with Donaldson ­ wrote in his autobiography about being stunned by what he saw going on in the 11th. Perhaps, he had experienced his own "Apocalypse Now" moment.

There's a numbness in my guts as I see the same nightmares becoming reality again in Iraq, and I wonder what's happened to America's soul. Is this what we want, another generation suckled on the poison of another renegade leadership? Gooks have become ragheads, every adult male is an insurgent eligible for torture, and every Iraqi home filled with men, women and children is a free-fire zone. Even places of worship get flattened. Once again, we've been marched into another lunatic asylum in the Twilight Zone.

How did it happen? Why did we sit on our hands and let our leaders initiate an unprovoked proxy war? A mushroom cloud over Cleveland delivered by a pipsqueak Iraq that couldn't even get an airplane in the air or a dilapidated tank outside its own borders without throwing a track? Gimme a break. How could the average John Doe let himself be deceived into believing that Saddam Hussein was really a threat?

With Iran now in the crosshairs, I pray that our national amnesia is wearing off. I know that from coast to coast a growing number of people ­ especially many combat veterans like myself ­ feel helpless, confused, frightened, and completely out of the loop. Three years into Iraq, why do we still keep hearing the same refrain, pre-emptive war into the next generation? On and on and on it goes, but unfortunately our emperors in Washington treat middle Americans asking hard questions like bill collectors at a funeral or, publicly skewer them as extremists and traitors. And don't even think about asking about Israeli involvement in the disaster that Dubya calls a Middle Eastern policy.

I listen in vain to hear the voices of young Americans who will be directly and immediately affected. Current events in the Middle East should be a paramount issue, but, inexplicably, the kids are completely nonchalant. Raised on the Internet and X-Boxes, maybe Iraq is just another Hollywood-style media production to them. But, I'm going to make a prediction. Our salvation will come when Selective Service notices begin arriving in mailboxes, and make no mistake, they are coming. I predict that young voices will soon become the loudest against empire as the hip-hoppers, the teeny boppers and the slackers rudely discover that involuntary combat means no video games or boom boxes, no marathon beer busts, and certainly no teenaged girls in thong bikinis.

We in the older generation can help things along. First, turn off the televisions and study a little American history, like the parts repeatedly warning us about foreign entanglements and passionate attachments. Really think about what kind of America we're handing to our children. Organize geezer squads to buttonhole politicians, and enlist a slacker cavalry to rain e-mail on every bureaucrat in sight. Let them all know we don't care about the new world order and its Manifest Corporate Destiny. Tell Washington that unprovoked, pre-emptive wars go against the grain of everything that's American, and we're no longer going to give it the Good Homicidal Seal of Approval.

While we're at it, let's make a sincere effort to tell elected representatives, loud and clear at every opportunity, that we want our government back from the political and corporate lobbies. Give the entire bureaucratic structure the message that we want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on anything that affects our lives fast, before another bullet is fired or bomb dropped in anger. The U.S. State Department especially needs this message drummed into their heads until they all have tinnitus.

Don't leave out the Billy Grahams, Jerry Falwells, and Pat Robertsons, (comma) and their legions of religious robots. Ask these Bible thumpers a simple question: brother, who would GEE-zus bomb, torture, rape and murder? While they choke on their own hypocrisy, direct them to the Book of John in the New Testament for a theology refresher. Christ wasn't called the Prince of Peace for nothing.

Constantly remind anyone who'll listen to you that the American Revolution blossomed with a ferocious commitment to keep a new continent free from two thousand years of empires, monarchies, feudal dictatorships, and armed religious institutions held in power by brute force and the doctrine of might makes right. People like Washington, Jefferson and Franklin instead shouted no, RIGHT makes might. That timeless concept was an invincible weapon against King George's Redcoats and it is just as powerful against nuclear weapons and carrier battle groups.

Yes, it will take guts, but what's our alternative? Either we start living up to our own ideals or the world will very soon compel us to do it. If, that is, they even think we're worth saving.

FYI, my unit was given an entire chapter in the Time Life Vietnam War collection about combat photos and correspondents. In a nutshell, we went everywhere ­ with grunts, recon, Special Forces, combat engineers, artillery, wherever combat was anticipated. We pretty much served as the army's eyes, kept track of action and casualty info and passed it along, etc. As a result, we had a good handle on things. Our unit was almost totally made up of experienced combat soldiers who joined the unit after service in the bush. It takes a little sand to be able to concentrate on your camera while people are shooting at you with automatic weapons or high explosive rounds. I got shot down once on a combat assault against the North Vietnamese in the 1st Huey into a landing zone so I could take pictures of the grunts coming in. In all, I participated in more than 30 full-scale combat missions, and several more aboard Medevac flights. My buddies in the unit had equally harrowing experiences, with one taking an AK round through the lens of his camera. I think all of us each earned four battle stars in 11 months, which gave a 4-week early release from Vietnam. We all had nicknames, and mine was Torch.



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An Excellent Reason Not to Join the Military

Aimee Allison
AlterNet
May 5, 2006.

I was shocked to discover the realities of being a female minority in uniform.

The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military to be published on May 18, 2006 by The New Press.

Aimee Allison served as a medic in the Army Reserves and received an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector during the Persian Gulf War.

I desperately wanted out of my small-minded hometown of Antioch, California, and the military recruiter on my high school campus promised me an escape hatch. The family that my white mother and African American father created was based on the belief that the hard work and democratic values of 1960s activists made equality my birthright.

But my day-to-day experience was full of evidence that racism was alive and well. High school classmates would chant the n-word when our team played its biggest rival the next town over. Slurs against gay people were so accepted that teachers used them without thought. And after winning a local Junior Miss competition, a first for a black contestant, I was excluded from the local news and town parade. When I brought my Ivy League college acceptance letter into the career center, a counselor suggested that I got in because of my race.
So I rushed to sign up for the Army Reserves, in part because it was the only place I knew of that promised I wouldn't be judged or limited by my race or gender. We women, people of color, and immigrants are especially attracted by the idea that we could live our lives on equal footing with other Americans. But the military isn't the egalitarian nirvana that its multi-billion dollar advertising blitz -- with a budget of almost $4 billion in 2003 -- claims.

Like most female soldiers, I learned the hard way that men dominate military culture. We are stuck in a system that makes it difficult to report abuse because of fear of reprisal. Even the military itself admitted in a June 2005 report by the Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies, "harassment is the more prevalent and corrosive problem, creating an environment in which sexual assault is more likely to occur."

Just ask any woman in uniform -- sexual harassment is a common experience on base. I remember on the day of boot camp graduation, the same drill sergeant who had threatened to "rip off my head and shit in my neck" for a minor infraction during training grabbed my arm in the on-base store and pressured me for a date. This was a man that had exercised incredible power over me and my unit for twelve weeks, and through my fear I mumbled, "Drill sergeant, no" three times before he let me go. I didn't know at the time that about 60 percent of women who have served in the National Guard and reserves said they were sexually harassed or assaulted, but less than one-quarter reported it. Many who did complain were encouraged to drop their complaints.

When I first joined the military at age seventeen, a military doctor administered a demeaning and uncomfortable pelvic exam during my induction physical. He didn't wear gloves. It turns out that my experience wasn't unusual.

At last year's National Summit of Women Veterans Issues in Washington, D.C., former Air Force officer Dorothy Mackey told of several instances of abuse during OB-GYN exams. "He sodomized me," she said. "I started looking into what happens in a normal OB-GYN examination, and that is definitely not supposed to be part of it."

Nine out of ten women under fifty who had served in the U.S. military and had responded to a survey reported being sexually harassed while in the service. In an episode of "60 Minutes," New Jersey National Guard Lieutenant Jennifer Dyer revealed that she was treated like a criminal after accusing a fellow officer of rape in early 2004. She reported the rape immediately to the military criminal investigation division (CID), who took her to a civilian hospital for a rape kit -- then held her in seclusion for the next three days with no counseling and no medical treatment. The CID agent advised her of her Miranda rights and threatened to prosecute her for filing a false report. Her command announced her rape and accusation to the entire unit. By the time she returned to her unit after a two-week leave, she was "fearful for [her] health, safety, and sanity." Her assailant was roaming free on base and was later acquitted of any crime.

All the bad press about rape in the military has led to congressional demands for reform. For the eighteenth time in sixteen years, the Pentagon has studied the problem and proposed changes, including designated victim advocates in every command and a promise of confidentiality, according to "60 Minutes."

It's too bad that fully funding this need isn't a high priority. A Department of Veterans Affairs report released in September 2005 found that the annual cost for health care, including mental health for National Guard members like Lieutenant Jennifer Dyer who experience sexual trauma, is about $20 million. Only $13 million is budgeted for the 2006 fiscal year.

Reports of sexual assaults have skyrocketed recently, especially in hostile environments like Iraq and Afghanistan. The Washington Post reported, "In many U.S. military camps in Iraq, for example, signs are posted in female showers and other locations requiring U.S. servicewomen to be in the company of a 'battle buddy,' especially at night, for their safety."

The military has rules and structures to direct every aspect of a person's conduct. Why does abuse still occur? One answer is that a male commander most often decides when to prosecute for abuse or misconduct. In 2002, the number of female active Army officers was about 20 percent. This means that the vast majority of officers in the military are men.

In addition, military training itself is responsible for further desensitizing men to sexual violence. In January 2003, the Village Voice reported that military training has included efforts to get young soldiers used to the sounds of women being raped so that, if captured, hearing fellow soldiers assaulted would not cause them to crack.

These revelations are not surprising to former Marine Corps Lance Corporal Stephen Funk. During his training in 2002, Stephen told me that his drill instructor gave a rousing speech at the end of Marine combat training: "This is the reality of war. We Marines like war. We like killing. We like raping females. This is what we do." If there was a touch of irony in his voice, it sure wasn't clear to the young, impressionable group eager to prove they were men, Stephen said.

Basic training also reinforces racism. Boot camp systematically breaks a recruit down physically and emotionally. Military discipline depends on eliminating individuality. Anything that makes you different from the "standard" (read: straight white male) makes you a target for abuse. But submissiveness and conformity are not the only goals of training. Soldiers are taught to follow orders in war without question. When the training taps into a person's own racist views, it's easier to convince them to kill people who are different.

Iraq war veteran Aidan Delgado, who served as a mechanic in the 320th Military Police Company in Abu Ghraib, described how his training led to racism against Muslims and Arabs.

"'Hajji' is the new slur, the new ethnic slur for Arabs and Muslims. It is used extensively in the military," he told a reporter. "The Arabic word refers to one who has gone on a pilgrimage to Mecca. But it is used in the military with the same kind of connotation as 'gook,' 'Charlie,' or the n-word."

Stephen, the former Marine corporal, said that his training on operating machine guns included a tip to avoid overheating the machinery: Squeeze the trigger for as long as it takes to chant, "Die, fucking raghead, die." When riling up the troops to take part in a nighttime simulation, the squad leader would yell, Stephen recalled, "Let's go burn some turbans!"

But racism in the military doesn't stop at Arabs. Basic training -- a nightmare for most -- is even more difficult if you happen to be a person of color or gay. If you are in these groups, I don't have to tell you that many times it's seemingly small insults that create a feeling of oppression.

When I was at Army boot camp at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, standing in line for chow, I overheard the white drill sergeant tell a dark-skinned recruit with a smile, "You look like Kunta Kinte [a slave from the TV miniseries Roots]."

"Doesn't she? Doesn't she?" he asked everyone within earshot. She moved on silently in the wake of laughter.

It was common for my drill sergeant to ask, "Where are my Chinese at?" when assigning laundry duty. "For some reason, they do it the best," he'd say with a smirk.

I went to training with many new immigrants, since recruiters often falsely promised them citizenship. One Sudanese immigrant was the butt of many of the drill sergeant's jokes. The sergeant would hand him a dark-colored rifle and then loudly comment that they couldn't tell where the rifle ended and the hands began.

In preparation for a night-ops simulation, the drill sergeant announced that recruits were to blow a whistle if they got lost. "Except you," he said, pointing at the Sudanese recruit. "You just smile and we'll see you in the dark."

Then the drill instructor made him stand up in front of the others.

"Give me a pimp walk," the instructor ordered. English wasn't his native language and he hadn't been in the United States long, so he didn't understand what the sergeant meant. Then the sergeant pulled up another black recruit and said, "Give me a pimp walk." The man answered that he didn't know how because he wasn't a pimp. Finally, a white recruit volunteered to show the group. Pretty soon, many others were doing the "black" pimp walk as well.

In the early morning hours during the second week of boot camp, I was forced to leave my barracks with an unfamiliar drill sergeant who decided to punish me for turning my head while standing at attention. I was afraid to go with a strange man to another part of the base, but was just as scared to refuse. He made me stand at attention and gathered his unit around to watch the show. He called me stupid, ugly, dumb.

"Where are you from, private?" he screamed. "You look like a gang member. Are you a gang member?"

I started crying -- he looked at my dark skin and didn't know or care that I was an excellent student on my way to the university.

"Get down into front position!" he yelled at me in front of his own unit of women. "Get up. Get down. Get up."

The thirty minutes of humiliation seemed to last an eternity.

Although the military doesn't officially condone racism and sexism, it explicitly discriminates against gays who are open about their identity, both in legal practice and in day-to-day life. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian soldiers, claims that more than 65,000 lesbian and gay Americans are on active duty and serving in the National Guard and reserves.

Thanks to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, put in place under the Clinton administration in 1993, as long as gay people stay deep in the closet, the military won't kick them out. In other words, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" actually authorizes the federal government to fire someone for being gay. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, soldiers may be investigated and administratively discharged if they:

* make a statement that they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual;
* engage in physical contact with someone of the same sex for the purposes of sexual gratification; or
* marry, or attempt to marry, someone of the same sex.

Several soldiers have been discharged for posting online profiles that indicated they were gay or looking to date someone of the same gender.

The other part of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy attempts to limit harassment and the scope of investigations into a soldier's sexual orientation. Yet, as Stephen Funk's experience shows, the services continue to violate these basic rules. Stephen, a gay man, told me what it's like to live with a constant barrage of antigay slurs. No one dares speak up against it because they fear facing suspicion and investigation for being gay. Stephen's sergeant secretly investigated his homosexuality for more than a month by pulling other members of his unit into his office and grilling them about his suspicions. A soldier in his squad finally told Stephen about the interview: the sergeant had asked him, "Did you notice anything 'funny'? Did he touch you or use 'gay' words? Do you agree that his feminine gestures and soft voice make him seem like a 'fag'?"

After learning about the investigation, Stephen was forever shaken and self-conscious about his interactions with other soldiers.

The military may try to sell itself as a level playing field, but as long as abuse is tolerated and discrimination helps recruits pull the trigger, they will always be part of the soldiers' experience.

© 2006 by The New Press. This article originally appears in the forthcoming book 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military to be published on May 18, 2006 by The New Press.



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US air assault kills 13 civilians in Iraqi: medics

05/04/06
ABC

At least 13 people were killed on Thursday in an air assault by US forces on a house in Iraq's restive city of Ramadi, according to medics .

"US planes bombed a house in Aziziyah area of Ramadi city centre, killing 13 civilians," Ali al-Obeidi, a medic at the Ramadi hospital told AFP, adding that four people were wounded.

The US military confirmed it had conducted the assault but did not give casualty figures.




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Lies Lies Everywhere...


Now Playing in Iraq: Zarqawi Outtakes

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 5, 2006; Page A14

BAGHDAD, May 4 -- Insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is seen puzzling over how to fire a machine gun and trotting around in tennis shoes in a video that the U.S. military released Thursday to mock his prowess as a field commander.

The footage, from outtakes of a Zarqawi video that was made public on April 25, shows the leader of the group al-Qaeda in Iraq apparently unable to clear a jam of his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, a machine gun used by U.S. forces. Another man touches the gun's hot barrel after it has been fired and recoils in pain.
"He's wearing his black uniform and his New Balance tennis shoes as he moves to this white pickup," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. "And his close associates around him . . . do things like grab the hot barrel of the machine gun and burn themselves. It makes you wonder."

Lynch aired the clips during a news conference in which he described efforts to destroy Zarqawi's group. He said five raids in Iraq in the last month had killed 31 suspected foreign insurgents and that 161 al-Qaeda leaders had been killed or captured since January 2005.

Lynch said the latest raids had netted "lots of stuff," including printouts of Google Earth satellite images of certain areas -- such as the prison at Abu Ghraib -- and the unedited version of the Zarqawi video.

The briefing also focused on the larger issue of what U.S. strategists believe is Zarqawi's long-term goal: to overthrow the new Iraqi government by touching off a war between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs and establish an Islamic theocracy.

"He is clearly trying to drive a wedge between the sectarian populations in Iraq," Lynch said of Zarqawi, a Sunni Arab from Jordan. "He knows that democracy equals failure -- he knows that the government is about to form."

To accomplish this, Lynch said, Zarqawi was funneling his resources -- men, money and weapons -- into Baghdad, in an effort to kill as many Shiites as possible. But U.S. forces are tracking him down, Lynch said.

U.S. commanders blame Zarqawi for many high-profile attacks in Iraq, including the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra on Feb. 22 that provoked a bloody wave of sectarian killing.

The hunt for Zarqawi sparked panic in Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar, where residents believed that he filmed the video to bolster support for Iraq's insurgent movement and threaten its foes.

The rumor, based on background details in two scenes of the video, caused hundreds of people to flee east toward Baghdad, fearing that U.S. and Iraqi troops would level the city in order to kill or capture Zarqawi.

"About 170 families left Ramadi in the first four hours of the work day" after the video appeared, said Muhammed Rifat, the manager of the main bus station in the city. "It is like a tornado or a storm warning, and people are trying to avoid it and leave before it happens."

He said that he would leave, too, because he feared residents of Ramadi would face the same fate as those of Fallujah, a former headquarters for Zarqawi that was cordoned off and targeted during a massive U.S. offensive in 2004.

Residents said Zarqawi appeared to be consulting a map of Ramadi in one of the video's scenes. They also said they believed that the scene in which he is seen firing a machine gun shows a railroad track that runs near the city in the background.

"I've heard some conjecture of that type, but not through official channels," Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman, said when asked of the rumors. "We don't have any interest in pinpointing any areas in the video. Clearly, we do our own intelligence gathering."

U.S. commanders have not announced any major operations in the city, which lies 60 miles west of Baghdad, since the video appeared.

On Thursday, military authorities said that Marines in Ramadi who came under fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades called in a strike from what the military said was a "ground-launched precision-guided munition," killing eight suspected insurgents.

A car bomb also exploded near a Baghdad courthouse on Thursday morning, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 50, police Lt. Mahmoud Karim said. Gunmen and bombings killed at least six other Iraqis around the country, according to police.



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'It's absolutely clear who won,' judge tells Moussaoui

Last Updated Thu, 04 May 2006 20:00:26 EDT
CBC News

Confessed al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui will "die with a whimper" in prison, a federal judge said Thursday while sentencing him to life for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Judge Leonie Brinkema refuted Moussaoui's boast Wednesday that "America, you lost, I won!" after a jury decided to spare his life.

"Mr. Moussaoui, when this proceeding is over, everyone else in this room will leave to see the sun ... hear the birds ... and they can associate with whomever they want," Brinkema said.

"You will spend the rest of your life in a super-max prison. It's absolutely clear who won."

Federal prosecutors had called for the death penalty for Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent.

"Mr. Moussaoui, you came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory," Brinkema said. "but to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper."

Moussaoui tried to interrupt Brinkema, declaring: "God save Osama bin Laden - you will never get him."

Moussaoui's sentence follows a conviction on charges of being a member of al-Qaeda and conspiring with the Sept. 11 hijackers. He pleaded guilty last year to terrorism conspiracy.



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Robertson claimed Iran "now has atomic weapons" -- U.S. intel community disagrees

Thu, May 4, 2006 5:35pm EST
Media Matters


Pat Robertson claimed that Iran "now has atomic weapons," even though the U.S. intelligence community, as well as independent experts, agree that Iran is years away from having the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons.

On the May 2 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson claimed that Iran "now has atomic weapons," even though, the U.S. intelligence community, as well as independent experts, agree that Iran is years away from having the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons.

After examining the politics of Israel's secular and religious communities, Robertson said he recently "read the 38th chapter of Ezekiel" "to see a war" where "states in that region" join "to move against Israel." Robertson then stated, "It's amazing that Iran has come to the fore as it has with a president who says Israel should be wiped off the map, who ... now has atomic weapons," adding that "[a] year ago, the Lord told me ... that Israel was entering into the most dangerous time in its existence," and "confirmed this again in January."

Media Matters for America has previously rebutted assertions made by other conservative commentators and media outlets that Iran currently possesses nuclear weapons or that it is close to having the capability to manufacture them. Robertson's claim is contradicted by public estimates provided by the U.S. intelligence community and independent experts.

For example, The New York Times reported on March 5 that "American intelligence agencies say it will take 5 to 10 years for Iran to manufacture the fuel for its first atomic bomb." After Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on April 11 that his country had enriched a small quantity of uranium and was researching technology to enhance its enrichment capabilities -- a necessary step to produce the highly enriched uranium necessary for a nuclear weapon -- the Times reported on April 17 that "[i]f Iran moved beyond research and actually began running the machines, it could force American intelligence agencies to revise their estimates of how long it would take for Iran to build an atom bomb -- an event they now put somewhere between 2010 and 2015." According to an April 14 New York Times article, Thomas Fingar, the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, "said the official view of the [U.S.] intelligence agencies remained that Iran was unlikely to have nuclear weapons before 2010 at the earliest." A March 27 issue brief on Iran's nuclear program by David Albright and Corey Hinderstein of the Institute for Science and International Security stated that "Iran could have its first nuclear weapon in 2009." They noted, however, that "[t]his result reflects a worst case assessment, and Iran can be expected to take longer," because "Iran is likely to encounter technical difficulties."

Robertson recently mentioned the threat of nuclear attack as justification for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. As Media Matters noted at the time, Robertson explained that "one day," Chavez will "be aiming nuclear weapons; and what's coming across the Gulf [of Mexico] isn't going to be [Hurricane] Katrina, it's going to be his nukes."

From the May 2 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club:

ROBERTSON: It's shocking what's happening. And I got home over the weekend and read the 38th chapter of Ezekiel, once again, to see a war that is forecast where a nation identified as Russia and possibly some of the Caucasian states, maybe Turkey, but some of those states in that region, join with Iran, Libya, and the Sudan to move against Israel. A great horde of people to come against Israel, re-gathered from the nations in the latter days.

It's amazing that Iran has come to the fore as it has with a president who says Israel should be wiped off the map, who -- it now has atomic weapons. And a year ago, the Lord told me, as I was praying, that Israel was entering into the most dangerous time in its existence as a nation. He confirmed this again in January, and lo and behold, the events in the -- in the current affairs just keep tumbling, tumbling, tumbling upon us. And I look in disbelief.

-K.D.





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Ahmadinejad: Lost in translation

Tuesday, May 02, 2006
From Today's Little Red Email

When properly translated the Iranian president actually calls for the removal of the regimes that are in power in Israel and in the USA as a goal for the future. Nowhere does he demand the elimination or annihilation of Israel. He called for greater governance for Palestine. The word map does not even feature. And the president makes plain that the Holocaust happened, but, he argues western powers have exploited the memory of the Holocaust for their own imperialistic purposes. What the mainstream ran with is complete deception.
It was October last year when we came home, flicked on the radio and listened aghast to the news that the Iranian president denied the Holocaust had happened and said the state of Israel should be wiped off the map. 'Christ,' we thought, 'this nut job's playing into their hands with this kind of rhetoric.' Since then "the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion" as one US academic has described the Iran/US imbroglio has ratcheted up to high alert with Seymour Hersch of the New Yorker reporting that the White House is all prepared for nuclear strikes. It would take just 12 hours to deploy nuclear weapons for a bunker busting strike that would kill a million Iranians according to conservative estimates commissioned by the Pentagon. Nuclear armed planes are now on constant alert and public opinion has been framed around those mad, mad statements on Israel by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But what if the pronouncements by Ahmadinejad that cast him as this season's baddie incarnate had been a) mistranslated and b) taken out of context?

When properly translated the Iranian president actually calls for the removal of the regimes that are in power in Israel and in the USA as a goal for the future. Nowhere does he demand the elimination or annihilation of Israel. He called for greater governance for Palestine. The word map does not even feature. And the president makes plain that the Holocaust happened, but, he argues western powers have exploited the memory of the Holocaust for their own imperialistic purposes. What the mainstream ran with is complete deception.

The deception has been aided by the fact that much of the media use an 'independent' company called Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri) for translating Middle Eastern languages. Memri just happens to be owned by two right-wing neo-con Israelis: Meyrav Wurmser, the wife of one of Dick Cheney's aides (and ex-special assistant to 'Strap-on' John Bolton), David Wurmser and former(?) Israeli Military Intelligence officer, Colonel Yigal Carmon. Indeed a look at Wikipedia' s incomplete staff list seems to suggest a heavy Israeli bias in staffing and at least two more ex-Israeli Military Intelligence people. Still the little red email is sure that's just a coincidence, as is the fact that the Israeli army (presumably military intelligence) has also used this mistranslation tactic in the past.

And once Ahmadinejad had been brushed with the wacko Jew destroyer tag, it was a short hop, skip and ein Sprung before he was alongside Adolf Hitler in the pantheon of baddies. Like Milosevic and Hussein before him, Ahmadinejad's Hitler comparison is as sure a sign war is imminent.

Unlike Hitler though Ahmadinejad doesn't rule Iran, nor does he control its foreign or military policy. The man in charge of all that is Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran is a theocracy, and Khamenei is the theocrat-in-chief. To give you an idea of where Ahmadinejad lies in Iran's political hierarchy, note that no one can even run for the presidency in the first place without the approval of Khamenei and the Guardian Council, a group of six clerics and six conservative jurists that are selected by Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad serves the purpose of being a believable bogeyman. He'll find his Ph.D. in civil engineering and being a founding member of the Iran Tunnel Society useful if Seymour Hersch's bunker-busting nuke allegations come true.



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Russia says undecided on whether Iran is a threat

Friday, 5 May 2006, 05:27 CDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday Moscow has yet to decide on whether Iran should be considered a threat, saying it would be guided by U.N. nuclear experts on the issue.

He was responding to remarks from his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, that Russia and China "had officially told us ... (of) their opposition to sanctions and military attacks" against the Islamic Republic.
"We have made no such announcements. In such an important and serious area like nuclear non-proliferation, we can make a decision only based on the opinions of experts," Lavrov told reporters.

"The inspections that have been held in Iran do not allow us to conclude that Iran has the technology to create weapons of mass destruction. But on the other hand, these inspections do not allow us to make the opposition conclusion."

He spoke a day after discussion started between the five veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- over a resolution demanding Iran curb its nuclear ambitions.

Britain, France and Germany, which are sponsoring the Council resolution, want it adopted by Monday and were due to meet again on Friday to push the case forward.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged Tehran would keep up its uranium enrichment because it wanted to produce enough fuel to power its own atomic power stations.

Speaking to a regional conference in the Azeri capital Baku, he repeated the Islamic Republic's view that its nuclear program was being undertaken in full accordance with international law and was open to international checks.

Iran has said it wants a negotiated end to the dispute but rejects calls to freeze enrichment, which Washington thinks is a prelude to producing nuclear weapons.

"We are set on continuing our path to industrial production of nuclear fuel for our nuclear power stations in line with international regulations and under the supervision of the IAEA (U.N. nuclear watchdog)," said Ahmadinejad, in a copy of the speech given to reporters.

Russia has previously opposed sanctions against Tehran, saying they would be counterproductive.



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Ex-CIA analyst , 'manipulation campaign' on Iraq

AFP
04/05/2006

A former Middle East specialist of the US Central Intelligence Agency has condemned what he called an organised campaign of manipulation by the Bush administration to justify the Iraq war
Paul Pillar, a former
CIA analyst specialising in counter-terrorism in the Middle East and Asia, said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais that the United States had particularly wanted to prove a link between Al-Qaeda and
Saddam Hussein.

"That was not the case," he was quoted as saying. "I suppose by some definitions that could be called a lie."

"There was an organised campaign of manipulation," El Pais also quoted Pillar as saying. "That would be the proper way to define it."

The decision to invade Iraq was taken as early as the beginning of 2002, a year before hostilities began, Pillar said.

It was decided "for other reasons and did not depend on weapons of mass destruction or the results of
United Nations inspections," he said, according to the interview published in Spanish.

"As far as weapons of mass destruction were concerned, there was a generally false perception in the American, British and other intelligence services that Iraq possessed these. We were wrong."

"The problem was the wider message, the attempt to spread the impression that there was a terrorist alliance between Iraq and Al-Qaeda," Pillar was also quoted as saying.

The theory of the link interested the government of
President George W. Bush because "it was this that most strongly affected public opinion in the United States, and which would keep alive the images of September 11, 2001.

"The administration's voracious appetite to obtain material about this non-existent alliance cost a great deal of time and work to senior intelligence staff and the most highly experienced analysts in the CIA," Pillar said in the interview.



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Taliban Leader To Retake Power in Afghanistan

By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times
05/05/2006

KARACHI - Across the jihadi world, there is a strong conviction that by the end of this year Taliban leader Mullah Omar will be back in power in Afghanistan, from where he was driven by US-led forces in 2001.

Realistically, eight months is likely to be too ambitious a time frame for a Taliban victory, if victory is achievable at all.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the Taliban movement is poised to enhance its nuisance level significantly in the United States' strategic back yards in the region - notably Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Acutely aware of this, the US is leaning heavily on Pakistan, its key ally in the "war on terror" in the region, to go on the offensive against the strong Taliban foothold in the North and South Waziristan tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

What the US is asking for, in effect, is a Tora Bora-style aerial bombing of the area, similar to that undertaken in the mountains of that name in Afghanistan during the rout of the Taliban five years ago. (Incidentally, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora long before the bombs began to fall.)

The Taliban are integrated into the local population and there would be high civilian casualties. This is considered acceptable as civilians would be deemed Taliban sympathizers.

According to highly placed officials who spoke to Asia Times Online, the Pakistani military has already drawn up a blueprint for such an attack, which could be implemented in the near future.

In response, the Taliban, along with al-Qaeda, have a counter-plan in which they will go on the offensive, and an extensive network is primed to launch attacks on the Pakistani establishment.

This is the first time since the fall of the Taliban that the al-Qaeda leadership has activated Pakistani jihadis all over the country for operations both inside and outside the country.

The effect of this is illustrated by an incident in Kandahar, Afghanistan, recently in which three suicide bombers were arrested after they failed to detonate their devices because of technical problems.

All three were from the Pakistani port city of Karachi. Detailed investigations at the Kandahar military base by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed a network starting from a book shop in Karachi, going on to a contact in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province in Pakistan, and then on to Chaman in the same province. From there the three men launched their attack in Kandahar.

These arrests spotlight just one of many powerful networks established across Pakistan to carry out jihadi activities on a scale that has not existed since the fall of the Taliban.

This is reinforced by a recent broadcast by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's No 2, in which he called on Pakistanis to topple President General Pervez Musharraf, calling him "a bribe-taking, treacherous criminal". He especially asked the Pakistani army to mutiny against Musharraf.

Zawahiri made a similar broadcast in 2003, but a lot has changed since then. At that time, the Taliban were bruised and down, scattered and without central leadership. Al-Qaeda was also on the run, its network in a shambles, and survival was the only issue. Broadcasts by bin Laden and Zawahiri had only two purposes: to keep the morale of the jihadis high and to sow uncertainty in the ranks of the rival camp.

Both aims were achieved. Each message kept the jihadis spiritually connected with their leadership, and opponents were kept guessing about the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Soon after Zawahiri's call, a number of assassination attempts were made on Musharraf's life, with the complicity of sections within the armed forces.

In the meantime, al-Qaeda began to develop its "netwar" strategy - a complex organization of cells and groups. While Zawahiri continued his broadcasts, bin Laden disappeared from the scene.

To keep thousands of inactive jihadis in Pakistan involved and to bring them into al-Qaeda's net, various methods were used, including the distribution of training manuals, motivational compact discs and action clips of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

At the same time, al-Qaeda and the Taliban established a foothold in North Waziristan, renaming it the "Islamic State of North Waziristan" and seizing virtual control of the area. Jihadis were invited to the base, which has expanded to parts of South Waziristan and neighboring villages in Afghanistan.

This was in preparation for the Taliban's powerful spring offensive, which is now under way, directed toward Kabul as well as Islamabad.

The sudden emergence of bin Laden in a broadcast this month was a global message to the jihadi movement, urging them to come to the base (Waziristan) as a new "war" had begun, of which the spring offensive is the first major salvo.

This was followed by Zawahiri's call to do battle against Musharraf. Unlike in 2003, the jihadis are now much better organized to take on the Pakistani establishment.

The situation is now dangerously poised. Musharraf, under US pressure, is prepared for an all-out attack on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. At the same time, the military rulers are well aware of the renewed strength of the jihadis, and are extremely reluctant to go for the "final solution" and all it would involve.

Asia Times Online contacts claim that in this explosive environment, some sort of a compromise deal, as in the past, might be worked out, with both sides agreeing to back off for the time being. In such an eventuality, the only winners would be the Taliban and al-Qaeda: they can only go from strength to strength, and they will not give up on their ultimate goal of toppling the administrations in Kabul and Islamabad.

Zawahiri's message for Pakistan
The following are translated excerpts from a broadcast by Ayman al-Zawahiri that was aired on Arabic television last weekend.

... As for the second thing I wish to talk to you about, it is the dark fate toward which the traitor Musharraf is pushing Pakistan. Without a doubt, Pakistan is one of the most important of the countries targeted by this new colonialist crusade which seeks to weaken Pakistan and fragment it into entities under the control of India, which is allied with the Americans and Jews.

And here I wish to clarify an extremely important point, which is that the anti-Islamic American/Crusader/Zionist plan has no place for the presence of Pakistan as a strong, powerful, able state in South Asia, because this plan doesn't forgive Pakistan for separating from India in the name of Islam, and doesn't forgive it for including the largest Islamic schools with wide influence among the Muslims of South and Central Asia, and doesn't forgive it for the flourishing of the popular jihadi movements in it against the Indians in Kashmir and first the Russians and then the Americans in Afghanistan, and doesn't forgive it the favorable response of its people, scholars, students, mujahideen and tribes to the Islamic emirate in Afghanistan - since its founding and to this very day - and to its amir the lion of Islam, Mullah Mohammed Omar, may Allah protect him, and doesn't forgive it its overwhelming public sympathy for the call of Sheikh Osama bin Ladin for jihad to expel the Americans and Jews from the holy places of the Muslims and their homes.

In this context, India appears to be the best candidate to implement the Zionist/Crusader plan to humiliate Pakistan and weaken it and tear it apart. And [President George W] Bush's recent visit to Pakistan at the beginning of March was one of the biggest pieces of evidence of that, as he gave a strong push to India's nuclear program, while handing out orders and instructions in Pakistan. And I will review with you in brief just a few of the many woes and misfortunes which Musharraf and his supporters have brought on Pakistan.

The first of these woes is Musharraf's combating of Islam in Pakistan. With an order from the Crusaders, he provided all the backing needed to expel the Islamic emirate from Kabul. And he has made war on the Islamic schools, and is seeking to review the Hudood Act related to rape], in addition to inventing - with Crusader guidance - a new Qadiani creed which invites the people to an Islam without jihad and without enjoining of good and prohibition of evil and without observation of the rules of the sharia, which he calls "Enlightened Moderation".

The second of these woes is Musharraf's threat to Pakistani national security. Musharraf was the primary backer of the ouster of the Islamic emirate from Kabul, and was the primary reason for the establishment of a government in Kabul allied to America and India and hostile to Pakistan. And as a result of Musharraf's betrayal, Indian intelligence has crept close to the Pakistani-Afghan border and opened its consulates in the cities adjacent to Pakistan. And the Pakistani army, with the exit of the Taliban government from Kabul, became a double loser: first, the Pakistani army lost the strategic depth which Afghanistan, with its highlands and mountains, can offer it in any Pakistani-Indian confrontation. And second, the Pakistani army's back became exposed to a regime hostile to it and allied with its enemies. And if you add to this India's success in exploiting air bases in Tajikistan and its seeking military cooperation with the Central Asian states, you will realize the extent of the predicament which the Pakistani army has gotten itself into.

And Musharraf is the one who placed the Pakistani nuclear program under American - and hence Jewish and Indian - supervision. Musharraf exploited America's accusation of Abdul Qadeer Khan [father of Pakistan's nuclear program] to impose its surveillance on the Pakistani nuclear program. And then is it credible that Abdul Qadeer Khan was outside the surveillance of Pakistani military intelligence? Thus the first ones who should be brought to trial in the case of Abdul Qadeer Khan are the leaders of the Pakistani army and intelligence. But Abdul Qadeer Khan was used as a scapegoat to please America.

And Musharraf is the one who is fanning the flames of civil war in Pakistan on behalf of America, in Waziristan and Balochistan, in a bloody conflict whose losses have no end, and which will only rebound on Pakistan with the worst of damages. The worst thing any army in the world could wish for is that it be assigned to defend the borders of its country at a time when it is embroiled in an internal civil war. Pakistani memory has yet to forget the catastrophe caused by the civil war in East Pakistan [that led to the creation of Bangladesh]. And what Musharraf has done in Bajaur, Waziristan and Balochistan he will repeat in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, and indeed, any place the Americans request him to strike.

And Musharraf is the one who is seeking to change the combat doctrine of the Pakistani army by repeating that the real danger to Pakistan is from within and not foreign: ie, he is inciting the Pakistani army to fight its people and brothers and turn a blind eye to the Indian threat. And if the combat doctrine of any army becomes corrupted, and its fighting turns into fighting for the sake of salary and position alone, then this army will run away from the battlefield whenever fighting breaks out.

And how is it possible for the Pakistani officer or soldier to be persuaded that he is defending Islam when he is the one who enabled the Americans to kill tens of thousands of Muslims in Afghanistan, and enabled them to oust the Islamic emirate from Kabul? And how is it possible for the Pakistani officer or soldier to be persuaded that he is defending the sanctity of Pakistanis when his commanders order him to kill women and children in his own country? And how is it possible for the Pakistani officer or soldier to be persuaded that he is defending the honor and dignity of Pakistan when he sees his leaders order him to carry out a new slaughter every time they are visited by a high-ranking American official?

The third of these woes is Musharraf's squandering of the issue of Kashmir and his painstaking effort to dispose of it at any cost. Musharraf is the one who strangled the jihadi resistance against India, which led it to increase its savagery and draw up the borders. And Musharraf is the one who made and continues to make one concession after another in the Kashmir issue, even as India hasn't budged one step from its stance. And Musharraf is the one who seeks to deceive the Muslim ummah [community] in Pakistan by pretending to them that the problem with India will be resolved with confidence-building measures, in order to neutralize the effort to liberate Kashmir, which is the real problem between Pakistan and India.

And Musharraf is the one who wars against the Arab mujahideen and their brothers from all corners of the Islamic world, who represent one of the most important weapons in the liberation of Kashmir, in the same way that they contributed before to the liberation of Afghanistan from the Russians. And Musharraf is the one who brought American military and intelligence forces to Kashmir under the pretext of helping the victims of the earthquake. They came in under this cover and commenced to strengthen their defenses and fortifications in order to establish permanent Crusader bases on the Pakistani-Indian border.

The fourth of these woes is Musharraf's recognition of Israel, to prepare the Pakistanis psychologically to recognize a Hindu state in Kashmir. The fifth of these woes is his affront to Pakistani dignity and sovereignty when he gave free reign to American intelligence and investigative agencies in Pakistan, and turned Pakistan's army and security services into hunting dogs at the service of the Crusaders.

The sixth of these woes is his corruption of political life in Pakistan. Through bribery and election fraud, Musharraf declared himself president and formed a party of bribe-takers and opportunists which he provided with a parliamentary majority, and distributed to them and the rest of his supporters the country's treasures, which he had seized, even though he is the same one who claimed at the beginning of his rule that he came to combat fiscal corruption in Pakistan.

And the West, which claims to defend democracy, was hostile to Musharraf at the outset of his rule, but later did a U-turn in admiration of him and his treachery, and indeed, today encourages him to stay in power by any means, after he demonstrated his aptitude for killing Muslims. Musharraf's real problem is bribery. And Musharraf reckons that his success in procuring wealth will only be achieved by betraying Pakistan and appeasing America and throwing himself at its feet.

But he forgets the other half of the reality, which is that America tosses its agents into the rubbish bin when there is no longer any need for them. And were he to look across his western borders, he would see the fate of the shah [of Iran] bearing witness to that, when they ordered him to leave Iran, and then deprived him of asylum and indeed, even medical treatment, which he only found with his friend the bribe-taker Anwar Sadat [of Egypt].

And in keeping with Musharraf's worship of wealth and his mad dash for bribes, he tries to persuade the Pakistani people that they must take care of their interests without paying attention to any moral or religious considerations. This is the same logic of drug dealers, white-slavery gangs, spies and traitors, and the outcome of this attitude is the loss of this world and the next. Allah the Exalted says, "Satan threatens you with poverty and bids you to immorality, while Allah promises you His forgiveness and bounties, and Allah cares for all and He knows all things." - Al-Baqarah 2:268.

I address the Pakistani people, to call on them to stand today in the ranks of Islam against the Zionist/Crusader assault on the Islamic ummah and on Pakistan, and I call on them to strive in earnest to topple this bribe-taking, treacherous criminal, and to back their brothers the mujahideen in Afghanistan with everything they have until they defeat the plan of the Crusaders and Zionists allied with India.

I also call the Pakistani army's attention to the dismal fate which awaits them in this life and the other, for the Pakistani army has turned into forces aligned under Bush's cross in his crusade against Islam and Muslims, just as it has become a tool in the destruction and tearing apart of Pakistan. Let every soldier and officer in the Pakistani army know that Allah has threatened anyone who allies himself with the infidels against the Muslims with a painful punishment. Allah the Exalted says, "To the hypocrites give the good tidings that there is for them a grievous chastisement; those who take for friends unbelievers rather than believers: Is it honor they seek among them? Nay, all honor is with Allah." - Al-Nisa 4:138-139.

And let every soldier and officer in the Pakistani army know that Musharraf is throwing them into the burner of civil war in exchange for the bribes which he took from the Americans, and that he doesn't care if 10,000 or 20,000 Pakistani troops are killed, as long as his pockets are full of bribes. And let them know that Musharraf has made preparations to flee abroad - where he has his secret accounts - on the victory of the popular revolution.

For this reason, I call on every officer and soldier in the Pakistani army to disobey the orders of his commanders to kill Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or otherwise he will be confronted by the mujahideen who repelled the British and Russians before. The Truth - Exalted is He - says, "Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease [from disbelief], their past will be forgiven. But if they return [thereto], then the examples of those [punished] before them have already preceded [as a warning]. And fight them until there is no more fitnah [disbelief and polytheism] and the religion will all be for Allah alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease [worshipping others besides Allah], then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do. And if they turn away, then know that Allah is your maula [patron, lord, protector and supporter] - [what] an excellent maula, and [what] an excellent helper." -

Comment: Nice job, "Mission Accomplished" in Afghanistan.

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Tony Blair Fires Foreign Secretary

Friday May 5, 2006
Associated Press Writer

LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair fired his law and order chief and his foreign secretary Friday in a wide-ranging Cabinet shuffle a day after his party took a pounding in local elections.

The Labour Party pulled 26 percent of the vote to the Conservatives 40 percent, a result that renewed calls from some quarters for the prime minister to step down. The local elections also resulted in unprecedented gains for the far right.

Blair removed Jack Straw as foreign secretary, replacing him with Margaret Beckett, who had headed the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She becomes the first woman to hold the job.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke, embroiled in a politically damaging furor over the failure to deport foreign criminals, said Blair had removed him from office. Defense Secretary John Reid was moved to the Home Office, and Des Browne was promoted from chief secretary at the Treasury to secretary of defense.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who admitted an affair with a secretary, will keep his title but was stripped of the responsibilities of his department, which include housing and planning.


"I felt that it was very difficult, given the level of genuine public concern, for Charles to continue'' as home secretary, said Blair, who days earlier had defended Clarke as the right man to deal with the prisoner issue.

Clarke said he had turned down offers of other government posts. ''I do not think it would be appropriate to remain in this government in these circumstances,'' Clarke said in a statement.

Straw's demotion was a surprise.

But there had long been rumors of tension between Straw and Blair - some reports said the outgoing foreign secretary had private expressed doubts about the Iraq war, and he publicly took a different tack on Iran than Blair did. Straw frequently described military action against Tehran as ''inconceivable'' and the reported U.S. contingency plans for a tactical nuclear strike as ''completely nuts.''

The shake-up appeared aimed at demonstrating Blair still holds a firm grip on his beleaguered government after weeks of negative headlines and scandal.

The government's acknowledgment last week that officials had failed to screen 1,023 foreign criminals for deportation before freeing them from prison in the past seven years was particularly damaging to Blair.

''It'll take far more than a reshuffle,'' Conservative Party leader David Cameron said. ''What we need in this country is a replacement of the government.''

''I think what we have seen over the last few hours is that while the Labour Party is collapsing, the Conservative Party is building,'' Cameron said as he toured London to celebrate his party's gains in the local elections.

Glenda Jackson, a former Labour government minister who has been a persistent Blair critic, joined the calls for him to go. ''The problem for the party and its government is its leader,'' she said.

Comment: As former Labour government minister Glenda Jackson notes in this article, this most recent vote of no confidence in the Labour Party is a vote, first and foremost, against Blair. The vast majority of British people know that Blair lied to them and they firmly believe that he should, at the very least, be removed as leader. Unfortunately, Blair will continue to ignore the will of the people and, like all dictators, insist on telling them what they need.

The top issue that has led to this most recent defeat at the polls for Blair is obviously the Iraq war. Millions of Britons marched against it in early 2003, and Blair ignored them. The sad reality however is that, if the Labour party is defeated at the next general election, the Conservative party will undoubtedly replace them. It should be noted that Labour is meant to be a left leaning party in UK politics, yet we could hardly call the Blair's policies over the past 5 years classically liberal. The main reason that "New Labour" has held on to power for the past 9 years and banished the Conservatives to the political wilderness is because "Leftist" Labour party became markedly right-wing in its foreign policy and was therefore able to appeal to traditional Conservative voters.

The bottom line: whether it be Labour or Conservative that wins the next UK general election, there is no end in sight for British participation in, and ideological and material support for the US and Israel-led phony war on terror.


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Israel - Nazi Germany Revisited


New Israeli PM outlines plan for occupied territories

Last Updated Thu, 04 May 2006 12:36:54 EDT
CBC News

Israel's acting prime minister Ehud Olmert outlined his legislative agenda Thursday, including a plan to withdraw from some parts of the occupied territories.

Olmert outlined his plan in a speech to the Israeli parliament as he prepared to assume power after a vote of confidence later in the day.

"The borders of Israel that will be formed in the coming years, will be significantly different than the territories under Israel's control today," Olmert told the Knesset.

He said the settlement blocs in the West Bank are "forever an inseparable part of the state of Israel."
But he also spoke of the need for Israel to withdraw from other, isolated settlements.

Message for Hamas

Olmert also had a message for Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January.

"Negotiations with the Palestinian Authority is the desired basis to lead us to a peace agreement," Olmert said.

"But a Palestinian government led by a terror organization will not be partner for negotiations," he said.

Hamas' long-term goal is to establish an Islamic state on land originally mandated as Palestine - land that has been contained within Israel's border since its creation in 1948.

Olmert said that if efforts to reach a deal with the Palestinians do not succeed, Israel would take action to create "desirable" borders.

On Wednesday, Hamas' prime minister said his party favours any kind of Israeli withdrawal.

"If they are going to leave our land, we are not going to run after them and ask them to come back. This does not mean we are going to accept a de facto policy," Ismail Haniyeh said.

But on Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate leader from the Fatah party, urged a resumption of peace talks with Olmert. "You have a serious partner. We are a partner for negotiations," Abbas told the Maariv newspaper.

"I have a mandate to reach an agreement with Ehud Olmert. We have the capability and we have the desire. We must not miss the opportunity."



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Olmert warns Israel ready to rewrite Mideast map

Middle East Online
04/05/2006

Israeli PM insists no progress in peace process is possible while Hamas heads Palestinian government.

Incoming Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Thursday that Israel was prepared to rewrite the map of the Middle East on its own terms as he sought backing for his new governing coalition from parliament.

In a speech before lawmakers, Olmert said Israel was endangering itself by maintaining isolated settlements in the occupied West Bank and that it was vital to maintain its Jewish majority by separating from the Palestinians.

Olmert, whose Kadima party dominates the incoming government, said he would prefer to reach a negotiated settlement to the Middle East conflict with the Palestinian Authority but indicated that no progress in the peace process was possible while the radical Islamist movement Hamas ran its government.

He said he was prepared to act unilaterally and put into action his masterplan known as "convergence," which will involve the uprooting of some 70,000 settlers from the occupied West Bank.

In turn, Olmert plans to cement Israel's control over the major housing blocs in the West Bank where the vast majority of the quarter of a million Jewish settlers live.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas responded by calling for "immediate negotiations" with Israel and warned Olmert against unilateral action.
"The continuation of the scattered Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) is endangering us," Olmert told lawmakers before his government was due to be formally sworn in by the 120-member parliament.

"The bottom line is that we have to maintain a strong Jewish majority in our country and we must guarantee a defensible area where this majority can live."

"Even if the Jewish eye sheds a tear, even if the heart is torn, we must retain the essence. We must maintain a solid and stable Jewish majority in our country."

The convergence plan is set to echo last year's monumental withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the first time Israel had fully left occupied Palestinian territory.

Olmert acknowledged that the numbers set to be uprooted from the West Bank are set to dwarf the 7,000 settlers who were pulled out of Gaza.

"Disengagement from Gaza was only a first step. The bulk of the work is still ahead of us," he said.

Olmert was elevated to the premiership after his political mentor Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke at the start of the year.

He then led Kadima to a narrow victory in a March 28 election, winning 29 of the 120 Knesset seats up for grabs.

Olmert has spent the intervening period drawing up a broad-based coalition which also includes the centre-left Labour party.

All the members of his coalition refuse to do business with Hamas which does not recongise Israel's right to exist and advocates armed struggle, despite its embrace of the democratic process in January's Palestinian election.

Olmert, who has previously classified the Hamas-led regime as an enemy entity, said the Palestinian "terrorist infrastructure" had to be dismantled.

"A Palestinian government led by a terrorist organisation will not be a partner and we will not hold any contact with it," he added.

The spokesman for the moderate Abbas, who has responsibility for peace negotiations, reacted to the speech by reiterating the presidency's call "to resume immediate negotiations."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said any unilateral measures would run into opposition.

"We call on Mr Olmert to abstain from any unilateral solution because such measures feed violence and anarchy in the region," Erakat said.

Right-wing Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu also attacked Olmert's plan, saying unilateral measures would only strengthen hardliners such as Hamas.



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Israel Troops Murder Palestinian Taxi Driver

04/05/2006

IDF spokesmen Thursday evening said they are investigating reports from Palestinian Authority (PA) sources that soldiers shot and killed an Arab taxi driver after he drove into a forbidden zone near Shechem.

The Arab sources said the 37-year-old driver was driving on an unpaved road toward his home village of Tubas, west of the Jordan Valley.




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Lieberman: Arab MKs who talk with Hamas should be executed

Ynet news
05/05/2006

Israel 'Our Home' Party Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said that the law should be enforced on Arab Knesset Members who travel to Arab countries and meet with representatives of Hizbullah and Hamas.




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The country that wouldn't grow up

By Tony Judt

By the age of 58 a country - like a man - should have achieved a certain maturity. After nearly six decades of existence we know, for good and for bad, who we are, what we have done and how we appear to others, warts and all. We acknowledge, however reluctantly and privately, our mistakes and our shortcomings. And though we still harbor the occasional illusion about ourselves and our prospects, we are wise enough to recognize that these are indeed for the most part just that: illusions. In short, we are adults.
But the State of Israel remains curiously (and among Western-style democracies, uniquely) immature. The social transformations of the country - and its many economic achievements - have not brought the political wisdom that usually accompanies age. Seen from the outside, Israel still comports itself like an adolescent: consumed by a brittle confidence in its own uniqueness; certain that no one "understands" it and everyone is "against" it; full of wounded self-esteem, quick to take offense and quick to give it. Like many adolescents Israel is convinced - and makes a point of aggressively and repeatedly asserting - that it can do as it wishes, that its actions carry no consequences and that it is immortal. Appropriately enough, this country that has somehow failed to grow up was until very recently still in the hands of a generation of men who were prominent in its public affairs 40 years ago: an Israeli Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in, say, 1967 would be surprised indeed to awake in 2006 and find Shimon Peres and General Ariel Sharon still hovering over the affairs of the country - the latter albeit only in spirit.

But that, Israeli readers will tell me, is the prejudiced view of the outsider. What looks from abroad like a self-indulgent, wayward country - delinquent in its international obligations and resentfully indifferent to world opinion - is simply an independent little state doing what it has always done: looking after its own interests in an inhospitable part of the globe. Why should embattled Israel even acknowledge such foreign criticism, much less act upon it? They - gentiles, Muslims, leftists - have reasons of their own for disliking Israel. They - Europeans, Arabs, fascists - have always singled out Israel for special criticism. Their motives are timeless. They haven't changed. Why should Israel change?

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But they have changed. And it is this change, which has passed largely unrecognized within Israel, to which I want to draw attention here. Before 1967 the State of Israel may have been tiny and embattled, but it was not typically hated: certainly not in the West. Official Soviet-bloc communism was anti-Zionist of course, but for just that reason Israel was rather well regarded by everyone else, including the non-communist left. The romantic image of the kibbutz and the kibbutznik had a broad foreign appeal in the first two decades of Israel's existence. Most admirers of Israel (Jews and non-Jews) knew little about the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948. They preferred to see in the Jewish state the last surviving incarnation of the 19th century idyll of agrarian socialism - or else a paragon of modernizing energy "making the desert bloom."

I remember well, in the spring of 1967, how the balance of student opinion at Cambridge University was overwhelmingly pro-Israel in the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War - and how little attention anyone paid either to the condition of the Palestinians or to Israel's earlier collusion with France and Britain in the disastrous Suez adventure of 1956. In politics and in policy-making circles only old-fashioned conservative Arabists expressed any criticism of the Jewish state; even neo-Fascists rather favored Zionism, on traditional anti-Semitic grounds.

For a while after the 1967 war these sentiments continued unaltered. The pro-Palestinian enthusiasms of post-1960s radical groups and nationalist movements, reflected in joint training camps and shared projects for terrorist attacks, were offset by the growing international acknowledgment of the Holocaust in education and the media: What Israel lost by its continuing occupation of Arab lands it gained through its close identification with the recovered memory of Europe's dead Jews. Even the inauguration of the illegal settlements and the disastrous invasion of Lebanon, while they strengthened the arguments of Israel's critics, did not yet shift the international balance of opinion. As recently as the early 1990s, most people in the world were only vaguely aware of the "West Bank" and what was happening there. Even those who pressed the Palestinians' case in international forums conceded that almost no one was listening. Israel could still do as it wished.

The Israeli nakba

But today everything is different. We can see, in retrospect, that the victory of Israel in June 1967 and its continuing occupation of the territories it conquered then have been the Jewish state's very own nakba: a moral and political catastrophe. Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza have magnified and publicized the country's shortcomings and displayed them to a watching world. Curfews, checkpoints, bulldozers, public humiliations, home destructions, land seizures, shootings, "targeted assassinations," the separation fence: All of these routines of occupation and repression were once familiar only to an informed minority of specialists and activists. Today they can be watched, in real time, by anyone with a computer or a satellite dish - which means that Israel's behavior is under daily scrutiny by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The result has been a complete transformation in the international view of Israel. Until very recently the carefully burnished image of an ultra-modern society - built by survivors and pioneers and peopled by peace-loving democrats - still held sway over international opinion. But today? What is the universal shorthand symbol for Israel, reproduced worldwide in thousands of newspaper editorials and political cartoons? The Star of David emblazoned upon a tank.

Today only a tiny minority of outsiders see Israelis as victims. The true victims, it is now widely accepted, are the Palestinians. Indeed, Palestinians have now displaced Jews as the emblematic persecuted minority: vulnerable, humiliated and stateless. This unsought distinction does little to advance the Palestinian case any more than it ever helped Jews, but it has redefined Israel forever. It has become commonplace to compare Israel at best to an occupying colonizer, at worst to the South Africa of race laws and Bantustans. In this capacity Israel elicits scant sympathy even when its own citizens suffer: Dead Israelis - like the occasional assassinated white South African in the apartheid era, or British colonists hacked to death by native insurgents - are typically perceived abroad not as the victims of terrorism but as the collateral damage of their own government's mistaken policies.

Such comparisons are lethal to Israel's moral credibility. They strike at what was once its strongest suit: the claim of being a vulnerable island of democracy and decency in a sea of authoritarianism and cruelty; an oasis of rights and freedoms surrounded by a desert of repression. But democrats don't fence into Bantustans helpless people whose land they have conquered, and free men don't ignore international law and steal other men's homes. The contradictions of Israeli self-presentation - "we are very strong/we are very vulnerable"; "we are in control of our fate/we are the victims"; "we are a normal state/we demand special treatment" - are not new: they have been part of the country's peculiar identity almost from the outset. And Israel's insistent emphasis upon its isolation and uniqueness, its claim to be both victim and hero, were once part of its David versus Goliath appeal.

Collective cognitive dysfunction

But today the country's national narrative of macho victimhood appears to the rest of the world as simply bizarre: evidence of a sort of collective cognitive dysfunction that has gripped Israel's political culture. And the long cultivated persecution mania - "everyone's out to get us" - no longer elicits sympathy. Instead it attracts some very unappetizing comparisons: At a recent international meeting I heard one speaker, by analogy with Helmut Schmidt's famous dismissal of the Soviet Union as "Upper Volta with Missiles," describe Israel as "Serbia with nukes."

Israel has stayed the same, but the world - as I noted above - has changed. Whatever purchase Israel's self-description still has upon the imagination of Israelis themselves, it no longer operates beyond the country's frontiers. Even the Holocaust can no longer be instrumentalized to excuse Israel's behavior. Thanks to the passage of time, most Western European states have now come to terms with their part in the Holocaust, something that was not true a quarter century ago. From Israel's point of view, this has had paradoxical consequences: Until the end of the Cold War Israeli governments could still play upon the guilt of Germans and other Europeans, exploiting their failure to acknowledge fully what was done to Jews on their territory. Today, now that the history of World War II is retreating from the public square into the classroom and from the classroom into the history books, a growing majority of voters in Europe and elsewhere (young voters above all) simply cannot understand how the horrors of the last European war can be invoked to license or condone unacceptable behavior in another time and place. In the eyes of a watching world, the fact that the great-grandmother of an Israeli soldier died in Treblinka is no excuse for his own abusive treatment of a Palestinian woman waiting to cross a checkpoint. "Remember Auschwitz" is not an acceptable response.

In short: Israel, in the world's eyes, is a normal state, but one behaving in abnormal ways. It is in control of its fate, but the victims are someone else. It is strong, very strong, but its behavior is making everyone else vulnerable. And so, shorn of all other justifications for its behavior, Israel and its supporters today fall back with increasing shrillness upon the oldest claim of all: Israel is a Jewish state and that is why people criticize it. This - the charge that criticism of Israel is implicitly anti-Semitic - is regarded in Israel and the United States as Israel's trump card. If it has been played more insistently and aggressively in recent years, that is because it is now the only card left.

The habit of tarring any foreign criticism with the brush of anti-Semitism is deeply engrained in Israeli political instincts: Ariel Sharon used it with characteristic excess but he was only the latest in a long line of Israeli leaders to exploit the claim. David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir did no different. But Jews outside of Israel pay a high price for this tactic. Not only does it inhibit their own criticisms of Israel for fear of appearing to associate with bad company, but it encourages others to look upon Jews everywhere as de facto collaborators in Israel's misbehavior. When Israel breaks international law in the occupied territories, when Israel publicly humiliates the subject populations whose land it has seized - but then responds to its critics with loud cries of "anti-Semitism" - it is in effect saying that these acts are not Israeli acts, they are Jewish acts: The occupation is not an Israeli occupation, it is a Jewish occupation, and if you don't like these things it is because you don't like Jews.

In many parts of the world this is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling assertion: Israel's reckless behavior and insistent identification of all criticism with anti-Semitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia. But the traditional corollary - if anti-Jewish feeling is linked to dislike of Israel then right-thinking people should rush to Israel's defense - no longer applies. Instead, the ironies of the Zionist dream have come full circle: For tens of millions of people in the world today, Israel is indeed the state of all the Jews. And thus, reasonably enough, many observers believe that one way to take the sting out of rising anti-Semitism in the suburbs of Paris or the streets of Jakarta would be for Israel to give the Palestinians back their land.

Israel's undoing

If Israel's leaders have been able to ignore such developments it is in large measure because they have hitherto counted upon the unquestioning support of the United States - the one country in the world where the claim that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism is still echoed not only in the opinions of many Jews but also in the public pronouncements of mainstream politicians and the mass media. But this lazy, ingrained confidence in unconditional American approval - and the moral, military and financial support that accompanies it - may prove to be Israel's undoing.

Something is changing in the United States. To be sure, it was only a few short years ago that prime minister Sharon's advisers could gleefully celebrate their success in dictating to U.S. President George W. Bush the terms of a public statement approving Israel's illegal settlements. No U.S. Congressman has yet proposed reducing or rescinding the $3 billion in aid Israel receives annually - 20 percent of the total U.S. foreign aid budget - which has helped sustain the Israeli defense budget and the cost of settlement construction in the West Bank. And Israel and the United States appear increasingly bound together in a symbiotic embrace whereby the actions of each party exacerbate their common unpopularity abroad - and thus their ever-closer association in the eyes of critics.

But whereas Israel has no choice but to look to America - it has no other friends, at best only the conditional affection of the enemies of its enemies, such as India - the United States is a great power; and great powers have interests that sooner or later transcend the local obsessions of even the closest of their client states and satellites. It seems to me of no small significance that the recent essay on "The Israel Lobby" by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt has aroused so much public interest and debate. Mearsheimer and Walt are prominent senior academics of impeccable conservative credentials. It is true that - by their own account - they could still not have published their damning indictment of the influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy in a major U.S.-based journal (it appeared in the London Review of Books), but the point is that 10 years ago they would not - and probably could not - have published it at all. And while the debate that has ensued may generate more heat than light, it is of great significance: As Dr. Johnson said of female preachers, it is not well done but one is amazed to see it done at all.

The fact is that the disastrous Iraq invasion and its aftermath are beginning to engineer a sea-change in foreign policy debate here in the U.S. It is becoming clear to prominent thinkers across the political spectrum - from erstwhile neo-conservative interventionists like Francis Fukuyama to hard-nosed realists like Mearsheimer - that in recent years the United States has suffered a catastrophic loss of international political influence and an unprecedented degradation of its moral image. The country's foreign undertakings have been self-defeating and even irrational. There is going to be a long job of repair ahead, above all in Washington's dealings with economically and strategically vital communities and regions from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. And this reconstruction of the country's foreign image and influence cannot hope to succeed while U.S. foreign policy is tied by an umbilical cord to the needs and interests (if that is what they are) of one small Middle Eastern country of very little relevance to America's long-term concerns - a country that is, in the words of the Mearsheimer/Walt essay, a strategic burden: "A liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states."

That essay is thus a straw in the wind - an indication of the likely direction of future domestic debate here in the U.S. about the country's peculiar ties to Israel. Of course it has been met by a firestorm of criticism from the usual suspects - and, just as they anticipated, the authors have been charged with anti-Semitism (or with advancing the interests of anti-Semitism: "objective anti-Semitism," as it might be). But it is striking to me how few people with whom I have spoken take that accusation seriously, so predictable has it become. This is bad for Jews - since it means that genuine anti-Semitism may also in time cease to be taken seriously, thanks to the Israel lobby's abuse of the term. But it is worse for Israel.

This new willingness to take one's distance from Israel is not confined to foreign policy specialists. As a teacher I have also been struck in recent years by a sea-change in the attitude of students. One example among many: Here at New York University I was teaching this past month a class on post-war Europe. I was trying to explain to young Americans the importance of the Spanish Civil War in the political memory of Europeans and why Franco's Spain has such a special place in our moral imagination: as a reminder of lost struggles, a symbol of oppression in an age of liberalism and freedom, and a land of shame that people boycotted for its crimes and repression. I cannot think, I told the students, of any country that occupies such a pejorative space in democratic public consciousness today. You are wrong, one young woman replied: What about Israel? To my great surprise most of the class - including many of the sizable Jewish contingent - nodded approval. The times they are indeed a-changing.

That Israel can now stand in comparison with the Spain of General Franco in the eyes of young Americans ought to come as a shock and an eleventh-hour wake-up call to Israelis. Nothing lasts forever, and it seems likely to me that we shall look back upon the years 1973-2003 as an era of tragic illusion for Israel: years that the locust ate, consumed by the bizarre notion that, whatever it chose to do or demand, Israel could count indefinitely upon the unquestioning support of the United States and would never risk encountering a backlash. This blinkered arrogance is tragically summed up in an assertion by Shimon Peres on the very eve of the calamitous war that will in retrospect be seen, I believe, to have precipitated the onset of America's alienation from its Israeli ally: "The campaign against Saddam Hussein is a must."

The future of Israel

From one perspective Israel's future is bleak. Not for the first time, a Jewish state has found itself on the vulnerable periphery of someone else's empire: overconfident in its own righteousness, willfully blind to the danger that its indulgent excesses might ultimately provoke its imperial mentor to the point of irritation and beyond, and heedless of its own failure to make any other friends. To be sure, the modern Israeli state has big weapons - very big weapons. But can it do with them except make more enemies? However, modern Israel also has options. Precisely because the country is an object of such universal mistrust and resentment - because people expect so little from Israel today - a truly statesmanlike shift in its policies (dismantling of major settlements, opening unconditional negotiations with Palestinians, calling Hamas' bluff by offering the movement's leaders something serious in return for recognition of Israel and a cease-fire) could have disproportionately beneficial effects.

But such a radical realignment of Israeli strategy would entail a difficult reappraisal of every cliche and illusion under which the country and its political elite have nestled for most of their life. It would entail acknowledging that Israel no longer has any special claim upon international sympathy or indulgence; that the United States won't always be there; that weapons and walls can no more preserve Israel forever than they preserved the German Democratic Republic or white South Africa; that colonies are always doomed unless you are willing to expel or exterminate the indigenous population. Other countries and their leaders have understood this and managed comparable realignments: Charles De Gaulle realized that France's settlement in Algeria, which was far older and better established than Israel's West Bank colonies, was a military and moral disaster for his country. In an exercise of outstanding political courage, he acted upon that insight and withdrew. But when De Gaulle came to that realization he was a mature statesman, nearly 70 years old. Israel cannot afford to wait that long. At the age of 58 the time has come for it to grow up.

Tony Judt is a professor and the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University, and his book "Postwar: The History of Europe Since 1945" was published in 2005.




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Hamas: US blocking PA funds

Thursday 04 May 2006, 0:47 Makka Time, 21:47 GMT

Ismail Haniyeh told a news conference on Wednesday that the Hamas-led government had raised money, but so far has not found a way to get it into the Palestinian areas.

"We have given alternative suggestions and plans, including what has been reported about sending the lists of the employees to the Arab League to have a direct transfer to their accounts," Haniyeh said, but "we even faced American pressure to prevent the direct transfer".

Haniyeh appealed to Arab leaders to face up to the Americans "to stop the siege imposed on the Palestinian people and to stop the political blackmail against the government".
He also called on Palestinian bankers to "show the necessary patriotism".

Banks have been hesitant to handle funds for the Palestinian Authority for fear of US sanctions.

Israeli plan

At his news conference, Haniyeh also spoke out against a plan by Ehud Olmert, the incoming Israeli prime minister, to draw the border between Israel and the West Bank unilaterally if peace talks are unsuccessful, by completing a separation barrier, relocating tens of thousands of Jewish settlers and pulling out of large parts of the West Bank.

Israel's new government is to take office on Thursday.

"We are in favour of any Israeli withdrawal," Haniyeh said.

"If they are going to leave our land, we are not going to run after them and ask them to come back. This does not mean we are going to accept a de facto policy."

Arab initiative

Haniyeh brushed aside questions about accepting an Arab League plan that would offer Israel peace in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and an acceptable solution for Palestinian refugees.

"This era cannot take a new initiative," he said, blaming Israel for the impasse and repeating Hamas demands for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, release of prisoners and return of refugees to their original homes, all without offering peace to Israel.

Hamas also is engaged in new quarrel with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on power sharing.

Al Jazeera's Arabic web site quoted Mohammed Nazzal, a member of the Syria-based Hamas leadership, as saying a "two-headed regime" of Abbas and Hamas cannot continue, indicating Hamas might run a candidate against him.

Rising tensions

In Gaza, Fatah spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa accused Nazzal and other Hamas leaders of trying to increase tensions.

In the Al Jazeera interview, Nazzal complained that Abbas "is contributing to the siege by trying to withdraw the government's security and financial prerogatives".

Abu Khoussa said Hamas speaks in two voices. "Inside (the Palestinian areas) they are talking about national unity, and there are many people outside who are trying to create instability and tensions."

He said Abbas' assumption of control over security was legal.

"It looks like Mr Nazzal has never read the basic law," Abu Khoussa said.

The Palestine Media Centre, linked to Fatah, said that Nazzal's threat to try to unseat Abbas could lead to increased tensions.

"The place (for) the dialogue is inside the homeland, and not in exile," it said.

Nazzal's policy would "lead to fomenting civil war and the collapse of all the achievements of our people".



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Viral Marketing For Population Reduction


100 countries ratify treaty on plant genetic resources for food: FAO

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-05 20:42:49

ROME, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Iran has ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, bringing the number of countries that have officially accepted the treaty to 100, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced here on Friday.
The treaty, which was approved by the FAO Conference in November 2001, came into force on June 29, 2004.

The FAO's Director-General Dr.Jacques Diouf said that "this is a legally binding treaty that will be crucial for the sustainability of agriculture. The treaty is an important contribution to the achievement of the World Food Summit's major objective of halving the number of hungry people by 2015."

The main objectives of the international treaty are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, for sustainable agriculture and food security.

According to Clive Stannard of the Interim Secretariat for the Treaty, "this record speed and level of ratification is an indication of the huge importance that countries attach to the objectives of the Treaty to ensure that plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, which are vital for human survival, are conserved and sustainably used and that benefits are equitably andfairly distributed."

The first session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture will take place in Madrid, Spain, from June 12 to June 16. This will bethe first occasion in which the contracting parties to the treaty will meet to discuss its implementation.



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Bird flu outbreak confirmed in northwest China

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-05 15:34:55

BEIJING, May 5 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture Friday confirmed outbreak of bird flu among wild birds in a remote area of Qinghai Province, northwest China.

The outbreak was confirmed by the national bird flu laboratory on Wednesday, and the number of dead wild bird had risen to 123 by Thursday, the ministry said on its website.
Dead bar-headed gooses were first spotted by local herdsmen in a wetland in Yushu County on April 23. Veterinarians rushed to the site and found 17 dead gooses.

The samples were first sent to the provincial veterinary laboratory and later to the national bird flu laboratory for test. The test result on Wednesday confirmed it was highly contagious bird flu.

The epidemic area is 800 kilometers from the provincial capital Xining and 60 kilometers from the county town. There are neither residents nor domestic fowls in the epidemic area, which is very high and cold, the ministry said.

The area has been put under close surveillance with due disinfection measures taken.

As a precaution, cattle and sheep in nearby areas have been moved to farther pastures.

Local residents have been informed of the bird flu outbreak and told to take preventive measures.



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Fifth fatal human case of bird flu reported in Egypt

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-05 03:32:39

CAIRO, May 4 (Xinhua) -- A 27-year-old Egyptian woman died of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu on Thursday, the fifth fatal human case in Egypt, the official MENA news agency reported.
Samah Abdel-Aziz Mohamed died at 3:45 p.m. (1245 GMT) after a heart resuscitation failed, the Egyptian health authorities said in a statement.

The woman, coming from el-Sharabiya district of Cairo, was the 13th human bird flu case since the outbreak of the deadly disease in Egypt in February.

She was admitted to a Cairo-based hospital on Monday due to fever, severe coughing and dyspnea.

The Egyptian health authorities announced her infection one day later and said that the woman had close contact with infected domestic fowls.

Out of the total 13 human cases in Egypt, five were dead and eight others recovered after being treated with anti-viral Tamiflu drug.

The latest death came four days after the Health Ministry announced that the country's last bird flu patient, an 18-year-old girl, had been discharged from a hospital after recovery.Health Ministry spokesman Abdel-Rahman Shahin has repeatedly said that bird flu in Egypt is receding.

Egypt reported its first human bird flu case on March 18 and the second on March 27, both of whom were women.

The country found the first outbreak of bird flu virus in poultry on Feb. 17. Soon afterward, the government has taken tough measures to curb the spread of the fatal disease.

The deadly H5N1 strain has killed over 100 people worldwide since its latest outbreak in southeast Asia in late 2003,according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Most victims were infected after close contact with sick birds.The virus currently can only jump from birds to humans, but scientists fear that it could mutate into a form capable of passing easily among humans and thus spark a global pandemic.



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US issues $1 billion in flu vaccine contracts

By Lisa Richwine and Maggie Fox
Reuters
May 4, 2006

WASHINGTON - Five companies received more than $1 billion in contracts to develop new and better influenza vaccines, and to make them on U.S. territory, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said on Thursday.

GlaxoSmithKline Plc was awarded $274.75 million, MedImmune Inc. was awarded $169.46 million, Novartis AG won $220.51 million, DynPort vaccine, working with Baxter International Inc., won $40.97 million and Solvay won $298.59 million.

The companies will all work to develop cell-based vaccines to fight influenza.
The new vaccines will be grown in labs, in batches of cells called cell cultures, Health and Human Services Secretary
Mike Leavitt said.

This new method aims to replace older, egg-based methods which require steady supplies of carefully grown eggs and months of cultivation.

The targets are both the annual seasonal flu and the H5N1 avian influenza spreading among birds. The bird flu virus does not yet easily infect people but it has killed more than 100 people and experts fear it could mutate into a form that could spread easily and quickly among people.

If it did, it would spark a pandemic and work would have to begin quickly on a vaccine to fight it.

"These funds are part of $3.3 billion proposed by the President and appropriated by Congress to HHS for fiscal year 2006 to help the nation prepare for a pandemic," HHS said in a statement.

Experts have been urging the United States for years to help companies develop more modern methods to make influenza vaccines. The current, 40-year-old technology is unwieldy and unreliable and it takes months to determine how many vaccine doses will be available in a given year.

And HHS has worried that almost all flu vaccines are made outside the United States. If there were a pandemic of influenza, and countries acted to keep vaccine supplies for their own citizens, that might mean vaccines would not be available to Americans.

Glaxo said it would use some of the money to work on a vaccine plant it bought in Pennsylvania.

"In addition to the contract work for HHS, GSK will continue to make an investment in excess of $100 million at its Marietta, Pennsylvania, facility to establish a domestic cell culture flu vaccine manufacturing site," Britain's Glaxo said in a statement.

Maryland-based MedImmune said it would expand its facilities where it makes a needle-free, nasal-spray flu vaccine.

"We plan to expand our domestic manufacturing capacity by establishing a cell-based facility in the United States that can produce at least 150 million doses within six months of notification of an influenza pandemic," said David Mott, president and chief executive officer of MedImmune.

"We also plan to initiate our first Phase 1 study against the avian H5N1 strain this coming June under a cooperative research and development agreement with the National Institutes of Health to determine if our technology can be as effective against potential pandemic A strains as it is against seasonal A strains of influenza," Mott added.

Daniel Vasella, chairman and chief executive officer of Swiss-based Novartis, said his company would build new flu vaccine facilities in the United States.

"We will be investing additional resources in highly skilled researchers to set up one of the first flu cell culture manufacturing sites in the U.S," Vasella said in a statement.

Last year, HHS awarded Sanofi Pasteur a $97 million contract for development of a cell-based vaccine.



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Study Shows Americans Sicker Than English

By CARLA K. JOHNSON and MIKE STOBBE
Associated Press
Tue May 2, 2006

CHICAGO - White, middle-aged Americans - even those who are rich - are far less healthy than their peers in England, according to stunning new research that erases misconceptions and has experts scratching their heads.

Americans had higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and cancer - findings that held true no matter what income or education level.

Those dismal results are despite the fact that U.S. health care spending is double what England spends on each of its citizens.
"Everybody should be discussing it: Why isn't the richest country in the world the healthiest country in the world?" asks study co-author Dr. Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist at University College London in England.

The study, based on government statistics in both countries, adds context to the already-known fact that the United States spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation, yet trails in rankings of life expectancy.

The United States spends about $5,200 per person on health care while England spends about half that in adjusted dollars.

Even experts familiar with the weaknesses in the U.S. health system seemed stunned by the study's conclusions.

"I knew we were less healthy, but I didn't know the magnitude of the disparities," said Gerard Anderson, an expert in chronic disease and international health at Johns Hopkins University who had no role in the research.

Just why the United States fared so miserably wasn't clear. Answers ranging from too little exercise to too little money and too much stress were offered.

Even the U.S. obesity epidemic couldn't solve the mystery. The researchers crunched numbers to create a hypothetical statistical world in which the English had American lifestyle risk factors, including being as fat as Americans. In that model, Americans were still sicker.

Smoking rates are about the same on both sides of the pond. The English have a higher rate of heavy drinking.

Only non-Hispanic whites were included in the study to eliminate the influence of racial disparities. The researchers looked only at people ages 55 through 64, and the average age of the samples was the same.

Americans reported twice the rate of diabetes compared to the English, 12.5 percent versus 6 percent. For high blood pressure, it was 42 percent for Americans versus 34 percent for the English; cancer showed up in 9.5 percent of Americans compared to 5.5 percent of the English.

The upper crust in both countries was healthier than middle-class and low-income people in the same country. But richer Americans' health status resembled the health of the low-income English.

"It's something of a mystery," said Richard Suzman of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which helped fund the study.

Health experts have known the U.S. population is less healthy than that of other industrialized nations, according to several important measurements, including life expectancy. The U.S. ranks behind about two dozen other countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Some have believed the United States has lagged because it is more ethnically diverse, said Suzman, who heads the National Institute on Aging's Behavioral and Social Research Program. "Minority health in general is worse than white health," he said.

But the new study showed that when minorities are removed from the equation, and adjustments are made to control for education and income, white people in England are still healthier than white people in the United States.

"As far as I know, this is the first study showing this," said Suzman. The study, supported by grants from government agencies in both countries, was published in Wednesday's
Journal of the American Medical Association.

Other studies have measured the United States against other countries in terms of health care spending, use of medical care and availability of health care services. But this is the first to focus on prevalence of chronic conditions, said Anderson, the Johns Hopkins professor.

Differences in exercise might partly explain the gap, he suggested. One of the study's authors, Jim Smith, said the English exercise somewhat more than Americans. But physical activity differences won't fully explain the study's results, he added.

Marmot offered a different explanation for the gap: Americans' financial insecurity. Improvements in household income have eluded all but the top fifth of Americans since the mid-1970s. Meanwhile, the English saw their incomes improve, he said.

Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health who was not involved in the study, said the stress of striving for the American dream may account for Americans' lousy health.

"The opportunity to go both up and down the socioeconomic scale in America may create stress," Blendon said. Americans don't have a reliable government safety net like the English enjoy, Blendon said.

However, Britain's universal health-care system shouldn't get credit for better health, Marmot and Blendon agreed.

Both said it might explain better health for low-income citizens, but can't account for better health of Britain's more affluent residents.

Marmot cautioned against looking for explanations in the two countries' health-care systems.

"It's not just how we treat people when they get ill, but why they get ill in the first place," Marmot said.



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Homeland Insecurity


Porter Goss abruptly quits as CIA chief

Fri May 5, 2006
Reuters

WASHINGTON - CIA chief Porter Goss, assigned to rebuild the U.S. spy agency after huge intelligence lapses over the September 11 attacks and Iraq, abruptly quit on Friday after less than two years on the job.

President George W. Bush gave no explanation for Goss' resignation, praising the former member of Congress from Florida for his candid advice. No replacement was named for Goss, who has come under fire over his handling of the agency.

Bush is pursuing a shakeup of his staff in a bid to put a new face on his team and rebound from sagging poll numbers. He now faces the difficult task of finding a high-profile candidate to take over the agency.


The CIA lost some of its clout when it fell under a newly created director of national intelligence as part of reforms enacted after intelligence failures over the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Some bureaucratic wrangling resulted as the new intelligence arm sought to assert itself over the CIA and met some opposition from the veteran spy agency.

The announcement on Goss was made at a hastily arranged event in the Oval Office attended by Goss and John Negroponte, director of national intelligence. A senior official said the resignation was based on a "mutual understanding" with Goss.

"Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition. He's helped this agency become integrated into the intelligence community. That was a tough job. He's led ably," Bush said.

Goss has been viewed in some circles as a CIA director whose tenure could be limited, due to a rift that developed early with senior members of the spy agency's clandestine service who have since departed in large numbers.

"Thank God," was the reaction of one former senior spy who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"It's gotten so bad there, it's just a charade at the moment. There's no senior leadership. The only people still there who are eligible to retire and have not are people with kids in college who have to stay to make tuition payments."



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Flashback: Deputy Chief Resigns From CIA

Washington Post Staff Writers
November 13, 2004

Agency Is Said to Be in Turmoil Under New Director Goss

The deputy director of the CIA resigned yesterday after a series of confrontations over the past week between senior operations officials and CIA Director Porter J. Goss's new chief of staff that have left the agency in turmoil, according to several current and former CIA officials.

John E. McLaughlin, a 32-year CIA veteran who was acting director for two months this summer until Goss took over, resigned after warning Goss that his top aide, former Capitol Hill staff member Patrick Murray, was treating senior officials disrespectfully and risked widespread resignations, the officials said.

Yesterday, the agency official who oversees foreign operations, Deputy Director of Operations Stephen R. Kappes, tendered his resignation after a confrontation with Murray. Goss and the White House pleaded with Kappes to reconsider and he agreed to delay his decision until Monday, the officials said.

Several other senior clandestine service officers are threatening to leave, current and former agency officials said.

The disruption comes as the CIA is trying to stay abreast of a worldwide terrorist threat from al Qaeda, a growing insurgency in Iraq, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan and congressional proposals to reorganize the intelligence agencies. The agency also has been criticized for not preventing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and not accurately assessing Saddam Hussein's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

"It's the worst roiling I've ever heard of," said one former senior official with knowledge of the events. "There's confusion throughout the ranks and an extraordinary loss of morale and incentive."

Current and retired senior managers have criticized Goss, former chairman of the House intelligence committee, for not interacting with senior managers and for giving Murray too much authority over day-to-day operations. Murray was Goss's chief of staff on the intelligence committee.

Transitions between CIA directors are often unsettling for career officers. Goss's arrival has been especially tense because he brought with him four former members of the intelligence committee known widely on the Hill and within the agency for their abrasive management style and for their criticism of the agency's clandestine services in a committee report.

Three are former mid-level CIA officials who left the agency disgruntled, according to former colleagues. The fourth, Murray, who also worked at the Justice Department, has a reputation for being highly partisan. When senior managers have gone to Goss to complain about his staff actions, one CIA officer said, Goss has told them: "Talk to my chief of staff. I don't do personnel."

The overall effect, said one former senior CIA official, who has kept up his contacts in the Directorate of Operations, "is that Goss doesn't seem engaged at all."

If other senior clandestine officers leave, said one former officer who maintains contacts within the Langley headquarters, "the middle-level people who move up may eventually work out, but meanwhile the level of experience and competence will go down."

The CIA declined to comment on the issues raised by the current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. A CIA spokesman said McLaughlin's retirement "was a long-planned personal decision taken at a natural transition point in the administration and not connected to any other factors."

McLaughlin issued a statement that said: "I have come to the purely personal decision that it is time to move on to other endeavors."

Goss, too, issued a statement, which applauded McLaughlin's "outstanding service."




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U.S. Defends New Internet Wiretap Rules

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer
Fri May 5, 5:44 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is defending new federal rules making it easier for police and the FBI to wiretap Internet phone calls.

A broad group of civil liberties and education groups - and a leading technology company - say the U.S. has improperly applied telephone-era rules to a new generation of Internet services.
Lawyers were expected to square off Friday over the
Federal Communications Commission regulations before a three-judge panel for the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. In an unrelated case last year affecting digital television, two of the same three judges ruled that the FCC had significantly exceeded its authority and threw out new FCC rules requiring anti-piracy technologies.

In the current case, the FCC determined that providers of Internet phone service and broadband services must ensure their equipment can accommodate police wiretaps under the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, known as CALEA. The new rules go into effect in May 2007.

The 1994 law was originally aimed at ensuring court-ordered wiretaps could be placed on wireless phones.

The Justice Department, which has lobbied aggressively on the subject, warned in court papers that failure to expand the wiretap requirements to the fast-growing Internet phone industry "could effectively provide a surveillance safe haven for criminals and terrorists who make use of new communications services."

Critics said the new FCC rules are too broad and inconsistent with the intent of Congress when it passed the 1994 law, which excluded categories of companies described as information services.

"Our significant concern is that if the FCC is essentially permitted to override the congressional exclusion, there are no limits," said John B. Morris, a lawyer for the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology, one of the civil liberties groups fighting the FCC's rules.

The case was expected to be decided by U.S. Circuit Judges Janice Rogers Brown, David B. Sentelle and Harry T. Edwards.

In the 2005 ruling against the FCC - the most recent major case involving the FCC before the circuit court - Sentelle famously told government lawyers that their new anti-piracy rules exceeded the authority Congress gave the agency. "You can't rule the world," Sentelle told them.

Edwards, another appeals judge in the current case, also came down hard on the FCC in 2005, saying it had "crossed the line" and "gone too far."



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US government continues to escalate domestic spying

5 May 2006
WSWS.org

Nearly five months after the secret National Security Agency spying program was first revealed in the media, the US government continues its unchecked expansion of domestic spying powers. Several recent reports document this expansion, which is taking place on many fronts, involving the military, federal intelligence agencies, and local police forces.

The NSA program, which involves the warrantless monitoring of emails and other communications in violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), has received the most attention. In spite of its blatant illegality, the program continues, with no serious move by either political party to stop it. The Bush administration has openly flouted decisions by Congress and the courts, asserting that warrantless spying on US citizens is part of the president's powers as commander-in-chief in the "war on terror."

The NSA program is only one component of a much broader policy undermining basic democratic and constitutional rights in the United States, all justified by a supposedly ubiquitous terrorist threat. However, their real purpose is to vastly expand the powers of the government to monitor and repress internal dissent under conditions of mounting social tension and political opposition to the policies of the Bush administration.

Taken together, these developments provide a picture of a government that is systematically laying the foundations for a police state.

On Monday, May 1, the Justice Department released statistics documenting a sharp increase in the number of court-approved warrants the FBI has sought and received as part of the procedures established by the FISA Act. In 2005, the FBI received 2,072 warrants from the FISA court to conduct searches and electronic surveillance, up 18 percent from 2004.

Significantly, the FISA court did not reject any of the government's applications for warrants. The supposed difficulty of receiving warrants through the FISA procedures has been cited as one of the principal justifications for the warrantless NSA spying program, which is being carried out outside of any judicial oversight.

In addition to the FISA warrants, the government reported that the FBI issued 9,254 "national security letters" to US businesses and institutions to demand information on over 3,500 US citizens and residents. National security letters are used by the FBI to get personal records, including everything from Internet activity to records of purchases. They do not require any court review. The ability of the FBI to issue these letters was significantly expanded by the Patriot Act, passed shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

A Washington Post article published last year reported that the FBI is now issuing 30,000 national security letters every year, an enormous increase over previous years. However, unlike the figure of 9,254 reported by the government, the Post's numbers included a type of subpoena that only requests limited information such as a person's name. It is therefore impossible to say whether the 2005 figure represents an increase over the figure reported by the Post.

No information has been provided by the government as to who it has targeted with these secret subpoenas, or what information has been collected.

Draconian intelligence bill passes US House of Representatives

The House passed the Fiscal Year 2007 Intelligence Authorization Bill on April 26, allocating $44 billion to the various US intelligence agencies.

Republicans in the House blocked various amendments placing minor restrictions on the NSA spying program, including one that would require that classified reports on the program be given to the full House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. This hardly would have hampered the illegal spying on US citizens, as the government has already given regular reports for years to a smaller group of legislators of both parties, who have helped keep the program secret from the American people.

The intelligence bill must pass the Senate before becoming law. Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has suggested that he might file an amendment that would block spending for the NSA program. However, Specter has already assured the White House that he won't actually seek a vote on the amendment at this time.

In addition to massive spending and the rejection of any constraints on the NSA program, the intelligence authorization bill also includes several measures that would significantly increase the spying and policing powers of the CIA and the NSA. Sections 423 and 432 of the bill would give certain personnel responsible for security within the CIA and the NSA authority to "make arrests without a warrant for any offense against the United States committed in the presence of such personnel, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States." Section 432 also gives NSA officials explicit authority to carry firearms.

In an April 24 letter sent to Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Peter Hoekstra and ranking Democrat on the panel Jane Harman, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) noted that the majority of illegal acts committed by the CIA in the 1960s and 1970s were done in the name of CIA security powers to protect its facilities-the powers that are now being expanded to allow the agency to arrest anyone, anywhere in the country.

"As the 1976 Church Committee report noted," POGO wrote, "the stated basis for the creation of programs that resulted in the improper investigation of US citizens and US political groups, such as Projects RESISTANCE and MERRIMAC, was a dubious reading of statutes authorizing the Director of Central Intelligence to 'be responsible for protecting intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure.' This was expansively interpreted by the CIA as 'authorization for the protection of CIA personnel and facilities against any kind of "security threat" including the possibility of violent demonstrations by the public.' The application of this interpretation resulted in the proactive infiltrating by CIA operatives into student and political groups."

The intelligence bill not only gives the CIA increased powers needed to engage in such activities again, but grants the same powers to the NSA at a time when the agency has been implicated in massive illegal spying of US citizens. The NSA police forces, which currently have the power to arrest people within a 500-foot perimeter of NSA facilities, have also been recently involved in collaborating with local police forces to monitor peace groups planning protests of the NSA.

These measures are further steps in the establishment of a secret intelligence/police agency in the United States that is able to monitor virtually any communications between US citizens and rapidly make arrests of individuals deemed to be engaging in illegal activities, including protesters who are designated as "threats" to intelligence or defense facilities.

The bill also includes a measure that would require the director of national intelligence to study the possibility of revoking the pensions of intelligence agents who leak classified information without authorization. The section is a transparent response to a number of significant leaks in recent months that have revealed aspects of the criminal activities of the government, including the NSA spying program and the CIA's use of secret torture and detention centers in Europe.

The administration has threatened to criminally prosecute intelligence agents as well as journalists for their role in publishing classified information.

The intelligence authorization bill passed the House by a vote of 327-96, with overwhelming bipartisan support.

On the same day that the intelligence bill passed the House, the government filed a motion in a federal court in San Francisco to dismiss a lawsuit brought against AT&T by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF, an organization that promotes electronic privacy, has brought a class-action civil lawsuit against the telecommunications giant, charging it with collaborating with the NSA in violating the privacy of its customers by giving the government access to emails and other communications.

As part of the suit, the EFF has filed documents obtained by a former technician at AT&T proving that the company set up a separate room for the NSA and allowed the agency to monitor all the communications passing through its routers. The agreement with AT&T was part of the NSA's secret spying program. Administration officials have claimed that the program is intended to monitor only calls involving someone in another country who is suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda. The documents obtained by the EFF, however, indicate that the NSA has access to vast databases of communications that include purely domestic emails and calls between US residents and citizens.

The government, which is not named in the suit, has appealed for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that it could reveal state secrets. William Weaver, a law professor and senior advisor to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, told Wired News that the government's intervention will almost certainly end the EFF case and ensure that any documents in the case remain sealed. "There has never been an unsuccessful invocation of the state secrets privilege when national security is involved," he said. "The suit is over."

If the case is dismissed, it will close one of the few avenues available for challenging the illegal domestic spying.

Military steps up role in domestic spying

A report in the Wall Street Journal on April 27 ("Pentagon Steps Up Intelligence Efforts Inside US Borders" by Robert Block and Jay Solomon) documents the military's role in the surveillance of opposition groups in the Untied States.

"After 9/11," the newspaper reported, "the Bush administration declared the continental US a theater of military operations for the first time since the Civil War.... Now several parts of the vast Pentagon bureaucracy are building large databases of information from sources including local police, military personnel and the Internet. In doing so, the military is edging toward a sensitive area that has been off-limits to it since the 1970s: domestic surveillance and law enforcement."

The military has focused on antiwar protesters and according to the Journal, "the Pentagon has monitored more than 20 antiwar groups' activities around the country over the past three years. It has reviewed photographs and records of vehicles and protesters at marches to see if different activities were being organized by the same instigators."

The military database is connected to the program run by the NSA, as well to initiatives that were originally part of the Pentagon's now officially abandoned Total Information Awareness program. After a public outcry over TIA, which was to involve the accumulation of vast databases to help the government spy on the American people, the program was renamed and several of its components were moved around, but the basic plan has remained in place.

According to the Journal, some of the TIA components ended up in the hands of the Army's 902nd Military Intelligence Group, "the military's largest counterintelligence unit [which] has hundreds of soldiers stationed around the country." The 902nd makes extensive use of the Joint Regional Information Exchange System, "which gathers information collected by civilian law enforcement agencies around the country," the newspaper reported. "The Pentagon and local authorities including the New York Police Department and California's justice department set it up in December 2002," but it "got a boost when the Department of Homeland Security took it over and expanded it to include information from all 50 states and major urban areas."

Meanwhile, according to an article appearing in the May 8 issue of US News and World Report ("Spies Among Us," by David E. Kaplan), the Justice Department is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fund state and local police intelligence units. Additional funds have gone into the development of regional law enforcement databases.

The newest intelligence units are called "fusion centers," which pool information from multiple local jurisdictions. These centers now exist in 31 states, with more on the way. There are plans to eventually have 70 such centers across the nation, providing what US News calls "a coast-to-coast intelligence blanket."

According to the US News article, Jack Tomarchio, the new deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security, told a law enforcement conference in March that the department intends to embed as many as three DHS agents and intelligence analysts at every site, adding that "the states want a very close synergistic relationship with the feds."

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has the largest number of officers assigned to homeland security-one thousand. The NYPD's chief of intelligence is the former director of operations at the CIA and its head of counterterrorism was a counterterrorism coordinator for the State Department. In addition, the NYPD has officers posted in half a dozen other countries.

Lawsuits filed against the NYPD reveal that its undercover officers have joined antiwar rallies, among other protest gatherings, and that they have acted as agents provocateurs in order to provoke arrests at at least one demonstration. Investigations also have been launched against undercover agents elsewhere, including in Fresno, California, where a sheriffs' department officer infiltrated a local peace group.

US News also reported that in order to qualify for federal homeland security grants, local authorities are now required, to report on how many "potential threat elements" or "PTEs" exist in their jurisdictions. "The definition [given by the Department of Homeland Security] of suspected terrorists was fairly loose," the magazine reported. "PTEs were groups or individuals who might use force or violence 'to intimidate or coerce' for a goal 'possibly political or social in nature.'"



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Conservatives Drive Bush's Approval Down

By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer

WASHINGTON - Angry conservatives are driving the approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP-led Congress to dismal new lows, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that underscores why Republicans fear an Election Day massacre.

Six months out, the intensity of opposition to Bush and Congress has risen sharply, along with the percentage of Americans who believe the nation is on the wrong track.

The AP-Ipsos poll also suggests that Democratic voters are far more motivated than Republicans. Elections in the middle of a president's term traditionally favor the party whose core supporters are the most energized.
This week's survey of 1,000 adults, including 865 registered voters, found:

- Just 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, the lowest of his presidency. That compares with 36 percent approval in early April. Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives now disapprove of the president.

- Just one-fourth of the public approves of the job Congress is doing, a new low in AP-Ipsos polling and down 5 percentage points since last month. A whopping 65 percent of conservatives disapprove of Congress.

- A majority of Americans say they want Democrats rather than Republicans to control Congress (51 percent to 34 percent). That's the largest gap recorded by AP-Ipsos since Bush took office. Even 31 percent of conservatives want Republicans out of power.

- The souring of the nation's mood has accelerated the past three months, with the percentage of people describing the nation on the wrong track rising 12 points to a new high of 73 percent. Six of 10 conservatives say America is headed in the wrong direction.

Republican strategists said the party stands to lose control of Congress unless the environment changes unexpectedly.

"It's going to take some events of significance to turn this around," GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. "I don't think at this point you can talk your way back from those sorts of ratings."

He said the party needs concrete progress in Iraq and action in Congress on immigration, lobbying reform and tax cuts.

"Those things would give the country a sense that Washington has heard the people and is responding in a way that will give conservatives a sense that their concerns are being addressed," Ayres said.

Conservative voters blame the White House and Congress for runaway government spending, illegal immigration and lack of action on social issues such as a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage. Those concerns come on top of public worries about Iraq, the economy and gasoline prices.

Candice Strong, a conservative from Cincinnati, said she backed Bush in 2004, "but I don't agree with the way he's handling the war and the way he's handling the economy. I think he should have pulled our troops out of Iraq."

Hardline conservatives are not likely to vote Democratic in the fall, but it would be just as devastating to the Republicans if conservatives lose their enthusiasm and stay home on Election Day.

AP-Ipsos polling suggests that Democrats may be winning the motivation game. Fewer voters today than in 2004 call themselves Republicans or Republican-leaning. In addition, 27 percent of registered voters were strong Republicans just before the 2004 election, while only 15 percent fit that description today.

Democratic numbers are the same or better since 2004.

"This tells us we've got our work cut out for us," said Sen. Sam Brownback (news, bio, voting record), a conservative Republican from Kansas who may run for president in 2008. "The key for us is to show restraint on spending and on dealing with immigration."

Bush's strong suit continues to be his handling of foreign policy and terrorism, an area in which he modestly improved his ratings since April. Still, a majority of Americans disapprove of his performance on both fronts.

It gets worse. Only 23 percent of the public approve of the way the president is handling gasoline prices, the lowest in AP-Ipsos polling. Those who strongly disapprove outnumber those who strongly approve by an extraordinary 55 percent to 8 percent.

As for his overall job performance, history suggests that Bush's paltry 33 percent spells trouble for Republicans in the fall.

In the past six decades, only one president had a lower job approval rating six months before a midterm election -
Richard Nixon in May 1974, the year in which Watergate-scarred Republicans lost 48 seats in the House and four in the Senate.

By November, Nixon was out of a job too, having resigned the presidency in August.

Nearly half of the public strongly disapproves of Bush, a huge jump from his 5 percent strong disapproval rating in 2002. The poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Of all Republicans, nearly 30 percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing, including 13 percent who feel strongly about it.

"Hopefully this is a wakeup call for my party to get out of its bunker and hunker mentality," said Republican strategist Greg Mueller, whose firm specializes in conservative politics.

He urged his party to start criticizing Democratic positions on the Iraq war, immigration and the economy.

"We've been like a punching bag," Mueller said.

Democrats need to gain 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate for control of Congress, no easy task in an era that favors incumbents.

"What we have to do is earn the public approval of our right to govern again," said Democratic Party chairman
Howard Dean.

The Democratic strategy is to nationalize the elections around a throw-the-bums-out theme.

Republicans counter that they will do better than polls suggest when voters are forced on Election Day to choose between candidates in their particular House and Senate races.

"But," Ayres said, "we better get in gear."



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Mother Nature Rebels


Mount St Helen's crater reveals rapid changes

AP
05/05/2006

If the skies are clear, volcano watchers who turn out for the reopening of the Johnston Ridge Observatory today will get a spectacular view of a hulking slab of rock that's rapidly growing in Mount St. Helens' crater.
The Olympian - Click Here

It's jutting up from one of seven lobes of fresh volcanic rock that have been pushing their way through the surface of the crater since October 2004.

The fin-shaped mass is about 300 feet tall and growing 4 feet to 5 feet a day, though it occasionally loses height from rockfalls off its tip, said Dan Dzurisin, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.
It began growing last November, steadily moving west and pushing rock and other debris out of its way as it goes. Mount St. Helens has been quietly erupting since a flurry of tiny earthquakes began in late September 2004. Scientists initially mistook the quakes as rainwater seeping into the hot interior of the older lava dome.

But it soon became clear that magma was on the move, confirmed by the emergence of fire-red lava between the old lava dome and the south crater rim a few weeks after the seismic activity began.

The volcano has continued pumping out lava ever since. Eventually, scientists expect the volcano will rebuild its conical peak that was obliterated in the May 18, 1980, eruption that killed 57 people.

The growth of the new lava dome has been accompanied by low seismicity rates, low emissions of steam and volcanic gases, and minor production of ash, the USGS said.

"Given the way things are going now, there's no hint of any sort of catastrophic eruptions," USGS geologist Tom Pierson said. "At any time, however, things can change."

Scientists flew a helicopter into the crater late last week to adjust equipment and take photographs that will likely be used to determine just how much the new lava dome has grown the last several months.



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Volcano Smokes Out Peruvian Farmers

May 4, 2006


After 40 years of dormancy, the Ubinas volcano in southern Peru has been spewing out toxic smoke and ash over the last few weeks. Polluted air and water, along with the possibility of lava flows, have prompted many residents to evacuate the region.

Most activity stopped by April 16, 2006, but most experts believe the reprieve is only temporary. A dome of molten lava is visibly building up inside the volcano, signaling that a high risk of explosive force may soon follow.

So what has made the Ubinas volcano awaken after four decades of sleep? Well, a clue may be that at the same time Ubinas has become active again, other volcanoes in Galeras, Columbia, and Lascar, Chile, among others in the region, have also flared up in recent weeks.




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Pacific Island of Tonga Hit by Second Earthquake

May 5 2006
Bloomberg

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 struck the Pacific island nation of Tonga today, following a larger quake that hit about 20 hours earlier, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The latest quake, with its epicenter 137 kilometers (85 miles) east of Nuku'Alofa and at a depth of 37 kilometers, was recorded at 12:25 a.m. local time, the survey said in an e-mailed statement.

There were no reports of damage or injury. A magnitude 7.9 earthquake, the world's biggest in more than a year, struck near Tonga a day earlier, triggering tsunami warnings for New Zealand and Fiji that were later called off.



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Earthquake shakes Oakville, frightens residents

CTV.ca News Staff
05/05/2006

Oakville, Ont. residents felt the earth move beneath their feet Thursday morning as a magnitude 2.7 earthquake shook the area for a few seconds.

"All of a sudden there was this loud boom that sounded like an explosion," Oakville resident Cathy Godberson told CTV.ca. "The whole house shook, especially the floor. I felt it right up through my feet."

Seismologists with Natural Resources Canada confirmed that at 10:50 a.m. a small quake was recorded four kilometres north-west of Oakville. The source of the quake was almost five kilometres underground.

But it was enough to catch the attention of residents.




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Thousands flee as molten lava begins to flow from Java volcano

By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent
05 May 2006

Indonesian authorities are preparing to evacuate thousands of people as lava began flowing from the crater of the country's most active volcano.

Gunung Merapi, or Fiery Mountain, has been rumbling for weeks, with scientists on alert for an imminent eruption. Lava started pouring down its slopes early yesterday, but stopped a few miles from inhabited areas. Merapi is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a series of fault lines stretching through Japan and south-east Asia. Seventy people died when it erupted in 1994. In 1930, an eruption claimed 1,300 lives.
Scientists have yet to raise the threat level to the highest alert, which would require the immediate evacuation of villages on Merapi's fertile slopes and foothills. But the lava flows and burning around the crater suggest that pressure within the volcano is reaching a critical point. "The volcano has shown significantly more activity," said Subandriyo, the head of the local monitoring office.

An estimated 14,000 people live in Merapi's shadow, and most are still there, reluctant to abandon property and livestock. They plan to stay until forced to leave, or until nature sends them signals, such as lightning around the peak or animals moving down the slopes.

About 1,300 people have already been moved out of the danger zone, mainly women, children and the elderly. Local officials say that some are returning to their homes during the day to feed livestock.

The lava flows began as first a powerful under-sea earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter scale and then an aftershock hit the South Pacific islands of Tonga. But the earthquakes caused no damage.

They came a day after a larger quake in Tonga sparked a tsunami alert. The alert, issued by a monitoring centre in Hawaii, was lifted after two hours, but the incident exposed deficiencies in a system intended to prevent the devastating death toll of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.

Tonga itself did not receive the warning because of a power failure, while in Fiji only people living on the main island were alerted; those on the other 110 islands remained unaware. In New Zealand, hundreds of people on the east coast fled their homes for higher ground after watching television reports, although no evacuation had been ordered.

Indonesian authorities are preparing to evacuate thousands of people as lava began flowing from the crater of the country's most active volcano.

Gunung Merapi, or Fiery Mountain, has been rumbling for weeks, with scientists on alert for an imminent eruption. Lava started pouring down its slopes early yesterday, but stopped a few miles from inhabited areas. Merapi is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a series of fault lines stretching through Japan and south-east Asia. Seventy people died when it erupted in 1994. In 1930, an eruption claimed 1,300 lives.

Scientists have yet to raise the threat level to the highest alert, which would require the immediate evacuation of villages on Merapi's fertile slopes and foothills. But the lava flows and burning around the crater suggest that pressure within the volcano is reaching a critical point. "The volcano has shown significantly more activity," said Subandriyo, the head of the local monitoring office.

An estimated 14,000 people live in Merapi's shadow, and most are still there, reluctant to abandon property and livestock. They plan to stay until forced to leave, or until nature sends them signals, such as lightning around the peak or animals moving down the slopes.

About 1,300 people have already been moved out of the danger zone, mainly women, children and the elderly. Local officials say that some are returning to their homes during the day to feed livestock.

The lava flows began as first a powerful under-sea earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter scale and then an aftershock hit the South Pacific islands of Tonga. But the earthquakes caused no damage.

They came a day after a larger quake in Tonga sparked a tsunami alert. The alert, issued by a monitoring centre in Hawaii, was lifted after two hours, but the incident exposed deficiencies in a system intended to prevent the devastating death toll of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.

Tonga itself did not receive the warning because of a power failure, while in Fiji only people living on the main island were alerted; those on the other 110 islands remained unaware. In New Zealand, hundreds of people on the east coast fled their homes for higher ground after watching television reports, although no evacuation had been ordered.



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Power To The People


Rumsfeld Is Confronted by Antiwar Protesters

By Shannon McCaffrey
Associated Press
Friday, May 5, 2006; Page A20

ATLANTA, May 4 -- Antiwar protesters repeatedly interrupted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a speech Thursday, and one man, a former CIA analyst, accused him in a question-and-answer session of lying about prewar intelligence on Iraq.

"Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kind of casualties and was not necessary?" asked Ray McGovern, the former analyst.

"I did not lie," shot back Rumsfeld, who waved off security guards ready to remove McGovern from the hall at the Southern Center for International Studies.
With support for the war in Iraq remaining low, it is not unusual for top administration officials to encounter protests and hostile questions.

But the outbursts Rumsfeld confronted on Thursday seemed beyond the usual.

Three protesters were escorted away by security as each interrupted Rumsfeld's speech by jumping up and shouting antiwar messages. Throughout the speech, a fourth protester stood up in the middle of the room with his back to Rumsfeld in silent protest.

Rumsfeld also faced tough questions from a woman identifying herself as Patricia Robertson, who said she had lost her son in Iraq. Robertson said she is now raising her grandson and asked whether the government could provide any help.

Rumsfeld referred her to a Web site listing aid organizations.

President Bush seldom faces such challenges. Demonstrators usually are kept far from him when he delivers public remarks.

Rumsfeld has been interrupted by antiwar demonstrators in congressional hearing rooms as he has delivered testimony to lawmakers in recent months.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has had confrontations overseas. These include demonstrators who called her a murderer and war criminal in Australia in March, and throngs of antiwar protesters who dogged her every move in northern England in April.

In recent weeks, at least half a dozen retired generals have called for Rumsfeld's resignation, saying he has ignored advice offered by military officers and made strategic errors in the war, including committing too few troops.

But he has received strong backing from Bush, who has repeatedly indicated he will keep Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.

When security guards tried removing McGovern, the analyst, during his persistent questions of Rumsfeld on Thursday, the defense secretary told them to let him stay. The two continued to spar.

"You're getting plenty of play," Rumsfeld told McGovern, who is an outspoken critic of the war.

Responding to another protester who also accused Rumsfeld of lying, the secretary said such accusations are "so wrong, so unfair and so destructive."

Rumsfeld focused his speech on the need for the United States to increase its emphasis on more flexible partnerships with foreign militaries and the rethinking of the role of long-established alliances such as NATO.

He called such changes "necessary adjustments, based on the new realities and the new threats that have emerged since the end of the Cold War."



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S.Korean protesters clash with police over US base

By Lee Jae-won
May 3, 2006
Boston.com

PYONGTAEK, South Korea (Reuters) - South Korean riot police fought pitched battles with anti-U.S. protesters and farmers on Thursday, as authorities moved to clear two rural townships to pave the way for a new U.S. military base.

About 1,000 protesters, many wielding bamboo sticks, clashed with police armed with batons in an area about 70 km (44 miles) south of Seoul where land for the base has been allocated.

Scores of protesters were hurt, with at least two, who appeared to be unconscious, carried away on stretchers.
Reuters photographer Lee Jae-won and about a dozen other journalists, wearing helmets and armbands identifying them as media, were also hurt after being beaten by police.

Lee suffered lacerated lips and hands.

The confrontation has been brewing for months since about 100 farmers refused to vacate the area where South Korea and the United States agreed two years ago to move the main U.S. military base now in Seoul and several others throughout the country.

The number of protesters, many of whom are anti-U.S. activists, unionists and students, swelled overnight after reports the government would send in thousands of police and military engineers to clear the 9.4-square km (3.6-square mile) area.

Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung said the project, which had been authorized by South Korea's parliament, could no longer be delayed.

"It is unacceptable that some opponents of this national project are taking advantage of local residents by turning it into a political battle," Yoon said in a statement.

PRECIOUS FARMLAND

South Korea's military would take no part in the eviction, and military engineers and ground troops deployed in the area would be kept away from protesters, he said.

About 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed in the country alongside South Korea's military to defend against possible aggression by communist North Korea.

South and North Korea remain technically at war under the inconclusive truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean war.

Seoul has said further delay in the base relocation could cause diplomatic friction with Washington.

Last-ditch talks between government and residents aimed at a compromise broke down on Monday. Local residents, mostly elderly farmers, and protesters have said no amount of compensation can justify the move.

"This is precious land that generations of farmers have made rich," said Song Hyun, 86, on the edge of rice fields before the police moved in.

"It is heartbreaking that they are trying to take such good land away from us."



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Why Kent State is important today

By Michael Corcoran | May 4, 2006

THIRTY-SIX years ago today, Ohio National Guardsmen shot 13 college students at Kent State University who were protesting US incursions into Cambodia as part of the Vietnam War. Nine victims survived, including one who is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Four students -- Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Bill Schroeder, and Sandy Scheuer -- were killed.

The students were unarmed, and the closest was more than 60 feet away from the Guard at the time of the shooting. There was no warning shot; the National Guard never issued an apology; and no one ever spent a day in jail for the killings despite the fact that the President's Commission on Campus Unrest, appointed by President Nixon in 1970, found the shootings to be ''unwarranted and inexcusable."
Yearly, since the tragedy, Kent State students, alumni, and others have met on the anniversary of the shooting to reflect and remember. Alan Canfora, who was shot by the Guard, says, ''The students today act as the conscience of the college, and the country . . . just like the students did in 1970."

This year's memorial will come, as the last three have, in the midst of a war that has become increasingly divisive. While the memory of Kent State and other violent clashes from that time between protesters and authorities did not deter the incumbent president from leading the country into another unpopular war, it is important to honor Kent State's spirit of dissent and what it taught about the bloody consequences of intense division.

Halfway across the country, the lessons of Kent State are taught each semester in debate classes at Emerson College. J. Gregory Payne, associate professor of organizational and political communication and a Kent State historian, has been teaching students about history, advocacy, and rhetoric through the lens of Kent State for decades.

According to Payne, remembering this tragedy is important because ''Kent State is not about the past -- it's about the future."

Consider the similarities: In 1970, just as today, we had an unpopular president carrying out an unpopular war for questionable reasons.

Richard Nixon and George W. Bush embody many of the same divisive characteristics. Bush tells the world: ''You are with us or you are with the terrorists." Nixon's public statement after the shootings blamed the students: ''When dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy."

Again our civil liberties are being threatened. Bush has ordered the wiretapping of US citizens without a warrant and holds detainees indefinitely without trial; Nixon was spying on student activists and what he called ''domestic radicals."

But, perhaps the most telling comparison is the sharp division within the nation, both then and now. Americans are now, as we were then, split to the core on matters of war and peace, life and death, and cultural values. The President's Commission concluded it was ''the most divisive time in American history since the civil war." Bill Schroeder's parents received signed letters after the shooting saying, among other things, that their ''riot-making, communist son" deserved to die.

Today antiwar protesters are unfairly discredited by the administration as they were in 1970. When Cindy Sheehan took antiwar positions after her 24-year-old son, Casey Sheehan, died in Iraq, she was smeared by pundits like Bill O'Reilly, who said she was a pawn of ''far-left elements that are using her" and that Sheehan was ''dumb" enough to let them do it.

Of course, the absence of a draft now and its presence then may explain why the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War had a greater intensity then it does now. Still, as the protests in New York City last week indicate, the longer the war in Iraq drags on, the more vehement the opposition seems to get.

Musicians, once again, are singing songs of dissent. Last Friday Neil Young, who in 1970 wrote ''Ohio" in reaction to the shootings, began streaming a new antiwar album ''Living with War" for free on his website. Days later, Pearl Jam also released an album made up entirely of protest music.

My generation can't ignore the lessons of Kent State. The same mindset and failure in leadership that led National Guardsmen to fire at students of the same age and from the same Ohio hometowns is similar to what led US soldiers to torture detainees in Iraq.

Kent State should remind us of what happens when a grossly misguided war divides a country. If we can speak candidly and openly about our history and our present -- even the worst elements of it -- then we can ensure that the lives lost on May 4, 1970, were not in vain.



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Reconquista! redux

Dave Neiwert
Orcinus

You know, a conspiracy theory like Mexican 'Reconquista' is just too good to give up on easily, I guess -- especially when your whole enterprise is all about busily grasping at whatever straws might float your way.

So Gen. Michelle D. Ripper decides to swing away again, claiming she has proof, dammit, that "Reconquista!" is real:
Do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk, ice cream? Ice cream, Mandrake? Children's ice cream!...You know when fluoridation began?...1946. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works.
-- Gen. Jack D. Ripper

You know, a conspiracy theory like Mexican 'Reconquista' is just too good to give up on easily, I guess -- especially when your whole enterprise is all about busily grasping at whatever straws might float your way.

So Gen. Michelle D. Ripper decides to swing away again, claiming she has proof, dammit, that "Reconquista!" is real:
On the Sean Hannity radio show Monday, I debated (or rather listened to five minutes of screeching by) a young member of the radical group MeCha. A student at the University of San Francisco, she denied that her group still subscribed to 1960s identity politics, then promptly delivered a full-throated rant about Mexico's right to reclaim American territory: "We believe that we have the right to be in this land...Aztlan is California! Aztlan is this country! This country was ours ... We didn't cross the borders. The borders crossed us ... This country is based on exploitation!"

On NPR's "All Things Considered," Gloria Ramirez Vargas, a politician in Baja, Calif., rallied her constituents with a similar cry: " Many Mexicans are nourishing the ground in the U.S. , but those lands were once ours. Those same lands, which now with intelligence, with love and with a lot of work, we are re-conquering again for our Mexico."

On leading conservative talk show station KFI in Los Angeles, hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou interviewed Tony Valdez, who also invoked "manifest destiny" as a rationale for supporting the sabotage of our immigration laws. He pontificated about 1846, recycled the "We didn't cross the borders" nonsense, inveighed against the war in Iraq, and exclaimed: "You took this country. You killed people in order to take this country for yourselves."

Valdez is a FOX News 11 reporter at KTTV in L.A.

OK, so let's review:

-- Malkin presents us with the usual parade of fringe signs from the marches, ignoring of course the prevalence of American flags and pro-American signs. None of the signs are about Mexico retaking U.S. lands -- though there are many that advocate the notion that the Southwest is part of Latinos' indigenous homeland.

-- She gives us three live examples that are supposed to represent people advocating that the Southwest be returned to Mexico. Who are they? A student. An obscure local politician. And a TV reporter.

But note that only one of them (Ramirez Vargas) seems to actually advocate that. The reporter is talking about past injustices. The MEChA member is advocating the concept of Aztlan, which essentially holds that the Southwest is part of her people's indigenous homeland. She says nothing about "Mexico's right to reclaim American territory." Malkin's putting words in her mouth.

And note: None of them -- not one -- uses the phrase "Reconquista." Nor do any of the signs she cites.

Let's revisit Malkin's original claim:
Aztlan is a long-held notion among Mexico's intellectual elite and political class, which asserts that the American southwest rightly belongs to Mexico. Advocates believe the reclamation (or reconquista) of Aztlan will occur through sheer demographic force. If the rallies across the country are any indication, reconquista is already complete.

Are any of the people Malkin cites "among Mexico's intellectual elite and political class"?

Er, no.

Can she cite any examples of those "elite" -- or hey, even some shoot-from-the-hip right-wing pundit -- advocating "Reconquista"?

Er, no.

As for MEChA, there is no instance of "Reconquista!" advocacy on its record. The phrase does not appear in either El Plan de Santa Barbara or El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan, two of the 1969-era documents that get the "MEChA is racist" crowd all worked up. Nor can you find it in the more comprehensive, and current, "Philosophy of MEChA". None of them talk about returning Southwest territory to Mexico.

Indeed, as I pointed out way back when, the actual record of MEChA's activism is largely one of all-American advocacy. As one commenter I cited put it:
MeCHA has been an integral part of student life for decades; many, if not most, of my Chicano friends and acquaintances were involved with it; it was then and probably is now an advocacy organization which worked to bring Chicanos (now Latinos) into the educational institutions, to feed and clothe underprivileged children in the community, including those of the migrant farmworkers, was involved with Caesar Chavez in advocating for better working conditions for the migrant workers, and provided tutoring, mentoring, and fellowship for students, as do many other student organizations.

I don't think the Minutemen can say the same.

Perhaps more to the point, as I explored in detail then as well as more recently, where did the idea of "Reconquista!" originate?

Gen. Malkin won't tell you, Mandrake.

That's because it originated on the extremist right. It appears to have been coined, as a term applied to the current immigration wave from Mexico (the original Reconquista involved Spain's reacquisition of formerly Muslim lands), by Glenn Spencer, who runs the white-supremacist American Patrol organization. You know: the fellow who helped originate the concept of anti-Latino border patrols.

The kind of fellow who says things like:
"If the Border Patrol had done its job, using the technology that is available to us, we could stop these people," Spencer said in November, when he was a guest on the Donahue show. "This is an invasion of the United States!"

The kind of fellow who hands out videotapes of his conspiracy theory in Congress -- with a notable courier:
Spencer sent every member of Congress a copy of his videotape - "Bonds of Our Nation" - that purports to prove the Mexican government and Mexican-Americans are plotting to take over the American Southwest and create the nation of Aztlán. Hand-delivering the videos was Betina McCann, the fiancé of neo-Nazi Steven Barry.

The kind of fellow who fires shots into his neighbor's garage door:
After a neighbor reported hearing two shots fired and a weapon cocked outside her home, local officers drove out and found that bullets had been fired into the woman's garage door. Spencer, claiming that he opened fire after hearing suspicious noises outside, was arrested on three felony counts of disorderly conduct with a weapon, one felony count of endangerment and one count of misdemeanor criminal damage. A few days earlier, following a series of death threats against Spencer, his home headquarters had been burglarized, Spencer claimed.

Ah, yes ...
I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love...Yes, a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I-I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence. I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women, er, women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake ... but I do deny them my essence.




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Around The World


EU, Russia, U.S. discuss co-op on internal security

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-05 13:43:04

VIENNA, May 4 (Xinhua) -- Representatives of the European Union (EU), Russia and the United States discussed ways to strengthen cooperation on matters related to justice and home affairs at the Vienna Ministerial conference on Security Partnership on Thursday.
The one-day tripartite security dialogue held at Vienna's Hofburg Palace brought together U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini and Russian presidential aide Victor Petrovich Ivanov.

Austrian Interior Minister Liese Prokop, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, as well as representatives of Finland, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia also attended the meeting.

"Global threats such as terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings or illegal migration call for global responses," said Liese Prokop, also chairwoman of the meeting.

She stressed that the three parties defined four key principles and specific themes for future cooperation, which were "the willingness to work together to tackle common threats, the objective of making internal security a priority in external relations between the participating countries, joint preparation of concrete solutions in the fight against terrorism, crime and illegal migration and the mobilization of joint resources to achieve common goals in the field of security."

"Participants noted the importance of today's meeting which enabled for the first time ministers responsible for home affairs from the EU, the Russian Federation and the United States to have an open exchange of views in relation to security issues," said a declaration released after the joint press conference.



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Darfur Region Peace Plan in Jeopardy

By MICHELLE FAUL

ABUJA, Nigeria - Two of three rebel groups battling the Sudanese government for control of the country's Darfur region resisted intense international pressure on Friday to sign an accord aimed at ending a conflict that has claimed at least 180,000 lives.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged all countries to press the warring parties to reach agreement but warned the international community has an obligation to protect civilians in Darfur, by force if need be.


The small Justice and Equality Movement was the first to walk out overnight. Abdel Wahid Nur, of a faction of the main rebel Sudan Liberation Army, followed before dawn Friday saying: "We are not going to sign."

But another faction, led by Nur's rival Minni Minnawi, said it was willing to sign despite reservations believed linked to rejected rebel demands for Sudan to have a vice president from Darfur, said AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni. The issue of the vice presidency was believed the main reason the other factions had rejected a deal.

Mezni also said the Minnawi faction was willing to resume direct talks with the government; the parties have been negotiating through intermediaries in recent days.

Days of negotiations culminated in an all-night session with the African Union, rebels and envoys from the United States, Britain, the European Union and the Arab League. Deadlines have been extended twice since Sunday and Thursday's session went five hours beyond the midnight time limit.

Sudan's government was not involved because it already had agreed to the initial proposal drafted by AU mediators, and negotiators were waiting for the rebels to agree.

"These are all opportunities, but it requires leadership on the part of the movement that, frankly, is in question," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told reporters.

The last-ditch diplomatic efforts appeared doomed to failure, but Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Republic of Congo and current head of the 53-nation African Union, said "It has not yet ended."

Annan reminded world leaders that at September's U.N. World Summit they had agreed that if a state could not protect its citizens - or was the perpetrator of violence - "the international community, through the (Security) Council, has to take action, and, if need by, by force." He spoke in an interview on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS television.

The time had come to redeem that pledge, said Annan. The United States has accused Sudan's government of genocide in Darfur, while the U.N. has called the conflict the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Darfur rebels earlier had cautiously welcomed U.S.-drafted proposals to salvage the peace agreement.

Four pages of last-ditch revisions to the 85-page peace plan drawn up by African Union mediators offered concessions to the rebels on integrating fighters into the Sudan armed forces, compensation for war victims and power-sharing.

But as the session went well beyond the deadline, it became clear the rebels were unhappy.

Decades of low-level tribal clashes over land and water in Darfur, a vast region about the size of France, erupted into large-scale violence in early 2003 with rebels demanding regional autonomy. The government is accused of responding by unleashing Janjaweed militias upon civilians, a charge Sudan denies.

Sudan's government has shown increasing flexibility since the United States and Britain sent top envoys to the talks, indicating Wednesday that it could accept the U.S.-drafted changes.

"We hope that the Americans' suggestion will be agreed upon," government spokesman Abdulrahman Zuma told the AP.

Revisions to the peace plan made available to AP called for 4,000 rebels to be integrated into Sudan's armed forces and another 1,000 into the police force. In addition, 3,000 rebels would be given training and education at military colleges. The initial proposal mentioned no figures.

The new deal would give the rebels 33 percent of all newly integrated battalions nationwide, and 50 percent in areas to be agreed, notably Darfur.

It also called for a speedy disarmament of the Janjaweed militia that is accused of some of the worst atrocities in Darfur - an issue Zuma said Khartoum was willing to agree to. The initial proposal was for the militia to be confined to barracks.

Other significant changes included giving the rebels 70 percent of all legislators' seats in the three Darfurian provinces. It would be a major concession from Sudan's government but still does not meet rebel demands for the second vice presidency instead of the proposed special adviser to the president, which would be the No. 4 instead of No. 3 position in the Khartoum government hierarchy.



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Paris may seek Moussaoui transfer to France

Reuters
May 4, 2006

PARIS - France may ask the United States to allow September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to serve his life prison sentence in a French jail, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Moussaoui, a 37-year old French citizen of Moroccan origin, was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison with no possibility of release, a day after a jury spared his life and rejected U.S. government arguments that he should be executed.

France and the United States signed two agreements in the 1980s about the transfer of convicts. Moussaoui's mother and his lawyer want him to be allowed to serve his sentence in France.
"A possible demand for transferring Zacarias Moussaoui could be looked at within this framework," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said at an electronic press briefing.

"But in any case, we have to wait for the American justice system to provide a definitive sentence and to define the conditions of the sentence," he added.

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy later said in a statement that he had instructed the French embassy in Washington to "remain very attentive to the situation of Zacarias Moussaoui."

He made no comment about the verdict and did not mention the possibility of repatriating him.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declined to say whether Moussaoui could be extradited to France.

"I don't think it's appropriate at this time to comment on that," he told a news conference in Vienna on Thursday after talks with European Union and Russian counterparts on security cooperation.

"Obviously there's been no formal request made, and with respect to a request by the French government, we would of course consider it at that time," he said.

The jury found Moussaoui's actions had not resulted in the deaths of about 3,000 people on September 11 -- a central part of the government's argument that he should face the death penalty.

Moussaoui's mother, Aisha el Wafi, said her son would be living like a "rat in a hole" and accused France of siding with the United States during the trial.

"I feel there is a part of me that is dead, buried with my son who will be buried for the rest of his life at the age of 37 for things he hasn't done," she told a news conference in Paris.

"The whole world knows it now. France knows it too but France prefers to please the Americans anyway."

France provided information about Moussaoui to the United States on condition that it could not be used in a sentence leading to the death penalty, which it opposes.



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Ark's Quantum Quirks

Ark
Signs of the Times
May 5, 2006

Ark

No Little Mistakes




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Oil Oil Everywhere...


Cheney Visits Kazakhstan to Talk Oil

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

ASTANA, Kazakhstan - Vice President Dick Cheney traveled to Kazakhstan on Friday for talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev, seeking to maximize access to the vast oil and gas reserves in the central Asian nation with a troubled human-rights record.
Cheney became the fourth top administration official to visit the former Soviet republic in recent months, underscoring the importance placed on a country that is strategically located and an ally in the war on terror, as well as rich in energy resources.

Administration policy favors development of multiple means of delivering Kazakhstan's energy supplies to markets in the West and elsewhere.

Among them, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told Congress recently, the United States is "working on securing the flow of oil" from North Caspian oil fields by tanker to a pipeline terminus in Azerbaijan. That route would bypass Russia and
Iran. There has also been periodic talk of building a pipeline under the Caspian Sea.

Energy aside, one senior administration official said the vice president would prod Nazarbayev to make further democratic reforms in the country he has ruled since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

"The government's human-rights record remains poor," according to a recent State Department report.

It was unclear how Cheney would attempt to balance the two concerns - American energy needs in a time of high prices alongside a desire for political reforms. His talks came one day after a speech to East European leaders in Lithuania that sharply criticized Russia for backsliding on democracy.

One senior administration official traveling with Cheney said the remarks, which drew quick criticism from Moscow, had been "very well vetted" in advance within the administration.

Officials disclosed belatedly that while in Lithuania to attend a meeting of eastern European leaders, Cheney had met Thursday afternoon with Inna Kulei, the wife of the jailed Belarusian opposition leader, Alexander Milinkevich .

Meanwhile, a private group said Kazakh authorities on Friday barred an opposition leader from traveling to the capital Astana for a meeting with Cheney.

Police refused to grant Galymzhan Zhakiyanov permission to leave his home city, the commercial capital Almaty, the For a Fair Kazakhstan Alliance said in a statement. Zhakiyanov and other leaders of the alliance were invited to meet with Cheney in Astana on Saturday.

Last month, Zhakiyanov and another opposition leader, Bolat Abilov, were barred from leaving the country for meetings with European officials. Sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of office, Zhakiyanov was considered the Central Asian nation's highest-profile political prisoner before his early release in January.

The vice president's stop in Kazakhstan followed visits in recent months by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Samuel Bodman, secretary of energy.

According to the Web site of the U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Association, the Asian country has potential oil reserves of as much 110 billion barrels.

American energy companies are heavily invested in that nation's oil industry, and Halliburton, the company Cheney ran before becoming vice president, has an oil-field services presence there.

"Kazakhstan, an economic success story, is rapidly becoming one of the top energy producing nations in the world," Boucher told a House committee on April 26.

Along with its economic reforms, Boucher said, the nation "has an opportunity to achieve stability by upholding standards of democracy and human rights."

Nazarbayev has ruled the country, which shares borders with China and Russia, since the Soviet Union broke up, and recently was elected to what he has said will be his last term. The elections have been criticized for failing to meet international standards, but administration reaction has been muted. One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters that the "trend, even though it's not as fast as we would like, is in the right direction."

Still, an opposition leader, Altynbek Sarsenbayev, was killed earlier this year, prompting protests.

The vice president concludes a three-nation trip with a weekend visit to Croatia and is scheduled to return home Monday.



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Chávez plays oil card in Nicaragua

By Tim Rogers | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

MANAGUA, NICARAGUA - Venezuela's populist president Hugo Chávez has been accused of using his country's oil wealth to help elect like-minded leaders in Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, and Nicaragua. But there's been little evidence, until now.

A cooperation agreement signed last week between Nicaragua's Sandinista leader - and longtime US nemesis - Daniel Ortega and Mr. Chávez is being touted by many here as an initiative to sell oil to Nicaragua on credit, allowing the country to invest more in poverty-fighting projects. Critics call it a blatant attempt to buy the Nov. 5 presidential election for Mr. Ortega.
"Central America is important for Chávez because the rest of his influence is concentrated in the Andean countries [of South America]," says Michael Shifter, vice president for the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. Mr. Shifter says Chávez is clearly on a mission to challenge US influence in the region, but that he also appears genuinely concerned with helping the poor - two traits that don't necessarily contradict one another. "This shows a larger ambition, and he is focusing his resources on Nicaragua and calculating that Ortega has a chance to win [elections in November]."

In the past few years, Chávez has made high-profile deals to sell discounted oil to Central American and Caribbean nations, and even to poor citizens in US states such as New York and Massachusetts.

But the deal struck between Chávez and Ortega comes during a grinding energy crisis, and before a pivotal election that could see another leftist leader come to power in the region. In the past year, energy shortages here have led to power-rationing blackouts and transportation strikes. Under the agreement, Venezuela will accept 60 percent of payment within 90 days of shipment, while the remaining 40 percent will be paid off over 25 years at 1 percent interest, including a two-year grace period.

The deal could be one of the most important real-world applications to date of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a Latin American integration initiative started a year ago by Cuba and Venezuela to counter US efforts to promote hemispheric free-trade integration. ALBA promotes the principles of social and economic justice, but so far is known more for its symbolism than concrete action.

Yet the pact is gaining steam, with newly elected Bolivian President Evo Morales signing on to ALBA in Havana this past weekend to much fanfare. On Monday, Mr. Morales also sent shockwaves throughout the energy sector when he announced that he would nationalize Bolivia's gas reserves, the second largest in the region.

When in Venezuela last week, Ortega vowed to join ALBA if elected this November. But critics say the agreement between Chávez and Ortega, signed during Ortega's visit, effectively means Ortega has joined ALBA early, undermining the legitimacy of the current Nicaraguan government, and using Venezuelan oil money to boost his campaign bid.

"This is just a sophisticated mechanism for Ortega to launder Venezuelan money for his campaign," charged congressman Wilfredo Navarro, vice president of the incumbent Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC). "Forty percent credit is the same as 40 percent of the money that will disappear and end up in Ortega's campaign."

The Sandinistas, however, claim the pact with Venezuela is an example of how they offer solutions to problems that the pro-business government has been unable to resolve - a form of "governing from below," which Ortega promised he would do when his revolutionary government was voted out of office in 1990.

Since that time, Ortega's party has managed to consolidate enormous power in the legislative, judicial, and electoral branches of government, despite losing three presidential bids in the process. He's currently polling third among Nicaragua's presidential candidates, but is only six points behind the pro-business frontrunner and US favorite, Eduardo Montealegre.

Last month, the incumbent PLC accused Chávez of planning to finance Ortega's campaign to the tune of $50 million - an allegation that was denied by both Ortega and Venezuela's ambassador to Nicaragua.

President Enrique Bolańos, in statements to the local press, went as far as to warn Chávez that giving oil on credit to Sandinista mayors could constitute an electoral offense in Nicaragua.

Ortega maintains that the oil agreement is about helping the people of Nicaragua, rather than helping himself get elected. Yet the political implications of the pact with Chávez are obvious, and Ortega isn't afraid of playing that card.

"Where is the United States when Bolańos needs help resolving problems with oil prices?" Ortega demanded last September, following Chávez's initial promise to broker a deal with the Sandinistas. "The yanquis had hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in the war in Nicaragua; hundreds of million of dollars to kill Nicaraguans. But where is the US when Nicaragua has to start rationing energy?

"Chávez has an alternative, a proposal that's being implemented," Ortega added.

The US government, for its part, maintains that its commitment to Nicaragua's economic and social development is "longstanding, regardless of political affiliation," says US Embassy spokeswoman in Managua, Preeti Shah. "Since 1990 the United States has provided the people of Nicaragua with more than $1 billion with programs designed to improve health, education, trade and development, as well as democracy and the rule of law."

The Chavez-Ortega pact has led to the creation of a Nicaraguan-Venezuelan oil firm, Alba Petróleos de Nicaragua, which will be managed by Nicaragua's Sandinista-controlled municipal government association, known as AMUNIC.

Patricia Delgado, executive director of AMUNIC, says that the agreement is still "in the beginning stages of analysis," and that the logistics are still being worked out.

She estimates that the first shipment of oil could be made in October, but admits there are a lot of external factors at play. But once the company is up and running, she says, it could generate some serious income for the local governments.

"This will strengthen the autonomy of municipal governments and facilitate local development," Ms. Delgado says. "The municipalities can't wait for the central government, we have to keep moving forward and advancing with whomever will take our hand."

Sandinista congressman and hardliner Bayardo Arce agrees that the initiative will strengthen his party's leadership. "We are trying to offer answers on the municipal level, but when we return to govern the country, we will start to offer more integral answers," he said, after returning from Venezuela to help negotiate the oil deal.

Political analyst Carlos Fernando Chamorro says the Sandinistas should wait until the oil is distributed before they take too much credit for resolving the countries problems. "There is still a lot that is not clear about this agreement, and as long as the oil isn't coming, it remains just a campaign promise."



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Why Bush Won't Fix the Gas Price Problem

Will Durst
AlterNet
May 4, 2006

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyy!

Sorry. Didn't mean to startle you. I'm just tired of talking to myself here. Worried about shredding my vocal cords shouting into a vacuum. Apparently some of you have been nodding off. And don't give me that "who, me?" crap. You know who you are. Yes you. The ones who are waiting for the President to do something about this gas price thing. The ones who mistook that lame BS oozing out of his "gosh, gas prices are getting high, aren't they?" press conference as sincere. When are you going to get it through your tiny little heads? He's not here to help.

Let me go through this one more time. Stay with me. It's not that complicated. The President is a Texas oilman. His father is a Texas oilman. His vice president is an oilman who shoots Texas lawyers. All the rich people he knows, his father knows and Dick Cheney knows have 30 weight running through their veins. All the people who gave him money that put him in the White House are oilmen.
Does this clear anything up? Maybe a little? His major priority is to pay them back in spades, then they tell him what a good job he's doing and give him more money.

So if you're waiting for him to grow a spine or learn to read or ever ever ever go so far as erecting a single solitary obstacle in the way of folks making obscene profits on fossil fuels... you'd best be advised not to hold your breath unless you enjoy that certain bluish look most often associated with people no longer eligible for social security benefits due to the fact that they've become altogether much too skinny and dead. Get it? Got it. Good.

The President says "there's no magic wands." No kidding. Neither are there talking fish or fairy wings or giant toadstools upon which Donald Rumsfeld can perch naked eating flies with his bifurcated tongue. What's your point?

Bush plans to investigate possible

collusion or price fixing and the good news is, the report is already finished and it turns out everything is okey dokey folks. Nope, everything's on the up and up and George knows because his buddies assured him it is.

He also plans to relax environmental rules which you could see coming like an 18 wheeler full of concrete blocks rolling off a 45 degree ramp straight up the driveway towards your front door. He wants to boost domestic supply, which is code for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, baby and he's delaying deposits into our strategic petroleum reserve, which might save a thimble's worth. Measures destined to be about as effective as cleats on a duck.

I've come up a few other things the President could do that would be as effective to cut gas prices:

* Run around in circles until he gets dizzy and falls down.

* Bang a walking stick on the ground real hard like Nanny McPhee.

* Get the entire House of Representatives to sing "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog" in the key of off.
* Lay a wreath of 80 dollar gas receipts at the tomb of the unknown SUV driver.

* Shoot a 78 year old Texas lawyer in the face with a gun.

* Propose a bill that gives more tax incentives to oil companies.

* And the last thing the President can do that will be as effective as what he's doing now in cutting gas prices... mandate the oil companies change their accounting practices to base 12 so those profits don't sound so big.



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Wobbling World Economy


The fallout from a falling dollar

May 05, 2006
By Ron Scherer | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

NEW YORK - For two weeks, the dollar has been hammered as foreign buyers shun the US currency.

As a result, the Canadian "loonie" is at its highest point in 30 years. The British pound is at its uppermost level since last September. Even the closely managed yen is at a six-month peak.

If the dollar were to continue falling, it could have wide ramifications:
- It could imperil the economy next year because Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke might have to defend the currency with higher interest rates.

- A lower-valued dollar makes imports more expensive, possibly ratcheting up the inflation rate. But it could also stimulate US exports, thus providing more jobs.

- This summer, Americans traveling abroad will feel as if everything is expensive. However, foreigners coming to America will feel as if the country is one giant Wal-Mart.

Behind the falling currency is a changing global economy. As the US Federal Reserve appears to be near the end of its round of interest-rate hikes, foreign banks are starting to hike their rates - which puts foreign currencies in higher demand, thus making the dollar less attractive. Thursday, in fact, the president of the European Central Bank indicated that rates could rise in Europe next month. At the same time, the giant US trade imbalance has produced a huge outflow of dollars to other countries, as well as the need to finance the ever-bigger US deficit. The deficit has attracted increasing scrutiny, most recently at a meeting of finance ministers in Washington last month.

In addition, the central banks of some foreign countries, which are key in financing the US deficit by buying US Treasury bills, are now less willing to do so. Instead, they're diversifying their reserve holdings with euros and yen.

"We seem to have reached a crossroads," says Anthony Chan, chief economist at JPMorgan Private Client Services in Columbus, Ohio. With foreign interest rates on the rise, he says, it will become harder to finance the US current account deficit.

Last year, the trade deficit in goods and services hit a record $726 billion, as US imports far exceeded exports. The gap has now reached 7 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, says Robert Scott, senior international economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

A big part of the rise - some 63 percent - is because of the surging price of oil. US energy officials expect the price to remain at these levels, if not higher, for some time.

The largest non-oil deficit is with China, which last year recorded a $202 billion surplus with the United States. On April 21, the world's finance ministers issued a statement calling for "exchange rate flexibility" in emerging economies with large current account surpluses, "especially China."

On Wednesday and Thursday, finance ministers in Japan and Europe tried to stem the dollar's fall. The Japanese Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki warned that flexible exchange rates could cause speculation that could hurt the world economy. Both the euro and the yen were little changed after the comments.

In the 1980s, there was also a large trade deficit, and the greenback was devalued by 50 percent, Mr. Scott says. "The trade gap, which had been 3 percent of GDP, was reduced to 1 percent of GDP in two years," he says.

Financing the current US trade deficit is requiring increasing agility. "Every business day requires $3.5 billion of net new money entering the country to finance the current account deficit," says Jay Bryson, an international economist at Wachovia Securities in Charlotte, N.C.

Most of that money comes from foreign central banks, which own large amounts of dollars. Recently, however, the central banks of Sweden, Finland, and Russia have said they will diversify their foreign reserve holdings and reduce their US dollars.

Behind the shift may be concern that the dollar will be devalued, making their holdings worth less. Ten-year US securities, for example, have started to reflect this risk.

To date, the imbalance has not caused much economic pain, Mr. Bryson says. The dollar, on a trade-weighted basis, is actually higher than it was last year at this time. But it's down about 12 percent from its highs at the end of the 1990s.

He cautions, however, "My guess is that sooner or later, probably later, foreigners will get tired of financing us, and at that point, long-term rates will start to rise."

One way to keep foreign investors interested in US dollars is to raise interest rates, says Mr. Chan. But the risk, he says, is that "we slow down to the point where it may even become a recession."

The large US budget deficit doesn't help, says Bryson. "The US is spending more than it produces, and to the extent government is spending more, it becomes a compounding factor," says Bryson.

It's possible that the trade imbalance will be discussed in July when the world's leaders meet for their annual economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. "They should invite China and India and come up with some deal to adjust currencies, consumption, and savings rates around the world," says Clyde Prestowitz, head of the Economic Strategy Institute.

Even now, Americans traveling in other countries will notice a difference from the late 1990s, when the dollar was strong. For a family of four, tickets to a Toronto Blue Jays game will cost $18 more, a room at the Hotel Duret in Paris is an additional $44, and a ride on the London Eye is an extra $3 per person.



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Bush Clears the Way for Corporate Domination

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted May 5, 2006.


When George W. Bush says that he wants to spread freedom to every corner of the earth, he means it.

But of course the president that turned Soviet-era gulags into secret CIA prisons in order to do God-knows-what to God-knows-whom isn't talking about individual freedom. He means corporate freedom -- freedom for the great multinationals to extract everything they can from the world's resources and labor without the hindrance of public interest laws, environmental regulations or worker protections.

Bush's vision of a free world actually looks just like the corporate globalization agenda pushed by a succession of American presidents in institutions like the World Trade Organization.

But this administration yearns for freedom too much to leave it up to trade negotiators. Unlike his predecessors, Bush isn't content to use carrots and sticks and a liberal dose of arm twisting to advance that agenda. His administration has made the neoliberal policies euphemistically referred to as "free-trade" a centerpiece of its national security policy.

Bush is willing to use the awesome force of the United States military to guarantee the freedom of the world's largest multinationals.

In her new book, The Bush Agenda, Antonia Juhasz peels the veils away from Bush's agenda -- imperialism, militarism and corporate globalization -- and exposes who drives it: a group of hawkish ideologues with an unprecedented relationship to major defense and energy companies.

Juhasz shows that the invasion of Iraq -- an invasion that was as much economic as military -- was the centerpiece of a larger project: the creation a New American Century in which the end-goal of American foreign policy is to enrich the corporate elites, and dissent at home will not be tolerated. Juhasz is a wonk -- she got her start as a staffer for Rep. John Conyers -- but the book is as readable as it is deeply researched.

I caught up with Juhasz last week at Washington's Union Station, just blocks away from the White House, to chat about The Bush Agenda.

Joshua Holland: [19th century Prussian military philosopher Carl von] Clausewitz said that war is an extension of politics by other means. You suggest that for the Bush administration, war is an extension of corporate globalization by other means. Run down your basic premise.

Antonia Juhasz: The Bush administration has implemented a particularly radical model of corporate globalization by which it has teamed overt military might -- full-scale invasion -- with the advancement of its corporate globalization agenda. And this model is particularly imperial -- that's one of the things that makes it different from, for example, the Reagan or Bush Sr. regimes. As opposed to simply replacing the head of a regime that is no longer serving the interests of the administration, the Bush team has gone further -- using a military invasion to fundamentally transform a country's political and economic structure.

It is also using an occupation to maintain that altered structure, which is the definition of imperialism in my mind: spreading the empire by changing the very laws of foreign nations to service the empire's needs. And, as Bush is repeatedly saying, "Iraq is only the beginning." I detail the rest of the empire's pursuits across the Middle East in the chapter on the U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area.

The fundamental purpose of the book was to determine how this model came to be, where its advocates hope it will go and who its advocates are so that we can better dismantle it.

JH: But Bush isn't the first to use a full-scale invasion -- unilaterally -- in furtherance of those goals. I think of Reagan's invasion of Grenada to knock off Maurice Bishop, a moderate socialist.

AJ: There was no occupation, and it wasn't done the same way that the Bush administration -- using its own tools, its own people, its own policies -- to explicitly restructure the entire functioning of the country's economy to serve its own ends. Reagan wanted a different leader, a leader that would meet his needs and that was enough. Bush has locked in an entirely new economic and political structure. I'm certainly not justifying the invasion of Grenada, but for me that was quantitatively different.

JH: What is Pax Americana -- the "American Peace" -- and what is it about the original Roman version, Pax Romana, that makes it a poor model to emulate?

AJ: I talk about Pax Americana because that's what members of the administration talk about -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby, Khalilzad, Perle, Zoellick, Bolton. ... In fact, there are 16 members of the Bush administration that were also participants in the Project for the New American Century, which was very clear that the U.S. not only has a Pax Americana but should seek to maintain it.

This is problematic because it seeks to achieve the Roman model, with an all-powerful emperor who ran his kingdom on 50 percent slave labor, who eliminated all guarantees of civil liberties and eliminated all civic participation, but maintained the fallacy of public institutions and participatory government to keep the elites at bay -- to make elites feel like they had the presence and prestige of serving in government.

So there were senators and there were "representatives of the people," but of course the emperor appointed those he wanted to sit in the senate, and he chose those who would serve his interests. And then he appointed regional overlords to oversee the rest of the empire. In addition, the idea that Rome generated peace -- that it really was in fact a Pax Romana that guaranteed peace for the rest of the world -- is false. To create the empire, there was an enormous amount of war and bloodshed, and also to maintain the empire there was continued fighting as nations and peoples were forced to acquiesce.

However, there was a period of about 200 years where there was relatively less struggle within Rome over who would rule. But one key reason Rome was able to maintain that internal peace was all the money that the empire poured into public services -- building aqueducts, providing services, supporting intellectual thought and -- as I say in the book -- creating the Western Canon.

The Bush administration has chosen all the worst elements of the Roman Empire: the lack of civil liberties and the movement towards a nonrepresentative government run by a dictator. Even the most conservative Republican columnist will admit that Bush has consolidated more and more power in the executive branch than any president in modern history. And he's increased the proportion of people in the United States in the lower income sphere, people who have to work day in and day out in order to meet basic needs like health care, and who often aren't able to meet those needs. I argue that that is a modern form of slavery.

And while the administration is explicitly imperial -- it is trying to annex other nations through its military and its economic policy -- its not putting any of that attention to public education, public resources and public services. So we are getting the worst of the worst. And just as it was a myth that the Pax Romana created world peace, the Pax Americana clearly generates more global insecurity. Acts of deadly terror have increased every year of the Bush administration; they increased more than three-fold between 2003 and 2004.

JH: So he's not just the worst president ever, he's also the worst ...

AJ: ... Yes, he's also the worst emperor ever.

JH: You're blunt about calling Iraq an economic invasion. Most analyses are geopolitical, but you put it together with the long-standing wish list of the corporate globalists. Can you tell me about Bremer's100 rules and what Bearing Point is?

AJ: If you look at the corporations that have profited most from the invasion -- Bechtel, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin and Chevron -- these are all corporations that have decades of operations and activities trying to increase their economic engagement in Iraq -- lobbying the U.S. government to increase their access to Iraq. And they've done so successfully -- first with Saddam Hussein and later with the coalition authorities and now with the new government of Iraq. They have participated with or guided -- you can choose the word you want -- the Bush administration in its invasion. Through their executives, they played key roles in advocating for war. George Shultz is the perfect example and one I focus on in the book.

I emphasize that it's an absolute fallacy that there was no post-war plan. The plan was written two months before the invasion of Iraq by a company, Bearing Point Inc., which is based in Virginia -- it was KPMG Consulting until it changed its name in the wake of the Arthur Anderson-Enron corruption scandals. The company is not well-known. It works behind the scenes for every branch of government, and it provides all kinds of consulting services.

Bearing point received a $250 million contract from USAID to write a remodeled structure for the Iraqi economy. It was to transition Iraq from a state-controlled economy to a market economy, but I argue that the new model was more a state-controlled economy that is controlled on behalf of multinational corporations, and heavily regulated in fact on behalf of multinational corporations. It just no longer serves the public interest.

Bearing point's plan was implemented to a T by L. Paul Bremer, the administrator of Iraq's coalition government. The U.N.'s special envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, called him the "Dictator of Iraq," and he was. He ruled Iraq for 14 months, and he implemented Bearing Point's plan; he rewrote Iraq's entire economic and political structure by implementing his 100 orders. The orders had the force of law, and any Iraqi laws that contradicted the orders were overridden.

The 100 orders put into place a standard set of corporate globalization policies. Instead of having to wait for Iraq to become a member of the World Trade Organization, for example, or to fulfill requirements of the International Monetary Fund or World Bank, or worrying about whether the policies they most wanted would be accepted, the administration was able to simply invade, occupy and impose those provisions itself. And many of those provisions have been long opposed at institutions like the WTO -- for example the investments provisions -- but they were implemented overnight in Iraq with a stroke of the pen by Paul Bremer.

Probably the most important order in terms of what happened with the occupation was the very first order. Bremer fired 120,000 key bureaucrats in every government ministry in Iraq. That meant that ministries that had been functioning very well for decades lost their bureaucracies almost overnight. The excuse that was given was that they were Ba'ath Party members, but nobody could hold those positions unless they belonged to the Ba'ath Party, so it wasn't an indication that they were a party to Saddam Hussein's crimes. They were fired because they could have stood in the way of the economic transformation.

Then there was the firing of the entire Iraqi military, and I think that problem is well-known. Less well-known is how that played out in relation to the rest of the orders. Order number 39 was the foreign investment order. There were several provisions which I detail in the book, but the most important may be national treatment, which meant that Iraqis could not preference Iraqi companies and Iraqi workers in the reconstruction.

So 150 United States corporations have received $50 billion for work in Iraq, $33 billion of which was exclusively for standard reconstruction -- building bridges, repairing electricity and repairing water. But originally the plan was to use the soldiers -- the Iraqi military -- for the reconstruction. Instead of taking a half a million men and canceling their salaries and sending them home with guns, they were going to go to work and get money, and provide for their families and be part of the reconstruction.

Even worse is that those American companies failed. Miserably. And it's not just because of the insurgency -- the insurgency didn't begin immediately. They failed because they went in to maximize their profit, to build the most expensive state-of-the-art systems they could and to get their feet firmly in Iraq so they would be able to profit long term. But what Iraq needed was just to get the systems up and running. It was summer in the desert.

JH: How long did it take for Iraq to get those systems up after the first invasion?

AJ: Three months. The Iraqi workers and companies rebuilt their systems in three months.

JH: OK, so Bremer imposed these rules under the Coalition Provisional Authority. Explain how rules set up by a provisional government ended up codified in Iraq's new constitution?

AJ: Bremer appointed an interim government for Iraq when the occupation formally ended. The interim government, together with Bremer, threw out the existing Iraqi Constitution. And I think at the time there was this idea that it was a nation being molded out of the dirt -- that it didn't have a government, didn't have a structure -- and here was the United States helping them form a constitutional convention. But they had a government, they had a constitution -- they've had a constitution since 1922. We didn't have to create a constitutional government for them.

The first constitution that was written had all of Bremer's orders, and it could only be changed by a very complicated process -- it essentially locked the orders in. Then the new constitution for Iraq was supposed to be "of the people." It was drafted by the interim government and put to a popular vote. But it was crafted so that it locked into place the occupation, the economic transformation, the constitutionality of the new oil law -- which the United States had drafted -- and all of the Bremer orders.

The only public discussion of the constitution was the few things people were gleaning from the press and what their religious leaders -- who were themselves gleaning it from the press -- told them. Five days before the constitution was to be voted on, the paper copies were released. They made 5 million copies for 15 million voters. And on that same day, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, was meeting with influential Iraqi leaders to rewrite fundamental aspects of that very constitution. There was absolutely no way that the vast majority of the Iraqi people had any idea what was in the constitution. They were voting for hope, and they risked their lives to do so. But there's no way they knew that they were voting to maintain the Bremer orders.

JH: What's the Hague Convention of 1907?

AJ: Under international law an occupying government has one set of responsibilities, and they're very clear. An occupying government must provide security and basic services. An occupying government explicitly cannot fundamentally rewrite the laws of the country they're occupying. The United States did exactly the opposite; we rewrote the laws, and we didn't provide basic services or security for the people.

JH: Did we ratify the Hague Conventions?

AJ: We certainly did.

JH: You focus on four firms that pushed the policy and have profited handsomely from the invasion: Bechtel, Chevron, Lockheed Martin and Halliburton. But there are many other multinational corporations that have both made a killing in Iraq and have close ties to both the administration and to the conservative movement more generally. Why those four and, playing devil's advocate, is there a danger focusing on a small number of firms when the issues are militarism and corporate globalization more broadly?

AJ: These four companies have the longest relationship to Iraq. Through their executives, they lobbied on behalf of an invasion of Iraq, and they have profited more than almost all other companies from that invasion. And they have intimate interlocking relationships with this administration. They demonstrate very clearly how, in the Bush administration, there essentially is no distinction between corporate characters and government characters. They also are companies that because of their corporate behavior around the world have preexisting and longstanding movements -- social movements -- that are organized against their harmful actions, which readers of the book support and become a part of.

JH: That's a great segue. In your final chapter, you discuss ways that people can oppose the Bush agenda, and you suggest that another agenda is possible. I think that's very important because so many books bash Bush and then leave readers feeling dispirited. Name just one thing that needs to be done to reverse this agenda?

AJ: There are so many alternatives, and I give concrete examples of solutions -- for how to end the economic invasion of Iraq. What I hoped to do in the last chapter was to present the movements and many of the ideas generating fundamental change already. I wanted to empower people -- to show that the information in the book can be used as a tool for these movements and a tool for change.

So I give examples of not only different policies, but I also give examples of organizations and communities that have been successfully mobilizing against the full Bush agenda -- that means corporate globalization, war and imperialism. To me that's more important than any one of the alternatives that I present. The whole point of the chapter is that there are, thankfully, millions of alternatives to choose from. And we're already seeing successful transformation -- there are real movements that we can join and in which we can have an impact.





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Korea, China, Japan to Kickstart Single Asian Currency

May.4,2006 21:11 KST

Korea, China and Japan have agreed to start joint research at government level on introducing an Asian single currency comparable to the euro. Finance Minister Han Duck-soo made the agreement with his Chinese counterpart Jin Renqing and Japan's Sadakazu Tanigaki on the sidelines of the 39th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in India.
This is the first time governments have decided to make concrete efforts toward the launch of the Asian currency unit (ACU), which only exists as a theoretical construct. So far, calls have mostly come from the private sector.

The three countries will set up a research team staffed by government officials and experts at public and private research institutes by the end of the year and come up with a framework for the ACU. The finance ministers agreed the research efforts should start at the ASEAN+3 Finance Ministers' Meeting.

While the ministers were on the same page in their optimism about the three countries' economic prospects this year, they warned that continuing high oil prices and rising interest rates worldwide pose a threat to the regional economy.



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Cosmic Weirdness


One Big Bang, or were there many?

James Randerson, science correspondent
Friday May 5, 2006
The Guardian

The universe is at least 986 billion years older than physicists thought and is probably much older still, according to a radical new theory.

The revolutionary study suggests that time did not begin with the big bang 14 billion years ago. This mammoth explosion which created all the matter we see around us, was just the most recent of many.

The standard big bang theory says the universe began with a massive explosion, but the new theory suggests it is a cyclic event that consists of repeating big bangs and big crunches - where every particle of matter collapses together.
"People have inferred that time began then, but there really wasn't any reason for that inference," said Neil Turok, a theoretical physicist at the University of Cambridge, "What we are proposing is very radical. It's saying there was time before the big bang."

Under his theory, published today in the journal Science with Paul Steinhardt at Princeton University in New Jersey, the universe must be at least a trillion years old with many big bangs happening before our own. With each bang, the theory predicts that matter keeps on expanding and dissipating into infinite space before another horrendous blast of radiation and matter replenishes it. "I think it is much more likely to be far older than a trillion years though," said Prof Turok. "There doesn't have to be a beginning of time. According to our theory, the universe may be infinitely old and infinitely large."

Today most cosmologists believe the universe will carry on expanding until all the stars burn out, leaving nothing but their cold dead remains. But there is an inherent problem with this picture. The Cosmological Constant - a mysterious force first postulated by Albert Einstein that appears to be driving the galaxies apart - is much too small to fit the theory. Einstein later renounced it as his "biggest blunder".

The Cosmological Constant is a mathematical representation of the energy of empty space, also known as "dark energy", which exerts a kind of anti-gravity force pushing galaxies apart at an accelerating rate.

It happens to be a googol (1 followed by 100 zeroes) times smaller than would be expected if the universe was created in a single Big Bang. But its value could be explained if the universe was much, much older than most experts believe.

Mechanisms exist that would allow the Constant to decrease incrementally through time. But these processes would take so long that, according to the standard theory, all matter in the universe would totally dissipate in the meantime.

Turok and Steinhardt's theory is an alternative to another explanation called the "anthropic principle", which argues that the constant can have a range of values in different parts of the universe but that we happen to live in a region conducive to life.

"The anthropic explanations are very controversial and many people do not like them," said Alexander Vilenkin a professor of theoretical physics at Tufts University in Maryland. Rather than making precise predictions for features of the universe the anthropic principle gives a vague range of values so it is difficult for physicists to test, he added.

"It's absolutely terrible, it really is giving up," said Prof Turok, "It's saying that we are never going to understand the state of the universe. It just has to be that way for us to exist." His explanation by contrast is built up from first principles.

But if he's right, how long have we got until the next big bang? "We can't predict when it will happen with any precision - all we can say is it won't be within the next 10 billion years." Good job, because if we were around we would instantly disintegrate into massless particles of light.

Comment: Joseph Henry Press has the following to say on this topic...See here
Traditionally, cosmologists have scoffed at amateurs who dared to ask such questions. Imagine my fascination, then, to discover that some of those very cosmologists themselves secretly harbored the same wonders about what happened ěbefore the beginning. I remember when this realization hit me, while listening to the cosmologist Andrei Linde deliver a talk at a workshop in 1991, in which his discussion led up to asking what happened before the big bang. "It is impossible to ask the question," he said. "But it is impossible not to be curious about this." After his talk, I interviewed him and asked for details. "I would say that what we are seeing now perhaps was not the big bang but was one in a sequence of bangs," he said. "There are many small bangs. The universe not only produces galaxies, it reproduces itself many times." So if Linde is right, it does make sense to ask what happened before our big bang. And it does make sense to talk about more than one "universe." The universe we see may be just one member of an extended ultracosmic family. As Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, puts it, "Our entire universe may be just one element - one atom, as it were - in an infinite ensemble: a cosmic archipelago." It's as dramatic a shift in human thinking, Rees writes, as the Copernican revolution and the subsequent realization "that the Earth is orbiting a typical star on the edge of . . . just one galaxy among countless others." In a similar way, the universe may be just one "bubble" of space in a megafroth of cosmic carbonation extending far beyond the view of any conceivable telescope...."


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Astronomers marvel at 'Red Spot Jr.'

May 4 2006
UPI

WASHINGTON - Astronomers say NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is giving them their most detailed view yet of a second red spot emerging on Jupiter.

The sighting marks the first time in history astronomers have witnessed the birth of a new red spot on the Solar System's giant planet, half a billion miles from Earth. Researchers suggest the new red spot may be related to a possible major climate change in Jupiter's atmosphere.
Dubbed by some astronomers as "Red Spot Jr.," the new spot has been followed by amateur and professional astronomers for the past few months. But Hubble's new images provide a level of detail comparable to that achieved by NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft as they flew by Jupiter a quarter-century ago.



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Japanese researchers find new giant picture on Peru's Nazca Plateau

Manichi Daily News
April 20 2006

A new giant picture on the Nazca Plateau in Peru, which is famous for giant patterns that can be seen from the air, has been discovered by a team of Japanese researchers.

The image is 65 meters long, and appears to be an animal with horns. It is thought to have been drawn as a symbol of hopes for good crops, but there are no similar patterns elsewhere, and the type of the animal remains unclear.

The discovery marks the first time since the 1980s that a picture other than a geometrical pattern has been found on the Nazca Plateau.
The picture was found by a team of researchers including Masato Sakai, an associate professor at Yamagata University, after they analyzed images from a U.S. commercial satellite. They confirmed it was a previously undiscovered picture in a local survey in March this year. It is located at the south of the Nazca Plateau, and apparently went undiscovered since few tourist planes pass over the area.

There is evidence that vehicles had driven in the area, and part of the picture is destroyed.

Two parts of the picture, that appear to be horns, bear close resemblance to those that appear on earthenware dating from 100 B.C. to A.D. 600, during the time when the Nazca kingdom flourished, and it is thought that they relate to fertility rites.

The research team will use images from the advanced land-observing satellite "Daichi," which was launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in January this year, to create a distribution map of images on the earth that can be seen from the air.



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