Sections on today's Signs Page:
Editorial: The Gladiator: John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Gaius Gracchus Flees From The Wealthy Elite
In my previous post, I included a chapter from Farewell America which gave a broad overview of the "American Psyche." It is crucial to understand the forces at play here in order to understand why John Kennedy was murdered, and why, when he died, the death knell of the American Republic - as well as its people - began sounding.
As I have written before, most Americans are woefully ignorant of their true history, and by design.
It is true that the early settlers who came to America were, by and large, oppressed and desperate individuals; outcasts in a despotic feudal system. Yes, many of them were persecuted for their religious beliefs, but one needs to understand why they adopted those beliefs: it generally because they were oppressed and desperate! In general, they had little money to undertake such a venture and so most of them were funded by various European business interests who hoped to establish centers of trade so that they could benefit from the vast natural resources of the new land.
The fact that America was already occupied by "uncivilized savages" didn't count for much; it never has.
In the end, the colonists were brutally exploited and woefully unprepared for their ventures. The experiences of the early settlers soon taught them that mutual support and interdependence as well as industry and moderation were the keys to success. They worked long and hard and improved their lot individually and collectively. Many of them cooperated with the Native Americans rather than seeing them as enemies to be destroyed.
Hot on their heels, however, were European business interests which sent their agents across the sea to set up shop on the graves of those they had used to pave the way. Greedy opportunists and upper class land grantees followed and few found their dreams of riches or simple prosperity thwarted.
And certainly, John Calvin's philosophies were useful to keep everyone working hard and suffering nobly.
After a bit, it became apparent that the competition and greed of the business world of Europe was going to interfere with the new wealthy elite of the New World, and a hue and cry was raised which has echoed over two-hundred years.
As it happened, the philosophies being expounded in the European scientific and literary circles at the time, came in handy as idealistic and inspirational extrapolations with which to underpin a spreading revolutionary spirit. And, for a single hour it seemed that the common people and the elite were united in their efforts to overcome despotism and oppression -- the American Revolution.
Naturally, the common man was just the pawn in this war game, but history taught in American schools doesn't say much about that. Instead, they invoke the glorious image of "Democracy!" as the be-all and end-all of the Revolution, and what a great achievement it was. And, most often, "Democracy" is equated with Capitalism. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Contrary to popular conceptions and teachings, the American Revolution did not create the American nation as we know it today. The Articles of Confederation actually bound thirteen new nations, each theoretically sovereign in its own right, into a loose confederacy. The Continental Congress could legislate but not enforce. However, the effects of the Revolution had been financially disastrous to everyone. The national and state debts went unpaid (monies owed to the wealthy elite who had financed the war - and for those who wonder, yes, some were Jews and some were not, so don't go off on the Jews on this one!), trade declined and credit collapsed.
Left to their own devices, the New Americans would have eventually sorted these problems out based upon emerging priorities and systems involving barter and mutually satisfying personal agreements. A real Democracy might have flourished, though it wouldn't have been necessarily Capitalistic.
Tradition teaches us that a group of "noble patriots" called a Constitutional Convention to "further the principles of democracy", as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. Again, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Constitution actually checked the development of democracy.
In some of the states, a moratorium on debt was enacted to relieve the farmers who had fought in the war. But, in the largest and wealthiest states, the planters of Virginia, the manor lords of New York, and the merchants of Massachusetts and Connecticut, refused to give an inch.
Massachusetts went so far as to prohibit barter and mutual support schemes to which the impoverished returning soldiers had been forced to resort. Daniel Shay, a Revolutionary captain who had been cited for bravery at Bunker Hill, had come out of the war, as had many others, with nothing. (General Lafayette had presented him with a sword which he was soon forced to sell.) Seeing so many others like himself, he was filled with the injustice of the actions of the wealthy elite. He organized a force of 800 farmers and attempted to prevent the sitting of the courts which were foreclosing the properties of the returning soldiers. Shay's army was dispersed by the state militia but his action thoroughly frightened the upper classes.
Samuel Adams begged Congress for federal aid to protect "property rights" and Congress authorized a force designed to prevent any further rebellion.
General Henry Knox wrote:
"The people who are the insurgents have never paid any, or but very little taxes -- But they see the weakness of government'... They feel at once their own poverty, compared with the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter, in order to remedy the former. Their creed is 'That the property of the United States has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore ought to be the common property of all. And he that attempts opposition to this creed is an enemy to equity and justice, and ought to be swept from the face of the earth.' In a word they are determined to annihilate all debts public and private and have agrarian laws, which are easily effected by means of unfunded paper money which shall be a tender in all cases whatsoever."
Now notice what the good general was saying: he tells us that the PEOPLE of the new land wanted - demanded - that the property of the United States be "the common property of all."
That sounds a bit "Socialistic," doesn't it. Can you believe it? Our forefathers demanded a Socialist government! I don't know about you, but I have half a dozen Revolutionary War soldiers (or more) in my family tree, and it surprised me to learn that my ancestors were demanding Socialism, especially when we all know - or have been told - that Socialism is that evil first step toward Communism; and we all know how evil Communism is, right? Well, we'll come back to this. For now, let me just comment that the "insurgents" may have paid very little taxes, but they paid much blood. (It is also interesting to note that Knox referred to the New Americans as "insurgents." Isn't this word being used pejoratively against those Iraqis who are opposing the US invasion of their country at the present time? My, my!
Nevertheless, seized with fear that a democracy would actually be enacted, the wealthy classes murmured for a government by "the rich, well-born, and capable." (John Adams) Ezra Stiles and Noah Webster were vocal opponents of democracy. Webster claimed that:
"The very principle of admitting everybody to the right of suffrage prostrates the wealth of individuals to the rapaciousness of a merciless gang."
They were well and truly indoctrinated by Calvin, weren't they? And being such good "Christians," it is surprising that they never noted (or at least didn't want to notice) that funny little remark in the New Testament about the "Jesus People" sharing one with another and that they owned "everything in common."
In any event, taking advantage of the situation, Alexander Hamilton induced Congress to call a convention in 1787 to ostensibly revise the Articles of Confederation. Hamilton made no bones about his views that only the wealthy and educated were fit to rule.
"It is usually stated that Hamilton's great achievement was to bring the men of wealth to the support of the new nation, but it could equally well be stated that he brought the new nation to the support of the men of wealth. Indeed it might be said that the new nation was created largely for that very purpose." [M. L. Wilson]
Those who met for the Constitutional Convention were, and knew they were, the elite -- wealthy, educated and intellectual. They believed that others like them must continue to rule for their own protection. The public good was a secondary issue (if it was an issue at all). They meant to create a system in which this could be perpetuated, constitutionally, legally, and peacefully.
Adopting strictest rules of secrecy, they proceeded to create the American Constitution.
M.L. Wilson wrote in Democracy Has Roots, that the Constitution was "a remarkable achievement in the avoidance of majority rule."
It is not surprising that the ratification of this Constitution was popularly opposed. The conventioners promised to amend it at the first regular session of Congress. These promised amendments came to be known as the "Bill of Rights" and it is in these first ten amendments that Americans have their supposed "Constitutional Rights." A sobering thought when one considers that amendments have been repealed in the past.
But for the "Bill of Rights," hundreds of years of blood-letting for personal liberty would have been tossed on the trash heap by the new American Federal Government.
This new "Constitutional" government, rapidly propagated the ideals of materialism and capitalism. And, in a process of unadulterated propaganda, these ideals have been inextricably linked with "democracy" as though the two were identical.
The result of this has been a vast chasm between the "haves" and the "have-nots" which grows wider and deeper every day, while the former continue to dupe the latter into believing in and sacrificing their lives for that which does not exist and never did.
John Kennedy knew all of this. He was intelligent, well-educated, well-traveled, observant and, most of all, he had a heart; conscience. Let's take another look at a passage from Farewell America that recounts what happens to Empires that start on the path that was taken the day John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. On one, bright sunny day in Dallas Texas, 43 years ago, America was on the path to the top of the mountain and in less than a minute, everything changed; now, it is doomed to the abyss of despair.
"I don't think in this administration or in our generation or time will this country be at the top of the hill, but some day it will be, and I hope when it is that they will think we have done our part . . ." JOHN F. KENNEDY
Empires have always succumbed to the same disease. With each new conquest, Rome thrust forward her frontiers and retreated from her principles. The first Romans were simple people, wholly devoted to their land and their gods, But the pilgrims, the settlers and the' sages were succeeded by a promiscuous mob that capitalized on the victories. The growing number of slaves and the afflux of the poor swelled the population. The patricians found their chances for survival considerably reduced as hordes of former slaves, freed and newly wealthy, fought over their estates.
For the Romans, all things reflected their greatness -- the victories of Marius, Pompey, and Caesar, but also the Empire, history, and the future of the Roman people. But there was neither justice in the courts nor honesty in the elections. Only one standard decided the merit of a candidate or the innocence of a defendant: gold.
The spectacles at the Circus served to distract the populace. The free wheat and olives distributed to the needy at the Forum served as a subterfuge for social reforms. The aristocracy purchased seats in the Senate. The magistracy of the empire and the spoils of victory went to the senators, the consuls, the praetors, the quaestors, the censors and their wives. Rome had become a corporation.
The government was in the hands of a few opulent families of the world of finance, supported by the military junta. These families knew how to protect their interests: they disguised them as national necessities. The preservation of Rome was identified with that of the ruling families. "The Roman people consisted of a small oligarchy of landowners, bankers, speculators, merchants, artisans, adventurers, and tatterdemalions, avid for pleasure, excitement, and sudden gain, proud, turbulent, corrupted by the life of the city, and placing their own interests ahead of even the most salutary reform . . ."(1)
The national honor of the Roman Empire was nothing more than the caprices or the indignation of the rulers of the moment, its political institutions no more than the cupidity of its dignitaries and the indolence of its masses, its history nothing more than a series of petty larcenies and more important crimes.
And then the Gracchus brothers*, nephews of Scipion the African, appeared on the scene. The elder brother, Tiberius (160-133 BC), the son of a consul and born a patrician, had been raised by Greek philosophers. He was a veteran of the Spanish campaign. He was elected a tribune. His fortitude, his temperance, his humanity, his passion for justice and his natural eloquence elicited the admiration of Cicero. It was evident that he would make his mark in politics.
Tiberius was as calm, as sober, and as moderate as his brother Gaius was vehement, impassioned, and impetuous. He worked for Italy, for the people, and for liberty. He would not be stopped by either threats or clamor.
On Rogation Day,(2) he addressed the people massed around the tribune. A fragment of this speech, in which he evoked the misery and the helplessness of the people, the depopulation of Italy and the rapacity of the wealthy, has been preserved.
"The landowners in mourning dress appeared on the Forum in the most wretched and humble condition in order to move the people whom they despoiled so mercilessly to pity. But they had little confidence in this demonstration, and they hired assassins to kill Tiberius . . ."(3)
Tiberius, nevertheless, proceeded with his reforms. One of his laws authorized the people to circulate freely on the roads and highways. Another stipulated that the treasure of Attala, who had made the Roman people his heir, would be distributed among the citizens. Other laws distributed lands, subsidized the cost of the first planting, decreased the length of military service, and reorganized the judiciary. Henceforth, no Roman citizen could own more than 750 acres of public land for himself and 375 for each of his sons. This law threatened the owners of the largest herds.
In his speeches Tiberius declared that the will of the people was the supreme authority of the state. This was too much. On the day of his re-election to the tribunate, which would have enabled Tiberius to complete his reforms, Scipion Nasicaa, one of the richest of the landowners, assembled all of the wealthy Romans. Followed by an army of slaves and clients, they climbed to the Capitol. One of Tiberius' colleagues, a tribune, dealt him the first blow. Other assassins finished the job. His body was profaned and thrown into the Tiber.
Rome, which had found senators to assassinate him, found no historian to stigmatize his assassins. After centuries of law and order, the Empire watched with stupefaction as the violence of a faction that had taken the law into its own hands not only went unpunished, but was admired.
Gaius (152-121 BC), eight years younger than his brother, appeared to accept his death and to be unaware of the identities of his assassins. He was appointed quaestor of Sardinia and, against the wishes of the Senate, he did not disappear from view. He lived the life of his soldiers and looked after their interests. He liked long marches and took long, lonely swims in the sea, and he remained chaste.
"The fate of his brother and his reforms had proved that it was vain to attempt to remedy the ills of Rome without first having destroyed, or at least humiliated, the large landowners and the usurpers of the public domain; that the idea of transforming the poor people of Rome into a landowning class was too simple and, in reality, not very effective.
"But once the terror had disappeared, the little people of Rome began to seek a protector, and the victim's brother, who was known for his virtues and was already suspect to the wealthy, appeared to be just the person they needed.
"The persistent hatred of the nobility precipitated him into the fray, although he had no intention of taking up his brother's reforms. Boldly, Gaius ran for the office of tribune and was elected. He immediately proved that he was no ordinary man. He denounced his brother's assassins and punished them. He promulgated the laws that Tiberius would have wanted. He cited Tiberius incessantly in his speeches. He was re-elected a tribune. He reduced the authority of the Senate. He controlled everything, organized everything, imparting his prodigious activity and his indefatigable energy to everyone.
"He was craftier than his brother. He had learned from him, and he had had time to meditate his revenge without beclouding his mind. For a long while, he retained the support of the wealthy by proposing laws that pleased the rich and others that suited the poor. But eventually he voiced the idea that he had so long meditated in silence: that all Italians should be given the rights of citizens."
Rome would be the capital of a vast Italic nation. No longer would the Empire be founded on a municipal oligarchy allied with the corrupt merchants, but on rival classes working in partnership. The former centers of civilization and commerce, now destroyed or declined, would be restored, and the wealth and the multitudes that poured into Rome, threatening to choke the nerve-center of the Empire, would be distributed evenly throughout the different lands.
It was the historic task of Rome that Gaius had in mind, but he thought he could accomplish alone what it was to take six generations to achieve. His grandiose ideas were too premature. His plan to accord the rights of a Roman citizen to all Italians pleased neither the nobility nor the little people.
The Senate decided that things had gone far enough. The Consul Lucien Opimius led the conspiracy. Pursued and about to be taken, Gaius killed himself in a wood dedicated to the Furies. Septimuleius cut off his head. Gaius in his turn was thrown into the Tiber, along with 3,000 of his followers. The year of Gaius' death, the grape harvest was exceptionally good. The nobles, the wealthy, the big and the small landowners bought up all the slaves on the market.
The Gracchus brothers were the last true aristocrats of Rome. Licentiousness robbed the aristocracy of its traditional energy and its virtues. Most of their laws were abolished. The robber barons rid the Roman Empire of all the leaders who had dreamed of being generous, or simply of being just. Balbinus, Emilian, Valerian, Aurelius, and Maximus were assassinated in their turn. Probus lasted six years, Tacitus ten months, and Pertinax 97 days.
Sixteen centuries later, Machiavelli wrote that "men forget the death of their father more easily than the loss of their patrimony, and they hesitate less to harm a man who is loved than another who is feared."
Later, after Honorius, the frontiers of the Empire were overrun by the barbarians. The Empire, invaded, was split asunder, and Rome faded into oblivion. The Gracchus brothers were not forgotten by the Roman people. Statues were erected in their memory, and a cult was founded in their honor.
1. Guglielmo Ferrero.
2. The day the laws were proposed to the people.
3. Leon Jouberti.
*The Gracchi were a noble plebeian family of ancient Rome.
The most notable members were:
The Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, went down in history as martyrs to the cause of social reform. Tiberius was killed by members of the Senate for attempting to make the system more friendly to the lower classes of Rome. They tried to limit the size of the large farms that the patricians (upper class) owned to keep the plebeians (lower class) able to compete with their smaller farms. Gaius and many of his followers were killed in 121 BC owing to the Senate being made up of patricians who owned large farms.
The Gracchi were connected through marriage to the Scipiones, Cornelii, Claudii, and Aemilii.
Fictional Gracchi also appear in many epic films, such as Spartacus (1960) and Gladiator (2000).
So now, how about all of you taking a little time off and re-watching these last mentioned movies: Spartacus and Gladiator. It might give you some food for thought and a deeper understanding of the man, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and what America has lost.
Comment on this Editorial
Editorial: The Enlightenment of Resistance
Exorcising Our Demons
Into the infancy of the 21st century has humanity somehow managed to reach, despite our insatiable addiction for violence and suffering that has for millennia been both endemic and devastating, in spite of the continued tribalism, now called the nation state, that fosters competition, ignorance, fear, hatred and war among the peoples of the world, even with the hierarchical need among peoples to perpetually follow corrupt, immoral and warmongering leadership that continues to lay ruin the vast potential within us and notwithstanding the locust-like hunger of six billion primates whose consumptions and needs for resources are raping and pillaging Earth at unsustainable levels, thus accelerating our inevitable implosion.
Into the early years of the 21st century does humanity find itself in, in the present seeing our past, in our future seeing the present, refusing to learn from the sands of time and the chronicles of those who have come before, knocking on the heavy iron doors of progressive modernity yet hearing only the echoing thuds of regressive primitiveness, desperately seeking the keys that will allow us to finally escape the pestilence of times past and malignant cancers of the present.
Yet in turbulent times do we once more find ourselves living in, surrounded by war, destruction and death, gnawed at by suffering and misery, living among the ignorant, fearful and easily led, taken hostage by fundamentalists, zealots and extremists, refusing to eradicate from our condition the plague called violence and the warmongering, greed-infected leaders who birth it.
Inside the scourge of humanity called capitalism and the devastating system of control it has unleashed onto billions of human energies do we find ourselves trapped in, becoming six billion cogs in an engine, oiled by exploiters and oppressors, that runs voraciously on the fumes of conditioned consumerism and programmed parasitic production. It is capitalism, presently inebriated in its most damaging stage, that has best succeeded in tapping the animalistic selfishness and instinctual individualism of the human mind. It is this form of economic governance that has enveloped our animal urges, needs, wants, passions and emotions into an intertwined cocktail of unparalleled self-damage resulting in the virtual enslavement of billions living off the scraps and bones of the Establishment.
Forgotten by the hypnotizing aura of greed and the Almighty Dollar is the inevitable necessity of the common good and the survival of the commons for the benefit of all. Humanism and communalism has been replaced by manipulated materialism and a systemically programmed love of individual self, our animal instincts easily dominated by a system thriving off the human condition and the nature of who and what we are.
For it is easy to manipulate our instincts, creating a system that thrives off our insecurities, fears, emotions, needs and desires, feeding itself from the heavy pressures on us of society, groups and family, draining our energies through the abuse of the inherent human need for survival and manufacturing a fictional world of fantasy and perfection that penetrates our psychology and attacks our behaviors. Capitalism as we know it has been a parasite, using our own weaknesses to exterminate our strengths, becoming the perfect form of economic dependence from which to exploit, enslave and subjugate billions of human beings.
Its primitiveness lies in its strengths, namely its ability to control and manipulate our animalistic behaviors and passions, masquerading as an evolved form of human interaction. Yet evolution is advancement, a progress away from our animal selves and towards the greater manifestations of human understanding. Evolution of economic governance would be a system willing to take humanity away from its animal instincts and towards those mechanisms distinguishing us beyond the confines of what we presently inhabit.
Progress is fighting our urges, our fears, our insecurities and our human nature. Evolution is doing away with our animalistic individuality and selfishness, our mammalian instinct for competition, our lust for hierarchy and territory, our pursuit of power and sexual conquest, our primitive thoughts and beliefs, and of the unyielding control over our lives of both the tribe and archaic theology, both of which prey on our animal instincts for power and survival. In order to be human the animal inside us must be controlled, dominated and understood.
Only by understanding ourselves and the parameters of our existence can a better humanity arise. Only through deep introspections of history past and humanity present can resistance commence and renaissance be born. We must mold who and what we are into a higher being, forming from the clays of Earth a better, more evolved human species, learning from our mistakes, advancing through our triumphs, understanding ourselves and those unknown, joining our strengths and eliminating our weaknesses, in the end working in concert towards the betterment of six billion, not simply 300 million.
The animal inside us must be exorcised from our conscious, its thirst for violence and war finally exterminated, its lust for oppression and addiction to selfishness vanquished, its divisions and fear based on ignorance and reliance on unscrupulous leadership made to disappear. Antiquated notions such as the nation state - nothing more than a tribe on steroids - and reliance on the archaic beliefs of ancient brains living in primitive times must give way to the coming together of the world entire, for the benefit of all, as well as a new understanding of humanity, encompassing progressive pragmatism, educated modernity, communal spirituality, scientific reality and the thought-processes of 21st century man, not those of 8,000 year old primeval primates trying to make sense of an existence both harsh and frightening through now extinct myths and fables that helped explain a once-mysterious world. Only when we put a stop to a condition that has followed us since we left the jungles of the Great Rift Valley will we be allowed to evolve forward, no longer continuing on our slow and painful stagnation towards self-destruction and no longer held back by the control mechanisms of those who have for too long quashed human potential and our inevitable push forward.
To follow in the footsteps of our animal urges and passions is easy to do, it being a simple continuation of all we have ever known and experienced. After all, we have never deviated from this self-defeating understanding of humanity. It is changing direction, however, in such obvious deficit of present-day society and civilization, that truly makes us human. It is when we go against our own instincts, fighting the symptoms of our disease, struggling for the benefit of the many, in an enlightened stage of understanding, that humanity can finally claim victory in escaping its animal self. To continue our ways is easy, for it is what we are; to change course in spite of ourselves is much more difficult, yet what will allow us to claim humanness away from our primate/mammal selves.
When the day finally arrives when we grasp the reality of who we are and discard the fiction of what we portend to be humanity will cease to ride the rollercoaster of our history, so full of violence, exploitation and suffering, instead launching itself to the highest zenith of civilization. It will be when we deviate away from the ceaseless damage we have done onto ourselves and the planet that we can claim resistance and renaissance.
When genocide stops, when ethnic cleansing vanishes, when war becomes nonexistent and the perpetual cycle of violence is washed away from the realm of human existence we can claim Revolution. Resistance will begin when the many begin the healing of civilization and the planet, when a massive movement commences to purge warmongering leadership from our midst, when a tidal wave of humanity floods the concrete jungles and steel canyons we live in, marching to the drumbeats of peace, non-violence and universal harmony. That is Revolution at the dawn of the 21st century; that is the evolution of humankind and our triumph over the primitive conditions of our being that still riddle our existence.
We must put aside ego, forever eliminating the fallacy of our perceived ascendancy and the conditioned greatness of our species, in unity fighting and curing the symptoms of our disease and the conditioned, systemic exploitation of our lives. We must forever banish the exploitation and subjugation advanced by capitalism, where billions are forever condemned to servitude, raped of opportunity, robbed of talent, sucked of energy and perpetually chained to the bondage of a caste system from where few ever escape.
Only when the many, the indigent, the desolate are freed from the meager wages they earn in dehumanizing and torturous working conditions, all for the benefit of the rich nations, corporations and consumers of the north will we be able to claim enlightenment. Only when the lands and peoples of the poor south stop hemorrhaging from the ceaseless rape of their lands and devastation of their environments by the forces of neo-liberalism, market colonialism and globalization will our world become more secure. Only when the peoples of the rich north unite in solidarity and fraternity with their brothers and sisters of the exploited south can we as a species advance towards greatness. Only then will we have resistance. Only then will the many have revolution.
To continue what has transpired and will continue to be is to remain tied to our animals selves, refusing to resist the urges, the fears, the demons and the disease itself, refusing to evolve as a civilization, ensnarled by the clutches of a primitiveness that has yet to let us go. Remaining stagnant, refusing to leave the comfort of the tormented and arduous reality of the only road we have ever known, when we have yet to change or mend our ways, when history's books are littered with the effects of our disease, when sands and dirt reveal the shattered and ruined remains of the human condition, will inevitably lead to our self-annihilation.
Indeed, for as long as we have existed we have followed a most ominous path, one of constant war, competition, violence, killing, suffering and destruction. From the beginning humanity has marched toward an inevitability, now closer than ever, that we have yet to deviate away from, that unless altered will leave our ruins to the cockroaches and scorpions, free to roam the plains of Earth, the destroyed cities, its deserted streets and once magnificent monuments of a once troubled civilization. Rather, stubbornly we maintain our self-defeating ways, refusing to evolve away from a system that has been broken, even diseased, for millennia. We refuse to fix or alter what has not worked, what continues to devastate the vast proportion of human beings, a poison that lingers without antidote, gaining strength from our indifference, becoming a historical plague subsisting from our weaknesses, forever cementing into our condition the parameters of war and violence, disease and indigence, pervasive exploitation and incessant oppression.
What road six billion people choose to take in the next few years will in the end decide the collective fates of those alive today and those born tomorrow.
Resistance begins with Ourselves
Understanding ourselves in body and mind will lead to the next leap forward for humanity, and with it the liberation of the embedded greatness inside us, released from the dungeons of human weakness, that will spawn a new awakening in the way we see and treat ourselves. Consciously deciding to step forward instead of facing backwards, the enlightenment of resistance must be massive, a giant movement born of synergy, a symbiotic unity of human energy crashing head first into a system for too long eroding the very fabric of humanity, finally awakening billions to a most troubled history. For only in harmony, knitted together from the toughest elements, can a most beautiful orchestra come alive, trumpeting a rebirth of humanity unparalleled in history and unsurpassed in power. The beginning stages will be called Resistance; its finality, Revolution.
The Enlightenment of Resistance commences with the self, in understanding the destructive forces unleashed by our own actions. The Resistance to the system and the corporatists in power begins by fighting the conditioned consumerism, ingrained into us from birth, that envelopes our daily existence. The evils spawned by capitalism, those mechanisms that manipulate our fragile psyches and mammalian needs in order to garner the most profit, must be seen for the exploitation of human minds that they are. Fictions that cannot possibly exist, whether in advertisements, cartoons, television or movies, where perfection is all-encompassing, fantasy is made attainable in the realm of human life and beauty seen as absolute, must be exposed for the psychological fallacy they espouse, existing to manipulate the human mind into returning every working wage we earn to our corporate masters through the purchase of those products that we are made to believe will somehow improve our "miserable" lives.
Thus, resistance begins with understanding that television shows are designed to hook us, like a fish in a lake, for the purpose of cooking our minds in the grill of perpetual revenue and profit. Television exists for one purpose, and that is to blitzkrieg us in a shock and awe bombardment of product placements and advertisements, employed in psychologically manipulative fantasies, designed to consciously and subconsciously compel us to purchase a vast array of products, thus transferring our living wages into the pockets of corporations. Television shows are like an orgasmic drug, addicting us to fictions and hooking us to characters and stories that will hypnotize us through the glare of the screen, acting as magnets that attach us to our couches, all methodically done for the real purpose behind television, namely the huge assortment of advertisements, product placement, and incessant brainwashing that is designed to make parasitic consumers of us all.
Television is thus a conduit by which the corporate world uses us, abusing our psychology and emotions, pitting our rational selves against our animal instincts, carefully selecting marketable formulas that will propel forward the most consumers and invariably, the most profit as well. We are being harvested for our earnings, our psychology is being meddled with. From cradle to grave corporate brainwashing transforms us into robot-like producers and gluttonous consumers of its products, all for profit, all for wealth, and all for love of the Almighty Dollar.
Resistance of self is awakening to a reality that everything you see on television is placed there for the benefit of the corporate world and the government it owns. Television is an instrument of control, of making lifelong consumers and catatonic citizens of us, a means to profit and power, a mechanism of distraction away from those events negatively affecting our lives and a successful formula for brainwashing our mind to the dictates it wants furthered in society.
The best way to punish corporations and the Establishment that owns them, then, is to put a stop to addictions to materialism that are prevalent throughout American society. We must stop our gluttonous consumption patterns and the plague-like appetite for material wealth that lingers in our nation. The corporation does not bleed red, but it does bleed heavily with the loss of revenue and profit. This is our weapon against the system, and if enough of us orchestrate a movement, then in time, one by one, corporations will fall, too anemic to continue ruling over our lives, slowly hemorrhage to death through the accumulated blows of the many. We must hit them where they will suffer most, where we can inflict the greatest pain, nailing individual corporations in their most vulnerable weak spot. It is revenue and profit that grants them life, infecting executives and Board members with greed, lining the pockets of investors and shareholders, making them blind to the damage done to man and land. It is here where we will drive them to the ground. This is the Enlightenment of Resistance.
We must seek happiness over material wealth, knowing that our species cannot possibly sustain its exorbitant lifestyle. We must trade our SUV's for fuel-efficient cars, our lavish standards of living for a more modest existence. Material wealth must give way to sacrifice and discipline, for the gluttony of the north contributes to the enslavement and exploitation of the south. Boycotts of energy conglomerates and the auto industry must commence, forcing these backward barbarians to expedite the extinction of the internal combustion engine and quickly giving rise to more fuel-efficient modes of transportation. We must push forward the development of solar and wind energy, as well as other forms of alternative energy that are renewable and environmentally friendly.
If we are modern man, then the machines of the past must quickly be phased out, yet in order to maintain profit, wealth, power and control those industries enriched by and dependent on oil refuse to evolve forward, instead condemning the planet to certain global warming and future catastrophe. The technology for renewable energies presently exists, yet it remains hidden, a dark secret in the corporate world's closet, gathering dust until it is convenient for them to inject it into civilization. Yet as long as the last drop of oil remains below the surface of the only home we know, those in control will continue destroying our environment, helping to set us back decades with each year the devil's excrement remains in existence. Yet when greed controls and the Almighty Dollar reigns supreme, when immoral scoundrels run the nation's corporate machine, the oceans of Earth will have to submerge us and devastating climate change will have to decimate us before they realize the destiny their grease-stained hands and fume infested minds have placed humanity in.
Slowly but surely we are killing the planet, and with it ourselves. This, the Resistance needs to remedy. This Beast we need to destroy.
On all Fronts, Resistance
On all fronts the Enlightenment of Resistance must be strong, yet it is in the area of self-education that it matters most. Resistance to the corporatist takeover of America begins with self-enlightenment, in seeing clearly with open eyes and unfiltered minds. It is going back to our childhood and deprogramming ourselves from years of government propaganda and corporate manipulation. It is rewiring our brains so that truth and reality are once more seen over the horizon, turning our backs on skies of pitch dark nothingness where even the brightest stars have been extinguished.
Resistance means reading books of truth, no matter how alien or difficult to bear they are. The truth of what America has been and continues to be must be known. It is the only way to know our enemy. ( I highly recommend Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States) The pages of history must be studied so that we are not condemned to repeat the errors of times past. The teachings of our forefathers must be inculcated, their wisdom understood, their words heeded. The beliefs of those now exterminated should be resurrected for in their philosophies of life, nature and spirituality modern man can learn valuable lessons. We must study how we came to be, how we evolved and how we behave, studying the sciences and ourselves, learning the pragmatism of today and finally letting go the fantasy of yesterday.
Brainwash education must be made extinct, as should curriculum teaching young adults to be thieves and murderers, exploiters and oppressors. New dogmas favoring the pursuit of sustainable development, humanity, peace, love, respect for Earth and unity of humankind should be introduced, replacing those espousing love of individual interest, pursuit of material wealth, indoctrination of mass consumption, generator of waste and formation of automaton-like producers. Jobs for the benefit of humanity should be promoted and encouraged over those promising individual glory and wealth. Selflessness must be preached, as should empathy for our fellow humans. The altar of greed must be exterminated, the temple of the Almighty Dollar bulldozed and burned, and all ideology advocating profit over people forever vanquished.
Human rights must stand for all, not just the warmongers, greed mongers and profiteers. The philosophies of Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King should be taught instead of those of Adam Smith, Machiavelli and American Christian fundamentalism. Morality should not belong to the murderers and war criminals who make of it what they wish, manufacturing lies and deceptions to justify their monstrous thirst for blood and indifference to human life. Never again should we allow those without scruples or love of humanity to falsely condition us to accept unspeakable horrors and devastating suffering befalling onto innocent individuals. Never again should we allow $650 billion a year worth of instruments of death, maiming, suffering and destruction to rain down like a violent hailstorm onto an entire populace, giving birth to the nadir of human hell and condemning millions to a terrorism bordering on the Apocalypse.
The Resistance should do all in its power to deny the military-industrial-complex from pilfering our treasure for its sinister purposes and making monsters of our loved ones, transforming naďve and undereducated citadels of caste warfare into Frankenstein-like creatures robbed of mind, soul and heart, sent to foreign lands to devastate and destroy their fellow brothers of economic circumstance. The Resistance must fight so that $650 billion a year in our treasure does not end up in the bank accounts of murderers and criminals who care not an ounce leaving our children behind and our elderly and sick without medicines or healthcare.
We must strive to live in a world where a nation's strength is not military might but rather its humanist resources. We should want to live in a world where the military industry is relegated to the margins of society and where the education of our children becomes of paramount importance. Our new world should endeavor for the elimination of the military-industrial complex because as long as it exists, and as long as capitalism persists, war will be ceaseless, it will be devastating, and it will be profitable. Capitalism's evils include war, for through destruction and murder the corporate world thrives and wealth is accumulated. As long as greed lives war will linger, killing and maiming, destroying and inflicting untold levels of misery.
The military-industrial complex is in the business of death and violence, with access to a military budget that supercedes that of all industrialized nations' combined. It exists because it kills, and because there are so many people to continue killing. Its power grows because we refuse to act, because of our unwillingness and indifference to control a most malicious beast. Its continued flourishing endangers all of humanity, for it will continue to grow, becoming still more powerful, seeking new blood to spill, new flesh to burn and new bodies to tear open. Each new year its budget swells, each new year its addictions fuse with its ability to declare war, whenever it wants, wherever it wants, easily manipulating the populace and its mercenary armies. Until it is stopped, until our war culture is changed, until missiles and bombs and tanks and artillery and depleted uranium and bullets are no longer manufactured and spat out like warm bread out of the assembly lines of American factories we will not be rid of the pestilence that has forever attacked our existence, pitting poor versus poor and young versus young for the entertainment, accumulated wealth and growing power of the Establishment.
The Greatest Story Ever Told?
The birth of a new humanity and a new America is possible. We simply have to wish it so, acting on our own behalf, claiming for ourselves a better way of life and a better mechanism for human interaction. Resistance is a massive movement pushing forward principles of humanity and morality, born of discontent and protest, outrage and a belief that a better world is possible. A system that exploits billions of people cannot be allowed to continue. A system that in essence enslaves billions, robbing them of opportunity and talent, a future and a life worth living cannot be allowed to fester. For the sake of billions living today and billions to be born tomorrow the Resistance must commence, our outrage and anger channeled positively, uniting in force and commonality to rid the world, once and for all, of the scourge that has lived with us from time immemorial, hiding and evolving, preventing us from flourishing and entering new dimensions of human understanding. The scourge must be brought down by the will of the People, millions united in cause, fists in the air, boots marching together, seeking the beginning of the end for the animal inside us and the wickedness infecting our society.
More and more, America is becoming a fascist dictatorship, combining the power of the state with that of the corporate world. We are in danger, democracy has ceased to exist, the corporatist power grows. The Enlightenment of Resistance must be born, sacrificing our conformity and indifference for the sake of those that have yet to come. This is the calling of our lives, as we stand selected by the energies of the universe to jump humanity beyond the stratosphere of our own weaknesses and limitations, flying high into new rebirths and enlightenments, seeing across the marvels of Earth a humanity changed for the common good, where what is good for one is good for all and where what affects one similarly affects us all.
The Enlightenment of Resistance is going beyond our animal selves, evolving past our instincts and acquired emotions. It is resisting without violence, in the full spectrum of peace and love and kindness and compassion. Non-violence gives us the moral high ground, it gives us what the corporatists can never attain inside the empty cavity that is their heart. It gives us Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King; it gives us goodness, positive energy and humanity. If they strike, turn the other cheek, if they curse, forgive them. If they hate, then love them back. If they fight, give them a warm embrace. We are no match for their ignorance or their callousness or their wickedness or their guns. Our only weapons lie within us, the great virtues of humankind, our love, our sympathy, our goodness and morals.
The Enlightenment of Resistance stands before us, seeking to exorcise our primate and mammalian urges and fears from our consciousness, seeking to liberate us from our perpetuating history, wanting desperately to grant us the freedoms and responsibilities of the next leap forward. Do we evolve towards greatness or remain static in primitiveness? Do we act today for a better tomorrow or do we once again give in to a system that has maintained us on our knees for millennia? The story of humankind keeps repeating itself, over and over, thanks to the inaction of our ancestors and the continued power of the Establishment. Will we be another sad chapter in this disease-riddled story or will we write our own new book, beginning with page one of the greatest story ever told?
We can continue what has never worked, billions rotting and enslaved, gutted and dominated, full of war, destruction, violence and exploitation, or we can resist, knowing that perhaps a better future awaits and a better humanity can be born. It is time to evolve, it is time for change. Humanity has wasted at the bowels of its condition long enough. The time to see how far forward we can go is upon us, for if not now, then when? Let history record this time as an era where bravery and courage awoke to reclaim a sinking ship from a giant iceberg.
Let it be written by the sands of time that it was the men and women of the early stages of the 21st century that defied all obstacles and enemies of man, transforming human civilization into a catalyst for greatness, instigating a paradigm shift whereby a new dimension of human existence commenced.
Comment on this Editorial
Editorial: Threats to Hugo Chavez As Venezuela's December Presidential Election Approaches
by Stephen Lendman
1 November 2006
On December 3, 2006 voters in Venezuela will again get to choose who'll lead them as President for the next six years. There's no doubt who that will be as the people's choice is the same man they first elected their leader in December, 1998 with 56% of the vote and reelected him in July, 2000 after the adoption of the Bolivarian Republic's new Constitution with a 60% total. They then saw him survive three failed US-directed and funded attempts to unseat him beginning with the aborted two-day coup in April, 2002, followed by the 2002-03 crippling oil strike, and then the failed August, 2004 recall referendum. Chavistas must believe the man they revere has at least more six lives and will use one of them in a few weeks to continue in the job the Venezuelan people won't entrust to anyone else as long as he wants the job.
They may also hope he has as much good fortune and as many lives as his friend and ally Fidel Castro who in nearly 48 years as Cuba's leader survived over 5,700 US-directed terror attacks against his country and about 600 US attempts to kill him - an astonishing survival record against a powerful and determined foe still trying to remove him to reinstate oligarchic rule over the island state. The Bush administration has the same fate in mind for Hugo Chavez Frias and won't sit by quietly allowing Bolivarianism to flourish and spread which it's doing as more people in the region and beyond are fed up with the old order and want the same benefits Venezuelans have. It's playing out now in Bolivia, on the streets of Mexico and in the run-up to the December 3 Venezuelan presidential election where the people show up in massive numbers most every time Chavez makes a public campaign appearance.
Since beginning his presidency in February, 1999, Hugo Chavez and his Movement for the Fifth Republic Party (MVR) have transformed Venezuela from an oligarchy serving the rich and powerful to a model democratic state serving all the people. From the start, Chavez kept his campaign promise and began implementing his vision for political and social change. He held a national referendum through which the people decided to convene a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution that was overwhelmingly approved in a nationwide vote in December, 1999. It became effective a year later, changed the country's name to the Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela, and mandated Hugo Chavez's broad revolutionary vision for a system of participatory democracy based on the principles of political, economic and social justice. Ever since, the people of Venezuela haven't looked back and won't now tolerate a return to the ugly past they'll never again accept willingly.
The Chavez Campaign
Hugo Chavez began his reelection campaign by registering his candidacy at the National Electoral Council (CNE) on August 12, affirming his confidence in the country's electoral process and saying that his campaign "must be above all a debate about ideas, an opportunity to elevate the level of debate and the political culture." Afterwards he addressed many thousands of his red-shirted supporters in Caracas Square and told them the "Bolivarian hurricane" was beginning with a goal of achieving 10 million votes that would assure a convincing electoral victory in a nation of 27 million people and just over 16 million registered voters according to the CNE as of September 4. If he achieves it, he'll have gotten the highest ever vote total in the country's history. He sounded an optimistic note adding "The Bolivarian hurricane will become a million hurricanes in all corners of the country, carrying forward the Bolivarian project and defending the revolution."
Two polls out in September indicate he may be on track toward his goal although their results show a wide variance. Datanalisis reported Chavez had a voter preference of 58.2% (41% ahead of his closest rival) while IVAD's percentage was 76.9%. And the most recent October University of Miami School of Communication/Zogby International poll shows Chavez with a 59% voter support compared to 24% for his only serious rival, Manuel Rosales (discussed more fully below). The Zogby poll also gave Chavez an overwhelmingly popular approval rating among Venezuelan voters based on his job performance. If the median between these poll results is closest to the right number on December 3 and the voter turnout is high enough, that would translate to a stunning victory for Hugo Chavez whether or not it's with the 10 million vote total he hopes to get.
Chavez's current overwhelming popularity is consistent with the results of the Chilean firm Latinobarometro interviews conducted with 20,000 Latin Americans in 18 countries in 2005. It found a higher percentage of Venezuelans calling their government "totally democratic" than any other nationality surveyed as well as Venezuelans expressing the highest degree of optimism about their country's future in the region. These results contrast to the pre-Chavez era when the country was ruled by oligarchs, ordinary people had no political rights and the level of poverty was extreme enough to cause street riots the government chose to violently suppress. Hugo Chavez changed all that, and he's campaigning now on his Bolivarian record of accomplishment that made him a national hero to most Venezuelans who only want him as their President as long as he wants the job.
Chavez's plan to continue in office is part of his "Miranda Campaign" to go beyond the traditional party structure by forming local "platoons" of the "Miranda Campaign Command" across the country. It began with the swearing in of 11,358 battalions and 44,698 squads nationwide to mobilize all Venezuelans to vote on election day and to supervise and handle security, logistics, vote tabulation and other aspects of the voting process. Overall the aim is to bring together 200,000 grassroots leaders of the Revolution who then will be assigned the task of convincing 10 others to vote for Chavez that would mean 2 million votes if successful. In addition, other organizations representing social sectors, workers, peasants, women, small business owners and indigenous groups will be mobilized to support the campaign to build the "new socialism of the 21st century." Chavez also wants to hold a nationwide recall referendum half way through his next term in 2010, if he's reelected, to let the Venezuelan people decide if the Constitution should be amended to eliminate the current two-term presidential time in office limit. He also announced his Simon Bolivar National Project which includes the following:
-- a new socialist ethic especially against corruption
-- a new socialist productive model expanding the social economy
-- a revolutionary protagonist democracy under which the highest priority would be power to the people including through communal councils
-- the Bolivarian ideal of supreme social happiness
-- a new internal geopolitics (focused on internal development)
-- a new international geopolitics based on a multipolar world focused against US hegemony, and
-- assuring Venezuela is a global energy power by developing its Orinoco Belt extra-heavy reserves and raising its daily oil production to six million barrels daily
Hugo Chavez was greeted on September 1 by tens of thousands of supporters after returning from his international diplomatic tour. He went seeking to establish and solidify alliances and gain support for Venezuela's campaign for the Latin American seat on the Security Council for which voting began on October 16 in the General Assembly but that has been deadlocked since because of US coercive tactics. Chavez told his supporters "This is an election (for president) on whether we want to continue to be an independent republic or return to being a North American colony." He added: "For the first time in history, Venezuela is occupying a privileged position in the world, a position of respect....because we defend with a clear voice the interests of the countries of the Third World and the sovereignty of the peoples." Chavez has a lot of support to do it from most Venezuelans and the 25 political organizations that nominated him including the MVR's coalition partner Patria Para Todas, Podemos and several smaller parties. But Chavez also knows what he's up against, and said he is "the candidate of the revolution....and the national majority (and that other candidates are) tools of the US government. In this electoral process there are two candidates only, namely Hugo Chavez and George W. Bush."
On September 9, Chavez's electoral campaign battalions and platoons were sworn in as part of his "Miranda campaign" to confront "North American imperialism." It was done at a huge rally and march of hundreds of thousands of supporters in Caracas. Chavez used the occasion to propose the formation of a single united political party of the Bolivarian Revolution to be formed in 2007 after the upcoming election. In a speech he called for unity to further "consolidate and strengthen" the spirit of Bolivarianism. He said he wanted it to be the "great party of the Bolivarian Revolution (and that) it should represent the republic and the revolution to the world and establish the strongest connections with the greatest revolutionary parties throughout the world."
A final unknown number of the currently 18 or so announced candidates will be on the ballot on December 3 opposing Hugo Chavez, but only one is of consequence because the US picked and backs him - Zulia state governor (who by law should have relinquished his office to run for president but for whom the CNE made an exception and allowed him to remain in office) and regional Un Nuevo Tiempo party member Manuel Rosales. The other more prominent ones, including Primero Justicia candidate Julio Borges, dropped out to unite behind him as the main standard-bearer of the opposition thus ruling out a primary the US-funded right wing NGO Sumate planned to hold but then cancelled.
It still remains to be seen what strategy the opposition will decide on or even which, if any, of them will show up on election day. Already Accion Democratica, Venezuela's largest opposition party in size of membership, at first refused to back any candidate. The AD's General Secretary, Henry Ramos Allup, said the only option is to abstain from the election and that Rosales, Borges (before he dropped out of the race) and other candidates are "like drunks fighting over an empty bottle." Others in his party disagree though calling for an exercise of "democratic resistance." Still it's clear to all in the opposition, Chavez is so far ahead in the polls there's no chance anyone can defeat him in a free, fair and open election so it's likely Rosales was chosen to run with something else in mind, and his strategy will show it as the campaign unfolds and especially as election day approaches.
Clearly the US had the final say in picking him for whatever strategy is planned that may have a lot to do with the fact that he's the governor of the state of Zulia that has 40% of Venezuela's oil and where in the past energy elites there supported the state's independence to free it from the government in Caracas. Rosales also favors this idea (likely with a little coaxing from his US allies) and has called for a referendum to let the people of Zulia decide. He's also very close to the Bush administration and was the only governor to sign the infamous "(Pedro) Carmona Estanga Decree" after the 2002 coup that dissolved the elected National Assembly and Supreme Court and effectively ended the Bolivarian Revolution and all the benefits it gave the Venezuelan people (for two days).
Rosales' electoral plan, with considerable US National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-funded through Sumate support, should become clear close to or right after the December 3 election if he's able to win a majority of the votes in his own state. He may then try to go ahead with an independence referendum, claim fraud in the rest of the country, and make plans to declare himself president of the independent state of Zulia if he, in fact, moves to break away and form it. The Chavez government, of course, will never accept this, and the Sumate/Rosales/Bush administration opposition may use this as as justification to confront it violently when any attempt is made to stop them. This could provide the US a pretext it may be seeking to intervene militarily for whatever reasons it gives such as protecting the lives of US citizens and defending democracy and human rights. If it happens, it would be the same kind of stunt Ronald Reagan used to invade Grenada in 1983 and GHW Bush used to do the same thing against Panama in 1989. On both those occasions, the US acted against leaders who never threatened the US or its citizens. They were forcibly deposed solely because they were unwilling to obey "the lord and master of the universe" from el norte. The same scenario may be planned for Venezuela after the upcoming election. It won't be long before we find out.
Another possible strategy planned may be similar to what happened in the 2005 National Assembly elections. When it was clear then the major opposition candidates couldn't win, they dropped out claiming fraud that didn't exist. It was a cheap transparent stunt decided on a few days before the vote as a way to avoid a humiliating defeat, but it gave the corporate-run media a chance to trumpet their black propaganda and characterize a free and fair election as tainted. The tone out of Washington is always antagonistic and grabbed on to this and at other times with oxymoronic language like Venezuela under Chavez is an "authoritarian democracy, an elected authoritarianism, a threat to democracy, (and) an elected dictatorship," all of it said without a touch of irony. It also gave the opposition a chance to chime in and say voter turnout was low (mostly because opposition supporters had no one to vote for and stayed home) and the results thus had no legitimacy. So it organized street demonstrations in upscale neighborhoods and suburbs to create a false sense of turmoil and disorder.
There was also evidence uncovered at the time that violence was planned for around the time of the election to create unrest and further delegitimate the results. This is how an oligarchy puppet regime in the wings allied with the power structure in Washington operates. They have no respect for the law or norms of conduct and will use any means including murder to try to regain the power they lost to Hugo Chavez democratically. There's no doubt schemes have already been cooked up quietly that will be sprung between now and the election period. Already on September 2, Caracas Diario Vea reported it learned about a plot involving the right wing opposition. It's called Plan Alcatraz and is aimed at making unacceptable demands on the National Electoral Council (CNE) sure to be rejected so as to allege fraud and then organize street actions in protest including occupying CNE offices. Manuel Rosales is part of the scheme to lead the protests but he'd have to withdraw from the race to do it, which so far he's unwilling to do. He has been willing to consult with representatives of the Bush administration and met with them recently on a trip he made to south Florida where he reportedly met with the president's brother, Governor Jeb Bush.
Colombian right wing paramilitaries are also known to be involved and would be brought in to commit terrorist attacks along the border and in other parts of the country. If that happens, it won't be the first time as this tactic has been used before and foiled by Venezuelan police when a plot was uncovered and arrests were made. This kind of state-directed terrorism should come as no surprise to those familiar with the government and ideological position of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe that's hard right and in line with neocon Bush administration policy. Uribe comes from a wealthy land-owning family, has a history of links to the country's paramilitary death squads and drug cartels, and engaged in state terrorism in the various government positions he held for over 20 years that included kidnappings and assassinations of trade unionists, peasants in opposition groups, social and human rights activists, journalists and others. He's also committed gross violations of Venezuelan sovereignty and apparently still is doing it egged on by his US ally. In spite of it, or maybe in praise for it, the Wall Street Journal calls Uribe "(maybe) the most clear-thinking, courageous ally in the war on terror that the US has in Latin America." The Journal writer would have been right if she changed the preposition "on" to "of," and the adjectives "courageous" to "outrageous," and "clear-thinking" to "obedient."
In spite of his dubious background, Uribe was elected and then reelected the country's president (in elections heavily tainted with fraud) and was the only South American leader to support the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq. He even invited the US to "invade" Colombia to help it double the size of its military and supply it with weapons and intelligence. He already benefits hugely from the billions of dollars his government gets in "Plan Colombia" military aid that's used to fight the FARC and ELN resistance and has little to do with its supposed aim to eradicate coca cultivation except in areas controlled by those two groups. He's now the Bush administration's strongest and most subservient ally in the region, and thus it backs the right Uribe claims he has to intervene militarily in violation of another country's sovereignty - with bordering Venezuela as the main target.
Reports are increasing that Uribe is directing his policy of state terrorism against Venezuela by continuing to send Colombian paramilitary hired assassins illegally across the border. They're apparently responsible for a large number of deaths in the countryside, and some have even infiltrated into metropolitan Caracas. High profile figures are also becoming targets as was state prosecutor Danilo Anderson who was killed in a December, 2004 car bombing likely because he headed an investigation of the hundreds of individuals (all from the opposition) suspected of being involved in the 2002 aborted coup attempt. More recently National Assembly (AN) for the Movement for the Fifth Republic, campesino leader, and Chavez supporter Braulio Alvarez escaped a second assassination attempt when his car was attacked and riddled with bullets. Alvarez is working with the government to implement its land reform law that redistributes large, underused land from the latifundistas (large land owners) to landless campesinos that surely is angering the rich landowners who now with Uribe's help are striking back.
One of Hugo Chavez's top priorities when first taking office in 1999 was land reform in a country run by oligarchs including rich land owners. He's been determined to rectify the inequality of land distribution the 1997 agricultural census revealed - that 5% of the largest landowners control 75% of the land and 75% of the smallest ones only 6% of it. His plan led to the current confrontation, but Hugo Chavez is now responding more forcefully and on August 18 announced the creation of civilian/military security units in the large farms that have been taken over in Barinas, Apure and Tachina states. He's doing it to combat the wave of kidnappings and assassinations especially in areas bordering Colombia that are linked to paramilitary death squads infiltrating into the country. They likely are dispatched by Alvaro Uribe and are employed by the latifundistas. Tachina has been particularly hard hit by this invasion as the number of killings there rose from 81 in 1999 to 93 in 2001, 212 in 2002 and exploded to 566 in 2005 for a total of 2037 deaths in the last seven years. In addition, the Caracas Daily Ultimas Noticias reported in July that 70% of businesses in Tachina bordering Colombia have to pay the paramilitaries a vacuna (vaccine) as protection money to keep from being attacked.
All this is mounting evidence that Hugo Chavez has every reason to fear the Colombian president and sees his close ties to the Bush administration as part of a greater strategy to provoke a confrontation giving the US a pretext to intervene to try to oust and assassinate him. This also seems to be Uribe's aim as Colombia and Venezuela share a common border, and he fears for his own survival in a country plagued by poverty and violence. Uribe has an ugly record supporting the concentration of wealth and power while cutting vitally needed social services. He's also allowed his military and paramilitary assassins to displace three million peasants, has one of the worst records of state-directed terrorism in the world, and has a long-term disregard for democracy and human rights. Just across the border his people can see how the Bolivarian Revolution has benefitted Venezuelans and many of them have emigrated there to take advantage of it. It's hard to imagine those staying behind don't want the same things and may one day act in their own self-interest to demand them.
Hugo Chavez also needs to be wary of the major new base the US is building in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, 200 kilometers from the Bolivian border even though it's far south of Venezuela. Reportedly the base will be able to handle large aircraft and house up to 16,000 troops. Since July, 2005 small numbers of fully-equipped US forces have been in Paraguay and have been conducting secretive operations there. It's led some military analysts and human rights groups to suspect an interventionist operation is planned, likely directed at Bolivia and its president Evo Morales some of whose policies mirror those of his friend and ally Hugo Chavez. But with enough troops and long-range large aircraft in the region, the base could also be used as a staging area for an operation anywhere within its range that easily could include Venezuela. The human rights group Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ) in Paraguay believes the US wants the country to be what Panama once was, and to be able to operate there to control the southern cone region of the continent.
It's also been reported that George Bush recently bought a 98,842 acre farm in Paraguay to go along with the 173,000 acres his father already owns there. Both properties border Bolivia and Brazil and comprise 2.7% of the whole country that comprises an area the size of the state of California. It's not known what the Bush family has in mind there or whether it may have any connection to a planned US military intervention in the region. It is known Paraguay has no laws criminalizing money-laundering, anti-terrorism or terrorist financing even though if does have an extradition treaty with the US. It's also important to be mindful of the fact that a dominant US family of two US presidents now owns a sizable piece of real estate in a country able to domicile a large number of US forces. It may only be for whatever personal use they have in mind, but it may not be and we can only speculate on what that may be.
We don't have to speculate that the US also has another major military base in Manta, Ecuador that's much closer to Venezuela on Colombia's southern border and is part of the US's increasing militarization of the southern continent. The Pentagon says it's tasked to carry out a variety of security-related missions, but that's just code language for interventionist ones. Ecuadorian presidential hopeful, Rafael Correa, who'll now face a runoff vote on November 26 after a tainted first round spoiled his victory, responded to a question recently that he'd allow the base to remain in his country provided the Bush administration gave Ecuador the same basing rights in Miami. But even if this base is closed, the US is currently building another new one in the Dutch colony of Curacao (a popular vacation destination that will be tainted by it) that's located near the Venezuelan coast and near the oil-rich state of Zulia.
It remains to be seen if he'll follow through if he wins the presidency, but one positive development to watch is Paraguay's decision not to renew a defense cooperation agreement with the US for 2007 because it's unwilling to grant US troops immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court in the Hague (ICC). The Court was established to assure perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are brought to justice. Foreign Minister Ruben Ramirez announced his country's decision on October 2 saying his government concluded under international treaty law, exceptions to immunity are only permissible for foreign diplomats and administrative personnel. Paraguay is a member of the South American Mercosur trade block that also includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela. These countries have also refused to grant US troops such immunity in another sign the US is losing influence in the region as more leaders in it are standing firm against unreasonable demands from Washington as well as its failed policies. Hopefully the spirit and influence of Hugo Chavez is spreading.
US Intervention in Venezuela's Political Process - Again
It's no secret the Bush administration wants to oust Hugo Chavez, has already tried and failed three times to do it, and is now planning another attempt at whatever time and by whatever means it has in mind. It may be staged in connection with the upcoming December election and likely will be a reworked version of what was tried earlier and failed but this time with some new twists and going further than before.
Hugo Chavez knows it's coming, has taken steps to counter it when it does, and has a hard-to-trump ace in his deck - the many millions of Venezuelans who've already shown they'll come out in force to support him, especially if the stakes are to keep him as their president. Chavez witnessed some of that support when he spoke at an October mass rally in Valencia in the state of Carabobo and sounded the alarm about the Bush administration's plot to destabilize the election and assassinate him. He indicated to the crowd that "friendly nations" have warned him about this and said: "With God's favour this will not happen, but if it (did) you know what you would have to do; the Bolivarian Revolution at this stage does not depend on one man." Chavez also said he's preparing for what he expects will happen and "we are going to hit back so hard that they will not stop running until they reach Miami. Chavez may not have long to wait to find out if his plan can best the one Washington has cooked up.
In the lead-up to whatever is planned, the Bush administration is relying on the usual kind of covert mischief from the CIA that specializes in it. It's been at it all over the world for nearly 50 years and in Venezuela since Hugo Chavez was first elected. Author and international human rights attorney Eva Golinger obtained top-secret CIA documents through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests showing the Agency had prior knowledge and was complicit in the two-day 2002 aborted coup attempt to unseat President Chavez and that the Bush administration provided over $30 million in funding aid to opposition groups to help do it.
It began in 2001 involving the same quasi-governmental agencies that are always part of these kinds of schemes - the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), and US Agency for International Development (USAID) which did its work through its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). These agencies funded and worked with the opposition staging mass violent street protests leading up to the day of the coup. The documents also showed NED and USAID funded and were otherwise involved in staging the 2002-03 crippling oil strike and the failed August, 2004 recall referendum. The US State Department, National Security Agency (NSA) and White House had full knowledge of and had to have approved each coup attempt.
Most people have some idea how the CIA operates covertly but few know much about the National Endowment for Democracy that was (in language Orwell would have loved) established to "support democratic institutions throughout the world through private, nongovernmental efforts." If fact, its very much a part of government and its purpose is to be the somewhat overt counterpart to the CIA, and in that capacity its hands are almost as dirty as the spy agency short of having actual blood on them. The one objective it pursues above all others is the subversion of democracy including supporting the removal of democratically elected leaders unwilling to allow their countries to become submissive US client states.
It's already been learned from information made public, including NED Quarterly Reports, that this agency actively supports anti-Chavez organizations in Venezuela and that removal of Hugo Chavez is one of its top priorities. It will also be reported soon in a new book by Eva Golinger called Bush v. Chavez: Washington's War on Venezuela that the Bush administration since 2005 has increased its (anti-Chavez) "interference by providing funding, training, guidance, and other contacts, and other strategically important ways to support the opposition's presidential campaign here." Golinger also reports the US anti-Chavez campaign includes the use of "psychological warfare within Venezuela, but also in the international arena, and in the United States." It's trying "to make people think that Venezuela is a failed or failing state with a dictator, which is how the US government refers to him."
NED is an old hand at this kind of dirty business since it was established in November, 1982 by statute as a supposedly private non-profit organization. It's hardly that as Congress approves its funding as part of the Department of State budget going to its sister USAID agency. NED also gets some private aid from several well-known right wing organizations including supportive think tanks that provide considerable funding for ultraconservative and business-friendly enterprises.
USAID has considerably greater resources than NED to pursue its activities which supposedly are to function as an independent federal agency providing non-military foreign aid. In fact, however, it's a thinly disguised instrument of US foreign policy able to do its dirty work while avoiding congressional scrutiny. It, like NED, has in the past been an instrument of US efforts to oust Hugo Chavez, and in the run-up to the December election is likely to be working with the opposition again as it was learned it did in the other three attempts to oust the Venezuelan leader. We'll have to wait to learn more about what schemes CIA, NED, USAID and other US-related agencies are planning until they begin unfolding or are exposed in advance and are headed off before any harm is done.
The Role of Sumate
Sumate is a nominal non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 2002 by a group of Venezuelans led by Maria Corina Machado and Alejandro Plaz and now headed by Ms. Machado. It's true purpose and activities belie the claims it makes to be an organization of independent citizens supporting the democratic process and promoting the political rights of Venezuelans under the country's Constitution. In fact, it's a US-supported and funded anti-governmental organization dedicated to the overthrow of the Chavez government and the return of the country to its ugly past ruled by the former oligarchs and the interests of capital.
In the US this kind of activity or any foreign interference in elections would never be tolerated. US election law specifically prohibits foreign nationals or corporations from contributing to any federal, state or local political campaign, and it would be unthinkable to imagine there being any tolerance if it was learned a foreign government attempted to influence the electoral process here. None of this, however, applies to what the US does all over the world rountinely. At least post WW II, this country has a tainted history of meddling in the affairs of other countries almost like we had a birthright to do it. Put another way, according to "Washington-think," what's good for the US "goose" isn't allowed for any other country's "gander."
It's thus no surprise Sumate went on the Bush administration payroll when it first gained prominence in late 2003 becoming involved in organizing and providing support for the 2004 failed recall referendum signature collection process. Ever since it's been at the center of anti-Chavez activities and is liberally funded to do it by US agencies like NED and USAID. As mentioned above, it cancelled a primary it planned to hold after the main opposition candidates dropped out so Manuel Rosales could run unopposed against Hugo Chavez in the December election. It's now moving ahead with the help of millions of dollars of Washington-supplied opposition candidate bankrolling. This was recently revealed in 132 USAID contracts made public that claimed the funding to be politically neutral but which Hugo Chavez believes is being used overtly and covertly to undermine his government. USAID and NED now admit they're spending (at least) $26 million on the December election, and those organizations never support democratically elected leaders running for office who don't obey US neoliberal diktats.
Chavez has lots of past experience to back up his claim of US interference and an added new one now after the Bush administration named career CIA agent Patrick Maher as the "mission manager" to oversee US intelligence on Venezuela and Cuba. His previous job was as deputy director of the CIA's Office of Policy Support and his background includes having been an architect of the counter-insurgency strategy in Colombia as well as managing the agency's operations in the Caribbean region. William Izarra, a former MVR Party leader and the national coordinator of the Centres for Ideological Formation that organizes grassroots discussions about the Bolivarian Revolution, believes this move elevates Venezuela and Cuba into the "axis of evil" category along with Iran and North Korea, and that heightens the risk of trouble ahead.
The Chavez government knows something is afoot and is taking preventive action by having Venezuelan prosecutors bring conspiracy charges against Sumate leaders. If convicted, Maria Corina Machado could face up to 16 years in prison, and three other Sumate members also face charges. The National Assembly also intends to require "non-profit" groups like Sumate to reveal their funding sources. In addition, it's recommending Sumate be investigated for currency and tax law violations, and Chavez has threatened to expel US Ambassador William Brownfield whom he accuses of causing trouble as he's done in the past. All this is playing out in a highly-charged atmosphere of mistrust that's well-founded according to Eva Golinger who wrote "The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela." The book cited clear evidence of the Bush administration's intent to overthrow the Chavez government, and Golinger recently said Washington is "trying to implement regime change. There's no doubt about it (even though it) tries to mask it saying it's a noble mission."
The Prospect for Fall Fireworks in Venezuela
The Bush administration must believe while it's often wrong it's never in doubt. It's already dealing with two out of control conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and has blood-stained hands from its complicity with Israel on their co-sponsored conflicts against Lebanon and the one still raging in Palestine. Undeterred, it seems determined to become even more embroiled in the Middle East by planning a possible attack against Iran according to some reliable reports (or at least putting up a good bluff to do it), even though the US public has grown disenchanted with George Bush's wars and it shows in his low public approval rating. He's even now drawing flack within his own party, and many Republican candidates for Congress on November 7 see him as radioactive and don't want him around. So why would this administration be willing to risk making things even worse by trying to forcibly remove a democratically elected leader revered by his people who will never stand by and allow their Bolivarian Revolution to be taken away from them.
Here's why. Soon after the Bush administration came to power, Vice President (and de facto head of state) Dick Cheney said the US must "make energy security a (top) priority of our trade and foreign policy." The Iraq and Afghanistan wars followed what, in fact, was "boss" Cheney's diktat with control of energy and its security one of several key reasons why we're now embroiled in the greater Middle East.
Now fast forward to June, 2006 and it gets more chilling. The US Southern (military) Command in Latin America (that has no business meddling in affairs of state) concluded that efforts by Venezuela, Bolivia and Equador to extend state control over their oil and gas reserves threatens US oil security. A study it conducted states: "A re-emergence of state control of the energy sector (in those countries) will likely increase inefficiencies and....will hamper efforts to increase long-term supplies and production." Even though the region produces only 8.4% of the world's oil output, it accounts for 30% of US consumption, and most of that comes from Venezuela and Mexico with each of these countries supplying about an equal percentage of our needs.
A secure supply and firm control of oil from the region is crucial to the US, but most of all from Venezuela because of its vast reserves (including its immense untapped amount of Orinco Basin super-heavy tar oil) that potentially are even greater than what's now available from Saudi Arabia - although that's debatable and merely suggesting it will open up a torrent of disagreement that may be right. Still, Venezuela, by any measure, has the greatest hydrocarbon reserves in the hemisphere, and that makes the country and Hugo Chavez target number one in this part of the world for US energy security importance and second only after the greater Middle East that includes the Caspian Basin in Central Asia. Couple that with the fact that the US sees Hugo Chavez as the greatest of all threats it faces anywhere - a good example that may and is spreading throughout the region threatening US dominance over it and you have a recipe for a determined effort to oust him by any means including assassination and armed intervention.
Chavez, of course, knows the risk and so do the Venezuelan people who proved in 2002 they will rally en masse as they did then to restore their president to office after the US-staged two-day April coup that year briefly removed him. It's certain any attempt to oust him again will be met with the same resistance, and it's hard to imagine how intense it may be if the US succeeds in killing him. There's no question Washington wants to avoid six more years of Chavez rule and officials there have said it in so many words. They call Hugo Chavez "a clear and present danger to peace and democracy in the hemisphere (and) US strategy must be to help Venezuela accomplish peaceful change (before 2007)." Heinz Dieterich, a Chavez consultant, believes, as does Hugo Chavez, the Bush administration is plotting to assassinate him to prevent his serving another term in office.
So far there's been nothing more dramatic than the usual US Chavez-bashing especially after his September 20 tour de force at the UN General Assembly when the Venezuelan President had the courage to say what most other world leaders think but only speak about privately. The Bush administration responds claiming the Chavez government is a dictatorship that supports terrorism. It also unjustifiably accuses him suppressing the media and repressing his opposition, and it's guaranteed a Chavez victory will be challenged with outrageous accusations of electoral fraud arranged by a state-controlled CNE.
The truth on all counts is the opposite of the rhetoric, yet the vitriol continues unabated from Washington and is heard over the corporate-controlled media in both countries. What should be reported (but never is) is that the fairness of the Venezuelan electoral system shames the corrupted one in the US that's now run by corporate-owned and controlled electronic voting machines manipulated to assure enough business-friendly candidates win even when they're not the choice of the majority of US voters. Venezuela has real democracy while what's called that in the US is just a shameless mirage of one - an illusion the public hasn't caught onto yet. The Venezuelan people know the difference between that and the real thing and will fight to keep it. Sadly, most people in the US are kept uninformed, don't know what they've lost, and can't even imagine the kind of country they'd have if they had an enlightened leader like Hugo Chavez instead of the appalling one they're stuck with for two more years.
Things are certain to heat up in Venezuela between now and December 3 as the Bush administration tries to impose on the Venezuelan people what's it's already done here at home, and it will be relentless and ruthless about the way it does it. And if covert efforts are afoot, as almost for sure they are, we'll likely see them unveiled during the election period and they may be ugly. Hugo Chavez expects them, is surely ready to confront them when they're sprung, and it now remains to be seen how the latest chapter in the Bush administration vs. Hugo Chavez will play out. Stay closely tuned. It won't be long before the fireworks begin.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Comment on this Editorial
Editorial: Zionist Threats Against American Diplomats
Born in Indian territory to an Irish immigrant father and an Irish-American mother in what would later become the state of Oklahoma, Patrick J. Hurley became the National Attorney for the Choctaw Nation at the age of 28, representing its interests forcefully and successfully in Washington. His career was interrupted by service as an artilleryman in the Army in World War I. Returning to private law practice and Republican politics in Oklahoma, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of War by President Herbert Hoover. He was chosen by Hoover to be the new Secretary of War when the incumbent Secretary, James W. Good, died in November of 1929.
He was replaced when the Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was elected in 1932 and, once again, he returned to private practice. When the United States entered World War II, his services were called upon once again when FDR made him a Brigadier General in the Army and used him as his personal representative on some of the most sensitive missions of the war. In 1943, that was to the Middle East.
Here, we take up the account from General Hurley's biographer, Don Lohbeck:
In each of the countries that he visited, Hurley practiced the same formula for collecting "information and background material." First, he would obtain whatever books were available on the political, military and economic history of the country he was in; then he would listen to what the officials and diplomats would say. With this background, he would then begin his own investigation--listening to the tourist guides describe the sights and monuments valued by the people, visiting the police stations for an insight into the social problems, inspecting the hospitals, schools and other public institutions to discover the advances being made by the country, and talking to private citizens at the shrines and temples, in their homes, and on the street. He tried to place himself in a position where he could view the existing situation from the point of view of the native citizen--the more he saw and heard, the more depressing was his picture of conditions in the Middle East.
Though the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union were allied in a world-wide war for the professed purpose of guaranteeing the territorial integrity of all nations and the right of all peoples to self-government, the peoples of the Middle East were being crushed in the Anglo-Soviet struggle for imperialist control over their countries; while the United States was supplying and equipping the armies of the Allied nations, and American soldiers were dying in North Africa in the fight to repel the Axis invaders, the peoples of the Near East were being beaten down by the bitter rivalry between Britain and France for imperialistic supremacy in North Africa, Egypt, and the Levant.
Now, in addition to the Communist imperialism of the Soviet Union and the colonial imperialism of the British and French, a third imperialist manifestation--Zionism--had come to bring its impositions on the Middle Eastern peoples.
Leaving Cairo on March 31, General Hurley flew to Tel Aviv--and on the 2nd of April to Jerusalem, where he met with David Ben-Gurion, the Zionist leader.
As a result of the Turkish Treaty, Great Britain had been given control of Palestine in 1920; there were approximately 50,000 Jews in Palestine at the time. By 1933, there were 175,000 Jews in the little state--and at the time of Hurley's arrival the Jewish population of Palestine had risen to 500,000, and some one and one-half million Arabs.
The Zionist program, Ben-Gurion said, called for: bringing another one and one-half million Jews, mostly from Central Europe, into Palestine; freeing the country from British control; and establishing an autonomous Jewish state. The Zionists were basing their claim to the territory of Palestine on a number of reasons: (1) their interpretation of Biblical references to Palestine as the homeland of the Jews; (2) on the historic grounds that their ancestors had occupied the land until 1300 years previously; (3) the Balfour Declaration, in which the British (in 1917) had stated that they "favored the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews" (but with the proviso that the rights of the Arab inhabitants not be infringed upon), and (4) the fact that the Jews of the world had many millions of dollars invested in Palestine. ("He particularly emphasized this last point as a reason why the United States should support the Zionist program," Hurley wrote to President Roosevelt.)
As to the Zionists' claim to Palestine for historic reasons, Hurley replied to Ben-Gurion that "if the Jewish claim was to be honored on historic grounds, then all the territory of the Roman Empire should be returned to Fascist Italy." And on the matter of Biblical justification, Hurley reported to Roosevelt that "I told Mr. Ben-Gurion very plainly that America could not be bound in foreign policy by Jewish interpretation of Old Testament verses."
Ben-Gurion, in speaking of the Balfour Declaration, said that the United States, also, supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland. "I also reminded him," Hurley reported, "that the Joint Resolution, to which the Zionists were referring with such confidence, favored the establishment of a national home for the Jews only insofar as it would not trespass upon the rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine. I said that the plans of the Zionists, if successful in over-populating Palestine with two million Jews, would mean that at least one million Arabs would have to be transported beyond the frontiers of Palestine to begin life all over and that I did not consider the United States Government pledged to enforce any such decree."
While throughout the world Zionism was represented as a religious movement "based on humanitarian concern for a persecuted people," within Palestine it was a terrorist organization using tribute, coercion and assassination as its weapons. Foreign businesses, including American, operating in Palestine were forced to contribute monthly payments to the Zionist organization's treasury for permission to remain in business unmolested and un-boycotted. And when Hurley refused to publicly endorse the Zionist movement during his stay in Jerusalem, the personal representative of the United States was threatened with kidnapping and assassination. Ben-Gurion, nominal head of the Zionist movement in Palestine, admitted that he was not sure of his ability to control the terrorist Zionist groups. (emphasis added, DCD) -- Patrick J. Hurley (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1956), pp. 191-193.
The reader should be reminded that these observations were made and events took place before the assassinations of Lord Walter Moyne and Count Folke Bernadotte, the attempted assassination of Ernest Bevin, the bombing of the King David Hotel, and the slaughter of the residents of the village of Deir Yassin.
Comment on this Editorial
Never Safe Enough
U.S intelligence reveals "Intellipedia"
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-01 19:47:26
Believe it or not, but that's the title the office of U.S. intelligence czar John Negroponte announced Tuesday for the government's classified Intelink Web. The system allows intelligence analysts and other officials to work together to add and edit content and is key to the future of American espionage.
The "top secret" Intellipedia system, is currently available to the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community. It has grown to more than 28,000 pages and 3,600 registered users since its introduction on April 17. Less restrictive versions exist for "secret" and "sensitive but unclassified" material.
The system is also available to the Transportation Security Administration and national laboratories.
Intellipedia makes data available to thousands of users who would not see it otherwise, but also has spawned uneasiness about potential security lapses following the recent media leak of a national intelligence estimate that caused a political uproar by identifying the Iraq conflict as a contributor to the growth of global terrorism.
"We're taking a risk," admitted Michael Wertheimer, the intelligence community's chief technical officer. "There's a risk it's going to show up in the media, that it'll be leaked."
Intelligence officials say the format is the answer for sharing information between agencies. They are so enthusiastic about Intellipedia that they plan to allow access to Britain, Canada and Australia.
Even China could be granted access to help produce an unclassified intelligence estimate on the worldwide threat posed by infectious diseases.
"We'd hope to get down to the doctor in Shanghai who may have a useful contribution on avian flu," senior intelligence analyst Fred Hassani said.
Comment on this Article
Bush Lies... and Knows He's Lying
October 31, 2006
Many Americans are cynical about what they hear from politicians -- and often with good reason -- but perhaps no U.S. political leader in modern history has engaged in a pattern of lying and distortion more systematically than George W. Bush has.
Bush's lies also aren't about petty matters, such as some personal indiscretion or minor misconduct. Rather his dishonesty deals with issues of war and peace, the patriotism of his opponents, and the founding principles of the American Republic.
They are the kinds of lies and distortions more befitting the leader of a totalitarian state whipping up his followers to go after some perceived enemy than the President of the world's preeminent democracy seeking an informed debate among the citizenry.
For instance, in an Oct. 28 speech in Sellersburg, Indiana, Bush worked the crowd into a frenzy of "USA, USA" chants by accusing Democrats of not wanting to "detain and question terrorists," not wanting to listen in on "terrorist communications," and not wanting to bring terrorists to trial -- all gross distortions of Democratic positions.
Bush has used this same gambit for many years. He characterizes his strategies and actions in the most innocuous ways; he then ignores honest reasons for disagreement with him; and he characterizes his opponents' positions in the most absurd manner possible.
So, regarding the "war on terror," Bush never mentions the constitutional concerns about his strategies or the questions about their effectiveness. According to him, his decisions are always benign and obvious; those of his opponents border on the crazy and disloyal.
"When al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda affiliate is making a phone call from outside the United States to inside the United States, we want to know why," Bush told the cheering Indiana crowd. "In this new kind of war, we must be willing to question the enemy when we pick them up on the battlefield."
Referring to the capture of alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Bush said, "when we captured him, I said to the Central Intelligence Agency, why don't we find out what he knows in order to be able to protect America from another attack."
Bush then contrasted his eminently reasonable positions with those held by the nutty Democrats.
"When it came time on whether to allow the Central Intelligence Agency to continue to detain and question terrorists, almost 80 percent of the House Democrats voted against it," Bush said, as the crowd booed the Democrats. "When it came time to vote on whether the NSA [National Security Agency] should continue to monitor terrorist communications through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, almost 90 percent of House Democrats voted against it.
"In all these vital measures for fighting the war on terror, the Democrats in Washington follow a simple philosophy: Just say no. When it comes to listening in on the terrorists, what's the Democratic answer? Just say no. When it comes to detaining terrorists, what's the Democrat answer?"
Crowd: "Just say no!"
Bush: "When it comes to questioning terrorists, what's the Democrat answer?"
Crowd: "Just say no!"
Bush: "When it comes to trying terrorists, what's the Democrat's answer?"
Crowd: "Just say no!"
Bush vs. the truth
Yet, Bush realizes that the Democrats are not opposed to eavesdropping on terrorists, or detaining terrorists, or questioning terrorists, or bringing terrorists to trial.
What Democrats -- and many conservatives -- object to are Bush's methods: his tolerance of abusive interrogation techniques; his assertion of unlimited presidential authority; his abrogation of habeas corpus rights to a fair trial; and his violation of existing laws, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which already gives the President broad powers to engage in electronic spying inside the United States, albeit with the approval of a special court.
Bush's critics argue that all his "war on terror" objectives can be achieved without throwing out more than two centuries of American constitutional traditions or by violating human rights, such as prohibitions against torture. While Bush says Democrats don't want to try terrorist, their real complaint about his Military Commissions Act of 2006 comes from its denial of habeas corpus for non-citizens and its vague wording that could apply its draconian provisions to American citizens as well.
Bush's defenders may argue that the President was just using some oratorical license in the Indiana stump speech. But all the points he made to the crowd, he also has expressed in more formal settings.
The distortions also fit with Bush's long pattern of slanting the truth or engaging in outright lies when describing his adversaries, both foreign and domestic.
Yet Bush is almost never held to account by a U.S. news media that seems almost as cowed today as it was when Bush misled the nation into the Iraq War or -- after the invasion -- when he lied repeatedly, claiming that he had no choice but to invade because Saddam Hussein had barred U.N. weapons inspectors from Iraq.
Even when acknowledging that Bush's statements often turn out to be false, his defenders say it's unfair to call him a liar. They say he's just an honest guy who gets lots of bad information.
False talking points
But there comes a point when that defense wears thin. The evidence actually points to a leader who wants his subordinates to give him a steady supply of "talking points" that can be used to achieve his goals whether the arguments are true, half true or totally false.
How else can anyone explain why the most expensive intelligence system in history acted in 2002-03 like a kind of backward filter in processing evidence about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's purported ties to al-Qaeda.
The CIA's reverse analytical filter consistently removed the nuggets of good information -- when they undercut Bush's positions -- and let through the dross of misinformation.
In September 2006, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report that detailed how the U.S. intelligence community surrendered its duty to provide the government with accurate data and instead gave the Bush administration what it wanted to hear.
The committee concluded that nearly every key assessment as expressed in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq's WMD was wrong: "Postwar findings do not support the [NIE] judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program; ... do not support the [NIE] assessment that Iraq's acquisition of high-strength aluminum tubes was intended for an Iraqi nuclear program; ... do not support the [NIE] assessment that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake' from Africa; ... do not support the [NIE] assessment that 'Iraq has biological weapons' and that 'all key aspects of Iraq's offensive biological weapons program are larger and more advanced than before the Gulf war'; ... do not support the [NIE] assessment that Iraq possessed, or ever developed, mobile facilities for producing biological warfare agents; ... do not support the [NIE] assessments that Iraq 'has chemical weapons' or 'is expanding its chemical industry to support chemical weapons production'; ... do not support the [NIE] assessments that Iraq had a developmental program for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle 'probably intended to deliver biological agents' or that an effort to procure U.S. mapping software 'strongly suggests that Iraq is investigating the use of these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.'"
The Senate Intelligence Committee also concluded that the Bush administration's claims about the supposed relationship between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda were bogus. Rather than cooperating with Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as the Bush administration has claimed for the past four years, it turned out that the Iraqi government was trying to arrest Zarqawi.
But the creation of the bogus Saddam Hussein-Osama bin Laden link was not accidental. According to the committee report, the misinformation came via an administration mandate to cast every shred of information in the harshest possible light.
That systemic bias was revealed in the guidelines for a CIA paper produced in June 2002, entitled "Iraq and al-Qa'ida: Interpreting a Murky Relationship."
The CIA study was designed to assess the Iraqi government's links to al-Qaeda. But the analysts were given unusual instructions, told to be "purposely aggressive in seeking to draw connections, on the assumption that any indication of a relationship between these two hostile elements could carry great dangers to the United States."
A former CIA deputy director of intelligence told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the paper's authors were ordered to "lean far forward and do a speculative piece." The deputy director told them, "if you were going to stretch to the maximum the evidence you had, what could you come up with."
In other words, the CIA analysts set out to hype any evidence of possible links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. So, if some piece of information contained even a remote possibility of a connection, the assumption had to be that the tie-in was real and substantive.
When Zarqawi snuck into Baghdad for medical treatment, therefore, the assumption could not be that the Iraqi authorities were unaware of his presence or couldn't find him; it had to be that Saddam Hussein knew all about it and was collaborating with Zarqawi.
This practice of assuming the worst -- rather than attempting to gauge likelihoods as accurately as possible -- guaranteed the kind of slanted and even fanciful intelligence reports that guided the United States to war in 2002-2003.
What Bush wanted
But what is equally clear from the Senate report is that the U.S. intelligence community was giving Bush exactly what he wanted so he could present a litany of alleged grievances that would justify an unprovoked invasion. Even after the falsity of the intelligence was known, Bush gave CIA Director George Tenet, the bureaucrat who oversaw this perversion of intelligence, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be bestowed on an American civilian.
This pattern of slanting information about Iraq also has not stopped. It continues to the present day.
For instance, one of Bush's favorite arguments in his stump speeches is that the Democrats are playing into Osama bin Laden's hands by seeking a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.
"In Washington, the Democrats say [Iraq is] not a part of the war against the terrorists, it's a distraction." Bush told that crowd in Sellersburg, Indiana. "Well, don't take my word for it -- listen to Osama bin Laden. He has made it clear that Iraq is a central part of this war on terror. He and his number two man, Zawahiri have made it abundantly clear that their goal is to inflict enough damage on innocent life and damage on our own troops so that we leave before the job is done."
But that isn't what the latest intelligence on al-Qaeda's goals shows. Indeed, U.S. intelligence has intercepted communiqués from al-Qaeda leaders to Zarqawi in 2005 that actually reveal their alarm at the possibility of a prompt U.S. military withdrawal and their goal of "prolonging the war" by keeping the Americans bogged down in Iraq.
In a Dec. 11, 2005, letter, a senior al-Qaeda leader known as "Atiyah" lectured Zarqawi on the need to take the long view and build ties with elements of the Sunni-led Iraqi insurgency that had little in common with al-Qaeda except hatred of the Americans.
"The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness and firm rooting, and that it grows in terms of supporters, strength, clarity of justification, and visible proof each day," Atiyah wrote. "Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest." [Emphasis added.]
The "Atiyah letter," which was discovered by U.S. authorities at the time of Zarqawi's death on June 7, 2006, and was translated by the U.S. military's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, also stressed the vulnerability of al-Qaeda's position in Iraq.
"Know that we, like all mujahaddin, are still weak," Atiyah told Zarqawi. "We have not yet reached a level of stability. We have no alternative but to not squander any element of the foundations of strength or any helper or supporter."
Atiyah's worries reiterated concerns expressed by bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri in another intercepted letter from July 7, 2005. In that letter, Zawahiri fretted that a rapid U.S. pullout could cause al-Qaeda's operation in Iraq to collapse because foreign jihadists, who flocked to Iraq to fight Americans, would give up the fight and go home.
"The mujahaddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal," wrote Zawahiri, according to a text released by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.
To avert mass desertions, Zawahiri suggests that Zarqawi talk up the "idea" of a "caliphate" along the eastern Mediterranean.
What al-Qaeda leaders seem to fear most is that a U.S. military withdrawal would contribute to a disintegration of their fragile position in Iraq, between the expected desertions of the foreign fighters and the targeting of al-Qaeda's remaining forces by Iraqis determined to rid their country of violent outsiders. In that sense, the longer the United States remains in Iraq, the deeper al-Qaeda can put down roots and the more it can harden its new recruits through indoctrination and training. These intercepted letters also fit with last April's conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has proved to be a "cause celebre" that has spread Islamic radicalism around the globe.
Bush surely knows all this, but he also appears confident that he can continue to sell a distorted interpretation of the evidence to a gullible U.S. public. Basically, it appears that the President believes that the American people are very stupid.
Comment on this Article
Thugs in suits
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
[Republicans deal with protesters at a 2004 Bush rally in Colmar, Pa.]
Pay attention, kids: The problem with eliminationist rhetoric isn't just the viciousness of the people speaking it. The real problem is the people listening.
It starts out as just talk -- demonization and dehumanization, which leads to disposability, and finally a wish to eliminate, including a predisposition to violence at every step. Pretty soon it's a widespread attitude. And then, eventually, people start acting on those attitudes.
Mike Stark's assault by George Allen staffers is another indicator of the progression along this track being taken by conservatives as they see their power base threatened. More details here.
It's noteworthy this happened amid a campaign run by a sitting U.S. senator who told campaign audiences that "We are going to kick the liberals' soft teeth down their throats".
Of course, we've known for some time that Republicans increasingly see campaign events by their candidates as closed events for True Believers Only, and Others (aka The Enemy) may be ejected by any means necessary. Certainly that was the case at Bush events in 2004, and this approach to campaigning has clearly broadened and deepened in 2006.
But it isn't just campaign events anymore. What seems to upset right-wing officeholders the most is when anyone attempts to hold them accountable.
That's why Marilyn Musgrave tried to have Michael Schiavo arrested merely for showing up at a public debate.
It's why Melissa Hart ordered the arrests of a group of elderly protesters who came to her office.
Howie Klein wonders what's up with this. It's more of the same, really, but with greater intensity. Now we have the added element of supporters believing they can now take these matters into their hands, violently.
You can see how it plays out in the video of Musgrave critics trying to get Musgrave to answer their questions. Not only does Musgrave ignore them as her entourage shoves the questioners out of the way; but at the end, some of her supporters confront the questioners and physically intimidate them by shoving them and grabbing their mike.
What's fueling all this is the unrelenting talk on the right blaming liberals for the growing public awareness of their own governmental malfeasance -- and countering with nothing less than unadulterated hatred.
This is how eliminationism has always worked in this country: First we talk about taking out "the enemy". Then we begin doing it.
More on all that soon.
Comment on this Article
Heckler subdued at Sen. Allen event
2006/11By BOB LEWIS, Associated Press Writer
RICHMOND, Va. - A c, , ) turned physical when a liberal blogger was wrestled to the ground after heckling the senator about his divorce and court records.
Stark's comments Tuesday and the confrontation that followed were captured by WVIR-TV in Charlottesville.
Stark later said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press: "I am a constituent. I am allowed to ask my U.S. senator questions." He later demanded that Allen fire the staffers involved and threatened to press charges.
Allen's former wife, Anne Waddell, issued a statement after Tuesday's incident calling Stark's question "a baseless, cheap shot." She said she and Allen divorced more than 22 years ago and, because it was a personal matter, they had the divorce records sealed.
In August, Stark similarly approached Allen after a speech at a hotel near Staunton, loudly asking if he had ever used a six-letter epithet against blacks.
Stark said Tuesday that he approached Allen at the same time reporters did after his speech and first asked him about two court summonses issued for Allen in Albemarle County in 1974.
A new statewide poll conducted for CNN showed Allen's Democratic challenger, former Navy Secretary Jim Webb, with a slight lead in the fiercely contested race that could help determine whether the GOP retains control of the Senate.
Comment on this Article
The Worst Congress Ever
By Matt Taibbi
10/31/06 "Rolling Stone"
There is very little that sums up the record of the U.S. Congress in the Bush years better than a half-mad boy-addict put in charge of a federal commission on child exploitation. After all, if a hairy-necked, raincoat-clad freak like Rep. Mark Foley can get himself named co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, one can only wonder: What the hell else is going on in the corridors of Capitol Hill these days?
These past six years were more than just the most shameful, corrupt and incompetent period in the history of the American legislative branch. These were the years when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula -- a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.
To be sure, Congress has always been a kind of muddy ideological cemetery, a place where good ideas go to die in a maelstrom of bureaucratic hedging and rank favor-trading. Its whole history is one long love letter to sleaze, idiocy and pigheaded, glacial conservatism. That Congress exists mainly to misspend our money and snore its way through even the direst political crises is something we Americans understand instinctively. "There is no native criminal class except Congress," Mark Twain said -- a joke that still provokes a laugh of recognition a hundred years later.
But the 109th Congress is no mild departure from the norm, no slight deviation in an already-underwhelming history. No, this is nothing less than a historic shift in how our democracy is run. The Republicans who control this Congress are revolutionaries, and they have brought their revolutionary vision for the House and Senate quite unpleasantly to fruition. In the past six years they have castrated the political minority, abdicated their oversight responsibilities mandated by the Constitution, enacted a conscious policy of massive borrowing and unrestrained spending, and installed a host of semipermanent mechanisms for transferring legislative power to commercial interests. They aimed far lower than any other Congress has ever aimed, and they nailed their target.
"The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a failed experiment," says Jonathan Turley, a noted constitutional scholar and the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington Law School. "I think that if the Framers went to Capitol Hill today, it would shake their confidence in the system they created. Congress has become an exercise of raw power with no principles -- and in that environment corruption has flourished. The Republicans in Congress decided from the outset that their future would be inextricably tied to George Bush and his policies. It has become this sad session of members sitting down and drinking Kool-Aid delivered by Karl Rove. Congress became a mere extension of the White House."
The end result is a Congress that has hijacked the national treasury, frantically ceded power to the executive, and sold off the federal government in a private auction. It all happened before our very eyes. In case you missed it, here's how they did it -- in five easy steps:
RULE BY CABAL
If you want to get a sense of how Congress has changed under GOP control, just cruise the basement hallways of storied congressional office buildings like Rayburn, Longworth and Cannon. Here, in the minority offices for the various congressional committees, you will inevitably find exactly the same character -- a Democratic staffer in rumpled khakis staring blankly off into space, nothing but a single lonely "Landscapes of Monticello" calendar on his wall, his eyes wide and full of astonished, impotent rage, like a rape victim. His skin is as white as the belly of a fish; he hasn't seen the sun in seven years.
It is no big scoop that the majority party in Congress has always found ways of giving the shaft to the minority. But there is a marked difference in the size and the length of the shaft the Republicans have given the Democrats in the past six years. There has been a systematic effort not only to deny the Democrats any kind of power-sharing role in creating or refining legislation but to humiliate them publicly, show them up, pee in their faces. Washington was once a chummy fraternity in which members of both parties golfed together, played in the same pickup basketball games, probably even shared the same mistresses. Now it is a one-party town -- and congressional business is conducted accordingly, as though the half of the country that the Democrats represent simply does not exist.
American government was not designed for one-party rule but for rule by consensus -- so this current batch of Republicans has found a way to work around that product design. They have scuttled both the spirit and the letter of congressional procedure, turning the lawmaking process into a backroom deal, with power concentrated in the hands of a few chiefs behind the scenes. This reduces the legislature to a Belarus-style rubber stamp, where the opposition is just there for show, human pieces of stagecraft -- a fact the Republicans don't even bother to conceal.
"I remember one incident very clearly -- I think it was 2001," says Winslow Wheeler, who served for twenty-two years as a Republican staffer in the Senate. "I was working for [New Mexico Republican] Pete Domenici at the time. We were in a Budget Committee hearing and the Democrats were debating what the final result would be. And my boss gets up and he says, 'Why are you saying this? You're not even going to be in the room when the decisions are made.' Just said it right out in the open."
Wheeler's very career is a symbol of a bipartisan age long passed into the history books; he is the last staffer to have served in the offices of a Republican and a Democrat at the same time, having once worked for both Kansas Republican Nancy Kassebaum and Arkansas Democrat David Pryor simultaneously. Today, those Democratic staffers trapped in the basement laugh at the idea that such a thing could ever happen again. These days, they consider themselves lucky if they manage to hold a single hearing on a bill before Rove's well-oiled legislative machine delivers it up for Bush's signature.
The GOP's "take that, bitch" approach to governing has been taken to the greatest heights by the House Judiciary Committee. The committee is chaired by the legendary Republican monster James Sensenbrenner Jr., an ever-sweating, fat-fingered beast who wields his gavel in a way that makes you think he might have used one before in some other arena, perhaps to beat prostitutes to death. Last year, Sensenbrenner became apoplectic when Democrats who wanted to hold a hearing on the Patriot Act invoked a little-known rule that required him to let them have one.
"Naturally, he scheduled it for something like 9 a.m. on a Friday when Congress wasn't in session, hoping that no one would show," recalls a Democratic staffer who attended the hearing. "But we got a pretty good turnout anyway."
Sensenbrenner kept trying to gavel the hearing to a close, but Democrats again pointed to the rules, which said they had a certain amount of time to examine their witnesses. When they refused to stop the proceedings, the chairman did something unprecedented: He simply picked up his gavel and walked out.
"He was like a kid at the playground," the staffer says. And just in case anyone missed the point, Sensenbrenner shut off the lights and cut the microphones on his way out of the room.
For similarly petulant moves by a committee chair, one need look no further than the Ways and Means Committee, where Rep. Bill Thomas -- a pugnacious Californian with an enviable ego who was caught having an affair with a pharmaceutical lobbyist -- enjoys a reputation rivaling that of the rotund Sensenbrenner. The lowlight of his reign took place just before midnight on July 17th, 2003, when Thomas dumped a "substitute" pension bill on Democrats -- one that they had never read -- and informed them they would be voting on it the next morning. Infuriated, Democrats stalled by demanding that the bill be read out line by line while they recessed to a side room to confer. But Thomas wanted to move forward -- so he called the Capitol police to evict the Democrats.
Thomas is also notorious for excluding Democrats from the conference hearings needed to iron out the differences between House and Senate versions of a bill. According to the rules, conferences have to include at least one public, open meeting. But in the Bush years, Republicans have managed the conference issue with some of the most mind-blowingly juvenile behavior seen in any parliament west of the Russian Duma after happy hour. GOP chairmen routinely call a meeting, bring the press in for a photo op and then promptly shut the proceedings down. "Take a picture, wait five minutes, gavel it out -- all for show" is how one Democratic staffer described the process. Then, amazingly, the Republicans sneak off to hold the real conference, forcing the Democrats to turn amateur detective and go searching the Capitol grounds for the meeting. "More often than not, we're trying to figure out where the conference is," says one House aide.
In one legendary incident, Rep. Charles Rangel went searching for a secret conference being held by Thomas. When he found the room where Republicans closeted themselves, he knocked and knocked on the door, but no one answered. A House aide compares the scene to the famous "Land Shark" skit from Saturday Night Live, with everyone hiding behind the door afraid to make a sound. "Rangel was the land shark, I guess," the aide jokes. But the real punch line came when Thomas finally opened the door. "This meeting," he informed Rangel, "is only open to the coalition of the willing."
Republican rudeness and bluster make for funny stories, but the phenomenon has serious consequences. The collegial atmosphere that once prevailed helped Congress form a sense of collective identity that it needed to fulfill its constitutional role as a check on the power of the other two branches of government. It also enabled Congress to pass legislation with a wide mandate, legislation that had been negotiated between the leaders of both parties. For this reason Republican and Democratic leaders traditionally maintained cordial relationships with each other -- the model being the collegiality between House Speaker Nicholas Longworth and Minority Leader John Nance Garner in the 1920s. The two used to hold daily meetings over drinks and even rode to work together.
Although cooperation between the two parties has ebbed and flowed over the years, historians note that Congress has taken strong bipartisan action in virtually every administration. It was Sen. Harry Truman who instigated investigations of wartime profiteering under FDR, and Republicans Howard Baker and Lowell Weicker Jr. played pivotal roles on the Senate Watergate Committee that nearly led to Nixon's impeachment.
But those days are gone. "We haven't seen any congressional investigations like this during the last six years," says David Mayhew, a professor of political science at Yale who has studied Congress for four decades. "These days, Congress doesn't seem to be capable of doing this sort of thing. Too much nasty partisanship."
One of the most depressing examples of one-party rule is the Patriot Act. The measure was originally crafted in classic bipartisan fashion in the Judiciary Committee, where it passed by a vote of thirty-six to zero, with famed liberals like Barney Frank and Jerrold Nadler saying aye. But when the bill was sent to the Rules Committee, the Republicans simply chucked the approved bill and replaced it with a new, far more repressive version, apparently written at the direction of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.
"They just rewrote the whole bill," says Rep. James McGovern, a minority member of the Rules Committee. "All that committee work was just for show."
To ensure that Democrats can't alter any of the last-minute changes, Republicans have overseen a monstrous increase in the number of "closed" rules -- bills that go to the floor for a vote without any possibility of amendment. This tactic undercuts the very essence of democracy: In a bicameral system, allowing bills to be debated openly is the only way that the minority can have a real impact, by offering amendments to legislation drafted by the majority.
In 1977, when Democrats held a majority in the House, eighty-five percent of all bills were open to amendment. But by 1994, the last year Democrats ran the House, that number had dropped to thirty percent -- and Republicans were seriously pissed. "You know what the closed rule means," Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida thundered on the House floor. "It means no discussion, no amendments. That is profoundly undemocratic." When Republicans took control of the House, they vowed to throw off the gag rules imposed by Democrats. On opening day of the 104th Congress, then-Rules Committee chairman Gerald Solomon announced his intention to institute free debate on the floor. "Instead of having seventy percent closed rules," he declared, "we are going to have seventy percent open and unrestricted rules."
How has Solomon fared? Of the 111 rules introduced in the first session of this Congress, only twelve were open. Of those, eleven were appropriations bills, which are traditionally open. That left just one open vote -- H. Res. 255, the Federal Deposit Insurance Reform Act of 2005.
In the second session of this Congress? Not a single open rule, outside of appropriation votes. Under the Republicans, amendable bills have been a genuine Washington rarity, the upside-down eight-leafed clover of legislative politics.
When bills do make it to the floor for a vote, the debate generally resembles what one House aide calls "preordained Kabuki." Republican leaders in the Bush era have mastered a new congressional innovation: the one-vote victory. Rather than seeking broad consensus, the leadership cooks up some hideously expensive, favor-laden boondoggle and then scales it back bit by bit. Once they're in striking range, they send the fucker to the floor and beat in the brains of the fence-sitters with threats and favors until enough members cave in and pass the damn thing. It is, in essence, a legislative microcosm of the electoral strategy that Karl Rove has employed to such devastating effect.
A classic example was the vote for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the union-smashing, free-trade monstrosity passed in 2005. As has often been the case in the past six years, the vote was held late at night, away from the prying eyes of the public, who might be horrified by what they see. Thanks to such tactics, the 109th is known as the "Dracula" Congress: Twenty bills have been brought to a vote between midnight and 7 a.m.
CAFTA actually went to vote early -- at 11:02 p.m. When the usual fifteen-minute voting period expired, the nays were up, 180 to 175. Republicans then held the vote open for another forty-seven minutes while GOP leaders cruised the aisles like the family elders from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, frantically chopping at the legs and arms of Republicans who opposed the measure. They even roused the president out of bed to help kick ass for the vote, passing a cell phone with Bush on the line around the House cloakroom like a bong. Rep. Robin Hayes of North Carolina was approached by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who told him, "Negotiations are open. Put on the table the things that your district and people need and we'll get them." After receiving assurances that the administration would help textile manufacturers in his home state by restricting the flow of cheap Chinese imports, Hayes switched his vote to yea. CAFTA ultimately passed by two votes at 12:03 a.m.
Closed rules, shipwrecked bills, secret negotiations, one-vote victories. The result of all this is a Congress where there is little or no open debate and virtually no votes are left to chance; all the important decisions are made in backroom deals, and what you see on C-Span is just empty theater, the world's most expensive trained-dolphin act. The constant here is a political strategy of conducting congressional business with as little outside input as possible, rejecting the essentially conservative tradition of rule-by-consensus in favor of a more revolutionary strategy of rule by cabal.
"This Congress has thrown caution to the wind," says Turley, the constitutional scholar. "They have developed rules that are an abuse of majority power. Keeping votes open by freezing the clock, barring minority senators from negotiations on important conference issues -- it is a record that the Republicans should now dread. One of the concerns that Republicans have about losing Congress is that they will have to live under the practices and rules they have created. The abuses that served them in the majority could come back to haunt them in the minority."
WORK AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE -- AND SCREW UP WHAT LITTLE YOU DO
It's Thursday evening, September 28th, and the Senate is putting the finishing touches on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, colloquially known as the "torture bill." It's a law even Stalin would admire, one that throws habeas corpus in the trash, legalizes a vast array of savage interrogation techniques and generally turns the president of the United States into a kind of turbocharged Yoruba witch doctor, with nearly unlimited snatching powers. The bill is a fall-from-Eden moment in American history, a potentially disastrous step toward authoritarianism -- but what is most disturbing about it, beyond the fact that it's happening, is that the senators are hurrying to get it done.
In addition to ending generations of bipartisanship and instituting one-party rule, our national legislators in the Bush years are guilty of something even more fundamental: They suck at their jobs.
They don't work many days, don't pass many laws, and the few laws they're forced to pass, they pass late. In fact, in every year that Bush has been president, Congress has failed to pass more than three of the eleven annual appropriations bills on time.
That figures into tonight's problems. At this very moment, as the torture bill goes to a vote, there are only a few days left until the beginning of the fiscal year -- and not one appropriations bill has been passed so far. That's why these assholes are hurrying to bag this torture bill: They want to finish in time to squeeze in a measly two hours of debate tonight on the half-trillion-dollar defense-appropriations bill they've blown off until now. The plan is to then wrap things up tomorrow before splitting Washington for a month of real work, i.e., campaigning.
Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont comments on this rush to torture during the final, frenzied debate. "Over 200 years of jurisprudence in this country," Leahy pleads, "and following an hour of debate, we get rid of it?"
Yawns, chatter, a few sets of rolling eyes -- yeah, whatever, Pat. An hour later, the torture bill is law. Two hours after that, the diminutive chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Ted Stevens, reads off the summary of the military-spending bill to a mostly empty hall; since the members all need their sleep and most have left early, the "debate" on the biggest spending bill of the year is conducted before a largely phantom audience.
"Mr. President," Stevens begins, eyeing the few members present. "There are only four days left in the fiscal year. The 2007 defense appropriations conference report must be signed into law by the president before Saturday at midnight. . . ."
Watching Ted Stevens spend half a trillion dollars is like watching a junkie pull a belt around his biceps with his teeth. You get the sense he could do it just as fast in the dark. When he finishes his summary -- $436 billion in defense spending, including $70 billion for the Iraq "emergency" -- he fucks off and leaves the hall. A few minutes later, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma -- one of the so-called honest Republicans who has clashed with his own party's leadership on spending issues -- appears in the hall and whines to the empty room about all the lavish pork projects and sheer unadulterated waste jammed into the bill. But aside from a bored-looking John Cornyn of Texas, who is acting as president pro tempore, and a couple of giggling, suit-clad pages, there is no one in the hall to listen to him.
In the Sixties and Seventies, Congress met an average of 162 days a year. In the Eighties and Nineties, the average went down to 139 days. This year, the second session of the 109th Congress will set the all-time record for fewest days worked by a U.S. Congress: ninety-three. That means that House members will collect their $165,000 paychecks for only three months of actual work.
What this means is that the current Congress will not only beat but shatter the record for laziness set by the notorious "Do-Nothing" Congress of 1948, which met for a combined 252 days between the House and the Senate. This Congress -- the Do-Even-Less Congress -- met for 218 days, just over half a year, between the House and the Senate combined.
And even those numbers don't come close to telling the full story. Those who actually work on the Hill will tell you that a great many of those "workdays" were shameless mail-ins, half-days at best. Congress has arranged things now so that the typical workweek on the Hill begins late on Tuesday and ends just after noon on Thursday, to give members time to go home for the four-day weekend. This is borne out in the numbers: On nine of its "workdays" this year, the House held not a single vote -- meeting for less than eleven minutes. The Senate managed to top the House's feat, pulling off three workdays this year that lasted less than one minute. All told, a full fifteen percent of the Senate's workdays lasted less than four hours. Figuring for half-days, in fact, the 109th Congress probably worked almost two months less than that "Do-Nothing" Congress.
Congressional laziness comes at a high price. By leaving so many appropriations bills unpassed by the beginning of the new fiscal year, Congress forces big chunks of the government to rely on "continuing resolutions" for their funding. Why is this a problem? Because under congressional rules, CRs are funded at the lowest of three levels: the level approved by the House, the level approved by the Senate or the level approved from the previous year. Thanks to wide discrepancies between House and Senate appropriations for social programming, CRs effectively operate as a backdoor way to slash social programs. It's also a nice way for congressmen to get around having to pay for expensive-ass programs they voted for, like No Child Left Behind and some of the other terminally underfunded boondoggles of the Bush years.
"The whole point of passing appropriations bills is that Congress is supposed to make small increases in programs to account for things like the increase in population," says Adam Hughes, director of federal fiscal policy for OMB Watch, a nonpartisan watchdog group. "It's their main job." Instead, he says, the reliance on CRs "leaves programs underfunded."
Instead of dealing with its chief constitutional duty -- approving all government spending -- Congress devotes its time to dumb bullshit. "This Congress spent a week and a half debating Terri Schiavo -- it never made appropriations a priority," says Hughes. In fact, Congress leaves itself so little time to pass the real appropriations bills that it winds up rolling them all into one giant monstrosity known as an Omnibus bill and passing it with little or no debate. Rolling eight-elevenths of all federal spending into a single bill that hits the floor a day or two before the fiscal year ends does not leave much room to check the fine print. "It allows a lot more leeway for fiscal irresponsibility," says Hughes.
A few years ago, when Democratic staffers in the Senate were frantically poring over a massive Omnibus bill they had been handed the night before the scheduled vote, they discovered a tiny provision that had not been in any of the previous versions. The item would have given senators on the Appropriations Committee access to the private records of any taxpayer -- essentially endowing a few selected hacks in the Senate with the license to snoop into the private financial information of all Americans.
"We were like, 'What the hell is this?' "says one Democratic aide familiar with the incident. "It was the most egregious thing imaginable. It was just lucky we caught them."
LET THE PRESIDENT DO WHATEVER HE WANTS
The constitution is very clear on the responsibility of Congress to serve as a check on the excesses of the executive branch. The House and Senate, after all, are supposed to pass all laws -- the president is simply supposed to execute them. Over the years, despite some ups and downs, Congress has been fairly consistent in upholding this fundamental responsibility, regardless of which party controlled the legislative branch. Elected representatives saw themselves as beholden not to their own party or the president but to the institution of Congress itself. The model of congressional independence was Sen. William Fulbright, who took on McCarthy, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon with equal vigor during the course of his long career.
"Fulbright behaved the same way with Nixon as he did with Johnson," says Wheeler, the former Senate aide who worked on both sides of the aisle. "You wouldn't see that today."
In fact, the Republican-controlled Congress has created a new standard for the use of oversight powers. That standard seems to be that when a Democratic president is in power, there are no matters too stupid or meaningless to be investigated fully -- but when George Bush is president, no evidence of corruption or incompetence is shocking enough to warrant congressional attention. One gets the sense that Bush would have to drink the blood of Christian babies to inspire hearings in Congress -- and only then if he did it during a nationally televised State of the Union address and the babies were from Pennsylvania, where Senate Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter was running ten points behind in an election year.
The numbers bear this out. From the McCarthy era in the 1950s through the Republican takeover of Congress in 1995, no Democratic committee chairman issued a subpoena without either minority consent or a committee vote. In the Clinton years, Republicans chucked that long-standing arrangement and issued more than 1,000 subpoenas to investigate alleged administration and Democratic misconduct, reviewing more than 2 million pages of government documents.
Guess how many subpoenas have been issued to the White House since George Bush took office? Zero -- that's right, zero, the same as the number of open rules debated this year; two fewer than the number of appropriations bills passed on time.
And the cost? Republicans in the Clinton years spent more than $35 million investigating the administration. The total amount of taxpayer funds spent, when independent counsels are taken into account, was more than $150 million. Included in that number was $2.2 million to investigate former HUD secretary Henry Cisneros for lying about improper payments he made to a mistress. In contrast, today's Congress spent barely half a million dollars investigating the outright fraud and government bungling that followed Hurricane Katrina, the largest natural disaster in American history.
"Oversight is one of the most important functions of Congress -- perhaps more important than legislating," says Rep. Henry Waxman. "And the Republicans have completely failed at it. I think they decided that they were going to be good Republicans first and good legislators second."
As the ranking minority member of the Government Reform Committee, Waxman has earned a reputation as the chief Democratic muckraker, obsessively cranking out reports on official misconduct and incompetence. Among them is a lengthy document detailing all of the wrongdoing by the Bush administration that should have been investigated -- and would have been, in any other era. The litany of fishy behavior left uninvestigated in the Bush years includes the manipulation of intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees, the leak of Valerie Plame's CIA status, the award of Halliburton contracts, the White House response to Katrina, secret NSA wiretaps, Dick Cheney's energy task force, the withholding of Medicare cost estimates, the administration's politicization of science, contract abuses at Homeland Security and lobbyist influence at the EPA.
Waxman notes that the failure to investigate these issues has actually hurt the president, leaving potentially fatal flaws in his policies unexamined even by those in his own party. Without proper congressional oversight, small disasters like the misuse of Iraq intelligence have turned into huge, festering, unsolvable fiascoes like the Iraq occupation. Republicans in Congress who stonewalled investigations of the administration "thought they were doing Bush a favor," says Waxman. "But they did him the biggest disservice of all."
Congress has repeatedly refused to look at any aspect of the war. In 2003, Republicans refused to allow a vote on a bill introduced by Waxman that would have established an independent commission to review the false claims Bush made in asking Congress to declare war on Iraq. That same year, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, refused to hold hearings on whether the administration had forged evidence of the nuclear threat allegedly posed by Iraq. A year later the chair of the Government Reform Committee, Tom Davis, refused to hold hearings on new evidence casting doubt on the "nuclear tubes" cited by the Bush administration before the war. Sen. Pat Roberts, who pledged to issue a Senate Intelligence Committee report after the 2004 election on whether the Bush administration had misled the public before the invasion, changed his mind after the president won re-election. "I think it would be a monumental waste of time to re-plow this ground any further," Roberts said.
Sensenbrenner has done his bit to squelch any debate over Iraq. He refused a request by John Conyers and more than fifty other Democrats for hearings on the famed "Downing Street Memo," the internal British document that stated that Bush had "fixed" the intelligence about the war, and he was one of three committee chairs who rejected requests for hearings on the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Despite an international uproar over Abu Ghraib, Congress spent only twelve hours on hearings on the issue. During the Clinton administration, by contrast, the Republican Congress spent 140 hours investigating the president's alleged misuse of his Christmas-card greeting list.
"You talk to many Republicans in Congress privately, and they will tell you how appalled they are by the administration's diminishment of civil liberties and the constant effort to keep fear alive," says Turley, who testified as a constitutional scholar in favor of the Clinton impeachment. "Yet those same members slavishly vote with the White House. What's most alarming about the 109th has been the massive erosion of authority in Congress. There has always been partisanship, but this is different. Members have become robotic in the way they vote."
Perhaps the most classic example of failed oversight in the Bush era came in a little-publicized hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee held on February 13th, 2003 -- just weeks before the invasion of Iraq. The hearing offered senators a rare opportunity to grill Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and top Pentagon officials on a wide variety of matters, including the fairly important question of whether they even had a fucking plan for the open-ended occupation of a gigantic hostile foreign population halfway around the planet. This was the biggest bite that Congress would have at the Iraq apple before the war, and given the gravity of the issue, it should have been a beast of a hearing.
But it wasn't to be. In a meeting that lasted two hours and fifty-three minutes, only one question was asked about the military's readiness on the eve of the invasion. Sen. John Warner, the committee's venerable and powerful chairman, asked Gen. Richard Myers if the U.S. was ready to fight simultaneously in both Iraq and North Korea, if necessary.
Myers answered, "Absolutely."
And that was it. The entire exchange lasted fifteen seconds. The rest of the session followed a pattern familiar to anyone who has watched a hearing on C-Span: The members, when they weren't reading or chatting with one another, used their time with witnesses almost exclusively to address parochial concerns revolving around pork projects in their own districts. Warner set the tone in his opening remarks; after announcing that U.S. troops preparing to invade Iraq could count on his committee's "strongest support," the senator from Virginia quickly turned to the question of how the war would affect the budget for Navy shipbuilding, which, he said, was not increasing "as much as we wish." Not that there's a huge Navy shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, or anything.
Other senators followed suit. Daniel Akaka was relatively uninterested in Iraq but asked about reports that Korea might have a missile that could reach his home state of Hawaii. David Pryor of Arkansas used his time to tout the wonders of military bases in Little Rock and Pine Bluff. When the senators weren't eating up their allotted time in this fashion, they were usually currying favor with the generals. Warner himself nicely encapsulated the obsequious tone of the session when he complimented Rumsfeld for having his shit so together on the war.
"I think your response reflects that we have given a good deal of consideration," Warner said. "That we have clear plans in place and are ready to proceed." We all know how that turned out.
SPEND, SPEND, SPEND
There is a simple reason that members of Congress don't waste their time providing any oversight of the executive branch: There's nothing in it for them. "What they've all figured out is that there's no political payoff in oversight," says Wheeler, the former congressional staffer. "But there's a big payoff in pork."
When one considers that Congress has forsaken hearings and debate, conspired to work only three months a year, completely ditched its constitutional mandate to provide oversight and passed very little in the way of meaningful legislation, the question arises: What do they do?
The answer is easy: They spend. When Bill Clinton left office, the nation had a budget surplus of $236 billion. Today, thanks to Congress, the budget is $296 billion in the hole. This year, more than sixty-five percent of all the money borrowed in the entire world will be borrowed by America, a statistic fueled by the speed-junkie spending habits of our supposedly "fiscally conservative" Congress. It took forty-two presidents before George W. Bush to borrow $1 trillion; under Bush, Congress has more than doubled that number in six years. And more often than not, we are borrowing from countries the sane among us would prefer not to be indebted to: The U.S. shells out $77 billion a year in interest to foreign creditors, including payment on the $300 billion we currently owe China.
What do they spend that money on? In the age of Jack Abramoff, that is an ugly question to even contemplate. But let's take just one bill, the so-called energy bill, a big, hairy, favor-laden bitch of a law that started out as the wet dream of Dick Cheney's energy task force and spent four long years leaving grease-tracks on every set of palms in the Capitol before finally becoming law in 2005.
Like a lot of laws in the Bush era, it was crafted with virtually no input from the Democrats, who were excluded from the conference process. And during the course of the bill's gestation period we were made aware that many of its provisions were more or less openly for sale, as in the case of a small electric utility from Kansas called Westar Energy.
Westar wanted a provision favorable to its business inserted in the bill -- and in an internal company memo, it acknowledged that members of Congress had requested Westar donate money to their campaigns in exchange for the provision. The members included former Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin and current Energy and Commerce chairman Joe Barton of Texas. "They have made this request in lieu of contributions made to their own campaigns," the memo noted. The total amount of Westar's contributions was $58,200.
Keep in mind, that number -- fifty-eight grand -- was for a single favor. The energy bill was loaded with them. Between 2001 and the passage of the bill, energy companies donated $115 million to federal politicians, with seventy-five percent of the money going to Republicans. When the bill finally passed, it contained $6 billion in subsidies for the oil industry, much of which was funneled through a company with ties to Majority Leader Tom DeLay. It included an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act for companies that use a methane-drilling technique called "hydraulic fracturing" -- one of the widest practitioners of which is Halliburton. And it included billions in subsidies for the construction of new coal plants and billions more in loan guarantees to enable the coal and nuclear industries to borrow money at bargain-basement interest rates.
Favors for campaign contributors, exemptions for polluters, shifting the costs of private projects on to the public -- these are the specialties of this Congress. They seldom miss an opportunity to impoverish the states we live in and up the bottom line of their campaign contributors. All this time -- while Congress did nothing about Iraq, Katrina, wiretapping, Mark Foley's boy-madness or anything else of import -- it has been all about pork, all about political favors, all about budget "earmarks" set aside for expensive and often useless projects in their own districts. In 2000, Congress passed 6,073 earmarks; by 2005, that number had risen to 15,877. They got better at it every year. It's the one thing they're good at.
Even worse, this may well be the first Congress ever to lose control of the government's finances. For the past six years, it has essentially been writing checks without keeping an eye on its balance. When you do that, unpleasant notices eventually start appearing in the mail. In 2003, the inspector general of the Defense Department reported to Congress that the military's financial-management systems did not comply with "generally accepted accounting principles" and that the department "cannot currently provide adequate evidence supporting various material amounts on the financial statements."
Translation: The Defense Department can no longer account for its money. "It essentially can't be audited," says Wheeler, the former congressional staffer. "And nobody did anything about it. That's the job of Congress, but they don't care anymore."
So not only does Congress not care what intelligence was used to get into the war, what the plan was supposed to be once we got there, what goes on in military prisons in Iraq and elsewhere, how military contracts are being given away and to whom -- it doesn't even give a shit what happens to the half-trillion bucks it throws at the military every year.
Not to say, of course, that this Congress hasn't made an effort to reform itself. In the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, and following a public uproar over the widespread abuse of earmarks, both the House and the Senate passed their own versions of an earmark reform bill this year. But when the two chambers couldn't agree on a final version, the House was left to pass its own watered-down measure in the waning days of the most recent session. This pathetically, almost historically half-assed attempt at reforming corruption should tell you all you need to know about the current Congress.
The House rule will force legislators to attach their names to all earmarks. Well, not all earmarks. Actually, the new rule applies only to nonfederal funding -- money for local governments, nonprofits and universities. And the rule will remain in effect only for the remainder of this congressional year -- in other words, for the few remaining days of business after lawmakers return to Washington following the election season. After that, it's back to business as usual next year.
That is what passes for "corruption reform" in this Congress -- forcing lawmakers to put their names on a tiny fraction of all earmarks. For a couple of days.
LINE YOUR OWN POCKETS
Anyone who wants to get a feel for the kinds of beasts that have been roaming the grounds of the congressional zoo in the past six years need only look at the deranged, handwritten letter that convicted bribe-taker and GOP ex-congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham recently sent from prison to Marcus Stern, the reporter who helped bust him. In it, Cunningham -- who was convicted last year of taking $2.4 million in cash, rugs, furniture and jewelry from a defense contractor called MZM -- bitches out Stern in the broken, half-literate penmanship of a six-year-old put in time-out.
"Each time you print it hurts my family And now I have lost them Along with Everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life," Cunningham wrote. "I am human not an Animal to keep whiping [sic]. I made some decissions [sic] Ill be sorry for the rest of my life."
The amazing thing about Cunningham's letter is not his utter lack of remorse, or his insistence on blaming defense contractor Mitchell Wade for ratting him out ("90% of what has happed [sic] is Wade," he writes), but his frantic, almost epic battle with the English language. It is clear that the same Congress that put a drooling child-chaser like Mark Foley in charge of a House caucus on child exploitation also named Cunningham, a man who can barely write his own name in the ground with a stick, to a similarly appropriate position. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence:
"As truth will come out and you will find out how liablest [sic] you have & will be. Not once did you list the positives. Education Man of the Year...hospital funding, jobs, Hiway [sic] funding, border security, Megans law my bill, Tuna Dolfin [sic] my bill...and every time you wanted an expert on the wars who did you call. No Marcus you write About how I died."
How liablest you have & will be? What the fuck does that even mean? This guy sat on the Appropriations Committee for years -- no wonder Congress couldn't pass any spending bills!
This is Congress in the Bush years, in a nutshell -- a guy who takes $2 million in bribes from a contractor, whooping it up in turtlenecks and pajama bottoms with young women on a contractor-provided yacht named after himself (the "Duke-Stir"), and not only is he shocked when he's caught, he's too dumb to even understand that he's been guilty of anything.
This kind of appalling moral blindness, a sort of high-functioning, sociopathic stupidity, has been a consistent characteristic of the numerous Republicans indicted during the Bush era. Like all revolutionaries, they seem to feel entitled to break rules in the name of whatever the hell it is they think they're doing. And when caught breaking said rules with wads of cash spilling out of their pockets, they appear genuinely indignant at accusations of wrongdoing. Former House Majority Leader and brazen fuckhead Tom DeLay, after finally being indicted for money laundering, seemed amazed that anyone would bring him into court.
"I have done nothing wrong," he declared. "I have violated no law, no regulation, no rule of the House." Unless, of course, you count the charges against him for conspiring to inject illegal contributions into state elections in Texas "with the intent that a felony be committed."
It was the same when Ohio's officious jackass of a (soon-to-be-ex) Congressman Bob Ney finally went down for accepting $170,000 in trips from Abramoff in exchange for various favors. Even as the evidence piled high, Ney denied any wrongdoing. When he finally did plead guilty, he blamed the sauce. "A dependence on alcohol has been a problem for me," he said.
Abramoff, incidentally, was another Republican with a curious inability to admit wrongdoing even after conviction; even now he confesses only to trying too hard to "save the world." But everything we know about Abramoff suggests that Congress has embarked on a never-ending party, a wild daisy-chain of golf junkets, skybox tickets and casino trips. Money is everywhere and guys like Abramoff found ways to get it to guys like Ney, who made the important discovery that even a small entry in the Congressional Record can get you a tee time at St. Andrews.
Although Ney is so far the only congressman to win an all-expenses trip to prison as a result of his relationship with Abramoff, nearly a dozen other House Republicans are known to have done favors for him. Rep. Jim McCrery of Louisiana, who accepted some $36,000 from Abramoff-connected donors, helped prevent the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians from opening a casino that would have competed with Abramoff's clients. Rep. Deborah Pryce, who sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton opposing the Jena casino, received $8,000 from the Abramoff money machine. Rep. John Doolittle, whose wife was hired to work for Abramoff's sham charity, also intervened on behalf of the lobbyist's clients.
Then there was DeLay and his fellow Texan, Rep. Pete Sessions, who did Abramoff's bidding after accepting gifts and junkets. So much energy devoted to smarmy little casino disputes at a time when the country was careening toward disaster in Iraq: no time for oversight but plenty of time for golf.
For those who didn't want to go the black-bag route, there was always the legal jackpot. Billy Tauzin scarcely waited a week after leaving office to start a $2 million-a-year job running PhRMA, the group that helped him push through a bill prohibiting the government from negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. Tauzin also became the all-time poster boy for pork absurdity when a "greenbonds initiative" crafted in his Energy and Commerce Committee turned out to be a subsidy to build a Hooters in his home state of Louisiana.
The greed and laziness of the 109th Congress has reached such epic proportions that it has finally started to piss off the public. In an April poll by CBS News, fully two-thirds of those surveyed said that Congress has achieved "less than it usually does during a typical two-year period." A recent Pew poll found that the chief concerns that occupy Congress -- gay marriage and the inheritance tax -- are near the bottom of the public's list of worries. Those at the top -- education, health care, Iraq and Social Security -- were mostly blown off by Congress. Even a Fox News poll found that fifty-three percent of voters say Congress isn't "working on issues important to most Americans."
One could go on and on about the scandals and failures of the past six years; to document them all would take . . . well, it would take more than ninety-three fucking days, that's for sure. But you can boil the whole sordid mess down to a few basic concepts. Sloth. Greed. Abuse of power. Hatred of democracy. Government as a cheap backroom deal, finished in time for thirty-six holes of the world's best golf. And brains too stupid to be ashamed of any of it. If we have learned nothing else in the Bush years, it's that this Congress cannot be reformed. The only way to change it is to get rid of it.
Fortunately, we still get that chance once in a while.
See our picks for the 10 Worst Congressmen and read what people are saying in our politics blog.
Comment on this Article
Are 'religious right' voters really concerned about Christianity or filthy lucre?
By Lee Salisbury
Oct 27, 2006, 14:34
'Religious right' voters are generally nice, well-intentioned people who want what is best for our children and grandchildren. They proclaim their political opinions reflect faith in their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The problem many have who also want what is best for America and also read the bible are the biblical contradictions and misplaced emphasis in the 'religious right' positions.
For instance, many 'religious right' voters suggest God is offended unless we have government-sponsored prayer in public schools. Do they care that Jesus taught when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites who pray in public to be seen of men? Jesus said go into your closet and pray to the Father who sees in secret and will reward you openly.
The 'religious right' reveres the Pledge of Allegiance. Yet Jesus taught that we should make no oaths (or pledges) but let your yea be yea and your nay be nay for whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
The 'religious right' takes offence at the slightest criticism and does not hesitate to attack its political opponents. Did not Jesus teach whoever slaps you on the cheek turn the other cheek and if any want your shirt give him your coat too? Jesus taught love your enemies for if you only love those who love you what reward will you have?
The 'religious right' expounds the virtues of prosperity and wealth. Yet Jesus taught do not lay up treasures on earth...for where your treasure is there is your heart is also.
The 'religious right' obsesses over homosexuality and abortion, yet Jesus never once mentioned these as issues of concern. Recall the story of the woman taken in the act of adultery. She violated the Law, thus the Pharisees wanted to stone her. Yet Jesus challenged them "he who is without sin throw the first stone." Who are the 'religious right' more like, the Pharisees eager to condemn or Jesus who forgives? If the 'religious right' were in tune with Him whom they claim as Lord, wouldn't they outlaw acts that Jesus actually did condemn such as divorce (annulment), or divorce and re-marriage, or religious hypocrisy? (Mt 19:6 Mk 10:9)
The 'religious right' vehemently opposes sexual promiscuity and insists that a woman in whom conception has occurred bear all risk and responsibility for the pregnancy, birth, nurturing, and raising of the infant, yet the male who was equally responsible gets a slap on the wrist, if that. The 'religious right' indifference to male liability is more then suspicious, especially when promoted by male dominated clergy. Why shouldn't automatic assignment of appropriate financial assets (parents pay if the male is a minor) and castration for multiple sexual offenses be required of the male? The indifference toward male liability demonstrates what the Pro-Life movement is really all about: male domination over females.
The 'religious right' proposes inserting the Ten Commandments into American law. The 2nd Commandment states carved images of anything in heaven or on earth violate God's law. Will churches with statues of saints, angels, and Mary be closed? The 4th Commandment is quite clear that no work shall be done on the Sabbath and that even picking up sticks on the Sabbath deserves death by stoning. Will all retail outlets close on Sunday? Which of God's Laws will we cherry-pick?
The 'religious right' fought for legislation to overrule Terri Schiavo's right to die. She had been brain dead and in a persistent vegetative state for fifteen years. Purely for theologically speculative reasons, the 'religious right' insisted on its right to interfere. If the 'religious right' believes in heaven, what is so bad about death? Is their any limit to a citizen's personal decisions upon which the 'religious right' will not seek to impose their dogma?
The 'religious right' claims theocratic rule in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan is evil. How does the 'religious right's' demonstrated intent to legally impose its religious dogma in America differ from the radical Muslim theocratic rule?
Noted philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) observed, "Christianity persecuted, tortured, and burned. Like a hound it tracked the very scent of heresy. It kindled wars and nursed furious hatreds and ambitions. It sanctified, quite like Mohammedanism, extermination and tyranny." The sad truth is religious fanaticism knows no limits whether Muslim, Christian or Judaism.
Why should America see the 'religious right' as genuine when it contradicts Jesus' teaching? To which Jesus is the 'religious right' a testimony: the one in the bible, or a fabricated one making a political power grab for Caesar's loot?
© Copyright 2006 by AxisofLogic.com
Comment on this Article
After the Storm, Students Left Alone and Angry
By ADAM NOSSITER
Published: November 1, 2006
NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 31 - John McDonogh High School has at least 25 security guards, at the entrance, up the stairs and outside classes. The school has a metal detector, four police officers and four police cruisers on the sidewalk.
Donald Jackson, McDonogh High principal, said the unrest in his school, including six "very serious" assaults, surprised him. He observed a class.
In the last six weeks, students at McDonogh, the largest functioning high school here, have assaulted guards, a teacher and a police officer. A guard and a teacher were beaten so badly that they were hospitalized.
The surge hints at a far-reaching phenomenon after Hurricane Katrina, educators here say. Teenagers in the city are living alone or with older siblings or relatives, separated by hundreds of miles from their displaced parents. Dozens of McDonogh students fend largely for themselves, school officials say.
"They are here on their own," Wanda Daliet, a science teacher, said. "They are raising themselves. And they are angry."
The principal, Donald Jackson, estimated that up to a fifth of the 775 students live without parents.
"Basically, they are raising themselves, because there is no authority figure in the home," Mr. Jackson said. "If I call for a parent because I'm having an issue, I may be getting an aunt, who may be at the oldest 20, 21. What type of governance, what type of structure is in the home, if this is the living conditions?"
In a second-floor cosmetology class, two of the six girls said their parents were elsewhere.
"I don't get to talk to her as much as I want," one girl, Tiffany Mansion, 16, said as she looked down.
Her mother is in Little Rock, Ark.
In the lunchroom, a shy 18-year-old who was asked whom he went home to in the evenings, said: "Nobody. Myself."
His parents are in Baton Rouge.
Mr. Jackson said many parents whom he had spoken to were in Baton Rouge, Houston or elsewhere. "That's the question that's buzzing in everybody's heads," the McDonogh curriculum coordinator, Toyia Washington Kendrick, said. "How could you leave your kids here, that are school-age kids, unattended?"
The answer is as various as the fragmented social structure, which the hurricane a year ago made even more complicated. Some students describe families barely functional even before the storm. Others say pressing economic necessity has kept parents away.
Rachelle Harrell was living in Houston, working as a medical assistant and trying to pay off a $1,300 electricity bill in New Orleans. But she yielded to her son Justin and his cousin Kiante, both 16, and sent them back to New Orleans on a Greyhound bus while she stayed in Texas.
The decision anguished Ms. Harrell, 36, even though Justin was being picked on in Houston and yearned to return to McDonogh. Justin; his sister, Eboni Gay, 18; and Kiante set up housekeeping in Ms. Harrell's old house in the Algiers neighborhood. A monthly check from his mother and a job at a fast-food restaurant helped make ends meet.
Ms. Harrell anticipated the inevitable question.
" 'Why are your children at home, and you're in Texas?' " she asked. "Well, I'm trying to get home. It's just crazy. But my kids know my situation. When school started, I had to work a couple of more weeks, because I had that light bill.
"It's like, 'Oh my God, is everything O.K.?' I couldn't even sleep at night. O.K. Lord, if anything happens, I'm going to be seen as such a bad mama, and I'm a hundred miles from home."
Last week, she left her job in Houston and returned to New Orleans - for good.
If the causes are complicated, the consequences seem evident to school officials: a large cadre of belligerent students, hostile to authority and with no worry about parental punishment at home.
Since McDonogh reopened nearly two months ago with enrollees from 5 of the city's 15 high schools, the students have committed six "very serious" assaults, Mr. Jackson said.
A young man suddenly bent over in the milling crowd waiting for a bus after school. The police were handcuffing him, for smoking marijuana, a school official said.
In the halls, students jostle one another and laugh on the way to class. In some classes, students strain attentively toward the blackboard.
But there is tension. The storm overturned their world, teachers and administrators say, destroying houses and scattering families.
"They're rebelling against authority," Ms. Daliet, the science teacher, said. "You ask them to do something, they have an attitude."
In the lunchroom and in the corridors, students are ordered to tuck in their shirts. Many just grin in response.
"When you have guidelines at home that reflect guidelines at the school, it's a seamless transition," Mr. Jackson said. "But when it's not there, you deal with a student who's genuinely, 'I don't care, I'm going to do what I want to do.' "
Fights break out daily. About 50 students have been suspended; 20 have been recommended for expulsion.
Of the 128 schools in the city, fewer half have reopened. The state took over many of them after the storm. That change, hailed at first as a bright beginning, has proven to be partly stillborn, as teachers, textbooks and supplies came up drastically short in the state-run schools.
The McDonogh library has no books. State officials, fearing mold, threw out all of them.
Rundown before the storm, the school buildings are now even more battered. The stalls in a girls' restroom have no doors.
Recrimination and finger pointing have been ample, and state officials are on the defensive.
"The same way other residents are calling it quits, teachers are no different," Leslie Jacobs, a member of the state school board, said. "The teacher shortage is real. The book shortage is real. We have a labor shortage. There is a shortage of bus drivers. The whole food-service industry is short of workers."
Mr. Jackson is a smiling, purposeful presence, friendly but firm, upbraiding youths for slovenly dress and pursuing others along for slacking in the halls. At every turn, it can seem, an omnipresent security guard or police officer speaks to teenagers, searching for weapons or admonishing for back talk.
As a group milled on the street corner of the three-story 1911 brick building, a guard called out from the steps: "He's taken his shirt off! They're getting ready to fight!"
Three burly police officers quickly went up Esplanade Avenue to break up the clash.
Mr. Jackson conceded that the scale of the unrest had taken him aback.
"I knew it would happen," he said. "I had some forewarning. But I didn't know it would be of this magnitude. We've seen things that really shouldn't occur in a school."
Several weeks ago, a teacher was "beaten unmercifully" by a ninth grader enraged at being barred from class because he was late, Mr. Jackson said. The teacher, hospitalized, has not returned to work. The student was arrested.
An 18-year-old knocked a guard unconscious. The police charged him.
The reputation for violence, first acquired through a shooting in the gymnasium in 2003 in which a young man with a rifle killed a student in front of 200 others, has grown.
Three weeks ago, a group of students summoned reporters to the school to complain about the many officers.
"We have a lot of security guards, and not enough teachers," Maya Dawson, 17, said.
Jerinise Walker, 15, added: "It's like you're in jail. You have people watching you all the time."
Mr. Jackson said the time had not come to reduce security.
"When we get our students to respond in a different way," he said, "then I can back off. We're trying to train our students to resolve conflict, and that's something they haven't been able to do."
Comment on this Article
Bush The Cheerleader
By Ray McGovern 10/31/06 Information Clearing House
When President George W. Bush was asked at his news conference last Wednesday whether we are winning in Iraq, he answered, "Absolutely; we're winning." The disingenuousness was almost enough to provoke sympathy for the beleaguered president as he lived through another bad week with further diminished credibility.
A letter winner in cheerleading at Andover and Yale, the president knows how tough it is to keep spirits up when it becomes clear that his team is not winning, but the bedlam in Iraq has become the supreme test. Some of his fellow cheerleaders have quit cheering, and even the Fox News Channel is having trouble putting on a brave front.
And small wonder. For example, on October19 USA Today put the main challenge succinctly:
The mistaken war and botched aftermath have created such a mess that the only credible course change must be predicated on this painful question: Is there an achievable goal that makes the further sacrifice of American lives worthwhile? With each passing day, that is looking less and less likely. ... What, exactly, is the goal that U.S. forces are fighting and dying for?
Is it to referee a civil war in Iraq? At the press conference Bush said:
Our job is to prevent the fullâ€”full-scale civil war from happening in the first place. It is one of the missions, is to work with the Maliki government to make sure that there is a political way forward that says to the people of Iraq, It's not worth it. Civil war is not worth the effortâ€”by them...And so we will work to prevent that from happening.
Is that it? Or is it, as the president let slip, to prevent "terrorists or extremists in Iraq [from gaining] access to vast oil reserves" in Iraq and denying them to the U.S. How often were we told that oil had "nothing to do with it!"?
The president did say that too many children "won't ever see their mom and dad again," and that he owes it "to them and to the families who still have loved ones in harm's way to ensure that their sacrifices are not in vain."
He owes to people like the family of Jeremy Shank. In a small town in Missouri last month, Rev. Carter Frey eulogized young Shank, who was killed while on patrol in Iraq. Frey stressed that Shank was one of those who "put themselves in harm's way and paid the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I can have freedom to live in this country."
Really? Many patrols like the one Shank was on appear to be aimed at stopping Shia and Sunni from killing each otherâ€”stopping what the president calls "full-scale civil war." Two months ago Bushâ€™s national security adviser Stephen Hadley told the press, "It's no longer about insurgency, but sectarian warfare." Is that what Jeremy Shank and other young men and women are paying the ultimate sacrificeâ€”or the penultimate one of living the rest of their lives without arms or legs?
What else could be their purpose? To continue the pursuit of evidence of weapons of mass destruction or ties between Iraq and al-Qaida? Or is it really, as the Bush administration suggests, to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq and the wider Middle East? Really? How long will we let our young soldiers be mocked and used? How long will we allow President Bush to treat them as disposable soldiersâ€”like toys a rich kid gets for Christmas?
Time To Bring Them Home
There are basically two choices: (1) "stay the course" (or the same concept with a more felicitous label); or (2) withdraw. Let's look at them both:
(1) Those of us who have "been there, done that" know what is meant by "stay the course"â€”or whatever updated formulation the Bush administration uses that implies action short of withdrawal. Its name is Vietnam. It means more violence month by monthâ€”as we have witnessed recentlyâ€”until there are 50,000 more of our young troops, and a million more Iraqis, dead. From the president's own words we know his intention is to keep our troops in Iraq until the end of his term. A year or two later, our helicopters will be lifting the remainder of the American presence in Iraq off the rooftops of the billion-dollar embassy we are now building in the Green Zone. The name is Vietnam. It is a no-brainer for anyone who knows the first thing about "insurgency"â€”or, more properly, resistance to foreign occupation. More and more violenceâ€”guaranteed.
(2) Withdrawal: It is more difficult to predict what will happen if we withdraw our troops from Iraq over the next year or so. A lot depends on how we go about it. The steps outlined below, the result of brainstorming with my colleagues with Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and others, would in my view hold the promise of much less violence and killing:
(a) Show a modicum of respect for the opinions of the Iraqi people, two-thirds of whom want U.S. forces out of Iraq immediately, according to a recent poll commissioned by our Department of State. It seems the height of hubris and incongruity for U.S. officials to pretend, as they do, that they know far better what would be best for the Iraqis. Another poll had 60 percent of the Iraqi people saying they would shoot an American on sight, if they had the opportunity.
(b) Publicly disavow any intention of having permanentâ€”or as the Pentagon now prefers to say "enduring"â€”military bases in Iraq.
(c) Publicly disavow any intention of having special rights over the oil under the sands of Iraq. (These last two steps will be difficult for the Bush administration, since those aims formed the bulk of the motivation for attacking and occupying Iraq.)
(d) TALK. Yes, talk. It is bizarre that the Bush administration does not let the State Department talk with "evil" forcesâ€”like North Korea, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and (perish the thought) "insurgents" in Iraq. If Ronald Reagan could talk with the Evil Empire, and conclude very important arms control and other agreements, surely the George W. Bush administration can engage resistance forces in Iraq. The Arab League states have shown themselves eager to facilitate such discussions. Indeed, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak did precisely that in October 2005, when he invited all interested states and factions to a meeting in Cairo. The U.S. boycotted those talks, and made it difficult for its clients in Baghdad to attend.
Following these four steps would attenuate the violence and damage that can be expected, however well-planned our withdrawal. Most importantly, thenâ€”and only thenâ€”we can expect the Arab League countries, the United Nations, the Western Europeans, Indians, Pakistanis and others to do what they can to facilitate our withdrawal with as much grace as can be mustered at that point. Why? Because they like us? No; we have frittered away the strong support rendered us in the wake of 9/11. They will help because most of them have even more interest than we in a more stable Iraqâ€”and just as much interest as we in the oil there.
Bottom line: It seems virtually certain that there will be more violence in "staying the course." That being the case, it can no longer be a moral decision to say, in effect: Let's let those kids from the inner cities and the farms stay the course for us; who knows, maybe they'll be lucky!
I cannot resist the temptation to recall that all of this was entirely predictableâ€”and predicted. Almost exactly a year ago we took strong issue with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's insistence that the war in Iraq was "winnable." We noted at the time that "most of those with a modicum of experience in guerrilla warfare and the Middle East are persuaded that the war is NOT winnable and that the only thing in doubt is the timing of the U.S. departure."
When will they ever learn; when will they ever learn?
Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst from the administrations of John F. Kennedy to George H. W. Bush. He now works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C.
This article was first published at TomPaine.com
Comment on this Article
Palestine Death Camp
Oct. 29th massacres in Palestine history and Ben Gurion wonders: "How can an order be given to shoot children?"
29. October 2006
Starting from the oldest:
1. On October 29, 1948, when Israeli brigades captured the village of Safsaf. The known details of the massacre come to us via several contemporary second-hand Zionist reports and via Arab oral history. Yosef Nachmani, a senior officer in the Haganah (and later the director of the Jewish National Fund in Eastern Galilee), recorded in his diary what he was told by Immanuel Friedman, a representative of the Minority Affairs ministry:
In Safsaf, after â€¦ the inhabitants had raised a white flag, the [soldiers] collected and separated the men and women, tied the hands of fifty-sixty fellahin [peasants] and shot and killed them and buried them in a pit. Also, they raped several womenâ€¦ (quoted in Zertal, 2005, p. 171; see also Morris, 2005, p. 500).
Moshe Erem reported on the massacre to a meeting of the Mapam Political Committee but his words were censored from the minutes. According to the notes taken by another person present, Erem spoke of:
Safsaf 52 men tied together with a rope. Pushed down a well and shot. 10 killed. Women pleaded for mercy. 3 cases of rape . . . . A girl of 14 raped. Another four killed (Morris, 2004, p. 500).
These accounts in broad detail are supported by Palestinian witnesses who told their stories to historians.
2. On October 29, 1948 (same day and year of above massacre), the Arab town al-Dawayima was conquered by Israeli terrorist groups known as Irgun and Lehi.
An unnamed Israeli soldier told this version: â€śThe first wave of conquerors killed about 80 to 100 Arabs, women and children. The children they killed by breaking their heads with sticks. There was not a house without dead.â€ť
Meron Benvenisti writes:
Atrocities and acts of brutality characterised this period: summary executions, rape, blowing up houses along with their occupants, looting and plundering, and leaving hundreds of villages to their own devices in the fields, without food or water. The most serious atrocities were committed in the village of Al-Dawayima on the western slopes of the Hebron Highlands. This large village, with a population of some 3,500 was taken on 29 October, 1948. The occupying forces indiscriminately killed between 80 and 100 males villagers, blew up houses together with their occupants, murdered women and children, and committed rape. According to eyewitness testimony, these acts were committed â€śnot in the heat of battle and inflamed passions, but out of a system of expulsion and destruction. The fewer Arabs remained â€” the better.â€ť
3. On October 29, 1956, during the Suez Crisis, Israeli Border Police started at 4 pm what they called a tour in Kafr Qasim town (also known as Kafr Qassem, Kufur Kassem and Kafar Kassem). They told the Mukhtars (Aldermen) of the town that the curfew from that day onwards was to start from 5 pm until 6 am next morning. They reached Kafr Qasem around 4:45 pm and informed the Mukhtar who protested that there are about 400 villagers working outside the town and there is no enough time to inform them of the curfew timings. An officer assured him that they will be taken care of.
The guards waited at the entrance to the town. 43 Kafr Qasem inhabitants were massacred in cold blood by the army as they returned from work. Their crime was violating a curfew they did not know about. On the northern entrance of the town 3 were killed and 2 were killed inside of the town. Amongst the dead were men, women, and children. Lutanat Danhan was touring the area in his jeep reporting the massacre, on his wireless he said â€śminus 15 Arabsâ€ť after a while his message on the radio to his H.Q. was â€śit is difficult to count.â€ť
Interestingly enough, on Nov. 11, 1956, Prime Minister Ben Gurion told the cabinet about the Kfar Qasim massacre. He said:
â€śWe have a wonderful army, but it appears that sometimes there are incidents and circumstances that make people lose their minds.â€ť
On March 28, 2001, Haâ€™aretz published some excerpts from this cabinet meeting.
Ha'aretz March 28, 2001
Excerpts from the State Archives, Jerusalem.
The Kfar Kassem massacre took place on October 29, 1956, but it reverberates through Israeli political culture to this day. The following transcripts, from the state archives, depict David Ben-Gurionâ€™s government as shocked, contrite - and worried about how the news of the event will reflect on Israel overseas. At one point, Ben-Gurion regrets that Israel â€śgave up the death penalty too soon.â€ť At one point, he indicated that he was inclined to accept the idea of the two sergeants in the case being hanged in the village square of Kfar Kassem.(Please note that the initials G.M. that occasionally appear in this text refer to Guy Maâ€™ayan, a historian. His review of â€śKfar Kassem: Events and Myths,â€ť by Rubik Rosenthal, appears in todayâ€™s Hebrew Book Review.)
Protocols of the government session, 7 Heshvan, 5757, (November 11, 1956).
Source: State Archives, Jerusalem.
Participants: Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (Mapai), Finance Minister Levi Eshkol (Mapai), Foreign Minister Golda Meir (Mapai), Interior Minister Yisrael Bar-Yehuda (Ahdut Avoda), Health Minister Yisrael Barzilai (Mapam), Police Minister Bechor Shalom-Sheetrit (Mapai), Housing Minister Mordechai Bentov (Mapam), Welfare Minister Peretz Naftali (Mapai). Central District IDF Commander Zvi Tzur.
Ben-Gurion: I now must report on a uniquely horrible and regrettable incident, the scandal that took place in three villages in the Triangle: Kfar Kassem, Jeljoulya, and Taibe. On October 29, the central command issued an order to place a curfew on the villages in that area. The order itself was proper. The villagers (who knew of the curfew - G.M.) obeyed the order. There was a curfew from five in the afternoon until six in the morning. But there were villagers who were outside the villages and they returned in the morning, after the curfew went into effect - they were shot and killed. There were children and women. I first heard about this on November 1.
Barzilai: Whatâ€™s the overall number?
Ben-Gurion: Forty-seven. Seventeen were women and children. I immediately decided to order an inquiry. I immediately asked the Supreme Court President to name a judge. He advised me to take Binyamin Zohar, whom I named as chairman and added attorney Hoter-Yishai and Abba Hushi. I asked them to quickly investigate: a) the circumstances of the events in the villages on October 29; b) the degree of responsibility of the Border Patrolmen, officers, sergeants and troops, and if they should be charged and tried. I received word that everything done was the responsibility of the Border Patrol, but thatâ€™s not true, because the Border Patrol at the time was under the command of the army; c) The compensation the government must pay to the families that suffered as a result of the Border Patrolmenâ€™s behavior.
The committee delivered a report. According to the report, Brigade 17 commander (Col. Yashka Shedmi - G.M.) gave the order (to kill the curfew breakers - G.M.). He denies he gave such an order, since the order was given in private to regimental commander 2 (sic) Shmuel Melinki. The order said apply the curfew from five in the evening to six in the morning - and notify everyone in the village. But the bus showed up and it knew nothing about the matter. When the passengers alighted, they were shot and killed. According to the inquiry, one thing remains in doubt. The committee have given the brigade commander the benefit of the doubt, because the brigadier denies he gave such an order to the regiment commander. But they decided the regimental commander is responsible for the order to shoot. They also found that those who followed the orders are responsible for obeying an illegal order. All of them were court martialed. I am sorry there are also Druze among the accused. In my view, they are not guilty. They got an order. Itâ€™s impossible to demand of a Druze that he decide if the order is legal or illegal.
Bentov: How many people were put on trial?
Ben-Gurion: The regimental commander, his deputy (Gavriel Dahan - G.M.), sergeants and troops. Those who gave the order and those who obeyed. Since I asked the committee to prepare the report quickly, they did not accomplish one request, concerning who should get compensation. They suggest the immediate appointment of another committee to look into the matter, but that meanwhile a base sum of IL 1,000 be paid to every family that suffered in this matter, and that the IL 1,000 later be discounted from the overall compensation.
I want to commend the police minister, who immediately went to the village and spoke with the village leaders expressing the governmentâ€™s sorrow, telling them that an inquiry had been appointed, informing them that the people would be tried, and severely punished, and the families would get compensation. Now I suggest the treasury make ready the entire amount. There will certainly be a need of IL 50,000 or IL 60,000, and that every family be paid immediately. It may turn out that the new committee decides on more money. I suggest the justice minister appoint the compensation committee.
Meir: Is the court martial over?
Ben-Gurion: Not yet.
Bentov: Will their be an announcement about this?
Ben-Gurion: We have to take counsel on this. I doubt whether it is possible to hide such an affair, even though it is so shameful. How can people from among us do such a thing? It is horrifying.
Eshkol: What did the regimental commander say?
Ben-Gurion: He said the brigadier gave him an order in the following manner: He asked what to do if the curfew is violated. The brigadier said, I donâ€™t want sentimentalism. The regimental commander wasnâ€™t satisfied. He asked, but what if? The regimental commander says the brigadier brushed him off with the Arabic phrase, may Allah be merciful. The regimental commander understood that to mean to do what he thought necessary. The brigadier denies this. Since there is doubt, the committee decided to accept the brigadierâ€™s version. We have a wonderful army, but apparently there are incidents and circumstances in which people lose their minds. How can an order be given to shoot children.
Enough of this crapâ€¦ canâ€™t take anymoreâ€¦ read the rest hereâ€¦
â€śHow can an order be given to shoot children?â€ť B-G is wondering! I donâ€™t know if I should laugh or cry here.
The Israeli ELECTED TERRORISTS (for steve eyes) are wondering for ages now, but they are still giving orders to shoot children, women, infants, not even a handicapped didnâ€™t escape their terror massacres. And they still wonder!!
Comment on this Article
Israeli Massacres Decade after Decade: Israeli Massacres and Expulsions no Departure From Norm
Hayam Noir, PalestineFreeVoiceOctober 31, 2006
At this very moment 05.43 am - I can hear the Israeli bombardment attacking the eastern part on the northen border of the Gaza Strip - Earlier today one Palestinian was killed and and two others where injured in an artillery attack in the northern Gaza Strip,Beit Hanoun. At least one heavy artillery shell landed on a building in Beit Hanoun, Mazin Muhammad Abu Udah, 21, was killed in this attack and two others where seriously injured, they where brought to Kamal Nasser hospital.Mazims father Muhammad Abu Udah, one brother Isma'il - and a sister, Hanan, were all killed in the same buiding less than two months ago. the remaining sister, Azhar, has stilll three bullets in her body after the attack two moths ago, and is undergoing medical treatment for her injuries. With heavy heart- in a few minutes I will know whom the savage Israelis killled this time.
Decade after decade the Israelis have undisturbed continued its insain massacres on the Palestinians - the world of spectators does not seam to understand that "Israel " is in a moral, political, and psychiatric free fall.
The new Israeli warlord, Ehud Olmert who is awaiting a police investigation and criminal charges - being suspected of corruption,bribery, fraud and breach of trust - boasted infront of the foreign and security committee in Knesset - that his armed gangs of state terrrorists over the past three months has killed over 300 Palestinians on the Gaza Strip.
Ehud Olmert assured and promissed the security committee that he is a man of honor who keep his words - to that determination will result in intensefied murder- operations against the Palestinian resistanse.
Dr Mu'awiyah Abu Hassanein,director of ambulances and emergencies on the Gaza Strip and a man worth all respect - has refuted the claims. Abu Hasanein said the Israeli allegations are false, the Israeli army was also targeting civilians. Palestinian deaths in Gaza over the last three months: 137 were under the age of 16,29 were women,12 were old men above the age of 60 and 42 were killed inside their homes.The remaining killed accounted for. around 100 were all young men. In addition 5200 Palestinians were injured during this period, including 750 who suffered permanent handicap resulting from the use of internationally ( Dime ) banned weapons used on the Palestinian popuation on the Gaza Strip by the Israelis.
But the Israelis are no strangers to massacres - their history of violence while occupying Arab land are filled with images of terror and death - meanwhile the "Israelis" ( whatever they claim they are - political. religious or by heritage. ) distributes about them self an image of an oppressed nation and people.
The Israelis are heartless and seem to have a thirst for blood. I pray to God every day that the world around very soon will see and come to understand that what they are witnessing - is the spectacle of a ferocious, indiscriminate violence, destruction, and uncomparable brutality. It is very difficult to resist the conclusion that there is something terribly wrong with "Israel" and its society. It is as though all moral and psychological constraints and boundaries have been breached and deviancy normalised.
It is rather weird and bizarre that the world does not seam to see these brutal Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people - but still so obssessed by the "Holocaust. "
I know of a jewish women who use the pretext of the " Holycaust" every time she wants to take advantage of her community - how she suffered, allthough she was born more then 10 years after the end of WW2 - and she gets what she wants - without exeption- she is still the poor victim - and she gets what she wants. Being critical of the Israelis and revealing the history of Israel - we non- jews are being called anti-semitic !
Understanding the psyke of human beings that is capable of such a brutal and insain behavour - listening to hundreds of stories of Israeli spectacles I will admit that I have become an antisemit. Being an eye witness of Israeli crimes and reading about Israeli massacres - that have made me an antisemit - or rather antizionist ! - I admit that - The shocking reading below is a long list of Israeli massacres - and the list of massacres will be longer if we - the world community - does not stop the Israelis insain brutalities before it is too late ! Why do we continue to harbor such destructive human beings !
The massacres on this list reflect the nature of the Zionists occupation of Palestine and of Lebanon and they show that massacres and expulsions were no departure from the norm - that occure in any war, but organized atrocities with only one aim, that is to have a Zionist state at any price .
The King David Massacre
The Massacre at Baldat al-Shaikh
The Semiramis Hotel Massacre
The Massacre at Dair Yasin
NASER AL-DIN MASSACRE
THE TANTURA MASSACRE
BEIT DARAS MASSACRE
THE DAHMASH MOSQUE MASSACRE
The Massacre at Qibya
KAFR QASEM MASSACRE
Khan Yunis Massacre
The Massacre in Gaza City
Bint Jbeil Massacre
Beirut Massacre Sabra And Shatila Massacre
Seer Al Garbiah
Homeen Al-Tahta Massacre
Al-Naher Al-Bared Massacre
Ain Al-Hillwee Massacre
OYON QARA MASSACRE
AL-AQSA MOSQUE MASSACRE
THE IBRAHIMI MOSQUE MASSACRE
THE JABALIA MASSACRE
ERETZ CHECKPOINT MASSACRE
Deir Al-Zahrani Massacre
Nabatiyeh (school bus) Massacre
The Sohmor Second Massacre
24 Of June 1999 Massacres
Western Bekaa villages Massacre
Comment on this Article
Israel launches Gaza strike
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | 7:39 AM ET
Israeli soldiers attacked the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun on Wednesday in an effort to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets into Israel.
The operation was one of the largest in the area since late June, when Israel began incursions to rescue a soldier seized by militants, an army spokesman said. The soldier has not been freed.
Six militants were reported killed. Hamas, the leading Palestinian political party, said an Israeli soldier was killed. Israel has not confirmed the claim.
Palestinian officials said 33 people were wounded, most of them militants.
Israel used infantry, tanks and aircraft in the attack.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in September 2005. The area has been in chaos since then, with Palestinian factions fighting for control and government functions constrained by a lack of money.
After Hamas was elected early this year, Western countries, which had provided aid, stopped payments to encourage the government to amend its anti-Israel policy.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the campaign against the Gaza militants would be stepped up, but the government has now decided not to launch a major new attack.
The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas government condemned the attack.
Comment on this Article
Nasrallah confirms Israel prisoner talks
Mark Oliver and agencies
Wednesday November 1, 2006
The Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has said "serious" indirect negotiations with Israel over a possible prisoner exchange are under way.
The negotiations - being conducted via a secret UN-backed mediator - involve the possible release of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the Israeli soldiers whose capture in a cross-border raid by Hizbullah this summer sparked a 34-day Israeli offensive.
Mr Nasrallah's comments were the first confirmation that talks about prisoners were ongoing. Last week, unconfirmed reports suggested there had been discussions that were proving unsuccessful.
In an interview yesterday, he told Hizbullah's television station that talks were "on track". "We have reached the stage of exchanging ideas or, more accurately, exchanging conditions," he said.
There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.
The Lebanese guerrilla organisation has offered to exchange the Israeli reservists for prisoners being held in Israel. Jerusalem has so far refused, despite a similar kind of exchange having taken place in 2000.
Early today, violence continued in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli troops, backed by helicopter gunships, killed at least six Palestinian militants and wounded around 33 people.
The ruling Palestinian Hamas party said an Israeli soldier was killed in Israel's operation against rocket launchers in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. Israeli military officials did not confirm the report.
Mr Nasrallah, in what was his first public appearance since a "victory" rally in south Lebanon last month, also claimed during the interview that the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon would not be able to disarm Hizbullah.
He said the group had a replenished stockpile of more than 30,000 missiles.
During the summer hostilities, which began in July and ended after a UN-brokered ceasefire came into effect on August 14, there were calls for the conflict to be stopped by an early prisoner exchange. However, Israel rejected the idea.
Some commentators argued that Jerusalem wanted to prolong the conflict to try and crush Hizbullah and destroy its capability to fire its rockets into northern Israel.
More than 1,200 people were killed in the fighting, the majority of them Lebanese.
The Gaza violence came hours after the Israeli defence minister, Amir Peretz, indicated an openness towards resuming stalled peace talks on the basis of a Saudi initiative - first mooted in 2002 - which has been revived.
The plan calls for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from lands it captured in the 1967 Middle East war - the West Bank, Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem and Golan Heights.
"We could see the Saudi initiative as the basis for negotiation," Mr Peretz told an academic conference at Tel Aviv University yesterday. "This does not mean that we are adopting the Saudi initiative, but it can serve as a basis."
Israel, which evacuated Gaza in September 2005, re-entered the coastal strip four months ago to try to free Corporal Gilad Shalit, a soldier captured by Hamas-linked militants. His capture cut short efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians together again for talks.
Cpl Shalit remains in captivity, but the military has since broadened its objectives to include crushing militants' capability to launch rockets.
The Israeli military claimed 300 rockets had been fired at Israel from Beit Hanoun since the beginning of the year.
Almost 280 Palestinians have been killed during the four-month Israeli offensive in Gaza, around half of them civilians. Before today's clashes, two Israeli soldiers had been killed.
Hamas is urging Britain to back its proposal for a ceasefire of up to 10 years as a way of breaking the impasse over its refusal to recognise the state of Israel.
The most senior Hamas government delegation to visit Britain is in London to promote the offer to allow a period of "co-existence" with Israel as a way to move to an eventual settlement of the Middle East conflict, the Guardian reports.
It has also emerged that Tony Blair has begun a diplomatic move to test whether Syria is serious about playing a constructive role in the Middle East peace negotiations.
The prime minister has sent Sir Nigel Sheinwald, his most senior foreign policy adviser, to Damascus, where he met Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.
Comment on this Article
The Israeli army invades Jenin district and takes 9 residents prisoner
IMEMC & Agencies
01 November 2006
The Israeli army invaded the West Bank city of Jenin and the nearby villages of Kufer Dan and Yabod on Wednesday morning and took prisoner nine residents.
In the village of Yabod, west of Jenin city, troops stormed residents' houses and searched and ransacked scores of them. According to eyewitnesses, soldiers forced families out before searching their homes.
Local sources reported that troops took seven residents prisoner before leaving the village. Hassep Masharka and two of his brothers, Yousif and Manssour were among them.
Moreover, in the city of Jenin and its refugee camp, troops attacked residents' homes and searched them. The campaign happened mostly in the east side of the city and in the refugee camp. The army took Rami Al Shalapi, 26 and Ala Briki, 28 to unknown destinations, eyewitnesses reported.
In the meantime another Israeli force entered the village of Kufer Dan, west of Jenin on Wednesday morning, surrounded the local grave yard and fired heavily into it and at the neighboring houses. Damage was reported, bu there were no injuries or prisoners.
Comment on this Article
Israeli Army invades Nablus and takes eight prisoners
IMEMC & Agencies
01 November 2006
Israeli forces invaded the city of Nablus, north of the West Bank and took eight residents prisoner on Wednesday morning.
The invasion targeted residents' houses in the old town area of the city and some homes in Balata and Askar refugee camps. Troops attacked residents' houses and searched and ransacked them before taking the eight to unknown location.
Local sources said that the eight are known as Abd Al Majeed AL Khndakji, and his brother Taymor, Jihad Al Sa'eh, Tha'er Joda, Imad Hannon, Ramzi Al Saka and Hussin Makhluf. All are from Nablus city. Troops also took Nidal Abu Issa, the general Fatah secretary, from his home in Askar refugee camp.
Residents said that army bulldozers and Hummers damaged some of the civilian cars parked on the stree and some front doors of shops before leaving and taking the eight to unknown locations.
Comment on this Article
Israeli Ambassador: "Bush's letter more important that Balfour declaration"
IMEMC & Agencies
01 November 2006
The outgoing Israeli ambassador to the United States, Dani Ayalon, said that that the letter of the US President George W. Bush, dated on April 14, 2004, to the then-Prime minister Ariel Sharon is more important than the Balfour declaration since its voids the Palestinian Right of Return and recognizing West Bank settlement blocs.
The statements of Ayalon came during an interview with Israeli reporters on Tuesday.
Ayalon stated that the letters is "historic of the highest importance", and compared it to Balfour declaration on 1917.
The Balfour Declaration was a letter of November 2, 1917 from British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, granting the Jewish people a national home in Palestine.
"His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.", the letter reads.
In 2004, US president George Bush sent a letter of assurances to Sharon and told him that he recognizes the settlements in the occupied West Bank as part of the State of Israel and that the Palestinian refugees will not return into Israel.
Ayalon stated that this letter "defined the outline of Israel". He rejected the possibility that any pressure will be placed on Israel, under the Bush administration, in order to accept what he described as a "forced agreement".
Comment: Indeed, there is a long and unbroken line of strange capitulation to Zionist leaders by American and British governments that stretches from the Balfour declaration to the current Bush and Blair administrations. What power did the Zionists wield over the world's largest and most influential nation states to force them to give the Zionists a land belonging to another people and create the current long-standing "Middle East crisis" in which Palestinians, and Jews too, seem destined to be consumed?
See Douglas Reed's Controversy of Zion for the inside story.
Comment on this Article
Troops abduct three fishermen in Gaza
IMEMC & Agencies
30 October 2006
Monday evening, Israeli troops took prisoner three fishermen while they were fishing in an area that extends between Dir Al Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, and Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian security sources reported that Israeli Navy boats fired rounds of live ammunition at several fishing boats, and searched them before abducting three and taking them to an unknown destination.
The three were identified as Ziad, his brother Abdullah Miqdad, and Wadee' Shalhoob.
Comment on this Article
Labour minister quits over Lieberman's role
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Published: 31 October 2006
A lone Labour minister has resigned in protest at the inclusion of the right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman in the coalition cabinet of the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Ophir Pines-Paz was the only minister to vote against the cabinet decision which, by a large majority, cleared the way for Mr Lieberman to become the Deputy Prime Minister. He said Mr Lieberman was "tainted by racist declarations".
Mr Pines-Paz immediately announced yesterday that he would join a clutch of rival Labourites planning to stand next year against Amir Peretz, the incumbent party leader and Defence Minister, who successfully argued that the party should not trigger a political crisis by walking out of the coalition over Mr Lieberman.
Mr Lieberman, whose party envisages redrawing the border of Israel to transfer Arab population centres into Palestinian Authority areas under the banner "Israel is our home; Palestine is theirs" will be responsible for dealing with "strategic threats" against Israel.
Mr Pines-Paz said his conscience had left him no choice but to leave the government once it had decided to bring in Mr Lieberman and the 11 Knesset members in his Yisrael Biteinu party, swelling Mr Olmert's majority coalition to 78 out of 120 MPs.
He said that Yisrael Biteinu had a platform with "racist ingredients" and its leaders were tainted "by racist declarations and declarations that harm the democratic character of Israel". He said it had been "necessary" for Mr Peretz to tell the Prime Minister to choose between Mr Lieberman and the Labour Party.
Seeking to pre-empt fears that Mr Lieberman will make a political process with the Palestinians an even more distant prospect than it is already, Mr Olmert insisted his inclusion would leave intact the government's original guidelines, which commit it to seeking such a process.
But a downbeat Javier Solana, the EU's foreign affairs envoy, said yesterday, after a six-day trip to the region, that while progress between Israel and the Palestinians was vital to wider stability in the Middle East, last summer's war in Lebanon and the nuclear ambitions of Iran had "complicated" the chances of achieving it.
Meanwhile, Palestinian gunmen kidnapped a Spanish aid worker in Gaza yesterday, a Palestinian security source and the Spanish organisation said.
The kidnapped man was Roberto Villa Sexto, 32, of the Co-operative Assembly for Peace, a Spanish charity. He had been working in the Gaza Strip and West Bank for two years.
"He was in the organisation's car with a [female] colleague. They [the kidnappers] stopped the car and made him get out and took him away," said a spokeswoman, Joana Modolell.
Comment on this Article
Army kills six residents and injures 50 in air and ground attacks in the north of Gaza strip
IMEMC & Agencies
01 November 2006
An undercover Israeli army force invaded Beit Hannoun town north of the Gaza Strip, shot and killed six residents and injured another 50 residents by ground by air attacks on Wednesday morning.
Sources in Kamal Adwan Hospital reported that four of the killed arrived to the hospital and were identified as: Hussam Abu Harbeed, 24, who works as a bodyguard for a Palestinian minister, Ahmad Sa'adat, 23, said to belong to Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, Faiez Al Zuwidi, 25, works as a Palestinian security officer. All arrived to the hospital dead on Wednesday at dawn after receiving fatal gun shot wounds, sources in the hospital added.
Later during the early hours of the morning, another two residents died from wounds sustained during aerial and ground attacks by the Israeli army on residents' houses in Beit Hannoun. The two were known as Ahmad Adwan, 24 and Mohamed Al Massri, 23, medical sources reported.
The sources added that 50 residents, among them resistance fighters, were injured during clashes with the ground troops invading Beit Hannoun.
Israeli army sources stated that one Israeli soldier was killed diring the clashes between the local resistance fighters and the invading troops. Eyewitnesses in the town of Beit Hannoun said that they saw an army helicopter landing in the town and evacuating a number of injured Israeli soldiers.
According to Palestinian sources most of the residents were injured by Israeli air force jet fighters and drones firing missiles at resideantial targets in the town of Beit Hannoun.
The ground invasion involved scores of tanks and army bulldozers who fired heavily and randomly at residents' houses in the town. Bulldozers stated to level a number of houses, eyewitnesses reported Al Aqsa Brigads, the armed wing of Fatah, reported that a group of its fighters ambushed an Israeli army undercover force that was planning to attak resistance fighters. The brigades said that they killed a number of soldiers and injured several others.
Last Updated at noon on Wednesday:
Israeli forces are currently surrounding the Beit Hannoun Hospital and not allowing patients in or out. Patients with severe cases who need to be transferred to outside hospitals for surgery, but instead patients are being trapped inside. Doctors are being forced to release the personal information of the patients. According to eyewitnesses, ambulances are taking taking longer to arrive to the hospital because Israeli forces have refused to let them through, increasing the chance of death among the injured.
Army bulldozers also destroyed the fence surrounding the hospital as well as the local graveyard, where they are digging up bodies. Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that Beit Hannoun residents are trapped in their homes with little food and water; Israeli forces have refused to let them leave.
Comment on this Article
Aiming at Iran
Iran to start "extensive" military maneuvers in Gulf Thursday
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-01 17:41:08
TEHRAN, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Iran said on Wednesday that it will stage "extensive" military maneuvers in the Gulf waters starting from Thursday, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
Commander-in-Chief of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Seyed Yahya Rahim Safavi made the announcement as U.S.-led military maneuvers aimed at blocking the smuggling of nuclear weapons material and arms proliferation were being held in the Gulf waters.
The upcoming Iranian war games -- codenamed "The Great Prophet 2" -- are due to be carried out till Nov. 11 in the Gulf waters, the Sea of Oman and 14 provinces of the country, Safavi told a press conference.
The maneuvers will be staged by the IRGC's air, ground and navy forces as well as the Basij militia troops, he said.
In April, Iran launched a large-scale military exercise, the biggest in years. During the game, with the codename of "The Great Prophet," Iran said that it tested advanced weapons including missiles and torpedoes.
On Sunday, the U.S. navy said that vessels from the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Australia and Bahrain began a naval training exercise off the Iranian coast in the Gulf aimed at blocking smuggling of nuclear weapons and arms proliferation.
The maneuvers were being held under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) proposed by U.S. President George W. Bush in May, 2003. Bahrain's participation marks the first time a Gulf nation joins a PSI exercise.
Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham on Monday urged foreign military forces not to damage Gulf peace, saying durable peace and security would be restored through collective cooperation of all countries of the region.
However, Iran was not bothered about the military maneuvers because the country "is powerful in all fields," the official IRNA news agency quoted Elham as saying.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept threats. Iran is a strong and powerful state and will not take maneuvers as a threat," he said.
Comment on this Article
Iran not bothered about upcoming maneuvers in Persian Gulf: Elham
30 October 2006
Government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham said here Monday that Iran was not bothered about the planned military maneuvers slated to be held by six PGCC states in the Persian Gulf next week.
Elham made the remarks while speaking to reporters at his weekly press conference when asked to comment on the maneuvers to be staged by the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Australia and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf next week.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept threats. Iran is a strong and powerful state and will not take maneuvers as a threat," he said.
He added that Iran's political views seek to promote justice and peace and negotiations (as a way of resolving disputes.) "This country is powerful in all fields."
He said those who use threats and pressure to gain acceptance of their weak political views will achieve nothing.
Comment on this Article
China urges refraining from escalating Iran nuclear standoff
www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-31 18:51:02
BEIJING, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- China holds that all parties concerned should refrain from taking any action that may lead to the escalation of the situation on Iran nuclear issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said here Tuesday.
Liu said some new situation emerged in Iran nuclear issue, and China will continue to consult with other members of UN Security Council on relevant issues.
Iran confirmed to have launched a second cascade of centrifuges last Sunday and vowed to conduct peaceful utilization of nuclear energy.
The United States and other western countries are calling for a draft UN resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran.
Comment on this Article
Russia says no data indicate Iran's nuclear program is military
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-01 06:22:11
MOSCOW, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Russia has no information indicating Iran's nuclear program is for military purposes but Tehran should act quickly to clarify lingering questions about its nuclear work, a top official said on Tuesday.
"Russia has no information indicating that Iran is pursuing a non-peaceful program," Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov told a news briefing, the Interfax news agency reported.
He urged Iran "not to drag out the clarification of questions" the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has regarding its nuclear program.
The IAEA "has unfortunately been unable to get clear answers to quite a few questions related to Iran's previous nuclear programs, which had been implemented without this organization's awareness," Ivanov said.
The United States is seeking to impose sanctions on Iran through the UN Security Council on the grounds that Tehran is developing a nuclear-weapons program under the garb of a civilian-use program. Iran, however, says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a telephone conversation on Monday that Moscow favored further talks on Iran's nuclear program.
Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States offered a package in June offering incentives and multilateral talks to Iran in exchange for a freeze on its uranium enrichment work.
Tehran has said that it wants talks with the major powers, but will not suspend its nuclear work as a prerequisite.
Iran, which failed to meet a UN Security Council deadline for suspending its enrichment work by Aug. 31, said on Friday it had fed gas into a second cascade of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility.
Comment on this Article
Rice urges major powers to speed up sanctions on Iran
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-01 05:00:30
WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday called foreign ministers of Britain, China, France and Russia in a bid to speed up sanctions against Iran, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said.
Rice urged the foreign ministers of the four countries to overcome the differences that have prevented agreement on the sanctions package, Burns said.
"She put forward the proposal that we should try to work extremely hard to get that resolution passed as quickly as possible," Burns said.
"We are working very hard at the UN Security Council to push for a resolution," he said.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in late July, urging Tehran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities by Aug. 31, including research and development, or face international sanctions.
However, Iran insisted that it would not step back on its legal nuclear rights, warning the West not to imagine that the country would suspend uranium enrichment for even one day.
Comment on this Article
Iran Rejects Western Sanctions
Teheran, Oct 31 (Prensa Latina)
Gholamhosein Elham, spokesperson of the Iranian government, warned that the sanctions imposed by the West due to the national nuclear program would cause damage for both parties.
In a press round held Tuesday in Teheran, the official called the attention some countries to "be careful not to fall in the trapr" set by nations like the United States.
He highlighted that while the Islamic Republic fulfilled the regulations established by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and encouraged dialogue, those nations made a mistake and submitted the nuclear file to the UN Security Council.
We hope they do not make another mistake, Elham stated.
The Iranian spokesperson asserted that those mistakes fed the nuclear disagreement to which Teheran responded with a transparent position within the bounds of international law.
He ratified that Iranian authorities are simply defending their right to continue a peaceful atomic program.
The US and some western nations have accused Iran of enriching uranium for the fabrication of mass extermination weapons.
China and Russia, of the five permanent members of the Security Council, maintain a conciliatory position, while the rest plus Germany seek punitive measures.
Comment on this Article
Russia Defends Missile Deal With Iran
Created: 01.11.2006 12:04 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 12:04 MSKMosNews
The Russian defense minister on Wednesday defended Moscow's deal to supply air defense missiles to Iran, saying they were purely defensive weapons with a limited range, the Associated Press news agency reports.
"I wish to underline that these systems cannot be used in offensive operations," Sergei Ivanov told Russia Today television in an interview broadcast early Wednesday. "Secondly, they have a limited use as they are capable of protecting a small part of the Iranian territory."
Moscow has refused to bow to Western pressure and cancel its US 700 million contract to sell 29 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems to Iran, which was signed last December.
Comment on this Article
UN members remain divided on final seat on Security Council
UN members remain divided on final seat on Security Councilwww.chinaview.cn 2006-11-01 03:57:07
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- The UN General Assembly on Tuesday remained deadlocked after total 47 rounds of voting in the contest to fill a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the Latin American and Caribbean region.
On the fifth day of voting, the Assembly voted 6 rounds and reached total 47 times since Oct. 16 to choose a candidate to serve as the region's council member for a two-year term starting Jan. 1, 2007, and replacing Argentina.
In the latest round, when 122 votes would have been enough to secure victory, Guatemala obtained 101 votes, Venezuela received 78, Barbados, Ecuador and Jamaica received one respectively. However, none of them got the necessary two-thirds majority.
Guatemala has led in every round so far, with the exception of the sixth round on the first day of voting, when the two countries were tied.
Balloting is scheduled to resume Wednesday afternoon, and will continue until a state from the region achieves the required majority.
There is no limit to the number of rounds of voting and in 1979-80 there were a record 155 ballots before Mexico was chosen from the Latin American and Caribbean Group to serve a two-year term.
Belgium, Indonesia, Italy and South Africa were elected during the first round on Oct. 16 to serve as non-permanent members on the council. They will replace Denmark, Greece, Japan and Tanzania when their terms end on Dec. 31.
The council's five other non-permanent members, whose terms end on Dec. 31, 2007, are Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia.
The five permanent members, which are the only members with veto power when voting, are China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States.
Comment on this Article
US Heats up Nicaragua Elections
Managua, Oct 31 (Prensa Latina)
The United States jacked up pressure Tuesday to avoid a victory of Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega, who is leading polls five days before the presidential and legislative elections begin.
The new agitation is from the US Congress, with at least three legislators in favor of revising relations with Nicaragua, which they say could include blocking family remittances if Ortega returns to power.
Congressmen Ed Royce and Peter Hoekstra agreed with their republican counterpart Dana Rohrabacher, who has demanded the government make a contingency plan before the possible triumph of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
Consulted by Prensa Latina, local analyst Aldo Diaz Lacayo rejected the proposal of blocking family remittances, which amount to between 700 and 800 million dollars annually.
"This measure would directly affect the hundreds of Nicaraguans living in United States more than the Sandinista government," he said.
Ortega said if he wins November 5 he will try to reduce the expenses of the Nicaraguans living abroad to send money to their relatives at home.
Comment on this Article
State Agency Denies Russia Is Leading Arms Supplier to Developing Countries
Created: 01.11.2006 13:57 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:57 MSK
The United States' claims that Russia has become the world's leading exporter of weapons to developing countries, leaving the U.S. and France behind, are not true, the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service is quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.
"I don't know what calculation methods are used in the United States, but there are other sources which paint a slightly different picture. According to all reliable sources, the U.S. is far ahead of Russia, France, the United Kingdom and other countries," Russian delegation leader and Federal Military Technical Cooperation Service deputy head Alexander Denisov said at a news conference at the aviation and space show in China in answer to a question from Interfax.
"Perhaps some groups in the U.S. make use of such methods whenever they resort to anti-Russia rhetoric," he said. "We seek to become the leader, there is no denying it. If we ever leave the U.S. behind - excellent! But this is not now the case, unfortunately," he said.
Comment on this Article
Russian Companies Spend 7 Percent of Turnover on Bribes - Study
Created: 01.11.2006 14:49 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 15:39 MSK
According to a report by an independent Russian think tank INDEM, corruption is still rampant in Russia forcing businessmen to part with 7 percent of theirturnover which they spend on bribes.
The Head of the IDEM foundation Georgy Satarov has presented the anti-corruption report "Business and Corruption. Problems of Countering 2006" on Monday Kommersant daily reports.
The research including interviewing of Russian businessmen was carried out in three Russian cities Moscow, Volgograd and Smolensk.It was discovered that Russian businessman gives bribes twice a year on the average.
IDEM analysts say corruption in Russia is rapidly increasing for the period from 2002 to 2005 it went up 900 percent. As the experts of the foundation reports only 1 out of 100,000 corrupt goes to prison, so chances to fine oneself behind the bards for a bribe taker is 0.0013 percent in Russia.
Comment on this Article
Torture Used To Silence Civil Society Protesters
The Zimbabwean government is using repressive tactics, including torture, to quash peaceful dissent in a bid to quell a recent wave of protests against deteriorating social and economic conditions in the country, a new report by Human Rights Watch reveals.
In the report, Human Rights Watch documents systematic abuses against activists, including excessive use of force by police during protests, arbitrary arrests and detention, and the use of torture and mistreatment by police and intelligence officials.
In response to deteriorating political, social and economic conditions in Zimbabwe in recent years, civil society organisations have increasingly taken to the streets to peacefully express concerns.
The government's response has been heavy-handed and brutal, says Human Rights Watch. Police have violently disrupted peaceful protests by beating demonstrators with batons and rifle butts.
Activists who had been detained told Human Rights Watch that they were often held in overcrowded and filthy cells, where floors were littered with human waste and blankets were infested with lice.
The activists were sometimes denied legal counsel and access to food, water and medical assistance. Some were also tortured. Police tactics included punching, kicking and striking with batons, beatings on the soles of the feet, repeated banging of detainees' heads against walls, and shackling in painful positions.
While most activists are released within hours of detention, some are held for days, often without charge. Others are brought before the judicial authorities to answer charges that, in many cases, are dismissed by the courts. Police have used laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Miscellaneous Offences Act to justify the arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds of civil society activists in Zimbabwe.
Human Rights Watch says police and intelligence officers also routinely target human rights lawyers and activists who try to expose human rights abuses in an effort to prevent them from doing their work. The lawyers and activists are subjected to sustained harassment and intimidation in the form of verbal attacks in the state-run media and death threats from people purporting to work for the government.
Freedom of expression is severely restricted in Zimbabwe. Despite constitutional guarantees protecting freedom of expression, an otherwise draconian legislative framework continues to hamper the ability of journalists and media outlets to freely report the news, according to Freedom House.
Authorities use a range of restrictive laws to harass journalists, including the Official Secrets Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, POSA and criminal defamation laws. The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Bill passed in June 2005 increases prison sentences for defamation offences to a maximum of 20 years.
Journalists are also routinely subjected to verbal intimidation, physical attacks, arrest and detention, and financial pressure at the hands of the police, authorities, and supporters of the ruling party.
Read Human Rights Watch's report here: http://hrw.org/reports/2006/zimbabwe1106/
Comment on this Article
Pentagon: US force in Iraq swells to 150,000
By Jim Mannion - WASHINGTON
US Vice President warns deadly violence will plague Iraq for some considerable period of time.
With the US death toll in Iraq passing 100 this month and mid-term elections just days away, the Pentagon said Monday the US force in Iraq has grown to 150,000 troops, the biggest it has been since January.
A Pentagon spokesman attributed the growth to overlapping unit rotations, but it came amid surging violence that so far this month has claimed the lives of 103 US troops and many more Iraqis.
"Several units are transitioning out as several are transitioning in," said Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros, who said that as of Monday the number of US troops in Iraq was 150,000.
A Pentagon official, who asked not to be named, said the US Army's 4th Infantry Division was near the end of its year-long rotation.
US commanders in the past have timed the overlap of troop rotations to increase the US military presence during Iraqi elections and other critical milestones in the political process.
The increase this time follows the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which US military officials anticipated would bring higher levels of violence, and comes just ahead of the November 7 congressional elections in the United States.
Pentagon officials, echoing Vice President Dick Cheney, have expressed concern in recent days that Al-Qaeda is trying to step up the violence in Iraq to influence the outcome of the US vote.
Cheney warned that deadly violence would plague Iraq for "some considerable period of time" and that it was up to Iraqis to decide how to tackle sectarian militias.
Asked about radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia, Cheney told CNBC television that US-led forces had dealt with "the chief bad guy," Saddam Hussein, and that it was now up to Iraqis to handle Sadr.
Sadr "obviously speaks for a significant number of Iraqis, has a strong following. But if anything were to be addressed in that area, it's got to be addressed by the Iraqis themselves," Cheney said in the interview.
"The Iraqis are now the sovereign authority inside Iraq. That's their government. It's their responsibility. They'll have to make those judgments and decisions," he said.
Eric Ruff, the Pentagon press secretary, said he did not know why US troops levels were climbing.
"This is news to me," Ruff told reporters. "Talk to MNF-I (Multi-National Forces-Iraq). That's General Casey's decision."
The increase is noteworthy because US troop strength in Iraq is only 10,000 under the all-time high of about 160,000 reported in January after the Iraqi elections.
It had fallen to as low as 127,000 in June when US commanders still believed they could make troop cuts this year.
In late July, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reversed directions and ordered a combat brigade to be extended beyond a year as part of buildup to quell burgeoning sectarian violence in Baghdad.
In mid-September, General John Abizaid, the top US commander in the Middle East, said more than 140,000 troops would be needed through the first six months of 2007 to check the violence.
Since then, US troop levels have oscillated between 142,000 to 147,000, the level it reached last week.
But the stepped-up operations have so far failed to bring the violence under control in Baghdad or stop its spread to other cities, prompting a review of military tactics.
General George Casey, the commander of US forces in Iraq, had said earlier this month that it was an "open question" whether bringing in more troops would have a lasting effect on the violence.
But he left the door open to it last week at a press conference in Baghdad.
"Now, do we need more troops to do that? Maybe," he said. "And as I've said all along, if we do, I will ask for the troops I need, both coalition and Iraqis."
Rumsfeld, however, insisted two days later that Casey's comments had been mischaracterized in press reports.
"Listen, we're in the political season," he said. "People are trying to take what he said and turn it in a way that it plays the way they'd like to see it play."
Comment on this Article
Iraq inquiry would boost the enemy's morale, says Beckett
By George Jones, Political Editor
Last Updated: 3:22am GMT 01/11/2006
There will come a time to look at the lessons of the Iraq war, but it is not now, Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, told the Commons last night.
An inquiry now would send the "wrong signals at the wrong time", distract resources from where they were most needed, and appear to set a deadline for Britain's operations in Iraq, which would be politically and militarily damaging.
But she was left in little doubt of growing unhappiness and concern among MPs of all parties over the conduct of the Iraq war and the prospect there of a bloody civil war.
Adam Price, Welsh Nationalist MP for Carmarthen E and Dinefwr, opening the debate on a joint Welsh and Scottish Nationalist motion calling for an inquiry, said the "monumental catastrophe" of the Iraq war was the worst foreign policy disaster certainly since Suez, possibly since Munich.
The SNP and Plaid Cymru motion proposing a committee of seven senior MPs to review "the way in which the responsibilities of government were discharged in relation to Iraq", was defeated by 298 votes to 273, a Government majority of 25.
Mrs Beckett said there had already been four inquiries.
"So is this the moment to take a decision and a step of the kind recommended in the motion? My answer is a resounding no," she said.
She was challenged by Edward Leigh (C, Gainsborough) to promise an inquiry as soon as British troops left Iraq. To noisy heckling, she replied: "This is not the time for making these decisions."
She urged MPs to remember that what they said would be heard by British troops already in great danger in Iraq and by those whose intention it was "to do us harm, whether it be in Iraq or beyond." It was not the time to send a signal that many would interpret as a weakening of Britain's commitment. The Conservatives, who voted for the war three and a half years ago, called on the Government to agree to set up an inquiry by an independent committee of privy counsellors within a year.
It would be similar to the Franks inquiry carried out after the Falklands war, involving former generals and civil servants, not just MPs.
William Hague, Conservative foreign affairs spokesman, said he would be urging Tories to vote for the Nationalists' motion because of the Government's failure to promise any inquiry at all.
There was "a very strong case" for a wider Commons debate on Iraq. The military operation was "so vast, so expensive, so chequered with success and failures".
Mr Hague dismissed the argument that having a debate would harm troops' morale.
"The British Army is both tougher and more thoughtful than that and its operations should not be used as an excuse to avoid examining any of our political processes and judgments," he said.
Mr Price said there had been no comprehensive statement of Government policy on Iraq. "There are two Iraqs - the Iraq of George Bush and the Prime Minister, where things are going to plan and getting better all the time, and the real Iraq of murder and mayhem, whose future is uncertain," he said.
The state of denial which characterises the Government's policy now mirrors the state of delusion that characterised their policy in the run- up to war."
Sir Peter Tapsell (C, Louth and Horncastle) said the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a "strategic, political and humanitarian blunder of historic magnitude".
Comment on this Article
Baghdad is under siege
By Patrick Cockburn in Arbil, Northern Iraq
Published: 01 November 2006
Sunni insurgents have cut the roads linking the city to the rest of Iraq. The country is being partitioned as militiamen fight bloody battles for control of towns and villages north and south of the capital.
As American and British political leaders argue over responsibility for the crisis in Iraq, the country has taken another lurch towards disintegration.
Well-armed Sunni tribes now largely surround Baghdad and are fighting Shia militias to complete the encirclement.
The Sunni insurgents seem to be following a plan to control all the approaches to Baghdad. They have long held the highway leading west to the Jordanian border and east into Diyala province. Now they seem to be systematically taking over routes leading north and south.
Dusty truck-stop and market towns such as Mahmoudiyah, Balad and Baquba all lie on important roads out of Baghdad. In each case Sunni fighters are driving out the Shia and tightening their grip on the capital. Shias may be in a strong position within Baghdad but they risk their lives when they take to the roads. Some 30 Shias were dragged off a bus yesterday after being stopped at a fake checkpoint south of Balad.
In some isolated neighbourhoods in Baghdad, food shortages are becoming severe. Shops are open for only a few hours a day. "People have been living off water melon and bread for the past few weeks," said one Iraqi from the capital. The city itself has broken up into a dozen or more hostile districts, the majority of which are controlled by the main Shia militia, the Mehdi Army.
The scale of killing is already as bad as Bosnia at the height of the Balkans conflict. An apocalyptic scenario could well emerge - with slaughter on a massive scale. As America prepares its exit strategy, the fear in Iraq is of a genocidal conflict between the Sunni minority and the Shias in which an entire society implodes. Individual atrocities often obscure the bigger picture where:
* upwards of 1,000 Iraqis are dying violently every week;
* Shia fighters have taken over much of Baghdad; the Sunni encircle the capital;
* the Iraqi Red Crescent says 1.5 million people have fled their homes within the country;
* the Shia and Sunni militias control Iraq, not the enfeebled army or police.
No target is too innocent. Yesterday a bomb tore through a party of wedding guests in Ur, on the outskirts of Sadr City, killing 15 people, including four children. Iraqi wedding parties are very identifiable, with coloured streamers attached to the cars and cheering relatives hanging out the windows.
Amid all this, Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, has sought to turn the fiasco of Iraq into a vote-winner with his claim that the Iraqi insurgents have upped their attacks on US forces in a bid to influence the mid-term elections. There is little evidence to support this. In fact, the number of American dead has risen steadily this year from 353 in January to 847 in September and will be close to one thousand in October.
And there is growing confusion over the role of the US military. In Sadr City, the sprawling slum in the east of the capital that is home to 2.5 million people, American soldiers have been setting up barriers of cement blocks and sandbags after a US soldier was abducted, supposedly by the Mehdi Army. The US also closed several of the bridges across the Tigris river making it almost impossible to move between east and west Baghdad. Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, added to the sense of chaos yesterday when he ordered the US army to end its Sadr City siege.
Mr Maliki has recently criticised the US for the failure of its security policy in Iraq and resisted American pressure to eliminate the militias. Although President Bush and Tony Blair publicly handed back sovereignty to Iraq in June 2004, Mr Maliki said: "I am now Prime Minister and overall commander of the armed forces yet I cannot move a single company without Coalition [US and British] approval."
In reality the militias are growing stronger by the day because the Shia and Sunni communities feel threatened and do not trust the army and police to defend them. US forces have been moving against the Mehdi Army, which follows the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but he is an essential prop to Mr Maliki's government. Almost all the main players in Iraqi politics maintain their own militias. The impotence of US forces to prevent civil war is underlined by the fact that the intense fighting between Sunni and Shia around Balad, north of Baghdad, has raged for a month, although the town is beside one of Iraq's largest American bases. The US forces have done little and when they do act they are seen by the Shia as pursuing a feud against the Mehdi Army.
One eyewitness in Balad said two US gunships had attacked Shia positions on Sunday killing 11 people and seriously wounding six more, several of whom lost legs and arms. He added that later two Iraqi regular army platoons turned up in Balad with little military equipment. When they were asked by locals why their arms were so poor "the reply was that they were under strict orders by the US commander from the [nearby] Taji camp not to intervene and they were stripped of their rocket-propelled grenade launchers".
Another ominous development is that Iraqi tribes that often used to have both Sunni and Shia members are now splitting along sectarian lines.
In Baghdad it has become lethally dangerous for a Sunni to wander into a Shia neighbourhood and vice versa. In one middle-class district called al-Khudat, in west Baghdad, once favoured by lawyers and judges, the remaining Shia families recently found a cross in red paint on their doors. Sometimes there is also a note saying "leave without furniture and without renting your house". Few disobey.
The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq by Patrick Cockburn is published this month by Verso
Comment on this Article
40 kidnapped as sectarian violence escalates in Iraq
Police in Iraq today confirmed the kidnapping of more than 40 Shiites along a notoriously dangerous road just north of Baghdad.
The kidnappings were announced as the death toll from a suicide bombing at a wedding party rose to 23, including nine children.
At least eight other people were found dead or killed in new attacks today, including one person killed in a car bomb attack on Baghdad's central market of Shurja that also wounded five, police Lt. Ali Hassan said. He said the death toll in the market attack was likely to rise.
The abductions yesterday near the town of Tarmiyah marked a further outbreak of sectarian violence in a region where scores were killed last month in bloody attacks and reprisal killings among formerly friendly Shiite and Sunni neighbours in the city of Balad.
Unarmed men checked identification cards and seemed to be looking for familiar faces among travellers stopped in heavy traffic, said an eyewitness, who asked to be identified only by the pseudonym Abu Omar for fear of reprisals.
Armed gunmen stood nearby during the abductions, just out of sight of US soldiers who were disarming a roadside bomb further down the road, Abu Omar said. He and other Sunni travellers were allowed to travel onward after showing their ID cards, he said.
At least 40 travellers were missing and feared abducted, said an officer at the Joint Co-operation Centre in the city of Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad.
Twelve victims of yesterday's attack on a Shiite wedding in Baghdad later died from their injuries, adding to the 11 killed in the blast, said Dr. Qassim al-Suwaidi from the al-Sadr hospital. Another 19 were still being treated at the hospital, he said.
The attack, in which a bomber drove an explosives-rigged car into a crowd outside the bride's home, was grimly similar to recent killings aimed at sparking Shiite retaliation and pushing Iraq toward all-out civil war - a stated goal of the al Qaida in Iraq extremist group.
Police said US and Iraqi forces last night stormed an office in the south-western hamlet of Ahrar belonging to the al-Sadr organisation, sponsors of the feared Mahdi Army militia linked to sectarian murders and other violence.
Comment: Notice the title of this article and the use of the word "sectarian". The idea that Iraq has fallen into ethnic strife is a clever ploy that has been used often in the past by an invading army bent on establishing new colonies. The idea is that the grass-roots insurgency that springs up as a result of a foreign invasion must be divided in order to conquer it, and the best way to do this is to establish a parallel fake insurgency that then attacks the real insurgency and the civilian population in order to take the heat of the invading army and allow a picture of a country torn by sectarian strife to be presented to the world.
However, a little critical thought and analysis of the events in the alleged "sectarian conflict" can usually dispel the idea that it makes any sense for a population to fight each other rather than an invading force.
Comment on this Article
Suicide car bomber kills 10 at Baghdad wedding
At least 10 people were killed when a suicide car bomber struck a wedding party in Baghdad today.
Four children were among the dead and 12 other people were wounded, police said.
The bomber drove an explosives-rigged car into a crowd of Shiite celebrants preparing to board vehicles outside the bride's home in the Iraqi capital's north-eastern Shaab neighbourhood at 4.50pm (1.30pm Irish time), said Lt. Ahmed Mohamed of Risafa police station.
Weddings and funerals are often public events in Iraq, making them relatively easy targets for suicide bombers hoping to spark reprisal attacks from Sunnis.
Comment on this Article
Kerry's Iraq gaffe throws Bush a lifeline in election battle
Suzanne Goldenberg and Julian Borger in Washington
Wednesday November 1, 2006
A gaffe by the former Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, put his party on the defensive last night when it was seized on by George Bush as evidence of lack of patriotism over the Iraq war, a week before congressional elections.
Senator Kerry told an audience of college students in California that if they did not study hard they could "get stuck in Iraq", a comment quickly denounced by Mr Bush as implying that US troops were uneducated.
Senator Kerry, who lost to Mr Bush in the 2004 election, later said the line had been a "botched joke" aimed at the president; an aide explained that it had been intended to mean that Mr Bush's intellectual laziness had led the country into war but had been "mangled in delivery".
But the president and his party, in danger of losing Congress next Tuesday, sought to make the comment into the talking point of the campaign.
"Even in the midst of a heated campaign season, there are still some things we should all be able to agree on; and one of the most important is that every one of our troops deserves our gratitude and respect," Mr Bush said. "The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and shameful."
Senator Kerry hit back at what he called White House distortion, arguing it was "a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe". The senator, a Vietnam war hero, said he rejected criticism from "Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country".
Some Democrats defended the senator, but others privately cringed. An unnamed Democratic congressman told ABC News: "I guess Kerry wasn't content blowing 2004, now he wants to blow 2006, too."
According to local press accounts of Monday's speech, Senator Kerry told students at Pasadena city college: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
The Kerry slip played into the White House's strategy of questioning the Democrats' national security credentials in the closing days of the elections. In a speech in Georgia on Monday, Mr Bush said that a Democratic win would hand victory to Iraqi insurgents. "However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: the terrorists win and America loses," he said. "The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq." Vice-president Dick Cheney told Fox News that the insurgents in Iraq were timing attacks according to the US election calendar.
"It's my belief that they're very sensitive of the fact that we've got an election scheduled," he said. "Whether it's al-Qaida, or the other elements that are active in Iraq, they are betting on the proposition that they can break the will of the American people."
The combative approach marks a shift in this election when Democrats have led the debate on Iraq, while Republicans have tried to avoid the topic.
Comment on this Article
All Screwed Up
Puberty Hitting Girls as Young as 4 Years Old
Experts Say Environment, Genetics May Be Factor
Most parents would agree that their kids always seem to grow up too quickly, but now, puberty is hitting young girls earlier than ever.
Nearly half of African-American girls start showing signs of puberty by 8 years old, and some American girls are developing as young as 5, even 4 years old, experts say.
Skyla Jones is an energetic 5-year-old from Georgia who loves to play.
Last year, her mother, Melissa Jones, noticed Skyla was tired all the time, had a body odor, and had blood in her urine.
"I didn't know what was going on," Jones said. "I just went ahead and thought she had a kidney infection. And we went on antibiotics and still it didn't clear it up."
Skyla was eventually sent to Andrew Muir, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Medical College of Georgia, who knew exactly what was going on.
Skyla was menstruating and was experiencing other unmistakable signs of puberty.
"That's what he told me that it was -- that she was having a menstrual cycle," Jones said. "I was really freaked out."
Studies have tracked an increasing trend of early sexual development.
By age 8, almost half of African-American girls and 15 percent of Caucasian girls start developing pubic hair or breasts.
"The switch that normally gets turned on for pubertal development gets turned on too early," said Dr. Diane Stafford of Children's Hospital in Boston.
Until recently most doctors didn't expect to see these signs until age 10.
"It can have many causes," Muir said. "Some are related to genetics, environmental factors, and sometimes we just don't know why it happens."
For Skyla, a thyroid problem caused her symptoms.
While she was too young to really understand what was happening, her mother worried that other kids might.
"I was worried kids would make fun of her because kids are cruel," Jones said.
Because Skyla started treatment for her thyroid problem, all her symptoms have gone away.
Muir expects her next experience with puberty to be at a more reasonable age.
Comment on this Article
Scientists discover new bird flu strain that evades all vaccines and eradication measures
The team monitored H5N1 in market chickens, ducks and geese, and found the new strain emerged last year, displacing previous strains in southern China by early this year. The compulsory chicken vaccination program did not stop the strain; indeed the scientists suggest it may have even exacerbated the virus.
Comment on this Article
New bird flu variant reported in China
Oct 31, 2006, 17:09 GMT
HONG KONG, China (UPI) -- A new variant of the H5N1 bird flu virus has been reported across southern China, replacing most previous variants despite a poultry vaccination program.
Researchers at the University of Hong Kong, in collaboration with scientists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, said the new virus -- called Fujian-like, or FL -- appears to be responsible for the increased occurrence of H5N1 poultry infections in China since October 2005, as well as recent human cases.
FL has also been reported in Laos, Malaysia and Thailand, resulting in a new bird flu outbreak wave across Southeast Asia that has caused human infections as well, according to the Hong Kong-St. Jude team.
Investigators warn it is possible the new H5N1 variant will spread farther across Asia and into Europe, as it evolves to form other sublineages that vary from place to place.
The findings are significant, since experts believe H5N1 is the most likely virus to trigger a human influenza pandemic.
A report on the findings appears in the November online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Comment on this Article
Overfishing turns the Mediterranean into a barren sea
By Sinikka Tarvainen Oct 29, 2006, 7:54 GMT
Madrid - For millennia, the Mediterranean has fed its coastal peoples with abundant fish, but now it threatens to become a barren sea.
Overfishing is taking a heavy toll on fish stocks, with the numbers of tuna plummeting and anchovy becoming scarce in the western Mediterranean.
'Many species are becoming increasingly rare,' says Alain Bonzon, secretary-general of a commission monitoring fishing in the Mediterranean.
The problem is visible not only in the Mediterranean, but also in Spain's Atlantic and Cantabrian fishing grounds.
'We are catching less and less fish,' observes fisherman Emilio Louro from the northwestern Galicia region.
'Our income is shrinking, young people are leaving, the village is becoming a place of old people,' he told the daily El Pais.
Louro realizes that overfishing puts the livelihood of thousands of fishermen in danger, but not everyone is that smart.
Many small fishing companies are waging a desperate battle against large, sometimes multinational ones, which see the sea only as a source of money.
The number of fishermen has halved to about 50,000 since 1990 in Spain, which has the largest fishing fleet in the European Union (EU).
At the same time, improved technology has increased the size of catches, leading to an unscrupulous pillage of the sea's resources.
Many Spanish and French fishing companies have used EU subsidies to overhaul their fleets, installing sonar systems and new engines.
Fishing boats may have engines four times as powerful as the law allows them to have in the Mediterranean, according to El Pais.
They also use banned gear such as drift nets, which haul up vast quantities of unwanted fish and other marine life, and target juvenile fish despite size restrictions.
Large companies even use radar and spotter planes to track down schools of bluefin tuna, the consumption of which has been fuelled by the growth of the global sushi market.
Tuna are fattened in special ranches around the Mediterranean for the Japanese market, and taken away by Asian ships which pick up the cargo off shore without informing the authorities, according to media reports.
About 50,000 tons of bluefin tuna are captured annually in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, more than three times as much as what experts consider a sustainable amount.
'If this goes on, new generations will see bluefin tuna only in photographs,' says Jose Luis Cort of the Oceanographic Institute in the northern city of Santander.
The consequences of overfishing could be tragic for other species as well. Last spring's catch of anchovy from the Gulf of Biscay, for instance, amounted to 1,200 tons, compared to up to 80,000 tons in the 1960s.
Other endangered species include the hake, swordfish, red mullet and cod.
The results of overfishing are becoming visible in the rapid increase of jellyfish off touristic beaches in the Mediterranean. The phenomenon has been attributed to the animals now having less predators and competitors.
Environmentalists blame lax European government enforcement, while European officials say regulations are insufficient and fishing a difficult activity to monitor.
The environmental group Greenpeace believes the Mediterranean can only be saved from overfishing, industrial waste and oil spills by turning 40 per cent of it into marine reserves.
Comment on this Article
At War With Islam
By Lee Sustar
01 November, 2006
European politicians from London to Moscow are bashing Islam and immigrants, legitimizing politics previously limited to the anti-immigrant extreme right.
The latest high-profile venture in Islamophobia is taking place in Britain, where Labour Party minister Jack Straw suddenly announced in an October 5 newspaper column that he felt "uncomfortable" speaking to Muslim women wearing the full-face veil known as the niqab, calling it a barrier to community relations. Prime Minister Tony Blair chimed in days later, calling the niqab a "mark of separation."
The Labour Party's intervention represents the liberal version of Islamophobia, a complement to the right-wing variant, which has included Pope Benedict's speech portraying Islam as a violent religion, George W. Bush's tirade against "Islamofascism," and the publication of racist anti-Islamist cartoons by a right-wing Danish newspaper.
In Italy, another leading liberal, Prime Minister Romano Prodi, followed Blair in speaking out against the niqab.
Meanwhile, British authorities reported several incidents in which women were verbally harassed for wearing the niqab or a head covering known as the hijab, following Straw's comments. There were violent attacks as well, including an October 21 assault carried out by three men on those attending prayers at a mosque in the city of Manchester.
The same day, right-wing media amplified Straw and Blair's attacks on Islam, with the Daily Express tabloid running a front-page photo of a woman in a niqab under the massive headline "BAN IT!" A 24-year-old school teaching assistant, Aishah Azmi, won $2,000 in a labor tribunal case involving her suspension for wearing a niqab in class--but her complaints of discrimination and harassment were dropped.
The backdrop for all this is a series of raids and arrests of Muslims since August involving an alleged plot to hijack British airliners--even though they had taken no action toward doing so.
The Labour Party's role in stoking Islamophobia has given political cover for neo-Nazis and far-right politicians in Europe, who have already made anti-Islamism their focus, as a brief look across the continent makes clear:
Four Muslim baggage-handlers at Charles De Gaulle Airport recently lost their jobs when a local government revoked their security clearances.
The crackdown follows publication of a book--by Philippe de Villiers, the candidate of the right-wing Movement for France (MPF) party in next year's presidential elections--that claims to detail Muslim "infiltration" of the airport. "I am the only politician who tells the French the truth about the Islamization of France," he told an interviewer earlier this year.
A police union affiliated with de Villiers' MPF recently called for more weapons to fight what it called an ongoing "intifada" in the heavily Muslim immigrant suburbs of Paris, which erupted in riots a year ago after two youths died while being chased by police.
De Villiers is positioning himself as a more palatable alternative to National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Holocaust-denying, anti-immigrant neo-Nazi who came in second in the 2002 presidential election.
Islamophobia has been a staple of French politics for years, with parties of the mainstream right and left backing the ban of the hijab of public schools in 2004. The mainstream right is also counting on anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant politics to maintain control of the presidency, as Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy combines his law-and-order policies in the Paris suburbs with new laws cracking down on undocumented immigrants.
The neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NDP) scored its biggest success ever in September's election in the depressed Eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, giving Germany's extreme right representation in four German states.
A few weeks later, Ronald Pofalla, the head of Christian Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, wrote a newspaper column claiming that "the problem of religiously motivated violence is today almost exclusively a problem of Islam." Earlier this year, the eighth of Germany's 16 states voted to ban the hijab in public schools.
The far-right Velaams Belang nearly captured control of the Antwerp city government in mid-October on an openly Islamophobic platform, winning 33.5 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent assembled by a Socialist coalition.
Volen Siderov, candidate of the ultranationalist Ataka (Attack) party, bested the country's other right-wing parties by winning 22 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections October 22. Running on a platform of banning Turkish parties and cracking down on the Roma people, known as gypsies, Siderov will contest a runoff vote with incumbent president Georgi Parvanov of the Socialist Party.
The growing Nazi and far right are mobilizing behind the Movement Against Illegal Immigration--and the organization's politics recently got the blessing of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Following raids and mass deportation of Georgians after Russia's spy scandal involving that former republic of the USSR, Putin gave a speech in which he declared that Russians are being "terrorized" by gangs of "criminals" from the Muslim countries of former USSR republics in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the large Muslim population of Russia itself.
Islamophobia has replaced anti-Semitism as the focus of the European far right, according to Glyn Ford, a British member of the European Parliament and author of a book on neo-fascism in Europe. "Europe is in danger of seeing its extreme-right parties move into the mainstream," he said, adding, "Islamophobia has become the prejudice of the day, but the threat from the extreme right is real and it is found across the European Union."
Lee Sustar can be reached at: email@example.com
Comment on this Article
Women's lives 'no better' in new Afghanistan
By Justin Huggler, Asia Correspondent
Published: 01 November 2006
The lives of Afghanistan's women have changed little five years after the fall of the Taliban, according to a new report by a UK-based women's rights group.
Womankind Worldwide found violence against women is still endemic - and the number of women setting fire to themselves because they cannot bear their lives is rising dramatically.
The iconic images of women throwing off their burqas after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 were always a fiction. Except among a small elite in Kabul, the overwhelming majority of women in Afghanistan are still forced to cover their entire bodies and faces.
The report's researchers found that very little has changed. Between 60 and 80 per cent of all marriages in Afghanistan are forced. As many as 57 per cent of girls are married off below the age of 16, some as young as six. Because of the custom of paying a bride price, marriage is essentially a financial transaction, and girls a commodity.
The custom of baad, when girls and women are exchanged to settle debts and disputes, is still widely practised. The women are not treated as proper wives, but in effect are slave workers for their husbands.
Honour killing is also still widespread. Women are killed for dishonouring their families through "crimes" such as even being seen associating with a man. A family member kills the woman.
Even women who have been raped cannot report the crime because they risk being prosecuted for having sex outside marriage.
The Taliban were vilified for denying girls education, but even now only 19 per cent of Afghan schools are for girls and only 5 per cent of girls of secondary school age are enrolled.
And the West cannot blame the Taliban, as many of the abuses take place in the north and west, where the Taliban are not active.
In the north-east, where the Taliban never had control, a woman dies every 20 minutes in childbirth.
Comment on this Article
Evidence suggests U.S. Bribed President Of Kyrgyzstan
By Aram Roston
Producer - NBC News Investigative Unit
10/30/06 "MSNBC" -- -- WASHINGTON
An FBI report obtained by NBC News suggests that the ruling family of the remote and mountainous Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan oversaw a vast international criminal network that stretched all the way to a series of shell companies in the United States.
Still, it was Kyrgyz then-President Askar Akaev's alliance with the U.S. government, and his role in the war on terror, that may raise the most disturbing questions. Akaev, who was deposed in a revolution last year, agreed to let the Pentagon open an air base in his country for operations in Afghanistan.
After that agreement, the U.S. military steered more than $100 million in sub-contracts to the Akaev family's fuel monopoly, according to U.S. contractors who oversaw the payments and transactions. That windfall to the Akaev family businesses equaled about 5 percent of Kyrgyzstan's annual gross national product, according to the contractors.
After Akaev fled the country, that air base, called the Manas, or "Ganci" airbase, was at the heart of an immense diplomatic struggle as relations between the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan soured. Kyrgyz officials alleged the U.S. funds going to Akaev's family should have been going to the state treasury instead.
This summer, after months of wrangling, the U.S. finally announced a deal to pay $150 million over the next year to various Kyrgyz projects, and the Kyrgyz government has agreed to keep the base open.
The "Ganci" air base has its roots post-9/11. Named after Peter Ganci, a New York City firefighter who lost his life in the World Trade Center attacks, the base hosts tankers and other planes, and operates as a transfer facility for troops. The United States needs it because last year the Uzbekistan government closed the American base in its country.
Even before the base opened, Akaev was a complex figure, seen alternatively as a reformer and as a dictator. He became president in 1990, in the former Soviet Republic, and was reelected in 2000 in a landslide vote that the State Department said was "marred by serious irregularities."
But after 9/11, and after he permitted the air base to open, he became a close U.S. ally.
'A brilliant man'
He was invited to the White House and photographed with President Bush on Sept. 23, 2002. The two leaders sealed their partnership during the meeting, calling for transparent open government, democracy, as well as "reducing corruption, and enhancing the Kyrgyz Republic's strong record on economic reform."
Three years later, Akaev's family was accused of siphoning massive amounts of money out of Kyrgyzstan. The FBI report obtained by NBC News says that "an international law enforcement investigation is underway targeting as many as 175 entities associated with the Akaev organization." The report cites allegations of a "vast amount of potential criminal activities." The trail, according to the FBI, even led to the U.S., where the Akaev family was connected to one American "known to have formed over 6,000 U.S. shell companies for organized crime factions, weapons and drug traffickers and cyber criminals."
American attorney Scott Horton was in Kyrgyzstan during the base negotiations, and knew Akaev.
"He was an academic, a brilliant man," says Horton. "But we began to see a dark side about Askar Akaev. He and his family and his extended clan mates decided to take advantage of their position of power for personal financial gain."
Noted economist Anders Aslund knew President Akaev personally, and prepared annual economic reviews of Kyrgyzstan for the United Nations Development Program. He says the scale of corruption by Akaev's family was massive.
"One can say that half a billion to $1 billion was probably what the family amassed," says Aslund.
But if the family businesses were making money off the state, they truly encountered a bonanza when the U.S. air base opened in 2002, according to sources involved in Kyrgyzstan and the negotiations, and records obtained by NBC News.
Fuel subcontracts draw attention
Two companies owned by the president's relatives received $120 million in military fuel subcontracts, according to the prime contractor. The two companies were Aalam Services, which was controlled by President Akaev 's son-in-law, according to the FBI records, and Manas International, which was widely known to belong to Akaev's son, Aider Akaev.
"Tens of millions of dollars were paid by our Pentagon into businesses that were controlled by the President of Kyrgyzstan and his family," says Horton.
Aslund says ownership of Manas and Aalam was common knowledge. Neither company could be reached for comment.
The first contractor that the Pentagon hired to provide fuel in Kyrgyzstan says it notified military officials of the link between the president's family and Aalam and Manas.
Later, in 2002, when the Pentagon had a competitive bidding selection to choose a new contractor, a company named Red Star Enterprises won. It received a total of more than $240 million over the next several years, and tells NBC News it paid $120 million to the two firms.
In an e-mail to NBC News, a company official said: "These companies were used because DESC [the defense agency handling fuel contracts] directed all bidders to use them since they were the only registered companies to provide services."
In March 2005, Akaev was ousted from power in an uprising now known as the "Tulip Revolution." And that is when all the alleged corruption started to unravel. The new Kyrgyz government argued that the state treasury received little if any direct benefit from U.S. funds. A Pentagon spokesman says that the U.S. paid a yearly total of $2.7 million in fees at the airport.
The Pentagon says any corruption was not its fault.
"We are aware of the allegations of the current Kyrgyz government," said Lt. Col. Joe Carpenter in a statement to NBC News referring to the allegations, "that former Kyrgyz regime leadership may have misappropriated funds from U.S. payments for goods or services," and added any "misappropriation of funds is an internal Kyrgyz matter. All DoD contracts for goods and services in Kyrgyzstan were negotiated in accordance with U.S. laws and DoD contracting regulations."
The Pentagon says it is helping the Kyrgyz government investigate, by providing U.S. documents.
The Kyrgyz could use the help, because in a strange twist, there were several U.S. connections to both Manas and Aalam. Both firms had bank accounts in the U.S., according to the FBI, and the banks reported that "Manas and Aalam are tied to transactions with arms traffickers, Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and a myriad of suspicious U.S. shell companies associated with the Akaev Organization."
The FBI refused to confirm whether there is an ongoing investigation into the Akaev matter, citing a policy of not confirming or denying investigations.
Akaev is living in Moscow, and refused to comment for this story, or answer questions. Asked for comment, Galina Scripkina, who identified herself as Akaev's attorney, said she could not answer questions concerning him.
Comment on this Article
None of the News None of the Time
France 24 to challenge 'Anglo-Saxon' CNN, BBC
PARIS, Oct 31, 2006 (AFP)
A round-the-clock international news channel France is to launch in December will challenge the 'Anglo-Saxon' views spread by market leaders BBC and CNN by relying on 'French values', the network's chief said Tuesday.
France 24, as the network is called, will start broadcasting in English and French on the Internet on December 6 and then via satellite two days later, its chairman and chief executive, Alain de Pouzilhac, told Le Figaro newspaper.
Like its British and US rivals, it is homing in on "opinion leaders" around the world by dishing up a diet of news, features and discussion.
But those viewers, Pouzilhac claimed, have become increasingly "sceptical of the world vision offered by the Anglo-Saxons like BBC World and CNN International."
Instead, he asserted, they "are looking for contradictory opinions - which is what France 24 is proposing by relying on French values."
He did not define what those values were in the interview, beyond saying that the channel would highlight "diversity (and)... confrontation, without forgetting the culture and French art of living."
BBC World, the privately financed international arm of Britain's public broadcaster, has 250 staff and an undisclosed budget. CNN's US and international divisions employ 4,000 people and revenues of US $860 million (EUR 730 million).
Additionally, other players have entered the market, most notably the Arab network Al-Jazeera, which has just started an English-language service.
But Pouzilhac insisted there was room for the French channel.
"From its launch, France 24 will potentially reach 250 million individuals," and will be pumped into 500 hotels in 64 countries, he said.
It will be offered throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East and in the US cities of New York and Washington. Later, it plans to extend its broadcasts to all of North and South America and to Asia.
Staffed by 380 people - including 170 bilingual journalists - it will be relying in part on video footage and reporting provided by its managing companies, the TF1 private network and the state-owned France Televisions, as well as from partner organisations such as AFP and Radio France Internationale.
France 24 was conceived years ago as a pet project of President Jacques Chirac, who in February 2002 called for a "big international news channel in French able to rival the BBC and CNN."
The US-led invasion of Iraq pushed the project forward, because Chirac was reportedly miffed by the way CNN and the BBC presented France's opposition to the war.
Some reports in US media inaccurately stating that "Paris is burning" during the 2005 riots around France also nettled his government.
Chirac has said he hoped the channel would place France "at the forefront of the global battle of images".
The European Commission gave the green light to the French channel in June, but media commentators have highlighted internal problems in the company caused by forcing TF1 and France Televisions - aggressive competitors in the national market - to work together.
The head of France Televisions, Patrick de Carolis, had unsuccessfully lobbied to have TF1 jettisoned from the project, and relations between the two remain frosty.
Comment on this Article
The New Yorker on Rachel Corrie
Angry Arab News Service
31 October 2006
The New Yorker, a magazine that has a literary reputation that it does not deserve, a magazine that under David Remnik has become a replica of Newsweek and people magazine but with longer articles, a magazine that has neither insights nor wit, a magazine that has made great efforts to increase the fear and hatred toward things Muslim in the US and which has made great contributions to Bush's wars' efforts, a magazine that published articles on the Middle East by a former prison guard in Israeli torture camps (who brags about his service in his new book) who claims that Islamic terrorists are under every bed and every table in the west, has decided that in order to serve Zionist propaganda in the US is to assign a certain John Lahr to review the Rachel Corrie play.
In American Zionist publications, there are no limits and no boundaries to how far one goes in order to serve the interests of Zionist occupation. This John Lahr, who has the writing skills of contributors to People magazine, has decided that mocking and ridiculing a dead young woman is quite appropriate. Notice that he does not even review the play as a play; he forgot about his original task in order to bash the dead young woman and mock her. Like a the typical sexist writer, he invoked the word "hysteric" to describe her. That sums her entire life for this guy. Imagine if she was a victim of an Arab army tractor: imagine how this Lahr and his editor at that lousy magazine would have lionized her. No Lahr and no Remnik and no Zionist in the US can tarnish the image of Rachel Corrie. No matter how hard they try, and no matter how vulgar they are.
Comment on this Article
Videotron lobbying for Internet 'transmission tariff'
OTTAWA - With video and music downloads gobbling up Internet bandwidth at an ever-expanding pace, cable company Videotron is pushing for content providers like movie studios to share some of the cost to expand broadband pipelines.
Videotron boss Robert Depatie wants the federal government to slap a transmission tariff on providers - like the music and film industry - so they can shoulder part of the burden.
The Quebec company will invest $300-million this year as its average customer uses four times more bandwidth than just a year ago, Depatie said Tuesday in a speech at a telecom conference.
He called it unfair for studios and companies like Apple and Amazon.com to use that extra service without cost - which he compared to free shipping.
What they mean by "provider pays" is of course "consumer pays...
These were the same clowns willing to hand over private customer...
Don't be fooled, this idea is extortion. We must keep the Net...
depatie's logic leaves much to be desired. if videtron is unable...
5 reader comments | Join the conversation
"If the movie studio were to mail a DVD . . . they would expect to pay postage or courier fees," Depatie said.
"Why should they not expect a transmission tariff?"
With Ottawa looking to deregulate the communications industry, all the major players - from telephone companies, to wireless providers and the cable industry - are lobbying to have their voices heard.
In an interview later, Depatie said he merely wanted to put the tariff idea on the table and offered few clues about how his revenue-sharing proposal would work. It's unclear whether such a tariff would be passed on to consumers through higher download fees.
But Depatie said he's against raising rates for Internet service and that it's only fair for content providers to help foot the infrastructure cost.
"We build the network, renovate the network, spend the money on marketing to get customers, we invoice and service those customers. We pay a great deal of money," he said in an interview.
"(For producers) it's just a free ride - 'Let's provide movie downloads. It's the telcos that will pay for it.' " As for cellphone coverage, Depatie raised his concern that Canada lags far behind in pricing competitiveness and technology because the regulatory regime discriminates against new providers like Videotron.
"We pay 60 per cent more than Americans for services that are less advanced technologically," he said.
"3G (third generation) services were deployed in Asia in 2001, in Europe in 2002 and even the Americans with a late deployment in 2005 are now way ahead of us.
"How competitive is that? ... Canadian consumers have become two-time losers by having to pay more for less advanced services."
Videotron recently launched a cellphone service, and Depatie says his company would be prepared to pay more established providers for access to their towers.
Such a system, he said, would benefit all cellphone users by eliminating the gaps in coverage that exist even on the outskirts of major Canadian cities.
Depatie suggested that consecutive minority governments have not helped Canada modernize its communications environment.
Though the Tory government promises to release its telecom review soon, federal politicians are also gearing up for what could soon be their third election in less than three years.
Depatie said the cable TV industry is also crying out for less stringent rules. Videotron agrees with the status quo on Canadian content, he said.
But he lamented the 200 CRTC guidelines that decide what stations he's allowed to offer, that can force him to assign certain channel numbers, and that consume bandwidth by requiring him to offer the same station in high definition, digital and analog mode.
Videotron, a Quebecor subsidiary, is present in 1.5 million Quebec households with about 3.3 million customers for its cable TV, telecom and Internet services. It also provides residential and business telephone services to more than 283,000 customers in Quebec.
Comment on this Article
The Coming Technocratic Dark Age
October 31, 2006
Imagine the entire world ruled by several thousand and mostly hidden aristocrat families who control all banks, science, mass communications, and technology. Then imagine their global chain of financial employees and dependents.
Imagine that these elitist families are united together in mission to replace political and religious beliefs with laws of their invention. Then imagine that over time, the world's people come to reject and/or forget Divine Laws, which are then replaced with authoritarian laws custom designed by such aristocrats.
If no Divine Laws exist in the minds of the world's people, the elitists have no higher authority, and in fact become the highest ruling authority - becoming god-like themselves through the invention of an elite government based upon their benefits, desires, and profits.
Then imagine the legal system that would have to set into place to protect these elitist families from 99% of the world's population, as their on-going problem would be to maintain such power. A constant and loyal or highly paid army and a constant state of threat would be in order to hold authoritarian power over global humanity. Try to fathom this kind of power.
It would seem that we have described a scientific fictional tale, but, in fact, that fiction is the world's living reality. The elite have, in fact, purchased and claimed terrifying powers over the world's people, and are, in fact, implementing their custom made legal/control system of governance. So, let us begin by assuming that the bulk of humanity does not understand the power or threats behind a technocratic world owned and controlled by elitists who know no higher authority than self-omnipotent power achieved through criminally absconded wealth.
Let us assume that "commoners" are insects that take up space and property, mass produce, and who are ill-prepared and disinclined to enrich the lives of these elite families on a year-by-year basis. Let us also assume that the elites have, in their creation of a global and self-serving legal system, invented ways to take and control everything the insects have or may attain in the future. Imagine a legal system where the insects are disallowed private property, votes, mobility, access to food, water, and shelter, and whose money is actually game money - like Monopoly dollars - that are actually and only certificates of permanent debt. Again - the money issued and paid to the insects in exchange for their labors is not actual money - but actually certificates of debt to elite families. Then add to this equation elite legislative authority to spy upon the insects in stores, gas stations, and 90% of all public places; in their homes, schools, places of employment, and via all communication services that the insects are required to purchase - including Internet service and email, the Postal Service, and telephone/fax and cell phone services.
Alas, a picture evolves before your eyes, and it's called the United States of America. It's also called England, France, Germany, Canada, Mexico, and 90% of the rest of the world's nations. The big picture is called World Governance custom designed by the rich - a government of the rich, for the rich, and by the rich.
So, my fellow insects, as another rigged election rounds our caged corners, we are asked by our televised masters to continue to vote for their custom made agendas and form of government. Their simplification of our decision into "press red or press blue" buttons certainly catered to the brainlessness our species, while our masters also eliminated all potential Third Party competition by disallowing those in opposition to be seen/heard on their communications networks, whereby controlling all political information that we the insects receive.
What is sad - truly sad - is that we the insects realize our dilemma. We also realize that the purpose of "drugs" has evolved into social control of mass producing bugs. I believe the term is extermination when used in the context of pests or genocide in the context of the human being. Either way - same result.
And so it appears that another Dark Age has befallen our planet - an age full of crisis, sickness, ignorance, deceit, manipulation, threats, and violence. But in historical uniqueness, we have also entered into the age of full-blown technological manipulation and technologically staged realities. As such, we the insects are afraid and confused and search blindly for familiar patterns in our managed realities. So we vote as if we lived in the old world - pretending that life as we once knew it existed. In our fear, we pretend that our politicians represent our interests and needs though, in fact, we know that they moved on decades ago in total representation of a government they invented specifically for the protection of themselves.
Go ahead. Vote for the red and the blue politicians. I'm sure you feel safer doing so. However, you might want to consider just drinking the arsenic. It will be a quicker and more humane death. It will also make the politicians you voted for quite pleased with your civic obedience and your global consciousness. After all - the less of us, the better - for "their" sustainable futures. Your new governors will be far safer once the insect population lies and dies down.
Comment on this Article
Winter storms batter Nordic countries - oil platform adrift
Nov 1, 2006, 11:04 GMT
Stockholm/Oslo - Hundreds of train passengers were stranded overnight at several locations in northern Sweden as heavy snowfall and strong winds toppled trees and made tracks impassable, reports said Wednesday.
North-bound trains were halted Tuesday evening at several stations along the eastern coast north of Gavle, some 170 kilometres north of Stockholm, as a precaution.
Given that many roads were very slippery or impassable because of the snowfall and sub-zero temperatures, train operator SJ said it could not hire buses as an alternative and that it had offered hotel accommodation to stranded passengers.
Some 45,000 households were also reportedly hit by power cuts. About half of the affected households were located along the eastern coast north of the capital that was buffeted by strong northerly winds overnight.
In Norway, hurricane-force winds were reported overnight on the North Sea. An oil platform with a 75-strong crew was reported to be drifting in the sea off western Norway after the tow chains broke, but the crew was in no immediate danger.
A vessel from the Faroe Islands commissioned to patrol oil installations in the North Sea was also drifting off western Norway. The five-strong crew alerted authorities that a massive wave had smashed windows on the bridge and that the vessel had taken in a lot of water late Tuesday but there were was no immediate need to evacuate them, Norwegian news agency NTB said.
In Denmark, the 20-kilometre-long showpiece Storebaelt Bridge over the Great Belt, a strait between the main Danish islands of Zealand and Funen, was also affected by strong winds.
Only one train track over the bridge was open while car lanes were closed until the early afternoon.
Heavy snowfall also blanketed southern Finland overnight causing problems for trucks and train services in the vicinity of the town of Tampere, Finnish news agency STT said.
Comment on this Article
Earthquake rattles northern Japan; no tsunami warning
The Associated Press
Published: November 1, 2006
TOKYO: An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.0 shook northern Japan Wednesday, the weather agency said. No tsunami warning was issued.
The quake struck at about 11:21 p.m. (1421GMT) and was centered around Tokachi in the southern part of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island, at a depth of about 60 kilometers (37 miles), the Meteorological Agency said in a statement.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the quake, according to Hitomi Ishikawa, a Hokkaido police official.
Hokkaido is about 829 kilometers (518 miles) northwest of Tokyo.
Japan sits atop four tectonic plates and is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.
Comment on this Article
Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!
Send your article suggestions to: sott(at)signs-of-the-times.org