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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

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©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Your Government and You

SOTT Editorial

It's not that there is anything wrong with governments per se, the problem is that most of us fail to fully recognise (or outright ignore) some core aspects of human nature and the implications they have for any one of us ruling another.

Humans are, by default, self serving beings. Personal power and control over others acts in a decidedly negative way on human beings. It corrupts us, and makes us ask the question; "if I can have this, why not that also?" In the case of governments, be they elected, unelected, proxy, phony or secret, its members see themselves as owning the country over which they preside, including its infrastructure and the people that depend on it. If, by chance, there existed a group of people that has ascended to a position of global influence and control, then they would logically see themselves as owning the world and all those that inhabit it.

Look at it this way; governments provide essential services to the population, services without which most people would be forced to live a very meager and caveman-like existence. From jobs by which we earn money, to clean drinking water, all of it is provided for us as a result of the direct and indirect efforts of the small group of people we have come to call our 'leaders'.

We depend on them, and they are 'responsible' for us.

Due to our own natures then, any human society will be set up in such a way so that the people are almost 100% dependent for their basic daily needs on a relatively small number of people in some form of government. If ordinary citizens were to be brutally honest with themselves, they would have to admit that the same drive they exhibit to accrue more and more material possessions, is the very same drive and desire that has lead our 'elected representatives' to occupy the position of domination which they now hold (and perhaps have always held).

From the point of view of our basic human nature, our 'leaders' see themselves as justified in pursuing and attaining to positions of control over the rest of us. And can we blame them? They might reasonably argue that they are simply better at exploiting the human nature to 'get for the self' that we all share.

The truth, it seems, is that, unless some radical change were to occur in the nature of the people that inhabit and are born into this reality, human life on this earth will always be characterised by greed, manipulation and the gain of the few at the expense of the many. Yet complaining about it will do us no good, neither will ignoring it. Such an attitude merely serves to perpetuate it.

If we are ever to hope to experience a different way of life, of Being, we must begin the task of recognising and accepting the truth about our own nature. We must realise that it ties us to this entropic reality and holds us in a 'deadly dance' with our fellow humans.

Striving to gain this knowledge of our inner nature, signifies the first, conscious efforts that may finally lead to changing it. That is all we can Do. What actual results, if any, such a radical and monumental effort might achieve, we cannot say, and it is perhaps futile to attempt to define them, for we simply cannot determine the specifics of a way of life that we have never experienced.

We pursue this work because we understand that it is in us to do. We pursue it in faith, based on the knowledge that we really have no other choice.

Foreign Hands Behind Iraq Blasts Say Experts


Iraqi experts accused 'foreign hands' of being behind the deadly string of random attacks in the war-torn country in an attempt to stir unrest ahead of the handover of power to Iraqis.

"The current wave of car bombs targeting Iraqi civilians are surely carried out by foreign hands to blemish the image of resistance groups and impede the power transfer to the interim government," Rushdi Al-Ani, professor of history and Islamic civilization in Baghdad University, told on Sunday, June 27.

He said such attacks cannot be justified as they claim the lives of innocent civilians and add to the state of chaos in the country.

"I'm confident that they [foreign hands] want to destabilize the country and influence the power transfer," he added.

The vicious cycle of violence will give reason to the overstay of the US-led occupation in the country after the power handover, he said.

"Insecurity and instability play well in the hands of the US occupation to prove that the Iraqis can't take over security or protect themselves," explained Ani.

Salman Ali Al-Jamili, professor of political sciences in the same university, agreed.

"The US wants unrest to prevail nationwide to hold to the security responsibilities after the power transfer as instability will guarantee the loyalty of the Iraqi government," he told IOL.

Jamili said such indiscriminate attacks could call off the planned elections, which could result in, if fair, patriotic figures threatening the US interests.

In a surprising move, the US-led occupation authorities transferred power to the country's interim government on Monday, June 28, two days earlier than expected.

An Iraqi official told CNN that interim premier Iyad Allawi requested the expedition of power transfer because "every day matters" and they were ready to crack down the worsening security conditions.

Lay people in Iraq received the power transfer with an unmistakable message: The US-led occupation troops, who will stay under the guise of a multinational keeping force, must leave.

Resistance Penetrated

Jamili believes that some resistance pockets are penetrated either by Iraqi intelligence or foreign powers.

He said such powers want to deepen the Iraqi quagmire and to perplex the US occupation troops to head off any future US attacks on their homeland.

Jamili also made a veiled reference to Al-Qaeda network, saying the US was in an open conflict with armed groups in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Several car bombs and attacks in Iraq have left hundreds dead this month.

Two car bombs killed up to 40 Iraqis and wounded at least 22 others Saturday, June 26, south of Baghdad.

Two days earlier, at least 93 Iraqis were killed and over 200 others injured in a series of coordinated attacks and clashes in several Iraqi cities.

Comment: We have consistently repeated that it is ridiculous to suggest that Iraqi militants are carrying out attacks that kill mainly Iraqi civilians. As the author of the above notes, a much more logical explanation is that a foreign power, with a vested interest in Iraq remaining in a state of instability, is behind the attacks. While it can be argued that Iran or Turkey or even Saudi Arabia would fit into this category, there is one nation that clearly has most to gain from a fractured, war torn Iraq.

Israel, backed by the NeoCons in Washington, has been most vociferous in stating that the very existence of Iraq poses a threat to its 'hallowed' existence, and it has been anything but shy about staking claim to the establishment of a 'greater Israel', which would include large parts of Iraq. Yet the one thing that has typified Israel's implementation of its foreign and domestic policies over the years, is deception. From the bombing of the USS Liberty, to the attacks on the WTC, Israel's Mossad is very adept at waging war under a tight cloak of secrecy, while claiming always to be the victim.

If any evidence is needed for the truth of this analysis we direct our readers to the now famous NeoCon essay, penned in 1996 by none other than Richard Perle and Douglas Feith among others and entitled:

"A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm", where it is stated:

"the nation [Israel] [must be provided] the room to engage every possible energy in rebuilding Zionism", and strengthen and increase its influence in the Middle East. "Our claim to the land - to which we have clung for hope for 2000 years - is legitimate and noble," the authors proclaimed. "Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them" through means including "reestablishing the principle of preemption, rather than retaliation alone".

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Flashback: Saudi envoy claims link between Zionists and Al Qaeda

By Christopher Hart

The Saudi ambassador to London has reinforced controversial claims by the kingdom's royal family of a link between "Zionists" and recent al-Qaeda terror attacks in the country.

In a television interview, to be broadcast today, Prince Turki al-Faisal is asked about comments made by Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, that "Zionist hands" have been behind the attacks.

The ambassador replies: "When you're under attack by people who come and kill your countrymen and visitors to your country, and you see at the same time an attack on the kingdom from the outside, from Zionist circles, it is natural to make a connection."

He declined to expand on his remarks yesterday but his comments were condemned by Lord Janner of Braunstone, the former Labour MP. "In my view it is highly offensive and he must realise that the statement is totally unfounded."

"No terrorism serves the interests of Zionism. The allegation by the Crown Prince was rubbish and he must know that."

Prince Abdullah made his original remarks when he addressed a conference of leading Saudi officials and academics last month after an attack on contractors at the Yanbu oil facility that left six Westerners - including two Britons - dead.

"Zionism is behind it," he said. "It has become clear now. It has become clear to us. It is not 100 per cent, but 95 per cent that Zionist hands are behind what happened."

In his interview today, Prince Turki contends that Saudi Arabia has been subjected to concerted attacks by "so-called 'experts' with Zionist connections" for 50 years, and particularly since the terror atrocities of September 11, 2001.

"Is it beyond any comprehension or understanding that such attacks come at us from the Zionists on one side and from al-Qaeda on the other side and not make connection between them?" he asked.

The ambassador also says that the families of victims of terror attacks committed in Saudi Arabia, including Westerners, can still insist on the death penalty for their killers under Islamic sharia law, despite the offer of a state amnesty to terrorists who surrender in the next month.

He insists that the regime is doing everything it can to root out terrorists and rejects claims that the Saudi royal family's days are numbered.

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Hamdi, Padilla and Rasul v. Rumsfeld and Bush: Who Really Won?


Forget what the media's talking heads have told you about these three Supreme Court decisions that tested the power of George W. Bush. The President won far more than he lost, so administration "officials" who pronounce themselves victors are more on target than the press who tell you that the decisions represent a defeat for the Administration, or rein in its power. Taken together, the decisions are more important for what they did not do. Their significance for the future, particularly if Bush is reelected, cannot be underestimated.

Rumsfeld v. Padilla

To begin with, the Court dodged the most important case - the case of Jose Padilla. Padilla, recently vilified by a highly-placed Department of Justice attorney, is the American citizen arrested on a material witness warrant in Chicago two years ago.

The government's story then was that he was planning to detonate a dirty bomb. Attorney General John Ashcroft held a press conference and announced the incarceration of Padilla and told us what a dangerous man he was. Of course, if they had evidence that he was planning to detonate a dirty bomb, they would have charged him with a host of crimes, and tried him. But they never charged him with anything. What does that tell you?

A couple of weeks ago, Ashcroft sent out one of his top deputies to change the story on Padilla. That story may have influenced the Court's decision, though we will never know this. Though the official denied that the press conference- at which he announced that Padilla had "confessed" to plotting to blow up high- rise apartment buildings-may have been held when it was to punctuate the government's belief that Padilla was a very, very dangerous man.

So if he is so dangerous, why is he not being charged?

Oh, you have to love this reason: because the government denied him his rights and repeatedly interrogated him without an attorney (and, maybe even tortured him, for all we know) his confession is no good! Can't be used in court. So since we denied him his rights, we cannot try him, but we can hold him without charging him forever. Because we say he is dangerous.

And what did the Supreme Court have to say about that?

In a 5-4 decision, it said...nothing. It ruled that Padilla's court' appointed attorney, Donna Newman, filed the petition for writ of habeas corpus (challenging the detention of her client without charge, without access to her) in the wrong federal court. She sued Rumsfeld, on whose order Padilla was named an "enemy combatant" in the Southern District of New York, where he was brought and incarcerated and where she was appointed. But after she got into the case, and without notice to her, the government moved him to a brig in South Carolina.

So the government argued that the warden of the brig is the party to be sued, not Rumsfeld. As if that warden does not answer to Rumsfeld, at least if she is holding an enemy combatant-so-called.

So with Rehnquist writing for the majority, the court threw out his petition. Altogether. Padilla has to start all over again, suing the warden wherever he or she is.

Ah, but keep in mind, that once his attorneys file a another petition, the government just has to move him again. And again. And again. To avoid answering for his detention.

So the most important of the three cases was not decided. In not deciding, the Court fully sanctioned the continued detention of Padilla, without a charge, without a lawyer (Newman is now out of the case, since the suit was dismissed), for years to come.

George Bush 1, Civil Liberties, 0.

Hamdi v. Rumsfeld

On first glance, which is all the nightly news gave you, the Hamdi case looks like a win for lovers of freedom. Even Hamdi's public defender, Frank Dunham, said that they "won big."

I disagree. And amazingly to this writer, so did Scalia, who was joined in his dissent by Justice Stevens. The majority opinion was written by Justice O'Connor, and we all know what that means - a tortured crafting of facts cobbled to law that tries to give everybody something. A little here, a little there.

Here is what we got: The Congress gave the President the authority to detain anyone involved with fighting with al Qaeda or the Taliban when it voted for war in Afghanistan. Hamdi was supposedly captured in Afghanistan. As long as the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan (I guess that will be forever, don't you think?), Hamdi can be held WITHOUT BEING CHARGED WITH A CRIME. But, he gets a lawyer (a lawyer subject so special instructions by Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, a lawyer whose conversation with his client will be monitored and limited as Rumsfeld and Ashcroft see fit) and he can file a petition for writ of habeas corpus, challenging his detention.

Ah, but the government gets the benefit of the doubt in such a hearing. It puts forth its conclusory affidavit, like the one cranky Judge Doumar in Richmond did not like one bit, and Hamdi gets to try - just try, if he can-to prove them wrong.

Yes, the burden will be on Hamdi to prove the government's allegations against him to be wrong. Now that will be kind of difficult, won't it, since Hamdi has been incarcerated for going on three years, has no contact with anyone in the outside world, and will have a hell of a time coming up with the witnesses to refute the conclusion of the government that he was indeed fighting with the Taliban or al Qaeda against the U.S.

Let's see, even if he knew people to subpoena to support an alibi-if he has one- federal marshals don't serve subpoenas in Afghanistan.

Scalia and Stevens joined in the call to either charge him with a crime - Scalia suggested treason - or have Congress suspend the writ of habeas corpus (Scalia contends that only Congress, not the President, can properly do this). But don't create some mechanism that allows the President to weasel out the result that the majority wanted - that is, to give Hamdi a lawyer, let him file his papers, but give him the burden of proving his "innocence." An insurmountable burden of proof.

George Bush 2, Civil Liberties, 0.

Guantanamo Detainees

On this one, a 6-3 majority ruled that those poor bastards in Guantanamo, those men that have been there for going on three years and, we now presume, subject to all kinds of physical torture and mental and sexual abuse, can file a petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging their detention, but, so what?

The court was silent on what trial courts will do with the petitions.

Presumably, let them file their papers then promptly toss them out. This was an expected outcome. No way the Court was going to accept the Administration's "tortured" (pun intended) view of jurisdiction to think that the government that rules over Guantanamo Naval Station does not have jurisdiction over the prisoners that he holds there. That would just be too stupid, even for a court eager to please. It found that the detainor is the key to jurisdiction, not the detainee. So where the detaining party is, is where there is jurisdiction. That would be Rumsfeld. Of course, what court that would be in, what venue, is open to question.

Since venue was such a big deal in the Padilla case, I wonder why the court did not toss out Guantanamo cases brought in the District of Columbia? (I have a clue-the Guantanamo cases were far easier to answer, and less an affront to presidential power than is Padilla's case). Rumsfeld's seat of power is in the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia, so venue ought to be in the Eastern District of Virginia, not the District of Columbia.

I believe the Guantanamo prisoners will meet the same fate of most illegal immigrants who challenge their deportation with a writ of habeas corpus. They get a summary proceeding that sounds more than what it is because of the value attached to the term "habeas corpus." After a cursory reading of the petition, and a brief hearing to satisfy the bare requirements of the law, the gavel slams, and the immigrant is escorted to an airport and sent to whatever country can be found to receive them -- after they serve their time for any crimes they can be charged with.

Though nothing was said of this in the opinion, I imagine that the prisoners will be under the same disability as Hamdi-proving their "innocence," just as persons facing deportation.

But, you might ask, their innocence of what? They have been charged with no crime, neither has Hamdi. They, too, will have to prove that they were not fighting against the U.S. or preparing to do so.

Again, where will they get their alibi witnesses and, if they have any, how can they be subpoenaed into court? You think the government is going to give visas to their witnesses? Or pay their expenses?

Fat chance.

George Bush 3, Civil Liberties, 0.

The Contrarian View

Reading the cases and placing them in the context of the "war on terror" supports a view that is admittedly contrary to what mainstream media are saying. But if you have been listening to them since September 11, you don't know much about what has happened to the legal system in this country, all in the name of preserving liberty.

In these three cases, the Supreme Court did not want to totally abrogate its responsibility (except for one Justice, Thomas, who, as a reluctant justice on a court he often expresses contempt for, not surprisingly wants to be left out of any judicial interference with the almighty President) or the Constitution so it threw a vote or two in the direction of the Constitution.

But it left plenty of room for this despotic President, and all who follow him (you think Kerry cares about civil liberties? You think he would not want the same power Bush is wielding?) to incarcerate Americans at whim, concoct a story about "fighting" against American, and dare you, just dare you, to try your luck at proving your innocence.

Oh, about that?

Finally, we have the Supreme Court, in the Hamdi case, putting the lie to that myth. There is no presumption of innocence - not if you are Hamdi. There is no mercy - not if the government moves you around so you never know whom to sue. There is a cruel hint at mercy for the Guantanamo Bay prisoners - file your papers, but tell your family to abandon hope. You aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Game, set, match to George Bush.

Elaine Cassel practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teachers law and psychology, and follows the Bush regime's dismantling of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch. Her book, The War on Civil Liberties: How Bush and Ashcroft Have Dismantled the Bill of Rights, will be published by Lawrence Hill this summer. She can be reached at:

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FBI officer details how 'tourist' video led to man's secret detention

In post-9/11 world, an innocent act led to deportation


NEW YORK -- It took no more than a week for James P. Wynne, a veteran FBI investigator, to confirm the harmless truth that only now, more than two years later, he is ready to talk about. The small foreign man he helped arrest for videotaping outside a tall office building in Queens on Oct. 25, 2001, was no terrorist.

Yet Purna Raj Bajracharya was swallowed up in the government's new maximum-security system of secret detention and secret hearings for three months, and his only friend was Wynne, the same FBI agent who had helped decide to put him there.

Bajracharya, 47, was a Buddhist from Nepal planning to return there after five years of odd jobs at places such as a Queens pizzeria and a Manhattan flower shop. He was videotaping New York street scenes to take back to his wife and sons in Katmandu. And he had no clue that the tall building in his viewfinder happened to include an office of the FBI.

When Wynne filed his FBI report a few days later, the Nepalese man, who spoke almost no English, had been placed in solitary confinement at a federal detention center in Brooklyn just for videotaping.

Except for the videotape -- "a tourist kind of thing," in Wynne's estimation -- no shred of suspicion attached to Bajracharya, who came from Nepal in 1996. His one offense -- staying to work on a long-expired tourist visa -- was an immigration violation punishable by deportation, not jail. But he wound up spending three months in solitary confinement before he was deported, and to release him, even Wynne needed help. [...]

Comment: It appears to us that these cases are in fact designed to test the waters for a policy that will eventually be used against many ordinary American citizens. Of course, we could be wrong, but then again, we would rather not wait around to find out...

U.S. Expels 2 Guards at Iran U.N. Mission

Tue Jun 29
EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS - The United States expelled two security guards at Iran's U.N. mission for photographing "sensitive" sites in New York after two previous warnings about such picture-taking, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Iran's U.N. Mission denied the charges, saying that the guards photographed only typical tourist attractions in the city.

The United States took action after the FBI (news - web sites) recently observed the pair videotaping, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said in Washington. The incident occurred in May, a note to the Iranians said.

"These individuals were moving around New York City and essentially surveilling, taking photographs of a variety of New York landmarks and infrastructure and the rest," said Stuart Holliday, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations [...]

Comment: When it becomes a crime to videotape the Statue of Liberty, you KNOW that something is definitely wrong...

Prisoner 27075 learns limits of sovereignty By Nicolas Pelham in Baghdad Published: June 28 2004

Iyad Akmush Kanum, 23, learnt the limits of sovereignty on Monday when US prosecutors refused to uphold an Iraqi judges' order acquitting him of attempted murder of coalition troops.

US prosecutors said that he was being returned to the controversial Abu Ghraib prison because under the Geneva Conventions they were not bound by Iraqi law. [...]

"Iraqis who have been detained as a security threat can still be detained until firstly the coalition leaves or secondly they are considered to be no longer a threat," said Michael Frank, deputy special prosecutor for Multinational Force- Iraq (MNFI), who oversaw the case dressed in military fatigues. [...]

Faisal Estrabadi, an Iraqi lawyer, said yesterday after the refusal to release Mr Kanum: "If the Iraqi courts have acquitted an individual he must be released. Anything else is a violation of sovereignty."

"Iraq cannot be one large Guantánamo Bay."

He added: "The Geneva Conventions no longer apply as of 10.26 this morning. Under UN Resolution the occupation has ended and the laws of war no longer apply." [...]

Comment: Could the situation in Iraq possibly be any more ridiculous? Estrabadi talks of violating Iraqi sovereignty, when the obvious truth is that Iraq is not a sovereign nation. The Iraqi lawyer also says the Geneva Conventions no longer apply, while the US says that they still do apply. Are we talking about the same US here - you know, the one that has completely ignored the Geneva Conventions since day one of the so-called war on terror?

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Amnesty: US Iraq detentions illegal

Tuesday 29 June 2004

Any further detentions by the US-led occupation forces in Iraq would be illegal, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

In a statement released on Monday, the watchdog added that all detainees in Iraq should be released – given the hand over of authority to Baghdad.

"The USA has announced that it intends to continue to hold, without charge, between 4000 and 5000 detainees without clarifying on what legal basis it will do so," the group said.

"Yet if, as the UN resolution [1546] proclaims, occupation effectively ends with the handover, then international humanitarian law requires that all prisoners of war, detainees and internees must be released by the occupying powers."

Amnesty said it had received no reply to a 9 June letter it wrote to the US envoy to the United Nations, John Negroponte - the US ambassador to Iraq. [...]

Amnesty urged all foreign troops and contracted militias on the ground in Iraq to abide by international law.

"It is vital that clear lines of accountability and responsibility be established for all those who continue in detention," the rights group said.

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A pitiful occasion for the people

By Robert Fisk
June 29, 2004 - Beirut

So, in the end, America's enemies set the date.

The handover of "full sovereignty" was secretly brought forward so that the ex- CIA intelligence officer who is now premier of Iraq could avoid another bloody offensive by America's enemies.

What was supposed to be the most important date in Iraq's modern history was changed - like a birthday party, because it might rain on Wednesday.

Pitiful is the word that comes to mind.

Here we were, handing "full sovereignty" to the people of Iraq - "full", of course, providing we forget the 160 000 foreign soldiers whom Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has apparently asked to stay on in Iraq, "full" providing we forget the 3 000 US diplomats in Baghdad who will constitute the largest US embassy in the world.

And we never even told the Iraqi people we had changed the date.

Few, save of course for the Iraqis, understood the cruellest paradox of the event.

For it was the new Iraqi Foreign Minister - should we not put his title, too, into quotation marks? - who chose to leak "bringing forward" of "sovereignty in Iraq" at the Nato summit in Turkey.

Thus was this date in modern Iraqi history announced not in Baghdad but in the capital of the former Ottoman empire which once ruled Iraq.

Alice in Wonderland could not have improved on this. The looking glass reflects all the way from Baghdad to Washington. In its savage irony Ibsen might have done justice to the occasion.

After all, what could have been more familiar than Allawi's appeal to Iraqis to fight "the enemies of the people".

Power was ritually handed over in legal documents. The new government was sworn in on the Qur'an. US pro-consul Paul Bremer formally shook hands with the ex CIA man who is now prime minister and boarded his C130 home, guarded by Special Forces men in shades.

It was difficult to remember that Bremer was touted for his job more than a year ago because he was a "counter-terrorism" expert - this, definitely should be in inverted commas - and that his "dead-enders" managed to turn almost an entire Iraqi population against the US and Britain in just a few months.

According to Allawi yesterday, the "dead-enders'" and the "remnants" belonged to Saddam Hussein.

It had already been made clear that Allawi was pondering martial law, the sine qua non of every Arab dictatorship - this time to be imposed on an Arab state, heaven spare us, by a Western army led by an avowedly Christian government.

Who was the last man to impose martial law on Iraqis? Wasn't it Saddam?

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Bremer Flees Iraq Two Days Early

Juan Cole, Professor of History, University of Michigan
Monday, June 28, 2004

Paul Bremer suddenly left Iraq on Monday, having "transferred sovereignty" to the caretaker Iraqi government two days early.

It is hard to interpret this move as anything but a precipitous flight. It is just speculation on my part, but I suspect that the Americans must have developed intelligence that there might be a major strike on the Coalition Provisional Headquarters on Wednesday if a formal ceremony were held to mark a transfer of sovereignty. Since the US military is so weak in Iraq and appears to have poor intelligence on the guerrilla insurgency, the Bush administration could not take the chance that a major bombing or other attack would mar the ceremony.

The surprise move will throw off all the major news organizations, which were planning intensive coverage of the ceremonies originally planned for Wednesday.

This entire exercise is a publicity stunt and has almost no substance to it. Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration. (Or words to that effect). Ifill seems to me to have given away the whole Bush show.

That's what this whole thing is about. It is Public Relations and manipulation of journalists. Let's see if they fall for it.

Allawi is not popular and was not elected by anyone in Iraq. [...]

What has changed? The big change is that Allawi now controls the Iraqi government's $20 billion a year in income. About $10 bn. of that is oil revenues, and those may be hurt this year by extensive sabotage. To tell you the truth, I can't imagine where the other $10 bn. comes from. The government can't collect much in taxes. Some of it may be foreign aid, but not much of that has come in. The problem is that the Iraqi government probably needs $30 billion to run the government properly, and with only 2/3s of that or less, the government will be weak and somewhat ineffective.

Since Bremer was a congenital screw-up, just getting him and his CPA out of the country and out of control may be a good step forward. [...]

So that some group of Iraqis now control the budget and can set key policy in some regards may be significant. But the caretaker government is hedged around by American power. Negroponte (the US ambassador to Baghdad who has just arrived in the country) will control $18 bn. in US AID to Iraq. Rumsfeld will go on controlling the US and coalition military. There isn't much space left for real Iraqi sovereignty in all that.

Another danger is that Allawi will overshoot and provide too much security. He is infatuated with reviving the Baath secret police or mukhabarat, and bringing back Saddam's domestic spies. Unlike the regular army, which had dirty and clean elements, all of the secret police are dirty, and if they are restored, civil liberties are a dead letter. [...]

Comment: In other words, Bush and Co. have created an Iraq precisely like the one they claimed to be "liberating."

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Speaking at the NATO conference in Turkey yesterday, President Bush said, "15 months after the liberation of Iraq...the world witnessed the arrival of a free and sovereign Iraqi government." The reality, however, is much different.

The same day that U.S. administrator Paul Bremer officially ended the occupation, U.S. prosecutors refused to abide by an Iraqi judge's order acquitting Iraqi citizen Iyad Akmush Kanum of attempted murder of coalition troops. Instead, the prosecutors returned Kanum to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, claiming that "they were not bound by Iraqi law."

In the days leading up to his departure, Bremer "issued a raft of edicts" in an effort to "exert U.S. control over the country after the transfer of political authority." Specifically, Bremer empowered a seven-member appointed commission "to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support." Bremer also "appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government" with multi-year terms to "promote his concepts of governance" after the handover.

Iraq remains plagued by violence and "the primary military responsibility for fighting the insurgency remains as much in American hands as it did yesterday." As a result, the New York Times concludes it is "ludicrous for administration officials to suggest that America's occupation of Iraq has now somehow ended."

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Sovereignty: Now the games really begin

By Ehsan Ahrari

The overt United States occupation phase of Iraq came to a close on June 28, but its stealthy phase is still continuing.

The holding of the transfer of sovereignty ceremony two days earlier than its original deadline of June 30, and the decision to keep it short and simple, were in recognition of the extremely precarious security situation that prevails in Iraq.

If it was the beginning of a momentous chapter in Iraq, the secretive, quiet and an uneventful departure of the former Iraqi administrator, L Paul Bremer, did not show it. In the present phase, the activities of the five actors - the US, Iran, Turkey, Israel and the Iraqi insurgents - will not only play a major role in determining the stability of Iraq, but also in formulating the prospects for the legitimacy of the interim government. At least for now, that government is seen as a puppet and a supplicant of the US, at a time when anti- Americanism is on the rise, not just in Iraq, but also across the Middle East.

The Bush administration changed its strategy in Iraq from a largely unilateral occupation - even though a number of nations have their forces present - to a presumed strategy of multilateralism before handing over the authority to an interim government. [...] The UN remained indubitably squeamish about challenging the-behind-the-scenes scheming of Washington in that process.

The lingering question was how independent the interim government was going to be of US pressure and manipulation after it takes charge. Then, some representatives of that body had to go to the UN Security Council and personally assure the doubting permanent members - China, France and Russia - that they will indeed exercise autonomy, and thereby establish legitimacy. [...]

In the meantime, three actors - Iran, Turkey and Israel - are already involved in a dangerous game of promoting their clashing strategic presence and agendas, thereby making Iraq a highly unstable place. [...]

[What] emerges [is] a delineation of an intrinsically intricate and clashing strategic perspectives of the US, Iran, Turkey and Israel. The latter two countries have hitherto found many reasons to cooperate in the past. On the Kurdish issue, however, the government of Turkey is as unequivocal about foreclosing all prospects for the creation of an independent Kurdish state, as the government of Israel is about upholding them. Consequently, the Turks have made a decision to minimize the presence of Israeli operatives of Mossad as a condition for cooperating with the beleaguered Bush administration in Iraq.

However, Ankara will hold its diplomatic fire for now to see whether Washington will bring pressure on the Israelis to deescalate their activities in Iraq.

Besides, Turkey needs all the American support in persuading the Europeans to expedite its membership in the European Union. The US-Turkish strategic agenda has to be pursued with utmost care, but Ankara is in no mood to allow Israel any upper hand in Iraq.

But the Americans view the Israeli presence, not as much aimed at facilitating the emergence of an independent Kurdistan as applying pressure on Iran to minimize its influence in Iraq. More important, the US government could as a last resort hope that Mossad could blow up Iran's nuclear plant at Natanz, a facility that is generally regarded as aimed at manufacturing weapons-grade uranium.

The Bush doctrine has fallen on hard times, given the current deteriorating situation in Iraq and in the wake of the continuing intransigence of North Korea to agree to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Washington could be hoping for an Israeli "miracle" in putting an end to Iran's nuclear aspirations, much in the same way an Israeli air raid destroyed the Osirak nuclear facility in Iraq in early 1981.

The Iraqi insurgents may or may not have a comprehensive comprehension of the interplay among these countries inside Iraq, or their clashing and competitive agendas. All they want to do for now is to kill as many Iraqis and Muslim "collaborators" and Western occupiers as possible. [...]

The interim government in Iraq must do all it can to persuade the Iraqis that the current phase is not the extension of American occupation under another name. At the same time, the continued presence of foreign forces will constantly serve as a reminder that Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and President Ghazi al-Yawar are wrong in their claims of being either sovereign or independent of the Americans. In the meantime, the insurgents will also do all they can to prove the new Iraqi rulers wrong.

Ehsan Ahrari, PhD, is an Alexandria, Virginia, US-based independent strategic analyst.

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Iraqis have lived this lie before

The British transfer of sovereignty in the 20s was equally meaningless

Haifa Zangana
The Guardian
Tuesday June 29, 2004

In Iraq, we have an expression: same donkey, different saddle. Iraq's long- heralded interim government has now formally assumed sovereignty. Official labels and tags have duly changed. The US administrator will now be an ambassador, while Sheikh Ghazi al Yawar and Iyad Allawi, US-appointed members of the former governing council, are to be known as president and prime minister.

To formalise the change, the UN has already issued a resolution under which "multinational forces" will replace "US-led forces". On the issue of control over US troops, the message is clear: the US forces are there to stay only because "Iraqi people" has asked them to. But which Iraqi people? Do they mean the new administration headed by the CIA's Iyad Allawi? And why does all this sound strangely familiar?

In Iraq we don't just read history at school - we carry it within ourselves. It's no wonder, then, that we view what is happening in Iraq now of "liberation- mandate-nominal sovereignty" as a replay of what took place in the 1920s and afterwards.

On April 28 1920, Britain was awarded a mandate over Iraq by the League of Nations to legitimise its occupation of the country. The problems proved enormous. The British administration in Baghdad was short of funds, and had to face the resentment of the majority of Iraqis against foreign rule, which boiled over that year into a national uprising. In the aftermath, the British high commissioner had to come up with a solution to reduce the British loss of lives.

A decision was taken to replace the occupation with a provisional Iraqi government, assisted by British advisers under the authority of the high commissioner of Iraq. Finding a suitable ruler was not easy,.

On the August 21 1921 Gertrude Bell, Oriental secretary to the high commissioner, wrote to her father about the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis. She mentions some of her Iraqi "pals" and enemies, descendants of whom are playing similar roles in Iraq today: "Muzahim Pachachi (the one who made the speech in English at our tea party at Basra). And another barrister whom you don't know, Rauf Beg Chadirji, a pal of mine. And still more splendid was one of the sheikhs of the northern shammar, Ajil al Yawar; I had seen him in 1917 when he came in to us". Then she refers to "Saiyid Muhammad Sadr ... a tall black bearded alim (cleric) with a sinister expression. We tried to arrest him early in August but failed. He escaped from Baghdad and moved about the country like a flame of war, rousing the tribes."

To the British government, control of Iraq's oil was a necessity. Iraqi national liberation movements called for "Istiqlal al Tamm" - complete independence - which was regarded by the British as "the catchword of the extremists". Any protest against the British-imposed monarchy was similarly regarded as the work of "extremists".

In 1930 a new treaty was signed which aimed to satisfy Iraqi aspirations for the coming 25 years, but the British retained their power, through military bases, advisers and control of oil. The monarchy proved an oppressive regime under which many opposition leaders were executed and thousands more were imprisoned. Elections were managed, corruption was widespread, bombing and military force was used against popular uprisings, chemical weapons were used against the Kurds. Popular uprisings followed in 1930, 1941 1948, 1952 and 1956. Between 1921 and 1958 Iraq had an astonishing 38 cabinets, some of them only lasting 12 days. The mainstay of a corrupt and docile regime was the presence of British forces on the ground. Is this what present-day Iraq has to look forward to?

Three major events have shaped our national identity. The 1920 revolution, the 1958 coup regarded by most Iraqis as a revolution that finally achieved real Iraqi independence - and the Palestinian cause. At the heart of the three lay the struggle to end occupation. Occupation has always been perceived as a process by which to rob us of our identity and dignity. The British, in the past, failed to understand the depth of the feeling among Iraqis both against occupation and towards the Palestinian issue. Now, in their partnership with the US, they are repeating the same mistakes.

As in the past, Iraqis are denied their natural right to resist the occupier and its imposed form of government. The "extremists" of our history are now called "terrorists".

Within a year the occupiers have achieved what Saddam's regime failed to do over decades. They have killed our hope in democracy. What of tomorrow? It would be useful to reread history and take notice of Al Istiqlal Al Tam and above all Miss Bell's warning about Iraq: "There are so many quicksands."

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Hand-Over Is Political Gamble for Bush

By Ronald Brownstein Times Staff Writer
Mon Jun 28, 7:55 AM ET

WASHINGTON — The hand-over of authority to an interim Iraqi government may offer President Bush his best opportunity before November to rebuild public confidence in his strategy for Iraq, but it also risks accelerating U.S. disillusionment with the mission there.

With a flurry of recent polls showing most Americans uneasy with events in Iraq, analysts across the political spectrum agree that the changeover could represent a pivotal moment in U.S. attitudes about the war.

Progress in establishing an Iraqi government capable of bearing more of the military burden could help Bush reverse the growing doubts about his management of the conflict — and fears that it has reduced rather than enhanced U.S. security.

Conversely, if the new government cannot establish legitimacy and order, pessimism about the mission's prospects — and disillusionment over Bush's initial decision to invade Iraq — is likely to solidify and even spread, experts say. [...]

"The administration is gambling on the notion that Americans will be thankful that there are fewer American casualties, even if the place is blowing up," said Ivo Daalder, a former national security aide to President Clinton and coauthor of a recent book on Bush's foreign policy. [...]

The hand-over will also somewhat change the face of the war for audiences in Iraq and the U.S. Rather than American officials and generals responding to each attack, increasingly it will be Iraqis in the spotlight, led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Those pictures could subtly reinforce Bush's claim that Iraq is progressing toward his vision of democratic self-governance.

In the long run, though, most agree the key is not how the hand-over changes the image of the war, but the actual conduct and course of it.Many analysts sympathetic to the invasion hope that the replacement of the U.S. occupying authority will make it tougher for insurgents to win popular support for their attacks; in effect, they are hoping that terrorism in Iraq will be less sustainable if it is directed against Iraqis rather than Americans.

One senior Republican strategist familiar with White House thinking said the strikes last week against suspected terrorist safe houses in Fallouja, for example, were triggered by intelligence that was more easily available to the new Iraqi government than to American officials. [...]

U.S. officials have made clear they aim to use the transition to significantly reduce the visibility — and vulnerability — of coalition troops in Iraq while relying more heavily on Iraqi forces to maintain order. [...]

Comment: Please explain how it is that the US is supposed to be handing over Iraq and reducing its presence, all the while there is a stop order on military retirements, our boys are told they can't come home, the US is sending even more reservists to Iraq, and the draft is coming back. What's up with that?

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Army Defends Plan for Involuntary Troop Call-Up

By Will Dunham
Tue Jun 29, 5:19 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army on Tuesday defended its plan to mobilize involuntarily 5,600 retired or discharged soldiers as nothing "new or unusual," but critics said it undermines the concept of an all-volunteer military.

The soldiers will be summoned from the Individual Ready Reserve, a seldom- tapped pool of 111,000 people who remain eligible to be called to active duty for eight years after completing their voluntary Army service commitment.

Army officials said these soldiers will be deployed this year to Iraq and Afghanistan to fill shortages in specific jobs such as military police and civil affairs.[...]

The move is the latest sign of the strain on the military as the Pentagon struggles to maintain a larger-than-expected force of 138,000 in Iraq through the end of 2005 amid a fierce insurgency whose tenacity caught officials off guard. [...]

The Army has previously said it would prohibit tens of thousands of soldiers designated to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan from leaving the service when their volunteer commitment ends.

This "stop-loss" order means soldiers who otherwise could have retired, starting 90 days before being sent, will be compelled to remain to the end of a yearlong deployment and up to another 90 days after returning to their home base. Some may remain in the Army up to 18 months beyond when they were originally scheduled to leave the service.


Rand Beers, national security adviser to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, said:

"The fact is that this involuntary call-up is a direct result of the Bush administration's diplomatic failure to get real international help in Iraq." Kerry has called the stop-loss order a "backdoor draft." The latest move shows that this back door has "swung wide open," Beers said. [...]

Heritage Foundation defense analyst Jack Spencer said, "It is certainly a sign of our military being stretched thin."

Relying on the Individual Ready Reserve differs from mobilizing members of the Army Reserve, Spencer said.

"It is different because these are guys who are retired. You would prefer not to have to call them up."

The Army Reserve, the better known pool of reservists, consists of part-time soldiers who regularly train together as units on weekends and in the summer.

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GI's Mom Lets Media Cover Coffin Arrival

Tue Jun 29,11:42 AM ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq invited news coverage of the arrival of her son's flag-draped casket at Sacramento International Airport.

Nearly a dozen reporters, photographers and television crews were present when the coffin of Army Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey, 34, was transferred to a hearse outside a cargo terminal late Sunday. The scene was in stark contrast with Pentagon policy banning photographs of the coffins of dead military personnel while they are on military facilities.

McCaffrey "did not die for nothing. ... The way he lived needs to be talked about. Patrick was not a fighter, he was a peacemaker," his mother, Nadia McCaffrey, told the Los Angeles Times.

"I wanted his body to be coming home, so I just decided to do it this way. It just happened," she added Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

While she said the invitation to the media wasn't a political protest, she planned to continue speaking out against the war.

"This is enough," she told the Times. "We have to react." [...]

Comment: Reacting is exactly what the majority of the American people have been doing for the past several years. There is no room for thought. There is no digging to find the truth in the garden of lies. If the media says love Bush, the people love him. If the media reports that it's okay to question Bush, people question him. In any case, it does seem that Bush is in the hot seat more frequently these days...

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Iraq's basic services worse now than before war, GAO says

By Seth Borenstein
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON — In a few key areas — electricity, the judicial system and overall security — the Iraq that America handed back to its residents Monday is worse off than before the war began last year, according to calculations in a new General Accounting Office report released yesterday.

The 105-page report by Congress' investigative arm offers a bleak assessment of Iraq after 14 months of U.S. military occupation. Among its findings:

• In 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces, electricity was available fewer hours per day on average last month than before the war. Nearly 20 million of Iraq's 26 million people live in those provinces.

• Only $13.7 billion of the $58 billion pledged and allocated worldwide to rebuild Iraq has been spent, with $10 billion more about to be spent. The biggest chunk of that money has been used to run Iraq's ministry operations.

• The country's court system is more clogged than before the war, and judges are frequent targets of assassination attempts.

• The new Iraqi civil-defense, police and overall security units are suffering from mass desertions, are poorly trained and ill-equipped.

• The number of what the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) called significant insurgent attacks skyrocketed from 411 in February to 1,169 in May.

Comment: So was it a lie? Was the entire rationale for war a lie? No WMDs, no freedom and democracy, no better life for Iraqis. So tell us, was your government lying to you?

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Attack Iran, US chief ordered British

Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent

America's military commander in Iraq ordered British troops to prepare a full-scale ground offensive against Iranian forces that had crossed the border and grabbed disputed territory, a senior officer has disclosed.

An attack would almost certainly have provoked open conflict with Iran. But the British chose instead to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels.

Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez

"If we had attacked the Iranian positions, all hell would have broken loose," a defence source said yesterday. [...]

Comment: But that's the "American way!" Break loose all hell then ask questions.

"Iranians?" quizzed General Sanchez? "What are they?"

"errr... I think they are more towel heads sir, but I don't see their camels", answered the soldier.

"Oh! Well why didn't you say so? Tell those British boys to launch an all out offensive against them."

"Eh, do we really want to do that sir? We don't really know their strength or number" replied the soldier.

"Listen son," retorted Sanchez, "I've been at this war business for quite a while, and yes, it is a business. If I've learned one thing it's this - those crazy Arab camel jockeys are all the same, barbaric animals, and they only understand one thing, violence, and perhaps Arabic, but we don't bother with learning their language, they'll all be speaking Texan, or Hebrew, soon anyway. So show me some patriotism son and go kill yerself some rag heads!"

"Yeeehar! USA kicks ass! Woohoo! Land of the free home of the brave buddy! In your face Osama!" exclaimed the soldier.

"That's the spirit son", encouraged Sanchez as he straightened his yamulka and sat back in his Iraqi skin rocker.

A clean break for Israel By Sadi Baig

Israeli involvement with the Kurds is not a new phenomenon. In its search for non-Arab allies in the region, Israel has supported Kurdish militancy in Iraq since the 1960s. In 1980, Israeli premier Menachem Begin publicly acknowledged that besides humanitarian aid, Israel had secretly provided military aid to Kurds in the form of weapons and advisers. Later on, that relationship was kept low profile due to Washington's alliances in the region; first with Iran during the Shah's monarchy, and then with Saddam Hussein's Iraq when he fought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Iran. Israel's partnership with Turkey that was founded mainly to counter threats from Iran, Syria and Iraq, was also a factor.

Israel and the Kurds also share a common bond through the Kurdish Jews in Israel, who number close to 50,000. Prominent among them is Itzhak Mordechai, an Iraqi Kurd who was defense minister during Benjamin Netanyahu's last term as prime minister.

Israeli-Kurd relationships soured a bit in February of 1999, when the Kurds accused the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad of providing information that led to the arrest of Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya. Kurdish protestors attacked the Israeli embassy in Berlin, resulting in the shooting deaths of three protestors by Israeli security forces. In an unprecedented public denial, the then Mossad chief Efraim Halevy dissociated Israel from Ocalan's capture. Despite such bumps and its alliance with Turkey, Israel succeeded in keeping its relationship with the Iraqi Kurds intact, by keeping a safe distance from the PKK, which is primarily a Turkish Kurd entity, and not becoming a party to the bloody infighting between the various Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish groups.

However, Israel does have a favorite - the Barzani family-dominated Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), whose current head, Massoud Barzani, inherited the mantle from his father, the legendary Mullah Mustafa Barzani. Israeli television has in the past broadcast photographs from the 1960s showing father Barzani embracing the then Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan. In alliance with its erstwhile rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, the KDP in post-Saddam Iraq commands the largest and most formidable of the Iraqi militias, the Peshmerga, with estimates of anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 battle-hardened fighters. In contrast, the next in line of militias is the Iranian-sponsored Shi'ite political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI), with no more than 15,000 fighters.

So why in the post-Saddam Iraq has Israel chosen to dramatically escalate the nature of its involvement with Kurdish militants, and in so doing, risk its strategic alliance with Turkey, while confirming its activities on record through individuals like Patrick Clawson (one of the named sources in Seymour Hersh's expose in the New Yorker), known to have close ties with the Israeli government?

According to Hersh's report, "hundreds" of undercover Israeli Defense Force intelligence officers and Mossad agents have reestablished cooperation with Kurdish militiamen in northern Iraq, with the aim of launching cells that might yield new intelligence on Iran's nuclear program. Israeli operatives are also said to be providing an ancillary role to the Kurds and are aiding Kurdish elements in northern Syria. Kurdish riots and the seeds of a minor rebellion in northern Syria have recently rocked Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

A questionable pretext

Quoting Clawson, the Hersh article presents a pair of weak justifications for Israeli intervention in Iraq. The first one is the fear of Iranian nuclear ambitions. This information is hardly new. The latest revelations about the Iranian nuclear program were in fact provided by an Iranian dissident group. Furthermore, Iran is under constant US satellite surveillance and sustained political pressure by the US, the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency and European powers to roll back its nuclear efforts. It is therefore doubtful as to what quality or value the Israelis can add to such a formidable lineup.

The second motivation that the article talks about is the urgent need for Israel to move on Iraq as a national security imperative to counter the growing Iranian influence.

A quick analysis, however, reveals such urgency to be exaggerated, and any Israeli surprise at the growing Iranian footprint in Iraq to be unconvincing. [...]

Would it not be naive to expect that Washington would create a situation hospitable for growth in clout of its Iranian adversary in a region key to American interests, and thereby limit its own options?

Unclean break

To begin to answer the preceding questions, we need to take a look at a now famous policy paper: "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm". This neo-conservative-authored paper presented in 1996 to the then Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a bold strategy to provide "the nation [Israel] the room to engage every possible energy in rebuilding Zionism", and strengthen and increase its influence in the Middle East. "Our claim to the land - to which we have clung for hope for 2000 years - is legitimate and noble," the authors proclaimed. "Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them" through means including "reestablishing the principle of preemption, rather than retaliation alone".

The paper emphasized that Israel needed to enhance its strategic position independent of the US, in order to deny the US any leverage it may want to exercise on Israel to maintain stability in the region under the "peace process".

The paper betrays a high degree of discomfort regarding US influence over Israel and suggests ways to actively neutralize it.

What is most surprising are the names of its authors that comprise past and present US civilian policy-makers, including ex-chairman of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle, present Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, and Vice President Dick Cheney's adviser for Middle East Affairs, David Wurmser. How individuals with such openly stated positions preferring Israeli interests over those of the US became influential members of the US government is quite mystifying. [...]

The removal of Saddam Hussein, enunciated to be a key goal in "Clean Break", was to be the first phase of this new strategy of independence through co-dependence. [...]

[U]nder the pretext of regime change, the US quite intentionally annihilated the Iraqi state and its military forces, the largest in the Arab world.

In his article titled "Beyond Fallujah: A Year With the Iraqi Resistance" in the June issue of Harper's Magazine, Patrick Graham, a freelance journalist, quotes a resistance fighter's account of looting the Iraqi army's weapons caches. "They [American soldiers] almost gave us the weapons. They watched us taking RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and other weapons," he continued, "They thought we were destroying the Iraqi army." [...]

In "A Clean Break", the authors called for signaling to the Syrians that their "territory is not immune" to attacks "by Israeli proxy forces". Kurdish unrest in Syria has been quite rare. In early March of this year, northeastern Syria broke out in violent protests that eventually reached the capital Damascus. The Syrians were caught completely off guard. The riots lasted for days and left scores of people dead before being brought under control.

In a war viewed by the neo-conservatives as an unavoidable course of action for protecting American interests, the growth in Iranian influence was an inevitable consequence. But Iranian reach would be dangerous only if it spread beyond southern Iraq and a unified Iraq emerged. [...]

To see these developments as just attempts in securing cheap oil (Israel relies on expensive Western imports due to the Arab boycott), would be to underestimate the resultant benefits to Israel from the situation. Without engaging its military directly, the Israelis have made themselves a major power- broker in the region and a party to internal stability of important regional states. Unable to confront the only regional nuclear power and the military of its principal sponsor providing strategic cover in Iraq, Israel's foes in the vicinity must acknowledge that they need to deal with Israel in new ways and be ready to offer concessions if need be.

A significant threat, albeit a remote one, emanates from a possible strategic accommodation between Iran and Saudi Arabia regarding Iraq and the future of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. But such a scenario seems less and less likely. The present leadership of Saudi Arabia is battling with a series of high-impact acts of violence in areas key to oil production. Furthermore, a carefully crafted ambiguity surrounds Saudi Arabia's role in America's wider regional ambitions, which when combined with recent signaling from the US and the United Kingdom, is causing great alarm in Riyadh.


The spate of high profile bombings in Iraq, including the one that killed the UN representative for Iraq and another that killed Ayatollah Baqir Hakim, head of the Iran-backed SCIRI militia, must now be viewed in the light of this new information.

A UN presence in Iraq would have led to an early rehabilitation of a federal Iraqi state, something that would have led to the disarming of the Kurdish militias, thereby denying a major source of influence to Israel in the region.

By ramping up armed proxies devoted to a crypto-secessionist struggle and leaking its support for them, Israel has delivered a masterstroke of strategic foresight. [...]

Nevertheless, by its plausibly deniable support for Kurdish militias, Israel has declared to the regional power centers that it is an indispensable power broker in the future stability of the greater Middle East. Israel can manage its alliance with Turkey as the Turks are mainly concerned with degrading the PKK and denying it a safe haven in northern Iraq. [...]

The road to Iraq's future therefore, and by extension that of the "New Middle East", now has a detour through Tel Aviv.

Sadi Baig is a freelance political analyst.

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Palestinians Fire Rockets As Sharon Visits

By PETER ENAV, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jun 29, 6:32 PM ET

SDEROT, Israel - Palestinian militants rocketed this Israeli border town Tuesday during a visit by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, underscoring Israel's helplessness in stopping the crude projectiles launched from the Gaza Strip.

Five rockets hit Sderot, even though Israeli soldiers reoccupied parts of the northern Gaza Strip earlier in the day to prevent such barrages. One Sderot resident was hurt. Sharon, who was more than a mile from where the rockets struck, was unharmed.

The military operation in Gaza came in response to the deaths of a 3-year-old boy and a 49-year-old man Monday, the first Israelis to be killed by rockets from Gaza. Since 2002, militants have fired more than 200 rockets at Israeli targets, but most have missed. [...]

Comment: Israel's helplessness?! With the US firmly in the grip of the Zionists controlling Israel, and the deadly capabilities of Mossad, Israel is anything but helpless.

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Israeli Tanks Encircle Palestinian Town

By PETER ENAV, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jun 30, 1:42 AM ET

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip - Israeli troops encircled this Palestinian border town with tanks and tore up roads in new efforts to stop a recent spate of rocket attacks on Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip.

It was Israel's eighth major military operation in Beit Hanoun, and security officials said they expected it to be more devastating than previous raids that turned large farming areas into moonscapes, with thousands of trees uprooted.

The latest raid came in response to the first-ever deadly rocket attack from Gaza, when an Israeli man and a 3-year-old boy were killed by a rocket in the border town of Sderot on Monday. [...]

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How Hitler Became a Dictator

by Jacob G. Hornberger
June 28, 2004

Whenever U.S. officials wish to demonize someone, they inevitably compare him to Adolf Hitler. The message immediately resonates with people because everyone knows that Hitler was a brutal dictator.

But how many people know how Hitler actually became a dictator? My bet is, very few. I’d also bet that more than a few people would be surprised at how he pulled it off, especially given that after World War I Germany had become a democratic republic.

The story of how Hitler became a dictator is set forth in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer, on which this article is based. [...]

On January 10, 1933, President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. Although the National Socialists never captured more than 37 percent of the national vote, and even though they still held a minority of cabinet posts and fewer than 50 percent of the seats in the Reichstag, Hitler and the Nazis set out to to consolidate their power. With Hitler as chancellor, that proved to be a fairly easy task.

The Reichstag fire

On February 27, Hitler was enjoying supper at the Goebbels home when the telephone rang with an emergency message: “The Reichstag is on fire!” Hitler and Goebbels rushed to the fire, where they encountered Hermann Goering, who would later become Hitler’s air minister. Goering was shouting at the top of his lungs,

"This is the beginning of the Communist revolution! We must not wait a minute. We will show no mercy. Every Communist official must be shot, where he is found. Every Communist deputy must this very day be strung up."

The day after the fire, the Prussian government announced that it had found communist publications stating,

" Government buildings, museums, mansions and essential plants were to be burned down... . Women and children were to be sent in front of terrorist groups.... The burning of the Reichstag was to be the signal for a bloody insurrection and civil war.... It has been ascertained that today was to have seen throughout Germany terrorist acts against individual persons, against private property, and against the life and limb of the peaceful population, and also the beginning of general civil war."

So how was Goering so certain that the fire had been set by communist terrorists? Arrested on the spot was a Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe.

Most historians now believe that van der Lubbe was actually duped by the Nazis into setting the fire and probably was even assisted by them, without his realizing it.

Why would Hitler and his associates turn a blind eye to an impending terrorist attack on their national congressional building or actually assist with such a horrific deed?

Because they knew what government officials have known throughout history — that during extreme national emergencies, people are most scared and thus much more willing to surrender their liberties in return for “security.” And that’s exactly what happened during the Reichstag terrorist crisis.

Suspending civil liberties

The day after the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to issue a decree entitled, “For the Protection of the People and the State.” Justified as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state,” the decree suspended the constitutional guarantees pertaining to civil liberties:

Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Two weeks after the Reichstag fire, Hitler requested the Reichstag to temporarily delegate its powers to him so that he could adequately deal with the crisis. Denouncing opponents to his request, Hitler shouted, “Germany will be free, but not through you!” When the vote was taken, the result was 441 for and 84 against, giving Hitler the two-thirds majority he needed to suspend the German constitution.

On March 23, 1933, what has gone down in German history as the “Enabling Act” made Hitler dictator of Germany, freed of all legislative and constitutional constraints. [...]

Within a month, the Nazis had transferred jurisdiction over treason cases from the Supreme Court to a new People’s Court, which, as Shirer points out,

"...soon became the most dreaded tribunal in the land. It consisted of two professional judges and five others chosen from among party officials, the S.S. and the armed forces, thus giving the latter a majority vote. There was no appeal from its decisions or sentences..." [...]

In addition to the People’s Court, which handled treason cases, the Nazis also set up the Special Court, which handled cases of political crimes or “insidious attacks against the government.” These courts

"...consisted of three judges, who invariably had to be trusted party members, without a jury. A Nazi prosecutor had the choice of bringing action in such cases before either an ordinary court or the Special Court, and invariably he chose the latter, for obvious reasons. Defense lawyers before this court, as before the Volksgerichtshof, had to be approved by Nazi officials. Sometimes even if they were approved they fared badly. Thus the lawyers who attempted to represent the widow of Dr. Klausener, the Catholic Action leader murdered in the Blood Purge, in her suit for damages against the State were whisked off to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where they were kept until they formally withdrew the action." [...]

The Nazis also implemented a legal concept called Schultzhaft or “protective custody” which enabled them to arrest and incarcerate people without charging them with a crime. As Shirer put it,

"Protective custody did not protect a man from possible harm, as it did in more civilized countries. It punished him by putting him behind barbed wire."

On August 2, 1934, Hindenburg died, and the title of president was abolished. Hitler’s title became Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor. Not surprisingly, he used the initial four-year “temporary” grant of emergency powers that had been given to him by the Enabling Act to consolidate his omnipotent control over the entire country.

Accepting the new order

Oddly enough, even though his dictatorship very quickly became complete, Hitler returned to the Reichstag every four years to renew the “temporary” delegation of emergency powers that it had given him to deal with the Reichstag-arson crisis. Needless to say, the Reichstag rubber-stamped each of his requests.

For their part, the German people quickly accepted the new order of things. Keep in mind that the average non-Jewish German was pretty much unaffected by the new laws and decrees. As long as a German citizen kept his head down, worked hard, took care of his family, sent his children to the public schools and the Hitler Youth organization, and, most important, didn’t involve himself in political dissent against the government, a visit by the Gestapo was very unlikely.

Keep in mind also that, while the Nazis established concentration camps in the 1930s, the number of inmates ranged in the thousands. It wouldn’t be until the 1940s that the death camps and the gas chambers that killed millions would be implemented. Describing how the average German adapted to the new order, Shirer writes,

"The overwhelming majority of Germans did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of culture had been destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work had become regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation....

"The Nazi terror in the early years affected the lives of relatively few Germans and a newly arrived observer was somewhat surprised to see that the people of this country did not seem to feel that they were being cowed....

"On the contrary, they supported it with genuine enthusiasm. Somehow it imbued them with a new hope and a new confidence and an astonishing faith in the future of their country."

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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Pampered Bush meets a real reporter

By John Nichols
June 29, 2004

On the eve of his recent sojourn in Europe, President Bush had an unpleasant run-in with a species of creature he had not previously encountered often: a journalist.

He did not react well to the experience.

Bush's minders usually leave him in the gentle care of the White House press corps, which can be counted on to ask him tough questions about when his summer vacation starts.

Apparently under the mistaken assumption that reporters in the rest of the world are as ill-informed and pliable as the stenographers who "cover" the White House, Bush's aides scheduled a sit-down interview with Carole Coleman, Washington correspondent for RTE, the Irish public television network.

Coleman is a mainstream European journalist who has conducted interviews with top officials from a number of countries - her January interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell was apparently solid enough to merit posting on the State Department's Web site.

Unfortunately, it appears that Coleman failed to receive the memo informing reporters that they are supposed to treat this president with kid gloves. Instead, she confronted him as any serious journalist would a world leader.

She asked tough questions about the mounting death toll in Iraq, the failure of U.S. planning, and European opposition to the invasion and occupation. And when the president offered the sort of empty and listless "answers" that satisfy the White House press corps - at one point, he mumbled, "My job is to do my job" - she tried to get him focused by asking precise follow-up questions.

The president complained five times during the course of the interview about the pointed nature of Coleman's questions and follow-ups - "Please, please, please, for a minute, OK?" the hapless Bush pleaded at one point, as he demanded his questioner go easy on him.

After the interview was done, a Bush aide told the Irish Independent newspaper that the White House was concerned that Coleman had "overstepped the bounds of politeness."

As punishment, the White House canceled an exclusive interview that had been arranged for RTE with first lady Laura Bush.

Did Coleman step out of line? Of course not. Watch the interview (it's available on and you will see that Coleman was neither impolite nor inappropriate. She was merely treating Bush as European and Canadian journalists do prominent political players.

In Western democracies such as Ireland, reporters and politicians understand that it is the job of journalists to hold leaders accountable.

The trouble is that accountability is not a concept that resonates with our president. The chief executive who gleefully declares that he does not read newspapers cannot begin to grasp the notion that journalists might have an important role to play in a democracy. And, if anything, the hands-off approach of the White House press corps has reinforced Bush's conceits.

Bush would be well served by tougher questioning from American journalists, especially those who work for the television networks. And it goes without saying that more and better journalism would be a healthy corrective for our ailing democracy.

Come to think of it, maybe one of the American networks should hire Carole Coleman and make her its White House correspondent. It would be Ireland's loss and America's gain.

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Embedded Filmmaker Who Shot "Fahrenheit 9/11" Iraq Footage Describes Humiliation and Sexual Abuse of Iraqi Families in U.S. Raids

Swedish-Iraqi filmmaker Urban Hamid, who was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq for two and a half months, describes Iraqis being bound, hooded, humiliated and sexually abused by U.S. troops in neighborhood raids. The rarely-seen footage is broadcast on Democracy Now! [includes transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: Describe one of these raids. Describe where you got some of this graphic footage, and if you could graphically describe it -- because we're broadcasting on television and radio -- so for those who won't be able to see it now.

URBAN HAMID: This particular footage is from December 12. It's shot in Sumara, which is part of what's called the so-called Sunni triangle. And what you can see is, to me, extremely disgusting and horrible, because we can see how American soldiers go into a house early in the morning, and with no respect for the people, for the women, for the men. I think we can all sort of put ourselves into their shoes: what it would feel like if people came into our house speaking a foreign language with weapons and just sort of took over the house. I think we can all relate to that.

AMY GOODMAN: I'm looking at a man who has got a cane and he is trying to walk and has a hood over his head, and now a number of Iraqis who have something on their heads. What is it that has been put on their heads?

URBAN HAMID: Well, this is a plastic bag that they put over their heads, and it's part of -- as far as I'm concerned -- the process of humiliating the Iraqis. I think we can all relate to what it would feel like to be totally isolated from what's going on: not knowing what's going on, just hearing the sounds of the American soldiers yelling orders in English, being pushed around. It's just horrible. And I saw this. They were used, as you know, the whole time, even when they put people in Humvees and in trucks and in APCs. They put these hoods on their heads and they were -- It must have been extremely difficult to breath and whatnot.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you feel filming?

URBAN HAMID: I beg your pardon?

AMY GOODMAN: How did you feel filming?

URBAN HAMID: Of course, you are sick to your stomach, but you also know that you have to film, because this is something that everybody has to know. We have to know what our boys are doing in our names in Iraq. I felt that, you know, in spite of how sick and horrible I felt, I had to go on. I'm still dealing with this sort of trauma, of course: feeling that I couldn't do anything, and I'm hoping that in getting this footage out, people are going to get as outraged as I was and try to stop this. [...]

AMY GOODMAN: This is some of the footage that Michael has in his film, "Fahrenheit 9/11."

URBAN HAMID: Yeah. That's correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you try to give it to the networks?

URBAN HAMID: Oh, yeah. I came to the States mid-February until mid-March and, you know, we sent out lots and lots of press releases, and nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has changed? Now they're showing the photos of Abu Ghraib.

URBAN HAMID: You know, I think that in revealing what happened in Abu Ghraib-- there was no way of stopping this. I feel that the administration felt that, well, you know, it's out, and now we have to sort of try to at least make it look like we are doing something about this. But I really feel that it is a red herring. It's a red herring to cover up what's really happening in Iraq. It's a red herring to cover up how many civilians are being killed. It’s a red herring to cover up what happened in Fallujah, where between 600 and 800 people, most of which were civilians, were killed, massacred, where the U.S. snipers shot women and children.

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The 'Prop-Agenda' at War

Miren Gutierrez

ROME, Jun 27 (IPS) - In an interview with Arabic broadcaster al-Jazeera, President Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said in 2001 that she did not want U.S. networks to show Osama bin Laden tapes because "it was not a matter of news, it was a matter of propaganda."

Is the U.S. government above propaganda?

Well, it is not. As former Salvadoran guerrilla leader Joaquin Villalobos put it in an interview with IPS, winning wars is also about winning the minds of people.

Throughout history, propaganda has been used in warfare to do exactly that; and the United States has also practised it extensively with its own twist, that of a democracy that has a free press and therefore has to disguise propaganda better. [...]

Some of the most effective propaganda campaigns are the prop-docs like 'Fahrenheit 9/ 11', she says. "Michael Moore and other filmmakers have figured out that in order to try to beat them, you need to use the same game board playing pieces. All of the rightwing critics of Moore's latest film say that he plays loose and fast with the facts, as if government leaders don't do the same when it's convenient to them."

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Anti-Bush Film Welcomed by Celebrities

By Sherna Noah, Showbiz Correspondent, PA News

Fahrenheit 9/11, the film which has divided America, held its British celebrity screening tonight. [...] Tonight politicians and celebrities turned out for the film's screening in Leicester Square.

Those who came to see the film, which presents the American president as foolish and out of his depth in the White House, included Jude Law and his girlfriend Sienna Miller, Elton John's partner David Furnish, singer Anastasia and actor Peter O'Toole.

Politicians Claire Short and George Galloway were also at the screening, hosted by Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein.

Speaking before the film Furnish said: "Elton is a supporter of Michael Moore as a documentary maker. He enjoyed Bowling for Columbine and he'll definitely be watching this new film." [...]

Tonight Bianca Jagger said before the film began that she hoped the film would make people realise that they "shouldn't vote for Bush again.

"Not only is he dangerous for America he is dangerous for the rest of the world. [...]

Left-wing MP Mr Galloway said: "All the signs are that the British people have as much appetite for mauling George W Bush as the American people do."

Asked about rumours that Moore was going to switch his focus to Prime Minister Tony Blair, he said: "If he doesn't I will." [...]

Duran Duran star Nick Rhodes said the war was an "unmitigated catastrophe". While Claire Short said: "It would be better for the world if Bush went." [...]

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The angry author, a literary storm and 'one dead armadillo'

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
The Independent
30 June 2004

After the recent flurry of damning political memoirs, not to mention Michael Moore's box-office busting documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, the Bush administration might feel it has been dumped on quite enough for one election season.

But the worst may be yet to come, in the unlikeliest of forms: a slim volume of fiction from the ordinarily mild-mannered minimalist Nicholson Baker.

Mr Baker's new novel, Checkpoint, features two characters who spend much of its 115 pages discussing how to assassinate President George Bush. They don't actually do the deed, or even attempt it, but the book is - according to early snippets - replete with deep-seated anger and elegantly nasty epithets hurled at both the President and his cabinet.

Mr Baker's publisher, Alfred Knopf, plans to release the book on 24 August, on the eve of the Republican National Convention in New York. To call it a provocation would be an understatement. The author and publishers have no intention of giving anybody ideas - to do so would be a criminal offence - but they are certainly playing very close to the edge in a United States that, in the wake of the 11 September attacks, has shown no compunction about locking people up and asking questions later, free speech rights be damned. [...]

In the pages of The New Yorker and in subsequent published essays, Mr Baker has also railed against the over-hasty introduction of digital record-keeping in public libraries and the abandonment of paper - not exactly an issue to induce the White House security detail to reach for their revolvers.

Checkpoint, though, is clearly something else. According to the Post's account, its two protagonists, Ben and Jay, talk down and dirty about the Bush administration into a tape recorder during an in-room lunch at a Washington hotel. Jay announces he's going to assassinate the President, and the men proceed to talk about both why and how he might do such a thing.

By the sounds of it, the novel is hardly The Anarchist's Cookbook - the fanciful methods the two men consider to take out the most powerful politician on the planet include using radio-controlled flying saws. Another tactic they discuss is a remote-controlled boulder made of depleted uranium. Ben asks Jay: "You're going to squash the President?" Jay also has a gun and some bullets, but the book appears to cover its tracks somewhat by having Ben express extreme misgivings about using them. "If the FBI and the Secret Service ... come after me because I've been hanging out with you in a hotel room before you make some crazy attempt on the life of the President," Ben says, "I'm totally cooked."

More incendiary than Jay's assassination fantasies, in the end, may be the deep expressions of anger against the administration the book dwells on. [...]

Jay says he hasn't felt so much hostility against any other president - not Nixon, not Reagan. Jay says of Mr Bush: "He is beyond the beyond. What he's done with this war. The murder of the innocent. And now the prisons. It's too much. It makes me so angry. And it's a new kind of anger, too." At one point, he calls Mr Bush an "unelected [expletive] drunken OILMAN" who is "squatting" in the White House and "muttering over his prayer book every morning." At another point, he calls Mr Bush "one dead armadillo".

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are described as "rusted hulks" and "zombies" who have "fought their way back up out of the peat bogs where they've been lying, and they're stumbling around with grubs scurrying in and out of their noses and they're going, 'We - are - your - advisors.'"

Jay expresses outrage at the munitions the United States armed forces have used in Iraq, including an updated version of napalm. Jay says of the Iraq bomb material: "It's improved fire jelly - it's even harder to put out than the stuff they used in Vietnam. And Korea. And Germany. And Japan. It just has another official name. Now it's called Mark 77. I mean, have we learnt nothing? Mark 77! I'm going to kill that bastard."

The title of the book is taken from an incident at a checkpoint south of Karbala last year, in which US forces opened fire on a Shia family of 17 travelling to southern Iraq to seek a safe haven. Several family members died, including two young girls decapitated by the gunfire.

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U.S. Interest Rates Set to Rise, Ending an Era

By Glenn Somerville

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. central bank policy-makers were set to pull the plug on Wednesday on the cheapest credit in decades by raising official interest rates for the first time in four years. [...]

"My own personal view is that there's more to it than one-time increases and we are in the grip of cyclical forces that are boosting inflation," said Dick Berner, chief economist at Morgan Stanley and Co. Inc. [...]

"Rising rates are something you observe in a recovering economy," Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Tuesday when asked in Oregon whether costlier credit will hurt expansion. "Rather than being a threat to the recovery, it's an indication, it's a validation the recovery is under way."

Comment: What a crock of horse hockey! Who do these guys think they are kidding?! A validation of economic recovery?! Ask the American people if they really think their economy is recovering. Another interesting question is this: why, at this moment, prior to the elections, have the "economists" obviously turned on Bush? If the people are squeezed by rising interest rates - as they certainly will be - Bush will take the blame. Strange that this comes right on the heels of the Bush gamble in Iraq. Seems that, no matter what he does, somebody's got it in for him.

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Schwarzenegger Spends More on Payroll

Jun 29, 5:10 PM (ET)

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Even as he calls for shared sacrifice to solve the state's financial crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is spending more than his predecessor on salaries for his official staff, an Associated Press investigation found.

Schwarzenegger has slightly fewer employees than Gov. Gray Davis did toward the end of his term, but is spending nearly 8 percent more on salaries. He also is paying a higher average salary for each employee. And he is paying more six- figure incomes within his inner circle than Davis did.

"For a governor who came to office saying he would cut the government, he seems to have really pumped it up, at least salaries for his inner circle," said Jamie Court, a consumer activist with the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "It doesn't show much respect for taxpayers."

The AP obtained the governor's office payroll records through a California Public Records Act request to the state Controller's Office. [...]

Thompson also said that the governor's office is "traditionally exempt" from the hiring freeze Schwarzenegger imposed on state agencies last year, and that the governor will be adding more staff.

Schwarzenegger [...] has engineered a record round of borrowing to help close a $17 billion budget gap. He has cut spending for higher education and other services and said he wants to save more money by reopening contracts with some unions.

Discussing budget negotiations last week, Schwarzenegger said, "Everyone has to make sacrifices." [...]

Nevertheless, the governor's office payroll has grown from $3.37 million annually at the end of Davis' tenure to $3.63 million as of last month, a 7.7 percent increase. [...]

Schwarzenegger's office noted that he is requesting the same funding, $6.1 million, in the coming fiscal year that the governor's office had this year. (In addition to salaries, that budget covers equipment, benefits, travel and other costs for the next fiscal year.)

However, the AP obtained payroll documents for both governors' staffs that show spending on employee salaries is far higher than the official budgets indicate because dozens of employees are paid from the budgets of other state departments. [...]

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The Trillion-Barrel Tar Pit

Who needs "oil independence" - our friendly neighbor to the north is sitting on a black gold mine!

By Brendan I. Koerner

Fort McMurray, Alberta, is an unlikely destination for a congressional boondoggle, especially when cold snaps of 40 below make it dangerous to leave any patch of skin uncovered. But here I am in midwinter, 250 miles north of Edmonton, watching a flock of Washington politicians in subzero parkas cling to tour guides like a trail of oversize ducklings. With gas prices approaching $3 a gallon in some states, the US representatives are braving the frigid air not for adventure but to learn about a filthy sort of alchemy, one that turns sludgy, sticky earth into sweet crude oil.

Alberta sits atop the biggest petroleum deposit outside the Arabian peninsula - as many as 300 billion recoverable barrels and another trillion-plus barrels that could one day be within reach using new retrieval methods. (By contrast, the entire Middle East holds an estimated 685 billion barrels that are recoverable.) But there's a catch. Alberta's black gold isn't the stuff that geysered up from Jed Clampett's backyard. It's more like a mix of Silly Putty and coffee grounds - think of the tar patties that stick to the bottom of your sandals at the beach - and it's trapped beneath hundreds of feet of clay and rock.

This petroleum dreck is known in these parts as heavy oil, and wildcatters are determined to get it out of the ground and into a pipeline. If they succeed, the stereotypical oil zillionaire may be not an Arabian emir but a folksy Albertan fond of ending sentences in a question, eh? [...]

Heavy oil isn't a new discovery. Native Americans have used it to caulk their canoes for centuries. Until recently, though, it's been the energy industry's stepchild - ugly, dirty, and hard to refine. But the political winds are favoring the heavy stuff, as "energy independence" - aka freedom from relying on Middle East oil - has become a war-on-terror buzz-phrase. Even President Bush has waxed optimistic about Alberta's "tar pits."

Better yet, recent improvements in mining and extraction techniques have cut heavy oil production costs nearly in half since the 1980s, to about $10 per barrel, with more innovation on the way. The petroleum industry is spending billions on new methods to get at the estimated 6 trillion barrels of heavy oil worldwide - nearly half the earth's entire oil reserve. Last year, Shell and ChevronTexaco jointly opened the $5.7 billion Athabasca Oil Sands Project in Alberta, which pumps out 155,000 barrels per day. Venezuela's Orinoco Belt yields 500,000 barrels daily, and that number should spike when a new ChevronTexaco plant goes online this year.

The trailblazer in heavy oil is Syncrude, a joint venture among eight US and Canadian energy companies, which has been harvesting greasy sand since 1978. Last year, the company shipped 77 million barrels of its trademark product, Syncrude Sweet Blend, mostly to US refineries. That's 14 percent of all Canadian oil sales, company executives boast - enough to produce 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline. [...]

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Police foil three-man plane hijack - German TV

Tuesday June 29, 10:04 PM

BERLIN (Reuters) - Three men have tried to hijack a plane from Munich to Istanbul carrying 150 passengers but the pilot was able to return to Munich airport where special forces stormed the plane, German television has reported.

Bayerischer Rundfunk television reported that police said the pilot hit an alarm button after the plane, run by the company Free Bird, had been in the air for 10 minutes on Tuesday.

The television said the 150 passengers were unhurt. It said special forces overpowered the three kidnappers and one of them jumped from the plane onto the tarmac. No other details were immediately available.

Comment: So, three men try to hijack an airliner, and the pilot manages to return to the airport, the hijackers are in custody, and none of the passengers were harmed. Now compare this outcome to what happened on 9/11: FOUR PLANES were hijacked, two were crashed into the WTC towers, one was apparently shot down over Pennsylvania, and the fourth plane allegedly crashed into the Pentagon. Even if we ignore problems such as the very low probability that an airliner actually crashed into the Pentagon - we are still left with four airplanes hijacked by a few supposed Arab terrorists. Yet none of the planes landed safely at an airport, none of the hijackers were arrested, and thousands of people died. Not a single one of the four planes on 9/11 was saved. Really makes ya wonder, doesn't it?

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Aral catastrophe recorded in DNA

By David Shukman
BBC science correspondent in Muynak, Uzbekistan

Fresh fears have been raised about the health of populations living near the shrinking Aral Sea in central Asia.

A new study has now found high levels of DNA damage that could explain the region's abnormally high cancer rates.

This comes as the latest estimates say the Aral Sea is receding so rapidly it could vanish within the next 15 years.

Once the world's fourth largest inland body of water, the sea has been drained by a poorly managed irrigation system that supplies water to cotton crops.

Toxic mix

If ever there was an example of manmade ecological and human catastrophe, the Aral Sea and the dusty, salt-encrusted lands around it must be the most vivid anywhere on the planet.

[...] What is left when these seas retreat is a vision of environmental apocalypse: vast stretches of desert, laden with heavy doses of salt and burdened with a toxic mix of chemical residues washed down over the decades from the farms upstream.

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Rice yields dip as planet warms

There is a strong link between increasing night temperatures and decreasing rice yields
Global warming could have a severe effect on rice production, say scientists working in the Philippines.

The researchers studied 12 years of rice yields and 25 years of temperature data, to work out how they are linked.

Yields dropped by 10% for each degree of warming, an alarming trend since rice is the staple diet for most of the world's expanding population, they say.

[...] They found that average daytime temperatures, which increased by 0.35C since 1979, had little effect on productivity.

However, there was a strong link between increasing night temperatures - which rose by an impressive 1.1C over 25 years - and decreasing rice yields, they discovered.

[...] Computer models of climate change suggest that night-time temperatures will continue to rise faster than in the day - by several degrees C in the coming decades.

This is bad news for rice because it often grows in the tropics - very near the top end of its temperature range. So a slight increase in temperature can bear a heavy cost.

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Small earthquake felt along northeast Ohio lakeshore

PAINESVILLE, Ohio A small earthquake centered under Lake Erie about nine miles offshore shook a portion of northeast Ohio early Wednesday morning.

Mike Hansen, coordinator for the Ohio Seismic Network at the state Division of Geological Survey in Columbus, said the quake had a 3.3 magnitude on the seismograph, "which is strong enough to be felt, but isn't likely to cause any damage."

The trembler shortly after midnight brought numerous calls to the Lake County sheriff's office, a dispatcher said, but no reports of damage or injuries.

Hansen said a 4.0 magnitude is usually necessary for damage to occur.

"At 3.3, people report hearing a booming sound, often mistaken for a sonic boom, then a quick shaking or vibration," he said.

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Meteorite reported in southern WA

The Perth Observatory says it has had reports a meteor has crashed near Walpole in Western Australia's south.

Witnesses say they saw a large, fiery object zigzagging through the sky at about 5:30pm yesterday.

The witnesses say the object left a trail of thick smoke and then they heard a bang.

The observatory says it appears the object was travelling somewhere between Perth and Albany in a south-south easterly direction.

Walpole resident Heather Burton was in her backyard when she saw the object.

She says it was unlike a normal shooting star.

"A shooting star usually just goes straight across or straight down - this one had these gradual zigzags just coming down," she said.

Alex Bevan from the WA Museum says the reports indicate the sightings were the result of a fireball generated by a meteorite.

"We're certainly picking up reports of a bright fireball and sonic phenomena associated - I'm absolutely sure - with the fall of a meteorite," Dr Bevan said.

Dr Bevan says it will be difficult to find where the meteorite landed.

"Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be as many observations, so actually pinning down where the object landed might be a bit difficult and in that area, the vegetation might mean searching for it would be difficult," he said.

Comment: Okay folks, step back, nothing to see here. Just ignore those meteorites that seem to be bombarding earth, you might miss the next episode of Buffy.

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Volcano lured, shuttered U.S. base in Philippines

History is sometimes altered by events so insignificant that they pass without notice when they occur. Let’s follow the chain of events that placed an American air base in the Philippines, in the shadow of Mount Pinatubo — a volcano whose eruptions devastated the base in 1991.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the once great Spanish colonial empire was disintegrating. One remaining colony was Cuba, where American businessmen had large investments in the thriving sugar industry. Spanish repression of a Cuban independence movement threatened the sugar industry and produced wholesale human-rights abuses.

President McKinley was under tremendous public pressure to defend U.S. interests on the island. Newspaper chains owned by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer whipped up much of the American outrage against the Spanish colonial government. In February 1898, the American battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded and sank in Havana harbor. Americans blamed the Spanish, though there was no good evidence of Spanish involvement. The lust for war escalated. In late April, at McKinley’s request, Congress proclaimed Cuban independence — effectively a declaration of war.

The first hostile action took place in the Philippines, in Manila Bay, on the first of May. An American fleet destroyed all Spanish ships in the Bay. The Spanish-American war didn’t last long. A treaty was signed on December 10 that granted Cuba its independence and ceded the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the U.S. in exchange for 20 million dollars.

The defeat of Spain didn’t bring peace to the Philippines — not for long, anyway. Filipino Nationalists declared independence in January 1899, and Filipino-American hostilities began a short time later.

Comment: Did you catch that? "Congress declared Cuban independence". Where have we seen this recently? Goes to show that the tactics aren't new. Then after the Philippines were "ceded" to the US, the ungrateful Filipinos went off and tried to become independent themselves!

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Astronomers: No chance of life on nearest planets


Life would not have a chance on planets nearest the Earth’s solar system because of a blizzard of comets and meteors, astronomers have concluded after taking a close look at the star Tau Ceti.

Tau Ceti, 12 light years away, probably has more than 10 times as many objects flying around as our own solar system does, scientists at the Royal Astronomical Society said.

"We don’t yet know whether there are any planets orbiting Tau Ceti, but if there are, it is likely that they will experience constant bombardment from asteroids of the kind that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs,"said Jane Greaves, lead scientist on the project.

"It is likely that with so many large impacts, life would not have the opportunity to evolve."

Comment: What if life in such a environment were to evolve and perish cyclically, with the bombardment of comets bringing each cycle to a close? Would that not be a realistic possibility? What if it were true for our solar system?...

See Laura's new book "Ancient Science" for all the details. As one European Professor noted: "It may well be the most important book ever written".

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Massive Black Hole Stumps Researchers

By Tariq Malik
28 June 2004

A team of astronomers have found a colossal black hole so ancient, they're not sure how it had enough time to grow to its current size, about 10 billion times the mass of the Sun.

Sitting at the heart of a distant galaxy, the black hole appears to be about 12.7 billion years old, which means it formed just one billion years after the universe began and is one of the oldest supermassive black holes ever known.

The black hole, researchers said, is big enough to hold 1,000 of our own Solar Systems and weighs about as much as all the stars in the Milky Way.

"The universe was awfully young at the time this was formed," said astronomer Roger Romani, a Stanford University associate professor whose team found the object. "It's a bit of a challenge to understand how this black hole got enough mass to reach its size."

Romani told that the black hole is unique because it dates back to just after a period researchers call the 'Dark Ages,' a time when the universe cooled down after the initial Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. That cooling period lasted about one billion years, when the first black holes, stars and galaxies began to appear, he added. The research appeared June 10 on the online version of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Invisible to the naked eye, black holes can only be detected by the radiation they spew and their gravitational influence on their stellar neighbors. Astronomers generally agree that black holes come in at least two types, stellar and supermassive. Stellar black holes form from collapsed, massive stars a few times the mass of the Sun, while their supermassive counterparts can reach billions of solar masses.

A supermassive black hole a few million times the mass of the Sun is thought to sit at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, and some of the largest supermassives seen date have reached up to two billion solar masses, researchers said. [...]

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Saturn's Days getting longer

By Amit Asaravala
02:55 PM Jun. 29, 2004 PT

PASADENA, California -- NASA's Cassini space probe has already aided scientists to make a second discovery about Saturn, even though the craft is still a day away from beginning its main mission.

Signals detected by the probe show that Saturn's natural radio emissions are more like the sun's than the Earth's, and that a Saturnian day is not as short as once thought. [...]

NASA announced the radio discovery on Monday, saying that it was based on data returned from the probe over the past year. The data showed that Saturn's radio rotational period -- a measurement often used to determine the length of a day on a planet -- was nearly six minutes longer than when measured by the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1980 and 1981, respectively.

Scientists say this means it's highly likely that Saturn's radio emissions change depending on when and where they are measured, like those of the sun. By contrast, the period of Earth's radio emissions are fixed. They have ruled out other options, like malfunctioning equipment on the Voyager probes, or the possibility that Saturn's physical rotation has slowed over the years, they said.

"Although Saturn's radio period has clearly shifted substantially since the Voyager measurements, I don't think any of us could conceive of any process that would cause the rotation of the entire planet to actually slow down," said University of Iowa space physicist Don Gurnett, principal investigator for the Cassini Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument. [...]

NASA hopes it can come up with a different solution to the problem, and uncover the mystery of what is causing the radio emissions to change, sometime during the next four years as Cassini continues to spy on Saturn and its moons. "We will be able to unravel the puzzle, but it's going to take some time," said Gurnett. [...]

Cassini has been hurtling through space on its way toward Saturn for the past six and a half years. On Wednesday evening, mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will fire one of Cassini's engines, allowing the spacecraft to slip through the space between two of Saturn's rings. The maneuver will put Cassini in orbit around Saturn, where it will remain for the next four years, studying the planet, its rings and its moons. [...]

Comment: Let's get this straight. First they say "They have ruled out ... the possibility that Saturn's physical rotation has slowed over the years," followed by "I don't think any of us could conceive of any process that would cause the rotation of the entire planet to actually slow down..." which means that they really haven't produced any facts that it is not an actual slowing of the rotation; they just believe it is impossible.

Question: what IF Saturn IS slowing down? If so, what could cause such a phenomenon? After all, significant changes in the weather on Jupiter have been noted recently, as well as an astonishing number of new moons. Do we really think that such changes in the elder brother planets of our solar system are happening in isolation? What if the real cause of all the weirdness on the BBM is related? If so, what could be causing it? Does Something Wicked This Way Come?

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Obituary: Gérard de Sède

Historian of the mystery of Rennes-le-Château

24 June 2004

Gérard de Sède, writer: born Liéoux, France 5 June 1921; married; died Liéoux 29 May 2004.

Gerard de Sede was responsible for introducing the world to the mystery of Rennes-le-Château, a real-life historical detective story set in the Languedoc in south-west France.

In 1967 he published Le Trésor maudit de Rennes-le-Château (translated as The Accursed Treasure of Rennes-le-Château, 2001), in which he describes how, at the end of the 19th century, a priest apparently discovered something in his hilltop village which enabled him to amass and spend a fortune. Between 1891 and his death in 1917, Abbé Bérenger Saunière disposed of more than one and a half thousand million old francs, valued in 1913 at £60m. Was the village of Rennes-le-Château the centre of a fabulous discovery? What was the secret possessed by Abbé Saunière?

De Sède first became known to the anglophone book-reading public in 1982, through the non-fiction best-seller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Lincoln's introduction describes how Le Trésor maudit had inspired the authors to start on their own journey of discovery. Did Saunière discover gold treasure in the area, or did he find parchments which attested to the bloodline of Christ, who had survived the cross? Had the bloodline since been preserved through history by a secret society? Perhaps there was a more prosaic explanation for his wealth, such as the selling of masses. [...]

Through his more than 40 works, de Sède's writings on "alternative history" have remained controversial. Some authors have even suggested that the entire Rennes-le-Château "mystery" may not be real at all, but instead an elaborate prank hatched in the 1950s by de Sède and a coterie of friends. Whatever the secret may be, as de Sède himself pointed out in Le Trésor maudit, quoting André Breton, "The imaginary is something that tends to become true."

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Killer cyberappliances: Satan implicated

By Lester Haines
Monday 28th June 2004 12:39 GMT

Inhabitants of the Italian village of Canneto di Caronia - previously evacuated after domestic appliances staged an inflammatory uprising - have made a fearful return to their homes.

The tiny hamlet earlier this year became the front line of the war of annihilation between man and machine when normally docile equipment - including TVs and fuse boxes - began to spontaneously combust.

To add to the terror, mobile phones rang without reason and electronic car door locks became self-aware. After several house fires, the residents moved out, and the scientists moved in.

Despite extensive investigations by bodies as diverse as the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the National Research Centre and power company Enel, no single plausible reason for the occurrences has been found. The theories include a burst of electro-magnetic energy, or supercharged ions released from a fault in the Earth's crust, or good old static electricity.

The head of Sicily's Civil Protection Agency, Tullio Martella, admitted to the NY Times: "The cause of the fires seems to have been static electric charges. What we don't understand is why there were these static electric charges." He further conceded that: "It is not certain that the fires are finished forever. They were episodic to begin with."

Some villagers, however, are certain they know the cause: mephistopholean intervention. Nino Pezzino, a 43-year-old insurance salesman who has just rather reluctantly moved back to his house of terror, said: "I'm Catholic. I believe in the Devil. I don't know why the Devil is here. If it happens again, I'm bringing in the exorcist."

Pezzino will not stop at exorcism to purge his village of this evil: "If we're going to do it, we have to do it right," he said. "In order to do it, you need a sacrifice for the immortal gods, like a black goat or a black sheep. You have to dig a hole into the ground, because this is serious."

It is indeed. And those of us who have been watching the inexorable rise of the machines with growing alarm know it will take more than a bottle of Holy water and sacrificial black goat to turn back the tide.

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